Tag Archives: Service

Let Us Love – A Poem

Dear children, let us not love
with words or tongue
but with actions and in truth
¹

Let us love with hands that heal
and feet that go
where we are needed most

Let us love with our gifts
of food and clothing
for those in poverty

Let us love with kind words
that offer compassion
and restore relationships

Let us love as Jesus loved
willing to give all
that others might know His love

 

¹1 John 3:18 (NIV)

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Filling the Void

Yesterday a group from my church went to a local women’s shelter to cook and serve dinner for the residents. The facility, called Shepherd’s Door, provides more than just shelter for the women and children who live there. They provide life skills training, education, grief counseling, and a safe place for the first time in their lives. As volunteers, my church group gave a nutritious and delicious dinner to the residents, but we also showed them the love of Christ.

But most important, Shepherd’s door provides these women and children with the one thing that will fill the void in their hearts—Jesus Christ.

A funny thing happened on my way to Shepherd’s Door. As I sat at the gas station down the street from my house, I turned on the GPS in my phone and set the navigation to take me to the facility. I had been there before, just last weekend, with my friend from church but I knew the shorter route would be via a different freeway and I wanted a little navigation help for the last part of the trip.

For some reason, the GPS couldn’t quite figure out where I was. When I was leaving the gas station it told me to turn right on 6th, but that would have taken me two blocks further than I needed to go. Since I know my own neighborhood I ignored the navigation directions and hoped it would figure out where I was and get straightened out by the time I got to the east side of Portland. But it never did. As I drove down the main street that Shepherd’s Door is on, my navigation system kept telling me to turn left on a street I had recently passed and then turn right onto the street I was already on. It kept recalculating the route and telling me to again turn left, go several blocks, and then turn right onto the street I was on. I finally turned it off because by this time I recognized the area and knew where I needed to turn.

If I had not known where I was going, I could have really gotten lost. And I was not too far from some neighborhoods I would not want to have been lost in. I might have had a very hard time finding my way back out of such places.

Thinking about this later, I realized that this experience was a perfect example of the importance of what the staff at Shepherd’s Door teaches the residents. The directions and messages we hear in life are often like the directions I was getting from my phone’s navigation system—just plain wrong. But if we don’t know what the truth is, then we might become lost trying to follow these wrong directions. We will fill the void with misinformation and lies.

The women who come to Shepherd’s Door have heard a lot of wrong directions—lies about who they are and how worthless they are—and without the truth of God’s love and mercy to keep them from getting lost they don’t have much of a chance. They have filled the void in their hearts with anything they think can protect them from being hurt again.

But Shepherd’s Door shows them that God loves them and wants the best for them, that they do have worth and importance in this world, and that they can have a better life walking in the grace of Christ. The staff and volunteers work together to show the residents what life can be like when we fill the void in our hearts with Jesus and His love.

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Service – A Triolet

This poem started as just the first three lines as I was preparing to head off to my small group meeting to discuss our Christian tool of “service.” Then I decided to turn it into a triolet. The meter isn’t perfect for a triolet, but it seemed to flow right to me anyway.

In the sermon at church on Sunday, our Youth Minister Colie talked about how we have to be filled with God’s love before we can pour it out in service to others. She used the illustration of a watering can that can only be used to water flowers and plants after it has been filled with water. The difference between water in a watering can and us as a vessel of God’s love is that when we pour out the love God has filled us with we are still full because of His endless love.

Service

Your love fills me to the brim
I pour it out again and again
I find I’m still full in the end
Your love fills me to the brim

A helping hand I want to lend
To those who need You now
Your love fills me to the brim
I pour it out again and again

 

For more great poetry, check out dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night. Natasha is tending the bar and is ready to serve up whatever you need.

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Being the Love of Christ for a Hurting World

I have been nominated to be on the Board of Elders for my church, which is both a great honor and a big responsibility. Even though the official vote isn’t until tomorrow night, I was invited to attend a joint meeting of our Executive Leadership Team and Board of Elders last week. At the end of the meeting our out-going president shared a wonderful message of his vision and hope for our church. He started by reading the passage from Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats. This is Jesus’ prophecy of the end times when He will separate the people like a farmer separates sheep and goats, putting the sheep on the right and the goats on the left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 (NLT).

He pointed out that as a church we had done a great job of putting structures into place for people to come and worship, to come to Sunday school, and to come and fellowship. All of these things are good, for us to come together and grow in our faith. But he challenged us to not just be a “come” church, but to be a “go” church. He challenged us to go and feed the hungry, clothe those in need of clothes, heal and minister to those who are sick, and to visit those in prison.

He also made the observation that those who are on the Lord’s right are referred to as righteous, but their focus had not been on becoming righteous or earning their righteousness. They simply were righteous. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that they their focus was on loving others, on feeding, clothing, healing, and visiting “the least of these.” In fact, they were so focused on doing this that they didn’t even realize they were doing anything special. It was just second nature for them to love and care for others.

Listening to my dear brother in Christ, a man who definitely has the heart of Christ, the song “Hands and Feet” by Audio Adrenaline started running through my head. I even told him afterwards that he had inspired a Music Monday blog post based on that song. (Note: If you’re looking for that video, you won’t find it here because God had another, better idea.)

Then I got out to the car to go home, and the song that was on the CD when I started the car was “Won’t You Be My Love” by MercyMe. I love this song. The chorus is a plea from Jesus to be His hands and feet for a lost world:

Won’t you be my voice calling
Won’t you be hands healing
Won’t you be my feet walking
Into a broken world

Won’t you be my chain breaker
Won’t you be my peace maker
Won’t you be my hope and joy
Won’t you be my LOVE

You can’t be Jesus’ love for a broken world by just sitting in a pew each week. You have to go out into the world in need of love. You have to go where there are hungry people and feed them. You have to go where there are homeless people and provide them with clothes and housing. You have to go where there are sick people and help them to heal. You have to go where there are non-believers and share with them the grace of Christ. It’s great to come to church each week, but it’s not enough to be on the Lord’s right in the judgment. The love of Christ must dwell in your heart and caring for others must be second nature.

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My Hands Are His Hands

I’m reading through Jeremiah as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. The other night I read Jeremiah 13. Probably the primary lesson of this chapter is the warning against pride, which in my opinion is the sin that is the root of most others sins. Pride leads us to believe we can live without God and that we know better than He does what behavior is best for us; pride puts each of us on our own throne and seeks to throw God out into the darkness (an impossible task, to be sure, but one pride will convince us we have succeeded at).

But that is not the aspect of this chapter that I really want to write about. Jeremiah 13 starts with God telling Jeremiah to do something that sounds quite strange. He is to wear a linen loincloth but not wash it; then bury the loincloth by the Euphrates River; then a long time later go and dig up the loincloth that he had buried. These are strange directions, but Jeremiah follows them in perfect obedience to God. It reminds me a bit of the Israelites following God’s direction for how to make the walls of Jericho fall, but with Jeremiah he doesn’t know the reason why God has directed him to act this way until after he has been completely obedient.

Ultimately, God uses the condition of the long-buried loincloth, now rotting and “good for nothing,” to illustrate the condition of the Israelites who have wandered far from God and rejected His ways to follow after false gods and worship idols. Their pride has made them good for nothing.

Sometimes God uses seemingly strange circumstances to illustrate a point to us, just as He used the rotting loincloth to illustrate a point to Jeremiah and the people of Israel. I recently had an experience where God used something odd to point out an important lesson to me about my own priorities. Interestingly, it was the afternoon before I read Jeremiah 13 that the lesson finally hit home.

This story starts about 6 weeks ago with fingernails. Generally, I have very nice fingernails; they have always been long and strong, and I never wear polish and have certainly never had fake nails. I frequently get compliments about how beautiful my hands and nails are, and have had quite a few people tell me I should have been a hand model.

About 6 weeks ago my nails were all looking particularly beautiful when I managed to get a small break in one of my thumbnails right at the base. Normally when that happens, I would trim the nail so that it stayed long but would be skinnier to cut out the break, and then trim the others so that they matched in length. At church that Sunday I complained to a friend that I had this break and was going to have to trim all my nails, and she said if they can glue on fake nails I should be able to get something that would glue this break and not have to cut my nails at all. So after church I went to the store and bought some clear nail strengthening polish with minerals, and went home and put on the polish. For the next 3 weeks I tried in vain to save that nail, with the break getting bigger and bigger. I finally cut it quite a bit shorter and shortened the others, but continued to use the polish. The very next day as we were headed out of town to visit family, I realized I had a similar break in another nail, and spent all weekend trying to save it only to catch it on something and rip off the nail super short.

When we got home that Sunday, I decided to take off the polish and trim all of my nails a little shorter. Much to my dismay, when I removed the polish I discovered that all of my nails were in terrible shape. They had cracks and were brittle and white even over the nailbeds. My nails have never, ever looked so bad. For the next 2 weeks, as my nails tried to grow out, they all kept breaking and peeling. I’ve been very frustrated.

Then the other night I complained to my husband about how frustrated I was just before heading off to a meeting at church. But as I drove to the meeting, God revealed to me my pride and vanity over my fingernails. He showed me that I had become more concerned with how my hands looked than what I did with them. The real beauty of hands is not in how they look but in what they do. The real beauty of hands comes in using them to serve and help others. With so much need in the world, my concern and frustration over the length and look of my nails was so petty and unimportant.

The hands of Christ healed and fed many, and then were nailed to a cross so that all might be healed. We are now the hands of Jesus on this earth. As Christians we are called to use His hands to heal and comfort, to feed the hungry, to minister to a lost and hurting world.

As I was writing this, I was reminded of this wonderful song by Casting Crowns from their debut CD, called “If we are the body.” It reminded me that our hands, my hands, need to be used to help heal those in need of His grace. The Christian church these days is known so much for what we are against. We use our mouths to condemn instead of our hands to heal. We need to be His hands healing, and we need to use His Word to teach the truth of His love and grace.

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For Heaven’s Sake Help Others

I love Johnny Cash. He is my all-time favorite singer. His music is so real and honest, whether he is singing about love, murder, or some other aspect of life. But my favorite Johnny Cash music is his gospel recording. When he first met Sam Phillips of Sun Records, Johnny (born J.R. Cash) wanted to record gospel, but Sam said that wouldn’t sell. So for a number of years Johnny recorded other songs, many of which were big hits at the time, such as “Cry, Cry, Cry,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “I Walk the Line.” In 1959, he left Sun Records and recorded his first Gospel album with Columbia. He continued recording a variety of songs until he died in 2003.

For Music Monday, I want to share a great old Gospel song by Johnny Cash called “What on earth will you do for heaven’s sake?” The lyrics are:

Would you walk that second mile, turn a frown with a smile?
Would you give a little more than you could take?
Did you shine your little light upon the children of the night?
What on earth will you do for heaven’s sake?

Did you feed the poor in spirit and befriend the persecuted?
Did you show the bound how all the chains can break?
Did you sow the proper seed? Do you walk among the weeds?
What on earth will you do for heaven’s sake?

Are you patient with the weak? Are you counted with the meek?
Would you lift a lowly heart or let it break?
Could you give away your shirt and overlook a beggar’s dirt?
What on earth will you do for heaven’s sake?

Johnny Cash could have answered yes to all of these questions. He really had a heart for the persecuted, the poor, and the forsaken.

One of my favorite lines is “Did you show the bound how all the chains can break?” There are so many in this world who are bound by sins such as bitterness and addictions. So often, Christians simply judge such people as being sinners. But we are all sinners, and it is the responsibility of those who are free to show those who are bound by sin how Jesus can break their chains. This is what Jesus did. He walked among the weeds to show them how to become beautiful blooming flowers. That is what Christians should be doing also.

This world is full of people who are lost and hurting, and it is the purpose of the church and each Christian to shine the light of Christ on them so that they might see God’s love for them.

I think we all need to ask ourselves what we would do for heaven’s sake? We need to be willing to lift a lowly heart, to be patient with the weak among us, to be willing to give away our shirt and look to the heart of others rather than see only their beggar’s dirt. We are the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth, and He has called us to share His love, grace, and mercy with the poor in spirit and the persecuted among us.

As we travel through this life on our way towards our heavenly home, we need to make sure we help others along the way. So I challenge you to ask yourself today, what on earth will you do for heaven’s sake?

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The Heart and the Brain are Vital to Life

The Apostle Paul compared the Church to the body of Christ in several of his epistles. He expounded on this idea most in 1 Corinthians 12. I was thinking about this the other day when a friend and I were talking about all the different groups within our church and the different jobs they do. This is exactly what Paul says. Just as the different parts of the body serve unique functions, different members of a church serve unique purposes.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

My friend used the analogy of a flock of birds that flies in unison to describe how we ought to be as a church. We all should be going in the same direction together, she said. But with a flock of birds, there is no real connection. Any one bird can leave the flock and fly a different way. I think that Paul’s analogy of the church being like a body is much more appropriate to understanding how a church must work.

In the church, some people function as the eyes to see and discern the direction the church must go. Others serve as the mouth, either preaching, teaching, or singing the gospel to the rest of the body. Still others serve as the hands, doing the visible work of the church, whether that be setting up for services or providing food baskets for the needy. And then there are those that serve as the stomach of the church — I may not know what they do for the church because like the digestive work of the stomach their work is hidden — but I know what they do is vital for the life of the church.

There are some body parts that one can live without, such as a hand, foot, or eye. And in the church there are certain functions that can be lacking but the body as a whole can still serve the Kingdom of God. But one very important part of the body, without which it will die, is the heart. The heart pumps blood to the other organs and extremities to provide them with vital oxygen and nutrients. In the church, all of the parts of the body of Christ must be fed by the life blood pumped through them by heart of Christ. Without Christ, the body — the church — is dead.

A body must also have brain function. The brain sends vital electrical signals throughout the body to tell it what to do. If the eye sees a danger approaching, it sends a signal to the brain that then transmits the orders to get out of the way. When the order comes, the hands and feet obey or risk serious injury. In the church, the Holy Spirit serves as the brain. Each part of the body of Christ must be in communication with the Holy Spirit.

A person whose body no longer communicates with the brain because of a severed spinal cord become a quadriplegic. Since the brain still communicates with the parts of the head and certain vital organs, that person can still serve the Kingdom of God with their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. But the rest of the body can become an obstacle that must be overcome for effective ministry to occur. In the same way, if parts of the church are not in communication with, are not actively listening to, the Holy Spirit, they can become obstacles that the rest of the body must overcome. Serving the Kingdom of God is not impossible, just more difficult and challenging.

Having said all that, I have to ask myself “so what?” How does considering this comparison of the body of Christ to a physical body help me serve God better? The answer is that it makes me think long and hard about what part of the body I am supposed to be. When I say “yes’ to yet another church committment, am I serving the function God wants me to serve, or am I a hand trying to function as an eye? Am I worried about what the other members of the body are doing and wishing that was me or am I content to fulfill the function for which God made me.

But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 1 Corinthians 12:18-21.

It also makes me think about how important it is for ME to have the heart of Christ and to be in communication with the Holy Spirit. Because I keep these things in mind, I am aware of my role as an encourager in the church (don’t ask me what body part that corresponds to). And so I listen to the Holy Spirit and tell the hands “We need you. Your work is important.” I tell the eyes, “Thanks for keeping a lookout for us and discerning the direction we should go.” I say to the feet, “You’ve done a great job of bearing the burden of taking us in the direction the eyes have seen is appropriate.” All the parts are vital, seen or unseen. We are the body of Christ bringing knowledge of the Kingdom of God to a world that needs it.

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Holding on to What I Know

A dear and wise friend of mine once told me that I should never go by what I feel, but by what I know. Feelings can be fickle and reactionary, and oftentimes they do not reveal the truth about the situation they are a reaction to.

Lately my feelings have been all of those things. I’ve gone from sad to angry to depressed to disillusioned and back to angry again. My feelings have been a reaction to what has been going on with some dear friends of mine, and to things that have been said to me as well as about me and others whom I care deeply about. I’ve been feeling a bit hopeless and been in disbelief of the things that have transpired. I feel lost.

So I’m going to listen to my dear friend and turn to the things I know to help me get through how I am feeling, to get to the truth of the matter. Here is what I know:

  •  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. The important word in this verse for me is “all.” It is not just in some things, but in all things, that God works for the good of those who love Him. I may not see the good that will come from my present circumstances, but God does.
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11. God has planned my days, now and for eternity, and His plan is one of hope.
  • “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31. Even though my own strength may be insufficient to get me through difficult times, the strength of the Lord is always there for me to lean on.
  • “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. God loves me and will take my burdens and anxiety if I will only let go.
  • “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3. Eternal life starts now by knowing Jesus, not just when this body dies.
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38. This is one I have proven to myself. As I am a blessing to others I receive a blessing in return much greater than I gave.
  • “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. There is joy to be found when I trust in the Lord.
  • “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16-17. Grace and truth go hand in hand, and they are the great blessing that we all have from Jesus.
  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. Jesus came that we might live an abundant life, the best life that God could possibly want for us, something much better than we can ever imagine. Satan is the thief who promises pleasure and great things, but means us only harm.
  • “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6. This is a promise and a truth that can get me through any day.

These are just some of the things I know. God’s Word is full of promises of hope, love, joy, and redemption. It is full of stories of how those who had faith in God, who trusted in His promises, were blessed beyond measure. God is greater than my feelings. I may feel hopeless, but that does not negate the hope He offers. I may feel lost, but that does not change the fact that He has found me and will never leave me. For all these promises I am grateful.

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