Monday, August 10, 2015

For We Ourselves

Frustrated at walking into the room that I share with my four younger sisters and finding it a mess a couple weeks ago, I yelled at the Abbi and Emmi to clean it up, and huffily sat down so I could supervise it happening to my satisfaction. My thundercloud mood only intensified as they picked things slowly up, examined them, and then placed them into a pile to "put away later", and then repeated the process over, and over, and over. My patience was none existent.

"Quit playing!!! Just work!", I fumed. "How hard can it be to know what to do when I am giving such SPECIFIC directions?! I'm not even telling you to figure it out yourself. Pick up that blanket and fold it!"

I knew I was being ridiculous. The room was a  mess, and it was especially frustrating given the fact that we had cleaned it the night before, but there was really no reason for my fussing, storming, and, to be quite honest, rather striking similarity to a fire breathing dragon, over this simple operation. I knew I wasn't honoring Christ, but I didn't *feel* like giving them the kindness I knew I should.

And that's when it hit me.

I didn't feel like being kind. So I wasn't.

They didn't feel like cleaning their room. But I expected them to do it anyway.

Romans 2:1 tells us, "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things." That is exactly what I was doing in this situation. I wanted my little sisters to obey me promptly and thoroughly, but *I* wasn't willing to obey *Christ's* prompting to give them grace promptly and thoroughly. Their faults were different than mine, but that did not make them worse, and it definitely didn't make mine better. They were simply DIFFERENT. And I hadn't wanted to see my sin for what it was; sin. I wasn't giving them grace, or kindness, or encouragement. I just wanted things the way I wanted them, and I wanted it on my time frame, with no work from me.

James 4:11 asks, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?" They say it takes two to argue, and I agree. But... it only takes one person giving full reign to their passions for there to be contention.

We can become so stuck on looking at how someone else is making us feel, that we forget that they have their own struggles. We have trouble being patient; so we expect everybody else to keep up with us. Then we come across someone who might be more prone to take a relaxed look on life, and we think they are wrong for not getting their act together and making things happen when we want it. We forget that Martha was rebuked for not slowing down when someone more important than her to-do list -the King of the Universe, her Savior- was there to teach her. We have trouble speaking in a gentle manner, but expect others to never hurt us with our words. We desire encouragement from others; but we forget to give it to those around us.

I am sinful -all humans are sinful. The single thing that all people hate most is sin, in others. But we tend to look over our own, because we don't want to take responsibility for it. Because it is HARD for flesh to take on the things of Christ. "But {Christ said}, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

 I pray that HE will give us the strength to take care of the log in our own eye, and then give us the wisdom to help our brother to righteousness. Until we have given Christ Lordship of our passions and can "see clearly" (Matthew 7:5), we will not be able to rightly address the shortcomings of others, "for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).

"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:1-7 ESV, emphasis mine.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Thankful Thoughts 08/07/15

Some of the things that have made me smile this past week are...
~Laying on the bed with my siblings and talking about nonsense. Or listening to them see who can sing a beautiful song in the worst style. It's all the same...
~Little acts of kindness and random words of recognition.
~All the little notes full of love I found from my little siblings while I was going through my papers the other day :).
~And a card from my Grandpa. I only received one from him personally, but it made me smile to run across it the other day <3. I am so thankful for the blessing of getting that card before he passed away <3.
~Fun accessories.
~The way little ones love to chatter with you when they meet you at the park. And watching Peter help a little girl he had just met up the playset ladder just because he loves to "be a gentleman".
~Watching little ones playing when they have no idea you are in the room... heeheehee ;).
~The little, random, un-set-up-able moments with those you love that just warm your heart even though it seems like such a common, small thing.
~Bethi's potted lettuce coming up, she's so excited!
~Tori telling Peter something the other day, and his agreeing with her... then she asked, "Do you know what that means?" and he said, "Yes!". And then she queries, "So what does it mean?". *stunned silence* "I thought I knew what it meant". Haha! He sounded like Winnie-the Pooh, haha!
~'Siah all excited about a cookie... little goosie. And then he sat on my lap for forever drawing, and his little fist was so cuuuuute!!!!
~Answered prayers.
~Getting to sing "Wonderful the Matchless Grace of Jesus" in choir ths last Wednesday. Tori and I were *just* talking last week about how wonderful that song is and about how nobody seems to sing it, at least at times that we get to join in, haha. It was strange timing! And, as a side note, I'm glad that choir starting back after the July break!
~Saying the same thing at the same time as Tori... that doesn't happen often, but we've done it like three times in the past two days, it's hilarious!
~The feel of a good pen on paper.
~Trying out a new recipe.
~Annnnnnnd, last, but *certainly* and *definitely* not least...
the precious new life that will be joining our family next spring!!!!! The Lord is so good, and we are so thankful for this blessing :)! I can't wait to meet this new little one, with it's own personality and gifts to contribute to our family :)!!!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

What is a Church?

Our parents take us through a couple questions from the "Catechism for Boys and Girls" by Tom J. Nettles every night, and this was one of the questions a couple weeks ago. The answer to "What is a church?" is given as "A church is an assembly of baptized believers joined by a covenant of discipline and witness who meet together regularly under the preaching of the word of God."

Church is not a building. Lydia and those she worshiped with met at the riverside (Acts 16). The book of Nehemiah tells us of Ezra leading worship in the "square before the water gate". The church is not confined to four walls. The church can be held anywhere, because the church is believers, who "in one body... have many members, and the members do not all have the same function[. S]o we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." But as individuals, we make up part of THE church, but we do not make A church.

The universal church of Christ is all individual believers. Everyone who is called His own and strives to honor him in worship, prayer, and searching of the scripture is a part of the universal church. And with so many resources at our fingertips this day, we can listen to a sermon whenever we want. We have always been able to worship and sing praises to God at any time we want. We are called to pray without ceasing, whether we are at church or not. We can serve others for Christ's sake in ways that are not connected to the church. All of these are part of a church, and should also be carried out in our private life, but alone they are personal worship.

We can meet up with people all the time. We can share some of the things that God has been teaching us. We can witness of His mercies and talk of His teachings among ourselves often. But just meeting up with friends is simply a social outing. We can honor God while we do so -and should delight and seek to do so- but that isn't church, either.

I was reading in Nehemiah yesterday and loved this passage; "And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading" (Nehemiah 8:1-8). 

All the people gathered as one. They made a collective decision to learn from the word of God together. They delighted in it, and attended to it. They blessed the Lord together, and worshiped Him. The leaders explained the Words that they had just read together.

We need believers who make a collective decision to delight to come together as one to learn from the word of God and worship Him. We need those who will share what he has done for them, and seek to show His love to each other regularly. We need likeminded fellowship, not to satisfy our own longings, but to bring glory to Christ and encourage other believers. We need to "contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality" (Romans 12). We need biblical preaching of the Word regularly. This will give us a local church, no matter what the building, or lack thereof, may look like. Following Christ's pattern for a church will often bring joy to the believer, but it should be done for the witness it brings to Christ, not just for what we enjoy from it.

Church isn't just people. People make friendships. But a church without people devoted to Christ isn't church, either. Let us "devote... [our]selves to the... teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and... prayers."