Why pray? The power of love, hospitals and gifts.

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1 Peter 4:7-10 (NIV)

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

Are you stuck in a trying situation or have a problem for which there seems to be no imaginable solution?  Life is full of problems. No surprise for Jesus promised such tribulation, in case you thought something was amiss and there shouldn’t be all this pain.  (But He also encouraged us to cheer up because of what He would do on our behalf.- see John 16:33)

I like to commit Scripture to memory.  So I’ve been living with the Apostle Peter as I’ve made my way slowly through his first letter to scattered believers.  Memorizing the book, verse by verse, since January 2017, has provided me with rich meditation.

Recently a new insight in the above passage struck me.  ‘The end of all things is near.”  The straightforward plain reading of the text seems to be that Jesus will be back sooner than we think.  However, from our perspective (and if you think about the recipients of the letter 2 millennia earlier) the end is taking A LONG time in arriving!

Last week as I rehearsed what I ‘have’ inside of me from chapter 4, I saw something different in the above verses.  I thought about my friend Pat.  This pen-pal friend is in her late 60s and suffers from late-onset depression.  She was 60 before this darkness descended.  Meds appear to work for a while and then stop and her doctor tries out something else that might provide relief.   My new insight was this: what if God means, ‘the end of this particular trial that dominates her life right now’ is near?

If that’s the case and since God calls us to bear one another’s burdens, what can I, Maria, do to hasten Pat’s imminent relief from this disease?  Peter provides a prescription.  I’m to:

  • Be clear minded, or as another translation renders it sober up, that is ‘get a grip’ about what is important in the eternal scheme of things (and it’s not 75 % of what I churn about!)  Why?  So I can pray.  I’m to pray for my suffering sister.  We Christians are to corral and curate our thought life so we can pray for others.  Why?  Because God uses our prayers to bring an end to our brothers’ and sisters’ pains and trials.
  • Next, I’m to love this friend, that is to do what I can to make her life easier.  God gives us imaginations so we can put ourselves in someone else’s situation and understand what we would like in terms of relief and assistance.  Pat lives in Texas and I live in North Carolina.  So besides praying, I can keep in touch through mail, phone calls and texts.
  • Then what about the hospitality Peter mentions?  I love knowing that reaching out to those in need is also the origin of our centers for medical care – hospitals.  We are to be mini-hospitals to fellow members of God’s family.
  • Finally, we are to know that God specifically wired us and gifted us with the means to serve one another according to needs we find around us.  I have a friend who knits.  She works to hasten the trials of others by praying over shawls that she creates with love and care.  God did not endow me with that beautiful skill.

So you see, dear friends, God involves us in the very shortening of others’ trials.  But we have to get OUT of ourselves.  The call to pray, love, and provide healing service to those in need is a HIGH CALLING!

If you wonder what is the purpose of your life this day, then look no further.  God has equipped you and me to participate in a God-honoring and life-affirming way.  To Him be all the glory and to us be much joy.

Interning for the Lord

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What will we be doing forever?

God tells us in His last chapter of the book of Revelation.

Rev 22:3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.

A guest pastor shared with our church the other night that this now is his favorite verse.  Some Bibles translate the Greek term  latreuo as worship. However it is equally rendered : “to serve or minister to”

If our job in the new heavens & earth is to serve God, then what is our purpose here on this present earth, in this present time?

Training for the future!

Intern

God wakens us to hear His call, to turn from a life set on self-fulfillment, to come to Him to fulfill HIS purposes for us while on earth as well as later –  as forgiven and beloved sons and daughters. living forever with Him.

But citizenship in this Kingdom has no room for idle adopted children. Rather we are brought into the Royal Family as heirs needing to be trained, needing a complete re-orientation.  Our holy work-study program is an intentional discipling and training regime.  God envisions and equips us to be happy ambassadors of His Good News. As heralds who go about their normal lives proclaiming Truth in the darkness, we invite others to ‘taste and see’ that our King is a good Father.

Recently, awareness of this ‘other’ function/purpose of my life dropped deeper into my heart. I’ve acknowledged for several years my so-called ‘diplomatic’ role as one of Christ’s representatives, whether in my work-a-day life or running errands or hanging out with friends and family.  But not until we moved here to Western North Carolina, to a new school for me where I experienced pain, disappointment and some spiritual attack did my framework shift and settle into a new position.

What I’m realizing is this:

  • that it actually doesn’t matter WHAT I do, WHERE I work, or how painful/pleasant the circumstances.
  • that my call, my mandate from God is to love Him and love my neighbor where I am.

And how do we love God?  By believing Him, by relying 100% on Him, by treasuring Him above any of the good gifts He gives. How do we love our neighbor?  By serving him well.

The sermon linked below reinforced and completed my shift in thinking.  The pastor, Ray Cortese, stressed that being competent in our work is a way to love and serve our neighbor.  We all want a competent and cheerful mechanic, computer repair guy, surgeon, hairdresser, waiter, sales clerk.  And we owe Martin Luther a round of applause for dignifying ALL work done IN God’s strength and FOR His glory.

As Malcolm Muggeridge stated so exuberantly: ‘the happiest person in the world is the woman who sweeps out her house to the glory of God.’ 

I see a two-fold divine standard to how we should work, whether on-the-job, or in the kitchen:

  • Develop competence and strive for excellence in all we do – not to justify ourselves, but to please our neighbor AND God
  • Work with joy, in dependence on God – not for our Glory, but for His

Listen to Ray Cortese, PCA pastor in Georgia, teach the biblical view of work. The link below is to all the sermons in 2015 so far.  Scroll down to the one 1 Feb 2015 – Love Thy Neighbor – work

Excellent sermon on a theology of work

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