Yesterday the pastor of my church taught about what it means that God is love as it says in 1 John 4. It was a wonderful message. The message basically was:
God is love means that love is part of God’s core being. He doesn’t love because of what we do, who we are, or anything else. He loves because it is part of who he is.
When we come to God, our motives are not pure. We do not bring anything to the table that God needs. God does not need anything from us, but he loves us because it is part of who he is.
We bring to God our failures, our sins, our struggles, our depression, our anxiety, our illness, our doubts. our mess. God loves us. Not because of what we do or who we are. He loves us because he loves us.
I love this video by Laura Story. The lyrics of the song so beautifully express the truth of how God loves us even though we are a mess. I hope the song blesses you as you start your week. 🙂
Have you ever experienced having positive input from someone turn your day around? I experienced that Sunday morning. I woke up feeling fatigued, which is normal for someone living with chronic illness, and was tempted to stay home and watch my church’s worship service online. But I did not want to give into the fatigue, so I went to church even though I felt bogged down.
My group was missing some people due to some working and one getting her car fixed. The one person who came is fluent in English and is also a translator. She is from Peru. We spoke in Spanish most of the hour. She shared an observation with me saying, “You’re Spanish is good. You could be a translator in the future.”
I thought she was just being nice, so I said, “Eres simpactica” meaning, you are nice. She replied that she was serious and then shared with me some things I could work on to be ready to be an interpreter.
When we were finished, the bogged down feeling emotionally was gone. I was still fatigued, but my mood was definitely lifted up.
Words have power. Words can encourage, heal, build up, or they can tear down, deflate, and destroy. Paul exhorted us about our words in Ephesians 4:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
A blog I follow is Christian Mommas. My little sister Temi writes most of the posts, but other moms share posts from time to time too. On Monday sbackues shared a post-Word Are Seeds. It is a wonderful post about how her words and her husband’s words to their adopted daughter helped their adopted daughter to begin to see herself in a better light. It is a great post to read.
Whether we are talking with children, teens, or adults, our words matter. God wants us to seek to build others up. In this day of cyber bullying, negative posts and comments in social media, and toxic public discourse, it is even more imperative for those of us who follow Jesus to be careful with our words.
October has special meaning for me. I will never forget a day in October 1989 that changed my life and ministry.
One Saturday evening I went to see a film by Billy Graham Ministries-Caught. The story line of the film is about a drug addict from America on the streets of Amsterdam. An evangelist from India in town for the Billy Graham World Conference for Evangelism reaches out to and helps the young man come to Jesus and be freed from his addiction.
At the end of the film, it shows Billy Graham speaking to the conference. He did the finger point thing as he said, “And do the work of an Evangelist.”
At that moment, it felt like a arrow through my spirit. The moment I will never forget is what happened when I returned home from seeing that film at a local church.
I walked in the door and as soon as I entered my home I felt the presence of God in a way I never had before. I fell to the floor in his presence. Images of people needing help and feeling hopeless kept going through my mind. I felt in my spirit a message-:”everywhere you go I will bring people across your path who feel hopeless for you to share me with them.”
A few days later I went to get my haircut. I had never met the woman who cut my hair before. While she was cutting my hair, she shared with me about a trauma in her life. That was the first in a continual series over the years of people opening up to me. It still happens often to this day.
Over the years, the Lord used that as a training ground to prepare me for the ministry I have today reaching out to refugees and immigrants. Refugees are by definition people who feel hopeless in this life. When I meet refugees, share the love of Jesus with them, and help them, I often remember how it all started that October day 30 years ago.
This week my evening ESL classes started up again. Last night my highest level class started. I began the class by saying to my students, “It is up to you.”
I shared a true story about a young woman who was in a group that I mentored to prepare for university. I encouraged her to enroll in an Intensive English Program at the university here. She confided in me that she heard from others in my Sunday morning group that the program was not very good. I explained to her that the people telling her that were not motivated and did not try very hard. I told her, “You will get out of the program what you put into it. It is up to you.” She took it to heart and applied herself. She passed the TOEFL test to be able to enroll in the university after one 8 week session.
A few other young people in my Sunday morning group at the time took notice and asked what she did. She said, “I studied with Matt,” I had offered them help, but they did not take me up on it. Because of my young friend’s achievement, suddenly they took note and asked me to help them too. But really she achieved because she put in a lot of effort.
So what does that have to do with me and my readers?
When it comes to relationship with Jesus, with God our father, in many ways, it is up to you, it is up to me, it is up to us.
What do I mean by that?
God always desires relationship with us. Think about how far God went to have relationship with us. Jesus came and died for us. If we are not experiencing the great blessing of knowing God, the problem is not God, but ourselves. He is always willing, ready, and much more than able to have deep meaningful relationship with us. He is eternal and never grows tired of meeting us where we are in life.
The only limitation on experiencing and benefiting from relationship with God is- ourselves. God is eternal. He wants relationship with us.
We limit ourselves by focusing on our circumstances, giving in to temptation, or not fully realizing how great God is.
God wants to walk beside us in life. He wants to empower us. He wants to free us from the things that entangle us in life. He has all power. He can do as it says in Ephesians 3:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us “
The question is not if God can or wants to have relationship with us. The question is do we want to seek him for relationship.
I want to thank Jodie of cutthechronic.com for nominating me for Share Your Passion. I like Jodie’s blog because she is my fellow chronic illness warrior and she shares about living life in a way that chronic illness does not defeat her. 🙂
I like the Share Your Passion Tag because it encourages us to stir one another unto to good works 🙂
The goal of the #ShareYourPassion Tag, created by https://absolutelytrueconfessions.com, is for bloggers to uplift other bloggers and inspire their readers. Bloggers who are tagged are encouraged to talk about their passions outside of blogging, and how to use those passions to help others. Love this!
Rules of the #ShareYourPassion Tag:
Repost the #ShareYourPassion logo (above) on your acceptance post.
Tag the blogger’s site that nominated you.
Share a bit about your passion(s): Hobbies outside of blogging that keep you busy in your free time. What would you like to accomplish with these things? How could you use your passion(s) to be a blessing to others and show them the love of God?
Nominate ten other bloggers and spread the joy!
A big passion for me is learning about and relating to people from diverse cultures. That has led to a hobby of mine which is to learn how to greet people in their languages. I have learned how to greet people in 30 languages. For one people group, that has been significant for them
The Yazidi people are from the Middle East. They have been living under oppression for centuries because they are not part of the majority religion there. Genocide has been committed against them 74 times over the centuries most recently five years ago.
I make it my habit to walk around the college where I teach in the evenings and greet the Yazidi students by saying- Hi, how are you my friend/Choeknee Havalimah- to try to make them feel welcome. I have been in the homes of many Yazidi friends and shared God’s love with them.
A newer passion of mine has been to try to be an advocate for Mental Health issues and also Chronic Illness. I have a few chronic illnesses and a symptom of both of them is depression. My hope is that by sharing my experience and how Jesus has helped me, it will encourage others. I believe that if God comforts me it is not just for me, it is so I can in turn comfort others such as 2 Corinthians 1 says:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
This quote is from Proverbs 31, Yes as in Proverbs 31 we hear quoted often by women saying they want to be a Proverbs 31 woman. Interestingly Proverbs 31 starts as an exhortation from a mother to her son about what kind of King to be and the quote is at the heart of her wisdom and advice- speak up for and defend the poor and helpless..
This quote is one of the most inspirational for me as I serve, teach, and help refugees and immigrants. I have heard their stories. I have listened as they cried. I have tried to advocate for them whenever I can.
My home church recently experienced a transition to a new lead pastor. I am not a key person in the church. Since I am not an important nor influential person for my home church, I tried to stay in the background during the transition and pray.
But I have to share what CAUGHT my attention above and beyond anything else. As a family our new pastor, his wife and children accepted into their family and adopted an infant who was born to a meth addict. My first thought was this family lives out their faith and love for God.
There are so many issues in our culture and world today as sin increasingly ravages victims. As Christians, we represent the Savior of the World and the King of Kings. We can be a voice for the helpless. We can speak up for children. We can foster children. We can speak up for and help women who are victims of domestic violence. There are so many ways that we can be the hands of Jesus caring for the helpless.
A little known historical fact is that in the days of the early church, during the brutality of the Roman Empire, if a father rejected a baby for whatever reason, the baby would be out in the street. Christians would take the babies in as their own. That is a sliver of the heritage we 21st Century Christians have to live up to.
A few examples of speaking up for and defending the defenseless:
A new blogger who really caught my attention is Rayna who writes her blog The Youth Advocate at youth-advocate.org. In her blog she gives a voice to defenseless children who are victims of crimes. I highly recommend checking out her blog and following here.
Love Justice is a ministry/organization that works to intercept children and young woman being sex trafficked. Please check out their website at Love Justice.
Dear Reader, please prayerfully consider how you can be a Proverbs 31 person and speak up for the destitute and defend the rights of the poor and needy. It is not the “social gospel’. It is in the bible.
This week I was reminded again of the fact that people watch us, what we do, how we treat others, how we live.
The coordinator for my morning class had a crisis in her family. Her oldest daughter went to the emergency room Monday night. She was in the hospital overnight and through the next few days. On Wednesday it was decided to send her to the University Hospital one hour away by ambulance. She needed major surgery and the concern was cancer.
I have worked with the coordinator for six years. We have a good working relationship. She sent me a message that said, “I know you are a man of faith, Please pray for my daughter.”
The surgery went well but was six hours. It has been determined there was no cancer.
I saw the coordinator yesterday at school. Another teacher who is a Christian came in the room too for the update.The coordinator told her, “I asked Matt to pray because I know he is a man of faith,”
I love the staff where my morning class is held. It is wonderful to see their dedication to the children in a school in a low income neighborhood. They truly make a huge difference.
So today I wish to ask my followers to pray for teachers and even to think about how to encourage teachers. Even small things like a thank you can mean so much.
One new blogger I follow is a Pre-K teacher. Deborah has a blog-Great is God’s Faithfulness at greatisgodsfaithfulness.blog. Please check out her blog and leave an encouraging comment.
Another teacher who blogs is Vanessa. of Brave Blessed and Beautiful at braveblessedandbeautiful.com. Please check out her blog and leave and encouraging comment.
It has been a while since I met someone new from Bosnia. The situation stabilized there, so we have not had any refugees from there in a number of years. However, one young woman, whose parents came to my city from Bosnia in 1997, was born here. She recently married a young man from Bosnia and sponsored him to come here.
I met him Monday evening at the college. When I found out that he doesn’t like a popular Bosnian food called Sarma, I joked with him that I did not think he was really a Bosnian because he doesn’t like Sarma. Sarma is basically a cabbage roll.
He laughed. His wife told her mother what I said and she laughed. He called his family in Bosnia and told them what I said and they laughed. It was a wonderful ice breaker to start to get to know the family.
I will be meeting with him this morning for an English lesson. I do not know where this will lead to. I do know it can lead to a friendship. I hope and pray for an opportunity to share Christ’s love with him and his family.
Humor broke the ice but it would not have been possible if I did not know a little about Bosnian culture. If I want to be able to reach a person with the love of Christ, it helps to understand where the person is coming from. A few thoughts about understanding people:
1- Listen– they are the best teachers about who they are.
2- Don’t put anyone into a box. We tend to want to keep people in a box based on prior knowledge, even if it is limited, but it can prevent us from getting to know the person.
3- Remember the person we are talking with has great value because Jesus died for them
4- Take time to learn a little about their culture if it is different from our own.
5- Be open to new experiences and learning.
6- Be Flexible. This is so important when relating with other cultures but also within your own culture.
7- Last but most important- PRAY. By praying we invite Jesus into our lives and into our efforts. By praying we are led by Jesus in relating with others.
Learning to relate to others is part of loving them so we can live out what Jesus called the second great commandment in Matthew 22:
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Let me be filled With Kindness, and compassion for the One The One for whom You love and gave Your Son For humanity increase my love
Help me to love with open arms, like You do A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth So that when they look in my eyes, they would see You Even in just a smile they would feel the Father’s love
I love the lyrics for this song For The One. What a difference it would make it if we asked God to fill us with his love for others. What a difference it would make if we saw each person we meet only as someone that Jesus loves and died for,
It isn’t easy at times. I know. There are people who make it difficult to love them. I am talking about toxic behavior not differences of culture, color, language, interests in life etc.
But what if that person who is different than us at work or in our neighborhoods, we began to pray for that person including that person others stay away from, that person who is a bit of an outcast or socially awkward.
There is a young woman who works in a market that I go to. It is an Organic/All Natural market. She has tattoos and nose piercing. She never smiled when I went in. I prayed for her. The next time I went in I noticed her necklace with an amulet. I told her the amulet was interesting and asked if it has special meaning for her. She told me it has her boyfriend’s ashes in it. I realized the reason she doesn’t smile is because she is grieving. I expressed my sympathy. Now when I go there, she waves at me.
What if we sought moments like that to express in simple ways the love God has for everyone?
This past Saturday I was on a urgent mission. I had called in for a refill of my asthma inhaler but thought I would pick it up Sunday because my inhaler showed I had 10 inhalations left. But when I went to use my inhaler, nothing was left. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and the pharmacy closes early at 4pm on Saturdays.
It was a football Saturday and a home game. So I had to drive through post-game traffic. Also the street I usually take to make it a shorter drive is closed for construction. With the thought that I might really need my inhaler, it felt urgent to me to get to the pharmacy in time, so I took a different route to avoid game traffic. Fortunately I got there with five minutes to spare.
Anyone with asthma would understand that feeling of urgency that I felt Saturday.
Then I felt convicted about some things .
Do I feel the same sense of urgency for people who do not know Jesus to come to know him?
Do I feel the same sense of urgency to pray for others?
Do I feel the same sense of urgency to show the love of Jesus?
The questions kept flooding my mind about whether I felt urgency for others.
“For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”2 Corinthians 6:2