FAMILIES

I am an only child.  Therefore, my family is quite small … my Father, Mother and me and my dog Tippy.  (The picture was taken before we obtained Tippy!)   While I have several cousins, we probably couldn’t fill up a large SUV! 

We have some friends in our church who have 10 grandchildren, all in one family.  The eldest granddaughter recently married a man who also was from a family of 10 children, and they are already expecting their first child.  I simply cannot comprehend that large a family!

Families are complex entities, subject at any moment to be loving and forgiving and then turning on a dime to be condemning and hateful.  Since I don’t have any siblings, I can’t emphasize with those who have struggles with their siblings.  I certainly know that such difficulties exist, however.

One thing I do understand — the church family.  The people my parents worshipped with at the time I was born prayed for me, as I weighed only 3 pounds 10 ounces, not a survivable weight in the 1940s.  But my Father called the church and they prayed for both me and my Mother.

I contracted polio and required experimental back surgery when I was 9, a surgery that required being in a body cast for a year.  The church family surrounded me with love, prayers and well-wishes, their helping gestures were too numerous for me to comprehend.

Years later, when I was a single parent attending law school, a different church family came to my rescue on numerous occasions as they took care of my young children, brought food, and prayed for me, among other things.

Now my children have children of their own and my husband and I enjoy the marvels of a loving family as we gather to celebrate various occasions, such as my husband’s birthday yesterday. 

But our nuclear family is not the only family the Christian has — the obligation to participate in the church family’s health and safety looms large as we remember Jesus’s admonition to care for each other.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 13:34

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:34-36

The Apostle Paul, writing in the book of Romans, said this about our love for each other:

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:10

In John’s first epistle, he reiterated the place that love should have in our lives.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 

1 John 4:7

The church family – it is much like our earthly families.  There are those we love to get together with and there are some we would more than likely shy away from.   Some folks are easy to get along with and others are more difficult.  Then there are those who are beset with dementia, and other mental disorders, and they often are unaware of the difficulties that they create on a daily basis.

But, we are called to love and care for them. 

Why? 

Because we are just as unlovely as the other folks in the church family.

Why?

Because God loves us and gave His Son for us. 

Why? 

Jesus commanded us to love each other.

Showing kindness and mercy is hard when we are pressed about with other things that call for our attention.  Showing love is hard when the person to whom it is extended does not want it or will not remember it moments later.   But that is exactly what Jesus commands that we do.  Further, it is what He did when He died on the cross for us.  He gave us love when we did not deserve it and when we didn’t even know it existed. 

Praise His holy name for all the wondrous works that He has blessed us with on a moment-by-moment basis!

Even if your family is not exactly as you would have wanted, love them.  Show Christ’s love to them.   And extend that same love to those who are in your church family.  We are called to do so.  Don’t ignore a command of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Follow Him and He will give you the grace and patience, the wisdom and courage to undertake the task, even if it is difficult.  After all, He promises that He will be with you all the way!

Lord, there are often times when I don’t think I can do it.  Help me to remember that my family and my church family both need my care and concern for them.  They may need food and clothing, a ride to the doctor or an appointment for a haircut.  Help me to be sensitive to their needs as we go through the days waiting for Your return.

A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE!

On a vacation many years ago, our young grandson saw the teeter-totter after his older brother sat on the end at ground level.  Almost instinctively, he wanted to be sitting on the other end.  Of course, the problem is that when one is sitting on the lower side, the unoccupied end is up in the air.

see saw
Papa assisting young grandson on the teeter-totter.

He didn’t know the words “A little help, please!” but he knew that his Papa would lift him high onto the teeter-totter seat.  So far so good!

But, then, after settling on the high end, he realized there was more to a teeter-totter than just sitting on the seat!  There was the weight differential between siblings and gravity was not his friend!

Once seated, he wanted to do it himself.  This was, of course, an abject impossibility since he could not even hold himself steady, but he didn’t realize that.  His spirit of “I can do it-ism” (is that a word?) was running rampant.

So, Papa stood behind the young teeter-totter rider, holding the seat and guiding the ride so that the older sibling could go up and come back down without such a jolt that the little guy would be thrown into the air.  In other words, Papa helped even though the little one believed he was doing it all by himself.

There are times when we, as adults, find ourselves in situations which overwhelm us or which are so complex that we cannot unravel the situation.  It is at those times that we should say “A little help, please!”

When we come to the end of our rope, our Lord is standing there ready to catch us.  Whatever the need is, our Lord is more than able to handle it according to His will and for your benefit.

Our problem, however, is that we, often, are too prideful to ask for help.  We need it, we know we need it, but we cannot seem to say the words, even to those who love us and who are in our physical family as well as our church family of believers.

Scripture repeats over and over again the admonition that we are to help others.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 ESV.

Help the weak, both believers and non-believers. (For further reference, see 1 Thessalonians 5:14.)

“Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

Philippians 4:3 ESV.

Helping here was to be extended to missionaries who labored with Paul, and may require giving funds or providing housing; providing clothes or preparing a meal.

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV.

Helping includes more than merely giving money; it includes praying for the ministry of others.

When Jesus was healing and teaching, a Canaanite woman came to Him seeking healing for her daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon.  He did not respond immediately, and the disciples told Him to send her away.  He said that He was sent to the house of Israel, distinguishing her since she was a Canaanite.  She then persisted in seeking relief for her daughter as follows:

“But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Matthew 15:25-28 ESV

I find it easy to ask the Lord to help me – but it is far more difficult to ask for help from others.  This should not be so.  By refusing to tell others of our need, we are denying them the blessing of obeying the Lord’s command to supply the needs of others.

Christian, if you have what others need, open your hands and give.  Christ gave His life for you; we surely can assist others in their time of need. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading as you seek to help others.

If you have a need, swallow your pride and tell others of the problem.  Find a care group, an individual, an Elder, Deacon or the Pastor at your church, anyone who you feel comfortable speaking with and share the need or concern.  Pray with them and then let the Lord lead them in assisting you toward resolution of the problem.

christ-of-the-ozarks-missouri-1968-3
Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

The Lord is still in our world helping others as He did with the Canaanite woman; now He uses our hands and feet to do His work.  Allow us to do so by seeking help.  It is available through those He leads by His Spirit to work in this world.

Father, may I be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and may I respond joyfully to the needs that present themselves to me.  And, may I give to others so that Your Name may be glorified.  

 

HELPING OTHERS

I came across a picture the other day that made me smile; okay, it made me laugh. I copy it here for your consideration. And, I suspect that you are at least smiling too!

Doggie giving a head's up to infant
Doggie giving a head’s up to infant

I don’t know the name of either the photographer or the child nor do I know the name of the considerate canine. But, I do know that the little one could not have had as clear a view of the outside but for the help of his friend.

The ways of helping others are as varied as there are people and needs. We could help a child overcome the fear of water.

Helping child to overcome fear of water
Helping child to overcome fear of water

We could take care of the wildlife in our sphere of influence.

 

Ruby throated hummingbird
Ruby throated hummingbird

Squirrel at corn cob feeder in backyard
Squirrel at corn cob feeder in backyard

And we could enable young children to participate in feeding the backyard critters, thereby teaching them that all of God’s creation is important — that we are stewards, not owners!

Helping child learn about feeding backyard friends
Helping child learn about feeding backyard friends

Often we think that we need to help others by being busy about doing things … hurrying here and there, bustling and caring for others while our frenetic schedules are clamoring for our attention.  But, sometimes, helping others means stopping and being still. Sometimes all that is needed is a little help to get a different view of the situation, a new perspective. Sometimes the best help we can give is just being with someone who needs an ear, or a shoulder, or a smile. Take time to pray with them, or cheer for an accomplishment, or perhaps give encouragement to take the next step!

Toddler learning to walk
Toddler learning to walk

The Bible often talks about helping others. For example:

Acts 20:35: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” [NIV]

Philippians 1:18‐19: “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” [NIV]

1 Thessalonians 5:14‐15: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” [NIV]

Lord, in answer to your commands and as I respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

  • I pray that I am kind to each person with whom I interact.
  • I pray that I will help those I come in contact with who need special attention, whether family, friends or neighbors.
  • I pray that my help will address the need of the individual, rather than my own need for recognition.
  • I pray that my help will be sacrificial and that it will be done in secret, without concern for receiving thanks.
  • I pray that in all things I will bring glory to God and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, without whom I would, most likely, not be inclined to help at all!

Amen.