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.

THE BEAUTY OF HUMILITY

The Christmas Season. A time marked by packages to buy, wrap and send; cards to sign and post; food to prepare for the family and food to take to gatherings of friends; church events to attend; civic concerts of beautiful music hear. Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?
When the world’s focus is on giving and “doing good” during this season, we can even become arrogant in boasting about our busyness; the calls that we have upon our time, talents and finances; and what we have done for others.
Humility has, from the beginning, been difficult to find among mortal men. Adam and Eve turned their back on humility and sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit in their attempt to “be like God”. Genesis 3:5.
But Scripture reveals that we have no basis to be proud or arrogant.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Psalm 144:3-4.

According to Scripture, we are temporal, finite, sinners who have absolutely no standing with God. While we may look good to other sinners here on earth, we have no basis to stand puffed up before God. Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?
When I have forgotten the priority of humility, I have to confess, seek forgiveness, and then refocus on the right attitude before God. For me, the best way to remember just who I am is to look at God’s creation and to read His Word.
• The majesty of the mountains.

Mountains view in Alaska (C)
Alaskan mountain range with Mt. McKinley, now Mt. Denali, in background.

The strength of the hummingbird. Beauty with wings fluttering going so fast we can’t see them with the naked eye!

Hummingbid getting a drink (C)
Hummingbird getting a drink without standing on the feeder, still using wing power even while eating.

The vastness of the ocean.

Ocean waves  (C)
The ocean, continually moving and teeming with life.

The incredible variety of creatures that inhabit the seas.

Fish from Mississippi Marine exhibit 3
Coral animals alive in the Gulf Marine Specimen Lab.

Fish from Mississippi Marine exhibit 8
Are you looking at me? Fish in Gulf Marine Specimen Lab.

 

Fish - Florida Spiny Lobster
Florida spiny lobsters.

 

The detail in a flower.

Flowers at Hotel Alyeska, Alaska,
Flowers in the mountains of Alaska, at Hotel Alyeska.

Flowers (3)
Flowers blooming in brilliant purple.

The beauty of the newborn baby. All the parts of an adult but in miniature.

Newborn baby girl (C)
Newborn baby daughter, alive with all sorts of possibilities ahead of her.

 

God is at work in His creation and in my life on a moment by moment basis. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all over, everywhere), and He has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior.
What is the response to this powerful, present Creator God? It certainly is not strutting our stuff before Him, as if we could accomplish anything without Him!
Rather, it should be the response that Abram had when God told him that He was making a covenant with him. Genesis 17:3 says:

 Then Abram fell on his face.

When the people of Israel were standing outside Jericho and Joshua, their leader after Moses’ death, was looking for guidance from the Lord:

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5:13-15.

It should be the response that Ezekiel had when he had a vision of the Lord in His heaven.

Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel 1:28

When confronted with the holiness of God, we come face to face with the reality that we are sinners and the magnitude of our unrighteousness is directly before us. There is no puffing or grandstanding before God – we bend the knee, we bow our head, we prostrate ourselves and we submit to Him.
We should have the same attitude that Mary expressed to the angel after being told that she would be the mother of Jesus.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38.

Of course, the ultimate example of humility is found in our own Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Babe in the manger grew up into our Savior. In His teaching, Jesus said:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12.

Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?

The one who left heaven to come to earth, not as a king or mighty ruler but as a baby, was found in a manger, the rough feeding trough for the animals. It was not the sterile, washed and well-padded baby bed that we find necessary for our newborn children.  It is this Babe that Paul is talking about in Philippians 2 when he exhorted the Christian believers to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ had when He came to earth … humility.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8.

May this Christmas find us with an attitude of humble thanksgiving for the grace and mercy God has showered upon us through Jesus Christ His Son. The Babe in the manger became the Lamb on the cross who was crucified for our sins and transgressions. The Babe in the manger then rose from the dead and became our resurrected Lord and Savior. Salvation is possible because of that Babe’s obedience to the will of our Sovereign God and Father, and we receive that salvation through faith and trust in that Babe whose name is Jesus Christ.
Let your Christmas be blessed by our Lord as we serve Him with His heart of humility and peace. Humility is the mark of our Lord on His children, and it creates beautiful lives lived in His Spirit for His glory and honor, this Christmas as well as each day that He grants us life.
Father, I pray that I would live my life in humble obedience to your will, as exhibited by Mary upon the angel’s announcement to her. I pray that you would empower me to do that which you direct, and that you would receive honor and glory as we celebrate our Lord’s birth and your work in human history on Christmas Day.