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Posts Tagged ‘human care’

There was a time when I would have said that worship was something I did on Sunday mornings.  To worship, I thought, meant to “go to church;” to sing hymns, participate in the liturgy, and listen to the pastor’s sermon.  While it’s true that this is worship, it is only one kind of worship.

Romans 12:1 describes a worship that takes place every minute of every day.  God’s Word says to me, “. . . In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Worship means living my life in such a way that brings glory to God.  If I truly believe that God had great mercy on me, a poor and miserable sinner, and that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life because of my sins, then I have opportunity to live like a new person.  I have opportunity to respond to God’s great love in a way that pleases Him.  That shouldn’t just be on Sunday during congregational worship, but on every day of the week and in ever circumstance.  The choices I make, the work I do, the way I serve others, the attitude I have – all of these common, everyday thoughts and actions are either worship of God – or self.

It’s far too easy to worship self.  I do this every time I insist on my own way, or put my needs before others, or whine, or pout, or feel sorry for myself.  But, to worship God, my Creator and Redeemer, I must “become nothing” so the Holy Spirit who lives in me can alter my thinking, choices and behavior.  How does this work?

Jenna is in college… and pregnant.  The father of the baby wants to marry her.  They love each other, but the timing is all wrong; after all, she has plans for a career, travel, and the joys of marriage for a while without children.  Her dreams are shattered.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Jenna has the opportunity to sacrifice personal desires for the life of another.  Her choice to adjust plans in order to welcome a precious new life is her spiritual act of worship.

Max is a grandfather.  The patriarch of his family.  He is plagued with one physical challenge after another.  He had wanted to be the strong one for his wife and family; instead, he is the one who needs constant care and medical attention.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Max has the opportunity to adjust his attitude and his plans for “life after 80.” Rather than wasting time by complaining, Max chooses to sharpen his wit and laugh in the midst of adversity.  He encourages friends and family by turning their attention toward running the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1).  This is his spiritual act of worship.

Since childhood, Jake had wanted to be a physician.  Between the university and med school, he served his country in the military as a medic.  On a routine mission, something went terribly wrong and Jake’s life was forever changed.  He endured a series of operations intended to restore the use of his hands, but it was the Holy Spirit who performed the miracle.  In view of God’s mercy, Jake had opportunity to sacrifice personal goals and, instead, travel a different path.  He entered seminary, married, and became a father.  Several  years later, Jake and his family became missionaries.  His spiritual act of worship made a difference in the lives of countless men, women and children who might never have known Jesus Christ without Jake.

Our everyday lives are filled with opportunities to worship God  At work, we have the choice to give the best we can offer… or just get by.  In the neighborhood, we have the choice to engage ourselves in serving others… or remain unengaged and self-focused.  At a party, on a date, or at a sports event, we have the choice to please God… or please ourselves.  In view of His great mercy, we are encouraged to think, say, and do holy things… things that please God.

How do I know what is pleasing to God?  He tells me in His Word found in Romans 12:2.  “Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

What does worship mean to me?  The Holy Spirit has been patient with me.  Slowly (and against my will) opening my eyes to see.  To hear.  I’m beginning to understand that I have opportunities to worship with every attitude.  Every choice.  My behavior toward others.  Even my tone of voice.

Do I worship well?  No, I’m still a poor, miserable sinner.  But, in view of God’s mercy, I am a forgiven sinner.  Because of what Jesus Christ did for me, each new day is an opportunity to start over.  To try again.  To live differently than the world around me.  I am not captive to my past mistakes.  Because of Jesus, I have the freedom to make choices that are pleasing to God, but also a blessing to my neighbor.

My prayer is that I will worship on Sunday with thanksgiving and praise for what God has done.  God wants to see our faces turned toward Him.  But, even more, He wants to give to us.  I come to church on Sunday empty.  Used up.  Ready to be filled.  I don’t give to God on Sunday.  He gives to me.  He fills me with His Word and Sacrament.  Walking out the church door, and for the rest of the week, I have opportunity to live in response to His great mercy.

Each word, work, or service can be my worship — to His glory.

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Tom lives in the neighborhood.  Most of us see him as a quiet, non-troublesome kind of guy.   He “minds his own business.”  But, those of us who live a little closer to Tom see him making some choices that, while seemingly private, are affecting his neighbors.   It isn’t my right to tell Tom what to do in his own home, or to tell him who he should invite into his home.  But, when how he chooses to live his life encroaches on my life in a less than helpful way, then should I voice concern?

Conversations of the past have revealed that Tom and I don’t share the same faith or character.  We have built our lives on very different foundations; therefore, we not only see the world differently, we respond to the things of this world differently.   I’ll be honest.  I’m concerned about my neighbor.  I’m concerned for Tom’s sake, but also for the sake of other neighbors whom he influences. 

I don’t believe I should question my neighbor’s faith and character.  I do believe, however, that I can ask questions about his perspective on life.  His worldview.  Every caring neighbor should ask another neighbor questions about their worldview.  If we don’t ask our neighbor why he does what he does, says what he says, or lives the way he lives, then what kind of neighbor are we?  What kind of neighborhood will we jointly build up…or tear down?

Rick Santorum was recently understood to have questioned President Obama’s faith.  When criticized for his remarks, Santorum explained that he was questioning the president’s “radical” environmentalist view that “elevates the Earth above man.”  Santorum explained that he wasn’t questioning that President Obama is a Christian, but that his worldview on natural resources and how they can’t be tapped because to do so will harm the Earth is a “phony ideal.”  Santorum has also questioned the president’s worldview on the issue of abortion; most recently, in the area of insurance coverage for prenatal tests that can identify problems in unborn children.  Santorum knows for a fact that doctors “more often than not” recommend abortion when problems are discovered.

I believe that any presidential candidate – or American citizen — should be able to ask questions about their neighbor’s worldview.  In kindly doing so, he or she is simply and fairly asking: Why do you believe what you believe?  What is the source of your belief?  How does your belief serve other people?  How does your belief help us all build a better society?  After asking such questions, it is fair to say:  Here’s what I believe and why.  Here is the source of my belief.  Here is how I try to live my belief.  Now, please feel free to question me about my worldview.  Why I say what I say and do what I do.

Too many of us seem unwilling to dialogue about worldviews and how those worldviews affect neighborhoods and society as a whole.  When a person is concerned enough to speak up about health care, marriage, sexual behaviors, abortion, euthanasia, or ethics of any kind, they are quickly labeled as “judgmental.”  Care and concern are not judgmental.  Contrasting one worldview with another is not “judgmental.”  Laying something counterfeit next to the real thing is not “judgmental.”  And, you know what?  Calling something harmful or dangerous is not “judgmental.”  If it is, then every “bridge out” or “stop ahead” or “wear your seatbelt” sign should be torn down.

I’m not sure that I’ll be given the opportunity to dialogue with Tom about important matters of life.  But, if I am, I promise to take care.  To not question his faith (or lack of it) or demean his character.  Instead, I will try to ask questions.  Questions that show my interest in him as a person.  But, also questions that help Tom think about being a good neighbor.

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The animal rights group Mercy For Animals hired a hog confinement site employee to go undercover.  Photos were taken of some unethical behavior.

Mercy…  please!   Animals will never be able to thank you.  But, if you would put your passion into protesting the cruelty that happens daily inside abortion clinics, I’m sure some children and their children will thank you.

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Last year, in Arizona, I was asked by a friend from Canada to have lunch with the daughter of her friend.  My Canadian friend knew about my involvement in Lutherans For Life and Word of Hope.  She knew a little bit of why Titus 2 for Life grew out of my experiences with women grieving after an abortion.  She also knew that her friend’s daughter was interested in starting some sort of caring ministry for women in her area who were affected by their abortions.

So, under a canopy of blue sky, two older and two younger women gathered around an informal table.  We were there to imagine:  What could be done to welcome, encourage, and heal with the amazing love of Jesus?  It was easy to see the passion in Tessie, the woman who desired to begin a post abortion group.  She wore a genuine heart on her sleeve.  But, more than the passion and heart was her conviction and the courage to speak the Truth  For, you see, without the truth, the passion and heart would not bring hope.

I offered my assistance and prayers to Tessie.  We parted ways, but promised to stay in touch by e-mail.  We have.  Tessie is accountable with her “reports” to me and a few trusted others.

In the spring, Tessie started her first group for post abortive women.    By the end of September, she had led three groups.  All of this was done by word of mouth and little posters in area churches.

I asked Tessie about the diversity of the women.  She replied,

“There have been 18 women from the three groups that I’ve led.  They range in ages from 28 to 60+.  The women are mostly Caucasian, with one Hispanic and two African Americans.  Seven are single.  Three are divorced.  Eight are married.  All of the women claim to be Christians.  Three of the women married the father of their aborted child, but one [of those] divorced years later.  Five have had multiple abortions.  Two were late term.”

The eighteen women that Tessie has encircled remind me of the women God has placed in my life.

At last count, 24 of my friends, relatives, or acquaintances have shared their abortion experience with me.  Many of these are women who came up to me after I had finished speaking about Biblical manhood and womanhood.  One woman admitted that was the only reason she could attend the event.  She said, “If you had come to speak about abortion, I wouldn’t have showed up.  But, I was curious about living as a Biblical woman.”  She went on to explain, “When you shared the story of your friend who had an abortion, how did you know?  You were speaking to me.  That was my story.”

Of the 24 women in my “circle” who have suffered an abortion, 18 are Lutheran.  Two are the wives of Lutheran pastors.  At least three have had more than one abortion.

One of the women is someone I’ve known a long time.  We’ve traveled different paths and, because of that, our experiences have resulted in very different consequences.  One day, quite unexpected, she shared a receipt from Planned Parenthood that she keeps in her billfold.  She also shared a cut-out picture of a little girl that, she explained, may have looked like her daughter.  God has done a healing work on this woman.  She will live with the regret the rest of her life but, every morning, she looks in the mirror to see the Robe of Jesus’ Righteousness wrapped securely around her.

Another woman and I nearly lost our friendship after her abortion.  I think it was the first time I realized how divisive the double-edged Sword of God’s Word really is.  She knew she was living on the wrong side of the Sword, but had to defend herself.  In time, that Sword pierced through the denial to change the heart and mind of a beautiful and forgiven woman.  This friend has motivated me to make myself available to women everywhere — through speaking, writing, and the Titus 2 for Life ministry.

To all of these women, God has Words of promise:

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound . . . to comfort all who mourn . . . to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes.

(Psalm30:5b; 32:3-5; Isaiah 61:1-3)

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