WANTED: Courageous mothers

Growing up in the time of western movies and Zane Grey books, my mother spent hours with her brother at the movie theaters or in the living room reading – taking in the adventures of these westerners. Watching western TV shows as a child, I too was enthralled by the adventure and courage of the strong women and men ready to fight against evil and protect the good. They were firm in what they believed and basically, you just didn’t “mess with them”. Today we need Christian mothers who like these heroes, fight against evil, stand up for good and who are:  Firm, Faithful, and Good.

The mothers in my own family have shown me how to be firm, faithful, and good. My maternal great grandmother and her daughter, my grandmother, were loving, strong women, and firm in their stand for God and His Word. They were both active in mission groups and teaching Sunday school classes at church, faithfully teaching their own children to love and worship God, to do good and hate evil by their example. They prayed for their families knowing God would take care of them.

Their faithful lives influenced my own mother – another strong woman, firm in her faith in God, His Word, her Savior Jesus, prayer, and doing what is right. My sister and I were often amazed at her connection with God. She could find out anything without trying when we did wrong and instilled a deep respect for God in our lives, telling us – “I may be your mother but God is your Heavenly Father and you answer to Him.”  We also knew God’s love and forgiveness through her love for us and her love for others. Although she taught Middle School math all week, she would still give up her time on Sunday mornings to teach middle school girls in Sunday school classes. She never had time or wanted to join in the women’s gossip groups but spent her time teaching others, loving our father, encouraging her family and helping us succeed.

Today, more than ever, there is a need – a wanted poster in every community and city in our nation for courageous mothers who are Firm, Faithful and Good!

Christian mothers who love their children are firm, not spoiling them but teaching them to love God and His Word, love and respect others, and to stand up for good, speak out against evil. They do not let the culture around them or others turn them away from their faith in God and His Word even if it means ridicule or unpopularity. They are immoveable.

 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Christian mothers who really love their children are faithful, taking care of their children emotionally, mentally, and physically. They are faithful to pray for their children and never give up praying. They know there is an evil enemy who wants to destroy their children and they stand as faithful guards praying for them daily.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”     Colossians  4:2

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12 

Christian mothers who love their children are good; they love good not evil. They train their children in what is good in the things they read or watch in various media, keeping evil influences away from their children that are around them in schools and neighborhoods. They show by example how to be good in taking care of the weak and giving to the poor.

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” Amos 5:14

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

As we celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, I encourage all Christian mothers and those who are like a mother to other children, to be firm, faithful, and good. Just like the western heroes, may you be an example of courage to your children – a mother who abides with Jesus who gets her strength from Him.

 

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Are You Listening?

listening

Praying for my day,everything was planned out.  I had traveled to Raleigh NC to help serve at the I Commit conference for Voice of the Martyrs and was on the way to the church to set up. Making a quick stop to get a bite to eat, the fast food place was fast but there was no seating. Holding my tray of food, phone in my hand, planning on making some phones calls, an older man sitting alone at a table for four motioned for me to sit with him. Thinking, “I don’t have much time to talk but just to eat”, I made my way to his table.

We introduced ourselves. Smiling, I politely told him I had to eat hurriedly because I was helping with a Christian conference. That really didn’t matter to him as he proceeded to share his story with me. I slipped my phone into my purse, realizing I was there for more than a quick meal. This man, Tommy, shared how he came to the restaurant often, and the people there knew him. He had moved to Raleigh with his wife to be near their children. Then he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the benign tumor was removed but left him with no sense of smell and sight in only one eye. Thinking he would not mentally survive, his wife divorced him and sent him to a mental hospital. His kids rescued him from the hospital and he eventually found a friend in a church near his apartment. He smiled and said, all is good and I enjoy seeing my kids even though I live alone.

We continued to have a wonderful conversation. He wanted to know more about VOM and my family. Finishing our lunches, we shook hands and gave each other a name card to stay in touch. But I walked away convicted. How many “Tommys” are there who just need someone to talk and share with?  They aren’t in my planned out schedule but need someone to hear their story.

Jesus also lived a busy life on earth. Preaching in the synagogue, teaching to the masses and to His disciples, yet, He made time to listen to people. People were his purpose. As He went about His day, Jesus listened with love, patience, kindness and gentleness to people’s stories – the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus’s questions, Martha complaining about Mary, the disciples fussing about the greatest in God’s kingdom, and more.

Thinking about my time with Tommy, I have started a habit of asking God daily who He wants me to listen to, pray for, or share His message of love with. Yet, am I willing to be inconvenienced? Jesus was often inconvenienced as He traveled from town to town listening to others.

Jesus told his disciples, “go” or “as you are going” make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)  While I am going throughout my day, going in many directions, am I listening to the hurting people around me, ready to share God’s love for them?  Next time someone needs a listening ear, I’ll put the phone down, the plan book up, and show the fruit of love, kindness, patience and gentleness as Christ would have done.  Who knows, I may change someone’s life that day just by listening.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12

(photo by Whitebeard)

Love for the Family

NYC skyline with flag 2

 

The shock, fear, horror, disbelief, tears, and now painful memories of what happened on September 11, 2001 fill our minds today in the U.S. and around the world. And thirteen years later the world still seems to be in chaos. The good news is that God, the Creator of the entire universe and our world, is still on His throne and in control of all things. He is good and works all things for good, even the evil which kills thousands. King David, who walked closely with God and experienced evil in his own life, wrote, “For God is the King of all the earth… God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:7-8) “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

As we trust in God’s plans and goodness we still have to live in the midst of sorrow and pain. So what do we do as followers of Jesus, as those who are abiding with Him and have our hope in Him? He has told us what to do very clearly. Jesus told us to love our enemies and to love each other.

Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

He also told His disciples to love each other, the family of believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)

As the early believers were facing sorrow, pain, and persecution Paul told them to love each other and to take care of each other. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “…through love serve one another.” (5:13) and “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” (6:9, NLT) As we abide with Jesus, His love flows through our lives to the world and what greater way to show His love than to our enemies and to our family. We pray for our enemies to find hope in Jesus, to know His love and forgiveness. We pray for our family of believers in the Middle East to have God’s strength right now as they face such evil and death. We can also love them by giving to their needs through several Christian organizations that are there with them in person.

What will you do this week to show your love for your enemies? What will you do to love those in the family of Christ? Will you take time to pray for them? I would like to know what you are doing. I will be praying for and supporting those groups of Christians who are showing love to our persecuted family in Iraq and around the world. And my enemies? I will pray that they will trust in God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus.

Check out some ways to help:

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/iraq-crisis-response

http://www.persecution.com

http://www.persecution.org

Loving Commandments

jefferson memorialWhile visiting the Jefferson Memorial this past weekend, I saw words etched in stone for generations to see. Celebrating July 4th in Washington D.C., my husband and I with our daughter and friends wanted to see the statue of Jefferson which was sculpted by my husband’s great great uncle, Rudolph Evans. As I looked around the massive structure, I noticed words like – “Creator”, “Almighty God”, “God who gave”, “gift of God”, and “God is just”. As I read these words, I wondered if those around me knew of God’s own Words once etched in stone. Could anyone there recite God’s powerful Words of guidance written for His people in the Ten Commandments? Commands to worship only God, honor your parents, do not kill, do not steal, and do not give false witness.

We often think of commands as only rules we need to keep. Most people loathe any rules or commands in their lives. But commands are like boundaries; they protect us from harm. In following them we experience peace and joy in our relationships with God and people. When Jesus told His followers to keep his commandments, he placed it right next to a powerful word – love:

“. ..Abide in My love…If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:9, 11) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

As we grow in our love and appreciation for all that Jesus has done for us we are happy to keep His commandments. As we walk with Him we know the commandments are for our good since they are given with love. God’s commandments are given from a heart of love; He wants the best for our lives. That is why the Psalmist wrote:

“I find my delight in your commandments, which I love… I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.” (Psalm 119:47, 127)

How do we know that we are abiding with Jesus and walking with Him? How do we show our love for Him and others? It shows in a life that obeys His commandments.

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments… By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3, 5-6)

Do I love God’s commands? Do I take time to see what He has “etched in stone” in His Word for all generations to read? As I abide with Jesus He gives me the power to keep His commands because He loves me. I will show Jesus how much I love Him by abiding in His love and keeping His commands.

Family Love

Facebook is full of what else? – faces. It is an online “book” of faces. Many of the faces are of family and family members. There are pictures of weddings, births, graduations, vacations and events of the past. Some pictures are funny and some serious. Every day, even every hour, people share their love for their families by posting pictures and writing comments. Then those of us who are their friends get to “like” what we see and comment ourselves. Really, to me, Facebook is a family of friends sharing our love for others and each other.

Family love is powerful. A picture of family love whether on Facebook, in a frame, or in person can have an amazing influence in other lives, especially if those lives don’t have family love. Many people in the world would love to have a family or at least a family that loves each other.

When Jesus was eating the last supper with his best friends, his disciples, he shared what was on his heart. He loved these disciples; they had become his family. He told them of his coming death but then gave them a command. One simple command, yet it wouldn’t be easy to follow.

“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.By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Luke 13:34-35)

And how were they to love each other? Just like Jesus had loved them – He was their example, their picture. Talk about an amazing picture of love. Jesus had just washed their feet, humbly serving them. He fed them with loaves and fish, He taught them God’s Words and Truth, and He was about to die for them so that they could live.

When we come to trust in Jesus and know God’s forgiveness we enter a family – a family of believers all over the world. We may look different, speak a different language, and may never meet, but we are family. Jesus told us that our love for each other would be a testimony for others that we are His followers. The world would know we are Christians – Christ followers – by our love for one another. This is our witness. How are we doing? What does our picture look like? Do we tear each other down; ignore our brothers and sisters who are suffering? Or do we humbly lay down our lives for them in love as Jesus loved us?

I am going to take some extra time this week to pray for my family in my church, community and around the world. I will support them financially where there is a need. I will seek ways to serve them and “wash their feet” as Jesus did? What will you do to show your love for your family?

 

Praying for these and other family members who are persecuted for believing in Jesus.

Fruitful Family Reflections

“We need to eat more fruits and vegetables” say the doctors and nutritionists.  So, I think about all the fruits in the fruit family that I should be eating.  You have pears, apples, grapes, and oranges, even unique fruits like kiwi, pomegranate and lingonberry.  When we lived in Asia, we ate lychees, cumquats and star fruit. They all belong to the family of fruits.  They look different, taste different, and even smell different.  They even come together for certain purposes like fruit baskets, fruit bouquets, and fruit salad.

The family of believers in Jesus is like the family of fruits. They are all unique – look different, are shaped different, come from different cultures and countries. Yet, together they are a beautiful reflection of the love that God has given to us through Jesus. Like a fruit bouquet shows off the individual fruits yet together they have a special beauty, together we have a special purpose as we show God’s love.

fruit market

Jesus told his followers “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35 NLT

There it is. What do we reflect as we come together and love each other in the family of Jesus?  The proof that we are followers of Jesus.

We read books about how we can be a better witness of Jesus in our lives.  We say the right religious words to prove that we are His. We even wear clothing and put symbols on our cars to tell others we belong to Jesus.  Yet, what is the real proof?  “Your love for one another”; that’s it.  Plain and simple.

When we love each other, it reflects Jesus’ love to the world. Joining together as a family of believers in love is the greatest witness of who we are. When we forgive other Christians, say kind words about them instead of slandering and gossiping, show grace instead of judgment, give to their needs emotionally or even financially – we are proving to be a follower of Jesus.

Am I proving to be a follower of Jesus in how I love my brothers and sisters in Christ?  What do others hear me say about them or see me do for them?  Am I being a fruitful witness to others that I am a Christian by reflecting God’s love to other Christians? How about your proof?

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”  John 15:9

 

Fruitful Words

It was another Sunday morning cajoling our toddler to get ready for church.  Life was a whirlwind on Sunday mornings.  We had moved from China to Illinois for Lowe to attend Trinity Divinity School.  Having given birth to our daughter in China, I never felt I was doing everything right as a new mom.  To some Chinese I was doing everything wrong and now I didn’t feel confident in America either.  Our outgoing, active, busy, never-tired, yet sweet toddler was a challenge.  However, God sent one experienced mom from India into my life that morning who spoke words of life to me.

Serita was my neighbor on campus , attended the same church and was studying children’s ministry while her husband was getting a PhD.  She always had kind words to say and I could see the fruit in her life from her children.  She worked in the toddler Sunday school class with our daughter.  Seeing my concern she encouraged me, “Your daughter is wonderful to be with and very smart.  It will be a challenge to raise her but God has a special plan for such gifted and bright kids.  Keep doing a good job and just love her.”

I can remember those words from over 20 years ago. Why?  Because words are powerful.  Words show the fruit in our lives.  Words speak of who we really are and what we think.

Words have significant influence on our lives.  They can change the way we think and how we act. We can remember words people speak to us for decades.

When I write, I often double check grammar, delete words, or add thoughts that would be helpful.  But when I have said something I can’t change my words.  Sometimes I wish I could go back and delete something I said or change the words or just add an “I love you” or “you are special”.  Sometimes I just need to delete the whole thing and keep silent.

Instead of doing a “spell check” on my words this week, I’ll plan on a “fruit check”.  I will ask God to help me speak words which will be fruitful – full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and the gospel message.  God’s words from the Bible are a great way for me to do a “fruit check”:

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 6:24

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”  Psalm 34:13

“Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness.” Psalm 145:6

“…A time to be silent and a time to speak.”  Ecclesiastes 3:7

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Colossians 4:6

“Do not let your speech cause you to sin.” Ecclesiastes 5:6