Come, Have Dinner with Me!

Deutsch: Gastronomie om Schlosshotel

        It was Friday night and as many know, Friday is date night for Earl and me each week.  But last week it was a little different.

     Earl began CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) classes at the end of August, and they last until December 18th.   This past weekend was his first of eight, overnight, on-call volunteer times.

     So we decided that we would have a date night on Thursday night.  We tried a restaurant in downtown, Charleston.  We love sampling the food at different restaurants, and I almost always prefer Italian.  Unfortunately, we left the restaurant $60 poorer and still hungry.     Whoever heard of leaving an Italian restaurant hungry?         

                                                                           

Friday is also Earl’s day off (on call 24/7 always, but we say it’s his day off), so he got up early, worked on his computer, went into the office (he feels guilty now that he takes a day or two for the chaplaincy program, so he goes in on Friday)….then he came home and worked on one of his many auto projects before dressing to the nine’s and heading to the hospital. 

Before leaving he asked me, “Would you come to the hospital and have dinner with me?”  OK, I’ll be honest here, as the pastor’s wife, my first thought was not positive.  It was more like “What?  You’ve got to be kidding!”  But even as he was asking, and I was rejecting, I knew without a doubt, I would be going with him.

It’s not often that I deny Earl his heartfelt requests, and anybody who knows me, knows this is true.  But why would I deny myself an opportunity to spend a little time with Earl, even if it is in a hospital cafeteria?  As many people know, a pastor’s family life is very difficult.  Check out the blog-post here that I wrote concerning statistics on a pastor’s life and family.  So with this knowledge, I know not to make our life any more difficult than it already is.  If I’m given an opportunity to be with him, and I can do it, I’m there! 

When I met him at the St. Francis Hospital cafeteria, I must say that we enjoyed a fabulous fish dinner with rice and greens along with drinks and bread – all for less than $10.  The meal was fabulous!  My date continued on with a tour of the chapel, the CPE offices, and then I was brought upstairs to see where he would be spending the night.  It was in a small room on a tiny little single bed.  Earl is 6’2”, and this was not going to be comfortable for him to say the least.  Not only that, but the bed wasn’t even made up.  Ghee-gads!  Earl and I spent a few minutes locating the linens and then without a second thought, I was making up his bed for him. 

I figure it this way, I feel so blessed that God has given me a few things in this life to oversee, whereas Earl has been given much to oversee.  I certainly want to make sure that I do all I can for such a caring, compassionate and humble pastor, so that he can touch the souls of those in distress and those that are depressed and dispirited, by the Spirit of God that works through him.

Matthew 9:36 NASB

36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

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Message of the Beatitudes – Seven- Peacemaker

     “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”  Matthew 5:9

     So here I am, wondering, do I have what it takes to be a “PEACEMAKER”?

     There could be a difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper.  It might be helpful to distinguish between them.  Personally, I believe a peacekeeper is one who tries to a great extent to avoid conflict. This is someone who will not cause waves in a situation.  They just want to keep the peace.  I believe that I might be basically just a peacekeeper. 

     On the contrary, I believe a peacemaker may even have to bring conflict to the surface between individuals to help reconcile any differences.  These are people who are not afraid to iron things out.

The key difference is; a peacekeeper knows that conflict exists but tries to avoid any flare-ups between parties.  A peacemaker takes the potentially hazardous conflict and attempts to reconcile the parties by putting an end to the controversy.

I believe peacemaking requires more Christian attributes and gifts than does peacekeeping.  Peacemaking requires forgiveness whereas peacekeeping may avoid the discussion of forgiveness altogether.  Does someone have to ask for forgiveness before reconciliation takes place?  I believe so.  I have discussed this with Earl.  I have determined that he is correct when he says forgiveness has to be asked for before one can forgive or be truly reconciled.   Doesn’t God call people to repent and ask forgiveness from Him?   I’ve argued that I can forgive people regardless of whether they’ve asked for it or not.  This really is wrong.  What I’ve actually done is made peace within myself in order to avoid conflict from without.  This is a peacekeeper’s way of dealing with situations.  It may even be an insult to tell an individual, “I’ve forgiven you,” when he or she may actually believe that I need to ask for forgiveness from them!  People are not truly reconciled by just making peace within ourselves.

This is where a peacemaker makes all the difference.  Instead of burying my head in the sand and pretending discord doesn’t exist, I need to vocalize how I’m feeling and get the feelings of the other person involved.  Then, with a Christ-like attitude, begin to understand and work on improving the situation that has caused such a struggle in the relationship.

Jesus was very clear about this during the Sermon on the Mount verses, again Matthew 5.  Look at verses 23-24 “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”    

This is a very serious directive that Jesus has given us.  It could quite possibly be put like this way.  If you are in church and The Spirit reminds you that you and your brother or sister are at odds, leave church before offering yourself to God and be reconciled with your sister or brother and then come back and be reconciled with God.    Our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters is so important to God that He doesn’t accept our worship until we have truly reconciled with our sisters and brothers – provided, of course that it is possible to reconcile with them!  Paul said it this way, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”  God’s ministry and goal for all individuals is reconciliation.  That is not just reconciliation with Him, but between all of us.  How do we expect God to reconcile with us in our sins, when we can’t even reconcile with each other for wrong doings?

Peacemaking is a never ending requirement during this lifetime in order to be like sons of God.  This is the ministry of Christ that He has given to us. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Let us look to His ministry of reconciliation whenever and wherever it is possible – as far as it depends on us – through Christ our Lord.

Message of the Beatitudes – Six – Pure in Heart

Jesus said the pure in heart are blessed because they will see God.  Matthew 5:8

Our fellowship with God and knowledge of His ways depends on our purity of heart.  Jesus is saying that to receive the blessing of seeing God, we must become like God.  But how does that happen?

It’s possible to be passionate about God, spend time with Him regularly and still sin.  To become more pure in heart requires a thorough inspection of all of our faults and sinful ways and then asking God to do what is necessary in our lives to cleanse our souls.  No, we cannot cleanse ourselves of our sinful nature, but we can take steps by identifying the problem(s) by His Holy Spirit and then asking God to remove them.

This may be a stretch as an analogy, but when I think about cleansing my soul in order to see God, I keep thinking of what it takes in order to prepare for and endure a colonoscopy.  YUCK!!  Ok, let me tell you how my mind works!  We first acknowledge that we may have a sin problem, we seek the advice of a Doctor (The Great Physician, God), Who then recommends that we go through a procedure of cleansing by His Holy Spirit.  It involves filling us up with His Spiritual presence and allowing Him to purge us.

1)      Sometimes we have trouble acknowledging that we have any problem at all and we continue to feel the results of the imperfections of sins that are affecting our life – not seeking any advice from the Great Physician at all.

2)      Other times we acknowledge that there may be a problem, we seek advice but we don’t like what we hear has to happen in order to cleanse the imperfections from our life, so we leave the doctor’s office and don’t do anything with the advice because it may cause some discomfort in our comfortable lives.

3)      Then there are those that acknowledge the problem, seek advice and regardless of the disruption it causes to cleanse the imperfections out of our lives, we prepare ourselves and do all we can possibly do to remove all the bad behavior from our life.  And when we are finished, we ask the Doctor to do His part to look and see if there is anything left that needs to be removed in order for us to go forward and live a life full of His presence.

So how do we become pure in heart?  Psalm 139:23-24 states: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.  Because “…the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

You must do some serious soul searching and ask God to help you discern what it is in your life that is literally offensive to God.  He knows and understands your motives.  If your motives are not God centered, you are offending Him and hence, unclean – impure!

Once you’ve reflected and identified the offense(s), you need to repent (confess to God and turn away or repent from the sin in your life with His strength).  When you are tempted by Satan, do what Jesus did when He was tempted by Satan, reflect on God’s Word.  Filling your mind with the Scriptures helps ensure that you stay strong.  Knowing Scripture, makes you know God and knowing God, makes you become more like Him.

Seeing God –  Be Blessed.

Message of the Beatitudes – Four – Hunger and Thirst

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  Matthew 5:6

We are told that we are what we eat.  What we take into our bodies and digest, becomes part of us.  What we consume could be healthy or unhealthy.  If I took an inventory of my daily intake of food, most nutritionists would chide me because I consume large quantities of pasta, bowls of candy, container after container of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (seriously addicted to Edy’s)  and pots of coffee.  I KNOW the effects of this type of diet.  Sometimes I forget that food from the refrigerator and soda from a can are not the only ways to satisfy my hunger and quench my thirst. 

But Jesus asks us to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  That means that God will fill our desires for righteousness.   But we may not see that we are starving and suffering from thirst spiritually.  And if we become those things that we take in, then what happens when we eat the junk food of violence, erotica, materialism, greed, and drunkenness?  As you think, so you are.  The things we think, we seem to become. Our spirit is looking for sustenance from God’s righteousness, but we tend to force our spirits to go on a crash diet while we fulfill the other needs our physical body demands.

In Jesus’ Beatitudes, we go from poor in spirit to those that mourn to those that are meek.  I see a pattern in the Beatitudes and a deliberate sequence.   We must first empty ourselves of self and acknowledge our need for God.  We must mourn our sinfulness and the sinfulness and tragedies of our world.  We must submit ourselves and humble ourselves to God and to others in order to even begin to have the hunger pains for God’s righteousness.  Perhaps only after experiencing the first three beatitudes do we start to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. 

The body and the soul have natural appetites.  The soul depends on its nourishment, health and strength from God alone.  When we empty ourselves to God and mourn our sinful state and we submit our egos and pride to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, our natural tendency is then to seek God’s righteousness.  Our soul is awakened, it begins to hunger and thirst for holiness, knowing it must be purified by the Holy Spirit.  But when our spirit is awakened, and we feel the tendency to know more about our Lord, how do we respond?

David sought God, Psalm 63:1 “O God, thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

Only Christ can fill the ache in our souls. Sometimes God allows a crisis to awaken in us a deeper need for His presence and His active work in our lives.  When a crisis takes place for a believer, our souls may yearn even more to be with Him and for His righteousness.  But we always need Jesus.  A passion for His presence becomes part of our transformation into His righteousness.  Being righteous in Christ is having the righteousness of God within us, and being filled by Him.  It isn’t about physical gratification and prideful self-fulfillment, it’s about emptying ourselves of our self-righteousness.

Is the presence of God and the pursuit of His will in our lives the most extreme of all our desires?  Does it matter more to us than the food and drink of the physical body?  Christ’s righteousness is so good that the more of Him we taste, the more of Him we will want.  Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Can we become addicted to Christ more than to diet soda?  Yes!

How’s your spiritual appetite?  Are you seeking the same things the world seeks to satisfy your soul or are you seeking the Living Water and the Bread of Life?

John 6:35 “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’”

Reborn to be Free

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to Maggie Mae.  Maggie is our 16 month old Great Dane, and she is a brilliant dog.  She is always surprising us with her cleverness.  We got Maggie when she was 7 weeks old.  Earl took four hours deciding, while watching all the puppies in the litter before finally picking Maggie.  It was her natural curiosity that tickled Earl.  Now, Earl and Maggie are inseparable.  She loves and adores him and will protect him from me at all costs, including hugs and kisses….oh the dog’s life I live.

One day when I was getting ready to start work in my home office, I found Earl and Maggie watching the old 1966 movie “Born Free”.  Maggie does not watch TV normally, but on this particular morning she was so engrossed in the film, it was comical.  It was the end of the movie, where the lioness, Elsa, had been training for weeks to learn to hunt and kill for herself, so she could be set free in the wild and be able to survive on her own. 

Now Maggie has her big dog stuffed toys: a moose, a cow, a turkey and her squirrel.  Each day Maggie is let outside to spend the day in the great wild of our backyard.  As I passed the kitchen window, I happened to see Maggie running past with a squirrel in her mouth.  My thought was “How did she get her toy squirrel outside?” and so I went to go and get it when I noticed her toy squirrel on the living room floor.  My jaw dropped.  I went racing for the window only to see Maggie outside frolicking with a real squirrel, dead in her jaws.  I cannot figure out how Maggie, this huge 140 pound Great Dane managed to kill a squirrel.  Then, I believe as a gift for Earl, she left it on the back porch. 

But in remembering her total immersion in the Born Free movie, I saw her acts as analogous to those of Christians.  When we totally engross ourselves in God’s Word, and we allow Him to teach us His ways, we will actually take what we’ve learned and apply them to our everyday lives.

We are set free to serve God in the capacity to which He appoints us.  Just like Elsa, she went into her natural habitat and after learning how she was to hunt, she applied herself.  When we are set free in Christ, we break the chains of slavery to this captured world of evil and we are given new life.  In Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”  We are to walk away from our dependency on what the world has to offer and immerse ourselves in the world that God has to offer us.

We were born to be free in Christ.  It is only through being born again that we taste and live that freedom.  1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.  It is through this hope that we are assured of a new life both here on earth and later in an eternal life with Christ.  For in John 3:3 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Where Maggie saw Elsa and learned how to hunt to survive, we should see The Lamb and learn how to love, to have compassion, to give to those in need, to worship and glorify God and to live an abundant life in Him.  For once we learn His way of life we are born again, to be free.

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

Message of the Beatitudes – Three – Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

  I am not meek, but I am working towards it. 

Most people would not admit to working on becoming a meek person.  We are usually offended when referred to as having too meek a personality or character.  Why?  From all that our culture values, to be meek is to be mild-mannered, spineless, weak, submissive, subservient, passive and even in-effective.  Meek people get trampled. 

Maybe we do not understand what being meek is really all about from Jesus’ perspective. 

Being meek is the middle ground between excessive anger and being completely dispassionate and passive.  Anger is not a sin, nor is it necessarily bad.  The bible says that we are to be angry, but sin not.  Anger can be a great motivator.  It can help us to get charged about God’s righteousness and justice.

Everyone gets angry. But anger is often a selfish response to the world and other people.  If we were left up to our own devices and decisions, everything would be going our way.  So what is it that make us angry?  We may feel anger when we lose control – when things don’t go as we planned and we begin to feel powerless to change them.  We can feel anger when other people’s decision’s adversely affect our lives without our consent.

Jesus was meek.  But Jesus also became angry.  But his anger was a righteous anger for the down-trodden and the oppressed.  His heart burned when people called by His name ignored “the least of these, my brethren.”  He promises judgment for those who truly hurt children and cause them to stumble.  His soul reacted when He saw his Father’s temple being used for profit instead of the worship of God.  James 1:19-20 “This you know, my beloved brethren.  But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Note that when Jesus became angry, His anger was focused on those that caused suffering to others and on the disrespect shown towards God and His worship.  Jesus’ anger was never about Himself.

The meek are not easily provoked to anger; they patiently bear and put up with injuries and affronts;  they carry themselves courteously and affably to all; they have the best thoughts towards others; they do not envy the gifts and graces of other people, and they are willing to be instructed and admonished.  Meekness is patience during the midst of injuries.  Meekness produces peace.  It is proof of true greatness of soul.  It comes from a heart too great to be mowed down by insults.  It even prays for those who tear down.  He that is constantly ruffled, and raises a storm of passion when wronged, is at the mercy of every mortal that chooses to disturb him.

The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls.  To be meek is one who controls his strength and uses it appropriately.

You cannot achieve meekness without first achieving humbleness.  We submit ourselves to God and know that we can do all things through Him.  We humble ourselves into servant-hood…to love, to have compassion, to serve those around us, even those who are against us.  To be meek is to be wise….

So, what keeps us from being meek?  Ego.  

Besides the meek inheriting the earth, the bible refers to other blessings for those who are meek.  “The meek shall be satisfied.” “The meek He will guide and teach.” “The meek will become wise.” “The meek will be filled with fresh joy.”

So, what’s not to like about being meek?

Message of the Beatitudes – Two – Mourn

Matthew 5:4 – “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted

     What comes to your mind when you think of mourning?  To mourn or lament is to express passionate grief from the soul.  How many of us have ever grieved so hard that we couldn’t speak, we couldn’t function, we couldn’t think straight?  Our tears were like rivers overflowing, and we were inconsolable.  Think of this as your soul mourning.  But is there anything that we should mourn? 

  • We should mourn our sins because they have hurt others and grieved God
  • We should mourn those who are out of relationship with God
  • We should mourn the unrepentant
  • We should mourn our poor spiritual condition

After our first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit” where we admitted our need for God and denied self, we must now ask God to cleanse our souls of all unrighteousness.   In Romans 8:26-27 “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning’s to deep for words; and He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

In mourning, we allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.  It is in this grief process, that we allow God to take the hurt, sin and renew our poor spiritual condition, forgive us, and allow us to forgive others and at the same time, to restore our souls to what God intended us to be. 

As we age, we naturally tend to become more jaded, hard-hearted, and less compassionate.  We tend to have a “what-ever” attitude.  It takes a lot for us to grieve others’ misfortunes.  We tend to think; if only they made better choices, pulled up their bootstraps, worked a little harder…etc.  We lose sight of the most telling attributes of Christ: His love and His compassion. 

So this means mourning all those who may not be in the right spirit with God.  So as not to sound judgmental, let me tell you about my grandfather.  Many years ago, in my Baptist life, I must have brought the subject of Jesus up with my grandfather one too many times.  Finally, he had had enough of the debates, and he informed me that he was an atheist and if he came from dust, then to the dust he’d go back.  He had no desire to determine if there was a God or even if there was an afterlife.  And then he told me that if I brought the subject up again, he would have nothing more to do with me.  I was stunned.  I was hurt.  I was so very sad.  My soul grieved for my grandfather’s soul, and I prayed for years that he would have a change of heart. 

When we don’t truly grieve our poor souls and the poor souls of others, we are not emulating Christ.  Jesus gave voice to the anguish in His soul.  He grieved over Jerusalem, He grieved somewhat His imminent death, He grieved abandonment, and He grieved those who persecuted Him.  He was in prayer with the Father always for Himself and for others.  Receive the blessing of being comforted by having God who cleanses our souls of all unrighteousness and who grieves the souls of others.

One of the most comforting verses I know comes from Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken”.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, you have blessed me! Please feel free to leave a comment, subscribe to my blog, and/or share this post with a friend. Be blessed my friend!
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