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March 2017

Am I My Brother's Keeper? - March 24, 2017

AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (Romans 14:7 ESV)

Our world today is becoming more and more divisive. With the election south of the border, Brexit in Britain, and all the anxieties about refugees and terrorists, you can't help but feel that there is something seriously going wrong in our world.

Fear causes a "fortress mentality" and can result in negative thinking – “we need to look after ourselves and not others”, “they are stealing what we have”, “keep them out”, “let them look after themselves - we aren't responsible for their troubles”, “they can't have our jobs”, “America first”. It's becoming an “I'm ok and they can look after themselves” kind of world. Along with all this comes some very mean- spirited talk and vilification for those who don't share our views or are just different. “Lock her up” and “He's not my president” are just two such examples.

Now, I don't particularly want to talk about politics, but I do think that observing how people behave should cause us all to review our own actions and make sure not to forget Jesus' lessons to us and his commandments. As ambassadors for Christ, we are called to a higher standard of behaviour.

Three thoughts come to mind.

First of all, where do we put our trust? Why are we afraid? Are we being deceived? How do we stay grounded in Christ while the whole world seems to be going crazy?

In Psalm 20:7 the Bible tells us, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."

In March of 1998, I had the privilege of going on a mission trip to Haiti with a group from Arlington Woods Church. I well remember that after we arrived in Port-au-Prince I was terrified, not only after hearing the instructions from the missionary who met us, but from the extreme poverty evident in the sights on the streets.  My fears were not lessened when we got to the hotel and I looked at the very strange food, to my North American palate, that was being served. Our journey the next day to the northern interior town of Dessalines merely added to my disorientation and multiplied my discomfort. Although I had traveled a bit, I had never been in a third world country and the culture shock was immediate and frightening. I had a very negative reaction and was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and poverty that was everywhere. Though I had done my homework beforehand, I was essentially unprepared for the situation we found ourselves in. It did not take me long to realize that I needed to put my faith in action, so I prayed harder and depended more on God to take control of the situation and help me to adjust my reactions. I thought long and hard about my surroundings as I prayed, and was somewhat surprised at how well this worked. By the third day, I was much more comfortable and had adjusted to our new reality. I have never forgotten the experience.

Depending entirely on God completely changed my perspective. The spiritual battle we live in became real for me in a new way and has since caused me to try to maintain that attitude.  Two weeks later on our return to Canada, I had a whole different reaction to events at home. We arrived just after the shootings at Columbine; the spiritual battle was then much clearer to see.

Bad things do happen to good people, but that is when the rubber meets the road. That is when God can tangibly come alongside us and hold us up. Our reactions can show others that we are different and truly have something they want.

Second, we are to show God's love to others at all times. We are called to make a difference and to be our brother's keeper. This means we need to be looking for opportunities to share what we have been given, and to give a cup of cold water to those who need it.

Mark 12: 30-31 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

We are called to be channels of Christ's love in our world. We must be salt and light so that others will be drawn to Jesus through our example. Jesus expects it. This is part of our job here on earth.

Finally, rejoice! You are a child of the King. Be full of thanksgiving. Never be consumed by what you think you see or hear around you. Remember, Jesus is Lord.

James 5: 13-16 tells us, “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come & pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, & the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other & pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power & produces wonderful results.”

By: Lynne Willoughby

 

Enjoy this beautiful rendition of “Hold us Together” by Matt Maher performed on the “Glory Revealed Tour” and featuring Mac Powell from Third Day, Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North, and more. 

 

 

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Susan Bloomfield 7 months ago
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Thank you, Lynne, for such a beautifully written blog. It must have been overwhelming to be thrust into a country so poor in every sense of the word. Your faith in God and the strength and guidance He provided reminds us of God's presence in our life always.
Guest Comment 6 months ago
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Lynne, this was a timely reminder to me that we are called to be Jesus' hands and feet in tough situations and sometimes it means, stepping out of our comfort zones. No one who goes on a mission trip and truly applies themselves can return home unchanged. That's the power of connecting with people who are in dire circumstances. Thank you for serving in that way! xo

Thoughts on the Proverbs 31 Woman - March 10, 2017

 “THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS 31 WOMAN”

'Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised'. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV)

I love that picture of the Proverbs 31 Woman. However, the P31 woman also is married, cooks a lot, sews and has big arm muscles. I'm sure these are all tremendous assets in an agrarian society.

My question is this...how did the P31 woman become the standard-bearer of what a Christian woman should be?  We have books, sermons and a P31 ministry. Why isn't there a Song Of Songs 6 ministry (Your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing...)?  It doesn't seem any less arbitrary than praising a woman who spins flax.

We need to be very cautious about over emphasizing individual parts of Scripture, and here's why...

  1. All Scripture is God-breathed.  That is foundational to our faith, yet most women I know just roll their eyes when you mention 'P31', because of the way it has been elevated.
  2. Homemaking is a real gift.  If you've met someone with this gift, it is VERY obvious.  Many of us are homemakers, but not all of us have the gift. To expect otherwise is to reduce the value of the gift.
  3. We are PART of the body of Christ.  If we already had all the gifts, we wouldn't need each other.                                                

Here's my idea...the next time someone tries to pigeon hole you into a stereotype of a Christian woman, tell them that you are a “2 Corinthians 5 Woman” -  Christ's ambassador, or an “ Isaiah 61 Woman” -  anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, or find a verse that speaks especially to you.

The Proverbs 31 woman is 'honoured for all that her hands have done', which is a good thing.  Even better will be the 'well done, good and faithful servant' that we receive from the Lord.

In case you are unfamiliar with this theoretical woman, or need a recap, read it here.

I do not believe that it was ever God’s intent for us, as women, to try to fit the mold of the so-called “Proverbs 31 Woman”.  I submit that this model woman came about as a result of the western church's and culture's attempts at establishing rules around what it perceived as the ideal Christian woman.  In Jewish culture, men actually memorize Proverbs 31 as a song of praise to the women in their lives; it is not an expectation that they become one.  In our culture, women believe that if they are not measuring up to this standard, they are somehow a failure.

Rather than focusing on Jesus, who is our standard, the modern church adapted Proverbs 31 into a set of rules and turned it into a religious checklist.

Understanding Scripture is largely about culture and context and the interpretation of Proverbs 31 as commonly held by many is not universal. For starters, most scholars believe that the Proverbs 31 Woman is not a real woman. In fact, some scholars have suggested that the “Proverbs 31 Woman” is a combination of the commendable qualities of several different women.  (Read about that here)  Still others believe that she is the epitome of wisdom. (Read about that view here) It is worth noting that throughout the book of Proverbs, wisdom is referred to as “she” and Proverbs 31 is seen as the culmination of all the wisdom that its main writer, King Solomon, was passing on to his son.   

Have you considered that if this was truly God’s standard for women, He probably would have ensured that Mary (Jesus’s mother) was clearly identified as such. Or He would have chosen a few “Proverbs 31 Women” to be in Jesus’ lineage rather than pagan Ruth or Rahab, the harlot. I’m just saying…

The Bottom line: both men and women can apply the wisdom listed in Proverbs 31 to our daily lives. For instance, we can be earnestly:

  • Seeking God first such as waking up early and beginning our day with God.
  • Loving others, being kind, truthful and loyal.
  • Working diligently as unto God.
  • Seeking ways to enrich our lives and growing in God’s Word rather than remaining stagnant.
  • Not giving up when we encounter difficulties and learning to trust God to direct our paths.
  • Seizing opportunities that are before us rather than waiting for perfection.
  • Having respect for ourselves in the way we behave, dress, and conduct ourselves as image-bearers of God.

In the end, we can have the assurance that God loves each one of us exactly as we are; that He rejoices over us with singing and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more.

Rest in the assurance that no matter how you see yourself, God sees you as His Beloved Daughter and He knows your name.  Enjoy these stories of women experiencing redemption shared through Francesca Battistelli’s song, He Knows My Name.

By Bethany Breault & Yolande Knight

 

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Lynne Willoughby 8 months ago
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Great blog post and very provoking. I firmly believe that as Christians we are all called to Kingdom living. We are ambassador's for Christ and should be examples in our lives of what that Kingdom looks like. I endorse everything you have said here.I think Jesus was revolutionary in his ministry and his example was a fulfillment of prophecy and all that the teachings of the Old Testament. We simplify these teachings at our peril. In Galatians 3:26-30 we read:"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."Jesus didn't differentiate between his followers and treated everyone the same, calling on others to show and give the best of who they are. Years ago, I had a friend named Bill who is now with the Lord. He always expected the best from others and was never disappointed no matter what you did. He loved unconditionally and did not judge. It was interesting as his way of loving raised your own expectations of yourself and helped me to try things I might otherwise have not attempted, secure in the knowledge that the attempt was all that mattered.Isn't it awesome that God has created us all in such different ways and that we are now perfect in his sight. Let's hope we never limit ourselves or others by what our culture tells us is right. Let's listen to all of what God's word has to say to us and not just parts of it. Thanks again. Have fun with this.
Guest Comment 8 months ago
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Thanks Lynne. Well said!Hoping to hear from some of the ladies about how the expectations of P31, by themselves or others have affected them over the years, especially as a new Christian.
Elizabeth Priddle 7 months ago
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Thanks for your encouragement in these blog posts. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when reading about the Prov. 31 woman, like how can any of us even hope to attain all those incredible attributes, and stay sane??? Obviously God does not expect us to be able to do all that, we're not super heroes. He does however, want us to strive to be more like Jesus, as you listed in the post. I agree this is woman is a culmination of different characteristics we should strive for, and that it is the description of the epitome of wisdom. All we can do is our very best, with God's help!