Demo of Julie's Bible Reference Library

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Serving Christ in Obscurity

Treasured friend,


I’ve been studying the Gospel of John in my personal devotions and—as always with the Living Word—I’ve been captivated by something fresh, something I’d never noticed quite this way before. In chapter 1, I met a slew of fascinating people ... people who play roles in bringing many others to Christ.

John the Baptist, Andrew, Philip, and Nathaniel are the four who jumped out at me in this reading. Briefly, let me tell you what I noticed; then we’ll get on with how this applies to us as followers of Christ, in general, and caregivers, in particular.
 
John the Baptist—he’s the one who prepares the way for the Christ to enter the scene. Then, when people question him on his feelings about Jesus taking over and outshining him, JtB makes the most unselfish statement I could imagine: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” In fact, a larger chunk of his defining quote is:
 

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:27-30 (ESV)


Then there’s Andrew—he’s the first missionary. And he’s the first of the disciples recorded to have signed on to follow Christ. He’s with JtB and hears the proclamation of Jesus as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” And here’s what he runs to tell his brother Simon (Peter): “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” John 1:41 (ESV).

We hear Andrew speak for himself in one other scene, the one with the loaves and the fishes. He’s the one who brings the small cache to Jesus—Who then multiplies it to feed the multitude (John 6). Otherwise, Andrew decreases—while his brother Peter takes over as spokesperson for the disciples. Interesting, the great deal we make about Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ … when early on Andrew makes the same statement—without the need of walking on water to meet the Master or seeing the squillions of other miracles that would come.
 
Then there’s Nathanael. He’s from the same town as Andrew and Peter—and Philip (who becomes the missionary to Nathaniel). Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:45). Nathanael scoffs—thinking Nazareth an unlikely source of the Messiah. But when Jesus calls Nathanael personally, the scoffer immediately turns to faith: “Rabbi,” he says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Those are the only words we ever hear from him, even though he too becomes a Christ-follower, a disciple.

I’m intrigued by the fact that these first confessors of the truth about Jesus Christ's deity, these first disciples, all fade into the background as those whom they bring to Him become a sort of inner circle—Peter, James, and John—who make nearly all the headlines in the disciple years and later in the early church recorded in Acts. (We do meet Philip in Acts, when he becomes a missionary to Samaria and when he miraculously arrives on the scene with the Ethiopian eunuch—and later as the father of four daughters who are godly women of faith and prophecy. But then he drops off the radar as Paul rises to prominence in the story.)

I suppose the lesson for us here is found in the faithfulness of these individuals who all decreased so that others, and more importantly, Christ, would receive all the headlines--and any glory that would come. These early believers trusted Christ, and they each served Him in everyday ways. They told others about Him—through their words and their obedient actions. They didn’t seek thanks or praise for themselves (we don’t hear of any one of these disciples asking for the place of prominence in the coming kingdom).

It’s rather like the thankless work of a caregiver. Consistency in a thousand, thousand daily actions—none of which gain for her (or him) elevated praise or glory. And yet caregivers, like disciples, work on. Pointing toward Christ. Serving Christ as they serve their elder charges.

Somehow, I rather think God takes notice of these servants of His. I do believe Jesus’ words on the subject speak for themselves:
 

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)


I’m pretty sure I can be content with the notice of my Lord and Master—especially with such an awesome promise of a “kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And with Christ calling me "you who are blessed by My Father."

I can live with that. How about you?


Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2012, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jesus the Caregiver - Part 2

Treasured friend,

In our earlier discussion about Jesus as a caregiver many months ago, we examined how He cared for His mother while He was hanging on the cross.

Today, I'd like us to draw strength from another example of Jesus' caregiving. We'll find it in Mark 1:21-35. I won't print the passage for you--I'll let you locate it in your favorite translation and enjoy it for yourself. But let me key in on a few of the highlights.

Jesus is busy about His personal ministry. He's going into the synagogue and preparing to teach. This is clearly an important task on His heaven-sent agenda.

But then people in need approach Him--mob Him, actually. So He stops what He's doing and addresses them personally. He touches them; He ministers to their spiritual and physical needs. Even when He's exhausted--ready for a good meal and a soft bed--He learns that Peter's mother-in-law has a fever. So He touches her--ministers and provides new strength and healing to her. Which brings on another rush of needy souls.

He's giving and giving and giving some more--for hours on end. Does that sound at all like your life as a caregiver?

Finally, He gets a few precious moments of sleep. It's then that He does something truly surprising. I know I'd sleep in--long and late--in His circumstances. But He doesn't succumb to that temptation. Instead Mark tells us what He does:


And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35 (ESV)



As much as He needed physical refreshment in this scene from the Gospels, His soul needed spiritual refreshment--He needed the joy and intimacy of time spent alone in communion with His Heavenly Father. And it took some planning and effort to make it happen. I'm guessing the "desolate place" wasn't just around the corner from the home where He was staying.

I'm pretty sure we need the same--perhaps even more than Jesus did. Time to be in a good "desolate place." Alone time. Down time. Captured, even snatched and planned for in advance. Time in close fellowship with the God Who loves us, Who nurtures our souls, Who refreshes our weary bodies, Who cares for our loved ones more than we ever could. Time we make the concerted effort to protect despite our pressing obligations elsewhere.

Yes, I believe this is another key lesson for us to glean from Jesus, the Caregiver. Even if it means dragging our weary bones out of bed in the pre-dawn hours if that's the only way we can spend time in touch with our Father in Heaven. (You'd have to know me to know what an effort that is!)

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2012, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, April 2, 2012

Watch and Pray

Then he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me. Matthew 26:38 (ESV)
 
  
Treasured friend,

In preparation for Holy Week I generally read the story of Christ's passion from at least one of the four Gospels. This year, I'm in Matthew, and today in Matthew 26, I could scarcely get past the verse I selected above. It's one I've shared with you in the past -- but once again it stopped me cold. (The previous entry is "A Gethsemane Request" from March 2010.) It is the voice of Christ expressing for each hurting soul, the deepest need we have ... that of someone to watch and pray with us. In the past we've looked at what it means to us that Christ sits with us in our times of deep fear, sadness, and loneliness. But here, I'd like us to revisit the Scripture thinking not of ourselves and our needs, but of the fact that Christ asks something of us, even as He makes this request of Peter, James, John and the others.

"Remain here; watch with Me."

It's what our loved ones need from us, even as we busy ourselves by offering them compassionate care day after day. It isn't just about meds. Not just about tests and shots and trips to doctors' offices. Not just about food prep and clean clothes and bills payed and batteries changed in the TV remote. No, in their sorrow over all that age is stealing from them, they need what Christ needed in Gethsemane that night -- "remain here and watch with me." Someone to hold their hands and infuse them with hope--even if it's nothing more than the hope of being loved, of companionship, of someone feeling empathy with their pain. They may not be as articulate as our Lord was in asking for what He needed. But it is one of their greatest needs.

His request wasn't easy for the original hearers. They were bone-tired, weary as we often are. They were sad themselves over the prospect of losing their unique relationship with Christ on this earth (He'd just told them He'd be leaving!). And their bodies were desperate for the release of sleep. Does that description sound at all familiar to you? And yet, He asks us, as He asked them to just "be" to "remain" to "watch" through the long hours of the darkness.

Could they have helped giving in to that exhaustion? I'd probably have said yes, at least before experiencing some intense seasons of caregiving. But maybe they simply couldn't do what the Master asked that night.

Either way, He returned to them, after pouring out His heart to His Father. And finding them asleep, He was saddened further, perhaps even disappointed.


And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41 (ESV)
So, He does know our weaknesses -- "the flesh is weak" -- and He knows our hearts -- "the spirit indeed is willing." This Easter season, I'm asking for Him to fortify me with enough spiritual strength from His vast storehouse so that my flesh is able to do what my spirit is indeed willing to do -- to watch and pray, to remain faithful to Him and to remain a compassionate companion to my parents whose age-related limitations many times leave them feeling "very sorrowful."
 
He carried those griefs in His body on the cross, but He asks me, asks us, to offer the encouragement of "watching and praying" with those whose care He often entrusts to us. Often it is all we can do. But it must be an important task -- because in His moment of deepest sorrow, it is what He most wanted from His companions.
 
Easter Week blessings, from our home to yours!


Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2012, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com