Every Tribe, Language, People, and Nation
every tribe language people and nation

Do you remember the song, Jesus Loves the Little Children, written by C. Herbert Woolston? Even if you don’t know all the stanzas, you probably remember the refrain:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

While Jesus does, indeed, love all children regardless of ethnicity, the problem of discrimination and inequality continues to taint our culture. Which brings us to the federal holiday we will celebrate next week.

January 20, 2020 is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Why is this day a holiday? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He was both a pastor and a director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1968 for inspiring our nation to persevere in opposing racial inequality. For exhorting us to love all people: red and yellow, black, and white.

The irony in these continuing discussions of racial reconciliation is that every conversation begins with an inaccuracy. How can we reconcile the races when only one race exists: the human race. We have a variety of ethnic groups, tribal identities, skin colors, and national affiliations, but only one race.

And the Bible tells us that in the eyes of our heavenly Father, everyone within this single human race who comes to Him through faith in Jesus Christ receives the right to become His child (John 1:12).

Someday, all His children will be worshiping around His throne, a diversity representing the creativity of our wonderful God:

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God   persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

~ Revelation 5:9-12 (NIV)

Physical characteristics that divide us on earth will enhance the mosaic of praise before God’s throne. Until then, let’s remember Jesus does, indeed, love all God’s children. And let’s be intentional about practicing that love today.


 
My One Word for 2020: Attentive
One Word - Attentive

Do you make new year’s resolutions? I used to, but they never lasted more than a few months at the most. A few years ago, I began adopting one word to focus on throughout the year as a substitute for resolutions. One word that would apply to multiple areas of my life. Each year, my “one word” for the new year became abundantly clear during the month of December.

This year my one-word for 2020 did not become clear until the end of December. For most of the month, it seemed as if the Lord was pointing me to two words: listen and focus. But neither stood out as the word. By December 28, I wondered if I was supposed to have a word for 2020. Perhaps I needed to take a year off.

Then it hit me with such clarity that I knew. I knew this was the word. I knew it because it took the two words I thought I was being led to and combined them.

Attentive.

To be attentive is to do more than just hear. It involves listening with focus—my two original words. To listen without mentally preparing a response. It involves processing with both my mind and my heart. To pay attention to not just spoken words but also to body language. And to the effects of the circumstances. Being attentive requires being in sync with the other person. And I need to become much better at doing these things in all the areas of my life.

A friend recently forwarded a meme to me. It was a picture of two ears placed side by side, forming the shape of a heart. The message noted the word “ear” is at the center of the word heart. And it said the way to someone’s heart is to listen to them.

  • Attentive to God
    I want to connect with the heart of God even more intimately in 2020. That means learning to be more attentive to the whispers and prompts of His Holy Spirit. It also means being attentive to His Word, for the Bible is my instruction book for life and for a relationship with Him.
  • Attentive to People
    This is an area I especially need to develop. To be attentive to the needs and desires of others. To weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And to listen and respond with time and kindness in addition to material resources.
    My need in this area was highlighted a few days ago with a friend. We shared our “one word” with each other over lunch. After we arrived home, she moved to get in her car while I walked to the mailbox, not realizing she had asked a question. Sigh. An epic fail at being attentive before the new year had even begun!
  • Attentive to Myself
    This does not mean I intend to cultivate self-centeredness. It does mean paying attention to setting healthy boundaries. To rest when I need it. And in this season of loss that’s still fresh, to give myself permission to grieve as those moments continue to come and go.

Attentive. It has a somber ring, doesn’t it? I can almost hear my school teachers admonishing me, “Pay attention, Ava!” Yet when I shared this word with some friends, one person commented that I can be attentive…or I can be attentive with anticipation. I love how anticipation adds a note of joy to my one word.

Anticipatory attentiveness. Eagerly watching and listening for the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Reading God’s Word with anticipation for the treasures I’ll find. Waking each morning to view the new day with anticipation for the adventures it will bring.

Being attentive with anticipation for how the Lord is working in my life, even if I can’t always see it. Viewing unexpected events, not as interruptions to my agenda, but as activities woven into His plans for me. And anticipating the deepening of friendships.

This year I will be aware of my need to be attentive. And I purpose to do it with anticipation!

Do you adopt “one word” in place of resolutions? Share it in the comments!


 
Reflection and Taking Spiritual Inventory
Spiritual Inventory

When I was in high school, I worked in the toy department of a department store. Twice a year, we prepared for an outside firm to take inventory. We worked with these teams to count every item on the shelves, and I do mean every item. We even included incomplete or damaged toys and games to ensure everything was counted.

Today I apply the concept of taking inventory in other areas of life. For example, before I head out to the supermarket, I examine the pantry and the refrigerator to determine what we need. On those occasions when I forget this important step, the result is too many of some groceries and not enough of others.

What was good for the toy department and for my pantry is also good for my spiritual life. I need to take spiritual inventory on a regular basis to evaluate my condition. The end of one year and the beginning of another seems to be the right time to ask myself some pointed questions. This week I am:

Taking stock

Proverbs 27:23 tells us to “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” In biblical times, wealth was often measured by the size of one’s flocks and herds.

Today we usually measure wealth by the size of our bank accounts. But true wealth has nothing to do with counting dollars. So I will be asking myself:

  • How have I grown in my relationship with the Lord this past year?
  • Which fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) have I cultivated?
  • How have my earthly relationships grown and developed?

Checking up

Psalm 139:23 gives us a glimpse into King David’s heart as he pleaded with God: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

It’s natural to want to avoid dealing with unpleasant things. But some things must be dealt with or the consequences will be worse than the confrontation! I may not want to face the areas of my life that require changing, but I do want to be all God desires for me to be. This means asking:         

  • What habits from the old year am I dragging into the new year?
  • What bitterness or resentment do I need to release?
  • Who do I need to forgive before the new year begins?

Planning for the new year

Proverbs 16:3 admonishes us, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Like many people, I live a busy life. Without plans and lists, my schedule would soon fall apart. But I also want to be sensitive to God’s plans for me, because I know He has them!

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds me, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” While this promise is specifically for the nation of Israel, the applicable truth for me today is that God does, indeed lead me according to His best for my life. The question is, am I following His leading so I can experience His best for me?

In order to be available for what God desires for me, I am asking myself:

  • Am I serving where I want to serve or where God has called me to serve?
  • How tightly am I holding on to my own agenda and ambitions?
  • How much flexibility is there in my calendar? Am I open to God’s interruptions?

One year from now, I hope to do this exercise again. And it’s my prayer that I will not have wasted the time God extended to me.

What questions are you asking yourself as this year ends and the new year begins?


 
Thankful It Takes a Village for Adults, Too
Thankful

Regardless of your political persuasion or opinion of the author of a book by a similar title, I’ve learned “it takes a village” for adults, too.

It’s been more than a year since I experienced the most significant loss of my life. The loss of my better half left me feeling disconnected. Not only disconnected but helpless and overwhelmed at all the things it took two people to handle over forty years.

That’s when my village stepped in.

It started with the memorial service as friends created the photo slideshow, decorated the church fellowship hall, and provided a generous meal for 300 people.

In the year that followed:

  • A neighbor volunteered to pressure clean and seal my driveway and then repaired and adjusted all the sprinkler heads in the irrigation system.
  • This same neighbor repaired 2 patio doors and my garage door and cleared my gutter of wayward plants.
  • A friend repaired a leaking doorframe.
  • A friend from church repaired a couple of leaking faucets.
  • Another friend from church arranged for the maintenance and repair of my lawnmower – and took care of the pick-up and delivery.
  • Two friends from church trimmed palm fronds and seed pods around my home.
  • A friend from my previous church repaired a broken roof truss.
  • Another neighbor spent hours replacing my garbage disposal and kitchen faucet.
  • That same neighbor arranged for the repair of some minor body damage on my car.
  • Yet another neighbor brought meals many times.

And this list is by no means complete.

Even contractors and service personnel—total strangers—went above and beyond to provide not just what I needed but added little extras with a dose of kindness.

With each act of compassion, my sense of feeling overwhelmed dissipated.

These experiences taught me it’s okay to ask for help. I was so used to helping others that asking for it seemed foreign…and somehow wrong. But what was wrong is the pride that didn’t want to receive what God had equipped others to give. Equally important, by not asking, I was denying others the blessing of being a blessing to me.

That joy and blessing flowed both ways.

In Philippians 2:4, the apostle Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV).

So my question to you is, where are you in your village? Are you feeling overwhelmed, but reluctant to ask for help? Are you wanting to help, but don’t know where to start?

Your village needs you. It needs you to both give and receive. John Donne understood this when he wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

And the Bible tells us Christians are all members of one body—the Body of Christ. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (I Corinthians 12:26 NASB).

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for being a member of the Body of Christ. And I’m thankful for my village.

Who’s in your village? Are you giving and receiving?


 
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