Monday, June 20, 2011

I Can Only Imagine - & - It's Not the Thought That Counts

This song speaks of one trying to imagine what it will be like when they’re finally physically in the presence of The LORD.

Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel?

Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You, be still?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing 'Hallelujah!'? Will I be able to speak at all?

- and I must say that I find great joy in trying to imagine my friend's first reaction the moment her faith became sight recently - and I wonder …., did she dance for Jesus? – if for no other reason than because she could now and because it was a new way for her to give Him glory that she’d  been unable to do for so long?  Or - I don’t know when the last time was that she stood confidently on her own two feet -  so perhaps that’s what she did – maybe she just stood awestruck at the sight of her LORD and Savior.  – Or maybe  - just maybe - it was the first time ever that she wanted nothing more than to stand up just so that she could fall to her knees. But - I also can’t help but wonder if perhaps -- even after all the years she spent confined to a wheelchair if possibly at this point - and in His presence - she was quite content for the first time in a looong time just to sit - maybe even wanting nothing more than just to sit at the feet of Jesus and get to know Him better.

The other thought resting on my heart as I remember her leads in quite a different direction. Whereas the first is kinda from here looking up….this one is more or less from here…looking around.

James 1:27
 says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

It's as simple as that -  tho’ we tend to make it complicated.

Along with James 1:27, which seems to be a reference point of sorts put into the simplest of terms in black and white – to help us gauge how we’re doing at being the Body of Christ,  in Matthew 25 God’s Word goes into more detail about the how and the who and the why behind what we’re called to do:

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Much like widows & orphans, she was almost completely dependent on others for the daily necessities of life for quite a while and with little, if anything, to give in return. I think this was the case for at least as long as any of us knew her - and as I consider these verses and so many others in God’s Word that describe the love & compassion that God has for the needy and how we, His church, are to essentially be His hands & feet here and now in tending to them, - I wonder if God puts people like her in our paths and in the midst of a church like ours as kind of a test of sorts for the church body as a whole - as well as for the individuals that make up the church.

She and I were friends and I know that as I examine myself in light of our friendship and of James 1:27 and Matthew 25 I sense God used her to reveal some things I need to work on in order to more accurately and effectively reflect Christ in my sphere of influence. For one thing, when it comes to caring for the needy, it's not the thought that counts. If it were, I’d be feeling better right now because The LORD knows I thought often about visiting her  - or inviting her into our home, or even of just calling her to visit – or of praying for or with her – but too often I didn’t do it for any number of selfish reasons - and I realize that each time I shunned the prompting of what was likely that Still Small Voice, what I didn't do for her, I didn't do for Jesus. 

Someone once said:

Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary use words. 

She attended our church for about five years or so and in retrospect, from my vantage point in relation to her, I see how God gave her a knack for bringing out the best in our church. In much the same way that cream always rises to the top, there were a few people who patiently and gently and thoughtfully ministered to her so faithfully –  in word and in deed – and I would like to let them know that tho’ she was often blessed to be the focus of their ministry, somehow I ended up being impacted by it as well -  and I would like to thank them for being such beautiful and faithful examples “with skin on” – for me and for my family, and who knows how many others noticed, to aspire to – in so far as what it means, according to James 1:27 and Matthew 25, to be a Christian - and I emphasize the word “be” - because it’s a verb.

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