Friday, January 27, 2017

My mother is right again

How often over the years, when I would pour out my problems and fears to my mother, she would respond with these words: "God is so pleased when we trust Him." Then she would faithfully remind me again of all the amazing things God had done for me in the past.

In her book, A Chance to Die - The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliot says:
"The Christian life comes down to two simple things: trust and obedience."
When Amy Carmichael's father died at the age of 54, her mother found strength in the words of Nahum 1:7:
 "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth (or cares for) them that trust in Him."
This example of strength was passed down to Amy, just as my mother's words are passed down to me.

I like the way author Sarah Young refers to trust in her Jesus Calling devotional:
"Trust is a golden pathway to heaven." 
Ms. Young goes on to say that it is the most direct route to heaven. Compare the other route - focusing on our problems, doubts and fears. That route is filled with twists and turns in agonizing knots she says. So why would I want that route?

How to live this life of trust and obedience comes from one Source:
"We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne." Hebrews 12:2 NLT

Friday, January 20, 2017

How to resolve worry and tension

When God says something to you three times through three different people, in the same week - it's important to listen!

What He has been saying to me is: you seek Me and My Kingdom first, then all other the other things you are worried about will be taken care of. (adapted from Matthew 6:33)

How does one seek God? In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs us. First, I must establish if I am truly a disciple of Jesus Christ. In verse 24 of Matthew 6, Jesus tells His disciples that they cannot serve two masters. I must make a decision which master I am going to serve. Jesus Christ or the the things and cares of this world. If I choose to constantly focus on and run after the things of this world, then, according to Jesus in verse 32 of Matthew 6, I am a Gentile (or a non-believer)! One of the speakers mentioned above said "Decision resolves tension." Another one of those three people said that the word anxiety means to have a divided heart about something. I must decide this day if I am completely surrendered to Him and His will.

In verse 7 of Matthew 6, Jesus teaches His disciples not to use meaningless repetition in prayer like the Gentiles (or non-believers) do because His Father already knows what we need. Another one of the three people mentioned above said that after we lay our requests before God, we should thank Him for the answers that He has already set in motion. And we are to continue to thank Him for the answers that are on their way, because if we keep stating the same concerns over and over, we live in a state of tension. I agree!

So, I've made a decision to surrender my will and allow God's will to be done in my life. I've also decided to be thankful in my prayer life. Now only one thing is left. I must follow Jesus' example of doing the will of the Father. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." When we are doing His will, all the other things will fall into place. In John 7:17 Jesus says: "Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own."  In other words, worry and tension will be resolved. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

An unusual Christmas

I am a person who likes traditions and routines. I find I do things "because I've always done them" and it feels strange not to do them. But this year is an unusual Christmas because not only have I been sick for the last few weeks, but Christmas, the day our family usually spends eating breakfast together and giving gifts to each other, falls on a Sunday. So, we had to change it up a bit.

This morning I was thinking about the first Christmas and how unusual that day was. I'm sure Mary and Joseph did not relish the thought of travel at a time when she was about to give birth. In fact, nothing about that day was usual. Despite the prediction foretold Scripture, the people still had a hard time accepting the unusual way God brought the Messiah into the world.

Scripture tells us:
"Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Perhaps God has allowed our routine, or our tradition to be shaken up a bit, so we will stop and reflect on what is important. Our church's theme this Christmas is "Keep Christ at the Center of Christmas." Is He center? Or are my plans center? The scripture above tells us that we do not know what will happen tomorrow. Our acceptance to what He has allowed is the only way to a peace-filled, Christ-centered Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

In loving memory of Jim Seltzer

I'm not even sure when Jim and Carol started coming to our church. It seems like they've always been a part of our body - like a hand or a foot that you can't imagine what you would do without. Only now we do have to imagine it because Jim was taken from us last night. Jim was that part of the body - you know- the part that you take for granted. He and Carol sat in the very last row. They were always there, snuggled together. Kind of like an anchor that held us all in place. How did he start driving the van to pick people up on Sunday mornings? Or when did he start mowing the lawn? Was he asked to be an usher? It just happened one day I guess. Like the first day an infant discovers she has a hand and it works beautifully with the arm she has. He just fit and it worked beautifully. But today I ask myself: did I take that part of my body for granted? It was easy to do that because he gave and gave and never asked for anything in return. He asked for prayer for others. He asked how my mother was after her accident. But Jim didn't focus on himself. He didn't complain. He was too busy loving others.

Jim Seltzer was a Christian in every sense of the word. I am not only grateful for all that he did for our church body, but I am grateful for the example he was to me of a gentle and quiet spirit. I honor the faithful husband, loving father and friend he was. We grieve, but not without hope, because we know that someday we will be joined together again in heaven where we will rejoice together for all eternity.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Could giving be self-centered?

I heard something on the radio the other day that made me stop and think. Pastor Chris Brown, on his True Stewardship Show (hosted by Dave Ramsey), was talking about the difference between giving and returning.

In the church, we talk about giving to God - our time, our talent and of course, our money. Pastor Brown was explaining that while it's a nice concept, it's pretty self-centered! When we decide what we give to God, the focus is on us. What I am giving to God. How I am blessing God. If I am being used by God. Now flip that and think about this: All we have has been given to us by God. Yes, we may earn a living by working, but who gave us that job? Who gave us the mind and the skill to do that job? God, of course. So, it makes sense that we give back - or return to Him what He gave us.

When we acknowledge it's all His, the focus shifts from us to Him. We realize that we are stewards, someone who manages someone else's property, in this case, God's.
"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10
In his autobiography, George Muller, a true steward of God, said this:
"In whatever way God makes us stewards, whether in temporal or spiritual things, if we act as stewards and not as owners, He will make us stewards over more."
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trials, choices and a harvest of righteousness and peace

This Sunday my husband will be preaching from Romans 1:17:
"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
What is righteousness?
"The Father through the Son and in the Spirit gives the gift of righteousness (justice) to repentant sinners for salvation; such believing sinners are declared righteous (just) by the Father through the Son, are made righteous (just) by the Holy Spirit working in them, and will be wholly righteous (just) in the age to come." (
OK, so I am declared righteous at salvation, but then I am called to live out righteousness by faith. What exactly does that mean?

A few days ago, I came across a passage in Ezekiel 14 where God is talking to the prophet and not once, but 4 times (verses 14,16,18 and 20), He mentions Noah, Daniel and Job and their righteousness! I began to think about the lives of these three men and what made them righteous in God's eyes. A common thread among all three was their belief (faith) and obedience despite extreme obstacles.

Then, as I continued reading George Muller's autobiography, I came to a chapter entitled Food for Growing Faith. Muller stated that when a trial came into his life, he would pray that God would uphold and increase his faith. He did this with every trial, no matter how small or big. He went on to say that if we stand firm in the hour of trial, we will see the help of God IF we trust in Him. But then came an extremely powerful point. The more I am tried in faith, the more I will have the opportunity of seeing God's help and deliverance. However, I must let God do the work of deliverance! If we get ourselves out of a situation, we show that we do not trust God. And then, in the next trial, we will be inclined to deliver ourselves again. With every trial met this way, our faith decreases!

Let me end with one more passage from Hebrews 12:11 which I hope will put it all together:
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Declare it...just not with words

In his autobiography, George Muller writes of the true story of Baron von Kamp "for the encouragement of believers who are tried by having unconverted relatives and friends." This baron did many great things for his countrymen, but was not content with that. He was always looking for ways to win people to the LORD. When a talented university student wrote to the baron for assistance when his own father could not support him any longer, the baron received young Thomas in a most affectionate way. He offered him a room in his home and a place at his table. The baron served this young student in the most kind and affectionate way as much as possible to show him the power of the gospel in his own life. He did this without arguing with him or even speaking directly to him about his soul. Thomas was deeply involved in philosophy, reasoning about everything, even questioning the existence of God. The baron avoided getting into any argument with him. In fact, every evening when Thomas got home, the baron would meet him and serve him in any way he could, even helping him take off his boots. This went on until Thomas couldn't take it anymore. He said "Baron, how can you do all this? You see I do not care about you. How are you able to continue to be so kind to me and serve me like this?" The baron replied "My dear young friend, I have learned it from the LORD Jesus. I wish you would read through the gospel of John. Good night."

Young Thomas did read the gospel - for the first time with an open heart and willingness to learn. And God blessed him. He became a follower of the LORD Jesus.