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.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What was God up to?

I like to learn. I also like to share what I've learned.

In this post, I want to share something I read in a newsletter we receive from the Pensions and Benefits office of the Church of the Nazarene. The article I will quote from is by Daron Brown, a pastor in TN. You can read the full article at but I want to highlight here what stood out to me.

In the article, Pastor Brown suggests that between reading the Word of God and applying it to our lives, ask: "What was God up to?"  He says that "There is nothing more important than seeking the activity of God." "God is not detached, nor is He passive. He is actively involved in our world. The point of the Bible is to illustrate the activity of God. In it, He was creating, calling, moving, blessing, descending, incarnating, healing, serving, saving, renewing, restoring, sanctifying, and empowering. When we begin to discern what God was up to in the settings of these passages, the Holy Spirit leads us to understand what He is up to in our present day. God is consistent, and His seamless story continues to unfold. He is still saving and renewing and healing. His activity is ongoing."

Wow. Yet another confirmation of how important it is to read and meditate on God's Word.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to answer the world's questions

When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking Him what He thought about divorce (Matthew 19:3), Jesus did not fall into their trap by talking about the evils of divorce, or the evil people who let themselves get divorced, but rather, he responded by saying:
Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (verses 4-6 NASB)
Jesus did not get into an argument. Rather, He responded by quoting the Scriptures in such a way as to show God's original design for His people. In this particular passage above, He said "Have you not read?" because He was talking to the Pharisees, who were well acquainted with what the Scriptures said, but they were wanting to re-define them. Sound familiar?

When Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan tried to tempt Him several times. Each time Jesus would respond with "It is written." (See Matthew 4:4; 6; 7; 10) He could've boasted about Himself being the Son of God or He could've fallen down in despair that His Father was allowing this to happen to Him. Instead, He grabbed the strongest weapon available and won that battle!

As I Christ-follower, I can apply this to my life when non-believers try to "trap" me by asking me questions about homosexuality, divorce, abortion, etc. I need not give my opinion on any of these issues! And I need not get into an argument. If I truly believe in the reliability and authority of the Word of God, then I only need to respond by saying "It is written..."

When my enemy comes to tempt me to be discouraged and give up. Once again, If I truly believe in the reliability and authority of the Word of God, I follow my Master's example and respond with the Sword of the Spirit! But I must ask myself: Do I truly believe in the reliability and authority (and therefore power) of the Word of God?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Forgive us our sins

It all happened so fast. I saw something vulgar and my immediate thought was disgust for the morality of "those people." God's reply to me came swiftly and decisively.

It was just minutes after I had that thought, that I turned on the radio in my car and heard a very brief monologue. The speaker said that when we have thoughts of disdain for sinners, we must remember that we were once one of them and it is only by God's grace that we have been saved.


Forgive us our sins as we forgive others.

Thank you Father, for this gentle, but firm reminder.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The lesson from suffering

There seems to be a recurring lesson in the Scriptures. It is that suffering has a purpose. Elisabeth Elliot used to say that suffering is having something we don't want or wanting something we don't have.

Unfortunately suffering comes into all of our lives. Some, it seems, experience more than their fair share. Or so we, in our finite understanding, think. But, if we are truthful, how many can say they have gone through what Paul did? In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a he says:
"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death."
Another example of Paul's suffering is found in 2 Corinthians 11:24-26:
"Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones,three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers."
OK, so I haven't been pelted with stones or been beaten with rods, but I have suffered and I have asked God why. The rest of verse 9 from 2 Corinthians 1 says:
"But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
Now we are getting somewhere! If I am in relationship with Almighty God, then I am to rely on Him (the One who can raise the dead!). Another word for rely would be trust. With each and every suffering experience, He asks us "Will you trust (or rely on) me? Or will you go it alone?

The following verse from Isaiah 50:11 puts this in perspective by showing the results of going it alone. Be warned - it's not pretty.
"But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment."

The lesson from suffering

There seems to be a recurring lesson in the Scriptures. It is that suffering has a purpose. Elisabeth Elliot used to say that suffering is having something we don't want or wanting something we don't have.

Unfortunately suffering comes into all of our lives. Some, it seems, experience more than their fair share. Or so we, in our finite understanding, think. But, if we are truthful, how many can say they have gone through what Paul did? In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a he says:
"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death."
Another example of Paul's suffering is found in 2 Corinthians 11:24-26:
"Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones,three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers."
OK, so I haven't been pelted with stones or been beaten with rods, but I have suffered and I have asked God why. The rest of verse 9 from 2 Corinthians 1 says:
"But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
Now we are getting somewhere! If I am in relationship with Almighty God, then I am to rely on Him (the One who can raise the dead!). Another word for rely would be trust. With each and every suffering experience, He asks us "Will you trust (or rely on) me? Or will you go it alone?

The following verse from Isaiah 50:11 puts this in perspective by showing the results of going it alone. Be warned - it's not pretty.
"But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Woman falls to her death

Last week it was reported in the news that a woman fell 35 feet to her death from a zip line platform in Delaware. While the investigation is still on-going, it appears that she had disconnected herself from the safety system. Why would she disconnect herself, after going through the required safety training where she was instructed in the importance of the harness, and it's ability to bring her safely to the end of the course? Did anyone see her disconnect herself and warn her?

It got me thinking that as Christ-followers, we have a safety manual call the Word of God. In it, we are told how to protect ourselves, in order to safely reach the end of our course, which is heaven. Yet, for various reasons, some willingly disconnect themselves from that safety system and unless someone intervenes, they, too, can face death. The two scriptures below, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, clearly show the responsibility we have as Christ-followers to warn our brothers and sisters when we see them "disconnecting" from the only 100% no-fail safety system.
"If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too." Ezekiel 3:20-21
"You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God." Hebrews 3:13

Friday, August 26, 2016

I had nearly lost my foothold

"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold." Psalm 73:1-2
That overwhelmed feeling is back again. I feel "off-track." I asked the LORD how to get back on track, but I already knew what to do. And it's not doing another bible study or trying another diet. It's not going to a counselor or taking different meds. It's not getting rid of him or her ("If only he would...," "If only she would...").
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Renewal (or getting back on-track) happens by fixing our eyes on the eternal, not on the temporary nuisances of life. Only the Word of God can guide me back.
"When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:21-26

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Perhaps you should look in the mirror

There is a saying that what drives you crazy about someone else, is likely something you yourself do! "No way" you say? Test it out this week. When your roommate or spouse or mother or kids do that thing - you know - the thing that makes you want to scream - stop and ask yourself if there is any possibility that you do the same thing. (If you simply can't be honest with yourself, ask your mother.)

This hit home for me last weekend. One of the above mentioned people did something that made me cringe. My first thought was to make sure that person knew how awful it was, but later, as I was venting to another one of the above mentioned people, a terrible feeling came over me. That was because, all of a sudden, I got a very clear picture of what I look like when I do the very same thing.

Could that be why the Bible says:
"How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Luke 6:42 (also see Matthew 7:5)
A hypocrite? That's actually what I was thinking about the other person. Ouch!  Oh LORD God, I pray:
"See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:24

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

One way out of anxiety and depression

Yesterday, my husband and I listened to an interview with Tom Bowen, a firefighter who assisted with the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams and NYC’s Office of Emergency Management at the World Trade Centers following the 9/11 attacks. We simply cannot imagine the gruesome sights emergency personnel like Tom were exposed to. Not only did this man experience overwhelming anxiety and depression following 9/11, but he also suffered a severe on-site injury and the death of his beloved two year old son to cancer.

There is a lot of talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) these days, but not a whole lot of talk about how to deal with it, especially from a Christian perspective. We found Tom's story especially moving because of his honesty and his desire to put his family and the honor of his God above his own pain and suffering. He shares his story in hope that it will help someone else.

I encourage everyone to listen to this two-part interview and pass it on to anyone you know who is suffering from this all too common mental health issue. Here are the links:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Distracted and deceived

Something happened to me this week that really caught me off guard, but the real problem came after that. So many emotions rose to the surface. Questions flooded my mind as to how I was going to respond to this. I became so distracted it was hard to function.

The whole experience got me thinking about the enemy and his tactics. Many have heard that he uses discouragement to weaken us, but distraction is another oft used weapon of his too. Luke uses the word distraction in his gospel in the account of Mary & Martha. Chapter 10, verse 40 says, "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." Many people (including myself), can relate to Martha. We think "If she didn't do all that work, how would they eat?" I heard someone say, "I think Jesus could've taken care of the meal if necessary." OK, true. Back to the point. Martha's sister, Mary, was not distracted. In fact, she was at the feet of Jesus doing nothing but listening (verse 39). And Jesus left no doubt that Mary had chosen the better way (verse 42).

So, I need to ask myself how the enemy is distracting me today. What is he using to pull me away from the one thing that is needed (to listen to Jesus)? Is it something simple like preparing a meal for guests? Is it taking on another project, or watching another episode of a favorite show, or is it something totally different - like fear over the latest terrorist attack? None of those things are terribly bad, but if they are distracting us, pulling us away from the one thing that is needed, then I believe we need to choose a better way.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Do any lives matter?

Terrible news this week. First, we heard about 2 African-American men shot by police. Then, this morning, we woke up to the news of 11 police officers shot at a Black Lives Matter rally. All this violence because one group is acting out of fear and another group is desperate to know their lives matter. The Word of God has the answer for both those groups. It shows us how not to fear and it shows us that every life matters to God because He created all of us. As Christ-followers, we have an opportunity today to share those truths.

We must share the gospel with everyone. The gospel or "good news" is that God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be born (in the flesh) into a world just as tumultuous as our is today. Jesus Christ showed us (in the flesh) how to live and how to love.

I used to think that if we lived a long time ago, when life was simpler and people had better morals, everything would be better. Then I realized that things were really no different then either. Morals didn't change slavery, segregation, fear or hate. Neither did a civil war or better laws. There is only one solution and that is for us Christ-followers to act like Jesus Christ. People who were around Jesus did not live in fear and they understood they mattered to Him. Likewise, we Christ-followers refuse to give into fear. We refuse to be part of any group built on the hate of any other group of people. We love. We lay down our lives.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Terrorists, Christians and Chick-Fil-A

As everyone knows, an Islamic terrorist killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, FL this past weekend. But what some may not know is that several Chick-Fil-A restaurants in the area opened on Sunday to feed blood donors, firefighters, police officers and first responders. The reason they did this is because their number one corporate priority is to “glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.” They were able to let go of a policy that they have maintained for seventy years (being closed on Sunday) to show Christian love in action.

Shouldn't their example be the same for all Christians? And not just after a horrible tragedy, but everyday? I see people every day that are hurting. It may not be from a mass shooting, but they are still in pain. Children acting out from their parent's recent divorce. A diagnosis that wasn't expected. Watching the mental health of a parent decline, etc. Am I willing to let go of my "policies" in order to glorify God and be a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to me? Will I have a positive influence on all who come in contact with me? Everyday, I have a chance to overcome evil with good. Will I take it? (Romans 12:21)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Against all hope

Do you know this scripture? Every person who calls themselves a follower of Christ should know it. It is from Romans 4:18:
"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
Why should you know it? Because every follower of Christ will come up against an event in their life that will cause them to doubt God. Doubt that He is God. Doubt that He is love. Doubt that He has a perfect plan for our life. At that crossroad, when we feel there is no hope, we have a choice to make. Believe or walk away.

Contemporary Christian songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman came to this crossroad when his youngest daughter, Maria, was killed in 2008. In the midst of his grief, Steven made a choice to believe. It's much better if you hear it in his own words. Listen to his testimony first and then make sure to hear his new song that was born out of his brave decision to believe.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sex slaves

On Monday night I went to see a movie called The Abolitionists. The movie was about an Underground Jump Team that consists of former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives that lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts to rescue children that have been sold into sex trafficking. On their website they say:
To the children: Hold on. We are on our way.
To the captors and perpetrators: Be afraid. We are coming for you.
But let's not forget that there is a whole other group that is held in slavery to sex - those addicted to pornography. They need to be rescued from their sin!  God and His team says:
To those addicted: Hold on. I am on my way.
To the enemy: Be afraid. I have already won the battle.
Each of us must confront our own evil desires and that which entices us. (James 1:14-15) When we do this, we come out from under the cover of darkness and expose the sham we've been living. Then, in the light, God helps us to deal with the temptation and find freedom!

In June we will be challenging anyone who has been tempted by pornography to take a 30-day challenge. You can sign up now at You and I may not be former Navy SEALs, but we can do something. We can challenge ourselves and others to personal holiness.
“Any mind that is capable of a real sorrow is capable of good.” 
― Harriet Beecher StoweUncle Tom's Cabin

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Turgor Pressure

I think everyone has learned some random facts that stick with them for some reason or another. One day, a long time ago, I was teaching a science lesson to my son, when I learned about Turgor Pressure and for some reason it fascinated me and stuck with me. Take a look at this 17 second video and maybe you'll understand why.

Cool, huh? So what is Turgor Pressure? Well, to put it simply, when the plant's cells do not have any water, they are like a brick wall without any mortar in between the bricks. The cell wall is unstable, and to us it looks wilted on the outside. But when the plant is given water and that water gets to the cells, they begin to expand and get rigid so the plant is able to "stand up."

This Sunday, my husband will continue to talk about the second half of our motto, "Out to love." We are called to go out into a world full of wilted plants (Matthew 28: 18-20) and bring to them the "living water" that Jesus spoke about in John 4:10. In verse 14 of that same chapter, Jesus said:
"those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life." 
Do we believe in this living water? Who has God called us to bring it to? In John 4, verse 6 we learn that when Jesus arrived at that well, He was tired from a long walk, but He did not use it an excuse to keep Him from doing what He was called to do. Nor did He let the world dictate who He brought the living water to. Jesus brought it to a Samaritan woman. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, let alone a Samaritan woman. And not only was she a Samaritan woman, but a Samaritan woman living in sin!

God has put a group of people on your heart. Is it children? The elderly? Or those suffering persecution in a far away land? We need to figure out who that group of people is and go tell them about the living water.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Could Jesus be sitting among us every Sunday?

The month of May we are focusing on the second half of our motto, "In to heal. Out to love." As I was thinking about what this love should look like - this love that we are to take outside the walls of our home and church - Linda came to my mind. You see, Linda has been a member of our church her whole life. Linda may be mentally challenged, but if you show her old photos from our church archives, she knows all the previous pastor's names! A while back, my husband gave Linda a job to do. She was to hand out the bulletins to everyone as they came in. Linda was thrilled to do this and it's rare now for someone not to get a bulletin from this faithful servant.

Every Sunday Linda sits in the front row, next to the pastor. Every Sunday she brings him coffee during the fellowship time and water during his preaching time. Almost every Sunday Linda kneels at the altar for prayer - but not for herself - no, she kneels for anyone in her life that she knows is sick. Linda doesn't come to church just to receive, she comes to give. There is hardly a holiday that goes by that my husband and I don't receive a gift from Linda. And ever since our son got married, she buys gifts for him and his family too.

Over the years, things have changed in our church. We discontinued the Wednesday and Sunday evening services. This took a while for Linda to process, because it meant less time of fellowship with her church family, yet she never complained.

A joy-filled, faithful, servant who lays down her life for her friends. Isn't this love?

I know Jesus is our PERFECT example of what love looks like, but is it possible, that when we look at Linda, we see Jesus sitting among us every Sunday?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Faith and healing

The eighth and ninth chapters of Matthew is full of accounts of Jesus healing people. Verse 17 of Chapter 8 says that:
"This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'"
So we clearly know why He healed (to fulfill prophecy), but were there certain conditions present that made healing possible? The man with leprosy (8:1-4) recognized the lordship of Jesus. He came and knelt before Him. The centurion (8:5-13) recognized the authority of Jesus. He believed Jesus could just say the word and his servant would be healed.  But other times it seems Jesus healed people without even being asked!

What about faith? Clearly it factors in. Listen to the words of Jesus Himself:
[To those following Him and then to the centurion in 8:10b; 13] "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." and "Go! It will be done as you believed it would."
[To the friends of the paralytic in 9:2b] "When Jesus saw their faith He said to the paralytic 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'"
[To the woman subject to bleeding for twelve years in 9:22] "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you."
[To the two blind and mute men in 9:28-29] "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" [Then after they said yes] "According to your faith it will be done to you."
But then - sandwiched between all these accounts of faith - is the account of the disciples caught up in a storm that came on so suddenly and was so severe that the waves swept over their boat. (8:23-27) When the disciples cried out "LORD, save us! We're going to drown!" Jesus responds by saying "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Is this to show us the opposite of faith?

Next time I am in the middle of a storm, or in need of healing, will I believe that, although Jesus appears to be sleeping, if I recognize His lordship and authority over everything, and choose to believe, He will heal me?


Friday, April 15, 2016

Depression and fear

I've been thinking a lot about depression and fear this week. Where do they come from? Why do they affect so many people?

In my daily Bible reading, I came across 1 Samuel 16:14:
"Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear." (NLT)
The Spirit of the LORD left Saul because of his disobedience. In 1 Samuel 15:3, the prophet Samuel told Saul that God wanted him to go and completely destroy the Amalekite nation. We know from the following verses how Saul disobeyed God. Saul did slaughter most of the Amalekites...just not all of them. And he kept some of the best sheep, goats and sacrifice to God. In verse 10, the LORD tells the prophet that He is sorry he made Saul king, "for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command." God didn't ask Saul for a sacrifice, He asked him for obedience. Whether or not it made sense to Saul.

How often have I done most of what God wants me to do, but not all? And then, when God does not abide with me or bless me because of my sin, I get upset. I don't deny that we are all disobedient at one point or another, but what sets us apart is how we respond when we are confronted with our disobedience. In verse 20, when Samuel confronts Saul, he insists that he did obey God! Oh that we would examine our hearts before the LORD and see if we have disobeyed Him in any way.

I'll end with something I heard a long time ago. "Depression and anger postpone change." The change that needs to happen is first of all, repentance and then, a sorrow for sin. After that, we turn away from our sin and do what we know was right all along. We have David and Jonah as examples of that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sound body and mind

Psalm 38:3 says "Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin." Webster's dictionary defines a sound body and mind as normal and healthy; not weak, diseased or impaired. Isn't that what we all want? Isn't that what Adam and Eve had before they sinned?

Most of us spend a lot of our excess time and money trying to achieve a sound body and mind. Should we also be looking beyond the physical for healing? When Jesus healed people, He often forgave their sin too. Could there be sin in our lives that we need to be healed of? Jeremiah 30:15 says:
"Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure?
Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you." 
This Sunday we will be looking at Jeremiah 30:17:
"But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the LORD, because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares."
God may bring sickness, but He also provides a way to be restored, or healed. That way is through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 1, 2016

In to heal

During the month of April, my husband will be focusing on the first part of our motto: "In to heal." It seems that when we developed the motto almost 5 years ago, we had a completely different congregation, so it makes sense to teach a whole new wave of people what our intention was when we came up with it.

When a person visits our church, most often they are looking for something. For some it's simply a new church home, and for others, it's hope or direction during, or after, a difficult season in their lives. But, no matter their reason, they are there and God expects that His people will act like His Son did when people came to Him. What did Jesus do for people who came to Him?
  1. He fed crowds.
  2. He forgave sin.
  3. He healed diseases.
  4. He taught them.
  5. He modeled love.
  6. He gave His life.
All of these things together bring healing to the whole person - the spirit, soul, mind and body. Our church (which represents the Body of Christ), must follow the example of Christ and offer healing to everyone who comes to us. And each person in the Body of Christ is responsible to participate in healing. Most often it will be in the very same way that God healed them, but before any type of healing can take place, we must make sure that the person has made Jesus Christ LORD of his/her life. Salvation is the ultimate healing.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Last Supper

Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy, is derived from the Latin word mandatummeaning "commandment."  It refers to the commands Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper:
  1. to love with humility by serving one another and
  2. to remember His sacrifice.
The Last Supper, like the Triumphal Entry I wrote about last week, is included in all four Gospels. I would like to list some things that stand out to me as I re-read these very familiar passages.
  1. In Matthew's Gospel, we see that for Jesus' last supper on earth, I believe that He purposely chose the Passover celebration (26:18). The Passover supper was to be a reminder to the Jews of their rescue from slavery in Egypt. Now Jesus was about to provide a way for all mankind to be rescued from their slavery from sin!
  2. Mark points out that during this Feast of Unleavened Bread, it was customary to sacrifice the Passover Lamb (14:12). After Jesus' death, no longer would anyone have to wonder where they would get a perfect lamb for the sacrifice. 
  3. In Luke, Jesus takes the cup, gives thanks and says to His disciples "Take this and divide it among you." (22:17) This cup, of the New Covenant, which represented His blood that was about to be poured out, is meant to be divided, or shared.
  4. John's Gospel says that "Having loved his own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love." (13:1b) My NIV Study Bible Note says: "One feature of the discourse (in John's account of the upper room) is Jesus' emphasis on love. The word occurs only six times in chs. 1-12 but 31 times in chs. 13-17." How did He show love to His disciples? By washing their feet.  In 13:15-17 Jesus says: "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
As my husband has said repeatedly in his sermons, it is not enough that we go to church or even read about the Easter stories. We will only be blessed if we do what Jesus did.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Everyone likes a winner

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. The account of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, with people spreading palm branches on the road for Him is recorded in all four gospels. (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; John 12: 12-19) It is referred to as "The Triumphal Entry."

Why do we like this part of the story of Jesus so much? Perhaps it's because everyone likes a winner? Who doesn't like to be associated with someone who is receiving shouts of praise from the crowds? Matthew 21:10 says that "the whole city was stirred." In John 12:19b, the Pharisees said to one another, "Look how the whole world has gone after Him." All that excitement without any social media! Impressive.

Yet the one person who was not impressed was Jesus Himself.  In fact, He was weeping (Luke 19:41-42) because many of His own people failed to recognize Him. More than that, His own disciples would not understand the full meaning of what was taking place until later (John 12:16). Jesus knew there was suffering ahead. Then death. Then resurrection. I often find myself "stuck" wanting to stay in the Palm Sunday mode. I like it when I feel like I'm a winner. I don't like the thought of the suffering and death that lies ahead. So what got Jesus past being stuck in the Palm Sunday mode? Gethsemane. The place where He surrendered His will, once and for all. As Christ-followers, we can't get to our resurrection without going to Gethsemane too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The wilderness experience

I was going to write about something totally different, but was prevented from doing so. Instead, I felt led to write about the wilderness experience many of us have gone through or are going through.
  1. The wilderness experience happens to all true followers of Christ. After Christ was baptized by John, He was led into the wilderness for 40 days. (Matthew 4:1)
  2. A Christ follower can be full of the Holy Spirit and still be led into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1)
  3. Being led into the wilderness does not mean that you are not a child of God, or that He doesn't love you or that He is not pleased with you. It is just a necessary time for you. (Mark 1:11-12)
  4. There are promises made to Christ followers that will be fulfilled after this wilderness time. For the Israelites, their promise was that they were to be given the Promised Land. And they were; but not before they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years.
  5. There is a purpose for the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:2 Moses tells the people of Israel that God led them into the wilderness to humble them and to test them to prove their character and to find out whether or not they would obey His commands.
  6. God wants to display His power and majesty to us, by first taking something away or "letting us go hungry" (Deuteronomy 8:3) and then feeding us with something much better!
  7. God does not abandon us during our wilderness experience. The same God that rescues us from "Egypt" (slavery to sin), and leads us into the wilderness, can also take care of us in it. (Deuteronomy 8:15-16).
  8. The wilderness experience brings us to the end of ourselves. We become humbled and realize that nothing we achieve is due to our own strength and energy. It is God alone who gives us the power to be successful. (Deuteronomy 8:17)
  9. We will come out of the wilderness just as the Israelites did and just as Jesus did. However, we must be on our guard for the devil is always looking for another "opportune time" to tempt us. (Luke 4:13)
  10. What I see in all my reading about the wilderness experience is that God's ultimate purpose, with love as a motive, is that we learn to trust and obey Him. If we refuse to do this, He considers it rebellion! (Deuteronomy 9:23)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Spring Forward

I received an Email a few weeks ago from someone who had left our church body. I had been praying for guidance to know if I was to respond or not. Then, yesterday, it was a warm and sunny day, so I was able to take a walk outside. While winter hasn't completely given up it's foothold, there are definite signs of spring in the air! As I looked at the brilliant blue sky, saw the tiny buds on the trees, and heard the excited chorus of birds, my thoughts drifted to spring and Daylight Saving Time when we will all turn our clocks ahead - or - "spring forward."

Then I realized that I had my answer. Just as we leave winter behind and spring forward, I am to do the same with people or events in my past that will not fit into my future. Why would I want to bring any part of winter into spring? This is a new season! And not only is there evidence of that all around me in the physical world, there is evidence of a new season approaching in our church body and in our school. God speaks to us in many ways. Yesterday it was in the beauty and order of His creation. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What makes God angry?

I have read through the entire Bible several times and each time I read through it, different passages stand out to me. This is probably because of the season of life I am in, or it could be what is happening in the world around me at the time of my reading. Our world is in a not-so-good place right now, so I have been thinking about what lies ahead for our country and more specifically, what lies ahead for me. When my life is over here on earth, will I enter the promised land (heaven)? What would prevent me from entering? What makes God so angry that He would not let me enter the promised land?

In the book of Numbers, Chapter 12, we read about Miriam and Aaron criticizing Moses (verse 1). God's response to them?
"So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses? The LORD was very angry with them, and He departed." (verses 8b-9)
In Chapter 14 of Numbers, almost all the people began to complain. They cried "all night." They complained against Moses and against the LORD. (verses 2-3). And God's response to this?
"How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the signs I have done among them?" (verse 11)
And the punishment? Verses 22-23 of Numbers 14 says:
"not one of these people will ever enter that (promised) land. ...but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice." 
A critical spirit, which often leads to complaining, angers God.
Unbelief, which often leads to contempt, angers God.
Refusing to listen, which often leads to disobedience, angers God.

Lest we think this is just an Old Testament warning, let's read Philippians 2:14-15:
"Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people."
I find it fascinating that here we are told not to complain or argue so that no one can criticize us! We are, after all, like Moses, in that we are called to lead our generation into the promised land. And we are like Joshua and Caleb, called to believe, even when all those around us do not.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A love story

This weekend is Valentine's Day where we celebrate our own love story. This morning I was reminded that there is another love story we ought to be celebrating - and sharing - with everyone we come into contact with. It is the story of Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer.

On the radio this morning, a pastor was preaching out of the book of Ruth, Chapter 3. Ruth, a widow from a foreign country, has arrived in the land of Judah with her mother-in-law, Naomi. They are in need of food and protection and they find it in the home of Boaz. Turns out, Boaz is a kinsman of Naomi and therefore, as was the law, able to redeem this young woman. (That meant he would offer her a home, protection and a family.) The catch is that there is actually one relative nearer to Ruth which would give that person the right to redeem her first.

The pastor on the radio brought out that after Ruth lets Boaz know that she wishes to be redeemed by him, he gives her food and sends her home. Ruth tells Naomi all that happened and in verse 18 of Chapter 3, Naomi tells her:
"Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today."
This account of Boaz and Ruth is not only a beautiful love story, but it is a picture of our love story. Our Savior (who happens to come from the line of Boaz and Ruth) does not rest until the matter of our relationship with Him is settled. He is our Kinsman-Redeemer!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

God's favor

Last week I was talking with another Christ-follower. I honestly can't remember the exact details of the conversation because there was something that she said...and the way she said it that made me forget everything else.

She told me that while in this difficult situation, she prayed and asked for God's favor in the matter. That's it. Not very earth shattering, I know. But if you were there, you too would have sensed the simplicity and trust with which she said it. I often find myself making prayer complicated, but that conversation was a reminder that God wants us to come to Him as a child comes to his father. A child that trusts his father will grant his request.

My mother has always said "God is so pleased when we trust Him." I get it now mom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Vision Part Two

As I was drying my hair this morning, I couldn't help but think about my vision. OK, bear with me. You see, I was born with naturally curly hair. The kind that NEVER lends itself to one of those beautiful, smooth ponytails EVERYONE but me seems to be able to wear. My hair has a mind of it's own, which I fought with for years. In high school I spent an hour painstakingly straightening it each morning. Then one day, in my senior year, I was just too tired to get up that early, and went to school with my hair in all it's naturally curly glory. My classmates couldn't believe it, They all thought I had gotten a perm. More importantly, they LOVED it. All those years I had tried to make myself look like what I thought others wanted me to look like, when all along they liked me just the way I was.

If I am a Christ-follower, then God has also given me natural gifts and talents and He has a purpose for them. I may not think what I've been given is the greatest thing, but I have a feeling, that if I use those gifts and talents as God intended, God will be glorified and I will be blessed.

So as I begin to write out my vision, I will first ask God to reveal His purpose for me through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, I will reflect on the gifts and talents that He has given me by asking Him to help me recall those times in my life that I felt my best in each of the areas that I am about to write out my vision statement for. (Personal, Familial, Professional/Vocational/Call, Spiritual/Faith, Community/Church) Feeling your best is one indication that you were on the right track.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Vision Part One

During our 9:00am class on Sunday mornings, my husband is leading those in attendance to write out a vision for their personal lives. A vision is the key to us discovering, and then accomplishing God's will for our lives. Christ Himself knew what He was to do with His life and accomplished it. At the end of His life here on earth, He was able to say "It is finished." (John 19:30) If we are truly Christ-followers, we will be able to say the same thing at the end of our earthly lives.

Perhaps you would not be surprised to learn that it is the top 10% of people who write out a vision for their lives and only the top 1% who actually accomplish that vision! Why? I think it is because we believe it's too hard. Or maybe deep down we believe that God doesn't have a plan and a purpose for our lives. Both are lies. The same God who "knit us together in our mother's womb," (Psalm 139:13) does have a purpose for each one of us. And our age is no excuse. It's never too late to start!

There is no exact formula, no "right" answer for a vision, but the key is to begin. Zig Ziglar said:
"A goal properly set is halfway reached."
This week we are to begin writing out our personal vision. Just one or two statements for each of the following categories:
  1. Personal
  2. Familial
  3. Professional/Vocational/Call
  4. Spiritual/Faith
  5. Community/Church

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Triumph through pain

I  have suffered with migraines my whole life, but in the last two weeks I've had more occurrences than I've had in a long time. When my regular prescription pain medication didn't work, I had to go to the doctor to get a shot of pain medication. At the doctor's office I was asked what my pain felt like on a scale of 1-10. Can someone really put a number on their pain? And even if I did say it was a "10," how could they understand what "10" means to me? In reality, the only One that can understand my pain is the One who allowed it in the first place.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
So this morning, when I awoke at 4:30 am with more pain, I decided to heed the advice I've given to others. I went to the Giver of pain and asked Him what he was trying to show me.

For months I've been re-reading a book called They Found the Secret, a book that looks into the lives of 20 people who all came to the the point I have been coming to - a point of deep dissatisfaction. Having no power. Seeing no fruit. Feeling no joy. And pain. Lots of pain. Not just physical, but emotional, mental and relational pain too. Like so many people in the book, I believe I am, and have been, a child of God. I am, and have been, justified through the blood of Christ. But I also could not deny that I lacked the power for service. I began seeking after this power. I have prayed and prayed. Andrew Murray wrote:
"I want to say the same to you, who are plunging about and struggling in the quagmire of helplessness and doubt. The desire that God puts into your heart He will fulfill..." 
In The Secret of Adoration, Murray also wrote:
"Take time. Give God time to reveal Himself to you. Give yourself time to be silent and quiet before Him, waiting to receive, through the Spirit, the assurance of His presence with you, His power working in you."
I would like to share what happened to me this morning as I was praying. God brought to my mind a poster I had purchased when I was in Junior High School. This was several years before I became a follower of Christ. It was a cute Besty Clark poster that had the scripture from Proverbs 3:5-6 on it.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.…"
Then I had the overwhelming realization that God has been with me all of my life...even BEFORE I was aware of Him! Tears flowed, and as I've stated before, this kindness, mercy and love led me to repentance for all my doubt and fear. For all the hate and bitterness I've held on to. This is TRIUMPH THROUGH PAIN, VICTORY THROUGH DEFEAT. The power and grace of God in my life. Hallelujah! What a Savior!