Tuesday, November 29, 2011


An Arch at the Castle of Heidelberg Germany
     One thing I enjoy doing more than anything else in the world is to encourage someone.  I have always loved people, but when I became a Christian, the Lord enlarged my heart and vision to reach out and encourage folks.  It just makes me so happy.
     We all have different gifts from the Holy Spirit, it is true.  However, each of us is called to encourage, build up and edify one another in the Lord.  The Bible tells us that times will get tougher (and they are difficult and discouraging now) and that we should all the more try to encourage one another.
     Paul, the Apostle, wrote a second letter to the Corinthians after he had chastised them in his first letter for all the dissension and problems they had allowed.  In this second letter, it is easy to see his love for these people and his concern for them.  He even opens his own heart and allows us to see how God used someone in his life to encourage him.
     2 Corinthians 7:5-7 reads:  "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side; conflicts without, fears within.  But God who comforts the depressed, comforted  us by the coming of Titus; and not only his coming, but also he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more."  These are words of encouragement that Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  He wanted them to know that it wasn't just the coming of Titus that helped him through depression and difficulties.  It was the words which Titus encouraged him with...that the Corinthians truly wanted to see him again.What good news to this man who had taken them to task for their behavior in Christian matters!
     Encouragement has a ripple effect almost like throwing a stone into a quiet pond.  When we tell someone encouraging things, they in turn will spread this encouragement to others.  Let me share an example.
     I was talking with a friend recently, and she mentioned the name of another lady whom I had not seen in a while.  I told her how much I respected and admired this woman.  Some time later, she had a chance to see this lady and she passed on my words of encouragement.  I received a note in the mail a week later from this woman who thanked me for my kind words to our mutual friend.  What a pleasant surprise I had!
The Altar in the Church of the Holy Ghost in Heidelberg, Germany
     By the same token, we can also pass along negative statements, gossip, or other things which I assure you always finds it way back to a person being discussed.  The choice of either encouraging or discouraging is always ours.  However, the results of each are quite different.
     In the Scripture, the Corinthians told Titus how much they loved Paul which encouraged Titus as he saw their changed hearts.  Then, Titus told this good news to Paul which carried the encouragement on to him.  The letter Paul wrote to them sent that encouragement and love right back to them to bless them.  It was a circle of blessing!
     Whom can you encourage today?  We have people all around us in our homes, neighborhoods, communities and churches.  We need to remember to encourage them with words that will lift their spirits and build their faith.  As we do this,  the encouragement will return to us as well and bring glory to our Lord.    Selah!

Who encourages you?  What brings encouragement to your heart?  I welcome your thoughts here.  Please leave them so that others might also be encouraged.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ever Doubt the Sin Nature?

     Here we are once again at the most wonderful time of the year when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.  Warm feelings abound, good will seems to be observed in extra measure and there is a kinder, gentler attitude among our fellow men or is there?
     During the long holiday weekend following Thanksgiving, our daughter and her husband went shopping for bargains during the "early" Black Friday sales.  In one store while they were looking at several items, they heard a fight break out over some video games that were on special.  It was at this point our daughter told us she did not feel safe.  Of course, it could have been worse.  She could have been at the store where a woman pepper sprayed her competition in order to get what she wanted.  At another location, someone was shot.  The newspaper reported a customer saying she witnessed two women fighting over towels which cost $1.28.  I find this all hard to imagine, but the Bible tells us that we should not be surprised since "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  If ever there is evidence of our sin nature, this is one occasion we can see it clearly.
     When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden, not only were they cast out of this paradise but they also brought sin and death to all mankind.  As Paul goes on to write in Romans 5, he notes:  "Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death, through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...."(verse 12).  Because sin has permeated every part of our being (our thoughts, our will, our soul), we are slaves to sin and dead to righteousness.  It is not until the Lord awakens us by regenerating our soul that we can come to faith in Christ who alone liberates us from sin and death.  His atoning sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection has broken the curse for us.  He carried our sin, and by His blood, we are made whole and clean.  However, it does not stop there.  Our life is a journey as we grow in our faith through prayer, study of God's Word and fellowship with other believers. Nevertheless, we would be foolish to think we will not fall into sin again.  As long as the "old flesh" still clings to us (though its power is broken), we can succumb to old besetting sins once more.  This is why it is so important for us to daily walk by God's Spirit, and be aware of what the Bible calls sin.
     In the fifth chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians, he enumerates the sins of the flesh and why it is important to lean upon the Holy Spirit.  He writes:  "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident:  sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (verses 17-21).  We need to remember that Paul was writing to believers here.  He knew the frailty of our flesh, and made clear how we must walk by the Spirit.  In fact, verse 16 says:  "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."  Paul's opening verse of this chapter starts out with a call to take a stand:  "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).  The only way we can over come our tendency to return to the sins of the flesh is to rely upon the Holy Spirit who gives us the strength to stand.
     If ever we have doubted the sin nature, Black Friday incidents certainly point to man's selfishness.  However, it isn't limited to this one day out of the year, and unfortunately, there are times when we see Christians also demonstrate sin in their lives.  The Good News is that the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem came to set us free.  He bought our pardon with His blood.  As believers, we need to meditate on this and live it out day by day as we prepare for this holy celebration.  We do not have to live according to the flesh.  Paul concludes chapter 5 to Galatian believers with these words of encouragement:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against  such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (Galatians 5:22-26).  Putting into practice this walk in the Spirit will bring glory to God and bless our fellow man.  Take time this Advent season to think on these things and be the example to others of Christ's love.  This is what our world needs much more than a Play Station game or some other bargain on the shelf.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and comments here.  Please feel free to leave a word of encouragement.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Worshipping a God of our Own Making

A wild turkey in our own backyard
     As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we look forward to time with family and friends as we gather around a table filled with all manner of delicacies.  The key ingredient of this celebration, however, is not the food.  Our main course should be thankfulness for all the blessings which God has given to us, our family and our nation.  Reflecting on this, I wondered to myself just how many people will be worshipping the one true God and how many will worship a god of their own making.  I know this seems a curious reflection on the eve of this national time of thanks, but it is one we all need to consider before we pull up our chair to the table and utter a word of grace.
     Within the pages of Scripture, there was another nation which God had delivered out of the land of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders.  After four hundred years of slavery, the Children of Israel were set free and the Lord led them in the wilderness protecting them, providing for them, and guiding them.  God provided bread from heaven for them to eat, water out of rocks for them to drink, and victory over their enemies.  Nevertheless, even though they had witnessed amazing deliverance, they did not remain faithful to the one true God.
      In Exodus 32, we see the Israelites asking Aaron the high priest to make a god for them to worship.  After all, Moses had been gone up Mount Sinai for a long time to receive the commandments of God, but the people were not certain he would ever return.  Aaron called the people to bring all their gold ornaments and jewelry and with this, he fashioned a golden calf.  With this creation, the people proclaimed, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (vs. 4b)!  Aaron saw this and so fashioned an altar before the calf and announced to the people..."'Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.'  And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.  And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play" (Exodus 32:5b-6).
     When we read this story in the Bible, we often wonder how the people could have possibly missed the true worship of God and exchanged it for idol worship.  Having left behind pagan worship of false idols in Egypt and having seen the powerful deliverance by the true God, how could they have fallen into the same thing?  However, before we so quickly condemn them for missing the worship of the one true God, lets look at some of the false gods we set up to worship.
     First, there is the god of success.  This idol centers around how much money we have in the bank account, how successful we are in our job, and often, how many nice clothes and creature comforts we enjoy.  When these conditions prevail, we are filled with thanksgiving to "god" for the many blessings we have, but if things begin to implode, our faith often falls with the circumstances.  We reason that somehow we must have missed something we could do better because after all, God wants me to prosper right?  Wrong!  The Bible does not promise us a life of ease and prosperity.  Jesus told us plainly that the servant is not greater than the master and that if He was persecuted, we also would face persecution.    We need to remember that God is more concerned with conforming our character to that of His Son rather than whether we have all the creature comforts this world can afford.
A Florida Wild turkey near our pool.  A lot different
than a Butterball!
     A second "god" we often worship is self.  As my dear husband reminds me, this started in the Garden and he is correct.  We do not have to be a Nobel prize winner to see the self-absorption in our society.  Unfortunately, it creeps into the life of the believer as well.  When we start to plan everything in life around our needs, our wants and our expectations, we have begun to worship the idol of self.  We can tell how far we have bought into this type of worship when all our prayers are filled with "I", "my", "me".  At this point, it is not about God.  It is all about us and how wonderful we really are.  In his sermon this past Sunday, our pastor said this:  "We are not the message.  We are the messengers."  I could not agree more.  When we become the message, we steal God's glory which is His alone.
     Finally, we may worship the "god" of circumstances.  When life is rolling along smoothly, we are grateful, happy, and filled with joy.  However, when the bottom drops out, we may begin to blame God for letting us down.  How could God do this to me?  I go to church, I tithe, I pray, I witness, so He owes me.  Of course, we may not say it in such blatant terms, but we might as well.  If we worship at this altar, devastation is only around the corner.  What happens for example if all our perfect, neat little plans fall apart?  We could lose everything in an instant just like Job.  Can we take it in stride?  Can we still praise Him even if He allows suffering in our life?  And furthermore, who are we to dictate to God just how He is to work in our lives?  Job told his wife who had said he should curse God and die:  "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10b).  I am certain Job wondered why this all happened to him, and certainly, his friends raised that question too.  Yet, God is sovereign and Job came to realize that as he walked through the hard circumstances of life.  It is in the difficulties that we find growth, strength and the sweet presence of God.
     Israel raised up a golden calf to replace the almighty Creator God who had delivered them.  What a poor substitute!  In addition, they even held a feast in his honor.  They missed what true thanksgiving meant.  My prayer is that we avoid this trap.  We must sweep aside the gods of self, success, and circumstance.  We must defeat the notion that God is a glorified butler ready to serve us and stamp approval for our life.  He is the Creator and we are His creation.  He is the message and we are the messengers.  When our life reflects true thanksgiving to Him despite our circumstances or challenges, we can know that we are worshipping Him alone for He alone is worthy of our praise.  This Thanksgiving, let us make certain we are not worshipping a god of our own making.  Selah!

I pray that each one of you enjoy this Thanksgiving with your family and may God bless you.  Please feel free to leave a comment.  I love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Sacredness of LIfe

Baby Beckett Thayer with Papa
     Recently, my husband and I learned that our daughter and son-in-law are expecting a baby in April.  To our delight, we also learned it will be our first granddaughter.  What a new adventure awaits as we add a cheerleader to our squad of five grandsons!  However, even better than the news itself, we had the privilege of seeing a 4-D sonogram picture of the little princess.  It was a wonder to behold!  The details of the face and the arms was amazing, and even at this early stage, we can look in awe at God's creation not yet revealed to us otherwise.  I was blessed beyond words.  No such technology existed when I carried our children.  We had sonograms but they were blurry images which needed interpretation.  Certainly, medicine has advanced tremendously over the years so we can see these pictures, but nothing compares with God's act of creating human life.
Baby Aiden Thayer 3 years ago
     As I reflected on the joy of another grandchild, I thought of Psalm 139:13-16 which reads:  "For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them."  If ever there were verses pertaining to the sacred act of creation by God, these verses reflect His sovereignty over human life.  To know that God formed us, knitted us together, created us for His glory and wrote our days in His book of life even before we had experienced one day is nothing short of amazing.
     Another verse precious to my heart is found in Jeremiah 1:5 which reads:  "Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were formed I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.'"  Jeremiah heard from God about his call which was predestined even before he was formed in the womb.  This is quite a thought to ponder.  Each of us has a precious calling and purpose in our life.  Yet, somehow, we forget that.  Certainly, our society has forgotten this important truth.
Baby Gavin Wells 2 1/2 years ago
     In a recent fact sheet on abortion by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, there are approximately 3,700 abortions a day in the United States.  Think about this for a moment.  How many of those babies might have been a doctor with a cure for a dreaded disease, a teacher who could reach many, or a pastor who would have faithfully shared the Word of God?  Even more important, though, with every child lost,  a gift of God is thrown into the trash heap.
     Like many of you, I have heard all the arguments from those who think that terminating a pregnancy is an option especially if a child would be born with problems or if they are unwanted.  However, I have to confess that our special needs grandson is one of the sweetest gifts God could ever have given to our family.  He has devoted parents who give of themselves to provide for his needs.  Is it hard work, discouraging at times, and overwhelming?  I think they would say "yes" but the blessings out weigh the difficulties.  He is teaching us lessons daily as we seek ways to minister to his needs and causing us to trust in God's providence.
     As for children being unwanted, I would point to many people out there who desperately want to adopt a child of their own.  Rather than end the child's life, why not give it a good home with parents who would love, protect and care for this life?  In our own family, we have a nephew who was adopted and what a blessing his life is!  I am grateful as are his parents that his birth mother chose life rather than abortion.
     From the moment of conception until the Lord calls that person home, life is precious.  God gives life and only God has the authority and sovereignty to take it away.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to champion the unborn and the aged.  One is fresh from heaven and the other is in God's waiting room.  In both cases, they are precious in His sight and therefore, must be precious in ours.
Four of our precious grandsons:  Aiden, Gavin, Branson and Briggs
     Circumstances in life are rarely convenient or easy to face.  A special needs child or an elderly person with chronic illness are not easy to care for, but they both are precious in the eyes of the Lord.  My prayer is that God will forgive our nation for the many (well over a million) lives that have been cut from the safety of their mother's womb and thrown away, and cause people to turn back to His precepts found in His Word.  Life is a blessing from cradle to grave for it brings glory to the Lord.  May we see with God's eyes and love with His heart young and old alike, and may we take a stand for the sacredness of life.  Selah!

I welcome your comments and thoughts.  Please leave some here on the blog as an encouragement to others.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Are You Looking for a Sign?

Trafalgar Square in London a prominent sign in the city.
     As I was reading Scripture this morning, the thought occurred to me that so often I am like Moses...praying and praying but not stepping out in faith as I should.  You remember, I am certain, when Moses stood praying over the Red Sea and the Lord told him to stop praying and stretch out his staff and the sea parted.  I love the Lord!  He is so to the point in what He does.  I, too, sometimes get caught up in praying and looking for a sign from God that I forget to just take action.  We all know people like that.  We have all heard someone say:  "I'd believe in God if He paid off all my bills or if I won the lottery...OR...I'd believe in God if He would heal me completely from this illness."  However, Jesus had an answer for those who sought a sign.
     Look at Luke 11:14-23.  Read the whole passage to get the context here.  Jesus was casting out a demon from a mute man who was able to speak once the demon left.  Well...the unbelieving crowd said that Jesus had done that by the power of Satan.  Others in the crowd told Jesus they wanted a sign from heaven in order to believe.  Ahhh...but Jesus knew their hearts.
A sign indicating the crown jewels at the Tower of London
     He pointed out that no kingdom divided against itself can ever stand.  Why would Satan cast one of his own demons out?  Verse 23 shows the understanding Jesus had of the people in the crowd:  "He who is not with Me is against Me, and He who does not gather with Me scatters."
     Finally in verse 29, Jesus summed up all that He was trying to tell this crowd about belief and signs:
"This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet."  In the verses following, Jesus goes on to foretell His death and resurrection.
     With all that He said, Jesus hit the nail on the head with the crowd.  The people around Him were just looking for a show...yet they had just witnessed a miracle in front of their eyes and yet were unwilling to believe.  They weren't willing to take Jesus on faith and put their trust in who He was.  As Christians, we too can demand signs in our life.  Oh, we give them a different name.  We don't call them signs, but we call them "fleeces".  They are little tests to see what God wants us to do.  Yet, God has given us His Word and His Spirit.  We are told to put on the mind of Christ through prayer and study of the Word.  So why do we seek signs?  When will we trust Him as we ought?
     What has God called us to do?  Our responsibility is to believe the testimony that has been provided in the Bible, to trust in Jesus our Lord and to obey our God (see John 3:36; I John 2:3-6 and 5:1-13).  We do not need signs when we have the assurance He is with us.  We don't need something to pop up in front of us and say - "Go this way."  God, our Sovereign Lord, who knows our beginning and our end will direct our steps as we are moving in faith.  Therefore we must quit looking for signs and start moving in the Lord.  As we step out, He will direct our us in our way.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights on the this topic.  Your comments can bless and encourage others including me!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Doctrine - Who Cares?

Westminster Abbey in London
     I had a long and interesting talk with a friend the other day.  We frequently get into discussions over spiritual issues, and I wish i could say I agree with her position.  However, there are times when I am troubled by the comments she makes.  The other day she told me that it didn't matter if she went to church or not.  She had a relationship with God and that is all she needed.  She could go to any church and feel right at home.  For her, doctrine did not matter because if we believe in Jesus Christ that is all that is necessary.  She was tired of the disputing over various ideas put forth by denominations.
     When we parted company, I was saddened by her position which I have encountered many times over the years.  People so easily say, "It doesn't matter what you believe so long as you believe in Jesus." But the question that comes to my mind is what DO you believe about Jesus?  This is what doctrine teaches us, and understanding the foundations of our faith are critical to growth in Christ.  It DOES matter what you believe.
The Church of the Holy Ghost in Heidelberg, Germany
     In Webster's "American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), we find this definition of doctrine:  "In a general sense, whatever is taught.  Hence a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and His apostles.....Instruction and confirmation in the truths of the gospel" (pg 65).  Based on this definition, I wonder, then, how can we be instructed in the things which Christ and the Apostles taught if we are not affiliated with a body of believers?  For it is within the body, that we find Pastor/teachers who preach the Gospel to us, Sunday school classes and Bible studies where we can gain insight and find stimulation and fellow believers who will hold us accountable for our actions.  Being isolated from the fellowship of other believers and trying to hear God on our own puts us at a disadvantage.  The Apostle Paul wrote these words in his letter to the Romans:  "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How then will they believe in Him in whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14 - New Am. Standard)
      Within the pages of the Bible, we have the fullness of God's counsel.  The words of truth form the doctrine of our faith which is critical knowledge for the Christian.  To say, "It doesn't matter what people believe as long as they believe in Jesus" is naive at best and at worst, makes us a target for Satan.  According to another letter which Paul wrote to Timothy, we read:  "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth" ( 2 Timothy 2:15).  In the same letter Paul goes on to write this about the Bible and hence the doctrine found in the Bible:  "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for gaining in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16).
Paul makes it clear that we are to study the Word of God and handle it carefully, but we also need to recognize that it is powerful in our lives.  While studying the Bible on our own is important, we also must gather together in corporate worship which will help us stay the course and keep on the right track.
The pulpit in the Church of the Holy Ghost
     Unfortunately, today there are a number of churches that no longer spend time teaching both children and adults the doctrines of the faith.  Instead, they have replaced sound teaching with "feel good" philosophy".  Some have put aside the great Confessions of the faith as well as the catechisms which help to organize the basic doctrines of the faith as found in the Bible.  Is it any wonder that many believers today do not have a clear understanding of what their church teaches or believes?  So how can we remedy this problem?
     Of course, sound preaching and teaching in our fellowships is key.  This is where our faith can clearly be expounded.  We may also wish to return to some of the practices of early believers who used a two year period of discipling new believers before they were allowed to join the church.  When they came into fellowship, these Christians understood and knew what they believed.  Church membership was more important to them and they looked forward to their time of fellowship with others.  Finally, we, as believers, need to take time to be students of God's Word absorbing the doctrines of Christ.
     There is no greater reward than the study of our faith (doctrines).  When we do this in the context of fellowship, we will come to understand more quickly the grace of our Lord that saved us.  Doctrine (our belief system) does matter and so does church fellowship.  May we be found faithful in both.  Selah!

Share your thoughts here.  I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Come Meet Argula von Grumbach and Elizabeth of Braunschweig

     I have contributed to a writing project on the Women of the Reformation which has been going on for over a week.  The stories of these wonderful....and obscure....women which most of us have never heard of will encourage your soul.
     Today, I shared the story of Argula von Grumbach and Elizabeth of Braunsweig.  These two contemporary German women impacted their families and their countrymen with their contributions to the Reformation.  I hope you will visit Heavenly Springs the website of Christina Langella to read the story I wrote and also read the other stories presented by other writers.  You will be blessed and amazed as you read along.  We all make a difference.  God has created us for His glory and He uses our lives in ways we often do not realize fully.
     Simply click on the picture of the Reformation Women on the left side of my blog and it will take you to Christina's website where you will find what I and others have been writing.  May we continue to encourage one another all the more as we say the day of the Lord's return drawing closer.  Selah!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prayer Makes a Difference

A place of prayer in the Cathedral of Lincoln
     If I were to name my favorite prayer closet, it would have to be my car for this is where I seem to be away from outside interruptions as I drive to my destination (don't worry, I keep my eyes open).  This was the place that I encountered the presence of God so clearly yesterday.  Lately, I have been heavily grieved and burdened in my heart over several things not the least of which is the ongoing struggle our grandson is having with seizures.  Daily I have spent time talking to God about these heartaches, but yesterday was different.
     My son had called me up with the news that our grandson was traveling to All Children's Hospital due to some congestion and concern about the seizures.  He was taking care of two year old Briggs and baby Beckett, so he suggested we have dinner together since I was also alone (my husband was away at an education meeting).  I happily packed up some easy to fix things and hopped in my car to make the twenty minute drive to his home.
     On the way, I began once again to talk with the Lord about the burdens in my heart.  However, this time, I told Him I just needed to feel His arms around me and His grace and comfort.  I told Him that I knew He was the only one who could give me peace in the middle of many uncertainties.  Perhaps, I was more honest with the Lord of my life than I had ever been before as I sought His wisdom and understanding.  As I drove along, the sun came out from behind a cloud, and at that moment while I was praying, I felt the presence of the Lord in a way that comforted me, gave me peace and assured me of His continued guidance.  What a prayer session and time of fellowship with the Lord!  I felt refreshed, blessed, and encouraged as I talked with Him.
     Often times, we can get into a rut with our prayer lives forgetting that we are in the presence of our Holy God.  We may mumble a "hello" in the morning and at bedtime, just like we accuse teens of doing when their mind is somewhere else, but this is not what prayer is meant to be.  Scripture gives us help when it comes to prayer, and offers us guidance as we talk with the Lord.
     First and foremost, prayer is not a once a day practice, but according to the Word, we are to pray without ceasing.  Paul writes on several occasions about this.  In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, he writes:  "Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty.  To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding on behalf of all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18 Amplified version).  Then again in I Thessalonians 5:17, he writes:  "Be unceasingly in prayer [praying perseveringly]."  Finally, to the Colossians, he writes:  "Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2 Amplified Bible).  If this were not an important characteristic of prayer, Paul would not have repeated this exhortation so many times.  As God's children, we are meant to be in communication with Him not once or twice but unceasingly as the Apostle wrote in his letters.
Another prayer chapel where people could
light a candle and pray in Lincoln Cathedral
     Secondly, when we do not know what to pray or how to say it, we have a helper that makes clear to our heavenly Father just what needs to be said.  In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul writes:  "So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance" (Romans 8:26 Amplified Bible).  We can rest in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is able to bring to the Father our requests.  Certainly, I struggle for words at times not knowing what to say, but the Holy Spirit is ever present as our Helper.
     Finally, prayer changes us.  In Acts 4, the disciples were warned not to preach in the name of Jesus.  However, they didn't react by asking God to change their circumstances, but instead they asked that the Lord would "...grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word...." (Acts 4:29).  These men believed that as they spoke with boldness telling about the Lord Jesus Christ many more miracles would be done.  Certainly, they would face more difficulties as a result of their speaking, but they wanted God to give them the boldness rather than change the circumstances.
     Another example of God changing us through prayer is found in the life of the Apostle Paul.  We know that Paul suffered with some physical malady.  Paul prayed three times for his circumstances with this "thorn in the flesh" to change, but God replied "My grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).  Paul came to realize that God had allowed this thorn so that he would not be "exalted above measure" (2 Cor. 12:7).  There are times when God allows the difficult circumstances of life to remain so that we will be changed and turn to Him.  In Paul's case, pride could easily have risen up if this "thorn in the flesh" was not there.  We need to remember that it is not so important what happens to us but it is more important what happens in us.  Prayer brings about a change in our thinking, and God's goal is to conform our thinking and our lives to that of His dear Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
A quiet place to pray on our property.
     Admittedly, nothing in terms of my circumstances had changed as I drove to my son's house the other day.  However, my encounter with the Living God changed me.  I felt His peace, His loving arms around me and His presence.  It was enough.  This calmed my fears, healed my hurt and gave me encouragement to keep on keeping on.  In addition, we received word later in the evening that our grandson would not have to stay at the hospital overnight which was a blessing and an answer to prayer.
     Prayer makes a powerful difference in our lives.  It is a privilege to be able to come into the throne room of God and talk with Him.  This is what Jesus Christ made possible to all of us who are believers.  His  sacrifice upon the cross tore the veil that separated us from God.  Why would we neglect the opportunity to commune with our Creator?  He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He is available around the clock.  He doesn't put us on hold and play elevator music in our ear nor do we have to press 1 to leave a message.  Of all the communication devices we have, none compare with the connection we have with God.  Take time today and pray.  Pray without ceasing and pour out your heart to God.  He will hear and answer.  He may not change your circumstances but He will change you.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts about prayer and what it has meant to you.  Please feel free to share here.

Please do not forget to go to "Heavenly Springs" blog by clicking on the picture to the left of the Women of the Reformation to read the wonderful stories of these women of faith.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Aging in Grace

Glenn and I near the cemetery by the Church of the Holy Rood
     Some days I hate to admit that I am growing older, but the evidence presents itself when I try to make a fast move only to find my back aching for days afterward.  In fact, the aging population is growing rapidly thanks to medicine and improvements in living conditions.  According to statistics, by the year 2030 there will be one in five Americans 65 or older.  What a jump in life expectancy!  Unfortunately, the golden years are not always filled with joy, and our society's attitude towards older citizens is less than positive.  There is so much disrespect shown to older people today than was the case when I was growing up.  We need to know what the Bible says on this subject and teach it to our children, grandchildren and those around us.  Likewise, we need to encourage those entering this time in life so they can see it from God's perspective.
     In Deuteronomy 5:33, we read:  "You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess."  God's blessings to His children extend into old age when they walk with Him.  He shows them His favor and goodness.  We can conclude that old age is actually a blessing from God for a life well lived.   In reality, old age is part of God's purpose for a normal life.  When we look at David and even Job, both of them died, according to God's Word, at a ripe old age (I Chronicles 29:26 and Job 42:17).  No one would say that David or Job had life easy.  However, their lives were marked by having a heart for God.  This should also be our goal as we age in grace.
Big Ben in London - A reminder that all time
is in God's hands
     Another blessing of growing older is that it often is a reflection of how well we treated our parents.  In the Ten Commandments the Lord gave this injunction with a blessing:  "Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). Paul echoed this command in his letter to the Ephesians 6:1:  "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right.  Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land."  My mother used to remind me how important it was to show respect and honor to my parents, and we often discussed this commandment with a promise.  I am grateful and thankful that I was able to minister to my mother's needs during her struggle with Alzheimer's Disease.  It was a privilege to help her not a burden.  I will not say it was easy.  However, I tried to assist her out of love and a sense of responsibility for her well being.  This is what family is all about!  Today, we see many families abandon their elders to nursing homes or other care facilities and never visit them or keep in touch.  The Bible also speaks to this:  "Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8).  As Christians, we need to care for those who can no longer care for themselves.  We can be a great witness both in our community and in our family by honoring those who are older.
     Other blessings that come with growing older include having greater wisdom from walking with the Lord as well as life experience and the ability to counsel younger men and women.  Churches miss so many opportunities when they overlook the wise guidance of senior members.  Certainly, older members cannot do as much physically as they used to but they can contribute in many other ways especially in the area of giving sound advice in matters of spiritual importance.  Learning at the feet of a grandfather or grandmother in the faith can help younger members to grow and mature.  If we are an older member of a church, we also have to make ourselves available to serve.  There is no such thing as retirement in the kingdom of God.  We miss blessings when we fail to be involved!
     While there are blessings to growing older, there are also difficulties.  We may have a lower income, poor health, or other heartaches as we grow older, but even with these challenges we can lean on the Bible to find solace at hard times.  One of my favorite verses is found in Isaiah 46:3-4:  "Listen to Me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth.  I will be the same until [your] old age, and I will bear [you] up when you turn gray.  I have made [you], and I will carry [you]; I will bear and save [you]."  Our heavenly Father abides with us and never leaves us.  His presence is even sweeter as we age for we are drawing near the time when we shall see Him face to face.
Window in the Church of the Holy Ghost
Heidelberg, Germany
     In addition, God helps us through suffering and sickness.  I Peter 4:9 reads:  "So those who suffer according to God's will should, in doing good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator."  Our Lord has over come this world, and He has over come death.  In this, we have victory and assurance.  Furthermore, we need to remember that nothing will ever separate us from God (Romans 8:38-39).  There will come a day when death will end, there will be no more tears or sorrow and God will take away our pain (Rev. 21:3-4).  This gives us a great hope as we grow older.
     For those of my readers who are much younger and have not approached the older years, the Bible has some words of wisdom for you regarding your elders whether family or friends. It must be remembered that older people deserve kindness and respect according to the Word of God.  I Timothy 5:1-2 reads:  "Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and with all propriety..."  Then, in Leviticus 19:32, we read:  "you are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old...I am the Lord."  Finally, we read in Proverbs 23:22:  "Listen to your father who gave you life, and don't despise your mother when she is old."  These are the guidelines for interacting with the older generation.  Too often, I do not witness this type of relationship between younger and older members of our society.  There is so much to learn from those who have traveled farther down the road than we have.  Therefore, be wise and if you want a long life, respect your elders and especially your own parents.
      Each one of us will grow old one day.  Our sight will dim, our hearing will not be as sharp and we will have aches and pains in places we didn't know existed.  However, the blessings of a long life lived in the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ can be rich and full.  There is always some means of serving others and the Lord even when we have limitations due to illness.  We can always pray, we can call others, we can write letters of encouragement and we can teach our family how to live in Christ until we draw our last breath.  May we, who are growing older, age in and with grace that our lives will reflect God's glory until He takes us home with Him.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and comments.  These words of encouragement are a blessing to others who read.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learn About the Women of the Reformation

     Many of you may have noticed the picture on the left hand side of my page with pictures of the Women of the Reformation.  Beginning on October 31st, a series featuring the women who played important roles during the Reformation is being hosted by my friend Christina Langella at her website
Heavenly Springs.
     We have heard so much about the champions of the Reformation, but very little about the women who also stood in faith to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their lives and actions.  I hope you will take time to visit Christina's blog where a variety of writers will be sharing stories of these women of faith.  Simply click on the picture and it will take you to the website.  I pray you will be blessed as you read along.

Barbara Thayer

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Greek to Me!

     We are fast approaching that time of year when thoughts begin to turn to the holidays.  Personally, I have already started my journey of shopping - online!  Less stress, more coffee,  and savings on gas.  However, once the gifts are purchased, someone has to put the toys together.  As a grandparent, I have lovingly passed that job along to our children.  My dear husband will tell you that most directions for constructing a model castle, doll house or even a toy kitchen are written in Greek and never have all the parts.  Lets face it - there is nothing easy when it comes to putting a toy together.  The same is true for the "easy assembly" book shelves or T.V. stands.  While directions for putting items together may be complicated, following in the steps of Christ is not.
     One of the clearest verses in the Bible tells us with simplicity what the Lord requires of us.  Micah 6:8 reads:  "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"  This is not complex or hard to understand but to get the full context  we need to look at verses 6 and 7 as well.  Micah says:  "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"  In these two verses, Micah points out, in  rhetorical fashion, the absurdity of Israel's ritual and sacrifice by which they hope to earn divine favor.  His people do not understand that God's grace is not earned, but it is free.
Going through the motions of worship and doing good deeds does not earn us merit with God.  The Lord's grace cannot be bought, earned, or bargained for.  It is a gift to be given to whom He will.
     Some how we make walking with Christ complicated not unlike the Pharisees.  We add this activity or that good deed to polish our image with God, but as Micah has said very plainly  we are to love kindness, do justice and walk humbly with God.  In these words, the prophet sums up the simplicity of obedience to the Lord.  One of the reasons Jesus so often conflicted with the religious leaders is the complexity and burdens which they placed upon the people.  They took what God had given to them in the Ten Commandments and added over 600 additional laws to keep from breaking a commandment.  Don't we do the same thing at times?
     We can take the simple faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and make it complicated.   For example, there was a period when if I missed having a quiet time, I really felt I had blown my walk with God.  It became a hard and fast rule and somehow I reasoned that if I did not do this every day God would not be pleased with me.  This is far from the truth!  Jesus told us His burden was light and not cumbersome like that of the Pharisees.  What we have to remember is that God through Jesus Christ has satisfied the debt for our sins.  When we are found in Him, we are forgiven, and He calls us to depend upon Him.
     Certainly walking in this world is not easy as a Christian.  Our flesh makes war with our spirit, but by the blood of Christ, we are free to obey our Lord and walk with Him.  He doesn't want good works or empty worship.  He wants our heart.  He wants to walk with us daily and be a part of everything we do.  It is simple yet profound.  Why do we make it so complicated?  Our faith should never be like the directions to a put together toy or book shelf - complicated and written in another language!  Instead, God has simply done for us what we could not do for ourselves.  We are called by His grace to faith in His Son.  As a result of His work in our lives, our good deeds grow out of love for Him...not to earn points with Him.  Isn't that Good News!  It isn't Greek to us, and it isn't burdensome.    Lets remember Micah's words to His people:  ".....what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"  It is so simple, even a child can believe!  Selah!

How have you kept your faith simple?  I welcome your thoughts and insights.  Your words of encouragement minister to me and others who read here.  Blessings!