Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Never Give Up the Fight

     Following my fight with bulbar polio in 1955, I had a long road ahead of me in order to recuperate.  My form of the polio virus affected the right side of my face, my ability to swallow, and my upper body.  The right leg was weaker and would occasionally give out.  I know it was God who spared my life and answered my prayer for healing that I lifted up from my hospital bed.
     After my stay in the hospital, I remember having to lay perfectly flat.  There were hot packs, hot baths, therapy sessions, and my mother had to grind up all my food as I could not swallow well.  It became very tiring to have to lay flat for what seemed like an interminable time especially when you are seven years old.
Glenn and I at Cedar Key, Fl with one of our
favorite little "photo bombers" Aiden.
     Finally, the day came when I was allowed to try to walk again.  My grandfather put coins across the floor to encourage me to take some steps and pick up the coins.  I was weak, but I made it across the living room.  Day by day, I worked to regain my strength and ability to move.  Some muscles in my throat could not be rehabilitated so I had to learn to swallow using a tucking technique which I have used all my life.  For me, and other polio survivors, life would never be quite the same, but we never gave up in trying to regain our health and mobility.  Even today, we are once again engaged with a new
challenge with Post Polio Syndrome.  This is a new weakness in the muscles damaged by the polio virus.  The point is, not just for those of us who had polio but for all, life is a continuous movement from one challenge to another whether physically, mentally or spiritually.  God has a purpose and a plan for us and we must never give up in the race of life but move on to the goal of His high calling for us.
     In three different places in New Testament letters, the writers encourage us to never give up in the race.  Paul writes in I Corinthians 9:24-27:  "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."  This is a powerful reminder from the Apostle that we need self-control which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in order to remain focused on the goal.  We are running the race of life in order to glorify God and reflect His image as a bright light in a dark world.  We cannot accomplish this unless we put forth a consistent, steady walk with Christ.  I know I might sound like a broken record since I write about this continually, but only through Bible study, prayer and fellowship can we grow those faith muscles lest, as Paul says, we become "disqualified".  If we want to be used of God, we must maintain an ever deepening relationship with Him.
     A second scripture is found in 2 Timothy 4:7-8:  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing."  Here we have a chance to see Paul at a later stage in his ministry.  He has been running the race and contending faithfully for the Lord.  Now, he is aware that soon he will go to be with His Lord.  This is such an encouragement to us when we feel tired and weak.  Consider all that Paul went through during his ministry:  beatings, a venomous snake bite, shipwreck, a thorn in the flesh which would never leave him, and imprisonment.  Yet, he kept the faith and grew in his love for Christ.  Life was anything but easy for this man.  If he could do this, we can too.
     Our final scripture is found in Hebrews 12:1-4, 7,12-13:  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.....(vs. 7)  It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?....(vs. 12-13) Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed."  These are words that offer us the reason to keep on reaching towards that goal.  Like a runner, we may be tired and ready to quit.  We are thirsty and our muscles ache beyond belief, but we have another mile to go.  Can we do it?  Not in our own strength but certainly, in His.  I love the saying that I have seen around that says:  "God does not call the equipped, but He equips the called."  When He sets before us the race in this life with all its pitfalls, valleys and heartaches, He never once leaves our side.  Our cheering section are all the saints that have gone before us as Hebrews tells us. Likewise, He is the living water so we never have to thirst as we run the course.  However, we must discipline ourselves to go where we can be refreshed, and I would suggest that we will find this in prayer with our Father, the reading daily of His Word and in regular fellowship with other believers who will hold us accountable.  If Jesus could die for us, if Paul could suffer all he did but still persevere, then, certainly, we can, with God's help, run the race set before us!
     As a little seven year old girl, I simply asked God, from my hospital bed, to make me well and let me go home.  I believed He could do that for me.  He did.  He spared my life, helped me make the long road to recovery and has kept me all along life's pathway.  No matter what your burden or challenge, He can do that for you.  Our Lord has never promised us that life would be easy, but He has told us that our lives would be abundant in Christ.  He has also promised to be with us every step of the way.  Therefore, let us trust in Him today and roll our cares on Him.  He is able to strengthen us when we do not think we can go on.  With Him, all things are possible.  Selah!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Final Instructions

 When our children were young, we would leave a detailed list, for our babysitter, of things like bedtime hour, snacks they could have and if they needed any medicine.  Now our children who are grown and married leave a list for Grammy and Papa to follow while caring for our grandchildren.  I am thankful for such a memo as I am not accustomed to the routines they follow, and to be honest, I might forget to do something which is important for their well being.  In much the same way, we are given reminders at the end of many of the letters found in the New Testament concerning our conduct.  These loving words, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are meant to direct our conduct, so that we might enjoy the abundant life found in living for Jesus Christ.
     One such instruction stands out to me in light of our economic plight in today's market place.  Many of us are tempted to fret and stew over money.  After all, the cost of living is going up while many paychecks are not.  In addition, we are often confronted with unexpected expenses that come at us all at once.  The writer of Hebrews is aware of our daily challenges and closes his letter with an encouragement we all need to remember:  "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'  So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Heb. 13:3-6)
     Having financial security seems to be the driving goal for most people today.  We all want to feel we  have enough funds to cover our family in cases of emergency.  However, the writer, here, points out that if this becomes the driving force for our life we could well miss the joy that comes from trusting God.  Our security should not be placed in finances which can be here today and gone tomorrow just like some jobs.  Rather our security is found in God.  He wants us to be content with what we have.  Those driven by wanting more and more often lead an empty life because when they get what they want they are never satisfied.
     Remember that this concluding chapter of Hebrews follows the description of all who died in faith believing (chapter 11).  In that chapter, the writer reminds his readers of all those who believed God and trusted in His providence for their daily needs.  One such case is that of Abraham.  God had called Abraham to offer up his son as a sacrifice to test his faith.  While Abraham had a lot of wealth, giving up his son Isaac, for whom he had waited the majority of his life, would be the most difficult thing he had been asked to do.  However, he obeyed God and the writer of Hebrews writes:  "He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, for which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back" (Heb. 11:19).  We know that God provided that lamb for the sacrifice and became Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide) for Abraham and all who followed in faith.
     In addition, the writer of Hebrews follows his injunction to avoid the love of money with the words of encouragement which God spoke to Joshua (Joshua 1:5) "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  With God by our side as we face the challenges that come with living in a fallen world where things break and need to be fixed, children get sick and need costly medicine and where good paying jobs are hard to find, we need not fear.  He is our helper as the author states.
     Money can buy us many things but it cannot provide us with happiness or security.  Only God can do that for us as we trust in Him.  I will close with this illustration that I heard about today.  A friend and her family just returned from a two week vacation which they enjoyed.  They found rest and refreshment just in seeing the sights and attending a Christian conference.  However, while they were gone, her children had become sick.  It lasted only a day or two so they were able to continue with their trip.  Then, on the way home, they had a blow-out which was very frightening.  Upon returning to their home, they found the air conditioner had completely gone out on their relatively new home.  Also, both their refrigerator and freezer had quit working and all the contents had spoiled making the home smell horrible.  So now, they were faced with replacing their air conditioning unit, a new freezer and refrigerator and to top it off, my friend had gotten a sinus infection which caused her to have vertigo.  However, she was still smiling because she trusted in the Lord.  She would not allow these circumstances to ruin their wonderful memories of a vacation nor would this interfere with her love of the Lord.  He would provide for their needs.
      Just as I appreciate the list given to me when we care for our grandchildren telling me what needs to be done so I do not forget, I also appreciate these final instructions given to believers at the end of this letter to the Hebrews.  This writer is telling us what we must remember as he closes out this inspired book.  God is all sufficient and able to meet all our needs according to His riches in glory.  Therefore, let us be content with what we have trusting in our Lord who provides.  Selah!

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

The peace of Highlands Hammock
     Have you ever been a referee?  I would suspect that if you are a parent or a grandparent you have been called in to settle a dispute, decide who can sit in the front seat next to you (presuming they are old enough to be out of a child safety seat), who can have the last ice cream bar, and my all time favorite, "He's looking at me Mom!"  I remember those days well while we were raising our four and now we have the blessing of assisting as "back-up" referees for our grandchildren.  Part of parenting is learning to prevent things from escalating into a major fight.  However, it isn't just the family that at times need a "peace keeper".  There can also be arguments among those in the faith as well, and Jesus called us to be peacemakers.
     In I Samuel 25:2-35, there is a wonderful story about a woman who prevented the future king from committing murder.  She brought peace when things were about to explode. Please take a moment to read this scripture.
     Within this passage, we see David and his men seeking food from a nearby landowner named Nabal.  David has helped to protect this man's flock from bandits and felt that Nabal might want to provide some food for his men in return.  However, Nabal was not a wise man and refused to help them thus insulting David and his men.
     David's anger began to burn, and he decided to take his own revenge for this insult.  Isn't this like a lot of us?  When someone wrongs us, don't we feel the urge rise within us to get even?  At this point, David calls his men together to go after Nabal and destroy both his property and his life.
     When a servant tells Abigail how her husband has treated David and his men, she prepares food enough to take care of them.  Her words were kind, humble and caring.  She reminds David that the Lord is using him to fight His battles.  She also points out that he must keep a clear conscience in order to serve the Lord.  This is a bold woman who has intervened in a difficult situation in order to make peace.  Not only does she go before someone she has never met before, but she speaks truth in a gentle manner putting her own life at risk.  Because David had a heart for God, he listens to her wise counsel and considers the absurdity of what he is about to do.  In the end, destruction is avoided.
     What makes Abigail such a special person?  She is a peacemaker who helps David see the bigger picture.  Her intervention prevents violence.  Her wisdom allows David to hear the Lord and see God's will in the situation.  Later, we know that Abigail becomes a wife to David.
     This entire incident points to the importance for all of us,  as much as possible, " to
be at peace with all men" (I Thess. 5:13).  Likewise we are all called to the ministry of reconciliation in Christ.  When we are able, we are to bring peace between brothers and sisters in Christ.  Jesus said to us "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God."  Let us strive to be Abigail's in our home, our work, our churches and our communities.  The world is full of those who want to fight and who call for revenge, but we have been called to a higher position in Christ - that of making peace in a strife torn world.  Selah!

The picture is courtesy of Cathy Hardesty in her collection from Highlands Hammock State Park.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When I Am Weak

Highlands Hammock State Park - picture courtesy of
Cathy Hardesty
 Most of us would consider weakness an undesirable quality of life.  Our world values strength, power and ability.  We like the self-made man or woman who has "pulled himself up by his bootstraps" and made it to the "top" on his own merits.  In contrast, the weak person is looked upon as a failure incapable of doing things on his/her own with effectiveness.  God, however, has a different perspective for us to examine.
     In his letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), the Apostle Paul tells his readers about his experience of being caught up into the third heaven.  It was a marvelous revelation too great for words to describe.  While Paul could have easily spent time boasting on this unusual and privileged experience, he instead points out that he would much rather boast of his weaknesses.  This is a different take for someone who proclaimed the Gospel as Paul did.  Today, there are many pastors who would spend their time touting this experience rather than pointing to the God of our salvation.  In fact, many people base their Christian faith on their personal experiences rather than the solid Word of God.  This leads to heartache down the road when they realize that life is hard, demanding, painful and unfair.  Building our faith on feelings and emotions is like trying to run a train with the caboose instead of the engine which is God's Word.
     Paul goes on to describe what happened to him after this revelation of the third heaven in verses 7-10:  "So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  These are profound words that fly in the face of modern day culture.  Here is a man boasting about his weaknesses.  Many would say he is not an overcomer!  He has failed to be free from this thorn in the flesh; therefore, he must not have much faith.  Otherwise, God would deliver him from it.
     Now contrast this picture of Paul with a modern day preacher of a mega church, Joel Osteen.  I recently read an article which contained links to a Youtube presentation given by Joel Osteen at an Oprah Lifeclass.  Watching the Lifeclass discussion was eye opening.  Pastor Osteen told the audience:
"You'll never rise any higher than you see yourself."  Sounded like a business conference where we are told to see ourselves as a success in order to make it to the top.  Then, he later instructed the audience to make positive declarations about themselves.  He told them that negative confessions would weigh them down (he has written a book on making positive statements about ourselves); so he led them, at Oprah's bidding, to have the audience stand and make some of these positive declarations.  These are some of the things he had them proclaim:  "I am strong, I am healthy, I am confident, I am secure, I am talented, I am creative, I am disciplined, I am focused, I am beautiful,  I am valuable, I am blessed, I am excited about my future, I am victorious." ( Joel Osteen on Oprah's Lifeclass ).  No where in all the declarations do we hear the words "in Christ" I am strong or "in Christ" I have victory.  Instead, we are led to believe that if we just repeat these declarations over and over again we will become these things.  What?  In our own power?  Apart from Christ?
     If we look into the Bible, we have a different picture.  There we learn that we are born into sin (Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3) and are slaves to sin (John 8:34; Titus 3:3; Romans 6:6,16-17,19-20).  We also learn that the heart of a man/woman who does not belong to Christ is hostile towards God (John 3:20; Romans 8:7-8; Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:3).  With these thoughts in mind, does it sound like we can just reach down deep within ourselves and proclaim ourselves strong, focused, victorious, blessed, and confident?  Unless we are "god",  we do not have the power or ability to speak things into existence.  This is a heresy rampant among "prosperity" preachers today.  No, our strength, our life, our victory are in Christ as Paul so well articulated.
     Carl Trueman writing for Reformation 21 blog (An Important But Neglected Distinction, July 22, 2013) summarizes it well as he describes the difference between childishness and childlikeness: " Growth in Christian maturity should manifest itself in numerous ways. One of them is that we should become less and less enamoured  with the myths we tell ourselves of how unique we are as individuals, of how we have limitless potential, of how we really do have the last word on everything. In short, we should become less childish. Instead, we should become more conscious of how we are really just like everyone else - limited, dependent, finite, fallen. We should also learn more and more to find our fulfillment in resting in the simple biblical, catechetical faith which describes who we are, what we need, and how we can find it in submitting in humble and reverent faith to Christ. In other words, we should become less childish and more childlike."  To his evaluation, I say "Amen".  May we, like the Apostle Paul, boast only in our Lord Jesus Christ for we are weak but He is strong.  God's grace is really sufficient for us no matter what our trial, illness or other human frailty for His power is made perfect in weakness.  Selah!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Who Am I?

     A number of years ago, one of my favorite Christian groups, Casting Crowns, introduced a song that continues to be a blessing to both myself and my husband.  The song asks the question, "Who Am I?"  According to an interview with Mark Hall, the song was written as he was meditating on Psalm 8:4 considering the majesty of God and man compared to that standard.  The lyrics reflect the questions we ask in our own hearts:
George Muller, a man who
answered that question in
God's Word.
     Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
      Would care to know my name,
      Would care to feel my hurt?
     Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
      Would choose to light the way
      For my ever wandering heart?

    Not because of who I am
      But because of what You've done
      Not because of what I've done
      But because of who You are.

    I am a flower quickly fading,
      Here today and gone tomorrow,
      A wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind
     Still you hear me when I'm falling
                                                         And You've told me who I am,
                                                         I am Yours, I am Yours.

                                                     Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
                                                       Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
                                                       Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
                                                       Would call out through the rain
                                                       And calm the storm in me?

At this point, the chorus repeats and ends with the words "Whom shall I fear?"  Indeed, everyone is looking for the answer to that question of who we are and why are we here.
     In Psalm 8 (as I alluded to above),  David asked the same questions in light of God's great majesty.  Verses 3-9 read:  "When I look at your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth."
     When we seek to answer the question, "Who am I?", we need look no further than God's Word; for in His Word, we find out who He is and who we are in relationship to Him.  David shows his amazement that God would even be mindful of us and care about us as He does, and yet, God has crowned man with honor and glory to be His image bearer here on earth.  Only when man comes into relationship with God through Christ (the only means of salvation) can man truly reflect and fulfill the place to which God has called him.
     Yesterday, in our Sunday School class, we discussed Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book "Studies in The Sermon on the Mount" and considered the self-centeredness of man which is at the root of all sin in our lives.  In the book, Dr. Lloyd-Jones gives the example of George Muller, a Christian evangelist who cared for over 10,024 orphans during his lifetime in Bristol, England.  He writes the very words of Muller:  "There was a day when I died, utterly died to George Muller and his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God" (pg. 257, "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount").  This is what God desires of us all who are called by His name.  Selfless living, however, cannot be accomplished apart from a saving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.  Only as His Spirit fills our life can we have ears to hear and eyes to see who we are and to whom we belong.  Likewise, our minds cannot conform to God's apart from looking into His Word faithfully.  It is in the pages of the Bible that we see God's holiness and our sinfulness, but we also find the Savior who frees us from our bondage.
     When we look into the Word, we will understand our purpose and why God has made us.  Our worth and significance are found in Jesus Christ.  When we realize the grace, mercy and majesty of our Creator, we will say like David, "what is man, that You are mindful of him...".  The more we read the Bible the more we will come to know God, trust Him and find out who we are.  Then, like George Muller, we can come to a place of selfless service where the opinions of others do not matter.  The only thing that will matter is glorifying the Lord and following Him.  May we be faithful pilgrims on this journey to rid our hearts of self and allow God to fill us with His Spirit.  Open His Word today and begin the journey.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Standing For What is Right

     One of the strongest influences in my life came from my father.  Dad was a farmer and worked hard from sunrise to sunset each day.  I guess you could really call him a gentleman farmer as he was well educated attending both Defiance College and Bowling Green State University.  He loved to engage in vigorous discussions especially about politics, current events and history.
     My earliest memories as a child were of my grandfather and father having lively debates over political issues of the day.  However, one thing that stood out was my father's unswerving devotion to honesty and truth.  He was not afraid to stand up for what was right no matter what others said.  He was outspoken on many occasions when others shrank from speaking the truth, and not only did he speak it, he lived it before our family.
     Our country has been caught up in many issues of late that seem to divide people even as I write this.  There are many promises made and many slippery words spoken daily to gain favor with one group or another.  But the thing which will stand through all of this is God's Word which is the truth!  And what does He call EVERY believer to do?  Read Micah 6:7-8:  "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
     If we look at the verses that come before these, we see that Micah is recalling what the Lord has done for Israel.  He is trying to show the people that it is absurd to depend on empty ritual and sacrifice to gain divine favor when in their hearts they don't mean it.  Israel is not being truthful with themselves or with God.  They don't understand that God's grace is free...not earned.  They also do not understand that their end of the covenant with the Lord meant that they are to show
justice and mercy to their fellow man and not just perform their liturgy.
      How does this apply to us?  Are we willing to put ourselves on the line for the Lord?  Are we willing to speak the truth when it isn't popular to do so?  Or do we hide our commitment to Christ so we don't say something that might be politically incorrect?  These are hard things to think about but we need to examine ourselves.
     I have always been troubled by public office holders or "want-to-be" office holders who proclaim they are a Christian but say and do things which are contrary to the Word of God.  The Lord tells us to let our "yes be yes and our no be no".  So this issue goes to the heart of where we are with God.
     We need to walk in justice and truth with our fellow man as well as with God.  We need to have hearts of mercy for those who need the love of Jesus Christ and we certainly must walk humbly before the Lord.  God has spelled it out for us.  Our faith, our beliefs mean little unless we live what we believe and are unafraid to take a stand for God.  We live in evil days and are often asked to compromise our ideals for the sake of "getting along and not rocking the boat."  However, the man and woman of God cannot fall into that trap.  We must stand strong in the Lord and not fear what men may think of us.  After all, He will give us the words to say and the right time to say them if we abide in Him.  May we have the courage to stand for our convictions so we will not fall for empty religion.  Selah!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

He's Got You Covered

     My dear mother, God rest her soul, was someone who could worry better than anyone I know.  I am not certain why she spent so much energy thinking about the "what if's" that never happened, but her degree of anxiety over every day occurrences often put a damper on the day.  In addition, she was overly concerned about her own health.  Being a Medical Records Librarian, she had access to medical dictionaries and terminology books.  If she had a symptom, she was certain to look it up in one of her books.  This is akin to running to Google today to look up every symptom, pill, and procedure we are about to undergo.  Unfortunately, it kept her from being able to relax and just enjoy life to the fullest extent.  I know she loved the Lord, but she certainly had an issue with trusting Him.
     Jesus taught us (Matthew 6:25-27):  "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"  Whenever I read this passage, I find myself convicted all over again.  We all have inherited the sin nature of Adam and with it, the ability to worry.  Coming to Christ gives us the freedom from worry, but it takes time to break the old sin habits we have honed so well.  So how do we accomplish this and live as Jesus describes?
     First, we need to take life one day at a time and put it all in God's hands.  Life can be overwhelming if we see all our responsibilities rather than breaking it down into doable tasks.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34:  "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."  If we keep our eyes fixed on this day only, we can manage the work which needs to be done.  Its when we look at tomorrow or next week or next month that we become overwhelmed and start to worry.
     A second way to avoid worry is to begin our day with a time to pray and be quiet before the Lord.  If we will calm our minds and feed our spirit on God's Word, we will reap peace rather than turmoil.
Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-30: " Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Before we go to work or head out the door, we need to make certain we are yoked with Jesus trusting in His providence in our life that day.  Furthermore, the Apostle Peter reminds us to "cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (I Peter 5:7).   Both prayer and Bible study are key to keeping worry at bay.
     In reality, worry is a form of fear.  We are afraid of what might happen to us "if".  Yet, Jesus promised us peace.  John 14:27 tells us:  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."  We are commanded not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid.  Besides, we have NO CONTROL over the circumstances of daily living.  Certainly, we have our plans and we try to follow them, but there is no guarantee that every day will be smooth running.  This is where our faith must grow as well as our trust in the Sovereign God who has promised us peace.  My favorite verses in Proverbs speak

to this: (Proverbs 3:5-6) "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 straight your paths."  What a great promise to cling to!  Our problems arise when we try to live in our own understanding rather than having the mind of Christ in matters.
     Finally, we must come to grips with the truth that worry is not good for our faith nor for our physical well being.  More people become sick as a result of stress which is related to worry.  Likewise, our home atmosphere can be filled with tension which everyone can feel.  I love the quote from Corrie Ten Boom:  "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow.  It empties today of its strength."  She ought to know for she endured things which would make most of us fearful and worried.  But God saw her through, gave her peace, filled her with His strength and lifted her burden because she trusted in Him.  He will do the same for us.
     Recognize that worry is sin.  Confess it, take action to build your faith by praying, reading God's Word and casting your cares on Him moment by moment.  By doing this routinely, we will develop the kind of faith that can move mountains - not in our own strength or understanding but in God's.  After all He's got us covered.  Selah!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Directionally Challenged?

In Switzerland, trying to decide which way to go!
     Over the many years that Glenn and I have been married, we have been lost in both cities and the countryside more times than we can count and that is even when we use a GPS.  Of course, not all GPS units are geared towards taking you the shortest way among other shortcomings.  I don't know if we are "directionally challenged" or if we just lack the ability to stop and ask for help.  It may even be a genetic thing?
     I remember clearly that my father refused to stop and ask for directions when we were traveling to Florida one winter.  We ended up fifty miles off the beaten path.  It took us several hours just to get back to where we should have been, but my father was not one to stop and ask for directions.
     We may be lost when it comes to finding a certain address but we do not need to be lost when it comes to our eternal destiny.  John 14:6 reads:  "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."
     This beautiful verse of Scripture is preceded by reassurance from our Lord that our hearts do not need to be troubled over things that are to come.  Our Lord is preparing for us a beautiful home in heaven.  Since He is the one preparing it, we know it will be perfect even as He is perfect.  Jesus even reassures us that we will be with Him.  What a blessing!
     However, verse 6 of this passage makes it clear that the ONLY way to the Father is through Jesus Christ our Lord.  There is NO OTHER WAY!  He is the truth when we don't know the answers and the life when we feel ours is slipping away.  What blessed assurance we have in Him.
     Yet, this world believes there are many ways to heaven and that those of us who do not accept this are "narrow minded".  The other night on a talk show, I heard a commentator say that he was a Christian.  I perked up to see what he had to say on the subject.  He went on to say that even though he was a Christian, he believed that all other faiths were valid too and all would go to heaven if they were sincere.
     Needless to say, it grieved my heart because this is not the truth as found in scripture.  There is no other way to approach the Father.  He is the only One who has the key to life and happiness and it is only through His Son Jesus Christ who is the Door.  Not Buddha, Mohammad, nor any other religion named on earth has the answer or the keys to the kingdom.  Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies in the Old Testament which were made about Him.  He alone stands as the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the true, valid Redeemer.
     We need to be sharing this Good News with our friends, family and loved ones.  No one know when our Lord will return for us but we know He is coming and we will be with Him.  As we share our faith, we can be confident that Jesus is the "way, the truth, and life" for He sealed this covenant with us in His own blood.  Selah!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When Life Becomes Tangled

Our beautiful daughter Jordan with her son Gavin and
daughter Rilyn
     There are times in our life when problems seem to entangle us.  Often, we wonder which way to turn.  Who should we consult?  Who do we turn to?  Unfortunately, our natural tendency is to rely upon ourselves rather than seeking wise counsel from an expert.
     As an example of this, I am reminded of a time many years ago when our daughter got a brush entangled in her long hair.  She must have worked for over an hour and finally came to me in tears.  I took over certain I could free her hair but to no avail.  After another hour of trying, I resorted to calling my beautician.  I felt if anyone could help us out perhaps she could.
     She worked on her hair for nearly 45 minutes before she was able to free my daughter's hair,  She asked me why I had waited so long before coming to her.  She said that all our effort had only caused the brush to get more tangled.  I felt silly when I considered what she said.  Why had I waited so long before getting help?
     As Christians, we often do not bring our problems to the first place we should go - God!  Often He is the last resort as we try to take charge over our life situations.  Take a moment to read Psalm 8.
     If we key in on verses 3 through 5 of this Psalm, we read these words:  "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels and You have crowned him with glory and honor."  These are such words of encouragement.
     When we consider all that God has done for us, why then, do we wait until the very last moment to
turn to Him?  He has given us dominion over all the earth as the Psalm goes on to say.  Therefore, He will enable us when we don't know what to do, but we have to turn it over to Him.  He, our Great Creator God, will supply our needs if we will ask.  Why?  Because we are valuable to Him!  Jesus said in Luke 12:6-7:  "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet, not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
     When we are plagued with troubles and uncertainties, all we have to do is turn to our Father.  Our worth and significance as a person are found in Christ and so are the solutions to life's dilemmas.  Instead of waiting until the last minute to turn to God for help, lets take the tangles of life to Him.  He will free us.  In Him, we have wisdom, power, understanding, guidance and most importantly, salvation.  Selah!

How has God worked in your life to free you from the tangles that come our way?  I welcome your thoughts.  Blessings!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sola Scriptura or Sola Cultura?

     Recently, I read a thought provoking article at "The Aquila Report" written by Pastor Shane Lems (website is ).  His article entitled "The Church's Collapse Into Worldliness" summarized four steps that lead to a downward spiral when a church seeks to be relevant but ends up being unfaithful in the end.  These four steps were developed by Os Guinness in his book "Prophetic Untimeliness (Grand Rapids: Baker Books 2003).
     Briefly, the four points Guinness makes show how we travel from a solid foundation based on Scripture alone to one more related to culture.  Step one as Os Guinness relates it is "assumption".  This occurs "when some aspect of modern life or thought is assumed either to be significant, and therefore worth acknowledging, or superior to what Christians know or do, and therefore worth adopting" (Chapter 3 of his book).  Eventually this assumption becomes a part of the thought and practice of a Christian's life or the church life as a whole.  As Guinness says so well, "The danger is when something is accepted without any thought, simply because it is modern or new."
     In the second point, "abandonment", Guinness tells us that anything which doesn't fit this new assumption is either dumped or neglected.  This includes truths, customs, traditional forms.  If they do not fit, they are shoved aside because the new assumption becomes the authority.  Some of the examples given included traditional hymns being outdated, history becoming irrelevant and how uptight traditional morality has become.  Anything which holds the church or an individual Christian back from being relevant is considered something which must go.
     Then, comes step three which is "adaptation".  We go from assuming something new to abandoning the old way of doing things and we follow this with adapting everything else.  Do you see where this is leading us?  It is a spiral downward when we consider that we were meant to stand on the truth as found in God's Word.  Being the salt of the earth means we are to preserve the truth of the Christian faith not water it down.  Guinness says:  "What is not abandoned does not stay the same; rather, it is adapted.  The habits and assumptions of a certain age and culture are accepted without thought, and then they replace the authority of traditional Christian assumptions." (Chapter 3)
     Finally, the process ends in step four "assimilation".  When the church or the individual Christian is at the end of this road, they become absorbed by the modern assumptions.  They are assimilated by the culture.  Guinness says that this leads to worldliness and capitulation to some aspect of the culture.  Instead of the church influencing society, the society influences how Christians do church.  It is a classic example of the tail wagging the dog.  We have gone from standing firm on scriptural principles to standing on cultural ones in order to draw a crowd and be relevant.
     This whole process not only speaks to the historic shift we see today in evangelical churches but in the life of individual believers.  I have heard some use the scripture from Paul where he writes:
1 Corinthians 9:19: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”   Clearly when we examine the other writings of Paul, we know that he did not mean he became like the people he was trying to evangelize.  However, he used different approaches to each group he was ministering too that he might communicate effectively to them.  He never used his liberty in Christ to sin or adapt to the culture.   He did not "dumb down" the Christian faith in any way or minimize the truth.   In fact, we know that he did not do this as he was stoned, beaten and thrown into prison.  Obviously, his message was one that brought conviction.
     As believers, we must stand fast to our convictions and the truth of God's Word.  It is very easy for us to be more swayed by our culture in an effort to reach people because we want to be relevant, popular and attractive.  However, Jesus told us we would be persecuted for His sake because we would be "different" in our message.  God's Word ruffles the feathers of the non-believer and this is exactly what it is meant to do.
     For us, the question should be, "Do we change (adapt) our worship to suit the culture and live our life to fit in better with it or do we remain firm in our stand on God's Word as our authority in faith and practice?  Os Guinness has raised some very good insights into our modern life today that we really need to consider.  I have ordered his book and look forward to being challenged in my thinking even more.
     I am indebted to "The Aquila Report" and Pastor Lems

for the article he presented there because I think we live in a time of great concern both for society and the Christian's relationship to it.  We face tough days ahead with many challenges to our faith.  Therefore, we need to step back and consider whether we have been guilty of the four steps in the spiral.  Are we standing on the Word or on the culture?  God give us insight and wisdom to see the truth.  Selah!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Home Away from Home

 Family has always been important to me.  I had a close knit family growing up so when our children came along, I wanted the same type of relationship with them that I had enjoyed in my family of origin.  Moving to Florida thirty some years ago meant moving away from all of our blood relatives.  It was a challenge to live 1200 miles from the place where my husband and I grew up; however, we knew that we would find a new family which God would provide for us in church fellowship.  I clung to this scripture passage when we made the move:
     Mark 10:28-30 reads:  "28Then Peter began to say to him, See, we have left all, and have followed you. 29And Jesus answered and said, Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30But he shall receive an hundred times now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. "  We believed that The Lord had called us to make the move we did as we had diligently prayed about it for some time.  Therefore, we knew that God's provision for a new family would be ours if we kept our eyes fixed on Him.
     Through the years, we have been blessed with rich fellowship in our Christian family who have, indeed, become our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers in the faith helping us grow.  As I listened to Alistair Begg's podcast today concerning the topic of belonging to a church fellowship, I could say a hearty "Amen" to the value of such an important tie.  
     We fool ourselves when we think we can "go it alone" as a believer.  Certainly, we can worship God privately in our own homes but there is a dimension missing if we never become connected to the Body of believers locally.  There are several reasons why belonging to a local church family is important.
     When we belong to a church fellowship, we are accountable to others just as in our families.  Being close to my family, I could accept correction much easier when I stepped out of line than I could from a stranger.  This is because my family loved me enough to confront me and be honest with me.  I would do the same for them.  We had a commitment and tie to one another.  Within the bonds and covenants of church membership, we also have the privilege of being able to help one another.  There is commitment when people come together around the Word of God in the name of Jesus Christ.  God intended for us to stimulate one another and all the more as we see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).  We can encourage each other, pray for one another, and grieve with one another.  This is what my husband and I have found in our church.  When I hear people tell me that they don't like church because it is filled with imperfect people, I would like to remind them that I doubt they have a perfect family.  Yet, they all stick together, work it out and face life together.  As long as man is alive, he/she will be dealing with the "old flesh" filled with sin, and wanting to return to old habits.  Therefore, we will never find a perfect church or a perfect family.  But God tells us it is for our benefit that we join together in the Body of believers.
     Another reason why belonging to a church is important is to hear the Word of God preached, the sacraments given for our grace and comfort and the opportunity to serve.  Being a "Lone Ranger" Christian hearing the Word preached on T.V., internet or other source is no substitute for being there in a group of fellow believers where we can stimulate, discuss and look up God's Word.  Jesus described Himself as "the Bread of Life".  Feeding on Him in solitary does not satisfy the spiritual hunger we have as intensely as it does when we worship together.   The Lord's Supper is meant to be served in community.  It is a means of God's grace to us that we can break bread together.  I can testify that having a meal by myself is far less satisfying to my taste buds than when I can sit down with my husband or children and discuss the day's events.  Finally, a big plus to belonging to a church is the opportunity we have to serve one another.   Where else can we utilize the gifts which God has given to us?  The Body of believers is a safe haven for growing up in Christ, and learning to use our gifts according to God's plan.  In our natural families, we are able to try our wings, and when we belong to a church family, we can do the same thing.
     Within the nucleus of the birth family, our character develops with guidance, discipline and love.  The same is true when we unite with a church and pledge our commitment  There is safety in the sheepfold where a pastor looks out for his flock to drive false teaching away along with those who would try to steal the sheep.  God has provided for us a "safe house" or a "home away from home" for us while we walk on this earth and its name is "The Church".  Left on our own, it is so easy to be swayed by every wind of doctrine and become unstable in our faith.
     While family of any stripe (spiritual or natural) can be a challenge, these fellowships offer us a blueprint for living and a safety net of love.  It is a gift given by a loving Father to care for His children until they return to their heavenly home to live in His presence forever.  We need to pray for our church, our leaders, our pastors that they may be guided by the Lord as they keep watch for the safety and nourishment of their sheep.  Likewise, let us strive to be faithful members encouraging one another daily in the Lord.  Selah!

What is unique about your church fellowship?  How has God used it in your life?  I welcome your thoughts and insights.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Begin With Me Lord

 I often hear folks say how much they wish a revival or spiritual renewal would sweep across our land or in their churches.  This would be wonderful, but we have to step back and ask ourselves an important question.  Are we willing to start by renewing ourselves first?  That's something we need to think about.  Spiritual renewal has to begin with us, and it's a process that is ongoing.
     In the book of 2 Chronicles 34:19-33, we see the reaction of young King Josiah of Judah when he hears the Book of the Law read to him.  His response?  He cried and repented of his sins.  The Word tells us that he tore his clothes.
     Josiah became king when he was only eight years old.  His father had been murdered and was a worshipper of idols in Judah.  The people so often had turned from the Lord to follow after other gods.
     When Josiah was sixteen, he began in earnest to seek the Lord for himself.  He set out to become a reformer in the land when he was twenty.  By the time he reached age 26, Josiah became God's humble servant.  It was while he was having the Temple rebuilt that the priests found the Book of the Law which they read to Josiah.  His reaction to the reading of the Law was a broken and contrite heart for he realized how far short he and the people had fallen from God's holiness.
     Josiah did not stop with his own repentance but brought all the people together and had all stand to hear the reading of the Book of the Covenant.  He not only read it to the people but made a solemn covenant with God to obey and worship Him.  He sought out all the idols and removed them and celebrated the Passover once again.
     Revival came to Judah because it started with one young man.  He used his position, his life and all that he had to serve God.  Oh, that we could all be like King Josiah and return to our first love!
     Do we want our churches to be on fire?  What about our nation which has gone far astray from the Lord?  Do want want renewal of faith in our country?  We might say, "yes" but what can we do?  We need to simply follow the example of a young king who saw the need to repent before God and weep for his people.  If we can repent and weep before God and call upon His name first on our own behalf, then for our churches, our community and our nation, God will be faithful to answer.
     Revival and renewal have to start in our own hearts first or nothing will ever change.  There is a line from an old campfire song that Glenn and I learned as new Christians and this says it well:  "It only takes a spark to get a fire going".  Let us be the spark for God and live for Him seeking His face daily for renewal.  Selah!

The picture comes from Wiki Commons and was created by Flickrlickr.

Monday, July 1, 2013

What Are Your Stats?

Following a path is the only way to reach our
destination and the Bible is our navigational
 A poll done by Lifeway Research in March of 2012 showed that, on average, the respondents owned 3.6 Bibles.  Of the 2,000 interviewed in the poll, all of them read the Bible at least once a month.  Only a third of those interviewed read the Bible daily.  In a further breakdown of those who regularly read God's Word, 85 percent are more likely to attend worship services, 72 percent read religious books, 53 percent attend Sunday School or Christian education classes, 51 percent attend small groups, and 47 percent are volunteer leaders (Poll:  Americans Own Many Bibles but Rarely Read Them, ).
     These statistics point out the sad fact that we are overlooking one of the greatest resources we have been given for life and godliness.  The Bible is a treasure trove of wisdom, a balm for a hurting heart, peace in the midst of chaos, a light for our path, and most importantly the revelation of God's character and plan for us.
     In Psalm 119: 97-104, the writer gives us reasons to love the Word of God:  "Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day.  Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.  I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.  I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.  I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.  I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.  How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way."  When we read and then meditate on God's Word, it works change in our thought process.  We begin to think God's thoughts after Him.  Our perspective on living is so limited because we are finite creatures.  Would it not seem reasonable for us to spend time exploring the infinite riches of God's mind?
     Quite often, I hear people say that they wish they could see God face to face or really know what He wants for their life.  The answer is to look into His Word and implant it in our heart.  As the Psalmist indicated, we will be kept from evil ways when we know God's Laws.  We will not be so easily deceived by false teaching and worldly secular thinking.  Right now, our culture is struggling for clear answers to many of life's problems.  If we want to reach people with the Good News of God's salvation, we need to know the Book upon which our faith is based.  Reading it once in a while will not do the trick any more than eating once a month will keep us alive.
     Unfortunately, according to the research, people have lots of Bibles available to them but they are spiritually starving to death and it shows!  Church attendance has declined, many folks cannot tell you how many books are even in the Bible, and few can explain their faith if asked.  This is not something a Pastor has control over.  This is our responsibility to set aside the time to read the Bible daily.
     Family Bible study is vitally important to building strong homes, marriages, relationships and helping our children grow up knowing God's precepts.  God has graciously given us His Word that we might know Him.  Let us take the time to daily read the Word.  It is life changing and sweeter than honey.  As the Psalmist reminds us in 119:1:  "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!"  May we read and meditate on the Bible each day along with our children that we may walk according to God's Word.  Selah!

How do you find time for Bible study each day?  I welcome your thoughts.