This time of year can be joyous and painful. I find it to be a mix of both. As I reflect on my past, I remember a loved one. As I consider my present, I’m blessed with family and friends.
There is much conflict in the world around us and it seems to be encroaching into our own part of the world. We are unsure, we are uncertain, we are afraid, and we are sad. We want life to be the way it used to be but then we see beauty in today when someone is kind, thoughtful, and loving.
We don’t know who to blame for chaos in the world or in our own heart. We don’t know when it will end. We hold on to the very Word of God and Jesus who is our hope and our future. We hold to the Healer who mends our hearts and heals our wounds.
In the suffering and in the pause, We search for meaning and the cause.
Nowhere to find the cause nor blame, Often leads to sob and shame.
In times of difficulty, trial, and disparity, We pray to the Lord and look for charity.
Asking God to take this cup from me, We yearn for healing from this we grieve.
Our hearts are anxious and all a flutter; Then mouths are filled with words we stutter.
In the face of mistrust and uncertain danger, We look for hope amidst the manger.
Where Christ offers peace like no other, Sharing good news and how His love covers.
Lives are at stake for all who are lost; It is Jesus Christ who paid the cost.
So suffering will come, and suffering will leave; The Word is our hope and our future to cleave.
Fix your eyes on the Healer who delivers us all, Knowing Jesus has answered from the very first call.
Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. Isaiah 53:4-5
If Jesus wrote a letter to your church, what would He say?
This question was presented in a lecture recently and I have not stopped thinking about it since.
WWJS…What Would Jesus Say?
Would Jesus tell your church to return to it’s first love, persevere in suffering, refuse to compromise, hold on to sound doctrine, wake up, keep you from the hour of trial to come, or admit you are lukewarm?
In the book of Revelation, John writes to the seven churches. In these inspired writings, Jesus speaks to the churches and offers commendations and corrections to put them back on the path to righteousness and life with Him.
The seventh church, the church in Laocidea, is the most troubling and comforting to me. Like most of the letters to the churches, there is bad news and there is good news.
The Bad News
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit (the word “vomit” used in HCSB version) you out of my mouth.You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation 3:15-18
It feels like Jesus is speaking into this time and place. We are so consumed with self and wealth that nothing else seems to matter. The church in Laocidea is the “selfie” church. Wow and how true of our times! I wonder if people were really honest with themselves, how many people believe they don’t need God. Things are going pretty good and when things are going pretty good, we are good. We don’t need religion or a relationship with God because “we got this”. We seem to make enough money to live in nice homes and drive nice cars, fund our children’s wants and needs, and fund our own wants and needs. We may give a little to the church or charity but not too much because we need to make sure our bills and needs are met. This “selfie” attitude and lifestyle is really nothing new just seems more prominent and accepted these days.
I speak on this from a place I know well…like 25 years well. I knew I need a Savior when I was a teen. I prayed for Him to free me from sin and give me a place with Him (Jesus) in eternity. Then I went about my business for a number of years. For a long time, I would attend church on Christmas and Easter because that’s what you do, but I didn’t really commit to a regular relationship with God. Then I started attending more regularly but it was still a casual relationship. If I needed God, I would call out; otherwise I was doing pretty well. The funny thing about this is I was not only spiritually poor, but I struggled financially even though it looked like I had everything.
When 9/11 happened, I realized that this casual relationship with God was not going to cut it any longer. In some ways, people thought of me as spiritual because I would regularly attend church but really the truth is, I was just attending church and really only when it was convenient. Something changed for me on 9/11/2001 and I wanted to know God in a meaningful way and my spirit was restless and hungry for more. That’s when I really started attending church and reading the bible. I committed to a bible study and fellowship with other believers. I needed community and had a desire to serve. You see it all comes together when you really commit to God. When you submit to God, He changes everything starting with your heart.
The Good News
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22
We don’t like to think about discipline but it is just what a parent does with a child. If you are a child of God, He will discipline you. So accept this love and discipline, be honest with yourself and repent. Jesus is waiting and if you will open the door of your heart and let Him in, He has a seat waiting for you.
In the spring we got a puppy! My sister and nephew went with me to the breeders to pick out a puppy and to everyone’s surprise, we both picked out puppies. We have sister puppies and they are adorable (most of the time).
They are really sweet dogs but puppies nonetheless and if you know anything about a Labrador puppy, you know they do everything puppy on a much larger scale.
I decided to start walking with a friend for exercise and to help Cissy burn off energy. It was good to have a dog to walk. During the summer months, while it is so hot, my friend carried a collapsible water bowl and water bottle while I would try to control the dog on the leash, carry my phone, and the gate remote. The leash is a retractable leash and because she has so much energy, it seemed appropriate to give her some room to run in front of us and sniff EVERY living (or dead) thing on the ground.
As it turns out, too much leash is not a good thing. She gets distracted easily and moves off course by walking to the other side of the road, walking right in front of us to the point of almost tripping us or trying to pull way off on the grassy side of the road. Neither were good. Even though I want to give her leeway, it’s best if I don’t. If I pull her leash in closer to me, she stays with me and she stays focused on the walk.
You know our walk with God is really no different. When I am in God’s Word and I’m staying close to Him, I am focused and content. When I go too far ahead of God, I tend to get off course and stray. And when I stray, I sin and I bet you do too. We need God and we need to stay close to Him or we sin! Now I’m not saying that I am without sin, but I will say, I sin less because my eyes are on God and my heart is on God and my daily life is focused on what God wants for me.
You see this is one thing you can not fake. You can fake almost anything else in this world but a relationship with God you can not. You may get away with it for a time and think you have a long leash but ultimately you will hang yourself with it because too much leash leaves you too far from the One who made you.
Stay close to God my friend and let’s pray for each other while on our walk with God.
Would you join me in asking God daily; Lord, what do you want to do through me?
For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. Acts 10:1-2
Cornelius was a good guy, yet he was a Centurion. Centurion’s were a vital part of the Roman army and their job was to lead men (soldiers). The reputation of the Roman army was not good. However, Cornelius was a man who did charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. Because of that, an angel appeared to him and said, “Your prayers and acts of charity have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Acts 10:4b
Did you know God can use you whether you know it or not. You may or may not be seeking God. You may or may not believe in Jesus.
Yet God can use you.
So you may be a good person who does charitable things for others and you may know there is a God and even pray, but don’t fully understand the whole Jesus thing. Good News! Neither did Cornelius.
While God was working in Cornelius’ heart, Peter had a vision. Through that vision, God showed him the foods Peter thought to be unclean and how they could be made clean by God (Acts 10:9-16). Peter didn’t understand what God was trying to say and was deeply perplexed according to the scripture. While Peter was thinking about the scripture, the Holy Spirit directed him to three men who were looking for him. The men were sent for Peter by Cornelius who also had a vision. Cornelius’ vision was to send for Peter yet he did not fully understand why. Now here’s where I think this gets really interesting.
God used Cornelius, a Gentile, as an example of someone who was not Jewish. Someone who could be made “clean” and adopted into the family of God and be a follower in Jesus Christ. God was preparing Peter’s heart before the visit when he gave him the vision of clean versus unclean food. He was showing him that He loves all people both Jew and Gentile and salvation is available for all.
So can God use anyone…at any time…in any situation…to bring understanding of who He is and His great love! Are you praying for opportunities to be used by God. I promise if you pray it, He will use you.
I saw the movie War Room over the weekend and left the movie feeling inspired. The message I saw throughout the movie was about prayer and God’s faithfulness. In the end, the message was clear about another point.
If I am a follower of Jesus, I should be mentoring someone else who desires to be in a close relationship with God. There are plenty of folks out there who attend church who could be mentoring someone. There seems to be a plethora of people who desire a close walk with God but don’t know what that looks like. I get that and I was in that place for a number of years in my life. These people are the perfect candidates for mentoring.
On Sunday morning, I prayed for a person I could mentor. A few hours later, a young woman is in our sanctuary by herself. When I approached her to introduce myself, she tells me that it is her first visit to our church and that she is nervous. It was an opportunity for me to encourage her for coming and for me to sit with her during the service. We have scheduled lunch this week and I am smiling ear to ear as I wonder how God is going to work in this situation. Maybe this is the person I am to mentor.
To open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me (Jesus) they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified. Acts 26:18
Félix changed…I don’t know the exact date he changed, but I know he changed in 1956.
Félix was born 100 years ago today on August 13, 1915 and he was the oldest of ten children. He married Vivian Burns in 1940 and they had one son named Terry.
Félix liked to have a good time and he could party. He went out drinking…a lot! He liked to drink, gamble, and fist fight.
This is a story about how Félix changed sort of like Paul did on the road to Damascus.
But first, I want to tell you about his wild days before he changed. Félix lived in the small town of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. He was a hard worker by day and wild man at night. Most nights he would go and listen to Western Swing bands such as Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Johnnie Lee Wills, and Leon McAuliffe. Leon McAuliffe was an American Western swing musician who was famous for his steel guitar solos with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.
Félix’s wife, Vivian, dealt with her husband’s way of partying for the first 16 years of their marriage. I remember her telling me how hard these times were for her and their family. It really was the worst of times.
Then one day….. Felix changed.
In August 1956, Felix’s son, got really sick and had to be hospitalized. His appendix had ruptured and surgery was necessary to save his life. Felix realized he had spent his time and effort in all the wrong places. He begged God for a second chance with his son and told God if He would save his son, he would turn to him and change his ways.
Terry made it through the surgery and fully recovered. If he had not, I would not be writing this post today since he is my dad. My grandpa kept his end of the deal and went to church and at 41 years old, he gave his life to Jesus. He changed and I mean really changed!
As far as the family knew, he never took another sip of alcohol after he came into a relationship with Jesus and many would say he was an alcoholic.
On one occasion, he was leaving the movie theater and he saw two guys from his past. One of the guys asked, “Félix, we heard you were a Christian now, what are you doing at the movies?” After that he never went back to the movies again. Honestly, in this day and time, it’s not a bad idea. What’s up with shooters in movie theaters these days? The enemy will try anything to make us live in fear and I refuse to be bullied by him! Oh sorry, I got distracted. So Félix quit going to the movies and the reason had to do with his witness for Christ. If someone saw him leave the movies and that caused them to stumble, then he shouldn’t do it. Romans 14:13b, Instead, decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. Now he didn’t put this on anyone else. He did not care if his wife and son went to the movies. He looked after his own witness and listened to the Holy Spirit. I love how personal God is with each one of us regarding how we live out our life and walk with Him.
He attended church regularly and taught a youth Sunday School class. He would sit at the kitchen table and go over his lesson with his wife. His son would lay in bed in the next room and listen to his dad go over his lessons before class. As a result, he would know all the answers in Sunday School. He also learned a lot about the bible which has stayed with him to this day.
He was a deacon at the First Baptist Church for many years and he prayed powerful prayers. He had a deep voice that carried and his prayers were heartfelt and emotional. He would come off gruff but had the demeanor of a big olé teddy bear. You could sense the presence of God when he prayed.
He visited the sick in the hospital and made home visits to those who were ill and aging. He didn’t stay long but long enough to check on the person and pray for them before heading out to the next stop. Again, this was something he did on his own as the power of God moved in him to serve. He did not expect anyone else to do what he was doing, but did this service because he wanted to serve God in this way. It’s interesting to me that in my position on staff at the church that I care for the sick and aging.
As a result, others changed too. He became a well-respected man at work, in the community, and at home. The power of Christ in him spread like a sweet fragrance. By the time I came along, he was a fantastic grandpa! When I was a little girl, every time I went to his house for a visit, he would take me to get an icee. This became a tradition for us and one I will always cherish as a special memory. He loved me like crazy and not just me, he loved our whole family.
At Christmas when our family would be opening gifts, he would record our voices on his cassette player (cassettes were used after 8-tracks but before CD’s) so he could play it later to remember our special time together. He would get emotional at the goodness of God for his family. He was truly thankful for us and all his blessings and would tell us often, especially at Christmas each year.
I’m so thankful for his transformation. As I think about his life, I don’t know if he ever went on a mission trip but I know he did mission in his community. He was generous to others and willing to help those in need. He was a kind and transformed man who loved well.
God brought this to mind today as I remember the fact that my grandpa would have been 100 years old this year if he were still alive. He died in 1997 just before his 82 birthday. I cherish his life and I cherish my Lord Jesus. You see I was staying with my grandparents one summer in Oklahoma when I knew I needed Jesus and guess what?
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
How do you want to be remembered when others reflect on your 100th birthday?
Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” Matthew 16:17-19
At the church where I work we are in the process of changing the key system for entry into the building. We have issued a lot of keys since moving into our new building six years ago. There’s some concern we may not have kept accurate records to know who all has a previously issued key. A decision was made to go with a completely different key system. We now have key cards instead of the old fashion physical turn-key.
I was thinking and began to wonder who will try to enter the church over the next few months with a previously issued key and will find themselves not able to enter?
Which leads me to think about keys to the kingdom. Do you suppose there are people out there who think they have a key to the kingdom of heaven and yet will find themselves locked out?
Maybe they have a church key.
Maybe their Christian friend may seem to have the key.
Maybe attending church every week seems to be the key.
Maybe going and serving others feels like the key.
Having a family tradition of Christianity appears to be the key.
There’s just this one problem….only one key works to the kingdom of heaven and that is a personal relationship with Jesus.
The key to God is Jesus!
They key to heaven is Jesus!
He is the key to the kingdom of heaven and without Jesus there is no access to heaven.
So when the Spirit of God moves and invites you to take the key, you make a choice to take it or leave it. Take the key.
Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 (The Message)
When I consider the passage above, I am reminded that we are to die to our old self and live in the newness of Jesus Christ. This is a choice, even though the Holy Spirit guides us, because we can choose to grieve the Holy Spirit and live in the old self. I find that sometimes I want to put on the old self. Anyone else? Our nature is to satisfy self and live in our desires. This is how the world lives and we see it everywhere every day.
I love how the Message translation reads “so if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it”. So true….actions say a lot don’t they? Pursue the things over which Christ presides is a perfect way of telling us to pursue godly things. I don’t always feel like reaching for my bible first thing but when I do, I am the one who is blessed. I am the one who benefits from spending time with God. Then I find like the next verse that I am not self-absorbed when I do spend time with God. I think about others and I seek to help others just like God would do. I am able to be a vessel for Him and be used in ways that only God can use a person.
If I am dead to my old life and my new life is real, then Christ is my life. Of course, this is not referring to physical death it’s referring to spiritual death. However, I want to share something about physical death. In my position at the church, I am the Director of Congregational Care and Adult Discipleship. In the role of congregational care, I help to care for people who are sick and hurting and some of the sick die. Being with those who are believers when they die, those are holy moments. You feel an assurance and presence of God in those times. I was at the bedside of my mother when she went to be with God. It was beautiful and something I will always cherish. She had fought a long battle with cancer and it was time to go be with God.
On May 15, 2015, my husband and I were driving home from dinner and we took another route home instead of our usual. This two-lane road did not have shoulders and it is a road with a few hills. It’s a pretty drive and it was a nice evening, still daylight around 7:30 pm. We came over a small hill to see two cars in front of us and it was evident they had just collided. There was a car in front of us and we stopped. We jumped from our cars to see it was a horrible accident, a head-on collision. Pieces of the cars and items from the cars were strewn everywhere. One of the drivers was coming in and out of consciousness and the other was unresponsive. We could not get them out of the cars because the cars were too mangled. All we could do was call 911 and try to put out a small fire under the hood of one of the cars. You can imagine our relief when the fire trucks showed up to make sure this situation didn’t get worse. That accident didn’t end well for one of the victims and a 28 year old woman was pronounced dead at the scene. This has affected me and like most traumatic experiences and I am changed.
My perspective is fresh and my purpose is clear—we do not have time to waste. There are people out there who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus. I know that I cannot and do not save people, that is God’s job alone and I am not judging this young woman’s salvation because only God knows a person’s heart. But I will tell you that following the accident, I could not find evidence of God in her life when looking at social media and family comments. A memorial service was held at a Universalism Unitarian Church and this tells me there is confusion among her family regarding Jesus. All roads do not lead to heaven only the path through Jesus Christ. I am praying for her family as they grieve and for a real saving knowledge of how to receive eternal life.
So what are some ways we can share Jesus with people we barely know? May I suggest putting on Christ every day and living out the Christian life by putting on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another. Above all, the scriptures tell us to put on love—the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).
Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with others and God will give them to you. And if you chicken out at the time of opportunity, pray for another opportunity. I have found God to be faithful to give second chances and third chances and so on and so on.
Here’s a thought, next time you are at the store, notice the person who is at the register. Make time to have a one to two minute conversation about them. I have found that some are quiet and don’t want to talk but many are eager for someone to ask them something about them. They have to say things like, “did you find everything ok today?” and if you respond with a question about them such as “how’s your day going” or “how are you today”, I’m always amazed at how people want to share. We just don’t take the time in our busy all about me world to ask a simple question. So think about making yourself available at an inconvenient time to listen to someone else by acknowledging them. Nothing makes a person feel more valued that someone spending time with them and often times, it only takes a minute or two. This is just one small way to show God’s love to people and you never know the impact it could have on a person. You may just be the only person who seems to care that day.
So don’t shuffle around with your eyes to the ground
Absorbed with the things in front of you
Look up, be alert and make yourself found
Be the person God can use.
John 17:20-26 Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Jesus was betrayed and led to his death on the cross, but right before that happened he prayed for all believers. He prayed for unity among believers and complete unity with himself and God. He said if we have this unity, then the world will know that God sent Jesus and the world would understand God’s love.
I wonder if we have missed the mark and this saddens me. I don’t know if we are united as a group of believers. I don’t necessarily see us all working together for the kingdom as much as working to make our own churches or ministries successful. We get so hung up on our doctrine that we forget lives are on the line.
Last weekend, I attended a memorial service for my uncle who was a Jehovah Witness. It’s my understanding that he believed Jesus existed but didn’t believe he needed him as a Savior. He didn’t believe in hell and didn’t believe he needed “saving” from his sin. He “worked” hard to achieve in that faith and believed his “good works” would allow him to be resurrected when Jesus comes to establish his kingdom on earth. Until then, he will be asleep like being under anesthesia is how it was explained at his memorial service.
I loved my uncle, he was my mother’s brother. There were approximately 20 Christ believing followers at his service among approximately 100 Jehovah Witnesses. We were definitely outnumbered but all of us were praying for them while they were trying to convince us of their belief system. You see the power of God and God’s love can and will transform hearts under any circumstances. Unfortunately, it’s too late for my uncle but it’s never too late for those who are still drawing breath.
Will you unite with me and join me in praying for those who need to know God’s love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Because when Christ does return, my hope is that we can say we did all we could.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:13