From Darkness to Light

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My grandparents bibles.

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!

Félix 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.

Felix changed.

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.

Félix changed.

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.

Félix changed.

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.

Félix changed.

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.

Félix changed.

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.

Félix changed.

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.

Félix changed.

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.

Félix changed.

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?

I changed!

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?

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Grandpa Barnhart, me, and Grandpa Rivers on my wedding day.

The Word

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As the moon fades, the sun is rising in the East, I yearn for the Word with a hunger so deep.

What a perfect way than to begin with a feast, of God’s very Word to my soul shall I keep.

 My Lord wakes me each day just before dawn with thoughts of Him and a song I embrace.

Let your Word refresh me as I press on, and hold me Jesus for this day that I face.

 I tell you this dear friend of mine; listen closely so that your heart will hear.

God has a plan for you that’s divine; will you listen to Him or turn away in fear?

 He speaks to me in so many ways and satisfies a void that once was great.

God can change your heart this very day; just trust in Him for He awaits.

Kim Thomas

October, 2002

Three

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This year we celebrate the year “three”—
The start of Light Women’s Ministry.

Now bear with me and in the bible you will see
There are many references to the number three.

John gives a summary of the following three days:
On the first day, people asked, “John, are you the way?”

“Of course not,” is his reply, as he makes the path straight.
Day two, he points to Jesus, “the Lamb of God!” John proclaims.

Day three, there was a wedding where a first miracle took place
When Christ turned water into wine, can you imagine each face?

Now let’s look at the gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke—
Where Christ predicts his death three times and then it comes true.

And what about Peter denying Christ those three times?
Suppose he didn’t realize just how well known he was to Christ.

Then there’s Pilate, who asked three times, “what has this man done?”
He didn’t want to sentence him, but it was the crowd that won.

So there he hung, between two criminals, for a total of three to die.
His love, compassion, and mercy reached across the sky.

And Jesus was crucified on that dark black day.
Then came back as our Savior on that much predicted third day.

Yes, there is something special with the number three—
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the Trinity.

These three work together, both individually and apart,
In the lives of the Christ believers who set Him in their heart.

Kim Thomas
December, 2014

2 Corinthians 13:14, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Keys to the Kingdom

keysThen 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.

He Is Your Life

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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.

Love Made Known

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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

Grow Your Faith

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If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. Luke 16:10

As a believer in Jesus Christ, how much faith do you have?

Consider this, you have a friend who needs money. You loan your friend the money and your friend repays you. Trust has been established and you believe your friend is trustworthy. When your friend comes again for money, you don’t hesitate to loan it because you trust your friend to repay you. What if your friend did not repay you the first time around? Would you loan the money a second time? I know this seems like a simply analogy but I believe it works the same way with God.

As you spend time in the bible getting to know God and the character of God, your faith cannot help but increase. When God gives you a task or a challenge and you go through with it, God blesses your trust in him. He will increase your opportunities to trust him more. This is how faith grows and with each time God reveals more of himself to you. 

On the other hand, if you didn’t go through with something that you knew God was calling you to do, then you’ve not only missed an opportunity to serve God but you have missed an opportunity to grow your faith. We’ve all done this from time to time because of our imperfect sin nature. However, when you miss those opportunities or just refuse to take them, ask God for another one.

For example, one day I was at my local Sonic drive in ordering lunch. I saw a city trash worker sitting at a table. I knew God wanted me to buy his lunch but I didn’t. As soon as I drove away, I was feeling convicted. I asked God for another opportunity and purposely went back the next day. The same city trash worker was sitting there again and I had a second chance to buy his lunch! I have no idea why God put that on my heart but I was filled with joy and blessed beyond words when I saw his face light up. God knew his story, I didn’t need to know it, I just had to be faithful. This little faith step was one step toward bigger faith steps and I pray that it continues because the joy and blessings that come with an increased faith is remarkable. We serve a remarkable God who has big plans for us.

Will you allow God to grow your faith?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9

 

 

Dry Bones

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I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. I have spoken, and I will do it. This is the declaration of the LORD. Ezekiel 37:14

This passage is speaking of the Israelites and how God was going to resurrect them. God took Ezekiel to the Valley of Dry Bones and set him in the middle of the valley where it was full of dry bones.  The bones were very dry and God told Ezekiel that he was going to use him to prophesy concerning these bones to breathe life into them. He did just that, Ezekiel commanded the bones and at first he heard a rattling sound of the bones coming together. Then tendons appeared, flesh grew, and skin covered them, but there was no breath verse 8 tells us. God directed Ezekiel to command the breath to come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so they may live and it worked! They came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army. 

There was a time when I felt like I had dry bones. I moved to Texas from another state where I had been very involved in my church. I was leading a bible study and felt very close to God. When we started looking for a new church home, it was not an easy task. I could not find church that felt like home and I felt myself drying up spiritually. Gradually, I began to shrivel and I remember telling my sister and friend, that I felt like I was drying up. I was reading my bible but I needed community and not just any community but a spiritual community. They prayed for me and shortly thereafter, we found our church home. It wasn’t long before life came back into these dry bones and I was leading a group of women in bible study. It was refreshing!

In verses12-14 God says the dry bones represent the whole house of Israel as dried up, hope has perished and they are cut off. God tells that a time is coming when He is going to resurrect the people of Israel, lead them into the land and they will know that he is Yahweh. He will put his Spirit in them and they will live and they will know He is their God!!

Since we live in New Testament times, we don’t have to wait to be spiritually alive. It’s a simple heartfelt decision and action to move toward God through his son, Jesus Christ. If we take one step, He meets us there, ready to breath life into us! 

What are you waiting for?

Sticking Tongue

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The tongue is a powerful tool and it can be sticky business at times. Ezekiel found that out when he was called by God at age 30. Ezekiel’s purpose was to warn the people of coming judgment and expose the nation of Israel’s moral depravity and absence of spiritual truth. We read in Ezekiel 3:26 that God made Ezekiel’s tongue stick to the roof of his mouth so he couldn’t talk. One time he couldn’t talk for 7 days (3:15) and another time for 7 years (33:21-22). During the 7 year period, God would only allow him to speak when he wanted him to give a message to the Israelites.

I find this fascinating and have been pondering this for a few days now. You see Ezekiel was a Watchman. The Hebrew word for watchman is zahar. A zahar is someone who is to warn or instruct, to shine, to be clear. A watchman was to warn cities against attack. Ezekiel was a prophetic watchman instructed to warn about divine judgment against sin. God made him a watchman over the house of Israel and told Ezekiel that when he heard a word from God’s mouth, then he was to to speak a warning to the people (3:17-18).

What if we all lived this way? I don’t know about you but my mouth gets me in trouble at times. Have you heard the old addage? You have two ears and one mouth in order to listen twice as much as you talk. There’s a lot of truth in that saying.

As New Testament believers, we are God’s watchman. We are to guide people toward Jesus and warn them about a life without Christ. If God only allowed me to speak when it was for his good, what would my life look like? What would your life look like? This is my challenge, the next time I want to speak and I know it’s not from God, maybe I will let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth until I clear it with God. Will you join me?

A Righteous Man

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Matthew 1:18-21, The birth of Jesus came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of The Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

This morning I noticed something special about Joseph. We often talk about Mary this time of year and rightly so. However, I noticed something about Joseph’s character that really struck me. He was a righteous man! He didn’t want to publicly humiliate Mary. Most likely his peers would have exposed her obvious sin and why not, this was a heinous sin in that culture. But before the angel could appear to Joseph, he already decided to show compassion and mercy. He intentionally decided to show grace even though he was deeply hurt.

What a powerful lesson for us today. When we are hurt by someone, we naturally want to retaliate or defend our position because we have every right. Especially if we are right! But what I see in Joseph is righteousness that only comes from a right relationship with God. We can have that too if we want it. I’m thinking about the next time I’m offended, what if I immediately responded with compassion, mercy and grace. Would the end result be different? I would imagine so.

This Christmas season is a joyous one but also can be difficult for some. Maybe family or friends have hurt you and you have every right to be upset. However, what if you responded like Joseph and extended grace? A right relationship with God through Jesus Christ makes this possible. This is the very essence of righteousness.

Next time, how will you respond? How will I?