For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. —Romans 15:4

Friday, February 24, 2017

You Might Be Surprised

Matthew 9:10-13
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus loves people. It doesn't matter who they were, where they came from, or their occupation. He took the time to sit down with the folks he met, get to know them and share with them the His Story. Yes, he talked to them about salvation because he loved them. Back in his day, tax collectors we're often cheaters who stole money for themselves from the collected taxes. They were pretty much low-lifes in the eyes of the community. And you can bet, the religious leaders of the day didn't bother to even say hello. Yet Jesus sat down at the table with Matthew.

Tax collectors weren't the only ones Jesus befriended. His disciples were a bunch of regular guys who were sometimes a bit clueless and smelled like fish. But he loved them and taught them about the new kingdom, his kingdom and his sacrifice. Then there were the women. Mary Magdalene had been filled with demons. Jesus cast them out of her, and she followed him. He loved children and protected them. He loved older people, sick people, and sinners. Jesus wasn't a push-over. He was a care-taker, one who wanted the best for everyone he met. And that best is salvation. So you might be surprised who the Lord hung out with. It wasn't the kings or queens, rabbis or teachers. Oh he spoke with them, too. But he spent his precious time on earth with regular people. Like you and me. And he still wants to, through us.

He invited regular old Joes and Janes to take up the cross and follow him. He included the lame, the lepers, and the dying into his fold. He healed and loved. Knowing how Jesus cared for people, how can I do any less? It's hard for me because I'm not exactly a people person, yet God puts folks in my path and says love them. With his help I do.


How about you? Who has Jesus called you to love? Who has he asked you to share his story with?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Be Found Faithful!

Acts 7:55-56
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Jesus' disciple Stephen had preached without fear about his beloved Savior. He spoke with conviction and determination. The people who served in the Sanhedrin, a ruling body of the government, didn't like Stephen's message, so they stirred the crowd and had the young man stoned to death. Stephen wasn't afraid to die. He trusted God and he loved Jesus. He was called to be faithful and he was. Right up until the end.

Even in death, Stephen's faith made him a winner in life. He chose to follow the King, despite suffering. Because "a follower who suffers, doesn't lack faith." As our minister, Didi, preached those words about Stephen last Sunday, my husband passed me a note. The message he shared reflected Stephen's story. His note said, "Our life will never be lived in vain when we are a follower of Jesus. God has a plan for us & will use our life of faithfulness to touch & change the hearts of others."


That's right. No matter how much we hurt, how much difficulty life throws at us, or how much sadness a day may bring, faith will carry us through, because Jesus surrounds us, his Spirit fills us, and God sees us. "It's not about the pain-it's about seeking Jesus." (Didi Bacon) Replace fear with faith and go for the win. Stephen saw the King on his throne. He knew his destination, and his faith held fast, even as he was being destroyed. We're called to be faithful not perfect. Praise God for his glorious grace!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

God's Gate

Psalm 100:4-5
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.



We were driving from the restaurant to my condo when my grandson, Zeke, piped up from the back seat. "Do you think God is looking at us?" My response. "Sure, I know he sees us every day. Why do you ask?" Zeke in his matter-of-fact way said, "Cause I see his gate. See it. It's where the sun is coming through the clouds." Sure enough, the sun shined between two billowing clouds. A few seconds later he said, "Me and my sister saw his big gate the other day. The sun really came down." Out of the mouths of babes.

Zeke was pleased that God was watching us. Happy that God's sun broke through the clouds and shone on us. Quite often, I'm reminded of God's love through my grandchildren. In their innocence they understand God's open arms. Adult lives can get messed up. Sin sneaks in or sometimes walks in boldly and causes chaos. Frustration rears its ugly head. Anger seeps out. It's easy to forget that God is right beside me, wanting to help if I just ask. This sweet little boy's reminder of God's presence fills my heart with joy. I praise God for his love and care. I'm thankful we have visible reminders of the One who loves us most.

No matter what your going through God is beside you. He wants to lift you up and give you hope. Just ask.

What other ways does God show himself to you?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hope through Restoration

John 14:1-4
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

I've always appreciated the process people go through when they restore an old home. With each floor board they replace, kitchen they refurbish, and wall they rebuild, the contractor breathes new life into a worn and weary structure. One of the homes we moved into had been uninhabited for months. Windows were broken, animals had left behind messes, and floors were warped. The home had deteriorated into an unlivable environment. But when Tim and I walked through the house we saw potential. A place to share with our children and for them to invite over friends. After weeks of work, thanks to several of our family members, the old place took on a renewed life.

I think God views us like we saw that old house. Whether tired, broken down, disappointed, or lost in the shuffle of life, God sees us for who we are. He recognizes our potential and restores and gives us new hope if we ask. I enjoy watching the HGTV show Fixer Upper. At the end of the program they ask the new homeowners, "Do you want to see your fixer upper?" When they pull apart a giant picture of the original house that they have on wheels; a new, beautiful, and restored version of the old place stands before them. God can do the same for people. There was a time I was a broken down, weary version of myself. But after I asked Jesus to renew my spirit, he breathed new life into me and filled me with his hope and joy.

Jesus told his disciples that God created a beautiful mansion. A place for us to live in and invite our friends to. A place in heaven that will never be destroyed. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to living in one of those rooms he's prepared. I thank God for restoration and hope.

How has Jesus renewed you?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Light that Shines

Revelation 22:1-5Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Matthew 5:14-16“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

In January, grey dreary days have plagued southwest Ohio. For the most part, I'm a winter person. I love snow and the light that makes it sparkle. But so far our winter has been a drippy mess. We've had spring-like temperatures with mud. I'm not sure what coat to wear or whether I even need a coat. Mind you, I'm thankful we haven't had severe snowstorms or dangerous conditions. But a sprinkle of pretty white snow would be appreciated. Instead we're slogging through dark days with occasional sunshine.

How many times do we sludge through life in the dark? Instead of letting Jesus light shine through encouragement, hope, and joy, I let the misery of being human cast a shadow over me. Sometimes life sucks the light right out of me. But Jesus said if I am his follower, I also need to be his light. I need to care about the people around me, I'm called to show the love of Jesus, and I'm required to give. What a blessing to show Jesus' light. But do you know what is even better? Heaven! One of these days when I'm sitting at the throne of God, he will be the light. We won't need the sun. Because God is the light of heaven. I don't know about you, but I can get through these dreary winter days a little easier with the hope of heaven and the light that shines through God. Praise God for his eternal light!