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, April 29, 2016

Is Belief Enough?

Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

We sat in on a Super Saturday architecture class with our granddaughter. The teacher, an architect, shared a video with the students of how a foundation is built. They watched with interest as a cement mixer sloshed the gravel, sand, water, and cement around to make concrete. The teacher went on to explain that the concrete wasn't strong enough to hold the skyscraper up by itself. So the construction workers laid heavy wire mesh at the base and poured the concrete over it. This small change made a huge difference in the strength of the foundation.

That got me thinking about faith. I've known many believers who went through difficult times. Instead of giving up, they clung to their faith and marched through the fire. But what if instead of faith, the person only had belief. Believing might be like the concrete. It's not strong enough by itself. But with faith mixed with belief a strong foundation is built. It's not enough to just believe God exists. I have to have faith and know beyond a doubt that God knows me and loves me, that everything comes from Him. I didn't see the creation come into being, but I believe and have faith that God created our world. I didn't see Jesus raise from the dead, but I know he did. I believe, I have faith, and I trust. Praise God for faith that's the foundation for life.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

He Made Beauty From my Mess

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

On the way through town the other day, I noticed a beautiful pink dogwood blooming. As I turned onto the street where I live, vibrant purple and yellow pansies brightened the entry. Irises bloomed along the highway and phlox spilled over rock walls and across flower beds. Each plant weathered another winter. Leaves fell off, blossoms died, and the frost shriveled the plants to nothing. Yet, the green sprouted through the dirt again and produced beauty. They didn't give up.

James, Jesus' brother, speaks about what happens when we go through trials and our faith is tested. 2015 was a tough year. I suffered through some illness and diagnosis I wasn't particularly happy about. I have chronic pain and feel flat out terrible, at times. But as much as I wanted to give up at times, my faith didn't failed. Please understand, I've been discouraged. I've even been angry, but because I know beyond a doubt that Jesus is real, the Bible is true, the Holy Spirit works in me, and God loves me— I have faith that God is using my circumstances to make me a stronger more faithful follower.

As much as I dislike pain, I find joy in my circumstances and pray God uses me to help the people in my path. As a work in progress the challenges will keep coming. My prayer is to find the beauty and hang onto James 1:2-4. Praise God for creating beauty out of my mess.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Let the Children Come

Luke 19:13-14
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 

He ran down the aisle.

The night before, Eli told his mommy he wanted Jesus in his heart. Our grandson loves Jesus and he wants to go to heaven someday. He talked with his mommy and daddy about why he wanted to accept Jesus as his savior and be baptized; and at the young age of six years old, he's got it. So on Sunday morning, with total abandon he ran to the front of the church and met his grandpa who took his confession of faith. Then his daddy baptized this sweet young man in the water. After he came up out of the baptistery he looked at his mommy and said, through his beautiful grin, "I can't believe I have Jesus in my heart!" He was excited.

Jesus told us long ago to have the heart of a child. To run to him with total abandon. But how many times do I let my insecurities, frustrations, and doubts hold me back. Too often Satan gets in my ear and fills me with anxiety. The trouble is, I listen to him sometimes. My prayer today is that I can meet Jesus without constraint, love him unashamedly and run into his arms without hesitation. I asked him into my heart a long time ago. Now I need to bring him into every day and go to him for everything.

The Newsboys sing I Want to Live with Abandon. That's how I want to live! Like a child who runs to Jesus.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I'd Take Their Place if I Could

Psalm 31:12b, 14-18
I have become like broken pottery...
But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your unfailing love.

As a wife and mom, I know what it feels like to have my heart become like broken pottery. Shattered in a hundred shards. I'd rather go through the pain and hurt my husband and children struggle with, than watch them suffer. Whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual— witnessing the hurt the people I love endure, breaks my heart. I'd take their place if I could.

God's servant David struggled, and lived a life of turmoil even in his dedication to God. At times his heart shattered over the suffering he endured. In the Psalm he broke down and cried out to his Father to deliver him. Whether he deserved it or not, he knew that God loved him unconditionally.

Romans 5:8 says "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus understands our suffering and pain. God gave him the power to take the place of all who sin. Unlike me, who can't take the place of my loved ones, Jesus could and he did. How beautiful is that? Praise God for his unfailing love.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

And God Created Trees

 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

As Tim and I hiked through the nature preserve, we noticed a variety of trees budding for spring. The Bradford pears were in full bloom. Red buds were pushing out their deep lavender-pink blossoms, and soon the dogwood would flower in clouds of pink and white. A few days later my daughter, Sara, her two little ones and two of my other grandchildren trekked along the path at Sycamore Park. Along the trail were several old sycamore trees that had hollowed out over time. We also saw birch, oak, and maple trees preparing for spring.

A variety of trees make up a forest. Some provide shade, others food. Some stand out with their flowery beauty, while others are content to spread their leaves and bring shelter. And in all of them God is at work. He created every one of them for a purpose. Is it so different for people? We all look different. We all have abilities and gifts to share. Some of us may shelter, while others stand out.

I know this sounds simple and maybe even trite. But think about it. There are so many different people in the world, and God created everyone with purpose. Every tree in the forest grows alongside trees who are different and trees who are the same. They rise up in community and do the job God intended. Is it so different for people who receive their gifts from the Holy Spirit when they become believers in Christ? I'm thankful God made me unique, as I strive to share my gifts through writing.

As you embrace your gift, take one word of warning. Don't compare yourself to others. Comparison is detrimental. Seek your gift and God will bless you. He'll lead you into circumstances where your abilities and purpose shine. No gift is more or less than another. Every gift has purpose. Praise God he made us all different, with gifts to share.