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

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!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Self-Control: It's Essential

Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

January is often a time to make resolutions, set goals, and diet. In my forties I decided I was tired of being over-weight, so we bought a tread mill and went on a healthy diet. Every day I walked as I watched a show I taped on my VCR (yep-that long ago.) I fixed low-fat meals and stuck to my one treat a day, usually ice cream. In about a year I'd reached my goal weight. The self-control I imposed on myself paid off. I kept the weight off for almost six years. Then due to a change in job and some health issues, I gained weight again.

Since I'm older, the same techniques I used back then won't work now. I'm pretty happy if I just don't gain any weight. But my point is, I set my mind to accomplish my goal. And it worked. Self-control is essential when it comes to living life. I dislike the times I give in to anger, gossip, negativity or many of the other sins on this earth.

In his short text, Titus encourages the men, women, and young people of the church to develop self-control. I can only do that through Jesus who gives me the strength. As I seek to reach my goals (no matter what they are) and stay obedient to God, I keep my eyes on the hope that I have in Jesus. With him all things are possible.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gentleness: In a World of Frustration

1 Peter 3:15-16
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Photo by Maggie Wickline Jowers

I have to ask myself—am I reactive or proactive? Do I lash out or do I reach out? There are situations that make me angry. When someone is lazy, neglectful, or mean. But even in anger, God requires me to have a gentle spirit. In a world full of mistreatment, abuse, and let me put this gently-mouthiness, it's difficult to not react with louder, angrier words and frustration.

In the verses Peter shared, gentleness and respect go hand-in-hand. I love that. It makes sense. As a follower of Jesus, he wants me to be respectful and gentle, when I share my hope in Jesus. That's not being a pushover, it's being a Christ follower. The world is full of loud angry voices. It's time we show our gentle, caring spirits to the world by loving the difficult, the frustrating, and the unlovely. Jesus loved everyone—shouldn't we? Praise God for Jesus who loves you and me!
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Faithfulness: A Lesson from the Dog

2 Thessalonians 3:3
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

Several years ago, when Tater was still an exuberant young dog, he caused me to take a trip to the emergency room. I had hooked him up to take him for a walk and before I could follow him out the door, he bolted and ran me straight into the door jam. I met the jam head on, stumbled out the doorway and passed out in the back yard. In a few minutes I came to. My glasses were flung behind me, pain screamed from my broken nose, and my dear dog stood over me wondering what had just happened. Long story short—Tim took me to the emergency room for a few stitches. A few years later, I tripped over this same dog and injured both knees. Eventually leading to knee surgery and replacement. By now you may be wondering why I still love this dog. One simple reason, he's faithful. He loves me more than I understand, and I love him right back. He's a nervous Nelly sometimes and drives me crazy when he jumps and barks when I get home. But he's my dog.

That must be how God looks at me. "She's my child." Otherwise why would he be faithful to me, a messy life-liver who gets sick, makes mistakes, gets scared, acts anxious, and sometimes wants to give up. That's the thing about God, he loves me anyway. He remains faithful and protects me from evil because I sure can't protect myself. He gives me strength when I'm about to let loose of the proverbial knot at the end of the rope. I'm thankful that no matter what happens, God remains faithful. He's the same no matter what. And I know without doubt that I will remain faithful to him. 
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.