Where is the Evidence?

This past Sunday I missed the service at my own church filling in at another local church for the organist that was out of town.  The pastor’s sermon really spoke to me and reminded me of a song I heard years ago.

Since that time I have seen one line from that song on church’s signs, in church bulletins and even on Pinterest.

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

The pastor spoke about the need to be more than a “churchy Christian.”

He shared the story where Jesus had fed a multiple on a few fish and bread.  He was drawing large crowds and the people were ready to make him their leader.   If a poll had been taken then his popularity rating would have been high.  Now was the time to begin setting himself up as a great rabbi.

But Jesus did something that in the natural really seems illogical.  He began talking about his body and blood being the source of eternal life.  (I will not try to get into any theological discussion about the meaning of all this.)  The point is – what he did was unreasonable to the natural mind.  If you were wanting to increase your following, this was not the way to do it.

At that point many of his followers turned away.  Jesus even questioned his twelve closest followers if they too would leave him.

The pastor then pointed out that truly being a follower of Jesus Christ may often require us to do things that seem unreasonable, things that go against all that our culture tell us is the right thing to do.

Is it really reasonable to love your enemies?  To pray for those persecuting you?  Is it really reasonable to put others before yourself?

He then asked the congregation if we are more than “churchy Christians.”  People who go to church, support the church with our finances, even do “good” deeds to others.  But when it comes to being passionate about our faith, when our commitment to God calls us to do the unreasonable, where do we stand?

Got me thinking today.

If I were arrested for being a Christian and my neighbors, family, friends were called as witnesses, what would they say about me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Can Only Imagine!

In the fall of 2002 I was diagnosed with an advanced and very aggressive cancer.  Hearing my doctors words, “The odds are not in your favor,” I realized I was heading into the battle of my life.

Would I live or would I die?

Facing your own mortality changes the way you look at the world.  Some things that seemed so important no longer matter.

  • What difference does it make if I do not get that promotion I wanted.
  • Who cares if the windows need washed?

Other things take on a new importance.

  • Reading a book to my granddaughter.
  • Taking a walk with my husband.

During that long year as I lost my hair and my strength became less and less, I thought about the very real possibility that I would never see another birthday.

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We took a picture of me with my Dad and we laughed at how much I looked like him with my bald head.

Throughout it all I had a deep assurance that whatever the end result, it would be fine.  When I first heard those terrible words from my doctor, I immediately thought of the scripture that says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

Feeling at that moment God had given me that scripture for this battle, I did not know if it meant I would walk through the valley and come out on the other side alive and well.  Or, did it mean I would walk through the valley into death?

For me, it did not matter which it meant.  What comforted me was the assurance no matter what the outcome, God would be with me.

As the treatment continued and my strength got less and less, I began to think perhaps it meant I was walking through the valley into death.  Thoughts of exactly what that would mean kept running through my head.

Then, I heard a song that had been released just the year before.  It had become the most played Christian single in 2002 and you could not listen to any Christian radio station without hearing it.  In fact, it became a main stream hit in 2003 hitting the top 40, adult top 40 and country radio lists.

In the song the writer talks about trying to imagine what he would do when he stands before God in heaven.  He questions:

  • Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
  • Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
  • Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

Listening to that song over and over, I tried to imagine what I would do when I stood before Jesus?  Slowly in my mind a picture began to take place.  I saw myself standing with my hands raised in the air and dancing round and round the throne of God.

Wanting to live for my family, yet there were moments I wanted to see that vision fulfilled and to dance for Jesus.

I did not share this thought with my family.  For them, I continued to maintain a strong belief that I would live.

When all my treatment was finally over, my youngest daughter took me to lunch to celebrate.  She arrived with a gift for me.  It was a Willow Tree angel.

When I saw it, I almost cried with joy.  The angel she gave me was the exact vision I had of me with hands raised dancing around the throne of God.

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So grateful that I survived that battle and God has given me many years beyond what the doctor said I would have.  Still, as I age I know before many more years pass, I will be facing my eternal destiny.  I have no idea what I will do on that day when I see Jesus, but I hope I can dance for Him.

A movie has been made about the life of the young man who wrote this song.  If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It is an inspiring story of what God can do to change a monster into a good father.  The move has the same title as the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

What do you imagine you will do when you stand before the throne of God?

 

 

Thankful for the Lion – Thankful for the Lamb

In our worship today we sang about the Lion and the Lamb.  Those two terms are often used in Christian circles to describe Jesus.  But what a contrast!

Think of a lion.  The mighty king of the jungle.

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He is big, he has a tremendous roar.  He symbolizes power and strength.  Lions have often been used as symbols of royalty.  Many of the ancient palaces of kings and temples of pagan gods were decorated with statues of lions.

And these descriptions describe Jesus Christ in His role as king and resurrected Lord.

Old Testament prophets foretold of a coming Messiah who would be king.

Micah told us:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

Isaiah spoke of Him:

“There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

Daniel had a vision of this coming king and told us:

“And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Jesus Himself accepted the title of “King” when confronted by Pilate:

“Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth”

But then there is the lamb.

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Lambs are considered to be meek animals.  They have no sharp teeth, no claws, no physical way to defend themselves.  They run from what frightens them and the only protection they have from predators is to band together in large groups for protection.  Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated.  Dependent on protection from the shepherd, it is doubtful they could ever survive in the wild.

Yet the Bible often refers to Jesus as a lamb.

Isaiah in describing the coming suffering of the Messiah, described Him as a helpless lamb.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth;  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

When John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the one coming to deliver he referred to Him as a lamb.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

And Peter spoke of Jesus as the lamb without blemish or spot.

“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” !

I am so thankful that my Savior is both a lion and a lamb.

Powerful yet meek.

Majestic yet humble.

Calling for justice and righeousness yet standing for grace and mercy.

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I’m glad my God is a powerful and mighty God.  So glad when I go to Him with my problems, I know I am going to a God that is able.  His strength is mine.  How often I have called on that strength –

  • When my father left my mother and me when I was only 14 – He became the source of strength and love I needed to go on with hope.
  • When my husband was killed in an accident and I was left to raise two little girls, He promised to never leave me and He gave me the wisdom and courage to go on with hope.
  • When the doctor said my cancer was very advanced and aggressive and there was not much hope I would live long, He assured Him that He would walk with me though this “valley of death” and gave me the determination to fight with all my might this dreadful disease with hope.

I am also glad He is a meek and loving God with mercy and grace.

  • When I became all stressed out about my future and my aging body, He assured me that just as He has been there for me in the past, He will not leave me now.  He understood my worry and concern and did not condemn me for my lack of faith.
  • In the many times I have allowed my own thoughts and feelings to lead me to gossip, not forgive others, to be disobedient, He has never stopped loving and drawing me back to where I need to be in Him.

It was His love (the lamb) that led Him to the cross – thank God for the Lamb!

It was His power (the lion) that brought Him out of the tomb – thank God for the Lion!

 

 

 

God and My Daughter Share a Talent – They Knit!

One of my favorite Psalms is 139.  Reading it today this portion stood out to me.

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One of my daughters has her own website where she sells the most beautiful hats, scarfs, sweaters that she creates.  Along with selling her products, she also makes hats for cancer survivors, wraps for new mothers or mothers who have lost children.  She is a teacher and each year makes neat hats for every one of her students.  Every item she knits is a work of love whether she is making something to give away or filling an order for something she sells.

Watching her knit I am amazed at the skill required to create these beautiful gifts.  She clearly did not get that talent from me.

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Today I thought about the time, skill and effort she puts into each creation.  I believe that is what God has done for us.  We are not just accidents that happened.  God has designed us with love and skill also.

I am a product of the greatest artist that has ever existed – Almighty God.

Over the years my daughter has made me several beautiful scarves, wraps and sweaters.  I treasure each one.  First, because I know they were made with love.  But also because they are so lovely.  I always get compliments when I wear one.  My gifts are all stored carefully on shelves in my closet.  I would never think of just throwing them on the floor or stuffing them carelessly in a drawer.

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One of my favorites sweaters she made for me

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Most of my sweaters were just gifts from her but I did make a special order for this one.  I love the bright yellow buttons that just set this sweater off!

So – I realize I need to take good care of my body.  First, because God made me with love.  But also because this body – even old and arthritic – is still a wonder.

To those who read this post, I hope you will realize what a miracle you are and how much you are loved by the great Creator.

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If you are looking for a beautiful scarf, hat, wrap or baby item, go to Facebook and check out BekaBoo Creations.  You not only will love anything she makes – but you will be helping a teacher who gives her all to her students.

 

 

 

Are We Worshipers or Art Critics?

Today we sang a song in worship and it started me thinking.

When we go to church, are we coming as worshipers or art critics?

We often hear people complain about the church.

  • It’s too formal
  • It’s too informal
  • The preaching is too long
  • The preaching is not long enough
  • They are too many hypocrites
  • It does not meet my needs
  • They only sing old hymns
  • They never sing old hymns

On and on it goes.

Now I know church is important for us as individuals.  We need a place where we can find answers to our questions, where we can feel loved and accepted, where we can be challenged and encouraged.

Church should be a place that meets our needs.

But I wonder if we have become so focused on ourselves, we forget what true worship is supposed to be about.

This song reminds me:

It’s all about you, Jesus!

I’ll bring You more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have required You search much deeper within…

 

 

 

It’s “When” Not “If”

When Jesus was on earth He seemed to assume that as His followers there were things we would naturally do.  Not to try to earn a place in heaven.  Not to rack up points on the “goodness” scale.  Not to “prove” we were His followers.

No.  Things we would do because as a committed follower of Jesus it would be as natural as breathing in and out.  We don’t stop and consciously think “I need to breath now.”  When we walk we do not think “I need to lift my right foot up, move it forward and put it down.”  These are just natural reactions to being alive.

So Jesus states that there are actions we will take – perhaps not even consciously but just as a natural response to His love and forgiveness to us.

Sadly we often seem to think the things He mentioned are suggestions, not actual outcomes of following Him.

Jesus told us:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

That last one is a bit hard, isn’t it?  But if we are to be like Jesus, we need to rejoice when we are put down for our beliefs.  Rejoice, not complain.  Not get mad.  Rejoice.

As our culture seems to be going further and further from Christian principles, we need to remember that one.

But even with society becoming more hostile to Christian standards, we in the USA know nothing about real persecution.

The following is a list taken from the 2019 World Watch List by Open Doors.  This is a mission organization that supports persecuted believers in more than 60 countries.

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North Korea  – Afghanistan –  Somalia –  Libya –  Pakistan –  Sudan – Eritrea
Yemen –  Iran –  India –  Syria –  Nigeria –  Iraq –  Maldives –  Saudi Arabia
Egypt –  Uzbekistan –  Myanmar –  Laos –  Vietnam –  Central African Republic
Algeria –  Turkmenistan –  Mali –  Mauritania –  Turkey –  China –  Ethiopia
Tajikistan –  Indonesia –  Jordan –  Nepal –  Bhutan –  Kazakhstan –  Morocco
Brunei –  Tunisia –  Qatar –  Mexico –  Kenya –  Russian Federation –  Malaysia
Kuwait –  Oman –  United Arab Emirates –  Sri Lanka –  Colombia –  Bangladesh
Palestinian Territories –  Azerbaijan

For more detailed information on these countries and suggestions on how to pray for each particular nation, check out this website.

https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/WWL2019_FullBooklet.pdf

 

I’m Celebrating!

Today is a happy day for me!

Today I am exploring the western side of Michigan along Lake Michigan.  We have a hotel in the middle between Ludington and Traverse City Michigan.  What a beautiful area!  The lake, rivers, sand dunes, beaches, quaint shops and restaurants!

My heart rejoices because we are celebrating 35 years of marriage.

What a great love story we have.

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Although Paul knew in his heart that I was the answer to his prayer, he still was nervous about asking me to marry them.  We both had two children (Paul had four but the two oldest were already grown adults and on their own) – three of whom were teenagers.  Blended families could be a difficult thing.  I think he was also afraid of rejection as his first wife had walked away from their marriage after 20+ years.

So he had to build up his courage.

He took me on a picnic to Pere Marquette Park in Grafton Illinois.  Several times that day he hinted at a more serious relationship, then before I could reply, he backed away.

A few weeks later he brought me a bouquet of flowers and took me to a nice restaurant.  All evening I kept thinking he would now talk about a deeper commitment between us.  But nothing happened.  The next night he showed up again with another bouquet of flowers and again took me out to a nice restaurant.  Again, I waited all through dinner for a more serious conversation – but nothing happened.

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My thoughts were that this relationship was going nowhere fast.

But when we got to my apartment he asked if we could sit in the car and talk for awhile.  What a surprise!  He not only asked to take our relationship to a more serious level, he asked me to marry them.

During the 20 minutes or so this conversation took, our children who were inside my apartment kept turning the porch light on and off.  Believe me you have not courted until you do with four kids watching your every move!

So we were married.

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Since we both believed that God had brought us together – both as a couple and as a family, we wanted to emphasize that God would be the foundation of our new family right from the start.

After we said our vows, we had our children join us and we took communion together as a family.

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Was it easy blending two families together?  No!  There were difficult moments.  Paul and I each had different parenting styles.  I had two girls, but I had no idea what to do with a son – and a teenage son at that.

But we stuck with each other and God made us a family.

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left to right:  my youngest daughter, Jessica; my oldest daughter, Rebekah; Paul’s youngest daughter and son, Maria and Will

From this blended family we now have twenty grandchildren (three who are deceased) and nine great grandchildren.

Looking back over these past 35 years, my heart rejoices in the blessings God has given Paul and I.

For those of you who follow my blog, you can be sure I will be posting lots of pictures when I get back home of this beautiful area.