Entrance of Praise

Studying the Tabernacle in the Old Testament the past few months has been such an encouragement to me in my walk with God.

Earlier I posted why a Tabernacle and in the elaborate plans that God gave Moses for the Tabernacle – and in the Israelites response – we see how much God desires a relationship with us.

What really stood out to me was that there was only one gate – one way into the Tabernacle. I know it is not a popular thought today but it reminds me that Jesus said He was “the Way.”

When the Israelites would stop and camp, the 12 tribes of Israel each had their own assigned area to camp by the Tabernacle. Interesting the tribe of Judah was to be camped first next to the entrance to the Tabernacle.

The name “Judah” means “praised” or “let him be praised.” This reminded me of how important praise is in the life of a Christian.

Psalms 95:2 – Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

Psalm 100:4 – Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Even in the New Testament we are admonished to praise God.

Hebrews 13:15 – Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.

What does it mean to offer a “sacrifice” of praise. To us the word “sacrifice” sounds like offering something that is difficult or costly for us. While it can mean that, in the Old Testament a sacrifice was an offering to God. So first of all, our praise is an offering, something we give to God.

However, I think the writer speaking of a sacrifice of praise might mean to tell us our praise is not dependent on our feelings or our circumstances. When all is going well, it is easy to praise God. But in those times when all is well, how much of our praise is really directed to the awesomeness of God and how much just grateful because all is going well in our world.

Of course we should be grateful – but our praise must be more than that. Praise is the recognition that God is faithful and good. That we trust Him no matter our circumstances.

Worship is choosing to respond Biblically and responsibly despite the environment or circumstances. Somehow, we have come to accept an emotion-oriented approach to worship that says, “If I do not feel like expressing worship to God, it is hypocritical to do it!” In no other area of life do we accept this philosophy. Because it is the responsible thing to do, we go to work, pay our bills, restrain ourselves from saying certain things at certain times to certain people – although we feel differently inside. We say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive.” Do we always feel like being nice? Or forgiving? No! God never said, “If you feel like it, forgive. Or, if you are having a good day, love your enemies! And in leap years, on nights when there is a full moon, bless them that persecute you, and do good to them that spitefully use you!”…P. Douglas Small

In my own life I have experienced what praise can do in times of distress. At 33 my husband was killed in an accident and I was left with two small daughters to raise. There were times when I felt overwhelmed and afraid.

I remember one day in particular when I looked out my kitchen widow at the meadow below our home. We had purchased this property because it was a perfect place to raise our daughters in the country. There was enough acreage to have a couple of beef cows, some chickens and my daughters wanted a horse. It was Fall when we bought the home and now it was Spring. Lonnie died before we could fulfill those dreams.

As I looked at all the wild flowers in the meadow, I thought how much my husband would have enjoyed the view and began to cry that he never lived to see it. Suddenly I realized that he was probably seeing things far more beautiful than that meadow. And seeing them with two good eyes instead of looking at it with his one handicapped eye.

As I praised the Lord, those chains of worry and despair fell from me. Yes, sometimes they came back, but when that happened, I just began to praise the Lord again.


Taking a Close Look at My Prayer Time

There is only one miracle of Jesus that all four gospel writers record: the feeding of the 5,000. Actually there were probably more than 5,000 fed that day because the writers say 5,000 men. Since we know that women and children also came to hear Jesus we can assume there were women and children present which would increase that number significantly.

Growing up in church I have heard that story told many times. The emphasis has always been on the miracle of feeding all those people with just two loaves and a few fish and the compassion of Jesus for those who were hungry and possibly weak from the hunger. Certainly that is a story!!! Certainly we can gain comfort from the fact that the compassion of Jesus led to meeting a real physical need.

However, I recently heard a sermon where the emphasis was not on the feeding of the 5,000 but rather on what the first thing the compassion of Jesus led him to do.

Mark’s gospel tells us:

But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him.  And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.  When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late.  Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.” But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

According to Mark the first thing the compassion of Jesus led him to do was to teach them. Clearly their physical need of food was important – how could anyone really listen and understand when their stomach is growling? Over and over we see through the miracles and actions of Jesus that He cared about the people’s physical need.

Yet His main purpose was to teach us. In Luke after ministering to many in a town, He went out to pray. When the crowd came searching for Him, He told them:

“But Jesus told them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well, because that is why I was sent.”

Thinking about this I have to wonder: where is our emphasis in our walk with God? Are we more interested in having Him meet our physical needs rather than having a deep interest in learning more about Him?

Again, our physical needs are important. Believe me, when I had cancer and when my husband had surgery for a brain bleed, I was asking everyone I could think of to pray. I spent a lot of time crying out to God for healing.

But looking at my prayers I have to ask myself, how many are just:

  • Heal Aunt Susie
  • Give cousin Billy a job
  • Help my friend, Ann, get that promotion
  • Don’t let it rain today on our picnic

Looking at the prayers of Jesus, the early church and the Apostle Paul – what a difference.

The prayer of Jesus for us just before He went to the cross:

Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

When the Early Church was facing persecution and the disciples were threatened if they continued to share about Jesus, the church gathered and prayed not for safety, as I would probably do but rather they prayed:

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

The Apostle Paul prayed often for the church. His prayers were:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him–since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened–so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe

I pray that according to the wealth of his glory [the Father] may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

[I ask] God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects–bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

As I think about this, I have to add another prayer:

Lord, help me to ask for my physical needs because I know you care about them, but help me to go deeper and seek a closer walk for me and my family and friends. Help me to care as much about our spiritual health as I do our physical health. Help me to seek You not just to meet my needs, but so I can draw closer to You and be more capable of sharing Your love with my community.

Memories and Potato Soup

October is a month that brings back so many memories to me. It was in this month nineteen years ago that I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive cancer. So it’s natural that I have memories of that time every October – and especially since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Some of those memories are not pleasant. The surgery – the chemo – the radiation – the very hard effort to stare death in the face.

But I also have so many good memories and today brought back one of those memories.

It is raining and chilly here in Michigan today – a perfect fall day. It is also a good day to just stay inside and watch the rain from my easy chair. My husband declared that this was a day for homemade potato soup.

I love homemade potato soup. My mother often made that when I had a cold or was not feeling good. It is my comfort food. My husband makes great potato soup so I was glad to hear his offer to make some for us today.

Watching him prepare the soup and enjoying the good smells coming from the kitchen brought back a very special memory of that time battling cancer.

I continued to work through my chemotherapy and was active but with the first two drugs I was given, I would basically lose a week of life as I felt energy and life drain from my body. I would spend several days in bed too weak to do anything but get up and walk to the restroom. My husband would fix my meals and bring them to me on a tray. If there was any meat, he would even have to cut it up for me because I had energy only enough to lift my fork.

He was so good – so kind – so patient and did all he could to help me through those weeks. One day as I lay in bed I thought how much I would love to have some potato soup. Because he was doing all the shopping, house work as well as cooking and taking care of me I did not want to make any special requests. Not knowing what he had planned to fix, I did not want to impose on him so I said nothing.

I drifted back off to sleep and some time later he woke me up to tell me he was bringing me my lunch. When he brought the tray to my bed, I was so happy. He had fixed potato soup. You may think that was just a coincidence, but I believe God knew my heart’s desire and led my husband to fix that soup.

As we ate the soup today we remembered that special time and we thanked God for how much He cares about us.

And, the soup was delicious – as my husband’s soup always is.

So I Know It’s not Easter!

This week our pastor encouraged us to realize committing our live to God was not a one time event. Neither was it a “get out of hell” card. Rather that commitment to God was only the beginning of what God wanted for us. She shared with us this verse:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

One of her suggestions was to “turn off the noise and be silent.” How can we hear from God when we have such noise all around us?

I thought a lot about that yesterday. We get in the car and turn on the radio; we spend too much time on social media, the news. None of that is bad – but sometimes it can become overload. So today while cleaning my kitchen I turned off all the “noise” and just let my heart and mind pray as I polished the dining table, underloaded the dishwasher and swept the kitchen floor. How peaceful I felt.

Then I put on an old CD to hear a song I have not listened to in years. It is a song that used to be sung in church and played on Christian radios every Easter. But we seem to only want to hear songs that have been written in the last two years 🙂 and some powerful songs are forgotten.

Today, I am reminded of the wonderful story that Jesus died not only so I could look forward to eternal life after this life, but could have joy and peace today – joy and peace that come to me when I take time to worship Him.

If you have not heard this song before, I hope it speaks to your heart. And if you have, I hope it reminds you that we serve a God who is able to help us no matter what our circumstances. And I think we need to celebrate this more than just one Sunday in spring.

One Way Jesus

Recently I begin studying the Tabernacle in the Old Testament.

Many who study the Bible never really look at the Old Testament and the truths of the Tabernacle found there. But much of the Bible is revealed in a study of the Tabernacle.

  • More than 50 chapters are devoted to the details of the Tabernacle.
  • In Exodus chapters 25-40 give guidance on the construction of the Tabernacle.
  • Leviticus contains 18 chapters on the function of the Tabernacle.
  • Deuteronomy has 2 chapters on the Tabernacle.
  • Hebrews shares a New Testament commentary on the Tabernacle in 4 chapters.
  • Revelation gives images of the Tabernacle (Temple) in heaven.

The people were told that the purpose of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament was so God could dwell with them.

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8

We see in Revelation that God’s desire is still to dwell among us.

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

We know that was the point of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus – to make us able to have a relationship with God.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

As we look at the Tabernacle, we notice that there was only one gate – only one way to enter.

This clearly points to Jesus:

“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” John 10:9

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father by through me.” John 14:6

I AM – Jesus used these words several times in the Gospels. In Matthew 22:32 He basically quotes Exodus 3:6.

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. So he is the God of the living, not the dead.” Matthew 22:32

 “‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:6

Later Jesus made it plan that he was calling Himself God. The people recognized His claim because they tried to stone Him for blasphemy.

“The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am! At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.” John 8:57-59

THE WAY– Jesus did not say I am “a” way. He said He was “the” way. In today’s culture, I know it is not politically correct to say there is only one way. A person can reject Christianity, but if they accept the Bible, they have to accept the claims of Jesus.

THE TRUTH – Again Jesus used the definite article to that He is the only truth. Jesus demonstrated this on HIs Sermon on the Mount. He pointed out different commandments they had and then said “but I say unto you” placing His truth above what the culture of the day said.

THE LIFE – Strange in a way that as Jesus is talking about his death, He claims to be “the” source of life. He claimed because He lived, we would too.

“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19

He claimed He was giving us abundant life.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

As a follower of Jesus I believe He was promising eternal life after this life. But more than that, I believe He was promising a real life of freedom from condemnation, of joy even in difficult times. Abundant life consists of abundance of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.

In following Jesus I have found true joy. I love this picture of Jesus! To me, this is how I picture Him.

The Tabernacle of Old Testament and Our Worship Today

In our daily devotions my husband and I have been reading the book of Exodus. It was interesting to me to see that when the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt God chose to not lead them directly to the land He had promised them. Rather, he led them into the wilderness.

When Pharoah finlly let the people go, God did ot lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine terriroty, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land….God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13:17-18.

There, in the wilderness, God gave them two things they needed to become the nation He desired.

  • The Tabernacle – unifying symbol of God’s presence with principles of worship
  • The Tablet (Ten Commandments) – principles of God for personal practices of a godly life reflected in our behavior

Since much of the Old Testament is devoted to the Tabernacle I have decided to take a closer look at this structure and what it meant to the Israelites, what it might mean to us in our understanding of the importance of worship of God.

First thing that caught my attention was the preparation to build the Tabernacle.

  • Materials required: gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple and scarlet thread, fine linen, gemstones and more. Exodus 25:3-7
  • Voluntary offering: it was not demanded but rather was to be given by those “whose hearts are moved to offer them.” Exodus 25:1-2
  • Both men and women were involved in the giving and preparation. Exodus 35:22; 35:25-26
  • The leaders set the example in giving. Exodus 35:27-28
  • The Holy Spirit was present and filled the workmen. Exodus 35:31-35

Looking at what was involved in the preparation to build the Tabernacle, I thought how that applied to our attempts to be involved in the church today.

  • As the materials required were things of great value, so should be our efforts for God. We should bring Him our best. Sadly, I fear we do not. Too often we spend our days working, playing, filling our time with our own needs/wants/desires. Then at the end of the day we fall into bed and quickly murmur a prayer to God. We often neglect gathering with the family of God to worship Him and encourage and be encouraged by others. We often give Him what is left of our time/talent/money after we have met all our wants/needs.
  • Yet our worship, our efforts for Him should never be done because it is demanded. It must come from a love of God.
  • Sadly, for years many have restricted women from fulfilling their God-given call. Yet we see Jesus often ministering to the women. It was a woman who carried the message of the Messiah to the Samarian village. It was a woman who Jesus first appeared to after His resurrection.
  • I am thankful that in my church our pastor sets an example of selfless service to others. But sadly we have often see ministers who have set themselves above the rest of God’s family.
  • The Holy Spirit was present in these men to make furniture, to build the Tabernacle. Again, we have often made the work of the Spirit to mean something “supernatural.” God often uses us in “natural” gifts like baking a meal for a family suffering illness, fixing a car for a single mother, babysitting to give a couple a night out. God’s Spirit is given for more everyday, ordinary people and we need to recognize this.

Why did God tell them to build the Tabernacle? What was His purpose?

Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. Exodus 25:8

What a wonderful thought! God desired to live among them. Later when Jesus came John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus came to dwell among us. The Greek word used for dwell in John 1:14 is skenoo and literally means “to pitch a tent. This word is the very word used in the New Testament to refer to the tabernacle of God used by Israel in their early worship of God. Jesus came because God still desires to live among us.

Jesus told us that wherever two or three gathered in His name, He would be there. So when we come into church on Sunday, He is there. Do we realize that? How often we come in late, grabbing our coffee, looking around to see who is there, talking to the one next to us? Do we not realize we are entering the presence of God? He is there. Let our worship show we acknowledge that.

I will be writing more as I study this Old Testament Tabernacle. Hope you will follow me on this journey.

The Day I Was Mad at God

My computer of almost nine years is about to die on me I think. It is getting slower and slower. I purchased it when I retired and never thought it would last this long. Today I began saving files, pictures and other documents on the computer to flash drives so I will not lose everything if and when the computer bites the dust.

Going through my files I found this article I wrote but never posted. The story took place many years ago but reading it today I was reminded of that day I got mad at God. I am so thankful that we can be honest with Him and He does not reject us when we share our deepest thoughts and feelings.

The two grandchildren I mention in this post are now all grown up. Robert has two handsome boys with his wife, Amy, and Barbara is almost though law school. God has blessed my husband and I with many more grandchildren – and great grandchildren.

To be honest there have been a couple more times when I have found myself upset with God. But He has been faithful to me for over 73 years and I am thankful that He loves me – at all times, in all seasons.

So – here is that article I never posted.

I remember the moment I held my daughter in my arms.  It was overwhelming to realize I was a mother, personally responsible for this tiny baby.  Looking at her, I whispered that we were going to be the best of friends.  I shared with her my hopes and dreams of the hours we would spend reading, playing in the park and listening to music.  Four years later I once again held another daughter in my arms.  How happy I was – two beautiful daughters!

My girls were my world.  As a mother, there was nothing I would not do to make them happy.  As time passed, my oldest daughter and her husband gave me the joy of being a grandmother.  Robert was born and his first year was filled with precious memories watching him beginning to walk and say his first words.  One year later a beautiful granddaughter was born.  As I walked into the room where my daughter lay holding this new grandchild, my heart skipped a beat when she held the baby out to me and said, “Mother, meet Barbara Rose!”  She was named Barbara after me! 

In the midst of this joy, my heart was torn.  In just a few short weeks I would have the honor of dedicating this little child to God.  However, a few days after the dedication I would get on an airplane with my husband and youngest daughter and fly to the other side of the world to serve as a missionary in the Philippines. 

Several months before Rebekah had become pregnant with Barbara, God had opened a door for my husband and me to work in the Philippines for a couple of years teaching in a Bible College.  At the time I felt everything would be okay because by the time we left Robert would be over a year old and Rebekah and Rob would do fine as new parents with this little boy.  While I would miss Robert, I would have had that first year to share and treasure while we were gone.  But now my daughter, who had married very young, had not one, but two children less than twelve months apart.  She and her husband were both college students.

As I looked at them struggling to keep up with their home, their studies and two little babies, I wondered how can this young couple make it.  Holding Barbara Rose on dedication day, my heart ached as I realized I would not be there to see her sit up, take her first steps, and say her first words.  When I came back, she and her brother would not know who I was. 

Yet, I knew God had called us to go.  I thought of the verse in the Bible that speaks of loving God so that in comparison it may seem we hate our family. 

Rebekah and Rob went with us in the airport as far as they could go before security barred their way.  The last look I had was the two of them standing there, each with a baby in their arms, and the saddest, forlorn look on their faces.  I felt my heart would break.  I was deserting them when they really needed me.

We settled in the Philippines and while my heart still ached, I became busy in the work and prayed the time would pass fast for them.  A couple of months later, we had a call from my daughter.  Our little granddaughter was having digestive issues and it looked as if she might have to have surgery.  How I longed to go home, but we had just arrived and our budget did not really include money to make a trip home.  Rebekah assured me they would be fine and did not need us, but I could hear in her voice the longing for her mother.

Hanging up the phone, I went into my bedroom, laid on the bed and told God how mad I was at Him.  I said, “I sold everything I had, gave up my time with my grandchildren to obey You.  The least you could do is take care of them.  I feel as if I am turning my back on my daughter.”  God did not strike me with lightning for speaking that way.  He understood the love of a mother for her children.  But quietly I felt that “still small voice” of God speaking to me.  He said, “I turned my back on my Son for you.” 

For the first time in my life I got a little idea of how much God really loved me when He sent His Son to die on that cross.  John 3:16 took on new meaning for me.

And the end of the story – Robert and Barbara quickly developed a love for Grandma and our relationship is very close.  God also has given me many more grandchildren and I believe the example we set putting God first in our lives has had a tremendous influence on my children.  Putting God first is sometimes hard, but always in the end, brings great blessings.    

Mountain or Valley – He’s Still There!

Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.

That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.

I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.

What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.

Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.

What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.

At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.

Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.

For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.

This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.

How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.

Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.

Church – Simple and Fun?

Recently I saw a church sign that invited people to come because their church was “simple and fun.”

That sounded great! Who would not want to go to a church that was “fun” and keeping things “simple” in the chaotic times we have been experiencing sounds like a good idea.

But is it? Is that the purpose of the church – to keep things fun and simple?

I grew up in a very legalistic church. The furthest thought then was for church to be fun. Often I joke when I wondered if some activity would be sin I just had to ask myself, “Would I have fun doing it?” If the answer was “yes” then clearly it would be sin.

Of course I am exaggerating a bit, but church was never simple. There were many man-made rules to follow. Those of us who questioned were considered in danger of losing our salvation.

So, believe me – I never want to go to a church that is not fun or that makes the message of the love of Jesus Christ complicated.

But seeing this sign that seemed to be attempting to appeal to people as a place that would be fun and simple, I could not help but wonder if we are moving too far away. Have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?

It seems churches, like political parties, social norms and fashion all move like a pendulum.

Webster defines pendulum as:

a body suspended from a fixed point so as to swing freely to and fro under the action of gravity and commonly used to regulate movements (as of clockwork); something (such as a state of affairs) that alternates between opposites.

As I have watched my church it seems like it started swinging away from the legalism that was so wrong toward a practice and teaching that was based more on the Word of God rather than man-made laws. That is good.

I cannot help but wonder if the pendulum is swinging too far in the opposite direction. In the desire to free us from the rules of man and to make the gospel of Jesus Christ appealing to others, are we moving too far once again from the Word of God – in a different direction – but still away?

On the one hand, the message of salvation through Christ is simple. Acts 16:31 sums it up very simply.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.

However, any reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount would tell us that following Jesus Christ is anything but simple. Jesus called his followers to a much higher standard than any they had heard before. To be a true believer requires much more than a simple “I believe.” It calls for a change of heart. That is not easy or simple. On the one hand following Jesus can be fun. There is no greater joy than having a heart filled with God’s joy.

However, again I do not think the death of Jesus was meant for me to have fun. Listen to His words:

Matthew 16:24 – Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Luke 14:28-30 – Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.  They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Perhaps I am being too hard on this church sign, reading more into it than was meant. Still, I wonder – are we swinging too far away – are we more interested in what is “new” forgetting that while much of what was “old” should be discarded, there was much there of great value.

Wisdom from my Daughters

As a mother, I like to think that I am a source of wisdom to my daughters, that they look to me for advice and counsel.

But it is really great when my daughters share words of wisdom for me.

Recently my youngest daughter, who is a pastor, spoke something in a sermon that has really been meaningful to me. She said:

“We don’t draw lines to keep people out. We cross lines to bring people in.”

The more I thought about that statement, the more I realized that sometimes I have drawn lines to keep people out.

  • They did not meet my “standards.”
  • They were not dressed “properly.”
  • They were not of my political viewpoint

How many times have I missed an opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ because the lines I drew shut them out? Made them feel unwelcome.

Then my oldest daughter, who is a school teacher, shared with me her experiences this year with the Covid crisis in school.

She had a coworker whose dress was eccentric, whose walk was strange. This coworker greeted her every morning when she came to work with a cheerful “Good morning Mrs. Thomas.” My daughter was struggling just to make it to school on this stressful year and that last thing she wanted when she came in was a “sunny side up” greeting. She said for awhile she just gave a quick reply and hurried past the coworker to her room.

But one day the Holy Spirit quickened her heart and she began asking God to help her see this person as He did. She began stopping to talk each morning and listen to the person.

She knits caps for all her students and when the coworker commented how much they liked the hats, she made one for them.

The person did not change – what changed was how my daughter saw them.

Again, I wonder how many times I quickly pass by that person whose personality I do not care for, that person who annoys me. How many times do I fail to see them as God sees them.

So – I have two prayers today:

  1. God help me not to shut people out because they are different from me – help me not to be judgmental but to reach out and show them your love.
  2. God help me to look past what annoys me and help me to see people as you see them.

When I was pregnant with both my daughters, I used to put my hand on my stomach and pray that they would grow up to be people who made a difference, who shared God’s love.

How grateful I am to see that prayer was answered.

Now I’m trusting that my two new prayers will also be answered.

What a better world we would live in if we all prayed those prayers.