I’m Rich – How About You?

These thoughts are not my own – I am sharing the message my pastor gave us this week.

She told us that if we make $37,000 a year we are in the ranks of the rich when compared to the rest of the world’s population.

Then she listed the “rich” people problems we face all the time. Things that we complain about – and do not really stop to think how many in the rest of the world would be grateful for those problems.

  • Our cell phone service is bad.
  • Our air line flight has been delayed.
  • Amazon is out of the size we needed.
  • Amazon promised shipment in three days and we now have to wait a week.
  • We have to get new tires for our car.
  • Our laptop stopped working and we have to buy a new one.
  • The lines at McDonald’s are too long.

And we could go on and go about the “problems” we complain about every day without realizing these are “rich” people problems.

We take so much for granted in the USA.

Yet, at the same time we know there are many in our country who are struggling financially right now.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 9 Americans struggled with hunger. In 2019, 35,207,000 people were food insecure.  Food insecurity exists in every county in America.  Millions of people are still struggling to get by because of underemployment, stagnant wages and the rising cost of living.  To these Americans, food has become an unaffordable luxury. 

In 2019 more than 5.3 million children live in households struggling with hunger.  Approximately 25% of children in households at risk of hunger may be forced to rely exclusively on hunger relief organizations to make ends meet.

According to the USDA, in 2020, 35.3 percent of households with incomes below the Federal poverty line were food insecure. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for single-parent households, and for Black and Hispanic households. Food insecurity was more common in both large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas.

As I look at these statistics I realize how blessed I am. My husband and I have a freezer full of food and a pantry with shelves fully stocked. Yet, my studies have shown me that many elderly have to decide between buying food or purchasing needed medicine.

So what do I do? Just feel bad and move on with my life? Or, try to help in some way.

If you fall in that category of having plenty of food, I challenge you to reach out and help

  • Find a food pantry in your area and contribute food and/or money. Money is probably better than food because most food pantries can purchase food in bulk at much cheaper prices than an individual can. If you give food, think dried and canned goods. And please, check for expiration dates and do not give something you would not eat.
  • Many schools have food programs – check with your local school.
  • Do a volunteer food drive.
  • Volunteer with your local food pantry or with the Meals on Wheels program.

I am grateful that my church works with Compassion in Action, a local group that helps with school children who are food insecure, and with a local food bank to distribute food to those in need every month.

My pastor shared the story of the farmer in the Bible who had a huge harvest. His response to that was to build more barns and then sit and enjoy his success. While Jesus was clearly not condemning being successful or even rich (many of godly men in the Bible were wealthy) or being a good steward of what you have, He clearly tells us we are not to trust in our own riches. Our trust is to be in God.

Also, we are not to grasp on tightly to what we have, but be willing to let go and share with others.

Finally, when we talk about riches we usually think of money or possessions. But I am rich in so many other important ways – ways that money cannot buy. Family, health, peace with God.

I think of a song my mother used to sing when I was a child.

If you are one of those who are food insecure, do not be afraid to ask for help. Check with your local church, your local school. There is help out there – and you should not feel bad about receiving.

If you are one who is truly “rich,” be grateful but also reach out and share with others.

As my husband often said when he preached about giving generously to others, “I never saw an U-Haul truck following a funeral car to the grave.”

In the words of Jesus:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Why I Go To Church

This Sunday I had to miss church. It is the second Sunday I have missed because I have been sick. Recovering now, but I so hate to miss church. Somehow the week is just not the same when I have not been able to meet with my church family and join in praise of God and hear His word.

Many times I have heard the statement “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” And the one I love is “Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”

While I agree with those statements and sadly realize that many people think going to church makes them a Christian without any real commitment to the Lord or any attempt to follow His word, I question why we would say that.

Of course, there are many who cannot go to church because of health issues or work issues. With the Covid-19 this past year many of us could not go to church because our churches were closed. But I have to wonder why anyone who calls themself Christian and can go to church would choose not to.

Oh I know. There are many stories of people who have been hurt by the church. Members who were judgmental, personal rejection, people who acted one way in church on Sunday and lived differently the rest of the week and the list goes on and on.

I have been hurt – badly hurt – more than once by church people.

So why do I still go to church?

  • First, because I believe the church was God’s plan for spreading the Good News.

In Matthew’s gospel we are told that Jesus declared “you are Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church.” I know different denominations disagree on exactly what that meant for Peter, but putting our differences aside, I think we can see that Jesus had plans to use men to build the church. Notice that He did not say “build the church” but rather “build my church.

However, in today’s world the definition of “church” has lost its original meaning.

Look in a dictionary and you will find “church” explained this way:

  •  A building for public Christian worship.
  • The public worship of God or a religious service in such a building
  • The whole body of Christian believers; Christendom.
  • Any division of this body professing the same creed and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority; a Christian denomination.

But the word “church” is not actually in the original manuscripts of the Bible. The word that was used (and was translated into church) was “Ekklesia.” In the time of the Greek Empire the word was used to describe the assembly of free citizens to discuss, debate and express their thoughts on the community, the government. Many say it was the beginning of a democratic society.

This word is a compound word. “Ek” means “out of.” “Kaleo” mean “to call.” So the church is supposed to be people who have received the call of God and the outcome of their answer to that call.

Simply put, ekklesia means community.

Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father for this community. In that prayer He said,

I ask not only on behalf of these (that’s the disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word (that’s us), that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

  • Most of the New Testament is addressed not to an individual, but to a community of believers. Many of the Psalms talk about praising “in the congregation” or “in the sanctuary” indicating there was a place for worshipping God with others. The Revelation given to John was for the seven churches. When Jesus left His disciples His instruction was to gather together in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. The book of Acts shows that they were in a group praying together – in unity – when the Holy Spirit came. Later as Peter preached a powerful sermon we are told that “the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved”. As people came to faith in Jesus Christ it followed that they were to be a part of this community of believers.
  • In the Apostle Paul’s writing he referred to the church as a body. He talked about we all are a part of that body. The body is made up of many different parts – but if we remove a part from the body, that part will die. And although the body may go on living, it will not be as good as it had been before. From that illustration I understand that to remove myself from my church family has a great danger that I will spiritually begin to die. And even if I am so strong, so spiritual, have such a great knowledge of the Word of God that I would be fine without being a part of a community of believers, that is all the more reason for me to attend. The church needs me just as I need the church.
  • The example of Jesus when He was on earth. Luke’s Gospel tells us that “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”
  • To set an example for my children and grandchildren. In our society today our youth are being hit with false ideas and dangerous teachings. While the church is not supposed to be the only place our children learn of God (in fact the Bible is clear that main responsibility belongs in the home with the parents), faithful attendance sends a message to our children. It tells them belonging to a community of believers is important.

This community of believers is far from perfect. Why? Because it is made of people just like me – and I am certainly not perfect. I fear that we view church like a consumer. “The church doesn’t meet my needs.” Sorry, but the point of being a part of a community of believers is more than having your needs met. It is to also help meet the needs of others. The New Testament is full of calls for us to minister to others. While we can do that outside of church – and we should – I think it again speaks to the idea that Jesus had when He prayed to the Father that we would be one. Here are some of those “one anothers.”

“…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

“…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:35)

“…Love one another…” (John 15:12)

“…Love one another” (John 15:17)

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)

“…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

“Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

“…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)

“…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)

“…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

“Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)

“…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)

“…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

“…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

“…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

“Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

“…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

“…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians

“Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)

“Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)

“…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

“Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

“…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

“…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

“…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)

“…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)

“…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

“Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)

“…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

“…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

“…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

“Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)

“Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)

“…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

“…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

“…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)

“…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)

“…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

“…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

“…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

“…Love one another.” (II John 5)

Final point is this verse in Ephesians:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

If you have been hurt by the church, do not give up on it. Find another church. We have doctors/hairdressers/restaurants that we have difficulty with. We do not stop going to a doctor, getting our hair cut, or eating out. We just move on to find another one. I am not advocating moving around from church to church like a consumer. But if you have been hurt, the answer is not to ignore the plan of Jesus as we are told that Jesus not only loved the church – but gave Himself for it.

Ephesians 3:19 – “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

While We Wait

This time of Advent we not only remember the birth of our Savior but we also look forward with anticipation to His return. We sometimes long for that day when evil will finally be completely defeated and peace will truly reign.

But what do we do while we wait?

We often pray the Lord’s prayer where we ask that “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” With that prayer we try to imagine what this world would be like if God’s will was completely done on earth?

But what do we do while we wait?

We admire the beautiful sunsets, enjoy the waves of the ocean crashing onto the shore, stand in awe of the majestic mountains and long for a world free of man’s pollution. Our imagination paints us a picture of what the world must have looked like in the very beginning of creation. How we long for the day when the earth will be restored to that beauty.

But what do we do while we wait?

As we look at the chaos and tragedies all around us, we can begin to even lose hope. We can wonder if God has abandoned us.

But what do we do while we wait?

We must remember that we who call ourself Christians, followers of Christ, are called to be His representatives in this world. While we wait for that day when He returns, even now in us we can allow God’s will to be done in our lives. We can surrender our own desires, our own opinions, our own will and allow Him to use us to reach out to others.

‘Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the kingdom of God established.” Paul W. Harrison

“The church is not a fortress community waiting for a future kingdom. Rather, we realize that the Kingdom of God has already arrived, in part…The church is God’s eschatological community, drawing the future into the present, living out Kingdom values and inviting the world to experience its power now….As God’s eschatological community, we hope for ultimate redemption din the future. But, in the present, we break down barriers and bear each other’s brokenness. Through this here and now experience, Christ’s bride, the church, begins to take on the beauty that will be hers when He comes to claim her as His own.” Brad Harper

But what do we do while we wait?

Let us continue to look with hope to His return. But let us not be guilty of just standing around waiting for “someday.” Let us do all we can to show the world what it means to be part of God’s kingdom even here in this world we share. Let us allow God’s Holy Spirit to move through us to bring a little bit of “heaven” to our friends, neighbors, community.

Let’s Pass It On!!!

This time of year my mind goes back to Thanksgivings of the past. One thing I always loved about our Thanksgiving gatherings was it gave me a chance to enjoy my mother’s pies. She was an excellent pie maker. As I remember my mother, I think of all she taught me.  And we owe our mothers for teaching us so much.  A few things my mother taught me – and I bet your mother taught you were:

  • To appreciate a job well done – “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”
  • Religion – “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
  • Logic – “Because I said so, that’s why.”
  • Perservance – “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”
  • Weather – “This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”
  • Hypocrisy – “If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times. Don’t exaggerate!”
  • Behavior modification – “Stop acting like your father!”
  • Envy – “There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.”

Thank God for the advice of mothers?  Many words of wisdom my mother told me, I passed on to my kids – and now I hear them passing on to my grandkids.  Some of that great advice:

  • Money does not grow on trees.
  • Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position.
  • If I talked to my mother like you talk to me….
  • Always change your underwear; you never know when you’ll have an accident.
  • What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?
  • Close that door! Were you born in a barn?
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where it’s been!
  • Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.
  • I hope that when you grow up, you have kids “Just Like you”! (Also known as the “Mother’s Curse”)
  • Eat your vegetables, children in China (or Africa) are starving.
  • If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me.
  • Bored! How can you be bored? I was never bored at your age.

We have received and passed on advice just like this.  We heard our mothers say it, we said it and many of us now hear our children saying it to their children.  While we laugh at these words of wisdom, there are words of wisdom we need to be passing on.

In the 16th chapter of Acts we meet a young man who was part of the first “second generation” of Christians.  Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and he joined Paul in his missionary work.  Later, when Paul was in prison, Timothy had been left behind in Ephesus as a pastor/leader in the church.  From prison, Paul wrote a letter to Timothy.  This is believed to have been the last letter Paul wrote and he shared with Timothy words of wisdom, reflection and advice. 

In that second letter to Timothy in chapter 1, verse 5, Paul wrote, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”  Later in chapter 2, verse 15 he said, “You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.”

Timothy – a young man who carried on the work that Paul had begun in Ephesus – was able to do that, not only because of the influence of Paul in his life and the experiences he had shared with Paul.  No – his preparation for the ministry began long before Paul came into his life.  He had genuine faith (sincere, honest, real faith) that had first filled his grandmother and then his mother.  These two women had done a good job of passing on the torch. 

Today as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends of children, we have the same responsibility to pass on the torch of faith.  It has been said that God has no grandchildren.  Over and over the Word of God refers to God as our father, but nowhere is God ever called our grandfather.  We are always one generation away from losing the Christian faith.  Today, as never before, our country needs Christian leaders, fathers, and mothers.  We must, we have to pass on the faith.  It is the only hope for our children, our grandchildren, and our nation. 

We need to see that this life is a relay race. Those who want to win the race must be good at handing off to the next generation the essentials they need to live a life of faith. 

But how do we go about passing this kind of faith on to our families – whether it be our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, the children in our church, our community.  But how do we pass on this faith? 

Again, we must turn to the Bible. Let’s look at the words of Deuteronomy 6 which are a biblical cornerstone for the family. These eternal words talk about the daily discipline of faith building in the home.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

 Attention, Israel! God, our God! God the one and only!  Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

 Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates.”

“And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning” (vv. 6-7 TLB).

The commandments — those excellent, unmatched principles of love, honor, obedience, integrity, kindness, and faithfulness that are true for all people, in all cultures, at all times.

Often when we think of passing on the faith, we get all caught up in passing on rules/regulations to our children.  While it is true that Jesus Himself said if we love Him, we would keep His commandments, it is not rules/regulations we need to pass on.  Many of us have tried that, but a bunch of rules/regulations often lead to rebellion. 

When we look at Acts 16 where Paul first met Timothy and called him to join his mission team, we see that Timothy had never been circumcised.  Circumcision was one of the main rules of Jewish life.  All Jewish boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day of life.  While Timothy’s mother and grandmother were Jewish, his father was a Greek, so it appears that many of the Jewish rules were not observed by Timothy’s father or Timothy.  Yet Paul spoke of the genuine faith Timothy had – genuine faith that had resided in his grandmother and mother.  Clearly, what they had passed on was not a list of do’s and don’ts, but a devotion, a confidence, a trust in God. 

I want to ask you today, “are you passing on that devotion, that confidence, that trust in God?  Perhaps today you are not a mother.  But you may be an aunt, or a beloved cousin or friend to a young person.  We have an obligation to pass on the faith not only to our children and grandchildren, but to those young people we come into contact with in our church, our community.  There are single parents out there trying to be both Mom and Dad who could use someone to come alongside them and spent some time mentoring and caring for their children. There are grandparents raising grandchildren who could use a break, a word of encouragement and again the children could use attention and love from others besides their tired and overwhelmed grandparents. There are organizations like YouthHope and Little Brothers and Little Sisters that could use someone to spend time with children who live many times in homes where chaos and strife are the rule not the exception.

So when I speak of children – I am speaking to everyone here today whether you are a mother/grandmother or not, whether your children are already grown or still at home.

What does it mean to teach these divine principles to your children? It is very important that we understand the meaning of the word teach in this key parenting passage of the Bible. The Old Testament Hebrews had two definitions for teach. The first was the idea of a formal lecture, as in a professor giving a lecture in a classroom on parenting, child rearing, or the family system. Our idea of teaching in the Western World is very similar to this concept of a formal, organized presentation.

However, this is not the meaning of the word teach in this passage. The other meaning had to do with casual, everyday conversation of life, and that is the meaning the writer used here. The other meaning had to do with the casual, everyday conversation of life, and that is the meaning the writer used here. He wanted to get across the idea that character training flows more out of a parent’s day-to-day encounters with his or her children than it does from formal teaching. Whether you talk about baseball or ballet, music or math, the color of the sky at dusk or the dew on the grass in the morning, every conversation can provide an opportunity to teach your children about the things of God.

The basic meaning behind the term teach is that passing the faith never stops. You are always — always — teaching the children around you something. There are no downtimes, time-outs, or do-overs. Everything you do, every moment of the day, teaches children something about life, whether you are in their presence or not. The time you spend away from them at your job, at social functions, on dates with your spouse, shopping, or at church activities speaks to them about the importance of each of those activities. You pass the baton of faith moment by moment, in a thousand seemingly insignificant words, phrases, activities, and conversations. In other words, just as in a relay race, the baton is not taught, it is caught “when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning.”

Christianity is not just a weekend sport. It is a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday lifestyle. Those teachable moments with the children can happen while they are playing games, while they are at the soccer field, shopping at the mall, playing at the piano recital, fishing, or camping. And when children give you those windows of opportunity, take them and teach them words of faith.

When I think about what it means to pass on the baton of faith through teachable moments, my mind rushes back to when my granddaughter, Barbara, was 4.  Her diet consisted primarily of bread – any kind of bread – toast, homemade rolls, just bread and she loved potatoes.  But trying to get her to eat any fruit or vegetable resulted in an almost daily power struggle. Well, one night her parents were determined she was going to eat a tomato. They placed four little bites on her plate, but she immediately began to cry that she didn’t want it. So they said firmly, “Barbara, you are going to sit here until you eat the tomato.” Finally, she stabbed a piece of tomato and slowly lifted the fork to her mouth. Well, if you have ever had a four-year-old, you know what’s coming. Just as it touched her tongue, she gagged dramatically.

Sometimes we have tried to do the same thing with children when it comes to matters of faith. We try to force religion down their throats. This is not how we are to teach the things of God. Rather, teaching happens as we live our lives.  We don’t force it.  We don’t say, “We are going to sit here until you take it.” We live out genuine Christianity in front of them.


If you are raising children right now:

  1. When they come home with a problem at school – maybe someone bullying them, or difficulties learning a subject, share with them how God can help them.  Tell them about times He has helped you in the past.  Pray with them.
  2. Buy toys/movies/books that share the story of God’s love and faithfulness.  The Bible book stores are full of such resources.
  3. Watch TV/movies with them.  While you certainly do not want to have them watch shows that are X-rated or full of sinful actions, in our world today there will be many shows/movies that do not have nudity, violence etc. but may have what we would call “gray” areas.  When their shows come on, you can use them to discuss how that particular scene/action did not line up with God’s Word.  For instance, you may see a family comedy where one member of the family puts another one down to get a laugh.  You can later discuss how getting a laugh at someone else’s expense, is not showing love to one another and is not how a child of God should behave.
  4. Pray with your children – not just at mealtime or bedtime – but any time a need arises.  Also, when God blesses you, share that with your children and have a time of praise.
  5. Talk about the flowers, the sunrise, the birds singing – all the wonderful things God has given us and talk about the wonder of God’s creation.

If you are a grandmother, an aunt, a friend.

  1. Choose the presents you buy – make sure they have books/toys/movies that point to God.
  2. Share with them (they love hearing stories from grandmothers of the past) how God brought you through a difficult time, how He answered a prayer.
  3. Tell them about your favorite Bible verse or Bible character or Bible and why it is your favorite.

If you have children in your church.

  1. Learn their names and greet them by their name. 
  2. Stoop down to their level and talk to them.

There are hundreds of ways to let children know they are loved and are important.  And to share with them that God loves them to.  Just put on your thinking cap and get creative.

In order to pass on the faith to the next generation, we must possess that faith our self.  We cannot pass on what we do not have.  We need to make sure we have a serious and committed relationship our self to God and that we are living lives consistent with His truth.

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.


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.

Treasures Found Off the Beaten Path

You never know what treasures you will find when you get off the interstate and roam down country roads.

When my husband and I first moved to Michigan three years ago we found a beautiful old church in the small town of Muir. Passing through the town on the main road you would never see the church. But by turning off the main drag we found a church with historical value as well as beauty.

Getting Off the Beaten Path https://wp.me/p5cw98-10X

Recently we found another interesting church in the small town of Woodbury. Again, the church would never be spotted from the main highway but we discovered it when we turned off the main road into the town itself. It’s a small town with little to offer but this unique church caught our eye.

The sign outside said it was the St Herman Orthodox Christian Church.

Not being that familiar with the Orthodox faith we had never heard of a St Herman so we were intrigued.

When we drove by the church was not open but we checked their website and found that they had services on Monday. We drove back to Woodbury and the priest and his wife were so gracious to allow us to see the church and to share the history of both the building and the Orthodox faith.

The church building is over 100 years old and was originally built by the United Brethren. In 2006 the Orthodox church family purchased the building and began converting it into their own facility. In the Orthodox faith there is a great emphasis on icons of Christ and the saints. This church was beautiful inside with the “great crowd of witnesses” they had there. The priest’s wife was the artist and she spent over ten years paintings these colorful icons. I would have liked to have taken more pictures but out of respect for their tradition did not get too many.

On learning our names, they pointed out Saint Barbara and Saint Paul that were part of the saints at the front of the church. It was interesting to me that there were no pews in the sanctuary but they explained they stand for their services.

We also learned a little more about St Herman and found that there are several Orthodox churches in the USA that are named after him.

Born into a merchant family in the diocese of Moscow, St. Herman became a monk when he was still a teenager. When Russian explorers began looking toward Alaska St Herman was part of a group of ten men that came to evangelize the area. After five years the head of the mission with several of his group were drowned. Slowly others began to leave until St Herman alone remained. He loved the children, baking them cookies and nursing those who were sick. He started a school for orphans and took the side of the natives against the Russian fur traders who were exploiting them.

After his death in 1837 he was buried in the Resurrection Church on Kodiak. In 1970 the Orthodox church canonized Herman “as a sublime example of the Holy Life, for our spiritual benefit, inspiration, comfort, and the confirmation of our Faith.”[ He is considered by the Orthodox church to be the patron saint of Alaska.

The priest and his wife were very hospitable even inviting us to share their noon meal. They also invited us to join them for one of their services. I’m not sure I would be up to it as they stand for the service and their brochure says their services are long (as much as two hours). I would never be able to stand that long on these arthritic legs. Still, it would be interesting and I have always loved learning more about other Christian beliefs.

Life is much more interesting when you get off the interstate and explore!

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.