My Husband Says

During my marriage to my pastor husband, I have kept scrapbooks of our many years in ministry.  Looking through the scrapbooks tonight I came across the pages from when my husband retired as pastor.  (This was his first retirement.  He came out of retirement twice – once to serve with me as worship pastors, once to be an interim pastor for a local church.)

Part of the ceremony of that day included a bulletin summarizing some of his work.  Looking at the bulletin, I found his “Top Ten Sayings.”

Thought perhaps some might find them interesting.  Some are a little amusing but many contain a truth to consider.

  • Say “no” to sin and “yes” to God.
  • Eternity is too long to be wrong.
  • What part of “thou shalt not” did you not understand?
  • You have a right to be wrong if you want to.
  • There is more to serving God than 11 am on Sunday morning.
  • Emotion without devotion is just commotion.
  • Serving God is walking straight after you repent.
  • I never saw a U-Haul behind a hearse.
  • If you want something out of church, put something in.
  • It is not what Grandma told you, what you think or what you saw that is the truth, but what “thus says the Lord.”

Do I Reflect Being With Jesus?

Every Sunday I meet after church with a small group to study the Bible and right now we have started walking through the book of Acts.

One story in chapter 4 of that book really makes me stop and examine my own Christian witness.

Peter and John had been brought before the religious leaders who were disturbed at the message they were sharing with the people.  A message that Jesus had risen from the dead.  A message of hope for salvation in those who believed their report.

After careful questioning they ordered them to never speak or teach again in the name of Jesus.  They answered that “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard. “

History tells us that they did not stop but later it is reported that in Thessalonica it was said of the followers of Jesus “they have turned the world upside down.”

What caught my eye in this passage of scripture is the religious leaders description of Peter and John.  They were amazed at the boldness of these ordinary men who had no special training in theology.  They recognized these two as men who had “been with Jesus.”

How was it these ordinary fishermen became bold and successful messengers of the Good News that Jesus Christ died and rose again and that belief in Him led to salvation?

They had spent time with Jesus.

Examination of my own life makes me question.

Does my witness to the goodness of Jesus reflect that I have spent time with Him?

My language, my attitude, my compassion, my awareness of the needs of others, how I spent my time and my money – would people say of me that “she has been with Jesus”?

That is my prayer today.

Heavenly Father, help me to spend time with you – in Your Word, in Your house, with fellow believers, in quiet times of worship.  Help me turn off the television, the internet, stop fussing about having a perfect house.  Keep me from the things that would distract me from time with you.  Then, help live in practice of what I profess to believe.  Help me treat others so that they will know I have been with You.

 

 

 

 

Extravagant Worship

worship.jpg

My devotion today told the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume as he sat at dinner with his disciples.  Her action was criticized by those who thought it was money that could have been better spent on the poor.

Jesus responded that she had done a beautiful thing and this act was in preparation for His death.  He also added that this wherever the Gospel was told this woman’s story would be included.

According to the Gospels, this was not a cheap jar of perfume purchased at the local storefront.

Matthew referred to it as “an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment.”  Mark called it “an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly.”  John says it was “an expensive ointment made from pure nard.”

Researching the fragrance “nard” it appears it would probably have been imported from India and according to the complaint of Judas, it would have cost at least a year’s wages.

Not only did this woman share this expensive perfume, which may have required all her savings to purchase, she took quite a brave step in coming in and kneeling at Jesus feet.  He was having a meal with his disciples.  Not a place for a women to enter except to serve the men.

This was extravagant worship!  She gave all she had both in her finances and in her courage to act.

Makes me wonder how much my worship is extravagant.  When in a worship service at church, do I just sing the words or do I really think about their meaning and sing to God from my heart?  Sadly I think how many times people wonder into worship minutes after it has started and greet others as they amble to their seats?  Is our worship authentic or do we just go through the motions?

Worship is more than just a service at church also.  The word is derived from the Old English weorþscipe, and simply put means to give worth to something.

I give worth to God by much more than the half hour or so of singing on Sundays.  I give (or don’t give) worth to God by the way I live, how I treat others, how I spend my time, my energy, my resources.

Thinking of this woman’s extravagant worship, I ask myself “Does my life reflect that kind of love and commitment to God?”

In line with that thought the story of David in 2 Samuel tells of worship that is extravagant.  David wanted to buy a field from Araunah the Jebusite to make an offering to God.  Araunah offered to give David the field, the wood for the fire and the animal for the sacrifice.  David insisted on paying for it all and said, “I will not make an offering to God that does not cost me something.”

Dear Lord, may all I say, all I do, all I think be an offering of extravagant worship and may I be willing to give all of me – talent, time, energy, finances – to honor you.

How Do I Pray For My Family?

In my small group at church this week we talked a little about how we pray.  One of the members of our group mentioned reading Paul’s prayers for the church.

Knowing what to pray for my family has always been a topic of concern for me.

I confess most of my prayers are for their needs for the “here and now.”

  • Help this grandchild to find a good job
  • Provide the finances for this grandchild to pay for college
  • Heal this son/daughter
  • Take care of this difficult situation this child is experiencing right now

Looking at the ministry of Jesus on earth I do not think praying for their physical and financial needs in this life is wrong.  While on earth Jesus often spend time meeting the needs of those who followed Him.

  • He fed the hungry
  • He opened the eyes of the blind
  • He reached out and healed the leper
  • His very first miracle was actually supplying wine for a wedding party

Clearly He was and is concerned about all our needs, not just the “spiritual” ones.

Still, when I look at the prayers the early church prayed and the prayers of Peter and Paul in their writings it is clear that their main concern was not for the “here and now.” They were not so concerned for their own needs but for God’s kingdom to be advanced, for “eternal” things.

I say as a Christian I believe  there is life after this one on earth.  I say it is my desire that my children and grandchildren know and serve the Lord.  But do my prayers really reflect that?  Am I more concerned about the “here and now” than I am with the “eternal”?

One prayer the early church prayed which I think really reflects their focus on the kingdom of God rather than their own needs, is the one found in Acts 4.  Here, Peter and John had been in prison for preaching about Jesus.  Upon being released, they were warned to stop sharing the story of Jesus and threats were made if they did not refrain from doing so.

They immediately gathered with the other believers.  Now, today if this happened to our pastor, I believe our prayers would probably be for God to protect us or to change the hearts of the religious leaders.  But I love their prayer.

“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.”

To help me focus my prayers more in line with the early church, I have been praying one of Paul’s prayers for my children and grandchildren.  It is found in Colossians 1.

“We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”

Truly I want all the best for my children and grandchildren.  It is my desire that they have great marriages, successful careers and good health.  But most of all, my greatest desire is that they will grow to know God better and better.

How do you pray for your family?

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 See! I Can See!

Last week I had surgery on my right eye removing a cataract and inserting a new lens in my eye.  Doctor told me that my vision would be much improved but I had no idea how much better I would see.

I have always been near-sighted and it was getting to the point that I had to hold my Bible or any book almost to my face to see.  What a surprise that I can now hold my book at arm’s length and see without any difficulty.  What is even better is how bright the colors look now.

I opened my Bible and was surprised to see how white the pages were – a bright, bright white.  All these years I thought the pages were a dingy gray.  A pair of pajamas I have had for over three years now I see are a beautiful shade of grey and black.  All this time I thought they were a dingy brown and black.

In two weeks I go back to get my left eye fixed and I can hardly wait to see how bright everything will be then.

With the cloudy cataracts it was like looking through a dirty window.  Now someone has come and cleaned the window and left it sparkling.

As I thought about the change in my vision, I realized this did not happen over night.  Once my vision was great but slowly over the years as I aged, the lens in my eyes became cloudy.  It was such a slow process I did not realize it until it got so bad I had difficulty seeing.  Night driving became an impossibility as I could hardly see in the dark and the lights from the cars blinded me with the large halos around the headlights.

It became harder for me to read and I could not distinguish between many colors.  I bought clothes that I thought matched only to have my husband and children tell me they were not the same color.

Still, I did not realize just how bad my sight had become until after this surgery.  The colors are so beautiful and bright.  I am looking forward to all the spring flowers as I will have both eyes corrected just about the time everything starts blooming.

This has caused me to think about my own spiritual sight.  I made a committment to the Lord as a young child.

You can read my story at:

My Commitment

But I have to ask myself – over the years has my spiritual sight become weaker?  Have I become comfortable in my walk with God and lost any of that initial enthusiasm and joy?

I also look at our nation and wonder how far we have slipped from the principles that once we held dear.  As our culture becomes more secular have we also slowly become blind and accepting of things we once would have rejected.

I realize times and cultures change and just because we used to do or believe something does not mean it was right.  As we grow in knowledge over the years our view and understanding should also grow.   But my prayer is that the church has not slowly lost its spiritual eyesight without realizing it.

I encourage you to do a checkup on your spiritual sight?  Do you need some cataracts removed?

 

Are You Holy?

Growing up in a Pentecostal background much emphasis was put on the need to be holy.  I was told that God was holy – and I needed to be also.

Well – Scripture does back that up.

In the Old Testament God is called “Qedosh Y’Israel – Holy One of Israel.”

Holy-One-of-Israel-Q_dosh-Yisra_el-150x150

 

Isaiah uses this term multiple times – I counted 29 times.  Perhaps he used this term so much because of his vision of the Holy One.  Jeremiah and Ezekiel also used that term as did the Psalmist.

The New Testament affirms that Jesus is holy.

Luke tells us in his Gospel that Gabriel told Mary:

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

Evil spirits, when confronted with Jesus recognized His holiness as Mark tells us:

Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

And both the Old Testament and the New Testament called for us to be holy also.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Tell the whole congregation of Israel: Be holy because I, Yahweh your Elohim, am holy.

Peter reiterated this command to be holy as he reminded us what the God had spoken in the Old Testament:

For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

Being holy is an important thing because the writer to Hebrews declared:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

But, what exactly does it mean to be holy?  That has been a subject of debate and study for centuries so I am not going to pretend that I have “the” answer.  But I think for too long we have looked at holiness as something we can obtain by our own efforts.

We see it in every denomination as we all have our lists of “do’s” and “do not’s”.

For me a lot of what it meant was all about outward appearances – and most of that was for the women.

  • Your hair must be long
  • You cannot wear any makeup
  • You cannot wear slacks or pants
  • You cannot wear jewelry

And on and one the list went with what I could not do.  Not much was said about what I should do.

I joke now that if I wanted to know if something was a sin I would just ask myself “Would I have fun if I did this?”  If the answer was “yes” it was probably a sin.  It really was not that bad, but  it always gets a laugh.

The big one for my Catholic girlfriends was

  • You cannot use birth control.

I want to share more in future posts about how I came to realize holiness was more about what was inside of me than outside.  I don’t want to give the impression that being holy does not require an effort on our part but I believe (as I will share more in later posts) that holiness shows up on the outside only when it is rooted on the inside.

For now I would love to hear from some of you on this subject of holiness.

  1. What does holiness mean for you?  How would you describe it to an unbelieving friend?
  2. What were some of the “rules” you grew up with in your church?