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.”

Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Is Your Body Suffering?

Today I went to church.  I walked from my car in a public parking lot with my Bible in my hand and never once felt afraid.  Entering the foyer of my church, I visited with fellow worshipers in front of large windows without once looking to see if anyone was watching us.  When it was time for the service to start I joined with others as we sang loudly and our musicians played loudly without worrying that someone might hear us and report us to the police.  My pastor stood up and gave a sermon reading from the Bible without any fear of being dragged out of the church and off to jail.

For me the worst persecution I might face because of my beliefs is hearing some comedian make fun of Christians.  But I really know nothing about real persecution

Today was the National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  I wonder how many churches actually took time to pray for their brothers and sisters who face real difficulties because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

The book of 1 Corinthians compared the church to a body.  In that chapter it states:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…”

One group who documents persecution in other countries has listed North Korea as the country with the worst persecution of Christians.  To be a Christian in North Korea is to be seen as an enemy of the state.  If someone is found to be a Christian they are treated as a criminal and sent to labor camps or even killed.  Their family also faces harsh treatment.  They cannot meet openly and it is very dangerous for them to gather in more than groups of two or three.  Because being a Christian is so dangerous, it is even hard to know if someone you meet is also a believer as everyone has to remain secretive about their faith.

In Afghanistan no expression of faith except Islam is permitted.  To become a Christian is seen as betrayal of the family, the tribe and country.  Anyone who becomes a Christian is exposing themselves to death even by the hands of their own family.  They are considered to have brought shame on the family and the family honor must be protected at any cost.

In India it is the radical Hindu nationalists who view Christianity as alien to their way of life.  Christians are often physically attacked and churches burned or bombed.

In Myanmar persecution of Christians (and other ethnic minorities) is backed by the army which leans toward Communism.  More than 100,000 Christians live in camps for displaced persons, deprived of access to food and health care.  Buddhist monks have taken over churches and made shrines to Buddha on the church property.

These are only a few of the places where the body of Christ is suffering.  The causes range from corrupt government to the various other religions of the world.

But today as fellow Christians are suffering, I have to ask myself if the body of Christians in America share in any way in their suffering.  Where are the prayers?  Where is the concern?

I believe a large part of the problem is we simply do not know how we can help.  Here are a few suggestions:

  •  Become informed.  There are several organizations that can help you gain more understanding of the persecution taking place around the world.
  • Pray.  We often under estimate the power of prayer.
  • Write letters to those who are in prison.   Many who have been released from prison have testified how much getting letters meant to them, giving them courage to endure.
  • Become a spokesman for helping the persecuted church.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Here are a few organizations that work with the persecuted church.  Check them out and learn what you can do to help.

  1. OpenDoors: One of the most well-known ministries advocating for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  2. Voice of the Martyrs: Another well-known ministry that raises awareness and provides support for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  3. Samaritan’s Purse: Their ministry focuses on providing physical and spiritual aid to people around the world. They also provide opportunities to donate to the persecuted church. (Donate)
  4. PrisonAlert: Prison Alert is part of Voice of the Martyrs. (Advocate, Write, Donate, Pray)
  5. Be-a-Voice: Part of Voice of the Martyrs as well. It focuses on providing prayer points and writing letters to the persecuted church. (Pray, Write)
  6. icommittopray.com  (Pray)

Part of the body of Christ is suffering?  How does it effect you?  Are you suffering with them?

 

 

Good Advice from the Apostle John

In our devotion today my husband and I read the New Testament epistle 1 John.  Written by one of the disciples of Jesus the letter is, of course, giving advice about spiritual matters.

However, in light of today’s constant barrage of information from cable news, newspaper and magazines, twitter and Facebook accounts, I find his advice very timely and practical for our daily life.

His words:

My dear friends don’t believe everything you hear.  Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you.  

Oh, that we would all be careful and examine what we hear.  I see many people on Facebook sharing something they see that expresses their own view on a subject and they post it on their wall without ever checking to see who the post was from and if it is accurate.

Then, sadly, people begin repeating things they heard or saw as if it were true.

Let us follow St John’s advice and check for facts behind what we see or hear.

Something my husband says a lot applies here too:

Be careful of listening to half-truths.  You may have heard the wrong half.

 

Faith vs Reason

Throughout my life I have read arguments for and against having faith in the Christian God – or any god for that matter.

Some say to question our belief is wrong.  To express any doubt will definitely displease God.

Others say to believe without positive proof of a god is simply showing a lack of intellect.

I have always found myself in the middle.

I do not believe God gave us a mind and then did not expect us to use it.  I do not believe that God cannot handle our questions, our doubts.

At the same time, to assume that anyone who believes in God without being able to “prove” His existence lacks knowledge is so unfair.

In this back and forth argument I read this week from the book “Deliver Us From Evil” by Ravi Zacharias and found this quote expresses so completely how I personally feel about faith vs reason.

One of the most startling things about life is that it does not start with reason and end with faith.  It starts in childhood with faith and is sustained either by reasoning through that faith or blindly leaving the reason for faith unaddressed.  The child’s mind has a very limited capacity to inform it of the reason for its trust.  But whether she nestles on her mother’s shoulder, nurses at her mother’s breast, or runs into her father’s arms, she does so because of an implicit trust that these shoulders will bear her, that her food will sustain her, and that these arms will hold her.  If over time that trust is tested, it will be the character of the parent that will prove that trust wise or foolish.  Faith is not benefit of reason.

That pretty much describes my faith journey.  Born into a home where I was taken to church every week and taught about God from my parents, I believed in the Christian God and committed my life to Him at a very young age.  No questions asked.  Simply the faith of a child running into her father’s arms.

As a young adult I experienced some difficult times.  At the same time as these problems arose I was also attending college at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.  In one of my classes the professor was advocating strongly that creation by God was not true.

I reached the point where I began to question if all I had believed all these years was really true.  Was God real?  Sitting on my front porch one night I looked up into the sky and said, “God if you are truly real, if what I have believed all these years are true, I need you to reveal yourself.  I need you to help me out of these difficulties.”

There was no lightning or thunder or a great voice of God.  But slowly over the next few weeks I began to see drastic changes in my circumstances that reason alone could not explain.

I also began to research my Bible, read books on archaeology, evolution and Christian apologists.  Slowly, but surely, my belief in God was increased by what I learned.  It was during the next couple of years as I studied, prayed and learned that my faith was made stronger by my questioning.

As the years have gone by and I have seen both good times and bad, I have also found myself running into my heavenly father’s arms and the character of God has proven my trust to be a wise one.

If you have doubts about God, do not deny them.  Do not be afraid to express them.  But do more than that.  Read, pray, research.

But also don’t be afraid to be that little child and run into His arms.

He said “You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart.”

I have found that true.

 

 

To Speak or Not to Speak

When I was a child I was very shy, found it difficult to engage in conversation except with family and very close friends.  While I had my own opinions, I was reluctant to ever state them or enter into any discussion where people were debating different viewpoints.

Somewhere along the line I changed.   Looking back on my life I think the change came when I moved into a community in  southeast Missouri and found a group of people who had recently become believers in Jesus Christ and were trying to organize a church in their community.  They had been reading their Bibles and searching for truth and came to an understanding of faith in Jesus Christ.

Not sure what to call their experience, one of the members found a book by Billy Graham called “How to Be Born Again.”  After reading the book, they concluded that they had been “born again” and wanted to establish a church where they could learn more about the Bible and grow in their faith.

Unfortunately, there was a woman in that group who was very domineering and did not want an organized church.  She saw herself as some kind of “Savior” and wanted complete control of the group.  She reminded me of persons like Jim Jones or David Koresh who created a cult following.  It was clear if allowed she would lead these new believers down a road of falsehood.

So – shy, scared and certainly not what I would choose for myself, my husband and I quickly took a stand against her and advocated for contacting a legitimate Christian organization that could offer us candidates for a pastor and assist us in organizing a church that would be based on solid evangelical beliefs.

Thankfully the truth won out and today there is a strong evangelical church in that community reaching out and helping others in their walk with Jesus Christ.  I long ago moved from that community but I rejoice in having the courage to speak out.

So – now I find it easy to speak out and give my opinion.  But somemtimes I struggle wondering if I have become too vocal.

I see all kinds of words of wisdom about the importance of not speaking:

Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”   Mahatma Gandhi

It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”   Maurice Switzer

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”   Mother Teresa

“I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.”      Xenocrates

Sometimes friends who are not as verbal as me make me feel like I am somehow not as wise or loving or kind as they are because I do speak out so much.

But then……I read these words of wisdom about the importance of speaking out:

“To say nothing is saying something. You must denounce things you are against or one might believe that you support things you really do not.”    Germany Kent

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”    Martin Luther King Jr

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”   Mahatma Gandhi

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”    William Faulkner

As a Christian, I look to the Bible for direction.  And I find:

 

But then there is this:

So – what’s the answer?  Do I speak or not speak?

Guess the answer is to ask myself the motive behind my speaking?

Is it to correct a wrong?  Help someone from following in a wrong direction?  Am I speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves?  Am I speaking up against false doctrine – for the truth?

OR

Is is because I just think I’m right?  Just being a busybody.

My prayer is that I will always speak up against wrong but also know when to keep silent and always remember that God’s Word has said:

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”   Matthew 12:36