Consider: Christianity – This Week

Making prayer journals

What would my life be like if I had not been born a Christian? I would never have tasted a piece of bacon if I had been born in a Jewish family! And if I had been born in Nigeria and Muslim, caring for hospice patients and their families would have never been such a life-changing experience for me!

This is Consider Christianity Week. You can learn more about this time of focus that is held annually the week before Easter from my friend and author, Elgin Hushbeck. He says,

The main goal of Consider Christianity Week is to equip Christians with the knowledge and ability to Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15). Not only will this strengthen their faith, but it will increase the effectiveness of their witness.

Christianity is more than just religion. It is a way that I have learned to live my life according to the Scriptures handed down through the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ and the prophets before Him. The traditions of the Church Jesus established through His hand-picked disciples and the experiences I have had with the Holy Spirit as the teacher and guide through reason and inspiration as I have continued to grow in my relationship with Him has given me a living faith that has grown both toward God and my brothers and sisters in the faith.

Jesus gave me two mandates:

1) Love my LORD with all my heart, mind and strength and love others as I love myself.

2) Go & make disciples, baptizing and teaching everything I have taught you!

And Peter reminds me to do that with gentleness and respect. And that is where I am in my relationship with Jesus. I am sharing what Jesus has done in my life and encouraging others to get to know Him too. Consider belief in Jesus Christ!

Note: Several of the Energion authors are sharing their testimonies this week on our News website. Be blessed!

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The Truth, The Whole Truth!

I am the one who has seen the afflictions
that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger.
He has led me into darkness,
shutting out all light.
He has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.

He has made my skin and flesh grow old.
He has broken my bones.
He has besieged and surrounded me
with anguish and distress.
He has buried me in a dark place,
like those long dead…

The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.                                  Lamentations 3:1-6 (NLT)

Sometimes life is just hard. Some days are more than difficult with loved ones ill, children trying to navigate through tough questions and circumstances, and job security and health insurance a thing of the past.

If we are men and women of faith, we turn to our Bibles looking for God’s promises. We come to study groups and join others in worship, all searching for answers, encouragement and guidance from our Savior. We want to know that His promises are true. We want to know we are not alone and that God understands. We need more than the promises.

In the first 20 verses of Lamentations Chapter 3, the writer expresses his frustration and bewilderment, his anger and hurt that God has allowed these terrible things to happen. I can surely relate to that! “Where are You, God?” “Do you hear me crying out to You?” I need to know that my Savior continues to walk with me every day.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him. Lamentations 3:22-25 (NLT)

By reading at least the whole chapter, I get a full message from God, His important message: He is with me all my days. He affirms that there will be difficult days. When I cry out to Him and wonder where He is in troubled times, He assures me He is with me and won’t leave me.

Take some extra time with the LORD today. Instead of just reading:

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. – Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

Read the whole psalm and remember all that the LORD is doing in your life every day!

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No Resolutions in 2017

I have spent the last two months doing more listening than talking. That’s a change for me. I feel really good. That should not be a surprise! So here I am on the first days of the year and what do I hear as a mandate for me in the coming year? I hear the word “commitment,” not resolution.

My online dictionary says “Resolution” is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” My decision. My determination to make the resolution happen. How has that worked for me in the past? Not very successfully.

On the other hand, the dictionary says “Commitment” is “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” For me, commitment is a daily desire on my part to set my mind on God and His plan for my day, my week, my life. I made a commitment to Henry when we married 17 years ago, relying on God, His strength and promises, to keep me true to the marriage covenant we made. It’s because of God that we are better than we were 17 years ago!

Last night I was reading about Joseph in Matthew 1. There’s little we know about Joseph and yet, he is the human father that God chose to care and protect His son, Jesus and His mother, Mary. Out of all the men in Judea, God chose a carpenter, but He chose a carpenter who listened and obeyed! Like Mary, Joseph is given a difficult word from God: go ahead with your betrothal to Mary for the child she carries has been conceived by God; she is still pure. But no one in their family or village is going to know that. Even if they told people this story, they probably wouldn’t believe them. They would probably think it was just a story made up to cover their “sins.” But Joseph takes God’s Word, His difficult Word, and acts in obedience. Why? Because he has a close relationship with God. Joseph spent time every day with God. When God brought encouragement to him, Joseph rejoiced. When God brought a difficult task to him, Joseph accepts God’s Word, he trusts His Word, he relies on His Word and re-orients his life to conform to that Word.

So as I tell Abba how I want to draw even closer to Him this year, I want to hear His voice. I want to walk in His way throughout the year in all things. I will rejoice in encouragement and I will obey even in the difficult times. As you join me in reading these two Scriptures, let’s slow down and not just nod in agreement. Let us consider how these words can be encouragement but they can also be difficult. Will I trust and obey in both circumstances?

Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ. Then, whether I visit you or not, I will hear that all of you think alike. I will know that you are working together and that you are struggling side by side to get others to believe the good news.

Be brave when you face your enemies. Your courage will show them that they are going to be destroyed, and it will show you that you will be saved. God will make all of this happen, and he has blessed you. Not only do you have faith in Christ, but you suffer for him. You saw me suffer, and you still hear about my troubles. Now you must suffer in the same way.                                                                         – Philippians 1:27-30 (CEV)

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.                 – Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT)

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What Is Friendship Worth to You?

when-we-are-oldFor the last year, I have tried very hard to delete all the political entries my Facebook friends have posted. I just could not read all that political rhetoric. Facebook is a wonderful way to keep up with my family and friends who live throughout this world. I had hoped that Tuesday would be the end to all the politics. I was sadly, very sadly, disappointed.

Friends are lashing out in anger and disgust because their candidate did not win and their friend did not vote correctly and so – of course – that made the difference in who won the 2016 Presidential Election!!! And if you think this is only a Democratic lashing – I could put names on a list of Republicans who did the same thing after the 2012 Presidential Election!!! It is impossible to bring understanding to my way of thinking!

I have a friend that I have shared a friendship with for over 50 years. To be exact, we met in second grade, 54 years ago. We currently live about 600 miles apart. We see each other every few years. But we can pick up the phone and talk like we saw each other last week. Who is your oldest friend? How long have you known each other?

Make new friends, but keep the old.

One is silver, and the other is gold.

What value do we place on friendship? I don’t mean that list of 358 people who are listed as “Friends” on Facebook. I mean people that when your loved one dies, this person is there. They listen. They have extra Kleenex. They know the way to bring you comfort and, most importantly, healing. And when the world, ie your job, the IRS, in-laws (to name a few), knock you down and leave some bruises, a friend can restore humor and perspective that keeps the balance in a world gone mad.

Friends also do not allow politics to cut a friendship, because friends learn from each other, especially when they have different views about political issues. They learn when they look through the lens of another. They discuss a problem, not to try to convince the other person to give up their convictions, but to learn how someone might think differently and come to their convictions.

So if you took the time to read this and know that you have slapped at a friend in the past year or the past week because of different political voting – shame on you! Pick up the phone – no, don’t do a post on Facebook – Pick up the phone and call your friend. “I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words you can speak. They are right after “I love you” on the Powerful Words List.

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christmas-2003-croppedWill I stop missing you … in time?
Will I stop seeing you in the distance … in time?
Will time become more or less meaningful … in time?
I guess time will tell.

At first time had no meaning. You were not here.
You were there. I wasn’t.
Each day was made of endless minutes without you.
Each night a solitude when I listened for your step, your voice.

Then time began to quicken. There were weeks, then months, then years.
And yet you have not aged in my mind’s eye.
You still have that stare, with those “old eyes” that know more than they should.
You still have that unexpected laugh, which lights up my world with a joy.

Time has passed. Your friends have married. They have children.
I weep for what could have been, but is not.
I weep for words not spoken,
For possibilities without fruit.

And then, time brings a peace. A smile.
Time will soon mean nothing.
You and I will have more than time.
We will have … forever.

Posted in Family, Grief, Poetry, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Current Bible Study

Just as iron sharpens iron,
friends sharpen the minds of each other. – Proverbs 27:17 (CEV)

Let us continue to hold firmly to the hope that we confess without wavering, for the one who made the promise is faithful. And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer. – Hebrews 10:23-25 (ISV)

Are you in a Bible study? Do you meet regularly with at least one other person to study and consider God’s word? Personal, private study is important. But unless you have one other person with whom to study and consider Scripture, I submit that your reasoning and consideration is one-sided.

I am blessed to study with a young woman, Erin, who looks at and considers Scripture differently than I do. I want any given Scripture to speak into my life. I want it to apply to the road that I am currently traveling. Erin has a very flexible mind and is quite content to take a Scripture and turn it back and around, considering how it applied to the people of 3,000 years ago and today and then what it might mean to her grandchildren. She stretches me – and I suspect I stretch her also!

Jonah CoverAnd then there is our choice of study material. Right now we are using Dr. Bruce Epperly’s new study of Jonah: When God Changes. We’ve discussed whether Jonah was a real prophet of his time. We’ve discussed the possibilities of being swallowed by a whale. And made our list of who we did not want to be sent to by God to encourage repentance or die! Given the current political conditions, this study has given us a lot to think about and we look forward to our study every week! We give it 5 stars out of 5!

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Labor – Is this a good thing?

There have been moments in my life that have helped me to define the word “labor.”

My grandparents owned a farm. I grew up learning about milk cows, Angus cattle, and chickens. Bailing hay, gathering eggs, and picking gooseberries in the oppressive heat of Missouri summers gave me my first definition of labor!

When I went away to college, to nursing school, I learned what it meant to labor over books! I had never studied more than an hour for a test prior to college. Suddenly I was confronted with hundreds of new words to memorize and then I had to learn how to correctly apply them into a new field of study. Most importantly, I learned why medicine was considered an art, not a science.

Then came that life-changing night when I labored to bring the first two of my three children into this world! Pain had a whole new intensity but yet, there were ways to handle this pain, using it to achieve a goal. Almost eight years later, when my third child joined us, I learned that there can be definite advantages to having a plan!

Then our family labored in a physical and spiritual battle with cancer in the life of our youngest son. Labor, once again, was given a new definition, and achieving a new level of weariness.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor uselessly.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
its security forces keep watch uselessly.
It is useless to get up early and to stay up late,
eating the food of exhausting labor—
truly he gives sleep to those he loves. – Psalm 127: 1-2 (ISV)

When you decide to buy or build a house, a car, a new shirt or even the weekly groceries, do you ask the LORD for His wisdom? Do you ask Jesus for His input on what and how much to buy? Is your mind open to all the answers? That isn’t easy. What if God wants you to wait for His timing on something? What if instead of a new house, God wants you to rent a smaller home and increase your offering to the poor? Would God ask you to labor for the benefit of someone else? And what about sharing whatever you have with others, whether it is peanut butter sandwiches and apples or steaks on the grill? One of the most wonderful seasons in my life, is when we had “whosoever would come” for dinner on Thursday nights. We did not increase our weekly grocery budget, we never knew how many would show up for dinner, but there was always enough and the fellowship around the table was characterized with laughter, wise counsel and getting to know people that maybe we would not have known in our usual acquaintance. It was fun! It was a labor of love!

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”   – Matthew 11:25-30 (NLT)

As I enter the winter of my life, I am learning about how Abba, Father God, has things to teach me about utilizing my strength and time in wise ways. He has lessons for me and I am becoming more aware of how much I don’t know and how much He has to teach me! And here is where I am beginning to understand how Jesus has lessons that are not heavy burdens but lessons of trusting the Father, leaning on the Spirit for wisdom, and understanding that the closer I live next to Jesus, the less this world will weigh me down with fear, uncertainty and confusion.

On this Labor Day, I am moving closer to Jesus. I am listening to His words. I am soaking in His presence and laboring under the light load of His presence. Being yoked with Jesus is easy when I trust Him!

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Roses and Thorns

Rose with thornsTherefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. – Romans 5:1-5 (NLT)

It’s wonderful to come together in a fellowship and hear how much God loves us and how He is involved and desires to give us an abundant life. I believe that the words in John’s book of Revelation should be carried out every time we come together (Revelation 12:11) – testimonies of what God is doing in our lives are a powerful force that drives back the temptations and the harassements of the evil one who is our daily accuser!

But for those of us who teach, or preach, we must present the whole Gospel. I once heard a preacher describe his messages as “Twinkie messages” and “Brussel Sprout messages.” We know that if Twinkies are the main ingredient of our daily diet, we will not be healthy. Green vegetables may not be our favorite food group, but they are vital to a healthy, strong body. And so we must also hear the often difficult passages of Scripture that remind us that there are difficulties, trials, that come to God’s children.

The Truth – The Twinkies

John 14 – 15: Jesus tells me not to allow my heart to focus on the troubles of this world but to believe in Him and in the Father. He and the Father are One and, even more, there is their Spirit which will remind me of everything that Jesus taught. We are forever connected with Jesus, He is the vine and I am a branch that receives the nourishment directly from Him.

1 Corinthians 12 and 14: God has given us gifts and power through His Holy Spirit that as we come together as Believers, we may hear Him and know His way. We are His Army, with weapons that combat the forces of evil in this world.

Ephesians 3: We are loved by God Himself. We do not fully know or understand the enormity of His love and what it means. It is a wonderful, exciting, uplifting thing to see, feel and know the revelation of Abba Father’s love. When we live our daily lives in a world which tries to beat us down with fear and confusion and doubt, it is a welcome oasis to come and sit at the Master’s feet and hear Him speak of His love for us.

The Truth – The Full Meal

John 16 – 17: Jesus says He is telling us what was written in John 14 and 15 because He does not want us to wander away from His truth. He wants me to remember that He warned me that there would be trouble, even trouble from people who believe they are acting on God’s orders! But His Spirit, the Couselor, will speak to me with His truth and the grief that I may feel will turn to joy as I realize that Jesus has already overcome this world!

1 Corinthians 13: No matter the power of God inside of me, no matter how powerful the words or manifestations of His power in and through me, that will all mean nothing if I do not use that power, pour out that power, with His love. If what I do in God’s Kingdom, does not speak first and last of His love, then I am only a loud, self-serving cymbal! There is nothing, nothing that God hates more than my personal pride!

Ephesians 4: As I learn of God’s love, I must live a life worthy of His call to me; a life that is humble, gentle, patient and loving. It is to be a life that promotes unity among Believers, encouraging others in their call. I am to imitate Jesus, living a life that not only receives God’s love but is a giver of His love.

My sisters and brothers, our lives here and now are not going to be easy. The abundant life promised by Jesus is an eternal life that is not momentary like this world. It is forever as our life with our Abba Father is forever!

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness [His peace beyond understanding], everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. – Philippians 4:4-9 (The Message, my addition)

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Don’t Throw Out the Baby with His Bath Water

Always be joyful. Continually be prayerful. In everything be thankful, because this is God’s will for you in the Messiah Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not despise prophecies. Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace himself make you holy in every way. And may your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—remain blameless when our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, appears. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will continue to be faithful. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (ISV)

Have you ever listened to someone who was teaching or preaching and thought, “Wait! That isn’t what I thought that said!” or “I don’t believe that about God!” That happened, the first time, to me about 3-4 months after I committed myself to Christ. I was listening to a man that I respected, who had convinced me that I needed a savior. I needed Jesus Christ. I had sin in my life that I couldn’t stop and pain in my heart that would not go away. Jesus, God in the flesh, could take care of both and did. Now the man who had shown me these truths, was telling me something that did not add up with what I had been reading; what I was reading now. Should I never listen to him again? Should I never believe anything else he would say? Or was he right and I was wrong about the passage?

I know people who are absolutely convinced that they know absolutely what every word of the Bible says and means. As I spend more time over the last 20+ years, I find there is more to learn, more to question, not be absolute about. I have also found that there are passages in the Bible that are – difficult. And often, those difficult passages are smoothed over or ignored. Example: Romans 8 is often discussed and taught. Romans 7 is not. But how can we learn from Romans 8 if we do not take it in context with Romans 7?

We must listen to each other. We need to discuss God’s word together, not to try to convince the right or wrong of each other’s beliefs, but to encourage each other and magnify the LORD.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings,becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrectionfrom the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take holdof that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behindand straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has calledme heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are matureshould take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. – Philippians 3:10-16 (NIV)

James (3:1) says that if we teach, we are held to a high standard and will be strictly judged. Whether we stand in front of people as a teacher or preacher, or we sit with a friend at lunch, we must turn our tongues over to the wisdom and control of God’s Spirit. May we speak only with holy fear. And may we listen with a desire to hear God’s voice and learn from His words – together.

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Obedience: A Choice of the Spirit and Heart

Our Lord, you bless everyone who lives right and obeys your Law.
You bless all of those who follow your commands from deep in their hearts
and who never do wrong or turn from you.
You have ordered us always to obey your teachings;
I don’t ever want to stray from your laws. – Psalm 119: 1-5 (CEV)

I’ve been reading and re-reading Psalm 119 the last few days. It talks about God’s laws, His precepts, decrees and statutes. There are a lot of those in the Bible. I don’t even know all of them. Some of them that I know, I do not obey because they are time conditional. I did not stone my rebellious teenagers (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And so I continue to study and consider God’s Word and what it says to me. I seek His Truth through His Holy Spirit. I desire His correction and discipline. And Abba Father is a good Father and faithfully meets with me.

And then there is my personal mentor and example, Jesus the Christ. I continue to study how He spoke and interacted with adulterers, fornicators, thieves, prostitutes, gossipers, liars, manipulators and church leaders. Jesus had the knowledge, the insight to know the heart and spirit of Peter, Mary, Judas, the Pharisees, and various “sinners” brought to Him for judgment. (The Pharisees want to “catch” Him in a “wrong” judgment.) But Jesus taught as though He knew that we did not have that knowledge. We needed to follow His example of forgiveness, unconditional love. Paul spoke of this grace in almost every letter he wrote to the churches. He, too, knew that we would need to use grace and mercy, not judgment.

God’s Word is a lamp that lights the way of my steps as I journey through this life. But the will shine brighter when I (1) spend time every day, personal time, with my LORD and His Word and (2) spend time routinely with others in studying God’s Word. “Iron sharpens iron,” (Proverbs 27:17) my friends. We learn from each other, and if I don’t agree with everyone in the group, WONDERFUL! I will study more and consider why I believe and what I believe and read more in cross reference! And that brings more obedience.

As I put my mind and heart more on what is on God’s heart, I will find myself spending more time in things of God, Kingdom mindedness! I become obedient to thinking on the things of God. I see more clearly how God works. I align my mind with the mind of God. He is my Abba, my Father.

Lord, accept my offering of praise,
and teach me your regulations.
My life constantly hangs in the balance,
but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
The wicked have set their traps for me,
but I will not turn from your commandments.
Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end. – Psalm 119: 109-112 (NLT)

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