Advent, Shepherds, Wise Men – A Story About Us

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We are in the midst of Advent. I was teaching a class of young students one day during the week. We happened to be talking about the Wise Men and the Shepherds.
 
I went to the internet and found out what it said about shepherds. One of the places I explored, said it was the lowest job you could have even 2000 years ago! It stated they were isolated, could be lonely and the food was poor and lacking nutrition. Not a job for your everyday family man. It was not a well-paid job from what I could gather.
 
The Wise Men, on the other hand, had a different story to tell. They were called the distinguished foreigners. Some thought of them as astrologers and interpreters. One site called them influential and rich. They were willing to travel over 1,000 miles to worship this newborn king according to one of the documentaries I read. It was said they were probably pretty well educated.
 
The shepherds were visited by the angels. Can you imagine what the scene must have been like? These lonely, isolated men are out and about in the country with sheep. It was night and all is quiet. Then all of a sudden the sky lights up brightly and there is an angel. She is talking to them; telling them not to be afraid. I am sure there was a look of fright and amazement on their faces. Then suddenly there is a host of others singing and telling about this newborn king; this baby they would find, wrapped in swaddling clothes. They had to check it out. They had to know for sure.
 
The Wise Men have a completely different story. They are not visited by angels. The night sky is not all lit up, but they do notice something different. There is a star in the sky they have not seen before. It was noted that some unusual movement or stellar event of great magnitude was often thought to herald the birth of a King or someone great personage. An event occurred in the sky and they went looking (www.crosswalk.com). For whatever reason, they knew they needed to follow the star. Along the way, they stop and pick up gifts unless of course, they had them with them. We have been told these items were pretty costly items. So these gentlemen had to have money in order to purchase such gifts to give the newborn babe and his family.
 
There are a lot of differences in these two stories. So why did Christ choose these two groups of people to tell the Christmas story? For me, it is a pretty simple answer. One group represents those who are less fortunate and sometimes have trouble making ends meet. The other group represents those who are considered wealthy. Still don’t get it? Basically, God says it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. God wants you to come and worship Him no matter your circumstances. It’s about your heart, not your pocketbook.
 
I am reminded of the widow who gave a mite to Christ. She couldn’t afford much, but she gave all she had. Then we come to a rich man from Arimathea, who was a disciple of Christ. He asked for the body of Christ so he could give it a proper burial. We see both the rich and poor giving what they could. They both were servants of Christ. God accepted both without regards to material status. He looked at the heart of the matter.
 
The shepherds and the wise men point the way to the Christ Child. The Christ child accepts all who come to him. Proverbs 22:2 says it best, “The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.”  Because he made them both, he loves them just the same. When we get to Heaven, what we have or don’t have on earth will be left behind. Our monetary status won’t matter to God and it shouldn’t matter now.
 
When we come together on Sunday morning, I look around and see doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and women. I see those with all kinds of degrees and well-educated. Right beside them, sits those who are working class folks with no degrees and little savings and trying to make it every day in this world. The other thing I see, is people coming to worship and truly loving God and wanting to make a difference in this world. It’s not about your pocketbook it’s about your heart.
 
The Shepherds, the Three Kings (Magi) and the baby Jesus all come together to tell a beautiful story. That story is for each of us, no matter who we are or where we come from. The shepherds heard from the Angels, the Wise Men saw a star; both different scenarios, but the one thing they have in common: they knew they must find this baby Jesus. Their lives would forever be changed. So will ours if we just listen to the angels or follow the star and find the Christ child.
 
It’s not about what you have or don’t you have; it’s about your heart. Come and worship the King!
 
Dear God: Thank you for looking at my heart and not my pocketbook. Sometimes I am like the widow who can only give a mite; other times I am like the wise men who bring expensive gifts. All the time, I am the drummer boy who has nothing to offer but myself. No matter, you love me and accept me just as I am. Help others to find the star, or hear the Angels and come in search of the One who will change their lives forever. Remind me, it’s about what lies in the heart. It’s a heart matter. Thank you for sending your Son so my life would be changed.
 
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Dainty Teacups and Christmas

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A few days ago I was decorating tables for a luncheon we were having at our church. It was a group of ladies that I belong to and our church was to host the December meeting. The President and I had gotten together earlier to talk about decorations and the program. The title of the program had the word cup in it. The President pictured little dainty Christmas cups with saucers and Christmas decorations on each table. For one thing, I have no dainty little Christmas cups. With the family I have, they wouldn’t last a second and I don’t entertain enough to have them. Second, that would mean trying to find someone who had such cups and saucers; borrow them and then hope I didn’t break any. That wasn’t about to happen. I am not the most dainty person anyhow.
 
As the time drew closer, I began to get stressed out about this. I began to pray about what I was going to do. I had a part in the program and my part dealt with love. I was to take my favorite cup and talk about its special meaning and then read a small part about love. I looked at my cups and to my amazement, I couldn’t find a favorite. All of my cups are special. There were to be five tables, so what did I do? I took ten of my favorite cups. As I prayed for my part to come together, God did not disappoint me. He had it all along.
 
The story behind these cups is pretty simple. They are all different; there is no two alike. They are big and tall, some short and fluffy, and some that are just perfect. They are different colors and different styles. They all have different backgrounds and stories to tell. There is nothing really alike about them at all. There is one thing though they do have in common. You can take anyone of these cups add hot water and some tea and they all make a lovely cup of tea (sorry folks; never acquired the taste of coffee). The tea in these cups warm my heart and makes me smile. I am in love with what is inside of these cups no matter what the outside of the cup looks like.
 
God began to share with me that it is the same with Christians. Some of us are short and fluffy, (I think of myself as short, fat and sassy) some of us are tall and thin, some of us are tall and fluffy. We all have different skin tones and come from different denominations. We all have different backgrounds and, different stories to tell. There is not one of us alike. Yet, we do have one thing in common.
 
When we turn our lives over to Christ and we join the family of God, we share the love we have for our God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and each other. We have a common bond. We love. We set aside our differences and become one in Christ. “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him.” 1 Corinthians 6:17 So, if we are joined to the Lord, we are one in the Spirit with him, which to me, means that we are joined together with His spirit. We are joined in love with Christ and with one another.
 
“In Christ’s family, there can be no division into Jew and not-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us, you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family then you are Abraham’s famous descendant, heirs according to the covenant promises.” Galatians 328-29 Msg. Our differences are put aside and we come together and are bonded as one in the Lord.
 
Now back to cups for a second. Each cup makes a cup of tea. We know that. But because of the history of the teacup, each cup of tea tastes a little different. I might make a cup of tea in this cup and it could be stronger or weaker than in another cup. I might add honey in this cup and sweetener in another cup. But, in the long run, they still make tea. What I am trying to say here is this: we might worship differently, might praise God in different ways, or have different kinds of Bibles, but in the end, no matter how we worship, we still belong to Christ and make a lovely family with God being the head of the household.
 
If I had used the dainty little teacups with saucers, it would have been a perfect picture. They too make a cup of tea. But too many times these dainty little cups are used only on special occasions for fear of getting broken or damaged. We can’t do that if we are truly Christians. Our love in God must be used daily with no fear of being broken or damaged. I have in the past come across dainty little teacups that have been glued back together after having been broken. With us sometimes we will become damaged or broken and it is God who comes to us and glues us back together and we become whole again.
 
The setting would have been beautiful had I used dainty little cups and saucers. God quickly reminded me it’s not about being perfect nor is it all about looking like each other. We are all unique and different. We are all special in our own way. We can’t put someone else’s faith on and expect it to become our own. Having dainty pretty cups on the table would have made for a perfect picture, but that is not what God wanted. God wanted to teach us that we are different individuals that came together in unity with one communion bond and that bond is love.
 
As Christmas approaches, we will see many people of different faiths begin to celebrate Christmas. We may each celebrate in our own different ways. We may look different when we do, but there will be one thing we will all share and that is our love for the small babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.
 
Are you a dainty little teacup, being fragile with your faith and using it on special occasions so it will not get damaged or broken? Or are you an ordinary everyday cup that when love is poured into it you become one with other Christians united in love for our God and His only Son?
 
Dear God: I thank you for dainty little cups that people share at Christmas time. They are so beautiful. But, they are also very fragile and used sparingly. It is my desire to be an everyday cup so that when I am joined with others Christians we have a common bond of love in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit and with all those you put in my path. Amen.
 
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The Repercussions of Stewardship Camapign

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This is always a challenging time for me. I love to shop. I love deals and I love bargains. We were recently hit with Black Friday deals and bargains. Saturday was shop locally the mom and pop shops; Monday is Cyber Monday; a day to get online and shop to your heart’s content. Doesn’t that sound exciting?
 
Technically, I could be online for hours looking for this and thinking I need that. I can see me wanting this and wanting that. A smart TV? Sure, why not. The latest new gadget for the kitchen ( don’t laugh I know I am not the chef in the household) or my crafting habit is calling my name. That’s not to mention the deals on new clothes. Oh my, this is the shopper’s heaven. If you got the time and the money, you could buy whatever.
 
That’s part of the problem though, isn’t it? How many of us really have the money to buy everything we really want without paying a major cost for it? How many of us could easily go into debt just because of some deals and bargains? It might all be good now, but if we put it on our credit card we will be paying the price later. Or if we actually paid for it all now, what happens when our monthly bills come in or we have a major repair or an appliance suddenly goes out? I know, I just busted your balloon right?
 
All morning, I have had to fight the urge to seek out all of these bargains and deals. Then something our Pastor said during the stewardship campaign went along these lines (not his exact words, but I GOT the message), “we need to live within our means. We need to ask ourselves if we need it or want it.” We need to live simple lives so we can do those things Christ is calling us to do. Ouch! Today, I was reminded that those things I am looking at online are all things I want; there is nothing I need. God has already provided for those things I need.
 
The second thing I am reminded of is this, are those things making my life simple or just complicating everything? Finally, how much time am I wasting online looking for things I want and don’t need? What could I be doing to glorify God instead of wasting time?
 
So why do I want things? What is calling me to look online for things I don’t need? Simple answer: the world. The world and all its merchants are begging for my attention. They pay attention to what I am searching for and they send me ads that draw my attention to the very thing I think I want. They lure me in. The world tells me I need a TV that can do all these simple tasks. I am sorry, but do you know how long it takes a couple of Senior Citizens to figure out how to hook up the TVs of today? Then you have to figure out how to configure it and if you get the right TV, you have to wait for the installers to come and do their thing to get the right color on your TV according to the lighting in your room. Simple? I don’t think so.
 
The world draws us into it wants not our needs. The world bombards our minds with things that entice us. This can be dangerous for us if we are not careful. The Bible warns us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15 The world wants us to love the things of this world. When we fall in love with the things of the world, we often drift away from God or we get in a position where we can’t be in service to him because we are tied to this world financially.
 
At my age, I have to remember not to accumulate unnecessary items because one day I will either have to forgo them or I will force my children to get rid of them. As I look at my house now I see I am far from being a hoarder, but at the same time, I have so many things that are really not needed. At some point, I listened to the world and gathered up items that I thought I needed at the time of my purchase.
 
Hebrews 13:5 was a good reminder for me this morning,”Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I must learn to be content with what I have. I really am not in need of anything and if I was I know the one who would provide for me.
 
I am learning it is better to be content with what you have in life. I am learning to live within my means and I am learning it’s better to be ready to be in service with God than to be a slave to this world.
 
Finally, all the time I spend on the computer or online looking for things I don’t need could be spent better by spending time with God or family or friends. Again, it’s about glorifying God or glorying the world. It’s about spending time with God and those he has placed in my life over spending time in the world.
 
So, for now, I will be content with what I have. I will shut out the screaming of the world for me to buy, buy and buy. I will spend less time on the internet and more time with God.
 
How do you deal with all the deals and bargains during this time? Do you cave in or do you hold up and follow our Pastor’s simple words of living within your means? I will ask myself a few simple questions during my next purchase, “Do I want it or do I need it? If I want it how will it benefit others and will it give God glory?
 
 
Dear God: this is always a challenging time for shoppers and for those who are trying to live within their means. The world screams above the crowds and it’s often hard to ignore. The internet begs us to search for things we think we want that often don’t provide satisfaction. We search for things that will hold our attention when all we really need is you. Give us the strength to avoid temptation. Give us wisdom as we purchase items for Christmas. Remind us Christmas is all about you and not about gift giving. Thank you for gentle reminders. Amen
 
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Your Backyard’s on Fire!

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Recently my husband decided to smoke a brisket to take back to Indiana with us on a visit we were planning. It was a Sunday morning and he had gotten up around 6:15 am to start the process. He started the fire in the smoker. I had not gotten up yet but was suddenly awakened by the sound of a doorbell. It, of course, frightened me. Who would be coming that early in the morning? I first thought of the police or our neighbors since we’ve recently had break-ins on our vehicles. The doorbell rang a second time. I soon realized my husband was outside with the smoker and could not hear the doorbell ringing. I called for my husband to answer the door.
 
He came back in a few minutes later laughing. He was telling me it was our neighbor who had taken his dog out for a potty break. He spotted the smoke and the fire and decided he needed to wake us up and let us know about the fire in the backyard. After reassuring our neighbor he had set the fire and everything was okay, we realized how grateful we were that we had neighbors who were concerned enough to come and alert us about the danger. He had come to warn us.
 
As I thought about this later, I laughed and then was very thankful for the neighbor. Some might have called him nosy, but I was thankful for him. I was also a bit thankful he didn’t call the fire department or the police, but he warned us first instead.
 
This morning, as I reflected back on this, God gently reminded me that what our neighbor did for us is what we are to be doing for others. He saw a danger and he came and alerted us to the possible danger we were in. When we see our Christian family and friends headed for danger, we are to gently alert them to the possible dangers that lie ahead of them.
 
This gentleman didn’t panic; he didn’t call in all of our neighbors and make a big scene. He just came, rang our doorbell, and warned us. When others are going down the wrong path, that is what we need to be doing. We shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, we shouldn’t be bringing in all of our friends and telling them what’s going on and we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. What we need to do, is gently pull the person aside and let them know the dangers.
 
We, who have walked this earth a long time, know some of the hidden dangers or the wrong path that Christians often take. We may have taken that path or have experienced some of those dangers. The best thing we can do to help another one is to share our experience with them. Let them know some of the dangers we experienced going down the path they are choosing to take. Sharing the knowledge we have to help them on this journey is one way Christ has called us to service.
 
How many times has a parent, grandparent, relative or friend pulled us aside and said to us, “Look I’ve been on that road. I’ve done those things and here is what happened. Trust me you don’t want to go down that path or do those things.” I am forever grateful for those times someone has come and warned me not to go there. Did I listen to them all the time? Of course not, but I was grateful for the warning. I was grateful that someone cared enough to come and warn me.
 
We may go to someone with a warning. They may listen or they may turn away, but we are to love one another enough to go and warn them. Galatians 6:1-2 reminds us, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
 
We are called to restore him or her spiritually while at the same time not be tempted to join them in their sin. We do that by gently warning them of the dangers. Once we have warned them it’s up to them to decide how to proceed.
 
This neighbor could have ignored the signs of danger. If it had been a real fire, we would have perished in the fire. But, because of his love and concern, he warned us. We never want to be responsible for seeing danger and not warning someone. I am sure he would have felt guilty had something happened to us.
 
For years, while in Indiana, I had a beautician that did not attend church. I often prayed for her but did very little to talk with her. I worried that she might be lost just because I didn’t say anything to her. Little by little I let my worries slip by and I would say things about my faith and church.
 
After moving to Texas I found out later she began to attend the church I had just moved from. She said it was because of my faith and the faith of others that she knew she needed to get into a church. She not only started attending she taught a child’s Sunday school class. She loved kids and kids were her passion. Because of her faith and her passion, she decided to teach these young ones. It wasn’t too long after becoming a major part of this church that she suddenly died. This was something no one saw coming. I was so glad that I stepped up and shared my faith with her. I would like to think I had a little bit in helping her save her life and change directions.
 
We may never know if what we say will help but I what I do know is it’s best to warn others in a discreet and pleasant way. It just might be a life that is saved because you showed concern and cared enough.
 
Thanksgiving is coming and I thank God that this neighbor took the time to stop what he was doing and warn us of impending danger. Even though it was not what he thought it was at least we know somebody is watching out for us. That’s the way it is with God. He is always watching out for us. He will send us somebody to warn us just at the right time to keep us from falling away.
 
Dear God: Thank you to our neighbor. Thank you for sending us someone to warn us about the dangers around the corner or down the street. Help us to be wise, understanding and appreciative when others come to us and warn us of the danger that lies ahead. Let us listen with open minds knowing too many times they have been down the road before us and they know the dangers. Thank you for all who show concern, love us and for those who encourage us daily. Amen

Grace To Trust Him More

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I listen to praise music. As I work around the house, as I get ready for the morning, and when I go to bed, I am constantly listening to praise music. I can’t sing…I make a joyful noise. When no one is around I sing with my music. To me, it’s a time of worship. I also do a lot of bible studies both at home and out of the home. I read a lot of Christian books by Christian authors. These are my times to get in tune with God.
 
One Sunday morning, after listening to my music I woke up with a song and a phrase in my head. It was the song, “’Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus”. The phrase I kept hearing was, ‘oh for grace to trust him more’. I wondered why those words were so significant on this particular morning. Then I remembered. Today was the end of our stewardship campaign at church. Today we would be turning in our pledge of commitment and consecration at church. After praying all week for God to show me what amount to put down, I filled out the card before I went to bed. We had committed to increasing our tithe by $10.00. Now, this might not seem significant to you, but to us it was. By waking up to this song, God reminded me I needed his grace to trust him more. We couldn’t do this by ourselves. God was in the midst of our decision and God would help me with my trust issues.
 
This is not nor will it be the last time I wake up with a song or a phrase in my head. What I find so interesting is, that whatever the song or phrase, it’s what I need at the time. It may not be anything more than just a praise song.
 
I have found the same thing true with scripture. Just about the time I need something to encourage me or help me along this journey, I am reminded of a scripture.
 
When we are grounded in God’s word, or listening to praise music or prayer, it doesn’t matter what our circumstance is, God will give us what we need to encourage us.
 
Listening to music is not only a worshipful time, but it’s a time to be grounded in him. I listen to the words and I make them my own or I think about the message that God is giving to me through them. Sometimes it’s an old hymn and sometimes it’s a newer praise song. Whatever it is, it is always significant for what I am going through.
 
A long time ago, back in Indiana, we were going through some things and I was given this from God, “maybe part of trusting God is coming to the place where you realize there is nothing you can do for yourself anymore.” Now I know this was from God because in the article I was reading, it showed up. I had my oldest daughter read the same article and she couldn’t find it at all. I thought maybe I had given her the wrong article so she read the magazine from the front to the back reading each article in the magazine carefully to find that phrase. She never found it. It was something I needed at the right time.
 
God will often put those things in our head on a random basis, but most of the time it’s because of something we’ve read or studied that jogs our memory. When we read, study and listen to praise music, then God jogs our memory and it becomes the most important piece we have to get us through things. That is why reading, praying, studying and listening to music is so important. It keeps us in tune with God. We do our part and just at the right time God does his.
 
After waking up and realizing I couldn’t do this on my own, and I didn’t have to – God had this – I was excited about going and consecrating my pledge card to God. I no longer needed to worry about next year or whether or not I’d be able to keep my commitment.
 
When we pray about something and we let God have it, we need to trust in him. The song says, just to take him at his word; that is what we need to do. We know God does not lie Numbers 23:19 reminds us this, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” If we have searched God out and he has given us an answer, then we need to take him at his word and trust him completely.
 
As I have looked back over this year, I have wondered if my hubby and I would make it through this year. This year has been an expensive year with lots of repairs and next year promises to hold much of the same. Yet, as I look back we have made it and we have everything we need. We may not have everything we want, but we certainly have everything we need to live a comfortable life. Some would look at us and say we have it rather good compared to others who are struggling. God has always told us he would provide and he has!
 
I can sometimes be a worrier. I know I have a frog ministry and I tell others to “fully rely on God.” Sometimes it’s easier to tell others to do that than to actually do it. I also talk about wearing the armor of God and not worrying about things. I am learning that I need grace to trust him more. My journey for the rest of this year and into next is to learn to have grace to trust him more; to really rely on him and not look at our circumstances, and to learn to walk on the water and not take my eyes off of Christ.
 
How about you? Do you need grace to trust him more? Would you like for God to put thoughts into your head at just the right time? If you do are you grounding yourself in his word or the music he provides? Are you prayerfully praying about the things God wants you to give him?
 
I pray that next year you join me as we journey into trusting him more each day.
 
Dear Lord, I love it the mornings I wake up with you on my mind and on my lips. I know I need to trust you more each day in all my circumstances. Oh, for grace to trust you more. You have never failed me and I know you will never fail me. I thank you each day for what you are doing in my life. Continue the work you are doing in me as we head into a new year. Amen

I Have No Words

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I Have No Words!
As I write, this I am overwhelmed with the news I have been receiving in the last twenty-four hours. A friend has passed away from cancer, a little boy that I am acquainted with has a malignant brain tumor, my daughter barely missed being in the midst of a devastating tornado, two of my daughters lost power and a mass shooting in a church which 26 people lost their lives and several more injured.
 
What do you say to a mom and dad when their six-year-old has a malignant brain tumor? What do you say to people who have lost eight family members at one time because of a senseless act? What do you tell to young adults who have lost the only person in their lives that mattered? These two grandchildren of my friend have no surviving family. They are on their own at a young age. What do you say to people who have lost a home, barns, and animals in a tornado? I have no words. I am at a loss.
 
All I know is, no matter how bad it gets, God is still in control. God did not cause any of these things to happen. Did he allow them? I don’t know. That is not for me to say one way or the other. He allowed Satan to test Job, so could he have allowed these things to happen? I don’t know. All I know is, he is in the midst of all that is going on. Whether he allowed it to happen or he didn’t that doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing God’s in control. God’s love is stronger than any hate I might have for the one who was responsible. God’s strength is strong enough to help all of these folks get through this.
 
When it seems like the world is falling apart and people are out of joint with one another, something like these things happens and the next thing you know, people are coming together. They put their differences aside and they pitch in to help out.
 
Just maybe all these things are happening to help us realize we are more alike than different. We all have troubles, we all have sorrow and we all cry when we hurt. Maybe we are to learn that what really matters is reaching out and seeing each other as brothers and sisters on this journey together. When things like this happen, love is poured out and the hatred and prejudices are set aside. We realize those things don’t matter anymore. What matters is reaching out and touching the lives of others to make them a little better when their world has crumbled.
 
Sometimes there are no words, but there are actions. A simple hug, offering a shoulder for someone to cry on, or maybe simply being in their presence and allowing them to vent their frustrations is all that may be needed. Sometimes it’s offering a home for those that have lost theirs, or it’s a hot meal or a hot cup of coffee as they scramble to see what can be saved from the chaos. Maybe it’s digging in and sifting through the debris to find those precious few things that can be salvaged. If you are in the hospital for any length of time, cafeteria food can get old and going out to eat gets expensive. Offering a meal or giving some extra money for expenses or taking them out and getting them away from the stress, even if it’s only for an hour does the heart good.
 
God’s in control when we allow him to work through us to help those whose needs are overwhelming. When we do those things God lays on our heart, we become the hands and feet of Christ. When we take the time to pray and listen to those who are hurting, we become the mouth and ears of Christ.
 
I found this on the internet and I think this is so true. Don’t worry God is never blind to your tears, never deaf to your prayers, and never silent to your pains. He sees, He hears, and he will deliver.
 
Maybe the only thing we can do is get down on our knees and lift others up in prayer. Praying for strength and praying for peace is the one thing God calls us all to do. Praying for one another in time of grief, suffering, and loss may be the only thing needed at the time. I am reminded of what Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says,
 
“Two are better than one,
  because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
  one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
  and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
  But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
  two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

When we walk with those who are going through struggles, we can pick them up. When they can’t take that next step we grab their hand and help them along the way.
 
This day will be a day of prayer for all those who are going through things I can’t even imagine. We may not have words to offer anyone, but what we do have to offer is a God who knows, cares and understands. We can offer God’s peace and presence to those who need a gentle reminder that God is all anyone needs to get through tough times.
 
As helpless as I feel today, I have hope knowing God will be with these folks and he will give them what I can’t. I will be open to God’s leading and do those things God asks me to do to help out even if it’s just falling on my knees and praying.
 
There will be times you will experience what I am experiencing; maybe you already are. Maybe you won’t know what to say or what to do. Do what God is leading you to do. Be his hands and feet when possible. Be there to listen and pray; be his ears and his mouth. Become a cord with them that cannot be easily or quickly broken.
 
Life is fragile. Life is tough. Life changes in an instance. But, through it, all God is still in control.
 
Dear God, so many people are suffering today and have experienced loss. I don’t have words. I want to make all the pain and suffering go away, but you have told us in this world there would be suffering and this world would be tough. Comfort those who need comforting, give strength to those who have lost their strength to go on, bring healing if possible and touch lives through all that’s going on. Help us to set our prejudices aside and to reach out and see each other as brothers and sisters that are on this journey together. Let us not hate but love. Help us as we become the body of Christ to those in need. Amen

God May Not Be Who​ You Think He Is

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I have read the book, “The Shack” and I loved it. I was excited the movie came out! I just recently finished watching it in the privacy of my own home. The way I reacted to the movie made me realized I was glad I watched it at home.
 
I was talking with someone who couldn’t get into the movie. We’ve been having this discussion. I wanted to share with you my thoughts.
 
The person couldn’t get past the idea that God was portrayed as a woman. It just didn’t seem right. As a child she always grew up with pictures of Jesus being a man, having a beard, wearing a robe and sandals. That was her image of God. Now she was being asked to change her mind on what God looked like.
 
For one thing, no one knows what God looks like. God may be a man. God may be a woman. God may be God and not any one particular sex. I see God as having manly aspects; someone who is big, strong, and powerful. I see God as a woman having certain aspects like a mother would; someone who gives hugs or one who is tender and cries with us. I see God not as a man or a woman but as my God.
 
Unfortunately, the pictures people have created of Jesus have created in us a certain image of who God is or who we think God should be. As I watched the movie, I began to understand, it’s not about who God is; it’s all about what he does to bring us to him.
 
God uses circumstances (that he may or may not create) to bring us to him. A circumstance happens and he uses it to bring us to him. I also think he creates circumstances for us. For instance, two people show up someplace at the same time and a relationship happens that either deepens a relationship with Christ or starts a new relationship with him. I think he created the circumstance that brings these two together to make it happen.
 
A child is taken from this father in the movie. I don’t believe God wanted it to happen; he didn’t make it happen, but it happened and he used that circumstance to bring the father of this child into a deeper relationship with him.
 
Because of past events in this man’s life, using another man to bring him to Christ wasn’t going to happen. His relationship with his own father was really not a good thing. He had a wonderful relationship with his mother. God knows what is best for us and what is needed. What was needed in this case was a woman to develop and deepen his relationship with God. A man just wasn’t going to do it. Again, it’s not about who God is or who we think God is; it’s about what he does. What he does is love us enough to send us what we need or who we need, to get in right relationship with him.
 
A perfect example of this is pretty simple if you think about it. I listen to the radio or get a phone call (from someone I don’t know). I get an image in my head of what that person looks like. I meet that person or I see a picture of that person and it’s nothing like I thought that person looked like. He is completely different than the image I created. I think it will be like that with God. I can’t even imagine.
 
I saw myself in so many of the circumstances in the movie with the pain of losing a little one or being abused by another human being. To see the forgiveness that God challenged him to was simply amazing. To see God help him deal with the pain of losing that child was a walk I needed to go through.
 
We all have someone who needs our forgiveness. It may not be easy, but as I watched this movie, I realized it is necessary for us to go through this process. It’s not only good for us and our relationship with God, but it’s necessary for the one who did us harm. We do more harm to ourselves as we hold on to that grudge than any harm done to the other person. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Holding onto our pain will only bring us down. If we are so consumed with our own pain that we can’t see the pain others are experiencing, we will never be a true servant of God. We are called to take that pain, experience it, deal with it and then move on so we can help others in the same experience.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 God does not want us to live with that pain. He wants us to bring it to him, lay it down at his feet and let him heal us in a healthy way.
 
There was also a segment in the movie on judging people. This was another powerful part of the movie for me. It spoke volumes to me. We are simply called not to judge people. That is not our job. Our job is to love them and let God sort them out himself.
 
I had a very moving experience after this movie. I am not sure I am the same person. At least, I hope I am not. I don’t want to be. If God takes us on a journey to deepen our faith, we want to always move forward. We never want to regress. We will regress a little just because we are human, but we never want to regress so much we have to go through difficult passages to get back to where we were.
 
I encourage you to get God’s image or what you think he might look like out of your head and concentrate on what God can do and will do. Let’s not think about who God might be; let’s think about all the possibilities God can do and will do for us. Let go of any pain you are hanging on to so you may see the pain others around you are experiencing. Finally, forgive those who need to be forgiven. God has forgiven you; now go and do likewise following in His footsteps.
 
Dear God: thank you for men and women who create such beautiful stories so we can experience you a little deeper. Help us as we deal with what you may or may not look like. I think we will all be surprised in the end. Help us not to think so much about who you are but think about what you are willing to do to bring us back to you. Thank you for your love, and your patience with us. Guide us on as we journey through this world. Amen