A WORD for the Week | Archives 7
151. When Dealt a Bad Hand by Julie Luetke
A while back I visited a woman in her family room. In the room was a hospital bed where her son spent most of his life. He gently rocked in a sling above the bed to keep from having pressure sores. He was 31, the age of my twins. This man was born with many disabilities. He did not talk and his limbs were thin, lacking muscle. He had a permanent bend at the knees and elbows. While my children were climbing trees, going to school, dating, and starting careers, this child was doing little growing or developing. He still ate baby food.
On the wall of this family room was a framed picture of a cross with these words from Genesis: “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” The mother said it was a gift from a friend at the time of the boy’s birth. She said that many times those few words helped her and her husband deal with the many health problems they watched their son struggle through. Genesis 18:25b is part of a conversation Abraham had with God.
So often we cannot explain why things happen the way they do. Why a young mother is widowed, why a terrible disease strikes a small child, why job after job is lost for no fault of your own, why your retirement savings evaporated, why, why, why….. Will not the judge of all the earth do right? Yes, He does what is right.
As we lean on Jesus for our future, especially when it seems we have been dealt a ‘bad hand,’ remember God’s words in Genesis 18:25b: “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Isaiah 57:1 The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.
Job 42:10, 12 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before...The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.
Genesis 50:20 [Joseph to his brothers] "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid."
Esther 4:14 [Mordecai to Esther when their lives are threatened] "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?"
John 9: 2-3 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
152. This Year I'm Going To... by the A Word For Women Staff
This year I'm going to...do what??? With the start of each new calendar year, we seem to make our New Year's resolutions. We emphatically say we are going to lose weight, get more organized, try harder to mend broken relationships, ask for that raise at work, attend more Bible studies, keep a neater house, volunteer more and, on and on. We start out well. We're eating right, biting our tongue around that relative or person who sometimes challenges us, we're digging through the clutter in the house and then...life settles in again and we're back to same old, same old.
Why do we think that January 1st of each year is the day to make our life changes and then, if we fall short of them or can't keep them up consistently that we're just a failure so why even try? January 1st is just a worldly date; it's not any special date on God's calendar of our life. Each day on his calendar is a new day, a day for a second chance through his unconditional love and forgiveness. Each new day is a day unfolding just as he planned for you and for his purpose. In Jeremiah 29:11 we are told, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Aha! He is the one with the plans for us. We, in our human righteousness, think that the plans are our plans and that we are in control but, he tells us otherwise. As that passage in Jeremiah continues into verse 12 and 13, it reads, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me with all your heart."
There's nothing wrong with wanting to make a new start and make some positive and God-pleasing changes in our life beginning in a new year. However, if we trust in the words of these verses in Jeremiah, staying in the Word, seeking him with all our heart and trusting in his ultimate plan, we will have a happy and content new year and every day in the Lord!
A Happy and Blessed 2010 from "A Word For Women"
153. When Did I See You? By Carolyn Webb
Do you ever have those moments when someone approaches you, they know you, but you don’t have a clue who they are? This has happened to me several times, but there is one story that stands out in my mind. One day I was holding a rummage sale at our house. A woman was browsing through the sale, and she asked me if we had lived in the house for the past twenty years. I told her that we had been there for twenty-three years. She proceeded to tell me a story of how twenty years ago she was trick-or-treating with her toddler and infant son when her baby insisted upon being fed immediately. According to her story we gave her a place to sit and nurse her son. She remembered our house for twenty years because of that one event and was so happy to be able to share the story with me.
I have no doubt that we were the family in her story (it sounds like something we would do), but I don’t remember that event at all. The whole time she was telling me the story, I kept thinking, “Have I seen you before?”
This got me thinking about the Bible passages where Jesus describes judgment day (Matthew 25:34-40):
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, needing clothes and clothe you?”… The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Every day we come into contact with people who are in need. When we respond to those needs it is a reflection of our love for Jesus. The acts of kindness that Jesus lists in Matthew 25: 34-40 are not heroic deeds; they are simply every day acts of kindness. We probably don’t even think about all the little things we do, but those little things mean a lot to those with whom we share His love. Galatians 6:10 encourages us, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
154. Reunions by Carolyn Webb
Some people really enjoy reunions. I’m not one of those people. Reunions should be about sharing good times and enjoying the company of people that you enjoyed being with in the past but haven’t had an opportunity to be with recently. This sounds lovely, but, in my experience, reunions tend to turn into a non-stop string of put-downs. Every silly thing that you did in the past is dragged out for the amusement of all those in attendance. The goal is to put you back in time to relive the embarrassing, painful moments of your life. Reunions usually aren’t about sharing your successes and the growth you’ve made in life, but too often about reliving the past.
Thankfully, that is not how the Lord looks at reunions. Luke 15:11-32 tells the parable of the lost son and the joyful reunion with his father. When the son who wasted his inheritance returns, his father doesn’t even mention his son’s foolishness, instead he celebrates his reunion. Luke 15:24 explains the reason for the celebration: “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again: he was lost and is found.” We were born dead in our sins and through Jesus we have been given new life. All our past sins are washed away. Psalm 103:12 proclaims: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” What a joy it will be to be free from the guilt of things I should have done but didn’t or things I should not have done but did. Jesus is looking forward to bringing me and all believers to his house in heaven. He tells of the preparations he is making for that reunion in John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many rooms: if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” A reunion with my heavenly Father and all believers where we “will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25); that’s a reunion that I can look forward to attending.
155. Threadbare, A tale of perseverance by Christine Wentzel
Once upon a time in the land of Trials there was a town called Hope. It was here the legends told of a craftsman who could freely give everyone a life line to the invisible kingdom of No Tears.
In the busy town square squeezed between the popular hawkers of costly, dubious life lines, was a plain little stall with a simple message: FREE! This sign drew all the people to stop and look, but what they saw left them bewildered or disappointed. There on display were delicate strands of red thread each with a tiny tag of instructions and an iron clad guarantee.
When Joshua, the string maker, was questioned on the audacity of his offering, he replied that his life line was an adequate gift for their needs and it would never break. Most walked away at such nonsense, but curiosity drew a few and they took the offered thread. Some of the takers were poor in wealth, but all were poor in spirit. Joshua instructed them how to care for their thread, and warned not follow any other directions. After this, he tied the other end to that unseen, but longed for realm. Once they were back home loved ones took pity and strangers snickered. It was not easy to be seen wearing something so unconvincing, but Joshua was compelling in word and deed. Was he the one the legends spoke?
After a time the red thread people saw their gossamer line stayed secure during the storms that swept through the land. At times they were tossed like a kite in the wind, but the life line held fast. In fact, it looked as good as new no matter what happened. This caused their confidence and joy to grow with each passing gale. In their excitement they couldn’t wait to tell everyone where to go to find the real line.
However the costly cord people watched in shock as theirs rapidly unraveled whether a storm hit or not. When pulling in the line to fix the frays, they found it tethered to nothing but air. They believed a lie. Eventually the line broke, and sadly, they were swept away to the sea of Lost.
When all else falls away and you find yourself hanging by a thread know that you are really hanging by the thread of Faith. It’s tethered to the kingdom of God—He custom made it, He strengthened it by His blood and He maintains it so you’ll never be swept away. And when His mission for you is complete, you will live happily ever…
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4 NIV
156. You'll Never Believe #4! by Talia Spiegelberg
Okay, it's time to confess that I have a weakness for Buzzfeed articles. It's not that I really want to know what the 10 reasons for "whatever doesn't matter" is, but it's the fact that I really just have to know! I have to know what number 4 is (even though it always ends up being dumb and disappointing). I have gotten a lot better at resisting the urge to click on them lately, though. I think the reason for that is because I keep being disappointed in the results. Just a word of advice: #4 is never as cool as they say it is.
Last week as I was reading through a list of the 20 types of girls you see on every university campus (In my defense, I was waiting for a bus), I came to a bad realization. I began to think that I had spent more time being excited about finding out what "#4 is", or finding out what type of girl I am, than spending time being exciting about the Lord and His Word. So, I finished the list, assigned myself an identity as one of the 20 stereotypical girl types, and opened Google to start looking at Bible passages.
I wanted to find a passage that gave me a reason to be joyful. I'm sure many of you are rattling off in your head right now, "Be joyful always." But, I wanted something with more sustenance. The selfish and human part of me wanted God to give me a reason to be joyful (because I guess the fact that He's God wasn't enough for me). That's when I stumbled across this passage:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
That was all I needed to hear! I don't need a reason to be joyful- I just need to trust in Him because He has done such amazing things for me (like giving me life). Lent is such a special time of the year. We get to spend extra time thinking about all of the amazing things God gives us in life- all leading up to the crucifixion of His Son. Imagine if God were a Buzzfeed article: 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Joyful- You'll Never Believe #4!
#4. God sent His one and only Son to die on a cross for your selfish and sinful self!
This Lent season I decided to try something new. Instead of giving something up (which I have actually never done before), I picked a flaw in myself to focus on. Can you guess what it is? Being joyful. Even though I consider myself an overall joyful and happy person, I know that I am nowhere near as close to the level of joyfulness that our Lord deserves. Join me this season in working on a flaw you have that you are not proud of. It may be difficult to admit at first, but it feels so good when you do!
Here's to being joyful!
157. Forgiveness by Karen Maio
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
Ah, what wonderful, comforting words! Where would we be without God's rich grace and ready forgiveness?
But did you ever feel a tiny, little guilty twinge as you prayed, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us? (Matthew 6:12)" Sometimes, it's not so easy for us to forgive those sinners! We're hurt or angry, and the longer we hold onto the pain and anger, the more bitter we become.
This past summer I got a refresher course in forgiveness.
My son and I had just returned home after a fun afternoon of back-to-school shopping. When I saw him opening the screen door to enter the house, I yelled, "Philip, come back!" He quickly came back to where I was standing and asked, "Why?" I told him that I was pretty sure I had locked the inner door which was now standing wide open! We called the police, and our fears were confirmed: we had been burglarized. The house was tossed and things were taken, including my jewelry. We were terrified and angry, and I was saddened that my wedding ring (which doesn't always fit my swollen finger, so left behind) was gone. Searching through police pawn shop photos, I found my ring, and the individual (and 12 others) was eventually arrested for it and at least 30 other home burglaries. Testifying in court was a harrowing ordeal. The criminal apologized, but I ignored it (Don't they all apologize trying to get a lighter sentence?). Justice was served; he got sentenced to twenty years in jail. It was a relief.....but incomplete.
Through prayer, after a while, God restored my peace in my home. I thanked him for his protection that nobody was hurt or killed. My wedding ring at least was recovered. But something was wrong. Whether the man's apology was sincere or not, I knew I had to forgive him according to God's will. I was too scared to do it in person, so I wrote him a letter instead. I used it as an opportunity to tell him that we all are sinners and assured him of the forgiveness that is ours through faith in Jesus and how he saved us, and that because of that, I forgave him, too. I pray that something good comes out of all this: that the Holy Spirit works faith in that young man's heart.
God doesn't need us to forgive others in order for our sins to be forgiven. Christ's work of salvation is complete and there is nothing we can or need to do. By faith in Christ, WE ARE FORGIVEN! But out of love for all that Jesus has done for us, we ought to be FORGIVING, too.
I won't be forgetting that incident any time soon, nor do I condone his behavior, but the peace from forgiveness sure feels a whole lot better than anger and fear or that twinge of guilt I might have felt each time I prayed the Lord's prayer!
158. A Trust Without Borders by Tracy Hankwitz
We cross bridges daily
without a second thought
confident they will support our weight
But what about the bridges in our lives?
Are we confident that God will carry us across each one
that comes our way?
Do we trust him no matter the weight?
When things get really hard
when fear grips
and worry takes hold
when it's hard to see any light ahead
and the situation seems too big -
this is when it's hard to trust
but this is when we need to trust
Like Peter, who walked on water,
we take our eyes off Jesus
see the reality of our situation with eyes too narrow
and fear fills the heart
Aren't fear, worry, and stress a testament of a God we don't trust?
Why do we put limits on God?
When He doesn't seem to be answering fervent prayers
He really is
He is telling us to
'Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act . . .'
He reaches out to catch as we fall into the sea of uncertainty
and asks us, like He did Peter
'Why did you doubt?'
Trusting without borders is a radical kind of trust
it's a bold faith
leaning on the One who has held us
across the many bridges of yesterday.
His gifts of grace and promises kept
form the bridge of trust
so we can walk unafraid across the bridge from today to tomorrow.
Heavenly Father, forgive me for those times when my faith has faltered and I have doubted you. Grant me a bold, daring faith that trusts you without borders. Amen.
159. More than Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh by Christine Wentzel
Dear Morning Star
who shines so bright
over blazing sun or darkest night!
Lead us like the wise of men of old
away from the world
and into Your fold.
Keep us in Your tender care
by opening Your gifts
and laying them bare.
Not leaving them wrapped
and hidden away,
but wearing them thin
each and every day.
They'll never give out.
They'll never run out.
They'll always serve to light the Way.
160. At the Manger by Karen Spiegelberg
It's that time of the year when we enjoy the lights and Christmas decorations neighbors have displayed in their yards. Of course I particularly love any nativity scene I see. My deep appreciation for nativity scenes goes back to when I was a child. We lived only three blocks from our church and it was a tradition each year that my dad would walk my siblings and me to see the church's beautiful stable with Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus. I remember staring in at that tiny "baby" and I remember every single year wondering what it would have been like to be one of the shepherds who got the privilege of peering in at the real live baby Jesus! Oh how I would have loved to have been there on that night, the night the angels announced the birth of the Messiah, the one who was promised to come, our Lord and Savior. But, alas my time on this earth was not meant to be until the 1950s. But then, why should my mission be any different than the shepherds of long ago? Should I not also want to be as "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child..." (Luke2:17)? Indeed, a simple prayer for myself and for all of you in this last week before Christmas is that we all take time to peer closely at that tiny baby and then "spread the word" and praise and glorify God in any and all of our Christmas gatherings and traditions. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled! The Prince of Peace was born for you and for me!
Where Shepherds Lately Knelt (CW 54)
1. Where shepherds lately knelt
and kept the angel's word,
I come in half belief,
a pilgrim strangely stirred,
but there is room and welcome there for me,
but there is room and welcome there for me.
2. In that unlikely place
I find him as they said:
sweet newborn babe, how frail!
and in a manger bed,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me.
3. How should I not have known
Isaiah would be there,
his prophecies fulfilled?
With pounding heart I stare:
a child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
a child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.
4. Can I, will I forget
how love was born, and burned
its way into my heart
unasked, unforced, unearned,
to die, to live, and not alone for me,
to die, to live, and not alone for me?
161. We are SO Blessed! by Christine Wentzel
Most times when I hear about someone surviving a near fatal incident, comments something like this will come along, "Boy, someone is looking after you." It implies that person is especially protected or cared about or especially noticed. That statement makes me think about the opposing logical train of thought-when a person doesn't survive an incident does that mean they don't have that same someone looking out for them?
God does not show favoritism. Romans 2:11
Sometimes we Christians are just as guilty of portraying a type of favoritism. We use the word "blessed" for a lot of good in our lives, sometimes even to the point of bragging, but how often do we use it when it looks like we have a whole lot of "bad" going on? We praise Him in the goodness, but what if that "goodness" is slow in coming or it never arrives the way we anticipate? We may get a bit awkward-the kind of feeling one gets when not picked first or (gasp!) picked last. Or way deep down where we think the sun don't shine, we may feel disappointed or angry that His blessing doesn't look as good as we've seen for others.
For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
If those feelings come, the perfect antidote is to remember Jesus' life. So much of it looked like a person born under a bad star. Ironic since His Holy Father used a genuine, prophetic Star to lead people to His young Son. Jesus' conception appears to be from an unsanctified tryst. He's an odd duck among his peers for living His life perfectly. He never dated, was never betrothed to anyone unless you count His upcoming marriage to us, His spiritual church! He never had a home to call His own, a vagabond or worse yet a moocher. For heaven's sake, He wasn't even good-looking! Was He blessed by God? Um, might take an act of faith to believe that. Thank the Lord it's a gift He freely givesJ
Yet, it was God's desire to bless His only Son with the task of restoring the defiant people He always pursues and loves. Jesus blessed us by obeying His Father's command to perfectly fulfil His laws for us and end its judgment of death once and forever.
In light of that Blessing that earns a capital "B", let us "Humble [ourselves], therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift [us] up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
162. Innie or an Outie? by Christine Wentzel
Okay my sisters in Christ, you can stop thinking about your belly buttons now-that's not where I'm going with this. J I'm thinking about our status as heirs to the Kingdom or our citizenship in Heaven. Or, even more specifically, living like an "innie" (alive in Christ) verses living like an "outie" (still dead in our sins.)
Oy, the pain of our dual (duel!) nature this side of heaven! Does the Apostle Paul's famous lament come to mind? If you need a little help, here's the Reader's Digest version:
"For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature...For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing...So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me... (Romans 7:18-23)
We too feel that inner conflict every day. Our mortal bodies and all their evil desires daily wage war against our saved souls' desire to follow in the footsteps of our holy Redeemer. When left unchecked that inner conflict spills over to everyone around us which includes our relationships within our Christian family.
It is here that the devil screams with delight when we turn on each other because of wounds unhealed, power struggles, favoritism or gossiping, lying, stealing. In reality, breaking all the commandments! When this is seen through the eyes of a lost sheep in our midst can they tell the difference between the conflicts in their world from the conflicts in ours? Will our "outie" behavior cause them (or even other believers) to run for the hills of frustration only to fall off the cliff antipathy? Sorrowfully, many times it does.
Whether we are in the middle of an open conflict or stoking the fires of resentment from old ones gone by (which, by the way, do affect our current outward behavior), let's stop in our tracks right now. Bow our heads in humble submission and confess our sins to God, our Father. Remember, we are equal in our sins, and we are equal in our redemption. No one's sin is worse than another's. No one's redemption is great than another's.
Sisters, earlier I clarified our inner conflict with the words, "if left unchecked" because we are not dead soldiers of a losing battle. "Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me..." We are made alive in Christ who gives us a holy arsenal of tools and weapons at our disposal to "fight the good fight of faith". Start your next moment using those tools. Get your bible and open it to Ephesians 6. Use this respite to strengthen your life to live it as an "innie".
163. Why Me? By Carolyn Webb
Do you every feel like Moses? No, I don’t mean that you feel like an old man leading a nation across the desert. Do you ever feel like God has called on you to do more than you are capable of doing? Maybe you were a lay member of the congregation with no teaching experience called upon to teach Sunday School. Perhaps you have been called upon to take care of an ailing family member. Could it be that you were just named the boss at work, but you’re not bossy? It’s at times like these that you might feel like Moses.
When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea. Instead of responding, “Here I am, send me,” he basically asked, “Why me?” Moses did his best to try to talk God out of His plan with responses like:
“Who am I that I should go..? Exodus 3:11
What if they don’t believe me or listen to me…? Exodus 4:1
Oh Lord, I have never been eloquent. Exodus 4:10
Oh Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Exodus 4:13
To every one of these excuses and objections, God had a solution.
“I will be with you …” Exodus 3:12
God gave Moses the ability to do three miracles to convince the people to listen to him:
Exodus 4:2-9 tells of the Lord turning Moses’ staff into a serpent and then back into a staff: “This”, said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord…has appeared to you.”
“I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12
“Your brother, Aaron, will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” Exodus 4:16-17
God didn’t take “No” for an answer, but provided Moses with everything he needed for the task he was called to do, including an assistant.
The next time you feel God is asking you to do the impossible, and you start to ask, “Why me?” and run through your list of excuses (too busy, too shy, lacking skills, etc….), remember that when God chose the leaders in the Bible they were all very ordinary people. God doesn’t look at what we don’t have, but He wants us to look for the solutions He is giving us. What words of encouragement is He providing? What undeveloped talents has God given you? Is there someone who can help you? Above all else, trust God will provide everything you need.
God’s encouragement to Joshua, who succeeded Moses and led the Israelites into the Promised Land, is our encouragement too: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
164. Scarier than Halloween - the Last Judgment by Karen Maio
Typically, the Sunday after all the mini witches, ghosts, and pirates have “frightened” us out of our snack size Snicker bars, we focus in church on something that can be far scarier...the Last Judgment. The coming judgment of the Lord is serious stuff! We will all be called to account. For believers in Jesus as our Savior from sin, this is not a scary thing; we can point to the cross and Christ’s righteousness which is now our own and know we are going to heaven. The last judgement observance serves to encourage us to endure in our faith - don’t let your guard down, but “fight the good fight” - until His return. For unbelievers, this should be far more frightening than any Halloween movie or haunted house could ever be.
This week I had the opportunity to talk to somebody who didn’t believe there would be a Judgment Day, and if there were, wondered what kind of report card would God use? I assured him that there would be such a day; God says so. The “Sheep and the Goats” account in Matthew 25:31-46 makes this very clear.
As for a report card, I showed him that it's not about good vs. bad behavior! (Whew! Otherwise none of us would make it!) The good book says: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and that “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” (Isaiah 64:6)...so how can we end up with a "passing grade"? It's all about faith: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Plus, faith is a free gift : “It is by grace (God's undeserved love) you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) All one has to “do” is believe that Jesus died on the cross to save him from his sins. PASS!!
He disagreed with this grading system, but felt that it would all come down to how well we treat our fellow man. I agreed that it was important to show love to everybody, but NOT to earn points on the eternal report card - but as a natural outflow of thanks for all God has done for us and our salvation.
He politely concluded that “we each must find our own path to the divine”. SCARY!!
I felt compelled to get in the last word, “I [Jesus] am the way [not one of the paths] and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, my emphasis).
I felt such fear and sadness for this individual, but he has heard the good news of Jesus and his salvation. Now it is up to the Holy Spirit to work faith in his heart. You and I probably know others who are on the wrong path and need to hear the Gospel of Christ! Focusing on the Last Judgment is a good reminder to keep on witnessing, women! “God our Savior, wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”. (1Timothy 2:4)
May God give us guidance and courage to witness in these end times.
165. Planned Parenthood: A Personal Perspective by Christine Wentzel
It’s been quite of week of news that glaringly reveals the opposites of our human nature. I received the news of the miraculous birth of my third great, great niece who was brought into this world at 23 weeks weighing a whopping 1 pound. As I write a team of dedicated doctors and nurses are doing everything they can to keep her alive outside the womb. Our Creator God gifted them with the knowledge to figure out how to do that. Parents of preemies are forever grateful.
Now juxtapose that to the undercover videos exposing the elephant in the abortion rooms, revealing the hardcore banality of their doctors who manipulate a harvest of prime parts to sell to eager awaiting researchers of unknown varieties. This Gosnell-like practice is currently lawful for living up to 24 weeks.
Once again the news brings up memories of my prodigal past. My prayer for this narrative is that the Lord will bless my perspective to comfort and encourage those who have been there and inspire those eager to help the many who might go there.
Where have all the flowers gone?
This song comes to mind as I ponder on the souls of our lost babies and the actions of the parents. As of this writing there were 1,347,722,009 abortions performed worldwide since 1980. That is almost the population of China or India. The hard question for me to ask is, “Where are all the babies now?” My emotional side wants to answer “in heaven”, but what does God say about it?
For every life from the moment of conception to the end of our days, our Maker/Holy Judge is very clear about our spiritual condition…
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5
Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! Job 14:4
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
For every life from the moment of conception to the end of our days, our Maker/Redeemer is very clear about His work to fix our spiritual condition…
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Romans 4:25
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:17
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- Ephesians 2:8
It is with Godly wisdom and faith that we leave the question of “Where are all the babies now?” for the Lord to answer. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part,” 1 Corinthians 13:9
If we can’t rest in His silence, how can we rest in His revelations?
I’ve got a story to tell and so do so many more
The Lord of provision made sure that my Christian parents’ low-income wallets would stretch enough to include the tuition for their two last babies to attend parochial schools. This was also helped by the generous programs set up in the church for our kind of financial need. This was despite the fact that my alcoholic father/church lay leader tried to drink away the funds. His redeemed self knew better so it must have been a very hard-fought battle to make it work. Again, our Lord of mercies turns our sinful choices into blessings.
As a newly minted adult with all my teen dysfunctions, I left home at 18. As a sexually active, single working woman, I used the services of Planned Parenthood (PP) for my GYN needs. They were cheaper than a regular OB/GYN clinic and were anonymous to my employer and family circle. It was important to me to keep the lid on my sinful behavior. For the most part, I appeared a “good” girl. My parents were too far away to know what was really going on.
Then I became pregnant because God’s will was done despite my efforts to stop Him. It shattered my own illusion of my “goodness” and sent me in a level of anxiety I never experienced before. There was no positive support system in place because I burned all those bridges. I listened to the world around me. Despite my conscience screaming not to and after waiting nearly the whole first trimester, I had the abortion.
Christians wonder how a woman who professes to believe in Christ can kill her own baby. All I can say it’s a testimony to the power of our sinful nature. Take away the healthy, daily interaction of Godly family, friends, church community and a committed personal accountability to Christ, sin thrives while faith starves. While we are redeemed sinners thanks to Jesus, we are still living in the tension of being a sinner and a saint. Christians right now are in the act of killing themselves and their loved ones through drugs, alcohol, exhausting ambition, child abuse, porn, adultery, homosexuality, let alone all the little pet favorites that erode godliness.
Doesn’t that offer a greater understanding of God’s goodness and mercy that still follows us all the rest of our lives? It is a wonder, is it not that when He removes our confessed sin, He removes it forever!
I remained in my sin for 20 years. In the fullness of God’s timing, He used a series of tragedies and miraculous interventions to lead me back home. It took just one sermon on a Life Sunday in 2001 to reveal what I had done to My Father’s gift of a baby. I was traumatized by the knowledge of my actions. Instead of dealing with it right then and there at the church I internalized my suffering and asked God to forgive me over and over and over. I heard of my forgiveness, I just didn’t believe it.
So I kept myself busy by pouring myself into becoming an active church member. The Holy Spirit grew my faith. Slowly one by one my secret sins were bubbling to the surface and I openly repented over each one that I felt safe to do so.
I soon became a bible study leader. One night the subject of abortion came up as a sidebar. I found myself struggling to maintain my perfect Christian composure during some very intense dialog. I finally crumbled and confessed my brokenness to my sisters. They were stunned by the sudden revelation, but immediately enveloped me in their encouragement, turned their bible pages to love messages from God and we prayed. For the first time I could breathe. I truly understood my forgiveness that night. It was confirmed by the lightness of my being, by the ability to confess to my pastors and hear the message of forgiveness again, by the ability to read about abortions and not pick up another bag of shame and guilt and by the ability to share my story publically. Then the Lord opened doors of private counseling with other women who were keeping their own secrets. Let the healing begin. We know our Redeemer lives and what a friend we have in Him and His family!
Dear princesses to the King, if you are quietly suffering in the rawness of your pain, I completely understand and so do many more. Please find someone to speak to. If that’s not possible, I beg you to drop me a line and tell me your story. We will listen and pray with you, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, we might be able to put you in touch with someone to talk to locally.
So what now?
It’s another great time to bring awareness and start a dialog in our churches and social circles that are currently quiet on the subject. We have it on the authority of Scripture that the Holy Spirit will guide us.
I believe with these current revelations in the news that there are silent sufferers just praying for a chance to unload their pain. I believe there are girls and women out there who are questioning their stance on pro-choice. Are we ready to help pick up the pieces of our sisters’ pain? Are we up to date on what pregnant women on the fence are facing?
We as bible-believing Christians have the Gospel rescue, but it is not an easy message for itchy ears who are seeking an easy way out of their responsibilities. Choosing life for many, dare I say self-focused people (I being one,) looks way too sacrificial and/or terrifying to justify even the life of a human being. For these kinds of women, it takes a community of Grace-filled helpers to see them through motherhood or adoption. For those who were victims of rape or incest, it takes an even greater commitment to help them find the thriving purpose God designed just for them and their babies.
We also need to know the culture of pro-choice with their arguments and justifications. We need to understand that pregnant girls and women are not receiving balanced counseling in PP. They caution patients on getting advice from anyone who is pro-life describing them as “judgmental” opinions and that those opinions may cause depression in post-abortion women.
What I learned in the news
The Center for Medical Progress is the watchdog group behind the Human Capital Project. This project “is a 30-month-long investigative journalism study…documenting how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies.” I watched the full-length editions of the videos and read their transcripts. The following is my own understanding of those undercover meetings.
PP’s goal is to change the narrative on abortions. By eagerly coordinated efforts between them and bio-research companies, they are packaging a message to incentivize patients to “donate their tissue” for medical advancement so “it’ll drive demand” (patients wanting to donate or researchers seeking donation, it wasn’t clear.) One company sells their program to PP as “financially profitable [for PP], easy to implement, medical director oversight, IRB certified consents”
Which means a research company will enter into a contract with agreed-upon prices per “donation” then set up shop in a corner of PP’s establishment. They have this representative “counsel” the message of “tissue donation” for major medical advancement to patients whom PP singles out. PP selects a patient whose baby meets the criteria for whatever is on the researcher’s daily menu of optimum specimens. Once the patient agrees to the donation (clueless of its actual use and price tag), the research representative takes the parts from the doctor, catalogs and prepares for shipment. As Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services, PP said, “It’s a win-win situation for all.” The patient believes she found the “silver lining in a bad situation”, PP (with little to no extra effort or cost) monetarily gains from something that “would just be thrown away anyway” and medical research advancement is increased.
By Dr. Nucatola’s admission, they are performing partial-birth abortions (up to 24 weeks) to obtain those optimum specimens. They accrue no data on the experimental ways they dilate a patient for partial-birth manipulation. To get around this lawlessness, PP employs lawyers who re-write the terminology to fit the law. There are no guidelines for harvesting. They will also extract from abnormal in-utero babies, but explained that “the demand for that is low.” She admitted that PP does not know what actually happens to the “donations” once they leave their practice.
The doctor wrapped up the meeting by saying, “But I really like babies, believe it or not.” And that their work is “benevolent.” She wishes people would just stop looking at the procedure itself and pan out their vision to see the bigger picture for the Greater Good.
You can find all this and more at: www.centerformedicalprogress.org
What we can do in our own backyard
We can bring back Life Sunday services and activities. In our church they have stopped and I wonder if that’s an increasing trend. We can talk to our pastors and lay leaders. Come up with a plan to highlight specific ministries that are already helping pregnant women and new mothers. They need help getting the word out.
Add abortion related topics to your women’s bible studies, retreats and convention break-out sessions. Set up special prayer groups for them. Encourage an atmosphere for confession.
Use our social networking to like and share high quality information to help shed light on the topic and be ready to have God-pleasing discussions.
Please feel free to add even more suggestions that promote awareness and open dialogs. We’ll add them to our Facebook posts.
You are not alone
If you are someone considering an abortion, speak up. Your baby is relying on you to push past your fears. Ask yourself the same question I asked in the beginning of this piece, “Where are all the [aborted] babies now?” Not only have you been given this precious person to carry, you also safeguard their time of grace in your womb. What an incredible work the Lord equipped you for!! So please contact us if you feel you have no one to talk to. We pray with and for you. We can try to find someone in your area to help. God uniquely gifted you with the ability to carry the baby. He will gift you with discernment to be a mother or to give the baby up for adoption. He will always provide for you and your baby or He would never have allowed you to get pregnant. This most certainly true!
Dear Father in Heaven, oh what a mess we make of your creation. We weep over the choices we made and even more over the destruction that continues fall on the weakest of the weak. You wrote the law in each of our hearts—our conscience, whether quiet or loud, convicts all of us. No one can truthfully claim abortion by choice is a right when You are the one who knit each of us together in our mother’s wombs. Please continue to peel away the veneer of lies. Give us the wisdom to care for those who fear their pregnancy and to care for those who are suffering by choices they made. Open the door for more opportunities to be an immediate help in ever-present trouble. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
166. Preach Like Paul by Christine Wentzel
What? Might as well tell most of us to sing like Whitney Houston or dance like Michael Jackson!
We sometimes cringe at the thought of comparing our witnessing to the Apostle Paul, and not without some great excuses. The man was personally called by Christ to help plant His church among the Gentiles, he authored much of the New Testament, expressed holy joy in the face of torture, imprisonment and persecution, and survived shipwrecks and near fatal beatings.
When it comes to our personal witnessing we mostly suffer from fears of our making. Do we know Him enough? Get in the community of believers. Will we sound stupid or get it wrong? Stay in His Word through worship, sacraments, prayer and bible study. Will we be disliked? Yes, sometimes. It’s okay—what matters is what God likes.
However in this age of instant communication where everyone owns a stage, we usually don’t tie ourselves up in knots when it comes to speaking our thoughts, actions and whereabouts in the most excruciating detail. We’ll tweet 140 characters over and over and text long convos while driving, eating, walking and even in the middle of sleeping. There are no hang ups preaching ourselves.
Oh yes there are some of those bumbling attempts to declare one’s belief by reposting a popular take on something like Romans 1:16 for example: “Repost if you’re not ashamed of Jesus. I know most of you won’t.” Not exactly what Jesus had in mind when sending out His disciples to spread the Good News.
Let’s take an inventory of our social stage. Who is the star? Who makes guest appearances? Do we text, tweet, pin or e-mail “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”?
Use the ability to instantly communicate as the honorable gift it was meant to be. Our fingertips are keystrokes away from posting some of the most uplifting statuses out there. Let it be known how the Gospel gets us through the good and bad times. Share information that will edify someone’s day. Those same life-giving Words Paul had we have as well.
Above all do not fear. The power of Christ does all the work of changing and strengthening hearts and minds. Whether our friends and followers number in single or quadruple digits, we have souls in our circles that need to know a very personally invested Lord and Savior exists.
Status update (140 max): For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 ESV
167. Living in Tension by Christine Wentzel
Has anyone thrown negative names at you? Some like these? DISHONEST! WORTHLESS! DUMB! DOUBTFUL! WEAK! LOST! Even if you’ve never heard anyone say them to you openly, your sinful self does plenty of mud- slinging at the new you in Christ.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Psalm 51:3
Well, instead of coming back with something like “Oh yeah? Well I’m rubber, you’re glue; whatever bounces off me sticks to you!” you might want to fill your arsenal with something that packs a lot more punch.
For as bad as these name callers are, they are not the only instigators in this fight. No, there’s a big fat liar pants-on-fire behind the scenes (Satan) who, when up against the triumphant Lamb of God, is nothing more than a paper tiger full of hot air. There’s an everlasting lake of fire reserved in his name in due time.
Because of the life-saving work of His Son, Christ Jesus, your Father only see labels like: TRUTHFUL! RIGHTEOUS! ABLE! FAITHFUL! STRONG! SAVED!
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12
We live in the tension of what we have been and who we want to be. While I don’t remember the author of that applicable quote, I do have the bible for the only life-giving truths. There the Apostle Paul went round and round this conundrum to his listeners in Rome (see Romans 7).
When you find yourself cowering under the onslaught of attacks by the world, family or friends, your sinful flesh and the devil, immediately ask your Father for help. Go to His words of power and truth. Apply a tried and true method: memorize them. I know this selection looks long, but you’ll be surprised by how much of it you already know. Plus, you have the one and only Spirit of Truth helping you!
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11
168. Heroes of Faith: Steve Hayner by Christine Wentzel
Hebrews 11:1-2 (Faith in Action) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
I recently came across an internet news headline about the 15 best highlights from a journal written by a Christian man dying of cancer. I began to read and it wasn’t long before I was inspired by the story of an incredible hero of faith.
The journal was kept by the Rev. Dr. Stephen (Steve) A. Hayner, president emeritus of Columbia Theological Seminary. In Columbia’s notice of his passing it stated that “His goal was to always live to and for an audience of One, and his hope was to live life with wide open arms and relational integrity.” That goal was clear in his journaling all the way through to the end.
I’d like to share just one of the 15 highlights for it speaks so clear to me, and I hope to many of you, about my struggle to use all my time—rest, work and play, as if I were living for an audience of One.
Here’s the abbreviated entry for November 26, “Am I wasting my time?”
“Recently I’ve been plagued by questions about how I am using my time. Knowing that my time on this earth is limited is a strong motivation to use the days I have left to the fullest…
I wonder some days how God regards my time…Yesterday I was taking a little rest and found myself wondering whether resting was the right thing to be doing when I actually felt good enough to do more.
I find that I am developing questions to help me in my discernment. They include:
1) Is this activity something where my joy intersects with what brings joy to God?
2) Am I living into this activity with gratitude for the opportunity given to me?
3) Am I able to receive the time before me as a gift?
4) Does this activity play into old patterns of procrastination or overwork?
5) How does this activity express love–for God, for each other?”
This list is an easy reminder to develop the habit of reflecting in the moment of decision the need to correct or not the attitude that will motivate this activity. Does it reinforce bad habits or reflect joy, gratitude and love in Christ?
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Pastor Hayden’s blog is found here: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/stevehayner/journal
169. Celebrating Fathers by Karen Maio
I have a pretty good relationship with my dad. He's a big sports guy. Me? I'd be lucky to name...say, 5 of our Green Bay Packers beyond Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, so we don't have a whole lot in common. But, I'd still feel totally comfortable going to him for anything - advice, babysitting, help with just about anything; socializing, even vacationing, together. I count myself blessed to have my dad alive, relatively well, and living close by to boot! The thing I treasure most from my dad is my heritage of faith.
The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him." Exodus 15:2
My heart goes out to those who don't have a very good relationship with their dad, or no longer have their father with them here on earth. But, remember, we always have a heavenly Father, an everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6). We sinners don't have a whole lot in common with a holy God, but we can feel totally comfortable - even confident - in coming to him for anything. In fact, he invites us to pray to him as "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9), just as we would ask our own loving (earthly) father; he promises to hear and help us. "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him." 1 John 5:14-15. He "knows what you need even before you ask him." Matthew 6:8. The thing we can treasure most from our heavenly Father is the gift and source of our faith, our salvation, and our ultimate inheritance of heaven.
"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, (Jesus) born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." Galatians 4:4-7
So, this Father's Day, while you're celebrating - or remembering - dear old Dad, take a moment to celebrate your heavenly Father"...giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light." Colossians 1:12 and count yourself blessed!
170. I'll Cry for a Moment by Christine Wentzel
Jesus wept. Oh the bittersweet joy this sentence gives! I am comforted to know He was emotional enough to cry, but want to cry because His pain was enough to make Him weep. In two words I know that my Holy Pastor feels compassion, empathy and sorrow for all our hurting souls.
The week of trading His Life for theirs (ours!) He openly cried over all His lost children...As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.... Luke 19:41
Was His sorrow over the death of a friend? Over the grief of His friends? Over the broken masterpiece of His creation? Over a love not returned to He who is Love? It's all the above and more. As the Son of Man, He is human just like us. He experiences the full gambit of emotions just like us. His body reacts to pent- up feelings, just like us.
However, there is one undeniable difference between how He handles His emotional pain and how we tend to handle ours. He knows the Joy behind the pain--He knows His sinless, but sorrowful mission was our liberation from death--He knows He is our only Hope for living happily ever after.
Now, it's ours to know, too!
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
So on your journey to your heavenly mansion, go ahead and cry when you need to, when you have to. Not only does it release your body and mind from the built up tension, but it shows your humanity and ability to feel. It also helps your family in Christ come to your rescue, or in the very least shows them (like Christ showed you) that there's nothing wrong with expressing emotions.
But, keep in mind to weep like Jesus. His compassionate eyes look into yours and remind you that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:4 And He promises those tears will not be shed in vain. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21
As He wipes our cheeks dry while setting us back on our feet, He leaves us with the reason for not surrendering in the pain...I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
Cry for a moment; it's okay.
171. Eenie, meenie, minie, mo... by Christine Wentzel
It's one thing to own up to and repent of our sins to our God of the most awesome super powers; all seeing, all knowing, all loving. As His children we know we can't get away with anything. In light of this, it kind of makes it a bit easier to just drop the excuses and come clean.
You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you. Psalm 69:5
As we confess to Him we are also remembering His promises of love, mercy and renewal. In light of this, we wrap our robes of holy righteousness around us a little tighter and speak of our sinfulness with the sure knowledge that His son, Jesus, personally nailed each one of them to the cross once and for all.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." John 8:11
On the other hand, it's quite another thing to express our sins to those around us. This task of fellowship is important to our set-apart-from-the world-lives through Christ. It's through this kind of intimate sharing where we draw closer to one another. However we know how weak we all are in fairness and love.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1
So, in the community of the church, we are careful about exposing our sins for fear of public feasting. We pick and choose what we'll reveal based solely on our point of pride, our reputation or what others think of us.
For instance, take the current societal obsession over the porn flick, 50 Shades of Grey, based on the popular book of erotica. Because of its wide acceptance, a Christian might justify her choice to view or read, but she might not be so free to share what the impact of exposing herself to pornography has had on her mindset and relationships. Or take any sinful thought, word or action we're willing to confess with others, but keep secret the severity and ugly consequences.
What I have found in the process of confessing my sins is that I never met anyone who can't relate to the temptation and eventual suffering of making sinful choices.
In our what-if fears, it's quite easy to cherry pick our sins and kick the "worst" under the rug. Let's ask the Holy Spirit to help us develop healthy Christian relationships, the kinds that encourage healing dialogs of testimony and confession to bring comfort and joy in their common battles and common victories. The Accuser holds nothing over us-that ransom's been paid.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
172. Injustice by Janet Gehlhar
Injustice. Just hearing the word raises my ire. Maybe that is why the Lenten season is so powerful for me.
Jesus understands injustice. The same people who cheered him on Palm Sunday did an about face and screamed “Crucify Him” a few days later. His best buddies deserted him, another denied Him not once but three times, He was beaten up, falsely imprisoned, and well, you know the list.
I have to admit that every year at some point my pride rises up and says that I wouldn’t have behaved like those people. What a lie! How often I have done that in my own way.
Isaiah 53:5 states . . . But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
While I’m abhorred by the suffering, I find personal comfort in knowing that Jesus truly understands when I talk to him about my frustrations with injustice. He has dealt with the ultimate injustice of being holy and yet dying for all of my sins. Because of His sacrifice in my place, now the penalty for my sins is paid. I am forgiven and heaven awaits.
Every year I go through the same progression during Lent. I am outraged at the treatment Jesus received, I am sorrowful that my sin is the cause, and I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness that Jesus loves me so much that He endured the suffering and the crucifixion so I could be forgiven. What an awesome God!
During this upcoming week, I want to keep my focus on Jesus, worshipping Him with a grateful heart.
173. Step by Step by Christine Wentzel
It's a reminder of the path we walk every day along the Way...
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21
Following in the footsteps of Christ is to follow the only path to everlasting life. He alone did all the work of making the way clear for us to come to our Father once again. Not only did He pave the way, He taught us how to do it by example. He knows where the curb is. He knows where the potholes are. He warns us they are there, and He comforts us as we walk in His steps through them. And, when He sees a great spot to rest, He points that out too and invites us to stop and regroup with Him.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Whether the path is covered in snow and icy underneath, or slimed with slick and sticky mud, or strewn with loose dirt and rocks or even carpeted with cool grass or invitingly warm sand making it a bit too easy to stop and never leave, we need the helping hands of Jesus' family walking on this same path. They can and will lend a hand to help us back up, support our balance and encourage us forward along the Way.
Join with others in following my example, [sisters], and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. Philippians 3:17
Okay, up and at 'em! Let's start the next leg with a song...
I walk with Jesus all the way,
His guidance never fails me;
Within his wounds I find a stay
When Satan's power assails me;
And by his footsteps led,
My path I safely tread.
No evil leads my soul astray;
I walk with Jesus all the way.
I Walk in Danger All the Way,
Hymn # 391 from Lutheran Worship
174. Bring it on! by Christine Wentzel
The older I get the more I dislike change. It means I am going to be challenged—for good or for bad? It means I have to face choices and make decisions—will it be the right one? It could also mean I’ll experience loss or feel pain. Who in the world wants that?
Can’t you just picture the devil gleefully willing to stoke those dangerous what-if sparks into an all-out fear inferno? For ultimately what I’m saying is I’m afraid of the change because I don’t know how it will impact my expectations—the way I see life going for me. Phew, please help Lord!
The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding. Job 28:28
That’s our loving Father—keeping it simple for His foolish kids! All other fear is for our old lives, because guess what? We’ve been changed. Not upgraded, but made completely brand new!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
The old (what) has gone? Paul is encouraging the Corinthian Christians to not live their lives according the values of this world. That was the old way. This warning is for us too. When the world sees one going through “bad” changes, doesn’t it say there is every right to complain and be angry while secretly judging it as punishment? If it’s a “good” change, does it not give the glory to hard work or luck while secretly itching with jealousy?
The new (what) has come? While living in a world separated from its Creator, we still have to wear our original sinful flesh with its corrupt desires. However, as believers in Christ, we are spiritually brand new! It’s a life-giving change; one that glorifies our Redeemer and seeks His will in every coming change. With the help of the Holy Spirit and His Word, we live by a new set of values created by Love and new purpose to show that Love.
…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting mean’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
So as the King of Kings’ earthly delegation, let us declare, “Bring it on.” For with any change we have the opportunity to shine like the Bethlehem Star joyfully showing the way to eternal life!
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
175. Day After Thanksgiving by Karen Maio
While throngs of people head to the mall for bargain hunting, you head to a Christmas tree farm, family in tow, to select and hew the perfect Christmas tree. Or maybe you simply head to the local garden center or the big box store, but wherever you go, this is it - the first real taste of the Christmas season and you feel the beginning of holiday spirit.
Dozens of trees later (held up for inspection by a now less than festive spouse), the kids are whining that they are cold, your toes agree, and the Christmas spirit is fading fast.
Can this wonderful family tradition be saved?
There's always an artificial tree. You lose the wonderful fragrance, but you also lose the hassle and the whining, and you stay nice and warm.
However, for the traditional diehards, a little preplanning goes a long way. Scope out trees ahead of time, if possible. Bundle up the kids. Be quick with a decision (after all, no tree is perfect). Talk about the meaning of this Christmas symbol. While the Bible doesn't speak of it directly, celebrating with greenery was a part of Old Testament Jewish tradition : "On the first day you are to take the product of majestic trees-palm fronds, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook-and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." (Leviticus 23:40). People in the Roman Empire decorated with branches from evergreens, a symbol of life in the midst of winter. The Christians in Germany adapted this practice in the 16th century after earlier resistance believing the practice was related to pagan worship. Legend credits Martin Luther with being the first to bring a candle-lit fir tree inside. The tree points to the heavens, reminding us whose birth we are celebrating. The evergreen boughs remind us of the everlasting life that is ours through faith in Christ! "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Putting Christ into this secular tradition will keep the Christmas spirit from being snuffed out before it barely begins!
God, You have created the beautiful, ever-living, evergreen tree. Whether we choose a freshly cut tree or a dusted-off artificial one, may the symbol remind us of the everlasting life that is ours through faith in Christ Jesus! Bless us with love and patience this holiday season as we work together as a family to make the celebration of your birth a joyous, festive time. In Jesus's name, Amen.