Musings of a Super Girl | Archives 8
1. In the absence of a moral compass, we are left with nothing more than how we feel...
That’s the nutshell of the conversation my daughter and I had the other day. We were discussing why there seems to be no moral stability in our nation right now.
“Why is it ok to commit suicide if you need assistance to do so, but not ok if assistance is not needed? That’s such a confusing message to send to those who are susceptible.”
That’s the nutshell of my argument in class against physician assisted suicide. We watched “The Sea Inside” about a paraplegic man who was done living in a state of dependence and was fighting to commit assisted suicide.
There are many, many areas in society today where we’re left wondering which end is up...
The transgendered individual is praised for altering her body to match what she thinks her gender was supposed to be. On the other hand, the woman who pours bleach in her eyes because she thought she was meant to be blind is looked at in outrage.
A pre-birth baby is considered a wonderful and beautiful human being who should be protected at all costs. Unless the mother doesn’t want it, then it’s considered a clump of cells with no humanity yet.
“In the absence of a moral compass, we are left with nothing more than how we feel.”
As Christians we have a tendency to muddy the waters a bit further by adding new directions to the compass we were given.
• Dancing is bad
• Piercing anything but ears and only on a girl is sinful
• Dying your hair any color not naturally found on hair is un Christian
• Visible sin is more sinful than invisible sin
Our moral compass was given to us in plain, easy to understand language; there’s no need to add more. What we do need to do is share that super easy and freeing compass with others. As we share and combat the lack of direction in the world we live in, we need to remember that we too are corrupted by sin; what makes us different is that we recognize it.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31
What is more loving than giving the desperately seeking a compass to find their way?
2. I Want to Change by Janet Gehlhar
I want to be the person God wants me to be. Why is that so hard? I tell myself that today will be different and I won’t continue with my sinful habits and yet that is exactly what I do. I totally get Paul when he writes in Romans 7:19 . . .
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
How can I change? God’s instructional manual tells us in James 4:7-8 . . .
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
It begins with my mind. What thoughts do I allow to take up space? What do I read, watch on TV, or listen to? I have choices. Hmmm . . . turn off the TV? Turn on some Christian music? Decorate my home with art that reminds me of Jesus? Read my Bible? Pray throughout the day? In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are encouraged to . . .
take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
At times, Satan pops some sinful idea into my mind and I wonder from where it came. I now recognize that he is trying to distract me from God and the things I want to do for God. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t fight this battle alone. Exactly. What a blessing that Almighty God is on our side! He forgives us and fights for us.
Today I will focus my mind on God and His ways. When temptations come, I will pray for God’s strength and ask Him to come near so the devil will flee.
3. Just Pay Attention by Julie Luetke
About a year ago a prayer request came to our prayer team. A young couple’s infant twins had died. Recently another prayer request came to the team for the same couple. This time it was in joyful thanksgiving. That very day they were about to adopt an infant son. The Bible verse chosen to go with the prayer was from Psalm 30:5b …weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
That evening my daily Bible reading happened to be Psalm 113. Right there in verse 9, God spoke to me. He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord. It was as if God was thinking of the couple, and commented to me about them.
Another time I was writing to a group of college students. They had just volunteered to share the love of Jesus with people who have developmental disabilities. I wanted to encourage them to follow through on their plan. Buried on my desk was a slip of paper with a verse from James. Somehow that slip of paper worked its way to the top of my pile just when I needed it. James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him. It was as if God was saying, “Here, this will help.”
Often Psalm 23 is read or recited when someone is in danger or dying. Psalm 23 is an amazing song God sings to a soldier when bullets are flying by or in the last fear filled days of one’s life. God does talk to us. He always says the right thing. All we have to do is just pay attention. Don’t force God’s words to say what you want to hear. Don’t take them out of context. Just listen.
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Companies spend millions of dollars to get our attention. They try every clever trick in the book. God just uses the Book of Books. No catchy jingle, no explosions, no talking gecko with an accent. Just open the Bible and know it is God’s words to you. It is God’s love letter from beginning to end. It starts off, “Dear You,” and ends, “ With Love from God.”
Psalm 119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
4. Shrink Down to Size by Christine Wentzel
Many people imagine God as He has every right to be seen—too large for the likes of us mere mortals. Perhaps this is because if we were a god, we’d act too big to bother with any one below our divine station. Our sinful pride wouldn’t have it any other way. But wait! Don’t we already act like this? Our world tells us to not shrink down to size. Don’t live a humble, subservient life. Don’t even think that way. That is how to become a success, a Somebody.
Then along comes our too-big-for-His-britches Lord to mess up that temporal pursuit of happiness.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8
The Maker of the Universe, unaccountable to time and space, shrank down to the size of a finite, frail human body. Then the King of Kings shrunk down even more to allow false accusations, torture and death overtake Him. Why? Because that’s Love, baby!
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, Ephesians 3:17b-18
To ensure this our Redeemer from death shrank down to size once again in the person of the Holy Spirit. Now our Comforter—our Advocate and Guide—deliberately lives in our hearts and minds. Why don’t we spontaneously combust? Because that’s Love, baby!
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…But the Counselor…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. [italics mine] John 14:16-18, 26
So go ahead and don’t be afraid to take this leap of faith. Joyfully shrink down to the size of our Servant. Eagerly humble yourselves to those around you even to the point of being labeled a fool. Willingly serve them knowing they are just as treasured as you are. Why? Because that’s Love, baby!
You were taught…to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:22-24, 32
5. A Glory Eclipse by Julie Luetke
I am guessing we have all seen a lunar eclipse. The shining full moon is gradually overtaken by shadow. After a time the shadow covers the entire moon, completely, but only temporarily, hiding the moon's light.
Jesus is true God, 100% all the time, God. As God, Jesus is filled with glory. On the mount of Transfiguration recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke we read that Jesus's face and clothing shone like lightning. The brightness was Jesus's glory being revealed to strengthen the faith of and give courage to Peter, James, and John.
Think of Jesus's glory like the full moon shining super brightly. Imagine you are watching the lunar eclipse in stop motion photography. Each photo shows a bit more of the moon being hidden by shadow. We are in the season of Lent when we ponder the suffering and death of Jesus before we celebrate His resurrection on Easter. Each event leading to the cross is like photos of an eclipse of Jesus hiding a bit more of His glory.
Think of the glory eclipse beginning when Jesus permitted soldiers to bind his hands in the Garden of Gethsemane. The mock trials, the spitting and striking of Jesus by soldiers and temple guards are all steps in the eclipse of Jesus putting His glory aside in order to save us from our sin.
Our sin had to be paid for. The Father knows we are not capable of being perfect, even for a day. So He sent His Son to be perfect for us so Jesus could be the sacrifice that pays for sin once and for all.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
If Pilate saw Jesus in His glory, bright like lightning, he would not have had the courage to sentence Jesus to death. Pilate probably wouldn't even have had the courage to stand. Jesus had to hide his glory in order to be our substitute and pay for our sin.
As you think about the crown of thorns, the lashes of the whip, the nails, the mockery, remember that an eclipse is temporary. We can think of Jesus's death as the full eclipse, but the glory was coming back brighter than ever!
The glory was back when Jesus showed Himself the victor over sin and death to Satan in hell. The glory was back when the earth shook on Easter morning. The glory was back when Jesus burst from the tomb and the soldiers fell like dead men. The glory is back for good.
John 11:25 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
6. A Model of Obedience by Diana Kerr
Growing up, my mother was always good at nudging me out of my comfort zone. I remember one specific instance as a kid when she sent me up to the counter at McDonald's so I could sheepishly inform them, "Um, my Happy Meal didn't have a toy in it. Could I please still have a toy?" I dreaded those moments, but when Mom pushed, you obeyed.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus' first miracle resulted from his mother's urging? While at a wedding where the wine had run out, Mary approached Jesus with a classic motherly nudge. "When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, 'They have no more wine.' 'Dear woman, why do you involve me?' Jesus replied, 'My time has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you'" (John 2:3-5).
It's almost humorous how Mary dismissed Jesus' resistance. And we know what happened next. God in human form set aside his own desire to obey his mother. In Jesus' mind, the timing wasn't ideal, yet even he was not above obedience to his mother. The Son of God did not forget that he's also the son of Mary.
You may not always agree with your parents or those whom God has placed in authority over you. You may not always be up to the task they ask you to do. But God calls you to obey them and honor them nonetheless. Often, they're blessed with a vision and understanding greater than your own.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit timeofgrace.org
7. Great Expectations by Karen Maio
Expectations run high around the holidays--feasting on delicious meals and treats, going to fantastic parties, creating cherished family memories, receiving fabulous presents, attending or participating in awe-inspiring Christmas concerts, and the list goes on.
But, sometimes the turkey is dry and the cookies are a little burned. The wives at the office party spend the evening gossiping and looking disdainfully down at other wives' dresses. The son you haven't seen in a year is snowed in and won't be home for Christmas. Uncle John has way too much to drink...again. The sweater you circled in the ad is not in the box you open, just a set of pot holders and a new pizza pan. At the Christmas service, the soloist comes in at the wrong time, and flu has wiped out half the choir...
Expectations set high are generally hard to meet.
In Christ's day, the people of Israel had high expectations, too. They waited years for their Messiah, and when he finally came, they expected him to become their king, an earthly king who would reign over Israel and become again the powerful nation it was in King David's time. But, only a baby came...a baby who grew up in poverty and refused to be their earthly king.
While the Israelites' expectations went unmet, we can set some great expectations for this baby, and be assured they will be met. Because of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, we can expect our sins to be forgiven. In him(Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. (Ephesians 1:7) We can expect Jesus to return again some day and take us to our eternal home in heaven. Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.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. (John 14:1-4)
What comfort and joy these expectations bring!
Try to relax your secular Christmas expectations this year (the lower they are, the higher the chance of them being met.() and focus on our sacred ones instead. Cherish the baby Jesus and the gifts he brings. Celebrate the newborn King and have a merry Christmas!
8. Listen to me! by Christine Wentzel
One of my first ever devotions written for AW4W spoke about improving our personal ministry by paying attention to what our talents are, what we are particularly good at. Have you been finding yours?
While standing in line at the checkout lane and listening to a lady complain about her life, it occurred to me one of my God-given gifts is being a good listener. I will admit at times (like this one) I felt this was a curse that needed exorcising, but that is my old Eve rearing her selfish head.
Why was this woman complaining to me, a perfect stranger? Probably because she, like all of us, just wants to be heard. I know what it's like when someone's tuned out on me. I want to cross my arms over my chest, stomp my foot down and yell, "Listen to me!" Well...okay, I've done that, but it yields nothing but an "I-am-listening-to-you" shouted right back at me, then I shout back and before you know it my original point gets vaporized in the vitriol.
That's why God told James to pass on this heavenly tip: "My dear [sisters], take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak... James 1:19
And that's the key to the gift of listening-it's so simple. I believe we all possess this treasure even those who physically cannot hear. For listening is not only hearing, but it's "listening" to body language as well. You know when there are tears in someone's eyes that they are feeling strong emotion. Perhaps their shoulders are slumped-are they carrying a sorrowful burden?
During this busy holiday season you will feel more rushed, or you may even feel lost in the shuffle and less heard. Therefore, this is the perfect time to practice presenting your gift of listening to others. Slow yourself down...take a deep breath...look into their eyes and show them compassion. Assure them to...not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
If you're feeling tuned out...slow yourself down...take a deep breath...show them compassion and unwrap the holy Gift given to you...For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
9. PEER PRESSURE by Christine Wentzel
Peers say getting high is fun.
Peer say pre-marital sex is normal.
Peers say we deserve to have our way.
Peers say pornography isn't infidelity.
Peers say cohabiting single seniors saves their benefits.
Sinful peer pressure messes with our direction. It's why we can't go it alone. We all have access to a Golden Compass-God's Holy Word. We have God as our personal friend. Friends don't make friends do harmful things. God begs, pleads and orders us to use this Compass for heaven's sake! If you don't have one, ask a bible-believing friend or church to give you this life-saving device.
Look up Daniel 3:16-28 when you are tempted to go with the flow. Others faced the same and overcame because His Son clears the Way.
"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! THEY TRUSTED IN HIM and defied the king's command and WERE WILLING TO GIVE UP THEIR LIVES rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.'
10. Happy Labor Day! by Karen Maio
This Labor Day weekend, Americans will be savoring every last drop of summer with backyard barbecues, trips to the beach, and hopefully, some time spent in the sun. Hats and sun visors off to the hard work and achievements of the labor movement which have made our country strong and prosperous!
Many grumble about their jobs, but labor was part of God's plan - Adam and Eve were to care for the garden and the animals. It was only after the fall into sin that labor became, well, labor, that is hard work. "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life" Genesis 3:17b. Through work, God provides for us financially. He expects us to do our work faithfully and diligently, serving our employer as if doing it for the Lord himself. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31
Some aspects of our work may be frustrating and leave us questioning why we even bother: long hours, inconsiderate boss, "office politics", being let go after years of loyal service, etc., but sadly, these are part of living in a sinful world. There is one job opening with a terrific boss: doing the Lord's work, sharing the Gospel of Christ, the good news that Jesus has forgiven us all of our sins and that by grace through faith in him, we will have everlasting life. Thinking that our shared Gospel message might be the means the Holy Spirit uses to work saving faith in somebody's heart makes it so very worthwhile! "Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" 1 Corinthians 15:58. The salary might not be anything to speak of, but the fringe benefits are out of this world!
"...Eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil - this is the gift of God" Ecclesiastes 313
Happy Labor Day!
11. Now, Hold That Thought! b y Julie Luetke
The grossest place I can think of is a pit toilet. The thought of dropping anything of value into it is horrifying. Imagine you have a string of perfect pearls in your pocket. It is a gift to someone you love and honor more than anyone else. You cannot wait to present the pearls. You know this person will be pleased to get them.
Along the journey to present the pearls you need a bathroom. Unfortunately, the only facilities are pit toilets and you have no choice. The pearls fall from your pocket and sink in the muck. Now, just hold that thought.
In the book of Jude, the second to the last book of the Bible, verse 24 says, “To Him (Jesus) who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His(the Father’s) glorious presence without fault and with great joy—
We are the pearls in the muck. We sink deeper and deeper with every unkind thought, selfish act, unloving and untrue word we utter. We even began in the pit with original sin. Yet Christ was willing to come to earth to pull us out. (sort of like sticking His hand in that smelly place)
I cannot imagine ever getting those pearls clean enough to proudly give as a gift yet in Jude God says, “to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”
Jesus blood washed us so clean Jesus himself presents us to His heavenly Father with great joy. Did you catch that “with great joy” part? No apologies, no regret but with joy. Not just happily but with great joy. Wow.
I do not own anything I value so much that I would go into a pit toilet to retrieve. But Jesus retrieved me. He valued me, a sinner like you and then cleaned me up and presents me to God with joy. Take one more look at v. 24, this time add verse 25.
Jude 24-25: To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
12. Do not be afraid - Do not fear by Lori Malnes
I am a person who likes to have all my ducks in a row - I pack early for a trip, I meal plan and make my grocery list accordingly, I like math because I can find an answer, before my kids leave for college or end their visit home, I plan when I'll see them again - I want to know, I need that assurance. When I don't know - when I don't have that assurance - my natural tendency is to worry. And what is worry but fear - fear of the unknown.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
How many times does the Bible tell me, "Do not be afraid" or "Do not fear."? Over 100 times!! And if you count the times the Bible says that I should not fear without using those exact words, the number reaches into the mid-300s!! Wow!! God really wants me to trust in Him with every detail of my life - He's got it covered.
Even when I don't know the outcome or have the answers, I can trust that God does - and I can rest in His assurance that all will be well and I need not fear. His ways are not my ways - and He may allow struggles and challenges, hurts and disappointments, as a means to bring about a far greater good in my life and in others than I cannot even imagine. And my goodness, God is God - THE GOD - the almighty, all-powerful, all-everything-good God!!
When I acknowledge His lordship over all, it makes my worry - my fear - seem foolish. I sure am glad that God has forgiven me of my foolishness and has patience with me as I learn to "walk by faith and not by sight," to trust in His amazing love and wisdom. And what a neat thing to share with others - this peace that surpasses all understanding!
13. Do You Need a Doctor? by Carolyn Webb
As my husband struggled with an autoimmune disease that made him susceptible to bleeding, a nurse said to him, "I'll bet you're tired of living in a bubble." To which he replied, "No. What I'm tired of is everyone telling me how sick I am."
Spiritually, we might experience something similar. Do you get tired of hearing how sin-sick you are? Do you try to create a bubble around yourself to protect you from the world? Perhaps you surround yourself with Christian friends, Christian music, Christian movies, and Christian literature. There is nothing wrong with that unless it leads you to think that you aren't infected with the same sin-sickness as the rest of the world.
The Pharisees of Jesus time thought they were protected from the sin because they knew all the laws and piously practiced their religion. They avoided people like tax collectors and other sinners to avoid being infected by their sins. Jesus had a different message for them. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13; NIV 1984)
If we don't recognize our illness we don't seek out the help of a physician. If we don't recognize our sin we see no need for a Savior. Don't tire of hearing the law of God and how we fall short. It is only when we recognize the sin in our lives that we accept the help that Jesus provides.
Jesus, grant that balm and healing in your holy wounds I find,
Every hour that I am feeling pains of body and of mind.
Should some evil thought within tempt my treacherous heart to sin,
Show the peril, and from sinning keep me from its first beginning.
14. I'm a Child of God! by Talia Spiegelberg
This past summer my family had the privilege of having my five year old foster sister baptized. She was excited beyond belief and when the day finally came she couldn't control her happiness. After the ceremony, she ran around telling everyone at church, "I'm a child of God! I'm a child of God!" She still loves telling everyone she meets today that she is a child of God.
I have to admit, I'm a little jealous of her confidence to tell anyone she meets that she is a child of God. It is so easy for her to open her little mouth and yell that out. While she is doing that, I'm sitting in classes with students who are openly bashing Christianity and the conservative beliefs I hold, yet I'm sometimes too afraid to open my mouth and say something. What do I have to be afraid of?
"Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12
We have the right to be children of God. How awesome is that? And yet sometimes we take that right for granted. We tend to think it is more important to fit in than to be "that person who is always talking about Jesus." It is in my moments of weakness I am so grateful that God forgives me for being selfish and timid. But what do we have to lose? Absolutely nothing. We already know that we are going to heaven and that all of our sins are forgiven because of Jesus. Our status as a child of God is not going to change because of our failures. Because of that, we have the right to live our lives praising and proclaiming His love.
It took a five year old to teach me a lesson in living and proclaiming my faith. But without her, I may have never realized how I sometimes fail to live boldly as a Christian. Thanks be to our awesome God who forgives us for our failures. Here's to a semester of embracing my status as a child of God and seizing every opportunity I have to tell others how incredibly blessed I am!
15. Control. by Tracy Hankwitz
I don't think I'm a control freak, but I do like being in control to a certain degree. Given my role as a mom, I'm naturally in control of a few things: my family's schedule, curfews, the dinner menu, and what games/TV shows are okay for my kids. As a manager at work, I'm in control of buying and tracking inventory, marketing, and keeping customers happy.
However, there are situations that I have no control over, and sometimes that is frustrating.
Take my garden as an example...
My garden is a source of respite and delight for me. It's where I can be creative with the amazing plants God has created. I can control which plants go where, although some have their own ideas of where they belong.
Given the early spring, my garden was off to a great start. The flowers looked so fresh, carefree, and full of promise.
Then, the rains stopped.
To see the flowers, the lawn, small trees, and shrubs drying up in my yard was sad. Beyond my control.
But that is nothing compared to the fields of dying crops that stretch across the country.
The effects of this drought reach far and deep.
No rain. No crops. It's out of our control.
It's hard not to ask "Why, Lord?"
“When, Lord, when will you open the sky and water the land?"
I can't help but think of Job and how he began to complain after being stripped of everything he had, including his family.
And God's response was
"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?" Job 38:2
Who are we to question God's will and purpose? Our limited minds can't possibly know the mind of God.
If the days without rain become weeks and then months, it is his will.
He has a reason for it.
His purpose is divine.
Each day is still a blessing from him.
He is still present and is watching over us.
He still loves us and takes care of our every need and knows what is best for each of us.
The rain will come in his timing, not mine.
I'm so thankful that he's in control.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. Psalm 145:15-17
16. The Body of Christ by Cathlyn Wilk
I love walking into church! In order to enter church through the front door, I walk past some beautiful flowers all arranged so artistically on the church grounds. In the winter, I notice that someone awoke extra early to shovel so that I wouldn’t slip and fall getting into church. Even though I seldom observe the people that did these works out of love, I know they executed them.
As I sit in the pew, I not only appreciate the organist or music accompanist, who makes my voice swell with the emotion of the hymn or liturgy but also I notice how clean the church floor is, how edifying the banners are to my worship, how ready the Lord’s Supper is for me to partake. I am grateful that the flowers are different almost every week and how the church architecture draws my eyes to the cross. I value the fact that the temperature is comfortable so that I can concentrate on my worship. The choir’s words as they sing remind me of Bible truths and add to the service. Someone has taken time to type, orchestrate, and provide the bulletin so that I can fully concentrate on the theme of the worship and not be fiddling around trying to figure out whether I’m supposed to be standing, sitting, reciting, reading, or listening. The body of Christ is evident in so many places when I worship.
What part am I of that body? “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” Paul reminds the Romans and us in Romans 12:5. Do I come to church to “do my duty”? Am I someone who comes to be entertained for an hour or more, or do I have a place here to serve also? Am I quick to complain about how the accompanist made the singing drag, the soprano whose vibrato in her voice makes me crazy, or how the pastor’s sermon wasn’t as zippy as it usually is?
Even more important to ponder is what I do after my church experience. I remember when my children were young there would be fighting and grousing in the car even before we were half way home. I use to turn and address my children with the following words, “Brothers and sister ( I have two sons and a one daughter), go in peace. Live in harmony with one another. Serve…” You get my drift, don’t you?
Other times I leave church and start thinking about all the “stuff” I need to do during the next week. But… are all these activities worship and praise to my Lord OR are they ways to make myself useful, important, or somehow upstanding to God? The body of Christ needs to be evident in church, but it needs to continue moving in activity in the world in which we are to witness.
Some days I feel like a hangnail on that body; I am hurtful to the body, but sometimes the Holy Spirit enables me to “get over myself” and my sinfulness and truly be a part of a healthy, active body. I’m certainly not the head; that’s God’s masterfulness, head of the church, his body”, Ephesians 5:12 says, "but Christ commands me to cooperate in whatever way the body of Christ needs me."
17. FAT by Christine Wentzel
This word has been hovering over my head like an umbrella of shame for as long as I can remember. When I wasn't fat, I thought I was. When I am fat, I'm in complete denial. Yeah, I know fat is still there, but I've managed to use that umbrella to protect myself from the elements of human nature.
It comes in handy to block the looks of pity or disgust, and the reality of my reflection in mirrors. It shields others from seeing my pain when some wise one offers me sage advice to pick fruit over cake...um, now why didn't I think of that? I'm having trouble losing weight not my marbles.
Can you tell Jesus is calling me in for a time out? It's time to close the umbrella and let the Son shine down on me.
He came to me through these words by one of his children, "It's a long obedience in the same direction." Huh? Sounds like something I need to slow down, ponder on and ask Him to enlighten me. "Long obedience"-yes that exactly describes the walk on this long and narrow road to health.
I spent so much time in perfect disobedience in the care of this body that it is in complete revolt against my attempts to get it back into shape. How many times has God sent warnings through people who have been there and my own slowly developing health issues? Lots and lots and lots-He is my Love after all.
Next He pointed me to this chapter in His autobiography, during the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him... Hebrews 5:7-9
The Spirit is jogging my memory about Jesus' testing in the desert too. Forty days without food or water in perfect obedience to His Father while the devil pecked at him the entire time. Only Jesus knows that kind of physical deprivation for heavenly joy. I am enjoying food through a generous calorie-restrictive plan every day. No deprivation found but my willfulness to sabotage myself.
Help me Lord Jesus. You willingly made Your life a long obedience in the same direction for my salvation. Forgive me for my times of defiance to follow in Your footsteps. I ask your Holy Spirit to increase my hunger for Your Word. Let me feast with joy on the Lifesaving, life sustaining nourishment found only there. Bar the devil's temptations of earthly excuses and increase my courage to obey so I too can persevere in this direction to health. Amen.
18. PIL by Carolyn Webb
The other day my husband and I were browsing through the gardening section of the home improvement store. We came upon a product called Preen® that promises to keep your garden weed-free. The product is marketed with the very appealing phrase: Preen works so you don’t have to®. My husband suggested that perhaps this would be a wise purchase for us since I really don’t get around to weeding as often as I should. A weed-free garden without all the work sure does sound wonderful.
While I pondered the pros and cons of the purchase, my mind started to wander to; wouldn’t it be great to have PIL (Perfect Ideal Life)? PIL: a product that could be sprinkled on my life to prevent all those annoying problems of life would be fantastic! Just apply PIL and your guaranteed no more sickness, no more sadness, and no more frustrations – the ideal, perfect life every day. Sounds wonderful!
Then I got back to the fine print of the Preen® product. If you use Preen® you can’t start anything from seed directly in your garden. Preen® can’t tell the difference between a weed you don’t want and a wild flower that you might find desirable. I take great delight in some of the surprises that I find growing in my garden in the spring, and I do tend to let a lot of my annual flowers go to seed specifically so I don’t have to plant them next year.
So maybe Preen® isn’t right for me, but that PIL still sounds like a great idea. But maybe I better read the fine print on that, too. The Bible has a few things to say about all those difficult times of life:
Deut 8:5 - Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Psalm 66:10 - For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.
James 1:2-4 - Consider it pure joy, my (sisters), whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:12 - Blessed is the (woman) who perseveres under trial, because when (she) has stood the test, (she) will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
So I have to ask myself: If I removed all of the problems from my life, how would my character develop? Would I grow spiritually? How would I know happiness if I didn’t know sorrow? I have to admit that all those difficult times are what cause growth. I guess I can do without PIL.
19. I Need a Vacation by Carolyn Webb
I need a vacation! I’m sure that at some point in your life you have gotten to the point where you really need to get away from the troubles and stresses in your life. That’s what vacation is all about. Webster’s dictionary defines vacation as “a period of time when one stops working, going to school, etc. in order to rest and have recreation.” My husband and I tend to take slightly opposing views on that definition. He is very much into the recreation aspect of vacation. He likes to go someplace new and pack as much into each day as possible. I on the other hand prefer to take a more relaxed approach. Lounging on the beach with a good book sounds perfect to me. Generally we manage to find a balance of recreation and rest.
Our Savior also recognized the need for vacation. When His disciples were so overwhelmed by many people coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." (Mark 6:31-32) The Bible also tells us “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:15) These mini-vacations allowed for renewal of the mind, body and most importantly spirit. When Jesus went away, his primary purpose was to spend time with His Father in prayer. When He returned from his time away Jesus was ready to resume his work preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Vacations are an important and necessary part of life. These breaks allow us to recharge and return to our work with new energy. Whether you are planning an extravagant trip or simply a break away from the usual routine, include some quality time with your Heavenly Family. Remember Jesus’ invitation and promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Special Note: Our apologies to many of you who did not receive "A Midweek Message" this week. Our web hosting provider had some maintenance issues and about 10% of our subscribers' e-mails came back to us undelivered, mostly with sbcglobal.net addresses. We hope all is cleared up now! Don't cha' just love technology! :)
20. At the Empty Tomb: Part 1 of 3 by Christine Wentzel
Thank you, Lord, for including the account of your first resurrection appearance as recalled by your servant, John. As women, You know how we struggle about our purpose, how we get lost in the details, diverted from our Gospel mission and how we need Your emotional support and reassurance to carry on. Help us see with fresh eyes the encouragement, purpose and promise in Your loving exchange with Mary at the empty tomb. Amen...
Before we go to John, let’s take a quick look at the Gospel of Mark where we learn a little about Mary’s past.
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. Mark 16:9
It’s hard to imagine what life was like for Mary. Anyone on intimate terms with mental illness might be able to glimpse at the chaos going on in her mind and soul. We don’t know how she knew of Jesus, the Nazarene, but it doesn’t matter. For such a time as this, she was in the path of the Healer, the Miracle-Worker, for all the world, present and future, to see. Jesus sees her and knows exactly what is wrong and filled with divine compassion, drives away the demons. In a blink of an eye, she is made whole—physically, emotionally and above all completely spiritually new.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you... Ezekiel 36:26
In pure thankfulness, joy and with the gift of faith, she travels with Him along with many others devoted to the care of His needs and to learn from His wisdom. Yet she sees Him through the eyes of her expectations: a heaven-sent King David-type readying Israel for God’s kingdom on earth.
Mary’s/our view: As she sits at the foot of His cross, she doesn’t understand what is going on and why her King is being tortured and left to die. Fear and doubt take over for the evidence around her is too strong. She can’t fathom any outcome but death.
God’s view: The holy Lamb of God braces Himself against the splintery wood of the cross as every sin of mankind that was, is and is yet to be gets nailed onto Him. He becomes the atoning sacrifice in our place to make His people right with their Father once again. In bearing the last one, He breathes out, “It is finished.”
21. At the Empty Tomb: Part 2 of 3 by Christine Wentzel
Thank you, Lord, for including the account of your first resurrection appearance as recalled by your servant, John. As women, You know how we struggle about our purpose, how we get lost in the details, diverted from our Gospel mission and how we need Your emotional support and reassurance to carry on. Help us see with fresh eyes the encouragement, purpose and promise in Your loving exchange with Mary at the empty tomb. Amen.
…Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
Mary’s/our view: She’s been grieving for three days. She is exhausted, but her desire to give her Healer and Teacher a proper burial spurs her on. Looking in the tomb, her eyes see heavenly beings instead of a dead body. Perhaps her tears could include fears of losing her mind as well as her Master.
The angels’ view: Pure joy and exaltation—the resurrected Lamb of God is victorious!
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” They are on duty to deliver messages to their Lord’s precious people. They have great news to report and see no need for tears. Don’t these humans remember what Jesus taught them?
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
Mary’s/our view: Mary has drawn conclusions based on circumstantial evidence muddied by grief, not on Jesus’ teachings. The last thing on her mind was seeing Him alive. She needs some answers maybe this gardener can help.
God’s view: Jesus is right there with her, looking at her in empathy and love—once again ready to help her through her pain.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” The Comforter encourages her to talk, to remember the One she is seeking—the One who healed her and many others; who raised the dead, calmed storms, walked on water, and spoke of His identity and His Father’s mission for Him.
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” She can’t hear her Shepherd’s voice because of all the “what if” and “how to” noises in her head. She doesn’t understand the questions and nothing is ringing a bell, until…
22. At the Empty Tomb: Part 3 of 3 by Christine Wentzel
Thank you, Lord, for including the account of your first resurrection appearance as recalled by your servant, John. As women, You know how we struggle about our purpose, how we get lost in the details, diverted from our Gospel mission and how we need Your emotional support and reassurance to carry on. Help us see with fresh eyes the encouragement, purpose and promise in Your loving exchange with Mary at the empty tomb. Amen.
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” It could be that at this moment Mary is looking directly into His precious eyes so filled with intense love and a desire for her to understand. Jesus, the Word made flesh, breathes one word—her name! Not only does it hold the power to create the universe, but with a gentle breath drives the fog of grief out of her. Once again, in an instant, He heals her pain and she remembers.
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). She probably wanted to fall on him in relief—maybe even forgiveness for her blindness. We do the same today every time He reminds us He is right there with us no matter how bad things appear.
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Jesus’ earthly mission is coming to an end. His relationship with Mary changed. He will no longer live among them. She had to depend on His Words. That meant staying in the company of His apostles and helping to spread His message. He gave Mary, his disciple, her own personal ministry.
Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18
Mary did as she was told—no doubt with an eagerness we do well to emulate. She didn’t need a degree from seminary school. She simply spoke what the Lord had said to her. She didn’t need to worry about anything beyond that. We have those same abilities, the same urgent mission.
Then they [the disciples] gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8
He is risen! You’re powered up! Go tell!
23. Do I Have to Follow the Law? by Carolyn Webb
I had a conversation recently that gave me pause. I was discussing legal requirements related to my job when the person with whom I was conversing said "I don't care what the law says. That just gets in the way of getting things done." He went on to use the example of David eating the priest's food in the temple as evidence that it isn't necessary to follow all laws. Does God really say it is ok to ignore some laws just because they get in the way of what we want to accomplish?
As I investigated the story that was referenced, I found that David really didn't break any laws. The priest gave the bread to David only after confirming that the men who would eat it had not been with women, in keeping with the law. (See 1 Samuel 21 v 4-6.) The law was not ignored.
As I explored this topic a little deeper, I found I Peter 2:13-17 which says "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing he may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free and not using liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor all. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." (KJV) No mention here of ignoring the laws of the land here either. God gives authority to men to keep things orderly on earth and we are expected to honor that authority. No one questioned the authority of the laws given in the Old Testament, but when Jesus healed the sick, drove out demons, forgave sins and raised the dead, church leaders questioned his authority. In Matthew 28:18 (NIV) Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." And yet, he subjected himself to the authority of earthly law to bring about God's plan for our eternal salvation.
Surely there are laws that we disagree with. However unless those laws contradict God's laws or God's plan of salvation, we are to follow our nation's laws. All the more reason that as Election Day approaches we take a serious look at the values of the people we elect. Will they stand for what is right in God's eyes? Choose your leaders wisely.
24. It’s time to Cheer! by Janet Gehlhar
Easter morning is thrilling. We rejoice and sing, “Alleluia” for we are celebrating Jesus’ victory over sin and Satan.
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. (Luke 14: 6-8)
I try to imagine myself as one of the women who went to the grave early Easter morning filled with sorrow and bewilderment over what had happened to Jesus. Arriving to find the stone rolled away and an empty tomb must have been overwhelming in their state of grief. And then, to see an angel and to hear him say that Jesus has risen! The angel reminded them what they already knew, but had forgotten. Jesus had told them that on the third day He would rise. Oh, yeah-- that makes sense now. The shock at this complete turn of events must have sent their heads spinning. Their deep grief was changed to extreme joy and amazement that Jesus was alive. Before they had completely comprehended what had just happened, they ran to share the good news. What an emotional roller coaster!
God is all powerful and Easter is another example of His supremacy. Jesus paid the penalty for my sins on the cross, and by his resurrection, He showed that I, too, can look forward to eternity in heaven. How humbling to think that this same God is the one who loves me, forgives me, and has a place in heaven waiting for me with my name on it.
I’m going to sing the Easter hymns with gusto because my thankfulness can’t be held in. Praise God!
25. The Gift of Lent by Carolyn Webb
How are you feeling this Lenten season?
Lent, for me had always been a difficult season. It’s such a somber time. For me, it was filled with feelings of guilt that my life should displease God so much that it was necessary for his Son to be punished for what I had done, said, and thought. I felt terrible that all that suffering was caused by me. I took my role in Jesus’ death very personally, but when it came to my salvation it was a different matter. From a very young age, I was familiar with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” As a member of the world who believed in Jesus, I was saved from the punishment I deserved, but at the same time I did not see that he personally came for me.
All that changed one Maundy Thursday evening. I had prepared for communion as I did many times before. The words of institution that the pastor spoke were the same as they had always been, but on that day, these words spoke straight to my heart. “This is My body given for you…. This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20) When Jesus served that first Lord’s Supper, he didn’t say this is my body, look what you did to it; this is my blood you caused me to bleed. He said his body is given for me; his blood was poured out for me. His death wasn’t something I caused, it was something Jesus knew I needed and he gave it as a gift. As the bread was distributed, the words “for you” were stated as I received my portion. That gift wasn’t just a communal gift for the world; it was a gift for me. This sudden realization brought tears to my eyes as I felt the love of the Father’s plan of salvation and the Son’s willingness to carry out that plan.
I feel different about Lent now. I am no longer overwhelmed by guilt over what I caused. Now I am awed by the precious gift that has been given to me. I pray that as you travel through this season of Lent that you will feel the love of God that has been given to you!