Sunday, August 31, 2014

Inquisitive questions with self serve answers

Quite often I'm asked specific questions about life.  Just as often, the person asking, after some gently leading conversation that includes scripture appropriate to the situation, answers the question for themselves.  

This is just exactly as it ought to be, since each of us is ultimately responsible for all our actions, thoughts, deeds and outcomes.

Including our salvation and what we do with it.

Philippians 2: 12-13:  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.


If you are at all inquisitive, this sentence will have arrested your attention, and you will find yourself asking the question:


Most of us have been taught by our church that we are to follow the lead, do as we're told, show up every time the doors to the building labeled "church" are open and conform to the same pattern as everyone else within those walls.

I have to respectfully disagree strenuously with that presumption.
  Have you ever stopped to consider that might NOT be what God has in mind when He created each of us so uniquely individual and DIFFERENT?

One of the favorites of the church is the "What Would Jesus Do?" If you want to know how to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, take a look at how Jesus taught.

He used parables.  These are stories, highlighting examples the people listening could relate to, that gave a general idea of how we should behave and interact and relate to God.

There was never a "one size fits all" rule or regulation in Jesus' teachings.

They were more of a "here's the guidelines, do what works best for you within them" sort of feel to the whole thing.  

Jesus never expected John to behave like Bartholomew.  He never insisted Matthew conform to the same actions as James.  Not once did He ever scold Peter to be more like Thaddeus. (though He did scold Peter for behaving like satan that one time!)  (For those who have read more than one Sunday Sermon, you'll notice I never capitalize the s, it's deliberate on my part, keeping him low, as he ought to be, in my esteem!)

Apostle Paul uses an example to set a guideline as well, in his writings to the fledgling first century church.  He points out that it is WHAT IS IN OUR HEARTS that determines if we are sinning, not the actual actions themselves.  If we eat meat that was offered to idols without regard for the idolatrous offering status, there is no sin involved.  If we eat with thankfulness toward God for whatever it is we are eating, there is no sin involved.

On the other hand, if we regard the idolatry in our hearts, and eat that same meat, to us it is sin!  (ICorinthians 8:4)

From this it is clear that the eating of meat isn't sin.  The day which we choose to set aside as our "sabbath" or day of rest isn't at issue.  Which day we gather to glorify God isn't "right" or "wrong". (Colossians 2:16)

This is all very good, since each of us has different needs, different temperaments and different personalities, as well as different gifts and talents and abilities.

The Lord made us that way for His purposes, and a reading of ICorinthians 12 makes it clear He intends each of us to fulfill different purposes in order to fulfill His purposes.

There are things from which we should NEVER deviate in terms of faith and practice.  Those are also very clear in scripture.  Found in the letters of the New Testament, including Romans 15:4 that exhorts us to know and understand the Old Testament.  (Knowing and understanding being different from doing - we are under GRACE, not the law!)

One of the main things we try to do with our Sunday Sermons is highlight areas of scripture and understanding that can be useful to help others learn and grow, while leaving room for them to work out their own salvation.

If you choose to worship corporately on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday each week - that is a wonderful thing~!  You are fulfilling the exhortation not to forsake the assembling together with LIKEMINDED believers.

If you choose to sing whatever songs, or not to sing at all, YEA - that you've assembled to glorify God!

It is about repenting of sin and surrendering to the Lord - trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide you.  

It isn't about which day, what manner or the labels we've given ourselves.

Romans 15: 6-7 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'll bet our grandparents.....

I was listening to the news the other day, an activity I try to keep to a minimum in order to limit the number of things I find outrageous each day, and I began to contemplate hazy memories from childhood.

My grandfather and grandmother never addressed me directly about the news items of the day when I was a child.  Whether they thought it too much for a child to comprehend or they didn't want to frighten me or they just considered discussing the news an "adult" activity and it never occurred to them to include children.  But I do remember hearing bits and snatches of their conversations; I do remember a sense of their feelings about the news they read. I remember they were disgusted, disgruntled but that there was an air of "this is how it is and we can't really do anything about it".  Many years later, I would share the message of the Gospel with them, so they could have hope for the future. 

Meanwhile, as I listened to the news of the shooting and subsequent behavior of the citizens from Ferguson, MO and heard about the recovery of the two Amish girls taken from a roadside vegetable stand in New York and sketchy news of the continuing conflicts in Iraq and the uneasy and already broken by Hamas cease fire in Israel - I felt such a sense of urgency for the return of Christ.  Even in the midst of my distress over the state of this world which appears to be moving steadily and swiftly ever downward in a spiral of darkness, evil and immorality, my heart reached upward in HOPE.

Hope that others would hear and believe the saving words of LIFE in the message of the Gospel.

Hope that LIGHT would of course overcome the darkness.

Hope that some would turn to Christ and be saved.

Hope that I myself would not become depressed, as Robin Williams did and gave up on life entirely; but would be inspired to speak LOUDER, share more BOLDLY, proclaim with ever greater FAITH the good news that Christ came to bring a more abundant LIFE to those who put their trust and faith and hope in HIM.

As we recognize the "signs of the times" our response must never be to give up, give in and walk away.
Instead, we are to PRESS IN, GIVE MORE, WALK EVER CLOSER IN OBEDIENCE and even MORE BOLDLY proclaim that Christ Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and this world, fallen and sinful as it it, is His creation, that He loves and gave His life to save.

What's happening in this world, right now, these headlines, these events, are not surprises to God, the Creator, Master and Deliverer of this world He put in place.  He knew it was all coming.

Matthew 24: 3-14
 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 
For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 
And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  
And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 
 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Our hope is not found IN this world, nor in this world suddenly changing and becoming "good" and pleasant to live in.  Our hope is in our ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus with God the Father.
As this world delivers bad news upon bad news, don't be downcast, but look UP, for there is our HOPE!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mapping out the journey

I joke all the time that I am so directionally dysfunctional that when I was a kid and we played blind mans bluff, they didn't need to blind fold me, just spin me around!

My husband installed a compass on the dash of my car.

My son got me a GPS for Christmas one year.

Mapquest is always "on" on my computer, and the navigation on my phone never rests.

But I still get lost.  It is actually very irritating to me.  I am intelligent.  I know the "rules" - face south and east is to your left. ( I think)  When I am going somewhere I can follow directions easily enough and can even read a map.  I've driven across the entire United States from coast to coast more than once.

The trouble starts when I take a wrong turn.

I have no inner sense of navigation.  I lose sense of left or right, north or south.  I'm sure I have an inner compass just like everyone else, it's just that mine has no needle!

That's when panic sets in and I turn in so many wrong directions I become hopelessly muddled and truly lost.

I know a lot of people who feel that way about spiritual matters. 

Panic sets in deep in their hearts because they've taken a wrong turn or two and now they think they are hopelessly lost.

There is always a way back to the right path to get you where you want to go. 

If we are willing to ask directions, we discover there is hope!  Lost becomes a thing of the past immediately, even if the journey to where we want to go is a far way off, when we are finally traveling on the right road in the right direction.

Dare to ask directions from One who has mapped out your journey beforehand, Who loves you and has made provision for you.  Through Christ, we are not simply "saved" sometime in the future - we have a hope and joy right now!  We have purpose right now!  We have blessings right now!  We are no longer lost, and we are definitely not hopeless.

Wrong turns are forgiven and we are given everything we need to set a course for our journey that leads to where we really want to go; HEAVEN.

Ephesians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Forgiving my mother was the greatest gift I have ever received.

Not just imagined slights, words misunderstood or minor infractions every parent commits.  I had real, serious emotional and physical injury inflicted.  Mental, physical and sexual abuse.  Neglect.  Spiritual abuse. 

The day I forgave her every single bit without regret, without holding back, I also received forgiveness.  I forgave myself for the little child who didn’t know better.  I forgave myself the pain and hurt I’d inflicted on myself over the years as a result.  I forgave myself for the thick, horrible walls I’d built trying to protect myself, which had only isolated me from much of the world, and kept me from relationships that might have been, if I’d been emotionally healthier.

I forgave myself for the parenting mistakes I made, the tense manner in which I raised my children and the fear I’d held onto that stole so much of my young adulthood.
One day, there came the right time to tell my mother that she was forgiven.

What happened next was nothing short of miraculously amazing. 

All those years I’d let unforgiveness fester, thinking SHE didn’t deserve it, or that I couldn’t forgive until she asked forgiveness.  The day I told her I had completely forgiven her (a good number of years ago now) is the day she actually asked me to forgive her.  It’s the day she owned every rotten horrid thing that had occurred and tearfully asked me to forgive her.  She had a little trouble believing I had already forgiven her years before.  But since I already had, fully and without reservation years ago, that was the day true healing took place.  

Not slowly.  Not over time.  Immediate.  God healed me as completely as I’d forgiven Mom.  

Mom and I began to build a loving relationship from that very moment.  In a few very short years, it became the strong mother daughter relationship I’d always longed for.

Pastor Marie and her mother.  This year, the whole family will come together to celebrate Moms 80th birthday!
Mom was born again and saved 15 years ago, and most of the immediate family has accepted Christ
God healed me.  God healed her.  And God healed us.

You think whatever was done to you, whatever slight was perpetrated against you just can’t be forgiven.

I’m telling you it’ll be the most awesome gift you will ever receive; to forgive others, and really, truly give it over to the Lord.  Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.  You know the forgiveness is true and complete the day you ask God to forgive that person or persons, and withhold vengeance from them.

It will be the most freeing day of your life!