Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cry to Jesus

I hate for anyone to see me cry. That’s private, for me alone, and I don’t want to share it. And it annoys me when I can’t stop my tears if others are near.

Many years ago, Paul and I were sitting side by side and I was upset about something (not anything to do with him) and I started to cry. I turned away from him and tried not to make any sounds, but he knew. He sat in silent patience for a little while. Finally he said, kindly, “If you will turn toward me, I can comfort you, but if you turn away from me, I can’t do anything for you.”

Is our loving Father saying that to us?

When we are unhappy, do we think to turn to God for comfort first? I don’t. I muddle around in my misery for a while, then try to think what to do to “fix” this. When I can’t, THEN I turn to God for answers. But run to Him for comfort? I’m still trying to learn that. I don’t want Him to see me just sit there and cry. I want Him to get me out of this. Comfort isn’t my first request; action is. Fix it. Then I will be comforted. 

But a lot of the distresses of life don’t get fixed -- even though the Master Mechanic is on our side. He’s not the magic genie in a jar, waiting to satisfy our three wishes. He’s the all-understanding Guide, Guard and Power. When He’s not fixing it to our satisfaction, we are not understanding it to His satisfaction. We need to trust Him, turn to Him, and sometimes cry to Him. If we will turn toward Him, He can help us.


 --Lynda Shenefield

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Selah

We named our daughter, Selah, meaning "to pause, take a breath, reflect on the goodness of God."  Daily as I look at that little face I pause, take a breath, and marvel at this amazing little baby created in the image of God. 

I picked up a Bible study in August entitled "Breathe: Creating a Sabbath Margin" by Priscilla Shirer simply because the title was basically Selah's name. Priscilla taught on how God had to create the Sabbath principle in our lives to remind us while work is important, it is not the end game for us. Much of what she shared spoke straight conviction to my easily overcommitted, type A, people-pleasing little heart. She said, "Overworking is a form of unbelief (I winced aloud as I read)...The opposite of faith is not unbelief itself, but control."(I winced aloud again.)  Control of all the details, control of all the people, control of all the emotions, control of all the finances...God did not intend for us control the universe. He also did not create us to overwork ourselves to the point we have nothing left for our families. He set us up as caretakers to this beautiful universe that He created.  He created us for work in this world, but the Sabbath was created for us to remember HE is in control and HE is the one who provides for us.  

In Exodus 16, Moses instructs the Israelites concerning the manna and quail that the Lord would provide for them. 
Gather as much of it as each person needs to eat. You may take two quarts per individual...So the Israelites did this. Some gathered a lot, some a little. When they measured it by quarts the person who gathered a lot had no surplus and the person who gathered a little had no shortage. Each gathered as much as he needed to eat.Now Moses warned them to not try and hoard any of it, but they didn't listen because they were going to control how much they had...not Moses or God. And the next morning they awoke to the manna covered in worms and rotting. I can just see Moses giving a big ol' eye roll to the Israelites because he definitely had no time for this foolishness. :) Fast forward to the end of the week...the sixth day.  And Moses tells the Israelites God wants them to gather a double portion on this day because there will be no manna on the seventh day...the Sabbath. 
For six days you may gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.
Moses was very clear with the Israelites, but do you know what? They got up and went to work anyhow. They didn't trust the double portion they gathered on the sixth day would be enough. 
Yet on the seventh day, some of the people went out to gather, but they did not find any.

Have you ever felt like you've worked so much you were just spinning your wheels and bringing nothing in? You are standing in the middle of the Sabbath margin. If you trust in the Lord's provision, you honor Him by leaving space for the margin where you are not the one working and earning and gathering. You are stopping to take a breath and reflect on the goodness of God.  He has called you to whatever work you are doing, but He has also called you to remember for whom you are working. It's not for yourself.  It's for His glory. Isn't it just like our sin nature to take the good gift of work and distort it into something that distracts us from the Lord rather than its original purpose of pointing us to Him?! 

In our small group study, we are studying Gospel Centered Work and each week we are reminded our work is important, but it is not separate from our faith. Our work does not define us, Christ does. But, whenever we focus on the tasks, the things we feel we can control, we start forgetting for whom the work is being done. The Lord of the Sabbath is the Lord of Creation.  He ordains our steps and our calling. Our work is important, but so is remembering the provision of the Lord and reminding ourselves He is the one for whom we are working. 

--Gabrielle Haston

Sunday, October 1, 2017

BLOTTED OUT

            A pleasant fall day.  A family picnic at Northside Park, Wheaton, Illinois.  A grandmother and aunt with easels set up, painting the lagoon.  That was enough to instill an intense desire in me to be one of the ones with an easel set up.  I, too, was going to paint.  But, like other childhood dreams, that one receded into the  background.  It sometimes tried to force itself forward.  In recent years I insisted I was going to make it true.  I even bought canvases and a paint box, filled with the tools I was going to need.  But there it sat in my office closet.  I think I was afraid to try because I was afraid to fail.  But when a friend a few weeks ago said she was going to take lessons at a local gallery, I jumped in.  This time I would learn to paint.  Now, four weeks in, I’m doing all right.  I think I’ve got a decent start on a painting and all the things I’ve learned over the years are coming together.
            I have found that I don’t have to be perfect.  (Is there such a thing as perfection?)  Art is forgiving.  My painting doesn’t have to look exactly like that still life.  I can change, add, or adjust.  Each layer of paint will cover what is underneath. 
            I have started thinking about the concept of covering.  What is covered and who is doing the covering?
            Me!  I am trying to cover—my sins.  I hate to admit that I am a wicked sinner,  so I try to cover my sins, pretend that they don’t exist.  I try to convince myself of that lie and I try to put on a good front so that no one else would believe such a horrid thing of me.  My attempts of covering are not successful.  I know I have not hidden my sins from myself or anyone else.   It’s not even smart to try.  “He who covers his sins will not prosper.”
Me again!  I must confess my sins and ask for them to be blotted out.  “According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”   “Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”
But God! “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.”  “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”  He has blotted out my sins for His own dear sake.  I have heard my grandmother say, “I remember choosing to forget that.”  God Himself has chosen to forget.  I can trust that.
Paint may cover my mistakes on the canvas, but only God can blot out my sins, can make me clean.  Praise the Lord!  My sins are blotted out.


                                                            ~~Faith Himes Lamb

**Proverbs 28:13  **Psalm 51:9  **Isaiah 44:20

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Word of Our God Stands Forever

The verse that is my title is Isaiah 40:8b.
 Wow! ‘FOREVER” is a word that cannot be misunderstood.

Our ONE YEAR BIBLE reading for September 22 is Isaiah 39:1 - 41:16. So...in case you didn’t read it...I want to share some of these magnificent verses with you. As you read them, focus, meditate, and consider what they say. These Words will stand FOREVER. I have used the NIV with some and the NKJV with others:

40: 8 - “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.”

One of my favorites when thinking of my children and grandchildren...

40:11  - “He feeds His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms, and carries them close to His heart...”  Just picture that!!!

Speaks of His magnificent power...

40:12 - “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales...”

And...

40: 26 - “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens; Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

40:21 - “...Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth.”

His wisdom...

40:13 - “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counsellor has taught him?”

THIS VERY GOD CARES FOR US AND GIVES US THIS COMFORT:

40:28-31 - 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”

And...

41:10 (KJV)” Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” I LOVE THIS VERSE!

Brant just returned from Overseas and a very important meeting with his “team” about our Bible ministry. Through the years, millions of Bibles have been placed in needy countries. Some countries cannot be named or are too dangerous to enter.  The Bibles are being carried in not just by our man “G” but by many other Christian organizations. PLEASE PRAY THAT GOD will use His word where, in many cases, missionaries and preachers cannot go.

Take a few minutes, open God’s Word, and read these precious chapters to remind you of the God Who is magnificent in power but also loving to all of us as a FATHER who CARES for US.

 --Maylou Holladay


Monday, September 18, 2017

The Alcoholic




Hands, brown and gnarly, comb ‘cross bald head

Rolls of wrinkles top his brow

Ruddy skin, marked with ink

Bloodshot eyes filled with tears

Back bent with burden

Liquor stole his children, his woman, and almost his life

Wounded and weary

But here’s a chance at renewal, a chance to live – and love

Will he take it?

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’” Matthew 9:35-37 (NIV)


“Lord, give me compassionate eyes like Yours.”



by joyce hague

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Your Majesty

            This past week, we thoroughly enjoyed God’s glorious creation of the ocean. I love God’s creation, and I delighted in beautiful sunsets the first couple of days we were there and a large, ‘low-hanging’ moon. Perhaps even more, I love seeing His creativity and beauty in His living creations. I have never outgrown sea shell hunting. It is so fun to see the colors, the shapes, the crazy variety of sizes. I found one conical shell that you often see small crabs in that was only a few pinheads big. I couldn’t make anything that little and perfect! We had fun watching a couple pods of dolphins play in the water, and we were able to get fairly close to them on kayaks. I have never seen dolphins at the beach before. Although a little scary, as we kayaked out farther, it was neat to see a variety of jellyfish. They are beautiful and delicate-looking creatures. Gazing out at the massive gulf, it is overwhelming to think that is a small part of the great oceans, and to think of the millions/billions of creatures that live there is amazing. God created them all, uniquely and beautifully.
            Many of us can take such delight in most of God’s creations, but how often do we realize the great majesty of humanity? It is too easy to get focused on the worth and beauty standards of the world. Or, it is also a danger to focus on the annoyances and pain that others cause, which are very real, but we let that overshadow the amazing glory of the crown of God’s creation.
            Psalm 8 revels in God’s glory and majesty, the amazing nature of His creation, and the honor He has given mankind to rule over all of it. Verses 3-6 say, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained: what is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”
            Even while I want to focus on the majesty of mankind (and so does the psalm), the word for man used here specifically denotes the weakness/frailty of people. And yes, it is a funny balance between realizing how weak we are and yet how God has bestowed on us great glory. But I know for me, I forget about the majesty and am keenly aware of my weakness.
            So two ways I would love for us to contemplate this majesty of people this week. First, in your relationships with others, let us remember that even those who are difficult or annoying bear the same marks of God’s majesty. They still deserve to be treated with love, compassion, and respect. Especially for those people you interact with often who rub you the wrong way, look for ways that they exemplify God’s glory – look for their positive attributes. Praise and encourage them when you do see these things.
            The other way I encourage you to remember the glory of people is when looking at yourself. I know too many women (including myself) who look too harshly or negatively on themselves. We often zero in on the blemishes, the age spots, the extra bit of fat we have here or there, etc. We miss the beauty and the amazing creation that we truly are. Beyond the physical, we also tend to be negative regarding our performance. We can focus on the small mess ups (or even some big ones) to the neglect of the work God is doing and the many ways we show love and God’s character.

            Let us be more respectful of and kinder to others and ourselves. Look at adults the way you look at a baby or young child: with great hope for their future, appreciating their preciousness, and their potential for growth and change. Remember your majesty!

Blessings to your majesties,
Judith Graham

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Defining a Hero

“How would you define a hero? Choose one hero in your life and explain why he/ she deserves this title.” This was the question I posed to my thirty-six seventh- and eighth-grade English students. They had just read the first few chapters of Howard Pyle’s The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, a book that is filled with heroic deeds as knights battle evil lords, the strong King Arthur defends the weak in the land, and, of course, the lovely damsel in distress is rescued from marriage to a wicked man by King Arthur himself, becoming the queen of all Britain. What could be more heroic than those actions, right? How would these middle schoolers respond?
As I graded their papers this last week, their responses were an important reminder for me. While some appropriately wrote of Christ, and just a few wrote about people who had made great discoveries in areas of concern to them (like gymnastics), the great majority of my students wrote of people that were in their day-to-day lives – moms, dads, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, neighbors, former teachers. They didn’t define a hero as someone who was well known because he or she had accomplished something great, or even as someone who had triumphed over experiences the average person never encounters. No, their definitions sounded more like this, “A hero is someone who is willing to give up his own desires for someone else, even if the cost is high.” Several wrote of dads who worked hard to provide for their families and then came home and spent time with their kids even when they were tired. Others told about their moms who took care of them through what we would consider menial housework (cooking, cleaning, laundry) without complaining, and who showed real care and interest when talking to and listening to their teens. One told of a youth leader who poured into the middle schoolers in his church, who was always there for them if ever they needed anything. Another wrote of a Sunday School teacher who had helped her through a really difficult time in her life. These, in the eyes of middle schoolers, are the real heroes.
I don’t think my students are off the mark either. As a matter of fact, I think they’re right on it. As I shared with them this last week after grading their papers, God’s view of greatness is found in Jesus’ words in Matthew 20: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (verses 25-28). The people my middle schoolers had listed as heroes were those who served, and my students had been the grateful recipients of that service.
That leaves me to wonder… What about me? What about you? Are we heroes in someone’s eyes? These middle schoolers may never have told the people they wrote about how they viewed them, but those faithful servants have made an impact in lives, whether they know it or not. Am I investing my life in others? Am I pouring my time and energy out in service? Are you?

-- Amy O’Rear