Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When Jesus is All That You Have, He's All That You Need

"Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?"
Genesis 41:38

     I got to thinking about Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel of the Old Testament. He had a dream that he'd be a leader, one to whom even his family would bow. In jealous hatred, his brothers sold him to a band of traveling traders who took him to Egypt, where he became a slave. Falsely, he was accused of an adulterous act and thrown into prison for many years. Throughout all this, God is with him, granting him the ability to interpret dreams which eventually frees him and he becomes Prime Minister of Egypt.

     How did he stay strong in his faith? He's living in a heathen nation so there are no church dinners or Bible studies. In fact, there's not even a Bible yet since Moses, author of the first five books, has not been born yet. All Joseph has are his distant childhood memories and prayer. Yet, he thrives, even in prison.

     This demonstrates to me that the Spirit of God is:
  • powerful
  • consistent
  • faithful
     Perhaps you're in a place in your life where you're new to the area or unable to study your Bible or you're having trouble getting involved in a church. I am not downplaying the need for fellowship with other Christians or pouring over the Scriptures, but remember, you are never powerless, abandoned or alone as long as the Spirit dwells within you. His grace really is sufficient for ALL our needs.

     So, thrive! Live life abundantly. He is with you always, even to the end of the age.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Loving the Least of These

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a mulitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8

     A young, impressionable girl grew up in a household fraught with pain. Her step-father was an alcoholic who abused her but when she tried to tell her mother, she was not believed. Although she eventually graduated with honors, receiving a degree as a medical assistant, she wandered into the world of strippers and substance abuse, looking for salvation from a line of men.

     This person is Joanne Calderon-Arkenburg, founder of Time is Precious Ministries. Having had enough of that rough lifestyle, Joanne launched this ministry whose mission is to make strippers feel loved and honored, just as they are. Joanne says, "Love conquers all." A team of compassionate volunteers provide gift bags, notes of encouragement and times of prayer to show these women they have worth and are valued in the eyes of God.

     Joanne recently remarried, works as a personal trainer and has authored a book entitled, "Pain into Purpose with Forgiveness." She had this to say in a recent News-Herald article: "I can't say that my journey from here on out has been easy, nor am I perfect or have it all figured out. But what I do know with certainty is this: The love I have been searching for in others was found in my heavenly Father."

     Only God can make lemonade from your lemons. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift, just waiting to be opened. It frees us from unimaginable hurts, heartaches and heaviness, opening the way to love one another as He loves us. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sinfulness. He met us on that road to Calvary, just the way we were. He didn't wait until we got our act together. Like Joanne, none of us is perfect nor do we have it all figured out, but with the tender grace of God, we can do great things.

     Love the least. Reach out to those who need it most. In doing so, you will be serving Jesus.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Silence is Not Golden

"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given one Spirit to drink...If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."
1 Corinthians 12: 13, 26

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Romans 12:21

     There is a foul stench rising from the Middle East as ISIS breathes threats and persecutions against the Christians. As this "angel of death" creeps over the land, Christians have been given a choice: convert to Islam, leave the country or be killed. Indeed, ISIS thugs have beheaded, executed and even crucified those they deem as apostates. Those who chose to flee left with only the clothes they wore; all else was confiscated. Now, winter is approaching. Where will they go? What will happen to them?

     Franklin Graham, head of the Samaritan's Purse, reports:

     "Just outside the 6,000-year-old citadel at the heart of Erbil, the owner of a shopping center opened the vacant top floor to refugees. When Samaritan's Purse checked  them, we found over 1,200 people living there who had almost nothing to eat. We joined with local churches and Christian refugees to bring them baskets of food, p[ray with them and shar the Gospel."

     Columnist Cal Thomas recently wrote, "Help for Middle East Christians," exhorting the American Christians to step up to the plate. He said Mark Burnett and wife, Roma Downey (who produced "The Bible" epic for the History Channel) have announced a campaign to raise $25 million to aid these homeless believers. They've set up a website called, "The Cradle of Christianity," promising that donations will go directly to the churches for distribution to those in need.

     And the needs are great. There are over 800,000 displaced people in Kurdistan alone. Don't sit back and assume the United Nations will take care of it; if it operated at 100% efficiency, it could only take care of 40% of these desperate people.

     The body of believers is worldwide. What affects those on the other side of the globe affects all. Do you feel their pain? We must do our part to overcome evil with good, or the terrorists win. Here's what we can do:

  1. Pray. Ask God to protect these refugees and those who are bringing aid.
  2. Talk. Bring up this topic among friends, coworkers, congregants. Do not be silent but educate yourself and others of these affairs.
  3. Give. Send what you can to Samaritan's Purse, The Cradle of Christianity, or another competent organization
     Remember the Golden Rule. If this were happening to you, you would want someone to send aid.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Love Personified in Mary

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."
Romans 12:10

     As my father lay drawing his last breaths, I leaned close to his ear and tearfully whispered, "I'll see you later, Papa." I had to leave the room as a wave of sorrow overcame me. Entering the hall of the nursing home, there I met Love, personified in a woman named Mary. With sincerity, she beckoned me over to her wheelchair and gave me the warmest hug. Murmuring words of compassion, I felt the love of Christ wash over my broken spirit, and I was comforted.

     From what I obeserved, Mary has lived there for some time. She seems to struggle with a host of medical problems yet she cast her personal worries aside and devoted herself to me for that moment in time, just when I needed it the most. Like the widow in the Bible who offered her last two coins, she gave what she could to me, and I treasured it.

     Love is the cornerstone of the Christian belief. Without love, we are just clanging cymbals, but when we reach out to others, mountains crumble into the sea and hope shines on our paths.

     After my dad's funeral, I took a bouquet of flowers to Mary. This time, it was she who was comforted. I have made a new friend!

Eternally a Princess

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
John 10: 27, 28

     I love the personal, intimate tone portrayed here. In the same way I know my husband's voice, I know that of Christ Jesus. I recognize it. He knows me - he doesn't just know of me, that I exist. He knows when I sit and when I rise. He knows how many hairs are on my head. He knows my heart, my thoughts, my past, present and future. He knew me as I was being knit together in my mother's womb. He offers eternal life and divine, powerful protection. He loves me so much that he safeguards me as though I were a precious princess. No one can snatch me from his hand! There is no end to this loving relationship and nothing can ever sever me from the love of Christ.

     I'd be a fool not to follow him.

Where Do I Go From Here?

"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, I will come and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
John 14: 1-3

     Every day, obituaries are a staple in the newspaper. As I view the various photographs that accompany the notices, I wonder if the person knew where their soul was going after death?

     The above verses set the stage for Jesus' declaration, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." He exorts me to trust in him in the same way I trust in God the Father. Plainly he says, "If it were not so, I would have told you." I can always expect the truth from my Savior; He cannot tell a lie.

     He's going ahead of me to prepare my room: hang fresh curtains, flip the mattress, stock the shelves, vacuum. He knows the way because he is the Way and will personally escort me to the front door.

     Rooms are for the living and Jesus wants me to live with him eternally. Thanks be to God the truth has been told to us plainly. Trust in Jesus today for your salvation so you will know where you go from here.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What Is Truth?

"Do you believe this?"
John 11:26

     A woman named Martha was mourning after the death of her brother, Lazarus. In an act of comfort, her friend Jesus spoke these words to her: "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..." Picture his earnest gaze upon her troubled face as he finished, "Do you believe this?"

     My father died this week. Long ago, when he returned from the service in World War Two, he was asked this same question, Do you believe this? Stepping out in faith, he placed his hand into the unseen hand of the Savior and began his walk with the Lord. Raising four daughters in the admonition of the Lord, he also taught Sunday School and led Bible studies in his home, all the while remaining certain of what he did not see: eternal life in Jesus Christ. As his body and mind gave way to the affects of age, his soul remained sealed by the Holy Spirit, anxiously waiting to see the whole picture, in living color, in real life. As he lay close to death in that drab, colorless room at the nursing home, he may have wondered: Is it going to be true? Are there streets of pure gold past the pearly gates leading to a mansion prepared just for me? Will I see this Jesus, my Redeemer, personally greet me with the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" Will all I placed my hope and trust in be real?

     Yes! Today, he sees in whole, not in part. He walks without trouble in wholeness and truth, exploring life the way God intended it to be, without reservations, hesitations or guilt and shame. He's dining at the table of the Lord and listening to a symphony of angelic voices.

     Praise be to God for telling us the truth. Do you believe this?