Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Are you prepared?

This past Sunday morning at church, my husband and I shared some about our lives. As we were getting dressed and ready, the remnants of hurricane Nate hit our city. As I listened to the wind and rain and news reports, I got to thinking about what we were going to share and how life is often like a storm.  It's like this...

Sometimes you have a warning that a big storm is coming and you have time to prepare by stocking up on supplies just in case you are stranded and without services. You board up your windows, put out your sandbags, and you do what you can. Sometimes, to protect yourself and your family, you just have to leave and remove yourself from the path of the storm.

You know the storm is going to be bad, and you probably won't escape damage, but until it's over, you have no idea how hard of a hit you are going to take. Then it comes. Band after band of rain, wind, hail, tornadoes - destruction. Finally, it's over. Hallelujah, you survived. But, you've taken a hit. There is a lot of damage, clean-up, and storm aftermath to deal with. Sometimes it's minor and other times a total loss.  Either way, you need help, so you look to churches, communities, agencies and the government for assistance. The clean-up, repairs or even rebuilding takes time, energy, and resources and can leave you emotionally, physically and financially drained. Life can sometimes be like a hurricane.

Next, I started thinking about all the fires out west. People fleeing their homes with only the clothes on their backs. Some will escape the damage and others will lose everything. Unlike a hurricane, there is often no time to prepare. Winds spread a fire and in an instant, lives changed forever.

Life is like this.  Our circumstances can change so suddenly. Sometimes we've done the best we can to prepare, and other times we are totally blindsided. There are the times we make it through with little damage and other times we suffer total losses. In our stunned, dazed, confused and probably overwhelmed state we wonder what in the world is going on. We need help. We might even cry out to God asking:

Why?
Where are you?

As our lives lay in shambles, these are valid questions.

There is a storm ahead. We may not know when it will hit or how hard it will hit or even what kind of storm it will be, but there is a storm ahead.  Sometimes the storms will come one after another after another. You will no sooner get through one before the next one comes. Are we prepared?

Our church is filled with young men and women which probably makes us the oldest folks there. So, in thinking about where to share, where do we begin?  How much do we share? Afterall, we only had 45 minutes, and we've got decades to share. It goes something like this.

  • Our 20's: A decade of stability. We got married, and our whole lives ahead of us filled with dreams and plans.


  • Our 30's: A decade of shattering. Dreams shattered, plans that didn't come close to working out (didn't see that one coming), and more questions about life than answers.


  • Our 40's: A decade of searching and seeking.  God, where are you? God, what are you doing? God, why? God, help! With no answers and almost no hope, we turned to God's Word to dig for answers, find comfort and strength and we didn't come up for air until we found them.


  • Our 50's: A decade of serving. While we'd loved the church families, we'd had during each city and decade, served in many roles in those churches, and sat under some great teaching, this decade of service was much more intentional.  Because God through His Spirit and Word had sustained us, taught us and brought us through the shattering storms, we wanted others to know Him through the study of His Word as we had come to know Him.We want to help people get and be prepared.


  • Our 60's:  A decade of sorrow. While we are still in our 60's, it's felt like a decade already! We've suffered one loss after another loss after another loss.

The decade of shattering was kind of like our first major hurricane followed by multiple hurricanes, and we might as well throw in a fire.  It took years to rebuild (so to speak).  But, the decade that followed of seeking God for answers was also a decade of preparedness!  Little did we know that a decade of sorrow was coming that would hit fast, be furious, and rock our world.  Had it not been for God's Word, we would have perished (Psalm 119:92).

Charles Stanley says it this way:  "God's Word is an immovable anchor in times of storms."  Oh yes! God's Word was and continues to be our anchor in times of storms. The decade of sorrow has left us a bit ruffled.  We did suffer some damage, and we are still recovering, but we survived. Our anchor, Jesus, and the Word held us and continues to hold usThe storm is awful but the Anchor is awesome. Getting to know more about Him and watch Him in the storm?  Amazing.

How about you? Are you ready? Are you prepared to weather the next storm of ahead? There is a life preparedness manual. It's called the Word of God. Everything you need to know is in there, but it's important you read it and know it for yourself. If you aren't sure where to start, just stop and pray and ask God to show you where to start and how to get prepared. While you are at it, ask God to help you find people whose anchor during times of storms is Jesus and the Word of God. When He shows you, ask them about their storm stories so you can learn how God brought them through. Please, just prepare yourself. Storm ahead.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Don't look now...

Don't look now but it appears certain persons have crept in unnoticed. Yikes! It's a bit unnerving to think of people creeping around trying to blend in and go unnoticed. They appear good but are up to no good. We hear about such people all the time on the nightly news. Friends and family shocked when they find out what the "creepers" been up to. 
Recently, we traveled to small-town Illinois to go to the fair and attend some dirt track races. As we walked up and down the midway, it was such a blessing to see so many families out enjoying the food, rides, races, and near-perfect weather. Children were running ahead of and lagging behind their parents. Groups of teens were enjoying not being with their parents.
Oddly, I kept thinking these children and teens were easy prey.  These same thoughts flooded my mind this weekend as we gathered in with other families to watch sprint car races in central Pennsylvania. Adults fixed on the races while kids were running around and teens enjoyed a night out together.  Easy prey.
One evening after a late night of racing, my husband and I decided to go for a middle of the night breakfast! Something we used to do all the time in our younger days. Sitting in a diner at 2 AM we wondered who we were and why in the world we were eating breakfast rather than sleeping when I noticed several groups of teens sitting in the diner with us. It appeared they had been to a dance or function as they were all dressed up and had corsages. The majority of the teens were girls, but there were a couple of guys. So cute, young and possibly unaware of the dangers that could be facing them at 2 AM. Easy prey.
I normally don't walk around with this mindset. I'm usually in the moment and unaware of my own surroundings. I don't look for or expect to find "creepy" people lurking around. That's exactly my point in writing this blog. Furthermore, I certainly don't expect to find "creepers" in church or among those who call themselves Christians. Until I started reading the book of Jude.
Y'all...certain persons have crept into the church and into Christian circles unnoticed. These are bad, bad people. How is this possible? Well, they talk the talk, but they don't actually walk the talk. In fact, according to the book of Jude, they aren't Christians at all but, because they can talk the talk, they fit right in - unnoticed. And guess what? They don't look creepy. How concerning is that?
Here is how Jude describes them and how we can recognize them:

  • They use the grace of God as a license to sin.  Especially when it comes to sex and money.
  • They are like
  • Clouds without water carried along by winds or like autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead.
  • Wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam.
  • Wandering stars for whom shameless darkness has been reserved forever
  • They are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts, speak arrogantly, flattering people to gain an advantage, cause divisions, are worldly-minded.
  • They are devoid of the Spirit.
  • These people deny Jesus as Lord and want others to do the same.

Here's the thing...don't expect them to verbally deny Jesus as Lord. No, they won't do that and they won't get others to do that. What they do and encourage others to do is to deny Jesus by their behavior. They deny God's word especially when it comes to sex and money. They encourage others to do the same. How many churches do you think have been divided over issues regarding sex and money?  Far too many. Here's another thing...if you and I don't know what God says in His word for ourselves we are at great risk. Our faith is at great risk. The faith of the next generation is at risk.
Remember, they have crept in unnoticed. Why they could be excellent communicators, charming, funny, smart, a leader followed by many, relatable, helpful, look good, and by all outward appearances be an awesome spiritual mentor. But, they are devoid of the Spirit.  
Okay, now look.  Do you see them? Can you identify them? 
If you and I do not know God's Word, we cannot earnestly contend for the faith. Plus, these "certain persons" are believable and have the influence and potential to cause doubt, division and many will stumble and will be in need of being snatched from the fire. They do this by picking and choosing what in God's word is truth and what was is no longer relevant for today - especially when it comes to sex and money. This is called relativism and its crept into the church unnoticed. How is the possible? As I sit this morning and ponder all this, there can only be two explanations:
1.  We don't know what God's word says for ourselves, so we don't know the difference. 
2.  Or, we know the difference and yet choose not to contend earnestly for the faith (conviction of truth).
I don't mean to sound harsh, but there is no way that we could have gone from a Christian society to a post-Christian society if we'd all been fighting earnestly for the faith (conviction of truth). 
So, does this mean we are to roll up our sleeves and duke it out with those in our churches who preach another gospel or use grace as a license to sin - especially when it comes to sex and money?  Are we to scream and holler during church business meetings?  Are we to call out on social media all those we believe have crept into the church?  Actually, here's what Jude says we are to do:
"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."
If ever there were a time for us to be getting serious about knowing God's word for ourselves it is certainly now.  May we build ourselves up in our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit and keeping ourselves in the love of God. If we do these things, contending earnestly for the faith will the natural outcome.  We will be merciful, loving, joyful and passionate contenders that might look like Faith and Football.

If you want to learn how to dig out truths from God's word for yourself, message me. I'd be happy to help you. I can also pass along two books that you might want to add to your library.  Pray asking the Lord to give you desire and hunger to know Him and His ways through His word and keep praying.  He will answer that prayer, and soon, you'll be able to contend earnestly for the faith!

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins
Living by the Book, The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G. Hendricks and Willaim D. Hendricks



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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Football and Faith

I bet without hesitation you can name your favorite football team, start singing the fight song from memory and have at least one jersey you could pull out on game day.  Am I right?

I love the passion and conviction of college football fans. Fans scream, yell, point big foam #1 fingers in the air, paint their faces and some their bodies. Fans high five, chest bump and can't sit still.  Their team colors are displayed in endless pieces of clothing and accessories. Even babies are dressed for game day. (They recruit them young!)  If attending the game and in anticipation, they arrive early, watch their team warm up and start singing and keep on singing their team's fight song. The energy and the sound level are high.  It's intense and electrifying.

During a college football game, there is no way you can be a passive observer.  Eventually, you'll be drawn in by the passion and conviction of the fans. Before you know it, you'll be jumping up and down, screaming, giving high fives and singing the fight song.  Oh, you'll pick sides alright.  And, if you aren't careful, fans might win you over to the other side.  Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

I'll never forget attending the Oklahoma vs. Tennessee game in Knoxville in 2015.  I think they said that event set an all-time sound decimal record.  We went to the game with Oklahoma fans and were seated in a sea of Tennessee orange and white.  Me, I'm not so much into football, but I love the social aspect of being with my husband and friends.  In other words, I go for the fun and not so much the football!  But, this event was beyond fun.  It was intense and electrifying. I jumped and screamed for OU and wished I had a big foam #1 finger.

The coaches and teams fought hard to win!  The teams, bands, cheerleaders, and fans were all in!  They shared the common goal:  Victory!  Bands played their fight songs over and over and over again.The cheerleaders and band kept rallying the fans, and in response, the fans sang louder, chanted more, swayed and fought hard to cheer their team on to victory.

Oh, did I mention that Tennessee played "Rocky Top" a bazillion times?  The first few times, a yeah, alright, okay - we hear you kind of experience.  A catchy tune but somewhat intimidating as it reminded us that we were in their territory.  Then, it got irritating.  Enough already.  Of course, they didn't stop, so the song continued and continued to be played. At one point, we looked over to find one of our die-hard, season ticket OU fans standing in his seat singing Tennessee's "Rocky Top."  What?  How is this possible?  I remember my husband and the others giving him a really hard time about it and yelling so he could hear them over the music. "What are you doing singing 'Rocky Top'?  Get down." While he wasn't won over or converted into a Tennessee fan, he was caught up in the moment and drawn into the passion of the people in orange and white. What possible harm could there be in singing the opposing team's fight song?  Uh...like I said, he was caught up in the moment and forgot himself.

College football is one of those places where being passionate and convicted is expected and acceptable. As obnoxious as it all can be at times, football fans show each other a lot of grace. I love it because their passion and conviction are very appealing and in many ways makes an appeal to me and to you to join in.  Football fans love to invite people to come watch the game, hang out, bring and eat food.  They recruit. Hanging out with them and it won't be long before you are wearing their team's colors, singing their fight song and filled with the same passion and conviction as those around you. Yep, they recruit young and they recruit hard!

In a way, football fans "contend earnestly" for their team! Their team is THE best. Even if their team is having a bad season, they are still the best. Team fans might talk among themselves about not being happy with the team, a player or coach performance.  Sometimes they'll fight among themselves about such things.  This is all normal and acceptable.  But, if someone on another team starts talking negatively about their team, player or coach - watch out. It might not be a fight song that breaks out. Let me say it again.  Football fans are a passionate and convicted group of folks.

Okay, so you know this preaches, right?

I started writing out the book of Jude this week.  I've only written out the first 3 verses because I can't get past verse 3.  It's grabbed my heart and mind.  I've read the verses that follow, so I know where Jude is going with this, but still, I'm stuck in verse three.  Let me share it with you and explain why.  "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."  

Contend earnestly for the faith.  Jude feels it necessary to appeal to us to contend earnestly or fight with sincere and intense conviction for the faith (conviction of truth).  And the picture I have painted above is what comes to my mind.  It's time to put on our game faces, dress the part and get out our big foam finger that points to Jesus.  With passion and conviction, we fight for our faith. When those on the front lines fight their way up the field, all stand to their feet, wave with all we have and cheer them on to victory. The preacher preaches, the choir sings, the band plays, and the faithful sway!  Every inch of ground gained is a victory in Jesus.  Sure, we get pushed back, fumble the ball, miss the kick and even get intercepted.  But, we keep cheering, trying and believing.  We keep contending for our faith.  We sing fight songs!  The chorus of one goes like this:

OH, VICTORY IN JESUS,
MY SAVIOUR FOREVER
HE SOUGHT ME
AND HE BOUGHT ME
WITH HIS REDEEMING BLOOD

And, if we see one of us standing in their seat getting drawn into the passion and conviction of the other side, what do we do?  We contend earnestly for the faith.  With passion and conviction and over the noise of the opposition, we yell "what are you doing"?

Okay, so when I think of contending earnestly, you know what visually comes to my mind.  So, if you see me with a cross painted on my cheek, pom-poms in my hand or a big foam finger pointing toward Jesus and I'm singing about victory in Jesus, you'll show me some grace and remember I'm passionate about Jesus, my faith, and the truth!  You can expect that I might dance a little jig, jump up out of my seat or shout, post, and tweet over and about truth.  Oh, and I probably need to warn you, if I see you acting like you are getting caught up in the passion and conviction of the world and talking anything other than the truth, I will ask you "what are you doing?"




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Entry #1 (Jude) - A book for today

I started my “journible” in Jude this morning. Jude’s greeting is so wonderful I make it my own and pass it along to you. “To those who are the beloved of God, may mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

As I was researching the author and setting of the book, I came across this summary. “Jude writes to a community that needs to take a stand for the truth. A group of false teachers has entered the church. Through false revelations, they are prompting believers to use the grace of God as license for immorality, especially of the sexual kind. Jude warns against compromising with evil. He points out that the false teachers, in their selfish actions, have rejected the authentic Jesus. Jude challenges Christians to remain firm in the faith that leads to eternal life. He encourages Christians to live as people empowered by the Holy Spirit, standing in the love of God (Jude 17–21).” Faithlife Study Bible

It is so awesome to me that God’s word is as relevant today as it was when written.

So why do I share these things with you? It keeps me accountable and is a way to proclaim His excellencies!