Faith and Our God Most High

As I read through scripture, I choose to focus on the amazing names of God. With the craziness happening in our world—how encouraging it is to read “God Most High”. The Hebrew word for most high is Elyon. Combing it with El Elyon, it becomes the divine title our God deserves. He is the ruler of not only the universe but of everything that touches us. There is no other God that reigns over Him. He is the MOST HIGH God! Yesterday, amid some stormy situations, I called on my Most High God. It brought such peace and trust. My mind calmed as I rehearsed many of the things that are under His feet.

Often in the Psalms we find the phrase the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (Jehovah Sabaoth). When Hannah prays for a son in 1 Samuel 1: 10, she uses this name to cry out to Him. It expresses the infinite power and resources which God acts for His people. Her situation had gone on too long and she needed to make her God bigger. He answered. When I read and meditate on this title, God becomes bigger and more firmly established as the Most High God. Psalm 80:19 Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. He is in charge, my friends, no matter what things may look like. When you are feeling small, call out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. It will stir your soul. No demon in hell can stand against Him. He is Lord.

Need healing? Cry out to Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. Jehovah Jireh is the God who provides. All these titles describe an aspect of our amazing Lord and Savior. The most precious name of all to me is Abba Father. Adopted into His family, by the shedding of His blood, opened the door to a relationship with this Most High God! Add these titles to your prayer communication and you will grow in faith and maturity. There is nothing better than curling up in the Father’s Presence during struggles and disappointments. His Comfort is there. However, I can’t stay there and see things change. I must join with Him, using His powerful Word to bring the needed change. During these darker and difficult times, we must grow in our understanding of God’s power and the authority we have as His children. Through prayer we can watch things change, but only if we release our faith and cry out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

Let us join to pray for our world. Do not let discouragement take over your life. Stand strong as a member of His Army. No victims here, but victors. Pulling down strongholds. Watching doors open, and lives changed and healed, in His Name.

Faith and Pressure

Lately it seems like many people I know are struggling with many different pressures of life. Financial challenges, relationship issues, physical struggles seem to be attacking so many of God’s people. Life seems to be harder for so many people right now. The winds of adversity have been blowing hard. The temptation is to want to find a way of escape from their relentless blowing–at least that is my initial response!

What is your reaction when adverse things begin to take place? Why is this happening to ME or my family? Does fear raise its ugly head and try to take root in your heart? Life here on this earth, comes with adversity. It just does. If we keep being surprised by them, then maybe we need to grow in our understanding of life on this earth versus life that will be in heaven. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer because He has overcome them.

But how do we handle the pressures of adversity? First we must understand we do not face them alone. Our God is with us, working all things together for our good. When natural winds occur, they clean the air, help distribute seeds for new plantings, and they help birds complete their migration. Strong winds test the roots of trees, causing weak rooted trees to be blown over so younger trees can take their place.

Winds of adversity in our lives often reveal our stamina or lack thereof. When things get hard and we want to quit, we have to “dig deep” as they say, and choose to stay the course. Choosing to continue on God’s path when these winds are blowing contrary takes perseverance, trust and tenacity. There are some things in life that there is no choice but to push through. I remember in the middle of laboring my son, I just wanted to quit. Since my body reacts differently than most women, I did not have the “urge to push”, so I just quit. I was tired and I didn’t want to “do it anymore”. In the midst of the pain, I lost sight of the goal. The wonderful nurse whispered in my ear, “in just a few more pushes you will be able to hold your baby, and we will all go away!” I don’t remember which was more motivating, the idea of seeing my child or the fact I could get rid of the annoying people telling me what to do, but soon our dear son was born. In reality, I had no choice but to finish that race. Other times, we must choose to renew our commitment and walk on.

When the pressures of life begin to assail, we need people around us to remind us of our purpose and plans. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that brings us hope and encouraging stability, but sometimes I need people who have been there and done that, to come along side and remind me that I, too, will make it! Storms do not last forever. As I walked the difficult journey after Darryl’s stroke, trying to come to grips with my new normal, I would have to stop and remind myself not to worry about the tomorrows. Matthew 6:34 so don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. For you young parents, remember the current season your infant, baby, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary child, high schooler–is in will pass. The night feedings, the toddler tantrums and the angst of growing up, though difficult, are best done in the present–with an eye on the future. His grace is sufficient for our today issues. If you are facing storms in your marriage remember your vows and the reason you married in the first place. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of God’s love and that He is with you in every day circumstances. Seek His wisdom and His ways. Do not let your thoughts run rampant. Capture them quickly.

If things seem overwhelming and you need help, ask for it. Somethings are too heavy to bear alone. Humble yourself, if need be. Many times just talking about how you feel will bring perspective and understanding. This is why God has placed pastors, teachers and leaders in His body–if they can’t help, they can lead you to someone who can. Too many suffer in silence in their own island because they are embarrassed to reach out. Do not be one of those people, listening to the lies of the enemy telling you no one cares. It is not true. I am available! Reach out to me, if you need a listening ear. Many times I have shouted out my prayers to the Lord, or taken time to write my thoughts and prayers in a journal.. Simply taking the time to name your feelings (cares) and then cast them back to Him brings the relief and hope needed.

In the midst of so many facing adverse circumstances I have also been amazed at how many prayers God is answering as well. He is not far off, but a very present help in time of trouble. Do not be jealous, or disappointed if you see others getting their prayers answered, but be encouraged He is not a respecter of persons! Your time is coming.

Faith and Memorials

We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Joshua 4:6 NLT.

Last week, if you read “Faith and Our Story”, you read the back story of our marriage. It was bittersweet remembering that special time, but it also reminded me of God’s faithfulness. Darryl studied art at the University of Washington. He longed to be an artist, but after he got saved, the Lord asked him to set aside his painting. It was a hard request for him. In a typical Darryl fashion, he tried to do it, anyway! Until finally, he felt God even took away all his ideas to paint. He said, Ok, I will put away my idol. He used his creativity in many other ways, but he obeyed the Lord and was at peace for many years.

About thirty years later, he felt a release to paint again. His first paintings were gifts to our now grown children. Rosanna received a beloved beach scene. Elizabeth, a special painting he took from a photo taken on Mt. Baker, and our son received an interpretation of a space galaxy. They hang in their homes to this day. I whine, “where is mine?” I want one! Finally, in 2000, I received a huge, amazing painting of our life together. He put in every car we owned, every house we lived in and through symbolism, every part on the globe we ministered in together. Our children are represented, as well as our pets. It is truly a tribute of our life together. I am so grateful to have this reminder of God’s faithfulness. It is only one of my reminders (memorial stones) of His work in our lives.

God knew the Israelites would need reminding about His power, His plan and His purpose. Not just for the current generation, but for future generations. I have had many talks about the various parts of this painting with my grandchildren. Looking at it, I think about our mission trips to Ghana and England and Jamaica. It prompts me to pray for those special places. I have a watercolor, painted by my friend, Bonnie. When I see it, I often pray for their family. So these are not just decorations, but reminders of God’s loving gift of a friend. They are more than beautiful decorations; they are memorial stones.

I know I am blessed to have this wonderful painting, and maybe you are thinking, I don’t or can’t have anything like that. But look around your home. What are the memories attached to your photos, your knick knacks, your books or wall art? Many people use journals as memory stones. They are a wonderful way to commemorate God’s goodness. I’ve written before of how important the Lord’s Supper is to remind us of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. We all have short-term memories.

Too often, we focus on negative things. When left alone, our minds seem to forget the good things, and dredge up the wrong things. Therefore, we need to put into practice 2 Corinthians 10:5. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. ESV. If we take the time to use our “reminders” it will help us focus on Philippians 4:8. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I heard my daughter praying Sunday during worship, “we know who you are, and we know what you can do. “, let us not forget who you are and what you can do. That is what these reminders help us do.

Father, we need help to not only take the time to set up memorial stones, but to actually use them to remember your goodness. Teach us how and when to think of You and Your goodness. Forgive us for forgetting the good things you have done, and focusing on our struggles. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Our Story

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6. NKJV

Forty-nine years ago today, I said, “I do” to Darryl Jay Rodman. Our whole story really is a story of faith. We first met when I moved back to Washington from Alaska. This was in 1972, and we had flights in and out of Whidbey then. Because I had a three-hour layover, I wrote a letter to a friend who really loved any excuse to come to the airport, and asked him if he wanted to hang out. Instead of staying at the airport, he asked if he could take me to meet this woman. We ended up in an old Victorian home next to a small church called Zion United House of Prayer. As we walked in the house, George left me in the living room. There was a young man sitting on the couch reading his Bible. I said, “hello”. He looked up and said “Praise the Lord” in a very short don’t bother me tone. I thought, what a spiritual snob! That was my introduction to my future husband.

The associate pastor of the church next door ran this house. Her name was Rev. E.M. Woodward, or “Mom” as we called her. She was a small English woman, who was a prophetess and teacher. She lived a life of faith and trust. God led me to move into that house, and I learned what a walk of faith really looked like. The house had 20 or more people living in it and we prayed for food and other needs. Darryl was the pastor’s right-hand man and learned from. Darryl did not live in this house. We didn’t really hang out, but were both busy about God’s assignment for ourselves.

This was a unique time. God was moving in the Seattle area. Our Senior Pastor, Eugene Drayton was an African-American. God told him to get ready for an influx. He told him to stop preaching “clothesline” messages and begin to open his heart to all kinds of people. It was wonderful–all kinds of nationalities and backgrounds began to get saved. There were services during day and three night time services. We learned to follow the Spirit and listen to his voice. Prayer would happen whenever there was a need. It became a lifestyle.

There was really no dating during this time. We just wanted to get to know Jesus better. One day, in 1973, the pastor asked for a meeting with me, Darryl, and another young woman, named Malana. He said he felt God wanted the church to expand to Portland, and would we plant a church there! Here we were, three single people. But we did it. In an awkward moment, Darryl came to me and said, “You don’t think God is asking us to get married, do you?” I said, no way. He looked so relieved! We moved to Portland. I learned a lot about Darryl during the three months I was there. Again, none of us even thought about dating during this season.

Because of some situations, I moved back to Seattle and continued my leadership role at the house. I did not see Darryl for about 8 months. One day, some of us headed to California to a conference. We spent the night at the house in Portland. As I passed Darryl in the hallway, I felt God show me the love he would have for his wife! I thought that is weird, why would I be thinking about that? (I also could tell God had worked some of his self-absorption out since I had seen him). A few weeks late, I felt the Lord tell me, “You and Darryl are going to get married”. Wow, I kept that stowed away in my heart! Finally, I shared it with Mom, expecting her to say, “No way”. But she said, “I can see that working!”.

She sounded Darryl out to see if God had been speaking to him about marriage, and she came back and said, “It will not happen soon”. I said, Ok…and went about my business. My heart just wanted what God wanted. “I prayed, “Father, if this is you, then fine. If not, I throw it out the window. You catch it and make it work.” I left for a two-week trip. Apparently while I was gone both Mom and Pastor Drayton met with Darryl! As they talked, he said a roll a dex with all the single gals in the church flashed by! My name wasn’t on it, but when they mentioned my name, he said, “I have peace”. So we sort of had an arranged marriage.

When I returned, Mom informed me that Darryl was coming up that night from Portland to ask me to marry him! The next morning at breakfast, he asked if I wanted to go to the Arboretum. I said, yes. We awkwardly made small talk in the car. As we walked through this beautiful area, he said, well I guess you know why we are here! I said, yes. He said, do you want to? I said, ok. That was it! Our first date and we are now engaged! This was May 11, 1974. We both had peace. Of all the young men around me, Darryl’s integrity and walk with the Lord inspired me. I felt safe with him.

Pastor Drayton had a trip planned to Texas on May 25, so we scheduled our wedding at 9:00 a.m. that morning two weeks away! Our pre-marriage counseling comprised him telling me if Darryl wanted to kiss me while I was cooking spaghetti, to let him! We told our folks, called people to invite them and two weeks later we were married. During those two weeks, I found a dress. My sister helped make our bridesmaid dresses, and we figured out how to make things work. During those two weeks, God blossomed a love between us that was amazing. He told me that we would have very few storms within our marriage, but many storms outside that would drive us closer to together. He told Darryl that he was bonding our hearts together with barnacle glue., the strongest natural made glue on the planet. During these two weeks, Pastor Drayton’s father passed away, so Mom did the ceremony.

God’s guidance for me was “it is not what Darryl wants, it’s not what Martha wants” it is what God wants that matters. As we sought him first, our egos weren’t part of our story. We submitted the journey to Him, and it was good. We had many challenges, but somehow, by God’s grace, we walked them out with Him and each other. He was an amazing man, and it privileged me to be his wife. He passed away October 5, 2012. I still miss him.

My heart take away for each of you reading this, especially if you are married is: seek Him and His ways together. Don’t give up. Don’t forget who it was that you married and why you said yes to them. Ask the Lord to refresh your marriage. If you are single and looking, don’t settle what looks good on the outside, but seek Him and His heart for your future. Darryl and I were a team–in fact many of the churches we ministered together in had started jokingly calling us “Dartha”! If you are single and not looking, keep teaming up with King Jesus…He is the best teammate! I know this is a different post than normal, but I just felt to share our story.

Father, I thank you for the journey Darryl and I had together for 38 years. I thank you for the children we produced and the eleven grandchildren that love you. I thank you for touching marriages with our story, because you are a good good God. No matter what our day holds, we choose to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not to our own understanding. Help us to acknowledge You and You will direct our paths. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Joys

You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. Psalm 4:7 NLT.

My daughter, Elizabeth, gave me a book for Mother’s Day. It is called “Women at Halftime“, by Shayne Moore and Carolyn Castleberry Hux. She informed me, “Mom, you need a journal to read this book”. So I went a purchased a journal, separate from my current one. As I read this book, it became very clear why I needed a journal. The sub title is: A guide to Reigniting Dreams and finding Renewed Joy and Purpose in Your Next Season. Throughout the body of the chapters are myriads of suggestions on how and what to observe and journal about your life. Then at the end of the chapter are even more questions to answer! I may be done by next year! However, one of the suggested assignments was to observe and journal for five to seven days what brings you joy.

The amazing thing is, before I read that in the book—I had already begun noticing certain joy givers in my life. I love it when the Holy Spirit works with so many aspects of our life. I looked intentionally for the joy-givers, because when there are a lot of challenges and struggles around me, I have a tendency to focus on them. And of course I found them! David, in this verse, you have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine realized that God was his source of greater joy than abundance of things. So why joy? What is it about that part of the fruit of the Spirit that is so important? Remember Nehemiah 8:10? The joy of the Lord is my strength. There is something about joy that helps sustain us. It gives us the strength to endure and helps lift us above them so we see things from God’s perspective.

A joyful heart is good medicine,but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 NLT. Life can be difficult. It can dry up and crush our spirit. Learning to acknowledge and receive the joy-givers in our hearts helps counteract these joy-crushers. Developing a heart of gratitude helps us spot our joy-givers. But we must not just acknowledge they are there, but we must allow that joy to re-vitalize our spirits. If we are honest, it often comes down to our choice. Please understand, I don’t think God ever intends for us to walk around like fake Pollyannas when we get hit with major storms. We take those concerns to Him and then, after we process them with Him, begin rejoicing, knowing that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Or lean on the promise, “all things work together for good to those called to his purpose”. I know these thoughts are not new thoughts, but we all may need to be reminded of them.

Find your joy-givers, even amid any difficulties. Let them touch your spirit and your soul. It will also be good for your body. Sometimes joy seems to be an expendable fruit, but trust me, it isn’t. We all need it. Ask the Lord to help you learn to cultivate it, it will change your life and your influence.

Father, I thank you for opening our eyes to the joy-givers in our lives. Help us to cultivate even more joy. Forgive us for ignoring this necessary aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. You truly are better than abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and A Clear Conscience

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. I Timothy 1:5 NLT.

As I was reading through 1 Timothy, I came across this simple sentence. Paul, in writing to his beloved son, Timothy, clearly states his purpose. The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. I Timothy 1:5 NLT. “All believers” includes you and me! Some days this seems so far above and beyond my comprehension, must less my implementation! Except for Jesus and His work on the cross, none of us have any hope of walking this scripture out!

We find the clue on how we do this in his phrase: all believers would be filled with love, not just any love but love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. The only way we can be filled with this kind of love is to first receive it for ourselves. Ezekiel 36:26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. We must ask and believe Him and His Word. Allowing the Holy Spirit to monitor our hearts is key to them remaining tender and responsive.

Then we come to a clear conscience. This is definitely something that we must maintain. We clear our conscience through forgiveness and repentance. Which includes humbling ourselves and admitting we sin and need forgiveness. So often, we want to blame shift or self-justify our actions, at least to ourselves! As we practice repentance and forgiveness our hearts and consciences are cleansed.

Genuine faith—faith that makes a difference in your day-to-day life. We start with the seed of faith we all have been given and then watch it grow as we depend on our Savior. The opposite of genuine faith, I would think, is fake faith. Talking the talk, without walking the walk, would be fake faith. The wonderful thing about genuine faith is we learn to lean on Him. We find himself faithful and trustworthy, so we lean on Him some more and grow more faith.

But why bother? Maybe many believers around you don’t seem to care about a pure heart, a clear conscience or genuine faith, so why should you? Paul wrote this first letter to Timothy to help him lead the church at Ephesus. It was important for him to encourage the believers in Ephesus (and us) to stop listening to false teachers. When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. Don’t let them waste your time in endless discussions of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God. 1 Timothy 1:3-4 NLT. If we don’t maintain a pure heart, a clear conscience and grow a genuine faith, we could fall subject to false thinking and false teaching. He continues to encourage him in 1 Timothy:19-20Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God. This may sound harsh, but I believe it shows us the seriousness of the situation. Hardening our hearts, justifying sin to our conscience and faking our faith lead to bad ends.

Paul’s heart, as should be every believer, is to help people live a life of faith in God. We need each other to stand strong in our faith. Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. My dear friends, we must not see how little we can do to walk with Jesus, but to do, as Osgood Chambers says, “Our utmost for His Highest”. The days are drawing darker and darker. If we walk, filled with love that comes from a pure heart, clear conscience and genuine faith, we can’t help but be lights amid that darkness. It is challenging and a learning process, but with His grace, mercy and forgiveness, we can do it!

Father, we need your help. This is not something we can ever do on our own. Please help us walk with a tender and responsive heart toward you. Convict us when our hearts, conscience and faith are not pleasing to you, and teach us a better way. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and The Master Gardener

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit. John 15:8 NIV.

There is something about reading through John chapter 15. I find it both challenging and comforting. In the natural, I admit I am not a gardener. It is by God’s grace that the plants my husband cared for, for so many years, are still mostly alive. I say mostly, because I know they probably need to be re-potted or fertilized (or at least I think so) but they get watered and are still green! I value those plants because he loved them. When we have a relationship with our Master Gardener, then we change our perspectives about His touch, including pruning.

But, I am so grateful we have a Master Gardener that looks after His planting. Every time I read through this chapter, I am in awe of how He works so patiently with me, as His planting. The pruning isn’t fun, but learning to trust our Gardener makes the process go smoother. Years ago, I watched Darryl prune some apple trees. He kept cutting and cutting, I thought there isn’t going to be anything left of that tree. But the next year, the apples grew bigger and tastier than ever before.

It can be humbling to realize we have branches which are bearing little or no fruit. Trusting the Gardener’s wisdom that we will bear even more fruit after the pruning comes with experience. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. John 15:3. That is the promise. If we want to bear more fruit, we must go through the pruning process.

It’s also humbling to understand that, apart from Him, we can do nothing. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing. John 15:5. Oh, how I find myself, thinking surely I can do something. That nothing part brings me up short. We cannot bear any fruit at all unless we stay connected to the vine and let His Spirit move in and through us. This is really a good thing!

Some branches He has cut off from me aren’t pretty. Judgement which has led to a critical spirit, envy, unforgiveness, self-pity, pride, selfishness. These all fall under the works of the flesh, don’t they? Unfortunately, some of these have had to be cut off more than once! I admit, sometimes the pruning of what I think are branches that are bearing good fruit is often harder to understand. Some of it is still a mystery.

His pruning happens in different ways. When we cooperate with what we read in His Word, pruning happens. As the Holy Spirit points out places that need changing and we submit, pruning happens. Listening to the preaching and teaching of the Word and applying it, pruning happens. He may use circumstances, as well. I know He used my time as a caregiver to work some deep changes in my life. We don’t need to fear His pruning shears.

But all of it has brought me closer to trusting Him and His wisdom. John 15:8-9 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. We must look at the bigger picture, like Jesus did. It is not about us; it is about Him. When we make it about Him, remembering His love and suffering sacrifice He did for us, it is easier to allow Him to make these changes. The goal of pruning is for us to become more Christlike. Everything He removed and is removing from my life benefits me first!

Father, I am so grateful for Your work in our lives. Help us yield to Your pruning shears in trust and faith. Help us to embrace the pruning process, no matter how it comes. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and The Second Coming

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in glory of His Father and will judge people according to their deeds. Matthew 16:27 NLT.

How often do you think about the second coming of Jesus? I remember as a young teenager riding my horse around sunset looking up and seeing the pink and purple clouds–and wondering if He was going to come back…and would I be ready. Those days are long gone and my thoughts about the second coming have evolved.

As I read through our textbook for the Basic Doctrine class I teach, I have learned a lot. Did you know that the doctrine of the second coming is mentioned 318 times in 216 chapters of the New Testament? Wow, it was very important to the New Testament authors. Taking time to really focus on these scriptures is not only enlightening and encouraging, but also stimulating and sobering, at least for me.

Our life here on earth really is short. But it matters. Ou Savior, Jesus spoke those words at the beginning of this writing. He declared He will come back, and for a purpose. That purpose is actually the ending for his first coming. For the unbelievers, there is a Great White throne of judgement that determines their eternity. Then I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. Revelation 20:11-12. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 NLT. For believers, there is a judgement of Christ, but it is based on our deeds. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. 2 Corinthians 5: 10:11. When it’s over, it is over. There are no do overs. I want to hear, well, done,my good and faithful servant. But I do not serve Him for the rewards, I serve Him because of my love for Him and my appreciation for what He did for me.

Did you realize every time you partake of the Lord’s supper you “show for the Lord’s death, until he comes?” 1 Corinthians 11:26. Jesus is looking forward to coming back. Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going. John 14:1-4 NLT. These are much more comforting words that the thoughts about judgement! But both are true, and we need to understand that.

What we do here matters. It really does. The good news is that as we follow Him, we will be prepared for anything He asks us to do. As a teacher, I want my students prepared and successful. The Holy Spirit is an excellent teacher. He wants us to succeed, so as we listen to Him, we will! I don’t understand everything about the “last days”. To be honest, I don’t know if I am pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post tribulation. I know if I lean in to Him, I will be ok, and so will you, and for that I am thankful. I encourage you. What you are going through right now will end. Whether it is with the greatest interruption of all times (the second coming) or the end of your life, He has a plan, and it is good.

Father, I thank you for preparing a place for us. I thank you that you are coming again at a set time and it will be the right time. Please help us use our time wisely while we are here on earth. Teach us to number our days. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Small Steps

You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. Psalm 18:36 NASB.

Have you ever done any baking? Following the steps in a recipe, if you have some experience usually isn’t too difficult. My friend sent me a “sweet bread” mix. I put it in my cupboard and it got lost with the other things for awhile. As I cleaned the cupboard one day, I found it. It seemed like a good day to make it, but as I scanned the ingredients I noticed it needed 12 oz of ginger ale. Not something I normally keep on hand. So a few weeks went by, and I remembered to pick some up.

Yesterday, I decided to make it. I got out the package and the ginger ale, thinking I was ready to go. However, as I took the label off, I found more steps to follow. First thing it said was to keep the package in the refrigerator or freezer till ready to use. Oops, already messed that one up.

As I read through the rest of the ingredients, I noticed it needed 1/4 cup melted butter. Normally a baker pre-heats the oven, so I turned it on, greasing the loaf pan, and we were ready to go. But as I poured the dry ingredients in the bowl, I found a strange foil packet. Re-reading the steps, I discovered that the packet needed to be incorporated into the rest of the dry ingredients before any liquid was added. So I opened the packet and did some stirring.

In my mind, I assumed the ginger ale and the butter would be mixed together. But as I carefully went over the steps, I was wrong. Only the ginger ale was to be mixed in. The butter was to be poured over the batter after it went into the pan. I started to put the pan directly in the oven—when I re-read the steps and discovered the pan needed to sit on the counter for 15 minutes before it went into the oven. So if I had not read the instructions, I would have messed up these simple steps. This meant my oven was pre-heating much longer than necessary.

The recipe stated we were to cook the loaf 40 to 50 minutes. Knowing my over, I set the timer for 40 minutes, which I think over baked it. Trying it this morning, it is tough and eatable, but not super enjoyable. I am glad I followed the steps, or it might not even have been palatable!

When we walk with the Lord, the scriptures say He orders our steps. Sometimes, we make assumptions about the way He wants us to go and we mess up. The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24 NLT. The important thing is, if we let Him, He will direct our steps. My granddaughter is trying to navigate which college she should attend next year. It is not an easy decision. Her parents are very supportive, but know that she needs to make this choice. Our job as her family is to pray for her. To release our faith with hers, and trust she will follow the Lord’s direction and know His plan for her future. I know several college-age students that are in the same situation. It is not an easy choice for many. If you know of any young people who are in this valley of decision, please pray for them.

As I followed the unusual recipe steps, the bread smelled great in the oven. They have taught me you don’t over stir sweet breads, but in my zeal, I think I did. It’s tough and chewy. Only my pride is hurt. As we follow the steps of the Lord, more is at stake. However, He promises us that even though we may stumble, we won’t fall. He holds us by His hand. What a wonderful promise. I know my granddaughter will learn many lessons during this season of her life. It is my prayer that she will learn to trust Him and His leading…a good lesson for us all. It’s the small steps that take us to our future. If we lean on Him, we will get there!

Father, I thank You for Your promise to lead and guide us in all our ways. I thank You for helping every young person who loves you be led forth in Your peace. I know that where you lead, you will provide. Thank you for leading and guiding us in our small steps, and in our large. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “Come”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NLT.

Isn’t that an amazing invitation? Come. It’s a simple invite. Come to me. Jesus is issuing a very simple opportunity. Come to me. Not to your friend, not to your own mind, but to Him. When does He want us to come? When we are all clean, tidy and strong? No, He says, come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens.

None of us like to think we could possibly be like the Pharisees or Sadducees straining at gnats and swallowing camels! But sometimes, our own soul coupled with Satan’s lies cause us to add weights to our walk with Him. We pass judgements on ourselves or others based on those weights. We start focusing on the unimportant instead of what really leads to life. It’s not the amount of Bible reading that produces fruit, it is allowing what we read to change us. It isn’t the amount of time we spend in prayer, but the connection we make with Him and the Holy Spirit. It is important to remember who we are coming to—our Savior. Not to a “what”, but to a “who”. And what a “who.”!

He wants us to come simply as we are. With open hearts and listening ears. I’ve been invited to celebrate some dear friends 40th ministry anniversary. It is in Grants Pass, Oregon. Which is about five hundred miles from my home. I haven’t been feeling the strongest because of flu recovery, but as I prayed and simply talked to Him about it, I heard Him say, “love shows up”. It made things simple. I love them. As I go in faith, I know He will be my strength. He will supply every need and we all will be blessed!

We won’t hear unless we come. We won’t receive wisdom, grace, or strength unless we come. It takes humility. It takes awareness of our need. We don’t have to wait till we are weary and heavy burden to come! We can come when we are strong. But what we must do is come in faith. What are your expectations when you come to Him? Do you believe and trust He really wants you to first come and then respond? I am not saying that every time you interact with the Word or in prayer that a spine tingling experience happens, but if we don’t believe, we won’t receive. Many times, for me, it is the sense of His Presence that brings any shift I need.

If you are struggling to believe this verse, take time to focus on Jesus, not yourself. When we question “am if I am good enough?”; “does He have time for me?” “am I special enough for Him to talk with me? ” We automatically interfere with our hearing. Remind yourself of Hebrews 4: 15-16, This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testing we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. I don’t think the devil will ever remind us of this verse!

When you hear His voice, it’s important to not only listen, but to obey. When we do follow His voice then we will hear Him more often and our life with Him will open up more and more.

Father, thank you for your invitation to “come”. Thank you, that when we do come, you are there to teach us, help us and love us. I ask that you help us overcome every resistance to coming: our pride, our busyness, our apathy. Our precious Savior is waiting for us, and that is so humbling. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Belonging

For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on the earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his chosen treasure. Deuteronomy 7:6 NLT.

As I read this verse, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude and love spring up from my heart. How nice it is to belong. To feel a part of something or someone is one of the best feelings in the world. It is a sense of fitting in or feeling like you are a member of a group. Imagine that! We belong to the Lord God of the Universe who purchased us at a very high price.

I discovered there are two sides to belonging! The blessing of knowing that we belong to the family of God is not only comforting and stabilizing, it also comes with responsibility. The good news is that we belong to Christ, but He does not treat us like my grandchildren sometimes treat their “belongings”. It takes time for them to learn to not step on their toys or clothes, but to mature into taking care of the things given to them. The great news is our Father, whom we belong to—treats us as His chosen treasure. If we follow Him and His ways, He treats us well.

But we have a responsible side as well. Reading through various scriptures in the New Testament that talk about what it means to belong. 2 Timothy 2:19 clearly in the NLT tells us “all who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil”. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 reminds us “For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.” So we see there are standards God has set for those of us who belong to the Body of Christ. Paul gets even more adamant in Galatians 5:24. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there. I know I have a long way to go in these areas. But as we get ready to enter Easter weekend, it is good to be reminded of God’s desires. We belong to Him. It’s not our way, but His way, right?

I am not a joiner—which means I don’t really “belong” to many groups. I belong to my family! And I belong to Life Church. Within my Life Church family, I belong to my Life Group, that we call Hope and Prayer. I also belong to the Greeter team. It is a joy to belong to my family, they are my safe place. I am so blessed to have them in my life. The choice wasn’t to join, but the choice is how much I choose to interact and help them.

Joining Life Church was a decision—as was all the subgroups I am a part of. Belonging means showing up, supporting through finances and prayer. There was a season, I will admit where I wondered if I was a “part”. I struggled to feel connected after my husband passed. I looked for confirmation (really affirmation) that they still saw me as important. As I processed these “feelings” in prayer, I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to figure out what did I need to “feel” a part? I realized I was a part of the body of Christ because of what Jesus did on the cross. It was something I accepted by faith. It was the same with my church connection. It is by faith. So, by God’s grace, I began to walk in as if I belonged. My feelings shifted. That’s when I joined the other sub-groups. I set aside my “self absorption” and began to increase my interaction with others. I needed them and they needed me. Romans 12: 4-5, Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body, we are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Belonging means we need to be close enough to stay connected.

I will end with Jesus’ words to his opposition. Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God. John 8:17 NLT. He clarifies that if we belong to Him, we will listen gladly to Him, whether it goes with our will or not.

I know many who don’t take advantage of belonging to the Lord, His family or a church. Let’s be examples of those who do! Take a peak at 1 Peter 3:15-17.

Father, I thank you. We belong to you. Teach us how to take advantage of all the benefits and responsibilities of belonging. As we celebrate your resurrection, we are so grateful to you for suffering in our place. Thank you my Lord, In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Sowing

Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:6 NASB.

It’s spring. My front yard willow tree is starting to leaf out. I see daffodils beginning to bloom, and a few tulips are poking their heads through the soil. A sower planted each of these. My mother, over fifty-years ago, asked my brother-in-law if he would plant a willow in the front of her yard. My husband and I planted daffodils and tulips when we moved in over thirty years ago. We chose what to plant. It is up to the sower to choose what seeds he/she plants.

In the sower’s parable, we often focus on the ground types. But today, I want to focus on the sower and the seed we plant. In Jesus’ story, we know He was talking about His good seed. The seeds of hope, the seeds of the gospel. These are available to us! These are the seeds we should plant, but alas, sometimes we, ourselves, sow weeds.

We are all sowing something. A couple of weeks ago, I went to Oregon with my daughter and her family to help celebrate Joy Church and their growth and development. We celebrated forty years of ministry of our friends Steve and Kim Schmelzer and then celebrated the setting in of their daughter and her husband as lead pastors. What I didn’t expect when we accepted the invite was the amazing affirmation and acknowledgement of the seeds sown by Darryl and me over the years in this church. Some came to me with tears in their eyes, telling me how God used us in their lives. It was so humbling, but also encouraging.

By God’s grace, we sowed His words of life. We honored and added value to their field. This isn’t something that you have to be in ministry to do. God has given each of us a field to sow. The question is, what seeds are you sowing?

My heart is heavy and hurting as well. I listened to another person share how their adult children want nothing to do with church or Jesus because of an inappropriate word a youth pastor said to them. This happened a few years ago in another town. I don’t know this youth pastor, but they did damage. They sowed wrong seeds that are still affecting my relatives’ children to this day. I am praying for God to restore and heal them. It made me aware, once again, to guard my tongue and ask the Lord to forgive me if I have ever spoken words that discouraged or brought shame to the kingdom.

There are so many scriptures that warn us about the kind of speaking we do. Ephesians 5:4, Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. I Peter 3:15, But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. I went to my P.A. the other day. He and I are just getting to know each other, but the three times I have seen him, he has used foul language. I am not used to a professional swearing in my appointments! The first two visits, I sort of ignored him, but the third one he used the name of my Savior and I couldn’t keep quiet. I have been praying for him and know he is very lost. So out of my mouth, I simply said (with a smile on my face), “Please don’t talk about my friend that way.” He said, “what?” I said, “Jesus Christ is my friend”. He went, “OH”, and I said, and I have been praying for you. He just sort of stared at me and said, “thank you”. It was sort of awkward, but we went on with the appointment. He has recently retired from the Navy, and I think those words were very acceptable in that culture. I was trying to speak the truth in love and be respectful and gentle. When I left, I mentioned again that I was praying for him. He said, thank you again. We will see what develops!

We plant with our words and our actions. I believe God wants to help us become great sowers. People who sow in wisdom and grace. Seeds sown in anger, bitterness or hatred are not attractive. But it starts in our hearts. We must keep our hearts focused on the Lord. Do not grow weary of sowing sincere seeds of affirmation, words of hope, and words of life. I don’t mean flippantly quoting scripture, but God directed speech, released in faith, will produce fruit. For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 NLT. We must let it work first in our life, before we wield it to others.

Don’t forget to sow your seeds in prayer. It is a safe place to share your heart and concerns for those you love and care for. As we pray, we can trust God is moving and softening the soil in preparation to receive the seeds. Often we speak before we pray, forgetting to ask for His wisdom on how, when and where to sow. He is the master gardener. Whether we are talking with our children, our parents, friends or co-workers, every time we speak, we are softening the soil or hardening it. It does not mean we can’t discuss hard things, but it’s the how we do it that makes a difference.

Father, I thank you for helping us in the crucial area. We need your help to show us where, when, what and how to sow good seed, and forgive us when we sow weeds. Father, I don’t think we really comprehend how much value our words (seeds) can have…please help us. In Jesus’ Name, amen.