20/20

Their faces appeared suddenly in the video and at once I was transported back to a time that, although not many years ago, still seemed like a life time. So much had changed about them and about me since are paths had first crossed. I wasn’t alone watching the video, but the crowd watching with me were unaware of my connection to those faces staring back at me in the video. They had not seen the video before  or the  faces before, but I had. My mind quickly replayed the last time I had seen these people and then quickly fast-forwarded to what I knew of about them now. A few had changed in appearance, some retired from full time ministry and a few others had become entangled in a controversy with a fellow church leader.  It was as if I was staring at my past, while considering where I was now. It was a weird place to be where the past and present meet.

But, as time has moved me past what might have been in serving with these particular faces from the past, I have learned to trust God. He has my back, to speak in modern terms. I was reminded today of the often quoted verse from Romans 8:28; “And we know that in all things God works for the good for those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (NIV).

I admit, I still do not have the perfect 20/20 hindsight vision to understand why things did not work out to serve with those in the video, but I see a glimpse of the reasons at times. God has His reasons and I know I have grown as a Christian since. Maybe I wouldn’t have grown as much if things had worked out in the way I had wanted them to. At the time, it was difficult to feel rejected, to be judged and evaluated by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and shown to be falling short of their standards. It hurt. Quite a bit in fact. But now, I am content with the past, the “almost was”. God was working out everything for my good, and now I can look back and reflect upon it.

Sometimes we might think that we are moving so slowly towards the future and the goals we have set out ahead of us. When we look backward, we can actually see how far we have come and how God has been there, working it all out. When we  realize this, we can move forward,trusting Him as we face new situations that will be our next “almost was” situations. God is faithful and His promises are true. -God Bless- Nancy

Waiting For The Morning

“Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Do you know many joyful people? Those people who always seem to have a smile on their face, no matter the circumstances? I do. And I admit sometimes I’m jealous that they can seem to be so happy all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy, but I do not always appear that way. I’m a thinker, who likes to think about everything and if you see me out and about, I probably have a serious look on my face. It’s just that I’m thinking and reflecting on something. If you have seen me lately, you probably would have noticed a little bit of a frazzled look added to my my serious look due to my recent philosophy classes, which force me to think too much. But I am happy, just maybe not outwardly joyful.

This topic came up recently when my husband woke me up in the early morning hours to ask me what “sorrow lasts for the night , but joy comes in the morning” meant. It was a good question. Although I was tired, I managed to grab my phone and do a Bible verse search to find the passage the phrase had come from. Memorizing scripture is an area that I admit I do not have skill in, so I am so thankful for Bible search apps. It wasn’t easy to find because some versions trade the words sorrow for weeping. We decided to table the conversation until we were both more awake, but it started me thinking. Why do I not feel joyful all the time? Is there something wrong with me?

Maybe you too, have asked yourself this question before too. Are Christians always supposed to be joyful? Isn’t it a bit too unrealistic? Well, maybe what the problem is found in our definition of joy. If we treat joy as a feeling, then yes, we will not always feel “joy”. We might feel joy when our favorite sports team wins, but then become sad and depressed when in the next game the team loses. This kind of joy is changing with our circumstances. No one would expect us to feel joy if our team lost, or we receive news of the death of a loved one, or of a bad health diagnosis. So, what is this passage trying to say?

This particular phrase is found in Psalm 30 and its writer is David. If you’re familiar with the Psalms, David seems to write whatever pops into his thoughts. There are times when he cries out to God and wonders where God is in dark times. He will then remind himself of previous occasions when God came through in these darkest hours and he rejoices with praises to God. Psalm 30 is no different. Bible commentator Matthew Henry finds evidence in this Psalm of David’ sadness at God’s turning away from him because of his (David’s) sin. Henry believes David had security in himself and this brought him to sin and the feeling of sadness or sorrow that was replaced with joy once David repented.

While, I am not an expert at the meaning of this Psalm, I’ll offer what I can as I let God work on me through this passage. This is some of what I have gleaned through reading Psalm 30: 1)There will be times when we do have dark times. there is no getting around them. This is life, and the fallen state in which we live in the world. We as Christians, cannot escape the bad times in life, the dark hours, just because we are Christians- they will come.2) I also believe there are people who are just naturally happy go lucky people. It’s just their nature whether they are Christians or not. 3) We are all created uniquely by God and shouldn’t compare ourselves with others- even other Christians. We all have different temperaments. I might be more of a serious minded thinker, but that doesn’t mean I’m not joyful on the inside. 4) Joy is more than a feeling; it is a quiet confidence and trust in God. We rejoice because we know God will strengthen us through anything. 5) We can trust God and  He will get through to the morning- the times when we can rejoice again. 6) We should ask ourselves if we have let confidence in ourselves lead us into sin- is it God who has turned away, or have we turned away? If so do we need to repent a little? 7) The passage seems to be meaning that we shouldn’t focus on the dark times as a permanent place regardless of the cause- it is temporary. 8) After we go through these dark, joyless times, there will be joy. Times of praising and remembering all that God has done.9) Sometimes, we can be mistaken as to when we are in the dark places when actually we are in a time when we should be rejoicing. We can assume we having bad, difficult circumstances, but maybe things aren’t as bad as we think. We can focus on the negative or choose to think about the good, which is what I suspect the” happy” people  I know do regularly.

My husband’s question was a good one, and as I said, I probably do not have the perfect answer to the meaning of the passage, but I think it is one to reflect upon and do some research on. If you are finding yourself in a place where you are having are difficult time being joyful, reading the Psalms is a great place to start. Just be assured morning will come. Sometimes we just need to wait. -God Bless- Nancy

 

 

 

God View

So, I’ve got a confession to make- I’m a recovering perfectionist. I thought I had outgrown it from my childhood, but sadly I am a work in progress. But aren’t we all? None of us can claim to have it all figured out and to have overcome every weakness or quirk in our personalities. For me, I still find myself trying to do everything perfect- including my faith walk- why? well, I believe it depends upon my view; my God view.

See, how we view God, reflects in how we view ourselves in our walk with Christ. If we view God as a heavy -handed task master, we will feel the unending need to work for His approval. If we see God as a loving Father, we will rejoice and find rest from our endless striving to do more. We will not see His corrections as a call to be perfect, but the hand of a loving dad who wants us to realize and experience who He made us to be.

If we dig still deeper, we can learn that how we view God reflects how we saw our own dads. When we as Christians call God our heavenly father, we have in our minds, what we have been taught as an example by our earthly fathers. These things learned first stick with us into adulthood.

However, this view really doesn’t reflect God completely. Our earthly dads can make mistakes, but God doesn’t. He remains steadfast and the same. His nature never changes. God is always good, always loving, always just. These are in God’s nature, it isn’t simply an action on His part, but in His very nature. Men (and women) bear the image of God and have been created in God’s image, but unlike God, we are fallen in our natures. It is like a mirror with a crack in it. The reflection has been distorted and doesn’t give a clear picture of God anymore.

What we need in order to get a much better view of God, is to look into His word, rather than trying to put our own view of father on God. The more we study God’s character and nature, we will realize He is not the heavy handed task master, but a truly loving father who desires the best for his kids. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t care what we do,  but He rather knows what is best for us and does give us boundaries to stay within. But, we should never feel like we have to earn His approval or earn His love. he loves us unconditionally. He knows we aren’t perfect, but He is willing to teach us how to live in a better way.

How’s your God view? Is it based upon the example seen from your own dad, as a flawed, fallen person, or is it based on what the Bible reveals of God, as a loving, forgiving heavenly father. -God Bless- Nancy

Relative?

“What is truth?” – Pontius Pilate( John 18:38)

Can you answer that question? Or do you struggle as Pilate did when Jesus mentioned the word?   Ask anyone today what is truth and you’re bound to get several different answers. Ask about religious truth and you’re bound to get even a few dozen more. But, does it really matter what you believe, so long as you believe something? This question is one that has been circulating for decades. Yes, it does matter.

Let me put it this way, when you pull up to the gas pump to fill your car’s gas tank, does it matter how to you how much you pay per gallon? Well, for some of you perhaps not, but  I know for others of you, it becomes a mathematical science of figuring out which station has the right price, how much you need, what your gas mileage is, etc. But, imagine if you will that each station had its own definition of what a gallon of gas is. For example if one station calls half a gallon a gallon, would you still fill up your tank there? So, does the truth in measurement matter? Yes. There are certain regulatory laws in place to protect the consumer against frauds, such as weights and measures. So why should we fail to accept absolute truth in other areas? Are there any laws to protect against frauds of belief? Is there any standard by which morals can judged be against?

Now, I realize this is a simplistic argument for truth and some of you might argue that in other countries they use liters or imperial gallons for measurement, I get that, but my aim here is to just get you to think; What if there is only one truth. The truth Jesus was talking about? if we can agree that there are laws protecting the measurements of gas to protect the consumer, could there possibly be other moral laws built into this world to protect the people of it? Are all religions equal? Is it okay to take bits and pieces from different ones until you find what is true for you? That would be equal to filling your car up at multiple sights across town just so you will have a full tank in the end. Sounds kind of crazy to me. All religions cannot all be true because in order to do so they would have to contradict themselves. Cars require gas or (electricity) to run properly and we expect to get what we pay for in terms of gas or electric charges, so should we not expect that for life to run well, there must be something we need, something that is truth? We might look different on the outside, but we are al really the same on the inside. We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want to find something to do that we love and someone to love and share life with. We really aren’t that different, no matter what culture we are from. So, why do we question truth about beliefs? We need truth in our lives, not different truths, but truth that will actually fill the needs I just mentioned before. Truth that doesn’t change with the times or with whichever political party is in charge. Truth that sustains when life seems out of control. Truth that is true for all not just for the individual.

 

Prayer

“Rejoice always, pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, NIV)

A short, simple verse but one packed with so much more. Do you struggle to rejoice always? Me too. Some days I’m only able to tolerate life, far from rejoicing about it. Life is a struggle at times. Situations stress us out. People stress us out. A new school year stresses us out. As a parent I have felt the fear and sadness from dropping my children off at school. Would this be a good year for them? Would they make new friends? Did I pack a lunch they will like? Did I remember to sign all the papers I was supposed to for the registration? Am I going to miss them while they’re at school? What am I going to do while they’re at school? My routine is all messed up now.

Well, you might think this is something I dealt with when my children were in elementary school and that it’s long past me now. But, no, this is actually my thoughts this morning. Except for the lunch part. I’m sure they packed their own today. My daughter is the teacher now, but I still get excited for her first day of school with her new kindergarten class. And I still stress over whether my college age son has everything he needs as he starts his junior year. And yes, I miss them a lot. And my schedule has to change as I figure out what to do now that they have returned back to college and to their apartments after a summer with them here. Being a parent means you will always worry and stress about your children, no matter the age. It comes with the job.

So, this morning I want to remind all the parents out there to remember prayer. Pray for your students and their friends, their teachers, their schools. And pray for yourself as well. Parents need prayer too. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for prayer for yourself. My Husband knows how the new year of school can be stressful for me and he knows to pray for me. If someone does ask you for prayer, please do it. Don’t neglect the request or put it off for a “to do” later, just stop and pray at that moment. In fact, we should always be in a prayer moment. That is what it means to pray continually. All through the day.  -God Bless- Nancy

Risk

           “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” ( 1 Timothy 4:16, NIV).

I thought for a moment about choosing a different title for this week’s blog. Maybe “mediocre” or “status quo” would work instead of “risk”, but what am I really trying to say here?  In the end I hope always to encourage you to move forward. So, it seems “risk” would work better.

What has set me on this path today is my daughter. She has been working on researching our family tree. Over the weeks, she has made some impressive discoveries about who we really are. I shared earlier about the puritan movers and shakers in my family tree and of those who were locked in towers and faced beheading for their beliefs. Recently I have learned of knights and of Ladies and Lords in the family tree. A big surprise this week has been finding that John Locke was a relative. John Locke has been credited with ideas that would later shape the United States. He was the great grandson of one of my great, great great (etc) grandfathers -a mover and shaker who once fled to Geneva to keep his head attached to his body in fear of Queen Mary, who was seeking to take his life.

Which made me think about where we are today as a culture.Are we a culture of movers and shakers? Of thinkers? Of philosophers who change countries? Of country builders? Are we so concerned with technology and sciences, that we have forgotten to think for ourselves? Are we leaders or followers?

Recently,  I asked some younger people just what is important to them in today’s culture. Their answer; acceptance, and of fitting in. Which decidedly is not something exclusive to generation Z or  the millennials; its all of us, every generation We all want to feel like we fit in and are accepted, its how God has wired us for relationship with others and with Him.Yet, for many keeping the status quo becomes more important than seeking change. No one likes to stand out and fear rejection by friends and colleagues. When the status quo changes or shifts, so do we and are swept along with the crowd.

I included the quote from Paul’s letter to Timothy as a reminder that status quo was a thing in the first century too. Here, Paul reminds Timothy to live out what he has come to believe for it not only affected him, but those he was teaching. Paul told him to persevere in what he taught and model it in front of those he was teaching.

It is easy to go with the flow of the crowd and to let others think for you. It is harder to think for yourself and go against the current of trends. I am proud to come from a family tree that included those who thought for themselves and refused to go along with the crowd, even risking death for upholding the truths of the Bible, in opposition to what was being taught by the state church. They sought to persevere for their faith and move across an ocean so their children could have a new life, free of religious corruption.

I thought about what this means for me. Am I willing to go against the current? Have I settled into acceptance of popular thought? Even popular christian thought? How does my own doctrine, my own teaching stand up to the criteria of Biblical truth? Do I want acceptance from the status quo, or am I willing to risk standing out from the crowd because I believe the Bible? Standing out might be uncomfortable for a moment, but I am so thankful that those in my family tree did just that. I would not be here if they hadn’t, living in a country where I am free to worship apart from a government controlled church.

So, I encourage you to step out and follow what God has been putting on your heart. If it a little different than what others do, but still compatible with what the Bible teaches, than take a chance. Have you been told you’re too young or too old by culture? Or its just not done by everyone else?  You don’t have to follow the crowd, just follow Jesus. Some day your descendants just might thank you for not accepting the status quo, but on taking a risk, their lives might be impacted just as mine has. I like to think that I have inherited some of my ancestor’s tenacity and stubbornness and maybe even their intellectual keenness as John Locke had, who knows? But I do know that I will not settled on being mediocre or status quo, but will attempt to persevere in my life and doctrine.  -God Bless -Nancy

Bloom

Bloom where you’re planted. Have you ever heard someone say that? What did you think when you heard it? Did you agree? Or did you feel a little bit anxious?  I would probably be in the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we just need to stay put and learn to adapt and grow where ever we find ourselves. We need to persevere throughout the difficult places and circumstances we find ourselves in. But, then there are other times when we need to move on. Sometimes change can be good for us, but it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck where we are.

The known is comfortable and safe. We might not like our circumstances, but we are afraid to step out and try something new and different. For some of us we are afraid of getting hurt again. For others we are afraid of failure. Or we are afraid of rejection. So, we stay in our circumstances and become fruitless, rather than fruitful.

When my husband was in the military, we moved to new stations about every three to five years. Every move was a chance to start over, learning a new area, its culture, its best food places and stores, and changing churches. Some people might not understand this nomadic lifestyle, but I actually enjoyed it very much. I really like to travel and I like to discover new places. I actually get bored if I am in a place too long without finding something new to discover.

Over the years I have learned that to be fruitful I need others who will inspire me. When we moved to a new area, my husband and I would always begin with a search for a new church home. We would choose carefully, looking at doctrine and fellowship. There were times when churches shifted their focus and doctrines and we needed to find another church.

Now that we are retired, we don’t move as often and there have been times when we have grown complacent with church. It’s too easy to stay than to try somewhere new. We put up with doctrine and people who did little to encourage and spur us on to be fruitful. We needed to be challenged to move on and find others who spur us on to bloom.

Sometimes it is true that we do need to bloom where we find ourselves, but if we aren’t blooming then maybe we need to ask if God is telling us to step out of our comfortable complacency. Maybe we need a new church or new friends.

This morning I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and found myself reminded how much Paul encourages this church. He was an encourager, who prayed for them and wrote encouraging letters to them. He sent others to encourage them and promised to visit them. We all need Paul’s in our life and we need to be Paul’s in other’s lives. we need good friends who will build us up not drain us. We are called to be fruitful, not fruitless and we need others to bloom who encourage us to bloom. The point is to bloom. Blooms produce fruit. Are you blooming?  -God Bless Nancy