Nothing

The server worked efficiently and silently as she placed the large platter on the table. As I focused on the newly placed plate, other platters followed, each one more joyous and amazing than the one before. I have to be honest, it was the largest most decadent piece of chocolate cake I have seen. The chocolate cake looked like a mountain of chocolate goodness. It was extra chocolate. As I stared at the huge dessert, that was the equivalent of two normal sized full sized cakes, my mind started to panic. After several different desserts had been placed in the center of the large round table, the server announced  that they were all a gift from the chef who’s child was a student in my daughter’s class. He appreciated her as a teacher and wanted to show it through offering this generous gift.

It was very unexpected and after the server left, those of us at the table began to share our thoughts. We all had had feelings of panic and concern before the server told us it was a gift. We all had wondered who had ordered dessert and who was going to pay for it. None of us at the table were used to such extravagance. We are not fancy people who regularly dine at pricey restaurants. It was not a usual place for us to go out for dinner, but my daughter had received a gift card that she wanted to share with us. The gift card would not cover all seven of us in the party, so we had all decided before how we would split the bill when it came, and now there was going to be this add- on charge for dessert. Needless to say we were all very relieved when the server said it was a gift. We would wash dishes if we had too, but we were glad we didn’t need to.

Have you ever had a moment like that? A moment of panic, when you wondered how you would pay for something? Something you had not planned for. You are unprepared and do not have a means to pay. A similar experienced happened to my husband and I many years ago while driving through Pennsylvania. We had made a wrong turn and ended up on the ramp to a toll road and could not turn around. The toll required was change only, no cards, no bills, just coins. It did not have an attendant. It was a large basket to catch the toll coins. We did not have any. We had not planned on being on this road. We could not move forward because of the bar across the highway and we now could not back up because a car was tight behind us. Then it happened. The person behind us got out of their car and put coins in the basket. The barrier arm raised and we were free to proceed. We thanked them and were on our way. Someone paid for our travel on that road, so we would be free to travel, that is to be allowed to travel on that road.

It is nice when someone else pays. It is even nicer when we really need them to pay because we can’t pay. I have been reminded lately of just how much Christ’s payment on the cross means. It means I don’t have to keep on trying to pay for something I could never fully pay. Paid in full means just that, in full. There is nothing more I can do to pay for something (my sin) because it is already paid for. Once for all time. Hebrews 10:14 says, “ For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Yet, at times I  see so many people, myself, included, who feel bad and allow guilt to push them to keep trying to do better. Now, doing better and improving our actions and attitudes is a part of growing in our Christian walk, but trying to change in order to earn a right standing before God is fruitless, rather than fruitful. It is what religion is, trying to reach god or perfection, or nirvana or doing good karma. But, that is not Christianity. Christianity is Christ coming down to save us, not us trying to reach Him.

     There are little habits we all have that we wish we didn’t. I worry and stress too much and the more I worry and stress the more I start to feel guilty for worrying and stressing. And then it leads to a feeling of failure, like I can’t change and will never change. My mind reminds me of sermons I have heard before “that anything that isn’t by faith is sin”  and then the guilt piles higher and higher like that over sized  piece of chocolate cake at the restaurant. Now, I could try to fix myself, get busy trying to do more good and trying to make myself look good, hoping I will replace guilt with contentment with my accomplishments. But, it will be short- lived. It is only when I acknowledge Christ paid for all of it, once, for all, that I can relax and allow God to work on me in His timing and in His way. He will make the changes in my attitude and help me grow in my Christian walk. As the writer of the Book of Hebrews adds;  ” This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.I will put my laws in their hearts,  and I will write them on their minds. Then he adds: Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (v.15-17, NIV).   Writing the law in our hearts and minds refers to the Holy Spirit living within the believer. He enables us to live out this Christian walk. Allow Him to lead you and heal you of those things you are trying to deal with on your own. Christ paid the toll so to speak, we need only to receive it as the gift it is. We are free to travel on the journey before us. But first we must acknowledge that we can never earn it, trying to reach God through good works or religious duties, nor do we need to let guilt overwhelm us and force us to keep on trying to earn it even after its been paid in full. Paid in full, let that sink in for minute. Nothing else will be able to add or subtract from that. God Bless -Nancy

Brand Ambassador

So, looking for a job is tough. Sometimes it can be down right depressing and at other times it can be confusing. I have been casually looking for a job and check my inbox daily to see if anything has popped up. Sometimes I notice what sounds like an amazing job by its title, click on the link, and then find out its for something totally different than what I expected. Recently I saw a job posting for a brand ambassador. Wow, sounds impressive, right? I mean ambassador, that conjures up the idea of a dignitary from a foreign country or something. And branding, well when I hear that I think of advertising and the creative types who come up with all those catchy graphics and slogans. But, and I say a big but, what this job was involved handing out food samples at groceries stores. Yup, my big bubble of high expectations burst! Well, its a good job, don’t get me wrong, just not what I expected from the job title.

Have you ever been let down like that? When something sounded great in name, but in reality it was a big let down? A big disappointment? But, what about us? Have we ever been a disappointment to others? Were they expecting something else? I’m sure I can guess you answered yes to a few of those questions, but have you ever realized that as Christians we are brand ambassadors? We are the faces of Christ followers in the world. We are in the world as His ambassadors. Now,  have you ever thought about how you are representing the brand? When people think of the word Christian, do they think of you? And more importantly, is it in a good sense of the word?

See, the word Christian was not first used by Christians as a title or job description, but by the unbelieving world. It was a slanderous term. It is said that the first use of the word Christian was used at the church at Antioch and was a nick name created by the people of Antioch, not the Christians themselves. In fact, it was a large commercial city where persecuted Christians fled after the death of Stephen. The estimated population of the city was half a million people at the time. So, with such a large population and with fear of persecution on their minds, you would think the Christians would try to blend in, not stand out. But, they must have, for it is there where the first time the term “Christian” was mentioned. The first branding if you will. And the name has stuck since the early first century.

Why would the first believers want to stand out and get a ribbing for their nick name “Christians”? Well, that is what their job was. Not to blend in, but to stand out, to shine, not hide. In Matthew 15:14-16 Jesus tells His followers that they are the light of the world and they are to let that light shine. His exact words are: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (NIV).

We have the Good news, the light of the world to share and the hope to offer a world that is looking for hope and answers. I have to admit, I feel like I don’t always do that well. Sometimes I am not a very good brand ambassador, handing out hope and the Good news to all I meet. Sometimes I’m sure I have let others down and shown them something less than Christ, something that deserves being labeled a hypocrite or given a slanderous nick name like “Christian” as the people of Antioch did to the early believers there. But, I hope with Easter coming soon, we can all be challenged to remember who we are as Christ’s ambassadors and share the great news He is risen.As Christians we are not perfect, but that is exactly why we need a savior. Being a Christian is not about being perfect, but realizing we can never measure up to God’s standards, and must rely completely on Christ’s substitutionary death for us.We can’t earn our way to Heaven by our behavior or religious rituals or traditions,but only by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved…..For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9, NIV).

This news is for everyone, not just a select group. And if you have received Christ as your savior, then you have been given a job. You are a brand ambassador for Christ. Unsure what this job entitles? Let me assure you its not always easy, but it is everything.For a complete job description consult God’s Word. Happy Easter and  God Bless You- Nancy

The Truth About Gratitude

The rain has been falling steadily this morning, so I have been taking my time to get ready for the day. Rainy days make me want to stay inside and enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning. Growing up on a farm, I know the importance these Spring rains are for the crops. The rain loosens the soil and softens it, enabling the plow to carefully til the soil for the seeds to be planted. So, sometimes the rainy mornings are good for the soil of our own hearts as we can be willing to slow down and take our time before heading out for our day.

This morning was like that as I was watching a streaming program as I slowly enjoyed my second cup of coffee. The program I was watching provides a Bible teaching that has practical application for the everyday life. But, for this morning the programing was about the previous year’s(2018) outreaches that this ministry had been involved in. I have to admit that watching the recap of the natural disasters from last year, made me realize how soon I had forgotten about these. There seems to be so many of them so often, that I have become complacent about them.

But the real message I began to think about as I watched was how much outreach had been provided. Thousand of gallons of water, food and supplies were given. Hundreds of people were helping to load cars with these supplies after having unloaded large semi trucks of donated goods. Groups were carrying buckets full of supplies on foot to homes that could not be reached by car. Volunteers were sifting through the rubble of burned out homes to find valuables for the home owners who had lost everything to wildfires. Many of these teams spent time praying with the homeowners to encourage them and offer hope. So many people were helping in the video, it began to spring up a bit of guilt in me. I wished I had helped out too.

But, what also struck me as I watched was how this particular ministry is criticized because it is run by a woman. In the past I have heard many criticisms from fellow Christians such as she has had plastic surgery, owns a mansion and has a private jet. Or that she teaches prosperity. But the truth is there in what she does as a fellow Christian reaching out to those who are in need. No, this isn’t a plug for her either, but just a realization, that should we should all be challenged to do something for others. We might not have the financial means to give a thousand dollars to over seven hundred and fifty families who lost their homes to fire, but we can do something. It starts with a grateful heart.

But honestly, it’s not about being thankful for what we have, or that its not us that is being affected by a disaster. That’s really not the motivation that I am talking about. It’s the motivation that we should have towards what God has done in our lives. The gratitude that comes from realizing what Christ did on the cross for us, to save us from ourselves. To save us from being separated from Him forever, the thing we deserved, but He took instead in our place, defeating death, once for all. That’s the kind of gratitude we need to have. That is the motivation we need to help others.

Colossians 3:15-17 offers a look into what this attitude should be like; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts toward God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (NIV).

It’s a long passage, but it offers us an idea of how we should be doing life. If we find ourselves faltering in being grateful and thankful, which according to the passage should be our attitude in what we say or do, it offers the direction to stay in the Word, letting it dwell in you. In other words, reading your Bible, keeps you grateful. Probably because you can be reminded just what you have to be grateful for. It has challenged me today to check my attitude. Have I been grateful lately? Not just thankful. Not just counting my blessings. Not just thankful for what I have. Gratitude isn’t about being thankful for the what in our lives, but the who, Christ, and what He did on the cross. Maybe this upcoming Easter season, we shouldn’t be celebrating new beginnings, but thanksgiving and gratitude, letting God’s Word soften the hardness of our complacent hearts, much like the Spring rains softens the soil, making it ready for planting. -God Bless -Nancy