Gifts

He Lifted Them Up and Carried Them

    Balloon USAAnd he became their Savior.

In all their suffering he also suffered,

    and he personally rescued them.

In his love and mercy he redeemed them.

    He lifted them up and carried them

    through all the years.

-- Isaiah 63:8-9

I love America. I can’t sit through the American Adventure show at Disney’s Epcot without my heart swelling in pride and overflowing into copious tears (click here to check it out). It takes me back to my childhood, when every year my Dad and I would pack up and head to the Towson Independence Day Parade. Banners waived, local politicians shook our hands, bands played Sousa marches and sirens blared. That patriotic feeling of pride in our freedoms was planted deep within my heart. And even learning about her flaws and blemishes in college only soured me temporarily because for all her mistakes and flaws, she’s still the best and freest country in the world, in my opinion.

The hubby and I read a lot of books on various episodes in American History. And the more we read, the more we are astonished at the obvious ways God blessed this country and intervened to direct our path. Like the stubborn Israelites, we have at times rejected God, turned our backs on His mission and even denied His Lordship.  But despite our revisionist history, I think it is fair to say that we are a Christian nation. It was the love of Christ and desire to serve Him freely that brought the pilgrims to our shores. It was the belief that all people have inherent value and rights bestowed by God that underpinned our Declaration of Independence and later Constitution. It was our belief that God created us for good works that led us to grow our country with hard work and enterprise. It was our conviction that enslavement of other humans was repugnant that led to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. It was our faith that evil can only be conquered by Good that led us to go to war for freedom around the world. Oh yes, I know that many of these ideals were corrupted by greed, lust for power and other ulterior motives. Just read the Bible and any history book to see that it has always been that way. Nevertheless, this county was founded and built to a great extent by people of faith seeking to serve God and serve others as freely as possible.

God has lifted us up and carried us through all the years. You may say that things look a little bleak right now. You may question whether God has lifted his loving hand of protection from us. You may feel that our beloved ideals are being twisted and trampled and the very freedoms that led the Pilgrims to venture to these shores in the first place are the ones most under attack. That may well be. Let’s face it, Jesus promised us troubles and persecution in this world. But He overcame the world, and we must too! This isn’t a time for hand-wringing, this is a time for sleeve rolling, and bootstrap pulling – and knees bending in prayer! Never has America needed the salt and light of Christians more. Never has our culture strayed so far from Biblical principles of morality and holiness. Never have more Americans been ignorant of the Bible, and unaware of who Jesus is and what He has done for them. The ‘news’ programs argue over solutions this country’s problems, but we who know the power of Christ, know what the only lasting solution can be: being born again into the family of God through faith in Jesus.

As we celebrate our freedom and the many blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, let us also resolve to be brave in our faith. Our country desperately needs our Good News of love, forgiveness and redemption. Take up the flag, but also take up the cross and confidently declare: ‘Imitate me as I imitate Christ!” 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Wishing you freedom and bravery,

Jen Jahromi


Keep Safe in God's Love

Keep Safe bkgdA Call to Remain Faithful

But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.  Jude 1:17-25

I chose this illustration to represent the month of May in my annual calendar last year. And by God’s perfect timing, the scripture passage that is represented in it, is oh, too relevant to us and our church now. For those of us who heard Pastor Bill speak about the recent General Conference of the United Methodist Church, there may be a sense of loss and confusion as our church drifts away from Biblical teachings in many areas. But remember that this is not a new occurrence in the history of God’s people and is also part of end times prophesy.

Looking at the various books of the Prophets you’ll see God railing against the religious leaders for leading His people astray and following the culture of their times. God’s wrath allowed the nations of Israel and Judah to be invaded by the Assyrians and carried off into captivity. Nevertheless, God brought them out and restored them to the land that He promised them. And in the time of Jude’s letter, similar corruption and false teaching was occurring. Christian sects were following the cultural norms of the day and doing what seemed right in their own eyes. This led to the writing of the various epistles and the eventual creation of our New Testament Scriptures. Finally, the Book of Revelations clearly warns us that things will again be this way in the End Times.

The question of the day is what we should do in response to all this. I’m far from being able to discern God’s perfect will, but I have found comfort in a few passages that I came across this week in my various Bible studies.

Micah 6:8

 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

First, we need to be sure that we, ourselves, continue on the Heavenward path by doing what God has called all of us to do. We should be exhibiting the Sermon on the Mount attitudes and bearing the Fruits of the Spirit no matter what the world around us looks like or does.

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give peace to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.  You heard Me say that I am going away. But I am coming back to you.”

Next, we need to embrace God’s peace. His peace is not the fleeting peace of a world in turmoil, it is the rock steady peace of the assurance of eternity. This world is not our home. We have been chosen by God and nothing can pluck us out of His hand. We have to let go of anxiety and fear and settle into peace.

Jude 20-21

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

Finally, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. God already knows what He’s going to do. We don’t. But we know His will is perfect, so we can confidently and earnestly pray for His will to be done. We know He holds the world in His hands, and that He will keep us safe in His love.

The history of God’s people is a history of a few faithful men and women who believed God in spite of the circumstances surrounding them. Their faithfulness was rewarded and increased again and again over centuries. We are the faithful remnant and God will use us in His perfect plan. So, walk by faith and not by sight.

PRAYER: Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. Jude 24-25 

Be Blessed,

Jen


Spring Renewal

Spring is Sure to FollowFor sure, I tell you, unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it will only be a seed. If it dies, it will give much grain. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it forever. John 12:24-25

Summer and winter and spring time and harvest…if there is one thing we can count on in this world it is the changing of the seasons. No matter how long the winter, spring’s new life is sure to follow. God has always been in the business of bringing what seemed dead back to life.

It all started in the garden. Eden was in bloom constantly, reminding us of the perfect fruitfulness we were created for. Sin entered and the ground now produces thorns and has to be broken up with hard labor. This is similar to the state of our fallen hearts – much to keep us from being fruitful, and always tending toward hardness. But God’s plan for our lives is to transform and perfect us once again.

Along with sin came death. Humans fear death, but in reality, it has been a natural part of creation since ‘The Fall.’ Dying flowers leave behind seeds for future growth. The dying leaves of autumn give way to new buds in springtime. The pruning of branches and stems makes plants more fruitful. The separation of the chaff from the wheat makes it edible and nourishing. And all that dies is sown back into the earth to make fertilized soil for more growth.

This same principle applies to our growth in Christ. Jesus compared himself to a seed in the verse above. When a seed dies and is buried, it will produce a crop. When Jesus willingly denied Himself, gave up His life on the cross and was buried, His resurrection produced a harvest of righteousness. You and I are part of this crop of believers who will inherit eternal life in God’s new Eden at the end of time.

In the meantime, however, God is still using this principle to make us more Christlike - more perfect - now, here on earth. Dying to ourselves in order to live more abundantly for God is our daily task. As it says in Romans 6:3-4, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” God desires that we have a new, abundant life in Christ. Jesus, himself, left this command for us in Luke 9:23 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

What does this look like in our lives? Every day we must make the conscious choice to submit our will, our desires and our plans to the Lord. This is definitely a challenge because when we ask the Lord to use us to do His will, He will! But His plans are so much better than our plans. And His plan is to grow us and mold us and make us His hands and feet to do the good works He has planned for us from the beginning. This kind of submission is hard, and that’s why it needs to be a daily practice.

We must also prepare ourselves for the inevitable pruning. Remember, God’s goal is our perfection, not our comfort. As Jesus said in John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Ouch! So, if there’s an area of our lives that is not bearing fruit – even if it a ministry that we love, or a way of doing things that we’re comfortable with – the Lord, in His wisdom, might prune it away so that we can be more fruitful. And even in the fruitful areas, the Lord does not want us to become satisfied with just okay. He is always pushing us towards more growth.

Finally, just as the trees and annuals seem dead in the winter but come back to life in the spring, we should not be too quick to give up on dreams the Lord has given us. God can make a way where there seems to be no way, so be faithful and anticipate a resurrection where there seemed to be a death.

So, as we embrace the warmth and beauty of this spring, take time to be quiet and seek God’s will for newness in your life. Could He be pushing you to use your talents in a new way? Might He be nudging you toward the mission field or a ministry opportunity? Even a mature tree can experience new growth with careful pruning and tender care.

Be Blessed,

Jen


Hens and Chicks

Shadow of Your Wings paintnet“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37

As we approach Mothers’ Day, I wanted to highlight just how difficult a job motherhood really is. No doubt I could start with laundry and dishes, sibling rivalries, finding a balance between family, work and self-care, or staying on the same page with your spouse, but I won’t. I want to dig deeper, to the heartache.

God knows the heartache of parenthood very well. Again and again in the Old Testament we read of His anger, disappointment and heartbreak as He watches His wayward children reject His warnings and encouragement and stubbornly go their own way to their ultimate detriment. Being a mom, or any parent, often feels like watching the world’s slowest train wreck – we see it coming, we warn, we threaten, we try to intervene, and yet the feared outcome arrives, and we are left to watch our children struggle with the consequences.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t end at childhood. As our chicks grow into responsible adults, they have to make their own choices about politics, morality and faith. It can be painful to watch them veer off the path we carefully cultivated for them, a path with a firm foundation of faith, that would lead them to their truest best life. But worldly college campuses, cosmopolitan cities and digital virtual reality are filled with pit falls, traps and delightful distractions promising much more than a godly life could offer, and ultimately delivering none of it. As we struggle to remain relevant in our grown child’s life, it’s hard to know how far we should go in our admonitions and telling the truth in love.

If you look at the verses just before the one above, be warned – you’ll see Jesus at His saltiest, giving the religious leaders a dose of very tough love. This is not the picture of the loving teacher with a baby on His knee and little kids all around. This is more of an Old Testament prophet giving God’s harsh warning to repent or else.

So, as parents, how do we watch our kids and others’ kids assault campus security, destroy school property and espouse non-historical viewpoints with truly antisemitic rhetoric? It wounds our souls. It makes us feel pity and compassion for these kids who ‘know not what they do.’ It angers us that this could happen in the 21st century in the wake of ‘wokeness’ and the kindness campaign.

First off, the assault on our children and young people is coming from every angle these days: social media, the internet, bullying, school safety issues, the general rise in violence, the pervasiveness of drugs, the normalization of irresponsible sexual activity, exploitation, the eroding of ethics, incivility, and a real push to remove faith from all public life. As Greg Bell says, ‘we have to teach our kids to believe in God before the world teaches them not to.’

Understand, however, that these attacks are ultimately from Satan. As His time grows short, His attacks grow more intense. How do we fight that deceiver? Ephesians 6:16: “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Rebuke the devil: tell him to leave, and quote promises from Scripture just as Jesus did when He was tempted. And most of all pray. Pray for your kids, pray for my kids, pray for the little kids, pray for the adult kids, pray for the grandkids, pray for all the kids everywhere. Pray for God to protect them, pray for Him to surround them with good and godly teachers and mentors, pray for them to distinguish wise teaching from worldly teaching, pray for them to know Right from wrong. Love them unconditionally with agape love even when you don’t support their choices, and be ready to forgive quickly.

Do not be discouraged or dismayed. The world may look unrecognizable sometimes, but God is still in control. Jesus will gather all His chicks in Jerusalem one day. Sing along as I remind you of a very real and encouraging truth:

This is my Father’s world.

O let me ne’er forget

that though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

(Maltbie Babcock)

 

Be Blessed,

Jen


Camels and Needles

Yard saleJesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Mark 10:23-27

A couple of weeks ago we had our annual church yard sale. It’s a wonderful event that raises funds for the church while allowing us to embrace the spirit of Earth Day: Reduce, Reuse and Upcycle!😉 And while many treasures were purchased, what really struck me, as part of the clean-up crew, was how many treasures were left to be loaded onto the Good Will truck.

So many books, toys, décor and more were packed up. They weren’t in poor condition, they were just no longer wanted. And at the risk of offending, they were a clear symptom of the American condition: Affluenza. I am by no means uninfected. If we want it, Amazon, QVC, and a host of catalog companies and big box stores are ready to make our acquisitive dreams come true. Before we can even wear the thing out, the newer, faster, better, more fashionable model is being advertised everywhere.

Being constantly bombarded by advertising leads to dissatisfaction. It has been said that there are two ways to be rich: one is by acquiring much, the other is by desiring little. Or again, discontent is defined as wanting what you don’t have, and contentment is defined as wanting what you do have. Basically, the farther apart your desires are from your reality, the more unhappy you will feel, even when what you have is objectively enough.

We learned about the Rich Young Man in Sunday School this week. You remember him, the guy who asked Jesus how to gain eternal life. “Sell all your stuff, give everything to the poor and then follow me,” Jesus replied. Well, that guy went away very sad because he loved his stuff, or being rich, or being important in others’ eyes, or all of the above, more than he loved God. Then Jesus tells the story of the camel and the eye of a needle, scaring all of the disciples into wondering who, then, could be saved.

The issue is that stuff is a real distraction. We want to have our quiet time with God, but after we watch our favorite show on our huge tv. We want to say our prayers, but after we play that awesome videogame in hi-def. We want to give to that charity, but we just spent so much renewing our spring wardrobe, or on the car, or buying the books on our summer reading list. Which is not to say that any of these things are wrong or bad, just that they ARE distractions, and we need to be mindful of where we are spending our time, attention and money. What we absolutely CAN’T do is let them become little gods, or idols, in our lives. Put God first!

However, Jesus was very clear about the challenge of putting Him first in a life filled with stuff. Stuff slowly pushes God right out of first place. We invest our stuff with meaning – it becomes status, power, adequacy, success, happiness, reward… But these are all things we should be getting from God.

  • Our status is a Child of the King, what could compare with that? (Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— John 1:12)
  • Our power is same power that raised Jesus from the dead! (being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience… Colossians 1:11)
  • Our adequacy is found in God (But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9)
  • Our success is determined by how successful we are at living for God (I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
  • Our happiness is not the fleeting emotion of circumstances, but the abiding joy of the Lord. (Be full of joy always because you belong to the Lord. Again I say, be full of joy! Philippians 4:4)
  • And our reward…oh man, it’s just the best reward that there ever could be…eternal life with God in Heaven! (“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:40)

So, enjoy your stuff. Think of ways to bless people through your stuff. Generously share your stuff by using it with others. Donate your stuff when you’re done with it. But don’t let your stuff get between you and God. Put God first!

Be blessed,

Jen 


Pride Goeth Before The Fall

Garden of God new“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15

In Sunday School the other week, the kids were in rare form and asking about characters from the Bible we often prefer to ignore: Judas, Cain and…Satan. Actually, that discussion tied in pretty well with the Easter theme, because you can’t have Easter without Judas and the Garden of Eden. It was all part of God’s intricately amazing plan right from the beginning.

It is true that any and all sin disqualifies us from entry into Heaven, and therefore no sin is worse than any other. However, if Love of God and Love of Others sums up all of the Commandments, as Jesus said, then Pride – Love of Self – sums up all of sin. And Lucifer – Satan, the Devil, Lord of the Air – is full of it…pride, that is. Lucifer, one of the chief angels, was so full of pride and self-love that he aspired to become greater than God. It’s theorized that he balked at the idea of worshipping God in the form of a lesser, mere human, being. And so, he and his angelic followers rebelled and were cast out of Heaven.

It’s not surprising that Satan’s first interaction with humans was to tempt them to have the same pride and self-love that led to his own downfall. He tempted Adam and Eve to aspire to ‘be like God, having the knowledge of Good and Evil” and just like Lucifer, they were instantly evicted.

Pride - loving ourselves, wanting our own way, putting God in the backseat (or out of the car altogether) -is the root of all other sins: worshiping idols, greed, lust, disobedience, lying, theft, coveting…the works. We turn God’s perfect plan for our lives upside down when we decide to take it into our own, imperfect, deeply flawed hands.

Mankind remained in that helplessly broken state, slowly degrading ourselves and our world until God’s plan of redemption was accomplished by the sacrifice and resurrection of the perfect Son of God, Jesus. As it says in Romans 5:17 NLT “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”

So, despite Satan going into court every day to accuse us in front of the Righteous, Almighty Judge, and despite the fact that most of the things he accuses us of are actually true (our many sins), our Counsellor and Advocate, Jesus, just objects saying, “I don’t see any of these sin debts here in the Book of Life, they’ve all been marked ‘Paid in Full’ by My blood.” The gavel slams down, case dismissed.

I encouraged the kids, as I encourage you, to flip to the back of The Book and read the ending first. It's remarkably encouraging.  Spoiler alert: God wins!

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished.” Revelation 20:1-3

In Christ,

Jen


Tax Day

Treasures in the Sand OriginalSo the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Luke 20:21-25

Tax Day was this past Monday. (I hope that’s not a surprise to anyone!) Even though I was once employed to do other peoples’ taxes, I find it an unpleasant task. Unpleasant is gilding the lily - odious, noxious, unbearable are all closer to the truth. I’m not great with numbers or record-keeping or feeling judged, so tax preparation always just feels like a punishment.

I know that complaining about taxes is something of a national pastime here in America. It’s a dangerous but easy conversation starter in any setting. Any amount seems like too much when your budget is tight, and you work long hours for those wages. Many years ago, during a Small Group Meeting I was airing a similar complaint when a dear sister in Christ, Wanda Burnap, stopped me in my tracks. “You know, for all that our taxes pay for, it’s really not much to pay,” she said. “Think of our beautiful, well-maintained, highways, our water and sewage, our excellent schools, our public safety and sanitation and more. These are really blessings.” And she IS correct, especially in Maryland. The news often tries to scare us, but statistically, Maryland is ranked pretty high in all these areas. Of course, that isn’t the only reason to pay taxes. We pay as part of the social contract, as our duty as citizens.

Now if we are dutifully “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”, are we also giving God what is God’s?

God wants our hearts. Not just a place in our heart, but top billing – first place 🏆. But the competition for that spot is fierce. Career, social status, family, education, image, money, etc. are all fighting to be number one in our lives. And worse, this worldly system constantly tells us that those things ARE most important. And because those things are actually necessary in many ways, we can’t just renounce them without going to live as a hermit in a cave somewhere.

Which is why Jesus’ teachings so often pit status, family and money against devotion to God. Jesus didn’t mean that burying your father or having wealth was bad, just that it can be an impediment or excuse for not putting God first. Keeping God first on the throne of your heart requires dedication and sacrifice and often a rejection of worldly values. And that sacrifice of your time, talent, and especially your hard-earned money is proof that God has first place 🏆.

If we’re spending most of our time, talent and resources on doing things that signal our virtue, promote our status or worth in society, or indulge our selfish impulses, then clearly God is not number one in our hearts or lives. This is Jesus’ point in Matthew 6:20-21:

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What the federal and state governments do with our tax dollars is largely out of our control. Hopefully they will take promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty for the majority of citizens seriously. But God! We can rest fully assured that our investment in the Kingdom of God will never be squandered, misspent, or stolen. Our treasure is used here and now to support the Church, advance the Kingdom, do important mission work, educate the next generation in Christ and spread the Word of God throughout the world. AND it is stored up in heaven as proof of our belief, trust and devotion to the One and Only True God, our Rock of Salvation, our Strong Deliverer, our only hope of life everlasting – Jehovah, God Almighty.

That’s an investment tip you can rely on.

Be blessed,

Jen


The Great Doctor

Prescription for Wellness newJesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

It’s wonderful to see everyone in their ‘Sunday best’ on Easter, with hats, ties, and pretty dresses. In the past we also used to have a variety of Easter flowers on the altar that families purchased. And of course, there’s special crafts and goodies for the kiddos. It’s a big occasion.

We know that Easter is a special time when people who normally sleep in on Sundays may join us. We want our church to be beautiful, comfortable and welcoming, but we should always remember that it is not a department store for browsers, but a hospital for the sick.

Churches come in all shapes and sizes, from homes and storefronts to grand cathedrals. What makes them a church is not the altar or pews but God’s Spirit, power and love residing within them. Sinners need a place to lay down their burdens, repent and receive God’s saving grace. They need a place to heal and renew their souls. Only by God’s love, power and Spirit can they be rescued and restored.

Jesus has an incredible power to heal and to save. He cast out demons, restored sight to the blind, made the lame walk, cured illness from miles away with only a word and brought the dead to life. His most amazing healing was His own glorious resurrection on Easter morning, the proof of the resurrection to come at the End of Days for all who believe! Where did this tremendous power come from? Let me suggest…Love. As the choir sang on Good Friday, “That they might see, Lord I come to thee, ready now to do what Love demands…” (Into Thy Hands by Charles Brown). Love compelled Christ to the cross. At the Last Supper Jesus established a New Covenant: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

God IS love (1 John 4:8), and true, unconditional, agape love has an amazing power to heal. How did Jesus love them? He forgot their pasts as boasters, traitors, demon-possessed, zealots and doubters. He saw their potential where the world had written them off. He kept believing in them, as they learned to believe in Him. He invested His time, wisdom and training in them, rebuking when necessary, but always in love. His devotion built trust which led to their devotion to Him. He put His own needs and desires last in order to serve others.

Physical healing takes time, a consistent regimen of medicines and treatments, and constant care. Spiritual healing also takes time, consistency and constant love. The Great Healer, Jesus, has an overflowing abundance of all of these, but He needs our hands and feet and hearts to apply them to the patients of the world. Never forget the incredible power that lives in us. Jesus himself told us, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

It is not by our power that we can heal or save, but only by God’s love working through us. The Church has what people desperately need – healing and rebirth, cleansing and renewal, peace and rest, and a new heart – all procedures performed by the most skilled physician who ever lived – Dr. Jesus.

In His love,

Jen


Saving Soles

He LivesYou see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11

I heard a story today that made me stop and ponder. A woman was recounting how when her grandmother passed away, her uncle had forgotten to bring shoes to the funeral home, and so grandma would be buried barefooted. The woman’s mom was adamant that she had to travel 3 hours back home to bring shoes so that her mother “wouldn’t have cold feet in heaven.” Others hearing that story nodded and found it sweet. And I suppose from a purely human standpoint it was. It was borne from her grief and wanting to do one last kind thing for her mother.

But as a Christian, it bothered me. Like comments I hear all the time that peoples’ loved one is now ‘an angel in Heaven,’ or arguments against cremation because God wouldn’t be able to resurrect you, they display a lack of understanding that might be sweet if it weren’t so dangerous.

While it is certainly true that the Christian faith is not merely a ‘get out of Hell free’ card, let’s be real – that IS the primary reason that Jesus came to earth, suffered and died. We tend not to want to talk about death, but Jesus spent a lot of His ministry talking about death. He was very clear that sin leads to death and that it is an incurable condition, punishable by torment in Hell. The Law of Moses was perfect; however, it only served to show how impossible it was for us sinful humans to keep it. After thousands of years of trying and failing, God ended that Covenant with Israel and began a New Covenant in Jesus’ blood with every person in the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

In Sunday School last week, I had the unenviable task of telling the kids that Jesus was killed on a cross. “Death is scary,” the littlest one said. Yes, it is. It is the fear of the unknown that can be really unsettling. But just like that first trip in an airplane can be frightening, once you touch down in Disney World, you’ll be so happy you made the trip. Heaven is so much better than Disney World (no lines 😉), and so much better than anything we can dare to imagine. We’ll be face to face with Jesus, wrapped in love, full of peace, and fully healed and whole.

Our God is SO much bigger than we can comprehend. Our feet will never be cold in Heaven. We get all new robes of righteous anyway! We will never become angels, but we will likely meet some. And God will absolutely be able to resurrect every believer whether they were lost at sea, buried, cremated or placed in an ossuary, like back in first century Israel. Consider how much energy would have been required to resurrect Jesus. Research on the Shroud of Turin, now believed to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus, reveals that “the formation of the Shroud’s image would take several billion watts of light radiation, which exceeds the maximum output of any source of UV radiation known today. If the accompanying heat energy had been present, the cloth would have vaporized in less than 1/40 billionth of a second.”* This is the same God who created the entire universe! As Jesus, himself, told us, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

So, when we consider death, we need to put away sentimental ideas of the afterlife, especially the ubiquitous belief that everyone goes to heaven if they’re ‘good.’ As Christians we know that eternity in Heaven is guaranteed only by faith in Jesus who died to pay our sin debt and restore our relationship with Almighty God. Don’t worry about grandma’s shoes – worry about grandma’s soul! Concern yourself with saving others from hellfire. Jesus suffered and sacrificed too much for us to keep this GOOD NEWS all to ourselves. We can live eternally! Hallelujah!

Eternally yours,

Jen

* https://www.magiscenter.com/blog/how-did-shroud-turin-get-image


Stay Prayed Up

Ask & Seek rescanIn the last couple of weeks I’ve had several friends, a few of them just kids, need urgent prayers for healing. I’m always happy to do this, and usually stop in my tracks and pray immediately so I won’t forget. It seems that all of the prayers were answered in the best possible way, with necks, backs, appendixes, etc. undergoing successful surgeries.

Prayer is an amazingly powerful way to shoot arrows of healing, comfort, guidance and peace to people all over the world. It’s a proven way to improve your own situation, whatever that may be. It’s the one bit of control we have when the world seems chaotic and out of control.

James 5:16 tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” So how can we ensure the most power from our prayers? Here are a few ideas to ponder.

OBEY GOD

This one seems obvious, but staying in good standing with God is critical. In order to have a close relationship with God and please Him, we must trust and obey.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:21-22

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:7

PRAY IN HIS WILL

When we ask for things for our own selfish pleasures, or want things that are not in the will of God, we should not expect answers. But when we ask according to His will, with our hearts, He will hear, and answer.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

PRAY IN JESUS’ NAME

Jesus is our advocate, our Great High Priest, mediating between us and God. Through Him we are made holy and put in a right relationship with God.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:23-24

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19-20

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

PRAY WITH FAITH THAT YOUR PRAYER WILL BE ANSWERED

It may take a while for God to rearrange a situation in order to say ‘yes’ to your prayer, but He hears your prayer even before you ask (Matthew 6:8).

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-7

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

Jesus spent a lot of time praying. He prayed for strength to face the day and strength to withstand the temptations of Satan. He prayed for His disciples, for Jerusalem and for us. He even taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. He showed us that prayer is power cord that keeps us connected to the mightiest power source in the universe: Almighty God.

So, stay plugged in – or as they say down south, stay ‘prayed up’ – so you’ll be ready to fire off those desperate, heartfelt, emergency prayer arrows all over the world in any situation, assured that God will hear and work all things to good according to His purposes.

Prayerfully,

Jen


Don't Curse the Rain

You Can't Make A RainbowHe causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:45

Rain – it falls on us all. Whether you view that as a good thing or a bad thing is all a matter of perspective. Farmers with a crop planted view it as a blessing. Homeowners with a leaky basement view it as a curse, which leads to “rainxiety.”

So much of life boils down to perspective. Truth is truth whether we like it or not. For instance, “life is short and then you die.” Yup. It’s true. But the real question is, what will we do with that truth? How then should we live? As a teenager I went through a short phase where I was so terrified of death that I wouldn’t leave the house. I was so certain that the ‘grim reaper’ was stalking me, that crossing a street or walking at night threw me into a panic. Now, as a Christian, I see death as an inevitable transition into glory. I don’t long for it, but it holds no terror for me. Again, perspective is everything.

Jesus came from Heaven to earth to take His seat on David’s throne as King of the Jews. On Palm Sunday crowds of people from Jerusalem threw down their coats and palm branches before Him, hailing Him as King of the Jews, the long-awaited Messiah, shouting, “Lord save us!” A week later they were mocking Him, calling Him ‘King of the Jews’ and spitting on him, pressing a crown of thorns into his flesh, and shouting, “if you are the Messiah, save yourself!”

And that first Good Friday seemed very bad to his mother and disciples. From their perspective, all hope was lost. But just three days later, a miracle beyond comprehension occurred and made that Friday the best Friday ever in history! Jesus’ death meant salvation for us. His resurrection showed God’s power over death and His acceptance of Jesus as the final, perfect sacrifice – the only sacrifice able to wash away our sins and make us righteous before God! God’s perfect plan of Salvation was accomplished.

Trials and troubles will fall on us all, just like rain. The trick is to perceive the positive hidden in the negative. You can’t have a glorious rainbow without a little rain. You can’t appreciate the brightness of one candle without the dark. Pain and need teach us to trust in the Lord like nothing else. We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan.” Romans 8:28, New Life Version. If we truly believe this is so, then we can patiently endure, without anxiety, any situation we find ourselves in.

I have two favorite verses that I cling to in times of adversity. They are shorthand for the stories of Joseph and Jesus, two men who knew the agony or adversity and the glory of God’s favor. They were both used powerfully by God as saviors. They are my heroes and role models, although I’m far from their long-suffering character.

You planned to do a bad thing to me. But God planned it for good, to make it happen that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20, NLV

Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and He is the One Who makes it perfect. He did not give up when He had to suffer shame and die on a cross. He knew of the joy that would be His later. Now He is sitting at the right side of God. Hebrews 12:2, NLV

As you face your inevitable ‘Good Fridays’ of tribulation and suffering, keep your eyes looking to the ‘Easter Mornings’ of salvation, blessing and renewal. God can bring back to life that which seemed dead, but it may take a little rain first.

Rainbows and Blessings,

Jen