Archive for the ‘Faith Workings’ Category

Suffering with Christ

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. … And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:16–19, 23-25)

Digging deeper into word translations:

     consider – take inventory
     firstfruits – a beginning of

So what?

Romans 8 has the whole good news of Jesus in one chapter. Love this chapter! 

But there has been one piece that has confused me. “…fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him…” 

Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all. So that can’t be what Paul means here. But if I add what he said in Colossians, it makes it clearer.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… (Col 1:24)

Paul adds the thought that it’s for the church. There is a purpose to our suffering. Just like there was for Jesus. The church. 

As JB Phillips said “you have been adopted into the very family circle of God.” We continue here. We suffer here. We “groan inwardly” here. For family. For brothers and sisters who have not joined us yet. 

The Lord knows exactly what he asks of us. He was here. He knows. He has gifted us wth his Spirit to give us all we need – to strengthen and guide us. The Holy Spirit helps us to take that inventory, look to the future, and focus on the glory. He is the first gift of that glory to come.

And then when the day comes and he returns 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Praise God!

Counted as righteous

Friday, July 20th, 2018

No unbelief made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Rom 4:20-25)

Digging deeper in the translation of some words:

waver – separate from
promise – a legal term denoting a promise to do or give something – not  secured by negotiation
counted – to reckon, count, compute, calculate
righteousness – standing the test of God’s judgment
justification – a declaration of right or justice; a judicial sentence

So what?

Abraham received a promise from  God that seemed impossible – a son when he was 100 years old. But he didn’t waver. He hung on tight to the promise because God himself made it. He believed that God was able to do what he promised. 

That faith was counted as righteousness. In other words, it was added to the plus side of his account.  None of us can meet God’s standards. But God “tested” Abraham’s account and found faith in his promises. It equaled righteousness in God’s eyes.

And not for Abraham alone. It is counted for us, too. We must believe that Jesus death was enough to pay for our sins. And that his resurrection – belief in our living Savior – is enough to make us right in God’s eyes. 

When God looks at me, he sees me with my Savior. When you think about it, it’s just as hard to believe as the promise to Abraham. Why would God and Jesus do that? And why me? I can’t really answer those questions. I can only say “But he did.” And that’s all I need to say. 

He did. And I’ll hang on tight!

My Story

Monday, April 7th, 2014

I was asked to tell my story and how I cope for our Women’s Retreat last weekend. I thot I would post it here, too.

Up front is really not my gift. They asked me to tell my story and how I cope.

We all suffer something. It may be because of our own choices. It may be from medical mistakes. A lot of times it comes from something way beyond our control.

I grew up in a family of hermits. I heard “don’t trust anyone” “don’t get close to anyone – they’ll hurt you.”  My brother was the smallest kid in the neighborhood. One day the guys would play with him and the next day they’d beat him up. I was even told that I was named for my Grandmother so that she would like me – and then told that it didn’t work. After she died I had my name legally changed.

You’ve probably heard the saying “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.” I had decided to become a witch so that I could get even for hurts that I knew would come. I had no people skills – didn’t relate to people.

So how does someone like me come to Christ?

He knows exactly what each of us needs and he provides it. For me it was a book – that old novel In His Steps. And then a real life miracle. Finally, I was able to trust him.

Then I met a guy while I was working at the seminary. I looked into his eyes and knew he was a safe place. He has become my friend, my husband and my pastor. He does it all! He and the Lord were very patient as they helped me out of my dark hole.

My family disowned me after that. I never got a reason for it. When you’re in a family, you don’t always see how dysfunctional it is. I didn’t. Being disowned is a strange feeling. It’s like a piece of the floor fell away. You have to find new places to plant your feet.

I began working on my genealogy – to try to understand my family. Just in my father’s side I found one generation where the mother died in childbirth and all the young children were raised by neighbors. The next generation was one of those pregnancy-had-to-get-married ones. They lived separately for decades before one of them committed suicide. The next generation saw the wife stricken with MS and the father deserting the family. The kids were raised in an abusive relative’s home. One of the children is now in her 80’s and I’m told she still can not bring herself to talk about what happened.

But the Lord broke that sad cycle when he adopted me. My favorite verse is in Romans: “you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, ‘Father, my Father.’”  (Rom 8:15 Phillips) Just like any other adoption – it’s about finding, choosing and loving. It’s personal. And it changes you. You begin to become more like your new Father and to fit more and more into his family.

There are some who will tell you all your problems are solved when you accept Christ. But we all know that really isn’t true.

It’s true that when Jesus returns God himself shall be with them, and will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more, and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone.  (Rev 21:4 Phillips) But not now. We live with the same dysfunctional families, sicknesses, abuse – the same hurts as everyone else.

Some of you know that I have developed MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities). It’s an oversensitive immune system. I’m not sure what caused it – although there are a lot of suspects.

  • I grew up with two heavy smokers.
  • I worked for a while in an office in the basement of a mall. There was no air filtration back then. Everyone smoked. You could see the air. The office manager died of cancer. I left when I realized I had a cold – all the time.
  • Our first church was in southern New Jersey at the time when they sued Philadelphia for all the pollution coming across. And we were still there when the 3 Mile Island nuclear accident happened.

I recently heard that the wife of one of the Assistant Pastors while we were in NJ has the same problem – only worse – she doesn’t get to church – she rarely leaves her house.

MCS means that I have asthmatic reactions to perfumes, cleaning fumes, scented candles – essentially if I can smell it, I’ll react to it. It means that lots of homes, stores and even people are poison. Sometimes I wear a mask. Other times I just have to leave.

They call people like me “canaries” after the birds coal miners used to take into the mines with them. When the poor birds keeled over they knew to run – there was poison gas. We live in a time when there are more than 1,000 new chemicals introduced into our environment every year – with no data on how they will affect people.

So, how do I handle it?
I have to believe and I have to trust. I have been adopted into a family. My Father loves me. Nothing can touch me unless he wants it to. That’s where I begin.

Now I look back on my hermit childhood and I can see God’s hand in it. I spent a lot of time alone. As a kid I spent hours alone in all kinds of books. I still love books. And now with Kindle and iBooks there are no ink or paper smells!

For years I lead Bible Studies for teen girls and then women. But as my condition got worse I found other things to do. When He closed one door there was always another one for me to walk through.

  • I designed the banners and made all but two of them. They hung in the auditorium when we worshiped there. Some of them are in the Narthex rooms now.
  • I taught myself copy-writing and editing so I could work on various incarnations of the church newsletter as well as a women’s newsletter and one for Sunday School teachers.
  • When Glenn wanted a website that would give people an impression of SPEP, I studied websites and writing for the web and took on the website.
  • And then there’s Glenn. He is a talk thinker – so I listen alot. I support and encourage and I pray. And he tells me I give him his best ideas!

And one last thing:

We have silk flowers at Christmas and Easter now, but for years I couldn’t attend services around the most important times of the year because lilies and poinsettias filled the sanctuary – it was beautiful – but poison.  Each Sunday I would drive to church, not be able to stay and drive back home.

Finally, one Christmas Eve I drove home in tears. I just didn’t understand why he would shut me out. But that wasn’t his plan.

He lead Karen Kirk to buy silk flowers. Then he led the media guys to stream the services. Even more important – he led me to a verse that has come to be very special to me.

It has given me a reason. And more than that, he’s given me a purpose. It’s Col 1:24: Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (NIV)

It sounded like heresy the first time I read it – that Jesus didn’t do enough. Paul had to mean something else.

I finally got it: our suffering is not just about us. It’s about that new family. We have brothers and sisters who haven’t been adopted yet. He will not return until they hear. Until they join us. Peter said: Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation. (2 Peter 3:15)

The world hurts. We hurt. For their sake.

God has shown me that waiting is how we fulfill the sufferings of Christ. We continue to hurt from our own sins. From the sins of others. Or just because the world is cursed.

He has asked us to wait – and our waiting works the work of God. I have been dealing with this for more than 30 years. I wonder how many of you have come to Christ in that time. It works the work of God.

Bette Midler once sang:
“And God is watching us, God is watching us,
God is watching us from a distance.”
It’s just not true. God is not looking from some great height –  where nothing touches him. He doesn’t just see everything as beautiful because he doesn’t get close enough to see that it isn’t.

He is with us. He is in us. He knows exactly what He’s asking of us. He’s not called “a man of sorrows” for nothing. He knows what hurts. He knows exactly how much it hurts. He hurts with us. And he cries with us.

He won’t allow the hurting to go on even one second more than it needs to for that last child to come to him.

It’s important for me to remember what my suffering is for – actually – who it’s for. And …

I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!”  (Rom 8:38 Phillips)

Waiting

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

I love waiting, don’t you?

It’s mind numbing. You run out of things to think about – especially since whatever it is you think – you can’t do anything about until you can move on. If you’re waiting in a store line, you see all kinds of personal details from someone’s life that you have no business knowing. At the doctor’s office you’re told to get there 15 minutes early – so you actually get to wait even longer – looking at more personal details (only they tend to be historical there). There are any number of waiting scenarios.

I just love it.

That’s why this has always been hard for me:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1Th. 4:16-17)

I realized I was thinking of just another line – others ahead of me again. But since Sunday’s sermon I have been thinking about the Lord’s return. (maybe today!) And it’s occurred to me that it won’t be waiting like I’m used to.

It will be a celebration.

Can you hear it? Can you see it? Trumpets. Jesus. Joy. Celebrating those who have gone before. Just imagine the applause. And all the cheering.

Bring it on!

Bullies bullies everywhere

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

There’s been a lot of news reports about kids and bullying. People talk about how to fix the problem or what laws to pass. And those poor kids who have committed suicide.  I can only imagine how alone they must have felt – to think that there was no other way to stop it.

When I was growing up my brother had to deal with bullies. One day they would act like his friends and the next day they’d beat him up. But it was localized. It didn’t go out to all the world and color impressions of him everywhere.

Now someone dearer to me has dealt with it. For two years he has had to stand up for what’s right in the midst of threatening emails, insults, slander, and charges of heresy. And things have changed with the internet – the lies spread all over the world and there is no one to call them what they are and shut them down.

My natural instinct is to yell and scream and throw things. To start a website to answer all the ugliness – to spread the truth as far as the lies have gone.

But what would Jesus do?  How did He react to slander and lies?

He said fear not…  But how?

I think I have to choose to believe. Not a one-time thing. Every day – many times a day – choose to believe that …

God is good
He loves us
He will not leave us alone
He will give us strength or He will give us way out
He will use this to bring us closer to Him and make us more like Jesus (Rom. 8:28)

It may take time. And trust. And lots of prayer. But, while we wait for His last child to come to Him, He has promised that no hurt is ever wasted.

Wind surfing

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

We went to a park the other day. It was a beautiful day, but really windy.

As we were sitting in the car, a truck pulled up next to us. We started watching as the man pulled out piece after piece of something. Then he started putting the pieces together. It took a lot of time and energy just to get the pieces assembled.

Then came the wet suit and some kind of harness. As he put the final pieces together we figured out that he was going wind surfing.

He picked up the whole – managing to balance the board and sail in all that wind – and got it to the water. The balancing and getting on weren’t the most graceful, but he managed it.

Then it was beautiful.

I know it took a lot of energy and strength, but he made it look effortless. He went with the wind. Then he came back against it. And then he went across the wind and back. He was able to use the wind to travel all around the river.

It made me think of what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit:

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
(John 3:8)

What if we learned to work with the Holy Spirit the way the wind surfer worked with his wind. Looking effortless doesn’t mean it is. Among other things, it took constant effort and awareness. It took learning how to work with it – not against it. And it took respect for the power.

I wonder … what could that life be like?

A life that pleases God #2

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

… asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:9-10)

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians gives us another glimpse of a life that pleases God.

That word filled literally means to cram full. Adds something to the picture doesn’t it! He’s not looking for a nice polite kind of full. Paul wants them so full that it’s been squished down and packed to the brim. Imagine knowing and understanding God’s will that well.

And there is a reason for it. It’s not just to say “got that” and check it off a list.

We’re supposed to walk, that is live. That knowledge means we’ll know how to live in a manner worthy of him. To live in a way that adds to his reputation and makes him proud.

Fully (that is all and every way) pleasing him.

And bearing fruit. Only a living plant bears fruit. First, we show we’re alive by the things we do. And second, by increasing (growing) in the knowledge of God.

This time, in verse 10, Paul uses a different word for knowledge. This one carries the idea of recognition or discernment.

I wonder if it is like exercise. The more you use the knowledge you have, the more you walk worthy, and the more you are able to recognize what will please him. And walk worthier.

What a prayer! And, of course, you realize that prayer is for us, too. We can pray it – and we can live it!

A life that pleases God

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
(Psalms 37:3–6 ESV)

Here’s one description of a life that pleases God. The word trust carries the idea of being confident, bold. We are to be confident in the Lord – bold in him – and do good. It’s not just generic boldness. It’s the boldness to do good. To do what Jesus would do.

But then he goes on to say dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Dwell has the idea of permanency to it. It’s not a hotel for a night. It’s living there.

The word that surprised me was befriend. Befriend faithfulness. When I looked it up, I found that the Hebrew can also be translated as pasture it, tend a flock, or pastor.  What a picture! Faithfulness doesn’t just happen. We have to nurture it.  Feed it. Give it what it needs to be healthy. Faithfulness is active.

And if we do those things – trust – do good – dwell – befriend faithfulness – delight in the Lord then he will give us the desires of our heart.

But what are they?

The first things that might come to mind are things like healthy children or a nice house. But look deeper. Verse 6 tells us what those desires really are. Righteousness.

Imagine it!

Revelation says “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” But this goes even further.

If we live this way. God will act.

Commit you way to the Lord. Trust in him. And God will act. Not only will we not have to mourn our sins anymore – we’ll be spotless. Wholly righteous. Shining like the sun.

A new look at Philippians 1:29

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.  (Phil. 1:29 MSG)

The Message usually makes me think. This sure is something to think about …

Richard III and reputations

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Over Christmas I finally joined the Richard III Society – a group dedicated to correcting his reputation.

Maybe it’s because my own husband’s reputation is being attacked. But it was something I cared about for a long time. Over the years I’ve read a number of books about Richard III – Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time among them (if you like mystery novels, it’s a great one). He appears to have been a good man. Nothing like Shakespeare portrayed him.

History is written by the winners and the Tudors were notoriously twisted (just think of Henry VIII and Bloody Mary). Their history blames some amazing things on Richard. It seems to me that you can tell more about the man he was by looking at the actions we know were really his – he passed the most enlightened laws on record for the Fifteenth Century:

Laws in English: so the common people could understand their own laws (they had been written in Latin)
Blind Justice:
On the first day of his reign, Richard instructed judges and lawyers to dispense justice without regard to a person’s rank, wealth or power.
Presumption of Innocence:
He made it illegal to seize a man’s property before he was convicted of the crime. And he instituted bail so that those accused of a crime  would be free until trial. “The law shall cease to be an instrument of oppression and extortion.”
Jury System: He reformed the jury system with protections against bribery and tainted verdicts, and declared that anyone who serves on a jury should be of good repute and must own property in the shire.
Clear Title:
He instituted Clear Title so sellers couldn’t sell the same property multiple times.

I don’t really think that my joining the Society will correct history. But it’s important to do – not just believe.

It’s the same with faith in Christ. We say we believe, but if we don’t actually step out and stand on that belief, is it real? If our choices and actions don’t come from that belief, is it real? It’s when we believe and do that we  grow. That we become more like Jesus.

If someone were to look back to judge our reputation, what would they see? What kind of person would they judge us to be? It’s something to think about …