You Have My Attention – Day 32

1 Corinthians 1:2 (NLT) – “I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, [a] to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, [b] just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

I am never more aware or humbled by God’s love than when I realize I have an appointment with Him.

A while back I was reading one of my go to devotionals written by In Touch Ministries with Charles Stanley. A morning devotional encourages me to stay rooted in God’s word and instills growth, challenge and passion to my faith and Christian walk. But if I’m really honest, instead of sitting at a table with my Bible and devotion open studying over God’s word for the day, I’m relaxing in an easy chair, sipping hot coffee, reading the devotion from my phone. But you know what; God doesn’t care how I am sitting, what I’m wearing or even if I’m fully awake. If He wants my attention He has every intention of getting it.

I’m not sure about you, but when the opening sentence to a devotion reads “Many Christians are experiencing an identity crisis”, I’m pretty sure the word “many” includes me. He goes on to say, “They know they’re saved, but they don’t really know what to think about themselves.”

To give credence to this thought, the writer gauged a test with this question, “Do you consider yourself a sinner saved by grace, or a saint who occasionally sins?”…And this is where I put down my coffee, sit up a little straighter and give God my full attention. Sometimes God shows me something that He needs me to take seriously because in His plan to grow and empower me He also has a plan to use me in a whole different way.

Although Charles Stanley goes on to say both answers are correct – and I must say I was relieved there wasn’t a chance to answer the question wrong – I knew that God was specifically speaking to my heart about this. Charles Stanley went on to say “The first statement dwells on your past identity, whereas the second focuses on the Lord’s perception of you.”

So if both statements are correct, why would God make such a point of stirring my soul about this?   I think for me, it is because it is easy for me to believe that I am a sinner saved by grace. But a saint ….well that is a stretch. When I would read in the Bible the word saint in reference to Christians it is one of those things that I would just skim over as not really relevant to me. (Yikes…that sounds really bad now that I actually said it out loud.) God knows what I leave out of the equation, and it matters. God wants me to be passionate about all of His Word, because with passion comes purpose.

When I confessed my need for a Savior, in God’s great mercy and grace He provided the only means for turning a sinner into a saint: the Lord Jesus Christ who came togive His life as a ransom for many”. Matthew 20:28

Christine Caine is another person that I listen to on a regular basis. She said something about Jesus that I never really put together before with as much emphasis as she did. The final thing Jesus did was to make a “pit stop” on earth.

“After He was crucified on the cross, after He was separated from the Father and died for three days, after He rose again from the dead, instead of bypassing everything and going straight to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He made a pit stop on earth and walked among us. And His last command to us while on earth was to make disciples of all men.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28:19-20

God has a plan perfectly figured out for each of us, and when we miss something important we are not able to live up to the full potential of what God has for us. We are unable to fully live under the strength and help of the Holy Spirit. God wants us at our best and strongest so that we can participate in His plan to bring as many people to know Him as we can.
                                         
God’s divine touch is meant for all His saints; God has called each of us according to his purpose. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son. (Romans 8:28-29 NLT).
 
We are His Church! We are not going to be citizens of an eternal Kingdom… we already are! My prayer is that together we use the strength of the Helper and the truth of His word to bring others into God’s Kingdom.
 
– Carol Wildasin

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God Sightings – Day 31

Over twenty years ago, Brian and I were in a small group where we learned about God sightings-when we are sensitive to the Lord being all round if we are just looking, aware, listening and asking to see Him. Those coincidences, those words, the perfect scripture you needed or the line from a worship song on the radio that soothes your soul. I’ve seen many God sightings over the years-some people would think I am silly, but a gorgeous sunrise or new fresh fallen snow, a gentle rain that feels like He is washing away our sins. Finding two twenty dollar bills out in the middle of nowhere when walking with a friend who really needs the money. Meeting a stranger that turns out to be a Christian and speaks to your heart when you need it most. I pray for God sightings.

Little did I know that that many of my God sightings have come from the Junior/ Senior High Sunday School class. I am blown away by the kid’s answers. I feel God speaking through them. I have God sightings that I can share with my believing and non-believing friends that will listen because it comes from the wisdom of teenagers.

I think God is very contemporary. He gets Snapchat and Instagram and the challenging world these teens are faced with. He loves teenagers and so do I. I thought I was too old to relate, but God has shown me He will provide.

When I pose a question they don’t know the answer to, they jump on their phone to get the answer. They understand the power of resources and love to teach each other and me.

When we read scripture, it is often on their phone. So that means that since they have their phone with them all the time, they have the Bible also! One even has an app on his phone to check how many times he has opened the Bible a day and it was a lot more than me!!! So no longer do I feel that technology is an evil, it can be used for good.

Last week we talked about death and how they wanted to be remembered. One said she just hopes she will be remembered. Pretty profound for a Junior in High School! Another said they won’t care because they will be focused on heaven and not care about earth. Out of the mouths of babes.

You may wonder if the future is in good hands. Come back and sit with me on Sunday morning in the Pulse and you might have a God sighting, or at least be a bit in awe. I know that I am. We are all children of God and He is so good.
 
– Mary Reigart

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“They” – Day 30

Matthew 27:31 – “After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.”

Sometimes I use the word “they” when referring to another group of people. Much of the time it is an innocent “they” and I don’t put a lot of thought into it. It is a “they” that I am not a part of and just making it known. No big deal. However, sometimes the “they” is a bad group of people (in my mind) and I want to make sure everybody knows, for sure, I AM NOT a part of that particular “they” group.

When we read those passages of Scripture in the gospels about the crucifixion of Jesus, you see a lot of verses which speaks of “they.” In reading Matthew 27, you will find that “they” equates to the Chief Priests and Elders; it equates to the crowds of people shouting “crucify Him!” to Pilate; and finally, it refers to the soldiers who mocked and crucified Jesus.

As we read this story in all four of the gospels, it is always “they” that “mock” and demand the crucifixion of Jesus. I read this account of the crucifixion and often think to myself, “how could “they” do such a thing!” Aren’t you glad you are not a part of a “they” group like that!

What were “they” doing? The gospels tell us that Jesus was mocked with a crown of thorns and the soldiers began to refer to Him as “King of the Jews” even though “they” did not believe it. The “they” crowds wanted to trade the life of Barabbas, a convicted criminal, for the life of Jesus. “They” were mocking Jesus.

Are we any different? We may not make and place a crown of thorns on His head, we may not pull His beard or put a purple robe on Him, but are we guilty of mocking Him in other ways. The word “mock” means “tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner:” I don’t do that and I am sure not any (or many) of you do either. But “mock” also means “not authentic or real.” Do we show our authenticity as believers when it is not convenient? When it might be embarrassing? When people might think less of us? To be authentic or real, it must meet the same standard every time. I cannot be one way at Church or with my believing friends and another with my friends who are not followers of Christ. That is mocking Christ. When I do that, I am as much a part of “they” referenced in Scripture as those in the crowds that crucifixion day. I may not be shouting “crucify Him, crucify Him” but I am saying or thinking “ignore Him” or “don’t speak of Him” or something similar.

Thankfully, Jesus said “Father, forgive them for “they” don’t know what “they” are doing.” I am a part of that “they” as well! Thank you Jesus!

Prayer: Jesus, thank you that on the Cross you took care of the sins that “they” and I commit. Father, thank you that, through Jesus’ death on the Cross, you welcome all of us, including “they’s” into your kingdom. May your Spirit work in our lives to eliminate any mockery we might have, especially towards your Son. Amen.

 

– Herman Crawford

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Grace & Humility – Day 29

Romans 12:3a – “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,…”

I have been blessed beyond measure, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Both my parents were strong Christians, and both sets of grandparents were believers as well. I grew up in a solid home that was built on the foundation of Christ, and at the age of three my mother led me to the Lord. Growing up, I was fortunate to have wonderful pastors, teachers, and youth leaders that poured into me and allowed me to question and explore the truth about Christianity. And even after a period of walking away from my faith, God drew me back and allowed me to build an even deeper relationship with him.

I give you all this background because even though I have been very privileged, that doesn’t mean that I always get things right. To be perfectly honest, I get things wrong most of the time. Having been a Christian most of my life, I often take things for granted…things that should never be taken for granted like God’s grace, mercy, and love. His forgiveness is something I’ve had since I was a child and so the weightiness of what He did for me sometimes fades in magnitude. Over time, I begin to see myself “more highly” than I ought with the mindset that I have somehow attained these things on my own.

When I read the Bible, a lot of times I tend to identify with the wrong person in the story. In the parable of the prodigal son, I have always sided with the older brother. For some reason it took me a long time to realize that Jesus was talking to the Pharisees when He told this parable. They had seen Him with tax collectors and sinners and began grumbling about the company He was keeping. This parable was Jesus’s response to them. The older brother is a mirror image of the Pharisees. The brother has served his father faithfully but with the wrong motives. The Pharisees have kept the letter of the law but have done so out of pride rather than submission to God.

Jesus ends the parable with the father speaking to the older brother. “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:31,32) And that’s where Jesus leaves it. It is then up to the Pharisees to decide how they react to the “younger brother” (the sinners and tax collectors).

This was (and is) such a huge point of conviction for me. How many times had I looked down on someone or felt that I was worthier because I have always “been with Him.” I have been blessed to have not known a time without Christ, and yet I have sometimes turned that into pride rather than being cognizant that I had absolutely nothing to do with the grace He’s bestowed on me.

My attitude should not be one of pride but should be like Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Wow…. Now that takes me down a peg or two. The God of the universe had so much humility that He became a servant to others. He squeezed Himself into our tiny, mortal form. Not only that, but He did so with the knowledge that He was doing it to sacrifice Himself for us: the pride-ridden race that had rejected Him in the first place. This should never get old for me or become commonplace – that my Savior did this for all sinners, including me. Because I am His follower, my attitude should reflect His.
 
– Deb Trojak

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Scripture Reading – Day 28

Matthew 26:20-30 (NIV)

The Last Supper

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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A Life Well Lived – Day 27

1 John 4:16b – “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him.”

On January 1, 2018 I lost my dear Aunt Jill – wife of my mother’s brother and a second mother to me. I was fortunate to live just up the street from my Aunt Jill and her family during my girlhood years. It was with her passing that I was able to truly look back and focus on her life and what made her so very special – not just to me – but to many individuals, including Mark and our children.

When I think of Aunt Jill and why I believe her life was “well lived”, the word that first comes to my mind is “Love”. Aunt Jill loved deeply and without reservation. She showered our family with sticky buns, cookies and other goodies on a regular basis. She was a master seamstress and sewed clothes for me and for her own family as well. When you received a hug from Aunt Jill, you were in her grip for a good ten seconds….going nowhere, to be sure…..and got a smack on the bottom (a love pat, she called them) just for good measure! J Her love extended outward to friends and to her church family as well, where she was known and recognized for her culinary skills and her giving and caring ways. On a mission assignment from the Mennonite Church, my aunt and uncle served at The International Guest House in Washington D.C., taking on the responsibility of host and hostess to many individuals from all over the world. Mark and I were able to see them “in action” as they showed hospitality and the love of Christ to many people.

As Aunt Jill aged and succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, she still recognized her position – her calling – in life when one day, across the kitchen table from my uncle, she stated, “I just want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord”.

I will never forget my Aunt Jill. She leaves a lasting mark on my heart and on my life. So what about me? What about us? What mark are we leaving? How will I, how will we, be remembered? As Pastor Todd has recently challenged us to “reflect” Christ and His character, the word that has continued to come to me is LOVE. Love more, love deeply, love daily, love others, love recklessly. Love as Jesus loves.

The Scriptures are simply full of teachings on love and I want to challenge us all to reflect on these references (and more if you look at your concordance!), as we prayerfully look to the Lord and what He has to say to us this Lenten season:

 

On God’s Love:

  • The “love chapter” I Corinthians 13 – and particularly verse 13 that states “and now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
  • All of Psalm 103, but particularly the character of God reflected in verse 8 – “the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
  • Song of Songs 2:4b “His Banner over me is Love.”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
  • I John 4:16b “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him.”
  • I John 3: 16a “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
  • I John 3:1a “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
  • I John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”
  • I Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
  • Ephesians 3: 17-19 “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

Our call to love:

  • I Peter 1:22b “Love one another deeply, from the heart.”
  • Romans 12:9a “Love must be sincere.”
  • Matthew 22: 37-39 Jesus said “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
  • John 15:17 Jesus said, “This is my command, Love each other.”
  • Galatians 5:13b “…serve one another in love.”

 

And because this love is supernatural – we need the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

  • Galatians 5:22a “But the fruit of the Spirit is Love”….and all those other fruits too, of course!
  • Romans 5:5b “…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

 

I need the Holy Spirit – I can’t love like this on my own. But I want to. Like Aunt Jill, “I just want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord”. So whether it’s sticky buns, sewing for my grandkids, or hugging folks till they hurt J, I want to love like Jesus.

May we all be touched by the enormous, crazy, wild, reckless love of our Savior this Lenten season. And may we choose to live as closely to Him as we can each and every day, pouring ourselves into His Word and asking the Spirit to use us for His glory. May we reflect His love to everyone in our life’s path. And when our chapter closes, may we be remembered for a life well lived – a life of love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for your love expressed on the Cross of Calvary. I praise you for this unspeakable gift of love. I pray that I can express that love to others each day that you give me breath. I thank you for loving me and allowing me to live for you. May my life be a reflection of you and your amazing love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And as a special bonus – if you have access to the internet, you might want to listen to Mercy Me sing an old hymn of the faith that expresses “The Love Of God”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWn
 
– Barb Schumacher

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