Faith and Love

by Mona Dutterer
 
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
 
Frank and Barb DeCello are wonderful examples of these verses. In the face of hardships that would bring most to anger, tears, or both, Frank and Barb choose joy, laughter, and humor. Through their time together, Barb experienced a few health issues and Frank always looked after her and cared for her. During Frank’s battle with Lewy Body Dementia, Barb has been his strongest advocate; Barb sought out information, assistance, and everything she needed to make the most of her and Frank’s time together.
 
Frank and Barb are able to do this because they put their hope in GOD and they find their peace in HIM. No matter the circumstances, Frank and Barb cling to each other and to GOD, especially during this difficult time of their lives.
 
Their example of faith and of love is evident to any who take a moment to really see them, to see their faith, and to see their commitment to each other and to GOD.
 
(P.S. Thank you GOD for blessing me with a daughter beautiful both inside and outside and with the ability to take my jumbled thoughts and express them so perfectly.)

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Come Unto Me

by Brenda Sullivan (Redstone/ArrowHawk Ministries)
 
(This is a true story of Brenda’s aunt, who is still living, 86 years young.)
Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
 
The day was so full of beautiful sunshine, though it was so bitterly cold. Everyone was looking for a fire to huddle around. The only heat was the wood stove in the middle of the big room. Luke was keeping it constantly filled so that Grandma Billie would be warm in her little corner of the big house. Grandma Billie and Grandpa Joe had lived in their log home for over 50 years. When the cancer took him in 1990, she stayed in their home, keeping watch over the children they shared and the ones that became a part of the family through circumstances unknown. Grandma Billie has become a part of the only source of Christ that her family has seen. She never gives up on them, though she’s seen so many tragedies in her lifetime, including the murder of her own child through the beating by cousins, just because of a misunderstanding.
 
She has never wavered in her relationship with Jesus. She stands in the gap bringing her little ones with her to church. Though she can hardly see anymore and can hardly walk, she gets someone to take her and the little ones as often as she can to hear the Word of God. She knows that is why she has lived these long 57 years in her adopted homeland, so far from her family and loved ones. The Lord has given her a long life so that she can see her little ones come to know the Christ she met so long ago with her parents, Pastor and wife to the Indian Nations.
 
She reminded me of this verse when we were talking after the passing of my own parents. She said the Lord would make my hurting less difficult when I trusted the Lord. She was right.
 
I keep that verse close to my heart as I think of her now at the age of 86 and how her age is beginning to show. God has made our burden light; as we know and she has said, “It is well with my soul.”

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Light

by Anonymous
 
A girl is lost and left in gloom
To walk a night without a moon.
And at her heels come hissing snakes
Condemning all the paths she takes.
And those she finds make no attempt
To lead her from her dark descent.
Until a man she meets at last
Who judges not her paths of past.
He asks her simply to take his hand
And follow Him from the darkened land.
So now at last she sees the sun
And all the darkness begins to run;
And now with light to guide their way
They walk the road to their eternal stay.

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Treasured

by Mrs. C.
Mr. C and I are downsizing. Now before you conjure up an image of a toned, fit and svelte couple, let me say that is not what I am talking about. Mr. C and I are sorting through 54 years of “stuff” which we’ve accumulated. For me they are treasures, each with a warm memory attached; for Mr. C, not so much. We have had a few tense moments (Pastor Todd is on speed dial) as we decide what to keep and what needs to go. (Mr. C is dangerously close to being in the “to go” pile.)
 
Webster defines “treasure” as something of great value; so, if I am honest with myself, none of our “stuff” is a treasure. We truly only have one treasure in life and that is our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It truly amazes me that in Exodus 19:5 God calls us His treasured possession! During this Lenten season we are especially aware of just how much he “treasures” us because we remember the price He paid to redeem us. (1 John 4:10)
 
So there may be a few more knock down, dragged out fights polite disagreements about what goes and what stays from our attic, basement, and closets, but rest assured, we will never part with our gift of salvation that was given to us by God himself. That treasure we will keep and carry into eternity.
 
Father God it is so wonderful to be ‘treasured’ by you. Please never let me forget the cost, the price you paid for me to be called “a child of God”. Thank you Father. Amen

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The Best Rehab

by Jackie Herren & Susan Feaga (Tender Care)
 
While sitting at an employee banquet for my husband’s work, this young, attractive woman came up excited to speak with me. I hardly recognized my former client from Tender Care. It was over two years prior that she had come to the pregnancy center for help with material assistance for her new baby. She was a “regular” customer and she was always treated with dignity and respect. As is often the case, those clients who come in for help more frequently are the ones with whom we are more likely to establish a relationship.
 
During one of her visits to the center, she confided in me that she was going to rehab. I shared with her some of my own struggles and she thanked me for not judging her. I assured her that judgement was not on our agenda, only praying the best for herself and her little girl.
 
These two years have brought sobriety, hope, and confidence to my young friend. She was anxious to show me current phone pictures of her thriving two-year-old and her family. She thanked me for our kindness at Tender Care and for accepting her as she was. I am reminded that Jesus loves you and me right where we are—in our trespasses and sins and in our hopeless state. He was willing to go to the cross for all of lost humanity. I didn’t need to go to a personal rehab to get clean first. I confessed my sins and the perfect blood of Jesus cleansed me and made me a new creation. The former things have passed away and all things have become new. He placed His Spirit in me and causes me to walk in His ways. Those ways include showing His love, free of judgement and condemnation, to every person He places in our path.
 
“Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
 
Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:40)
 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
 
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

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Grief

by Bev Hess
 
We worship a big God. He is sovereign and powerful. We are in His hands, and nothing happens to us by chance. That’s good news. But in grief, if that is all we remember about God, it might actually make the pain worse, rather than better. It might leave us thinking, like Mary and Martha, “Lord, you could have stopped this, and you purposely didn’t. Why?” (John 11:23, 32) God’s sovereignty might leave us more angry than comforted. So we need to remember some other things, too.
 
Jesus Defeated Death God hates death even more than we do. That’s part of the reason Jesus came. The wonderful news for us is that when Jesus broke death’s power by dying and rising from the dead, He did it not only for Himself but also for all who are united to Him (Hebrews 2:14-15). That means that those who die in Christ are more alive than ever and are experiencing life, joy and glory beyond anything we can imagine, right now, in God’s very presence. It may seem that the Lord did not “heal” or “protect” them, but in fact He has healed and protected them in a much fuller, deeper, more permanent way.
 
We Grieve with Hope 1 Thessalonians 4:15 says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Notice that the text does not say that we shouldn’t grieve, just that we should grieve differently than those who have no hope. Even in the context of hope, we still grieve, and that is appropriate. Jesus Himself wept at His friend’s tomb. The Bible does not dismiss or minimize grief, and we shouldn’t underestimate its impact. But we grieve differently than those without hope.
 
Let’s say I don’t know Jesus, and I believe there is no further existence after death. Then the dead really are lost to me. Every single thing that made them who they are is gone forever. That grief is a black hole.
 
But for those who die in Christ—and for those who grieve in Christ—the picture is very different. The sorrow of missing loved ones is still incredibly painful, but the separation is only temporary. We will see them again. That is an entirely different picture.
 
God Is with Us In the midst of grief, it is critical for us to remember that the God who is sovereign and mighty is also Immanuel—God with us. When our grief is debilitating and it feels impossible to function, God does not sit aloof in heaven. He does not leave us to figure out how to handle grief on our own or how to cast about for resources to get through it. He walks every step of the journey with us.
 
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Jesus came and lived as a human in this broken world. He gets it. He knows the tormenting thirst and weakness of life’s final hours. As our High Priest who fully understands our heartaches, He intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25), as does His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:34). He calls us friends (John 15:15) and promises that He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 15:15), that His Spirit will dwell in us (John 14), and that He will give us peace (14:27, 16:33) and even joy (15:11, 16:22). What we need most in the midst of grief is God Himself. He will meet us, give us Himself, fill the void left by our loved ones, warm our hearts, lift our burdens, and draw us into the sweet balm of fellowship with His Spirit. And as our Father tenderly swaddles us in His love, our love for Him will grow, our faith and trust will deepen, and even amid the heartache of grief we will praise Him with deep and true joy.
 
This is something the Lord does by His Spirit, through His Word, prayer, and the fellowship and love of His people. Those means of grace are not “tasks” for our to-do list—more burdens placed on our grief-weary shoulders. They are His love for us. If in your grief you struggle to pray or read the Bible, ask someone to pray for you and read the Bible to you.
 
Grief is really, really hard. It hurts like crazy. But the Lord has broken death’s power, and therefore His children who have died are with Him. And He is with us. And before you know it, we will be together with Him and with them. That removes death’s sting—it really does. Even in the rending ache of grief, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can hang onto Jesus and grieve with the hope that His death and resurrection bought for us.

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