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(S) John 10:40-42  40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

(O) Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem when again He was asked to substantiate His claims the He was The Son Of God.  He explained that His miracles where from the hand of God.  He used scripture to back up His actions.  The leaders were not pleased and intended to kill Him.  Jesus slipped away and headed back to where it all started.  He headed back to the Jordan.  Jesus stayed there a while.  Even after his death,  John The Baptist’s words rang true to the people who followed him.  He set the stage for Jesus’ coming and, because he was such a trusted man, his follower’s believed these words in John 1, 29 “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.”  Thought Jesus never performed a miracle there, the people believed.  It had come full circle.

(A) John the Baptist answered the call that God placed on his life.  He could have taken advantage of the ears that heard and claimed to be the Messiah.  He could have amassed so many more followers.  He could have said what pleased the leaders and probably would have become a very rich man.  Instead he spoke truth.  He never claimed any thing more than this.  “23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’  24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  26 ‘I baptize with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.'”  John’s testimony did not change during his entire ministry.  His words rang true and his credibility stood firm.  He lost his life because of it.  He died having completed his call.

Am I doing what God has called me to, or am I spending my time doing everything else?  Do I speak words of truth that draw people to the person of Christ?

(P) Dear Lord,  Thank you for sending Your Son to die for us.  Thank you that we can come before You humbly and ask forgiveness because of the sacrifice of Jesus.  Please help me to see exactly what You want me to complete here on earth.  May my words and actions be ones of truth drawing people to the Grace of Your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

 

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Yesterday, as I drove home from registering our car for the year, I started mentally composing this post.  I was reminiscing about my first trip to register the car at that satellite city hall.  I left with plates from a new state, and proceeded to wander around the parking garage looking for the car I had just registered.  45 minutes later I was calling the hubby thinking that the car had been stolen.  This was only a few days after we had to pay a nice impound fee because I had parked in a spot that obviously was not legal.  This was only a few days after I had tried to start the car in a grocery store lot, and ended up paying a nice fee to have a new key made to replace the stripped one.  I really didn’t want to have to tell my hubby that now the car was gone.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t stolen.  I had walked back to the wrong level of the parking garage.  Hey, it looked just like the level below where my car was actually parked.  Those that know me, feel free to laugh.

I felt pretty good about myself after this last trip to take care of the car.  I had successfully parked in a spot the led me directly to where I needed to go.  I then went inside, having not remembered that I needed cash or check to pay the registration (I quickly solved that), and only had to stand in line for 30 minutes.  I took care of business, and was able to walk directly back to the car.  This is a huge win.

My original car that made the boat trip over was totaled back in January.  I loved that car.  It was a huge answer to prayer.  The kiddos had spent a few summer weeks previous to that driving side by side in a little red truck without AC.  Now, I know that AC is a huge luxury, but when the kiddos  have to sit one sweaty body next to another they get a little cranky pants.  This new to us car had separate seats, AC and  CD player.  I had enough room to drive a pack of kiddos to the pool, to the park, or to wherever.  The kiddos rejoiced, and often thanked God for that car even after having it for years.  I was devastated not only that I was involved with an accident, but that I had totaled the car in the process.

A month later we ended up with another new to us car.  Again, there are separate seats, AC, and CD player.  I have enjoyed cranking tunes while trucking kids to and from rehearsals for the musical, so I was a little bummed that the radio stopped working as I drove out of the parking lot.  I started mentally adjusting my blog post.

I thought, “Ok God, what do you want to tell me?  You have my full attention.”

The next thing I noticed was that the speedometer needle was moving erratically, and then it was the RPM needle, and then the odometer numbers disappeared.

“Hmm,” I stated, “At least I still have the AC.”  There wasn’t a whole lotta get up and go after I stopped at the red light.  “God, you’ll have to get me home,” I prayed.  I made it up and over the hill, or mountain, just as the AC decided to quit.  I kept on praying.  Five minutes later I pulled into our driveway and our car shut down.

Right now I’m just being thankful that I made it home, that in the back of the car I had groceries to unload, that I had children around to help unload them, and that tomorrow a friend on the church staff is coming by to replace the part that went kaputski.  Yep, another set of first world problems.

Thank you, Lord.  You are the same God as before things started shutting down on the car.  Why should I think that You are  different because the car broke down?  There is no reason to.  I believe that with my whole heart.

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Today’s reading in Joel really has me thinking, especially with his use of the word REND.

Rend

Rend Your Heart

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
    and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
    for the Lord your God.

Further down in the passage there is a call to the priests “who minister before the LORD” to gather EVERYONE, and it didn’t matter what the age or status, for a solemn assembly and to fast.   These leaders were to “weep between the temple porch and the altar.”  Through the mouth of Joel God is calling His people out; first and foremost His leaders.  What does this mean for me?

Rending my heart is not a passive act.  It is purposeful.  When I agree to rend myself before God I have to sacrifice.  I have to die to my own will and submit to change.  I am allowing my heart to be torn to shreds and be built back up again by God.

I will have to love  people who I don’t want to love.  I will have to forgive people who I see impossible to forgive.  I will have to say “no” to things that I want to engage in.  I must draw nearer to God’s word and His voice.

How does this rendering affect my relationships?  Will I seem different to people?  Will my family and friends respond differently to me?  What about those who don’t understand my faith?  Will my decision to go deeper with God alienate even more those whom I love?  What about those relationships that have fallen by the wayside due to life’s circumstances?

As I think on this, for me it comes down to two things: I am called to love people, (1 John 3:10) and to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  If these things are not woven into the fabric of me then I need to render my heart.  By rending my heart I will grow to care deeply for those people I am called to love, and I will see prayer as I do breathing.  I cannot live without it.

Looks like I need to spend some serious time between the porch and the altar.

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In reading various commentaries on Joel 2, I came across a really good writing about prayer by evangelist Leonard Ravenhill.  He heart was all about prayer, especially in calling God’s people to pray.  He said,”…when the church of Jesus Christ is prosperous, she never has revival. It’s when she’s poor. Prayer is the language of the poor. “Bow down Thine ear and hear me, for I am poor and needy.”
The self-satisfied don’t need to pray.
The self-sufficient don’t want to pray.
The self-righteous cannot pray.

But the man who realizes,
“I need something outside of anything that’s human at all,”
he wants to bathe his soul in prayer.”He goes on to say, “Read the Acts of the Apostles and all you read about is prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer. When they had prayed the place was shaken.”  What does this mean for our current circumstances?  As a church we must be all about prayer.

To read the entire writing by Leonard Ravenhill check out this link.  I found it quite challenging.  http://www.ravenhill.org/weeping2.htm

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I used to love Captain and Tennille.  As an elementary aged girl I would play this RECORD over and over.  I think that by this time I was the only kiddo home so my older siblings may have missed that phase of music.  This song touted the power of love to make all things work.  I would hold my air microphone and sing along with hand motions,

“Love, love will keep us together<br />Think of me babe whenever<br />Some sweet talking girl comes along singing her song<br />Don’t mess around,<br />You gotta be strong<br />Just Stop [stop], ’cause I really love You<br />Stop [stop], I’ll be thinking of you<br />Look in my heart and let love keep us together”<br /><br />

I had no clue until much later what she was singing about.  It just fed my childhood ideas that if you just love somebody then everything will be okay.  I still believe there is truth to that statement.  Everybody does want to be loved.  They want to be accepted for who they are.  It’s just that it takes more than us just loving a person to have that person be whole.  The recipient of that love needs to accept it.

I was reading the other day in 1 Corinthians about love, but it wasn’t in chapter 13 like usual.  It is found earlier in chapter 8.  It says this,  “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.  But he who loves God is known by God.”

This is something that stands out to me because of how much the circles I run in value knowledge, and in so many ways education is the key to a better life.  I pray for my children to have wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  It helps us accept the grace and love that God gave us in Jesus, and it is really important in helping us make good choices.  However, I truly believe that people can educate themselves out of faith.  And in doing so they miss out on a deep and abiding relationship with God.

Pastor Ben brought this up as he was sharing about his message for this coming Sunday.  He is preaching from Paul’s comments to the Romans about <a href=”http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%206;&version=31;”target=_blank>sin and grace.</a> It will piggy back on his message last week about how some people struggle with the simplicity of the Gospel.  The concept of grace is too easy for people.  People feel like they need to suffer more for their actions instead of just accepting the free grace given to us in Jesus’ death on the cross.

That is difficult for me to do: release the guilt of my actions so that I can experience what God has intended for me to the fullest.  I’ve learned over the past few years that my holding on to feelings of guilt doesn’t make me any more sorry for what I’ve done.  I feel as though by holding on to my mistakes I’m actually allowing the enemy to continue to try and destroy me.  By letting go of my mistakes, by turning my back on my mistakes, by repenting and turning from them I have completely destroyed the enemy’s attempt to derail me.  I have truly accepted the love God has for me.

I am learning through experience and through the wisdom, knowledge and understanding given to me by the Holy Spirit that I am loved by God no matter what.  This enables me to come out from my mistakes without holding on to the guilt.  I’m not perfect.  I still make mistakes, and still need to be reminded that it is through God’s grace that I am saved.  Nothing else will save me.

Knowledge without love is a dangerous thing.   There is no grace in it.  There is no ability to forgive.  There is no ability to build people up.  This is where legalism makes it’s bed.  We as believers must, must, must put aside legalism so that LOVE MAY ABOUND.

My heart hurts for those who cannot come to Jesus because they “know” too much.  My heart hurts for people who cannot come to Jesus in a personal way because they cannot accept the simplicity of God’s grace.  My heart hurts for those who’ve been abused by Christians who adhere to a legalistic form of Christianity.

I am so sorry that Jesus’ message of grace and redemption was tossed aside for the sake of someones need to control how God’s love is shared.  I am sorry that some people feel it is okay to abuse the name of Jesus to mask their fear, their hate, their stupidity.  I am sorry that man gets in the way of people personally knowing God.

I know you’ve read this from me before, and I’ll keep saying it until I’m blue in the face.   I believe that if we truly love people the way God wants us to then our world would be transformed.  But then that sounds too easy, huh?

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Our trek to the most remote island chain in the world started almost 12 years ago.  Even though we never really felt compelled to travel here, we jumped at a chance to buy a voucher for two tickets at a garage sale.  We chose a hotel that was being remodeled.  We traveled one month after 9/11.  There was plenty of room to spread out on the beach, and we found really good deals at the market place.  The total trip cost around $1,000, with the tickets included.  We found ourselves pleasantly surprised by how much we were enjoying our surroundings.  About two days into the trip we prayed for God to show us how we would minister in this place.

A couple of years later my husband won a trip to a neighbor island through a sales promotion.  It was beautiful.  The island moved at an even slower pace.  The hotel upgraded our room to an ocean view.  We found the perfect breakfast place, and loved learning the local history.  Sitting on the beach during sunset with our feet in the surf while listening to a band play James Taylor covers was pretty magical.  Again, we prayed how God would have us minister in this place.

Not long after that my husband was invited to teach and train the sound team of a local church here on the island.  They graciously offered me a ticket to join him.  I spent the week reading books, swimming, and taking in the local sites, sounds, and cuisine.  It was a pretty sweet adventure.  We left wondering how God would end up using us on this Island.

Our home state is beautiful.  Our hometown is an hour from the beach and an hour from the mountains.  It didn’t take long to get to Mom and Dad’s, and an even shorter time to get to my in-laws.  Siblings and nieces live close by.  Why would we want to move away from it all?

Our family spent a month here the year before we moved.  By the end of that month we were invited to come join the church for a season.  We loved the people.  We really believed in the church’s core values, and  were encouraged by the emphasis they put on creatively sharing the Gospel.  It still wasn’t an easy decision.  We thought it through.  We knew we had to say yes, or we would regret for the rest of our lives.

It’s been almost a year.  We continue to pray how God wants us to use our gifts here in our new church.  We are still figuring out the balance of ministry life and family life.  It’s a bit more challenging, honestly a lot more challenging, without a support system like we had at home.

There have been moments of greatness, and that keeps us pushing forward.  In a future post I’ll share a timeline of events of this past year.  It’s been a doozie, but one that is full of the evidence of God’s handy work in getting us from there to here.

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Eat Pray Love

I’ve been working through a book titled “Decisive.”  It is a great book on making better decisions in life and work.  It’s also more like doing work than just relaxing, so yesterday, at the library, I checked out what I consider to be a decadent read, “Eat, Pray, Love.”

I enjoyed the movie.  The idea of traveling the world is a life long dream of mine.  Seeking a deeper understanding of how I fit into the larger cosmos is for me a constant.  I have no issues with eating really good food.

As I started reading the book I found two things that I don’t relate to.  The first is that I’m not looking for a way out of my marriage.  I made the mistake of mentioning this part of the book to my husband by saying, “You know there is a part in the book where the author says that she doesn’t want to be married anymore…”  The look on his face said that I needed to quickly make my point.  I said, “Don’t worry Honey.  I was going to finish by saying that I don’t want out of my marriage.”  Make sure you preface statements like that better than I did.  The second is that I call myself a Christian because I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  This is a statement I have complete faith in saying, and I hope that it doesn’t mean I can’t engage in a meaningful conversation with a person who doesn’t share my faith.  That last statement is a whole other blog post.

Anyway, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book.  Any good reads that you want to share?

Currently working through these books:

  1. Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work by Chip and Dan Heath
  2. Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s last queen, The Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler
  3. Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul by Gary Thomas
  4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  5. Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons

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