Category Archives: Spirituality

Recognizing and rejoicing in your connection to the one true God

The Grace Covenants (Yes, plural)

Prosperity Gospel.

These words can frustrate a sincere preacher of the Word faster than my psychotic relative’s mood can change (actually, I have more than one psychotic relative, but that’s just my opinion). Sure everyone is going to sign up for your religion because all you have to do is pray to God and the blessings come!

Want a shocker? That’s the Old Covenant. Now unless you aren’t familiar with all this Christianese, let me explain as best I can. God called a people to be His special people. He would give them His precepts and decrees and He would, by His grace, live out these precepts and decrees in the lives of His people. They would serve Him and He would bless them so much that other nations would come running – wanting to know about Israel’s God. That was God’s first plan of using one people to draw all others to Himself. The Old Covenant.

The funny part is, there are many Christians today who don’t want to have anything to do with God’s precepts and decrees. After all – they claim – those were nailed to the cross. We want the new covenant. We shouldn’t have to keep some outdated law. We’re post modern! Okay, fine, take the second covenant. You know the one where Jesus says, take up your cross daily and follow Me. Heard of that one? Kind of flies in the face of that fake prosperity gospel, doesn’t it?

So we have a bunch of folks out there that want to party like the 1st Covenant and not have to worry about the rules like in their version of the 2nd Covenant. Pretty crazy, right? What am I saying? God tried it the blessings way first. He tried to reach us in the pocket book. What did we do? The Bible says God’s followers began to think all these blessings were their own doing and sometimes even attributed them to other gods. So the blessings were taken away. God’s people repented and got back in line. The blessings came back. Over and over again God dealt mercifully with this stubborn people. That’s the Old Covenant.

The New Covenant? Since God’s people wouldn’t stay on the blessings train, He brought out good works, self-sacrifice and service. Die daily to self and follow Me. You won’t have the blessings of this life, but you will have the assurance of the life to come. Others will see your good works and glorify God in heaven. It won’t be untold riches now attracting the heathens into our ranks, it’s our good works of selflessness.

Here’s the amazing part – it’s still the same thing. It’s still grace. We can’t die to self daily and serve others any more than we could keep every decree and precept in the Bible on our own. It has always been and always will be by God’s grace. Folks before the cross had to have faith in what God said He would do and those of us after must have faith that what God did is enough to cover our sins. Either covenant, either way, it’s still saved by grace through faith.

 

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Of Faith and Old Wives’ Tales

There is a big potted plant in our house, a gift from our church family for Pastor Appreciation Month in October. Thankfully, they got us a plant that is hard to kill. I don’t have a great track record with indoor plants (or outdoor for that matter).

Karl was asking the kids why it was important to talk to the plant. They knew the answer – we give off carbon dioxide and the plant uses that for its vital processes. In return, it gives off oxygen, which we then use for our vital processes. It is all scientific. But there was a time when it wasn’t all about science.

There used to be an old wives’ tale that if you talked to your plants, they would be healthier plants. A lot of people laughed, but those who talked to their plants knew it was true. They didn’t know why, but they saw the results and kept up the good work. It wasn’t until many years later that scientists broke down into vital processes and symbiotic relationships what many people had before received – simply on faith.

It’s kind of like Thomas – often referred to as doubting Thomas. He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared in resurrected form to many of the disciples. So when they began to tell him all the news, Thomas doubted. He wanted proof. He wanted a scientist to say that this is why plants are healthier when you talk to them. It’s not the talking, it’s the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen. He wanted it presented in a way that would remove all doubt.

Jesus came and showed Thomas the scars in His hands. Here was the proof. Thomas claimed Jesus as his Lord and his God. Then Jesus says something really interesting in the gospel of John 20:29.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

So I’ve learned from my beautiful new plant that I hope lasts a very long time, that faith is sometimes not knowing how something works, but seeing that it does work; and choosing to believe that it is the right thing to do, even if you can’t say why it works. Faith is like talking to a plant, before science showed us how it worked.

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Moving the Jar

A friend of mine cleans houses as a way to make a living. She has some interesting stories about some of the situations she has encountered as well as many great cleaning tips! Recently she was cleaning the home of a new client. Busily at work in the kitchen, she was surprised when all three of the owner’s dogs raced into the kitchen and stood at attention near her. What could this mean?

My friend soon realized what had taken place. In her efforts to clean the kitchen counter and wipe under various appliances, jars and canisters – she had moved the treat jar. Merely moving the jar that holds their precious treats, even just for cleaning, sent those dogs into action. Their ears so honed to the sound of that jar being touched or moved in any way meant something good was coming.

Today, I want God to have a treat jar on His counter. I want to learn by heart the sounds that are made when God gets ready to move His jar. I want to be ready when God is giving out treats of grace, patience, unexpected blessings, friendships, beauties of nature, a child’s smile, a family hug and so many more of the special treats that come from being His child.

Sometimes it seems the jar hasn’t moved in a while. Maybe the kitchen counter is cluttered and you need to let someone come in and clean it off and move the jar. Listen for it. That means something good is coming!

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What Could I Say After That?

Our assignment was to find another person and have prayer with each other. The setting was an outdoor church service on a brisk fall morning at a private summer camp facility. Everything was serene, perfect, peaceful and relaxed. No suits and ties. Worship in the green cathedral of God’s natural world.

Trying to make sure the children realized they were just as important as anyone else, I approached a preschool girl and asked if we could have prayer together. She agreed. I asked her who should go first and she said she would. She was so adorable in her prayer, forgetting my name for just a moment and having to put the prayer on pause to get it from me. Then she nailed me!

Dear God, please help Miss Sharon to hear the birds singing in the trees. Amen.

What do you say after that? I was all choked up and her pure sweetness brought tears to my eyes. She however, had no clue what she had done and after I didn’t respond right away, she reminded me, your turn. I barely managed to get out an “okay” so she would know I was still alive and functioning and I tried to get myself together and just thank God for this little girl and outdoor church.

We can get so caught up in all the things we have to do, especially as a pastor’s wife at an outdoor church service. But this little girl reminded me that more than anything else, I just needed to hear the birds singing in the trees that day. Funny, they sounded like a little preschool girl.

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Who vs How

I’m reading and enjoying Ed Dickerson’s book, “Grounds for Belief.” He writes about some of his coffee shop style meetings with young adults and how they share their faith. Early in the book, Ed makes it clear there is a difference between faith/belief in God and religion. He calls faith in God the “Who” and religion is simply the “how.”

When it comes to a worship service, the Bible has little to say about the how and a whole lot more about the Who. While it is true that “how” can give us structure and so forth to help us function better in order to reach more folks about the wonderful “Who” we serve, our faith loses something when it becomes primarily about the how.

One of the things my husband would love to change about the church worship service is what he calls the “pontifical entrance.” He explains that the Bible doesn’t record anywhere that Paul told all the people to sit down and then wait for him to go behind the door and then march in the room in a very solemn like manner to indicate church was now about to begin. Reverence, yes of course we need reverence. Just read a few stories about people that got a tiny glimpse of God and fell flat on their faces. He is awesome! But if we get hung up on church can’t start because it takes three men to have the pontifical entrance and one is gone on vacation – we are more worried about the how instead of the Who.

I think of it this way: our little family of five – we’re in this together. We often say we live and die as a family. So we have chore charts, menus and schedules to keep track of what needs to be taken out of the freezer and put in the oven and who needs to be where at what time. But that’s not our family. Those things help our family function, but it’s not our family. They make getting through life each day easier, balancing everyone’s schedules and dietary needs – but the people are the family. When the chore chart, menu planner or weekly schedule become more important than time for a tickle or reading a story together – our focus is off.

If God intrigues you, but religion turns you off – you might want to consider worshiping with a group of folks that focus on Who instead of how. It could make all the difference.

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A Tale of Two Funerals

In the past two months, I have attended two funerals at the same church, with the same nice funeral home folks from down the street and the same congregation and community. But the funerals were vastly different.

Same church, same desire to love God and serve Him with their whole life, but the two men who passed away had one major difference. One led with truth and the other led with grace. The Bible has a lot to say about truth and grace. The truth will set you free. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. In John’s gospel account, he says we were able to catch a glimpse of the glory of God in Jesus – full of grace and truth.

After spending time devouring God’s Word, it seems that we need both truth and grace in our lives. From reading at the beginning of all things, in the book of Revelation, to the beginning of our little part of it on Planet Earth, in the book of Genesis; the truth is that we screwed up. We disobeyed God and brought much suffering upon ourselves and a curse upon humanity. But Jesus led with grace. He already had a plan in place to save us.

Two funerals. Two different men. The man who led with truth, had a few people say some nice things about what he had done to serve others. Those attending the funeral were scattered around the largely empty church. The man who led with grace? His funeral was packed with standing room only, even in the balcony. So many people shared stories amongst themselves about the impact this man had made in their life. Relationships were healed that day as folks saw a living demonstration of grace and healing.

Two men, two funerals, two outcomes. Lesson learned: we make a better impact for God when we lead with grace.

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At Peace or War

I’m really enjoying the Creation Health classes I go to every Thursday. Our topic today was rest, emphasizing mental and spiritual rest as well as the expected physical rest. Did you know that losing 3 hours of sleep a night can cut your immune system in half? Adequate rest is so vital to our health.

When it came to spiritual rest, the Creation Health plan describes it this way: spiritual rest is being at peace with God. We were asked to say what that meant to us. My mom, also in the class with me said it best.

If you’re not at peace with God, then you are at war.

Where are you at in your spiritual rest? Are you at peace with God? Or are you at war?

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