Author: Minister

Outlasting the Corona Virus

what have some of us been up to, as we try to get through the Spring and Summer Quarantine? Today I pulled into the church parking lot and found these 4 dear sisters in “soccer mom” chairs in the shade of our parking lot, meeting for lunch.

Marian, Stephanie, Geno and Lorraine enjoying lunch together.

And then we have Crystal and Kelly getting ready to go serenade some folks as a ministry of the “Smoogleville Singers.”

Of course Neil has been busy in the workshop prototyping and producing handcrafted Adirondack chairs. Also testing them out…

So what have you all been doing so far this Summer to beat the heat and enjoy the wonderful, gracious gift of life that God has blessed us with? Send a photo and a short story!

Archery anyone?

So what do you do when you have to practice social distancing, and it’s better to be outside than inside, and you are preparing for the great Zombie apocalypse? Why, you do archery, of course! Special thanks to Alan Little for providing the pictures of our most recent target practice.

Christina and Kelly at close to full draw.
The range is hot!

Receiving the Kingdom like a little child

(Here is another post from Kelly Marcum)

“Jesus loves me this I know
For the bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me for the bible tells me so.”
The most basic principle for all believers is that Jesus loves you. As children we learn that Jesus will always care for us, the little ones. We learn that Jesus has a special place in his heart for those little ones. But it wasn’t until I was much older I understood why they seemed to be so special to him.
You can find the story about the little Children and Jesus in Luke 10:15-17, Matthew 10:13-15 and Mark 10:13-16. In Luke 10:15-17, it states, “People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
Children are the most innocent of creatures on this earth. Jesus knew this. The children bring hope for a better tomorrow. Children are moldable, and their actions are normally learned behavior. Many times, it is not at fault of their own because they do become a product of their environment. 
As the song states, the children are weak, but Jesus is strong and not matter what else may happen in this world, He loves me because the bible tells me so.
There is a time when a child moves into an adult. As an adult, we start making our own choices and more forward with how we were raised or change the path that is before us. Those raised in the church may fall away to try and find themselves, others may turn to the church to help give them hope. No matter how you become a believer in Jesus Christ, we are told in 1 Peter 2:1-3 to “rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvations, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
When you follow God’s will, you get baptized and we all become infants or children once again. We move through the world searching and looking for understanding and explanations. We even stumble and fall short of the Glory of God. But since we are infants or children once again and strive to stay close to our Father in Heaven, he loves us so. We belong to him and no matter how weak we may become, he is strong and will help us pull through. Why, because that is his teaching and the bible tells me so. Luke 10:17 tells us we need to receive the kingdom of God like a child because we are not perfect, do not know everything and are constantly growing. 

Philippians 1:18-20

Prayer-

Dear God, deliver me from secondary priorities. Help me to see clearly as I read your Word. May my heart be open to learn. May I then have the courage to act consistent with what I’ve learned. Amen.

Scripture-

          Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Some thoughts-

          Paul puts an unusual spin on things here, if we catch it. He says that he knows that “through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” We assume that deliverance always means release from prison, complete healing, whatever good thing we want in this life. Don’t we pray that way most of the time? And at first it sounds like that is what Paul is saying- “Through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit…” equals my deliverance. But then he continues, to talk about not being ashamed, and Christ being exalted in his body.

          For Paul, deliverance is glorifying God, “whether by life OR by death.” Deliverance is having sufficient courage. We want healing. We want liberation from incarceration. Paul wants to have courage to exalt Jesus.

Today, what kind of deliverance do YOU want? Deliverance from alcohol, drugs, some other habit or addiction? Deliverance from a bad marriage, bad job, bad life choice? No consequence for bad behavior?

How might those issues resolve themselves if our deliverance looked like making sure we exalted Christ with our bodies, whether by life or by death? What if, indeed.

Prayer-

Today, Heavenly Father, may my life glorify and exalt you and your son Jesus. May other things find their appropriate place once I make you most important, love you most of all, and serve you with my whole heart.

On Bravery

(This post was written by our dear sister Ginger Hernandez.)

This past New Years I was thinking about what kind of resolution I wanted to make. I was holding my month-and-a-half-old baby and I just wanted to be better for Grace. There are so many things I wanted to be, but what they boiled down to were to be brave. I may make this into a series of articles on the topic of bravery, but for this one, the focus will be on Matthew 10. I encourage reading through the chapter.

At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus sends out the 12 disciples and gives them power over evil spirits and to heal every disease (v.1). He tells them that they are to go “saying, ‘the kingdom of God is at hand.’ “ and that they are going to heal people who are sick and also cast out demons (vv. 6-8). They were going to be doing all these great things in the name of God and it all sounds good, but then Jesus follows it up with some scary stuff:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake to bear witness to the Gentiles” (vv. 16-18).

Then in verse 21, Jesus continues by saying families will turn on each other because of the ministry that he is sending his disciples and that the twelve “…will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v. 22). Being Jesus’ disciple has heavy consequences.

I often find myself wanting to do brave things, like help homeless people, talk to my neighbors about Jesus, make artwork to glorify God, tell people about how my relationship with God has changed my life. But I’m afraid of not being taken seriously, of doing it wrong and coming off as stupid or of people avoiding me because of it or people becoming outright angry at me. This cowardliness brings me shame. Is it possible that I want the glory of doing a good thing more than I want to glorify God?

This fear gets in the way of me living out God’s purpose, not just for me but for other people around me as well. If people are not shown the glory of God, afterall, how can they ever know it? But Jesus continues in v. 22 : “But the one who endures to the end will be saved,” and then in vv. 28-33:

“…Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both the soul and the body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And one does not fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but he who denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Fear of the rejection and consequences from people by living for Jesus are only temporary. We must trust that God loves us as his children and keeps his promises. It is distrust in that, it is submitting to the fear, instead of to the Father, that separates us from God and puts us in reach of Satan.

I set out this year to become a braver person. I want to be a better Christian because it’s not just my soul anymore. As I type these words, I see that it always has been more than just my soul; it’s everyone around me as well. I have made small strides in becoming more outspoken about my faith. I have started sharing things on social media. I wrote this article. My dad is preparing for a podcast on YouTube, and asked me to help him with the script and to make the logo. I was asked to work with the older kids to make a special painting for Easter. That got put on hold, but there are going to be other Easters and I won’t let Satan win this time. I’m learning to be brave and to want God to be seen in the world more than I want the world to see me and more than my fear of being exposed. I still have so much to do, so please pray with me that I can do it.

Philippians 1:18-19

Prayer– Heavenly Father, you haven’t given me everything I’ve asked you for. What’s up with that? Don’t you love me? What do you mean today’s Scripture is just for me, today? Help me read, learn, and grow up.

Scripture- Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

Thoughts for the day– Paul says, in effect, “I’ve already been rejoicing, filled with joy- (1:4, 1:18), but now I continue what for me IS continuous.” Oh yes, that SO describes me (Bob)… right? And you, too? Later (2:14), Paul will tell them to do everything without complaining or arguing. Interesting contrast, isn’t it, between celebrating and being appreciative for what God is already doing in His world, written from prison, and complaining (ie. Dissatisfied with what God is doing in the world), written from the outside. Later (4:12) Paul will disclose- “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Contentment and joy are expressions of a heart that is willing to let God be God, confident that the painful stuff serves a useful purpose every bit as much as the fun stuff. Paul knows that although the painful stuff is, well, painful, we need it if we are to mature and grow.

So I am confronted with that meddling moment of “reality check”- Am I better described as joyful (“Joy-full”) or complaining or arguing? Are my plans thwarted by what God is allowing, or am I excited about what God is doing in the world, and looking for where I can join the dance? (More about this tomorrow!)

Prayer– LORD Jesus, thank you for saving me where I am, loving me so much, and then promising to transform me into what I could be, should be, if I am willing to let you mold and shape me, using the tools YOU choose, instead of the ones I prefer. Please help me to be joyful, “whatever the circumstances”… oh, and content, too, even during this period of quarantine! You began the good work in me; I am excited to watch (and participate in) you “carry (ing) it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (1:6) Contented joy- what a concept, in the name of Jesus my Savior.

Philippians 1:12-18

PrayerFather, help me to focus on You right now, and how and why to share You with others. Your love is great, and the need is real.

Scripture- 12 Now I want you to know, brothers (and sisters), that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Thoughts to share– “What are YOU in for?” always seems to be the opening item of interest when someone is incarcerated. “Well, I didn’t do it,” whatever it was. Nobody who was every arrested admitted they did it, except for Jesus and his followers. “Yes, it is as you say…” (I am the Messiah, Matt. 26:64). Peter says in Acts 4:9-10, “  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” Yup, we did it. Here Paul says that “it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” (1:13) What are you in for? Teaching about Jesus. Guilty as charged. I haven’t murdered, stolen, lied, broken the law in any way, but I HAVE taught folks about Jesus. That’s my crime.

Not only was that Paul’s crime, but it was clear to “the whole palace guard and to everyone else,” That THAT was Paul’s crime, the only reason that he was locked up. Not pick-pocketing; not leading insurrections, like so many Jewish nationalists; not even peaceful civil disobedience. None of the usual offences. His crime was teaching people about Jesus. Today, what’s MY crime? Would it be “clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else” that it is for teaching about Christ that I should be locked up? Would people even know I taught about Jesus? What am I known for? What are you known for?

“The important thing is that in every way…Christ is preached.” Today, in my life, IS that the important thing? I need to get my taxes done, and file for Medicare, and work on the sermon… And those ARE important things, plural. But what is THE important thing? Through all those things, and a whole lot more, through my actions AND my words, is Christ preached?

This morning, Nancy and I walked our dogs with 3 different women from our neighborhood. It’s kind of this social distancing social time that we have- for Nancy, every morning, for me…not so much…too early… I listened to Nancy proclaim Christ through her conversations- about dogs, about church, about the kids. She weaves it all through her conversations because that is just who she is. She preaches Christ to both sets of next-door neighbors, and I’m sure she will preach Christ to the folks putting in our fence in the backyard next week. As she has opportunity, Jesus gets introduced to the people in Nancy’s world. Many already know Him, and that’s always a neat thing. But you just never know, so she shares, in a way that is natural and a part of her, because it is.

Prayer– Heavenly Father, help me (us) to be so close to Jesus, that when people look at us and listen to us, they see and hear Jesus. If not, help us to grow into that relationship.

Philippians 1:9-11

Prayer- Father God, through this passage, teach us how to pray… better.

Scripture9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

What’s your prayer for others? I mean, once you’re done with the immediate health needs that so preoccupy our prayer lives? Paul has already told his readers that he prays for them with joy and affection, but how does he intercede for them? In the NIV, he prays for the quality of their love, that it would be “smart” love, discerning love, so that they wouldn’t just not do the bad thing, or even the just OK thing, or even the good thing. His prayer for them is that their love would be discerning love, so that they could discern what is BEST. (Sneak a peak ahead to his advice to them in 4:8-9.) Do you make the same connection that Paul does here, that our LOVE needs to be discerning, not just our intellect or wisdom? There are so many ways that our “love” can settle for less than the best-

  1.  conflict-avoidance,
  2. Dishonest communications,
  3. Placating the bully, rather than defending the one being bullied.

AGAPE love requires our best intention, but then DOING what is best for others. Paul desperately wants that for the brothers and sisters in Philippi, and we should want it (and pray for it ) for our brothers and sisters who worship together here in Warrenton. And why do what is best? So that we can be “pure”- unmixed with conflicting motives- and blameless until the day of Christ… (Did you notice that this is the second time he has brought up “the day of Christ?” Seems kind of important, doesn’t it?)

…But wait, there’s more! Paul is still not done. He wants us pure and blameless (check, got it…), “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” by us staying connected to the vine (John 15:1-8). And the outcome of ALL of this? – “to the glory and praise of God.” Discerning love leads to best thoughts and behavior, resulting in us being blameless and pure and fruitful… to the glory and praise of God. Good stuff. That’s what Paul prays for them; will you pray it for someone else as well?

So pick one person, just for today. Intercede for them before God. With all your heart, bring them before God and ask God to help their love “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,” that God would give them smart, discerning love.

Prayer- for all those who read this blog today, Heavenly Father, I ask you to give each one a love that grows in depth, in richness, in scope, in understanding and discernment, so that they can truly live what is BEST, the life that you want for them. And I ask it for me, as well.

Philippians 1:7-8

Prayer- As we approach your Word today, give us a sense of eager anticipation about what you will teach us- teaching not just our heads, but our hearts as well, because after all, it IS “all about the love.”

Scripture7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

How do you get somebody into your heart? Is it based on the cuteness factor, like kittens and puppies? Is because they did something nice for you? In the case of the folks in Philippi, was it because they were “partners in the gospel” with Paul, whatever that means? He says it is right for him to feel this way about ALL of them, since he has them in his heart. But what is that based on? He says, regardless of whatever HE is doing, or whatever is happening TO him, they all share in God’s grace with him.

Does that mean they share in COMMUNICATING God’s grace? Sure, let’s start there. Could it mean that like him, the “worst of sinners” (I Tim. 1:16), they are RECIPIENTS of God’s grace? Seems to fit, doesn’t it? God has decided to pour “grace upon grace” down upon His children. So which is it? Do we have to decide which way to read the passage for it to still fit? (How might that shape some of our approaches to Bible study and interpretation?) The implication here is that Paul has these folks in his heart because whatever he means, they share in God’s grace with him. It’s not based on how good THEY are, or how magnanimous Paul is. It’s based on mutually sharing (koinonia) in God’s grace.

So, that being true- 8 God can testify how I long for all of you                                                   with the affection of Christ Jesus.

In this time of Covid 19, “longing with affection” is something I think we can understand better than we could a few months ago. Zoom is good, but in-person is better. All Paul could do was dictate a letter, and hope the messenger would administer hugs on his behalf.

Prayer– Today, for THIS day, Heavenly Father, help me to have a big, gracious heart like you do, like Paul had, as I partner in your grace with your people.

Philippians 1:3-6

Prayer- Gracious Father in Heaven, I don’t feel very joyous today, even though I know I “should.” (Is it OK for one of your kids to have the “blahs” after a couple of weeks of quarantine?) I approach your Word hungry for some good “soul food.” Please feed me with “food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27).

Scripture- 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

“Would you please just let me finish?” Ever heard that? Ever said that? We live in a culture of interruption. I admit I’m one of the worst offenders, jumping in when I should be listening, wanting to get out my thought before I forget it (old age does that to you). But it’s rude, it really is. And not just in conversation, but in the completion of tasks or entertainment as well. We’re in such a hurry, we even use word  contractions…

But some things take time to be done right, things like the growing up of a child, or the maturing of a Christian. And what if it is the Heavenly Father slowing us down and saying, “Would you please just let me finish?” Only finishing takes more than a lifetime. Salvation comes with a death to self and commitment to Christ Jesus, but the “good work” begun in us requires patient, steady, often painful progress and learning.

Do you ever worry that God might grow discouraged by your/my lack of progress, by our inattentiveness, our timidity or our stubborn worldliness? Paul does not share that concern. He says in v. 6, “Being CONFIDENT of this…” If I were a betting man, if I were going to count on someone, if, if… Paul is confident that God, who began a good work in us, will carry it on to completion, to maturity. How long is God committed to working on us? Until the day of Christ Jesus. As long as He needs to. Long enough. He is in it for the long haul.

Some days I just don’t feel very on top of things. God is still working. Some days I’m just on fire with the power of the Spirit. God is still working on those days, too. Some days, my behavior pleases Him. Some days, probably not so much. But He loves me no less on those days, and His work continues; The work HE began in me, HE will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Prayer– Thank you, Heavenly Father, for going the distance with me, for loving me when I feel unlovable, for having a vision for who I can become, when I just can’t see it. And thank you for working on me, with me, through me- every day. Through Jesus, Amen.