Friday, 25 March 2011
Just Do It
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This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog. It’s hard to believe that I have been writing it for a year. I really appreciate everyone who reads it, and I thank you for your comments and feedback. Most of all, I want to thank God for giving me a gift that I can use to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and to glorify Him.

When I started writing articles for the blog, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know if anyone would even read it. I wondered what I would write about each week. Many times I wanted to back off and write it only once a month. Sometimes I wanted to just quit altogether.

Isaiah 55:11
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

But like any good parent, my Heavenly Father encourages me. He sends me the idea for an article, whether it is inspired by a scripture, an observation of daily life, or a personal experience that I can share. He gave me a cheerleader in my friend, Ella, who proofreads for me each week. The times when I have felt the lowest, I have received either a comment or a personal email from someone who had really been affected by an article. Apparently, some people even look forward to reading it each week. Who knew? God, of course.

When I get those “I want to quit” moments, I remind myself that it is not about me. It’s about Him. This experience is nothing new. I go through the same struggles with preparing for my Sunday School class. Some weeks the lessons come so easily and freely, and other times it is a struggle. I would imagine that other teachers, leaders, preachers, pastors, singers, musicians, etc., go through the same thing. Even in our daily Christian walk, we can feel this way. Serving God can be hard at times, and our human nature is to just give up. Our pastor touched on this last week in his sermon and he used a boxing analogy to explain it. We are in a fight – a spiritual battle. The fighter cannot throw in the towel. The coach knows what the fighter has in him -- what he can take, and also what he can give. Only the coach is allowed to throw in the towel. So I guess I will keep writing until God tells me it is time to quit. That might be next week or it might be next year.

Matthew 21:21
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.

“Just do it” is one of the best corporate slogans around. I was hesitant to start this blog last year. I had no idea what I was going to write about, but God said “just do it” and that He would provide the way. Each of us has a work to do for God, but most people are holding back. You can tell this because if everyone were doing what they were supposed to be doing, our churches would be full. We would be seeing more of our family and friends being saved. We would see a change in our community. (Ooch, Ouch, as Pastor says.) The truth does hurt.

I am not saying that I have it all figured out. I am preaching to myself, believe me. I still have other work that I have to do, too, and I have held back. It is hard. There are only so many hours in a day. We question ourselves and think things to death, when really all we need to do is trust God and just do what He has called us to do. We need to be like the disciple, Peter, and get out of the boat. People say you’ll either sink or swim. But there’s a third option – by faith, you might just walk on the water, move mountains and accomplish the will of God.
 

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Posted on 03/25/2011 6:54 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 18 March 2011
A Better Place
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When you get that phone call in the middle of the day in the middle of the week from a relative you don’t typically hear from at that hour, you know that it’s bad news. I received that call last week from my aunt. She was calling to let me know that my grandmother, who has been in the nursing home for most of the last year, had passed away at the age of 93.

If you would have asked me a few years ago, I would have said I believed she would live to be a hundred – and she was close. In fact, I often said she would probably outlive all of us. For the most part, she was very healthy. But then the dementia began to set in and advance quickly. We were used to her telling us the same old stories each time we visited, but I actually enjoyed them. They were stories about her growing up with 9 siblings, about dating and marrying my grandfather, and about my mom and aunts when they were little. Then we began to notice that the details of some stories were getting mixed up with ones from other stories. Trying to correct her only made things worse, as she became agitated and confused. Finally, she had a shortened version of her stories that she told you. If you left the room and came back, you heard them again. And again. And again. It was painful to witness and difficult to live with. I don’t know how my aunts did it, but when it is your mother, you do all that you know to do.

The weekend before she passed, my daughter and I traveled to Kentucky to visit her. It was the first time I had seen her since she had moved to a nursing home. She had been ill and in the hospital for several weeks, but had been back in the home for about a month. She was sleeping soundly and we couldn’t wake her up no matter how hard we tried. So I prayed with her and we gave her hugs and kisses. I am so grateful we had that time to tell her we loved her and to say goodbye. We had no idea that just a few days later she would be gone.

The funeral arrangements were made by my aunt and uncle, working with a funeral home that has served our family over the years. The funeral director found a minister to preside over the service since neither they nor my grandmother had a home church. Even though she didn’t have a church, my grandmother was a Christian. She prayed every day for her family, which I am thankful for considering some of the stupid things I’ve done over the years. When I was talking with one of her old friends at the service, one of the things he remembered most was about her going to church and how faithful she was. I don’t know why she ever stopped going to church, but I am glad she never stopped serving God. His comment really touched my heart. I thought, what a great way to be remembered – as someone who loved God and was faithful in serving Him.

I am not sure if I ever got the name of the minister, or if in the blur of the moment I forgot it. Funerals tend to be a little surreal for me – trying to hold it all together and make sure you honor the person and the moment. He started out reading from her obituary and then gave some of the expected scriptures, like the 23rd Psalm. (I still don’t understand the use of it at funerals, but maybe I’ll get into that in another article!) I was afraid that we were in for a “cookie cutter” funeral service, and I really wanted and I knew that my grandmother would really want a word from God for her family.

John 14:2-3
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

When the minister quoted these words from John 14, he began to talk about the loss of his mother, who was about my granny’s age. He talked about the comfort of those words. Then he started giving the meaning behind this scripture, which lies in the wedding customs of the Jews in that day. This was something that I had also studied and had taught in our adult Sunday school class. I began to smile and cry at the same time, which is sort of like when it rains and the sun is shining. I knew what he was going to say and I knew it was the Word I was hoping for. I wanted to run up and hug him.

In a nutshell, these are the wedding customs. The groom’s father would select a bride for his son. He would negotiate the wedding contract with the bride’s father and would pay a bridal price (or gift) to her family. Then the couple would have a ceremony in which they became betrothed or engaged. They would exchange vows and gifts, and were basically considered married. However, the marriage was not consummated. In fact, they would live apart for the next year. During that year they bride and groom would prepare for their marriage. She would sew the wedding garments. He would return to his father’s house and begin building on rooms to prepare a home for his new bride. According to the Rabbis, the place he took her to must be better than the place she was coming from.

Matthew 24:36
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Though the bride and groom knew that in approximately a year they would be married, neither knew the exact date. The only one who knew was the father of the groom. That meant that the bride had to always be ready. She had to keep on living her day to day life, knowing that at any moment she could have to be ready to go with her husband. Once the father told his son it was time, he would leave to go to his bride’s home. One of the groomsmen would go in advance announcing that the bridegroom was coming. Then the shofar (like a trumpet) would be blown and the entire wedding party would go through the streets to the bride’s house. This was often at night, so they carried torches. The wedding ceremony was then performed and the wedding supper was held. This celebration would last seven days. Then the bride would return home with her groom.

With the year 2012 approaching, a lot of doomsday talk has been bantered around. That’s the last year of the Mayan calendar and some see that as a sign. It was just 11 years ago that the world was going to come to an end because of Y2K, remember? The truth is that no one but God knows when this world will come to an end. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us the signs to watch for, but even those are just signs of the beginning of the end. And Jesus tells us that even He doesn’t know when that day will be. Jesus is the bridegroom and we, the church, are His bride. He has gone to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house, and it will be a better place than where we are now. Since we don’t know the exact date that He is coming back for us, we have to be ready at all times. That means that we have to have our hearts and our lives right with Him every day. One day, the Father will tell the Son that it is time to collect His Bride. Will you be ready? Are you like the five wise virgins (Matthew 25) who have their lamps filled with oil and are carrying extra along with them? Or are you one of the foolish who didn’t have oil for their lamps and while they went to buy some, the bridegroom came and they missed Him?

I believe that the message of salvation is what my grandmother would have most wanted said at her funeral, so when it was my turn to speak, I shared this with our family and friends. She wanted all her family to be saved. She is the fourth person we’ve buried at our family plot. One by one we are getting older and we will all eventually face death. But we can all be reunited in eternity if we make the right choice and choose Jesus Christ as our Savior. Being a “good person” is not going to save you. I realize that some in my family still don’t get this – but I am going to keep on saying it. You have to choose Christ and repent of your sins. Jesus said in John 14 that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Dedicated in memory of Kansas Irene Smith.
 

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Posted on 03/18/2011 6:56 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 4 March 2011
The Greatest Story
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“And the Oscar goes to . . . .”

The Academy Awards show is the Superbowl of Hollywood entertainment. Fans tune in to see what their favorite stars are wearing and who will be named the best actors and actresses for the year. I have stayed up late to watch the Oscars before – more so in the days when Billy Crystal hosted the show. Now I am content to read the list of winners in the newspaper the next day and watch the highlight clips on the morning news shows. I get a lot more sleep that way. Each year it seems I know fewer of the movies and actors. The only movie nominated this year for Best Picture that I had seen was “Toy Store 3”, on DVD. That should tell you a little something about my social life.

Movies are a great escape. For a couple of hours, we are transported into another world. We can watch a comedy, drama, sci-fi, love story, action thriller, horror, documentary, mystery . . . a wide range of choices. Some movies simply entertain us, while others challenge our minds and our perceptions. Good writing is at the heart of any good movie. I love seeing those words brought to life on the screen, because I am a visual person. Even when I am reading a book, I am creating a movie in my head.

As exciting as some movies and books can be, with unexpected plot twists and outrageous characters, I have not found one that can rival the Good Book – the Holy Bible. The Bible is full of wonderful true stories – dramatic and epic, sweet and touching, mysterious and amazing. Hollywood has tried to bring these stories to the big screen, with mixed results. How many of you still picture Moses looking like Charleston Heston from the classic movie, “The Ten Commandments”? How was your view of the gospels enhanced by watching Mel Gibson’s “The Passion”?

I understand that the Bible can be an intimidating read. The language of the King James Version can be off-putting, with “thee” and “thou” type wording. Many churches are also very strict about using this version in their teaching. However, in the real world we have low literacy rates. In the real world we have a new generation that downloads everything from the Internet and wants immediate information. We have to be able to reach people with the Word of God in a variety of ways.

First of all, to have a true understanding of the Word, we have to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It says in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” If a person has difficulty with the language, there are many versions that you can turn to for help. The New International Version (NIV) uses more modern language, but sometimes it omits things that are in the King James Version (KJV). Sometimes even the NIV challenges me, so I look at a version called “The Message”, which puts it in a more conversational type language. That will then give me a little more insight, and I can go back to my KJV or New Kings James (NKJV) version for accuracy. I don’t own all these different versions. I go to a website that allows me to switch the versions with a click of a button. I can go back and forth and compare and it helps me to understand it better.

If you can’t read or don’t like to read, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the Bible. There are websites with audio that will allow the computer to read it to you. You can buy an audio version of the Bible – something like an MP3 player – with headphones that can go with you anywhere. You can get the Bible on DVD or CD. There are really no excuses for not receiving from the Word of God. If you are hungry for the Word, there is a way to get it.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When I think about all the wonderful stories in the Bible, I get so excited. When I read them, I am seeing them as a movie in my head. They come alive for me. These are the stories of real people like you and me. They weren’t perfect. They messed up a lot. We can learn from them – we are supposed to learn from them. We learn so much better from example than from simply being given a list of do’s and don’ts. These stories are given to us so that we can know who God is, how much He loves us, what He expects and how we can live our lives for Him. If we are entertained in the process, that is just a bonus. The main thing is to get the Word of God into our hearts, minds and souls so that it can do the work in us. It’s not just reading. It’s reading with comprehension.

So, just for fun, these would be some of my “Oscar” nominees from the Bible.

Best Actress
Tamar (Genesis 38) -- for her portrayal as a prostitute. She seduced her father-in-law to become pregnant with a child that would gain her dead husband’s inheritance.

Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39) – for her portrayal as a supposed victim of sexual assault. She accused Joseph of attacking her when he refused to sleep with her.

Delilah (Judges 16) – for her portrayal as a loyal lover. She tricked Samson into revealing the secret of his strength, which allowed the Philistines to capture him.

Leah (Genesis 29) – for her clever portrayal as her sister Rachel. Jacob married her, thinking she was her sister. He then had to work for their father for another seven years in order to marry his true love, Rachel.

Best Actor
Abram (Genesis 12) for his portrayal as his wife’s brother. Fearing the Egyptians would kill him to take his beautiful wife, he told everyone he was Sarai’s brother. This brought a curse upon Pharaoh.

Isaac (Genesis 26) also for his portrayal as his wife’s brother. Like his father, he was afraid the Philistines would kill him to gain his beautiful wife, Rebekah.

Jacob (Genesis 27) for his portrayal of his brother, Esau. By posing as his brother, he was able to receive his blessing from their dying father.

Joseph (Genesis 41-42) for his portrayal as Zaphnath-Paaneah, second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt. Even his own brothers didn’t recognize him.

Best Special Effects
The Burning Bush (Exodus 3) God speaks to Moses and calls him to lead Israel out of captivity.

The Plagues on Egypt (Exodus 7-11) A river of blood, locusts, boils, killer hail . . . and more.

The Parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) God allows Moses to part the Red Sea, making a way of escape for the Israelites, who are being pursued by Pharaoh’s army.

Jonah and the Whale (Jonah1-2) Jonah tries to ditch his assigned task of prophesying to the wicked Assyrians. God sends a whale that swallows Jonah for three days and nights, before spitting him out and sending him on his way to Nineveh, lesson learned.

The Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the furnace for refusing to worship the king’s golden idol. The three emerge unharmed, without so much as the smell of smoke on them. And who was that fourth person the king saw in the furnace?

These stories are a very small sample of the wonderful adventures awaiting students of the Bible. I am going to skip any nominees for the Best Picture and go straight to the winner, Jesus Christ. His story is a picture of love and hope for all generations. It is full of drama, as He clashed with the religious traditionalists of the day and challenged the Jewish people to believe what the Word of God had already told them about the Messiah. It is full of “special effects” – God’s power and glory demonstrated through Jesus’ healings and miracles, and the ultimate miracle in His resurrection and victory over death. It is a love story – His great love for us and the sacrifice that was made so that we may be saved. Truly it is the greatest story ever told.

Isaiah 40:8
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

If you haven’t taken the time to read your Bible, I encourage you to start now. You can start slowly, taking in little bits at a time. Find a resource you are comfortable with, be it the KJV or an audio version. Join a Bible study group to help in your understanding and talk with others. Do whatever it takes to get that word inside you. It is a living word that will change your heart and your life. You won’t get an Oscar, but you’ll get a much better award when you believe on that word and put your trust in Christ. You will win eternal life.
 

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Posted on 03/04/2011 6:28 AM by Susan Nelson
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