Thursday, June 25, 2020

Matthew 15:1-20, June 25
     Jesus is teaching and has the Pharisees and scribes question Him. Their motive was not really to gain information but it was a question that was intended to catch, judge, and shame Jesus.  Rather than directly responding to this question, Jesus points to their failure to obey God’s commandments. While they obey the letter of the Law, they violate it in their hearts. Jesus then refers to Isaiah 29:13, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” This is the background for his teaching on the heart.  
     Matthew 15:12-20 is where we find Jesus giving another parable and then interpreting the meaning to his disciples. In essence, Jesus is teaching that what comes into our body does not spoil us, spiritually. Rather, our words and our actions are evidence of what is already spoiled in our hearts. I was again reminded of the physical aspects of a damaged heart. It cannot be repaired except by someone skilled and trained, and appointed, to cut into us and repair that heart. Likewise, Jesus reveals that an untreated heart is spoiled. What we think, how we perceive and interpret things, and all of our behaviors come from the heart of us. God is the only One that can repair that heart, and he made that way through his Son, Jesus. Right now it is popular to refer to Jesus as the “Way-Maker,” and that he is. He made it possible for us to be in a relationship with a Holy God and be restored as children of God. But it is also he that is the “Heart-Changer” and so he makes it possible for this spoiled heart to speak and act in ways that please God. The question for me is what kind of heart my actions reveal. Do I have a Pharisee's heart or a heart that has been surgically repaired by Jesus and so it reflects the heart of God?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Put on Love

My world today.....

48-58 F today
But there is this:  4:16 AM sunrise  11:45 PM sunset
(It's all in the wording since it never actually gets dark!)

Reading in one of my favorite passages this morning, which is most definitely needed in our world today.

"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge, according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all and in all. SO, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Colossians 3:9-17

We cannot make sense of anything that is happening without looking back, because history matters. But we can't just look back to the '40s or the 1800s.  We have to look back to Genesis 1-3.  Genesis 1 & 2- God was, He created, He called everything good, He gave man purpose, He set a boundary.
Genesis 3 - man decided to run out of bounds, everything changes and it is not good. God promises to repair it - by making the way Himself.  And He did. we live between two realities. The current world is filled with sin and pain, death, and destruction. The final destination in heaven with God. So what's God doing now?

We can't know the specifics. But we DO know that God is involved, loves His creation and His world and the people, and is doing whatever He chooses to DRAW OUR ATTENTION TO HIM.
God has a plan to bring unity and for us to enjoy diversity within that unity. That plan has always been by repenting of our sinful heart and doing things God's way, through Jesus Who made the pathway to God. Then we have His power and His Advocacy to live out these passages.

How do we create a unified and kind and gentle world? Only in God's way. It is by putting on His love, which is God's perfect bond of unity. God's purposes aren't thwarted by anything that happens here on this earth. He is involved in all that happens on this earth. And He uses everything that happens on this earth to shout to His Creation-  "I AM."

If you are one of His adopted children, "put on love" because it IS the perfect bond of unity.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

#COVID19 #LettheNationsKnow

When...nobody with two legs comes to call!  

I guess three years is long enough between posts!  I always have a thought or two as I sit reading each morning, but does anyone else want to know those thoughts? Who knows. So, as they say, I am sending this out to the digital abyss.  If it blesses anyone, then that is a wonderful thing!

Like everyone, we've daily pondered this whole virus.  Is it real? Is it dangerous? Contagious? Like the flu? Not like that? Worth a global destruction of anything? What does God think about this virus.  Is it from Him to get out attention? Is it a consequence of living in a world filled with sin? Are we responding wrongly? Rightly? Everyone comes at this with a conclusion, and many of them differ in what they believe is the truth in this pandemic.  Regardless of which track you take in making sense of this all, there is one thing that is solidly True among all the truth or half-truths or outright lies and deception.  God does want our attention.

Today I was reading through Psalm 9.  It begins by framing our attention squarely on God.  Not only that, but it says what David will do- it is actually his spiritual discipline.  How he does this is with all of his heart.  What he does: (Verses 1,2)
Give thanks to God
Tells of God's wonders
Glad (joyful) in God
Exalts or is lifted up in rejoicing who God is
Sings praises to God

Then in verses 3-6 we see the circumstances David finds himself in, and this is even more relevant.  Things were difficult for David at this time.  He had enemies. And yet he was praising God, and thankful, that God was acting on his behalf.  

Much of the Psalm is talking about God's action and His judgment.  He reminds us over and over that He does not just let sin go without punishment.  In this Psalm He also talks about entire nations.  Verse 15 talks about nations that have gone so far from God's righteous desire for them that they are caught in the very net they placed!  But it is God that will catch them and execute judgment.  Verse 17 reminds us that all the nations that forget God will be punished.  

Finally, I really was taken by the last several verses (19-20). David calls on God to be Who He is, and not let man prevail.  He is God and man is not. David agrees with God that nations should be judged. But there is a way out, and that is through relationship with God, through respect and reverence for God rather than an individual, or national, that usurps the place of God.

How does this short Psalm connect with Covid-19?  If nothing else, God has allowed our world to be shaken to the very core.  Nothing we have trusted in is reliable.  Our economy, our travel, our relationships, our comfort, and our health are all impacted.  Each one was taken away in a cosmic moment.  While God calls each of us to relationship with Him, I wonder if this isn't His message in a more global way.  Psalm 9 really captures this in the last verse. "Let the nations know that they are but men."  If nothing else, Covid-19 has reminded all of us (collectively) that we ARE but men.  

The God reminder- we are but men.
God's hope- He is in control, He is still God, He wants us to turn to Him.

Just like Theodore coming visiting without an invitation, this Virus has done the same. It has barged into our lives like a moose trying to come in the front door.  The difference lies in how God wants to use this unwelcome visitor in each of our lives.

Blessings on this beautiful Spring day, from Alaska.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Are You Blessed to have had a Pastor Jim?

While Steve and I sit with snowflakes swirling outside in the darkness of an Alaskan morning and the Christmas lights twinkle on our tree, our thoughts turn elsewhere.  As I pen these words, our dear friends and acquaintances, family, missionaries, colleagues, and other disciplers are gathering to celebrate and thank the Lord for the life of Pastor Jim. Some belonging to Pastor Jim's "Boys (and a few girls,)" will gather together. Steve and I are honored to have been counted among this group, and regret that we cannot be at First Free today to weep, share stories, and laugh together as we recall the impact of such a godly man. 

Pastor Jim first entered into our lives in 1975, before our marriage, when Steve began attending First Evangelical Free Church of Rockford, Illinois. As a part of the pastoral staff, he seemed friendly enough but little did we know the impact his life and ministry would have upon each of us.

It was several years later that we began to benefit directly from Pastor's Jim discipling. He gently, but strategically, discipled both Steve and me.  We learned some valuable things from this godly, gentle and humble man of God.  We would like to share these attributes with you.

Gentle, Strategic Caring
Pastor Jim barely knew us when he began to care about our concerns.  He gently moved us both into active ministry with the church, in ways that were respectful and demonstrated that he really valued our opinions. I will never forget the day I sat in his office describing the issues I had observed in the church nursery. He listened carefully and I could see his mind working on the problem and the opportunity. I finished my story and he looked at me and said, "So what would you like to do about it?"  If he had not already built such a caring relationship with Steve and me, I might have been offended. However, it was a straightforward question for me and God used it to motivate me to step forward in response to the need. Pastor Jim was always watching for people that he could motivate to grow and minister.
Investing in Others
Steve remembered how he and Pastor Jim met regularly to discuss ways to build my confidence and help me grow spiritually. They prayed together and kept this collaborative prayer times to themselves, until years later when we all enjoyed a good laugh at their spiritual conspiracy!  Steve commented that he knew Pastor Jim was not only interested in helping me find my place in the church, but that he was actively discipling Steve throughout this process.
Wisdom and Patience
We both recall Pastor Jim's influence on us as a young family. He helped Steve grow as a young husband and father. When Steve began to sense God's call to full-time ministry, it was Pastor Jim with whom he met and discussed God's leading. We valued his wisdom. We appreciated his networking and experience in ministry. Ultimately, we knew Pastor Jim had watched us grow spiritually and was patient with our failings, our fears, and our struggles. Pastor Jim was instrumental in our journey into ministry. We saw God work in miraculous ways with our family,stretching our faith and trust in God, and preparing us for the journey in our future. Pastor Jim lent a steady hand and wise counsel as we walked through this new opportunity. He utilized his experiences, connected us to others, and supported, prayed, and helped launch us into ministry. Pastor Jim and Corey never stopped their discipling, supporting, and praying for us, our family, and our ministry. We knew that we could grab the phone and talk with him at any point, and glean from his years of experience and godly wisdom. And that's just what we did, knowing that he would always make time for our conversations.
Finally, we remember Pastor Jim as a humble, gentle, behind-the-scenes kind of man. He and Corey were a stable and solid team in our lives, for which we are so grateful. Whether he was in leadership at First Free, the Home Office Missions Department, or seated in their living room, there was never any change in his demeanor. Pastor Jim could lead, support, come alongside, or watch and pray, and he bore all these roles equally well. We benefitted from his wisdom and he was so brilliant when it came to steering people into ministry. Pastor Jim and Corey were responsible for discipling and mentoring many godly men and women, individuals that started new mission organizations, and yet never was there a proud attitude in Pastor Jim. He wore his humility as easily and gracefully as he wore his gentle spirit.  God used Pastor Jim and Corey to point us to missions, mobilize us, and support and pray for us.

Today as we reflect on the life and impact of Pastor Jim, we are so grateful to have known him and we value our friendship with Corey. He was a mentor, a friend, a partner in ministry, and he was always available for us. In the verbiage of, "Four Chair Discipling," Pastor Jim took us from Chair Two and discipled us into Chair Four.  We pray that those of you reading this today have benefitted from a godly leader such as Pastor Jim.  We pray that our lives also exhibit such godly attributes.  To Corey, Mark, Shannon, and the rest of the Forstrom family, we thank you for sharing "Pastor Jim" with us and so many others.  Our prayers are with you as you grieve his departure.  We look to the day when we will also step into Heaven and see Pastor Jim's smiling face once again!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

But are we always REALLY searching?  Whose truth?  Do we really want to know it?

This morning as I enjoyed coffee and my Bible, I was reading through Mark 2. Jesus was at the beginning of His ministry, and yet was already facing opposition from the spiritual leaders of His time.  Jesus had just finished healing a young man. "Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that?  He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"   Mark 2:6-7.

At first glance, it looks like they had inquiring minds, truly seeking for Truth by observing Jesus with a spiritual discerning and critical eye.  But that's not what was really happening.  In fact, they revealed the truth of their hearts in these two simple verses.

First, they were not actually questioning.  They never actually asked Jesus for clarification.  The questions were a facade of being open to the truth. Second, they already formed their conclusions. By refraining clarification from Jesus, they could observe and conclude without any of the facts affecting their deductions.  In other words, their minds were made up.

I think we are all guilty of doing the very same thing.  We walk through life and make our own conclusions about God, about what He is doing or what He is not doing, based only on what makes sense to us.  However, this only leads to TRUE conclusions if we are Truth.  We know that we are NOT the source of all Truth. So when we form conclusions, if they are not based on the Word and lots of it, we are doomed to repeat the same mistake as these scribes- interpreting God, traveling down the pathway where that interpretation leads us and finding ourselves at the wrong destination.

Our conclusions, particularly about God and how He is at work in the world or our lives, has to be formed by first and foremost actually coming to God. Ask Him to guide the interpretation. Ask Him to show us what He is doing. And the primary way He does this is through His Word.  Read Scripture. Not a random verse to prove our point, else we do exactly what the scribes did. Read all of the Word and know it. Let it seep into our lives and change the way we see life. Read. Pray. Change. Honestly seek TRUTH- the One Who IS TRUTH.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

 Today!  Here it is!  The longest day.

Always a little sad when it actually arrives, since it ends the drastic increase of daylight each day, and tomorrow we begin to lose daylight.

Today is also Aboriginal Day in Canada, a day where we would be traveling to town and enjoying parades and extra events, usually in Boitanio Park.  Happy Aboriginal Day to our CA friends!

Today what I was pondering was the passing of time.  It made me think about HOW we spend our time.  Eccelesiastes talks about time, and was frequently used at weddings and funerals.  3:1-8 was the foundation of a popular song in the 70's, sung by the Mamma's and the Papa's.

This morning I was reflecting on the passages of time.  I want to utilize my time wisely and make the most of my days.  I could just enjoy life and live for myself, and it would be fun for a season. But when the passing days began to shorten, and my life began to draw to a close in the last days of life, I might find I had little that was lasting.

This is a great season to ponder life and how we utilize the daylight.  I want those days to last for eternity, and to have an impact for the good in this world and also in the next.  It sure seems that the only way for that to happen is for me to be very connected to the ONE Who lives before, within, and beyond Time.  As I am connected to God, and let Him guide my life, then what I do can extend beyond the short years of my life.

1 John talks a lot about walking in the Light.  And, of course, the Light John is talking about is Jesus. If I walk with Him, living my days as He leads, commands, and directs, then I'm in the Light and the things I do will count for something that outlasts me.

What's the Inheritance you are leaving?  As you enjoy the Summer Solstice, take a few moments to ponder the Light.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The northern lights were just above the Chugach mountains this morning, waving one last farewell to the night and welcoming the sun- in several hours.  A cup of fresh coffee and soft music waited as I settled in my living room corner.

Thinking of yesterdays thoughts, I listened to Chris Tomlin's song, "You're a Good, Good Father."  And that was the difference between these two pieces of music- "You're a good, good Father, it's who You are, it's who You are. And I'm loved by You, it's who I am, it's who I am."  My identity is not that I am worthy of His love or saving, but that I'm loved by Him because of WHO He is.  Beautiful way to start my morning.

1 John 4:7-21  All about love.
Good morning from Alaska.