Who Are You?
I had to fill out some medical forms not long ago, and I was asked how I identified—male, female, binary or other. I recognize this is the new, politically correct way to view things. But, I am old.
Being politically correct holds no sway over me. Instead, I choose to remain in a right relationship with God.
I am female, not because I identify with being female, but because God created me as female. I am white because my parents and most of my ancestors were white. However, according to 23 and Me, I have African ancestry many centuries in my past along with Native American.
I am a Christ follower, not because I was born into a Christian nation, but because Jesus Christ gave Himself for me, the perfect sacrifice for my sins, the only way I, a sinner, could be reconciled to a holy God. I am intentional in my discipleship, and as Ray vander Laan says, I have chosen to follow so closely behind Jesus that the dust from His feet will cover my feet.
I am a pastor because God called me to preach the gospel, to minister to His people, to show the love of Christ as only a pastor called by God can show. I am a woman and yet I was called by God to minister as only a woman can minister.
I am pro-life, not because I am a far right conservative but because God’s word has convinced me that we have a human heartbeat and a human soul before we take our first breath outside our mother’s womb.
“Before I formed you in your mother’s body I chose you. Before you were born I set you apart to serve me. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.”
How many children, chosen by God for a certain work, never saw the light of day because they were not recognized to be human beings and they were discarded as medical waste?
How many could have been doctors bringing cures for some of our worst diseases, artists bringing love and light and enrichment to our hearts, but instead were sacrificed on the altar of convenience?
I am pro-life because I know, believe and understand that the three children I lost through miscarriage are in heaven because they had souls, placed within them by the Living God.
Ps 139:13 For you created my inmost being;(A)
you knit me together(B) in my mother’s womb.(C)
14 I praise you(D) because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,(E)
I know that full well.
I am these things and more, not because I identify as these things, but because the life I have walked with Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord, has formed me into the person I am.
What about you?
Are you pro choice because you believe a woman’s body is her own and it is only she who can make decisions about her body? If you believe a fetus is not human until it is born, then how do you account for the unborn baby reacting to certain foods, or sounds or activities of the mother? When you first cradle that newly born infant to your breast do you still believe just moments earlier it was nothing more than a mass of cells and only when it took its first breath outside of the protection of its mother’s body it became a life?
Are you Christian because you were confirmed at age 12 or because you have faithfully attended church services most of your life? Or are you Christian because God brought a change to your heart and your life and as the hymn says, “I must needs go home by the way of the cross, there’s no other way but this.”
I write this not to stir up controversy nor to pit one group of people against another. Instead, I believe it is time for true Christ followers to stand up and proclaim their faith, their beliefs, and be silenced no more because we are afraid we will offend someone or lose family or friends.
Stand up, stand firm, and if I have not told you lately, Jesus is coming soon!
Joy in the Time of Testing
when I was young, I visited nursing homes every Saturday for 3 ½ years, and I do not think we ever missed singing “I Come to the Garden Alone.” I grew weary of that song, and it occurs to me that sometimes we need the perspective of age to appreciate certain things.
Meeting Jesus early in the morning and in solitude can set the stage for the rest of our day. When we are still enough that we can hear the voice of God, then we can achieve the joy we need to meet any circumstance.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (NRSV) 1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness….11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
We can have joy in spite of life’s circumstances, but living in joy is a choice. Today I would like to address a half-truth about the scripture I just read. Basically, people interpret this scripture as saying that God will never give us more than we can bear. Really? Has this been true in your life? It certainly has not been true in mine.
When we struggle with life’s hardships, to the point where we are crippled by fear and filled with anger at the unfairness of it all, thinking that God has told us He will not give us more than we can bear is not reassuring, but instead, it makes us doubt and question God.
There are two truths I would like to point out to you:
First, Paul was not telling the Corinthians that God would not give them more hardship than they could bear. Instead, he was speaking to them about the culture in which they lived, and he was giving them encouragement about how they could live a Christian lifestyle even in the midst of sin all around them.
Remember, Corinth was in the middle of a metropolis filled with pagan idolatry and immorality, and so Paul was talking not about hardships, but instead overcoming the temptation to live as people who existed only for themselves, and not for God. Paul reminds the church at Corinth that not only are their temptations not any different than for anyone else, but that if they will rely on God, He will help them endure and overpower and be stronger for what they have undergone.
Secondly, we make a mistake when we adhere to the belief system that everything bad that comes upon us is directed by God. Remember the scripture from Hebrew 12 that says God is the author and finisher of our faith? Nowhere in the Scripture do we find that God is the author and finisher of our confusion, or hurt, or pain. Does God use our adversities to help strengthen us and shape our character? Absolutely, when we look at Gen. 50:19-20 (NRSV) 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…”
God did not put the thought into Joseph’s brothers’ minds to throw their brother into a pit and sell him. But God gave Joseph the strength he needed to bear up under these hardships, and he will do the same for me and you.
I end with one of my favorite scriptures, Isaiah 40:31(NRSV) but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Remember, whatever befalls us, whether it be trials or temptations, when we choose joy, suffering does not get the last word.
Hear now this blessing: God is the giver joy. Receive this gift and know that His joy will bring completeness to your heart and to your life. Take the name of Jesus with you and share Him with all you meet.
1 Samuel 1:21 The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time.” 23 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. 24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”
She left him there for the Lord.
Today’s scripture deals with commitment, sacrifice and letting go. Hannah was barren and in her culture other women ridiculed those who could not have children. So Hannah went before the Lord and prayed that she might have a son, and promised to dedicate that son to God’s service.
Now, for those of us who have had children, we have prayed similar prayers upon their births, thanking God and promising to raise our children according to His truths. But for Hannah, this prayer was more than a commitment; it was a sacrifice. After Hannah weaned her child she took him and left him with the priest, Eli. Hannah kept her commitment, then she made a sacrifice, and then she let go.
Each of our lives have included measures of commitment, sacrifice and even letting go. We have made commitments to spouses, to employers, and to churches. We have made sacrifices so that our children could have more than we had and so that they could be educated and able to live on their own. And we have each had much practice in letting go. Hannah let her child go at around age three, which to me is unimaginable.
I recall when I took my son, Jonathan, to kindergarten orientation. As they separated the parents from the children, my son ran to me, holding on to my leg and begging me not to leave him. Hard as it was, I had to let him go, but I knew I would get him back. When we drove Jonathan to college, his dad and I drove away, crying the whole three hours home. I had to let him go, but I knew I would get him back.
At this stage in our lives we have become masters of letting go, yet each time we give something else up the pain of letting go resurfaces. A few years ago there was a saying, “Let go and let God.” It was a catchy saying, and certainly expressed an age-old truth. Instead of allowing God to be our co-pilot as the name in a popular book from a number of years ago expressed, we need to switch seats and ask Him to be our pilot. We have to let go of the controls and let God fly the plane.
As a pilot we have procedures for transferring control of a plane. I would say, “You have the plane,” and as I let go of the controls, the other pilot would respond, “I have the plane,” taking the controls and the responsibility of the plane, and then one last time I would affirm, “You have the plane.” If only letting go of anxieties and difficulties were as easy as saying, “God, you have my life,” and then just let go.
I read about a parachute factory whose Quality Control Dept could not get the success rate of the parachutes above 98%. The employees were proud of reaching 98% and so regardless of what management did, the accuracy rate did not go up. So a meeting was called and 100 parachutes were handed out to employees and they were told to board the busses outside for a drive to the airport. They were going to jump out of a plane to do a real life test.
The employees were horrified and one blurted out, “but two of these parachutes will probably fail! The manager responded, “Now you see why 98% is not good enough.”
We are too often guilty of giving 98% to God, but holding something back.
Hannah did something few of us could ever do. She gave over her son, seeing him only one time per year as they brought their annual sacrifices and she brought him another robe. Can we learn from Hannah’s story at this point in our lives? Perhaps we can make a fresh commitment to ask God to pilot us through the storms and difficulties of our lives, and then let go of the controls.
Hear now this blessing: God is more than willing and able to care for you and your needs. Let go, and let God take control. Take the name of Jesus with you, and share Him with all you meet. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us Worship with our whole Body
“This World Is Not My Home”
This world is not my home
I’m just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore.
Oh Lord, you know
I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home
Then Lord what will I do.
The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore.
Hear now the reading of God’s Holy Word.
9. Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This is the Word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.
Let us pray: Father God, each day that you give us is unique, special in its own way. So we pray that today we may not waste the time you have given us, but help us to make the hours count for you and for others. Increase in us our love for you and for others and help us to realize that our home awaits us in heaven.
Have you ever heard the expression, “Proving ground?” According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a proving ground is a place for testing or a place where something is developed or tried out. I have known for much of my life that our very existence here on this earth is a proving ground, and that you and I are developing, hopefully, into the people of God.
Paul said in Romans that we are to offer our very bodies as living sacrifices to God, for that is WORSHIP. And, he goes on to state that we are not to conform (or fit in, or follow the crowd) to the pattern, (or model or design) of this world. Instead, we are to become transformed by the renewing of our minds. What in the world is Paul saying?
Well, brothers and sisters, what Paul is saying is NOT in this world. At least, our destination is not in this world, because Paul understood that this world is not our home. Does Paul’s admonition mean we are supposed to hate the world in which we live? No, but neither are we to cling to it so tightly that we lose sight of heaven.
I love the beauty of this world. I often tell Larry we are so blessed to have had so many good friends in our lives. We have children and grandchildren whom we adore, and our home is filled with the clickety-clack and barking of our four-legged family as we go through each day. We have the Word of God to sustain and grow us (to renew our minds daily) and we have reached the age where we can finally rest.
But let me encourage you that resting is not passive, but instead it is active when you do it the right way. Jesus says to “come to me and I will give you rest.” We are told to “be anxious in nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-8.
As I was writing this, my husband interrupted me to come hold a ladder for Him, putting to test the very words of this scripture. But as I held the ladder, I repeated the words of the scripture in my mind. Be anxious in nothing!
Hear now this blessing. God loves each of us so much. Allow Him to show you how to rest in Him. Take the name of Jesus with you, and share Him with all you meet.