Jesus Loves Me This I Know…But is God Still Holy?

How do you read the Bible? Do you look for verses here and there or a small tidbit to help you understand your current life situation? Do you look for passages to justify a stance you have taken or an attitude you have displayed? A lot of us are guilty of doing this. We pick and choose verses that fit our idea of Christianity or our view of God as loving Father.

The Bible is the story of Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a little baby, ministered and taught for 33 years and died a brutal death on a cross for our redemption so that we may have eternal life with God. It is also a place where we can find help and hope for this life. Some have said, the Bible is God’s love letter to us. The Bible is no less than the inerrant, inspired Word of God.

Although we look to the Bible for help and hope, have you considered that the Bible isn’t really about you? It is about God!

The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His character— to us, His beloved, yet flawed, creation.

Recently, I have been studying the Old Testament books of Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, and other prophetic books with some dear sisters in Christ. The prophecies contained therein about the coming Messiah and the return of Christ at the end of time, are numerous. Evidence of the fulfillment of these prophecies can be found in the gospels and other books throughout the New Testament. It is extraordinary!

But the most amazing thing about studying the Old Testament is that as we study it, we become more aware of who God really is—His attributes and character. The Bible, more than just an instruction book for us—is God’s revelation to us about Himself! For instance, reading and meditating on the book of Genesis opens our eyes to the all-encompassing, unsurpassed power of God as Creator. God was—before the beginning of time. Nothing exists that He did not create. Every microscopic cell and life system was His ingenious idea. Every nanoparticle came from the mind and hand of God.

As we study the books of the exodus, wilderness journey and early history of the Israelites we see God as Provider, Protector, Deliverer—but also as the Righteous Judge, who allowed Israel’s enemies to overtake them time and time again to bring them to repentance when they just could not stay away from idolatry.

Or how about the story of Joseph in Genesis? He was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold to traders and taken to Egypt, far away from his home. He later became one of the most powerful men in Egypt and was able to save his own family from starvation. Why? Because God is Sovereign! He has a plan and nothing can derail it.

In Exodus 20:3 God gives us the first of the Ten Commandments. “You shall have no other Gods before me.” Why does He say this? Because God is a Jealous God. He is jealous for our worship and adoration…and His jealousy is not sinful (as ours is), it is Holy and perfectly right.

There is a powerful picture of the nature of God in Isaiah 6. Isaiah was given a vision of God high and lifted up on a throne, surrounded by seraphim (multi-winged heavenly creatures). In light of the utter Holiness of God, Isaiah said, ” Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts”. Also, in this vision, Isaiah witnessed the seraphim crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” When Isaiah was confronted with God’s Holiness, he, by contrast, became acutely aware of his sinful state. God is Holy and Worthy to be praised, friends! And we are sinners, incapable of anything good, without Him.

The New Testament is a comfortable place to be and is a place where we can read about our precious Savior. The account of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, our only hope for eternal life, is there. We read about the disciples and apostles who continued Jesus’s mission here on earth helping the young church and Christianity to spread across the known world. It is truly the birth of the gospel. In the New Testament we find lots of wisdom and practical advice on how to live a life that is pleasing to God and impactful to others.

But my advice to you in this upcoming year is to spend some time studying the books of the Old Testament with an eye towards the attributes of God. What is He revealing to you about Himself? God is Holy, Righteous and Worthy of all our Praise and Worship. We sometimes forget that fact when we focus only on, ‘God is love‘ and ‘Jesus is my friend’. Our Holy, Omnipotent, Sovereign God is to be regarded with reverential fear and unparalleled awe.

As we live our lives in light of the profound Holiness of God and begin to regard Him with reverence and respect, we will have a renewed motivation to live a life that is pleasing to Him—one that brings Him the glory and honor He so rightly deserves.

“Holy, holy, holy!

Lord God Almighty,

Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Holy, holy, holy!

Though the darkness hide thee,

Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see.

Only thou art holy, there is none beside thee.

Perfect in power, in love and purity,”

Reginald Heber (1826)

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I am Fully Known by the God of the Universe

Have you ever felt lonely, disconnected, misunderstood? Have you found yourself longing to be known—fully—right to your core? I have. I am an introvert so I hold my feelings close. It takes a while even for new friends to get to know me. Friends can certainly know us to some degree. Our family often knows us best. But not even our spouse can see deep into our soul where our motives, fears, and deepest desires are housed.

But, do not despair, friend. There is one who sees into our heart. His name is Jesus. He knows our pain and our sadness. He knows our hidden secrets—secrets we may have never uttered to another human being. He knows our motives when, often, other people misread them. And he knows what brings us joy. He knows the desires of our hearts and wants us to have His very best.

When I am frustrated, lonely or sad, nothing brings me more peace and emotional relief than pouring my heart out in prayer to the one who truly knows and sees me. Others may read my quiet, as arrogance—God knows it’s my introverted nature. Others may wonder why I try to avoid gossip and negativity when I’m with friends, they assume I have a superiority complex—God knows I’m trying to be more like him in that one small way. Though I wear a smile for the world and exhibit a joyful attitude as a way of encouraging those around me—God knows I sometimes struggle with regret for things in my past. God knows me to the core of my being. I am so thankful that He does!

And do you know the greatest thing about it? He knows me and he loves me anyway!

There is nothing hidden from Him.

There can be no pretense or falsehood in His presence. You are free to lay yourself bare. Ask Him anything. Pour out your heartache. Bask in the feeling of being known. Let it sink in.

Sometimes, when I go to Him in prayer, all I can say is, “Lord, you know my needs, you know my heart, please help me.” What a blessing it is to be able to do that when words fail us.

Today I am oh, so thankful to be fully known by the God of the universe.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm 139:1-4

“For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:13-14

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my thoughts; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” Psalm 91:1-2

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Finding Hope Amid Heartache and Chaos

2022 was a tough year. Many people in the world right now would say the same thing. We, as a nation, have faced some difficult times, with the continuation and constant mutation of Corona virus, the awful realization of various apparent side effects of the vaccines, a tumultuous political climate and rising prices in the marketplace that make it hard for the average person to feed their family and feel secure and safe. It would certainly be easy to fall away from the faith and lose hope in times like these.

In addition to our recent challenges as a nation, personally, 2022 was a tough year for me. I lost my 96 year old mother (actually at the end of 2021), a woman who had devoted her life to her family and her church, and had taught her children to love Jesus. I miss her very much. I lost a favorite, precious aunt of mine—suddenly– only days after I had stayed with her in her home. I became a victim of identity theft that resulted in a financial loss and required months of analysis and tedious work to repair. (It was one of those “never thought it would happen to me” events.) My husband went through two extensive surgeries that required significant recovery time. I was his primary “nurse” and caregiver which stretched and challenged me in many ways. My husband and I eventually both got COVID for the first time, in spite of all our precautions and our meticulous use of hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and vitamins. And finally, my last child and only daughter graduated from college, married, and moved out of our home. I know that is a happy event and we are so blessed to have a wonderful new son-in-law, but it was a major life change. We became empty-nesters!

I can’t say that I consistently navigated this past year with joy and positivity. There were times when I felt anxious, frustrated, sad, depressed even—but when I experienced feelings like these and began to sink emotionally, there was always a solid place upon which I fell. That solid ground was my faith in Jesus and the surety that he was there to uphold me. My hope, my help, and my rescue… is in Jesus.

We are told in God’s Word that we will face trials and difficulties in this world—a world which is not the final home for believers but instead, a temporary home tainted by sin. John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Jesus knows our struggles. He himself suffered unimaginable pain during his 33 years on this earth. We are not alone in our grief, sadness and heartache. In fact, our tears are precious to Him. In Psalm 56:8 King David writes, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

We, as believers, need not face anything alone. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

There is purpose in our pain. God is making us more like Him as we respond to the difficulties in our lives. He is refining us just as precious metals are refined by fire. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” 1 Peter 1:6-7

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

The fact is, ultimately, believers are citizens of heaven and nothing can impede us from our final destination. Something I say frequently within our family when someone’s under stress is, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Well, the very worst thing would be the end of our physical life. But, what happens next? Believers are immediately in the arms of Jesus—for eternity—not a bad worst-case scenario. Agreed?

Before Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection, he told His disciples this: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

Friend, if you are not sure of your final destination, you can be! It’s as simple as placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and accepting His free gift of salvation. Here are the facts:

We are all sinners. If you have ever lied (even a little white one), cheated or stolen so much as a pencil, then you have sinned. The first step is to admit that fact about yourself. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 Sin originated in the garden with the first humans, Adam and Eve, and man has been under sin’s curse ever since.

“As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’…” Romans 3:10

Because we are sinners, we cannot be in the presence of a holy God. God wants nothing more than to restore us to himself, therefore, He provided a way. He sent His only son, Jesus, to this earth, to die, as a payment for our sin.

God calls all men to believe in Jesus Christ—to acknowledge Him as the Son of God and to place their trust in Him. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“For God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16

Lastly, we must confess our faith in Jesus as the only way to salvation. Romans 10:9-10 says, “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

So, it’s as simple as ABC—admit, believe, confess. Then tell someone you have taken this incredible, life-changing step and look for a Bible-teaching church to attend where you can grow, learn and serve.

I hope 2023 will be a better year for all of us. However there is one thing I know: It will have its share of trouble and heartache. But Jesus will be there—to comfort, heal and help. When things get tough, turn to Him in prayer and remember this mama’s words of wisdom: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

Thanks for reading! I hope this encouraged you.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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Post-Mom Life and the Search for Significance

I recently slid quietly into a new decade of life—one where I get discounts on Tuesdays at certain department stores, receive targeted ads for wrinkle creams on my computer, and qualify to go on the church bus to the botanical garden with the senior ministry at my church. It happened so fast. It seems like just yesterday I was driving my mom taxi to games, debates, and recitals. It was a busy and purposeful time. I taught school on and off for many years and enjoyed it so much. I knew I was making an impact on many young lives and felt needed, valued and self-confident. I saw my role as a mom as incredibly important—even world changing. Lately, though, after retiring from teaching and seeing my last child get married and begin a life of her own, something has come over me. It’s hard to explain but is sort of a notion of disconnection, a sense of loss, a feeling of, “what now?”.

I know from talking to other female friends and relatives that these feelings are not mine alone. When women reach a certain age and our child-rearing duties are done we can feel lost, unsure, invisible and under-appreciated. At the same time, we know in our hearts that we have skills and talents that are just as strong as ever. We are leaders, organizers, encouragers and teachers. We still want to be useful, to make an impact, to share our wisdom with others. We want our lives to matter—even as we soldier on into the golden years.

What is it that contributes to this feeling of uselessness or disenfranchisement for senior adults like me? Well, often our churches and communities tend to look to the younger generation to fill positions of leadership and service. Senior adults are sometimes overlooked. Perhaps a lack of confidence or an introverted nature can play a role, as well. We don’t know if we are actually up to the task anymore. I don’t know what happened to that “in your face” confidence I had in my 30’s and 40’s—no matter what task it was, I just knew I was the best person for the job! Now, when I think about filling a particular need or position in my church or community I talk myself out of it, thinking, “Oh, I’m sure there’s a younger person who would be better”.

So, how should we view this issue as believers? Should we hang up our service hat when we turn 60? Absolutely not. Let’s look at some older women of the Bible who had great impact into their later years:

Lois, the grandmother of Timothy, demonstrated the power of godly older women to influence the next generation as she taught him to know and abide by the Word of God.

Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, persevered through tragedy (loss of her husband and sons) to secure a future for her family. She showed great strength and faith throughout her life.

Anna, the prophetess, first sees Jesus 40 days after His birth at His purification ceremony. She recognized Jesus’ significance and the impact He would have on Jerusalem. She was 105 years old at the time. Anna remained vibrant and useful to the Lord until her death.

Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias, was 88 years old when she gave birth to John the Baptist! She was a relative and dear friend to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Deborah, a judge of Israel, ruled the people with wisdom and encouragement for 40 years. She was loyal to God and inspired her people to victory in battle, guiding them to live in faith.

The bottom line is: Women like you and I can have an impact well into our golden years. In fact, God expects us to continue to serve. There is still so much to do—and we have the wisdom, experience, and skill to do it!

People in your sphere of influence need encouragement, prayer and guidance. Your church needs your giftedness and willingness to serve. Lost people need to hear the gospel.Your community needs your experience and support. The world needs your engagement, now more than ever, as it falls steadily away from the truth of God’s Word.

God expects us to stay engaged in life. He still has a plan for you—a vital part in His kingdom mission.

And…you are no less valuable to God now than you were in your younger days. You are precious to Him.

Pray for God’s guidance and direction as to what he would have you do in your church or community. Pray for the confidence to take on the task. Pray for renewed purpose and inner peace as you move into the next phase of life. God is faithful. And life isn’t over yet!

Posted in Christianity, Church Life, Grandparenting, Parenting, Service, Spiritual Encouragement | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Land That Helicopter: The Changing Role of Parents When Their Children Marry

I have loved being a mom. It has truly been my most fulfilling role in life. Of course, I have had other roles over the years. I’ve been a wife, daughter, granddaughter, elementary teacher, volunteer, Bible study leader, VBS worker and choir member, among other things. God has no doubt used me in all of these roles to impact others and to bring me closer to Him but, the role of mom gave me purpose, confidence and immeasurable joy.

I know, some of you young moms are thinking, “What?! Is she crazy? I’m up to my elbows in dirty diapers and spit up…my home is a Lego minefield! I don’t feel confident or joyful!” But if you give yourself a moment to reflect (I know, I know, a moment to reflect…what is that?) I’m sure the Lord will bring to mind all of the beautiful moments you have shared with your kids. And when your children are all grown and out of the house, as mine are, and you look back on your body of work as their mom, I pray you, too, will recognize the joy and purpose that they brought to your life.

In this post, however, I hope to share some wisdom regarding those grown children—the ones who are getting married, moving out of the house and starting their own families.

My husband and I have two sons who are married and a daughter who is tying the knot very soon. Our oldest son has been married for 10 years and our next son, for 5. We are very proud of them both and have enjoyed watching them blossom and grow as husbands and—for our oldest—as a father.

When your child marries, there are several things you need to come to grips with:

  • Your role has changed—drastically and forever (sorry if that sounds harsh).

You have spent many years as your child’s caregiver. You made sure he ate his vegetables, wore his coat on cold days, made it to school or work on time and sipped on chicken soup when he was sick. Once your child is married, this is no longer your job. It is the job of his spouse. Being your son’s helpmate is an important role for his new wife, although it may not look the same as it did for you when you got married. Our middle son and his wife share many of the jobs in their home, in fact, he now regularly offers to help with the dishes at our home when he visits! In their case, both of them have careers and so it makes sense for them to share chores at home. Our oldest son really gets in there and helps at home, as well, bathing the kids, cooking, and cleaning. They are working out their roles and responsibilities as they go along and it is wonderful. It is also, none of our business how they define the roles in their own family. You have to trust that your daughter-in-law, the daughter-in-law that God provided, will learn and grow as a wife and mom over the years and will be able to take care of your son and their growing family perhaps even better than you did.

Another thing that may have to change when your young adult child marries is your communication with them. If before they married you insisted that your son or daughter: talk to you daily from college, text you when they made it safely home from late night events, call you every day on their lunch break from their job, etc, (let’s all say it together—helicopter parent) it is time to let that expectation go! You are no longer their text buddy, their best friend, or their parental parole officer. Their spouse is now their best friend and text buddy—and parole officer, if needed. Sometimes, in the case of sons, it is dad who has trouble with this one. It’s very hard for many dads to let their sons go if they have had a close relationship. Moms letting daughters go can be tough, as well. But, once your child gets married, their spouse is the one with whom they will discuss plans and ideas, make decisions and share the ups and downs of daily life. They do not need you texting them every day or multiple times a day with trivial comments or probing questions.

Now, lest you think I am saying your adult children can not come to you for wisdom and advice, I am not. That is certainly still an important role for parents of adult children. Parents have the wisdom and experience that can come in handy in many cases. If they ask for your advice on an important matter, by all means, give it. But in order for your married kids to strengthen their bond, grow, and learn to trust each other, they need to be able to practice making decisions and discussing ideas together. Communication is so important in marriage and you and I as the parents, do not need to hijack theirs.

  • Putting too many expectations on your adult children will be detrimental to their marriage.

When your children get married, they are developing new traditions, establishing their own routines and settling into their own rhythm of life.With the multifaceted structure of many families today, it can be very stressful for them as they are pulled in many directions by parents, in-laws, step-parents, divorced parents— for holidays, birthdays and special events. We have been very careful not to put expectations on our married kids in this regard. They know we are always up for a visit, that we love them immensely and that we enjoy spending time with them. When they decide to come see us we jump for joy! But we do not put pressure on them to come—ever. I know it can be hard not to feel slighted if they seem to be spending more time with the other side of the family but, there is no place for guilt trips, tears or anger. Bite your tongue, say a prayer, and be patient. As little kids like to say, you are no longer the boss of them! And it will be your turn eventually. Make your home a place they will love to visit. Create an atmosphere of acceptance, joy and fun. They won’t be able to resist! If your married children live close by, this point can be even trickier but is just as important. You may be tempted to put even more expectation on them—wanting them to come by and have dinner with you a couple times a week or to invite you over to their place every Sunday. Resist the urge to put that pressure on your married kids who happen to live nearby.

I’m going to go out on a limb here with some straightforward advice for when your kids get married: Go on with your life. Get a hobby. Get reaquainted with your spouse. Leave them alone.

  • Getting involved in their disagreements will not end well.

It is not your job to get involved in your children’s disagreements with their spouse. Stay out of it. Do not take sides. In fact, don’t allow them to drag you into it in the first place. If your adult child comes to you complaining about their spouse, say something like, “Honey, I love you, but it’s best if you work that out with Jane/Joe. But, I will certainly pray about it with you if you’d like.” I am happy to say, our married kids have never come to us with complaints about each other. We are blissfully ignorant of their squabbles.

  • Now, a word about daughters-in-law:

I have two lovely, sweet, smart daughters-in-law. God really blessed me good with the two of them and I don’t take that for granted. They are wonderful, loving wives and my oldest son’s wife (the only one with children thus far) is a fantastic mom who is leading her children in the ways of the Lord. I have a great relationship with them both and want to keep it that way. I refrain from telling them how to run their home, raise their children, clean their house, cook, or take care of their husband. It is their home and they have their own way of doing things. My role in regard to my daughters-in-law is that of encourager, cheerleader and friend. They know that I am there for them if they want advice on anything but I do not offer it unsolicited.

I do try to model a life of faith and devotion to Jesus Christ for all of my children. That is a very important exception to the rule of not interjecting yourself into their lives! It’s critical that we use every method at our disposal to pass on the baton of faith to the next generation! So do talk to them about the importance of being a part of a community of faith (a local church) and of personal time in the Word and of raising their kids to know and love the Lord. Speak it with love and gentleness and model it in your own life.

“And the Lord God said,’It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'” Genesis 2:18

“…Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave His father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

Friends, when your son or daughter finds the one his/her soul loves and marries them, it is then time for you to: pass the baton, rip off the bandaid, cut the apron strings, change the locks (just kidding with that one!)—land that helicopter once and for all. Understand and embrace that your role has drastically changed. You did a wonderful job nurturing, training and loving those little children God placed in your care, but now it’s time to switch gears, embrace your new role and let them create their own life independent from you. Continue to be a supporter, an encourager and a model of a joy-filled, purpose driven, Christ-centered life. And when the phone rings and your married child is on the line, thank God for them and for the new—different, but just as fulfilling—relationship that you now enjoy.

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