Where Do You Come From?

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“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.  And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”
II Timothy 1:5 (NLT) 

Perhaps it is the recent Mothers Day we celebrated, or perhaps it is my grandmother’s upcoming birthday anniversary, but memories of my family have been strong in my mind this week.  I’ve always loved today’s verse, initially because my mother’s name has been included in the Bible.  How mind blowing would that have been if my mother had been “Eunice” and my grandmother had been named “Lois?”

Well, my grandmother was Harriet (Mabel) from Ohio and my mother was Lois (Marion) from Illinois and my name isn’t Timothy, but the rest of the verse is applicable.  My grandmother was a believer, my mother was a believer and my sister and I have also chosen to follow Jesus Christ.  The LORD found us when it was supposedly an easy time to be a Christian.  “If you were an American, you were a Christian.”  Churches of all faiths and denominations abounded, often located across the street from each other.

Thank God that the faith He imparted to us through the preceding generations was genuine.  When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, Christians (who had always experienced some form of distrust and persecution from the masses) were about to face government led persecution of the highest order.  Paul would soon be executed and it would take solid, sound faith to equip followers of The Way to stand firm.

Paul wrote gems of wisdom to Timothy as admonishment for the days when his mentoring would be done and he would be gone.  They were words to live by then and a timely message for today.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” verses 1:7-8a”

“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time–to show us His grace through Christ Jesus.” verse 1:9

“Hold onto the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me…Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.” verses 1:13-14

“Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead.  This is the Good News I preach.” verse 2:8

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” verse 2:15

“…God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription:  ‘The LORD knows those who are his,’ and ‘All who belong to the LORD must turn away from evil.” verse2:19

“Gently instruct those who oppose the truth.  Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” verse 2:25

And so many more…”You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be difficult times…and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution…you must remain faithful to what you have been taught…You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus…All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right…Keep a clear mind…don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.  Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”

To a certain point our pasts shape us.  We receive genes that determine how we look, have great influence over our health, affect our intelligence, spark our ambition.  Our birthplace may greatly influence our manner of speech.  Our families greatly influence our attitudes.  But all of this can be changed by God.

Being born into a family that loves God doesn’t mean the children will continue to love Him.  Conversely, being born into a family which has no awareness of God doesn’t mean the children will be lost.  Thanks to my grandmother and mother, it was easier for me to find Jesus because I was always aware of Him.  However, there are others in my family who took that faith for granted and never made it their own.

It is the LORD who found us, you and me.  It is the LORD who is bringing us through the good and the tough times of our lives, who gives us hope and the heart to rejoice in Him.  It is Jesus Christ who fellowships with us through our suffering.  It is Jesus Christ who is coming again for His own…so we may rejoice with Paul…

“I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me–the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.  And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing.”
II Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)

Stand firm, dear Sisters in Christ.  Whether or not you have the history of believing ancestors, determine to pass on the witness of your genuine faith in our LORD to your descendants.  May these lives we live bear the true testimony of Jesus Christ to all generations.

by Marilyn Allison

Reflections on Motherhood

 

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Today is Mother’s Day and as I sit here reflecting upon this day, my head and my heart are filled with many things.  I have been a wife for over 47 years and a mother for 45 years…a son, two daughters, one daughter-in-law, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren.  I have been blessed in many ways and God has, and still is, lovingly and faithfully bringing us through our families’ mothering challenges and trials.  It is not always easy, but God is our constant refuge and source of joy and help in all things.

Motherhood is not easy.  This is an understatement for sure!  Yes, there are many joys and blessings, but there is also the potential for much pain and heartache.

As I think about the mothers in the Bible and the trials they faced, I am reminded of the many ways God had met their need.  The first to come to mind are Adam and Eve.  Cast from the Garden because of their sin, they began a different life in a world newly rooted in sin.  Eve became a mother in this new world.  Her sons Cain and Abel were born—joys to her heart—only to have Cain murder his brother, Abel.  Although we don’t read this in Scripture, her heart must have torn in two and how she would have grieved over the loss of her children—Abel to death and Cain to being a “vagrant and a wanderer on the earth”.  [Genesis 4:12]  But God did not leave her there.  He blessed her with another son, Seth, who, when grown, had a son named Enosh.  Genesis 4 ends with this sentence: “Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD”.  From tragedy to blessing, God carried her through it all.  As we search the Scriptures today, we find godly men and women with hearts turned toward God in the line of Seth throughout all Scripture!

What about Hagar?  She had been given to Abraham by his wife, Sarah, to bear her a child when she, Sarah, was unable to bear one herself.   Then Hagar and her son, Ishmael, were cast out after Sarah had her own child, Isaac.  It is God who called out to Hagar when she had run out of food and water in the desert.  He told her, “Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him”.  Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water…Genesis 21:18-19

Remember Hannah?  Her heart longed for children and yet she remained barren.  Each year she would pour out her heart to God as she offered the yearly sacrifices.  But God, in His timing, answered her prayer.  The Lord did indeed bless her with a child, Samuel, whom she dedicated to the Lord’s service in thanksgiving. [1 Samuel 1]

We can’t forget the Shunammite widow who called out to Elijah that the creditor had come to take her two children as slaves because of her debt. She had nothing in the house except a jar of oil.  She obeyed God’s prophet to borrow many empty vessels.  She was then told to pour out the oil into the empty vessels and set aside those that were full.  She poured and she poured and the oil did not stop flowing until the last vessel was full! She was then able to sell the oil, pay her debt, and save her sons from becoming slaves! [2 Kings 4:1-7]

Then there is Naomi.  Her husband and her two sons died in Moab, far from home.  In her grief, she believed her life was over.  She had lost everything.  She returned to Israel with her daughter-in-law, Ruth, to live like a pauper.  But God did not let her stay in this bitter state.  He had plans to restore her joy!  Ruth, her daughter-in-law, married Boaz, her kinsmen redeemer.  They had a son, Obed…a son in the lineage leading to the birth of Jesus as Obed became the father of Jesse, and Jesse became the father of David! [Ruth 1-4]

One more mother to reflect on is the mother of our Lord Jesus.  Scripture indicates that Mary was a widow when Jesus entered his ministry.  She did not have Joseph there to comfort her when her Son hung upon that cross suffering and dying.  How she must have felt every painful movement of her Son as only a mother would.  At the cross, John is told by Jesus to care for her from that moment on.

This is the same God who also hears my prayers for my children and my children’s children.  This is the God who hears my prayers for my friends’ children and their children’s children.  God is faithful and trustworthy! He is full of compassion and He keeps His promises [Eve],  He saves and He blesses [Hagar].  He is the God of miracles [the Shunammite woman].  He hears the cries of the broken heart [Hannah].  He restores the broken, bitter spirit [Naomi], and He watches over those who are His [Mary].

It is God who gives us the ministry of motherhood.  He has entrusted us to bring new life into this world.  He calls us to love, to nurture, and to teach the next generation of children.  He does not intend for us to shoulder this privilege and responsibility alone.  He gives us His Spirit within us to guide and to instruct us.  He gives us His Holy Word.  He gives us Christian women to come along side us to encourage and pray for one another.

As we look in the Bible to find ways He has met the needs of moms throughout the years, we can know that He also cares for us and has a plan for us and our children as well.  Wherever you are in your mothering needs, draw near to your heavenly Father who knows all things and know He hears and He will work out His perfect will over those whom you love.  There is no need which is greater than our God’s ability to provide the way.  We are blessed to come along side God in the raising of the children He has chosen to be in our families!

I love how songs meet me where I am and speak God’s love to my heart and yours.  These few lines to the songs we sang today in Church spoke to my heart as I thought on this writing:  “I’m running to Your arms!  I’m running to Your arms!  The riches of Your love will always be enough!” And then, “Where there is no way, YOU MAKE A WAY! Where no one else can reach me, YOU FIND ME!”

God’s riches will always be enough for us!  He makes the way for us to go when we find no way.  He finds us in our innermost being and embraces us there!  So let’s remember to run to His arms!

Celebrate Mother’s Day every day in your heart!  It is our calling, but we are not alone!

by Pat Tingwall

Happy Mothers Day

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“He will feed His flock like a shepherd.  He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.  He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”  (NLT)

Meditating on this scripture and the care Jesus has given to us, and continues to give, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, led me to thoughts of motherhood.

I thought about the mothers-to be, patiently providing a safe shelter as their babes grow inside of them.

I thought about the new mothers, perhaps sleep deprived, who respond selflessly to their infants’ every need.

I thought about the mothers of toddlers who are vigilant to structure their child’s environment to provide love, encouragement, protection and safety.

I thought about the mothers of school age children who are exhausted with the need to keep up with the learning demands and after school activities of their maturing offspring.

I thought about the mothers of young adults, perhaps seeing them off to college or other opportunities toward independence away from home.

I thought about the mothers who have the bittersweet experience of witnessing the marriage of their little-angel-turned-adult, leaving home to establish their own nest for the future.

I thought about the grandmothers welcoming the child of their child.

I thought about the weary, perhaps frightened, mother sitting at the bedside of her needy one.

I thought about the mother of the prodigal, heart aching, often not even knowing where that child is.

I thought about the mother whose heart is wounded, feeling there isn’t enough of her to go around…feeling that she is failing her children…failing her expectations of being a mother…failing…failing…failing.

And I thought about El Shaddai.  Our all sufficient God who has the power to protect, the power to change circumstances, the power to forgive, the power to deliver, to keep His promises.  This name of God finds its fulfillment in Jesus, The Great Shepherd.  He gave everything He had for us.  He is ever watchful.  He carries us close to His heart.  He leads us…He gently leads us.  He is constantly interceding for us with Abba Father.  He is preparing each and every one of us to stand without fault before God, to be presented in purity with great love.

Is this not the part of God’s heart He has given to us as mothers?  Do we not desire to do this for our children?  Go beyond ourselves for our children?  Carry them close to our hearts?  Lead and teach them?  Intercede for them?  Prepare them for the day when they will stand independent?  Teach them to love and follow God?

It is not an easy path God has set before us and He knows that.  We can’t do it by ourselves.  He gives us His Word.  He gives us His Son.  He gives us His Holy Spirit to equip us to tread firmly in this daily walk.

May you know this day how greatly you are loved.  And may your children “rise up and call you blessed.” (Proverbs 31:28)

Abba Father, thank you for giving us Your heart to love our children.  We thank you for the times of blessing and times of need with them and we thank you for never leaving us alone in guiding them.  Thank you for being our source of strength when we are exhausted…for being our hope when we are desperate…for being our wisdom when we feel foolish…for being our protection when we are threatened…for being our victory when we stumble.  May each mother remember she is also a daughter and You hold her close to Your heart.  This Mothers Day may each one feel safe in Your loving arms.   

by Marilyn Allison

 

Perpetual Healing for the Child of God

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The Bible tells me that Jesus came to heal the sick, to seek and save that which is lost,  to save the sinner. One reference to this awesome reality is found in Mark chapter two, verse 17:

“When Jesus heard this, He told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

I am sick. My heart tells me this and the Bible confirms it.  And I want to get better, I want to be well, so I try really hard.  It isn’t helping.  To those around me, I look pretty healthy.  But, inside I have sin tumors. And they hurt me.  They hurt others.  They are deadly.

I’ve tried to heal myself.  I’ve tried to remove them so often.  Other times, I’ve exalted them in false humility and paraded them in rebellious displays.

As a child of God, tumors filled with pride press me to self-help, self-pity, self-denial, self-exaltation.  These hidden tumors compel me to analyze and diagnose the whys, so as to manufacture a believable case to explain away my foul thoughts and selfish motives.  These are the things that make me sick.  These are the things no one sees, but God.  He sometimes shows them to me, too.

I am appalled; (How could I…?).  Pride tumors press harder, insulting me.

I am so ashamed as I admit my guilt; and I’m embarrassed; (What will everyone think?).
I’m scared; (Will I be rejected? Despised? Condemned?).
I’m so desperate; (I need help!).
So I respond.

I must cover.
I must hide.
I must fix it all.
I must make it all go away.
Or, just pretend I didn’t see and make believe God doesn’t see either.

I am sick; this I know.  And, I have no remedy, not in my own power.  In fact, no human power, or skill, or treatment can remove what ails my sick heart.  No therapist, no medication, no surgeon, no behavior modification, no diet, no magic words, and especially, no pretending.  I need the Healer!  I need Jesus!

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

And, I need the Holy Spirit to guide me and enable me to follow Jesus.

This is my healing–to confess I am sick and in desperate need of God’s help to die to myself, my ways, my reasoning, my reputation, and choose to live for the Healer, through the Healer, and in the power of the Healer.

In my humble obedience He makes me well. One step at a time. Together.

By Dana Lange

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