My sun porch

My sun porch

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mary's song of hope

"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!" (Luke 1:45 NIV)

I am continuing my study of Luke today. For those of you who read my blog but don't understand why I am using it to lead a Bible study...for those of you who think the Bible is outdated and not relevant to our lives today...I must tell you that the Bible does have relevance in our lives today and it gives me hope! In this day and age when just turning on the TV can cause one's hope to fly out the window, where is the harm in reaching out and believing in something that speaks to your heart? What is wrong with searching for meaning and peace and hope and finding it within the covers of a book that has been around for thousands of years and was inspired by our God and creator? Whether you think you believe in God or not, if everyone read the Bible and followed the teachings of Jesus and truly reached out to that creator God, he would touch your heart as he touched mine and the world would be a better place.

Read Luke 1:26-80

We read yesterday about Zechariah's reaction to the news that he and his barren wife were going to have a child. He didn't believe it...he didn't have enough faith to believe the impossible and he was made silent. His voice was taken away.

How did Mary's reaction to Gabriel's news to her differ from Zechariah's reaction? What did her reaction tell you about the kind of people God chooses to work through?

What can you do to maintain a servant's spirit in you day-to-day life? Is it possible to be as humble as Mary was? Can you develop a humble spirit or are you born with it?

Mary sang a song, or used pretty words to express her gratitude and praise to God for what he was doing through her. Those verses have always touched my heart. "My soul magnifies the Lord." I'm sure this news caused her some worries and really messed up her plans with Joseph. I'm sure she was worried about what her family and neighbors would say as she began to show and they found out she was pregnant. But even in the midst of that chaos in her life, she believed in the promises of God and praised him for what was happening. She had no idea that this humble beginning for her son would lead to the salvation of the world.

How does Mary's joyful song give you hope during the chaos going on in your own life? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Luke 1 - Begin at the beginning

"The angel said to him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news." (Luke 1:19 NIV)

I am in and try to lead a small group that meets each Sunday morning. The purpose of this small group has shifted and changed over the past couple of years. We began as a First Place 4 Health group, and had some success with that, but, even though we still encourage each other with our healthy lifestyle goals, we have shifted more to a Bible study group. We have found that many of us needed to focus more on reading and studying the Bible as part of our Journey. So, last week we decided to begin with the book of Luke. We are taking it very slow so all the members of the group have time to do the study. We are focusing on 2 chapter of Luke each week. I found some Bible study questions that go along with Luke and can perhaps help us to understand it better. I thought my blog friends my like to join us on our Luke Journey!

So, as we get ready to celebrate Holy Week next week, it is fitting that we begin at the beginning of Jesus' life. It is important to understand who Luke was. He was a physician and a friend and follower of Paul. In fact, he was with Paul through much of his ministry. The book of Luke is an accompaniment to the book of Acts. Luke is writing this letter to  Theophilus, who was probably a Roman of wealth and authority and was probably Luke's patron, or the person paying for his travels and work.

Read Luke 1:1-25

Before the birth of Jesus, we read about John the Baptist's beginnings. He was a cousin of Jesus' mother Mary. John's parents were old and had no children or had no hope of any children. When the angel Gabriel told John's father Zechariah what was going to happen, why do you think he was made unable to speak?

Being childless for all those years was probably very frustrating for Elizabeth and Zechariah. What can we learn from Elizabeth and Zechariah about handling long-term disappointments in our lives? What frustrations do you have going on in your life right now that you could entrust to God instead of trying to deal with it alone?

Having an angel appear to you with a message from God is pretty extraordinary and doesn't seem to happen very often in modern day. How do we hear from God instead? How can you listen to that little voice inside you that could be God speaking "good news" to you?  

Monday, March 26, 2012


"With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall." (Psalm 18:29 NIV)

The word "wall" is used in the Bible MANY times, (mostly in the old testament). Walls are built around cities to protect the keep people keep people out. Walls are built in our homes to define space. We need definition in our lives...we need to know which rooms are for what purpose. We build walls within ourselves too, don't we? Our mental walls help to define who we are. Unfortunately, the walls we build to define ourselves often appear between us and other people, or other groups of people and can, if left unchecked, lead to misunderstanding, jealousy, bigotry and hate. God doesn't want our walls to do that to us...He has no walls...He doesn't need them. But he can help us to break down the hurtful walls, leaving only the supportive, protective, load bearing walls that we need.

The Lord's Prayer begins with "Our Father, which art in heaven..."  We often begin our prayers with "Heavenly Father..." How does identifying yourself as a child of God help you? For me, knowing that I am a child of God...knowing that my father is more powerful and above everything comforts me and gives me strength. That verse, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) is very true for me. God is my Father, Christ is my brother...I can get through ANYTHING knowing this!

Relationships also define who we are. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a friend...these relationships shape who I am and who I am needed to be. They dictate how I use my time, treasures and talents and demonstrate how I show my love. Many times these relationships come with walls or cause us to build more walls...keeping some people and/or groups of people at a distance and we find it difficult to show them love.

I think I am a pretty loving and open and accepting person, and when I first tried to think of people I have built walls around, I had a hard time thinking of examples. We build a wall of deception around ourselves, making us look better to ourselves. It's hard to hold the mirror up to ourselves, isn't it? But we have no problem pointing out the walls of others, right? I think I have built walls up between myself and people who act differently than myself...people who party all the time...people who are less educated...people who are poorer than myself...self-righteous people...there are groups of people that make me nervous because they think and act differently and I don't understand them. I don't want to think that I treat people differently. I don't like thinking that way about myself...but I think I do.

Jesus didn't have many walls. He didn't let socio-economic levels, education, class, race, culture or anything else separate him from the people around him...except for the religious leaders of the time and he was trying to help them break down their own walls! I pray today that God gives me grace to recognize the walls I have built in my life that are keeping me at a distance and keeping me from showing his love to people who really need it. If you have walls in your life...I pray that God helps you break them down as well. It won't be easy, but with God's help we can scale those walls, get over them and then TEAR THEM DOWN!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Haves, Have-nots and those of us in the middle...

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them." Acts 4:32-34

Is it possible to have this happen today? That a group of believers would be all in one heart and mind and share everything they had with each other and with those that came to them that none would be this REALLY possible? 

Where I work, I have an opportunity to see for myself many examples of the "haves" and "have-nots." They all seem to co-exist, but there is much distain between these sets of people and for the ones that fall somewhere in between. 

I think I fall into that "in between" group...but as list the things I have, I realize I am really in the "haves" group. I am not poor. I have plenty to eat and a nice house and all my basic needs are met and I do have many "luxuries" such as a cell phone, a computer, etc. There's not very much left after paying the bills, and I worry about money, but I am not hungry.  I am not rich, and have full bank accounts that enable me to travel or give more to charities like I would like to, but I have plenty to have an enjoyable life. But, I think I am part of the problem...I THINK I don't have enough, and I will let the "rich" people deal with helping the poor. I am just one paycheck away from the streets myself, right? What can I do to help the needy?

That's where the "one heart and mind" come into play. My perspective needs to change. I need to let God break my heart for the needy, who break his heart as well. I need to let God work in my heart and mind and place me with others who have also experienced God's work in their hearts and minds too. 

This happened with earliest church. The disciples witnessed Jesus healing the sick and feeding the hungry and taking care of the needy. The Holy Spirit came upon them and they also did these things in the name of Jesus. They gained more followers because people had been helped and wanted to be part of the works that were going on. More and more people saw the God THROUGH these people and wanted to experience God for themselves. Then THEY shared what they had in the name of Jesus and soon there were no needy among them because EVERYONE shared! It was a miracle!

I think this CAN happen today! Even in this selfish, greedy world where the chasm between the haves and have-nots seems so wide. But it's going to take each one of us to have our hearts broken for the needy around us enough to let go of some of our stuff. It's going to take those of us in the middle to realize we HAVE a lot more than we think we do and not leave the job for someone else. It's going to take us to really be believers who are of one heart and mind and work together to share what we feed, clothe, shelter and educate those who have's going to take a MIRACLE! 

It's a good thing I believe in a God of miracles!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

This is God's year to act! We are all needy!

"God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, "This is God's year to act!" (Luke 4:18, 19 MSG)

"The needy" - what does that phrase mean to you? We are all needy in some aspects. Some of the needs we have are relational and some are emotional (friendship, community, love, peace, happiness and contentment.) We also have the need to learn...even those who hate the thought of school and homework have the need to learn and have their questions answered. Then, of course, there are the basic physical, water, clothing and shelter. And, don't forget spiritual needs...even those who claim to not believe in God have an internal need for forgiveness, worship and eternal life.

Right now, take a moment and think about your needs. Are all your needs being met? Who or what meets those needs? Thank God for your fulfilled needs. 

How about your unmet needs? What needs in your life are going unfulfilled? Think about it...I imagine we all have SOME areas of our lives that we still are in need. Take a moment to ask God to meet those needs and for the grace to endure what unmet needs may continue in your life.

Now...if you are like me, your met needs FAR outweigh your unmet ones. Think of the needs in the world today. If that is too big a thought for you...look at the needs of people in your own community, in your own back yard, so to speak. You may feel that just little you has no power to help people who have many needs in their lives. But...if you can open your mouth in prayer to God for your own needs, you can PRAY for the needs of others too! You can also pray that God would empower you to find ways to help meet the needs of others.

This is what is going on in my life right now...I am beginning to look at the lives around me. My heart is breaking for my community where I have so much and others have so little. There is much I have to learn about the people in my community before I go barging into their lives trying to "help" them...but I am willing to learn because I think there are "God-things" to be done that little me can be a part of.

I'm not asking you to give tons of money away, or give up every weekend to work in Christ's Table, or to do anything huge right now...just pray that your eyes and hearts are opened to the needs of others around you. What little thing can you do that will help someone who has greater needs than you do? Pray about it, and I'm sure God will show you something! That's what happened to me! This is God's year to act!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A good friend...

Friends come, 
Friends go, 
But a true friend is there to watch you grow.

I have been listening to and talking with a few young people lately, talking about friendship and what friends mean to them and what they look for and don't look for in a friend. It is interesting to hear about friendship from a teenager's perspective, and I find that my own opinions are not that far off from theirs. 

My friends are very important to me. I have been blessed with many and they have taught me a LOT about life. I also think God placed them in my life at exactly the right times...when I needed them. The Bible talks a lot about friendship, which tells me that God must place a lot of value in friends.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (NIV)
I believe a true friend loves sacrificially. Choosing a friend, or hanging out with someone just because of what they can do for you is just bogus. Putting the needs and desires of your friend ahead of your own will gain you a strong and loyal friend. Isn't this what Jesus did for his friends the disciples...and for us?

Proverbs 17:17 
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (NIV)
We discover that the best friends are the ones who love us and accept us for our strengths AND our weaknesses...and in in turn, we do the same for them. Sticking by a friend during a hard time, or forgiving them when there is an argument or hurtful situation is what you learn to do when you want those life-long friendships.

Proverbs 18:24 
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)
I have MANY friends, but there only a few that I trust with the hard stuff that needs to be held in confidence. The friend that is proven trustworthy is one who will keep your confidences and be there during the hard stuff. AND, to become that trustworthy friend, we must learn to keep our mouths shut and keep the confidences of our friends as well.

1 Corinthians 13:4 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy ... (NIV)
A good friend is able to maintain healthy boundaries. A friendship that feels like it is smothering you or not giving you space is not a good one. A good friend realizes the need for other friends and relationships and gives you space.

Proverbs 27:6 
Wounds from a friend can be trusted ... (NIV)
A good friend will build you up and not tear you down with hurtful words. But, a good friend will also tell you the things, even the hard things, that you need to hear. Learning to listen to those friends you love and trust when they are trying to help you will help you far more than you can imagine!

What is my purpose in writing about friendship today? have a friend, you must first BE a friend. My wish for you today is that you will exhibit these friendship characteristics today to someone in your life. Is there someone you know who could use a good friend? Is there someone you could lift up today? Give it a try! Who knows....that person may become the best friend you've ever had! How about a friend you haven't seen or talked to in a while? Could a text, email, card or Facebook message be JUST what that friend needed today? God teaches us about friendship because they are important to our lives. Take care of yours today and you will be blessed for a lifetime!

I am thankful and grateful for all the friends in my life! You all bless me far beyond my wildest dreams!