God’s Story

All of us probably have a different view of what the Bible is and how we should use it. I know I have been guilty of saying it is a book of instructions to guide us and show us how to live in this world. While I still believe that to be true, I wonder how others interpreted it. I want to add that it is that and so much more.

Some look at the Bible in two sections, the Old Testament, and the New Testament with lots of little stories in between. I may have been one of those people at one time, but with my new biblical class I am learning so much more about the Bible. (Yes, in case you did not know, I am in school now). God is amazing and full of surprises! Anyway, the Bible is God’s story. From start to finish and all the stories in between, He is the main character. The Bible tells the path God chose to redeem humanity. It is a beautiful love story- God loved us so much and this story tells of His plan to send His Son to save us so we could be in relationship with Him again. Ezekiel tells us that the cross is the ultimate sign act of Jesus profound love. The Bible gives us guidelines on how to be in a relationship with our Heavenly Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and with each other.

We live in a broken world. Because of the sin of one man, Adam, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. We have all fallen short. We will never be good enough to earn our salvation. That also does not give us a license to sin either. (Romans 6) The Good News is because of Jesus we are all saved by His grace. God’s restoration is open to anyone who chooses His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. We are all on the same sinking ship. What it comes down to is if you will accept the life raft Jesus is offering.

The Bible says we will all be held accountable to God on judgement day for how we live. Sometimes this is a subject we tend to ignore or avoid because we do not want to think about it or simply do not understand it. But I thought Jon Weece did a great job in his sermon recently when he asked, “Do you want to live in fear of that day or trust what Jesus did is enough?” What a sweet message of love and grace that brings us hope.

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for, it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

The Handshake

The tradition of handshaking may soon come to an end. Our grandchildren may not know the concept and question why we ever did it. With COVID 19 and the rise of germ awareness in general over the last few years, alternatives are starting to appear. Even before COVID 19, the fist bump became popular among young and old alike. I have also seen the elbow touch as a personal greeting of late. Even my dad got in on the fist bump a few years before he passed. It seemed a little strange to me at the time to see him use it, but he was a hip dude, at least in that regard. I am sure he was being mindful of germs in his attempt to change his life-long handshaking habit for the new gesture.

Did you ever stop to wonder how the handshake got started in the first place? The history of the handshake, according to History.com, has existed for a long time, as a symbol of peace. Even though its origin is a bit fuzzy, one popular theory is that it began to convey peaceful intentions. By extending the empty right hand, it showed the other person they were not holding a weapon. It goes even farther to suggest the whole arm was involved with the grasp closer to the forearm and the shaking motion was to dislodge any knives or daggers that could have been hidden up the sleeve.

Over the last several decades, it has become common place to greet someone with a handshake, whether that be at the brotherly fellowship in church or a formal business meeting in the corporate world. It was so popular that the History site also claims there have been lessons on how to shake properly, with just the right balance of firm, yet not too forceful. I remember a time when a female boss of mine a few years back told me to always shake with a firm hand and look the person in the eye; she went on to reiterate the importance of doing this was particularly true when greeting a man in the corporate world. I never forgot that. Although I already shook with a firm grasp due to encountering weak shakes at church, which I affectionately called the limp fish, something I did not like. For this reason, some people regard the handshake as the first impression barometer of sorts. If someone’s shake was not firm enough one might question their assertiveness or confidence.

Now, with everything that is going on, even Christians have had to stop the practice of handshaking as a welcoming greeting. In Paul’s day, in I Corinthians 16:20, we see him tell the Corinthians to greet each other in Christian love, or a holy kiss. A kiss on the cheek was a common greeting. That is better than how Tibet greets one another, according to Afar Magazine, in an article about how people greet each other around the world, one sticks out their tongue. I am sure they had their reasons, which probably was like the original handshake, and both ‘stuck’ to become a common greeting in each area respectfully. We certainly have some strange traditions and most of us have never stopped to ask where they come from or why we still do them. I guess the elbow touch, or some other form of greeting will derive from the COVID era and generations to come will not have a clue how it got started as it becomes common place among their generation. Something to think about as we begin new habits. What kinds of habits are we forming that we would be okay with handing down to the next generation? May we all be mindful of the legacies we are leaving.

A Reflection on the Four Seasons

Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We all know these seasons and probably have a favorite. Most of us would probably say Spring or Fall is their favorite because it is the right temperature, you like when flowers are blooming or maybe the Fall colors take your breath away. Whatever the reason, good or bad, we have a love/hate relationship with them.

Recently, I had a different thought about the four seasons. I believe we also have seasons of life. A spiritual and physical. For the spiritual we could look at it this way:

Fall: We fell into sin (a fallen world)

Winter: Death to self (we realize we should be living for God instead of self)

Spring: New birth (renewed by Christ for a new life)

Summer: Maturity & peace

Now, let us look at our physical seasons:

Spring: We are born

Summer- We mature

Fall- We are aging

Winter- Death

Winter can be like a dry season in our life. But no matter how long we have been in a dry, dark season, God can bring new life and refresh us with living water of the Spirit.

Just like the valley of dry bones, if we listen to the word of the Lord and have faith, He will breathe new life into us. (Ezekiel 37)

Jesus replied, “I assure you no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So, do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 NLT)

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. (Eccl. 3:1-2 NLT)

Rescued

The Bible is one big story. It is God’s story, and is for the restoration, rescue, and redemption of His people through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Some time after the accident with my sister in 2013, I witnessed a black bird take its last breath, after hitting my front door head on. A tear escaped my eyes when its chest fell silent. My life could have easily been taken away in an instant when we hit that rock wall. But, instead, the Holy Spirit breathed new life in me, so I could live for Him to fulfill His purpose.

God chose to rescue me. Through a series of life-altering events, my life was transformed with an indescribable outcome that changed the trajectory of my future. I was missing one key ingredient in my life- a relationship with Christ. I was putting a man in His place. Once I got my priorities straight and started paying attention, everything else started to fall into place. I cannot express enough the importance of having a relationship with Christ. Something I never knew existed but has changed my life in a profound way. So grateful God threw me a lifeline through Jesus when my ship was sinking.

The only way I can express my love back to God for saving me and loving me is through my humble obedience as His faithful servant, something I strive to be every day, even though I fall short. The stronger my faith becomes and the deeper it is rooted the more I can trust Him with every aspect of my life.

My gratefulness is immeasurable. Some days I still cannot believe the impact Christ has made in my life and the ways He changed me. I am still learning every day and am happy to share the things He illuminates to me through the Holy Spirt to hopefully bring others to Christ as well.

Common Ground

I hardly ever get into a conversation about politics. It is just not something I want to debate. Frankly, there are bad things about both sides that make us think about morals and principles, or the lack of them. On the contrary, if we look hard enough, and admit it, there are good things about each as well. I do not want to get in any heated discussions about or with either party, it is just not worth it. I am sick of all the advertisements going back and forth accusing each other of the same things. It makes me not want to vote for either party, (but I will vote!). Ultimately, I will try to choose who I think is the best person for the job (this involves a LOT of prayer), and even though I feel there are slim pickings, my decision and final vote is between me and God, and it’s the same for others as well.

We need to be alert. Satan is driving a wedge between us using politics as his weapon. I have seen some of the closest friends be divided and lose a lifetime of friendship. People are taking sides and allowing the enemy to have a foot hold, to pit brother against brother, Christian against Christian. We need to let Jesus and love be the overarching factor that unites us, not let politics divide us. That is exactly what the enemy wants. We are to love all no matter who they vote for, even if we do not agree. We should show others who Jesus is instead of showing ourselves by plastering our worst on social media.

Change begins with us. Who can you love today despite who they are going to vote for? Be kind. Be gentle. Be humble. Be still. Be who God created you to be.

Conversations with God

The other day I needed to talk to the owner of my neighbor’s house, since it is a rental. I asked her for her landlord’s name and number, but she did not know it right of and scrambled to find it. As she was looking in her phone, she said, “I don’t call him unless I need something.”

This struck me a few days later, isn’t that what we tend to do with God? We do not always think to go to Him unless something is wrong. God delights in us coming to Him with everything. That can be in the form of praise, thankfulness, or just talking to Him about your day when things are going right. Spending time in reflection, of everything God has given us, should lead to gratefulness. He gives us the very breath we breathe.

Let us not forget that He is a good Father who wants to hear from us, in good and bad times. Even if He already knows, He wants us to talk to Him and share not only our upsets, and pleading prayers, but also our joy and uplifting gratefulness for everything He provides to us every, single, day. Let us not take that for granted. The textbook, “Illustrated Bible Survey,” describes our prayer as a dialogue with God. It refers to the book of Habakkuk where we see him questioning God. If we come to Him in the right attitude, we can ask the “why” questions, this kind of faith lends to boldness before God, but also humbly submits to His Sovereignty even when we do not fully understand. Our dialogue also involves waiting on God and listening for His answers.

Be Specific

Our prayers and goals are interchangeable. We pray for the goals we want for ourselves. We may not get the answer we think we wanted, but God always gives us something better. We cannot see the bigger picture or the view from His perspective. We are like a mouse in a maze. Our view is only of the wall in front of us. When we come to a roadblock, we can feel discouraged. But looking down over our lives is our Heavenly Father who sees all, knows all, and can guide us to the right path. He can remove the obstacles and place people in our lives to help us along the way.

I heard a minister on the radio who said our prayers need to be specific and measurable. His belief was that if we just ask for a blessing that could come in the form of a problem. Blessings are little problems that keep you from a bigger problem.

That reminded me of a lady I was in a life group with a few years ago. She always told us we need to be specific about what we want in our prayers. She told of a friend who prayed for a husband. In her words, “that is all she got!”  I had to laugh about that one.

I believe if we are continually pouring ourselves into the Father, He will pour more into us. The closer our relationship with Him, the more we align our desires to what He wants for us instead of what we think we want. God always knows best and wants the best for us.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we do not know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

(Romans 8:26, NLT)

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted? (John 15:7, NLT)

Bearing Fruit

Have you ever seen an elephant without a trunk? I recently saw this article about a baby elephant that was spotted with just that issue. See video and article here: https://nypost.com/2018/09/07/baby-elephant-without-a-trunk-sparks-concerns-over-its-survival/ This is an elephant’s most vital tool for survival. It uses it to smell, eat, fight off predators, and basically survive.

It made me realize, this is how we are when we try to live life without Jesus- (our most vital tool for survival). We need Jesus to help us fight off the enemy, eat (bread of life), drink, (living water), and survive.


We basically cut off our nose to spite our face when we try to go this life alone. In order to bear spiritual fruit we need to be in communion with Jesus every day. What small steps can we take today to invite Jesus into every part of our lives? I am glad you asked…

Here are a few small things you can implement into your daily routine:

  • Spend 10 minutes in quiet space (thinking and listening)
  • Ask God what He wants for you
  • Prayer time
  • Read Bible
    • Start a Bible plan on your phone (I use the YouVersion)
    • Invest in a good study Bible (I use the NLT study Bible)
    • Pick up the Bible and open at random asking the Holy Spirit to guide you where to read
  • Journal anything that sticks out to you
  • Spend time in nature with God

It does not need to be all at once – you can start small and add things as you go so you do not get overwhelmed.

Listen to his instructions and store them in your heart. (Job 22:22 NLT)

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. (James 1:5 NLT)

If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NLT)

Aman

A Greek word meaning: to believe. The verb denotes trust. An action decision to believe in the trustworthiness of a person. It can also signify an ongoing state of belief and the action associated with faith. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Greek glossary section).

Last week, I lost someone that had only been in my life a short time. But during this time, he made a great impact on my life. My new boss of only 78 days died at a very young age. Although at times, especially early on, the days could be challenging, God used him to help me use my voice to speak up and set some needed boundaries on my time.

My first thought was that I did not know what he believed. I did not have time to share any of my personal testimony with him or ask him anything about himself. But God is now using his death for a purpose in my life- to fuel the fire God placed in my belly to share the truth of Jesus Christ with others. I do not want his death to be in vain. I was deeply saddened over this loss and grieve the shortness of a life with such potential, but will use it to fan into the flames of the gifts God gave me, tell my story, share my testimony with anyone God places in my life that needs to hear it.

God gave me peace with the loss and I know he is in a better place, but it also reminded me of the urgency of telling everyone I love about the intimate relationship that is available to us and what a difference it made in my life. We are all called to share the gospel. We need to be good stewards of our gifts, talents, time, and treasure. If we are unsure of your gifts, let us ask God. Then stop talking and lean in to listen to what He has to say. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened,” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007 Matthew 7:8).

We are called to be fishers of people. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Mark 1:17). Jesus’ last commandment was to go out and make disciples- The Great Commission. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 28:19). Life is short, who do you love enough to share the truth? Ask the tough questions, take risks for the sake of the Kingdom. Give God all the glory. Be grateful. Share your faith in love. Galatians 5:3 says, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much He gave His one and only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. This brings new life. Do you believe this? Do you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means for us?

It is not enough just to believe, but we must put our faith into action and follow Christ wholeheartedly. Stop straddling the proverbial fence and go all in. If you are lukewarm, He will spew you out of His mouth. Jesus calls His followers to believe in Him, but also to trust, love and obey Him. Sometimes we have trouble with that word ‘obey’, but it is not the authoritative tyrant kind of obedience He calls us to. It is the type of obedience that a loving Father knows what is best for his little children. He says choose you this day whom you will serve. We can not serve two masters. We have a free will to choose, but there are always consequences to our choices.

When our time is up, do you we want to be found following this world, which is temporary? What do we have to show for our efforts when this world is gone? It is my hope that you choose Jesus because what He offers is an eternity of joy and peace. We are to lay up our treasures in Heaven, (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 6:20) People like to skirt around the truth and make everyone feel better about the choices they make, but the truth is written in God’s word for us to follow. It is a guide called the Bible. It tells us there will be a judgement day for the choices we make in our lives, but there is redemption through the blood of Jesus, who died for our sins so we can be saved and spend an eternity with Him in glory.

This Good News is be shared – It is my hope that you know Christ as your personal Savior, but if you have any questions about how to accept Jesus in your life or desire an intimate relationship with Him and not sure how or where to start, please reach out to me at angela@faith-ealk-ministries.org.

“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 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,” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, 2 Timothy 1:6-8)

(V9) “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did not do this because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time- to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and He will give you everything you need.” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 6:33)

The Chosen One

This is another story through the eyes of the character…thank you for allowing me some liberties in the details of his feelings. The story is based on the biblical account of Moses’ brother Aaron.

Moses older brother, Aaron, was an imperfect leader. Even though he was chosen by God for an honorable position, in his disobedience, he died in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land. As Moses mouthpiece, he spoke to Israelite leaders on behalf of the Israelites to convince Pharaoh to allow them to leave Egypt. He was also chosen to become Israel’s first high priest.

Taking second fiddle to Moses most of his life, Aaron dreamed of the day he himself could lead the people. At this point he only repeated messages God gave Moses. Aaron sat on a stump, carefully carving each letter of his name on a staff that would represent the tribe of Levi. His thoughts racing, he tried to imagine the staff budding and what that meant for him and his family. If he were chosen, everything would change.  This would be a great responsibility. He could feel the palms of his hands begin to sweat, and the tension in his brow became apparent as did his intense grip on the staff. His jaw tightened and then in one extreme exhale of air, he began to relax a bit. He would just have to await until the appointed time.

He delivered the staff to Moses, who took it with the eleven others, representing each ancestral tribe, to the Ark containing the tablets of the Covenant, and placed them in the Lord’s presence. Then they waited. The next day, when they arrived at the Tabernacle, Moses found that Aaron’s staff not only had buds, but it had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds, (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Numbers 17:8). You could not ask for a clearer sign. God had shown the people who will oversee the Ark and the staff was placed there permanently as a reminder.

In amazement, Aaron picked up one of the almonds and touched it cautiously with the tip of his tongue for a brief second and then jerked back. It was real. He chuckled under his breath and popped it in his mouth, relieved and nervous at the same time. Although a bit of arrogance crept in at first, he knew this job could not be taken lightly. If Aaron allowed anyone near the sacred objects of the alter, both he and them would die. God also provided for Aaron and his family, by allowing them to receive a portion of the most holy offerings. He had special garments made just for Aaron and his sons that would distinguish him as a priest set apart for the Lord’s service.

Great skill and care went into making the chest piece that Aaron would wear when seeking a decision from God. He would always carry over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he goes in before the Lord. The breastplate held sacred jewels representing the sons of Israel with each name engraved on them like a seal, serving as a reminder that the priest represents the people of Israel.

The four rows of gemstones carefully placed were:

  • red carnelian, pale green peridot, emerald, blue lapis lazuli
  • turquoise, white moonstone, orange jacinth, agate
  • purple amethyst, blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper

The weight of the breastplate rested on Aaron’s shoulders as a reminder of the great responsibility given to him by God. But God also provided everything Aaron needed to accomplish his feat and fulfil his purpose. God has always provided for us, even when we cannot see it. He generously bestows knowledge, wisdom, spiritual gifts, talents and fully equips us with everything we need to accomplish our God-given mission.

Aaron’s story leads him in the wilderness, his impatience with the Lord led him to make a golden calf for the people to worship; and his life was ended before seeing the Promised Land because he challenged God. This should stand as a reminder that even though we are chosen by God for a purpose and He equips us for the journey; we are not to worship His creation, but the Creator Himself. Our disobedience makes us miss out on blessings and joy in this life. Our gifts and talents are not to be made idols in our lives, but we are to always look to the One who generously gave us those gifts and give Him all the honor and glory He so richly deserves.

God’s timing is perfect. When we rush it or try to do it by our own efforts and take control, we are edging God out by letting our ego and impatience take first place. But when we surrender all to God, the Creator of all things, who knows all, sees all and has a plan for our lives, we are blessed beyond measure and everything will fall into place, as God designed. We can trust God with the outcome. He has proven to be faithful and saved us from our own destructive behaviors more times than we can count. His faithfulness endures forever. We when are struggling with something, we can ask God what He wants for us; but we must be willing to listen and make the necessary changes. That is not always easy, but it is worth it. Surrendering to God changes lives.

You are a chosen son/daughter of the King. That is not a heavy burden but an honorable mission that brings delight when we allow God to lead us one day at a time and trust Him with the outcome. It will put you out of your comfort zone into unknown territory, but it is a risk worth taking, every time.