Back To The Beginning

On the heels of Reverend Billy Graham’s home going, I’m reminded that the message is still the same. God loves us. His love is eternal and His greatest evidence is through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When I had my first opportunity to teach outside of Sunday School or Bible study, it was to women at a homeless shelter. I was given two hours notice while on my way home, in rush hour traffic. As soon as I got home, I ran to my room and fell on my knees. while crying and clutching my bible, I told God I didn’t know what to say to these women. The answer came. “Tell them that I love them.” In the short hour (or less) that I was there women were transformed. I continued to go every month for over a year.

Fast forward approximately 15 years. I haven’t been doing anything regarding outreach but have been feeling a tugging. Two weeks ago, I sat at my computer and ordered enough feminine products for over 40 women. The plan is to distribute them to homeless women. I didn’t know where I would encounter these women or what I would say. A few days ago, I came to the realization that God had brought me back to the beginning. He’s sending me back to homeless women with the same message. “Tell them that I love them”

Is there something you used to do for God and you slowly drifted away from it? Do you feel like you’re walking in circles and don’t know what you should be doing? Go back to your first love. God is waiting for you there.

Jeremiah 31:3  Romans 12:1   Revelation 2:4,5

CAN I GET A DO-OVER?

At some point (at many points), we all fall short. We all misstep. We all make foolish and sometimes defiant choices. Some of those poor choices land us in a world of trouble. Fortunately, God is merciful. He gives us new mercies each day.

Israel Houghton sang, “you have given me a second chance”

There is nothing we can do that God can’t forgive. (1 John 1:9) That doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. Remember, CONSEQUENCES DON’T ALWAYS MEAN DESTRUCTION. Many times, the Israelites went off track and turned from God. Each account in the Bible shows God chastening them, warning them of consequences and carrying out what He promised. What’s beautiful is that each warning of punishment included a message of hope and mercy. Each punishment was temporary and there was opportunity to start over.

Don’t believe me? Here are some amazing stories of mess ups and do-overs laced in God’s mercy:
• David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11,12:1-24)
• Jonah and the big fish (Jonah 1,2)
• Throughout the book of Jeremiah (you have read the whole think to make sure you don’t miss it)

We can’t forget about Peter. The same one who denied Jesus three times repented and later spewed out a dissertation that has been credited for winning 3000 souls . (Luke 22:54-62, Acts 2:14-41)

I have a friend who was often asked to sing the sermonic selection at church. Many times, she started singing and would stop if she wasn’t pleased with the way she started. she wasn’t afraid to say “I’m sorry, can I start over?”. The congregation would smile and nod. We were never disappointed with the do-over.

Do you need a do-over? Well, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to pray to God for forgiveness. He’s waiting to hear from you, and even has directions to get you back on track. That map being the Word of God.

Pentecost

Shortly after I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I heard the term “Pentecost Sunday” for the first time. The entire week leading up to that great day, I kept hearing comments and announcements on the radio about it. I hadn’t been going to church consistently, but purposed in my heart that I was going on that day to find out what all the fanfare was about. I got up early, dressed my daughter in her cutest dress, and off to church we went. My level of excitement could be described as that of a child on Christmas Eve. I was about to learn about Pentecost and celebrate it with my church family. After a forty minute drive, I sat through one of the most disappointing services ever. Not one statement was made regarding Pentecost. The word wasn’t used at all, not even in the announcements. None of my Christian friends were even talking about it. A few years went by before I learned about Pentecost. Fast forward twenty years and I find myself sitting here, early morning of Pentecost Sunday, with the burden that there are still many Christians who don’t know the importance of this great celebration.

The term Pentecost is from a Greek word that means fiftieth. The first festival was after Moses led the children of Israel (Jews) out of Egypt. It was called “the feast of harvest”. (Exodus 23:16) In Leviticus 23, this feast is referred to as one of God’s “holy convocations” (23:2) This meeting was held on the fiftieth day after the Passover. The Passover feast, or feast of “unleavened bread” is what was taking place during what we Christians call “The Lord’s Supper” or the “Last Supper”. After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension the disciples and many others (120 according to Acts 1:20) remained together until the “day of Pentecost” . (Acts 2) It was on that day that the promise of “power” from the Holy Ghost was fulfilled. (Acts 1:8) This power was evident when Peter stood before a large crowd of scorners and shared the Gospel in a way that “three thousand souls” were added to the church. (Acts 2:41) As Christians, Pentecost Sunday is a day of celebration of the birth of the New Testament Church.

Like any other party or celebration, it is not much fun if you’re at home watching it on television (wishing you were there). Even the Apostle Paul encourages believers to not neglect “the assembling of ourselves together”. (Hebrews 10:25) There are some who are reading this brief synopsis and not planning to go to church this morning. I pray that this has sparked your interest and given you a hunger for an even greater understanding. If you have been a Christian for several years and your understanding of Acts 2 doesn’t go beyond the gift of speaking in tongues, the problem may be stemmed from one of two situations. Either Bible study and Sunday School haven’t been a priority in your schedule or you haven’t been attending a church that teaches the Word of God. Either way, today is a great day for change. I encourage all, who are able, to go out and join the celebration. GO TO CHURCH

A HAND FULL OF FRAGMENTS DOESN’T MAKE A WHOLE

What if I took a whole apple, cut it into pieces, placed it in a sandwich bag and nibbled on the contents of that bag until it was empty? Once I finished, how many apples would I have eaten? One, of course. What if I only ate half of the contents of that bag and dumped the rest in the trash? The bag is empty; did I eat the whole apple?

When my daughter was three, she heard the voice on the radio say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Her response was, “That’s right Mommy! I can do whatever I want through Jesus!”. Being fairly new at reading and studying the Bible, I thought it was amazing how well she understood that scripture. After all, that’s what I was being taught in Sunday School and Bible study.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”, is a staple in my bag of  “words of encouragement”. Unfortunately, it’s only a fragment of God’s message. At some point in my life, I added Philippians 4:8 to my bag.”Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things”. A little later, I added Philippians 4:11. “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” More fragments. Eventually, I had a handful of fragments:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (v 4)
  • And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (v7)
  • Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (v6)

Just like only eating pieces of an apple only gives us a portion of its nutritional value, we can miss out on God’s revelation to us when we only partake of portions of His message. Each of these verses are encouraging, but the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church of Phillipi was intended to relay a different message than that of my daughter’s, and many of our own, perception. When we put Philippians 4:1-13 together, the “words of encouragement” become encouragement and direction. Paul was encouraging his brothers and sisters to continue to praise God, while they wait for their prayers to be answered. He then told them that they will have peace in spite of the struggles if they meditate on those things that are good and pure (ie. the Word of God).  Through this excercise of meditation, prayer and praise Paul is able to be content in whatever is going on in his life. He was able to be just as content in hunger as he was in abundance.  Paul could endure all circumstances because he relied on the Word of God (Christ) as his source of strength.

When God commissioned Ezekiel to deliver His message, He commanded him to “eat this scroll”.(Ezekiel 3) Ezekiel didn’t nibble on it. He opened his mouth and God fed it to him – the whole thing. I am encouraged, and I encourage all, to EAT THE WHOLE.