Pastor Mary’s Pondering… February/March 2019
One of my favorite pastimes is building jigsaw puzzles. Some are really easy, others are quite the challenge but – who doesn’t like a challenge now and then! The one I am working on now is quite the challenge! The picture they give is not big and detailed so that you can see nuances and the colors are a bit muted, so not a lot of clear definition. However, it is a beautiful country scene!
My process is that I first hunt out all the edge pieces and build the frame of the picture and go from there, usually working on the larger scenes within the scene.
As I was working on it over the cold and frigid weekend we just had, I began thinking about the church and how we are much like a puzzle.
God gave us a loving foundation, guidelines to live by and the Church of Jesus Christ as the scene we are to create. The Holy Spirit comes into play as we “puzzle” together how the mission of our church will look – as we fit the pieces together.
One of the hardest things about building a puzzle is that each piece is needed, each piece has its own place – a piece that is to make up the covered bridge does not fit into the section where the trees are! I have had some pieces that all seem to be the same shape and color, but due to slight variations only fit together when in the right order. Sometimes it can get very frustrating. And so it is with building the church.
Each member, past, current and future is a piece of the puzzle that God has given us for our church. Each church is a piece in a much larger puzzle that God has created for our world. Each piece of the puzzle is needed to make the picture complete, even when we do not think it will fit anywhere, or as a piece, we do not think we are needed or fit in. But for anyone who has built a puzzle only to end up with once piece missing – you now realize how important one small piece can be. Without it, the puzzle is not finished, the picture flawed – The Church is not complete
God has supplied and equipped each of us with the color, shape and definition needed to fulfill our part of the puzzle. Each of us is important, each of us is needed to fulfill God’s puzzle for the world. As we piece together our strengths and weaknesses, our hopes and dreams, our faith and love of God and one another, the picture of Christ becomes more clear, the purpose of the church becomes more visible – more evident in our lives and the life of our church.
The best thing about this puzzle we call the church is that it is never ending. Just when we think we should give up – the Holy Spirit spurs us and we find the piece we have been looking for that is vital to connecting one part with another. Just when we think we are finished, God offers us more pieces and challenges us to expand what we thought was complete.
As we live out 2019, let us puzzle together, let us live into the scene that God has given us to build – let us find ways to live out the mission Christ has given us and be the Church and puzzle piece at a time.
Let us Puzzle!
Pastor Mary’s Pondering . . . January 2019
A New Year always brings new possibilities; a new approach to our lives, a fresh start, you might say. The birth of the Christ Child began a new perspective of “God with Us” for the people of that time period.
Christ’s coming into the world brought a new way of seeing God. Seeing him not as a punisher for those who have done wrong or who did not follow His ways, but to shed light on the God who loves us so much, He would actually come and be with us.
Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection shows us God’s love for all. Christ came to fulfill the law and to take away the sting of death, leaving us nothing to fear, but so much to live for. Our sins can be forgiven -we can always turn back towards the light of life and will be accepted and forgiven. Death is not final – it is a time of shedding our earthly body and putting on our spiritual body. These are wonderful gifts from the God of love and mercy, given to us through Christ.
Christ sheds light on the pathway of our living so that we can follow the path that God has set before us. If we stray, He calls us back, He comes and looks for us in the midst of our darkness. He reminds us how much we are loved.
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1 (verses 4 & 14) we hear the words:
“The Word (Christ) gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
May these words of promise and hope carry you through this new year of life on earth. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
May your new year be one of complete dependence on our loving God.
Pastor Mary’s Pondering . . .
My heart has been heavy these last months. The turmoil, name calling, shootings, violence against the police, mass murders, bombings and more. Evil seems to be running amuck. I don’t know about you, but when I allow myself to dwell on the darkness, it sucks me in, like a whirl pool, pulling everything around, in and down and under. The tendency is to throw ones hands in the air and give up. “What is the use?” I hear from some. “Glad I am old and won’t be around much longer.” says someone else. “Why have kids? What kind of a world will they grow up in?” says another. And after a while, I begin wondering too. But we must remember that although life may at times seem dark and hopeless,there is hope for us in Jesus Christ.
When the world comes crashing in, try lighting a candle and reaffirm that Jesus is the light of the world. who casts out the darkness of hopelessness. “I am the light of the world. Who ever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of
life.” (John 8:12)
I read a post on Facebook that made a world of sense. In essence it said that “no matter who becomes president—half will get to say, “yea! My person got it!” and the other half will be able to complain about the person in office for the next four years. Both candidates will still be rich and the problems around us will not automatically disappear. If we want the darkness to vanish, if we want the evil in the world to vanish, we are the ones who will have to shine with the love of Christ, so that this present darkness disappears.
Neither Trump nor Hillary or Johnson, or anyone else running for office is going to
come and teach our children how to be good productive adults, those are the things they learn from us. And not only our children, but all children.
If the world seems bleak and hopeless, it is because you and I left it become that way. Wehave forgotten that we have the power to change the world. We can sit back on our bum and watch the world grow darker or we can light a candle with the gifts that God has given us and shine the light of Christ on all.”
No one is too old, too young, too rich or poor, too uneducated, that one cannot show the love of Christ in their actions or in their words. Fortify yourself with the life and teachings of Christ. “The actions of our savior are so rich in meaning that every soul that ponders them find in them its own share of spiritual food to nourish it and bring
it to salvation.” – Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
You want the world to change for the better? Then do your part. Pray for guidance. Align yourself with the Word, read and study it and live out the mandate of Christ to love one another as he loves you. Yes, even our enemies. Be Christ in the world. Be his hands and his feet.
Instead of griping and blaming, instead of throwing our hands in the air and giving up– livefor Christ and light up the world so bright, that there is no place for darkness and evil to be. Don’t be part of the problem, be the solution.
“For I can do all things throughChrist our Lord who strengthens me. “ (Philippians 4:13)
May He our strength and our courage as we minister to our world. Let your light shine,
Pastor Mary’s Ponderings . . .
There was a post on Face Book from “The Empty Chair”. I thought I would share it with you. It gave me much food for thought and I hope it does the same for you.
When I woke up this morning, I asked myself: What are some of the secrets of success in life? I found the answer right there in my room. The Fan said: Be cool, The Roof said: Aim high, The Window said: See the world. The Clock said: Every minute is precious The Mirror said: Reflect before you act, The Door said: Push hard for you goals,
And don’t forget, the Carpet said: Kneel down and Pray .
God our Creator had given us reminders of his love and his ways everywhere we look. . When we allow ourselves to open our minds and our eyes and ears to His leading, everything we see, everything we touch, everything we hear and taste are reminders for us of the ways of God. Everything becomes an opportunity to praise, honor, and give thanks to God and live life to its fullest.
If you look around and see only despair, hopelessness and cold objects, then your heart and mind are not in the right place. Instead of looking at the impossibilities try looking at the possibilities. The Bible tells us that “ALL” is possible with Christ.
Take time, right now, just to look at your surroundings.
What do you hear from the objects around you?
Are they reminding you of God’s love?
Are they reminding you that you are a child of God and worthy in his sight?
Are they reminding you that God has a plan for you and will equip you with all you need to accomplish his purpose for your life.
We can apply this not only to objects around us, but to one another.
Genesis 2: 7 says: “And the Lord God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life, And the man became a living person.“
God created us and said, “It is good.” All of creation – “is good”. Each and everyone of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, has the breath of God in us. God’s Spirit lives in us all. Each person alive today was created in the image of God. Not just those that believe, but all. That is sometimes hard for us to acknowledge, but it is true. When we dis-value a life, we dis-value God! It is as simple as that. There is not a life on this planet that does not have value in the eyes of God. Your life has value. All lives have value. If we do not honor this, then we dishonor God. Those who look different, act different, think differently then you happen to, have the same value as you do – are loved by God as he loves us.
When you see someone different from you: physically, culturally, economically, of a different faith-base or life-style than you—perhaps you can ask God to show you the similarities instead of the differences.
May you always see the potential, may you always see the Light of Christ in all things and all people. May you always feel the love of God around you and his spirit in everyone. May you always live life to the fullest you are able. This is my prayer for myself and for you and all of God’s creation.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! This is the great mystery of God. Something only God could do – break the bonds of evil and death, which frees us from its grip. We are no longer condemned to a life of bad choices ruining the rest of our life – there is now hope and death is no longer a “dead end”, but a return to God’s heavenly realm.
All this is rather confusing. Many of us are “Doubting Thomas’s,” but somehow in the midst of all the chaos of life, God’s light has shined through and new life is offered – all we have to do is believe.
Paul explains it quite well in Romans Chapter 6 beginning at verse 5: (The Living Bible)
“5-14 For you have become a part of him, and so you died with him, so to speak, when he died; and now you share his new life, and shall rise as he did. Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body is no longer under sin’s control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin, for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you. And since your old sin-loving nature “died” with Christ, we know that you will share his new life. Christ rose form the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. He died once for all to end sin’s power, but now he lives forever in unbroken fellowship with God. So look upon your old sin nature as dead and unresponsive to sin and instead be alive to God, alert to him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And in Chapter 8: 15-16:
And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.” For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tell us that we really are God’s children.
Jesus did his part and now it is up to us to decide how we will live. We can choose to continue in the ways of the world or we can choose to live the life Christ provided for us on the cross. It is not really that hard. Once we make the choice, we will live into becoming more loving, giving, forgiving, grace-full, gentle, joy-filled, compassionate and more. We are transformed into new beings with Christ.
Does this mean hardship and chaos will no long be a part of our lives? No, it means that we have the power to overcome, because we do not walk through life alone.
Christ arose – have we?
Pastor Mary’s Ponderings . . .
Something we don’t think about too much is Spiritual Warfare. We tend not to talk or even think about evil or the Lord of Evil, Satan. Perhaps it seems to surreal. But Evil is prevalent in our world and God calls us to do battle with him.
As we travel through this Lenten Season, if you pay attention to the scriptures you should be able to see the nuances of a heaven and hell battle for the salvation of God’s people.
In John 17, which is Christ’s priestly prayer, makes it quite clear. If you look at the words of Christ and how he prays for us – to be separated from the ways of the world. Let’s take a look – due to the length of the scripture – please look it up in your Bible, have hand a pencil and a highlighter. Circle the word “world” and highlight every reference to Jesus or God the Father. It is ok to write or put marks in your Bible!
After you have done this – ask yourself these questions What does verse 14 say about the world and us? What does Jesus ask on our behalf in verse 15? What is the main point of Jesus’ prayer for us (verse 21)? In your own words, how would you describe the Christian’ s place in this world?
After reading John 17, it becomes clear that if we are in the world but not of the world, we are going to have conflicts. Those conflicts are spiritual warfare. Why? Because the physical manifestations of the world, such as the trees, the ocean, and the sky are not the problem. It is the forces that control the world that are in conflict with God. We, as Christians, are God’s children. Thus, if the world is in conflict with God, the world is also in conflict with us. The prayer of John 17 expresses the heart of Jesus, as He knows the battles that we will face in this world. The world hates those who follow Jesus. We are not called to be of the world, or worldly, but we are sent in to the world to be a witness of Jesus Christ. This is a miraculous calling and it takes the miracle of the Holy Spirit living in us to fulfill it. It also takes training to discern between the ways of God and the ways of the world. Because we are born into this world, we naturally think according to it. We have to be transformed to understand God’s ways instead (Romans 12:3). God’s ways are not natural to us. We constantly need to crucify our natural inclinations and desires to receive all that God has for us. God’s gifts are far greater as they are filled with love, joy and peace than what the world offers. The world promises instant satisfaction and pleasures that fulfill the desires of our flesh, a tempting offer but one that Christians must be constantly on guard against. Jesus understood the temptations of the world. He knew that Satan would use every kind of enticement possible to lure man’s heart away from God. Jesus also knew how difficult it would be for those who believe in Him but do not remain faithful due to the cares of the world. (parts taken from biblestudytools.com)
We really need to pay more attention – our response to evil is essential. (And we do not respond to evil with evil, but with love.) We respond with prayer – asking God to cast out the evil spirits that invade our mind and hearts and also in others. It is the best way to combat evil. Bible Study is another – it keeps our minds and hearts basked in Christ.
So, this Lenten Season, let us share in Christ’s battle for new life. Let us practice putting on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and join the battle of the ages, for our own sakes and for our world.
Let us pray:
Today I choose, Lord, to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of Your might. I put on the full armor of God, that I may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For my fight is not against people, Lord, but it’s against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.Therefore, I take up Your armor that I may be able to resist evil and will have the spiritual weapons to stand firm and fight against it. Amen.
What a joyous time of the year as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of our Lord and Savior!
Did you ever take notice to the Advent Candles and what they represent? Each week we light one. We start with the candle of Hope, then Peace, then Love and Joy and finally the Light of Christ. As I was pondering these themes, it dawned on me what perfect, absolutely perfect “Gifts” these are! They are ‘gifts’ that I would really like to receive – what about you?
The Gift of Hope – if we do not have hope in our lives we might as well hang it up! No use celebrating at all! I believe this “gift” is first, because without it we live in a dark, dark world. The Gift of Hope is found in the Promises of God – God promises to be our God; to never abandon us to ourselves. The Gift of Hope is the foundation of our faith that God’s promises will come to fruition.
The Gift of Peace – for me, peace, is not just, that there will be no more war, but that even in the midst of war and the chaos of our lives, we can have peace in our hearts, knowing that God is in control. We are able withstand whatever earthly things happen because our inner peace does not rely on those things, but on the hope that God offers us. The Gift of Peace provides us with a new way of living even in the midst of despair.
The Gift of Love – what a gift this is! The ability to feel loved and to be able to share love with others. When we are able to bask in the Love of God, allowing it to fill us to overflowing, our whole way of thinking, of doing, of living changes. The divisions that separate us fall away. The Gift of Love is like a fresh breath of air that fills us and renews us.
The Gift of Joy – I think this gift is build on the other three, Hope, Peace, and Love. When our hearts are filled with those gifts, then we cannot help but to be full of joy also. The Gift of Joy allows us to be free of all the burdens that earthly life throws at us and help us to look at the world with new eyes, seeing the blessings and realizing how blessed we are. Therefore, we can rejoice!
The Gift of The Light of Christ – the gifts of Hope, Peace, Love and Joy are the Light of Christ. These are the attributes of life that Christ brings us and when we receive, them, we find ourselves walking in the Light of Christ. All darkness dispelled.
The Gifts of God, for the People of God!
These are the true gifts that God brings to us through his Son, Emmanuel, Christ with Us! May we unwrapped these precious gifts each day, constantly offering these same gifts to one another.
“O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here!”