A Change of Life!

When my husband and I first got married, we were what you would call – poor!  We truly had nothing – not even good jobs, so to speak.  But, we were young and crazy about each other and that always seemed to be enough.  However, not having money to do the things we wanted to do and having the ability to have the things we wanted, we soon grew tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck.  Now, almost 35 years later, we are so blessed with so much, including four beautiful children!

In John 6:22-40, Jesus is gaining popularity and the crowds of people go searching for Jesus. Interestingly, the crowds and the disciples cannot figure out how Jesus got to the other side of the sea.  They just found him there (John 6:25)!   Jesus lets them know that they are looking for him for all the wrong reasons – not because they believe in him, but because He feeds them.  Then they begin this whole discussion about bread and performing signs so that they may believe in Jesus.  When the disciples ask for a sign, they bring up that Moses gave the people manna from heaven (v.31).  But, here is what catches my attention:  Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father…” And, so I can’t help but to think about how as humans, we want to take the credit for all the things that God has given to us.

My husband and I worked very hard to get to where we are now.  But, it was not by our own doing that we can take the credit!  All that we have belongs to God – our possessions, our home, our cars, our money, and even our children.  It can all be taken away just as it was all given to us.  Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you”(v.27).  In other words, keep your priorities in order!  Remember first and foremost, the Christ that died for you, giving you the freedom to live in a life that is truly life!

Living paycheck-to-paycheck is not a fun way to live.  It’s stressful, it’s hard, and it is grueling.  Jesus promises, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”(v.35).  Put your faith in Jesus Christ, work for your eternal life through mission and outreach; If you are not a member of a church, join a church and worship; Be in God’s Word, and give back to God all that God has given you –

See if your life doesn’t begin to change…

Experience Samaria

Have you ever been so thirsty, that your lips stick together and you feel like you can’t even talk? I often get that way when I am really nervous.  It doesn’t matter how much water I drink or how much I try to hydrate my body, I’m still so thirsty.

A long time ago now, I had this dream just before I was discerning my call in Pennsylvania. The dream went like this: I was on an elevator and when the doors opened, I was in some other place that I didn’t recognize. It was one of those bizarre dreams that really never makes any sense. I’ll spare you the details, but I was wandering, trying to find my way home. I became so thirsty to the point that I could not speak. My lips just stuck together!  As I walked, I came upon a bench where two homeless men sitting. They looked so pitiful and honestly, I felt pitiful too.  I didn’t know where I was, where I was going, or what I was supposed to do. I tried speaking to them, but my mouth was too dry. I was so thirsty! So, I did the only thing I knew to do, I started praying.  And, as I spoke, I began to tell the two men about Jesus and how Jesus could help them and heal them.  I started proclaiming Christ! And, with this proclamation, I was able to speak! It was literally the only words that would come out of mouth!

In John 4:5-42, Jesus is in Samaria where he meets a Samaritan woman at the well, in the middle of the day. Samaria would have been for the disciples and “unknown” territory.  It was not a place where Jews lived. I believe there was a reason this woman comes to the well in the heat of the day.  She is a sinner. She doesn’t want to be seen by the other women.  Most likely, she is chastised, and even considered an outcast in her community.  And, Jesus calls her out on it!

Jesus begins his conversation with her by asking her for a drink of water from the well.

Right away, she is confused as to why this Jewish man would even speak to her. She says, “Why are asking me?” Jesus responds, “If you only knew what I was offering today! If you could only see that the water I have for you will change your life forever!”  And then, Jesus begins to lay out her whole life before her. Jesus says to her, “Go call your husband and come back. She replies, “I have no husband.” You are right, Jesus says, “You have had five husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband.”

Jesus reveals to her that he knows everything about her and she is convicted of her sin. This man standing in front of her knows her heart, knows her life story, and knows every mistake she has made. The women confessed her sin, “I don’t have a husband.”  Jesus says, “You are right, you have had 5 husbands, and the man you are living with now is not even your husband.”

Samaria is not a place. It is an experience of God’s grace! It is an experience that we all get to partake in without ever having to go to Samaria. It is an experience where we stand before our Lord and Savior thirsty for His amazing grace and love! Our lips are parched with sin, and, our confessions linger for forgiveness!

Jesus says, “Come – I will give you Living Water!  I will give you water that becomes like a spring of water gushing up into eternal life! I will give you water that is filled with God’s grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness!

What does this women do then? She leaves and tells everyone about her experience with the Lord! You see, when we experience God’s grace, His proclamation cannot be contained. You don’t have to worry about what you will say or do – it will just happen!

I believe my dream revealed my call to me. I had to go to Pennsylvania and proclaim Christ in that place. I have experienced God’s grace over-and-over again! I am called to proclaim Christ! I may not have the right words for anything else, but I do know that Jesus loves you and He wants you to know that!  Grace abounds through His death and resurrection!

Experience Samaria and be changed forever!

Jesus Prays for Us

My dad died 13 years ago and went to his grave never knowing his biological father.  There were even times the thought and wonder consumed him – causing him to often rely on alcohol to ease his pain of the not knowing.  For whatever reason, he just could not let it go.

Growing up as a child, I called the man married to my  grandmother, my grandfather.  When I was told the truth that my grandfather was not my biological grandfather, it began to answer a lot of questions about my dad’s pain that I often witnessed.

Of course, I began to ask a lot of questions and wondered what this meant for me.  Who am I? Is my maiden name really my maiden name? What are my roots on my dad’s side? Who are my ancestors?  And so, I have considered sending my DNA to Ancestory.com.  I won’t know who my grandfather’s name is, but at least I’ll know my roots and where I came from.

So, I went to Ancestory.com to see what would be involved for me to send my DNA so that I could understand my roots.  Here is what I found:

Discover what makes you uniquely you.

For Mother’s Day, show the strongest woman you know where her strength comes from.

After all, your family story is the story that leads you.

This was enticing.  I clicked the button that says, “Know more about your DNA” – And wow! For only $99 I can learn the complete story of me! And so, I have been contemplating whether to send my DNA to Ancestry.com.

In John 17:6-19, Jesus prays for His disciples. This text has rocked me to my core. I read it.  I then read it again…and again and again, and again.  I kept wondering:  Why would Jesus pray for me?  Why would Jesus pray for his disciples?  Why would Jesus pray for the Church?

I began to think about why I wanted to become a pastor.  No doubt, it was because I wanted to spread the Word about Jesus’ love for all people.  I love evangelism because I experience Christ by seeing others transformed from hearing the Word of God!  This is where I find my joy! I’m so passionate about mission, ministry, and outreach that I wanted more than anything to be with other believers who wanted to share in what I believe, we are called to do in the world. I love the unity of fellow Christians who seek the same goal of doing ministry in the name of Jesus Christ!

 After have been a pastor for a few years, I had a friend ask me, “What was the one thing that you were most disappointed about when you became a pastor?” I responded that I was most disappointed when I realized that others did not have the passion to participate in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ that I so much loved to do.  It was an eye-opening reality for me and has been a difficult journey over-all.

And, so as I think about my love for ministry and mission and what God is calling me to do, it is by no means easy in anyway. The reason is that the secular world tugs at us in every direction!

So, why does Jesus pray for me?  Why does Jesus pray for us?  Why does Jesus pray for the church? Here is what I think:

Jesus knew how hard it would be for us to keep Christ central in our lives – not just in our personal lives, but also in our church.  Jesus knew that if others saw our joy in doing ministry, they would hate us for it. Jesus knew that we would fail in honoring Christ in life and speech.  Jesus knew how difficult it would be to avoid enticements that can ruin our relationship with Him, and how it can even ruin the church.

The truth of the matter is that there is God and there is Satan. The only way for us to do God’s will is to have full disclosure of both realities! Jesus knows better than anyone what it means to be in the World where evil resides. Jesus knows better than anyone, that we live between two tensions – GOD and SATAN. It was difficult for him and it is difficult for us. For any of us, it is not an easy balance to sustain.

But, there is another reason why I think that Jesus would pray for us. And, that is because He loves us and he loves this church. This prayer comes straight from Jesus’ heart.  This prayer comes from ‘straight out’ Love for his believers. It is the night before his crucifixion, faced with an immediate future that will include betrayal, trial, condemnation, beating and execution. But, Jesus stops.  He stops everything and prays for those He loves! When in all reality, He is the One the disciples should have been praying for. But yet ,even knowing what is about to happen, Jesus stops to pray for us – his disciples – his believers.

But, I felt like there was still something that I was missing. These were obvious reasons to me that as we live as Christians in this world – the secular world exists between God and Satan. And second, Jesus loves us – For He came to save us, not condemn us!

As I sat and read this prayer over and over again trying to grasp why Jesus would pray for me and for us, I was struck by verse 16: Jesus says to His Father: “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world…” So, then…Where do I belong?  Where do we belong? Jesus then says, ”These believers were yours God, and you gave them to me. All mine are yours and yours are mine.”

We belong to Christ. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches,  We are the ones who are called to bear fruit in His name. We belong to Jesus! Therefore, our roots are in Jesus Christ, His Father, and the Holy Spirit! We are one and Jesus prays that we will always be one!

And, one more thing, we have been sanctified! We have been set apart from the rest of the world!  That while we live in the world just as Jesus did, this world is not our home. Jesus invites us to make our home in him when He calls us to abide in Him and we abide in him.

And so here is the thing, just as God gave Jesus what it took to accomplish his mission, so now Jesus summons God to give us what it will take for his followers to complete our mission for Christ. What is our mission?

We are called to forgive one another!

We are called to Word and Sacrament.

We are called to be faithful to the CHURCH.

We are called to be in a habit of a Bible Study.

And, most importantly we are called for concern for Jesus’s mission!

We are called to be in the world through outreach and ministry.

So you see, this prayer that Jesus prays for His disciples changes everything!  My dad lived his life wondering who was his biological father and what that might mean to him. But, you know what breaks my heart?  Is that it really doesn’t matter who his biological dad was– And, he never could see all the blessings God had given to him.  And, it doesn’t matter for me who my biological grandfather was.

I decided that I don’t need to send in my DNA to Ancestory,com to know where I come from. In fact, I think I’ll save my money. Jesus Christ is my DNA!  And Jesus is your DNA! Our home is in Jesus. Jesus is the root of my soul. Jesus is the root of your soul.  As disciples, our hearts are grounded in the love of Jesus Christ.

Ancestery.com states:

Discover what makes you uniquely you.

For Mother’s Day, show the strongest woman you know where her strength comes from.

After all, your family story is the story that leads you.

Discover what makes you uniquely you through your passion to do ministry, mission, and outreach in the name of Jesus Christ. This is where you will find Complete Joy and discover what makes you uniquely you! And, once experienced, you will yearn for more!

And, where does your strength come from? It comes from a God who loves you so much that he took the time to PRAY for YOU just before His crucifixion of a brutal death.

Just as God gave Jesus the strength and everything he needed to carry out his mission, God will give you the strength and everything you need to carry out your mission for Jesus Christ.

Your family story is the story that leads you.  Your family story is the Story of God!   God’s story is your story that will lead you and sustain you in this life – And, not only in this life, but also into the next life of eternity with your Lord.

Amen.

God’s Mission Statement

I think Mission Statements are important. A mission statement defines and gives the reason for existence.  The statement should embody its philosophies, goals, and ambitions.  I believe everyone should have a personal mission statement. I have a personal mission statement and every January, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I revisit my personal mission statement, and then think about the goals and objectives that I want to accomplish throughout the year.  For example, my personal mission is: “To help people deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.”  Then I begin to name and list all the ways that will help me to accomplish my goals, dreams, and ambitions.  My personal mission statement guides my actions – not only in my personal life, but also in my professional life.

I believe that if God had a mission statement it would be John 3:16-17.  It states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  This mission statement embodies God’s goals, ambitions, and the reason for the Son’s existence!  God sent Jesus for us!  Why? So that we could have eternal life with God in heaven!  God didn’t send Jesus so that He could condemn us and tell us how we are awful sinners, but wants to save us from our sin and offer us grace upon grace!  This is pure love!  It’s love because we don’t deserve it!

What could your mission statement be in response to God’s love for you?