Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
Deuteronomy 8:1-2 (NIV)

A sentiment appears on a memorial plaque in Bastogne, Belgium, where the famous Battle of the Bulge raged, one of World War II's bloodiest conflicts. The inscription, in honor of the US 101st Airborne Division, reads, "Seldom has so much American blood been shed in the course of a single action. Oh, Lord, help us to remember!"

As I write this message, I'm waiting to board an airplane to travel home to Pennsylvania after having attended a class reunion in Missouri. On March 22, 1970, I stood with 31 eighth grade classmates as we each made a formal declaration of our faith in Jesus Christ. We were surrounded that day by our families, friends, and fellow believers in Christ who witnessed our Rite of Confirmation. Now 40 years later, we took time out of our busy lives to get together and remember.

The word remember in Greek means to deliberate--to keep it on your mind. And it is often used in the sense of remembering something for our good.

In the opening verse of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, Moses addresses the people of Israel. After 40 years of desert wandering, the people were camped in the plains of Moab poised to enter the land of Canaan, the promised land. God had proved His faithfulness again and again, but as soon as they crossed the Jordan River, they would have numerous battles to fight--physical clashes with the Canaanites and spiritual frays in order for them to remain God's holy people.

As the Israelites gathered on Canaan's border, eager to hear what their elderly, faithful leader had to say, most of them had been born or had reached adulthood in the desert. Moses would not enter Canaan with them. In his final act of transferring leadership to Joshua, Moses reviewed the journey and reminded the people of their covenant with God. "Remember that once you were slaves"; Remember God's love," Moses urged the Israelites. It is to God that they owe their freedom and all the good things promised to them. This called for a response, "Remember to do"...keep faith, obey. This is the key to God's blessings. To forget God in the new life was to court disaster.

It was an absolute treat to gather with my former classmates! We laughed, jarred each other's memory of school day events (some, of which, may have become just a bit embellished with time), and talked about our families and lives today. And as we considered the Lord's faithfulness during the last 40 years, we also witnessed a new group of young people begin their journey as they made their vows of loyalty and steadfastness in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

There's an old song that goes something like this: "The cross before me, the world behind me...No turning back, no turning back."* Oh, Lord, help us always to remember!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

*I have decided to follow Jesus

Monday, March 22, 2010

A quiet heart

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

A business associate stopped in my office to share that he lost his job very unexpectedly. Because of my experiences during the last 16 years, I never take events like this lightly. My friend's news hit especially close to my heart, however, as this week marks one year since I left Missouri, moved to Pennsylvania, and joined my husband who had begun a new job.

Since that day more than two years ago when my husband announced that he lost his job, hundreds of activities have taken place, thousands of miles have been logged, and conversations too numerous to count have transpired. I begin to sweat just thinking about what we endured during the last months.

Endured. Yes, that is the right word. Moving isn't easy and at times it's unpleasant. It involves separating from those you know and love and reaching out to complete strangers. It entails letting go of the familiar and embracing the unknown. It means releasing one dream and daring to imagine the possibilities. It requires finding your way in a new place and creating a setting you can call home.

The story is told of an order sent at the outbreak of World War I from headquarters in London to a British outpost in Africa. The order read, "We are at war. Arrest all foreigners." A short time later, the outpost sent the following response to HQ, "We have arrested ten Germans, six Belgians, four Frenchmen, two Italians, three Austrians, and an American. Please advise immediately who we're at war with." While humorous, this story reminds me how important it is to guard our emotions in the midst of difficult situations. Impulsiveness is dangerous, indeed.

The Old Testament king of Judah, Hezekiah, faced such an ordeal. The Assyrian army was underway to begin a siege of Jerusalem if Hezekiah didn't surrender. The prophet Isaiah advised Hezekiah to remain calm and quiet within the city and await the Lord's deliverance. In contrast to the rest of Jerusalem's nobles who brokered an unsuccessful alliance with Egypt, Hezekiah believed the prophet and urged the people to trust Yahweh's faithfulness. The Holy One of Israel delivered Jerusalem. (2 Kings 18-19)

Trusting God's promise means repentance. We can confess our sins to Him without fear for He longs to be gracious to all who come to Him by faith in Christ.

Trusting God's promise means rest. When we trust God, we don't have to strive for ourselves. We don't have to run all about trying to protect or guard ourselves. We have the best Protector, the best Guard in God. We can rest in Him.

Trusting God's promise means quietness. We don't need to argue for our position when God is on our side. In trust, we can be quiet before Him and before others.

Trusting God's promise means confidence in the God who loves us. We won't be given to despair or panic. He can and will come through.

My friend, what tough situation are you experiencing? There is no person walking this earth more powerful than a child of God boldly trusting the promise of the living God. In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Photo by Tom Curtis http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=178

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Romans 8:34b

Given the billions of people who live on earth at this moment, plus all who have gone before and all who are still to come, it is mind-boggling that all of these at the same time are in the conscious mind of God.

That thought is included in a 2010 Lenten Devotions that I'm currently reading. The writer, Rev. Clark Gies, Director of Discipleship at Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots U.S., calls this belief a divine mystery. He goes on to say, "And this we also know and believe, that Jesus, Our High Priest, even now is in the heavens, making intercession for you and for me." The morning I read Rev. Gies' material, I didn't realize how his words would play a role in my day.

Right on schedule my cell phone's unique ringtone signaled my daughter's morning phone call. I picked up the phone from where it lay on my desk, pushed talk, and greeted her cheerfully, "Good morning, sunshine. What's happening in your world today?"

Between heavy sobs, my precious college junior responded in broken phrases, "I just know I'm going to fail my exam today. I think I'm having a panic attack. Oh, mom. I just know I'm going to blow this test."

Man. Parenting a young adult is tough. Parenting a young adult at a distance is even harder. Parenting a young female adult living away at college...well, you get the idea. On top of all that, in this particular case I suspected my daughter was in her vehicle somewhere between her apartment and the college campus.

"Sweetheart, I want you to hear my words," I gently coaxed. Pausing for a second to confirm she heard me, I began interceding in prayer to the God of the universe on my daughter's behalf. When we ended our conversation a few minutes later, I still heard her muffled whimpers as our cell phones disconnected. Concerned, I rolled the office chair that I sat in away from my desk, bowed my head, and prayed again.

In What Happens When Women Pray, Evelyn Christenson tells of the time her church's custodian struggled to vacuum their auditorium. Finishing the project dripping with perspiration, the dear man realized he didn't have the vacuum's electrical cord plugged in an outlet! Christenson writes, "We work, we pull, we struggle, and we plan until we're utterly exhausted, but we have forgotten to plug into the source of the power. At that source of power is prayer--the 'effectual, fervent prayer' of a righteous person that avails much."

We must never underestimate the value of praying with or on behalf of others. The right hand of God is the place of authority and honor. Christ is still at the right of God today, interceding for us. Added to that, we have His promise that He will be with us, "for where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20).

God was very gracious to my daughter. Later in the day, I received a text message from her that read, "I did so good on my test!!!!!" Now, that's the kind of note a mother loves to receive long distance!

Friend, "the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:6b). I pray you plug into that power today!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Because I said so

According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 (NIV)

I placed my groceries on the checkout conveyor belt and couldn't help but smile as I overheard the energetic dialogue between a young teenage girl and her mother who stood in line behind me. Determined, the girl pushed, "But, Mom! Why can't I go to Ashley's party?" "Because I said so," her mother replied.

How many times I wondered had I insisted upon my children's obedience based on the integrity of "because I said so." That's at the heart of what Paul says to the New Testament believers of Thessalonica when he wrote "according to the Lord's own word, we tell you..."

First century Thessalonica was a free city, as well as the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia (northern Greece). A bustling seaport metropolis with a population numbering about 200,000, it was an important communication and trade center located at the junction of the great Egnatian Way and the road leading north to the Danube.

Along with Silas and Timothy, Paul found the Thessalonian church about AD 50 on his second missionary trip. According to the account in Acts 17:1-9, the men left Thessalonica abruptly after a rather brief stay. The Jews, along with others, stirred up trouble because Paul was winning converts from those interested in Judaism. The newly-formed church sent the missionaries away for safety's sake.

Later Paul learned from Timothy that the young church was undergoing a problem. Thessalonian believers were experiencing anxiety over their believing loved ones who had died. They feared they were gone forever and would miss out on the second coming of Christ. With words of comfort and to soften their fears, Paul responded to the believers with a threefold message that contrasted sorrow and hope.

First he removed the new believers' ignorance of the issue by providing the right information. "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13) Through this biblical insight, Paul then accomplished his second objective. He gave the believers hope. Most significantly, the hope he shared was not empty optimism but anchored in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (v.14). Thirdly, Paul didn't deny that the people experienced grief. But that wasn't the point here. Paul's message is that hope in Christ gives comfort and removes grief.

As to the authority of his message, notice what the Apostle writes in verse 15, "According to the Lord's own word." The promise and explanation of Paul's message weren't figments of his imagination or wishful thinking. They were based on the fact that Jesus said so.

The hope that we have in Christ is the key to dealing with our sorrows in life. It's a hope that the unbelieving world doesn't have. You can believe it, my friend, because Jesus said so.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following