Sunday, April 16, 2017

Make This The Best Easter Yet!

Happy Easter

Easter is so much more than just a holiday. It is the celebration of an event that changed the world and is still changing lives today—the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Why not make this the best Easter ever? Open your heart to God by praying this prayer, and then allow God to speak to you through this excerpt from Proverbs31 Ministries.

Dear God, help me recognize Your voice calling to me this Easter. Empower me to experience Your love, though it is too great to understand fully, so I can know with confidence when You speak to me personally. Make me complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do you know Jesus Christ? Many have heard of Jesus and know a little about Him. Many sing songs about Him at Christmas and Easter. Some think of Him as a teacher or perhaps the founder of a major world religion. But, do you know Him personally? Do you know that Jesus died and rose again, not to start a spiritual movement but because He loves you and wanted to provide a way for you to know Him?

The Bible tells the story of God’s love for people. In the beginning, God created us to reflect His image and to have a relationship with Him (Genesis 1:27). We were created good—and then sin entered the world. We essentially chose to try life on our own without God, instead of living our lives for God as we were designed.

God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay the price for our sins and bring us into a relationship with Him. Through Him, we can know the promise of eternal life and experience the joy of knowing God here on earth!

If you would like to have a relationship with God, the Bible tells us that the first step is acknowledging that we have sinned and that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love (Romans 3:23-26). Next, we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) and allow Him to guide our lives. Where we once wanted to control our own futures, we now invite Jesus into our hearts to be Lord over our lives.

Knowing God’s peace, perspective, and purpose for our lives begins with a personal relationship with Jesus. Follow these steps to the new life with Jesus God desires for you. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b): 
  • Recognize the problem of sin and separation: We were created to know, love and glorify God. When we choose to go our own way, living life in willful disobedience to God, we are choosing to be separated from God both now and for all eternity. The Bible says we are sinners (Romans 3:23) and the wages of those sins is death. (Romans 3:23, 6:23) But “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Admit we cannot save ourselves: Because God is Holy, He cannot allow sin to enter into Heaven. Most people attempt to save themselves by their own efforts, good works or church attendance. The Bible says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) How then can a sinful person enter Heaven where God allows no sin?
  • Believe we are saved by grace: The good news is, in spite of our sin, Christ died for us. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • Respond to God’s gift by faith: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) 

If you believe these truths and would like Jesus to be Lord of your life, you can pray this prayer:

Lord, I confess that I have sinned against You and ask You to forgive me. I’m sorry that my sin has hurt You and other people in my life. I acknowledge that I could never earn salvation by my good works, but I come to You and trust in what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I believe that You love me and that Jesus died and rose again so that I can be forgiven and come to know You. I ask You to come into my heart and be Lord of my life. I trust You with everything, and I thank You for loving me so much that I can know You here on earth and spend the rest of eternity with You in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.

What do I do now?

Just like a new baby needs to be cared for and nurtured in order to grow physically, a child of God needs to be nurtured in order to grow spiritually.  Here’s how you can begin growing in Christ:
  • Tell someone: Tell a pastor or Christian friend who will help you grow and find your gifts of service. “Jesus appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11, 12
  • Join the church: The church is where God’s family encourages and supports one another. ”It is good and pleasant when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
  • Pray and read your Bible daily: God communicates His will for your life through His Word and prayer. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • Seek a godly mentor: A mentor teaches you the ways of God and how to live a holy life. “People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.” Proverbs 27:17 

Ready to begin a new life with Jesus? Want to renew a commitment you made to Him? I encourage you to step out in faith and make this your best Easter yet!

Easter blessings to you and yours!
Pam

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Nailed Jesus to the Cross


I nailed Jesus to the Cross. No, I wasn’t there that awful day; no, I didn’t hold the nail in place with one hand while bringing the mallet down as hard as I could with the other. But my sin did.

Although I have never physically murdered anyone, I have mercilessly slashed people with harsh, critical words. I may not have stolen money or goods, but I have stolen other’s reputations by sharing gossip or my own skewed opinions of them. With every sin I commit, I drive another spike into Jesus’ hands and feet:

My critical spirit
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My grumbling
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My lack of compassion
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My harsh words
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My unwarranted fears
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My niggling worries
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My unfaithful actions
nailed Jesus to the cross.
My unwillingness to serve
              nailed Jesus to the cross.

Can you hear the echo of the hammer as it hits the spikes?

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned, every one, to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:6)

But wait! There is Good News! Every strike of the hammer echoes not with condemnation, but with love from God! “For He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14)

Yes, my sin nailed Jesus to the cross, but His love set me free from that sin!

If we confess our sins to God, He will
keep his promise and do what is right:
He will forgive us our sins and purify us
from all our wrongdoing.
1 John 1:9

Be encouraged!
Pam
©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring has Sprung

Spring has sprung! Praise God!

Dick and I traveled to the southern part of our state this week for church business. While there, we slipped in a short walk around the neighborhood where we used to live. The spring flowers dotting the yards and the blossom-covered trees lining the streets were bursting with color and fragrance. The birds singing their joyous melodies, the fresh scent of rain-washed air, and the chance to walk hand in hand through quiet streets, awed our senses and renewed our spirits. 

Winter begins to feel unending about this time of year for me. I can get very “blah” and uninspired by the barren, colorless trees and flattened, faded grasses, so it was great to be reminded of the beauty that will be coming to our northern area soon. I thank God for the infusion of new life into my worn, insipid soul.

God has been renewing my spiritual life lately, too. My blogging friend Bill recently wrote that he had been lulled into a spiritual stupor from which he needed to awaken. I could totally relate to Bill’s feelings. Like my winter “blahs”, I was spiritually “blah”, my relationship with Jesus having become routine and overly familiar. I had lost my “awe”—then Jesus drew our daughter into a close walk with Him, a totally sold-out commitment.

A few months ago, Erin started attending a different church, one with more youth involvement for her sons. What she heard and witnessed there profoundly impacted her spiritually. Though she had asked Jesus to be her Savior at an early age, she had never really allowed Him to be Lord of her life. When she opened her heart to Him, He moved right in! As she began living for Jesus, He opened her eyes to His work around her. He showed her how His Word is alive and active and oh so relevant. It has been a wonder-filled experience that God has inspired her to share with me.

And my own life and faith are renewed by Erin’s accounts of the positively awesome ways God is moving in her life. Her wonder and awe are inspiring. Her faith and trust are contagious. Her enthusiasm and determination are motivating. My heart overflows with gratitude not only for what God is doing for Erin, but for infusing my own spiritual life with a renewed awe and appreciation for Jesus. My eyes of faith have refocused so I am beginning to once-again see the movement of God to which I had become oblivious.

It’s like the awakening of Spring—in my soul!

I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light,
so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you,
how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people,
and how very great is his power at work in us who believe.
Ephesians 1:18-19

Be encouraged!
Pam                                                            

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Off Track



As I dusted the other day, I straightened a stack of old story books. On top was one of our son’s favorites as a toddler—Tootle by Gertrude Crampton. It is the tale of Tootle, a baby locomotive, who is attending train school. His schoolwork includes tasks such as stopping at red flags and pulling a dining car without spilling the soup. His most important lesson is that he must stay on the rails.

One day when Tootle is chugging along, he hops off the tracks to play in the meadow with a horse he sees there. He likes it so much he makes a habit of it. His instructor, Bill finds out about Tootle’s escapades and comes up with a plan to get the little engine back on the tracks. Bill places red flags throughout the grasses. Red flags signal that a train must stop—something engines never like to do. Tootle learns his lesson and at the end of the book we see an older and wiser Tootle teaching some new locomotives about staying on the rails.

Often during my prayer personal prayer time, I find myself acting a lot like Tootle—getting off track. The slightest distraction can lure me away from my time with Jesus. A stray thought can become my focus. The need to plan for an upcoming event can wheedle its way into my prayers. A worry can become a mantra instead of a prayer. At times getting reconnected with Jesus feels like I am trying to wrestle the weight of a locomotive back on the tracks.

As I researched ideas for staying on task during prayer, I realized that most if not all Christians struggle with this problem. Sifting through the many articles on the subject, I found several common suggestions to help us keep our spiritual wheels on the prayer tracks:

Shut the door. Find a quiet place and a quiet time—out of the hustle and bustle of the household. Maybe it is while walking; perhaps it is in the bathtub. For you it might be early morning while for someone else it may be after the rest of the household has gone to bed.

Use ready-made prayers as a guide. When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, He gave them the Lord's Prayer. There is no harm in praying a pre-written prayer, whether it's from the Bible or your favorite devotional. I personally like the guided prayer times in SacredSpace.ie and Walk Thru the Bible’s “Quiet Walk”.

Read Scripture beforehand. Reading scripture before your prayers, especially scripture about prayer, like Philippians 4:6, Romans 8:26 or Ephesians 6:18, will remind you why you're praying in the first place and motivate you to get the most out of your prayer time.

Play music. For me, quiet instrumental music helps me stay focused while at the same time opening my mind to what God is saying and doing.

Speak. Praying aloud reinforces that prayer is a conversation. Thinking and hearing prayers can keep us in dialogue with God. I especially like to sing the praise portion of my prayers. For some reason singing connects my heart to Jesus.

Journal. You can either write as you're praying or wait until you're finished, then write a summary of your experience as a reference for next time. Write without restrictions—don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or structure.  For some journaling takes the form of art, sketching a little doodle that expresses what you are saying and hearing in prayer.

How about you? Do you struggle to stay focused during prayer? When your mind wanders, how do you get back on track? What are the “red flags” that stop these errant thoughts and turn your heart back to the Lord?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Nitty Gritty of the Church



Have you heard the old adage, “Church is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints,”? A discussion at a recent Bible study I attended got me thinking about it once again. What IS the baseline, nitty-gritty purpose of the Church?

Acts 2 talks about the formation of what has since become known as the church. “All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46 Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)

It seems to me that the early church formed to minister to those who had come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior. These believers then went out and witnessed to those who did not yet know Christ as Savior. Those people then became believers, joined in the church fellowship, and, in turn, witnessed to other unbelievers. “And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.”

In our Bible study, one of my fellow attendees, Paul, summed it up: “The church ‘within the building’ is here to equip believers to live for Jesus so that we can be the church ‘outside the building’, enabling us to reach out to others and bring them to Christ.”

Jill, another Bible study member, shared, “I see the church like a fire where I bring my poker to get it red hot so I can go out and light other fires. I need to regularly be coming back to the church—to the fire—to renew my fervor—to get my poker hot again.”

What is the mission statement of your church? What are YOUR ideas on the purpose of the Church?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

P.S. My blogging friend, Floyd, reminded me how easy it is to get diverted from God’s purpose for the Church. Sometimes even our good intentions can get us sidetracked--feeding the hungry without sharing our spiritual Bread of Life, providing shelter for the homeless without showing them the way to our eternal Home, visiting the sick without offering hope from the Healer, etc. All of these ways of ministering are good and needful, but unless we are also clearly and consistently sharing the Good News of Salvation with the people we serve, we are failing to fulfill our purpose as the Church.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blizzard of '17

Photo by Pam Williams

Over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours! Life in our area ground to a halt overnight. That much snow in so short a time is overwhelming, and yet—beautiful beyond measure.

For me, the weather event offers a rare opportunity to slow down, breath deep, and enjoy the quiet. Sipping a cup of steaming tea while gazing out the sliding glass doors at the pristine landscape developing before our eyes; watching the birds flock to our porch for sunflower seeds, imprinting the surface of the snow with their tiny little tracks; and working together with my husband on a jigsaw puzzle that creates a lovely picture from a handful of misshapen pieces—all gifts from God that would go unappreciated except for the down-time brought on by the blizzard of ‘17.

For others, the thick blanket of white transforms an ordinary hill or a common backyard into a chance for amusement that rivals Disney with all its wonder. I love what my sister wrote on Facebook, “Had a great day today. It's the simple things in life that mean the most. Our [family] enjoyed sledding and riding Pappy's four-wheeler. We had alot of fun and the kids giggled and played together. So very thankful for our family. Joe and I both agreed tonight that it's not the expensive things in life that matter. It's who you spend even the simple, down-to-earth times with that means the most. We are so glad our families are close and so glad we have each other! Thank you, Jesus, for each one of them!”

Not everyone appreciated Winter Storm Stella. My friend loves all things sunshiny and said of Stella, “Stupid snow.”

I shared with him my philosophy on things that happen that I wish hadn’t—This too, shall pass. “Don't be discouraged. Just think, next week the snow will all be gone. And next month you will be able to get your jeep out!”

For some, like my friend, the godsends of a snowstorm don’t start till it ends.

We’ve all lived through weather events that impacted our lives in out-of-the-ordinary ways. How did you spend your time? What blessings did God blanket you with because of it?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Paradiddles


“Watch me, Drummers! Look up!”

I can still hear Mr. Spayd, our band director, drilling the percussionists in our band, while the rest of us waited. At the time, I didn’t realize how important drummers were. I just found them exasperating. After all, how hard could it be to feel the beat and tap the drumhead with a stick? (At times, I think Mr. Spayd was tempted to take the stick and “tap” a few “heads” himself.) 😊

I later realized that the entire tempo of a piece in marching band is set by the drummers. Drummers give the instrumentalists our cues and provide the steady beat that keeps us all together. If the drum section gets lost, rushes, lags, or otherwise flubs up, the entire band follows suit.

From Mr. Spayd’s little aside lessons to the drummers, I learned a few drum terms—tap, rolls produce a sustained, continuous sound, paradiddle. I loved that word! To me, it sounded a lot like what it meant—two single strokes followed by a double stroke, i.e., Right-Left-Right.-Right—paradiddle! Many of our songs in marching band were introduced by “Tap, Tap, Tap. Tap, Tap, Tap. Paradiddle, Paradiddle. Tap, Tap, Tap”.

Along with all the other rudimentary drum skills, paradiddles help build muscle memory. Paradiddles enable drummers to emphasize or articulate different words and syllables and accents.

In developing as a Christian, just as in becoming a better percussionist, there are some fundamentals for me to learn that set the “rhythm” for my walk with Jesus. There is the basic Tap, Tap, Tap, of praying consistently. There is the continuous Roll of new insights He will unveil as I study His Word. And there are the blessed Paradiddles of faith-sharing, when God, through fellowship and witnessing, emphasizes the importance and blessings of walking with Him.

Above all is following our Director—keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the One who knows the pace He wants us to take and who can help us get back on track when we get lost.

Are you practicing your Christian rudimentary skills?

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—
practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

U-Turn


Do you observe Ash Wednesday? While many of us may attend worship services on that day and receive ashes on our foreheads or hands, how many of us realize that Ash Wednesday is really all about repentance—not about giving up chocolate, abstaining from electronics, or promising to pray more?

At its root, Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of a season of intentional awareness of our need for repentance. Repentance is absolutely necessary when meeting God. To repent means to change our minds. Repentance involves a turning from sin, with contrition—mourning and regret for those wrongs, to God.

At Patheos.com, Jack Wellman explains repentance as “kind of like heading out for a drive down the freeway but realizing we went down the wrong way and traffic is coming straight at us. We need to turn around and go the other way. That is what it basically means to repent. We are headed down the wrong way—the way to hell—and we need to change our minds and turn around and go the other way.”

Most of us have tried living our life without God. In a recent devotion from Quiet Walk, (a free resource of walkthru.org), the author wrote, “to repent, we must change our minds about [God]. We must stop thinking of Him as something less than the Sovereign Lord of the universe. We must acknowledge God’s right to define what is right and wrong for us.”

We must trust God to reconcile us to Himself, to make peace with our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for all the wrongs we have committed. But it is up to us whether or not we will turn from our sins and accept what Jesus did in our place.

As we journey over these next 40 days leading up to Easter, may this be the year we truly make a U-turn. May we realize, with great sorrow and remorse, that we have been living a sin-filled, self-serving life and may we make a turnaround and speed toward God and His merciful forgiveness through Jesus.


 “Turn your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: [Jesus], the main character in this drama, will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God.”
Matthew 3:11-12 (MSG)


Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Elephant Tracks



“Be sure that as long as you live you never forget what you have seen. . .
You yourselves have seen everything that the Lord your God did for you.
He showed you his power and strength. . .
The Lord showed you all this so that you would
know that He is God.”
Deuteronomy 4:9, 34-35

How could the Israelites forget? Deuteronomy 4 lists many wonders and miracles the Lord did for their nation. Yet, they constantly needed reminded of the amazing things God had done for them.

However, as I read this chapter, I recognized myself. How quickly I take for granted what God has done for me—saved me from sin, walked with me, taught me His ways and guided me along the path of life. How easily I forget, allowing the passing of time to lessen their significance—just like the Israelites.

But in the same loving manner that God cared for the Israelites, He is merciful to me. He sends me reminders—a song that takes me back to a special spiritual moment, an early morning walk filled with the sights and sounds of what only God could have created, a Scripture that leaps off the page and pierces my heart, the welcoming arms of a grandchild.

For my friend, Walter Woods, it is a hollow in a wooden altar where the craftsman missed the nail and made “elephant tracks” in the wood with the hammer. When Walter gave his life to Jesus, he filled those “tracks” with his tears. Now, every time he goes to that altar to pray, he kneels where the “elephant tracks” are forever indented in the wood.

And suddenly, Walter remembers how Jesus has changed his life.

Isn’t it amazing how, in a nanosecond, a simple thing can flood our minds with thoughts of what God has done for us and ours, turning our hearts toward Him?

What is God’s response? Deuteronomy 4:29-31 encourages us: “You will look for the Lord your God. And if you look for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him. . . You will come back to the Lord your God and obey him. The Lord your God is a merciful God! He will not leave you or destroy you.”

God welcomes us. . . He forgives us. . . He reminds us all over again of His constant presence and unfailing love.

Today, let’s intentionally reflect on all that God has done for us, on how far He has brought us, and how very different and good our lives are because of His loving hand at work in us. Let’s remind ourselves of how God has changed not just our circumstances, but our very beings, molding and shaping us, transforming us inwardly so we can understand and accept what God wants for us. (Romans 12:2)

What are your “elephant tracks”?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dawn

The Lands at Hillside Farms

God once said, “Let light shine out of the darkness!”
And this is the same God who made His light shine in our hearts
to let us know that His own divine greatness is seen in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6)

The light gradually penetrates the darkness while I sit quietly in our family room, enjoying my daily, much-needed devotional moments, before the busyness of life intrudes. Each time I look up from my reading and gaze out our sliding glass doors, I notice I can see the awakening world a little more clearly. The sun, ever so steadily and slowly, is brightening the day.

The unfolding of Your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
(Psalm 119:130)

I love my early, early morning tête-à-têtes with Jesus. As I read God’s Word and talk with Him about it, incorporating some insights from the writings of my fellow Christians, I gain a better understanding both of Jesus and of how He wants me to live out what He is teaching me during our times together. Like the sun slowly drawing back the curtain of night, the Son patiently and faithfully opens my spiritual eyes to His presence and His truth. Understanding dawns; I can better navigate my day.

For You light my lamp;
The LORD my God illumines my darkness.
(Psalm 18:28)

New insights dawn each time I read a passage. I have read through the entire Bible repeatedly. Yet God continually gives me fresh insight into His Word. What I learned the last time I read a verse is now added to and adjusted by new perceptions God reveals. How to apply God’s instructions grows clearer. New truths are brought to light from the pages of God’s time-worn book.


God’s word is alive and working.
It is sharper than the sharpest sword
and cuts all the way into us.
It cuts deep to the place where the soul and the spirit are joined.
God’s word cuts to the center of our joints and our bones.
It judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.
(Hebrews 4:12)

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Raising the Strong-Willed


Raising strong-willed children can make you want to run away from home at times. Both my kids were typical strong-willed children whose endless litany of “whys” would have tried the patience of Job and whose tireless arguments could outwit a lawyer and wear down a judge.

Strong -willed kids move at their own pace. As a kindergartener, Seth took an hour to eat half a sandwich and as a teen, Erin needed two hours to get her make-up on—all while my husband and I chomped at the bit to GET MOVING!!!

Strong-willed children like to make their own rules and often ignore warnings they don’t want to hear. These characteristics certainly made for some stormy times with our kids over the years. By the grace and guidance of God, we all survived those growing pains with no one being arrested.J

But the truth is, I wouldn’t want our kids to be any other way.

God has coalesced and congealed those strong-willed traits that challenged my husband and I while raising our kids, into admirable, enviable qualities in our son and daughter. Seth and Erin have become responsible, independent, caring adults. They step up to the plate and do whatever needs done—even when what needs done is difficult or unpleasant. They make the hard decisions, they brave the backlash of going against what’s popular, and they know what needs to take priority in life. Their backbone of faith in God guides and comforts them. I thank the LORD that they are resourceful, courageous, and compassionate individuals—and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Are you raising a strong-willed child and wondering at times, Can a parent run away from home? Be encouraged. God created your child with His purposes in mind. (Ephesian 2:10) He has wonderful, prosperous plans for your budding philosopher, amateur lawyer and pint-sized arbitrator. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sunshine and Son Shine


At my first sight of the waves rolling into shore, I started running. Anticipation bubbled up inside and spilled out in delighted laughter as I raced toward the water. Although the sea temperature was only 30°F, and the wind chill lowered the real feel of the air to the mid 40’s, I still loved every minute we spent at Virginia Beach this past weekend.

Even bundled up in my winter coat with my hood tied tight, I could still feel the sun warming the sand beneath my feet and penetrating my outerwear. Despite the chilly temps, the seagulls flocked in to grab bits of bread from my fingers, one of my favorite things to do when at the beach. Braving the cold, my granddaughter River and I chased the receding waters looking for shells, gifts of the sea left behind by the sub-freezing waves.

The joy of being at the beach overcame Winter’s efforts to squelch our enthusiasm. What an uplifting time spent with family at one of our favorite places.

Life has its share of “winters”—challenges that buffet our confidence, chill our hope, and freeze us with fear. However, when we walk with Jesus, the Son, we can anchor our faith in Him (Proverbs 3:5), not ourselves. He assures us of His constant presence (Matthew 28:20), restoring our hope. He helps us overcome our fears (2 Timothy 1:7), assuring us that with Him beside us, we can move through, over or around whatever trials we encounter. The joy of living in a relationship with Jesus can delight our hearts and warm our souls, even in the midst of life’s “winters”. 

Are you walking with Jesus? How does your relationship with Him bring you “Son Shine”?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Stone Pillars



“There, where God had spoken to him, Jacob set up a memorial stone
and consecrated it by pouring wine and olive oil on it."
(Genesis 35.14)

“Go into the Jordan ahead of the Covenant Box of the Lord your God. Each one of you take a stone on your shoulder . . . These stones will remind the people of what the Lord has done.”
(Joshua 4:5-6)

“Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.”
(1 Peter 2:5)

The Bible speaks often of both literal and figurative “stone pillars”—spiritual turning points—in our lives. As Christians, we are encouraged to share these experiences with others so that they, in turn, can find and increase their faith.

So, I decided to begin a list of spiritual markers in my life. This list is vastly incomplete, but I can add to it as I remember more and more “incidents” of life-changing God moments. Often, my markers seemed casual on the surface at the time, but I have come to realize they carried incredible weight. Other events, that the world attributes with great significance, merely affected a day, not a lifetime, and I don’t count them as markers.

Here is my incomplete list of “stone pillars”:

  • My mom and dad involved our family in the Lutheran Church in Mt. Union through choir, Sunday school, Bible school, and youth.
  • Confirmation strengthened my relationship with and commitment to the church.
  • Folk mass introduced and linked my life with ministry within the church.
  • Marrying Dick forever linked our hearts in every aspect—physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually.
  • Dick’s decision to take the Lay Speakers course brought me into direct ministry within the church.
  • Paul Kaufman made me question my eternal destination.Meeting Bill and Peggy Williams pinpointed the spiritual hunger in my life.
  • Asking Jesus into my home brought Jesus from Someone OUT THERE directly into my life.
  • Watching Christian TV programs educated me about the ways of God.
  • Ithaca’s Christian radio stationed introduced me to contemporary Christian music groups.
  • Being healed increased my faith.
  • Getting “all wet” for Jesus at the Baptist Church in Mansfield was a physical testimony of an inward change.
  • Jesus ’78 introduced me to the wider Christian community and to scripture songs.
  • Dick not being healed taught me God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we want Him to.
  • The Pleasant Grove young adult retreat at Fred Appleby’s cabin taught me the importance of fellowship.
  • Going to the Wesleyan Church and then returning the Methodist Church taught me God’s call can’t be sidestepped.
  • Seth’s sledding accident taught me about God’s providence.
  • First UMC Mechanicsburg taught me about working as a team in ministry.
  • Everett UMC showed me what it means to be part of a caring Christian community.
  • Challenges in my adult children’s lives revealed that God loves them even more than I do.
  • The gift of grandchildren opened my heart to love on a whole new level.
  • Interacting closely and frequently with a small group of Christian writers demonstrated how “iron sharpens iron.”
  • God continues to use blogging as a means of encouragement to stay the course.
  • Following Proverbs 31 Ministries showed me how telling our stories challenges and benefits others.
  • Finding SacredSpace.org drew me to a whole new level of awareness of God’s presence.
  • Through my cancer God taught me that He will carry us through--even when we go kicking and screaming into the battle.

What are the stone pillars in your faith life? I challenge you to begin a list of spiritual markers. Like the hymn “Count Your Blessings” proclaims, it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Take A Message


“But how can they call to Him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?” Romans 10:14 (TEV)

Where was she? My friend and I had agreed to meet at the church at 9 AM for a planning session. She was never late. Concerned, I called to see if everything was okay.  

“I guess you didn’t get my message last evening,” she said. “Mom needs a ride to the dentist this morning. I won’t be able to get to the church till 10.”

No, I hadn’t gotten the message. Chuckling, we commiserated over the unreliability of our kids with messages at times and agreed to meet later.

With nearly an hour to fill, I pulled a Bible from a nearby shelf. While reading in the book of Jeremiah, the word “message” jumped off the page: “Listen to my message.” (Jeremiah 10:1) “Announce my message.” (Jeremiah 17:19), “Give this message.” (Jeremiah 22:11). Eleven times the Lord instructed Jeremiah to “Proclaim” His message. After I got home, I did an Internet search, and discovered that the word “message” appears 49 times in the Good News Translation of the book of Jeremiah!

God has entrusted us with His most important message, the message of salvation from our sins through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He expects us to deliver that message to others. How reliable are we? Are we sharing His message? Have we passed on God’s message of Good News?

Often, we are more like the prophet Jonah than Jeremiah. We shrink from our responsibility, fearing that we won’t know what to say or how to say it. We make excuses; we hope someone else will speak up.

Even Jeremiah quibbled a bit about sharing God’s message. “Sovereign Lord, I don't know how to speak; I am too young.”

We can draw encouragement from God’s words to Jeremiah: “Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Then the Lord reached out, touched my lips, and said to me, “Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak.” (Jeremiah 1:6-9)

God has a message He wants us to deliver, and He promises to give us the words. May we speak so others can hear; may they hear so they can believe.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whiter Than Snow



“Pam, look! It snowed!” My husband pointed out the window. “The weather report didn’t even mention snow!”

I gazed out on a world that looked like God had taken a giant sifter and expertly covered everything with a beautiful layer of fine powdered sugar. Clean, fresh, and untrod, the snow magically transformed every object—from barren trees to the church dumpster—into a breath-taking landscape of pure white.

Isaiah 1:18 floated unbidden to mind: “The Lord says, “Now, let's settle the matter. You are stained red with sin, but I will wash you as white as snow.”

White as snow—that is very white, a white that is pure and unadulterated.

Sometimes things appear white—like the three Pekin ducks that reside at Hillside Farm year-round. While the Pekin look extremely white when standing beside our other breeds of ducks, when they waddle through the snow, quacking for food, their feathers are actually rather sallow in comparison.

When it comes to my sinfulness, I find I am tempted to evaluate myself like I do the ducks—by basing my goodness rating on how I compare with others. I think, “Oh! I’m not as bad as that!” Or, “I am a pretty decent person.”

In God’s eyes, however, I am as badly stained with sin as everyone else. I am not as innocent and good as I like to pretend I am.

There is only one way to be as pure and sinless as God requires; we must truly believe that Jesus paid the price for all our sins when he died on the cross. It is not based on our goodness, or lack of it. It is strictly a matter of faith in God’s ability to forgive us and give us a white-as-snow chance to begin anew.

When we put our faith in Jesus, he removes all traces of our sin, washing us even WHITER than snow!

Looking for a clean, fresh start in this new year? God can and will give you that chance. Just talk to him about it!

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

God Revealed


As I sit in the family room, enjoying my devotional time with Jesus, our big old furnace roars to life in the utility closet nearby. Soon the click, click, click of the metal baseboard enclosures expanding and contracting let me know the hot water has made it to the room I am in. A faint, not unpleasant smell arises; I guess it is the dust particles on the pipes warming up. Warmth permeates the chilled air and my shoulders relax as the coziness of the heat envelopes me. Though I can’t see warmth, I can hear, feel, and even smell its presence.

Like the invisible heat from my furnace, God’s physical form cannot be seen, (now that Jesus has ascended back into Heaven). However, just as the results of the hot water flowing through our pipes can be readily realized, the effects of God’s presence are clear and visible to anyone who chooses to look for them.

What are some ways we can see God? I find God revealed in:
 Scripture. Often, when I need comfort or direction, God’s Word calms my fears and speaks to my heart. Timothy 3:16 affirms this: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living.”
Prayer. Much of my prayer time is me talking. However, when I grow quiet, God guides my thoughts and feelings, letting me know He is present. Colossians 4:2 says, “Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God.”
Believers. At times, I need a physical hug or to hear a story of God at work. My fellow believers remind me that God is real, he cares, and he intervenes.  1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “Warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Creation. The beauty and rhythm of nature clearly reveals God. Romans 1:20 says, “Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made.”

What makes God visible to you? How will you look for him in 2017?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams