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 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!

©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!

©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!

©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!

©2017 Pamela D. Williams