Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Spittin' Image

©2018 Bethany Shoemaker

“You’re the spitting image of your mother,” my mom’s friend stated.
“You all are related, aren’t you,’ the waiter at the restaurant noted. “You look alike.”
“Is this Pam or Lisa?” my aunt asked when I called her. “You sound the same on the phone.”
“Wow! I can tell you and Lisa are sisters,” a lady at the Senior Center remarked.

For years I have been told I look like my mother. And it is obvious that my youngest sister and I share similarities in our facial features, our body build, our voices, our mannerisms.

Recently at I read, “I am created in the image and likeness of God.” The basis for those words is found in Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness. . . So, God created humans in his image. In the image of God, he created them.’”

Biblical scholar D. J. A. Clines, in his article "The Image of God in Man", says that we are created to be a "copy" or a "graphic image" of the Creator, a visible and understandable representation of who God is and what He is really like.

That is kind of a scary thought—full of hidden meanings and evoking great responsibility. I know what it means to be the image, likeness, or copy of my sister and mom, but what does it mean for me to be the likeness and image of God that others see?

Scripture gives us a long list of characteristics of God:
Exodus 34:6 God is compassionate and faithful.
Psalm 46:1 God is always ready to help.
Psalm 116:5 God is merciful and good.
Psalm 193:8 God is not easily angered.
Joel 2:13 God is patient and forgiving.
John 3:33 God is truthful.
Romans 2:4 God is kind.
Romans 11:33 God is wise and knowledgeable.
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is trustworthy.
1 Peter 1:15 God is holy.
1 Peter 5:7 God is caring.
1 John 4:8 God is love.

These are just a few of the many Scriptures that give us a glimpse of God—and, according to Genesis 1:27, of who God created us to be. Through His transforming power, we can become the “spittin' image” of Jesus

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Holding Hands

Ever since we started dating 49 years ago, Dick and I have held hands wherever we walk. Surprisingly, we have discovered that holding hands is a unique habit—a fact brought to our attention recently when we attended our denomination’s regional three-day conference.

Walking around the gathering areas and grounds, Dick and I held hands, leaning our heads together to talk, and sharing laughter over little things that amused us. Towards the end of the first day, a volunteer from the Welcome center approached us. She just wanted to say how wonderful she thought it was that we walked everywhere holding hands. Dick jokingly told her, “Well, I stumble a lot,” and the three of us laughed at his witticism.

“Seriously, though, it’s nice to see a couple enjoying each other’s company so much,” she said.

It’s not the first time this physical display of our close connection has attracted attention.
  • “You’re the couple we see walking around town holding hands!” exclaimed a lady we met at an ecumenical church event.
  • “How’s your husband doing?” a fellow shopper asked me following Dick’s heart surgery. “I love seeing the two of you walk down the street holding hands.”
  • “Where’s your other half?” a store clerk asked when I paid for my purchases. “You two are always together, holding hands. We don’t see many people doing that anymore.”

Truthfully, Dick and I enjoy each other’s company! We want to be together as much as possible. It never grows old—even after five years of dating and 44 years of marriage! We are one, just as God said in Mark 10:8—and holding hands is just a physical manifestation of that oneness.

What is the key to our total oneness? Our shared faith. In March of 1977, we both trusted Jesus as our Savior, and dedicated our lives to Him. That commitment to Christ set us on the same path spiritually and set the foundation for us to continue to be one in every other aspect of our lives. Holding hands simply exemplifies it.

Thomas Gumbleton, in the National Catholic Reporter, writes, “The most important vocation in the church is the vocation of married people. If you go back to the marriage ceremony . . . we ask God's blessing on the bride and the groom because they are called to be witnesses to the love of Jesus. In other words, by loving one another in their married life, sharing that love with their children, spreading that love in their neighborhood, in their community, they are witnessing [for] Jesus.” (John 13:35)

Maybe all it takes to witness of Jesus’ love is a little hand holding. :D

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Love is a Witness

At one of our churches, Jane tagged along with her mom, Wanda to our home on Sunday evenings. Labeled as a “Young Adult Fellowship”, our group consisted of a ragtag lot of believers ranging in age from 14 to about 45. We didn’t exactly fit the confines of the usual “young adult” designation, but we got along remarkably well.

Rather than join in, Jane brought her homework and studied in the adjacent room. However, as the weeks went by, she pulled her chair closer to the archway between the two rooms, gradually spending more time listening to our conversations than studying.

Within two months she didn’t bother to bring her homework; she now sat on the floor beside her mom’s chair. Though she merely listened at first, it didn’t take long for her to feel comfortable expressing her opinions on the topics we discussed.

One evening after Jane felt completely at home in the group, Dick turned to her and asked, “Jane, what made you move from doing your homework in the other room to joining in our discussions?”

“You all care so much about each other! It’s so different from other groups I am involved with,” Jane answered. Then turning the tables on Dick, she asked, “Why is that?”

With little hesitation Dick replied, “It’s because each person in this room has realized he or she is a sinner—no one more or less than the others. And no matter how hard we try to be good, we can’t. We need Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to be forgiven and His Spirit to lead and guide us. We are all just trying to help each other understand how to live more faithfully for Jesus every day.”

“I want that, too!” Jane said, excitement tingeing every word. “How do I do that?”

Dick then explained that all it takes is to admit you have sinned, believe that, on the cross, Jesus took the penalty for your sins, and confess your faith to God and others.

That evening our group rejoiced with the angels in Heaven (Luke 15:10) as Jane committed her life to Jesus. Just as John 13:34-35 teaches, the love shown one for another in our group drew Jane in. Never underestimate the truth and the power of God’s Word!

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Burning and Shining

At Christmas, I love to sing “The Light Song” (wish I could remember who wrote it ☹ ) Here are the words:

God held the light in the palm of His hand
Then He knelt on earth and He made the light a man
And Jesus is that light, shining all alone
Like a beacon in the distance showing the way home.

The world has been dark, but tiny lights are burning.
We were lost and wondering, now to the light we’re turning.
And Jesus is that light, changing night to day
Shining in the distance; showing us the way.
Keep it burning, burning brighter,
Till the darkness slowly fades away.

When we hold the light and share it with a friend
We start a candle burning whose flame will never end.
Oh, care for the light, don’t let it grieve away.
For we have been instructed to help one another . . . to
          Keep it burning, burning brighter,
Till the darkness slowly fades away.
The song reminds me of John 5:35 where Jesus says of John the Baptist: “He was a burning and shining lamp . . .”

Would Jesus say that of me? If I am honest, I must admit that I often feel like I am hiding His light ‘under a bushel’. (Matthew 5:15)

Sin darkens everyone’s soul. As Christians, we hold the lantern that will dispel that darkness—Jesus, the Light. So, why do we hide this Great Light? What are the reasons why we are not “burning and shining”?

Some of us would say it is because we think shining God’s light on others relies on us, and we don’t feel equipped for the task. But the truth is, it is the Holy Spirit, not our meager efforts, who burns away the barriers between others and Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us who shines the Light of Truth into the darkness of another’s soul. Our witness is not dependent upon our proficiency, our efforts, our strength, our persuasive skills, or our wisdom! We are just the candleholder, not the candle! Luke 12:12 encourages us: “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."

Another reason we keep our fire for Jesus tightly contained might be our failure to contemplate the eternal consequences to those who do not find salvation in Jesus. Do we truly fathom the unlimited pain and horror that will be suffered in Hell? The Bible describes Hell quite vividly:

A place where there is gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30), outer darkness (Matthew 22:13), torments (Luke 16:23), unending sorrows (2 Samuel 22:6), eternal separation from God (II Thessalonians 1:9), burning sulfur (Revelation 21:8), no rest (Revelation 14:11), and unquenchable thirst (Luke 16:24).

We wouldn’t want our enemy to endure such torture, let alone those we love.

Perhaps another reason we hide our light is because we need to be more grounded in God’s love: “May you have power, together with all of the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18)

If we take the time to better understand what is at stake, experience the depth of God’s love, and depend on the Holy Spirit for the words, the sparks of our faith with catch fire and God’s light will shine on all with whom we come in contact. Our hearts will be full to overflowing. Others will notice and ask us about the difference in our attitudes, our reactions, and our priorities—the perfect opening for sharing our faith!

When we share the Light of the Gospel with someone else we not only shine that Light into his/her life, but we start a chain reaction of burning for Jesus that grows ever brighter with each passing. His Light spreads throughout families and churches and work environments and friendships.

How do you burn and shine for Jesus? What excuses have you given for keeping the Light to yourself?

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams