This is the end…

Over the years I have read more than few tabloid covers that show that the end is near or is here and the whole world is coming to an end. I have often just shaken my head and continued to walk toward the cashier. Jesus Himself said that no one but God knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). But in 1 Peter 4:7 Peter seems to contradict Jesus, when he says, “The end of all things is near.” As my pastor pointed out, the end is near because we live in between the Ascension and the Return of Jesus. We live in the waiting period. 

The same kind of ready-waiting as a pregnant woman in the last weeks of her pregnancy or a person whose house is on the market. We are to “be clear minded and self-controlled so that we can pray,” (1 Peter 4:7). When we are anticipating something, especially something we are excited about, we are attentive, watching for it. Think of little kids at Christmas or just before their birthdays, counting down the days, doing whatever they can to hurry it along. 

That is the way we are to live as believers, anticipating Jesus. But not only are we to anticipate Him, but we are also supposed to invite others. First Peter 4 continues in verses 10 and 11, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” In other words, the ultimate gift, Salvation, is to be shared with those who have not heard the Good News- now. Since we are living when the end is near, there is no time to lose, no time to waste. 

“The church was chosen by God to make a difference in the world. There is no plan B.” ~Rich Mullins. 

While I am not going to stand on a street corner with a sign in my hands, I do recognize that days are dwindling for us to share and live out the Gospel. My prayer, Best Beloved, is that what I do and what I say will draw others to Christ. I pray that when they meet me they will see Him instead. We remember the person or event that called us to Christ, let’s in turn, be the same for someone else. 

You may wonder what that looks like, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you. Spend time in prayer, ask God where He is working and meet Hm there. It might be sweeping a sidewalk when it snows for your elderly neighbor. Or bringing a meal for a friend who is struggling with paying his or her bills. Invite a friend or coworker who will be alone for Thanksgiving to come and share the meal with you. There are hundreds of ways you and I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s just our choice whether we will obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Dear Ones, while it is still called “today” it’s our job to act, the end will be too late. 

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Cavities

Today at the dentist, I started thinking about cavities. The decay, caused by the simplest things, which leads to immense pain and often a large bill if not cared for immediately.

The dentist mentioned that if the crown he had placed on a tooth were to come off the body would begin to fill the cavity or space left behind. What an interesting fact, our bodies want to fill the voids we have.

Looking at this from a Biblical point of view, I saw so much of our faith story in the two perspectives of a cavity. The first cavity I mentioned is a lot like sin- especially the secret sins we think we’ve hidden from others. They may start small, like a piece of food or sweets that wasn’t fully removed when we brushed and flossed.

Over time, this will begin to destroy the good, protective layer we have around us. If it isn’t addressed and dealt with in the early stages the damage can be severe. Only the dentist with his or her surgical treatment will be able to remove the decay and restore the tooth. Often with a filling and sometimes with a crown.

The second cavity I mentioned, just shows how much our body does not want to be empty or without. Blaise Pascal described it this way, There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ.

We will seek to fill this cavity or vacuum with God or we will try to fill it with lesser gods of money, power, alcohol, sex, even the idea of religion. The only way we can find the peace we need is to be honest and even humble enough to admit we need God to fill us. To remove the decay, to fill us with His Holy Spirit and give us a crown of life.

Romans 5:8 says, God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinner , Christ died for us. We may not have recognized that we have a void, but God knows, and He has the answer for us. it’s Jesus.

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seeds and stones

God can use the big, shiny personalities we see on television to impact the world for His purposes and glory. I know He has and will continue to do so. But one of the parts of God’s plan that I love most, is that He also uses the common place to teach of His love for the world, His power, and His victory over the enemy.  Two items that have come to symbolize the Christian faith are the mustard seed and small stones.

 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade,” (Mark 4:30-32, bold mine).

The mustard seed is used to represent the smallest kind of faith, the kind that would be dismissed or overlooked by others. But this same inkling of faith can grow and become something majestic, something no one could imagine.

 

The image of the stone is found in multiple places in Scripture, but the stones I think of are the simple stones found in the river bed near David’s feet. These stones were not given a second thought unless they worked their way into a sandal. However, these same stones in the hand of a young, shepherd boy were used to take down the giant man and soldier, Goliath. There wasn’t a magic skill in David’s hands or in the stones. It was the faith David had in the God he followed. God took David’s skills and used them for His glory. It was enough for David. 

The point is, the little things, the every day things in life become holy and sacred when used for the purposes of God. The stones, the seeds that are planted, the “common” believer, all of them are supernaturally touched because of the obedience of the user.

Is more faith being shown by the person who draws attention to his or her serving during the holidays than the person who serves faithfully behind the scenes at a soup kitchen the other days of the year? What about the person who has been a missionary in a foreign country for years, known only to his or her immediate family and church friends? So many times we hear stories about the people who are serving God in a very public way and we are drawn to them. For me though, I am more encouraged to hear stories of men and women who are obscured by the shadows and yet work day in and day out for the Audience of One.

First Corinthians 1:27 says it best,  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God doesn’t use the things, the people, the circumstances, that will draw attention away from Him. He purposes for us to draw attention toward Him. It isn’t our actions or inaction that will bring people to Christ. It is God working through us, calling to the lost and the broken, inviting them to come and be healed, made whole. By His great grace.

So, Best Beloved, when we are called to serve God, either behind the scenes or front-and-center, let us remember for Whom the glory belongs–no one other than Jesus.

 

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tenacious truth

As a young girl I would often study the pictures hanging in my grandparents’ homes. Some were of family members taken years ago, when they were young. Others were aerial photos of their family farms where they grew up. But the picture that I stood in front of the most was of a woman, surrounded by crashing waves, clinging to a cross made of stone. My German great-grandmother had an image like this hanging in her bedroom and my Swedish great-grandmother had a similar image hanging in her living room. I always thought of these two women as being so different in their personalities, but seeing these pictures somehow brought them closer together.

I now have both images in my home in places of honor to remember the faith each woman had. The legacy they left behind for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My great grandmothers clung to God when they lost children, their husbands, and experienced other hardships.

I have now walked with Jesus for more than half my life. I have had my faith rocked by unforeseen heartbreak and I have clung to the Cross. I have watched people who have floundered and been tossed about because they didn’t have faith in God to see them through. Again and again, the image of the woman finding safety and security in the Cross while in the middle of a storm came to mind.

The artist of the picture drew the woman with a look of determination and yet there is a sense that she knows it isn’t her strength that keeps her there. The Truth of the Cross is that it is Christ Himself who holds us, protects us, and saves us in these storms. I often think that’s why Scripture tells of Jesus calming the storms (Mark 4:39). Time and time again, when the winds ravage us, the waters rise, and despair tells us all is lost, the Cross stands firm. It does not move, it is not going to fall under the weight and the pressure. It is going to stand. The Cross is unwavering and by calling out to Jesus we will find ourselves drawn to Him.

He will uphold us in his mighty right hand (Isaiah 41:10). This is the tenacious truth of Christ. He seeks us and saves us (Luke 15) and we find ourselves securely surrounded by Him every. single. time.

Best Beloved, what are you clinging to today? Your job? Your title? Your bank account? What will hold you when you are surrounded by despair? What will give you hope? Is it time to be honest with yourself and cling to the Truth? Jesus will never leave you, never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He will seek you out, searching all over the world to find you. It’s just a decision that you need to make whether you want to turn to Him or continue to try to find salvation in finite things.

Is it time for you to cling tenaciously to the Truth of that beautiful Cross?

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

~The Old Rugged Cross music and lyrics by George Bennard

 

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full price or clearance

I have a dear friend who struggles with trust. The hurts she has experienced have left her believing that she is not worthy of being a priority in someone else’s life. She is apologetic when she has to ask for something, not wanting to put someone out, even if she is really in need. It’s as if she thinks that she is about as valuable as the broken toy on the clearance shelves. At one time she mattered, now parts are missing, she is tattered, broken, and barely worth the ink on the price tag she bears.

It makes my heart hurt because I have been there. I have doubted, wondered if anyone cared, if I mattered. It’s one of the darkest periods in my life. The enemy had set his teeth and claws deeply into my soul and had me believing I was not worth the full price that God said I was worth. The price of His Son on the Cross for me. It wasn’t until years after I became a believer that I saw the value of who I was in Christ. This is why I am so adamant to tell people what they are worth. Their place in this world, at this time, for the purposes they have, is all created by God Himself. There is no lie, no whisper, no doubt that can erase this truth.

When Jesus died on the Cross, He didn’t add me onto the list of the forgiven as a consolation. I received the full amount of forgiveness that was offered by Heaven. Which means, that from God’s perspective, I am valuable. I have worth. And the same thing is true about you, Dear Ones. 

We tend to forget the power in John 3:16, For God so loved the world [you and me- Dear Ones] that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. It isn’t just for our eternal life, it is to remind us of the price tag we bear. It may as well say, “God said I was worth everything.”

O Best Beloved, if you were asked what was on your price tag, what would you say? Do you see the word Priceless written across your life? Do you see the love God has for you? Or do you still struggle with the Clearance tag? I do not condemn you for the thoughts you may be having, but I do challenge you to tear off the tag and stand in the truth of who God says you are- precious, prized, valued, loved, and treasured above all things. Ephesians 1:3-8 says in love we are blessed, accepted, adopted, chosen, redeemed, and forgiven.

It’s time to change the tags we wear. Scripture is clear we are children of the Living God, who loved us beyond all description. And He knows all about us and says even then, we are priceless.

Let us begin to live in this truth today.

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What if?

When you come to church on Sunday, what runs through your mind? Do you check statuses on social media? Do you create your grocery list, to-do list, or decide where you will go to eat afterwards? While I understand that sometimes we may struggle with focusing when we first sit down in our seats or pews, there comes a point when we are to look forward and allow our hearts and souls to engage in the message.

But what if there was no place to go on Sunday mornings? What if there was no church? For the last couple weekends we’ve been trying to imagine what this world would look like if there was no Church. What would happen during natural disasters? There would be no relief ministries coming in and offering food, prayer, and hope. What would happen to those who were struggling in relationships? What kind of perspective would be offered to the couples who didn’t have a framework for how a marriage should be?

What about those who are being sold into the sex trades? Slavery? Human trafficking? Ministries and non-profits which offer hope and rescue to the people who are trapped would not be there.

While this is a perspective for global missions, it is a perspective for your neighborhood, your circle of friends and family. How are you living out the faith you claim to have if the people who meet you cannot tell the difference? If your faith is only taken out to wear on Sunday mornings?

When the church is taken out of the equation, there is no mercy, no grace, no hope, no restoration or redemption. There is only a tally sheet that keeps track of the rights and wrongs done by others to you and done by you.

The Jesus we claim to love and follow is to be seen wherever we go, in whatever we do. There are 3.15 billion people in the world who have no access to the Gospel. While you may not be called to go to another country, you are still called to your neighborhood. Your circle of influence, (see Matthew 28:19-20).

Best Beloved, I do not ask this as a purpose of trying to guilt you. It is a challenge to me as well, to make my actions be intentional, that every conversation I have be seasoned by the Holy Spirit. Filled with truth, kindness, mercy, and grace. I may be the only Jesus anyone sees and if they only see me- instead of Jesus, then it is a missed opportunity for God to impact their lives.

I do not want to reach the end of my life and find that I was too busy, to preoccupied, to whatever to have shared Jesus with another person. If the local church is the hope of the world, then I want to be a part of that hope.

Dear Ones, Galatians 6:8-10 says it best, Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers, (bold mine).

Let us all finish the tasks God has given us. Whether it is going to another country or going to the neighbor’s house, let us be intentional about loving others and sharing Christ’s love with them.

 

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What can stand?

When my husband and I made the decision to move to Nebraska the season of uncertainty came fully to us. We had no where to live, no jobs to start when we moved. The only thing we had was a church that I found online that was similar to the one we were leaving. I was scared, yet blindly hopeful that our decision was worth risking everything for a new start.

In the final Sundays at our old church we often sang “Our God” by Chris Tomlin. I clung to the words, And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what can stand against? In other words, if we are in God’s will, then what can stop us? The enemy wanted to prevent us from having and maintaining hope, from becoming more dependent on God than ourselves. If we were standing with God, then the enemy would not be able to win the battle.

In the three years since we moved to Nebraska, we have seen God move and act in our lives and our surroundings. Our jobs, our home, our church and family have been blessed again and again by His hand. But over time, just like the Israelites, I have grown forgetful of God’s goodness. Of the way God has been victorious when it seemed we were beaten.

Our house is not finished yet. We’ve had some hiccoughs along the way. Things are still in boxes, scattered in different rooms, some are still in storage in Illinois. I’ve grown discouraged on some levels and have even come close to resigning to our house never being completed.

As I sang “Our God” in church last Sunday, from the other side of our move, I realized the words had not changed. God is still for us, the enemy may still be against us, but in the end, God is still victorious.  Reality is simple, nothing, not a house, not my doubt, not the changing events and timelines, and especially not the enemy can stand against the Lord.

God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed,” (2 Chronicles 13:12).

Best Beloved, it’s time, don’t you think? Time to remember that God is going to stand when everything else crumbles. Time to remember God longs to pull you up, call you out of the darkness, bring you into wholeness. Nothing will stand, except God. And He is enough. Every. Single. Time.

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ELEMENTary

The past few days have been emotionally draining at work. When this happens I usually listen to classical music to settle down and find my peace again. This week though, I have been listening to gothic-metal-Christian-rock. Can you believe there is such a category? I stumbled on a couple bands that I have never listened to before, including the band Gretchen, yes there is a band with my first name! I have also found the band King’s X which has an album called Gretchen goes to Nebraska. Pretty ironic, since that is where I live now.

Irony aside, I have found that although the music is not going to be on the top of my choices, it has its moments. The rage of the guitars and the rhythm of the drums fits the emotions I have inside as I battle against the enemy. It’s the kind of music that would be played in the locker room to help get the team hyped up for the game. Isn’t that what we are doing as believers? We are going out to the battlefield alongside Jesus, to enter into battle with the enemy.

Ephesians 6:10-13 says, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (bold mine). 

This is the real battle we face, this is the reason we get on our knees, seeking God’s wisdom, power, and peace, as we put on the armor of God. We know our strength does not come from us, but from God. It is the strength that holds us up when we are weary. The power that comes from the Word of God, when we take up the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).

Sometimes I think we are lulled to sleep as believers, thinking that we are to be sweet and kind, never rocking the boat or causing troubles. I know that I have heard that type of teaching in my past. But, while Jesus was the Prince of Peace, He is also the Lion of Judah. As Susan asked of Aslan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”**

Best Beloved, the elements are all there, we just need to implement them. Prayer, armor of God, wisdom, and faith in the Lion who roars.

 

**The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

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where your feet may run

Each day I speak with people who are trying to figure out the best option for them, based on their current situation. Some choose to push off their responsibilities, some choose to dive headlong into them, others are overwhelmed and have no idea where to go or what to do. My task includes helping them find a clear path to be able to take their next steps. I cannot put their feet on the path, that is their job, but I do strive to point them to the right path.

Even though my job is not in ministry, it is still a ministry. I cannot separate my Monday through Friday tasks with Sunday morning. There is no spiritual / non-spiritual category when it comes to being a believer. My heart, my desire, is to interact with people and give them a glimpse of the love God has for them. My thought is, I may be the only kind person they speak with today. In this world there is so much hurt and anger, pain and sorrow, I don’t want to add to that kind of battle.

Instead, my desire is to help carry the burden for a while. Whether it is listening to someone share their story and being able to affirm their battle scars or being able to sit with them in silence, just letting the Holy Spirit come into the pain. I am no healer, no doctor, but the Holy Spirit can do amazing things when it is invited into the situation.

This past weekend we had some friends and their kids over to our farm. It was a time of silliness, laughter, story-telling, and playing. The children did not have to worry about cars, strangers, or bedtimes. The only thing they had to do was put one foot in front of the other and run. Or laugh. Or dance. They were free. No burdens. No worries. Just pure, unfiltered joy.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Best Beloved, that is my desire for all of us. Pure, unfiltered joy. So let us go with joy where our feet may run.

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coffee grinders

My mom has a couple antique coffee grinders at her house.The mechanism is simple, coffee goes into the cup at the top of the grinder and when you turn the handle the gears grind the beans into the waiting drawer Image result for images of antique coffee grindersunderneath.

Growing up, there was another coffee grinder I often saw. It was a wrestling move my dad taught his wrestling team, as well as my brother, when he wrestled. The purpose of the coffee grinder is to switch the power from the bottom wrestler to the top. The idea is to roll the opponent over into a position to be pinned.

I remember very clearly hearing my dad holler to my brother from the bleachers during a match, “Coffee grinder! Coffee grinder! Hold ’em, hold ’em!” It was one of the moments when the status of the meet could be changed, just by how a wrestler moved his (or her) legs.

I’ve been thinking of this wrestling move a lot lately. The enemy has been holding some power lately in my life, flattening himself to the mat, making it difficult to move him into a position where his control is defeated. I have felt a bit battle weary, like it’s going to be a draw, or in my exhaustion I will make a mistake and he will win the match by pinning me instead. So, I have been looking for a different approach.

Prayer has always been a quick way to find direction, but lately it hasn’t been enough. So, I have added uplifting music, Scripture, and other devotional words of encouragement to help me get the leverage I need to change the power from the enemy to me. With the wrestling move, the key is in the way the wrestler moves his legs to get leverage. If we are supposed to keep going forward on our faith journey, Best Beloved, that means we will have to move our legs.

So, here we go, Coffee grinder, coffee grinder, hold ’em, hold ’em!

PIN!

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