Give Thanks

This week we will have a special opportunity to give thanks to the God who made us.  I Image result for photo of Thanksgiving cornucopiahave listed some reasons for doing this:

  1.  The Bible tells us to give thanks.  In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  (I Thessalonians 5:18)
  2. We should give thanks to God, because no matter what the present circumstances of our lives, He is always there, and He is always faithful to us.  O give thanks unto the God of heaven for his mercy endures for ever. (Psalm 136:26, I Chronicles 16:34))
  3. We should give thanks to God because thanking Him is a part of our testimony to those who do not know Him.  I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles and sing praises to Your name.  (2 Samuel 22:50)
  4. Thanksgiving is a trait of the faith-filled life.  So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:7)
  5. Finally, we can give thanks because we know that the outcome of our situations, no matter how dark they look right now, will always turn out for our good.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)   My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing the the testing of your faith produces patience.  (James 1:2,3)

GIVE THANKS!

Advertisements

Praying for America!

Image result for free photos of the american flagCheryl pushed her wheelchair closer to the television.  Since her automobile accident more than two years ago, she had been restricted to her wheel chair.  She knew that healing was her right, but somehow it had not yet manifested.  She stared at the television set with an intensity sparked by a personal interest in the story.  She caught glimpses of her friend, Kelly, protesting and promoting her political cause.  Kelly and others were on the steps of the State Capitol.  The TV station even gave Kelly an opportunity to briefly explain her cause on the air.

Cheryl picked up a political flier.  The face of another of her friends was on the front.  Andrea was running for the city council.  Cheryl was so proud of her.  At the same time she was a little envious of her politically-active friends.

Cheryl lowered her head and prayed:  “What can I do for my country, Lord,” she asked.  She could no longer ignore the headlines that boldly announced that her country was in trouble.

Cheryl had to admit that she was confused.  Sometimes she thought that the “right” was right, and the “left”was wrong.   On other issues she thought that the “right” was only partially right.  On still other issues,  she sided completely with the left.

She knew that she should pray, but what should she pray?  Should she just pray, “God bless America?”  She quieted her mind before the Lord.  Several years ago, even before her accident, she had received her prayer language:   the gift of praying in the language of the Holy Spirit.

“Of course!”  Suddenly she understood.   When she prayed in her prayer language, she didn’t understand what she was praying, but she didn’t have to understand.  The Holy Spirit was praying through her in the perfect will of God.  “Even if my politics is wrong, or is misinformed, I can still pray God’s perfect will for America!”  God does have an important role for me to play in politics!   And she began to pray!

The Kinnikinnick Model

Kinnikinnick

Steve walked thoughtfully along the mountain path.  He and his wife were planning to start a church in a neighboring town.  They planned to reach out to smaller towns and villages in the area.  What would that look like?  He needed a model for the outreach.  The Lord seemed to whisper, “Kinnikinnick!”  Steve shook his head.  He was familiar with the ground cover with the strange-sounding name that grew wild in this region.  But a model for a church plant?

He shook his head again.  Again he heard the word “Kinnikinnick”.  He looked down at his feet, and saw the kinnikinnick ground cover.  He reached down, took hold of one of the stems, and pulled gently.  Soon he had an entire string of plants leading from his hand to the ground.  He carefully examined the plant.  He saw that the main plant had established roots, then it had sent out runners in all directions.  Periodically, the runners had sent down more roots, and grown shiny, oval-shaped leaves–a new plant that was still connected to the original plant.  Using this method of reproduction, the original plant was able to cover a hillside with bright, green leaves.

In his study of the plant, Steve learned that in spring, the plants produce white or pink flowers that by fall turn into red berries that birds love and are safe even for humans to eat.  The berries can make a tea that can be used medicinally to treat bladder and kidney disorders.  They bring healing!!! 

Often in fall, the leaves turn a rich wine color, giving a beautiful contrast to the bright, red berries.  This fruitful plant is hearty in sun, in shade, and in drier conditions.  It is non-invasive.  It will not crowd out other plants, but grows harmoniously with them.

Steve turned over the portion of the plant in his hand.  “Humm, This plant is interconnected, reproduces, bears fruit, brings healing, is beautiful, hearty, and non-invasive.  Yes, that is just what I want for our church plant.”

The Sangre de Cristo

Image result for photos of sangre de cristo mountains

A Portion of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Range at Sunset

Pastor Harold Bodin* sat at his old, wooden desk with his hands folded in prayer.  “Help, Lord,” he prayed. “I have been faithful here and at first you seemed to bless the ministry of this tiny church in Moffat.  We thought we were in a real revival, but now everything seems to have stagnated.  Most of the folks here are faithful, but all of us are tired of the routine.  No new folks come to town, and we are out of ideas to reach out to the rest of our residents.  What can we do to bring new life to this ministry? ”

Harold turned on his computer and was on his way to a familiar site when a pop-up ad appeared.  “Suggestions for Struggling Churches.”  Harold clicked on the link and read through the bulleted list:

  • Click here for on-line prayer help.
  • Connect with other believing churches in your area.  (The site gave opportunity for individuals and churches to leave contact emails and zip codes)  Fellowship with other believers is important.
  • Organize an area meeting.  (Our organization will send out a team to meet with you and/or provide a mini-conference.)
  • View our live services either for resource material or you may project them to your congregation.
  • Take on-line classes from our school of ministry.

Harold scribbled down a few notes.  He had already sent an email to the pastor of a young church in the town of Saguache eighteen miles away.   Almost immediately the answer came back: “Let’s meet.  I am open on Thursday and Friday afternoons.  I believe that God has such a destiny for this area.  Do you realize that every morning before the sun comes up the great Sangre de Cristo range casts a shadow across this entire valley?  Think of it!!  We are overshadowed by “The Blood of Christ” every morning!  However, it is at sunset, in the last rays of the sun, that these majestic mountains turn blood-red.  What a beautiful type and visual image for those of us who are serving our Lord here!”

Harold got up and walked outside just in time to catch the breath-taking glow of the sunset on the Sangre de Cristo range.  Already Harold felt encouraged.  He breathed a silent prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for the blood of Christ that saves us and washes us so we can have fellowship with You.”

*this is a fictitious name.

A view of the town in winter.

Moffat with the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.  Dry summers and frigid winters result in sparse vegetation and sparse population.

The Sangre de Cristo Range

It’s Life Changing!

The old La Jara railroad depot, now the town hallFelipe Garcia* hoisted his guitar over the tailgate of his pick-up truck.   He and his wife, Camila, were going to his cousin, Marcos’s home in Sanford, Colorado, (a tiny town in southern Colorado near the state line with New Mexico) three miles to the east of La Jara this evening.  He couldn’t help but think about all the events of the last six months that had led up to this moment as he loaded their pickup for the trip.

He and Camila has been struggling–a lot financially and in their relationship.  If only their financial picture had been better.  He was a farm laborer and Camila was a stay-at-home mom with their two-year-old son, Diego, and their six-year-old daughter, Isabella. The $25,000 that he made each year barely paid for the essentials let alone provide any discretionary income.  He understood that Camila wanted a new dress occasionally, but the clothes for the children had to come first.  Yes, he had spent money for that gun recently, but had justified it thinking that he could hunt geese to supplement their diet.

He had just about had it with everything when he was looking at some posts on Facebook one evening.  A pop-up ad suggested that he go to a church site to get some help with his marriage.  He had clicked on the site and eagerly listened to the message posted there.  Having received several helpful ideas he clicked on another message this time about leadership.  While there, he picked up more valuable information.  He had submitted a prayer request about his job to the media specialist who had prayed for him on-line.  Most important of all, the site suggested that he give his life to the Lord Jesus Christ.

His family tradition included a mainline church,  but these days almost none of his large and diverse family had any connection to the Church.  Camila had been active in a local sect but she also had no active church ties.  Once Felipe had taken the step of inviting Christ into his life, things had begun to change.  His performance at work improved, and he had become a foreman.  This in turn had brought an increase in income.  When he had presented Camila with money for a dress, she became curious and also began to listen to the online messages.  Eventually, she also was born again.

The news was too good to keep, so Felipe had shared with his fellow workers and Camila had shared with her neighbors as she had proudly showed off her new dress.  A small group had begun meeting regularly at their home, listening and watching the messages on line and discussing them afterward.  Camila particularly loved the music and the beautiful backdrops for the words.  Soon the whole group was lending their musical talents to the live worship.  Felipe had brushed up his guitar-playing skills and now the whole group was on their way to Sanford to provide some live singing while the group viewed the live presentation together.

Camila was excited.  “My cousin, Maria, Is also so eager for us to come.  She has six people coming together in Antonito next week.  Maybe they can start a small group there too.  Several of them have said that they want a faith that REALLY works.  I have cousins in Romero, Conejos, and Manassa too.  I think they will all want to find out about this.  It’s life changing!

*All characters are fictitious.

A Broken Fence

Image result for free photo of a split rail fencePatty Bradshaw sighed as she placed her hand on the latch of the weathered, unpainted, wood gate and entered her front yard.  She had a very dilapidated, split-rail fence along the front of  her property.  All the other residents of her neighborhood had updated their fences to spify, white pickets giving the neighborhood a clean, neat, unified feel, all of them except for Patty.   Yes, she knew that the gate and the connecting fence was a eye-sore!  Yes, she was SO ashamed of it, but that didn’t seem to help matters.   As a single working mom with two boys, she just didn’t have the money to replace the fence.

One day Alice Youngfield, her neighbor from across the street, had intercepted her as she opened her gate.  “When are you going to do something about the horrible-looking gate and fence,” she asked bluntedly.

Patty was immediately defensive.  “I am a single working…”

“How about making the fence a priority?” interrupted Alice.  “You could set aside a few dollars each week.  In a couple of months you would have saved enough to at least paint it.”  She hurried back across the street and entered her house, not looking back.

Patty was devastated and angry.  “Why didn’t Alice understand?”  she wailed.

Kurt, her twelve-year-old, found her weeping when he returned home.  “Why don’t you just do what Alice suggested,” he offered.  “I could paint the rails.”

Patty sat up.  “Forgive me, Lord, for not trusting You again!  I know that You can provide for this need.  I want so much for my neighbors to like me!”

And so the savings jar was set up, and began to fill with the money Patty had saved each week.  Then Brad came in one night after school and announced that he had lost his tablet, which he needed for his school assignments.  The extra cash had to go for this need.

The next day Patty returned home from work to find that someone had spray painted “Fix this!” on her gate.  Now the fence looked worse than ever.  To make matters even worse, one of the rails fell out of its socket and lay on the ground!  “Oh, what will the neighbors think now?  They are sure to be really angry.  Why can’t they understand how hard this is for me!?  God, please help me with this fence so that my neighbors will like me.”   She  managed to prop up the fallen rail, and scrub off most of the paint, but the problem remained.

One afternoon she got a call from her younger son’s school.  Connor had fallen at socker practice and broken his ankle.  They had taken him to the emergency room.  The words left Patty in an outright panic.  As she grabed her coat and started out the door, she saw a group of neighbors coming toware her gate.

Alice was the group spokesperson:  “Patty, we have given you more than enough time to get this fence repaired, yet it remains the same.  Now we are about to take some action! ”

Patty interrupted, “My son is in the emergency room.  I can’t talk about this now!”

Alice continued:  “We may have to take court action to get you evicted.  Marge and Harry, your neighbors on the west, have been unable to sell their house for six months because of your fence.  Their realtor told them yesterday that property values in this neighborhood have fallen $50,000 because of your fence.  The time for sympathizing with you has past.  Give us a time line for fence repair by tomorrow or we will begin court proceedings against you!”

Patty jumped in her car and sped toward the hospital.  Her hair was disheveled and her face soaked with tears as she approached the front desk.  A glance to the side revealed Connor, cast on ankle, smiling broadly.  “They fixed it, Mom!  They said I could get the cast off in six weeks, and it will be good as new!”

That evening, after the boys were in bed, Patty sat sobbing with her head in her hands.  She was so glad that God had helped Connor and that her insurance would cover most of the bill, but the problem of the fence remained.  She had confessed so many times:  “My God will supply all my need” still there was no answer.  “I am out of ideas, Lord, ” she prayed.  I did want to get the fence fixed but now it is too late and all my neighbors hate me.  She began to sob harder.

Then she heard what must have been the Lord’s whisper in her spirit:  “Which is more important to you?  Your neighbors’ opinion or mine?”

Patty was aghast.  “Why…Yours…uh, no, I have just been concentrating on what my neighbors think.  I want them to like me.”

The conversation with the Lord continued, “What do you know about your neighbor’s relationship with me?”

“Why….nothing, I guess.  I just wanted them to like me.”

“Did you realize that your broken fence was hurting them?  Did you know that Marge and Harry have to drive an extra fifty miles per day to work because they cannot sell their house, and buy a closer one?”

” Uh, no!!!  I just wanted…”

“I know what you wanted.  What about now?  What do you want now?”

“I want them to get to know and love You.  I don’t want them to suffer because of me.  I am willing to be evicted if it will help my neighbors.”

The Lord smiled as only He can.   That was the right answer.  The Lord knew that Patty was no longer asking for money to repair the fence for selfish reasons.  She was thinking of others.  She was no longer focused on her inability to replace the fence.  She was ready to focus on God’s ability to meet this need.  She was ready for her answer.  “Check the mailbox.”

Patty returned from her trip to the mailbox and ripped open a letter from a forgotten insurance policy that her late husband had taken out.  It was for $20,000!

Patty met her neighbors the next day with a smile on her face, and the check in her hand.

“Well,” said Alice, “What are you going to do about the fence?”

“I am getting it replaced.  I called a company this morning.  They will start work on Monday.”

Dubious, Alice asked, “With what money?”

Patty held up the check.  “With this!  It came yesterday in the mail.  God supplied my need!  He never fails!”

The astonished neighbors left mumbling among themselves.  “Maybe God IS real after all.  We need to follow up this discussion with Patty.  Maybe we can start a neighborhood Bible study.”

Patty had more than enough money to fix the fence, so she made other improvements to the front of her home.  It became one of the homes with the most curb appeal in the neighborhood.

You ask and you do not receive, because you ask for the wrong (selfish) reasons…”  James 4:3a

Pat Lockridge, 2017

 

Abandoned!

Image result for free photo of boy sitting on a curbNelson sat on the dusty curb smashing a soda can with a rock.  Again and again he smashed the can, his face red with the anger that welled up in his throat.  “How could he?  How could his Dad just leave in the middle of the night?  No good-bye, no hugs, no explanations, no evidence left behind to explain his actions.”

Nelson knew that his Dad and mother argued from time to time.  He had heard the door slam loudly last night.  When he had grabbed his lunch box from the breakfast table, he had seen a note from Mom.  “I am at work until 5:30.  Call if you need anything.  Dad left last night for parts unknown.  He won’t be coming back.”

Nelson began to sob.  The sobs soon turned to wails.  He knew that he might attract attention, but he could not stop.  Who would play ball with him now?  Mom was always at work.  His sister was still in preschool.

The hurt in his chest seemed to grow with each sob.  He needed his Dad.  Who would replace him?

A wadded piece of paper in the gutter caught his eye.  He picked it up, brushed off some of the dirt, and carefully unfolded it.  “Need a Perfect Father?” The title read.  Nelson continued unfolding the tract.  He was definitely interested.  The tract simply explained that if you confessed your sin, and invited Jesus, God’s son, into your life, Jesus became your brother and God, the Father, adopted you into His family.  The tract explained that He would always be with you and never ever leave you.

Nelson whipped his nose on his sleeve, stifled a sob, and prayed the prayer printed in the tract.  Immediately he felt a warm glow.  Could this be real?  The glow that he felt seemed to wipe away the sadness that had been there just seconds before.  He folded the tract carefully and put it in his pocket.

He felt a few coins in his pocket, and headed to the book store.  He couldn’t wait to buy a Bible and learn more about his Perfect, Trustworthy Father.  He would never be abandoned again.

*******
Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, Father, why have you abandoned me?”  Matthew 27:46.   He knew what it felt like to be abandoned, and so He provided a way for us to be accepted.  “…He made us accepted in the Beloved!”  Ephesians 1:6

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.”  John 6:37