Take Heart; it is I

In my prayerful reading of the book of Mark, it seems that Jesus is speaking directly to me over and over.  Most recently, in chapter 6, the disciples are terrified when they saw Him walking past them on the sea.  They thought it was a ghost!  Jesus immediately sets them straight — “Take heart;  it is I.”  Then He adds, “Do not be afraid.”

I realize how often I need to hear those words.  Christ is at work in the world, but I don’t always recognize Him.  I see chaos, problems, uncertainty, and like the disciples, I am frightened.  What I fail to remember is that Jesus is with me and He is in control. As Psalm 23 puts it:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4

And in the book of Romans, the apostle Paul says:

” If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

The King of the universe is on my side, not acting as a giant gum ball machine, to fulfill my every craving, but working everything (even the bad, scary things) out for my good. (Romans 8:28).  He will never abandon me, any more than a mother would abandon her nursing child (Isaiah 49:50). I don’t have to be anxious because He is our rock and our fortress (Psalm 18:2).

No matter what is going on, I can rest in His peace and His presence, as He tells me:

“Take heart;  it is I.”

For more on the gospel of Mark see:

Go Home

We Never Saw Anything Like This!

Pay Attention to What You Hear



The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John C. Maxwell–Book Review

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may already know that teamwork is one of my core values (L. A. T. C. H. On To Your Core Values).  So when I saw this book at the local library, I decided it was something I wanted to read.  John Maxwell is known as an expert on leadership, in fact I previously reviewed another book of his– The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell–Book Review.

In order to be an effective leader, you must have a team.  In fact we’re all part of teams at work, at church, in community organizations, even in our family.  Maxwell says the question is not “will I participate in something that involves others?”  The question is, “will my involvement with others be successful?”  In his book, he lists seventeen “laws” that will help your team perform better.  He uses illustrations from business, sports, churches and other organizations that have succeeded through effective teamwork.  At the end of each chapter, there is a teamwork thought that summarizes the law, a paragraph about becoming a better team member, and a paragraph on becoming a better team leader.  He also refers readers to his website http://LawsOfTeamwork.com for further information.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  The information is clearly presented and the book could easily used by a team or leadership group at your church for study and discussion.  A workbook is also available.  However, since it was written in 2001, some of his examples are a bit dated, especially the references to Enron as a successful example to emulate.

For more on teamwork see:

Two Are Better Than One

Bulls Eye!

Philippians Chapter 1 — What Stands Out


What You Do or What You Don’t Do?

“I have been sorrowfully convinced that in what I thought necessary attention to home duties, my time and strength have been engrossed to a degree that I fear has interfered with my duty to others.  It is of serious consideration, how much good we miss of doing by our want of watchfulness for opportunities, and our engrossment even in our lawful and necessary cares;  and there is another way, too, in the influence we might continually exert over all who come in contact with us, and through them over others, to an extent of which we are probably not aware, if we continually kept in a meek and quiet spirit.  Ah, it may be with some of us that it is more for what we leave undone than for what we do, that we shall be called to an account.”

Elizabeth Taber King

For another quote by Elizabeth Taber King (a Quaker) see:

God’s Victory Over Our Sin


A Lenten Message Part 2

This is a continuation of a Lenten message which my husband, our pastor, sent out to the congregation.  For part 1 see: A Lenten Message Part 1.

The Lord Jesus was not only humble, He was constantly concerned with the well being of others.  When he looked upon people lost like sheep without a shepherd, He felt pity for them.  When He saw a group of men with leprosy which kept them exiled from the rest of society, He healed them.  When He saw a widow grieving over her dead son, He brought the boy back to life.  So, we can ask ourselves, how have I served other people? How have I worked to relieve their pain and promote their welfare?  If I have cared about others and served them in some way, did I allow any thought of self regard to mingle with and abase the good I have done?

Certainly, Jesus was God become Man, but He lived and learned as a man.  He learned how to be a carpenter.  He learned how to live comfortably in the world around Him.  He learned the Scriptures thoroughly.  So we should ask ourselves, have I spent enough time in God’s Word over the past year?  What did I learn or relearn about God’s will in my life?  If the devil tempts me to sin, can I respond as did our Lord, quoting Scripture or will I be unable to resist those glittering baubles the enemy holds before me.

We also see that Jesus not only loved other Jews, but all people.  More than once the Lord went out of His way to help Gentiles, people who were not like His own.  As we look at the news today, we see attacks on people of Asian descent, seemingly for no reason.  We see disdain for people of other races or cultures being displayed almost daily.  Yet these too are people for whom Christ died.  So we should search our hearts and minds and see if we too love those who are different from us.  Loving those just like us is easy, it’s not always so with loving those who aren’t.  But we should all remember that we who have been saved were descended not from Palestinian Jews, but from different cultures with different customs.  God’s love is not narrow, but wide.

For more about examining yourself see:

Examine Yourself

Examination of Conscience


A Lenten Message Part 1

Since we have not been having Wednesday Lenten services this year, my husband, our pastor, has been sending out a weekly Lenten message.  I thought this one was particularly meaningful.

As we near the end of the Lenten season, it would be helpful for us to review our lives in the light of the life of Christ.  What I mean by that statement is a comparison to how the Lord lived as a man among us as opposed to how we live in this world.  So let’s think about some of the characteristics Jesus displayed.

The Creator of all things was humble.  He chose to be born, not in a palace but in a stable.  He chose to live, not in a great city, but in a small village.  He chose not to keep Himself aloof from His surroundings, but to work in a carpenter’s show with His caregiver, Joseph.  The listing of His path of humility could be longer, but we all get the idea.  So how have you shown humility in your life during this past year?  Have you demanded the best and most of what you wanted?  Have you bemoaned your stature in this world or sought to have more than you need?  Have you looked at others whose lives are not as good as yours thinking, if they had only worked harder or better, would they be in such a fix?  Has pride in yourself been a persisting sin?

To be continued …..

For more about Lent see:

Questions for Lent

Lenten Discipline

Walking through the Services


Rest a While

I’m continuing my lectio divina reading of the gospel of Mark, and in the first half of chapter six, here’s the phrase that jumped out at me — rest a while.  The entire verse is :

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31a

Jesus is speaking to his disciples (and to me).  Previously He had sent them out on a journey, two by two, in order to call people to repentance.  When they came back, they told Him all about what they had done and taught.  They were no doubt excited, but tired. In addition, John the Baptist had been beheaded not long before this. He was known to some of them, including Jesus, and they were probably still grieving and upset.  Jesus is letting them know that these are circumstances that require rest– and that’s okay.  In fact, it’s necessary.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I tend to forget this.  It’s hard for me to rest.  I grew up with folks who had a strong work ethic, and “relaxing” just seemed to be an synonym for “being lazy.”  I try to keep going even when I’m tired, even when I’m sad, even when I know I’m not performing at top form because I’ve convinced myself that people need and expect me to behave this way.  Maybe I even think that God needs me to behave this way.

Yet here, Jesus, who is God incarnate, tells me to get some rest.  He doesn’t need me to do more things;  He wants me to do one thing well –obeying the call He has for me.  I won’t be able to do that if I’m tired, distracted and overwhelmed.

So, make time for being as well as doing.  Make time for praying and listening.  Make time for rest.

For more on the book of Mark see these posts:

Pay Attention to What You Hear

We Never Saw Anything Like This!

Why Are You So Afraid?



Hesed–God’s Love in Action

This is a second excerpt from my husband’s sermon on hesed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16

John’s famous third chapter verse above is the best example of hesed I can imagine.  Look what it says.  First, God so loved.  The love which is God’s essence comes forth from Him to the world — to His own dear creation.  His love for His people is part and parcel of His love for the entire world in which we are found.  God has consistently shown His special care and loving concern to this little planet, and the people who live here.

The second example of hesed in this verse is that God gave His only begotten Son.  God gave of His very essence for His people.  He held back nothing at all in His love for us.  When we humans love, we always hold back something, even if we don’t think that we do.  There is always this urge, this compulsion to watch out for ourselves, to hold onto something that is just for us.  But the Lord does no such thing.  God held onto nothing, instead sacrificing everything for our good and our salvation.

Especially in this season of Lent, we should not forget the magnitude of God’s sacrifice for us.  Looking at the cross should remind us in our deeper consciousness that God gave it all so that you and I would not spend eternity in torment.

As I said earlier, hesed means not just an emotional love, but a love that has feet, a love that shows itself in works.  God has shown this,love to His people.  So too must we, as people who are in Christ, display the love of God to the world by doing those works which He prepared for us to do.  Before time began, God established works of hesed, using our efforts, YES our efforts.

Much of the work God does in the world is done through the hands of men and women and even children.  So God does indeed show steadfast love when we care for the sick and the poor and the lost and those whose lives seem now filled with darkness.  We may not be able in and of ourselves to show hesed to others, but we can be used by God as His instruments in the grand eternal plan of salvation

For more about God’s love see:

Learning to Love

Forgiveness is Love in Action

Lovingkindness by William R. Miller–Book Review


Learn This Word

This is an excerpt from a sermon my husband gave recently.  He says if you only learn one word in Hebrew, this is the one to know.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118:104

In the Psalm above there is a phrase that is very familiar to most people who have read or listened to someone speak on the Bible — steadfast love.  Steadfast love, love that doesn’t die, doesn’t wane, doesn’t falter, is always active before those who have eyes to see.  Steadfast love is a love which, as Paul writes in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, never ends.

Now that beautiful phrase is the English translation of a Hebrew word —hesed.  There are two translations for the word–steadfast love and loving kindness.  There have been other attempts to capture what the word means, but those seem to be the best we’ve found.

But even the best scholars and translators have really been unable to capture the fullness of the Hebrew.  There is a deepness and a richness to hesed which defies our attempts to make it simple.  Maybe the best way is to use a series of adjectives.  Heses is God’s persistent, extravagant, unyielding, unrestrained, even furious love for His people.  It is a love that never falters and never ceases.

Hesed is a love that neither you nor I, nor any person who lived apart from Jesus could actually possess, for in each of us is the sinful nature that will make any love we give to be about us, at least in some way.  I love my wife, I love my children, I love my grandchildren.  But my love isn’t hesed because there is a sense in which I feel fulfilled by loving them, and there is also a sense that my love might die under certain circumstances.  And we’ve all seen how, when love dies, it can leave a pretty messy situation behind.  But God doesn’t love us like that.  His love can’t die, because His entire nature is to love.  From all eternity, the Father has loved the Sone and the Spirit while the Son has loved the Father and the Spirit and the Spirit has loved the Father and the Son.  And there is nothing impure or selfish in that love within the Trinity.  So when God shows forth His love to us, it is that kind of love which He shows.  But even more, hesed is not simply an emotional love–it is a love of action which leads to merciful and compassionate behavior on the part of the One who loves.

To be continued ….

For more on God’s love see:

Martin Luther on God’s Love (Agape)

Extravagant Love

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review



Flashlight Night by Elisabeth Hasselbeck–Book Review

This children’s book is not only attractively illustrated and easy for youngsters to understand, it has a great idea for encouraging prayer and trust in God.  From what I understand, author Elisabeth Hasselbeck uses this method with her own children.

The mom in the story creates an entire blackboard wall.  On it, her two children write their prayers — the things they hope for and the things they’re worried about,   The examples given are completely realistic– here are some of them:

  • My big math test
  • That kid who makes me feel small
  • Our friend who is sick
  • The bike I want

On “flashlight night” mom and the kids go to the prayer wall, turn the lights off, and shine a flashlight on the prayers that have been answered.  When they come to an unanswered request, they turn the flashlight off. Through the process the children learn to share their concerns both with God and a parent.  They find that some prayers are answered quickly while others are not.  This helps them to keep waiting in the confidence that God does listen and respond — even when it’s dark.

There is a prayer and some Scripture verses at the end of the book.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This would be an excellent way for families with elementary aged children to share their prayer requests (it’s brave to share!).  It could also be adapted and used in a Sunday School setting.

For reviews of other children’s books see:

Laughter in Heaven by Barbara Jean Meter–Book Review

Gracie’s Garden by Lara Casey — Book Review

The Edge of Everywhen by A.S. Mackey–Book Review


More About Evil

Henry Parry Liddon (1829–1890), was an English theologian. From 1870 to 1882, he was also a professor at Oxford University.  This quote was in my daily devotional, and it reminded me of a previous post I had written about evil (What is Evil?).  I like the image of our evil actions polluting the air that we and others then breathe in.

“There is a general stock of evil in the world to which we all contribute, or which, by God’s grace some may diminish;  a vast and fertile tract of ungodliness, of low motives, of low aims, of low desires, of low sense of duty or no sense at all.  It is the creation of ages, that tradition;  but each age does something for in, and each individual in each age does, if he does not advisedly refuse to do, his share in augmenting it, just as the chimney of every small house does something to thicken and darken the air in London.  And this general fund or stock of evil touches us all like the common atmosphere which we breathe.  And thus it is that when you or I, even in lesser matters, do or say what our conscience condemns, we do really make a contribution to that general fund of wickedness which, in other circumstances and social conditions than ours, produces flagrant crime.  Especially if it should happen that we defend what we do, or make light of it, or make a joke of the misdeeds of others, we do most actively and seriously augment this common fund or tradition of wickedness.”

H. P. Liddon

Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 97:10


For another quote by H. P. Liddon see:

Two Quotes on the Sacrificial Life