Words That Open The Heart
BY JOYCE PELLETIER
Vocabulary – it’s a list of words put together to describe another word. Simple as that. Nothing to be afraid of or to run away from.
I remember that in high school, my least favorite subjects were Vocabulary and English. I didn’t see any reason to give a definition to a word I’d never use or have ever heard of. Like polychromatic – now where did that come from? Just to pronounce it is a challenge. As I sit at my desk with Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary. This word is simply described as ‘showing a variety of a change of colors: Multicolored.’ I didn’t know this word existed. However, I love painting pictures, mixing colors and just observing the amazing colors of Fall. Consider the numbers of people who travel to Vermont every September and October just to see the leaves. They call them ‘leaf-peepers. They are having polychromatic experiences. Vocabulary 101, lesson learned.
Let’s look at a few simpler words. Decision is the first: a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.
Simple enough, I’d say, but not always easy to follow through. A classic example is from 1 Peter 1:13-16.
Be Holy – "Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As, obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, 'Be Holy, because I am Holy.'”
At our service today, Denis spoke on words relating to reacting to different situations. It’s so easy to decide for the fun and easy stuff, but when it comes to challenging situations, i.e. on-going back pain that is constantly reminding you it’s there.
Having chronic pain can keep you on edge when trying to function normally in your home. Your limitations can cause you to come to the top of a cliff where there is no where else to go but back.
I find myself going through with those ‘as you age’ situations where you just can’t do what you used to do. It reminds me that I can’t do one hike like I did 20 years ago, let alone, during that summer I did four. I get into frustrating times where recognizing that I just can’t do it, so I complain a lot, then sometimes say things I don’t mean, yet I don’t stop to realize what’s going on.
Listening to Denis’ wisdom, I realized another word that I need to pay attention to. It is choice. It means an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. The choice between good and evil.
God gave me a free will. He gave Jesus a free will. So, He completely understands what I’m going through. In that free will, He allows me to make a choice in every situation. Learning to make the decision to choose to grin and bear it, instead of speaking it aloud in not so pleasant words, is up to me. When I choose to be selfish, I spiral downhill. When I choose to find a way to ease the pain, or just take a break, then it really goes a whole lot better. This is also showing me He’s allowed this for a reason. I just have to hang in there.
On our early Christian walk with Jesus, we made a Marriage Encounter, supported by the church we were going to. It was a weekend to teach couples to communicate better in all situations, good and bad, challenging and joyful. It was teaching us to make right choices for each other. It made a huge difference in our lives. We learned that “Love” is a decision and when we make the right decision the benefits have stayed alongside of us all these years. God showed us how to deal with the “Hard” things. When we made the choice to follow his plan, we knew He’d be with us all the way.
When we become Christians, Jesus celebrates with us. Yet, He doesn’t drop us off somewhere, then leave us there to suffer alone. The very presence of the Holy Spirit is our Guide. If He is living inside of us, we are better able to make right choices in all situations. There is no other way to go. This is what Holy means.
By The Way, one more thing I learned from Vocabulary and English, they are now my favorite things. I love to write and learning how to be a more effective writer. Who knew that words can open your whole life? Better still, God’s Word is the best way to find what you need.
Grateful for the Gospel
BY JORDAN MAYER
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved..."
During this season of Thanksgiving, it’s no surprise that it’s a time marked by giving thanks. We often think about family and friends, the food on our table, the house over our heads, and our Good Father who blesses us with all these things. It’s common to think about and be grateful for what we’ve been given. But how often do we find ourselves being grateful for the things we haven’t received? in the context of the Gospel, we see God's mercy and grace on full display, revealing that what we deserve is not what we find.
Let’s begin with God’s mercy. Simply put, His mercy can be described as God not giving us what we truly deserve. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we have all fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We have not and cannot meet His holy and righteous standard, and because of this, we stand condemned. Our sin has racked up a debt that we can’t possibly hope to repay. We stand before the court guilty as charged. And, as Romans 6 tells us, the wages for our sin is death. It’s a startling and devastating reality for each and every one of us.
But let’s return to the Ephesians 2 passage. The chapter begins with the same bleak reality. We were dead in our trespasses. By our nature we were called children of wrath. “But God!”, how sweet these words are! In the very depths of our misery, God extends His mercy. Though we stand condemned in the Law, Christ came in fulfillment of the Law to satisfy its requirement. He is our great advocate who enters the courtroom and willingly pays our debt (Colossians 2:13-14). At the Cross, God lavishly pours out the riches of His mercy through the sacrifice of His own Son on our behalf.
If we did not deserve His mercy, neither do we deserve His grace. But not only does God not give us what we deserve, He also gives us what we don’t deserve. This is His grace, His unmerited favor. In canceling our debt, Christ also provided the means for relationship with God. We deserve death, we are given life. We deserve condemnation, we are given justification. We are redeemed, renewed, and restored. The dividing curtain that separated us from God was torn in two by Christ’s work on the Cross. So then, we don’t sheepishly enter into the presence of God. Rather, we draw near to this throne of grace with confidence and boldness to receive His grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16).
As we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, let us all thank God that He gives out of the abundance of His mercy and grace. We thank Him that “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him…” (Psalm 103:10-11).
His Invested Long-Suffering
BY DONNA CHURCHILL
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.”
(Psalm 32: 8, 9)
I have walked with the Lord for many years and I am still amazed and appreciative at how He gives us just the right rebuke or counsel from His Word when we need it.
About 2 weeks ago, I experienced a pretty bad day. Not bad in the sense that things were going badly, but bad in the sense that I did not respond to the Lord in the way I should have; in the way that would have marked me as His.
It was a day when I was experiencing a great deal of pain in my body, but I had errands to do and needed to push through the pain to get them done. I was at the grocery store and to make a long story short, I was quite snappy with the cashier. Right away, the Holy Spirit convicted me, but my stubborn flesh decided it was more satisfying to hang on to my anger than release it, as if I had a right to it. As a result, I walked out of the store angry, stubborn and fighting with the Holy Spirit.
Thankfully, that was my last stop of the day. As I drove home, I wrestled in my spirit all the way. There was a scowl on my face and I knew it. I was making excuse after excuse to the Holy Spirit, none of which could hold water. I was in pain; the cashier was no help; Lord, if you would just heal me, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah! I do not confess any of this proudly, but truthfully, to show how faithfully, lovingly and mercifully God dealt with me through this.
I had left my house that morning for an early appointment and errands and had not had my quiet time with the Lord. Maybe if I had, I would have acted differently? Anyway, I arrived home, put away my groceries and knew I had to face my Father for my very ungodly actions. As I sat before the Lord, I started sharing my anger and frustration at the pain I was dealing with. I was prompted to go to my daily devotional book and here is some of what I read,
Then through the devotional, I was led to Psalm 32. In His love and mercy, God directed me to the very thing I needed: confession and forgiveness.
“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Vs 5
I was also faced with the fact that I acted like a mule before the Lord! I didn’t act out of pain. I was being ruled by my pain because I had broken fellowship with the Lord. When I decided to give in to the sinful desires of my flesh, I left Him behind.
I was amazed and thankful in that moment, as I always am, with how long-suffering and merciful God was with me as I experienced my very childish temper tantrum; how, with grace He spoke just the most perfect and timely word to me; how He loves me and reigns me in to teach me the hardships of going my own way; how He continues to lovingly and graciously deal with the things He knows will lead me away from Him; how much He is involved and invested in all the little and big details of my life and behavior.
I was also thankful for His forgiveness as I had to admit that I so desperately needed it.
The final quote from my devotional –
“When you seek forgiveness, you are confessing that you still forget why you were put on earth and granted the amazing gift of God’s grace. You are admitting that you forget that every gift you have been given is to be invested in his kingdom.”
Choosing to Trust
BY JORDAN MAYER
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
We have all experienced those days where it seems like nothing is going right. Maybe something unexpected happens in the morning that alters the trajectory of your day. Maybe it’s something from yesterday or the week prior that continues to fester unresolved. It could be a heated exchange with a friend or loved one. It might be a major disappointment or a series of small, but agonizing annoyances.
This past week I had "a week" at work. Beginning first thing Monday morning, I was hit with one crisis or disappointment after another. After a few days of this, I found myself burned out, depressed, and discouraged. It’s days like this that you feel like shutting the curtains, pulling up the covers, and going back to bed.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I often go for a noontime walk on the trails next to work. On Wednesday, being particularly buried in the day’s to-do’s, I contemplated skipping the walk and continuing to work. Yet, knowing my current state of mind, I decided (or was prompted) to step away and take a walk. As I walked the meandering path, I began to pray and unload my burdens before the Lord. All the built up frustrations, disappointments, and unhappiness flowed out like the breaking of a dam.
It was in that very moment that I realized I had a decision to make. When everything seemed to be going wrong that week, was I still going to trust God? Was I still going to believe that He is good and is working good in my life?
How easy it is to rejoice when the work week is smooth, or the checking account is full, or the family is all getting along. But when all this is stripped away, it quickly becomes evident where we have placed our hope. When life is supremely bad, will we still trust and believe that He is still supremely good? This is the moment we decide that despite all the disappointments of this broken, sinful world, yet we will rejoice in the Lord. Yet, we will take joy in the God of our salvation.
Rejoicing is in the Lord. Joy is in the God of our salvation.
Habakkuk came to this realization in his day, at a time when life for the people of Israel was most certainly not good. He was in great turmoil in his heart over the devastating judgment from Israel’s enemies. He begins by questioning, but ends by trusting. He resolves to rejoice and find joy, not in circumstances, but in the God of his salvation.
As I walked back into the office, my heart rejoiced and my joy was restored. Though my circumstances had not changed, I was reminded that my hope lies in my good and great God.
Whatever burdens lie on your heart or disappointments fill up your mind, choose today to rejoice in the Lord and take joy in the God of your salvation. Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)
No Temptation Too Strong
BY JORDAN MAYER
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
(1 Corinthians 10:13)
This past weekend, my brothers and I helped move a refrigerator for a friend. We slid the old fridge out, tipped it over, and proceeded to lift and carry it out the door, down the walkway, and into the driveway. For reference, the fridge was a couple hundred pounds and difficult to navigate through the tight doorways. By the time we lowered the unit to the ground, my arms and hands were ready for a rest! As taxing as it was and despite any pain or soreness I experienced, this task was still within my ability to perform and manage.
In life, we face a whole host of temptations that, in the moment, feel too difficult to endure. Like an unbearable weight on our shoulders, we can feel like we have little choice but to give in. It is in these moments of deepest despair and hopelessness that we must return to the truth of God’s Word. For the way we may feel about the temptations we face is neither the truth nor the reality.
We are reminded, encouraged, and promised that whatever temptations we may face are always within our ability to endure. God never allows temptations into our lives that we are not equipped to handle. This is not to say that it won’t be hard, it may be the hardest task we’ve faced. But we have also been equipped for the battle. God has both empowered us for the battle and provided the strategy.
Yet, we should notice that the strategy we are to employ is not one of standing and fighting, but turning and fleeing. God always provides a way of escape; that is how we endure temptation. We see a similar theme in James 4:7 where we are called to resist and flee. But there we find an equally important piece of the puzzle. Enduring temptation is not merely about saying no to sin, but saying yes to God. As we turn away from sin and temptation, we must simultaneously turn toward God. We are to submit ourselves to God and draw near to Him. And as we draw near to Him, He promises to draw near to us.
The battle against temptation has often been described as a tug of war. We feel the pull of temptation toward sin like a tug upon the rope. If you look at the marks in the ground, you may see some ground has been given up and some ground has been won. We are all prone to stumble and give in to sin. But there was one man who felt the full weight of temptation and yet never gave an inch. This man was Jesus, fully God and fully man, who was tempted in every way, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Not only can He sympathize in our hour of need, but He actively intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:34). He provided the perfect sacrifice so that even in our failures, we can still stand justified before God. This is supremely good news!
So when you feel the strong pull of temptation, remind yourself that you are not fighting a losing battle. That is precisely what the enemy and our own sinful flesh wants you to think. Rather, remember that we have been given a winning strategy. Turn and flee temptation, submit and draw near to God. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)