It May Not Be Who You Think

 
Written by Rhonda Alstott

In the gospel of John, chapter ten verse ten, Jesus makes a defining statement about why He came, contrasting himself with a thief…

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”

 

For decades now, I have been taught by various pastors and teachers, that the thief in this verse is Satan.  I understand why one may think this. In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter calls Satan our adversary and tells us he is prowling around seeking someone to devour, but in the context of John 10:10, I believe Jesus is referring to the religious leaders known as the Pharisees. John Chapter 9 tells us of the miraculous healing Jesus gave to a man who had been blind since birth. Before healing this man, the disciples had asked him who had sinned to cause this man’s blindness: the man or his parents. Jesus responded neither, challenging the common assumption taught in Judaism that suffering was the result of sin.  Jesus told his disciples that the man was born blind so that “the works of God might be displayed in him”. What a contrast to the accepted religious teaching of the day!

 

When the Pharisees were given the opportunity to praise God for the healing of this man’s sight, they did not.  They appear to be more concerned that Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath, thus breaking the law. We are told he is questioned twice and his parents are even questioned. We learn his parents are not truthful in their response because anyone professing Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), would be kicked out of the synagogue. The newly sighted man professed Christ. The Pharisees responded, “You were born in utter sin” and they cast the man out of the synagogue…what a way to respond to the miraculous works of God by the very people who had the responsibility of representing God and teaching them about God.

 

Jesus responds by telling everyone that He is the good shepherd.  He says in John 10:9, “All who came before me are thieves and robbers….I am the door…..Jesus is showing to the crowd, that he is the Christ, and following Him leads to life. John 10:1-18, is known as the shepherd’s discourse. Jesus uses 3 parables about a shepherd to contrast himself with a thief. I believe Jesus is doing this because he has just witnessed the mistreatment of one of the sheep at the hands of the Pharisees. The religious leaders, or the Pharisees, have come to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give life…and an abundant life at that. No scarcity mentality in Jesus… He wants us to have a life in him that’s full.  He does this by taking us out of our spiritual blindness and giving us His spiritual sight. The gift of light he brings to our darkness is what makes our lives different. 

 

May we, having seen the light, take the light into our world that is so full of darkness. May we be His witness and contrast to those who are seeking to kill, steal and destroy.


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What Kind of Faith

Written by Cindy Music
 

Proverbs 14:26 New International Version

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.

 

What kind of faith journey do you envision for your family?

I love preschoolers; more is caught than taught with them.  They are adults in shorter form.  How many times have parents heard “That is your mini me”?  We have 2 mini me’s in our family.  My great nephew Tyler looks just like his father.  He has several of his mannerisms and thought processes.  In fact, we often call him by his father’s name.  His sister Lilly is just like her mother.  She likes fashion, cooking and acting; just like her mom.  She favors her mother in looks as well (thank goodness). 

We have another “mini me” in our family too.  Me.  I realized the other day how much I am my mother’s child.  She would wander through Sam’s for entertainment, going down every aisle to see what was new.  Often, she came out with an empty cart and a full heart.  She would chat with old friends and make new ones. Last week, I went into Sam’s wandered around the store, and ended up in a conversation with a lady comparing what we came in for and what extras we had found. 

It got me thinking about what kind of faith journey my mother had in mind for me.  What were the things she had hoped I would learn?  What kind of a Christian did she want me to become?

I think maybe she wanted me to know the discipline of going to worship on Sundays.  I think she wanted me to serve in the church and in the community.  I think she wanted me to learn how to make new people feel like they are an old friend.  I think this because these are the kind of things she did in her own life.  She went to church most every Sunday of her life, unless she was sick.  She served in the church nursery for 50 plus years and she volunteered at Clark Memorial gift shop for over 20 years.  My mother talked with at least one stranger anytime she went into a store.

In the Children’s department we spend on average of 3 hours a week with the children that come through our doors.  We make the most of it.  We talk about how God loves them, how He is always with   us, and how Jesus wants to be their friend forever.  They hear stories from the Bible and sing songs.  We help to lay the basic foundation of their faith.  I know their families want so much more for their faith journey.

What kind of faith journey do you want for your family and friends?  Each one of us has a different vision of what that looks like.  What I have learned from my own life experience and from listening to other people’s stories, is there is someone close to them that lived a life of faith.  We caught more than we were taught.


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Good Fight

Written by Nancy Predmore

“Honor your father and mother” Exodus 20:12

We all know that part of the Ten Commandments. I am sure that I have said that to Delainey when she is being sassy with me. What we don’t always realize is how hard it might be to do that as our parents age. 

When I met Jim’s parents, they were very active.  His dad worked, even after he retired. He didn’t miss a single event that his grandsons were in. His mom never sat still.  She was always cleaning, cooking, or doing a word search.  They decided to sell their house and move in with us because they were concerned that they were aging.  At first, it was great. They got to spend time with D, we had family with us, and we all got along.  It was an adjustment, but we thought it was going well until Jim’s mom wanted to move home. It was after they moved back to Indy that we started to notice how much his parents were aging, and it wasn’t good. Things like paying bills, balancing the checkbook, and taking medicines were not happening as they should. We all realized that they needed to be with us again. Thankfully, they were in our home when his dad had a stroke.  We were able to get him care right away, but he was no longer the strong, active man that he used to be. And through this, Jim’s mom started down the path of Alzheimer’s.

Remembering to honor your father and mother is hard when it seems that the roles are reversed.  They were still Jim’s parents, but they needed more care than Delainey some days. There were days that we all yelled and cried.  There were days that we all enjoyed each other.  But there came a point, when COVID was just beginning to rear its ugly head, that we couldn’t provide the care for them.  It was hard.  It felt like we were taking the easy way out by moving them to a long-term care facility.  We felt (and still feel) guilty for not being able to do more…for not honoring them as we should. 

Jim’s dad adjusted to his new home.  The staff tell us how much they loved him, he always had a story to tell and made them laugh.  We didn’t get to visit due to COVID, but we called and checked in. We lost him this past February after a very short illness. Jim’s mom is still fighting.  Some days are better than others, but she still doesn’t think of the care facility as home…she still wants to come back home. We just have to remind her that she is home when we are able to visit…stupid COVID limits those visits though.

I hope that they felt honored by us. I know that we tried, although we failed many times. They deserve all that we were able to give them. They have fought the good fight, just as Paul says in 2 Timothy.  And isn’t that what we all want to be able to say at the end of our lives?

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7


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Letters of Recommendation

Written by Becky Perkins

Often, I have someone ask me to write a letter of recommendation for them to send to an organization to use as a job reference, or for a college entrance recommendation.  It is much easier to write a letter of recommendation for someone that I have developed a relationship with over time.  When I know a person’s heart, their motives, their special abilities and their gifts, it is much easier to write a letter of recommendation.  It is also helpful to have had time to observe the person in action with other people to know them in a personal relationship with others.  I feel that I am able to write a genuine letter of recommendation in this situation.  

 

In 2 Corinthians 3:1-6, Paul finds himself having to prove himself to the Corinthian church.  Paul had founded the Corinthian church on his second missionary journey.  Paul was sent by God to preach the Good News to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).  The core of the Corinthian church were Gentiles.  After Paul had left the church to continue his missionary journeys, Judaizers infiltrated the church.  Judaizers were trying to lead the people down a road of legalistic beliefs, which included a faith in God by obeying the Law of Moses.  Their ministry was built on a set of rules of dos and don’ts and had emphasis on the external look of a believer.  Paul came to teach the Good News of grace and love with an emphasis on the new covenant of the heart of the believer with Christ.  The Judaizers boasted of their many converts and they boasted on the fact that they carried with them letters of recommendation from important people in Jerusalem.  The Judaizers claimed that Paul had no credentials.  Paul claimed that he had a letter of recommendation from Christ and Christ alone. 

 

To have a sincere “letter of recommendation” from Christ in our ministry, we must walk with Christ in complete surrender of our hearts, body and soul.  Then we are able to walk with a sincere motive and heart.  When we do this on a daily basis, we know the Holy Spirit will come and do the work in us and through us.  The Holy Spirit will become our letter of recommendation to the people around us.  A person who is living a life of devotion and ministry for Christ may not be accepted by the world, because the world will not know our heart and have connection with the Holy Spirit.  When we carry God’s letter of recommendation inside of us, we do not need to worry about what others think or do around us.  We can live in peace and confidence of the power of His Spirit working in and through us. 

Jesus wrote our letter of recommendation when he suffered on the cross for us.  He wrote the letter of recommendation in his blood shed for us on the cross and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit. 

 

As a staff person in a church, through the years, I realize there are some people who may not think I deserve a good letter of recommendation.  But, I know whom I have put my trust in and who has called me to ministry.   Jesus has always been my letter of recommendation.  My daily prayer is that I follow Christ and prove to him and him alone that I have a sincere and genuine heart for a good letter of recommendation from him. 

 


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Onesimus

Written by Joyce Knight
 
In his letter to Philemon, Paul asked Philemon, a Christian slave master, to kindly restore, or even release, a recently converted runaway slave. Onesimus had been tending to the needs of Paul while he was in prison in Rome. During that time, Paul introduced Onesimus to the Lord and Onesimus had a life changing experience. The essence of the letter is that forgiveness is vital for this fellow believer who is now on an equal stance as a true follower of Christ. 
 
Take a journey with Onesimus, who was a former runaway slave under the ownership of Philemon. Onesimus, under God’s providence, is introduced to Paul and is empowered by his spirit and devotion to Jesus Christ. He is then led to the Lord through Paul and becomes a devout believer. He recognizes the fact that he needs to justify having run away from Philemon, who is a church leader in the town of Colossae. Onesimus became vital in Paul’s life while he was imprisoned, assisting in his needs and giving greatly needed companionship. As much as Paul mourns the thought of having him leave, they agree that Onesimus needs to make things right with his master, Philemon. Paul, in his letter, urges Philemon to show forgiveness and compassion to this new believer. He left as a runaway slave but returns to him as a fellow brother in the Christian faith.
 
At any given time, we can be either Philemon, Paul, or Onesimus. We could be a Philemon, someone who has been hurt by somebody. Someone who has to understand that denying the ability to forgive, is denying that the love of Christ has been made manifest in their heart. We need to consider that it might be time for a heart assessment to see if there is someone out there that we may have to forgive.
 
There are some people who are like Paul. People that call themselves Christians. They are willing to stand in the gap to help people get together. So maybe if you’re a Paul and you know people that are in some sort of disagreement, you can intercede and encourage reconciliation.
 
You could be Onesimus. Someone who knows that they have said or done something wrong and needs to humble themselves, go to that person, and seek reconciliation. We all have been an Onesimus. We all have been to a place where we understand that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have been able to receive the grace of God. So now we need to be able to take the grace that has been given to us and freely give it to others.
 
Philemon is asked to prove his love for the Lord by his actions After all of those words of love and encouragement, it would be hard to say no to anything Paul would ask for, but Paul continues to prepare him for the request. What a blessing when someone like Paul finds you profitable, but even greater is it if the Lord finds us profitable. Paul wants a clean conscience for himself and Onesimus. He wanted Philemon to have forgiveness in his heart and he wanted his decision to come from a willing mind and not to feel coerced into it. He is pleading a case for forgiveness. Yes, he had run away and had been unprofitable for a time. However, he will be profitable forever as a servant of Christ. The status has changed for Onesimus because now Philemon is to see him as more than just a slave or servant, but as a brother in Christ.
 

Wouldn’t it be great to have people around you that have the same confidence in your obedience that Paul has for Philemon?  They do not just perform their duty, but they do it out of love for the Lord

 

 


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A Call to Action

Written by Ahnya Evinger

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

 

When I look at James 2:14-19, I consider all of the Christians I have encountered in name only, the self-proclaimed Christ followers whose actions don’t align with their words. The promises of prayer without the hands and feet of Jesus. But the reality is that to someone else, the hypocrite that comes to mind might be me.

 

When our actions do not align with our words that Christ is our Lord and Savior, we hurt others. We may even become a hindrance in their faith journey to discover who Jesus truly is. Becoming a Christ follower is not standing on the beach with our toes dipped in the water; it is diving into an ocean of love with trust. When we commit to discipleship, we submit ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. That’s the greatest testimony others often see.

 

I married a man who grew up in a church, but all he saw as an impressionable youth were people whose actions did not align with the scriptures being preached. He acknowledged that faith in God is great for some people, but he did not want to be a part of a church. He did not stop me from attending, but he was not going to prioritize going with me. He committed to attending church once or twice a year, on holidays, to support my family.

 

Then, our home flooded. The Ohio River swallowed our first floor, and we did not know where to even begin. That is when Jesus showed up. Through the members of this congregation, my husband met Jesus. A dozen or so people from church arrived at our home on the first day the waters receded, taking a boat to reach us. They told us they were thinking about us and would pray for us. But they backed those words up with action. They began working alongside us to gut out our home. That natural disaster was catastrophic to my physical home, but it was transformational to my spiritual home. Because this congregation answered the call to action to show their faith in Jesus with their deeds, my husband’s faith has been renewed. He attends church every week, even when I am out of town. He shows up to a hospital to sit with family while their loved one is in surgery. He serves others because through others’ service, Jesus showed up in his life.

 

Our words and actions when misaligned have the power to drive people away, but when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us and align our actions and words with the heart of Jesus, people discover Jesus on a new, personal level. Will you answer the call to action to submit yourself to the transformational power of the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus with your words and actions?


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