Sanctification

Written by Bill Amerson

There is probably no more difficult doctrinal concept for me to understand than sanctification.  Growing up in a strong Wesleyan Armenian faith family, I am very familiar with the word.  Sanctification was that second work of grace after justification.  As a kid, twice a year I attended revivals that lasted sometimes as long as two weeks.  On occasion I would attend holiness camp meetings.  I also participated in summer church camp and then chose to attend a Christian college where we had chapel services three times each week.  I heard a lot about sanctification.  Those experiences were instrumental in my faith development.  I heard the message of the need not only to be saved but to also be sanctified.  A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a blog about sanctification.  What an overwhelming request. I am no theologian. 
 
As a young person there was always an invitation to go forward and give your life to Christ or to get “sanctified”.  Sanctification was a moment in time where you could make another commitment to follow Jesus, but this experience of sanctification, as I understood, meant that you really meant business.  It was also called a “second work of grace”.  I can remember the old saints of the church would give testimony to the time and the place when they were sanctified.  I knew those saints.  They were Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, members of the choir, and dynamic members of the church.  What I saw in their life seemed genuine.  I didn’t go home with them or to work with them to see how they lived, but what I saw was a person who experienced a true change.  I had a close up glimpse of my parents who professed sanctification.  My parents were certainly holy people.  I saw them live their lives.  I don’t question that second work of grace or sanctification.
 
Well, what about me?  Have I been sanctified?  Have I been made holy?  We are told in 2 Corinthians that the Holy Spirit transforms us to be more like Jesus.  I certainly am more like Jesus than I am not like Jesus.  Also in 2 Corinthians 7:1 we are told that holiness is the transforming process when we reduce our inclination towards sin and disobedience.  I am a sinner saved by grace, but I still have an inclination to be disobedient or to sin.   I get angry too easily.  Does that mean I am not sanctified?  No, I don’t believe it does.  We live under Grace. 
 
I do believe that when we accept Christ and experience salvation that we start to become more like Christ.  We do not stay in our former sinful state.  I do believe we need to make a commitment to become more holy.  We begin to move toward perfection as Christ is perfect.  We will choose to avoid temptation.  We will make every attempt to respond to the cliché “What would Jesus do?”  We are then moving toward perfection.  We are becoming holy.  We are being sanctified.  I believe that is part of Wesley Chapel’s “discipleship pathway”.
 

Finally, Paul teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 5.  “Avoid every kind of evil.”  Paul says that “we are to be blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And he promises God’s faithfulness.  So, where do I fit in with being holy and being sanctified?  I just have to trust the promises of God as I try to follow Jesus and desire to become more like Him.  I need to avoid every kind of evil.  Will I ever be perfect as Christ is perfect?  Probably not, but I believe we are to strive daily to be more like our Savior.  We are called to be holy or to become sanctified. 


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Finding My Identity At The Well

Written by Kelly Frost

Have you ever felt lost and in search of something?  When I became a stay-at-home mom, I felt like I lost my identity.  I was no longer Kelly, the passionate educator; I was Kelly the laundry doer, food prepper, unimportant mess cleaner.  I felt so alone.  I felt like if I disappeared no one would even notice.  I was embarrassed and ashamed of the lack of contributions I was making to the world.  The problem was where I was searching for my identity.  It was in my accomplishments rather than seeing my true identity as a daughter of God.
 

 This past year, I completed a life changing Bible study entitled Jesus and Women: In the First Century and Now by Kristi Mclelland.  This study focuses on looking at the Bible through a Middle Eastern lens rather than a Western lens.  The Middle East was and still is an honor/shame society.  Woman during Jesus’ time were denigrated to a place of shame. 

 

John 4:4-26 NIV The Woman at the Well

 Now he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The woman came to the well in the middle of the day by herself.  This was a detail I would breeze right by in the past.  However, when you look at this point through a Middle Eastern lens, you know that women usually would have done this chore in the morning hours before the midday heat and that women traveled in groups.  Why was this woman a loner? One can assume it was because of her lifestyle.  She had many husbands and was living with a man that was not even her husband.  Jesus came to this woman at the well while she was by herself in the heat of the blazing sun.  Jesus met her there just as she was, a sinner, and he shared the good news of how He could provide eternal life. 

Jesus confirms to the Samaritan woman that He indeed is the Messiah! This is the first time in the Gospel of John that He reveals this and it is to a Samaritan woman.  That leaves me in awe shows me how Jesus places honor on this woman and her life. 

Jesus places honor on our lives too.  He died to help restore our relationship with the Father.  As a woman, this gospel story teaches me that God wants to meet me at the wells in my life when I find myself feeling ashamed and alone.  This leads me to understand that my identity is as a child of God.  


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Peace

Written by Chrissy Perkins
Peace.
 
Such a simple common word yet so hard to put into action.

 

In a world where events are fast, emotions high and what seems to never be enough time, peace is the last thing on our minds.

When do you find peace? How do you find peace?

Do we actually truly achieve peace?
 

Seems too time consuming to even find the answers to those questions, doesn’t it?

 

Peace is not something that comes naturally or when you least expect it. We experience peace in the moment, moments and when we just “be”.

 

People have stated they find peace when practicing the art of yoga, or taking a long walk in the quiet woods, or even when holding your sleeping baby.
 

Those moments of peace fill our body and soul with a sense of clam, joy, and even happiness.

How do we find peace in the noise or the hard times?

That is up to you, you are the maker of your peace.

 

Do something you love such as paint or journal or even take a nice long walk. Make time for your loved ones. We (people) are social beings, God created us to be with each other. Quality time can lift the spirt and bring joy into your life.

Struggles may come and hardships are inevitable, but how you respond to those moments will help you make it through. When overwhelming times come lean on those hobbies or people to find your peace.

 

Take a second and have a talk with God.

 

From an early age I was told “tattle to God or talk to God”. When good comes, when troubles come, when I feel uneasy or when I’m hurting, talking to God while I’m doing something I enjoy such as a walk or sitting by the pool helped me find peace.

I may not feel the peace at that exact moment, but as my prayers would continue day by day or a situation would happened, then I would feel the peace

 

It’s not always easy to be still and listen for God or to see what plans he has for you but one thing is very sure, he will grant you peace when you seek Him.

 

Find your “happy place” and pray. If it’s one of those days in the workplace, take a second in a quiet place and start talking to God.

 

Peace also comes when you have faith God has you in His hand. Having faith and trusting no matter what comes your way, God has you and is taking care of you.

Trust + faith = peace

John 16:33 ESV /

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Psalm 29:11 ESV /

May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!

 

How will you find your peace today?

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He Equips The Called

Written by Josh Suiter

What are you passionate about? What areas of ministry do you find yourself drawn to do? Are you a musician and feel God calling you to join the praise band? Do you love to help people feel welcomed and want to join the hospitality team? Or do you have a passion to help youth and children learn more about Jesus and see them come into a personal relationship with him?
 

Whatever your passion is, I want to encourage you to be open to using this in ministry. But also, to be open to the fact that God may not have the same idea in mind.

A few years ago, I was asked to begin teaching the young adult Sunday school class. At first, I found this terrifying. I was used to teaching 5th and 6th grade Sunday school. What did I know about teaching young adults? Although I was close to them in age, I was worried that I didn’t have the Biblical knowledge to lead this class. But I felt God saying – “I’ve got you. Just trust me.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Sometimes God calls us into a ministry we may not have considered before. I never thought I would go from teaching middle schoolers to college age/young adults, but what I have learned along the journey is that even when I don’t feel qualified or able, He gives me the strength to keep going.

Can you imagine how the disciples felt? Each of them from all walks of life and skills levels were called to follow Christ. Matthew 4:18-19 says “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Can you imagine what might have been going through their heads? Do you think they second guessed their decision?

What if we had that same faith to just leave our nets and follow Him no matter what He is calling us to do? Sometimes I wonder why I ever doubt Him. Why do I question God when He calls me to do something because I do not feel comfortable with that calling?

Matthew 28:20 should affirm to me that He is with me and I have nothing to fear – “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

If we truly believe this verse, then we shouldn’t fear if we are qualified or if we can do it because He’s got us! He will see us through and will stretch us and grow us through this experience.

As we continue to return to church after many of us have spent a year at home, I want to pose a few questions for each of us to ponder?

  • What has this year of staying home or distancing ourselves from others taught you about yourself? What has it made you passionate about?
  • What needs in the church (or even in our community) do you feel God is calling you to help with?
  • What are you doing about that calling?

I am praying these questions will help you assess where God can use you in the church and outside the church. He has made the ask. Will you accept it?

 


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Brokenheartedness

Written by Rhonda Alstott

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

 It seems that we’ve turned the corner with the pandemic, but not without battle scars from the past 15 months. Anyone trying to find mental health services  for a loved one right now will tell you there is a shortage of services and the wait for professional help in the form of therapy can be as long as 6 months. May is mental health awareness month, and mental health advocacy has always been close to my heart. Tony and I have several loved ones that have had their share of struggles with it. In our family of seven Alstott’s, five of us suffer with depression and/or anxiety and the other two suffer with denial. You can sense my sarcasm, but everyone has mental health struggles. Just like our physical health where we can manage certain maladies like diabetes, asthma, and cancer, we all have mental health as well, where we suffer with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.  I like to think of mental health as a continuum: healthy being on one end and unhealthy being on the other. Several factors can affect which end of this continuum we find ourselves at during different periods of our life…a loss of a loved one, a promotion, marriage, divorce, finals…you get the picture…our circumstances can move us back and forth on this continuum. It’s fluid. Exercise, therapy, medicine, spiritual disciplines and support systems can help us live on the healthy end of this spectrum. 

I just finished the last lesson of Elijah by Priscilla Shirer with my Women’s Bible Study. Elijah is heralded as a strong prophet and leader, but I wondered how Priscilla would handle Elijah when he was at his lowest point: after defeating the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. She included this part of his story in her study and I am thankful she did. So often in Christianity we leave no room for mental health issues. We have plenty of examples in scripture that show us that mighty people of God had their share of struggles with mental health as well. In 1 Kings 19:4 we see Elijah asking God to take his life. If I was writing a presenting problem on a treatment note for Elijah, I would write suicide ideation. What got him to this point? It’s a list of reasons including work exhaustion, poor diet, over concern of what someone thought, lack of sleep and threats on his life that induced fear. Fortunate for Elijah, God sent an angel to minister to him. Food, sleep, and a plan going forward was part of Elijah’s treatment plan. God was able to start Elijah’s healing with the question, “What are you doing here?” I love how God provides us with examples we can not only relate to but learn from. When we find ourselves at the end of our rope, that’s a great question we can all ask ourselves…What are we doing here? Sometimes in answering that question, we find ourselves getting back onto the path of healing and wholeness. If we can’t answer that question on our own, it’s okay to get the right help to do so. For far too long, the church has shunned systems to help us in the area of help and healing of our mind. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that prayer, worship, serving and study can all help my mental health, but so does therapy, support groups and medicine. Sometimes it takes all of the above to keep us on the healthy side. 

How can we help and encourage one another in our faith journey? Show compassion. Listen, love, set boundaries, offer grace… pray with, go with…whatever can help that person answer the question “What am I doing here?”  Remember: just because you may not understand their struggle, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Also, just because you found relief from reading a book, a certain oil, pulling yourself up from the bootstraps, or prayer doesn’t mean it will work the same way for someone else. I have had countless friends and loved ones feel so abandoned by God because they prayed and prayed for relief and found none. Sometimes God answers our prayers by sending us to the right doctor or therapist. It is important to remember that just because you do not sense or feel the love and presence of God, does not mean He isn’t there.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Another thing to remember too: Elijah’s despair didn’t disqualify him for the work God needed him to do. Elijah is our example that God really isn’t finished with us, even when we are finished with ourselves. God has a plan and purpose for every one of us, and a bout on the unhealthy side of our mental health continuum does not change God’s plan. In fact, more often than not, He will use this time for the good of His kingdom in ways we never imagined.  My hope and prayer for all of us is that we live balanced lives that honor God. Balance that takes into consideration that we are heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). Hopefully, the realization that God wants to use us to further His kingdom, in spite of and despite our struggles with mental health, should help us put aside the stigma we’ve carried for too long around mental health issues. May God grant us all His shalom on our lives and on the lives of those we love.

*Interested in some other people in scripture that had their share of discouragement? Note the following:

Jonah (Jonah 4)                        Hagar (Genesis 16)

Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20)            David (2 Samuel 12/Psalm 38)

Gideon (Judges 6 & 7)              Paul (2 Corinthian 1)


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Do You Feel Like Your Sparkles Have Fallen Off?

Written by Lois Flowers

A few months ago, I received a hand-crafted Valentine from my daughter. On the cover, “Happy Valentine’s Day” was written in gold glitter.

Inside, the message said, “Don’t shake your card too hard or all your sparkles will fall off.”

It’s so much like my daughter, to give me a card with instructions. It makes me smile to think of it even now, all these weeks later.

A few days after Valentine’s Day—when memories of a friend who died 10 years earlier were fresh on my mind, when our schedule was all thrown out of whack due to extreme cold and snow, when my parents’ personal effects were strewn all over the basement as I work on organizing them—I woke up and just felt sad.

Thinking of Molly’s card, I sent Randy a brief text message: “I feel like my sparkles have fallen off,” I told him.

I’m wondering if you can relate. Perhaps, like me, you’re generally upbeat and optimistic, or at least fairly consistent when it comes to how you feel. Maybe not all the time, this last year especially. But overall, most of the time.

Or maybe you’re more prone to emotional ups and downs but you thought you had found a good rhythm, finally. Then something happens and the bottom just drops out.

One day you were feeling fine; the next day, it’s like you drank a gallon of blue.

Could be hormones, could be that you’re tired, could be you’re getting sick, could be an unexpected obstacle or setback is affecting you more than you thought.

It could be anything, really. And—this is what makes it even more fun—what it is this time might not be the culprit next time. (Because yes, there will likely be a next time.)

Having gone through this whole cycle a few times recently, I have some thoughts. Actually, I have three observations, three actions and three scriptures for you. They’re not a one-size-fits-all remedy for the occasional blues, but I hope they help.

Three observations:

 Feelings are not truth. They’re real, but they might not be an accurate picture of reality.

 You’re not alone. Others feel the same, some more acutely.

 Just because you feel like this today doesn’t mean you will feel like this tomorrow.

Three actions:

 Tell God how you feel. Don’t worry about whether or not your words make sense, or sound good, or seem worthy to copy and paste into an Instagram post. Just pray. Cast your cares on him one by one, no holds barred. Out loud or in writing. Just do it.

 Talk to a person about it, in person if possible.

 Go outside. Take a walk, or weed your flowerbeds, or just sit on a chair in the sun.

Three scriptures:

 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)

 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b)

 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song.” (Psalm 28:7)

Finally—and this is important—if you are feeling like its been weeks or months since your sparkles fell off, or you can’t remember ever having sparkles at all, it might be time to seek additional help. Talk to your doctor, ask a friend to recommend a counselor, share your feelings with your spouse or sister.

Trust me—life is too short to spend it feeling bad all the time.


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