Friday, 27 August 2010
The people of Chile have something to celebrate. Earlier this month, an accident at a gold and copper mine had left 33 men trapped deep underground. After 17 days, mine workers were able to drill through more than 2,200 feet of solid rock to reach the emergency relief area where they hoped the miners would be. We can imagine their fears and their hopes. Would they find anyone alive, or would this be more of a recovery mission than a rescue? Much to their surprise, a probe returned with a note saying all 33 men were alive! Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said, “Today all of Chile is crying with excitement and joy.”
The miners still need our prayers, because their ordeal is far from over. Right now all 33 are alive. They are receiving food, water and other supplies through a capsule that is lowered down to them. Soon they will be able to communicate with their families. But officials expect that it will take as long as four months to drill a tunnel big enough to pull them out. That’s a long time to wait and anything could happen in four months. I do pray that all will be rescued in time.
West Virginians truly understand their joy, because it is greatly contrasted by our sadness. In April, 29 West Virginia miners lost their lives in the Big Branch Mine explosion. We experienced a similar tragedy in January 2006 with the explosion at the Sago mine. Families prayed and waited for many agonizing hours for news on the search and rescue mission. We felt as though we were there with them, eagerly awaiting and watching the television news updates. When word came that they were found alive, a joyous celebration erupted at the site and all over the state. This celebration quickly turned to mourning as the sad news came that a mistake had been made. Only one of the 13 miners had survived. It is one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve ever witnessed.
Still, we could celebrate that the one miner had survived. Even then, we were guarded in our hopes because all reports indicated that he wasn’t doing well. But Randal McCloy survived. National news programs chronicled his treatment and rehabilitation. The last thing I remember hearing about him is that he and his wife had welcomed their third child about a year after the accident. As far as I know, he is still doing well and I am so happy for him and his family.
You know who you never hear about in news stories during and after mine disasters? It’s the other workers that were present and escaped unharmed. We are glad to hear that they are accounted for and safe, but then we focus our attention on those that need rescued. They are already saved and it’s the job of the mine rescuers to go after the lost.
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
A few weeks ago, a woman who has been coming to our church off and on for a while committed her heart and her life to the Lord. It was a moving experience to be there with her. Like those Chilean families, we all cried with joy and excitement. But an even greater celebration was taking place in Heaven. In the service, this woman was surrounded by her brothers and sisters in Christ who had prayed for her and loved her. They are good Christian people and God loves them, but the celebration that day wasn’t because of them. It was because a soul had been saved. And she won’t have to wait four months. She is saved now. She has the promise of everlasting life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Does that mean her life will now be hunky-dory and always full of sunshine and daisies? Absolutely not. Life hands out its shares of trials and tribulations to everyone. The difference is that she has a new way to deal with them. She has a Heavenly Father that is watching over her and turning things around for her good. She has a Savior that is guiding her steps and serving as her Advocate and Redeemer. She has the Holy Spirit to counsel and comfort her. She has peace and the promise that when this physical life is over, that there is a place prepared for her in Heaven. Great is our reward when we give our lives to Christ!
In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd doesn’t wait around for his sheep to come back. He leaves the 99 sheep and goes out looking for the lost one. If you (or a loved one) are unsaved, Jesus isn’t only waiting around for you to come to him, but he is also out there looking for you. He is speaking to you in different ways, trying to reach your heart. It might be through a sermon, a television program, a friend, a missionary, a dream, the wonder of nature . . . or even a blog article. He’s that still, small voice that is urging your spirit to make a change and turn your life around for God. Are you listening?
I’ve heard people say that it’s too late for them. They believe they have done too many things in their life or things so terrible that they could never serve God. It is never too late. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Sin is sin; there is no difference between a big sin and a little sin. When you repent, you turn away from that sin and move forward on the right path. When you accept Christ as your Savior, you have someone to lead you on that path.
Remember the prodigal son? The story in Luke tells of the younger son who asks his father to give him his inheritance and then he leaves home. He travels to a distant land and in no time, he has run through all his money. He is forced to take a job feeding pigs -- one of the worst possible jobs -- in order to survive. Then it says that he came to his senses and realized he would be better off as a servant in his father’s home than feeding this stranger’s pigs. He acknowledges his mistakes and humbly returns home to ask his father’s forgiveness, hoping to at least be taken back as a servant. Much to his surprise, his father welcomes him back with open arms.
"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.”
No matter where you have been or what you’ve done or what you have been through, God has never stopped waiting and wanting you to come to Him. But the choice is yours. You have to decide if you want to go the world alone, or if you want a Savior, Advocate, Friend, Redeemer, Shepherd, Healer, Deliverer, Shield of Defense, Strong Tower, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, soon-coming King by your side. When you “come to your senses” like the prodigal son, I hope you will make the right choice.
Our church has been faithfully praying for the salvation of our families and friends. I am looking forward to many more heavenly celebrations.
Posted on 08/27/2010 7:34 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 20 August 2010
Let Them Go
The world celebrates a new year each January. But those of us with children live by a different calendar. For us, a new year starts on the first day of school. Everything is new: new grade, new teachers, new friends, and sometimes a new school. It also means it is time for new backpacks, new shoes and clothes, and new supplies.
School years serve as milestones for our children. Life changes when they enter kindergarten. We’ve had them all to ourselves for five years, and then we have to turn them over to someone else for a while. We ask ourselves, where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday they were sweet, snuggly newborns in our arms. Letting go is scary for both you and your child, but it has to be done.
When my child was in kindergarten, she cried every day . . . until February. Every day I had to take her into the school and hand her over to the kindergarten aide. (I love that woman – she was my hero!) She would be crying and reaching for me and I just had to walk away. It was heartbreaking. Then one day in February as we pulled up to the school she said, “I think I will walk in by myself today.” I nearly wrecked the car! But I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I told her that would be fine and gave her a hug and kiss. As I watched her walk into the school, I began to cry. They were tears of relief and joy. My little girl was growing up.
Elementary school was a lot of fun. The toothless years were especially good. There is nothing cuter than a kid missing his or her front teeth. Around third grade things start to change as they transition from little kid to big kid. Next thing you know, you have a tall, gangly fifth grader who is torn between being a kid and being a teenager.
Then comes middle school. Nobody wants their child to go to middle school, but unfortunately there isn’t an alternative unless you want to home school them. (No thank you! I like my sanity!) What’s wrong with middle school? Nothing really -- we just don’t like it. It’s a bigger school for one thing. In elementary school, parents could drop by and talk to teachers, volunteer in the classroom, and bring in treats. You felt like you were part of a family. In middle school, neither the school nor your kids want you hanging around.
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Parents are also concerned about the influence of the older students on the younger. Should a sixth grader be around an eighth grader? Middle school introduces them to a whole new world, and that world involves things like drugs and sex and cursing. If you haven’t already been talking to your child about these things you are way behind. If they don’t learn it from you they will learn about it from their friends. Friends are everything to a teenager, so you better be sure you know who your kids’ friends are. And let’s be honest: the real reason we worry about our kids in middle school and high school is that we know what we were doing at that age! We survived and so will they, by the grace of God.
Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.
This year my daughter will be an eighth grader. Now that she is that age, eighth graders don’t seem so bad. Isn’t it funny how our perspective changes? Looking back, I can’t believe she has two years of middle school behind her. Sixth grade nearly killed me, but seventh was a great year. She has grown and matured so much these last two years. She is becoming more responsible and more helpful. I try not to look too shocked when she offers to do something for me instead of me having to tell her a million times to do it. I watch how she interacts with her friends and with other adults and I am pleased. We must have done something right.
I don’t want to talk about going to high school . . . I am not ready for that yet! But I know I will be when the time comes. God will prepare me and He will help me prepare her. Don’t rush things. Enjoy where you are now and go with it. Let them go and watch them soar! And when they crash from time to time, you will be there to lift them up again.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
My friends and I have been lamenting about our children growing up and moving on to a new stage in life. I have some friends with kindergarteners who are just getting started. Others are getting ready for their first step into middle school or high school or college. It is a wonderful, anxious, scary and bittersweet time. God gave us these children and it’s our job to grow them up. Much as we would like sometimes to keep them little and keep them close, it can’t be done. Time and biology are against us. They are going to grow up and move on and we can’t stop it from happening. But if we have done our jobs as parents, they will be prepared. We have to trust God and trust ourselves and trust our children.
20 My son, keep your father's commands
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
21 Bind them upon your heart forever;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For these commands are a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and the corrections of discipline
are the way to life,
School is starting. Please pray for our school children and for the teachers and staff.
Posted on 08/20/2010 7:50 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 13 August 2010
The Taming of the Tongue
“Me and my big mouth.”
“My mouth is always getting me in trouble.”
“There I go putting my foot in my mouth again.”
“Lord keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth!”
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve tasted my foot a lot lately. Usually I try to watch what I say (or write) because I understand the power that words have. But there are moments when the brain seems to disconnect from the control center and the tongue takes off on its own. Then there are times when I hear inside my head, “Don’t say that,” but I say it anyway. It’s like I can’t stop myself.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Our tongue can get us in trouble in any number of ways. It can say “yes” too quickly and volunteer us for something we really don’t want to do. It can slip and let out information that we were supposed to keep to ourselves. Or perhaps the ears have heard a juicy tidbit of news and the tongue can’t wait to pass it on to someone else. The tongue can also speak harsh, critical words that wound and perhaps even kill. It can curse and blaspheme. (If you are a JetBlue flight attendant, the tongue can get you fired up and fired!)
My friend and I taught a lesson on the power of words once upon a time when we taught in Children’s Church. We gave the kids tubes of toothpaste and had them squeeze the toothpaste out. Then we told them to put the toothpaste back in the tube. You can imagine the looks on their faces. Some of them actually tried to do it, but quickly realized it was impossible. Our words are like the toothpaste – once we speak them, write them, email them, Facebook them, we can’t take them back. They will go out and do whatever good or damage they are going to do. That’s why we have to be so careful what we say, where we say it and whom we say it to. And we have to be mindful that nothing we say is in secret, because God hears everything.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.
Our words can be used to build someone up, or they can be used to tear them down. They can bring peace to a situation or they can incite a riot. They can convey love or they can spew hate. They can bring knowledge and understanding, or they can confuse and promote ignorance. And we will have to answer for all of them. Matthew 12:36-37 says: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Our moms use to tell us that if we didn’t have something nice to say, to not say anything at all. That’s pretty sound advice.
He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
My father-in-law is one of those men you would describe as a “man of few words.” He doesn’t have a lot to say, but when he does say something you better listen up because it’s going to be worth hearing. It’s an example worth following, and would probably help keep me out of trouble. It really does take effort and discipline and help from God to keep ourselves and our tongues under control. It’s a choice we make, just like everything else in our life.
Earlier this week, I didn’t choose my words as carefully as I should and I hurt someone. Actually, I did it on more than one occasion to more than one person. (I told you I had tasted my foot a lot lately.) It is a painful reminder that our words have great power and we must choose them carefully. We can say we are sorry and pray that the people will forgive us, and probably they will. But the damage has been done and sorry doesn’t always make it feel better right away.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
Our pastor is always reminding us that God gave us two ears and only one tongue for a reason. We need to talk less and listen more. But it’s not just how much we talk (or the quantity); it’s the quality. Having a big mouth can be a good thing if you use it the right way. Use it to build up and encourage others. Use it to share wisdom and knowledge. Use it to promote peace and understanding. Use it to share the gospel with others. Just use it with care.
Posted on 08/13/2010 8:08 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 6 August 2010
Last week my husband asked if we could arrange a weekend trip to Pennsylvania for a family reunion. When I stopped laughing and realized that he was serious, I started making plans.
Why the laughter? Let’s just say that his is not a close family – at least not compared to mine. I have a pretty big family, and while we don’t have family reunions, we do get together fairly often. When we see each other, we all hug and we give out that same round of hugs when we say goodbye. I met a few of my husband’s cousins and maybe an aunt and uncle about 17 years ago at a wedding reception. When we go to Pennsylvania to see his parents and sister, we never visit with any other family, even though many of them live in the same town.
We really didn’t know what to expect as we headed for the reunion location. I knew that his dad had four brothers, so we figured there might be 20 or 30 people at the most. Imagine our surprise when we find a large picnic shelter with at least 150 people, a big banner proclaiming the family reunion and someone making announcements over a sound system. This wasn’t the thrown-together picnic we expected. This was a well planned event.
Turns out they have been having this reunion on a fairly regular basis. Those attending come from my husband’s grandfather’s family. Apparently he had a lot of brothers and sisters, and almost each one had descendants who were present. The oldest was 91 and the youngest was six weeks old. My husband’s uncle was the first to greet me. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I don’t know who any of these people are either.” I think this might have been the first reunion where my father-in-law’s branch of the family showed up. As I said, they really aren’t a close bunch, though I think they genuinely care about one another. They just don’t want to spend a lot of time together. And they hate large gatherings.
My daughter was actually excited about attending the reunion. “Mom, I’ll get to meet a bunch of people that I’m related to and don’t even know,” she said. I can always count on her to put things in perspective. Whether we know them or not, they are family. I am a member by marriage, but she, like her dad, was in the blood line. Whether we chose to associate with them or not over the years, we were still a part of that lineage. If someone were to sit down and draw up the family tree, we would be one of the branches. It’s not like we can say, “just leave us out . . . we don’t really know them.” Like it or not, we are all connected and nothing can change that – not even being antisocial.
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Many Christians try to keep their distance from their brothers and sisters in Christ. Some don’t go to church at all. Others want to come to church and go home without interacting with anyone or getting involved in the work of the church. They come in late so they don’t have to talk to anyone and they sit in the back. When they hear the preacher starting to close the service or perhaps getting ready to make an altar call, they make a quick and discreet exit. I am sure they have their reasons. Perhaps they have been hurt by people in the church, either the one they currently attend or at a previous one. Sadly, this happens too often. Or perhaps they are struggling in their walk with God and don’t feel like they can contribute anything. Or maybe they are just shy and don’t know how to get involved. Whatever the reason, their lack of participation doesn’t make them any less a member of the church.
1 Corinthians 12:14-16
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
When you became a Christian (by asking Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life and to forgive your sin), you became a member of the body of Christ. Jesus is the Head and we are the body. You cannot say that you have a part in Christ but not a part in the body. If you have Christ in your life, then you are automatically a part of the body.
I Corinthians 12:21
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"
You need your church family and they need you. You are a part of each other. When everyone works together and uses their gifts and talents, then you have a healthy, growing church body that can be about the Father’s business. When you don’t get involved and you don’t use the spiritual gifts and talents God has given you, then the church is struggling in its growth and ability to function. Think about a person who has a paralyzed limb or perhaps is blind. Other parts of his body have to work harder to compensate for these non-functioning ones. The person can still lead a happy, productive life, but it will be a little harder for him than most people. We know he could do so much more if all his body functioned the way it should.
I Corinthians 12:24-26
But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
We are supposed to be a unified body that loves and cares for one another. If you hurt, I hurt, too. If you rejoice, I rejoice. We have people who serve in roles: pastor, teacher, finance director, secretary, usher, worship leader, etc. These roles are crucial to the functioning of the church, but they do not make one person more important than another. Unfortunately, some people get in these roles and start exalting themselves and getting the big head. They are putting their egos above God’s work for them, and that is poison to the body. Or you get a person who thinks they are not important because they don’t have a title. They act jealous or sometimes they withdraw and pout because they don’t think they matter. That is equally damaging to the body. We all matter and we all have a place in the body of Christ – we just have to find it. Verse 18 of 1 Corinthians 12 says, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
I am very fortunate to have a wonderful, loving family. I have an equally wonderful and loving church family. One I was born into; the other I was reborn into. When I go to church, it’s just like a family get-together. We all greet and hug one another. We are happy to see each other and we share our lives. We work together to build up the church and each other and to serve the Lord. We come from different places and were born into different families, but we are now one family because we share the blood of Jesus Christ. We are his body and we are a part of each other. One day we will have the ultimate family reunion. That’s one I don’t want to miss! Will you be there?
Posted on 08/06/2010 7:41 AM by Susan Nelson