Daily Faithfulness Rewarded

Reminiscing about his many years of service to God, this past Sunday friends and family, past and present members all gathered to honor Pastor Ken Aune as he retired from 39 years of faithful ministry. My husband Lowe and I joined many who traveled to this Evangelical Free Church (EFCA) in Cary, NC which Ken started in 1994, to celebrate a life of faithfulness to God. A servant, who had run the race well and finished well, planting two churches in Nebraska and North Carolina, influencing hundreds of lives with the gospel of Jesus.

Ken joins a host of pastors, missionaries, and teachers who have given most of their lives to serve God in ministry without much recognition from the world. Like many, he preached thousands of sermons, visited the sick, married couples, baptized believers (including our daughter), shared the good news of Jesus and prayed for those who needed God in their lives. These are the faithful who continue to plant seeds for the gospel of Jesus trusting God daily for spiritual fruit.

You may know about the great servants of God – King David, Daniel, Peter and John, and Paul but have you heard of Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus, and Silas?  We may not know much about them but they too are listed as faithful servants of Christ:

“…Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ…” Colossians 1:7

“Tychicus…is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Colossians 4:7

“…Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you” Colossians 4:9

“With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother,” 1 Peter 5:12

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, desired faithfulness in his calling to preach the gospel. He said, “However, I consider my life nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” Acts 20:24  And after a faithful life of following Jesus, enduring hardships, beatings, imprisonments, hunger, sleepless nights, and hard work (2 Corinthians 6:3-11), Paul could finally say:

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

As followers of Jesus how can we be faithful to the course God gives us in a society that so easily quits? Where every day people walk away and say, “I just can’t do this anymore.”?  We need to lean on Jesus – abiding with him, trusting in his words that encourage us, asking for his power to produce the fruit of faithfulness in our lives.

Have you already quit or considered leaving what God has called you to do? Are you not seeing success as the world counts success?  Are you burned out and tired? God is your strength. He sees your faithfulness. His view of success is daily obedience and faithfulness to his calling no matter the results.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful…” Psalm 18:25

“the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.” Psalm 37:28

Has God given you a ministry to others in a church or on a mission field? Then be faithful to serve trusting God for the results.

Has God given you a family to provide for?  Then be faithful to work hard and trust God to provide.

Has God given you a husband or wife? Then be faithful to each other, serving each other.

Has God given you a season of being single? Then be faithful to be pure and holy in your singleness.

Has God given you children to teach and raise up to know him? Then be faithful to take care of them, teaching and training them to know God.

Has God given you the opportunity to be a student? Then be faithful to study, making wise use of your time.

Has God given you someone to serve – an aging parent, a handicapped child, or someone who is sick? Then be faithful to serve knowing you are serving Christ (Colossians 3:23)

As believers in Jesus, God calls us to be faithful and someday he will reward us for our faithfulness on earth. Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Revelations 22:12

Even though our friend, Ken, is finishing this part of the race by retiring from his church, I know he will continue to be faithful to God in whatever is next for him. May we daily abide with Jesus making it our only aim to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”

 

What Is Missing This Christmas?

 

It’s December 24th, Christmas is almost here.
Things are still missing. Hurry! Bring them near.

Candy for stockings, bows for the gifts,
Presents for neighbors and others on my list.

Ham for dinner and cookies to bake,
Trips to the store, how long will this take?

But there’s other things missing, what can they be?
Things more important than those gifts that I see.

A hug, a smile, a “Merry Christmas” too.
Kind words instead of curt remarks, an “I love you”.

A call or a visit to a lonely one, a family kin?
The gift of forgiveness in order to make amends.

Or have you forgotten a “thank you” from your heart?
Appreciation for family and friends, the list is long, where do we start?

And Jesus, God’s Son, born to save us, where is He?
Is He included out front or hidden under the Christmas tree?

Will you be singing and praying to Him on Christmas day?
Reading His words, talking about Him in conversations of praise?

Its December 24th there is so much to do!
Will we only think of ourselves or Jesus and others too?

The list is not that long, you’ll see.
If you just think of Jesus and others instead of “me”.

Christmas is the celebration of love from heaven came down.
Of God’s forgiveness when His Son Jesus is found.

Don’t let Him go missing this Christmas day.
Ask him into your heart for there He will promise to stay.

Tell and Proclaim this Christmas!

Turning onto the highway, I saw the large red and yellow letters which covered the entire sides of the semi-truck. You couldn’t miss it – “JESUS”. The back of the truck posted a website for more information about Jesus and God’s love. Not able to grab my phone to take a picture or write down the website, I did smile a big smile, thinking – “Thanks, brother, for announcing to other drivers your love for God’s son, Jesus, and a desire to share him with others as you go about your work traveling on highways. You aren’t afraid of what others will think or say. You just want to proclaim the news of Jesus literally wherever you go”.

The story of Christmas is a story of signs, announcements, proclaiming, and telling. The angel Gabriel was sent from God to tell Mary she would give birth to a son – “you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31-32)

At the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to shepherds in a field at night, telling them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Then a multitude of heavenly angels began to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:10-11, 14)

The shepherds then went to look for Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Upon finding baby Jesus, they “…told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.” (Luke 2:17-18)

Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated as Jewish law required. While there, Simeon, a prophet saw baby Jesus and began praising God proclaiming:

“’I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations’… Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said.” (Luke 2:30-33)

At that same time, Anna, a widow and prophetess also began to praise God and “talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

This Christmas song reminds us that this season especially is the time for all who know and have “seen” Jesus’ work of love and forgiveness in their lives to proclaim, to tell, to announce:

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born

Are you telling?  Are you proclaiming the message of Jesus- God’s salvation “prepared for all people”- to others? Painted on a truck, shared with a neighbor, told to a co-worker, written in a Christmas card, introduced to a foreigner in your city, and talked about in your home with children, parents, aunts and uncles?

Or maybe like the shepherds, you have been told the message of Jesus every Christmas but instead of seeking him you are skeptical of the announcement, not leaving your “field” to find him. This year, go, seek and find Jesus.  For he said, “seek, and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7) and “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Join with the angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna praising God for Jesus, who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:79), and make telling and proclaiming your celebration of Christmas.

 

Keep Focused!

Waking up to another morning of low dense white clouds, I could barely see past the trees in our yard; the cloud’s thickness engulfed everything in sight. Low lying, thick clouds are common in the mountains, yet driving through them on curvy roads can be dangerous. In the car, hands clinched to the steering wheel, there is a great deal of uncertainty so I focus on the white painted lines on the pavement and the red tail lights on the cars in front of me. Never knowing when the clouds will lift, I stay focused and am always relieved when I finally come out of the thickness and can see far ahead on the road in front of me.

Often in our lives, there are times when we seem to be surrounded by dense clouds. We can’t see very far, perhaps only a few feet in front of us. We become frightened, anxious, and not sure of our surroundings. It muddles our thinking and we feel lost and unsure of where we are headed. If only we could see farther ahead and make out our path.

During those times, we must stay focused. If not, we could veer off the path and go down a dark hill or get stuck somewhere- not even knowing where we are. Just like the white painted directional lines on the road, we need to fix our eyes on a clear guide. There is only one sure guide through the darkness, One who knows the right path, step by step – Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way…” John 14:6. He is the way toward God and His love, peace, forgiveness, and wisdom for life.

Not sure of the path in front of her, Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a brilliant and famous artist, searched and prayed for clear directions. Fixing her eyes on Jesus, she decided to put aside her art to take the message and love of Jesus to Algeria. Joyful and at peace in following Jesus’ clear path, Lilias wrote several books and tracts about her love for Jesus. In her tract, Focussed she wrote:

“It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? …Then dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory…Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”

Inspired by Lilias’ words, Helen Lemmel wrote the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Are you in some darkness, surrounded by thick clouds from difficulties, or perhaps wrong choices or failures? Have you lost your way not seeing the path in front of you? Then look only to Jesus. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Let His words, God’s words, guide you through the clouds. Read God’s Word daily, clinging to its truths.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.” 119:133

“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8

 

One Man, One Day

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And the debates continue. Not the current political debates or the debates over social reform or world order. But the debates focused on one man in history. This man caused uproar over 2 thousand years ago. And that battle continues today– in the market place, the center of governments, among religious leaders of various faiths and among worldly scholars and educators.

One defining day in history has changed the world and it’s thinking forever– “Good Friday”, the day that Jesus’ died on a cross. His followers understood the purpose of the cross. Paul, a follower of Jesus, wrote to the first Christians:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…the world through its wisdom did not know him…but we preach Christ crucified” 1 Corinthians 1:18, 22, 23

Why is the cross so important?  It was the moment in time when Almighty God in all of His love, grace, and justice allowed the death of His Son Jesus to be the payment for the world’s sins. Jesus said he came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Colossians 1:21-22

But His death then led to the most miraculous event in history– His resurrection from the dead. Yet, without the power of His resurrection from death, those who believe in Him would not know this resurrected new life. Peter wrote to the believers about this death and resurrection:

“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  1 Peter 1:3

And Jesus defined himself to his followers:

 “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live even after dying.” John 11:25

That is why on this day, a sad day of death and evil crucifixion on a cross, we can say it is “good”. It was and still is “good” for every person who will trust in God’s love and forgiveness through his Son Jesus. Jesus suffered for our good.

Thankfully, someday the debates will end and every person will have to acknowledge the truth:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8-11

But until that day we who know Jesus Christ as the risen Lord and Savior of the world, will continue to “preach Christ crucified”. We who follow the True Vine, Jesus, may continue to debate with others, be persecuted for our faith in the cross, and even die through beheadings. The message is still the same for each generation, and I for one, will continue to write about this message with joy.

Have a blessed Good Friday! It is a good day!

Disease in the Vineyard

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Did you wake up this morning to more bad news?  More killings around the world? More political disappointments? Are you mortified over the continual celebration of corruption, deception, vulgar speech, rage, slander, and mockery of God and His people?  As Christ’s followers, we understand the world condones this type of behavior. But, like me, you may be shocked to see many of God’s people, who claim to follow Jesus, succumb to this indwelling evil. They, like the world, support and encourage leaders and political figures that have no respect for God or His laws. These leaders are depraved and full of arrogance, rage, slander, and division.

There is bad news in God’s vineyard; a disease is spreading and the branches are becoming weak and fruitless. Some have no interest in remaining in the Vine, Jesus. Worldly thinking has taken their thoughts captive. Perhaps, these members in the church accept such behavior because it reflects their own behavior.  They are not bothered by their own acceptance of deceiving to get their own way and using anger and slander to bully others. They have left God’s standards and embraced the world because it feeds their selfish desires. Their acceptance of worldly pride in others is a mockery to God.

Paul warned the new believers in Colossae of following after worldly godless leaders:

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Jesus told his disciples to “remain in me” but he also gave a warning to those who chose not to remain and joined with the world:

“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:6

Yet, Jesus continued to remind his followers of God’s love, even in the midst of warning:

“’As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.’” John 15:9 

God the Father, motivated by His love, is warning His people and desiring for the prodigals to return and remain with Him. Consider His words that still speak to His people today in the midst of their sin and turning away from Him:

“Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”  Joel 2:13

 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us…” Hosea 6:1

“…let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him.” Isaiah 55:6-7

There are dire consequences for continuing down the path of worldliness, away from God – in our personal lives and our nation. God is calling those who have left His side to return back to Him again. It is time to wake up and return to God!

My book, Wake Up! Return to God- a call to personal revival from God’s Word is now on sale at amazon.com. God is using this book to change lives and encourage those who have strayed away to return to Him. Are you ready for a change in direction? Do you know others who need that change in their lives? The time is now to wake up!  We can’t wait any longer while evil continues to rule our land!

Already Forgotten?

Old Christmas tree2

 

Lying on the ground among the leaves and snow, its pungent evergreen smell approaches the steps of our house. Once decorated with glistening ornaments, wrapped in bright lights, our Christmas tree brings memories of the celebration of the birth of Jesus just over six weeks ago.  The decorations are packed away, gifts put to use, and cookies or candies all eaten.  But has the Christ in Christmas already been forgotten among the daily grind of life?

After the “first Christmas” when Jesus the Son of God was born, that amazing historical event soon became memories to those who experienced it. And what amazing memories!  A long trip to Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph to register for a census, then the virgin birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world – his bed an animal trough, the appearing of an angel announcing the birth to shepherds joined with a heavenly hosts saying, “Glory to God in the Highest” and finally the shepherds finding Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus. There was great rejoicing!

Celebrating all that had happened, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:19-20). Their hearts were filled with joy as they returned to their homes.

The shepherds continued their daily work tending and caring for sheep. Returning to Nazareth with their new baby, named Jesus, Mary and Joseph continued their daily work as well. Joseph continued his business as a carpenter – creating, and building. Mary busily took care of Jesus – feeding, cleaning, and raising him. They went back to daily life but they took with them the Son of God.

Now in the year 2016 six weeks after the Christmas tree is gone and celebrations have ceased, do we return to our daily lives “glorifying and praising God”? Do we acknowledge Jesus the Savior of the world in our work, our homes, in our everyday happenings? Do we talk with Jesus, thanking him and asking him for his strength, his peace, his direction every day? Or have we already forgotten him as we move onto other events and holidays?

God gave the world a gift that never goes out of season, his Son Jesus who would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6) Whether shepherds, carpenters, business people, mothers, fathers, singles, widows, orphans or whatever our role in life we can go to Jesus for counsel, experience his mighty power and loving arms as a father and know His peace in all circumstances.

Don’t forget to include Jesus in your daily activities. If you are a believer in Him, Jesus is there in your presence today. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is the Vine, our life source. In fact, the Christmas celebration never ends when we take Jesus with us into our daily lives “glorifying and praising God”.