Tuesday, June 27, 2017

5 Steps to Prevent Tumbles--in Life

Last summer my husband, Bill, took a tumble down our backyard steps that left him with significant injuries. This spring he again stumbled but managed to stay upright. I’ve never felt secure on those steps, so I suggested we build a railing. Of course, by “we,” I meant “he.” And so he did.

How different I now feel when I walk up and down those stairs. With my hand sliding along the railing, I feel safe and secure. Why did it take us so long to find this easy solution to a challenging problem?

We need railings in life too. Oh, we may feel free as a bird sailing through life without restraints, doing what we feel like doing, making our own rules. But rules are blessings in disguise. We need them to live a fruitful, joyful life. And the best rules to live by are those found in God’s Word.

For instance, a young man who heeds the words of Solomon, writer of Proverbs, will spare himself much grief by leading a moral life. He has no worries about STD’s; he avoids imprisonment; he enjoys the fruit of honest labor. And the list goes on.

The “rules” of God’s Word are designed to build relationships—with God and with others.

Here’s why I appreciate God’s Word:

1. God’s Word keeps me from sin. I need not debate right and wrong. Should I steal or not? Should I gossip or not? By obeying just the basic ten commandments, I am blessed. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

2. God’s Word enriches my life. As I choose the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control) over the “acts of the flesh,” (sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, etc.), I build stronger relationships. (Galatians 5:19-23)

3. God’s Word assures me of eternal life. His Word tells me God is perfect and no imperfection may come into His Presence. That’s bad news, because I am far from perfect. But the good news is that Christ took the punishment I deserve, and now God sees me as Perfect as Christ. “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

4. God’s Word counsels me. God’s principles always challenge me to take the high road rather than seek revenge. We’ve all been offended by those nearest and dearest. But such experiences simply offer opportunities to extend the grace we receive from God to others, and relationships are strengthened rather than shattered. “He gives us more grace.” (James 4:6)

5. God’s Word guards my thought life. This is why I memorize lengthy passages. When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I run scripture through my mind. God may use a verse I’ve never before noticed to shed light on a problem or offer strength for the journey. “I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated . . . . ” (Psalm 77:6)

Have you discovered the blessing of steeping in God’s Word, like a tea bag steeps in tea? I assure you, like the railing of our backyard steps, God’s Word protects, guides and secures our lives. My favorite verse is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

What’s your favorite verse? Click on the link below and share.

Have a blessed month—in God’s Word.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: The Triumph of Christianity

The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion

From the get-go, this author makes surprising claims. And he offers plenty of evidence to back up what he writes. I took 19 pages of notes while reading this book because I want to remember his main points.

Stark walks down through the pages of history critical of many commonly held views. For instance, I had assumed the apostle Paul embarked on his missionary journeys with a few trusted Christian friends. According to Stark, the early missionary outreach was an undertaking that involved as many as 100 people and rivaled modern-day Billy Graham Crusades in scope

Rather than conversions centering on a disgruntled lower class of society, Stark maintains many religious converts came from privileged classes. And according to Stark, Christians promoted equality and compassion unheard of in the pagan world where unwanted infants, especially girls, were left exposed to the elements to die.

Stark clarifies what really happened under the reign of Constantine and sheds light on the real reason behind the Crusades, attacks not meant to forcibly convert but to counter and regain lands taken by Muslim attacks on Jewish and Christian territories.

The Dark Ages, according to Stark, were not that dark at all. Much progress took place in music, art, literature and science. Christians extended the sacraments to slaves, which eventually led to the abolition of slavery. I could go on, but suffice to say, every Christian should read this book. It includes almost 100 pages of back matter—a bibliography, notes and index. And there are tables and statistics to back up Stark’s claims. I liked the way Stark ended each chapter with a “Conclusion” that sums up the content. You could read just the Conclusions and gain a better understanding of the spread of Christianity.

The Triumph of Christianity will inform your faith and open your eyes to some startling misconceptions that have lingered through the ages. History has never fascinated me, but this author’s work kept me wanting to know more. The book is very understandable; I kept reading until the content ended on page 418.

Stark is a professor and codirector of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. His book Discovering God won the 2008 Award of Merit for Theology/Ethics from Christianity Today. He also wrote The Rise of Christianity, God’s Battalions and Cities of God.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review: A Promise Kept

An absolutely delightful story. Insightful. Inspirational.

Robertson McQuilkin served as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary from 1968 until 1999, when he resigned to become full-time caregiver to his wife Muriel. The couple had enjoyed a full, productive life, serving as missionaries to Japan from 1956 to 1968. At the seminary, McQuilkin taught ethics and hermeneutics. Then he faced an ethical decision of his own as Muriel descended into the darkness of Alzheimer’s.

Muriel became more and more dependent upon her husband and finally became panic-stricken if he was not by her side. After considering his options, McQuilkin reasoned he had taken a vow to care for Muriel “in sickness and in health.” She had supported his career all their married life. Now it was his turn to support her. In his letter of resignation to the seminary he wrote, “I don’t have to care for her. I get to. It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.”

A Promise Kept chronicles their journey, a journey through the ups and downs of daily care giving. McQuilkin’s love for Muriel (he calls her “my precious”) and his sense of humor shines through the pages of this short six-chapter book. He shares some of Muriel’s witty, on-target remarks. Once when he indicated she didn’t know everything, she responded, “I don’t know everything? Why I know more than everything. I know some things that aren’t so.”

Pages decorated with floral art enhance the beauty of the story. Your heart will be touched and your resolve to do the right thing will be strengthened should you ever find yourself wearing shoes of a similar size. This is a special story of how God’s grace flowed through a husband to touch the life of his precious wife.

The book was published in 1988. Muriel died in 2003; Robertson McQuilkin died at age 88 in 2016. They raised six children and enjoyed 55 years of marriage.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Seven Ways to Heal the Hurts

Dear Friends,

                One evening the joint of my left thumb began to hurt. By the time I went to bed, I gave it 8 on a pain scale of 1 to 10. Just moving a finger hurt. I had no idea how I injured my hand. It had been a typical day. There was no “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that” moment. But, oh, the pain!

                After taking Tylenol and applying pain-reliever cream, I taped my thumb to my hand and went to bed. The sharp pain gradually subsided, but the next day, I could not use my left hand. My right hand took over buttoning duties, as best it could. I skipped putting on earrings.

                All that reminds me of the pain we experience in life, the pain of broken relationships, the pain of losses, the pain of broken spirits, the pain of separations. Life holds so much pain.

                The apostle Paul likened the church to the body of Christ with each Christian having a role to play. But what happens when that person is in pain, too paralyzed to move and function? Just as I needed to baby my thumb that week, so we need to tend to the hurting.

                Yesterday I received a sympathy card with a handwritten note from a friend following the death of my last living sibling. My friend has such a gift for touching people’s lives. May her tribe increase!

                We can touch people in simple ways:

1.       If someone lost a job: Let them know you’re praying for them. Check in with them from time to time to see how they’re doing. That’s applying medication to a wound.

2.       If someone is going through a divorce: Invite them to lunch or dinner. Include them in a social setting, so they know that just because they’re no longer part of a couple, their company is still desired. That’s bandaging a wound.

3.       If someone is grieving: Send, or better yet take, a sympathy bouquet to them. That’s kissing a hurt.

4.       If someone is abused: Offer to let them spend the night at your house. That’s stitching a cut.

5.       If someone is ill: Take them soup, a meal or a treat to let them know you’re thinking of them. That’s comfort food for the soul.

6.       If someone is in trouble: Call or visit to see how they’re doing. That’s soothing salve.

7.       If any of these suffering souls hold leadership positions in the congregation, offer to relieve them for a few weeks until their lives get back on track. That’s “casting” a broken leg.

I am writing this article to myself, because sometimes I don’t say anything because I don’t know what to say. But better to stutter a bit then to ignore someone who has fallen on tough times. We need to look for the hurting among us and comfort them. Let them know we care. Baby them.

That’s what I did for my thumb for a few days. With a little help from prescription cream, it is now good as new.

             And with a little TLC, folks in our church congregations will revive and survive to continue the faith journey with us.

             What will you do today to heal a wound for someone in your circle of friends? Click on the link at the bottom of the page and leave a comment.


Upcoming Engagements:

June 3, 10 a.m. - Friends of the Heart at Baughman United Methodist Church, New Cumberland, for Bouquet of Tables, "If Our Closets Could Talk."

June 17, 3 p.m. - Friends of the Heart at Salem U. C. C., Elizabethville for a Ladies Tea, "If Our Closets Could Talk."