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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Celebrate The Gray!

As I grow older, it seems that my body reminds me that I am aging with aches and pains not previously experienced in my younger years. Sometimes, these physical reminders can send me to a place in my thinking where I am feeling my life is coming to an end. Moreover, I feel my ability to serve the Lord is waning because of my age. In Isaiah 46, God speaks to the Israelites regarding false gods and their inability to supply what Yahweh has provided for them. I was drawn to verses 3-4, "Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (NIV) 


GOD IS OUR SUSTAINER


These verses resonated with me as I recognize the Lord calling me to listen to Him as He has been with me from the very beginning, even before I came into this world. ("I have upheld you since your birth and have carried you since you were born"Once I was conceived, God was immediately there and intimately involved. God has also promised that He will remain with me throughout my life. ("Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you.") Since the Lord has carried me into this world, the Great I Am will keep me here as long as He desires and give me what I need to keep going. Furthermore, regardless of my physical limitations, God is ultimately my strength. ("I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.") Since I am God's creation, He will not abandon me but will deliver me. I don't have to worry about how my physical body is aging. I can and will walk through the days of my life depending solely upon God to walk with me, in life and in death. The Psalmist declares, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley; I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4 NIV) 


A CROWN OF SPLENDOR


Despite my angst, the Lord celebrates my aging, "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness." (Proverbs 16:31 NIV) My prayer as I move through the seasons of my life is echoed by the Psalmist, "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, Your mighty acts to all who are to come." (Psalm 71:18 NIV) italics mine.
To God be the glory,
Pastor Sheree


Friday, September 27, 2019

Qualified in God's Eyes

At times when I am invited to preach in a colleague's church, I can experience anxiety. My mind becomes preoccupied with myself and what I perceive as my limitations. I engage in a conversation with myself wherein I am convinced I have nothing to offer, there are better preachers than me, and the people are going to dislike the sermon. When I buy into this type of thinking I am not only diminishing the gifts that God has given to me but in some ways disqualifying God Himself! God has uniquely gifted and called His people to serve in various capacities within the body of Christ according to 1 Corinthians 12. Paul does not mention in 1 Corinthians 12 certain qualifications to receive God's gifts such as what the culture often points to like intelligence, good looks, a certain economic status, or a particular ethnicity. The gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and received by those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. Thus, this is the only qualification necessary for God to use us in serving Him.


Testimonies Of The Unqualified

The Bible is filled with countless narratives of God using individuals whom others may have labeled as unqualified to serve God. Some of those who served the Lord came from backgrounds that were at times questionable and in some cases frightening. In the Old Testament, Abraham, "the father of many nations" with whom God established a covenant (Genesis 15) lied not once but twice about his relationship with his wife Sarah, telling the Egyptians (Genesis 12:10-20) and King Abimelech  (Genesis 20:1-17) that she was his sister. David was considered an unlikely choice to be anointed king of Israel according to his family but as the Lord told Samuel, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) In the New Testament, Mary most likely would not have been chosen to receive the "most popular girl in the class" award. She was not rich or famous but in God's eyes she didn't have to be head and shoulders above all others. God made his choice to anoint her to bear the Messiah. (Luke 1:26-38) Finally, Saul of Tarsus was one of the most feared men in all of Jerusalem for his zeal in persecuting the early church. (Act 8:1-3; 9:1-2) Saul of all people certainly wouldn't qualify to be a servant of Christ. Yet after his conversion (Acts 9:3-17), Saul, who later became referred to as Paul, (Acts 13:13) used the same zeal to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

It's very easy to compare ourselves to some standard that the world or others set as to who is deemed "qualified" to carry out whatever the requirements of a particular task may entail. Sadly, the "comparison game" can and has crept into the church. Whenever a believer wishes they were as "godly" or gifted as another brother or sister they are forgetting about the One who created them and gifted them uniquely to serve Him. Whenever a small body of believers laments the fact that their numbers don't match up to the "mega" church down the street, they are forgetting that Christ is the Head of the church and He dwells in the midst of every congregation no matter what its size. When we come to understand that there is only One in whose eyes we are qualified, we can move forward in confidence knowing that as Paul states in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." In the words of the familiar hymn written in 1922 by Helen H. Lemmel, "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."

Shalom,
Pastor Sheree



Thursday, August 22, 2019

Pottery Lesson

I have been struggling over the past 8 months with osteoarthritis in my hands. I developed what is called a trigger thumb on my left hand. This condition can occur in any of the fingers. It is the result of an inflammation of the tendon which is responsible for allowing the ligaments to slide smoothly back and forth when our fingers are flexed. When the the tendon becomes irritated the ligaments catch and "trigger" causing a popping sound and subsequent pain. There are a number of different interventions to treat the problem. After consulting with a rheumatologist and receiving some initial treatments including a cortisone injection to reduce the swollen tendon, I was subsequently referred to an Occupational Therapist. During my time with the O.T. my thumb was initially placed in a splint to allow the tendon to rest and heal. However, my thumb became stiff as a result of inactivity and I was unable to bend it. I was then given a number of different exercises to help strengthen the thumb and improve flexibility. One of the exercises involved using therapeutic putty. The consistency of the putty is strong enough to be able to stretch and squeeze but not without challenging my thumb to work hard. The use of the putty reminded me of the Scriptures that speak of God as the Potter and we human beings as the clay. Isaiah 64:8 declares, "Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand."(NIV) 

WE ARE GOD'S HANDIWORK


Have you ever seen a potter working clay? The process involves working and reworking the clay until the initial formless mass is turned into a beautiful masterpiece. However, to create a work of art is a process that requires a lot of physical labor. Ephesians 2:10 states, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV) That word "handiwork" literally means "work of art." God is the Master Potter and we are the clay. God wants to transform us into a masterpiece but unlike the physical working of clay, God's process is one of working on us from the inside out. He is molding our spirits to ultimately become a work of art that reflects Jesus Christ. In other words, people need to be able to look at us and identify the "artist" as God. If physical clay could speak it would probably protest the pulling and pushing and shaping it is experiencing. It may want to be content to remain as a lifeless, formless, lump of clay. However, the potter knows it can become so much more once it is completed and people come to know the potter through their finished work. Likewise, when God is shaping us, we can complain as the process of being transformed closer to the image of God's Son is not always easy and at times painful. Isaiah 29:16 states, "You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, "You did not make me?" Can the pot say to the potter, "You know nothing?" (NIV) 


WE ARE GOD'S MASTERPIECE


It's easy in the midst of struggles to believe we can solve the problem without God's help and guidance. However, we did not create ourselves and God knows us better than we know ourselves or are known by others because He created us. I am praying that my thumb will regain its flexibility and strength. Physical healing will only come through discipline and hard work. Our spiritual challenge is to trust God, the Master Potter, in the midst of the "shaping and molding" process. To trust that even though we don't know what the finished product will look like, God does, and we will be a masterpiece!
To God be the glory!
Pastor Sheree