Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lessons From Lancaster

It has been a while since my last post. We have just returned from vacation in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This part of Pennsylvania supports a large Amish population. Many are fascinated with the Amish and their way of life which has virtually been unchanged for years. During our trip we stopped at many farmer's markets where the Amish bring their fresh fruits and vegetables for sale to residents and tourists alike. I must admit I am envious of the people who live in this area to be able to have access to such fresh food on a regular basis. Many of the area restaurants that are not national chains utilize Amish fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals. I wonder as we look at the Amish people do we scratch our heads asking ourselves how they can continue to live in what we perceive as a "time warp?" Just look at all the "fun" things they are missing out on like cars, cell phones, IPads, IPods, and the internet. On the other hand the Amish may shake their heads in disbelief as to how we "English" as they call us can be so distracted with all our technological gadgets. One thing I admire the most about the Amish and their way of life is its simplicity. It is a simplicity rooted in their trust in God. There is an understanding that He will provide for their needs come what may. How many of us could honestly say we could give up our technology and live a simpler life trusting in God's provision? We say we trust in the Lord but are quick to have a major meltdown when we can't access any of our "techno" toys. Do you notice how agitated and angry we become when we lose electricity? We have lost the ability to function without generated power. When the lights go out, we don't know how to entertain ourselves! Lest we forget what the Amish seem to have learned well is that all we have is given us by the Lord. As James puts it, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17) The Psalmist adds, "The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all He has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall down and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (Psalm 145:13b-16) I experienced a practical example of this verse in Psalm 145 when my husband and I stopped for some ice cream at a little store in the town of Bird-In Hand in Lancaster. Ironically I literally had a bird eating out of my hand as we were sitting outside. A sparrow popped out of the bushes and came hopping towards me. It waited patiently staring at me eating my cone. I understood that it wanted to share in the tasty treat. I broke off a piece of cone and held it out to the sparrow who without hesitation took it from my hand and hopped off to eat it. Subsequently it came back for more but I had already finished and had nothing more to offer. This reminded me that God's grace towards us never runs out and is greater than anything we could ask for, imagine, or possess. As Paul reminded the Ephesians, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus."  (Ephesians 2:6-7)  His hand is always open and he desires to satisfy the longings of our hearts. Are we open enough to trust Him ?
In His Grace,
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Holy Engraving

There was a time when only certain people were bold enough to get tattoos. Typically tattoos were associated with biker types who rode Harley Davidsons or men in the military especially the navy. Today tattoos are as common as pierced ears. Tattoos come in all shapes and sizes as well as creative designs. The process involves the use of a special instrument that literally engraves the image or design into the skin. There is no law against the number of tattoos that a person can obtain and apparently no place on the body that is off limits to place them. To decide to get a tattoo is not something that a person does lightly because tattoos by their nature are meant to be permanent. However, the medical community has developed new laser technologies that can remove tattoos but the process can be somewhat painful and very expensive. When people are asked why they get a certain type of tattoo they often respond that its to remember some event or person that had a significant impact on their life. It is also a testimony or statement to the world of what the tattoo bearer has experienced in their life. Tattoos tell a story. In the Scriptures there is a story that our Savior tells through his scars. We are all aware of Christ's nail pierced hands and feet as He died upon the cross for the sins of the world. In His sacrifice God demonstrated His love for us. (Romans 5:8) But were you aware that Christ bears a tattoo or what I call a "holy engraving?" God brought this to my attention as I was reading through the book of Isaiah. In chapter 49 the Lord through the prophet speaks tenderly to Israel about her restoration after she has experienced God's judgment for her disobedience. "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones. But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; (Isaiah 49:13-16a) Did you notice what the Lord said? "I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." The Lord reminded me how fiercely He loves me. My name is engraved on the palms of my Savior's hands and it cannot be erased. Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:38) I am also reminded of Jesus words in John 10:27,"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, no one can snatch them out of my hand." All the Lord has to do is open His hands and there on His palms is my name for all the world to see. So I encourage you to do as I did and meditate on Isaiah 49:16a. Close your eyes and picture Jesus being led to the cross. See the soldiers laying Him down on those crossbeams of wood and as they open His hands to drive the nails in, see your name engraved on His palms.
Blessings In Christ,

Pastor Sheree