Category Archive: Faith

As we Enter 2022

Merry Christmas from our house to yours.

with prayers for a happy, healthy New Year.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

The Arrival

I loving the word “Advent.” The Arrival.

Rome ruled Israel. Taxes were high and people anxious, wanting the promise of Messiah to be fulfilled as it had been prophesied multiple times in the Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and other books of the Old Testament.

And Herod, who officially ruled Galilee and Perea as a client state of the Roman Empire…well, he knew he could be thrown out of power at any time if he didn’t align himself with Rome.

Chaos was rampant as Israelites and Romans clashed in the streets. Crime was up. Waves of revolt were often led by two sects: the Zealots who sought Jewish independence, and the Sicarii, a Zealot extremist group whose name means “assassin.” Hostility was high. Roman occupation included oppressive taxes, physical abuse by Roman soldiers, and the repugnant idea that the Roman leader was a god. Repeated efforts at gaining political independence went nowhere. Whether in the city or country, Israelites were oppressed by Rome. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it! (I’m not making a political comment, just saying their culture and ours parallel in a number of ways.)

But the Israelites expected a Messiah Ruler; a leader who would vanquish Rome, set captives free, and give them peace and freedom and victory celebrations!

Instead, Messiah came as a baby, born in a humble stable. Not even a room in the inn. He had to be laid in a manger, probably filled with straw. This isn’t the way one would expect a King to enter the world. Pastor Tim used a statement last week that “The infinitely high became incomprehensibly low so we could be seated with him in the heavens!” God’s Son gave up everything, even the Oneness he shared with the Father, when God turned his back on the sin laid on his Son’s shoulders on the cross. Jesus gave up everything so we could have everything!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

With Mary, I proclaim

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Luke 1:46-48 (NIV)

This has been a difficult year around the globe. Uncertainty, hostilities, pandemic, floods, natural disasters, loss of loved ones, and isolation have taken their toll.

woman showing stop gesture with hand
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

And, while Jesus wasn’t born into a palace, surrounded by servants, rich damasks and silks, and the finest of infant foods, he did come as our Lord and King, the only one who could take on himself the penalty for our sins. Eight days after his birth, the elderly Simeon, a righteous man who had been awaiting the arrival of Messiah, held Jesus in his arms and prayed:

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.

Luke 2:29-32

So as we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s remember the God who holds the world in his hands and sent his one and only Son, the exact likeness of God, to become nothing, so we could have everything!

I wish you and yours a joyous Advent, celebrating not only the babe in the manger, but our Lord and King!

Yes? No? Wait?

Most of us have seen the news: seventeen missionaries, serving Christ in Haiti, abducted. Among them are two teenagers and children aged eight months, three and six years. The missionaries had been brought back to the US and Canada after the assassination of Haiti’s President, but were recently sent back to the country.

In a letter, the families of those abducted said “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped. They expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

I grieve for these men and women, for mothers trying to care for an infant and two small children in captivity. These missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist groups, while Don’s and my roots are of Mennonite origin. And I pray for their protection, for grace in their captivity, for their release.

And God cares!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-8

He also brings hope.

Hope when discouragement seems to reign over the world and our hearts.

Hope when we feel lost inside, fearful.

Hope that comes from his Word, which is still so very relevant today; and from his Spirit within us that speaks truth to us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, ESV

In spite of abduction, war, death, fire, flood, as well as personal challenges, God promises us hope which comes from faith if we will spend time listening to, and reading or hearing his message to us. Faith that what we see is not all there is.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you and me. Who else sent His Son, the eternal Son of God and part of the Triune God, to live among us, to show us the character of God. No other religious leader has died a horrific death, rising three days later to conquer death and offer us eternal life through His sacrifice for us.

Some think God is punishing, vengeful, that he could not possibly forgive what they have done. But look at the promise in John 3:16-17, verses familiar to many of us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

His desire is not vengeance, but reconciliation, relationship.

And God’s answers to prayer are not always what we think is best. His answer may be “Wait”, as it was when I longed for my first husband to pop the question! It may be “No,” as it was when people around the world prayed for the release of missionaries Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others at the hands of the Auca Indians in 1956. No, God didn’t spare the lives of these five men who were trying to reach a tribe in Ecuador with the Good News about Jesus. But through that murder, and through the continuing faithfulness of Jim Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel, that entire tribe came to faith in Christ. His is a long view, if you will. This earth is but one step in our life’s journey. Eternity will be, well, eternal!

lightning unk on green grass field
Photo by Alexandre Bringer on Pexels.com

And his answer may be “Yes.” The daughter of friends was to be married at two o’clock this afternoon, outdoors in the Santa Cruz mountains. As many of you know, we have a storm today–heavier rains in northern California and in the mountains, with evacuation orders in place for parts of Santa Cruz because of debris and the threat of falling trees.

Don and I have prayed much this week for this wedding. We’ve prayed for rain, and didn’t want to ask God to shut the windows of heaven. We also wanted this family to have a wonderful day of celebration. Impossible to have both? When they planned the wedding the weather was projected to be clear; now there were no canopies available for rent in the area, for either the outdoor wedding or reception.

brown trees under blue sky
Photo by Jelena Juhnevica on Pexels.com

Our pastor told us this morning that another wedding at the outdoor venue cancelled yesterday (Saturday), and our friends moved their wedding up by a day. Photographer, caterers, pastor, all were available a day early and the couple had a wonderful wedding day without rain. I expect many were praying for this, and give glory to God for making a way in a situation that seemed impossible.

I don’t know what God will do with these abducted missionaries. My mind is not his. But I know this. God is good, and he loves each of those seventeen adults and children. And he will work through the resolution of this horrendous situation, whatever it may be. AND, he wants us to ask! Please join me in prayer for them.

Father, good God, please grant your peace to these servants of yours as they wait in captivity. Convict the gang members and show them your love through this group. Provide the grace that's needed for each person, and especially for the parents of the small children as they help their little ones navigate captivity. I pray the group will be able to stay together so they can encourage and uplift each other. Keep your word alive in their hearts. And in your mercy, I ask for their release. Be with their families; and in whatever comes, may your name be lifted up! In Jesus' name.

Amen!

Visions Completed, Visions Destroyed

Don, Paige and I left home mid-morning. Carmel or Rio del Mar (both California beaches), we asked ourselves. Since we lived near Rio for six years, we decided to take a drive down memory lane by our old home.

Our formerly soft yellow country house with white trim is now dark gray with white trim. The dark gray is a more contemporary color, but we miss the brightness of our warm yellow and white home. But when you sell a house, it’s the buyers’ to change as they wish to make it their own. It was fun to see the large equipment on the property and realize they are making other changes, including installing a chicken and duck coop behind the guest house.

We left Soquel for Aptos, home of Twin Lakes Church, our church home for six years. Before we moved several years ago, the church shared a vision to build a coffee house as a ministry center to the students at Cabrillo College, next door. We loved the idea and were part of that funding campaign. “The Loft” was finished and opened several months ago and I wanted us to see the completion of this particular vision.

“The Loft” is beautiful inside and out. Drought friendly, attractive landscaping welcomes. Inside, the front has a coffee bar, tables and chairs, with a loft upstairs that holds two offices and several more tables. Every table was filled with students on laptops and friends meeting. While enjoying our lattes we ran into Pastors Rene and Adrian and told them how thrilled we are to see this vision become reality.

“The Loft” – getting known by Cabrillo College students

Behind the coffee bar is a large auditorium and stage for meetings, presentations, music, etc. We pray God will use The Loft to reach college students for Jesus.

On to Rio del Mar, a great walking beach for dogs and their peeps. We walked to Seacliff beach, and onto the pier. Paigey loved chasing the pigeons and would have done more had she not been on a leash firmly held by Mummy. We sat and talked and watched the ocean come and go. To our left lay the remnants of the SS Palo Alto, called the “cement boat,” built for service in the First World War but launched May 29, 1919, too late to see service. Mothballed in Oakland until 1929, the SS Palo Alto was bought by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation and towed to Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California.

For several years, the ship was anchored three miles from shore. This monster party boat included a casino and dance hall, arcades and entertainment until its owners went belly up when the Great Depression rocked the world in the early 1930’s. The ship now rests on the bottom of the Monterey Bay.

The Cement Boat

In the heavy storms of 1917, 34-foot crashing waves broke the stern from the rest of the boat, and eventually turned it on its side.

When I was a child, the pier connected to the boat, which was used as a fishing pier. I remember walking onto the ship, a good fishing spot and bird haven. Now, of course, the ship is very unsafe. It has weathered, deteriorated, and sections have separated from each other; and the end of the pier is gated.

Visions–whether making a home your own, reaching college students with the good news of Christ, or building a ship that could weather storms and war. Which will last?

What will I leave behind when Jesus takes me home? Will I leave memories of loving service, of caring for others in his name, of sharing the good news that God wants a relationship with each of us and has provided the bridge, Jesus, between heaven and earth, between sin and redemption? Or will I leave memories of self-centered decisions and advancement at the cost of hurting others? I know which I want to have as a legacy, but how often I fall short. I’ve been trying to remember to ask Jesus to join me in the little things–driving to an appointment, talking with others, being with my family, emptying the dishwasher. And as I do, I am more aware of his love and presence with me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The Ark, a Refuge

We were on the Ark a few days ago. Noah’s Ark.

Ken Ham envisioned creating a full-size replica of the Ark in Kentucky, to show the immensity and scale of this boat God told Noah to build. The Ark was a symbol of the grace of God. It pained Him to see the increasing evil among men (and women). He determined to destroy the world by a great flood, saving only Noah and his family, who worshipped God, and two of every kind of animal that had breath on the earth. It was grace that rescued Noah’s family; and is grace that saves us today.

I didn’t know what to expect when we got to the Ark Encounter. The boat is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. It’s enormous!

Frank and granddaughter Kate in front, in blue and pink
  • It had to withstand heavy rainstorms for forty days and nights.
  • It had to hold together without leaking throughout that time.
  • It had to have space for all the animals aboard (“one of every kind or type, not necessarily one of every animal), provisions for their food and water, for getting rid of waste products, etc.; and
  • It had to have provisions and spaces for the family.
Supplies, Grains
Amazing curved beams

We met our dear friends, Fritz and Frank Buschman, their daughter Kim Sahmel and her three beautiful children, the night before. I loved watching Kim guide and teach her three children whom she is homeschooling—Ben, 5; Kate, 8; and Luke, 10. We delighted in seeing the Cincinnati shoreline and the Ark through their eyes. What a delight to see young parents teaching their children truths from God’s word, discipline, and academic and creative skills.

Kate on Camel
Luke and Ben enjoying camel ride

At the Ark, the children rode camels–a first for them, along with seeing some zorses (zebra/horse).

“That was insane,” chuckled five-year old Ben, eyes sparkling as he dismounted.

Scientists estimate it took 75 years to build the Ark. Seventy-five years during which Noah’s neighbors laughed at and mocked him.

“Who is this God who told them to build this big ship? They must be crazy.”

But Noah persisted, obedient to the prompting of God.

And then God told them to get into the boat. When all, family and animals were aboard, God shut the door. No one could open it, from inside or out. The boat was sealed.

Don in front of Ark

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if those mockers would have trusted the word of God through Noah, and repented of their sin. Based on God’s character, which is both holy and loving, I believe they too would have been invited into the Ark of Protection.

While the creators of the Ark Encounter state that they have taken some literary license in laying out the interior of the ship, etc., they translated Biblical measurements (cubits) into our current feet, yards, etc. for the exterior.

And there was room for all.

I wonder if God gave Noah the whole plan at one time or if He gave it to him a step at a time, as He so often does with me. “Take the next step,” He says, and then another is revealed. Seems the whole plan at one time might have been overwhelming. But then, these instructions were coming directly from God, so maybe not. God himself is overwhelming!

What lessons can we learn from this experience?

The detail of God’s plan for the ages–His plan to offer redemption to all through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing more needs to be done.

“It is finished,” Jesus declared from the cross. And, with His resurrection, He conquered death once for all. Oh yes, you and I will die one day; but our spirits will live on in eternity–our destination depending on whether we have received God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. His grace is there for each of us, if we will only receive it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

God promises to guide us in all our ways. He didn’t leave Noah without a plan, whether step by step or with one huge blueprint. And He has promised the same to us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV

May God guide your steps and mine this week as we walk with Him, grateful for His grace!