Category Archive: God’s Promises

The Judge

We sat on our couch, watching courtroom proceedings on zoom for seven hours.

It was sentencing day. The jury had already declared the defendant guilty. But both sides’ attorneys, as well as the perpetrator and the victims of his fraud were allowed to raise objections or make statements of his impact on our lives.

The Judge was consistently patient, listening to all sides. He treated each of us, including the defendant, with courtesy and respect. We were never felt rushed or like we were wasting the Court’s time. The Judge carefully expressed the rationale behind his decision to overrule or uphold each objection.

The trial has dragged on for four long years and four months. Along with quite a few others, Don and I were victims of the defendant’s fraud. We were all eager to put this behind us and move on. Some victims lost their life savings, pensions, and went into debt because they believed in the cause this man represented. Due to the stress of the fraud and trial, several probably died earlier than they would have otherwise.

We were blessed not to have fallen for “F’s” schemes longer than we did.

Even when handing down his sentence, the Judge spoke to the defendant with compassion. “You’re an intelligent man, and have done some positive things. I don’t know where it went wrong for you that made you choose to do what you did.”

BUT … the law was clear. He chose to go another way and has to pay the consequences for his crime.

We were very touched by one victim’s testimony. An articulate young man, he spoke of God’s forgiveness and desire for “F” to repent and seek forgiveness. He forgave “F,” but encouraged the Judge to give the maximum sentence in light of the loss, pain, illness, and suffering “F” put on so many.

It reminded me that one day we will each stand before the King of Kings, the fair and just Judge of all mankind. He has already provided forgiveness … but He gives us the choice of whether or not to receive it.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-17

God won’t ask how much we gave to this charity or that, or what good deeds we did. In love and grace, God has provided the way through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of forgiveness and new life to each of us. Our choice is whether or not to receive it.

And our eternity will be based on that answer.

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

I John 5:11-12

My only answer to the King of Kings is “I’m here with Jesus, who died and rose again that I might have life eternal.”

Questions? I’d love to talk with you.

Fear

We arrived at our drive-in church service early last week, as we always do, to get a spot from which we can hear and see our pastor teach. The precious old hymns of the faith were uplifting.

Then Pastor Tim began to speak.

“As the elders and I prayed together this morning, each of the seven prayed about the fear people are feeling in these days of insecurity! Each of the seven. And I thought, ‘this needs to be addressed.'”

Fear is prevalent in our world, with the coronavirus, political divisions and hatemongering, ongoing fires, a country divided, and many unknowns.

  • What will be the results of the upcoming election, and how will those impact us and our society?
  • When will our current fires get controlled, and how many more fires will begin before fire season ends?
  • Will I, or someone I love, become ill with Covid-19? Will someone I love be hospitalized and die while I can’t be with him/her?
  • Will my child be able to learn remotely? And when will our children, and we, return to a more normal life?
  • When can our children return to Sunday school, Kids Club, and other after school activities?
  • If I teach remotely, will my teaching be effective?

Tim had a sermon prepared; but he set that aside and spoke to us about fear instead. He said that in the Bible, we’re told not to fear 365 times – that’s once for every day of the year!

Tim reminded us that if we live in fear, we cannot be a light to those around us. And if we don’t check anxiety, it runs us! Meaningful words for me.

II Timothy 1:7 tells us “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Fear is not from God and we need to rebuke it in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Oh, fear can be a warning; but God never meant for us to live in fear for the future.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 

I John 4:18-19

When Jesus’ disciples watched Him die in agony on the cross, they thought their world had collapsed. Hopes were dashed. They were in despair, depressed, downhearted. Their leader, the one they believed to be the Messiah, was dead. Hopes dashed. Reality set in.

But three days later reality was upended when there was resurrection, just as He had promised! Even though Jesus had told them He would rise again, they were shocked and, at first, unbelieving that this could be their Savior, their Messiah, risen from the dead.

How like us when we face critical times. God has promised never to leave nor forsake us, to carry and sustain us. But when things look darkest, we forget that resurrection is coming. Christ WILL take us home to be with Him, regardless of what comes before. We can’t SEE that, don’t KNOW that because we’ve not been there yet.

But that’s where faith comes in, doesn’t it? The disciples despaired at Jesus’ death. But they they were filled with joy at His resurrection. He had spoken truth, had been fully faithful in all He told them before His death.

It is critical that we seek our God during this very uncomfortable year! He who has told us to bring all our burdens to Him, is the One who sustains, upholds, rescues, and delivers us from fear. As we focus our eyes on Him rather than the problems around us, we can experience His peace in whatever situation He allows to come our way.

For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:9b-10

How are you experiencing God’s peace in the storm around us? I’d love to hear about it. And if you are dealing with fear, I’d love to pray for you. May God bless you as you enter a new week with the Presence and Power of Jesus in all you do.

My Times are in Your Hands

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once talked about two kinds of faith, the “if” faith and the “though” faith. The “if” faith says “If God blesses me, I’m prosperous and healthy and happy, then I’ll trust God.”

“Though” faith is different:

Though things go wrong, though evil is temporarily triumphant, though sickness comes and the Cross looms, nevertheless I’m going to believe anyway and I’m going to have faith anyway.. Though the waters doth roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Martin Luther King Jr.

In the Old Testament, Job looked around and saw that everything had been stripped away from him. He couldn’t see the big picture. He just saw the losses stack up. Even his wife advised him to “Curse God and die.” Job’s response was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15a).

So what kind of faith do you and I have? Can we say we have a “though” faith?

  • Though hate and violence rear their ugly heads in my country
  • Though all collapses around me
  • Though I get lonely and desperately want face to face people connections
  • Though people I love are experiencing grave difficulties
  • Though I lose loved ones to COVID-19
  • Though I fear for much of what is happening in our country.

Oh, we will grieve. We may be lonely. We may be fearful or depressed. But we still have a choice. Will we choose to trust God despite those circumstances, and as we work our way through them? Or will our faith collapse under the weight of the pressure?

This is Pentecost Sunday, the day commemorating the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ earliest followers. The Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counselor. He is still with us. Let us trust him to help in our times of need, to give us strength to hold on, to share His love with those around us, and to trust that God is holding us when we feel we have no strength left with which to hold onto him.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 

Jesus, in John 16:7 KJV

We still have His power working in us today to help us through these various challenges.

Psalm 31:14-15 tell us “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands...”

I have struggled with depression; I am grieved and angered by much of what occurs in our society; I don’t know what to expect next–do any of us? But I will choose to trust the One who holds my times in His faithful hands.

post by carolnl | | 8

COVID MEMORIAL

How do you hold a memorial service during a pandemic? This is a relevant question for many whose loved ones are dying either from or despite COVID-19.

My brothers and I brainstormed ideas of how we could grieve together as a family and honor our mother during this time of Shelter in Place. And we took a page from the playbooks of many churches. Through Zoom, we held a virtual memorial service for immediate family yesterday and hope to have a broader service or burial at some future date.

While we couldn’t hug, be in the same room, meet together as a family for a light meal before the service, or share stories with extended family and friends afterward, we did have a meaningful time.

I was just one part of the service, which we recorded. But here’s what I said about my beloved Mother.

After Mom’s death I found an index card in her room on which Mom had written some of her favorite verses. The scriptures I share here were among those favorites.

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.

Isaiah 46:3-4

Mom lived her faith. I think of that aria we just heard her sing (“I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”) as her signature song. While she had questions and doubts at times, she loved Jesus with all her heart.  She spent a lot of time reading His love letter to her, and talking with him in prayer. She beamed when she spoke about her Lord. And often when I shared a concern with her, she said, “Let’s pray about it.”

Mom encouraged others. Many of the cards she received over the years talk about her thoughtful notes, phone calls, visits. She prayed faithfully for each of her family members. And she and Dad were hospitable from as far back as I can remember. When we were still in Winnipeg they hosted parties for nurses and grad students. My little girl eyes loved to peek out of my room to see the pretty young women, all dressed up, and their handsome boyfriends.

Mom as a young woman

Because Mom treasured her relationship with Jesus, she wanted others to know Him too. She and Dad worked in Bible clubs, street meetings (Mom sang and played the accordion and Dad preached), and Sunday school. The longevity of her impact is reflected by her decades-long relationship with Sylvia Sigurdson, who was a child in Winnipegosis, Canada when Mom led her to Christ. Sylvia has kept in touch with Mom these 70-odd years.

And when as a teen I doubted my salvation, Mom listened to my fears and gave me John 6:37: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” I began to rely on Jesus’ work and Word rather than on my feelings for my assurance of salvation.

Isaiah 41:10 was another favorite:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Five years ago, Mom wrote this:

“Before God revealed himself to me I was … a young girl (7 or 8). I did not have conviction of sin. Now I am … a mature, 93-year old woman who has been a Christian for 85 years. As I study God’s Word, it becomes dearer to me! I love the verses in Isaiah 41 and others that state that God chose me even before I was born! He loves me – so precious to me!”

Mom’s Diary

Zephaniah 3:17 concludes:

“The Lord your God … will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Music was a vital part of Mom’s life. Hymns were a significant way God spoke to her. When I broke off an engagement eons ago, she and Dad worried about me. She wakened one morning with a song that reminded her to trust God that all would be well, and her heart was at peace.

Mom sang to us a lot as children: not only hymns, but classical songs and “Auf dem Baum ein Kuckuke sass” (the cuckoo song) which Mel, and perhaps Arnold, have sung to their children and grandchildren.

On October 25, 2012 Mom wrote:

“Today it’s 10 years since John left this earth. I have shed tears this morning and I hurt. I have the assurance of Jesus holding me fast, assurance of reunion, that John is in heaven, happy. Am so thankful for that! For over 90 years Jesus has kept, protected, loved, guided, forgiven me! He will keep doing that and I’m grateful for all his promises!”

Mom’s Diary

After Dad died, and again after Jerry died, Mom and I took several out of town overnighters –to Napa, Sonoma, Winnipeg – even the Ukraine where Dad was born. Whenever we had relaxed, extended times together, whether for several hours or a couple of days, we had wonderful, deep conversations about life, love, faith, family. Oh how she loved her family!

And when Don and I started dating, and Mom had a good male friend, we double dated several times. Now that was both fun and interesting!

Mom always felt she was too serious. She wished she laughed more easily, was more fun. In these last months and years life became more difficult, communication more challenging because of her hearing and memory. But on occasion her chuckle reached her eyes so they twinkled. It was at those moments that I thought “There’s my Mom.”

Mom with her son Arnold

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

Mom longed to go home to Jesus, and to see Dad again. She was not only ready, but eager to go. And on April 4th, her prayer was answered.

I love you and miss you Mom. See you soon!

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!

Psalm 116:15

Should you wish to access the one hour memorial service online at your own convenience, please let me know and I will share the link with you.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2019 has been a year of contrasts, from the horrific fires and losses in California to the joy of seeing massive, snow-bathed peaks of the Canadian Rockies. From turmoil within our government, from persecution of people of faith around the world, to the joy of family love and care.

We’ve experienced the joys of first birthdays of a great grandson and a grandnephew, graduations, visits with family and friends.

We’ve experienced loss and concern for loved ones. My ninety-year old aunt fell and is in hospital in Canada–how I wish I could visit her! And I just got a message that my sister-in-law passed away.

We’ve visited family and friends across the country and traveled through the Canadian Rockies, built part of a school in Mexico, worked with third grade children in Kids’ Club, and enjoyed relaxation at the beach. I delighted in a girlfriends’ weekend as well as a meaningful reunion with women I hadn’t seen in 38 years.

Beautiful Botanical Gardens in Virginia
Columbia Ice Fields, British Columbia, Canada

We’ve had the privilege of having Mom with us for another Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite her significant loss of hearing and reduced mobility.

Mom with my brother Arnold

I’ve struggled with weight, losing, then regaining some (not all, thankfully!). My Don has remained strong and healthy although he tires more easily than before.

Through it all, God has been faithful to His promise never to leave nor forsake us; and to give us the hope of heaven, as well as a future while we are still on this earth.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

He has promised to finish the good work He began in us (Philippians 1:6) and so, even when I stumble or fall, I am grateful for this assurance. I am His, now and for eternity.

I’m grateful for you who read and encourage me in my musings, for the privilege of writing, for the research that makes me more and more thankful for God’s faithfulness to my family through several generations as my grandfather took his family, including my father, out of the Ukraine at the end of the Bolshevik Revolution. It was 1929, and about 15,000 Mennonites (conscientious objectors and people of faith, both anathema to the Communist machine) waited in Moscow, praying for exit visas to leave the country and retain their freedom of conscience. Of those, about 5,000, including Dad’s family, were granted visas. The rest? Sent back to their villages, executed, sent to labor camps in Siberia, families broken and separated, never to hear from or see each other again in this life.

So my wish for you is a healthy, meaningful, productive year in 2020, one in which you enjoy and rely on the promises of God; and that you and I will both deepen our walk with Him.

“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

Philippians 1:6

Happy New Year! God bless us, every one!