A story writer: John Bunyan

2Tim 4, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom:…” being that John was judged on earth by men and thrown into prison, he knew that there would be a moment where each of us would stand to be judged before God. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all l-o-n-g-s-u-f-f-e-r-i-n-g and teaching…But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

John Bunyan was thrown in a prison in the 1600’s because he was ‘preaching the word!’ How in this world could he ‘fulfill’ his ministry? Prison in those days was really ‘prison’. There were hard wooden benches instead of beds, there was a small window to let in the sunshine but no lights, there were no nice heaters, so prison was cold and damp. And I don’t think I need to mention the food! This place was the pit!

But this is what is recorded about John Bunyan- he kept singing. John Bunyan kept praying. And yes, John Bunyan read his Bible. And he even became sick in jail, even after all that singing and praying and Bible reading! I am convinced that John Bunyan KNEW the word in his heart and he was able to overcome huge trial.
2 Timothy 4:6,7: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul Bunyan was obviously ‘exhorted’ by the word, “keep the faith” that is the race.

Obviously, God was with him, because he had a dream one night,(and I am totally convinced that God gave him this most wonderful dream in this most dreadful place to give him something to do!) And ‘do’ he did- John Bunyan began writing!

Thus we have the great journeys of Christian.
God made him ready in his, ‘out of season’. And in this most wonderful book John convinces, and rebukes, and exhorts with all longsuffering and teaching and somehow he made us watchful in all things as we watched Christian endure afflictions. He did the work of an evangelist. John Bunyan, in a dark, dank cell fulfilled his ministry.

There is nothing like a good story to get us out of a pit into a whole new place! Hey, does anyone know where our copy of Pilgrim’s Progress is?


Struggling to see the light this Christmas . . .

“O soul are you weary and troubled. No light in the darkness you see. There’s a light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free.” (1)

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, a hymn quite familiar to many, speaks compassion and comfort for the lost and the lonely. God says, “Speak of the hymns,” in His Book of Ephesians. So, speak we will, seeking a light for a look at the Great Physician.

Others are praying in this time of great pain. Prayers going out during this dark of night. But greater still – Jesus is praying – He, the giver and keeper of Life itself.  The King greater than all other Kings, He’s praying for us. The prayers, “Through these tears – ‘Sight, through the night give us!’

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

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.

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (2)

“Behold the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him, Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like as shepherd; He will gather His lambs in His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.” this is Isaiah Chapter 40: 10 and 11. These are words breathed out straight from heaven.

Chapter 30 verse 5 in the Book of Psalms:  “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

“Oh Lord God, give us sight. Give some relief as we wait and are tempted to wonder, ‘why.‘ Open our eyes for spiritual things. We are weak, our mouths are so dry . . .

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.” The LORD speaks, He is our Immanuel, yesterday and today. He is near, forever.

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’s hand Double (forgiveness) for all her sins.” (3) This is the word that will not fail, this is the Word of our Immanuel.

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, And every mountain and hill shall be made low …” (4)

Oh, how we need to be reminded that God, the Creator of the Universe – He’s in control.

“The crooked places shall be made straight, And the rough places smooth; The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”(5)

These are promises given for our hearts to take hold. When there’s darkness and pain and endless oppression, we must remind ourselves, ‘the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’

All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, …but the word of our God stands forever. O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain, . . . You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities, . . . “Behold your God!” (6)

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.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (7)

There’s a light for a look at the Savior . . . His word shall not fail you, He’s promised . . . Over us sin no more hath dominion – For more than conquerors we are!

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8)

The light has been given, the weak hands that hang down, are strengthened to hold the sword of God’s word. Nothing has changed, save the spirit inside us, now transformed and encouraged to hope and have faith and to love – Victorious!

 There’s a light for a look at the Savior. A light, so abundant and free : God’s love never fails … For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. (9)

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.

 (1) Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

(2) John 10:11

(3) Isaiah 40:1,2.

(4) Isaiah 40:3,4a.

(5) Isaiah 40:4b,5.

(6) Isaiah 40:6-9.

(7) Romans 8:34.

(8) Romans 8:37-39.

(9) 1 Corinthians 13:8,12).


…”if we do not lose heart.” Have you ever felt that you have ‘lost heart?’

But then we remember our ‘heros of the faith’.

“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,”(Hebrews 12:1)
Thinking of Jeremiah who at times lost heart, but what were his thoughts that set him straight?

“My soul still remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,”Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:20-24)
Today, I add ‘Selah’ to that. To think,to ponder over, to meditate on.

So, let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we don’t lose heart.(Gal. 6:9)

Thinking, pondering, and meditating on a Psalm of David,
(Ps. 62) “Truly, my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved…
My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your hart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

And finally, today, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the the throne of God. for consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3.)


so who was Jeremiah?

Seriously, for you not so serious Bible readers, have you tried to read through the Book of Jeremiah? Well, if you ever feel like you are having a bad day, or you feel that your life ‘is a bad day,’ you will not feel so bad about your life after reading through Jeremiah.

If the traditional definition of success includes the acquiring of popularity, money, and great accomplishments then Jeremiah was a complete failure! He was called to be a prophet, to speak, “the word of the Lord”, yet no one ever wanted to listen to him. He spoke, “If you will return, O Israel,” says the LORD, “Return to Me…” For thus says the LORD…”Break up your fallow ground,…

The modern language for,”Break up the fallow ground.” is, “You are hard-hearted, and stubborn! Return to God.
But the response was, “Jeremiah, can’t you ever have a ‘good word?’ We really don’t want to hear you right now.We haven’t done anything wrong.”

Jeremiah passionately shared the words of the LORD, He said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD…but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes;…”Jeremiah 17:7,8.

Well, let me tell you, HEAT DID come. Heat came to Jeremiah, the man who trusted God! He spoke truth to Kings in charge and they did not like his truth, so they arrested him, they put him in prison, they burned his prophetic message, they put him in painful stocks, he was put in isolation and even starved in a dungeon, and constantly challenged by false prophets!
Yes, we get to hear Jeremiah, the human(!), speak to God, “(20:7,9) “I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction, so the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.”He got depressed as well, “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!” (Jeremiah despaired.)

But do you know what a hero of faith is? Listen to this man after his short complaint to God: “But if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

God’s word was in his heart like a fire, a fire shut up in his bones,he could not hold it in! Jeremiah had a passionate heart for the LORD. In God’s eyes, Jeremiah was one of the most successful men in biblical history!

And if you did not know it, this is the Word of the LORD that was spoken to Jeremiah the prophet,(Jer. 29:11)
‘For thus says the LORD:
“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. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.

And it is a good thing this broken down man of God didn’t ever give up. Because God gave us the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:33, no longer the law written on stone tablets, but on human hearts.

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD; I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…”

So if you are having a bad day, or you life is a bad day- think again: “Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, “thus says the LORD…”Call unto ME,
and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

I am sure Jeremiah called to God often. He is a hero of mine, I think I will keep calling as well.

A sign for this New Year? How we often long for a sign…

After celebrating Christmas, a ‘season to be jolly’,when in fact it involves much pressure and even great anxiety at times; and  after closing out the year, don’t we often long for a sign about this new year? The Christ child has come, Martin Luther wrote long ago in a hymn: “From heav’n above to earth I come, to bear good news to every home; glad tidings of great joy  I bring…”, and Martin Luther then responds to this heavenly message with, “…Where of I now will say and sing.”

We know that everything wasn’t easy in the day of Martin Luther, and we know that life is certainly not easy today:’“Tis Christ our God, who far on high, had heard your sad and bitter cry…” (Martin Luther, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come’ ) Do you have a sad and bitter cry? Even at Christmas time, when it is to be a ‘season to be jolly?’ Underneath all the smiles and the cheer, there can still be a heart that is sadly and bitterly crying to God who seems so ‘far on high!’

Yes, it is this third verse of an old Martin Luther hymn written in 1531: “Tis Christ our God, who far on high Had heard your sad and bitter cry; Himself will your salvation be, Himself from sin will make you free…”
It was the word, ‘Himself. The word ‘Himself’  made me think of a scripture that always touched me deeply, ‘Himself’:  “The Lord Himself will give you a sign:”(Is. 7:14).

Don’t we all, on one occasion or another want a sign from God?
The story about this verse is in Isaiah 7:10, “Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz,” (the King of Judah, who did not care for God ,was actually given word from God through the prophet Isaiah.) “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.”But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!”(Isaiah 7:11,12).

Doesn’t that amaze you? God told him to ask for a sign, but he answered,” I will not ask!” The pride and stubbornness of man seen in King Ahaz! The Bible is a very ‘real’ Book, it reveals the heart of man. “I don’t believe!” “I don’t believe God has anything to do with what’s going on in my life…” “I don’t believe He hears…” “I don’t believe He cares.” “He’s all about rules and keeping me from what I want to do in life.”

But, Isaiah responds:“Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?… ” (Notice Isaiah didn’t say ‘your God’ this time.) “…Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:”(Isaiah 7:13,14).

Maybe you are wondering, “Which sign is it?” “Do I know this story?” “What is the sign that the Lord Himself will give?”
Or maybe you are thinking, “yes, that is what I really need at this time, I need a sign.”
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

“Toni, I have given you a sign. Keep looking to Me. Don’t go looking at the past, that will turn you in knots. Don’t go looking at the future, that will overwhelm you,
‘I am your shield,and your exceedingly great reward. Do not be afraid.”(Gen.15:1)

So, back to the Hymn: “‘Tis Christ our God, who far on high Had heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.”

These are the tokens ye shall mark, the swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid, By Whom the heaven’s and earth
were made.”

Jesus left behind all the glory of heaven to spend some time on this earth, to be poor, misunderstood, ridiculed, yet, He was so willing to wash away our sin and grief by taking it all on Himself. He, ‘Himself will your salvation be, Himself from sin will make you free.’

Today, I really needed a sign. And He Himself gave me one, once again. His name is Immanuel,God with us. I’m so glad it’s Christmas! I need the reminder everyday of my Immanuel.
Can you hear the little voices reminding you of His sign?

“This shall be a sign to you, you shall find a babe wrapped in swaddlin’ cloths lying in a manger. “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head…
Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.”

Maybe I will keep the little Nativity set up all year from now on!

It is time to get dirty!

Remember this, remember that! We have so much to remember each and every day- it’s hard to keep up!

The Bible says, “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead…”(2 Tim 2:8)

“Yeah, yeah,” you might say, “That’s religious stuff. You’re always talking religious stuff. I’ve got my life I have to live!”

But is that true? Is ‘remembering Jesus Christ, the seed of David, was raised from the dead’, just religious stuff? Or is this the beginning of real life?

You see, living our life separate from God, moving forward on our own without Him, is kind of like tucking our little seed (of who we are) in a tidy little envelope, trying to take control of the outward packaging and design all on our own, and moving forward. And it is difficult indeed! And the only truth we discover is, this world is filled with trouble.

But Jesus spoke and taught about what is true. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”

Truly, truly, if the seed (of who we are) has has been broken in the soils of life but surrendered to the Light of the Son, the water of the Spirit and of His Word, life will spring forth, and produce even more life. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead…”

(2 Timothy 2:11) This is a faithful saying:

For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.

“Yeah, all of that is good and fine, but I just don’t have time.” You might say.

Well, it is true that in the winter in the colder climates, there is not much growth. But we must pray for warm and receptive hearts, for good soil. Because “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My Servant will be also.” (John 12:25.)

Jesus was our example of life, because He is the Life! And the best part about Him is,

“If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)!

Praying that despite ourselves, God will faithfully remind us that ‘Jesus Christ, the seed of David, rose from the dead.’

Isn’t it time to get a little dirty, to allow death to our ‘self’ to occur, and through the love and nurturing Light of the Son, and the outpouring of the Spirit and the power of His word, we become like a well watered garden.
“If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:26)

What exactly is life anyway? Truly, truly! (Is. 58:12)
“Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Truly, Truly- life begins with Jesus!

mamas summer survival…”Fill me up!”

God speaks, and yes, in the Bible it is recorded that His voice was heard audibly. God, (normally very quiet vocally,) has moments when He opens the heavens and speak words! Our Father in heaven speaks from the heavens, because His ‘children’ sometimes get confused. Do you remember what He said? “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”(Matthew 17:5), and this time the exclamation point is from God and not me.

Our Father speaks from the heavens with these words on more than one occasion. He really wants us to know that ‘THIS is My Son whom I love, He pleases me.'(Paraphrased of course,)But in Matthew 17:5, He adds, ‘Listen to Him!’ So, for us mama’s during these busy days with the kids, we need to make time to do just that, and why? Because what our kids need most is ‘love’ and it just doesn’t come ‘naturally’ to ‘love’ squirmy, loud, mess making, argumentative, and ‘self willed’ little creatures that simply want ‘their own way’ most of the time! ‘Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!’

So God speaks audibly because we REALLY need to know this, mamas and papas, grammy’s and pop’s, young and single, we need to watch the One who pleases God, so we can know how to ‘please Him’ as well. But God is speaking to me about a whole different matter today. He’s speaking to me as a mama and He’s asking me to look at each of my children and ‘love them’ by looking at the good and focusing on those things that ‘please’ me about them.

As I think of the homemade cards, or the quiet hugs, the efforts made to do well in school, when the kids ‘love one another’ and help each other out, or when the floor was swept or vacuumed without even being asked, and the meal was prepared (and not by me!)…the list goes on, but as I ‘think on these things’ I find my heart swelling with love. As a mama, THAT is what I long for, (and I am sure most mamas in this world), that I love my kids, and that they know, mama loves me, and she is pleased with me.

But there is so much ‘stuff’ that gets in the way! Oh,if only the kids could know the love we have for them!
It is so rich inside- there are no words- it’s like the most amazing cheesecake you have ever eaten, (that is, if you like cheesecake!) It is like the most beautiful bouquet you’ve ever been given. But oftentimes, the kids seem to only see our love as, well, maybe just a graham cracker, or worse yet, just a saltine. And for a flower, perhaps at times, they just think we are boring old ‘marigolds’.  You know what I mean, for example, when the kitchen cupboards are full  of foods that you thought could bring some nourishing joy, and the kids simply look and say, “there’s never anything to eat in this house!” (Did I say, ‘lions and tigers and bears, oh my!’)

To put it bluntly, sometimes our love is just plain…’annoying!”

‘Us moms’ REALLY want our kids to know that we REALLY love them and are thankful for them, and yes, that we are proud of them. But all of this love and emotion inside often times is only expressed in very clumsy, inadequate ways. And many times aren’t even noticed as gestures of love. Sometimes, they are not even noticed at all.

In my struggle to remain ‘thankful’,  I am reminded how God demonstrated His love to the world- to you and to me. You see, He, Jesus, laid down His life for us.
(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
When we didn’t have a clue to who or what He did for us, Jesus came, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
He is gracious-giving and pouring out what we don’t deserve. He never became defensive, He didn’t fight back, He remained silent, He became, ‘poured out as a drink offering’,(2 Tim. 4:6).

God the Father sees our need, He knows our plight, so He points our eyes and our mind in the direction of our help, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, Hear Him!” So we search and seek and we find, and the Bible unfolds a treasure that we have in Him, John 1:16, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” What exactly does the Bible say? “We have all received…”What have we received? ‘Of His fullness’- strength? NO. Power? No.

‘Grace’ is what His word says. We have received of His fullness, ‘grace for grace.’ Can I even fully understand what that means? Grace, unmerited favor? Undeserved forgiveness? This is what us mamas and papas need today, we need the ‘fullness of His grace.’

Moms, we’ve got to fix our eyes on Jesus! He didn’t wait until we could see His love for each and every one of us – No – He chose to lay down His life, even though so many don’t even recognize that He did, but He did it for them, He laid down His life for you and for me. He came ‘full of grace and truth’ BEFORE we ever responded to Him.

Can we really be gracious- even when nobody notices?
Who wants to get in line with me to receive of His fullness? God, can You hear us, we’re asking, “Fill us up Lord!”
“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17).

“Lord, hear all ‘us moms’ cry out to You,
Fill us overflowing with Your grace today, even if what we do, so often is seen as, ‘ so annoying’.
Help us keep our eyes on You, on how we are really doing in this ‘mom’ thing.
Anoint us Lord that we may have power not to react to anything, i.e. all the ‘fleshy’ stuff that goes on throughout the day. To ‘breathe in’ more and more of the fullness of Your grace (and truth), which You give us by Your Spirit, and ‘breathe out’ the disappointments and aggravations, and MOMENTS! Fill us up Lord!
Help us take the time to know Your beloved Son, more and more, and hear Him, so we can ‘receive’ of Your fullness, so that ultimately we respond, (not react!) with…grace!
Let it be Lord Jesus! Let it be! Amen and Amen!

How can a rainbow shine through a dark cloud?

We become a dark cloud at times.

“Don’t expect me to shine color,” our heart-beats resonate.

“There is none. Don’t expect to find some,” the sad heart resonates on.
But God uses time, and there’s work to do. “Just do the next thing.” Is the thought that gets us out of bed.

But at times, this even seems EVEN that seems impossible- so I cry , “Help me!” (Psalm 119:86!) “Revive me!” (Psalm 119:88)

There is power every time in a cry to God! Every time we choose to cry to God, He brings a light of strength.
“The LORD is my strength and my song and He is become my Salvation.”
So I often cry out, “Give me a song, Lord, give me a song.” It may be a Psalm, a Hymn, or spiritual song.
Today, it is the unfamiliar verses of a very familiar chorus: 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.

vs. 2:O soul are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free.
vs. 3:Thro’ death into life everlasting He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion For more than conqu’rors we are!

And then, vs.2 of “I need Thee Every Hour,” came to my mind: “I need Thee every hour, stay thou nearby. Temptations lose their power, when Thou art nigh! I need Thee, O I Need Thee every hour I need Thee. O Bless me NOW my Savior, I come to Thee!”

I am now able to rise and feel a strength that was not there only moments before. All because of some very powerful words, which enlightened my path and gave me a new strength.

Be a rainbow to someone else today? Well, maybe, as I simply ‘do the next thing!’

Maybe this is the greater witness? Maybe the greatest work of God in us, is the resurrected life, on a moment by moment basis, in our own deadness? Could making the choice to bring joy to someone else actually be my cure?

listening to the children’s song made me think of our dear Pastor Gary

Have you ever thought, “We are all God’s children. We are all humans and God created us, therefore, we are all God’s children.”

Have you ever wondered, “What if what I think is not true? What then?” “Who are God’s children then?”

Well, this weekend there is going to be a memorial service for one of God’s children. So many people are sad because a most loving, gentle, and genuine man is no longer here on earth, but it is really going to be a Celebration Service, because God’s child, who was just passing through, was called home.

You might ask, “How do you know he was God’s child? Can you REALLY know?”

Yes, we CAN really know! It is at a time like this that each of us needs to seriously ask ourselves, “Is what I believe, really true? What is truth?

Well, the truth is, my friend was born 60 years ago and he celebrated birthday after birthday, and he got married and had a daughter,(he later had two girls) and had troubles and pressures, and he was running from God. (Like so many of us.) But his little girl(about 3-4 years old) loved her daddy and prayed for him and she would sing this song around the house and to him:

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong! Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so.”

Did you know that God used the words to that dear,old song sung by his precious little girl,(and years of prayers) to finally bring him to the realization that he needed God.(he could never share his story to anyone without shedding tears.)

There finally came a day when his hardened heart was softened and he cried out to God and asked Him to come into his life. Guess what this day was? It was his 2nd birth! You see, his first birth, he was born with water, but this 2nd birth- he was now born of the Spirit! This was really his first day of LIFE! (and he was about 30 at this time!) And guess what his favorite song was? Yes, ‘Jesus loves me…’
And because he is a child of God, his life will last forever and ever with God in heaven! How do I know? Because the Bible tells me so!

So I will cry buckets for myself and for his wife, kids, grandkids, and family- but for my brother, for that dear child of God- I am going to sing this old Hymn rejoicing, as he is right now:

“When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, and take me home,
what joy shall fill my heart! When I shall bow, with humble adoration,and then proclaim,

So, you see, we need to ask ourselves this question, “I’ve been born once, but have I been born twice? Am I really a child of God?

Sin is what separates us from God, but Jesus paid our debt of ‘death’ in full on the cross. Believing on Jesus and all He has done for us, and receiving His forgiveness- this is how we become a child of God!

My friend, and brother in the Lord would be so happy if his death,(which really isn’t death) would make some stop and say, “Enough already!” Enough running away from God. I am ready for this ‘new birth.’

And he, himself, would lead you in a prayer much like this, “Jesus, I’m a mess and I need You.I want to become Your child. I need You to come into my life. Forgive me of all my sins, please, fill me with Your Spirit- that I might live forever- for You!”

Then your heart will begin singing as his heart did so many years ago:
“Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me- the Bible tells me so!
And you will KNOW that you are a child of God!

“beyond all the sorrow, can you see the sign?”

Today? Today. I am kind of thinking that there are not many people around that do not feel that ‘their flesh has no rest and that they are troubled on every side, that outside there are great conflicts, and inside there are great fears’. This was what it was like in Paul the Apostles time as well.
(2 Corinthians 7:5)

Especially people who have suffered loss of a child and/or of a loved one, especially for some who are fighting for their lives here on earth when the doctors say, “there is nothing more we can do”, and some who have to start all over because their houses have been destroyed through storm or fire, and, yes how difficult is it becoming for heads of families to get decent jobs to support their families – their flesh has no rest and they are troubled on every side,
“NEVERTHELESS GOD (all caps mine!) who comforts the downcast,” (2 Corinthians 7:6)

But God! That is power! That is life! That is hope!

Some might say, because of all of these things, forget about God.

But others, even through such incredible pain and darkness and loss- they have seen the sign that He Himself has given to them. You ask, “What sign is that?”

I will tell you of the sign! The word begins with ,”Behold,” and that is what they have chosen to do first of all – to look. “Look at what?” You might ask.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Is. 7:14.

Now you are saying, “That does not make any sense at all!”

But, yes it does, you see, the sign is “Immanuel” which means “God with us.”

I will draw a picture for you:
God is with us, like a Good Shepherd watching over his lambs. He makes us to lie down, and sometimes it is through sickness, grieving,loss, and destruction.Yes, He MAKES us lie down.

But, the Good Shepherd brings you to fields that are green and the waters are safe and peaceful- (You might be getting frustrated with me right now, but let me show you, remember the word “Behold!”) The green fields and the quiet,safe waters are the soft hearts of compassion, the cards, the visits, the help, the hugs, the tears that are shared, more hugs, more tears that are shed, the provision, the prayers, the love. So many things we would have never experienced if He hadn’t MADE us to lie down! Can you see a bit clearer now?

And ‘even though you may walk in the valley of the shadow of death, you will have no fear!’

“How is that?” You might ask.

Because God is with you!
“The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” …which means, God is with us!
This is when He shows Himself to us! Because we are finally looking!

I pray that this Thanksgiving and this Christmas will be the best ever for all of us, even though there is much loss and sorrow. “But how, you might still ask?”
Keep looking! the Light shines brightest in darkness, can you see the sign? Behold, Immanuel is always with you, wherever you go!

Wow! I am really ready for Christmas songs! You can look and see that God is with you, but you can also listen- He is in the voice of a child when sing of this wonderful Immanuel!