Category Archives: Just Thoughts

Kind, Tolerant and Patient

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Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (NLT) (emphasis mine)

If you have a friend or family member who is making bad choices, you probably want very much to rescue them from the consequences that loom on the horizon. You might consider impassioned warnings, perhaps loud and stern condemnation. You might want to give up on them and turn away. Paul tells us in Romans that the method God uses to turn us from our sin is kindness, tolerance and patience.

These are not three things that most people think of when they think of God. At least that has been my discovery as I have talked with people over the last 30+ years. Many, if not most people think that God is holding a list in His hand and watching to see how many things you manage to get checked off before your time is up. On the other hand, some people think that God is a kind of Santa or genie in a bottle to grant wishes. I have found those people to be very few — usually because if they approached God with that concept in mind, they were quickly disappointed and moved on.

In the environment I lived in for over 30 years, I was given the impression that God loved me in a general way, (my sins were forgiven and I would go to Heaven) but that He would only be pleased with me if I followed a very strict code of behavior, which those in authority would specifically define and although not taught in the Bible, certain verses, if taken out of their context, could be used to “back up” the list. It almost seems amusing to look over that list now. It could even be funny, if it weren’t so sad to me that many people are still being held hostage to this teaching.

I have to wonder why there is a tendency to walk away from grace so quickly and devise some kind of system to measure one another’s spiritual condition. I still know Christians who want to play the role of God’s policeman. It reminds me a little of Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show. He was so zealous in his role that in one episode, he had arrested the entire community, including the mayor, Aunt Bee and even Opie. Some Christians, just like Barney, want to whip out their ticket book and issue citations to everyone around them. Even though God clearly warns us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37; James 4:11-12) and yet it is so easy to make that our life’s purpose.

I want to pattern myself after God, who is kind, tolerant and patient. After all, it was God’s kind, tolerant and patient love that motivated Him to send His only Son, Jesus to pay the ultimate price so that we could be forgiven and transformed into His children forever.

get out a half sheet of paper

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I don’t know what phrase they use nowadays, but when I was in school, that meant a pop quiz was coming. A pop quiz was an unannounced test over material that had been covered either in class or in a homework assignment. Usually, there were only a few questions, which meant they all had a high value. (In other words, it only took one or two wrong answers to fail.) If you’re like me and you’ve been out of school for a long time, you may have forgotten that sinking feeling that you felt when you took one of those quizzes, but I have been revisiting that lately.

I have noticed a pattern that I picked up on a while back, and it seems to be consistent with me. Whenever a series is preached on a particular subject, I seem to get a quiz. For instance, this summer the series have covered anger and humility. So.. I should have had a clue what was coming. Indeed, I have had many pop quizzes on both subjects (which, by the way are very much related), and I’ve passed a few and failed a few. Now, I have noted that the ones I passed were ones I was prepared for. How? I was much in prayer and finding help in the Bible. I also spent time reflecting on the practical helps given in the messages. Those quizzes I failed… well, you can guess.

My conclusion on these quizzes is that if I stay prepared by prayer and reading God’s Word, I am much less likely to suffer that sinking feeling. I can face tomorrow’s quiz with confidence.

By the way, what’s the next series?

4th of July

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We were sitting on the back porch with our bowls of homemade chocolate chip ice cream and enjoying the fireworks displayed all over our neighborhood. It was an amazing site to see! It seemed that each neighbor was alternating in such a way that it almost seemed choreographed. There were multiple concussions followed by spectacular explosions of light that turned the dark night into what seemed like broad daylight. This went on for hours. (I’m glad I didn’t have to clean up after all that this morning.) Our area must have been quite a sight because we saw several private planes circling around above us. I wonder what it looked like from up there.

Anyway, it was a wonderful Americana experience. Like all our other holidays, it brought back many memories, but also created some new ones.

I had to chuckle a couple of times and if I thought about it, I’m sure I could figure out what these things might illustrate, but for now I’ll just put them into my mental file cabinet for future reference.

When Stephen came out onto the porch, he commented that it sounded like a war out there. Of course, as I understand it, that is sort of the whole point, or at least it started out to be. The fireworks celebration is commemorating our fight for independence. It should remind us of the fact that there was a war here on our soil that cost many lives in order to gain our freedom from foreign rule.

Then there was another moment I will remember for a while. In between the bright and loud series of fireworks, I kept thinking I saw a rather faint glow flashing off and on down below us. At first I thought I was just seeing a reflection in a neighbor’s window — maybe reflecting some fireworks behind us, but then I was sure it couldn’t be a reflection. I asked Mark, “Do you see a little firefly down there or is that just my imagination?” He then confirmed what I thought I was seeing — it was a little firefly — glowing away, joining in this wonderful celebration (it would seem). It just impressed me, I don’t know why exactly.

Isn’t summer wonderful?

Packin’ Slushee

By | Just Thoughts, Message Series, NewSpring | 4 Comments

There’s an interesting story posted on the Eagle website this morning. Seems a customer, a guy in his 50’s was in the drive-through at Spangle’s on North Rock, and for some reason, he was unhappy with the way his order was processed. Instead of sharing his complaint with the server at the window he did something that got him in the paper, and evidently caught the interest of the Wichita police. The title of the article reads Unhappy customer throws a fit—and a drink—

That’s right, the guy parked his red truck in the parking lot, walked into the restaurant, and threw his orange slush at the employees. Witnesses say he nearly hit another customer on his way out of the parking lot. It seems the police are looking for the hotheaded slushee hurler.

What’s happening out there? Why are people losing it like this? You would think a guy this old would know better. More importantly, how would you deal with a guy like this if he lived in your family?

That’s why I’m about to start Packin’ Heat.( I don’t mean carrying a gun, it’s the title of my new series.) I honestly believe it’s the series of the year to date. We’re going to look at what’s causing people to be so angry, how to survive in an angry world, also how to deal with anger issues in our own life. It all starts May 31/June 1. I can’t wait. The theme is Old West, and the first message is Last Train Out. It’s going to be huge.

In the meantime, if you see a guy in a red truck with a face to match, winding up with an orange slushee in his hand, don’t forget to duck. Just call 911.

Mark

Odyssey Amnesty

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If you started the year with us on Odyssey 08 (that is, reading through the One Year Bible) and at some point you missed a few days, then tried to catch up, only to get overwhelmed and quit, I have good news for you! This is Odyssey Amnesty Day! Of course, I just made that up, but the reason is that today is a great day to jump back in.

Here’s why: The Old Testament reading is at the beginning of 1 Samuel. This is the beginning of a whole new era in the nation of Israel. You’ll read about the story of Samuel’s mother who could have no children but God did a miracle in her life. From that miraculous beginning, you’ll read about the life of Samuel as he grew up in a very unusual way, living at the Temple. Even as a boy, God spoke to Samuel personally and throughout his entire life, God gave Samuel an amazing role to play as the nation of Israel becomes a kingdom for the first time.

In the New Testament, today’s reading is early in the book of John, which finds us in the middle of Jesus’ ministry. In John 5, Jesus heals a man who had been sick for 38 years. As your read, notice how excited the Jewish leaders are when this amazing healing takes place.

The reading in Psalms goes over the story of how God has blessed Israel for many generations. Notice the last verse in this passage that answers the question, Why?.

The two verses in Proverbs remind me of an upcoming series, “Packin’ Heat.” Notice that the understanding person has anger, he just knows what to do with it. Check it out.

Welcome back aboard on our Odyssey!

Mary Alice

breathless expectation

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I love to read “My Utmost for His Highest” along with my daily Bible reading. Of course, reading this inspiring and insightful book holds more meaning if you know the story of Oswald Chambers, Abandoned to God, which I highly recommend.

In today’s excerpt, the subject is Gracious Uncertainty. Here’s a little bit of the main point:

“To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step but we are certain of God. …. He packs our lives with surprises all the time.” He goes on to say, “When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. ………. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.”

I love that! Mark and I often talk about our life so far and what an amazing path God has taken us on. Even as our perspective has changed over the years, one thing always becomes clearer and that is our personal relationship with our Father. We see Him work in our lives in such an amazing and personal way… but never in predictable circumstances. Our journey with God has been full of uncertainties and surprises and even in the difficult times, God has always been faithful and loving and kind, always guiding us at every turn.

A few years back I wrote this little journal entry alongside this day’s reading in Utmost.

What a joy it is to accept my uncertainty as part of God’s plan; not uncertainty about the Person of God or about His kingdom or His plan, but uncertainty about my life’s path and the challenges I may face. My uncertainty is only the result of my limited perspective. I can’t see the future, but God can. After all, He’s the One in control. As long as I’m not driving the car I’m in I don’t need to see down the road ahead. I’ll trust the One Who is driving with the view necessary for speed and steering.

Based on all the incredible things God has already done, I plan to live the rest of my life in breathless expectation of God’s plan for my life.

Matter of the Heart

By | Just Thoughts, Next Step | 2 Comments

Last night I saw the movie “Expelled” for the second time. If you haven’t seen it, it is certainly worth going. If you have grown up immersed in the secular education system, you might especially find it an eye-opener. In Starting Point groups, we discuss some of the same things that were brought up in the movie and also some of the implications that go with both sides of the debate. [By the way, new SP groups are beginning May 3 and 4 and there’s still time to sign up.]

One of the things I found most intriguingin the movie was an answer Richard Dawkins gave at the end of his interview with Ben Stein. I don’t have the exact quote, but Ben asked Richard if it turns out that indeed the God of the Bible exists, what would he (Richard) say to God if or when he should encounter Him. Richard’s answer was a quotation from another person, and again, I don’t have the exact words, but the essence of his answer was, “Why have you worked so long and hard to hide from me?” That made me think of many scriptures that speak of God’s revelation to us even through His creation — of which we are a part. For instance, Romans 1:19-21:

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

 21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  

But also, as I read our Odyssey ’08 passage today, I was taken by how specifically it speaks to the issues raised in the movie.

The first thing I saw was the parallel with Gideon. When God called Gideon to lead a special mission which would deliver Israel from her enemies, the first thing God told Gideon to do was to tear down the altar to Baal, burn the Asherah pole, and set up an altar to the true God.

One would think that since earlier in the passage, (Judges 6:6) it says the people had cried out to God to deliver them, they would be ok with seeing the Baal thing go down, but no! The next morning, a lynch mob came to kill Gideon because he had torn down their false worship system. Notice the answer Joash (Gideon’s father) gives to the mob, “If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!” In other words, he’s saying, let’s just be honest, we all know Baal is just a fake. We’ve just created an alternative deity because we didn’t want to listen to the true God, even though He was very good to us.  I notice that Joash’s answer closed their mouths and stopped the lynching.

 In the Luke passage, we have Jesus’ mock trials before Pilate and Herod Antipas. There is so much here, but what parallels with the movie is the verse at the end of that passage. Luke 23:12 “(Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.)” I’m not good with quotes, but isn’t there one that says, “A common enemy makes for strange bedfellows”? Even though Herod and Pilate had been enemies, they now both shared a common enemy, Jesus, so they became friends. You might have noticed in the movie the discussion of an unusual partnership between the religious left and the atheistic evolutionists. Even Dawkins comments on the obvious contradiction between the two, but they share a common enemy – those who believe in intelligent design.

That reminds me of a Starting Point group member, who was condemned by his former pastor for teaching creation to teens in his previous church. This was in a church where one would just assume the Bible was regarded as truth.

In the Psalm passage, we really get to the bottom line. Psalm 95:6-7:

 6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!

I hope you will read this entire passage, but I want to extract a couple of phrases from their context (regarding the nation of Israel) so that you can see how similar we are today. Psalm 95:9b & 10b

 9b …even though they saw everything I did. 10b … ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.

This issue isn’t really about science, although creation is the only true scientific explanation for how life began, but the real issue is a matter of the heart. It’s a choice we all make whether or not to acknowledge and trust our Maker. I’ll end this post with another quote from Psalm 96:7-8a:

7 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
      recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
 8 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!

 

The Nest

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It was a couple of weeks ago that we discovered her presence. Our little dog, Fred was going outside first thing in the morning as is his custom and I was startled to hear a lot of commotion outside. When I looked through the front window, I saw a duck with her wings fully spread flying straight out from our house and little Fred running out ahead with terror on his face.

Apparently, Fred had inadvertently discovered a mama duck sitting on her nest right in our front flower bed. She must have felt safe up against the house, but she was also very visible to us as we have a large window right over that bed. As I looked down at the nest she had flown from I discovered four eggs carefully arranged and cushioned with a bed of feathers and other nesting materials. When mama duck felt safe again, she came back to the nest and I have been watching each day and waiting for that big moment.

During the last few weeks, she has endured some difficult weather. When hail came our way, I watched as she sat there with hailstones landing right on top of her, never leaving the nest. She stayed through cold nights and long days. I had to wonder when she ever got a break. How did she eat?

Then a couple of days ago, I glanced down as I was going by the window. There they were! The ducklings had arrived! I grabbed my camera and tried to get a couple of shots of the ducklings who were waddling around the nest. As soon as mama duck spotted me, she had them all come back into the nest under the safety of her wings. I did get one shot that shows the watchful eye of the mama and one of the little ones.

Finish Never

By | Family, Just Thoughts, Next Step | 3 Comments

It was 31 years ago that Mark and I were planning our wedding. In 1977 personal  computers were not available to create wedding invitations, so we went to a printer to choose ours. As we looked at different poetic messages, I caught sight of one that said we were pledging our love forever. Now, at the tender ages of 18 and 20, even the concept of 15 or 20 years was difficult to really grasp, but I wanted to communicate that this young man I loved was so important to me that I couldn’t ever imagine us being apart — even in eternity.

I was so excited that day that he put that ring on my finger and changed my name to his. At that moment, we became a family. In 31 years together, we have experienced many wonderful times and many difficult times — sometimes simultaneously. During the most difficult times, I believe our commitment to one another, made before God, helped us to weather the storm together.  

As I talk with new believers, so often I am asked about my relationship with the Lord. How does it work in my life? Are my prayers answered? Do I have doubts? It’s a little difficult to describe a life time relationship in a few short sentences, but what it boils down to is that my relationship with Jesus Christ has grown over the years in many ways just like my relationship with my husband has as we’ve lived life together. Each day I know Jesus a little better. As I pray, I talk to Him about my life and through reading the Bible, He shares with me more about Himself and what His plans are for His kingdom and my place in it. He works in my life in such a way that I am constantly aware of His presence. It gets better and better everyday and I always look forward to tomorrow knowing that He will still be with me and He always has plans.

As I was reading “My Utmost for His Highest” today, Oswald Chambers was talking about our personal relationship with Christ. He concluded with “Begin to know Him now, and finish never.” That’s what’s really wonderful about my relationship with Jesus — it really is forever!

 Mary Alice

Texas Our Texas

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If you’re not from Texas, the title probably doesn’t ring a bell, but growing up in Texas, we sang a song by the title Texas Our Texas. It just popped into my mind this morning as I’m sitting here at Panera enjoying a cup of coffee. Mark and I have been talking about the conference he just spoke at earlier in the week. It is a joy for me to see how God is using NewSpring and Mark to encourage and inspire other pastors around the country to take a fresh new look at what God is doing through His church today and how we can all be a part of it.

Later today, I’ll be taking notes for Mark in another meeting. It’s great to be here! But, we’ll be glad to get back home shortly. We are Kansans now, even though Texas still calls to us sometimes.

We’re also talking about Easter weekend coming up. It’s very exciting to anticipate what God is going to do at NewSpring this Easter!

Mary Alice