There’s a Sea in Galilee

I wish I were better with words.  I’m going to try to convey what’s filling my heart but I know the words will fall short.

For the past six days I have been in Israel with my husband and our dear friends, John and Carla Moore.  The experience has far exceeded my expectations.  I’ve visited Beersheba where Abraham lived and probably received the call to offer up his son.  I’ve stood in the very valley in which David ran to meet Goliath (and even pulled five smooth stones from the same brook he did).  I’ve explored the impressive sites of Masada and Megiddo.  I’ve seen the wildernesses and the Shephelah.  And so much more.

I knew I’d love it all.  I can already tell that I will never read my Bible the same again.  I knew I’d learn more about geography, archaeology, and history.  What I wasn’t expecting was the soul-searching that would accompany it.

I’ve been impressed with the courage, bravery, faith, and trust of God’s people in harsh environments or overwhelming odds.  Would I be brave in the same situation?  Would I trust God when I couldn’t see my way through?  It’s been good, so good, to hold my heart up for examination.

But today was something special.  Today we went to the Sea.  We hiked up a path to the top of Mount Arbel.  There were sheer cliffs along the way.  When we crested the top and took in the view of the Sea of Galilee and its northern shore, it was as if all the noises around me faded away and I could only hear my own breathing.  My heartbeat slowed as it dawned on me what I was actually viewing.

Up to this point, we’ve visited places where great men and women of God have lived out their faith.  Today we came to the place where the Son of God lived out His faith so He could walk with us through ours.  I saw the towns where He taught in the synagogues.  I saw the shoreline where He called His disciples and where He would later have breakfast with them.   I stared at the waves on which He walked and imagined the storms that He calmed.  Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount here.  He healed here.

As the four of us took it all in, John led us in a verse of “How Great Thou Art.”  Then he prayed a beautiful, heartfelt prayer of praise.  I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Jesus prayed in the very same spot when He would go up on the mount by Himself.  Jesus.  My Jesus.  Today, and the next couple of days, I am walking where He walked.

So many things happened by the Sea on the Sea in the life of Christ.  The same sea is surrounded by bustling and thriving towns today.  The same sea is filled with boats.

I am walking where He walked and in awe of that fact.  But what would He want me to see here?  The Sea?  As impressive as it all is–the cliffs, mountains, villages, and the blue, blue water–there are people all around the Sea who still need to see Jesus in their midst.

Only one place on earth is where Jesus walked but every place on earth is where He wants us to go and tell others about Him.

19961213_10212977045999011_3255008291065720391_n

Bibles Everywhere!

Let’s counter the overwhelming influence of worldliness by making our Bibles have more of a presence in our communities.  We’re all very aware of the moral decline in our nation, and the reason we’re so aware of it is because we see it everywhere we turn.  It’s on the news, radio, TV shows, talk shows, magazines, billboards, and internet.  What’s trending?  Worldliness.  All of these media outlets and various other avenues touting materialism, secularism, and godlessness can be discouraging.  Satan must be pleased.  He wants us to despair, to ask, “Where are the Christians?”  He wants us to throw our hands up and quit.  I think we can do something about that.  We can remind everyone that there are still many who want to serve God.  And we can do that by the very simple act of making our Bibles more visible.

Bibles are recognizable.  Everyone knows what they look like.  Outside of the church building, we don’t see them very often.  If we do, it’s notable.  The few times I’ve seen someone with their Bible on a plane or in an office, I think, “Hey, they’re holding a Bible!”  And it always makes me smile.  So what if we ALL carry our Bibles with us, in a very visible way, everywhere we go?  The next time we meet friends for lunch, we can call and ask each one to bring their Bible, and then just set them on the table.  The Bibles won’t go unnoticed.  If we’re shopping, the Bible can rest in the seat of the cart.  If we’re carpooling, we can display it in the dash.  If we’re at the gym, we can put in on the treadmill.  If we’re in the bleachers, we can set it right next to us.  Whether we’re working, playing, traveling, networking, or relaxing, we can look for ways to allow our Bibles to have a presence.  (This means it’ll have to be a traditional Bible, as the ones on our phones or other devices won’t be easily recognized by others.)  Even though such a simple act doesn’t involve extra time or money on our part, I think this kind of Bible-saturation can make an impact.

What’s the worst that can happen?  Someone might ridicule us.  Someone might be offended.  Someone might even ask us to put the Bible away.

What’s the potential for good?  At the very least, our Bibles will be noticed.  People around us will automatically know we are believers.  Other godly folks will be encouraged.  The nonstop message of immorality will be partially countered by the presence of Bible believers.  Others might start carrying their Bibles, too.  Who knows?  It might even become commonplace in your community to see Bibles out in public.  And one day, someone might even be interested in studying that Bible with you.

“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Prayer for Today:  May I never be ashamed of Your Word, O Lord.

Photo credit: westerntradition

News Travels Fast

This past Sunday morning, Neal shared with Bear Valley our decision to work with the Foote St. congregation in Corinth, MS.  Before the day was over, we were emailed, texted, called and even scooped.  Before our beloved Bear Valley family could absorb the announcement, before we had time to convince them how very much we love them and will miss them, the news was out.  Thanks to facebook, twitter, and every other information-age-device, the news traveled cyber fast.  My mind was blown.

But of course this wasn’t the first time I’d seen that kind of power in action.  Thanks to the news channels and facebook, we’ve all been able to keep up with the recent tornado destruction in Moore, OK.  What happened?  How can we help?  These questions and more were quickly answered.  Videos were shared of survivors and their stories.  (See the one about the lady’s dog that was found during her interview?)  On another personal level, we saw the effectiveness of social media when our son, Gary, got sick at Freed.  Since he was a gazillion miles away from us, we were grateful for the many friends who contacted us and offered to help, before Neal even arrived at the airport.  Good news and bad news travel faster than ever before.  What a powerful tool we have at our fingertips!

I’m in awe anew at the zeal of the first century Christians.  The command was given.  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).  What happened?  “Then the word of God spread, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7).  But it didn’t stop there.  Paul wrote the church at Colossi, who also heard the good news, and said the gospel was “preached to every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23).  How did they do that without TV or the internet?  Perhaps the answer is found in every phrase of Acts 5:42.

The Good News was their daily focus.  “And daily…”  Evangelism wasn’t reserved for Sundays, gospel meetings, and door knockings.  It was on their mind every day.  Is it on my mind every day?  Is it always included in a specific way on my daily to-do list?  This is a Thursday, a typical weekday for most of us.  What can I do today to share the news?

The Good News went everywhere with them.  “In the temple, and in every house…”  Whether public settings or private settings, those Christians shared the gospel.  Sometimes it wasn’t comfortable or safe, but that didn’t stop them from spreading the news anyway.  Where will I go today?  To the grocery store, work, post office, or restaurant?  I must take the News with me.  Keep a Bible in your car and pray for opportunities!

The Good News was their top priority.  “They did not cease teaching and preaching…”  Even when the Word was rejected by some, and even when they were ridiculed for sharing it, they didn’t stop spreading it.  They didn’t give up.  The Good News was all that mattered.  It’s still all that matters.  Let’s keep sharing it!  Instead of feeling outnumbered or overwhelmed, instead of feeling timid, instead of believing Satan’s lie that it won’t do any good, let’s never stop talking, sharing, texting, promoting, and writing about the gospel.

The Good News was all about Jesus.  “They did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”  Jesus is the Way, the only Way.  Many don’t know that.  Many promote the complete opposite, like the COEXIST bumper stickers.  Messages that contradict what God’s Word says about Jesus Christ are being taught.  Let’s do all we can to spread the Truth!  There are other Bible principles that need to be taught as well, but the name of Jesus should be on our lips every day.

Thank God that news travels fast these days, because we have the best news of all!  “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:3).

Prayer for Today:  Help me, Lord, to take advantage of the resources we have to spread the Good News.

Dale preaching at FPTC; Photo taken by David Parker

Purpose of Heart

Anxiety, worry, fear, surprise, and grief.  I went to bed with these feelings swirling around in my gut.  I prayed long and hard for our nation, for thousands of unborn babies, for the future of our children, and for peace.  Yet I still felt queasy, and sleep was a long time in coming.  I thought about a quote that a former Secretary of Education shared over three decades ago:  “We have become the kind of nation that civilized societies used to send missionaries to.”  I thought about moving to Africa.  My first thought upon rising this morning was, “What are we going to do?  What can do?”

I had to put things back into perspective.  What really matters?  What will outlast who sits in the Oval Office?  What will really make a difference?  In fact, it’s the only thing that will make a difference.  We MUST get back to being an evangelistic church.  For America to be reinstated as a Christian nation, it has to be made up of Christians.  And who can accomplish that?  Not the President.  Or a political party.  I can.

Wringing our hands or stomping our feet won’t help.  Running away won’t help.  Ranting and complaining won’t help.  Praying will, but not prayer alone.  Christ didn’t tell us to go into all the world and pray.  We must remember who we are and why we’re here.  Is my neighbor a Christian?  Are my co-workers Christians?  If not, is it because they have rejected the gospel?  Or have I neglected to share it with them?  I am praying for the hand of the Lord to be with us.  In Acts, that happened when Christians “preached the Word” and “preached the Lord Jesus.”  Then, “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21).  These early Christians had been persecuted, but when Barnabas saw their zeal and efforts to teach others, he was glad.  He was encouraged.  And he encouraged them to continue their work for the Lord “with purpose of heart” (Acts 11:22-24).

What can we do?  We can double our efforts to reach the lost.  Each day each of us must look at those around us and make sure they know Christ.  Good old-fashioned Bible studies around the kitchen table and spontaneous conversations about the Word during carpool WILL make a difference.  It takes effort and energy to worry and fret, but we have better things to do with our time.  “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).

Prayer for Today:  Give me courage, Lord, to share Your truth with my fellow Americans.  Lead me to some soul today.

Blessings in Christ

New friend, Sheri Harris

Several years ago, Cindy Colley presented a Bible study method called “Soul Survivor’s Guide” to the ladies at PTP.  What I appreciate about it is the fact that it begins with the blessings found in Christ, and that creates a desire for someone to want to be IN Christ.  The study covers about 10 specific blessings mentioned in Scripture that are only for those who are in Christ.  I always point out that it’s by no means an exhaustive list.  Further study would reveal even more blessings!  One of the blessings I cherish the most is meaningful relationships.

Does God understand our need for support and companionship?  Oh yes!  There are over 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament.  (I have a list, if you’re interested).  God shows us how to love, respect, and forgive one another.  He encourages us to give preference to one another.  What a contrast to the shallow, self-seeking relationships found in the world!

Churches that place an emphasis on fellowship are loving and united.  Christians that make the effort to take advantage of those opportunities for fellowship are strengthened  by the support found in a unique bond.   We’re tied together by the precious blood of Christ, and that’s a relationship that can’t be found anywhere else.

In addition to the constant joy found by being with your local church family, you can find that same level of closeness with Christians you meet all over the world.  You can run into old friends (like the picture below, taken at PTP), and it doesn’t matter that you’ve been separated by time and distance.  You can quickly make new friends (like the picture above, also taken at PTP), and it feels as if you’ve known each other for years.  You can even travel to foreign countries and fellowship with brothers & sisters in Christ, and it feels as if there’s no language barrier at all.

How can we keep this unique blessing to ourselves?  Those in the world are CRAVING meaningful relationships, which is evident by the number of social networks, dating services, bars and clubs.  Last weekend, Tami Roberts spoke at Bear Valley’s ladies’ retreat.  She talked about the fact that God created in us a natural appreciation for beauty.  She said when we act as we should in the Lord’s church, it’s a very beautiful thing.  If we’re loving, honoring, respecting each other as God commanded, the world will be drawn by that beauty and come knocking at our door!

Prayer for Today:  May I nurture and protect those meaningful relationships found in Christ, and may I look for opportunities to share that blessing with others.

With sweet sisters, Mary Parrish, Rose Crayton, & Cheri Deaver