Oh How He Loves

November 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

When I was little, I didn’t really get the concept of Jesus dying for me. He’s God right? That means He should be able to beat the bad guys, He’s indestructible. What I didn’t realize is that it was a choice. Jesus chose to die for us so we could be clean in the sight of God.

Can you imagine waking up in the morning and knowing you were going to die that day? That your closest friends were going to turn their backs on you and trade you for money? They would deny that they ever knew you and watch as you breathed your last. This was Jesus’ reality. He gave his friends unconditional love, and they turned away from Him. What amazes me about this is that we expect our friends to take our hand and be with us every step of the way, when the God of the universe did not even find that kind of companionship.

Jesus chose to go through complete abandonment, and death, for us. Now I’m sure your thinking, this is just the classic story of Jesus. Not quite. When you think of one of your closest friends, do you think of someone with redeeming qualities? A friend is someone who’s got your back, someone who cares about what’s going on in your life. So what about Judas, or Peter? One handed Him over for crucifixion, the other denied Him. I’ve had friends I look up to, friends that encourage me, friends that I encourage, and friends who aren’t really who I thought they were. But if my friends turned against me I would be devastated. So why is it that Jesus gave in to men He could easily overpower? I wouldn’t want to give up my life for people who did not appreciate me.

Another childhood misconception I had about God was that my parents could protect me better than He could. One night I was in my room, scared from a nightmare. Walking quickly to my parent’s room, I tapped my dad on the shoulder and told him I was afraid.

My mom rolled over to face me and said, “It’s ok, Jesus will protect you.”

My response had been to put my hand on my hip and say, “What’s he gonna do? He’s just a baby away in a manger!”

Since then I’ve come to see Jesus as my protector. I can walk through my faith knowing that God will be the friend who gives me what everyone longs for; love that isn’t contingent on what they’ve done or who they are.

So that’s not the end of the story.

After Jesus’ friends left Him to face crucifixion alone, He conquered death itself and did another remarkable thing. He forgave. Instead of leaving earth immediately to go home to His Father, Jesus went and saw His disciples. These men who rejected Jesus were shown the kind of love everyone talks about and longs for. If only everyone knew that the love they crave is easily given. There are no requirements you have to reach in order to gain the love and support of God.

So yes, I once questioned why Jesus died for us, I once pondered why He protected better than my parents, but I think I’ve found the answer. He loves us enough to die for our sins, and protects us through our greatest fears.

Oh how He loves.

What’s Your Sleep Cycle?

November 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Health and Fitness

By Charles W. Page, MD –

The 24-hour circadian rhythm of homo sapiens has baffled biologists for years. Sleep is one of those pieces of human behavior that doesn’t seem to fit their evolutionary puzzle. Human beings tend to display monophasic patterns of rest—sleeping for one large continuous time period. This seems to contradict most modern theories of evolution.

When followed to its logical conclusion, evolution appears to suggest that sleep is a bad idea. According to the principles of natural selection, “those that snooze—lose!” If animals are not constantly aware of the potential threats around them, their survival is threatened. And those that do not survive fail to transmit their genes to the next generation.

Several creative theories have been promoted to help explain away this basic dilemma of sleep cycles in “evolved” humans. One maintains that humankind has only been conditioned to rest for a continuous period of the circadian cycle. It contends that man is still intrinsically geared to sleep like their more primordial ancestors and can still be reconditioned back into taking multiple small “cat naps” through the circadian cycle.

One of the champions of the polyphasic theory, Dr. Claudio Stampi, recommends taking multiple intermittent naps during the day instead of sleeping continuously for eight hours at night. His theory claims this pattern allows individuals to maximize their productivity and potential during a 24-hour period. In other words—sleep less and do more. Polyphasic sleeping is an alternative sleep pattern being researched as an option for those who need to function amidst sleep deprivation (i.e., NASA astronauts, long distance sailboat racers and soldiers).

For those of you whose eyelids are still open after absorbing these superfluous and slumberous ideas, let me suggest to you a simpler approach to rest. (One way or another—I did promise to help you sleep!) Instead becoming a polyphasic sleeper to maximize your productivity, why not surrender control to the One who created you? Sleep was God’s idea. God created you to release control of your frustrations, worries, fears and schedules and to fall asleep in His arms. Someone once said that “sleep is God’s contrivance to give to man what he cannot do for himself while he is awake.” By faith, learn to put your trust in a God who protects and provides for you as you rest.

God could have fashioned your circadian rhythms similar to other animals on this planet. For example, God did not create you with the sleeping habits of giraffes or elephants, which slumber for less than four hours per day. You were not created to always be on the alert for potential threats to your security. On the other hand, God did not create you like a bear that hibernates for several months out of the year. Your sleep cycles could have been shaped similar to a dolphin. Dolphins sleep with one-half of their brain “on” and the other side turned “off.” Unlike dolphins, your brain was not created to multitask while you rest.

God uniquely made you to “turn off” when you turn in. God wonderfully made you to surrender your life into His hands. Trust Him. He’s got your back!

Follower

November 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen-

I was resting on a floral couch, swirling the ice and water in my cup. Focused on the cubes, I smiled thinking how preferable sitting in my friend’s sun porch was to the lengthy to do list waiting at my doorstep. We swapped kid stories, shared laughs, grimaced over concerns, and then she mentioned something her husband shared at church. My head came up. ‘Being uncomfortable in our situations is not a bad thing”, she went on. “It can mean that God is bringing necessary change”.

I nodded my head as this flowed off her tongue. Not even eighteen hours before I flipped on the radio as the host said, “The solution to your problem lies outside your comfort zone.” The little orange notebook, in my purse, holds these words.

There was a misunderstanding after breakfast. I like the kitchen cleaning to begin when the meal finishes. This morning my timeline caused a bit of conflict. And there were discussions and elevated voices as we tried clarifying and compromising. We found it was not working.

So we sat at the table, the surface still slick with halfhearted washing, me soundlessly praying for the ability to pole-vault out of my pride, her seething red from the injustice of being misunderstood.

I hand over pen and paper, explaining that we will clarify the expectations and what it means to clean the kitchen. The writing pauses and steely eyes look me square in the face “I will write what you say, but it doesn’t change what I think”. I think over my prepared response, breathe and say it lightly. Neither of us is comfortable.

I flip open my Bible to a long loved passage. Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV).

I am gripped with this thought, lie out your petition, and present your request. There is nothing here instructing me to figure out solutions and then pray God will use them. I tighten my hand into a fist, watchful, turn my hand up and uncurl my fingers. These hands, this mind, this body, they are frail and finite. I pause thinking how peaceful life is when I do not fight for my way. I carry the thought further wondering if the root of my striving is anxiety. My plan is a well-worn rug. His seems a bit foreign, a bit scarier. But why fight for a path without knowing its destination? Why would I do this? I ask aloud. Why would I pay so much attention to my own directions?

The beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, is Immanuel, God with us. He knows where each path leads. Sow to flesh, reap flesh. Sow to the Spirit; reap Spirit. The fruit of His Spirit turns self-absorption and striving into self-control and peace.

A willful girl can willfully hold her life up as a sacrifice. And though her arms shake under the strain and pressure, they will grow stronger. Time and new habits do that. Fortifying a heart that resolutely yearns to beat for another. Humility is a tether, reminding me, I do not know how to lead. My petition, my prayer is that I will learn to follow.

Cues

November 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Health and Fitness

By Cami Checketts –

I use cues throughout my day. Sometimes these cues are helpful; sometimes not. For example, first thing in the morning I make my bed, and that is my cue to drop to my knees and say my morning prayers.

At ten-thirty a.m., my five-year old and I know it’s time to practice his words, read stories, and play sports. These two cues are a positive part of my day.

But sometimes I use cues as excuses. When my boys come home from school, we sit and chat about their day and eat a treat. The chat is wonderful; the treat could be eliminated.
Do you use cues to help you establish patterns? How can we implement the good cues and rule out those that aren’t improving our lives?

If we consistently make a poor choice at a certain time of day, whether it’s eating too much unhealthy food or missing opportunities to serve because we’re busy watching TV, we could evaluate what cues prompt us to start the activity that needs to be changed. As I already know that my boys coming home will make me want to pull out the tubs of ice cream, maybe I could be prepared with cut-up fruit or veggies or move the afternoon chat out to the basketball hoop and get some movement in while we talk.

It takes twenty-one days to establish a habit, good or bad. Twenty-one days isn’t very long. If we’re trying to establish the habit of reading our scriptures faithfully maybe we could start with a reminder on our phone that chimes at eight p.m. and reminds us that it’s scripture study time. If we want to start exercising, we could set all of our workout clothes in a pile that we are going to trip over as we get out of bed each morning.

Little cues can be the extra push we need to start developing habits, but we also need the motivation to keep making the choices that will enrich our lives. If you lack drive or motivation, there are a few things you can do:

1. Evaluate what you’re trying to accomplish. Is it really something you want? For example: you might want to run a marathon, but if you’ve tried running for months and are in misery the entire run, maybe running isn’t for you. Of course, you shouldn’t stop all exercise, but find an activity that you enjoy.

2. Have a good attitude. If the activity is something you absolutely need to accomplish (like studying the scriptures or providing for your family) you can’t get out of it so your attitude is the key. You can make any activity into a great experience or a miserable one, depending on your attitude. For example, I have no choice but to scrub the toilets so I try to do it with a smile (and force my boys to help whenever possible!).

3. Ask for help. It is also true that when something seems too hard or overwhelming, you should get help. First of all, you need to ask your Father in Heaven for help and then ask your family, friends or neighbors.

Once our motivation is in place, we can formulate cues to help us to keep accomplishing the things we want to do. Most worthwhile activities are hard work, but with the Lord on our side, if we are determined to succeed, we will make it!

Dark Tunnels

November 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and
compassionate and righteous man. —Psalm 112:4

I love Holy Week. The visual and daily readings of the Passion of Christ place the believer in the thick of the crucifixion experience, reminding us of Jesus’s amazing sacrifice.

I thought I’d seen everything, but when Jim and I attended our first musical Tenebrae on Good Friday at a Bible Church I was stunned. What a powerful experience!

The Anglican Church always had a service on Maundy Thursday. It was very moving but I never knew why I left with such a sense of hopelessness, especially at the end of the service when the altar is stripped. Everything that related to Christ—light, candles, Scripture, and crosses—was taken out of the room, one by one, to be replaced by emptiness. I didn’t realize it but this was a Tenebrae service.

Tenebrae is a Latin word meaning shadows or darkness. A Christian service in the Western Church, it is celebrated in many ways by Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Protestants. The common denominator involves a gradual extinguishing of candles while readings and psalms are chanted or sung.

If you haven’t attended a musical Tenebrae, you must. At the climax of the performance, with the choir sounding like angels from heaven, Jesus moves toward the crucifixion. As the candles are extinguished the auditorium is left in total darkness. The significance of the extinguished light is not lost on the audience.

What a visual picture of a spiritual truth. Without the light of Christ to permeate the dark, all truth and hope are blotted from view—total darkness.

I don’t know how many of you have ever been in total darkness. I have, and it’s scary.
There is a train in Europe that runs between Austria and Italy. For a fee, a car can make a reservation that takes a shortcut through the mountains, on the back of a flatbed train. In the convenience of one’s car, a train carrying its load winds through a dark tunnel. Much like a ferry on water, the winding mountain drive is shortened by hours.

I knew that tunnels were dark. But inside the car, on top of that flatbed train, I wasn’t prepared for such darkness. At one point, I insisted we turn on the light inside the car just so I could get my bearings. The whole experience was disorienting.

Isn’t that how we are in the middle of a spiritual crisis? When we are in a dark place, it’s darker than we anticipated. Yet God is the engineer of our train. He can navigate us through any tunnel. We just have to trust, knowing that we are in good hands, for he has promised light at the end of the tunnel.

While in the tunnel, disorientation often takes over. In that case, there is only one thing to do. Turn the light on, reorient ourselves, and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Only by turning on the power are we able to find our way.

What a good word for the twenty-first century, especially for mothers and grandmothers. Keeping dark tunnels and trains front and center in the mind go a long way in keeping us focused.

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