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June 20, 2018, 2:46 PM

A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY... July 2018


A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY...

Have you ever thought, “I have just come off a mountaintop experience and feel like I hit the valley sooner than I expected?” Sure! We have all been there, done that, said that!

Last week we were at Associational Children's Camp at Falls Creek for two camps in one week, with around 7,000 young children. The multiple challenges in helping to run a small city of small children which totally repopulates itself mid-week are real! However, it is always a highlight of my summers, even though it can sometimes be hard on one's body. This was literally an Arbuckle mountaintop experience, including seeing 525 children experience salvation in Christ.

Soon after returning home, however, I hit a valley of sorts. I discovered an unknown social media hacker had decided to impersonate me, causing several days of domino effects on my entire computer system. There is no telling how it has affected my for-real, innocently involved friends. Even this article is being typed on a borrowed computer. Yes, the hacker has been stopped. Yes, solutions to computer issues are being accomplished. But, this has given me much food for thought.

I have had a choice...to bemoan or rant and rave over the quick altitude drop in circumstances OR to look for God's lessons in it all. Even though I have expressed some human frustration over this circumstance, I have really tried to exercise patience, perseverance, and looking for the joy and the lessons in it all. My biggest take-away so far is that if we cannot approach basically everyday-ish, somewhat mundane valley challenges with maturity, then how can we ever hope to have victory in the really BIG ones??? The excruciatingly painful ones? The tragic ones? We must see these “smaller” times as building-block times. If we literally blast through and past them, we will not be prepared for the “biggies.”

So, my friends, look for the lessons, look for the joy. I daresay we all need the practice, whether we like it or not. This brings me full circle to my life verse—imagine that! God knows me so well!

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:1-12 (CSB)

Marsha Cook, Director

 




May 24, 2018, 8:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…June 2018


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  Recently I found myself in a conversation with a Pastor and his wife about their church. That is not unusual for me. But, as we talked, he mentioned that one of their members said to him, “What programs can we start to help grow our church, Pastor?” Hmmmm...

  I have long believed that it is not “programs” that will “grow” our churches—it is Jesus! As I briefly commented to this sweet couple, if we show people Jesus in the way we live, in the way we speak, and in the way we teach, more and more will be drawn to HIM...and then to the local church to be discipled and to serve as they learn to know HIM better and better.

  It is the living Jesus Who meets the needs and solves the problems of mankind, not the church. If the church were the answer, then why did He even leave Heaven to come to Earth and live among us and die for us...and rise again??? If the church could “save” us, then His death was senseless. The world already had plenty of “religion” that was not working...because it was based upon works! What we needed was a love gift from God—His only begotten Son—extended to us through mercy and grace. He also left His Holy Spirit to live within us when He returned to Heaven, so that we wouldn’t flounder around without Him. God Himself lives within each and every believer and He loves others through us with His compassionate, unending love! The church doesn’t save people—Jesus does!

  Serving the church is not the right motivation for living, either. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan, where busy church people passed by a victim’s needs because they didn’t want to be late for church? Serving Jesus, Who said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto Me,” is to be our only motivation.

  Early this morning I was one of 2 billion people who watched a “royal wedding,” which included the surprise of a gospel message on the power of living by the love of Jesus Christ. The world was challenged to imagine a world like that. How about it, Church? Shouldn’t we, of all people, be the ones to start that? That is not a program. It is BEING...the Church, the Bride of Christ!

Marsha Cook, Director               

 




April 24, 2018, 11:42 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…May 2018


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  Potential stress factors surround us all every day. Internationally we hear of wars, rumors of wars and inhumane treatment of citizens in certain locales. Politically, we are subjected to constant pushes, pulls and debates and a plethora of philosophical foolishness. Medically, we face great challenges, either through personal diagnoses or even in the ethical realm of medical possibilities. Educationally, we see the contrast of some areas of excellence and some erosion of high academic standards. Financially, the news is different every day, and most people live from paycheck to paycheck, never seeing the end of indebtedness. Socially, sometimes we see extremely competitive spirits and goal-setting, seemingly offset by attitudes of apathy and co-dependence. Fashion can be a very unkind world. Scientifically, there seems to be increasing disdain for the idea of a holy Creator. Morally, Judeo-Christian ethics seem to be on a very slippery slope. We live by the self-imposed ticking of clocks and resulting calendars in a world guided by instant gratification—at least in this nation. Social media has almost created a monster of disregard for politeness and the feelings of others as criticism spews freely. Even weather brings destructive disasters. Stressed out yet???

  Seriously, if we let ourselves focus upon all of that all of the time, we would not have the courage to get out of bed each day. But, is living under high stress God’s way for us to live? Is that His design or ours? No, His design is for us to live without constant anxiety and lack of peace. We may have pain or discomfort or unhappiness in our lives. But, He has given us encouragement and instruction in His Word.

  In Matthew 6:25, 27 Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Any doctor will verify that fact—stress reduces life and does not add to it!

  In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul gave some amazing instruction: Rejoice...be gentle...trust in the Lord’s nearness...do not be anxious about anything (at all)...present requests to God with thanksgiving...focus on what is pure/lovely/admirable/excellent/praiseworthy...receive the peace of God and the God of peace. If we expend our mental energies in only those directions, we will not have any time left to worry. It is our choice! 

Marsha Cook, Director               

 




March 15, 2018, 3:12 PM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…April 2018


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  I said last month I would "continue" this month where I left off then. Of course, since that time, the wonderful Dr. Billy Graham went home to Jesus. His death has not only brought renewed attention to the Gospel he preached, but also attention to the Christ-like life he exemplified. I would imagine the most frequently used character traits applied to him in the past couple of weeks or so have been "humble" and "humility." There seems to be no doubt that was at the very core of his being. How many people do you know who will have that said about them at the end of their lives by everyone who knew them? I dare say not many of us!

  In fact, in this day and age, humility is a rarity. That begs the question: What is the opposite of humility? Self-centeredness, intentional criticism, pride and competitiveness, without a doubt! It also sends us right back to what we have talked about the last couple of months...love and the Law (specifically the basic Ten Commandments). Hmmmmm...sound familiar?

  What did Jesus say when questioned about the most important laws? He said ..."Thou shalt love the Lord thy God...and love thy neighbor as thyself' (Luke 10:27). Love God. Love your neighbor. Period. Self-centeredness has nothing to do with either one of those.

Love God? "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 4:15).

Love your neighbor? "Thou shalt honor thy father and mother…thou shalt not kill (murder)...commit adultery...steal...bear false witness...covet" (Exodus 20:2-17).

  Yes, we talked about it last month, but we cannot get away from it, can we? If we want to truly love, then we will keep His commandments. If we live like that, we will exhibit humility, because living like that is considering others and what belongs to them more important than ourselves.

  I suspect all of us who have watched Dr. Graham's memorial services have cause to ask ourselves what our own lives look like. No, he was not perfect, but his life was one from which we can certainly learn. I know it has made me take a much more careful look at my own life and to re-assess how I am letting God use me-not just in the larger sense, but in every single moment. Am I humble, patient, loving, consistent, and growing in the Lord? Every moment? How about you?                                                            

Marsha Cook, Director               

 




February 22, 2018, 1:35 PM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…March 2018


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  Last month I shared how God might be specifically working in our lives on the character quality of patience vs impatience. Remember how we need to learn to let Him exercise His patience on the INSIDE of us, not just on changing our outside behavior? That is the difference between being hypocritical and “real.” But, being truly patient is just one area of many that God wants to shape in our lives to look more like Him.

  Guess what? Those areas are called “sin.” I don’t call them that. God does. And sin is sin is sin. We may look at other people and whatever it is that they do which is labeled “sin” and then say, rather self-righteously, “But, I don’t do THAT!” It doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t look like God, it is sin, no matter what it is or who does it.

  Our nation is frantically trying to figure out why shootings keep happening and how we can prevent them. The talking points are all over the place, but very few are landing on the very real issue of the sin nature of man. In the Ten Commandments, God gave us six simple, clear directives for living, besides the ones pertaining to honoring and worshipping Him...

... Honor thy father and thy mother

...Thou shalt not kill

...Thou shalt not commit adultery

...Thou shalt not steal

...Thou shalt not bear false witness

...Thou shalt not covet.

  Some people think those laws are outdated, passé, over and done with. Apparently. Because there is sure a lot of it going on, isn’t there? Yet, in Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Yes, He expects us to keep the Law...but how? Because He now permanently indwells each believer, bringing inside us with Him the power to keep the Law and gives us His own character for our use!!! He also said murder/killing is the product of hate, adultery is the product of lust, etc. That tells us that all actions of sin start in the attitude of the heart. So, He teaches us the fine-tuning of law-abiding—the inside/out keeping of the Law, which easily translates into the inside/out of loving our neighbors as ourselves—in every way, from being patient to respecting life itself. To be continued...

      Marsha Cook, Director

 


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