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April 27, 2017, 9:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...May 2017


  Have you ever noticed that sometimes the Lord brings “life lessons” to your mind in the most unlikely places or at the most unlikely times? Due to knee issues, it has been a long time since I have done anything that even looks like gardening other than stick a few plants in a few above-ground pots. Recently, however, I found the need to attempt to “dead-head” and prune a few azalea bushes and other plants. After deciding I could sit in a folding chair and do that, moving it from plant to plant, I began to tackle that job on a beautiful day. As I began to throw the “dead-heads” by the hundreds into a mop bucket and then to snip off dead limbs to add to those throw-aways, I began to think about how that reminds me of the Lord's work in our lives.

  Knowing that pruning actually helps plants to grow more fully and to be more beautiful, it gives a gardener courage to snip-snip away, knowing that generally you are saving the plant, not destroying it. God knows the same thing about us...when He “prunes” us by pulling or cutting off the things that get in the way of us being useful to Him, He can already see what a beautiful future He has in store for us.

  I also was careful to not disturb branches that had buds or tiny leaves, showing early evidence of new life for the year! That brought to mind many verses I have seen in a study of Isaiah lately regarding the fact that God always has a remnant (people) in place whenever He judges nations. I also thought of Noah's family, a very small remnant, but a remnant nonetheless, when God judged the entire earth with a flood. When He prunes our individual lives or our nations, we must always remember to look for the remnant of righteousness...He does! He always sees a faithful remnant to preserve.

  As I bent, stretched and stood up/sat down to move my chair, I realized I was beginning to ache, using muscles not normally used. Pains here and there began to make themselves known. This prompted me to remember what all parents say when they are disciplining their children: “This hurts me worse than it does you!” Children never believe it, but all loving parents know it is true. Reading about the judgments of God toward His people, it is apparently true of Him, too, as our Heavenly Father. His times of judgment are always partnered with eventual grace, mercy, compassion. He hurts for His children and doesn't want to judge us, but for us to bloom beautifully in life, He must!  

Marsha Cook, Director

 




March 23, 2017, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...April 2017


  My social media friends are watching me write on a random non-schedule about the individual qualities listed in the description of true LOVE, as found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. You know—“Love is patient…kind…does not envy…is not boastful…not conceited…does not act improperly…is not selfish…not provoked…does not keep a record of wrongs…finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears…believes…hopes…endures all things. Love never ends.” (HCSB) You know—that one! The one that doesn’t look like Hollywood portrayals of love at all. The one that is not bottom-line lust. The one that looks like God. You know—the intentional, selfless, “I love you in spite of you”  (agape’) love!

  I just started reading a book titled I WOULD DIE FOR YOU, written in 2008 by Brent & Deanna Higgins, the parents of BJ Higgins, an extraordinary young man who died at 15 after a six-week battle with an infection contracted on the mission field. The very first words I read were from a letter he wrote to a friend in 2004: “Love is not just an emotion, as the world sees it. It is action. While admittedly it does have emotion involved with it, it is not as unstable or changeable as emotions are. Affections come and go, grow and fade, but love does not. It is constant because it is more than an emotion; it is more of a constant state of selflessness that produces action.” (page 11, Grand Rapids: REVELL). WOW! From the heart and pen of a young teenage boy? How come it is so hard for older folks to get that?

I read no further before remembering Hebrews 11, which lists people we would call “heroes of the faith.” But, they weren’t really heroes. They were just ordinary people, like BJ, who “got it.” They understood that FAITH is not passive. It is obediently active, no matter what the cost! I challenge you to go to Hebrews 11 and underline every verb that shows that the faith of those men and women was always exhibited through action—like this: “By faith Abel OFFERED…Enoch WAS TAKEN…Noah BUILT…Abraham OBEYED and WENT...” etc, etc.

  What does OUR love look like? What does OUR faith look like? Are we active or passive? Obedient or apathetic/lazy/selfish? Dear Lord, help us all!

Marsha Cook

 




February 23, 2017, 9:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…March 2017


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, HCSB)

  At first glance, that could be a bit discouraging. After all, what is there to live for if it has all already been done? What is the use in trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel???

  But, I don’t think that is what that means at all. At least, not to me. How about this for one thought to consider…

  Haven’t GOOD and EVIL always existed on Earth, since the Fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden? Yes! The consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve was that ALL would be born with a sin nature, separated from a right relationship with the holy God Who creates us. So, just as it has always, always been throughout history, when men and women turn away from God without repentance, their ways are sinful and we all live affected by those sins. That is why we see the painful mess that our world is in today. That is why King Solomon saw it in his day, as he wrote those words in Ecclesiastes. That is why sin has created such sorrow and heartache, and even bloodshed, throughout the ages. Without repentant hearts, sin is the natural, ongoing status of mankind.

  Sooooo, why are we so surprised when we see and hear about such horrific things that people choose to do? And why does one generation after another after another have to learn for themselves how to avoid repeating history? If we look at especially the Old Testament, we see cycle after cycle of generations who ignored God or rebelled against Him. They seemed oblivious to history. Or they chose to rebel against what they did know.

  That is why it is so very important that generation after generation of believers are very careful to teach by precept and by example how to live repentant, obedient, disciplined lives. That brings it down to you and me, my friends. This is our new page in history. What marks will we leave on our collective pages so that the next generation(s) will know how not to repeat the history of disobedience??? We need to ask God…and tell others!  

  Marsha Cook, Director

 




January 26, 2017, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...February 2017


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  Russell recently preached a sermon on the “Sanctity of Life” at one of our churches. When he mentioned the great care given to young babies outside the womb, at the same age(s) as babies in the womb are being aborted, I had a flashback to the birth of one of our granddaughters. She lived in NICU for her first week—a full-term baby among many tiny preemies. Once I watched not one, but three, very careful, compassionate adults come in and gently attach many tubes/wires to someone else's tiny baby. Many babies the (developmental) age of that tiny one were likely being aborted across the country that very hour—while she was receiving absolutely beautiful care, as a valued and wanted baby. Yes, a baby is a baby, no matter where it lives, or how old it is developmentally!

  The Sunday night after Russell preached his message, he opened up a testimony time in the evening service. It was apparent that the message had struck a chord in the hearts of the people. One older man shared how his girlfriend back in 1974 had aborted their baby without his knowledge and how that had broken his heart, filling him with sorrowful guilt for many years. I once heard another gentleman in a different church give a similar testimony. All babies, no matter how they are conceived, have both mamas and daddies. We tend to forget that caring daddies suffer a loss, too, when the baby's mama does not allow him/her to live. It is not simply a “woman's right to choose.”

  “Lord, please fill our hearts and minds with love for all babies because we love You. And give all of these children homes, whether natural or adoptive, where they will be loved and learn to love You, too.

Marsha Cook, Director

 




December 14, 2016, 8:49 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...January 2017


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...

  What a year we have all come through! Individually, we have all had moments of joy, seasons of personal trials, and maybe even life-changing events where nothing will ever be the same again. We may have experienced great gain or loss. As a nation, we have felt much unrest, uncertainty, tension and even fear. We have done a lot of heart-searching and made challenging decisions in this land we call home!

  Here we sit…upon the precipice of the unknown, the year 2017. But, is that really different than when we wake up every morning, facing an unknown day? Each day we must trust the Lord…and He trusts US with each day! Each day is a gift, yet we never know what it will hold before bedtime. As I am writing this (for printing purposes) in not quite mid-December of 2016, we have just returned home from the funeral of a former Pastor’s wife (65), who went home to Jesus in her sleep. Later, I noticed as I was scrolling through the morning’s social media posts that three friends or family members of friends had died this morning. We just don’t know, do we?

  Yet, we often find ourselves worrying about what we are going to do next Tuesday or next Saturday or next month or next year! Why do we have trouble with trusting God for those supposedly tangible days, weeks, months or years, when we have already trusted Him completely for the unending eons of eternity??? If we can trust Him for our eternal lives, why do we sometimes struggle with trusting Him with our daily lives, hour by hour? Does that really do us any good? Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34, “…do not worry about your life…for the pagans run after all of these things…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

  Perhaps that would be the best “New Year’s Resolution” for us all…to trust Him fully, without worry, AND to be obedient, trustworthy servants to Him!!! Only His resounding question(s) to us will matter above all else in eternity: “What did you do with My gift of My Son to you? Did you accept Him or did you reject Him? Did you serve Him?”

Marsha Cook, Director

 


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