Posted in Blog posts

Live a Life Worthy

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” Ephesians 4:1 (NASB).

If you’ve never read Ephesians, start to finish, do it as soon as possible! In fact, if you want to go and read it now, I’ll wait for you. It’s one of my favorite books of the Bible. Paul wrote it while he was under house arrest–a prisoner of Rome, by accusation of the Jews–for preaching the gospel (See Acts 28).

The verse I quoted above comes almost right in the middle of the book. Paul has just spent the first three chapters of Ephesians laying out all the wonderful things we have in Christ. And now, he says “THEREFORE,” which refers back to all he just told us. He’s saying–he, who suffered much for his calling–based on all God has done for us in Christ, live your life in a manner worthy of all this. In a minute we’ll look at how we do that, but first let’s look at the why.

Have you ever found yourself watching an informercial? The people yell and gesticulate excitedly and tell you what amazing things you’ll receive for one low price, then they say, “But wait, THERE’S MORE!!”

That’s what I think of when I read the first three chapters of Ephesians. There was a high price, not a low one, but Jesus paid it on the cross, and still there’s more. God not only gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16), but he continues to give us more and more, simply because we have believed in his Son. In fact, Paul says in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Here are just a few of the things God has given us in Christ as listed in Ephesians 1–3:

  • He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world and marked us in love for adoption as his children
  • He’s given us grace, redemption through Jesus’s blood, and forgiveness of sins
  • He’s given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that he will finish his work in us
  • Although we were dead in sin, he made us alive in Christ because of his love for us and because of his mercy
  • Formerly, (as sinners) we were objects of his wrath, but he saved us (from his wrath and judgment) by grace through faith–not by our works because we might boast (yet still they wouldn’t be enough); it’s a gift
  • He’s given us peace and reconciled us to God and given us his power through the Holy Spirit

WOW!! That’s a lot of spiritual treasure, and it’s only a partial list! So Paul says “therefore,” as in, because God has done that for us in Christ, live a life worthy of this calling on your life.

I told you earlier that Paul’s urging for us to walk in a manner worthy comes in the middle of the book; the first half tells why. Now, in the second half, he tells us how. How do we live a life worthy of what God has done for us? Let me say, first of all, that we are NOT worthy. We can do nothing to earn God’s mercy and grace. He gives it because of his great love for us, not because we deserve it or are worthy of it.

But that’s not what Paul means. He says we are to live our lives in a worthy manner, meaning that since God called us in Christ Jesus to be his children, we must live according to his commandments. As believers, we’re called OUT of our former way of life–that life that made us objects of the wrath of a holy God. We’re to put off our old sinful nature that’s being corrupted.

Instead, we are to put on the new nature, which is created to like God in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24). We’re to be like God, not like our former selves, not like unbelievers, not like the world.

We should live as children of light: humble, patient, gentle, loving, peaceful, mature, truthful, industrious, etc., etc. (read the rest on your own).

There should be none of that former corruption coming from our mouths either!

  • no gossip
  • no slander
  • no unwholesome talk
  • no obscenity
  • no coarse joking


God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient, and we have been saved from that, so we’re not to be partners with them in that behavior. Paul says, “Be very careful how you live.”

In Jesus, God gave us his very best–he was the perfect Lamb of God, without sin, who came to take away the sin of the world. His sacrifice on the cross gave us forgiveness of sin, a relationship with God, and blessings in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). All of the incredible things described in chapters 1–3.

So THEREFORE, let us listen to Paul and live a life worthy of God’s call.

Posted in Blog posts

Hope in Death

The Visitation

Groups of people clustered around the spacious gathering room, in the aisles, between rows of chairs, smiling, chatting, embracing, remembering. Some, with chins quavering, dabbed the corners of their eyes with tissues to levee the tears that overflowed their banks. A blond wooden casket presided over the room, but most of the people ignored its presence. They knew the broken, octogenarian form resting inside was just an empty shell. His spirit was rejoicing in the presence of the Heavenly Father. Jim lived a full life, always surrounded by family and friends, just as in that room at his death.

The Funeral

When the time came for the service to begin, Jim’s son stood to officiate. With fondness, he told warm stories of days gone by, of quirks and habits that made his father beloved by all. The listeners nodded their agreement and chuckled in their reminiscences. 

Jim had been a schoolteacher for more than three decades and a Sunday School teacher longer than that. Years of sharing his life with children, grandchildren, students, and friends, investing his life in the lives of others, talking of the Lord—this was the fruition, being honored by those left behind. Those who would, as his son poignantly noted, “have to learn how to live life without him.”

 “But I know I will see him again one day,” he continued, his eyes wistful. “That hope allows me to stand before you brokenhearted, and yet with a smile.” He shared his father’s love of the Savior. Jim, in death as in life, pointed people to Jesus. 

The Hope

The funeral of a Christian is a time of rejoicing and hope. Though we mourn, we are comforted. The Apostle Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

He also says, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

The Truth

Outside of Jesus Christ there is no hope after death. But because Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again, he provides a way for humans to be reconciled to God the Father, to be forgiven of sin so that we can have a relationship with him. Jesus said of himself, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He is our hope, the reason we can rejoice even in the face of death, if we have trusted in him as our Savior.

Posted in Blog posts

A Faith to Live By Is a Faith to Die By

Last night I dreamed about my dad. It’s strange, because although he passed away eleven years ago next month, this is probably only the third time I’ve dreamed about him. It’s odd when it happens; I wake up and realize it was a dream, but it feels so fresh and real that it rips open the hole that I had finally gotten all boarded up. My dad and I had a pretty complicated relationship, but I still miss him. If he were here now, we’d have a great time catching up and talking for several hours, but then we would need a break. That’s just reality. But I’d be willing to give it a go anyway.

 One thing that was of utmost importance to my dad when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was to finish well. He knew he was in for some hard times and he needed to know that his faith would remain strong, that what he had lived his life by would be sufficient when it was time to suffer and then to die. I remembered that recently as I was thinking about the reality that many face with coronavirus.

If you know that you’re one of the vulnerable ones, that if you get the virus you will likely die, it’s easy to become fearful. That is true of me. I have an underlying medical condition and I am immune suppressed. My husband has acted as the royal guard, not allowing me to come in contact with anyone who has the remotest possibility of exposing me to the virus. I’ve gone from denial: it’s ridiculous – that’s not going to happen; to fear: what if it did happen – I could really die; to acceptance: I’m doing what I can and being sensible and trusting God. 

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but I had a moment where I did actually consider my own death. Even though I’ve lost both my parents and have been sick enough before that I too could have died, I don’t think I have ever pondered my death. I don’t like to think about it. I don’t want to die and, to be honest, it scares me. 

You have to be careful saying that around some Christians because you might get a scolding. Christians aren’t supposed to be afraid to die, right? Maybe. But I think it’s pretty human to carry that fear. For one thing, there’s a lot in this life you don’t want to miss out on. Plus, you don’t REALLY know what’s on the other side. You believe; you have faith; you trust; you “know.” But there’s always that tug of doubt.

As I wrestled with these thoughts about death, I had the realization that faith doesn’t mean you never doubt. All the major heroes of the Bible had periods of doubt, even some in listed in Hebrews 11, the “faith chapter.” I also fully believe that the Lord gives grace for the moment. He will not leave his children when it’s time for them to die, especially if they have to suffer. If we have a faith worth living by, we will also have a faith worth dying by.

By God’s grace, my dad succeeded in holding onto his faith right up to the end. He was a witness for the Lord in the months and weeks leading up to his final days. As he got closer to death, and delirium set in, he “talked to” loved ones who had already passed and “saw” beautiful sights. He had moments of presence during which he got to say goodbye to his family members. His final words were, “I love you, baby doll” to his wife. He asked that at his funeral 2 Timothy 4:6-8 be read to the family after all the guests had exited. Verse 7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” It was a wonderful testimony. His faith was enough to live by and also enough to die by.

As I worked through all this in my mind, I felt at peace. I’m done pondering my own death for now, thank goodness. For anyone who doesn’t have that luxury at the present moment, I pray that you will find peace, comfort and trust through the Lord Jesus Christ and that your faith in him will sustain you. If you haven’t come to faith in him call on his name. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

Posted in Blog posts

“Where Two or Three Are Gathered”

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . But brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you” 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:17 (NIV).

Sometimes technology is wonderful. A few Sundays ago I experienced my first-ever livestreaming church service. Like many churches around the world, my church has canceled services due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, due to modern advances, we can still join together in worship and hear sermons from our pastor. We can still “go” to church.

When I was growing up, my dad, a pastor, was like two different people: Dr. Playful and Mr. Strict. I could skip school any time I wanted. I was a very responsible student and made good grades, so he never worried about whether I would get my work done. In fact, I can remember occasions when he would try to get me to stay home! I would have to be the grown-up and say, “No, Dad, I have a test today.” Other times though, I would agree. I remember one day staying home watching Donahue, eating tangerines, and playing dominoes with my dad. Another time, someone had given him a ping pong table and he talked me into staying home from school and playing. It was outside in the carport, and we were still playing when the bus came by that afternoon. My friends called me later, incredulous, and no doubt a tad jealous, that my dad had orchestrated that hooky session for the sake of ping pong.

On the other hand, church was a whole different matter! I had to have a doctor’s note, filled out in triplicate and notarized, documenting lab cultures and stating the degree of my fever if I wanted to miss any church service or church-sponsored event. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But only a little. We did not miss church. Ever. I had my tonsils removed when I was nine. I did get to miss church that Sunday, but I was on my own because Mom still went to the service. I remember lying on the couch watching our 13-inch television, ten feet away on a high shelf. Such freedom I felt! And maybe just a little bit of rebellion, way down deep.

My husband was raised similarly, though not quite as rigidly. That’s just what you did: you went to church every time the doors were open. When we had children of our own, we struggled with trying to emphasize the importance of church attendance and involvement without it becoming legalistic. By that time, families were excessively busy with sports and other activities, and church was part of that busyness. So, if we had a gymnastics meet or a ball tournament out of town on a Sunday, we didn’t stress about missing church. The rest of the time, however, we were involved in everything from G.A.’s, to A.W.A.N.A., to handbells and choir, to youth group. 

To be honest, I’m not certain if we did that right. Now that our kids are grown, they don’t always put the emphasis on church attendance and involvement that we would wish. Maybe that’s our fault. But on the other hand, I know an awful lot of people who were forced to go religiously (pun intended) as children and now refuse to darken the doors. It’s impossible to know.

What I do know is how wonderful it is to be a member of the family of God and what a blessing and privilege to meet together for worship, not “forsaking the assembling of [ourselves] together,” (Hebrews 10:25 KJV) even when there’s a global pandemic. Jesus promised that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He will be in their midst (Matthew 18:20). That thought stirred my spirit the first week of livestreaming as I visualized little groups of quarantined Christians across the world, gathered in their homes around televisions, computers, or phones, watching the livestreams of their respective churches, all worshiping God together separately, some in their PJs, others in their Sunday best, with their kids, with their coffee, with the dog, cuddled up, or socially distanced. And I felt His presence. I think He was glorified. 

Unfortunately, not every week has been quite as warm and fuzzy. One time the video kept glitching and the audio and video were out of sync. Last week our dogs were feeling feisty and kept rolling around and growling during “church,” a tad distracting to say the least. 

Nevertheless, if it is one thing we know, until the Lord takes us out of here en masse, His church will endure. The gates of hell will not prevail against it, and neither will coronavirus (nor dogs nor video glitches)! I encourage each of you to join a livestreaming church service faithfully as long as we are all quarantined. When life returns to normal, however, all who are able should go back to our brick-and-mortar buildings. While solidarity via technology is a beautiful thing, even more beautiful is the work and worship we do together, side-by-side.

Posted in Blog posts

Doing Good to All

“Let us not become weary in doing good…Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:9-10

One day as I entered Sunday School, a man roughly in his thirties sat alone in the room, having arrived early. I greeted him as I passed, and he immediately introduced himself. This man, (I’ll call him “Jerry”) whom I had never met before, proceeded to fill me in on the current events in his life: He had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday because he had been feeling sick. He hoped it didn’t take too long because he was supposed to have a job interview. He was new to town and living at the independent living center and was going to start coming to church…and on and on he prattled. It didn’t take long to figure out that Jerry was “different.” 

Things did not improve as the class leader began the lesson. Jerry interjected and interrupted, talking for minutes at a time, and, quite honestly, saying nothing. He made no sense yet spoke with a tone of importance and invented important sounding words as he went. It was clear that he actually had a body of basic Bible knowledge, but it was lost in translation, so to speak – a phrase, ironically, that he sprinkled inappropriately throughout his discourse.

The leader did a good job of patiently waiting for Jerry to finish or politely breaking in to try and stay on topic. But most everyone else sat stiff and uncomfortable until class was mercifully over and tried not to make eye contact as we filed out, ears ringing and heads spinning. It was my turn to lead the class the next week, and I was already praying.

The Holy Spirit was gracious and, miraculously, I managed to lead class, including Jerry in the discussion while at the same time keeping his contributions more or less under control. However, the pastoral staff as well began to recognize the challenge Jerry would present during the worship service. He sat right down on the front row and loved raising his arms high during the singing – not normally a problem – but, in his excitement, he also tended to migrate toward the stage ending up front and center. He clapped loudly and off beat during and after every song. He said “amen” too often and in all the wrong places during the sermon. It was all very distracting. Many of us regular attenders felt resentment toward this interloper, and, consequently, the guilt that ought to accompany those kinds of feelings.

Once again, enter the Holy Spirit. Several of us in the Sunday School class in those first few weeks felt conviction over our tendency to be annoyed by Jerry or our wishing he wasn’t there. We quickly began to pray that we would tolerate him the way the Lord tolerates us, with love and forbearance. After all, isn’t that what the church is about, what Christians are supposed to do? (For the record, we all went through this individually or as married couples. Only later did we discuss it with other class members and, even then, it was still individually rather than a corporate decision. I was amazed at the Spirit’s simultaneous work in us as individuals within the group.)

Eventually we learned that Jerry has had a pretty difficult life. Raised by an abusive mother, he went through life as a problem child with behavioral issues. He has difficulty with social cues and poor impulse control, which led to some angry outbursts at times. We realized that he needed community just like all of us do. He needed a family, a church family, who would love him the way he is and accept him as a part of us. 

For a while, different ones would go and sit by him during Sunday School or worship service and help direct or redirect him. He actually seemed to appreciate it. He had a real desire to please and it brought him joy to be noticed and praised. The ministerial staff, seeking a better solution to his distractive worship experience, decided to enlist his help in running the video camera in the balcony. You’d have thought they asked him to have dinner with the president! He felt so important and proud of his new job.

Sadly, Jerry’s situation changed, and he had to move away. He sent the pastor the most precious and heart-stirring note expressing his love for his church family and lamenting how much he would miss it. He was worried he wouldn’t find another church that would love and accept him. I worry about that too. Our church is pretty special, but I bet the Holy Spirit will lead other brothers and sisters to lean into Jerry, to walk beside him in love and mutual acceptance. If we only love those who are like us, we are no different than the world. But Christ has called his body to a higher standard and he already showed us how to do it.

Posted in Blog posts

Giving God Control

The day my oldest daughter had a baby is a day forever imprinted in my memory. Since he was the first grandchild on both sides of his family, his arrival caused quite a stir. Family members began to gather in the labor and delivery waiting room at the hospital, all grinning broadly and twittering with joy and excitement. None of us, however, could have anticipated at that moment the sine wave of emotions that was ahead. The events of that day left me feeling powerless and out of control, yet as a person of faith, I learned once again that in life’s scary moments, God will provide peace if we trust Him with our burdens.

Around two a.m., my youngest daughter woke my husband and me with a giddy whisper, “Mom, Dad, Emily’s water broke! They’re heading to the hospital!” 

We were instantly awake and discussing plans. Though we wanted to immediately hop into the car and make the two-hour drive, we knew it was impractical. My husband, an eye surgeon, was obligated to see his post-surgical patients in clinic that morning, but would need to make arrangements for the remainder of clinic to be canceled. Besides, my daughter, a very private person, did not want anyone in the labor room with her, so while we wanted to be close by, we would, in essence only be hurrying up to wait.  

“We might as well try to get some sleep,” we reasoned. Yeah, right.

Several hours later when we all finally arrived at the hospital, we found my son-in-law’s family already there. Most of us held our phones in our laps, snatching them up with each buzz, hungry for the slightest morsel of news. Though we calmly made small talk, it was quite evident that our insides were all butterflies and grasshoppers. 

“It looks like delivery is a few hours away,” observed Emily’s father-in-law after reading a message from his son. “Would you all want to go grab some lunch?”

Forks clinked against plates, conversation flowed freely, and laughter filled the room as we shared not only the meal, but also a spirit of kinship and family. Just as lunch concluded, word came that my daughter was almost ready to start pushing. We quickly gathered up and hurried back to the hospital.

The news, as it turned out, belied what was to come, and as the minutes ticked into hour upon hour, anticipation turned to apprehension, joy to concern. We hung on each new bit of information. 

“Her labor has stalled.”

“They are trying different labor positions and administering a drug.” 

Finally, “Progress is being made!”

Then, “Actually, no, the baby’s head is too large to fit into the birth canal.”

I had so hoped and prayed that she would not have to have a C-section, but after twenty-four hours of labor, that was the only option remaining. Unable to sit, I took the elevator down to the cafeteria and absently scanned the menu. Choosing French fries for their munchable quality, I chewed each fry like a rabbit would a carrot and tried to control my nerves. Eventually, I made the trek back to the waiting room to sit on the edge of my very uncomfortable seat.

By this point, we had all been at the hospital for fourteen hours or more, and the siblings had to leave. We four parents were the only family members – in fact, the only people at all – still in the waiting room. We began to speak of our worry, of the percentages and likelihoods (the father-in-law is a doctor too), of our kids’ exhaustion and courage. There were unspoken things as well. I felt powerless. I could do nothing to help. I could not, according to my daughter’s own wishes, even see her, hold her hand, caress her face, smooth her hair. Her husband was to be her comfort in that moment of intimacy; it was their time. Although I know her well, and I understood her need for privacy, it increased my anxiety and left me in a sort of limbo. I could not leave the hospital. I could not distract myself. I could not sleep. 

Ultimately, we parents joined hands and hearts in prayer for our precious treasures. We prayed for the doctor and the nurses too. We did aloud what we had all been doing silently in our hearts all day, giving the matter to God yet again. In that moment of unity and agreement together in prayer, we felt peace. In that deserted, stiff, non-conducive waiting room in the hospital, our hope was renewed. Soon after, I lay down across the bench and dozed. When I woke, news came that, after nearly twenty-six hours, the baby was finally born, and both mom and baby were fine.

While life provides us with many joyful moments, there are also many times when we may feel out of control or powerless. During the birth of my grandchild, a very joyous occasion, I felt powerless to ease my daughter’s suffering or to assist in any way. I felt out of control when worry and anxiety were beginning to gain the upper hand. When we prayed, I trusted God with my fears. Afterward, I felt God’s peace wash over me. At that moment, I was reminded that God is available to hear prayers and will provide strength and comfort as we place our burdens on His all-powerful shoulders.

Posted in Blog posts

Sharing Faith

I’m just going to be honest with you right now. I stink at sharing my faith. Whew! That was hard to type and embarrassing to admit, even to myself. But I’m not alone. Most Christians agree that we ought to share our faith with non-Christians, but about 78% of us haven’t in the last six months. The reason? Fear. Fear of rejection is the number one reason for neglecting to bring up spiritual topics in conversations. 

I get that, don’t you? I feel that tension every time I even think about sharing my faith with someone. But the Lord has been dealing heavily with me about it. I recently took an evangelism class that taught me some ways to better share my faith, and I would like to share with you a couple of my takeaways from that class. Here are 3 steps to help you better share your faith. Let’s work on it together!

1. Pray.

The Lord will provide you with opportunities and give you the courage you need if you will just ask, and the Holy Spirit will prompt you what to say. Evangelizing is our responsibility, but saving people is not. It really takes the pressure off when you realize that the outcome is in God’s hands. We just have to be obedient to talk to people about Him.

2. Get Educated

Take an evangelism course or read a book on sharing your faith. Nothing empowers like learning a tried and true technique. Start out by memorizing the Roman Road. It’s simple and presents the gospel in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. Here is a link that will explain this method of sharing the gospel:

3. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Start by buying some gospel tracts and use them as conversation starters or leave them with a generous tip for your restaurant server. They’re inexpensive and help open the door for evangelism. Go here to order some: Another way to practice sharing your faith is through role-play with a friend or family member. As you begin to get familiar with a technique such as the Roman Road, try it out. The more you use it, the easier it will become.

God has given us such grace and mercy by providing salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus. We shouldn’t keep such amazing news to ourselves! Share it!! You never know who might need to hear the Good News of the gospel.