Bible Study

Messages of Encouragement

with Pastor Edith Bleecker

The Fence of Faith

September 21, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 2:10-12

While working through the ten commandments in my sermons, I am now on #7; “You shall not commit adultery”. I am thankful for Jesus and his way to bring God’s law to life right where we are, just as he did for the people who would listen and follow him in the first century. You see, Jesus said; “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Adultery, like any other temptation, begins in the mind. God, in his mercy, has given us a fence to protect us in our decisions, the fence is his commandment. Some might believe that they don’t need to worry about this commandment because lust is not a problem for them. I would caution all of us, not to think so highly of ourselves that we lose touch with the state of our thinking and then find ourselves dealing with the consequences of those thoughts that suddenly became a behavior. Pastor Ron Mehl gave me the illustration of the fence in his book The Ten(der) Commandments; “Why should a rodeo cowboy [run to] a fence? Because the fence isn’t there to restrict and restrain the rider, it is there to restrain the bull.

That’s what God’s commandments do for us; they protect us. They put a barrier between us and that which would destroy us. They place a restraint on our flesh that wants what it wants at any cost” (pg. 172). We need to walk in God’s wisdom every step of every day and when we do, God gives us a promise; “Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted” (Proverbs 2:10-12). This life sometimes feels like a rodeo to me; sometimes holding on for dear life, and sometimes running like crazy for find a safe place to just breathe. If you are feeling that way today, let me encourage you; take a moment right now and simply thank God for making you the way you are, and for his Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, and then listen to him.

AMEN

Right Now

September 14, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

John 8:31-32

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’.

Our text for today reminds followers of Jesus to “hold” to his teaching. To hold means to cling to, or to stay close to so as not to let go of what Jesus taught. He promises that if we “hold” to his teaching we will know the truth and because we know the truth we are set free. Free from lies we may have always believed about ourselves and others before. Free from anxiety, worry, doubt, fear, anything that keeps Christ followers from following him closely. I hope you will be inspired and encouraged by the following quote I found and have adjusted for this teaching. The original quote is from Pastor Ron Mehl, whose book; The Tender Commandments has helped me hold on to Jesus in these days of unrest. I call it Right Now! “No matter what has happened to us in the past, God is interested in our right now. He wants to change your heart and mine right now. Not tomorrow. He wants to walk with us and fellowship with us right now. Not later on, after ‘we get things straightened out.’ He wants to teach us and bless us right now. Not on some mythical future day when we’re more prepared or ‘have our act together.’ He wants to protect us from destructive thoughts and attitudes right now.” And right now if I settle this matter; whatever I feel hanging over me like a heavy, darkness, I can be a different person right now. I can be free from the darkness and free to walk with my Lord who will bless me in unimaginable ways, even right now!

AMEN

“Bless-able”

September 08, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 4:26-27

This morning I was blessed by 5 minutes of prayer with Pastor Tony Alstott from Wesley Chapel UMC. He is faithful to daily bring me, via Facebook Live, to different locations to read scripture and pray as the scripture inspires him. Today’s scripture for this morning was Psalm 127, parts for this meditation today: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain…Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him…” At the end of the reading and prayer he invites us to repeat the words from 1 Samuel 3:10; “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”. He concluded this listening time with what God revealed to him; consider carefully the “To Do” list for the day. In other words; Unless the Lord builds your “To Do” list, you labor in vain. I couldn’t help but see how God was showing me a connection with my plans, my work, my family and the 5th commandment of God for today’s study.

Exodus 20:12 from NIV reads: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” How we choose to honor our parents, or not is a very personal thing. Some reading today have had a very difficult time with one or both parents, and may have come to the conclusion, that it is just best to not deal with them at all. Some reading today have experienced the death of their parents, like my husband and I, and you may be wondering how you are expected to honor them now. Some reading this meditation today are right in the midst of an unbelievably painful relationship with their parents, and yet God’s command is the same for all. Yes, this is very personal and very hard to obey. Be encouraged that our creator God, who knows all things, is not asking anyone to be a doormat, or allow abuse or neglect to continue. God is interested in your life and welfare and because of his love for you, God’s desire is that you honor/respect your parents not because they have always deserved it, but because you deserve to be free of unforgiveness, and bitterness which can lock up your life in the past, even if it is a very recent past.

Ephesians 4: 26-27 is a good reminder; “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.” There it is; not only for children and parents, but for all our relationships. When we choose not to forgive, we are giving the devil a foothold to climb all over our lives. In reality, we are most likely hurting ourselves more than the one we choose not to forgive. Forgiveness is powerful, and I believe only fully possible in relationship with Jesus Christ who gave himself for all to be set free. You are loved right where you are, and if you are the parent that the kids won’t forgive, simply ask the Lord to help you become more “bless-able” so that you can become a blessing, maybe this should be on your “To Do” list today.

AMEN!

Captured

August 18, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Exodus 20:1-6, Mathew 5:17-19

The essence of our focal passage today comes to us from Pastor Ron Mehl, as he writes in his book The Tender Commandments – Reflections on the Father’s love; “I am your God. I am your Redeemer: I have saved you and bought you for Myself. Please…don’t ever put anything in the place that belongs to me” (pg. 56-interpreting Exodus 20:1-6 for today). When it comes to our day to day living in relationship with God in Christ, the commandments are still very valid. It is recorded in Matthew 5:17 – 19, that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill them and that “anyone who breaks one of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”.

I understand that in fulfilling the commandments of God, Jesus provides for us a way to draw closer to God through a growing relationship with the Son. Still, we realize that we are not “there” yet, and while we navigate our way day to day, we come up against some idols that threaten to steal our relationship. What might some of these idols be? Pastor Mehl puts it this way; “Today, these gods of materialism, sexual indulgence, and personal power fill the very airwaves! The images and their deceptive offers go across the world by satellite, cable, internet, and slick four-colored printing. We are surrounded by more images than we have ever been in the history of the world…the whole object is to ‘capture’ as many people as possible…When it becomes the whole purpose of my life to chase one of those images, I have already slipped into idolatry. I have given it the best of my time, my talents, my treasures, and my energies. My very life is invested in it. That’s what a god is; when you worship a god, you basically surrender your life to it” (pg.59).

Now there’s a word, surrender. Perhaps the greatest challenge I have in my day to day walk with the Lord, is to constantly surrender my will to his, my desires to his desires for my life, my rights to his righteousness. If you find yourself being challenged in a similar way today, perhaps this part of a famous hymn my help you stay on course: “All to thee, my blesses Savior, I surrender all” (I Surrender All, #354 The United Methodist Hymnal).

AMEN!

Keeping God First

August 10, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7, Exodus 34:14

Question; When is being jealous a good thing? I’ve heard stories of young couples that experienced times when their relationship seemed to be waning and attempted to make each other jealous just to test if their relationship was worth the effort. I’m not convinced that would be a good thing. I’ve also experienced times when I was jealous that some other beauty caught my sweetheart’s eye. I remember when Mark and I were dating and were stationed together at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. There wasn’t much to do on base for dating couples, so we spent some evenings at the gym playing racquetball. One day as we were walking along, I noticed that a pretty young lady was leaving the gym and Mark turned his head to get a second look. Well, I just came alongside him and bluntly asked; “What does she have that I don’t twice as much of”? He answered straight away; “absolutely nothing”. Still, that type of jealousy wasn’t good for either of us.

The Bible tells us in Exodus 34:14; “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”. One translation puts it this way; “Never worship any other god, because the Lord is a God who does not tolerate rivals. In fact, he is known for not tolerating rivals”. Question, as Ron Mehl puts it; “Why in the world does he [God] make such a point of having no other gods before Him? What does this first command have to do with life in today’s world? The reason is simple: He wants to be your God. He wants to care for you, and He knows that no one or nothing can care for you better than He. He is a faithful God, committed to us even when we fail, even when we make mistakes. He loves us, and He will never say, ‘I’m done with you. I am going to turn to someone else that I care about more than you’” (pg. 45 The Ten(der) Commandments).

A Pastor friend of mine puts it this way; “God loves me best”, and I agree, because after all, who could love me better? Keeping God first not only changes the way you live, but it impacts the way other people live. In our world today, people are more confused than ever and are in desperate need to know that God loves them best. When we catch hold of that, we can change the world.

AMEN

The Ten(der) Commandments

August 03, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
Psalm 1:1-3

Last week I was invited to join with our Hursttown church to celebrate a one day vacation bible school with the theme of the ten commandments of God. What fun to sing and dance to songs like “The Ten Commandment Boogie” and “This little light of mine”. We had a young group of kids who seemed genuinely interested in participating, especially when it came to pizza and cookie break time.

I was inspired a while ago to reinterpret the 10 commandments, which can be found in 3 places in the bible; Exodus 20, Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 5. The reinterpretation was my way of helping our grandkids to think about what God wants for us. At the risk of repeating a previous midweek posting, here’s my list as I hear God speaking to the children;

1 - Love God with all of yourself.
2 - Don’t worship anything or anyone else,
3 - Don’t use God’s name in a bad way.
4 - Remember to spend one day every week as a holy day for God.
5 - Respect your mommy and daddy.
6 - Don’t murder (Life is a precious gift from God).
7 - Be faithful to your husband or wife.
8 - Don’t take what does not belong to you.
9 - Don’t say bad things about other people.
10 -Don’t spend time wanting what other people have, be grateful for what you already have.

School has started, so I will have less time with our grandkids, but I hope to keep up the habit of encouraging them to share from bible memory verses and these commandments. I always get an uplift to my spirit when I hear sweet young voices speaking from God’s word. My oldest grandson taught me to read scriptures from a personal perspective. His life verse (as The Lord put on my heart is ) Psalm 1:1-3; “Blessed are you William, when you do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But your delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law you meditate day and night. You will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, whatever you do will prosper.”

I encourage you to take some time every day to sit with God, read your bible and listen for the Holy Spirit to direct you to a verse to memorize. We have so many voices screaming at us in our world today to go this way or that way, to allow for everything and anything so as not to exclude anyone, to focus more on our rights and needs, you get the idea. How about becoming like a child in VBS again and read, sing, and celebrate the commands of God. Pastor and author Ron Mehl writes; “Oh, how we need God’s help! How we need God’s Spirit! How we need God’s loving guidelines. The truth is we need help beyond our age or experience” (The Ten(der) Commandments, Reflections on the Father’s Love pg.30).

AMEN

Taming the Tongue

July 27, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
James 3:1-10

Self-Discipline, now here is a topic that rates high on everyone’s list when in casual conversation over a magnificent dinner, Not! Yet, it is part of the fruit of the Spirit that all believers are to endeavor to produce so as to encourage others to seek and find Christ.

The Message translation of a portion of our scripture for today puts it pretty well when considering the self-discipline of our words: “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—It’s never been done [apart from Christ Jesus]. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongue we bless God our Father; with the same tongue we curse the very men and women he made in his image…”

Here’s a thought, what if each of us took some time every morning to ask the Holy Spirit to sweeten our words for the day with the fruit of self-discipline? Do you suppose we might be less inclined to use words that we might regret later, and more inclined to use words that build up another person? My husband of 36 years has been known to say “Not everything that pops up in your head needs to pop out of your mouth”, good advice, thanks honey. I found some inspiration from a little poem written by Louisa May Alcott, it is titled My Kingdom: “A little kingdom I possess, where thoughts and feelings dwell; And very hard the task I find of governing it well. I do not ask for any crown but that which all may win; Nor try to conquer any world except the one within.”

AMEN!

The Spiritual Fruit of Kindness

July 20, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Text for Today: Titus 3:3-6 “Kindness is the fruit of the Spirit which primarily benefits others-people with whom we come in contact. And what a crying need there is for people to be kinder. [You could say in our day and time] we are experiencing a ‘kindness-famine’”(Nine Fruits of the Spirit by Robert Strand – Kindness pg.19).

The text I have chosen for our meditation today comes from a letter of Paul to Pastor Titus who is endeavoring to lead a newly formed church on the Island of Crete. It would seem that the people in this particular congregation are quite disorganized, self-centered, and undisciplined. The Apostle Paul encourages Pastor Titus to remember that at one time all believers were “foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures…But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”.

As Christ followers, we are called by God to lead by example in being kind to everyone, even the people with whom we disagree, even those who seem bent on creating division. One of the ways I’ve been taught is in doing “random acts of kindness”; helping pay for someone’s meal, someone’s gas, stopping to encourage someone you notice is in distress, making that phone call you thought you didn’t have time to make. You get the idea . Many of you reading this have probably already taken the time to be kind in similar random acts of kindness or maybe, like me, you have been the recipient of such acts. Christ followers are driven by their love for God to share kindness everywhere we go, not to feel good about ourselves, though I do find I feel better about myself when I am kind, no, we are to be kind as a demonstration of our love for The Lord and as a relationship builder that may prove to be the beginning of someone’s journey of faith.

A while back I saw someone wearing a T shirt with this statement, and I close our time together with this thought: “If you can be anything, be kind”.

AMEN!

For Goodness Sake

July 14, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Galatians 5:22-26, Acts 10:34-38

Today we are going to sample the fruit of “Goodness”, number 6 in the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-26. As we are reading from the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek, we can learn that the Greek word for “Goodness” is the word “Agathos”. This word; “Describes that which a person being good in character or constitution, will be beneficial in its effect on others” (Nine Fruits of the Spirit-Goodness pg. 9 by Robert Strand). With that explanation, we can see that Goodness is an active and productive characteristic of Christ-like living, or, Fruitful living.

Acts 10:34-38 tells us how Peter declares boldly the ministry of Jesus Christ; how “God anointed him with the power of the Holy Spirit, and how he went around doing good…”. When we are in relationship with Jesus Christ, we too, are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to “go around doing good”. Can you say with boldness, “I am living my life for goodness sake!” and by this mean that you are living for Jesus and his kingdom? I know I want to be more like him and a little less like me every day. Here is a little poem I found a couple of years ago that says it all pretty well.

The Goodness Creed [Edith calls it ; “Just A Little Bit”]

“Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder to the faults of those about me; Let me praise a little more; Let me be, when I am weary, just a little bit more cheery; Think a little more of others and a little less of me. Let me be a little braver when temptation bids me waver; Let me strive a little harder to be all that I should be. Let me be a little meeker with the brother who is weaker; Let me think more of my neighbor and a little less of me. Let me be a little sweeter, make my life a bit completer, by doing what I should do every minute of the day. Let me toil without complaining, not a humble task disdaining; Let me face the summons calmly when death beckons me away”. (Author unknown)

AMEN

Joy

July 06, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

(Gal.5:22-23), Proverbs 17:22

This week my husband pulled out of the fruit bowl of the 9 Fruits of the Spirit the fruit of Joy. I read recently that there are over 200 references to joy, joyfulness, cheerfulness etc… in the bible and that brings a smile to my face . It can sometimes be challenging to maintain a joyful spirit when we hear and see so much trouble and pain that so many are facing. Still, I hear the Savior say; “Find in me thine all in all” (From the hymn Jesus Paid it All).

Proverbs 17:22 simply says; “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”.

Perhaps this is the best prescription we could fill when it comes to dealing with the troubles we have to face in our world, in our communities, in our churches, in our homes, and most importantly in ourselves. In point of fact it has been said that a positive attitude and a good sense of humor can be very healing, even for physical ailments.

Another way I enjoy joy is in sharing from God’s word about how much he loves us all. Sometimes, I get carried away when using a funny illustration in my sermons. I can’t help it, God is good and people are funny. Just about the time I think I have gone too far, I read this about a marvelous clergyman whom I admire greatly, his name is Charles Spurgeon. I read where a woman in his congregation approached him to admonish him for his “too frequent expressions of joy and use of humor in his preaching. To which he replied, ‘madam, you should give me a medal for holding it back as much as I do’” (pg. 39 of Nine Fruits of the Spirit –Joy, by Robert Strand).

So, the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and troubled, try taking a breath and remember; Jesus knows your every weakness and can calm every fear. Thank him and allow him to put the joy, joy, joy down in your heart.

AMEN

The Fruit of Faithfulness

June 29, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

As we work through the nine characteristics of being filled with the Holy Spirit, I am reminded again that my tree of faith needs constant attention. There are pests that want to infest. There are dry spells that require the water of the Word more intentionally. There are times of harvest when I need to pluck and share so that others can benefit and be encouraged.

Today, my husband Mark has chosen the fruit of faithfulness. In Galatians 5:22-23, it is listed as the seventh fruit and is bursting with meaning; “standing fast, steadfastness, loyal, devoted, tried, constant, reliable, unwavering, trustworthy, dependable, resolute, honest, punctual, and steady…It also speaks of endurance—a firmness of purpose, especially when the living is tough. It is a more than a ‘grin-and-bear-it’ kind of attitude” (Nine Fruits of the Spirit by Robert Strand, Faithfulness pgs. 9-10).

One of the more obvious ways faithfulness is demonstrated is in our day-to-day relationships with other people. People, by nature, seem to have a difficult time staying faithful. We drift in our commitment to God, and we become weak in our commitments to one another.

I sense in my own life, a greater awareness that I need to be more committed and grow my roots of faithfulness for my family, my congregations, my community and yes, myself. Perhaps you are sensing that too. Daily news broadcasts, blogs and articles and posts on the internet can often leave me feeling hopeless for authentic, faithful relationships to exist. Yet, I am wooed by God to his word and I find hope. It comes with singing; “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself” (Psalm 89:1-2).

I love the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness, written by Thomas O. Chisolm in 1923: “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not; as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be…” You might enjoy singing the chorus as you go about your day.

Be faithful.

AMEN!

Let's Make the Church Together

June 22, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Galatians 5:22-23, John 13:35

Galatians 5:22-23 lists 9 characteristics of a Christ follower walking in the power of the Holy Spirit; “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

Paul uses the term “fruit of the Spirit” to indicate these are grown from a connection with God’s Holy Spirit. God sent his son into the world, the son sends the Holy Spirit to comfort and to guide all who follow him. This relationship is one marked by ever increasing “fruitfulness” in expanding the kingdom of God, and in the fruit of “love”, we are told by Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 13:35; “By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”.

I found a sweet illustration of this type of love in a story I found in the little devotionals I have been using; Nine Fruits of the Spirit by Robert Strand. He writes; “A pastor relates the following true story: During vacation Bible School my wife had an experience with her primary class that she says she will never forget. Her class was interrupted on Wednesday about an hour before dismissal when a new student was brought in. This little boy had one arm missing and since the class was almost over she had no opportunity to learn any of the details about the cause, or his state of adjustment. She was very nervous and afraid that one of the other children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him. There was no opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible.

As the class time came to a close she began to relax. She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony. ‘Let’s make our churches,’ she said, clasping her hands together, fingers interlocked. ‘Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s…’ The awful truth of her own actions struck her. The very thing she had feared the children would do, she had done! As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, ‘Davey, let’s make the church together’.

Not a lot is going to happen for the good in this world until we can team up with God and other people to make life what it ought to be, church what it ought to be, society what it should be, and homes what they should be”.

AMEN

The Gentle Cycle

June 15, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Proverbs 15:1

Laundry chores are not among my favorites, but I am always thankful that I have a sturdy washer and dryer that can handle some tough loads. One of the settings on my washer is the “Gentle” cycle. I rarely use it because most of my dirty laundry requires a more aggressive approach. Let me try to make a connection with you between this laundry illustration and what we are studying in the messages concerning living in the Holy Spirit of God: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22).

In what I like to call the fruit salad of the Spirit, we find gentleness. Proverbs reminds us; “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Here is where I often struggle with a more aggressive approach when it comes to difficult conversations. Like extra soiled laundry, there are some pretty messy situations that come my way, and I can’t ignore them. Like dirty laundry, if I don’t deal with the messiness with which I am confronted, then it just sits there in my heart and mind until I find myself with “stinking thinking”, that robs me of my peace and rest.

Jesus offers us all a chance to use the “Gentle Cycle” when dealing with the troubles we face; “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

When you are faced with a situation that demands your attention, and your first instinct is to give the other person “a piece of your mind”, take just a second or two and breathe in again the Holy Spirit of God and ask Him to guide your words, to be a more “gentle answer”. It takes practice, and many times I’m not the best example, but verses like the above really do help me, if I will just take the time to read and remember them. Pastor Robert Strand reflects on “Gentleness in the words we speak” in his little devotional Nine Fruits of the Spirit by quoting Max Lucado: “Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle: If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my first, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself”.

May the Holy Spirit guide us all day by day as we choose “the gentle cycle”.

AMEN!

Pentecost Power

June 01, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
John 7:37-39

‘On the last and greatest day of the Feast [of Tabernacles/A Fall festival for God], Jesus stood and said in a loud voice ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’

By this he meant the Spirit [Holy Spirit], whom those who believed in him were about to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given since Jesus had not yet been glorified” John 7:37-39 NIV.

This coming Sunday many churches will celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost so I thought it would be good to prepare you a little bit. According to Dr. Henry Halley, Jesus had not been in Jerusalem for nearly a year and a half and it would be a mere 6 months before he would be crucified. It’s important for us to see a bit of the context for this verse in order to hear the passion Jesus has for his people. He knows many of the people gathered to celebrate a holy festival to honor God would be the very ones who would shout “Crucify him”! Jesus also knows that the people are thirsty, not just for liquid refreshment, but for spiritual refreshment. There is a thirst for healing of relationships that have dried up. There is a thirst for hope and joy that has long since become a dry and weary land. There is a deep thirst for comfort when life throws another curveball.

Jesus tells everyone who would listen, and remember, it’s a festival and quite noisy, so he stands up on something and shouts in a very loud voice our text you have read today. The “Living water” is a reference to the Holy Spirit that would fall on all who gathered as Jesus had instructed on the day of Pentecost. The living water would bring reconciliation, hope, joy and comfort beyond anything anyone on earth could provide. It would be with a powerful witness as the believers began to speak in languages that everyone gathered for the feast of Pentecost would understand.

Oh, how much our God loves us! To give us this witness that He would become flesh again and indwell those who believe manifested in the presence of the Holy Spirit. During these very hot summer days it is easy to relate to being thirsty. So, the next time you get a drink of cool, clear water, try looking up to heaven and thank God that He wants to flow through you.

AMEN

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy

May 19, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
Ephesians 3:20-21

Child Reading a Bible“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…”, a song that is running through my head this morning as I anticipate the arrival of my beautiful 5-year old grandchild who will entertain and challenge me again today. I am blessed beyond measure to be so close to our grandchildren and perhaps the greatest blessing is how they remind me to stay close to God and his word daily. Monday morning our little Miss brought her new book bag she received from her preschool graduation. She parked it on the table where I had my bible open and proceeded to open up her new bible. She said it would make me smile and that I would need to read it to her. Before I got past the first page of the creation story, she pulled it back and began to tell me the stories page by page from memory. She asked me some of the names of the characters, but for the most part, accurately retold the stories her preschool teacher shared with the students from the same bible each student received for graduation. Proud, pleased and just praising the Lord for a marvelous beginning of the week.

All this to say; please, please don’t take a break from bible time this summer. Take a break from stress and worry. Take a break from fear and frustration, but don’t take a break from your journey with God. Recite our scripture for today as a prayer to guide you; “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!

AMEN”

Violets Cracking Rocks

May 12, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
Matthew 6 and John 14

I came across a bible study written by Maxie Dunnam, published in 1989; That’s What The Man Said: The Sayings of Jesus and found a statement that helped me today, I hope it helps you too. “The greatest price we pay for worry is the loss of the richness of living today” (pg.16).

In reflecting on Matthew 6:25-34, Maxie reminds us that “We have the power like the violet, to crack all the rocks of circumstances. So listen to what Jesus said: "Don’t be anxious about tomorrow!" I used to read the passage in Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" and I often interpreted that as permission for me to worry today .

The point Jesus was trying to make then and now is summed up in verse 27: 
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

I’ve heard that studies have shown that worry and anxiety can actually lessen your life, not only the quality of your life but the length of time you get to live and the older I get, the more I see that to be true. In the “violets cracking rocks” image, Maxie Dunnam relates; “A tiny, fragile, violet with so much life in its tiny structure, with so much thrust for sunlight and air that it literally cracks the rock and pokes through so that it can peek at the sunlight and finally burst forth in its pristine purple glory…you see, we can trust God for tomorrow, because we can trust God for today” (pg. 17).

Ralph Waldo Emerson was quoted as saying: “What lies behind us and before us are small matters compared to what lies within us”. When you are in Christ Jesus, his Holy Spirit makes his dwelling within you. This comforter, healer, and counselor will guide you all the way home.

Jesus said; "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:15-17).

Listen to what the man said.

AMEN

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

May 09, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
1 John 3:16-18

Our text for today gives an example of how we know what love is and a reminder of how much God showed his love for us all; “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Forget Me Not FlowersMy mommy was a great example of the love of Christ for me and all who knew her. I was pretty young when she was diagnosed with kidney disease, yet she made good use of the days she felt well enough to be out of bed. She would be invited to share about her homeland, The Netherlands, with church groups and schools. I have a sweet picture that a dear friend cut out of a newspaper article that shows my mother in her full Dutch costume dancing in a circle with kids from a local church kindergarten. She became my Brownie Scout leader because I was afraid to leave her to go to meetings and functions. She even made a pattern for all the scouts and leaders to have our own costume, and sent away to Holland Michigan for each of us to have our own wooden shoes. We were the hit of the school for that year’s Mother’s Day program as we dance to a traditional Dutch song about mothers.

The greatest impression she made on me about how to show the love of Christ was her constant concern for others. She often felt weak, but still made time to put a meal together for a shut in, or help at church. One day she got me involved by handing me a bag of clothes that didn’t fit me anymore. She instructed me to go to the end of our street where a very poor and large family lived. I avoided that house, because they were always dirty and smelly, and sometimes were very loud in their family fights. Mom saw my hesitancy and simply gave me a hug and told me to remember how much God loves us and that he wants us to love others.

For those of you that don’t have memories of a mom that knew the love of Christ and shared it, I pray you will seek God to shine more brightly through you, even if you are not a mom. After all, actions speak louder than words.

AMEN

The Sort of Light God Is

April 27, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

1 John 1:1-7

I am inspired to share with you a teaching about light as our days are getting longer and the hours of darkness are getting shorter. Part of the meditation today comes from a theologian by the name of A.E. Willmott who writes; “God is a light that challenges, a light that changes and a light that cheers”.

I really like that snappy summary of 1 John 1. Our scripture for today is a letter written by John the apostle and was intended to be read by many churches to guide them through difficult days when false teachings were infiltrating the church and threatening their very existence. He begins by establishing his credentials as a trusted eye witness of the life, teachings, death, resurrection and appearance of Christ post-crucifixion. He then moves on from his witness to his proclamation, one he shared with the other apostles and those sharing the gospel in the time of his writing (sometime between AD 85-90). It is this proclamation, or declaration, that he uses to invite those listening to join in fellowship of believers so as to be changed from walking in the darkness of sin and separation from God to walking in the light of God’s love and glory.

My takeaway from our scripture today is simply; keep walking in the light of God’s word. I’m thinking of a favorite hymn, see if you remember it too; “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on the way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey” (shared from the United Methodist Hymnal #467).

It’s the trust that comes first. Trusting that God will do what he says he will do. Trust that the written word of God is our guide. Trust that even in the midst of turmoil, if I am mindful to stay close to the Lord in prayer, worship and service, He will show me the way. May you find the light that challenges to encourage you. May you find the light that changes to transform you, and may you find the light that cheers lift your heart in greater fellowship with God and others.

AMEN!

Creator of the Universe!

April 20, 2022

You tube Cover Photo

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith in the form of a beautiful video.

--> You Tube Video to Watch - Hillsong United - "So Will I"

Consider Psalm 104 and Genesis 1.

Prayer: Oh God, King and creator of the Universe, thank you that in all that you have created you count me worthy to be part of it all. Please help me to so love you that my love for others may increase. "Let my whole being praise the Lord!"

AMEN

Being present to the Present

April 14, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Matthew 26:26-28

Last night at our final Simple Soup Supper and Study for this Lenten Season we celebrated Holy Communion together at Lanesville United Methodist Church in a very unique way. My friend, Pastor David led our gathering in a remembrance of the meaning of the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples in what we now call “the Lord’s Supper” or “the last supper”. What a marvelous and yet, very simple worship experience to lead us into this Holy Week as we look forward to that great victory on the cross of Calvary, when Jesus Christ was truly the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and then to the empty tomb where we know “He is Risen!”.

The Gospel of Matthew chapter 26 and verses 26 through 28 : “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

As we look forward to an amazing Easter morning where we remember again how Jesus did just what he said he would do. May the Holy Spirit guide each one of us to take time to remember He is coming again to take from the world His own. He will again do what he said he would do and may each one of us be very present (aware) of the present (gift of salvation) that He offers. It is not forced on anyone, it truly is a gift of love.

May you experience his love all the more in the days ahead.

AMEN!

Palms Up

April 07, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

John 12:12-16

Sunday will be celebrated in many churches as “Palm Sunday”. Many will reenact the above scripture as congregants wave palm branches and sing or shout “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

Recently, as I was walking in the parking lot of our little church, I found myself surrounded by singing birds and the sound of the creek gently flowing. I heard the bells of another church in town ringing out the noon hour time of prayer and I started to sing; “It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when birds are singing and church bells are ringing to bring us good cheer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year” (tune borrowed from the famous Christmas song ). Yep, for many people this is the most wonderful time of the year. Spring is trying to spring forth, with warmer weather and more daylight hours, stores are filled with plush bunnies and candy that would make Willy Wonka drool, it’s all so much fun.

For followers of Christ, this week marks the most wonderful time and also the most difficult time as we enter into Holy Week. From Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday we look again at the telling of how the crowds cheered for Jesus as the King of Israel and then just a few days later many in that same crowd would be angry when they realized Jesus was not the kind of king they were looking for and they would shout again in the public square, not “Blessed is he”, but “Crucify him!”.

For followers of Christ, this is a time for a bolder witness that Jesus is truly the king we need. His example of serving and suffering is a difficult one to follow, and yet, that is what we are called to do. When the people shouted “Hosanna!”, they were literally shouting “Save Us”! Indeed, that is what Jesus did when he “suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified, died and was buried and on the third day rose again” (taken from The Apostles Creed, United Methodist Hymnal pg. 881).

I pray you will find this wonderful time of the year a time to reflect on the events of that first Holy Week and be motivated to trust and serve Jesus, the only one who can truly save you.

Glory to Glory

March 31, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Psalm 115:1, Matthew 5:14-16

This is the 4th week of the Lenten season and this week my focus has been the Glory of God and the Glory of worshipping him. In the scriptures for this week we see first the importance of giving glory to God and not receiving glory for ourselves. At first glance this may seem easy enough, but there are times that people receive accolades and applause and it can easily go to their heads, yet, the Psalmist writes; “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness”.

I looked up the Hebrew word for Glory and I discovered that a Hebrew way of thinking about the Glory of God is more about connecting with God by giving him praise, honor and exalting him. Chaim Bentorah shared in his blog about this idea that; “we move from Glory to Glory as in a starting connection with God as we honor and praise him to a more and more connected relationship with God”.

In this connection, I see how God longs for us to seek him first, praise him and worship him above all else and in acknowledging the Glory due his name, we also become a beacon for others to see what it looks like to be connected to the creator God, the King of the universe.

In Matthew 5:16 we read; “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”. It would seem Jesus is advising his followers to be active in doing good for their fellow human beings, that not all help is necessarily behind the scenes, though I enjoy being sneaky when meeting a need . When you do a good deed and you are thanked, make sure you let the recipient know it is all for the glory of God.

AMEN!

Wounded Healers and Burden Bearers

March 24, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Matthew 4:14-15, Galatians 6:2

I have been hosting a Lenten weekly gathering I call my Simple Soup Supper and Study at the Lanesville Church every Tuesday evening at 5:30 during this Holy season. I am so grateful for all who participate and how folks not only bring food to share, but are also willing to read scripture and share some of their Discipleship experiences. It is during gatherings like this, that I am reminded that I am not alone in my worries and fears for the condition of our world and the trouble so many of our families’ face.

This past Tuesday we talked about what the Bible has to say about the importance of prayer, and specifically our prayers for others. I experienced recently a prayer time between one of my Lay Leaders and a troubled family. They all knew each other well, and have known each other much longer than I have known them. I was leaving the Sanctuary when I looked up and saw this little circle of prayer. It was unmistakable that the prayer of the Lay Leader was so inspired by the Holy Spirit for the good of this family to shine as a witness for Christ, I had to stop and bow my head at a distance. Guess who got blessed as well? You see, everyone in that prayer circle had experienced similar situations of pain and burden, so they prayed and agreed together.

In the passage from Matthew 4:14-15 Jesus has just instructed the Disciples in what we now call the Lord’s prayer. He goes on to say how important it is to forgive others. In fact, Jesus says, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. Ouch! There’s that old familiar sting again. Gil Duchow, in the Lenten devotional Drawn To The Cross writes; “Sometimes our burdens may seem to be more than we can bear, especially when they are exacerbated by someone who makes our life almost unbearable. When we are overwhelmed by our own burdens and cares, how can we be expected to bear the burdens of others?”.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatian church that they are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. I sense he is referencing the loving of God fully and the loving of neighbor as self. I have to remember that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is to walk the way of the cross, which means for me a decision to let go of myself more each day and seek to follow his way of healing and bearing burdens. How heavy his cross must have been! Surely I can help heal wounded hearts with such a great love as Christ’s, which I believe begins with forgiveness and then I am strengthened to help carry the burden of someone who needs help.

AMEN!

Marching to the beat of a different Drum

March 21, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Mark 10:35-45

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘we want you to do us a favor.’ ‘What is your request?’ he asked. They replied, ‘When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in the places of honor next to you…Then Jesus told them… ‘I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen…whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

In these verses from Mark 10, I find marching orders that at first glance seem easy enough to obey, but in the day to day living, I find myself expecting to be treated differently than those I suspect are not as deserving. What a spoiled brat I can be. But, it is this kind of honest self-evaluation that God uses to keep me on the right path and moving at the right tempo so as to participate in God’s Kingdom work. If you find yourself questioning, what does she mean by saying “I expect to be treated differently”, just think back at the last time you heard yourself say “that’s not fair, I was here first”, or maybe you felt critical of the driver who moved in and out of lanes and passed you to be the first at the next traffic light (this one hits home for me big time). You probably can recall a recent event when you felt a bit more deserving than the other person.

On February 4th 1968, just two months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King preached a sermon on our Scripture text for today; Mark 10:35-45 at Ebenezar Baptist Church. An online article posted from, The King Institute reads; “ King’s sermon was an adaptation of the 1952 homily “Drum-Major Instincts” by J. Wallace Hamilton, a well-known, liberal, white Methodist preacher. Both men tell the biblical story of James and John, who ask Jesus for the most prominent seats in heaven. At the core of their desire was a “drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade” “King preached that when Jesus responded to the request by James and John, he did not rebuke them for their ambition, but taught that greatness comes from humble servitude. As King put it, Jesus ‘reordered priorities,’ and told his disciples to, ‘Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love’ (King, “The Drum Major,” 181; 182. emphasis, mine).

This week of the Lenten season, why not take some time to evaluate how you see yourself in the parade of life. Perhaps we all need to listen more carefully to the beat of a different drum.

AMEN!

Faith is a Way of Life

March 03, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Proverbs 3:4-5 and Hebrews 11:1

When our kids were little, we attended a small church with big love. It was just right for our family and even though they didn’t have all the new and improved “Bells and Whistles” for a big worship experience, we celebrated life and faith in a way that has made a lasting impression on us all. One Sunday, one of our daughters was singing as sweetly as can be the hymn “My Hope is Built” and I heard her sing; “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is stinking sand…” I thought to myself, yep, that’s true, apart from Christ any other foundation of faith would stink.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen”, which begs the question; What are you hoping for and what do you want to see happen?

You see, faith isn’t something that just stays in your head, but it is a way of life. It is an outward and visible response to the holiness of God and what He has done for you. It’s really a matter of remembering. Remembering that God loved you so much that he sent his son for you. It’s remembering the many times you felt you had blown it beyond reconciliation, and yet, He brought you out of the depths of despair and into the light of his love. It’s remembering that God isn’t finished with us yet, He is still in charge.

We have just begun the Lenten season of the church for 2022. This traditional 40-day period is all about this kind of remembering. Followers of Christ are encouraged to remember where we came from and where we are going, and particularly to remember to whom we belong. As we work through these next 40 days leading up to Easter, I would encourage you to take a bit more time every day to thank God for what He has done, and look with expectation to what he will do and all the while partner with Him in what He is doing.

Memorize passages of scripture like Proverbs 3:4-5; “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge the Lord, He will make your path straight”.

I dare say, you will have greater hope for today and the future, and you will see amazing things.

AMEN!

Detached, Isolated or Alone

February 27, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Matthew 28:16-20

I have been challenged and blessed to be around a lot of people. Lately many of these dear ones of God have been dealing with the effects of feeling detached, isolated or alone. Some are angry with family and friends, some feel deserted. I recently talked with a friend whom I’ve known for nearly 40 years who struggles with depression, and I never knew it, she seems so strong and independent. I’ve been ministering with several families who are grieving the loss of a loved one, and praying with and for families who are fearful they might be grieving loss soon. I listened to a dear one who feels hurt deeply by a family member, and I often feel ashamed that I don’t do more, or at least present Christ more fully in these situations. I hear the words “I’m so tired of all of this” over and over again. Here is where I know to turn to God and His word for strength and wisdom. I also have access to great teaching by Bible scholars who inspire me to keep going. I pray you will be inspired too as you read on.

This week’s scripture passage may be very familiar to you; “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but dome doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ’All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).

As with all scripture, I believe that every time you read, ponder, even memorize it, God offers a new insight. Here is one I received through the teaching of Steven P. Easton. He focuses on the gift and power of the Holy Trinity in our passage for today. Easton references Shirley Guthrie’s book Christian Doctrine; “Shirley Guthrie writes; ‘The same God who is God over us as God the Father and Creator, and God with and for us as the incarnate Word and Son, is also God in and among us as God the Holy Spirit’.

You cannot go out into the world, according to Jesus, without all of that. We are immersed (or sprinkled) into the whole being of God, whether we understand it or not. We are not powerless in the world; we are not disconnected from the omnipotent God as creator, or from the redeeming work of God in human flesh, or from the very presence of that same God in the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us and among us and sometimes outside of us. That is a tremendous gift to celebrate for those who are feeling detached, isolated, alone, angry, deserted, depressed, grieving, hopeless, fearful, anxious, wounded, ashamed, and tired” (From: Feasting on The Word, year A, Volume 3, 2011, pg.46).

AMEN!

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