Bible Study

Messages of Encouragement

with Pastor Edith Bleecker

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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