Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Always Tripping Myself Up

 Philippians 3:13 is one of my favorite verses:  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. My middle name is not Grace I can assure you.  I stumble because I do not focus on my surroundings and get in a hurry and then end up on the ground.  Physical stumbling is not my only problem  I cannot seem to get the mental stumbling blocks out of my way either, so I tend to I stumble on things behind me too!I look at the Apostle Paul and I see a man who had a difficult past to contend with. His early years were spent tormenting Christ's followers. Then he met Jesus and everything changed for him. He chose to move forward as the new man he’d become.  He chose not to wallow in the muck of condemnation, he stepped into the grace of Christ with determination. He wrote a heart-felt message similar to the wall art in his New Testament letter to the believers in the church of Philippi.  In Philippians 3:10-14 he tells the church, “ I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  I have read this section of scripture many times.  I have even preached on it…., it was not until I delivered a sermon on this that I realized that the conversation didn’t end there. What Paul says next in Philippians 3:15-16 is a game-changing statement: “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”  I don’t know about you….but I want to be mature. I want to think this way. I want to hold true to what I’ve attained in Christ. It’s the way of life!  When I was putting my sermon together and I read this…it was at that moment that  I begin to realize what Paul was really saying !  It was so simple….Let it go, people! Move on. Greater things await you. Don’t look back. It's no good for you. You won’t gain any traction on the plans that God has for you. If you choose to look back then you need to grow up because that is not where your promise lies. If you are mature in your faith you will believe the gospel. When you are forgiven … You. Are. Forgiven. Believe it. What Jesus did for you and me covers anything that we lay at His feet. Fully.  My life has not always been sunshine and lollipops….but….that doesn’t matter!  I’m reminded that it's time to move forward. That it’s time to fix my eyes on what is ahead, not on what is behind. That God’s mercies are new every day.  BUT WAIT!  We don’t just sweet everything under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen.   We confess it to the Lord and ask Him for forgiveness.  Grace meets us in the asking and settles it with God. Because of this we can move forward in His grace. Life is more often than not….complicated and messy.  The Bible invites us to take our aching, angry, abused, or offended hearts to Jesus so that He can give us the rest we long for.  The past has no hold on us.   I have come to the decision in my spiritual walk that the next time I’m tempted to look back at a failure or an old heart wound, I will choose not to beat myself up … I am not going to re-hash a painful moment… I am not to going to place blame … I am not going to stumble on things that are behind me.  Instead I will reach for grace. I will reach for Jesus and call to Him for help.

Monday, March 28, 2016

My Self-Worth And Sparrows

 I was sitting outside this morning and where our next door neighbors had planted hay seed for their cows the ground looked like it was working alive.  It was SPARROWS!  hundreds of them and it brought to my mind the verse from Luke 12:7 "Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."   We never know what goes on inside the walls of a house/home.  It may have a perfectly manicured lawn, pretty flowers, be well cared for....but on the inside....darkness may be lurking.  I grew up with a Mega Type A personality mother and for most of my life I was filled with insecurities and doubt and thought I was a worthless disappointment to her.  My grades were never good enough, I was never sweet enough, I was never talented enough.  I was just average.  It has taken me a long time to get over this.  I had to learn the value God places on me:  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.(Luke 12:6–7)  In Luke 12:1 we find Jesus  addressing “a crowd of many thousands” when He spoke of the value God sees in each person. Many thousands. The rich. The poor. The average. The misfits. The bland. The spicy. The employed. The unemployed. The talented. The crippled. The lonely. The well. The sick. The married. The widowed. The single. The stressed-out. The curious. The masses! This wasn’t just a pat on the back to encourage His besties! He was talking to the gamut of humanity. This is important because it makes the words He spoke that much more amazing. Think about what He said! “You know those sparrows that are sold in the marketplace for next to nothing? Those overpopulated little flyers? My Father doesn’t forget even one of them! He remembers them all.”  So, what that tells me is that he remembers, sees, values.....ME!  I HAVE VALUE!  Even in my lowest points in life I know that I was NEVER

forgotten by God. He sees it all....the good, the bad, and the ugly.....and still places value on me.  He doesn’t love me any more or less because of what I can or cannot do, or because of how good or bad I am either. He loves me, Karen,  because I am His. Made in His image.  When Frank tells me I am response is usually...."yeah....right!", or "have you had your eyes checked lately?"  Fashioned by His heart. Believe it. Even if my life wasn’t planned in the heart of my parents, it was planned in the heart of God. I AM SOMEBODY!  I am His, and He remembers me. By name.  I think it still amazes me that....You, me, and the stars. He knows us all by name: “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps. 147:4 ESV).  God cares for and knows all about us. He knows how I like my coffee in the morning and my tea during the day. He knows all my weaknesses and insecurities. He knows all of the things that make me who I am....and make me unique! He knows the things that make me tick, the quirky things, the things that cause me to beat myself up, and the things that put a fire in my belly. And He knows how many hairs are on my head.  Do you not find that absolutely incredible!  I do!  And even better....Jesus didn’t stop there. He looked those people eyeball to eyeball and told them, You ... and you ... and you ... and you ... and you ... and you ... are worth more than a whole mess of sparrows!   I am a crafter and I find it amazing that I, Karen, am handcrafted with divine devotion.  I AM SOMEBODY!  Jesus made it clear: In God’s eyes, you are of great value. You are loved, cherished, seen, and adored....and to that I say....AMEN and AMEN!  What say ye?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Rest Of The Story......

 Empty Cross...

My scripture is found in Luke 24:1-9.  Today is Easter Sunday.  This is the day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  I am sad to say though that many people today still doubt the resurrection.
 A man was driving along the highway, when he saw the Easter Bunny hopping across the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the bunny, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit. The basket of eggs and candy went flying all over the road.
 The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the bunny carrying the basket. Much to his disappointment, the colorful bunny was dead. The driver felt guilty and became very upset. He stood beside the lifeless body of the bunny with his head bowed low and his arms held behind his back.   I am going to stop here for a moment….We’ll get back to that story a little later.
What I want you to focus on are the Disciples of Jesus.  They were brokenhearted.  After being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemene… Jesus was taken through a series of illegal trials.  He was taken before the Jewish High Priests Annas & Caiaphas.  Then He appeared before the Jewish Sanhedrin.  They passed Jesus on to Pilate, the Roman Governor.  Pilate did not want any part of this so he sent Jesus on to Herod Antipas, the Roman appointed king.  Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.  Jesus was scourged…and then handed over to be crucified.  He was nailed to a cross.  For 6 hours Jesus hung there in excruciating pain.  Around 3:00 that afternoon…
Jesus spoke the words: “It is finished”…and Jesus was dead. His dead body was placed in a tomb!  Most of the Disciples did not witness these events.  Why?  Because in they forsook Him and fled according to Mark 14:50.  We are told in John 19: 25-26 that John witnessed part of this.  “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!"  So John and some of the women who followed Jesus…witnessed the crucifixion.
We are told that after Jesus was condemned to die..Judas went out and committed suicide. Where were James, Matthew, Philip, Nathanael, Thomas, Bartholomew, Andrew, Thaddeus, Jand Simon the zealot?  Luke 23:49 says:  But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.  So perhaps the rest of Jesus’ Disciples saw it, too. When the disciples saw that Jesus had been crucified…their hopes, dreams, and plans were crushed. They believed that it was just as Jesus said on the cross.“It is finished.” All their hopes had died with Jesus!  But let me tell you…..death is not the end.
Jesus was dead.  The disciples knew that.  Experts checked that.  In John 19:32-33 we are told, “Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.  The Roman executioners knew when a body was dead.  Make no mistake! Jesus was dead!  So Jesus was placed in a tomb.  The tomb was sealed and a guard set too watch it.  It seemed that death had won!  But death could not hold Him and the Tomb could not contain Him.  Death met its match!  Oh…Jesus allowed His enemies to win for awhile.For 3 days and nights..Jesus looked like a loser! But Jesus got up!n He arose. Death has been defeated!
My second point this morning is that CHRISTIANS HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR!  1 Cor. 15:20-21 says, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. When Jesus died, His followers became a frightened, confused bunch.  But that, too, would soon come to an end.  Matthew 28:5-6 - 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  So, the women were shown the proof that Jesus was not dead!  Matthew 28:8 -So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. Peter and John came to see the empty tomb.  So we can assume that the word got around that Jesus was alive!  But 9 of the Disciples have yet to see Him!  That, too, would change!  The disciples were afraid and hiding behind locked doors!  But Jesus knew where they were hiding. He went to be with them.  I need to check back in with our Easter Bunny story.  It appears that a woman driving down the same highway saw the man standing on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong" I feel terrible," he explained. "I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed him. There may not be an Easter because of me. What should I do?"  So let me ask you this morning….What do you fear?  Maybe you’re a fearless person.  You could get on a wild mustang and try to ride it!  Well, be honest now, what do you fear?  Is it death?  I used to be afraid of death…but not anymore!  Do you fear the unknown?  Are you afraid of the Future?  Well guess what…..Jesus has the answer:  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Do you fear standing before God in judgment?  Jesus has taken our judgment:  John 5:24  "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  My heavenly Father has my hand….He is in control.  When I feel the fear bug creeping into my heart I remember the words in Psalm. 23:4."Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;  The good news from the tomb is: "Fear not! Take courage.  I know you are dying to see how the Easter Bunny story comes out….well, The woman told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do. She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp dead bunny, and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal. Miraculously the Easter Bunny came back to life, jumped up, picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road. 50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hoped on down the road another 50 yards, turned waved, hopped another 50 yards and waved again! This continued until the Easter Bunny was out of sight….but no ending just yet….  It’s Easter Midway….and HOPE HAS BEEN REVIVED!  Jesus’ disciples were feeling hopeless, gloomy, miserable-until they realized that Jesus was alive.  And then their hope was restored!  The Resurrection gives hope.  I know right now….Easter Sunday 2016 that my Redeemer lives,  And He shall stand at last on the earth; The resurrection of Jesus calms those who, standing by the grave of a loved one, asking the question, "Will we meet again?"  Let me remind you….If death were the final word, then we Christians have no hope.  Would you like to know how Easter Bunny story came out?...well the man was astonished. How did she bring the Easter Bunny back to life? Finally he said to the woman, "What in heaven’s name is in your spray can?" The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said: "Hair Spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave."  The Easter Bunny….fact or fiction….The Ressurection….Eternal Life….Hope….you can bank on that.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jesus Is The Rock and He Rolls.....

 I love Easter and I appreciate all that God has done for us in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. It is a miracle and something we will never fully understand, yet we can sense the importance of this day. When I began working on this message for today I spent some time browsing some profound and humorous stories on the internet… stuck in my head….and I knew what my topic would be for this morning…. Anyways I have traveled quite a bit out west and on the Pacific Coast.  I read of a park in California where there is a rock hanging on a rope with a large sign next to it.
The sign says: Weather Station .  And the sign below it has these instructions: "Check the rock-
if it’s wet it’s raining,
if the rock is swinging it’s windy,
if it’s dry it’s not raining,
if you cannot see the rock it’s foggy,
if the rock has been blown away look out for the tornado."
I thought that was kind of clever. It’s like the sign Kat and I saw at the restrooms in Yellow Stone Park back in 1998 when we went on a long vacation out west. A sign just outside of the bathroom said “Beware of Buffalo” and I had to laugh as it was at a place I would never have expected to see a buffalo. When I came out of the bathroom, with Kat I literally almost came nose to nose with a buffalo that was trying to get into the bathroom. So I guess we should take signs seriously.
Anyway, the swinging rock Weather Station has a bit of a serious side for us. It reminds us to watch the rock to know what is going on in life – and I want to apply this to our spiritual lives. There is something profound in checking the rock to know what is going on.
Consider the story that is told of Christ’s resurrection in these three readings:
• So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard (Mat 27:66 NIV).
•(Read Mat 28:1-15 NIV).
• (Mark 16:1-4 NIV).
These verses point out, the action of the rock was telling the story of Christ’s resurrection. Those burying Jesus used the rock as the guarantee that he was not dead and entombed. They rolled the rock in front of the tomb and put a seal on it. In the next part of the story the rock is removed and an angel is sitting upon it. He spoke to Mary, Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene, giving them the news that Jesus was not longer in the tomb. In this account Matthew’s Gospel we learn that the soldiers, upon hearing that Jesus was gone, bribed the guards to lie about Christ’s resurrection, saying that his body was stolen. In the final account from Mark we find the two Mary’s again with a question of how will they get the stone rolled away so they could go an minister to Jesus’ body, and they say that, “the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. The action of the story is tied to the rock.
Today all of us have come to this sunrise service with questions on our minds. I believe the statement "Check the rock!" is a verbal instruction to each of us with questions. It’s a statement giving us instruction on where to get our questions answered.  So this morning….
• If you wondering about how to receive eternal life?
Check the Rock!
• If you wondering what Easter is all about?
Check the Rock!
• If you wondering how to be set free from your fear of death?
Check the Rock!
• If you wondering how to be set free from your addictions?
Check the Rock!
• Are you wondering if Jesus is who he said he is?
Check the Rock!
• Are you wondering if Jesus really conquered death?
Check the Rock!
• Are you wondering if Jesus is alive today?
Check the Rock!
• Are you wondering if he keeps his promises?
Check the Rock!
• Are you wondering why we love him so?
Check the Rock!
When we feel like we are losing it, like the world is slipping into unreality, when illness strikes or despair overtakes us, when our proverbial ship does not come in or our plans work out exactly wrong, we need to check the rock. The stone is gone….and so is He….He is alive….and We need to making sure we are in fellowship with Jesus and that we are allowing Him to be a part of our life this Easter morning. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Great Empty Tomb Mystery

 ... Card & Wallpapers Free: Empty Tomb of Jesus Kids Coloring Image

My scripture for the children today comes from John 20:18.  "Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her." 
Do you like mystery stories? When I was a kid, I loved to read mystery books. My favorites were the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I especially liked "The Mystery of the Flying Express" and "The Yellow Feather Mystery." Kids today might prefer some of the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen mystery books such "The Case of the Cheerleading Camp Mystery" or "The Case of the Weird Science Mystery."  We are going to hear one of the most exciting mystery stories ever told. I call it "The Case of the Empty Tomb."  The story begins very early in the morning on the first day of the week. Jesus had just been crucified and buried. Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus' followers, went to the tomb where Jesus was buried. When she got there, she saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Peter and John and said to them, "They have taken the Lord's body from the tomb and I don't know where they have put him."  Peter and John raced to the tomb. John got there first. He looked in the tomb and saw the linen wrappings lying there. Then Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linens that John had seen lying there. As he investigated further, he saw the cloth that had covered Jesus' head was also folded and lying apart from the other wrappings. After Peter looked around for a few minutes, John joined him inside. When they were sure that the tomb was empty, they left and went home.  Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she looked inside the tomb and saw two angels sitting there. One of them was sitting at the head and the other at the foot where the body of Jesus had been lying. "Why are you crying?" the angels asked.  "Because they have taken my Lord and I don't know where they have put him," she answered.  Then Mary turned and was about to leave when she saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn't recognize him. "Woman, why are you crying?" Jesus asked her.  Mary, thinking that he was a gardener said, "Sir, if you have taken my master away, tell me where he is so that I can go to him.  "Mary!" Jesus said.  When Jesus spoke her name, Mary knew who he was. She turned to him and cried out, "Teacher!"  "Don't cling to me," Jesus said, "for I have not yet ascended to my Father. "Go and tell my brothers that you have seen me and that I am going to return to my Father and your Father, my God and your God."  Mary found the disciples and told them, "I have seen the Lord." Then she gave them the message that Jesus had told her to tell them.
And that boys and girls solves "The Case of the Empty Tomb." The tomb is empty because Jesus is not dead, he is alive! He is risen just as he said!