Statement of faith

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

"The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word.
- Warren


Monday, February 28, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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                                                                                                          pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: February 28, 2011
Sharing by:  Pam Crawford

                                                1 Peter 4:1-4
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they, heap abuse on you.

THE CELEBRATION
It was during a particularly painful time in my life when I began to understand the importance of living for God. The Life’s Application commentary says, “when we are in pain or our life is in jeopardy, our real values clearly show up, and sinful pleasures seem less important.” By experience I have to agree. Things I once viewed as being important really began to loose their appeal when my life hit a bend in the road. I had a choice to make and it was going to require a radical transformation that is still in progress today.

As a young woman I would describe myself as a bit of a rebel even though I really didn’t yet understand whom I was actually rebelling against. When I got to that established legal age I just decided I was going to do life my way. I really wasn’t concerned about pleasing anybody except myself; it was time to start living for me! I was hearing the message that life is too short so you have to make the most of it. Society was definitely portraying the importance of taking care of you because no one else would.  And, “party hardy” well that was the wording used back in the day to describe having the time of your life. These messages definitely became my excuse to feed the desires of my flesh. Hey, since I wasn’t committing that so called “unpardonable sin” that I was taught about in my religion classes, I believed I was ok. For the most part I viewed myself as a relatively good person, I just liked to have a really good time and sometimes I chose to overlook the possibility of any consequences.

God willing, this week I will celebrate two major milestones in my life; my birthday and the tenth year anniversary of my Spiritual rebirth (John 3:3-8). Like some of you who have decided to make changes in your lifestyle to better align to God’s Word, “strange” might be a common word used to describe the new you. There is also “Jesus freak, religious fanatic, and lunatic in the arsenal of those who do not yet get it themselves. May I encourage you to accept those words as flattery because in the end you do not stand before man (1 Peter 4:5)? Celebrate and listen carefully to these words of Peter: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)

“When you stand before God on the last day, do you understand that you will be called to give an account of how you lived your life between your dash, and how you responded to the trials He set before you?” This was a question posed to me by someone who cared enough to challenge me. As I reflect back, it was definitely a question that helped to change the course of my life. If you don’t mind, may I ask you to stop a moment and ponder this question for yourself? Then, imagine being asked the question when all you really know about God is what you have heard on Sunday mornings, and for the most part you think you’re living ok. 

Ten years ago it was a deep sense of despair that brought me to my crossroads. There I had to determine what direction I was going to take. I had to finally decide what I truly believed and I had many questions. Thankfully, I have discovered it was God’s Word that offered the life changing answers. I learned rather quickly that God is more than willing to allow you to come to the end of yourself. He allows tests, trials and consequences to enter ones life for the purpose of getting your attention. Why? Because He loves us too much to let us stay lost.

At this point God now had me at a place where I had been doing things my way for over 40 years, and frankly it wasn’t going very well for me. God’s Word tells us that He wants no one to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He waits patiently for us to willingly repent of sin. God gives us a choice and when we agree to do life His way, we receive an eternal blessing.

I do believe it is important that we better understand this “born again” statement in order to refrain from being offended when people persecute us for our faith. Let’s eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus found in the Book of John chapter 3. I encourage you to study the entire account and pay special attention to verse 3 where Jesus himself declares, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus was one of the few religious leaders that believed in Jesus, but he had questions like many of us do.  He appeared to be attracted to the character of Jesus and although there is very little known about Nicodemus, we know that he leaves his encounter with Jesus a changed man.  He not only allowed Jesus to give him a whole new perspective on God, but he allowed Jesus to change him. He understood these words, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (V21)

Nicodemus walked away understanding that eternal life begins the moment of Spiritual rebirth (John 3:36). When we receive Christ we are reborn (John 1:12-13) and this is something worth celebrating. However the celebration involves dying to self (Romans 7:4-6), making changes, and setting new goals. When you discover God’s character you can’t help but fall in love with what He represents. How can you know you’re on the right path?  “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he had been born of God (1 John 3:9). Does this mean you will be perfect, absolutely not because you are still wrapped in human flesh. What it does mean is when you do sin, you will recognize the conviction and you will desire to repent to please your Heavenly Father (Romans 3:25).

Life’s Application Commentary:
We are “born of God” when the Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us Jesus’ new life. Being born again is more than a fresh start; it is a rebirth, receiving a new family name based on Christ’s death for us. When this happens, God forgives us and totally accepts us; the Holy Spirit gives us a new mind and heart, lives in us, and begins helping us to become more like Christ.
Our perspective changes, too, because we have a mind that is renewed day by day by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:22-24). So we must begin to think and act differently.

Additional Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 2:9-10 and 1 John 3:9

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham

Monday, February 21, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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                                                                                         pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: Feb. 21, 2011
Sharing by: Pam Crawford
                                                                      Luke 24:1-8
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when the entered, they did not find the body of Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

SEASON OF CHANGE

Last week in northeast Ohio we received our first glimmer of hope for spring 2011. With 60-degree temperatures in mid February, melting snow, and birds singing in the background, you just couldn’t help but wonder if this is a good sign. It has been a long winter and having just a few days of warmer temperatures and sunshine, encourages me that we’re rounding the corner and heading into better days. Winters in Ohio are just way too long!

Lately, I have been reflecting on another kind of hope, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  At the tomb the women were asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This question challenges me as a woman that professes Christianity. I say this because way too often I don’t always respond to life’s challenges as someone who truly believes that Jesus is still very much alive and active within His church. Sometimes I act very much like the people of Jesus’ day. They heard His teachings, but when the time came they forgot what they had heard. Jesus had told them what would happen (Luke 9:22, 44; 18:31-33) and when it did, they did not respond like people with a renewed sense of hope. OMG, I do the same thing!  I think it’s time that I lift up the shades of my heart and let some warmth in as I review the amazing story of the Resurrection.  I would love for you to join me if you have some time this week. Be blessed.

Life’s Application Commentary:
“The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the central fact of Christian history. On it, the church is built; without it, there would be no Christian church today. Jesus’ resurrection is unique. Other religions have strong ethical systems, concepts about paradise and the afterlife, and various holy scriptures. Only Christianity has a God who became human, literally died for his people, and was raised again in power and glory to rule his church forever.

Why is the Resurrection so important? (1) Because Christ was raised from the dead, we know that the Kingdom of Heaven has broken into earth’s history. Our world is now headed for redemption not disaster. God’s mighty power is at work destroying sin, creating new lives, and preparing us for Jesus’ second coming. (2) Because of the Resurrection, we know that death has been conquered and we, too, will be raised from the dead to live forever with Christ. (3) The Resurrection gives authority to the church’s witness in the world. Look at the early evangelistic sermons in the book of Acts: The Apostles’ more important message was the proclamation that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead! (4) The Resurrection gives meaning to the church’s sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Like Jesus’ followers on the Emmaus Road, we break bread with our risen Lord, who comes in power to save us. (5) The Resurrection helps us find meaning even in great tragedy. No matter what happens to us as we walk with the Lord, the Resurrection gives us hope for the future. (6) The Resurrection assures us that Christ is alive and ruling his Kingdom. He is not a legend; he is alive and real. (7) God’s power that brought Jesus back from the dead is available to us so that we can live for him in an evil world.

Christians can look very different from one another, and they can hold widely varying beliefs about politics, life-style, and even theology. But one central belief unites and inspires all true Christians:
Jesus Christ rose from the dead!”

Despite 2,000 years of evidence and many witness accounts, many people still refuse to believe in God at all, let alone the concept of the trinity which includes Jesus Christ. Some say they believe in a Creator; but when it comes to Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, well this is just foolish story-telling. Although I am grateful that I am no longer amongst the category of non-believer; I realize today that something in me has to change. If I profess Christ, then I need to begin living all aspects of my life as if the living God were standing right next to me.  Oh how I wish you could feel my heart and see the expression on my face today as I realize that I have once again heard the voice of the living God through Luke Chapter 24. I pray you are hearing it too.  

I’ve been walking on my own road to Emmaus for quite some time now and I have heard many of the arguments against Christianity. I have had to work through many of my own set of doubts and have often fallen into Jesus’ category of “foolish people.” But there comes a time in ones life when we must decide what we really do believe. As the season is about to change, maybe this is a good time for some spiritual cleansing.

Luke 24:25: “Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

Believers, Jesus is alive, celebrate your hope! Unbelievers, could there be something to the hope the Resurrection reflects?  Please listen carefully to this last piece of commentary: “But we have not only the witness of the Old Testament prophets; we also have the witness of the New Testament apostles and the history of the Christian church testifying to Jesus’ victory over death. Will we confront the values of our culture and put our faith in Jesus? Or will we foolishly continue to ignore the good news.” (LASB) 

Today’s prayer:
Father, I thank you for your patience. I thank you that you have given each of us the ability to choose our own way. It is my prayer today that many will chose life. May we live and respond as people who understand that you are very much alive. May we live as people who believe that you promise to never leave us nor forsake us? And when something comes our way that we don’t understand, may we be reminded that you are Sovereign. You know all, see all and are working behind the scenes to bring about good from evil. You are still on your throne and in control.  In Your Son’s name I pray blessings over your children.  Amen.

Book suggestions:  A Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
                                  Knowing the Bible by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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                                                                                          pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: Feb. 14, 2010
Sharing by:  Pam Crawford

                                                                   Philippians 1:9-11
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.
                                                  Psalm 55:22
Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you.

“People with a heart for God have a heart for people.” 
  – Our Daily Bread

As someone with a tender heart for God’s people, my heart just aches when someone is hurting. I don’t have to know you to feel your pain; your circumstances have the power to tug at my heartstrings. And, it is often my nature to want to help, to give an encouraging word, or lend a helping hand. Many of you are like this too. Your prayer lists are overflowing, and if you could, you would make it all better. But the reality is, we are limited servants of God. He may call upon us to assist Him, but He never intends for us to take on the burdens of our prayers. We need to get this or we might end up feeling like we have failed.

Not everyone is listening to correct counsel. This world has a lot of self-help advice that runs very contrary to God’s Word.  I have learned from trial and error that it’s best to simply direct the hurting person onto the path of God. Of course it’s up to them whether they are going to put one foot in front of the other to move in His direction. I do hope you get what I am about to say. We are called to pray in the circumstance, encourage those who are hurting, provide resources if God prompts; but then we have to get out of the way so He can get busy doing the hard stuff.  If we don’t learn this; we may end up feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually drained in the situation.

Recently I was praying for someone who appears to have lost all hope. They are struggling with their thoughts, their actions, actions of others, their faith, offense, betrayal, you name it, they’re struggling with it. After determining with God’s help that I had done all I could in the physical realm; I sought to rest in the spiritual, where I was reminded of a song by one of my favorite Christian groups, Point of Grace. I have printed the lyrics below and I believe the last line of the chrous,“there is nothing greater than grace” is key for us when we’re trying to be helpful to others.  I pray that you will hang onto this wisdom; God is our refuge, strength, an ever present help in trouble… (Psalm 46).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtmFUo8QblQ

THERE’S NOTHING GREATER THAN GRACE
By Point of Grace

What do you say to someone who feels like they've lost it all
over the edge with no one there to break their fall
and what do you say to someone who feels so unloved
giving themselves away a little bit every day just to be good enough
and what do you say to a hopeless soul who can't remember their way home and everything is out of their control

Chorus:

There is no valley, there is no darkness
there is no sorrow greater than the grace of Jesus.
There is no moment, there is no distance,
there is no heartbreak He can't take you through.
So before you think that you're too lost to save,
Remember there is nothing greater than grace.

What do you say to someone whose life is on the line
and they're unsure what happens after their last breath in time.
What do you say to someone whose built a wall you can't break through
and it's so hard for them to hear the truth.

Chorus:
There is no valley, there is no darkness
there is no sorrow greater than the grace of Jesus.
There is no moment, there is no distance,
there is no heartbreak He can't take you through.
So before you think that you're too lost to save,
Remember there is nothing greater than grace.

So don’t lose hope, don’t let go, don’t give up,
you are not alone, you are not alone.

Chorus:
There is no valley, there is no darkness
there is no sorrow greater than the grace of Jesus.
There is no moment, there is no distance,
there is no heartbreak He can't take you through.
So before you think that you're too lost to save,
Remember there is nothing greater than grace.

To anyone struggling today ~ please hear my love for you. Reach out and touch the garment of Jesus (Mark 5:21-34). Sit at His feet and rest. Open His Word to John 3:16 and let Him shower you with His gift of grace. Please know that it does not matter what we have done, whether we feel we deserve grace or not, it’s available to anyone who is willing to confess sin and accept Jesus as Savior.  He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). With God we will have what we need to endure our storms.  It is my prayer that you will allow Jesus into your heart to help you through every step of this journey called life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: Feb. 7, 2011
Sharing by:  Pam Crawford

                                                 John 10:1-5
“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

SOUND DIRECTION

Have you ever questioned whether you can really distinguish God’s voice? I can assure you by the authority of God’s Word that you can. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you are a member of a new flock.  And, although you may not hear God’s voice as an audible sound, you can hear the distinctive direction He provides if you listen attentively.

Let’s explore this concept of hearing God’s voice with the example of parental responsibility. If you don’t have children yet, just substitute being responsible for someone you wouldn’t want to lose. Imagine for a moment, you’re with a young child in a crowded mall. One moment you have your eye on them, the next they’re gone. When you realize what has happened, you quickly cry out to them in what is generally a loud voice that echoes above the crowd. In most cases, the child recognizes your voice and comes running back toward you.  

Jesus tells us in John 10:27 that His voice can be distinguished above the crowd too. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” As indicated by the context of this verse, Jesus is the Sheppard and believers are His sheep. According to an Oct. 26, 2007 article written in Church Growth, the Shepherd and the sheep have specific characteristics. It might be helpful for us to understand what they are. Pay close attention to the characteristics of the sheep.  

Characteristics of a Shepherd
“In the culture that Jesus lived in, shepherding was an important task. A good shepherd always knew the habits and characteristics of his sheep and could predict their behavior and understand their peculiarities. The shepherd knew the characteristics of his sheep so well that he was never surprised or caught off guard by their actions. A good shepherd was always at ease with his sheep, comfortable with their company, and enjoyed the responsibility of taking care of them. But, the life of the shepherd was extremely hard; never off duty and never any time off from his shepherd responsibilities.”

Does that sound anything like a parent? Just as our children can distinguish our voice, we too have the ability to hear the voice of our Shepherd. 

Characteristics of Sheep                                                                                          
“Unlike goats, casual observation reveals that sheep seem to need each other. The flock, “their community," is their identity. Not only do sheep need each other, they also need a shepherd they can depend on. Goats don't need a shepherd to watch out for them; they are independent to the point of being "head-strong". The shepherd is the main-stay in the sheep's lives. Without his attention and care they would quickly find themselves in trouble.”

Does that sound like it represents the description of children?  The illustration explains the danger of going it our own way. 

Could it be that God’s children cannot distinguish His voice because there are too many self-inflicted obstacles in the way?  Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries writes, “Have you ever noticed the way some children pretend not to hear their parents so they won't have to obey? Sometimes we can be like that--we might fail to recognize the heavenly Father's direction because of our own self-centeredness. We intently focus on what we want and ignore any opposing instruction.”

Let’s think about what Dr. Stanley is saying for a moment. You want to do something, but you know without a doubt that it’s not right. For example, you’re married, but you’ve become attracted to someone you work with. Or maybe you’re single and you’ve become attracted to someone who is married. You wrestle with it a bit, but the temptation overtakes you. They are hot! You begin to convince yourself that a little flirting, or maybe just one drink after work won’t hurt anyone. Maybe you’ve even gone as far as to set up imaginary boundary lines for your protection. The problem with these boundary lines is that most often we underestimate  the power of the heated moment.  And, let us not forget that deceitful voice of opposition; the voice that would love nothing more than to see you cross that line. The devil can’t make you do it, but he is more than willing to lay out that sweet bait trail before you.  

If you’re hearing the voice of God, you will reject the temptation to engage the relationship at all. You will high tail it back to the safety of the Sheppard. There He can remind you that lusting after the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and coming in between a union of marriage (Matthew 19:6) is sin.  If you give into your flesh you can be pretty confident that you are not listening to the right voice. We can call this obstacle what it is – disobedience! 

Another obstacle to hearing God voice is ones impatient nature. If you’re anything like me, I like having answers yesterday. And, I usually prefer them to be answered my way.  When I operate like this I tend to jump ahead of God and I run the risk of listening to the wrong voice. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. It is only when I have surrendered to waiting upon God that I have received the best results.  We can call this obstacle what it is – disobedience!

We tend to get ourselves into trouble when we’re not willing to invest the time it takes to know how to be an obedient member of the Good Sheppard’s flock. When we’re willing to read, study, pray, meditate and obey, we will have the help we need to hear God’s voice above the crowd every time. It’s really that simple.

The Word indicates that light and darkness cannot co-exist in the Kingdom of God (John 1:4-5). If we choose sin, we’re merely goats who have no need of a Sheppard. This choice will find us grazing outside of God’s Kingdom (Rev. 20:11-15).  Let us chose wisely the blessing of having our names written in the right book (Rev. 21:27b).

Today’s prayer:  Father, if today we should hear your voice in any part of this message, may our heart be softened to obeying your instructions.  In Your Son’s precious name we pray and ask for your guidance all the days of our lives.  Amen.