Have You Ever Been A Doubting Thomas?

Have You Ever Been A Doubting Thomas?

The disciple Thomas gets a bad rap.  For the rest of time now, we invoke his name when we refer to someone who doubts by labeling them a “doubting Thomas”. As you recall, Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appeared to the other disciples after they witnessed His death and burial. When the others told him they had seen the Lord, Thomas famously replied he would not believe it unless he saw the nail wounds in Jesus’ hands and placed his finger in them.  So when Jesus appeared to them all the second time, Thomas exclaimed “my Lord and my God!” He believed only because he saw for himself.  But would it have been any different had it happened to any of the other disciples?  Knowing that Peter denied Jesus three different times, I don’t think it would be a stretch to think, had he not been present the first time Jesus appeared to them, we might now be saying “doubting Peter” as well.  And the same could be true for them all.  The fact is we all face and fight doubt. I believe that is why this story is in the Bible. God knows humanity and faith doesn’t come naturally to us, as least not to adults. Children are naive and innocent. But unfortunately life has a way of teaching them to mistrust. Our faith needs to be exercised just like our muscles if we want it to grow stronger. Every instance where we don’t see is an opportunity to exercise (strengthen) our faith.  For Thomas, faith was not a factor because his eyes told him what was real.  When you are looking at, holding, touching or tangibly possessing that which you believe for, faith isn’t required.  Jesus said blessed are those who believe without seeing.  The proof is not in the seeing or the touching. Our faith IS our proof.  Our faith is the reality of what we are hoping for and what we don’t yet realize.  With faith, that thing we don’t yet see is just as real to us as if we were holding it in our hand. And when that thing is manifested, our faith grows stronger for the next opportunity to exercise it.  Let us strive to reach that blessed place of believing without having to see, because if we see it, it’s not faith at all.   

John 20:25-29 (NLT)
25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” 26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

How Can I Serve You?

How Can I Serve You?

On the night Jesus was betrayed, at the last supper, there was a topic of discussion that continues to baffle me.  A dispute broke out among the disciples as to which of them should be considered the greatest. Now, these men just spent three years witnessing firsthand the miracles, signs and wonders performed by Jesus.  They saw Him raise the dead, heal the blind and the lame, multiply fish and bread to feed thousands of people and even control the weather.  They walked in the footsteps of the Son of God who would soon die for them.  And they were arguing about who among them was the greatest?! I can’t imagine the first thoughts that may have gone through Jesus’ mind.  But His answer was priceless – “Who is greater, he who sits at the table or he who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course.  But not here!  For I am among you as one who serves.”   Jesus reminded them that greatness is measured by one’s willingness to serve.  All that Jesus did during His earthly ministry was done from the a servant’s heart.  A great leader has the heart of a servant.  And prominent status should not be one’s intent while serving.  Serving should be done from a pure heart of love or it profits no one. Our question should never be “Who is the greatest?” but “How can I serve you?”

Luke 22:24-27 (NKJV)
24 Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.

1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

1 Corinthians 13:3 (NLT)
3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

The Veil Was Torn

The Veil Was Torn

The very moment that Jesus died, something incredible happened.  The veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This veil was estimated to be 60 feet high and 4 inches thick. This was of great significance.  The veil separated the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence dwelt, from the rest of the Temple. People could not remain in God’s presence because of their sin, just as Adam could no longer remain in the Garden because of his.  The Temple, and before that the Tabernacle of Moses, was a place set apart for worship and sacrifice to God. When Moses received the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai, he also received instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and all its furnishings, Exodus 25:8-9.

There were three sections:  The Outer Court, The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies). There was one piece of furniture in the Holy of Holies and that was the Ark of the Covenant.  The lid or the top of the Ark was called the Mercy Seat or Seat of Atonement.  One day a year, only the High Priest after cleaning himself could pass by the veil and enter the Holy of Holies. He would sprinkle the sacrificial blood of animals on to the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of the people.  This ceremony was repeated year after year because it was never able to permanently provide the perfect cleansing for man’s sins. Scripture says the earthly tabernacle made by hands was a mere copy of what was in Heaven. For in Heaven, Jesus entered into God’s presence and performed the final atonement of our sins by placing His own blood on the Mercy Seat in the heavenly Holy of Holies! 

Listen to this: 24 For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. 25 And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. 26 If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. Hebrews 9:24-26 NLT.

The veil was not torn by human hands!  God tore it wide open the moment Jesus died allowing all those who call Jesus Savior to come into His presence with no fear of death. Our slate of sin was wiped clean and there’s no more barrier between us and the Father because of Jesus! 

Hebrews 9:11-12 (NLT)
11 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. 12 With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

Hebrews 10:1-2 (NLT)
1 The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. 2 If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.

Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)
10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”



A look back at Holy Week…

A look back at Holy Week…

This week we will be entering what is probably considered the most important week of the Christian calendar – Holy Week.  We are instructed when we take communion to do it in remembrance of Jesus and what He did for us. Since communion was originated during this week, let’s take a moment to do just that, remember…….

We remember the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where He would complete the plan of salvation that God had lovingly designed for us before the foundation of the earth. Jesus and His disciples broke bread together one last time at what we now call the Last Supper, where it is discovered that one of His own would betray Him. Judas left to set the plan in motion as the rest departed for the Mount of Olives where Jesus would inform them they would all desert Him before the night was over.  And of course, we remember Peter’s adamant declaration that he would die before ever deserting Jesus. Jesus goes on to the Garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James and John where they could not even stay awake to pray with Him. Thoughts of His approaching suffering were so distressing that Jesus’ sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood and an angel arrived to give Him strength as He prayed to the Father “Your will be done, not Mine”. Then we remember the famous kiss of betrayal and Jesus was arrested and taken away. It wasn’t long before Jesus’ words came true and, after Peter’s third denial, the rooster crowed. Then the torture and the lies began. The guards blindfolded Jesus, then began to spit on Him, beat Him with their fists, slap Him, rip out His beard and mock Him.  After the religious leaders lied in their attempt to get rid of Jesus once and for all, both Pilate and Herod found Jesus innocent. So the religious leaders enticed the crowd to shout “Crucify Him!” So the decision was made as Jesus was to become the final sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus was taken to be flogged with a lead-tipped whip laying His back wide open. They then smashed a mock crown made of thorns onto His head and placed a stick in His hand as His sceptor and taunted Him with “Hail! King of the Jews!” Then, once again, they spit on Him and took His mock scepter and beat Him on the head with it.  His back upon which He bore the lashes was also the back upon which He would bear the cross to the place where He would be crucified.  Nails were hammered through His hands and feet and they raised Him up.  The mocking and jeering continued as they hung a sign above His head that read “The King of the Jews”.  Then… astonishingly, after all the ridicule, the lies, and the torture, they heard the reason Jesus bore it all as He uttered these words…

♥♥♥♥Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”  ♥♥♥♥

John 15:13 (NLT) – 13 There is no greater love than to lay down
one’s life for one’s friends.

Next week we will remember all that was done for us through the resurrection!

Why?

Why?

When I went into my husband’s office for the very first time after he went to heaven, his Bible was on his desk opened to the book of Job.  As anyone in our congregation can tell you, my husband often referred to Job in his messages.  I believe that Gary spent much time in the book of Job possibly because, during the last years of his life, he may have felt a little like Job. I believe he drew comfort knowing that, although good people sometimes face bad situations, God somehow turns it around.  Job 1:8 and 2:3 tells us that God called Job the finest man in all the earth, a blameless man of complete integrity – a man who fears God and stays away from evil.  If God called Job blameless, then he did nothing to deserve those afflictions. And, although at the time Job didn’t have Romans 8:28 to stand on, in the end, God blessed Job with much more than he lost.  Joseph from the Old Testament is another example of this. For someone who loved God with all their being, Joseph faced one adversity after the other for years and years. But in the end, the dream that God had placed in Joseph’s heart, to which he had clung through it all, finally came to pass. He glorified God and God blessed him. We know it was Satan who plotted and executed those afflictions against Job with God’s permission.  We also know from Job 42:3 that Job had questioned God.  Most certainly Job’s trust in God was tested.  But as we continue to read on in verses 7-8 we learn that Job never spoke wrong of God. He passed the test!  We all have wondered why God allows bad things to happen and we may have even questioned God about it. I believe God is okay with that.  But if and when these things happen, it’s comforting to know that, for those who love God and seek to fulfill His purpose and plan for their lives, God somehow works everything out for our good. Satan can never thwart God’s plan.  No matter what happens along the journey, God always wins.         

Job 1:8 (NLT)
8 Then the LORD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

Romans 8:28 (TLB)
28 And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.

Job 42:3 (NLT)
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.

Job 42:7-8 (NKJV)
7 And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. 8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

Pay Attention To Your Hesitation

Pay Attention To Your Hesitation

There is a true story that I have been extremely interested in because it occurred in my hometown in Illinois.  It is a story from the 1920s and 30s about a company that employed women to paint the dials and numbers on clock and watch faces with a luminous paint causing them to glow in the dark.  They also painted instruments that were used by the military so many of the women were proud they had jobs that helped our soldiers. As well, these jobs paid extremely well, especially for the times. So the  women, many of whom were just teenagers, thought they were very lucky to have these jobs.  Except for one thing – the paint they used contained radium which is what caused it to glow. The women were instructed to put the tips of the tiny brushes they used in their mouths to get a very fine point. When some of them had reservations about it, their employer told them this was perfectly safe.  So they believed their employer.  After all, why would they lie to them?  But after a few years of this process, the women began to get sick, their teeth began to fall out, their jawbones and other bones disintegrated and they developed horrible tumors throughout their bodies. And many of them died. All the while the company told the women the paint was safe when they knew it wasn’t. These women thought their jobs were a blessing when, in reality, they were being cursed.  They thought they were doing something that would bring aid and provision to their families when it ended up destroying and stealing everything from them. They were being fed a lie and, in all innocence, they believed the lie. Our enemy Satan works in the very same way. He is not only a liar, he is the father of lies.  He is cunning, and knows how to get us to believe him.  He entices us.  And we may even have reservations, a check in our spirits.  But, in our innocence, we ignore it and believe the lies.  Scripture never tells us that Satan is powerful, because he is not. But scripture does warn us that he is cunning and  there is no truth in him. So while he may not be able to overpower us, he could outsmart us. Don’t ignore that hesitation you have, even if it’s just for a second. The Holy Spirit is there to lead you into all truth and tell you about the future.  When the check engine light of your spirit comes on, don’t ignore it! 

John 8:44 (NLT)   ……. He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV)   10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

John 16:13 (NLT)
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.

Do you Agape?

Do you Agape?

There have probably been more songs written about love than any other topic.  The Beetles told us that all we need is love.  Elvis admitted that he couldn’t help falling in love.  Queen called love a crazy little thing.  Dionne Warwick swore she’d never fall in love again while Pat Benatar warns that love is a battlefield.  And then there’s The Everly Brothers and Nazareth who both lamented that love hurts. So we can see that love both heals and wounds hearts. Of course to find out what love really is we must turn to scripture, and the best place is the great chapter on love, I Corinthians 13.  The love that Paul is describing here is not the philos love, or brotherly love.  And it’s not the eros love, or the physical, sexual kind of love.  He is defining what agape love is.  This is the highest form of love there is.  Many people define it as the God kind of love.  This is love that is given not because it’s deserved or earned because there is nothing you could possibly do to deserve it.  The giver expects nothing in return. This kind of love is the nature of God. It’s Who He is. This love won’t give up. It’s not selfish. It isn’t prideful.  This love is respectful, patient and sacrificial.  Does is come naturally?  No!  It comes supernaturally.  God enables us to love this way. But this love is a choice we have to make every single day. And the best thing of all is we know this kind of love will never fail us!  So remember tomorrow when you wake, you have a choice to make.  Ask God to help you walk in His kind of love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Can I Find Peace?

Can I Find Peace?

As we grow as Christians by studying His Word and doing His Will, each day we get stronger, a little wiser and hopefully more prepared for what life throws at us. And after many years of growing, we may even reach the place where we believe nothing can get us off our game.  But then, out of the blue, something comes along and knocks the wind right out of us.  And while we are gasping for the next breath, we are experiencing emotions that we didn’t know existed. We find ourselves in unfamiliar territory.  And the unfamiliar is a scary place. But, while this place may be unfamiliar and scary to us, it is not to God. God knows everything before it happens.  Nothing is a surprise to Him, ever.  And while we might struggle with why things happen, it is still possible to experience peace through it, the kind that exceeds our understanding. There is a scene from the movie The Passion of the Christ that is possibly the most powerful scene of the movie.  It takes place right as Jesus takes His last breath on the cross and commends His spirit to the Father.  It depicts a tear dropping from heaven. Now this is not scriptural, but I can certainly imagine God’s agony in seeing the horrific scene playing out on earth even though that was part of His plan. God feels our hurts, our fears, our pain and our struggles. And sometimes, He is the only one who fully understands.  Call out to Him!  Pray to Him! Confess to Him! Even though we can’t understand how He does it, you will find peace!

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Luke 12:24-26 (NLT)
24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?
  

My Shepherd

My Shepherd

With the recent homegoing of my husband, I have read several Christian books on dealing with loss and grief. If you read Food For Thought last week, you realize the comfort that is found in knowing that when a loved one who knew the Lord leaves this earth, they instantly stand before the throne of God, healed and whole in their new glorified body. For the Christian whose life on earth ends, it is definitely gain. But, for those left here on the earth, a huge void remains. I have experienced grief before, or so I thought. This time my heart took a hit so agonizingly painful that I wonder sometimes how it continues to beat. A person’s absence can be excruciatingly noticeable, especially when they have been there for the last 40 years. I’ve experienced times when I feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of that famous valley. But, God’s Word is ultimately where I must turn to be truly lifted out so I went to the Psalm itself. The NLT puts it this way – “Even when I walk through the darkest valley I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and you staff protect and comfort me.”  David wrote these words from his experience.  He was a shepherd himself.  He knew personally how fiercely he would protect his sheep.  He would stop at nothing. Neither the lion nor the bear are a match for a shepherd who loves his flock. That was the best way David knew to describe God’s intense love and concern for His own. I must remind myself that when I’m in that dark valley, I am not there alone. I take much comfort in knowing I will once again experience rest in the green meadows by the peaceful streams.  God is close beside us! His goodness and unfailing love not only follow us but they pursue us and will continue to for the rest of our days!   

 Philippians 1:21 (NKJV)
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Psalm 23:1-6 (NLT)
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Tribute to A Man of God from a Grateful Wife

Tribute to A Man of God from a Grateful Wife

My husband of 40 years and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church for almost 29 years, Rev. Gary A. Miller, went to his heavenly home on January 4, 2021. I avoid using the term “died” and this post will explain why.

I have had a little over a month to process this.  And, while the impact of it hasn’t even yet fully hit me, I have already experienced how my life has been forever altered. Many of you know that Gary had faced many health challenges over the last six years.  But being the man of God that he was, he faced each one standing on his faith in God to get him through.  And when he did all that he could do to stand, he stood some more.  Although together we, along with many of you, were believing for his healing here on earth, Gary always longed for and often spoke of what it would be like in heaven and to obtain his glorified body –  a body that is free from the burden of earthly limitations, struggles and corruption. When you inhabit a healthy body, you might not often think about that.  But when your body seems to be failing you at every turn, I can imagine the enticement of heaven and a new body free of pain and sickness might often cross your mind.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, you always have that to look forward to.  One way or another you will receive your healing.  I want to share a scripture with you that brings me a lot of comfort.  And of all people to share it with me, it was Gary himself who did.  Gary had pens and pads all over the place so that when God spoke to him, he would write it down so he wouldn’t forget.  I recently found a small piece of paper on his dresser with several scriptures written on it so I decided to look them up to get a glimpse of what God may have been speaking to him.  The verses were all about leaving this world behind and entering into our forever home with the Lord and inhabiting a brand new body.  One particular passage ministered deeply to my spirit as I now have a reason to meditate on it, as I’m sure Gary did.  It is II Corinthians 5:1-4 and this is the New Living Translation:

“1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.”

I know that I have done my fair share of groaning and sighing in this earthly body. And I suspect many of you have done the same.  But can you imagine this – one day, taking off the old body as a garment and slipping into a brand new one specially tailored for you by God Himself!  The NLT puts it this way – “our dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.”!  We will not be experiencing death but we will be swallowed up by life!  On January 4th, 2021 at 9:16 a.m. my husband did not die!  He was swallowed up by life!  He cast off his corruptible body and was clothed by God with an eternal glorified body!  Never again to endure hardship, pain, suffering or corruption!

I believe what kept my husband going through all the hardships his body had faced over the last six years was that he got a glimpse of what God had in store for him, and, knowing that the physical body that was failing him was only temporary.  His forever glorified house was ahead!  The Message Bible puts such vivid imagery to it:

” For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade —and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.”  II Cor. 5:1-7

Gary walked by faith not by sight.  He kept his eye on the prize.  God put a little of heaven in his heart.  He was able to see past this natural realm and gaze into the spirit realm despite what his body was telling him.  I suppose there were moments of sadness, disappointment and even fear that would attempt to force their way into his mind and heart.  But he would never allow that to settle. 

If you can have an earthly hero, Gary was mine. His life was a living example of a man after God’s own heart.  He loved God with all his strength, soul and spirit.  And that’s what made him such a wonderful man, husband and father. He was a servant as well as a shepherd. And if you believe in soulmates, Gary was mine. I was blessed by God to have him in my life for over 40 years.  And I’m sure the first thing he heard from his Savior were these words – “well done my good and faithful servant”!

From a very blessed and grateful wife, Robin