Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Jesus Loves Me, this I know!

I spent a lot of time in the church nursery when I was a baby and a little girl.  Some of my earliest memories are of plain brown wooden blocks, graham crackers, saltines, and apple juice being handed to me in the nursery.  I still love those things today, especially when served together.  I remember beautiful murals on nursery walls, pictures of Jesus and his disciples, pictures from the stories of the Old Testament of Noah, Moses, Abraham, David and Goliath, Mary and Joseph, and  young Joseph and his coat of many colors.  These were the stories that I grew up hearing from my parents, my nursery workers, and my Sunday school teachers.  I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for this deposit paid into my life at such a young age.  It grounded me in a belief and faith that has always been threaded and woven through my journey and life story. 

I have no earth shattering testimony.  I have no riveting story of being rescued from a horrible life – a horrible life by the standards and definition of the world.  My faith story is one of persistent and consistent love and purposeful teaching given to me since birth.  According to God’s Word and the reality of sin, I have been rescued from a horrible life – a life of eternity separated from God.  

So what is one to do when asked about your “testimony”?  I used to shy away from the question because I had heard some really fascinating stories of people coming to know Christ.  I surely didn’t envy their prior circumstances, but their testimonies were inspiring to say the very least!  When I was a young child of about 6 our church had a ventriloquist as a special guest in our services.  She gave her testimony.  I don’t remember in great detail what she talked about, but I do remember that I was very moved by her experience and that she came to know Jesus through an accident that crushed her face.  She endured many physical issues in her life and was able to use her injury to become a ventriloquist as the muscles and bones in her face limited its movement.  She used her gifts for God’s glory, instead of being angry and bitter.  The Holy Spirit stirred me and I made a decision that I wanted to follow Jesus forever – no matter what.  I felt I already knew Him, and in a sense, I did have quite a bit of knowledge of the life of Jesus.  The difference was that on that day the Holy Spirit spoke to the heart of a 6 year old and said “Follow Me.”  And I did. 

There were no earth shattering turn of events in my life - no story that people would go home and tell others about and say, “You have GOT to hear this testimony I heard tonight!”  I was just a 6 year old girl who had been loved and taught from birth about a man named Jesus who was God’s only beloved son who came to earth as a baby, through a virgin named Mary, and was born in a lowly stable so that He could walk this earth and experience pain, suffering, and temptations and overcome them without sin.  He would die a horrific death on a cross – the ultimate punishment and suffering – bearing all my sins and the sins of the world so that I might call on Him to save my soul and reconcile me to a holy, sovereign and powerful God.  God loved me enough to do that for me.  I am so thankful for all the people in my life that spoke truth and taught me about Jesus.   I am thankful for the hours they spent preparing lessons, singing songs, watching me in the nursery, and telling me through their lives that Jesus loved me.  I am thankful for parents who took me to church every time the doors were open and prayed and spoke truth into my life every day.  Some of my fondest memories are in the walls of a church, the Sunday school classrooms, the church kitchen, the hallways, the church lawn, the choir loft, the church office, and the wooden boat in the nursery. 

The world is changing.  I don’t know many people who spend that much time in church anymore because they are busy doing other things.   It’s sad.  Even when I wasn’t there for an organized event I was being taught about Jesus simply by being inside those walls.  Yes, I know you can see Jesus everywhere and that you can learn about Christ in other places.  I am simply stating the fact that Christ’s church is an important part of His story.  Not only the universal church of God’s body – the people – but also the physical place where we come together with other believers to worship, study, encourage, and equip ourselves to do life. 

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

(Lyrics: Anna B. Warner; Music: William Bradbury)

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For many people told me so
While changing diapers and building with blocks,
I learned he loved me around the clock.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
So many told me so.
(Allison Twigg)




Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Would you turn with me in your Bibles..."

There are so many things about my childhood church that I am forever grateful for.  I am very grateful that my parents took us to church and that it was not a negotiation but an expectation.  There are many things I remember about those years that formed me, and the words, "Turn with me in your Bibles..." is one of them.  I grew up hearing those words on a regular basis in Sunday School, Sunday worship services, and Bible studies.  I would hear the rustling of pages all around me.  I realize that Bibles are now on iPads and eReaders, but taking my Bible with me is something I enjoy.  I always loved (and still love) having my Bible with me, ready to open and follow along.    

As a little girl my church had the offering envelopes that had boxes to check on the front.  Some would consider those "legalistic" today, probably because we are so sensitive to being held accountable.  I remember filling out my envelope every Sunday when I would put my offering inside.  There was a phrase with a box that read, "Bible read daily".  I remember the guilt I would feel when I would want to check that box but could not because I had not actually read it "daily".  Maybe that was a wrong type of guilt.  Maybe I was feeling guilty because someone might see that the box was not checked.  Maybe I was feeling guilty because I had not read my Bible every day.  I think partly it was the accountability that was out there for anyone to see.  There were times when I read almost every day and was good about doing my quiet times that week, but could not honestly say I'd done it "daily" and therefore could not check the box.  Though I hated that box, I still remember it and it brings back a different kind of conviction to me now.  I am thankful for those little white offering envelopes and the accountability that it instilled in me to want to be consistent.  I may miss a day, and in all honesty I should feel guilty.  I have plenty of time for other "more important" things.  So whatever one may think about those little envelopes, they do serve a purpose and I choose to be thankful for them.

Bringing my Bible to church is a practice that it is important to me.  Over the years churches have tried to meet people's needs and especially the needs of those who didn't grow up "churched."  People may not own a Bible (highly doubtful).  For all good intentions many churches purchased pew Bibles.  The church I grew up in had them also.  They were available to anyone who did not have the Word with them so that they could take part in the service and read along with the pastor when the scriptures were being read or preached.  Our Sunday School quarterlies provide the scripture for us so that we don't have to go look it up.  The Word is being made available in many ways in the church today.  This is a wonderful offering, and yet it can also hinder people from bringing their own Bible to church.  Some may not think it is necessary.  "One less thing to carry."  I have on occasion used my Bible app at church.  I love having all the translations easily accessible.  But...I miss when I don't have my actual Bible in my hands. 

I recently heard a sermon online and the first words out of the pastor's lips were, "Would you turn with me in your Bibles to...."  I was shaken because it has been a long time since I've heard those words.  Those eight words touched a place inside me that has been thirsty.  
Maybe it was a thirst for yesterday.  Maybe it was a thirst for change.  Maybe it was a thirst for spiritual growth.  Wherever the thirst comes from (and it is probably all three) I plan to drink to quench the dryness.  I do long for yesterday more than I want to admit.  The world and our churches are moving in directions unfamiliar to me.  Some good.  Some not.  I am not afraid of change...just don't change the Gospel.  We need to stop looking for people to quote.  Quote God's Word.  Scripture should be our FIRST source for Truth.  Christians need to be studying God's Word.  I am reminded of the song, Ancient Words.  




Holy words long preserved 

for our walk in this world, 
They resound with God's own heart 

Holy words long preserved
for our walk in this world,
They resound with God's own heart
Oh, let the Ancient words impart.


Words of Life, words of Hope

Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e'er we roam
Ancient words will guide us Home.



CHORUS:

Ancient words ever true
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.



Holy words of our Faith

Handed down to this age.
Came to us through sacrifice
Oh heed the faithful words of Christ.


Holy words long preserved

For our walk in this world.

They resound with God's own heart
Oh let the ancient words impart.

We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart 

So why don't we go get our Bibles and "turn with me."  Turn to Truth.  Turn to Christ.  Turn to God's precious Word.  


Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
112 
Psalm 119:111