Thankful for: A Relationship, not just Rules or Principles (A Weekday Paragraph, 4 of 6)

A Weekday Paragraph is a short scripture and a short paragraph (or two or three . . .LOL) of how it applies to my life. This is written by a Christian who is growing in her relationship with Jesus, for other growing Christians. Please be encouraged, challenged or both . . . and feel free to comment or reply.

John 1: 35-39: “Again the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus.

When Jesus turned and noticed them following Him, he asked them, “What are you looking for?”

They said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’) where are You staying?

“Come and you’ll see,” He replied. So they went and saw where he was staying and they stayed with Him that day. it was about 10 in the morning.

When meeting someone new, people often exchange names, occupations and details about their daily lives. Andrew was one of the two disciples who decided to follow Jesus, after following John. The disciples wanted to know where Jesus was staying so they could hang out with Him and get to know Him better. It was not enough for them that John thought he was the Lamb of God: they had to find out about this man for themselves.

It is interesting that Jesus did not tell them the physical address of where he lived at the time. He invited them to be where He was. Jesus was staying at more than a physical location in Israel: He was staying in the will of God. It was more necessary to Him than His daily food. In John 4:34, Jesus tells his disciples “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”

It would be a neat experience to spend an entire day with someone who was in the will of God, who was perfectly following God, in attitudes and actions.

After spending a day with Jesus, Andrew was convinced that He was the Messiah. He went to get his brother Peter. Peter and Andrew then followed Jesus together. They walked closely with Jesus for three years. Discipleship involved a close relationship, not a distant one. They watched as he healed the sick, taught the people, feed the multitudes, calmed the seas and walked on water.

They also watched as he dealt with challenges to his ministry from the religious leaders. They were with him when many of his followers turned away, to the point that he asked them whether they would also leave.

Jesus wants to walk closely with His followers today as well. He wants us to know where he is staying. He wants us staying with Him — in the will of the Father.

Yes, there are principles to follow in Christianity. To read about them, the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes are two good places to start. But Christianity is not just about following principles: it is about a relationship with Jesus.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by Permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Thankful for: Prayer (A Weekday Paragraph, 3 of 6)

A Weekday Paragraph is a short scripture and a short paragraph (or two or three . . .LOL) of how it applies to my life. This is written by a Christian who is growing in her relationship with Jesus, for other growing Christians. Please be encouraged, challenged or both . . . and feel free to comment or reply.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray constantly.

When I pray, my life starts to come to order.

God wants me to talk to Him! He is willing to listen. Even my husband does not always want to hear what I have to say, but Jesus is always there to listen.

I am thankful for the prayers of fellow Christians — they have encouraged me much. I am also thankful for the ability and opportunity to pray for others.

I am also thankful for corporate prayer meetings — I met my husband at one! It is a wonderful experience when a group of people flow together and hear God. It is wonderful to know His will and pray it back to Him.

I’d also like to share a recent favorite quote on prayer: “don’t prayer until God hears, pray until you listen to God”. I love the fact that prayer is a two-way street. It is a huge building block to a deep relationship with God.

Photo credit: M Carswell

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by Permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Thankful for: A Christian Family Heritage (A Weekday Paragraph, 2 of 6)

A Weekday Paragraph is a short scripture and a short paragraph (or two or three . . .LOL) of how it applies to my life. This is written by a Christian who is growing in her relationship with Jesus, for other growing Christians. Please be encouraged, challenged or both . . . and feel free to comment or reply.

2 Timothy 1: 3-5 “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy, clearly recalling your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and that I am convinced is in you also.” (Paul wrote this about Timothy.)

My Christian heritage comes to me from my parents and both sets of grandparents.

I am thankful for my parent’s example. I never had to ask what we were doing as a family on Sunday mornings: I knew we were on our way to church. My parents both served in the church, as had my grandparents on both sides. I started serving at a young age: my mother was Sunday School superintendent and I was asked to teach the four and five year olds when I was in grade seven. I taught with another young woman and enjoyed the experience.

My baptismal gown reminds me of my Christian heritage.

My husband also has a Christian heritage, and for that I am thankful.

A shared Christian heritage is a neat experience. I had a wonderful visit with a cousin and his wife this May. It was made even more wonderful by the fact that we could pray together. I thought about our grandpa and grandma looking down from Heaven and I’m sure they were both pleased! My husband and I also got to pray with one of his cousins last February.

My Bible cover reminds me of my Christian heritage, as it belonged to my Mom.

Photo credit: M Carswell

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by Permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Thankful for: Salvation (A Weekday Paragraph, 1 of 6)

A Weekday Paragraph is a short scripture and a short paragraph (or two or three . . .LOL) of how it applies to my life. This is written by a Christian who is growing in her relationship with Jesus, for other growing Christians. Please be encouraged, challenged or both . . . and feel free to comment or reply.

Life sometimes feels disorganized. There is still always something to be thankful for.

John 3:16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

I could not write a series on what I’m thankful for without getting back to the basics, the start. Jesus choose to die for sinners, including me. That allowed me, as a Grade 5 student, to sign the back of the New Testament the Gideons handed out to school children that was a prayer for salvation. It allowed me to accept his mercy at a greater level when I met with a Youth for Christ worker when I was in Grade 12. He gave me the strength to testify at a Campus Life meeting – watch when you say “Lord, I’ll testify if the lights flicker” — because the lights might do just that!

God has promised that those who believe in him will not perish and I haven’t. He was with me through college and is with me as in my working life. Sometimes my working life was not easy — It included stress leave at one point – but I did not perish. I remember a customer encouraging me at such an opportune time, that I wondered if he was an angel. He was with me through years of singleness. He is with me in my marriage (which happened in my late 40s by the way). He was with my when I lost my Dad, and years later, when I lost my Mom. He continues to be with me as I live my life, which includes a serving in my local church.

Jesus has been with me throughout my life. And I don’t have to fear death because he came to give me everlasting life.

copyright: K Carswell, 2019

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by Permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Lenten Letter # 2 Praying for our Enemies

Matthew 5:43-45: You have heard that it was said Love you neighbor and hate you enemy. But I tell you, love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

This is a verse of scripture that challenged me today. I did pray for someone, who I feel gossips about and uses me. This scripture does not give any guarantee that the person will change. It only tells us to pray. It even suggests that good things will happen to the person we are praying for. It does not guarantee all our problems will be solved.

Just a challenge to myself to keep praying.

Another reminder: when I feel that people are watching, ready to pounce on any mistake I make and use it as fodder for gossip, I need to remind myself that my Heavenly Father is also watching over me closely, but He is watching over me with love and care.

Katherine’s “Lenten Letters”

History and Personal Decisions

Day 1 – Thoughts on Matthew, Chapters 1 and 2

(Reading done Matthew Chapters 1-3)

I desire to observe Lent by reading at least one chapter from the Gospels every day. Today I read Matthew Chapters 1 to 3, and want to record a few thoughts. (This is not meant to be a detailed Bible study, just a few of my thoughts on the passages.)

The first is that: history matters. Our personal family history matters. The gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. I feel blessed to know my family’s history on both sides, thanks to an aunt who did the family history on my father’s side, and a cousin who did it on my mother’s. Knowing where we came from helps to teach us who we are.

Out personal decisions matter. Joseph had decided to divorce Mary, but changed his mind after hearing from an angel. He married her, providing protection for her and her soon-to-be born son. It is interesting to note that the angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. This seems to suggest that had he divorced her, it would have been due to fear. Joseph obeyed the angel, giving the name Jesus to the new baby, as the angel had suggested.

Today, many Christians believe we can be led by the Holy Spirit in our decisions. We need to take time to ponder, to listen to the Lord.

Matthew 1 is a personal chapter, dealing with one man’s lineage and his very personal decision: the choice of a wife. Politics gets involved in chapter 2, as wise men from the east, come to Jerusalem to worship the newly born King of the Jews. They had been guided by a star, but went to Jerusalem to see King Herod, to ask about the baby. “When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed and all Jerusalem with him” (Matt. 2:3). King Herod found out where the baby should be born and sent the wise men to worship him, telling them to report back to him. After their visit with Herod, the star appeared, and led them to the boy, who may have been two years old. The wise men worshiped, but did not return to Herod. They were warned in a dream not to do so.

King Herod flew into a rage when he realized he had been outwitted by the wise men. He then ordered the killing of every male child in and around Bethlehem. This sad act fulfilled a prophesy that is recorded in Jeremiah 31:15. Jesus was protected because Joseph obeyed when an angel told him to take his young family and flee to Egypt. This was again to fulfill prophecy.

Joseph’s obedience impacted history. It also fulfilled prophecy.

I need to realize that obedience matters in a major way. I need to realize that my personal decisions matter. My part is God’s plan is far smaller than Joseph’s, but still it needs to be done.

Join me in spending extra time with our Lord this Lenten season. Let’s listen, obey and fulfill what God has called us to do.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.)

Crying out to you

We’re crying out to you, Lord.

We’re crying out to you.

We’re crying out to you.

It’s all we can really do.

We need your mercy,

we need your grace,

but most of all

it’s your presence that we need.

We’re crying out to you, Lord.

We’re crying out to you.

We’re crying out to you.

It’s all we can really do.

In your presence, we can see your face.

In your presence we can walk by grace.

In your presence, we can take a stand.

In your presence we hold out our hands

prepared to serve both You and man.

We’re crying out to you, Lord.

We’re crying out to you.

We’re crying out to you.

It’s all we can really do.

Copyright 2019, Katherine Carswell

As High as the Prairie Sky

Lord, I needed to picture your grace

and I looked above:

Your grace is as high as the prairie sky.

Your grace is as wide as the prairie sky.

The height of God’s grace,

draws me to my knees;

The width of His grace,

draws me closer to his side.

Your grace is as high as the prairie sky;

Your grace is as wide as the prairie sky.

Sometimes I feel a little dry

and rain comes from the sky.

God’s refreshing, cooling rain,

Pouring down his grace.

Grace high as the prairie sky,

Grace wide as the prairie sky.

Thunder rolls as lightning flashes,

Storms of life occur.

Still your grace shines from above

Coming down with your great love.

Grace high as the prairie sky,

Grace wide as the prairie sky.

Grace so vast I cannot see its end

God’s grace shining freely down on me.

Grace so high is draws me to my knees;

Grace so wide, it calls me closer to His side.

Grace high as the prairie sky,

Grace wide as the prairie sky.

______________

Copyright 2019, Katherine Carswell

Photo by Katherine Carswell

“The Lord is my Shepherd” … but

IMG_3844(Note:  I would like to thank fellow blogger, Prayerson Christian, for including me in the “3 Days, 3 Quotes” challenge on Word Press.  I have chosen to write about one of the most quoted scriptures ever, from a personal viewpoint.)

“Baa, Baa.”

Okay, we are not to sound like sheep, but, in many ways, we are to act like them

One of the most famous Bible scriptures tells us that the Lord is our shepherd.  It is a comforting thought, but do I really want to compare myself to a sheep?

Sheep are not the smartest animal.  They are needy.  They are defenseless.  They need to be led.

Am I willing to view myself that way?

I am an educated woman.  I have held down a job for over 30 years.  I can manage my home, my finances and my life.  Am I prepared to consider myself  ‘needy’ and “defenseless”?  Will I let the Lord shepherd me?

Sheep  cannot open the door of the sheepfold.  They stay in the sheepfold until the gate is opened and the shepherd leads them out.  They will only follow their shepherd, and if a stranger comes will shy away.  That is what it says in John 10: 2-5:
“The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them.  The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.”

Sheep do not make decisions.  They do not tell the shepherd:  “We Just want to run around and play today” or “you need to lead us to the pasture by the big date palm tree” or “make sure you have your staff, because a lion is going to try to attack us today”.  They simply listen for his voice and follow.  It is the shepherd, not the sheep, that chooses the path that is walked.

The path that the shepherd chooses may not always be straight or easy.  It may not even make sense to the sheep.  It may have some curves.

IMG_3247

Please notice the pathway in this picture.  There is a curve in it, and you cannot see the end of the pathway from the view in the photo.

Much like my life right now.

My husband and I were walking through life, and I was thinking it would always be the way it was.  We were on a leadership team in a local church, working with the children and helping in other areas. Then the Lord led us to attend a different church.

“Go somewhere else?  What do you mean Lord?  We’re actively serving you here . . . and we even joke that they prayed me into my husband’s life when we were both single!”

I never actively said that, but I had to work through those issues.  Sheep do not argue.  Sheep follow the shepherd.

Sheep remember the other times the Lord has shepherded them.  I’ve had rough times at my work place, which included a stress leave.  When I was having a bad day at work, I was encouraged by a customer in such an appropriate way that I wondered if he was an angel.  Also, my mother passed away about two years ago.  God was very gracious to me at that time, including the fact that I had extra time off work to spend with her.

I am very aware that there are harsher curves in the road than changing the church you attend.  Curves can be caused by the death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, sickness and many other things.

May I be the kind of sheep that is easy to shepherd.  May I walk near the Shepherd, listening to His voice and following His guidance.  May I accept the correction He gives.

The sheep in the photograph had his eyes directly on me as I took his picture.  May I keep my eyes directly on Jesus, as I move forward in my life.

May you also allow the Lord to shepherd you.

Copyright: Katherine Carswell

(Please note: Unless otherwise notes, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.)

Note about the photos:  The picture of the sheep was taken in the Village of Nazareth, a tourist site that portrays how people lived at the time of Jesus.  I did enjoy petting the sheep! The picture of the almond tree in bloom and the pathway was taken at the Biblical Garden in Israel.  The pictures were taken by myself on a trip to Israel that my husband and I recently had the privilege to go on.  (Pictures:  Katherine C.)

 

 

 

Grace and Glory (Psalm 84:11)

Psalm 84:11  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory:  no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

What can we expect, as individuals and as members of churches, when God gives us grace and glory?

First of all:  let’s define the terms.  Grace is often called God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  It is when God gives us good things that we don’t deserve.  It contrasts to his mercy, which is His withholding from us the bad things we do deserve.  The Oxford dictionary’s definition of grace include elegance of movement, polite good will, attractive qualities of behavior and finally, in Christian belief, the unearned favor of God.

Glory is both a noun and a verb.  According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical words it has several meaning as a noun.  They include the nature and acts of God as he manifests himself, especially in the person and acts of Christ; the character and ways of God as exhibited through Christ to and through believers; a state of blessedness believers will enter into; and brightness and splendor emanating from God.  The Oxford dictionary defines the word as fame or honor won by notable achievements; magnificence, great beat; a very beautiful or impressive thing and worship and thanksgiving offered to God.

As a verb, to glory means to boast.  So in order to fully enjoy His grace and glory, we as individuals, and as a church, might want to do several things.  We may admit that the good things we have, come to us from God’s hands.  They are his gifts, not something we have earned by our own efforts.

We can partake of his grace in another way, letting God more fully mold our characters into his likeness.  This will allow him to use us to draw others closer to Him.  Being molded more closely into the character of Jesus does not necessarily mean we will have an ‘easy’ time.  It is a day to day process, that is sometimes painful.  It is a process, however, that is always for our benefit.

Jesus walked on earth, showing us both God’s grace and glory.  He showed both when he turned the water into wine at a wedding in Canaan.  He did this act, even though he told his mother his time had not yet come (John chapter 2).  He showed us grace and glory in his power to heal, in his love of spending time with his Father, in his interactions with the people and religious leaders of his day.  Even in his angry moments, when he was cleansing the temple area from the presence of the greed of the money changers, he was displaying God’s grace and glory.  That area of the temple was the only area in which gentiles could pray.  Could you imagine wanting to pray and having a mall at Christmas time the only available, appropriate place?  Could you hear God through all the noise and confusion?  God does speak any and every where, but Jesus wanted people to have a more peaceful place to pray!

Jesus was portraying God’s grace and glory to the people of his day.  Scriptures tell us that he was the full manifestation of God in bodily form (Col. 2:9).  Yet, scripture also describes Jesus in a totally different way.  It says “He had no form or comeliness, and when people shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

As his ministry began, the people of Nazareth were amazed, saying, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Luke 4:22).  He looked just like an ordinary man.  the people (and yes, even the religious people) missed seeing God’s glory.

When God’s grace and glory comes to us, what will it look like?  Will it be such a heavy presence of God, that no one can remain standing in the church (See reference in 2 Chronicles, chapter 7).  Or will it seem so ordinary, that unless our spirits ar in tune with what God is doing, we will miss it?  It may even comes in both ways . . .

As Jesus showed God’s grace and glory to the people of his day, he wants to use us to show his grace and glory to our family, neighbors, co-workers and the world.  May we all hear his voice, follow his lead, and let God’s grace and glory shine from our lives.

Note:  This is a slight re-working of an article I wrote for a publication for a church I am connected with.  The original article was published in January of 2011.