Every Tribe, Every Nation

 

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“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

Since Phil and I returned home last Thursday, people have asked me, “What impression impacted you the most from your trip to Israel?”

I expected to see Jewish people, some from many different continents as the diaspora have returned to the nation of Israel since it’s modern establishment in 1948. I also expected to see many Arabs who have populated this region since their beginnings as children of Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

What I did not expect to see was the many hundreds of Christian pilgrims from every tribe and every nation on earth.

The second through fifth days of our trip were spent hiking the Jesus Trail. This is a well marked trail from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, to Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of His time in ministry. Our group of 10 people walked where Jesus walked and lived, seeing the locations of several of His miracles and the ruins of the occupying Roman government. This is not a heavily populated area and the  people we saw were mainly Jews and Arabs, living in a delicate balance of religious and political tolerance.

The next few days were spent mainly in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, visiting the many significant sights of Jesus birth, death, and resurrection. This is a modern urban area, surrounding the old cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were hundreds of people arriving on large tour buses at each site we visited.

This is what surprised and blessed me.

This is what I did not expect.

The “pilgrims” like myself, were Christians from every people group I can think of.  The following nationalities represent people we either spoke to or we heard them say that they were –

  •  Africans – from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya
  •  Asians – from China, Korea, Japan, India and Taiwan
  • Hispanics – from Ecuador, Argentina. and Mexico
  • Europeans,  – from Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy
  • Eastern Europeans – from Poland, Czech Republic, Russia
  • Australians
  • New Zealanders
  • Canadians, Virgian Islands
  • US Citizens from many different states

 

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All of these people came to pay homage to Jesus and the places where Jesus lived and and carried out His ministry.

Why did this bless me so much? Why was I surprised to see people from every tribe and every nation worshipping Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

I have to admit that my response revealed my narrow view of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom that Jesus will establish when He returns again to earth.

In Revelation John shares the following vision.

Revelation 7:9-10

9. After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10. And they cried out in a loud voice:    

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Seeing these large groups of people from nations throughout the world should not have surprised me. We were after all near the very location where the Bible teaches God created the first people. If I believe this Biblical account, and I do, then all the various people I was seeing had ancestors who originated here as well, just like I did.

I was overcome by the blessing of seeing this very diverse representation of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church. Our church gatherings here in the United States are but a small representation of what God has gathered together in the Body of Christ world wide. My visit to Jerusalem gave me a glimpse into this much bigger picture.

We looked different, dressed differently, talked and sang differently, prayed differently, even expressed our love for Jesus in different ways, but we had a common purpose.

We were there in Israel to honor Jesus, the King of Kings.

I will sing that familiar children’s song with new meaning now……

“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

 

 

 

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The One Thing

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Ever hear of the sisters, Mary and Martha?

They were friends of Jesus and also among those who followed Jesus and listened to his teaching. Biblical scholars believe that Martha was probably an affluent widow. She also practiced hospitality.

When she invited Jesus to her home – she had to be ready for a crowd – his entourage came with him.

The Bible says she was encumbered or stressed by serving.

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.

So she does what most of us women do when stressed – she complains.

She goes right to Jesus!

She attempts to get Jesus to agree with her – “I’m doing all the work – shouldn’t Mary help?

God does not necessarily agree with the cause of our distress – we might think it is –

  • My mother-in-law
  • My child who refuses to potty train
  • My boss who doesn’t seem to understand that I have children
  • My adult child who doesn’t call me
  • My messy house

Jesus does care – just not about the same thing that is bothering Martha.

Mary chose the “good part” – that was The one thing worth being concerned about – which certainly meant what Mary made her choice to do—sitting at Christ’s feet, to hear his word.

So, does Jesus not want to eat, you may ask? Don’t we have to attend to the needs of our families, especially when there are little ones that depend on our care for their very survival?

Of course. The Bible is clear in teaching that we have responsibilities to fulfill and it is godly to do so.

Yet, are we so busy that we neglect the “One Thing” that feeds our souls?

“Martha’s care and work were good in their proper season and place; but now she had something else to do, which was unspeakably more needful, and therefore should be done first, and most minded.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

I had the privilege of participating this weekend in a women’s retreat sponsored by a local church, yet including ladies from various congregations. It was a precious time of fellowship, worship and teaching.

It was a time to focus on the One Thing – sitting at Jesus feet.

God was faithful to meet us and His presence was evident as we shared together.

I am so thankful that I was able to be like Mary this weekend  – sitting at Jesus feet.

 

 

Lost

“Adahlyn, pray that Nana will find our way home.”

“Are you lost, Nana?”

“Yes, will you pray with me?”

As I looked in the rear view mirror at the little toddler in her car seat, I realized how having my granddaughter in the car made being lost so much more serious than if it was just me.

I prayed out loud for God to give me direction. After praying I asked Adahlyn if she was afraid.

“No, Nana. You will find the way.”

Thinking about her faith makes me smile. Oh, the bliss of ignorance! If she only knew how terrible my sense of direction is. ( read “No Sense of Direction”) Yet I am thankful she didn’t. I had taken Adahlyn to the store because her parents were in the hospital for the birth of a new little sister. I thought I would pick up a few things at the store and I didn’t want to bother my daughter and son-in-law with asking directions –  they were VERY busy.

I drove a bit further and saw on the horizon the cross on the steeple of the church our younger daughter and her family attend. Adahlyn lives just four blocks away. I could see my way to her home!

“Adahlyn, I see the cross on the steeple – I know which way to go now. God answered our prayer.”

The cross was my marker of the right direction in which to go.

One of our coaches shared with the students at FCA Friday. He talked about what to do when we feel lost. He said we should look for a way to get back on the right path. We often think, ‘Well, I’ll just go a bit further and see where this leads….’

So dangerous!

As soon as we recognize we are lost in life we need to pray and ask for direction. Those feelings of being lost in our lives come from several causes including:

  • we don’t have our destination in sight, our ultimate goal
  • we have lost our direction – gotten confused about which way to go to get to our goal
  • we have gotten on the wrong path leading the wrong way
  • a “shortcut” looks like a good alternative
  • we are distracted by what we see along the way (very scary!)

When I was lost driving my granddaughter, I felt so responsible  – she was lost, too, all because of me!

As a parent and grandparent the path I choose will take others along with me. If I am lost – they will be lost as well.

Psalm 119 says much about staying on the right path. A few of these verses are;

9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.

Lord, may we recognize when we are lost.

We certainly don’t want those little ones who are following us to be led down the wrong path.

Thank you, Lord, that your cross leads the way.

Stay Connected!

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See the rocks that little Daniel is picking up? Even a little child can take one of these stones and throw it into the ocean –

never to be seen again.

I was reminded of a sermon Phil preached several years ago about being connected in the Body of Christ. He shared the Scripture from I Peter 2:5 – 6

5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 6 As the

Scriptures say,

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,
chosen for great honor,
and anyone who trusts in him
will never be disgraced.”

Phil encouraged us to be those living stones that Peter is talking about. God is using us to build His spiritual temple. Each of us is a stone and the Holy Spirit is the mortar that cements us together. Phil went on to say how easy it is to pick up a loose stone and steal it or throw it away. Yet a stone cemented in a wall – well that is another thing!

Tremendous effort and time would be involved in taking a stone from the wall behind my parents , my brothers, and me in the picture below. That stone wall has been there a LONG time!

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When we are connected in the Body of Christ we are not easy prey for the enemy to snatch away. We are also less likely to be deceived if we have brothers and sisters in the Lord whom we are close to. One of them is more likely to say – “Now wait a minute! You know that does not line up with Scripture!”

We all need people to speak truth into our lives no matter how old we are or how long we have walked with the Lord.

I had the blessing of spending the night with some dear friends last night before presenting a workshop in a town 3 hours away. We sat sharing about our lives and catching up on mutual friends. All of us knew of friends from the past who are no longer walking with the Lord. These were friends who we had fellowshipped with over the years – some who had a meaningful impact on me spiritually.

Why have they walked away from their faith and fellowship?

Some have experienced deep hurts from other Christians – so have Phil and I.

Some have faced tragedy personally and in their families  – many of us have as well.

In asking the Lord about this and pondering the circumstances life throws our way, I was reminded of Phil’s sermon.

Those friends who have

  • stayed in fellowship
  • stayed connected to the Body
  • been built IN as living stones

those individuals are still walking with the Lord despite what they have faced – and some are in the midst of the fire right now.

God does not promise us a bed of roses because we are His children. In fact we are assured that we will have trials and tribulations. God does promise He will be with us through the trials and tribulations of life.

When I am connected in the Body of Christ – those around me support and comfort me during my times of suffering. We’re cemented together.

God is our rock and our salvation….

“anyone who trusts in Him
will never be disgraced.”

Stay connected.

 

Reverence

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“Have we lost what it means to be reverent?” our friend asked the other evening when we were sharing about the joys and challenges of being grandparents.

This topic came up because I had shared that I didn’t want to be a “crabby old lady, frowning at random little children who are misbehaving” when we attend gatherings of the church.

If you are looking, you will always be able to find some poor, unsuspecting child who is;
* running in the church building
* laughing when it is time to be quiet
* picking up all the bulletins that have just been set out
on the seats
* taking the last 6 donuts from the adult Sunday School
class refreshment counter

Yet the point our friend was making – that is very significant – is that we seem to have lost a sense of reverence for being in God’s presence.

God’s word tells us that where two or three are GATHERED IN HIS NAME God is there with us!!!

Do we value that? Is it of utmost importance that we recognize the presence of the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE?!

Yes!

Biblical folks were struck speechless, glowed, blinded, and transformed after an encounter with the living God.

We may be checking our Facebook page or texting when in corporate worship. What is that telling our children or grandchildren?

The definition of reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.
How do we practically demonstrate reverence when we have small children (grandchildren) that we include in times of worship?

Several practical things came to mind. You may think of others but here goes:

1) be intentional about times of corporate worship. We are there to WORSHIP GOD! not a multitude of other things.

2) turn off all electronic devices and have family members do so as well. You will survive, trust me.

3) quiet yourself. This may not mean not talking to anyone, or it may. It does mean being quiet enough to sense the Lord’s presence.

4) focus on God’s presence through the prayers, worship songs, preaching and teaching, testimonies, etc.

5) take every thought captive. When my mind starts to make a grocery list, stop, re-focus.

6) ENJOY the time of corporate worship. This will be the most important aspect of communicating reverence to our children and grandchildren. When they SEE that we find joy in God’s presence, it is contagious.

I do believe that pastors, elders, Sunday School teachers, but most of all parents need to communicate clearly with children what it means to be reverent. Children will value what they see the adults they love and respect value.

Jesus was going to the temple to pray to his Father. At the entrance he saw crooks selling animals for sacrifices at exorbitant prices. He flew into a rage because they were making His Father’s house of worship into something else.

John 2:13-16

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

Jesus took reverence for His Father and His house of worship very seriously.

So must we.

Never Too Young

Lincoln and candle

“How can I give this to God?”

Our daughter told me that she was amazed by her son’s question as they sat in church yesterday. She thought her son (almost five) wasn’t even paying attention. The pastor was sharing about the importance of offering ourselves and all we do to God. Our grandson was drawing on the children’s bulletin not appearing to be listening at all. Then he asked how he could give the picture he had drawn as his offering to God.

He was responding to the pastor’s message.

We should never underestimate the depth of little children’s understanding.

The disciples tried to “protect” Jesus from the distraction of children as he was teaching and healing those people who followed.

There were no nurseries or children’s ministries then. In fact, women and children were generally left out of religious gatherings during that time. Young boys were allowed to join their fathers when they were around 12 years old – as Jesus did when he went to the temple (Luke 2:42). Yet we know from various accounts in the gospels that many women followed Jesus – and so probably brought their children along as well.

Jesus valued the children and gathered them to himself despite the disciples’ efforts to turn the children away.

Luke 18: 15-16

15 One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him.

16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.

I think children’s ministries and nurseries are important. I feel that those who care for and teach the children are such a blessing and are serving God. I look back on my earliest memories of attending church and I remember Sunday School teachers who taught me Biblical truth through their lessons AND their lives. I am so thankful for their willingness to put up with me, one of those wiggly, talkative children. (one teacher even put me out in the hall for talking too much!)

I also feel that there are times when children benefit from participating in the service with their parents. We can learn so much from a child’s response to Biblical teaching and when we experience the service with our children or grandchildren we can talk about the shared worship time. I remember seeing scripture through new eyes when our children shared their understanding of a particular passage. Our example of praying, worshipping through singing, and attentively listening are all examples to our little ones as well.

If Jesus said we needed to be like children to be part of the Kingdom of heaven, then we have much we can learn from these little ones.

Healing Prayer

My Parents - Clayton and Esther Barker

My Parents – Clayton and Esther Barker

My father, who will be 90 in May, was admitted to the hospital this week. I have been concerned because the tests he has undergone have been inconclusive about the cause of a blood clot which appeared to be hindering his liver function.

Yesterday I attended the service where two of our daughters and their families worship. I was touched deeply by the time of prayer that the pastor led for all of those who desired healing for themselves or a loved one. He asked us to stand to signify our need for healing.

I have received physical healing several times in my 62 years, and I know without a shadow of doubt that God’s power was at work in my life. Yet yesterday I was thinking about my father, and my dear friend Gloria, who is battling MS. I stood on their behalf.

The scripture that was shared came from Matthew 8: 14-17

14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. 15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them.
16 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”

The pastor focused on the importance of the part of verse 17 where the emphasis is “Jesus HIMSELF took our infirmaties and bore our sicknesses.” What a glorious truth!

We can come before our heavenly Father with boldness to ask for healing, knowing His son Jesus took our sickness with Him to the cross. We are always free to ask for God’s healing power to be manifest in times of illness.

But does God always heal?

Some would say that yes, ultimately even death is a form of “healing’ since God’s children are transported to His presence in death.

The answer is also “no”. We all have prayed for individuals who are still facing grave health concerns, some with considerable physical suffering.

At the service we then prayed for those seeking healing by laying on hands. Those of us who had expressed need sat, while those around us laid their hands on us and prayed. Our granddaughters and daughters prayed for my father – their grandfather and great-grandfather. One of our granddaughters said afterwards –
“Nana, bunches of people were praying with you!” That was a special blessing.

That evening I called my mother and found out that my father was released from the hospital that very afternoon. I called our daughters rejoicing with the good news. I asked them to be sure to tell their children and remind them that we prayed together and asked God to heal Great Grandpa.

As I rejoice with my family, I still am praying for Gloria, a precious, Godly woman who is facing the complications of MS with courage and grace. Her hope is in Jesus, who Himself bore our infirmities. I will continue to ask God to heal and restore Gloria because He is in control of the outcome and He is faithful.