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Updated: Mar 24



A lot of people are asking "Are you ready for Spring?" I have to admit that I am eagerly awaiting spring-like weather; more so than in other years. While the winter has not been that rough in terms of the number of snowy or even extremely cold days and the amount of snow on the ground, there have been a couple of storms that did wreak havoc on our area. The older I get, the less I like winter and the more I look forward to spring.


However, there's another question that people should be asking, "Are you ready for Jesus to come back?" If you have been on any type of social media lately, there are a number of articles and posts questioning (or even proclaiming) that we are in the end days, that Jesus will be returning soon. There are arguments and debates going both ways. Some are empathically claiming it is so, while others are just as emphatically claiming not. Others are laying out timelines and events that they claim must happen before Christ's return.


Our pastor even interrupted his current sermon series this past week to address the same type of concerns. He focused on Matthew 24 (which would be good for all of us to read); verse 36 states that no one knows, not even the Son (Jesus). One of his PowerPoint slides simply stated, We. Don't. Know!!!


While I don't want to delve into all the theological possibilities and implications, I simply want to remind us that "Jesus is Coming Back."


I recently wrote the following for the weekly prayer email that I send out to our church family.


For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return

will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.

I Thessalonians 5:2 (NLT)


I have been reminded lately that we, as Christ-followers, should be looking forward to the coming of Christ, as well as being ready for his return. I remember this song from my childhood where we sang it on a regular basis during our Sunday evening services. Here is "Jesus is Coming Again," sung by the Melody Four Quartet.



For those who might appreciate a contemporary song about Jesus' return, I really like Jordan Feliz's, "Jesus is Coming Back." It might even have you dancing!



We should be looking forward to that day, but we also should be living in the here and now, doing what Jesus has charged us to do, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19 NLT) Jesus did not tell us to passively sit still and wait.


While there seems to be a lot of chaos in the world and a number of things about which to be worrying and fretting, we need to remember that God is God and He is still in control.


"Be still, and know that I am God!

I will be honored by every nation.

I will be honored throughout the world."

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

 

About the blogger:


Lori Lower and her husband, Gary, live in Ashland, Ohio. They attend the Ashland Brethren in Christ Church, where she serves as the prayer ministry coordinator and on the worship design team. She retired from Ashland Theological Seminary/Ashland University in May 2016 after almost 28 years, where she served most recently as Registrar of the Seminary programs. She enjoys walking, Pilates, participating in Cowboy Action shooting, music, and reading.


She is a licensed minister with the Brethren in Christ U.S.








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The following are excerpts from a sermon delivered by the blog writer at Ashland Brethren in Christ Church on October 10, 2021. If you are interested in hearing the sermon or reading the full sermon manuscript, click here.

 

I’ve titled this message “In God We Trust ?” Question mark. Sometimes I think it’s hard to tell – do we trust in God or do we trust in our nation, our government, our politics, ourselves? The bigger question is who do we believe will “save” or “deliver” us – God or government or even the Church (capital C) in America?


I have been hearing a lot of things lately that make me cringe. Things like:


We need to win America back for Christ

God has blessed America because it is (or was) a Christian nation

How can you call yourself a Christian if you voted for __________ (fill in the blank)

America is the greatest country in the world because we have religious freedom (I wonder how believers around the world feel when they hear this?)


What really makes me cringe is that these are things that I have thought, I have said, I have typed, I have liked on Facebook...


While there is nothing wrong with having an appropriate level of patriotism and pride in one’s country, I would like to remind us – those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers and those who are looking to us for answers – is where we should be putting our trust and hope. Yes, we should be praying for our leaders and for the people who inhabit our country, and for our nation as a whole. But I would suggest that maybe the reason – the underlying motive for our prayers – is that we can retain a certain level of “comfort,” that we won’t be called upon to suffer for Jesus. That then begs the question – in who, or what, or where are we placing our trust, faith, and hope?


In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus is responding to some questioning by the Pharisees. “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ for the Kingdom of God is already among you.” (NLT)


I found an interesting footnote in my Bible which said “The Kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom with geographical boundaries. Instead, it begins with the work of God’s Spirit in people’s lives and in relationships. We must resist looking to institutions or programs for evidence of the progress of God’s Kingdom. Instead, we should look for what God is doing in people’s hearts.”


In The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church, Greg Boyd makes this assessment from his introduction to the book.


“The myth of America as a Christian nation, with the church as its guardian, has been, and continues to be, damaging both to the church and the advancement of God’s kingdom. Among other things, this nationalistic myth blinds us to the way in which our most basic and most cherished cultural assumptions are diametrically opposed to the kingdom way of life taught by Jesus and his disciples. Instead of living out the radically countercultural mandate of the kingdom of God, this myth has inclined us to Christianize many pagan aspects of our culture. Instead of providing the culture with a radically alternative way of life, we largely present it with a religious version of what it already is. The myth clouds our vision of God’s distinctly beautiful kingdom and thereby undermines our motivation to live as set-apart (holy) disciples of this kingdom.”


I would add that when we perceive that America as we know it is falling apart, that myth clouds our trust in God.


In the publisher’s note for this month’s issue of Prayer Connect, although he was commenting on why we in America are surprised at miracles, made two very important points:


“Christians have experienced the safety of being the dominant culture in America. As this disappears more and more, we will need to rely on our faith, not on the power of our vote or voice. When every human idea or thing that we have trusted is removed, many believers will begin to walk in the strength of Christ alone. Then, we when we pray, ‘greater things’ will happen.” He also states, “I believe that before the end comes there will be the greatest spiritual awakening and revival the world has ever known. Why? Because God is bringing into His Kingdom those who are yet to be saved before Jesus comes.”


Church – we need to be aware of the realities that exist. But we also do not need to live in fear of what appears to be happening in America – or anywhere else in the world. We need to put our trust and faith in the Kingdom of God.


Two weeks ago, when I was having some unusually high anxiety, a close friend admonished me to get off the internet and Facebook, and just breathe in God. Which was unusual because I’m usually the one who’s encouraging others to do just that. I knew I needed to fill my mind with other thoughts. I knew that what I was dwelling on was causing me to lose sight of where my trust should be. Then the song “In Times Like These” came to my mind and it was in my head for a solid couple of days before I realized my anxiety was gone.


In times like these you need a Savior,

In times like these you need an anchor:

Be very sure, be very sure,

Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!


This rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,

This rock is Jesus, the only One;

Be very sure, be very sure,

Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!


I intentionally chose the Old Testament reading in I Chronicles because David’s prayer of praise restores the order of my thoughts towards who’s ultimately in control.


“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.” I Chronicles 29:11-12 (NLT)


If ever we needed a reminder that God is still in charge, it’s now. Whenever we look at the things that are going on around us, things that cause us to worry, to have anxiety, to be disheartened, dismayed or depressed, or maybe even angry, we need to keep our eyes and our hearts fixed on God. Fixed on Jesus.


As Christ-followers we are called to “live out our faith,” but we need to be rock-solid of what we are living out – on what our trust is built upon.


It’s time for each of us to take a close look at where we are actually putting our trust. We may need to repent, as I had to, and refocus on God, so we can truly say “In God We Trust."


Benediction: Romans 15:13

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 



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Updated: Oct 22, 2021


The following article was originally published in the Ashland Times-Gazette on 9/3/21.

(Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash)

 

As I was contemplating what to write for this article, my husband made a reference to an unlikely source of inspiration. I am not a golfer, but he is and one of his favorite things to do is watch YouTube golf videos. The video that he brought to my attention was titled, “How You Can Play CONSISTENT Golf!” He then stated that there could be an important life lesson to be learned from it.


The golf pro, Peter Finch, declares that one of the most common questions he is asked is how to become a more consistent golfer. He says that it has nothing to do with technique. He also states that “Golf is not a game of perfect. The only thing you have control over is how you think about shots, but more importantly, how you react to shots.” He recommends picking out a spot a few yards in front of you -- hit the shot, make a few remarks or gestures of reaction -- but once you cross that “line of no return,” you no longer think of or dwell on the shot. It’s in the past; it’s gone and you focus on the next shot.


He then makes this brilliant statement, “Consistency is not about hitting the ball perfect; consistency is about being able to play golf in the present without being hindered by the shots of the past. He declares “just think how much freer and how much more you’re going to enjoy your golf going forward.”


What does this have to do with life? There is a well-known verse in the Bible that states “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 (NLT) God has forgiven (removed) our bad shots in life or sins and has left them behind the line of “no return.” The phrase “as far as the east is from the west” means that they can never meet. If God has forgiven us of our sins, why do we keep bringing them up? We’ve been told to “forgive and forget.” We, as humans, have a hard time forgetting. Perhaps this means we should not allow our sins to hinder our present. Those sins need to stay behind the “line of no return” and we need to learn to leave our reactions to those bad shots there as well.


In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul says “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)


Just as “golf is not a game of perfect” neither is life here on earth. It is only with God’s gift of salvation and forgiveness, and His power in our lives that we can learn to leave our past behind the “line of no return.”


Here's a song about God's mercy and grace:



 



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