Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jesus of Nazareth

Have you seen the movie, Jesus of Nazareth? That has got to be my favorite depiction of the life of Christ. One of the best scenes for me is toward the end as Jesus is hanging on the cross. The camera spans around to find Joseph of Arimethea lurking near a wall. He begins to quote scripture which is prophecy that he, as a member of the religious leaders, would have read and known.

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken of God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:3-6 NIV

For the Christian, this means:

Christ's blood was shed, so we would not have to be separated from God.

Christ's resurrection  means we have eternal life.

Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. This means when we pray in Jesus' name and in line with His will, Jesus leans in to the Father and says: "Your child has prayed in line with Your will." And, God says: "Amen. Let it be so."

For the unsaved, consider this:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17 NIV

God wants you to accept this gift of his Son by believing in him. Why not consider accepting him as Savior and Lord, Leader and Boss this Easter season?

For those who have already made that decision:

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

This Easter season thank God again for not sparing his only Son so you might be reconciled to the Father.

Take the opportunity to share this with a lost friend, family member, or co-worker.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Madness at Crossreads

Real Faith
Faith is the bedrock of being a Christian. Few people would argue that fact.  However, I recently read something that caused me to go, "Hmm... I never thought about it like that."
The author of the piece pointed out that faith no longer seems to mean what it once did.  It, like so many other things and words in our society today, has been cheapened.  That cheapening affects not just our understanding of the word but also how we put it into practice in our lives.
There are five definitions for faith on  They are:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing
2. belief that is not based on proof
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit
5. a system of religious belief

Our basic problem in Christianity stems from the fact that the world has, in the minds of many, replaced the first definition with the second.
The first definition speaks about "trust."  The second only speaks about believing in something you cannot see.
Now don't misunderstand me.  The second is important.  The problem is when we completely supplant it for the first.
Let me offer it this way:  I can believe in God--i.e. believe He exists without trusting Him.
Merely believing that He exists gets us no farther on our faith walk than believing another person exists gets us married.  Yes, that belief in His existence is important, but you can believe God and Christ exist and not experience what Christian living is all about.
Because the belief in their existence is not what changes your life.  It is only in experiencing and living the first definition of faith that real Christianity and real faith begin to be manifested.
Once I clear the first hurdle of believing in God, the next leap of faith--trusting Him must be made or "Christian life" will feel exactly as "non-Christian life" felt.  It will still be all up to me.  I will continue to try to self-effort myself through life.
You see these types of Christians all the time.  They work and they do and they serve.  They are in the choir and on the finance counsel.  They run from church meeting to church meeting.  If they aren't exhausted yet, they soon will be.
I know.  I was one of those Christians.
It was only when God allowed my self-effort to prove to me how futile it was that I went seeking for another answer, and the Answer I found was in the first definition--in fully trusting God.  It was only when I began to fully trust God and Christ and stop relying on myself that I found what I had been searching for the whole time:  A victorious Christian walk etched in grace and forgiveness and love.
When I put that first definition into practice, I found that it really is as easy as just letting God love me and then giving that love to others.
It was only when I found real faith, rooted in the FIRST definition of faith that my life began to have meaning and peace and hope.  I believe that life is offered to everyone, just don't fall for the trap that believing in God's existence is enough.  You must take that second (albeit scary) step of fully trusting Him in every aspect of your life to experience the incredible freedom that God can in your spirit, your world, and your life.
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2012

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side. She is a #1 Best Selling Christian author and the founder of both Grace & Faith Author Connection and CrossReads--a site where Christian readers and authors can connect.

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Deep in the Heart
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Saturday, March 23, 2013

God Doesn't Call Stereotypes

Recently, I was asked by a pastor's wife to contribute to a book she is doing. I'll be sharing more about that book later as it comes about in the months to come. But, what I wrote to include in that book got me to thinking.

I have been a minister's wife since 1989 when my husband served in children's ministry, rec ministry, and education ministry. In 1994, my husband became a pastor, and I struggled with that new label of pastor's wife. I thought back to pastors' wives I had known growing up. I couldn't be like that! I was comparing myself to a stereotype.

The problem with that thinking was that God had not called me to be a stereotype.

Let me broaden this idea. So often we label ourselves by stereotypes and then try to live up to those standards. We do this in various roles from parenting to our career. We have to be "Super Mom" or "Super Dad." We have to reach a certain level in our career. We feel pressured to act a certain way or do certain activities.

Again, I reiterate: God has not called us to be stereotypes.

You were fearfully and wonderfully made. You are unique - not another person in the world has your specific personality, gifts, or talents. You were placed in this time to do what only you can do.

"I would have never guessed you were a pastor's wife."

When I first heard this, I wondered if it was a compliment or not. Now, I take it as one. God has made me unique. I'm not supposed to look and act like other pastors' wives.

What about you? Are you living according to some preconceived stereotype?

We as Christians aren't called to live according to a stereotype. We must live according to God's calling on our individual lives.

What I would really like to hear is: "I just knew you were a Christian!"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Out of the Pit

There are moments that we as Christians wonder where God is. He seems distant even when we pray earnestly for answers.

But, there are other times that He is so evident that you just want to shout.

For a few weeks I have been in that pit that I described two blog posts ago. A week ago, I ended up with some kind of stomach bug or something that put me in the bed unable to move. Even when I was finally able to get up and go back to work, I had no energy and no joy. I actually experienced a depression.

During that "low in the pit" time, I tried to follow the steps I laid out from my husband's sermon on Joseph. I pressed God for the lesson I was supposed to learn so I could move on with life. I tried to force the lesson, determining it must be about trust. But, that wasn't the answer.

When I decided to take my focus off my sickness, I think I discovered the answer. I so often let worry or sickness or fatigue or whatever circumstance I'm facing at the moment to become my focus. I can fix this. If I can't fix it, then I grieve over it and wallow in it.

But, God tells us in His Word that in this world there's a lot of junk we have to endure (Paula interpretation). He doesn't expect us to conquer it. He doesn't expect us to solve it. He doesn't even expect us to understand it.

Basically, when I threw up my hands and proclaimed: "God, I can't do this!" He said: "Finally."

Why is this a lesson I have to learn over and over? Surely by now, I should know that the best thing to do on my own is nothing. It's all Christ living in me and through me.

This past Sunday morning, my Scripture calendar read:
"Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all His benefits -
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all of your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."
Psalm 103:2-5

Yep, coming out of the pit and being renewed. Still learning.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Popes and Priests

As I watched the news on television announcing the new pope, I found myself thinking about my place in Christ. The New Testament proclaims Christians to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.

Before Christ's death on the cross and resurrection, God's people were represented to God through a priest. But, when Christ breathed His last and proclaimed that the work was finished, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom. This curtain separated the holy area that only priests had been able to access before. Now, it was as if God Himself ripped the curtain, allowing access for all His people.

The Message in First Peter chapter two says:
"But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted."

Now, because of Christ, I don't have to go through another person to talk with God. I have access to the Heavenly Father on my own through prayers offered on my own.

But, with privilege comes responsibility. I have to be holy which doesn't mean perfect or pure. It means separate, set apart, and different. Since I can know God through Christ, I have to live a set apart life in front of others. I have to tell others of the difference God made by saving me through the death of His Son.

I didn't have to have seventy-seven human votes to become a Christian with these privileges and responsibilities. I only needed to accept Jesus' sacrifice for me on the cross for the gap to be bridged between God and me.

Often I forget that chosen, royal priesthood, and holy should characterize me. But, thanks to God, I can access Him personally and read His Word for myself, so He might train me.

What does it mean to you to be chosen, a royal priesthood, and holy? Have you taken advantage of that torn curtain today to speak with your Heavenly Father?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." - Mother Teresa.

Can I get an amen?

My pastor/hubby is preaching through a series on Joseph on Sunday evenings. Last Sunday saw the poor boy in the pit. Then the sermon focused on being in a pit ourselves and what we should do. This was one of those times I felt the message was just for me.

I will raise my right hand high and declare: "Hello, my name is Paula, and I am currently in a pit!"

That gets step one out of the way - acknowledging it.

Now for step two - pray that God will help me learn from this pit. Ask Him if there's some lesson I'm to gain from being here.

I have been doing this step repeatedly. But, I have to constantly remind myself that God's timing and mine aren't always in sync.

The third step is to praise and worship Him not when He lifts me out but in the midst of the pit.

I've been doing this by continuing my morning quiet time and then listening to Christian music on the way to work and on the way home.

My daughter left the perfect CD in my car by singer, Kari Jobe. There are two songs in particular that I am wearing out.

If you haven't heard these then click on the below two links.

Kari Jobe - Steady My Heart

Kari Jobe - Here

These have been the best songs of encouragement for me while I've been in the pit.

Anybody else experiencing a pit party out there?

Try these prescribed steps from my hubby - and repeat until you're lifted out.

Remember, like I've been reminding myself: God is with you in the pit, He promised to see us through our pits not leave us there, we can learn valuable things while in the pit, and God can and will make good come from our pit.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Word of God

What do you believe about the Bible?

Is it God's Word?

Do you hold it in high esteem?

In my Mamaw Smith's Bible I found the following paragraphs glued inside the front cover:

This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.
Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveller's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter.
Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and hell disclosed. Christ is its grand object, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. Let it fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the judgment, and remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the highest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.  -Author Unknown

Well said, huh?

Too often I forget the Bible's importance in my life as a Christian. I either don't study it enough, or I read it halfheartedly. A Book like described above deserves my true devotion to read, to study and to follow.