He Needed to be Forgiven

Genesis 4-4

This past weekend we went to a new church plant. We went to support friends who are stepping boldly forward and answering the call of God saying, “Here I am, send me.” We went to support a friend looking for a place to worship. 
But, I had no idea that what would happen in that little service would tear open our hearts, clean us out and fill us with the water of life. Quenching that insatiable thirst and yet leaving me craving, praying, worshiping all day, like I could never get quite enough. 

And it all came out of the mouths of babes. 

Cain and Abel

Adam[a] made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth[c] a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you

But, God was doing something greater. 

The pastor, asked the congregation, “What was the difference between Cain’s offering and Abel’s. And we thought it was rhetorical. We know the story. We get that it was a heart issue. Yet no one offered to put themselves out there and answer the question. 

But one young boy raised his hand. 

In the sweetness of his seven years, he shyly put together the words, “He knew he had sinned and needed to be forgiven.”

……

He (Abel) knew he needed to be forgiven.

I still have to soak that one in. 

You see, as many times as I ever heard this story… as many times have I have recounted it’s meaning. I have never once thought of Abel, the son who brought the best offering as a broken sinning soul. 

I have never once thought that Abel, understood something about the disconnect of sin, and the need for atonement. The longing for restoration and connection with God. 

I thought Abel had it all figured out. I thought he was the good boy who knew how to do the right things. That he was so pure of heart that he never messed up. 

But, today a sweet seven-year-old boy taught me a lesson. Abel, was bringing that sacrifice, bringing the best of what he had to the Living God, not because he had already done all the right things, but because he wanted to be restored. He needed to be forgiven. He needed to be right with God. 

yeah. 

 

~Rita

 

The One

Luke 15-4

Most know I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love it because it allows me to stay in contact with far away friends and family, who otherwise I would not hear from except for the annual Christmas card. I love that it allows us to peek into each others lives and remember that none of us are alone in our struggles. I love that it has given me and this wonderful ministry as a platform to share God’s word and his love for all people. Of course there are many things I don’t love about it, but for today, lets just stick to the positives.

It was because of the blessing of social media I was able to witness baptism of someone I once knew growing up. This proclamation of faith and baptism has stuck with me and I have been rejoicing over it for days. You see, though I don’t really know this person anymore, I did know of the love and prayer and continual reaching out of this persons family. A family who both knew Christ and who was new to a personal relationship with Christ. I knew this person needed Jesus too.
So, it was such a wonderful surprise when the video of this baptism popped up in my news feed. My heart literally stopped as I heard the confession of faith and watched in awe that someone who I had no idea was looking, yet I knew soooo needed Jesus shared the testimony of how God had intervened in their life, And here they were getting baptized, not just this person but his children as well! Can we get a Hallelujah in here!!!

It got me thinking about what Western Days Ministries is all about. You see, even though this ministry had nothing to do with leading this person to the Lord, we rejoice because of the ONE.
Our theme has always been, “Gather’n the Strays.” Though we love putting on events that are family friendly, that seek to draw the community together and unite churches, it is really all about the one. That one person who thinks they have no hope, that one person who needs to hear that God loves them. That one person who feels, …lost.
I’ve heard it over and over, since the beginning of this ministry that if what we do brought just one person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then it was worth it!

The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Luke 15:1-7

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons
who do not need to repent.

This is our Calling. Leaving the ninety-nine and going to look for that one. 

The question is, will you join us?

~Rita

Living Well

1 Corinthians 9-24-25

There are many things in life that seem so far out of control. When a new mother prepares to give birth, she has no control over the day or time that her baby will be born. Thus on the other end of life, we have no control over day or way a person’s life here on earth ends. 

Last week I made a trek to the mountains of Southern California, to honor the life of my grandfather who had passed away. It was a time to mourn and a time to reflect.

Death, to me, is still one of the most unnatural parts of life. I don’t believe that mankind was created to die. God’s original design for us was to live and to thrive in His beautiful earth creation, and to have direct fellowship with us. Unfortunately sin broke that fellowship and the consequence of death was introduced to our once perfect existence.

This morning as I start my day, I find myself reflecting and remembering the funeral service for my grandfather, and trying hard to store the memory and the stories of the extraordinary life of this man. I also find myself pondering about living life well. A value that my grandfather truly embodied, and a desire he clearly had passed on to his children and now grandchildren.

I suppose this is the mercy of death. As someone we love passes on, we cannot help but look at the way we are using the time God has given us here on earth. Facing the reality that our lives are so temporal. That we truly are but a vapor. It causes us to take time to realign priorities and remind ourselves to live with purpose.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last,
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians  9:24-25

 I’m sure many of us have read this Scripture before. Is this not the goal? Is the idea of finishing the race, and getting the prize what we put our focus to when we read these verses?

But what about the in-between? I know, at least for me, I get distracted easily. Life has many urgent moments and moments where we get into survival mode. There is so much going on that if we are not careful, if we do discipline ourselves, we can very quickly go from living well, to just trying to get to the other side.

Now, I’m no runner. But I am a horsewoman, and I did compete for several years. In my experience it was sometimes very hard to not rush the horses I was bringing along. I had goals, and those goals were admirable and even good, but I was often tempted to take a shortcut and/or push the horse to do more than he was physically prepared to do. I would forget the benefits of developing my horse slowly, and carefully. My vision would get clouded and I would loose sight of the goal of not only winning, but of improving the connection I had with my horse. The connection which was developed in all the moments in-between and before the competition. The connection which was properly developed when we trained with self-discipline. Which in the end made the winning much easier.

Even as a parent I can see the pressure to hurry through the childhood of my children. It takes an extreme amount of patience  to not rush my kids through their school, or tying their shoes to get out the door. I must remember that all those little moments in-between matter. That I am training them in matters greater than the task at hand. I must be aware that how I respond to these in-between moments decides the outcome of the end moments.

With the destination as our focus, the journey will seem to be in the way. Living well goes deeper than that. It is the time in-between the goals that count. The moments leading up to the completion of the race that determine the outcome. So remember, you are in training. Live well so that you will receive that prize that will last forever.

~Rita

 

 

 

Equipped

Eph 2-10

When I started a little blog 6 years ago to share our adventures as ranch hands in Montana, I had no idea if I would make it past the first post. I had never been a writer before. If I’m completely honest I barely paid attention to my language arts lessons in school. Who needs to know how to structure a sentence, anyway? I was probably the only senior in high school I know who still had a speller to work on. Though I always loved literature, I was never known as the “Creative one.” Goodness, I still struggle to make up fairy tales for the kids! So, believe me when I say, no one is more surprised than I am to find myself writing.

I think often when we think of our lives, and especially in our spiritual walk, that everything must fit in its little box. Then on each little box, we mark ourselves finished, and when opportunities arrive we are oh so quick to say, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” or “Sorry, that is not my gifting.” We judge that just because we have never been able to do something before, it means we will never be equipped or qualified to do anything more.

I know it is so much easier to point out our faults. Honestly, if you asked me, I still struggle with calling myself a writer. I still am not a great speller (thank the good Lord for spell-check) and  when I go back and re-read my work I often see all those grammatical errors that probably cause all your toes to curl. Even when I google how to correctly place a semi-colon, I still second guess if I’m doing it right. Yet, it seems like all day long words are filling my head, and eventually they meet a point with God’s word and suddenly they spill onto the page and before I know what I’ve done, I’ve written something. This is certainly not something within my nature or natural ability, it is a gift from God. 

You’ve I’m sure heard the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” Well, what if we believed that? What if, when we first feel that burning in our hearts to do something for the Lord, that we really believed that he can equip us to complete the work?

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10

When God formed you in your mothers womb, you were not a mistake. When he knit you together in the hidden places, he already had a purpose in mind and a plan for your life. 

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16

He already knew every gift you would have, and He knows every gift yet to be bestowed upon you. Our job is to have faith that He will complete it. Not for our gratification and fulfillment, but for His.

~Rita

From the Past

It was a little more than a year ago when I wrote this post on my personal blog. While I don’t write there much any more, this popped up in my memories recently. I find it a fitting thing to share as it is as true today as it was then. Each day offers so many opportunities. Some I take up with gusto and others that I choose to let slip away. It is a journey, a process always. 

~Rita

No Regrets


  
 There’s been this glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. The peek of which looks like I get enough sleep at night, and can wake and have quiet time before the girl announces, “It’s morning!” It’s a beautiful thing…. Except, that it is not always. There are still many nights where I do not get enough sleep for one …or four reasons. And though, my self discipline is improving, I still hit the snooze quite often.
On these mornings I confess, I am usually in a less than chipper mood. There’s something about that cheerful greeting on those mornings, which seem more akin to a rooster crowing at midnight than a sweet voice to welcome the day.  It’s not that I’m not a morning person. I really do love the morning. I love getting up early. But, I suppose I just like to do it at my own pace. You get that right?

Anyway, so this particular morning was one of the latter. I had barely crawled out of bed before her morning greeting. I had just cracked my Bible open and  took a breath, and there it was: “It’s Morning!” Thud. Her feet hit the floor, and the day was running.

I am now behind. If I’m honest, I was never really ahead. But now I am surely behind. Unable to keep up with all the requests and needs of the people in my care.
I find myself snapping and correcting in tones much harsher than I even want to deliver them. I see the wounded eyes. Those souls just wanted a gentle beginning to their day, just as I wanted a gentle beginning to mine.

I grab for my escape. Just a moment to recharge, and catch a breath. I announce, “I’m heading out to do chores.” I am met with a chorus of voices wanting to join me. Really?! Even after the absolute bear I’ve been they still want to be around me. I huff a sigh, and reroute my plans. Quickly grabbing breakfast orders and making each what they like. We rush through breakfast and into clothes and –Sorry ponies, your breakfast is going to be late.– We eventually all get out the door.

It hits me right about the moment I suck in that first breath of moist winter air that this is precisely what we all needed. They knew. I don’t know why I’m so slow to catch on? We need to be together outside every day. It just works for us. I often feel there just isn’t time. But, the reality is. There has always been time. Sometimes, I just choose not to take it.

My pondering’s lately have been on regrets. Reading things and hearing stories about what people regret, but also, about things that one will never regret. And the latter has me absolutely fascinated. You see, I don’t believe for one minute that anyone can live without regret. We can certainly learn to make peace with our regrets, but the fact is we all have them. What is interesting however, is that we all have the opportunity to do things that we will never regret. Sure I regret being grumpy with my children this morning. But, I will never regret playing outside with them today. I will never regret reading them that “one more,” story. I will never regret saying, “I’m sorry.” I will never regret sitting down and having that heart to heart about their, or my attitude. So, I’m wondering what would happen this year if I paid more attention, and sought to do the things I know we will never regret?

An interesting experiment, I think.

 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23 21

Applying S.O.A.P. to God’s Word

john-6-35

For some (myself included) studying the Bible can seem like a daunting task. There is so much to think about: context, theology, relevance for the original audience, relevance for us today, etc… It can be quite intimidating to think that we can not only read God’s word, but understand it and apply it to our lives.

Of course there are thousands of great resources out there to help us along our journey. But, again the intimidation factor weighs in. …and sometimes the time factor does too. For however much we love spending time with our Lord, we humans have a knack for over scheduling our days. This may not leave us a ton of time to dig deep into theological works or studies (And just so you know, I’m talking to myself here too.)

On the other hand perhaps it is not the depth of study or time that concerns you, it is the fact that you have gotten into a rut of sorts. Perhaps you’re in a season where study of the Word is more like a task on your check list of things to do. A time where the still small voice of the Holy Spirit seems more still than speaking… I’ve been there too.

The point is: whenever we seem a little lost when it comes to God’s word there might just be a few simple adjustments we can make.

The first suggestion is an easy one: find an online Study group. There are a bunch out there. I’ve been a part of several over the years and find them to be an awesome resource and encouragement. There is also a wealth of books on the market that vary in depth as well as subject. I don’t think I need to go into more detail on these as it is pretty easy to understand how they work.

For those of you who wish to study God’s word as he leads you, independent of a study guide. Yet not really knowing where to start or how to go about it; I can suggest a few things you may find helpful.

Pray. Pray that God would lead you in some area of study. If you are really bold, pray God would reveal something that he would like you to work on or an area in your life that needs adjustment. But, be warned – He will answer.

Another option is to just start at the beginning.  I currently am doing this. I love neat packaged studies as much as the next gal. But, right now I have this hunger to feast on Gods word. All of it. I want to know what the whole of Gods word says. I’ll be honest; for though I have read a lot of it, I haven’t read all of it. Especially the Old Testament. I mean it has Leviticus, and Numbers falls right after that! Sorry, those books have just always been a bit intimidating to me. See? The struggle is real.

But, what if you are not used to consuming great amounts of God’s word? It can be daunting can’t it? It can be hard to focus. Believe me I know. We as a culture are rewarded for our ability to multi-task. It is considered a great achievement. So, it does take some reprogramming of the mind and heart to simplify in this area. But, don’t we hunger for that? For a life that is simpler? Less chaotic? less noisy? I know I do. And the one place that I find this solace is in God’s word.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16

Without daily immersion in God’s word I believe we easily open ourselves to walking with a fractured connection to him.

So tip #1 Plan to read God’s word and put on the same level of importance as you do eating or brushing your teeth. It really needs to be high on the list of important things we do daily.

But, how do we study it? What if we have a hard time understanding it? What if you don’t have commentaries or a great library of resources at your fingertips?

Let’s talk about those resources for a minute. While commentaries are wonderful and someday I dream of having a whole library of amazing resources. You really can start without them and still learn and glean so much. Most of the time I use the same Study Bible I got as a high school graduation gift. Add a notebook and pen and I’m ready to get started.

I learned a couple of helpful acronyms a few years ago that help me with Bible Study. One is S.O.A.P. and the other is T.A.N. Used together these little prompts can enrich your study time and help with the focus and navigation of God’s word.

First S.O.A.P. This acronym stands for S-Scripture, O-Observation, A-Application and P-Prayer.

S-Scripture: The way this works, is first you read whatever passage of Scripture God has led you to. In this method you can choose short passages or whole chapters or books, it’s up to you. Just read. However, when a verse or passage speaks to you that is where you’ll stop. And by “speaks to you” I mean: sparks your interest, makes you curious, inspires, brings a question to mind, etc… These are the ways I believe God begins to speak with us through his word.

Next re-read that verse or passage and copy it down. This is important. I think there is something that happens when we write Gods word. I almost always see something I didn’t before.

O-Observation: As you are writing and reading the passage that you have written, this is where you begin to observe what God is saying. This is also where that other acronym T.A.N. comes into play. T.A.N. stands for: T – Then, A-Always, N-Now.

Now, I’m just going to go out on a limb and say something. I personally think one of the worst questions you can ask when reading Gods word is: “What does this mean to me?”
Honestly, I don’t really think it matters what the Bible “means to me.” What matters is, what is God really saying? So, using the T.A.N. acronym will help us in our observation of God’s word. So, here is where we ask: Who was this scripture for THEN? Who was the intended audience? If you have a Study Bible, the notes should be able to give you some sort of clue as to who this passage of scripture was originally intended for. Next, consider the ALWAYS. What is this passage of scriptures timeless message? And then Consider the NOW: how does this passage relate to our world today?
What you glean can be as short as a phrase or God may lead you into some deep observation, but it is important to write it down.

After we have spent some time in observation of a passage or verse, we can move onto the A-Application: This is where we glean from our observation of what God is saying through his word and apply it to our lives.  It might be simple and short or deep and thoughtful. This is where we record God’s movement in our heart. Try to write it down, especially if you are feeling the call to make some changes. Writing will help you with your accountability to let God work in your life.

Finally, P-Pray: Pray God’s word back to him. Pray about what you have been learning. Pray that God will show you more. Pray as God leads you. This is the only area that I say it is up to you to write it down. I sometimes find writing my prayers helpful, but sometimes I have so much to say or confess that I could fill volumes, so I don’t write everything I pray. Also, don’t forget to listen. Speak to God certainly, but at some point during your prayer time take a moment to be still. Let Him have a word edgewise. Let His peace fill your heart. Let Him guide you along the path.

Well, I hope you find these idea’s helpful. Most importantly know that it really doesn’t matter the method you use to study God’s word. What is important is that you pursue the study of it. God wants you to grow and mature in Him, we cannot do that if we are not feeding our souls on a regular bases.

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:32-35

~Rita

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More on the S.O.A.P method of Bible Study:
http://lovegodgreatly.com/lgg/how-to-soap/
http://www.soapstudy.com/