Category Archives: Salvation

Biblical teaching on how to become a Christian

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Would You Have Liked Mr. Rogers for Your Neighbor?

Now that I’ve seen the 2018 documentary about his life, I’d have loved having Mr. Rogers live next door! How about you? He was kind, gentle, faithful to his wife, respectful of all human beings—especially children—and a loving father.  According to everybody interviewed, Fred Rogers wasn’t just “putting on a show.” He was genuine and transparent…just as gentle and thoughtful at home as he was on T.V. As he explained:  “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self.”

Were you a fan? To be honest, I have never actually seen even one of Fred Roger’s 895 episodes of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, which ran from 1968-2001, but my husband did, and I’m guessing if you were born any time after 1960, you probably enjoyed at least some of them.  I stopped watching T.V. in 1962 when I became a Christian at age 12, not because anyone told me to stop, but because I felt like what I was watching wasn’t making me a better person, and I’d become a little addicted to fantasy.  Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, was aghast the first time he saw T.V. and made a mission out of trying to provide calm, quality programming for children that reached into their hearts and helped guide them through the often confusing and frightening challenges of life. “I got into television because I hated it so. And I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen” (Fred Rogers).Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister and an unlikely person to vie with the world for children’s attention. As his producer, Margy Whitmer, mused, “We had a director who once said to me, ‘If you take all of the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’: low production values, simple set, an unlikely star. . .Yet it worked, because it was saying something really important’.” Mister Rogers wanted children to feel secure and comfortable, so he always started the show by “coming home” and trading in his coat and street shoes for a comfortable cardigan (hand-knit by his mom) and tennis shoes.Through his trusty puppet, Daniel Tiger, he would share the concerns and problems that all children face…feeling unloved, sad, afraid, and vulnerable, etc. Fred was also passionate about teaching deep truths to children, such as the equality of all people and the importance of sharing and loving everyone. A gifted musician, Fred composed and played the music for his programs, most of which dealt with issues the children faced, and all of which expressed hope and the desire for peace and goodwill toward all. Although Mr. Rogers was never explicit about his faith, according to Rev. George Wirth, a fellow minister and friend, “He was a community builder. The neighborhood was symbolic of Fred Rogers’ desire for people to live together in peace, with respect and love and affirmation, and, when things go wrong, forgiveness and reconciliation.”  There were many clues to Mr. Roger’s faith. Not only was he faithful in his own church attendance, he named his two sons “James” and “John.”  According to Junlei Li, co-director of the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania: “He wasn’t doing that [not being overt about his faith] to hide his Christian identity. I think Fred was very adamant that he didn’t want any viewer — child or adult — to feel excluded from the neighborhood.”  Another quote that I appreciated was found in LifeZette: “Ultimately, ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ was a show about hope and reconciliation, a word Li said meant a lot to Rogers. He wanted to mend broken relationships: between people, between humans and the environment, even — though he never made it explicit — between humans and their Creator” (https://www.lifezette.com/2018/07/the-undeniable-faith-of-wont-you-be-my-neighbor/). The only thing that made me sad about the entire movie was his widow reflecting on Fred’s deathbed concern over whether or not he was truly one of God’s sheep who would get into heaven. She tried to reassure him, and I suspect she was right, but for anyone who reads this and also feels unsure, I want you to know that the Bible offers us assurance that we can know we’re one of God’s sheep and on our way to heaven.My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). Have you asked God to forgive you for your sins? Do you believe in Jesus as your Savior…as the sacrificial lamb who died in your place? Are you listening for his voice? Are you following him? If so, then I  hope you can find peace in knowing that you are God’s sheep and have eternal life. If you have another minute or two, here are a few quotes that I love. All but the last one are by Fred Rogers:

“Parents are like shuttles on a loom. They join the threads of the past with threads of the future and leave their own bright patterns as they go.”

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” (That doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to change, but that He loves us now and calls us to love others now too!)

“How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us.”

“I think of discipline as the continual everyday process of helping a child learn self-discipline.”

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

“He really mentored me over years to show me how I could use fame as a force for positive social change and not a weight around my neck.” Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.  Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:27-29).

 

 

 

 

Drawing Lines

“God can draw a straight line with a crooked pencil” (passed on by Michael Faas, CEO of Metro Health). Last weekend Alan and I enjoyed attending Metro Health-University of Michigan Health’s annual fundraiser, this year to raise money to assist cancer patients…which is near and dear to our hearts!  We sat next to the CFO of Mel Trotter Rescue Mission, which is an outreach to the homeless in our area. Anybody can get free meals at Mel Trotter, but you earn the privilege of spending the night there by listening to a one-hour service where the gospel is preached.  Their current CFO was  one of the founding fathers of Pinnacle Bank, but instead of golfing in Florida, he’s spending his retirement years helping keep this great ministry (Mel Trotter) solvent! I am so grateful for people like this sweet couple! For about ten years when our kids were young and we had a “family band,” we helped out by providing music and a message about once a month down at Mel Trotter, and then I taught the ladies’ Bible study on Wednesday mornings for several more years, but we haven’t done anything since.  😦 Especially honored that evening was Michael Faas, who is retiring as the CEO after twenty-five years of faithful service to the hospital and our community. He could have talked about how wonderful he is, but instead he talked about how wonderful the incoming CEO is! I’ve never met Michael Fass personally, but I admired what he had to say, and he passed along one bit of wisdom that I hope I never forget: “God can draw a straight line with a crooked pencil.”  Isn’t that a beautiful thought? I can’t tell you how many times I saw lives transformed by the grace of God at Mel Trotter over the years. Conversions from alcoholism, drugs, and desperate situations are really undeniable miracles.  But, you know what? Those transformations are no more miraculous than the undeniable miracle God works in each one of us when we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior! We are all “crooked pencils” by birth…unable to perceive 100% truth or walk a truly straight line. Today is my 68th birthday, and I want to tell you that without Jesus as my Savior and the Bible as my moral compass, I’d be so lost! I’m still a “crooked pencil,” but I pray that God will use me to draw straight lines. Also, I’m thankful to be alive today! Thank you, Father, for sending your Son to die for us so that we can all have two birthdays: the day of our birth here on earth, and the day we are born again into everlasting life!

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:3-7)

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).

CITYFEST: Let’s Remember!

Grand Rapids’ Ah-Nab-Awen Park was overflowing with thousands of Christians and seekers in search of fun and spiritual life this past weekend.  Some 450 churches and Christian organizations worked together to provide a weekend festival of family-friendly activities and entertainment, carnival-style booths with food (for sale) and lots of (free) information,  worship music, and great messages by Luis and Andrew Palau.  Alan and I came in time to see some incredibly daring stunt riders  doing flips and flights on their motorbikes. Over the course of the weekend, there were about a dozen famous Christian singers and bands sharing music and great stories of faith from their lives.

The high point for me was hearing the message by Andrew Palau, the son of evangelist Luis Palau. Andrew said that until he was 27, he ran away from God and tried to deny His existence, although the net effect was to become a frustrated, unhappy alcoholic. I’m not sure the circumstances of his conversion, but he shared that later he and his entire family were in a plane crash where an American Airlines jet broke into 3 pieces on a beach in Jamaica. Everyone survived, but from that day on, he realized the uncertainty of life, the certainty of death, and the importance of sharing the fact that God offers eternal life to everyone who will put their trust in Jesus. At the end, there was an invitation for people to join in a prayer of repentance and confession, and a sea of lights twinkled on when the opportunity was given to express a need for God’s help. It was a beautiful weekend, and an unforgettable evening, and I’d like to ask for Christians to continue praying for everyone who came to Christ that night.If you didn’t happen to be in Grand Rapids last weekend or make it to CITYFEST but are interested in hearing the message on “How to Get to Heaven” or would like reading materials to help you grow in your faith, you can access these resources here:

https://www.palau.org/

Also, I was also happy to hear that a movie is coming out next month (October) about the life of Luis Palau, who—as a little boy in Argentina—came to faith and has spent a lifetime sharing his joy in the Lord around the world. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s the link to the movie:

https://www.palauthemovie.com/

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:30-31

Would you like to become a Christian? If so, just ask! Pray something like this:

Dear God,

Thank you for loving me so much that you sent Christ to die for my sins, and the sins of everyone in the world. Thank you for the promise that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their savior from sin will not perish but will have everlasting life. I know that I have sinned and broken your laws many, many times. I believe that Jesus died in my place, to pay for my sins, and that you will forgive me based on what Jesus has done for me. I give my life to Jesus, asking him to become not only my savior but my lord. I gratefully accept the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. Thank you! Thank you for loving me and forgiving me. Thank you also for the precious gift of your Holy Spirit to guide me into all righteousness and goodness. Thank you for the Bible to teach me your truths. Help me to pray, to read your Word, the Bible, and to find other believers so that we can encourage each other in our faith. I love you! Amen.

 

Come Celebrate CITYFEST: It’s All Free!

If you’re going to be in Grand Rapids this weekend, I’d like to invite you to join in the joy of CITYFEST Saturday and Sunday at Ah-Nab-Awen Park (just across from the Gerald R. Ford Museum at 198 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). There will be lots of exciting music by award-winning bands like TobyMac and Mac Powell, some thrilling (I hope not too scary) BMX and FMX demos, a “fun zone,” and great gospel presentations by Luis and Andrew Palau.

Here’s the link to CITYFEST’s homepage and a 60-second promo: http://www.cityfestwestmichigan.org/

Check it out, and if you’ve got some time this weekend, I hope you join in and bring a friend!

And he [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

 

I Can Only Imagine…Can You?

I Can Only Imagine is not only  one of the world’s most popular songs today, it’s been made into a fantastic movie sharing the painful life story of composer Bart Millard and his abusive father, who was transformed by the power of God’s forgiveness and love. The beauty of  I Can Only Imagine (2018, newly released to video, PG, IMDb 7.4), is in understanding the change that really can occur in someone who gives their life to Christ.             The movie is deeply moving, and I wish everybody could see it! We watched it on Father’s Day, and it would make a wonderful father-son bonding event (particularly if there’s been any strain in their relationship).  As Bart has explained in various interviews,“I got a front row seat to see this guy go from being a monster to falling desperately in love with Jesus.” “By the time he passed away when I was a freshman in college, not only was he my best friend, he was like the Godliest man I’d ever known.” “It’s literally changed the trajectory of my life.” “I guess I grew up thinking that if the Gospel could change that guy, it could change anybody. There was no denying it.”There were a few things that didn’t come out in the movie that I want to add, because it made some of the puzzle pieces fit together in my mind. Bart’s father didn’t drink (the usual precursor to abuse), but he suffered a closed-head injury at work that left him extremely impulsive (a common side-effect of closed-head injuries). Bart’s father never beat his mother, although he smashed everything she treasured, and he didn’t abuse Bart until after the mother left. (As a mother, I couldn’t imagine leaving my child undefended with an abusive father.)The chronology of events is also not exact. Bart’s father came to faith in Christ after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while Bart was still at home. It was during his high school years, while Bart cared for his father, that he learned how to forgive through God’s mercy and formed a wonderful bond with his dad. One of the happiest discoveries from research was finding that the love story between Bart and Shannon was probably very true.

They’ve been married now for 20+ years and have five lovely children!
(The romance is so special…reminded me just a little of Alan’s and mine.)If you get a chance, please watch it! I think it will touch your soul!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

“I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I…”  (—Bart Millard)

Are You The Same Kind of Different As Me?

When Same Kind of Different as Me came out last October (2017), one of my friends told me that I’d love it and to watch for it. So, when it came up on the play list during a recent flight to Hawaii, it was the first thing I watched!  Same Kind of Different as Me is based on the New York Times’
best selling memoir by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  Ron, a successful art dealer in Fort Worth, Texas,  is married to Debbie,
a woman “with a heart bigger than the whole state of Texas.”

When their marriage almost ends, they embark together on a mission to serve others that’s prompted by a dream Debbie has one night. The story is full of suspense, pain and healing… the transformation of men and women by the power of love.

It all started in a rescue mission in the slums of Dallas, Texas  but has expanded to inspire millions to help with the homeless in America.

In an interview, I heard Denver say something to this effect: “The movie tells the story of a nobody who shares the good news with everybody that Somebody can save anybody.”  Here’s another wonderful quote from Dallas’ obituary (after the book was written): “Miss Debbie saw through all the anger and confusion and saw straight to his heart,” Mr. Hall recalled. “It was like the old hymn he used to sing on the plantation, ‘When nothing else would help, love lifted me, love lifted me.’ He said it was her love that gave him hope and reason to change.” (https://www.dallasnews.com/obituaries/obituaries/2012/04/08/denver-moore-homeless-man-turned-inspiring-author-and-speaker-dies-at-75)

Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

Love Lifted Me
(by James Rose, 1912, public domain)

  1. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
    Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
    But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
    From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

    • Refrain:
      Love lifted me!
      Love lifted me!
      When nothing else could help,
      Love lifted me!
  2. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
    In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
    Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
    Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.
  3. Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
    He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves;
    He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
    He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.

Have You Found Messiah in the Passover?

      Yesterday Christians around the world celebrated Easter, and so did we!  The most common Christian traditions are attending church as a family, a special festive dinner together, and an Easter egg hunt, where everyone searches for brightly-colored Easter eggs (usually hard-boiled chicken eggs). . .       as well as various types of candy, in particular, chocolate Easter bunnies!  We enjoyed all these activities, and it was a wonderful time of worship and celebration. However, what many Christians (and Jews) don’t realize is that the day Jesus was crucified—which we call Good Friday—is also the Feast of Passover for Jews. And, Easter Sunday—when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ— is also the Feast of First Fruits.   Did you know that? If you’re like me, you may not have known this, or at least fully appreciated the significance of these facts. Jesus was the Passover Lamb. God provided his own son as the sacrificial lamb, like the ram God provided for Abraham nearly 4,000 years ago to substitute for his son Isaac. The Passover lamb, sacrificed by the Israelites 3,500 years ago on the night before they fled Egypt, looked forward to the time when the Lamb of God would be sacrificed, once for all, to bring each of us from spiritual bondage and death into freedom and spiritual, eternal life. That is the day when Jesus died on the cross.  Messiah in the Passover, edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, is a landmark reference book for the Church to connect us to our spiritual roots, deepen our love for God, the Jewish people and our Messiah, and to teach us how to “experience the joy of celebrating Messiah in the Passover in our own homes and churches.”

Nearly eighteen scholars contribute chapters explaining the fulfillment of Old Testament patterns in the life of Christ, shedding brilliant light on the symbolism surrounding the life and death of Jesus as the Messiah and giving even more depth to our understanding of communion, which was first established at the time of our Lord’s last supper (which was also the Passover Seder that Jews still celebrate today).

As one outstanding example of what the book teaches: One of the central aspects of the Jewish Seder involves taking three sheets of matzah (unleavened bread) and inserting them in three compartments of a special bag, known as the matzah tash. At one point in the evening ritual, the father (or leader) takes the middle sheet of matzah and breaks it in two. He replaces half but wraps the other half in a white napkin and hides it somewhere in the house. (As a game, the children are supposed to look for it.)   This hidden half is known as the afikoman, which is found and distributed in small pieces to everyone as “dessert” after the meal, but it’s literal derivation is from the Greek and means “the one who has come,” a clear reference to the Messiah. Matzah is a flat bread, made without any leaven (which is symbolic of sin in the Bible). It is also striped and pierced. For Christians, the symbolism cries out so loudly it gives me goosebumps! The three matzahs are perfectly symbolic of the triune nature of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The middle sheet is broken and half of it is hidden. Jesus was crucified and buried. After three days (at the end of the meal), he “comes again” (is  resurrected) and distributed to all. Jesus was like the matzah. He was sinless (without leaven). He was striped (lashed) and pierced (by the nails and sword). He was hidden for three days but then rose again.  His life has been distributed to all who will accept it. As Jesus said at the Last Supper, “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you (Luke 18:19-20). What a clear message: Jesus was the Messiah, offering himself as the Passover Lamb, crucified on the Passover, and raised again on the Feast of First Fruits. If you are Jewish or have Jewish friends, this makes the Gospel so accessible. May we all find Messiah in the Passover!   Beyond many very scholarly articles explaining the Old and New Testament teaching about the Messiah, there are a couple of chapters dedicated to sharing everything you need to know about how to conduct your own Passover Seder. There are complete recipes for all the most common dishes (I published one for Matzah Ball Soup two days ago), and they give permission to anyone who would like to run off copies of the order of service for their personal use. There are additional resources available at their website:

https://www.messiahinthepassover.com/

Think about it! I hope you get the book and learn more about finding Jesus, the Messiah, in the Passover. Next year, I’m hoping either to participate in a Seder or hold my own! As Gentile believers, I think we’re missing out on a great blessing if we fail to enjoy this marvelous feast that God gave (all of) his children thousands of years ago. Let’s connect with our spiritual roots and begin enjoying the privileges of His communions!

Speaking of the Messiah (and fulfilled in Christ), the Bible records: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

(Last photo shared by my spiritual sister, Elizabeth, from her family Seder. It’s not exactly like the one you can download from  https://www.messiahinthepassover.com/  but serves as a lovely example! Thank you, Elizabeth! Our German daughter, Gerlinde, taught us one of the German Lutheran traditions of sharing a lamb cake to teach that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Next year, Gerlinde and I are hoping to organize a Good Friday Seder for our family as well! Thank you, Gerlinde!)