John and I recently become reverse snowbirds. Leaving the
warmth of sunny Southern California behind to try our first cold winter
together in Iowa. It makes people curious enough to ask, “Why would you do
First, you would have to see and experience the remote lake
area where we live. Peaceful, beautiful, and teeming with wildlife. There is
nothing quite like waking up to watch a couple of young deer frolicking across
the lawn, or grabbing the camera to take a photo of a majestic bald eagle
perched in a neighbor’s tree, or endeavoring to look up that strange creature
we unexpectedly saw run across the back porch (a rarely seen bobcat). We’ve
lost count of the number of animals that frequent our property, but it includes
turkey, geese, raccoons, blue jays, cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, woodpeckers,
otter, beavers, muskrats, badgers, squirrels, chipmunks (affectionately called
“squinnies” in Iowa), foxes, turtles, snakes, and even evil looking bats.
Second, you would have to experience watching an Iowa storm
move in across the lake, in all its radiant glory, with lightening igniting the
sky. It takes your breath away at the very least, and at the most, can make you
wonder if your windows are going to hold back the forces of nature as you lay
on the floor hiding behind a large piece of furniture.
Third, and maybe I should have listed first, is the people.
Good, hard-working, easy-going, friendly Midwestern folks with a gift of
shooting the breeze and talking about the weather. There is hardly any
“rushing.” Coming from the hustle and bustle of living in busy Southern
California, it is refreshing to have a small town Iowa grocery clerk actually
make eye contact and ask you what you are going to make with that avocado you
are purchasing. We get a kick out of the two-finger wave and nod almost all drivers
on dirt roads give to each other while driving.
Ultimately, we decided it was just time for a change. A new
season in our life. It wasn’t an easy decision. Our daughters are still back in
California. But they are grown and developing their own lives now, blossoming
into beautiful young ladies. We plan to still see them frequently. It wasn’t
easy leaving our home church, the church where we got married, the church that
sent us on our first teaching mission trip. But near or far, they will remain
close in our hearts, like all our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the
world. We have a new home church now where we can already see God doing great
Earlier this year, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services unveiled a new policy now known at the “HHS Mandate.” The new Mandate would require nearly all private health insurance plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs—drugs that interfere with implantation in the womb and therefore destroy the life of a human being in the earliest stage of development. This Mandate is the result of Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” passed in 2010. Although the HHS Mandate provides an exemption for “religious employers,” the exemption is so narrow, most religious institutions providing health, educational or charitable services will have no protection. On February 10, 2012, responding to intense opposition from a broad spectrum of religious institutions all over the country, President Obama announced there would be an “accommodation” for religious institutions opposed to facilitating practices contrary to their moral teachings through their employee health plans. In the so-called accommodation, insurance companies—not the religious employers themselves—would be forced to pay for the abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. However, since any funds the insurance companies would use to make such payments ultimately come from the premiums paid by employers, the “accommodation” is nothing more than a kind of economic shell-game. The HHS Mandate violates freedom of conscience, a right that is guaranteed by the First Amendment and even several federal laws. The right to practice one’s religious beliefs is protected by The Bill of Rights. The Obama administration’s attempt to force all Americans to buy coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that induce abortion, is a radical incursion into freedom of conscience. Christians across the country are rising up in response to this unprecedented attack on religious liberty, freedom of conscience and the sanctity of life. Learn how you can get involved by speaking out and signing petitions by visiting Stand Up for Religious Freedom.
GOOD FRIDAY: Jesus said, "It is finished." (John 19:30)
Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross on Good Friday. He had
accomplished His mission. He came to earth, God in the flesh, born to
die for us--to offer forgiveness for our sins, and eternal intimate
relationship with God for those who believed. He invites us into the
Holy of Holies, to worship Him at the mercy seat, His throne of grace.
Do YOU believe?
This quote below is from Josh McDowell's website. http://www.josh.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/#MessedUp I thought it was so interesting and worth printing below.
Romans 14 is an excellent chapter for study in regard to making
decisions concerning various issues not addressed in the Bible. Since
most of what we do affects our relationships with others, study of this
passage may help you reach a Christ-like decision that is best for you
in your walk with the Lord, as well as your relationships with others.
Often it is easy to fall into the practice of passing judgment on
those whose thinking does not line up with our own regarding a
particular issue. Rather than pass judgment, we are to accept one
another (Romans 14:1). Matters of the conscience–those not strictly
addressed in the Bible–must be settled in relationship to God (14:4,
7-8, 12, 22). Our actions should not bring condemnation on us. We should
be completely convinced in our own mind concerning our convictions. If
we have heard God correctly, we will have a clear conscience. Pleasing
God is the determining factor for a clear conscience, not the opinions
of others. We are not to do anything without believing that it is right.
Everything that does not proceed from faith is sin (verse 23).
We are, however, to guard our influence. Verses 13, 20, 21 say not to
do anything that makes your brother stumble. Others are watching our
walk as a Christian, therefore, it is important to keep in mind the
higher law of love. The welfare of my brother is more important than my
rights. Verse 16, 17 say, “Do not allow what you consider good to be
spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and
drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The
kingdom of God requires real righteousness, personal integrity, loving
relationships with others, and a moral influence.
How do we resolve the conflict that may arise when we feel released
by the Lord to exercise our freedom to participate in an activity while
others feel just as strongly that such participation is unChristlike?
How do we accept others and refrain from passing judgment, yet still
guard our influence and not cause another to stumble? The answer is by
imitating Christ. What did Christ do? Obviously, we will encounter
situations in today’s society which Christ did not encounter, yet we can
always look to Him as our example for every decision. Look at the first
few verses of Romans 15. Jesus glorified the Father (15:5-7). He
accepted others (15:7). He became a servant of others on behalf of God’s
truth (15:8-12). When our life in relationship to others is in
conflict, imitate Christ.
A good motto to follow is, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials
liberty, in all things charity.” In Psalm 32:8, the Lord says that He
will lead you and guide you in the way that you should go. You can be
confident that He will make His will clear to you in this matter if you
are diligently seeking Him. It is your responsibility to follow the
leading of the Lord. Susannah Wesley said, “If anything hinders your
relationship with God, for you it is sin.”
Our place is to listen to what God says and not worry whether God is
dealing more or less strictly with a brother or sister in the Lord. Our
job is to hear and obey, not to judge.