Bible Study

Messages of Encouragement

with Pastor Edith Bleecker

Page Two

Quick and Slow

February 17, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

James 1:19-21

This week I am reviewing a very familiar passage of scripture that always makes be stop and say “oops, I blew it again”. It comes to us from the book of James, which many scholars believe was written by James, the brother of Jesus. Eugene Peterson in his introduction to the book of James writes: “…Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential. Wisdom is not primarily knowing the truth, although it certainly includes that; it is skill in living. For what good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it? What good is an intention if we can’t sustain it? According to church traditions, James carried the nickname ‘Old Camel Knees’ because of thick calluses built up on his knees from many years of determined prayer. The prayer is foundational to the wisdom. Prayer is always foundational to wisdom” (The Message).

James 1:19-21: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (NIV).

I would imagine I am not the only one that this verse stings. The reason I say that is from many years of living with people. People who, like me, didn’t stop to think before they spoke. People, like me, who felt what they had to say was more important than what someone else was trying to say and didn’t even listen when the other person was stating their case. Yep, the book of James can be a stinger, but, sometimes you have to feel a little sting to remind yourself what to avoid. It would seem from Eugene Peterson’s introduction that the way to check the wisdom of what we are saying and or listening to, is to be in prayer before we speak and before we choose to listen or not.

Bring on the Camel Knees!

AMEN!

Go Back to Step #1

February 09, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Matthew 5:14-16

Have you ever wondered if there is a method to the madness of our culture? What I want to know is if there is any evidence of a systematic evolution and/or dissolution to our “American Way”? I came across an article that was published in a newsletter from another local church back in February 2016. It seems the pastor then was concerned about this very issue and was doing a series of sermons and teachings on “Christian America”. What follows is a part of the article that contains a quote from Alexander Tyler back in 1787 and I find it striking at the heart of my question: “The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence –

1) From bondage to spiritual faith;
2) From spiritual faith to great courage;
3) From courage to liberty;
4) From liberty to abundance;
5) From abundance to complacency;
6) From complacency to apathy;
7) From apathy to dependence; 😎

From dependence back into bondage” The pastor closed his article with this statement, which I find compelling; “Most scholars and people would place our nation somewhere between step 6 and 7 in that life-cycle, which is pretty scary when you think about it. The trouble is that even with the knowledge of where we are and where we are headed, most don’t realize what to do about it. It’s really very simple: If you want to break the cycle, you have to go back to step one.” So, what do you think? For me, I find the recent teachings I’ve shared with you very timely in helping to direct us.

The Lord allowed me to study and share with you the importance of going back to the basics of God’s call on his people. We’ve recently looked at Jesus’s encounter with one of the teachers of the law who asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important”? To which Jesus simply replied; “The most important one” . I love the way Jesus puts the ball back in the teachers court, and gives him the opportunity to take responsibility to answer such a question for himself. Never the less, Jesus quickly jumps in during what must have been a very uncomfortable quiet pause and quotes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18 about loving God with everything, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Today, in considering the above article, I want to encourage you faithful readers of this post to read the scripture text for today; Matthew 5:14-16 and ask yourself, “am I letting my little light shine for God’s glory with the sole purpose of drawing people to Him”? Do I stay close to God in his word, prayer, and worship so as to have a brighter light to shine?

It’s a good challenge, and it might just be the light at the end of the tunnel that will give you hope that we all can go back to step #1 and lead the way for others to find true faith in God.

Now Hear This!

February 01, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Today is a very special day at our house. We have a birthday girl who is turning the ripe old age of 5. To celebrate this event I am planning to share homemade banana bread, chocolate milk and some very special bible time. (Actually, we do these same things every day, but today I will add “Happy Birthday” after enjoying each of these activities ).

Since you are sharing this day with us through this meditation, I will invite you to join us in reading the above - mentioned scripture which comes to us from a very special part of the old testament, or what I like to call the first testament, and what is known to our Jewish brethren as Torah (teaching of the Law): “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Jewish Study Bible-Tanakh Translation-Jewish Publication Society).

When our granddaughter’s mother was young, I learned from another pastor the significance of this passage known as the Shema (“Hear”). He said that he believed this to be the most significant teaching in the bible for family faithfulness. So, I took it upon myself to memorize this passage and even to sing the Hebrew prayer inspired by it. Many a time my kids would roll their eyes and wonder why this often impatient and flawed mom of theirs would put them through this recital. I would remind them, that regardless of the way things were, good or bad, we were still blessed by God to be a family and as such I owed it to Him and to them to follow this instruction. So today, I invite you to join with me to develop a daily habit of reciting the commandments (not the 613 as some scholars believe are revealed in all of Torah: Genesis-Deuteronomy, but we’ll just work on the top 10 as listed in Exodus 20. You can find other renderings in Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 5).

Using our 10 fingers, or simply counting 1-10, recite this simple version of the 10 commandments:

1 – Love God with all of yourself
2 – Don’t worship anything or anyone else
3 – Don’t use God’s name in a bad way
4 – Remember to spend one day every week as a holy day for God
5 – Respect your mommy and daddy
6 – Don’t murder (life is a precious gift from God)
7 – Be faithful to your husband or wife
8 – Don’t take what does not belong to you.
9 – Don’t say bad things about other people
10 – Don’t spend time wanting what other people have, be grateful for what you already have.

AMEN!

Weight Bearing

January 27, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

“Weight Bearing”
Matthew 5:4, Hebrews 9:27-28

As I am preparing this meditation, I am also preparing for funerals for two wonderful father figures who impacted my life in many positive ways, especially when it comes to walking by faith. I found some inspiration from an old text book; All our losses All our Griefs, Resources for Pastoral Care by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson. In the chapter entitled Toward a Theology of Grieving I discovered a very comforting insight Inspired by the above-mentioned scripture passages. Let’s start with the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ statement; “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted”.

The author of my textbook writes: The original Greek translated here “those who mourn” implies active lamenting…The necessity for actively grieving losses is obvious. We may choose not to grieve, but inevitably we do so to our own detriment, if not to our emotional and spiritual peril. We take the beatitude at face value: Those who mourn can be blessed because they can be comforted [emphasis mine]. It is difficult if not impossible to comfort someone who does not mourn…The beatitude places sorrow-bearing at the center of Christian discipleship. On that matter, there are no options. Those who claim Jesus as Lord bear the grief of others because they belong to the Lord who suffers and who in his suffering reveals God as one who suffers” (pgs. 165-166).

The writer to the Hebrews tells us; “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him”.

The men that I referenced at the beginning of this writing both reached the ripe young age of 90 plus and have agreed that they have lived very full lives. Both inspire me to seek the Lord more and more so as to leave this world as confident as they. With the preaching of Jesus and the teaching of the writer to the Hebrews I can say how blessed are they who mourn in God’s care and with God’s people, because they will be comforted and most especially because Jesus bears our sin.

Is there someone in your sphere of influence who needs to be comforted? Maybe it’s due to a loss of a loved one, or loss of a relationship, or loss of a job, or loss of vibrant health, there are many ways we experience loss. Believers are called to be true disciples of Jesus Christ and be bearers of the weight people around us are carrying due to loss.

May God direct you to someone today and in the days ahead, and may you find comfort in His word to bring comfort to them.

AMEN!

We Are Expecting!

January 19, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
Romans 15:13

We are expecting! That’s right my family is expecting. Now before you start asking what you can bring to the baby shower, I just want to clarify that we are not expecting a baby, at least not that I have been made aware, but we are expecting the return of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. As such, we have hope. Hope for today, tomorrow and for eternity. Perhaps you have had moments where you thought you lost hope, it is easy to feel that when the world is as crazy at it is, but take heart, He has overcome the world (see John 16:33).

Because God in his mercy and grace made a way for us to be one with him in Christ, we can have hope. The Dutch priest and theologian Henri Nowen writes: “The paradox of expectation is that those who believe in tomorrow can better live today; those who expect joy to come out of sadness can discover the beginnings of a new life amid the old; those who look forward to the returning Lord can discover him already in their midst” (an excerpt from Never Forget Hope, 2011 pg. 56).

Are you expecting? I hope so. “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” (Romans 15:13).

Amen!

Who do you think you are?

January 12, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
Deuteronomy 31:8

This week I have been spending a lot of time going through a lot of stuff. Stuff that I was given, stuff that I bought, stuff that I discovered in the parsonage where I live, just a lot of stuff. I know some of you start a new year by downsizing your stuff, I however, was not intending to do that as I am not a very good organizer and was just sort of hoping the stuff I didn’t need would somehow just go away.

Getting new flooring all throughout the house in which my hubby and I dwell made it necessary for me to move everything from the rooms being renewed to rooms already renewed, hence, I have been shuffling my stuff for a while. I came to the obvious realization that stuff was causing me stress. Not the good kind of stress that motivates, but the negative kind of stress that tells you to just sit down and don’t do anything. In times of this type of stress I find myself thinking badly about myself, feelings of inadequacy and anxiety can sometimes render me useless, or so I thought. I came across a list of encouraging words from the Bible and from a few celebrities that I had saved in a long-lost binder that I started when I first came into the pastorate. Bonus! It seems buckling down and cleaning out pays off.

Here’s what I have for all of you who may be feeling some of the stress of negative thoughts about yourself.

Inspiration from Deuteronomy 31:8 – “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed”.

Inspiration from Milton Berle – “I’d rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are; because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star, I’d rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far; for a might-have –been has never been, but a has was once an are.”

AMEN!

Do not Judge, or You too will be Judged

January 06, 2022

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith

Matthew 7:1-2

Recently I broke a tooth and it forced me to pay careful attention as to how I chew my food so as not to cause great pain until I can get it fixed. While I await my upcoming appointment, as this is not considered an emergency, I have stored up very soft foods and even baby food in an effort to keep up with my protein and veggies. All this to say, chewing consideration has become a focus for me. So, take a moment with me and chew on this passage of scripture and consider carefully how it might apply to your daily walk with The Lord. I can see many ways this can help me in mine.

Matthew 7:1-2; “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged. And with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

One of the ways the teaching of this passage comes to our weekly worship services is in the reciting of The Lord’s Prayer. Think about how many times you’ve recited this prayer and how often you have considered the part where we say; “and forgive us our trespasses (some use debts, others use the word sins) as we forgive those who trespass against us (or our debtors, or those who have sinned against us). Notice how there is a measurement here – “and forgive us… AS we forgive…” Only two letters, yet there is a strong connection to the way we forgive and the way God forgives. Truly something to chew on this week .

I came across a poem by Tom Norvell, entitled If My Eyes Could See. I want to close this meditation with a few lines from it; “If my eyes could see the things His eyes see, I would be less distressed over what is happening today, and more hopeful about what will happen tomorrow. If my eyes could see the things His eyes see, my heart would be full, and my resolve would be strong. If my eyes could see like His eyes can see I would be more careful of who I condemn and less selective with who I forgive. I would ignore more offenses, and lower my defenses… If my eyes could see as His eyes can see, I could see others the way He looks at me, and then I could live my life like He intends it to be.”

AMEN

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