Bible Study

Messages of Encouragement

with Pastor Edith Bleecker

Page Three

Midweek Lesson

April 21, 2021

Midweek study with Pastor Edith

Ephesians 4:21-24

As I write this and prepare to post it, I want to say that this has been a difficult morning. Not because of illness, or tragedy, or grief of loss, though there is much of that in the world around me that I know affects me even when I am about daily chores. No, the difficulty has come from encounters with very troubled and upset folks who are shocked at the way fellow believers treat them. If you read last week’s meditation, you can see how the Lord prepared me and you for just such a time as this. (see 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

As I held my head in my hands at my desk and computer, my eyes landed on a little book; Church Signs and the Lord gave me a step back that made me chuckle. This particular church sign reads; “Don’t Let The Worries Of This World Kill You, Let The Church Help.” Wow! You could take that a couple of different ways. I took it as a humbling reminder that the “Church” (meaning all fellowships of Christian believers together) are made up of people and as the Scripture reminds us; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, hence, we mess up often, even if we don’t recognize it.

God knows and loves us enough to encourage us to keep looking to Him daily (and even moment by moment) to seek His way in His Word and then “the Church” can be: “made new in the attitude of our minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph.4:23-24)

May the Lord bless you and keep you close to Him as you seek Him in His Word and my you sense His protection from all that would threaten the Unity of the bond we share in Him.

Be Reconciled

April 14, 2021

Midweek study with Pastor Edith

“Be Reconciled”!

That’s what I used to say to the checkbook when I was new at financial management, not only my personal finances but for the USAF Chaplain Fund for the chapel to which I was assigned in my early 20’s. Boy, am I glad I worked with experienced Airmen who could guide me through the process of managing the funds for such a large organization. Today I am thankful for all the help available to my husband and I as we navigate financial stability in a very unstable world. More than that, I am very thankful for those faithful to the Lord who guide us as we continue to live for Christ in an unstable environment where even fellow Christians participate in disunity at a time when we need to exemplify unity in the love of Christ and in God’s word.

Here’s the take-away for today:
So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God we're making his appeal through us.

We implore you on Christ’s behalf: "Be reconciled to God. God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-21-emphasis, mine.) “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love”.

AMEN!

Happy New You!

April 09, 2021

Midweek study with Pastor Edith

“Happy New You!” If you found new life through the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, what we know to be Easter, then you know what I’m talking about. If not, don’t stop reading, keep going, there is an encouragement for all of us in the following meditation.

“So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away and look, new things have arrived” (2 Corinthians 5:17 CEV)

The ‘If” here simply means you and I get to choose. It puts that ball of decision in our personal court, not for anyone else to force or dictate, I like that.

The “anyone” means, and let me quote from Pastor Bob Gardner from the Adult Bible Series for this Spring, Vol. 29, No. ;, [the word] ‘anyone’ opens up God’s plan of salvation to all who sincerely call upon the name of the Lord. Redemption is freely offered to Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. This inclusive and all-encompassing love reveals the nature of a supreme God whose will is that none be lost.”

Please be encouraged that God loves “all ya’ll” and “Ere Body” . He loves us so much that He does not force his affection on us, but allows for us to choose, and even if we choose not to love Him, He still loves us.

Why not reflect on that a bit this week and look and see what difference that makes, not only in our day-to-day living, but in others around us that we encounter and encourage.

“Happy New You!”

Midweek Lent

April 01, 2021

Lent-midweek study with Pastor Edith

Did you know that Jesus turns our Hosanna’s into Hallelujah’s on the day of his resurrection?
Did you know that when we cry out to God “Help me now!” it is a joy to Him and yet comes with an opportunity to take the next step toward the help we ask for?

You see, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday, He rode in on the colt of a donkey, a symbol of a King arriving in peace, and when he arrived the crowd cried out, many in a demanding voice, “Hosanna!” which means “Save Us”.

I can’t help thinking that many in the crowd who knew of the healings and the miracle of food for the 5 thousand, and even the event of bringing Lazarus back from the dead were not so much praising Jesus for his goodness as they were demanding of him what they wanted – “Save us Now!”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 23:5)

Why do we tend to look for the “right now” answer, when what is in the “right now” may be a dead end road?

Jesus told his followers what was going to happen according to God’s plan, they then, and we now, turn a deaf ear and only want what we want, when we want it. It may be a very unselfish cry for “help now!” for a dear friend that is suffering so much. It might be a deep rooted whisper “stop this now!” for a virus or continuance of abuse. None of these escapes God’s awareness and yet we cry out. Perhaps the answer is to look up. Look up to the cross and look up at the heavens. He uses it all to draw us closer to him. It often hurts and feels unfair, but Jesus did not go to the cross because it was fair, He did it for you because He loves you.

The great news is; “He is Risen indeed!”.

Celebrate this Easter with a new boldness and willingness to trust Him, even when it hurts. He hurts alongside with you!

Leaning into Lent

March 24, 2021

Lent-midweek study with Pastor Edith

This coming Sunday will be Palm Sunday. How each congregation will celebrate may vary a bit, but more often than not it includes the waving of Palms. When I was young, I didn’t care why we waved palm branches in church, I was just excited to be part of the celebration. I wonder though, if the excitement has waned with the anxiety and division that has occurred during the past year. If you feel less than excited about Palm Sunday, I hope you will read this brief telling of the original event from the perspective of John Pollock in his book The Master- A Life of Jesus:

“They [the Apostles and followers of Jesus] entered Bethphage, a village set in fields and olive groves yet no rural backwater but a suburb of Jerusalem, filled already with Galilean pilgrims who streamed out to join the procession. They cut branches, especially palms, from the trees shading the lane and threw them ahead of the colt [upon which Jesus rode] to form a carpet of greenery, or waved them as they walked. The palm branch was a symbol of victory. Some members of the procession sang the traditional welcome from one of the ‘Psalms of Ascent’, with it’s invocation, ‘Hosannah (God Save Us), Hosannah, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’…Shocked Pharisees shouted above the noise, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ Jesus had always rebuked attempts to make him a king.

This time he called back, as he rode the symbol of peace and humility [the colt of a donkey], I tell you, if these stay silent, the very stones will cry out’.” Hosannah! (God Save Us!).

Have you found yourself asking for God’s help more lately? I want to assure you that God longs to help his children, and he listens when we call to him, but his answer is often shadowed by the human life we live in a human world that has been darkened by sin. Still, like my retired preacher friend from one of my congregations loves to say boldly, “God help us!”. He is one of the “Amen Corner”, you know the one’s that speak out during the sermon an “Amen” or “Hallelujah” or, “That’s right”. He encourages me to continue with the Word of God even if it appears that few are listening.

So, here’s my thought for this week; Don’t be afraid to boldly call out to God “Help Us!”, and take time to read in the Gospels the amazing telling of His answer for you.

Can I get an “Amen”?

Midweek Lent

March 17, 2021

Lent-midweek study with Pastor Edith

As Disciples of Jesus, it must have been hard to understand the heavenly teachings Jesus shared for their earthly good. So it often is for us. Read on, and I pray you will find more to lean on as you Lean Into Lent.

From the Gospel of John, chapter 6 and verses 28-29: “…they asked him [Jesus], ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

Sometimes it’s the believing, not just the knowing about Jesus, but the deep down in your heart and soul belief that Jesus loves you right where you are that hold us back from trusting and obeying. Max Lucado in his little book we’ve been sharing, writes about belief from the perspective of guilt/shame and pride;

“Pride and shame. You’d never know they were sisters. They appear so different. Pride puffs out her chest. Shame hangs her head. Pride boasts. Shame hides. Pride seeks to be seen. Shame seeks to be avoided. But don’t be fooled, the emotions have the same parentage. And the emotions have the same impact. They keep you from your Father. Pride says, ‘You’re too good for him.’ Shame says, ‘You’re too bad for him’. Pride drives you away. Shame keeps you away. If pride is what goes before the fall, then shame is what keeps you from getting up after one.” (He Did This Just For You pgs. 22-23)

This Lenten season is all about evaluating where you are in your belief and trust. My hope for all is that we seek Him without fear. God sent his son into the world to save it. No need to try to be anyone other than the person you are. It takes courage to look to Him for forgiveness and then to receive it, salvation comes through Him and no one else.

Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so!

Midweek Lent

March 10, 2021

Lent-midweek study with Pastor Edith

This week’s posting continues from our Leaning into Lent with snippets from Max Ludaco’s book; “He Did This For You”.

I would encourage you on this very windy day to secure what you have so as to keep it from blowing away, like my mop bucket on wheels that I was using to clean up the garage , and I would encourage you to consider what needs to be secured in your spiritual walk. So much of life offers us distractions of which we sometimes just need to let go.

Here’s a snippet from Max and God’s word to help sort that out; “The most notorious road in the world is the Via Dolorosa, or “The Way of Sorrows”. According to tradition, it is the route Jesus took from Pilate’s hall to Calvary…Is the route accurate [today]? Probably not.

When Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 and then again in A.D. 135, the streets of the city were destroyed. As a result, no one knows the exact route Christ followed that Friday. But we do know where the path actually began. The path began in the halls of heaven. The Father began his journey when he left his home in search of us. Armed with nothing more than a passion to win your heart, he came looking… [“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” – John 1:14].

The Bible has a word for this quest: reconciliation. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19)…The path to the cross tells us exactly how far God will go to put it back together. Reconciliation restitches the unraveled, reverses the rebellion, rekindles the cold passion. Reconciliation touches the shoulder of the wayward and woos him homeward” (Pgs. 18-20).

So much of life and living can unravel us, lead us into rebellion and often just leaves us with a cold and apathetic attitude. If you find yourself in any of these situations today, I invite you, Christ invites you, to take some time and Lean into Lent and let Him lift you up into His purpose and plan for you.

AMEN!

Happy Ash Wednesday

February 25, 2021

Happy Ash Wednesday and Happy Lent!
Lent-midweek study with Pastor Edith

Today, February 17th is Ash Wednesday according to the church calendar. Here’s a little summary of what Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season are all about from the United Methodist Book of Worship: “Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians [ashes are often placed on the forehead as a reminder of our mortality; ‘from dust you came, to dust you shall return’…Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection.”

There you have it, and some of you might be thinking “So What?’ Well, let me encourage you with this popular verse from Psalm 51:10-12:
“Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence O Lord, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and renew a right spirit within me”  [typed from memory, feel free to find the translation you like best].

Just like we celebrate the Advent season before Christmas as a way to really appreciate the Christmas event, so too, we have an opportunity to prepare our hearts and lives for a fuller experience of Easter.“So What?”, So what will you choose to do? It would be way too easy to shut ourselves off from worship on this cold and snowy day and simply do nothing, or just live out this day in the same old way, with no thought of what God offers us all – A way to a new spirit and new life, a joyful life. Many churches are not having service tonight due to the weather. Many also offer a service online, some on the radio and T.V. If all of that seems too difficult for you, try having your own time of worship right where you are.

Say out loud these words from the Apostle Paul:
“God put on him [Christ] the wrong who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG).

To reinforce that, recite out loud John 3:16 [you might even have this one memorized]: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life” [from memory].

What service would be complete without a song? How about the simple and beautiful- “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so. Little one’s to Him belong, they are week, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me. The bible tells me so.” HAPPY LENT!

“O Holy night” – “Oh Holy life”

December 20, 2020

Final midweek study with Pastor Edith

I want to start out with a great story about a great Christmas Hymn; O Holy Night.
I am inspired by an article in Christian Living Magazine;
“God can use the least expected to get God’s message out” (Pg. 27 Winter 2019-2020).

It seems that the song “O Holy Night” was written at the request of a priest to have a new and inspired Christmas hymn for a Christmas Eve service in the mid 1800’s; “O Holy Night”, was once banned by the Catholic Church in France because of ‘it’s total absence of the spirit of religion’ and it’s lack of musical taste. Of course, there’s more to the story. “Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), a wine commissioner in his small town in France, was known for his poetry. Even though Cappeau did not attend church, the parish priest asked him to write a poem for Christmas mass. Cappeau read the Book of Luke and imagined being in Bethlehem when Jesus was born, and thus came the words for the hymn. He asked a well-known composer, Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856), to write the music, and three weeks later the hymn was first sung at midnight on Christmas Eve 1847.

So, why was the song banned?

Placide was an atheist and Adolphe was Jewish, so neither believed in Jesus as the Son of God. Thus, the song was banned by the church. Still, people liked the song and continued to sing it. For nearly two hundred years, words and music written by two nonbelievers have blessed the world with the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ.” So, what do you think? Is it possible that even nonbelievers can unwittingly share the truth of the Gospel; that Jesus was the very son of God and that he came to seek and to save that which was lost?

That has been our journey these past several weeks as we have explored Lee Strobel’s book, A Case For Christmas-A journalist [Atheist] Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger. I have shared with you from Lee’s book and the Holy Bible that we can know for sure that the baby born in Bethlehem in very poor conditions is indeed the very son of God, sinless, Holy and sent by God to bring life and hope to a dark and dying world. We find these truths to be real though the eye witness accounts and historical renderings also known as the Gospels.

There is an abundance of archaeological discoveries that verify the qualifications of the Gospel writers, particularly Luke, to be thorough and accurate in the recording of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have the prophecies of the virgin birth of Jesus to verify that he was not subject to original sin and the New Testament verification, many written at different times in history, to establish that Jesus was completely human and divine. Lee shared that perhaps the one person who really understood the identity of Jesus was Simeon, a devout and pious Jew who remained at the temple awaiting the coming Messiah (See Luke 2:25-35). Simeon even addressed the reality of the price Jesus would pay to be the “consolation of Israel” and that Mary would have her own soul “pierced” as well.

It seems that the reason for Christmas is Easter. “God sent his only begotten (unique) son, so that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish, but should have everlasting life”, that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

Perhaps, as Lee Stobel shared in his teaching, the very first Christmas carol may have been Philippians 2:5-11. Why not read that today and then find the words and sing the marvelous song “O Holy Night”and remember, God can use anyone to get the Good News out to a hurting and dying world.

Merry Christmas, Happy New You!
Edith

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