Just A Plate Of Cookies?

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Thumbprint Cookies

As a brand-new wife, I was eager to please my husband with my cooking abilities. I had big shoes to fill since my mother-in-law was an excellent cook. In early December that year, I decided to make my husband’s favorite cookie: thumbprint cookies with buttercream frosting.

Before I started, I called my mother-in-law to make sure I did everything the way she did. I used the right combination of butter, margarine, and shortening. A sample batch helped me to determine the perfect baking time. I bought the flavor of frosting that my husband said “made the cookies.” If effort and care ensured success, I knew these cookies would be a hit with my husband.

Frosted cookies covered the counters and the kitchen table. They looked just like my mother-in-law’s cookies. My husband was the willing taste-tester. He sat down with cookies and milk. I anticipated the kudos he would heap on his bride. I eagerly watched as he took the first bite.

That’s when my perfect scenario of wedded bliss fell apart. “What did you do to these cookies?” I didn’t hear the expected confirmation, but rather an accusation. It didn’t take long to figure out where I went wrong. I bought the wrong flavor of frosting! To this day, I swear my husband said his favorite cookies were thumbprint cookies with sour cream frosting. My husband would have never said sour cream frosting as his mom always used buttercream frosting.

This distinction was noted on the recipe for future reference. I have not made that mistake again since my very first batch of thumbprint cookies twenty-seven years ago. It was a good lesson for us as newlyweds: communication is more than just words. It is making sure that the other person  heard and truly understood what was said. Good advice for our marriage and especially for the thumbprint cookie recipe passed down in our family!

It was an easy fix for the thumbprint cookies, but it is not always so easy to fix other things in our lives. We can follow directions, consult with others, do our best, and still fail epically. In God’s eyes, this often describes the efforts we employ to fix our spiritual condition. It doesn’t work and it will fail every time because it is dependent on us.

Ephesians 2:8-9 explains the reason for our failure: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. The best paraphrase I have heard for these verses is: Saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. No amount of striving, competency, or resources apart from God will save us. The part we are responsible for is faith in Jesus Christ. Genuine faith puts us on the path of salvation and guarantees our place in heaven.

We celebrate Christmas because God’s hope for us became flesh and blood. The Christ child grew up to be the Son of Man who died on the cross as the Son of God to save us. As Christians, may we share this sweet victory and include generous servings of love!

Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the LORD is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Are You Aiming To Be Godly Or Simply Good?

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Someone described their religion to me as “Love and hard word.” In theory, it is a good philosophy.  Love implies kindness to others. Hard work implies productivity. These are honorable principles that can make the world a better place.

However, love and hard work can’t save us or the world. If heaven was built on the love and hard work of mankind, it wouldn’t be eternal or perfect. I thank God that His heaven is based on the love of His perfect Son Jesus Christ and the hard work of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.

Neither our good deeds nor our performance can take the place of faith in Jesus Christ. As I surrender my life to Jesus, I want to work hard and make the most of every opportunity. I strive to genuinely love people. The reason why is more than a philosophy with positive benefits for those around me. Rather, I long to follow the example of my Lord Jesus Christ.

Good people work hard and love people. Godly people work hard and love people as the resulting expression of genuine faith. It is not enough to simply love others and do good things. We were created to know God who defines perfect love and embodies everything good.

We are all works in progress as the knowledge of Jesus’s love becomes real in our hearts and tangible in our daily lives. So, are you aiming to be godly or simply good?

Ephesians 2:8-10

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

James 2:18

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

 

 

Kind Of Like A First Date

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Credit for Drawing: Audrey McCray

This summer, I did something that I have never done before: I visited a different church each Sunday. Living between two metropolitan areas, I had often wondered about the many churches that I pass by in my normal routine.

Choosing a church to visit has kind of felt like preparing for a first date. With today’s technology, I narrowed down the churches by going online first. Would we be a good match? What do they look like on the inside? I put names and faces together so I wasn’t walking in blind. It gave me a sense of their history and their future before we officially met.

On the day of, I fretted over what to wear. I didn’t want to be overdressed or underdressed for the occasion or the location of our meeting. I thought about conversation starters and prepared my answers. Would we hit it off? Would the first impression lead to a long-term relationship? The pressure was on.

And the result? There is a church for everyone. I don’t buy the excuse that people aren’t in church because they can’t find the right church. I visited a church where animals were welcomed. (I missed the week that the miniature donkey was present.) I visited a church where the stained glass windows and extra-high cathedral ceilings transported me to another era. At  one church, the only decoration was a rough-hewn cross at the front and it was enough.

The Holy Spirit is alive and well in our churches. Together with the congregations, I rejoiced over baptisms, mourned for the death of their loved ones, and prayed for God’s glory to be revealed through their ministries. Each church was a family that genuinely cared for people inside and outside of the church.

I was filled with hope for the future. There was a dizzying array of opportunities for the next generation to know, to grow, and to sow for Jesus: Children’s Moments, overnight “lock-ins,” and weekly programs. I’m not sure when I became part of the older crowd, but I was excited to be alongside the next generation in church.

I heard God-inspired messages from many different pastors with many different personalities. I am encouraged that God can and does use each one of us to bless others. We have the freedom to be who we are in Christ.

From the very first date, Jesus Christ was my soulmate. Church is the place where I can celebrate that perfect match made in heaven. .

Hebrews 10:25

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

Ephesians 2:19

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,

 

Moments of Grace

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Growing up in a small town, there weren’t many ways to get into trouble. Nonetheless, my best friend and I could always find a little “trouble.” Late on a weekend night, we returned to my house after galavanting about town. We talked and giggled as we clanged around the kitchen to fix a snack. The night was young for two high school girls as my parents slept.

We didn’t hear him pad barefoot into the kitchen, wiping sleep out of his eyes. My dad stood in the doorway and glared at us. His only comment was, “Home a little late, aren’t you?” I knew I was in big trouble. Morning dawned and my punishment loomed. It never came. Nothing more was ever said. I experienced a moment of grace that I can remember to this day.

That was not the last moment of grace I needed in my life. Over many years of seeking God, or more accurately put, God seeking me, I experienced God’s grace. It wasn’t until I knew Jesus Christ as my Savior that I realized the extent of that grace. The difference now was that I didn’t want to waste the grace. Getting into trouble was no longer fun for God had placed a desire deep inside of me to serve Him.

Today, as I make wiser choices in my life, I recognize that I still need God’s flood of grace. Every day my heart yearns for more grace. And my Father in heaven still delights to bestow His grace upon me.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 

1 Timothy 1:14

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.