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September 27, 2018, 2:28 PM

A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY...October 2018


A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY...

  Tonight we went to see the well-played new movie, UNBROKEN: Path to Redemption. It is based upon the true story of Louis Zamperini, former Olympian runner, former WWII POW in Japan, former alcoholic suffering from PTSD...who was wonderfully saved at the Billy Graham Crusade in 1949 in Los Angeles. He spent the rest of his very long life serving the Lord and was a close friend of Billy Graham’s. I don’t mean to spoil the story for you, but the essence has been replayed, as it were, countless times throughout Christian history. The forgiven becomes the forgiver.

  As I sat with tears running down my face in the dark movie theater, I realized that I have heard this story in one form or another from other random people I have either known or have heard about. Or else, I have wished I could have heard the same outcome in their life stories, but they chose otherwise. You see, it is a choice we all have to make. When people “do us wrong,” what is our chosen response? Do we retaliate? Do we hang on and on and on to bitterness and hate? Do we tell anyone and everyone how badly we have been treated? Or...do we forgive, whether or not they ask for forgiveness? Do we make the choice to leave behind the past and move forward, pressing on toward the high calling that is in Christ Jesus, as the Apostle Paul once said?

  How do we do that? By looking at the character of Christ instead of the character of the one who hurt us. By listening to the teachings of Christ instead of to our own self-centered nature. Christ cried out these words from the very cross upon which He hung: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Remember, “they” includes you and me, not just the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman soldiers. It was OUR sin that took Him to the cross, too, not just theirs! He also told us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart...and love your neighbor as yourself.

  Nothing is gained except more hurt when we refuse to forgive and focus upon the past. Freedom is found in turning loose...and forgiving! We are the ones who are truly set free indeed! 

  Marsha Cook, Director

 




August 23, 2018, 9:06 AM

A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY...September 2018


A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY...

  Well, dear friends, I suppose that you, like me, have heard that Life comes in seasons? Now, Russell and I are arriving at a new season...called...Retirement! How do you reflect in a few words on nearly 70 years of life, 47 in marriage and ministry? Here is my best attempt for the moment...

  I am one of those persons who has been in church before she was born because I always had faithful, loving Christian parents. I was taught at home and church by them and by watching them live as shining examples in my season of childhood. As a young single adult, I learned to make my own independent choices, based upon my faith in Christ and the teaching of my parents. Then Russell and I met, married and walked into ministry life all within the same four months, 47 years ago! So those seasons melded from the beginning of our marriage. As children and grandchildren came along, that season broadened and deepened and is still going strong, although our family of two eventually became 16...so far!!! Now, suddenly, as Russell retires from having a “well-defined” ministry, to both of us just being open-ended, available and, yes, curious, as to what different aspects of this new season will look like. We know we both want to continue to preach, teach, and write as the Lord provides opportunities. We know we want to stay as active as possible as long as possible, and yet also enjoy some times of rest and family times. Sometimes we feel a bit like Abraham and Sarah...trusting the Lord to lead but having no specific idea where He plans for us to go in Life...except to follow Him!

  When I was a young girl in Arkansas, our “Associational Missionary” and his wife, known to most of us as just Dr. and Mrs. Best, were a little couple of gray-haired people of small stature, who visited our round of churches regularly, walking in, holding hands and smiling at all of us. For years, that was my idea of what a (now) Director of Missions and his wife did! As an adult, I had a few more slight examples. Now, after 22 years, I feel like I could “write a book,” but I can't do that here! I will say that I have loved it, I love YOU and I am eternally blessed for having been in this season. Pray for us as we continue to live, learn, and serve alongside you dear friends in new roles.

  “Wherever He Leads I'll Go” is a favorite hymn of mine and has become my Life journey. At this point, I will continue as the PLBA Women's Ministry Director for as long into this season of life as God leads, so I look forward to continuing to meet you here in print each month!

Marsha Cook, director

 




July 19, 2018, 9:54 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…August 2018


A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY...

  Lately I have become increasingly concerned over the lack of kindness, gentleness, politeness and consideration for others in our nation. We do not have to agree with everyone to be polite and kind to them. But, any more, it seems like people just can’t wait to rush to judgment and express an opinion, whether they have “done their homework” or not. Sadly, I even see it repeatedly on recipe sites on social media. It is one thing to say “I have a preference for this ingredient or method over that one.” But, to absolutely rip into people with derogatory remarks over a recipe or to ridicule them because they happen to like it is childish and simply uncalled for!

  In watching this amazing social phenomena, I have come to several observations or conclusions:

  1. There is a strange disconnect between yelling about the advantages of diversity and, in the next breath, insisting on conformity. Confusing, at best. Foolishness for sure.
  2. There is an alarming amount of misinformation or lack of information fueling so much of the furor, which in many cases is downright hateful. Wisdom without knowledge is not to be had.
  3. There is an insistence afoot to delete history if you happen to disagree with it. Destroying documentation of history simply obscures it, where lessons cannot be learned from it. It also empowers those whose agenda is to control, because they have kept the citizenry ignorant of what happens when a few gain control of the masses. That has been the deliberate beauty of our own government, ”...of the people, by the people, for the people.” Once government becomes a self-perpetuating entity, the people and their possessions and rights are swallowed up in it.

  I could continue, but I think you get the idea. Why do I choose to write about it here and now? Because, ladies—and gentlemen readers, too—our homes and our churches are where proper teaching should take place. As Christian families, we have the duty to safeguard the teachings of how to attain wisdom and exercise responsibility and share love properly. If we don’t...who can and who will???

  A careful study of the “Book of Proverbs” is a good place to start learning about the foolish and the wise. Choose the ways of the wise for your family! Our nation’s survival may well depend on you...and you...and you!  

Marsha Cook, Director

 




June 20, 2018, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…July 2018


A NUGGET FROM MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY...

Have you ever thought, “I have just come off a mountaintop experience and feel like I hit the valley sooner than I expected?” Sure! We have all been there, done that, said that!

Last week we were at Associational Children's Camp at Falls Creek for two camps in one week, with around 7,000 young children. The multiple challenges in helping to run a small city of small children which totally repopulates itself mid-week are real! However, it is always a highlight of my summers, even though it can sometimes be hard on one's body. This was literally an Arbuckle mountaintop experience, including seeing 525 children experience salvation in Christ.

Soon after returning home, however, I hit a valley of sorts. I discovered an unknown social media hacker had decided to impersonate me, causing several days of domino effects on my entire computer system. There is no telling how it has affected my for-real, innocently involved friends. Even this article is being typed on a borrowed computer. Yes, the hacker has been stopped. Yes, solutions to computer issues are being accomplished. But, this has given me much food for thought.

I have had a choice...to bemoan or rant and rave over the quick altitude drop in circumstances OR to look for God's lessons in it all. Even though I have expressed some human frustration over this circumstance, I have really tried to exercise patience, perseverance, and looking for the joy and the lessons in it all. My biggest take-away so far is that if we cannot approach basically everyday-ish, somewhat mundane valley challenges with maturity, then how can we ever hope to have victory in the really BIG ones??? The excruciatingly painful ones? The tragic ones? We must see these “smaller” times as building-block times. If we literally blast through and past them, we will not be prepared for the “biggies.”

So, my friends, look for the lessons, look for the joy. I daresay we all need the practice, whether we like it or not. This brings me full circle to my life verse—imagine that! God knows me so well!

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:1-12 (CSB)

Marsha Cook, Director

 




May 24, 2018, 8:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…June 2018


A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  Recently I found myself in a conversation with a Pastor and his wife about their church. That is not unusual for me. But, as we talked, he mentioned that one of their members said to him, “What programs can we start to help grow our church, Pastor?” Hmmmm...

  I have long believed that it is not “programs” that will “grow” our churches—it is Jesus! As I briefly commented to this sweet couple, if we show people Jesus in the way we live, in the way we speak, and in the way we teach, more and more will be drawn to HIM...and then to the local church to be discipled and to serve as they learn to know HIM better and better.

  It is the living Jesus Who meets the needs and solves the problems of mankind, not the church. If the church were the answer, then why did He even leave Heaven to come to Earth and live among us and die for us...and rise again??? If the church could “save” us, then His death was senseless. The world already had plenty of “religion” that was not working...because it was based upon works! What we needed was a love gift from God—His only begotten Son—extended to us through mercy and grace. He also left His Holy Spirit to live within us when He returned to Heaven, so that we wouldn’t flounder around without Him. God Himself lives within each and every believer and He loves others through us with His compassionate, unending love! The church doesn’t save people—Jesus does!

  Serving the church is not the right motivation for living, either. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan, where busy church people passed by a victim’s needs because they didn’t want to be late for church? Serving Jesus, Who said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto Me,” is to be our only motivation.

  Early this morning I was one of 2 billion people who watched a “royal wedding,” which included the surprise of a gospel message on the power of living by the love of Jesus Christ. The world was challenged to imagine a world like that. How about it, Church? Shouldn’t we, of all people, be the ones to start that? That is not a program. It is BEING...the Church, the Bride of Christ!

Marsha Cook, Director               

 


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