Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pondering Ability and Giftedness


PONDERING ABILITY AND GIFTEDNESS

Anxiously he muttered quietly to himself…and me,                    
 "Hmmmm, we need more able-bodied men around here."
 Sweetly, but with confidence, I replied,
 "Well, I'm an able-bodied woman. What do you need done?" 
 Gratefully, he handed me an offering plate.
 Stoically, I laughed to myself.

I own five hammers, a drill and a skill saw
Two tool boxes and a wheel barrel.
I've been known to cut, hang, mud and sand,
Then paint the finished product, miter and add trim.
I move furniture and shovel snow,
I haul gravel, mulch and sand.
I raised five children by myself (with God!), for heaven's sake!
I think I can handle an offering plate.

I can preach a sermon,
Teach a class,
Pray against the gates of hell,
And soothe a dying soul. 
Don't underestimate me.
Please don't give me labels based on age or gender roles.
I have been called and gifted by God.
I will use what He has blessed me with,
And finish the race believing that
He created me in His image and for His purposes.
Confidently. Purposefully. Gratefully. Uniquely.
And carry that offering plate with grace...called to serve.

(c) Pastor Debby Bentch

                                     

Monday, December 18, 2017


HIS STORY: ALL of Creation was represented in the Story of Christ's Birth!

Image result for nativity scene

God…

John 1: The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. 
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Philippians 2
                       Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ                     
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father
Jesus Christ, above all and before all, represented God the Father and the Spirit.

I have a hypothesis that I’m going to share with you this morning. 
I believe that just about everything in all of creation was, in some way, represented in the story of Christ’s birth…in fact I HAD to make myself stop looking for ways…
Let me show you what I’m talking about.

We have already seen that JESUS represented the Father in human form.
But then the earthly Family was represented in Jesus’ birth
Jesus was born into a family.

He had…
·        a mom and an earthly dad; a “normal” more or less, kind of family
·        aunts and uncles
·        cousins
·        and brothers and sisters
·        maybe even grandparents
Mary and Joseph represent the human family and community
·        He did not come into an institution.
·        He was not born into a social club or organization.
God placed Jesus very purposely in a family…
  • Not a rich
  • Well to do
  • Cultured
  • Esteemed
  • Or royal family…


But with an unexpecting young woman and a surprised and bewildered carpenter.
  • Jesus was born in a barn, a cave or some other lowly place-not a palace.
  • He was placed in a manger trough-not a fancy warm incubator.
  • He was wrapped in strips of linen-not warm, fleecy blankies and cushy diapers.
  • There was no hospital, midwife or doctor: Jesus was probably either delivered by an angel or Joseph!

Jesus had the most humble beginning of all.

Then there were Shepherds
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.”
Luke 2:8-9
In most Sunday school Christmas pageants they are usually the extras.
All of the kids who don’t get cast in any of the other roles become shepherds…or even the sheep!
We have no clue how many shepherds there were there that day…
But I believe the shepherds may have represented many in the world both then and now:
  • the lowly
  • the poor
  • the uneducated
  • outcasts
  • unnoticed
  • uncared for
  • neglected
  • stinky
  • the youngest; Some of those shepherds were probably just boys

They were, more than likely, at the very bottom of the Palestinian totem pole.
They were right down there with the tax collectors and the dung sweepers.
It’s interesting that only Luke even bothers to mention them as part of the Christmas story.
Certainly they represented “the least of these.”

The Wise Men eventually arrived with their entourage …
They aren’t numbered, except in Christmas stories;
Three gifts equal three Wise Men.
Undoubtedly, they most likely came with others.
Three solitary, wealthy looking men traveling a great distance by themselves, bearing rare and costly gifts would have been perfect targets for robbers and thieves.

And, in my thought process, they came representing…
  • the gifted
  • the elite
  • the wealthy
  • the educated
  • the upper class
  • the highly respected

Those with…
  • Possibly some degree of royal birth
  • A respectable genealogy
  • Prestigious Pedigree
  • They would have had notable initials behind their names
  • They represent the philosophers; the thinkers, the writers

But I think they also represent the Gentiles…those not of Jewish birth.


In the story of Christ’s birth they represented the…
  • aliens
  • and foreigners
  • The sojourners searching for something that needed to be found.


And what about their Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh?       
                                                                         
Although they were gifts given to the child Jesus I think, in a lot of ways, is it possible that the gifts represent the things of this world.
Most scholars believe that these were the gifts that would have been given in the ancient world to honor a king or a deity.
  • ·        Gold: A precious metal.
  • ·        Frankincense a perfume or incense,
  • ·        Myrrh as anointing oil.


But, just between you and me, can I tell you something?
I think this is the ONE AND ONLY place where everyone and everything wasn’t represented.
You see, if the wise men had brought along their wise wives there would have been
  • several bags of groceries,
  • a boat load of diapers
  • and a pocket full of quarters for the laundry mat! 
Never-the-less, we need to remember this…
The things of this world only have true meaning and eternal value when they are presented to the KING of kings!

And What About All Those Angels
Throughout His story from beginning to end angles kept showing up in a timely   manner…
  •         To tell Mary the Good News
  •       To tell Joseph it was okay, it was a “God-Thing”
  •         To alert the shepherds
  •         To stand guard
  •         To herald the glorious with the hallelujah chorus

And everywhere He/She/they went the resounding message was, “BE NOT AFRAID!”
  •         Don’t worry!
  •        It’s all part of God’s plan
  •         Every things going to be okay!
  •         FEAR NOT! Good Tidings! Great Joy!

There were Animals:
Representing the Animal Kingdom, of course!
The Friendly Beast song would tell us that there were any number of animals present…
We have no idea what kind or how many, but surely the animals were not left out!
They were a part of the Genesis creation story and they survived the flood…there had to be animals, including a donkey, guarding the manger!
Jesus’ story is replete with the Supernatural: Not only angelic visits but also Dreams/Visions/Prophetic Announcements

Now Consider The Star
Didn’t it represent the heavens and the earth, the sun, the moon...all of the heavenly bodies.
The Star was the first GPS system.
No need for a Garmin or TomTom or my personal favorite~OnStar!
All of them are second rate compared to the star that led the shepherds and the wise men to Jesus.
It was a star that marked the holy place in Bethlehem!
A Star that led the wise men to Jesus.

We can’t forget the brass…
There was Cesar Augustus representing…
·        World authorities: “the powers that be”
World leaders…
·        kings and queens and princes and princesses
·        governors  and heads of state
·        presidents and prime ministers
·        chairs, chiefs and czars
Those who…
·        rule the nation’s kingdoms
·        reign on manmade thrones
·        dictate and decide the fate of their people

And Herod…
I believe Herod represented the Kingdom of Darkness: hell bent on destroying the Messiah.                                                              
Paul in Ephesians 6 calls them: The rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Surely Herod acted as…
  •         the emissary
  •      the pawn
  •        the messenger of destruction
  • …attempting to do the enemy’s bidding.

Herod stood to represent…
·        The “anti/Christs” of past, present and future.
·        Herod represents those who are destined for destruction.
·        He was a liar and a deceiver.
·        He characterized “selfish ambition and vain conceit”

Doesn’t it stand to reason that Herod also represents those who have been blinded by the enemy and…
  • ·        cannot see
  • ·        or hear
  • ·        receive
  • ·        or understand the Good News of Jesus Christ…

Like the Innkeeper who represented those who “had no room” for Jesus.
The Innkeeper and all the others who shut their door to Mary and Joseph represent those who have no room in their hearts.
·        They would kick Jesus to the curb.
·        They’re already full.
·        There is room for no more…certainly not the Christ child and His parents.

Zach and Liz/Simeon and Anna
Among my favorites are Zachariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna…
I think these four godly and righteous individuals represent believers past, present and future.

They are…
·        The faithful
·        The Remnant
Those who would always remain from those who hear the Good News and yet choose to walk away.

I also think they represent the older generation of every generation.
All four of them would have been considered “old” by our standards and yet they were used mightily of God…for His purposes.
·        Zachariah and Elizabeth, in their old age, would parent John the Baptist; Jesus’ cousin, the one who would prepare the way.
·        Simeon refused to die until he had witnessed the Consolation of Israel…            the Messiah.
·        Anna lived in the temple; praying, fasting and worshipping and waiting.
All four were faithful and willing to be of service to God, regardless of their age.
All of Creation was represented in the Christmas Story!

SLIDE 12: And into this world-wide, all of creation story comes JESUS.
He is the one who levels the playing field for ALL…
Galatians 3:28
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In Him there is…
  • ·        No rich or poor
  • ·        Important or unimportant
  • ·        Ill or well
  • ·        Old or young
  • ·        Sinner, Seeker or Saint
  • ·        All are given a seat at the table if they receive Him.

Luke 13:29  
People will come from east and west and north and south,
and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
And in the endevery knee will bow and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father!”

Christ’s birth ties together THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW TESTAMENT.
The Old Testament Prophecy becomes New Testament reality in Jesus Christ.

His story speaks of… DIVINITY/HISTORY/PROPHECY/GEOGRAPHY/GEOLOGY/POLITICS/
ECONOMICS/ANGEOLOGY AND DEMONOLOGY/ ASTRONOMY/ BIOLOGY/GENETICS/ NATURE/ PHYSICS/SUPERNATURAL AND MIRACULOUS AND SUPREMICY
THEY ALL COME TOGETHER IN CHRIST

Colossians 1
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 
16 For in him all things were created: 
·        things in heaven and on earth,
·        visible and invisible,
·        whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; 
·        all things have been created through him and for him. 
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 
18 And he is the head of the body, the church;
 he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, 
so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven, 
by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

JESUS; The Beginning and the End.
And all of the in between.
May every knee bow and every tongue confess that
HE is the LORD of lords and the KING of kings
now and forever, amen
TO GOD BE THE GLORY

AND THEN THERE IS THIS….

Video: It’s All About the Cross (the Ball Brothers)  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

WOMEN CALLED BY GOD, Let's Talk about Criticism

If you know much about the Apostle Paul you know he suffered. I'm afraid I would have gone home after that first shipwreck...this guy experienced three!
He was beaten, stoned, imprisoned and in danger everywhere he went. He was hungry, cold, naked, thirsty and on the run. Friends turned to enemies and those he thought loyal abandoned him, but he just kept on going, a spiritual equivalent of the Energizer Bunny! His story amazes me. (2 Corinthians 11)

But one of the most nightmarish incidents happened on the Island of Malta after one of those shipwrecks (Acts 28). Paul and some of his fellow survivors washed up on shore and they were, fortunately, greeted by some friendly and hospitable islanders who made them welcome and quickly built a fire. Paul, in his helpful mode (and maybe wet and freezing) grabbed an armful of brush to throw on the fire, but low and behold, he was bit by a viper that happened to be hanging out in the brush.

In my minds eye, this nasty thing latched onto Paul's hand between his thumb and index finger...right there in that tender part of one's hand. I believe Paul, in one swift, but powerful, flick of his wrist sent that snake flying and went on about his business-while everyone else watched and waited, expecting him to swell up and die sooner than later! I believe Paul literally shook off that poisonous viper.

So my question is, and in truth this is addressed to women who have been called, by God, into ministry, what do you do with the criticism; the nasty letters, the snide remarks, the passive-aggressive comments and "the look" bestowed on you by those who believe that THERE IS NO PLACE FOR WOMEN IN MINISTRY?

If you have bravely, courageously, faithfully followed after God and entered into ministry, at His beaconing, then you more than likely know exactly what I am talking about! I read just such a post on Facebook today. And, what really caught my attention was the number of women who had experienced similar criticism and the reoccurring theme was, "I just can't shake it off!" 

May I suggest that criticism wears the face of and flaunts the fangs of a poisonous viper? If we don't learn to shake it off, it will poison us...slowly, painfully and deliberately. Unfair, undo, unwelcome, ungracious and hateful criticism is the enemy's poison; his subtle destructive way of discouraging, devastating and devouring women who desire to be used of God. 

My guess is most of us are sensitive. We are empathetic. We have tender, soft hearts. We are often, unless we have "grown thick skin" vulnerable and open and we take things (like criticism) personally. But, Sisters, unless we choose to "shake it off" we will remain wounded and hurting. And, while I believe in "Wounded Healers" I also believe we need healing for those deep wounds in order to continue to be effective in whatever ministry God has called us to. 
We HAVE to learn to shake it off! 

I have totally taken Isaiah 52:2 out of context, but I believe there is a word here for each of us who find ourselves the object of criticism because of our role in God's kingdom... 
NLT "Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
ESVShake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
Don't be held captive by criticism.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Redemptive Compassion


How Would You Feel?
For me, it all started in July of 2011 following a family vacation to the beach. On our return home my daughter Lolly told me that she was going to begin having my not quite 4 year-old granddaughter Anna tested for Autism.

My first reaction was shock and disbelief. After all, this child was beautiful, charming, funny and adorable-strange as the day is long, but amazing none-the-less. It did start to make a little more sense once I climbed out of my "grandma box." (After all, how many 18 month old children methodically peel wall paper for hours at a time, but she soothed herself with the most delightful little songs as she worked!  We jokingly referred to her obsession as "Anna's day job.")

PDDNOS (Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) was the first clinical diagnosis. That put her somewhere on the mystical "Autism Spectrum." But, the testing hadn't been going on long before other symptoms, far more disturbing symptoms, began to rear their ugly heads! Soon after her first diagnosis, her "tics" (odd little movements) were actually witnessed by a neurologist who assured us that the tics were, in fact, seizures (So we added Epilepsy to the growing list of diagnoses). 

After a MRI and EEG we were informed that Anna's left temporal lobe was atrophied or not fully developed (I'm still not quite sure which neurologist’s opinion is correct!) As you can imagine every diagnosis got a little more frightening. Then the words "mild mental retardation" stunned this grandma. However, we are a family with a strong faith and we are determined to trust the LORD.

Over the next several months Anna was seen at three hospitals (Johns Hopkins, Hershey Medical Center and Pittsburgh Children's Hospital). She has had different diagnosis and opinions from three neurologists and she has been subjected to at least 10 different medications with a wide range of ominous side effects. At one point, when I was in tears and barely holding it together, I told  Lolly, "Please don't tell me any more side effects.”

Anna has also suffered through two diet regimes; Modified Adkins and the Ketogenic diet, both aimed at stopping her seizures. With MA she was allowed no more than 10 grams of carbohydrates a day and KD was very high fat with even less carbs.  I don't know how Lolly and Anna got through that one, but I will never forget the day we cheated and gave her 4 strawberries and a hand full of French fries and caught a glimpse of our Anna once again! Energy and spunk can be utterly delightful in a 5 year old who has become withdrawn and moody. (At one point Lolly was told by Anna's dietitian not to leave bowls of dog or cat food anywhere that Anna could find it. And, who could blame Anna for hiding behind the couch when her 3 year old sister delivered a clandestine Starburst? Nor can we forget having to hold both of her hands in the hospital when she must have thought she was starving to death and tried to eat the purple sparkly nail polish off her nails. No wonder she called it “DOCTOR JAIL!”)

However, despite the plethora of medications, Anna continued to have between 60-80 seizures a day and has to have a caregiver in her kindergarten class to keep her safe. I have seen her crack her head against marble table tops, the dinner table, shopping cart bars and the Ipad. She also needs medication just to sleep through the night.

What Would You Think...   
  • If Anna was YOUR daughter or YOUR Granddaughter and NOTHING seems to be working?
  • And if there were actually discussions about removing her left temporal lobe...and then maybe even removing her frontal lobe while they're at it? (One quarter of her brain!)
  • What would you be thinking and feeling? 

What Would You Do?
Then imagine, watching a CNN broadcast by a doctor telling about a family of six brothers living in Colorado who have developed a strain of a medicinal plant that is extremely low in a chemical called THC and extremely high in a chemical called CBD. As well, a process has been developed to cook or steam the plant in a way which results in an oil based compound or extract that can be given to children in a dropper or added to food.

Further investigation reveals that the various compounds in cannabis have been used successfully to treat children with autism, epilepsy, Crohns Disease, PTSD, cancer, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, asthma, migraines, Tourette's Syndrome, Diabetes, OCD, stuttering, Bell's palsy and much more. 

Upon further investigation you discover that there is a wealth of information available on all the tests and research and treatments being done in the United States, Israel, China and other countries with astounding results. There are any number of videos online that show children before and after receiving cannabis and HOPE begins to rise in your spirit. Imagine!

BUT, there is a problem. A serious problem. 
The plant that we call medical cannabis is also known as “marijuana” and, in most states, including Pennsylvania, it is illegal...
  • Even for medicinal purposes
  • Even if it might be the difference between life and death
  • Even if it might mean the difference between a whole brain and 3/4s of a brain
  • Even if the side effects are nearly non-existent-especially when compared to the prescription drugs that are not working!
  • Even though it won’t make a child “high,” but instead it calms their brain.                       
To What Lengths Would You Go?
Unfortunately...
  • There are far too many people, like me, who in our ignorance have abhorred the thought of "legalizing pot" even for medicinal purposes.
  • There are too many people who have never heard the truth and make false assumptions.
  • There are too many politicians who just don't understand the process or the purpose!      
  • Unfortunately, medical cannabis is probably a great threat to drug companies and those who profit from them.                                                                                                                                
But for my family and for Anna, "ignorance is not bliss" it is life threatening!
So I have been pondering this situation for weeks now... 

What does this mean for my family; for Anna's mom and dad, for her brother and sister, for me and the rest of my family? The nature of our dilemma puts us in a troubling spot on many levels.
I am asking myself serious and hard questions with these very real facts in mind...
I am a pastor. I am a conservative pastor in a conservative denomination. I am a conservative pastor who is employed at a conservative retirement community.  But first and foremost, I am a mother and a grandmother and I have gone to extreme lengths to protect, support and raise my five children and equally support them in their marriages and with their own children. 

What will it cost me to support a change in our laws, one with such steep opposition and a formidable battlefield? 
And I have discovered this, the bottom line for me...
What won't I do to make sure Anna has every possible chance for health and wellness? That is the question and the answer becomes clear and undeniable. So our journey began...

Medical Cannabis: Chapter Two
It’s been a little over six months since I, once again, chose to step out in faith by making the decision to support my daughter in the extremely challenging battle of trying to legalize medical cannabis for my granddaughter Anna. 

When this journey began, Lolly and I were both in this for Anna’s sake, but soon we began to meet other families with children like Anna. We fell in love with other people’s sick kids. We began to care about other moms’ struggles and their daily challenges. We heard their stories. We watched their videos. We added their heartache and grieving to our own. We grew a new family. 

I began to pray for these other families and their struggles. Not surprisingly, I found myself with a “new” ministry. Blessing and encouraging and praying for these hurting families at every opportunity.  I have come to believe that, for some of them, I may be the only “pastor” they ever relate to (I trust the LORD will give me the love, wisdom, grace and mercy to be His light to moms and dads who wake up every morning wondering if their child will still be breathing or if they will live long enough to see the prohibition of cannabis ended and available for their babies.)  

Over the months we have continued to add others to our “new family” as we met more people with all kinds of diseases and conditions wanting the same thing we do...access to the medicinal properties of a plant. A plant! An herb that for thousands of years has been used for its medical benefits (until it was outlawed because of the greed of several wealthy, influential and infamous men in the 1940’s). A plant, that I believe with all my heart, was included in God’s proclamation in Genesis 1:29; “Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

I have NO IDEA how many of my friends have faithfully read my blog entries and Facebook posts, watched the videos, studied the issue, followed along with us with support and prayers and encouragement and letters to our legislators. Our amazing supporters have been a rich blessing. 

As well, there have been a handful, five to be exact, who have questioned my position in one way or another. It must be noted that each of their concerns stemmed from family members or friends who have or are currently “abusing marijuana.” (My first thought is always the same, “We are not even talking about the same thing!” But that is another topic altogether.)

One of these friends gave me some strong challenges which brought me to this place of pondering. 
So, I took her challenge and I asked the LORD to help me to see what I needed to see and how to answer her challenges with grace.  It was only seconds before the picture began to unfold...I’m standing on a hill looking out over all of creation and randomly picking out things that God created for His honor and glory and for the good of His people... Music, Dance, Meditation, Motherhood, Marriage, A Plant!

Immediately, I find myself grieving because every one of those things have, in a myriad of ways, been misused, abused, confused, tainted and changed by people. These things that God created for good, men and women have turned into something that He did not intend because of sin. I can’t begin to imagine how it grieves my Father, who gave us all good gifts. Then I am even more grieved to realize that it’s not just “the random things.” It’s everything in all of God’s creation, everything touched by the sinful nature of man...everything. 

As I continue to ponder a word unscrambles itself in my mind. 
The word is "REDEMPTION”-the action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil.”  I’m so thankful for God’s redemptive plan in my life! But there’s even more to REDEMPTION! It is also “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment.” It is synonymous with retrieval, recovery, reclamation, repossession.

So, I have come to the conclusion that REDEMPTION is the place this issue has brought me. Redeeming a God-given plant and restoring it to the place from which it should never have been removed in the first place. Reclaiming it for the good of mankind and little bitty babies.

I can’t stop people from misusing cannabis. I can’t stop the greedy from profiting from its abuse. But I will do whatever I can to make sure that, in its medicinal form, it is available to those who need it to live, to thrive, to see, to breathe, to walk without pain, to flourish. I will do my part for every man, woman and child who needs it. 

This is where I  believe God has brought me "for such a time as this." As for me, I am recommitting myself to ALL of God's redemptive purposes.                                                                       

Isaiah 5:20 “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.”