Category Archives: Holiday Messages

Happy Valentine’s Day (God Adores You!)

The author of love–our Creator–adores us!

 

God created us so that He could lavish His love upon us! Imagine that! We are the objects of His love, the apple of His eye! He loved us before we ever did a thing! He loves us when we obey Him, and He still loves us when we disobey Him. As a parent myself, I know that I may not always like my children’s behavior, but I still love them!

 

When a man and a woman fall in love, they respond to the other’s love for them. That is how God intended it to be between Him and us. He reaches out in love to us, and we respond to that love by reaching back to Him. Unlike human love, God’s love for us never fades with time. His love is not dependent upon our actions. He will love us faithfully and fervently for all of eternity, if we have chosen to become His child through faith in Christ. I have heard it said, as an illustration of Christ’s love for us, that when Jesus was asked, “How much do you love me?” He replied, “This much,” and then He stretched out His arms on the cross and died.

 

The apostle Paul prayed that we would know “…how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18, NIV) It will literally take an eternity to fully grasp that. But we can catch a glimpse of it even in this life-time, if we watch for it. “…the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:5, NIV). It is in His amazing creations–from the stars down to the tiniest invisible organism. It’s found in human acts of kindness. (Think of all the times someone has reached out to you at just the right moment when you needed a love touch. Think of how people rally around disaster victims.) His love is in the strength He gives us to persevere in hard times, and it’s in the tender way He comforts our souls when we grieve. It’s in those moments when He intervenes and protects us from harm (ie; the near collision that you barely avoided while driving). It’s in His hand of daily provision and blessings. Every breath we take is a gift of love from Him! Take time to just bask in His love.

 

“In him our hearts rejoice…” for our “…hope is in his unfailing love.”

(Psalm 33:21 & 18)

 

 

 

The Wonder of Christmas

I love seeing the world through the eyes of young children, especially this time of year. The littlest things delight them and fill them with wonder, and their multitude of questions are born out of honest curiosity, not defensiveness. They’re also very trusting. It’s easy to see why Jesus encouraged us to come to Him like little children.

I also marvel at the everyday miracles the Lord does in my heart, helping me to look beyond myself to Him and others. He blesses me in innumerable ways, both small and large. Yes, He helps me find lost items in my house and reminds me of things I need to attend to. He also comforts me in my grieving times, encourages me when I’m discouraged or afraid, listens quietly as I “vent” my frustrations to Him, strengthens me in my trials, and gives me a positive perspective on life.

I’m so thankful for the greatest miracle of all, and I truly am in awe of the fact that Almighty God, the Creator of the entire universe, would lay aside all His splendor, come to earth as a baby in humble circumstances, and then die a tortuous death just so I can have fellowship with a holy God. His love is beyond comprehension. I can only fall on my knees in humble gratitude and praise Him.

May you experience the wonder of His love this Christmas and always!

O, come, let us adore Him! Jesus Christ, the Lord!

Christmas Message 2015

Last Sunday, in church, there were some large impressionistic murals on the stage by the artist who would be speaking at our annual women’s dinner that night. I wasn’t all that impressed, but after hearing his story of Jesus, being told as he painted in the details on his murals, I was very impressed!

That led me to reflect on a number of things. The birth of the Christ child wasn’t very impressive, nor was most of Jesus’ life on earth, but we know that the ending of the story is spectacular!

And so it is with each of our lives. Most days may look pretty unimpressive, but God is carefully painting in the details and the end result will be amazing!

This Christmas season, as we reflect upon the very humble arrival of the Christ child, may we also remember that each of us is a work in progress. May this cause us to look beyond our first impressions of people and see in them all the potential that our glorious Lord has placed in them.

O, come let us adore Him…and love one another!

Merry Christmas!

 

Reminders Through a Rose

On Mother’s Day, the children in our church hand roses out to the mothers. The thought process I’m about to describe happened within a few seconds, but it was revealing, never-the-less.

The children had red, white, and pink roses. I liked the deep, rich color of the red ones and was briefly disappointed when I received a pink one. Then I asked God’s forgiveness for my ungrateful heart and felt contentment. A moment later, another child, who had extras, handed me two red roses. I felt God, in His mercy & grace, was responding to my repentant heart. But He had another reminder in store for me. Reminder #1: Be content with what you have and don’t covet what others have.

I put the three roses in a vase and enjoyed them all, but the pink one was the only one that actually bloomed, and it outlasted the red ones by several days. I ended up enjoying the pink one the most. God had given me what I wanted, but once again, I saw that He knows best what will truly satisfy and delight me. Reminder #2: God knows me better than I know myself, and His plans for me far outshine my own. So, trust Him, even in the hard times, and be thankful for His love, and content with His choices for me.

 

Let the Lord Serve You

At the last supper, when Jesus knelt to wash Peter’s feet, Peter objected. But when the Lord said it was necessary, Peter allowed it. At a recent Good Friday service, I was not even as obedient as Peter.

In one of my Bible studies, we’ve been taking the perspective of seeing Jesus in every person, serving even the annoying ones the way we would serve Him. And if I see Him in people, then I should also be willing to allow them to serve me. I failed to do so on Good Friday.

At our church service, one of the optional stations we can go to during worship is a foot washing station. Katherine, a gal who’s living with us, asked if she could wash my feet. I regret to say that I declined because it was outside of my comfort zone. The Holy Spirit nudged me to change my mind, but unlike Peter, I didn’t.

Humility is a key attribute of Jesus. We need to learn how to humbly serve and humbly receive. Both in giving and in receiving, I need to be willing to step out of my comfort zones. I know that pride and selfishness are what keep me in those comfort zones.

On this Easter Sunday, I’m praying that the resurrected Lord will resurrect my spirit and restore that “first love” passion and zeal that responds appropriately to the promptings of His Holy Spirit. Fortunately for me, He is able to do all things! That is the hope and glory of Easter: God keeps His promises! And He promised to complete the good work He began in me! (Phil. 1:6)

Hallelujah!

 

Christmas Reflections

“They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7

As we gather with family and friends this season, I’m so thankful for the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ!

I’ve recently been reading in the book of Leviticus and I’m so thankful we no longer have to go through all that to receive God’s forgiveness for our sins! Jesus paid the price for all my sins so I could have an intimate relationship with God. I pray daily for the Lord to help me not to take that for granted!

I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit to reveal my sins to me, and show me what to do about them, so I can have better relationships with people as well as God. My blog is all about things God has shown me I need to do differently, and I like the results of the changes He makes in me!

But I also like how the Holy Spirit comforts me when I’m grieving, and encourages me when I’m discouraged. I’m thankful for the wisdom and clarity He gives when I’m confused and not sure what to do. I’m thankful that He helps me to love and forgive those who offend me.

The tri-une God is a mystery the human mind can never grasp. We have to accept it by faith. But one thing’s clear: God Himself is a community and He designed us to be a community. When we give our lives to Him, through faith in Jesus Christ, we become part of an eternal family. None of us are perfect now, but we can look forward to the day we will be!

If you don’t yet believe Jesus is God, ask Him to reveal that truth to you. If you believe, but haven’t surrendered your life to Him, what are you waiting for? Just admit you’re a sinner (not perfect) in need of a Savior and receive His Holy Spirit. My salvation prayer in 1983 was simply, “Lord, please take over the driver’s seat of my life.” And as long as I allow Him to do the driving, my life runs a lot more smoothly, even in the hard times!

From God’s heart and mine, I wish you a blessed Christmas! May we each fully enjoy our many blessings every day of the year!

Jesus by Jorja Stewart (May 30, 1983)

I am the child

in you:

pure

joyous

untroubled

curious.

Let me play

in your heart.

 

 

A Gift for Jesus

Many years ago, Anne Graham Lotz was the December guest speaker at a Bible study I attended. One thing she mentioned was that, every year, she asks Jesus what sacrificial gift He would like from her for Christmas. That really struck a chord with me, and I’ve been doing the same ever since.

I can always think of lots of ways I could sacrifice for Jesus, but the Lord usually waits until December to reveal what He wants for Christmas, and it always surprises me. How do I know which of my sacrifices is the gift? For me, it comes as a confirmation from the Holy Spirit. I know beyond all doubt that this is the one.

I’m not going to share the specifics of this year’s gift to Him, but I’ll share generally, because there are lessons to be learned (or re-learned) from it.

The Lord revealed to me that I was being too “pushy” with certain people that I was working with, and thus not being considerate of their needs. So, what He wanted from me was silence and reliance upon prayer in this particular set of circumstances. It was difficult for me, but I surrendered the deadlines and backed off and kept quiet, speaking only to God about my concerns and praying for all the people involved.

Well, it’s impossible to out-bless the Lord! As I kept quiet and prayed, He answered in ways that exceeded my expectations—and He met the needs of everyone involved.

God has once again demonstrated to me that His ways are far superior to mine because He takes everyone’s needs into consideration, whereas I tend to be focused just on my needs or desires. And He has once again demonstrated to me the power of surrendered prayer!

So, this Christmas, as you’re giving gifts to those you love, you might want to include Jesus. I guarantee that as you strive to bless Him, you and others will be doubly blessed!

An Attitude of Thanksgiving

As we approach the national holiday of Thanksgiving, I was reflecting upon my recent reminder of what it looks like to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I had recently asked the Lord to help me fast and rest in Him. He accomplished both through one virus! (No, He doesn’t give people viruses, but He does allow trials into our lives, and then He brings good out of them.)

I have noticed that, when I’m very ill or in chronic pain, time slows down. Things that would normally occupy my thoughts and time become less important because I don’t have the mental or physical energy to spend on them. This actually makes me a lot more aware of the Lord’s presence. Not only am I aware of my need of His strength, but I sense His sweet, comforting presence in a deeper way when all the distractions of life have been put aside.

I experienced a number of blessings in my recent 12 day bout with an intestinal virus. For one, I’d been wanting to lose 5 pounds before Thanksgiving. (I lost 9.) But more importantly, I experienced many evidences of God’s comfort and love, and re-learned a few important lessons.

Thankfully, as long as I didn’t eat, I was able to do things. At just the right moments, I was blessed with beautiful sunrises and sunsets. At other “just right” moments, I got a call from our son because he wanted to share something he was excited about that God had done in his life. One of our daughters gave me the helpful advice of drinking Gatorade when I couldn’t eat. That was a life saver! One of the high school students that I mentor actually sent me a text message to wish me well! (Text messages from mentees are rare.) And my wonderful husband took good care of me.

The important lesson that I re-learned was in regard to fasting. I love food. It is hard to give it up. But I found that I didn’t even desire it when I knew that I would not like the consequences of eating. I saw that it’s easy to fast when our desire is strong enough. My motive for fasting during this virus was to avoid the painful consequences of eating. But how much more admirable it would be to fast because I earnestly desired to bring the needs of others to God!

God calls us to both times of fasting and times of feasting. Fasting is a time of mourning over the circumstances of life (ours & others’), as we bring those concerns to the Lord, seeking His intervention. God doesn’t want us to do anything ritualistically, but He wants us to do everything out of a heart of gratitude and compassion. Why do we go to church? So we can join with fellow believers in pouring out our thanksgiving to God, and also to learn, and to minister encouragement and comfort to one another. Fasting and intercessory prayer, as with any form of giving, should be motivated by a heart of compassion for others. God is love and He wants love to be the motive for all that we do.

But once we have presented our concerns to God, He wants us to rejoice in knowing that He’s in control, and enjoy special times of feasting and thanksgiving. It’s amazing how much more I appreciate my food after a period of fasting! And while I’m thanking Him for my food, I can continue to thank Him for the many other blessings He pours into my life daily.

So I thank the Lord for this humble reminder of His love and pray He’ll empower me to care more about others than about my personal comfort and pleasure. But I’m also thankful that He provides special times of feasting and rejoicing, and I certainly intend to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast with family and friends!

 

 

Our Stories (Easter 2013)

For Christians, Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what that means to each of us individually. Therefore, my husband and I would like to share our stories with you.

Jorja’s Story

I (Jorja) was adopted as a baby and grew up in a very loving home, but my parents were not professing Christians. In my elementary school years, I would occasionally go to various churches with my friends, and I loved the flannel board Bible stories told by an elderly lady in our neighborhood. She would invite the neighborhood children over for snacks and stories. The boys were most interested in the cookies, but I really enjoyed the stories.

Around age 12, my family moved from Sierra Madre, CA to Long Beach, CA. That pretty much ended my church going, except for an occasional wedding or funeral. Our family spent most Sundays at the yacht club. I always believed in a god, and I talked to him, but I wasn’t convinced Jesus was anything more than a good man.

I married Tom in 1972, and in 1976 we decided to try something completely different, so we moved to a town of 250 people in up-state N.Y. We were both teachers. In 1981, our son, Shon, was born 2 months prematurely and had cerebral palsy as a result. Our lives turned up-side down.

The first 6 weeks of Shon’s life were touch and go. We weren’t sure if he’d live. God brought a number of Christians into our lives at that time.

One of Shon’s nurses bonded with us and we ended up being informally adopted by her parents. They were Christians with the gift of hospitality and they simply showered God’s love on us.

Shon’s first babysitter was a pastor’s wife and I admired her peace and joy, knowing some of the difficult trials she had been through. A variety of circumstances caused us to decide to move back to CA in 1982. I got a team teaching job with a gal that drove me crazy with all her talk about Jesus. But one day, I asked her why it wasn’t good enough to believe in God. Why did I have to believe Jesus was God?

I learned that God is perfect and I’m not, which presents a problem. A holy God cannot have fellowship with an unholy human. Someone has to pay for all my wrong-doing, either myself, or a substitute. So God came down to earth in the form of His Son Jesus, and He paid the price for my sins by dying a cruel death on the cross. Now the choice was mine. If I chose to believe this, ask His forgiveness, and receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I would have eternal life and fellowship with God. If I refused to accept Jesus, then I would pay the price for my sins myself, and spend eternity separated from God in hell, a horrible place of darkness and pain. With Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I would also receive the Holy Spirit of God to empower me to live the way Jesus did, unselfishly and humbly.

On May 26, 1983, as I was rocking our son, Shon, to sleep, I said, “Lord, I want you to take over the driver’s seat of my life.”

I understood that I was a sinner who needed a Savior. I felt overwhelmed with peace and joy and my tears dripped onto Shon’s sleeping head. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I now know I was experiencing the relief of having the burden of all my past guilt lifted from my shoulders. I told my friend I wanted to hear God like she did, so I followed her example in reading the Bible daily, listening to good pastors, and getting involved in Bible studies and church. Since I had always considered myself a good person, I had no idea how much God would change me, and how that would impact others, beginning with my husband!

I had always been a very goal oriented person. I selected my career when I was in 4th grade. In high school, I read and saved an article about how you could supposedly choose the sex of your baby and, when we were ready to start a family, I followed the advice! I wanted our first child to be a boy, born in the spring. I got pregnant when I wanted to, and we had a boy, but the rest didn’t go according to my plans! I began to realize I wasn’t as much in control of my life as I’d thought. I had also been a workaholic and wasn’t willing to give up teaching for anyone, not even my family. I worried about finances and anything I didn’t have control over. And, not everything I said was beneficial to the listener.

After I became a Christian, I memorized Eph. 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I began to see that not everything I said was beneficial to the listener! I also gradually began to surrender my plans and learn to seek God’s will. A month after my conversion, I decided I wanted to quit teaching and stay home full time. This was a shocker to anyone who knew me! Tom agreed, even though we had no idea how we’d manage on one income, so at the end of the school year, I quit.Tom would finally be the provider he longed to be.

With time, Tom noticed other positive changes in me. He now had my full attention when he spoke. I said yes to things I would never have considered before (such as allowing him to buy a motorcycle). I was more considerate and forgiving. I began seeking his advice more often. And I decided not to have my tubes tied. Tom was glad I had decided I was open to having more children, and by 1986 we had 2 lovely daughters! Tom gave his life to the Lord later that year, we began our amazing, life-changing adventure with Christ, and I began to experience the truth of Eph. 3:20: God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to his glory!

Tom’s Story

I (Tom) was born in Torrance, California and grew up there. Growing up, I was without a church family as my parents were not believers and I only went to church when I would spend a Saturday night at a friend’s house and his family would go to church on Sunday morning. I would tag along with them and either go to kids Sunday school or to the main service depending on the church. My mom would give me money to put in the plate as a donation but my friend and I would visit the little store by the church and I would spend the offering money on candy which we would eat during the church service. So much for giving to God but I had no concept of giving or even who this God was.. I spent much of my childhood playing sports and from the age of twelve on surfed as much as possible. It was a way to get out of the house as my parents would fight (verbally) much of the time they were together. My father was working longer hours to keep his business afloat but in part because he did not want to confront my mother’s drinking problem. I finished High School in Torrance and after High School enlisted in the Air Force for a four year term. It was good to get out of the house and see the world and grow into a man.

I was stationed at Travis Air Force Base for the first year and a half of my service and would see the Marines and Army leaving Travis for Vietnam on commercial airlines. Also many would return in cargo aircraft in metal boxes which were offloaded from the cargo aircraft stacked four or five high using a forklift. This was a constant flow of soldiers leaving and metal boxes returning. I spent two and a half years overseas in South East Asia and I use to listen to Armed Forces Radio and some of the preachers they would have on their radio shows.

During my first few months in Thailand I got a letter from a girl (Jorja) back in the states who knew my brother. We wrote each other for almost a year then I got to meet her while on leave. We fell in love and married two years after I was discharged from the Air Force.

I finished college on the GI Bill and did my student teaching and four years into our marriage we moved to upstate New York to try a different life style.

After eight years of marriage we had our first child who was two and a half months premature and weighed two pounds twelve ounces. The doctors said our son would have physical and or mental problems and we could choose to not do anything special in the hospital and he would probably die. We said (without Jesus in our lives) that he looked like a fighter and we wanted him to live.

We got close to one of his nurses and her family who were strong Christians but did not push Jesus but lived the life. The parents of the nurse planted many seeds in my life, (they were also teachers like my wife and I were) and the seeds started to grow when our son was a year and a half we moved back to California where we could be close to our parents. My mother died a year after we returned to California, from excessive drinking and my father died two years after that from cancer so I was thankful we had moved when we did.

I went to work in the family business and my wife took a job teaching High School. One teacher she team taught with was a strong Christian who led her to the Lord. I found out she was saved catching her reading the Bible while giving our son a bath. I said,”what are you reading?” and she said, “the Bible”. I feared that I had lost my wife to this guy named Jesus because when Jorja commits to something, she goes whole hog!A few months after my wife came to know Jesus I accepted the Lord and we were both baptized in the ocean by Pastor Chuck Smith. I have known Jesus since 1983 but most likely would not have accepted Him as my Lord and Savior if it hadn’t been for my son’s difficult birth and disability. I have my son, (thank you Shon) and the people that invested in our lives planting seeds to thank for my walk.

The Lord has certainly taught me how to give as I no longer use my tithe money to buy candy to eat in church but also He has taught me how to live in a way that is pleasing to Him, (Psalm 104 Vs: 33 & 34) I will sing to the Lord all my Life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34; May my meditations be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord.

I am still a sinner but Jesus died on the cross for my sins and forgives me when I repent of those sins. We as Christians are a work in progress and will never be perfect until we reach Heaven. The Lord can truly change your life so why not give it a try. John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. How does eternal life sound to you?

Would you like to accept Jesus into your life today?

 

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Have a glorious Easter rejoicing in that!

Tom & Jorja

 

Happy Valentine’s Day (God Adores You!)

On this day when love is celebrated, I thought it would be appropriate to ponder how much the author of love–our Creator–adores us!

God created you and me so He could lavish His love upon us! Imagine that! We are the objects of His love, the apple of His eye! He loved us before we ever did a thing! He loves us when we obey Him, and He still loves us when we disobey Him. As a parent myself, I know that I may not always like my children’s behavior, but I still love them!

When a man and a woman fall in love, they respond to the other’s love for them. That is how God intended it to be between Him and us. He reaches out in love to us, and we respond to that love by reaching back to Him. Unlike human love, God’s love for us never fades with time. His love is not dependent upon our actions. He will love us faithfully and fervently for all of eternity, if we have chosen to become His child through faith in Christ. I have heard it said, as an illustration of Christ’s love for us, that when Jesus was asked, “How much do you love me,” He replied, “This much,” and then He stretched out His arms on the cross and died.

The apostle Paul prayed that we would know “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18) It will take an eternity, literally, to fully grasp that. But we can catch a glimpse of it even in this life-time, if we watch for it. “…the earth is full of his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:5). It is in His amazing creations–from the stars down to the tiniest invisible organism. It’s found in human acts of kindness. (Think of all the times someone has reached out to you at just the right moment when you needed a love touch. Think of how people rally around disaster victims.) His love is in the strength He gives us to persevere in hard times, and it’s in the tender way He comforts our souls when we grieve. It’s in those moments when He intervenes and protects us from harm (ie; the near collision that you barely avoided while driving). It’s in His hand of daily provision and blessings. Every breath we take is a gift of love from Him!

Take time to just bask in His love–and have a glorious day!

“In Him our hearts rejoice,” for our “hope is in His unfailing love”!

(Psalm 33:21 & 18)