Monday, February 27, 2012

Ideas for an Egg-stra Special Easter

It’s the countdown to Easter! The 40 days, between February 22 and April 8, not counting Sundays, are set aside to prepare our hearts for this climactic day for Christians everywhere. This year I’ve been thinking about how Jesus’ resurrection makes new life possible.

We decorate for Easter with baby lambs, bunnies, chicks, and spring flowers. Best of all, yard flags, cards, and banners depict the gloriously empty cross and tomb, testifying that Jesus is no longer dead! After He arose, He let His disciples see and touch Him. He explained God’s plan thoroughly, and left them with the assignment to spread the Good News to everyone. And that news is: because He overcame sin and death, we can die to sin and become new and different people.

This year’s Easter series will be: “All Things Become New.” Each article will explore the changes that occur in every person who gives them self fully to Jesus; the old person dies and a new one is born. It shows up in:

·         Our hearts
·         Our minds
·         On our faces
·         What comes out of our mouths
·         Our marriages
·         Our parenting
·         Our attitude about work and leisure time
·         The way we handle money

Each article will end with a baking, decorating, or heart tip to make this Easter your best ever. See you back here on Epiphany!

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Remember You

My mom and dad laughed over a memorable family story recently, and Dad turned to me. “Do you remember that, Beth?”

“Well, no,” I had to admit. “I wasn’t born yet when it happened. But I’ve heard the story so many times, I feel like I remember it.”

It’s the same way regarding my husband’s mom, Sugar. She passed away years ago and I never got to meet her. Every year the family gathers round her grave for a time of remembrance. I’m beginning to feel like I did know her. I’ve heard so many stories about her delightful sense of humor (Her birthday was April Fool’s Day and she made the most of it!). She loved God and His Word, delighted in taking care of her family, and showered love on everyone she came in contact with.

I got to thinking about the concept of remembering the last time we had communion at church. It’s one thing for the disciples, who lived with Jesus, to remember Him when they shared the bread and wine. But how can we, who have never seen His face, “remember” Him? And yet, He left instructions for us to do just that:

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:23-26, also Luke 22:19-20).

I believe there are two ways that it is very possible for us to remember Jesus. First of all, like the stories from my family of origin, and Sugar's well-lived life, we remember Jesus through the accounts of the ones who were there. We have the narratives of Jesus’ life, ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection from the ones who felt the warmth of His touch, who knew the color of His eyes, and breathed in His breath. The more we read the Bible, the more we know the stories so well that we can feel we remember Him too.

Secondly, we remember Jesus from our own personal walk with Him. We may not know Him physically, but we know Him in Spirit. He is the One who died for us, forgave our sins when we asked Him to, who daily bears our burdens and talks to the Father on our behalf. The longer we know Jesus, the more memories we have of His work in our lives.

We remember incredible peace in the midst of turbulence. We remember how we had uncharacteristic patience, after praying for it. We remember receiving wisdom in seemingly impossible dilemmas. We remember being empowered in our moments of greatest weakness; that we were able to forgive people we once resented. We remember how our bodies became whole after sickness or injury.

Day after day, year after year, we are making memories. When we read the letters of those who knew Him on earth, and through our own experiences, we build on those memories. When we do, we honor the sacrifice He made to set us free from sin and hopelessness.

The next time you participate in communion, I hope you are able to whisper to the Lord, “I remember you” with a heart full of love and gratitude.

Beth Vice


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love That Melts Your Heart

Happy Valentines Day to all! If you're married or have a special someone, I hope this is a special day for you to share your love and friendship together. If you are not, I hope you have a heart-melting moment like I had yesterday. I was worried and stressed about a number of things and went to the Y to walk the track and escape with my i-pod for a while. Until the day care kids entered the gym with high voltage energy and volume.

I was annoyed that they were messing with my peaceful getaway. After a few laps, I got the feeling I was being watched and looked down to lock eyes with a little girl  in a pink and white striped shirt. She tilted her pigtailed head to one side and smiled. My heart melted. She waved and I waved back. Suddenly I was smiling and the noise didn't matter anymore.

I pray that love will melt your heart today and that you will pass it on to someone else who needs a smile, a hug, a wave, or a touch from another person.

Today, I want to share part of a devotion with you from the soon-to-come-out iLove Devotional (watch for it on This is a project I have been working on with my talented singer/songwriter brother-in-law Rob Baker. Each devotion is based on the songs of his iLove CD. You can listen to and purchase individual songs or his cd at:

Linda Loves Jesus

They say sex begins in the kitchen. Apparently good songs do too. At least that’s how “Linda Loves Jesus” began. Rob was in a silly mood. When Linda started raving about her love for Jesus, he danced around her teasing, “Linda loves Jesus more than me.” She laughingly agreed it was true.

What began as a pouty little phrase, dawned on Rob as wonderful truth. That’s the way it’s supposed to be! Pretty soon the silly chant began to take on rhythm and form. Rob holed up in their music room and a new song was born.

When Jesus sent the twelve disciples on their first preaching mission, He warned them their first love must belong to Him. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

When we put God first, our love and commitment to Him becomes so intense, that it makes our love for anyone else look like hatred in comparison. Jesus used this example to show us what commitment means:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).

Despite the seeming contradiction of Jesus’ words, when we give Him all our love it actually strengthens our marriages. God created us to need a relationship with Him first, with all other relationships second. When we live according to His design, it works. That’s why Rob can sing that he wants his wife to love Jesus more than him, and that he loves Jesus first as well. They know the secret to a happy marriage is to love Jesus more than any-one or any-thing.

When I sing along with “Linda Loves Jesus,” I put my husband’s name in place of hers. That’s what I desire for my marriage as well. If you’re married, I hope that’s what you want too. If you’re single, this song can guide you in:

·         every dating relationship
·        every job you accept
·        every ministry opportunity you embark on
·        every possession you own

If your life is a level, what is the bubble you adjust to in the middle?  Is Jesus your center? If not, what needs to change?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Things That Sound True…But Aren’t

A delightful sign at Cullaby Lake
Modern proverbs are everywhere. We hear them all the time and may not give them a second thought. People may not preface them anymore with “Confucius say…” but they still carry an aura of the profound about them. We often nod and agree, because they sound wise.        

I love proverbs because they’re clever, to the point, and easy to remember. They can be poetic, humorous, and wise; they can be easy to grip handles on important truths. However, they can also be based on worldly wisdom instead of God’s truth.

Here are two I’ve heard a lot the last couple of years:

·         Everything happens for a reason
·         God won’t give me anything I can’t handle

Both of these sound true, but if you hold them up to scripture, they don’t line up. Take the first one. Is there a reason for murder, rape, abuse, and atrocities men have committed against each other? Is there a purpose for cruel words, greed, and selfishness? No, these things happen because we are sinners living in a sinful world. However, they can be redeemed by our loving, heavenly Father.

He alone brings good out of the tragic and the heart shattering hurts of life. He creates beauty from ashes. When we release our grip on bitterness and revenge, He can use even the most ridiculous situations for good – for us and others.

As for the second proverb – of course God gives us things we can’t handle! If we could handle everything why would we need Him? What the Bible actually says is that God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can handle, but instead, will show us an escape route so we can get away (1 Cor. 10:13).

God designed us to need Him. He takes pleasure in our dependence and waits for us to ask for help so He can pour His love on us. Whether we’re lacking patience, love, wisdom, forgiveness, energy, hope, or something else – He can handle it.

So how can we tell if a proverb is true? Compare it to the written Word of God. Apostle Paul praised the people he preached to in Berea, because instead of gulping down everything he said about Jesus, they checked it against scripture first (Acts 17:11). We’re supposed to do the same.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8, NIV). Or, as the Living Translation says:”Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” What sounds clever may not be true.

If you stay on the alert you’ll hear empty philosophy gushing from television, advertisements, people, and maybe even your own lips. When you do, run to the Bible and fill up with a dose of genuine wisdom. Then hold on to it for all you’re worth.