Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolved


“I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Romans 7:15.  No this isn’t one of my quotes, but it sure could be.  We stand at the threshold of a fresh, new year, 2013!! Once again we are offered a clean slate.  In hopes of keeping it in pristine condition, we resolve to be healthier; more organized or what ever activity it is we want to improve, or habit we wish to end.  On January 1st, filled with fervent desire, and strength, we boldly take control of our weaknesses, vowing 100% commitment to said resolutions.  Flash forward a week, maybe less, how will you be doing?  The greatest evangelist of all times, Paul, wrote these words, born from personal frustration.  If Paul had trouble keeping resolutions, or in this case, the law, what chance do I stand? The issue, that Paul goes on to explain, is the warfare that wages within us, as Christians.  This battle, like any other skirmish, involves two factions at odds with each other.  In this instance the two opposing forces are, the law that God established, which defines sin, and our inborn sinful nature.  Remember, just because we accept Christ, doesn’t mean that the old sin nature dies.  As we all know, it rears its ugly head way too often, especially when we are trying so hard to fight it. Paul continues by saying, “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”  Jesus knew that we would have to face this dilemma, when he wrote, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41. So, do we just throw up our hands and blame our actions, or inactions,  on the old sin nature?  NO!  Jesus tells us to WATCH and PRAY.  In other words, be prepared. Temptations are going to come, so keep your eyes open, and gird yourself with prayer.  A warrior, headed into battle, would be a fool not to expect an enemy attack, and even more foolish to enter the fray without weapons to defend himself.  Will we keep all the resolutions we make; probably not. But take heart, in the big matters, when we allow him, God’s Holy Spirit will sound the alarm when temptation is about to attack, and prayer will be your defensive shield.  Resolve to use the old one-two punch this year, it will always be effective! 
  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Becoming One


I live in a 100+ year old farmhouse, and there is no heat upstairs in my bedroom. Needless to same, it is a very uncomfortable process to change into my pjs every evening. One thing keeps me focused, the anticipation of sliding into my electric blanket-warmed, flannel-sheeted cocoon.  The similar temperature of my body, and that of my nest, makes it difficult to differentiate between the two of us, thus causing the sensation of “becoming one” with my bed.  Heavenly! I‘ve been repeating this scene, every winter evening, for well over 35 years, and the joy that I find in that  warm, comfy haven has never faded.   Just the other night, as I was melting into sleep, these verses, on “oneness” came to mind.  The Biblical concept, of two different things combining to become one, was first laid out in Genesis.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24.  We have come to accept these directives as the foundation for marriage.  Inseparability, like cream in your coffee, impossible to pull apart once combined. It‘s interesting that our relationship with God, is often referred to in marital terms.  “…just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.” Isaiah 62:5. When we say yes, to God’s “proposal” of salvation, he rejoices over us, and we  become one with Him, physically and spiritually. Christ told us this, “The Father and I are one." John 10:30, and that same oneness is available to us.  Jesus replied, "All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. John 14:23. A nearness, an indwelling and an intimacy, that no human relationship, or warm bed, will ever come close to achieving; oh joy of joys!! Seems impossible, doesn’t it?  But it’s a promise, one that offers so much more than we can ever imagine. Have you experienced the bliss of oneness yet?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Plans

Woody Allen is credited with saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  We could add to it, “If you want to hear him laugh even louder, tell him how much you know.  It’s amusing to see people ardently making lists, organizing their lives, and orchestrating, they think, the world around them.  Plans, plans and more plans, we humans love to make plans.  God designed us to pursue what we love, but the fact is, the only plan of action, that will be efficacious, is the one we allow God to refine.  Sure, we can devise great-sounding outlines, but if they go against what God has established, they will fall as flat as a shaken soufflĂ©. How many times have you launched a foolproof scheme, only to have it fail?  Speaking for myself, too many to count.  Our designs may sound good in theory, but application is the true test. Why is it so difficult for us to consult with a higher authority?  I think it’s because, since childhood, we’ve been taught to be self-reliant, and asking others for advice might be construed as an admission of weakness.  In actuality, when we seek guidance, from a reliable source, it proves that we sincerely want our plans to succeed, because we are aware of our limitations.  When we call on God for assistance, he doesn’t just take over, instead he enhances our abilities, by empowering them with his Holy Spirit. Even the poet Robert Burns knew that the plans of mice and men, often go awry. Who would want to continue in futile pursuit of wimpiness, when His super power is available?  Not me!! “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.  That, my friends, is a promise…believe it!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bucket List


“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Luke 2: 25-26.

A few years back, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in “The Bucket List”.  The movie followed the 2 men,  one of whom was terminally ill, as they ticked off everything they wanted to do, before they “kicked the bucket”.  They traveled the world, ate in the finest restaurants, attended sporting events and hobnobbed with high society, doing whatever they had ever dreamed of doing.  Today we look at the old man Simeon’s bucket list.  It was short, all he wanted was to see the Lord’s Christ, and God came through for him.  On the day that Mary and Joseph had brought Jesus to the temple, in Jerusalem, Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to enter the temple courts.  “When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now may dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:27-32.

When I look at my own bucket list, filled with hedonistic desires, I’m ashamed.  Nothing can compare with seeing God’s anointed one with our own eyes, it’s the only thing that is truly worth being on the list . There’s nothing wrong with wanting to travel, or dine elegantly, but all of those activities pale in comparison to meeting Jesus face-to-face.

Make sure that coming to know the King of Kings is top on your list. “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Luke 2: 25-26.

A few years back, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in “The Bucket List”.  The movie followed the 2 men,  one of whom was terminally ill, as they ticked off everything they wanted to do, before they “kicked the bucket”.  They traveled the world, ate in the finest restaurants, attended sporting events and hobnobbed with high society, doing whatever they had ever dreamed of doing.  Today we look at, the old man, Simeon’s bucket list.  It was short, all he wanted was to see the Lord’s Christ, and God came through for him.  On the day that Mary and Joseph had brought Jesus to the temple, in Jerusalem, Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to enter the temple courts.  “When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now may dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:27-32.

When I look at my own bucket list, filled with hedonistic desires, I’m ashamed.  Nothing can compare with seeing God’s anointed one with our own eyes, it’s the only thing that is truly worth being on the list . There’s nothing wrong with wanting to travel, or dine elegantly, but all of those activities pale in comparison to meeting Jesus face-to-face. Make sure that coming to know the King of Kings is at the top of your bucket list. "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ."  Phillipians 3:8


                                           

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Believe


    You know, “The” Christmas story, “God born a man in a manger”, and all that, escapes some moderns. Mostly I think because they seek complex answers to their questions, and this one is so utterly simple. So for the cynics and the skeptics and the unconvinced, I submit a modern parable.
    Now the man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men, but he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story about God coming to earth as a man.
    “I’m truly sorry to distress you”, he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas eve”, he said he’d feel like a hypocrite, that he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. So he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
    Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another. And then another; sort of a thump or a thud. At first, he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
    Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly, he put on a coat and goulashes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn.
    He opened the doors wide and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail the yellow lighted, wide open door to the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried “shooing” them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn.
    Then he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could let them know that they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led, or “shooed” because they feared him.
    “If only I could be a bird”, he thought to himself “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe warm -------------- to the safe warm barn, but I would have to be one of them so they could see and hear, and understand.”
    At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. He stood there listening to the bells, Adeste Fidelis. Listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World?

“It’s the end of the world as we know it”. Remember that 1987 song by R.E.M.?  Actually, all I remembered was this catchy chorus, so I Googled the rest of the lyrics. They were hopeless sounding; “Save yourself, serve yourself” and “No strength the ladder starts to clatter with the fear, fight down height.” Daily, horrific, news reports detail that it’s many people live without hope, in a world that hands them nothing but despair.  Maybe it’s the Mayan calendar prediction, that the world is supposed to end on 12/21/12, that is revealing this hopelessness, but I believe it’s people’s refusal of Jesus.  Sure,  Christians still have to live in this world, but the fact is, we are not “of it”.  It’s kind of like traveling to England, we can speak the language, the food and culture is similar, but it’s not home. Jesus, in praying to his father, on behalf of all of us, said this, “They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.”  John 17:16-19.  Do current events make you feel like an alien living in a foreign land?  They should, because that is exactly what we are.  But don’t despair, in fact take comfort in the knowledge that Christ’s prayer continues to give us his supernatural strength in this world, as we look joyfully forward to the day we return home

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Foolishness?


“This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25. Let’s get something straight, God is neither foolish nor weak, but many times his plans seem that way to we mere humans.  Take, for example, the birth of Jesus, and the circumstances surrounding it.  A young, woman, 9 months pregnant with a child who was not biologically related to her betrothed, traveling, by donkey, to Bethlehem to partake in a government mandated census. OK, already this seems foolish to me. No offence God, but really?  No way was anyone getting me on a donkey when I was due to deliver.  Can I hear an AMEN ladies!!! Moving along, the baby decides it’s time to join the world, and with no other place to bed down, they make do in a stable.  Hello, a barn, where animals eat, sleep and well, you know what else they doo doo. God I gotta say, this is not the wisest looking plan, for the grand entrance of your own son.  Couldn’t you find a clean cardboard box at least?  Just sayin’. Then, to top it off, who were the first visitors to this messy scene; shepherds!  Not noble men, not priests or other high muckity mucks, but lowly, stinky, grungy guys who worked the sheepherding night shift!! Huh???  They told Mary and Joseph about the angels, and the star that led them to the place where Jesus lay, wrapped in old cloths in an animal feeding trough and, “All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Luke 2:18-19.  Mary, above all the people there that night, was the most intimately involved.  I can only, humanly, think how I would have felt, “This is crazy; Can’t wait to update my status on Facebook!!”  But, not Mary.  As ludicrous as it all may have seemed to her, she remembered what God had told her, and tucked everything away, like a treasure, safely in her heart .  Can you see beyond the foolishness of situations to the heart of God’s plan for your life?  I know it’s difficult to get beyond the obvious, but  let’s resolve to be more like Mary, treasuring God’s words, and thinking about them often.  God will then reveal to us the wise, strong truth about himself and his kingdom.  Believe it!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Return to God


My Mom and Dad live in Springfield, MO, in an old-fashion neighborhood that is so pleasant to stroll around.  Every home, built circa 1950s, is unique in style, and just down the street is the Delaware Elementary School.  Every time I’ve walked by the neat brick building, I’ve mentioned that it reminds me of the school that Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver attended. I’m sure I’ve been by Delaware school numerous times, over the years, but on Saturday this warning sign, jumped out at me.  It’s been there for quite some time, by the looks of it, without me taking heed of it, but after the horrific shootings on 12/14, it finally caught my attention.   Neither the Beav, nor I, could in our wildest 50’s child minds,  have conceived of  our schools displaying a public notice like this. The only “weapons” that might have made it past Mr. Goldberg, our 6’9” principal, would have been spit balls, rubber bands and the occasional water gun.  Oh brother, you sure didn’t want to take the chance, because a trip to the principal’s office was not fun, followed by the dreaded call to your parents!!  By now, most of you know that I, too, am a 1950’s product, and proud of it. A heinous act, like this one, was unimaginable in the 50s, now seems like a weekly occurrence. We have, sadly, become almost immune to the news of yet another massacre at the hands of angry, maladjusted, etc., young men.  The questions on all of our minds include, “How could this happen?”, and “Why would God let this happen?”.  As you recall, we asked God to leave our schools back it the early 1960s.  I remember it well.  Don’t ever get the idea that God is not grieved by this senseless act, nor that He is to blame.  Remember, we rejected him, and by so doing, all manner of evil was able to waltz right in. “Mr. Goldberg” had been booted out of the building. I, like many other Christians, believe we are living in the End Times.  Does that mean Jesus will be returning in the next few months?  That I don’t know,  but the signs are emerging daily.  Consider this verse; “For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.” 2 Timothy 3:2.  Nothing will be sacred to these people, including the lives of precious little first graders.  Our enemy, Satan, knows full well what is coming, and he is out to possess as many human souls as he can, in the time that is left. We are helpless against his assaults, without God.  Neither stricter gun control laws, nor antipsychotic drugs can stop pure evil from being manifested in weak human beings. Even if you don’t believe in God, please consider what is happening in our world, and acknowledge the fact that we can’t, on our own, control this kind of terrifying behavior.  Don’t delay in seeking him out on your own, our world is in peril without him.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Alpha and Omega


I lead a Bible study on Saturday mornings, and I use the liturgical readings from the Catholic church as the basis. Whoever set up which scriptures were to be included, is to be commended, there is always a consistent theme. Typically they include an OT selection, a Psalm, a NT reading, and finally the gospel message. December 2 marked the beginning of Advent, and the verses that were chosen began with a prophecy from Jeremiah.  In essence it  proclaimed that the Messiah would shoot from King David’s family tree, the tribe of Judah.  The gospel reading was from Luke, but it did not deal with Jesus’ lineage, birth or the angel visiting Mary, in fact it dealt with end times.  In those days, certain cultures, the Greeks being one, believed that history merely cycled around.  Every 3000 years or so, it would repeat itself, with no end in sight. The nation of Israel, on the other hand, held fast to the promise that God would one day come to judge the earth’s inhabitants.  So, they believed in a world that was racing towards an end, not going around in dizzying circles.  In chapter 21 of Luke, Jesus gets the attention of his disciples by telling them that one day the, magnificent temple in Jerusalem would lay in a pile of rubble.  Immediately they asked when this would take place.  Jesus gives many clues, but no definitive date.  He wanted them, and all of us that followed, to be keenly aware of the signs.  Every Christian generation since, has looked for the signs.  Are you familiar with them?  It would be foolish not to know what to look for, after Jesus specifically informs us of them. Here are a few: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” Luke 21:8.  “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” v.10, and, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” v 25-28.  Jesus doesn’t tell us these things to frighten us, but to encourage, and remind us that he will return for us.  Read them, for yourself, don’t believe me, believe in Him, PLEASE!!! “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 21:6.
 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sin Stinks


We all know what it’s like to open your fridge only to have your olfactory glands assaulted by a rotten stench.  It happened to me this week.  I did a quick check of the shelves, and threw out some old turkey, and a container of cooked turnips.  The malodorous cloud engulfed me again this morning, lingering in my, otherwise, Christmas-scented home. My husband asked me what had died, and I was beginning to wonder the same thing.  I decided to open the produce drawer, and there it was, a Walmart sack full of grey, slimy, once green, peppers.  Without giving a thought to the 21 degree morning, and the frost-slick back steps, I took the offensive mess out to the burn barrel for annihilation!  On the way back to the house, I wondered how many unsuspecting visitors, to my home, had been subject to this horrendous, nasal attack? We get used to certain smells after a while, (although I never cozied up to the pigs we raised), sort of like sin in our lives. There is a story in the book of Joshua, chapter 7, that sheds light on this stinky kind of situation.  During the battle of Jericho, God warned the Israelites not to take any of the valuable items they found in the city.  Things were going well for the nation of Israel, until the Lord called Joshua and his army to spy on the city of Ai.  It should have been an easy fight, only a few men were inhabiting Ai, so 3000 Israelites were sent.  Expecting a victory, you can imagine their surprise when those “few” men ran them off, killing 36 soldiers.  “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads.” verse 6.  Confusion, mourning and doubt filled the people’s hearts and minds.  They complained to God, blaming him for their failure…if it wasn’t His fault, whose was it?  God, in angry reply, tells them to check for “sin in the camp”.  Remember God’s warning about not looting in Jericho? Many had been tempted, but one guy, Achan, had given into his desire. No one had been aware of his sin, and Achan hid it well, until that fateful day.  As the tents were searched, Achan confessed. “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” verse 20.  In the grand scheme of things, his “sin” didn’t seem all that bad, but his act had broken the covenant/promise relationship with God.  It’s so easy to convince ourselves that those little sins, we try to hide, won’t matter to anyone, and God won’t take notice.  Read the rest of Achan’s sad story, it’s not pretty, but it stands as a warning for all of us believers, that hidden sin will not be tolerated.  Just like those smelly peppers, sin stinks, and is a major deterrent in receiving God’s blessing and power.  Sniff them out, and rid yourself of them, before any lasting damage is done, then breathe easy!






Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mind the Gap

Leave it to the, oh so genteel Brits, to pipe into every Tube station, a calm, but firm, woman’s voice alerting you to “Mind The Gap”, (it’s also written in tile), just as the trains approach the station. I really love this “proper” way of calling attention to potentially  dangerous situations.  The “Gap”, as it turns out, is the space between the platform and the train, an area no one wants to fall in to.  Throughout the Old Testament, God sought out people, very unlikely folks I might add, to not only yell out the message to mind the gap, but to actually stand in it.   Ever since the fall of man, in the Garden of Eden, a huge gap, which separates God and mankind, was formed.  To bridge this divide, God called many people to stand in for him, sometimes unsuccessfully. "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30. However, the names Abraham, Moses, Esther and Nehemiah attest to the fact that there were some men and women, reluctant as they may have been, who were willing to breach the gap. It wasn’t until Jesus lay down the cross, was the only true, and effective conveyance constructed, one that ensures we can safely bridge the gap.  Even though the way has been made, for all, there are still so many who, for lack of hearing the good news, or refusing it’s truth, keep falling in.  God still needs those who are totally committed to him, to be His voice.  Yeah, sometimes the fear of ridicule or rejection overwhelms us,  but just remember how much worse you’ll feel if a friend or loved one falls into that  abysmal chasm, because you held back.  So spread the word to Mind the Gap, the bridge is always open, and Jesus paid the toll for us!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Will You Be Convicted?


I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a big fan of Law and Order.  Alleged criminals are  pursued and prosecuted, based upon the evidence that the police detectives have uncovered.  All the evidence must be acquired in accordance with the law,  and to seal the deal, an irrefutable eyewitness account is essential.  The defense and prosecuting attorneys question the witnesses, and refer to the evidence, as they build their cases, the goal of which is to convince the jurors of their client’s guilt or innocence. Let’s say you are put on trial, as a suspected Christian,  is there enough evidence to convict you? Your defense attorney points to the fact that there are many witnesses who will say that you are a “good” person, with strong ties to the community.  You help those in need,  giving of your time and resources, and you attend church every Sunday.  The ruthless prosecutor, rises from his table, slyly smiles at the jury, and says, “Anyone can be a good person, Christians don‘t have a corner on that market. Most people are loving and giving, and as for sitting in church once a week, that no more makes one a Christian than sitting in a garage makes one a Buick!” The jury chuckles realizing the veracity of his comments. They deliberate in record time, coming back with a verdict of non-Christian.  Merely performing works, donating money, and doing churchy-looking stuff, doesn’t make you a child of God.  Jesus relates the story of people who were doing just this kind of thing, telling us that God, as the judge will respond, “Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”  I never knew you, those are harsh words, ones no person wants to hear.  Enter Jesus as the defender for all who, through faith, have given their lives to him.  No matter what charges the prosecutor comes up with, Jesus calmly tells the judge, “They are mine,  because they have chosen me through their belief, my blood has secured their salvation, and they are truly Christians.” If you are not sure, please don’t put off asking Christ into your life.  Only when you are totally committed to him will you be “convicted”. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John 3:19-21.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Different


It’s always been interesting to me that we don’t know anything about the life of Jesus, from the time he was 12 until the age of 30. What we do know is this; “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Luke 2:52. No one had anything bad to say about Jesus, or the life he lived, in fact it says that he found favor with God and all people. All those years he wo
rked with his family, was a paperboy for the House of Bread Press, went to Sabbath school and attended Bethlehem High, and not one bad report. Unbelievable, but true! I can almost hear his schoolmate’s parents, “Why can’t you be like that Jesus kid, instead of causing us all this aggravation? Go get another goat, we need to sacrifice, AGAIN!!” We know, but they didn‘t, that Jesus was sinless, and even though tempted, he never caved in. “Easy for him, difficult for me“, I say as I reach for another peanut butter cookie, or push past the posted speed limit, after all he is God’s son, and I‘m only human!! A while back I told you that when we ask Christ into our lives, God no longer sees the “old” people we were, instead he sees the righteousness of his son which has been imparted to us! I don’t know about you, but I think we should be living our lives differently from our “unsaved” friends and neighbors for that reason alone. Suppose I told you that I was embarking on a fabulous new diet, guaranteed to help me lose 10 pounds every 2 weeks, don’t you think you be watching me closely to see if that weight was falling off? I think, too, you’d be curious to see how I did it, what I was doing as far as exercise, and any other lifestyle changes I made. There are many “good” people on this earth, who do wonderful, kind deeds for mankind, even though they don‘t claim to have a relationship with God. The lives they live, at least on the surface, are exemplary. Do you live your life differently from these folks, because you have God’s Holy Spirit living inside you? If we claim to be Christians, filled with the supernatural power of God’s Holy Spirit, we better be displaying it. People are watching. “Merely being good”, or doing nice stuff, cuts no muster with God. Anyone can pull that old good/kind routine off once in a while, impressing those around them. But, when you’re put to the “test” that’s when the “difference” shows. Those following Jesus had questions regarding this issue, and here’s how he answered, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36. What does the world use as its standard for good/bad behavior? We all know it varies, whereas our model is the unchanging, always correct, Jesus. Faith in Christ, and reliance on his Holy Spirit to influence our behavior, especially in crisis situations, will show the world who we really are; a people representing him, and his standard . Yes, we can’t help living our lives differently, we are Jesus to the world, and he was the best “different” ever! “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”1 Timothy 4:16.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Mary

We, latter-day Christians, take the Christmas story rather matter of factly, the words to Silent Night roll off our tongues, but let’s travel back, over 2000 years ago, to the tiny village of Nazareth and peek in on one particular resident,
 Mary. Life in the gritty, working-class ghetto of Nazareth, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" John 1:46, was hard for Joachim and Anne. They struggled to keep tiles on the roof and food on the table. The only bright spot, in their bleak existence, was their precious daughter, Mary. Mary had always seemed delicate, almost other-worldly. Lovely in appearance, demure in her actions, and humbly obedient, the kind of child every parent dreamed of. Girls were betrothed and married at an early age then, and Mary would soon be wed to well-respected Joseph. Everything was wonderful, until that one fateful day. Mary joyfully approached her parents, beaming with excitement. “Mother, father, God has chosen me to be the mother of the Messiah. Even now the child grows within me!” she exclaimed. Joachim and Anne’s hearts dropped in unison. Our Mary, pregnant? The punishment could be stoning, or banishment from the family, that was the law. Fear overcame them, even though the Jewish people believed that a special young woman would be chosen by God, someday, for this remarkable assignment, but Mary? Try to imagine your own emotions, if your 13 year old daughter told you this story, you’d be afraid, very afraid, too. Who knows what followed next, as Mary explained the details of her conception to them. We know that when she relayed the same “good news” to Joseph, he wanted to quietly divorce her, so she wouldn’t be killed. As we all know, an angel came and explained everything to him, and he married her. Wow, when you put this all down into human terms, it is a miracle, indeed. That she wasn’t killed, and that her spouse supernaturally, believed, and lovingly, sex-lessly supported her!! You know that was God!! The most amazing element in this awesome story, is Mary’s willingness and obedience. Sure, she asked how it could happen, since she was a virgin, but other than that, she was in 100% in. God doesn’t ask us to do anything nearly this difficult, but do we respond with such joy and willingness? “And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38. Here is the song of her heart, the Magnificat: from Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
I Praise God for Mary, and the example of innocent, humble faith she set for us all. And I thank you Lord for opening my eyes, heart and mind to the lives of all these women who represent our lineage of grace.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bathsheba


The story of David and Bathsheba is one steeped in sin, perfect fodder for a Lifetime movie. The sorted tale opens as David is hanging around the castle, instead of where he should have been, out fighting with his troops.  In his boredom, (go figure with X many wives and concubines), he is lolling around on the roof when he spies lovely Bathsheba, minding her own business, bathing on a hot summer evening.  Things were to get hotter yet, when David calls her to the castle.  No one can refuse the king’s invitation, even a married woman whose husband is out in battle, where David should be.  We are all familiar with what ensues; adultery, an unwanted pregnancy and murder.  What a mell of a hess, as my mother would say! How in the world can a woman like that be in Jesus’ family tree?  This scenario makes Tamar and Rahab look like Girl Scouts!!! Ultimately, the one God held responsible was David, Bathsheba’s only sin was her obedience to the King. Read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel 11.  But, God honored Bathsheba’s life, even though the child conceived through the adulterous affair dies, she and David marry and the child of this union was Solomon.  Sol’s life is another story, but once again we see the lineage of grace preserved, in spite of weak, earthy, and sin-driven men and women.  Never forget, God’s plans are perfect, especially when we aren't ! “The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.” Psalm 145:17.  A big Amen to that!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ruth and the Kinsman Redeemer


I have to admit, this next woman is my favorite.  Her story begins in the gentile land of Moab. When she is introduced to us, she is living with her widowed mother-in-law, a Jewish woman named Naomi. Because of a famine, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, had journeyed from their home in Bethlehem to this foreign land. Their two sons married non-Jewish girls, even though it went against their religion.  When in Moab, as they say!!! In the course of time we are told that Elimelech, and both sons died, neither son having produced offspring.  By now you know that a widow’s lot is not a happy one, in fact Naomi changes her own name to Mara, which means bitter.  Mara decides to return to Bethlehem, and her childless daughter-in-laws, Orpah (this is what Oprah Winfrey’s name was supposed to be) and Ruth ask to go with her. Mara convinces Orpah to stay in Moab, but Ruth in this moving plea, begs to go with her.  “But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16. (I read this at my own wedding, before I knew the whole story!).  The heart-melting saga continues in Mara’s hometown.  She has some ground to sell, and must offer it to her husband’s closest relative, so he can redeem it as her close kinsman.  The first cousin turns it down, but Boaz, the next in line, steps into the role of the Kinsman Redeemer.  The love story that ensues, between he and Ruth, has all the elements of one of the greatest romances ever told.  Please read it for yourself, you won’t be able to put it down.  Boaz marries Ruth, knowing full well that as her redeemer, all his offspring will be considered as children of her dead husband.   All ends beautifully.  Ruth becomes the mother of Obed, the grandfather of King David, and Mara drops her bitter name in favor of Grandma Naomi.  What a picture Boaz paints of Jesus as our kinsman redeemer, pulling us out of the hopeless lives we were living, and offering us his amazing and selfless, and redemptive love.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rahab:Unashamed


If we were to be known, only by our first name and profession, I would be Donna the Realtor.  My husband would be Joe the Teacher, then there’s Steve the Dentist; Karli the Marketing Director; Stacey the Artist and so on, you get the picture.  Now consider our next woman in the lineage of grace, Rahab, Rahab the Prostitute, to be exact. Of the several times she is mentioned in scripture, both old and new testaments, her name is followed by her line of work, except for Matthew’s entry.  In spite of her job, and the fact that she was not Jewish, God was able to use this strong woman in His Master plan. Read her story in the Old Testament book of Joshua, chapters 2-6. What was it that he saw in her?  The general population, you and I  included, would find it difficult to see beyond who she was, and what she “did”.  But isn’t it just like God to use the very ones we would dismiss as tainted and unworthy….hmm, just like we once were.  But I digress.  When Moses sent spies into the promised land, they were to report back on how tough it was going to be to invade Jericho.  The walls were said to be so thick that a two chariot  could pass by each other on them!  Another impossible circumstance to overcome.  Well, the spies entered the city, and when their whereabouts was found out, Rahab the Prostitute hid them. Why?  My guess is that God somehow communicated his plan to her through the spies, she believed, was willing to comply, and was rewarded for it.  “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Hebrews 11:31.  As we all know, the Jericho’s walls came tumbling down as Joshua blew his trumpet. Rahab and her family members were brought to safety, and she chose to stay with the nation of Israel. Eventually she married Salmon, perhaps he was one of the spies, and gave birth to Boaz who will figure in our next heroine’s life.  Despite her ethnicity, religion and career choice, God called her to himself, and she was to become a great great great grandmother of our Lord Jesus!!  This story convinces me that no one is ever out of God’s reach; their shame never too “dirty” to be purified by his amazing grace. Now if that isn’t good news, I don’t know what is!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Unveiled-The Story of Tamar


In this Advent season, as we prepare our hearts and minds for celebrating the birth of Jesus, I thought it might be interesting to look into the lives of 5 of the women in his family lineage, through the tribe of Judah. The first chapter of Matthew lists these amazing ladies, and the fact that they are mentioned at all goes against the protocol of the day.  Remember, women had very little say in society, and 3 of them were gentiles, so they must have been very special, to be included.  That said, let’s learn something  about the first woman to be mentioned, Tamar.   If you recall your old testament, Jacob, grandson of Abraham, son of Issac,  a.k.a know as Israel, was the father of 12 sons, one of whom was Judah.  It had been prophesized that the Messiah would come from this branch of the family, and Jesus is often referred to as “The Lion Of Judah”.  Anyway, Tamar’s marriage had been arranged, to Judah’s no good, eldest son, Er. Judah had already broken covenant law by marrying a Canaanite woman, and God was not pleased.  Cut to the chase, Er died, so Onan, the next son in line, was called in to fulfill his brother’s duty. If Tamar had conceived a child, according to Jewish law, Er would have been considered the legal father.  Without going into the “naughty” details, Onan died too.  The family figured Tamar was to blame, and sent her back to her father‘s home, saying they would give her a call when their youngest son was old enough to marry.  How do you think that guy felt?  Tamar was a smart cookie and she knew that they would never call, thus putting her in the unenviable position of a childless widow. In pinochle terms, Judah had reneged, and she was determined to obtain what was rightfully hers, a child. The details of how she became the mother to twin sons, Perez and Zerah, is amazing, clever and racy, read the lurid details for yourself in Genesis 38.…hoochie mama!!!  Not only did her action retain the bloodline, she also became a follower of the Lord of  Israel and Judah returned, as well.  Please read this story, and if your interest in piqued, get a hold of a copy of Francine River’s book, “A Lineage of Grace”, which brings to life the stories of these heroines of faith. Like Tamar, may your eyes be unveiled to the Amazing Grace God continues to offer!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Buy Wisely

There are lots of things for sale on the internet, especially now during the Christmas season.  It always surprises me that people will purchase things, sight unseen, for fairly high prices.  Maybe it’s the auction-type atmosphere that induces a buying frenzy, but it is an amazing phenomenon to behold.  Some times they get a great deal, and sometimes not. I’m more like those folks from Missouri,  I want to see, touch, smell and evaluate the items before plunking down my cash.  When you think about it, developing a relationship with Jesus is similar.  Back when He was still walking the earth, Jesus wanted people to be fully aware of who he was, and what a commitment to him would cost, before they committed.  His “sales” approach always included the following: full disclosure; the declaration/description of the gospel, and a demonstration of said declaration.  For example, when he talked about healing, he healed someone.  Jesus wants all of us to know what he offers, and we would be foolish not to check into the details.  Lots of people say they are Christians, but know very little about the product. Let’s say you  want to buy a camera on Amazon.  Before pushing the final button, you better do some homework.  Ask the opinion of others who have the same camera; read the reviews; familiarize yourself with the options, and above all, have a professional demonstrate the camera to you.  Jesus doesn’t need uninformed followers, he wants us all to be knowledgeable, and  assured about Him before accepting his offer.  Are you?  Can you confidently “sell” him to others?  Jesus completely amazed the people. They said, "He has done everything well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute talk." Mark 7:37

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'll Join the Rocks!!

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Luke 19:40  All of God’s creation sings of his glory.  The “raised hand” majesty of snow-capped mountains, the “clapping” waves of the vast oceans, vibrant flowers “dancing” in  afternoon sunlight and the “roaring” Amen of a Siberian tiger.  Without words, they loudly praise their Creator.  Can we say the same?  God doesn't demand our praise, but he has so designed the universe that even mute objects, if they could, would cry out.  Praise is the overflow of a full and joyful spirit, no one can stop it, and who would want to!! If all the singing seems to stop, I’ll join the “rock” band!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Attitude Adjustment


“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
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. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! 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.” Philippians 2:5-11.
Have you checked your attitude lately?  Especially during this busy, holiday, gift-buying season, it’s easy to start acquiring a Grinch-like persona. Instead of visions of sugarplums and neatly wrapped presents we start moaning about how much there is to do, how little time we have to do it in, and how no one appreciates your  efforts anyway.  Sounds like a wonderful time for an attitude adjustment.  Paul wrote this to grumblers, people who were feeling put upon, selfish and anything but humble, within the early church.  In an attempt to restore unity he gently, lovingly gave believers this “kick in the pants”.  Instead of saying, “Shape up, you spoiled babies!”, he turned their attention to Christ.  Jesus, who could have called on his royal status to make him feel better, didn’t.  In fact, instead of claiming nepotism, he actually lowered himself to the role of a servant, humbling himself, obediently to God’s plan, a plan that led to an ignominious death, and our salvation. After hearing this impassioned plea, I bet  those grumblers were feeling mighty ashamed and conviction led them to desire the attitude of Christ.  When you feel your attitude taking a nose dive, remember Jesus probably felt unappreciated too, from time to time.  The difference is, he didn’t let it get the best of him…Praise God!!  So, keep this verse close by, and enjoy this blessed season…hey, if the Grinch can change, so can you!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One Way Out of Many


Many years ago I heard a quote, by Will Rogers, that I’ve tucked away in the back of my mind.  It went basically like this:  If we could just stop arguing about how Jesus came into this world, and how he left, and concentrate on what he did and said while he was on earth, we’d be a lot better off.  We are all trying to arrive at the same place according to our own conscience and teachings. It don’t matter which road you take  -  March 11, 1923 Will Rogers.  On the surface, that line of thinking sounds pretty reasonable.  Jesus was a good guy, had lots of good stuff to say, and he lived an exemplary life while he was here.  So why should we get in an uproar on such silly, divisive topics as the Virgin birth and the ascension?  Funny you should ask.  The very issues that cause such consternation, are the ones that authenticate who Jesus was; the son of the Living God.  If we decide to throw out those foundational truths, we might as well put our faith in Will Rogers, or any other man with wise-sounding words.  The belief that following our own conscience, or the teachings of any religion will get us to where we want to go, is humanism. Another term that appeals to so many, because, well after all, we are humans, aren‘t we?  Our adversary, the devil, loves to see us squabble over the best route to Heaven.  Believe me, he above all knows there is only one way, and for that reason, he messes with unconvinced minds. “ But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.” 1 Corinthians 8:6. As we begin this Christmas/Advent season, re-read all the scriptures, in the old and new testaments, that testify to Christ’s entrance and exit, and be sure you are convinced! Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Waiting on the Lord


After a busy Thanksgiving weekend, I’m ready for a breather.  One thing is for sure, it gives you a renewed appreciation for those who wait on tables in a restaurant, or have big families to provide daily meals for!  Everyone knows that preparing a big feast takes lots of time and preparation to be successful.  From the planning, recipe locating, food purchasing,  finding the turkey roaster, the actual cooking, and finally the clean up, it is indeed a labor of love…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The exhaustion I feel on  Sunday afternoon is well-deserved, and pleasant, knowing that everyone was sated and happy, because I “waited“ on them.  This verse, from Isaiah 40:31, is one of my favorites: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”  When we “wait” upon the Lord, it means doing things, out of love for him.  Not unlike how we wait on our loved ones.  Sure it takes time and effort, but when we love someone, it is a joy to express our devotion through service.  If you read this carefully, God promises that he will restore the “waiter’s” strength when we expend it during times of service.   “Waiting” comes in different forms; the super busy times when we “run”, or are involved in many ministries, and the periods when we feel weary from merely “walking“, seemingly not accomplishing much for Him. Luckily God and my family, both don’t me to prepare a huge meal every week.  God doesn’t expect us to run all the time, either, and he wants to remind us that He blesses even our daily walk.  My husband and I love to visit Cancun, partly because the wait staff is always there to serve us. One of our favorite memories is of one of those waiters.  We would always thank him, because he seemed to know instinctively, when we needed something to make our meal perfect.  He in sincere reply would say, “It is my pleasure to serve you.” Today, as we improve our waiting skills, let us be like that Mexican waiter and find pleasure, and renewed strength,  in serving God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving!!


“Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.”  Psalm 100:4.  I admit it, I LOVE Thanksgiving!!  As a child I still remember waking up to the aroma of turkey as it slowly roasted in the old Tappan range.  My grandmother always got up before dawn to place the huge bird into the oven ensuring that it would be succulent and delightfully brown.  The sideboard groaned under the weight  of mashed potatoes in silver chafing dishes, ceramic casseroles with vegetables from A to Z, moist stuffing, gravy and desserts galore. Oh the culinary joy, and what happy memories.  I still love this wonderful day of divine gluttony, but now, I am the grandmother…oh the joy!!  To be honest, the mere mention of the holiday, brings food and family to mind, thankfulness is second.  Is my face red, but I’m honest.  Even the dictionary definition is more spiritual:the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or  favors, especially to God.  The whole month of November, I’ve been noticing that my Facebook friends have been telling the world what they are thankful for.  What a marvelous idea, and bravo to all of you thankful people.  Yes, we have plenty to gripe about, but we all have more than enough food, wonderful friends, loving families, and a mighty God who supplies it all!!  Don’t forget, he gives us the strength, intelligence and where-with-all to earn money and provide for our loved ones, but more importantly He is the greatest blessing of all.  So, as you carve that delicious bird this week, remember, like King David, to thank the One whose provision we can’t live without.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Genuine Worship




My little grand daughter, Ella, and I are tight.  We adore each other, and we let each other know it.  She’ll say, “I love you Nonna”, then I one up her with, “I love you more!”  We make it a game, fully aware that we can never out do each other in “ worshiping” the ground each other walks on.

I use the word worship, here, only to make a point; those whom we love, we naturally shower with affection, verbally and physically. When a relationship, based on mutual love, is formed, nothing can hold back the flow of expression. Now, think of your worship experience with God, can you compare it to any human love experience?   If not, why not?

It may seem like God demands our worship, but that’s not it at all.  Just as adoration develops, unforced, between spouses or parents and children, so too should our desire to worship God.  His loving compassion is evident to those who love him, and worship is our natural response, or it should be. If you think worship is just a time of singing, or spending time in a religious environment, I think it’s time you hooked up your Love-O-Meter.  If nothing is registering, I think you need to be questioning your relationship with the object of your Love.  Have you ever committed to Him personally, vowing undying love to one another, or are you just going through the motions? “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:9.

Lack of love won’t keep earthly relationships alive, and it’s impossible to worship God if you don’t really know and love Him. Examples of authentic worship abound in the scriptures, do yourself a favor and read them.  As King David wrote, “Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.”  Psalm 145:3.  I pray today that you allow God to love you, and that you reciprocate, wholeheartedly. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  Deuteronomy 6:5, then you will know what genuine worship is.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Van Down by the River


For all of you old SNL fans, who remember Chris Farley’s character, Matt Foley, the motivational interventionist, this is for you.  When I took this picture of an old van, it reminded me of the classic skits he performed in.  If you’re not familiar, Matt Foley was called in to do an intervention by concerned parents.  The unsuspecting kids would be seated in the neat, suburban living room, as the anxious parents explained to them their concern for their moral, and social wellbeing.  Fear that the measures they had taken, in an attempt to get their offspring to improve their grades, get off drugs, and find better friends had failed, prompted them to call in Matt.  Matt, in all his “rotundness“, enters the room, sweating and falling over the furniture.  He begins quietly enough, and builds to a crescendo as he recalls his own fall from grace.  Long story short, he tries to scare the teenagers into good behavior by loudly proclaiming that he now lived in a “van down by the river”.  Life just didn’t get much worse than the scenario Matt Foley painted, and we are led to believe that lives were changed, because of his testimony.  While this intervention was purely for entertainment, Jesus was called to intervene in our lives by another concerned parent. Our bad behavior had separated us from our father, and was leading us to an eternity of living in that pitiful old van down by the river.  Unlike Matt Foley‘s bad example to be avoided, Jesus presented, and lived a God-pleasing lifestyle that could be attained by any of us, by following his good example.  “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pray for Israel


For those of you who are not familiar with the term eschatology, it is the study of last things.  In the case of Christianity, it is the study of mankind’s destiny as revealed by the Bible.  The major issues and events involved in this study include: death; the afterlife; Heaven and Hell; the Rapture; Christ’s second coming and the Tribulation, to name but a few.  Israel, and her people, figure prominently in end time prophecy.  If you have been listening to the news, the southern portion of Israel is under rocket attack, by Hamas forces,  as I write this. As Christians, it is not only our spiritual duty to pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters, but our great priviledge.  A Facebook friend of mine, posted this from a person living there now. “My dear friends who lives out of Israel, I would like to share with you, some moments from my life, from our lives here in Israel's south. Please share my story so others in the world will hear about it too...I live in a beautiful place, with wonderful people, great education for our children, friendly neighbors, and all the rest is very much o.k. BUT I live in the south, and here our lives are different then yours, and also different then lives of other Israelis. And I mean about 1 Million Israelis feels the way I feel!!! Not only the little village that I live in. For about 12 (!!!!) years we suffer from rockets that are being shot at us from Gaza. Yes, eventually you hear only about what happened there in Gaza, the "innocents" people that only want "peace". But right now I want to tell you also about our side. The side of people that cannot take their children out to play like normal children, because of the fear from alerts and- attacks, the side of children that do not feel safe in their own homes, that wakes up at nights because of alerts and need to go to a shelter, and those who do not have a shelter to go to..The side of parents which cannot give security to their children. That every time there is an attack, the Arabs wait for the hours that we take the children to kindergartens or schools, or when we take them back, and then they shoot.. All the scenarios that run in the parent heads of what could happened, and if I will go out now will I be sorry for it forever? These are my life. I don't have another place to go to…Could you live like that? Could you?"
Daniel then shared this prayer from the sidur prayer book:
He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.
May He lead our enemies under our soldiers’ sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you. And let us say, Amen.
Dear friends, please be praying for the peace of Israel.  Become informed and aware of our government policy regarding Israel.  Remember, what happens to them will affect us all. Shalom!! “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!” Psalm 122:6.

 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

ROI


What is your ROI?  ROI, in the financial world, means Return On Investment. It doesn‘t take a Warren Buffet to know that our economy is in horrible shape.  Everyday there are new woes about employment, social security, pensions, the stock market and personal investments.  Throughout the scriptures, God reminds us to be good stewards of our money.  But, where do we put that hard-earned cash without fear of losing it?  Real estate, Cds, precious metals are all volatile, or have low interest, and uncertain in the long run.  The idea of tithing, during this crisis, has been put aside by many Christians, rationalizing that they must take care of themselves and their families first.  God never wants us to go without, that’s not what an Abba would do, but He does ask us to give our first fruits to Him.  Many will bristle at that statement, but the biblical doctrine of tithing remains intact during feast or famine.   The issue that bothers us the most, I think, is that God doesn‘t need our money, we do!!  It has come to my attention that the very folks who complain about giving to God and his church, have no problem buying iphones, eating out regularly, purchasing the newest styles, etc.  Enter the principle of ROI.  Get out your check register, or credit card bill, where are you spending the most?  Sure things like housing costs, gas and food take up a major chunk, but what about the charitable giving area?  What are you really investing in; stocks, bonds, IRAs etc.? What kind of return are you getting?  God promises that when we get our priorities straight, putting Him first, we will be rewarded, with a high ROI.  Don‘t believe me,  try it yourself. Go ahead, put God to the test, hold Him to his word, begin to tithe, you will be convinced. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seek and Scan


When you buy a new car, you have to re-learn so many little things. How to set the clock, work the cruise control, operate the locks, windows, and so on.  One thing that seems to remain the same, on all makes of vehicles, are the SEEK and SCAN buttons.  In the old days, if you wanted to find an AM station, the dial had to be turned manually until you clearly heard tunes, or a voice that you recognized.  Nowadays, by depressing the SEEK button, the radio automatically searches for a station with a strong signal, skipping over the weaker ones, and stays there until you press the button again.  SCAN also searches for stations, but only lingers for a few seconds, before it moves on to the next.  The big difference between seek and scan, is the time element.  When I seek, it is usually to find something I‘m looking for, and I need the extra time to make up my mind.  A scan doesn’t give me enough time to know what the station’s format is.   God built into all human beings a desire to know Him.  Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly seeking or scanning, spiritually speaking.  Which one are you?  A seeker, earnestly listening to a number of options, before finding what you have been truly longing for, or a scanner who merely hears snippets, never tuning in long enough to make an educated choice. Way back, hundreds of years before Christ, let alone FM radio, the prophet Jeremiah knew what it meant to be a seeker, and the benefits that came along with a convinced heart.  Put your heart into it, and truly seek, He will be found, loud and clear!  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Adopted Sons and Daughters


My two younger sisters used to kid me, all the time when we were growing up, by telling me that I was adopted.  Even though I knew I wasn’t, it still gave me a strange vibe as I imagined how an adopted kid must feel. If I were naughty, my “parents” might send me back,  make me work really hard or  punish me severely until I won back my place in the family.  But, it would always be a tenuous position, one that depended on outward works,  constant fear with a total lack of security. Of course adoption isn’t like that at all.  Today, the people who do adopt, are thrilled beyond measure to be blessed with a baby. To ensure that they are indeed the legal parents, and that the biological mother and father will have no further claims, a lawyer draws up the necessary binding documents that seal the deal.  Once signed, there is no going back, the child is as much a part of the family as any “blood” member would be.  God assures us, that when we are adopted into his family, he becomes our Abba, our Daddy.  Now, I don’t know about all earthly daddies, but mine may have been exasperated with me, from time to time, but never did he threaten me with expulsion.  Why is it, then, that so many Christians feel like God is always waiting for them to mess up, hanging loss of kinship over their heads.  That’s emotional blackmail, and it’s sure not the way God operates.  Still, people grovel before Him like whipped dogs, instead of precious children, trying to appease him with good works and extra trips to church.  Dear Ones, our adoption decrees are irrevocable, and signed, and sealed with the blood of Jesus. We are now, and always will be, children and full heirs of his kingdom.  If you have doubts, pull out those papers and check.  Different from the human act of adoption, we approach God, with a repentant heart, asking him to forgive us, which he will, forever! As a good father, there will be times he will  need to discipline us, but God isn’t going to throw his child out on the street.  “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn’t Free.  “He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:24. Most of us take our country and freedom for granted, just because we don’t know any other life.  I remember, during the Viet Nam War, hearing Walter Cronkite announce the death count every evening.  After a while I became immune, even callous to the big numbers.  Sadly, I never put a face to the statistic, or to a grieving family.  When my own precious son, Sean Zerrusen,  was deployed to Iraq, that all changed.  What was once a boring report, hit much too close to my home. Thank God, he made it back safely, but he, like so many others, bear silent scars.  For Sean, one of those scars is the memory of a young soldier in his unit, who became one of those numbers.  The military gets a lot of bad press, but I want to take this time to heartily thank all veterans.  We are the land of the free, because of the brave!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

What is Your Christian IQ?


Last, but far from least, #1 on the top 10 signs you know you are Fundamentalist Christian - "You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.”  Ouch!!  This one hurts the most, because it hits so close to the truth.  Honestly, how much do you really know about the Bible, Christianity and church history? As I've mentioned these past 10 days, atheists and agnostics usually have made a decision to refuse God, based on a personal study.  Perhaps their study was superficial, and maybe it was influenced by a bad experience with the church, but either way, many know far more than those who call themselves Christians. Try to see yourself from an atheist’s perspective.  When these questions are posed, are you prepared to answer?  You can’t fall back on the old, “I don’t question my faith” response, that just makes you look ridiculous.  Even if these people are not searching for God, they love to undermine sacred beliefs. Why, well to prove to themselves that they are correct in their claim that there is no God.  Without scripturally sound foundations, the church will crumble.  When Christ was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, the old accuser knew his stuff, and he was testing Jesus’ mettle and knowledge of the word.  Each carefully crafted temptation was a twist on the scriptures, but Jesus was prepared.  Jesus retorted with rhema  "the word of the Lord  that endureth for ever", and the devil retreated, knowing he had been bested. When, not if,  you are confronted with these tough, challenging statements/ questions, you MUST be equipped to give the clear reason for the hope that is within you. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4.  Overcoming blindness isn’t easy, but it can happen, keep your light bulb burning!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is Prayer Answered?


#2 - “You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.” An older prayer warrior friend of mine told me once that all prayer is answered in one of the following ways: Yes, No or Not Now. I’m not sure what source these statistics came from, but they might seem correct to non-Christian onlookers. Not all people are healed, find jobs, have a baby or marry the “perfect” spouse, but that doesn’t mean their prayer wasn’t answered. What we want God to do, isn’t always what is beneficial, or in His perfect plan for us. Remember the old Garth Brook song, “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer”? Back in high school, Garth really wanted to be in a relationship with a certain girl. He wanted it bad, and ultimately, bad is what it would have been. It may have seemed that God hadn’t answered his prayer, but 
in reality he had something/someone much better in mind. I can think of countless times I wanted God to come through on items on my prayer/wish list. God isn’t to be confused with Santa , sure he wants his children to have things, but like any good parent, He knows what is important and what isn’t. Think about your own kids, if I had given them everything they wanted, my house would be over run with monkeys, kittens, pets of all kinds, games, videos, clothes, well, you get the picture. Our needs and our wants are always in conflict. What I need isn’t always what I want, and what I want isn’t necessarily what I need. Jesus taught us how to pray, beginning with acknowledging God as “hallowed”, meaning set aside as holy/sacred. When we get it in our heads who God is, we are much less likely to ask for frivolous stuff. There are those Christians who “name it and claim it”, hounding God for certain kinds of cars, expensive clothes and other extravagant wants. Oh please, no wonder prayer and Christianity gets bad press! Which brings us to what is God’s will for us. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.” Romans 8:26-27. Paul is telling us that, like children, we don’t always know what is best for us, but the Holy Spirit does. We must let him guide us to the knowledge of what God’s will is. Even as Jesus faced death, he prayed that God would change the plan, but he was open to God’s will, not his want. Thank God, that request was answered the way it was, or our salvation would not have been secured. It takes perseverance, fervency and patience combined with faith, but God will let you know. So, while the outside world sees a 99.9% failure rate, we can be 100% assured that God hears, and perfectly answers every prayer at just the right time. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One Nation Under God


The sun came up in my world today, and like Little Orphan Annie sang, the sun will come up tomorrow.  The presidential election is over, thank God, and the American people have spoken.  Barak Obama will be at the helm for another 4 years.  Today is either one of jubilation, or grief, according to what I read on Facebook.  It is, in fact, just another day, one in which we have the opportunity to thank God for the numerous blessings we share as citizens of this wonderful nation. In fact, as Christians we are called to honor and pray for our leaders, even if we disagree with their politics. The apostle Paul said this, “ I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.“ 1Timothy 2:1-2.  Notice he wrote, FIRST OF ALL, not after your pity party, fault finding or name calling, NO, it should be our primary concern.  God wasn’t caught off guard by the results of our voting,  He is, and always will be, the one on the Throne, regardless of who occupies the White House. Everyone wants to be a winner, or on the winning team, but let’s face it, someone is the victor and someone loses. While I love the USA, deeply, Jesus reminds us that we are citizens of another kingdom when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." John 18:16.  To me, this is a Win-Win situation, proudly an American by birth, and by His grace, an adopted, naturalized citizen of God’s eternal kingdom.  Today, let’s put our differences aside, and PRAY for President Obama, his administration and for the future of the United States of America. God Bless America.

Prove It!


#3 - “While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.” While the study of science, history, biology and physics may “disprove” Christianity to non-believers, they only encourage and reinforce my faith.  Did you know that the Bible has abundant historical, and archaeological documentation to substantiate its authenticity,  allowing it to stand up to even its most critical opponents?  God proved himself to me through study, not only of his word, but from these other sources as well.  I highly doubt that someone rolling on the floor, speaking in tongues would have convinced me, or anyone, that Christianity was real; nor should it! Authenticity must be proved, not just taken for granted or something that  appeals to our emotions only. God doesn't need crazies, he wants followers grounded in knowledge, and ready to defend Him. I love to watch Law and Order, and from that show I’ve learned a lot about the importance of eyewitness testimony.  The Bible was written by real people, people who experienced the power of God in their personal lives.  For example, when it came to proving that Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension were authentic, over 500 eyewitnesses came forward, and their testimonies were recorded.  “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16.  Historians of the day, both religious and secular, also added their viewpoints, and their words are available for scrutiny. An eye witness, then and now, sealed the case.  “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him--” Romans 16:26-27.  We, like Paul were all blind at one point, but if we allow God to reveal the truth of himself, far fetched as it may seem to the rational mind, He will open, and continue to enlighten our eyes, and minds. It’s a recorded fact, believe it and be bold, pass it on!! “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24:45

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Loving and Compassionate God


#4 - “You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving." Take some time and read scripture, old or new testament, and you will see over and over that God is indeed a loving, and  forgiving God.  Don’t forget that he spared the city of Nineveh from annihilation because they repented, and they weren’t even Jewish. Consider Naaman,  a foreign king,  who sought healing from leperosy, and found it by obeying God’s directive. “So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child's, and he was healed!” 2 Kings 5:14.  In numerous instances, the ungodly, sometimes out of desperation, but always as the result of hearing, believing and obeying, find the love and compassion that God offers to all.   If I had some really good news, like your power company was offering free electric for a month, or that your favorite department store was giving away $100 gift certificates, you’d be upset with me, if I failed to share this information with you, before the offer was up. On the other hand, if I relate the really good news of the gospel, some might laugh, others turn up their noses indignantly, or respond that a loving God would never send good people to Hell. In other words, they turn the offer down.  “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15.  David, a man who knew God’s love, but also was familiar with his discipline, instructs us to be obedient, not turn down his offer.  It breaks God’s heart when his love is refused, but it’s even sadder when his own children in different Christian sects fail to comprehend Him completely. The choice, as always, is ours, don’t let His Offer get by you; like missing out on free power or gift cards, you will regret it.