Friday, December 20, 2013

Finding Jesus

I’m sure you’ve heard people use they expression, “I found Jesus.” What does that statement mean, exactly?  Has Jesus been missing or lost?  Is the act of finding Jesus akin to finding Waldo, or a hidden Easter egg?  I can only speak from my own personal experience, but perhaps it will shed some light on the subject, and some of you can relate.

I grew up in a Christian home, not overly religious, but one where we learned who the person of Jesus was. Jesus was known to me, mentally,  but not personally.  Like Waldo, I knew he was in the picture, but I wasn’t interested enough to seek him out an further.  It was my assumption that the knowledge I had of him was all that was necessary.  After all, God loves everyone, I wasn’t an atheist or agnostic so that was all the relationship I needed for attaining eternal life…right?  

Years passed and I was content adhering to that philosophy, that is until my parents “found Jesus.“  From my 22 year old perspective, they had lost their minds.  They went to church at least twice a week, carried Bibles and prayed…out loud.  Their level of personal intimacy with Jesus was abhorrent to me.  When, and why, did the impersonal, hidden Jesus all of a sudden jump off the pages of scripture for them?  For a long time I shook my head as they headed for church or Bible study, little did I know what supernatural events were already at play.  Now, as I look back at that time in my life, I realize that through the fervent prayers of my parents a curiosity began brewing in me.  This curiosity took hold of me in an almost involuntary fashion.  Jesus began to draw me  to himself.  I couldn’t get enough of scripture.  A “relationship” that had been born and raised in apathy, changed to a love and desire for my savior that I never would have believed was available, let alone possible.

If this sounds insane to you, fear not, it sounded that way to me at one time too.  Let me encourage you today, if you’ve never done it before, start seeking Jesus.  Even if you are skeptical, don’t worry, Jesus can’t wait to reveal himself to you as you continue to look. Fear not, he isn’t, nor has he ever been lost, but he’s waiting for you to find him. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.“ Jeremiah 29:13.


Monday, December 16, 2013

A Stable Lamp is Lighted

I’m not a Will Ferrell fan, but in one of his movies, that I caught a small portion of, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, his wife asks him to say a prayer before their meal.  What ensues is Ricky imploring Baby Jesus to bless the food, help him win his NASCAR race, and a whole laundry lists of other requests. Apparently this isn’t the first time he’s “prayed” this prayer, and his wife calls him on it.  “Why do you always pray to Baby Jesus?” she shouts in frustration.  Ricky responds, in all sincerity, when he says he likes the infant version because adult Jesus is more demanding, and has more rules and higher expectations for us.

 Laughable as that thinking might be, I believe that there are lots of people out there who share the same sentiment.  What many folks like to forget, during this jolly season, is that the helpless, undemanding baby is the same one who would, 33 years later, offer up his life for us on the cross. The sad truth, for most of us is like Ricky Bobby, to take the path of least resistance.  We have no problem celebrating the birth of Jesus, it’s fun, there are presents, food, pretty decorations and  there’s no spiritual pressure on us.  Heck, even Santa requires good behavior from to receive his gifts, who wouldn’t choose Baby Jesus? When we finally figure out the truth of who Jesus is, we should be humbled and thankful for his birth as well as his death and resurrection.  Years ago a choir I sang in performed this beautiful song at Christmas.  Read the words and be blessed by the birth of the Baby, and the sacrifice of the Grownup Jesus.  

1. A stable lamp is lighted
whose glow shall wake the sky;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
and straw like gold shall shine;
a barn shall harbour heaven,
a stall become a shrine.

2. This child through David's city
shall ride in triumph by;
the palm shall strew its branches,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
though heavy, dull and dumb,
and lie within the roadway
to pave his kingdom come.

3. Yet he shall be forsaken,
and yielded up to die;
the sky shall groan and darken,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
for gifts of love abused;
God's blood upon the spearhead,
God's blood again refused.

4. But now, as at the ending,
the low is lifted high;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
in praises of the child
by whose descent among us
the worlds are reconciled.



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Like Father, Like Daughter

Please don’t call me religious. I know that may sound bizarre to some of you, since I write “religious” stuff, but hear me out.  A while back I passed along to you a description of “religion” that a friend of mine had written.  To summarize, religion is the institutionalizing of  our relationship with God. It is when men make up extra-biblical traditions that regulate the behavior of believers. Yes, I fully believe in the Bible and its authenticity, but my love for Christ, and his church, is not based on strict adherence to doctrine, dogmas or rules.  As a child of the Father, His love is imprinted on my DNA.  It defines who I am, and how I act.  I’m not out to impress people by appearing religious in public, i.e.: wearing Christian symbols or clothing with logos; showing up at every service; making religious gestures, or volunteering for every soup supper.  While those are all wonderful, and I do participate in them, it’s not what makes me a Christian.  Only my personal belief in the saving power of Jesus’ shed blood can do that. One definition of the word that you can apply to me is: conscientiously faithful.  I love God because I choose to, not because I  have to. So feel free to say I resemble my Father, or that the apple doesn‘t fall far from the tree. My goal is to live his love through my life. “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.  Like father, like daughter.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gaining Brownie Points with God

After a particularly busy day of “good-deed-doing”, my husband plopped into his La-A-Boy and said, “I must have scored plenty of ‘brownie points’ with God today!” Joe loves to volunteer, it really isn’t a chore for him, but as it has been said that many a truth is told in a mere joke.  I think that deep within us all, there’s that same sentiment.  We know that going the extra mile for the boss usually pays off in the form of a promotion, pay raise or at very least an atta boy.  Even as children our parents where positively influenced by good behavior and ambition, so why not God?

First off, God is impressed with our good works, especially when they are done without regard for garnering brownie points.  Secondly, there is no need for points.  Once we, in faith, accept Christ , the admission fee to Heaven has been paid in full, there are no hidden costs.  Unfortunately many Christians still feel that they must constantly be doing things to keep in God‘s good graces. Or, perhaps they have a habit that they know does not meet God’s approval, so they do extra work hoping that God will turn a blind eye….after all they have all those accumulated brownie points to fall back on!  I hate to burst your bubble, but that’s not how it works. Yes, he expects us to perform acts of charity, because his Holy Spirit motivates us to do so.  When we do it for selfish reasons, to justify a hidden sin, or to make ourselves look good to men, that misses the mark entirely.

 Christ was, and is, our example in this area, and when we do the things that he did, prompted by our desire to be like him, that’s what pleases God.  “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.  But, even if we never did anything work wise, which would be hard to imagine, our salvation would  not be effected,  consider the thief on the cross. But, I’m guessing that he would have done plenty, if he had had the time.  Verse 9 of this same chapter sums it up, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” So go ahead and get to work, but with a Christ-imitating  spirit, and forget about squirreling away those unessential brownie points.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Filling Empty Vessels

I almost skipped out on church yesterday, since I had family at home, but boy am I glad I didn’t.  We had a guest pastor from a church in Chicago and he used the following old testament reading as his text.

“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” 2 Kings 4:1-7.

 Let’s break this down into sections.  In the first sentence, a desperate widow steps out of her discomfort zone to approach the prophet Elisha.  Her husband must have attended prophecy school with Elisha, and since his death she had fallen upon very hard times.  Who better to seek help from than a trusted old chum.  As she pours out her heart he stands, arms crossed in front of him, and listens, and then replies, what do you want me to do about it?, (my paraphrase).  I’m sure she wanted the  magic wand treatment, which would have eliminated all her woes, but that was not to be.  She must have been hurt with his reply, after all there were creditors at the door wanting payment for those old college bills, ready to take her kids as slaves.  Things couldn’t have been worse.

 The next thing we read is him asking her what she has in the house.  Frustrated, she reiterates that she has nothing but a little jar of oil. This amazing tale continues with the woman being given the task of collecting as many jars, jugs, bottles and containers as she can find.  She complies, and following the prophet’s instructions,  goes inside her home and starts pouring out of the puny jug of oil into the accumulated vessels.  Miraculously the precious oil keeps flowing until there are no more jars to fill.

The happy conclusion was that the oil was sold to pay off the wolves at the door, and she and the children could live on the remainder.  What does all this mean for us?  First of all we see desperation in this woman.  With no where else to turn, she calls upon God.  But God doesn’t just fix the problem, instead he asks her what she has.  In this case it was the oil, but it was also the effort she put forth as she did what she was told to do.  All of us will come to a point of desperation some time in our lives.  Death, sickness, loss of income will all hasten its arrival.  What will we do?  Curse God?  Try to get by on our own?  Let the creditors take the kids?  Or will we call out to God, the only wise thing to do.  God isn’t mean, but sometimes he allows things to “fall apart“, because he can use the desperation to bring us closer to him. Sure, God could just wave his wand, but like the needy widow, he asks us to put forth our own effort, and then he will supply the  outcome. We supply the possible, and He will do the impossible.  How marvelous is that!!  What desperate issue are you facing today?   Bring your empty vessels to God, trusting that he will fill them as long as there is need.









 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blunder in the Garden

The season of Advent is fast upon us, and before I get into discussing it,  I’d like to spend some time on some of the “Blunders of Biblical Proportions” that brought us to the need for a Savior.  We don’t need to get very far into the book of Genesis before we read about the blunder that started it all; The Blunder in the Garden. I can’t imagine there is anyone unfamiliar with this story, but let me set the scene, for old time’s sake.

God had created man and woman in his image, back in chapter 2, and had given them a paradise to live in; food a plenty, companionship, and a personal relationship with him.  He also gave them meaningful work to do; tend and keep the garden, name the animals and in general take care of things.  In return, all he asked of the duo was one thing, not 100, not even 10, only one thing,  “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17.  Easy peasy, no problemo, they must have thought, until that fateful day.  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Genesis 3: 1-7.

That old serpent certainly had a way with words, because he got Eve thinking, not about what she had, but what she didn’t have. His deceptive words had her doubting the supreme authority of God, and desiring the whole enchilada, to be like God.  Adam was standing right there, and instead of taking his rightful stand as the spiritual head of the family, and rebuking Eve, he took a bite, too.  Alas, the rest is history.  His fall, became our fall, as well.  No more blessed , “all inclusive” resort living, he traded all that for curses.  “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19.

If only Eve had resisted; if only Adam had stood up to her; if only they had confessed and apologized. If Only, indeed. But it wasn’t to be, and the curses that accompanied their sin, have been passed down to humankind ever since.  Curses aside, the worse thing that came out of this blunder was the broken relationship between God and man.  It says that God clothed them with skins, so some animal must have given its life indicating that this was the first blood sacrifice.  Centuries have come and gone, filled with good times and more blunders, as man sought in vain to undo this debacle.  If this mess was to be undone, someone was going to have to pay a hefty price, in blood.  Thank God that someone, Jesus, was willing.  As we walk through the old testament prophecies, and the new testament fulfillments these next weeks, let’s strive to truly allow him to open us up to the saving, restoring wonder of his coming, going and ultimate return.





 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trusting Dad

I love to travel, and it doesn’t matter where I go, it’s the going that’s fun!  When I was a kid I’d be the first to jump in the old Buick, and claim my window seat, even if Dad was just pulling it into the driveway.  We did take some long road trips, and those will always hold a special place in my childhood memories.  Eating burgers and fries at Howard Johnson’s, staying at a motel, and buying souvenirs from “far away” places, what bliss!  You know, never once in all those years did I ever ask Dad if he had enough money to cover the bills, or fear that he would leave me in the gas station bathroom.  Those things never entered my mind, he was, after all, my Dad and even though I was a child,  I trusted him, in all things, implicitly.  As I matured, I still had faith in Dad, but I wasn’t above questioning him, or challenging his wisdom.  My Dad is still great, and wise, at 88 years old and I’m blessed to have him.

Some of you may not have had a Dad, or the one you had was far from perfect. I’m sorry about that, because it makes it harder to believe in God as a loving, trustworthy father.  While all our earthly fathers are flawed, to some degree or another, our heavenly father is not. We can trust that when we climb into his Buick, he’s going to get us to where we need to go, while supplying every need we have along the way.  My Dad might have gotten frustrated, when we kept inquiring about when we’d arrive, but God not only welcomes our queries, he encourages them, because they serve to build our faith in him, continually.

 Rest assured, God wants only the best for us, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually etc., along the way.  So go ahead and ask, then trust Him to supply, he is, after all, your Abba/Daddy.  “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13



Monday, November 25, 2013

Make the Wise Choice

One of my favorite TV shows is, House Hunters International.  If you’ve never seen it, buyers/renters look at a number of homes, that meet some of their search criteria, and then make a decision based on what they’ve seen.  Each property offers some of the features they want,  but none contain everything.  I  try to guess which one they’ll choose, but I’m not always right.

In life we’re always faced with decisions, options and choices, in everything from homes, clothing, food, cars even relationships.  The wise person gathers all the information he can, in order to make the best choice. For example, let’s say you are faced with deciding between 2 homes.  One is affordable, soundly built, and has low taxes, but doesn‘t have the wow factor.  The other has none of the sensible features, but has curb appeal galore.  The wise person, taking into account all the information about the properties, and having them both thoroughly inspected, finds that the more appealing house has termites, a leaking roof and ultra-high taxes.  The choice is obvious, he buys the plain Jane.  On the other hand, a foolish consumer, who has the same information at his disposal, picks the more appealing one, based solely on outward appearances.

A fool, then, is the person who, after checking out both options, chooses the inferior for one reason or another.  Sounds crazy, but throughout scripture we read about people who were faced with similar choices, and how their personal selections changed not only their lives, but ours and history as well.  All of us, every human being on planet earth, is asked to make the ultimate decision; do we believe in God, and in his son’s redemptive work on the cross, or not?  All the information we need, to make an educated decision, is readily available.  God doesn’t want us to merely go along with what a particular church instructs you to do, he demands we make the informed choice on our own.

Where do you want to live, eternally?  Foolishly in the house of sin that looks good on the exterior, and costs an “arm and a leg” and then some, literally. Or will you wisely move into the indestructible mansion  that will never collapse, and the price has already been paid.  Weigh all the options seriously and prayerfully, it’s a lifelong commitment either way, choose wisely. “A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.” Ecclesiastes 10:2.


Friday, November 22, 2013

The Perfect Foundation

The word foundation may bring up different images in our minds, among them  foundation garments, liquid make-up foundation, or the most common, the under-structure of a building. In each case it‘s a solid starting place on which to build something.  Having been a Realtor for 25 years, I‘ve seen all kinds of foundations including slabs, crawl spaces, and basements.  When a home inspection is performed, the structural integrity of a basement is of utmost importance.  If there are cracks, gaps, or crumbling it puts the entire building at risk of collapse, water infiltration, or a  vermin/insect infestation.  It is impossible to find a perfect, human-made foundation, because weather, earth movement, and settling are always at work, but I'm going to acquaint you with the perfect supernatural one today.

While reading in 1 Corinthians, lately, Paul began by talking about striving for unity in the church. “ I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10. I had to consult God on this issue, because achieving unity is a stumbling block in any human relationship, let alone in the body of Christ. As I read further, He led me to this ah-ha passage. “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

 Let me explain.  Christ is that perfectly constructed foundation on which the church, each of us, is being built on.  Our belief in His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and  second-coming are the elements that form this impenetrable footing.  When we can agree that these ingredients are truth, we have unity.  Paul continues by saying that each of us adds to the construction with our own unique materials, based on the gifts God has given to us.  These works are not motivated by guilt, loveless obligation or demands from religious organizations.  Lasting works, like gold, silver and gems are indestructible and emanate from enthusiastic hearts, eager to please the Master Architect. Manufactured/obligatory works resemble straw, hay and wood which will be consumed by holy fire on Judgment Day. Church doctrines may differ, but the foundation is the same in all.  Are you sure about your foundation? Good, so am I, that’s unity!  Now find out what your spiritual gifts are, and start laying those precious stones on that solid footing….God's kingdom continues to be built by each of us, be sure you're joyously adding only the most durable stones!



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Making Ripples

Before we leave Galilee behind, I want to highlight one of the ripples Jesus’ visit made in that area.  “So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.” John 4:46-53.

 As you recall, it would have been easier, and made less waves, if Jesus had skirted around his hometown, but God had the bigger picture in mind.  We are reminded that Jesus’ first miracle had taken place in this same area, and I’m sure that had set lots of tongues wagging.  It would come as no surprise if this city official, we are introduced to here, had been a guest at that amazing wedding. As a desperate father, whose son was not only ill, but at death’s door, he took the risk of looking silly and asked Jesus for help.  The almost rough sounding reproof , “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” was aimed not only at the official, but at the group of Galilean citizens around him. While it was true that the Jews did require proof, Jesus was in essence saying I’ve already proved myself, why can’t you just believe?  Still, the man persevered, pleading with Jesus to come and heal his child.  To prove that his power to heal was so great, that he did not need to be present, he assured the man that his son would live.  At that moment, this man believed the words that Jesus spoke, without seeing the proof.  In fact, he believed so much that, he took his time returning home, certain of the miracle.  Can we say the same about our faith in the words of Jesus?  Or are we always looking for signs, and wonders while oblivious to the miraculous? If Jesus had not returned to Galilee we wouldn’t be reading of this account.  Let’s all try to make some ripples today by going where God directs us, and not staying in our comfort zones.





Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Road to Galilee

My, soon to be, 10 year old grandson moved this week to a new town, home, family and school.  Any one of those things can throw the bravest kid into a turmoil, and Ty was no exception.  When I talked to him, after his first day at school, he told me it was bad, and that he had cried the whole day.  As a grandma who loves him, and wants to protect him, I felt like racing over, wrapping him up in a cozy blanket and taking him home with me.  After that I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I knew I wanted to keep him from being hurt, sad or persecuted.

Don’t we all feel like that some days?  Rather than facing the difficult issues, whatever they might be, full on, we’d rather crawl back into our safe and cozy zone.  Trouble is, avoiding something doesn’t make it disappear, and usually makes it worse.  Jesus, never one to run from conflict, faced this kind of situation on numerous occasions.  Perhaps the best known story is the account of his return to his hometown. Jesus had been in Samaria, a hostile environment for any Jew, and one that he shoulda/coulda avoided, but didn’t.  We are all familiar with the woman at the well saga, so thank God he went!  Any way, now he turned and headed towards his old stomping grounds. “After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)”  Jesus knew that opposition was awaiting him.  After all wasn’t he just Joe and Mary’s kid?  Didn’t we go to high school with him?  What makes him so high and mighty now that he should come back and preach to us?  And who are these 12 guys with him?  Man he’s got some nerve!

Scripture goes on to say they took offence at him, and he wasn’t able to do many mighty works because of their disbelief.  But, as difficult as it was to face their animosity, he didn’t turn the other way out of fear.  I believe that because he didn’t let his apprehension get in the way, the Galileans heard the good news, and had the opportunity to accept it, if not then, hopefully later.  Now back to Ty.  I didn’t go rescue him, but I did encourage and pray with him.  I told him that, yes, what he was facing was frightening, but that he could, and must face up to it, not alone, but with the supernatural strength that God would give him.  I then told him to focus on the good things, and reach out to a new person.  The next day when I talked to him, all was good, even the school lunch was yummy according to him. That’s not to say he won’t face issues again, but now he knows he can, with God’s help.  And who knows how many kids will be encouraged by his actions.


What rough road are you facing today? Do you feel like backing down, or finding a well paved path?  Remember, you’re never on the road to Galilee alone, and the results of your god-given courage will astound you, and your homies!!









Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The King and I

At a recent conference, I attended with my husband, I had the opportunity to have my picture taken with the King, Elvis Presley, well at least an overweight impersonator of him.  I couldn’t let that photo-op pass me by.

We crown lots of things “King” in our society.  Elvis aside, there is Burger King,  King of Queens, King of the Hill,  even dogs are given the name King.  When we add King, it makes the thing seem more valuable, or noble.  When it comes to actual royalty we know that King is a title not merely bestowed upon a person, they must be born of a royal bloodline . Historically a king was not just a figurehead, “A king, is someone who has authority to rule and reign over a group of people.”  Interestingly, Jesus is just such a king.  He is called the King of the Jews by the Magi (Matt. 2:2), and Jesus accepts that title in Matt. 27:11, "Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' And Jesus said to him, 'It is as you say.'”  Matt. 21:5 speaks of Jesus and says, "Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey."  Remember, Jesus is King in that he rules and judges.  "And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war," (Rev. 19:11).  The armies follow him (Rev. 19:14).

Is it more difficult for we in Americans, who fought the Revolutionary War, to free ourselves from the reign of a tyrannical King, to accept the Lordship of Christ?  It shouldn't be, because Jesus is a different kind of King.  He does not hold rigid laws and punishments over our heads, his reign is one of love.  And not only love dispensed from a far away kingdom, NO, we have a King who has literally walked in our sandals, and empathizes with our needs and sufferings.  This King holds out his scepter and bids us come near, without fear of losing our heads.   Is there a kingdom of God without a King?  No.  Jesus is that king: "'Are You the King of the Jews?' And Jesus said to him, 'It is as you say,'" (Matt. 27:11). (Matt Slick). If you haven’t responded to the King’s call for a personal audience, yet, don’t hesitate. When you do, he will bestow his royal bloodline, and all its benefits on you!



Monday, November 18, 2013

Heartburn

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32. Heartburn, that distressing condition caused my excess acid in the stomach, is familiar to us all, but what, pray tell, are the disciples talking about? To get a better idea, we need to understand the cause of this heartburn.

The Bible tells us that on the very same day as Jesus’ resurrection, two of the disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus, which was about 7 miles from Jerusalem.  As you can imagine, they were discussing the events of the last few days.  Because their minds were in such turmoil, their eyes did not recognize Jesus when he walked up beside them. Using their blindness to his advantage, Jesus asked them what they had been talking about.   “Well, duh”, they replied, “Where have you been?  Behind some rock?” ( I paraphrase.)  At this point they were truly blinded by deep sorrow, and a belief system so fractured with doubt that it could register on the Richter scale.  For them, this was the end of the story, Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb, and all hope was quickly fading. And now this guy wants to know what’s been going on….give me a break!   Jesus confronts them with these words, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” v. 25-27.

 Even at this point they still don’t recognize him, but light is beginning to filter in, as he explains the events scripturally.  The disciples urge this wise man to stay as they settle in for the night.  Then an amazing thing happens, Jesus shares a meal with them. “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” v. 30-31.  It took the familiar act of breaking and blessing bread to open their eyes. Now we come to the burning hearts verse.  Jesus left them, but not before opening their eyes, and the word of God.  What they had heard, over and over, while Jesus was with them, hadn’t really taken root until he opened and confirmed it over a meal.

Not unlike the heartburn that occurs from too much food intake, the consumption of Jesus’ words, caused a supernatural heat or fervency to develop in their hearts.  Unlike dyspepsia that causes us to seek a bottle of  Rolaids, the heartburn they were feeling was energizing, spurring them on to continue His mission, by spreading the word.  Is the love you have for Jesus so strong that your heart burns within you?  If not, pick up his word, seek him out, He needs our hearts to be on fire….it’s an amazing, not uncomfortable feeling!!
 



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No Need to Panic

When I saw this statue, of Joan of Arc, in a church in Nice, I have to admit I chuckled, because  I’d never seen a saint portrayed in this manner before.  It was almost as if she was saying, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?”, as she contemplates Jesus’ crucifixion, and the death of the saints before her, panic is literally etched in her face.  Haven’t we all, at one time or another, felt this same way, especially in our life with Christ?   We lament that there is no way we can attain the lofty, holy status of one of the martyrs, let alone our Savior, and what if I have to suffer for my faith.

The earliest church members felt that to die for the cause of Christ was noble indeed.  To follow in the footsteps of our Lord, even to death, was to truly embrace what he accomplished for us on the cross, to personally share in his suffering.  There are numerous scriptures that point out the value in suffering.  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17. “ I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” Philippians 3:10. And, “Instead, be very glad--for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” 1 Peter 4:13.

That’s not to say that God judges us on how much, or how well we stand up to hardships.  Never forget, our righteousness comes through Christ, and his grace-giving sacrifice, nothing else is necessary.  Just because we are saved by faith doesn’t preclude that we will never suffer, and that’s the message these passages convey.  How we handle persecution, ridicule and other forms of suffering needn’t send us into panic mode.  When our faith is firmly rooted in his word, and nourished by prayer, fellowship and study, we, strengthened by the Holy Spirit within us, can take on any foe and emerge victorious.

There have been over 70 million Christian martyrs (the word means witness) since the church began. Historians tell us that in the last century than there have been more than in all the previous years combined. It is thought that some 400 people are martyred daily, believe it or not!  Most of us, here in the USA, will probably never have to face the cross, firing squad or be burned at the stake, although some of you living in hostile-to-Christ countries might.  Regardless of where we live, we will eventually face some kind of persecution fires.  Be prepared, not fearful! “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened." 1 Peter 3:14.




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shalom

Most know that the Hebrew word shalom is universally understood to mean "peace." However, "peace", or freedom from warfare, is only one small part of the meaning . "Shalom" is used to both greet people and to bid them farewell, and it means much more than "peace, hello or goodbye"....According to Strong's Concordance Shalom also means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full.  When Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” John 14:27, he was blessing us with everything that we could ever need.  All things physical, mental, financial and spiritual would be taken care of.

 We don’t bless people very much anymore, probably only when someone sneezes, but we should.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us there is life or death in the power of the tongue. Therefore, whenever you employ the word "shalom" you are speaking into someone's life all the wonderful things that shalom means! Why not begin today to think in terms of passing along God’s goodness, bless someone. Shalom my dear friends!!


Friday, November 8, 2013

A Color-filled Life


As you know, I’ve been thinking about creation and the origin of man lately.  No atheist has ever adequately answered some of my queries.  For example, did male and female slither out of the same primordial ooze?  If not, whomever came first must have had to wait an awfully long time to reproduce.  And what about emotions?  If we are simply animated piles of matter, why would emotions be necessary?  Instead, like an artist’s  palette, human emotions run the gamut from maudlin hues of grey and black, to jubilant shades of fuchsia and gold.  Why?

At times like this, God directs me to his word, yet again!  Right there in Genesis he reminds me that all of us are made in his image. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Genesis 1:26.  Those of you who doubt the existence of a Creator might want to leave at this point, but hear me out.  If we believe that we are created in the image of our Creator, what does that imply?  God is spirit and is not limited to a physical body, hence what he passes on to us in his DNA, is our soul comprised of his emotions, so to speak.  Check it out.  From what I read, God not only has the ability to empathize with us, he literally shares in our feelings since they were His to begin with.


Go ahead, select any color from the spiritual palette and you’ll find scripture backing this claim up.  Let’s look at sorrow or grief, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” Ephesians 4:30. Paul warns us that God’s Holy Spirit can be grieved, especially by our actions and choices.  In another section we see Jesus weeping over the death of Lazarus, and the fate of Jerusalem. Sounds like emotion to me.  How about love, “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. He loved us first, what’s so hard to understand about that?  I dare you to pick any color, from anger through jealousy to delight and satisfaction, and not find a corresponding passage.  The Creator’s image is so evident in His prize creation, us!!  As we allow him to work with those colors in our lives,  and we don’t dwell solely on the darker hues, the beauty of God will shine through in the masterpiece that is our life in Him. “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10.


                                 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Non-stop Flight

I’ve been trying to book a January vacation to Cancun, and have been searching for a non-stop flight.  In my opinion, non-stop is the only way to go.  No worries about missing a connecting flight, lost luggage or other problems that accompany multi-stop voyages.  I’m so sold on non-stop, that cheapskate me is willing to pay the extra cost that accompanies it.  While there may be those who like checking out other airports, I know that any additional layovers can lead to problems, and keep me from reaching my goal of being on the beach in less than 4 hours from St. Louis.  Believe me, I speak from experience.

 There are plenty of options to choose on Orbitz, Expedia or any of the other travel sites.  They tease you with cheap package prices, but you have to look closely to see why.  It can be less expensive because the flight takes 23 hours, and you lose a whole day of sunshine and all-inclusive living!

 Thomas, he of doubting fame, had the opportunity to question Jesus about the non-stop, one way to heaven.  Jesus had just told the disciples that he was going to be leaving soon to prepare a place for them.  Thomas wasn’t sure where this place was, nor how to access it from the Jerusalem airport, so “Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:5-6.  In essence Jesus was telling Thomas, and all of us in turn, that the only sure way to the quintessential all-inclusive, Heaven, is through him. The most perfect non-stop, one way flight we will ever book.

Sure, the world offers us endless options, but when you check into them closer you’ll discover the convoluted, out of the way path they will take you on, only to arrive at the wrong place.  Trust Jesus on this one, no matter what good-sounding deals you may come across, and best of all the fare has already been paid for you!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I Am Complete

Earlier this summer, my husband and I took our two oldest grandkids, Ty and Ella, on a road trip.  We traveled down to Paducah, KY making stops along the way. While passing though Metropolis, IL, Ty spied this phone booth-looking thing.  He kept yelling excitedly that it was a TARDIS. Never having heard the term, I thought he said tortoise…silly me.  In actuality a TARDIS, which stands for, Time and Relative Dimension in Space, is a sort of time machine/spaceship found in the British Dr. Who series.  Ty is a fan, needless to say.  We turned around and I snapped a picture.  He was thrilled, but really wanted a TARDIS of his own, who wouldn’t?  We couldn’t find one, but on my trip to England in September, I happened to find a shirt and a pen with a TARDIS on it.  As he tore through his bag of goodies we brought home, he came to the shirt.  It was a bit too small, but no matter, he put it on over the one he was wearing, and was about to burst with joy, when I told him to dig deeper in the bag.  Pulling out candy bars and socks he uncovered the TARDIS pen.  Dramatically he withdrew the precious item and held it up proudly announcing to us all that, “Now I am complete!”  I had to laugh at this typical Ty response, but it got me thinking about what makes us COMPLETE.  

Ty’s 10 year old self was indeed serious about being made complete, but give him another month and he‘ll need something else to fulfill him.  What about you?  Is there something that you yearn for, the thing that you are certain will fill that empty void and make you whole?  We‘ve all sought after our own TARDIS, only to find that when we have it in our possession, it never quite fills that need completely. So then, what will truly complete us?  It‘s pretty obvious where I‘m going with this, it is a relationship with the one who created that empty spot in the first place.  I don‘t mean trying to adhere to religious rules, doing good deeds, or even church attendance, but entering into a life-altering relationship with God.  Believe me you will know when you are there, have no doubts about it.  But maybe you have doubts, are you still seeking the elusive TARDIS?  Well search no more.  The apostle Paul knew that perishable, human stuff would never satisfy or complete us, and he wrote this to the church at Colossi, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10.  Do you have questions?  Let me know, or start reading the scriptures and ask God to reveal his TARDIS, then you will be able to say, "I am Complete!"



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Whitewashed Tombs

“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27.  While visiting Paris a few years ago, we decided to make a trek to the cemetery where Jim Morrison, of the Doors, was buried.  It was a huge place, and a gorgeous early Spring, Parisian day.  We passed tomb after tomb, most were neatly maintained, some even had little rooms which held chairs, presumably so visitors could sit and visit with the deceased.

As lovely as the surroundings were on the exterior, it was still a place that held corpses within.  Jesus pulled no punches when he told a gathering of  Pharisees that they were hypocrites and liars.  They professed one thing on the outside; learned, religious, white-washed scholars, but on the inside they were nothing more than unclean, dead bones. Yuck!  No matter how nice we make ourselves and our churches look outwardly, if we don’t have the life and joy of Christ within, we’re dead.  "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Ephesians 5:14.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Give Credit, Where Credit is Due

During one of my pondering on the origins of the universe sessions, I decided to do some Googling.  The first thing I looked up were some statements made by renowned scientists on the subject.  These uber-intellects were asked to expound on their personal opinion of creation and the participation of God, if any, in said process.  Here are a couple of them, look for the common thread.  “When people ask me if a god created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the big bang, so there is no time for god to make the universe in. It’s like asking directions to the edge of the earth; The Earth is a sphere; it doesn’t have an edge; so looking for it is a futile exercise. We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no god. No one created our universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization; There is PROBABLY no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.” Stephen Hawking. Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)"Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."

Hawking, in his “profound realization” says “there is PROBABLY no heaven or afterlife, and Asimov informs us that he doesn’t have the evidence to disprove God.  Even though these two men call themselves atheists, the door to belief is left open just a crack.  Why didn’t they just come out and say that the whole God/Intelligent designer notion was hogwash?  Because they can’t.  Hawking even uses the term “Grand Design” to describe the universe, when in the sentence before he said that no one had created it. Design, to me, implies a designer.

In contrast to these Nobel prize winners, my brain is miniscule, but how is it possible that they can, with a straight face, believe that there was never a blueprint for creation.  I think the problem lies in the fact that many learned individuals want everything to line up in concise, provable fashion. Creation is so far beyond human understanding that not even these geniuses can explain it fully.  It must be so frustrating to them not to be able to figure it out completely, and even more frustrating to allow for the theory of a supernatural, god-created universe.  It would be admitting defeat to say that someone or something could have been responsible.

 While there continues to be a rift between creationists and scientists, there are and have been those, who, without going so far as saying they believe in God, do give credit to an unseen force.  Sir Fred Hoyle, from whose writings the term Big Bang originated, wrote this; “Once we see, however, that the probability of life originating at random is so utterly miniscule as to make it absurd, it becomes sensible to think that the favorable properties of physics on which life depends are in every respect deliberate ... . It is therefore almost inevitable that our own measure of intelligence must reflect ... higher intelligences ... even to the limit of God ... such a theory is so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific.” This last one sums it up for me. American biochemist and science fiction writer Walter Kohn (1923-)"I am very much a scientist, and so I naturally have thought about religion also through the eyes of a scientist. When I do that, I see religion not denominationally, but in a more, let us say, deistic sense. I have been influenced in my thinking by the writing of Einstein who has made remarks to the effect that when he contemplated the world he sensed an underlying Force much greater than any human force. I feel very much the same. There is a sense of awe, a sense of reverence and great mystery.”

That sense of awe found in the magnificence and complexity of creation is undeniable, even to unbelievers. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20.   King David, who might have been a Nobel Prize winner, said this: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 53:1.   Science and God need not be at war, but let’s give credit, where credit is due.


Garden of the "God(s)" in southern Illinois

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Developing Real Faith

I don’t think there was ever a time that I didn’t “believe” in the existence of God, but it got me wondering about the big difference between believing and faith.  Are human beings born with the knowledge of him, or is it acquired along the way?  In my case the most logical explanation was that my parents had planted the deity seed in my head. As a child I never ran into resistance from atheists, and the society we lived in, and the church we attended sparingly watered the seed.  That said, the roots of my little  plant didn’t go very deep. I didn’t really “believe” in God as much as casually accepting him. Everyone around me seemed to feel pretty much the same way, so I never pursued it any further. I placed him on a shelf, like a dusty, old, broken  clock.

So then, what causes one to leave that ho hum state, and enter into real faith?   I can‘t prove it, but I think that God has created a built-in curiosity about him in every human being.  At some point that curiosity kicks in and causes us to seek out information on the Him. You can’t learn Spanish by osmosis, and you can’t truly believe in God without learning all you can about him.  Then, like any good student, ask questions, hard ones, put him to the test, don’t just passively accept.  You need to be certain of what you believe in, and why.  God will then ask you what your decision is on Him.  Is he real, dependable and worthy of our faith or not.  There are only 2 answers.  How sure are you of your faith?  What is it based on, and what is it made of?  He offers all that we need to develop that faith in his word, but the decision to believe is ours alone. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17. Get into the Word, and develop real faith!



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Support Team

While visiting a friend in the hospital, recently, our conversation was interrupted by three women who entered the room.  One pushed a blood pressure, temperature, etc. monitor cart, while the others clutched clipboards and pens. Cheerily they introduced themselves as the patient’s “Support Team“.  They went on to say that it was their daily job to check in on each patient. The purpose of their visit wasn’t completely social, instead they asked questions like: Are the medications controlling your pain level? Is the food to your liking?  Can we do anything to make your stay more comfortable? Etc. In other words they wanted to make sure nothing was lacking in the care my friend was receiving, and if it was, they were there to fix it.  I joked that I’d like to be visited by this group on a daily basis too. Who would turn down the opportunity to have their needs met, and never suffer lack?  

The fact is when you fully trust in God, this same kind of support team becomes available to us.  Now don‘t think that he‘s some kind of genie in a lamp, who appears in a puff of smoke ready to grant our every wish. Nice as that may seem, being lack-free is not a matter of having all that we “want“. We all know that what we want, and what we need are two different things.  For instance, I may want a big ole Snicker bar, but my body needs fresh fruit. God offers us a "super hero" support team in the form of the Trinity, who is there to bolster up our areas of lack.  Those missing parts may be physical, emotional, or even financial.  Most of all he wants us to be full of the spiritual gifts, the intangible things that only he can supply.  These precious gifts include prophecy, knowledge, faith, healing and the ability to give good advice to name just a few.

Paul knew that the church needed to be encouraged by God‘s support team when he wrote these words, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus, who will sustain you to the end…” 1 Corinthians 1:4-7. So the next time you need something, call in the Team, remember he also tells us “You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:2.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Famous Last Words

My husband loves the western channel.  Anything with cowboys in it holds his rapt attention.  I will watch for awhile, or at least until one of the characters utters his last words.  There he lies, in the dust and rocks, his faithful horse by his side.  Someone gently lifts his head, and holds a canteen to his parched lips. He sputters and falters with the words as they painfully they come out revealing where the gold is buried, or the location of the bad guy’s hideout, something very important…life-changing even!

 After Jesus’ resurrection, he lived another 40 days with the disciples.  You can bet those were important words, but when he was about to ascend to his father, those last words were precious.  Do you know what they were?  The disciples wanted to know when he was coming back to kick some Roman butt, and make things right.  Jesus told them “"It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Yes, his last words empower us to act.  So pull on your boots pardners, there‘s gold in them thar words!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Becoming Doubt-Free

Does the definitive statement about Christianity, the one reply that will convince every questioning, lost soul of the reality of God, exist?   Yes. Now, let me qualify that answer by saying it will be a different statement for each individual.  Each of us has his/her own queries, misconceptions, and doubts, about God, some “thing” that keeps us from a true relationship with him.

 The definitive story on doubting can be found in John 20.  Travel back with me to that first Sunday, seven long days since Jesus’ resurrection.  “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 19. The disciples, hiding behind heavy doors of fear, were amazed when Jesus appeared in their midst quickly replacing doubt with his perfect peace.

 The following week, Thomas, who had been absent from that first Sunday service, (ever wonder why?) was present.  All week he’d been bombarded with the other’s first person accounts of having “seen the Lord”, and he was tired of it.  In his frustration he blurted out, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” “I will never believe“, have sadder words ever been uttered, and by a “believer”?  Fast forward 8 days and we find the refreshed 10, minus one naysayer, assembled.  “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  26-28. This scripture proves to me that Jesus not only doesn’t want us to disbelieve, but he wants us to be completely doubt-free. Jesus didn’t have to ask what was bugging Thomas, he knew it and cut right to the chase.

 What obstacle is keeping you from total belief?  Don’t be afraid to voice it, he knows already, but wants to hear it from you.  The last part of this tale is my favorite, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”  Jesus had proved himself to Thomas and all doubt was dispelled, as he fell on his knees in worship.  This promise was not just for Tom, but read that one line again, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed“…that’s all of us!!  For Thomas, seeing was believing, for you it may be something else, but don’t live in doubt another day!!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Victory Over Tragedy

The seemingly tragic story of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, actually has an amazing conclusion. How can a death by stoning be amazing, you might well ask.  Well, of course the execution itself was horrific, but what I’m talking about is the good that God ultimately brought out of it. To refresh your memory, let’s look back on the story of Stephen.  

The church was growing, and as it did there were those in opposition to the new movement.  In an attempt to quash the group’s enthusiasm, devote Jews trumped up false charges of blasphemy against poor Steve. In his Holy Spirit-empowered rebuttal, (re-read Acts 7 for the details), Stephen was able to clearly and passionately present the gospel message to the assembled congregation.  While there was no altar call that day, and it angered the majority of those in attendance, the scripture tells us that the onlookers agreed that his face was like that of an angel, and he died with the name of Jesus on his lips.  “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60. 

It doesn’t mention if anyone was saved that day, but I’ll bet that many witnesses were deeply, and permanently affected.  We also find out the Saul, who would later become Paul, was standing there giving his approval.  Again, not a good thing, and it goes on to say, in Acts 8, that a great persecution broke out against the church scattering the believers.  Humanly, it’s difficult to see anything good in this saga, but that’s not how God saw it.  What we see as a tragedy, God used to expand his Kingdom.  I believe Stephen knew his role in the unfolding story, and fearlessly, peacefully gave his life for the cause.  If it weren’t for all these events occurring, the church might have lapsed into complacency, but instead it became stronger, “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” With power I might add!  All of us can relate to times of suffering, heartache or confusion, unaware, at the time, of the amazing results that God would bring out of them.  If you’re faced with something today, get your eyes off the obvious, and ask God to show you his perfect plan. He will. 



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fearfully and Wonderfully MADE!!

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14.  I doubt King David ever took a course in genetics or biology, but he knew full well who was responsible for his marvelous body, not his parents, not evolution, but God alone.  Through the centuries before and since David’s eloquent words of worship were written, godly and heathen men alike have pondered the complexity and perfection of the human form.

 I’ve been reading, A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson, and in the beginning of the book he talks about this subject.  Even though his perspective is more scientific than Christian, it’s interesting to consider.  He wants the reader to realize just how unique they are by visualizing the body in a disassembled state, a dusty pile of protons.  If you’re not too sure about the size of a proton, here’s how he explains it. “A proton is an infinitesimal part of an atom, which is itself of course an insubstantial thing. Protons are so small that a little dib of ink like the dot on this I can hold something in the region of 500,000,000,000 of them, rather more than the number of seconds contained in half a million years. So protons are exceedingly microscopic, to say the very least.” He goes on to say how amazing it is that when all these incredibly minute particles unite they form something, in this case, a human body.

What he doesn’t say, and what I find much more interesting is, what spark gives animation to this lowly pillar of protons?  Stay with me, if all the protons that go into making the cells of the heart,  a kidney or the brain come together, what is it that causes said organ to start operating in it’s own unique way, and then begin interacting with the rest of the organs without losing their own identity and function. While I agree with science that we are all, in the most basic sense, conglomerations of matter, what science fails to explain is what makes this lifeless matter come to life?  I know there are lots of theories, and “explanations”, but none that satisfy my curiosity.  As I said once before, I don’t have enough information to be an atheist or a scientist, I suppose.  While there are many who will scoff,   God explains it clearly back in Genesis 2:7, “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” He formed us from the matter he had created, and then breathed  into that dusty pile of protons the spark of life! David summed it up so well, we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully MADE, not by-products of a cosmic explosion.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel very special indeed!!



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surrendering All

While singing the old hymn, I Surrender All, it got me ruminating on the word surrender. Normally the picture we conjure up is one of a vanquished army or individual waving a white flag, turning themselves over to the powerful victor.  In fact, one of the definitions is: to yield (something) to the possession or power of another, and not always willingly I might add.  “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:24-27.

 Jesus knew that  it would be tough for his disciples, and for us, to lay down their lives. Think back, for a moment, to your own surrender story, if you have one.  It probably didn’t come easily, because the things of this world have such a strong pull on us. Now add to that the fact that the enemy constantly taunts us with how much we’ll be missing out on, and the battle ensues. But, when we allow God’s truth to sink into our hearts, the process happens joyfully.  Remember, surrender is not defeat, it is a Win-Win proposition in all respects.

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Be Fruitful, Not Nutty

God wants to see spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.  I love that statement, and it’s so true.  Many times we confuse what we think God requires of us, with what he wants for us.  Big difference.  He wants us to develop “fruit” as we stay connected to Him, the “Vine”… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22-23  Instead of getting ourselves into “jams”, by doing religious-looking stuff,  check His word for what will make us “fruitful” in His Kingdom.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pure Reflection

A silversmith knows that before he can craft the metal, he must first remove the dross, or impurities from it.  The silver is heated to a molten state, and as the dross raises to the top, it is skimmed off.  This is repeated until the smith can see his reflection in the liquid silver.  What an awesome analogy for our relationship with our “smith”.  God is carefully, and lovingly removing our dross, by turning up the heat of conviction, removing our “gunk”, until he can see His reflection in us. “Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith…” Proverbs 25:4

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fan into Flame

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7.  Paul was speaking to his young friend and disciple, Timothy, when he uttered these encouraging words. As Christians we are called to be active, working team players within the body of Christ, not passive bench-warmers  However, if we are honest with ourselves, many would-be players are twiddling their thumbs on the sidelines.  

The dictionary defines passive as: Not reacting visibly to something that might be expected to produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling. 2.not participating readily or actively; inactive.  Not only are many Christians uninvolved, they are without passion, emotion and feeling for something that should be producing a noticeable difference in them.  

Take for example a Cardinal fan during this season, or throughout the baseball season for that matter, they are animated, pumped with adrenaline and proudly wearing red garb.  They are excited, and eager to tell the world how much they love their team.  Self-control and passivity do not apply to these folks, and it shouldn’t! When you are excited about something, you want to talk about it, heck you want to shout it to the world.  

So why has a big chunk of the church fallen asleep in the pews, and we don‘t hear a peep from them?  In my opinion there are two basic reasons. 1. The individual never really entered in to a personal with Christ, it was merely passed down to them like Grandma’s brooch. Or, 2. The have allowed the original flame of faith, the gift from God of our salvation, to die out.  Either way the results are passive believers, which in itself is an oxymoron…you can’t truly believe and be passive at the same time.

 I mentioned that being on an extended vacation had left my fire in desperate need of stoking.  Thank God for reminding me, through Christian friends and teachers, to get my spiritual bellows out and start fanning.  Has your fire become a pile of smoldering ashes, or worse yet no fire at all?  Get off the bench, read your Bible, find and attend a study group, surround yourself with on-fire individuals, and watch as the dry logs become engulfed in flames! 

  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Everything

Experts say it takes us, on minimum, 3 weeks to really latch on to a positive behavior. Exercise, healthy eating, less TV watching, Bible reading, and the like, all fall into what I would call good habits. Why is it then that those same behaviors can be lost almost as quickly?  Sadly, I have to admit that in the 3 weeks, that I set aside for vacation, it is very easy for me to fall away from, many of my good choices, including my relationship with God.  The sights, smells, and experiences of the world have a way of wooing  me away from what is truly vital to my personal spiritual and physical well being.  Why is that?  It’s not that I don’t realize what’s happening, the problem lies in that fact that I allow it to occur.  I rationalize that I’ll get back into “it” when I return, after all I’m on vacation.  Sure I can pick up my exercise regime, albeit with sore muscles, but can or should we really take a hiatus from our relationship with God?  I’m here to tell you it’s not a good idea.  The world is a fabulous place, and as a photographer I find myself in paradise.  On occasion I’d drop God a quick wish you were here-type postcard once in a while, but in general my attitude was out of sight out of mind, when it should have been absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Now that I’m back, I’m trying to regain my strength, and I know that my Father is there to help me get back in the groove.  In his patient and loving way he keeps calling to me to restore our relationship.  Years ago I made a commitment to love and serve him, and I don’t want to ever break that agreement.  While in London I saw a fence with hundreds of padlocks attached.  Some had messages engraved or scrawled on them, but  the lesson I took from them lay in the their permanent attachment to that fence. That common thread told the world that they weren’t coming off.  This one in particular appealed to me, “You are my everything”. While it was probably meant for a lover, I claimed it as my own recommitment to God.  I may get rusty, and not so pretty, but God and I are locked together for the long haul…it’s good to be back!!



Monday, September 9, 2013

Enjoy the Small Stuff

“To my mind the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar that it is taken for granted.”  Bill Bryson.  I can really relate to this quote from author Bill Bryson, because whenever we travel, near or far, I love taking in the small, bits and bobs of everyday life. A pair of boots on a door step, children at play, an old woman sunbathing, rusty old cars and so the list goes on and on.  I consider nothing mundane or boring, and I hope I never lose that precious zeal for life.

 In the same way, I joyfully anticipate each new travel day with God.  What will he reveal to me this morning from His word?  Is there someone on my path today who needs encouragement or prayer?  How will He use me or inspire me to accomplish his kingdom work?  Just as nothing on my worldly journeys is so familiar that I merely yawn and pass it by, so too I can’t wait for what treasures God has planted along my spiritual trek.

So, how is your journey going?  Do you find yourself just going through the motions, or are your eyes, ears, heart and mind open and eager to see what each new day will bring?  What an excellent adventure God has prepared for those who love and long to follow him….don’t miss out on one tiny detail of it! Nothing is mundane on this trip!!! “The LORD'S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."… Lamentations 3:23-24.


Please note that I will be leaving on a 3 week trip to Europe tomorrow Sept. 10-Oct.2....stay tuned for my traveling blog and pictures!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Ultimate Travel Guide

Leaving the friendly confines of our home towns, and traveling to places outside our comfort zones, can be scary.  Exchanging the familiar for the unknown, is so daunting, that some folks have no desire to leave at all.  I’m not included in that group, but I still have my share of apprehensions anytime I head out, especially to a foreign country.  Will I be able to understand the language and customs? Can I figure the public transport system, or be a prisoner in my room?  The more I travel, the fewer fears I have.  Partly because I’ve done it before, but also because I rely on wise advice from others who have been there before.

Some of you may be familiar with Rick Steves.  He is an American, who has made it his life’s work, to travel extensively throughout Europe and write guide books.  I want his job!!!  Anyway, every time I’ve headed to undiscovered places, a copy of one of Rick’s books goes with me.  He covers all the information that a traveler would need; from what to wear, how to pack, what to see and where to stay.  In addition, he always gives helpful hints on things like; when to visit museums before the crowds arrive, or encouraging you to get out of the car and jump on a beat bog in Ireland! I trust Rick, even though I’ve never met him, and place my faith in his words, because he has personally walked the road ahead of me.  I jokingly call those books my bible, and so far, he’s never steered me wrong!

It’s always been interesting to me that many people find it easy to place their faith in wise-sounding human beings, but are dubious about the truths contained in the Bible.  In all fairness to those folks, I guess I was with them at one time in my life.  But, when I came to the pivotal point in my life, after much study and questioning, when Christ asked me if I believed he was who he said he was, I emphatically responded, “Yes, I believe!” From that time on, I’ve never doubted the truth of the Bible.  That’s not to say I don’t have my share of questions, but I believe that it was written by trustworthy men, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, who had walked the road before me, not unlike Rick Steves. They covered every aspect of Christian life from the exhilarating  highs to the discouraging lows, and everything in between.  We are, after all, citizens of another kingdom, and need to be acutely aware of the beauty as well as the dangers that we will encounter on this earth.

I’m leaving on another European adventure in a few days, and you can be sure that Rick will accompany me.  And you can be just as sure that, on a daily basis,  I refer to the ultimate guidebook, the Bible, for all that I will ever need as a traveler on this amazing journey of Christian life!  Do you still have doubts, then heed the advice Christ gave to doubting Thomas; “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!’ “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.’” John 20:27-29. Put His book to the test, then fearlessly travel beyond your doubts!  “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine.





                                       



 


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unity Without Wrangling

“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.…” Romans 15:5-6.  One of the most difficult things to achieve in the church, is unity or “having the same mind.”  If we all love Christ, and long to obediently follow him, why is there always strife involved? Reaching unity doesn’t come easily in any relationship.  Marriage; I rest my case.  We all come to Christ with the same love and desire, but because we’re uniquely gifted individuals, our forms and expressions of worship will vary widely.  Does God appreciate the diversity?  I can only imagine that he does. How boring it would be if we all gave God the same “store-bought” worship.  No time or talent involved, no thought given to what would please him, just get it over with.

 Now to the problem of achieving unity. As the church grew, and remember the church is the people of God, differences in opinion on how we should worship him began to appear.  It seemed logical to make things uniform, in order to “enforce” unity.  Obviously worshipers needed, and still need to be on the same page, biblically speaking, but as the centuries passed, the joy of celebrating was replaced with rote formality.  Individual expression was not encouraged, and the gifts of the Spirit were shelved having been replaced with a legalistic works mentality. Nowadays things are not a whole lot better.  We have many varieties of Christian churches, with different styles of worship, tradition and doctrine, but instead of bringing the unity God desires, we have division.  “My church is “the” church” or “Your form of worship isn’t enough, or it’s too much.”

In talking with a person recently, they told me, that because I didn’t attend his church, I was in essence saying his denomination was wrong. It is not my, nor should it be any Christian’s, intention to say any church, or method of serving God is wrong, that would be, well, WRONG! I do believe that is God’s area of expertise, and one day all of us will be judged for how well we operated, in the world, by spreading his word. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, reminded him that true unity is reached when all believers agree on the pure gospel, which, in it’s simplest form states that; Christ lived, taught, died, resurrected and will return for his church. He also said this; “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.” 2 Timothy 2:14.  Interesting, we should stick to the basic foundational facts about Christ, and leave the wrangling over words, styles, traditions and doctrine alone.  So, leave your boots and lassos at home, unity can only be reached when we stay true to the God-created, not the man-made church.