Thursday, February 28, 2013

Man in the Mirror

Isn’t it easy to find fault with people?  The personality flaws of others just seem to jump out at us, begging for our “godly” criticism and rebuke.  Their lack of self-control, bad tempers, or other "sinful" personality deviations makes excellent fodder for “spiritual“ discussion, and “holy“ finger pointing.  Someone once told me that when we point an accusing finger, at another person, there are always 3 other fingers pointing back at us. You’re trying it out, aren’t you?  LOL, so did I, and it’s true.  Most of us still have some insecurity, when it comes to our relationship with God.  Are we consistently doing good stuff, studying his word enough, and in general following his example? When we see someone more messed up than we are, in a crazy, selfish way, it makes us feel better about ourselves.  Remember the finger pointing Pharisee, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: 'I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don't cheat, I don't sin, and I don't commit adultery. I'm certainly not like that tax collector!‘ “ Luke 18:11.  God has a mirror in his hand that he lovingly wants us all to take a good, hard look into. Only when we honestly see ourselves, as God sees us, can we quit pointing and concentrate on our inadequacies. Look in the mirror next time you feel a finger-pointing mood coming on.  “How can you think of saying, 'Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.”  Luke 6:42

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Golden Rule

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.“ Matthew 7:12.  We’re all so familiar with the Golden Rule, but when Jesus uttered these words, it was a landmark teaching.  Up until that point, the Gold in the rule was more Tin.  Sure, the general idea was there, but Jesus made a subtle, yet radical change in the wording.  What did he do?  He substituted “Do to others” for “don’t do to others”.  Can you see the difference?

When we “Do” something, to or for another person, especially an act that we would love to see reciprocated, it is positive and pro-active.  It’s like giving someone a gift that you would desire for yourself.  Now check out how different using “don’t” makes this rule.  “Don’t do to others anything that you don’t want done to you.”  Instead of acting positively, you are merely holding back a negative action.  For example, “I won’t punch them in the nose, because I don’t want them to punch me in mine.” One little word change, and what a difference.

 Just the other day I was talking to a gentleman, who referred to this noble teaching as it applied to his own life.  Recently, he had attempted to make a friendly phone call to an acquaintance, but had to leave a message on their voice mail instead. A positive, pro-active gesture, indeed.  A day or two went by, without a response, it annoyed him. He then launched into a tirade which expressed his displeasure with the other person.  “I tried to be nice,” he ranted, “but they were rude, and if they can be rude to me, I guess I’ll just be rude back to them.”  Hmm.  Jesus never told us that our good deeds would be met with good deeds in return, all he said was “Do!”  If our only motivation for doing good is to have it returned, shame on us.  “So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.” Galatians 6:9.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Unbowed Believer

419  My 6 year old grand daughter, Ella, and I were watching a Veggie Tale adaptation of the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego story the other day.  The veggie characters, Rack, Shack, and Benny, worked in Mr. Nezzer’s chocolate factory.  The heroes’ parents had told them that eating too much chocolate was not good for their health, so they obeyed and only ate small amounts.  One day Mr. Nezzer decide to have his chocolatiers craft a humongous chocolate bunny.  It was his plan to have all his employees bow down to the huge rabbit, and pledge to eat massive quantities of  candy, or else.  The veggie boys knew that bowing down went against all they believed, but the punishment for not complying was to be thrown into a blazing hot furnace with all the broken candies. What a dilemma!  I watched Ella, and could almost hear those gears turning in her little blond head, as she thought how she would respond. She turned to me and said, “I’d just bow down, but I wouldn’t say anything.”  I had to laugh, because even at an early age, we humans are always looking out for our flesh. We rationalize our behavior by saying we aren’t really caving in, it’s only pretending because we have our spiritual fingers crossed.

When faced with a life-threatening situation, how would you respond? Is your faith in God strong enough to sustain you, or will you go with the flow, hoping God will overlook and understand? I certainly pray we never have to find out, but many Christians all over the world are experiencing this exact type of persecution.  In the Bible version we know that the boys survived the fiery blast furnace, but they didn’t know how it would turn out.  Still this is how they responded to the king. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18.

Wow, now that’s obedience, to have a faith so strong that it allowed for the fact that God might not work in the way they humanly envisioned. As it turned out, all the glory went to God, and King Nebuchadnezzar was won over. Today, my prayer for all of you is a supernaturally strengthened faith, one that will allow us to say with confidence, unbowed, even in the face of disaster, “There is no other god who can rescue like this!” Daniel 3:29.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rise and Shine

While reading and preparing for a Bible study, on the Transfiguration, one small portion of a verse, that  I’ve normally passed over, caught my attention.  “Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory..”  Luke 9:32.  If you recall the story, Jesus had taken Peter, James and John, the 3 disciples that He thought truly understood who he was, up a mountain to pray.  At this time, in Jesus’ life, the cross was looming ominously ahead of him.   He had to be certain that at least some of his followers comprehended his mission, and would be able to continue it after his death. The scripture goes on to tell us that Moses and Elijah appeared, and that Jesus’ real identity was revealed in dazzling brilliance. But where were those faithful disciples?  Asleep!!  I’m not here to point accusing fingers, God certainly knows how many times I’ve fallen asleep while praying, but rather to allow us all to ponder on the causes of spiritual sleepiness, and how it robs us of his richest blessings.

 1.  A Closed Mind/Prejudice- Our minds can be so set in their ways, that any new idea will encounter a closed door.  When Christ knocks, we roll over and go back to sleep.
2. Mental Lethargy- Lots of people don’t want the strain or struggle that comes with serious thought.  “An unexamined life,” said Plato, “is not worth living.”  Do we really think things out, or just sleep walk through them.
3. The Love of Ease- We all have a kind of defense mechanism that makes us shut the door against any disturbing thought. A man can drug himself mentally until his mind is sound asleep.

God has created lots of things in life that are designed to wake us up.
1. Sorrow- Often this emotion comes as a rude awakening, but in that moment, if we allow God to enter, we will see his glory.
2. Love- Real love, is an awakening to horizons  we never dreamed were there.
3. Sense of Need- Man can go through life half asleep, living in a boring routine, then an insoluble problem comes up.  The wise man will shake off his slumber, and realize that only God has the answers.  (borrowed from William Barclay’s commentary)

Adequate sleep is meant to refresh us, but too much will lead to physical and spiritual malaise.  No one wants an employee who sleeps on the job, or a parent who snoozes when a child needs them, and God certainly needs us to be wide awake prepared to do what he has planned. So, throw off those excuse covers, and wake up to life in Christ!
"Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light."
Ephesians 5:14. Rise and Shine!!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Honest and Truthful

As short a month as February is, it’s chock full of mini-holidays.  Groundhog day, where a large rodent predicts the coming of Spring; Valentine’s Day, focused on LOVE and the birthday celebrations of two of Americas favorite presidents, “Honest” Abe Lincoln and “Truthful” George Washington.  As school children, we listened attentively to the legend of George and the cherry tree.  You will recall that he put his new ax to the roots of his Mom’s favorite fruit tree.  No one saw him, and he could have gotten clean away with this heinous crime, but instead, he fessed up.  We can all quote his famous words, “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.“  “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” Proverbs 12:22. I can still remember a classroom full of 3rd graders squirming uneasily in their seats, as we recalled our own “criminal” acts.  Whether or not Abe and George where totally influenced by Biblical teachings, I do believe God’s word motivated much of their behavior.  While it isn‘t popular thought today, history upholds the fact that our first leaders depended on, and prayed often for God’s guidance. Nowadays, honesty and truthfulness are, sadly,  not the adjectives that come to mind when describing our elected officials.  What went wrong?  Many will disagree, but it’s clear to me, that we have all started listening to, and modeling our behavior on everything but the Bible.  Ask yourself, are we any better as a nation now?  I think the answer is obvious.  The apostle John spoke to the early church when he said, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:6.  Listening to, and obeying God’s word may not assure that our birthdays will be future holidays, but it will gain us something far better.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Singing in Harmony

Did you ever have the opportunity to listen to a really great “a cappella” group.  I’ve included a clip of one of my favorites, Straight No Chaser.  The term comes from the Italian for "in the manner of the church" or "in the manner of the chapel".  It is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound.  It gives me such pleasure to hear the melding of those voices in tight harmony.  Usually one of the men sings the melody, while the rest fill in and support with the various harmonies.  Having sung alto parts most of my life, I sometimes felt like the plain, little brown wren, compared to the beautiful, bright soprano, peacocks.  Melody is the part that people hear and hum along with, while harmony can often sound like an unvarying  drone. But, put them both together, and the tune truly comes to life. God created all kinds of parts for us to “sing”, spiritually speaking.  Way back, in the book of Exodus, He detailed how the items used in the tabernacle were to  be crafted.  Some folks were blessed with talents to weave, build, sculpt and sew these precious pieces. Then there was the guy whose role it was to keep the “screen” door to the Holiest of Holies in good repair.  Not exactly a primo, or showy position, nor one that anyone would strive to attain, but necessary. Inside this place is where the priests offered the blood sacrifices.  Imagine how fly and insect infested it would be without that door. Now, in the body of Christ, there are also numerous ministries, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13.  Among these more showy jobs, are also hospitality, raising children and helping those in trouble, the behind the scenes ministries, that like harmony, add dimension, and completeness to the whole body of Christ. Don‘t ever get the feeling that your gifting is unimportant, just because it you’re not singing the solo. Every voice is vital. “All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Keep Out of the Mud!

Do you keep an eye on the long term weather report before you wash your car?  I want my money’s worth, so I try to pick a week when rain isn’t in the forecast for a few days.  After I’m assured that the sun will be shining, I still steer clear of mud, puddles and other filthy situations.

My husband said something to me, recently, that brought this clean car scenario to mind.  He said that long life wasn’t always a good thing, because it just gives us more time to dirty up our lives with sin.  I suppose, in a way, he’s correct.  The odds are, that the longer we inhabit planet Earth, the likelier it is that we will be drawn into ungodly, “dirty” activities, or just have them splash up on us. Oh, what poor weak creatures we are.

I suppose we could park ourselves in the garage, along with our cars, and never be tainted by the world, but that’s not feasible, for us or the car.  We, and cars, are designed by our creators to be used, and that involves driving through some messy situations.  Will we get dirty, you bet? Will God still love us, yes indeed!  Does that mean we should keep seeking out mud?  No!  When we accept Christ, God sees us through his son’s eyes, but that doesn‘t give us license to continue in our old lives. We are made new in Him, cleansed by his blood, and set apart for service.

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Romans 6:1-4. Don‘t go hide, every time spiritually inclement weather is on the radar, rather, ask the Holy Spirit to hold up the umbrella of God’s divine protection.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thorn in the Flesh

If you’ve ever pruned bushes, it’s likely that a thorn has made its way into your finger.
Why is it that the smallest  injury seems to be the most irritating; paper cuts and thorns, ugh. While a paper cut stings like crazy, it usually heals quickly. A thorn, on the other hand, may not show itself right away, and when it does, redness, swelling and festering accompany it. As tiny as it may be, the whole body goes on high alert. The Apostle Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh”, but never says exactly what it is. Many have tried to guess, but I think God intentionally had him keep it hidden so we could all relate. What is your thorn? It certainly can be a physical condition, and usually it’s something we didn’t choose. Paul asked God three times to remove his, but he didn’t. Paul, in his typical style, chose to be humbly content with it, not happy, but he endured and went on. There is a song I love called, The Blessing in the Thorn. It sounds strange, but knowing that God has a purpose, and plan for our irritations, makes them bearable. “ order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Friday, February 15, 2013

No God vs Knowing God

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:20.

You don’t have to travel further than your backyard to observe the glories of creation. From the tiniest insect, to the soaring majesty of an oak tree, God’s invisible nature can be seen. The apostle Paul goes on to say that there is NO EXCUSE for not knowing him.

My husband was telling me about a conversation he had with a woman, recently.  She told him that she found it hard to believe that there was a God, because of all the bad that was in the world.  I’m assuming that this lady would classify herself as a Christian, which makes this comment that much sadder.  Yes, there’s no denying that bad abounds, but it wasn't in God’s original blueprint.  How quickly we forget that everything considered bad, wrong or evil entered the world as a direct result of man’s disobedience.  Somewhere along the line we must take responsibility for our actions, and get used to the fact that we live in a sin-fallen world.  The good news is, God offers us a lifestyle that enables us get through the muck and mire of reality. True, no one escapes getting “dirty” along the way, that’s just how collateral damage works, but with His help, we’ll make It through spiritually unharmed.

Open your eyes to the truth and beauty of God’s creation. Rest assured He is alive ,well and fully functioning, in spite of us! “Only fools say in their hearts, "There is no God." They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” Psalm 53:1.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  I can understand celebrating a holiday based on LOVE, but who the heck was Valentine??  Not surprisingly, I Googled the name and was directed to It’s a fact that a man, probably a Christian priest named Valentine, lived and died a martyr’s death on Feb. 14,  269 in Rome.  His flower bedecked skull is on display there, if you are so inclined to check.  But I digress, he became associated with love and lovers, because he was secretly marrying Christian couples back when Rome was not yet a Christian empire.  It was a capital offence, and he paid the price; beaten with clubs, stoned and finally beheaded.  A legend about him tells us that before his execution, he restored the sight of his jailer’s daughter.  He even sent her a note, signing it your Valentine.  Sweet huh?  Over the centuries, love has made many lose their heads and hearts, thus the association with the color red I guess.  Biblically speaking, the quintessential passage on the subject is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. LOVE NEVER FAILS”.  Thank old Val for the holiday, but give God all the credit for the gift of Love!!  Flowers and candy hearts are still appreciated!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

You may run into some folks with smudges on their foreheads today, because it’s Ash Wednesday. In the Roman Catholic Church, and some other denominations, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Many churches don’t participate,  observe or teach about Lent anymore, but I think it bears looking into.

The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday.  The season exists to remind people of their own mortality, (Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return"), and calls them to repentance in preparation for Easter.  In the early Church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned, and who wished to be readmitted to the Church, would begin their public penance.

Whether you don ashes, "give up" a favorite food, fast, or actively participate in Lent, the notion of putting our own earthly lives into humble perspective is a great idea. We won’t be alive on earth forever, so it is imperative that we make the decisions that effect our eternal life now. Jesus "gave it all up" for us sinners, not only because he loved us, but because there was an outstanding sin debt,  which only his shed blood could pay.  46 days from today will be Easter, let’s use that time to think about the new life he offers us through Himself.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras

The term Mardi Gras/Carnival brings to mind excessive eating, drinking and partying in New Orleans, and around the world.  It is the season that begins after the Epiphany, and culminates on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  In French the words, mardi gras,  translate to Fat Tuesday,  and carnival comes from the root word carnal or of the flesh.  For centuries people thought it would be a great idea to go on a total, carnal binge before the 46, long days of  Lenten abstinence. The thought is, “Let’s eat the fattiest foods, drink till we pass out, etc. and in general break as many commandments as we can, before we have to shape up”.  Then, for the next weeks, some of these same revelers will “give up” something they enjoy, as penance, thinking that will please God.  Following the fast, the festivities pick up where they left off.  Does anything about this picture strike you as crazy?  It should!   Call me nuts, but I can’t imagine that this behavior is gonna put a smile on God’s face.  And I, for one, want to see Him smiling!  Even as a kid, whenever I did something that I knew would not be pleasing to my Mom and Dad, I got a sick feeling.  Now, whenever those opportunities to venture into carnal activities arise, and they do, that same kind of feeling kicks in, but this time I know it’s the Holy Spirit sending out a warning.  God wants us to have fun, and enjoy life, but not when excesses lead us away from him.  So go ahead, put on a mask, and have a King Cake, but remember to keep God always at the center of your fun.  “And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dinner at Dad's

When a man I know angrily commented that some people only go to church to have “fun”, it got me thinking about how much I loved family suppers when I was a kid.  One of my favorite meals was, and still is,  baked  ham, Mom’s  potato salad and baked beans.  Later, over endless cups of hot tea, we’d nibble cookies and rehash our day, sharing our lives and receiving wise counsel from Dad. What a joy it would be, to get a call from my Dad, this evening, inviting me to come linger around that old oak table. My parents live over 300 miles away, so, sadly, I can’t just drop by anymore, but how great it would be.  Hopefully, when any family gathers for a meal, a similar scene is repeated.  The closeness and caring that is fostered at the dinner table is essential in keeping families strong.

The Bible talks about the ancient church in the book of Acts.  “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer.” Acts 2:42.  I’ve done further reading on what was included in the fellowship and meals.  They came to be known as Agape, or Love Feasts, giant potlucks, I imagine, which preceded the teaching, prayer and celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Much like any family supper, people enjoyed sharing food, wisdom, life experiences, conversation and yes, fun.

It seems that some onlookers, thought this was strange behavior.  Worship of a deity was  serious business, and there was no room for enjoyment, or heaven forbid, FUN!!!  I assume, that if God had been unhappy with this set up, He would have put His big foot down and discouraged it, but He didn’t. In fact the church grew,  with thousands joining at a time!  It was the hub of Holy Spirit activity with healings and supernatural phenomenon happening daily. Who wouldn’t want to go to God’s for supper?  But something happened,  somewhere along the line, and those wonderful gatherings ended.  Old stodgy thinking crept back in; church leaders reasoned that spending time with God must be austere, rote, regulated, and for Heaven’s sake, NO FUN allowed!!  As the centuries passed, the once casual-family meal, evolved into a beautifully elaborate, yet distant affair.

Why do we assume that the more pious and quiet we are , the more pleasing our worship is to God?  If  my family just sat at the table, without acknowledging or talking to one another, my Dad would wonder what was wrong.  I’m not here to say that there is anything wrong with quiet reverence during a worship service, “be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10,  but enjoying each others company isn‘t a sin either.  Certainly the  purpose of any repast is food consumption, at home it physically feeds us and during worship, spiritually.  Never forget, first and foremost, we gather at “Dad’s” table to receive our sustenance, but the fellowship, and, yes, fun, that results doesn’t insult God, it’s His joy!! “Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.” Psalm 100:2.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


In a setting reminiscent of a Kay Jewelers commercial,  we peek in on a young couple, laughing softly in the flickering candlelight. As the gentle background music reaches a crescendo,  the handsome young man leaves his loved ones side assuming the time worn, down-on-one- knee position.  Hankies at the ready, we swoon as his poetic words pledge all his undying love. The small, black velvet box appears, the lovely lady’s eyes brim with tears as the dazzling ring is revealed.  Her glowing face looks up adoringly into his, the words of her heart  escape her trembling lips, “Yes, my darling, I will marry you, and I vow to love with 90% of my heart!!”  Stop the cameras!!  Say what??  While 90% might be a pretty fine score on an algebra exam, in a marital relationship a spouse should expect nothing less than 100%.  What or whom are you saving that extra 10% for?  Even old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, crooned, “…if I’m gonna love you, it’s for sure I’m gonna love you, All the way…”  It just would lose so much if he had  replaced ALL with 90%!!  LOL.

In a similar vein, think of a basketball locker room at half time.  The well-respected coach stands before  his players, encouraging them to give their all. With each head nodding agreement, the team blurts out, “We’re going out and giving it 75%, Coach!!”.  Duh.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  When someone we love and trust pledges 100% to us, they deserve 100% back.  Lopsided numbers make for bumpy rides.  So why is it,  knowing full well that Jesus gave 100% of himself for us, we find it so difficult to reciprocate?  We come up with all kinds of excellent, pie chart rationalizations, like: “I have to hold a percent back for family, job, good-deed doing, etc., Jesus.  You understand, right?”   Looks good on paper, but doesn’t hold up with God.

So, here’s the good news.  When we give our all, 100%, to him, he does the math.  The time or talent  that we thought we had to hold back, he multiplies supernaturally.  Check the Bible for yourself.  I can’t think of any one who was rewarded for giving less; Ananias and Sapphira; the servant who buried his talents, you get my point.  On the other hand, those who “coughed it all up” were blessed beyond measure; the widow, who Elijah visited, was down to her last bit of flour and oil, but God kept it from running out. Take some time today to check your percentages, make sure you’re giving the full 100%.  “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back." Luke 6:38.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Developing Passion

Is there anything you can’t get enough of?  A hobby, travel, a favorite band, Downton Abbey or certain foods?  The thrill of attending a concert, boarding an airplane or tuning into PBS on Sunday evening is delightful.  Now, imagine how gypped you’d feel if the band only performed one song,  or Downton Abbey was cut to 15 minutes rather than an hour.  When the time you anticipated sharing, with something or someone you are passionate about, is cut short, you should feel bummed out. Which brings me to my point for the day: where is your passion?

While having lunch with 2 women, both of whom are Christians, one of them complained that their pastor had dragged out his sermon to almost 20 minutes!! “Can you imagine”, she said, “anyone should be able to make their point in 5-10 minutes tops!”  I know this woman loves God, but for some reason,  she can only tolerate small amounts of his word. I smiled to myself, but inwardly the Holy Spirit was deeply saddened. Why wouldn’t you want to linger with the one you adore? I imagine that most Christians, myself included, would put Christ at the head of their Passion List, as He well should be.  But how much time do we really want to spend with him?  Let’s delve into the word passion for a minute.  When you are passionate about something it’s because it brings you happiness,  inspires, encourages or motivates you.  The object of your passion, be it human or otherwise, imbues us with a sense of completeness and joy,  yet, happily you are never sated.  How  does one develop a passion then?  The #1 way is by spending time with the object of your affection. Be honest where does your time go?  I’ve heard it said that if you look on your appointment/activity calendar, and your bank statement you’ll have your answer.   Where our time, talents and money goes, so goes our passion.  Is my face red.

While I love hearing God’s word preached, and I attend a church where the sermon always lasts at least 20 minutes, I could do a lot better when it comes to Bible reading, or extended prayer.  Imagine that a dear friend, whom you love, calls.  After 15 minutes you tell them you need to hang up, because they haven’t made their point.  That is harsh! Now think about how that person on the other end feels. Ouch! But, that’s exactly what we do to Jesus.  “I love you man, as long as you don’t interfere with my real life.” If you don’t “love” being with Jesus, if you’re not eagerly awaiting his call, hanging on his every word and savoring his presence, ask God to help you with reevaluating that list of yours.  Start today by spending some quality time in his presence, the longer you linger, the more your passion will grow.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Perfect Pitch

When my husband was actively farming, years ago, he always kept a can of tar handy.  The thick, sticky black tar, or pitch, came in handy to plug a hole in a metal roof,  insuring that the contents of the barn or shed would be safe from invading moisture.  Even further back in time, when God was working with Noah on the ark, he told him, “…. make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.” Genesis 6:14.

Once again we see the value of pitch in its ability to seal, cover and preserve.  That in itself is no revelation, but what I want to look at today is the Hebrew word kaphar.  According to a Hebrew lexicon, it means: to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation, cover over with pitch.  Aha, now that’s significant!  This word that was used, in the process to cover and protect the ark,  is the same word that He uses in reference to atoning or covering our sins!! In the old testament, Moses was instructed on how the blood of sacrificed animals, was to be applied to the altar,  to atone for the sins of the people.  Up until the destruction of the temple, in 70AD, this system was the only way Jewish people had to kaphar their sins.  In fact, from the root of the word “kpr“, comes the name of the highest Jewish holyday, Yom Kippur, or the day of atonement. “"This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites." Leviticus 16:34.

Much like the tar my husband would apply to the roof, that blood had to be continually offered to be effective against invading sin.  Now, let’s go back to the ark.  Because God was taking Noah and his family out of a sin-saturated world, into a brand new one, the pitch was applied as a waterproof barrier. Without it, the old could seep in, and sink the vessel.  When we accept Christ as our personal savior, God applies his son’s shed blood to our souls, and better than Moses’ imperfect pitch, it seals us until the day we leave this old world. “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12.  Jesus is the “perfect pitch”!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Red Flag

During our vacation in Cancun, the weather was balmy, but the wind was strong and relentless.  Everyday we would look out on the Caribbean, and notice that the winds churned the blue water into frothy white, powerful waves.  It was the responsibility of the Salvavidas (lifeguards), to determine the intensity of the waves, and warn potential swimmers of danger. To visually enforce the warning, flags were placed in the sand; green = Safe; yellow = Caution,  and red = extreme danger.  I paid attention, confident that the Salvavidas knew, from experience, what they were talking about.  You’d think that everyone would steer clear, but NO, into the raging surf many of them went.   Amidst frenzied shouts of warning and blaring whistles, lifeguards ran to the water‘s edge. This scenario played out day after day, despite those prominently displayed red flags .

 In ancient times, God set up a similar warning system. Many of the cities were built with fortified walls around them, and on these walls men were assigned to be Watchmen.  If, during their shift, they saw any danger approaching, it was their duty to sound the alarm.  All those inside the walls knew they had to take cover, or head for safety.  Even way back then, there were still some folks who thought it might be fun to risk the danger, and jump into the fray.  The watchmen did not take their assignment lightly, in fact if they did not sound the alarm, or ran away, the responsibility was theirs, as was the punishment; death.  That should have been enough to make people take heed, but we know from historical reports, some didn’t.

 Fast forward thousands of years, and God still has watchmen on the wall;  all of us, every Christian man and woman, and our job is to set up those red flags, warning both fellow believers, and unbelievers, of potentially, spiritually lethal situations. Some will say, “that’s not my job, people will think I’m interfering in their lives.”  Suppose I’m riding in the passenger seat, and glimpse a fast approaching semi, one the driver can‘t see. Do I risk being called a backseat driver, or save our lives by making the driver aware?  I think the answer is obvious.  While people may not like hearing the warning, the end will justify the means. I posted watchmen over you who said, 'Listen for the sound of the alarm.' But you replied, 'No! We won't pay attention!' Jeremiah 6:17.  If they don’t take heed, don’t worry, you have still done the work of a watchman.  “They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives.” Ezekiel 33:5.