Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are You Prepared?

While this early Spring snowstorm, Virgil, was an unwelcome visitor, none of us in its path should have been caught unprepared.  For the last few days, weather prognosticators had been warning the Midwest showing us its approach across the great plains.  I’m sure that Wal-Mart did a brisk business selling milk, bread and eggs, in addition to snow shovels and de-icers.  When that first snowflake fell, I was ready, snug and smug inside my warm, well-stocked home.  The idea of being prepared, in a spiritual sense, is of utmost importance.

There are numerous stories in scripture that tell about wise and ready folks, but there are also those that point to foolish folks who chose to ignore. During this Holy Week, Jesus was still busily doing, teaching, preparing, answering skeptics and demonstrating to all the manifest power of God. In fact, some of the most important teachings/parables on preparedness occurred during this time frame.  The one that most of us are familiar with is the story of the Ten Virgins.  If you recall, ten young women went out to greet the bridegroom. “Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” Matthew 25:2-5.

 Falling asleep seems to be a common, reoccurring problem in scripture.  These ladies knew how important it was to have full lamps, but some failed to go to Wal-Mart, and when the guest of honor arrived, their lamps were out, and so were they. “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” Matt. 25:10.  The door was shut, it doesn’t get any plainer than that.  If we are unprepared to meet Jesus, the bridegroom, when he returns, we will be left out in the dark, no matter how hard we yell and knock.  “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matt. 25:11-13.  Jesus is forewarning us that, yes, he will return, but we, and even he, doesn’t know the exact date and time.  Therefore, if you’ve been procrastinating thinking that you have plenty of time to fill your lamp, you don’t.  Today he invites us in to the wedding feast, and we can have special seating at the family table, IF we are prepared and willing.  Are you prepared? There is no second seating.

*****Special Notice****  I will be out of town and away from my computer until April 8th.  In that time I would appreciate your prayers for my daughter who will be delivering her 3rd child, my 5th grandchild, tomorrow, March 28th. Please feel free to leaves comments, I'd love to get to know you better!  Thanks so much!!  Donna

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Manic Monday

This is Holy Week, the most sacred time on the Christian calendar. Most of the attention is focused on these special days; Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Do you ever wonder what happened on the other days?  I went to scripture, and while the  events are not mentioned by a particular day, we know that they occurred in the same week.  I thought it might be interesting to see what else was on Jesus’ Daytimer.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Matthew 21:10-11.

 At this point, Jesus was a marked man.  The general public, wondered who he really was, in addition he was under scrutiny from the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin as well as the Roman government. Some wondered when he would reveal himself as the Messiah, and vanquish their foes. Others questioned his authority, trying to trip him up with scripture based inquiries. Instead of keeping a low profile, Jesus went to the hottest spot in town, the Temple, and let his presence be known.  “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. “He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “?‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” His love for God’s word, and the respect he had for temple worship, brought to the surface his righteous indignation.

You can imagine that everyone, children included, took note of his behavior, so much so that the blind and lame flocked to the temple seeking to be healed. A midst
 the hosannas, were the grumbling, fuming chief priests and teachers of the law who indignantly thought, “How dare he!!! Jesus addressed their disdain by saying; “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “?‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’ ?” And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.” Matthew 21:16-17.  Monday comes to an end. Let’s not forget these precious days that lead up to Easter. Within them we can truly see our  Savior, not just resting, but busily fulfilling his destiny, up until the last day. Hosanna in the Highest!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Road to the Cross

One of the most poignant scenes in the life of Christ, occurred at this very time of year, Passover. As Jesus and his disciples approached the holy city of Jerusalem, the enthusiastic crowds, eagerly anticipating their Messiah, welcomed him with waving palms and loud Hosannas, which means Save Us!!  “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Luke 19:38. In their understanding of the ancient prophecies, Jesus would come not only as their savior, but liberator as well. Looking back on this scene, we see that they focused in on the all-powerful, butt-kicking Messiah, who will come one day, and overlooked the humble, suffering servant, the Lamb of God that he embodied.

History tells us that this emotional high was soon to crash, and Jesus, above all, was keenly aware of what lay ahead. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44. In his three-year ministry, Jesus repeatedly told of his death, but let’s face it, as humans the idea of a victorious King trumps crucified victim every time!

From Palm Sunday to Easter was only one week, but what a week it was.  The Pharisees hounded him with questions, last minute details had to be arranged, those closest to him betrayed him, and  the once adoring throngs turned into an angry mob.  The Son of the Living God wept, not only over the city he loved, but the people who couldn’t or wouldn’t accept the truth. It’s easy for us, centuries later, to chastise those people, but be honest, what would your reaction have been then; what is it today?    


Friday, March 22, 2013

Spiritual Health and Wholeness

Imagine this scene for a moment.  You are sitting in an oncologist’s office awaiting the results of your biopsy.  As the doctor enters the room carrying your medical file, your  throat closes, and the knot in your stomach tightens. Peering over his glasses, he looks you in the eyes, and announces that, yes, they have found a cancerous mass.  Before you can respond, he says confidently that the surgeon can remove it entirely, and you will be cancer-free. Instead of saying, “ Praise God, take it all out Doctor!”, you say instead, “Dr. could you just leave a little bit of the mass, and we’ll just manage it.”  The very thought is ludicrous, but isn’t that what we do when God offers to take away our whole sin/tumor?

The Great Physician longs to replace disease with wholeness and healing, but we want to keep a small “manageable” portion of it.  Let’s face it, we want it all.  Our old sin, whatever it might be, has become a part of us, and by golly we’d miss it.  So we argue that we can keep it in check, and still be a good Christ-follower.  There is no sense in holding on to a little sin, it must be removed completely.  Do you think the blind man, that Jesus healed, wanted to keep blindness in one eye, or the leper a tad bit of his sores?  Of course not!

 Paul reminds us that “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So, letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6.  We can never manage sin, and yes it will always be a struggle, but promise of lasting spiritual health is well worth it.  Take the “whole” pill he offers!! “Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live!” Isaiah 38:16.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is LOVE?

Love is a word we bandy around in a cavalier way.  We “love“, among other things, chocolate, Downton Abbey, Diet Coke, photography, baking, writing, traveling etc., etc.  In addition, we love our country, God and our families, not exactly in that order, but we do “love” a lot of stuff.  The Greeks, wiser folks than we, knew that one little word couldn’t possibly apply to all those situations, so they had several words: philios for the brotherly variety; eros for the romantic kind, storge covered love of family, and agape represented “true” love, and later the one we share with God.  Obviously, no matter how wonderful chocolate is, it doesn’t compare to the emotional love we experience for God, friends and family.

 Paul dissects the word, in this famous passage, allowing us to see the precious gem that God meant it to be. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. OK, with all the components out in the open, let’s see how we personally measure up in the LOVE department. Are you patient?  Wow, right off the bat, that’s a difficult one for most of us.  It’s way too easy to become exasperated, especially with the people we love the most, isn’t it?  We feel there’s no need to put on a smiley face mask and count to 10, but God says there’s every reason to do so.

  Next in line is kindness.  Ugh, another killer, especially when it’s paired with patience, but make nice even when you feel just the opposite. The list doesn’t get any easier when we realize that genuine love doesn’t envy.  Recently, one of my dearest friends shared with me that it was simple to cry with a hurting individual, but very difficult not to be jealous when confronted with another’s good fortune. On the opposite side,  real love doesn’t allow us to brag or boast about personal achievements, which will help us to keep our pride under control.  Are you squirming in your seat right about now?  I am.  As the pinching continues, the other facets of this brilliant jewel are revealed.  Love never dishonors, isn’t self-seeking, is not easily angered , and doesn’t keep records of wrongs done against us. And just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more adjectives, he adds a final flourish; Love protects, trusts, hopes, always perseveres, and finishes it off with LOVE NEVER FAILS. Love is the sea in which our spiritual boats sail, it keeps us afloat, even during those inevitable storms.

 Is it humanly possible to demonstrate that kind of love?  Humanly, no; supernaturally, YES.  Love is used 697 times in the NIV Bible, and is the foundation on which our relationships with both God and man are to be built.  I think it would behoove us all to memorize this definition, or at least post a copy in a visible place.  Remember we can do it, but only with his help and by following his example.  “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Eternity in Our Hearts

King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, had this to say regarding creation; “I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! Ecclesiastes 1:13.  As intelligent as mankind is, we are no match for our Creator when it comes to figuring  out his ways, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Solomon likened the process to a heavy burden, some may say it is too complicated and become frustrated, while others, like renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, who denies God, is quoted as saying “Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.”

As for me, the complexity and diversity of the world, rather than frustrating, burdening or  disenchanting me, only serves to strengthen my belief in God. God himself told us through the prophet Isaiah, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9. I can’t figure God out, and I’m OK with that, in fact it’s a relief.  Imagine having to compete against him on Jeopardy!!

 The universe is not a matter of chance, or the result of spontaneous cosmic overload of nothingness.  No indeed! It was carefully, and lovingly created, and we can rest assured about that.  So, while others continue to weary themselves with study, and exploration, I’m blissfully content with eternity and truth set firmly in my heart..  And, think how much valuable time that opens up for doing really important stuff! “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

God's Dress Code

In Matthew‘s gospel, we read about the circumstances surrounding a wedding.  If you recall, a King had sent out numerous invitations, only to find out at the last moment, that his chosen guests could not attend.  He then dispatched his servants to bring in anyone they could find.  After all, you can‘t really celebrate without people, and what an honor it would be to party with the King! The banquet hall was ready, the ample food and drink prepared, and the assembled guests awaited the arrival of their host. Everything seemed to be in order until we read the following passage: “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:11-14. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a rather harsh, and unreasonable, punishment for such a minor social blunder. Was he wearing only his underwear?

OK, here is the rest of the story.  In those days, when you received an invitation to a wedding, you’d excitedly pull out your special white wedding robe from the back of your closet.  If you didn’t have one, or yours was dirty or in disrepair, fear not the host had extras on hand. Everyone knew what the required attire was, and wouldn’t think of bucking tradition.  All but that one guy, that is.  So then, is the moral of this story about wearing proper clothing to church? Does God have a dress code? I thought about it for a bit, and realized how silly that sounded. While it is common sense, and respectful not to wear inappropriate garb, especially to worship, I think that the Creator of the universe has better things to do than judge us on our outfits choices.  “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7.

What can we learn from this scripture then? God calls us ALL to his banqueting table, but to enter we must put on the clean, white robe of his righteousness.  To come before Him, believing that our own grubby righteousness is sufficient, refusing his offer of salvation, is tantamount to arriving in our dirty underwear! No robe, No salvation. Fashion has changed over the centuries; denim has taken the place of silk dresses and fedoras on Sunday morning.  One thing that shouldn't change is our desire to spend time celebrating with God, in the duds he supplies. “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

Monday, March 18, 2013

Closer to God

The pastor and author, Frances Chan, tells about a group of missionaries who were caught with Bibles in a closed country. One of the members took her Bible and pulled out parts and gave them to the others. The other Bibles were confiscated. Their captors divided them up and put them in prison cells and holes in the ground. Eventually they were released and they returned to their home country. There when they re-gathered, one of the former prisoners said, “Do you miss our captivity. When I was all alone, and all I had was the portion of scripture, which had been given to me, I felt so incredibly close to God. I miss that closeness.”

 It’s impossible for us to imagine a scenario like this one. Bibles are a “cheap” commodity in the U.S., one that you can pick up anywhere, many times at no cost.  The people that pastor Chan was talking about, were very familiar with the cost, and paid dearly for possessing a Bible.  However, even imprisonment did not stop their close passionate relationship with God, in fact it brought them closer.  There are many instances in the Bible where we see this same phenomenon occurring.  Starting with Adam, B.E. (before Eve), through Noah, Moses and the prophets, to David hiding in caves from the wrath of Saul.  Scripture reveals example after example of men whose, (many times enforced) alone time with God made them into the heroes of faith we have come to know.  

Why is it that persecution, instead of serving as a deterrent, brought these people deeper, stronger faith?   “Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” Romans 8:35. Paul, imprisoned when he wrote this, and  well acquainted with persecution, knew that NOTHING could separate us from the love of Christ.  He shares with us that suffering causes us to rely completely on God, a place we may never attain if we are living a cushy, free life.

You might want to read Heavenly Man, a book by Brother Yun, a modern-day man who was imprisoned for teaching the Bible in China. Let me tell you, he suffered, but he was sustained by God’s miraculous intervention.  The amazing thing is, that when he escaped to Germany, and finally had religious freedom, he too missed his captivity.  I certainly pray that none of us has to suffer the flames of persecution, but if we do, use the experience to deepen your passion for God.  “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Top O’ The Morning to all you Irish lads and lasses, and Irish wannabes!  Today we don green duds, eat platefuls of corned beef and cabbage, and  remember the life and times of St. Patrick. Old Paddy didn’t start off with saintly status, in fact he wasn’t even Irish!  Gosh and begorah, say it isn’t true!  Fact is, he was kidnapped from his home in England, by Irish marauders, and forced to work, for six years, tending his cruel master’s flocks.  During this time he wrote, what is now known as, his “Confessio”.  He relates, in this writing, that he prayed many times in the day: "the love of God", he added, and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me.”

 Isn’t it strange, and glorious, that faith can grow so much deeper, during times of difficult trials. Patrick escaped, but God called him back to bring the Irish people out of paganism into the light of Christ.  Along the way he kicked out the snakes, used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and his walking stick/staff sprouted leaves!  Patrick, like so many men and women of faith, turned what could have been a spiritual defeat into a victory for the kingdom of God!!   Look up his life, it is an amazing testimony.

 I leave you today with encouragement, found in the much longer St. Patrick’s Prayer.  “I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices, Against the lusts of nature, Against everyone who meditates injury to me, Whether far or near, Whether few or with many. “  God’s Blessings to One and All!!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

We Are Family

“That which keeps us together, is greater than that which keeps us apart.” No, this isn’t a Biblical quotation, but I did hear it on Christian radio.  The speaker was our president, Barrack Obama. He was addressing a gathering of Democrats and Republicans, as they sought to find  common ground in regards to solving the USA’s fiscal dilemma. What I took from this statement is that the mutual love we have for our nation, our common ground, is far more important than the divisive disputes between political parties.  At some point we all need to set aside our differences, and focus on what is truly valuable, in this case, preserving the United States of America.
From the descriptions we have of the early church, we see a group that loved, shared, and were completely devoted to Christ and his teachings. As the years went by, men intervened and divisions took place, threatening to destroy this precious unity.  Christianity took some ugly turns; the Crusades, and the Inquisition are but two sad chapters it its history. Instead of loving people into the Kingdom of God, we threatened, forced, and manipulated “believers” in. Even now, we see painful divisions in the church, stemming mainly from different Biblical interpretations, and church traditions.  “My church is better than yours, mine is older than yours or you’re just plain wrong” are the new battle cries.  This behavior should break our hearts, we are members of the same family folks, we have the same Father, and we’re hurling hate and abuse at each other.  My point is, we can’t continue to call ourselves Christians, while remaining separated from our brothers and sisters. We all are the church, the ekklesía, or “called out (from the world) ones“,  that Jesus instituted.

Peter, yes the same one who both confessed and denied Christ, saw the beginnings of these Family Feuds, and was compelled to write the following:   “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” 1 Peter 3:8-9.

 Make every effort, yes it takes work, to live in unity with our whole family. It will please our  “Abba/Dad” so much!  “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” Philippians 3:9. Sometime in the next few years, before I become too old and feeble, my husband and I want to scale back on our possessions and move to a smaller, more manageable home. The hardest part, I’m finding, is getting rid of stuff, and  after 39 years of accumulation, believe me, there is a lot of stuff!

When Paul wrote this, he was relating, to all of us, how he had come through a similar de-stuffing process in his walk with Christ.  Most of what we know about Paul is written in his letters, after his conversion on the Damascus Road, but we need to go back further to comprehend this passage.  Paul was “somebody” in Jewish society. He was a force to be dealt with both politically and religiously.  He carried a lot of clout, and wasn’t afraid to use it! Here’s how he describes himself; “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.” Philippians 3:5-6.  That was the “Before” picture of Paul, but God had other plans for this self-proclaimed “pure-blooded citizen of Israel”. The first thing God had to do, in his remodeling process, was to clean house.  Everything that Paul was, no longer mattered, in fact it was a major deterrent to his spiritual growth.  God got Paul’s attention, and like a hoarder clearing out his house, Paul got rid of the “garbage”. “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” Philippians 3:8.

What is worthless in your spiritual house?  Let’s face it, we all have piles of garbage.  The hard part comes when we hear God telling us to throw it out. But, obey we must.  I know what a joyful achievement a clean earthly house is, even if it’s difficult, now think how much that joy will be amplified when we clean out our spiritual ones. Get out the dumpsters, and start pitching.  Remember, when we lose the garbage we gain Christ!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

Like most women, I own quite a few pairs of shoes and boots. While I’m not in the Imelda Marcos league, I have more than I need. Today, as I tried to decide on a pair, the old Joe South/Elvis Presley tune, Walk a Mile in My Shoes popped into the jukebox in my head. You probably remember the melody, and are humming it right now, so I decided to Google the lyrics: 
If I could be you, if you could be me
For just one hour, if we could find a way
To get inside each other's mind
If you could see you through my eyes
Instead your own ego
I believe you'd be surprised to see
That you've been blind
Walk a mile in my shoes
just walk a mile in my shoes

Later, as I was writing in my prayer journal, the idea of walking in someone else’s shoes filled my thoughts. On occasion, I’ve borrowed shoes, and the only time I had to walk any distance in them, I got some nasty blisters. Shoes mold to fit their owner’s foot, so each one is unique. As I pondered this further, God showed me how we use this line as an excuse for our behavior. I stood accused, again. God’s intent wasn’t to condemn me, however, but rather to allow me to experience how his son felt when he wore my shoes. And he did wear my shoes, and yours, in fact all of ours, for the sole (no pun intended) purpose of knowing what it was like to be human. Now it’s our turn, are we ready to leave our human boots at the doorway, and put on Jesus’? Look back at the words in the song, even though they aren’t scriptural, they could be. If Jesus were the vocalist he would lyrically ask us, if we could be him, for just an hour…if we could truly get inside his mind, to see the world, and those in it, through his eyes. I believe we’d all be surprised, no shocked, at how blind we’ve been. Are you willing to walk that mile in his shoes? Please give them a try, I think you’ll find they will conform to you perfectly.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:4-8

Monday, March 11, 2013

Structurally Sound

I've been a Realtor since 1989, and in that time, I've been in and out of hundreds of houses.  I know what features to look for when showing or listing a property, things like roof condition, wiring/plumbing upgrades,  age of the furnace, and generally how structurally sound the building is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a substitute for a professional inspector. Since I’m not an inspector, I strongly encourage buyers to hire one, so they will be aware of  potential problems.  Over and over, I’ve seen people fall in love with the outward looks of a home, only to be dismayed when the inspector goes over his report. Paint, siding, and HGTV décor may mask flaws, but sooner or later they will reappear in all their ugliness.

Spiritually speaking, don’t we try to hide some of our less attractive qualities, behind a pleasing veneer? Jesus pointed this fact out to the “good-looking” Pharisees when he said; "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  Mark 7:6.  There are plenty of present day Pharisees in our midst.  They appear very religious, but they hide who they really are under a thick layer of self righteousness, tacked on public good deed doing, topped off with a smug “holier than thou” knowledge of the Bible. This outward behavior may fool some, but it won’t get by the keen eye of the “Inspector”. “ The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.” Proverbs 20:27.  We may be able to pull one over on some folks, but not God. His flashlight looks into every nook and cranny bringing to light every structural defect.  “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17.

It has been said that every man’s home is his castle, but for Christians our body/spiritual home is a temple…Keep it in good repair!  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 1 Corinthians 3:16.

Friday, March 8, 2013

"Liking" God

What do you like?  If someone were to look at your Facebook page, they could tell a whole lot about you, from your “Likes“.  Right up under the banner picture is the box that tells how many Likes you have.  A Like, for those of you unfamiliar with the FB term, is another FB page that appeals to you. When you click the Like button, on said page, it magically appears in that aforementioned box.  I just took a look at mine, and as of today, I have 147 likes!  I think I need a life.  As you might expect, I Like a boatload of photography sites.  In addition to Liking a particular page, you can also Like photos, comments, silly pictures and so on, on your Friends personal pages. Is it possible to Like too much?  Well, as it turns out, it is!  A friend of mine was reprimanded by the FB administrators, recently, for doing just that.  They obviously were keeping count, and theorized that she had gone over their Like Limit.  As “punishment”, they put a lock on her Like button, saying she was annoying other people with her chirpy comments, and thumbs up. Let me tell you, I missed seeing those comments and likes, they were so encouraging.  One thing I know for sure, you can’t Over Like when it comes to building up people in God‘s kingdom.  Paul told the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thess. 5:11.  Does that mean we should be loosey goosey with our spiritual Likes, overlooking flaws that need to be addressed.  Of course not!  We can’t improve in an atmosphere of constant, unmerited praise, any more than one of  relentless criticism.  “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” 1 Thess. 5:4.  If God had a Facebook page, I hope you’d all go ahead and click the "LOVE" button, there's nothing more "Likable" than friendship with Him.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Don't be a Casualty of War

If Winter were a human being,  it would have gotten a good laugh, at our expense, during the recent snow fall!  We had been lulled into thinking that Spring was fast approaching over the brown hills and fields, but cranky Old Man Winter let us know he was still a force to be dealt with.  It reminded me of the numerous casualties that were suffered by the Allied forces, after D-Day, at the hands of the German army. The enemy knew, that the war was, for all intents and purposes, over, they were determined to annihilate as many troops, and civilians as possible until they were forced to relinquish their weapons.  This action was not  unlike a mortally wounded man committing a last violent act, before dying.

 As Christians, we often forget, that even though Jesus has defeated Satan, and has set up his heavenly kingdom, our enemy, like the Germans is working overtime to take out as many souls as he can until Christ returns. The Enemy knows his days are numbered, and he’s making the most of them. And don’t be fooled into thinking that he’s walking around in his scaly, red suit and horns, oh no, he’s a clever one…“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14.  If we aren't intimately familiar with God’s word, it’s easy to fall for his lies.  Beware: Lies can often resemble the truth, when presented by false apostles.  You don’t have to look further than your TV to find them! For those of you who are in relationship with Christ, don’t think you’re off the hook.  What a coup it will be for Satan if he can add a believer to his ranks!!  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.

Now the good news…we have weapons, not only to protect ourselves with, but run off the invader.  Above all else, arm yourself with his word, which is powerful and effective.  In the desert, when Jesus was being tested, he countered every one of Satan’s lie with scripture.  When the enemy hears God’s truth, he must leave.  Do you feel like you’re under attack?  That’s no surprise, you are.  These are The Last Days, and the enemy is well aware; are you?  Don’t be afraid, stand your ground, look the enemy in his beady eyes, and tell him to go, and he will.  “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. Don’t be a casualty of war.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"New" Life Begins at Forty!

While drifting off to dreamland, last night, God dropped the word/number forty into my mind.  Now I ask you, was that really necessary God?  There I was, all warm and cozy, but, no, you wanted me to ponder on this one a bit.  Awaken now, the first thing that came to mind was, “Life Begins at Forty’.  You rarely hear anyone using that phrase anymore, which made my brain light switch turn on.  “What could you possibly want to tell me about this archaic terminology, Lord?”, I asked rather brusquely.  Then, like snowflakes falling at the beginning of a blizzard,  He started filling my head with his thoughts. Did you know that the word forty is used 142 times in scripture?  

The first time we see it is back in Genesis 7:4, “….I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights…” God had decided to  recall his creation by flooding the earth, except for Noah, his family and the floating zoo. Now comes the interesting part, as God revealed to me how this all tied in with  life begins at forty. Hold on to your flotation devices…at the end of those 40 soggy days and nights, God steered  Noah et al, to dry land, and a new beginning for mankind.  Hence, Life did begin, again, at 40!!  “Wow, I get it now, Lord”, I excitedly responded, “Please show me more!!” And of course, He did!

We moved forward to Moses in Exodus 24:18, “And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”  Moses was not a young guy, probably 80 at least, but he survived without food or water, sustained only by God.  At the end of those 40 days I’m sure he was hungry and thirsty, but his human needs were eclipsed by the New Covenant/Life of Promise he, and all the nation of Israel, had just received through the Ten Commandments. Once again, God showed me the connection between life beginnings and forty. He went on to point out the forty years that the Jews spent wandering in the desert, yet viola, at the end there was new life in the promised land. As we journeyed through the scriptures,  God showed me several other life-beginning at 40 instances, until we finally arrived in the new testament.  God had just put his stamp of approval on Jesus when, “The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.”  Mark 1:12-13.  This was no all-inclusive vacation, or pricey African safari, this time was meant to prepare Jesus for his life-beginning, 3 year ministry.

 Lastly, God showed me that there were 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension. 40 precious last days, before Christ returned to his throne, having secured new life for all of us who believe.  What is the significance of 40?  It is my belief that God’s repetition and continuity of a theme, throughout his word, helps to remind us that he is unchanging, and forever faithful.  “…God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.” Hebrews 6:17. Hopefully we won’t have to go though deserts or floods in 40 day/year segments, but if we do, hold fast to his promise of new life at the end. “ …anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

God's Rubber Suit

How many times, as a child, did you have to counter nasty comments with either of these ditties: “I‘m rubber, you‘re glue, whatever you say about me bounces of me and sticks to you.“ or “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” The problem is, words do hurt, very deeply I might add. James, the brother of Jesus addresses this issue when he wrote this passage: “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! “ James 3:7-10. He tells us that no one can tame the tongue, through our human effort that is.  Tongue-taming is best left to the Master.  But, I want to go back to the damage that our uncontrolled tongues can wreak.

I talked to a woman the other day, who told me she really struggled with the effects of unkind words.  Her job, as a parole officer,  daily puts her right in the midst of nasty, verbal attacks. After awhile, even when she considers the source, they begin to attack who she is in Christ.  Isn’t that what happens to all of us, on one level or another?  Jesus told us that it wasn’t a matter of if we’d be on the receiving end, but when.  Even his own family said, at one point, that He was out of his mind, while the Pharisees angrily proclaimed that he was possessed by Beelzebub!

What do we do with these offensive barbs when they hit?  Well, we can curl up in a ball and wallow in self-pity, allowing spiritual gangrene to set in, or as Paul encourages, “…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16. Similar to that rubber suit we donned as kids, the shield of faith protects us and goes on to extinguish the “flaming arrows”. Once doused, they are no threat to us…remember that!  Don’t let words, spoken from an unbridled tongue, undermine your joy, and who you are in Christ, EVER!! Instead, be prepared for them, and take comfort in this passage from the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” Luke 6:22

Monday, March 4, 2013

Front and Center

Walmart posted a reminder on their Facebook page, the other day, about the History channel airing the mini-series, the Bible.  One of my FB fiends had “liked” it, so I went over to Walmart’s page to check out some of the details.  What I found, in addition to the times, dates, and lots of positive remarks, were some disturbing comments. Not that I was surprised, but it always intrigues me how irate some people can get, when the Bible is mentioned.

Here are a couple of quotes: “Since when did the history channel start broadcasting non-fiction? Lets leave the childish fairy tales to nickelodeon!”; “ Keep your childish fairy tales to yourself.” ;   """"really walmart? why r u promoting a religious program on a TV channel that has nothing to do with u? how much did they pay u to promote this? soooooo inappropriate!!!!! shame on you”; “NO will NOT watch about the book of fables.” and “yuck”.  The consistent theme seemed to be that the Bible was no more than silly fiction. From what I can see today, most movies, or TV programs, based on silly fiction, are big hits.   If you don’t believe, or don’t like the content of any show, don’t tune in. So why the friction then? I think the Bible sums it up best; “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.

When you look in on anything, from a distance, you don’t get the complete picture.  An obstruction, of some sort, is invariably blocking your view.  For example,  I bought tickets to a stage play once, for a reduced price, because the view was partially obstructed.  Money savings aside, I missed a lot of the action, and felt kind of out of it, until I moved to some vacant center stage seats.  What a difference it makes being front and center. There in lies the issue.  If you’re watching Christianity from an obstructed seat, you don’t see the whole picture, and it may certainly appear foolish.  Sadly, sometimes the obstruction can  be “religious”, self-righteous or hypocritical church people.

Whatever the impediment, it is our responsibility to lovingly lead people to better seats!  In response to the negative comments, numerous people did counter them with grace-filled, personal mini-testimonies like these:  “If you don't believe, that’s ok, but I would rather believe that someday I will be in a better place than believe that when I die its all over…” and “… If  u say it is all a fable & made up then why be so annoyed by it, it should be no different to u then some fictional movie that just tells a story that some writer came up with. I happen to be a believer and I’m excited that there is Jesus! I’m not going to condemn u for not believing so don’t do that to me... It’s like this, I have nothing to lose by my belief in Jesus and that He was born into this world, hung on a cross to die for my sins and then because the grave could not contain him He rose from the dead & ascended into Heaven! I don’t claim to be something I’m not, I’m far from perfect but I do love Jesus and that is just how I feel & believe and I hope I can be a witness for someone else; that’s all nothing more but nothing less!.” Is there a person you know, or not, viewing Christ from a seat with an obstructed view?  Why not slide over, and invite them to your area, where they can see him perfectly.  We have nothing to lose, and they have everything to gain!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Law of Increasing Returns

During my freshman year in college, I had to take a course in basic Economics.  Unfortunately, not too much of it stuck with me.  The only things that I remember were that the professor, Stanford something, wrote the textbook, and the Law of Diminishing Returns. Maybe you are familiar with the term, if not, let me fill you in.

* “The law of diminishing returns (also law of diminishing marginal returns or law of increasing relative cost) states that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns. For example, the use of fertilizer improves crop production on farms and in gardens; but at some point, adding more and more fertilizer improves the yield less per unit of fertilizer, and excessive quantities can even reduce the yield. A common sort of example is adding more workers to a job, such as assembling a car on a factory floor. At some point, adding more workers causes problems such as getting in each other's way, or workers frequently find themselves waiting for access to a part. In all of these processes, producing one more unit of output per unit of time will eventually cost increasingly more, due to inputs being used less and less effectively.” (Wikipedia)

You can see where the problem arises, simply put,  too much of a good thing results in decreased returns .  Where am I going with this, you might wisely ask, well I’ll tell you. While this law may hold true, in human situations, you can never have too much of God.

In the book of Acts, we find a snapshot detailing what was going on in the early Christian church.  “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. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47.

 It’s hard to imagine this happening today, in our “spiritually enlightened” churches, but wouldn't it be fantastic? ALL the believers were sharing, giving, learning, and excited to see what God was going to do next.  Rather than diminishing, God continually added. Oh, what a joy it would be if we could be more like those folks.  The good news is, WE CAN!!  Start adding more to your life in Christ, then reap the rewards from God’s law of increasing returns!!