Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Preparing For Battle:Don't Worry!

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.”  Matthew 6:34.  People love to quote this verse to anyone  who’s experiencing trouble.  I think it makes them feel better, if only for the fact they’re not the ones experiencing the problem.  Let’s face it, just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we get a free pass when it comes to dealing with anxiety and worries.  There are many Bible stories, in both the old and new testaments, that deal with this subject, but one of my favorites is this one found in 2 Chronicles 20.  King Jehoshaphat was a good guy, a God-honoring fellow, but he still found himself facing a mighty big problem.  Take some time to read this short account, then we’ll look closely at how he handled it.

1. After this, the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea. They are already at Hazazon-tamar.” 3 Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the LORD for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. 4 So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the LORD’s help. 5 Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the LORD. 6 He prayed, “O LORD, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7 O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war,d plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ 10. And now see what the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir are doing. You would not let our ancestors invade those nations when Israel left Egypt, so they went around them and did not destroy them.11 Now see how they reward us! For they have come to throw us out of your land, which you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
13 As all the men of Judah stood before the LORD with their little ones, wives, and children, 14 the Spirit of the LORD came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.
15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!”
18 Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the LORD. 19 Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.
20 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”
21 After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the LORDand praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:
“Give thanks to the LORD;
his faithful love endures forever!”
22 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the LORD caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. 24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.
25 King Jehoshaphat and his men went out to gather the plunder. They found vast amounts of equipment, clothing,e and other valuables—more than they could carry. There was so much plunder that it took them three days just to collect it all! 26 On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing,f which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the LORD there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today.
27 Then all the men returned to Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat leading them, overjoyed that the LORD had given them victory over their enemies. 28 They marched into Jerusalem to the music of harps, lyres, and trumpets, and they proceeded to the Temple of the LORD.
29 When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the LORD himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them. 30 So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.

Great story, wasn’t it?  So what exactly did King Jehoshaphat do, and how can we apply his actions to our own struggles.
1. He prayed, really hard, fasted and sought God‘s guidance, not people’s.
2. He didn’t let anxiety control his thoughts. He knew the odds were against him, but was confident that God could secure the victory. He concentrated on the victory not the problem.
3. He knew that God rules, and has total control.
4. He remembered, believed and called on God’s promises.
5. He kept thanking and praising God even in the face of trouble.
6. He trusted God’s plan, even when it looked hopeless.
7. Finally, he gave all the glory to God when the battle was won.

God knows we live in an imperfect world, fraught with anxieties, but he has also shown us, over and over, how to deal with them.  What  King Jehoshaphat did wasn’t rocket science, it was trust.  This kind of God-based trust will achieve the same victory for you and me, despite the enormity of the battle.  Can you find the strength to turn the battle over to Him?  Is it scary, absolutely!  Will it work, you bet!!   Start reading other accounts, if you have doubts, then apply these simple steps to your overcome your issues. Remember, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Monday, December 29, 2014

What Color is God's Bathroom?

My son-in-law was painting his bathroom, the other day, when my husband asked him what color it was going to be.  He answered, “It’s the same color as yours.”  To which my husband replied, “What color is that?”  I was nearby listening to this exchange, and frankly I was flabbergasted.  “You mean to tell me you don’t know the color of the room that you use so frequently?” I blurted out.  In casual reply he told me, no he didn’t.  He went on to inform me that as long as it was clean, and functional, that was all he noticed about it, details were unimportant.

 My brain couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing, especially since I had spent so much time decorating it.  I had poured over color samples, and spent hours looking for accessories. How could he not see beyond mere function?  Of course this got me thinking on a spiritual plane, surprise, surprise!  How many Christians think of Jesus in that same, one dimensional way?  He’s there to serve a purpose, and that‘s about it.  But what do we know about him?  For example, do you know what pleases him, and what doesn‘t?  Are you familiar with his family tree?  How much information could you pass on to someone who asked you about your relationship with him?  Do you know the color of his bathroom?

OK, so that last one was silly, but the point I’m trying to make is, we should strive for such intimacy with our Savior, that if he had a bathroom, we’d know what color of it.  All too often I hear people complain about the length of a sermon, citing that the pastor should be able to keep the service short.  In other words, clean and functional.  We don’t have the time, or the desire to know the details of the one who sacrificed his life for ours. Insert sad face here, and if you are one of the “clean and functional” folks, make that an embarrassed face.

God has designed us to be his own, and to know everything about him.  Look how popular genealogy is.  People research their family trees, to find out all they can about their roots.  Why aren’t we, in the same way, desiring to intimately know him?   Our only true family roots are in Him.  If you don’t feel this yearning, ask him to supply it.  Seek Him, study his word, and surround yourself with brothers and sisters who will encourage you.  Isaiah said this, “All night long I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek for God.” Isaiah 26:9.   Wake up and see all the marvelous details of his Kingdom, and especially the color of his bathroom!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where Has All The Power Gone?

Where Has All the Power Gone?  This is my paraphrase of the song, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?“ written by Pete Seeger in 1955, and made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary.  My question remains, where has all the power, gone, God’s power that is.

When I pulled up the word power on Bible Hub, it revealed 862 occurrences in scripture, so we can assume that it’s a pretty vital component of faith. Throughout both testaments, the power of God is demonstrated repeatedly. Beginning with the creation of the world in Genesis, straight through to the anticipated return of Christ in the battle of Armageddon, and countless incidents in between. Consider this, the Greek word for power is dunamis, from which our word dynamite is derived.

God’s power has always been the life force of believers, so why is it that we never see these kinds of display.  Has the power died out, did God forget to put in fresh batteries, or  have we become too educated to believe in such fables?  I’ve had numerous “religious” people tell me that  those power-filled accounts were merely stories designed to teach  the poor, and uneducated masses throughout history.  “Get real”, they say.  “You can’t possibly believe all those childish tales.  We have science, and technology now, so we know better.  Who needs God’s power when we have the internet?” In our enlightened, techno-overloaded society, God’s power and authority has been designated to the back of the closet with all the other broken, and outdated stuff.

Sure, I agree, the Bible stories sound impossible, but that’s because they are, humanly speaking.  None of us, even working together could part the waters of the Red Sea, or create a human being from the dust of the earth.  Do you think that good ole’ God is asleep in his La-Z-Boy, and is unaware of this problem?   Guess again, he’s fully awake, and aware of what’s occurring.  In fact he predicted it through Timothy centuries ago, when he said this about people, “….always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:7.  We have become a society so full of ourselves, and seeking out “power-filled knowledge” that many have totally lost sight of the truth.  The equation is simple, No God = No Truth, No Truth = No Power.

Sure, we have power, in a sense, but what happens if the electric goes off, or the internet.  All we have left is a pile of useless plastic.   God’s always available, and will never force his power on us.  I, for one, can’t fully live the Christian life without it, nor can you.   God’s promise to us is power, dunamis, dynamite, supernatural power…who doesn’t want that!  Don’t believe me, believe his word….“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16.  No batteries or internet connection is ever required!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

You got some splainin' to do, Lucy!!!

“You’ve got some splainin’ to do Lucy!”  Those of you old enough to remember the iconic “I Love Lucy“ show, will remember this catch phrase.  As you may recall, Lucy was always getting herself into some kind of trouble.  Albeit, most of it was innocent enough, not like the mischief  T.V. wives get themselves today, but her husband, Ricky Ricardo, always called her on it, and these were the words he used when he confronted her.

Not unlike Lucy, who thought she could pull the wool over Ricky’s eyes, we often think that our “mischievous acts”, (sins) are going to slide right under God’s radar.  “After all”, we tell ourselves, “God is much more hip and lenient today.  Those old time sins don’t count any more, and it’s certainly not PC to pick on anyone’s personal life choices.  Besides, I do all kinds of good works, and try to get to church fairly often, that should white out my minimal sinning.“ I hate to be the bubble buster, but  God is still very much the same.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. He hasn’t changed his view of sin, we have.

Society has turned morality every which way but upright.  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” God told this fact to the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago, and it holds true today. I’m not going to name any particular sins, because we each have our own favorites, let me just say they all have to be explained, to God someday.  Think about that.  Makes you a little bit squirmy, doesn’t it?  Imagine standing before God’s throne on that day, trying to pull off your best Lucy impersonation.  We‘ll try to justify our behavior by saying, “But, God, I’m a good person.  But, God, it wasn’t too bad. But, God, society has changed, it’s ok now.  But, God, I didn’t hurt anyone.” That kind of “splainin” didn’t cut it with  Ricky, and it sure won’t cut it with God.

Have no doubts, saint or sinner, we will all stand before God one day, and have to explain ourselves. You better get ready, and today is the perfect time to start practicing.  Right now, call to mind your own area of mischief, and try to justify it to yourself, or better yet, someone else.  It sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it, Lucy?  Jesus himself tells us this, "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:36-37. God always gives us a way out of sinning, take it!  Listen to His word, not the world’s.   “Don't be misled--you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.“ Galatians 6:7.  If you’re not sure about what’s on God’s naughty list, I strongly suggest that you get into his word, and find out before He asks you to splain!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Fed vs Nourished

I recently returned from spending a week at an All-Inclusive resort, where all kinds of foods were available 24/7.  Let’s just say, I tried to get my money’s worth! I started thinking about the difference between being fed, and being nourished.  Yesterday, a friend of mine, mentioned this same thing to me when she said needed to be in an environment where she was “being fed“, spiritually.  I agreed with her, and have said it myself many times, but then God shared with me this insight….being fed isn’t enough, we must be nourished.  

Let’s face it, when we’re hungry we can shove all matter of food into our pie holes, just to sate the belly.  Everyone realizes that a greasy burger and fries will satisfy us, but they will do nothing to nourish our physical bodies. The same thing holds true for our spiritual selves.  The word of God can be served to us in many forms.  Sometimes it is sugar-coated or diluted,  other times deep-fried and smothered in gravy.  It makes you feel full, but only for a while, and it certainly isn’t healthy.  As is my custom, I like to check the dictionary for a secular definition.  To nourish means: 1. sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth.2.to cherish, foster, keep alive, 3.to strengthen, build up, or Promote.  

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Feeding merely satisfies temporarily, while nourishment goes further, bringing us life, health , growth and strength which not only keeps us alive but builds us up.  There is no such thing as spiritual obesity, tooth decay or diabetes. The pure, unadulterated word is true food indeed, and you won‘t bloat on it or rot your teeth. Sometimes it may seem more like broccoli than a Snickers, but we can’t be nourished on a steady diet of sweets, even though our humanness desires it. 

Are you hungry?  Do you want to grow, and be nourished, not merely fed?   Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35.  Good, wholesome food nourishes our physical bodies enabling them to grow and develop, we can all agree on that.  So why would you desire less than that for you spirit?  “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8.  Seek out his Word, served on his banqueting table. Eat up, and you will be nourished!  On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines. Isaiah 25:6


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Believing In God vs Believing God

A recent Harris poll found that 74%, of the people polled, believed in God. Sadly, that is down from 82% a few years before, but what I’d like to expound on is the difference between believing in, and believing God.

  Before you get your scriptural panties in a bunch, let me say that I know Jesus tells us to believe in him, but for arguments sake I‘m going to compare these two phrases.  Is there a difference you ask?  Allow me to explain.  To “believe in” something is relatively easy.  In the case of God we usually hear about him from our parents, pastors and Sunday school teachers etc.  These are some of the same folks who taught us about the Easter Bunny and Santa, so it was simple to add Jesus to the list.  For many, that wee bit of childhood knowledge  was all that was necessary to confidently profess, as an adult, “I believe in God.” For those of you agreeing with that, are you aware of this scripture: “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” James 2:19

 If all you ever do is believe in, you’re in in a big crowd.  You can’t build a personal, maturing relationship, with anyone, on merely believing in them. So, here’s the rest of my argument, “believing God“.   If you stop at “believing in”, odds are you aren’t studying God’s word, or you‘re relying on an occasional visit to church to keep you connected.  Don’t forget about those shuddering demons, at least they are fully aware of what God has in store for them.  Can you say the same?  Believing God depends on us not only reading his word and directives, but following them.  I can only speak for myself when I say I don’t want to hear this verse aimed at me someday:   Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' Matthew 7:21-23

 These people, that God is referring to, understood the power associated with God’s name, they believed in it, and in Him, but apparently that’s as far as it went.  It’s obvious they only wanted the “goodies” that came along with believing in his name, but refused to believe God, and obey him.  A true relationship with God begins with believing in Him, but is solidified by believing, and obeying Him.  Ignorance of the law never holds up in an earthly courtroom, and ignorance of God’s word won’t stand before his throne.  If you only believe in Him, it’s not enough.  Move up to believing Him.  If you’re not sure, get into his word, seek out believers, and pray.  God longs for you to Believe Him, and wants to welcome you into his kingdom, someday, like this:  'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Matthew 25:23


Monday, October 27, 2014

Wishing and Hoping

“I just hope I can make it to Heaven.”  Of all the statements that a Christian can make, this one is, to me, the saddest.  I mention it because a friend of mine repeats this phrase, in various forms, almost daily. Maybe I’m missing something, but my hope is based on Jesus’ saving work on the cross. I have no doubts of making it to Heaven.  He, and the apostles,  reiterate, throughout scripture,  the same thing, BELIEVE, and you will be saved.

Sure it seems impossible that anyone could make a claim like that, but Jesus, as God’s son, isn’t just anyone.  If he tells us that He purchased our salvation, I believe it.  How dare we doubt the veracity not only of his word, but of his death and resurrection. Was Jesus a liar?  Did I miss the part where he said we have to do other things to complete his sacrifice?  Can anything I do add to his righteousness?  Of course not!

So, why then do so many so-called believers, not believe.  Sadly, I think that the “church“, over the last 2000+ years, in an attempt to keep people coming, made us put our faith more in doctrine than Christ. Shame, shame!!!  Dangling salvation, like a juicy carrot before us, they kept adding to the list of requirements for admission. Unfortunately, they never say when you have accumulated enough “points”, so the uncertainty continues, and so do the “religious acts”.

The author of Hebrews encourages us with this: Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:27.  Did you catch that, Once, and for all.  Then he says,  “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:17-18.

Please don’t put your faith in anyone, or anything other than the word of God.  I could list verses all day long that prove the promise of Christ, but they don’t mean a thing unless you accept personally Jesus as your savior.  And that’s the only truth to trust.  Today, begin to break free from the shackles of uncertainty.  Get into His word, for yourself….test him if you want, He wants you to truly BELIEVE.

Friday, October 17, 2014

You Can't Phone This In!

One thing I do “religiously” is exercise, daily.  Sometimes I run, and on other days I work out to a video.  Lately, I’ve been doing  Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred.  It is a power-packed, nonstop routine that has you working big and small muscle groups at the same time, with no rest periods.  Yes, it’s tough, and she states that up front, but she also says that it is the best way to “shred” weight and tone muscles.  I’m a believer, after having done it for almost a month.  Even though she can’t see me in her lycra-clad audience,  she makes one thing very clear…don’t stop, do the routine correctly, and give it all that you have.  As she likes to say, “You can’t phone this in.”  I admit, there were days, at the beginning, when I thought I’d rest just a wee bit, but she caught me every time, as I tried to phone it in.  As the old adage goes, anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

It’s true in exercise, and it’s also true in our Christian walk.  When we make the decision to follow Christ, it’s much the same as embarking on a fitness regime. Both require us to study up, and even try them out.  Jesus, like Jillian, never tells us that following him is going to be easy.  Folks who say that being a disciple is all fun and games, are most likely those with spiritual iphones in their hands.  Christ did the hard work for us on the cross, but that doesn’t mean we get to sit around after being saved.  Oh no!  “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.

Don‘t be alarmed, you can‘t lose your salvation, and it isn‘t dependent on our works, but it is something, like our physical bodies, that we need to nurture and develop.  Let‘s say I told everyone that I was working out, don‘t you think they‘d be looking for physical changes in me?  As I said the other day, if your faith hasn’t changed you, it hasn’t saved you. Sure it‘s not easy, but with an encouraging instructor, combined with perseverance, the results will astound you, as well as those around you.

The author of Hebrews said this, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble..” Hebrews 12:11-12.  Jesus, quoting the Old Testament said: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and all your strength..' Matthew 22:37.

God’s Holy Spirit is our Jillian Michaels, and he motivates us to do more everyday until it becomes so natural that not “working out” would seem weird. You can’t expect the body to stay healthy and toned by merely watching a video, you must participate. So too, we must keep our spiritual selves in tip top shape. “ Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” Philippians 2:12.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17.  You can’t phone this in friends, and really why would you want to…spiritual fitness feels amazing, and the long term benefits are out of this world!

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Saved Are You?

It’s hard not to notice the latest fad to hit FaceBook, quizzes.  I’m sure you’ve seen them, and the results posted by friends who’ve taken them. They can range from finding out your IQ, Hippie Name, what state you should live in, what Movie star you’re most like, and hundreds of other categories.  All right, they may seem like a silly waste of time, but be honest, you’ve taken one or two, haven’t you, I have!  Isn’t it amazing how 5-10 simple questions can so precisely identify who you are?

Today I’d like you to participate in a little quiz that I’ve dubbed  “How Saved Are You?” While not every Christian denomination uses the term “Saved”, I think we can agree to define it as having entered into a personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus. For each of the following select either a) No/Never b) Somewhat c) Yes indeed!  Let’s begin.
1) Do you eagerly look forward to spending time with God?
2) Are you becoming more humble, loving and truthful?
3) Do you daily feel freer from the power and penalty of sin?  
4) Has your faith changed you?
5) Are you 100% confident of where you will spend eternity?  
6) Are you sharing your salvation story with others?

OK, did you have any trouble with any of  these?  Did you have to stop and think about each, or did the answers come easily?  I hope you know that I’ve been messing with you, there are no levels of salvation. You are either saved or you’re not.  It’s kind of like being pregnant. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, or a little bit saved.   While this is not an all inclusive list, a saved person normally exhibits these traits. Why not consider them your personal spiritual inventory.  To continue with the inventory, honestly respond to these .  1) Do you have a secret sin that is increasing in its intensity and control?  2)Do you have a capacity to hold onto an offense? 3) Do you have a reflex reaction to personal sin?  (Sin should really bother you, and make you want to rid yourself of it. You can’t manage it.) 4) Do you find discussions on spiritual intensity disquieting or annoying?  5) Do you battle a critical spirit to people who profess to have a personal relationship with God?

Scripture tells us that, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12.  It is a personal choice, no one can make it for you. It is NOT acquired by unemotionally following a laundry list of church mandated activities. It is NOT dependent on how many good works you have done.  It is NOT the recitation of a particular prayer, saying you believe in Jesus, or even baptism.  None of these activities guarantee that you are saved.

Are you confused?  I hope not. We all have the facts we need to know about Jesus at our disposal. When He asks you, who you say He is, your answer should be based on your careful study of those facts.  Your answer, combined with repentance, and a desire to obey Him, equals  Salvation.  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:19.  From that point on, you are a new creature in Christ.  You should look, talk, act and live differently that you did before. If your faith hasn’t changed you, it hasn’t saved you. These are perilous times we live in, and it is urgent that you examine yourself for the signs of your own salvation.  Please don’t guess, be certain that you are saved. “ Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him." Psalm 62:1

Friday, October 3, 2014

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide!

While out in the woods the other evening, I shot some selfies for my 65th birthday.  When I pulled them up on the computer, I had to laugh.  It looks like I’m trying to hide, from that huge number, behind the tree.  Would that I could!  Only kidding, but there have certainly been times when I’ve wanted to conceal myself.  Maybe it was an encyclopedia salesman at the door, a obnoxious person in Wal-Mart, or as a child, your parents when you had been disobedient.  Be honest, everyone of you have tried to hide from something or someone.  I think it’s fair to say , we’re in good company.

The idea of hiding got me thinking about all the people, throughout the scriptures, who have tried the same thing.  At the very get-go, Adam and Eve, after the forbidden fruit episode, gave it a shot.  “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8.  He found them. How about Moses? He ran off into the desert, to avoid the job God had for him. God let him sit out there quite a while, but he found him.   One of my favorite hiders was Saul, the one who was to become the King of Israel.  If you recall God knew they didn‘t need a King, but he gave them one anyway.  “So they asked the LORD, ‘Where is he?’ And the LORD replied, ‘He is hiding among the baggage.’ 1 Samuel 10:22.  He didn’t seem like the strongest candidate, and he wasn’t even good at hiding!  How about King David?  He tried to hide his sin from God, and we all know how that played out.

 There were others, of course, but these major hiders are ones we can all relate to.  All of them had either been disobedient, or unwilling to comply with God’s directives.  How foolish, and what a waste of time and energy.  God had this to say about hiding. "Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?" declares the LORD "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:24.

Are you trying to hide from God?  Forget about it!  Just like old age finds all of us, so will He.  All of these people serve as examples to us, but are we listening? Hiding is a gut-reaction to fear. Don’t be afraid.  Sure, what God asks of you may seem scary, impossible even dangerous, but he has the master plan, not us….Trust Him!  After King David was “found” he never hid from God again, even if he may have felt like it.  In fact, read Psalm 139 whenever you feel the need to duck behind some suitcases, or a tree.  Here is a portion for you to mull over.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10.  Remember, you can run, but you can’t hide!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Some Place Else

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up some place else.”  Yogi Berra.

Yogisms, you gotta love them.  In their own quirky way, they make sense.  When my husband and I go out on a road trip, we don’t usually have a plan in mind.  We let the road take us where it will.  Sometimes that works fine, and other times, well let’s just say we’ve ended up some place else, like Yogi says.  Often we wound up in dangerous sections of town, on washed out roads, and once, hopelessly lost in France.  Do you know where you are going, spiritually speaking?  Are you certain that you are on the right highway?  What’s the exit number? Do you have the map and directions handy?

Jesus always knew where he was going.  Whatever the length of the journey, He always had his destination before him.  There were those along the way, who wanted to divert him from that ordained path, Satan,  super-religious folks, even friends and family, but it wasn’t going to happen.  He had an ETA and nothing was going to throw him off course.  The good news is, no matter how far off track you are today, He wants to show you the way.

 Long before the incarnate Christ appeared, King David knew that, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11. So did the prophet Isaiah, “A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.” Isaiah 35:8.

 The Cross was the final earthly destination for Christ, and we can all be thankful that he didn’t wind up someplace else!  He has made it clear to us, for over 2000 years how we can reach Him, our final destination.  Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.  He has put the road map before you, it is your choice whether to read, and follow it, or find yourself some place else.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Blessing in the Thorn

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 own “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 more bearable. “..in 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.” 2Corinthians 12:8-10.  Forget the tweezers, just call on God to deal effectively with your “thorn“.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Satan's Yard Sale

Satan was holding his annual garage sale. and the stuff he wanted to get rid of was displayed on asbestos tables and racks. One unique item was partially hidden under a fire blanket, when it caught the eye of a prospective buyer. The man tried, unsuccessfully, to bargain with the sly old serpent.  What was this mysterious, sought after  bauble?   Satan was willing to part with the 7 Deadly Sins, even anger, jealousy and deceit he could spare, but, this was Satan’s prize possession; discouragement.

 What is the value in discouragement? With an ancient, knowing smile he told the man that with such a  powerful tool, he could pry into a man’s heart, and once he had control, the man was his. Wise King Solomon knew this too when he wrote,  “Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud--frustrated, discouraged, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:17. It seems so harmless, and yet discouragement can steal all joy, future plans and even our faith.

Paul encourages us when he says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Philippians 4:8. Eventually we all come face to face with discouragement, how we react to it makes all the difference…for eternity. Think good thoughts!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Are We Led Into Temptation?

“Lead me not into temptation.”  I can’t imagine anyone not being familiar with this verse from the Lord’s Prayer. But what does it mean?  Does God direct us towards temptation, and if so, why?  I’ve pondered this phrase many times over the years, and never connected it with Christ’s temptation in the wilderness until recently.  “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1.  Jesus was still dripping wet, from his baptism in the Jordan, when scripture says that the Spirit, that is God’s Holy Spirit, led him into temptation!!  As you recall, Satan, with God’s consent, began “tempting” Jesus.  His offers were refused, because Jesus countered each one with the word of God.  Read the account again in Matthew 4:1-11.

 It’s interesting to note that the temptations were aimed at Jesus’ vulnerable spots: physical hunger; faith in God and need for fame.  He, of course, stood up against them, and Satan had to move on and make room for the attending angels.  But, back to the question, does God lead us into temptation?  From what I read in scripture, no.  Does he allow us to be tempted, yes.  Is there a difference you say?  Unlike Christ, who was actually led into the wilderness for 40 days, by God’s Holy Spirit, we seem to have no problem finding it on our own.  Think of the lifestyle changes you have made over the years, whether or not they were for spiritual reasons.  Quitting an unhealthy habit is tough, especially when you come up against it repeatedly.  Hopefully, each time you resist, it gets easier to turn away the next time.

 Nothing that happens to us, good or bad, occurs without God’s permission.  Does that sound harsh to you?  Think of the instances in your own children’s lives when you’ve allowed them to experience certain things, even though they may have been painful, so they could grow and learn from them.

Let’s face it, the world is full of tempting situations.  I used to have a sign in my college dorm room that said, “All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.“ It often feels like that is true, even now, or I should say, especially now!  As soon as we make the decision to accept Christ, our adversary appears on the scene ready to change our minds.  Scripture tells us what to do when this happens.  1) Pray!!  "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41.  Ah yes, the age old conflict of flesh vs. spirit….so keep praying!  2) Submit to God and resist evil. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7.  Just like in the wilderness, when we resist the devil’s tempts, countering them with the word of God, he MUST leave!!  Another reason to know what the Bible says, and use it!!!

The most encouraging verse, to me, is this one: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.  It’s not easy to face trials and temptations, or watch as loved ones do, so I can only imagine what God feels for us when we have to.  But, it says he is faithful, and will supply the way out…..it is our decision to take it.  Are you prepared to face temptation?  It will come, without God leading us into it. You can’t do it alone, but with His help you can not only resist, but become stronger for the next go-round!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Beamed Up

 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.” Psalm 116:15.

 I received news, this week, that a precious friend, and sister in Christ, died unexpectedly.  While the news was devastating, the first thought that came to my mind was, “Good for you, Vicki, you‘re home.”  Before you think that’s a callous comment, let me tell you about my friend. I first met Vicki and her husband, Dan, at a church supper, for new members, about 15 years ago.  She had a razor sharp wit, and I liked her right away. She was only a year older than I, so we shared numerous baby-boomer similarities. But, generational stuff aside, the one mutual passion we shared was our sold-out love for Christ. Vicki and I could talk for hours on end about Jesus, we could never get enough said in the time we had together.  Luckily there was always another day.

Vicki had such a heart for children.  Never having had any of her own, she mentored, tutored, and flat out loved on kids of all ages.  Only a year or so ago, she was accepted as a volunteer in the Operation Christmas Child program, part of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse ministry, and she threw herself into it wholeheartedly.  It was a joy to see her talk about the lives that were being changed, worldwide, through this project.  While we each had our own individual giftings, one thing we both  desired was to become fully-equipped, spiritually, and to help others achieve the same goal.  

 In the last 10 or so years of our friendship she had suffered the tragic loss of her beloved father in a truck crash, some serious health issues, and the death of her 2 precious dogs.  It was tough on her, and there were days she even questioned God, but through it all she held on tight, and emerged bruised, but victorious.  The one topic we came back to, in every get together, was the horrible state of the world.  We’d always pray for the Rapture, and Christ’s return for his church.  In fact, ironically, we both half-jokingly said we were ready for God to “beam us up” any time.  Well, Vicki’s prayer was answered.  I will miss her kindred spirit, our long talks and the road trip we planned to make this fall.  Part of me would like her back, but I’m filled with joy that she is home, and wrapped up in her Savior’s tender embrace. "Her master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'  Matthew 25:21. Goodbye for now, Vicki, save me a seat!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Discipline:Not a Dirty Word

When I mention the word discipline, do you bristle? I’d guess that the majority of us do.  Visions of a pinch-faced school marm, an angry parent or a hard-nosed judge come to my mind.  People associate the word in unfavorable ways, and we shouldn‘t.   Without discipline we have chaos.  One only has to look at a 2 year old child, whose parents are afraid to take control.  Tantrums, back-talking, crying, and screaming ensue, and the children are even worse!!

Discipline is not, and never should be, an excuse for child abuse. As a noun the word means: training to act in accordance with rules.  As a verb: to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
I think that we can all agree that discipline, while not always pleasant, is necessary in every aspect of life.  A parent who refuses, or is afraid to discipline, is just as guilty of abuse as one who beats his child.  Years ago I came across a small article entitled, What Shall we Give the Children?”  The first part talked about giving them happy memories, and lots of love, but the part that really struck me was this.  “ Discipline your children, for if you do not, the world will do it for you, and not in a loving way.”  If we truly love our children, we will bring them up in an environment that values obedience and order.

 The old and new testaments refer to this topic often.  For example:  “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” Proverbs 19:18. Or, “Don't fail to discipline your children. They won't die if you spank them.” Proverbs 23:13. We, as adults need not fear, or grumble at the Lord’s correction in our lives, either.  He is our loving father, and His discipline is intended to keep us on the right track, not to break our spirit or bring injury. This section from the book of Hebrews sums it up so well.  “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11.  Get out your bushel baskets!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How Will You Respond?

Suppose that someone approaches you today, and asks you why you believe in Christ.  It could happen, so what will your response be?  There are lots of things we say we “believe” in.  Democracy, healthy eating, and friendship to name a few. Heck, as a young child I believed in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, too.

But what does real belief entail? Usually, before I start writing, I like to look up the dictionary definition, to get the worldly take on a term.  Here‘s one: to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.  Hmmm, interesting.  This seems to imply that we have to test the thing’s reliability before believing in it.   So, back to the question. Why do you believe?  I’m sure, after a long thoughtful pause,  among the many answers will be, “Because that’s what my church/parents etc. tell me to do.” Or, “it’s a private thing.“ But, that’s not what they asked, or need to hear.

  Contrary to popular thought, we are not born believing in God, although I do think God has placed a desire in all humans to know him.  But, how can you put confidence in anything, if you don’t study it, talk to others about it, and like a car, take it for a test drive. Non-believers want to know  how you came about making a personal decision for Christ.  What did you do that enabled you to put your full confidence in Him.  Well, what did you do?  Merely taking somebody else’s word on it, without doing your own investigation, never  developed true confidence in anyone or anything.

 Jesus never asks us to blindly, mindlessly accept him just because someone told us we should.   He proved his authenticity and reliability repeatedly to his disciples, and longs to do the same for us, if we ask him too.  Are you studying his word, daily?  Do you seek out mature Christians,  those who can help you  find the answers for yourself.  Let me ask you this, are involved in any type of hobby, follow a sports team, exercise program, reading etc.? Don’t you look to increase your knowledge on the subject?  Of course you do, I’ve seen all your Facebook posts, but do we seek out Jesus as much as we do recipes, celebrity gossip or sport statistics? Let’s be honest, we can rattle off all kinds of random information on a wide variety of topics that interest us, but not when it comes to the subject of Jesus, not so much. Oh, there are lots of posts with Christian sounding messages, that come from other sources, but what comes from you?

Going back to the definition, it says that after compiling all the facts we make a decision based on them.  It doesn’t say we have to know everything, but that there is enough evidence to put our faith in it. The author of Hebrews backs that up when he wrote this, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1.  We’re never going to know everything, but we can make an informed decision on the person of Jesus Christ. So, are you giving some thought to your response…great!!  Remember, before we can answer, without hesitation, to the unbeliever, we must answer to Christ, when he asks us if we believe in Him.  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Messiah." Mark 8:29.  There is an uninformed world of people waiting to hear your testimony, be prepared!  Remember, they don’t want to know how much theology you know,  but rather how Christ has made a difference in your life.  It is our privilege to respond joyfully!
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Junk Sins

"I have the right to do anything," you say--but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"--but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23.

As Christians we have lots of choices thrown at us every minute.  What to wear, eat, read, watch on TV, and so on. Paul was writing this to the newly formed church in Corinth. Before we go on,  you need to know that Corinth, a large city in Greece, was a wild and crazy place.  “If it feels good, do it“, could have been their motto.  In fact, they believed that the surest way to please the gods was to use their bodies to the fullest.  Eating, drinking, sexual pleasures, you name it, they were doing it. The gods must have loved them!  Even the rest of the country thought they were libertines, and referred to anyone, any where who lived this unbridled lifestyle, as a Corinthian.  When in Corinth…!  Any way, when these folks accepted Christ, through Paul’s teaching, they must have thought that because they were “saved”, they could continue doing what they had been doing.  Old habits don’t die without a struggle.  Consider this, they had been participating in this lascivious behavior for years, and it had not only been acceptable, but godly, now Paul was telling them just the opposite.  It didn’t compute.

When I was a kid, I was aware of  the activities that were permissible with my parents, and those that were not.  When I ventured into, or close to a taboo area, I knew it.  Not because they were watching me, but because deep down I knew they would be hurt, angry and I might get in big trouble.  To be honest, sometimes I forged ahead any way.  If they found out, would they disown me, no, but it put a strain on our relationship.  When I became a Christian, an amazing thing happened, the Holy Spirit took up residence in me.  He, unlike my Mom and Dad, saw, and knew, everything I did.  I still faced those decisions, but this time I knew I wouldn’t be just disappointing my parents, I’d be disappointing God.  I have to admit, there were times when I ignored His urgings and plowed ahead.  Those times didn’t turn out well, but I learned to be obedient in the future. I’m still a work in progress.

Knowing that what our body consumes, be it food,  books, movies etc. is also being shared with God’s Holy Spirit, should make us think twice before devouring it. If it doesn’t, and you aren’t experiencing his Spirit grieving within you, then I would seriously question if He’s in residence at all. As I said at the beginning, lots of choices will come our way, please be selective. Everyone knows the big sins, those listed in the 10 Commandments, they’re easy to resist, but it’s those in the gray area that cause us problems. Off color joking, racy books and TV programs, remember you’re subjecting the Holy Spirit to them too.  Sure you can justify that they aren’t really sins, and while that may be true, they aren’t doing anything to build you up as a Christian either.  Kind of like junk food, the cumulative effects of these “junk-sins”, are what is so damaging.

If you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, believe me He will let you know which ones are offensive and non-constructive….Listen, and please don’t upset your room mate, He really does know what is beneficial. God’s word makes it very clear what is “off limits“ for us, his children.  “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.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

At Just the Right Time

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6.

 I’ve mentioned, in previous blogs, the fact that I like to watch old Gunsmoke reruns.  Marshall Matt Dillon always seemed to happen along at the most opportune time to prevent a gun fight, save a person from an untimely death, or a serious injury they might have suffered in a barroom brawl. Whatever the scenario, been, Matt had an uncanny sense of knowing when to intervene. The similarity between he and Jesus ends there.  Matt was human, and couldn’t be everywhere to save everyone, even if he really wanted to, and his death wouldn’t have helped one bit.

Have you ever felt utterly helpless?  Maybe it was when a loved one was sick, or after the death of a close friend or relative. Helpless means unable to help oneself; weak or dependent; deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated.  Mankind was, and still is helpless without Christ.  Oh, we like to think we’re self-sufficient, but the fact is no human endeavor is accomplished on our own, NO THING!  “….apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.  Every skill or talent that we need to complete any task has been provided for us by our Creator.  Some will scoff at me for making that statement, but I defy you to give me another source.  But all of that pales in the face of what Jesus did on the cross for us.  He secured eternal life for us, while we were still miserable sinners.  Sure he did it once and for all over 2000 years ago, but every time an individual comes to faith in Christ, then and now, it is precisely at the right time in their life.  Like Matt Dillon storming through the swinging doors of the Long Branch to rescue Miss Kitty, our personal realization of what Jesus did for each of us comes at our own right time.  There is no way to earn Heaven.  We can’t latch onto our godly parents coat tails and ride our way in with them.  Church attendance, membership, even baptism won’t secure it.  So you see, we’re still utterly helpless without him.  The good news is, you don’t have to remain in that miserable state, and today could be your right time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Full Jars

The Widow’s Olive Oil
1The 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.”
2Elisha 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.”
3Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4Then 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.”
5She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6When 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.
7She 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.”

The pastor of my church preached on this old testament story, the other day, and I found it so inspiring, I just wanted to share it. A recently widowed woman came to the prophet Elisha.  Her husband,  who must have been working in ministry with the renowned man of God, had died leaving her penniless with two young sons.  They were in hock to some creditors, who wanted their payment NOW.  If she didn’t cough up the cash, they would take her boys.  Desperate, afraid and maybe even somewhat annoyed, she explains her plight to Elisha. Her need was obvious,  and Elisha, being a wise, Godly  man could have gone to the coffers and handed her some money, or offered to help her in some other charitable way, but he didn’t.  The first words he speaks, inquire as to what she wants him to do.  Instead of waiting to hear her reply, he immediately asks her what she has in the house.  If the woman hadn’t been annoyed up to this point, I bet she was now.  Hadn’t she made it clear that she had nothing?  Had he forgotten about the threat of losing her sons? What part of desperate didn’t he understand She restates the fact that she has squat, but then seems to remember the small jar of olive oil.  Maybe that was said to emphasize how destitute she was, but Elisha, working through God, saw something valuable in what she considered puny. Employing all the members of the family, he told them to collect as many jars, bottles, urns etc. that they could find, and bring them back to the house.  At this point the woman could have lost it.  Why should we collect empty containers, didn’t he hear my sad story?  Luckily she didn’t, instead she obeyed.  Out of that obedience, behind the closed doors of their home, away from nosy, mocking neighbors, the oil flowed, and continued to flow until all the vessels were full.

Do you wonder why the oil stopped?  Was it because they ran out of pots?  On the surface that seems to be the obvious reason, but look closer.  It says that by selling the accumulated oil, she could pay off  all the debts, and live on what was left.  Her need was met, not exceeded, but it was more than sufficient.  Are you desperate today?  Is there a need that you want God to fill?  Listen closely, he is asking you what you have in your house.  No matter how small, or inconsequential we think our talents are, God can and will multiply them.  God could have simply given the widow the money, but no, he asked her to work with him.  Perhaps he’s asking you to do something that looks silly on the surface, but believe me, God is not silly.  Put aside your fears, pride, annoyance, or whatever else is holding you back, and obediently gather up those empty pots and pans. God will meet your needs, but he must have your full cooperation to fill those empty jars.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Be His Light

The word light is used some 2869 times in scripture, so I think that makes it an important term to, well, shed some light on. Beginning in Genesis, when light was created, and all the way through to Revelation, light, is presented to us in many forms.  The one I want to focus on today, is the light that Christ typifies, the very same light that we, as his followers, should be displaying today.

Jesus often referred to himself as “the Light”.  “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’ " John 8:12.  In 30 AD, when his public ministry began, the nation of Israel had been without light for well over 400 years.  The word of God, spoken through the prophets, had been silent for all that time. A world devoid of God’s presence, must have been frightening, to a race that knew they were his chosen people.  The only connection they had, was found in the keeping of the law, and that was getting very old indeed.  Allow me to illustrate this sort of darkness by a physical example. I’ve visited several caves in my day, and one thing a tour guide mentioned to us always stayed with me.  Caves are the darkest place on earth.  There is no light source at all, hence fish who lived in the underground waters had eyeballs, but were blind.  The same holds true for any human or animal who happens to get lost in one.  Scientists say that anywhere from 1-4 weeks, of this life without light, will render one completely destitute of vision.

It’s amazing to me then, that this noble people didn’t lose their faith, all together, during this pitch black era.  Imagine that you are that hapless person left behind in the cave.  The electricity is turned off, no glow appears from a star, moon or candle, and you just know you are going to go blind.  Oh, you pray, for any tiny pinprick of light to guide you out.  That gives you some idea of how the Jewish believers must have felt.  So, when Jesus came along he was that saving light source to a world in darkness. “…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Matthew 4:16.  Masses of light-starved people began flocking to him, with a hunger for God that only deprivation could instill. Not everyone came running, there were plenty who had adjusted to the dark.  “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19.  We can all agree that most crimes occur during the night, when evil actions are more easily hidden.  Hence, those “adjusted” folks were doing just fine in the dark, “thank you anyway Mr. Jesus, we don’t want what you’re selling.” they said.

For those sincerely seeking his enlightenment, then and now, we are promised His light, aglow inside us, and outwardly visible. “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” Ephesians 5:8.  My question to you today is, are you living as a person of light?  Is the beam, that emanates from your being, strong enough to draw people in from the darkness?  If  you were the only example of how Christ’s light should be shining, how much darkness would it displace? Have you checked your power level lately, or ever? Do you leave the “light shining” to the priest, minister or other “closer to God” types?  Sadly, you are not alone.  I dare to say many Christians have no idea of the light that is available, and Satan loves that.  The longer he can keep the world in darkness, the more blind, lost souls he can accrue for himself.  Don’t believe me, believe His word, invite God in and let him turn on that eternal light that the world is so desperate to see. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  2 Corinthians 4:6.  Don’t be concerned about the size of your light, all that matters is that we continuously display His Light!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Diluted and Deluded

Diluted and Deluded.   While not truly homonyms, like write and right, dilute and delude are pretty similar sounding.  Recently, while trying to come up with words to describe a large portion of the body of Christ, the Church, these two words found their way into my thoughts, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

 First off, let me give you the dictionary definitions.  Dilute: to make something weaker, fainter, reduce the strength or force of something by admixture.  Delude: to mislead the mind or judgment of; deceive:
to mock or frustrate the hopes or aims of.  Allow me to illustrate this with a story from my childhood.  My BFF in the 1960s lived on the same block as I, and we often hung out at each other’s home.  Why I remember this particular incident is a mystery, but here it is.  Her dad was making orange juice, from a can of frozen concentrate, when I noticed that he added at least twice as much water to it than my dad did.  I thought it odd, but then I saw him throw in a big cup of sugar to the pitcher.  As a kid, sugar was never a bad thing, so we eagerly drank it up.  While it didn’t taste as orangey as I was used to, the sugar more than made up for the “diluted” concoction.  I was thus “deluded” into thinking that this sugar infused substitute was every bit as good as the full-strength version.

That said, let me show you where I’m going with this.  Over the past 2000 years, the “church”, and I’m referring to the body of believers, not a particular denomination, has changed radically.  The fully concentrated, strong, vibrant and flavor-full, entity that Christ envisioned, has become, in may cases, not all, a weak, faint, sugary, diluted rendition. The sad part is, we have been deluded into thinking that’s how the church should be, and has always been.  Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!  If you aren’t familiar with your Bible, do yourself a favor and read the Book of Acts.  The author, Luke, describes for us a power-house, literally.  Miracles were happening on a daily basis, lives were changing, the earth was shaking with full-strength, no sugar added Christianity.  People all over the known world were amazed at what was happening, and thousands of them joined the church, daily!!!

 When is the last time you witnessed that kind of reaction to the word of God?  I don’t know exactly when, or why, but as the church grew, well meaning leaders began diluting that dunamis power with “religious sounding” rules, laws and  mandates.  Paul was aware of this issue when he said, “For Christ didn't send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News--and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” 1 Corinthians 1:17. Today, many churches play down the true gospel message, of repentance, grace and the power of the cross, because it might seem to strong. Instead they try to sweeten it up with “clever speech”, and “relevant” programs focused on social, family and financial issues, etc. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with the church offering these programs, but not at the risk of diluting the power of the Cross.

 I’ll admit, there was a time that I was perfectly content with the watered down church. It didn’t challenge me to change my life, and it was palatable to my sinful nature. Then I tried the full strength church, and realized all the flavor I had been missing. Now, I can’t wait for the opportunity to “drink” in his word each new day. Are you tired of lackluster church, Good!!  Now, ask God to serve you the 100% version of the Good News, you’ll me amazed at what you’ve been missing….at it won’t rot your teeth!!! “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

Friday, August 1, 2014

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Without seeking it, I was recently offered the lead part in a local historical play.  For nearly 65 years I’ve happily abided in a comfort zone, when it came to using any kind of “theatrical”  talent.  The primary reason being, it scared me to death!   My parents can, and will, attest to the fact that I was an extremely shy child.  If anyone looked at me cross-eyed  it would cause me to dissolve in tears, and forget about having to stand in front of the class and talk!!!  College speech class helped me immensely, but public speaking still made me nervous, and performing was out of the question. When I auditioned for the play, I only asked for a small role.  A couple of lines, spoken within the comfort of a group of other one-liners.  Perfect.  A few days later, the director called and asked me if I would be negotiable on how many lines I spoke.  Puzzled by this request, I asked her to explain “negotiable” to me.  She blurted out, “We want you to be the lead.”  I have to admit that I hammed up my audition lines, just for the fun of it, never expecting a request like this!

 Cutting to the chase, I didn’t accept readily, in fact I balked telling her how I had never done anything like this, along with a laundry list of other very reasonable excuses.  She gave me the script, asked me to look it over, and get back to her with my answer in 2 days.  How could I possibly make a decision like that in 2 short days!!  My comfort zone was so, well, comfortable, how could I possibly venture outside of it?  She saw only my hidden talents, and knew that they would fit her script perfectly, my trepidation was not important to her.  Deep down, I knew this part was me, but fear was holding me back.  She was relentless.  Finally, the potential that she saw in me, and her encouragement gave me the strength to shakily say yes.  Fast forward to opening night.  All the practices, line-learning, set directions etc. where now being put into action.  The play that she had lovingly written, over a 2 year period, was now coming to life.  I was nervous all that day, praying I’d remember all those lines. Taking center stage, as the lights came up, I asked God to help me through.  He did!! I’m proud to say, I made it successfully out of my comfort zone, and fulfilled the author/director’s plan for the show.

 Not unlike this talented author, God has plans for our lives.  But, like me, most of us are way too happy in our little comfort zones.  Maybe he wants you to get involved in a ministry you’ve never even thought about, and you feel unqualified.  Perhaps he brings a hurting person into your life, one who’s hungry to hear about God.  Whatever the request, it means making that uncomfortable step away from your zone, into His.  The author of the play knew the direction she wanted her play to go, I didn’t, but with her help, guidance and encouragement we brought those plans to fruition.  She couldn’t have done it without me, and I certainly couldn’t have done it without her.

 When God calls you, and he will, to view his "script" for your life, don’t shrink back and pull your blanket over your head.  He knows the outcome, and will grow and qualify you every step of the way.  You’ll be so glad you said yes, I am!! For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Undeserved Privilege

"Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand..." Romans 5:2

When I was a little girl, growing up on Staten Island, NY in mid-century America, I didn’t have  a large, extended family with oodles of cousins and aunts and uncles, but I did have Aunt Gigi and Uncle Bill.  Gigi was my grandmother’s younger sister, a frail-looking little woman, who had suffered from rickets as a child, but what she lacked in size, she made up for in her feisty nature.  But, today I want to tell you about Uncle Bill.  He was an ex-football player from the rough and tumble days when the game was new, and bore the scars to prove it.  He was neither tall, nor fat, but seemed very sturdily built.  I still remember him sitting in the corner chair of Nanny’s living room.  His crisp white shirt sleeves where held in place with thick rubber bands, (I never knew why) his thinning hair neatly slicked back with Wild Root hair tonic, and the clean scent of expensive cologne gently greeted you.  He hummed, too, I’m not sure if it was ever a tune, but the humming was a big part of his persona.  He could have been a gangster, he certainly fit the description, but my sisters and I always loved to see him visit.  Sure he was a great character, but more than that, he always gave us stuff, often money.  One time I recall him asking my aunt, in his low, full voice, to “give the kids a fin.”  For those of you unfamiliar with gangsterese, that’s $5.00!!!  $5 was a huge amount of money, when you consider that full-sized candy bars only cost a nickel in the 1950s.  He was, needless to say, our favorite uncle.  

Now you may think that that was wonderful enough, but they lived in the magical kingdom of Atlantic City.  Every summer we would make the long journey (probably took an hour) down the New Jersey Turnpike to this heaven on earth.  Their home was a couple of blocks from the beach, and we had our own basement apartment.  Could this get any better?  Yes!!  Uncle Bill managed the Steeplechase Pier, an amusement park built on a long wooden pier that extended well into the Atlantic ocean.  There were rides of all kinds, and we got to ride them all, FREE!!  But wait, there’s more.  Right next door was the world-famous Steel Pier with its Diving Horse show.  In addition, all kinds of acts performed there from the 3 Stooges to Dion and the Four Seasons, and guess what, Uncle Bill got us in FREE.  I did nothing to deserve any of this, other than being born into my family. Uncle Bill never required us to pay him back, it was his gift to us.  When I found this old picture of myself taken on one of the rides, I remembered the day vividly.  The damp salt air,  the smell of creosote wood, and me with a scowling face.  It all came back to me so clearly. I had my finger on the trigger button of the spaceship I was riding, and I had convinced myself that the ride would stop if I took my finger off.  It hurt, and took away from my enjoyment of the moment.  Later, my parents assured me that my effort had nothing to do with the operation of the ride, and from that point on I was in Heaven. 

 As you might expect, this story reminded me of  something, the many people who think that God’s offer of undeserved privilege is too good to be true.  They feel they have to work to add to what Christ has already, 100% accomplished.  Because they work so hard, it's easy for them to think they deserve the things they have. “These are privileges that we work and sweat for. They're ours,” they like to boast. We love that about ourselves. And although there's nothing wrong with hard work (in fact it's a biblical principle), the message of the gospel is that we earn nothing by our effort. We get to participate in the privileges of God even though we don't deserve it. So I’m here to tell you today, take your finger off the button! Like having an Uncle Bill, God’s grace allows us to ride for FREE!! Quit scowling, believe it, and start enjoying your undeserved privilege!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Is Your Salvation Insured or Assured?

I’m quickly approaching my 65th birthday, and those of you who are already there know that you are inundated daily with offers of supplemental insurance.  As I’ve been looking into this deeper, it’s obvious that Medicare doesn’t cover everything, hence an additional policy or policies are necessary to supplement what is lacking.  As with any insurance, be it homeowners, car, or health you get what you pay for, or at least that’s what we put our faith in. Beware, the cold hard facts are detailed in the very fine print.  For example, if you exceed the number of claims because of floods, fire, or natural disaster, your insurance company will more than likely terminate you.  Same thing goes for health insurance. Hello, isn’t that why you’ve paid in all those high premiums, so that you can call on the insurance to save you from financial ruin?  You can’t own a home or car without insurance, so you keep paying, keep adding on more items to be covered, and all the time living with the fear that it won’t be sufficient.

Of course you know I’m going somewhere spiritually with this line of thought, so please stay with me.  I’d like to pose this question to you today, is your salvation insured or assured?  Theologians have many “answers” concerning this query, and people have fretted about it for ages.  So, what’s the difference between the two?  The church is divided into two major camps on this vital topic, and I like to refer to them as Insured and Assured.

 The insured folks will tell you that our salvation is contingent upon us paying “premiums“ for the rest of our natural lives.  These include; adhering closely to church/religious doctrines, doing good works, keeping far from sin, in general following what is written in your policy. Those are all noble pursuits, but read the fine print, this policy can be revoked, if you miss a payment, so to speak.  Your salvation, and the promise of going to Heaven, is never assured, unless you keep paying. Sadly, you never know when you are paid in full, or if you have attained enough points to be accepted.  I have a friend, who goes to church almost every day, yet is constantly concerned with this issue, "Have I done enough, and am I good enough for God?" he laments.

Ok, let’s look at the assured group.  These people believe that Christ died for them, and all mankind, once, and paid our premium for eternity.  There is no doubt in their minds of their salvation, and future destination, they are assured. That’s too simple, you say, all I have to do is have faith in what Christ did to be saved, there has to be more to it.   My “insured” friend complains to me about this very thing, so bear with me.  Merely saying, “I believe in Christ”, isn’t complete salvation, but it’s the place we all begin.  Belief must be combined with repentance, obedience and faith to fully be assured of God’s grace.  Grace can never be purchased through religion or works, please be assured, it is freely given.  Certainly we should desire to be with fellow believers in a church, and acts of service will naturally follow as we grow in our salvation.  Can the policy ever be revoked?  I believe it can, but only if one willfully turns from God, and even then He will do everything to keep us from making that terrible decision.

So, let me ask you again, are you insured or assured?  “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” Romans 3:27.  Please, be Assured, there is nothing we can add, or premium to pay, He paid it all.