Monday, July 27, 2015

Do You Have Your Passport?

If you’re anything like I am, the night before a big trip outside of the USA, I tend to panic a bit.  Do I have all the right clothes packed?  How about my prescriptions and vitamins?  Do I have all the travel documents, plane tickets, and is there a transfer involved anywhere?  Down the mental list I go, and then I remember the most important thing, my passport.  Forget all the other stuff, because without a valid, up-to-date, government-issued passport, no matter how persuasive I might be, the customs agent they ain’t letting me in or out.

This travel talk got me thinking about how important it is to have our spiritual passports in order.  A passport not only proves who we are, but that we are American citizens.  For all believers, our ultimate destination is an eternity with God in Heaven.  But, do you have a passport?  What do I mean by that, you ask, well let me first tell you what it is NOT. Church membership, including a lifetime of adhering to doctrines, dogmas and rituals doesn’t earn you one. So, you say you have a steamer trunk full of good deeds; they won’t get you past the gates.

All those things I just mentioned are fine, in the same way an extra set of underwear comes in handy, but it doesn’t prove our citizenship.  To apply for a passport you must supply your certified, embossed birth certificate.  That cute one from the hospital with that little footprint won’t cut it.  Anyone could makeup a fake one of those, that’s why the official one is vital.  One time mine was questioned because the seal was not as raised as it should be.  They are picky, and rightly so.  So how do we back up our birthright?  Paul, talking to the new believers in Ephesus says this. “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12-13.

What Paul was saying to those folks, and to all seeking Heavenly citizenship, is that there has to be a time when each of us, on our own, must realize that we lack a legitimate birth certificate.  The reason being, we are born into a world separated from God by sin.  No amount of man-made “documentation” equals coming into a personal relationship with our Savior.  Good news, you don’t have to bribe any government officials, because God will always be there to forgive, accept, adopt and transfer your citizenship from this world into his. Don’t believe me, check it out for yourselves. But please, be certain you have one, because he‘s coming back soon to take all of us passport-holders home, and you don‘t want to miss the flight.  “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20.




Thursday, July 9, 2015

What Are You Projecting?

What Are You Projecting?

Back in the day, when those of us of a certain age, were young, and shared the world with our pet dinosaurs, lots of things were different. For example, picture-taking was accomplished with a boxy Brownie camera, with actual film you had to load yourself.  There was no deleting and starting again, the resulting image was what it was.  My Dad often used slide film.  I think it was cheaper, and instead of making prints, you wound up with little white cardboard squares with an itty bitty celluloid picture inside.  You could hold them up to the light, but to see the picture in all its Kodachrome glory, the slides needed to be placed in a projector.  I loved getting those slide trays out, and projecting the tiny squares onto a screen, or in our case, a sheet hung on the wall.  What was only a miniscule piece of plastic, soon blossomed into big glorious life with vivid colors, and breathtaking depth.

Our lives, not unlike those slides, hold all kinds of pictures.  Our joys, sorrows, frustrations, every good or bad life experience is recorded and stored away in mental trays. How often, and which slides, do you bring out for the world to view? Often we choose the irritating images to enlarge.  Maybe you have a gripe with your spouse, friend, job or church; boom, up on the screen they go. Sure it may feel good to unburden ourselves, but what do these negative pictures really project about us as Christians?  In a commentary I read once, the author stated that “the slides” of our lives should be so appealing, winsome even, that people are drawn to our screens.

I’m sure Jesus had plenty of shots in his tray that were less than attractive, but he chose to project the ones that would draw the world to his screen, and keep them there.  What tiny pictures are you making big?  Are you projecting the way Jesus does, or are people searching to find the exit as soon as your “show“ begins?  Think about it before you start projecting.  “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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, (and project) such things. Philippians 4:8


                                                          

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Putting Down Roots

  I didn’t grow up on a farm, but over the last 40 years of living on one, I’ve learned a lot.  How to drive a tractor, mow acres of grass, and can and freeze produce are but a few of the skills I’ve acquired.  But the thing I find most fascinating, is observing the crops as they grow.  For example, did you know that every individual corn silk acts as a receptor to pollinate a single kernel.  If the silk isn’t pollinated, you’ll find an empty space on the cob, the “fruit” won’t develop without the pollen.  Or how about this, every corn plant sends out a primary set of roots, then later, when it is taller and more mature another set appears to anchor the stalk.  As everyone knows, corn gets as high as an elephant’s eye, and with the added weight of the ears, it needs that extra stability.  Without those secondary roots it could easily be toppled by a gust of wind, heavy rain or a hungry deer.

 I mention this today because, as Christians, sending out roots is a vital part of our spiritual maturity.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6.  Let’s unpack this verse a bit to understand what he’s talking about.  It’s important to understand that the Colossians were a group of people who had only recently accepted the teachings of Christ, as adults.  This was their first set of roots. We modern day believers, for the most part, received our first set, as children, from our parents, and the church they belonged to. We learned Biblical basics, followed the rules as we were told, and our roots held us steady. Then along came the teen years and adulthood, with all its external influences, and like a gust of wind, those little roots weren’t able to control us as well.

We aren’t a corn plant that naturally stabilizes itself, it is our personal choice whether we set down the next set of roots.  We, like the Colossians must decide, for ourselves, if Christ is who he, and the church, represents him to be. Is he indeed the son of the living God?  Do you understand and accept his word and directives for your life as written in the Bible?  Are you willing to repent of your sins, submit to his authority and live a life rooted in him?  If you stop your spiritual development with only those first, dinky roots, you can easily be blown over.

In the next verses, Paul continues by saying this. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”  Colossians 2:6-8.   Don’t think that those first roots, that were handed to you as a child, will suffice.  It is easy to think that merely following rules and traditions is enough, but it’s not.  Paul says they may take you captive, and can be hollow and deceptive. They are not a substitute for secondary roots.  Do you have them yet, or are you swaying in the wind?

This world is a whirlwind of false doctrines, don’t be sucked in or knocked down.  Ask God to send out those strong, eternal roots.  “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19  

                                                 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Matthew 7:13-14.

 By now you are aware of my off-road adventures, from the numerous pictures I post. Sometimes I think I should hold back because I’m overdoing, but then a person will come up and thank me for visually taking them along. When on a trip, most of the population stays on the main roads.  Interstate travel makes the trip shorter, and there’s less chance of getting lost, but oh what you miss!   When I think of all the years that I took the wide gate, it made me recall this verse.

 There is a main road in life that has a lot of traffic. Both believers and non-believers zip along in carefree fashion.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always take back roads, highways are great if I want to get to someplace fast, but cruising along with the crowd can be dangerous to our life in Christ..   The problem I see, with a spiritual life spent only on the fast road, is  you don’t get to see all the details, and it‘s easy to get sucked into the driving habits of the masses. So many Christians are only familiar with the religious on and off ramps, and little else.  They think that as long as they do what the church “laws” demand, and not veer from the wide road, they’ll reach their heavenly destination. That is a very unfulfilled journey, folks.

Jesus wants us to experience, for ourselves, the beauty of his multi-faceted being, details we can never see as we zoom by him on a religious fast-track. Think about it, how much do you really know about him?  Do you have a photo album brimming with personal shots of times, and adventures spent with him?  We can’t truly know him if we spend all our time on the highway, and that is very sad indeed.  Don’t be afraid to exit, he will guide you and show you up close what you have been missing. “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.  “Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.” Psalm 25:4



Monday, April 27, 2015

Bloom!!

I absolutely love spring.  The return of life to the winter weary earth is, dare I say, divine!!  Acting as though I’m seeing the flowering trees for the first time, I gush at every redbud, apple tree and dogwood.  Despite my current joy, one thing creeps in and throws a damper on my glee, the knowledge that the colorful blooms will soon give way to plain old green leaves.  Their beauty will be gone in just a couple of days, and  you won’t be able to distinguish them from the other trees.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if the gentle pastels didn’t have to fade into the crowd?  Oh well, there’s always summer and fall.

As I was pondering this process of blending in, I got to thinking about myself as a Christian. Was I standing out from the crowd, not in a bold or flamboyant way, but gently, presenting the true colors of Christ, or was I merely blending in?  While God’s plan is for the redbud to fade, that’s not his intent for Christians.  Some folks, like poor Job don’t know that, and will say, “All people spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.”  Job 14:2.  Sure, he was a bit depressed when he penned this, and could only see the fading part of the picture, but what‘s your excuse?  We, who live as heirs of the new covenant, have the supernatural ability to show our true colors all year long .  Jesus never told us to be showy in our display, but like the spring trees, whose subtle beauty attracts us, the way we live our lives should draw people to him.

Are you a year round bloomer, or are you content  to blend in with the crowd?  "Let your light (colors) shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
 
                                        

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Born Again

Born Again

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ” John 3:1-3.

 Most of us are familiar with the story of Nicodemus, but I’d like us to take a closer look at it today.  To begin with, Nick was a big shot in Jewish religious circles, a member of the ruling council no less. But, it appears to me that he had questions, maybe even doubts about his faith.  A guy like that was looked up to as a pillar of knowledge, very religious, and a sure bet to receive a good report from God on the day of judgment. So, why was he going to see this rebel, Jesus?   It goes on to say he went at night, under the cloak of darkness so he could sneak in without his temple cohorts seeing him.  After all, what would people think if they saw a man like that seeking answers from the likes of Jesus.  Something very powerful, his need to go beyond his secure, traditional “faith”, drew him.  Here was a man, a recipient of the ancient faith, a devout follower, one who strictly adhered to the Law, and we see him inquiring of Jesus.  What more could he possibly want to know?  Wasn’t he at the top of the religious heap?  Wasn’t his inherited faith sufficient?

 I’m no scribe, but I understand where Nick was coming from.  As a child, my parents handed me a nicely wrapped faith tradition, as well. It was fine, I never really questioned it, but I never really unpacked it either.  As I got older, it was relegated to a shelf in the back of my closet.  I’d been baptized as a child, and participated in all the required rituals, so I figured I had all the God I needed.  I never stopped believing there was a God, but I’d never actually met Him personally, either.  I was merely hanging on to a flimsy story my parents had passed along, and claiming it as faith.

Years later, not unlike Nicodemus, I started hearing things about this Jesus, things that pulled me in to Him.  As I questioned, studied and learned I realized that he could never be contained in that dusty box in the closet.  Nick saw what he was doing, and so did I, and then he spoke those words about being “born again”.  What could that mean?  I had already been born, physically.  I had done all the religious stuff, what did he want me to know?  Nick was far more savvy of religious things than I was, but Jesus told him this: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”…“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? “

Spirit, there’s the operative word.  My “faith” had only been born of flesh, I’d never entered into the realm of the Spirit, and now I was ready to truly know him, to be born again.  We don’t know what happened to Nicodemus, did this meeting change him?  I can only tell you that it changed me, and continues to do so daily. Ask yourself, where is my faith?  Is it in a pretty box somewhere, or is it being used and developed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit?  Don’t be tempted into thinking that any  faith, no matter how weak or dusty is sufficient or pleasing to God.  Seek him out, any time of day or night, then claim and unpack this unbelievable gift with him, and be born again! “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” 2 Corinthians 9:15



Friday, April 3, 2015

The Torn Curtain

The Torn Curtain

Since today is Good Friday, I thought it might be interesting to observe this sacred day by focusing on the supernatural events that happened not only on, but around the cross.  Try to imagine yourself standing near the cross.  You are exhausted, physically and emotionally, having followed Jesus from his arrest, trial, and ultimately to Golgotha, the place of skulls.  You watched as the Roman coroner signed his death certificate, even before the first nail was driven.

It was agony to watch him suffer. “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:45-46.  “Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened.”  Matt. 27:50-51.  If social media had been around then, it would have been flooded with pictures, descriptions and selfies at the scene.

The Bible supplies us with all the information we need, but I want to concentrate on the torn curtain.  This was no ordinary curtain, it was about 60 feet in height, 30 feet in width and four inches thick.  It was said that a team of 4 horses couldn’t drag it, but the power of God tore it in half, from the top down!  But, size aside, the curtain served a purpose, it separated the Holy Place in the tabernacle, from the Holiest of Holies. It was behind this veil that the High Priest would venture in, once a year, to make sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of the people.  He wore a rope around his waist, in case, for some reason God didn’t accept the offering, his dead body could be pulled out.  Even if it was acceptable, the sin debt started racking up all over again, and had to be offered repeatedly.

 The torn curtain was God’s declaration that the new covenant, written in his son’s blood was now in effect, replacing the old.  Those who believed in the saving power of the cross, could now enter into that Most Holy of Holy places, the throne room of God.  “For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.”  Hebrews 9:24-26.

Are you as awed by this as I am?  It’s so humbling to know that nothing I could ever do, including works, church-going, adherence to church doctrines etc. can add one iota to his perfect, atoning sacrifice.  It is finished, the curtain is torn, and God invites us in.  “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:27-28.  He is no longer on the cross, He's alive, and today He is offering you this precious, grace-filled invitation to walk through the torn curtain with Him

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Re-Membering Jesus

I’ve already mentioned that Jesus had had a busy week.  Palm Sunday’s triumphant entrance, into Jerusalem, was the beginning of the end.  From Monday through Wednesday he boldly cleansed the temple,  stood up to the religious crowd when they questioned his authority, told the parable of the tenants, reminded them about paying taxes, and the Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times.  There was much more, but these controversial actions were separating the true believers from the mere Jesus “followers”.

We have reached the point, in Holy Week, where Jesus and his disciples have gathered for the Passover meal, and I want to invite you to participate.  The significance of this Holy festival should not be over looked.  Jesus, and every Jewish person was required to participate, and hopefully to do so in the City of David.  It recalled the God’s sparing of the Jews, in Egypt, from the Death Angel when they applied the blood of the lamb over their doors.  (Be sure to watch this short attached video.) The city was crowded with throngs of worshippers, and yet Jesus had not told his friends where the meal would be held.  You couldn’t just pop in somewhere, reservations would have been made a year in advance.  We can be sure that they wondered what to do when Jesus told Peter and John to go make ready.  “But where?” they asked.  Jesus had it all under control, and he gave them the details of how to locate the room.

Let’s go in with the others.  The meal was spread out on the floor, not in DaVinci style at a table, and we are invited to recline with the others.  We know the rest of the story, but the disciples don’t.  They only know that this a familiar celebration one that they have participated in all their lives. Jesus begins by telling them how happy he is to share this meal with them, but the bad news follows quickly.  “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:15.  “Suffer, did he just say suffer?  What does that mean?” they all wondered.  He then breaks from tradition, and offers them wine and bread that he has blessed.  Jesus tells them that they represent his body and blood, which is soon to be sacrificed for them, ushering in a new covenant. He instructs them that each time they participate, in this meal, they are to remember him. In addition, Jesus acknowledges the one who is to betray him. We’ve heard this story many times, as Christians, but to those at that sacred meal it must have been devastating. Their Rabbi, the one they had put all their trust in was leaving, say it’s not so.  But it was so.  After the meal, and the departure of Judas, they leave to pray on the Mt. of Olives until Jesus is arrested.

When I retired, at the end of 2013, my friends and co-workers held a party for me as a way of saying goodbye.  I wasn’t going anywhere, merely leaving my position in the company, and I knew that they would remember me, because they I was still around.  Jesus was leaving his earthly position permanently, and He wanted to be sure they would remember him.  And by remembering I don’t mean simple recollections, but literally putting Jesus back together.  At death, his Spirit departed,  his blood flowed and the “members” of human life, as we know them,  ceased.  He asks us to “re-member him”, to put those pieces back together, because is alive and fully membered.  Please reread this account, in any of the gospels today and “Re-member” he Lives.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4XyYv991h4

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Default Settings

Default Settings

  It’s Monday morning, you hit the print button on your computer, and instead of the 20, color copies you asked for, the dang machine has mysteriously reverted to its default setting, and spitefully turns out one black and white.  Grrrr!  Don’t you hate when that happens?  You thought that everything was set up the way you wanted, and then it goes back to the factory installed setting.  Over a third cup of coffee, while I do some resetting, I got to thinking about how all of us are like that pesky computer.  Every one of us comes into this world with our own default settings.  The Bible calls these settings “original sin“, or our “sin natures“. Since the days of Adam’s blunder in the Garden of Eden, all of us have inherited a human, fleshly sin nature.  It’s there from day one.  Watch little children for a while, and you’ll see it at work.  Paul puts it like this: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.” Galatians 5:19-20.

 I like to think that I’ve left all that stuff behind when I decided to follow Christ, but almost daily, a default setting tries to click on.  Cut off in traffic, paper cut, frustration with kids or spouse, any of those can cause us to revert, and sometimes it just happens with no provocation at all.  Once again, Paul, a Super Hero of faith, tells us about his own battle: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Galatians 5:  and again in Romans 7:15, “I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”  If this guy had problems with his settings, what chance do I stand?

Even for those living under the grace-filled blood of Christ, it is a daily battle, I’ll be honest.  But, it is a battle we are prepared for, and can participate in victoriously.  We must live a life guided by the Holy Spirit, so that every choice, action, word spoken or decision will not fall back on the old sinful nature,  Sure it’s tough, I hardly have to tell you that, but we have the supernatural power of Christ living within us, even when the default settings kick in. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” Galatians 5:16. Exchange those old settings, for these: “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

 To sum it up, I refer to Paul, again: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:24-25.  Remember, we’re not in this alone, and default settings no longer have to control us!





Friday, March 13, 2015

You Want Me to do What??

You Want Me to Do What?  As kids, my Mom always came up with chores for us to do.  Some were easy, others took time, effort and skill to accomplish.  One of the tasks I remember hating was ironing the organdy curtains and damask tablecloths.  Mom wanted them done right, and that took skill.  No spray starch, no easy care fabric, those babies were 100% cotton, and awkward to handle.  Ugh.  They always got done, but I dreaded the day when they went into the wash again.  I’m sure you have your own stories to tell regarding undesirable jobs, who doesn’t?  As bad as that task seemed to me then, I wouldn’t  have switched positions with some of the people God called into service.  Sit back, relax and be glad you weren’t saddled with these jobs.

Noah.  This poor guy was sitting around, minding his own business, and staying out of trouble, when God gave him the nod.  This guy was perfect for the project he had in mind.  "Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. "This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. "You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.…”  Genesis 6:15-16.  Noah wasn’t a carpenter, he didn’t know a cubit from a “what’s it”, and where the heck do you buy gopher wood???  Can you imagine what Mrs. Noah had to say about this?  An ark, in my backyard, no way!!!  His neighbors had a hay-day with him, and even more so when the animals marched in.  Sad to say, you and I most likely would have been on the scoffing team.  But,  he persevered.  This noble man didn’t scrimp and buy cheap material, nor did he change the blueprint to make it smaller and easier.  He never asked why, which certainly would have been justified, instead Noah, who knew the rest of the story, did everything just as God commanded him. We know how that story ended for the outsiders, but Noah’s obedience was rewarded.

Abraham.  Wow, God gave this fellow a ton of chores, and plenty of reasons to ask, “You want me to do what?”  You want me to leave home?   “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”  Genesis 12:1.
You want me to take the bad ground?  You want me to cut off what with a semi-sharp stone?  “This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised” Genesis 17.  The guy was 99 years old for pity sake, but he did it, and was blessed.  Then the ultimate task was ordered;  “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2.  I’m afraid I would have broken down and asked at that point, but Abraham trusted God implicitly.  We all know how that turned out, and should be thankful for Uncle Abe’s faithfulness.

Moses, Enoch, Abel, Isaac, Judah, Joseph, Mary, John the Baptist, the Bible tells us about the supernatural faith that these folks possessed. Why?  Because it is available to everyone of us.  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1.  Do yourself a favor and read this chapter in Hebrews if you are unfamiliar with it, and re-read it if you aren’t.  I like to call it the Roll Call of the faithful.  These ordinary people, who because of their deep-rooted faith, were able to accomplish the extraordinary.  Did you get that, God wants to take our ORDINARY, and make it His EXTRAORDINARY.  I’m all over that!!  Has he asked me to iron his curtains?  Yes, in a way.  He’s approached me about doing things I didn’t think I could do, and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve asked him why.  But, every time, he’s taken my inability and transformed it into an amazing ability.  Do I still ask, “you want me to do what?”, sure,  but now I complete it like this, “with my faith and your power, let’s do it!!”  Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God."  Mark 10:27.






Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Want to See!

I Want to See!

After the subzero temperatures, and heavy snow we’ve had this winter, it’s a joy to see it melting, and the ground reappearing.  But, there is a downside to the warmer weather, FOG.  Any combination of cold ground and warm air, and vice versa, makes for a dense and dangerous condition.  While driving home last evening, neither my husband, nor I, could see the turn-off to our house. The usual landmarks were there, but shrouded, rendering us “blind“.  It was frightening not knowing where we were, even in familiar surroundings. This morning was no better.  Luckily, when the sun appears, the fog vanishes, and sight is restored.

 This scary experience got me thinking about what it would be like to be blind all the time. Those who are blind from birth, seem to handle their disability easier, since they’ve never known the joy of vision. On the other hand, those who, because of disease or accident lose their sight, know what they are missing, and that‘s difficult to accept.  The Bible refers to the word blind, 91 times.  Unlike leprosy, one was not considered unclean, but the disability held its fair share of side-effects.   People always wondered what sin you had committed, or what evil your parents had been involved with. Blindness was a curse, and was always linked to God’s punishment.

 We read about Bartimaeus, such a person,  in the 10th chapter of Mark. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.  But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”  So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.  “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.  “My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”  And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

It’s obvious that old Bart may have been many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. He must have heard about Jesus, and believed in the healings associated with his ministry.   There was a large crowd following Jesus, sighted people, who kept telling the blind man to back off.  But he didn’t, in fact, in desperation, he yelled all the louder . The story tells us that he was so convinced that he could be healed, that when Jesus called him over, he cast off his coat and left it behind.  I always think it’s humorous that, Jesus asks him what he wants him to do for him.  Well, duh, it’s obvious to everyone else what his problem is, so why does Jesus ask?  Jesus knows exactly what this man needs, but he wants to hear it from his lips, and Bart tells him, “I want to see!”  Those words always give me goose bumps.

We don’t know how many blind people were healed by Jesus,  and that doesn’t matter, the thing to remember is, you can’t appreciate sight, unless you’ve been blind. We must remember that all of us were, and some still are as blind as Bart. One day, when we in desperate need, approach him, he will ask each of us that same question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  He knows that we’re blind, but he needs us to acknowledge our predicament, and our answer confirms the diagnosis.   We can continue to grope our way through the fog of life, or call out to God and let the Son’s light clear away our blindness. When he asks what you want him to do for you,  answer “I want to see!”



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Developing Thicker Skin:Not Easily Offended

Not Easily Offended.

  Part of our human nature is the ability to feel, I don’t mean just in the physical sense, but emotionally.  Happy, sad, excited, and depressed to name a few.  Today, let’s look beyond those, and concentrate on what our reactions are when someone irritates, annoys or ridicules us?  It’s not easy, but knowing how we, as Christians, should respond is a vital part of spiritual maturity.

 Think of someone you know, who is so emotionally fragile, that they must to be treated with kid gloves.  There's that person who comes right to mind, am I correct?  The one that popped into my head is a fellow Christian who takes offense at the most minor infractions. In fact, they told me that 30% of their time is spent being annoyed.  Can you imagine confessing to that?   Every time they’re around my 2 second brain-to-tongue delay turns on.  It’s my hope that before any “offensive” words are spoken, my brain will send the cancel notice to my tongue.   Talk about walking on egg shells! You never know what they’ll consider an offense, so spending time with them is nothing short of a crunchy, nerve-wracking roller coaster ride.

 No one wants to hang around with people like that, and no one is drawn to Christ by that kind of behavior. Jesus was familiar with being offended.  He was belittled by his peers; “Then they scoffed, ‘He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.’ “ Mark 6:3.  He could have felt sorry for himself, but instead he told them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”  His own disciples must have offended him with their doubts and accusations, but he used the time to build and encourage them rather than mope.

In addition to these spiritual wounds, we’re acutely aware of the physical offences he endured.  “Easy for him”, you might say,  “he could blow them off ,because he was God“. But, remember he was also a human man, with human feelings. “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.”  Hebrews 4:15.  His response to offense should be ours.  “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; “ Luke 6:29.  Even on the cross, the greatest offense that he endured, he uttered this; "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34.

 Impossible? Without his help, yes!  Take a look at yourself closely.  Are you covered with spiritual Band-Aids?  Do you wear your emotional-offense bruises like badges of honor?  Jesus wants to thicken your skin, to add insulating layers that will  protect you from the offences that are sure to come your way.  Are you ready to tear off those Band-aids and toughen up?  Together, with Him, we can, and must let go of offense. “"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great;” Matthew 5:11.





Thursday, March 5, 2015

It's a Miracle!

It’s A Miracle!!  This phrase is used quite frequently, but not always in the true sense of the words.  If I were to describe a miracle I guess the best way to do it was to say it was the place in time when God steps into, and causes a change in our human experience.  The secular Dictionary.com puts it like this; an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.  Man’s way of doing, and thinking goes only so far.  That which goes beyond human comprehension is labeled a miracle.

Some people aren’t comfortable with miracles, even some Christians, because they don’t trust what they can’t understand.  Through the centuries, religious folks have tried to figure God and his ways out. Years ago I attended a group that wanted to begin a Bible study.  The woman in charge, told us she didn’t know much about the Bible, so she would show us a video lesson. Fine with me, but I was to be proved wrong.  The celluloid professor began with the story of Moses, and his experience at the Red Sea.  I figured everyone was on board with this miracle, heck Charlton Heston had filmed it for posterity.  As the discussion continued, the teacher pointed to a map and boldly stated that everyone knew that Moses hadn’t gone through a parted Red Sea, oh no, he had in fact crossed a dried up REED Sea. Parting of a large body of water was, and is, humanly impossible they pointed out. At his point  I was about to rend my clothes, and I turned around to see the reaction of the other group members. They, and the woman in charge, were all nodding lamely in agreement. I decided this was not the group for me. It’s a miracle that this church is still in operation!

Is this story hard to swallow?  Certainly, with our limited human comprehension, but not when we put God in charge.  Those doubters, and unbelievers, could have saved themselves a lot of time, and aggravation, by referring back to God’s word.  "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”  Isaiah 55:8.  Through the years, and my own attempts at trying to figure God out, this verse finally made sense, and it didn‘t make me feel brain-dead either!  Let’s face it, God is bigger, smarter and infinitely more capable of pulling off an impossible display like this one.  Miracles can only be manifested once we acknowledge we can‘t figure everything out by ourselves.  That in no way brands us as ignorant, but it is a declaration of faith.  Get over yourself, God is bigger than all of us combined will ever hope to be.  I, for one, feel very secure with that, and you should too.

 The problem with trying to figure out miracles is that we assign lame human explanations to interpret supernatural occurrences.  It can’t be done!  And my question is, where do you stop?  Was there a Noah and an Ark?  Where Adam and Eve inhabitants of the Garden?  Did Jesus feed the multitudes with a few fish and barley loaves, or did the people open up their baskets and share?  What about Jonah, was he in a fish or on a raft? How about the virgin birth, and the resurrection?  We can go on and on, but when we dumb down one miracle, the rest fall like dominoes, and God is reduced to a magician, at best.

The Bible details almost 100 miracles, and every one is humanly impossible.  The prophet Jeremiah told us this, "Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”  And Jesus confirmed it in his own words by stating, “…. "The things that are impossible for people to do are possible for God to do." Luke 18:27.  Why even Albert Einstein said that there were only two ways to live; believing nothing is a miracle or believing everything is. God is in the Miracle-working business, and whether your need is a healing, emotional or  spiritual desire, even something as mundane as monetary, He longs to do what he does best.  Do you still have doubts?  No problem, that means you’re almost ready to give up your plans, and turn them over to Him.  Today, trust, let go and wait for your miracle!





Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's in Your Fillin'?

What’s in Your Fillin’?

 On any cold winter day, you can find my husband in his La-Z-Boy watching the western channel.  While they’re not my favorite shows, unless it’s Gunsmoke, every so often some small clip proves to be priceless.  Such was the case this week.  As I was about to punch in HGTV, I paused for a second, and was rewarded with this scene.  Don your black and white goggles, and imagine four dusty cowboys lazing on the steps of the local mercantile.  The cattle drive is over and it’s time to kick back.  As they contentedly talk, and chaw on their “tabaccy“, out of the store step two pretty young women dressed in brand new blue jeans.  I’m guessing this was set in the late 1800’s, and women seldom wore denim in any form, and never pants!!  The whistling told them that they had the men’s attention, unwanted as it was, so one of the indignant gals spoke, saying, “What’s the matter?  Haven’t you ever seen a woman in pants before?”  Quick as Matt Dillon  in a gunfight, one of the cowpokes replies, “Shur we have, but it’s not so much the crust that makes the pie, it’s the fillin’.”  See, is that not priceless?  You know I had to write it down immediately. That wise cowboy knew that the outward denim wasn’t worth their admiration, but what made those jeans whistle-worthy was what was inside!!

 I may be stretching the fabric a bit on this one, but bear me out.  We can all put on a pretty good Christian crust if we have a mind to.  Going to church, following doctrine, serving on committees and so on, all reflect, at least in outward appearance, that we are good Christians.  As I’ve said before, none of those things are wrong, but they are superficial.  What I’m asking you today, and what God will ask you, one day soon is, “What’s in your fillin’?”  While it’s easy to check things off a spiritual list: church, done; serve as a greeter, check, God is looking for the internal stuff.  “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 16:17.  This passage, written down by the prophet Samuel,  describes David, the one chosen and anointed to be King.  He didn’t look royal, but oh was his fillin’ rich!  His exterior may have been soiled, but his heart was fully attuned to God.

 Skip forward several hundred years to when Jesus began his ministry. The nation of Israel was burdened with list keeping, and looking good on the outside.  The Pharisees were the official list/Law enforcers, and Jesus confronted them in all their external “holiness”.  Here in the 23 chapter of Matthew is a small section of that in-your-face teaching.  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! Matthew 23:25.

Yeah, their crust looked great, but their fillin’ was rotten. So, what is the recipe for good fillin’?  Paul, talking on just this topic to the church in Ephesus, is a great place to start.  “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ…..For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; “  Ephesians 5.  Carefully determine what pleases the Lord, and imitate God, I love those lines.  We need to know God, and his word, intimately, the way he knows us, so that we can truly be filled with what pleases him.  Making a good fillin’ can’t be left to chance.  God has the only authentic recipe, and he wants to create it in us, using his ingredients.  Both you and He will enjoy the results!!!  





Monday, March 2, 2015

Jesus is Willing

Jesus is Willing.

 And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean. "Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." Matthew 8:2-4.   Most of us are familiar with the account of Jesus healing the leper, but that doesn’t mean we fully understand its significance.

 If you’re not in the middle of anything, leave your 2015 mindset for a bit, and travel back to 30AD with me.  In the ancient world, leprosy was the most terrible of diseases.   Not only was it physically horrific, but the emotional consequences that accompanied it had people calling it the “Living Death“. Depending on the type of leprosy one contracted, the life expectancy, if you could call it life, could be anywhere from 9-30 years.  The physical condition was too horrible to detail, but there was something which made it even worse.  As soon as an individual was diagnosed, they were absolutely and completely banished from human society.  It didn’t  matter if you were, young or old, rich or poor, adult or child, male or female the Law said this:  “he is a leprous man, he is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his infection is on his head. "As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' "He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. Leviticus 13:44-46.  At a time when you needed the love and support of family, friends and community you became a pariah, doomed to live forever “outside the camp“.

Only one thing was considered more unclean than contact with a leper, and that was contact with a dead body.  It’s impossible to understand what these people experienced, but we get an idea of the desperation though the leper in this story.  He knew full well that to come close, let alone touch, an unaffected person was forbidden.  But, desperate times called for desperate measures.  He must have heard of Jesus, and about the miracles that were attributed to him, so even though it was against the Law, he approached.

Let’s look at this passage again, more closely.  1.) The leper came near with confidence.  He somehow knew that Jesus could do it, but would he?  2.) He came in humility.  He didn’t demand healing, he politely asked Jesus if he was willing to make him clean.  3.) He came with reverence, bowing before him.  The Greek word that we translate to bowed, is never used for anything other than worship of the gods.  Without telling anyone else, he  knew that he was in the presence of God.

Now, take a look at how Jesus responded…he stretched out HIS hand, and touched HIM.  It doesn’t say that the leper held his hand out, it says Jesus made the move first.  With compassion, he, a Jewish man, who had been raised to follow the Law, reached out physically to the desperate man.  It was not uncommon for Jews, even the rabbis to throw rocks at any leper who came within 4 feet of them, but Jesus touched him. Don’t overlook the enormity of that move.  Forget the healing, for a moment, and concentrate on the human connection in that touch.  What joy must have flooded over him, followed by the realization that the disease had left his body.  Mere words can’t express the emotions in that moment.

You may never have thought about it, but we were all that diseased man, before coming into relationship with Christ.  Our life was lived apart from him, outside God’s camp.  Somewhere along the way we heard about the Savior, and only then did we realize our predicament. In asking for his cleansing touch, we, too, were made whole.   Jesus didn’t come to save the well, but to heal the sick, and that’s still the plan.  And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:31-32.  Don’t waste another minute living apart from his healing, saving and grace-filled touch.  He is still Willing.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Beautiful, Colorful Church

The Beautiful, Colorful Church

 Someone asked me, recently, why there were so many varieties of Christian churches?  Wasn’t one good enough?  Was only one right, and the others wrong?  What gives? Good questions, and I will use a box of crayons to, excuse the pun, illustrate my answer.  Now, ask yourself, what can be finer than a brand new box of crayons.  All those sharp, clean  points, and that rainbow of waxy colors, it holds limitless creative possibilities. I don’t want to buy a box of all black crayons any more than one that contains only red.  While we all have our favorites, the skillful use of each one is vital in creating an appealing finished project.  An interesting composition is derived from subtle tones, shading and the use of many colors.

In the church that Christ envisioned, there were many different “colors“.  People with various talents and gifts working together to build and further his church. Remember that the church is the earthly group of believers, not a building or a denomination.  It’s easy to see then, how we, his church, resemble that  box of crayons, we’re all different. God designed us like that, because that’s how he rolls.  Look at his creation, there isn’t just one kind of flower, animal or rock, no, there are multitudes. God realized that to be successful, his greatest work of art, the church, must be a unique assortment of followers.  A box containing only one color is boring.  So too, a church that’s monochromatic.

Let’s face it, we all are designed to worship God in our own way.   Some of us are the flamboyant type, and find our expression in singing and  writing.  Others are teachers, leaders, organizers and hospitable hosts, all working to the same end.  “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”  1 Corinthians 12: 4-6.

The church can’t continue with only one kind of talent, it needs them all. Just because we enter different sanctuaries, doesn’t mean we’re coming out of different boxes of crayons.  Over the centuries, however, division has occurred.  Instead of working together on the picture that God began, we started name-calling and camp choosing.  We’ll never be able to complete the picture with only the colors our denomination selects.  We must all work together, in harmony, striving for the exact same end.  David knew this when he said, “How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1.  Paul loving reminds us in this way. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.”  Ephesians 4:2-6.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s remember that we’re all crayons in His big box;  Colorful, varied and beautiful, just like the picture of his beautiful church!



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Finger Pointing

Finger Pointing.    Have you ever been the recipient of a finger point?  No, not that finger, the other one, the one we like to point, in judgment, at people.   Oh how we love to flex our digits.  I’m sure, that you, like myself, have been both a pointer and a pointee. Here’s an example of what you might hear a pointer say: “I don’t know how a person can call themselves a Christian, and watch that TV show (or read that book, see that movie, wear that outfit etc.)!”  I have a friend who likes to use comments like this one.  While not mentioning my name, but I know they're referring to me. The pointing part is easy, and the self-righteous feeling we get is really good, but being on the receiving end, not so much.  We try to shrug the comment off, but the feeling of condemnation gets on us like stink on a wet dog!

 What is our role, as Christians, when it comes to fault finding?  Is it our right to condemn? First and foremost, our actions should line up with what Jesus did. The Bible addresses this issue in numerous scriptures. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:1.  So, it seems that it is ok, in fact God encourages us to do so, gently!!  Gently implies that we do so in a loving, burden-carrying, non-judgmental way, and no finger pointing allowed!  When we start pointing out even minor faults in others, we lose track of our own pretty fast.  I think we’re all familiar with this verse.  “How can you think of saying, 'Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.”  Luke 6:42. Remember the old saying, when you point a finger, there are three more pointing back at you!!!

When in doubt, go back to Jesus, and how he handled this often awkward subject. It was not Jesus’ habit to point an accusatory finger at sinners.  Remember the woman caught in adultery? “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7.  He did, however, get into the faces of the “religious” folks who had itchy pointing fingers.  Are there instances when we should go to another Christian with the intent to gently restore them?  Certainly!  If we stand back, when a brother or sister is being drawn into a sin that could effect their relationship with God,  we have a loving responsibility to help them.

Before starting on our own personal crusade, we must be sure of what God considers sin, by reading and understanding his word. Paul reminds us that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16. Finger -pointing isn’t useful, gentle or loving, and rarely discourages the pointee.  Are you familiar with John 3:17?   “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  So, holster those fingers, pardners, and instead start pointing people towards Jesus!





Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Knitting Project

Knitting Project    “For You formed my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.…” Psalm 139:13l  King David wrote this beautiful ode to creation, and I absolutely love the knitting analogy.  If you‘ve ever tried your hand at knitting, or crochet, you know it can be a very rewarding hobby.  The process of transforming a lifeless skein of wool, with the skillful use of slender needles, into a scarf, sweater or afghan is so fulfilling. It should give us a glimpse of the satisfaction that God must get from seeing a new human being take shape in its mother’s womb.  God, the master knitter, has the vision of the finished project, you and me, in his mind.

Whether or not David ever knit in his spare time isn’t important, but he saw the complexity of the finished product, and knew that only God could have created it. Life matters, it is a work of art to be sure.  As attitudes towards our Creator have gotten more “casual” over the centuries, so has our opinion on the sanctity of life.  For generations  Christians believed an unborn child, to be what it was, a work in progress.   Now, this “incomplete” project is viewed by many, even some who label themselves as Christians, as "products of conception"  or blobs of tissue, nothing more.

 A woman, who had just returned from the annual March for Life held in Washington, D.C. came to speak at a meeting I attended recently. She wanted to fill us in on the details of the event. She mentioned all the excitement and camaraderie that took place, but there was one thing that caught everyone’s attention.  At a certain point on the parade route, there was a gigantic screen.  Flashing across the screen were images of children after an abortion.  Without going into gory detail, tiny body parts were collected in bowls to be disposed of without ceremony.  When the marchers passed by, total silence gently washed over the throngs. The sight of dismembered babies, once and for all, debunked the man-made myth of a lifeless tissue blob.  There were no dry eyes, and no unbelievers.

Life is truly life from conception to natural death.  An unborn child is like a sweater that is not quite finished, but we can still clearly see the design and purpose. (Have you ever seen a 4D sonogram image?)  If someone were to come along and unravel the yarns, the sweater would cease to be.  God clearly tells us what he hates: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Proverbs 6:16-19.

Abortion is the shedding of innocent blood, and God hates it.  I know that we may not see Roe vs. Wade overturned in our lifetime, but we may have the opportunity to keep a human being from being unraveled.  “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! “ Deuteronomy 30:19.  Choose life, because we truly are fearfully and wonderfully made.



Friday, February 13, 2015

What is Love?

What is Love? In our sophisticated, modern day society, we have a plethora of words for something simple, like a cup of coffee.  We can say joe, cappuccino, latte, espresso, decaf or fully leaded.  Each describes a certain kind or variety of the basic coffee.  Strangely, the English language, with all its nuances, only has one word for LOVE.  Just one tiny, 4-letter word which can be either a noun or a verb, to serve a wide array of situations.  The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, had 6! Here they are:
 1. Eros, or sexual passion. The first kind of love was eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, and it represented the idea of sexual passion and desire.
2. Philia, or deep friendship. The second variety of love was philia or friendship, which the Greeks valued far more than the base sexuality of eros. Philia concerned the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on the battlefield.
3. Ludus, or playful love. This was the Greeks' idea of playful love, which referred to the affection between children or young lovers.
4. Agape, or love for everyone. The fourth love, and perhaps the most radical, was agape or selfless love. This was a love that you extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. Agape was later translated into Latin ascaritas, which is the origin of our word "charity."
5. Pragma, or longstanding love. Another Greek love was the mature love known as pragma. This was the deep understanding that developed between long-married couples.
6. Philautia, or love of the self The Greek's sixth variety of love was philautia or self-love.

Not surprisingly, the Bible uses love at least 703 times, covering all the Greek definitions, but more importantly it’s used to describe the nature of its author, God.  “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16.  So then, what does it mean to live in love?  Number 4, Agape, most accurately sums it up.  A love extended to all people, even those you don’t particularly like.  Jesus puts it this way: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34.  Impossible, you say?  Without God, yes, and even with his abiding Spirit, it still goes against our inborn nature.

 Today, as we think about Love on Valentine’s Day, I urge you to go beyond romance, chocolates and such. You certainly don’t have to forsake those things, but give some serious thought, and prayer, to becoming more loving in the sense God intends. It will astound you how that simple act can change not only your little world, but the whole world around you.  Please read the 13th Chapter of 1 Corinthians, the quintessential go-to source on the subject.  “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13



 




Thursday, February 12, 2015

Convinced?

Convinced.  Did you ever try to convince anyone about something?  Of course you have.  We try to convince our kids to eat vegetables,  a colleague to back a certain candidate, or maybe you work in sales and do it for a living!!  As is my custom, I refer to the online-dictionary for a definition: to move by argument or evidence to belief, agreement, consent, or a course of action.  Hmm, convincing takes argument and evidence to confirm belief.  Jesus worked in just such a way.  He stayed clear of knock-down drag-out arguments, instead he used declaration and demonstration to instill belief , and conviction in those he met.

Let me give you an example.  If you want to convince someone about anything, let’s say quitting smoking, you begin with the argument/declaration.  At the onset you state the facts; it’s expensive, unhealthy, and makes everything stink.  They’ve heard that all before, so now you unload the big guns, evidence.  Maybe it’s documentation of your own battle with nicotine, and how you overcame.  Or demonstrate to them via pictures, videos or other visual sources what smoking does to the body.  Ultimately it is an individual decision based on the argument and evidence.  Jesus does the same.  Throughout scripture, he declares who he is, and what we have to gain in believing him.  Then to bring the point home, he demonstrates his case with miracles, visual evidence of his power.  Nowhere in the Bible do I see Christ belittling or scaring people into believing, he wants us to be convinced.

In the 26th chapter of Acts, Paul is called before King Agrippa to defend his faith in Christ.  He does a marvelous job of declaring/ arguing his case, and then demonstrates it with evidence of his testimony.  Read it for yourself.  Agrippa listens to it all, and then we hear this exchange; “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

Are you, like Paul, not Agrippa, convinced, beyond all doubt, that Jesus is the Lord of your life?  He has given us all the opportunity to become convinced, though his declaration and demonstration.  Maybe you won’t have to defend your conviction to an earthly king, but one day we will stand before the King of Creation.  You need to Be CONVINCED!! “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.” Romans 8:38






Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Where's Your Treasure?

Where's Your Treasure?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19

This verse always puts the desire for earthly possessions in proper perspective, for me. I’ll be honest, I have my share of “collections”, but the older I get, the easier it is for me to part with them.  Of course, part of that is because, my kids are constantly nagging me to purge so they won’t have to deal with it after I check out of Motel Earth!  Lately, with the prospect of moving, looming on the horizon, I’ve been filling boxes and dumpsters with my unnecessary treasures.

Don’t misunderstand me, having stuff is not the problem, but it can, eventually, lead us away from our center, God. Let’s say you have a teapot collection, and you love to add to it.  At some point, it can become an obsession rather than a hobby. If you find yourself neglecting time in the Word, or prayer, to hunt for new teapots, it should send up a red warning flag . Our enemy, the devil, would like nothing more than to have you value your teapots over God.  A weak, prayer less, biblically/spiritually illiterate church is his ultimate goal.

 Take a look around your own house, and honestly ask yourself, “Where is my treasure?”.  Have you located “it”?  This same verse says that where “it” is, there also is your heart.  Wow, is my face red!  God doesn’t tell us to stop collecting, or enjoying hobbies, but he does want us to put them in proper perspective.  Our real treasure is in our personal relationship with Him. He must come first, and we must be willing to dump all the rest, if he asks us to. No, don’t start pitching now, but do open your eyes and hearts to His gentle reminders.

Paul wrote this to us, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.  So, keep your teapots, books, dishes, pastimes etc., but don’t count them as true treasure, that shelf is reserved for God.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:19.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Zero Shades of Grey

The long anticipated film, 50 Shades of Grey, based on the mega-best seller of the same name, will be hitting US cinemas on February 14th, Valentine‘s Day.  Have you ever seen such hype surrounding a “Love“, (Lust) story before?  Social media is all a twitter, (pardon the pun), television has been tempting us with sultry clips, and just today a new one showed up.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s the gist of it.  Christian (LOL, ironic name choice) Grey shows his “girlfriend” his “Play Room”.  She naively thinks it’s where he keeps his X-Box.  Oh how wrong she is, as we see her face freeze in, disbelief, shock, you fill in the blank, when she realizes the kind of games he plays.  Hint, they are not of the video ilk, although video taping the games may be part of it. Her only words are, “Oh my God!” The sight of this room should make her run for the nearest exit, but that would make for a rather thin plot.

 If you haven’t heard about this movie, I have to ask, have you been living under a rock? Seriously, Praise God and good for you!!  I’ll admit up front, I haven’t read it, nor do I intend to, and here‘s why.  Unbiased, Wikipedia describes it like this: “Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance novel by British author E. L. James. It is the first installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism.” Let’s face it, our flesh/sin nature is curious about such things, but knowing that the Holy Spirit is being subjected to whatever we watch, read, ingest etc., should make us want to pass.

Why is it then, that many Christian people, especially women, are justifying the reading of this trash?  It’s easy to defend it to other readers, but what about to God?  Paul tells the Ephesians this, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30.  This book is grievous not only to God’s Holy Indwelling Spirit, but to all of us who believe.  God implores us through his word to avoid this kind of material.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, (or go into your brains) but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.  “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people.” Ephesians 5:3.

Am I saying that you’re not a Christian, or that your salvation is in jeopardy if you read it?  That’s not my call, but I have to wonder, and so should you, how the powerful lure of this novel can make people turn their backs on the word of God, and enter a very “grey“ area. The fact is, there are ZERO gray or “Grey” areas in God.  “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;…” 1 John 1:5-6.  It’s oh so easy to be sucked into darkness, by the siren call of the world…Don’t go there!!  Always allow Christ to be your light when you feel tempted to enter any of life’s Grey areas.
 



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Oh Come Let Us Endure Him

Oh Come Let Us Endure Him.   No, this isn’t a typo, just my knee-jerk reaction to something I saw on Facebook recently.  The topic of the tongue-in-cheek post was an insider’s perspective on being a member of a particular church.  Some of the humorous “secrets”, as they were called, included, among other things: that communion wafers taste like cardboard; it’s ok to halfway kneel during church; don’t give up anything you really like for Lent; sitting through a service tests your ability to stay awake; and get to church late, so you can stand in the back and leave early.  Don’t think I didn’t get a chuckle out of this post, I did, mainly because we tend to laugh at what we identify with.  My point is not to pick on any church “brand“, because these things occur in any denomination, but to focus on what our ultimate goal in going to church is.

 Many Christians feel that Church, like cod liver oil, daily exercise and housework is some odious task we do, because we feel we must.  The end justifies the means, so to speak.  If we endure the service, and follow religious rules, we’ll fulfill an obligation, and hopefully gain enough points to achieve Heaven.  After church, we make fun of it, and pat ourselves on the back for having endured. Yes, I was once a member of that group, if I made it to church, which wasn’t often.

 I’m not saying that enduring is wrong.  It’s not!  In fact endure is used frequently in scripture, but not in the sense I just described.  For example, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him;” 2 Timothy 2:12.  When Paul was telling Timothy, that suffering, in one form or another, will happen in all our lives that we must endure, he didn’t mean the church service!!!  So then, let’s go back to the verse from “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, the word used in the hymn wasn’t endure, it’s ADORE. “God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth. ... “ John 4:24.  Adore carries with it love, respect, utmost admiration  and spiritually speaking, the desire to express that love in true worship. When you adore someone, no one can force you to express it any more than they can tell you to be silent. It is free-flowing from a heart that is full of love.  Can you see what a difference it is to endure?  Let’s bring this discussion down to an earthly level.  Would you rather your loved ones adore you, or endure you?  That’s a no-brainer!!  God doesn’t want pews filled with “endurers”, any more than you want to see  your grand kids squirming to leave your presence.  Are you enduring or adoring? Please, search your hearts, and the Bible, and make the decision to replace endure with adore in your Christian life!

   

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Amazing Authority

  Are you up for a trip in the Biblical time machine today?  I hope so!  I’ll be Mr. Peabody,  and all you Shermans, hold on tight!  We set the dials to the year 30 A.D., and viola  in a puff of smoke, and a grinding of gears, we arrive.  Outside the conveyance, we immediately feel the warm dry air, and see throngs of people  making their way to the local synagogue in Capernaum.  It is the Sabbath, and that’s what folks feel obligated to do.  There is some grumbling about how boring the service will be, but they console themselves with the knowledge that their attendance appeases God.  At least they sure hope so!  “All we ever hear is, ‘keep the Law, keep the Law’”, they groan.  “When have we ever heard anything new, or encouraging? Never!”  is the unanimous lament.

 In those days, going to the Synagogue was more akin to attending a dissertation on the Law. It was an elaboration on the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch.  There wasn’t a priest, or minister, any man could go forward and read from the scroll. As we take our seats, a low mumbling fills the hushed air.  Rather than one of the usual men going forth, a young guy, who just turned 30, Jesus, makes his way to the rack of ancient documents.  Recently, the whole region of Galilee had been abuzz with the name of Jesus.  A well-respected fellow who, with his cousin John, had created  quite a scene at the river a few weeks ago.  Since then he had vanished for 40 days, but was now back in town. Anticipation had the assembly turn their thoughts from matzo ball soup, to the man at the dais. Here’s how Mark describes the scene: “Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.”  Mark 1:21-22.

 Real authority, what does that mean?  To understand, you must realize that the only thing the Jewish people were clinging to was the interpretation of the Law, by the scholars.  The voice of God, through the prophets, had been silent for over 400 years.  All the learned men could do was restate the word, and devise more  laws, basing them on past, earthly teachings.  Jesus didn’t quote any old scholar to support his interpretation, instead he spoke as God directed, and with His full authority.

This may not seem earth shattering to you, but to those suffering from an overload of legalism, it was a fresh, sweet breeze blowing through that stifling atmosphere.  Pulses began to race, and then this happened: “Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.” 23-26.  What should amaze you from this verse, is that the demon recognized Jesus immediately, not the “church folk”.  If Jesus hadn’t had the attention of those gathered before, he did now!  “Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. 27-28.

No one had ever spoken or acted with such power and authority since the prophets, and that was ancient history!  After the service, people were clambering to reach Jesus, to shake his hand and ask questions.  Those at the back, ran to the coffee shop to tell anyone and everyone what they had just witnessed.  As we head back to the time machine, some of you feel like you’ve been missing out.  Your church service is dry, and lacking in this awesome display of power, and authoritative teaching.  It shouldn’t be!  Jesus came to save us from legalism, and stale sermons, and you don’t have to travel back in time to find that exuberance.  I won’t tell you where to find it, but inquire of God and he will direct you.  Jesus, and his church, is still in the amazing business!



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Biblical Iliteracy


Biblical Illiteracy. While listening to Christian radio, the other day, I heard this term used.  For some reason I’d never  put those two words together, but sadly they made sense.  There are lots of people in the world, who call themselves Christians, but have little to no working knowledge of the Bible.  Does that automatically mean they aren’t genuine believers? Of course not, but it does makes me wonder why they choose to stay illiterate. Perhaps they don’t even realize it.

When I think of illiteracy, old western movies come to mind.  Remember those cowboys signing important documents with an X?  Stupidity wasn’t the issue, lack of education was.  I fear that many Christians today resemble those crusty cowpokes.  When asked about why they have faith in God, their silence belies their lack of study, so in essence they sign with an X.  The biblical information that they possess is minimal, and sketchy at that. Think about it, how much information do you have? Everyone loves to pass along in-depth book reviews on the latest novel they’ve read, but can we do the same about the Bible?

The online dictionary defines illiterate as:  displaying a marked lack of knowledge in a particular field:  God’s word goes on to say this: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:6.  Destroyed by lack of knowledge, wow!! If your life depended on your knowledge of God’s word, would you still be breathing?  I’m not saying you need to memorize chapter and verse, few are won over by that kind of knowledge.  As the well worn saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know.  OK, so I’ve taken some liberty with that phrase, but it’s essential that we know enough about the Bible to explain our faith in “Who we know”, God. That will most certainly  require you to have enough information to support your case.  I watch enough Law & Order to know that without citing precedents, your case for Christ will crumble.

Learning the scriptures is a joy, not an odious obligation.  David knew that when he said, “May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.” Psalm 119:172.  If you’ve never tried, please find a Bible and begin, or better yet a Bible study group.  Believe it or not, I was once counted as one of the illiterate.  I thought the basic knowledge I had was sufficient.  How wrong I was.  Ignorance of the law never holds up in a court of law, nor will it before the Throne of God. Besides, Bible study is just so enjoyable, you’ll find that it becomes addictive! “Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16. Pull yourself out of Biblical illiteracy, and into the full, joyful knowledge of His Word!!

                                   

Sunday, February 1, 2015

God is Utterly Evil

It’s funny the posts that show up randomly on my Facebook page, so before you think I’ve lost my religion, allow me to explain. This recent TV interview with British actor Stephen Fry, found its way to me. Take time to look at it for yourself, but today I want you to think what your reply to him would be.  This is not the first time that I’ve heard God called evil.  He’s always blamed for everything from giving children cancer, to causing natural disasters and in general is viewed, by those who don’t “know” him as, well, evil!

 If you don’t, as Paul Harvey used to say, know the rest of the story, you might start believing that lie as well.  Fry, besides being a very intelligent man, is an avowed atheist.  If you ever have to defend your faith to anyone, this is not a combination you want to face without spiritual bullets in your guns.  So, how will you counter his claims that God is an evil maniac?  If he had disparaged your child, friend or parents, you wouldn’t have a problem defending them.  But is your trust and knowledge in God that solid?  Atheists don’t want to hear about Biblical character references, because they don’t believe in it anyway.

Are you scratching your head?  You should be!  Why not start by asking them to describe what a world without God would be like.  Would people be loving and kind to one another?  Would there be disease, pestilence and such?  John Lennon, in “Imagine”, thought it would be a great place.  “Imagine there's no heaven…And no religion too. Imagine all the people Living life in peace…”  Sadly, he was murdered by one of those peace lovers.  The fact is, we had heaven on earth back in the Garden of Eden.  God warned us of the consequences of disobedience, and we all know how that ended.  But, whether you believe in God or not, it seems obvious that man has only himself to blame for the condition of the world. We all love to point the finger of guilt, and God is the most likely culprit.

So, the way I see it, atheists say they don’t believe in God, but want to blame him for everything anyway! How conveniently they leave out the most important fact, He came to live and suffer along with us! Isaiah 5:20-21 puts it this way when describing people like Fry: “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. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” How clever indeed, after all, someone has to be responsible for this mess.  Maybe I can’t change Stephen Fry’s earth-bound mind, but one day it will be changed.  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD." So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12.  Maybe this week you’ll run into a Stephen Fry…be prepared to build your faith, and, hopefully, his!


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/stephen-fry-explains-what-he-would-say-if-he-was-confronted-by-god-10015360.html