Sunday, April 20, 2014

This Is The Day

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I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:21-24 KJV)

Yes, we will rejoice! Three days before the Resurrection, our Lord said:

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30 KJV)

He had accomplished what He was born to  do. What happened next is what He had told the disciples to expect:

And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. (Matthew 17:9 KJV)

He is risen. He is risen, indeed! That’s why we worship on the first day of the week. That’s why we have hope. It does become a stumbling block to many, but for us it is the foundation – the cornerstone – of Christian faith.

I often wonder why that message is so hard for some people to take in. Recently I read a review of C. S. Lewis’ book, “Surprised by Joy” and the reviewer summarized:

… by saying that in childhood, he preferred logic over emotion and magic, and religion seemed foolish because it seemed hard to believe that God could fail so miserably at a poorly-made, horribly flawed world - or in making religion unclear and unconvincing.

Lewis goes into detail as to how he moved from atheism to a belief in God’s existence. It was an atheist professor’s adherence to logic that helped Lewis move toward Christianity, but this book stops before that step. This book, along with Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, are excellent reading material for both non-believers and believers, addressing issues both discuss.

Lewis found the joy I, too, found in knowing Jesus fulfilled prophecy in His resurrection. This is the day we share with the world that He is risen. He is risen, indeed, as the women who went to the tomb heard from an angel:

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. (Matthew 28:5-7 KJV)

Or, as Luke tells it:

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, (Luke 24:3-8 KJV)

This should remind us, too, that Jesus told of both His death and His resurrection. We have the same message they received – and told others throughout their lives. This is the day we remember, too, He is risen. He is risen in deed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Am Not Miserable

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If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV)

We die. Jesus did, too, in a most horrible way. That should have been the end of the story. Even if He had a great philosophy, His death should have brought nothing more than philosophical studies. Many men have left great ideas behind them when they died, discussed centuries later, but His changed the course of the world based on one difference between His death and any other.

It was the one thing that convinced Saul on the road to Damascus:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 KJV)

Others have claimed that they would rise again, but only one has achieved that, or not as some claim:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:13-17 KJV)

Christianity hinges on this one event – not Jesus’ death, but His resurrection. If that remains unbelievable, so does all the rest.

You know, the part about:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

If you can’t believe that, why believe anything Jesus is supposed to have said? Why believe we should judge only with the same judgment used on us? Matthew 7:1-2 – yes, I know most people ignore that second verse, depending on the first to keep themselves safe. That’s the problem with Christianity – it comes with strings. There are those pesky following verses that people overlook when one verse appears to clear them from culpability. Paul knew that:

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 KJV)

We take it in bits and pieces, though it takes a long time to hear all the counsel of God, beginning with:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)

It is more than the history of Adam’s descendants or Abraham’s or Jacob’s or even Mary and Joseph’s. Within the Bible are answers:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16 KJV)

Available to all who wish to spend profitable time. Correct me when you find me in biblical error, please.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Travel back with me three years. That's when this photo was taken, and this blog written a week later. Today, "Good Friday" should be sorrowful - our Lord was tried, mocked, beaten and crucified. That, however, was simply the beginning of the story. We cannot forget that His life was not taken. He gave it, just as He gives life to us. Be sad for today, that we added to His grief and pain. Do not forget Sunday, and what we gained.

AdultChoir
This is our Adult Choir at Easter this year (2011.)  First row, right end, is my Second Daughter.  Behind our Pastor’s wife, all in pink, is my Beloved Husband in a yellow jacket.  He and a couple of others were not there this past Sunday, due to illnesses.

While they were missed this Sunday, the choir rang out loud and clear with the Whisnants’ resounding hymn, making me think of vacations.  Ever take a vacation where you left behind the comforts of home? Maybe slept in a tent, cooked by an open fire? I’d wager you had light, something with a battery? Maybe a radio? Just a few of the comforts of home?  When He left His home, He did leave it all:

he didn't bring an army
to help him on his way
he didn't bring a angel
to praise him night and day
he didn't bring one piece of gold
to buy some food to eat
instead he turned and he laid it all
at the fathers feet
he left it all, to rescue me
he left it all, to die on calvary, 
he left it all, not one comfort did he bring
not his robe, not his crown not ten thousand bowing down
not one piece of jasper wall. He left it all
this man they're crucifying he says he is a king
but judging from the clothes he wears
he doesn't own a thing
but little did they know that day
as his blood came streaming down
he owned the sun the stars and the moon
he even owned the ground
he left it all, to rescue me
he left it all, to die on calvary, 
he left it all, not one comfort did he bring
not his robe, not his crown
not ten thousand bowing down
not one piece of jasper wall. He left it all
The physical presence of God on earth not only left it all, He endured all the hardships mankind endures.  Then took on the sins of the world and endured the spiritual separation of the lost. We can look to Him to know the suffering, and the love, that all men feel.  Yet Paul says that if that’s all we have we are miserable:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV)

Though they did not have His origins, other men have taught well, lived well and endured more than most.  The one thing greater than leaving – or losing – it all, is the one thing Christ did that none other is remembered for doing. Resurrection.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. … But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:16-18, 20 KJV)

That’s why He left it all.  That’s why we are:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Quartz Mountain

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Click on the graphic and you’ll end up in Wikipedia with a lot of geological info about these rocks popping up north of Altus, county seat of Jackson county, Oklahoma. They are striking, but Coloradoans would giggle for our calling these “mountains.” They’ve been part of family stories from my childhood – my folks grew up in Jackson county and were married in Altus. We nicknamed our “Soda Pop” uncle based on his managerial skills at the 7-Up bottling plant there mid-20th century. My aunt was secretary at the Methodist church for many years. Visits to my grandparents gave my cousins opportunities to drive us around the square and stop at specific spots to chat with their friends. Not my home town, but my family’s.

Thirteen ladies from our church drove through Altus on our way to Quartz Mountain for a Ladies Retreat this past Friday and Saturday, thanks to the Tabernacle Baptist Church! Those ladies excel at hospitality, cooking, witnessing and giving testimonies of their love for our Lord!

The theme was “Women of Worth”:

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Colossians 1:10-12 KJV)

We learned so much!! We learned a definition for fear:
False
Evidence
Appearing
Real
Think about that, please. How many of our fears are real? Mostly we’re afraid of what we imagine will be, not knowing what are valid expectations. I could list them here, but would probably miss yours, so let’s look at mine for a moment.

I feared my husband’s death. Three years ago, following his first myasthenia crisis, I feared that it would happen again. Feared we would not be able to get him to the hospital in time. I would lose him. Hey, we’re here – and I listened Saturday morning to a Christian sister who did lose her husband. She survives, with tears at time, but quite well enough to share her love of God with a room full of ladies. This is life.

Another Christian sister told us not to live with the phrase, “If things were different …” Things are not different. Things are exactly as they are where we are today and it is up to us to move forward from the point we realize “things” will only be different if we are.

Some of what we need to be a Woman of Worth:
W – wisdom
O – openness
R – roots
T – thankfulness
H – happy
No – I’m not going into all the paragraphs/scriptures that go with that acronym (though you might get some of them in future blogs!!)

The songs in the program were written by a woman I’ve long considered worthy - Frances Jane (Crosby) van Alstyne – better remembered as Fanny Crosby. I’d list the songs, but they might not include your favorite and you should be humming it right now. Go ahead and enjoy it, we sure did!!

We also played games, participated in funny skits and became acquainted with 80-some other ladies. Now, truthfully, did you have as much fun with close friends? Plan on joining us next year – if you can’t join us, find a good church nearby and put on a program yourself!! We’d be happy to share skits with you, pray for you and pray that God will bless you, too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Keep This In Mind

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The Rapture, as describe by several Bible verses but unnamed as such, is a somewhat recent concept of a very ancient promise. I won’t go into the history nor the different view of pre-, mid-, post- or not-gonna-happen Rapture. There’s sufficient material available for years of discussion, and scriptures are used by all concerned with the subject.

What I will say is – it may not be as we expect. But, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Mankind has a tendency to explain and plan the inexplicable over which God has control. I need to keep this in mind.

The Bible is filled with God’s promises. Seldom did they match mankind’s expectation. Beginning with
His statement of fact:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:17 KJV)

This set up the scene for temptation:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (Genesis 3:4 KJV)

The moment she bit into the fruit, she did not drop dead on the spot – but she began to and eventually did, as we all will.

God told Abraham he would have a son. Sarah laughed in disbelief and set out to give him one on her own, with disastrous results.

God told Moses to go to Egypt and bring Jacob’s descendants into a land promised to them generations before. Of those who left Egypt, they only saw the land, did not live on it, because they were not expecting the work it would take to live there.

King David was promised a descendant who would sit upon the throne forever, yet within three generations the kingdom was split in two, eventually going to others. He was not expecting an eternity.

Israel was promised a Messiah who would do a number of things for them simply because they were God’s chosen people. Somehow they forgot why they were chosen – to be an example to the world. They were totally unprepared to accept a child born in Bethlehem who would die thirty-three years later:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3 KJV)

My focus needs to be what God has laid out for mankind to do:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)

Jesus spent three years, witnessed and written down by the four gospel writers,  speaking of laws wrapped up in two we all fail to keep:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 KJV)

Though we fail miserably at keeping laws, there is one statement of faith we can understand and accept:

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:15 KJV)

My preconceived notions of how God will fulfill His promises are not important. The simple fact that He has done so in the past is fact and is sufficient for me to believe in Him and His ability to do so in the future, even if it is not as I or others expect. My faith is in God, not in how He achieves His will. I must take care to keep this in mind.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Welcome?

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And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. (Acts 9:20-22 KJV)

No, the graphic is not Damascus – it”s Raphael’s painting of Saul in Athens. It will do just as well, because it depicts what Saul began doing as soon as his sight was restored – preaching Christ to any audience. That also proved to be contentious wherever he went, beginning in Damascus:

And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: (Acts 9:23 KJV)

So he went back to Jerusalem, the city where in Acts 8:3 we learned he made havoc in the church, scattering persecuted believers throughout the world. Now, in Acts 9:26, we find him returning to Jerusalem:

And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. (Acts 9:26 KJV)

This happens in congregations today. We question the validity of a person’s relationship to God. Oh, we’re supposed to be able to know something about it:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16-20 KJV)

We’ve been given the fruits in order to discern:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)

For the disciples in Jerusalem, Saul’s fruit was evident in his action. It was easier for them to discern treachery in his approach rather than conversion. Perhaps we don’t see treachery, but the fruit we see is described better in Galatians 5:19-21 rather than 22-23.

Standing before the disciples in Jerusalem was a man who at the very least condoned murder, at worst committed it. How hypocritical of him to come now and preach Christ! It had to be a trick.

Perhaps we aren’t as open as the disciples in our rejection, but it is evident in so many cases that we expect the worst out of people instead of helping bring out their best. What we need is to be Barnabas.

But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.(Acts 9:27 KJV)

Are we willing to be the voice of Barnabas? Speaking not only with the newly converted, but speaking out for them? Stand with them as they learn more and more about God’s word, His promise, His work through the ages? Can we turn “Welcome?” into “Welcome!!”

Monday, April 7, 2014

An Eye Opener

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And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. (Acts 9:10 KJV)

The previous blog talked about Saul’s blindness – today we’ll take a look at Ananias. We first hear of him as he is called by the Lord, and his immediate response is “I am here, Lord.” Do we do as well? When we receive a call from our Lord, are we as eager to respond? Or, after we hear what He wants, we also follow Ananias’ example and begin to explain why we can’t oblige Him?

The Lord’s request was simple, straight-forward and step by step:

And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. (Acts 9:11-12 KJV)

Go here, see the man, ask for Saul who is expecting you, put your hand on him and give him back his sight. Here’s where Ananias sounds much more as we do:

Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. (Acts 9:13-14 KJV)

Just in case the Lord wasn’t paying attention, Ananias felt he had to explain to Him just who Saul was and why it wasn’t a good thing to go see him. Doesn’t that sound like me? I’ve done so much explaining why I don’t/won’t do what God has required – as if He needed an explanation!!! As if He didn’t have the ability to see that what He asks gets accomplished!!!

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25 KJV)

Why would that verse come to mind when missing church services? When we – or another – say, “It’s not necessary to go to church to worship.” A half truth (which satan is very good at giving) because our Lord has requested our presence. Or:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16 KJV)

Why remember that verse when not reading scriptures? Or questioning the validity of the Bible as truth? The next verse tells me why this is good to do:

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:17 KJV)

Why – as Ananias did – do we give such poor excuses for not following His instructions? Is it because He doesn’t take time to explain now, as He did then:

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (Acts 9:15-16 KJV)

If I were Ananias, I would be so pleased that it wasn’t up to me to tell Saul what he must suffer. If I were Ananias, I will go to Judas’ house with a bit of trepidation. Not until Saul’s sight was returned and I left, alive, would peace come. That’s a lack of faith in God’s knowledge and ability. I need another verse:

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:24 KJV)