Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Testimonies

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In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV)

Last night we held our Thanksgiving service. It’s a small change in schedule to help make it easier for families to get together for Thanksgiving Day.

It was a time for personal testimonies as well as biblical studies. A time to share our gratitude to God. Let me assure you, there were some testimonies given under circumstances which would make you wonder why a person could be grateful.

No, I will not go into specifics, but I will state that those people who spoke their gratitude in public are living proof that first verse can be done under the most adverse of circumstances. Which bring us to today’s graphic – taken in France in 1917. Can you imagine this widow and fatherless child considering thanks?

Perhaps James had similar in mind when he wrote:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 KJV)

That’s not the first mention of widows and fatherless, though:

Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. (Exodus 22:22 KJV)

God defined the punishment for such affliction:

If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:23-24 KJV)

The New Testament gives the scenario covered with mercy, but consequences remain. There is good reason for us to consider consequences, for Peter told us:

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:17-18 KJV)

Too many people have relied upon another verse:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1 KJV)

In the next sentence, Jesus tells us He knows we will be judging:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2 KJV)

How we treat others openly displays our judgment of them. Are we prepared for that same judgment to be applied to us? Are we prepared for God’s perfect judgment as described by Moses:

Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 KJV)

Thanks be to God that our righteousness is determined by our response to His gift:

For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) (Romans 5:17 KJV)

I believe that is the reason that so many could publicly give thanks last night, in spite of physical and personal difficulties, and we all could pray:

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Keeping Rules

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We believe good parents set specific rules for their children, for their own good. Parents who want their children to succeed lay a foundation of education, nutrition and physical activities that broaden a child’s experiences, teaching them to interact with others while growing physically and intellectually.

My husband's early years lacked that. His parents were young, poor and soon separated, first by war. His father was drafted and sent away from the family. His mother was torn between her own children’s need and the needs of her father and siblings when her mother died, she being the eldest. Their separation ended in divorce, remarriages, separation of children and eventually Department of Human Services intervention, needed to care for neglected children.

Adoption brought my husband and his brother parents that set specific rules, education, etc., changing their interaction within society. Yet, it was their own decisions to follow these rules and parental examples that brought them success. They could have rebelled - many do.

This has always been a good example of our own response to adoption:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15 KJV)

We are given the opportunity to be the children of a loving father, who has set specific rules for us. Even after we acknowledge His existence, we often ignore His rules, His guidelines given for our own growth. He does offer the best for us:

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:11-13 KJV)

We’ve all seen parents who are quick to give a raised voice or a heavy fist. Not all parents are loving or wish their children success – but God does. And He prepared well ahead of time, before we could understand:

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-12 KJV)

Because of what He has done for us, what He has given to us now and what is promised for our future, shouldn’t we be aware of His rules, His plans and expectations? Should we try to turn them into what we want? Ignore them? Only at our own peril:

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Hebrews 2:1-3 KJV)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not Finished, Yet

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I can’t tell from the white here, but they are Half Square Triangles, each square consists of two triangles of different fabric. They have been sewn together as two 5” squares, cut apart to make two squares, in the process of being trimmed to 4.5”, then will be sewn together in rows which will then be sewn together and resemble a Texas flag.  It’s a Christmas gift. This quilt will be reversible – a panel showing a Texas map with points of interest, a flowing flag and cowboy graphics, surrounded with western style borders. Great gift for a Texan, right?

As my husband asked, “How far have you gotten?” His concern (of course) is that this is the third quilt for Christmas and here it is past mid-November. I explained that first paragraph to him and his response was, “Do you realize how strange it sounds to say you sewed it together to cut it apart then cut it down so you can sew it together?”

OK, so it’s not simple for a non-participant to understand the piecing process in creating a quilt top. Watch a video or two by Missouri Star Quilt and it will make better sense. But – it does remind me of Christianity. You knew I’d get there, right?

Salvation really is easy:

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:30-31 KJV)

I’ve used that verse over and over because it is an absolute truth. Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. However, after salvation comes the desire to know God. Like the cloth I purchased for the quilt, we can be an example just as we are when we are saved. But – to become the beautiful eye-catching pattern that creates an interest to learn more in another person, we are changed to fit where God desires our service, connected to others to complete a pattern where we are seen as Christians, not just called “Christian” because we belong to a church. That’s helpful, but only to us if we simply sit in a pew.

Oh, I’m getting my analogies all confused, but the meaning is clearly biblical:

And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:15-17 KJV)

We are new, putting forth effort to show the light of the world, as Jesus did:

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5 KJV)

He is no longer in the world, but sitting at the right hand of God. We’re told that in many verses, but I like this one best:

Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2:33 KJV)

Because it shows the fulfillment of another verse:

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26 KJV)

Just as my pieced quilt top, I’m not finished yet and God is not finished with me. There is more to come, more time for me to continue my work and His.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

“It Is A Shame”

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And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (Ephesians 5:11-12 KJV)

Beginning in Genesis 2:25 where the man and his wife were not ashamed, ending with 1 John 2:28 where we will have confidence and not be ashamed at His coming, there are 111 verses using the word "ashamed." I was surprised at how many spoke of NOT being ashamed, though most spoke of how people were a shamed. Ninety-eight verses contain the word "shame"

I like Strong's definition of the Hebrew שׁמצה (H8103) from Exodus 32:25:  Scornful whispering (of hostile spectators). And בּוּשׁ (H954) from Psalms 119:31: To be disappointed ... be confounded. Then there's the Greek αἰσχύνη (G152) from Hebrews 12:2 - which Christ despised: Disgrace.

We've gotten away from this feeling. There are things spoken of in our homes that are shameful. Well, maybe not in homes without television, computers or smartphones. Those communication devices bring programming and social media that often display things we would not invite into our homes, but there they are.

I find them in mine. I enjoy Facebook, but there are posts that contain words I will not speak. Often they are posted by family members. When that’s consistent, I’ve had to “deFriend,” causing rifts. But I don’t want to appear to support such words/photos. It’s biblical:

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, (Ephesians 5:15 KJV)

And, as always, there’s more to it than one simple verse:

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:16-20 KJV)

How can we possibly understand what the will of the Lord is until we know what has been written about Him? Not just one person’s interaction with Him, but hundreds, across even more hundred of years. Look at a preponderance of evidence. That’s a process used in genealogy as well as trials:
… the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil (non-criminal) lawsuit for the trier of fact (jury or judge without a jury) to decide in favor of one side or the other. This preponderance is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence.
Of course, I’m a very biased reporter – I have personal evidence of what a difference God makes in lives. I know specific prayers and their answers – some not positive, but obviously within His will. I believe because I’ve done my own searching, learning, studying, praying and understanding. Thus I know this is a personal journey as each one moves along those paths. I’ve seen loved ones side-tracked by huge stumbling blocks and I pray for their return to:

Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; (Psalms 105:4-5 KJV)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Unforeseen Consequences

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The photo is a screen capture from CNN today. The caption reads:

A student protester runs after he caught on fire while throwing a Molotov cocktail toward police Wednesday, November 19, in Makassar, Indonesia. He was among those protesting the decision of President Joko Widodo to raise fuel prices this week.

A terrible price to pay for one’s action when not taking into consideration unforeseen consequences. Yet, part of the problem across our world today is a feeling that we humans are entitled to do as we please -- that things that stand in our way of doing or getting what we want can be violently opposed without consequences.

The Bible has example after example of that not being the case. In fact, last Wednesday’s study in II Kings 1 is a good example. Our study series is on the life of Elijah, who stood against Ahab and Jezebel. This chapter takes place after Ahab’s death and his son takes the throne:

Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done. (1 Kings 22:51-53 KJV)

In !! Kings 1, he starts out injured, in need of help, and looking for it in the wrong direction:

And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. (2 Kings 1:2 KJV)

Absolutely the wrong thing to do – there were consequences, and the Lord sent Elijah to explain them:

But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed. (2 Kings 1:3-4 KJV)

The next few verses are worth reading for yourself, but know this – Ahaziah recognized the source of the prophecy without being told Elijah’s name. So he sent a “captain of 50 with his 50” to bring Elijah to him. The captain reached Elijah and commanded, “Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.” They died. The next captain of fifty said, “O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.” They died.

The next captain of 50 had a bit more common sense and good judgment:

And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight. (2 Kings 1:13 KJV)

Is it really a good thing to pour gasoline on a fire? Isn’t it better to see the preciousness of life and work toward a solution? Read the rest of the story – see how it worked for this captain of 50 – and for Ahaziah, and why. What lessons can we gain to keep from catching on fire ourselves?

Doing What God Says

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And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. (Numbers 22:1-2 KJV)

These next few chapters in Numbers tell a story of Balaam – whose name has been carried forward as a stumbling block, though he was in conversations with God:

And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. (Numbers 22:9-11 KJV)

Balaam was truthful in his conversation with God – Balak requested that Israel be cursed, that Balak would be able to drive them out of Moab. God gave His answer:

And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. (Numbers 22:12 KJV)

Unlike Jonah and so many others who heard from God, Balaam responded exactly as he had been told:

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you. And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us. (Numbers 22:13-14 KJV)

Then this story diverges. Balak didn’t give up. He continued to press Balaam, offering more and more:

For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. (Numbers 22:17 KJV)

Balaam still sounds good:

And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. (Numbers 22:18 KJV)

Whole different story, if it had ended there – but it continues for additional verses, more chapters. Why? When Balaam can only give blessings for Israel. The Pulpit Commentary gives good reason:
God was angry with Balaam for going at all on such an errand. It is true that God had given him permission to go, but that very permission was a judicial act whereby God punished the covetous and disobedient longings of Balaam in allowing him to have his own way. God's anger is kindled by sin, and it was not less truly sin which prompted Balaam to go because he had succeeded in obtaining formal leave to go.
Balaam’s actions were not that of a prophet of God, but a diviner, a soothsayer, paid by those who came to him for answers – a money-maker. I also like how the Pulpit Commentary explains that the miracle of the ass seeing the angel and speak was a lesson:
which was to exhibit in such a striking manner the stupidity and blindness of the most brilliant and gifted intellect when clouded by greed and selfishness.
Thinking we're doing what God says without giving ourselves to the will of God can be a similar stumbling block. Going through the motions of a religious ritual without seeking God’s companionship thwarts what He requires of us:

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)

This Balaam did not do.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Can Say, “He Loved The Lord”

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King David, painting by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, c. 1768

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. (Psalms 139:1 KJV)

We know a lot about David, King of Israel. There’s no doubt he loved the Lord and knew the Lord loved him:

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. (Psalms 139:17-18 KJV)

This entire Psalm is filled with David’s awe at how God knows him – and how much more he wants God to know:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalms 139:23-24 KJV)

Do we want that same relationship? We would need to acknowledge all that God knows about us:

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. (Psalms 139:2-4 KJV)

Can we accept that God knows us better than anyone else? Can we accept that He knows everyone in that same manner? The person that gives us concern, God not only knows our concern but knows them as well as He knows us. And, He loves them, too. Enough to make them the same gift:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23 KJV)

It is a beautiful gift:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23 KJV)

What happens if we refuse it?

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Hebrews 2:3 KJV)

I believe we’ve been told what happens if we neglect God’s salvation back in Romans 6:23. If you doubt that, please explain to my why.

If not, then you must believe, as I do, that God exists, has spoken to us through the ages and cares about what we do now. That hundreds of years after David wrote:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalms 8:4 KJV)

...the writer of Hebrews quotes:

But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Hebrews 2:6 KJV)

... and two millennia later, we’re discussing both as scripture. We should study why, shouldn’t we?