Wednesday, May 23, 2018

“For Such A Time . . .”

NoPlaceLikeHome-March2018


This photo from their Facebook post is but one segment of work being done in Haiti that has a small monetary support from our church – and lots of prayers. This last week, a newsletter mentioning this work also mentioned another ministry work, “Sewing for Souls”, which teaches sewing skills.

That touched a chord with a mission-minded group in our church, “Together We Can Change Lives”, which had had annual fund raisers for specific mission projects. We took the idea from the newsletter and called another missionary to see if it could be adapted to their ministry. The missionary laughed out loud, explaining that they had been praying for a sewing machine so they could teach sewing to help people in their mission.  Our funding was such that we could purchase a sturdy machine, needles, thread and even supply some material.

We also saw God’s hand in the line of letter, thoughts, phone call and actions that answered a missionary’s prayer. The path began before the missionary’s prayer. That tied in so beautifully with our Sunday School’s study in Esther – the book’s central verse:

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14 KJV)

Had the newsletter been simply a request for the mission’s need, had we thought “what a neat idea” and let the idea slide, had we not previously held fund raisers, had the missionary not prayed for a sewing machine – there would be others who stepped in, and while we would not have been destroyed, we would have lost a huge blessing.

Along that same line, I listened to Michael Curry’s message Saturday morning – and multiple millions around the world did, and will continue to discuss it. In that message is the fact that God showed redemptive love through Jesus. Love cannot change the world without God, but God’s love changed the world and is able to change each individual still in this world.

Do you see God’s hand in getting this message around the world through the rare event of a prince’s marriage? It would have been so easy to ask a minister to keep Jesus’ name out of the program, as so many schools have asked of students, to keep from offending.

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Matthew 11:2-6 KJV)

John’s purpose in life was to introduce Jesus – then he doubted. He was imprisoned, probably knew the eventual outcome. That would raise doubts – haven’t you had some? Jesus didn’t give a yes or no answer. He listed results. These weren’t promises, these where results of specific actions.

Well, what I’ve seen this past week comes so close: “… and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” I am not offended by the actions or the message Jesus gave to all who will hear. How do you feel about it?

Friday, May 18, 2018

My View of “A Short Story . . .”

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Decades ago I ran across Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900) and his "A Short Story of the Anti-Christ," from his "Three Conversations", published in the year of his death. Forty years ago it was fascinating. Today it is even more so, since some of what he wrote occurred in my lifetime:

As a natural consequence of this fact, the old traditional organization of individual States was everywhere deprived of its former importance, and the last traces of ancient monarchal institutions gradually disappeared. Europe in the twenty-first century represented an alliance of more or less democratic nations -- the United States of Europe. The progress of material culture, somewhat interrupted by the Mongolian yoke and the war of liberation, now burst forth with a greater force.

Change a name to “European Union,” delete the reference to a “Mongolian yoke”, and look where we are a hundred years after this was written. Look a bit further – two paragraphs below in his Story:

Humanity had outgrown that stage of philosophical infancy. On the other hand, it became equally evident that it had also outgrown the infantile capacity for naïve, unconscious faith. Such ideas as God creating the universe out of nothing were no longer taught even in elementary schools. A certain high level of ideas concerning such subjects had been evolved, and no dogmatism could risk a descent below it.

Is the idea that God created the universe out of nothing even discussed in any school? Or has a “high level of ideas concerning such subjects evolved” – as our former President’s concept of biblical truth evolved?

Even though the link to “A Short Story of the Anti-Christ” takes us to a Catholic book site, I would encourage reading it for what does appear prophetic – and the obvious mistakes in it, made when viewing the future with mankind’s perspective.

I will give away part of the ending:

Here, Father Pansophius wished to end his narrative, which had for its object not a universal cataclysm of creation but the conclusion of our historical process which consists in the appearance, glorification, and destruction of the Anti-Christ.

POLITICIAN - And do you think that this conclusion is so near?

We don’t know the conclusion’s timing, Jesus said no man does.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36 KJV)

There are clues – and Soloviev used examples of them in this short story. I believe Paul had written a good description this very time:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV)

Yes – some of these descriptions have clung to mankind for millennia, perhaps as strongly as today. But all of them? All at once? We still have the same questions that Jesus’ disciples asked:

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3 KJV)

Read the rest of that chapter for His answer – and the rest of the Bible for answers for all when it was written, all mankind through the ages, for us today, and for whatever generation actually goes through the “end of the world.” Until then, just make your peace with Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, and John 3:16. After those three, continue reading.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Let me catch up a bit . . .

Henry

“Henry” – my personal meningioma

No, that’s not a Rorschach graphic, nor a weird science fiction drawing. That’s a printout from my latest MRI and the white mass below my right eye is “Henry.” I chose the name because I don’t like spelling out or explaining “meningioma”, a most-often-benign tumor on the covering of the brain, but as it grows, it presses into the brain.

Henry’s unapproved residency was discovered after some minor symptoms. Due to his location, my age, and the minor symptoms, both my neurologist and neurosurgeon suggested watch/wait. Unless Henry grew, there was no need to be concerned.  Yes, I believed them, and we were able to live together for several years. Now, however, Henry is sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

Thinking about getting rid of Henry made me think of scripture:

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43-45 KJV)

Sometimes that happens to meningiomas, too. If not all of the tumor is removed, regrowth can occur. Just as the sin we’ve put out of our lives can return if we allow emptiness to remain.

Jesus’ parable doesn’t mention filling that empty place. However, I believe if were filled with scripture, prayer, Christian fellowship, there would be no empty placed “garnished” for unclean spirits (sinfulness) to move in.

I have it on good authority that when Henry is evicted, my neurosurgeon intends to leave no scraps behind. My brain will eventually fill the empty space, with some (hopefully) pressure released. What is required now is time for a few more tests – giving me time to request specific prayers for successful treatment.

I appreciate your prayers.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

“Normally do not share . . .”

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Pictures of food.  They are too tempting for one of my quick and easy downfalls. 
Yet – this was so good to pass along.
Baked – and written about – by a pastor’s wife,  who you can meet at
Zion Baptist Church in Coushatta, Louisiana.
Feel free to drop by there and worship with them. In the mean time, take a look not only at pans of tasty baked goods, but a daily application. My title came from the beginning of her post:

I normally do not share pics of food ... but these turned out pretty.

I was given a sourdough starter back in November, by my dear friend's Mom, who happens to be an excellent baker.

She gave me instructions how to feed the starter. I have been making breads for years, but quickly discovered that keeping this starter "alive" might be a full-time job.

I had forgotten to feed the starter the first 10 days (you're supposed to every 3 to 5).

When I took it out to feed it for the first time, it didn't look bubbly like she said it would. It looked flat. My friends assured me it was fine. After feeding it about the third time, I decided to try my hand at a loaf. My loaf looked awful. It did not look like any sourdough bread I had seen at Whole Foods.
I messaged this dear lady and told her I "killed" the starter. I explained how I fed it, how it turned out, and I had managed to kill it.

She messaged me back, and said not to worry. She gave me specific instructions how I could bring it back to "life". She said it may take a few days.

I continued to feed it. A couple days went by ... nothing. I kept doing as instructed. (At this point it was a battle of will, and I was determined to see this thing through. LOL)

On the 4th day, I woke up, and I was so excited. The dough on my counter look like a bubbly science experiment. I then started the process of making the bread loaf. (It IS a process.) By Sunday morning I had finally managed to make a beautiful sourdough bread loaf. We have continued to enjoy this a few times since.

I read a blog last week, and it reminded me of this whole process of me trying to figure out the sourdough starter.

It reminded me if my relationship with Christ. There have been many seasons in my life where I was not where I should be as a Christian. I wasn't useless ... but I wasn't doing exactly as I should, or walking with my Savior like I should. 

Much like this sourdough starter, when I focused on "feeding" my spirit like I should I noticed a difference. The first few times may have been "flat", but then when I least expected it, things would begin to come alive again.
 
I just thought I would encourage someone this evening. When we work on our spirit, and follow God's Word .... things begin to come "alive" again.

Side note: I am thankful I did not give up on my starter. My family is especially glad, and looking forward to the fruits of my labor.

My regular readers will notice there are no scriptures in this blog - 
and my blog is to encourage you to read your Bible. 
So, I'd suggest you search for scriptures that will remind you of your relationship to Christ. 
Another good subject to research is leaven in the Bible. 
Maybe tomorrow we'll have a short discussion on that! Please come back and join in.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Wicked and Redemption

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That could be (but isn’t) a photo of my daughter during her gymnastic studies. She was very good on a balance beam as well as the other competitive areas. She has a large number of ribbons, medals, and trophies as a result. She was never Olympic material.  Today I am very grateful for that.

Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer and the mother of three, was also an Olympic gymnast in 2000. It has taken seventeen years for her to complete her battle to be heard and stop the decades long abuse she and others received from adults who were tasked with their protection.

She was on television Wednesday morning – poised and professional, but not as a gymnast. She was an innocent and a protector. I thought of those who accused Job, and this girl who accused one man and those who protected him. Job was proven innocent (read the book for specifics). This young lawyer helped prove a man guilty. In his guilt, he wrote the judge and described what he was going through:
'I was a good doctor, because my treatments worked and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over,' wrote Nassar.
'The media convinced them that it was wrong and bad. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'
'Now [the victims] are seeking the media attention and financial reward.'
How Rachael responded to her abuser, we can read her description of redemption:
In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.  …
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well

And, we find an explanation how to determine when we’ve gone astray:
Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. And I know it was evil and wicked because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation. And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is. And this is why I pity you. Because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good.
When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.
Job knew the straight line – that strait way and narrow gate – between him and God. Rachael Denhollander knows it, too. She quoted C. S. Lewis:
My argument against God was that the universe seems so cruel and unjust. But how did I get this idea of just, unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he first has some idea of straight. What was I comparing the universe to when I called it unjust?
So – to close the discussion from yesterday (Job, thousands of years ago) and the courtroom drama of today, I want to confirm that I believe wicked are punished – in God’s timing, not ours. Confirm that we speak out against cruelty and injustice – with definitions that have withstood the tests of time and are not of our own feelings of what could be. How is our straight line defined? Against what do we compare? What Christians use does tell us that eventually - in God's time - the wicked are punished.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Do You Believe Wicked Are Punished

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If you are a Christian, you know the Bible tells you that the wicked are punished. And that:

A it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (Romans 3:10 KJV)

Or, as David sang:

The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Psalms 14:2-3 KJV)

There is redemption, though, and there are men who are righteous in God’s eyes. Job was one:

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. (Job 1:1 KJV)

Job was perfect and upright because he believed God and deliberately refrained from evil. Others in the Bible serve as similar examples – but today, as I’m in the middle of reading Job, I’m thinking of his “friends.” The ones who told him:

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. (Job 4:7-9 KJV)

Eliphaz the Temanite believed Job to be guilty because it appeared he was being punished.

Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice? If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression; (Job 8:3-4 KJV)

Bildad the Shuhite felt the same way – that sin causes God to cast sinners away. Job answers them, speaking of his innocence and God’s power. Still:

Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes. But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee; (Job 11:3-5 KJV)

Zophar the Naamathite joins in the accusations. Job must be guilty – of what they can only wait for his confession, for no guilt is obvious. Still, Job denies going against God.

Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee. (Job 15:6 KJV)

Then rounds begin again. By saying God allowed what happened to Job, to continue pleading his innocence, Eliphaz states that Job must be testifying to his guilt.

Back and forth, the friends speak against Job and he defends his innocence, steadfast in his position with God:

God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live. (Job 27:5-6 KJV)

Then a young man, Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, decides his elders just aren’t up to the work at hand and he can do better. In verse 33:33, he is determined to teach Job wisdom.

Mostly, over my lifetime, I’ve been taught the patience of Job – but I don’t see a quiet patience. I see Job seeking to learn from God why this is happening. When his friends assure him God takes care of the righteous and only punishes the guilty, Job describes evil acts men do and there is no punishment.

Thus my questions – do you believe wicked are punished and righteous rewarded, here on earth? Really? Can you share your reason for thinking the punishment is connected to the crime by a short length of time? Trust me, a lifetime really is a short period of time.

Come back to read me tomorrow and we’ll discuss a bit more about time, punishment, and redemption.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Husband, Love Your Wife

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This is one of my favorite chapters because it generates so much discussion – and division - over what is meant by:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22 KJV)

I promise that if you have questions about that verse, I will address in the future, just leave a comment – but during a discussion last night about stewardship and budgeting, Ephesians 5:25 was deemed applicable as the discussion applied to families.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25 KJV)

It is good to research what Christ gives His church (what it needs), as this verse requests husband’s to emulate Christ in loving the church – that’s how a husband should love the wife he chooses for a lifetime.

The “church” is often applied to the physical plant that is used as a place for gathering to worship. It also applies to the people – those who love Jesus as savior, serve in His ministries, and follow His doctrine. That includes stewardship.

Biblical stewardship is often conceived as meaning organized church finances. Since an internet definition says:
Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources.
… it has become to include an environmental definition to responsibly manage our world, as it was created by and belongs to God.

But I want to bring this to a family scene – family budgets and spending habits. We are to be responsible in the planning and management of our family’s resources. As a unit, husband and wife are responsible as financial stewards for their family unit and their children.

I know my Beloved Husband’s tendencies to love me dearly and respond positively to my requests for funding my hobbies and home. I know he would literally give his life to save mine, thus a few pieces of paper money are small in comparison. It becomes my responsibility – as a helpmeet, and loving him in the same way – not to make requests that impact our financial stewardship.

I have done so in the past and learned about consequences. I counted luxuries as necessities, which impacted our budget. I needed to be a good steward to help my husband be a good steward of our resources. That prepares us for times when our resources are limited – and I assure you, there is no promise that resources will always be available.

Strong’s G3623 –οἰκονόμος - is translated in the KJV as both governor and steward. G2012 –ἐπίτροπος is also translated as steward. Becoming a good manager/steward requires planning and acting. For families, budget planning looks ahead and budget managing puts those plans into action – both part of being a good steward of what God has given us.

As a wife, it is important to me to be a helper, not to be an impediment, to his planning and budgeting. Not following the budget means I’m not following his leadership. Let’s go back a couple of verses:

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Ephesians 5:23-24 KJV)

Our husband’s have tremendous responsibilities as the head of our families. Why would a loving wife want to make his fulfilling those responsibilities harder by breaking their budget? Financial difficulties in a family damage everyone.

When a husband gives in to the wife’s over-budget purchases, there is a hole in their budget and something goes unpaid or there’s a dip in the savings. There is also a hit to a father’s leadership position. When a wife requires more material purchases than their income allows, she is denying him his leadership role. That also impacts children.

Thus far I’ve assumed the family has a budget under the husband’s leadership, and the husband is working to keep it within their income level. If that is not the case, he has ignored the opportunity to provide direction for his family. His leadership - and their respect for it - is lessened. How will his children learn stewardship?

Assuming also this is a Christian family, it also impacts their witness by lessening the leadership role the Bible provides for the family.