Thursday, July 17, 2014

Next Time

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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)

They’ve been walking with Him around Judea for three years. He’s almost at the end of His ministry – and they are looking past what is going to happen, asking for a sign about what they don’t understand.

Wait for it . . . . Wait for it . . . . and you’ll most likely be waiting for it through a lifetime (or several!) Let me assure you, I know He’s coming back, and I know there are signs that indicate it could be soon:

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (Matthew 24:6-7 KJV)

We certainly have wars – take your pick among several ongoing ones. And there are rumors of war – we wonder if/when things will escalate within many of the hot spots. We’ve had them for all time, not just now. These things are with us as much as the poor (only I’d rather be working for/with the poor instead of wars!)

Famines? Take your pick. The sub-Sahara has been in one since I was a child. Of course, there have been conflicts there since I was a child and famine has been used as a weapon of war. Pestilence accompanies poverty and war, but in the last hundred years we’ve bragged about wiping out some diseases (we haven’t) and groaned as we’ve found new ones.  Some old ones has followed migration paths and ended up in countries just now touched. As we intermingle around the globe, we share much more than we intend to.

Earthquakes are with us and there’s an app to keep us updated on the latest what/when/where, from the ring-of-fire Pacific rim to the most-likely-caused-by-fracking central plains. So, we have all the signs we were promised, don’t we. Problem is, we’ve had them all since Jesus described them. So, where is He?

That question rang out not too long after His resurrection:

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2 Peter 3:4 KJV)

They couldn’t wait a generation without saying, “He said He was going to come. Since He hasn’t, He isn't.” That’s the logic many people use. We’re two thousand years past that point and the logic hasn’t changed at all, has it?

What Peter wrote tells me he believed what Jesus said in that Mount of Olives lesson:

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9 KJV)

By those words, it’s just been a couple of days. So, what do we do in the meantime? Jesus gave us that answer, too:

Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. (Matthew 24:44-46 KJV)

That, my dear readers, is just one thread through Sunday’s sermon. Pastor took us through Matthew’s 24th chapter and I do believe I could write all week and not cover all that I learned or confirmed in that one worship hour. Eventually that sermon will be posted on our First Baptist Church of Cottondale website. When it is, it is going to be on my iPhone and iPod. It will make good listening!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Confessing Before Men

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And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. (Jonah 1:9 KJV)

In 2009 our Senior Saints made their first day trip, visiting a museum with early Christian artifacts. Among the many pieces of funerary items, several depicted Jonah as well as Christ. On one side would be Jonah and the great fish – the other would show Christ and the cross. It’s a story every Christian knows because of the book of Jonah and the sign Jesus said would be given - in Matthew 12:39, Matthew 16:4, Luke 11:29-30.

We aren’t the only ones who know the story – Muslims for centuries have tended what is purported to be Jonah’s grave. This month, the Islamic State damaged or destroyed it.  Today, Nineveh is in need of a prophet to proclaim what God sent Jonah to do:

Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. (Jonah 1:1-2 KJV)

However, I have not received God’s word to be that person. It doesn’t appear that another has, either. I have been instructed to do what Jonah did in confessing before men, for though I am not a Hebrew, I do worship the Lord who made the sea and the dry land.  His son gave instructions, too:

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 KJV)

Paul saw that confession was truly good for our soul:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 KJV)

At first Jonah turned his back on God’s instruction, to the point that he left town and headed in the opposite direction. I doubt he believed he would survive being thrown overboard, but that suggestion was his:

Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. (Jonah 1:11-12 KJV)

His shipmates didn’t take that suggestion – at first, but eventually, to save their lives:

So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. (Jonah 1:15 KJV)

There are many more good lessons in the four short chapters of Jonah. Running from God is just one of the examples we see in mankind today. The one I like best, though, is what happens when we do confess:

So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. . . . .  And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. (Jonah 3:5 . . . . 10 KJV)

Things work so much better when we believe God and let people know that we do.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jephthah’s Daughter

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Yesterday we looked at Jephthah’s early life and his brothers’ tossing him out of the family – only to come to him later for help. Today, we’ll see what a tragic mistake he made on his own. Take a look at the graphic showing Jephthah being greeted by his daughter. I cropped yesterday's graphic from this. He doesn’t look happy to see her, does he? He has good reason for looking stricken.

There had been successful battles, but a big one was coming. Jephthah sought the Lord’s help:

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. (Judges 11:29-31 KJV)

I cannot imagine what Jephthah thought would greet him – a hound, a horse, a pet goat or lamb – it could have been any number of things that came to mind. But, he came up with the vow on his own. This was not God’s requirement given to him in exchange for the battle. There were tragic consequences when he returned victorious:

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. (Judges 11:34 KJV)

He kept his vow.

And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. (Judges 11:35-36 KJV)

Did you notice that he blamed her? “Thou has brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me.” How we all do shift blame to someone else. His words brought them to this place, not hers.

The Law tells us:

And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:12 KJV)

Perhaps this very story was on Jesus’ mind when He taught us:

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Matthew 5:33-37 KJV)

Jephthah made a thoughtless vow that brought evil upon himself and his daughter. Look to the center of the graphic where the artist shows the sacrifice being made.

Some scholars would point to Judges 11:37-38 that she was simply sent away. Unfortunately, the remaining verses tell us that he kept his vow, which should help us keep Matthew 5:37 in mind that we not create evil even while serving God’s purpose.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jephthah

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Cropped from a painting from WikiCommons.
Full painting in tomorrow's blog.

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour,

The first lesson in our VBS book for 5th and 6th grade girls is about Jephthah. In this first mention of him in the book of Judges, he’s given a title of respect – a might man of valour! How he came to be recognized as such is a bit longer story.

The story of Jephthah reminds me of divided families today. Sibling rivalry can be difficult for all involved. Jephthah's situation was that of an outsider - his father had not married his mother, and also had sons with his wife.

and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead's wife bare him sons;

The stage is set for conflict:

and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. (Judges 11:1-2 KJV)

Now, I’m going to leave Jephthah’s story for a bit and take a look at God’s plan for parents. 

First given in Genesis 2:24, repeated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7, then reaffirmed by Paul in Ephesians 5:31, God designed a man and woman to be together as one. Jesus repeated the verse when he was asked about divorce:

. . . .  The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. (Matthew 19:2b-8 KJV)

Now, this doesn’t guarantee that siblings will get along – look at Abel and Cain! But in Jephthah’s case, and some of the sibling rivalry between King David’s children, there wouldn’t have been multiple mothers’ to increase their rivalry.

A child of divorce has no say in the matter. They don’t get to choose their parents any more than Jephthah did. They, too, may be forced out of a home they’ve known all their lives and have to make their way under some very poor circumstances. Jephthah became recognized as a mighty warrior by the brothers who eventually needed him to provide their security:

And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. (Judges 11:8 KJV)

Can we have the strength to be a protector to those who have rejected us in the past? Can we offer them the security of God’s love and see them grow past us?

Tomorrow we’ll take another look at Jephthah, who made a tragic mistake.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Even With Instructions

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Clicking on the link will take you to a tutorial on piecing this quilt block. The one in Connie’s tutorial is a wealth of color, but the one I’m making is in pinks and grays – my granddaughter’s requested colors. Here’s the first block I cut and sewed together Friday:

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Do you see the problem on the left? Instead of placing right sides together on the final seam, I had it backward. I had to remove the stitches and redo that one seam. While I had that time with my hands busy, my mind did wander, once again finding biblical truths applicable to every day actions.

I had been so comfortable with how the block was going together! Connie’s tutorial page was so concise and easy to follow – and I had the 4x6 card in sight, standing up on my thread holder (thanks again to my Beloved Husband for that jewel!) so it went together as smooth as silk (or washable cotton, rather.) I became complacent and did not check to see if right sides really were together when I started sewing.

We have instructions right before us in our Bible, too. All of those instructions are based on a beautiful foundation:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 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 22:36-40 KJV)

I believe I have enough similarities to other Christians to know that we all become complacent at one time or another and need a reminder of how important love is – or we get our lives backward. Love flows through the New Testament, but it begins with God.

We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 KJV)

Oh, yes – we’re certainly second here! He loved us before we knew He existed. He continues to love us even though we make errors. Some are as simple as noticing and redoing. Other’s seem to roll on for years, even decades, sticking out as sore thumbs – often as painful – but we never get around to reworking.

Some cannot be reworked completely, but show up as scars. With those, we must be cautious that we do not focus on them but on God’s forgiveness (when we acknowledge the error and ask His forgiveness.) When we see only the error, we’re prone to repeat it.

So far, I haven’t repeated an incorrect seam on these quilt blocks. But I do take a bit more time to be certain that it’s right before I lower the presser foot!

Might be a good idea to do that same process check with the subject of loving God and our neighbors. Getting ourselves right with God allows us to actually love our neighbors as we do ourselves.

When we do, things in our lives fit together much better – that’s God’s pattern.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Letter To Loved Ones

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The text is the beginning of the First Epistle of Peter.
The illumination is a capital letter P since the letters following are ETRUS, making the word PETRUS (Peter in Latin).

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ,

Pick up your Bible, please, and turn to II Peter’s first chapter. Instead of putting his name at the end of the letter, Peter identifies himself, then addresses the recipients:

to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

He shares the same precious faith – not just “in”, but “through the righteousness” of both the Father and the Son:

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

He prays for those to whom he is writing – that they may know God and receive multiple portions of His grace and peace. He then acknowledges that all we have comes from God:

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,

We do have to know Him, and understand that He calls:

through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Of great importance are God’s promises:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises:

Through these promises we receive precious gifts:

that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,

But we do have to leave something behind:

having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

All  of that in just the first four verses! The next three verses are all actions for us to complete:

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

When we do this adding, we move closer and closer to our Lord’s will in our lives – and end up with the type of love that only comes between God and man. Paul in I Corinthians’ “love” chapter, 13, calls charity “the greatest of these.” That’s our goal – the charity of God’s love for mankind – and the love we give in return. When we know this, we will bear fruit:

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Not all of us accomplish this goal. Peter recognizes this, too:

But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

In my own opinion, once we’ve forgotten that we were cleansed from old sins, we not only repeat them but create new ones. We fall. Peter has a solution to that, too:

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
(2 Peter 1:1-10 KJV)


The application of these ten verses in our own lives is not as easy as they read – but the truth contained in them is valid. When we do diligently gain knowledge of Christ, adding faith and virtue while remembering we were cleansed of old sins, we will not fall.

The other side of the coin is just as true. When we become complacent, resting only on our current knowledge without building our faith, without bearing the fruit of good works from it, we will certainly fall.

Ten verses. Not even a full chapter, yet the application of these changes our lives.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Run!

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And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. (1 Samuel 17:48 KJV)

David meeting Goliath is one of the stories children learn early. There are many lessons in it, and we are in error if we ignore them as adults.

The people around David - his brothers, his nation, his king -  had basically given up. They did not see a way to win against an army that produced a giant that bested every man that confronted him. David saw it differently:

And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? (1 Samuel 17:26 KJV)

David saw a man – one Philistine, not an entire army. He saw this man being disrespecting God, disapproving of God’s people and the army called by His name. He didn’t blame King Saul for being in the battle and he didn’t blame the army for not winning. He blamed Goliath for defying God.

And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. (1 Samuel 17:28 KJV)

I like to think that Eliab was angry because David was asking the question that Eliab should have asked – who is this Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God. But, perhaps Eliab knew the physical limitations of that very army. He forgot the spiritual power available to them.

David’s answer to Eliab comes out of the mouths of siblings today:

And David said, What have I now done? (1 Samuel 17:29 KJV)

That’s not confined to our family relationships, either. These arguments occur between brothers in Christ, too.  One will see that God is being defied and the other speaks of pride and personal naughtiness instead of seeking a spiritual solution.

As Christians, we face a variety of spiritual Goliaths. I’m reminded of a movie teens I know have enjoyed, “Facing Goliath”:
FACING GOLIATH is a story that examines a young man's realization that the strength of a determined heart is far more powerful than any muscular physique.
David not only faced Goliath, he ran toward him – see that first verse again. He was not accompanied by the Israelite army, but he ran toward the Philistine army and the giant that stood in front of it. Do we?

Or, do we run the other way?

When Saul had David brought to him and discussed the situation, he did not believe this youth would do more than die. David gave examples of protecting his flocks against a lion and a bear – but he had one more weapon of strength:

David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee. (1 Samuel 17:37 KJV)

When we put on the whole armor of God, do we realize that it is all protection – except the word, the sword? In addition to the stones David carried, he also carried God’s promises. He trusted God’s word.

Don’t run away when God’s purpose can be accomplished by our running toward the problem.