Monday, June 25, 2018

Send Me No Flowers

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A friend of mine passed away last week. I thought of him when I saw the above photo on Facebook – a teacher’s request that no flowers be sent, but backpacks with school supplies for needy children be considered. Obviously, her request was more than considered, because additional photos on line showed people carrying additional bags into the church.

“Send Me No Flowers” is more than a 1964 Doris Day movie – it’s a suggestion I’d like to be remembered when it becomes my turn to be remembered.  No – I do not want florists to be put out of business.  Send flowers every opportunity we have to people we want to honor – for their friendship, fellowship, hard work, caring attitude – any number of reasons. But not for my funeral, please. I’m not there and won’t notice them at all.

If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. (John 14:28b)

Yep – that’s what I’d like – a time for rejoicing. But – there is one gift I wish from those remembering my life:  pray for a missionary and spread the gospel.

1)  Pick a missionary. If you and I are friends on Facebook, you are familiar with some of the missionaries I follow there. It’s an easy way to keep up with their needs and provide them proof of prayer support. Perhaps your church provides support for a specific missionary – that would be a good choice, too. If you can’t think of one, contact the First Baptist Church of Cottondale, Texas. They have an active list of supported missionaries who appreciate prayer support.

2) Pray for that missionary – and those who will hear the gospel through that missionaries service to our Lord. They have the same needs as we do – shelter, sustenance, spiritual support – plus working in environments where they are often unwanted. Yes, we have that, too, so pray for your friends who are sharing the gospel message to hearts that are closed to God’s work. Pray they be softened.

3) Explain what you are doing to someone close to you. That’s witnessing. Yes, it is telling others that there are people who believe that God exists. That He has a purpose. That His purpose includes people. That He was messages across all time to all people. Missionaries are called to give that message – but so are all Christians:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Two verses above this, we are told that “some doubted.” Some still do, and others have totally rejected the good news that God is real. The ones who cannot believe:

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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

My friend who recently passed requested his name be added to prayer lists. It was, by several people. He did so, saying specifically “I’m a believer.” He knew his life was in God’s hands and was prepared for the future God promised.

Send me no flowers, but tell everyone that I’m a believer in God, His grace, His mercy, His son – and His instructions to teach others. Let’s get that started today. Right now. Not waiting for such a time as flowers may be considered.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Other People’s Truth

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Recently, Starbucks shut down its eight thousand company-operated stores to conduct an anti-bias training for more than 175,000 employees. You'd think they were pretty serious. Starbucks didn't make the training public, but some ground rules came out:
- Listen respectfully
- Speak your truth and honor other people's truth
- If your conversation gets off track, pause and restart
Sounds pretty good. The first falls under Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." We all would want others to listen respectfully – this we should, too.

But how about that truth part?

For that, take a look at the graphic. As the graphic shows - perspective can display two “truths”, thus we need to seek common truths before we can discern the perspectives that divide truth into two parts. Both perspectives show light, an object, it’s obvious suspension, and it’s lack of motion. Once the items in common are verified, adults can move onto variables and their source.



What seems totally impossible as “truth”, as seen above, can be proven with a change in both perspectives. Look for what is truth - not simply what is true. There is a difference. For example, one of the most quoted verses from the Bible used to be John 3:16. If we could track today’s internet usage, I’d say it was now:

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

However, you seldom see the following verse included:

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)

Which to me means to be very cautious that when I am in a position that requires a judgment call that I do it cautiously, with God’s examples in mind, beginning with the continuing verses:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5 KJV)

I must be certain that I am not committing the same error I’m making as a judgment call in another person. If I point out that what I’m hearing is gossip, I must not be involved in any gossip. Doesn’t have to be ten times the size of what I hear to be a “beam.” If I err when I know I shouldn’t, that make my error a beam. On the other hand, unless I point out the “mote” – a factual irregularity – I’m leaving my brother in error.

How do I know it is error? It has to be specific to the ongoing commandments in God’s word to His children. I don’t have the right to define what level the wrong is, just that the error exists and there is an ongoing methodology to make a correction. I’ve already been given an answer for almost every situation:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:15 KJV)

Where do I find that hope, and why do I want to share it with everyone?

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4 KJV)

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (Titus 2:13-15 KJV)

Honor other people’s truth, being ready to explain the source of your own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

“For Such A Time . . .”

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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.