Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Handling The Unexpected

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Colossians chapter one is a written portrait of Jesus Christ. Sunday our pastor included the following verses in his sermon about “Don’t Forget The Baby.”

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17 KJV)

As usual, my thoughts followed a side route to look more deeply into the background of quoted scripture, and while it didn’t take away the essential message that this season we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the added depth of who that little baby is takes my breath away.

Just as God’s plan provided a ram for Abraham, the description of that incident proved prophetic:

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:8 KJV)

Thus Jesus is the reality of God proving Himself as a lamb. John the Baptist knew this:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29 KJV)

John the author knew that Jesus wasn’t simply a creation of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 KJV)

The baby, the smallest piece of most nativity sets, is God. Not just was, but is and shall be. Yet, He was completely unexpected.

Mary asked, as so many others through the centuries since His birth:

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (Luke 1:34 KJV)

Once we believe Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, why is it unexpected when we are a told Jesus and God are one and the same? That Jesus claimed to be the name God gave Himself – I AM?

Yet, His words have been as ignored as His teachings to the disciples. Until our hearts are opened to understanding.

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, (Luke 24:6-8 KJV)

When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:22 KJV)

That’s the baby, born in Bethlehem as God planned, when God planned and how God planned. Unexpected, just as God planned.

Why, then, do we doubt that God has a plan. A plan for us, too. But – if we ignore His plan for our relationship with Him, He’s also told us what would happen:

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)

I spent quite a bit of time not finding out about the time I was in. I don’t know what I missed or who was given the opportunity to rise up. That could be repeated if I ignore God. Remember that and remember how unexpected He can be in our lives.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I’ll Celebrate

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No – that’s not our nativity set. In fact, we don’t put up a nativity set – but my daughter does. The baby in the manger, surrounded by parents, shepherds, various sheep, cows but no Magi, no camels laden with gifts. They are across the room because they didn’t arrive until the family moved into a house.

That’s her personal statement that most nativity sets – as the beautiful one above, does not reflect the correct chronology as told in the gospels.

The unreality is not my reason for not setting up a nativity scene. Mine is simply that at our age and physical condition, we do little decorating that has to be unpacked, arranged, enjoyed, packed and put away. Unlike our doctor and hospital visits, those activities are not necessary.

We do put up a “tree” as a signal that we know what season it is:
MyChristmasTree

Yes, it does take some work to put up and take down, but not much. I hope it tells people that we do celebrate Christmas, that we’re pretty much country people but not much more.

No angels – though they did herald His birth. No stable – though He lay in a manger, most likely surrounded by farm animals. No shepherds – though after hearing the angels they did come in from the fields. Absolutely no wise men/kings or camels – though they came later and are included in the story of his birth.

And it’s His birth we will celebrate. Not as the date He was born, but as a date chosen by men. Not as a celebration whose attention is required by scripture, though the story of His birth is detailed from conception to the flight to Egypt. We celebrate because:

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. (John 3:16-17 KJV)

Paul understood this:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8 KJV)

Every day I live in thanksgiving for God’s love. Every Sunday I meet with others to celebrate Christ’s resurrection – the awesome sign given His followers. On December 25, a Sunday, we’ll add the celebration of His birth in services and include dinner with family and extended family in remembrance of God’s gift and His love for the world.

I do this because I love the Lord, not because of any other person’s traditions. I do not wish to change anyone’s mind about how they view this national holiday in a world-wide setting. I do ask for the same scriptural understanding from other Christians that was given to us through the Apostle Paul:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. (Romans 14:5-6 KJV)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Do You Believe . . .

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. . . what that graphic says? This past month should have taught every American that it is true. There were false headlines read, copied, shared, commented up – and were blatant lies. Their publishers ended up making money – I wish I knew how much – when we clicked on the pages to see what they meant. Yes, I clicked and they made money off of me, once. I ended up blocking so many sites that claimed to be “satire” that my Facebook newsfeed is miniscule now.

More fool me, right? Not really, the first time. The first time around – not having information to tell me otherwise – it was my responsibility to discern accuracy. It is necessary to be aware before determining truth or lie. So, how do we do that? By acting as the Bereans:

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:10-11)

It doesn’t matter if we doubt. It does matter if we accept without researching the source, the truth, whether it be politics or religion. We must search whether those things were so.

It would lead to lengthy marriages, fewer divorces, if we did so in our love life, too. Too often people choose a spouse without that search. Or, opt for a partnership without a long-term commitment. Christians who married without that research ended up unequally yoked and added to divorce statistics, didn’t they? And gave truth to the cries of “Hypocrite!”, from the non-believing world that turned marriage into a secular contract instead of a spiritual covenant.

Yes – I can point to that mote in Christians’ eye based on 55 years of marriage to the man I met through a church’s visitation program. I see that point in many 50+-years marriages in our small church, too.

But that’s not nearly as important as what the Berean’s studied. My choice will last a lifetime – theirs (and ours) will last eternity.

Thomas doubted at least once. We’re told he was ready to die for Christ:

Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. (John 11:16)

He understood the death, but not the resurrection and set his standard for belief:

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (John 20:25)

Read the whole scene in John 20:19-28 where Thomas ends with:

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. (John 20:28)

Are you willing to do the research necessary to live your life with truth? Whether it be with family, church, community, country – or eternity – are you willing not only to state what you believe, but why and how you reached that conclusion? Are you willing to stand at the end of this life, having lived by this verse – whether you believe in God or not?

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

God Is Love

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To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe that God exists, that what He had told people in the past about the coming Messiah was true. Those who love God would also love His Messiah, His begotten. That message is essential in Christianity.

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

Two years of Spanish in high school, and a lack of using it since, left me with a few words and phrases that stick in my mind. One phrase is the opening of John 3:16:  Porque de tal manera amo Dios al mundo. A teacher gave a translation as:  "Because of the manner of love God had toward the world . . ." His love was given in an awesome manner, wasn’t it? That’s why it is easy to understand John:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 KJV)

Love is the basis of Jesus’ entire teachings:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 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 22:35-40 KJV)

That first part is beyond millions of people in this world. The second is very difficult for many who find the first one fulfilling and are seeking to accomplish it.

It includes loving the unlovable. Loving those who would reject this very message of love. Too many have not seen love in their lives – except that love described as:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 KJV)

Money is NOT the root of all evil – the love of it is. Loving money for the things it can bring into our lives – power, attention, luxury, celebrity – beyond necessity. Money can be used for good, even a little money can be used to combine with other small amounts a do good. Without love, money is as useless as Paul describes it:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV)

Without love – God’s type of love that gave Himself – even in life there is nothing, no matter how “good” we sound or appear. Without love for the unlovable, we are missing the mark.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Memories

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My husband completed our bedside tables, but I want to point out the little box setting on the left of the table. Here’s a closer look with it open:

CastleScripturePicker

Each tiny cylinder is a printed scripture, held by a blue paper band, picked up by the plastic pick that is holding one in the lid. My mother bought this sometime in the mid-1950’s. As good as it looks, it’s been well used – back then, and much more recently. From the upper right of the tray, you can tell there are some cylinders missing – the blue bands are in the tray, but the verses are missing.

No, I can’t tell you which ones are missing, but I have decided to print out four of my favorite verses and fit them into this case to use for another 60+ years. Well – obviously I won’t be using it that long, but (thanks be to our Lord!) I have children, grandchildren and great-grands that look to their Bible for inspirations and answers. There are verses to help in a wide range of situations.

Our ladies missions group put together 2.5” square booklets that include some of these questions and biblical answers you have to click to read (or look up in a Bible – excellent suggestion!):
You Say  /  The Bible says:
I'm alone

I'm afraid

I'm too tired

I can't go on

I can't forgive myself

I am unlovable

I don't have answers

It's not worth it

I can't do it


You see my problem? Every one of those verses would be good – but how about:

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:4 KJV)

But then I really like:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4 KJV)

There’s the real reason all of the Bible – and my blog – were written:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13 KJV)

Yes – that is absolutely why I share Bible verses in the first place - but it's a bit long for a tiny piece of paper.

Once you have looked at a verse take time to read around it to know if it has been used correctly, in context and that it means exactly what it appears to say. If it is out of context, find out what being in context is and how that applies to our lives today.

That’s good Bible reading. Please, take a few moments to apply the Bible study. I’ll take a few more moments in memories – those where we used the little scripture box decades ago as I began learning what the Bible meant to others. Later, I came to understand what it means to me. What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Praying For A Picnic

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For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20 KJV)

I can read your mind. You are thinking, “What in this world does that verse have to do with a group of ladies having a picnic under apple blossoms?”

Admittedly, it is a circuitous route, but it really has to do with prayer. I am blessed to have some prayer partners in widely scattered places on this earth. Please let me introduce them – somewhat anonymously, of course.

There is a group of Baptist Moms. We met on the web in the early days of bulletin boards. We were all mothers, all Baptists, shared lots of things such as DIY projects, recipes, plans, advice – and prayer. We knew when we posted a prayer on the board there would be sisters in Christ joining in. As the digital age progressed for years, we found ourselves in different corners of Facebook – still posting prayer requests, and still responding for our sisters. Most of these are in the USA.

Then there are some singlets where individuals met, found ourselves to be sisters in Christ and feel close enough to share prayer requests. These are scattered around the world. Some were met on the web, some at church services and others through friends. Some are missionaries who are in my prayers to help them carry Christ’s message of God’s love wherever their beautiful feet carry them:

Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:6-7 KJV)

Others have become friends – scattered from Kenya through Australia into Thailand circling the globe back to my home church with many sisters in Christ:

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 KJV)

Not all of my loved ones fall into these categories, and there are prayers that someday they will. I pray for them as I follow Samuel’s example:

Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: (1 Samuel 12:23a KJV)

So – what has that to do with a picnic? That’s another prayer. You see, I visualize a verse:

In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2 KJV)

Can you visualize that? Wouldn’t that be the perfect picnic place? Lot’s of time in eternity for people who do not meet here, but share the love of God and His Word while praying with each other, isn’t there?
That’s my “other” prayer – a span of existence (for time shall be no more) where those who led me to Christ can introduce those who led them, tracking all the way back to the cross, can meet with those whose lives we’ve touched, prayed with, supported in His love and will share eternity.

Now, wouldn’t that be an awesome picnic? Please – join in.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Patience

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Do you have some? Need some? Want some? Sunday we were reminded what can go wrong if it doesn’t exist.

Sunday morning sermons have taken us through Genesis – which also touches on quite a few promises. So far, those promises have required patience – and those who received the promises pretty much lacked patience.

Eve did. In Genesis 3 we learned that she was impatient about eating fruit. God told Adam what would happen if they ate certain fruit. Eve yielded to temptation, ate – and didn’t’ die! Wow, it was good, so she offered it to Adam. Ooops. That didn’t work at all.

God promised Abraham a son in Genesis 18, though stricken in age – and Sarah laughed. She didn’t believe she could give Abraham a child, so she offered Hagar. The result of that impatience introduce Ishmael. We live with that impatience today.

Now we come to Jacob. There were a couple of impatient issues here. Once again we find a man growing old and wanting children. Isaac was 60 when Rebekah became pregnant. It must not have been an easy pregnancy:

And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. (Genesis 25:21-24 KJV)

Esau was first born, then Jacob. They were different! The problems are outlined in one verse:

And Isaac loved Esau . . . but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:28 KJV)

Remember what was promised? The elder shall serve the younger. Maybe that’s what the younger was named “Supplanter”, the meaning of Jacob. Not waiting for God’s plan to work, Jacob bought his brother’s birthright (Genesis 25:29-34.)

Not that Esau did much better – causing his parents grief (Genesis 26: 34-35.) His twin, though, was unmarried, still in the tents with his parents, who had grown old and infirm. Time for Isaac to give his final blessings to his sons. That subterfuge is covered in Genesis 27.

Perhaps you think that’s the end of the impatience. Not hardly (as one of my favorite actors would say) there are instances throughout the Bible. But, let’s take a look at the consequences.

Jacob received payback, but it would take too many verses to tell of his love for Rachel, the tricks of her brother, the jealousy of his sister-wives, the giving of concubines, the sibling rivalry of his sons – and the root of bitterness that remained through Esau into the Edomites (Hebrews 12:15-17.)

The application? Our own lives. Mine – and most likely yours – wandered in and out of God’s will. Each time outside has consequences I’d rather not face – nor explain. Nope – no examples from me. They could be better or worse than yours, but I have to work within mine – and you have to work within yours. Isn’t that a shame?

All we had to do was seek our Lord’s will, abide in it – but it takes soooo much time, doesn’t it? If we pushed a little here, changed a little there, manipulated or even ignored, couldn’t we achieve our desires sooner? And since God wants us all to be happy, shouldn’t we have our desires even if they don’t match what He has laid out for us? Really? How does that work for us?

Nope – no answers. You must come up with your own, just as I do.