Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Can Say, “He Loved The Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a beautiful gift:

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

What happens if we refuse it?

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

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

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

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

...the writer of Hebrews quotes:

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Birthday Celebration

 

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Last Saturday we celebrated my daughter’s birthday. Her birthday wasn’t on that date, but it was convenient for a number of family and friends to gather and show their love and appreciation for her.  We all knew it wasn’t the right day, but that didn’t change the celebration.

Which brings me to Christmas. December 25th is not Christ’s birth by any provable method. There are a number of reasons why it would not be His birth date, but I’m going to celebrate His birth anyway. The date is not a problem for me any more than Saturday was a problem for celebrating my daughter.

I don’t wait around for Christmas to celebrate my Savior, either. Every Sunday I celebrate His life and recognize His resurrection by worshipping with our local congregation. We sing hymns of rejoicing, remembrance and raise our voices while we . . .

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. (Psalms 98:4 KJV)

Christ told us to remember His last supper:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 KJV)

But no where in the Bible are we told we must do anything in remembrance of His birth. I do remember it each year, though, as a part of God’s love, expressed in His word:

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)

And, because I love Him:

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

I believe Luke interviewed Mary, which gives us a close look at the reality of Jesus’ birth. I think of how hard it must have been for her to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I wonder how large the group was that made the trip? Were they tempted to linger in Jerusalem, or did they press on without stopping, reaching Bethlehem too late for a room at the inn?

Were there women traveling with them, or was it just Mary and Joseph at our Lord’s birth? How did she feel when the shepherd’s arrived?

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:16-18 KJV)

Why ignore this beautiful story of His birth? Why not celebrate it at a given time each year?

Oh – because that time coincides with pagan worship? What time doesn’t? Because that time has been commercialized beyond reasonable limits? Ignore the commercialization. It’s that easy. Do not give into peer pressure or other people’s expectations. Lovingly make gifts if desired, but realize buying power will never display love.

Do not celebrate Christmas if it does not hold the gospel message for you. Do not celebrate Christmas if you cannot celebrate His resurrection. Do not celebrate Christ’s birth if Christ is not a part of daily life. It becomes a distraction, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just A Few Jokes

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Yesterday I received a forwarded e-mail with some “Christian one-liners”:
Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited
until you try to sit in their pews.
That’s something a visiting preacher just included in a sermon. I heard it as I was comfortably ensconced in my regular right side, third row, where I sit every service. Fortunately, I know that I will be kind, welcoming and smiling when I welcome new people who are seated in that spot – it’s happened before.
It is easier to preach ten sermons
Than it is to live one.
That’s not a joke. That’s true. Preaching is really easy – simply use scripture. It can be read aloud and have the same awesome truth as when it was first given. Living what we read, believe, is much more difficult.
Some minds are like concrete
Thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
That’s no joke, either. While there is absolute truth, we must be open to His word as we learn more and more from one scripture. Take the Sermon on the Mount as an example. When I first read it, I did not realize the progression from poor in spirit to the point where one is reviled for their beliefs. It took several lessons before I could see that Jesus went up into a mountain and called His disciples – was this sermon for them, not multitudes?
We're called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.
Again, where’s the joke? Non-believers are very quick to quote scripture:

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

I’m always tempted to come back with the following verse, but that’s not what Christ gave as the Great Commission:

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 28:20 KJV)

“All things” would include Matthew 7:1, so we’d better be certain we teach it and not ignore it while we would like to focus on 7:2.
God loves everyone,
but probably prefers 'fruits of the spirit' over 'religious nuts!'
Now that one did bring a smile – but, again, there’s truth here. We’ve been told what the fruit of the spirit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)

We’ve also been told specifically what pure religion is:

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

That goes back to living that one sermon, right?




Monday, November 17, 2014

What's Going Through Your Mind?

This post is an update from one in May of 2011 - with a few updates and (what I deem) corrections. It's been on my mind as we start (pretty early, really) Christmas caroling.

AllMyLifeLong

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:19 KJV)

Back in 2010, when I was teaching Junior High Girls, we spent at least ten months giving our Youth an in-depth study of Ephesians.  We covered maybe a verse or two at a time, but I don’t think we spent enough time on two verses. 

The one above is the first verse.  We covered “… be filled with the spirit” quite well and I’m certain we mentioned that the hymns and spiritual singing we (and special groups) do in our services is part of that filling with the spirit.  But I don’t think we spent enough time on “making melody in your heart to the Lord."

What’s on your iPod/iPhone/MP3/TV or radio setting/CD player when it comes to music?  Country western?  What do we hear when we drive in city streets?  Hard rock?  I have it fairly easy – [at the original writing] my car is experiencing electrical difficulties, no radio, no player.  So I listen to my iPhone.  I have more than twelve hours of hymns and gospel music there, along with some great sermons.  Isn’t that wonderful?

Beloved Husband’s CD player works fine in his truck.  But only one CD played in it for months – our Easter cantata.  I wake up in the morning with the music and words running through my mind:  Isn’t the love of Jesus wonderful?  And that’s a rhetorical question – I know the love of Jesus IS wonderful.  And it is making a beautiful melody in my heart to hear those words over and over again.

Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Which one is going through your mind right now as you think of them?  Did you almost break into song thinking of them?  Do you look for any excuse for a song?

From David’s psalms, through Fanny Crosby’s hymns into Mark Lowry’s spiritual songs, they come to mind because I’ve heard them over and over again!  Loving them each and every time.  Which brings us to that second, slightly overlooked verse:

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:20 KJV)

Always for all things.  I do believe making melodies in my heart makes it much easier to give thanks for all things in all ways.  Even when sadness overcomes, there’s a hymn that comes to mind.  Mentioned recently is the comforting “It Is Well With My Soul.”

So, what melody will you be making this week?  What song will well up in your heart and lift you closer to God?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Untold Half

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The Rochester Family’s album “Following The Leader” has several songs that run through my mind. “Don’t It Make You Want To Go” is one of them. Every time I hear it I think of the untold half.

And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built, And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. (1 Kings 10:4-7 KJV)

Sheba came to Solomon with a purpose:

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. (1 Kings 10:1 KJV)

People with questions still seek out those who have been blessed by the Lord, wanting to know more and often their questions are hard. That much hasn’t changed.

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)

Are we ready to answer? That’s one reason I spend time with God’s word. How could I possibly be able to answer to anyone why I have hope if I’m not familiar with what He’s given us?

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:13-15 KJV)

That first sentence why I say that salvation is simple. However, it is absolutely necessary that we understand what “call upon” means; what “the name of the Lord” means and what is salvation? There we moved into the next sentences – and the need for those beautiful feet!

I have always been ready to give an answer to anyone who asks me why I believe that God is, why Jesus was born – and died – and why it is so important that our best hope is through His resurrection. But even that is not even half the story that’s written – and a small percentage of the whole story laid out for us. Come. Read with me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Losing Friends

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This picture was taken in 1942. The two men were best friends from the age of five, when the one on the left moved to a farm near the one on the right, my Dad. Their friendship lasted a lifetime, though there were many differences in their likes and dislikes. One thing they had in common was their love of our Lord. Even though they differed in some doctrinal questions, they both shared that love, between themselves and with others.

While I know none of the six were perfect, I doubt they fit into these categories:

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: (1 Peter 4:3 KJV)

Perhaps they lost friends because they didn’t fit it:

Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: (1 Peter 4:4 KJV)

That can happen to new Christians, their old friends think it strange that they no longer do the things they used to, things that were in excess or matched verse 3. They not only think it strange, they talk about the strangeness.

New Christians enjoy different things – going to church, fellowship with other believers, learning more and more about God and how He works in our lives. The sad thing is, some drop out of these activities. I did, for several years. I stopped learning. I stopped attending.

It really didn’t take long before I ached – first for a place where I could worship the Lord, make a joyful noise before Him and feel His presence.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: (Isaiah 55:6 KJV)

It may cost friends, but it will bring blessings. Guaranteed:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (Matthew 5:11 KJV)

There’s that speaking evil of us, again. It’s worth it:

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:12 KJV)

We’d be in good company then, wouldn’t we? Most certainly among friends!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

“We Are What We Think”

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That was Pastor’s sermon title Sunday. There were several verses he gave us, but the center was a verse that is at the bottom of my blog page where I ask people to think before leaving comments:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV)

I have had comments that did not fit anywhere within that description, and I’ve deleted them. It is quite possible to say things that are true, honest, just pure, lovely, of good report, with virtue and praise that do take a completely different path the the one I’ve written. Those stay, even if I do not agree with their point of view.

For example – even though the flowers in the graphic are lovely – and most would agree – none of us would select them and their “stems” for a wedding bouquet. Carrying prickly pear cactus down the aisle may not be at the top of my list, but someone may disagree with me there, too.

We determine what goes into our minds much the same way we determine what goes into our mouth. Intake nourishes, and incorrect intake provides the wrong nourishment, doesn’t it? What do we choose to see with our eyes? Job made a decision about that:

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (Job 31:1 KJV)

Job made a specific decision not to look at a woman other than his wife. Similarly, Daniel made a covenant to keep himself pure:

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (Daniel 1:8 KJV)

How are they any better than we? Did they have a closer relationship with God? Only by our own choice.  Job served God, and basically was allowed to be an example. Daniel was taken by a conquering army and placed in a sumptuous prison. Want to trade places with either one of them?

Yet, in our own luxury (don’t deny it – we do live in comparative luxury according to time and place) we have not made these covenants, these contracts, with our senses to keep them focused on those things we’ve been told. Or, have you?

I have set some boundaries across which I will neither go nor invite into my life. That means I’m the last to know about some celebrities who display lifestyles in media that fall beyond those boundaries. Yet, headlines introduce their names, also giving me reasons why I should not learn more about them. No – I will not give recent examples. I will not give them space on this screen nor more time in my mind.

Yes, that is making a judgment about their lifestyle. Why not? We have an instruction book that has well defined what offers us the best nourishment and growth pattern. The Bible not only prepared me for a life beyond this one, it prepares me for the abundant life now.

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:9-10 KJV)