Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Contend?

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And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, (Acts 11:2 KJV)

Luke was not writing about non-believers contending with believers.   These were Christians debating among themselves. Jude had fellow church members in mind, too, when he wrote:

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3 KJV)

Most often, though, writers use Jude’s verse in connection with debates with non-believers, ignoring Jude’s description of those creeping into the early church:

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4 KJV)

Jude was the subject of our Sunday School class for the past couple of weeks and will close this coming Sunday.  The application is for our young people to read their Bible, discuss and understand the doctrine of the gospel.  We want them to search God’s word for the astonishment noticed by those who heard Christ:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29 KJV)

We must contend with caution, though.  There is no violence, nothing more than words to be used.  Jude told of a spiritual conflict and how it was resolved:

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. (Jude 1:9 KJV)

When Christ was contending with Satan, He simply repeated God’s word and Satan was rebuked.   Three times Satan misquoted or misused scripture, three times Christ responded with the correct scriptural answer.

How do we do that now?  How do we rebuke?  By knowing the scriptures and being able to quote applicable verses.  Thus we teach.  And, we pray that we will know the Word of God sufficiently that what we say comes from it:

But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matthew 10:19-20 KJV)

When Jesus taught, when He was tried, when Peter contended with the Christian Jews in Jerusalem, when Paul preached and when he was tried, they never railed against their accusers.  They spoke of their own experiences.  They spoke of the prophecies in the scriptures. They gave praise and worship to God.

Why should we do any less?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thank you, Jack. And all the others.

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Monday is a very special day across our nation. We say “Thank you” to people who are not here and to the families who miss them.

The graciousness of southern ladies has been noted for generations. Northern ladies have shown centuries of hospitality. And in 1866 they combined their attributes to honor fallen heroes.

Petersburg, Virginia, is recognized as the place where a schoolteacher and her students placed flags upon the graves of Confederate soldiers. Mrs. Jonathan Logan (wife of the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic Association after the war) noted this honor and encouraged participation. General Logan officially proclaimed the first Memorial Day, May 30, 1868. Although recognized throughout America during the next century, it was 1971 before our federal government set it as a national holiday to honor our soldiers who gave their lives.

Once again in that tradition, I repeat the story of Army Air Corps Captain John Clarence Blickensderfer. At 20 Jack co-piloted of one of America’s B-29’s on 7 July, 1944. The photo above was taken after the crew’s arrival in England.  Their plane didn’t have a name on it, so they had their photo taken in front of another.

Over Hoorn, Holland, during a bombing run to Germany A/C 42-97983, on its third sortie, and A/C 42-107070, on its 28th, collided during flak. Out of twenty airmen on those two planes, seven survived the collision and subsequent explosions. Parachuting down, six were taken prisoner by German soldiers, one protected by Dutch patriots and returned home. 

Jack, co-pilot on AC983, died in the collision. Monday, Memorial Day, Jack is honored, as are all of those who died defending our nation.

Family members grow older and grayer, but those who stood in for us do not. The photos wrinkle, but the smiles never change. The uniforms appear outdated, but the chins never sag. They remain as last photographed, but life goes on without them, changing daily.

The loss of a single soldier costs families their future. In recreating that future, Jack’s parents adopted two boys, changing their lives forever, and mine, too. Together we remember each Memorial Day those who have given their all in the line of duty, for their country, with honor.

General Douglas MacArthur’s farewell speech was given to cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point May 12, 1962.

He spoke to duty, honor and country. According to him, “…unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and, I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.” And, they have, continuing to do so.

MacArthur continued: “The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training - sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him. However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country, is the noblest development of mankind.”

Christ’s words confirmed this: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 KJV)

MacArthur’s words are as valid today as in 1962: “Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government. Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as firm and complete as they should be.

“These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a tenfold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.”

We offer our soldiers medals for their valor, honor for their courage. Let us always offer them our respect, our thanks and our love, for their sacrifice. This year, as decades past, we will specifically remember the sacrifice given by Captain John Clarence Blickensderfer, a brother and son, who did not return from a bombing run.

Please pray for the families who continue to live with loss. And for the men and women who continue to stand in harm’s way.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

First Love


John writes so much of love. One of the first verses we teach children comes from him:

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)

We should never outgrow our love for this verse. John didn’t forget Jesus’ words. He wrote of Him again and again:

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16 KJV)

It is John who explains the love Christians have for others:

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3 KJV)

It also is John who explains that some do not:

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (1 John 1:6 KJV)

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4 KJV)

John gives us the very best of advice:

He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. (1 John 2:6 KJV)

How can we walk as Jesus walked unless we spend time learning of Him, and why He was here? Or would Jesus speak to us as He to Peter:

And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? (Matthew 15:16 KJV)

John wrote of what he came to understand:

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6 KJV)

Last, but not least at all, are the words of our Lord from the book of Revelation, where He speaks to one of His churches:

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Revelation 2:4 KJV)

Is He our first love?  After memorizing John 3:16, it would do well for us to memorize:

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

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Building Materials

Material

What are the building materials you’ve decided to use? It is a very important decision in our lives.  One we’ll eventually pay for.  Paul describes what will happen when our works are judged:

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 KJV)

According to that last verse, what we use will not determine our salvation, but we will suffer loss if our work is built with stubble that disappears the moment a flame touches it.  Hay and wood don’t last much longer, either.

When we’re building upon the firm foundation of the Messiah’s teachings we’ll find Jesus’ example of Luke 6:48.  We’ll be able to stand the storms of life without damage – unless our building materials are faulty.  Why depend on that firm foundation if we’re going to build out of stubble?  It will be weighed down by the difficulties we encounter in this life and be destroyed by flames in the next.

Are our building materials those of Jesus’ teachings, or of men who interpret them to mean what people want to hear?  Does the man of God in the pulpit speak just as easily of John 3:16-17 as he does of John 3:18?  Is he as comfortable teaching of Christ’s birth as he is of preaching repentance? Are there verses or books that he dares not use in a sermon as they might be deemed offensive?

Are those questions pertinent?

Personally, I think it’s a good thing to question my beliefs and seek answers when apparent contradictions or offensive questions arise rather than dismiss or ignore them.  If I cannot explain why I believe as easily as I can explain what I believe, my building material is inferior.

As Paul described:

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

As given to us about Adam and Enoch, written in Micah 6:8, my first goal is to walk with my Lord.  My second is to heed His will in my life – which I’ve failed to do many times.  Those failures cannot determine the full path, so I get up from them and press toward the goal, the mark, of what He has called me to do. 

That’s the best building material of all.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Paradox - Revisited



A couple of years ago, Jason Pugh preached a Sunday night sermon, touching on how paradoxical Christianity is. How we look so odd to those not familiar with our lives.

We expect adults to become children.

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 KJV)


We expect the great to become humble:

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4 KJV)

We expect them to understand that to save their life, they most lose it:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25 KJV)


(That one is of such importance that it is repeated in other gospels – Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24.)

We expect those who have nothing to be able to give:

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. (Acts 3:6 KJV)


We expect belief without seeing:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)


We know they hear foolishness:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV)


We speak of thirst and water:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV)

The best we can hope for is that the Holy Spirit is preparing their hearts and that we follow Peter’s example:

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)

Prepare for the questions!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Psalm 66

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Come and see the works of God: (Psalms 66:5a KJV)
Psalm 66 was Pastor’s reference Wednesday night.  Two things struck me in verses.  First, repeating is just fine.  Having posted a ‘repeat’ yesterday, a bit of my heart ached because I didn’t take time to write a blog as usual.  But, in my defense, it was a very full day and we had a wonderful time with Ohio Brother and Sister-in-law, who will be Obil and Osil for the time being.

But tonight when we read that first verse, I realized repeating was quite in order.  I’ve read that ‘joyful noise’ phrase before:

Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:  (Psalms 66:1 KJV)

Out of the 150 Psalms, David was quite repetitive, using that phrase again and again:

Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.  (Psalms 81:1 KJV)

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. (Psalms 95:1-2 KJV)

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

With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. (Psalms 98:6 KJV)

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. (Psalms 100:1 KJV)

There are other examples of repetition, and I’ll be touching on those in the future.  But there is another verse that touched my heart tonight:

Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. (Psalms 66:16 KJV)

Oh, yes – please allow me to declare what God has done for my soul!  The peace He provides in the most heart breaking situations is unbelievable.  I know it is because there are non-believers who have heard all about it and it has not touched there lives.  Sorry about that, but that peace walked me through my Mom’s years with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.  It held me in prayer through my son’s years of unbelief and rejoiced with angels when he found that same peace for his life.

It provided comfort at the loss of our five-year-old nephew, who died at home, in his sleep.  Comfort at the loss of my parents, too, providing me verses to confirm we’ll meet again in the home God has provided for all who come to Him.

All this, and more, has He done for my soul.  And – I am not alone. There will be so many of His children who will declare the same. Listen to them, and:

Hear ye the word of the LORD; (Ezekiel 13:2b KJV)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Adoption - A Repeat

I beg your indulgence -- we have company and we enjoy their companionship!  While my Bible reading will continue, I really want to spend extra time with them.  So, what you are getting today is a repeat from two years ago.  But I think it remains applicable!  Do you?

My Beloved Husband is an adoptee. When we met he told me that he did not know his birth parents. He fell into the category Ezra described:

… but they could not shew their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel: (Ezra 2:59 KJV)

There are long stories about why we searched and how we located his birth family, but the focus today is on our own adoption.

God not only created us, He adopts us:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; (Romans 8:15-17a KJV)

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:6-7 KJV)


Before Paul wrote these verses, Jesus taught us that God is our father, and that we should look upon Him as such in our prayers:

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)

Whether we know our birth parents or not; whether we know our families or not; we can know that we are children of the King. And why do we want to know this?

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
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Psalm 63

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A few years ago the US Secretary of Agriculture was photographed just a few miles from our home in a field as dry as this one.  Livestock tanks (what we called ponds at home) were just about as dry, some shallow ones with just mud in the bottom.  It was easy to describe this as a dry and thirsty land.  David knew such, both physically and spiritually:

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; (Psalms 63:1 KJV)

This Psalm was pastor’s topic last night.  I often think of the phrase “dry and thirsty land” when we drive around here.  This winter was such a time, but spring rains have filled the tanks and left some over.  Then come thoughts of the 23rd Psalm and our cup over flowing.  We experience both in our life.

Do we experience seeking Him early?  Pastor suggested that we commit to seeking Him upon awakening, before getting out of bed. Or do we find excuses to ignore Him throughout the day?

I find it so comforting to start each day in His word.  When she was commuting an hour, Second daughter would get up thirty minutes earlier than necessary for her Bible study before heading out into the work world.  Now that she drives five minutes and doesn’t report to work until 9:00, that time comes a bit later, but it is always there in the morning.

To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. (Psalms 63:2 KJV)

We have seen the results of God’s work, but we have not seen all of His power, nor has mankind seen His glory. When Moses beseeched the Lord to see Him in His glory, He replied:

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (Exodus 33:20 KJV)

What part of God’s glory that was seen was reflected in Moses:

And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. (Exodus 34:29 KJV)

David did not experience that ‘face to face’ communion with God, but he did experience the satisfaction of knowing his Lord:

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: (Psalms 63:5 KJV)

Just as he started his day early with his Lord, David also took Him with him to bed:

When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. (Psalms 63:6 KJV)

This is my favorite time with my Lord.  When I go to sleep with the comforting peace He offers to all.  There are times when the detritus of my day hangs on that I visualize packing my (sorrows, troubles, problems, etc) into a box and hand them over to my Lord in exchange for the burden He offers.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30 KJV)

Oh, to build the faith that David has shared with us!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Who Should We Pray For?

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I received a request to pray for a gentlemen in ICU, on a respirator, whose wife was told he may not come off it.  Hopeless?  No.  Hopeful?  For his future, no matter what it may hold.  We’ve been told how to pray, and for whom:

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28 KJV)

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26 KJV)

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; (Colossians 1:9 KJV)

Brethren, pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:25 KJV)

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: (2 Thessalonians 1:11 KJV)

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: (2 Thessalonians 3:1 KJV)

Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. (Hebrews 13:18 KJV)

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16 KJV)

And, of course, His example:

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Won’t Let Them Cry Out

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And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. (Luke 19:37-38 KJV)

They had seen His works and considered them mighty.  He had been traversing the country for three years, high profile, speaking before crowds open to anyone who would come.  Some scoffed, others came with questions designed to entrap Him, to cause people to doubt Him.  He ignored the scoffers and answered questions with authority.

Those who heeded met Him in Jerusalem, ready to follow Him into an earthly kingdom that would fulfill the remainder of the prophecies regarding the Messiah.  This was the height of His popularity.  Before the week was out, those hopes and dreams died. Pharisees wanted that to happen much earlier:

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. (Luke 19:39 KJV)

Jesus knew that would not create the silence the Pharisees sought.  He knew what was to come, too – remember the prayer that the cup would pass, but God’s will be done?

And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.  (Luke 19:40 KJV)

So, to keep from hearing stones cry out, I keep telling people about how Christ changed my life, and the lives of those around me.  Everyone’s life is impacted by His life if only the the dates used in their daily life.  His story can be ignored, it can be denied, it can be refuted but it never has been destroyed.

His teachings have be considered ‘good’ by those who deny His miracles.  Other religions respect the foundation of the beliefs displayed during His life.

The differences come when deciding whether or not Jesus was the messiah promised by prophets long ago.  The Pharisees who requested the disciples be rebuked decided “No,” as have many others.  The stones did not cry out.

And, they won’t, as long as we rejoice and praise God.  We’re following a long line of people who refused to keep silent:

And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:18-20 KJV)

Please, join me this morning in continuing to rejoice and praise God.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21

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OK, it is May 21, 2011 and we’re still here.  I know that because I’ve posted and you’re reading, so we haven’t been raptured.  I’m not surprised because I believe what Matthew wrote:

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

And Mark repeated:

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32 KJV)

I pray that no one has changed their lifestyle based on this prediction. Christians should be serving their Lord without concern about His return.  That concern certainly isn’t indicated in any New Testament writings.  Prepared, yes, by becoming more like Him and following His commands.  That’s the change that comes by following Him.

Some may say that they need to witness to loved ones before it is too late for them.  Accidents happen, we never know when “too late” might be the next moment, the next call received.  We should have been talking with our loved ones about Christ from the moment we accepted Him ourselves.  “Now” is all the time we can count on.

Some thought of selling what they have – why?  Where does it belong? In your life, doing what needs to be done.  Mark has some good words for planning for His return, and there’s nothing about getting rid of material resources.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.   (Mark 13:33 KJV)

Do I believe He’s returning?  Yes.  Do I care at all about when?  Nope. That’s of no concern to me at all.  My requirements are laid out in His word:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)

That was given earlier, too:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV)

None of that leaves room for sitting and waiting for what a man has concluded, does it?  It is sad that those who chose to believe this set day must live with the embarrassment of being here May 22.  Their following a man instead of reading the Bible with prayerful hearts led to error.

However, never forget, that day will come and our lives should reflect our belief.  Whatever we would do if the time were known we should be doing right now.

Being ready is an individual decision.  I’ve made mine.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Daily Bible Reading

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Over the years I’ve read the Bible through.  This year, starting a couple of months ago, I’m reading through chronologically and I’ve just finished Exodus and am now in Leviticus.

I must admit that reading of God’s giving of the commandments is compelling.  Only four for our relationship to Him, caring more for our relationship to our fellow man.  Of course, most of us ignore both categories.  But today’s blog isn’t to cover those commandments. Today I speak of – boredom.

I am so sorry, but the design for the tabernacle, the dimensions of the ark, the making of them, the priest’s clothing, the specifics of the different sacrifice – these are not easily converted into lessons that apply to daily life.  There are so many details that are no longer being used by Jews or gentiles.

I did find an interesting wording, though:

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.  (Leviticus 1:2 KJV)

If any man of you bring an offering …”  That’s not a commandment.  That’s God’s understanding that some men will love Him enough to want to bring Him an offering.  They will want to return to Him a portion of the blessings they have received, recognizing what flows from Him.

Specific definitions are given elsewhere throughout the Bible, but here there’s an “If” telling us it’s not always going to happen.  There will be people who do not bring any offering.  There are people who do not think about offering the Lord any portion of their lives.  People had been making offerings to Him for all generations before this, and continue to do so today.

What offering does God require?  Micah asked that very question:

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  (Micah 6:7 KJV)

David knew much earlier who owned those thousands of rams or ten thousands rivers of oil:

I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. (Psalms 50:9-10 KJV)

Frankly, I don’t have a thousand hills, just a small one.  We do have cattle, four head.  How many belong to God?  All of them.  Just as I do, for my faith and trust is in His ability to keep His word.  According to Daniel, John and Jesus, portions of what He has planned for us remain untold.  According to me, portions of what has been told are a bit boring – but I will not ignore the word of God.

Have you read it?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Asked, and Answered

Washing
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? (Mark 7:5 KJV)

Please take time to read all of Mark 7, even though I’m going to be pulling just a few verses.  There’s much more there than the small illustration on my mind.

First, remember who the Pharisees are – one side of the Jewish religious leaders.  They believe in the resurrection, in heaven and in hell.  The Sadducees did not.  Both studied the scriptures, both were religious leaders, but just as there are differences today, they were divided on interpretation.

The Bible tells us of many times Pharisees came to Jesus to answer their questions.  Early on they appear to be questions of interest, later they become questions of entrapment.  This one on the surface appears to be seeking Jesus’ help in straightening out his disciples’ bad habits, eating with unwashed hands.

Look, though, at the basis of their belief.  There is no citation of scripture.  No scriptural reference to show a religious reason for the question.  Instead we see the tradition of the elders.

When Satan tempted Even with the fruit, he used the words of God:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1 KJV)

When Satan confronted Jesus in the wilderness after his 40 days of fasting, he used scriptures in his temptations, and Jesus answered back with the words of God.

Here, the Pharisees care about the tradition of the elders.  What should the church care about? Christ spends some time in this seventh chapter on that very subject.

And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (Mark 7:9 KJV)

He made it obvious that pleasing men had become more important than following God’s word.  By their actions, by their teaching, they had been:

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. (Mark 7:13 KJV)

You and I both know of organized religious bodies that continue in that same vein.  They tell us “If you do this, it will make you right with God.” Don’t allow the traditions of men to separate us from the words of God. That worked for hundreds of years, but that’s not what God’s word tells us should be.

And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: (Mark 7:14 KJV)

Jesus said it: If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 7:16 KJV)

Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, all said it before in the Bible, and I ask that you listen once more:

Hear the word of the LORD.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Take, Eat

Communion517001_76241292
Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way. (1 Samuel 28:22 KJV)

That’s what I do each day, right here on this blog.  I set out a morsel for each of the readers to taste.  I do hope that it brings them strength along their way.  Unfortunately, some will be as Saul was:

But he refused, and said, I will not eat.

I can hope there are others in their life that will encourage, perhaps even compel, them to take nourishment:

… But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice. (1 Samuel 28:23a KJV)

We know from both the Old and the New Testament what Jesus responded to Satan:

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:3 KJV)

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 KJV)

That’s the morsels I offer – words inspired by, breathed by, God. Those morsels feed our souls and provide growth through God’s plan for our good.  He doesn’t promise to remove us from the cares and problems of this world, but He does promise to be with us through it.  He will provide for us, if we allow it.  The Bible tells me so.

There are so many places to start reading His word, but my favorite is way past the middle – the book of John.  If the reader can understand how John 1:1 fits into Genesis 1:1, it’s a very good start.  If the answers do not come easily, find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church and ask questions.

There are many churches that carry the name Christian and do not accept the Bible as the word of God – or have subsequent writings that in effect change God’s word.  I would not suggest starting there. We would do as well to start our own church (which some have done.)

Instead, take, eat, of the bread of life Jesus describes in John 6:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35 KJV)

Don’t be satisfied with the morsels offered here, pick up a Bible and sit down at the Lord’s banquet!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bank Account

International_Savings_Bank_Building

I received an e-mail entitled "Bank Account", about an elderly gentlemen accepting a move into a nursing home.  In spite of advanced age, loss of his wife and eyesight, he tells the nurse:
“It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the  parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful  for the ones that do. ... Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in."
It concluded with this advice:
1. Free your heart from hatred. 
2. Free your mind from worries. 
3. Live simply. 
4. Give more. 
5. Expect less.
Sounds good at any age, but it's missing so much.  How about:

1 - Do a bit more than free our hearts from hatred:  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: (Matthew 6:12-14 KJV)

2 - Replace the worries in our minds with peace.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 KJV)

3 - Living simple has been done by example.  And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Luke 9:58 KJV)

4 - Give all - give ourselves.  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:42-44 KJV)

5 - Expect less here -- and allow God to provide.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:30 KJV)

So many people will read, and resend, the five simple suggestions for a better life, and ignore what the Bible has to say along those very same lines. Just spend a little time with the Bible while building that bank account. 

We do decide when we open our eyes each morning how we are going to spend our day.  When we keep our eyes on the Lord, our days are filled with His love and His plans for us.  Living with Him daily does give us a lot, but He has promised us so much more.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Atchafalaya

Old_River_Control_Structure_Complex

The name comes from a Choctaw word meaning Long River, but there’s much more to the story.  The best background I’ve read is a New Yorker article written in 1987 by John McPhee, “The Control of Nature – Atchafalaya.” His description in one paragraph, though lengthy, paints an historic picture of a meandering yet powerful river:
The Mississippi River, with its sand and silt, has created most of Louisiana, and it could not have done so by remaining in one channel. If it had, southern Louisiana would be a long narrow peninsula reaching into the Gulf of Mexico. Southern Louisiana exists in its present form because the Mississippi River has jumped here and there within an arc about two hundred miles wide, like a pianist playing with one hand—frequently and radically changing course, surging over the left or the right bank to go off in utterly new directions. Always it is the river’s purpose to get to the Gulf by the shortest and steepest gradient. As the mouth advances southward and the river lengthens, the gradient declines, the current slows, and sediment builds up the bed. Eventually, it builds up so much that the river spills to one side. Major shifts of that nature have tended to occur roughly once a millennium. The Mississippi’s main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier—arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river’s present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it. By the route of the Atchafalaya, the distance across the delta plain was a hundred and forty-five miles—well under half the length of the route of the master stream.
That would be fine, except today civilization has built a huge home along the current river and cannot allow the natural course to continue. The phrase, “too big to fail", includes New Orleans remaining a port city, which it would not be if the meandering river were left to nature.  As McPhee puts it, “For nature to take its course was simply unthinkable. The Sixth World War would do less damage to southern Louisiana.”

The floods of 1927 brought focus on what could be done – and at what expense.  By 1963, the Corps of Engineers had changed the course of the Old River, defining how much water the Atchafalaya would acquire from the Mississippi. A two-fold purpose – be to protect the current infrastructure from being abandoned by the river, and to protect it from destructive flooding.

This year the second protective layer was used, as it was in 1973.  Thousands of square miles were flooded by using the planned protection.  Thousands of people evacuated.  Southern Louisiana was built by silt. No amount of changing nature will change that fact.  As the Japanese discovered earlier this year, nature is hard to control.

Think of other cities now considered in harms way -- volcanos, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods -- can we protect a growing populace against all natural events?

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.  (Matthew 7:26-27 KJV)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spreading the Word

BibleHighlighted

My reason for writing this blog is to encourage Bible reading.  According to several polls I’ve run across on the web, Bible literacy remains low.  One headline said six out of ten Americans read their Bible – back in 2006.  I didn’t find a newer poll, though several sites gave a variety of percentages, none of them any better, and most don’t define the poll’s participants nor the actual question.

The Pew Research Center actually gives the questions and results.  Same for The Gallup Poll.  The Pew Forum on Religion and & Public Life is more focused on gauging religion in American lives. Whether I like (or agree) with the results, they are available to analysis.  I appreciate that in looking for the truth behind percentages tossed to the public without references.

Under an extensive Pew poll of US Religious Knowledge we find:  Impact of Religious Affiliation - # of questions answered correctly compared with the national average.  Of course Baptists are not listed, maybe falling under Evangelical Protestant, with .09% more correct answers than the national average.  Mainline protestants were a negative, .09% fewer correct answers. Jewish answered 2.3% more correctly, while atheist/agnostics were the highest, at 2.9% more correct answers.

Why do non-believers provide more correct answers than believers?  Why aren't believers more knowledgeable about the Bible?  Excellent questions -- what is your individual answer?

There are several viewpoints on the Importance of Religion.  Where do you fall?  How important is religion – how important should it be?

Gallup goes further than some of the other polls, in my opinion they insert opinions along with defined statistics.  For example, “Republicans Remain Disproportionately White and Religious,” confirming in the subheading, “Democrats are more racially and ethnically diverse, and less religious,” that the wording is biased.

Of course, without looking at the questions and results we can’t analyze results.

What I can do is encourage Bible reading to increase knowledge.  Don’t hesitate to discuss with others, remembering it is not our place to accuse, but to contend:

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. (Jude 1:9 KJV)
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3 KJV)

Do not be one of those Christ described:

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29 KJV)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Comfortable?

Empty

They look comfortable, don’t they?  Padded seats, padded backs, plenty of spreading space, nice hymnal holders – all a person could hope for in a church pew.  There are only a couple of problems, but not with the pews.

One problem is that church members sit in them on Sunday morning and think that’s all they need to do until the next Sunday morning, thinking they have fulfilled an obligation.  There are other services.

Sunday evening services have fewer attendees.  Mid-week services even fewer.

Our Wednesday services are a bit different.  True, only one side of the sanctuary is used from September to May, but there are more people in the building – children in their classes number about 90, with a good-sized number of teachers, assistants, activity leader and kitchen help providing treats for all.  There are a large number in the youth group, too, with four leaders. in there.  Of course, there’s the nursery – that fluctuates!

Sitting in those comfortable pews is not following Christ’s teachings.  Oh, yes there is that one verse:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:25 KJV)

But sitting quietly listening to the sermon is such a small part.  Even in this verse we’re called to action to exhort one another.  Christ’s commandments are calls for action, not for hearing.  James got it:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22 KJV)

On Thursday nights we fellowship with members of our church.  It’s fun, but it’s not a part of a ministry; it’s not part of what reaches out to non-Christians to tell them of His love and show them He has plans for their lives.  When church membership reaches a point where it is all fellowship with like-minded believers, we are not fulfilling God’s plans.  We’re not following the great commission:

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 KJV)

We are here as teachers.  We are to become more like Christ, to be His examples.  He was in the synagogue, just as we are in the sanctuary, but He was involved in the service.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, (Luke 4:16-17 KJV)

After reading, He explained the scripture:

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4:21 KJV)

Can we open our Bibles to Matthew 28:19-20, teach people and explain to them that we are fulfilling scripture?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Creepy!

Copperhead

No, not our copperhead – this is from Wikimedia

Beloved Husband, Second Daughter and Son-in-law are out with the .410 shotgun.  I’m not worried about them, though.  They are experienced at responding to snakes creeping about in the grass. The weather has been conducive to quick growth, and the warmth entices snakes to seek sun and rocks. 

Grass snakes we don’t mind at all.  They do good work.  Black snakes that take up residence at the hen house should be warned, though, that we prefer the eggs come to us instead of feeding their hunger and we’ll fight for them!  We’ll win, too, simply because of that .410. They are not poisonous, just a nuisance around the hen house.  One died there this afternoon.

The copperheads, however, do not get any consideration, they just get killed.  We don’t find many, but they are native to the area and probably look upon us as intruders bent on destroying their homes. They are right.  Doesn’t matter.  When they are found near the house, they meet the same fate.  One died there this afternoon.

Today I received the Sunday School lesson for next week, and it fits right in.  We are studying the entire book of Jude – all twenty-five verses.  Appropriately, creepiness is part of that lesson:

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4 KJV)

Appropriate because Satan is seen as a serpent, creeping into lives, making wrong appear right.  Jude does not tell us to whom this epistle is addressed.  It is looked upon as a ‘general epistle’ to be read in churches in the first century and applicable to churches today.  There are certain ungodly men creeping in to deny our Lord.  Denying that Jesus is the promised Messiah.  Turning God given grace into license to live sinful lives.  Things haven’t changed much in two thousand years.

We are to contend with them for the faith, according to verse 3 in order to provide the gospel in its true form.  But this contention must be handled correctly:

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. (Jude 1:9 KJV)

It is not our place to rail nor accuse, simply call upon the Lord to rebuke, and to help others.

And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23 KJV)

Hate the garment stained by sin, but pull the sinner out of the fire.  Hate the sin, but love the sinner.  Why?  For God’s glory.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 KJV)

We’ll take care of the snakes here, and know that He is able to help us contend with the others.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Things Which Happened


The thing is, when I’m writing about a scripture, I tend to read verses and/or chapters around it.  Partly to be certain I’m understanding the context and that I’m seeing what God has in mind for me at the time. Some time back I included Philippians 1:15-18, about Christ being preached – even though the messages appear different.

Back up a few verses, though, and there’s an entirely new thought, though part of the same letter and tied to where Paul was going in this first part of his epistle.

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; [Philippians 1:12 KJV]

The “things which happened” included being imprisoned in Rome.  How could that apply to “furtherance of the gospel”?

How many prisoners do you listen to?  What message comes from a man who openly stated for years that God chose him to spread the gospel, and that action brought him to chains in Rome?  If such a man wrote to your church, would you believe him?  Or might it be decided that if God wanted Paul out preaching His word, then God should free him.  God did it before, why not now?

By what rationalization did Paul reach the conclusion that God had not abandoned him?  How about the firm believe in God’s ability to provide a peace that really does pass all understanding – until we are in the midst of it and feel His presence.  Paul’s prayer for those at Philippi included that same grace and peace:

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. [Philippians 1:2 KJV]

Philippians is a rather short book, but it contains God’s message through Paul from beginning to end.  It is here we read that Paul wished the church to work together:

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. [Philippians 2:2 KJV]

That love is the commandment that rings through Christ’s message, the love I wrote about the Church.  Decisions to make changes regarding the physical plant that contains the church brings minor disputes.  Those should be cleared simply and easily giving head to Paul’s instructions:

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; [Philippians 2:14-15 KJV]

All things? That’s where we usually run into trouble, being certain there are sides to issues and those must be defined and followed by everyone.  If there are biblical differences, cite chapter and verse for study and discussion.  Our reason for doing so should fall under the desire to be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke.  Isn’t that the reason we chose to follow Jesus as God’s Messiah, our Savior?

Paul looked upon his imprisonment as being a furtherance of the gospel.  We can, too, when Christ is the center of our lives.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Making Melody

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)

We spent the better part of last year – 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 skipped over “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 – 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 Lowrey’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?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Expect Change

Paul_de_tarse_rembrandt

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. [James 1:22 KJV]

No – Paul didn’t write that one.  But in what I’m thinking about today, that verse does go with Paul as I consider why I am called a Christian.

Followers of Jesus were given the name Christian (Acts 11:26) by others in Antioch, and Paul was there.  It is obvious they were “doers of the word” because people soon were saying they were “These that have turned the world upside down” Acts 17:6). That’s one reason I am a follower of Christ today.  The changes brought about by people of faith.  Particularly, Paul.

I have seen changes made in people’s lives – tremendous changes – when they’ve come to Christ.  I have seen these doers of the word.  None that I’ve seen, though, made the switch as Paul did.  As he described himself:

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. [Philippians 3:5-6 KJV]

His desire to protect Judaism against the onslaught of the upstart followers of a false messiah was more than evident.  He was a young man, zealous in his religion when he watched Stephen die, consenting to his death (Acts 8:1).

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. [Acts 7:58 KJV]
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. [Acts 8:3 KJV]
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. [Acts 9:1-2 KJV]

What would it take for a man with such deeply held beliefs to change so completely that he would write:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, [Philippians 3:7-8 KJV]

First, it is necessary to find out if what he was raised believing was true.  And, I could accept that it was.  The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob who became Israel was, is and evermore shall be the one true God.  Then why did Paul accept that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph, was the promised Deliverer, the Messiah?

That takes a lot of study, both in the original Covenant and the New Covenant.  God did not reveal His entire plan to Adam, to Noah, to Moses, to the judges, kings or prophets.  He has not revealed all to mankind even to today. As Paul quoted from Isaiah 64:4:

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. [1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV]

Paul, more than any of Jesus’ followers, knew the scriptures.  He knew the Torah.  He knew the prophets, quoting from them often.  From those prophecies and his own encounter with Christ, he changed enough not only to turn his own life upside down, but to help Christ do the same for the world.  Thus, if the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus, Christ, can change Saul into Paul, how can we neglect learning of them?  Not simply because they changed a world, but because they changed the life of one man – and another, and another, and another.

How have we changed?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Pink Podium

PinkPodium2
My son built it for my granddaughter when she was teaching a children’s Sunday School class.  When she went off to Bible college, it was passed to my daughter in Junior High Girls Sunday School class. 

It doesn’t always stay there, though.  This photo was taken May 7 at our Mother Daughter Banquet and was used by our speaker.  How I wish there were a recorder in that podium – it has heard so many good lessons over the years that if they were played back the whole Bible would have been used as examples.

Does that sound odd when thinking of Paul’s admonition:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 KJV)

Is the following a contradiction?

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, (Titus 2:3-7 KJV)

Keep silence, or teach?  We do both.  I keep silent until I can discuss with my own husband differences I have with what we’ve heard in church.  He is the head of our household.  The one I should turn to first with questions.  It is his responsibility to provide, too, also laid out in Ephesians’ fifth chapter. 

It is, however, a woman’s responsibility to teach in the church, and what we are to teach has been laid out in Titus 2.

Thus, the pink podium.  The women who stand behind that podium – and any other – have great responsibility when it comes to teaching.  It must be biblically based, doctrinally valid and designed for Christian growth.

This teaching begins at home, as it did with Lois and moved forward by generation:

When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.  (2 Timothy 1:5 KJV)

Our pastor spoke of a time when his mother felt she was a failure because that faithfulness was not shown in a child of hers.  The failure was the child’s not the mother’s.  There comes a time of accountability when the choice is made by the child, when the parent cannot do more than pray and exhort.

Let us do both of those consistently and well.  Praying for those who do teach our children and exhorting our children as they learn.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Church

FBCC-Beck
That’s our church building.  By September, it won’t look different from the outside, but if all goes well the segment on the left will look very different inside following a remodel.  We’ve grown in many ways and need to adapt the space we have to our current needs. 

It is not an easy, nor quick, process to change the physical building that contains a church.  It is our belief the church really is made of all the believers who come here when the doors are open to both worship and serve the Lord they’ve publically acknowledged.  Not everyone who enters is a part of that church.

There is a ‘remodel’ that must go on inside a person when they come to serve Him.  Jesus addressed that when He was talking with Nicodemus in John’s third chapter:

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  (John 3:3 KJV)

That change, that conversion, makes us part of the body of Christ:

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5 KJV)

We are required by His command to love one another.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  (John 13:34 KJV)

Sometimes that’s not so easy, just as it is difficult in the most closely knit families.  Jesus knew this, so He repeated His command.  I think of it as a reinforcement.

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (John 15:12 KJV)

Just when we think we’re not supposed to hear this one, we’re told again.

These things I command you, that ye love one another. (John 15:17 KJV)

I would run out of space if I quoted all of the other New Testament references calling us to love one another.  Besides, we know it – we just don’t always follow the instructions, do we?

Just as our building needs adjustments and remodels, we need to be aware of the ones that will benefit our growth in following our Lord’s commands.  Those commands are all based on the continuing, on-going, not to be changed commands given by God and confirmed by Christ.

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 22:37-40 KJV)

All law.  All prophecy. Everything in God’s design.  Doubt it?  Check it out.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Beautiful Feet

Shoe
I was listening to a bit of Handel’s Messiah – “How Beautiful Are The Feet” – which got me to thinking about how much walking our Savior did.  I mentioned in a previous blog about the modes of travel in that first century.  The majority walked.  That got me to thinking about footwear and some I’ve seen recently. 

And some I remember from history.

The shoe on the left is from China.  I’ve seen examples in a museum. Real ones that had been worn by women displaying a certain status. Their feet were bound so that most could not walk but had to be carried.  The practice lasted about a thousand years, outlawed in 1949, though some continued the practice, perhaps even today.

On the right is a screen capture of a current style, the cost is about $200.  The shape and style is not as confining as the other, but is not designed for a normal walking process.

Both are considered stylish for their own time and social status, but neither are conducive to walking up and down the dusty roads of Judea in that first century.  It is of those feet the scripture and the hymn were written.

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 52:7 KJV)

And repeated:

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 10:15 KJV)

The context was similar, too – becoming acquainted with our Lord.

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. (Isaiah 52:6 KJV)

Paul’s concerned was how they would know His name.

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? (Romans 10:14 KJV)

Paul wanted people, all people, to know what he and I both believe:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13 KJV)

This is the same message Jesus carried from Capernaum thru Samaria past Jerusalem throughout Judea.  I’ve read one person’s calculations, based on the gospel stories, that Jesus walked over three thousand miles during his three-year ministry.

Where can we walk with the beautiful feet of ministry?  Where does God want us to walk?  How many of us have asked Him?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Not Expecting Forgiveness?

Joseph_Forgives_His_Brothers

And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found. [Genesis 44:16 KJV]

Surely you’ve felt the same way.  I know I have.  What shall we say?  How shall we clear ourselves?  Judah had no idea who had placed the stolen items in their baggage.  Even though he knew he didn’t, he stated the obvious – they appeared guilty and had no defense.  Besides, this was the most powerful man in Egypt.  It really didn’t matter what Judah said, this man had the power of life and death over Judah and his brothers. 

Just as those brothers had held life and death over Joseph.

In the following verses Judah explains to the Egyptian ruler the obvious, expressing concern over the life of his father if he loses a second son.  Then he offers himself:

Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father. [Genesis 44:33-34 KJV]

The years between Dothan and Egypt have changed Judah.  He lived with the sorrow and guilt of what was done to Joseph, the resulting pain to his father, and he cannot face that again.  That change of heart was obvious to Joseph, who could no longer control his own emotions within his act.

Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. [Genesis 45:1 KJV]

All that had happened to Joseph since that pit in Dothan provided the opportunities to be in the right place at the right time to save his entire family.  Slavery, prison – things we look upon with revulsion and see as degradation, God used to further his purpose.  Were those the hateful plans to thwart God’s purpose?  We’re not told.  In spite of the appearance of evil and lies, Joseph understood God worked in his life.

And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. [Genesis 45:7-8 KJV]

Joseph’s brothers were not expecting forgiveness.  Why should they?  But it was given.

And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him. [Genesis 45:14-15 KJV]

For years they had lived with the consequences of their sin against their brother – and their father – but God worked in their lives and they were forgiven.  Can we, who have been told of His love and His provision for us, expect any less?