Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who Would You Want?

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This is a photograph of Churchill waving to crowds of Londoners he was leading during World War II.

Who would you want for followers?  Your goal is beyond surviving, and powerful people are after everything you have, even your life.  Who do you want backing you up?

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men. And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. (1 Samuel 22:1-3 KJV)

What’s your initial thought when someone says “David”? For me, family comes to mind (of course!) first.  Then, King David.  Followed a bit by Goliath, Jonathon, Saul, Bathsheba, Solomon – things from King David’s life. I visualize him as a shepherd boy with a slingshot.  I see him as a harpist in Saul’s court, soothing the king’s spirit with music. I think of his friendship, his commitments – the bits and pieces of Jewish history.  I think of Samuel’s description of David as he spoke to Saul:

But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee. (1 Samuel 13:14 KJV)

Yet, here he is, leader of “… every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented.” Too many D words, and none of them dynamic!

Are these the people you would accept as supporters?  Look at our own political candidates – if they were voters, they certainly would not be turned away.  But, to have the entire campaign contingent on distressed and discontented debtors? Wouldn’t fill the coffers, would it?

But, it worked. Those D people followed a man looking for what God had in mind for him. He asked them to follow him “… till I know what God will do for me.”

He took physical care of his family and followers, taking them to Moab, once home to his great-grandmother Ruth. We might assume that he spent time in prayer, as evidenced from his Psalms.  We do know that he listened to God’s messenger, and responded to the message:

And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth. (1 Samuel 22:5 KJV)

If God can take distressed discontented debtors and build a kingdom, why aren’t we listening to Him, too?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Pew Survey

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I know I shouldn’t, but I really do visualize a church pew when I read about Pew Surveys.  I know, I know – that’s applying a stereotypical graphic to a word that has wider meanings.  One of Pew’s recent surveys brought stereotypes to mind in a big way! Religious people are technically inclined!!

Sometimes it appears that non-religious people think religious people live completely outside the physical world and they appear surprised when that stereotype is broken.

Same is true of religious people who view scientists as non-believers. ReadTheSpirit’s review of “Science vs Religion” concludes:
The “startling” news is this: Religion is a much bigger part of scientists’ lives than most Americans think. In other words: Our stereotypes about scientists are wrong.
When we see an example that ‘confirms’ our view of a stereotype, we believe more solidly that the stereotype exists for a reason. We can base assumptions on those views, and from assumptions, jump avidly to conclusions that are totally erroneous, but fit our world view.

Until something comes along, slaps us in the face and says, “Why in the world would you think THAT!”

Sometimes we think THAT because it helps us firm up our own beliefs. We reinforce our world view when we decline to accept that others have differing vantage points. Reminds me of the story of blind men touching different portions of an elephant, then rejecting all but their own descriptions. Impossible to see a larger picture without comparing descriptions.

I took a corporate seminar decades ago, entitled “You are who you are because of where you were when.” Unless we broaden our minds, that can be a very confining, yet valid, fact.  Opening ourselves to acknowledge others have a different “where” and “when”, then learning about them gives greater opportunity for comparisons – and understanding.  Confining ourselves to our own “where” and “when” ends up in being polarizing.  As our country is today.

There are biblical examples of stereotyping, too:

Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? (Matthew 13:55 KJV)

They knew the family – stereotypically, how could there be anything He could say that could be of interest? Or, how about Nathanael’s view of Nazareth:

And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. (John 1:46 KJV)

I like Philip’s response.  He didn’t try to convince Nathanael with rhetoric, didn’t downgrade his concept, didn’t attempt to change his mind or complain about his point of view.

“Come and see.” That’s the invitation I extend. Find out if what I say about the Bible is true, not what my view point is. As we share, come and see where we are, when.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Judgment Call

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That’s the new car we’re picking up today.  The manufacturers make it fairly easy to price/compare long before we have to visit the car lots.  There were several we were considering, based on our specific needs/wants.

I prefer the five-door.  My Cruiser has that, and  it is easy for me to load/unload Beloved Husband’s wheelchair. Plenty of space on the inside for four adults – and I can drive four of my great-grands with me, too.  That’s good, ‘cause their Mom is going to end up with the Cruiser.  I wanted another Cruiser, but they don’t make those any more.

So, it was shop and compare specifications, accessories, options, performance, safety, warranties and miles per gallon.  Three things brought us to our decision -- things the other vehicles did not offer: 1) the dealer’s within 25 miles (for country folk that does make a bit of difference; 2) price (although three of the considerations were within a thousand dollars of each other); and 3) miles per gallon.  This one gives me at least ten more mpg than my Cruiser, and five more than the competition.

That’s a lot of things to consider – yet people expect me not to be able to make judgments regarding another’s character or actions?

Here’s one of the first verses thrown out when people speak against judging.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  (Matthew 7:1-2 KJV)

That’s a good one, but an even better one isn’t quoted as often:

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: (Luke 6:37 KJV)

How then can a Christian state, “That’s sinful!”? Do we ignore, expecting that God will take care of it during eternity? Dare we speak out?

To me, the answer lies a little later in that same chapter.  First, we must look to ourselves:

Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye. (Luke 6:42 KJV)

When we see clearly, we will be able to help our brother.  In that same chapter we learn we should be fruit inspectors:

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. (Luke 6:43-44 KJV)

At the very least, even without pointing a finger and saying “That’s sinful!” we can determine whether actions match the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-25, and Ephesians 5:9.  Not much more difficult than picking out a car.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gifts

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Christmas morning Pastor told of an overheard conversation. A group of girls were chatting as they shopped.  One girl was telling of the present she bought for a friend, a member of the group she addressed.  She told of her shopping trip the previous Christmas, finding just the right gift, liking it so much herself that she was tempted to keep it, but she wrapped it up and gave it to her friend.

She looked that friend right in the eye and said, “But, you never wore it, did you.” An awkward pause, but the group moved on before Pastor could hear the friend’s response.

It made me think of the gift God gave that so many people have rejected.

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

He loved mankind so much that He gave Himself for us.  What happens when that gift is rejected?

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 am always amazed by people who decide what God is, or isn’t, will or will not do, all based on our personal standards.  Some will say that He is love and that He accepts all of His creation, rejecting none. To me, this is as selective a reading of scripture as Thomas Jefferson’s rejection of the New Testament’s miracles.

Few, however, carefully consider that question in Hebrews – what happens when we neglect God’s salvation.  To me that has a double meaning – first, what hope is there for people who reject Him and what He’s doing; second, those of us who believe in Him, but neglect to do anything beyond accepting His gift.  We have so much to give in return, but we do little – or nothing.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 KJV)

Consider the price. Consider the gift. Will it be put to use?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Settled In Our Hearts

Jesus was speaking to His disciples at the temple, explaining what would be coming in the future.  Some would come saying they were the Christ, but they were not.  There would be wars that would appear to be enough to end all wars, but they would not. Whether taken to prison or simply sought out for answers, He had words for His followers as the world comes to them:

And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: (Luke 21:13-14 KJV)

I believe that when a Christian is following God’s will for their lives, they will have opportunities for testifying about their faith.  It is a very good way for us to explain our faith to others, to share what we believe and why we believe it. When we do so He will provide what to say:

For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. (Luke 21:15 KJV)

The problem is we don’t spend enough time with Him and with His word to feel that comfortable speaking about our faith, our beliefs.

In our jobs, we spend 40+ hours/week gaining experience.  When it is a profession, not just work, we do extra training.  Some is company provided, some we spend time and money outside of work to learn how to do our job better, how to advance in our careers and we build networks of people in similar positions, learning from them, too.

Seldom do we apply that process to our religion.  A Pew Survey from 2010 has some interesting data: The differences between 1970's and the 2000's among young adults' religious affiliation is remarkable -- 1970, 12% unaffiliated, or have no religion; 2000, 23%. Daily prayer was up, 41% to 45% of young adults, as with other age groups, so those affiliated with a religion appear to be praying more.

Worship attendance included Total Population as well as being broken down by ages. Out of the 77% who gave a religious affiliation, only 46% attend services at least weekly.  Prayer comes in a little better -- of that 77% affiliated, only 65% pray daily.

Scripture reading comes last. A paltry 40% read scripture daily. At least those of you who stop by here daily get a dose of scripture! And, my readers know that I read scripture – Every. Single. Day.

Why? Because I’m called upon to witness. People ask me what I believe, and I feel a personal responsibility to be truthful about what and why I believe. So, I go to scheduled church serves three times a week to learn from our pastor.  I attend Sunday School and Ladies Meetings to share what I know and to learn more from others witnessing about the Messiah’s work in their lives.  That gives me my congregation’s doctrine.

I find that insufficient – I must know how what I believe stacks up against others.  If I only hear/read from one viewpoint, how can I discern the truth?  How can anyone? It takes time, thoughtfulness and research for us to be settled in our hearts.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Simeon

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And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. (Leviticus 12:1-4 KJV)

Millennia after Moses delivered God’s law, Mary followed the law, circumcising her son on the eighth day.  On the fortieth, she approached the temple with her husband and her son.

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;  (Luke 2:22 KJV)

Mary and Joseph listened to angels tell of Jesus’ birth. So did shepherds.  Magi followed a star. Now we meet someone who heard the Holy Spirit:

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. (Luke 2:25 KJV)

Perhaps Simeon was familiar with Isaiah’s fortieth chapter:

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. (Isaiah 40:1 KJV)

Whatever he read, whatever he heard, when he saw the child, he burst into praise:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32 KJV)
People used to say, “I could’ve just died!” when exclaiming over something that gave them pleasure.  Simeon’s wait was over, he was ready to leave this world, having seen with his own eyes God’s salvation.  We aren’t told how long he had waited for God’s promise. The Bible doesn’t give his age or his health, but he was ready to “depart in peace.

What faith!!! He’s holding a month-old baby and he has faith that God’s promise will be fulfilled. We have the story of His life, the testimony of eye witnesses, over two thousand years of continued witnesses, and we lack this old man’s faith.

Did you notice his “light to lighten the Gentiles” as he held the baby who would preach:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12 KJV)

There would come a time when He wasn’t here:

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5 KJV)

At that point, His light shone through others:

Ye are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14a KJV)

After the apostles, most of those with His light shining through are gentiles, yet it is to “the glory of thy people Israel.” We can see that through Simeon’s eyes.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

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The birth of Christ did not occur 2,011 years ago on this date. It is possible the month and day were picked to worship His birth under the cover of an existing Roman holiday, to keep a low profile, to not garner the attention of authorities with edicts to wipe out the spreading belief that Jesus was the Messiah.

There were no evergreen trees, decorated or not, mentioned in the writings of His birth. Trees and burning yule logs came from other practices, other beliefs.

There was a believer, a saint, Nicholas, who had a reputation for gift giving. Transforming him into a non-Christian jolly old elf living in the north pole took centuries of stories, politics and a general disbelief, along with a desire to continue gift-giving practices.

Nativity scenes depict the holy family, angels, shepherds, wise men, camels, donkeys, sheep, cows – but not all of those were in the same place at the same time in the biblical account of Jesus first year.

What should we do?  Ignore the celebration?  Partake of festivities without believing them? Correct everyone we meet with our views of how it should be? It is a personal decision.

We’ve chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus as our:

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV)

We believe and celebrate the angel’s message:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 KJV)

Like Mary, we will think on these things:

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19 KJV)

That included Simeon’s affirmation of faith:

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32 KJV)

Anna, too, knew who and what He was:

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38 KJV)

So, my husband and I will gather with other family members, both church and biological, and celebrate God’s gift to mankind.  We celebrate a personal relationship with a living Lord who plans spanned creation:

Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (1 Peter 1:20 KJV)

And, as Job, I will use this season to affirm that my redeemer lives!

Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: (Job 19:23-25 KJV)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Where is God?

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“Where is God?”  One site says that's the ultimate question from mankind, but that is an incomplete question.  Most people ask, "Where is God in the midst of my personal tragedy?"  We each ask about God when we consider Gauguin’s question: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" And, what difference does it make?

There is one thing God has promised:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 KJV)

This was written to those in captivity, longing for their return to Jerusalem.  A few verses earlier, God warned about listening to the wrong people -- even told them no to listen to their dreams:

For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. (Jeremiah 29:8 KJV)

We must take care to keep a close relationship to God in order for us to know whether we are following our own dreams, or keeping to the path God has laid out for us.  He does look out for His own – here’s what He had to say about His people when they thought they were forsaken:

But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:14-16 KJV)

Beyond the specific mention of Zion, the Bible speaks to us individually regarding what He provides:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV)

There is strong temptation to follow scientific investigations that make assumptions that God does not exist, that the universe continually recreates itself, that there was no time when there was no time. An endless, senseless continuity that has no time for us and no meaning for our lives.  Yesterday we looked at Solomon, as The Preacher, search for more than this vanity. I accept Solomon’s answer.

So – when asked, “Where is God?” my answer is, “Where ever you place Him in your life."

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Preacher …

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… wrote:

For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. (Ecclesiastes 2:16 KJV)

Our youth pastor gave the lesson Wednesday night, continuing a study as the youth joined adults.  The youth meet with adults when school isn’t in session, so we go to hear the lesson with them.

Studying Ecclesiates, especially during a joyous season, is a bit odd.  Here is the man deemed one of the wisest of his time and he writes a book that confirms 1) there is nothing new under the sun, and 2) it’s all הבל    הבל, emptiness or vanity. He finds like transitory and unsatisfactory.

Sounds a lot like we do, doesn’t he? Our expectations are seldom met. Our relationships waver between good and “Oh, dear, where do we go from here?”  Our jobs seldom gives us more than the agreed upon salary, and little in the way of satisfaction or progress.

Solomon saw all of that.  He saw what was remembered from previous generations and saw that both the wise man and the fool were dead, buried and forgotten.

How could he possibly forsee that the very words he wrote of the despair felt by all would be read thousands of years later.  Not because of the twelve chapters of discovering life’s emptiness, but for the closing truth.  I’ve used it often, for it is God’s truth, an absolute truth. Not a relative truth that wavers, too, between good and “Oh, dear, where do we go from here?”

Solomon did tell us where to go and what to do:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 KJV)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just Thinking


Paul had problems. He even had what appeared to be a physical problem as he refers to it as a buffeting thorn in his flesh. He prayed that the Lord would take it away:

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 KJV)

My grace is sufficient for thee.” Paul believed it, do we?

After we’ve prayed for something and we have not received a positive answer, do we depend on His grace, or does our faith start waning a bit?  Some may tell us that we aren’t “doing it right,”  that we need to pray a specific way, at a specific time, standing, kneeling, with (or without) others.  Or, they say, we can’t reach God.

Others will laugh at the thought of praying to a myth, to a God that does not exist.  If He did, we wouldn’t need to pray, He would give us what we need. One such posted a comment a story of a child’s healing through prayer, laughing at the parents praying to a God who allowed the child to become ill in the first place.

I don’t understand how non-believers determine that we believe God plans and implements every moment in our lives.  There’s nothing biblical that indicates He is a puppet-master pulling strings here and there to get people to do what He wants. We are a people with choices – daily – in how we live.

Christians who love their Lord deeply have made bad choices along the way.  Some of those decisions come with consequences similar to Paul’s thorn, pricking their conscience if not their flesh.  In many instances, we’ll receive the same response Paul did.

If we do, we mustn’t dwell on the pain, but on the grace that is sufficient. It is the same grace we read:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 KJV)

God has ordained where we should be walking and He provides the grace for us to do so.  Build faith and feel the sufficiency.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Comes A Time

Carolers
For several years my Beloved Husband made fudge to put into the baskets carolers from the church took to members who were ill or shut-in. We didn’t last year, and missed again this year.  Operations and medical crises took our focus.

Thanks be to God that we are never alone!  That was made abundantly clear when the carolers showed up at our house last night with a basket of goodies.  Oh, we sang carols, then had cookies and treats, lots of talk and a wonderful time together celebrating the birth of our Lord.

I did feel a bit of remorse and guilt, though. Next year, we make fudge again!  We have been so very blessed during this past year in spite of the physical pain Beloved Husband has endured. A double blessing has been that our own children are part of the church family that has been so supportive.  We know they are just as supportive to other members in need as they have been for us.

There is not a single individual on this planet that escapes those times when their need requires the care of another.  Whether it is physical (and that will come to all of us) or spiritual, having family reaching out to sustain is all that keeps us going.  When we’re children of God through Jesus Christ, that family is larger than we can comprehend.

I know prayers said for my husband stretched from Nairobi to Manila, from London to Guatemala City and hundreds of places in between. Those are our brothers and sisters in Christ, extended family members we will be with for eternity, just as much as those who stood in our home Monday night.  They all understand:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40 KJV)

Paul wanted us to look out for each other, too:

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. (1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 KJV)

I really like that “know them which labour among you” -- get to know those who do the work of the Lord in the church. Also get to know those who “are over you in the Lord” – get to know your pastor.  He’s not there just to give sermons, he’s there to lead the congregation, to teach God’s word, to feed His sheep.

Those are the people who carried the baskets, gathered carolers, came to other homes and ours, and filled them with beautiful songs while sharing God’s love. There’s nothing better this side of heaven – where we’ll meet again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Angel Lights


Sunday night we had an outdoor service about the Angel Lights.  Several years at Christmas time, some in our community put out lighted angels in memory of loved ones.  It grew over the years, with a couple of different groups storing and restoring the figures for display.  A couple of years ago the tradition was about to be closed out when a member of our church asked if the church would accept the responsibility of the display for the community as a whole – and she graciously accepted the responsibility for overseeing the project each year.

No, we do not believe those who have passed became angels.  Angels are beings quite separate from mankind.  The Bible is pretty clear on that:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. (Psalms 8:3-5 KJV)

A little lower than the angels, David said.  Paul said a bit more:

Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? (1 Corinthians 6:3 KJV)

Before we get to the point of doing that bit of judging, though, there are things for us to accomplish here. We have ministries to serve, people to witness to, service to provide in the name of our Lord.  Our hope and our work go way beyond things on earth.  If we only hope for things here, our hope is in vain.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV)

Our hope is not only in this life – but in Christ’s promise and His resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15 has much to say on this subject, and one of my favorites is:

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53 KJV)

I believe, as did Mary Frye:


Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.


Well, actually, my body will. There is no hesitation about saying that, and no doubt that it will happen.  I’ve made certain arrangements, paid an attorney to write down what should be done when – not if – that occurs. For anyone to be in denial about the certainty of death borders on being psychotic.  It is inevitable. Before then, I have a lot of things to do.

One of those things is to stand each Christmas with a group of people as we remember loved ones no longer standing beside us. The lights remind us of the light of the world, too:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12 KJV)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grateful For Fellowship

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A very nice (pastor, pastor’s wife, youth director, pianist, soloist, choir, church member – take your choice) spent a lot of their free time to (plan, teach, train, implement, decorate, create – take your choice) our (Fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Spring, Summer) (party, program, presentation, lesson, cantata, special – take your choice) and someone didn’t like it.

They didn’t like it because (it was too long/short, there were too many/few participants, it wasn’t like last years, it was too much like last years, there was too much/little rehearsal – take your choice).

Heard any of those comments around your church?  If you haven’t, you may not be attending regularly.  They come from people who were heavily involved before, and not so much now; those who were never involved; those who say they should have been involved but weren’t asked. 

Seldom do you hear such comments from people who were involved in any part of the event.  Those are the ones we should be looking to as examples!!  And maybe, just maybe, there’s a bit of Martha’s DNA in them that says, “We can do it!!” They can, too. 

Both Mary and Martha were set before us as examples:

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. [Luke 10:41-42 KJV]

There’s another story about the sisters we should heed:

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. [John 11:20 KJV]

Martha believed Jesus capable of saving Lazarus:

Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. [John 11:21-22 KJV]

Martha also believed that Lazarus would be part of the resurrection.

Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. [John 11:24 KJV]

Jesus’ answer to her is what we should remember whenever we think anything in our church is not up to the personal standards we have set.  Jesus’ answer goes to the very heart of the gospel message, and Christians cannot get that message across when they are bicker and complain about trivial, not doctrinal, pleasantries.  Instead, we need to focus on Jesus’ answer:

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? [John 11:25-26 KJV]

That’s why all the people in the first paragraph do all the things in the first paragraph – to bring the congregation together, hear God’s word and answer that question Jesus gave to Martha.

Believest thou this?  Do we live as though we know Jesus is the resurrection and the life?  That He is the light of the world? That He came to seek and to save the lost? That the seeds sown in these church-related fellowships are to bring forth fruit for His glory –- not for our convenience, not for our pleasures, not for our gratification, but for His glory?

If we did, we wouldn’t bicker about the small things, would we?  We would be grateful to God for the fellowship, see to our brothers and sisters in Christ for their needs and see that the good news is spread:

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]

If we believe that, tell the worker bees in your church how much you appreciate all they do for you – staff and members both.  Tell them you are grateful for their fellowship.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Traveling?

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Google directions from Nazareth to Bethlehem show a route 155 km long, estimated at just less than two driving hours. For our non-metric country, that’s just over 96 miles, close to the distance we used to drive from our home to Beloved Husband’s brother’s house – in just under two hours.

Would Joseph have brought his family along a similar route, staying west of the mountains, roughly following the ancient Via Maris?  Or, would they have taken the Ridge Route?

Under adverse conditions, a caravan could achieve ten kilometers a day, and under perfect conditions, about 25.  One or two weeks to make a caravan journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, though I believe the caravan in mind would be directed more to Jerusalem, with a smaller group headed to Bethlehem for the census.

How many woman you know would be eager to make that walking, or donkey riding, journey during their last stages of pregnancy?

A week before the celebration of Christ’s birth, think about it. Mary had to have physical strength, as well as character. The months leading up to the birth of her son had not been easy, though they were filled with promise:

To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Luke 1:27-28 KJV)

The word used, παρθένος, means maiden, which by implication meant an unmarried daughter.  At that time, and centuries before, that meant a virgin – or possibly death (as it does in some cultures today) if she were not. The equivalent is found in Isaiah 7:14, עלמה.

The angel made a visit to her espoused, too, who loved her enough to put her away instead of putting her to death. Joseph was told:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:21-23 KJV)

It was here it is confirmed that:

For with God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:37 KJV)

Jesus knew this, too:

And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. (Mark 10:26-27 KJV)

Why place limits on God’s ability? Why not learn, as Paul did:

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13 KJV)

First, though, we must understand, as Christ did, that God’s plans are so much better than our own, and submitting to His will achieves what we alone cannot:

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:35-36 KJV)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Politics and Religion

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For Americans, until next November, there will be an open discussion of politics. As it has this fall, it will be on the web, in newspapers, on the lips of friends, family and opposition. Odd for a country that spends a lot of time stating we do not discuss religion or politics, because it starts arguments.
So what?
1.  A fact or statement used to support a proposition; a reason.
2.  A verbal dispute; a quarrel.
3.  A process of reasoning.
4.  (philosophy, logic) A series of statements organized so that the final statement is a conclusion which is intended to follow logically from the preceding statements, which function as premises.
Three out of these four definitions for ARGUMENT should be right on for sharing facts, supporting reasoning, organizing thoughts and reaching conclusions – right?

So, why not include politics and religion?  Because they are divisive, we’re told.  Discussing them places us on one side or the other, not bringing us together. So, we don’t discuss two items that have the greatest of impacts on our lives.

Stop it!!  Or, actually, start it.  Talk about what is important, doing so after organizing both facts and statements.  Understand the source of beliefs, principles, opinions and absolutes that not only we hold dear, but those we consider in opposition.  That’s biblically based:

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)

That’s part of the problem – we do not speak with meekness, and we have phobias (φοβου) about giving answers, not the deep-seated respectable fear of what we cannot know, but a phobic fear of the unknown, the things we must accept on faith.

We accept our politicians on faith, based on what they say, what they’ve done, who supports or opposes, but not knowing what the future will bring in response to their promises.  We do the same for our religion (or lack thereof.) A civil, learning/teaching discussion of either is enlightening.

I am appalled (and offended) by the Comment sections on web news sites, were the postings do not approach civility, teach rudeness, decline to learn except in very rare cases and most often degenerate into verbal fisticuffs. Invariably, after four or five comments, there will be posts that are specifically demeaning to another poster’s politics, religion, race, nationality or other personal attribute, filled with rage, hate or both. I stop reading when I reach the first of those.

It is possible to question the source of a person’s opinion without demeaning their character while doing so. And, it is possible to give an answer to such a question in the same manner.

Let’s make a commitment to keep civility in all of our own discussions, then expect the same in return. Politely leave discussions that do not remain civil, stating (politely, please!) the reason for leaving.  Perhaps it will catch on, people can share, study and learn whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11b)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Imperial

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This is my second most favorite rose, the Chrysler Imperial. Can you imagine the tens of thousands of them used in this float, (pictured on the Imperial Club site):
In the 1954 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, 25,000 Chrysler Imperial roses in individual refreshment tubes of water covered the base of the float entered by the City of Detroit, Michigan, US and Chrysler Corporation. The theme of the float was Life of an American Workman, as Chrysler Corporation founder Walter P. Chrysler had titled his autobiography. The center of this float featured the figure of an American Workman striding out from the pages of a book to strike a heavy hammer upon an anvil from which floral "sparks" flowed, their trains leading in several directions to various Detroit signature products: an automobile, a truck, an airplane, a tank, and a boat
Much has changed since 1954, and Detroit no longer is known for such signature products, though the Tournament of Roses Parade continues in fragrant splendor.  Even though I only have memories of parades from the 1940’s and the elegance of Chrysler’s top-of-the-line car, I can see the rose each spring.  It remains easily available for our gardens.

As for its blooms, they last for days, the bush for years, the automobile for decades, the parade for over a century – so far. But, just as the blooms, things fade, even from memory.

Except God’s word.

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35 KJV)

Before writing was invented, the stories were told. Attributed to Moses, they were written, along with the history of a peculiar people:

And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments; (Deuteronomy 26:18 KJV)

Paul and Peter promised us we were among those, too:

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:13-14 KJV)

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9 KJV)

Other verses tell us much more about the everlasting Word of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. (Revelation 19:11-13 KJV)

He is King of Kings – in a word, imperial.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Growth

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I gave up on my little garden this year.  With so many days over 100, everything I had planted withered and eventually died.  I did have a few tomatoes, and my Texas 1015 onions did well, for a while.  Then the heat got them, too.

Until two weeks ago when I notice green shoots.  With a possible freeze coming that Monday, I asked First Daughter to pull them when I was sent into quarantine.  We had an entire batch of sweet 1015’s for the next few days.  It reminded me of:

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:23 KJV)

I had good ground. For a while, I watered and cared for the garden.  It bore good ‘fruit’ and we enjoyed that fruit. This also reminded me of another verse:

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6 KJV)

Can we transfer this example to people?  Sometimes the seeds lay until it really is God’s increase that is shown, just as these onions. The seeds were there, God provided the timing on the rain and the warmth.

When we speak of our faith, give out the word of God, we are the sower of Matthew’s parable.  We spread it where and when we get a chance.  Leaving a pamphlet with the tip at the restaurant table, speak to the person behind the register as we check out, remind someone to have a blessed day – there are many, many ways we can leave the gospel as our testimony. 

That may not even be planting.  It may be a slight preparation of the soil, getting it ready for the true seed in the word of God.

Why do we want to do that?  To help someone grow their faith:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17 KJV)

What was that I heard you say?  Brainwashing?  Read nothing but the Bible and not understand what’s happening in the world?  I sure thought I heard that concept ringing through someone’s mind, maybe even read it from someone who found the word dry and lacking.

Frankly, I know my percentage of secular news and novels would be higher than a non-believers’ percentage of Bible reading.  It would be a pleasure to have them share a bit of Bible reading, and their opinions when finished.  I believe we’d both learn something. And, seeds would have been planted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Changed?

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My dish for this Thursday night is salad. What I have in mind is a seven layer salad similar to the one in this photo (though I prefer to have the green onions under the dressing, and I don’t use cheese.  Click on the photo to see my comments on this traditional salad.)

To make it, I’m going to the market and select the ingredients.  I’ll check the head of iceberg lettuce not only for size, but freshness. I’ll look for baby spinach leaves, tender and small. The celery will be as dark as I can find, plump and not dried out. A change from my usual green-only, I’ll look for radishes that have a deep red, and the smallest cherry tomatoes I can find to show Christmas reds and greens.

I will not make judgments concerning how or where the veggies were grown, but I will make a determination if they fit the requirements I’ve set for presentation to people I like. 

I make similar selections in regard to people I bring into my home, introduce to my circle of friends and most definitely build into lasting relationships.

Sunday our pastor’s sermon was on the expected changes after a person gives their life to Christ.  No change, nothing gained. Not a judgmental attitude, but a fruit inspection.

Paul wrote of his own background, his curriculum vitae. Elsewhere he mentions his training under Gamaliel in Jerusalem while here he gives the essentials:

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 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 3:4-6 KJV)

He was not a Levite, not born to serve as priest, but chose the life of a Pharisee, studied hard, kept the law and took pride in doing so.  After his conversion experience, that CV was important only in explaining the change in his life:

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 3:8 KJV)

Jesus spoke of false prophets, but I believe one professing a belief in Christ yet continuing a life without change is false, too:

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Matthew 7:17-18 KJV)

Most of us won’t be called to give up everything as Paul did, but we should be able to if called to do so.  The change in a person’s life upon becoming a Christian should be evident to those around them. There should be good fruit, and the Bible certainly gives examples of very good fruit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shepherd

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A reader responded to my “Cattle” blog:
A good pastor never forgets he is a shepherd--not a cattleman.
What do you know about the difference between taking care of cattle and sheep?  There were lots of cattle in Bible times.  Camels, too, as well as goats.  All of these herds require caretaking.  All require men to look after them, to protect them and see to their well-being as they provide for the needs of their owners.
Why then, does the Bible focus on the caregiving of the shepherd? Why do we read:

The LORD is my shepherd; (Psalms 23:1a KJV)

David was a shepherd, so perhaps that isn’t a good example.  Much earlier, though, Jacob recognized a shepherd in the last blessings of his sons:

But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) (Genesis 49:24 KJV)

Isaiah described our Lord so very well:

Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:10-11 KJV)

Isaiah wrote of Him in detail, and He told us the prophecy was fulfilled:

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, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4:16-21 KJV)

John 10 has much to say about the Shepherd and His flock, but my favorite is:

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 KJV)

Do your own search, find your own favorite verses.  We both know that among them will be one true for me and thee:

The LORD is my shepherd; (Psalms 23:1a KJV)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mourning

Atala_au_tombeau,1808,Girodet_de_Roussy_-Trioson,_Louvre.
Parting from one's beloved. The Entombment of Atala 1808
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson
Most of my readers are aware of my interest in genealogy. One of my 6th great grandmothers was Mourning Lewis, born about 1694 in Henry county, Virginia, married Robert Adams 4 February 1711/12 (the date looks odd because of calendar differences), and passed away in 1764 in Albermarle, Virginia. Why would her parents, William Lewis and Elizabeth Woodson, name a child ‘mourning’? Were they in mourning themselves?

My fourth great grandfather, Joseph Timberlake (1752-1841) and his wife Anne Douglas (1761-1815) named their seventh child Mourning Timberlake.  Were they, too, mourning?

Smelling Coffee posted a blog about Matthew 5:4 that speaks of those who do mourn:

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 KJV)

We all do mourn.  I mourn the loss of my parents, though Mom has been with our Lord since 1995, Dad since 2000 and time should have lessened mourning – but it hasn’t.  I have, however, been comforted.

I mourn the more recent loss of a dearly loved sister-in-law, also a sister in Christ, at home with the Lord just this fall. I miss them all. I am comforted, not only by the above verse, but by the very presence of our Lord in my life.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:15-18 KJV)

Did you notice that He never told us NOT to mourn?  He knows we will. There are so many things to be mourned.  In the midst of all, though, we are comforted.

Where do you find the best comfort? 

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

When we received comfort from our Lord, we are to pass it along, too, comforting those we find in need:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 KJV)

There are many more verses – look for them and find comfort:

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 KJV)

Then, look for those you are able to comfort, seeing that as good word and work.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cattle

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We are now raising low-lines, miniature black Angus cattle.  We used to have full sized, but we had a bull-headed bull who thought he could go anywhere he wanted to – and proceeded to do so through our fences.  It took a couple of weeks to get him loaded into the stock trailer, then off to the sale he went.  So, we now have Zach the bull (short for Zacchaeus), Joy, the cow, an unnamed steer and this nice donkey named Jack who watches over the little herd and keeps coyotes and dogs out of the pastures. But, Jack can’t keep everything away.

When we came home Friday, a young longhorn steer was visiting. He’s not the first to come by to see if the grass truly is greener elsewhere. That was almost a serious problem a few years ago when a horned black bull decided he would jump our fence.  Obviously he could, since he jumped over his own fence to get out.  His owner soon found him and took him home – right after making a comment about heading to the sale barn, too.

I am grateful that our Lord doesn’t let us go that easily. Oh, we make mistakes.  Like Paul, we certainly kick against the pricks and at times we leave the security of our pastures.  I thank God for the shepherd who will leave the compliant 99 to seek that 100th lamb and bring it back into the fold.  I give praise to the one who forgave Peter’s rejection and built His church on the rock of faith Peter displayed.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5 KJV)

Too often, though, some who accept the above, fail to understand the following verse:

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:8 KJV)

Good works are not necessary for salvation, but are the fruit of being saved.  When I leave the pasture, I have not lost my salvation, but I have lost my credibility, my witness and I have taken the name of my Lord in vain, for in Him is my faith.  Because I love and serve Him, I will endeavor to keep His commandments, not to earn His love because I have that at all times. The Bible tells me so:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 KJV)

You see, it is not me who is able to be that new creature, but He is:

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, (Jude 1:24 KJV)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

“What's in a name?”

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Will Shakespeare explained that names really weren’t important.
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
The Southern Baptist Convention isn’t so sure about that, referring to results of a recent survey:
SBC President Bryant Wright said the church's name might be too "regional." But he also said the name might be limiting the church's ability to "maximize our effectiveness in reaching North America for Jesus Christ in the 21st century."
I’ve allowed my mind to spend a bit of time theorizing what new name could be applied, and options are limited.  They changed the retail outlet from “Baptist Bookstore” to “Lifeway,” but somehow  The First Lifeway Church doesn’t ring any bells for me.  Or the church where I was baptized – Immanuel Baptist Church of Tulsa – doesn’t sound right as “Immanuel Lifeway Church of Tulsa.”  So, I expect they would look further.  How about biblical usages?

Well, they can’t use Church of Christ, Christian Church, Church of God – already taken. Would it be as simple as removing the regional limitation of “Southern”?  Probably not, as there are literally dozens of Baptist churches.  How would they differentiate?

To remove the Baptist removes a great deal of history. The name was applied to one of our basic doctrines:
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers (believer's baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), and that it must be done by immersion (as opposed to affusion or sprinkling). Other tenets of Baptist churches include soul competency (liberty), salvation through faith alone, scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation.
That paragraph describes our congregation very well. Oh, there is much more, as we continually study scriptures as the basis of our faith:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17 KJV)

And confirming salvation is through faith alone:

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

And that gift includes Jesus, God Himself as Messiah:

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:30-31 KJV)

And that salvation will produce good fruit:

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18 KJV)

I am glad that my congregation is not changing the name of the building where we meet. We will continue to "maximize our effectiveness” by reaching out with the same gospel written to the first churches.

And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) (Acts 5:14 KJV)

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Tried!

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I really did try to find any ‘mainstream media’ outlet covering this little tidbit.  What the graphic from Walter Reed (WRNMMC) home page says is:
We are in the process of rewriting our policy and would like to offer the following statement:
Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded. We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.
I tried a search on Google – lots of ‘right wing’ publications (including Fox News) turned up covering the error and the apology.  Tried specifically on MSNBC and CNN (assuredly left wing, correct?) – no reference to this story or the original policy that had to be rescinded.

Why is it important to me?  It is an indication that the United States Government has agencies denying citizens access to the religion of their choice. The offending memo, issued by the hospital’s Chief of Staff, C.W. Callahan, was blunt and to the point:
“No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.”
It would be totally inappropriate for me – or any other person – to bring a Bible to a total stranger.  However, that is not what the memo covered.  As written, I could not bring my husband his own Bible. Politically correct overkill.  Unnoticed by two of the nation’s highest rated news organizations.  Is this not news?

I am saddened by this situation.  According to the memo, I should not carry my own Bible into the facility, as it might be used during a visit to someone I knew was a Christian. I do find it odd that the word Bible is used in the memo, not Koran, not Torah, not Tanakh, not Tipitaka, not Gita, nor any other holy book reference.

I would hope that any person of faith would reach out to support the change made to restore the right to carry one’s holy book into Walter Reed Medical Center. We should be able to do so anywhere in these United States.

Why must it be construed that to respect religious and/or cultural practices of an individual, it’s necessary to ban that which is sacred to another?  A Muslim co-worker offered me a copy of a Koran.  A Mormon offered a copy of the Book of Mormon.  It was simple for me to say whether I would or would not accept.  I did because I was willing to learn, to share, to discuss.  Had I not been, I was free to decline, both the book and the discussion.

Must we be protected from learning? Once again I turn to a verse that must now be familiar to my readers. 

Learn, question, find answers to see if these things are so.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11 KJV)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Paul Harvey

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Paul Harveiy had a portion of his newscast called “The Rest of the Story” and I thought of that as I drilled down through a follow-up MSNBC article which referenced additional information, through that one to where an apology was made.

The day before, MSNBC reported a 9-year-old boy was suspended from school for sexual harassment, by saying his teacher was cute.  The follow-up MSNBC article stated new information “raised the bar,” without additional explanation, but pointed to a local news article.  That said the school had sent the mother a letter explaining in detail her son’s infraction. The final link reported how the school apologized and said there had been no sexual harassment and the boy would get assistance in catching up on his studies.

I have two problems with what happened here – first is how a charge of sexual harassment could advance to the point that it did. There have been other such incidents.  It appears obvious to me that too many people are easily offended and abuse authority to bring vengeance down on the person who offended them.

The second problem is how we do not get the rest of the eye-catching headline stories.  The first news item would leave the reader believing the boy was sexual harassing his teacher and was duly punished by the school administration.  Although a portion of truth, the story was incomplete, even in the follow-up.

How much of our news is handled in a similar manner?

In respect to the first problem – let’s determine that we, personally, will not be so easily offended. Determine that we won’t let headline buzz words set our expectations at their lowest level.  Horror happens.  We know this because a 7-year-old girl can be beaten to death and thrown away. There is evil in this world, but let us not set that bar at the level that words alone offend us. 

As for the second problem, take time to reach the truth.  In this case, it took me less than ten minutes to follow leads to a truth not seen in the original story.

Yes, there is a biblical application.  Search out the rest of the biblical story.  Just as Paul Harvey’s stories were fascinating, so are others. Find out why Christians believe Jesus was the Messiah, then discover why Jews believe He was not.  Understand why some Muslims look upon ‘jihad’ as ‘struggle’ and others see it meaning a battle. See, too, how Muslims view Jesus.  Basically, know what you believe, why and be able to back it up.

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)

Such studies could allow you to be called noble:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11 KJV)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How Much Time?

hourglass
Today we remember the deaths of thousands of Americans. None of them expected to die on December 7, 1941.

My dear, sweet Ohio Sister-in-Law knew her time on this earth was short. Lisa, when her leukemia returned after the first rounds of chemo, also knew. Where do the rest of us stand?  On sands of time, running out.
Oh, we don’t want to think about it, do we.  How many of us have taken time to have a will written, to see to our earthly possessions?  I remember having ours written when our children were young, to be certain they would be raised with the Christian conviction we felt were important.  As you can tell, it was never used, but we did make plans, preparations, in case it became necessary.

There are other preparations that some people put off, even when they understand that our time in this world is without guarantees, and that the inevitable awaits each and every person.

Only Christians who believe in what is termed ‘rapture’, the removal of Christ’s church before the tribulations described in Revelation, have a hope of missing physical death. That particular hope should be fleeting, for Jesus said:

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

The true hope of a Christian is built on much, much more – Christ’s resurrection.  Paul was a Pharisee who believed in an eternal soul. Sadducees of his time, did not. For them, life ended in death. Christ spoke time and again of eternal life:

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:15 KJV)

How is that eternal life achieved:

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)

Perhaps it’s not as simple as knowing God exists, that Jesus walked this earth and preached:

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19 KJV)

I know people, some I love dearly, who have heard the gospel message and have put off making a decision regarding how they will respond.  Which, in and of itself, is a response – they are ignoring Him.

My concern is they will continue in ignorance, in that state of ignoring Him, until the decision is no longer theirs to make. Thus my question:

How much time remains for each of us to respond to the jailer’s question and Paul’s answer:

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:30-31 KJV)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The 100th Lamb

100thLamb
I don’t remember mentioning the 100th Lamb, but you would be blessed by stopping by her blog.  She knows she embodies the parable of Matthew 18:12 and Luke 15:4.  She is among the lambs in the Shepherd’s fold.

Though we differ on denominational doctrine as Catholic and Baptist, this lamb and I walk together in our love of God and His way in our lives.  She posted this fall:
Meditation: There are some events, stories, and emotions in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) that evoke visceral reactions (at least, for me). God's constant having to show us that He is God because we keep turning away from Him is, to me, sad. Who are we to consider that anything that might interest or intrigue us could possibly be more important than we to God and God to us? We have been given so much, including knowledge beyond what was originally intended, yet have little gratitude? Man historically has worshiped other gods, which, it seems to me (but what do I know?), at least a tiny tad bit better than being an atheist who worships no gods at all. The fact that God keeps trying to get our attention (and certainly He dramatically got mine when I was being totally oblivious) says a lot about God's love for us. Why can't we love Him the way He wants to love us? (That's a question to which I don't have an answer!)
She wasn’t the only one to write about God showing us that He is God. Stop by Smelling Coffee and read her thoughts on Exodus 7. Once again the question has to do with “God’s constant having to show us that He is God …”, which He does so very well. 

And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. (Exodus 9:16 KJV)

Isaiah reminds us of His power:

Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. (Isaiah 50:2 KJV)

Christ spoke of this power, too:

No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:18 KJV)

Though He is love, He is also righteousness and judgment.  We need to be aware:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 KJV)

And, we need to determine to walk humbly with our God, keeping His commandments, which is our only duty.

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Absence of Faith


Tim Tebow continues to be the subject of news items, cartoons and blogs.  I like the perspective given by Martha Randolph on December 2nd. I like best that it is not tied to the Christian faith.  It would be applicable for any person of any faith.

She tells us that every one is:  “… offering their opinions freely about whether or not a public display of faith is acceptable, or even appropriate, all the time. Everyone keeps saying this controversy is about Tebow and his actions.”

Should an overt act of faith be controversial?  Is it morally correct for anyone to overtly, quite publically, mock another’s act of faith?

I like how she gives us Tebow’s viewpoint:  “Tebow has also not said that his faith means God is on his side,” and I agree fully.  What I write here are my thoughts on what I’ve deemed to be God’s word.  Doesn’t make it right, doesn’t make the blog – or me – better than anyone else.

I do, however, state my faith openly and, I hope, strongly.  That’s how I feel about it.  It permeates everything in my life. There are other people, other faiths, who feel the same way, desiring to share their faith, without rancor, without blame.

Randolph concludes that it’s partly our time, where naysayers
“… may have underestimated the rest of us, of our particular faith, who are exhausted by the economy, the political primaries, the Kardashians and the general backbiting that’s become a part of our culture.We’re rooting for the good guy because he’s saying something we want to believe.”
Whether he’s leading our favorite team or not, we really do root for the good guy, and hope there are more like him, whether they be Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim or any other belief system. I believe we should.

Does that change my own faith – nope.  Do I believe I’ve correctly interpreted the scriptures – for the most part. I’m imperfect, working toward understanding.  And sharing that understanding as I move along my path.

That path is based on multiple verses, including but not limited to:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalms 119:105 KJV)

With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalms 119:10-11 KJV)

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)