Saturday, August 31, 2013

That Day

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: (Isaiah 26:1-4 KJV)

Talking about the day of the Lord, Isaiah details his thankfulness. Yesterday a missionary to Guatemala posted this verse and mentioned “the righteous nation which keepeth the truth.”

Which nation would that be?

I’m certain Isaiah was speaking of Israel, and I’m so sad that our nation does not appear to fit the description. No – I am not advocating a nation where its laws are written by men to match what is in the Bible as Muslim Sharia laws are written to match the Quran. I’m thinking of where the law is written in men’s hearts:

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalms 119:11 KJV)

That verse doesn’t mention laws at all. It’s God’s word that needs to be in our hearts that we might not sin. Which word? Well, it certainly takes more than one. We’d have to begin with the words that teach us God exists:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)

That Israel existed to bless all nations:

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3 KJV)

That God planned for a deliverer, called the Messiah:

Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. (Ezekiel 34:22-23 KJV)

That God provided that deliverer in His son:

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)

To believe all of that we must also believe in “that day” of the Lord – whether from the Old Testament:

Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. (Isaiah 13:6 KJV)

… or the New:

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2 KJV)

How can this be wrong? What is “that day”, and are we prepared?

Friday, August 30, 2013


Our family pouring concrete drive at First Baptist Cottondale

A week ago I wrote about our start on Wednesday night studies of Nehemiah and his being a volunteer. This time I want you to take a walk around the walls of Jerusalem.

Chapter three is one I’ve read through quickly while trying to figure out how to pronounce so many names. Some are familiar, others I’ve not seen elsewhere. I honestly could not see much applicable to my life in this chapter – until Wednesday, when Pastor took us on a walk around the walls.

They were broken and Nehemiah was there to see that they were rebuilt. He had a lot of help, pretty much listed in this chapter:

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. (Nehemiah 3:1 KJV)

Beginning with the gate that opened for the sacrificial lambs, the walls went up. Eliashib wasn’t too good to do work, along with other priests – Levites. Each verse moves around the walls, by other gates, around corners, each are being repaired by named men and specific groups. Some, once they finished an area, moved on to another:

And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana. (Nehemiah 3:4 KJV)

After him repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah the son of Koz another piece, from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib. (Nehemiah 3:21 KJV)

There is one instance where there were problems:

And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord. (Nehemiah 3:5 KJV)

On a whole, they all worked together. Chapter three mentions priests, goldsmith’s, apothecaries – each named for a part of the wall’s repair.

I like what Nehemiah prayed in Chapter 4:

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:6 KJV)

The people had a mind to work – do we? Back in 2001 our church had a building program – a gym, classrooms and a larger Fellowship Hall. The building was across a drive and a few steps up a hill from the main building. My Beloved Husband, our children and a few church members pour concrete for a drive, handicap ramp, steps and a cover to protect everyone walking from one building to another.

They had a mind to work.

There is much to do today in every church I know. Physical plant work, for certain, but also as certain is spiritual work. Nehemiah spent a good deal of time writing about his prayers. He wrote of the difficulties he had with detractors – look up Sanballat and Tobiah in the Bible. Not helpful people at all:

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. (Nehemiah 4:1 KJV)

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. (Nehemiah 4:3 KJV)

Take time to walk around the walls of Jerusalem as they were being repaired in Chapter 3. The Lord's work is available now. Join in.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


August 12 of last year I introduced readers to this picture and an explanation of that white area behind the right eyeball – that’s a meningioma. A not-so-normal growth in the brain. I’ve got one. We’ve been keeping an eye on it – I even named it “Henry” because meningioma is hard to pronounce and is easily misspelled.

I wrote again about three weeks ago. The last MRI showed that Henry has grown. He can’t be allowed to grow much more or he will cause irreparable damage.

Today is the appointment with the neurosurgeon. I face it with a bit of trepidation – tense and ill at ease because of what I don’t know. Much of that should be clear by the time we get home this afternoon.
However, since I’m not concentrating well and questions are flying through my mind – unanswered ‘cause brain surgery certainly is not my field!! – this is a short blog this morning simply to request your prayers.

His word accompanies me with some of my favorite verses:

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalms 23:1-6 KJV)

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. …  I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. … And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:11, 14 16 KJV)

And many others! Thank you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Seven Minutes

I know – this post is slightly out of order. There is a beautiful message here that should not be missed.
I’ve mentioned the “I Am Second” site before. I enjoy most of their videos – but some of them simply speak to my heart, confirming God’s presence in our lives.

If you would, please click on the graphic and take the seven minutes to listen to Moriah Peters tell of her auditions for American Idol. Compare where she is today – seen through her own journal on her blog – with what was displayed on the VMA awards this week.

Then, celebrate God’s work with His children.

Thanks for letting me take up some of your time.

I Believe–Sort of

And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. (Mark 9:14 KJV)

When Jesus walked up to the disciples He found them surrounded by a large crowd and a group of scribes were questioning them. When they saw Him, I think they saw a solution to their problem. They had been unable to heal a young man who was described as having a deaf and dumb spirit. No, don’t laugh – we may know better today how to describe such an affliction, but they used the words and knowledge they had at the time. No matter what the cause, the young man’s difficulties were horrendous, and his father loved him very much.

He had lived with this for years:

And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:21-23 KJV)

The father’s response is one we should recognize from our own lives:

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:24 KJV)

The father recognized the limits of his belief, and recognized that in Jesus there was help. We seldom do. I’m reminded of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I know – that’s a long stretch. But those three believed God could deliver them, but were not concerned as to whether He would:

… who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:15b-18 KJV)

Their faith was sufficient to stand up for their God, knowing Him capable of delivering them. Whether He would or not, they would not worship another. Now, that’s belief! Few people I’ve met have it. I pray I would, should the time come as it has for many others.

What can we do when we recognize there are limits on our faith? The Bible’s answer is:

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

A good place to begin is with the short book of 1 John, where he is very open about why the book was written:

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. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:3-4 KJV)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Matthew’s thirteenth chapter begins with parables. Way down in the chapter we read:

Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. (Matthew 13:51 KJV)

Yet, the disciples had much to learn during the remainder of Christ’s ministry. There remains much for us to learn, too, from His words. There is an adversary who would prefer that we not:

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (Matthew 13:19  KJV)

We are not being wicked by not understanding, we’re just not being attentive and coming to an understanding. That takes a bit of time. It also takes a teacher:

Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:52 KJV)

There are more places on the worldwide web providing information on the Bible than anyone could possibly list. A Google search on the word Bible returns “About 239,000,000 results (0.25 seconds),” which makes me grateful that you’ve stopped by here and will think for a moment about the Bible and learning more.

A scribe, a writer about the Bible, needs to have been instructed about the kingdom of heaven. Reading, studying and praying about God’s word does bring forth treasures from His word that are both new and old. I find applicable life lessons in verses I’ve known from childhood, and I see new facets in verses that I’ve read but they had not made an impression before.

Verse 52 is one of those. I don’t remember reading it, but I know I have and simply not paid close attention to the meaning. I am now because I am a scribe. Though I don't fit in the first category of the learned class in ancient Israel, for many years I was a secretary, today I a copier of manuscripts (not by hand, though) and I am a writer - a keeper of a journal. This blog is the journal of my own desire for instruction in God’s word. I want to know more about this man who surprised His hometown:

And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? (Matthew 13:54 KJV)

What He taught has impacted mankind since it was spoken. It impacts our daily lives. When something has that much affect on the entire world, we should learn about why. Ignoring it has not made it go away. Neither has outright attacks on believers. Those attacks are not new. Those around Him heard His wisdom, saw mighty works:

And they were offended in him. (Matthew 13:57a KJV)

I’m not. I’m in awe that He knows us so well:

For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:15 KJV)

May we hear His word, understand and be healed.

Monday, August 26, 2013


This is one of our wedding photos.  The man I just promised to stay with the rest of my life, in front of over 300 people, is telling me what I did wrong, when there is no possible way of rectifying the error without making it worse. I left my bouquet with my matron of honor.

So, what does that have to do with sinfulness? None of us want it pointed out that we are in error.  We are good people. We have not committed felonies. Many of us have nothing more than minor misdemeanor traffic tickets (or perhaps we’ve been lucky enough not to have been caught even at that!) We give to good causes that help people. We do the things that determine who goes where in God’s kingdom”:

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 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 25:38-40 KJV)

We do lots of things the Bible tells us are good things, but we’re told we are full of sin and need to be cleansed. Which is it?

Problem is, we aren’t – can’t be – good enough. We have all sinned against God:

Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the LORD, we will go up and fight, according to all that the LORD our God commanded us. (Deuteronomy 1:41a KJV)

In the Old Testament the sinfulness mentioned related to the Israelites. Paul tells us it covers all mankind:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23 KJV)

It doesn’t go away by being good. It doesn’t go away by going to church. It doesn’t go away by anything but God’s grace – there is nothing we can do to earn His grace, only accept:

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

A  sweet, loving lady once asked me if I thought she was bad. No – but, I do think she is lost. I think that because she does not talk about loving or serving Jesus, nor any other deity. Religion has no place in her life. That doesn’t make her bad in any sense of the word, but it does indicate she has chosen to ignore God and His commandments; she has not accepted His gift of grace.

That’s not a judgment on my part. It is an observation based on evidence. It is not a condemnation on my part. It is recognition of someone just like me before I accepted His gift, by faith achieved through His word.

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

Back to the picture above. It is hard to go before a group of people and admit we are not perfect. We’re frightened that they might know why. Perhaps they do. So does God, and He’s ready to wipe sin away. Not all the consequences, but all of the guilt as we turn from them. That’s what repent means, not only turning away from sin, but toward the fullness God offers. Why not?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Insurmountable Problem

Stitched Panorama
Sometimes I think I read too much. While looking up the differences between theodicy (a defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil) and anthropodicy (which isn’t in the dictionary but is supposed to mean attempts to justify the goodness of humanity), I ran across Ernest Becker's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "The Denial of Death." No - I have not read all of it. No - I'm not interested in the history of psychology. Yes - I'm looking at it as a buffet from which to choose, and I like his phrasing:
It is all right to say, with Adler, that mental illness is due to "problems in living," - but we must remember that life itself is the insurmountable problem.
Becker then continues with explanations that psychotherapy can help individuals, but we are left with the truthful reality that humans live with an insurmountable problem. Then, we die. His book is a study of humanity’s denial that death is approaching.

Atheists look upon religion as a pathological denial of death, a desire to believe (falsely, in their opinion) that there is immortality. Philosophers have discussed this for millennia, reaching a variety of conclusions. The majority do not address whether or not there is a Creator, but what effect such beliefs have on mankind as individuals and social groups. Which brings me back to a philosopher I’ve mentioned before, Blaise Pascal and his Wager:
Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.
For me, the Bible goes to great lengths to face what mankind considers an insurmountable problem and provide answers. Not as a single Pulitzer Prize winning book, but one that was written over centuries, confirming prophecy by fact, trusted by each succeeding author. There are promises made and fulfilled, along with promises still pending. Philosophers have spent centuries reading, discussing, refining, accepting, rejecting and it still remains an individual choice whether to believe God created, loves and will judge His creation.

I’ve chosen to believe. Not without question, for I believe the Bereans had the right idea:

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)

I believe this is what Jesus wants us to do:

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39 KJV)

If God cannot be found through reading the scriptures in prayer, the reader has made his wager. If Jesus cannot be seen as the Messiah through the scripture’s testimony, the reader has made his wager.

I have wagered that He is. As my sweet sister-in-law put it shortly before she went home to be with Him: 
I would rather live thinking there is a God and die to find out there isn’t than to live thinking there isn’t a God and die to find out there is.
About once a year I run across a philosophical article that brings this wager to mind. I write what I think, and I hope readers are aware that we all chose - to think there is a God, or not. If we think there is, we need to know Him.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Yesterday’s Blog

Yes – that’s the same little lamb from yesterday’s blog. Yes – I did write what I was thinking about, but I failed to mention how important that one little lost lamb truly is – because it is me. And you. And every person who has not come to understand why Jesus used that example in a parable.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? (Matthew 18:12 KJV)

Luke mentioned it, too:

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? (Luke 15:4 KJV)

Why is this illustration so important?

Luke follows his verse with one of joy:

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. (Luke 15:7 KJV)

But, I prefer Matthew’s promise:

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11 KJV)

For all of the ninety and nine lambs that were not only raised in the fold but didn’t think of leaving, there is one – as I was – who was just as determined that the fold was too confining. There was a wonderful world created by God to be tasted, tested and enjoyed. I had no thoughts in my mind of the ravening wolves of Ezekiel 22:27 or Matthew 7:15. No thoughts that one might be devoured, as 1 Peter 5:8:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1 Peter 5:8 KJV)

Little lambs aren’t concerned with these – which is why we need a shepherd, best described in Psalms 23. One who will leave ninety and nine safely in their fold to search for that one, lost, lamb. For that search, for that savior, I am eternally grateful.

Unlike some Christian denominations, I believe Christ came to save the lost. I believe we all were lost before we understood the good news. I believe John:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 KJV)

It’s not so easily understood, though. Jesus spoke these words in a conversation with a highly religious man, a Pharisee who was seeking to learn more from this teacher:

If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John 3:12 KJV)

Jesus spoke of both. He promised heaven, but taught us how to live here on earth. Too often we doubt the existence of heaven and ignore how He would have us live on earth. So, how do we build our faith in heaven and learn how to live on earth?

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

Little lamb, keep His book handy.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Here I am, here I am! 
I'm the one the Shepherd left the fold and found. 
There were ninety and nine, but He left the fold to find
One little lost lamb, and here I am.

There’s a new word, ‘sheeple’, a pejorative denoting people who blindly follow a leader, whether religious or political. Ones who use it would laugh at us for singing Sylvia’s lyrics. Our choir sang her song last week and I not only enjoyed it then, it’s been ringing in my mind.

“Here I am,” talking about that glorious resurrection morning, when Gabriel blows that horn! But – what about now?

Christians shouldn’t be focused on our resurrection morning but on Christ’s. He spent weeks after His resurrection with the disciples, reinforcing teachings from the three previous years, then gave them specific tasks to accomplish.

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)

Mark wrote it a bit differently:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15 KJV)

Luke heard from another:

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:45-48 KJV)

John’s viewpoint in Chapter 21 shows a group chatting around a fire:

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. (John 21:12a KJV)

… especially Peter and the “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. None of these conversations had to do with waiting until Gabriel blows his horn. Each of the gospel writers used action verbs. Go, preach, teach, understand, baptize. “Wait” is only referenced in one, with the word “tarry”:

And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49 KJV)

They didn’t simply tarry, though. Luke continues the story in the first chapter of Acts, telling how they remained in Jerusalem, met together and selected a replacement for Judas. Then came Pentecost, the filling with the Spirit and they were on their way to turning the world upside down:

But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; (Acts 17:5-6 KJV)

As a Christian, instead of waiting for resurrection, shouldn’t we be turning the world upside down? Why not?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who Knew? And When?

In John’s first chapter we are introduced to the Word of God, the light of the world, without whom nothing was made. The Baptist testified to His baptism, the dove descending and God’s pleasure. We heard the Baptist point Him out:

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

We saw men follow Him, wanting to learn more and bringing others to Him. The beginning of Jesus ministry, the first steps on the road to Calvary. In the second chapter we come to a wedding at Cana. Apparently John was the only gospel writer who thought this was important. Cana is only mentioned four times in John’s gospel, twice mentioning the wedding as Jesus’ first miracle. Yet this miracle carries so much for us.

We do not know the bride and groom. Perhaps they were family, since Mary was concerned about their not being wine for the wedding. We don’t know why Mary was certain Jesus could fix this situation. We don’t even know why He did. According to John, Jesus was not eager to do so:

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. (John 2:3-4 KJV)

Mary made a simple statement of fact, but it appears her son knew that it was a request that He intervene. The first example of God knowing what we are asking even when we can’t put it into the right words for a request. Mary knew this very early.

Mine hour is not yet come” sounds a bit out of character – He is always God, omnipotent, unconfined by time. Yet God has set specifics, often prophesied by those He sends to share His message. Obviously, He is not confined to His own schedule, as evidenced by this small miracle.

Mary showed us an example of the faith we are to have when we’ve asked of Him:

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. (John 2:5 KJV)

John does not record that Jesus told His mother He would help. She believed He would and prepared the way for Him. The servants trusted her – and Him – enough to follow instructions. Could they anticipate the outcome? Or did they have faith?

Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. (John 2:7-8 KJV)

These were not pots that used to hold wine and simply carried that taste. These pots were specific for water:

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. (John 2:6 KJV)

A simple story, isn’t it? No lightning flashing, no whirlwind of activity, just a few words between a small group of people showing love, respect, faith and reward with a lasting result:

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. (John 2:11 KJV)

Mary knew, before. The disciples knew, after. When did you know?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some Weren’t Called

Just a month ago I was reading Nehemiah and wrote about his prayer. Last Wednesday night Pastor began a study of the book of Nehemiah. We went through the first chapter and I remembered about his prayer – how he spent time acknowledging that he knew who and what God was, that He was capable of not only hearing prayer but responding to it. Nehemiah confessed his shortcomings as well as that of his nation, calling upon God to adhere to His promise that those who turn back to Him will receive His attention.

God gave His promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua. It was just as true when God gave His word to Solomon:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV)

Nehemiah knew this, and he called upon God to respond to this promise – but he was not called by God to return to Jerusalem, he volunteered.

That doesn’t happen often in the Bible. Usually the stories we read are of people called by God, their hesitation when they realize how ill-equipped they are to achieve His goals and how much He helped them. In Esther we read what appears to be a historical book where there is no word that means God is used, yet His people are saved from destruction.

Both Nehemiah and Esther thrived while at Shushan. Daniel did, too. During their captivity, they were elevated in the palace to places that influenced kings and nations. Yet in each of these three books, there is no indication of God’s calling them. They did respond to situations that had spiritual meaning.

For me, these responses could have inspired Paul’s:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12 KJV)

Do they inspire us?

Do we hear about needs and volunteer? There’s nothing as big for us as Nehemiah’s return to rebuild the temple; Esther’s being in a position to save an entire ethnic group; Daniel’s rise to political leadership, still purposing in his heart to pray. Or, is there?

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)

We don’t know what God has in store for us. Perhaps Paul had Isaiah 64:4 in mind when he wrote the Church at Corinth. He knew for certain that it had never entered his heart, though he thought himself a spiritual Jew, that he would be called by the risen Christ to preach the gospel. Can’t say he volunteered, though. He had to meet Christ on the road and be struck blind, then healed.

Is that what it takes for us? Or can we be spiritually in tune with God’s plan through prayer and Bible reading that we can see a need and volunteer?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


August 11th sermon came from John, chapter 1, verses 35-51. I made notes and still have something to say from those few verses.

Search for “Andrew” in this blog and there will be three pages listing posts where that name appears. Search for it in the King James Bible and you’ll only find twelve verses. Yet, he sets huge examples for us.

We first hear of him listening to John the Baptist:

Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37 KJV)

First example – listen to men of God who have biblical messages for us. John preached from the Torah. He used scripture for his call to repentance and return to God. He did not point to himself, he pointed out (loudly I imagine) Behold the Lamb of God! Andrew listened and with another man, followed Jesus, who noticed them and asked what they were seeking. I found their answer a bit odd:

Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? (John 1:38 KJV)

They followed Jesus home and spent the rest of the day in discussion, so my second example is – spend time talking to Jesus, and hearing His responses. I find this best done through Bible reading and prayer.

Andrew then went to his brother to share what he had learned:

He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. (John 1:41 KJV)

Third example, then – go tell your family, the people you love, that prophecy has been fulfilled. The Messiah lives, as God promised!

Another story tells me that Andrew listened to those around him – and helped them accomplish their goal:

And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. (John 12:20-22 KJV)

That’s pretty much the biblical Andrew, except for his name in lists of disciples. Unlike the Catholic or Orthodox churches, we look upon Andrew as a disciple of Christ, a missionary and a leader of the early church – the sainthood for him is the same for all of us, whether Old . . .

All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee. (Psalms 145:10 KJV)

. . .  or New Testament:

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2 KJV)

Three easy progressions – listen, learn and share what was discovered – and we can set examples as Andrew did.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Rope

That’s our sanctuary, but there were more than the Walker Family’s Round Up Ministries singers on stage Sunday night. Second and third from the right are our own Coach and David, joining their instruments with the Walker’s in a musical celebration of our Lord’s gospel message.

Enjoyable and uplifting, as well as being toe-tapping bluegrass music. As enjoyable as Walker’s Friday morning last week with our VBS children -- their miniature horse, Champ, helped in Bible lessons. There are so many ways to witness!

Sunday morning, Kevin Walker used salt, along with a lamp and water, to illustrate the reasons Christians are both the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  I hope you can attend a church where that gospel illustration is given!

Sunday night, he used rope. One a nice, well made, working cowboy’s rope, then several lengths of smaller, page-marker size ropes. The scriptures started with:

Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. (Acts 9:25 KJV)

He illustrated with our Youth Director, sitting in a chair with the long rope tied to him – four of our youth holding on to that rope. I’ve heard that verse, that scene in other sermons. The most memorable was given by a missionary requesting that we hold on to the rope that stretched out to our missionaries.  Walker didn’t. He stressed how important rope holders were in God's work. They have to:
1 – See the need
Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? (Mark 8:18 KJV)
2 – Have a firm grip – on giving
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again. (Proverbs 19:17 KJV)
3 –  Be firmly planted
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalms 1:3 KJV)
4 – Be focused on the task
Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. (Numbers 20:17 KJV)

He also used smaller pieces of twine that fit quite nicely as bookmarks in our Bibles at Acts 9. Those will serve as reminders of this illustration. When we see it, we can see down through the years at multiple impacts from that single action of a few men lowering Paul with ropes, saving his life.

Without their help, Barnabas would not have brought Paul to the disciples in Jerusalem. Paul would not have been at Antioch helping establish the lifestyle that created the name Christian. Lydia would not have been baptized in Philippi, nor would the jailor have asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul would not have lived to answer that nor to write so many of the inspired books of the Bible.

What ripples will flow from our seeing a need, giving in support, being firmly planted in faith and being focused on the task? We won’t know unless we follow through and hang on to the rope.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

After Discipline

There were problems in the church at Corinth. Since Paul could not make a trip, he sent a letter. Can you imagine how he waited for word back? Don’t we all worry when we put something down in black and white? He started with the contentions in the church. By chapter 5 he was down to specific people, specific sins and specific actions:

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. (1 Corinthians 5:11 KJV)

Those were Christians he was writing about, not the unsaved. These Christians were the hypocrites that are found in churches today, ones who committed their lives to following in Jesus’ footsteps – and failed miserably. I wonder how long Paul waited to hear how his letter was received. He was concerned how the letter would be received, but it was a necessary part of loving discipline. His heart broke over the need to apply discipline.

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. (2 Corinthians 2:4 KJV)

Apparently, the church – and the individuals – took it to heart and changed their actions. Then comes the hard part. Forgive. Restore. After discipline, it is absolutely necessary to forgive and restore:

Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. (2 Corinthians 2:6-7 KJV)

Isn’t that how we see our own sins when handed to Christ? We repent, are forgiven, comforted and restored. If not, our sorrow could destroy us. So would the lack of forgiveness and comfort when we hold on to the hurt of a brethren’s sinfulness. It is up to us to love the repentant with the same love Christ offers us.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35 KJV)

We are not to be known by how well we discipline another of God’s children unless it is done with love and comfort.

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20 KJV)

We have erred - all of us. May we learn from being disciplined and be comforted by our brethren’s love.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Love Fulfills

Paul expands upon Jesus’ words from Matthew 22:39:

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Romans 13:8-9 KJV)

For Christians concerned whether or not we are saved by grace or by fulfilling the law, this should answer that question. We cannot love all of our neighbors, therefore we cannot fulfill the law.

Disagree with me? Then convince me that every one in your eyesight every hour of every day is loved.

I could write scenario after scenario of examples of unlovable people. Some would be family members, blood kin or in-laws – or ex-in-laws – where there is no love lost. Good reasons may be cited for those feelings of animosity, pain and hardened hearts, but neither Jesus nor Paul gave us that out. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Oh, there is plenty of self-loathing around, but we do love ourselves enough to see that we are fed, don’t we? Self respect has been of utmost importance in America for the past few decades, though teaching love of our neighbor has slackened a bit. Instead, we’ve been taught to take to the street in protests if we have not received what we expect.

It is fairly easy to hear of needs elsewhere and respond with a prayer or a contribution. Earthquakes in the Pacific, in Haiti, even in Iran bring thoughts of assistance and an open pocket book in aid. Starving children in distant countries bring a similar response. Christians being persecuted, churches burned, pastors incarcerated – prayers flow and pressure is applied for governmental assistance.

What about the surly attitude behind the counter as we make our purchase? Love that clerk? Are we able to feel Christ’s love for that person, returning an eye-contact smile with a sincere “Bless you,” instead of averting our eyes and praying for a quick departure?

Can we make a commitment to go through a specified period of time – even one day - loving every person? A whole day? Think for a moment where that would take you. Can I love that young trainee who has not yet learned to put a patient at ease? The nurse that is determined to take blood out of that vein that though another method had been suggested? These are the people we are to love.

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: (1 Peter 1:22 KJV)

Jesus, Paul and Peter – their message is the same, and we just haven’t convinced ourselves they meant what they said – what God inspired. Through God’s saving grace we are able to love those who are not lovable and do not love us back. Christ lived, loved and died for them – and for us.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Who Is Able?

Stitched Panorama
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. (Psalms 24:3-4 KJV)

Pastor often says that our gathering together has no spiritual value unless God meets with us. Most will come back with Jesus’ own words:

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

As I strongly believe, a single verse needs its surrounding context. Just as the Psalms needs the first verses:

A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. (Psalms 24:1-2 KJV)

Matthew needs the previous verses, too, but there are many more in this chapter 18. It begins with a question from the disciples:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 18:1 KJV)

Then verse 20 is part of a longer discourse where Jesus is explaining not only who is greatest, but how to get to heaven:

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 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. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-4 KJV)

Is that not David’s clean hands and pure heart? Do we come to His worship services prepared to bow before His throne with praise and supplications? How dare we  approach Him for favors without soul-searching for our very own humble attitude? Can we possibly believe that we are considered able to do so simply because we exist?

Offending a pure-hearted child has consequences that Jesus describes:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:6 KJV)

Bad things will happen in this world. There is an ongoing spiritual battle for souls. Keeping our own requires an awareness of this and working to keep ourselves close to our Lord that we do not go against His will. When we do, sin has consequences.

Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matthew 18:7 KJV)

Preparing ourselves to be able to worship our Lord humbly and in the right spirit is essential. In his explanation of the Lord’s Supper, Paul is specific about this:

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27 KJV)

We  should consider our worthiness every time we approach God’s throne, whether in praise or supplication. Consider the instructions He has provided for us and prepare ourselves to meet Him.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Biblical Problem Solving

Problem Solving is the current study series in our Sunday School class, covering the book of 1 Corinthians. This past week’s scripture covered five verses in chapter 1:26-31. One question asked was:  What qualifications does God require in the people He uses?

They really are simple because He uses ordinary people who humbly respond to Him. Now, some of them grew to be capable, wealthy, powerful, but they didn’t start out that way. Move through the patriarchs until we reach Abram. Somewhat well off, already 75, he responded to God’s instructions and to God’s promises. Those promises were kept.

How about Moses, who questioned God when he was called:

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? Exodus 3:11 KJV)

He led God’s people through wilderness and trouble into promise – yet arrogance kept him from setting foot in the Promised Land.  Let’s skip to Saul, a humble man who thought of himself as the least of the least:

And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me? (1 Samuel 9:21 KJV)

Until he became too arrogant, usurping the priest’s function, and the kingdom was given to another – a humble shepherd boy who was as good with a harp as a sling. David, too, became grasping, taking what was not his and destroying a man’s life. Even though he repented, trouble followed his family, and he was denied permission to build a temple for his Lord.

Time after time, calling after calling, those called did not believe themselves capable of fulfilling God’s request – yet, they did. Why then do we believe we are the first to be inept – unsuited for the time and place?

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

There’s a promise I like even better:

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)

Through faith, that is an absolute truth. We have a cloud of witnesses whose faith confirms this truth:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1 KJV)

Look through the Bible for those who were called, responded, slipped yet completed their responsibilities with God’s help. When going alone – away from the path laid out for them – there were problems again and again. This is true of the entire Nation of Israel as well as individuals. As it is for us.

We have choices to make – hear God, respond with His strength not ours and complete the race that is set before us. That’s all a part of problem solving.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who Sinned?

That’s not a question asked by the blind man. It wasn’t a rhetorical question asked by Jesus. It came from Christ’s disciples:

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:1-2 KJV)

Today many people believe deeply that when bad things happen, it is the result of sin. Diagnosed with cancer? Has to be because of sin. Have a child die? Surely the parents sinned.

Do not believe that.

While it is true that some of the things we do bring bad things into our lives (smoking can cause cancer, high-risk activities can maim or kill) do not quickly judge all bad things as God’s punishment. Read further and understand Jesus’ response to His disciples:

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:3 KJV)

No man was ever promised an easy life on this earth. Through the sin introduced in Eden, we are told how we will live:

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:18-19 KJV)

There are many things that happen to us, and to loved ones, that we will not understand in this life. Just as the blind man’s parents found out as they were interrogated:

But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. (John 9:18-21 KJV)

We will have to speak for ourselves. We cannot speak for our parents, our children or any of our loved ones. The blind man told those who asked:

Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. (John 9:32-33 KJV)

Yet, when Christ asked:

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. (John 9:35-37 KJV)

Even with his sight restored, knowing that his healer had to be from God or He could do nothing, the healed man did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah until those words.  His next recorded words are ones that mean so much to me – and I have publicly repeated:

And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (John 9:38 KJV)

Who sinned? We all have. God forgives. Good, bad or indifferent things that happen in this world apply here. God is in control and He loves me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Looking for the blog I wrote on Nathanael reminded me just how long I’ve been posting Bible readings. The one on Blogspot, “Your Fig Tree?” was posted December 27, 2008.

I’m still intrigued by what significance it held to Nathanael that Jesus knew he was under a fig tree.

Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. (John 1:48-49 KJV)

Whatever that significance was, it caused Nathanael to recognize Him as the Messiah and make that acknowledgement aloud. Apparently, that didn’t make a difference to Jesus – He knew there would be much, much more to see in the next three years. There would also be the vision that explained Jacob’s ladder:

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12 KJV)

Jesus is our connection, our way to reach God directly. Because of Nathanael, we read of this vision that we’ll one day see. Over the next three years, Nathanael saw greater miracles than he could imagine, even though he’s not mentioned again in the book of John until after Christ’s resurrection:

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. (John 21:2 KJV)

You won’t find the name Nathanael in the other gospels. According to scholars, there you will find him as Bartholomew. Each time we read of “the twelve”, we would know he was there, traveling with Jesus for the three years, then gathering with them to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.

We’re left to ask ourselves my question from years ago – what is our fig tree?  What does it take for us to make that public statement that Jesus is the Messiah? To turn from what we are comfortable doing and follow Him?

My own ‘fig tree’ occurred decades ago. I, too, made that public acknowledgment that I see Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Israel. I probably am as off on my estimation of what that means as Nathanael was. The disciples were expecting an earthly kingdom, leaving them devastated when Jesus was crucified. I’m looking forward to being surprised, too, at what is in store.

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)

We know what the Holy Spirit has revealed – and that’s sufficient for me. What’s your fig tree?

Monday, August 12, 2013

“How To”

It is a great help to have a mentor, someone who will lead in discipleship. ”Disciple” comes from Latin, according to most on-line dictionaries. I like this from Etymology Dictionary:
disciple (n.)
Old English discipul (fem. discipula), Biblical borrowing from Latin discipulus "pupil, student, follower," said to be from discere "to learn" [OED, Watkins], from a reduplicated form of PIE root *dek- "to take, accept" (see decent).
But according to Barnhart and Klein, from a lost compound *discipere "to grasp intellectually, analyze thoroughly," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + capere "to take, take hold of" (see capable). Cf. Latin capulus "handle" from capere
Not only “to learn”, but “to grasp intellectually, analyze thoroughly,” when it comes to being Christ’s disciple because we need to thoroughly analyze what we read and hear, as the Bereans did:

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)

Once we do intellectually grasp that the Bible is God’s word, we can understand that it is also a guide to interpersonal relationships. The Bible tells us how to treat people, even beyond Christ’s commandment:

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)

An excellent example is in a letter from a mentor to his student:

Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2 KJV)

Here Paul instructs Timothy how to treat old men, young men, older women and young women. In another training letter, Paul instructs Titus as to how these people should act, too:

That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 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 2:2-7 KJV)

All of that is good advice when it comes to interpersonal relationships – but Paul adds a preface:

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: (Titus 2:1 KJV)

My challenge is not only to intellectually grasp that the Bible has foundational teachings regarding how to get along with others, but requires that I apply these teachings to my daily life. I need to develop a willingness to understand others, to reach for these high standards Paul set down as examples for the young Christians he mentored. Especially in our congregations. We are blood kin – the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our redemption. Much, much more important.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why We Do It

Yesterday I promised “More” on this subject. It was brought to mind when I saw the words in this graphic posted in a timeline. It is true – and yet so incomplete that it is wrong.

We’ve all known people who have not set foot in a church but say they are Christians. Some have even exhibited in their lives the principles Jesus taught:

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35 KJV)

The jailor did not have to go to church to be saved:

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. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. (Acts 16:30-33 KJV)

All of that is true – but we’re back to the examples our Lord Jesus Christ spoke, and the inspired word of God given to His disciples. Living those examples should be what applies the title Christian in our lives. How can we know that, as Paul wrote, without hearing:

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

Paul knew that “as it is written” in Isaiah 52:7 because he studied God’s word. How would we know it without study – Romans 10:13 doesn’t give the Isaiah 52:7 reference. Come, study with us in a Bible-teaching church.

As an “aside,” here’s one reason that church would do better with a King James Bible, too, with the “thee” and “thou”, singular and plural as one site explains (and they don’t quote from KJV):
This can also be seen in the fact that most of the instructions for Christians are done in the plural, there are very few (if any) instructions to individuals. (The Greek of the NT distinguishes between singular and plural ‘you’ English doesn’t do that anymore).
Trusting Jesus Christ as our savior makes us part of a very large entity:

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 KJV)

That takes studying in context, doesn’t it? Only three verses will not give  the background. What/who were Corinthians? Why were there a first and second? Who wrote this? What does it mean? How many people will take time to study and pray about this – and the remainder of the Bible on their own. That’s one of the reasons we assemble ourselves together, as suggested:

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)

For me, though, the greater reason for church attendance is worshiping and praising God:

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalms 107:31-32 KJV)

Please consider building the relationship with our Lord while praising him in a nearby congregation.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What It Means

Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:25-26 KJV)

The disciples were called Christians – they did not tell people they were Christians, though they did tell everyone they met that they believed Jesus was the Messiah (a Hebrew word), which is Christ in Greek. We think of Jesus Christ as His name, though it is His name and His title. The disciples and members of that Antioch church were labeled as followers of the Messiah.

“Christian” has a slightly different connotation today. The label is applied to someone who has an affiliation with a denomination whose statement of beliefs includes references to Christ. Such membership applies the label Christian, whether the source of the word or its application to our lives is understood.

In our congregation, membership is requested in a public statement by an individual that they have accepted Jesus as their savior and have either indicated obedience by having been baptized or requesting baptism. Some do this and seldom attend any other service.

That obedience thing goes beyond baptism, and is very important when calling one’s self a Christian. It is a very serious promise made in accepting Jesus as savior, but being a Christian is not a one-time event. Jimmy Carter put it into words in a devotional:
When we place our faith in Christ, we declare, in effect, “I promise that in accepting Jesus as my Savior, I will use Christ’s works and actions to guide my life.  I’ll try to pattern my own existence after the example he set.  I will endeavor to keep God’s commandments, as Jesus did.”
That is a huge challenge by imperfect people to a perfect God. And, we will stumble along the way. It is absolutely necessary to learn more about Jesus to know what His example is. It is absolutely necessary to know God’s commandments before we can keep them. Getting one’s name on a church’s membership list does not provide those necessities – it takes personal commitment to keep this promise.

When we accept employment, we make a commitment to show up and complete our work. If we do not, our employment is terminated. As our example, Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath:

And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. (Luke 4:31-32 KJV)

His disciples were, too:

But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. (Acts 13:14 KJV)

God’s inspired word tells us:

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)

So, my bottom line to those who say it is not necessary to attend services to be a Christian is:  You are wrong and sending the wrong message to non-believers.

Attending worship services, reading God’s word, discussing and sharing are examples Jesus set for all of us. Obedience should include following His example. More tomorrow.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A World Away

It’s hard to see with the graphic so small, but there are pinpoints of light in the dark background. Light from objects much larger than our earth, and much, much farther away. On the dark side of the earth, there are lights, too, provided by a number of energy sources. Click on the graphic for a larger view.

Tuesday of this week our Second Tuesday group from church took a journey to Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant here in Texas. Huge towers stringing lines from one to another marched away from that facility, carrying something we can create, harness, utilize but not completely understand. Wind farms in west Texas send electricity through similar lines marching across our horizon toward the needy in the Metroplex. Other plants, natural gas, even coal-fired, do this around the world. Ships that ply the seas fuel electricity-generating power as the cross from one continent to another. Every thing we do is impacted by our connections to electricity.

This blog could not be written, posted or read, if it were not for electricity. We could not get to work, home or play without the energy sparking from electricity. We realize it could all stop – but we do not expect it do in our lifetime. We expect it to continue, as it has but growing to provide our needs. And, we don’t think about it very much at all. We are a world away from a world without electricity.

The world changes, though. Mountains form and are worn down. Shorelines ebb and flow as much as oceans tides do. Volcanoes pour lava adding land and explode dispersing it. We know this natural world changes, and we don’t think about it very much at all.

God has not changed. Man’s view of Him fluctuates as the tide, but God remains faithful and true. He has made and fulfilled promises. He is not confined by what I think about Him nor is He powerless because I lack faith. He remains as He is, was and will be.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3 KJV)

There is much to read between those two verses. Even more to get to the end of His book. You will find this phrase four times in two of the gospels:

Heaven and earth shall pass away: (Luke 21:33a KJV)

We are no more prepared for that than we are to live without electricity. The difference is, one will be a major inconvenience and some people will die, some survive. The other is a matter of eternal existence. Again, some people will die simply because they’ve never considered an eternal existence a reality.

Why not? Because it would entail making a specific decision regarding that existence – if there is an eternity, God has to exist. If God exists, we must think about who He is and what He desires. I’ve given that a good deal of thought and accept truth in Genesis 1:1 as well as John 1:1-3, along with:

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? 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 6:7-8 KJV)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

At All Times

A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalms 34:1 KJV)

I really like the Psalms that have an introduction. We can know that this one was written after Saul had determined to kill David:

For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die. (1 Samuel 20:31 KJV)

Warned by Jonathan, David fled, bringing him before the king of Gath:

And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. (1 Samuel 21:11-13 KJV)

That’s when David hid in a cave and gathered an army:

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. (1 Samuel 22:2 KJV)

Debtors and the discontented. Is that the army you would wish for? Is it the army you would praise God for providing? Yet, David did and encouraged others to join in praising Him.

O magnify the LORD
with me, and let us exalt
his name together.
(Psalms 34:3 KJV)

That’s my youngest daughter’s life verse. I’ve used some embroidery software to write it on fabric she’s chosen to make a quilt. The graphic is a first rough draft. There will be several blocks and she’s chosen to have family and friend’s verses in the remaining blocks. Each one of these verses has a deep meaning to the people who chose them as their life verses or their favorite verses.

These verses do not stand alone, just as hers doesn’t. There is history behind them that display the workings of the Lord and the faith – or the lack of faith – displayed by the people who lived through that history. As she shares these verses, I’ll be looking at their background just as I looked up this one. I may never know why a particular verse was chosen, but I will know where it fits in the Bible and I will receive a message from the verse as well as from the person who chose it.

This verse speaks to me of praising God as David was able to do – at all times – and asking everyone to join in exalting His name. It is a blessing that I am able to do just that, and invite everyone to continue praising Him, always.

As always, may God bless the reading of His word.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


This graphic is a screen capture/crop from the list of places I visit. You’ll find it at the bottom on the right side of this page. It’s on the bottom of my list of places because the list varies based on the most recent posting. That one has been there for more than a year. There won’t be any more entries on “The Groves and Their Branches.” But, the link will remain, unmoved.

It’s not a very long blog. Janice started it to witness to people about her life. Though her spiritual heart was bigger than this world, her physical heart was giving out. There had been numerous operations over the years since she beat Hodgkins, mostly because of the radiation used to stop that disease in its tracks. The treatments lengthened her life in one way, but lessened it in another.

We met because we married brothers. We met late in life because they were separated as toddlers and spent 35 years not knowing each other. When the family was reunited, I found a friend who loves and trusts her Lord as much as I do.

Yes – that’s not past tense. She just doesn’t need the faith to do so now. Now she knows the answer to the statement she used to make:
I’d rather live my life believing there is a God and die to find out there isn’t than to live my life as if there wasn’t and find out there is.
Oh, she believed! Her faith could move mountains, if not the hearts of those she loved. She prayed for them, but some failed to understand. I continue those prayers – most certainly not as faithfully as she did, though.

No – today is not a “special anniversary” that brought her to mind. Just a feeling that I’d love to pick up the phone and call her. We do have an appointment, though.

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2 KJV)

My request of my Lord is a picnic, beside the river of life, under the tree of life, with those with whom we’ve shared God’s love and His good news. I’ve mentioned it before and I’d love to continue extending an invitation to join us. The invitation has stood for thousands of years and remains open:

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 KJV)

The invitation is open to all, so feel free to join in.