Monday, September 30, 2013
Alan Fitzsimmons, astronomer, took this self-portrait. I don’t have a clue as to what he’s thinking as he looks toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy, but I’m awestruck by the concept of Creator.
Ours is not the only galaxy in the universe. Contemplating the ability required to set in motion the movement of a grain of sand upon one beach in our world within one solar system moving in concert with so many others in one galaxy, most of us cannot comprehend limits to the universe. Some do, and there are artist’s versions of those concepts. We have no confirmation of the universe’s limits, no empirical evidence beyond our physically limited observable experiments, accepted as scientific truth. If “A” is true under this set of conditions then laws of physics have shown “A” to be true throughout the galaxy, the universe.
We believers accept a Creator capable of setting the universe in motion, confining it by those laws of physics, yet He is unconfined by His creation. We also believe He knows each and every soul that inhabits – and has inhabited – His creation. Such belief can be overwhelming when we consider His own words:
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)
Doesn’t seem rational, does it? How can mankind stand and look at the center of a small galaxy and conceive of a single Creator, a monotheistic concept? Wouldn’t it be difficult to write:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)
How much more difficult to write:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 KJV)
Reasoning people consider such words delusional – even today, when mankind has moved through the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, Transcendentalism of the 19th, past Existentialism of the 20th - each stressing the individual; or the opposite - placing a governmental agent to oversee that the individual experiences display equality, whether it be Marxist or Socialist. Philosophies and governments swing through centuries.
The inspired writings of those who believe there was, is and shall be God who, in our beginning created, have been compiled, verified as well-copied over centuries and remain available, speaking of itself:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV)
It is not to be read and ignored. It is to be studied, believed, used to set personal standards, taught to others – and it should inspire us to accomplish good works.
Now, if all of that remains overwhelming, add that John 3:16 is fulfillment of an earlier prophecy:
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:8 KJV)
God provided Himself, for me. And, you. In the midst of a small solar system in a huge universe that does not confine Him. Awesome!
Sunday, September 29, 2013
I do prayers of an evening, almost as a habit. I have a PUSH (Pray until something happens) list that doesn’t get updated as much as it should. Several prayers there are health related issues for people I don’t know, but a friend does and has requested prayer support. Some have ANSWERED beside them. A couple still surprise me that no apparent answer has been given. Three are for moms carrying new little baby boys – each with separate health issues. Still another is for a Christian in an Islamist-Muslim land, where being a believer in Christ may result in death. The most important in my mind are those I love who do not believe. You see, I take the Bible at its word:
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:17-18 KJV)
The Bible is not a buffet from which to choose what we like and ignore what is not convenient or difficult. Which brings me back to the last couple of days and:
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 KJV)
It does not say, “as we forgive those who have apologized and asked for our forgiveness.”
Just needed to clarify that in my mind. You see, if I were asked to make a daily list of people who ignored, slighted, insulted or hurt me physically or emotionally, I think I could do that pretty well. The list where I ignored, slighted, insulted or hurt someone, in any way, would most likely be shorter – and would have incidents skipped. Yet, that second list is the one for which I’m asking forgiveness, without truly forgiving those on the first. Had I forgiven them, they wouldn’t show up on a list at all. Forgiven = not remembered.
Forgiven, how many times? I’m certain Peter thought he was being generous:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (Matthew 18:21 KJV)
Christ thought more:
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22 KJV)
He followed that with an example (Matthew 18:23-34) and closes with:
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:35 KJV)
That is the message that must remain in my heart in order that it not be filled with slights, insults, hurts – or ignorance. My heart is to be filled with God’s love. That’s the first, and greatest, commandment.
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. (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV)
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Beloved Husband has several construction stories that boggle my mind. One has to do with resurfacing a highway just south of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Back then there were signs “Call . . . Enterprise 9800” along the right-of-way reminding people to call and get underground structures spotted before digging. His company did, resulting in several companies sending spotters for electrical lines, gas lines and telephone cables. Each company put out flags where their lines were spotted, equipment operators kept that in mind so nothing would be broken.
As the telephone representative completed flag insertion, they ended up right at one of those “Call …” signs. “Let me get this out of your way,” she said as she moved it back and forth, pulled it out of the ground – and cut through no less than three lengths of cable where their contractor had wrapped a large circle of excess cable instead of continuing in a straight line connecting the next one. The job was delayed while that error was fixed.
I was reminded of that this last weekend during a congregational recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. We did just fine until we got down to “forgive us our . . .”, then there was a disconnect.
You see, I memorized Bible verses from childhood. I use many of them on a regular basis. This is one that comes easily:
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)
So, why then did I sound disconnected? Everyone else was saying “forgive us our trespasses …”
Continue in Matthew:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 KJV)
Compare “debts” and “trespasses” in the Greek, Strong’s G3783:
ὀφείλημα (opheilēma) pronounced: of-i'-lay-mahAnd take a look also at Strong’s G3784:
From (the alternate of) G3784; something owed, that is, (figuratively) a due.; morally a fault: - debt.
figuratively to be under obligation (ought, must, should); morally to fail in duty: - behove, be bound, (be) debt (-or), (be) due (-ty), be guilty (indebted), (must) need (-s), ought, owe, should.Then the G3900 for trespasses:
παράπτωμα (paraptōma) pronounced: par-ap'-to-mahAnd what about that G3895?
From G3895; a side slip (lapse or deviation), that is, (unintentional) error or (wilful) transgression: - fall, fault, offence, sin, trespass.
to fall aside, that is, (figuratively) to apostatize: - fall away.To me, there are small differences between the “debts” of the prayer and the “trespasses” of Christ’s comment. Both indicate a deviation from God’s will – one as a failure in what is owed God, the other as a fall from God’s plan. Both would require recognition, correction and a need for forgiveness.
So – why does one congregation recite the scripture in Matthew and another congregation insert trespasses? Check the alphabet soup of versions (ASV, ESV, KJV, NASV, NIV, NKJV, NRSV) and you’ll find debts/debtors. Not until we get back to the mid-sixteenth century do we find trespasses and its incorporation into the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, which most likely came from the Tyndale Bible of 1526.
How does that connect to the construction story? They are both a story of accepting what is seen, thought to be correct, without understanding what is underneath.
Take time to understand what is being said/read. Learn the source of differences.
Friday, September 27, 2013
I was reading a devotional the other night and one question stuck with me:
Can we truly be thankful to God for forgiveness unless we are willing to acknowledge the sins that the Lord has forgiven?There’s more to that thought than being aware where we are sinning. Oh, the author referred to “sin” as being an “ugly word.” Do we think it is?
We find in the Bible that we all have sinned, and there are consequences:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23 KJV)
That’s not a thought confined to the New Testament, either:
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. (Psalms 119:176 KJV)
Isaiah used that analogy, too:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 KJV)
Why, then, do we have such a problem admitting we’ve strayed when for millennia, it is obvious? Why, as Christians, do we depend on a small verse to cover our own lives:
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 KJV)
As a side note, how often do we even think about the second half of that sentence, much less consider what our debts are? What do we consider our debts, or as Luke puts it:
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. (Luke 11:4 KJV)
Yep – Luke uses that “ugly word”, sin. We’re forced to confront what sin is. The Bible lays out in detail stories of people who sinned, along with consequences. We appear eager to look at theirs and say, “Not me! I didn’t do any of that.” But, consider the source of their actions, from Eve through succeeding generations to this very hour, and we find that sin is going against God’s will.
We sin daily. Jesus brought it down to two categories, sin against God and man:
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)
In the last twenty-four hours, what have I put ahead of my love for God? What have I held against my fellow man? To deny that I have done this would be a lie. Thanks be to God for His mercy and His grace, for as I acknowledge my failures, He hears and cleanses:
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (Psalms 32:5 KJV)
That is truth – and we’ve been promised that the truth will set us free.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32 KJV)
Thursday, September 26, 2013
I was cleaning up an old set of salt and pepper shakers, and thought of:
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13 KJV)
Salt is an absolute necessity for life – pepper, not so much. Some people, as my Beloved Husband, shy away from the pepper since it has a detrimental affect. Salt, on the other hand, is essential to animal life. It is also detrimental to life if it is misused.
Christ referred to his disciples as the salt of the earth, and by extension we think of being Christian as falling into that category, too. He mentioned how useless salt is without the savor – but we need to seriously consider too much salt.
Think of what happens when we place too much salt in a dish we’re preparing. Unpalatable, isn’t it? Ever apply that to a witnessing situation? Where the person just isn’t ready for the milk, much less the meat of Christianity? Think of Philip and the Ethiopian. The Holy Spirit had been preparing for Philip’s witness. Without that preparation, without the Ethiopian’s curiosity, would Philip had made a good witness of Christ’s life?
Pepper, on the other hand, is not a necessity. Nor are the spices mentioned in the Bible. They are a nice flavoring, adding taste to rather bland dishes. Used correctly, they are enticing in aroma as well as taste. We could, however, live without them – but not without salt.
We are not defined by Christ as being enticing, but as being necessary, substantial crystals of life’s building blocks. Today salt continues to be the widest used seasoning as well as an important preservative. We would do well to be a desired seasoning in people’s lives and a preservative of God’s word through our own lives.
Isn’t that a lovely a lovely analogy? It comes right after the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
(Matthew 5:2-11 KJV)
Stands to reason there is a connection between these blessings and our ability to be the savor, doesn’t it? Let's continue by connecting these to our own lives - then with others. Sounds good to me.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
We are sinners. No, not simply all of mankind, I'm talking about Christians. We do press on to the mark of the high calling, but we often fail. Not to admit that makes us absolute hypocrites. Not to face that and turn back to the strait way separates us from Christian fellowship.
Much is made of Christian leaders who publically fail, and it is often received with a sense of gleefulness, "Look! They are worse than I am!" As though it somehow lessens our own culpabilities. Paul addressed such a situation at the church in Corinth, giving us a valid example of how to handle an unrepentant Christian.
We aren't told the member's name, only the situation described in:
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1 KJV)
Don’t start condemning this sinfulness – take a look at verse two:
And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:2 KJV)
Rather than expressing sorrow for the situation, or taking action to bring about a remedy, Corinth seems to take it in stride – or, even have a bit of pride about this person being a member. Perhaps he held a position of authority, of trust. Perhaps he was wealthy and provided the church a solid financial income. Obviously he was held in high esteem. The church was not in mourning, expressing sorrow as a whole for one member’s need.
Chapter 5 is devoted to this subject, closing with:
But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:13 KJV)
The congregation is to put that man away from themselves, to be as separate from him as they are from a sinful world. Later, Paul gives a process for dealing with such sinfulness:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 KJV)
It is hard to reconcile putting someone out of a congregation for specific sins, yet working to restore them to fellowship. No matter how much we personally would see them restored, returning to God, it is a personal decision. The Pulpit Commentary discusses this:
The prayer of one human being can never cancel another's free-will. If God's will does not override man's will, neither can a fellow-man's prayer. When a human will has been firmly and persistently set in opposition to the Divine will, our intercession will be of no avail.Whether I am praying for the restoration of a fallen Christian or the salvation of a lost soul, I cannot overcome their decision to continue living separate from God’s will. Sounds somewhat like a losing proposition, right? It isn’t. Just as Paul continued praying for, writing to and working with the church at Corinth, we do not abandon our own efforts to accomplish God’s will – beginning with our lives.
That’s the responsibility within our control – how we respond to God’s work is evident in our lives, and it is that work upon which we will be judged. Get that right before considering others.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
We’re taking off for a few days. Most likely we’ll follow that purple line to visit our Oklahoma-Sister-in-Law. We have several days of activity (and some work) planned. I’ve finished piecing a quilt top and she has a long-arm quilting machine. That’s an ideal combination, don’t you think?
We have much to chat, do, go, enjoy, so I must confess that my writing will be set aside for those few days. I have taken some time to go back a couple of years and look up some blogs I’ve posted and I’ve actually found interesting! There are times I wonder how I can write so well (at times.)
We’ll be back mid-week. Please stop back by – but don’t wait until then to read from your own Bible. Feel free to leave comments about what verses you’ve found to be of interest.
Thanks – and my prayers go with my readers.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Luke 18:18-23, from the King James Version, is my text for today:
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
I was reading a book by an atheist and this story is one she used as an example as to why Jesus could not have been the Messiah. Let’s look at what she thought was wrong with this picture:
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
Our atheist states that Jesus denies being good. The Messiah must be good, therefore Jesus cannot be the Christ. Along with that denial, she determined that since the answer said to her that He was not good, He could not be God. Sorry – that does not compute. There is no denial, there is a question, “Why callest thou me good?”
To me, the young man’s lack of answer is sufficient to let us know the term of address was without meaning. Jesus knew that the ruler was not referring to Him as being good -- the salutation was perfunctory. The ruler did not know whether Jesus was good or not. Jesus let him know that only God was good. If this ruler accepted Jesus as Christ, as God, the story could have been different.
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
These commandments have to do with our relationship with our fellow men. Jesus skipped over the first four commandments and "thou shalt not covet", which tells me He knew where the trouble was.
And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
Raised to do right from childhood, he kept the commandments. He lived as he was told to live – yet he came to this teacher, this man being followed by thousands, with the question his belief in the law could not answer, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
What did he doubt? The law itself? Or, was he looking for an opportunity for this teacher to confirm that he had eternal life? Our atheist took Jesus to task for the answer, too:
Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
Our atheist found this answer to be flippant, inconsistent with Jesus answer to others. Why, when Nicodemus came, Jesus sat down with him and had a serious discussion about salvation. This answer could not possibly be a satisfactory answer, and apparently wasn’t.
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
It didn’t satisfy Jesus’ disciples, either:
And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? (Luke 18:26 KJV)
Don’t stop reading there. The lesson continues. Verses 18-23 are not stand alone and must be taken in context, with full knowledge of Jesus, His ministry and the verses that followed – including Peter’s statement, that probably was a question about their following:
Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (Luke 18:28-30 KJV)
The rich young ruler had earthly treasure he valued much more than the question about eternal life. Do we? Are we willing to do with less here while gaining more there? Or, do we not trust there will be more there?
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Yesterday I sat down in front of my computer and started to write about what Pastor said Sunday morning. It was a great sermon on Christ’s authority and power. Some where along the line was I distracted by a verse and wrote an entirely different blog – because I was reading God’s word.
I have lots of questions when I read the Bible, and I’m constantly amazed at the answers I believe God leads me to read. Oh, I’ve followed specific Bible reading plans – still do. I follow devotional books – though sometimes I read more than one day at a time. I make notes, too, during sermons, Sunday School, meetings, when I awaken during the night. Some I never pick up again and those thoughts are never part of this blog. Yet – I never run out of subject matter because there is always another question to be answered, another application from scripture for me to consider – or actually apply!
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)
Being well-versed in God’s word helps all of us to be ready to answer any question about the hope that is in us. Philip was:
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went:
No indication that Philip asked, “Why? What will I be doing? Should I go alone or take someone with me? What should I pack?” He did not prepare himself to meet anyone:
and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, (Acts 8:26-27 KJV)
The man had a question in response to Philips’:
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30-31 KJV)
Philip was prepared to discuss God’s word, ready to answer any man:
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. (Acts 8:35 KJV)
See how easy it is to flow into the presentation of Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world? The scriptures. That’s where all of these come from – from God’s word, that which we are to live by:
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 KJV) (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Monday, September 16, 2013
And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. (Matthew 27:39-40 KJV)
If Jesus were the Son of God, here’s the ideal time for Him to prove it – come down from the cross.
Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. (Matthew 27:41-42 KJV)
Well, maybe not – here they are only offering him the kingship of Israel, but they would believe that if he could come down from the cross.
He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. (Matthew 27:43-44 KJV)
Someone remembered a bit more:
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. (Luke 23:39 KJV)
Now it’s getting personal. Save us, not just yourself. Think of the people around you in the same situation. Save us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. (Luke 23:40-41 KJV)
This man reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
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 3:17-18 KJV)
They had no idea whether God would deliver them from the fiery furnace or not – either way, He remained God and they would not say otherwise.
Satan’s temptations began with “If”:
And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. (Luke 4:3 KJV)
If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. (Luke 4:7 KJV)
And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: (Luke 4:9 KJV)
Can we recite the reality of God’s word which refutes each one of these “If”s? Can we relate to the thief’s words?
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (Luke 23:42 KJV)
That same faith sustains us. We have no idea how God will deal with our lives. We cannot replace faith with “If God does what I want I will believe.” We need to have sufficient faith to say, “But if God does not do what I want, I will serve Him.” My view of reality is that three young men did and survived the fiery furnace. I also believe a thief joined Christ for eternity. No if’s in my belief that I will, too.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
When we moved to Texas, we visited nearby churches, but they seemed to be missing something. That went on for several years, then we moved to Paradise. What I was seeking was somewhere to worship the Lord.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. (Psalms 95:6 KJV)
Each of the other churches had much to offer. A somewhat small one offered fellowship and several programs for families with growing children. Ours were grown, and our conversations were a generation apart. Another, much larger church, offered something for every age and two morning worship services – one traditional, one more modern in tone and music. A veritable buffet of possibilities.
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (Psalms 95:1-3 KJV)
Each of the churches had music. Hymns were familiar, but I do not remember once singing:
O gratefully sing God's power and God's love;
our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
Now there’s a song that truly calls us to worship!
Then there are others that, while worshiping, remind us of who and where we are:
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love
My favorite stanza in this is:
prone to leave the God I love
I know I’m prone to wander, and I gave into it, leaning on the excuse of moving and not finding a comfortable church home. My loss – not that of the churches we visited. Why was I looking to them to provide worship? That was up to me. They were doing a good job - I was not. I was missing.
It is my relationship with God, not with a church nor a church’s relationship to God. I should not be dependent upon another, but accept the responsibility to follow our Lord’s teaching:
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-24 KJV)
There is no excuse for a Christian to refrain from worshipping God. The relationship is broken on our side, not His, and we need to come to Him to be repaired.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, (Psalms 95:6-7 KJV)
Saturday, September 14, 2013
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)
Naturally, there was a link to the previous year’s where John 3:16 was second and the first was:
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. (Jeremiah 29:11 KJV)
In 2010, we were back to John 3:16 being at the top of the list.
It’s a wonderful verse that contains references to the entire Bible. Speak it to someone who has no knowledge of the Bible, never having heard this verse, and you’ll have an opportunity to begin in Genesis 1:1 and explain how we believe in a single deity. Speak of how God created the heavens and the earth. Talk about how He is the source of all, that without Him, nothing was made.
Speak of His infinite love and how He has shown that love through His word to the point that in 1 John we twice read, God is love - the very definition of love.
Beginning with he gave, we can move from Adam through Abraham into Moses moving right along to the prophets telling of promises given and fulfilled.
An explanation of His unspeakable gift, his only begotten Son, must include His birth, His ministry, His death and cannot stop at His resurrection.
The invitation is all inclusive, whosoever. Any exclusion is a personal decision not over-ridden by God.
That single resurrection affects us all, and provides eternal options when Revelation describes the end of time. Resurrection gives us cause to reflect, to reject perish in favor of everlasting life. That choice is available to all.
Believing is a requirement -- not set by a church, not imposed by exclusionary ministers but laid out openly by God inspired scripture.
Read the chapter – not just that one awesome and beloved verse. Find out to whom Jesus was speaking, why the man came to see Him, the answers Jesus gave. Put the verse in context. It increases our knowledge when we do, but it doesn't change the message of the verse as it stands alone. As someone mentioned in another thought today, “It is what it is.”
Revisit this favorite, must-read, awesome, filling – words fail me – verse. Then talk about it with others. It will provide blessings.
Friday, September 13, 2013
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied,Seems as though we only hear of Christ’s birth at Christmas, and I don’t recall much about Zacharias except that he was the first to hear angels tell of the Messiah’s birth, and he was struck mute because of his disbelief. When he could speak again, he was …
saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;Past tense, ‘visited’, ‘redeemed’, ‘raised up.’ The beginning of prophetic fulfillment was under way – salvation for us in the house of David. Zacharias knew through the Holy Spirit that filled him that this was not a new prophecy:
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:This is what God promised:
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.He was given his son’s special calling:
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;Besides knowing what God had in mind for his son, Zacharias could see what it meant to others:
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:67-79 KJV)Did he see it all? John’s death? Did he see there would be no marriage, no children, no family for John except for those of us who are his brothers and sisters in Christ?
Zacharias most likely thought of being freed from Roman oppression, but knew it would not come soon. Having a baby before him, just given a name, would not lift the burdens faced by his people. More important, as we’ve learned, is “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God;”
So much more important than lifting the burden of any repressive society, any dictator, any government that denies freedom for its people is the knowledge of salvation and the mercy of our God. With this knowledge John proclaimed:
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)
I believe both Zacharias and John knew what they were talking about.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Most Christians I know are more than willing to sit down with others and discuss why they believe. Some are naturally reticent, but they are that with other subjects to. Especially in evangelical churches, we take to heart:
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)
I've seen little in the way of testimony from atheists. Two come to mind. First is a teen who prayed that her mother not succumb to a terminal disease. When her mother died, she determined that since her prayer was not answered, there is no God. I read of her during a lawsuit she filed to remove a reference to God in another student’s writing.
Another wrote me that after reading of all the innocents killed by the command of God in the Old Testament, he could not accept a God who caused them.
Most of what I read, though, picks one or two concepts of Christianity and mocks or derides people who believe. Richard Dawkins is an example, and he’s considered:
A preeminent scientist -- and the world's most prominent atheist -- asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11.It is my understanding that atheists do support his viewpoints, and they consider any religion irrational. I did find this review interesting:
For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe. ... He insists that religion is a divisive and oppressive force, but he is less convincing in arguing that the world would be better and more peaceful without it.Why is this on my mind? Because I have acquaintances who believe there is no God. That places them within the definition atheist. How can I witness to someone who does not believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, nor in One who inspires?
Oddly enough, that lighthouse graphic above helped me. Lighthouses do not move around looking for ships to protect. They stand in one spot spreading the news that there are obstacles to safe travel – though they never travel. I need not seek out someone who will listen to my testimony, God will send them to me when I have one to share.
That lighthouse isn’t perfect. Note some rust, some dirt. Surely maintenance is required. Still, it does the job of testifying to travelers.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 KJV)
What we are to do is positive. It is what Zacharias prophesied of his son, John:
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79 KJV)
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
We’re a small church and summer holds many family activities, so we don’t hold Ladies Meetings in the summer. But, come September we begin again to meet monthly, enjoying the fellowship and lessons from God’s word. Our first meeting this fall was Monday night and the subject was “Songs.” There were multiple verses, with the audience participating by reading them aloud. The one I read was:
And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. (Ezekiel 33:32 KJV)
What I pictured was a lovely church service, beautiful singing, backed by well-played instruments, spirit-filled words – and an audience that ignored the message. However, I’m not one to create a lasting scene from a single verse, so Tuesday I spent some time in this chapter, placing the verse in context.
Checking a pulpit commentary, I found this note:
They who depend on the exciting impulses that come from the large assembly, the strains of powerful music, or the fervid addresses of the pulpit, for the movements of their soul, are leaning on the reed, are building on the sand. The piety that will be wanted for the long path of duty, for the deep waters of trouble, for the searching fires of temptation, for the hour of heroism, for the day of judgment, must go deeper down into the nature of spiritual reality than the stratum of sensibility. … "They do them not." That was their defect; there was found the fatal omission. They had not the spirit of obedience.Which not only matched what I had gleaned from that verse, but reminded me of another:
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. (Matthew 13:20-21 KJV)
There are several places in the Bible where the picture drawn is of people receiving God’s word with joy, but when problems arise and their expectations are unfilled, they turn away, offended. Often in our world, those offended by God file lawsuits to keep from hearing about Him in their daily lives. Once again there is an active lawsuit to keep God’s name away from children saying a pledge of allegiance because it offends a child’s parents. For them, hearing certain words is an offense.
What is it for us?
Can we be lifted with beautiful words, an awesome voice surrounded by talented musicians and ignore the message? Can we hear the word of God read and explained yet never discuss the message, only how the preacher delivered it? Is it as Jesus described, choked by the cares of this world?
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22 KJV)
Or, when we hear the songs or message, do we listen to the words, capture the meaning, discuss their application to our own lives rather than point out faults in others? Do we fit this verse:
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)
How is my fruit?
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Pastor interjected a personal note Sunday morning, not quite in the lesson, but related a bit to yesterday’s cooperative oarsmen. He spoke of ants outside his house and how he admired their work. Solomon used them as examples, too:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8 KJV)
Solomon mentioned them again, one of four things:
There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; (Proverbs 30:24-25 KJV)
Seasons are not as important in many of today’s societies. Harvests occur at different times in our world and goods are more easily transported. Oh, Solomon’s people stored harvests, preparing for times when there would be none, but he would not recognize today’s storage habits. He would recognize today’s ants, as they continue to operate in the same fashion as they did thousands of years ago. They are still good examples for us, too.
Ants work with a single purpose, bring food into the nest. No other ants stand along their trail with tiny whips to see that the work gets done, yet the cooperation continues. Mankind does not do as well when it comes to cooperation. We do have supervisors who oversee labor, adjusting schedules to reach peak productivity. I believe the majority of us do not plan as well as the ant colony for our times of need, setting back when we have much. We tend to use all we have – and borrow a bit more, often for wants instead of needs. We all have needs – some more than others!
A person who regularly attends our church lost his home over the weekend in a fire. His belongings are gone, his clothes, his personal possessions. Gone, too, are the documents telling others who he is – birth certificate, drivers license, Social Security card. Yet he remains part of a group who will work with him to replace, for no other reason than they care about him. That cooperation comes with empathy as well as sympathy, a willingness to be of help. This the ant cannot do.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (Matthew 25:34-36 KJV)
Many standing before the king in this parable could not recall doing any of that for Him. They questioned His statement, and He responded:
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)
Ants are so focused they don’t stop to help others in trouble. Those who love the Lord will help others, for His glory, not their own. We all benefit when they do.
Monday, September 9, 2013
When anyone mentions Ben-Hur, I think of Charlton Heston and the 1959 version. That movie, and this scene, came to my mind in our Sunday School lesson yesterday:
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1 KJV)
In this chapter Paul tells who he is, what he’s doing and that God will be his judge – just as he will be ours. As he gives an account of himself, the King James translates a title as “minister”, the ESV says “servant”, as does the ERV, NRSV, NIV and I didn’t check others. Usually, when “servant” is used, it is translated from the Greek διακονέω (diakoneō) "to be an attendant, that is, wait upon", a servant "minister (unto), serve", but not in this verse.
The word used is ὑπηρέτης (hupēretēs) an under oarsman. That's what Judah ben Hur was in the above scene.
Think for a moment how important those oarsmen were. Movies depicting that era are few and far between in today’s cinema, but there are examples out there of how the battleships of the Mediterranean were propelled. Multiple rows of oars, moving to the beat of a single drummer. What if they did not? The ship would be running off course, pulled in multiple directions. It would be useless for travel, much less battle.
When there is a single goal, a single purpose, a group of oarsman working together, it is a beautiful sight. Have you watched the rowing teams during the Olympics? One person setting the pace, rowers in coordination skimming their craft across the water.
It sets a beautiful picture of equality as well as coordination. One goal under a specific authority.
For me, the authority for believing Christ to be the Messiah isn’t a single one of the pastors of churches I’ve attended over the years. My authority is the word of God. The scriptures. Though some may think they require blind obedience, they do not. The scriptures are for study, for questioning, for growth and for sustaining faith.
Toward the end of Joshua we find:
But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Joshua 22:5 KJV)
“Diligent heed”, not blind obedience, but steady, earnest and energetic attention was how they were to look to the law that told them to love and serve God. Luke records the Bereans as more 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)
Jesus asked that we search the scriptures, too, knowing they will tell of Him.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39 KJV)
I did, and I still do, continuing to believe they testify of the Messiah. I am happy as an under oarsman! Please, receive His word and study to see if those things were so.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!
That refrain reminded me of other lyrics:
In a moment was made to see;
The lame were made whole by matchless skill,
Of the Stranger of Galilee.
Fanny Crosby, lyricist of the first refrain, was blinded as an infant, and she was not made to see – except in her thoughts. There she found good reason to sing praises to the Galilean.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. (Matthew 21:10-11 KJV)
My favorite hymns are based on scriptures – of course, or they wouldn’t be hymns to me. This one of Fanny’s could be tied to:
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
While I live will I praise the LORD:
I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
(Psalms 146:1-2 KJV)
But there are so many others that tell us to praise Him. We could sing to:
Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
I still love the sounds and lyrics when we sing the closing verse of a much longer poem:
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Why all these praises on my mind? Because they remind me the express my thanks to God, to focus on Him, to describe in detail the many things for which I thank and praise Him. I am so not alone in this!
God has given me so much to enjoy, including my life. Not simply the life here in the world He set aside for mankind, but an eternal life with Him, planned from the first creation.
princes, and all judges of the earth:
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
Let them praise the name of the LORD:
for his name alone is excellent;
his glory is above the earth and heaven.
Join in with us this Sunday morning, praising the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary:
praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts:
praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let every thing that hath breath
praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
(Psalms 150:1-6 KJV)
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Click on the graphic, or here, and spend five minutes with this group. OK, so you don’t have five minutes, so let me tell you why I was captivated.
I wasn’t familiar with the movie Perfect Pitch, nor the song When I'm Gone, also known as The Cup Song - but I was captured by the 600 students and staff of the Irish Colaiste Lurgan in Conamara's rendition in Irish. Nice melody, and no understanding of the words so I had to look up the lyrics and movie theme. Not recommending those at all - rating should be higher than PG-13 according to the reviews I read.
But look at those students working together. If you watch the clip, you’ll see the cooperation, the coordination, all working for the same goal. They are in one accord.
Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:2-3 KJV)
You and I both know there are rivalries in that school – between a couple of girls, a couple of boys, student and teacher, teacher and class, staff and teacher. Not all 600 of the participants get along. There are jealousies – guaranteed in a group that large. There are slights, there are favorites, there are arguments and dissension. But not in this clip.
In this video everyone is on board. Hand claps are timed, cup slaps are together, cups moved within a second of each other. Cooperation, of one accord.
We know the twelve disciples had some discord – good example of why are in the verses preceeding:
And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. (Mark 10:41 KJV)
Yet these are the same men, along with others:
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (Acts 2:46 KJV)
Out of the fourteen verses with “one accord”, all but two are in the book of Acts. The first use is in Joshua where the Children of Israel were joining him to battle, the other quoted above from Paul to the Philippians. It could appear that elsewhere and else when, there wasn’t much accord.
When we work with one accord, we are concerned with the work at hand, not with competitions, jealousies, slights or things that bring discord. So, when we look around us, how do we stack up as being in one accord?
With our family? We don’t have to agree on everything, but we should be in one accord regarding our family’s importance and togetherness. Sure would cut out a lot of divorce if the single accord was to maintain a family’s structure while understanding there will be differences.
Are we in one accord with our employer? Do we understand their goals? Are those goals in accordance with ours and our family? Some employer demands are detrimental to the family structure and adjustments must be made somewhere – which goals come first? Which should last a lifetime, or through generations?
How about congregations? Where the Lord’s work is to be done – are they in one accord? Perhaps if we are in one accord with the Lord and His service, our church will be too. Under His direction, we will live with one accord.
Friday, September 6, 2013
I’ve read Barak’s story in Judges 4 and 5. I remember how Deborah called him to raise an army to accomplish God’s will, and his response to her:
And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. (Judges 4:8 KJV)
I wasn’t ready to see his name as part of the explanation of the word ‘blessed’ in Psalm 103:1.
Let me back up a moment. Etymology - the study of words - intrigues me. I want to know what they mean, where they came from, why they are used in specific places. When reading from versions other than the King James, I want to know why different words were chosen.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalm 103:1 NIV)
… I looked up the Hebrew and checked Strong’s dictionary to find the word used as “bless” in one version and “praise” in the other was בּרךor “barak” with a tilde over the first “a”. Since that was so similar to the name Barak, I looked that up, בּרק, with a tilde over both ‘a’s and the spelled “baraq.” Small distinctions, but there are differences in meanings – “baraq” is defined by Strong’s as:
H1301: bârâq (baw-rawk') The same as H1300; Barak, an Israelite:While H1300 is given as a “flashing sword” when not applied as a given name. Then I checked H1288 “barak” definition:
- (He/it) blessed (for example, God) (as an act of adoration)
- (He/it) blessed (for example, man) (as a benefit)
- (euphemistic) (He/it) cursed (for example, God or a king) (as treason)
So, why do I trust God’s word when it can have so many different meanings? And, it’s been translated from the original so often? How do we know that David wasn’t cursing God in this verse?
Context. Just as we cannot take a single moment to define a whole day, nor can we take a single day and define an entire year, single words do not tell a story. It helps to know who, what, when, where and why – which means placing a word, a story, a book in context.
Which comes back to Paul’s explanation to the elders at Ephesus:
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 KJV)
It takes all of God’s word, studying to see if it is valid, taken in context in order to understand. Some of it is history. Some is fulfilled prophecy, some unfulfilled. Some would be requirements for living as God wills, some would be examples of what happens when we don’t.
As Paul explained to Timothy – there is good reason to study:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Those not at our church Sunday night missed Pastor’s visual aid of a bride and groom (my daughter and son-in-law) along with a matron of honor, bridesmaid, flower girl, best man and groomsman. No – they were not repeating their marriage vows from years ago. They were the stand-ins for John’s explanation to his disciples as to why Jesus was to increase, and John was to decrease. Before that verse we find:
He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. (John 3:29 KJV)
There is but one bride – the church. And one groom - Jesus. That’s John’s message. One of the mysteries of the Bible, and John was trying to explain what we have difficulty understanding.
But that’s not what I have in mind to discuss today. Instead, those who miss a service simply do not know what they are missing. It could be as much as Thomas missed.
It was resurrection morning. Many saw the empty tomb. Some spoke with Him in the morning, most were gathered that evening:
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20 KJV)
We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t there. We don’t know what happened that caused him to miss this particular meeting. We just read:
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. (John 20:24 KJV)
Those who met with Jesus told Thomas what happened, but he didn’t believe them.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (John 20:25 KJV)
Know someone who feels the same way? One looking for proof? Those at Jesus’ crucifixion cried out for proof, but they didn’t get any. Thomas did:
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. (John 20:26 KJV)
Jesus offered nail-scarred hands and wounded side as proof, asking Thomas to put his fingers into those wounds. Not necessary, we’re told. Thomas was convinced without having to put his fingers into the prints of the nails nor thrust his hand into His side – he believed.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. (John 20:28 KJV)
Those of us with our names on the church rolls as members have professed to believe He is our Lord, our God. Gathering with others to learn, remember, praise and worship need not be confined to Sunday mornings. We never know what we might miss.
(OK, for my church family that reads this - yes, we did miss last night! Wouldn't you know that the very subject on my mind has a personal application? Please know that what I blog most certainly does apply to me. That's why it's on my mind.)
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
It doesn’t take a master builder to see the error in this graphic. It’s a good illustration of a story a friend reposted, and I think worth sharing:
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.
When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter:
"This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."
What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.
So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized that we would have done it differently.
Think of our self as the carpenter. Think about our house. Each day we hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life we will ever build. Even if we live for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.
We built our life today. It is the result of our attitudes and the choices we have made in the past.
We can build the life we want. It will be the exact result of our attitudes and the choices we make today and tomorrow.
Of course I see an applicable scripture – part of which I used recently:
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (1 Corinthians 3:9-12 KJV)
People read the same Bible, the same verses, at least similar words. How we take them and make them a part of our lives is our responsibility. What we’ve done will become apparent:
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:13-14 KJV)
Do we wish to live eternally in the house we built up until now, or do we need to do some remodeling?
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Too often an hour on Sunday morning is insufficient to cover the thoughts from our lesson. This past Sunday’s was 1 Corinthians 3:10-23. Go ahead, click and read those thirteen verses. I have set my own space limits on the blog and will overfill with pasting them here.
Paul calls himself “a wise masterbuilder.” The Greek is ἀρχιτέκτων – architekton – and I’m certain that word needs no explanation as to how it’s used today. Someone who plans from the foundation up, then builds. We were blessed to be able to do that with our home. We planned for wide doors, to accommodate wheelchairs (thinking we wouldn’t really need it, but we did), and fireproofing with brick, roofing and concrete board siding (our valley has experienced wildfires in the past, one within a half a mile just a few years ago.)
We put a lot of thought into the foundation, with dozens of concrete piers where the land had sloped and we had to build it up. Another home, built just before hours, did not put as much planning into the foundation. No one lives there now. It’s had several owners – whether they overlooked the problem, were not aware of it or thought they could overcome it, the foundation does not support the house.
What is the foundation for Christianity? Myths, a goodly number of people would say. Thomas Jefferson thought it was the writings of a bunch of over zealous men so he edited out what he could not accept (miracles and deity) and compiled what he liked of the gospels. Is that the foundation we build on? What we want the Bible to have said?
Do we pick and choose a good verse that suits what we want:
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Psalms 37:4 KJV)
Then displace God when we do not receive the desires of our hearts?
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:14 KJV)
So, we end the prayer, “In the name of Jesus,” and after a while it remains unanswered do we reject Jesus?
The foundation of our beliefs must be on the full counsel of God’s word. Luke, in sharing Paul’s words before the Ephesians, tells us Paul gave the full story:
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 KJV)
If we want our heart’s desire, we must delight ourselves in the Lord – it’s conditional. If we ask in Jesus’ name, we must understand His authority – it’s conditional. It’s foundational.
Please click here and read Luke 6:46-49. Just three verses about building houses. Both builders heard the same words but did not experience the same results. It’s conditional. It’s foundational.
What is the foundation of your views of Christianity?
Monday, September 2, 2013
I’m preparing verses to be put on cards, then attached to candles we are sending to a mission field where electricity is not readily available. Our “Together We Can Change Lives” group will be providing 200 candles to aid in providing light in homes. The verses I’m pulling all mention light. I hade a couple of pages full when this one spoke to my heart – and made me think of several people I know who no longer attend services.
He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. (John 5:35 KJV)
I was there. In my testimony, I do not try to hide the times my family was unchurched – not only not members of a church, we were not attending any services. As a child that was my parents’ responsibility and they did not fulfill that until I was ten, when we moved within half a mile of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We became active members.
For our family, when we moved away from Tulsa, the churches we visited were not “home.” The lack was as much within us as it was the churches. As a parent, I failed in my responsibility to attend and teach my children. Thanks be to God, those times are over, except for some people I love.
It would be unusual to find an individual that has not gone through a period of time when church attendance was their last priority. Some have dropped out altogether. I thought of that as I read that one little verse.
For a season, we truly rejoiced in the light Jesus brought to our lives, but that season ended. Why? He still shines as brightly as ever, but we’ve turned toward the darkness instead of His light. We had the opportunity to fulfill scripture and God’s request:
Let your light so shine before men, …
Why let our light shine before men?
… that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 KJV)
Is that why we turned away? Because the darkness gives us attention and we don’t have to do good works to achieve that attention. Take the last VMA awards. They certainly garnered attention and had nothing to do with God or good works. The celebrities made headlines, people talked/spoke/wrote (as I am now) giving them attention. Have you ever seen such attention given to God or good works?
So, if we want this world’s accolades, what choices do we have? Think for a moment, then tell me the musician and the top song of the month you were born. Don’t look it up, though, just from memory and the attention given them both at that time. Doesn’t last, does it?
Think for a moment, again, and recite John 3:16. I am almost certain you didn’t have to look that up and it was written two thousand years ago.
Good works won’t save. God’s grace does:
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. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
Return the focus to God. Return to that season where we rejoiced in His light. Consider the ‘good works’ that will show others our interest in Him and give Him the glory, great things He has done!
Sunday, September 1, 2013
He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords. (Psalms 55:20-21 KJV)
Bad things happen when wars occur. No matter how “good” the cause, people die. People of all ages, all beliefs. War does not discriminate, though there will be defenders on all sides who cry that the other is unjust. One commentary posits that this speaks of a specific individual David knew - Ahithophel had put forth his hand against David, siding with Absalom:
And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. (2 Samuel 15:31 KJV)
Other bad things happen, too, in. Look at the whole story in this chapter, beginning here:
And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1 KJV)
Force of habit, kings go forth to battle. Over and over again. Repeating errors along the way, making – and breaking – alliances, ignoring what God has in mind in favor of what men advise. This is not going to change, as Jesus tells us:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:6-8 KJV)
The next verse speaks of his followers:
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (Matthew 24:9-10 KJV)
Does the following define our time?
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:11-12 KJV)
Can a place be named that has not heard the gospel?
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14 KJV)
The Bible tells us what will happen, not when.
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (Matthew 24:42 KJV)
That day has not, however, stopped approaching. Do you know how to be prepared for it?
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12 KJV)
Perhaps we shall see:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV)