Friday, April 25, 2014

How Do We See Him?

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) (Acts 1:15 KJV)
This icon is from a monastery on Mount Sinai, created in the sixth century. Most artists depict Peter at this age or older – grayed hair, or balding, an experienced elder. Since tradition gives his death date as somewhere just before 70 AD, we can be pretty sure this isn’t how he looked when Andrew came to Peter after following Jesus:

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. (John 1:40-41 KJV)

Even here, Andrew is identified as “Simon Peter’s brother.” John wrote that knowing most readers could identify Peter, so Peter was outstanding by the time this was written. Perhaps because he was so outspoken. He was the first to identify Jesus as the expected Messiah:

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:15-16 KJV)

Of course, he was among the first to be admonished – in that same chapter, just a few verses later:

But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:23 KJV)

There are quite a few instances where Peter made the wrong stand, including showing he had not listened to Jesus’ words to turn the other cheek. Matthew and Mark tell the same story, but John identifies the sword wielder:

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. (John 18:10 KJV)

Peter denied knowing Jesus, publicly, three times, ending with a curse:

Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75 KJV)

Yet it was Peter who spoke out at Pentecost:

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: (Acts 2:14 KJV)

They did hearken to his words, and those words were repetitions of what Christ taught. They both spoke of fulfilled prophecy, the love of God for mankind – all mankind, as Peter learned more:

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34-35 KJV)

That’s how I see Peter – receiving new information from God and understanding its application to lives, sharing what he’s learned with those who love God.

How do you see him?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Speak Often, One To Another

This is part of our “Together We Can” group
and one of our current projects, quilts for a boys’ ranch.

Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. (Malachi 3:13-17 KJV)

Malachi is full of contrasts, though it’s a fairly short book. God is aware of what the people are saying, and He answers them correctly. Our pastor did a study of Malachi on Wednesdays and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the contrasts.

Here the contrast is between those who see no profit in even believing in God, and those who aware of and constantly seek His presence. It appears to me that by speaking often together, it was much as Jews would later hear:

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)

This past Sunday, Easter, there were so many people in our sanctuary that chairs had to be added into the foyer to provide enough seating. Visiting children sat with parents, or vice versa, assembled to acknowledge the resurrection of our Lord. It was a blessing to see so many family members worshipping together.

I think it could be similar to those Malachi wrote of, speaking to one another of their experiences with the Lord, recalling a memory of shared prayer – could be positively answered prayer, continuing prayer or a new request to help lift each other spiritually. They think upon His name, and are His jewels as well as being a blessing to each other.

Solomon told how being together makes us stronger because we help each other:

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 KJV)

Take time to speak to one another, building those threefold cords that are not quickly broken, helping each other as together much more can be accomplished. I’ve seen this in our monthly “Together We can” meetings where we’ve accomplished a lot in a couple of years, working together to change lives. I would venture to say that readers have experienced similar and perhaps are willing to share those accomplishments, please?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

This Is The Day


I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:21-24 KJV)

Yes, we will rejoice! Three days before the Resurrection, our Lord said:

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30 KJV)

He had accomplished what He was born to  do. What happened next is what He had told the disciples to expect:

And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. (Matthew 17:9 KJV)

He is risen. He is risen, indeed! That’s why we worship on the first day of the week. That’s why we have hope. It does become a stumbling block to many, but for us it is the foundation – the cornerstone – of Christian faith.

I often wonder why that message is so hard for some people to take in. Recently I read a review of C. S. Lewis’ book, “Surprised by Joy” and the reviewer summarized:

… by saying that in childhood, he preferred logic over emotion and magic, and religion seemed foolish because it seemed hard to believe that God could fail so miserably at a poorly-made, horribly flawed world - or in making religion unclear and unconvincing.

Lewis goes into detail as to how he moved from atheism to a belief in God’s existence. It was an atheist professor’s adherence to logic that helped Lewis move toward Christianity, but this book stops before that step. This book, along with Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, are excellent reading material for both non-believers and believers, addressing issues both discuss.

Lewis found the joy I, too, found in knowing Jesus fulfilled prophecy in His resurrection. This is the day we share with the world that He is risen. He is risen, indeed, as the women who went to the tomb heard from an angel:

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. (Matthew 28:5-7 KJV)

Or, as Luke tells it:

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, (Luke 24:3-8 KJV)

This should remind us, too, that Jesus told of both His death and His resurrection. We have the same message they received – and told others throughout their lives. This is the day we remember, too, He is risen. He is risen in deed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Am Not Miserable

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

We die. Jesus did, too, in a most horrible way. That should have been the end of the story. Even if He had a great philosophy, His death should have brought nothing more than philosophical studies. Many men have left great ideas behind them when they died, discussed centuries later, but His changed the course of the world based on one difference between His death and any other.

It was the one thing that convinced Saul on the road to Damascus:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 KJV)

Others have claimed that they would rise again, but only one has achieved that, or not as some claim:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:13-17 KJV)

Christianity hinges on this one event – not Jesus’ death, but His resurrection. If that remains unbelievable, so does all the rest.

You know, the part about:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

If you can’t believe that, why believe anything Jesus is supposed to have said? Why believe we should judge only with the same judgment used on us? Matthew 7:1-2 – yes, I know most people ignore that second verse, depending on the first to keep themselves safe. That’s the problem with Christianity – it comes with strings. There are those pesky following verses that people overlook when one verse appears to clear them from culpability. Paul knew that:

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 KJV)

We take it in bits and pieces, though it takes a long time to hear all the counsel of God, beginning with:

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

It is more than the history of Adam’s descendants or Abraham’s or Jacob’s or even Mary and Joseph’s. Within the Bible are answers:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16 KJV)

Available to all who wish to spend profitable time. Correct me when you find me in biblical error, please.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Travel back with me three years. That's when this photo was taken, and this blog written a week later. Today, "Good Friday" should be sorrowful - our Lord was tried, mocked, beaten and crucified. That, however, was simply the beginning of the story. We cannot forget that His life was not taken. He gave it, just as He gives life to us. Be sad for today, that we added to His grief and pain. Do not forget Sunday, and what we gained.

This is our Adult Choir at Easter this year (2011.)  First row, right end, is my Second Daughter.  Behind our Pastor’s wife, all in pink, is my Beloved Husband in a yellow jacket.  He and a couple of others were not there this past Sunday, due to illnesses.

While they were missed this Sunday, the choir rang out loud and clear with the Whisnants’ resounding hymn, making me think of vacations.  Ever take a vacation where you left behind the comforts of home? Maybe slept in a tent, cooked by an open fire? I’d wager you had light, something with a battery? Maybe a radio? Just a few of the comforts of home?  When He left His home, He did leave it all:

he didn't bring an army
to help him on his way
he didn't bring a angel
to praise him night and day
he didn't bring one piece of gold
to buy some food to eat
instead he turned and he laid it all
at the fathers feet
he left it all, to rescue me
he left it all, to die on calvary, 
he left it all, not one comfort did he bring
not his robe, not his crown not ten thousand bowing down
not one piece of jasper wall. He left it all
this man they're crucifying he says he is a king
but judging from the clothes he wears
he doesn't own a thing
but little did they know that day
as his blood came streaming down
he owned the sun the stars and the moon
he even owned the ground
he left it all, to rescue me
he left it all, to die on calvary, 
he left it all, not one comfort did he bring
not his robe, not his crown
not ten thousand bowing down
not one piece of jasper wall. He left it all
The physical presence of God on earth not only left it all, He endured all the hardships mankind endures.  Then took on the sins of the world and endured the spiritual separation of the lost. We can look to Him to know the suffering, and the love, that all men feel.  Yet Paul says that if that’s all we have we are miserable:

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

Though they did not have His origins, other men have taught well, lived well and endured more than most.  The one thing greater than leaving – or losing – it all, is the one thing Christ did that none other is remembered for doing. Resurrection.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. … But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:16-18, 20 KJV)

That’s why He left it all.  That’s why we are:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Quartz Mountain

Click on the graphic and you’ll end up in Wikipedia with a lot of geological info about these rocks popping up north of Altus, county seat of Jackson county, Oklahoma. They are striking, but Coloradoans would giggle for our calling these “mountains.” They’ve been part of family stories from my childhood – my folks grew up in Jackson county and were married in Altus. We nicknamed our “Soda Pop” uncle based on his managerial skills at the 7-Up bottling plant there mid-20th century. My aunt was secretary at the Methodist church for many years. Visits to my grandparents gave my cousins opportunities to drive us around the square and stop at specific spots to chat with their friends. Not my home town, but my family’s.

Thirteen ladies from our church drove through Altus on our way to Quartz Mountain for a Ladies Retreat this past Friday and Saturday, thanks to the Tabernacle Baptist Church! Those ladies excel at hospitality, cooking, witnessing and giving testimonies of their love for our Lord!

The theme was “Women of Worth”:

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Colossians 1:10-12 KJV)

We learned so much!! We learned a definition for fear:
Think about that, please. How many of our fears are real? Mostly we’re afraid of what we imagine will be, not knowing what are valid expectations. I could list them here, but would probably miss yours, so let’s look at mine for a moment.

I feared my husband’s death. Three years ago, following his first myasthenia crisis, I feared that it would happen again. Feared we would not be able to get him to the hospital in time. I would lose him. Hey, we’re here – and I listened Saturday morning to a Christian sister who did lose her husband. She survives, with tears at time, but quite well enough to share her love of God with a room full of ladies. This is life.

Another Christian sister told us not to live with the phrase, “If things were different …” Things are not different. Things are exactly as they are where we are today and it is up to us to move forward from the point we realize “things” will only be different if we are.

Some of what we need to be a Woman of Worth:
W – wisdom
O – openness
R – roots
T – thankfulness
H – happy
No – I’m not going into all the paragraphs/scriptures that go with that acronym (though you might get some of them in future blogs!!)

The songs in the program were written by a woman I’ve long considered worthy - Frances Jane (Crosby) van Alstyne – better remembered as Fanny Crosby. I’d list the songs, but they might not include your favorite and you should be humming it right now. Go ahead and enjoy it, we sure did!!

We also played games, participated in funny skits and became acquainted with 80-some other ladies. Now, truthfully, did you have as much fun with close friends? Plan on joining us next year – if you can’t join us, find a good church nearby and put on a program yourself!! We’d be happy to share skits with you, pray for you and pray that God will bless you, too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Keep This In Mind

The Rapture, as describe by several Bible verses but unnamed as such, is a somewhat recent concept of a very ancient promise. I won’t go into the history nor the different view of pre-, mid-, post- or not-gonna-happen Rapture. There’s sufficient material available for years of discussion, and scriptures are used by all concerned with the subject.

What I will say is – it may not be as we expect. But, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Mankind has a tendency to explain and plan the inexplicable over which God has control. I need to keep this in mind.

The Bible is filled with God’s promises. Seldom did they match mankind’s expectation. Beginning with
His statement of fact:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:17 KJV)

This set up the scene for temptation:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (Genesis 3:4 KJV)

The moment she bit into the fruit, she did not drop dead on the spot – but she began to and eventually did, as we all will.

God told Abraham he would have a son. Sarah laughed in disbelief and set out to give him one on her own, with disastrous results.

God told Moses to go to Egypt and bring Jacob’s descendants into a land promised to them generations before. Of those who left Egypt, they only saw the land, did not live on it, because they were not expecting the work it would take to live there.

King David was promised a descendant who would sit upon the throne forever, yet within three generations the kingdom was split in two, eventually going to others. He was not expecting an eternity.

Israel was promised a Messiah who would do a number of things for them simply because they were God’s chosen people. Somehow they forgot why they were chosen – to be an example to the world. They were totally unprepared to accept a child born in Bethlehem who would die thirty-three years later:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3 KJV)

My focus needs to be what God has laid out for mankind to do:

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

Jesus spent three years, witnessed and written down by the four gospel writers,  speaking of laws wrapped up in two we all fail to keep:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 KJV)

Though we fail miserably at keeping laws, there is one statement of faith we can understand and accept:

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

My preconceived notions of how God will fulfill His promises are not important. The simple fact that He has done so in the past is fact and is sufficient for me to believe in Him and His ability to do so in the future, even if it is not as I or others expect. My faith is in God, not in how He achieves His will. I must take care to keep this in mind.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. (Acts 9:20-22 KJV)

No, the graphic is not Damascus – it”s Raphael’s painting of Saul in Athens. It will do just as well, because it depicts what Saul began doing as soon as his sight was restored – preaching Christ to any audience. That also proved to be contentious wherever he went, beginning in Damascus:

And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: (Acts 9:23 KJV)

So he went back to Jerusalem, the city where in Acts 8:3 we learned he made havoc in the church, scattering persecuted believers throughout the world. Now, in Acts 9:26, we find him returning to Jerusalem:

And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. (Acts 9:26 KJV)

This happens in congregations today. We question the validity of a person’s relationship to God. Oh, we’re supposed to be able to know something about it:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16-20 KJV)

We’ve been given the fruits in order to discern:

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

For the disciples in Jerusalem, Saul’s fruit was evident in his action. It was easier for them to discern treachery in his approach rather than conversion. Perhaps we don’t see treachery, but the fruit we see is described better in Galatians 5:19-21 rather than 22-23.

Standing before the disciples in Jerusalem was a man who at the very least condoned murder, at worst committed it. How hypocritical of him to come now and preach Christ! It had to be a trick.

Perhaps we aren’t as open as the disciples in our rejection, but it is evident in so many cases that we expect the worst out of people instead of helping bring out their best. What we need is to be Barnabas.

But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.(Acts 9:27 KJV)

Are we willing to be the voice of Barnabas? Speaking not only with the newly converted, but speaking out for them? Stand with them as they learn more and more about God’s word, His promise, His work through the ages? Can we turn “Welcome?” into “Welcome!!”

Monday, April 7, 2014

An Eye Opener


And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. (Acts 9:10 KJV)

The previous blog talked about Saul’s blindness – today we’ll take a look at Ananias. We first hear of him as he is called by the Lord, and his immediate response is “I am here, Lord.” Do we do as well? When we receive a call from our Lord, are we as eager to respond? Or, after we hear what He wants, we also follow Ananias’ example and begin to explain why we can’t oblige Him?

The Lord’s request was simple, straight-forward and step by step:

And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. (Acts 9:11-12 KJV)

Go here, see the man, ask for Saul who is expecting you, put your hand on him and give him back his sight. Here’s where Ananias sounds much more as we do:

Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. (Acts 9:13-14 KJV)

Just in case the Lord wasn’t paying attention, Ananias felt he had to explain to Him just who Saul was and why it wasn’t a good thing to go see him. Doesn’t that sound like me? I’ve done so much explaining why I don’t/won’t do what God has required – as if He needed an explanation!!! As if He didn’t have the ability to see that what He asks gets accomplished!!!

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)

Why would that verse come to mind when missing church services? When we – or another – say, “It’s not necessary to go to church to worship.” A half truth (which satan is very good at giving) because our Lord has requested our presence. Or:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16 KJV)

Why remember that verse when not reading scriptures? Or questioning the validity of the Bible as truth? The next verse tells me why this is good to do:

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:17 KJV)

Why – as Ananias did – do we give such poor excuses for not following His instructions? Is it because He doesn’t take time to explain now, as He did then:

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (Acts 9:15-16 KJV)

If I were Ananias, I would be so pleased that it wasn’t up to me to tell Saul what he must suffer. If I were Ananias, I will go to Judas’ house with a bit of trepidation. Not until Saul’s sight was returned and I left, alive, would peace come. That’s a lack of faith in God’s knowledge and ability. I need another verse:

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

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Waiting, and Waiting, and . . .

Stitched Panorama
And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. (Acts 9:9 KJV)

Pretend for a moment that you are very successful, upward mobile, up-to-date, well-trained and you want to show your supervisors that you do the job better than anyone else. You have career goals that have indicated you are the most likely to succeed. You had this idea that should take care of a serious problem, affecting lives around you and the potential to harm others in the future, and you can “fix” it. So, you go to your supervisors and:

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2 KJV)

Yep, you knew what was best for these people and you knew how to get them to change. They had been duped by a blasphemer into believing God loved them enough to send His son to provide for them eternally. Of course, you knew better than that, and you can “fix” it. Just wait until they see what you can do!

All that changed in a, literally, blinding moment on the road to Damascus. You met the Son of God and were given instructions:

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:6 KJV)

Now you are in Damascus, and still blind. Everyone that had been with you on the road must think you’re crazy. They saw nothing but you falling to the ground, and no one is certain what they heard. I wonder if one or two of them left and went back to report your mission was  in jeopardy. So, you wait.

Why eat? What you need may show up any moment? Why sleep? Who could when the next noise might be the answer? Your blindness means you are totally dependent on others as you’ve never been since babyhood. Is this all there is in the future? How long do you wait?

There are other stories in the Bible about people waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Many give up, with some drastic results.Look up the story of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son. How long did he wait in the pit at Dothan? In the prison  in Egypt? According to scripture, he was promised nothing. At least you, as Paul, were promised that you’d be told what must be done. When?

Does it really matter? That “When”? Does it really matter knowing what’s coming next or when it will arrive?

Paul could have had those traveling with him pack up and return to Jerusalem for the best medical and spiritual care offered for those times. He chose to wait.

He chose to wait, and it changed not only his life but ours. Just the fact that I wrote this and you are reading it hinged on Paul waiting. What are we willing to wait for?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Stuff (2009), Stuff (2012) and More Stuff

From our drive, looking over the pasture

Here's a blog I wrote in 2012. I was looking for something else and came across this picture of smoke from a wildfire half a mile from our home. It had made its way quickly across several miles, and was much too close for my comfort. Last night I watched video taken at Denton, Texas, fifty nice safe miles from my home. Safe, because we did not get any of the hail (and - unfortunately - none of the torrential rain) that damaged cars and buildings in Denton. Our "Stuff" was safe.

We've also been "downsizing." I've given away lots of clothing I haven't worn along with dishes we aren't using. I've gotten rid of two things when one would do quite nicely. I've much, much more to do, basically because (as Second Daughter put it) I have an emotional attachment to most of the stuff in our home. That hasn't changed much since 2012, or 2009:

Three years ago, in the fall of 2009, I was reading about fires in California. I wrote a blog about it then. Today, as I was cleaning my stuff, it came to mind.  According to T. J. Lynch, a victim of California’s Station fire:
"It's pretty surreal, pretty humbling, how your life is represented in these objects that you collect and then you have to whittle them down," he said, describing the difficulty of choosing what to bring with them.
We’ve seen such smoke, a half a mile from our home. Fortunately the wind was not in our direction, and a great many awesome firefighters ended its fury. We had to consider how to move our cattle, gather dogs, wonder about chickens – and that’s just living things, not the objects we had collected over the years, the ‘stuff’ that makes up our lives.

Rachel took some stuff from her father’s tent when Jacob fled with his family. She must have felt it was worth it to take them, then sit upon them to hide her theft.

Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both. (Genesis 31:37 KJV)

Joseph told his brothers not to be concerned about their own stuff – he had enough in Egypt to take care of all of them.

Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours. (Genesis 45:20 KJV)

Moses found out it was possible to have too much stuff!

For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much. (Exodus 36:7 KJV)

Look around – what stuff do we need? What stuff do we want – and why? Is the stuff important to us, or to our children? Why have we accumulated this stuff? Where will it eventually go? Why do we need it now? What would we take in case of fire? Why would we choose that? Because it would be expensive to replace? Because of the memories it invokes?

Christ speaks of a day when we need to abandon our stuff:

In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. (Luke 17:31 KJV)

Do we have the wrong stuff?

Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. (Joshua 7:11 KJV)

Let’s take inventory of our stuff. Appreciate that which we’ve accumulated, but determine if we’ve taken of the accursed thing and put them among our own stuff. Let’s clear them out and determine what stuff is worth rescuing, and what is not.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mary and Martha

Yesterday’s lawyer scripture was from Sunday morning’s sermon. Today’s is from Sunday night’s. (Yes – we go twice a day, and enjoy them both!) Both are stories we’ve known from childhood.

I particularly like this painting. The Bible doesn’t mention someone in the kitchen with Martha, prodding her on to think poorly of Mary leaving all the work to her, but we do have someone like that – satan. Once we lend him an ear, we’ve opened ourselves up to all that he has to say.

What struck me most in the story found in Luke 10, is what Martha does as Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening:

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. (Luke 10:40 KJV)

What? She can’t speak directly to Mary? She has to draw Jesus’ attention to her and all the work she has to do to feed this group of people staying (at least for a meal) in her house? Wouldn’t it have been much simpler for Martha to have said:

“Mary, I need some help. Would you come help me?”

No – Martha wants Jesus to tell Mary what to do. Just as the lawyer in yesterday’s scripture, Martha wants justification for herself. She wants the attention taken away from what’s going on in the house – and focused on her.

I’ve done that, and I’m certain I’m not alone. Doesn’t have to have been about fixing for company, any time we feel we aren’t in the center of the activity – even though we’re doing exactly what needs to be done at the time it needs doing – we are left out. That’s a lack on my part, as long as I’m doing God’s will in my life, I do not need to be pointing out that someone else isn’t. Especially when we don’t know what they are supposed to be doing.

We stand at the point where we, too, might hear Jesus tell us:

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 KJV)

Isn’t that what we’re really trying to do when we point out another’s lack? Taking away what they have? How are we to know that what they are doing is not within God’s will?

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

The painter, Diego Valezquez, tells us in Martha’s face that these are not the things she’s thinking. And, when we are pointing out another’s faults to a third party, we most certainly are not thinking of these, either. What are we taking to Jesus in our prayers about those faults? Are we also confessing our own? He told us what to do, you know:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matthew 7:3 KJV)

Read the whole section, though, before leaving the subject. There are two things Jesus tells us to do:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Matthew 7:5 KJV)

First – fix ourselves. Get rid of what is keeping us from seeing what God has in mind. When we know clearly what is His will, then we can be of help in our brother’s sight. I like this verse, which helps considerably in reaching God’s will:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 KJV)

If our request is for another’s help, ask of Jesus in a prayerful attitude that will bring His peace.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Lawyer’s Question

"The tomb constructed here of marble stone contains
All that of Robert Skerne and of his wife remains,
He being valient, faithful, cautious, skilled in law,
Noble, ingenious, did treachery abhor:
Constant in speech, in life, in feeling and in thought,
That justice freely and to all was due, he taught.
The honours of the royal law alone he prized.
To cheat or be deceived a thing he quite despised.
May he in heaven rejoice, who lived on earth sincere,
Who died upon the fourth of April in the year
Of Christ one thousand twenty score and thirty seven.
Have mercy on his soul, Jesus, Thou King of Heaven."

Apparently Robert Skerne was a respected man as well as being a just lawyer. Some are not so. One, centuries ago, attempted to catch Jesus in an unanswerable question.

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25 KJV)

How many problems can you see in that question? First we have to know what is meant by lawyer. Strong’s gives νομικός (nomikos) as “according (or pertaining) to law, that is, legal (ceremonially); as noun, an expert in the (Mosaic) law“. He would be an expert on the question he asked, thus it is said he “tempted him.” He was looking for the answer he felt he already knew. If Jesus gave a different answer, the lawyer would instantly know it to be false.

“What shall I do …” Obviously he hasn’t been listening to Jesus because he does not understand that we cannot earn God’s grace. We can, through sinfulness, cease to hear God’s message, but we can neither be good enough to earn His grace nor once in His care can we lose it.

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)

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)

Now I’m not certain about “inherit eternal life.” If he were a Sadducee, he did not believe in eternal life, so this could be a third error in his question. Jesus, however, did have the right answer:

He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? (Luke 10:26 KJV)

Why tell the lawyer what he already knew?

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Luke 10:27-28 KJV)

Jesus had nothing to add to the answer. It was, and still is, the truth that we should be using for our own standard of living within God’s will. But – the lawyer had another question:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (Luke 10:29 KJV)

Do you think maybe there was a question in his own mind that he had not been loving someone as well as he loved himself? I know I still have a problem with loving ones I personally consider unlovable. What?? You don’t know an unlovable person? As me, I can explain.

Jesus’ answer runs several verses – Luke 10:30-37 – just click on the verse and read the whole story, along with the lawyer’s answer and Jesus’ response. It is important, but not as important as our own response to all of the questions raised in this simple conversation.

What are yours?