Saturday, February 28, 2015


Soldiers were drafted in WWII for “the duration” - the time during which something continues. My Dad couldn’t pass the draft's required physical – he lost one eardrum in an automobile accident that cracked the other. Instead of heading for training, he worked as a fireman on the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroad. These four young men - in a Santa Fe railcar - obviously passed their physical. Though we have no idea what happened to them, I doubt their duration was comfortable.

When we accept Jesus as Christ, the promised Messiah, son of God, as our Redeemer, we sign up for the duration. And, “duration” to me means eternity.

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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 3:15-16 KJV)

That’s just part of a wonderful conversation Jesus held with Nicodemus. Apparently he signed up for the duration, working with Joseph of Arimathaea to see to Jesus’ burial:

And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. (John 19:38-40 KJV)

Under the circumstances, that’s a huge indication of faith on the part of these two men. Of course, they were influential, both in business and religion, placing them in a position to approach Pilate. But who would do that without faith in what Jesus taught? I wonder if his conversation with Jesus ran through his mind as Nicodemus gathered the spiced funeral mixture.

What is duration for a follower of Jesus? Not the few years of a war. Eternity, remember – eternal life. At the end of His ministry, He explained to His disciples:

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: (Luke 24:44-46 KJV)

The duration for me is eternal, no matter if I forget my way for a while. Not because of anything I’ve done but because I trust Jesus and Paul wrote something I believe:

. . . 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. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:12b-13 KJV)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Socially Unacceptable Conversations

Facebook is adding a “suicide prevention feature.” I do not find this harmful. An article discussing this quotes Holly Hetherington, Facebook content strategist:
Friends and family are concerned, but they’re worried about saying the wrong thing or somehow making it worse. Socially, mental illness and thoughts about suicide are just not something we talk about.
Facebook isn’t going to scan posts and locate those that appear to indicate suicide – that’s still left up to friends and family to notify Facebook, who will then send a message to the poster with suggestions of available help.

I found this interesting on a couple of levels – a very wide-open media acknowledges that there are some socially unacceptable conversations and offers to intercede to be of help. Family/friends could not approach the person because it is “not something we talk about.”

We can add politics and religion to the list of socially unacceptable conversations, can’t we? Why? Are these not some of the most life-altering aspects of our society? Why does our social structure decline to address these basics of social interaction? Because it might offend.

If you do a search on this blog for the word “offend”, you’ll find posts that include the word. It’s a good biblical word.

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? (Matthew 15:12 KJV)

In the King James Version we find a form of the word in forty-seven different verses. Jesus used it many times. Once, that covers so much of today, He is quoted as saying:

And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (Matthew 24:10 KJV)

That is evident today. The word “hate” has become descriptive of anyone who disagrees. The offended person calls them “haters.” That has become one of the most used descriptors, “They hate me because I’m (insert whatever describes differences).”

Unfortunately, it has been used to describe Christians who are seeking to live by what the Bible says God desires. Even the use of Bible verses is offensive. Why? The Bible tells us that, too:

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts. (Proverbs 21:2 KJV)

Not all wisdom is light-hearted and joking. Study the introduction to Proverbs which includes:

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. (Proverbs 1:5-6 KJV)

Some of the “dark sayings” teach that we are not to look for “right” in our own eyes, but to seek God’s will. In all honesty, is that what is being done in our own lives? Are we less concerned than a software firm about another’s life?

I hear answers – of course we are concerned! We will help those in need! We will do . . . what? Consider what could be done for someone who is contemplating suicide. Then consider what is being done for those facing eternity without God – and we are not doing all we can to prevent that, are we? Why is it socially unacceptable to have this conversation? Can we talk about it with others?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Christ Died For ...?

A pastor I follow on Facebook posted an interesting link on Wednesday, “4 Things Jesus Didn’t Die For.” I do not think the the list should be limited to the four items the author selected, but there is truth in what was written.

It appears the author is concerned about people equating patriotism or political causes with being Christ-like. In the middle of his article is a truth that I think should have led the discussion:
Christians have one message: the gospel of Jesus Christ’s atoning death, glorious resurrection, and coming Kingdom. Be defined by that; preach that and let everything else come second.
I do believe that a group of people that place God first and whose goals are to live within His will, doing the work He has set them to do, will be blessed abundantly -  but not necessarily as the world recognizes.

The verse I used yesterday would be a good lesson:

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. (Deuteronomy 8:2 KJV)

One thing we have forgotten is how to be humble. Especially living under His proving what is in our hearts about keeping His commandments.  No, we have not been let through forty years in the wilderness as God’s chosen people – and we know they were chosen:

For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6 KJV)

No where does the Bible say that choice was removed from Israel. Yes, God’s promise was then and is now available to everyone who seeks Him:

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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 3:15-16 KJV)

“Whosoever” translates from the Greek πᾶς (Strong’s G3956)
Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole
The only requirement for belief is in Jesus – whom I see as Christ, Son of God, Savior – not an individual or a nation or a creed or a cause or commandments.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 KJV)

Luke records Peter saying this while filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I have not found where that message has been changed. Peter was able to deliver God’s message in a straightforward manner, unswayed by commitments to family, religion, nation or cause. He put God first, above all else.

That is the gospel message - the good news - that did, does and can in the future, change the world. It is our choice whether to believe it, or not; share it, or not.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When We Can See “Why?”

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. (Deuteronomy 8:2 KJV)

An entire generation roamed the wilderness, and here they are told specifically why. Now, I believe God in His omniscience knew what would happen – but the people had to know, too. He could have told them before the spies were sent in, but He has provided choices to us for very good reason.

We are not automatons. We have the ability to make choices based on reasoning. We can be told something is dangerous, and still determine to try it ourselves, testing the truth of the statement as well as our abilities. Mankind has been known to draw uncrossable lines, then make a way across them. So, why limit ourselves by keeping commandments?

Because we follow someone who crossed a line that still seems impossible – resurrection. And, we know why:

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)

All this came to mind in a lesson on Genesis 44 – Joseph’s second meeting with his brothers. The lesson and the chapter gave us three purposes for what choices we face:

To test our character, as Joseph tested his brothers character by putting the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. He wanted to see their reaction to being judged guilty when they knew they were innocent. How would do we react when our character is tested?

To initiate self-examination, as Judah asked what they can do to prove their innocence. Yet he felt guilty, though of another crime, when in Genesis 44:16 he says “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants.” Their guilt over selling Joseph into slavery remained.

To produce change, as Joseph wanted to see if his brothers would leave brother in slavery, again. Judah was the one who suggested selling Joseph, and here it is Judah who pleads for Benjamin – offering himself instead.

For me, the lesson goes way beyond these three bullet points, for it is Jesus, descendant of Judah, who offered Himself for me. And you. And whosoever:

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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 3:15-16 KJV)

When becoming a Christian – a follower of Christ – those three points are necessary. Is our character, our moral qualities, flawed? The way we can know is through self examination. What questions should we ask ourselves? The answers should lead us to Christ and a desire to follow Him. That will produce change.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 KJV)

Don’t stop here. Pick up a Bible and read the test of this one chapter to see what God inspired Paul to write about this transformed life, proving what is good, acceptable and the perfect will of God.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It’s Old Stuff

Sunday morning Pastor’s scripture took me right back to my junior choir days at Immanuel Baptist Church in Tulsa, where Mercer Shaw was our Music Director. He had us singing “The Spacious Firmament on High.” I looked it up.  In London, back in August of 1712, Joseph Addison published an essay in The Spectator - followed by a poem that was later put to music by Franz Haydn.
The Supreme Being has made the best arguments for his own existence in the formation of the heavens and the earth, and these are arguments which a man of sense cannot forbear attending to who is out of the noise and hurry of human affairs…The Psalmist has very beautiful strokes of poetry to this purpose in that exalted strain (Psalm xix). As such a bold and sublime manner of Thinking furnished out very noble Matter for an Ode, the Reader may see it wrought into the following one.

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
"The hand that made us is divine."

Yes, Pastor’s scripture was Psalm XIX – ooops, 19. But he didn’t stop at the first six verses this poem covers – he continued to talk about conversion:

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalms 19:7 KJV)

You thought that was some new-fangled idea that came up in the New Testament. Sorry about that, converting the soul is old stuff.

There are other words in the following verses that we need to heed besides law – statutes, commandment, fear judgment. Why? David answered that question, too:

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:11 KJV)

The Psalm ends with a verse that should be very familiar, and would be well for us to pray – often – for the Lord’s help to achieve the right attitude toward Him:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 KJV)

May all that I say and do be acceptable to the Lord, my God, my redeemer.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why “Christian”?

We are reading a lot about Christians in current media – some good and some not so good. I was asked the question:
Christ never called himself a Christian, Christ never called his followers Christians. The apostles never called each other Christians. Christ never used an adjective to describe himself. So how are we to identify ourselves then?
I discovered the question was copied/pasted from an internet site that looks upon the word “Christian” as a pejorative, created by pagans to describe followers of Christ and not used by those followers to identify themselves. The author (no, I will not send you to the article – I did not find it uplifting, but somewhat divisive) suggests a number of other terms used in the books of the New Testament. Some I found applicable, some I did not.

So, why use the term “Christian” as a noun to describe a group of people? Go to the Greek used in the New Testament and find Matthew 1:1 – the first verse tells us Matthew was writing about the Messiah:

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1 KJV)

The Greek Χριστός which means “anointed” (Strong’s G5547) or the Hebrew משׁיח (Daniel 9:25) which also means “anointed” and is translated ”Messiah” (Strong’s H4899)

Acknowledging Jesus as the promised Jewish Messiah is part of believing His life carries God’s message to all mankind. Again in Matthew, we learn of Jesus calling to specific men:

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19 KJV)

They did what He asked, followed. For the next three years they learned from Him, by His examples, His words, His interactions with those who followed later. Not all considered Him the promised Messiah, but after the Resurrection, it became more evident. Those who followed Jesus began to spread the good news, the gospel message. As did Barnabas and Saul:

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

The article originating the question makes the assumption that pagans in Antioch applied the term Χριστιανός (Strong’s 5546) “followers of Christ.” I do not see  that in this verse. Yes, Antioch was home to many pagans – but there were also people in a church, Barnabas and Saul were teaching “much people.” I believe it would be natural for those being taught to call these disciples “followers of Christ.” And, the word's definition explains why Jesus never referred to Himself as "Christian."

I pray that someone would look at my life and make the determination that I am a follower of Christ by the way I talk, the places I go, the things I do. For me there is no pejorative in being called a Christian. Though it can cause some problems, as Peter wrote:

Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:16-19 KJV)

I appreciate the question's being copied and sent to me. It allowed me to research and learn more, confirming to me that being called Christian is humbling, knowing that I cannot match His life, but I can follow Him. The word describes what I want to do, how I would like to be remembered.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Snoozed

I did! I really snoozed instead of writing down a thought for a blog – now all I can remember is that I had a great thought for a blog, decided I could remember it overnight and didn’t get up to make a note.  I even thought of it again when I was driving and couldn’t make a note. It is bugging me, because I believe it could have filled this page.

Now, I’m stuck. I’ve spent more time trying to remember what it was that seemed so good than looking for something that might even be better! That, of course reminds me of a couple of Bible verses:

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (1 Corinthians 9:24 KJV)
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

Mark = goal = focus on where we’re headed, not where we’ve been. Oh, yes, we can learn from the past, but we don’t live in it. What we want is ahead of us, we move toward our goals, not away or backward or elsewhere. For we as Christians, achieving that mark offers a prize that is described in several Bible verses about God’s calling. It’s the one race where everyone can win, but not everyone tries.

In Hebrews is the wonderful chapter 11 on faith, describing many who did respond to God’s message. Chapter 12 continues with what our race has to do with faith and why Jesus is involved:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 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 12:1-2 KJV)

One truth applies to us in so many ways, it we snooze, we do lose – in education, employment, relationships, and the list grows. Try snoozing through classes and we would be repeating a school year. Do it during working hours and we would be looking for a new job. Too often we do it during our relationship with God, expecting Him to pick up the slack, then wonder why we aren’t receiving blessings.

We are supposed to be looking for Him, even though He came to us:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10 KJV)

We are told more often than not to seek Him:

And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. (Psalms 9:10 KJV)
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: (Isaiah 55:6 KJV)
Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. (1 Chronicles 16:10-11 KJV)

Many did not seek Him and could be described as Rehoboam:

And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD. (2 Chronicles 12:14 KJV)

May I suggest that the best way to prepare our hearts is in His word? That’s where I spent the last few minutes, seeking to know my Lord even better.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Peace, Again

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27 KJV)

Yes - that's the same verse from yesterday, with the same graphic. Some lessons I don't get on the first go-around and have to be reminded that they really are for me - personally.

My family knows how many years I've gone ignoring the "Fear Not"s of the Bible, along with the offers of His peace. How many times I've visualized boxing up those fears and disturbances and handing them off to Him, knowing He promised to take them and leave us with only His will to consider. I have failed so miserably at that!

Yet, I continue to believe that's the way it should be. No matter what.

When I was a teen, I remember reading about missionaries to Brazil's Amazon basin who were killed. It happened again, not often but enough to remind us that carrying God's message of love and caring for others could be dangerous.

More often, though, we met missionaries at conferences or having them speak at our churches and we heard of difficulties, some dangers - but not much more than what we face in daily commutes - and lots of stories of salvation and joy. I became complacent - send missionaries to new fields of harvest and God cares for them in wondrous ways. That remains true - but the world has changed.

Now it's not just missionaries who are in danger. Instead of Jim Jones' or David Koresh's dangerous personality cults, this age is faced with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's. He is not fighting just Christians, but all who do not believe as he does. Just as Hitler drew the power-hungry as he exhibited strength, so does al-Baghdadi, over the bodies of all non-believers, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Yazidi, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist. This does generate fear as his followers strike in Europe during daily activities.

Yet - I see the pictures of 21 Christians along the shores of the Mediterranean. They are not struggling with their captors, though they must have understood what would happen to them, dressed in their orange prison uniforms. They died - partly because they were Egyptians, but mostly because they were Christian.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 KJV)

There was no discussion as to whether or not they were offered the opportunity to deny their faith, but it was reported that at least one man died with the name "Jesus" upon his lips.

That shows me just how small my fears have been - and are. Just how little I have to fear, and how much I have been blessed. My lack is not in safety, but in sharing what God has done by providing for us eternally. For those who deny His existence, His caring for His creation and the disbelief of His work with mankind, I can only offer a philosopher's questions:

If you are right and I am wrong, what have I lost?
If, however, I am right and you are wrong, what have you lost?
Consider carefully. The answer may make all the difference in the world, and in the next.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Peace. Available?

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27 KJV)

That small pink card has lived with me for over ten years. It was in a journal brought by a lady I didn’t know and seldom see. The journals were exchanged at a Ladies Retreat in east Texas. Attendees brought a journal with one entry – an introduction to their soon-to-be-new-owner. I keep the card on the mirror in my bathroom to remind me each morning that our Lord provides peace.
In preceding verses, our Lord introduces the Comforter to His disciples:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:16-18 KJV)

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV)

It is the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, that gives us peace:

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:3-6 KJV)

A peace that is beyond understanding:

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 KJV)

Always look at the surrounding verses to see how to achieve what a singled out verse offers:

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:4-6 KJV)

Right in the middle of that is why I can feel peaceful – the Lord is at hand. Paul lived with that knowledge and taught it across years of travel, knowing that wherever he went it was God’s will and He was at hand. Paul knew that same peace was available to all:

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:9 KJV)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Name

Take the name of Jesus with you
Love those lyrics!
Precious name! Oh, how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n;
Precious name! Oh, how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n

I love the way “heav’n” is one syllable, too, but the main theme is Jesus’ name. There are verses that tell us how important His name is:

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. (Matthew 18:5 KJV)

Now if you think children aren’t that important, how about:

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

Of course, that’s preceded by agreeing here on earth. How many people are you able to agree with here on earth? If not here, how will we agree in heaven? If we have to change to do it there, why not change and do it here? Yes – even with people with whom we think we cannot agree. Try gathering in His name, none other.

Sounds to me that non-Christians, doing something in His name have rewards:

For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. (Mark 9:41 KJV)

Now there are some people who will use this verse for their own purposes:

If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:14 KJV)

Without taking into consideration the preceding verse:

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13 KJV)

Who is in the best position to know what will or want glorify God? Yep – that’s the only answer. God knows. That’s why it’s best to include a commitment Jesus suggested:

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. (Matthew 6:9-10 KJV)

He also used it in His prayer:

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39 KJV)

He did not get a positive answer, but wasn’t hesitant about asking again:

He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. (Matthew 26:42 KJV)

Most of us are not asked to die for others, so why can’t we use those words with that precious name?
There is one tiny caveat, too:

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matthew 24:5 KJV)

When should we expect this to happen?

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)

In this 24th chapter, Jesus has left the temple and is answering His disciples’ question about “When? How will we know?” Stick close to that precious name, seeking our Father’s will, and know that the end is not yet. We have work to do in His name.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We Know What They Are

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 KJV)

That verse came up when we were studying Joseph’s meeting with his brothers. They had not heard from him since he was sold into slavery at 17 – but he was not forgotten:

And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not. (Genesis 42:13 KJV)

They had led their father to believe he had been killed by putting blood on the beautiful coat of many colors that they hated so much. That had not confessed their sins. Joseph, on the other hand, had been thrown in prison simply because he would not sin with another man’s wife. For many years it appeared that those who covered their sins prospered, while one who shunned temptation languished.

But, we know the opposite happened. Joseph prospered above all except pharaoh and his brothers bowed to him, just as the sheaves of wheat in his dreams. God’s timing is important. Keep that in mind when considering this verse in Moses’ address to the people before battling for their promised land:

But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 KJV)

David discovered this truth when Nathan came to him:

And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. (2 Samuel 12:13 KJV)

The actions he took with Bathsheba damaged her, killed her husband, lowered David in the eyes of his captain, but he knew the sin was against God’s commandment.

Joseph’s brothers had no “Thou shalt not . . .” commandments, but they knew they had sinned and caused their father great sorrow.  To read Judah’s explanation in chapter 44 gives voice to that knowledge. It is overpowered by the forgiveness Joseph offers in Chapter 45, and the one verse that set his brothers free:

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. (Genesis 45:5 KJV)

It is possible for us to recognize God’s work in our lives? To see the path that led us to see Him in all we do? To glorify Him even when we feel imprisoned? Could we be as strong as Corrie ten Boom and forgive a guard at Ravensbruck? Could we, as a Coptic Christian this last week, die with the word “Jesus” on our lips?

We have it so easy, don’t we? Yet we hold on to slights that are not damaging, hurts that are only open wounds because we pick at them. When will we forgive and tell our brethren why:

And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (Genesis 45:7 KJV)

For us it’s not given to save a chosen nation – but it might well be that we are to show one life the great deliverance that Christ offers for eternity. Isn’t that enough?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Name?


And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:28 KJV)

There are several name changes that take place in the Bible. Then, names meant something. The name could be applicable to a time/place in a persons life. Here Jacob (Supplanter) became Israel (He will rule as God) by God’s choosing, not his own.

For Naomi (Pleasant), the decision was hers:

And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. (Ruth 1:20 KJV)

Mara (Bitter) is how Naomi felt – yet she overcame her bitterness and helped her daughter-in-law marry Boaz, descendant of Salmon and Rahab, ancestors of David – and Jesus. Her story leaves me with pleasantness, not bitterness.

There’s a name I won’t know until I enter my Lord’s presence. Once there, I think there may be a stone waiting for me:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Revelation 2:17 KJV)

This is follows the message to the church at Pergamos and precedes the message to the church at Thyatira and includes “what the Spirit saith unto the churches”, as though to all the churches, not just to Pergamos. A theologian would have to set me straight if I’m off course on this, but I like thinking I could have a name assigned by God.

Would the name apply to what I’ve done for Him here? For what I’ve witnessed to others about His love, grace and mercy? Or would it be a reminder of some of my failures, as Naomi decided was right for her?

While thinking of the joy promised to us in Revelation, it’s not a good idea to dwell on that, nor to longer over the past, either. We all have a calling for here and now, which should be a focus. If we look ahead, we’ll lose sight of where we should be at work for our Lord. If we look behind, we’ll be reminded of our failures as well as our accomplishments.

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 KJV)

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 KJV)

Monday, February 16, 2015



Illustration by Owen Jones from "The History of Joseph and His Brethren" (Day & Son, 1869)

And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food. (Genesis 43:1-2 KJV)

Back to the Sunday School series on Joseph. In Chapter 42, ten of Jacob’s sons went to Egypt for food because of the famine Joseph had interpreted from Pharaoh's dream. Nine returned home, Simeon detained to assure their return. In Chapter 43, the food has been depleted and Jacob calls for another trip.

An argument ensues – Jacob does not want Benjamin to accompany his brothers. The last time one of Rachel’s sons went out to his brothers, he did not return. Jacob could not bear to lose this second son of his most beloved wife. But Judah offered to stand in his place:

And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever: (Genesis 43:8-9 KJV)

Judah, from whom our Lord descends. Judah, fourth son of Leah, assumes the position of leadership. Reuben, Simeon and Levi were later given reason for their lack of leadership:

Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. (Genesis 49:3-5 KJV)

Judah, instead, receives the primary blessing:

Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. (Genesis 49:8 KJV)

There are consequences for our actions. Reuben, Simeon and Levi were not punished by law for their actions, they were lowered in their father’s eyes and did not receive what they might have perceived as their due inheritance. Judah received the blessing due the first born, the child to carry out his father’s legacy, the son whose name was given to a kingdom, from whose line our savior was born.

Just as Judah offered to stand as a trade for Benjamin, his physical descendant stands as trade for us. All we have to do is believe that He exists and is able to cleanse us from sins. Through God’s merciful grace, we are saved.

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

No amount of good works can accomplish this, but once it is accomplished, good works will follow, as God ordained. The consequences for us not to accept are plainly written in God’s word.

(Hmmmm. Not the original thought path I had in mind this morning. We’ll return to Joseph tomorrow.)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Women’s Rights–A Political Message

Former President Jimmy Carter is quoted in a CNN article that he has now entered “[w]omen's rights the fight of my life”. Just as our current president unfavorably compared the crusades with Islamic terrorism, Jimmy Carter compares the situation women face with Boko Haram, ISIS, babies aborted because they are not male as well as rape victims whose rapists walk free, with evangelical Christians:
He's seen less positive movement among some Christians who cite the Bible when reasoning women are "not as worthy in God's eyes," he said.
Such views can trickle down, from rationalizing violence against women to men dominating church scholarship and leadership. Only a small fraction of leading evangelical theologians and pastors are women, says Mimi Haddad of Christians for Biblical Equality, a nonprofit group that bases its arguments for equal treatment of men and women on the Bible.
I’ll be the first to admit there are Bible verses that appear to apply separately to men and to women. One I used just recently, so let’s use it as an example:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22 KJV)

The use of that one verse has been used to denigrate what the Bible teaches about how we are to respond to our spouses. Be extremely careful in building a doctrine on isolated verses. Read the surrounding verses:

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (Ephesians 5:21-29 KJV)

Does that even come close to making women second class citizens in God’s kingdom? If you still think so, please point it out to me because I don’t see that at all.

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (Ephesians 5:30 KJV)

Paul has a great example of parts of the body not working together in 1 Corinthians 12, but the analogy I have in mind is an athletic team. On the football field, there is one quarterback.  Should the other players not participate because they are lessened by his position? Should the goalie in a soccer game feel left lessened because more action goes on without him than in his area?

Why then should any woman feel lessened by a Bible verse that tells her she is to be loved by her husband as His church is loved by Christ? Are we not to put God first? To depend upon Him for our salvation, for our eternal lives? The teaming up of husband and wife is not him first, her second, but both working within God’s plan to glorify God and not ourselves.

Perhaps it is another verse that touches a sore spot:

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (1 Timothy 2:12 KJV)

My own personal interpretation of this verse finds that it does not read, “The Lord’s will is that we suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” If it said that, there would be no women teachers in Sunday School, would there? There would be no women singing in choir. There would be no ladies meetings without a man in charge of the lesson.
Let me testify that I’ve seen women in these activities in this fundamental, evangelical, independent Baptist church I attend.

I know that this blog has lengthened, but I can only hope that I have opened a few eyes to the fact that Jimmy Carter is not comparing correctly by equating my situation and beliefs with those of Islamic terrorists. I feel insulted by the comparison and am ready to answer as Peter suggests:

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)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine’s Day


Yes – I know the origins ascribed to the day, but I prefer to think of it in relation to the verb romance, the courting or wooing, not the noun which relates more to excitement and mystery. I like the attention my husband has given me on Valentine’s Days in the past and the dinner we will attend this year.

I do not equate romance with “enthrall”, which now means to “capture the fascinated attention.” To me, that’s tied to “thrall” which still means “the state of being in someone's power or having great power over someone” or the historical “a slave, servant or captive.”

That’s what we’re seeing in movies. The impossibly rich or powerful man who gives attention to the not so attractive, often naïve, girl who lacks confidence, waiting but not seeking. There’s enough written on that on the web so I won’t go there, but will look at the plan in place:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27 KJV)
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18 KJV)

Made in His image – we both were. Made as a help meet for the man – we women were. And that’s not a bad thing, though many do try to rewrite this portion of the Bible. And the ones that come later:

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Ephesians 5:21-24 KJV)

Nope, I’ll not be rewriting that – it’s awesome, and gives our husbands very important responsibilities. It’s followed by an equally important verse:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.(Ephesians 5:25-28 KJV)

That’s a Valentine’s Day thought I can live with all year.

What about those who do not want to celebrate a day that has no specific origin and has been turned into a candy- or jewel-coated commercialized wallet buster? Not a problem. The Bible addresses that, too:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. (Romans 14:5-6 KJV)

As for me and my spouse – we’ll dine with a Fellowship Hall full of church family, listen to a couple of skits and hear a pastor exhort us to be better people day by day. And I’ll be blessed.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Imperfect Tense

That’s a quilt I’ve been working on and it most certainly imperfect, and in a way, it has made me tense. This photo is when I was pinning the layers together – the back, the batting and the pieced top (or flimsy, as I’ve seen it well described.) Today I finished quilting the top and spent some time on it’s imperfections.

My Bible tells me that God is perfect and that’s my goal:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 KJV)

I’ve been reading that, studying about that, living with it for more than seven decades and there are still errors in me, just as in this little quilt. The good thing is that I believe we learn from the errors and do better when we apply the lessons. Problems come from ignoring the lessons and we don’t learn to do better.

Too often we do ignore the lesson because it does not fit into what we have in mind. In quilting, a good number of my errors come when I do not have the “big picture,” the end product if you will, in my mind and keep that pattern in place.  Instead, a twist of cloth here or there throws the pattern out and there is a different result. That, too, reminds me of how God works with our errors:

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14 KJV)

God placed Esther right where she needed to be – but she was not the only life in His hands. Had she not responded, deliverance for God’s people would be provided – a different pattern, but achieving God’s plan for His people.

So, if we are not absolutely necessary for God’s plan to be achieved, what shouldn’t we do as we please, certain that He is able to see His will is accomplished? For me, it’s a matter of love.

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

I love Him, too, because He turned His loved into action to show His love:

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5 KJV)

I believe the recipient of this heart quilt will see the love that went into it. They will know it was sewn with love and prayers specifically for one individual. I do not know if it will be appreciated, though, and that does not change one thing about my gift or my love. Such is God’s gift to us, not dependent upon our reception. Yet, as Paul, even recognizing my imperfection, I am not tense. I simply press, building on lessons learned:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 KJV)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Personal Relationship


Immanuel Baptist Church-Old (Tulsa, OK) Tom Baddley, 2013

One thing the Baptist churches in my life have had in common is the personal relationship Christians have with our Lord. That came to mind after reading the National Catholic Reporter’s article where the Pope says the Church is essential for faith.

I do agree with the Pope’s comment:

Every Christian, he said, can trace his or her faith back to parents, grandparents, teachers or friends.

Yes, we heard it first from another. That does not mean I could possibly agree with another comment:

Pope Francis described as "dangerous" the temptation to believe that one can have "a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the church."

Now I do recall my Lord’s words:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 KJV)

I also recall words I used just yesterday:

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

Yes, we do need to hear about Him before we can call upon Him, but we really don’t need the mediation of a church:

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (1 Timothy 2:5 KJV)

Hebrews tells us more:

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; (Hebrews 8:1 KJV)

Thus, the mediation of a church is not necessary – Christians have a mediating high priest at God’s right hand.

Let me take the discussion a bit further, though, because I believe fellowship in an active, Bible-teaching, Jesus-preaching, spirit-breathing church is a good place to grow in faith:

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

I first heard about Jesus, then understood what faith in Him offered. I read the same methodology in the Bible. While I do not expect to be perfect in my actions on this earth, that’s still what the Bible tells me to strive to be:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 KJV)

I would not know this without studying the Bible. Through my life my preachers have not only encouraged Bible study, but they have given direction to Bible study aids – commentaries, dictionaries, maps, interlineal translations, study Bibles. There are so many different ways to be Bereans:

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)

Enjoy your personal relationship with Jesus, Christ, as your savior.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Grade Cards

I thought about this while reading a CNN article on grading our current president. It became intertwined with a comment in Sunday’s sermon, too. So, no – this is not a political statement. We will be faced with that decision over the next two years.

I want to think about grade cards – remember those from school? Now ones for a school are posted on the ‘net. This one is from my Beloved Husband’s high school. None available for my schools, nor my sisters. Too many changes in the Tulsa school system and our schools no longer exist. These schools are graded on Performance Indices, nicely laid out so we can see what they have – or have not – done for their students.

Now – think of your own personal Christian grade card. No, no one is going to grade you (though some might come up with judgmental thoughts), but there are specific subjects Jesus brought up and gave us some standards to consider. No, our salvation does not depend on a grading system, but do you think He would be supportive if we achieved a high grade? Saddened if we failed?

Go back to political grading for a moment – just how do you feel about the current administration? The previous one? What are you looking for in the next? Do you believe God does not give the same consideration to the works of His children? James did:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18 KJV)

Jesus gave an even more interesting description in Matthew 25:35-46. How else can that be interpreted than to mean we are to work here on earth in His service? Jesus came to us through His Father’s will, according to John 6:38-40. John quotes Jesus more than once speaking of His Father’s will:

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30 KJV)

Even when it was not what He wanted to do, He responded to His Father’s will – Matthew 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42. He knew what was coming:

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)

How can we know what is being graded if we don’t know God’s will? How can we know His will without getting to know Him?

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:13-14 KJV)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

For The Men In My Life

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25 KJV)

That was not the verse used in Sunday morning’s worship service, but it could have been. Monty Martin’s message was about the family and not giving a place to the devil, taken from the chapter before:

Neither give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:27 KJV)

He spoke about the meaning of “give” – δίδωμι in the Greek, which denotes to deliver, grant, bestow. A decision one makes to offer power to another. What we’re not to give is “place” – τόπος a space limited by occupancy, a room, a home. And what we are not to give place to is the devil – διάβολος specifically, Satan; perhaps we would recognize it in our alphabet as diablo.

Bro. Martin’s message gave me copious notes, but my mind traveled a bit ahead of his first verse, and I thought of the men in my life who are embodied in:

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (Ephesians 4:28 KJV)

Yes, including that first part. When we are not in God’s will, we are stealing from Him. You don’t think so? The Bible confirms this to me:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3:8 KJV)

I have seen the men in my life cease robbing God, turning their labor – both physical labor providing for their loved ones and laboring in the church as teachers, helpers, servants to others – into giving to those in need. I am grateful to have the opportunity to see this across four generations – my father, husband, son and grandsons. I’ve seen it in my sons-in-laws, too.

Before their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior, their love of family was evident, but not in the same way as afterward. Not with Jesus’ love for the church. Not with God’s love for His children. That comes when God’s love is in us.

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:15-16 KJV)

When we give a place to the devil, we have to take that piece of ourselves from God. It is possible to keep pushing Him away, giving away more place, until He is standing outside our door, as He said of the Laodiceans:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 KJV)

Remember this church?

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (Revelation 3:17 KJV)

It can apply to people, too, when they think they “have need of nothing.” We always have need of God and His word. I thank Him for the men in my life who know this and show it in their immediate families.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Daily Bible Reading

I used the YouVersion app to read through the Bible chronologically, receiving daily reminders. I’ve followed other daily reading plans from this and other apps. I also receive e-mails from missionaries our church supports. This past week a missionary e-mail told of his receiving a daily notification that proved to be a witnessing opportunity.

I can’t be specific, so many of our missionaries are in locations where specific information could be harmful to them as well as the people they work with. A relative was in such a country on a business trip, listening to Christian music on his personal player. A worker approached him, asked if he was a Christian. In the conversation my relative said he was looking for a church to attend on Sunday. The worker hesitated and said there was a local church – but it would be too dangerous to have an American attend. He might be followed, causing trouble for the members.

Many situations call for a one-on-one opportunity, even for our missionaries. Exchanging language lessons is one such opportunity:
I know many of you have been praying for [name omitted].  She has been attending English classes for about four months.  . . .  I've been meeting with her and another student at least two other days a week, usually Monday and Wednesday. This gives me the opportunity to fellowship in a less formal setting.
During one of those sessions:
. . .  while we were talking, I got a notice on my iPad of my Bible verse of the day.  It was nothing I had planned but [n/o] asked what that sound was.  So I told her that I read the Bible every day and that I have an app that sends me a verse of the day also.
The verse was in her language and she asked if she could read it:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

The God of love a Christian sees does not exist in her religion.
It was the first time she had ever read any part of the Bible.  In fact, she told me that as far as she knows, she's never met another Christian before. I could tell that the phrase that stuck in her mind was the phrase "the love of the Father".
What a beautiful opportunity to share additional verses that speak of His love. What better book to read and learn of God and love than First John?

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10 KJV)

Person to person, not missionary to convert. Teacher to teacher, learning one thing from each other, still sharing God’s love. We have similar opportunities – let’s use them.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is He Able?

When we think of Gideon, I expect the fleece comes to mind first. We trusted the Lord, but let’s try one more time, just in case. Or maybe how his army was selected. God explained that one well – “lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.”

How often do we do that when we do God’s work, instead of letting Him work through us. See the difference?

When Gideon was first called, there was one task set before him:

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. (Judges 6:25-26 KJV)

The first part of the following verse sounds good, doesn’t it:

Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him:

God didn’t specify “when” this was to be done, so out of fear, Gideon went at night:

and so it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. (Judges 6:27 KJV)

He was right, wasn’t he. The next three verses describe the discovery, the anger and the judgment Baal worshipers made. Then we come to Joash, Gideon’s father, and his response:

And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. (Judges 6:31 KJV)

Our world is reacting much as the Baal worshipers. There are battles across the globe where people are fighting to maintain/impose their societal/tribal ways of life that they believe are under risk of changing. Leaders believe they must impose strict laws and swift penalties to maintain control. Others fear entering into the fray will sweep them into greater battles.

Mankind hasn’t changed much in ensuing centuries, have we? Is that because we do not believe God can “plead for himself”? Do we not believe that He is able to keep that which we have committed? Are we not committed to Him to serve under any and all circumstances?

I know – I have many more questions than I do answers, yet I believe the Bible has the answers to those very questions – except whether or not we believe. I am the only one who can answer for myself, and testify to that answer by my actions.

I have feared, though the Bible continually tells me “fear not.” I have continually worked to achieve my own desires, even though the Bible tells me “wait on the Lord.” I continue to make requests, omitting the one thing He requires from me, “Thy will be done.” I believe He is  able, but I understand the child’s father:

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

So my prayer will be to grow in faith strong enough to not only proclaim but to live unto Him:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (Jude 1:24 KJV)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

His Children

The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. (Hosea 1:1 KJV)

That covers a lot of time, living through the reigns of those kings. Not a time of growth, calmness nor peace. There’s a lot of history from those days, written in other books. So why do we have one where a man is told to marry an unfaithful woman?

To see a picture of the unfaithfulness of God’s chosen people, and His response. As Gomer answered the desires of other lovers, Israel answered the calls from other gods. Chapter after chapter we are shown how Hosea (God) sought his chosen (Israel) in spite of unfaithfulness.

Toward the end of Hosea there is a beautiful description of God caring for His children:

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. (Hosea 11:1-3 KJV)

This is a portrait of Israel as God's son, chosen and brought into a close relationship as father and child. This picture of God's guidance and guarding care of Ephraim is tender - an affectionate parent teaching a child to walk, lifting by the arms to hold them up. Teaching the child how to walk and not stumble, lifting the child over obstacles. In spite of the help, on his own the child stumbles and is hurt - and the Father heals. The child does not acknowledge that help, does not show appreciation of God's work, His design, His every day oversight and involvement, ignoring the healing.

We, too, are His children, by our acceptance of His invitation:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (Romans 8:14-16 KJV)

Do we appreciate God's gracious designs and dealings with us? Do we tell Him how much we appreciate Him? Do we cry Abba? I don’t believe I do as much as I should.

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:20 KJV)

I believe I take time to thank Him when I receive that for which I have asked. I doubt I give thanks for the grouchy person I was given the opportunity to lift with a kind word; the rude person blocking the aisle/road so I could nod, wave and pass with a smile. Why? because they are part of the “all things” for which I should be giving thanks. Because God has not given up on His children:

How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? (Hosea 11:8 KJV)

Friday, February 6, 2015

How Do You See The Church?

Oakland Church
Back in 2010 I used this graphic for a blog “House of the Lord.” Is that how you see the church? Or is it the congregation that attends meetings in that building? What is the church?

This week I read an open letter by a “Millennial” to others who have written open letters about what needs to be changed to make the church better. Or, perhaps more truthfully, they have written about what makes the church worse. Before getting into the subject, we really need to know what is meant – biblically – about the church.

ἐκκλησία (Strong’s G1577) is a compound word, a combination of “calling” (G2564) and “out” (Strong’s G1537) which one site defines it as “people with shared belief, community, or congregation” and states: This meaning is used often in the Old and New Testament.

The reason for careful consideration of the church is because it is the Bride of Christ, seen through a number of Bible verses, including:

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:7-9 KJV)

Long before these verses, Jesus referred to Himself as the Bridegroom:

Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. (Matthew 9:14-15 KJV)

Now, I doubly like that open letter to open letter writers because it describes me:
. . .ladies who put on those events praying over those doily-laden tables for young women to fill those chairs. These women who aren’t silenced or frozen by a fear of being irrelevant show up and serve with you in mind. They do it because once upon a time someone did it for them. They do it because they desperately want to connect so they serve the way they know how. They model a level of fidelity and gospel-centeredness I’m not sure most of us Millennials can understand. It’s easy to love and serve a sexy church. But to love and serve a struggling one, that’s another level of Christ-likeness.
Yes, I dropped the first of the sentence because it describes we Titus 2 aged women as sweet and saintly. Sweet? I doubt people consider me sweet. Saintly? Only because Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior. But I like the idea that we do pray over young women, and we are not silenced nor fearful and absolutely not irrelevant. We are serving our Lord by teaching good things, especially love.

We are the church. As are our husbands who love us as Christ loves His church. Just as the young women who love the Lord are the church. And all the others who love our Savior and work to bring others to become part of His church.

I’m grateful for the younger generations who are growing into workmen who are not ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth and are sharing that love with others. They are the church, too.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Who Shall?

And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up. And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up his pillars. (Exodus 40:17-18 KJV)

Have you ever thought your church needed a new sanctuary? I was a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tulsa when they built a new sanctuary in the 1960’s. More than 50 years later, I would venture to say some of their members can’t imagine what it was like to be in the old one – which I remember well.

Sixty years ago this year, the church I attend now was formed. No sanctuary, so they met in the community center until their first was built. It is still in use – but moved miles away, just outside Chico. In March, we will hold services in both of those places in remembrance.

The tabernacle itself was a place of remembrance. It spoke of the Israelite’s relationship with God. By the time David was king, the Ark of the Covenant was located in a temple:

And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; (1 Samuel 3:3 KJV)

In the short five verses of Psalm 15, David asks, “Who shall abide there?”

A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Psalms 15:1-5 KJV)

Just as we live our lives, David did not keep this advice he gave. That non-compliance kept him from fulfilling a dream he had of building a temple worthy of the Lord he worshipped:

Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: As for me, I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building: But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood. (1 Chronicles 28:2-3 KJV)

The consequences of his actions limited his ability to do God’s service.

These short verses are almost echoed in the fruit of the flesh and the spirit in Galatians 5:19-23. I do believe it’s a good idea to keep them in my mind as a measuring gauge for how I’ve limited my ability – and strive to live unlimited.