Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Handling The Unexpected

Colossians chapter one is a written portrait of Jesus Christ. Sunday our pastor included the following verses in his sermon about “Don’t Forget The Baby.”

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17 KJV)

As usual, my thoughts followed a side route to look more deeply into the background of quoted scripture, and while it didn’t take away the essential message that this season we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the added depth of who that little baby is takes my breath away.

Just as God’s plan provided a ram for Abraham, the description of that incident proved prophetic:

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:8 KJV)

Thus Jesus is the reality of God proving Himself as a lamb. John the Baptist knew this:

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

John the author knew that Jesus wasn’t simply a creation of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 KJV)

The baby, the smallest piece of most nativity sets, is God. Not just was, but is and shall be. Yet, He was completely unexpected.

Mary asked, as so many others through the centuries since His birth:

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (Luke 1:34 KJV)

Once we believe Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, why is it unexpected when we are a told Jesus and God are one and the same? That Jesus claimed to be the name God gave Himself – I AM?

Yet, His words have been as ignored as His teachings to the disciples. Until our hearts are opened to understanding.

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 24:6-8 KJV)

When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:22 KJV)

That’s the baby, born in Bethlehem as God planned, when God planned and how God planned. Unexpected, just as God planned.

Why, then, do we doubt that God has a plan. A plan for us, too. But – if we ignore His plan for our relationship with Him, He’s also told us what would happen:

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)

I spent quite a bit of time not finding out about the time I was in. I don’t know what I missed or who was given the opportunity to rise up. That could be repeated if I ignore God. Remember that and remember how unexpected He can be in our lives.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I’ll Celebrate


No – that’s not our nativity set. In fact, we don’t put up a nativity set – but my daughter does. The baby in the manger, surrounded by parents, shepherds, various sheep, cows but no Magi, no camels laden with gifts. They are across the room because they didn’t arrive until the family moved into a house.

That’s her personal statement that most nativity sets – as the beautiful one above, does not reflect the correct chronology as told in the gospels.

The unreality is not my reason for not setting up a nativity scene. Mine is simply that at our age and physical condition, we do little decorating that has to be unpacked, arranged, enjoyed, packed and put away. Unlike our doctor and hospital visits, those activities are not necessary.

We do put up a “tree” as a signal that we know what season it is:

Yes, it does take some work to put up and take down, but not much. I hope it tells people that we do celebrate Christmas, that we’re pretty much country people but not much more.

No angels – though they did herald His birth. No stable – though He lay in a manger, most likely surrounded by farm animals. No shepherds – though after hearing the angels they did come in from the fields. Absolutely no wise men/kings or camels – though they came later and are included in the story of his birth.

And it’s His birth we will celebrate. Not as the date He was born, but as a date chosen by men. Not as a celebration whose attention is required by scripture, though the story of His birth is detailed from conception to the flight to Egypt. We celebrate because:

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

Paul understood this:

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

Every day I live in thanksgiving for God’s love. Every Sunday I meet with others to celebrate Christ’s resurrection – the awesome sign given His followers. On December 25, a Sunday, we’ll add the celebration of His birth in services and include dinner with family and extended family in remembrance of God’s gift and His love for the world.

I do this because I love the Lord, not because of any other person’s traditions. I do not wish to change anyone’s mind about how they view this national holiday in a world-wide setting. I do ask for the same scriptural understanding from other Christians that was given to us through the Apostle Paul:

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)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Do You Believe . . .


. . . what that graphic says? This past month should have taught every American that it is true. There were false headlines read, copied, shared, commented up – and were blatant lies. Their publishers ended up making money – I wish I knew how much – when we clicked on the pages to see what they meant. Yes, I clicked and they made money off of me, once. I ended up blocking so many sites that claimed to be “satire” that my Facebook newsfeed is miniscule now.

More fool me, right? Not really, the first time. The first time around – not having information to tell me otherwise – it was my responsibility to discern accuracy. It is necessary to be aware before determining truth or lie. So, how do we do that? By acting as the Bereans:

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 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 17:10-11)

It doesn’t matter if we doubt. It does matter if we accept without researching the source, the truth, whether it be politics or religion. We must search whether those things were so.

It would lead to lengthy marriages, fewer divorces, if we did so in our love life, too. Too often people choose a spouse without that search. Or, opt for a partnership without a long-term commitment. Christians who married without that research ended up unequally yoked and added to divorce statistics, didn’t they? And gave truth to the cries of “Hypocrite!”, from the non-believing world that turned marriage into a secular contract instead of a spiritual covenant.

Yes – I can point to that mote in Christians’ eye based on 55 years of marriage to the man I met through a church’s visitation program. I see that point in many 50+-years marriages in our small church, too.

But that’s not nearly as important as what the Berean’s studied. My choice will last a lifetime – theirs (and ours) will last eternity.

Thomas doubted at least once. We’re told he was ready to die for Christ:

Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. (John 11:16)

He understood the death, but not the resurrection and set his standard for belief:

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (John 20:25)

Read the whole scene in John 20:19-28 where Thomas ends with:

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. (John 20:28)

Are you willing to do the research necessary to live your life with truth? Whether it be with family, church, community, country – or eternity – are you willing not only to state what you believe, but why and how you reached that conclusion? Are you willing to stand at the end of this life, having lived by this verse – whether you believe in God or not?

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

God Is Love


To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe that God exists, that what He had told people in the past about the coming Messiah was true. Those who love God would also love His Messiah, His begotten. That message is essential in Christianity.

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)

Two years of Spanish in high school, and a lack of using it since, left me with a few words and phrases that stick in my mind. One phrase is the opening of John 3:16:  Porque de tal manera amo Dios al mundo. A teacher gave a translation as:  "Because of the manner of love God had toward the world . . ." His love was given in an awesome manner, wasn’t it? That’s why it is easy to understand John:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 KJV)

Love is the basis of Jesus’ entire teachings:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40 KJV)

That first part is beyond millions of people in this world. The second is very difficult for many who find the first one fulfilling and are seeking to accomplish it.

It includes loving the unlovable. Loving those who would reject this very message of love. Too many have not seen love in their lives – except that love described as:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 KJV)

Money is NOT the root of all evil – the love of it is. Loving money for the things it can bring into our lives – power, attention, luxury, celebrity – beyond necessity. Money can be used for good, even a little money can be used to combine with other small amounts a do good. Without love, money is as useless as Paul describes it:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV)

Without love – God’s type of love that gave Himself – even in life there is nothing, no matter how “good” we sound or appear. Without love for the unlovable, we are missing the mark.

Friday, November 4, 2016



My husband completed our bedside tables, but I want to point out the little box setting on the left of the table. Here’s a closer look with it open:


Each tiny cylinder is a printed scripture, held by a blue paper band, picked up by the plastic pick that is holding one in the lid. My mother bought this sometime in the mid-1950’s. As good as it looks, it’s been well used – back then, and much more recently. From the upper right of the tray, you can tell there are some cylinders missing – the blue bands are in the tray, but the verses are missing.

No, I can’t tell you which ones are missing, but I have decided to print out four of my favorite verses and fit them into this case to use for another 60+ years. Well – obviously I won’t be using it that long, but (thanks be to our Lord!) I have children, grandchildren and great-grands that look to their Bible for inspirations and answers. There are verses to help in a wide range of situations.

Our ladies missions group put together 2.5” square booklets that include some of these questions and biblical answers you have to click to read (or look up in a Bible – excellent suggestion!):
You Say  /  The Bible says:
I'm alone

I'm afraid

I'm too tired

I can't go on

I can't forgive myself

I am unlovable

I don't have answers

It's not worth it

I can't do it

You see my problem? Every one of those verses would be good – but how about:

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

But then I really like:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4 KJV)

There’s the real reason all of the Bible – and my blog – were written:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13 KJV)

Yes – that is absolutely why I share Bible verses in the first place - but it's a bit long for a tiny piece of paper.

Once you have looked at a verse take time to read around it to know if it has been used correctly, in context and that it means exactly what it appears to say. If it is out of context, find out what being in context is and how that applies to our lives today.

That’s good Bible reading. Please, take a few moments to apply the Bible study. I’ll take a few more moments in memories – those where we used the little scripture box decades ago as I began learning what the Bible meant to others. Later, I came to understand what it means to me. What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Praying For A Picnic


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

I can read your mind. You are thinking, “What in this world does that verse have to do with a group of ladies having a picnic under apple blossoms?”

Admittedly, it is a circuitous route, but it really has to do with prayer. I am blessed to have some prayer partners in widely scattered places on this earth. Please let me introduce them – somewhat anonymously, of course.

There is a group of Baptist Moms. We met on the web in the early days of bulletin boards. We were all mothers, all Baptists, shared lots of things such as DIY projects, recipes, plans, advice – and prayer. We knew when we posted a prayer on the board there would be sisters in Christ joining in. As the digital age progressed for years, we found ourselves in different corners of Facebook – still posting prayer requests, and still responding for our sisters. Most of these are in the USA.

Then there are some singlets where individuals met, found ourselves to be sisters in Christ and feel close enough to share prayer requests. These are scattered around the world. Some were met on the web, some at church services and others through friends. Some are missionaries who are in my prayers to help them carry Christ’s message of God’s love wherever their beautiful feet carry them:

Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:6-7 KJV)

Others have become friends – scattered from Kenya through Australia into Thailand circling the globe back to my home church with many sisters in Christ:

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 KJV)

Not all of my loved ones fall into these categories, and there are prayers that someday they will. I pray for them as I follow Samuel’s example:

Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: (1 Samuel 12:23a KJV)

So – what has that to do with a picnic? That’s another prayer. You see, I visualize a verse:

In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2 KJV)

Can you visualize that? Wouldn’t that be the perfect picnic place? Lot’s of time in eternity for people who do not meet here, but share the love of God and His Word while praying with each other, isn’t there?
That’s my “other” prayer – a span of existence (for time shall be no more) where those who led me to Christ can introduce those who led them, tracking all the way back to the cross, can meet with those whose lives we’ve touched, prayed with, supported in His love and will share eternity.

Now, wouldn’t that be an awesome picnic? Please – join in.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Do you have some? Need some? Want some? Sunday we were reminded what can go wrong if it doesn’t exist.

Sunday morning sermons have taken us through Genesis – which also touches on quite a few promises. So far, those promises have required patience – and those who received the promises pretty much lacked patience.

Eve did. In Genesis 3 we learned that she was impatient about eating fruit. God told Adam what would happen if they ate certain fruit. Eve yielded to temptation, ate – and didn’t’ die! Wow, it was good, so she offered it to Adam. Ooops. That didn’t work at all.

God promised Abraham a son in Genesis 18, though stricken in age – and Sarah laughed. She didn’t believe she could give Abraham a child, so she offered Hagar. The result of that impatience introduce Ishmael. We live with that impatience today.

Now we come to Jacob. There were a couple of impatient issues here. Once again we find a man growing old and wanting children. Isaac was 60 when Rebekah became pregnant. It must not have been an easy pregnancy:

And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. (Genesis 25:21-24 KJV)

Esau was first born, then Jacob. They were different! The problems are outlined in one verse:

And Isaac loved Esau . . . but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:28 KJV)

Remember what was promised? The elder shall serve the younger. Maybe that’s what the younger was named “Supplanter”, the meaning of Jacob. Not waiting for God’s plan to work, Jacob bought his brother’s birthright (Genesis 25:29-34.)

Not that Esau did much better – causing his parents grief (Genesis 26: 34-35.) His twin, though, was unmarried, still in the tents with his parents, who had grown old and infirm. Time for Isaac to give his final blessings to his sons. That subterfuge is covered in Genesis 27.

Perhaps you think that’s the end of the impatience. Not hardly (as one of my favorite actors would say) there are instances throughout the Bible. But, let’s take a look at the consequences.

Jacob received payback, but it would take too many verses to tell of his love for Rachel, the tricks of her brother, the jealousy of his sister-wives, the giving of concubines, the sibling rivalry of his sons – and the root of bitterness that remained through Esau into the Edomites (Hebrews 12:15-17.)

The application? Our own lives. Mine – and most likely yours – wandered in and out of God’s will. Each time outside has consequences I’d rather not face – nor explain. Nope – no examples from me. They could be better or worse than yours, but I have to work within mine – and you have to work within yours. Isn’t that a shame?

All we had to do was seek our Lord’s will, abide in it – but it takes soooo much time, doesn’t it? If we pushed a little here, changed a little there, manipulated or even ignored, couldn’t we achieve our desires sooner? And since God wants us all to be happy, shouldn’t we have our desires even if they don’t match what He has laid out for us? Really? How does that work for us?

Nope – no answers. You must come up with your own, just as I do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


This graphic is an edited screen capture which could be used to document some discussions I’ve overhead or read about. I commuted with a young man who took a great deal of pride in not having a doctrine and said neither did his church. I found that unfortunate – and still do.

But yesterday, as I wrote about the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s doctrinal and political issues, I mentioned that there still are such divisions within Christianity and among very good people. So it would be a good idea to study what doctrine is and consider its source.
doc·trine - noun

a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group. synonyms: creed, credo, dogma, belief, teaching, ideology;

Based on that simple definition, my commuting partner was wrong. I’m certain he had been taught by his church. I’m certain that a lack of doctrine could be defined as a doctrine since it entails a set of beliefs held by his church.

So, my question today is: What is the source of your doctrine? Even if you have determined you are not to believe in God, Christ, Bible, etc. – what is the source of that belief?  Surely we all have a belief system, correct? Something that allows us to differentiate between right and wrong, whether it is actions we do or another does to us? Where did they originate, were they taught?

The Bible has been taught to me for decades, and I continue to learn from it. There are some denominations that teach differently from what I’ve found to be accurate in God’s word. Not my job to change them. It is my job to point to the Bible where the word Doctrine is found fifty times in the Bible. First, spoken by Moses as he praised God:

Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. (Deuteronomy 32:1-4 KJV)

I will not be as Zophar in Job, jumping to conclusions:

Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes. (Job 11:3-4 KJV)

Zophar was in error. Job’s beliefs were pure. What happened to him was not punishment, retribution nor judgment. Jesus did recognize incorrect doctrine and spoke against it.

How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:11-12 KJV)

People were astonished at His:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29 KJV)

Jesus taught doctrine, too. As the title on the graphic displays:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35 KJV)

Does not mean we must accept unbiblical doctrine – but we must love each other when discussing it. If we are His disciples.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It Never Ceases to Amaze Me


Elizabeth Fones (Winthrop, Feake) Hallett, my husband’s 9th great-grandmother, most likely attended this meeting and heard Wheelwright’s assurance that “Christ is with his people – or else absent from his people.” In the book, “The Winthrop Woman” by Anya Seton, she was – and went to see Ann Hutchinson days after that sermon.

I must ask my American readers – are these names known to you? If not, you are missing some very important history in the birth of our nation.

A lot is made about how Puritans came to America for religious freedom. There is no doubt that in Europe – an in their own England – Christianity was divided and Christians of one thought persecuted Christians of another.  What is not usually studied is that in New England there was dissention among Christians, often between works and grace. If you’ve read the last few blogs, you’ll know that question remains today.

What saves us? The easy answer is God – through His Son, Jesus Christ. A dividing answer, though, is works – what we do good pleases God and He saves us; what we do bad separates us from God and He turns His back on us.

That is separate from another dividing answer, grace – Jesus’ death on the cross was the sacrifice that saves. Then comes the question, is accepting Him as savior a work? There are divisions there. And, there are extrapolated scripture to support all of the divisiveness. The same divisiveness that moved into the political arena in Boston, removing and returning governors in our American history.

Governor John Winthrop is my husband’s 10th great-uncle. Since it was a rather small community of Puritans, he also counts Governor Thomas Dudley a 11th great-grandfather. These two men were at odds over the governing of their Massachusetts Bay Colony, and at odds with Wheelwright over works vs. grace.

I was reminded of this while rereading “The Winthrop Woman,” realizing that same division in Christianity exists today. I do not see why it should, since James addressed it so very well in his letter:

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

I do suggest the full reading of James’ book. It is not very long, but is well worth indepth study.

Any person can tell me they have faith in God and His provision of salvation through His Son, Jesus – the Christ – and I cannot refute that. It is personal and only God knows the heart of that person. I can, however, see the work that person does in God’s name.

I can see if the works follow scripture. I can study, as the Bereans:

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 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 17:10-11 KJV)

Jesus read scripture – and declared prophecy fulfilled (Luke 4:14-21), knew the scripture of David and shewbread (Matthew 12:1-8); and others, but you are capable of locating those yourself. My continued question is – how well do we know scripture and apply it to our lives? Do our “works” really show other people what Jesus is? Do we act as though He is the light of the world? Do people in darkness see His light in us?

That these questions remain never ceases to amaze me – especially when applied to myself.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reading Together

There are reasons my readers may decide this subject is too deep and come back another day. Not a problem. That graphic is involved!

A question came up when I was looking at next week’s Sunday School lesson – John 8. Click to see it in the King James Version. I grew up with this version and there are many reasons I use it. When I have questions about words, I go to E-Sword app on my PC or my iPhone and look up the word using Strong’s dictionary. Each biblical word has been assigned a number to track its use through the Bible and it has the definition. As you can see from the above screen capture, it is a study tool, not a quick read.

I absolutely prefer using it when reading aloud with others. Imagine (if it hasn’t happened in reality to you) reading aloud John 8 from KJV above and reading it from New International Version (NIV). Here, in case you can’t click right now, the first few verses are – NIV, then KJV:

The wording does not change the picture each creates – Jesus, religious leaders, a woman taken in adultery and a plan to catch Jesus saying something wrong. But if we were reading aloud, together, words would run together and over each other and our focus would be on what we are reading rather than the message behind the words.

In depth studies of the question of versions also brings division and contention. It is a course of study that brings out arguments and pits good men against each other. We need to be aware of the history, but not allow it to detract from God’s word.

This particular passage is an example of such division. As given in the Pulpit Commentary:
Doubts have beset the authenticity of the passage from the fourth and fifth centuries in the Eastern Church, both on external and internal grounds. The authority and practice of Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome gave it a secure resting place till the criticism of Erasmus re-awakened doubt.
I have found that knowing there is dissention does not negate my faith in biblical accuracy. God’s word has been questioned since the snake spoke with Eve:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (Genesis 3:1-4 KJV)

Now, do I believe a snake spoke to a woman? Yes – not as we think of today, but as it was in the beginning. Do I believe in the consequences of that woman’s decision? Yes – just as I believe  in the consequences of our own. As Paul explained historical facts having greater meaning:

Which things are an allegory: (Galatians 4:24a KJV)

Does being an allegory make them less applicable? No. To me it means God’s plan has been unfolding from the beginning of time and is in a book we need to be reading. Please, let us continue reading God’s word together.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Have You Read Monday’s Post?

If not, I would suggest you do so, because this is basically an extension of my views on God’s grace freeing us from the Law. Which can be misunderstood.

Some would take that announcement of freedom as an erasure of the Law given by God in the Old Testament. That accepting Christ as savior frees one from the Law in its entirety. Paul answered that question in the same book I was reading:

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (Galatians 3:21 KJV)

He addressed this in another letter to a different church faced with the same question:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:7 KJV)

It is the teaching of, the knowledge of the Law that convicts us to the point we open our hearts to the truth that we are sinners.  The Law defines what should be done and gives us understanding that what constitutes sin. How else can we understand when Paul tells us:

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

Isn’t it much better to have the Law spell out what God wants His children to do than to be the child who learns from painful experience? My toddler picked up a bobby pin and wondered what would happen if he stuck it in a wall socket. No – I hadn’t gotten around to teaching him the results would be very painful.

God defined specific qualifications to remain sinless, all the while knowing there would be failures. He also provided worship processes to give solace and comfort while His people continued toward a greater promise – His provision of grace.

That does not under any circumstances negate His law, though it does provide live with unearned grace that He provided:

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

Does my love for my son ever negate the consequences of a bobby pin in a wall socket? Nope. The consequences remain the same here in the flesh. Does God’s grace negate the consequences of my sin? Yes. This is His promise. But – it does not negate the consequences of sinfulness in the flesh. Paul faced that, too:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2 KJV)

Our sins are defined by His Law. Breaking them has consequences in our relationship with God, impacts our witness to others regarding His love and makes us very unhappy. Don’t ignore that – Christians are not happy living with His will in our lives.

I’ll close with a verse from Monday – one that tells me to use the Bible to determine God’s message to mankind. Not what is written here, nor any other person. That is opinion. Here is mine, there is another’s, but God provided what He had to say:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8 KJV)

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Whole


There are a lot more words in Exodus 20:2-17 to explain the Ten Commandments shortened to fit in this graphic. The succinct version still means the same thing as the verses. This is the basis for Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s temptation:

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

The first four of the ten are the great commandment – love the Lord God will all our heart, soul and mind. The next six are covered in the second – love our neighbors as ourselves.

Now let’s move to Galatians – much of this you’ll have to look up on your own strictly because I have (sorta) a word limit (well, within a hundred words or so.)

Within fifteen years of Christ’s resurrection, Paul visited Galatia to give them the same witness he had given others – Christ lived, died and is risen. After that visit, Paul wrote a letter to the churches believers established:

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: (Galatians 1:1-2 KJV)

Why? Because they were very much as we are today – forgetful:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8 KJV)

Of what? Grace. They forgot God’s grace and were depending on obeying the law to reach God. That is error. I’m going to do some skipping ahead – so please read between posted verses to be certain I do have the context – to the gist of the matter. I believe Paul used sarcasm here:

I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? (Galatians 4:20-21 KJV)

It’s the next chapter that gives the gist as to why that’s a problem (though verses between are explanatory):

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (Galatians 5:1-3 KJV)

People in the church were requiring new believers be circumcised in accordance with Mosaic law. In his letter Paul spends time explaining what is done to meet the law, requires us to keep the whole law. We can’t. You haven’t, I haven’t, no one has – except Christ. All have come short – as Paul wrote to the Romans (3:23) and remains true for us all.

Read Paul’s letter to understand trading bondage for freedom – or else Christ’s death means nothing:

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4 KJV)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Who Is This?

Again I’ve used a graphic for which I cannot site a source. I tried to track it down and ended up on a Pinterest with this .JPG. If I hear from the originator, I promise to share. However, this graphic is just right for a recent Sunday School lesson.

John’s chapter 7 begins with people going to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacle. Do you know it is being held this month? That a Christian organization offered excursions to this for October 16-21, 2016? Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to go and do a little “show and tell” for the people in Jerusalem:

His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. (John 7:3 KJV)

This Feast was set up in Deuteronomy:

And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: (Deuteronomy 31:10-12 KJV)

Note that it was open to non-Jews, “thy stranger that is within thy gates”. And, note that it was specifically where “thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.” Judaism was for everyone, just as Jesus, Christ, came for everyone. Many choose not to believe that.

Many still don’t know what to make of Jesus – who is He and why do some people think He is worthy of worship while others see Him as a criminal leading people astray? During His lifetime, there was this same division

And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. (John 7:12 KJV)

Eventually, without notice, He went to Jerusalem and taught - which surprised people who wondered how an uneducated man could.

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. (John 7:16-18 KJV)

Once again, people were asking, just who is this?

Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? (John 7:25-26 KJV)

There was arguments then about who He was, and there are just as many today:

So there was a division among the people because of him. (John 7:43 KJV)

Eventually – in another chapter, a coming Sunday School lesson - Jesus asked the disciples the question each human has to answer and Peter gave the answer I believe is correct:

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16 KJV)

Do you know who He is?

The Three C’s

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)

What in the world does that pyramid have to do with my belief in God? Good question – and there is a path to follow for the connection.

You see, I truly belief that God exists – did, does and will eternally. I also believe He cares for His creation and works within our lives. I’ve created a page that outlines my beliefs, and you are welcome to read them by clicking here.

There are uncountable numbers of people who have compassion. They wish the very best for their fellow man and will volunteer both time and money to ease suffering in this world – often in the name of something or someone they worship. They have a conviction that they can make a difference in this world, often giving no thought that there is anything beyond this. For those of us who believe Jesus is Christ, we are to do more.

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

Our conviction that we can have compassion and provide a personal view of our belief in God builds an understanding of the top of the pyramid – charity.

Yes – we are to provide comfort to those that need it, but we are to add what has been translated as Charity. The Greek word Paul used is defined as benevolence and includes the concept of Love - especially the love God offers to us.  That love is filled with mercy and grace. For us to reflect Him, we cannot omit love.

John put it very well:

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. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:15-17 KJV)

Yes – the word translated in I Corinthians 13 as Charity was translated here as Love. So, while we may fairly easily have compassion and we most certainly have convictions – Christians must top it off with love.  Yes – I mentioned this on Thursday:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:3 KJV)

Even when we point to what we believe is truth based on biblical principles, it must be done in love or we are not becoming more Christ-like, more Christian.

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Ephesians 4:15 KJV)

Do not give up on compassion; know the basis of convictions; build on the truth of love, which is contained in the greatest of God’s commandments (Matthew 22:37-40.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Works Based Sufficient?


I don’t know the source on this graphic. But I didn’t search deeply for that – it showed up with graphics when I searched for “Hard Work” and really fits for a story I heard Sunday.

A missionary met a gentleman on a plane that gave them hours to meet, exchange tidbits and discuss a bit of religion. That happens often when missionaries travel – they don’t keep their love of God in a container to use only at their “workplace,” the live it. The question to the young man has been given in an earlier blog – that he had attended communion, regularly, and that would be sufficient.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “works salvation,” the concept that good deeds will earn us a home in heaven. Wouldn’t that be great, except for a few Bible verses:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)

Remember from earlier this week His commandments? Check them out in Matthew 22:37-40. Love – Him and neighbors. Now, I’ll admit, that may be hard work. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore those who have hurt us, hurt others, hate God – we could make a whole list, couldn’t we? Won’t work – all on that list fall under neighbors. What work can overcome not doing God’s will?

There are several specific verses that tell us what is required other than works:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 KJV)

Paul believed and preached repeatedly to those who asked:

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

Spelling it out, plainly:

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)

That is sufficient – but it opens the door for much more.  Once we believe that God is, that He love us, that He was shown miracles beyond our belief and the Bible brings us closer to Him, we study His word. There we get our instructions:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:16-17 KJV)

There are those good works! And they are sufficiently important that more is given to us:

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 2:17-18 KJV)

If we could achieve eternal life on our good works alone, why did Jesus go through crucifixion and resurrection? As usual, I hope you’ll not remain ignorant of verses surrounding those above. I’m always open to listening to other viewpoints, but my resource will always remain the Bible.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Spell It Out


One of our Sunday missionaries serves in Thailand. When he came to the platform to speak, he began in Thai. No, we did not understand one word. He did give a description of the language – not as detailed as the Wikipedia explanation:  44 consonant letters, 15 vowel symbols that combine into at least 28 vowel forms, and four tone diacritics. It is a writing system in which each consonant may invoke an inherent vowel sound and are written horizontally, left to right, with vowels arranged in positions (or combination of positions) around the corresponding consonant. That’s the written language – speaking it requires a variety of tones.

I took Spanish in high school and for a year in college. I use a minimum amount of it today. I cannot imagine learning a language with a complex alphabet with tonal requirements to explain something that is necessary to save a life, much less explain doctrine.

Even though of us who accept Christ’s message to a people who lived by God’s law:

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

How do spell out the importance to Jews of the Mosaic law and its relationship to the two commandments Jesus says are the most important? How do we spell that out to people without the background we have when we don’t live it ourselves?

Less than a century later, John was still trying to get this message across to new Christians, spelling it out to them in a letter:

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (1 John 2:7-10 KJV)

John didn’t write that because people were loving so well.  He wrote to spell out what they had been told but were not practicing. We would do well to spend time considering where we are in that love commandment. Studying what Jesus did and said; who He spent time with and why; when He prayed and what He asked. Then spend time in Acts, seeing how His disciples applied His teachings.

Move on to the epistles – spending time with Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, including chapter 13. Read that substituting our American concept of benevolence, which includes affection – a depth of love – not the charity of a tax deduction. Paul tells us that without that feeling of love, we are nothing:

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2 KJV)

Everyone one of us needs to spell out our love of God and our fellowman. How good is your spelling? I'll admit mind needs correction.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


“Scattered” is found in sixty-nine verses in the Bible – from Genesis 11:4 and again in 8 regarding Babel to I Peter 1:1:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1 KJV)

In both instances, people scattered and spread quickly in different directions – most likely random directions. There are a number of instances where we see the results of these random scatterings fulfilling God’s work.

As Acts chapter 7 ends and 8 begins, we can’t see good results possible. Well, without the rest of the story, I certainly couldn’t. Stephen dies in 7, simply for speaking the history of the Jewish people and their relationship with God. Read it, please. Was he wrong? Could that same sermon be preached to Christians today? Would any preacher give the sermon that Christians have failed – and be able to retain his position in the church? Most likely he would be fired, not treated as Stephen:

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. (Acts 7:57-58 KJV)

That same young man who kept the garments from being bloodied accepted the task of ridding the country of Christians:

As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3 KJV)

You can read of what happened that turned him from Saul the havoc creator to Paul the missionary in the book of Acts. I want to focus on the next verse:

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (Acts 8:4 KJV)

Would they have done it without persecution? Would they have scattered, preaching the word – that Jesus was born, ministered, was crucified and (most importantly) was resurrected.  Today there are places where Christ’s message of love and service is persecuted. Christians have been taken captive, tortured and killed in more places than the Middle East. Yet His message is spread by those who scatter.

God did not create the situations where those who believe in Him are scattered. Men do that as part of their own choice to refuse, deny or ignore His message. God allows mankind to do so, but He does not make their decisions for them. He will reach out. He reached out to Saul, which eventually turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

No one is hauling us from our homes, so why aren’t we turning our world upside down? Why am I not continually speaking the Gospel to loved ones who are articulately open in their unbelief? Basically, it is to keep peace, to keep our world level.

As one of our visiting missionaries put it so well, we need to be praying that God will prepare their hearts for the reception of His word. I have not done that well. My prayers have been that God would send someone to give them the good news that God is love – but I have not turned my world upside down. My failure, not God’s.

Success could come by following what Paul wrote to the Ephesians.

But speaking the truth in love, (Ephesians 4:15a KJV)

Go ahead, read the whole verse, along with those before and after. Read in context and ask yourself – as I’m asking myself – have I spoken God’s truth in love to those I love? Must we be scattered to do so?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Beginning? Of What?

God touching Adam

The graphic is enlarged detail from Michelangelo’s fresco Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. You may follow the link of you wish to see an artful work of fiction, according to the Bible. The biblical story of Adam’s creation follows what is given as “the beginning”:

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

Not until verse 26 do we read of man’s creation – the last of the created. There’s no description there of how it was done. The creation process is given in chapter 2:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7 KJV)

We know from Exodus 33:17-20 that no man can look upon the face of God, though Moses was given a glimpse of His glory. We know that Adam and Eve heard His voice:

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8 KJV)

If you read yesterday’s post, by now you are thinking, “She sure was wrong when she said it was the beginning!” Not hardly. There are always beginnings – and sometimes there is no end. God created a perfect earth, but sin entered, tempted, mankind gave in and there was a beginning of trouble as Adam and Eve realized they were guilty, and hid from God.

The crucifixion of Jesus, Christ, was supposed to be the end. The “princes” of this world thought it would be:

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7-8 KJV)

Instead, it was the beginning of the most important, miraculous event God has given us – resurrection. Without the resurrection, we are lost:

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. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14 KJV)

And we are foolish for believing what Jesus said:

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

His death was absolutely necessary. His resurrection was known to Him. Because of that, we can answer that last question with, “Yes - Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (see Mark 9:24 KJV)

Many do not believe – that God created heaven and earth; that God exists; that Jesus was resurrected; that we are loved enough to be offered heaven. So what.

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (Romans 3:3 KJV)

My beliefs will never convince God anyone else belongs in heaven. That’s a choice we each make. Each one of us decides what God is – or isn’t. Each one of us makes the decision whether or not there is an eternity, even when the possibility of hell’s reality dangles with the question. Yes, God created hell – but He sends no one there. That is as personal a choice as accepting, in faith, His gift:

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)

Have you made your choice? What did you begin?

Monday, October 10, 2016

“A Pretty Day”

A friend posted a Facebook request to share a “pretty day,” which can be difficult for people experiencing chronic diseases. The day I described was yesterday:
Yesterday was a pretty day - we had three missionary families visit our church. Each of the fathers gave a sermon and described their ministries in Thailand, South Korea and South Africa. After evening service, they and some families from our church went out for pizza and I sat with several girls, age 5 to 10 - one a missionary's child who spoke of her travels and life in Cameroon. It gives me hope for our world in generations growing up.
Yes – it was a pretty day! And the services were so uplifting. I took notes on all three sermons and will be incorporating them as I renew my commitment to sharing my Bible reading and Christian beliefs. A major resource for those two items is prayer.

Jesus gave us a model prayer that is easily remembered:

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:7-13 KJV)

There’s a bit more before these verses that make for good reading, but I truly love knowing we need to pray from the heart, not simply repeat prayers – not even this one – and that God knows what we need before we pray. He doesn’t “need” for us to pray, but does require our obedience. Praying is essential, as is knowing what we are praying.

Our – a simple acknowledgement that we are not the only person reaching out to God.

Father – accepting that we are His children, responsible to see Him as our Creator. Without Him, we would not exist.

Which art in heaven – this is as important as knowing He is our Father since it entails belief in an eternal, spiritual, existence.

Hallowed be thy name – acknowledging that our Father in heaven is worthy of worship; that the angels before His throne crying “Holy, holy, holy” speak truth.

But Christians know all of this, and more. The question before us is whether we practice what we know, what we “preach.” I’ve been remiss in prayers, and in sharing His worthiness to be worshipped.

Oh, I’ve not missed most services since this blog stopped. What I’ve missed at church can be attributed to medicine – or the consequences of medicine. But that did not affect my ability to prayer nor my knowledge of subjects for prayer. I have continued to pray – for myself, for loved ones’ health issues, for friends with a variety of needs and for salvation for some loved ones who openly reject God and His Son. For their souls, that we might share eternity. Those are my most important prayers.

And, that is the most important message through this blog. It is the same message Paul preached two millennia ago:

But we preach Christ crucified, (1 Corinthians 1:23a KJV)

That’s just the beginning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Slipped?

bible (1)
Last Sunday we had a visiting preacher, Chesford Carr. You can pick up a couple of his sermons online. I won’t try to cover what he did Sunday morning – there was much more than I can fit into this space. Just know that we began in Hebrews and looked at several other verses.

The admonition in Hebrews 2:1 caught my attention early on:

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. (Hebrews 2:1 KJV)

It’s a well-known English idiom that we are capable of letting things slip away from us, but the Greek παραῤῥυέω carries that same concept of being swept by or missing. The thought is also shown as:
lest the salvation which these things heard show us how to obtain, slip away from us
That thought is continued in the next two verses:

For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Hebrews 2:2-3 KJV)

We have all had opportunities slip by us. I won’t even go into examples because I know that some of mine are similar to some of yours. We let time slip by, too. We’ve lost contact with people we care about simply because time passed and we let that contact slip.

But what does happen if we let these things we’ve heard about God, about Jesus, about His followers, about His message – what happens if we let this slip away from us? What happens if we do neglect so great salvation?

That determines how we will spend eternity, if God is real and eternity exists. If it doesn’t, there is no difference. We could do as Nero did and allow our world to burn. We could do as Hitler did and be the worst example of mankind for generations – until someone else came along, but it wouldn’t matter. Philosophers, prophets, intellectuals and the most common of mankind have spent time on that question. Belief is a very personal matter.

I believe God does exist, has existed before time began and will exist after time ceases. I believe God created the universe we see and the spiritual world beyond it. I believe what we do makes a difference here and in God’s kingdom (which is a very poor manmade word to describe eternity.) I believe what we do here, determines what we do there.

I believe God inspired Paul to describe what does happen:

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15 KJV)

I am not the least bit interested in what you build – I’m concentrating on being certain on the foundation, which goes back to part of yesterday’s thought from Matthew 7:24-27.

We’ve heard, haven’t we? What have we let slip?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How Long?

This painting by the Danish artist Carl Heinrich Bloch depicts Jesus teaching His disciples at what we call the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew chapters 5-7.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, (Matthew 5:1-2 KJV)

I’ll hope you click on the reference to read those three chapters, or pick up your Bible to do so. There’s a great deal of Christian beliefs defined in Jesus words. Many of these verses are used stand alone to offer solace or uplift hearts.  A few are used as pejoratives to express contempt toward professing Christians who do not live up to standards set by men.

Jesus took His disciples up into a mountain – the verse does not describe the multitudes accompanying them, but it is possible others besides the disciples heard His words. Matthew was inspired to write them down. The other gospels include the lessons, too, indicating He was consistent in His descriptions and sermons.

How they were received, though, is of interest. He was with these disciples for only three years. How long have we spent learning from one person outside of family? Our parents, yes. Our spouse, yes. Our children, yes – we do learn from them. But a non-family member? How long?

Yes, I have had friendships that lasted years, but I’ve never spent three years traveling and discussing religion with one person.

These disciples did not get the message in those three years, either, did they? They heard Him prophesy His death, but abandoned Him at Gethsemane. Peter followed to see what would happen, but ended up denying Him three times, as He prophesied. None of them buried Him and only women came to see to His funeral Sunday morning.

One was the reason He was taken at the garden. For that, he received money, which was appropriate since he saw after their finances. Judas’ guilt brought anger, regret, a change regarding his desire for money – but no indication that he turned to God to acknowledge his sin. His actions show no indication that he believed Jesus’ messages. Yet could have at the very last moment of life asked to be remembered when Jesus’ kingdom came. A thief did, and received a promise. (Luke 23:39-43)

These three chapters are filled with Jesus’ teachings – many of them familiar through multiple tellings, both in and out of churches. How we apply them to our own lives tells much about ourselves.  Too often we see other’s examples where we should see ourselves. It would do us good to remember one very short verse:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 KJV)

How can we do the will of God until we study what is known of God? I believe that comes through scripture, as Paul wrote Timothy:

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:15-17 KJV)

That’s where we get our doctrine – which astounded people as the Sermon on the Mount closed:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29 KJV)

Monday, July 25, 2016

As In Athens

Raphael’s depiction of Paul in Athens is similar, but yet different, from street preachers today. Instead of going to Athens, we see him leaving Berea, where his words were met with learning and researching but detractors couldn’t stand that interest in his words. (Acts 17:11-14)

In Athens, Paul reaches out to his primary audience:

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. (Acts 17:16-17 KJV)

He has an audience with a long cultural history with their own beliefs, along with temples, statues and monuments to their deities. As a Jew, Paul would recognize idolatry, but as a follower of Jesus, he cared about what happened to the Athenians. What he said did not condemn them, and they were interested in learning more:

Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18 KJV)

There’s a place in Athens where people expect to hear new ideas. Paul stands before them without protest signs. That’s not necessary in a city that prides itself on education and debate – they have platforms for speakers to share thoughts. (Acts 17:19-21)

Then, Paul preached. (Acts 17:22-33)

Please read that for yourself. He did call them superstitious – the Greek word used is δεισιδαιμονέστερος, a compound word that combines “more” and “religious”, which could be taken two ways:
    1. in a good sense
      1. reverencing god or the gods, pious, religious
    2. in a bad sense
      1. superstitious
I believe we can take away a serious lesson from Paul’s interaction with the Athenians as we interact with people of other faiths – and our opportunities to do just that will grow and grow as our nation diversifies. We have opportunities today. Across my work years, I interacted with devout believers of Atheism, Christianity (in its various interpretations) Hinduism, Islam (both Shiite and Sunni, perhaps Wahhabism), Judaism (Conservative, Orthodox and Reformed), Sikhism, Taoism and Wicca.
A kind Jewish gentleman taught me how to break a number of Religious Laws by eating a ham sandwich on a high holy day. A Wiccan explained how he left Catholicism for Wicca. I also heard how an abused wife left Christianity as her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s abuse was justified by their church with Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18, completely out of context.  One supervisor, a Catholic, Jesuit trained for priesthood, explained to me how wrong it was to use biblical references, which should be left up to a priest to interpret for today’s world.

I’ve discussed my beliefs under a number of circumstances, but the simplicity of Paul’s sermons is as valid today as it was in Athens. The only better of his sermons (in my view) was before Agrippa. (Acts 26:1-28)

That’s all we can do – tell of Jesus, His life, His teachings, His death – but most of all, His resurrection. We can refer to the apostles who wrote of Him, the changes in their lives. We can refer to changes in our own – but that’s all. And, we can move on when we’re told – as Paul was:

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. (Acts 26:28-29 KJV)