Monday, December 8, 2014

FOLLOW THE STAR TO BETHLEHEM







"Magi from the east came to Jerusalem. . .We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."  Matthew 2: 1-2

 Once upon a time, over 2,000 years ago. . .I remember as a child how excited I'd get when I heard those words, "Once upon a time." I knew I'd be hearing a good story. The story of the birth of Jesus is a favorite because it is a true story of God coming to earth as a man. Scholars will pick apart the details, argue about the precise place and time, but down through the ages the story of Jesus remains with us, as true, intact and enticing as ever.

         I purchased this plaster image of Jesus many years ago. It hangs on our denim blue bedroom wall. I don't need an image to remind me that I am a child of God and that He sent Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. But I do love it and often smile when my eyes meet His. The Holy Spirit reminds me daily that I can have peace and experience joy, no matter what is happening in the world or circumstances that surround me. Jesus is my stabilizer in a rocky, uncertain world. This wall plaque reminds me of my good childhood friend, Lucy, and the day we found this artwork in a little store in Carlsbad, CA. She often visited us around Christmas time. Lucy has been in heaven with Jesus for many years now; one of my eternal friends.

        At this time of year, you will often see photos of huge, beautifully decorated Christmas trees from all over the world. A little boy once asked me, "Why do all the trees have a star on top?" It was a great opportunity to tell him the story of Jesus and how three men from Persia followed a star that led them to Jesus so they could worship him. The 'Wise Men' were aware of the prophesy in Numbers 24:17. Moses wrote. . .

 
"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter (king) will rise out of Israel."

         Moses was writing about Jesus who wasn't born until 1200 years later. In my book, Blogging God's Word, I wrote about prophesy and how important it is to have "the assurance that Biblical prophesy is accurate, has been validated and is worthy of our trust."

 * Micah 5:2 predicts that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem 500 years before his birth.

 * Malachi 3:1 wrote in the 5th century B.C. that a 'messenger' would come to prepare the way for Christ. This was John the Baptist and you can read about him in John 1.

 * Isaiah wrote 700 years before the birth of Christ in 7:14 a virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and will call him 'Immanuel' which means, 'God with us'.

 * Isaiah 9: 6-7 tells us that this son would have "the government on his shoulders" and he would be called "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." This verse so clearly shows that the Father and the Son are One God. The prophesy speaks to the second coming of Christ when the whole world will recognize Him as the King of Kings.

         "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!

         "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2: 6 - 11.

         This is why the world lights up with a magic seen at no other time of year. Some may say that His death and resurrection were much more important. If Jesus had not died for our sins and be resurrected to new life, we wouldn't have a Savior, and we'd need to pay for our own sins. That would be very uncomfortable to say the least. Heaven is eternal life in the presence of God (and all the others who believe - maybe even your pets) eternal death is separation from God and all that is good.

        In my book, I point out that there are over 300 prophesies detailing the coming of baby Jesus. Jesus actually fulfilled every one in detail. A Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, Peter W. Stoner, wrote in 'Science Speaks' that if you apply accurate principles of probability, the chances that one person in history could fulfill just 8 of these prophesies is 1 in 10 to the 28th power. The number would look like this. . .
 

1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

 This is very impressive, even for those who are not easily impressed! But who would think this could be less; Jesus is a very impressive Person!

        I've travelled to many places in the world. One of the most fascinating spots on earth is Bethlehem, in fact, all of Israel. Where you are able to walk where Jesus walked; where you can see the place of His birth, a cave really, protected by the oldest surviving church in the Holy Land - Basilica of the Nativity built by order of the Roman Emperor, Constantine in A.D. 326. You can see two possible sites of the 'Shepherd's Field' where an angel appeared to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and imagine his mother placing her baby in an animal feeding trough we call a manger. This 'first coming' of Jesus was as a humble servant of man. He cured, fed, encouraged, washed the feet of His disciples and withstood a horrible death for those He loved. Along with the angel, a "heavenly host" suddenly appeared praising God and saying. . .

"Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on

whom his favor rests."  Luke 2:14

This verse doesn't say 'everybody', but to men (human beings) on whom His favor rests. Does His 'favor' rest on you? Not sure? Ask Him to rest His miraculous favor on you, personally. He never says 'NO' to those who ask.

I wish all my readers a very nice Christmas and pray that you will have great peace and joy in your life because you know the Savior. Jesus is the Light that takes away the darkness.

Thank you Lord for coming to our rescue. Help us to you that you are the Shepherd and we are your sheep. Light that star of Bethlehem in our hearts.

 

       

 

       

 

        























Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A TRIBUTE TO THE REAL SAINT NICHOLAS







                                                          A TRIBUTE TO THE REAL SAINT NICHOLAS                                   

 

            The story of a jolly man in a red suit who magically appears to children all over the world bringing gifts at Christmas time did not begin in the North Pole. The legend of the real St. Nicholas from whom our modern day Santa Claus emerged, has a story all its own.

            Many ancient writings bear witness to the reality of St. Nicholas of Myra, born sometime between 260 – 280 A.D. in the Greek village of Patara, which is now modern day Turkey. He was a cardinal in the early church. Artwork shows that he was a small man who wore a flowing red robe, had a white beard and balding head. It wasn't just his physical appearance that caused him to become the model for our beloved modern day Santa Claus, it was who he was; a compassionate man who loved children and had a giving spirit. He was often seen carrying a bag of candy and small gifts.  Children followed him clinging to his red robe.

            Nicholas was the son of wealthy Christian parents who were always generous to those in need. They had a love for God and a passion to serve Him. They sent their son to school to study history and theology. When he was very young, he was given an opportunity to help a poor family. He dropped a sack of gold, no doubt provided by his parents, into an open window; then disappeared before being seen. This was repeated three times and is the origin of the symbol for St. Nicholas; three gold balls. One day, he was caught by the father of the family he was helping.

            "Why have you given this gift?" he asked.

            "Because you needed it" replied Nicholas.

            We've 'modernized' our Santa Claus. He doesn't give because of need or out of love, but as a reward for being 'good'. In some countries, Santa doles out punishment to those who've been 'bad'. The concept of 'grace' has simply been ignored. Nicholas understood the things of God and that He gave us the gift of His Son, not as a reward, but because we so desperately need Him. Along with gifts of toys and candy, he gathered children together to tell them stories of Jesus and the gift He'd given the world by dying on the cross so all who believed could have a relationship with God.

When Nicholas was in his mid-teens, he experienced a personal tragedy; both of his parents died, probably the result of a plague. He took his large inheritance, cashed it into Roman coins, and distributed them to the poor. He gave it all away as a memorial to his parents and their lifetime of generosity. He went to live with an uncle who tutored him and then later he attended school in a monastery. He was very young, probably not yet in his twenties, when he entered the priesthood.

            At this point in history, there was a period of many years when Christians were persecuted by Roman emperors. Those who would not abandon their faith were tortured or put to death. Because Nicholas was a church leader, he was put in jail.  It is said that he was inspired by the Apostle Paul and did as Paul did, sharing the gospel with other prisoners and guards in the rat infested prison. After his release he was elected Bishop of Myra.

            It was not uncommon for religious leaders of the day to live a lavish lifestyle, but Nicholas was not a common man. He chose to provide for others, live simply and travel though his district to drop coins into windows or into shoes left on doorsteps of the poor.  This no doubt was the basis of the custom that lives on today of putting coins and candy into shoes and 'Christmas' stockings. He never revealed his identity and would disappear before he could be thanked. Sound familiar?

            Now, hundreds of years later, children, who are not obligated to listen to an inner voice that says, "This can't be true" eagerly await the arrival of a man dressed in red, watch for deer with soundless hooves,  and enjoy the wonder of it all. As you can see, the person of 'Santa Claus' is rooted in sacred Christian tradition, despite the effort to make him secular. The endearing poem 'The Night Before Christmas', also known as 'A Visit from Saint Nicholas', written by Clement Moore in 1822, redefined the image of Santa and is probably the source of the addition of the sleigh and reindeer. Santa had to have a way to travel the world.      

            Christmas isn't just a 'holiday'; it's a 'holy day' when we celebrate God coming to earth as an infant born in humble surroundings. An event foretold centuries earlier. The world was changed forever that night when the shepherds in the field looked up and saw an angel who announced His arrival; the Messiah had come!  Persecution still exits, hold on to what your heart knows to be true. Santa Claus need not take 'Christ' out of Christmas, but be a reminder of a man from the third century who served with humility and shared God's love and joy of giving. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU


Black Friday - a big shopping day. The name 'black Friday' arose from businesses that have been struggling with sales. Now at the end of the year they hope to show a profit and be in the 'black'. People go a little crazy rushing to stores before the sun is up to buy items that have been drastically reduced in price. When I opened my e-mail this morning, I noticed that 'Black Friday' prices are now available on-line. 

         A couple of years ago I wrote a book from my blogs. I wish I could greatly reduce the price, but it was set by the publisher for $13.95, e-book available for $7.99. I've been told that it can be bought for less if you look around the internet. I wrote this book mainly because I wanted it for our children, also I had many friends who told me they loved my blog but didn't like to 'read' on-line. 

        I'm in the process of editing another book. It's a lot of work and some expense. From time to time I think - why bother? What I write can be read on-line and if someone is really interested in my topic, they can print out the blogs. When I'm in this mindset someone always comes along who tells me how very much they love my book and how helpful it is in their relationship with the Lord. The book is in the local libraries and is borrowed often. Maybe, I should keep doing this I think. You might like to consider buying the book for a Christmas gift - or for yourself. I wish I could give you a 'Black Friday' price.

Blogging God's Word is available at Crossbooks.com, Amazon.com, also as an e-Book.  I'm sharing this information for those new to the blog.  Also, a short synopsis and a few quotes from the books' introduction. 

"You will enjoy the author's skill in applying Biblical principles to everyday life. Both Christians and unbelievers will gain basic knowledge of the bestselling book ever, the Bible.  Familiar stories will come alive and you may discover a truth that will impact your life. You will be surprised how God views His children!

Be guided into the knowledge of God's grace and sovereignty
  • Learn to experience God's presence in daily living
  • Come to know the difference between church doctrine, humanistic theology and what the Bible really says
Join the author in pursuing the truth of Scripture. See how knowing the truth will set you free to feel loved, safe and secure.  'Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' - John 8:32."

From the introduction. . .

"For over thirty-eight years I've been soaking up the Word of God, like a sponge! I have a file drawer full of Bible studies, a computer full, and a heart full! Looking for a new way to share what I've learned, I began to explore the world of blogging. I'm a bit uncomfortable with 'cyber space', so wondered if this would be a good place to deposit my treasure, God's living Word. One day I stepped out in faith, sat down at the computer with my husband, and set up a blog. . .a real blog! All I had to do was start writing. I wasn't sure how I should approach this new adventure, but felt very comfortable that this was what God wanted me to do."  

More. . .

"Do I have a goal or agenda? Yes, I do! I write so others will come to know Jesus Christ as their very own Lord and Savior, be inspired to study the Bible and be able to apply what they learn to daily life."

More. . .

"I don't have a 'legalistic' bone in my body, simply a desire to point others to the truth of God's grace and total sovereignty. I am firmly convinced that this is how we as believers can attain a lasting peace through any hardship or trial and come to know the joy of loving the Lord.  We are secure in His sovereignty."

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."  Ephesians 1:11."

I've chosen not to clutter up my blog by 'monetizing', so please excuse a commercial now and then.

Thank you Lord for allowing me to share Your Word with others.  Somehow people from all over the world have found this blog. My confidence is never in myself, always in You. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

During this time of year we practice hospitality, invite others to come into our home and join us in celebration of all we are thankful for. This is a season of thanksgiving, not just one day.
         However, we Americans do have a unique day of celebration that started in the early 1600's. A group from England, we call Pilgrims, seeking freedom to worship God as they pleased, sailed across the sea and landed on our the east coast. They established a colony amid much suffering and hardship. Many died of disease and starvation that first year. American native Indians came to their rescue and taught them survival skills in this new land. A day was set aside for them to come together and thank God for His blessings. We continue that tradition in our country and attempt to re-create this time of giving thanks by gathering with family and friends, sometimes strangers, to eat too much, work too hard, wash too many dishes and most of all, take note of all God has done for us.
       
"Let us come before him with thanksgiving. . .for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care."  Psalm 95: 2,7

          Just as children of earthly parents should honor those who have loved and cared for them, we need to honor our Creator, the One who will sustain us and has given us victory over death through Jesus Christ so we can live eternally in the presence of God.
        It's easy to see what is wrong and needs to be changed. What is right isn't always that obvious. When I'm having a hard time with day to day life, it is best I take stock of all I have to be grateful for. I will be teaching a Bible study for the women in our local jail this week, and "What are you grateful for?" will be the topic of discussion. I also teach 'creative writing' for a group of veterans who are in a special program at the jail and they will be writing on the topic of 'gratitude'. Yes, even those who are incarcerated can find a reason to be grateful.
        Like many Americans today, I feel very sad that a group of unruly people have torn up a nice little town because they didn't think that a decision was 'fair'. I'm not only sad, I'm ashamed of these fellow Americans. They've looted, burned, and destroyed things that didn't belong to them. They aren't able to see all they have to be thankful for. Our Constitution guarantees all citizens 'free speech'. We have the right to our opinions and can express them without fear of government interference. We have the right to peacefully assemble and protest. We do not have the right to commit crimes.
        In our Declaration of Independence (from England in 1776) this is written. . .

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

        Our forefathers set the stage for a free country. Our rights are "inalienable" which means they can't be taken away because they come from God, not a government. In an attempt to be 'fair', we sometimes become 'unfair'. We can't expect perfection in an imperfect world. The irony is this: if Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was a blond, blue-eyed, snow white 300 pound, 6 foot 4 inch man, rather than black one; would there be riots and accusations of prejudice and persecution?  I don't think so. Would a group of activists, many who live elsewhere, be destroying the livelihood of hard-working minorities who've built businesses? I don't think so. Would they be shouting about the fact that a white police officer killed a white thief and justice was not done? I don't think so.
        Many years ago a black, very handsome former football player was charged with killing his white wife, mother of his children, and her friend. The trial was a public event, every witness, every bit of evidence was presented so all could see. A mostly black jury declared OJ was "not guilty". There was a huge collective gasp across the nation; we'd seen all the evidence and he was guilty. Profound disappointment that this man could get away with murder - yes, rioting, no. When I heard the verdict, this verse popped into my head, and kept me focused on the truth that God is in control and He will ultimately avenge the innocent.

"For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. . .The Lord will judge his people".  Hebrews 10:30

         The prophet Isaiah wrote that the  Lord will have "a day of vengeance. You may be interested in reading Hebrews 10; it gives us hope that God has a good plan for His people.
        I am bothered about the fact that Christian 'men of God', ministers, pastors like the Rev. Al Sharpton fan the flame of discontent rather than preaching Christian principles - forgiveness, love and hope. The parents of the young man who was killed have asked for calm and peace, the President of the U.S. and his Attorney General pleaded for the violence to stop - all to no avail.
        I believe, the heart of the problem is a heart problem. I don't think the protesters care much about William Brown, most have never met him or his family. They are looking for an outlet for their anger. They have been convinced that they haven't been treated fairly and are going to 'get even'. I have volunteered in a jail for nearly fourteen years; I know this anger, I've heard their stories. 'Social justice' will not heal their heart, but God can. Knowing that no matter how their life looks, there is a God in heaven who loves them unconditionally brings peace and ultimately destroys anger. It's a process, little by little we learn to trust and place our faith in God. 
        This is not about what happens in the White House, the Capital or the courtroom. It's what happens in your house, your realm of influence and in your heart that will change our world into a better place. I admit it, I cling to Bible verses, and this is a favorite. . .

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  I Thessalonians 5:18

        I have a little sign on my kitchen cabinet that reminds me daily that as a child of God, I'm never a victim of circumstances. I am blessed by so many 'gifts', most of which I don't deserve, but God deals with us in grace.

        So, set a pretty table, put a turkey in the oven and gather folks around to praise God for His goodness. We become more at peace with what happens around us when we have an 'attitude of gratitude'.

Thank you Lord that you always have your hand on us and everything that happens will ultimately work for good for those who love You. Bless America Lord so we can continue to be a beacon of hope in a lost world. We know that a nation that honors You will indeed overcome.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

MIRACLES ARE FOR REAL

Do you believe in miracles? I do. God sent His son Jesus Christ to make miracles visible. Jesus hasn't given up His ministry of performing miracles. I find it miraculous that a wall that looks completely solid is in fact, not solid at all. It is made up of atoms, the basic building block of our world. The inner structure of an atom looks like a tiny solar system. At its center is the nucleus which is circled by electrons and has lots of 'open spaces' in between. The chair you're sitting on isn't solid either, it just appears to be. I learned this years ago in a college chemistry class.
       
        I find nature miraculous; the incredible colors of the fall season, the new growth we see in the spring, animal life of all kinds. Also, personal things like our five grown kids, two of whom live 3,000 miles away, were recently here together to celebrate their dad's birthday. We haven't all been together at the same time in the same place for a very long time. I classify this as a minor miracle and praise God for making it happen.
        When I think of big-time miracles, I'm reminded of a man named  Lazarus. You will find this story in John, Chapter 11. He was a special friend of Jesus and the brother of Mary and Martha. Lazarus became very sick and his sisters sent for Jesus because they had the faith that He could heal him. When Jesus heard the news about his friend's illness, He said . . .

"This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."  John 11:4

        Yes, God orchestrates our life to draw us to Him so we will believe. Jesus was in no hurry to respond to Mary and Martha's call for help. It was actually not until four days later that Jesus appeared on the scene. Jesus told His disciples . . .

"Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe."  John 11:14

        Many of us are not able to believe until we've seen a miracle. If you are one of God's sheep, He'll do whatever it takes to bring you into the fold. He has promised that none of His sheep will perish. The Lord can be very dramatic at times. There is nothing subtle about bringing a dead man to life. Lazarus had been buried in a tomb for four days. Jesus told them to open the tomb. When they did, there was the smell of decaying flesh. There was no doubt that this man was dead, not just 'asleep'. Jesus performed miracles so that we would know that He came from God and is God.
        Jesus called into the tomb, "Lazarus, come out!" And he walked out with his grave clothes still clinging to him - alive and well. This is more of a miracle than most of us can imagine. We now know there are 50 trillion cells in the human body. Jesus recreated and restored these cells to perfect function. Research scientists break information down into 'bit units' . The information contained in a single human cell is 20 billion bits. The complexity of the human body is central to God's creation. Calling Lazarus back to life was like creating the universe thousands of times over in an instant with three simple words from Jesus. Thank you to our retired pastor, Charlie Ivans for this detailed information.
        Many will laugh and scoff and say "That's just a Bible story." God has written a whole wonderful book of stories to help us understand who He is and what He has planned. He has used real people and events to illuminate those who will come to know Him personally. Here's another amazing truth that falls into the category of  'Miracle'. We cannot see what is true unless God reveals it to us. When the Holy Spirit comes to us our mind is opened to the truth. It's the only way we can see the truth.

"The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic."
Psalm 29:4

        Do you know that Jesus, part of the Triune Godhead, was there "In the beginning. . . and through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."  John, Chapter 1. When a storm whipped up the waves, He simply rebuked the waves and the waters became calm. When Jesus spoke, the blind could see, the lame could walk and terrible diseases were cured. This was a testimony to who He is; God in the flesh.
        We can know this God-man, Jesus. He's alive and well sitting on the right hand of God the Father. There comes a point in time when the veil is lifted and God reveals Himself, but the truth is, He has always known us from the beginning of time.

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."  Ephesians 1:4

        We are "holy and blameless" because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. That is a miracle! He knows our heartaches, our pain and  suffering. He sees our faults, every one of them. Speaking for myself, I have plenty. He hears our prayers, every one. He loves us unconditionally, all the time. That is a miracle.

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1.

        I find that Satan becomes very active where miracles are visible. He loves to steal them away from us; wipe them from our memory. Every time you see a miracle in your life, a great big one, or a tiny little one, write it down. Before you know it, you'll have a book of your own personal miracles.

Thank you Lord that you continue to work miracles in the lives of those who love you. Help us to recognize these miracles and praise you for your everlasting love.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A RECIPE FOR EVERYTHING

If you like to cook, you are probably a creative person. Most of us who enjoy cooking don't follow a recipe precisely; we tailor it to our taste. We may add a little more of this, a little less of that, to create something that works for us. Then, there are the times we want to make a dish and have no idea how to begin. We'd be lost without a recipe as a guideline. I know this isn't a cooking blog, but I'd like to share the parallel between a recipe to make something wonderful to eat, and using the Bible as a guideline for making life something special to savor and enjoy.

        We have a son who does some of his own cooking. He really likes pork chops. He sticks them in a hot frying pan, and cooks them until they are browned and cooked through. The result is a very tough piece of meat that is difficult to chew. I've suggested the following recipe. . .

Pork Chops
  • Spray a pan lightly with olive oil
  • Fry chops until brown, add a little salt and pepper
  • Add a can of cream of mushroom soup - no water
Turn down heat, cover and simmer on low heat for 30 - 40 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops.
  • Add a sliced apple - pork and apple go well together
  • Cover, continue to cook until pork is very tender 
  • Add more seasoning if you wish, be creative. Add water to thin out gravy.

You can serve these chops over mashed potatoes, rice, noodles or just as they are. If your children are meat eaters, they'll love this.

        We're not all meat-eaters. A good homemade soup can be a great meal. I sometimes make soup during the summer, even if the kitchen gets a little warm. Soup is lighter meal, but it is filling and when you use good ingredients, very nutritious. This is a favorite of ours. . .

Lentil Soup
  • 1 chopped onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 stalk sliced celery
  • 1 carrot or about 2/3 cup shredded carrots
Add a little olive oil to a soup pot and add above ingredients. Cook and stir until a soft. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add 2/3 to 1 cup of rinsed lentils
  • Stir in 4 - 5 cups of water, and 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • Add 4 teaspoons of beef or vegetable bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dry oregano, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • A few dashes of hot pepper sauce - or not, depending on taste
Cook until lentils become soft, then add a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, cook down. Some like to add about 1/3 cup of small uncooked pasta. Soup is always better the day after you make it when the flavors have had a chance to meld together.

        What else might we need a recipe for? How about loving others? I can love others, it's the "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34.
        The above verse is an exhortation which is a command of God given so we know what to ask Him for. Jesus loved so much that He died on a cross for us. The Lord knows that we can't even come close to this kind of love. Therefore, when we are faced with our own lack of love, we ask God to supply the love. It comes from Him.

"We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. We love because he first loved us." I John 4:16, 19.

         Most of us have had the experience of feeling a lack of love for someone we think we should love. We are not humanly able to force this feeling; there is a reason for this.

"God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit."
Romans 5:5

        This is the 'how to' recipe we need. It is God who pours His love into our hearts; if He doesn't do that, we don't have it. So we go to Him and ask that He do this. Somehow we think we're capable of loving on our own, and we are to some extent, but it's God's love that we can trust.
        What else might we need a recipe for - forgiveness maybe? If we are completely honest with ourselves, we know that we often need to be forgiven and those around us aren't perfect either. Being able to freely forgive ourselves and others is crucial to living a life of peace. If you don't have peace, there isn't much joy in your life.
        The Scripture has a lot to say about forgiveness. David prayed to God in Psalm 19 asking Him to "forgive my hidden faults." We want the faults that others can see to be forgiven - many of David's worst faults were seen and known by many. But David prayed for his "hidden faults." He truly desired to be cleansed of sin, and he knew that with God there was forgiveness, Psalm 130.

"Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13

        We as believers have experienced forgiveness and because of that, we are able to forgive others. Not everyone is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. But you are, if you know the Lord as your Savior. Call on that power to help you forgive those who need to be forgiven. In other words,  everybody.

"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

        Think of a bowl of plain cookie batter. It won't result in a tasty cookie until you add chocolate chips, or raisins, maybe chopped nuts,  and stir together until the ingredients bind. When you bake this dough, the ingredients melt together and the result is a tasty cookie. You might say, 'in perfect unity', like love and forgiveness; one goes with the other. If you love, you can forgive, and if you can forgive, you have God's love in you. There is one thing this recipe is missing - our own wonderfulness! There isn't even a teaspoon of us that goes into this mixture. We are usually too proud and working too hard to be, and to look righteous, to notice that it's all of Him, and none of us.
        There comes a day when Christ in us - Galatians 2:20 - becomes evident. This is 'hallelujah' time! What a relief! God is doing for us what we can't do for ourselves. Bend a knee and praise Him. Jesus didn't need to die if we could have become righteous on our own - Galatians 2:21.
        Another recipe we might seek is one for our insecurity. We all live with some kind of insecurity - health issues, worry that you may lose your job, financial woes, a difficult child. . .we could make a long list of items we feel insecure about. We crave to be secure. When insecurity invades our lives, it may compromise our relationships, hinder our abilities, and certainly will steal our peace and joy in life. It is written in Psalm 112. . .

"Blessed is the man who fears (honors, reveres) the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands (instructions, recipes). . .His heart is secure and he will have no fear. . ." vs. 1,8

        None of us know what tomorrow will bring. We often look at what is happening in the world and cringe. But know this; we have a hiding place where our real life is protected by the Lord - Colossians 3:3. Whatever may come, we are safe and secure because we are God's child. We human parents fail sometimes to protect our children, but God never fails.
        The book of Hebrews, Chapter 6, sheds some light on the subject of security. It states that God has made a promise, God cannot lie, and He wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear for those to whom the promise was made. It is God who "anchors" us in this world so we don't fly to pieces.

"We have this anchor for the soul, firm and secure."
Hebrews 6:19

In Deuteronomy, Moses blesses the twelve tribes of Israel and writes this. . .

"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders."  33:12

        What a beautiful visual - the Lord carrying us on his shoulders! God has promised eternal life for those who believe in Him. No matter what happens during our time in this world, our fate has been secured by the only One who has the love, mercy and power to do that. Take a few minutes and read Psalm 16; you will be blessed and better understand as David did, that God has made our lot secure, and we will receive a delightful inheritance. We're not talking about gold and riches. David had his eye on heaven.    
        You can use the Bible as a recipe book for making your marriage better, raising your children, handling your money and attaining better health.  The book of Proverbs has very practical advise from King Solomon. The Lord blessed him with the gift of wisdom. There are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs, read one a day and in a month you've read the whole book and been exposed to much wisdom. Ask the Lord to apply what you learn to your present circumstances. We can read, study, take classes, listen to messages in church, but it is God alone who reveals truth - He makes it 'real' to us. We are dependent upon Him.

Lord, I thank you for the tools you've given us in your Holy Word to help us to cope with this world. Help me to remember, my real life is hidden in you and I'm not of this world.
       

       


       

Thursday, October 9, 2014

LOOKING THROUGH EYES OF FAITH


 "My life is but a weaving between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors, He works so steadily.
Oft' times He weaves in sorrow, and I in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and I see the underside.
Not until the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
by Corrie ten Boom
        In 2002, my husband and I went on a mission to Belgium where we worked in a printing plant assembling study material for African children. One weekend we got on a train and traveled to The Netherlands where we visited the town of 'Haarlem'. This was the home of Corrie ten Boom and her family. During World War II, they hid Jews from the Nazis. Their work was eventually discovered and only Corrie survived the concentration camp. I was thrilled to see this poem framed on the wall of their home, which is now a small museum. I'd never known where this had come from and here it was right before me!  Corrie wrote it.
        I'm re-posting a blog I wrote more than a year ago on the subject of looking at life through the eyes of faith. Often the difference is between sadness and misery, or joy and hope. How do you want to live?
Post from 9/30/13
Really? How can you say God will supply all of our needs when people die every day from starvation? Some of you have asked. 

      Before becoming a believer and a student of the Bible, I often asked this type of question. When I looked at so much heartache in the world, it was difficult for me to want to know God who was said to be loving and merciful, but allowed so much suffering.
      I realize it can be very difficult to understand Bible verses and Biblical principles that appear to be out of sync from what we observe in the 'real' world. Most of all, I believe we are interested in relating Biblical truth to our personal lives. We need God to give us the gift of faith so we can trust Him. Slowly but surely, as we step back from our own struggle, we'll see God accomplish in our life what could never have happened without Him.
      The more you come to know the sovereignty of God, the more tolerant you are of what you judge to be tragedies in this world. You begin to understand that God doesn't perceive the world, or our lives, in the same way we do. He has a total and complete plan. He knows the beginning and the end. We need to see through eyes of faith. He has woven together a beautiful tapestry, with every stitch in place. So often what we see is the underside side of the tapestry which is a tangle of threads and no clear picture of something beautiful.
      The process of seeing the Bible as a complete picture of God and fitting the words together to make something meaningful is what gives us hope. This is also what intrigues those of us who love to study the Word and are called to share it with others. One of the most valuable truths I've learned from Scripture is that we, in a human body, are not able to recall spiritual truth at will. I will always know that ‘c-a-t’ spells cat, but on a day to day basis, I can't always recall that "God works everything for good..." This is a spiritual truth.
      Marriages dissolve, children are left without a parent, a friend is diagnosed with cancer, someone you love has heart disease or a child you loved and nurtured has become an alcoholic and has great difficulty functioning in life. Globally, you see people killing one another, a tsunami wipes out towns and villages, fires destroy homes, earthquakes crush people. . .how does God work this for good you ask.
      When the Lord causes me to see by faith, I'm immediately aware that He has a perfect plan and knows what He's doing. We often stumble through the darkness looking for what seems right. God knows what is right. For some reason that I can't understand with my human mind, God has made stress, fear, anxiety, anger and depression a part of our human condition.

The Bible defines faith this way. . .

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see - Hebrews 11:1

        'Walking by faith' isn't something we can do on our own. The Lord needs to produce this faith in us. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the "author and perfecter" of our faith. The Lord wants us to come to Him. He desires to have a relationship with us. If we could see everything as 'perfect', we'd never be drawn to God, and we wouldn't need the power of His Holy Spirit in us; we'd be our own God.
      We judge this world with a human eye. God looks through a different lens. Do you ever wonder why Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil"? Why wouldn't God want us to know what is evil and what is good? Possibly, because we'd judge His plan. . .this is good, and that is bad. And of course this was the immediate result of eating the fruit. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves. They had never worn any clothes and now, after having their eyes opened, they judged this to be bad. There is a metaphor in play here - their nakedness represents sin, and they wanted to hide it from the Lord - Genesis, chapter 3.    
      If I were God - a bit presumptuous of me, excuse the illustration, we'd all be living in a perfect world. I would be a terrible God. The Bible says we grow spiritually when faced with adversity. During time of trouble is when we most often seek the Lord.
      Even though there are people in the world who are starving and brutalized by war, I can have a sense of peace knowing that the Lord has not lost control.

". . .according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. . ." Ephesians 1:11.

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16

"Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." Job 14:5

      If this is a difficult concept for you, ask the Lord to show you in His Word how you can have peace in a world that is never at peace. If we can view our time here on earth through the lens of faith we will be able to trust the Lord in all circumstances.

Thank you Lord that you are able to work all things for good. Help us to come to trust You and praise you for everything in our lives.