Monday, March 30, 2015

A PORTRAIT OF JESUS

 

It's the time of year when even those who are not Christians give pause and reflect on who Jesus is. Most of us can come up with many 'titles' that have been assigned to Him. . .Son of God, Redeemer, Prince of Peace, Lamb of God, Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords...and so on. Can you add a few of your own?

I've discovered that many believers are not able to Biblically describe the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the heart of our faith; without Him, we have no faith, no hope.

I've discovered how important it is to learn a few verses that will make Him come alive to you and others. The Bible does not give a
vague description; it gives us one that is precise and detailed. I am quoting the NIV Bible.

John 1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of men." vs. 1 - 4

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."
John 1:14

This verse states very clearly that Jesus was with God in the beginning and He is a part of the triune God. . .Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and most significant, He became "flesh" and dwelled here on earth.

Colossians 1:15 - "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."

When we look at ourselves in a mirror, what we see is our image; that's you who you see.This passage goes on to teach that all things were created by Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together. These words can only describe God.

Hebrews 1:3 - "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word."

Note these words, "the exact representation of his being." This means Jesus and God are One in the same.

Philippians 2:6 - 7 "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."

We also learn from this passage that He had the appearance of a man and humbled Himself - even to dying on the cross. Do you know that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord?

Learn where these verses are in your Bible. You don't need to memorize them, just remember - John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 and Philippians 2.

I hope you will be blessed during this most holy of holidays and that Jesus, God in the flesh, will be the focus of your celebration.

Thank you Lord for coming to earth as a man, dying on a cross to pay for my sins and to make me acceptable to God the Father with whom I will dwell eternally in heaven, my real home.








Tuesday, March 17, 2015

AN IRISH CELEBRATION


March 17th is the day the Irish celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Many who have no Irish heritage will join the fun. They will dress in green clothing, buy Shamrock plants, go to parades, make special food and drink green beer. The Chicago River will turn a bright green and some pubs will have little green mice running around the bar tops.

In order to understand why this day is so celebrated, we need to study the history of the beautiful country of Ireland, often called the Emerald Isle because of its lush green grasses. At one time this land was occupied by pagans who worshipped their pagan gods. But God had a different plan for this country and as always, what He has been planned will happen -  Ephesians 1:11.

God choose a boy named Patrick, who wasn't even born in Ireland, to come to their rescue, like a savior. He was born in Great Britain 385 AD (in the year of our Lord). At this time Britain was under Roman control. As a sixteen year old boy, Patrick was taken as a slave to Ireland and spent six years as a shepherd. This is significant as it ties in so beautifully with the Biblical theme of the shepherd and the sheep.

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep. . .I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
John 10: 14, 15, 28 - 30

Patrick escaped and went back to Britain where he received an education and studied Scripture. After some ten years or so, he traveled back to Ireland as a missionary to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who had been deceived and believed in pagan gods. He often used the Shamrock, a three-leafed clover unique to this area, to describe the Trinity; God in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Eventually Patrick became known as the 'Apostle of Ireland' and was the first bishop there. We often hear that he was the Patron Saint of Ireland because he drove out all the snakes. Truth be known, Ireland didn't have any snakes, at least not after the post-glacial period.

In the Bible, snake and serpent are the same. In order to understand the allegorical nature of this story, we need to take a look at the first mention of the serpent in the Bible, which is a picture of Satan.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God made."  
Genesis 3:1

The serpent came to deceive Eve and even today, Satan stays true to who he is - the great deceiver. Pagans often worship a serpent symbol, not because they love and honor it, but because they are fearful of it. So when we hear of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland this is symbolic for driving out pagan gods and bringing in the truth of the gospel. He died in the year 457, or thereabouts. The year seems to be more uncertain than the day - March 17th.

 Here we are hundreds of years later paying tribute to this humble man. What we do for the Lord is lasting. I wonder how many people who are out celebrating this special day know what and who they are celebrating. Maybe you can share this information.

Lord, we thank you for always having a good plan in place. We know that heaven is your throne and the earth your footstool.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

POWER FROM GOD

Try New Things
Keep You Promises
Be Yourself
Learn from Mistakes
Laugh Every Day
Listen to Your Parents
Hug a Lot
Respect Each Other
Embrace Differences
Be Thankful
Be Kind With Your Words
Always Tell the Truth
Do Your Best
                  Have a Sense of Humor
                  Be Grateful
                  Show Compassion
                  Never Give Up
                  Love Each Other

Shortly before our family reunion last November,  I saw this plaque in a store. I read each word and knew that we had the same values, hopes and dreams for our family. I bought it and hung it on a wall. What we value in life tells a lot about who we are and how we think. I look at these 'values' as individual pieces of a puzzle spread out on a table. One piece, the most important piece, is missing however. Jesus said,

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."   Matthew 22:37

I find it interesting that Jesus mentions three different ways we are to love Him. With our heart, which pumps life sustaining blood throughout the body and is the core of our feelings and emotions. With our soul, the spiritual part of us that yearns for the love of our Creator. With our mind which is our intellect and enables us to reason. This is a three-dimensional love the Lord speaks of, and needs to be the centerpiece in the puzzle of life.  

You can't just sit down and decide that you are going to love God. It doesn't work that way.

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

In other words, it is God who pours out His love into our heart by His Holy Spirit. I have a friend who says, "If God doesn't pour it, we don't have it." We need to ask Him to fill our heart with His love. He will.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He stayed here on earth for another forty days, Acts 1:3. When He ascended into heaven, He did not leave us alone and powerless. He left us with His Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. Without  it, we are not drawn to love the Lord. All believers have been given the Holy Spirit, and this is how we are able and willing to love God and be empowered to live life with joy and in peace. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12: 3,

". . .no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit."

We therefore can't condemn anyone who doesn't believe. We can share what we know to be true; the rest is up to God. Don't try and convince people of what they can't understand, accept that this is God's business and just be loving toward them.

Think of an electric fan, or vacuum cleaner or a car without an engine. If there is no source of power, these things are worthless. We too need a power source that will allow us to accept God's love and give us the desire to live a righteous  life. A 'righteous life', is pretty much impossible for any of us to attain on our own. God never expected us to. Jesus said,

"My grace (getting something we don't deserve) is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  II Corinthians 12: 9

In this same passage, Paul went on to write. . .

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12: 9 -10

None of us enjoy hardship and difficulties. But it does appear to be a part of the process of bringing us into a relationship with God. He doesn't want us to struggle, so let go of that burden you carry around, just give it up. Rather than feeling weak, you will feel empowered and discover a new freedom.

I remember the first time I had my car washed, so many years ago. I stayed in the car. It was hooked up to some device that pulled it through a tunnel-like building. It got all soaped up, rinsed off and I had a clean car. I was told not to touch the steering wheel. It was so hard for me to sit in the driver's seat behind the wheel and not touch it. I wanted to be in control and guide the car. Isn't this how most of us feel about our life? We want to be in control. Trouble is, we have no power. In fact, we don't really know what is 'right'; we can only guess and hope for the best. God knows.

There is such peace in 'letting go', not being snagged by the past or  obsessed with the future. God loves you and has a plan that will ultimately bring joy and peace to your life as you begin to trust Him and walk in faith. This is how we can achieve victory over a world that is often full of pain - yes, try new things, learn from mistakes, respect each other, laugh, hug, be grateful and show compassion. You may not think you have the best parents in the world, but they are the ones God has chosen for you, so out of love for Him, honor them and if they are wise parents, listen to them.

"This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118: 24

Thank you Lord for your wisdom and daily guidance. Help us to grow in faith trusting Your plan for our life.




 

                   

Friday, February 13, 2015

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

My cousin sent me an e-mail with precious, sometimes profound beyond their years, comments young children have made about 'marriage'. This is my favorite. . .

"No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with."   Kristen, age 10

The boys also had their say.  I like this one. . .

"Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck."
Ricky, age 10

It will soon be Valentine's Day when we are focused on love, things of the heart, spending money on flowers, candy and maybe a special dinner with our sweetheart. We've pretty much dropped the 'Saint', but this special day was named after a real person, Saint Valentine, who was a third century Christian martyr.  

A red heart has come to symbolize love, thus you see a lot of hearts this time of year. Christians will often make the statement that they've invited Jesus into their 'heart'. One day someone, not a believer, said to me, "That's absurd, the heart is a muscle!" Yes, the heart is a hollow muscular organ that contracts and acts as a pump to maintain circulation of the blood in our body. If we do not have blood circulating through our body, we have no life. The heart is our source of life, no heart beat, no life.

The word 'heart' is also used to describe the whole personality of a person, including emotional and intellectual functions; courage - 'He has a courageous heart' or a 'kind heart'. We use this word to fetter out what is really important - getting to the 'heart' of the matter, or the central part, as in 'the heart of town'.

The Bible mentions the human heart nearly 300 times and describes it as the spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires dwell.

"My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart. . .Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:20-21, 23

You will discover that the Scripture says so much about our hearts. We love and trust with our heart, our desires come from the heart, and if you are a believer, God's law has been written in your heart. The Lord doesn't look at our outward appearance - getting all dressed up and acting 'nice' doesn't fool Him at all; He looks at our heart. In fact David wrote in Psalms 44:21 that God knows "the secrets of our heart."

God has a heart too! God declared that David was a man after His own heart. He said in I Samuel 2:35 that he will raise up a faithful priest "who will do according to what is in my heart and mind". God can 'soften' a heart and reveal who He is, or He can 'harden' a heart as in the case of the Egyptian Pharaoh. We can trust that God's plan is good and His heart is pure;  but, ours is not. The Bible tells us that from within, out of men's hearts come evil thoughts - Mark 7:21. Romans 3:10 says "There is no one righteous, not even one. . ."

I think you can see the problem here; we're in big trouble and need to have our heart rejuvenated, healed and changed into the heart God wants us to have. This is an internal problem, it comes from inside of us. We all have that dreaded heart disease. Every one of us! God is faithful to His promises and He has told us if we come and ask Him to change our heart, He will. In fact He'll give us a new heart. This is a promise God has made -

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees. . ." Ezekiel 36:26-28

We can't do this ourselves, we need to trust God to do this for us. All we need to do is come to Him and ask that He change our heart. With this new heart will come new thoughts, new desire, new wisdom and the capacity to forgive and love others. We will still walk around in a body of flesh and our new heart may not always be visible to others, but God will see it. Flesh sins. We're stuck with this body and in this less-than-perfect world  until the Lord gives us a new body so that we can live with Him eternally with a purity this world can never know.

My heart hurts for those who feel  lonely, unloved, insecure, lost and without hope - especially on Valentines Day when there is so much talk of love. If you are one of these people, know this. . .God never turns away anyone who comes to Him and asks to be forgiven and accepted as His child. Just ask, He will hear you. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
John 3:16

Thank you Lord that you have come to fix our diseased hearts. Thank you for suffering for us so we can live eternally with a pure heart.






Monday, February 2, 2015

SUPER BOWL, SUPER GOD

 
 
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."  I Corinthians 9:24 - 25
 

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. Here in the USA we go a bit overboard with this annual wrap up of our football season. A huge amount of money is spent, way too much food and beverage is consumed, and someone wins and someone loses. Our American football is as revered as soccer in much of the world. We chose our teams and are united in cheering them to victory. But, we can't all win.
 
We have a son who started playing Junior All-American football at the age of seven. My husband would come home from work and ask him how practice went that day. Invariably he'd answer, "Good dad, I'm  most valuable player." We loved his enthusiasm and positive attitude. The day came when he was handed a trophy that read, "Most Valuable Player". His coach said that he was the best defensive player he'd ever coached; he played in the linebacker position. As much as we'd like for it to happen this way. . .life isn't a steady flow of victories. We often have trials and setbacks and sometimes we feel like we've fallen in a big hole and can't climb out.
 
I think we are drawn into the world of sports as a means of connecting with others and rooting for the same team. There is a camaraderie that makes us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, like a family. It eases loneliness for some and adds a purely fun element to life. For the most part, as long as people don't go crazy, this is a good thing.
 
Every team has a coach, a leader, someone who guides, teaches and encourages the athletes. Those of us who have been given the gift of faith have a coach too - God. I could fill a whole page of who He is to the believer, but let's concentrate on just a few of His attributes. . .
teacher, counselor, ever-present helper, and best of all, the One who is able to get us to the finish line. I can't imagine going through life without the Lord as my personal coach. It would be so very hard. At times, it's hard anyway because we can't see God's whole plan and must walk in faith believing the words He has spoken are true.
 
"Faith is a pierless bridge supporting what we see unto the scene that we do not."  Emily Dickinson - poet
 
We feel secure when someone 'has our back'. Faith in a loving God who will usher us into His eternal kingdom someday frees us up to share His blessings with others, and to experience joy in this life. I am thrilled every time I read what Jude wrote, verse 24. . .
 
"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. . ."
 
God has our back and when we come into His presence we will know that what we did here on earth was all a part of His plan. What we judge as good and bad. His purpose will stand. Jesus came to atone (pay) for our sin, all of it. He washed us clean and we are now 'faultless' in God's eyes, but often not each other's. Many will never read the Bible, but they'll read your life.
 
The Holy Spirit causes us to want to reflect Christ, and give Him the glory for anything we accomplish in this world. When we try and ignore that, we're usually miserable people. There is a large group of Christians who are involved in professional sports and they understand they will lay the 'crowns' they earn before the throne of God someday - Revelation 4:10
 
I looked with great pride at my son as we stood with his trophies, and my heart was beating to the rhythm of 'Love him Lord, help him, guide him, teach him to trust in You'. This one is for you Ger.
 
Lord, I thank you daily for all in life I cannot see so that I can walk in faith trusting You.
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

THE GOD WHO SEES ME


On a trip we took in 1999, we met this little boy in Israel. We were wandering around the desert and he and his sweet camel were on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. He let us know that if we took his picture, he expected some money. This smart little guy had already learned that it's a good thing to look after yourself.

My husband has had contact with camels while mapping some of the world; Afghanistan, Iran, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, etc. He's had camels spit at him while loading them up with mapping equipment and can't be convinced they can be "sweet". Israel is a wonderful place to visit, the hub of the three major religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We also spent time in Turkey and Greece on this trip - 'The Cradle of Civilization'. The history of the Bible comes alive as you explore these areas of the world.

There comes a time in life, for most of us, when we need a little help and reassurance. I'm so grateful to have a God who sees me, knows me, and can lead me out of trouble and give me a sense of peace.

"You are the God who sees me," . . ."I have now seen the One who sees me".  Genesis 16:13

These words were spoken by Hagar who was the mother of Ishmael. God had promised Abraham and his wife, Sarah, a son. Many years went by and there was no son. Not surprising because both were very old and past normal child bearing years. However they believed God's promise, up to a point. They decided it wasn't going to happen without some human intervention. Very quickly, faith was replaced by human effort. Sound familiar? How often do we 'roll up our sleeves' and attempt to help God?

With Sarah's consent, Abraham took her maidservant Hagar as his wife and she became pregnant. Hagar began to look at herself as the favored one and she "despised" her mistress, Sarah. Sarah fought back by mistreating her so Hagar ran away into the desert. This is where she encountered the Lord Himself, Jesus. He spoke to her, directing her to return home and submit to her mistress. The "Angel of the Lord", is the incarnate Jesus. Whenever God has appeared to man it's been in the person of Jesus Christ, even prior to His birth in Bethlehem. Out in the desert, Hagar recognized God immediately. He can meet us anywhere at anytime we need Him.

Hagar was given some information about her son. I would think this would have been disturbing however the Scripture doesn't record a response from Hagar.

"The Angel of the Lord also said to her (Hagar) I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count." And then He added,
                
            "You are now with child
            and you will have a son.
            You shall name him Ishmael,
             for the Lord has heard of your
             misery.

             He will be a wild donkey of a man;
             and his hand will be against
             everyone
             and everyone's hand against
             him,
             and he will live in hostility
             toward all his brothers.".    Genesis 16: 10 - 12

This is the beginning of the Arab nation and the prophesy is chilling as we witness daily the drama happening before our eyes. However I have great peace in knowing that God sees our struggles and I know a solution is ultimately in His hands. What can we do? Share our faith in a sovereign God, love instead of hate, and stand up for what we know to be true. I can't say this better than the Apostle Paul who wrote in the book of Romans,

"For your sake we face death all
         day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  
Romans 8: 36 -39

2015, a new year. I pray that we are able to hold on to that which is true and not be overcome with hopelessness. Jesus overcame the world, and if you believe in Him, you are "in Christ" and have also overcome the world.

PRAISE BE TO GOD.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

SO LONG, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN

 
                             
 
 
This is our family posing on Cardiff Beach near San Diego for a reunion photo in early November.  Our three sons, two daughters and son-in-law gathered to celebrate dad's birthday and being together at the same time in the same place. This doesn't happen often as we have two who live on the east coast, a distance of 3,000 miles away.
 
I wrote these words a few years ago for a Christmas card. . .
 
"The year floats away,
swallowed by persistent
tides that return to scatter
memories along the shore,
the sweet and the bitter sweet."
 
 Another year gone, so quickly it seems. We recently watched the movie, The Sound of Music and as I ruminate over the past year the words to this catchy tune come to mind - "So long, farewell". . .this year is now stored in my memory bank. I believe it's good to reflect on what has transpired during the year. We can't get this time back, we can't change anything, but we can rejoice in what was good, and praise God for what went 'wrong' in our opinion, knowing that His hand was always upon us.
 
To borrow a line from Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." For us, the best was having all of our children together under the same roof, if even for a short while. The worst, my husband had health problems and was in the hospital four times. There was a time when I thought he might be singing Christmas carols with the angels this year, rather than being here with us. And, of course like most families, we had everything in between the best and the worst. Life can be a little unruly at times, but as a child of God I know that He allows only what is ultimately best for us. He leads us down the right path even when it isn't one of our choosing. It's so important to know these truths. . .
 
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Honest scales and balances are from the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making." Proverbs 16:9, 11
 
We often worry if we've "done enough" for the Lord when in reality, God isn't counting on us for anything. . .
 
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. . .And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he gives all men life and breath and everything else."
Acts 17: 24, 25
 
This passage goes on to tell us that God has determined the times set for us and the exact places where we will live. Because the truth is that we live and move and have our being in him. Knowing this is what enables us to experience peace in all circumstances.
 
We know man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. . .I Samuel 16:7. When God looks into our heart do you know what He wants to see? He wants to see His image. He wants to see Christ in us, not our failing frail humanness.
 
"As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."  11 Samuel 16:7
 
As we bid 2014 farewell, my prayer for all my readers is to know God is your protector against what appears to be senseless and evil of this world. You will have a good New Year if you hold on to Biblical principles and desire to feel God's presence in your life daily. Trust Him, He's your heavenly Father; this is how to have a very Happy New Year.
 
 
Lord, thank you for watching over our family this past year. Help us to remember every day that you are a sovereign God who loves us, knows our name, and holds us in the palm of your hand.