Friday, December 30, 2016

Not Possible !

                                                   crocheted insert panel on back of knitted sweater

I love the relaxing benefit of knitting or crocheting.  My mom died early December, after months of being bedridden.  The stress of caring for her was telling on my physical health and I reached for something that would help me find a quiet, healing inner space.  My knitting needles and crochet hook were what I needed.

Today, I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my husband at our kitchen table, crocheting in my hand. My husband, watching me, commented, "Isn't there a crocheting machine? I know there is a knitting machine."
I was surprised to admit I really didn't know !  A quick internet search revealed the answer.
No, there is no crocheting machine.  There is a machine with multiple needles that is able to weave threads into a pattern resembling crochet, but the authentic look  of hand crochet worked with a crochet hook, is not possible to do by machine.
If the craft fails to entice artisans, it will become a dying skill.
Hand work takes patience and practiced skill over much time. But it is worth the end result and its value increases when the investment to produce it is recognized.

Not much in our world cannot be automated, to save time, money, work.  I am more and more valuing the things that cannot be done 'by machine'.

I thought of things the scripture speaks of  that cannot be gotten quickly or easily. Things that we must 'work' by hand heart to get.  Things of great value that are also in danger of being a lost 'art' in our world today.

Patience -- We all speak admiringly of someone who has 'the patience of Job' ... but we wish there was an easy fix to possess it.  James 1:3,4 reminds us that patience comes only with 'work', and 'testing' and 'time'.  While its worth is eternal, it requires our diligence to work it into our character.

Wisdom --  Ahhh ...  if only we had the wisdom of Solomon!  An old Amish saying goes .. "Too soon old, too late smart."   How true !  If only we could live our life backwards!
 Proverbs 8:11  points out to us that 'wisdom is worth more than rubies!"  Earthly riches easily ensnare the pursuit of man, but how many make wisdom their goal?  We are not born with wisdom - knowledge and experience and time teach us wisdom if we are willing to learn. James 3:17 describes the beauty of  godly wisdom -"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."  

Faith/Trust -- In our cynical world, it is not easy to trust. Deception and betrayal abound. Yet, we are told in Hebrews 111:6  that without faith "it is impossible to please God".  All that we do in service for God,  all that we may give of our time, resources and money - none of it matters if we do not first have faith!  What does it mean to have faith?  It means that we so know the character of God that we trust Him --  trust His word, His promises.  We trust Him so much we willingly walk in obedience to the things He asks of us, lays out for us in His word.   Does trust come easily ?  No... it means getting close enough to someone to know them, to observe them, know how they think and act.
That takes time and commitment and perseverance.  

Relationships - God is love and He commands us to love.  It is impossible to love without having relationships.  God called us into a family of brothers and sisters and friends - a people that are to be known for their love for each other. Jesus said in John 15:12,  "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."   We live in a fast paced world where technology over-rides face-to-face conversation.  We are more and more isolated in a world full of people. Why? Because to build relationships means vulnerability, and self-lessness.  It takes time and caring, a forgiving attitude  and commitment.

The year 2016 has only hours left before it is slips into the 'past'  ... and a new year will begin.
Let us resolve that in the new year we will focus our diligence on the things that cannot be easily obtained but whose worth is eternal.  Let us pursue those things that are important according to how God defines worth and value.  For in these things we will find the fulfillment - the value of life -  that we all seek.

I wish all of you, my readers, a very blessed 2017 - may the Lord Himself be your 'Gift' that keeps on giving all year through.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Embrace the Pace

This summer I spend a few days in Shipshewana, Indiana, which is Amish country. The group I was with stopped for  lunch one day  in a local restaurant and we chatted with the friendly waitress.  We commented on how an unusual an experience it was for us to share the road with the Amish horse and buggies.
The waitress laughed and said... "We have a saying ...'Embrace the Pace' ".

It was a catchy phrase and echoed in my mind.  Since then it has taken on very personal meaning for me. When life takes a sudden unexpected turn,  you suddenly find your life-path blocked and you can no longer travel at your usual speed. Your focus has narrowed to the one thing that has 'slowed you down'.
Our initial reaction when we are suddenly encountered by a road block - be it on the street or in life - is to groan with impatience at the inconvenience and having to deal with the stress of  necessary adjustments in our plans. Road blocks in life come to all of us at one time or another.

I have neglected my blog because in September my mom had a serious stroke and has been in hospice.  Caring for her has demanded my daily focus and  time, putting most everything else 'on hold'.
When we were told that our mother would not recover, we willingly took on the responsibility of her care 24/7.  At first we were given the diagnosis that she did not have long to live, but the reality is that her condition plateaued and, though needing full care, is still with us after two months.  Our own lives have been indefinitely  'put on hold' to make her our first and only priority.

That was my initial perspective - my own life 'put on hold' and the question was, how long could I put it on hold before I could of necessity pick it up again?
But then, I began to feel convicted that this was not how I should be looking at the change in my life  - expecting and waiting for life to be 'normal' again so I could be in control of  my own 'pace'.

"Embrace the Pace" took on deep spiritual application. I realized that if I truly believed that God was in control of my life, this too was something He had allowed and something that I needed to accept - yes, even embrace - in the same way I would willingly accept anything else from His hand.
Just as the motorists have to accommodate and slow down for the horses and buggies who share the road, so to I had to slow down and 'embrace the pace' set before me.   The things that were important in my life were overshadowed by something more important.  For this time in my life, I am as called to serve as in any other time,that I would more gladly choose.

In Shipshewana, I was privileged  to have a ride in an Amish man's horse and buggy. I so enjoyed the experience - the hypnotic clip/clop of the horse's hooves on the pavement was stress-releasing and the unhurried pace allowed me to notice things the speeding motorists missed.
So also in life - embracing the pace -  reveals and teaches us things we would otherwise  never notice in the fast paced lanes of  'normal' life.

I do not think  I am unique in struggling with impatience - and then feeling guilt for being impatient - for a difficult time to be over.  But  II Thess. 3:5 gives me the directive God leads me to --  Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
First, knowing my heart is secure in the love of God and then, in that love allow the 'patience of Christ' to rule my emotions, is key to finding the peace that passes understanding. The peace that does not deny the difficult situation or circumstances or emotional pain,  but calms the heart in the midst of it.

And then I need to remind myself  that it is never in my own strength that I do the things before me ... but that the Lord's words to Paul are directed to me as well...  "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."  II Cor. 12:9

God makes no mistakes and when I am called to Embrace the Pace , I know that God walks it with me.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Our God Cares

Flying is not on my 'Fear' list, but for many people it is. 
My friend's daughter is one of those people, and flying is a time of high stress and anxiety for her. 
She was recently booked on a flight for a vacation destination with her husband. 
My friend called me and asked me to pray for her daughter, 
In my prayer I asked that God show them in some visible way that He was in control 
and that He would melt her anxiety. 

The young couple finally boarded their plane, the wife barely holding it together. 
The plane's engines roared to life and the plane taxied down the run away, gaining speed for take off. 
When it reached the end on the runway, the plane slowed 
and the pilot's voice sounded over the intercom. 
"We will not be taking off.  Our engine just failed. We will attempt to repair the engine. 
You may remain on the plane, but it will be about a seven hour wait." 
Now completely frantic, the wife decided no way was she going to fly on this plane. 
They needed to find another flight.  
There was only one, leaving in about five hours.  
She managed to book on that flight, securing the last two seats on the plane. 
Finally, they boarded, their seats being among the least desirable, in the back of the plane. 
They safely took off and had just unbuckled their seat belts, 
when a stewardess stopped in the aisle beside them. 
Leaning toward them she asked, 
"We happen to have two vacant seats in 1st class.  Would you like to move up?" 
Not only did God stop the defective plane before it took off 
but upgraded their seats to the luxury of 1st class. 
Was God's care 'visible' ??
Yes, indeed.

"Casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you."
I Peter 5:7

Friday, August 12, 2016

Of Mice and Men and Science


Did you see this  article in the news some time ago ?

I always love when science 'catches up' with the bible. After multiples tries and many discarded, amended, adjusted attempts at understanding  the world we live in and defining how things work, science does sometimes confirm the truth.

In Gen. 9:2 God says this .. "and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air , on all that move on the earth.... "   

I used to wonder how this could be since God originally created animals to be Adam's 'friends', yet something changed when God told Noah after the flood that, from then on, animals would fear man So how is it that today animals still  fear man, unless with patient retraining they are 'tamed'?
What happened that permanently changed the animals' instinctive trust of man to an instinctive fear of man?

Seems science has found the answer.

Using foot shocks lab mice were trained to fear a fragrance resembling orange blossoms.  To the surprise of the scientists somehow there was a transfer of information regarding the 'danger' of this fragrance into the sperm of the trained mice.
This ensured that the 'fear'  response to that particular scent  was passed on to their young.   The other surprising result was that the successive generations had an even greater fear response to the 'smell' and needed a smaller amount of fragrance to trigger the response.

Interesting to note, isn't it, that  next time a wild animal flees from you in fear you can know that it is still displaying something learned by its ancestors that lived in Noah's time. It  is literally the 'smell' of man that triggers the fear of man in animals, just as the mice in the quoted experiment were trained by a 'smell'.

God's word is true, and it is always true, no matter how long it takes science to figure something out!!

I was wondering ....
God says in Duet. 5:9 that the iniquity of the fathers is passed down to the children, to the third and fourth generations.  BUT those who love God and keep His commandments experience God's mercy.
We have indication in our language usage  that people are aware of this 'passing down' - from parent to child - of characteristics , behavior patterns, addictions etc.
Familiar phrases are .. "Like father, like son..."  or "he's a chip off the old block" , or "that's a family trait".

From the initial brainstorming work of two scientists, Moshe Szyf, a moecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal, and Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist,  there spawned a whole new field, behavioral epigenetics.   This study has shown that our DNA is permanently changed by what we experience in our childhoods - negative or positive -  be it abuse or deprivation or loving affirmation.  

While God meant it for our good -- that our DNA would carry in it the pattern of the good example our parents modeled before us, so that it would be easier for us to 'do and live right' -- it also works against us if less than a good example is lived out by our childhood caregivers. Then our DNA is changed to follow a negative pattern, and we follow our parents'  tendency toward depression, or violence or anxiety. 
But isn't it reassuring, and comforting to know that all negative patterns that affected us in our growing up years  can be overturned by God's grace? 
 If we look to Him as our Savior, we are given a new start, we are a new creation, and are given a new example to follow.   Jesus  showed us the way,  He expressed God's love toward us, and when we come to Him in our brokenness,  He heals our hearts minds and spirits.
He gives us a new identity and  writes HIS DNA on our hearts.  

"I will give you a new name..."
 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
 I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Sunday Moth

My husband and I were driving to church on Sunday, a beautiful blue-sky kind of day.
Suddenly, I caught movement in my left eye's  peripheral vision,  and before I could think to see what it was, something landed with a small thump on my glasses, and all I could see was a big smudge. Yes, it was a moth and my husband happened to have his camera beside him to quickly snap a photo. I'm sorry the photo is blurred but it does prove the event!

Knowing me well,  my husband voiced my thoughts ... "You'll have to write a post about this."
I smiled and replied, "I'm already thinking."
I had my 'application lesson' in mind before we drove onto the church parking lot.

Moths in the bible are always spoken of as something that is destructive, destroying what is good or valued.
 Some  passage references  are ...
Job 4:19 - "How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before a moth?"
Matt. 6:19 - "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy..."
James 5:2 - "your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten."

But my inspiration  passage is found in Isaiah 51:7,8

"Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, 
you people in whose heart is my law,
Do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their revilings, 
for the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool, 
but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation."

In this passage the Lord is encouraging His people and contrasting them to the people who would reproach and revile them. 
It is the 'moth' that symbolizes the destruction coming upon those who reject the Lord and despise His law and His people.  

In this passage there is something the Lord wants us to know. 
 When the Lord says, "Listen to Me!", do we listen? or do we have selective hearing ....  

What does He want us to know that is important enough that He snaps us to attention -
"Listen to me!".
If you are a mother you understand perfectly how you need to make sure your child is focused and attentive if you  want him to remember what you are about to say.   

When the moth landed on my glasses, I was very happy I was wearing glasses that prevented the moth from flying into my eye.  
So also in the Isaiah passage the Lord is saying that we have protection from the 'moths' that would threaten us with intended harm.  

What is this protection over us?   Righteousness.

Our righteousness is two-fold. 
First it is the righteousness of Christ, a gift that covers us when we accept Him as our Savior.
Secondly, we must walk in that righteousness by doing the things that please the Lord, obeying the things He has commanded us to do. It is not enough to just be hearers of the Word , we must also be doers.  His laws are not a list of 'dos and don'ts' to make our days difficult , but rather God in His wisdom wrote a manual that instructs us on how we should live to be safe and happy and holy - a delight to our heavenly Father in the same way an obedient child is a delight to his parents. 

I am not aware of my glasses as I go through my day, but it is through them that I view everything around me.
In the same way,  we are to view the world around us through the 'glasses' of our righteousness.
If we "know righteousness and have God's law in our hearts" we will see clearly with wisdom and discernment. The 'moths' of this world will not be able to get past the protection that keeps us in peace, thankfulness and joy.

If we do not have our 'glasses' of righteousness on, our vision is blurred - we do not see clearly and we are vulnerable to all the enemy would bring against us. We are easily fooled by his lies, his deception, his temptations - all of which sound so good and reasonable to an 'unprotected' mind.

We know bad things happen even to good people, and pain or difficulties can cause a distracting 'smudge' to hinder our vision, but we can be assured of the faithfulness of God's promise  that as long as we 'wear' our righteousness the 'moths' of destruction will not be able to hurt us. They may touch our physical body, but not our soul or our spirit.

When we find ourselves in trouble, maybe the first question we need to ask ourselves is ... Were we protected by  'righteousness' to keep the 'moths' from harming us, or did we think we could get away with compromising godly righteousness and exchanging it for the counterfeit of the world's wisdom, so-called?

"My righteousness will be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation."
Herein we are safe, both in this earthly life and the eternal life to come!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why Don't You Sing?

I enjoy watching the hummingbirds that come to drink of my flowers and my feeders on the patio. I hung the feeders for the pleasure of watching the beautiful birds they attract, but that I should learn life-lessons from them was unexpected.

I sat watching them the other day, and noted one bird tucking himself out of sight  in a corner, under the eaves,  obviously on guard watching for the other hummingbirds coming to drink at HIS feeding stations, There are more than one feeder,  but hummingbirds aren't into sharing.  I see them diving at one another and chasing each other away with their built-in swords pointing!

The only time I see any hummingbirds together is when a mother is teaching her young how and where to find food.  The rest of the time the only social interaction involves angerly chasing each other away from the feeders.
 Watching them I wondered if they feel emotions the way we do ... judging from their body language I have to conclude that they do.
It made me feel sad that such delicate, beautiful birds spend so much time fostering angry, greedy or other negative emotions against each other.

Then it occurred to me that hummingbirds don't sing - they have no song , just an angry snapping of their beaks when they want to warn someone that they better get out of their space!

I thought about the birds whose melodies wake me every morning, and I realized that every one of the little songsters are social birds that love one another and happily share food sources. The Western Tanagers, the Black-headed Chick-e-dees, the Juncos,, the Black-headed Grosbeaks, the warblers  all love one another and their joyful chorus bursts forth at the first flicker of morning light.  Every day they tirelessly sing the praise that God put into their little hearts.

Is 'unity' needful before we can have 'harmony' ?
Do angry feelings squelch the song in our heart?
Do you feel like singing when you are filled with angry feelings against someone - be they justified or not?   I know I don't.
It is a sobering thought  --  I don't want to be like the hummingbird.  I want God to hear my joyful praise every day - because I can't NOT express in song the joy He has put into my heart - the joy that overrules anger and hatred and greed.  Joy that is stirred into song, "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts"~Rom. 5:5

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; 
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Where are you, God?

Where is God ?
When the darkness ‘round me closes in,
When fear and anxiety drum my heart’s din,
When all goodness is squeezed from my life,
When pain and suffering slash like a knife,
I fall,
I fail,
I call out in vain….
My tears drop like the rain…
Oh God, were can you be?
The answer is soft,
“I’m too close to see!”
                         julie klassen,2016

I was thinking about how  far away God seems at the darkest times in our life. When we need Him the most, we grope in vain to find Him. 
Through my mind paraded bible heroes of  faith, and I realized how they too went through 'dark' times when God seemed to be far away.  Yet, in hindsight,  we know their stories from God's perspective  and can easily see that God was the closest to them in the worst times. He was working out what was needful for His highest purpose in their lives. 

I thought of Joseph, suffering in prison for a crime he did not commit - then, when hope finally came, it was dashed for two more long years.  He was forgotten - no family, no friends - where was God?  He was preparing Joseph for the 'moment' when he would step into the role of second-to-Pharaoh - ruler in the land. Through Joseph, God would save the people.  The telling of his story has captured the imagination of thousands of generations!    

I thought of Elijah, who stood alone against a wicked king and his even more evil queen who wrathfully threatened his life.  Elijah fled in fear ... where was God?  God was so close He was in the whisper. 

I thought of Naomi, who fled with her family to a foreign land, to escape the famine and then lost her husband as well as her two sons.  She returned home , empty and feeling forsaken by God, with a heathen daughter-in-law who insisted on going with her. Had He forsaken her?  Oh no, God was too close to see - He was walking alongside putting the details in place for Naomi to be blessed through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, to be the grandmother of King David and in the genealogy of Jesus. 

I thought of David whose psalms express his heart's cries when he felt abandoned, unable to find God.  Yet, we know, God was close ... looking upon David as a 'man after His own heart' - a king who pre-figured the coming King of kings, Jesus! 

I thought of Job, who cried out for God and wished for death, unable to bear the darkness of his lonely pain and suffering.  Where was God? Close ... very close.. about to speak to Job in audible voice. God knew this short time of testing in Job's life would be written about and be God-glorifying for millennia to come.

I thought of Esther, who faced a life and death situation - in her words, "If I perish, I perish."   Where was God?   Hovering very close, about to use Esther "for that moment of purpose" where she would save her people. 

I thought of Abraham, climbing the mountain with his beloved son, ready to sacrifice him according to God's command.   Where was God?  Oh, so very close - about to provide in  prophetic picture the supreme sacrifice He would make in the death of His own Son. 

I thought of Jesus Himself , at the moment of His full humanity, when He cried out .. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?"    Where was God?   Oh...   so very close !  His love, through His Son, reaching out to save the whole world. 

God recorded these stories of bible characters for us, so that we can be encouraged and strengthened - so that we can be inspired to deepen our faith, having the assurance that even as God did not abandon them, neither will He abandon us in our time of need but will draw  near to us...  so near that He is too close for us to see. 

Duet. 31:6 "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear, nor be afraid of them, for the Lord you God, He is the One, who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."

Heb. 13:5b,6 "... For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you', so we may boldly say, ' The Lord is my helper, I will not fear, what can man do to me?' "

Malachi 3:6 .. "For I am the Lord, I do not change!" 

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Righteous Judge

There is a story in the news concerning a California court case in which, Judge Aaron Persky, handed down a very light sentence, outside of even the minimum sentence guidelines.  The accused rapist was given a mere six months instead of an expected sentence of four years.  The outcry was swift and angry calling for the recall of a judge that ruled unjustly with a bias of leniency for crimes against women.
Perhaps the judge himself was guilty of a promiscuous youth, perhaps he had no sisters or daughters, perhaps he grew up without a mother.  I tried to find some personal information about the man Aaron Persky but could not find anything. I did find an article written by someone  who also came up google-empty on Aaron Persky, a father of ten daughters who asked the question, "Judge Persky, do you have any daughters?"

We feel a deep sense of injustice when the innocent are not protected nor  the guilty punished.
We sit in the courtroom and are quick to judge those who pass sentence without any empathy or identification with the victim or pass a sentence that does not reflect the seriousness of the crime committed.

I was reading a passage in John 5 yesterday and verse 22 jumped out at me.
"For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son."
While the verse was a familiar one to me - it suddenly took on a deepened clarity of insight.

Why does the Father judge no one,  but give all judgement to Jesus?

We know that God is righteous and all He does is in perfect righteousness.

"The Lord is righteous in all His ways...." Ps. 145:17
"But the Lord shall endure forever. He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness." Ps. 8:7,8

God prepared His judgment throne, and then called Jesus to preside over the courtroom - because God the Father's righteousness could not do otherwise.

Jesus, because He walked in our flesh, because He identified with our humanity and our weaknesses, because He Himself experienced what we experience -  is a Judge that cannot be faulted.  No one standing before Jesus and receiving his sentence OR his reward will be able to find one word of rebuttal.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." II Cor. 5:10

As believers, what a comfort it is to know that the One before we shall stand knows and understands us intimately and when His eyes meet ours, they will be full of love!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Dark Shadow

                                                                                   photo by Luke Goodway

In a pleasant clearing, cushioned with a carpet of soft grass and  bathed in sunshine, sat a group of friends around a table.  Leaning toward one another, they  were focused intently on the conversation that completely absorbed their attention.
They were unaware of the Dark Shadow that lurked at the edge of the wastelands just beyond the grassy knoll on which they sat.  He seemed very interested in the group and was straining to hear what they were talking about.

One person, who seemed to be the leader, said, "Last month when we were together we spoke about how we needed to simplify our lives for the purpose of not giving the enemy room to distract us or take us away from our whole-hearted commitment to our Lord. So, what have you done?"

One person said, "We sold our large home and downsized. Now the financial pressures are so much less and my wife and I are more relaxed and free to help others."
Another said," I sold my motorcycle."   A gasp went up from one or two of the others around the table and one exclaimed,"Your motorcycle?  You love your motorcycle, I thought nothing would ever separate you from it !"
But with a smile he replied,"Yes, you are right. I did love my motorcycle, I loved it too much.  It was too tempting to go on road trips with my motorcycle friends, and I neglected my family.  Now, I  enjoy doing things we can all do together and I have noticed how much my boys' behavior has changed! And my wife is happier, I'm home to do those honey-do things and she no longer worries when I am out racing my motorcycle."
Another said, "I cut up my credit card .. life is so much easier living by the rule, 'If I don't have the cash, I can't afford it'. "
Another said, "I cancelled my club membership ... now I have time to go to the neighborhood bible study with my wife."
The leader smiled, "Very good !"

The Dark Shadow had crept closer to the group around the table, but when he, in anger, reached out to strike one of the people, he scowled and pulled back his arm as though he had hit a solid wall.  One person, glanced up and asked the others, "Did you feel something?"   They looked around, but saw nothing to alarm them. They returned to their conversation.
The leader continued ... "You have done well, in 'stopping the waters' so the enemy will not find ammunition to use against you.  But we must do more."
Eagerly, the group pressed forward ..."And what is that?"
The leader explained,"We must be diligent in our bible study, in prayer, in times of devotional quiet listening for what the Lord would say to us. Also, we must not neglect our meeting together, to strengthen, encourage one another and point one another to that 'tower' to which we can flee and find refuge.  If we stand together we need not fear the darkness nor the enemy that rules it. We stand in the Power of our Lord, and in His Strength we put our trust!  He has given us armor to wear so that we are at all times protected! We need to keep that armor polished and in good repair!"

Thoughtful heads nodded around the table, as they considered the wise words spoken.

The Dark Shadow was pacing, obviously angered, his fists clenched yet he had given up trying to strike them.  Another way - there must be another way !

If the group had been aware of the Dark Shadow, they would have been relieved to see him glide back into the wastelands surrounding them.   But the Dark Shadow was not giving up.

Not long after, an attractive young man approached the table and without greeting them said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. Do you realize how foolish it is to put your trust in something/someone who can't help you, someone you can't even see?   Do you not know how powerful the Dark Shadow is and have you not heard how many have been destroyed  by his hand? "
The young man suddenly changed before them, and with his disguise stripped from him, they recognized him as the Dark Shadow himself.  While their hearts began to pound, and their eyes grew large, they did not waver.  "Ignore him!"  they said to one another.

Furious, the Dark Shadow called in his demons to bring influence to bear in high places, and letters were drafted - letters of intent: threats of a job loss, a difficult medical diagnosis, a called in loan, a false accusation, a relational crisis.
But all these did not cause anyone around the table to waver.

The rage of the Dark Shadow was escalating and he called in his armies to cause the table-group bodily harm.
The group rose from the table, their meeting ended, and they began to walk along the path that led to their individual homes.
The escalating roar of a motor alerted them, and even as they looked left and right to see where the vehicle was coming from,  they were suddenly frozen by fear as they saw a large military -type vehicle coming straight for them!
The leader called out for divine help!
And Divine Intervention was immediately sent .. The hand of an angel turned the vehicle just before it would have struck the group, and it lost control, crashing into a tree and tumbling over the edge of a cliff.  All was silent.
A cheer went up from the group, with words of thanksgiving to the Lord, in whom they trusted - to whom they belonged.
They went forth to be a witness wherever they went in their daily lives, causing the name of their Lord to be exalted and praised.

Hopefully, the above story sounded familiar to you, dear reader, because it is my paraphrase of II Chronicles. 32:1-23 in a more modern setting. While I took literary license, I believe that the Old Testament story is a picture for us today.  Satan cannot harm a believer ... we have a wall around us.  All he can do is deceive us,
 cause us to fear,
 or be confused.
 He is only a Dark Shadow.   If we have strengthened ourselves spiritually, we will recognize him and not be moved by 'his devices'. We will stand strong and unmovable in the Light of our Lord!

Just to show you how applicable this Old Testament story is to the life of a believer, look at the meaning of the names in the story.

King Hezekiah - means Yahweh Strengthens --  Jesus is our King and He strengthens His followers to be strong IN Him !

Lachish - where Hezekiah and his people were gathered.   Lachish means, impregnable or obstinate - What a safe place we have in the kingdom of God.  It is 'impregnable' by the enemy, and we can stand obstinate in not giving in to his shouts or threats.

The Milo -  was a tower or fortress in the city of David.  This reminds me of the verse in Prov. 18:10 that says, "The name of the Lord is a high tower, the righteous run to it and are safe!"  How safe we are when we abide in His Presence!

Sennacherib - means Sin , or Sin-god,  or Sin sends many brothers -- all descriptive of Satan, the god of this world, the god of sin, and the one who pulls others into his darkness.

Hezekiah and his people were of the tribe of Judah. Judah means 'praise' and are we not all called to live in praise and thanksgiving to the One to whom belongs all praise?

Be encouraged, my fellow-believers !  We need not fear the dark forces, nor the prince of darkness .. he is but a Shadow ...  Our Lord had/has victory over him !

"....The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil !" I John 3:8

And because Jesus had victory, we also have victory IN Him !

".....  I have written unto you young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." I John 3:8

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Better to Chew With !

Lips, Pink, Smiley, Mouth, Teeth, Human

Evolution is really an amazing process, and because it has such incredible wisdom I will here refer to it as IT.  I recently had occasion to be confronted with evidence of IT's intelligence, and was duly impressed!
At some point, in the Evolution of man,  IT decided that if human beings were to prolong life they would have to eat and since most food required chewing, IT designed teeth.  Amazing.  But IT soon discovered there was a dilemma.  Teeth large enough to fit an adult's mouth were too big to fit into a child's mouth, so IT quickly came up with a solution. Baby teeth until the mouth grew enough to accommodate the larger teeth for meat-chewing adults.  Good theory .. but how to get rid of the baby teeth to make room for the adult teeth... (never mind that IT had already figured out how to put the adult teeth in position up above the baby teeth).  Not a problem for the wise IT, so full of wisdom and creative ability.  A perfect solution was at IT's fingertips.  At just the right stage of development, the roots of the baby teeth would dissolve,  causing the tooth to become loose until only the edges of the gum held it in place until it easily fell out when the child bit on something hard or wiggled it completely loose. Now with the baby tooth gone, IT simply flipped the switch that called for the permanent adult tooth to drop down into position.
What a wonderful plan IT came up with !

Of course I am being facetious ... evolution, even as a theory, has no leg to stand on. IT is only a figment of man's imagination.
 Only an all-wise, all-powerful God could design a human body so "fearfully and wonderfully made".

I experienced something this week  - that triggered the thoughts of this post.

During a teeth cleaning, my hygienist discovered a potential problem below the gum line of a back molar.  She took an x-ray, I had a consultation with my dentist and he said he wouldn't know until he looked at it but he suspected that, rather than normal decay,  it could be a Root Reabsorbtion problem  -- meaning that  my body decided that  the tooth did not belong to me and  would therefore simply command my cells to 'dissolve' or reabsorb the root leaving the tooth vulnerable - chances of saving it being slight.  I have a wonderful dentist  and he surgically accessed the root, scraped out the destructive cells and packed the remaining root with a compound that hopefully will stop the absorption and allow the body to regain some root growth.

I had never heard of Root Absorption and sat down with Google to see what I could find. I learned, to my surprise, that while Root Absorption is very rare in adult teeth,  it is the process by which baby teeth make room for the adult teeth to come in. I found it strange that I had never heard this before!

But, it gave me pause to stand in awe of God's wisdom in how He created our bodies - it seems there is no end to the intricate details that God put in place to allow us to live and function in our daily lives.
How much we simply take for granted!

Again... I wrote this post to simply say ...

"I am in awe, O Lord, of your wisdom - of your infinite love and care in the details of your creation - from the beautiful flower in my garden to the workings of my body.  Thank you, Lord ! Thank you, that you did not leave this world to 'evolve' out of chaos, but your hand fashioned every bit of it. Your omniscient mind left nothing to chance, but everything designed in perfection.
You are the God I worship,
the God to whom I lift my praise,
the God I love, the God in whom I trust!"

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When God Answers Gimme-Prayers

                                           Deer gazing - longingly?-  in neighbor's window

We live in a 'demanding' society where energy is often focused on self serving rights and  entitlement. - putting personal wants/needs before the good of others.
What is sad is that this attitude - perhaps more than we realize - has crept into the mind-set of Christians.  And doubly sad is that it is not only the world that has influenced this attitude but some high profile bible teachers have taught that it is God's will for us to demand the things that we want and to tell Him how we want our prayers to be answered.
But is this entirely new?  No, as we search the scriptures we see that there has always been the human tendency to tell God what we need and why and how He should fulfill our requests demands.

I have been hearing more and more often how the bible is outdated in its teachings and no longer applies in our modern times.  Is it possible that we have 'outgrown' the ancient teachings of God ? Hardly - I believe they were never more needed or relevant.

The scripture has been given us for our protection and knowing God's will. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, ~ II Tim. 3:16  And according to Rom. 15:4, the old testament stories are not just recorded history but were specifically chosen because they picture for us the lessons we need to learn.
The question I want to look at is not - "Should we pray God-Gimme prayers?" but rather, "Do we want God to answer God-Gimme prayers?"

The first bible example we have of a 'gimme-prayer' is in the story of Lot.  It is easy to miss the implications of this detail in light of  the story's more distracting elements.
God told Lot to flee for safety to the mountains.  Note God's words .."Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed."~ Gen. 19:17.   But look at Lot's response... "I can't escape to the mountains because some evil might overtake me and I die..  Let me go to Zoar and I will live!"~vs.20
God answers Lot's gimme-prayer, but what do we see unfold?   Though Lot's demand was granted, he did not experience what he sought - safety. Reaching the city, Zoar, he finds he is too afraid to dwell there.  God had told him where he would be safe ...  Lot's 'gimme' answer filled him with fear.

Lesson number 1 about 'gimme-prayers' -- If God grants them we may end up with the very thing we feared most , the very thing God's way would have spared us from - Fear, not peace, is woven into the results of granted 'gimme-prayers'.
We have another story from the life of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah, as the king of Israel, had been a good king, ruling in righteousness and experiencing the favor, protection and even miraculous intervention of God on his behalf. But then came the day he became very ill and God sent the prophet Amos to him with the message... "Thus says the Lord, set your house in order, for you shall die and not live."~II Kings 20:1.   This message did not find a 'thy will be done' response in Hezekiah's heart.  Hezekiah's bitter response was,"All my life I have tried to please and serve you, and this is the thanks I get?"  
God answers the 'gimme-prayer' of Hezekiah,  and grants him fifteen more years.
One probable reason for Hezekiah's bitter response is that he had no son at the time God said it was his time to die. We know how important it was for kings to have sons so that they would have an heir to the throne.
What played out as the result of God granting Hezekiah his 'gimme-prayer' ?
Two things happened in these fifteen years that changed history.
The first was that Hezekiah trusted the enemy and showed them all the treasures in his house. This 'befriending' of the enemy led to Hezekiah's descendants taken captive into Babylon and made eunuchs.
The second thing was that the son born to Hezekiah in those 'extra'  fifteen years was named Manasseh, who became one of the most wicked kings of Israel.  In fact, because of Manasseh the people of Israel became so wicked that God turned his back on them, saying, "So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies." ~II Kings 21:14.

Lesson number 2 about 'gimme-prayers'  --  Even though, our way may seem to be far better than God's way, the result of our getting our way may have have far reaching effects that we could never have fore-seen or guessed.  Had we known what God knew in His sovereign knowledge we would never have demanded our gimme-prayer request.
Jesus in teaching us about 'gimme-prayers' told the parable of the prodigal son - a story we are all very familiar with.
It is the story of a younger son, who lived in the shadow of an older brother.  A brother who could do no wrong, who stood to inherit the family farm, who lorded his superiority over his younger brother  and shamed him in his youthful pursuits of enjoying life.
 It rankled the  boy's soul, that he should work for his older brother knowing it would be the older brother who would be the one to gain from his labor.  It was hardly fair.  And did his father understand how he felt?  No, it was always the older brother's example that was held up to him.
Until the night he resolved to take things into this own hands, and decide the course of his own life. He would demand what was coming to him - his inheritance.  Why shouldn't he have it ?   His brother could take care of the things were would be his one day anyway!
And so he demanded his father give him what was rightfully his - what difference if he received it now rather than after his father's death.  His father quietly agreed to the gimme-demands of his son and made the sacrifice to liquidate enough of his resources to give him his inheritance portion.
We know the story.   With money in hand to buy him happiness, he hurried from home to indulge his every want and desire.   Who said money couldn't buy happiness?   It did !!  -- but only for a time; there was not enough to sustain his chosen life style indefinitely.
Left destitute and alone, wallowing in misery and filth -  the son came to his senses, recognizing at last where the real foundation of health and joy was in the home of his father,  where he lived under his  father's provision and protecting love.
Did his father receive his now penny-less son back?   Yes, oh yes !  He had been watching and waiting for him to come home - quick to forgive him and embrace him in his waiting arms.

Lesson number 3 about 'gimme-prayers' - Oh yes .. the world's glittering treasures entice and invite and promise us everything we could desire and more.  We feel that 'if only' this or that was given to us, our life would be complete and we would be happy.   And yet, most often, the things we believe will guarantee our happiness are the very things that rob us of it and leave us wretched and empty and poor.  Along with Jesus' parable to teach us this truth, we can also look at the example of the Israelites who demanded meat, and lost their lives in the resulting plague.  We can also look at the example of when they demanded a king, and brought upon themselves taxes,  conscription of their sons into the army, even seeing their children offered in fire sacrifices to strange gods.  Wicked kings turned them away from the God that loved them.

Conclusion  --   Do I ask God for what I think I want, for what I believe is needful in the lives of my loved ones?  Yes, God invites us to come and share our hearts, thoughts and desires with Him, but I never leave off the 'fine print'  - "Lord, I give you veto power over my desires that are not Your desires.  I pray that you do, not according to my will, but Yours ... because I know that Your will is perfect, and your ways righteous and just and loving." 

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Don't Look Back!!!"

Pillar of salt, on Jordanian side of Dead Sea, known as Lot’s Wife (©

The day began as any other for Mrs. Lot as she went about her household chores, her  two daughters working alongside her. How incredulous it would have sounded to them if someone had told them the day's end would unfold in such a 'news-worthy' way that thousands of years later people would still be talking about them.

Mrs. Lot''s activity was interrupted by her husband bringing two guests into the house. A quick glance informed her these men were non-residents of Sodom. She had never seen them before - and reading Lot's mannerisms, she concluded that these were not ordinary men.
Lot and his wife graciously entertained and fed their 'special' guests, then showed them to the guest room for the night.
But the expected restful night was not to be!

A pounding on the door demanded the unthinkable in debauchery.  Lot was demanded to surrender his guests to the crazed mob outside.
To Mrs. Lot's horror, Lot stepped outside the door and raising his voice, impulsively offered the wicked men his own daughters instead.  What was he thinking??  To Mrs. Lot's immense relief, the guests pulled Lot back into the house and then ...  to her amazement ... struck the men outside with blindness.  Really?  Who ARE these men?

Trembling with shock and fear, she heard the message the guests came to bring Lot, "Take your family and flee! God is going to destroy your city."
Flee?  Flee where?  Their city, destroyed?  But wait ! Their future sons-in-law were  in the city. Given permission,  Lot rushed out to warn them and bring them back with him,  but he returned with the disappointing news that the young men refused to believe that their lives were in danger and had laughed in his face.  Mrs. Lot, eyes wide with dismay and disbelief, glanced from her husband to her weeping daughters, then  back to the two guests who calmly, but emphatically, repeated their instructions to Lot, "Take your family and flee!"

When they continued to hesitate, their minds grappling with the enormity of what was being asked of them, the two men grabbed their hands and led them outside the city gates, with one more instruction .. "Flee, and do not look back!"
Finally recognizing their very lives were in danger - they ran!
Almost immediately, explosions and a frightening cacophony of sound they had never heard before rose up in waves  behind them.  They ran faster, driven by fear.
 The command echoed in Mrs. Lot's mind ...but ... she questioned, why not?
She lagged behind, watching the gap between her and her husband and daughters widen.
What could it hurt to take a quick glance behind her ... just once ... no one would even know.
What was so wrong in looking back to see what was happening to the city that had for so long been her home - where her memories lay and all the things she treasured. Would she really never be able to go home?
 She resisted ... but then ... temptation overcame her and she turned  - just for one look. Did she even have time to turn around far enough to see her city burning before she was nothing more than a pillar of salt?

I read this story recently and was struck by how hard, how very hard, it would have been not to turn around to look back.  We take the emotion out of the story and, with hind sight wisdom, judge Lot's wife foolish - but, if we are honest - how much mental discipline would it have taken not to look back?  I think about the freeway traffic jams that are caused just because vehicles slow down to 'take a look'.   Would we have resisted that backward glance to see what was happening?

But ...  perhaps the bigger question is, not why did Lot's wife look back, but rather ...What is so dangerous about 'looking back' that caused God to picture it in such a powerful way in this recorded story?
We have Jesus' words repeating this command not to look back in Luke 9:62.
 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  And in Luke 17:32, again Jesus' warns, "Remember Lot's wife!"

Do we, as Jesus' admonished us, keep in mind the danger there is in looking back? When we have tasted of the good things God has for His children, when we have committed to being a Jesus-follower and we have turned away from the lure of this world's pleasures -  are we tempted to look back again to the things we have been 'saved from' ?
Being tempted is not sin, but giving in to the temptation is. It is impossible to serve two masters, and to look back with longing for the things Satan, or the flesh, tempts us with is to risk losing the 'salvation' that God promised to those who persevere.

There is another harmful effect of 'looking back' that Paul talks about in Philippians 3:12. He says... "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

In looking back, Lot's wife stopped going forward, and she lost sight of her goal.  She could not look in two directions at once.
When we cannot let go of the things in our past ...
 - things that hurt us,
- grudges and unforgiveness we hold onto, unable to look away from the wrongs inflicted upon us ,
- difficult circumstances or devastating losses that cripple us ...
... we are stuck.
In looking back, we stop looking forward, we turn away from the goal/salvation God is calling us to and are paralyzed where we are, unable to see anything except the things in our past.  Even looking back with longing at a good thing that no longer 'is',  keeps us from the next good thing that God has planned for us and we stop moving toward it, no longer "pressing toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ!" 

Did you ever stop to consider what a comfort it is that God tells us not to look back?  
God does not want us to carry our regrets for the things we wish we had done differently, nor does He want us to  lament the things we wish had not happened, nor hold onto the self-condemnation for sin God has forgiven, nor hide behind our insecurities because of past failures.  "Leave what is behind..."  so that we are unencumbered to go forward !   
What freedom!!  
What joy to be relieved of every burden from the past! 
Don't look back!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Living on the Edge

blackberry bush: A bicycle leaning against blackberry bush in a field by the sea Stock Photo

I did not take the above photo, nor is my story about a bicycle but it does involve blackberry bushes. Those of you who live where blackberries grow need no description, but just in case you are a city dweller let me explain that blackberry bushes are very prolific and it is impossible to 'bush wack' through them.  Their vines grow fast and tangled and while one of them is supple - though VERY prickly - they are difficult to cut back and quickly grow back again if any root is left.

We used to own acreage in the country and blackberry bushes were quite happy there.  We had a driveway, coming off a cul-de-sac,  that sloped downward to the edge of a very steep ravine - almost completely vertical 300 feet down to a creek. Because of a major land slide we had a few years prior, nothing had yet grown back on this slope except blackberry bushes.

One day my husband decided that he would chain up our older car, that had a dead battery, to our newer car and pull it up the driveway hoping that he could get it to start. I took one look and played out the 'obvious to me' outcome.  "If that chain breaks, that car is going to roll right off the driveway, down the ravine!"
It was one of those husband "I know what I'm doing" times, so I just shook my head, bit my tongue and went into the house.   It was only moments later when my husband came in with a sheepish look on his face.  I knew immediately what had happened.
Yes, indeed, the chain had broken and the car went down the ravine.  I followed him outside and could not even see the car until I walked close to the ravine edge.  Looking down, I could see that the full weight of the car was supported by nothing but blackberry bushes  and the front bumper was just below the ravine edge.

My husband called a wrecker and asked how much he would charge to pull a car out of a ravine. "Oh.. I'll do it for twenty dollars," he replied ..   It wasn't long before he was on our yard and hooked his pulley to the car but he couldn't pull it out ... the angle was too steep.  So he had to call a friend of his who had a hoist on his truck and could lift the car up into the air and then swing it back onto the driveway.
Because he had quoted  $20.00, he stuck by his price, for which we were very grateful... and hoped it was an experience to add to his list of ..."You'll never believe this job that I had .... "  stories.

How often in life we  'live on the edge' of danger, thinking nothing will happen to us. We ignore God's warnings and choose to live according to our own desires, declaring "I know what I'm doing!" God allows us to do things 'our way', even though He knows it will get us in trouble.
Even as we are setting ourselves up for a 'fall', He puts blackberry bushes in place that will not allow us to fall farther than from where He can rescue us.
While my attitude was less than supportive, but rather , 'I told you so... now fix it yourself!", I am so humbled - and grateful -  that God never takes that attitude with us.
When we realize we have messed up, gotten ourselves into trouble and we come 'sheepishly' to Him to ask for help, He is always more than gracious and forgiving and willing to help us get back on track.
And always, His price  is something we can afford - far less than we deserve to pay.

"But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
 My glory and the One who LIFTS UP my head..
 I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me 
from His holy hill."
Psalm 3:3,4

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"I Don't Read You - Its all Greek to Me!"

Για το Θεό τόσο αγαπούσε ο κόσμος
που έδωσε τον μονογενή Υιό Του,
όποιος πιστεύει σ 'Αυτόν δεν πρέπει να χαθεί
αλλά έχουν ποτέ διαρκείας ζωής.

Some time ago our pastor typed out his sermon on his Ipad selecting  a lovely font.  He sent the finished document to the church office requesting the secretary  print  it out ready for his Sunday morning delivery.
Some time later the secretary called him in a panic --  his sermon document printed out - NOT in English, but in GREEK --  no one could read it !
They quickly figured out the problem.   The lovely font so readily offered on the pastor's Ipad did not have a corresponding receptor for that font on the church's computer software.  Unable to read the  incoming document's font,  the church computer made the best of its disability,  chose a 'closest match font' and sent it to the printer.  The font used was - Greek!

In response to the pastor's story, the congregation chuckled, appreciating the fact that they had perhaps narrowly escaped a sermon that, quite literally, was all Greek to them !

I thought of how our knowledge of computers has given us so many insights into clarifying our understanding of God and our relationship with Him.

God's heart desire when He created man was that He would have a relationship with him. Relationship is built on communication, so God had to design man with a built-in ability to 'connect' with his Divine Creator God.
Just like the pastor's Ipad and the church computer had to be 'compatible' with each other to communicate in a meaningful way...  so we also needed to be compatible with God in order to communicate with Him.  God is Spirit and so God also created man to be spirit -  enabling him to receive 'communication' from God - Spirit to spirit.

The incredible 'font' of God's word has to find a corresponding 'font' receptor in us , in order for us to 'read' Him. When we choose Him as our Saviour and are born again, our spiritual eyes are opened to understand Him and in understanding Him learn to trust Him.

In I Corinthians 2:14 we read ... "but the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

note- in case you are curious, the Greek words above are John 3:16


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Doubting Thomas

One of Jesus disciples, by the name of Thomas, is often  delegated to our lower levels of esteem.
Poor Thomas - we tend to look at him sideways almost embarrassed for him that he should have such doubts !

A few posts back I wrote about "Doubt - An Enemy?" .. and want to follow it up with a look at the bible character whose very name is synonymous with doubt. Doubting Thomas.

What if we remove our pre-conceived judgment about him ... and look at him again with a fresh and unbiased eye.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke we only find Thomas mentioned in the list of Jesus' twelve disciples.
It is  in John's account that we glean something of who he was as a man and something of his story, as well as a life-example for us to learn from.

John first refers to him in John 11:16 when Jesus told His disciples that their friend Lazarus had died, and He said "Let us go to him."
John records Thomas' comment to the other disciples. "Let us also go, that we may die with him."  A rather strange thing to say, isn't it ? Does it indicate a tendency of Thomas' to see the 'dark' side of things?  Hopelessness?  Seeing the problem without an answer?   A man who see his glass half full? Or a man who is sensitive to the suffering and sorrow of others?

The next time we see Thomas is in John 14:1-6 where Jesus speaks the words we all know by heart ... "Let not your heart be troubled .....  I go to prepare a place for you .... I will come again ... that where I am , you may be there also.... and the way you know."  
Again, it is Thomas' response that is recorded.  He said, "   "Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?
I believe those questions resonated in all the disciples' minds,but only Thomas had the courage to ask it, the honesty to reveal his lack of understanding.  Those who dare to ask the questions are the ones who seek the answers. Was Thomas a deep thinker? One whose mind absorbed the words of Jesus, thought not only about what the words meant, but also what they meant for him personally?
Jesus does not rebuke him for his question, He patiently gives him the answer! Why? because Thomas asked!

Then we do not hear anything more about Thomas until John 20:19-29.
Jesus, had risen from the dead, and  suddenly appeared to the disciples who had gathered behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. Jesus responded to the disciples' joy in seeing Him by extending to them words of peace and a commission.
Missing from this group gathering was Thomas.  Where was he? We don't know, but we know he wasn't 'hiding' with the rest of the disciples. Perhaps he chose to be alone with his thoughts, trying to figure out what had happened, and why?  Grieving that Jesus had died and asking over and over again,"Why?"

The disciples sought him out, eager to tell him that Jesus was alive - they had seen Him !  A miracle had happened!!
Once again we have recorded Thomas' response - the one he is famous for...."Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."   
We are so quick to shake our heads at Thomas and say ... "Oh you of little faith!!!"  but wait -  How many times in bible history do we see people who doubted and were brave enough to express it?

We can look at Abraham, whose faith faltered and he said, "Lord, could my servant not be my heir?  or my son Ishmael?"   and God patiently answered Abraham and assured him that God's promise to him would be fulfilled.  He needed to wait just a little longer.

We can look at Moses who shook his head at God's assignment saying he could not speak, he was not the man God needed - He should choose another.  And God patiently answered Moses and showed him God had indeed called him to deliver God's people.

We can look at Gideon who doubted that God could possibly have meant him - the least of the least family in the least tribe!  In his doubt, he put out a fleece, still doubted and put out another fleece and then when he dared not ask for another sign - God so patiently told Gideon "If you still doubt, go down tonight to the tents of the enemy."

We can look at the desperate father who brought his possessed son to Jesus, begging Jesus to heal him. When Jesus said all things were possible to those who believed, the father reached through his doubt to grab hold of faith. "Lord, I believe! help my unbelief!" 

We can look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, when confronted with the 'impossible' asked... "How can this be?"

I believe God showed us the examples of doubting people in the bible - about whom we we forget their doubts because we focus on what their resulting faith brought about in their lives.
God wants us to voice our doubts, because voicing them puts us in a place where we can conquer our fears, over come them in our seeking for the truth. Having faced our doubts and found the 'faith' answers, we then stand on a solid foundation. We have tested God's word and found it to be sure!

And so we see Thomas, the last time we hear him in scripture, once again asking the question, seeking the answer that will slay his doubt.  Jesus never speaks a word of rebuke to Thomas but comes to him personally.  Jesus stands before him and holds out His hands and shows him His side saying .. "Touch me .. and believe."
And we see Thomas; response ... he worships ... "My Lord, and my God !"  His faith will never again be shaken!
One more reference to Thomas in Acts 1:13 - when the disciples gathered in the upper room to wait the coming of the Holy Spirit, Thomas is not missing from this gathering !

Instead of seeing Thomas as an example of something I don't want to do - feel guilt because I doubt -  I have come to see him as an encouragement.   When I feel the uncertainty of doubt, I don't need to fear asking the questions.
I know that God will acknowledge my doubts, in fact, He invites me to voice them, seeking the answers He is waiting to give me.
Listen to the words of James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom  let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and WITHOUT REPROACH, and it will be given to him."
When my doubt gives way to faith, my response will be like Thomas' -  I will cry out that He is the Answer, He is the way and the truth! - the One true God I love and worship !

**There is an interesting detail provided about Thomas in John 11:16, It tells us that Thomas was also known as Didymus.  Didymus means 'double' or 'twin' - Thomas was a twin.  Is there a 'hint' of  hidden meaning here? Can we infer from Thomas' names   -  that 'doubt' is the twin of 'faith' ?  If we let 'Doubt' ask the question that leads us to truth, do we encounter the other twin, 'Faith' ?


Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Greatest Event in History

In John 3:14, Jesus says, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." 

We know the old testament story that Jesus is referring to. It is found in Numbers 21:4-9 

           The Israelites had sinned. Discouraged and angry, they grumbled against God and against Moses. God sent fiery serpents to punish them for their sin and the bite of the serpent was fatal. Then, when they cried out to God for deliverance, God commanded Moses to erect a bronze serpent, and everyone who simply ‘looked’ at the bronze serpent lived.
        It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word used in verses six and eight in our Numbers passage,  and is  translated into our English ‘bit’ or ‘bitten’, is a word that means ‘to strike with a sting’. Then when we go to I Corinthians 15:56, we see that Paul uses that word ‘sting’ in reference to sin, “the sting of death is sin.”  
     We are familiar with scripture references to Satan being called a serpent; therefore, we can see that the serpents that bit the people represent the sin that bites us and causes our death.  When the serpent bit the people, they died.  When Adam and Eve sinned and brought death upon the whole human race, we all, in turn, are bitten by sin and are condemned to die.  Only when Jesus was lifted up on the cross did salvation come - people could look to Him and live!   
       I used to wonder why Moses was commanded to lift up a bronze serpent - after all, it was the serpent that was responsible for the death of the people. Why was it now commanded by God to be the instrument of giving life?
       Then, I understood.  It was sin that caused us to die, and until our sin was lifted up on the cross of Jesus - placed upon Him - we could not have deliverance. 
Though the bronze serpent had the power to give everyone life, simply lifting it up in the wilderness was not enough.  Every person that was bitten had to look up at the bronze serpent believing that, as Moses had promised, it would give them life.
        To live spiritually, each one of us must look up at the cross of Christ and see our own sin hanging there.  And we must believe that only Jesus, through His supreme sacrifice, can save us - by taking our sin upon Himself and suffering our punishment. Through Him, we have life, now and forever!
        That is the conclusion we see in John 3:15, which follows the verse we began with, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’.

May the Lord bless you, dear reader, this Easter season, 
and as you think on His sacrifice and His resurrection, 
may you remember that "the joy set before Him" 
was YOU! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

In a Fog

We have all heard and used the expression "He has his head in the clouds".|
The meaning of this expression according to a dictionary is ... 

  • to be out of touch with the everyday world and to be unrealistic because of it. 
  • to be living in a fantasy (world) 
  • to have impractical ideas or dreams. Sometimes the person doesn't know the facts or reality of the situation.
I took the above photo this morning from my deck overlooking the valley below.  As I stood looking down on the sea of clouds, I thought of what it must be like for the thousands of people living under it, covered in 'fog' - how far could they see? a few feet? 

I thought about how aptly my view pictured the expression referred to above. 
While their view was limited and shrouded, mine was clear and unobstructed. 
While they walked about in a fog blocking the light, I enjoyed the sun shining from a blue sky. 

My mind moved from the physical to the spiritual application, recognizing how closely they paralleled one another.  
If we have our head in the fog of this world, we will be out of touch with reality as God defines it.  Worldly wisdom 'so called', offers only a very limited and unrealistic view, having no idea or understanding, of the Son Light that is shining above the 'fog' they walk in. 

I did a little word search and found some verses that take on clarity when laid aside my above 'fog' photo. 
"Have you heard the counsel of God? Do you limit wisdom to yourself?" 
~Job 15:8 
Would those words not be fitting to someone who has his head 'in the clouds' , judging his day by how far he can or cannot see, or by what he can or cannot see, rather than by the Truth of God  that shines above the 'fog' - not thinking or reasoning clearly because he is choosing his own wisdom over God's? 

"And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." 
~John 1:5 
I have found myself in dense fog and been frustrated by how difficult it was to see, and I totally focused on my 'fog reality',  never once thinking about how the sun was shining on those who were 'above the fog'.  It is so easy to make our own experience the reality we choose to live by, without 'comprehending' that there is a reality infinitely higher and wiser than what we see around us. 

"When His lamp shone upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness." ~Job 29:3 
When we walk in the Light of God's truth, our view is unlimited, our mind clear. We can 'see' even when we walk in darkness, because the Son shines upon us, in us, and through us. The 'fog' of this world cannot 'hide' His wisdom and truth when we walk "in His Light".