January 31,2017/Trust

My daughter rode a horse to her wedding…in her wedding gown!  Her father led her down the two suburban streets, across a busy highway, and over to the church on the corner. Then, she jumped off at the church and then went inside to get married. (She’d always said her horse would be at her wedding!) After they were married, her new husband led her back over the busy street and down the road back to our backyard where the photographer photographed the ‘official’ wedding photo…the bridesmaids, the bride, the horse, the groom, and the groomsmen.

It is still one of my favorite pictures.

Now, my youngest granddaughter is also into riding. Did I mention that we are not situated where owning a horse is easy or cheap? I guess it is in the genes.

As anyone who has ever ridden a horse knows, you have control of the animal because of the bit in its mouth. In other words, you have to know how to use the reins to make the horse, stop, go, and turn.

Sometimes, we have to deal with ‘reining’ in life. Tomorrow is going to be one of those times for me.

I may not make a devotional entry tomorrow.

Or, I may make it rather late.

You see, my husband goes into the hospital for a heart catherization.

We are not allowing FEAR to take hold. Instead, we are trusting that God has it all under control and all we can do is allow Him to hold the reins. We are relying on Proverbs 3:4&5-Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

All we can do tomorrow is trust God and the experience of the doctors, nurses, and technicians as they do their job.

It is something that we all need to do every day…but especially those days when we find ourselves teetering with worry

 

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January 30, 2017/ A Doorkeeper

It is normal for those of us who age to long for the past. After all, we lived it!

As my husband and I wait for the insurance ‘big-wigs’ to decide whether to overide the request of the cardiologist and allow his heart catherization, I am trying to keep him from undergoing additional stress.

It isn’t easy!

Stress is all around us. There is no way we can watch the news, most television programs (that glory in sex, violence, politics, and general depressing ad nauseam) so we are watching a lot of older shows. Shows that illustrate an era when women wore gloves and hats, and cooked in dresses, heels, and pearls! These shows are a bit of ‘comfort food’. One program that featured a gag about a restaurant had a segment with a hat check girl.

For those of you too young to remember, fine dining restaurants used to have comely young ladies who would hang up your coat and hat and give you a small ticket. That was their sole job. Then, we you finished eating, you would give the young woman your ticket and she would retrieve your outerwear. As a thank you, people would give this attendant a tip for her service.

In a way, this person was a ‘doorkeeper’. Oh, a lot of establishments had an actual doorman as well, but this young lady was responsible for keeping some very expensive garments (in those days well-heeled ladies wore real fur coats) safe.

David referred to a doorkeeper in Psalm 84: 10-12-For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

I had rather be a doorkeeper…the meaning of this is referenced in my Bible as: Choosing to sit at the threshold. Better in the lowliest position sitting in the hot sun with God, than to dwell in the shade with those who choose denial and wickedness.

We are often tempted to go astray and take an easier road. Being a Christian is not easy when faced with the world and all its temptations. Therefore, we have to cling to remember that it may be better to be thought of as lowly for following our faith. God has provided Christians with TWO rulers…the sun, and the SON.

As you walk in faith today, give thanks that you know have both of them in your life and ‘hold the door’ for someone around you as a small testament to being a doorkeeper in faith!

January 28 & 29/Why Bathed and Washed are Different

There is nothing like a cool wash in the summer when heat and humidity rule the day…unless it is a nice hot bath to soothe your aching bones in the winter!

During Biblical times people got pretty dirty. Come to think about it, even today when people are doing physical work they get dirty. Of course, most of us don’t walk miles to work in the burning son without shoes now. Nor do most have a lack of facilities to wash themselves. In Jesus’ time, however, there was a certain ritual people instituted before meals. Weary travelers and guests would be given basins where their feet would be washed and dried.  At a meal, guests would also wash their hands.

Jesus wanted to teach His disiciples that a physical wash was far different than a Spiritual one.

In John 13: 10and 11 he says: Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

Here is Jesus’ pointed attempt to point out to Judas that he knew his intention to betray. We were in the final countdown where Judas still had a choice to change his mind about betraying our Lord.

Greek translations note that the word ‘washed’ comes from the Greek word ‘bathed’ and denotes a complete physical process of cleansing the body, whereas ‘wash’ is the typical word for the washing of hands or feet.

It is clear by Christs words that not only did he ‘know’ what Judas had in mind, he was offering the other disciples a look into what his death would really mean. We may all ‘wash‘ each day by confessing our sins. But to truly be ‘washed‘ for eternity, we must BATHE in the blood of the sacrifice Jesus was about to make.

Poor Judas. He never ‘knew’ our Lord. He was a ‘hanger on’ who just ‘didn’t get it’, and allowed his own pride to be tempted by Satan’s purposes.

This is a scary time for me with my husband’s heart situation. He has some dangerous waters to forge. Yet, there is the peace we both share that we know we have been bathed in the blood of Christ and when He calls us home, he will be waiting for us.

That provides our comfort and gives us the quiet peace that assures us nothing will happen except what God allows.

January27, 2017/How Much Do You Know Where You Come From?

Where do you come from?

We had a shock yesterday. We learned that my husband’s heart isn’t working correctly. I think we suspected there ‘might’ be something up when the cardiologist’s office, the doctor’s office, AND the pharmacy kept contacting us. That is a bit unusual.

Now, we wait. We wait to see if our INSURANCE company knows better than our doctor the steps we should take. We wait to see different tests come to pass so that the doctor can find solutions.

While we wait, however, I began to think about how many people we meet every day. Yesterday, we had a lovely nurse who had the most beautiful accent. Normally, I would have asked here where she came from…but as I was a bit preoccupied with all these new factors in our lives, I didn’t get around to it.

I wasn’t thinking about that this morning when God led me to Micah 7:18-20-Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn into our fathers from the days of old.

Those of the Jewish faith would recognize these verses as their are read in the synagogue on the Day of Atonement. This yearly day is set aside for men and women to confess and ‘cast their sins into the depths of the sea.’

As Christians, we believe the blood of Christ, in his sacrificial death and resurrection has cleansed us.

A lot of us, however, forget where we came from!

Jesus was a Jew. He practiced the faith, knew the laws, and came to fulfill it. So how much time do Christians spend trying to understand the Jewish religion? I am constantly surprised that Pastors seem to ignore great chunks of the Bible when teaching their flocks. If we are to spread God’s grace in the world, then it would be smart to study the place where we came from. Purim, Yom Kippur, Passover–we should learn about these. They are part of our ‘heritage’. To study the Scripture and understand many of the things Jesus taught and the prophecies that He fulfilled, we need to take time and truly READ the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.

People carry their heritage with them in many ways: accents, customs, attitudes, genetics.

Let’s make it a point to learn about where we come from as Christians. Take time to study and read the Old Testament. You will be surprised to see how it will deepen your faith and make some New Testament passages even clearer when you know where Christ came from!

January 26,2017/Plans/It Ain’t Easy

All of us make plans.

We ‘plan’ to do certain chores; go certain places; be certain things . We go along, certain that WE are the ones in control of our destiny…then WHAM! Life smacks us with reality.

Ancient civilizations called it ‘Fate’ or ‘Lady Luck’.

We, however, realize that sometimes God has a different path for us to walk.

Yesterday, we pondered about wolves and tears and how they combined with Paul’s advice about ‘commending’ us to be strong. Today, we are going to look at how to approach being sanctified when hit with a change of plan.

Acts 20: 28-32–Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

God has given each of us an inheritance with a place in His kingdom. To honor this place, he instructs us to approach him in a way that does Him honor and accept His judgment. I love to see how His plans come together in ways we often don’t see coming. Even Samuel didn’t see David on the horizon.

1 Samuel 16:4-5-And Samuel did that which the Lord spake, and came unto Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to do the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and called them to the sacrifice.

When Israel wanted a king, God allowed it. He gave them Saul. Saul, however, decided that he knew better than God and became disobedient. As God can raise us up, He can also bring us down. Poor Samuel knew that Saul was going to have some bitter lessons on the horizon. When God directed Samuel to go to where He planned Samuel to anoint a new king, Samuel wasn’t very happy. He knew the danger that would bring to himself and others. But he obeyed.

When Jesse realized that one of his line was going to be elevated, he assumed (as Sherlock Holmes reminds us NEVER ASSUME) it would be one of his elder sons. He was uneasy at the idea of Saul’s anger, but overcome that by the prospect of having an earthly king in his line. The very last on his mind, however, was the thought that his youngest son David might be the one chosen.

The idea that we are to ‘Sanctify’ ourselves before coming into God’s presence is a good one. We are to confess our sins, clear our minds, and ‘let go’ so we may hear God’s instruction and walk the path He creates for us. Isaiah 5:16-But the Lord of hosts shall be exaluted in judgment, and God that is holy, shall be sanctified in righteousness.

We are SET APART to be holy. We are BLESSED.

Sometimes, our paths are not ones which we would choose. Still, when we come to God and listen, we can be assured that He is in control of His plan for us. We need only keep focused on obeying, listening, and praying so that we choose the right direction…then allow Him to do the work in us that He need do….

January 25,2017/ It Ain’t Easy/Part 1

Paul didn’t have things easy. He had a ‘thorn’ in the flesh. He must have had guilt from being an advocate on killing early Christians before his conversion. He was beaten, imprisoned,  shipwrecked (just to mention a few of highlights of his ministry. No, Paul learned early in his ministry that being a Christian ‘ain’t easy’!

And because of his lesson, he was careful to warn Christians about the path they would walk having to LIVE in the world but not BE in the world. Two very important messages were pointed out to me when I read Acts 20: 28-32–Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

WOLVES/TEARS/I COMMEND YOU TO GOD–

Wolves are social creatures that form packs. They are territorial in nature and usually have a male and female leader. Other than man and environmental issues, most deaths come from them fighting amongs themselves in direct attacks.

Tears are salty liquid that come from glands in eyes.

Commend means to entrust somone to care for something.

Obviously, Paul felt that when he left teaching groups of people in one area, they needed to be issued with a warning of what they would face once he was gone. His ‘flock’ would be subject to predators who would attack it directly–to the point that some of his flock would withdraw. Such attacks would be so violent in word and deed that it drove Paul to cry just thinking about it.

His solution?

To ENTRUST these members of his flock to God by way of the Holy Spirit and the written word/messages/Bible and the GRACE therein which could help build us up to get through darkness. We walk through this life at odds with the world…for we have been blessed by the grace to understand the difference between good and evil. Many don’t. Many don’t care. Many still can’t, or won’t, even say the word SIN–for that would make them look inside themselves.

There are wolves howling at our doors. Sometimes, they drive us to tears. They urge us to step away from grace and God’s message. It is in these moments we must entrust ourselves to quiet; to invoke the Holy Spirit to bring us the messages that we need to hear to help us weather the packs around us that are howling.

Stay strong. Pray. Read God’s message. Remember His grace. Rejoice that Jesus has given His own blood to save us. Then walk on….

 

January 24,2017/The Joy of Laughter

My husband and I prefer to ‘wander’ on vacations. Oh, we have taken guided trips to Europe and Alaska, but our fondest memories stem from the back road wanderings we have taken in this country and on our 25th wedding anniversary in England, Scotland, and Wales.

One of our favorite spots is hidden away in upper North Carolina. Here in the small town of West Jefferson, we stop at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Why?

Because it is here where we can meditate on two of our favorite works of art. The first, is a famous fresco created by Ben Long entitled ‘The Mystery of Faith’. The fresco art form is one that is far more famous in Italy and Europe than here in the USA. When Ben first decided to bring this art form to this country he had difficulty finding a church that would be willing to allow him to create. He finally stumbled upon two VERY small parish churches in the North Carolina Hills. (The other church Holy Trinity church is located in Glendale Springs should anyone want to visit both these extraordinary sites.)

The ‘Mystery of Faith’ examines the Crucifixion and Ascension of Jesus Christ. Staring at this work one can pick up various images and, in my experience, each of us sees something different.

The second amazing encounter comes when one studies the painting of ‘The Laughing Christ’ painted by Bo Bartlett. Why Christians so often picture Christ as stern, sober, and in agony, I haven’t quite figured out. Christ laughed. How many times do we have reports of him at weddings, dinners, meeting friends, and generally spending time with people? As a comedian once said, “God has to have a sense of humor…otherwise why would he have given us feet?”

Sometimes in the difficulty of life, we forget to laugh. Proverbs 17:22 says: A merry heart doeth good lie a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Older people have a line of medicine lining their shelves. Some of it is necessary to our very existence. If only we could bottle JOY and LAUGHTER so our spirit doesn’t turn to dust.

DON’T LET YOUR JOY TURN TO DUST AND BLOW AWAY TODAY! Find something to laugh about. And if you are every traveling near the hills of North Carolina, stop in and witness the power and joy that Ben Long and Bo Bartlett incorporated into their work…then thank God they could bring joy and laughter to our lives!