April 29&30, 2017/Memories

As one ages, our memories become even more precious. Older people often talk about “The Good Old Days” unwilling, or forgetful that many of those times weren’t all that good. We have a tendency to forget the bad times and remember only the times of plenty. Once our bodies begin breaking down, we find ourselves with so much time on our hands that we tend to dismiss things we would rather forget and ‘recast’ memories in gold and silver rather than the iron or coal we may have felt during those times of trials.

A few years ago, I began to learn the art of calligraphy. I’m not all that good at it, but I enjoy it. One of the very real tasks one must learn in shaping letters is to concentrate on the strokes while writing. If your mind wanders, you would be surprised at the results! Because you have to train your brain differently, you need pay attention to every curve and the width of every stroke when forming a letter.

It is very easy to become distracted and leave out letters in words, or even entire words in sentences as your mind races forward in what it ‘knows’ rather than slowing down for what you are trying to tell it.

The Christian life can be like that…especially when it comes to memorizing Scripture.

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm of all. There are 22 eight-verse sections, each begining with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The same letter begins the primary verse within each section (which shows how much thought went into creating this passage!)

Psalm 119:153-160-Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law. Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word. Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statues. Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord: quicken me according to thy judgments. Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies. I beheld the transgressiors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word. Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O Lord, according to thy loving kindness. Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.

There is a rhythm to this Psalm that indicates that the creator established it not just as a prayer/praise of meditation, but as a simple form that could be memorized by God’s people.

Deliver me, for I forget not the law. Plead for me, for I see that in thy word. The wicked seek not to follow your laws. Your mercies are great for one who falls while walking in Your word. My enemies attempt to stop my growth in You, but I keep to Your path. I see those who follow You not, and am sorrowful for them. Your laws and guidance uphold me and I am blessed by Your kindness. Your word is true and Your judgments are righteous.

Same type of sentiment but NOT as easily memorized, is it?

When I think how those living in Old Testament times often had no access to the Scriptures OTHER than memorization, it reminds me how I fail to give credence to the work they did out of their love for God. It also shows me the WORK that went into creating the Scripture…from recordings of deeds handed down to generations, to the careful creation of the prayers and songs, to those who copied everything over, and over, and over, without the benefit of printing presses!

This is a beautiful passage that contains power and truth in poetic form. I have decided to try to memorize it…a task that does not come easily. As I learn more when I write passages, I will try to incorporate it into calligraphy in hopes of imprinting it more easily into my aging brain.

Whatever passages impact your life, take time to SLOW DOWN and memorize them. That way they will spring to your memory later in life or whenever you need them.

Scriptures that are memorized are with you forever….

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April 28, 2017/Hawking Merchandise

As if I didn’t get enough phone calls imploring me to buy windows, solar power, or some other type of services, I get numerous calls for charities. Most of these (sadly) are bogus. They work on your sympathy to get you to contribute something and very little of the money may go to the charity they pretend to support.

Then you have those who knock on my door.

Construction. Tree services. Painting services. Windows and Doors. I have even had people come claiming to have a good buy on meat that they ‘just happened’ to have in their refrigerated truck from an order someone cancelled. Once, men selling windows would not let it rest. They kept coming back and banging on my door after I had already politely told them I wasn’t interested.

I was alone at the time and it frightened me. (This was before cell phones could be used to take pictures quickly!) I finally informed them that I was contacting the police (and I did) and they took off!

I am SOOOOO ready to gather barbed wire, begin digging a moat, and order a few alligators. Seriously. It is annoying to have your home inundated with people that you didn’t invite or don’t know.

Perhaps, that is why I can feel for Jesus’ when He witnessed what was happening in the temple at Passover.

John 2: 13-16-And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables. And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Fahter’s house an house of merchandise.

This was no “Where’s the beef?” moment. At first glance from those who were there it was probably more of a, “What was is His beef?” After all, people needed to buy these animals to follow the laws of sacrifice as put down in the Old Testament. We know for a fact that Mary and Joseph had to sacrifice a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons under the purification law of having a male child set down in the Old Testament. (See Luke 2: 23 & 24)

So what drew such ire from Jesus?

I believe it was the distinction between ‘selling’ and ‘hawking’. You can OFFER something for sale by displaying it and waiting until someone desires to buy it. HAWKING something, however, is far different. This is that endless ‘in-your-face’ type of behavior where you put money over manners.

This behavior had gone far over the boundaries of providing a service and deep into the ‘money, money, money’ territory. It must have really resonated with Christ as He is never more than aware when He is IN the temple (which was a place people came to be in God’s presence) that He would BE the Living Temple before too long.

Is it any wonder that He had had it?

He is about to be sacrificed before long and He isn’t doing it for money.

You have to wonder if He didn’t have a few moments of despair…the type of “Why am I doing this for these people, again?” doubts.

God’s patience is far greater than mine. I am glad that He hasn’t found barbed wire, moats, and alligators…even though I deserve them! As we journey onward through life, may we recognize the difference between offering the Good News versus hawking it.

Try not to get in someone’s face…no matter how good your intentions!

April 27, 2017/Simple Faith, Simple Acts

The Bible is full of heroic adventures and striking commentary on wisdom, but sometimes the stories that make the greatest impacts are the ones written from simplicity.

So it is with Ruth.

Ruth wasn’t a judge like Deborah.

She wasn’t a woman of some ‘financial substance’ as many believe Lydia may have been in the New Testament.

She didn’t earn her place in Biblical history as Rahab did by her wits.

Ruth is renowned in Scripture as a woman who made two simple choices: she would not leave her mother-in-law alone in her old age, and she chose to follow the beliefs of her mother-in-law’s people.

As a widow, Ruth would have been well within her rights to stay in her land and look for another husband as Orpah did, but something was obviously drawing her to a greater destiny…one where her simple faith would inscribe her decision so that it would be remembered long after she was laid to rest.

Ruth 1: 1- Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.  And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?  So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

Naomi, so worried that God had abandoned her by taking her husband and sons unto him, and Ruth the daughter-in-law who loved her mother-in-law so much that she would not be swayed in her decision to stay with her will be given one of the most beautiful endings of any story…..for Ruth will marry again and her name remembered in the geneology of Christ.

Such simple faith.

Such simple acts.

What wonderfu blessings with which they are rewarded.

It does us well to remember that our testimony for Christ need not always be heroic, strident, or long-winded. A simple pat on the shoulder, a card, a phone call…these may resonate as an illustration of our love of Christ.

April 26, 2017/The ‘Bridge’ of Prayer

There are days when we find it difficult to pray.

Maybe, we aren’t in a ‘thankful’ state of mind. Maybe, are hearts are heavy with physical or mental pain. Maybe we are burdened by guilt. Whatever the reason, Jesus gave us our instructions on how to approach His Father in the Lord’s prayer. Most people recognize that prayer with no trouble but there are other instructions on prayer.

Paul gives us another example of things to be included when conversing with God and we would do well to attempt to practice these…although they may seem hard.

1 Timothy 2: 1-9–I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.

Okay…my first thought is OUCH!!

We are to pray for everyone, especially our leaders.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not altogether happy with how our so-called ‘leaders’ have been leading us lately.

But wait. Maybe we don’t get the entire picture when we think about that word.

A leader is defined as a person who ‘directs or guides’. One immediately puts kings, presidents, and CEO’s in mind of leaders but a conductor is a leader of an orchestra. And a counsellor is one who leads us to understand things about ourselves and/or the paths we undertake in life.

As hard as it may be, we should all pray for those who are ‘leading’ whether it be a politician or a pastor. God wants us all to come to him. Those in authority are under a greater burden as they are sometimes elevated to higher standard when we look at them.

Paul also goes on to remind us that Jesus is our leader. His blood is our bridge between sin and perfection which leads us back to fellowship with God. Paul is eager to establish his credentials that Christ appointed him a leader and given him a mission to minister to the Gentiles.

We are to live our heads and hands to God. Paul reminds us that we need not act as if we are better than others–wringing our hands, crying out to be noticed, dressing as if we are special, or touting our earthly goods. We are to come to Him simply, in honesty and humility to pray for those who are in positions of leadership and all others who accompany us to the feet of Christ who remember His grace and mercy.

When we pray for those in leadership, even when we don’t like or respect them, God is charging us to come honestly. Those that don’t do this will be judged by The One who is far greater that we are to have them answer for their actions.

The world may be in turmoil…but the bridge of life built for us built for all humanity by Jesus Christ is eternal and open to all.

April 25, 2017/On Marriage

Marriage? What is it Good For?

There is a famous song entitled ‘War’ by Edwin Starr that was popular during the late 60’s that posed the question, “War, what is it good for?”

Today, one might ask the same question about marriage. There are fewer and fewer and people taking the plunge. Even when they do, marriages seldom seem to last.

So why take the plunge?

Genesis 2:24-Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Mark 10:8-9-And the twain shall be one flesh; so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefor God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

Having been married forty-five years to the same person….I have a few ideas that I’m going to share. I’m no expert. I have no letters beside my name qualifying my experience. But since I’ve been in the ‘ranks’, so to speak, I’m going to offer some advice as we begin to approach the ‘wedding’ months.

The first and foremost element that I believe necessary in a marriage is that the core values of the couple must be the same. Religion, finances, and opinions on raising children, really DO need in-depth exploration before marriage to keep the promise of huge arguments on differing attitudes at bay.

The Bible is most explicit about the problems that occur when Christians marry non-Christians. You can find all kinds of Scriptural warnings…but the simplest one is this: YOU DON’T NEED TO BEGIN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A MAJOR POINT OF PHILOSOPHY TO ARGUE OVER.

Can some marriages work between an unbeliever and believer?

I am sure that there are those that may, but they take a lot of work. Resentment over a huge part of someone’s beliefs causes jealousy, bitterness, and anger.

Sometimes, it is simply easier to avoid a problem when you know it will be a problem..and that, I believe, is what advice God was trying to give us. He isn’t going to rain down His wrath on someone who unites with a non-Christian, He is simply trying to smooth our path. God knows that in uniting two different people into one ‘body’ is going to be fraught with difficulties. He also knows that the Christian will have a SPLIT attitude as to the importance of their allegiance from the very beginning. Go back to the Ten Commandments. He is pretty clear that HE is to come first. After that is the spouse. How long will a non-believer sanction that attitude before there will be trouble? Will that trouble cause the believer to drift away from God?

But maybe you believe you can ‘win’ them to Christ?

Um…that is like walking across ice with smooth-soled shoes. You become dangerously close to being thought a know-it-all or a nag. Not good. Better you should wait and really explore your relationship and pray before ignoring God’s advice.

People who may have become Christians after they are married are in a different position, but it is no less difficult. Believers want to share their Good News and are excited to be so blessed…but they often come on to their partners with such dogmatic purpose, they turn them off. Silence is sometimes golden in a marriage. Better you stand as an example rather than a harpy. Practice what is preached and pray…quietly…a lot. Then wait. God’s timing, not ours…

We covered religion so on to money. Unite a spendthrift together with a miser and you have another recipe for disaster. Money makes the earthly world revolve–but it also makes for some big arguments when it is the end of the month and credit card bills come in. Two people can’t live as cheaply as one. And no birth control is 100%. Unexpected illnesses or surprises can occur. Are you a planner? Or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type? That’s always good for some battles.

It’s the same with children. We all love the little dears…but like cute kittens and puppies they grow into surly teenagers. Those adorable babies keep you sleep-deprived, covered in messes, and worn to the bone even with the help of a partner. And we haven’t touched on whether we believe in discipline and how to undertake it. I have seen people argue over spanking and ‘time out’s with a ferocity that one could pay money to attend!

I’m not even going to touch politics as there is no solution. I think that falls in the same manner of praying quietly and waiting. Agree to disagree or you will constantly find each other going for the throat in discussions. Realize, God has control of the world and no matter WHO is elected, there are ultimately going to serve God’s purpose..and, sometimes, that means going through disasters.

Even if the three core values I mentioned are smoothed before your wedding, I have yet to mention in-laws (or as I feel they should be called: THE OUT-LAWS.) If you think it is tough to blend two people into one unit, just try bringing along two different families. There are cultural differences to contend with that run deep. Where do you eat Thanksgiving? Is there a stop-watch for visiting times so you don’t get accused of spending more time with one family than another. Are you expected to go into debt to attend your third-cousin’s fourth marriage in an outlandish wedding ceremony where everyone flies to the west coast? Guidelines must be established, and established early. Memorize the word ‘NO’ for both sides. Remember YOU are one unit together now and act accordingly. Sometimes, that may mean hurting your family–but your allegiance has changed. Your partner is now first in your family.

A couple can have totally different interests. I like opera. My husband likes ‘Golden Oldies’. He likes Vikings and dragons and hobbits, and toy soldiers. I like music and reading. He’d go to a sporting event. I’d rather attend a play. We are as different as can be but our ‘core’ values make a marriage work.

And don’t be fooled, marriage IS work.

It is a job.

A pleasant one, but a job nevertheless.

So what do you gain?

IF you are blessed, you gain a person who will sacrifice for you. IF you see signs of selfishness in someone you are looking to marry….RUN. There is no 50/50 of give and take all the time in a marriage. Sometimes, it is 90/10, or 30/70. Rarely, is it 50/50.

You gain a helpmate. A person who enjoys being with you. Who will love you through the ‘still in the haze of joy’ in the beginning of your lives together to the ‘aching and paining of aged bodies that can not longer practice the Kama Sutra if they wanted to.

You gain a different viewpoint. Hopefully, you find that the two of you are blessed with different gifts and attitudes that complement each other. Whereas, I am empathetic, my husband has the calmer nature. He is the dreamer type, while I keep things organized. He tends to ‘collect’ stuff and could be a hoarder if I wasn’t around to go through and purge now and then.

Marriage is also a protection. While wee know the advantages for raising children (one can sleep while the other stays up half the night waiting until they get home and are safe!) there are plenty of single parents who do an excellent job. The protection comes from learning how to solve problems and work through life’s good times and bad with someone who doesn’t run for the door at the first sign of trouble.

There are no fairytale marriages. The idea of spending your life with another person has to be so vital that it will carry you on after the first glow of sexual attraction fades until the moths have at it on the wedding dress. Marriage fulfills the instinctive need to find a best friend, a lover, and the person who would put your needs before their’s to support you when you need it. It is the person who will make you laugh when you really need it and simply hold your hand for the fun of it. This person will shed tears with you and for you. To be with them is to be happy. To be without them is to yearn for the moment when they will return.

Be very sure before you marry for when you marry the person you truly love, you have begun the greatest journey heaven can allow here on earth other than your journey with Christ….

April 24, 2017/Reading with the Light On

 

Christians have always been put a bit on the defensive when they try to share the gospel. For some reason, people would rather believe in vampires, outer space aliens, government conspiracy theories, and even the devil, rather than believe that the Son of God was born, walked this earth, and died as a sin offering for you and me.

It would be amusing were it not so sad.

Part of their reasoning, in my opinion, is that humans are fashioned around a ‘quid pro quo‘ type of behavior–they have been conned to believe in the attitude that you never get something for nothing. That is a normal reaction as we have learned that from our experience in the world.

Getting your head around the idea that Jesus Christ loved you so much that He came to die for you is difficult for us to understand….especially for those who have had no background in Scripture. It’s like trying to pick up a book and understand it when you are missing the beginning pages.

The Bible is a book, yet many don’t read it that way…which is why they miss out on understanding it.

One of the best experiences you can have is to sit and read the Bible as if it was a biography (which it is in a way). Begin at the beginning and read. You don’t need someone else to explain it. Simply read it and allow yourself to hear God speak to you.

Reading the Bible by yourself can be an illuminating experience. While most of us give up around the book of Numbers, it pays to keep going and remember that once you are past the ‘begats’ (which were little more than keeping track of your family history back in those days) your reading will get easier.

Here is an example from one of the latter chapters in the Bible but it may urge you to dive in at Genesis…

1 John 1: 1-5-That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

God is light.

Genesis 1: 1-In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.

John wants all to know that He had seen God.

The God of light who created the foundations of the world had lowered Himself to combine with man so as to put in His plan for salvation to return us to what we had been created for– to be in communion with Him.  The Messiah that had been prophesied in the Old Testament; the One who had been foretold since the beginning has arrived. John and his fellow disciples  had listened, walked, learned, and loved Jesus. They had ‘handled’ Him after his crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus’ life had impacted them so greatly that they were full of joy. John is eager to tell everyone that he and the others have found a light so great, that they are willing to follow the teachings of Christ to the grave if need be.

If you aren’t in the habit of reading the Bible, try it. Read it knowing that as you do so, the light God) will help you understand it….

 

April 22 & 23, 2017/Warning Bells

I can’t help but notice all the people walking around with bent heads and ear buds. They remind me a bit of grasshoppers. Half the time, I don’t think they even know where they are going. Is it any wonder that some are involved in accidents?

There are some times in your life when you put yourself on ‘auto pilot’ without even realizing it. You drive the same way to work. You walk the same path to school. You do it automatically–and only when something happens to interrupt your routine do you really pay attention.

Our spiritual life is a lot like that.

We get into habits.

We repeat the Lord’s prayer without thinking.

We attend church because we have always done so, or our families have always done so, or it’s the ‘thing to do’…not from the sense of thanksgiving and joy that we should have with which to gather with fellow believers and study God’s teachings.

Even in writing this blog, there is a part of me that rushes ahead rather than waiting to see what food God wants to provide for me.

The prophets weren’t given that kind of choice. Most of them had pretty severe directions from God as to how to warn His people about what would happen when they ‘forgot’ about His word and teachings. Some of those books are NOT easy reading and Amos is one of them. Israel had been living the good life. On the surface, they seemed pretty content with prosperity. Things were going well.

Beneath the surface, however, all was not as it should have been. There was a hidden vein of corruption that had infilitrated Israel all the way up and in to their religious leaders. They had turned away from Hosea’s warnings. Reading the book of Amos can be scary because you can glimpse the same attitude and problems that we are facing with Christians living today.

Amos 8:11-Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:

We would do well to take note of what the prophet Amos is warning. God delays His judgment only so long.

Christians need to study their ‘SOURCE’ rather than put all their trust in leaders…even religious ones.

Stay strong in the Lord by reading His word; practicing His commandments; praying for His guidance; relying on His strength; and coming to Him out of love rather than duty…..

Stay faithful.