Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Looking for Truth in a world of lies

Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"

John 18: 38-39a


Pilate was looking at the Truth, and still he asked what Truth was. In the world today, many people ask the same question, and even though they are not Pilate, they too are judging whether or not they concur with the claims Jesus made about Himself are true or just a lie.

In the book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talked about the claims Jesus made of Himself. Lewis said we cannot say that Jesus, after all the things He said and did while on earth, was merely a great moral teacher. He continues:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis%27s_trilemma

Thank God I decided many years ago to believe the claims Jesus made about Himself. I hope you, my dear reader have made that same choice too.

I look at this world. It grows more confusing every day. The lies become bolder and bolder, and Christianity becomes more and more foreign to this world. Only God's Word speaks the truth to us, but as time goes on, it gets more and more difficult to see the Truth in the midst of a haze of lies. And the lies seep into the church so subtly when we are not careful.

When I get discouraged, or feel let down by the way of the world, I have only one choice. Turn back to the mirror of the Word of God and find out who God says, not what the world says, I am. Look to the only Source in this universe that has not been tainted with the lies of the devil: the pure and holyWord of God. Jesus is the Word of God, and He is the Truth. He will not lie to me, He will not lie period.

There is an old Larry Norman song that says: "Why Not Look into Jesus? He's got the answer." And we will find the answers when we look into His Word.

The world lies to us all the time. In fact, we've been hearing lies since the day we were born. I remember hearing a quote once that said something like this: "If you don't think you can be deceived, you're deceived already." 

But we have one thing in this world that will not lie to us, it is the Book that God gave us to learn of Him. We each have so much time left this in this world, and the best way to use that time is to learn of a Person in the Book He lovingly left to us.

In the end, that will be the only thing that matters.

If you are not in the habit of reading the Bible, may I suggest to you to start reading it today? You don't have to read for hours, just start simple. The Gospel of John is a great place to start. I remember reading this gospel in college, although I'd been acquainted with the Bible for years, and it was like Christmas to me, finding such nuggets and promises in that lovely book. John 7:17 suddenly showed me that God was waiting for any person, anywhere who wanted Him to find Him. All of a sudden I saw His love and grace in a new way. But I never would have seen it if I had not found it for myself that day.

If you are facing some difficulty, I plead with you, why not look into the Word of God and see what it has to say about the problem you are facing?  If you have read this far,  thank you so much.  Find the Person of Truth in His precious book today.





Thursday, November 23, 2017

Saved in Time by Giving Thanks

"For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills.
"I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
"If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
"Shall I eat the flesh of bulls Or drink the blood of male goats?
"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving And pay your vows to the Most High;  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me." Psalm 50: 10-15

Give thanks in everything, the Word of God tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18.  One day, a few years ago, I wondered if that included  wrecking my car watching as my airbag suddenly deployed and smoke arose from the front end of my car. Only one minute before, everything had been just fine, I had safely driven 300 miles then within a couple miles of my intended destination, a totalled car, and worse yet, hitting another car too.

But the first thing that came into my mind was, "I guess I should give thanks." So I did. I know, it sounds crazy, doesn't it?

The only way I could give thanks in that situation was to believe that God was sovereign over every detail in my life. When I called my husband, being 300 miles from home, he reassured me that it was me he cared about, not the car. Every detail from that situation worked itself out.

But that example, drastic as it may be, proves that God is not suggesting for us to give thanks, He is commanding us. How easily I forget this very thing when one of life's daily little annoyances happens, like when I drop freshly laundered clothing onto the basement floor, or spill food in the kitchen? Or when the cat throws up on the carpet? Everything in me shouts to not give thanks at that moment but to instead curse. But God wants me, wants us all, to give thanks in all things, and not just on Thanksgiving Day either.

Perhaps the very reason He asks that of His children is so that once again, we will be reminded that He is sovereign over every detail of our lives. He wants us to grow into a relationship of MORE, not less dependence, on Him. It is the opposite of how we raise our children. We want them to grow into independence from us, but God wants us to become like children, to depend on Him more and more for everything, just like Jesus His Son did when He walked upon this earth. He never acted independently from His Father, even when He face the ordeal of the cross.

But I can think of another good reason to give thanks as well. It comes in the form of a warning that we read in the first chapter of the book of Romans.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing to be wise, they became fools,
and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 
                    Romans 1: 21-25 

Ingratitude can cause a slippery slope downhill. It is the first sin that can eventually end with a darkened heart. On the other hand, when we give thanks, it lightens our perplexed hearts, for in spite of what we see swirling around us, it reminds us that God is in control of not just some things, but all things.  If He took care of us by paying for every single one of our sins before we were even born, then He can control the things that "seem" to be out of control in our fleeting lives on this earth.

I came across this verse today from King Hezekiah as he discussed his recovery from what would have been a fatal illness in Isaiah 38:17.  It encapsulates why we really can give thanks in all things:
Indeed, it was for my own welfare that I had such great bitterness; but Your love has delivered me from the Pit of destruction, for You have thrown all my sins behind Your back.
Beside that, an attitude of gratitude helps our mental health. Think of the Exodus generation. They mumbled, grumbled, murmured and complained while God upheld the very sandals on their feet for 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness. Because they grumbled, they all ended up face down in the desert and it was their children who got to enter the Promised Land.

They wandered for 40 years. 40 years! When I think back on my life, much of it has been like theirs, wandering in the wilderness even though Christ died for me and provided everything I needed for the spiritual life and godliness before I was even born.  I want to give thanks every day for everything He either ordains or allows in my life. Only by His Spirit can I do so. But no worries...

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Philippians 2: 13
The Word then commands:
Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Philippians 2: 14-15
 I  am still learning this simple lesson of the Christian life. When I give thanks, it makes life bearable. I am not only saved eternally, but also in time. Let us be saved from our own wretchedness by giving thanks not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. 
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17



 







Sunday, November 12, 2017

Boxes of Blessings

Volunteers gather one rainy October afternoon to assemble 90 shoeboxes.





For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever. Psalm 9: 18














Ever been to a shoebox packing party? I attended my first  a few weeks ago. My generous friend Donna collected hundreds of small items all year to place in shoeboxes sent overseas with Samaritan's Purse for Operation Christmas Child. She transformed her garage into a bright and cheerful place where believers from different churches throughout the community worked side by side to prepare boxes of blessings for children on the other side of the world, children who struggle just to survive.

Operation Christmas Child has a mission: to send gifts to poor children and take an opportunity to evangelize them with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Included in the boxes are things like small toys, toothbrushes, soap, a washcloth, toothpaste, pencils, crayons, notebooks, and other hygiene items. These things that may not mean much here, but to them mean everything, for they demonstrate in a small way the love and grace of Jesus toward the poor and needy.


How could it be that life for these children is so radically different than our life in affluent America?One shoebox goes to one child in any number of impoverished nations around the world. The results have been miraculous, even as my OCC volunteer friend told me that around 7 poor people are effected when just one child in their family receives a box. Parents and relatives also can come to learn about Jesus when their child receives a box.

Not necessary, but Donna provided us with delicious refreshments while we packed, and together we  prayed over the boxes, that each box would go to its perfect recipient. We joined hands together and laid our hands on those boxes when we prayed. It was a distraction from the worries and cares of our affluent lifestyle here, and a way for parents to teach their kids about sharing too.
Families can fill boxes together and young children can learn about sharing during the season of "Gimme."


One little shoebox represents the love of Christ. Lives have been changed, hundreds have come to a saving relationship with Christ through this ministry that is an offshoot of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and run by Franklin Graham.

I first learned about OCC seven years ago when I went to a Christian concert and benefit for OCC with my sister in Parkersburg WV. I got an empty box to take home to fill. When I came home, I looked on the computer to find a church nearby that collected shoeboxes for Samaritan's Purse. I found a Methodist church not far from my home and took the filled box there. I met some kind volunteers who are now friends, they have volunteered  countless hours for the sake of this Christmas project for children that we will never see, yet will experience joy in receiving a simple gift. We even enclosed our photo and wrote the little child a note. (Not necessary, but optional.)

It is not hard to fill a box. If you go to the website for Samaritan's Purse you can find out where to take the box, what to pack, what not to pack, and many other questions you might have. You can also find other ways to share with the needy of this world through Samaritan's Purse.


Please copy and paste into your browser to visit their site: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/


Last year at the same Methodist church I heard the testimony of a boy whose life was radically changed by receiving one of these boxes. This young man was from Eastern Europe and lived in a care home, starving for love and attention. He shared one towel to wash his face with about ten other boys. This boy did not know that God loved him, or what God's Son had done to save him by dying on the cross. He was despondent, almost suicidal. One day in the orphanage he heard a commotion: people had come and were handing out boxes. He hurried to join the group before the boxes were all delivered. When he received his, he was amazed to find that his box contained his very own washcloth. How that simple gift gave him hope that maybe there could be a God. He went on to learn about God's Son, and was one day adopted by a loving Christian family. Last year he travelled with Samaritan's Purse and told audiences that the simple gift helped open his cold and desperate heart to the love of Jesus. One person in the audience asked him what gift in the box meant the most and it was the washcloth. Something we take for granted, a clean towel, meant so much to someone who had almost nothing.

This week is "Collection Week," where all across the country people will be bringing packed boxes to collection centers. For each box you pack, you pay a $9 fee for the shipping and distribution costs. If you pay this online, you receive a number and a label that you can print off your computer to attach to your box. 
 
 When the box is distributed you will receive an email from Samaritan's Purse that reveals what country your box was delivered to.  If you prefer not to do it that way, you can also donate at the collection center to receive your label. 

At the website, You can optionally also donate an additional amount to provide a small book called The Greatest Journey that teaches newly saved children how to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

It is not hard to do this. It's a small way to show love to someone, someone we won't probably ever meet on this side of eternity. But just imagine, someday we could meet that child in heaven, one who had next to nothing, who received a box of blessing, and had their eternal destiny changed forever.

Here is little ole me with one of the shoeboxes I packed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When Men's Words Fail us

from The Expositor's Study Bible, commentary on Exodus 28:26, page 162
I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.



Psalm 130:5






Have you ever gone through something and people tried to say things to comfort you but it didn't help? Maybe you faced the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a marriage, were fired from a job or in some other way had your heart ripped out.

I have, and I also have been one trying to offer support to someone going through this very thing. In so many ways, I was told that talk of doctrines or even the imminence of the Rapture was not really being helpful at that particular time.

What does help when everything is stripped away, when all our hopes and dreams are torn out from under us?

It is in these times that the simple comforts of Scripture helps pierce the thick darkness.

Words like:

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10
..for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Heb. 13:6
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31


Not words from the philosophies of men that make you feel like you have to live up to something but only to live unto Someone.

Words that do not help you to put confidence in your own flesh or in the flesh of any person on earth.

Words that remind you that when everything is swirling in a mass of confusion all around you, you can be sure of this ...

GOD does not lie.

God does not change.

His promises are true.

Therefore we cling to them even in the darkest night of our soul.

We  think on Jesus, who went through the darkest night of all souls, faced hell and came back triumphant because His Father raised Him from the dead, never to die again, death has no power over Him.

We can remind ourself, even when we are in the thick of battle, that Jesus Christ won and no power of hell, no, not even on Halloween night can steal that victory back.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? I Cor. 15:57

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Cor. 5:17

That is how God sees us, even when we only see our wretchedness.

                                                                                                 



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What I Wished I'd Said




Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:6-7







My high school alumni page on facebook contained sad news yesterday. A classmate of mine, aged 55, succumbed to cancer. Regret washed over me as the news took me back to fourth grade, out on the playground of my elementary school.

One bright sunny day felt more like a thunderstorm gushing over my head as some boys were making me the laughingstock of the day. It was probably due to the fact that I was not well coordinated. My whole year wasn't going well. I was having trouble making friends. How I wished I could disappear. School felt like prison. (That same year my gymteacher told me I gave him a heart attack when I tried to jump the hurdles.) 

But one girl from my class courageously stood up for me, told the bullies to stop bothering me, and chased them away. I felt so ashamed, but there was one person willing to do what was right, who helped me out when I needed a friend. I felt so grateful to her for sticking up for me. I still see it play out in my mind.

At the time we lived in the same neighborhood. I remember her being in classes with me in fifth and sixth grade and we were friendly with each other, not best friends but friendly. When middle school rolled around, the population of the seventh grade was at least three times higher than it had been in elementary school and we simply lost touch. It pretty much stayed that way for the rest of high school. I didn't even know many of the close to 800 people I graduated with back in 1980.

How I wish that I had reconnected with her, and told her how much I appreciated her for standing up for me when no one else would. Seeing news that she'd passed from a brave, brief battle with cancer hit me with its finality. When I read her obituary I saw that she also had stayed local and even went to the same university I did, though our paths never crossed there. The chance to ever say thanks now is gone. Maybe someone reading this might understand how hard it is to be a victim of bullying. Now, it seems it is more pervasive as there are increased ways to bully: social media, texting as well as on the playground, on the bus, or any other myriad of ways kids find to make the lives of others a living hell.

To others who also were bullied, if anyone stood up for you, you might want to say thank you, tell them how much you appreciated their act of kindness.

Our life is so brief. Tomorrow's not guaranteed. If there's something you have been meaning to say, by all means say it before it's too late. And if you can stick up for someone who's the underdog, you might just save their life.


Thank you Kim, for sticking up for me. I hope we will meet again on the other side.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Letting Go


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away...   Eccles. 3:1,6




It's come down to this: a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away. Saying goodbye to Mom and Dad's home hasn't been easy. Many trips with the Blazer filled, sometimes to Goodwill and sometimes to my kids, and many times to my house. My sisters and I have had days filled with backaches and dusty, dirty clothes after bringing long forgotten memories from the attic in Dad's barn. I now have plenty of extra plates and dishes, toy tractors and an extra sweeper to boot. More pictures, more books and more memorabilia that made up the life of my parents. All just stuff, though, and will not bring back the man we called Dad or the times we spent there in the past.

The house is nearly empty, all the tractors hauled away and it's been almost one year since Dad fell in a hunting accident. So much work in one year's time, coming to the tough decision to move Mom to the home and breaking down the house took an emotional toll on all three of us.

There was something painfully beautiful about it, a place where you could sit and meditate on the wonders of God's creation. And yet the "time" has come...to let it go now.

Last night we had a bonfire and cookout with Mom's wonderful neighbors. We retired the flag from the flagpole and said our goodbyes to a tiny piece of heaven on earth. It  hurt to look at the beauty of the country as I drove around up there and observe the rolling hills, the patches of farmland and hearing the sweet birdsong.  But....but, this is still  a fallen world. One look at the headlines and I know this is not Paradise, not yet. We have a better place to look forward to. Rocky Ridge in all its glory still had nasty invaders like stinkbugs, mice and spiders. It's time to move forward from a season of casting away and look to eternity.

"If only we could keep it in the family somehow," I still  mused last night while gazing heavenward. But life does not promise us a piece of land or even ending the way we think it will.

That's OK, we have something so much better to look forward to.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.  Hebrews 11:13-16


We're pilgrims passing through. We belong to a better country. A place where no corruption, no decay, no death and no more night will ever make us sigh again. We're headed for Eternal day and no need of the sun there for the Lamb of God will light the universe.

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Ps. 37:25


As we say goodbye to memories, I realize I'm next. My kids will be deliberating on how to care for me, how to keep me safe. And yes, they will have to sort through my "stuff." I hope I can pare it down somehow, make their job a little easier.

I thought about the lyrics in the song "Hurt" by Trent Reznor, made famous in Johnny Cash's swansong video. It says "you can have it all, my empire of dirt..."  I worked in the attic, and attempted to sweep over twenty years worth of the accumulation of dust.  My fingernails became coated black with debris as we cleared out the last of the leftovers: tractor parts, tools, pictures and slides from the 50s and 60s. 

Life is brief. All that's left is our "empire of dirt."  That's what it comes down to. The only stuff I'll  keep when it's time to pack my suitcase is God's Word inside. Everything else will be cast away.

Help me God. Let my daily prayer simply be:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Ps. 90: 12




Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hope for the Suffering

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
that no flesh should glory in His presence.  I Cor. 1: 27-29


Just when I needed a gentle touch from the Lord, He blessed me beyond my dreams today.  I drove this gloomy morning to the assisted living center where Mom lives, feeling nervous and unsure of myself. Today was the first day I was to lead a small devotion time with some of the residents. It's to be once a week, but at the time I didn't know how it all would turn out. When I walked into Mom's room, she looked glum herself and said she didn't think anyone would come. But I didn't have time to stew over it, I needed to start knocking on some doors and inviting people.

The first door I knocked on was a couple doors down from Mom's. "Stan" was laying on his bed but when I asked him if he would like to come he got up right away and thought it would be a good idea. I knocked on another door, and thought at first he hesitated, "Jeff" said he would come along too.

"Not too bad," I thought, "At least there will be two others." I led them down to the room behind the big dining hall and started pouring coffees for people. An aide asked me if there were others. I thought of a couple more people and soon there were three ladies and two men, plus Mom and I.

For our meetings I will use my book, Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering  for our time together. Each of the forty chapters shares about a believer who suffered in some way, but overcame through God's promises.Today we naturally did Chapter 1 which concerned George Mueller, a true prayer warrior, orphanage founder, and preacher of the Word of God. I found myself not just reading the chapter word for word, but interacting with the sweet residents as we all sat around the table together. Smiles and bright eyes encouraged me that somehow God could use something small like this to help spread a little joy, a little hope.

I could tell the residents enjoyed hearing about Mueller, who is a true hero of the faith. One of the Scripture references from the chapter was from John 3 where Jesus talked to Nicodemus about being born again. I read the passage and the Holy Spirit prompted me to discuss what it meant to be born again, to look away from yourself trying to be good and to believe in the Finished Work of our perfect Savior, receiving His gracious gift of salvation.

When I said that we could not be good enough I looked over and there was Stan with tears in his eyes. He then stated that he was going to "try hard" to keep himself in the faith. I said that if he believed, then God the Father would hold him in His hands and no one could ever snatch him away.I had a feelling of joy telling about the gospel really being good news, that Jesus Christ came down here and lived a perfect life on our behalf and took all our sins on His body on the tree.  To have the residents listen and respond was icing on the cake.

When we closed our time, Stan started humming  Amazing Grace. He was a music teacher and plays the piano beautifully. Outside our room there  is a piano where he plays regularly so I asked him if he would play it for us. Without any hesitation, he wheeled over in his wheelchair and played it. We sang together and hearing the voices singing was among the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard.

I felt so blessed that God gave me this small opportunity to share the Word with  precious people who might sometimes feel forgotten. I'm not famous, but God opened a door for me to write my book and to share its  message of hope. Three weeks today will be the first anniversary of my father passing from this life into eternity. If he hadn't encouraged me and pushed me, Sure Mercies might not have beenbready to share with others.  How often he told me that it needed to come out because people needed to hear it. All  we see around us reveals just how desperate we are. Without Christ, there are no answers for the chaos in this world. But with Him, there is hope.

If you are born into this world at one time or another you will suffer, but with God's provision there is always  hope for the suffering.

 God 's promises affected forty people's lives, helping them not just to survive but to be overcomers. I think Dad would have been happy about today. Even if I am only one small person, I am helping to share the best news with people who long to hear it. A colaborer in the Kingdom of God.

If you happen to read this blog today and are not sure if you have believed in Jesus, you can be right now, wherever you are. Crazy times are upon us, but God's promises are sure and every one of them will be fulfilled. Jesus' promise to Nicodemus can also be His promise to you:

"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.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."   John 3: 14-17