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

 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Surreal

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed    --

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


                                                                     I Corinthians 15: 51-52





Surreal, the times we live in are surreal. The definition of surreal, according to Webster's 7th New Collegiate Dictionary, is: "having the intense irrational reality of a dream."

Doesn't the thought of the rapture of believers in Jesus Christ seem surreal? Like a dream that it even could happen?  The fact that we will hear a trumpet, the dead in Christ will rise from their graves and we will be changed in the smallest amount of time, doesn't it sound "preposterous"? (As Chuck Missler states when talking about the rapture.)

But that is the "blessed hope" of the Church, and as my pastor says, "Don't mess with my blessed hope!" Churches that teach there is no rapture, or that we must go through the tribulation are in fact doing that, messing with our hope. I just read in Titus about the blessed hope:

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself [His] own special people, zealous for good works." Titus 2: 11-14

Jesus told us that we would not know the day or the hour, but He did say we can know the times and the seasons.

Many might say that people thought they were in the times and seasons throughout the Church Age. Like during World War II, people thought surely that Hitler was the antichrist, especially when the Jews were being eradicated in the ovens of the concentration camp in Germany.

Or in the year 1666, I read that many people thought that was the end of the world, being that it was the year of triple sixes. Even many people thought in 1988 that we would be caught up then.

Now many believers are  talking (and arguing!) about the Revelation 12 sign in the constellation of Virgo. This Saturday, September 23, on the Feast of Trumpets the planet Jupiter will exit the womb of the constellaton Virgo. All the features of Revelation 12: 1-2 will be in place in this particular sign from the heavens.

"Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne."
                    Revelation 12: 1-5

So many, many in the Body of Christ believe that possibly this might be the day that the Church, whom they say is the Child, (not the male Child, who is Christ) will be caught up to meet the Lord. Even the word for "caught up" is harpazo, the same Greek word used in I Thessalonians 4:17:

"Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."
The point of this blog is not to argue that this is going to happen this weekend. But the surrealities among us with hurricanes, monsoons, people losing their minds, artificial intelligence, Israel being back in the land and so forth sure sounds like the end of the end times. In Luke 21: 25, Jesus described these end times and they sound just like today's headlines:
"And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;
"men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
"Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."
Oh, and by the way, today, September 21, 2017 just happens to be the UN's International Day of Peace. No matter that it says I Thessalonians 5:2-3:

"For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape."
Though there have been many arguments about this Revelation 12 sign, and what it means, it seems the Body of Christ has become polarized over this very issue. I have not wanted to say much about it, for fear of others scoffing at me, if the truth were known. 

With all that, I believe that the catching up could happen this weekend. Or it could happen later this fall. Maybe even later than that. God Himself knows the perfect time, and that is enough for me.

I am not going to stake my claim on a particular day, but I do want to be ready. For even though this seemingly absurd event called the Rapture is scoffed at by the world, it is going to happen. My greatest test is overcoming the lukewarm test, being blase or consumed with arguing with others about the whole thing.

The only way I can do this is to keep looking to my gracious Lord and Savior. Though there are millions of distractions: books, movies, tweets, facebook posts and snapchats, He calls me simply to bear His yoke daily. Bearing it is the most wonderful and gracious thing I ever get privileged to do. The yoke that Christ asks me to wear is, in the Greek, chrestos (5543 Strong's). 

"Christ's yoke is chrestos, as having nothing harsh or galling about it." (page 2327, Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible, ESV, 2013)
Let's just work on being ready for that Day.

 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Jesus: Don't Leave Earth Without Him

"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves,
people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken." Luke 21: 25-26





Do you remember the credit card commerical jingle: "Don't leave home without it?"

I was thinking today of our brief stay on this planet, and then the moment of our death. Right now, it seems like we will be here forever. But think of those who went before us who thought the same thing, and now are no longer here. They made an exit from this life, and according to God's Word,  have gone to only one of two places: heaven or hell.

Much in all as people don't like to talk or even think about hell, it seems Jesus talked more about hell than He did heaven. So, as I mused this morning, what will it be like when we have our final heartbeat on this planet? We will go to one of those places.

JESUS: Don't leave earth without HIM! Yet, there is this:

On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' Matthew 7: 22-23


 So sobering. To whom was the Lord referring? I mean, these people claimed to know Him, but He tells them He never knew them!

I can't help but think that these people were so called good, upstanding members of their community. But they did not know Jesus. They somehow counted on their own good works to give them credit with God. They thought that perhaps they were better than some that were criminals, and somehow that would give them the ability to cite their own good works before God.

But in Revelation 20, Jesus, though the Apostle John,  talks of a throne, not of mercy but of judgment. At this throne, those that thought somehow they had done enough good works will have them measured in the light of God's justice. And no one, no one at that throne will be found to have enough good works to save him..

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.*
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.     Revelation 20: 11-15 (* my emphasis)

To me, these are the somberest words in the Bible. They say nothing of "universal reconciliation." Why are they in God's Word if  not true?

Look at all the chaos and destruction swirling around us. Signs in the heavens, signs in the oceans, men's hearts failing them from fear, people losing their minds. Maybe this will continue to go on for years, but then again maybe it will not. Maybe it will all come down, and come down soon. 

If it does, do you know for a fact that your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life? Have you trusted in His free and irrevocable gift? You can, right here and right now. This is really good news!

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.  John 5: 24-29

I am rereading a great book called Earthquake Resurrection. The author, David W. Lowe, contends that the sixth seal of the book of Revelation will occur when the resurrection of all dead believers  will suddenly be snatched out from their tombs.  Then we who are alive and remain will meet them together in the air and then forever will be with the Lord. See I Thessalonians 4:16.

The earthquake will be as no other earthquake, as the shaking will be from every part of the earth. It will occur (though much larger) just as there was an earthquake when our Lord was risen by the Father from the dead.

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.
The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,
and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" Matthew 27: 51-54


Today, if you only are willing, you can take Jesus' water of life freely and without cost. (Revelation 22:17) The price of this great salvation has been completely borne by Him in His love for you. He won't force you, but while it is still called Today, you can make the choice to believe on Him.

Then when you leave this earth, whether by resurrection or by death, you will be sure not to leave without Him. You will not have to stand in terror at the Great White Throne, for your name will be in the Lamb's Book of Life. You will be counted among the glorious saints of God. Amen.
 



Friday, September 1, 2017

Harvey's Overcomers

The LORD [is] your keeper; The LORD [is] your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. Psalm 121: 5-6


A gem of wisdom from the pulpit caught my attention: "If you're not happy just where you are with just what you have you will never be happy no matter where you are or what you have."

 That one little thought has saved me many times. The lie is that if I just had that one more thing I want, then I could then be happy. But we all know that even the richest people, the ones that have everything still are not satisfied. If I have the Lord, then I have what I need, no matter what I apparently lack in comparison with others. 

 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. Psalm 23:1


I realized today that God has seen fit to order my life in just such a way that is perfect for me, to keep me leaning hard on God. God took all the quirks of my personality and temperament and came up with a plan that is optimal so that I could keep seeking Him. Even my infirmities add up to help bring about something good.

Friends,  relatives, and acquaintances did not have the same need I did, and God worked in their life a different way. How intimately God knows and deals with each one of us, His children.

Years ago I talked with a godly man with a premise that God does everything He can in each person's circumstances so that they might cry out to Him and be saved. That does not mean that all mankind will, but that's God's heart toward them. Some might need to endure persecution, others might need to realize the emptiness of riches without Christ. But God knows what each one needs, and if He went to the utmost to give His Son for us on the cross, then why wouldn't He  work in the backgrounds of all of our circumstances to try to get our attention?

O earth, earth, earth, Hear the word of the LORD! Jeremiah 22:29


If this is true, then  if there are things in my life that I don't like, I rest, somehow knowing He uses these things for my highest and best purpose. They can draw me eve closer to Him in this little entity called time.

I watched a beautiful news clip from some of the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. Gathered in a shelter together, they spontaneously began singing a praise song to God and even calling out to God for revival. Now, that's trusting Him to have control of things, even when their homes were destroyed and they lost verything but the clothes on their backs. Instead of becoming contentious and angry, God's promise made them content, even surviving a once in a millenium type of flood. They witness to us the preciousness of God's promises:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. 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?" Hebrews 13: 5-6


Before the watching world, Harvey's overcomers displayed God's truth:

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Psalm 46: 1-2: 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Quiet Us with Your Love

 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for [it is] nigh at hand... Joel 2:1


Do you feel worrisome about the latest news reports? The headlines grow harder and harder to bear.

Just less than a week ago was the eclipse and now a storm bears down in the sourthwest that may end up being worse than Katrina. Every day it seems our country implodes just a little bit more.

I am confused by what's all around me, yet the answer I need to these very problems were written thousands of years ago. 
 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6

Somehow God knew all of this craziness was going to happen, in this generation since the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. It seems the key to really get the end times ball rolling was May, 14, 1948.  Suddenly we are almost 70 years from that day. And everything is flying out of control.

 I flounder in a confusing sea of information when listening to the news updates. Everyone has their opinion, experts abound. But stability does not come from the plethora of advice I  find from the world.

Only one thing is sure: God's Word and His promises to all of us, His undeserving children. I may understand just a tiny bit, but one day it all will be made clear. So each day I try to read and record verses impressed on me.

Today, one of the verses I read and recorded was Zephaniah chapter 3:1-2.  I thought about my own reaction to the times we live in:
 Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!  She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD; she does not draw near to her God. Zeph. 3: 1-2

 Am I listening and attentive to the warning knocks the Lord is sending to this country? I've lived in a time of unbroken prosperity, but that could all change in a moment.

Yesterday I was deprived of my morning coffee so that I could undergo a small procedure at the hospital early in the afternoon. The world could have ended that I didn't get my morning cup of joe. I felt awful without it. Then, I thought what if the electricity went out permanently? No more dark roast for me! This verse from Jeremiah came to mind:

 "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?  Jeremiah 12: 5
 Here I am again, Lord. Please keep me and my loved ones safe through spiritual and physical storms. One of my children and his precious family live in the path of Harvey, so this storm weighs heavy on my mind and heart. Still, God speaks words of reassurance:

 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zeph. 3: 17
 Dear God quiet this storm by Your love, exult over Your people that lie in its path with Your singing. And may we, the sheep of Your pasture, remember that if You, Lord, did the most in saving us through means of the cross, than You, God, also will meet every other need until You bring us safely home.

  He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Song of Solomon 2:4









Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To God Alone be Glory

I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Isaiah 42:8


God alone deserves all the glory.  In that wonderful devotional by Charles Spurgeon called Morning and Evening  I read these words for August 16:

God's glory is the result of His nature and acts. He is glorious in His character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that He must be glorious. The actions which flow from His character are also glorious; but while He intends that they should manifest to His creatures His goodness, and mercy, and justice, He is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to Himself. Nor is there aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. 
The last statement really hit me. "The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High."

Something clicked inside me. The basis for all the chaos, the fighting, the murders and in general all the misery of this world comes from the fact that one day in eternity past, God's most highly created being in a moment wanted glory for himself instead of giving it to the Most High.

In that minute, angelic rebellion started and it carries on to this very day. But lucifer wasn't the only rebel. One third of the angels joined him, and every day, we either join lucifer in his lie that God doesn't deserve all praise, or  we stand with God and rightly praise Him as the only One deserving glory in this entire universe.

The Lord revealed something ugly  lurking inside of me. Oh, how I hate to even admit it, but if it helps someone else who is struggling, it'll be worth it. That little ugly sin called envy was festering inside my heart of hearts.

On Monday, I realized this fact when I wrote this Proverb in my journal:

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but ENVY* makes the bones rot. Prov. 14:30 (my emphasis)


Suddenly, it hit me... Envy was causing me to spiritually languish, rotting inside. Ouch. Should I agree with that one who cannot even speak the truth by being envious of some other person's blessings?

When I read Spurgeon's words about there only being room for one glory in the universe, it connected in my soul. If I am envious of someone, I am telling God that what He gave me was not enough, that somehow He passed me by, made a mistake, call it what you will. Somehow I think that I deserve better than what He gave me, and the old bones start to rot. I am looking to glorify myself, and acting like the archenemy of God.

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?             I Cor. 4:7
Reading and believing that verse quiets my soulish longing for recognition by people in this world. Any talent I have is solely His gift to me, and there is no room for boasting in my flesh. Did I do one thing to earn or deserve it? No way.

 In the past, I didn't understand why God demands all the glory. Dare I say I thought it was selfish of Him?  That only proved my ignorance of knowing Him at all.

God alone deserves the glory because He humbled Himself more than any creature in this universe, to the point of being born in a dirty cattle trough, being misunderstood and abused when He went about doing only good, and as a thanks for all His gifts and healings was hung naked on the cross and suffered the punishment we all deserved, as us, instead of us. (See Phillipians 2.)
"In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God!"
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God."    II Corinthians 5: 19-21 NET
If we look at a flower, or a bird, or behold the blue sky or the stars in the heavens, they in their beauty, even in this fallen world, will attest:

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.    Revelation 4: 11

Even as we sing this beautiful chorus in the local assembly, one day soon all of God's children will be falling on our faces and singing it to the Lamb of God, the One who deserves the glory because He alone took away the sins of the world. Amen.
 
 





Monday, July 31, 2017

Numb in Laodecia

... you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.    Revelation 3: 17-20



I am numb. This world around me is dying and mostly I care for my own pleasure if I am honest about it.

Jesus stands knocking at the door of my heart, in the day of being connected 24/7. The Lord of the Universe waits, asking for permission to come in and fellowship with me, but I am too busy.
Maybe I have ear buds on or am catching up on the latest movie from Netflix.

People outside the church are hurting, looking for love in all the wrong places. I am too quick to point my finger and judge them rather than to show them God loves them and cares. 

It's easy for me to love others when they love me back. But what if they don't, how do I go on loving them? Facing that failure reveals how little I  do love with His agape love and not my own human love. I am numb.

Technology exploded in my lifetime. They forewarned of it in books like 1984 and Future Shock. But nothing could fully prepare us for this time in human history.  My humanity is only capable of so much expansion at one time even as the world goes on  with  attempts to "better" God's creation. In spite of microchips and bionic brains, in my spirit I know that will not solve the problem of human loneliness.  Our technology does not answer this great need of man, but the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ does.
 
In dying for me, He made a way for me to be with Him forever. The one who loves me unconditionally proved it by dying for me and all mankind on the cross.

 That same Lord knocks at the door of my numb heart.  Every day a plethora of choices comes my way for books to download on my device, movies to watch, songs and news shows to listen to.  Every single day they just keep on coming, hounding me to take a detour from the moment by moment fellowship with God. But still, He waits.

 Maybe I hear a knock right now, in spite of the buzz all around me.  God of the Universe is asking my permission to fellowship with Him? How can that be? Yet how patiently He waits until I realize that nothing else in this big ole world will fill the crater inside my stony heart.

If I let Him in, at times He  rebukes and disciplines me. It's for my highest good, not my destruction. Better for me to get the discipline here in time than at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Oh Lord I am numb in Laodecia. It's about me, myself and I and You are so often shut out. I live in the richest nation in the world and all the pleasures it gives does not fill the void inside without You.
Yet by faith I can answer that door for You to come in and give me peace, blessed peace. Oh Lord You wait patiently, but opening the door is up to me. Amen.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Eight Years Ago...By His Mercy

...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit                   Titus 3:5


By His mercy eight years ago today I started this blog called inchristalone-byhismercy.

By His mercy there have been 240 posts, in which my goal was to glorify my Lord and Savior in some small way. Even if one person was directed to look away from themselves and unto Him for salvation it would be worth any time or trouble on my part.

Eight years ago when I started this blog I was not yet a mother in law, or a grandmother. I did not have an empty nest.

I was still working part time, still coloring my hair, still in my forties!

Where has the time gone? Day by day and moment by moment it's slipped away.

My father is gone now, and we are busy helping my mother into an assisted living facility in the next few weeks.

By His mercy, the day I was baptized at Northgate Bible Baptist Church, the pastor quoted this Titus 3:5 verse before plunging me into the water. That was over thirty years ago, but  still I remember it.

How I loved hearing that verse, not by works of righteousness that we have done...

It was like drinking an ice cold glass of lemonade when my soul was parched with trying to be "good enough."

It is the same way with my Christian life too. It is not by deeds of righteousness that I do that I grow in grace and knowledge of Him but simply according to His mercy.

Mercy in the Greek is eleos. In Vine's Expository Dictionary, the definition of mercy starts with: 
ἔλεος
ELEOS is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it. It is used... of God, who is rich in mercy, Eph. 2:4, and who has provided salvation for all men, Tit. 3:5, for Jews, Luke 1:72, and Gentiles, Rom. 15:9. He is merciful to those who fear Him, Luke 1:50, for they also are compassed with infirmity, and He alone can succour them...

Any progress I have made between then and now is by His mercy. I hope, when I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be evidence of some. Yet consider this thought, which made me stop and think, for 7-17 in None But the Hungry Heart:

It takes more to break inertia than to ease momentum. Misdirected zeal is more easily corrected than inert sloth...

It is possible, and very humiliating, to be awakened to the fact, that though we have had a measure of zeal for the Lord, that we have barely known the things we should have known, nor the behavior that is becoming to us in this marvelous day of grace.  

But it is the love of the Lord Jesus that would lead us on, through the judgment of ourselves and ways, into deeper communion with Himself to be better representatives of Him here in whose likeness we shall soon appear. 
I could have done more in this eight years worth of time, but  I press on. I want to simply show the world by my words and actions that He is worth knowing, worth pursuing with all my heart.  Think back to where you were eight years ago. Are you where you want to be now? Let His love motivate you to press on. In the end, it is all that matters.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; 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. Phil. 3: 13-14




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Losing, Loving, and Waiting for Departure

 My dear  Mom at a park near her house. She didn't me to take a picture but I told her I wanted a memory for when she was gone.


Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old. Proverbs 23:22


A sweet writing friend just lost her mother. I felt stunned hearing how quickly her mother passed, but rejoiced that she went peacefully. I know that day of losing my own mother looms, and I  wonder how long it will be until she joins Dad in heaven.


Mom is in the midst of deep grief from losing her partner and best friend of 58 years. Now my sisters and I have made the painful decision to get her a little efficiency at a senior care home not too far from my home. It wasn't our first choice, but there seemed to be no other good option, and even mother realized that this must happen and agreed to it. Mom can't live alone in her home in the country when winter comes, so she must say goodbye to her home too. My heart aches.



How the words in Proverbs which say, "do not despise your mother when she is old,"  cut me to the quick at times when I grew impatient with her slowness getting out the door, or repeating herself, or hearing her complaints. It must be easy to despise people when they are old or Solomon would not have written it. 

We all love babies, so innocent and sweet with their fresh skin and wonder at the world. But loving the ones that are vulnerable on the other side of the spectrum? In this culture we live in, youth are exalted but the old and grayheaded are easily despised. In other cultures it isn't like this. 


When I was younger  I thought I knew so much. I assumed old people didn't know a thing. I thought I would do better than my parents did when I had my own children.


One day I sat on the floor with my baby and played with him, attempting to stimulate his little brain for learning. I suddenly realized how woefully unprepared I was to be his mother, to raise and nurture him, teach him what he would need for life. But there was no manual to read to make myself ready.


Rather, I was in for a rude awakening. My own rebellious heart haunted me when I saw it in my children. Over time, my heart softened toward Mom and Dad and their imperfections.

They were just two hurting human beings who got together and decided to have a family. They were going to have a boy and a girl but did not get what they ordered and ended up with us three girls. I think Mom often felt overwhelmed, and when I had my three, I often felt overwhelmed too.

Our parents had wounds that carried over into their parenting of us. The wounds were passed down, and somehow, without ever wanting to, we passed them on to our children. 

It comes right down to the fall of mankind, and the sorrow we all inherited from Adam.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and no one really loves our kids the way we do. But one day they grow up and move away and the difficult process of separation must begin. 

From that day on we can't "go home" again. Once I married and moved away, I struggled with resentment.  Then one day I too found myself a parent and had a newsflash:   parenting was not easy, not at all.

All too soon my "chippies" (as we called them) left our nest, and I was only left with memories, just like Mom had memories of us girls and the things we did that made her crazy. We begged her to stop reminding us of our stupid mistakes.

She finally stopped reminding us now. Instead, she talks about having a recurrent dream of seeing my Dad looking for his mother in heaven. She  slows down more and more, mostly just resting in her chair for most of the day.


She longs to go and be with Dad. How can I blame her for that?


Now it feels like I parent her more than her parenting me. All the nights I  spent with her, I tucked her in, and kissed her on the head and told her I loved her.


As I walked out of her room I heard her say, "I love you too honey."


Parenting came full circle. 


I prayed for clear direction, and God provided a comfy private room at a nice place not far from me available. God made her willing to go, instead of demanding she would stay "right here" in her present home. Now I trust that God will continue to lead us.  Mom will finish tredding her own journey, and then meet Jesus (and my Dad) again on the other side.





Friday, June 30, 2017

Don't get too comfortable, there's a new world coming.

Years ago this was the place of labor for a Midwestern farm family. 

"Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them." Psalm 39:6




In the winter of 1980, when I was a senior in high school, we received sad news  that my Grandma Clara from Iowa had passed away. I begged permission to accompany my parents to the funeral, even if it meant  missing school. In years past I'd always cried when we came home from visiting her in summer. But now suddenly, she was gone and I wanted to pay my final respects to her, the one I remembered knowing only from a distance.

Mom and Dad said no to that request, though afterwards they said regretted it. When they arrived home, I asked all about the service. Mom said the minister emphasized the theme: "All things come to pass."

The land Grandma labored over, now farmed by another. Her days of labor, straining over  rich Iowa soil only a memory.

 My life comes to pass before my eyes. Living with Mom these last months while we make arrangements to find a place for her, I gaze on the beauty of her place. Dad worked so hard here, but he is no longer to here to enjoy it. He amassed riches and did not know who would gather them...


I look at the beauty of her blue eyes. Soon her retirement home will be no longer be a part of our family. But it's just a "thing," and all "things" come to pass.

I hold her fragile hand. How did it get so withered and tiny?

My days of having Mom in my life are coming to pass.  One day will be my last day too, and the riches I've gathered will be given to strangers. None of it will come with me.

Only the treasure of the Word that I store in my soul will make it with me to the other side.

 We are eternal souls, and though our earth days come to pass, we will live on forever. If we have Jesus in our life and in our thoughts, the best is yet to come.  C.S. Lewis said:

"There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."


Time dragged when I was little, I thought I'd never grow up. I wanted my parents to live forever, I dreaded saying good byes. 

Now each day just melts into the next. One moment we celebrate, a family together.  Next thing it's a year later, a decade later, a lifetime later.The older I get, the more "goodbyes," the more life changes.

Life on this  broken, fallen sphere is filled with breath-taking moments, but something much, much better is coming. No matter the awe of this world, it's thoroughly contaminated with the plague of sin, death and destruction. Magnificent wonder is God's creation, yet a cry of despair when humanity touches it, ruining it.

Things aren't yet what they should be, the way God wants them to be.

Life is nothing, nothing, compared to what God has in store for us when He recreates the New Heavens and New Earth. In His mind, we're already there. 

We are just travelling through here, so let's not get too comfortable.

One day new life will dawn. God Himself will wipe the tears from our eyes.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad Listened to Me

"We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done...that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." Psalm 78: 4, 6-7


One of my favorite memories that I have of  my Dad is the night we discussedthe book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey.  We were all in our Apache popup trailer,  in the midst of a campground out in the Midwest,  tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.  Before drowsiness consumed us  the topic of possibly living in the end times came up. Dad had recently borrowed a copy of the book from his realtor.

My sisters and mother  dropped off to sleep and finally it was just me and him talking. He was eager to discuss it, and I felt elated because I wasn't sure at that point if he was saved. That night was such a blessing, sharing about things that are prophesied to happen, that will happen, things that were not mentioned in our ritualistic, formal church.

Dad liked to talk politics and such with my older sister. My own thoughts and opinions were drowned out as they got into heated debates. Of  course, her attitudes came to align with Dad's once she grew into adulthood, but back then I always felt like I didn't have much of a voice, that is, until that night in the trailer.

So began a tradition of rich talks with my Dad that lasted up until his death last fall. Dad was from the Midwest, and in the year 2016, he made two last trips out to see his family: one in the early spring and the last one late in the summer. I went with him and Mom on the first trip, and my younger sister went on the last one.

In spite of being eighty-four years old, Dad did almost all of the driving on that trip. In order to keep  awake at the wheel, he enjoyed conversing with me, even in spite of my mother's protests that he was talking too loud. Again we shared much about our faith, the nation of Israel, politics and then he began to tell the story of his army days to me. I learned how he "broke rank" in order to be transferred to a civil engineering unit in Germany and the hard lesson he learned from that. I learned how an older engineer mentored him and taught him how to be polished in the business world. This was all information I never heard before. Finally, I grabbed a notebook to write it down. In the back of my mind was a question, "Dad, why are you telling me all of this?"

Fast forward to a year ago, June 2016. My son and daughter in law paid a surprise visit to my parents home to introduce them to their new great grandson. My strong father was amazed to hold the newest member of the family. I looked at the two of them together, and in spite of Dad's great strength, noticed how much weight he had lost. Somehow I just knew his time was coming.

I think he knew too. He made a point of getting all of his affairs in order, and showing us where things were. But most of all, Dad had ensured that the most important transaction of all had taken place: Dad placed his personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation, and never was afraid to share that faith with others. The day he had his hunting accident, his neighbor and friend found that Dad had a copy of Billy Graham's Decision magazine up there with him in the tree stand. One of the last things Dad looked at on this side was to read about his great Lord and Savior. That magazine is tucked away in the drawer upstairs, too precious to be thrown away.

Dad eagerly  shared his faith with family members, neighbors and friends from the business world. He shared it with his grandchildren, the generations coming after him. This is my first Father's Day when I have not been able to give him a card and a gift and tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. 

With tears in my eyes, I still thank my Heavenly Father for giving me the gift of a wise earthly father, and cannot wait to see him again when we are reunited in heaven. Dad wasn't perfect, but he gave me an inkling of how great our Heavenly Father is by his own example. The most profound of those lessons was...Dad listened to me. If he as an imperfect human showed so much care and love for me, his whining middle daughter, how much more does my Heavenly Dad care about all of us unworthy yet adopted children?
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah  Psalm 62:8  

If you have not yet come into the family of God, what are you waiting for? You too can be His adopted child, with all its rights and privileges simply by trusting in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.


"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3: 16-17
Abba Father, thank You for giving us earthly fathers that can represent to us just a glimpse of the depth of Your love for us. Thank You for making a way that we can be reunited with them once again on that great Resurrection day. Amen.