Sunday, December 31, 2017

Skip the Regrets and Forge Forward in Faith in 2018


"What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?  Job 15:14







I am but a silly sheep in the great I AM 's  overflowing pasture, and I lose my way all the time. He rescues me daily from my own bad decisions and keeps me in life. (Psalm 66:9) Yet the Bible says I am pure if I am washed in the blood of the Lamb. I am without spot and blameless. I share in Christ's very righteousness.

"Yes, but....!" I've said in my heart a million times. My own heart wants to readily condemn me. The voice in my heart demands to be heard. Yet God is far greater than that voice...
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. I John 3:21

 At certain times, like at night when I toss and turn, the thoughts of what I should have done and could have done come back to nip at my conscience. Finally, I am able to put the day into the wastebasket and He gives me rest.

The trouble is I know what is in my heart. I know that I fall short of God's righteous requirements. And Jesus does too.He knows I can never clean up the mess within my own heart. But somehow He still loves me, not because of anything desirable in me, but because of who and what He is. There is nothing in Him less than absolute love and perfection. He knows that if I spent the next billion years trying in my flesh to be like Him I would never produce even one good thing.

So He waits. He wants only for me to trust Him. He alone will produce anything good that comes from me by His grace. After all these years of walking with the Lord, I  only see more of my failures. That's a good thing, though. It's good to be weakened, to be reminded that I am only made of dust, so that I look only to my Perfect Savior. He too was made of dust, but now is in an incorruptible body that has triumphed for once and all over sins and failures and death.

Thank God, this Perfect Savior does not see me the way I see myself. I say in my heart, "But Lord, remember the time I did this, or though that, or didn't do what I thought You wanted me to?"

But that's ridiculous to entertain that, for He tells us:
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Heb. 8: 12

If I believe the Bible, I must cast these thoughts off as vain imaginations. These feelings of guilt and regret do not make me more valuable or pious to God. They only serve to prove that my eyes are on myself and not on the Finished Work sacrifice that He made, once for all.

If He said it was finished, it was finished. No matter how bad I botch things, my sins, past, present and future have all been a part of what we could call Job's bag and thrown on Christ, once for all.

"My transgression is sealed up in a bag, And You wrap up my iniquity." Job 14:15

In the updated 1992 version of Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest today,  it gently and kindly reminded me, when once again I was ready to beat myself up for falling short that it is about looking ahead, not looking behind, as we reach this last day of the year 2017.

 "It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return...Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him." 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Make a Little Bright


For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.


II Corinthians 13:4











Our adversary is slick. He studies our countenance to see what kinds of thoughts he can throw at us to try to knock us out of God's plan. But he makes the thought seem like it is our thought, so we don't realize it is an attack upon our mind, an effort to deride any good thing that the Lord might be working in us.

I saw this so clearly today. I go on Thursdays to the assisted living place where my Mom is now and each week I share a chapter of my book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering, with any who want to come in the back dining room at 10 am. But today, I planned on staying on even after that.

About 6 weeks ago, I started thinking about something small I could do for the residents. I deliberated and looked on Pinterest, googling ideas back and forth when finally I came up with something. I like to sew and I have lots of materials from the years. I found a pattern on Pinterest for a little sheep. I could make one for each of them. I copied the pattern onto parchment paper and set to cutting out some 60 sheep bodies, heads, arms and legs.  I just wanted to give the residents something to let them know that God cared about them, that Jesus died for them, and to try to spread God's Good News of salvation through a little poem I wrote and attached to a ribbon and tied around each one.

A couple of days ago I felt this sense of dread about the whole thing. I felt that everyone there would despise them and the staff people would laugh at me for being a "do-gooder." But it wasn't like I was working to "try" and please God in making them, I enjoyed the whole process of sewing them together and even wrapping them. It's hard to explain but I felt this oppression. I even cried a couple times yesterday.

I woke up still feeling heavy inside. But as I began reading my Bible this morning, God blessed me so much in His Word and I just felt that burden lift off my shoulders. 

God, You are my God, I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You; in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. So I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory. My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. Psalm 63: 1-3 

I took a couple minutes to pray to the Father and I asked my little sister and my husband and son and daughter in law also to pray for me today when I handed them out.

All I can say is I was so deceived by the enemy in feeling intimidated in sharing my gifts with the old folks there. Some of them were so surprised that I had a gift for them and their faces lit with joy. Seeing that joy on their faces was more than enough to fill my soul with blessings.

It can be gloomy in my corner of the country, and often the darkness really can get to some of us. But today, there was just a little brightness added to my day and to their day, and to think that I thought of chucking the whole idea. Like I said, the enemy must have seen my needless worry on my countenance and tried to win a victory on this the shortest and darkest day of the year.

But once again, our adversary was defeated by the Word of God.

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." Revelation 12:11

When God is glorified, people are blessed, plain and simple. God's glory is for man's good. So let us lift Him up, unashamed, in this dark world. I remembered  suddenly this lovely quote by Edward Everett Hale, and realized how it can apply to small, tiny efforts to spread the love of Christ: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  

When I hear and see of all  the terrible things in the world today, sometimes I feel like I can't do anything, it's hopeless. But seeing the light in the residents faces reminded me that is just not true. When I am weak, then He is strong. Praise be to His name.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hope from Christ in the Winter of Life

Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14:17


Last night I went to a Christmas party at the assisted living center where my Mom now lives. I am there pretty frequently these days and am getting to know the residents. How is it that there are so many people living in assisted living and nursing homes and I can relate to them better now than any other time in my life? 

When I was young, every summer we drove halfway across the country to visit my Dad's mother who lived in a nursing home in a small town in Iowa. When we went there, I didn't take time to talk to the other residents, I was just there to see her. I did not view it particularly as a sad place, but for me saying goodbye was always tough. The reality is that people go to these places to die. It is their last stop after a long life.

Some of them are happy and lively, some are not. "Life is hard," my Mom reminded me last night.

"Yes, life is hard, Mom. I see it now," I could have said to her.

We joined all the others for the party in the dining hall as people scrambled to find a place to sit. Some were struggling with Alzheimers, one was blind, others had dementia. They all were there because they needed to be there for one reason or another.

As we came in, we were going to sit at the table where she eats, but one of her table mates snapped that what, were we planning on coming at midnight?  Now it was too late for us to sit there, the seats were gone. She scowled at us for not being there earlier, but I didn't want her mood to get Mom down.  I remained cheerful and eventually we were seated in the middle of the room, facing the beverage table and with a good view of the musicians there to sing to us all.

People who have a hard time remembering what they did a few hours ago remember the lyrics to the Christmas songs, like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindoor" and Jingle Bells. But we also sang songs that reflected the true meaning of Christmas like Silent Night. A real treat was listening to singers perform the Christmas version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I closed my eyes and though there was lots of room noise, I focused on the lyrics and the incredulity that God Incarnate came down to dwell with broken people like us.

Then, "Santa" and "Mrs. Claus" arrived to wish all the residents a Merry Christmas and hand out little bags with small gifts and candy inside. I thought to myself, "This is the first Christmas where my Mom is a resident at a home." Just like a little child getting candy, she eagerly took her gift bag from Santa.

Before the party, I attended a ladies Bible study across town. I hadn't been there for a while. It was a bit treacherous getting there with snow coming down but I had a 4 wheel drive and was OK, even going through the Fort Pitt tunnel. The day before, I really felt the seasonal affective blahs. I knew the day would be long and dark if I didn't brave the weather and go meet with likeminded ladies.

Though I drove 45 minutes to get there, I was reminded of why shortly after my arrival. I needed the encouragement that God's plan is grace. It is not based on merit that I can stand before God but on what the Son did for me that made me acceptable to God. How is it that we so easily forget that?

And so, when I reached the assisted living last night for the party on a bitter December night, that love and grace was still sustaining me and filling me. I realize I am starting to get attached to some of my Mom's companions and enjoy being in their company. It won't be long 'til I am in their shoes.

There are some there who are believers and some who are not interested in faith. It makes a difference, I think, as their end draws near. For the believers, they are confident that soon they will make an exit to a "better resurrection," that they will not be stuck with their limitations forever. I can see joy in their faces when we talk about Christ at our little devotions on Thursdays. Sadly, those who have said "No" to God all their lives seem unable to change their minds at this point in life. I am sure there are those who do, but they are the exception.

Looking at the residents there last night, I was overwhelmed with the fact that God loves us and wants a relationship with each one of us. He still honors our free choice, though, even when we are old and frail. Yet any time, any day, any person can simply take the free gift of salvation God so generously offers us. Then we truly can have a Merry Christmas, no matter what we are going through. For we possess the greatest gift of all: Christ living inside of us and sharing with us His gift of eternal life.

And so I will continue to share the good news, for "now" is the appointed time, now is the season. It is always a good time to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christmas is a time when we can truly think about why we are celebrating anyway.

It's about Christ. God with us, Immanuel. He will be with His children always, even to the end of their lives.

 

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

 

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: