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.

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.