Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Jesus or the Nightly News?

The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and   we are not saved.    Jer. 8: 20

The upcoming winter forecast sounds harsh. After all the heat and humidity, am I ready for the season to change?  One thing's for sure, it's coming whether I like it or not.

We also are facing a hot political summer in America. I've never seen anything like it. If I watched the media constantly, I'd be depressed. Thank goodness, we have no cable and only get about 3 stations.

The media is not of God and it isn't where I need to focus anyway.  The word comes from, medium, as in witchcraft. Our airways and internet are filled with half truths. Just enough truth to tickle our ears, perk our interest. I deceive myself and think it's worthwhile. 

How much did our forefathers  know? Did the colonists immediately know when we were free from the British? No, it took time for the news to spread across the land. So why do I need to tune into the headlines from around the world as if my life depended on it?

All I really need is  found in one Book. All I need to know is rooted in One Person: Jesus.  This one beautiful fact becomes  more real to me every day.
For we must never forget that He rescued us from the power of darkness, and re-established us in the kingdom of His beloved Son. For it is by His Son alone that we have been redeemed and have had our sins forgiven. Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through Him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen...In fact, every single thing was created through, and for Him...Life from nothing began through Him, and life from the dead began through Him, and He is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. Colossians 1: 13-16 Phillips
To live separate from this reality is emptiness, dissatisfaction. To be focused on the latest insanity is to drive myself crazy. At the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, really one thing matters. Have I gotten to know this Perfect Savior a little bit better today? If not, my day has been wasted. One day soon, there will be no more opportunities.

Thank God the verse from Jeremiah about summer being over and not being saved can be balanced with what we know of the mercy of God. If we but turn to Him, no matter how long we may have wandered from the path, He is faithful and just to forgive us, and help us start over.

I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Is. 44: 22

Some might say it's too radical to always be looking to Jesus. Maybe they might even think it is boring. Boring?  The truth is if you really get to know who this Jesus is, you cannot but help loving Him. He is our one constant in a world of uncertainty.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God.   Heb. 12: 2
 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1: 21

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Radiant Christian: Ernie Frederick

They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.   ~ Psalm 34: 5

The other day I was perusing the obituary listings online. It seems more and more I am finding more and more people I know or have known from my youth are on the lists these days. I happened upon a name and it didn't ring a bell-- at first, that is. I usually don't read them unless I think I might know them but I started reading this one, and it described the person's life as being one of total service to God. Then it mentioned he worked at an organization I used to volunteer with, Youth Guidance (YGI) in Pittsburgh.

All of a sudden, I recognized his name, Ernest Frederick:

I  volunteered with YGI as a college woman, being a "big sister" to a little girl from another part of town. I took some trainings at their office and had a chance to meet Ernie, as he was called. At the time, I was struggling in my faith and having all sorts of questions. One day, I got a chance to sit down with him one on one, and he shared with me a little paper explaining how to cast my cares on God. It had a little stick figure of a man with his arms raised. He explained that we also praised and thanked God and then cast our cares and the result would be sweet peace, something the world cannot give us. As he shared, he wrote verses on it and drew little red lines going upwards to heaven from the stick figure man. All the while he radiated.

I tried with all my might to grasp what he was saying, but not just because of the paper. It was because I could clearly see Ernie lived this daily in his walk with the Lord. There was something about him that spoke louder than words of his close relationship with Jesus. How I envied his joy in the Lord, and found that I still have the paper, with its many Scripture verses. He titled it, "Overcoming Anxiety, Phillippians 4:4-9."

Years later, I visited a church nearby and in their foyer they had a booklet for the Pittsburgh Prayer Project. I saw his name on the booklet. It was for a month long prayer campaign for the city of Pittsburgh. I found it in his obituary that he went to Mount Washington (which overlooks the city) and prayed for our city for 19 years.

No one but the Lord knows the impact this man  had on our city after his faithful prayers. In Watchman Nee's book, Table in the Wilderness, Nee described a person similar to Ernie:

 His light may come to us in many ways. Some of us have known saints who really knew the Lord, and through praying with them or talking with them, in the light of God radiating from them, we have seen what we never saw before. I have met one such, who is now with the Lord, and I always think of her as a "lighted" Christian. If I did but walk in the room I was brought immediately to a sense of God.... A Table in the Wilderness,  for the date of August 24
I never talked with Ernie Frederick again after I left YGI over thirty years ago. But his impact, his radiance, I still remember clearly. It is my greatest hope that one day, people might say that by the grace of God I radiated too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What to Do in Days of Distress

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit may be on the vines; Though the labor of the oil may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no cattle in the stalls--Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habbakkuk 3: 17-18

At a writer's meeting I attend, an older fellow who also enjoys writing memoir pieces told of how he had come to receive the Lord as his Savior. He has a great memory and distinctly remembers going to an open air crusade while in the Army back in the 1940s. When the altar call was given, he strongly felt the urge to go down and settle the matter, or take the free gift of salvation. He said he felt this prompting so strongly but he put it off.

He went to a second meeting and had another opportunity to receive salvation, but that time, the urge inside him wasn't as strong as at the first time. Finally, after he had been married and had a little child and wife with him, he attended a Billy Graham crusade, and he once again was given the opportunity. This time the urge was even less stronger. The field was huge and people were pouring down to receive Christ. Since he had his family with him, he decided this time to take the opportunity to believe on Christ right there from his seat. He stressed to us about the urge to receive Christ growing less with each time that he put it off.
The strength of the conviction of the Spirit gave less and less influence over him.  He recalled to us the verse that says that the Spirit would not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3).

That story really gave me pause to think about how the Spirit strives with those who are still on the fence about whether they will believe that Jesus is the Christ who paid for their sins on the cross. My husband and I talked about the fellow's story and how my husband had come to Christ the first time he heard the offer of the free gift of salvation.

My husband was a young man, only 24, but not happy with the direction his life was taking. He went to a salon near his home and noticed every time he got his hair cut that there would be lots of Bible materials lying around. So one day when he felt desperate he asked the guy who cut his hair, "What is it with all of this?" Basically he knew the guy had something he did not have, and he wanted it.

Now maybe the barber did not present the gospel the same way a pastor would but he told him Jesus was calling him, and that he could have a new life with Jesus. My husband remembers the very date, 34 years ago, when he received Christ sitting in the barber chair.

I asked him what he thought might have happened if he had put it off, or just said that he would think about it for another time. Hubby said he thought he, like my old friend, would have had less and less of an urge if he  put it off.

That is why they say that young people are the easiest to reach. They hear and do not have a chance to harden their heart or a bunch of excuses. But it certainly seems that one's heart only can get harder and harder, until there reaches a point of no return.

That is sobering. Esausold his birthright in Genesis 25: 32, because he was more worried about filling his belly than what God offered him. The Bible warns in Hebrews 12: 16-17:

lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
This may be the most important blog post I ever wrote. There is darkness coming over this land, and the window of opportunity to receive Christ could suddenly be cut short. If we just look around us in our own country we can see that things are only going from bad to worse. We have extreme heat in the east, floods in the south, fires in the West and riots in the midwest. Did I hear someone say judgment?

If you are not sure of where you will spend eternity, you don't have to put it off for another minute. Jesus Christ came into human history for the precise purpose of being the great sinbearer for the sins of all mankind. He died naked on a Roman cross after living a perfect life here on earth. His unique position of being sinless qualified Him to be the sinbearer for all mankind, without exception. No matter what you have done in the past, you can receive this free gift simply by believing what God says about His Son:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures... I Corinthians 15: 3, 4

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,  and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:7-10

If you want abundant life, He is waiting for you to take it.Today is the day of salvation. All around us we see things headed downward on a greased pole. But if we take His free gift   we will be saved from ultimate destruction. I beg anyone still sitting on the fence, do not delay any longer. Receive His gift of salvation today, tomorrow may be too late.

If we are already believers, we also must be very careful how we live.

You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.             
 (Living Bible Paraphrase by Kenneth Taylor, II Timothy 3:1)

 It is only getting more difficult, the deception and distractions stronger and stronger with every passing day. Our only place of safety is to abide in Christ and stay in His Word daily. Let us pour out our many concerns to Him at His throne of grace, and one day soon this day of darkness will give way to His righteous rule forever. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just Grace for Today

...they neither toil nor spin...

For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its   appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

James 1:11

Isn't it amazing that what we see in the natural realm also has a spiritual lesson to teach us? A fading flower reminds me that I too, will one day fade away.

That beautiful flower did nothing to make itself show the glory of God's creation, yet it does so for a season, and then dies. I am on this earth for what seems just a moment on the line of eternity.

Just why am I here? Why was I allowed to be born at this certain time in human history, when the nations are raging and even nature reveals warnings that grow only more urgent with the passing of time?

It is a scary time to be alive. It is an exciting time to be alive. It depends on how I look at it.

And yet, many people seem to realize that things cannot go on the way they have forever. Creation groans, the people groan.

"When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan."  ~ Proverbs 29: 2 
Each day I receive from God what my pastor calls "a 24 hour grace packet." He gives me just what I need for this day, even though we are in dangerous times. I do not need to worry about tomorrow, for He has not given me grace to worry about tomorrow. If I ignore that and take on tomorrow's worries anyway, I will not be able to bear it.

It has taken me well nigh most of my life to slowly learn this lesson. I thank Him for His patience with me. I used to think I had to worry about tomorrow. As if me worrying could change one thing about tomorrow anyway.

This morning I woke up after having troubling, vivid dreams. I automatically seemed to enter into self-condemnation. When I opened my Bible to John 14, I took from my Father's hand the packet He wanted to share with me for today. I have read this verse so many times before, but today it brought tears to my eyes, the love He has for someone like me.
"Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:1-3
When I turn on the news, or log onto the web, I can plainly see that there is plenty for my heart to be troubled about. Jesus warned us through Paul that these difficult days would come. We are in them now.

I don't know what tomorrow holds.   But as I continue on in the Christian life, and gaze into the mirror of His word, I see how trustworthy He is. He really is coming again to receive me unto Himself. My anxious heart rests. I know that He is good, in spite of all I see.

I found a beautiful old Bible book at the thrift store yesterday and  thoroughly enjoyed skimming through it last night. But at the same time a nasty old fly kept dive bombing straight for my face and buzzing loudly in my ear. I couldn't help but think that the fly represents our enemy and his minions. Well, he just kept buzzing and finally he landed right on the top of my shirt. I smacked him just once. Usually, the fly  wins and  buzzes away. But this one small hit knocked him dead and he fell into the crack of the chair. I scooped him up in a wad of paper quickly and got rid of him.  I could not but help but think to myself:
"... the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."    Romans  16:20
Jesus is coming quickly and the enemy was defeated when He shouted "Tetelestai!" (John 19:30) from the cross. That gives me the grace for whatever comes my way today.