Friday, February 28, 2014

Not Your Ordinary Tree

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.  For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.  I John 3:1-2 (NASB)
When we met our oldest son's former boss for the first time, he told us what a fine young man he is.  We thanked him, of course, but then he looked my husband in the eye and said, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."  I hadn't heard that phrase in years, but that particular incidence has planted it forever upon my heart.  Reading this verse this morning brought it to the forefront once again.
First, God is not a tree, but we can liken our relationship to Him as one.
...if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.  Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.  Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.  For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Romans 11:16b-24 (ESV)
Second, we were created in His image, but desired more.  This sin cut us off from the living tree and left us as branches.  We still resemble the tree a bit outwardly, but there is no root system to feed us the sap we need to continue to live.  Eventually the sap dries up and we are good for nothing but burning and so burn we will.  However, in His great love for us, God offers us His personal sap, so to speak.  The sap is the trees lifeline as is blood ours.  God poured out His own blood through His Son Jesus.  He offers us this as a free gift from Himself.  If we accept it, He will do more than simply give us our own root system, which He could have chosen to do, but rather He grafts us into His own tree and becomes our life support.  Jesus' resurrection proved this life He is offering is not temporary, but eternal. 
I praise God that I am not simply an apple that fell from the Tree, but a tree made in His image so that He can graft me into Himself where He will sustain me for all eternity.  My branch may display different fruit from another of His branches, but look what Revelation says about the Tree of Life:
And in the center of the street on this side and on that, upon the river, The Tree of Life which produces 12 fruits, and every month it gives its fruits and its leaves for the healing of the peoples.  Revelation 22:2  (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
We were created to be God's children, to produce the fruit of His choice.  He knew we would cut ourselves off from Him, but loved us and wanted us so badly, He was willing to allow it to happen.  He already had the solution and, even though it came at an extreme price, was willing to give it.  Our purpose now, as His children, His branches?  We are to produce the fruit that heals all nations; the fruit that makes mouths water and bodies ache.  The fruit that draws them to the Tree of Life....LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL.
In each situation we must ask ourselves if we are producing ripe, sweet, juicy fruit, or immature, green and bitter? 
Lord, grant us wisdom to know the difference!!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 
gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22 -23

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Burden Bearer

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Yesterday evening I sat at the kitchen table with my oldest granddaughter helping her with her homework.  As she sat working on her math, I took her file folder that is categorized by subject and started pulling out papers.  Holding up each one, I asked if she needed them any longer.  As she shook her head or nodded, I either replaced the papers or put them in a pile to be recycled.
When I was finished, we continued with the rest of her work.  When we were ready to go to the next subject, she picked up the folder, placed her math inside, smiled and tossed the folder in the air.  She said, "Wow!  This thing is much lighter now that I got rid of all the junk I didn't need!"
This morning I did my Bible study and prayer time.  When I finished praying an overwhelming tiredness enveloped me, so I lay down on the couch and fell asleep.  As I was waking, I remembered the above incident as these words floated through my mind:
"The average Christian carries around a lot of junk they don't need and so feels weighed down under the pressure of it." 
Anger, bitterness, need to be successful in the world's eye, rejection, hurts from the past, popularity, fear, love of money and/or possessions and on and on the list goes.  We then have placed on top of all this the need for things to happen instantaneously.  We live in such a fast paced world that we are constantly seeking ways to make it move faster.  The urgency is so great that s\the public school system has decided handwriting is an unnecessary subject.  It needs to be legible, but cursive doesn't even need to be taught as computers run the day.  Writing letters takes too much time anyway and email makes it where we can send one message to hundreds in the push of a computer key.  Dialing a phone takes too long, so we have one button dialing.  All of this has simply added to our burdens, because we have stopped knowing how to be patient.  Instead we have become driven to go faster and faster.  This way we can do more in each day, which is another burden when we cannot accomplish all we feel we should be able to within twenty four hours. Yesterday I was upset with myself because I had forgotten to practice my music for Sunday.  I admit this only lasted a moment, but the consideration that it would be much easier to drop out of our church music program did go fleetingly through my mind.  Then I looked at what I had accomplished.  I spent the day with our youngest grandson and made him smile and laugh throughout the day.  We had learned four new poems together, done some math, read together (I read to him, then he to me), went to the library and imagined we were planting corn on the cob.  When it was grown, which took an amazing thirty seconds at most, we cooked, buttered and ate it.  After nine hours of watching him laugh, learn and grow, I worked with my granddaughter for two and half hours on her homework.  In between I had made meals, typed lesson plans, done some cleaning and eventually made dinner.  I talked to my oldest son on the phone, visited with my daughter, youngest son and grandchildren as they were dropping off and picking up, made a snack for my husband and son-in-law to hold them over until dinner and went to Kohls to pay our bill off.  I had accomplished much!
I shared all that to say, we need to stop looking at what we didn't get done and look at what we did.  Constantly berating ourselves for not doing all that we feel is expected of us does nothing but add another burden - the burden of defeat.  The amplified Bible, which expounds on each verse from the original Greek, says this:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([a]relief and ease and refreshment and [b]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [c]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.


  1. Matthew 11:29 Alexander Souter, Pocket Lexicon.
  2. Matthew 11:29 Joseph Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon.
  3. Matthew 11:30 James Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary.
We no longer seem to know how to relax and be refreshed.  When we try, we feel guilty.  We have increased our personal burdens while all along Jesus has been telling us that He wants to ease them.  Cleaning house by yourself will eventually get the job done, but if someone is willing to help. it gets done twice or three times as fast; three times if housework is difficult for you but found easy by your helper. I have helped many a child clean their bedroom.  They are always amazed at how fast it gets done, because when they try to do it alone, they become overwhelmed. Jesus finds nothing too difficult to handle.  He knows and is the answer to all things.  If we go to Him and seek His will, listen to and obey His voice, rejecting fear of others opinions of us, even our own, and focusing on His opinion instead, we will find rest in even the most mundane and/or most difficult of tasks as He work alongside us, carrying the majority of the load on His own shoulders.

Father, teach us to rest in You.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Real Chocolate

I wish more of my brothers and sisters in Christ personally realized the joy in spending a daily morning time with the Father.  So many of my "family friends" (my term of endearment for brothers and sisters in Christ) talk about just not being able to find time.  I understand this very well, but wish I could reveal to them in a tangent fashion just how important and encouraging it is.  When I first made the decision to have daily devotions and so needed to get up a half hour earlier every day, it was difficult to say the least.  I missed more days than I hit.  However, somewhere along the way I started recognizing God's still, small voice as I read.  Examples of life events that give a good, if not perfect, picture of what God wanted to reveal to me would pop into my head and give me clearer understanding.  The more this happened, the more I wanted to know and hear.  Eventually it got to the place where God's Word was and is the first thing on my mind when I waken.  No, I am not perfect in this.  There are days when things happen, like being ill, taking care of someone who is ill, having an unexpected phone call that changes my day completely or simply being so exhausted, I have to wait until later.  Even on those days my heart cries out to get into the word and hear His voice so as to calm and reassure me that all is well.  Those are the times I cry out in prayer for God to make the way and He always does if I pay attention.  If all this sounds fantasy, I thought so at one time myself, so don't feel bad.  It is something that you must experience for yourself to realize the possibility.
I admit that I am a very determined person.  Once I make up my mind to do or not do something, I follow through, even if it takes me longer than originally planned.  When I told the doctor I didn't want to take heart medicine and he told me that I would need to stay away from caffeine and chocolate, I decided to do exactly that.  I have refrained from both for over twenty years now, and I absolutely adored chocolate.  Dessert wasn't dessert without it.  The smell of it made me drool.  The first two weeks were a real struggle.  The next four were hard, but a bit easier.  After that it became easier and easier until I came to the point that the smell did nothing for me and the taste of it was extremely bitter.  I know this because I tried eating a homemade chocolate chip cookie with one chip in it just to see what would happen.  When I came to the chip (and I was deliberately not paying attention to when that would happen) that tiny little thing filled my mouth with bitterness.  I had to get a drink of water.
Life without Jesus is much the same.  We walk around addicted to this world and don't even realize it.  All we know is we want more.  When we wake in the morning we want more.  We go out searching for it, not knowing exactly what it is we are looking for, but searching just the same.  Every once in a while we come across something that makes us think, "That's it!!  That's what I need to relax and make me happy!!"  We then pursue it until we have it just to find out we must keep looking.  That wasn't it after all.  Just like my addiction to chocolate;  I would see a chocolate cake and think it would fulfill that desire within me.  After eating it, I discovered I now wanted a brownie or cookie or Almond Joy, etc.  No matter what form it came in or how much of it I consumed, I always wanted more.  If/when we come to the place of no longer wanting quick fixes, but something solid and unchanging, something that will remain with us so that we no longer crave the chocolate things of this world any longer, then, and only then will we be willing to take the chance of letting it all go.  Once we do, if we refuse to turn back, we will eventually discover how bitter our life has really become and begin searching for the One that fills every craving - Jesus.
This is not what I planned to write about.  I was planning on writing about coats.  I guess I will save that for another day, unless the Lord decides differently.  Until then, may all who read this be blessed with understanding their cravings in life and come to the realization that there is only One that can fill that desire.
Father God, I pray for my family, my friends, my acquaintances, all those I have never met, that they might begin to let go of the cravings of this world and turn to Jesus, the only person who can fill that spot that is always crying out for more. 
Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."  John 4:13  (NKJV)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Remains?

"Theist David Wood asks in his debates...whether it is rational to look at the Venus de Milo statue, note its condition, and conclude that no intelligent artist would be incompetent or perverse enough to sculpt it without arms.  Surely it makes more sense to view the delicate greatness of what remains of Venus de Milo and conclude instead that a great artist's work has suffered serious damage." pg 126.
Often I have asked the question of an older children's Sunday school class, "What do you think the world would be like if God did not exist?"  Where would the ability to sense right and wrong come from and whose authority would decide it?  What would make someone an authority in the first place?  Strength - physical and mental strength.  It would truly be a world of the strong dominating the weak.  I would have been squashed and considered worthless as I was sick much of my childhood.  I might not would have made it to my current age, or even to my teens for that matter.   The "survival of the fittest" would surely take control. 
We can watch the animal world and see what it would be like somewhat: Perhaps the adult males would kill the infant males so as to keep them from one day trying to take over leadership.  Many in the animal kingdom try to do this and succeed if the mother fails to defend the little one.
If one of us became ill, the others would perhaps jump and kill them to rid the group of possible disease.  This too takes place.  We call these things "natural selection."  We see nothing inherently wrong in them, because these are animals we speak of instead of humans.  But what, if not God, makes us any better than the animals.  It is being discovered as of late that the thing we THOUGHT made us different (ability to reason) is not the case.  More and more animals, dogs, cats, pigs, apes, and many others, it has been discovered, can reason, yet to them it is perfectly natural to kill or be killed, even amongst their own kind.  Yet it must also be stated that animals can and sometimes do change.  When humankind pours out love and affection on them, they tend to respond in like manner.
A dog in the wild will kill any animal that it considers edible.  Bring it home, bath, feed, pet and shower it with affection and this same dog will most of the time become your greatest defender.  He will wag his tail (sometimes entire body), lick your hands and face, sit on your lap, stay by you when you are ill and will never even try to bite you, let alone kill you for food.  What is the difference? Love given by someone bigger, smarter and wealthier than they ever imagined.  As a matter of fact, they probably never imagined being loved at all, yet here they are.
People are the same.  Picturing a God who is bigger, stronger, smarter and so very much wealthier than we in the things that are of real worth loving us is simply unfathomable.  How could such a person exist?  We see so little of that kind of love in the physical realm, how could it possible exist anywhere else?  Yet those of us who have experienced that love know how extreme and real it is. 
I once read a book of fiction entitled The Demas Revelation.  It is based on one verse of Scripture: "...for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica-" II Timothy 4:10. 
In the book a Christian archaeologist discovers some scrolls that have supposedly been related by the disciples and Paul to a scribe, who wrote them on papyrus, placed them in a wax sealed container, buried half in Herculaneum and the other half in Pompeii.  Each scroll is supposedly a confession that they lied about Jesus' resurrection.  Before the archaeologist can finish testing them, one is stolen and brought before the press, who of course, enjoy telling the world that there is proof that Jesus was a fake.  The chaos that takes place reveals somewhat what the world would be like if the world as a whole stopped believing.  I will not tell you how the book ends, but I hope that you check it out at your library, borrow it from a loved one, download it onto your Kindle or other device or purchase it for yourself.  It really made me stop and think about how I would react in such a situation and I found myself coming up with reasons that would cause such lies to be a true archaeological find and yet still be false.  See what reasons you come up with and test your faith.  Read the entire book including epilogue, questions and answers section and note from the author.  I promise you will be blessed.
The author's name is Shane Johnson.  This is the first novel I have read of his, but look forward to more adventures from him as  I LOVE archaeological fiction AND non-fiction.
Without God there would be no such thing as good or bad and we would have to simply live or die by it.  There would be no purpose in life but to eat, drink and be merry, and the merry part would be fake and very short lived as we would constantly having to look over our shoulder.  Would it be possible to have friends or would we be forced to trust no one?
We would be in constant search of the next big experience.  Each would have to be better than the last to satisfy our "hunger" until we ultimately become the beast or the prey.  There would be no in-between.
Some may disagree or find my thought process a little far fetched, but those who know Him will not.  I grieve for those who do not.  As Shane writes on page 295 of his book, "We're saved only because God has chosen to save us through His Son.  We receive salvation.  We don't buy it.  We don't pursue it.  It is a gift.  There's one narrow bridge by which we may reach God, a bridge He built because, otherwise, there could be none between us.  And if we place our trust in any other, if we try to cross that chasm by any other path, we just won't get there."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Give Me Joy

Kai Nielsen (a self-proclaiming atheist and ethics professor at University of Calgary) once said:
“We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view or that all really rational persons should not be individual egoists or classified amoralists. Reason doesn't decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me...Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.”
Why? Because inevitably it all comes back to: “It's bad because it makes me uncomfortable.” But what if it doesn't make you uncomfortable, but instead gives you a sense of pleasure to pull the limbs off of infants and watch them die?  Just the thought grieves me to the point of feeling quite ill, yet we allow this in society through abortion on a daily basis. Is adultery wrong? To say it is wrong on the basis that you made a promise to remain faithful at marriage doesn't hold water....just don't make the promise. If it ISN'T wrong, then why have marriage at all? Everyone should just sleep with whomever they want whenever they want. There is the disease thing that comes of it. What difference should that make? There must be no evil in disease if there is no evil in the act that causes it.
The argument can go back and forth as long as we want, but it all boils down to the fact that without God there are no real moral standard – only our perception of right and wrong compared to what makes us feel good and happy.
The problem with feelings is they are fleeting.  What makes me feel happy today may bore me tomorrow.  If there is a God (and we know there must be or why would we even be thinking about right and wrong in the first place) then we may have to give up happiness, but why desire only happiness when we can have deep and abiding joy?!
Father, help us learn to discern between what makes us feel happy and what brings us real joy.  True joy comes only from having a loving relationship with You.  Plant in us, your children, a deep and burning desire to know You better.  As we grow in our walk with You, we will automatically begin to experience the difference between fleeting feelings and never ending joy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Listener's Prayer

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,  so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  Philippians 1:9-11  (ESV)

There are times when I am amazed at how easily someone will tell their life story to a complete stranger.  Yesterday in the worship service I sat down next to a lady I had never met and she began sharing her life story.  I am not a great conversationalist, but know how to listen when someone is needing to be heard.  This dear, hurting lady needed someone to listen and had chosen me.  I considered this a high privilege in the face of having just met her.  Her's was a sad story that grieved me.  I told her I would be praying for her and her family and have been. 
What makes people trust other people?  Perhaps, in this case, she assumed I was a fellow believer and so would understand how she felt, even though not everyone who attends church is truly a believer.  Other times it may be that they figure they will never see you again, so why not?  Perhaps it is in the person's demeanor that makes us feel they are a safe refuge, or a genuineness in their smile.  Whatever the case,  I had been chosen. 
Part of being a good listener is not giving advice.  It is probably the most difficult part of learning to pray for others.  Learning to listen without judging and thinking we have the answer they need to hear do not go hand in hand.  The truth is, unless they ask for advice, they are not ready to receive it. We may know the answer as given in God's word, but we need to also know that unless a person is ready to receive it, we will only make them more resentful and angry, not to mention confused.  Asking if they would like advice doesn't count either, because many people will say they do when they don't so as to not offend.  They may walk away with a smile while inwardly seething.  I have had to be reminded of this over and over again throughout my life.  Too many times I have had to ask forgiveness for stepping in where I did not belong and sometimes making matters worse.  I am so glad that when we ask forgiveness He not only grants it, but will continue turning the problem into good despite us.
I became engaged to my wonderful husband at seventeen.  I was happy, because I knew that I knew I was doing what God wanted.  However, there were times when we would blow up at each other and people would immediately come to give me advice.  "You're too young anyway."  "How can you be sure he's the right one?" "You shouldn't let him get away with talking to you like that."  And many more as well. This advice was given with good intent and, I am sure, out of love and concern for my well being.  All this did, however, was confuse me and make me feel more sorry for myself than I already did, and believe me, I was great at feeling sorry for myself.  What people didn't understand was that God was using those times to grow me up to a more mature individual before marriage.  I needed to realize that some of the things I found amusing or intellectually stimulating were irritating and seemed rather condescending to others.  So, though in my mind I had done nothing wrong, I needed to see that my motives were sometimes petty and self-centered.  In other words, God was using those times of dissension to make me a better person.  Yes, God's word says our husbands should love us as Christ loved the church - He died for her because she was so filled with sin.  My future husband was willing to risk losing me to help me grow up.  So you can see that sometimes we think we have the answers, but in reality, we have no idea where God is taking any particular person at any given time.  This is not to say that when someone is telling you about a plan to hurt themselves or someone else that you should not step in.  It could be hazardous if we didn't.  However, when someone is just telling us how they feel or about events taking place that they are having to deal with, unless they ask advice, simply pray.  I have found it really blesses people for you to tell them you will be praying as well. 
And how should we pray?  Pray that their love may abound more and more.  Pray they receive knowledge from God along with discernment so they may know right from wrong and make godly decisions.  Pray they may walk in the Spirit of almighty God, doing His will in every situation, determined to remain faithful no matter what the cost.  Pray they might be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through knowing Jesus Christ and that all they say and do might bring glory and praise to Father God.  This is the prayer of my heart for all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Beds and Boredom

Follow the Leader is a simple game with simple rules - one person is in charge and everyone else must do as they do or is out.  You can change leaders at any given moment.  Young children love to play this game until they make the discovery that it is more fun to lead than to follow.  Admittedly, there are always going to be the few that are too afraid to lead and so remain ever faithful followers.  This is not really due so much to faithfulness though as is is fear: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of getting lost, fear of leading others into disaster, etc.  Yes, I'm referencing to adult children.
It is a more personal profitable thing to be leader.  The problem is, to where exactly are you leading others?  What may seem a logical and exponentially profitable path can actually be one that leads to destruction-just ask Wall Street.  Seldom does anyone look deep inside at motive anymore.  Rather we are told to do what "feels" right.
In the book of John chapter 21 God allows us to see what happens when we simply do what feels best.  Jesus had been crucified and had even already risen from the dead.  The disciples had witnessed this, but at this particular point in time were perhaps a little bored.  Jesus hadn't given them any real instructions as to "where do we go from here?"  So Peter pipes up and makes this remark, "I am going fishing."  (vs. 3 NKJV)  The others with him said, "We are going with you also." (vs. 3 NKJV)  Now there is nothing wrong with them going fishing.  It was their means of making a living after all.  However, they were only doing it because they didn't know what else to do.  That doesn't make it wrong, per se, but what if they had sought out Jesus?  We find out in the next few sentences. 
Starting at the end of verse 3: "They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.  But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?"  They answered Him, "No."  And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some."  So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.  Therefore the disciple whom Jesus loved (John calls himself this rather than printing his own name) said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" (NKJV) 
Yes, there was absolutely nothing wrong with them fishing, but if they had sought Jesus on it to begin with, they wouldn't have wasted their entire evening.
We tend to waste time a lot.  We have been looking at bedroom sets to purchase.  I found one at a remarkable sale price and was ever so tempted to snatch it up.  However, I know that the feeling of losing something before it is ever attained does not come from God.  It comes from my flesh wanting what it wants right now!!  So I took the ad and the two coupons I had toward purchase to my sweet patient husband.  The sale and coupons would allow the purchaser to obtain this particular set that originally ran for $3549.97 for a mere $1623.97, which is a savings of $1926.  We'd save more than we'd spend.  Sounds terrific, doesn't it?  The more I thought about it, the more I wanted that set. 
Last evening we went to two more furniture stores.  We found a set that would do, but found a lingerie cabinet that I adored.  It was on clearance for less than half price as you could only get the floor sample.  My husband turned to the salesman and asked, "Do you know what will happen to me if I don't take this home with us?"  That was a spirit jolter for me.  It took a few seconds, but I finally looked the salesman in the eye and said, "Truth is, absolutely nothing would happen to him.  I would be a little disappointed, but I would get over it."  Long story short, due to some flaws that were "unfixable" we left it behind.
I admit that I still would love to have a lingerie cabinet like that one; so much so that I looked that exact one up on line.  I found it in my favorite wood - oak- but you can only purchase it on line.  There was a full bedroom set to match it that I fell in love with!!  Now I had to do more soul searching to do.  So I actually made a wise decision - I prayed.  It was difficult at first, but since my husband desires me to take the lead on choice of sets, I want to do so wisely.  I told God that if He didn't want us to get that set it would be hard for my flesh to deal with, but that was okay.  We don't even really need a set.  Ours is simply old and looks pretty beat up, but it is functional.  I want what He knows is best for us.  It is a lot of money any way you look at it and I want us to be wise stewards. 
After praying I showed the computer screen to my husband.  He thought it great, but always wants to actually see items before purchase.  He may want me to be leader in choice of design, but he also wants to be certain it is a quality product.  I have found from past experience that when I trust God, He always makes things work out better than I ever dreamed, therefore, I choose to lead by following Him and listening to the man he placed in my life as head of our spiritual life together. 
Yes, Follow the Leader is fun, but as Christians we are both leader and follower.  We lead best when we follow Jesus.  Just as the disciples learned in the passage above, when we follow His lead, we receive more than enough to share.  I look forward to whatever it is He has planned for us in this seemingly simple area of bedroom furniture and am glad He has helped me realize I was headed for "whinyville" if I didn't keep my eyes on following Him.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Whine or Win?

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude He had, and be ready to suffer too.  For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.  You won't spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  I Peter 4:1-2  (NLT)
I have a day from eight years ago etched in my memory.  I had my oldest grandson with me and was happy to be taking him to Dollar Tree to let him pick out something just for fun.  I actually was allowing him to pick out a few things since he had chosen a store that was so inexpensive.  We walked in with laughter and anticipation.  He picked out three things and I picked up some wrapping paper and a couple of other odds and ends I needed for Sunday school.  When we reached the check out, I looked in my purse to discover I had just enough cash.  The cashier began ringing up our purchases when my grandson noticed another object he wanted.  He asked for it, but I explained that I didn't have enough cash to get another item, but if he wanted to put something back we could get it.  He first started to whine.  I looked at him and told him that I would not put up with whining.  He needed to choose what he wanted, but if he choose to get upset and demand his way, he would get nothing.  He began to wail and holler that he wanted everything including the extra item.  I gave him one more warning, that if he didn't stop he would get nothing.  He looked at me for a second and started in again.  I smiled at the cashier and asked him to remove the three items from my purchase.  He did so without comment, I paid and we left.  My grandson pretended to be dumbfounded that I didn't get him anything.  I reminded him that I had given him a few chances that he had refused and told him to remember this next time I took him to the store.  A few weeks later the two of us were at Walmart.  He asked for a Hotwheel.  I agreed.  He then asked if he could get something else (a much more expensive item) and I explained I didn't have the money for it.  He started to whine.  I got down on his level, looked him in the eyes and asked, "Do you really want to go there?"  He stopped and we bought the Hotwheel.  He never gave me trouble in the store again and we have been many times over.
I am sure that the experience in Dollar Tree seemed pretty traumatic to my, at that time, five year old grandson, but it saved him from suffering in that area with me ever again.  We have been able to go shopping without embarrassment for either of us ever since.  Where did I learn to discipline like that?  By experiencing it for myself as a child.  My momma and daddy would never put up with whining.  At that day and time there was one warning and then you were not only denied what you wanted, you were taken out to the car by one parent and the hand of discipline was applied to your bottom.  You then remained there until the other parent came out.  It didn't take more than once then either, for most children anyway.  There are some who are so hard headed they allow their fleshly will to gain strength through these types of fits over and over again, hoping that things will change.  If a parent is wise and truly loves their child more than they do themselves, they will not give in, because they will want what is best for their child - unselfishness.
God is or parent and wants what is best for us, so sometimes He allows us to suffer in our flesh in order to discipline us for the future.  This is not to say that every illness, natural disaster, etc. is a means of discipline, though sometimes He may choose to use it as such, but rather that He may deny us something we really wish for because our attitude is in the wrong place.  If we would search our own hearts and discipline our own flesh, God would watch with great joy as His children mature and become more mature.  It is when we choose to follow our flesh that He must do the discipline for us and we should be grateful for it.  It means He loves us more than Himself, which He proved through Jesus, and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring us to Himself and rescue us from a life filled with misery.
Father, thank You for stepping in and disciplining us when needed.  It is through discipline that You sanctify and guard our spirits. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit , soul and body be preserved (watched over and guarded) blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 4:23 (NIV) Guard our hearts by continually watching over us and protecting us through Your love and discipleship.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Living the Lie

 Reading the citations from a book written by Bart Ehrman entitled God's Problem brings an agony to my soul.  This man states that he was a devout Christian who has lost his faith, but while reading about said faith I find that he is actually speaking of religion instead.  He was a very religious man, much like the pharisees in Scripture.
"I could quote entire books of the New Testament, verse by verse, from memory....I went off to finish my college work at Wheaton.  There I learned Greek...At Princeton I did both a master of divinity degree - training to be a minister - and, eventually, a PhD. in New Testament studies.  I had solid Christian credentials and knew about the Christian faith from the inside out - in the years before I lost my faith....I served as the youth pastor of an Evangelical Covenant church...But then...I started to lose my faith.  I now have lost it all together.  I no longer go to church, no longer believe, no longer consider myself a Christian.  The subject of this book is the reason why."
This grieves me deeply because I was once this man in a way.  I wanted to be a Christian and thought that if I did enough studying, praying, going to church, etc. that one day I would understand how to become one.   I had very devoutly praying parents who I am certain prayed for me diligently regarding my spiritual walk.  However, I even had them deceived for a time.
I "went forward" in second grade.  I knew to answer "yes" to all the questions, because I had attended church from birth.  However, I was no more a born again believer, follower of the Way, Christian, or however else you wish to put it than I was a puppy dog.  Yes, I knew MANY verses by heart, was read to from the Bible by my dad each evening before bed, prayed at meal times and bed times, read my Bible, went to church and Sunday School EVERY week unless I was ill and every revival, but I was lost.  I KNEW I was lost, yet I pretended I wasn't.  I went to youth group when old enough and sang in the youth choir.  I agonized over knowing I was lost, yet not knowing what else there was I could do.  We moved to Herculaneum and started attending First Baptist there.  During a revival, shortly after we had moved, Momma, my two older sisters and I were rehearsing the song we were to sing for a special - I Wish We'd All Been Ready.  These words changed my life forever - "There's no time to change your mind.  The Son has come and you've been left behind."  I knew what I had to do.  I ran into the bathroom, threw myself on my knees and cried out for Jesus to forgive me, love me and come dwell in me for all eternity.  He did at that moment, but that is not the end of the story.  Maybe one day I will write the rest, but suffice it to say - I immediately developed a hunger for His Word, a calling to teach on my life and the fear I had been carrying with me for a lifetime dissipated.
Bart Ehrman, from what I gather in these short sections, never has faced the fact that he must admit that he is a sinner, confess it before God and seek forgiveness through Jesus' sacrificial death and awesome resurrection.  He never made it past works, and Scripture is very specific on that point - "For by grace are you saved, through faith.  It is the gift of God.  NOT of works, lest any man should boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
I pray that God reveals  the Truth to Mr. Ehrman  before it is too late.  I pray that his book becomes a cry for help to his soul and that he comes to grips with the fact that we are all sinners who need salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  In Jesus name I pray it!!  I also pray that anyone who reads this book be NOT persuaded to stop seeking the one TRUE God and salvation, but rather come to understand that Christianity is NOT a religion, but a faith.

Flute Fruit

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:24 (ESV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.John 12:24 (ESV)

My sixth grade year I was given a music listening test and scored very high on it.  Because of this, a note was sent to my parents asking them if it were possible for me to join band in what was then called Junior High School.  My parents were excited and took me to the band display mentioned in the letter.  High school students there were demonstrating the different types of instruments for those in attendance.  If you saw one you wanted to learn to play, you would walk up and register.  They would then set you up with Nottleman Music and you could purchase said instrument by renting with the option to purchase.  I remember sitting there, not paying any real attention to what was being said, when a girl with long sandy colored hair walked up with a long, thin silver instrument in her hand.  She lifted it to her lips and played.  The most beautiful music I thought I had ever heard came from that instrument.  I was instantly in love with the idea of learning to play this thing called a flute.  I became quite excited and Daddy noticed.  When a child goes from virtually a walking sleep to bouncing while swinging their legs, you know something is up!  Daddy asked if I liked that one.  I think my eyes must have been sparkling from tears of excitement as I told him a definite yes.  He grinned, took my hand walked me to the table for Nottlemans and put an immediate downpayment on my first flute. 
Long story short - I learned to play flute fairly proficiently within my first year due to practicing for literally hours every day.  I lived to play flute!!  The amazing thing about this was our band director told the rest of the Junior High band that I had set the bar.  They needed to keep up with me....and they did!  By the middle of our eighth grade year we were all moved up into the high school band. The following year I was moved up to first chair second flute.  The following year I became first chair first flute and was expected to play every solo.
I could go on, because I still love playing flute, but the point is, after high school I had no outlet for my music and so quit practicing.  I had set aside my dream of playing in the St. Louis symphony to rear a family.  I do not regret that decision in the least.  I knew and know it was what God desired of me.
Move ahead almost twenty years.  I joined the church orchestra.  I picked up my flute for the virtually the first time in all those years and hated how I sounded and how slow my fingers had become.  I had to practice!!  Not much time in the day to do so, but I managed to work and get most of my skill back.  I definitely was no longer first chair material, but continued working until one day I was asked to move to second chair so that I could do the solos when the first chair person was absent.  During this time I discovered that being given a solo to practice made me make more time to work on my performance.  I got better and better.  When I became first chair (due to my friend moving to another church) God laid it on my heart to start sharing solos.  I started asking all the flutes if any of them wanted a particular solo.  At first they were hesitant, but eventually they started speaking up.  Because of this, we ALL improved.  I was amazed, tickled with God's wisdom, and excited that I had learned such a great lesson - laying down my desires for the sake of others bears much fruit.
Father, thank You for Your wisdom in all things.  My wisdom told me to work hard to be the best for my glory.  Your wisdom says to be the best I can be for Christ's sake and glory.  I must be willing to let those who think themselves "not as good" to see (or hear) my mistakes.  It also means to recognize that it is much more beneficial to encourage others to grow than to watch them continue where they are presently.  In so doing, we help make the entire unit, in this case the flute section, stronger and more proficient.  Thank You for showing me that using our talents does not mean showing them off, but using them to increase Your kingdom.  You are most awesome!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Gift

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of life is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NIV)

Natural disasters, acts of God, whatever you call them, they bring grief.  The question arises, "Why does God allow such things?"  There was a time when I was confused by this question.  I had no clue how to answer.  In my heart I knew God is good and that everything that happens has a reason, but I had no definite answer.  I knew that the earth was cursed at the fall, which is what the root of the problem is. However, to say that to someone simply angers them.  So how to answer? 
We chose (choose) disobedience, rebellion, sin, yet we don't want to have to accept the consequences of that choice.  When I was a child my mom had this typewriter that intrigued me to no end.  When we were told that no one was to touch that typewriter, because she needed it in good working order when it came time to use it for a writing class she was taking, it simply made it all the more intriguing.  One day I felt like I just couldn't help myself.  I took the lid off and marveled over it's black and silver trimmed keys.  I gently pressed them to see what would happen.  I watched carefully to make sure that if I pressed one letter another didn't pop up.  I didn't depress them all the way - that would have made noise and I would have been caught in the act.  I was very cautious to do no harm to this precious commodity.  I knew it had cost my daddy a lot of money that we really didn't have, so I had to be very careful.  I went to put the lid back on and became terrified!  It wouldn't go on right!!  No matter what I did, put the back on first - won't close!!  Put the front on first - won't close!!  I finally just put it on the best I could, put it back where it belonged and ran away from it.
A couple of days later, Momma got out that typewriter and became VERY angry!!  She asked who had been playing with it and of course we all denied it.  Well, I actually sat there silently saying nothing, eyes wide and terrified.  I reasoned that I wasn't lying as long as I kept my mouth shut and head from shaking no.  About three days later, I remember we were getting out of the car, possibly getting home from church, and I started bawling.  Momma took me in her arms and asked what the problem was.  I was crying so hard I couldn't speak without those little gasps.  I told her it was me that played with her typewriter.  She looked at me, wiped away my tears and said, "I know sweetheart.  I knew all along, but I wanted you to tell me."  She then told me that the typewriter was fine - I hadn't hurt it (which was my greatest fear) and that she forgave me.  She even thanked me for telling the truth.  I learned at a very young age (I think I was about 5) from this experience that it is better to tell the truth and face the consequences.  Holding on to the guilt is much more devastating.
Small thing?  So is eating a piece of fruit when you've been told not to, but it can bring dire consequences.  If I had damaged that typewriter, my dad would have forked out much more money to have it repaired, and believe me when I say - we didn't have it.  Momma and Daddy would have met our needs, but given up their own in order to fix things for us.
When Adam (they didn't become Adam AND Eve until after the fall) ate of the fruit it was major, because it was the ONLY rule and they chose to break it.  Then they chose to NOT admit guilt, but pass it on to each other and to God Himself.  He had every right to wipe them out right then and there.  His design of a perfect world for us to dwell in with Him had been destroyed through our disobedience and we blamed Him.  We brought about a cursed world through sin and we still blame God.  Why does He allow this?  Because we invited it in!!  However, just as Momma did with the typewriter, He picks us up, wipes away our tears and tells us all is well, just look to Jesus.  He gave up Himself, through the person of His Son, to death because of His great love for us.  The curse is broken, but will not be destroyed until Jesus returns.  Jesus paid the price of death for our sin   All you need do is " because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  Romans 10:9  (ESV) No ifs, ands, or buts to it.  Praise God for His great love and goodness!
Look to the day of His return and rejoice, for the curse will then be utterly destroyed and we shall then spend a perfect eternity with the true love of our life - Father God, Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit (Who began dwelling with us the moment we received Jesus as Savior and Lord)!!   Look up!!  Victory is but a breath away!!
Father, we still want to blame You for everything, even to the point of denying Your existence.  We never want to look inwardly at the true problem of self, because we may not like what we see.  May not? We KNOW we won't and don't like it.  We try to cover it up with raising our "self" esteem.  That just gets us in deeper.  We need to really look deep within ourselves so we come to the place of grief over who we have become without You and run back to You in hope of being accepted and cleansed. When we do that, we make the amazing discovery of Your unconditional love.  It is You that makes us feel worthy, not self.  You welcome us, guide us, teach us, discipline us - what it comes down to is - You do all the work and then pat us on the back and say, "Well done My good and faithful servant."  Forgive us for our arrogance and thank You for loving us.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Friend of the Friendless

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

I did not attend kindergarten.  It wasn't necessary back then as it was a lot like preschool is now.  When I entered first grade at barely six years old, I was extremely scared.  It wasn't fear of learning; I loved to do so and volunteered to be the student when my older sisters wanted to play school.  It was a feeling of being lost in a crowd, with no one as a friend.  I didn't know how to make friends, so remained friendless until a girl in my class named Kathy took pity on me.  We became "best friends" until she moved away halfway through the year.  I remember wondering why it had to be my only friend that moved.  I remained what I considered friendless until third grade.  
Third grade was a wonderful year for me.  Not only did I have a new "best friend," but I fell in love with my teacher, Mrs. Ellis.  She was the first teacher that made me feel loved.  It was she who introduced me to the fact that a teacher can be a wonderful example to students and help them grow in a positive manner.  Because of this, I fell in love with the idea of becoming a teacher.
At sixteen I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord and learned to ask Him what He wanted of me.  I continued to feel the tug toward teaching.  I told the church I attended that I felt God's call to teach.  They placed me in the two to three year old department.  I fell even more in love with teaching, and now it wasn't just the idea of it I loved.
At seventeen I met my future husband.  God made it quite plain that this was the man, even though only eighteen, that I was to marry.  We became engaged, so I told him my plans to become a school teacher.  His reply shocked and annoyed me.  He said that his wife was going to be a "stay at home" mom and rear the children.  I was a little more that ticked at him for this.  I can hear the thoughts of anyone who should read this thinking how selfish and hardhearted he was being, but I was being just as selfish by asking God to make things go my way.
After a semester of college and praying that God would either change this young man's mind or change His own toward our marriage, I came to understand that I was not supposed to become an elementary school teacher, but a Sunday school teacher.  I dropped out of school and started preparing for marriage as I continued to teach children God's word.  
It is amazing how God works His plans out in our lives.  Yes, we were both selfish, but God took even the sin of selfishness and used it to bring about His purposes.  My future husband was no doubt trying to be controlling, but it was actually God controlling him in this decision.  If I had become an elementary school teacher, I would not have the time to study and teach God's word in the manner He desired of me.  Because I chose not to rebel against marriage due to my determined will, I would have strengthened that rebellion, not to mention the fact that I would have missed out on having a more loving, generous and helpful husband than I could ever have envisioned for myself. 
Father, so many times we become distraught when things don't go the way we think they should.  We "want what we want" and we want everyone else, including You, to want it for us too.  As I grow older, I begin to see just how ridiculous we humans can be.  We are made in Your image and possess Your Spirit if we have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, yet we still try to cling to our own personal desires as if they were what really matters in life.  On those rare occasions where we give our ideas and dreams to You, we discover that You have even better plans than we, yet we turn around and go right back to the grovelling pit, trying to persuade You to see our way the next time something comes up.  Continue to have patience with us Lord.  Discipline us through whatever means necessary to bring us to the place of complete surrender to Your will so that we can walk in peace and security, knowing all is and will continue to be well as long as we trust in You.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

House or Home?

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Galatians 6:14 (NIV)

For God loved the world in this way: so much that he would give up his Son, The Only One, so that everyone who trusts in him shall not be lost, but he shall have eternal life. John 3:16  (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

When I purchase a gift, I am the only one who has the right to choose whom the receiver will be.  The receiver then has the right to choose as to whether they will actually accept the gift or not.  Should they choose to do so, it is theirs, but is of little use to them if they refuse to put it to good use. A wonderful thing about God is that when He does anything, it is always huge and complete.  Nothing is left wanting.  When Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sin of the world, it wasn't a partial payment.  It was complete and completely covered the entire world.
If I met a homeless person and purchased them a house, they have no decision as to whether I make the purchase or not.  However, they then must decide as to whether they will accept the house or walk away from it.  The choice seems simple enough.  They have no home and no means of acquiring one.  I purchase one for them and offer it to them with great joy and enthusiasm.  It seems they should be thrilled and simply receive the gift with a thankful heart.  However, the truth is, many would become suspicious and start seeking my motive behind doing such a thing.  Others would say I was mocking them and trying to make their lives worse by showing off my wealth and making them even more miserable in their poverty.  Still others would say that accepting such a gift would be a weakness; people should have to work for anything and everything or they simply aren't worthy of receiving it.  But there will always be those who, with thankful heart, receive the house.  Now the question becomes, "What do they do with it?"   Will they truly live in it, or simply dwell there?  If they choose to live in it, they will slowly pick out just the right pieces to furnish it and decorate it with great precision so that it's best qualities show.  They will cook and eat in the kitchen, inviting others to join in the feast.  They will sleep in the bedroom and dream dreams of what is to come.  The will play games and socialize in the livingroom, do laundry in the basement or laundry room, bathe in the bathroom, etc.  If they choose to simply dwell there, they may eat and sleep there, but that is all.  They will not concern themselves with decorating, inviting in guests, playing games or anything else that makes a simple house a real home.  The house will soon start showing signs of decay.  The lack of care and cleaning will cause it to begin to not only look bad, but stink.
Jesus died on a cross, lifted up on a hillside for all to see; a gift for the entire world.  Some look at Him and find His gift suspicious.  There must be a catch somewhere.  Others find this gift accusatory.  They believe this so-called gift is being shoved in their faces.  It is just there to try and make them feel badly about themselves and they refuse to do so.  Still others think it a weakness, that salvation is something to be earned.  However, there are those who will accept this precious gift with open arms and be thankful, for the most part.  The question is, "What will we do with it?"  Will we live in the gift or simply dwell there?
Lord, it is a simple choice You've given us, but we make it difficult.  Forgive us and help us to understand that You have only one agenda - eternal life for anyone who will accept Your free gift of salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection.  Forgive us for our ignorance and disbelief.  Forgive Your children for choosing dwelling over living.  Place in us the desire to decorate our lives so that others feel drawn to and welcome by them.  May we be homes rather than houses, filled with the greatest decor of all - that of Your Holy Spirit indwelling us because we are getting to know You better and better each day.