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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Testimonies of Praise

        Thanksgiving day is past, the day Americans all over the world stop to celebrate God's blessing in the new world to be called the United States of America.  However, it is not a one-day celebration.  If we haven't done it yet, we need to learn to cultivate this thankfulness.  We need to become so thankful to our Father God that it overflows from us to others.  I know, some people have heard that you are supposed to overflow God's love to others as you pass through the days and weeks but am I suggesting anything new?  Overflowing thanksgiving to others shows as praise to our Father.  So, we will be worshipping Him in our everyday life.  Isn't this what we want to show the world around us?  Won't this make them stop and wonder about our faith?  Hmm, a thought.  If you do this, you will be given new opportunities to share of God's love through the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
        Do you have a story of God's greatness which you have seen or personally experienced?  Have you considered that this sharing of the story and thankfulness is one testimony you can use to share God's love, a door to share Jesus' ultimate love gift?  Wow, it is perfect and right before Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birthday.  So, if we cultivate thankfulness so that it flows everyday, we cultivate opportunities to share the Gospel. 
        In this day of severe recession that has been a part of our daily lives for 3 years, isn't this the most right time to share/overflow your thankfulness?  Often times of most difficulty is the time when people are most receptive to hearing about Jesus and His love gift to all humanity throughout generations.  People are most receptive to hear of hope during hard times.  People want to know that there is more to life, that this life can't be all, that there is hope for a better life.  Go about your day being thankful.  Be overflowing.  Open the doors for others to see God's love in you.  Be prepared to give account of your joy in God.  Be ready to give a testimony of God's love gift in the birth, life, death and resurrection in Jesus.  People want hope.  People need to hear about the love of Jesus and his life giving gift of salvation and an eternal better/best life.  Are you thankful today?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remembering, Reliving and Revering

        It is almost Thanksgiving.  People are making plans for the holiday; Americans are making plans.  Wherever they live, Americans will be searching for a turkey or a substitute and pumpkin pie, or something reasonably like it, and will be inviting friends and family to join in the festivities...but, are they really.  Christmas decorations have been up in the stores all month.  Children are making Christmas lists.  Churches are thinking about pageants and music.  Some people are thinking about snow and the fun and others are thinking about how to get away from it.  In the midst of all this, it seems that we have forgotten what November 24, 2011 is about.  It is the one day we, as American, set aside to thank God, upon Whom our country was founded, for His provision to us this year.  If we have not given Him a thought til now, this is the one day, not the 52 other Sundays of the year, that we think about our Creator and Provider and say thank you.
        The first year, the year in which Thanksgiving began, the Pilgrims, who were spiritually-minded, suffered immensely.  One hundred and four people set out for a new world where there would be religious freedom.  They had experienced persecution in Europe for their religious beliefs and were seeking a new home.  They landed on a new continent and built a fort and houses and sought to plant and grow crops.  Many times the crops failed and after their initial fear of the natives, some tentative steps toward friendship were made and counsel was given by these native residents of their new home as to how to plant and grow crops.  By the end of that first year, fifty-two people, men, women and children, had survived and chose to give thanks to God their Provider.
        What does this have to do with us 400 years later?  Well maybe we don't have to grow our own crops.  Maybe we don't have to build our own houses, or make our own clothes, or chop our own wood.  Maybe the natives are no longer timid or scary or heathen.  However, we still have received these things and have survived another year to tell others about it.  Did we provide our own homes or food or clothes?  Did we create our own jobs or teach our own children or doctor our own sick?  I must say, and all would if they were humble enough to admit it, that each of these came as gifts to us from our Creator and Provider and Sustainer.  If you cannot admit that, then you do not need to celebrate Thanksgiving.  However, if you are humble enough to admit that you are not the provider of your own welfare, then Thanksgiving is the day which you set aside time to allow your mind to peruse the last year and all the benefices that came to you and all the endurance that you were given in hard times and then to cast thanks to the One who has provided for all your needs and often has given you more than you could have ever considered asking for.
        Thanksgiving is a time to cast back and remember and then to pronounce thanks to our God.  So, as you prepare the feast or sit back and smell the aromas or taste the succulence of the food, give a thought to Who has, in His onmiscient wisdom and knowledge, provided enough for you to make it through another year.  Give thanks and praise to our Father God.  Then, after ample time is spent on remembrance and thanks, we can look forward to celebrating the birth of a King.
       HAPPY THANKSGIVING AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU THIS NEW YEAR

Friday, November 4, 2011

Creaking and Shaking

        On the eve of my hubby's 48th birthday, he turns to me nonchalantly and asks, "Is there anything I should know about 48 dear?"  I can't even remark.  For nine months of the year I am older than him and he lets me know it weekly.  I quietly respond that he wasn't even a twinkle in his mother's eye when I was born.  That has never stopped him from coming up with the statement later in the same week stating that I am older than him.  So, how do I respond to today's question?  Do I take it as a last chance to "poke" me before he catches up?  Do I wonder where he has been the last 9 months as I navigated year 48?  Or am I so dumbfounded by the question that I say nothing.  I chose the last option but not because I thought it was the best answer but because I had nothing wise or witty to jab him back with.  My thought is to keep my mouth shut so I don't jump right into the middle of the statement that I am still older than him.
        For these next three months I get to step back and watch as he navigates his 48th year.  I get to watch as he makes decisions and either learn from his experiences or chuckle at his new baby steps into this foray of 48. 
        I must say, we are going gracefully toward that 50 mark but time is starting to show upon us.  Yesterday I remarked to him that my grey hairs were matching his grey hairs...in his beard.  You see, his head hair is letting go of his scalp before it has a chance to turn grey.  I can say with glee that mine is turning grey and not letting loose.  But, my bones are showing/creaking out my age now.  I tell you what, if they ever wanted to tape a squeeking rocking chair, they only need follow me with the recorder; my ankles and knees are a cacophany of creaks and grinds.  If I am making more noise in this middle age, I must say that he has won that contest hands down.  The sounds that emanate from him during sleeping times must register in the 30s on the decibel meter.  I sent him to the ENT doctor to see if there was anything we could do.  Nope, everything looks fine.  I went to my doctor with exhaustion and she prescribed pills that would get me to a deep sleep and keep me there.  I must say, she is right most of the time but when the tiles of our roof and the timbers holding them up begin "falling" around me, wake me up in time to get out of the house.  His nocturnal vocal emanations could bring the roof down.  God has, however, saved us from this demise, too.
        It is fun and therapeutic to wrestle with middle age and it's idiosyncrasies.  It does have it down moments, but if you can't turn them into times of laughter at some point, they will get you down.  Make light of those moments when the knees creak and the rafters shake and then it will be easier being 48+.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fact or Fiction?


        I have heard from people that becoming or being a Christian is not logical. People choose to believe in what can be seen, touched, and heard. In history, this thinking is often seen. This is what Thomas the disciple expressed? Thomas would not believe until he touched the nail scars in Jesus’ hands and feet. Even Peter could not fathom Christ's resurrection and had to run to see the empty tomb for himself. Paul wrote to Timothy saying people will gather around themselves "one teacher after another...chosen to satisfy their liking and to foster the errors they hold" (2 Timothy 4:3-4 Amplified Bible). People will turn away from the truth and wander into myths and fabricated fiction. God desires you to get out of this fiction and live the real life He made for you. 

Why is it hard to believe in God? Further still, why is it hard to believe Jesus Christ died for our wrongs? We believe we are fallible and make intentional errors as well as unintentional. Being sinful is a part of being human after the first sin committed by Adam and Eve. Even, at times, we blame our errors/sins on the devil. If we believe a devil exists, why is a gracious God hard to conceive? God exists, creates us in His image, and desires to restore us to our original, sinless nature so we can be with Him now and forever. The disciples believed in the power of the Lord Jesus and observed His majesty with their own eyes. They did not believe Jesus and His power and grace was a mirage or figment of their imagination. The disciples gave three years of their lives to learn from Jesus and He gave them three years of His life to show beyond doubt He is the promised Messiah foretold by many prophets (2 Peter  1:16). Thousands of eyewitnesses observed Jesus’ earthly ministry. Writers during Jesus' time and after documented His time on Earth. Historical scribes wrote several accounts of His death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. 
Why does salvation have to be logical? Why do Jesus and His salvation plan sound like folklore to so many? Believers in Jesus know salvation does not come from human logic, but comes from the blood of Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for our sins. Are we going to allow Satan to continue to confuse us? We choose to believe or not to believe in God’s gracious salvation. Satan wants to keep you confused. If you believe a devil exists, then, to have a logical balance, there must be an anti-devil. This anti-devil is the triune God (more powerful than the devil) - our maker, once-for-all sin sacrifice, Savior, Father and King. If this logic fails for you, try calling out to Him and wait to hear how He answers. God wants you to return to Him. He will respond to you. Talk to Him today and wait; He will answer you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Follower-Discipler


          While teaching children, I led them to look at our calling as Christians. We recalled the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20. In it, Jesus tells us, His followers, to "go make disciples.” Jesus does not say, “Go save souls” or “Go hit them on the head with the Bible.” Many of us see that as a command to go out and do. If we go and do in our own strength or lose sight of the source of our calling, going and doing becomes a task and becomes wearying. We cannot go and make disciples unless we are disciples ourselves. The challenge is to have a relationship with Jesus every day, gain sustenance from Him, hear His command, and see as He sees the children He created and wants to follow Him, too. If we focus too much on our calling, our attention upon God wanes. We lose sight of the source of our strength and our heart's desire. We become weary. This loss of strength from inattentiveness to Jesus is not the same as wearying from running the race or from persecution. Our Lord says well done to those of us who ran the race for Him throughout our lives and have become weary in His service. God says well done to those persecuted for His sake. Notice though, He does not say we will not be persecuted. Through Peter, Paul, and other writers, God says we are called to this persecution. Persecution is inseparable from our vocation as the called of Christ. Christ also suffered for us, leaving us this example so we could follow in His footsteps (1Pet. 2:21). The questions follow: Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you in a daily relationship with Him? Are you living a life worthy to be persecuted for Christ? Would anyone even know you are a Christian? I challenge you not to become so busy with the task God has given you that you run off and forget your Lord. Be tuned in to Jesus and talk with Him each day so you can be a genuine discipler for Christ.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Committing


           I have seen three times in my studies where people in the Bible have said, "Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Two of these were when people were dying. The other came about when the writer was in peril. Upon thinking of these times, it is easy to think those are right times when you want God to take control. I wonder though, are there not other times we need God? Is there not a time in your life besides fear and pain when you want him? Yes, God does allow us to go through trials and God does not allow more testing than we can handle with Him, but what is the purpose of these times? Why does God allow them? 

It seems God allows the testing to discipline us and to make us stronger. That, however, is not all. We must grow during these times, not just in our understanding of our limits, but also in our relationship with God. Moses had to endure 40 years in the wilderness before he was ready to lead the children of Israel from Egypt. Those who wanted to put him to death pursued David. The most important part of all this was the developing of a relationship.

        For most of us, it takes a time of crisis and trial to draw closer to God
. At every other time, we walk on our own and take very little heed of God in our lives. If, however, we come to realize the spiritual and physical worlds live side by side, then maybe we would find it easier to want to have a daily relationship with God. When we only call on Him in crisis, He is just a paramedic or a police officer. When we call on Him each day, He becomes a friend who talks and walks with us in each of our days. It would feel more normal to talk with and follow Him if we did this. I have come to see this stomping our foot in denial of wanting a relationship with Him, of needing a relationship with Him, as disobedience. Turning our back on Him and walking our own way is just that, disobedience. If a child did this to his or her parent, we call it disobedience. When we endeavor to work for God in our own strength and in our own way, we disrespect Him because our individuality shows through instead of our personal relationship with Him. We must be walking with Him to be working with Him.

        Having a relationship with God
 is not a thing to do merely at death or times of trial. It is something to do through each day. Into your hands I commit my spirit. The spiritual world and the physical world reside in the same sphere. Should we not commit our spirit to God before our death and trials? Should we not commit ourselves to God's care and use during our lives? David said it during his life in Psalm 31:5. Jesus said it at the point His spirit left Him on the cross before His death (Luke 24:46). Stephen said it as he was stoned in Acts 7:59. Can we not say it now, in our place in life while living, and commit and give our spirit, our lives, to Him while He can still use them on this earth for His purpose and glory? Is not my spirit in fact the real me rather than my body? I say, Jesus, I commit my spirit to you, now. Come let us walk together through this life on earth and the one to come in your Kingdom.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Physical and Spiritual

           So often, we live our lives only in the physical sphere without even realizing we chose physical over spiritual. Some people choose not to recognize a spiritual side of life at all. Why do we choose to live solely to our physical wants? Why do we choose to ignore or avoid anything spiritual? Do we not believe? Do we not want to give any claim of our lives to a higher power? Alternatively, do we intentionally only feed our physical nature out of disobedience? 

            In my studies, I found humans live in both the physical and spiritual realm at the same time. We may not admit to being dual-based beings, physical and spiritual, because we are doubters or never thought of it. God
 is around us and, if we are Christians, in us. God’s angels do His work for Him around His created and spiritual world. This is very hard to understand much less deem true when we, as a scientific people, must "see it to believe it.” For us living almost 2000 years after Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension, we say we do not see God and, thus, we cannot have faith in Him. Still, we do have the ability to see God through the statements and testimonies of the many people who walked with Christ while He walked on earth. They testified of what He did, where He walked, and what He said while in human form. In our scientific-based thoughts, we say we must see something with our eyes, but scientific reasoning gives credence to other scientists who state that this plus that makes this compound. The rational scientists are relying upon the testimony of another scientist. So what is the difference to relying upon the testimony of the disciples and other followers of Jesus? They gave actual eyewitness accounts of Christ and His works while on earth. The followers of Jesus experienced real occurrence with Jesus and their testimony is valid. Can we not allow ourselves to comprehend that? The Old Testament prophets foretold of a coming Messiah and trusted the prophecy to be true though they would not physically see the Messiah. The prophets searched and inquired about this salvation (1 Peter 1:10). They did not know to which people, when, or where this salvation would occur, but they knew, because of God's Spirit in and upon them, that salvation through the Messiah was without a doubt in the future. The prophets rendered the prophecies for future people. This did not make them doubt. God’s prophets trusted the prophecies and God who was behind them even though they did not see the fulfillment with their own eyes. They prophesied even though their intellect said salvation was unreasonable because they trusted in the un-seeable, yet visibly powerful, God. These prophets sought to accept the prophecies as true even though the prophecies appeared irrational. God gave them faith to trust and the Spirit to bolster them. In the book of Hebrews 11, Paul told us of a great cloud of witnesses. In both Hebrews 11 and Genesis 5, Enoch stayed in habitual fellowship with God and, because of his close relationship, did not experience death. God raised him to heaven before Enoch’s body died.


             If so many people in the Old Testament could trust
 without having actually seen God/Christ, why can we not believe even though our intellect says this belief is irrational? Relying upon someone’s testimony is not irrational. Belief becomes even less irrational when relying on the testimony of many people whose declarations of faith are bound into one book testifying of God and His work in human history. To rational humankind, it appears more irrational to believe when not seeing before Christ’s physical birth. Why cannot we as humans, almost 2000 years after Christ's works on earth, His death, and His resurrection, acknowledge and trust in Jesus based upon the testimony of many people and the recording of His acts upon earth? What seems harder to consider is that with so many witnesses and testimonies of God's work and His salvation offered, some people still choose not to believe. God is here. God is now, in this present physical world, in and around us, calling our names and choosing to walk in a relationship with us. How can we deny this reality when all along He has been here? Choose to acknowledge and trust. Choose to be in habitual fellowship/relationship with God, our maker.