Saturday, April 30, 2011

All Mine

     Yesterday morning I went to babysit two of my granddaughters for the day.  I arrived around 7 a m, and A. (3) was laying down watching the royal wedding on tv. 
     I cuddled up next to her and asked her if she had seen the new princess.  She said she had, and then proceeded to ask a lot of questions about what was on the television.  I told her to look for the Queen, that she was wearing a yellow hat and dress.  When she saw her, I pointed out that she was the prince's grandmother.  "She is his grandma.  You know how you have a grandma?  Well, she is his."
     "And YOU are MY grandma!!" She said, with a huge sleepy smile.
     "Yes, I am!", I said, kissing her head with a lump in my throat.


     Mine.  That little word means so much.  It claims ownership and worth.  It is something valuable that attaches us to the possession by heartstrings.  It takes time for us to learn what is ours, and what is not.  From an early age, we begin learning this lesson. 
     A.'s sister, J. is beginning to learn it.  She is only 1, and as far as she is concerned...EVERYTHING is hers!!  "Mine, Mine, Mine!"  She's in the process of learning that everything is not hers.
     For those of us who are believers, we have to learn that lesson, also.  In actuality, NOTHING belongs to us.  Everything belongs to God.  In, Psalm 50:12 God declares, "The world is mine, and all that is in it." Although we are not one year old, we tend to think of our possessions as , "Mine, Mine, Mine!"    It is really owned by God, but given to us to be caretaker of. 
     Anything we have, is a gift from God.  The Bible declares in  "Every good and perfect gift comes from heaven."  How do we treat those gifts that we have?  Do we treat them like something to be treasured, or after the 'new' wears off forget about them? 
     The gifts we have include the people that God has placed in our life.  Do we treasure them, or after the 'new' wears off, do we take them for granted? 
   Our friends and family don't "belong" to us, but God has placed them in our lives for a reason.  They are given to us, to enrich and bless our lives.  Do we wonder about whether or not they are a 'gift' sometimes?  Probably!  Coexisting with them, we discover the lessons we need to learn. Many times it is all in our point of view. It's one thing to see them as people...quite another in looking at them as a personal gift from God.
     Thank you, God for the gifts in my life.




         Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

For everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all (1 Chronicles 29:11).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Reason

                                                            
     "Peculiar"
     "Odd"
     "Strange!"
     How often have we heard (or said) that about a person that we meet?  Some people are just plain different!  How do you treat them?  When you see them coming, do you duck out of the way, hoping they won't see you?  Or do you greet them as you would one of your closest friends?
     At times we may wonder, "Why are they so "different"?   Why doesn't God make all people like....me?!"
     What makes a person the way they are?  Sometimes the issues are medically caused but many times the reason is...life.
     Human beings are naturally made to interact with one another.  That can be a positive experience, or a negative one.  Childhood is obviously very significant in how we learn to view the world and other people.  The daily ins and outs of our life, as a child help shape the kind of adult we become.   
     For example, I know of an elderly person who was always aloof and reserved.  He never seemed to get close to anyone.  Later, I found out that he had been basically abandoned as a child, and never was allowed to be close to his parents.  He never had a mother's love. That would definitely explain things.  No wonder he would be 'unlovable".  He was never shown love.  He didn't know how to love.  What a sad thing...to go through your whole life never knowing the love of another person.  He would only meet people who treated him like he treated them.  And as a result...he was a lonely, bitter old man.
     There are reasons why everyone acts the way they do.  Usually it is because of something someone has done to them, or experiences they have encountered.  If they act in an unconventional way, and others shy away from them, or treat them accordingly it can possibly only add to their feelings of loneliness.  What if they were shown some kindness?  Perhaps it would make a difference in their lives.
     Could you be the one to make that difference?  Instead, of avoiding someone that may seem eccentric, say hello with a smile.  Remember that there is a reason why they are the way they are.  Also, remember that there is a reason why you are the way you are.  They are no different than you.  They crave respect and love, just as you do. Give that gift to someone else today.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.   Matthew 7:12

Monday, April 25, 2011

No Way!!!!

                                  

    Thomas was overwrought.  He couldn't believe what his fellow disciples were telling him.  The Teacher was alive?!! There was no way this could be true.  They were just messing with him, again.  His friends were always teasing him...so much that he never believed anything they said.  They had duped him many times...but this?  This was too much.  He wasn't going to fall for this one.  How cruel could they be?  This was the worst prank his so-called 'brothers' could pull.
     "I'm not going to believe, unless I can see the nail holes in His Hands and put my finger in the holes, and put my hand in His Side!!", he cried.  If he wasn't so scared of the Pharisees and the Romans, he would leave this bunch.
     Thomas had to listen to this story all week long.  He was tired of the game.  Enough was enough.  They were all together, locked up in a room.  Suddenly, the room began to get brighter, and there was Someone else there!!  It couldn't be!  Is it?  It was!!  It was Jesus!!  The brothers weren't lying!!  He WAS ALIVE!   He was looking at him...with a smile....
     "Thomas, look at the holes in my hand.  Put your finger in them!  Put your hand in this hole in my side!  Don't doubt...but believe!"
     How did He know...?  Oh yeah.  Thomas was so ashamed and embarrassed.  He fell at Jesus' feet.  "My LORD and my God."
     "Thomas, you believe because you have seen.  Blessed are those that do not see, yet believe."

     What is faith?  According to Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the substance of all things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Faith always has an element of doubt in it.  It is not real faith, if you just believe because someone tells you to.  It has to be a personal thing.  Thomas had to learn on his own that Jesus was really alive.  Just like us.  We have to learn on a personal level that Jesus really did die on that cross for ME.  Thomas did have an extra advantage...he was allowed to SEE Jesus to help him believe.  That's why Jesus said that we are blessed...if we don't see, but we believe nonetheless.
     God has a plan for your life.  Do you think that's true...or do you think that that applies to other people?  Carlton Pearson said, "Sometimes God doesn't tell us His plan, because we wouldn't believe Him anyway."  We are a skeptical people...it is easier to be suspicious than to trust in something we can't see. 
     Our Heavenly Father knows that.  That's why He gives us signs every day of His Love for us.  But we have to look for the signs.  We can get so caught up in our daily lives that we miss them.  Yet they are there.
     Keep your eyes of faith open. See...and believe!
   

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Glory of the Son Rise

                                                      
     The beauty of a sunrise.  Few things are as breathtaking and uplifting.  With the dawning of each day, the sunrise brings a renewed hope.
     There was one sunrise that was not, nor never will be the same as any other day.  It brought more than sunshine into the morning...it brought the renewed Body of the Son of God.  Jesus was no longer dead...He was alive!
     Glory to God in the Highest!  How often have we said those words? Yet those six words are the basis for everything we believe in.  Everything is to give glory to God.  It is why we were created...to give glory to our Creator.  All nature gives glory.  Creation grows heavenward, swaying their praise in the gentle breeze.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 
     But if God is the all Powerful, we may find ourselves asking, "Why?  Why would Jesus go through all that He did on that fateful Friday?"  Because of Sunday.  Sunday brought the Glory of God.  He took our punishment and pain, so that we wouldn't have to.  He did so, knowing that three short days later, He would be glorified...as would the Father.  The Resurrection was the key that opened the gates of heaven for you and for me...if we but repent and believe. Hallelujah!!
     Jesus defied death, and proved that Satan had no power over Him.  He proved that Good WILL overcome Evil.  That was ultimately the greatest Glorification that God could have.  He conquered sin and gave a foreshadowing of what will happen when Christ comes again. 
     He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Darkest Before The Dawn

                                            
     I hate the dark.  At times, it almost puts me in a panic to be in complete darkness.  I remember being a kid, and feeling so anxious if there wasn't some sort of nightlight, or source of light around me.  Perhaps it is because of my eyesight.  If I'm in a dark, unfamiliar area I get very uneasy.
     Ironically, if I know the layout of where I am, I'm not as nervous. I can usually find what I'm looking for pretty easily.  Knowing where you are makes a big difference.
     In the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus knew where He was.  His body was physically dead, but His spirit was very much alive.  Where was He?  According to Ephesians and 1 Peter, Jesus went into the 'depths of the earth' or 'Hades' to speak to those who were imprisioned.  Who was that?  No one can know for sure.  Some think it was the people of Noah's time...others think it was those who died around the time of the crucifixion.  Irregardless, Jesus knew where He was. 
     The 'depths of the earth'.  Can you imagine the darkness that surrounds that place?  The pitch-black chasm is darker than a coal miners cavern.  In that obscure area, a small ray of light begins to permiate the ebony abyss.  The Spirit of God illuminates the area, and Jesus reveals Himself to those who had turned a blind eye to the Heavenly Father.
     Do you know where you are?  Do you know where Jesus is?  He is standing at the darkened door of your heart, knocking. Don't turn a blind eye to Him.  Open the door and let the Light in.

Friday, April 22, 2011

For Me

                                                   
     The twisted trunks of the olive trees were eerily illuminated in the moonlight. Jesus and the disciples walked up toward the Mount of Olives.  He turned to Peter, James and John, and asked them to join Him up the hill.  Jesus was clearly nervous and upset.
     He asked his three closest friends to stay awake with Him while He prayed.  He fell near a large rock, nestled among the trees.  Kneeling, Jesus prayed to His Father.  He asked Him to let this cup pass if it was possible, but not His Will, but the Father's be done.
     Looking over, He saw His companions.  They were sound asleep.  How were they ever going to be able to handle what was going to happen to them within the next few hours?  Upset, He went over to them and shook Peter.  "Can't you stay awake with me for even an hour?  Watch and pray, so you don't fall into temptation!"
     He went back to the rock to pray, asking the Father for a second time, to please take this cup from Him.  Once again, He returned to His three friends.  Once again, they were asleep.  He returned to pray. 
Jesus prayed for what was about to happen to Him.  He prayed for His disciples...and He prayed for future believers.  Jesus prayed so hard, drops of blood appeared on His forehead like beads of sweat.
     The time was at hand.  He roused the disciples and moved on into the Garden of Gethsemene.  They heard sounds of footsteps approaching.  Judas appeared with soldiers.  He approached Jesus and placed a kiss of greeting on His cheek.  Immediately, the soldiers grabbed Him and led Him away.
    The disciples ran away in fear.  Were they next?  Some stayed close by, but in the shadows.  They watched as Jesus calmly let them lead Him to the governor, Pontius Pilate.
    The scribes and Pharisees incited the crowd that began to form around Him.  They declared before the people that Jesus was a heretic and a blasphemer against God.  The rabble that so enthusiastically praised Him on Sunday, now became a vehement mob.
     Jesus was taken away, and put on trial before Pilate. He didn't want to have the responsibility of condemning Him, so Pilate sent Him to be tried in front of Herod, who in turn brought Jesus back before Pilate.  The Roman procurator had Him severely scourged.  Jesus was beaten beyond recognition.  Pilate was sure this would appease the people, but they wanted more.  They demanded death.
     Washing his hands of the whole affair, Pilate gave Jesus over to the mob.  They led Him up to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.  There they crucified Him, between two thieves, as if He were one of them. 
     The soldiers hammered nails in His wrists to a crossbeam.  They roughly hoisted the plank and attached it to a vertical beam.  To finalize the execution, they placed Jesus' feet one atop the other, and nailed them together onto a foot rest.  The crucifixion was one of the most barbaric deaths possible.  The accused would basically suffocate to death.  In order to breathe, they would have to raise themselves up by pressing their impaled feet onto the foot rest and get a breath, and then violently being jerked downward as they released it. 
     For three hours He hung there. Beaten. Naked. Humiliated. Unable to breathe.  He did that for me.  He willingly died on that cross because He loved me, and wanted me to be able to be with Him in Heaven.  He verbally forgave those who inflicted that pain on Him...for me.
     Jesus took my punishment...for me.  He, Who never sinned, payed the ultimate price for sin...for me...and for you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Bowl, A Plate And A Cup

                                                       
     It was almost time to eat the Passover meal.  Jesus had His friends at His side. even the one that gave Him chills to look at, lately.  Judas.  Regardless of how He felt about him, He could not treat him differently. 
     Jesus got up from the table and fashioned a towel around his waist, and picked up a bowl.  He filled it with water and began to kneel in front of each of His disciples to wash their feet.  They were amazed at this.  What was the Master doing?  This wasn't His job!  That was the job of a servant! 
     Some hesitated to give Him their feet, but He gently touched their leg and placed their foot above the bowl.  He cupped water in His Hand and bathed each of their feet, drying them with the apron.  When He came to Judas, He tried not to think about what was to come in the next few hours.  He focused His Mind on how much He loved him. 
     When at last it was Peter's turn, Jesus ran into a problem.  Was this anything new?  Peter loved a good argument or a chance to prove he was right.  Peter refused to let Jesus wash his feet.  He didn't feel worthy to allow the Lord to perform this lowly service for him.  It was he who should be washing Jesus' feet!  The Master explained that unless Peter allowed Him to cleanse him, he couldn't be a part of what He was doing.  Peter changed his mind, right away!!  He told Jesus to wash him all over!!
     Jesus was not just talking about cleaning his feet...He was talking about washing Peter from the inside out.  He had symbolicly washed all of them to make them holy.  He even declared them all clean...except one.  He also wanted to prove a point to the disciples that they were not to consider themselves too good to serve others.  They sometimes had a problem with thinking they were better, or greater, than one another.  Would they ever learn?  Jesus showed them that if He could lower Himself to wash their feet, they could do the same for each other.  They were going to have to rely on each other very soon.  They had to become one body.
     It was time for the meal.  Jesus picked up the bread on the plate.  He broke it, declaring that the bread was His Body. they were to eat it in His memory.
     He picked up the cup and said that the wine was His Blood.  The cup was the new covenant, or promise written in His Blood.
     In that one meal, Jesus showed the disciples...and us, what He expects of His Church.  His vision for His Church is for us to serve one another.  No one is above or greater than another, regardless of title or position.  We are to be willing to perform the lowliest tasks for each other, without complaint... regardless of how we feel about the other person.
       We, as His Church must be one body.  The body parts do not compete with each other.  One part doesn't think their part is better than the other parts.  They work together.  The appendages don't work alone; they need each other in order to work properly.  The church needs to keep their eyes on the big picture...to let everyone know how much Jesus loves them and bring them to a saving knowledge of Him.
      It's almost time for supper.  Are you hungry for Christ? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Enemy Friend

                                                          
                              
    Betrayed.  What an ugly word.  There are many forms of betrayal.  There is the type that turns a friend over to an enemy; the kind that reveals a confidence or secret; the kind that is unfaithful in upholding a trust; and the one that we are probably most familiar with...to be disloyal, or disappoint the hopes and expectations of.
     Some of my friends are going through a betrayal of one kind or another right now.  It is such a sad and difficult thing to watch.  There is nothing you can really do, but give as much support as you can.
     It's much more difficult when you are the one that is being betrayed.  All of us have experienced a deception at one time or another.  It cuts you right to the core...your heart actually hurts.  Perhaps it is where the term "a broken heart" comes from.  You wonder why someone would do such a thing to you.  Usually a betrayal comes from out of nowhere...a complete surprise.  You look back and wonder if it is your fault.  Did you do something to deserve it?  In most cases, the answer is no.  Usually, the treachery is the decision of the betrayer.
     What would cause someone to do such a thing?  What is in their head?  I'm sure they feel justified in their decision, yet that doesn't negate the fact that they have hurt someone in the process.  Many times, after they see the aftereffects of their decision, they feel remorse.  Some apologize...many do not.  Pride restricts them from admitting they have done anything wrong.  What do we do when we have been deceived?
     Jesus experienced this betrayal in the most extreme way possible.  As He began His ministry, he chose 12 men to follow Him and be His closest companions.  Twelve men out of the thousands He could have chosen.  Twelve men that He shared His closest secrets and feelings with.  They were His friends...His brothers by choice.
     Judas was one of the men that was chosen.  He was not perfect, by any means.  He loved money.  Loved money so much, that he offered to be the one to hold the purse for the group.  He was aware of the cost of items, and could be useful in such matters.  Plus, if he held the purse, then he could easily help himself when the need arose.  It was the perfect set up.
     After three years of hanging out with Jesus, Judas began to become disillusioned.  He expected Jesus to start building this Kingdom he always talked about.  Judas couldn't wait to have some power.  Surely Jesus would let him have a position of authority...since he was one of his closest companions.  Then Jesus started talking about a Kingdom of Heaven...what?  Turn the other cheek? Huh??  This isn't what he signed up for.  Jesus was crazy...maybe the rumors he'd heard in the town square were true.  Maybe he was a heretic.  He'd also heard about a possible reward for information....
     The possibilities whirled around Judas' head.  How could he let the leaders know which man was Jesus?  A kiss...that would be the perfect signal!  It's a normal greeting, and Jesus wouldn't suspect a thing.... 
     Jesus experienced the ultimate betrayal.  Unlike us, who usually have no idea what is about to happen, He knew what Judas would do...and He didn't stop it.  He knew it beforehand, and He allowed it to go on, because He loved us.
     So many times when we feel betrayed, we feel alone.  We are not.  Jesus knows what it's like to have someone disappoint you.  He knows how it feels to be abandoned and lied to.  Turn to Him.  He wants to give you the comfort you crave and need.
     Do you feel betrayed?  Turn to Jesus.  He knows how you feel.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Removing The Tarnish

                                                    Benzara 16052 Set Of 4 Brass Sterling Silver Plated Tea Set      
      A friend gave me a silver tea set the other day.  It was in a box, unused for a long time.  Taking it out, it was dark and discolored.  When you looked at it, all you could see is grimy, inky metal.  Not very pretty.  I got my silver cleaner out.  Cleaning silver is not an easy job.  There is quite a bit of elbow grease involved in getting rid of the blackened tarnish that is covering the pieces.
     I set to work, rubbing and scrubbing the metal. The darkness began to disappear more and more, with every swipe of my hand.  What was left was a shiny, sparkling tea service.  No one would have guessed it was the same set.  It was a lot of work, but the cleaning took away the shadowy darkness, and revealed the beauty underneath.
                                                                                     
     Jesus went on a cleaning spree once.  It was soon after He had entered Jerusalem.  He was going to the temple to pray.  What He saw disgusted Him.  Instead of a reverent, quiet place of worship, there were merchants everywhere, hawking their wares.  Sheep, cattle and birds were for sale in the courtyard.  Money changers had booths set up, exchanging Roman and Greek money for Jewish currency, keeping a tidy profit for themselves. 
     He was enraged.. In the only scriptural account recorded, Jesus lost His temper. Jesus cried out, "My House is a house of prayer,  you have turned it into a den of thieves!"   He took cords, and made a whip out of them.  He began driving the merchants and money changers out of the temple.  He turned tables over, money flying everywhere.  He yelled at the men selling doves, saying, "You will not turn My Father's House into a house of trade!"
     This was a whole new spin on the term, "Cleaning the house".  Jesus removed all of the blackened corruption that had tarnished the temple.  With every swipe of His Hand, more and more filth was cleaned away.  He purged the wickedness, but did so at a great price.
     The Jewish leaders had been keeping an eye on Jesus for awhile.  Once they saw this display of anger, however, they knew they had to do something.  Now Jesus was claiming that the temple was "His house" and "His Father's house"!  That was blasphemous!  Everyone knew that Solomon had built the temple over 1000 years beforehand...how could this Jesus be presumptuous enough to claim that it was his?  That was herecy at it's core.  He must die...before the people began to believe him.
     Have you cleaned house lately?  Not your physical home, but your 'temple'?  Have you wiped away all of the tarnish that has accumulated within?  Polished away all of the sin and corruption that has built up in your life?  Now is a good time.  But you will do so at a price, also.  Not physical death, like Jesus, perhaps.  But a death of sorts.  A death to self...and what you want to do.  Sin is simply choosing to do what we want, instead of what God wants.  We must die to self in order for the tarnish to completely go away.  It's not an easy job.  Sometimes we have to use quite a bit of elbow grease, but when we are 'cleaned up' we reflect the beauty that is within us.  The Holy Spirit of God will shine forth as bright as polished siver. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Welcome Wagon

                                                        
      The excitement was so evident, you could feel it in the air.  There was a sense of anticipation and renewed hope in the hearts of the people.  Is this the one?  Is this the man that will lead us?  They did everything they could to make him feel welcome.  They prepared a lot of food and gave him a big warm greeting, with cries of "Hello!"  "So glad to see you!" 
     This was the scene today, at our church.  We welcomed a prospective senior pastor.  We have been without one for over three years.  During that time, we have had to change and grow...individually.  We have had to check our hearts and see where sin and selfishness have crept in.  Once we had cleaned up our own lives and grown together as a body, God saw fit to send us a leader.  It is now the right time.
     There was a similar scene over two thousand years ago.  Crowds gathered in Jerusalem, to greet a new prospective leader.  Someone the people had been waiting for, for a long time.  They greeted him with shouts of "Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest!"  They did all they could to make him comfortable, even laying their cloaks and palm branches on the ground for His donkey to walk on.  The only difference in this scene, is that within one week the people would change their minds...enough to kill him.
     Jesus had fulfilled His ministry.  He knew as He rode into Jerusalem that day, that it would be the last week of His life.  The people loved him...they were excited that He had come to save them.  By the end of the week, the Jewish leaders had convinced them that He was a blasphemous heretic.  They were so easily swayed, because they didn't know Him.  The ones that knew Him, His disciples, didn't want Him dead but they were too afraid to stick by His side.  They blended into the crowd, trying to keep a low profile.
     How well do you know Jesus?  Can others sway you in your dedication?  Would you give up your values if someone asked you to?  A lot of people would automatically say, "NO!!  I wouldn't compromise my beliefs for someone else!"  Really?
     How do you respond if the group you are with begin to talk about someone you know?  Do you try to change the subject, or leave?  Or do you join in the conversation?  If a friend is doing something you know is wrong, do you bring it to their attention or keep it to yourself, afraid of making them mad?  The closer you are to Christ, the stronger you are in your convictions and beliefs.  If you are easily swayed, maybe you need to get closer to the LORD, by praying or reading His Word. 
     Give Christ a warm welcome.  Open up your heart, and life to Him.  He will in turn welcome you into His Kingdom, for all eternity.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Royal Treatment

                                                                
     The entertainment and news shows are abuzz with excitement.  The royal wedding of William and Kate is only weeks away.  The guest list is slowly being revealed.  People everywhere are watching with voyeuristic curiosity.
     It's amazing how intrigued the world is with the royal family.  Their weddings, births, and funerals find crowds of people from all over the world lining the streets to get a glimpse of them.  Emotions run high, and you see people of all ages weep with sadness and joy.  The royals, for the most part, are treated with preferred respect and devotion.  They seem to deserve special consideration.
     When I think of royalty kings and queens come to mind.  There is one King who was not treated like most.  The King of kings...Jesus.  He was overlooked by most people.  They didn't recognize him for the monarch that He was.  He was born of a peasant woman, Mary.  His supposed father, Joseph was a carpenter.  Not exactly throne material. 
     Jesus waited until he was almost middle aged to begin his ministry.  Until then, everyone thought He was Joseph's son, a chip off the old block.  There was probably a lot of talk around town about the young woodworker.  Whispers that began even before His birth.  People knew that Mary was pregnant before she and Joseph were formally married.  She was even sent away for a time.  Some people had heard that there was a crazy story about an angel visiting her!  Sure there was.  That's a nice clean explanation for it, all right.  She didn't do ANYTHING wrong.  Hmph.  Claiming that the baby was sent from GOD!!  The nerve of the wench!!  He ended up being born in a BARN for goodness sakes!  God's Son...he didn't even look like royalty.  He had wood chips in his hair and beard, and old leather sandals.  Divine Being, indeed!!  Oh yes, there was plenty of gossip. 
     That's what people like to do, isn't it?  If they hear something that is negative about a person, that's the thing to talk about.  I mean, other people have a right to know, don't they?  Isn't it our JOB to inform them?  It doesn't matter if they have the story exactly right...I mean, what's the difference in a few details?  Sometimes the story can be a bit boring...a little embellishment here and there makes the story more interesting.  Knowing something about someone else makes us look smart and intellegent.  I read the other day that a gossip tells more about him/herself than it does about the person they're discussing.
     Back to our story...as Jesus became more and more famous, people began to treat Him differently.  He could provide a service for them...He could heal the sick, and raise the dead!  And word got around about the free meals!  Heyyy!!  This is different!!  People wanted to know Him now!  It was a cool thing to be with this Jesus of Nazareth!  They treated Him with more respect.  He was invited to wealthy peoples' homes, and crowds followed His every move.  Jesus noticed the difference in how people treated Him, and how they treated their friends and family.  And how they acted toward the poor and sick?  It was obvious they didn't count.  After all, they were below society's standards.
     One of the last things Jesus taught His disciples was the parable of the sheep and the goats.  It is found in Matthew 25:
The Sheep and the Goats
 31-33"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
 34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

   I was hungry and you fed me,
   I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
   I was homeless and you gave me a room,
   I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
   I was sick and you stopped to visit,
   I was in prison and you came to me.'
 37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
 41-43"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

   I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
   I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
   I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
   I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
   Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'
 44"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'
 45"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'
 46"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."

     Jesus was keenly aware of how people are treated differently.  He treated all people the same.  That is not to say that He consented to bad behavior.  He did not.  Jesus very firmly let those who were stubborn in their sin, know that He didn't approve.  He didn't hate the sinner...He hated the sin.
     The Lord knew that people tended to look down on others that are different from them.  Those who were infirmed had a difficult row to hoe.  Those people who were quirky or had odd ways were left to their own devices.  No one wanted to associate with them.  No one, that is, but Jesus.  The difference in how He treated them, was that He treated everyone with respect.  What is respect?  It is the "esteem of, or sense of worth of a person".  Jesus considered all people worth something...they were worthy of love.
     How do we treat others?  I'm not talking about our friends and family...those we don't know.  How do we treat those who are different from us?  Do we slyly avoid them, or greet them as we would someone that was noteworthy.  Do we have patience with those who are mentally challenged, or walk away in disgust?  What about the homeless and impoverished?  How would we treat Jesus if we met Him face to face?  If the answer is different from any of the above scenarios, we may have to rethink things.
     Respect.  All people crave it...all people deserve it.  Here is an acronym for the word:
                                     Resolve
                                     Everyday (to)
                                     Show
                                     Pity
                                     Enough (to)
                                     Create
                                     Thankfulness
     Give those who come into our path a little bit of kindness and compassion.  You could unknowingly change their life.  You could be the only Jesus they meet.  Mercy and grace are given to us every day.  We need to pass it on.  Treat others as we would treat Jesus.  Give them the royal treatment.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Piece of the Puzzle

Romans 8:28    And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

                                                             
                                                                     
     Yesterday I was watching my two granddaughters, ages 3 and 1.  We were putting together puzzles....over and over and over again!  AR was fascinated at how the puzzle pieces fit together and made a picture.  JM was just fascinated with the puzzle pieces.  She kept grabbing them and running away....I guess she thought they were pretty!  I had to distract her in order for her to relinquish the piece, but she finally let go.  
     Since AR is only 3, she tended to get a bit tense if some of the pieces didn't fit together.  She tried to make them fit, but willingly took them apart when I pointed out that they didn't go together.  A couple of times, she got frustrated and let the pieces drop to the floor, as if she wanted to quit.  Then I quietly picked up two coinciding pieces and put them together in front of her.  Her confidence was boosted, and she began to put more segments together.  When her attention faltered, I continued working on the puzzle until it was done, and then when she was interested, she began all over again as if she'd never seen it!
     Life is like a big puzzle.  A puzzle that comes with two complications.  The first is: the puzzle at unexpected times will be turned face down.  We can't see how the pieces coincide, but we have to keep trying.  The other difficulty: many times, we are only given the pieces one or two at a time.  These hindrances can cause us to panic and not know how to go on.
     Don't you hate putting a puzzle together to find in the end, that a piece was missing?  Just to let you know ahead of time, there is one missing from your life.  Everyone's puzzle is complete except for one piece.  The only thing that will fit in that spot is God.  Some people may try to make other pieces fit in that area, but nothing will match.  Money will not fit, drinking or drugs will not fit, other people cannot fit in there...it is made for God and God alone.
     Sometimes we can be like JM and grab onto a piece and hold tight, not wanting to let go.  We don't understand how to put the pieces together, and we're afraid to loosen our grip.  In order for things to move along, we must surrender our grasp, and give it to God.  There are times when we, like AR want to let the pieces drop, because we get discouraged and can't figure out how things could possibly correspond.  But God is right there, slowly assembling the pieces.   He helps us enough to renew our confidence.  We get a second wind, and begin again.
     There are times when we decide to leave the puzzle altogether, being distracted by other things.  God is still there working, even if we have forsaken Him.  He patiently puts our pieces together, waiting for us to join Him in His Work.  He will never leave us to work on our life alone.  He is always there.
                                                       
     Sometimes we need others to help us put our pieces together.  Occasionally, they can see the combinations  better than we can.  God provides helpers when we need them, to help encourage us and give us strength when we falter.
     Part of the fun of assembling puzzles is the constant unkinown.  We try to put pieces together, sometimes they fit...sometimes they don't.  If they don't fit, it would be foolish to get angry and vent and fume.  We simply pick up another piece and go on.    
          At the end of our lives, God turns the whole puzzle over to reveal a beautiful scene.   Everyone has their own draft.  No two are alike.  Our picture is made for us, and us alone.  It is one more glorious than we could have imagined.  Some of the dark pieces that were so ugly to us in life, were needed to bring out the bright and beautiul parts of our picture.  God has used the difficult and traumatic parts of our life to work with the beautiful parts, for our good.  They have helped create the unique individual that God intended for us to be. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Cure

     William Munny was asked to go and commit vigilante justice on a no good, vicious scoundrel.  He refused, stating that, "My wife, God-rest-her-soul, cured me of drink and wickedness."  This was a quotation that Clint Eastwood's character in the 1992 western, "Unforgiven", repeated many times throughout the film.  Now, eventually Mr. Munny did go and take care of the scoundrel, and a few others that needed some 'old time western lawfulness', but he knew that inside he was a changed man.  The old Bill Munny was "dead and gone", he was now a different person.
     Steve and I have watched that movie on AMC about 150 times, it seems.  He loves that quote.  Steve said that Munny reminded him of himself.  In fact, we are watching the History Channel and Steve just said, out of the blue, "I love you.  You have cured me of my evil ways!"  :) 
     Now, Steve does know that it REALLY wasn't me that 'cured him', it was God.  He is the Great Physician, the Healer.  God is the one that does the changes in all of us who are believers.  All we have to do is repent, and give our lives over to Him.  He is the One that does the work, not us. 
     I have heard people say that they didn't want to become a Christian, because they didn't want to be a hypocrite.  They had seen other members of a church sin, and they didn't want to do that.  News flash:  You don't stop sinning once you become a Christian.  You do become a new creation.  Once we ask the Lord in our lives, the Holy Spirit comes and resides in our being.  That Spirit is the One that  changes us.  He will make the transformation that we need.  We just have to be willing participants. 
     A willing participant...what is that? It is someone who wants to be reformed.  We have to voluntarily give up our control of our life.  To move from the driver's seat into the passenger seat, and let Jesus take control of our 'vehicle'.  Let Him guide us where He wants us to go.  But is the transformation that simple?  Yes, and no.  Yes, it is basically simple, but we do have to take some action in our growth process.
     In a way, it is like having a visitor in our home.  We eagerly ask the person in, and make sure they feel comfortable and then...what?  Do we continue to acknowledge their presence, or do we forget about them, and only speak to them when we feel like it?  Hopefully, we recognize their company, and do all we can to make them feel welcome.  We speak to them and listen to them.  Over time, we develop and foster a relationship with them...a close relationship.  If we didn't speak to them on a daily basis, our relationship would suffer.  The same is true with our relationship with God.
     If we don't acknowledge God in our lives, don't read His Word or have fellowship with other believers, our relationship will suffer.  If we don't talk with Him (pray) every day, we will grow cold and distant from Him.  If we want to grow close to the Lord, we must work at our connection with Him, as we would any other friendship.  Through this bond, He slowly begins to change us...to change our heart to reflect His Heart.  He changes our mind to mirror His Mind...our actions to coincide with His.
We can't change ourselves.  It is a supernatural thing that only God, through His Holy Spirit can do. 
     Sometimes we may be like the character of William Munny.  Perhaps we have been changed, and we fall back into some "evil ways".  God is waiting for us to turn back to Him with sincere repentance and rededicate our life to Him.  It's never too late to accept His forgiveness.
     Are you sick?  Do you feel an illness of the soul?  Go to the Doctor.  He alone can dispense the cure.  
     2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When Life Throws You A Curve Ball

                                              
     Springtime...it is such a beautiful time of year!  New blooms are sprouting, the weather is perfect, and there is excitement in the air.  It is BASEBALL season!  Folks around town are talking about the Rays, and you can't drive down 9th Street in Bradenton, because the Pirates are playing spring ball.  The thrill of the game.  You never know what is going to happen next.  Will the pitcher throw a fastball, a changeup...or a curveball?? 
     Life is like baseball.  You never know what is going to happen next.  We can go along with one fast pitch after another, it can almost seem routine...and then we are thrown the unexpected curveball.  Something happens out of left field, and it changes the game.  It changes our lives.  What was the Pitcher thinking?  Why would this happen to me?  What am I going to do? 
     Sometimes the game is changed because of a poor decision that we have made.  We have perhaps gotten into a slump, and decided that we didn't need the Playbook anymore; we can play the game of life however we want to.  That usually causes problems, and can alter the sport not only for us, but for other people on our 'team'.
     What do we do, when life throws us a curveball?  First...take a 'time out'.  Breathe...regroup.  Then pay attention to the Coach...God.  He will guide you in the direction that you should go.  Pick up the Playbook...the Bible.  It has solutions for anything that may come flying at you.  Whether the curveball has been thrown because of something you have done, or someone else, or maybe no one's fault at all, God is there for you.  He wants you to turn to Him for the answers.  He has promised in His Word that He will help you with all of your burdens.  And God cannot lie.  Matthew 11:28
     In the Playbook, there are chapters and verses for all of life's situations:
                    When you are in sorrow:                      John 14
                    When someone fails you:                      Psalm 27
                    When you have sinned:                         Psalm 51
                    When you are worried:                         Matthew 6: 19-34
                    When God seems far away:                   Psalm 139
                    When your faith is weak                        Hebrews 11
                    When you are lonely and afraid:            Psalm 23
                    When you feel down and out:                Romans 8:31
                    When people are unkind:                       John 15
                    When your purse is empty:                     Psalm 37
                    When you lose confidence in people:    1 Corinthians 13
                    When you are depressed:                       Psalm 27
                    When you are afraid:                             Psalm 34:7
                    When you need assurance:                     Mark 8:35
                    When you are insecure:                          Psalm 121:3
     Many times after being thrown a curveball, we can become fearful.  The world can be a scary place. We need not be frightened.  I have heard that it tells us 365 times in the Bible to "do not fear".  It's as if God knew we would have to be reminded every day not to be afraid.  He is with us.
     So take the fast pitches of life as they come.  Anticipate the curve balls, but know that with God, we can learn to knock them out of the park and produce a home run!
    

Friday, April 8, 2011

At The Master's Feet

     As I sit here on the computer, I begin to feel their furry presence.  Softly padding over my slippers Chloe, my 2 year old Yorkie curls herself between my feet.  Marley, our 1 year old Maltipoo takes his position on the outside of my foot, resting against my ankle.  They snooze, content with just being near me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
 

     They bring to my mind the Bible story of Jesus visiting his friends, Martha and Mary. They were sisters, and as siblings go, very different from one another.  Martha was a Type A personality...high strung and task-oriented.  Mary was the classic Type B- easy going and laid back.
Martha was busy, making her guest feel welcome.  She was probably cooking like Paula Deen on steroids, still tired from cleaning and making sure everything was in proper order.  Her mind was surely filled with a million things that had to be done.  Where was Mary, her less-than-helpful sister?  Couldn't she SEE that Martha was overworked?  She had given enough hints, sighing loudly, and cleaning right in front of her!  She had banged the pots and pans in the kitchen, loud enough for her sister to hear, and surely come running to assist her!!   But, noooo....no Mary to be found.  Martha walked brisquely into the room where Jesus was sitting, and there her good for nothing sibling was...sitting ON THE FLOOR at the Masters feet!!!  How DARE her!!!  Didn't she CARE that Martha had to do EVERYTHING on her own?  Didn't Jesus care??  She had had enough.  Martha's stress level was over the top...she had to ask, "Lord, Don't you care that my sister has left me to do all of the work?  Tell her to help me!!!"
     Jesus had a reaction that surprised Martha.  She expected him to chastise Mary for her laziness.  Inside she waited with smug satisfaction to see her sister be scolded by the Master!  Instead, he said, "Martha, Martha!!!  You are worrying about so many things!  Only one thing is necessary...Mary has chosen the better part!  It shall not be taken away from her!" (Story found in Luke 10.)
     The story ends there.  I wonder what happened next.  Martha was surely disappointed that Jesus didn't take her side.  Perhaps later she meditated on the situation.  Maybe she realized that she didn't have to be so concerned about the little things that don't really matter a lot, in the end.  She didn't have to 'sweat the small stuff'.  Maybe Mary had the right idea....listening to Jesus' words and putting them into practice was the better thing to do.  (She probably didn't tell her sister that she was right!) 
     The words of Jesus, if taken to heart, will not be taken away.  They will plant themselves deep into the heart, and flow through the person, like blood flows through the body.  The teachings of Christ will become as second nature to the individual, fueled by the Holy Spirit of God.
     How often do I lose track of what the most important thing is?  How often do I focus on the little things that don't matter.  It is much better to be content, like my puppies, to sit at my Master's Feet, and dwell in His Presence and His Word.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Raking It In

                                                     
     Yesterday, Steve and I cleaned his mother's yard.  They have a beautiful, big camphor tree in the front yard.  Last week's storms have helped loosen all of it's dead leaves.  They filled the front yard, and made their way through the carport into the back yard!  These mixed with the big avocado tree's leaves and made a huge mess. 
     We raked and filled bags all afternoon.  After mowing and edging, the yard looked nice again.  I found myself thinking, "At least it only happens once a year!"
     How often do the storms of our lives loosen our 'dead leaves'?  The winds blow in through difficult circumstances into our lives, and help rid us of character defects that have developed that we need to get rid of, in order for new growth to occur.  God uses those storms to shake us and help us to become beautiful creations, once again.  From time to time, we need to clean things up in our lives.
     Raking up the dead 'leaves' is a tedious job.  At times, we may have to go retrieve the leaves from the areas that they have blown into.  We can even receive painful 'blisters' in doing so.  Yet when all is said and done, the rain softly comes, and new growth blooms and blossoms, and we are renewed. 
Send the storms, Lord so You can refresh and purify my broken spirit. 
     "Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
                                                                                              Psalm 51:10

Friday, April 1, 2011

Basic Information Before Leaving.....Earth

Our son, Tim is graduaing from Army airborne school this afternoon.  We are very proud of him.  As his mother, I am nervous about him jumping out of planes, but at the same time I am comforted.  He has taken his airborne training seriously.  He follows the instructions very carefully.

The course is three weeks long.  There is a lot of preparation the first week, learning about the planes, and equipment.  The second week is practicing jumps from a 250 ft tower.  The third week is dropping from the planes.  They have to have 5 jumps in, in order to graduate.

This class has been challenged in many ways...one of which was the weather.  Last week it rained all week, prohibiting them from doing the tower jumps.  They were told last Friday, never mind the practicing, they would just go straight to bailing from the planes.

Tim has told us from the beginning that he has listened and paid attention to the instructors.  Everything they have told him is for his safety and well being.  He knows if he heeds their teaching, he will have an easier time with the jumps.

Some of his fellow classmates listen...some do not.  The ones that don't follow the instructions have to pay the consequences.  Some have injured their feet, by not landing correctly.  One classmate broke his leg.  A couple of incidents were more severe.  One girl failed to hand off her snap line and just let it fall to the plane floor.  The next jumper bailed from the plane immediately afterward, and got his arm wrapped around the loose cord.  When he jumped, he ripped his bicept off.  The girl had to leave airborne.  Another man was about to jump, when at the last minute someone noticed that he had his line wrapped around his neck.  Had they not noticed, it would have snapped his neck and killed him.  Can you imagine how grateful he was to the one who noticed he was in danger? 

Tim did well on his jumps.  The first two jumps, he said were like pillows.  Nice and smooth.  The third jump, he decided to try and save a little time by pulling one of his lines a little to the right.  He got caught up in a wind gust, and started heading toward a truck!  He brought his legs up quickly and narrowly missed the vehicle.  This landing was harder and a bit painful.  Did he learn his lesson? Yes.  It doesn't always pay to try and take a shortcut.  He has his last two jumps this morning.  I'm confident he will be paying attention.

We are all in training.  It is called LIFE.  We are preparing ourselves for where we will spend eternity.  But how do we know how to get through the training?  We are given an instruction manuel.  It is called the Bible.  In 1995, Kiliah Priest wrote a song, "B I B L E, Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth".  Like the airborne students, we are given countless opportunities to learn about what to do in situations that may come our way.  We can listen and learn, or choose to not pay attention, and suffer the consequences.  Some situations are well planned, some circumstances are thrust upon us with no opportunity to practice or rehearse.  If we choose to try to take matters in our own hands, we can get bumps and bruises, or even be broken.  Some choices can leave us with more severe outcomes.  As with the young girl jumper, some of our decisions can affect and hurt other people.

It is important that we keep close to our Heavenly Instructor, and learn how to handle the various situations that occur in our lives.  God has filled His Word with solutions to every circumstance that we come up against in our lifetime.  All we have to do is pick it up and learn.

Let's not forget our fellow 'jumpers' in this thing called life.  We were not meant to live our lives alone, void of other people.  God gave us the people around us for a reason.  We are to look after each other, and help one another.  If we notice that someone has a potential noose around their neck that could be fatal, it is our job...no...our obligation to bring it to their attention.  Perhaps, like that young man in the plane, we have a noose around our own neck and don't even realize that we are about to jump into a potentially fatal setting.  How grateful would we be, for someone to bring it to our attention?

The Bible gives us the basic instructions on how to live in this life and beyond.  It gives us assurance that we will go to heaven when we die. But why would God give us the Bible in the first place?  What is it all about?  It's all about love.

God loves us so much that He created us to love Him in return.  He made man to live in perfect harmony with Him.  But sin entered the picture, through man's disobedience.  Everyone has sinned.  (Romans 3:23)  All disobedience, or sin deserves punishment.  The punishment was death, and separation from God when we die.  (Romans 6:23) That very real place is called hell.  But God loved us too much to leave us in that situation.  He had a plan to allow us to be with Him, in heaven for eternity.  But, heaven is perfect.  How can we, as sinful people go there?

God sent His Son, Jesus to earth as a little baby...human, yet also God.  Jesus, being human understands all of our human weaknesses.  He has experienced all of the temptations that we do, yet He never sinned.  (Hebrews 4:5)  He knew God the Father's plan, and chose to take our punishment for us, so that we would not have to suffer the pain of hell. He knew the punishment would have to be severe.  Jesus suffered and died a humiliating death upon the cross. (Romans 5:28)  But, as He predicted, He rose again three days later...very much alive!  Soon after, He rose up into heaven and is waiting to come again to earth.  (Matthew 28:1-7;  John 14:1-3)

Jesus took my punishment...and yours. Salvation is offered freely.  We don't have to DO anything in order to receive it.  In fact, we CAN'T do anything to go to heaven.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)  If it were up to us, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross.  It is a free gift.  But that gift is not automatic.  We just have to make the choice to accept that gift.  Is it hard to do?  No. In fact, it's quite easy.

  All we have to do is three things.  It's as easy as ABC :

A - admit to God that you are a sinner, and repent (or be sorry) for disobeying Him. (1 John 1:8-9)
B - believe that Jesus is God's Son, and died for your sins.  (Romans 5:8)
C - confess your faith, and choose to make Jesus the Lord (or boss) of your life.  (Romans 10:9)

If you have done these things, and know that you would like to open up your heart and life to Christ, you can pray this prayer, or one of your own:

Heavenly Father, I know and admit that I have sinned.  I have chosen to go my own way.  I am sorry, and ask your forgiveness.  I want to do better, and do what You want me to do.  I believe that You sent Jesus to die for my sins on the cross, and that He rose again from the dead.  I confess You as my Lord, and give You control over my life.  I love and thank You.  In Jesus' name, Amen

If you have sincerely prayed this prayer, you are now a Christian!  Now what?  I encourage you to find a Bible believing church in your area, and attend.  It will help you to learn more about the Christian faith.  In the meantime, here is a good link to go to that may help:
http://www.centralcal.com/christ8.htm 
If you don't own a Bible, you can use the internet at http://www.bible.com/ until you can obtain one.  There are many translations to choose from.  The Message is a good one to start with.

Do you have to worry about losing your salvation, or God changing His mind?  No.  The Bible says
that we can KNOW that we have eternal life, if we believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

God loves you.  Pick up a copy of His Instruction Manuel and find out how much!
God Bless.


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