Friday, February 27, 2015

WHAT WOULD THAT BE LIKE?

I read a book Still Close To Heaven, by Kathleen Kane. It was a historical romance with the description: Jackson Tate was a ghost. Since he wasn't good enough for heaven, and wasn't bad enough for, well… "the other place," his spirit was trapped in a run-down saloon in the Washington Territory.

Although I do not believe that a ghost hangs around and is given another chance to make it into heaven, the book was a quick, "don't have to think" read. I have often tried to find words to describe being separated from God, but couldn't. Then, in this quick, "don't have to think" book the words appeared. At this point in the story, Rachel could see Jackson and (Are you ready to be surprised?) she had fallen in love with him. She asked, "What's it like? Being a … ghost?"

Jackson says there is no rest like preachers are always going on about. He said there was no peace or serenity. He admitted he had messed up nearly everything he ever did. Then he continued.

"I made my own Hell, Rachel. Built it fine and strong, all by myself. Stone by stone. Brick by brick. It's nothingness, Rachel. It's day after day of nothing followed by long nights where the only thing to do is sit in the dark and curse yourself for wasting everything you were given. It's watching others do the same things you did and being unable to warn them. To tell them that they still have time to change."

"It's listening to the wind and not feeling it. It's standing in the rain and not getting wet. It's hunger that can't be fed and thirst that won't be quenched."

"It's touching and not feeling. It's talking and not being heard. It's being more tired than you ever thought possible and yet being unable to sleep."

"It's an eternity of loneliness. I watch every sunrise. Each sunset. It's a marvel, Rachel. A miracle. Two miracles every day. And I never noticed until it was too late. There are so many things I notice now. When it's too late for any of them."

These were said with shaking of the head, shame, and a strained whisper that rose straight from his soul.

For a quick read, these words struck me hard. They were not easy to read and even harder to imagine.

WHAT WOULD THAT BE LIKE?

They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. 2 Thessalonians 1:9

We are not so different than Jackson Tate. We build our own hell and we do it brick by brick, stone by stone. And sometimes we have to sit back and watch those we love make the same mistakes we made. We are unable to make them hear.

Jackson Tate was describing what it was like to be separated from the humans he could see. If that is hell, what would it be like to be separated from God?

shut out from the presence of the Lord

What hell would it be to talk to God and God not hear you? To be shut out and suffer an eternity of loneliness? To be in nothingness day after day followed by long nights of cursing yourself?

from the majesty of his power

What hell would it be to watch the wonders of heaven and know it was too late to receive them? To see the majesty of God's power and know that for eternity, you were not allowed to join in that majesty?

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FIND OUT WHAT BEING SHUT OUT FROM GOD WOULD BE LIKE! 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:8-13

Friday, February 20, 2015

THE OLD BARN

 

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"Hey, barn. How ya doing?"

"I have seen better days. In the beginning I was just trees around the pasture, but the lumber from those trees became a barn."

"I remember the day the neighbors came to help.  Slowly, one board at a time, I began to take shape.  The men nailed and hammered me into a barn as the women prepared more food than the hungry men could eat.  The children played, retrieved dropped tools and finally gave into taking a nap."

"Yes, I began as a tree and became a place where cattle found shade.  A place for calves to be born.  I was used to store feed and farming equipment.  The farm children came here to hide when they were in trouble.  I witnessed many first kisses.  Noontime sandwiches were eaten as my farmer waited for the rain to pass."

"I was important and needed."

"But what happened?  Hands carefully built me and took care of me.  Then one day my usefulness changed.  The cattle were sold.  The farmer and his wife got old and could no longer farm.  The children had long ago moved to town."

"And here I sit.  Of no value.  Oh, an occasional tourist will take my picture, but I can no longer protect against the wind.  No one fills me with laughter or first kisses anymore.  No one.  No one......."

"I am so sorry. Do you have any words of wisdom? Any advice for me?"

"Advice?  Simple.  Take care of the things that are important or they will become like me:  useless."

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As I thought about the barn's advice, I wondered if that is how I treat my faith. Do I take care of it? Do I use it daily? Do I fill my faith with laughter and joy? Do I use my faith to its full value? Do I repair my faith, by going to the Word of God, when life beats on me? Or am I allowing my faith to become useless?

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What about you? Do you have a strong faith, a useful faith? Is your faith strong enough to withstand trials and give you shelter? Or have you allowed your faith to fall apart like this barn?

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How do we keep our faith as important today as it was when we first believed?

WE ALLOW GOD TO KEEP US STRONG.

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Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Friday, February 06, 2015

WHERE DID YOUR FAITH COME FROM?

In almost every Bible study, every devotional and Christian blog, the question comes up: Where does your faith come from? The answer? For me, I used to answer that question, "My grandma." And I thought that was the correct answer.

I saw my grandma read her Bible. Every day! Even those sections with all the names and begets. She did not skip over them. She actually read them. Grandma read the Laws and she read the Gospels. Grandma lived her life as a Christian. She lived what she read.

Yup. Where did I get my faith? Grandma, of course.

I have been answering that question wrong.

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you….. Psalm 63:1

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

My favorite Psalm is 139 and verse 13 says: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I know how to answer that question now.

Where did I get my faith? Well, duh. From God and he knit it right into my soul! As I read the Psalms, I discover over and over that my job is to seek the Lord. I am to seek the Lord because my soul thirsts for Him. Seeking the Lord is part of my soul. Part of my DNA. I seek the Lord to find rest. To be upheld. To find hope.

So what do I do about grandma? I will continue to give the honor to grandma that she deserves. Grandma allowed me to read the Bible to her when her eyes were weak. Grandma was the living example of the Living Word. Grandma was my earthly guide to my Heavenly Father.

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Good afternoon God, I want to be sure you know my grandma did her part in making sure I found you. She was the light that led me to your Word. She was the example of what it looked like to be led by you. Please give her a hug and tell her I am very grateful. Amen

Friday, January 30, 2015

PRISON

I do not think - no, I know I do not want to go to prison. One time, when I was a Brownie leader, we went to the county jail and, because there were no inmates in one section, we were locked in cells. I DID NOT LIKE THAT. I WANTED OUT!!!!!!!!!

Think there could be an issue with claustrophobia? I know there is because small rooms, rooms without windows or having all the doors shut make me nervous. Strangely, airplanes and elevators are a breeze. Hey, phobias are illogical but I refuse to be a prisoner! (They don't lock you up for speeding do they?)

This line of thought began when I was looking for a scripture about being in a prison.

Psalm 107:10 tells us: Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains.

Darkness? Deepest gloom? Iron chains? I do not like the sound of that! Darkness, gloom and iron chains just would not work with my grey hair. I am not going to be a prisoner.

OR -- am I already a prisoner?

The next verse pointed out why these prisoners were suffering. Psalm 107:11 for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.

Wow! I am in trouble. I have rebelled. Is there any hope? How do I break the chains?

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him (Jesus). Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." ..and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:17-19, 21

Freedom for the prisoners. I like that part and Jesus is anointed to do just that. I have found my hope! Jesus is strong enough to break the chains that hold me prisoner.

It would be great to say I am the only weak sinner being held captive, but the reality is revealed in Galatians 3:22 -- But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Each of us is a prisoner of sin. And our sins are different. What is placing you in darkness? In deepest gloom? What is keeping you in iron chains?

There is hope and all you have to do is go to the one that can set you free: Jesus.

Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.

Psalm 142:7

Friday, January 23, 2015

I WANT IT ALL

I WANT IT ALL!!! Yes, I know what the Bible says about greed -- not good. But I want it all. Not some. Not half. ALL: the whole, entire, total amount, quantity, or extent of.

So listen up. Here is what I want:

ASSURANCE: the state of being sure or certain about something

BLESSED: having a sacred nature: connected with God

FORGIVENESS: overlook fault

GRACE: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification -- a virtue coming from God

LOVE: an assurance of affection

PAYMENT: something that is given to someone in exchange for something else

PATIENCE: the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset

PEACE: a state of tranquility or quiet

UNDERSTANDING: the power of comprehending;

Oh, my goodness. The list of things I want is so long you would quit reading if I listed them all.

I WANT IT ALL

I want to be certain that I am connected with God and that He will overlook my faults (aka sins). I want God's divine assistance and the assurance of His affection. I want to accept the blood that was given in exchange for my sins. I want to be able to wait for God's direction without being annoyed or upset. I want to feel the state of tranquility and have the power to comprehend all God has waiting for me.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you? Are you asking God for only a few things? OR Do you want it all?

Friday, January 16, 2015

A SLICE OF LIFE

We subscribe to one daily, one five-days-a-week and two weekly newspapers in addition to the free weekly paper. Do we read them front to back? Not really but they keep us informed. They reveal a slice of life.

I was looking at the free paper and discovered:

The paper has a new editor,

the local hospital's transition to a new owner is going smoothly,

a local township's records are being "looked at",

Chester, a neutered Jack Russell would like a new home,

local twins turn 90,

a furniture store would like to sell you a new recliner so you are "ready for the big game",

candidates are registering for election,

16 obituaries were published,

there are a lot of houses for sale,

a young couple announced their engagement,

churches heralded their times of worship,

and,

if you call the right number and for a fee, the snow on your sidewalk, driveway or parking lot will miraculously disappear.

This paper is a slice of life, but it is a slice of only the local community. The other papers fill in the slices from other states and other countries. It takes all of them to make a complete picture of life.

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The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Did you notice these say the world? They do not name an individual. They do not say a street. They do not say a town. They do not say a country or continent. They say the world!

My life - your life - is a slice of the world picture. And it takes each of us to make the picture of the world complete.

You are important. You are a part of the very world the Lamb of God came to save.

Friday, January 09, 2015

JESUS HAS LEFT THE TEMPLE

Sunday, January 4, 2015

9:10 AM Leave for church, Matthew 24 Sunday School lesson ready

9:13 AM On the way to church

9:14 AM An idea completely different than I expected to use for class pops right into my brain -- and stays there. Not one of those, in/out thoughts that float around but one that I knew meant the whole lesson was now going in an entirely different direction.

9:30 AM Begin the class with this written on the board:

Elvis has left the building.

Jesus has left the temple.

Yes, the class was staring at the board with the has-she-lost-her-mind look. What did Elvis leaving and Jesus leaving have in common? Or how were they different? Well, let me tell you, once they started kicking around ideas it was one of the funnest (a word created by children that works here) class ever.

Right off they said they were both "Kings" but Elvis was a small "k." It was pointed out that Elvis had fans that were always his fans, but, although Jesus had his disciples and a few followers, those around him changed from town to town.

When Elvis left, he had a destination: his next concert. Jesus, also had a destination: the Mount of Olives. A big difference is that Elvis entertained and Jesus taught.

Elvis and Jesus both left. They quickly came up with the idea that the building was different when they left. When Elvis left the building, the energy he generated left with him. "But what about when Jesus left the Temple?" I asked.

We then thought, "What would our church be like if the Spirit of Jesus left?" The word "empty" seemed to be the final description. Yes, a concert hall would be empty when Elvis left, but only for a short time. Another performer would come along and fill the hall with music again. If Jesus left, it would just be empty. There would be no one to come along and fill the emptiness. The church would just be a building. We did not like that feeling.

Matthew 24:1 begins with, "Jesus left the temple.." Do you want the really great news? WE DO NOT NEED TO WORRY ABOUT JESUS LEAVING US ! ! !

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirt, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

We are His. We are His disciples. He is always with us. ALWAYS - TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE.

What an amazing discussion came out of one crazy idea that just popped into a little brain. Or maybe, just maybe, the idea didn't just pop in. Maybe it was placed there for Sunday, January 4, 2015, 9:30 AM, Unity Sunday School Class.