Saturday, September 17, 2016

What Have You Gained?

Statistics tell us that most women are not happy about their image when they look in the mirror. When I was young and would sit watching my mother get ready for her day's work I would wonder. She fussed and fretted over something she didn't like about her hair. I could never see any difference between what she started with and what she settled with at the end, but she spent at least twenty minutes getting it done.  

"And every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life. But many shall be last that are first; and first that are last."  (Matthew 19:29-30 ASV)

Quite a few years ago we had a visitor at church one Sunday morning. The man (and maybe his son, if memory serves me at all) had once been associated with the congregation, long before our time. He had several friends amongst the congregation. When services were over there was a good deal of talking and banter from the members of the congregation. My husband and I waited, thinking surely someone of the man's friends from the congregation would invite him home for the noon meal. 

We were surprised when at the last everyone made their goodbyes, and no one had stepped up for a blessing. We asked the man if he would like to come home with us for the noon meal, and he gladly accepted. He came home with us to our modest home, a rather large family, and modest meal. Through the years this scene has taken place in our home, and I'm quite often amazed at what happens. 

While growing up, my Grandfather wasn't big on new innovations. He wasn't a casserole person. He wanted his 'meat, potatoes, and gravy', no nonsense stuff like casseroles for him. So a normal Sunday lunch for me still consisted of a roast of some sort, potatoes, a couple of vegetables, gravy, and of course dessert. Nothing fancy, but adequate. Yet, when we sat down to a simple meal and shared it with company as well it felt like a feast. We talked and laughed, shared stories, and on this particular Sunday lunch the man gave us a copy of a book he had just published. I felt sorry for those poor people who had missed the opportunity of such an afternoon.  

We just finished up a wonderful gospel meeting. In the same manner as my mother styling her hair, I fuss and fret over preparation for our visitor. Will this look right, will it be right, and what to prepare for meals? 

As most often happens 'time and tide wait for no man', and the eventful occurrence takes place. We currently have a phrase that covers many things: 'It is what it is'. I wish I could have polished things more, maybe gotten some optical things in order, but the speaker did an excellent job, and what a blessing we gained.

"The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, Jehovah hath made even both of them." (Proverbs 20:12 ASV)

I am reminded of this scripture and I realize I don't have to be the most beautiful person, or have the best possessions, greatest house, or what not. What I must have is seeing eyes, hearing ears, and an open heart. 

Somewhere along my path I came across a saying:  If there is room in the heart, there is room in the home. 

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Only Ones


During the last years of the elderly man's life the preacher would on occasion stop in for a visit. On one occasion the preacher brought pictures of horses and some old time farm equipment. They had a pleasant visit, and as was the preacher's usual habit he presented the Gospel to the older gentleman before leaving. The preacher had on every occasion of visiting presented the same Gospel, but on this visit something jogged the other man's mind.

With a shocked look at the preacher he said, "You think you're the only ones."

There have been a number of  'jokes' such as: Mr. Jones died and went to heaven. As Saint Peter was showing him around, he pointed to several groups of souls. "Over there is the Methodists, and over there are the Lutherans, and the Baptists are over there."
They passed another group, and Mr. Jones inquired, "Who's that over there?"
"Shhh," Saint Peter said, "That's the Church of Christ, and they think they're the only ones."

I used 'Church of Christ', in this instance, but in the past people have used Methodists, Baptists, and Lutherans as well as other religious titles to fill in the 'they think they're the only ones' blank. You see, in times past most religious entities believed that not everyone was going to heaven.Why was that so, and what has changed? Let us address the first why. Why did the different religions believe there was only one way?

"Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock:"
(Matthew 7:21-24 ASV)

They believed that because that's what the scriptures teach, and most of them believed their path was the right path. So, what happened? What changed?

Unbelievers searching for the Truth (and the path to heaven) were told by the various denominations various answers. For instance, some answers were: 'just believe', 'just recite the sinners prayer', or 'just follow our pattern/our creed'...there were as many answers as there were denominations. Many unbelievers became scoffers and remained unbelievers. And of course the obvious question became, 'how come there are so many answers, and where do the answers all come from' ?

Because of the conundrum the different answers made, and because most religions would point back to their own creeds, which created its own conundrum, they dropped the idea that their way was the only way. They were forced into the belief that 'we're all going to heaven, just taking different paths'.

But Jesus through the Bible still says:

"that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me." (John 17:21)

"Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment."  
(1 Corinthians 1:10)

So, the question comes, does it make a difference what we believe, and what we teach?

"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12)

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 
(1 Corinthians 10:12)

The first admonition comes from the Old Testament book of Proverbs. The second is from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. These are warnings telling us 'watch what you're doing, because you can fall'. 

"These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:13)

How can we know what is right or wrong? By reading and following the teachings and commandments of the Son. If it doesn't say it in the Bible, it doesn't save. For instance, do the scriptures teach 'saying the sinners prayer'? No, so it doesn't save. We must believe, but the scriptures don't teach 'believe only'. Otherwise the demons would be saved:

 "Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder." (James 2:19)

Even the Apostle Paul buffeted his body daily so as not to be rejected:
"but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Why do so many, instead of looking to see if what they believe matches with what the scriptures teach, ignore the idea that they may be believing something that is false? The devil is the master of lies and deceit. It matters not how a person is deceived. If you believe and follow a lie you are still lost. I can believe falsely that I am safe, or that I am 'the only one'. Without proof and Truth my belief is still wrong. 

Do I believe that 'we're the only ones'? No. I believe those who follow the teachings of Christ and Him only are the only ones. Those following the straight and narrow way, as it speaks in Matthew, are the only ones. It isn't determined by me or you, but by the Word of God.

"Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness." (2 Peter 3:17 ASV)
Hallelujah! What a Savior!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Too Soon Gone

Merle Haggard passed away in April, and many mourn the passing of this famous country singer. Over the last number of years I've witnessed the passing of many famous people, quite a few that I grew up listening to, or watching on television. Through out my days, and under various reasons and circumstances, I am reminded of the scripture in Psalms: 

"I have been young, and now am old; Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his seed begging bread." (Psalms 37:25 ASV)

My thoughts tend to center on the phrase 'I have been young, and now am old'. Life has made that impression on me at sundry stages in my journey which had nothing to do with literal age. My husband and I married when we were eighteen. Marriage tends to mature a person, or as they say, we grew up together. There was ten years between our oldest child and the sixth child. Child number seven was born ten years later, approximately two weeks after our oldest grandchild joined the family. 

The first forty years of our life seemed to fly by. About the age forty-two, however, I felt as if I slammed into a brick wall. Life didn't slow down, but before that time I hit life at full throttle. Now my body began to hit slow motion mode in little things.  

"The wise man's eyes are in his head, and the fool walketh in darkness: and yet I perceived that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so will it happen even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then said I in my heart, that this also is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 2:14-15 ASV)

The term, 'he went the way of all the earth', is used to gently remind people that 'as it happeneth to the fool, so will it happen to me...'. Too many people live their lives as if they are guaranteed life forever on this earth. They live as if life on this tiny spec in the universe is forever, and never make preparation for the vast ocean of eternity. 

"For of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no remembrance for ever; seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. And how doth the wise man die even as the fool!"(Ecclesiastes 2:16 ASV)

 The book of Ecclesiastes deals with Solomon trying to make sense of life 'under the sun'; trying to make sense of life by taking God out of the equation. Earthly wisdom would cause a thinking person to ask the age old question, 'what's it all about?' What is the purpose of life? and as Solomon found, apart from a life with God there is no sense. We all die and are forgotten—even the famous of our times. 

"Therefore I turned about to cause my heart to despair concerning all the labor wherein I had labored under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 2:20 ASV)

"There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it is from the hand of God." (Ecclesiastes 2:24 ASV)

I sit on my deck and watch my children and grandchildren. I am reminded that even though the last twenty-one years have forced me to slow down, as Ecclesiastes tells us there is nothing better than to gather with family and friends. To watch  life begin, the middle of life, and in the words of the Psalmist: "I have been young, and now am old", as a Christian, there is nothing better. 

But as a Christian, I have prepared for the next stage as well. Life on this spec isn't the end. I am incredulous that so many of my fellow journeymen are so clueless. I will leave you with this encouragement—prepare for your eternity:

"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. ...and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire." 
(Revelation 20:11-15 ASV)


Monday, July 18, 2016

A World of Turmoil

"And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters that are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. But he lingered; and the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters, Jehovah being merciful unto him; and they brought him forth, and set him without the city." (Genesis 19:15-16 ASV)

Abraham in the preceeding chapter had bargained with Jehovah God. Jehovah had 'heard' the great cry of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah for its wickedness, and in response sent two angels down to check it out. The story here picks up as the angels have found it to be very wicked indeed. They have not been able to find even ten righteous souls in the entire city. The city is set for destruction, but first the angels must deliver Lot and his family out of the city. Destruction is hovering over the city, Lot is 'lolly gagging-dragging his feet' about leaving. At last the angels take him, his wife, his two daughters by their hands and bring them out of the city. They literally drag them out of the city, tell them to run for the hills, and 'do not look back'. 

"And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth (the angels brought forth Lot and family) abroad, that he (the angel) said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the Plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." (Genesis 19:17 ASV)

There could have been several reasons Lot's wife looked back. For whatever reason, she looked back with longing when she had been distinctly warned 'do not look back', and she failed the test. 

"But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."(Genesis 19:26 ASV)

Strangers and Pilgrims: we live in, yet are not part of this world.
Or have we grown comfortable here?

Far too many of my fellow Christian travelers have Lot syndrome, and many more have the 'Lot's wife' syndrome. How many times do I hear people telling stories about 'before' I was a christian I did thus and so. It's a remembrance of 'the good times' they had 'before'. The good times they gave up in order to suffer the walk of a christian. Instead of realizing what a blessing it is to give those things up and put them away; to walk in soberness and Godliness, they remember them with fondness. Like Lot's wife, they look back with longing.

"that ye no longer should live the rest of your time in flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:" 
(1 Peter 4:2-4 ASV)

For my part, I want to finish my task here in this world, and to finish well. However, there are days when I feel I've seen too much. My heart loves my family and friends, but it loves even greater, and longs even more to return to that city and home of eternal rest and joy.  

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:13-16 ASV)

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Jehovah of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah." (Psalms 46:10-11 ASV)

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Just A Moment

Some call them 'senior' moments, or  back when blond jokes were popular, 'blond moments'. Regardless, most people have those moments and neither age nor hair color matter. I have been born with a predisposition for moments. Most of these moments go with the words 'what was I thinking'? I often find myself sitting on the ground, or floor, or find myself in a situation which is not good.

But these aren't the only moments in life. Statistics tell us a car crash takes only seconds to occur. Odd as it seems, children grow up in only a moment. Parents grow old in only a moment. A new acquaintance can become a friend in a moment, and friends can become strangers—in only a moment. Overnight our bodies and minds change. 

In this world of change, a world of drifting shifting sand-based values where can we find a sense of stability?  

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever. Be not carried away by divers and strange teachings: for it is good that the heart be established by grace; not by meats, wherein they that occupied themselves were not profited."  (Hebrews 13:8-9 ASV)

So many people have turned away from the Bible in search of something different. Not even something 'new', just different. Jesus is the only one that promises salvation. Other religions may offer something novel, or unusual. They may make the person 'feel' tingley or special, however, they don't offer salvation.

Salvation. The teachings of Christ can be the best of both worlds, giving us a better life now, and an eternal home with God. As an acquaintance of mine said after she and her husband had been converted to Christ from a drunken existence. The previous life revolved around drinking, and all their money went for that. She sat in her comfortable carpeted living room with new furniture. Her walls were adorned with pretty items. Christ has changed our previous existence for this. Her face wore an honest thankful visage. 

"If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Corinthians 15:19-21 ASV)

It is true that the fortunes of Christians can be erased in a moment's notice, but one thing a Christian has that they take with them is the presence of Christ. His assurance that He is with them no matter what, or no mater where they are.

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you."  (1 Peter 5:6-7 ASV)

In this world of change that come sometimes moment by moment, Jesus still calls each individual back to him. He gives us an anchor for our soul, and a foundation to build our life upon. A future here, and a future for the hereafter:

"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."  (1 Corinthians 15:52 ASV)

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Going Out In Joy

Most mornings I'm up at 6:00 A. M. but this morning I'm up later than my normal early hour. I've had a good/bad night. I slept well until early morning, then pain woke me and I had to get up for some pain relief.

Later, sitting at our dining room table, as I work at my morning routine I glance out the window. There is a nice breeze, and this morning is almost perfect. It's a comfortable cool, but vibrant sunshine washes the landscape. Near to my view lower leaves of the Ash tree on the east side of our house are dancing in the shadow, in the breeze.

Several years ago I was lent a book, "The Chinese Ginger Jars" by Myra Scovel. {The true, captivating, and intensely personal account of an extraordinary American woman who lived, with her medical missionary husband and son, through more than two decades of transition in China. ...}

This blurb says her husband and son, but in the book I believe she had three children--two boys and one girl. That said, there was a point during WWII, if memory serves me, they were in an internment camp in China for quite some time. After being held in the camp for a length of time the camp was exchanged. They start the long train journey to the ship that will bring them back to America. At one point they are allowed off the train to rest in the shade of some trees. Myra has a poignant moment as they are resting and scripture comes to her mind:

 "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands."
Isaiah 55:12

Just as she observes the trees under which they are resting seem to 'clap their leaves as they go out with joy', in my world on this almost perfect morning the leaves on our Ash tree are clapping their leaves. What a beautiful thought, and brings to mind other scriptures. As in my case: 

"Sing praise unto Jehovah, O ye saints of his, And give thanks to his holy memorial name. For his anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a life-time: Weeping may tarry for the night, But joy cometh in the morning." 
(Psalms 30:4-5 ASV)

Also when I think I am something special (as my daughter used to say—all that and a bag of chips—) I remember that we are all on the journey perhaps as Myra and her companions to the ship that takes us home. It isn't the times we fall that count, it is the times we get up. And just because I'm up today, doesn't mean I didn't fall yesterday, nor that I won't fall sometime in the future. As the Apostle Paul says:

"Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." 
(2 Corinthians 12:8-10 ASV)

I don't 'rest' in my weakness (as in wallow in the mud), but I rest in the 'Power of Christ' to overcome and live in His power and grace.

And last of all, I meditate upon this scripture:

"Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." 
(Isaiah 55:6-9 ASV)

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

slowly

It started slow, like sand dripping one grain at a time through an ancient hourglass. Oh, we started out normal enough, but change came. Imperceptible, yet one day, one week, one year, bit by tiny bit. Now, like a rock mountain, who we are is set in stone, and unchanging.

The original Cinderella of long ago, not the Disney world new one, had a moral in her story. In the original story, Cinderella personified what a good kind person; a well brought up lady would look like. She embodied beauty on the outside and on the inside. A forgiving person who, through her goodness, brought evil to repentance and changed it to good.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you. 
(Philippians 4:8-9 ASV)

Life isn't built in a day. It is built day by day, one precept on another. Many people of the world live their lives listening to lies from Satan (who is the father of lies, as Jesus says). They eat the empty vanity cakes of the idols of this world, and never turn to the beauty of truth and salvation. They don't have anything worthwhile to look to that will help them turn to the good, true, honorable things of life eternal.

Just as the new Disney world version of Cinderella has put a different emphasis on the story, most lives miss the mark as well. We go along believing, 'if I only had more money,' or 'if I looked like that person', drove that car,' or what ever our current idol is, if I had that, things would be different. We miss the real beauty, because we're looking at the facade. 

Thus saith Jehovah, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls: but they said, We will not walk therein. And I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet; but they said, We will not hearken. 

(Jeremiah 6:16-17 ASV)

Hallelujah! What a Savior!