Thursday, May 24, 2012
There is definitely a trend these days in throwing a wedding “out-of-town” and having the guests all come a distance from home to celebrate with the bride and groom. Some of these can be very extreme in extravagance, while others may be quite simple, but never-the-less require the guests and participants to travel out-of-town, even if they live quite close to the Bride and Groom. What fun to have everyone take a small vacation just for their special occasion.
Though I have traveled distances to attend weddings, one (of two) destination weddings I have attended was at the beach here in Oregon. Wonderful place to go and not so far from Salem as to limit guests to those who could stay the night. (And it was a beautiful day.) But since we were traveling anyway, we left after the wedding and spent the night in Seaside, where we just happened to run into the Bride and Groom. :)
This weekend many from my family will be attending a destination wedding near Yakima WA. They will be traveling from as far away as Arkansas and Vancouver B.C. as well as from here in Salem OR. Everyone is excited to be there and enjoy this time together.
Coincidentally, in study tonight we will be discussing the Destination Wedding that was attended by the 10 virgins, 5 wise and 5 not. That started me thinking about the responsibilities connected to going to a destination wedding. As was often the way of things in the days of the Bible and for many, many years of history, everyone had to travel to the wedding, sometimes from great distances and they had to be prepared for possible variations in the schedule. Unfortunately, 5 of the virgins failed to prepare for the possibility that the groom, who had to travel in, might be delayed in coming. They did not bring extra oil for their lamps and ended up missing the wedding altogether because they had to go and by more at the last minute.
At least one underlying truth to be learned from this episode is that we “People get ready, Jesus is coming, soon!”* And we don’t know exactly when. We have to be prepared to wait, and we have to be prepared to meet Him right now. There will be no second chance once the door is closed.
As I thought about this upcoming wedding it occurred to me that preparations were needed. If guests intended to stay a night or two, rooms had to be reserved, bags packed and a trip planned. But the “oil” of the weekend just might be making sure there is enough money available to buy gas when coming home. :)
As for our inclusion in the wedding He has prepared for us, we must know that we are invited; that we are part of His Bride, the church, because we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior AND we must be moving closer and closer to Him by His own leading and our willful, obedient following.
By seeming to change the subject in the next section of this 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus is actually telling us that we are required to keep on keeping on, and helping Him to grow the church until He returns We must not become unwise and settle into bored tedium because He has not come yet. We must not give up waiting for Him and doing all that we can to draw closer and closer to Him.
May we daily be reminded that our responsibility is to be ready to meet Him and ready to wait. As John says in Revelation as he closes: Even so, come Lord Jesus. And may we celebrate together very soon!
*People get ready Jesus is coming, soon we’ll be going home, People get ready Jesus is coming, to take from the world His own.” AVALON http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_JJ84ugpmo
Monday, May 21, 2012
One of the things that delights me often is being presented with a whole new idea. Many times these come from lessons I am studying, but many other times they come from out-of-the blue: almost accidental sources. But, since I don’t believe in accidental education, I take delight in thinking that God has something He wants me to think about.
The subject I am about to broach came at me through a surprise blog post in Christianity Today’s on-line magazine. I was sent there by another blog call “The Poached Egg” which was set up purposely to direct people to apologetic sights of interest to Christians searching for more information on defending our faith. Otherwise, I would never have known that Christianity Today had a web site let alone a blog aimed at women. The particular pageI was sent to was written to women asking them to consider becoming apologists. It basically suggested that we women need to get better at defending our faith and maybe even work more at doing so. It gave me pause: Imagine all the studying that would involve. :)
Meanwhile, I am studying in James and Matthew and both are encouraging us to KNOW, without a doubt, what we believe and stand firm in it.
Then last week I received a newsletter from my cousin-in-law who is a missionary pastor in the Vancouver B.C. area. His teaching thought for the day was about the overabundance of self-made religion around us today. Basically this takes the form of piecing together what we like in religions and putting out the things we don’t like and then stating that this represents our beliefs. The example he gave was not even a Christian believer, but one who followed (?) a very different religion and kept the things he liked in his religion and pretty much ignored the things he did not like. That would have been a fun conversation to hear, I think, because my cousin likes those kinds of challenges.
So, then came Sunday and the book of Jude. Our pastoral intern was at the podium speaking about the purpose of the book as well as enlightening us to the controversies that come up about the book. (I have read Jude at least four times. I felt as if I had never seen it before in my life. That really got my attention.) But what stuck out for me was the call to “Contend for the faith…” Once again, a call… to do what? To KNOW what we believe and defend it against all comers, or at least STAND OUR GROUND when they come at us with their false teaching.
Interestingly enough, one of the things these false teachers were guilty of was teaching that our firmly established salvation gave us license to sin, to the gory of God. That took me back to when I was 17 and had only recently been able to stand up for my faith, be baptized and join a church after 7 years with out any church connection. I was definitely a babe in the woods. We (the youth group plus) were painting the interior of the church. A couple I did not know and never saw again came over and started telling me about how we could not really sin because God controls everything and He would not let us sin. Supposedly everything we would do would be approved by Him ahead of time or we wouldn’t be doing it. Talk about bologna!! Even with my total lack of education in the Word, the Holy Spirit turned on the light in my mind and made me able to chuck that whole idea on the spot. He stepped right in and saved me from these false teachers and I am forever grateful. He helped me stand my ground.
Now, looking around us, who can we help stand their ground? Do we have a sure enough knowledge of what we believe to actually assist others needing to defend what they believe, let alone resist those who would destroy their faith? I don’t know about others, but I do know that I could never sit down and write a list of the Distinctives which define my church and get them all right without looking at them. And neither can I jump to specific Bible verses which are supposed to prove my point. But I have been blessed to realize that I do know what I believe and I hope that as I share things, others will be blessed to know that the reading and studying and thinking that we do does enrich us, strengthen us and embolden us to stand firmly in our faith and let no false teaching intrude.
May we all let the excitement of discovery send us searching in the Word for more and more Truth, and may we be eager to share what we discover as we walk with God.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Of all the things that have been swimming around in my head lately, gambling is the last thing I might have thought to write about. But, suddenly, this morning I am thinking about it as I study James 5. Here James is getting down to it with the rich. He is pretty much blasting them for there arrogance in living richly off the backs of the poor, warning them that they will come to a miserable end for what they are doing.
One of the questions asked in the study is “What were they doing to the poor?” To that I answered that they were stealing from them and making their lives unbearable so that the rich could enjoy even more richness and merriment. Then my brain took off and ran me around a lot of possibly unrelated thoughts.
Facebook has gone public today, so that made me think about the stock market and the speculative investments that go on in oil and agriculture and other world wide product production. In that setting, people try frantically to make money off of forcing prices up and stripping the poor of any buying power they might otherwise have from their meager incomes. Each has his own agenda but together they work deliberately to raise money by trampling on others. And they gamble on the outcome.
Then I thought about the multitude of sports fans who gamble, in one way or another, on the outcome of sports events. And here I was remembering someone in whose house I visited at times and noticed that this person could not be attentive to his small children because he had placed bets on just about every football game out there and he had to pay attention to the progress of each one. He had two at a time on his television and several going on over the phone, sharing with others what was going on with the games they were watching.
And then there are poker players who play hour after hour, day after day, sure that their luck will change if they just keep playing. And they always have a lot at stake and a need to keep on keeping on to a better ending.
But as I thought about these things, a new picture began to form in my mind that I thought I would share with you. It is a picture of wanting to be God.
Why is it, after all, that a sports fan cannot bear to miss watching a game that has a hold on his heart or his money? Why is it that people who buy and sell stocks and futures have to be in the middle of everything and worried about every move that everyone in the world makes that might effect the outcome of their “wager?” Why is it that card players, horse players, and even causal slot players think they need to keep playing in order to, in effect, change their luck?
It was then that I began to wonder, “Does it have anything to do with wanting to be God?” Where in the world did that question come from? But think about it. Let’s use my favorite and most perplexing example: WHY do football fans think that watching the game (giving up other possibilities of how to spend the time) is somehow going to effect the outcome of the game? That somehow, their being there or watching it on TV will help their team win. Do they perhaps feel that they can actually help determine the outcome of the game just though watching? Do they have some need for that to be true?
Satan, the first to desire to be like and even be God, was at least up front about it. That power and presence is what he wanted and what he went for. And he has left that taint on all of us. We have a longing to control; to be in charge, to be an effect on something. And gambling, in one form or another, sets us up for just that. We can do it. We can effect the outcome of the game. We can make it work out in the end if we just persevere, if we just keep watching and “esp”ing the way to win. Even if we have no financial investment, our hearts can be just as heavily invested in the outcome. We want to win and we want of help it happen.
But back to the Futures investors: Now there is a group willing to have their way at all cost. And it does cost. But James and Jesus, Himself, admonish us to wait it out, being patient because the end of it all is coming and they will loose and we will win. In the meantime we need to keep our desire to control under control and not let it lead us into sinful behavior.
May we be alert to times when we just have to have an effect for something and we keep trying instead of relying on the power of God, and the very fact that He is God, to get the job done. May we seek to submit the outcome of all things to Him, through prayer and trusting. May we be willing to give up manipulations and rely on Him to achieve the outcome He desires.
By the way, I love my sports fan friends and dearly enjoy any opportunity to help them cheer their teams on. But maybe missing a game or two would not be the end of the world? Maybe they can win without you once in awhile? Just sayin’ :).
Monday, May 14, 2012
It has been a crazy couple of weeks. My computer has been attempting to toss ME out the window! But I must say that what did not kill me certainly made me stronger. Oh how I envy those who have electronically literate young people in their lives. I am sure that much of my suffering could have been avoided if I just had someone to ask, but I persevered and, if you promise to keep this quiet, I will tell you that I just might have the problem solved by trial and error. Shhh…
It all started with a “slow down.” I was keyboarding in Word, the computer wasn’t; at least not at the same pace. I was trying to work on line, the computer was moving like a slug, making me wonder over and over if it was responding or not. I ran Spybot. It smiled and told me I had a super clean system. The “slow down” got worse. Everything was a waiting game. Very annoying. I began to fret. :)
Then my MP3 died. What? What does that have to do with anything? (Hold on. There is an answer.) MP3’s apparently cannot have their batteries changed. They live until they die and that’s that. Soooo… I bought a new one. Thank goodness they are cheap; cheaper than my cell phone batteries. It was an innocent little thing with a very American name. I would take it home, download my music and be off again. HA.
When I hooked it up it wanted to install itself. Who would think that could be a problem? It’s a reliable company and not something I downloaded from online. Sure. Go ahead and install. :)
WOW, was that a mistake! It not only installed itself but several other programs as well, including Weather Bug and Norton. And all of these programs turned out to be “power hungry” monsters, living in a powerless computer. I have about as much RAM as I have brains, and that is NOT much. I maxed out my board long ago and there is nothing I can do to increase my RAM, sooo… everyone wanted to be in charge and everyone wanted control at the same time. Very quickly, my computer flashed me a note that said, “Flash Player has crashed!”
Okay. Now what? I had no idea what to do, but I found out that my FP handled just about everything that makes any kind of movement. Doing anything at all on line was a certain crash situation. What to do? Well, I struggled with ideas which led me through dumping program after program and finally led me to Player Download Center where I could pick up the latest version of Flash Player. Whew, I can use my computer again.
By the way I totally dumped my MP3 install. It not only messed up my computer, it messed up my music list big time! Who needs it, anyway? I use Media Player. :)
But, to get to the point, this innocent looking, interactive new friend of mine was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It nearly destroyed my computer. And I had let it in. It was a dangerous relationship.
Recently I saw a picture of a frog with a butterfly on it face. Both were beautiful, innocent creatures and the picture was awesome, but the relationship had no good ending in sight. There was that butterfly on the toad’s face, its little feet over the top lip of the frog and under his chin. They were looking into each others eyes. What would the next move be?
May we all be careful who we invite into our lives as constant influences. Yes, we must love and care about all, but we do not need to invite danger into our lives as a constant presence.
I am remembering one marriage counselor who spoke about young people who date the unsaved because they think they can be the influence and bring that person to Christ. His advice was, invariably, to ask whether the person they are dating is bringing them closer to Christ or taking them farther away. What a great thought to use for the frog - butterfly relationship. Is the butterfly thinking she can teach the frog to fly? Or, is the frog thinking, just one snap of my tongue and I will have her? Could they ever really be close friends? Christ says, “No.” He says not to be unequally yoked together. He says that because it could kill us to be so close to evil.
May we be seriously careful what or who we allow to influence our lives and our direction in walking with God. And may we earnestly pray that our children will, too.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Passion: Usually implies a strong emotion that has an overpowering or compelling effect. (Originally: suffering or agony, as of a martyr.) Also: Extreme compelling emotion; intense emotional drive or excitement
This morning I am caught up in the whole idea of Passion. Reviewing tonight’s chapter in Mathew, I read ahead through chapter 23 which encompasses one of the most passionate (emotional) “sermons” Jesus has given. Humanly speaking He seems to be at the end of his rope… He cannot do anymore than He has done to turn the tide from the path of destruction for Israel as He approaches His own passion. The Pharisees and scribes have refused to listen and they will take down Israel with them as they turn a deaf ear and hard heart toward Him.
In tonight’s lesson they will be asked the final question: “What do you think about the Christ…?” And they will refuse to answer and they will be forced to stop asking anymore questions. But Christ is not yet through with them and He gives a passionate reminder of all that He has been trying to show them as He ministered among them.
Jesus passion was directed: It had a point. It had a purpose. It was a strong emotion that had an overpowering, compelling effect. It turned them against Him all the more.
But when I contemplate passion I remember the pain it can cause the one having it. I remember and know the feeling that things are not as they should be and needing to correct what is wrong. As a student, I was passionate about grammar and things pertaining to use of the English language. I was passionately ready to correct every wrong. And I did. And I was not very popular for that. (Meanwhile, please do not notice all the errors I make as I write this blog.) :)
Even today, if I hear someone on TV or radio use the word "less" where "fewer" should be I cannot contain myself. I have to correct them, even though they will never know that I did. I also struggle with the misuse of “just” and “only” and public signs that are spelled wrong or use very bad grammar. However, use of the English language has gone the way of the “new math” in the 70’s. There is no such thing as “proper” or “absolute” rules in grammar anymore. Do as you please is the new rule.
One big problem with passion in human beings, especially small ones, is that few people recognize it for what it is: They see pure evil and sin where I see misdirected or totally non-directed passion. A child with passion will grasp hold of something important to them and they will not be able to let it go. They will struggle to make it happen to the point that they hurt themselves and everyone around them. They do not take things lightly. They suffer all things and they do not know what to do otherwise. Neither did I. And I hated that feeling and the ultimate results of it.
That is not to say that children throwing tantrums is not a discipline challenge. For that matter, adults throwing tantrums is a serious discipline problem as well. But redirection rather than rebuttal can sometimes be very helpful. One thing I regret from my childhood is never having a dream or a goal. How much nicer it might have been to be passionate about getting somewhere in life rather than picking apart other people’s lives. Not to mention, wasting my time and energy on just getting by rather than getting somewhere worthwhile.
The ideal, of course, is to help lead a child into passion for Christ. But, even then, they need direction and opportunity to select ways in which to show their passion for Him. I praise the Lord for the opportunities that exist in our church. They run the gamut from sharing a birthday cake with the homeless to spending several months in a foreign land teaching and learning. But most of all they are encouraged to expand their thinking and set goals for action and then work toward those goals for service in Christ.
May we all be diligent in encouraging passion in our families, friends and fellow Christians. May those of us who can, be diligent in speaking up for the things we notice and learn that bring glory to God And may we be so excited for Christ that we downright annoy our friends. :)