Monday, December 31, 2012
As the New Year dawns I am once again struggling with weight gain. My eating is way out of control and I need to pull in the reigns, but my heart is not in it. I kept my last weight loss off for 7+ years and I am totally not ready to start over. It’s a new year. It must be time to make a resolution. Right? Well… that ain’t gonna happen. There is nothing easier to ignore than a resolution. I have plans. We will see how they work out. But physical weight is not really what is on my mind right now. Spiritual weight is.
Did you know that smiling can help make you and others healthier people? Yes, SMILING. It can be said that once someone smiles, they feel better. So smile. But don’t just smile, smile at someone. Share your smile.
Have you ever been smiled at by someone you don’t even know and had no other contact with: As in looking up in a restaurant and meeting the eyes of someone across the room who smiles at you. Do you smile back because suddenly you feel a smile come on to your own face in response to their smile? Have you ever been walking along and met eyes with some stranger and smiled at them while they smiled at you and maybe even exchanged a greeting? Did that make you feel better, even lighter for a minute or two, at least?
Living where I do, I cannot leave this building without running into people everywhere I go. Urban lifestyle, you know. Some are hard working employees or college students; some are down and out homeless people; and some are just a variety of neighbors who may be retired or disabled or just getting started in life as singles or couples. It is not a neighborhood of the successful or wealthy. But it is a very large neighborhood full of state office buildings, small businesses, two colleges, and multiple apartment buildings. There are always a lot of people walking around. There are always a lot of people who could use the lift of a smile.
When was the last time you smiled at a perfect stranger or even responded to a smile from someone who is a stranger to you? Sharing our smile is one of the simplest ways that we can make life a little lighter for others.
As for ourselves, how much weight do we carry around with us in our daily routine? Do we really experience the Joy of the Lord in our daily walk? Do we let that show on our faces? Or do we carry our own load and let that show on our faces? That’s against the rules, you know. Jesus said to let HIM carry our load – whatever load that is: Not enough sleep; too much on our work plate; problems at home, problems in scattered places where people we know are in some kind of trouble. Whatever our load or burden, we are to give it to Him and let Him carry it. We are to loose that weight. We are to lighten up and get on with the program of how much He loves and cares for us. Perhaps we should be smiling so much that we don’t even realize we are doing it. That may make your coworkers and friends think we are crazy, but it will “spitefully” make their day a little lighter, too.
This New Year let’s help others loose a little weight by smiling at them. :) We will notice a weight loss, too. May we give and return smiles until it hurts and then keep doing it anyway as we progress though the year 2013. Happy New Year to all. God bless you!
Monday, December 24, 2012
ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE the day that Christ was born. That was the brief summary of the sermon on Revelation 12 which Pastor Tim preached this Sunday morning, December 23, 1212. I am thrilled that he is preaching through Revelation because he has fallen in love with the beauty of it. As he guides us along the way, he presents a picture that is understandable and beautiful and glorious in the name of God.
On this Sunday before Christmas, he showed us an amazing account of what that day is truly all about: The preemptive strike. Think about it from the timeline of His Story: There had been some 400 years of peace and quiet on the earth. No contentious prophets, and no serious uprisings or attacks from the outside. No exile to foreign lands. Submit to the Conquerors and life will go on in a reasonable comfortable way. (And, by the way, Barabbas and his band were having none of that.)
The peaceful existence was not just for the people of God but also for Satan. Many have tried to claim to be the Christ, all have failed, so maybe Satan is feeling a little confident and not paying much attention to what is happening. Keep in mind that Satan is not Omni anything, let alone Omni-present or Omniscient.
So where was he when Christ was born? Visiting Herrod, keeping him in line? Who knows? I sure don’t. But I do know that his peace and quiet was rocked thoroughly that night. It was time to bring the Savior into the world and God did. Right under his nose.
The thing is that we have all heard this preemptive strike term before, and without follow through to completion, they failed miserably. But God never fails and Satan knows that. That is one thing that he is all too aware of. So imagine how angry he was that God had made his move. Certainly angry enough to spit fire! Game on! He and his minions were ready to fight to the death over this. And Michael was ready to whoop them right back to where they belong.
At this point I tend to wonder again why we know so little about Jesus younger days. Is it that Satan was too unsure about who He was to stir up trouble? Was he content to bide his time? We don’t know. But we do know that the attack was on. Herrod didn’t think about killing all those children on his own. And then, as soon as Jesus was baptized and confirmed as the Son of God by God the Father and the Holy Spirit., Satan stepped into His life. Satan was there every step of the way as Christ ministered to the people and disrupted all that Satan had going for him. And we also know that Satan is still trying to undo everything that God has put together. Spiritual warfare is alive and in full action even to this day.
So, as we celebrate all the beauty of Christmas and all the warm fuzziness that comes with that, let’s also remember that this was God’s perfect plan at work leading to the eventual total destruction of Satan. We have awesome things to look forward to because of this preemptive strike. And we need to be praising God excessively as we remember Christ’s birth. God is winning in spite of all the evil that is still in this world. God is in charge, but the battle goes on for our minds and our souls. Some people don’t survive the battle, and some of those take others with them when they just can’t handle the warring going on in them anymore. So, at this time of great joy, let’s praise God for who He is and what He has done and what He will do to finally end this pain we suffer.
What a day this has been. So much to treasure, so much Joy and Praise going on. that we cannot help but shout, “Hallelujah, it is Christmas.” May we all enjoy His Peace and Presence with us through this season of Joy.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
On this Sunday, the eve of Christmas Eve, December 23, 2012, I have been thrilled to experience two very different looks at the Christmas story. This look at the swaddling clothes was so exciting to me that I just have to share it with you
Remembering that the shepherds were told that “this will be a sign unto you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths (swaddling clothes) lying in a manger.” To many who read or hear this story this sentence is a given: Of course He was found that way; it was prophesied to be that way. Others, like me, quietly ask, “Why is the swaddling a sign of anything since nearly every baby born in those days and for centuries after were swaddled at birth?” Even today the practice has come back into the lives of some new mothers.
Well, looking at several sights with a different view I found that many scholars see it as a sign of His appointed death: He came to die. I also found that the wrapping done in death is also called swaddling and that is what the sign and reference is all about.
Therefore, as an object lesson, swaddling can help us to see that Jesus’ ultimate purpose in being born, was to die. Mary’s wrapping of Jesus in swaddling clothes foreshadowed His death on the cross: the price He would willingly pay for our sins. This Christmas, let us never lose sight of this fact: that Jesus was born to die, so that we who are dead could live. In the exultant celebration of Jesus’ birth, remember that the gift God gave us is Jesus’ death.
But this morning, while watching Day of Discovery, I was privileged to hear about this from a born-again Christian scholar whose field of expertise is Jewish history, and he had a little bit different angle to tell us about. His summary is based on to whom it was a sign: The shepherds, these very special shepherds.
It seems that in the writings of history, if not specifically in the Word, these were indeed very special shepherds. They were the keepers of the sacrificial sheep and lambs that had been raised specifically for sacrifice when they would be needed. They were referred to as the “priestly shepherds.” This ties in with the study we are doing on the tabernacle and on the “assignments” given as gifts to the Line of Aaron to be priests and to the tribe of Levi to assist these priests as a way of life.
Apparently the fields where these sheep were kept were not far away from Jerusalem and between those fields and Bethlehem there was a 2-story tower that served as a look out and as a place to birth lambs. When it was time for a birth, they took the sheep in this shelter and literally pulled the lamb out (as veterinarians often have to do, even today.) The purpose was to make sure the lamb was born unblemished. Then, to further protect the lamb from harming itself, they took “swaddling blankets” and quickly wrapped the lambs in them so that they would not sprain or break a leg trying to get up. After they were calm, they were unwrapped and helped up to go to the mother and grow unblemished beside her.
For these shepherds who served God and the priests so willingly day after day, this was a sure sign that this was the Lamb of God who would be the ultimate sacrifice. They knew exactly what the swaddling represented and were thrilled out of their minds to see this answer to so much prayer and praise to God.
And, if that doesn’t make us grin from ear to ear, we have worked too hard to makeover Christmas into what we think it should be, leaving no room for what it really is: The strike of God against all evil. But that’s part of the other amazing thing I heard today and I will tell you about that in “ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.” :)
Meanwhile, may the PEACE and JOY of Christ, Himself, be with you all for ever and ever. Amen.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Recently it has been brought to mind that some believers think that sometimes God does not hear our prayers. I admit that I was shocked by this declaration from someone I love and it disturbed me to sleeplessness in pain for that person and for others who were exposed to these thoughts. I keep hoping that “God ultimately didn’t hear our prayers,” was a misstatement and not an actual belief of this person. The next words were about how active God had been, and currently is in the situation; so I am sure that faith is still strong there, but I was drawn to find words to express the absolute truth that God hears our every prayer.
There are many different teachings about prayer in scripture; some are hard to handle, and some are just plain wrong. One school of thought is that when we are not “right” with God, our prayers “hit the ceiling” and never leave the room. That is wrong on so many levels that it would take a long term study to cover it all. But it is important to note that sometimes our working relationship with God is hindered by sin in our lives. This does not mean that He goes deaf and does not hear our prayers. It means that we do not enjoy the comfort of knowing and feeling His presence with us when we continue trying to serve Him while living with unconfessed sins
But, because at least dozens of people were praying through many long years, the sheer scope of the praying flies in the face of this whole idea that God did not hear those prayers. It is not probable that all those people were out-of-sorts with God, all at the same time, even if that would affect God’s ability to hear. And I suspect that, in fact, the vast majority were quite diligent in obeying God and living their lives for Him. So why would there be room to suggest that God did not ultimately hear those prayers? In fact, there is no room. God hears are prayers and they are like incense to Him. (Revelation 5)
The bold truth is that our exuberance in prayer (or lack thereof) is not the requisite of God’s hearing. Nor is seeking Him from a point of great faithfulness, or being a proper, fully mature saint (whatever that is.) All He requires of us is that we believe in Him as our God and Savior, keep in touch, and come to Him with any and all of our requests and needs, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
I believe that those of us who have accepted Christ as personal Savior not only have unrestricted access to God for praising and praying, but we have within us the Holy Spirit who carries our prayers to God in God’s own language, expressing our hearts and minds in a way that we could never accomplish on our own. God not only hears the words of our prayers, He hears more than we pray. He hears our hearts and our minds and our intentions. He knows better than we do what our requests really are.
So why might we choose to say that He did not hear our prayers? Because we did not recognize His answers. A quick “Yes,” is what we are looking for, but sometimes the answer must be “wait” or “no” or even “Watch”… for I have a different solution than the one you think you need. “My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) I am God and I am in charge of how things turn out. I know what is really best. Trust Me.
In Genesis 18, Abraham prayed several times that God would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a specific number of possible faithful few who might be still living there, knowing that his nephew and his family were there. God heard and answered every prayer, “Yes.” And yet He did destroy the cities in chapter 19. He did, however, spare the faithful few who actually did live there. He knew Abraham’s heart and true intent and saved the remnant of believers, even though He had to destroy the cities because there were not enough faithful believers to overcome the evil existing in those cities. Though Abraham verbally requested the rescue of the cities, God knew it was his family that he cherished and wished to preserve; but his family did not add up to the number Abraham had set as a point of consideration. God had a different solution than the one Abraham thought he needed.
I originally wrote this page for my own edification, but I have decided to share it with others in the hope that God might bless someone, or many, with the truth of His eagerness to hear our prayers and to always answer them in His own way. May God be praised in the rise of incense from our hearts and lips as we go through our days with Him. Amen