Update on last post!

Sorry, I goofed on the recent post.  I pressed the ‘publish’ button while still revising the latest blog!  And both my wife and I can’t figure out how to revise it and send it out as a completed piece.  Trying to get it right has proven to be a big frustration but next time I’ll be more careful… maybe!  Computer a huge help in editing but a big pain when, on its own!!!, it messes up!  So, here’s the revisions.   In the upper third of the piece ‘So, thanks Him’ should be…you know, you know!  Correct it yourself!  And here’s the complete ending–‘…someone useful for Him and others.  Don’t glorify the negative in life.  Glorify Him who can turn lemons into you-know-what!  Ah, lemonade…on a hot day, so soothing and refreshing.  Like all those blessings from the Lord.   Thank Him over and over again–today, tomorrow…and don’t stop there!’  (stop here)

 

First time this has happened, so pretty good, I’d say.  Hopefully never again…but no guarantees for sure!  Thanks for reading and allowing me into your life through this blog of mine dedicated to the Lord.  It’s good to reflect on Him out of the time He gives us in this life.  Reflectionsoutoftime.wordpress.com–why not tell someone else about it?  Thanks again…John

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ARE YOU SPOILED ROTTEN?…1 Corinthians 3: 21-23, 4: 6-8

 

Are you spoiled rotten?  I am!  We have so many things.  Before we moved to a brand-new home,  we spent years getting rid of this-and-that.  Not just our own, but boxes and boxes of our kid’s stuff that they didn’t want either.  My old set of pipes(gave up smoking, praise the Lord, many decades ago!)were tossed out,  sofas and tables given a second lease on life through Habitat for Humanity.  Clothes had shrunk due to humidity(!), given to the Gospel Mission in town.

So much stuff.  Spoiled rotten.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3: 21-22 that ‘…all things are yours…all are yours…’  Now he’s not referring to what we found in the crawl spaces of our attic that we had forgotten about!  No, he’s referring to all those blessings from the Lord.  All freely given to us…none deserved.

Examples?  Saving us from the consequences of our sins.  All forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ, Him alone.  Doing for us what we could never do for ourselves.  For the food we eat.  Where we live.  You name it, a blessing from the Lord.

But what about the disappointing and hurtful times in our lives, you ask?  Those also!   A friend mentioned that the stroke she had years ago, was a blessing from the Lord as it removed the stress of letting go of her old job.  Now she can be herself. The smile on her face was contagious.   A blessing.  Even a debilitating stroke.

I have a real heart for children’s ministry.  I love kids.  I have such fun with them…and maybe why my grandkids all call me ‘silly papa’!  This tug toward children, I think,  comes from my polio experience at the age of two and all that entailed for one so young.

My loss…a child’s gain.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  This was God’s path,  preparing me for my calling in His service.  Was polio good?  No, of course not.  Did God work it together along with other experiences in my life for His good as He said He would in Romans 8:28?  What do you think?  Of your experiences?

I’m not sure that I would be sensitive to the frailties in others if I had skated through life blemish-free.   Polio…divorce…losing a church…not fun or good in themselves, but in the Master’s hands?  His creation of used-up clay and dust made into something useful for Him… and others.  Don’t glorify the negative in life.  Glorify Him who can turn lemons into you-know-what!  Ah, lemonade…on a hot day, so soothing and refreshing.  Like all those blessings from the Lord.  Thank Him– today… tomorrow.  Don’t stop then!

Prayer:  Thank you Lord for everything.  All things from your giving hands for good.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

FOUR DON’TS AND ONE DO!… Mark 13: 3-13

Guess what made attending Board meetings at our church so special for me?   Our church organist would bring a dozen or so of the most mouth-watering, gooey, sugar-filled and extra gluten(!) donuts.  Was it rude to go back for seconds?  I was shamed into it, month-by-month.  Board members dragging me back for that bear claw, always against my will!! Also, brought an extra donut home for my wife,  being the dutiful husband!  She actually got to eat it.  Take my word for it…please!  Donut you believe me?

Back to the Bible– we need to heed the ‘Four don’ts’ and ‘One do’ that Jesus shares with His disciples.  These are His insights about the end times.  He urges four inner attitudes along with one encouragement.  Four Don’ts and One Do!

Are you ready?  After all, that’s the point.  Be prepared!   Jesus says in verse 5–‘see that no one leads you astray’.  In other words,  don’t be gullible.  Because someone sounds or looks good–could be a ‘red flag’.   Trying to lead you astray.  Feeding you a line.  Flattering you.  Antidote?  Good medicine out there?   The more you know the Bible, the less gullible you’ll be.  That’s true.  Try it!

Verse 7 says–‘do not be alarmed’.  Alarms may sound… but no panic for the child of God. We know who’s in charge.  Who’s on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base!  After all, the Bible has warned us about all these troubles ahead.  Nothing new really.

Verse 9 tells us to ‘be on your guard’.   Guard your life.  Build a guard tower.   Watch what you watch.  What you look at. ‘Good fences make good neighbors’… keeping out the destructive from your spiritual and emotional ‘garden’.

Verse 11 refers to times of persecution.  Jesus says–‘do not be anxious beforehand…’ Don’t anticipate tomorrow’s worries today.  Today’s troubles are enough.  More than enough most of the time.  Don’t worry?  Easier said than done, I know.  I’ve got to work on this myself.  Not only this one,  but ALL the ‘don’ts’  in these verses.  I feel like I’ve just begun.

But God’s not done with me… or you!  Wait a minute, what about that ‘1 do’?  That’s found in verse 13–‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’.  Hang in there.  Be faithful to the end.  When you fall down,  ‘do’ get right back up…with Jesus’ help.  He calls us to endure. Be faithful to Him.  Stand your ground…for Jesus!  Don’t be thrown off course.  Dig in your heels.  Don’t budge.  You get the point?  Four don’ts and One do!  The end result?  Ending well!   He saves the very best for last… for those of us with lasting faith!

Prayer:  Help us, Lord,  to look to you and to always stand with you in the ups and downs of this life.  In Jesus’ name.   Amen.

NO MORE STRANGERS… Joel 3: 9-21

Years ago,  my wife and I took a glorious world cruise along with hundreds of total strangers.  Didn’t know a soul.  That didn’t last very long.  We made some really good friendships on this three and a half month journey at sea.  Friends we still keep in touch with.  Like Jack and Maggie from way-down-under in Australia!  Very first people we met  at the ‘Sail-Away’ party from Sydney Harbor as we plied the waters past the famed Opera House.  These strangers became friends.  But more than that,  we discovered that they too knew our Lord Jesus.  More than friends, they were family.  Not strangers… a brother and sister in the Lord.

The prophet Joel talks about end times.  No more strangers then…where the Lord dwells.   Joel 3: 17–‘…the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion…and strangers shall never again pass through it.’   The Hebrew word for ‘dwell’ is ‘shakan’, to permanently reside, to lie down and rest.  God promises not to be a temporary guest, like a stranger in our midst.  He sinks His roots way down deep with His people.  I had a favorite elderly client when I was a financial planner for a large investment firm.  She and her husband were both believers, which was like icing-on-the-cake(and I love icing and cake!!).   When the topic came up about moving to a retirement home, she objected saying ‘no, my roots are way down right here’.  Reading Joel 3: 17,  I thought of this older woman.  Like her wish and determination, God stays very close to us.  He dwells with us.  His roots… deep.

What about that word ‘stranger’?  Possibly your translation says ‘foreigner’?   Joel says that none will be present in God’s dwelling.  What’s wrong with including the stranger?  Had not I been a stranger that the Lord welcomed into His family?  I looked up that Hebrew word.  It’s ‘zoor’, which does mean stranger but with a pronounced rough-and-ragged edge.

Means a stranger to godliness, someone who commits adultery, a profane person.  Not necessarily someone unknown, but one pigheadedly and utterly resistant to following the ways of the Lord.  Willful, dogged, hell-bent… strangers to Him.  This is their own decision and choice.    This makes much more sense to me.

In Heaven, with God dwelling in the center, we’ll have no more struggles with our own sin… or that of anyone else’s.  No more political parties, with their spin, posturing and power-grabbing, will be allowed in Heaven.  The Marriage Supper of the Lamb( Revelation 19: 6-9) will be celebrated like no party we’ve ever had here in this crazy world!  I told you there was real good news found in these verses from that unfamiliar prophet.  Now will you believe me?!  Wait a minute…forget about me, believe the Lord!  That’s much better!  Amen?

Prayer:  Lord, we thank you for making us family in your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

LOCKED DOORS AND CLOSED WINDOWS?…Mark 11: 1-19

While attending college in Chicago,  I enrolled in a speed-reading class.  Pricey… but I worked two jobs to pay for it.   Never a fast reader, thought this might be beneficial.  It was.  I still read using my index finger, as we were taught to, which moves my ‘lazyish’ eyes quickly along.  Let me assure you that I do not speed-read the Bible!

Tempted, though,  when I get to a very familiar passage.   Like Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Preached this story many times over the years.  Today was my time to read this story once again.   Came to Mark 11: 11 where I was stopped in my tracks.  Jesus has heard the cheers of the crowd that day–‘Hosanna’ and ‘Hallelujah’!

The Bible says that Jesus goes ‘into the temple…and when He had looked around at everything, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve'(Mark 11:11).  He’s in the temple…seemingly all alone.  Jesus looks around…at everything.  Misses nothing.  Is that a sad tear we see rolling down His cheek?   Is He noting where His parents took Him to be dedicated with blessings offered by Simeon  and Anna?  How about all those times, teaching in the temple,  amidst the controversies?  Is Jesus shaking His head as He sees all those tables used to exchange money?   Should this not be a place of worship and prayer?

The Bible says that He looks everywhere, in every nook and cranny, behind every pillar and post.  He looks…everywhere.  When I read that, it just floored me.

Let’s bring this to today.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3: 16–‘do you not know that you are God’s temple…?’  I am?   First, we welcome Jesus into our lives.  He comes to stay.   As Jesus walks around our ‘temple’,  what does He see?   Things I’d rather hide?  ‘No, not there…’!  Do you have some windows you just don’t want Him to open?  Some locked doors keeping Him out?  ‘Look here, Jesus… but no, not there’.

What does He see?  No doubt He’ll be looking everywhere, checking out everything.  We may hope to keep things from God, but we can’t.  He walks around seeing everything.  We may think that all those secret sins can be kept from God.  But they can’t.  He walks around seeing everything.

These ‘idols’ in our lives need to go.  You know what I’m talking about.  So do I.   Pornography?  Drugs or alcohol?  No.  We feel smug that none of those have us in their dirty grip.  No?  Well, what about gossip?  Or worry?  How about trying to control others through all kinds of subtle, or not-so-subtle,  manipulation and lies?  You know exactly what I’m talking about.  Let them go. The Lord wants to help.  Let Him!  Open doors…and windows!  That fresh air will sure feel awesome!

Prayer:  Lord, show us what needs to change and then help us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

WATCH OUT! YOUR BED IS ON FIRE!…Mark 4: 21-25

You better watch out.  No, Santa Claus is not coming to town!  Your bed is on fire!  What?   Jesus said that.  Name-dropper!   He spoke clearly about the light that enters our lives, when we come to know Him as our Lord and Savior.  I don’t remember the exact day.  What I do know is that, at a certain moment, I became a child of God.  Jesus says here in Mark chapter 4 that when you have light from a candle, you don’t put it under your bed. That’s dangerous.  Your bed could catch on fire!

A friend gave me a 2000 year old oil lamp from Jerusalem.  It’s a tiny,  baked clay lamp with a small opening where oil could be poured in.  Then you would insert a wick,  so that when lit it would give light to a one-room house.  ‘This little light of mine’ can do the trick.  But the lamp must be put up on something.  You can now see with that tiny lamp.  Scary places cease to be scary.  Like the Bible which lights our paths as a lamp for our footsteps( Psalm 119: 105).  ‘Let it shine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine’.

But do we?  I think mine goes under the bed too much of the time.  Afraid of what others may think of me, instead of wondering what God thinks.   Whose opinion do I care more about?

Recently my wife and I went hiking at Mt Rainier.  It was a gorgeous day.  Not much snow that winter,  so we could hike quite a few miles without tripping, falling and sliding  as we’ve done before!  Bluest of blue skies on this day.  Early summer wildflowers in full bloom.  When we got as high as we were going to hike( shy of the summit!! Very shy…!), we were sitting on a log looking over at Mt Adams and Mt St Helens, when two young men came over and started visiting.  They were travelling from the UK.  We compared notes as my wife and I had spent two months in England that fall.  Nice conversations.  Finally, I couldn’t help myself.   I had to grab my lamp from under the bed!  Had to comment on the cross one of them was wearing, and recommended that they both start reading the New Testament to find out about Jesus.   My bed was NOT on fire!  The mountain didn’t blow its top.  Actually those 2 young men seemed quite interested in what I had recommended!  Felt good to let…Jesus shine!  Let Him shine!

You don’t have to go climb a mountain or do something really weird.  Pray…and ask the Lord to bring people your way to share some of the light of Jesus with them.  Watch… keep alert…and let your light shine…!

Prayer:  Lord, we want to share you with others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

SURE SOUNDS LIKE THE MORNING NEWSPAPER…. Hosea 4: 1-8

Reading Hosea, I imagined I was reading today’s newspaper!  That current.  That insightful.  I live in a land where freedom is prized.  Founded on waves of religious freedom.  We, who are evangelical Christians, now feel that the wave has become a tsunami heading our way forcing us to run for the hills.  I remember a professor at the Moody Bible Institute talking about the difference between students today and those during my time.  He said it was the lack of Bible knowledge of today’s students.  He was talking about Bible college students.  Except for me, the ‘cream of the cream’ of Christian young people were accepted into the Moody Bible Institute.    Most were from fine Christian families, who should know the Bible.  This professor said that was not the case.  If THEY don’t know the Bible…!

Hosea 4:1–‘…There is no faithfulness or steadfast love and no knowledge of God in the land’.   Hosea is part of what’s called ‘the Minor Prophets’,  due to the brevity of the book.  His message, however,  is major.  ‘… no knowledge of God in the land’.

Not only is there no knowledge of God and the Bible, but it’s a willful rejection of God’s truth. Their results  will not be good–‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge…’  Hosea’s primary focus is on the religious establishment, Israel’s priests.  Today in ‘mainline’ churches,  many espouse universalism, which teaches that all will be saved.  None ever lost.   Doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you believe in something.  Many pastors, in the towns where you live,  would nod their heads ‘yes’.  Not mainline… but out-of-line.

Hosea rails against the religious establishment–‘Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest.’  When denominations and pastors turn their backs on the revealed Word of God,  literally all hell breaks loose.  Morality and ethics slide down a slippery slope into the muck and mire of seething sin–‘there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed'(Hosea 4: 2).

Where have we gotten lost?  Verse 6– ‘…since you have forgotten the law of your God…’  Sin multiplies when God’s Word is ignored and rejected.  Pastors only talking about current events, latest trends in society,  and ‘how to’ messages.

Why not teach the truth of the Bible?  Hosea– ‘they feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity'(v. 8).  People repenting, turning to God disturb and disgust those subsumed in their own sin.

Hosea sure sounds like the morning newspaper to me.  For believers in Jesus Christ the Evening Edition of the ‘Good News Gazette’ is filled with wonderful and affirming stories!  For those who choose a different path, one of sin and rebellion, their Evening Edition will be cancelled, their subscription has run out.

Prayer:  Lord, we pray for revival wherever we are living.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

DOES GOD DO THAT? … Daniel 9:23, 10:11-12, 18-19

Only a few verses for today.  From Daniel’s life.   A life lived almost completely in exile, far away from his native country.  In Babylon.  Working for kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus.  Daniel, the old man,  is tired.  Drained and empty.

‘In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks…I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me.  My radiant appearance was fearfully changed…a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees…'(Daniel 10: 2, 8, 10).  It’s here, at this point of great emotional need,  that this angelic visitor draws near to Daniel and touches him.  Sometimes it only takes a gentle touch, a brief note, a simple text or call.  Doesn’t take much.

Then comes the word that Daniel is ‘greatly loved’.  The angel calls the old man by name.  I’m getting old, and I appreciate it when people care to know me personally,  at least knowing my name.  Get to know someone’s name.  I know some of you think you’re not good at remembering names.  Work at it.  Try to remember someone’s name.  Like what the angel did for Daniel, who was but one step from the edge.  Touched and named.

Daniel is a man.  Human.  Made in the image of God.  Fashioned by the hands of the Lord.   Wonderfully made.  We’re not little gods like some of the cults teach, but we are reflections of Him.  Made in His very image.  Not animal.  Not evolved from lower organisms, apes or monkeys.  No, we’re God’s creation… human.  Like good old Daniel.

More than that, we are ‘greatly loved’.  In all three Scriptures,  Daniel is called ‘greatly loved’.  The word ‘love’ in Hebrew is from the root verb that has three letters, ‘ch/m/d’. Go ahead, clear your throat!  That ‘ch’ letter in Hebrew is with a hard gutteral sound.

By the way, this is the same word used in the 10 Commandments, the ones still in effect today!   Consider the last commandment– the one about not coveting.  That same word the angel uses to describe Daniel–he’s coveted by God.  Highly desired by the Lord Almighty.  Maybe he’s over the hill, but not to God.  Daniel, and all who believe in the Lord, are precious, desirable and dearly loved.  As the Bible says, coveted by God.  He can do that.  At any age, especially as we get older.  More feeble, less attractive… but never to our Lord!  Loved,  desired and precious–‘coveted’!  At any age.  At your age.  Could it get any better than that?

Prayer:  Dear God, your love is so humbling.  We don’t deserve it, but are grateful for it.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL… Mark 7: 24-37; 8: 22-26

Reading through the Bible,  I take note of anything that grabs my attention.  Today, it’s two passages.  In Mark chapter 7 Jesus is trying to escape the crowds, hiding out, wanting some private time.  Verses 24 and 33–‘And (Jesus) entered a house and did not want anyone to know…’ plus ‘…and taking him(a deaf man)aside from the crowd privately…’  See what I mean?

Sometimes we need to get away from it all.  Cell phone off.  Television and radio, as well.  Quiet.  Sipping on a nice ice tea.  Cut-off from the distractions of the world.  If Jesus needed a break, guess what?  Some more than others.  I’ve known lots of people who can’t stand to be alone, who always have to have something blaring.   Personal space always filled with people and noise.

Jesus needs some private space.  Now to Mark 8, that second story.  People bring a blind man to Jesus,  begging for healing.  What does Jesus do?  Strangely, He  walks this man outside the village, actually takes him beyond the city limits.  It takes one try and then another for the blind man to be healed.

Sometimes healing takes awhile, takes more than a word or two.  Some things a whole lifetime with complete healing happening only in heaven.  The blind man and Jesus are outside the town limits.  The two of them.

Like spending time together with God.  A quiet time… outside the hubbub.  Your bedroom door closed, blocking out unwanted sounds and intruders, like kids and grandkids!  For a moment.

Jesus tells the former blind man something strange–“And he(Jesus) sent him to his home, saying,  ‘Do not even enter the village.'”  He sent him home by another route.  Like the Wise Men being warned to avoid Herod and Jerusalem…to return home by a different route.  Looks like after becoming a Christian there are places and people we need to avoid like the plague.  Not good for us.  Places where the dust will cling to us.  Dust them off, each bit.  People will drag us down, belittle us and harm the good the Lord wants to do in our lives.  Go a different route.  Don’t enter their village.  Some places, people, particular things… are poison.

I don’t know what they are for you.  Do you?  If so, then act on what you know.   These two stories are really about maintaining boundaries in our lives.  How to grow in the Lord by reducing what drains us, walking away from the tugs and grabs of the enemy that keep us frantic, upset and confused.  Find out for yourself, with Jesus’ help, what,  where and who they are in your life.  Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to act on what you now know.  That’s my prayer as well.

Prayer:  Lord, we need you to help us block out the harmful in our lives.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

RIGHT AS RIGHT CAN BE!… Romans 14

You know I’m always right?!  You know I’m kidding!  Or am I?  You and I both know some people who have to be right.  Have I stepped on some toes?  Sorry about that!  We live in a time when people have very definite opinions.  Not much compromise when we’re cemented in place.  Is that true of you?  How about the church you’re involved in?  Then we probably need a hefty spray of Romans 14 to help ‘clear the air’.

Paul talks about passing judgement on those who disagree with us.  As in which is the correct day for worship?  Or what about eating certain foods?   To avoid even the hint of sin, some new believers decided to eat only vegetables and fruit,  in case the meat had been dedicated to an idol.  In the early church, lots of changes were bombarding people’s lives.  Decisions were being made about these critical issues.  As is true at any time, not everyone agreed.  Lots of disagreements in the early church.

Should come as no surprise when some crop up, rear their ugly heads, in our local churches as well.  Like the color of the new carpet in the sanctuary.  Or how often to observe the Lord’s Supper.  How about believer’s baptism versus infant?  Sprinkling versus full immersion?   Or can lose your salvation?  Where do you stand on these issues?  With me, of course… if you want to be right!  Right?

Paul says that we shouldn’t ‘pass judgement’ on others(verse 3) while he also says that ‘each one should be fully convinced in his own mind'(verse 5).  Search the Scriptures.  Make sure you’re not polling friends and neighbors.  Spend time in God’s Word for guidance.  Knowing that true believers in Jesus Christ do come to differing conclusions.  Have your own convictions…know them, reason why you have them.

Don’t judge fellow believers who differ. I don’t mean on crucial issues like the deity of Christ or the infallibility of the Bible, but those other issues that make for ‘Heinz 57 Variety’ churches in all our neighborhoods.  You know what I’m talking about.  Paul writes in Romans 14: 1-2(NIV)–‘Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgement on disputable matters.  One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.’  ‘Disputable matters’.  We can disagree, fellowshipping  with one another as believers in Jesus Christ.

The closer our own fellowship with the Lord in the Bible, the more quickly we’ll recognize His family.  It takes some maturity, some embarrassing mistakes along the way, some calling out by others deeper in the faith than we are, to know when to respectfully disagree… and  when to dust our feet off and move on.  Really, it takes the Holy Spirit with His wisdom in our minds and hearts.  Right?

Prayer:  Lord, please give us kindness in matters of differing opinions.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.