October 31st. Pumpkins, Halloween, ghosts, goblins or???

ImageI wanted to post this ahead for any who will be thinking about Halloween.

It seems that our world is head over heels in love with Halloween to the point of whole big box stores with all kinds of paraphernalia to be purchased for all ages. I can remember dressing up as a painter’s man using some of my dad’s painter’s garb. Carrying paint pails and paint brushes, my sister and I won first place and the prize was a silver dollar. What has happened to creativity? Halloween has become big business and the merchants are using their “trick or treat” to drain our pocketbooks and fill theirs. But, what is noticed more than that is the death culture it is promoting with the ghouls and goblins dripping with blood. Today public schools spend the month of October in preparation for the party centered around Halloween, costumes, candy and spooky music! The next day at school the children arrive on sugar load and teaching children is as if they were hanging from the chandeliers! I garner that trick or treating is fun and I must admit I love doling out the candy to the little ones as they come knocking. But, I also have to ask what about the spiritual significance of this day? Have we become so enamored with Halloween that we have forgotten about what really happened in 1517 on this date?

Here’s my dilemma. I will bet you 9 out of ten do not know that Oct 31st is not only Halloween but there is a significant historical event that we as Christians should know about and even celebrate. Yet sadly many, and that was me as well, have no idea about the significance of what else Oct 31st represents. For as many years as I had been a believing Christian, the church I attended never once mentioned this date and its spiritual significance. In fact like many churches today it was all about Harvest Parties, all about “fun.” We never even mentioned that something so significant happened that we should stop and take note. It was not until I was privileged to teach in a Reformed Christian Day School that I was awakened to what this day symbolized for me as a Protestant. What an awakening I was about to experience which would forever alter my view of this day!  Familiar with All Saints Day? I never heard of it but in passing and never knew the significance of that date. Did you know that it was the date on which the Reformation began? Let me give you a mini history lesson.  It all began on Oct 31, 1517 when one young German monk named Martin Luther in great boldness and courage nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenburg Castle door. After years as a monk searching for his peace and digesting the book of Romans, he had come to the conclusion that only through faith is one justified. He could not be quiet when the Holy Spirit had so altered his thinking and his heart. Why did I not know about this?  

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I began to question my own church hierarchy but came up against a blank slate. Why was this a new idea to me? Why didn’t my church celebrate this day? When I began to question I was politely told that we did not discuss this, but why? Once again it seemed that denominations were the leading divisive tool that the enemy had used to keep us in the dark. I was not satisfied and so went searching on my own. What I found was not only revealing but life altering.  I found that this young German Monk, chose All Saints Day, Oct 31, 1517 to step out from his clerical collar and with great courage challenge the sale of indulgences to earn salvation. What Martin had learned in his quest for truth was this: salvation is a gift not to be purchased or sold. Not only did he learn that but he also learned that his church, his very denomination was selling indulgences to gain this coveted salvation. Yet in the first chapter of Romans he also learned this: 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes,” Martin could not be silent. He gathered his courage and wrote about this transformation that had changed his life forever! So emboldened he stepped up and told the world this marvelous news: the just shall live by faith not by works!

The question then before me is this: why am I not as bold as Martin Luther? Why am I not using this opportunity to tell the world of this marvelous news that I too have found?  Is that not a significant opportunity to share the gospel with those who do not know? So although Halloween trick or treat is a fun activity there is something far more significant that we should be talking and sharing about. Are we telling the world?

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So as a parent, grandparent or even a school aged child how might this day be celebrated?  Here’s some ideas I found cruising through the web: http://www.lovetolearnplace.com/SpecialDays/Reformation/ReformersWordSearch.pdf 

Have a Reformation Day Faire: http://www.lovetolearnplace.com/SpecialDays/Reformation/activities.html#anchor58776

Sing  “A Mighty Fortress is our God” written by Martin Luther: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/m/i/g/mightyfo.htm

Print out this picture for little ones to color as you explain this day: http://www.teacherhelp.org/images/Martin%20Luther.pdf

Excellent ideas for teaching about this special day; activities, books etc.

http://www.lovetolearnplace.com/SpecialDays/Reformation/#anchor22952

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May I Pray for YOU??? (1John 5)

ImageYesterday I received an email from a “buddy” who is struggling. How my heart goes out to this person! 1John really spoke to my heart today about the confidence I have in Christ to boldly approach the throne of God for this person.

May I have the privilege of doing the same for you?

Here’s why I believe so strongly in this power. Prayer is the concrete demonstration of my love for others. To not utilize this power is to quench the Spirit, to grieve the Spirit! “OUCH”!!!!!

It seems that today many are not overcomers in regards to sin. How can  I walk with them and encourage them? John has the answer in vs 14-17. I can pray over others that they be kept from sin or removed from that sin. John reminds me that “whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him.”

 The question before me today is this: how committed am I to obedience and prayer for others? John has reminded us over and over, he who says he is born of God loves one another and that means the closest brother or sister to you. Cain asked “ Am I my brother’s guardian?” and the answer is yes, I am my brother’s keeper because I am the beloved, the called, the chosen, the daughter of the very Son of God—I am born again. I have a conquering power that resides within  me and that is the Holy Spirit. Drawing upon that power I have thus the confidence to come boldly before the throne of God seeking the face of God for the sin that will grant life and pardon to the one who is caught in the web of deceit by the enemy of their souls. Heb 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. In addition, I have the indwelling presence of The Witness who will pray for me when I feel so burdened that  I cannot draw from my inner being even the words to pray. Rom 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.

Thus the practical application for me this day is this: not only to love my brother/sister but to also obey through prayer to bring them to the very throne of God! This is my everyday challenge. What is yours?

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Anointed Ones Abide! (1John 2)

ImageThey say opposites attract but is that really true? We usually use the standards of how we are attracted by one’s physical appearance, by their status, by their education. We oppose those who are different than us.  But, Jesus said we will attract others not by how they look, by how much money they have in the bank etc. but by a character quality and that quality is love for one another. In fact it was so important that on his last night after the Judas left, Jesus gave this commandment:  “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

Yesterday, John told us that God is Light. Today he bridges that concept to say that if we know and have experienced God’s Light illuminating our being we will be marked by three qualities: love, abiding, anointing. Each of those qualities marks the believers/followers of Jesus.  How then do we know if we are loving, abiding, and are anointed and what are the warning signals that we are not? That is the question he poses. First John addresses the children, having just become a new born believer; the fathers; that is we are seasoned, mature; or we are young men; we are in between, not yet fully mature but no longer children. Where are you? Where am I?

First we know Jesus, who is our Advocate. Because we have a propensity to sin, we run to him when we sin and know that if we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us. We have chosen to keep his commandments, we walk in the same manner as he did and we love one another; that is our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Secondly, we are more aware of the enemy’s strategies and now because we are anointed by the indwelling Holy Spirit we should be able to detect his entrance. To help us, John offers three avenues the enemy uses which are no different than he used in the Garden and with Jesus in his temptation. First is the problem of the world: our flesh; that is our perceived wants. Secondly our eyes are our perceived views. Lastly is our pride of life or how we perceive our status.  John says DO NOT love these three for if we do then we should doubt our walk  with God for these are not from the Father. Here’s how you can tell. When one of those perceived enemy attacks comes do you flee (1Tim 6:11, 2Tim 2:22) or stay? Do you deny (Rom  6:12-13, 8:13) or accept? Do you resist (1Pt 5:9) or conform?

Thirdly, as a believer you have the indwelling Holy Spirit to assist you in abiding. Abiding is our intimate relationship with Jesus, our Advocate and Blessed Redeemer/Savior. It has the essence of how we respond to Jesus and His commandments. We allow Him to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections. Jesus takes up residence within us through the Holy Spirit as He promised. As our intimate teacher the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 16:13) will bring thoughts to our mind, direct our steps if we are yielding, and will give us understanding.

Blessed Beloved Ones, remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding lest you be led astray. Test the spirits to know if they are of God or not. Check and see if you are abiding, loving, anointed. Abide anointed ones for you are blessed beyond measure.

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God is LIGHT!!! (1John 1)

ImageEach morning it seems that the darkness wants to claim this world but God’s clock and His timing say “sun arise!” There really is something marvelous about that initial sunrise with its glimmer of light that dispels the darkness. First the birds begin to chirp welcoming us to a new day, then the first rays, then the beauty of the clouds emerge as the stars slip into the sky to wait for their later appearance. Finally the sun itself touches our world. As the sun creeps up over the horizon more of God’s creation is revealed and it is marvelous to behold. What  must it have been like for the Apostle John as he heard, saw, beheld, and touched the very Light of God in Jesus? A sunrise can never compare to the beauty of our Savior but each day as we experience the welcoming light of day we are using the same adjectives John used in his painting his picture for us: hear, see, behold, touch. John is so emphatic that he paints this picture three times! And this is why he is writing to us, that we may not miss this marvelous image.

From that image John moves to his message which he has heard from Jesus himself: God is light and in Him there is no darkness. This reminds us of the verse in Rev 22:5 “Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.” Even in the northern most part of our globe where there are places with many hours of light in the summer months, there is at least a portion of darkness, but here in Revelation John tells us that there will never be darkness! NEVER! 

From that beautiful image, John paints three contrasting statements beginning with “if.”

  1. If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness we lie to ourselves. BUT, if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship. That must be what heaven must be like, full of illuminating light 24/7. Not one drop of darkness for darkness represents sin and sin and God cannot co-exist.
  2. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; the truth is not in us. BUT, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. If we had no sin there would be no need for the sacrifice of Christ but since there is sin within us we need cleansing and it is His blood that is the cleansing agent.
  3. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar. Did you notice that first we lie to ourselves and then to God? What does God say about lying? He hates it! Prov 6 says God hates a lying tongue and a false witness. This is one of those “OUCH!” statements.

God’s light has shined in our hearts, are we allowing it to shine forth as a new sunrise?  [2Cor 4]  Even though we live and move in darkness, is the Lord our light? [Micah 7:8]  

 

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Shrink Wrapped by the Father for Jesus! [Book of Jude]

ImageOften we have packages we want to ship or packages are shipped to us in what we have come to know as “shrink wrapping.” Polymer plastic is wrapped around a fragile object and then heat is applied so that the plastic conforms to the image. The NET Bible translates: 1:1 From Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, wrapped in the love of God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. Immediately the image of shrinking wrapping came to mind! As a manufacturer applies heat the heat shrinking process begins and the plastic film being used then conforms to the image. How like God to “shrink wrap” me so I can be protected from the elements of this world. His shrink wrapping consists not of plastic but His love and the Holy Spirit’s power. How protective is the Father’s Love!

Jude reminds his readers that they are Beloved of the Father, they are kept in His love. This is a reminder that the Holy Spirit is given to me to keep me, protect me. His protection is lost when wI grieve or quench His power. That is why I must be earnestly seeking to be filled each and every day.  It is the prayer of Jude that I know that the Father has lavished, note that this is past tense, His mercy, peace and love upon these believers and this applies to me as well. And all of this happens inside that shrink wrapping! Do you feel special yet Beloved? I feel so wonderfully protected, how about you, do you feel protected?

But Jude also wants those who are the beloved to contend earnestly for the faith that has been entrusted to them. Paul said much the same to Timothy: “Compete well for the faith and lay hold of that eternal life you were called for and made your good confession for in the presence of many witnesses.” [1Tim 6]

From there Jude builds his message to them with several important reminders:

  1. Build yourselves up on your most holy faith
  2. Keep yourselves in God’s love
  3. Have mercy upon the doubters, save others, snatch them from the grasp of the evil one
  4. Remember is only Jesus that can keep you from stumbling. Only He can make you stand holy and unblemished in His presence with great joy.

As you ponder this very short and powerful letter, contend earnestly, warmly, zealously, with great eagerness. Think about being shrink wrapped in the Father’s love and praise Him for His love and care.

 

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Am I Wise? Prov 24

ImageI like to think I am wise because of the many years under my belt, but Proverbs always checks my stride to show areas where I am faltering. Prov 24 is one of those chapters!

I hold in my  hands the most marvelous treasure of all, God’s Word. Hidden within are the jewels of wisdom that God will refine so that I will shine as His light in a dark world. The book of Proverbs  is God’s treasure box which is filled with His gems which if read, pondered, and applied are the gems God uses to fill my crown that shows I am His child of royal standing. 1Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Proverbs Gleanings: Image

Vs 1, 7, 8, 19 Observe those who are unrighteous, listen to how they converse. Their lips reveal that upon which they dwell in their thoughts. They lack restraint where judicial matters are concerned, are schemers and scoffers. They are the people who belong to the “loose lips” club; avoid them. Am I avoiding them or encouraging them in their foolish ways by listening to them?

Vs 11-12 Today the news is filled with horror of human trafficking, genocide, infanticide and more. We shudder but are we assisting to help alleviate the problem or are we ignoring it?  During WWII many knew but did nothing. “We have a responsibility to help such people. If we claim ignorance of their condition as a reason for not helping them, we need to remember that God knows the true condition of our heart and will requite us accordingly. We are responsible to rescue those who are in mortal danger. This includes warning and teaching those who are hastening to destruction.” [Toy] What am I doing? I am involved in a “holy huddle” Bible Study but on Thursdays I enter the halls of a local elementary school and share the Good News with children who are often unchurched. What are you doing?

Vs 13-14 Just as honey is nourishing to the physical body, so wisdom is the honey for the soul. If we neglect feeding the body it begins to decline, if we neglect reading, meditating and applying the principles in the Word of God our spiritual body declines. “OUCH”!!!

Vs 17-18, 23-26, 28-29 O you who say you are wise, when I see your “works” what do I discern? If I rejoice over an enemy’s stumbling what does that say about my heart and spiritual attitude? If I am prejudiced what does that say about my understanding of  the truth that we are all made in the image of God?  If I hide my light under a bushel and do not share the gospel when God provides a divine opportunity what does it say about what I know and believe about the message of salvation? When I bear false witness what does it say about my understanding of God’s moral law which Jesus obeyed?  

Vs. 30-34/6:6-11 Observe your daily work.  Remember the parable about the ant and the grasshopper and I need to  ask myself: Are you more like the ant that was diligent to prepare for winter or more like the grasshopper who slept in the heat of summer but went begging for food in the winter? I am either diligent or I am a sluggard. Principle: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” [2Thess 3]

Wise thoughts to glean and determine my steps. Pro 16:9 A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.

What is God teaching you? Image

crown image: credit firstcovers.com

 

 

 

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Is Your WYSIWYG Showing or Hidden?

ImageWYSIWYG is an acronym for “What You See Is What You Get.” In computer lingo it is an editor in which content (text and graphics) are displayed onscreen during the editing process. When WYSIWYG is hidden from the reader it looks just like you are reading now but when turned on it shows the editing marks so you can realign and readjust what you want the reader to see. What if the world saw our WYSIWYG? What might they see? That is the essence of what Paul asked the Corinthians in this last chapter [2Cor 13] as he draws this letter to a close. Paul said, I have left my WYSIWYG marks open for you to see. I have revealed my humility, meekness and gentleness in Christ, my visions and revelations. When I was with you I was open and transparent and never became a burden to you. In the time I was with you did I not reveal the signs of a true apostle? I was “not like the religious hucksters ..I did not go about “missionarying,” as Mark Twain described this type of religious swindling [referring to the false teachers among the Corinthians]” [Bob Deffinbaugh]

Paul said: You are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. I came as Christ, weak now but I can be powerful and I will demonstrate that resurrection power of Christ when I come if need be! Then in a flash, he turns the tables on the Corinthians. Now let me see your WYSIWYG or better yet why don’t you do it for yourself? Paul says:  Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless, indeed, you fail the test! If you doubt my apostleship you must doubt your own Christianity for you are the fruit of my apostleship!

So how does one test to see if you are in the faith? Paul does not give us a “do’s and don’ts’ list of things we can mark off, but instead Paul infers that we must check our lifestyle that is apparent to all. We could begin in Matthew 5 with the “Be-Attitudes.” Kingdom people strive to demonstrate kingdom character qualities: poor in spirit, mourning over personal sin, meekness under pressure, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These character qualities are observable in kingdom people’s conduct: merciful to others, pure in heart which is noted in being single minded; and peacemakers. As others observe our character and our conduct they can see that we are called to be kingdom people. In the book of Galatians Paul enumerates that which can only come about from an anointing of the Holy Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  

Our question then from the book of 2 Corinthians which we finish today: Is your WYSIWYG showing or hidden? Are you hiding your salt in the saltshaker and your light under a bushel?

 

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Holy Halo or Humble Thorn? 2Cor 12

ImageHave you ever met or heard of someone who seems to wear a holy halo? They are known by their superfluous adjectives or with a long drawn out face about their recent God encounter. Jesus warned the disciples to beware of these Pharisees who roam about in long robes and utter long drawn out prayers on the city street corners not for street evangelism but so that others would think they were the holiest men of all. 

It is not the encounter but their boasting about it publicly for the world to see that is so counter to how Paul felt about sharing his. In his humility, meekness and gentleness in Christ Paul finally broke down and wrote about the one vision that so changed his life that we read about in chapter 12. In fact, Paul only shared the briefest of details of this encounter and only after 14 yrs had passed and further only because of the false teachers who were casting aspersions about Paul.  You can almost hear Paul saying under his breath “enough is enough!” And so in this chapter Paul shared not only his God encounter but the afflictions that he received as a direct result.  

Principle: Paul wants his audience to realize that  God allowed afflictions require dependence upon God alone so that He alone gets the glory.

As the Corinthians read this chapter they could visualize in their minds Paul’s thorn. It was something that touched his very person, it was a messenger of Satan, and it was troubling. As Jesus prayed three times in the Garden for the cup to be removed so Paul prayed three times for the thorn to be removed. God did not remove the cup from Jesus and He did not remove the thorn from Paul.   

Principle: “The man who is being most blessed of God is being the most buffeted by the devil” [Redpath].

Through this thorn we learn of his ability through supernatural power and wisdom to experience and be successful in the trial that lay before him. What was this thorn? Paul does not tell us therefore where the scriptures are silent we are as well. What we do know is that it was “something which frustrates and causes trouble in the lives of those afflicted.” (Kruse) Paul lived by taking his own advice:  “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” [Phil 4]

What we do know is that Paul had an insight from the Lord “My grace is sufficient/enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Note the progression:

My = It is the grace of God, not ours.

Grace = The favor and love of God in action.

Is = Present tense; it is on going.

Sufficient = It is complete and fully adequate for the need at the moment.

For you = This means for not just Paul but for you and me!

 

“This sufficiency is declared without any limiting words, and therefore I understand the passage to mean that the grace of our Lord Jesus is sufficient to uphold thee, sufficient to strengthen thee, sufficient to comfort thee, sufficient to make thy trouble useful to thee, sufficient to enable thee to triumph over it, sufficient to bring thee out of it, sufficient to bring thee out of ten thousand like it, sufficient to bring thee home to heaven . . .” [Spurgeon]

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Are  you being buffeted today? Take heart and claim this promise from God “My grace is sufficient for you”

 

 

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Being a SaltShaker for Christ

ImageEveryday you pick up the salt shaker and probably do not realize that there are at least 14,000 uses for the common table salt. Truly God’s gift is a wonder. Salt is not just an enhancer but also a preservative. It is an excellent cleaning agent—a brine of salt and vinegar poured down the kitchen sink prevents grease from collecting! Jesus said we are to be salt and light, not pepper and dark!  Yesterday we talked about the message of the gospel and how it offends the person to whom we bring it. But, if they only could taste the salt in our shaker then what a transformation would take place!  The message may be offensive but as Paul and Jesus said we are to be meek and gentle, salt and light in a dark world.

Today in our reading, [2Cor 11] Paul speaks to his beloved Corinthians in boldness for as their spiritual father he had promised them to Christ. He used the analogy of a father’s jealousy for the protection of a virgin daughter. In particular, Paul spoke to them about his love and concern for their lack of discernment regarding those who came to them with various “truths” thus deceiving them and leading them astray.  Jesus asked this pointed question: “But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again?” This is what Paul was asking his beloved Corinthians. By not being discerning they were losing their salt’s effectiveness, they were being“tossed to and fro , and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness…” [Eph 4]

As the Corinthians we need to ask why we too so easily accept the pepper of this world; those who come wrapped in skilled speech and are proud. Unlike the , the Corinthians and us in turn, are often unable to discern the truth of  message because we are searching the scriptures to verify what is said is truth and not error. [Heb 5:14]  

ImageJesus did not say to be pepper but to be salt. Just as pepper is dark so our enemy is dark. Just as pepper is spicy so is the enemy with his methods of deception. He has one aim in mind; he seeks to devour. The false teachers came with the motive of removing the salt from the Corinthian church and its effective testimony. The enemy today comes for the same reason. Their peppershaker might be camouflaged as a salt shaker but when turned upside down we find not flakes of salt but peppercorns! As Jesus said, they are dressed in sheep’s clothing but inside are but ravening wolves. Once we know the truth we can discern the peppershaker from the saltshaker. As babes we are to be encased and protected in the saltshaker but once mature we are to allow God to shake us out. We will then find that we are walking and sharing the table with the pepper. Our job as salt is to share the truth that frees from death, preserves the saints, heals, seasons and shares the cleansing message of the gospel to the peppers of this world.

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