Monday, April 17, 2017

How Quickly We Forget

(A note from me, the blogger who seems to have given up blogging: I'm still here.  But it seems that things are happening so rapidly the topic I thought about adding to this blog is overcome by another, then another, and so it goes, until I give up trying to keep up.  Every so often I dig back and bring to the front of this page a post I shared with you in the past.  Although it hasn't been a week since Easter Sunday, it fits.  Perhaps it's because some of us are quicker to forget in these perilous times.  So this is just a reminder that we should never forget, and that we should go to the foot of the cross every day of the year.  In the meantime, to my two followers, don't give up on me.  Maybe someday I'll start fresh.  I miss it, and I hope you do, too. ~ Karen   


.

It has only been a week since millions, or perhaps billions, around the world honored the day that has been set aside to commemorate the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Easter, or Resurrection Day as some are becoming more apt to call it, is the most important day of the year for Christians and is celebrated in churches in every nation on this earth.

What are more commonly empty pews on any regular Sabbath day, on Easter the church is filled to the brim with men and women who attend to remember (or, at least we hope so) the sacrifice that was made nearly 2,000 years ago - "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

John 3:16 is perhaps the most recited verse of Scripture.  Even unbelievers and atheists are able to recite it.  We see it on road signs, on greeting cards, and on handwritten placards held up for all the world to see at televised ball games.    For a fleeting moment, the conscience is made aware and the heart is seared, until the eyes that saw it are lured away by worldly things.

And so it goes with the majority of those who attend a Easter service each year.  We could hope that the reason they attend church on that day is because they desire to honor Christ and thank the Father for giving us His Son as a propitiation for our sins.  We could hope the reason they were compelled to come by family and friends is because of a deep, unexplainable yearning to know more about Him.  Or better yet, we can hope the Holy Spirit is calling one more of God's children into the fold.  But, sadly, this isn't the case with most.  Easter is just another holiday filled with treats, frivolity, and family gatherings, and the Easter egg hunt has replaced the search for the One whose sacrifice defines the reason it's celebrated in the first place.

Because Monday always follows a Sunday, for most after Easter it's back to business as usual.  The world has its demands, even for Christians, I might add.  But the way the world sees it, life is dependent upon going back to work in order to keep the bacon coming in and fulfilling the needs and wants of an incessant, nagging houseful of imperious princes and princesses who believe the world (that means Dad and Mom and you and me) owes them everything they desire (that also means Dad and Mom who, all too often, are driven by material wants of their own).  All too often, the only remnants of the venerable day called Easter are overly wound children, a few brightly colored eggs that have been badly abused during the hunt, ear-less chocolate rabbits, bits of colored foil, plastic "grass" stuck to sticky candy and clinging in unlikely places, and stray jelly beans found under the couch cushion weeks, or years, later.

Along with the baskets and frills, Easter has been stored away until next year.  And for those who donned their Easter best and made their obligatory appearance for the first time that year, church attendance has also been stored away - at least until Christmas, when more treats, frivolity, and family gatherings will occur.

And sadly, far too many professing Christians fall into the same trap.  Church attendance resumes as just another social gathering.  Prayer becomes less constant.  Earthly trials and troubles and the mundane day-to-day routine draw our focus away from Jesus Christ and all that He has done to secure our salvation.  The main focus of the attention of many is on the next holiday waiting around the corner.

How quickly we forget.

I have been thinking about writing this blog post for the last couple of days.  But it wasn't until this morning, while reading my Spurgeon devotion, that I was finally convinced it needed to be done.  Spurgeon has a way of not allowing me to forget.  For the last month, every single morning and evening devotion was dedicated to remembrance: from the beginning to the end of that week-long account of Christ's entry into Jerusalem, His anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, His betrayal, His arrest, His trials before the rulers, to His agony on the cross and His ultimate rising from the grave and appearing to His disciples and others, and gloriously culminating on His ascension to Heaven and sitting down at the right hand of God the Father.

But how quickly we forget.

I have been reminded of late by things I have read and programs I have watched that we should preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to ourselves every single day.  "Do this in remembrance of Me." (Luke 22:14-20) can be rightly applied to this practice.  When one thinks about it, there is no Gospel without all that occurred that fateful hour 2,000 years ago.  Forget Him?  God forbid that we ever do.  But because of the world and all that it entails, we are apt to, from time to time, until once again we are drawn back to the foot of the cross and are reminded of the real meaning of Easter and the One Who secured our salvation.

The following is Charles H. Spurgeon's devotion for the morning of April 26th.  May it compel my readers to never forget and draw them into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

~ ~ ~

"This do in remembrance of Me." ~ (1Corinthians 11:24)
It seems then, that Christians may forget Christ!  There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous.  Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas! too well-confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact.  It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should forget that gracious Saviour; but, if startling to the ear, it is, alas! too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime.
Forget Him who never forgot us!  Forget Him who poured His blood forth for our sins!  Forget Him who loved us even to the death!  Can it be possible?
Yes, it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault with all of us, that we suffer Him to be as a wayfaring man, tarrying but for a night.  He whom we should make the abiding tenant of our memories is but a visitor therein.  The cross where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness.  Does not your conscience say that this is true?  Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus?
Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of Him upon whom your affection ought to be set.  Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should fix your eye steadily upon the cross.  It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things which takes away the soul from Christ.
While memory too well preserves a poisonous weed, it suffereth the rose of Sharon to whither.  Let us charge ourselves to bind a heavenly forget-me-not about our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and, whatever else we let slip, let us hold fast to Him.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How Well Are You Doing Raising Your Children?

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." ~ Hebrews 12:11, ESV

This verse popped into my head as I was talking to my beautiful sister on the phone a bit ago and we were discussing how obvious it is that man is depraved from birth. For instance, consider a new born infant.   What is the first thing that baby does after it's gone through the birthing process and been poked and prodded, swatted and swaddled, and lets us know its displeasure?  I mean after you get the baby home and the loving and doting attention it receives begins?  The baby screams at you, makes its demands because its inherent inclination is to let you know it's hungry or needs cuddled; complains about its discomfort over a dirty diaper; throws a hissy fit when a toy is taken away, and I'm sure we can think of many more examples.  And as the child grows, he or she begins to figure out that pouting, crying, or a temper tantrum will oftentimes get them what they want, especially in today's culture where parents are forbidden to immediately address such behavior, or have fallen for the ill advice received from "experts" who probably never raised children, or even from well-meaning parents.

 So, when do we begin the godly discipline process to insure that our children become responsible, honest and, more importantly, respectful adults? Some of you may disagree, but it should start from the beginning.  This is not to say that the discipline you mete out isn't different for an infant, a toddler, or a juvenile.  The method varies in degree by age and maturity in understanding their offense and how well they are able to grasp the instruction and discipline we give them.  It begins with words, then redirection and, if necessary, a good old-fashioned swat on the backside followed up by a heartfelt explanation why it was necessary.

You see, we don't give babies or toddlers enough credit for being as smart, manipulating, and conniving as they can be.  Through careful study, it's determined a child develops their personality by the time they are 3 years old. That's one year after the dreaded "terrible 2's" so many parents suffer through.  We all remember that stage of our child's life.  We are only given a very narrow window of opportunity to set the stage and it's critical that we pay very close attention to them during that time and gently correct them when necessary.   If we fail to do that, instead of the "trusting 3's" and "pleasing 4's," the "terrible 2's" are apt to become the disappointing 3's, the shocking 8's, or the horrific teens.

In other words, it's what we put into our children that spills out of them as they grow.  If you teach your children they are the center of the universe, if you allow them to manipulate you, control you, and answer to all of their demands, they will continue that pattern throughout the rest of their lives and yours, and they will more than likely recreate the same attitude with their own children because that’s what they were taught.   Once this behavior is established, there will be no turning back and undoing the grave errors parents made when they had the opportunity to make the right choices and choose the proper discipline.

Why did I add the above verse to this post? Most Christians would apply it to the discipline God finds necessary to dole out upon adult Christians who are straying from the truth, not heeding His Word, or discipline being used to draw them back into the fold.  But it can also be applied to our children.   If we faithfully train our children with the instruction God has given us, then the harvest we see when they are finally grown will be fruitful, righteous, and pleasing to the LORD, and to ourselves and everyone the child comes in contact with, whether it's with family, at school, in play, or at work. And society will be much better for it.

But if we fail to raise them as they should be, if we fail to teach them proper godly behavior and refuse to discipline them when they demonstrate the depravity they were born with, we not only have failed them, we have failed ourselves by creating the proverbial monster our society is being plagued with.

I’ll end with one of the most important proverbs relating to raising a child in the Word of God, Proverb 22:6, and I hope all young parents will take it to heart.   I’ll be praying and trusting in God to make it so.
"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."



Monday, September 21, 2015

Divine Design

I am baffled by those who say there is no God. I am completely bewildered that doubting men can look upon creation and not wonder about the hand that formed it. Creation is mysterious in its intricacy and mind-bending delicacy. With only their eyes as examination tools, man began the task of dissecting creation in his attempt to disprove God's existence. As knowledge increased, so did man's ability to see further into his realm with instruments that brought creation's core within sight. As one horizon was reached, man was driven to reach another. But with each advanced step into the vastness of the universe and its solitary inhabitants, man is still unable to pinpoint the beginning, the source, or the reason for our existence and to explain away the One Who created it.

Sitting in church one Sunday, the Pastor asked the congregation to open their Bibles to a particular passage. As I did so, I discovered lying between the worn and note-riddled pages a single feather I had placed there. While walking my dogs one morning, I had chanced upon the feather and because of its beauty, had picked it up and carried it home. It had once adorned the wing of a Flicker, an often despised bird because of its insect-seeking habit of rapping holes in the walls and roofs of houses. For several moments, my mind wandered away from the sermon as I gazed down upon the delicate orange and brown feather I held. My fingers caressed its softness and traced the pattern the colors made. I felt a strange peace wash over me as I examined what I knew to be something beyond mere chance or cosmic accident.

As I reveled in this brief interlude, the feather gently held between my fingers, I marveled at the completeness of it. The solitary feather bore a pattern solely its own, indistinguishable from the other feathers that once lay beside it to define the whole bird's appearance. It was a single part of the whole, an essential piece of the Flicker's pattern that clothed it and made it unlike other birds. Without it, it would not be complete. And because of each feather's unique and necessary pattern blending one into another, if the feather was removed, the overall design of the bird would be flawed. I saw within this one feather a power and a force beyond anything man could design with his own imagination. Our eyes for detail do not extend to that of God's Who created out of complexity and love. He saw perfection and completeness in every detail of the Flicker and as He fashioned it, His desire was to not have it any other way.

I am in awe of a God Who is able to create with such intricacy. No artist on the face of God's earth is able to create such beauty. The things man makes are only imitations of Divine design. The artist is unable to paint each individual feather's interior pattern as his brush strokes create the outward appearance of the bird on his canvas. His abilities are two dimensional, inhibiting him from reproducing what the Master Craftsman has created on His universal canvas. He can examine each separate feather and copy its pattern, but he can't combine them into the whole as our Maker did.

Man need no longer peer into microscopes and telescopes to explain his existence. He only needs to return to the elementary tool God gave him when he was created by Him. He only needs to open his eyes and behold the beauty of God's Divine Design in all of creation. I did. I found it in a single feather.


Copyright 2007 Karen L. Brahs

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fear Not

I am speechless.  Or should I say, I have been wordless.  And this blog has suffered because of my inability to properly express myself.

There certainly isn't a shortage of things to write about.  The headlines from the mainstream media and what I glean from Christian websites could fill volumes here, if I chose to join in the fray and add my two cents.  But I refuse to become one of those bloggers who grabs a topic out of the plethora of available topics, then goes off on a tangent of condemnation and scathing rebuke, especially since I am not intimately familiar with the people involved and every detail that makes the story newsworthy.

Since the internet became the go-to place for news, people have a tendency to believe everything that is written there, including the conspiracies and propaganda permeating it.  Far too many secular and Christian bloggers and readers fall into that trap which ends up destroying the validity of legitimate bloggers as the rumors and innuendos continue to circulate this sphere.  Social media is probably the greatest offender.  Those who spend time on Facebook, for instance, rarely read anything more than the headline which is cleverly written to grab their attention and not truly reflective of the article's content.  I can't count the times when I have actually read the article, only to discover this truth.  And I truly wish my friends would do the same before "sharing" it with expressed outrage and condemnation.

I am in full agreement that there is plenty to be angry about: the recent SCOTUS decision on gay marriage; our President's foolish attempts to negotiate with Iran; the wholesale slaughter of babies in the womb; the crumbling social and family structure; race-baiters who perpetuate hate and encourage lawlessness; the evil brutality occurring in the Middle East and spreading around the globe...the list is endless.

The problem, as I see it, is that far too many professing Christians are also fearful, forgetting that the Most High God is no less in control of this world than He was when He created it.  Yes, I do believe that not only is God going to pour out judgment on our nation, but He has been doing so for some time.  He can't nor won't ignore rampant in-His-face sin without it causing a reaction from Him.  Evil and wickedness have been present since the serpent deceived Eve, God has poured out His judgment time and time again, and He will continue to do so until Jesus Christ returns to bring final judgment upon this earth.  But the promise God made to Israel in Isaiah 41 is also intended for His adopted children, as well, especially verse 10:  "...fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."  And Christians across the globe need to cling to that promise.

Charles H. Spurgeon's morning devotion reminded me that God's Word is faithful.  For those who put all of their trust and all of their faith in Almighty God who is sovereign in all things on earth and in heaven and whose righteousness and justice is perfect in all ways, there may be moments of fear, but it is short-lived.  We are endowed with the Holy Spirit who brings great peace in the midst of trials, turmoil, and godlessness.  And if the world comes completely against us with great violence, even then we know that we are still safe in His hands, for a life beyond our ability to express awaits us.

I am able to thank God for giving me these few words of encouragement to pass onto you.  I hope Mr. Spurgeon's are even more encouraging as we watch events unfold, continue to witness to those in unbelief, and wait for the ultimate and eminent return of our Savior, our King, our LORD Jesus Christ.

 

"Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."
Proverbs 1:33

Divine love is rendered conspicuous when it shines in the midst of judgments. Fair is that lone star which smiles through the rifts of the thunder clouds; bright is the oasis which blooms in the wilderness of sand; so fair and so bright is love in the midst of wrath. When the Israelites provoked the Most High by their continued idolatry, he punished them by withholding both dew and rain, so that their land was visited by a sore famine; but while he did this, he took care that his own chosen ones should be secure. If all other brooks are dry, yet shall there be one reserved for Elijah; and when that fails, God shall still preserve for him a place of sustenance; nay, not only so, the Lord had not simply one "Elijah," but he had a remnant according to the election of grace, who were hidden by fifties in a cave, and though the whole land was subject to famine, yet these fifties in the cave were fed, and fed from Ahab's table too by His faithful, God-fearing steward, Obadiah. Let us from this draw the inference, that come what may, God's people are safe. Let convulsions shake the solid earth, let the skies themselves be rent in twain, yet amid the wreck of worlds the believer shall be as secure as in the calmest hour of rest. If God cannot save his people under heaven, he will save them in heaven. If the world becomes too hot to hold them, then heaven shall be the place of their reception and their safety. Be ye then confident, when ye hear of wars, and rumours of wars. Let no agitation distress you, but be quiet from fear of evil. Whatsoever cometh upon the earth, you, beneath the broad wings of Jehovah, shall be secure. Stay yourself upon his promise; rest in his faithfulness, and bid defiance to the blackest future, for there is nothing in it direful for you. Your sole concern should be to show forth to the world the blessedness of hearkening to the voice of wisdom.




Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Yes, Bruce Jenner Is Still A Man, But Are You Praying?

I don't think I've ever witnessed such a massive media campaign such as that over Bruce Jenner and the world's attempt to convince the masses that what he did to himself is acceptable, and even "courageous" by our President, who "tweeted" the same; that we should celebrate his "transformation" and believe that he is now what he was intended to be.   I won't post pics and articles or link quotes to specific websites about Bruce Jenner and how he mutilated his body trying to "fix" his self-perceived notions that there was some cosmic "mistake" made regarding his gender.  The media has infected our minds with enough images.

Bruce Jenner is still a man.  He may have gone to every possible length to alter his outward appearance, but he's still what God created him to be and nothing he does to himself will ever change that.

For the rest of Jenner's life, he will be forced to continue taking hormones in order to maintain this false and deplorable persona.  He will heavily rely on cosmetics, plastic surgery, and photo-shopped images to blur the reality of his true self.  And the notoriety he received as an Olympic champion and anything else he accomplished in his life will be overshadowed by gawkers and sensationalism-seekers with their own twisted and perverted sins.  In my opinion, all Jenner accomplished was admitting himself into a carnival side-show and sadly, one day, the world will grow tired of him and cast him off as just another "freak" unworthy of their attention.

Tragically, what Bruce Jenner and the world is not being told is that the majority of the people who undergo "gender-realignment surgery" are thrown into even greater depths of darkness.  As this article portrays, they come to the realization that changing their bodily structure did nothing to alleviate the turbulence and unrest they previously experienced in the body God gave them.   It only drove them deeper into their depravity because of failed expectations, often driving them to suicide.

And as the world turns, it becomes more insistent that Christians who oppose homosexuality and gay marriage on Biblical grounds become more "tolerant" to the practice.  We are told we must accept it as an inevitability and that to not accept it makes us "homophobic," unloving, judgmental, and hateful.  Dr. James White, a highly respected theologian, recently answered the question in this short video where he thought the church would be in 5 years in regard to persecution.  It is well worth 7 minutes of your time to view it because he impresses that laws will be passed in order to silence the Gospel and Christian witness of God's truths, especially in regard to homosexuality and gay marriage.

As further evidence and as this map portrays, I don't need to remind my readers that the homosexual agenda has become militant, not only in our own nation, but around the world.  While I sit writing this, the United States Supreme Court is ruling on the argument for "marriage equality."  Recently, Ireland, a historically staunch defender of marriage between a man and a woman, overwhelmingly passed a referendum to allow gay marriage.  A push in the State of Israel to overthrow the ban that prevents legal gay "marriage" is gaining ground.  Pastor Conrad Mbewe of Zambia wrote a blog post on the influence the West is having through financial means to push the homosexual agenda there.  Italy, which is the last Western European holdout against gay marriage, has become the latest target.  It was also reported by a former U.S. Congressman, Steve Stockman, that the United States refused to give aid to assist Nigeria in recovering the 250 women and girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram (now reportedly all murdered) because of their long-held stance against gay "marriage."  To me, and if this is true, it demonstrates the depth of depravity of the Obama Administration that they would hold hostage innocent people to further their depraved agenda.  The list of nations being pressured by the United Nations to accept the homosexual lifestyle and marriage "equality" is growing exponentially, and when poorer nations who rely upon western money to survive are being threatened, it won't be long before the entire world caves to that pressure.

So what do Christians do about this ever-increasing problem?  We do the same thing we would do for anyone involved in any sin.  We pray, and we pray remembering that we, also, were once slaves to sin.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,  to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~ Titus 3:1-7

Like all men and women who are caught up in the sin of homosexuality, and who think that by mutilating their bodies it will soothe the turmoil they have allowed to consume them, it's not their outward appearance that needs changing.  It's their deceitful and hard hearts.  As my sister, Dana, reinforced yesterday in a phone conversation, these people don't need tolerance and acceptance for their bad behavior, or ridicule and an outward expression of disgust - which, if we would all be honest, we harbor - but prayer for them.  We need to demonstrate through our witness the LORD Jesus Christ with love and kindness, but with a firm commitment to never compromising God's Truths regarding sin and the eternal consequences of an unrepentant heart.  Jesus is the ONLY answer for a sinful world and nothing else will turn people like Bruce Jenner into what they were truly intended to be.

Albert Mohler wrote a chapter in John Piper's book, "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ," entitled "Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections,"  that impresses upon Christians the need to fight against the "yuck factor" because "it is an attitude of disgust that lacks any moral argument."   Because of who we are, that's a hard thing to realize.  We hate sin and when it's outwardly manifested and we are forced to see it, our first reaction is complete disgust bordering on hatred.  The sin of homosexuality goes so far beyond God's purpose for creating man and woman that to even consider the practice causes us great distress.  But as Mohler impresses upon us, we need to love the homosexual more than the homosexual loves his homosexuality.  By choking down the bile that rises in our throats each time we are forced to view and read about this behavior, we move a little closer to accomplishing the daunting task of putting out of our minds the images and outright debauchery of this practice and enabling us to more appropriately respond.  However, he also stresses that Christians must never accept the very concept of homosexual marriage because it is contrary to God's law and will for mankind.  The truth must be told in its entirety, leaving nothing to conjecture or debate, in spite of the negative reaction we may receive.

Bruce Jenner didn't need a sex "transformation."  He needs his heart transformed.  The only way that Jenner and other homosexuals will ever have peace of mind is if they are brought, with the Holy Spirit's help, to a realization that they have grievously sinned against a Holy God and repent, ask God for forgiveness, and place their faith and trust not in man or themselves, but the LORD Jesus Christ.  They need to know that the turmoil and confusion they have created over their sexuality and their lust for people of the same sex can be overcome, not through their own efforts, but through Him.  It is only through His power and His grace that they will find freedom from their sin, and ultimately peace in their minds that the gender in which they were created is exactly what God intended for them

Our responsibility as Christians does not lie in condemning Bruce Jenner and others with the same proclivity.  Our responsibility lies in praying for their deliverance and giving them the Gospel of salvation.  Yes, Bruce Jenner is still a man.  But as my sister asked on a Facebook post, and I would like to reiterate here:  "Are you praying?"





Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sea Of Crowns





“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” (Rev. 21:1)

“But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Is. 35:9-10)



 The moonlight is cast like diamonds,
Sparkling atop the crest of the waves;
Firelight rolling in evening’s twilight,
Stretching its fingers upon the sandy shore.

God summons the moon in the heavens above
To change the constant course
Of the ever-flowing tide;
Unchanging and without flaw or pause.

Faithful to His creation, ever-mindful and aware,
God sustains the sea and the life it contains.
In return, it responds with unerring devotion
To the pulse of His beating heart.

Man’s heart learns the rhythm of the sea;
His life entwined in its cadence,
Enfolded in its melody and embrace,
And made one with his glorious Maker.

God plucks the diamonds from the crest of the sea,
Wrapping them in soft moonlight’s gleam,
And forms them into a crown of love
To place on my head for eternity.



Copyright 2006 Karen L. Brahs

Friday, April 24, 2015

Are You Sitting With Jonah Under His Tree?

The title to this post may seem a bit disconcerting to some.  But I think it's an honest question; one that needs to be truthfully answered by many of us who profess Jesus Christ.  If you will take a moment and consider my own personal reflection regarding my witness to unsaved friends and family, you may discover like I did that you are more like Jonah than you are willing to admit.  With that said, let's briefly refresh our memories about his story.  (For the complete account, please click on this link.)

Jonah, a prophet of God, received a message from the Almighty he really didn't want to hear.  He was to go to the Gentile people of Ninevah and tell them to repent or face the wrath of God.  For a Jew, the people God chose to take His message of salvation to all nations, Jonah greatly resented what God was asking him to do.  So he took off in another direction, forgetting that God is omniscient and aware of every thought and move he was making.

Jonah jumped aboard a ship that was headed to Tarshish, so God summoned a great storm on the sea.  While Jonah slept, the pagan crewmen threw everything they could overboard to try and prevent the ship from sinking, but to no avail.  Rousing Jonah, they cast lots to determine who the person was that had brought what they viewed as "evil" upon them, and the lot fell on Jonah.  They demanded he call out to his God for deliverance because they understood Jonah was fleeing from Him and they would be unwilling victims of His wrath.  But instead of turning to God in repentance for his disobedience, and still stubbornly obstinate, Jonah told them to throw him overboard in order to save themselves.  Unwilling to follow through with Jonah's request, they attempted to out-row the tempestuous waves, but the billows and waves only grew more intense.

What follows is interesting, considering that the ship's crew were idol worshiping pagans.  It appears that the people of Ninevah weren't the only ones to receive God's message, and their somewhat disturbing action in throwing a man overboard to drown in the sea, then watching as the sea became calm and their lives were spared, was enough evidence that Jonah's God was, indeed, genuine:

Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.”  So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.  Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. (Jonah 1:14-16)

Ultimately, Jonah is swallowed by the great fish God had summoned, spends three days in its belly - miserably, I am sure - acknowledging the sovereignty and power of the Almighty, then spit up onto dry land.  The LORD once again commands Jonah to go to Ninevah, and Jonah begrudgingly yields.  The message to turn from their evil ways and repent, lest they suffer the wrath God had in store for them, was given.  The king decreed that the people of Ninevah obey this edict and God relented of the judgment He was going to bring upon them.

One would think that after all he had gone through, Jonah would have exalted God and praised Him for His great love for all mankind.  However,  Jonah grew angry, jealously grumbling that a Gentile would receive such favor.  He even went so far as to once again ask God to take his life.  When it became clear that God had no such intention, Jonah stomped up to the top of a hillside, built a covering to keep the brutal sun from baking him, and sat down to watch the destruction he still thought would be coming to that great city.  As he watched with anticipation, God continued to show mercy on Jonah and caused a plant to grow above his head to spare him from any discomfort.  The next morning, however, God sent a worm to kill the leafy tree, brought a scorching east wind, and an even more scorching sun to beat down upon Jonah.

Further enraged, Jonah once again requested that God let him die.  God's response to Jonah came in the form of a question and should have caused him to realize the compassion God had for all men, including the 120,000 people (which, if we include all the children, could have realistically been nearly half a million people) in Ninevah.

Although I have often wondered if there was more to the conclusion of Jonah's story, it ends there.  We are left to ponder Jonah's response to God's final question.  Did Jonah humble himself and repent?  Did he understand from that point forward the tremendous responsibility the Israelites had been given, to take God's message to the entire world, which meant Gentiles like the Ninevites he so despised?  Or did Jonah make his way back home and keep his trial to himself, fearing the reaction his people would have, thus sparing himself from having to stand up and proclaim God's true plan of salvation?

It's evident from their continued unbelief that God's chosen people have yet to acknowledge this great truth; to recognize their Savior Jesus Christ and take the Good News of His salvation to every corner of the earth.  That will ultimately come, but not until God deems it time.

Ironically, we converted Gentiles have been passed the witness baton.  It's very unlikely God will send a great fish to swallow us, but He can and will send storms into our lives to wake us from our slumber.  I am sure many of you can recall times when your disobedience brought on unwelcome trials.  I sure can.  But we should ask ourselves if we are any more faithful than Jonah in this regard.  Are we obeying Jesus' command to go out and make disciples of men?  Are we faithfully and willingly answering God's call to give the Gospel to a lost and dying world every chance we get?  Are we deeply concerned for our friends and family, even the stranger on the street, who could possibly suffer the wrath God had in store for the unrepentant Ninevah?

Or are we comfortable in our own salvation and running from God in the opposite direction as Jonah did?

An even harder question is this:  have we found ourselves sitting with Jonah under his tree, sulking in unbelief that the message we delivered fell on deaf ears, and waiting to exclaim, "See!  I told you this was a waste of time!"?

These are questions all Christians should ask themselves.  There is a vast world out there that's growing more wicked with each day and desperately needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God has written that there will be a time when the opportunity to receive salvation will end; a time that is growing closer with each breath we take.

Don't run from Him.  And more importantly, don't fume in anger expecting your own selfish results.  The work of salvation belongs to the Holy Spirit.  We are merely the messengers who, unlike Jonah when called, joyfully respond, then wait with eager anticipation to see how God will work for His glory.

God will have His children drawn to Him, even if He has to use extraordinary means and unwilling servants to achieve it.

Charles H. Spurgeon once wrote,  "If there existed only one man or woman who did not love the Savior, and if that person lived among the wilds of Siberia, and if it were necessary that all the millions of believers on the face of the earth should journey there, and every one of them plead with him to come to Jesus before he could be converted, it would be well worth all the zeal, labor, and expense. If we had to preach to thousands year after year, and never rescued but one soul, that one soul would be full reward for all our labor, for a soul is of countless price."

So, get out from under that tree and go.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Waiting and Watching

The application of 1Thessalonians 5 is well known to most of us, especially verses 2 and 3 that warns the LORD will come "as a thief in the night."  But have you ever stopped to ponder, meditate, consider verses 4 and 5 and the message that is being implied?  "But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness."  As I read it last night, a deeper understanding was gained. Let me briefly exhort everyone who belongs to Christ with my feeble attempt at explaining how I perceive it to be. 

Once saved, the children of God are given understanding and discernment through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.   Many of us are content with the basic knowledge of and belief in our salvation, but there are some of us who strongly desire more of God's wisdom.  And when that desire is expressed in prayer, He never fails to continue to fill us.  As verse 2 and 3 of 1Thess 5 expresses, God's timing is sovereign.  Only He knows the day and the hour.   Of that, I hope we can all agree.

But! (don't you just love that conjunction?)  God's children should not be suddenly surprised that the Day of the LORD has come upon us, because they should be watching and waiting for it to happen! That's where the discernment comes in with this particular verse.  Although we should not become anxious and fearful, we should recognize the signs (Matthew 24, Mark 13) that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent and be ready to meet Him when "...the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first [those who have physically died and are buried]. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." (The Rapture of the church - 1Thess 4:16-17)

As many church leaders who are of the same opinion as myself are expressing, the world, including our own nation, is in moral, social, economic, and military turmoil.  Even creation groans in anticipation of what's to come (Romans 8:22-24).  Together we deeply yearn for that moment when our LORD's voice will call out from the heavens and draw us to Himself.  And because we "are not of the night or of the darkness," and carefully and confidently watch the signs occurring all around us, we wait for that moment with the peace that only Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit are able to give.  In other words, when that moment comes like a "thief," we should be expecting it to happen.  It shouldn't surprise any of God's children, if they remain in His Word, seeking His truth and not the world's perception of truth, and are "...sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.   For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep [in the grave] we might live with Him." (1Thess 5:8-10)  To put it simply, that "thief" should be expected to break in.  We may not know the moment God has chosen for this spectacular event to occur, but it should not shock or "surprise" any of His children as long as they remain in the light and not slumbering away in darkness.

The apostle Paul ends these verses with this: "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (1Thess 5:11)   We are called to remain ever vigilant and watchful, exhorting and encouraging each with the surety that what God has begun through His Son Jesus Christ, He will complete through His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Be a "watchman on the wall" (Isaiah 62:6-7), watching for the signs of our Savior's return, and continue to herald the Gospel to the lost.  Time is short, salvation is available to all who come with a repentant heart and genuine trust and belief in Jesus Christ, and eternity awaits.

The LORD's grace and peace to all, and to Jesus Christ be given all glory and honor. 

Maranatha! 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fight, Flight, Freeze...or Faith?

I was poking around my blog, looking at old posts, and came across this that was written back in November of 2011.  It struck me how fast time flies by!  I rather like this post, especially in light of all that's been happening around this troubled world and with myself personally.  I hope you will take a moment and read this (or re-read it).  Then ask yourself the question:  am I the zebra?  Or am I placing all of my faith and trust in God to see me through the chase?  I hope you will conclude it's the latter.  Have a wonderful day, everyone, and keep coming back.  I may not be posting as often as I used to, but I haven't given up on this blog, yet!

In Christ,

Karen

"Often when we lose all hope and think this is the end, GOD whispers, ‘Relax, it’s just a bend, not the end.’   Have faith, keep faith, and see what God will do for you."
Someone posted the above words on Facebook the other day and it's one of those things that has stuck with me.  So much so that I have found myself using it for unplanned situations that have reared up, both in others' lives and my own.
There is bottomless depth to these words.   A mine full of the gems of wisdom. The problem is that we sometimes refuse to believe them when we find ourselves facing the unexpected.
If our comforts or security are threatened, our first instinct can be one of three things.  We either freeze, take flight, or fight back.  The "fight or flight response" theory was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon, which was later seen as too simplistic because of the expected reaction his test subject, namely zebras, employed when threatened.   Thus, the additional term "freeze" was added to further explain what is common to some other creatures in the animal kingdom.
It has been determined by human behaviorists that men and women react differently to stressful situations.  I'll give them that much, but did it take millions of dollars in grants and centuries of study to figure that out?  They must be slow learners.  Men will most commonly react with aggression and fight back.  Women will flee, turn to others for help, or try to diffuse the situation.  Of course, the secular world of psychology has created additional terms that describe every action or reaction regarding the "psyche" and the response man gives to certain circumstances he finds himself in.  Ya gotta love 'em.  But they have intentionally omitted the most vital "link" (to borrow the evolutionist's term) in their attempt to find out what makes a person tick.  I hate to tell them this, but I'm not a zebra.
The evolutionist has convinced himself that we somehow rose out of the ooze and muck, left a trail of slime as we climbed up the evolutionary ladder, eventually stood up on two feet that developed over billions of years, and were suddenly struck with the realization there were other creatures from the same source, whatever that may be, who wanted to eat us.  As  "homosapiens" found themselves in the defensive position, somewhere and somehow the "primal instinct" to protect themselves took over, causing one of the above reactions.  Thus, the answer to why we respond to certain situations the way we do.
At last!  It all makes perfect sense to me!
I hope you know that I am being waggish (I just discovered that word - it means "facetious," not serious, trying to be humorous or funny).  But you already knew that, didn't you.  So...let's back up a little to that missing "vital term" the secular and unbelieving world refuses to acknowledge in their attempt to define the mysterious human being and how he reacts to the world around him.  Strangely enough, it starts with the first letter of the other three:  Faith.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."  ~ Heb. 11:1-3
There...that's better.
Do you see what the writer of Hebrews is saying?  Everything was made out of nothing and came into being by God breathing out a word.  This makes it understandable why we can believe in Him - that is, have faith that He existed then, now, and forevermore and that all the universe was created by Him- yet not see Him.  Because He has told us so and has given us the requirement needed to understand it - faith.
Do you want more proof?
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."  ~ Gen. 1:1-2
Of course, you first have to believe what He tells us in His Word (the Bible), and that requires faith that only He is able to give you.  If your faith lies in anything but Him, you won't understand it and, sadly, there are those like I mentioned above that believe it's all just a fairy tale.

But back to the zebra...
As I said earlier, I'm not a zebra that, when being chased by a lion, takes off running like a rocket, zigzagging back and forth in an attempt to prevent myself from being eaten.  But it doesn't mean that I haven't acted like one in the past.  Or played possum as a predator stood drooling over me.  I have even reacted aggressively and snarled back on occasion.  These are typical reactions every human experiences.  They are built into us for a reason, but so is faith, whether we choose to recognize and accept it, or not.
Every one of us has faith in something.  It may be in ourselves, in others, in material things we accumulate, or idols made of wood or stone that are blind, dumb, and powerless to save us.  The problem with that kind of faith is that there is no hope or real defense in it.  It is misguided and causes us to place our faith in things that have no ability to bring us anything but trouble, misery, and an eternity of more of the same.
Like the zebra discovered as the lion bore down on him, being devoured by the world can be very unpleasant.  As much as the secularist would like to believe that we evolved from nothing, that zebra didn't have what is innately given to man as the most important reaction to draw from:  faith in an all-powerful God Who is ready and willing to make what appears to him to be an end to the road, but is just a bend with something better lying beyond it.  Call it an escape route, if you will; unseen at the time, yet waiting for us to reach it.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." ~ James 1:2-3 


For those of us who have been given faith, we recognize that there is always hope around the corner, even when we temporarily feel as though the road has come to a dead end.  Whether it be the loss of a job, illness, family troubles, or any other circumstance life dishes out to us, after we pick ourselves back up, we are bolstered and our faith renewed by remembering these words:


"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  ~ Jer. 29:11

This isn't the Joel Osteen method of prosperity and planning your "perfect life now" (if he doesn't recant and repent, one day he will spend an eternity knowing how that zebra felt).  It is faith that God's promises to us will never be broken, in spite of what may come.  It is faith knowing that some of the trials or tribulations we come across in our lifetimes are often intended to strengthen that faith in Him.  Even if we can't presently see Him, it is faith believing that He is always with us to help guide, teach, and comfort us when trouble does come.  And it is unshakable, steadfast, secure, and fixed.  One day there will be an end to the road, a final bend, so to speak.  And what lies waiting for us beyond that bend will be glorious, magnificent victory over all we have endured in faith for His sake, and it will be for all eternity.

If you find yourself wanting to employ one of Mr. Cannon's useless responses, stop and think.

Don't fight - the battle is being fought for you.

Don't take flight - your Advocate is standing ready to defend you.

Don't freeze in fear -  the enemy is trembling at our Savior's feet because he knows he has been defeated.

Instead, relax.  God has everything under control, even that prowling lion snapping at your heels.  Plow deep for what's missing; that which lies waiting for you to utilize. "Have faith, keep faith." Fool the secularists and their theories and just watch and wait to see what God has in mind for you.

I am betting the odds that the zebra comes out ahead and the lion goes home hungry.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Expectation of Thanks

For the last twenty years, I have been watching a growing problem in society.  Well, let's say that it's just one of many that rubs me the wrong way.  None of us are so blind that we don't see the degrading of Godly morals and values and the world's population becoming more centered on self.  As is commonly opined, when society begins to crumble, the first place to look is in the home and how it's structured and how our children are being raised.  And the problem I will be referring to begins there.

Gratitude and thankfulness for the things we do for others is on the wane.  I am seeing it far too often in today's youth.   I can't tell you the number of times my husband and I have done things for family members that puts a strain on our pocketbook, only to receive no thanks.  What's worse is when we do get that telephone call, only to find out later that the caller had to be reminded to make it.  When that happens, it causes me to wonder if the response was genuine, or if it was only uttered to silence a harping parent.  However, if a child is raised right, a reminder shouldn't be necessary, even if the thanks you receive is only viewed as a duty.

I don't give gifts because I want gushing praise.  I don't expect anything, except that the recipient understand how much I love them, regardless of the size or cost of the gift.  A gift is an expression of how much that person means to me.  And the response I receive - a phone call or silence - may tell me how much I mean to that person.  Others I know have expressed the same disappointment and, sadly, this behavior is a heart problem.  As Charles Spurgeon once said, " For the most part, nothing is more easily blotted out than a good turn."

I don't expect others to shower me with gifts.  Money and things aren't important to me.  A simple card with a hand-written note, or a phone call just to let me know I am loved, lifts my spirits more than material things ever could.  They are ways of letting me know that I am important to that person, and they are more than enough.  But when the occasion to exchange gifts becomes a one-sided event with nothing in the way of reciprocation, it can be hurtful.  To draw once again from Charles Spurgeon, "The foal drains his mother, and then kicks her.  The old saying is, 'I taught you to swim, and now you would drown me,' and many a time it comes true. The dog wags his tail till he gets the bone, and then he snaps and bites at the man who fed him."  Spurgeon's metaphor describes the harshest response and, sadly, I have been the recipient of such heartlessness.  As I did with my children, my parents instilled in me a heart of gratitude, especially when it came to thanking others for their thoughtfulness.  But today's youth are either not being taught the proper response, or are, and just don't care.

So, with that thought in mind, let's move on to how God may feel about how we respond to the gifts He faithfully and continually bestows on us.  When His providence continues without fail, do we thank Him, or are we the "dog [that] wags his tail till he gets the bone, and then...snaps and bites" His gracious hand?  Do we even acknowledge the fact that, without Him, we couldn't draw a single breath?  When we rise in the morning, do we thank Him for giving us one more day?  As meals are being prepared, do we pause to consider that if He had not provided the ingredients, we would go hungry?  The roof over our head?  The clothes on our backs?  The job that guarantees our family will be cared for?  Even things as simple as the weather and His creation that surrounds us?  The bounties God pours out upon us are endless, yet how often do we thank Him for the simplest and most basic things?

Not often enough.  And I am just as guilty as the rest who daily fail to recognize His magnificent beneficence.

What is even more astounding is the fact that God provides life and its necessities even for those who hate Him:

"For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
 (Matthew 5:45)

Now that is definitely something worthy of serious thought!

But there's one difference between how we respond to gifts we receive from others and the response God desires when He gives them.  We may not get the thanks we think we should get, but we can live with it.  God, however, wants to be thanked for the gifts He daily pours out upon us.  He wants to be praised for His benevolence in giving the gift.  He wants to receive the glory He so richly deserves when we acknowledge that it is Him, and only Him, that makes the gift possible.  We were created for His glory, and God is greatly honored by our reciprocation and delights in it.  King David, as well as others, understood that God deserved all of our worship and praise for everything from deliverance from trials and tribulations to merely living and breathing.  The book of Psalms is replete with words of thanksgiving and are too numerous to mention here.  But here is one very small example that sums it up quite nicely:

"Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
    for His steadfast love endures forever!"
 (Psalm 106:1)

Throughout the entire Bible, men gave praise where praise was due, for they knew from whom it was the gift came.  Just a couple more examples:

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 
(Matthew 7:11)

 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
 (James 1:17) 
  
When we receive gifts, although we desire it, there should be no overabundant expectation of thanks, especially in light of today's messed up civilization and the lack of parental guidance.  A hug and the simple words, "thank you," should be sufficient.  But with God, there is an expectation of thankfulness.  After all, He is the giver of all things and His greatest desire is that we acknowledge the tremendous love He has for man and all that He does for us.  When He honors us with a gift, whatever that gift may be, small or large, our response should be continual overwhelming gratitude.

The gifts we give our children and grandchildren are only material things that will not last.  But God the Father gave to mankind the ultimate gift that will last forever:  His Son Jesus Christ.  Through His death and resurrection, Jesus secured us a way back to the Father.  He is the Giver of Life, our Provider, our Protector, our Comforter, and the only way to have eternal life.  We may not receive much in the way of thanks from others, but our deep gratitude and sincere thankfulness to God should be such that there is never any question where we stand.


Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
 (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

 
There is an old song from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, "Teach Your Children," that parents should take to heart.  By instilling in yourself and your child a heart of gratitude towards God and others, you will know they love Him and you.

May grace and peace, and a heart of gratitude, abound to all who have visited.