Monthly Archives: February 2017

Seeing Clearly

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“For now we see as in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part;  then I shall know fully, even have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

In Sunday School last week we were discussing the term enlightenment, and what it means to be enlightened.  My husband, our pastor, mentioned that it was Transfiguration Sunday, a commemoration of the event recorded in Matthew, Chapter 17.

“…Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the son, and his clothes became as white as light …” (Matt. 17:1-2)

On the mountaintop the three disciples were enlightened:  they saw Jesus as he really was, the son of God.  So, when we are enlightened, we see things clearly and differently then we did before.  We see things as they actually are, not as the world tells us they are, or the way we want to believe they are.  We see and understand reality.

Another synonym for enlightenment is illumination.  The Bible is God’s word and has been called:

“…a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105

and Jesus called Himself

“…the light of the world.”  John 9:5

The apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians tells us:

“But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” (5:13)

He was enlightened in a big way on the road to Damascus.

“Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” Acts 9:3

He was blinded for three days and he never saw things the same way again.  His life was turned upside down.  He went from persecuting Christians to evangelizing for Christ.

Exposure to the light of Christ and the words of Scripture is the only thing that will truly enlighten us. It comes from the Holy Spirit.  Seek that light daily.  Then you will see clearly.

 

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Back to Back

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This is a poem I wrote years ago to describe how my busy, overactive brain works.  Maybe some of you will identify!

In front of my house is a busy street

Cars race by

Sometimes the drivers roll the windows down and loud music spills out.

They are all in a hurry to be somewhere else.

I fall asleep to the cacophonous lullaby of traffic

The world never stops.

Behind my house are cool, green trees

Birds sing

I wake early when dark and dawn touch lips in a lingering kiss

Behind my house is the sweet aroma of roses and lilacs

The sun is warm and there is time to rest.

In the front of my mind ideas explode like fireworks, dazzling, sparkling, too high and hot  to touch

tumbling over one another, antlike, impossible to catch and contain.

But in the back of my mind is a still, silent place

God.

 

Run Away

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In addition to telling us what to pursue, the Bible gives us quite a list of things to flee, or run away from.  Chapter 6 of 1 Timothy lists some things to avoid:

  • Craving for controversy
  • Quarrels about words
  • Envy
  • Dissention
  • Slander
  • Evil suspicions
  • Love of money

Ending with the admonition:

“But as for you, O man of God flee from these things.” 1 Timothy 6:11

In the first letter to the Corinthians Paul says we are to:

“Flee from sexual immorality …”(6:18)

“…flee from idolatry.” (10:14)

Most of these things, sadly, come up in everyday life.  If you think they don’t, remember looking lustfully at another person can lead to adultery and anything we love more than God is an idol.  That makes them pretty common, not to mention the “lesser” evils mentioned by Timothy–envy, quarrels, etc..  So how exactly do we “flee” from these things?

Well, we all know our own weaknesses.  If yours is gossip, don’t hang around with the folks who like to do that.  Take a walk instead of indulging in idle words with coworkers at lunch.  Is it greed?  Make a resolution to tithe or better yet, support a worthwhile ministry in addition to your tithe. Is it lust?  Throw away the magazines and avoid the internet sites that encourage it. Read something worthwhile instead. Tactics like this are well known to mothers of toddlers and teenagers:  we call it “distract and replace.”

Dwell on God’s Word instead of your sinful inclinations.  When you notice yourself falling into quarrelsome or suspicious thinking, have a Bible verse ready for meditation.  If things get really bad, call a godly friend you know will calm you and guide you in the right path.

Will fleeing always work?  Of course not.  I fall into bad habits of negative thinking and speaking all the time.  However, when we consciously lean away from sinful behavior, in time an improvement is visible.

“..beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1

Run from sin.  Run hard.

Aim for Higher Ground

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This song has been on my mind recently, so I thought I would share it. I assume it is taken from Psalm 61:2:

“from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Does this song and verse speak to you?  Let us know with your thoughts and comments!

Running Faster

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

In my previous post, I talked about what we Christians are to pursue or run after.  That made me think about how in a number of places, the Bible describes the Christian life as a race.  In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul gives some advice on how to run that race.  First he mentions the need for discipline:

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” 1 Corinthians 9:25

We can all testify to this.  It takes self-control to follow  God’s rules when sin is our default position.

Paul goes on to say that as Christians we have a goal, better than any worldly prize.  We do not run aimlessly, but with purpose.

“They (athletes) do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Even with an eternal reward in mind we can get tired, lose focus, or feel like giving up.  Here are some words of wisdom from the author of Hebrews:

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …”Hebrews 12:1-2

On our own, we can never win the prize, but

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it on my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Run with discipline.

Run with a goal.

Run with perseverance..

Run toward Jesus.

 

In Hot Pursuit

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According to the dictionary, to pursue means to chase or run after something or someone.  We pursue the things we really want and are interested in. What are you chasing after in your life?  Is it money?  A beautiful home?  A prestigious job? An expensive car?  A certain someone who attracts you?  If we’re honest, we realize many (if not most) of the things we pursue have to do with worldly approval or success.

The Bible tells us to pursue a whole different set of things.  For example:

“Turn from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:14

Pursue is a verb, an action word.  This means I must not only think peace is a nice idea, I must do what I can to promote it.  Maybe this means compromise, or putting another person first.  Certainly it means caring more about the other person than winning or getting my own way.

Here’s another one:

Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” 1 Corinthians 14:1

Pursuing love means behaving in a loving way to all of God’s children–not just the ones I care about or the ones who treat me well.  It means using my gifts to encourage and support others, not to promote only myself and my own interests.

Finally:

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:11b

Pursuing righteousness and godliness means going against my natural inclination by doing God’s will instead of my own.  Pursuing God’s way means trying to be selfless instead of selfish.

I know I’ll never completely stop pursuing the wrong things;  but staying close to God through study, worship and prayer will help me remind me of the things I really want.

“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18b

Run after God.  Pursue the eternal.

 

 

 

At All Times

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“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

I was a little upset with a friend a few days ago.  Do you know what terrible sin she committed?  She didn’t agree with me, and she told me she didn’t. Now I certainly wasn’t furious.  But I was hurt. I got defensive.  I felt frustrated.  I didn’t see why she couldn’t “get” my position.  I don’t like conflict, and even this minor disagreement made me feel out of sorts for the rest of the day.  Sunday of all days.  How annoying.

This morning I remembered this verse and I got over myself.  You see, the Bible tells us to love our friends at ALL times.  Not just when they’re supporting us.  Not just when they’re behaving the way we think they should. Not just when they follow our advice.  Not just when they AGREE with us.  So I wrote my friend a note. I still don’t agree with her, but  I told her I cared about her and valued our friendship (I do).  I told her I appreciated all that she does for me and our community (I do).  I realized that loving each other doesn’t depend upon complete agreement.

Here’s the bigger lesson in all this.  In John 15:15 Jesus says,

“No longer do I call you servants….but I have called you friends.”

Jesus is my friend, and he loves me at all times.  Not just when I am being “good.”  Not just when I’m paying attention to Him.  Not just when I’m praying or praising Him, but all the time.  I‘ll fall down and disappoint my friends.  I’ll get annoyed and say angry words without thinking.  I’ll be inconsistent and bull-headed.  Jesus won’t do any of those things.  He is my one constant, yesterday, today and forever.  And He is my friend.  How wonderful is that!  What does He ask in return?  Just this:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you,  you are also to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 12:34

What does this loving friendship look like?

“Love is patient and kind;  love does not envy or boast;  it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

If Jesus is my friend who loves me at all times, shouldn’t I try to be the same kind of friend to others?

Image result for images of a friend loves at all times

 

Remembering Others…

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My next door neighbor, Mrs. Thompson, passed away following a long illness this past year. She and her husband lived next door to us for as long as I can remember. They knew my husband and I when we were just dating, they attended our wedding, and they shared in many holiday and life experiences with us. I was always surprised by how much interest Mrs. Thompson took in our lives. Despite taking care of her husband, visiting with her many friends, keeping her household and being very active in church activities, she always seemed to know what was going on with us. When my beloved cat died, she wrote me a three page letter about how special he had been her. When we first purchased chickens (an interesting endeavor!), she and her husband were the first to come over with their video camera to chronicle the event. She would call just to check in, and drop by to bring us snacks on the holidays. She always made me feel special, loved, and appreciated.

Her funeral was packed. Much to my surprise, many people stood up to talk about those special letters that she had written them over the years, and all of the kind things that she had done for them. How she had time to do so many things for so many people I will never know. It seemed that she actively remembered everything going on in all of her friends lives, and was always passing her love on to others.

Reflecting back on my own actions, I am sorry to say that the same can’t always be said about me. I get easily caught up in my day to day life, and may go weeks or even months without as much as saying hello to my neighbors. I am not much better with friends or family either. I often get the “are you dead?” call from my mom after a few weeks of forgetting to check in. I am not know for my excellent memory of birthdays either- my big sister often calls me on family members’ birthdays, just to give me a friendly reminder ‘not to forget’.

With this being said, if I could make any new years resolution for self improvement this year, it would be to take note and follow in the footsteps of my good friend and neighbor Mr. Thompson. To try daily to write one personal note, make one phone call, or reach out to at least one friend or family member daily to see what is going on in their lives. I have put the following bible verse on my phone as a daily reminder of this:

Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

“To Die is Gain.”

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Once upon a time . . .

when humanity was young, and quite innocent; they lived in a place of unimaginable beauty and endless possibility. And then humanity was deceived. We failed to trust our creator, and though the lie was not ours, the doubt and greed fully belong to us. The rejection was not of the place, the food, or the vast kingdom that in inheritance belonged to us as well. The rejection was power and love our Father and Lord possessed. We rejected Him.

What was not known in the dawn of time was that with the failure of trust, blinded by greed and naivety, revelations would be made. The tree of knowledge of Good, and Evil. The name says as much as it implies. Before what would they have known? Neither good nor Evil. The infinite wisdom of God would be too much for them to bear. A better way is to slowly introduce information, to take eternity and explain and teach. God wanted to show us the universe while building a relationship.

From the very beginning it was Him who loved us more.  Suddenly, too suddenly, we knew what worse than bad was. We knew shame, and embarrassment, and lust. We knew regret, and sadness, and fear. We were overwhelmed.

Still God our Father loved us. For our own sakes, he removed us from Heaven. People without self-discipline tend to ruin good things. Not to mention Everlasting Life (The tree of Life) combined with Irrational, self-destructive sin would be disastrous. Therefore, we were separated. How painful that was. Not only for us, but for God. The Alpha and Omega that feels anguish as well as joy. Can you imagine first being rejected by your children, and then having to remove them from the situation to protect them? Maybe some can, because all this resulted in a broken world. A world that for our own sakes requires a barrier of sorts.

Luke 16:26 “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

Not only between heaven and hell, but between heaven and earth. It’s a burden we must bear. Although Christ came so that we can eventually see our heavenly home, we mustn’t risk it with open borders. Narrow is the road. While we have hope of seeing not only our loved ones but also our merciful Savior, there’s still a gap. A lonely realization that we are to suffer here till our time comes. As Christians, it’s not that we don’t believe in a better, very real, life that exists beyond our reach; it’s that we cannot follow where they go. It’s the harsh separation that stares us in the face. Our despair comes with the knowledge that these bodies we inhabit must endure here for a time.

Philippians 1:21&22 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose?  I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

The End?

Seek The Kingdom

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“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your  Father knows that you need them.  Instead seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:29-31

Yesterday I spent most of the day with a group of ladies who are preparing to conduct a Via de Cristo Women’s Retreat weekend.  The leader gave us an ice breaker question.  We were tell the group what was the most important thing to us about our original weekend.  It was interesting to hear because there were so many different answers.  For one person it was the music;  for another a particular talk;  for another a conversation with a Pastor.  Women spoke about the love they felt, the acceptance they received and the people they met.  I heard comments like, “God must have planned that weekend just for me” or “I knew I was there to hear that one talk.”

What I got out of this was how different we all are.  Everybody needs something.  Not just food and drink, or money to pay the rent, but things like peace, friendship, mentoring, uplifting.  How amazing that God knows all our needs, physical and spiritual, and when we seek Him genuinely, He provides not only provides it all, but we get it at just the right time!

The key is for us to remember to seek His kingdom always;  to rest in His presence and His provision every day.  He knows our every need!  He’s taking care of things.  If we learn to seek Him, not just on retreat, but in the press of daily living, our lives would be so much easier!

So, I’m asking our readers, have you been on a Via de Cristo weekend, or any form of Cursillo retreat?  How did God provide for your needs that weekend?  I’d like to hear more answers.