Lets Be Clear

Lots of people have all kinds of ideas and opinions lately. Everyone is talking and not too many people are stopping to look, or stopping to listen. Even those who say they’re Christian. Now I don’t expect someone with absolutely no church upbringing, or relationship with Jesus Christ to understand a Christian point of view. However, I do expect Christians to know and understand BIBLICAL views. And I expect them to look to the one and ONLY reliable source for guidance and comfort. So since so many have an opinion (including Christians) what does God say? Lets start with the topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind. Equality. (In every sense of the term.)

Deuteronomy 10:17  “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”

 Malachi 2:10  “Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?

 Job 32:21-22    Let me now be partial to no one, Nor flatter any man. For I do not know how to flatter, Else my maker would soon take me away.”

 Galatians 3:26-29  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Now how about authority? What does God say about that?

1Peter 2:13-14  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority; whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to the governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to command those who do right.”

 Romans 13:1-2  Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.

 Ok, but what about social responsibilities? What? In fact, does God have to say about that? This one brothers and sisters, carries a warning (and instruction) for those within our own ranks.

 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘That one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.”

 This is strong language. And it’s strong language intended for the first Christians so that repentance might occur. (And because the first Christians, much like today’s Christians, didn’t behave like they should.) Keep in mind too, this is after Jesus came to earth for forgiveness of our sins. Yes, Jesus is patient. But these words in Paul’s letters are not just Paul’s words. They’re inspired by the Holy Spirit. In other words, this is Jesus saying these things. It’s easy to get comfortable in God’s great grace and mercy that He freely offers His children. However, be alert. God will not allow arrogant disobedience to reign and poison the flock. There will be a judgement day. For that reason, warnings are necessary. As some will fall away due to false teachings. So,(I’m gonna say it again) what does God have to say about false teachers, and blinded and hard hearts?

2 Thessalonians 2:2-17  “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us-whether by a prophesy or by a word of mouth or by letter-asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be god.

Don’t you remember when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ we have some choices ahead of us. Believe in God, or believe in the lie. How many of us go to church and yet, neglect the word of God in our daily lives? In America where Bibles are plentiful; yet, even Christians don’t read it. And if we do, we only read what makes us feel better. I beg of you, if you want to make sense of the world we live in and keep from incurring judgement; READ your Bible. Systematically, daily . . . and with purpose. I know this was a long blog, but I also know people don’t tend to look up verse references. Therefore, the whole verse is there for the reading. And if anyone does not like the words in this blog; it’s not my words they aren’t liking. It’s God’s words. Which is also why no one should dare to ask (or suggest) that their pastor sugar coat the message. Or take it easy on the wording. That’s just another way of nit-picking God’s word. It’s the job and duty of Pastors everywhere to tell the truth, harsh as it may be. It is not their job to tell us what we want to hear but what we NEED to hear. Love warns those in danger, love does not keep silent while watching victims head into danger. Who among us wouldn’t stop our children from running into a street? This is no different.

Mi Casa Uptown – a review

Mi Casa Uptown: Learning to Love Again by Rich Pérez is a good read if you are thinking, or are in, a urban setting or if you are thinking about doing missions work in the city.

Rich Pérez is from New York City; Washington Heights to be exact.  He left there to go to college and seminary and then returned to his neighborhood because he feels deeply about connecting with neighbors.  In this book he explains how we’ve become disconnected to our neighbors and how, with God’s help, we can become connected again.

One point that Rich makes that hit with me was that to engage in any community, humility is needed:

“Humility is a posture that demands intentionality and sacrifice; it demands a compelling example.  It’s sacrifice and not entitlement that inspires authentic relationship.  In the end, thriving communities are not monolithic communities, where one group or culture runs the show.  Instead, the kind of humility I’m referring to is revolutionary – quite literally helping to shift the way neighborhoods exist.  Humility inspires people to live differently toward on another and, more important, honors the stories that have existed before your own by dignifying them rather disregarding them.”

Even though I enjoyed this book, I had a hard time relating to it.  I come from a rural background and have never really engaged the Hispanic community.  Even so, I found quite a few “take-aways” about how to live in community.  I give this book a solid three stars.

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

Good morning everyone! Welcome to today’s blog post on our Ecclesiastes 3 series! If this is your first time joining us please go into our archives and read the other posts for this month. They are awesome! I thank all of our regular readers for following along with this Bible Study series, planted in the words of God through King Solomon! Let’s get going, continuing with verses 14&15…

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

This is what I see in these verses…

God’s has the last say and things will happen exactly as He has planned.

Our main objective in life is to fear God… to respect and stand in awe of who He is.

The things that are going on in the world are not new concepts and neither are the things that will happen in the future.

History repeats itself.

Wow, this is mind-blowing! But then if you think about it…is it really? Reflecting on my life, there are things that I experienced that I can clearly see as God’s plan. As hard as they were to be faced with, I know deep in my heart that it was God’s purpose for my life… the things I suffered in my childhood, my mother dying of cancer when I was 16, the year of torment I suffered following her death, meeting my now husband at the end of that year, gaining a new mom in the process (my now mother in law, Mary), having children at a younger age, almost dying giving birth to our younger daughter Kirsten, being advised after her birth that I should not have any more children, the devastating finality of having my tubes tied at age 23, learning to navigate through my marriage and being a parent when I harbored so much anger and mistrust (all at the expense of my family), overcoming addictive habits, being estranged from my father for 9 years.

Then God took hold of my life, at just the right time. He gave me a new life, a new family, made the family I helped create become stronger and more unified, helped to mend the broken relationship between my dad and I, solidified my marriage with Him at the helm, made me a better parent, helped me to grow quality relationships with my daughters, help me to also grow quality relationships with other family and friends.

I couldn’t have done it without looking at the world through my “God goggles”, changing the lens by which I view the world around me. And for that I stand in awe… God leaves me speechless a lot. I can see the intricacies of how He works, how He operates. And sometimes all I can do is just smile.

Now, when I experience life, I am well equipped and those experiences don’t cripple me like they used to. History has repeated itself in my life, all part of God’s plan. But the peace… the strength… the power I have to get through those trials, comes from a mighty God, the love of my Savior, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I continually stand in awe of God… remembering the great works He has done in my life… remembering that I need to look at my trials as great joy, because when my faith is tested, my endurance has a chance to grow… and God says when my endurance grows and is fully developed, I will be perfect, complete, and need nothing else. (James 1:2-4)

And to always stand in awe, just like the Apostle Paul did when he wrote to the church in Ephesus…

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. Eph. 1:5-11

How about you? Do you understand that everything happens according to God’s plan? Do you fear, respect, and stand in awe of who He is? Can you look at your past and determine how you will be changed when history repeats itself? Do you count your trials as great joy? Do you embrace your faith being tested and remember that your endurance is giving you a chance to grow? Do you understand that when your endurance to navigate this life is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing else? Do you realize that God chose you in advance to make everything work out according to His plan?

God loves you and so do I?

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of imgrum.org

 

Here on Earth.

What I’ve been given is time. Not life, not really. If I believe in what the bible says (and I do) my life, as it were, is a blink compared to the life that awaits me in a very real kingdom finer than those described in any legend or myth. Still, the time I’ve been given here is such a great gift that I can’t even grasp it. What do I do with it? How am I to spend it and with whom?

I’m still trying to work out the first question for myself and my family, and with a firm assurance I can tell you I am a terrible steward of time. I waste it, and mock it, and complain about it either dragging on too long. or flying by too fast. I often wonder what I could’ve done better in time past. Then I turn around and wonder what I can do to improve my future, and promptly begin scheming. How utterly human of me.

Why not live in the moment? Now is the best time of all. Insight is all we need, a.k.a prayers of wisdom. To remember we aren’t given a spirit of fear is to resolve to use our time wisely. We profit nothing when we fear what the future holds, or fear what some might think of our past. It does no good at all, yet it is done everyday. Certainly time should be thoughtfully and lovingly spent with a large dose of bravery in the mix. Because here on Earth we have little time to decide where we’ll be spending eternity. As to who we should spend time with . . . time will tell.

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, the sun just starting to rise above the tree line, I can’t help but to chuckle and stand in awestruck wonder. I know God has a sense of humor. He shows it to me all the time and right now is one of those moments.

I am not a morning person, far from it by any sense of the phrase and yet I sit here @ 5:45 am writing today’s next blog post in the Ecclesiastes study we have been going through. I have just gotten back from a trip to the E.R. with my 7 month pregnant daughter, Kimberly. (If you have been reading our blog, I talked about her a few posts ago) She has had very severe heartburn with this pregnancy, severe anemia, and started swelling recently so when she woke me up @ 3 in the morning in severe pain, I followed the doctors orders and took her in, worried that she might be developing pre-eclampsia because it runs in my family. As we were running out the door, something told me to grab a book off of my bookshelf and bring it with us.

You see, this was not just any book. It was my second copy of Erma Bombeck’s book Forever Erma. I have two copies of this book for a special reason. The first copy I have was given to me by my mother-in-law, Mary. (Who became my mom when I was 17, when my husband and I started dating a year after my own mother had passed away of cancer) When I went into preterm labor with our younger daughter Kirsten, she had brought the book with her to the hospital and read it to me from my bedside to help take the focus off of the pain and direct it in a positive way. I went into preterm labor a total of 9 times during my third trimester, and each time she would bring the book and read it. We would laugh, we would cry, and she would tell me stories of experiences she had with being a mother, just like the journal entries Erma Bombeck wrote down and recorded for the world to read in this book. Inside the back cover are written all the important phone numbers and notes Mom needed just in case, scribbled in her handwriting. I will never part with this book. It means the world to me, I cherish it. So when I came across a copy at Half Price Books one day for $2, I bought it, for such a time as this.

So, in keeping with tradition, I took it along with us to the hospital tonight and read it to my daughter, to help take her mind off of the pain she was experiencing and turn it into something positive. As I sped up to the emergency room, got her into the nurse’s hands, who just so happened to be outside the door bringing a wheelchair in, I quickly parked the car. As I got out, I paused for a moment and the tears started to flow. I stood there, in the silence of night, and prayed to God that my child and my unborn grandchild would be alright. I quickly wiped away my tears and headed in to join her. As we sat in the labor and delivery room, I read to her. We laughed, she shared her worry, we talked about motherhood, and when the nurse came in and heard me reading to her, she couldn’t help but smile. I was reading Erma’s journal entry from May 12, 1974 (which was written 1 month after I was born). It was titled When God Created Mothers. (If you haven’t read this book I highly recommend it) When Kimberly noticed the smile on the nurse’s face she immediately said, “It’s a tradition in our family.” and I explained why.

As we came home, and I helped get her settled, I told her I loved her, and off to bed she went. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging to me to just stay up and write my blog post now. Because I am not a morning person, I hesitated, but obediently came back to sit down at my computer. (along with a cup of coffee!) As I read the verse I had planned to do for today’s blog post, I started to cry and laugh all at the same time. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says this…

A time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance.

Tonight, God showed me that this verse is certainly true. We can even go through it all in a short time frame, even in the span of a few hours, sitting in hospital room.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of umcrp.org

 

My Spiritual Past

We all have them.  Looking back you can see how you’ve grown spiritually.  I guess this will be a remembering of how I’ve grown.

I was raised in the Lutheran Church.  We went to church and Sunday School regularly.  The church was my family’s church and I was surrounded by my Grandparents and great Aunts and Uncles.  But by the time I reached Confirmation age (12-13), my parents stopped going regularly and so did I.  We would be put into the C & E category, you know, Christmas and Easter.

When I was a junior in High School I was asked to come join a group of teenagers that sang.  Now, I loved to sing; I was in the choir at school.  So when Beverly asked if I’d be interested, I jumped at the chance.  Wow, I didn’t have to audition, just show up at a practice (which were held weekly) and start singing.  The group was called The New Life Singers and at the point that I joined there may have been about 15 to 20 of us, lead by a gentleman named “Doc” Mercer.  We sang Christian Musicals that were popular back in those days, “Tell It Like It Is”, “Come Together” and “Celebrate Life”.

The New Life Singers would travel to different churches and sing our musicals or sometimes we would do special music.  One time we learned some Jewish folk songs and, along with our usual Christian music, sang at the Hebrew Home near Washington, DC.  One year we sang at the Festival of Lights on the Mall in Washington DC.  Our group was based in Damascus, MD, but we went on tours during the summers, into Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.  One year we toured all the way up into Maine and back.  What a wonderful experience.  Something that I specifically remember is what happened when we stopped to eat while on tour.  We tried to stay away from fast food, but couldn’t all the time.  We would all get our meals and then, at a signal from Doc, break out singing the Doxology (in four part harmony) in the middle of the restaurant.  What fun!

Unfortunately, The New Life Singers disbanded when I was in my 20’s.  We all grew up, went to college and started families. At this time in my life, I’m active in Via de Cristo.  I’m still singing, bringing music to these renewal weekends.  It has strengthened my faith to be a part of a larger group that brings the Lord Jesus to others.  My faith was burning bright back when I was younger.  In between, well, not so much.  It was like a small flame, just behind a small shade.  Not bright, but still there.  After I walked on a Via de Cristo weekend, the shade that shielded my “flame” was taken away and it started burning bright once again.

I’m so glad that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of a ministry again.  I really missed being a part of a larger ministry while I was raising my family.  This time, no matter what, I will let the flame burn bright in my life.

 

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:20 & 21 says this:

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'”

Our ‘bread of adversity’ and ‘water of affliction’ are of our own doing. Isaiah was speaking to a population and society that closely mirrors todays cities and social structures. They paid lip service (sometimes) to thier pastors and those they wanted something from. yet thier hearts remained selfishly hard and thier thoughts always turned inward. Only concerned with what would make them more comfortable. The problems facing those people then and us today were/are not the cause of anything God did. In fact I submitt to you that the same way darkness is the absence of light; so to, societies pains are an absence of God.

So many mistakes made, yet here God says, ‘look, I’ve brought you teachers.’ A gift given to us from the same loving Father that whispers just behind is in our ear which direction is best. God wants good for us always. But what we do is stomp the ground, stand firm and promptly run through a dark forest with no path in sight.

Somehow, then and now; we have convinced ourselves and our children after us, that obedience is a slaves punishment. That it could only be meant for torment and mockery. Why then, do troubled children from broken homes, speak of thier parents that do not hold thier children accountable or make them abide by any rules . . . as uncaring? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard such a child say, ‘They don’t care.’ Ouch. How cruel to know that the people who are supposed to love you the most, don’t see the need to invest time and effort into teaching you.

Obedience is no punishment. It’s quite the opposite. A great and wonderful gift. God is saying “Look child. Let me show you the way.” Why reject such love? A son obeys his father out of love and respect. And in the process gains much more than was expected. A father instructs (a better word for commands) out of love and with great hope.

We have confused obedience in todays world, for something meant for a slave. But would a cruel master seek to better his slave? Why teach and loose control? Much better to keep an ignorant fool that cannot think a way out.

Children obey your father and mother. Soldier obey your sargent. Employee obey your boss. Student obey your teacher. People obey the authorities. Government obey the law and the President. President obey God Almighty.

See no one is exempt. Every knee should bow. Because God came and was obedent unto death. He knelt and washed our feet, He did what we asked of Him, He served and still serves us well. How then can we in arrogance refuse to do our part?

 

 

I’m sorry, again….

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22

What are the strongest relationships in our world? Best friend, spouse, parent, child, neighbor,  just to name a few. Most of us have several of these close bonds in life, with each being a little bit different and with each bond changing over time. The one thing that all of these relationships have in common is that within each relationship we have probably forgiven, and been forgiven, over and over again for different offenses throughout the years.

In the daily movement of life, I think that we forget how often forgiveness is taking place between all of our close friends and family. I might wake up grumpy and get angry that my husband has (again) forgotten to take out the trash, or become aggrieved when my close friend at work makes a comment that hurts my feelings. I like to read this passage in the book of Mathew when I need a reminder of the bigger picture. Christ wants for us to be loving, accepting, and forgiving of each other in all of our relationships. And in fact, when it comes right down to it, I think almost everyone would say that true love and acceptance in this world is all that we are really searching for within our relationships. So the day will come and go, I will forget my current grievances and forgive my friends, and hope that they will do the same for me. 

Prayer Through the Generations

My husband and I both come from large families;  he has four brothers and sisters, I have six.  So when the extended family gets together, it’s a crowd with the siblings, spouses, children, grandchildren.  Some are pretty religious, others not.  However, everyone extends my husband, a pastor, the courtesy of praying before the group meal.

I thought I might include the Culler family table grace, which has been handed down through the generations, used at least by Terry’s father and grandfather.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the food you’ve set before us.  Sanctify it to our good.  Feed and nourish us with this bread, which comes from heaven.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I suspect our granddaughter will think of it as her granddaddy’s prayer.  Do you have a family prayer you would like to share with us?   Or a favorite table grace your family uses?