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Archive for the ‘Personal Beliefs’ Category

As I was preparing to write the Bible study for tonight, I began thinking, “Why do we do this?” Why do we study, using the methods that we do – and by that I mean – studying straight through a book instead of studying topically – studying, searching for a specific answer? Why is it important to learn the setting and the context? Why don’t we just drop in on this verse and that verse (as is so popular today) – why do we study it straight through? “You know”, I thought, “We could get a lot more people into our study if we gave it a catchy title or sought to ‘scratch a particular itch’”.

But the more I thought the more I began to realize that we do this; we study like this because we seek to understand what the Bible says as a whole. We seek to study the “real thing” so that we can spot the counterfeit.

Jesus said that in the last days many would come “In My Name claiming, ‘I am the Christ’”. The words “the Christ” are in italics in most Bibles indicating that these words were not in the original manuscripts. What Jesus said was, “Many will come in My Name claming ‘I Am’”. (And we all know the significance of the words “I Am”…)

But, as I thought of His word, the first phrase struck me – “Many will come in My Name…” Isn’t that true today? Don’t many hold to His Name while living completely unholy or unbiblical lifestyles? And if they are questioned in any way – they immediately jump into “Don’t you dare judge me” mode.

I read an article recently comparing two “Christians”. One came from a missionary home and was known for praying often (regardless of where he was) and living a lifestyle that supported abstinence and purity. This one was also known for quietly caring for others and meeting needs without fanfare.

The other was described as coming from a very poor home, being baptized as a child, but leaving that church for another, and then another. This one was known for having many religious tattoos, a party life-style and having a series of live-in girlfriends. This one gave away large amounts of money to very public endeavors.

The tone of the article ridiculed the first “Christian” and praised the second for being so “vocal” in his Christianity…

My question is – which one of these ‘Christians” lived their lives based on the Bible? Which one actually lived his life “in Jesus’ Name” and which one claimed to live his life “in Jesus’ Name”?

The only way to know that is to learn what the Bible really has to say – verse-by-verse. And that’s why we do this…

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The Facebook prompt said, “What’s on your mind this morning?” and my heart cried out – “So much, Lord! So much!”

I’m excited about the beginning of a new ministry journey as I will begin taping video Bible studies today – but that is tempered by so many needs lying on my heart.

One friend begins another round of chemo today, while another friend is in the midst of her third battle with the dreaded “cancer“. Many other friends have just found out about their upcoming cancer journeys  and yet others have breathed a sigh of relief that the biopsy was benign…

My heart then jumps to children – my own and my grandsons – I pray for their lives and struggles. O God how hard it is to watch your children go through their own struggles. I just want to clear the path and make their lives easy… but I can’t, can I?

School is starting soon and I pray for children making new journeys and for parents praying for “do-overs”, hoping that this school year will be easier (I’ve been there – done that!) I pray for teachers as they prepare. God grant them wisdom and patience and the gift of seeing into the very heart of the children.

But mostly this morning my heart is burdened with the text I got last night from a young friend whose baby daughter is so very ill – and the doctors do not have a clue as to the cause… God – how I pray for that young mother and her family. I pray for the siblings of this little girl as I know they are worried and scared, too.

Guide the doctors, Lord. Lay Your healing hand on this little girl – and give the family peace in the midst of their fear. Little children should be running and playing… not lying in bed crying. But, we don’t live in a perfect world, do we Lord? We live in a broken and sinful world that is groaning in travail. But someday, Lord… someday…

And – maybe someday is today, Lord. Maybe today…

And that – Facebook – is what’s on my mind this morning. Amen.

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A friend and I were talking about fear and trusting God. I have had times of great fear when learning to trust God. I wrote this about 15 years ago – it has been a long and at times, hard journey getting here. And I still don’t trust like I should… but I’m getting there.

The Fear of the Lord

Solomon declared,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

And I do have fear.

Sometimes

to the point of despair.

For I know that nothing happens

without first passing through the Hand of God.

God calls forth the act, directs the act

or He allows the act.

And so I fear – What will be His Will?

 

My mind and my heart struggle for control

of the emotion.

My heart says “Love”

and my mind says “Sovereignty”

with “sovereignty” being a fearful word.

 

I’ve seen God act to spare His people

and I’ve also seen Jeremiah thrown

into a well,

And Hosea sent to marry a harlot.

How can such infinite Love

allow such personal tragedy?

And so I fear…

 

But fear of the Lord

is the beginning of knowledge.

And with knowledge comes wisdom,

and with wisdom comes faith.

And with faith comes assurance

that sovereignty is not a fearful word

but is indeed Love.

 

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It’s that time of year again… The time when the so called “learned” Christians among us begin to criticize and ridicule Christmas hymns and songs for “poor theology” as well as poor ignorant Church members for – well – being so ignorant!

I’ve actually seen pastors become visibly angry over a congregation wanting to sing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” or “Joy to the World” before Christmas Day! What are we going to do with them? (These uneducated church members – not the learned pastors, of course…)

One of the most common of songs to raise ire is the favorite “Mary Did You Know?”

“Well, of course she knew”, they cry. “After all, the angel Gabriel told her everything!”

“Plus”, they add, “Her trip to Elizabeth should have been enough proof…”

Ok – let’s think about that for a moment. Those who follow my writing or Bible study teaching know that I am a stickler for two main things – first – context! The context of the scripture must be correct.

My next oft repeated phrase is that the Bible concerns, “Real people, in real events, in real time.” So with that in mind let’s examine what Mary knew – both mentally and emotionally.

In my poem “A New Understanding of Christmas” (written several years before I had children) I say that:

“Was she afraid, so far from home?

And knowing no more than she must have known,

Was she afraid that Silent Night

Bearing her child with only the light

From the star for assurance

That God was there

In person and prayer

Father and Son as One?”

 

Yes, Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her everything. Mary went to visit Elizabeth and heard an uplifting corroborating word. Yes, and Mary’s “Magnificat” is – well – magnificent in its faith-filled words of praise and submission to God… but… there is such a thing as the emotion of the moment.

And… let’s remember this is a real event, happening to real people, in real time. Mary heard the word from Gabriel. Then almost immediately she traveled to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She stayed with Elizabeth for three months (whether she stayed until after John’s birth is debatable – personally, I think she did, unless a caravan was leaving for Nazareth and she had to leave sooner.)

Next she arrived back in Nazareth, obviously pregnant… So then we have the “real event” of Joseph’s reaction and his dream assuring him that the baby was, indeed, the Messiah.

And then… nothing…

Not another word from an angel, a dream, or special encounter for six… long… months…

Well… there was the fact that they knew the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem (and they had no intentions of making a trip to Bethlehem!) But then current events dictated that they go there anyway – but I suspect they viewed that more as a difficulty than a sign from God.

And so, they went… And they got there and the place was crowded and noisy and (likely) dirty. Surely to goodness, if this was really God’s Son, there would have at least been a nice place to birth the baby… but there wasn’t.

Think about it… six… long… months… and not a word.

Six long months of morning sickness, and back pain, and kicks that take your breath away… this was a real baby, and these were real months.

 

Have you ever had an encounter with God during a time of prayer or at an event? Have you ever felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something, or take on some responsibility or chart some course? How did you feel six months later when there had been no follow up from God and things were beginning to get tough? Have you ever questioned if you heard Him correctly? Of course you have! And I’m sure Mary and Joseph both questioned, at times, if they’d heard correctly.

And then He was born…

My poem puts it this way:

“I wonder if

I could endure

The pain and then still be as sure

That this was God’s plan for my life

To be a mother before a wife,

I wonder if I could…”

 

We sing:

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will someday walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will save our sons and daughters?

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will give sight to a blind man

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will calm a storm with His hand?

And the critics wail away at us for daring to ask these questions.

Did she really know all this? I doubt it. Did she know that He was God – yes – but what did that really mean? I don’t think she had a clue what it all really meant.

As my poem ends, I say:

“I’m sure then Mary softly smiled

And looked down gently at her child

The Savior of the world to be

But right now, so tenderly

He was her baby.

Somehow, looking out through Mary’s eyes

Brings a new understanding of Christmas.”

 

Yes, Mary knew in her mind that He was God… but in her heart, He was her baby – and that – is a “real time” event!

 

 

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manger-scene

You can find this in front of Thorngrove Christian Church on Carter School Road in East Knox County.

 

This poem was written in the late 70’s – long before our sons were born – but I just imagined how it might be…

 

A New Understanding of Christmas

 

It’s probably all been said before,

and I really don’t want to be a bore,

But, Christmas to me

and what I feel,

is so very, oh, more real

than anything that could be said.

 

Being a woman, I think of Mary,

bearing the Babe

and having to carry

the responsibility and all the while,

she was little more

than a child herself.

 

Was she afraid, so far from home,

and knowing no more

than she must have known?

Was she afraid that silent night

bearing her child with only the light

from the star for assurance

that God was there

in person and prayer

Father and Son as one?

 

I guess I’m a dreamer, but I tend to see,

how things would be

if it happened to me.

 

I wonder if

I could endure

the pain, and then still be as sure

that this was God’s plan for my life

to be a mother before a wife,

I wonder if I could.

 

I try to grasp how it must have been

in the cold damp barn

when a bunch of men

shepherds they were

reverently knelt

and quietly beheld their Savior.

 

And later then the wise men three,

coming, oh, so far to see,

the Mother and the Child

The King

the Promised One

The Messiah.

 

I’m sure then Mary softly smiled

and looked down gently at her child

The Savior of the world to be

but right now so tenderly,

He was her baby.

 

Somehow, looking out through Mary’s eyes

brings a new understanding of Christmas.

 

 

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A Word from the Lord

Last Sunday was Consecration Sunday at our church. Our pastor’s text came from Luke 9:10 and following – the familiar story of Jesus feeding the five thousand (actually there were five thousand men plus women and children – likely upwards of fifteen thousand people). As you remember the story, the disciples brought Jesus five loaves and two fishes. He had the disciples direct the people to sit in groups of fifty.

Then the scripture tells us “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he [Jesus] looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied.”

I have heard that scripture, read that scripture, and even taught that scripture many times in my 60+ years – but this particular Sunday – that scripture grabbed me in an entirely new way. It was as if God spoke to me and said – “you’ve been faithful in tithing these many years, but I want you to lift it to Me for blessing before you give it…”

Well, ok!

My husband sings in the choir and so we seldom sit together in church. After church was over I shared my experience with him and he said, “I felt the same thing!”

And it was not only for the tithing… I believe that God would have us lift up every donation we make, every gift we give, and every day we live.

Each day must be lifted up as a thank offering to God. And do you remember the rest of the story? The people were fed, with twelve baskets of food left over… I believe that when we lift up our thank offerings to God – the needs will be met – with baskets full left over!

May it be so! Amen!

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Today’s devotional is the last in the book segment of “When and Where to Pray”. Like many of my devotionals, this one is intensely personal. These days I mostly sit (or kneel or lie face down) in my study to pray – but before I had this wonderful study – I mostly prayed at my kitchen table. This devotional was written then.

 

Kitchen Table Prayer

Many times I’ve gone to prayer with the cry, “What do I say, Lord? What do I say?”

Usually this is in response to a deep seated need for my own family or for others who’ve asked me to pray.

However, for a rewarding experience in prayer, try this sometime. If your kitchen is anything like mine (and I’m betting it is) then it is the “nerve center” of the home. It’s where things happen.

Sit down at your kitchen table and just look around. You’ll be amazed at what you see…

I’m not going to share my prayer – it’s too personal – but I’ll tell you some of what I see.

First of all, the table is cluttered with books and papers and such – an indication of our busy lives. I am thankful for each of these “activities” and the health to pursue them.

I see a jar lid that says “A B 88” – that stands for “Apple Butter 1988”. It is in my Mother’s handwriting… I miss her so much, and I am so thankful for how I was raised.

I see a couple of boxes of herbal tea that our younger son brought in, and a western magazine belonging to our older son… I pray for, and am thankful for them. We are so blessed.

On the refrigerator is a photo of my husband – what we have is beyond words. And, there’s a card from my daughter-in-law – such a special gal!

I also see a photo of a friend’s baby, a “Lucy and Ethel” magnet from a very close friend and a faculty list from our local high school (I often pray for these teachers and school staff.)

Looking on around I see “treen-ware” (wooden spoons) and a handmade “cat doll” and herbal vinegars made by craft/artist friends; each of whom hold a dear place in my heart.

There are gifts from this one, and utensils from that one and items that spark all kinds of memories. And, as those memories roll in, I pray for these folks and thank God for their place in my life.

I am also thankful for the time I can take, with my coffee, before the day begins to meditate on God’s grace and the overwhelming blessings He has given us.

No, our lives aren’t perfect – and I’ve cried many tears at this kitchen table – but this morning, as I look at the bounty from last summer, the cookbooks on the shelf, the antique dishes belonging to my “faith mothers”, and the coats hanging on the chair backs – I am reminded (again) of just how blessed we are.

I didn’t set out this morning to do this. God just opened my eyes at my kitchen table – let Him open yours, today.

God, thank you for opening my eyes this morning. I pray for my friends and those who seek to serve You daily. Use the “little things”, I pray, to spark memories, and bring to mind “faces” of those for whom You would have us pray, today.

In Jesus’ Name – Amen.

After this, I don’t think I’ll ever look at my kitchen the same way again!

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