Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Think About It’ Category

For the past several mornings I have woke up at 4:00 am – wide awake. When that happens, I usually pray for different folks’ needs that I know (and my kids, of course). This morning, after posting a short teaching video on “Ask, seek and knock” last night on Facebook, I prayed, “Lord, what do you want me to pray?”

I immediately began thinking about our country and I said, “Lord, what’s happening to our country? This country used to honor and serve You. There used to be a church on every corner…” Then the thought flitted through my mind, “Yeah – there are still churches on every corner – but they are empty…” and I thought, “Why is that, Lord?”

Then the image came to mind of masses of people headed to “church” in warehouses and store buildings and theaters, and I said, “Why is it Lord, that no one seems to want to worship in a church building anymore? And we ‘old foggies’ are looked at as ‘out of touch’ if we even question the music or the lights or the ‘come as you are’ way they dress…”

And I heard in my spirit – “They are fleeing from My Holiness… A church building has been consecrated and prayed over and is a Holy Place. Many say they want to worship, but few are willing to live Holy lives…”

The way is, indeed, narrow…

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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…

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Psalm 1 speaks of the one who is blessed, whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on it day and night. It says that this person will be like, “a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season…”

I’ve often taught that using the concept of at different times in our lives, we are in different “seasons”. We don’t serve when we are in our 60’s the same way we did in our 20’s, but “fruit” is still being produced.

There’s another thing that happens in different seasons of our lives – and this has more to do with “life” than it does with age. Some seasons are just plain harder than other seasons.

Twenty years ago Joe and I went through one period in our lives where we attended more than 12 funerals in 18 months. These were all family or extended family or church family. That was a tough season.

We seem to be in another “season” now. It seems that everywhere I look, someone I know has cancer or another debilitating disease – many of them are very serious. When we went through that season before, I wrote the following poem…. and I’ll have to admit, the thought about the wall crossed my mind again this morning…

 

Building that Wall Again

On July 11, 1996, we received the news that my aunt (whom we affectionately called “Gran”) was diagnosed with cancer, throughout… then I sat down and wrote this poem.

 

“When I was a child

I spoke as a child, I understood as a child

I thought as a child.

But, when I became an adult

I put away childish things…”*

Or did I?

 

In 1969, I was 15 years old

When my uncle died.

He was my Mother’s closest brother

And he was my friend.

And it hurt.

 

Then I decided

That if I built a wall around my heart

And never loved

That I would never be hurt… again…

So I did.

And it took many years to overcome that mentality

To be able to love again.

But I did.

I should say, with God’s help, I did…

 

And today I am an adult

With all the entrappings of adulthood,

A home

A husband

Children

Responsibilities…

 

But in the past year

I’ve been carrying a weight

That has about worn me down;

A mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s

But that wasn’t enough it seemed

The past 5 months

Have been one long bad dream…

 

I’ve lost an uncle

And an aunt

And a very sweet friend.

 

And now, I’m thinking about building that wall again.

I’m thinking

About building that wall again…

 

But it’s too late

I already love too many people…

 

©1996 Betty Newman

 

*Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13:11

 

(PS – Little did I know when I wrote that poem that over the next year, Joe and I would lose more than a dozen folks from our “blood” families and Church families… It was a very difficult 2 years…)

(PPS – today – 2017, I am holding to that “Blessed Hope” that is promised in the scriptures. As Job said, “I know my Redeemer liveth…” And because He lives, I can fact tomorrow… and today, too.  Amen.)

 

Read Full Post »

newman-lane-winter

That “Thy Will Be Done” Thing

Sometimes “life” just blindsides you, doesn’t it? You think you have a plan – and then things change. It’s that way for all of us, I think. I recently had a situation arise that was completely unexpected – and I’ll admit – it sorta knocked me off my feet for a moment. (Ha! “Moment” nothing – for a good while!)

But – on the farm – chores still have to be done, regardless. So, as I was walking up the road toward the barn, I was praying. “Lord! How’m I gonna do this? How can I…” and I began naming off the things that I was (am) responsible to do. “What do You want me to do”? I cried. “I thought ‘this’ was what I was supposed to be doing… and now there’s ‘this’ added on… And I don’t see how I can do it all!”

But as I walked, head down and hands in my coat pockets due to the cold, the phrase “Thy will be done” came to mind and I looked up and said, “It’s that ‘Thy will be done’ thing, isn’t it?”

God’s will, will be done – the only variable is – what is my reaction to it. How will I say, “Thy will be done…”

In a Lenten study I wrote a few years ago we come to the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. You know the story – Jesus enters the garden and takes Peter, James and John with Him – and as Jesus agonizes in prayer, Peter, James and John immediately fall asleep. But what we study in that lesson is how do we learn to say, “Thy will be done”?

William Barclay puts it this way:

“It makes all the difference in what tone of voice a man says, “Thy will be done.”

  1. He may say it in a tone of helpless submission, as one who is in the grip of a power against which it is hopeless to fight. The words may be the death-knell of hope.
  2. He may say it as one who had been battered into submission. The words may be the admission of complete defeat.
  3. He may say it as one who has been utterly frustrated and who sees that the dream can never come true. The words may be those of a bleak regret or even a bitter anger which is all the more bitter because he cannot do anything about it.
  4. Or, He may say it with the accent of perfect trust. That is how Jesus said it. He was speaking to one who was “Father”; He was speaking to a God whose everlasting arms were underneath and about him, even on the cross. He was submitting, but he was submitting to the love that would never let Him go. Life’s hardest task is to accept what we cannot understand; but we can do even that if we are sure enough of the love of God.

This morning, standing in the cold as I prepared to do “farm chores” I had to decide just how I would say, “Thy will be done…” and I choose to trust.

God is perfect. He is Omnipotent – He is all powerful. He is Omnipresent – He is everywhere – and He is with me… He is Omniscient – He knows every single thing – and He knows what is best in my life and He knows what will bring Him glory. And so I choose to trust Him. But now, that’s not to say that I didn’t feel every single one of those other emotions. It’s just that at this point in my life I know that the only answer is to trust. I know that to “trust and obey” is truly the only to be “happy in Jesus”.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy – it just means that I choose to trust because it’s that “Thy will be done” thing.

Read Full Post »

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!

 

 

Read Full Post »

first-umc-desplaines-il

First UMC DesPlaines, IL

 

There are many questions surrounding the Shepherds and the Wisemen. Why did God choose them to spread the Good News? Perhaps this will help a little. (I also have this is a Bible Study format with questions. If you’d like a copy please e-mail me).

 

The Shepherds

The orthodox Jew often despised the shepherds. Due to the very nature of their occupations they could not always participate in the rites and ceremonial rituals. It made no matter that the Jews’ greatest ancestors, Moses, Abraham, and David, were all shepherds and were idolized. It is much like an ancestor of ours who, though somewhat of a “rascal” or an “outcast” might be idolized or spoken of with thinly veiled price. “We wouldn’t do what they did, but…”

How much easier it is to romanticize life than to actually live it.

Therefore, the shepherds were looked upon with disgust, although they were greatly needed, because it was they who raised and cared for the “unblemished lambs” that were used for all the temple sacrifices.

They were the “blue color service industry.” All these people we greatly need, but never “see…”

 

The Wisemen

The Magi, also known as “The Wisemen” were learned men and scholars, most likely descended from the Medes. They were also skilled in astronomy and astrology, which was the study of the stars, as well as their meanings. (God said in Genesis 1:14 that the lights in the heavens were to be for “signs and seasons and for days and years.”) Astrology and astronomy were not mutually exclusive, but mutually explanatory.

The Wisemen, in addition to being a priestly tribe, were men who spent their time in study. Anyone who comes into a study (of any kind) with an open heart is prepared (however unknowingly) to hear God’s voice. (As God is over all things, He speaks in all things.)

“How do we begin to understand without study?

And how do we study without desire?

And how do we desire without seeing a need?

And how do we see a need without beginning to understand that we need to study?

It is completely God’s Calling.”

The Wisemen were called and prepared, and sent. And then they proclaimed. All without ever having known that they were used of God.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: