Quote for 07/09/2021

Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name Yah, And rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.    Psalm 68:4-5

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I don’t know about you, but I read this, and God comes across as a superhero.

“He who rides on the clouds, a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows…leaps tall buildings in a single bound.” OK. I added that last part. But He oughta have a cape with a “G” on it!

Have you ever met someone that’s famous? Ever seen someone as they do? There’s the attack of the “hemina-hemina’s,” the blushing, the stupid things said trying to be complimentary:

“YOU…are my biggest fan!!”

Um…

Try that by an order of magnitude if you could meet GOD!

Wait! He’s here right now in the room with you! Always is, always has been. And He’s happier to be with us than we seem to be being with Him.

Do you wanna meet…Him? The Big Guy, Himself? The Holy Kahuna? Well, stop reading this and call out to Him. Sing His praises, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made! And if that isn’t enough, He and Jesus saved you from your sins. You get to spend eternity face to face with SuperGod!

Leaping tall buildings in a single bound? Puh-lease! That’s for amateurs!

Quote for 7/08/2021

Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.    Romans 8:26

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What a fantastic image this is – the very Spirit of God groans for us in prayer, pleading to God on our behalf for what we are not able to even recognize as a need!

He doesn’t just fold His hands, get on His knees, and say some formula prayer. He doesn’t add us on as a “by-the-way” mention. There is passion in His groanings for us. There is pain in what He sees us as and what He earnestly desires us to be.

This is the Spirit, one of the Holy Trinity along with Father and Son. He’s a facet of the same God Who created all and was spurned by all. We owe Him nothing, and yet…

He groans to the Father on our behalf!

Quote for 06/27/2021

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.    1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

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I draw a couple conclusions from this about the resurrection.  First is that this reads to me like a post-Tribulation rapture.  “All the dead in Christ will rise first,” which one assumes would include those faithful who died during the Tribulation.  This sounds like a final event, as one would expect in a post Tribulation rapture.

Second, while the pre/post Tribulation argument is sure to continue, we can agree on one thing; the faithful will rise at the end and spend eternity with the Lord.  I look forward to this more and more as I age.  In my 60’s, I’ve seen the world change all too much and not usually for the better.

I look forward to always being with the Lord in perfection!

Quote for 06/19/2021

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.    Romans 15:2

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Edification; the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually.

What are you teaching your neighbor when you interact with him or her, however inadvertently?  Are you helpful?  Are you considerate?  Do you give them the benefit of the doubt?  How do you edify them when you act in such ways?

By the same token, what do they learn from you when you are confrontational, selfish, prideful, and other such things?

Staying positive edifies our neighbors.  And guess what?  It edifies us too as we see the good results of living a Godly life, especially in adversity.

Religious Persecution in the West

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;    2 Timothy 4:3

We’re all aware that Christians are persecuted in China, the Middle East, Russia, and elsewhere.  It can take the form of imprisonment, torture, and even murder in these places.

Such religious persecution has arrived in the west.  No, it isn’t as bad as the places mentioned above, but it has arrived.  Persecution starts in small steps until it becomes full-blow and murderous.

Answers in Genesis recently published an article demonstrating this point.  A government official in Finland is being threatened with jail time for speaking Biblical truth.

In 2004, Member of Parliament in Finland and former Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen published a booklet on the Bible and sexuality. Well, over a decade later, in 2018, she spoke on a radio program about Jesus and homosexual behavior. Then, in 2019, she posted Romans 1:24–27 on social media to call out the Finnish Lutheran Church for joining an LGBT pride festival. This MP is now being charged with three hate crime counts and can face up to six years in prison if convicted—for speaking the truth about homosexual behavior as the Bible clearly teaches about it.

Clearly persecution starts small, barely noticeable.  She first spoke out in 2004 and again in 2018.  In 2019 she spoke against a church for joining a gay pride festival.  Now that that community has gained in political power, they are able to persecute Räsänen for speaking God’s truth!

Her response to the charges:

I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone . . .

My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech. I hold on to the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored. I will not back down from my views. I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets (emphasis added).

Finnish pastor, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, is also facing similar charges, as he stands accused of “incitement” for his comments about Biblical sexuality.  Pohjola also answers his persecutors:

As a Christian, I do not want to and cannot discriminate against or despise anyone created by God . . . Every human being, created by God and redeemed by Christ, is equally precious . . . At the same time . . . this does not remove the fact that, according to the Bible and the Christian conception of man, homosexual relations are against the will of God, and marriage is intended only between a man and a woman. This is what the Christian church has always taught and will always teach.

There are two very important points we should all take from each one’s rebuttal of charges.  First, Räsänen sounds a warning for all Christians everywhere; speak up now while you have the freedom to do so!  Just as the LGBT community has used its voice to impinge on freedom of speech and religion, Christians must speak up for themselves and their God!  This is an important point, not only about speaking up but the aim of your speech.

Pohjola expands on this point when he clarifies that he holds no malice against anyone!

Too many Christians vilify those who do not hold to church teachings.  They make no room for Godly love for each other when they insult and disparage those who live willfully in sin.  It is not for us to condemn, but to simply speak God’s truth to this sinful world.

My pastor has a son who is also in the ministry.  He regularly goes to a gay bar to sit and talk.  When he first started, he was, of course, asked what he does.  He told them honestly.  He did not preach at them.  He simply got to know them and gain their trust.  Eventually, he will have opportunity to talk to them about Jesus, but it isn’t a quick process.

He is not condemning them.  He is showing God’s love by treating them as fellow creatures of God.

Speak up for your faith.  Have the courage now to use your liberty – which is slowly being eroded – to speak out about God’s truth.  Defend your faith!

And don’t speak against anyone.  Speak for your faith and God!

Being Released

For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.    2 Corinthians 5:4-5

St. Paul is writing about how our earthly bodies are like tents, a temporary dwelling that we are not completely happy in.  The trials of this world press in.  They burden us.  Paul tells us that leaving this earthly tent – dying – is being released from our mortality and coming fully alive!

I was discussing near-death experiences with a friend this week.  I started on the subject, not sure where she stood.  She believes these experiences are real and not the delusions of a dying mind.  She told me about a Netflix series, Surviving Death.  It’s not a religiously oriented series.  One episode apparently deals with reincarnation.  Another examines mediums.

There’s no room for reincarnation biblically.  Mediums?  There has been so much fakery in this area that I have a hard time believing any of it is real.  Many mediums renowned in their day turned out to be fakes by their own admission.

However, I won’t discount that some are genuine.  The Bible warns against consulting them, so I say leave that area alone.

The show interviewed both scientists and researches as well as those who had near-death experiences.  I found it interesting that academics are taking it seriously.  Some have been studying the event for 40 and 50 years!  One scientist commented that many scientists dismiss the experiences as simply anecdotal.  His response is that all science starts with anecdotes that eventually show a pattern that can be investigated.

Another admitted that, “There are things that science can’t test but do happen.”

One of the near-death accounts came from a woman who was on a kayaking expedition in Chile.  She’s a doctor herself, a spinal surgeon.  Her group was approaching some falls and were going to take a milder series of drops instead of plunging over the big fall itself.  Someone got sideways at the entrance to that route, forcing her over the big fall.  She was trapped in the undertow in ten feet of water.  She felt her leg bones snapping and tendons tearing.  She knew she was drowning.

A few of her comments are worth noting:

“I could feel my spirit peeling off my body.”

“I felt more alive than I ever have.”  This one has echoes of St. Paul above – further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

“I experienced all of eternity in every second.”  This reminded me of my conversation with another who had a near-death experience.  He said that he knew everything in the entire universe at once.  No one told him everything; he was simply a part of it all and understood it.  See Perfect Love.

The woman tells of how she was without oxygen for thirty minutes.  Her group eventually gave up hope that they could rescue her.  Their mentality turned into simple body recovery.  One of them saw her life vest and swam to get it, bumping into her body and grabbing it.

She said she was bloated, blue, and her eye were fixed.  She was dead.  No mistake.  She could see from where she was in some sort of spiritual realm that her friends were trying to revive her.  She was told she had more to do on earth and that she had to go back.

They were able to revive her and get her to a hospital hours later.  It took several surgeries to repair her legs and months of therapy to learn to walk again.

There was absolutely no brain damage!  None!  As a doctor, she says that there was no way she should have survived at all, let alone come back with a completely healthy mind!

One researcher noted that these sorts of experiences have been growing dramatically since resuscitative medicine started taking hold in the 60’s and 70’s.  Near-death experiences were starting to pour in.

However. Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychologist at the University of Cambridge, saw it as something strictly American, especially in California.  It would never happen in Britain.

“We were far too sensible to have experiences like that.”

But he then had a patient come in to tell him about his near-death experience.  Fascinated, he decided this had to be decided scientifically.  He’s been studying it for 50 years now.  He says that oxygen starvation can’t possibly cause a near-death experience.

“You cannot maintain consciousness, unless you have a highly organized brain.”  He goes on to note that a mere 20 seconds without oxygen, and the brain starts flat lining.  There’s no way a brain in that disorganized state can maintain consciousness.  He wonders now if there isn’t an expansion of consciousness when we die, based on the thousands of accounts he has studied.

I would cautiously recommend seeing at least the first episode.  Again, nothing there is biblically based.  I was simply fascinated by the number of comments that seem to echo biblical truths.

Life Lessons

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.    Philippians 4:8

My third-grade teacher, Beverly Mullinix, was one of the best teachers I ever had.  She was patient and kind.  I remember vividly a particular lesson she illustrated on the blackboard one day.  She drew a starting point and a goal.  She then drew several barriers that would hinder someone from reaching that goal.  She then drew a long path around those barriers to the goal.

Here was her point: if you persevere and work through obstacles, you can achieve your goals quicker than if you take the longer, easier way.

That’s a life lesson I’ve carried with me ever since.  I recall my department chair in college told me I was the most self-motivated student she’d ever seen.  I can only thank Mrs. Mullinix forgiving me that.

As a high school freshman, I joined a community theater, The Village Players.  There was a cleanup night during the week once.  I was assigned the prop room along with a middle-aged lady.  I remember thinking that we’ll never see the back wall to this disaster!  I was essentially done before we started.  I had no hope of being able to make a difference in that room.

But my partner jumped right in.  I quickly saw that doing one or two simple things instead of trying to mentally do the whole room at once improved things very quickly.  We finished in good time, and I was amazed!

It’s like the old adage – How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

A few years ago, I had to clean up my attic prior to moving.  It was like the prop room, but several times bigger!  Again, I felt hopeless.  Prop night came to mind, so I did a couple things to just get started.  Again, I was amazed at what a difference just a few things can make in cleaning up a mess.  It gave me the energy to get it done.

Finally, I gave myself a life lesson once.  More accurately, it was God.  As a college instructor, I did my best to have a positive classroom.  I gave one student, a mother in her 30’s, some encouragement when she asked if she was doing OK.  After the term, this cute blond became a cute brunette and credited me with the change.  She’d been harshly criticized by a teacher as a child.  Thinking nothing of herself, she eventually adopted a “dumb blond” persona.  My simple affirmation of her work made her believe in herself again…enough to not be a dumb blonde anymore!!

Mrs. Mullinix was trying to teach us something.  My partner at the theater just wanted to get a job done and had no clue how her example would guide me later in life more than once!

What about you?  Do you have life lessons you haven’t thought of in a while?  More importantly, have you given anyone else life lessons?  Have you tried to teach someone something or just been an example by the way you live your life?

God shows us the way in His Word when He tells us to meditate only on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, and virtuous.  That’s a life lesson that will guide us all toward a lifetime of good works to others!

Dogs and Biscuits

Be strong & of good courage; do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.    Joshua 1:9

I love Norm-isms.  Those are the pithy sayings of the character Norm from the TV series, Cheers.  For today is Norm’s response to Sam asking how he’s doing today.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog- world out there, Sammy.  And I’m wearing Milk-Bone underwear.”

When I was a service writer at a car garage, I’d greet the guys by asking, “Dog or biscuit?”

How’s your day?  How’s your week, your life?  Are you feeling like the dog or the biscuit?  Whether you’re the dog or the biscuit right now, remember that everyone takes turns as the biscuit.  When that happens, remember good, old Joshua.  Even on your worst days and in your worst times, God is with you wherever you go.

Even King David had his bad days; really bad!  But no matter how hard he was being chewed on, he kept his eyes on God.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 
Psalm 23 :4

I’ve been close to death 4 times: heart attack in my 20’s, double-bypass in my 40’s, gangrene in my 50’s, and coming close to renal shut down just 6 months after the gangrene.  On top of that has been bankruptcy and foreclosure.  Joshua 1:9 has been a source of strength and comfort all along.  I keep that and several others at the bottom of my prayer list.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.    Psalm 121:7

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.    Romans 8:38-39

Wait on the Lord.  Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.  Wait, I say, on the Lord!    Psalm 27:14

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.  Prov. 15:13

Do not fret…because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only causes harm.    Psalm37: 7-8

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.    Romans 8:38-39

Those are the verses that have helped me get through those biscuit days.  And when the wheel turns, when you are back to being the big dog, always remember…

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.    Psalm 50:15

When I was finally pulling out of my nose dive, I made sure everyone knew that it was God Who brought me through it all.  As bruised and battered as I was, I gave credit and glory to God for preserving me, for preserving my soul.

God loves being leaned on.  He also loves to hear “Thank you!”

Quote for 03/05/2021

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.    Hebrews 4:12

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The naked dream. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? It’s all about panic, embarrassment, and being trapped – not in a place – but in a situation. There’s no way out but to wake up. If you can!

In the pure, bright, penetrating light of God’s Word we are more than naked. Our thoughts are laid bare. Our very essence, soul and spirit, is exposed. There’s no place to run or hide and no waking up. There’s only one thing to instead of crouching in terror. To borrow a movie quotation:

“It’s time to embrace the horror.”

Stand tall with your arms spread wide and call…no, make that scream for Jesus! God’s wrath will be poised to come thundering down on you for your sins, but if you have accepted Jesus and His loving salvation, the blow of punishment will halt. You couldn’t run from the Word. You shouldn’t.

The Word came running for you. And saved you!

Quote for 02/25/2021

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.    Galatians 2:20

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This is a verse I’ve read many times, but today the first phrase caught my attention: I have been crucified with Christ.

That is a spectacular thought! Then, in true Scripture-interprets-Scripture mode, I recalled Jesus’ prayer for His disciples and all believers in John 17:20-22 –

 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:

Through faith, we are one with Jesus. Even better, we are one with God Himself! Like said…spectacular!

While we did not physically hang on the cross with Jesus, in oneness with Him we share in that history just as, even though we didn’t eat the forbidden fruit with Adam and Eve, we share in that original sin, being hereditarily one with them.

But we no longer must live under that cloud of inherited sin or even our own personal sins. We are one with Jesus, one with God through faith.

Spectacular!