Remember when…

sch-supp3-Rockwell3.jpgDreams are strange things.  It’s amazing to think that some people allow them to guide their lives! But recently a dream made me stop and think about how much life has changed. I don’t believe any generation has seen as much change as those born between the late 1800s and early 1900s. My grandparents went from a childhood with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or automobiles, to watching a man land on the moon!  That’s pretty drastic! With the risk of sounding like an old geezer…

 

Do you remember…

  • Waiting for Saturday morning to watch cartoons,
  • When the Wonderful World of Disney seemed so impossibly far away,
  • Cigarette commercials,
  • When you ran to the refrigerator during commercials, (maybe you still do that! We only watch Netflix!),
  • Dad popping popcorn on the stovetop,
  • Mom heating up leftovers on the stovetop,
  • Mom bringing in the clothes, stiff as a board because they froze instead of drying, then stringing a line in the house to dry them because she had no dryer,
  • Mom sprinkling the clothes with water before she ironed them after she took them off the line to dry,
  • Eating a MacDonald’s hamburger for the first time at this new thing called a “fast food restaurant,”
  • Sitting at the A&W Drive-in with the tray hooked to the window,
  • Sitting in the car at the Drive-in theater in your pajamas with the speaker hooked to the window,
  • Waiting for a letter from a loved one far away,
  • Sending your film off to Clark to get it developed (and throwing half of the photos away!)
  • Waiting until the weekend or after nine o’clock to call because rates were cheaper,
  • Trying to talk to your sweetheart in the kitchen while everyone else “lived” because it was the only place in the house with a phone,
  • Party lines (for those of you who don’t: several different rings would come across your phone and if you happened to have someone on your line who wasn’t home a lot, you had to put up with their ring ringing incessantly, as well as the nosey neighbor who would pick up and listen to your conversation!)
  • Rotary dialing,
  • Telephone operators,
  • Sears Christmas catalog,
  • Chalkboards, the purple ink of a mimeograph machine, and eating your lunch in your classroom because there was no cafeteria, or gym, or auditorium. (I went to a very small elementary school where we walked to the kitchen to get our lunch and the first-grade room had a stage.)
  • The merry-go-round on the school playground,
  • Playing “King of the Mountain” on the huge pile of plowed snow at the end of the playground,
  • Lunchboxes,
  • Book bags,
  • Typing a paper on a typewriter and using the little white sheets of correction paper,
  • Looking up information in an encyclopedia,
  • The ponies at Knobels. (Sorry, had to throw that one in even though it’s a local memory!).

I could go on and on. Times have changed—some for the better, some for the worse—but it’s good to stop and remember. It’s been a good exercise listing all the changes, walking down memory lane, perhaps a little bittersweet and certainly full of a myriad of emotions. Doing so can sharpen our outlook on the day and cut away some of what we think is so important but is as changing as the next model of cell phones! Carpe Deum—seize the day! We only have the promise of the moment. That thought will either drive you into a frenzy of “make-me-happy” activities or, hopefully, cause you to stop and consider the importance of making this day count for Jesus Christ. That translates differently for each of us, but may you find your task—the one Jesus has prepared for YOU to do—and do it! Simple. Well, maybe not, but definitely doable! One far, far greater ended his quest for understanding with this:

  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

That works!

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God’s Timing

potiphars_wife-250w-tnJoseph is my favorite Bible character and is certainly a type of Christ. There is no record given in the Bible of any wrongdoing on his part, but he did do a lot of good. For example:

  • He was an obedient child, walking nearly sixty miles as a seventeen-year-old boy when his father told him to check on his brothers. (Just a side, I wonder about Jacob’s judgment. Certainly, he saw the envy and jealousy his older sons felt toward Joseph! Perhaps he trusted them more than he should have—a lesson within a lesson for us!)
  • God favored him with prophetic dreams. Twice, God predicts his future through dreams. Again, it may not have been wise to share those dreams with his brothers and father, but the fact that he did reveals a trusting heart.
  • As a slave in a foreign land, he does his work well, and God blesses even the heathen nobleman, Potiphar, because of Joseph.
  • He bears the flirtations of a married woman, never accusing her to anyone or setting a trap to malign her character, but flees when she seeks to trap him!
  • Now in prison, Joseph once again faithfully does what he is told to do—the work of another! He is not bitter with his God but proclaims Him when pharaoh’s butler and baker come with their dreams.

But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness,

I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:

For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews:

and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.

Genesis 40:14,15

However, the butler did not think upon Joseph or, if he did, he kept silent. I can understand his plight. He had offended pharaoh–so much so, that he was thrown into prison. I’m sure he was treading lightly. But two years later, hi confession tells us that he had forgotten Joseph.

Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day. Genesis 41:9

Have you ever felt forgotten? Does it feel as though your heavenly Father isn’t listening or paying attention? Ten years ago in March, Steam Valley Bible Church’s pastor resigned after 35 years of faithful service. In May, we moved into the area, but it wasn’t until November that we heard about the church’s need of a pastor. Within a few short weeks, we were called to this ministry. Through that time of wandering, we claimed this verse:

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day. Exodus 14:13

 It seemed like forever as we worked in a factory and lived in my uncle’s cabin, waiting to hear God’s next marching orders, but when it came it came quickly!

I often wonder why we couldn’t have skipped the summer and just went straight into this ministry! I still don’t know but God does! Yes, I can see reasons why the waiting was good. God certainly sharpened our entire family. It was a very difficult time, but God was directing the whole thing! The question seems to boil down to this: can I trust God to do what is best?

This weekend our ladies had a retreat, and the theme was The God of the Impossible. We studied the attributes of God. While putting together the devotional booklet, I came across a list of God’s attributes which included a synopsis of each attribute and proof texts. Here is the information about God’s attribute of goodness:

One of the most intrinsic attributes of God is His goodness. God is not good because it is attractive for Him to be so, nor does He follow after some sort of standard for goodness. God is actually so good that He is the source of goodness; He alone is the rule and measure of what we truly know to be good. To the Christian, the goodness of the Lord is a security. The Christian knows well that he has been bathed in the death and resurrection of Christ and now stands wholly righteous before God; and this being so, he also recognizes all that God will work in his life will be for his own good — for a good God would never work circumstances to the peril of the righteous. Romans 8:28 tells that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This is the believer’s rest and assurance. But not so for the unbeliever: the goodness of God demands all circumstances to work together for the bad of those rebellious and hateful towards God. God’s goodness will manifest itself in a wrathful justice against those who are defiled of holiness, for True goodness cannot abide evil.

PROOF TEXTS:

  • Exodus 34:6-7 — The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.
  • Psalm 25:8 — Good and upright is the Lord.
  • James 1:17 — Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

(www.blueletterbible.org/faq/attributes.cfm)

Somewhere along the way, Joseph had learned this truth and it served him well. It will serve us well too, especially when the way is dark and dreary with no end in sight! God IS good, His timing is perfect, and all the He is doing is for my good. Can you believe it?

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Preparing our children… for what?

What parent does not want to prepare their children for a bright and hopeful future? Sadly, there are those who are more consumed with meeting their own pleasures than preparing or even providing for their offspring, but I would tend to believe that most of my readers fall into the first category!

As I was reading Acts 21-22 this morning and then turning to my friend, Matthew Henry for his wonderful insights, several thoughts came to mind—one more than any:

“Every experience GOD gives us, every person HE puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie ten Boom

Acts is an exciting book of the Bible. It is a great book to study: learning where all the cities are which Paul visited, linking people and places together, understanding the related vicinities of towns and churches which were being established. All give a better understanding of Paul’s letters.

In Acts 21, he has returned to Jerusalem after his second missionary journey. (He made three such journeys before ending up in Rome.) There’s been some conflict with the Jewish believers concerning his teaching of the Gentiles, and he is now in Jerusalem to straighten things out. He has just been in the temple, completing a purification ritual with four other men, when some of the Jews from Asia spot him and stir up the crowd, to the point that Roman soldiers intervene and rescue Paul from probable death.

While extracting Paul from the mob and hauling him off to the garrison, Paul tells this centurion that he is a Roman. The soldier’s entire attitude changes. Instead of looking at Paul as a rabble rouser, he now looks at him as an equal; and when Paul tells him that he did not obtain Roman citizenship by purchasing it but is Roman born, the man’s respect is even greater.

Matthew Henry says this:

Some think he became entitled to this freedom by the place of his birth, as a native of Tarsus, a city privileged by the emperor with the same privileges that Rome itself enjoyed; others rather think it was by his father or grandfather having served in the war between Caesar and Antony, or some other of the civil wars of Rome, and being for some signal piece of service rewarded with a freedom of the city, and so Paul came to be free-born.

 

We don’t really know what Paul’s circumstances were which made him a Roman citizen, but could it be that a father or grandfather had forethought, knowing the great privileges of Roman citizenship, and made a point to serve in a war so that his children or grandchildren would have that privilege? Did Paul’s predecessor know that his son or grandson would be a great warrior for Jesus Christ and need that protection on more than one occasion? Probably not, but if the above scenario is true, that parent unknowingly was used by God to prepare His messenger!

It could also be that Paul’s patriarch was just doing the right thing1

“Every experience GOD gives us, Every person HE puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie ten Boom

How are you preparing your child to be successful? Where do you think he/she will need to be successful—in what area of his/her life?

Do you wonder what the benefit is for running a child to every sport practice, every dance lesson, and every social group?  All of these activities are fun and have developmental benefits, but will they prepare that child for a future that only God sees, especially when it interferes with biblical training?

The following is a quote from All the Gallant Men by Donald Stratton who was stationed on the battleship Arizona and is one of the few living survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. “We were ordinary men. What was extraordinary was the country we loved.”

That ‘Greatest Generation’ had something that we’ve lost in America: a strong spiritual foundation and direction. We have moved from a society where nearly everyone went to church to a generation which thinks that church doesn’t matter.  There’s a strange thing about church attendance. While it is true that attendance can be ritualistic and actually harmful when thought of as a merit for salvation, it seems impossible for a family to be truly on-fire for God while not attending church regularly. Why?

BECAUSE WHEN A FAMILY IS PLUGGED INTO GOD’S WORD AT HOME, THE SUPERNATURAL OUTCOME IS A DESIRE TO BE WITH GOD’S PEOPLE IN GOD’S HOUSE.

Only God knows the future our children will have to face, but the future doesn’t really matter. When we are consumed with giving our children all they can get concerning God and His Word, they will be prepared to face whatever their future holds!

For I know him, that he will command his children and hishousehold after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Genesis 18:19

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Did You Get What You Paid For?

We’ve all done it–saved a few dollars only to find that the product wasn’t what we really wanted. The boots were a great buy, but the first time you wore them in rainy weather your feet got wet! Disappointment and frustration come on the scene, and we’re angry with ourselves for being a penny wise and a pound foolish, and angry with the company for a faulty product albeit an excellent sales pitch!

And what about religion? Do we get what we expected, or are we disappointed with some aspect of our “religion?” I hesitate to use the word “religion” because it can mean so many things. Merriam-Webster defines it as (1) the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2)  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

Service, worship, commitment, devotion–each word requires action on our part, and yet they can also involve others: a pastor, song leader or worship team, a building, other believers. We need to stop and ask ourselves whether our disappointments and frustrations are because of others or ourselves. For example:

You battle with your kids all morning to get them to church, and then you sit in the car waiting for hubby to get himself ready. By the time the car is moving, tempers are hot, kids are cranky, and somewhere along the way, the Spirit of God has been doused by the caustic atmosphere. You get there late–no parking! You rush the kids to their classes, receiving a look from their teachers which you read as, “Can’t you get here on time?” When you finally get to your class, you don’t hear a thing and wonder why the pastor/teacher can’t be more effective.

Is the problem with your kids, hubby, teacher, pastor…or you? We recently watched a program about Queen Elizabeth II. In one episode, her sister, Princess Margaret, was told that parliament would not approve her plans to marry a divorced man. As queen, her sister also presided over the Church of England and needed to make a choice: would she uphold the doctrine of the church or sanction the marriage. 

Princess Margaret was faced with a choice: lose title and country by marrying the man she loved or step away from the relationship. She chose the latter and did eventually marry, but that marriage ended in divorce.

This is not a condemnation of Princess Margaret.  The circumstances surrounding her life are only known completely by her. But to blame her sister, or her uncle for abdicating–forcing her father to be king, or the common people for their sympathies, or Peter Townsend for being so friendly… it only hardens the heart; and there is just one root that enjoys the dusty soil of a hardened heart–the root of bitterness. It grows unseen by the owner of the hard heart and may stay dormant for years, secretly growing beneath the surface, but its fruit will show eventually. Sadly, the Princess’ life was full is heartache, sickness, and sin.

When we are quick to blame others, we are in danger making Romans 6:12 a reality in our lives.”Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” We can blame others, but there is no remedy for a hard heart there.

Back to our “religious” disappointment. Check why the disappointment is there. It may be legitimate.  You may have a pastor who doesn’t preach the Word. It could be that your church carries false doctrine on the books. You may have a program that is business-oriented instead of Christ-oriented. If so, then ask the Lord for His leading. But if the problem is within your own heart, there’s only one way to fix that! Surrender to God’s Word.

John 10:27 says, “For my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

We have a wonderful Shepherd! Not all religions can say that! They demand so much and offer only lies! Our Shepherd KNOWS us. But this verse also sheds light on our part: Do we hear His voice? Going back to our late-to-church scenario, the question or challenge is: Can you lay aside all the frustration of a morning gone wild and surrender to the message from the less-than-perfect preacher? Can you put aside the cares and worries of the day and spend time alone with God… “my sheep hear my voice.”

And then there’s another admonition: “and they follow me.” Listening is never enough. Following is the key to routing out bitterness or whatever we are harboring which will hinder the work of the Holy Spirit.  As Martin Luther said, “Keep a short account with God!”

You get what you pay for.  Thankfully, we pay nothing for our salvation!  It’s been paid in full, and it is a perfect salvation offered by a perfect Savior.  His church is not perfect, but we can make our part as spot-free as is humanly possible! Then the question becomes, “Did Jesus get what He paid for?”

 

Tracks in the Snow

Pepper, our eleven-year-old black Cocker Spaniel is my walking partner. In any other season, she is also my protector. It’s a comfort to have her along as I walk back our country road when bears are lurking about. I’m not sure how I think she would protect me, but it’s a mental mirage that I have.1214160820

Recently, we had a beautiful, fluffy snowfall and I knew we needed to walk. The morning was picture perfect: blue sky, nip in the air, and chilly temperature. The snow was clinging to every branch and weed. This one was really doing its part!

When we reached the end of our road, storm clouds were gathering in the west, but the sun was still shining in the eastern dawn. The effect was stunning:1214160821c

It’s such a peaceful spot, and I couldn’t help put praise God for the beauty of His creation and His loving kindness in allowing me to be here.

On our way home, I happened to notice our tracks. I’ve noticed this before as Pepper tugs at her leash, nose to the ground, dashing to and fro!

 

1214160822We leave two very different sets of tracks. While on our walks, mine are the straight and steady ones. Hers zigzag back and forth across the road! But I have to wonder if my “life” tracks are more like hers as I zigzag back and forth on little rabbit trails of life. I can so easily be sidetracked off of God’s purpose for my life! Does my heavenly Father look down and wonder at my trail? As I tug against the restraints that He has graciously put upon my life—safeguards against disaster—does He tire of my tugs? No, never. What an amazing, loving God we serve! His patience is incomprehensible!

One of my goals for 2017 is to “keep in the middle of the road.” Our church men sing this African-American Spiritual every so often. Its message is clear—as clear as tracks in the snow!1214160823

Children, keep in the middle of the road
Children, keep in the middle of the road
Don’t you look to the right
Don’t you look to the left
Just keep in the middle of the road.

I hear those angels a calling loud
Keep in the middle of the road
They’s a standin’ there in a great big crowd
Keep in the middle of the road.

Chorus:
Then children, keep in the middle of the road
Children, keep in the middle of the road
Don’t you look to the right
Don’t you look to the left
Just keep in the middle of the road
In the middle of the road
In the middle of the road.

I can see them standing around a big white gate
We must travel along before it gets too late
For it ain’t no use for to sit down and wait
Just keep in the middle of the road.

I ain’t got time for to stop and talk
Keep in the middle of the road
‘Cause the road is long and it’s hard for to walk
Keep in the middle of the road.

I’ll fix my eye on the golden stair
And I’ll keep on a goin’ till I get there
Cause my head am bound that crown for to wear
Just keep in the middle of the road.

When your feet get tired and your song don’t sing
Don’t look at the world full of sinful things
Don’t lay down in the road for to die
Put on your wings and get up and fly.

 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13,14

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A Shepherd’s Tale

maxresdefaultThe shepherds play an important role in the Christmas story. Of all the people near Bethlehem on the night Christ was born, it was the shepherds who received the heavenly proclamation. Recently, our son brought out an interesting perspective on their visit to see Jesus on His birthday:

To this point, how much encouragement had Mary received concerning her circumstances? How many folks watched in disdain as Mary and Joseph left Nazareth, thinking the worst of this couple? The journey was difficult, and we know that she was “great with child.” (Our first son was born on January 14th. So that Christmas, we didn’t even make the two-hour journey by car to visit family!)

Mary and Joseph knew that she was carrying the Son of God, but delivering Him in a stable–I’m sure whatever ideas they had concerning the birth of their Savior, it didn’t include barn animals and a manger! Had they failed their God?

Then enters the shepherds, proclaiming that an angel had told them everything and that his description was EXACTLY as they saw: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger! WOW! We may never receive such affirmation when we doubt our way, but our heavenly Father KNOWS the purpose for every disappointment or circumstance which seems like a failure to us but is actually a part of His divine will for our lives.

The following is an excerpt from Bond Brothers, my latest book about Philemon and Onesimus. I’ve always been fascinated by the shepherds.  What happened to them after that night? Did any of them become believers, see Jesus on the cross, hear of His resurrection?

This is just the account of one writer with an overactive “sanctified” imagination! Merry Christmas!

And there are also many other things

which Jesus did, the which,

if they should be written every one,

 I suppose that even the world itself

could not contain the books

that should be written. Amen.

John 21:25

 

 

Joram walked silently down the road to the inn. Lately, there had been some trouble. He frowned as he thought about the Pharisees and their determination to destroy The Way. If only God would change all of their hearts as He had Saul of Tarsus!

He felt certain that the man at the inn was a Gentile, and he looked wealthy. No wonder the Pharisees are worried, he mused. God was doing some mighty strange things. But the most amazing work was that He was opening the hearts of more than just Jews!

As he neared the inn, he headed to the back of the building and knocked: one knock, then two quick taps, and then another knock, and the door opened swiftly. As quiet as a mouse, he slipped in.

“Welcome, my friend,” the innkeeper named Solomon greeted. He patted the older man on the shoulder and motioned him to the front room, empathetic to the dear man’s bent frame. He waited by the door until all had entered, and then looked covertly for anyone who might be watching. He closed the door when he was satisfied that they had not been seen.

They talked in hushed tones, but Philemon had heard them through the floor—probably because he had been straining to do so! He looked at Onesimus, “You may come or stay. It is your choice.”

Onesimus’ brow furrowed. He did not have any interest in the matter, but he did not want to disappoint his master. “I’ll go.”

Quietly, they made their way to the front room, feeling like intruders until they were greeted by the men. Two that sat near the stairway rose and greeted them warmly. “Come, we are so glad that you have joined us.”

After introductions were made, the two newcomers were seated among the group. All eyes turned to Joram. “So, you said that you heard Paul. What brings you to Judea?”

Philemon looked around the group. They were obviously Jewish, and he wondered once again if he had made a mistake, but he plunged ahead. He gave a brief description of his life and family and then continued to tell them about his encounter with Paul. “Paul spoke of the Unknown God. He told us that he sent his son and that he died and rose again. Is that true?”

Heads nodded around the circle.

Philemon searched each face, “But have you seen him?”

This time a few nodded, but they looked to Joram to speak.

The man looked older than time itself. His eyes fixed upon Philemon and then Onesimus, making the younger man squirm. “How old are you, son?” he asked.

Onesimus looked surprised that he would speak to him instead of his master. “Twenty-six, sir.”

Joram nodded slowly, a smile crinkling his already wrinkled face. “I was twenty-three when I first saw Him.”

The others grunted and nodded, obviously enjoying the well-worn tale that was about to unfold.

“I will never forget it, that night in the fields of Bethlehem. It was my turn to tend the sheep, and I remember trying to finagle my way out of it.” He shook his head. “That would have been the biggest mistake of my life.”

Everyone sat on the edge of his seat, waiting for the story to continue.

“It was an absolutely brilliant night. The stars were shining so brightly that night—more stars than I had ever seen. Something seemed different somehow—a tension or excitement in the air. Even the sheep seemed restless. Then he came.”

“Praise Jehovah,” someone shouted, and was soon hushed by the others.

“The son of God?” Philemon asked.

The men just looked at him, as though they had forgotten that he was there.

Joram smiled, “No, my son. The angel of the Lord!” He stopped, relishing the memory.

“Tell him what he said, Joram,” one of the others urged.

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Philemon looked on, trying to comprehend what the man was saying. “You mean the son of this God was born in a stable?”

All heads nodded.

“That makes no sense. Are you sure you heard him right?” Philemon asked impatiently.

Joram’s face grew serious. “We did, because after the host of heaven appeared praising God, we decided to go and see for ourselves.” He stopped as though that was enough.

“And?” Philemon asked,   urg-

ing him to continue.

“He was there, just as they said He would be!”

Philemon shook his head. “A stable? The son of God was born in a stable?”

“Yes, my son.”

“But that makes no sense,” Philemon again demanded.

“It makes perfect sense if you know the Son,” Micah countered.

“Well, obviously I do not.” He sighed in frustration. “I have never been a religious man. Certainly, I thank the gods for rain and sun and good crops. In fact, I was in Athens partly to offer sacrifices on my wife’s behalf. But I live my life, and they live theirs.”

“Then why did you come here seeking answers?” Joram asked quietly.

“I just…” Philemon thought for a moment. “I cannot seem to get Paul’s words out of my head.”

“You have heard Paul speak,” one man asked incredulously.

Philemon only nodded.

Judah smiled. “That is Jehovah’s Spirit drawing you to Himself. Do not ignore it my friend. You have been given a great gift.”

“But why would God want to have anything to do with my life?” Philemon felt uneasy with the statement.

“He wants you to know Him and to love Him,” Joram said softly.

“But if He is God, then why does not He just make me love Him?”

Joram’s eyes were full of com- passion as he spoke. “You said you have five sons. Truly God has been good to you. Tell me, would it mean more to you for your son to come to you and express his love to you on his own; or would it mean more if he came because you made him do so?”

Philemon’s face softened as the truth of the statement deflated his argument. “I suppose the answer is obvious.” His eyes traveled from one face to the next until they locked with Onesimus. The young man seemed to be mocking him, questioning him for meeting with these men. He sat up straighter. “So, where do I go to give sacrifices to this Unknown God?”

The old shepherd sat quietly for a moment staring deeply into Philemon’s eyes. Behind the brisk question, which he knew was given to regain his composure, there was an uncertainty—a longing. “In here, my son,” Joram said as he reached out a gnarled finger and tapped Philemon’s tunic. As much as he wished to take this man completely to the truth, he could sense that the spirit of doubt was pervading the man’s heart. “Keep searching and you will come to the truth.”

The way home was a silent one. Philemon’s heart was in a turmoil, and he longed to talk to the men again; but they had all gone to parts unknown, and it was time for him to head home. He thought back to the evening’s conversation: the incredible story of the supposed Son of God’s birth, the excitement and peace he read on each face, the loving look given to him by the old shepherd, and then the mocking look that Onesimus had given him. Perhaps he had read Onesimus wrong last night. Leading their mounts to a shady spot beside a stream, Philemon dismounted and pulled a loaf of bread from his satchel. Onesimus soon joined him on a grassy spot near the cool water.

“So what do you think of the Unknown God?” Philemon ventured, casting a sideways glance Onesimus’ way.

Onesimus shrugged, picked up a stone, and tossed it into the water. “Why would a God choose to be unknown? How can your peons worship you if they do not know you?”

“True.” He could tell by the young man’s tone that he was not interested, yet he pushed on. “But do you not have any desire to understand all this?”

Onesimus sat a bit straighter, his eyes dark. “If there is a God that has any dealings with my life, then why did he take away my family and make me a slave?” The last word was spat forth like poison as he rose and went to tend the horses.

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Simple Salvation

7c184c6b470382e2316ea5f848b94cc1The prayer of salvation is as simple as the words ‘I do’ spoken on your wedding day. Those two simple words are spoken in response to the reciting of the traditional wedding vows:

“I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

Simple, right? I remember witnessing a Christian wedding where the bride’s eyes flared when her husband of just a few minutes smashed the wedding cake in her face, and rightly so! Barbaric tradition! The old sayings, “Actions speak louder than words,” or “Easier said than done” can be applied to both the wedding vows and the prayer of salvation.

The prayer of salvation only comes after a person has understood their need for a Savior. The realization, that sin is in the heart and will keep us from heaven, is coupled with the other understanding: hell is real, and we cry out to our Savior for help and deliverance. If the decision is made flippantly or without understanding, when the going gets tough we quit. We are ridiculed for standing for right—going to church regularly, tithing, getting scripturally baptized, leaving a non-biblical church—and we forsake our words because they were just that: merely words.

It’s no wonder that God uses the marriage relationship as a prototype of His relationship with His church. Marriage is filled with blessings and trials, joys and sorrows, victories and defeats; and all this has to happen while being intrinsically involved with another person!  You both carry the ball to the finish line—together!

Jesus says,

“I, Jesus, take you, dear child  for my lawful child/bride, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, and death is only the beginning!”

Can we make the same vow?

 “I, ___, take you, Jesus, for my lawful Lord/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, knowing that death will only bring us face to face!”

Do I work to keep my marriage working? ABSOLUTELY YES!! Do I work to keep my salvation? ABSOLUTELY NO! I work for Jesus because of all He’s done for me!

This Christmas, take another look at your walk and talk. Does it reflect what is in your heart? If the answer is “yes,” then you have your assurance of salvation! In the Old Testament tabernacle, the Shekinah glory hovered over the Holy of Holies, showing God’s presence. Now, we are the tabernacle or temple of God. The Shine on the inside WILL come out!

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:12-14