Bible Expert?

12733-Bible_Devotional_Coffee.800w.tnHow well do you know your Bible? Does it make a difference in your daily reading, if you know who Benjamin is or what the Thummin and Urim are? Do you care to know?

I’m reading through the Bible again this year with the help of a Bible app on my phone. It’s a wonderful tool.  Sometimes I just let the guy with the British accent read it. Other times, I need to read it a bit more slowly to get God’s message for me!

I often tell my piano students that theory is like knowing that “cat” is a noun.  It may not help you read better, but it makes more sense.  To know that “C-E-G” makes a C chord may not help you to play better, but it makes more sense; and in the end, I really believe that it will help you to play better.

So, will I understand the Bible better if I know who Benjamin is, or what the Thummin and Urim are? Will it make a difference if I know that Galatia is an area and not a city? Will it help my understanding of the Bible to understand Jewish traditions? For example, Paul probably found Lydia and the Philippian believers meeting at the river side because Jewish law required ten men to form a congregation! Now I see a small group.  I understand the faithfulness of those women to gather even though they had little male leadership.  It comforts me, as a woman, to know that even if our congregation has a lot of women, it’s okay! We can still accomplish God’s plan.(even if men aren’t available or willing to lead, God still works with women.)

Do you study the Bible?  Are you taking time to understand it better? Will that understanding help you to apply it more effectively to your life? I think so. 

We have so many Bible helps at our fingertips.  We have pastors that are faithfully preaching and teaching us the Bible. Are you taking advantage of all those opportunities? 

When our children were in Christian school, everyone had to take Physics.  Our daughter really struggled with it, and, night after night, her father would sit at the kitchen table helping her with her homework. It frustrated me because her piano practicing often was put on hold because of Physics. Which subject do you think she uses more today as she plays the piano every Sunday for church? Struggling with Physics taught her diligence and perseverance, but the example I’d like to share is this: What subject is taking your time away from studying the Bible? Are you an expert cook, clothing designer,  bargain shopper, sports enthusiast, chauffeur for the kids, TV show fanatic, party attender? Does time for your favorite or necessary interest overshadow the greater need?

As my husband often says, “What will matter the most one hundred years from now?”  That statement has a way of putting everything into perspective!

O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep… Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God… They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing. Psalm 92:5,13,14

Advertisements

Do I Love My Mother?

Lovely-Happy-Mother-Day-2016-Wallpapers-PicturesThis is really a challenge to mothers. I’m listening to Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and the main character just confessed to a friend that she doesn’t like her mother, never did. The following is an excerpt from the book:

 

“Why,”—she [Valency] had a desperate desire that Barney should know the worst about her–“I didn’t even love my mother. Isn’t it awful that I don’t love my mother?”

“Rather awful–for her,” said Barney drily.

The statement made me stop and think. Why was it awful for her mother?

Children come into this world with no bias, no presuppositions, no prejudices. They will become what God plans for their lives, and we have the opportunity to mold them. As believers, we desperately want our children to love God and desire to keep His commandments, so we take them to Sunday School and church.  We read the Bible to them, and most importantly, we live godly lives before them.

My husband and I have three grown and married children. All of them have this mindset, and yet they worry that their children will not embrace their beliefs. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I tell them that THEIR HEART’S LOVE AND PASSION FOR THE LORD is making all the difference.  Are my grandchildren perfect? Of course. J No, they are all little sinners, but to hear them talk about God already at a young age, and see their faithfulness to church warms my heart and gives me hope. It’s a reflection of what is happening in the home!

Will a child hate a sweet, godly, submissive, gentle, kind, caring mother? Most likely, no. Even in the trials of teen years, the stage will have been set for a loving relationship: communication is normal, reasoning is biblical, decisions are made together with the parents. There is little room for hatred.

In the book, Blue Castle, the reader can clearly understand Valancy’s dislike. Moms, can we be honest enough to look in the mirror and see what our children are seeing? Better yet, can we be honest enough to look in the mirror of the Bible and see what God sees?

Wanda!  This is not very encouraging for Mother’s Day! Oh, my friend, but it is! You can’t do this apart from the Holy Spirit’s help, coupled with a desire to change! I know a mother’s heart. What is most pressing on a mother’s heart? Hopefully, it is to please her Lord and Savior, but the close second is to raise her children right! Will you be willing to change to become a better mom? It isn’t easy! It hurts! It can be a lonely place until we get serious about the issues that are making it difficult for our children to like us.  They will always love us, but do they like us? Oh, the blessings will abound when we are willing to become more Christ-like!

Little by little, inch by inch.

By the yard it’s hard, by the inch it’s a cinch.

Never stare up the stairs, just step up the steps.

Little by little, inch by inch.

~ Ron Hamilton

 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Bug Zapping Theology

Electric-Bug-Zapper-612x630Americans are very creative in their ways to destroy pests. We don’t simply use mouse traps or just poison them anymore. We can catch them on sticky stuff and then…? I’m not sure what happens. Do you have to kill them or just let them starve or suffocate to death in the trash can? We are also creative with our flying insect destruction. Ah yes, we use fly swatters and practice our aim until we can get “seven in one blow.”  But look where that got Mickey Mouse!  Then there’s the roll of sticky stuff, which is placed by the door so flies get stuck there instead of coming in for a visit. What a wonderful sight to welcome guests!

We starve the flies on sticky rolls, poison them with spray, try to keep them out with screens, but my favorite is the bug-zapper. How soothing it is to sit on a patio with the sound of bugs frying in the background!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bug lover.  I know they have their purposes, but I do wonder if they are a part of creation or the curse.

It’s interesting how the bug-zapper works. The light attracts the unsuspecting bug who thinks it is just going to get warm. Boy, does it get warm! Little does it know that it is in mortal danger!  It can’t see all the fried carcasses stuck to the thing.  It doesn’t smell sizzling critters, and it is not hearing the zap! It is just following the instinct of all Diptera ( the scientific name for flying insects. FYI: the scientific name for Praying Mantis is Mantis religiosa!)

So, what’s the point? Why the title “Bug Zapping Theology?” What is Bug Zapping theology? So glad you asked!

Bug Zapping Theology deceives its followers into thinking that they are following the True Light: Jesus Christ. It is so dangerous for the same reasons a Bug Zapper is lethal–it kills!

Whether it is a false leader who has convinced its followers to blindly follow his cult, or a seemingly upstanding religious pastor or priest who is watering down the Bible, both can be eternally dangerous!

How do you know if you are being deceived? Here are some guidelines for avoiding false teaching:

  • Check the Bible. If someone is teaching a doctrine that runs against the grain of the Bible, it is a false doctrine. In this day and age, EVERYTHING is being questioned. Even the Ten Commandments aren’t excluded from the scrutiny. For example, commandment number four: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. What does that mean? The Bible is certainly open for many applications, but only one interpretation. When the application says that attending church is not part of keeping the Sabbath holy, we are on dangerous ground. Sadly, many ignore the warning signs of false doctrine for various reasons: family and cultural traditions, feel-good and bandwagon mentality…
  • Check the Bible.
  • Check the Bible.

Why am I so adamant about this? Ask yourself this question: Where is the best place to go for information about God, eternity, morality, etc.? Doesn’t it make sense to check the Book that was written by God? Better yet, don’t just check it–read it!

  • Check your heart. Ask a few questions concerning basic beliefs, like: What do I have to do to get to heaven? Many people say, “Receive forgiveness of my sins by believing that Jesus died for me.” This is the correct answer as long as you don’t add anything to it. You may word it differently, but the idea is the same. For example, Believe that Jesus died for my sins, and be baptized, join a church, do my best, be good, pay my dues… If we add anything to the blood of Jesus, we are saying that His Crucifixion and Resurrection were not enough to take away my sin! It’s sad to me how many people are being duped by charlatans–false lights!
  • Watch out for “easy-believism.” What’s that? It comes in all shapes and size, such as salvation without a knowledge of sin. Can we truly be saved from sin if we do not know or believe that we are sinners? the philosophy of “Come as you are”  opens the door to all, which is a good thing, but “stay as you are” means that salvation never made a difference, and it should! “Just give your heart to Jesus.” Sometimes folks are urged to do this with no explanation or understanding. Then it becomes no more than a good gesture, like giving someone a cookie.
  • Check your life. Did your decision to trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior change your life? We hate to ask this because of “Check your Heart!” We’re afraid of being legalistic–adding anything to simple belief for salvation. But life DOES change once we are born-again! I’m not talking about putting more gas in the tank, I’m talking about dropping a brand-new engine into a dead car! It would NOT move before, but now it has motion.  It was useless–now it has a purpose. It may have been comfortable, but really, who wants to sit in a beautiful car that can’t take you anywhere? Jesus Christ cannot abide in your heart and NOT affect your life.
  • Be discerning. We can’t follow our feelings.  Sometimes, we can’t even trust our leaders!  That’s scary! But poor council keeps folks enslaved to false religions. If you are in this situation and you feel there is no one to turn to, turn to God! He never goes against His Word!
  • Be prayerful. Praise God, He will ALWAYS answer when we humbly seek His face!

Sadly, as we see the day of our Lord’s return approaching, the deception grows stronger every day!

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

But take heart! John 8:32 is still in the Bible:

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

As a child, I believed in God and that Jesus died for me.  I faithfully attended church, sang in the choir, and played the organ.  But I had never prayed and asked Jesus to save me until I was seventeen.  Would I have gone to hell if I had died before then? I believe so, but I’m so thankful that I didn’t have to find out! If you have any questions, check out God’s Simple Plan of Salvation. It’s important enough to get right–all eternity depends upon it!

 

Cuckoo Heaven

cuckooDoes it get any better than this: sitting here in my living room, looking out the triple pane window and watching the finches and various other birds come swooping into the feeder as I have my devotions? The sun is shining, the trees are budding, and my cuckoo clock is happily ticking.

Now, if you are a long-time reader, you may remember some posts about my cuckoo clock craze. My first clock came from my husband’s great uncle’s home where it hung silent for years.  It was a carved hunter’s clock, which means that it had a large racked buck at the top, a dead rabbit and bird hanging on either side of the front, and a hunting horn circling the clock face. It wasn’t my pick but I loved it, prayed over it, fixed it, and for, twenty years, God graciously blessed my feeble efforts and kept it ticking! Praise Jehovah-jireh!

But, alas, it died. It was beyond repair.  We even took it to Ye Old Clock Shoppe in Dallas, PA. (If you need to have a clock fixed, this man knows his clocks! The store could be a field trip; it’s that interesting… well, to clock-lovers!)

Long story short, I bought a new clock. Now, for a short marital finance lesson—don’t have “my money—your money” attitudes. If both husband and wife work, then the money pays the bills together. We broke that rule in one area: my books. I’ve kept any monies that I’ve received from my books sales into a separate account.  I’m not sure why; I believe mostly just to be able to be encouraged.  Lest you think I’m “rolling in the dough,” self-publishing is a tough road. It’s “me, myself, and I” when it comes to the process of writing, designing, and particularly selling books. However, that said, I used some of that fund to purchase a new cuckoo clock.

Maybe it’s my German heritage, but I’ve loved cuckoo clocks since I was a child. I remember standing in front of my aunt’s clock as she turned the minute hand to make the bird sing! Thrilled! Some may think I’m crazy to spend, what is to me, a sizeable amount to get my clock, but from the moment I opened the box, straight from Germany, my heart thrilled!

Such a materialistic person! Well, to quote my dear friend Tweety-bird, “You don’t know me verwe well!” Remember, I’m a pastor’s wife, and while we live very comfortably, we’ve always been frugal. Also, I’m married to a lovable, sweet, and charming “bean counter!”

So, is there a point to this babbling? Well, it is the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday. Yes, Satan has already whispered in my ear that I love my clock too much, but may I say…

“All that thrills my soul is Jesus!”

This clock has brought me great joy.  It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and ear, but not the soul! It is not a sin to enjoy nice things until our souls begin to crave those things more than our Savior. He alone brings peace and lasting joy—joy which lasts throughout the ages!

So, I’m content.  My cuckoo is once again ticking merrily in my home, reminding me that every second is precious, not to be wasted. J Each tick helps me to …. “number [my] days, that [I] may apply [my] heart unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Many Judases

The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born. Mark 14:21

In just a few days the horrific yet wonderful story of Jesus’ last days on earth will end in glory, and we will celebrate His omnipotent victory over death.  Jesus is very much alive!  He has conquered death. But where is Judas? Judas Iscariot is dead. Who was Judas? What do we know about this man?

Here are the facts that we can gather from scripture:

  • Iscariot tells us that he probably lived in the area of Kerioth in southern Judaea
  • His father’s name was Simon
  • Luke 6:16 calls him a traitor—that he became a traitor
  • John 17:12 labels him as the “Son of perdition” which means he is identified as a man destined for eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire.
  • Several passages allude to the fact that Judas was the treasurer and a thief.

Judas was progressive.  We don’t know what he thought when Jesus chose him as one of the twelve; however, Jesus’ ministry was already flourishing and it could be that Judas saw it as an opportunity to improve his situation. While all the other disciples were disillusioned into thinking that Jesus was about to usher in His Kingdom, it may be that, as time went on, Judas began to believe differently. It seems as though Mary’s gift was the last straw. All this waste—money that didn’t make it into his purse!

Whatever the reasoning for Judas’ hard heart, he betrayed the One who would die for him, rejected God’s precious gift, and took his own life.

“… good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

 Jesus’ words are haunting. What a strong statement, and yet it can still be applied to people today. If we continue in this life, seeking our own way, our own salvation through personal beliefs or the beliefs of false religions, it would be better if we had not been born! Why? Because any other belief will take our souls to hell, and Jesus knew this! Perhaps His greatest suffering on the cross was the realization that so many would still spend eternity in hell, in spite of His ultimate sacrifice!

As our world becomes more diverse, it seems too intolerant to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Can all the other religions of the world be wrong? Here’s a thought that might stretch you a bit.  Bear with me!

When this world was destroyed by the worldwide flood, eight people disembarked from the ark. Every one of those people knew the one true God and saw His incredible power, but just one hundred years later, they had forgotten Jehovah’s instructions for a blood sacrifice and were building a tower to God—an amazing symbol of man’s efforts to reach God by his own design. They scattered, and instead of taking the truth about the one true God with them, they chose to be smarter than God and make their own gods.

“… good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

The truth is always available to anyone who seeks it. Did Judas have a choice or opportunity to embrace Christ instead of betraying Him? Absolutely! Any person who has taken a breath has that opportunity. If you doubt the truth about Jesus Christ, will you consider this: He died in your place! If you want to read more, here’s a wonderful story that may help to make everything clear, and here’s is the Gospel, plain and simple. May it not be said of you, dear reader…

“… good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

When we leave our hearts and mind open and empty of God’s Holy Spirit, we are just as susceptible to Satan as Judas was.

Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.     Luke 22:3

Desperate vs. Curious

p_0006As Jesus was approaching Jericho, He and his followers pass by Bartimaeus, a blind man who sat by the road begging. When he was told that it was Jesus passing by, he cried out even louder. The disciples told him to be quiet, but he couldn’t be silenced. Prior to this meeting, Jesus had dealt with so many people: the children whom the disciples also tried to turn away, the rich young ruler who would not give up his riches to follow the Master, Lazarus whom He raised from the dead, and James and John who asked to sit next to Jesus in the Kingdom Age. All the while, He tells his disciples of the upcoming events, but they do not understand.

The religious leaders are scheming, the people are gathering in Jerusalem for this Holy Passover week, and Jesus takes the time to hear the plea of yet another blind man. This man not only receives his physical sight, but he receives spiritual sight as well.

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.Luke 18:43

A desperate man, seeking sight and finding eternal life through the Son of God. Even though the crowd wanted to push Bartimaeus away, he continued his desperate quest and is even now with Jesus for all eternity!

Lesson: How desperate am I to know Jesus, to see His way more clearly, to have my focus be 20/20 on Christ? Will I seek Him even when others think I’m strange for being so desperate to “see” Him better?

Jesus met Bartimaeus on his way into Jericho, and while walking through Jericho, he finds another man–a curious man named Zacchaeus. As we all know, Zacchaeus was a wee little man, only about four inches high. (Just kidding, but isn’t that the motions we usually do with our fingers?) He was curious, and his curiosity led him up a tree and to Jesus because Jesus was also looking for him! We have a little more information about Zacchaeus than we do about Bartimaeus. When the others criticize Jesus for eating with sinners, Zacchaeus tells about his heart change. How do we know that his heart change was genuine? Because we read of a tax collector restoring what he had stolen! Only a heart touched by God could do that! If this study compared Zacchaeus with the rich young ruler, we would see another obvious contrast: the rich young ruler allowed his love for money to rule his decision, but Zacchaeus had found a better Master!

Desperate vs. Curious–could either of these adjectives be used to describe you? Are you desperate for a changed life? Jesus says, “Come.”  Are you curious about Jesus? Do you know someone who seems to really know God while you only think of Him on occasion?

When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I must admit it was out of curiosity. A young man from Bible College had sent me a Gospel tract in a letter. I was curious because we had talked about God, and he had left the church denomination that I was in—not only in but pursuing a career as an organist! As I read the tract, I heard myself saying, “I believe that too,” in a somewhat defiant voice. But when the tract spoke of asking Jesus to be my Savior, I realized that I had never done that.  God took my curious heart and washed it white as snow through the blood of His Son!

No matter the reason for your seeking, Jesus can answer the call of your heart!

Holy Week

holyweekThis week is a very special time for born-again believers. Even those who are not Christians will recognize the week in various ways. Religious people may spend more time at their churches.  Folks might purchase chocolate bunnies and Easter candy, never giving any thought to the real sufferings of Jesus Christ or His redeeming resurrection.

He lives! And His last week while here on earth was filled with many events, interaction with others, and timeless truths to embrace.

I don’t usually post every day, but for the rest of the week, I hope to do just that–each day concentrating on a different character. I hope this little group of posts will be a blessing to you as you aim to focus on our risen Savior!

Tomorrow, we will begin by comparing two individuals who met Jesus while on his way to Jerusalem. But after looking back to the events prior to  Jesus’ meeting with one of these characters, blind Bartimaeus, I found a lesson! So, let’s back up a bit and recap all that has happened in Mark 10 leading up to our passage.

  1. Vs. 1 – 12: Jesus is teaching the people when the Pharisees ask him about divorce.
  2. Vs. 13 – 14: “Suffer the little children” passage, which begins with these words: “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased.”
  3. Vs.17 – 27: Rich young ruler passage, which ends with the camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle comparison. Jesus ends the discourse with, “for with God all things are possible.”
  4. Vs. 28 – 31: Peter declares that they have left all to follow Jesus, and Jesus assures him of rewards in heaven.
  5. Vs. 32 – 34: While on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples what will soon happen.  He would be:
    • Delivered unto the chief priests and scribes
    • They would condemn him to death
    • They would deliver him to the Gentiles
    • He would be mocked, scourged, spit upon
    • They would kill him
    • He would rise the third day
  6. Vs. 35 – 45: James and John ask to sit next to Jesus in the Kingdom age and the ten are grumbling. Jesus answers by telling them to have servant’s hearts.
  7. Vs.46 – 52: The healing of blind Bartimaeus

I’m not certain of the timeframe for all these events, but we do know that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with His disciples.  He also knows what else will happen; however, the disciples have no clue. Whether the Father blinded their eyes or they were blinded by their own agendas, they completely missed what Jesus is saying. You can see that He tells them in great detail what will happen! We know because it is all recorded in the Bible, but these were future events, and, sadly, the disciples have formulated in their minds other plans for Jesus.

Last evening, we participated in a Seder meal, the Passover meal observed this evening by Jewish people all over the world. It was very fascinating and informative.  Much of this Old Testament ritual points to the Messiah’s coming; in fact,’ Jewish people believe that the Messiah will return during Passover and faithfully look for Him every year.  The last words spoken at the end of the Seder refer to a hope that they will celebrate Passover in Jerusalem next year, which would mean Messiah came and ushered in His Kingdom.

So, when the disciples are heading to Jerusalem, they truly believe that this is the year, Jesus is the Messiah, and that the Kingdom age will begin… now! Jesus would show Himself to be the King of kings and overthrow Rome’s tyranny! Certainly, Sunday’s palm entrance would only solidify their thoughts! When you keep this thought in mind, everything takes on a different understanding:

  • Peter’s promise to never forsake Jesus—of course, he wouldn’t, they would be in the Kingdom age ruling together!
  • Their lack of urgency in the garden—such excitement would have exhausted them, and prayer seemed unnecessary.
  • Their overwhelming amazement at the cross—this was NOT supposed to be happening!
  • Even James’ and John’s quest for top rank makes more sense because in their minds it was happening immediately!

Here we are, 2,000 years later, still looking for our Messiah and Savior to return and begin  His clock to ticking again. We’ve been “stuck” in the church age for 2,000 years! Do you hope for His return to be soon, or are you comfortable in your little world just the way it is? It’s a good question to ask to gain a clearer perspective on reality—God’s reality!

As I sit here typing, knowing that the Jewish Passover is this evening, I wonder, what if this was the night that Jesus returned? Depending on our age, our thoughts go several different directions:

  • Teens—But I want to get married and have children
  • Young Adults—But I want to see my children grow up
  • Middle Age—But I want to see my grandchildren grow up
  • Older—Come ahead, dear Jesus!  I’ve lived my life and I’m ready to go!

Granted, I’m fast approaching the last category, but may I share some really good news for every age? Look at the following timeline:

  1. Rapture – this is the next event on God’s eternal clock
  2. Great Tribulation (seven years) – for the unsaved, this is really bad news. There will be so much deception and horror in these seven years (especially the last 3 ½) that no one would survive if God did not keep it short! (Matt. 24:22), but believers will be with Jesus in heaven!
  3. Battle of Armageddon – which isn’t really a battle because Jesus just speaks and the wicked are destroyed (interesting opposite to God speaking everything into existence at Creation!)
  4. KINGDOM AGE (MILLENNIUM) – One thousand years here on earth under Jesus’ earthly reign! We will be here! So, if you are afraid of the Rapture, don’t be! You will be trading in a few years on this sinful earth for a thousand years in a Christ-ruled world before entering into eternity! Hallelujah!

So, what’s the point? Well, there are several. First, as I look at Mark 10, and mentally follow Jesus just days before his suffering, I’m challenged with several thoughts:

Am I as blinded to Jesus’ true agenda for my life as the disciples were?

Am I a challenge or blessing to my Lord? Does the way I’m living my life please Him, or am I being short-sighted?

Open our eyes, LORD!

Second, am I looking for His coming?

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8

May this week change each of us to walk just a little closer, a little more circumspectly, and a bit more focused on the One who suffered so much for each of us!