Ephemeral Hope

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I think, at least for some of us, hope is an ephemeral quality to hold on to. It’s been that way since the beginning. The Israelites had seen mighty works of God, yet their hope dissipated almost as fast as the manna God sent every day. It’s understandable. They were tired and weary. They walked the wilderness for forty years. We’d have been tired too. Would we also have been hopeless? I hope not. We have one advantage they didn’t—the Holy Spirit living in us.

I saw a drink cup from Zaxby’s the other day. The cup said “Half empty? Half full? Problem solved. Fill it up!” I laughed as I remembered some things. My ex always said I was a pessimist. He was an extreme optimist. He said I always saw the glass as half empty, but I disagreed. I said I was a realist. I knew it was half full, but it was also half empty. It just needed a refill. It also reminds me of something my dad used to always say. “It doesn’t cost a dime more to run your car on full than it does to run it on empty. Actually, it costs less because empty is terrible on the tank.” I know some people who like to play what to me is a dangerous game. They see just how close to empty they can get their car before they fill it up.

It’s even more dangerous though on a spiritual level. Why do we tend to think we can get along without prayer, Bible study, or church attendance without suffering serious consequences from running on an empty tank? Jesus said He came to give us an abundant life. Abundant means overflowing—full to the tip top and pouring out onto all we come in contact with—not half empty or half full. We can’t have that unless we’re daily coming back for the manna Jesus offers us. Hope is ephemeral. It’s found one day at a time at the feet of Jesus.

God bless you.

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Choice

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This past weekend has been one of extreme highs and lows. Saturday was my grandson’s first yudanja. Congratulations to my little deputy black belt. He did so great! Then Sunday morning, I got the news that our pastor at Hebron is leaving. God bless you, Pastor Kevin Miller as you continue to faithfully follow God’s call on your life. Monday morning I woke up to the news of the Las Vegas shootings. My daughter’s business partner, Yvonne Sliger is vacationing in Vegas. Fortunately, only moments later, I saw a Facebook post from her telling everyone she was safe.

So many people ask the question, “Why does God allow such evil as what happened in Vegas?” They wonder if such a god can possibly be good. My question is more, “Why wouldn’t He? What kind of a god holds people under His thumb and forces them to do only his will?” If we were puppets, would that truly be good? What kind of life would this be?

Our God loves us enough to give us freedom of choice. He gives the same choice to all His creatures. Even angels had a choice, the only difference being, as far as we know, no salvation or second chance. When my children were small, I made them do as I told them to, but as they grew up, I gave them more and more freedom. They didn’t always make the right choices, but I knew it was the only way they would truly learn. It was the only way they would ever become responsible adults. God knows the same is true of all of us.

God made a way of salvation. He knew from the beginning that not everyone would choose it. When Adam and Eve sinned, they allowed Satan the keys to this world. He was the prince of the powers of the air—the ruler of this world. But when Jesus rose from the grave, He took back the reins. He made a way for those who follow Him to live. Jesus is Lord—but He’s a gracious One. He won’t demand our obedience. He wants us to obey out of love, not out of fear.

Yes, evil still happens. It will until Jesus comes back to set up His millennial kingdom. Then, the Bible says He will rule with an iron fist. Evil will no longer have final sway. In the meantime, Christians are to be His hands and feet. We are to show love and grace to all. Most of those  who would come to Him first see Him through us. He was right there in Vegas for any who would call out to Him. He wept over the violence, and His angels took His children home to heaven where there are no more tears or death

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Protests

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I don’t watch sports anyway, so I could care less about the NFL, but I do have a grandson in the navy, my dad lost his hearing in his left ear in Korea, and I had two uncles and a couple of cousins who were career servicemen. These men spent their lives in service to this country. None of them got rich doing so. They did it because they believed in the democracy this country stands for. We’re all different. We all have different ideas and beliefs, and we all need to respect that.

And we all do need to stand up for what we believe in. I have strong beliefs about the right to life, and you can often find me protesting abortion at Right to Life rallies. So, I do understand if people want to protest. I’m just not sure of the connection. How does disrespecting the flag and the National Anthem protest anything? These are symbols of freedom. They’re the symbols of a country that gives us the right to protest.

Colin whatever his name is had the right to take a knee, the owners of his team had the right to say they no longer wanted him on their team, and others had the right to take up his protest. The question is does any of this accomplish anything? Yes, everybody has the right because this is America, the country that gives us that right! But does it edify? Does it build up the country or just further tear it apart? Isn’t there a better way?

What can we do to solve the problems that started the protest in the first place? To be honest, I’m not even sure exactly what he was protesting. America is the country that allowed him to get a multimillion dollar contract in the first place. I get it that racism does still exist here. But not nearly like it did when I was a kid! Thank you, Rosa Parks and Dr. King for your peaceful protests that accomplished so much! And racism exists on both sides. God forgive us for that. But only love can heal it. Hate and more division never will.

Is there a better way to stand up for unity? Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Jesus loved us so much He was willing to die for us. Love is the key. Can’t we find ways to protest that show love and respect for everyone?  Black lives do matter! Police lives matter! All life matters, born and pre-born! God bless you all!

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Jesus in the Passover Celebration

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Have you noticed that many stores already have their Christmas decorations out? I’m not ready to start thinking about Christmas yet. Are you?

Just as we have our Christmas traditions, the Jewish people have celebrated Passover for almost 3500 years. We had a great lesson in our Connect Group Sunday morning. It was all about the meaning of Passover. We’d already discussed the week before how the ten plagues displayed God’s utter demolition of the false “gods” of Egypt. Now, both Israel and Egypt would see without doubt Who the one true God was. As the death angel “passed over” Egypt, blood from a sacrificed lamb protected the firstborn of any household where it was put. Jesus is the Passover lamb for all time. The name Jesus is written all over the Passover traditions. It’s sad the Jewish nation cannot see this.

Missionaries like Sam Wilson are working tirelessly to change this. One of the ways they use is by showing the symbolism in rituals such as the Passover. (Much of the information here came from a sermon he gave recently, but I did double check it with other sources.) We need to help in sharing this with all the Jewish people we know. Jewish people need Jesus too. He died to save them. The Bible is one book from Genesis to Revelation. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and from beginning to end, it’s all His-story–the story of God redeeming his people by sending His Son Jesus to live a perfect life, die on a cross, and be raised from the dead, and thus forever defeat death on the third day. He is our perfect Passover Lamb.

The unleavened matzo bread used in the Passover is striped and pierced. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life.” Leaven represents sin. He was without sin. Almost a thousand years before Jesus was born, Isaiah said of the Messiah “he was pierced for our transgressions, and by his stripes we are healed.” Jesus was beaten so badly by the soldiers, His countenance was barely recognizable as human. Even before He was hung on the cross, He was “striped” to within an inch of His life.  The centurion pierced His side, and the blood and water separated, indicating His heart had burst. Most crucifixion victims died of suffocation. He literally died of a broken heart. But the Jews didn’t take His life. He freely gave it up for all our sakes-Jew and Gentile alike-He loved us enough to die for us.

The Passover celebration typically included four (now five) cups of wine. The third cup was called the Cup of Redemption. At the first Lord’s Supper, this was the cup Jesus said represented His blood. Just as the blood on the lintels of the doorposts saved the firstborn from impending death when the death angel passed over, the blood of Jesus saves us from an eternal death. My daughter died at 27, but I know that someday I will see her again. If we know Jesus, the only death we face is a mere shadow. We are immediately transported to be with Him in Paradise to live forever.

The Passover was to be eaten standing, with sandals on the feet, and staff in hand, ready to go at a moment’s notice. I think this symbolism is the part of the Passover celebration that is yet to be fulfilled. When Jesus went back to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father and make intercession for us, He told us to be ready for His return. Like the bridegroom who returns for his bride, Jesus will return for us. Like in the parable of the ten virgins, and in the Passover ritual, we are to be ready to go. Are you ready?

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Technology

KTKards5  My lights are on! Yea! Thank you, Thomas Edison! But even more, Thank You, Lord! Do you ever feel like you both love and hate technology at the same time?

Yesterday morning, I was just getting ready to write my blog for this week, and because of the hurricane, I was already thinking about writing about our utter dependence on technology.  My phone was about out of power, so I went to put it on the charger before firing up the computer. All of a sudden, the lights went out. Things began to look like an episode of the Keystone Kops around here (Yeah, I know, most of you don’t even have a clue who I’m talking about). About the same time I realized the charger wasn’t going to help, my roommate asked if we had a lantern. I said yes, and pulled it down, but of course there was no oil in it. I had lots and lots of candles, but no matches and the lighter is used so seldom, I guess the butane had evaporated. I finally got enough to light one candle, and from that to light all the others. I went down to the car to charge up the phone, and Genia reminded me that I could get carbon monoxide poisoning in a closed garage. So, I pushed the button to lift the garage door. Of course it didn’t work! It’s electric! Duh! Talk about feeling stupid! After I got a ladder, (and moved the car to give me room to put it,) I was able to flip a switch to open the door manually, so I did get enough of a charge on my phone to make a call. No internet, so no wifi. Nothing would go through. If she put her phone up to the window, Genia’s phone would go through, but her battery died, and hers wouldn’t charge. Two phones and we were still cut off. It was crazy!

Last night, we could see the men from Walton Electric outside working up on the pole in the pouring rain. When they finally left, the neighborhood behind us had electricity, but we still didn’t. Mine didn’t come back on until noon today. Even so, God bless you, men of Walton Electric! You have a hard and miserable job, but we love you for your faithfulness in doing it!

When the lights came back on, I still didn’t have TV or internet. So, I called AT & T. I recently changed servers. I could go on and on about why, but it would just make me angry at my former cable company all over again, so I’ll skip that. I had tried last month to pay my AT & T bill over the phone, but the automated system couldn’t understand my voice (I was speaking English, by the way), and the representative said she’d have to charge me $5 to take my debit number. So, I hung up and added them to my online bill pay. When it wouldn’t come on today, I wondered if it was because of the storm or because the payment hadn’t gone through for some reason. It had, but I had to sit through about fifteen minutes of an automated system telling me I could get faster service by going to the website and giving me the IPO. If I could have done that, I wouldn’t have needed to call. And of course my phone was almost dead again. I had visions of finally getting someone on the line when it died on me again. Yes, it was now plugged into the charger again, but when the outgo is more than the input, will it still work? Those fears proved groundless, and a sweet representative assured me the problem was due to the storm and solved in a matter of minutes.

So, here I am, all hooked up again. Hopefully, I’ll be a little better prepared next time. I thought I was this time. I’d lived without electricity up on the mountain for over three months. But then I had my dad’s camp stove to cook on, plenty of oil in that hurricane lamp, and a woodstove for heating water. That was thirty-five years ago. I guess I need a refresher course.

But I’m safe and secure, and God has again provided. Praise Him for His faithfulness!

 

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PRAYERS FOR THE PEOPLE OF HOUSTON AND SOUTH TEXAS

I so remember being caught in the flood of 1985 at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia. i was headed to lunch at the cafeteria when the water came, and the people came running out of the building like a stampede. Behind me a wall or water rushed toward us. Together we ran toward higher ground.  And the wall of water there wasn’t even up to my waist. I can’t imagine what it must be like in southern Texas. When you’re running from a wall of water, you can’t think. You just run for higher ground. And if you’re too old, or too elderly, or too young, or too feeble to run, what can you do? Only one man was killed at Hollins, and it was because he was trapped down in a basement, and no one knew he was down there. The death toll in Houston is rapidly rising.

We had zero notice that a flood was coming. If we had, I would not have gone to school that day. I lived on a mountain! It now seems that many of the people of Houston had plenty of notice to evacuate, but because of political maneuverings were given conflicting information about the necessity for it.    It’s sad when the growing hostility between parties cannot be put aside, even to save lives! Can we not reach the higher ground of loving each other and putting their needs above our political ideologies?

Christians are given a bad rap these days about being “hate” mongers, but in a disaster like this, Christians are among the first to mobilize aid. Trucks are already headed toward Houston bringing food, water, blankets, and other supplies from churches across the nation. These teams come at their own expense or sponsored by their state mission boards. They work in coordination with the Red Cross and other relief organizations. These teams are trained in childcare, food service, and even mucking out mud and gunk from flood ravaged homes. This is truly being the hands and feet of Jesus. I trained with such a team when I lived in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the one time I was called to serve, I was already taking care of my dying daughter, and couldn’t go.

Lord, we pray for the safety and effectiveness of these teams as they head to Texas. Give them Your strength and endurance, and guide them. We pray in Jesus’ Name. Even if we can’t go, we can pray and be a part of their mission in that way. The Bible says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16 KJV)

Jesus is our Rock, our Higher Ground. No matter what our circumstances in this life, we can always go to Him in prayer. He will lift us up out of the angry waves. He will save us by His grace. Even death cannot defeat the one who places their faith in Him alone. Political ideologies cannot save. Only He can. God bless.

 

 

 

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No Other Foundation

KTKards14     Pastor Derek preached on No Other Foundation Sunday night as part of his series on 1 Corinthians titled The Church is a Mess. While I was in Oklahoma last week on a mission trip to Voice of the Martyrs, my cell phone wasn’t getting service unless we were in our room connected to Wi-Fi, so I didn’t have much access to social media. When I came back and heard what was going on, it certainly did seem like the world had gone mad. I always wonder how people survive who don’t have that firm foundation.

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since my own faith had to stand the worst testing time of my life. If I hadn’t had Jesus, there’s no way I would have ever made it through that time. It started in January of 2006 when God led me to completely fast and pray for 10 days. I didn’t even know why at the time. Now I do. I needed it so desperately. Even so, there were times I doubted I could make it.

The immediate result of my prayer time was certainly not what I had expected. Truths were revealed that changed my life forever. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) I realize now that I had made my marriage an idol, and idols have to fall.

Only a few weeks later, doctors gave my daughter 4-6 months to live. She lived 13. When I heard the death sentence, I literally fell to my knees, crying out to God, “Why?” Kara often asked the same question. What had we done to deserve such punishment?

Kara wasn’t afraid to die. She knew where she would spend eternity. She had that firm foundation. She was more upset about leaving behind her son. He was so young, and she knew he wouldn’t remember her. She was right. He doesn’t. I pray that God will use that early childhood trauma to make him the person He would have him be.

Now I realize too that it wasn’t really a punishment at all. Tests come to all who claim the name of Jesus. He told us they would. Kara is safely in the arms of Jesus. And I have a new home and a new life in Georgia with a new seven year old grandson, a lot of new friends, and a new writing and teaching ministry. Sometimes, God has to allow drastic circumstances to move us to a new work. If He is our foundation, our circumstances may drastically change, but it doesn’t mean He loves us any less, or even that we’ve done anything wrong. It could be simply a necessary adjustment. He has that right.

We were told this week that the persecuted people the VoM works with pity the Christians of America because they don’t face persecution. They fear that without it, our faith isn’t tested enough to keep it growing. They may be right. I know this testing time was a period of growth for me. It’s like a kid in a school that never gives tests. Do they really learn anything? If so, do they know they’ve learned it? Do they know what their foundations are?

The Bible teaches of two men who built houses; one on rock, and one on sand. We don’t know how long they may have gone on like that, with the man bragging about his beachside mansion, but when the rain and floods came, his house collapsed. At the same time, the man who built his house on the rock stood firm. Our rock is Jesus. There is no other foundation that can stand persecution or any of the other tests life can and will throw at us.

 

 

 

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L     Martyrs

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By the time you read this, I will be in Oklahoma on a mission trip to the headquarters of Voice of the Martyrs. I’m spending the week packing boxes for the families of those in places like Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc.,—places where to name the Name of Christ is to literally lay your life on the line. These Christians face persecution and the possibility of dying every day of their lives. My life is no more on the line this week than it is any other day, but being here I can’t help but ask the question—am I ready to lay it all on the line for Christ? If the moment came, would I be able to say, “Yes, I love Jesus!” if I knew the cost would be someone chopping off of my head? I certainly hope the answer would be a resounding “yes!”

Stephen was the first Christian martyr, but down through the centuries many have faced this consequence of their faith. All of the disciples except John faced excruciating deaths. Legend has it Peter was crucified upside down at his own request because he believed he wasn’t worthy to die the same way Jesus did. Many other early Christians were also boiled in oil, sawed in half, beheaded, crucified, fed to lions, etc. at the hands of the Romans and other groups seeking to squash this new “rebellious sect.” Later, the Romans tried a new tactic, “If you can’t lick them, join them,” and made Christianity the official religion of the “Holy Roman Empire.” In the name of Jesus, they killed and conquered much of the known world. That’s not at all what Jesus taught.

  • Perversion of the faith worked much better than the attempts to squash it. Reading the Bible was highly discouraged, so the only version of the truth heard by the masses was what was fed to them by the Catholic Church. By the time of the Reformation, most of the so-called Christians worshipped the pope much more than they ever did Jesus, so a whole new set of martyrs had to step up to risk their lives by speaking out the truth.  America was settled by many of those seeking freedom to worship God.

Today the threat comes to us not from the church, but from those who either worship another god, no god, or Satan himself. All three have the same end result. We never thought we’d see a day of persecution here in America, but it’s come. Maybe it’s not as overt here as other places yet, but when bakers can lose everything they own for not baking a cake, or doctors for refusing to do an abortion, etc., other punishments for faith cannot be far behind. Are we ready?

I doubt it. Too many churches have taught an easy salvation. They’ve taught God is Love and left out the God is Holy. People have a concept of God as a Sugar Daddy to give them peace and comfort and supply all their needs. Their “faith”  is limited to a Sunday morning church attendance, and God is conveniently left behind as they go to bars, sleep around, have affairs, or generally continue the life of sin they never left behind.

Salvation isn’t easy. It cost God His Son. It has to cost us our will. Jesus isn’t Savior if He isn’t our Lord.  Repentance literally means “turn away.” It doesn’t mean “add to.” Repentance is hard. We can’t do it on our own. It only comes through a daily surrender to Jesus. This is the faith that will get us through our daily struggles. This is the faith that will allow us to face that moment when the challenge to our faith comes.

Maybe it never will. The disciple John lived to an old age. Why? Why was he the only one who never had to face an executioner’s axe? It was probably because he was the only disciple who stood at the foot of the cross. He was already willing to die for his Lord. He had nothing to prove—not to God, nor to himself. He had a PhD in faith.

Where would you rate yours?

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His Faithful Love

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School starts this week. I sure am going to miss my little guy running around here all day. It seems like school has such a short break nowadays. We used to be out from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They get out earlier in Georgia, but they go back the first week in August. It seems like there is no real summer. As he goes back, I really need to get back to work too. I’ve been slacking off on my writing. My excuse was I no longer had a publisher, and nobody seems to care whether I write or not. The truth is that doesn’t matter. God has called me to write, and as long as He leaves me here on this earth, I’m to be a writer.

I can take a vacation though. Last weekend I was in North Carolina with my friend Krystal. We spent four days swimming and hiking. I definitely got my exercise in. Saturday, we hiked to two waterfalls and to the top of Hanging Rock. Who do we see there, but my ex-husband and his girlfriend. What are the odds of that? Any statisticians out there?

I fell as Krystal and I came down the mountain. A bunch of young people and teenagers stopped, tended my minor wounds, and helped me down the rest of the way. Their kindness and attention was a gentle reminder of God’s faithful love. I’ve had so many of those in my life.

Don’t you love the way God does that? The first Mother’s Day after Kara died, a rose bush bloomed in my back yard that had never bloomed before. When we went to spread her ashes, nine butterflies came and feasted on them. Long before that, when Wade and I were struggling financially when the two older kids were small (before Kara was born), God sent yellow bricks as an underpinning for our yellow mobile home.  They were exactly what we wanted even though our prayer was for the money to buy them, not for the bricks themselves. God bypassed the middle man.

He knows our needs before we know them ourselves. As a small child, my next door neighbor started taking me to church with her. I didn’t have a great childhood, and God knew I needed Him early in my life. I hardly remember a time He wasn’t there. That doesn’t mean I don’t know when I was saved. I definitely do. It means that long before that, He was already there, teaching me to love Him, teaching me I could trust Him, showing me what love is. I didn’t even know that.

My parents never loved each other. Or maybe they did once, long before I was born. My dad did love us, but he didn’t seem to know how to show it when we were young. He worked hard all his life. He provided for us well. But until he married Sandy, my stepmother, I never saw him hug or kiss anyone. That’s not true. He and my mom did kiss once, right before their divorce, when he was being installed as Monarch of his lodge, but it wasn’t much of a kiss, definitely not the kind movie legends are made of.  Still, it gave me hope—a hope that was soon quashed.

For years, I thought I had escaped that curse. I thought I had the perfect love, the perfect marriage. I should have known there is no such thing. God’s love is the only perfect love. We’re human. We fail. He never does.

My divorce and my daughter’s death is the darkest time in my life. It was hard to see through to the light of His love. But even then, I knew that He had not forsaken me. He kept sending those little reminders. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithful Love.

 

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Our Awesome God

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This is my birthday week. I’ve always had a thing about my birthday, because I was born on my mom’s twentieth birthday, and when I was young no one ever remembered it was my birthday too. It was always her birthday. I was an afterthought if I was remembered at all. Mom received cards addressed to Edie and daughter or even Edie and Becky because they knew one of her kids was born on her birthday but they guessed wrong..

My mom had four children, and most of the time she couldn’t keep our names straight. I always told the joke that I was sixteen before I realized my name wasn’t “Butch, Becky, Sandra, ____ I mean Teresa!” It’s always thrilled me that God knows my name. He remembers my birthday. He says He knows the number of hairs on my head. Unfortunately, that number seems to diminish every day. But He still keeps track.

So what does that mean? That I’m special? Well, yes. I’m special to Him because I’m His child. But even though He has many, many children, He knows every detail about every one of their lives. He never gets them mixed up. That’s the God we serve. It says so much more about Who He is than it does about us. Far from being the Deist’s idea of an aloof and distant being, He’s an up close and personal God Who shows His love for us every day of our lives.

Have you ever watched a sunrise on the ocean? Watched lightning light up the sky from the safety of your front porch as a thunderstorm raged?  Or examined the petals of an exotic flower? These are just a few of the glorious gifts of Father gives us, not just on our birthday, but every day. His blessings surround us daily. It’s our job to recognize them as the manna for our soul they truly are. And be thankful for them.

We’ve been studying the Psalms this quarter in our Connect Group. The Psalmists loved to sing praises to their God. But they were only continuing a tradition that had been passed down through the generations. The songs of the Israelites permeate the Old Testament. Moses and Miriam celebrated in song as did Deborah and Barak. David hired musicians and danced before the Lord. That tradition of musical praise continues to this day. I love the old Gospel hymns. But I also love the contemporary choruses. The important thing isn’t the manner or expression, but the God they exalt. We serve a mighty and awesome God, and He is worthy of all our praise.

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