Plans

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I told a friend the other day that I so miss the Virginia fall. Living in the mountains, the fall was a riot of spectacular color that lasted for several weeks. Here, at least where I live, fall consisted of a few days of dull color while the leaves turned to brown and fell off the trees. There were a few individual trees that bucked the trend and had a splash of color, but even they didn’t last long.

I just can’t get used to Georgia weather. It’s like there are no seasons. It’s just hot, hot, hot, and then ick. Right now we’re in the ick. There’s no beautiful white blanket of snow to make the weather bearable. It’s just kind of damp and miserable. I’ve got to say though, that my daughter Kristina loves the weather here. She says she had enough of the Virginia snow to last her a lifetime when she was a kid. Funny, how we all react to the same things differently. I guess that’s why God made us all different, and made all different kinds of weather (and just about everything else in different varieties too.) It’s something for everyone—good gifts from our loving God. Even though I’m not there to see them, those Virginia autumns will always be a part of me, and I praise Him for them.

And even though I can’t get used to the weather, I’m so thankful for my home in Georgia. The people here are amazing. I have so many friends who have blessed me beyond anything I could have imagined when I left Virginia in 2009. God is good. He took this broken Virginia girl and put her back together again in a new place.

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since my life went bananas. My baby’s birthday is this month. I still miss her. That will never change, but I do take comfort in knowing she’s in a better place with no more pain or suffering. But I also know she didn’t want to go. She had a young son she didn’t want to leave. If there was any way I could have taken her place at that time, I would have gladly done so. Then I felt like I had nothing left to live for. I was wrong. What’s new? God still had a plan for  my life, and I’m here as long as He wants me here.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you…” Aren’t you glad He does? We sure can’t begin to know. If we did, we’d probably truly go nuts. We can only take it one day at a time, And we might as well forget worrying about it. We can’t change a thing by worrying. We can only make things worse. Worry causes illness, and illness will destroy us. One day at a time is all we’re given, and it’s all we need.

God bless you.

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Blasphemy

I AM THE WAY (John 14:6)

I AM THE TRUTH (John 14:6)

I AM THE LIFE (John 14:6)

I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD (John 8:12)

I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD (John 10:11)

I AM THE DOOR (John 10:9)

I AM THE RESURRECTION (John 11:25)

I AM THE TRUE VINE (John 15:1)

     Critics will claim Jesus never claimed to be God. Baloney! These I Am statements were a declaration that all the Jews of His day understood completely to be a claim to be Yahweh God. If He had not been, they would have been right to call Him a blasphemer and put Him to death. As C. S. Lewis so rightly claimed, Jesus never left open the option that He was a great teacher and a good man. We have to believe He was “a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.”

The world is a mess. The time is ripe for an Antichrist to rise on the scene. One can easily imagine a charismatic leader taking control of things and promising the people he can solve all their woes. This would be especially easy if all the Christians who would oppose his plans were raptured off the scene. Can’t you just imagine his I AM statements? Actually, they’d probably echo those Jesus made.  But in this case, they will be blasphemy!

Pastor Derek Spain has been preaching a sermon series called The Church is a Mess. It’s on 1 Corinthians. The church at Corinth was a mess, but it was nothing compared to today. I saw on Facebook this week that the pope was urging his people not to try to have a personal relationship with Jesus because it was “dangerous.” I don’t know if that’s true or not. If it is, God forgive him. That’s blasphemy too. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) According to the article, the pope said the church was the only way to come to God.

We are the church. We are His body. In Matthew 28:18-20, He gave us the Great Commission, to go to all the world and preach the gospel, the good news that He, God’s one and only Son, had come into the world that if anyone believed in Him, they would have eternal life with God. And not only that, they could have an abundant life now in this world. They would no longer have to be chained to their burdens of sin and despair, but could have a life of peace, joy, love and purpose. The question for us is if we truly believe He is Lord, why don’t we live like it? Why do we seem to yearn for those old bonds? Doesn’t that make us just like those scoffers who stood by the cross hurling insults? Screaming Blasphemer!?  God forgive us!

It’s been said that blasphemy is the only unforgiveable sin, but I don’t think they’re talking about simply insulting Jesus by wanting something we shouldn’t, although that’s bad enough. They’re talking about rejecting Him completely. Never accepting that He died for us and paid the penalty for our sin—that’s the ultimate blasphemy! That’s the one for which there is no forgiveness. Please don’t let anyone you know make it!  Tell them about Jesus and His love before it’s too late.

 

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Halloween

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Tonight is Halloween. I have a Facebook friend who’s been ranting for a month, basically that any Christian who celebrates Halloween is headed straight to hell.

On the other hand, I have some other friends who act like it’s the greatest day of the year. They love Halloween. So, which is it? How should Christians react to Halloween?

Like most other modern “holidays”, Halloween wasn’t celebrated in Bible times, so we don’t really have much way of knowing. My only Biblical clue comes from how Jesus always interacted with children. He loved them. When the disciples tried to send them away, Jesus rebuked the disciples. “Of such is the kingdom of God.” I simply can’t imagine Jesus ever sending a child away empty handed. As His followers, shouldn’t we show His love to every child who comes to our door?

Many churches and other Christian organizations nowadays seem to agree with this principle. They’ve developed Trunk or Treat celebrations to provide a safe atmosphere for children on this night. I applaud their actions.

What about my first friend’s point? There’s no denying Halloween is a pagan holiday. It comes from All Hallows Eve, the night before “All Saints Day”, and supposedly the spirits of the dead are free to walk around that night. Yuck!  Why would we want to celebrate that? I don’t celebrate evil, but I do celebrate the joy of children’s imaginations.

We have to remember that Christmas and Easter were also originally pagan holidays. Does that mean we shouldn’t celebrate those either? Wouldn’t that be essentially giving the day over to the enemy? Love always triumphs over hate in the end. When we show love to others, we draw them to Christ. That’s the job He gave us, and we can do it 365 days a year—even on Halloween.

God bless.

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Idols

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“You shall have no other gods before Me.” What? Wait! You mean there are any other gods? Well, yeah, there are lots of little “g” “gods,” but there’s only one capital “G” God. And His name is not Allah, (or Jehovah for that matter. Jehovah is a 14th century corruption of the name Yahweh. A scribe added a jot. Guess this is why the Bible warns against adding jots and tittles. Look what happens!) Yahweh means “I AM that I AM.” This is the name that Moses was told to give the people when they asked His name. Jesus made His own I AM statements on many occasions. It’s why He was so often accused of blasphemy. The people of His day knew exactly what He was claiming.

Still, anything we put in God’s rightful place becomes a little “g” god to us, an idol. We may shake our heads and wonder how in the world the Israelites could make themselves a golden calf  such a short time after seeing God’s awesome power at the Red Sea. Yet, many Christians, who have the Holy Spirit to guide us every day of our lives don’t have time or energy to go to church for more than an hour or so, if that. They spend their Sundays at the altar of a football stadium, a golf course, a shopping mall, or whatever else determines their day.   But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Did anyone vow to quit watching football if anyone on your team knelt for the National Anthem? Have you kept that vow? If not, maybe football is your idol. On the other hand, the National Anthem and patriotism are not substitutes for godliness. These can be idols too, especially if they’re keeping us from reaching across the aisle to tell someone Jesus loves them and we love them too.

Anything can be an idol, even good things, even great things. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. For almost forty years, I had a great marriage (or at least I thought I did), but I had made my husband and marriage an idol. Idols have to fall. We must ask ourselves, what would be the hardest thing in the world for me to give up? Could I do it? If not, it’s probably an idol.

If we follow Jesus long enough and are truly seeking to follow Him, sooner or later the tests will come. “Do you love me more than these?” No, God doesn’t tempt anybody. But He does test us. He does it to see if we’re ready to step up to the next level of service. Just like when we were in school and each year we had final exams to show we were ready to go to the next grade, God does the same thing for us. It’s not that He doesn’t already know we’re ready. He wants us to know it too. Just as God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He will test us to see if we will give up the things we love most too. Sometimes He’ll take them from us like He did with Job, and sometimes, like He did with Isaac, He’ll give them back.

Fortunately, our God is a God of Redemption. He made a Way of escape from our idolatry. His Name is Jesus. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Israelites had to make a bronze snake and hang it on a pole, and look to it in order to live. We live by looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

God bless you.

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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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