They Just Didn’t Understand

There are many things that happen in this world that I simply do not understand.  For instance why do criminals commit crimes?  Why do parents fall ill and die?  Why do horrific acts happen when people become deranged?  Why do good people suffer bad things while it seems that bad people get away with just about everything!  We can theorize all day long as to the motive of bad acts and actors and we can wonder why God doesn’t heal someone or why God doesn’t stop someone from committing an evil deed.  The truth is that until we get to heaven we may not see the whole picture as to motives.  I personally believe that our world would be so much worse than it already is if God didn’t intervene on our behalf more times than we will ever know!  There is a passage in the Bible that helps me to understand that I am not the only one who just doesn’t understand all about everything that happens but I find comfort in this passage and I find hope.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  John 14:1-4, (New International Version or NIV).

We live in troubling times but then so have many generations before us lived in troubling times.  Every generation deals with evil and the consequences of evil.  At the time of John’s writing he is accounting for the last days of Jesus living on this earth and there was much that Jesus said that just didn’t make sense to the twelve chosen disciples.  No, it wasn’t until after Jesus went to the cross and the grave and rose again that these men began to comprehend.  Jesus knows what is coming and knows that death awaits Him and so He tries to comfort His friends.  These words give hope in hopeless situations and bring courage to the weak and I think that today we need to hear these words again.  Do not let your hearts be troubled…but my heart is troubled Lord and I can’t sleep because the events of the day are pressing in on me tonight.  I want to be strong but Lord, I feel as if everything in life and in the world around me is out of control spinning toward doom.  People who have been through tragic events are hurting and I don’t know how to comfort them Lord.  A man who lost his wife less than a year ago to breast cancer now finds out that he has a cancerous brain tumor and will probably die soon and his three lovely children will be without a mother and a father.  I can’t comprehend this tragic news Lord.  Someone’s beloved son committed suicide and I can’t wrap my head around this tragedy either Lord.  A gunman killed many people and injured many more during a concert Lord, and I can’t wrap my head around this.  Another gunman entered a church, a sacred place to so many, and began killing and injuring Christians, Lord, I just don’t understand!  These words Do not let your hearts be troubled are of great comfort to me and I hope to you also because God sees all and knows all and will judge all eventually.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  I can hardly wait to see my room Lord, please come soon!  God’s house will never be a place of violence and I long to go there and be at peace and never see the face of evil again!  I hope to see you there too.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”  Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  John 14:5-8, (NIV).

You see, they did not understand what Jesus was saying.  I am like Thomas and Phillip because I don’t always understand what Jesus is trying to tell me either!  Thomas must have been the first to ask the obvious question, we don’t know the way because we don’t know where you are going!  Jesus gives a powerful answer.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  Jesus is the way, and before Christians were known by the name Christian they were known as the followers of The Way!  I think that a light is beginning to dawn on me when I think about how Jesus is the way.  He is the way out of misery and the way to eternity, Jesus is the bridge between this world and the next and so He is our hope.  Jesus is the truth.  Truth today is a relative term, you have your truth and I have my truth and if we were describing the exact same scene your truth and my truth would not match in every point of truth.  But Jesus is The Truth.  There is only one absolute truth and the standards of almost all other truths are measured by the truth of Jesus because Jesus is God’s Son and therefore is the standard for truth.  Everything that Jesus said and taught to others is in complete and perfect harmony with God’s words laid out in the Old Testament; they are sweet to  Christian’s ears!  And Jesus is also The Life!  There is life in the truth that Jesus speaks and the only way to get the hope of eternal life is to come to Jesus and bow before Him and worship Him as your Lord and Savior.  Life, eternal life, is the hope we have in Jesus and no one else can give us life except Jesus!  There is more that Jesus said.

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.  Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  John 14:9-14, (NIV).

It was hard for the disciples to understand the comfort that Jesus was offering them because Jesus hadn’t died yet.  They had not received the Holy Spirit yet to help them to understand because Jesus was still with them.  We who are Christians have no excuse for not understanding what Jesus is saying because we are looking at it from the grace side of the resurrection and we have the Holy Spirit to help make things clear to us.  But the non-Christian doesn’t have such understanding because they don’t have the Holy Spirit guiding them and instructing them.  Many people pray every day and some of them are Christians.  God only answers the prayers of Christians because we have the Holy Spirit to interpret our requests and bring them to the attention of God the Father (Romans 8:26).  You can be extremely serious in your belief that God will hear and answer your prayers but if you do not accept Jesus as God’s Son who came to walk among mankind and was killed and rose victorious from the grave and defeated death then you do not know the way or know the truth or have eternal life.  The world doesn’t understand and so it is our duty to go and teach them who Jesus is and why He helps us through tragic and horrific times.  We have hope and the world needs to hear a hopeful message.  Praise God for His mercy and grace.

Until next time…Katherine

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Neither Jew, Gentiles, Slave, Free, Male, Female

I wrote a blog recently about what it means to be a child of God and in the midst of writing I used a passage from Galatians that really speaks to me concerning our identity.  So let’s take a look at it and discuss this passage more fully.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.  So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Galatians 3:23-29, (New International Version or NIV).

I don’t know about your culture but in the American culture we are all about our identity.  Of course there are things that immediately identify us and then there are things that we have to work to learn in order to identify.  We Americans like to classify everything into a neat list in order to make a decision as to whether we like or trust the person we have just met or whether to dismiss them as not acceptable to associate with!  So what is the first part of our identity?  Race of course.  The color of your skin, your hair, your eyes, the way that you stand, the way that you speak, the way that you may dress are all part of your racial identity.  For instance, if you and I met face to face you would probably notice first of all that I am a woman.  Secondly you would see that my skin is white and my long hair is nearly all white but there are a few strands of black still flowing through my tresses.  My eyes are brown and I am overweight, I speak clearly with no noticeable accent, and I stand erect, look you in the eye, and give a firm handshake.  I appear to be confident and pleasant.  You would then probably ask me what my occupation is and I would reply that I am unemployed or retired and a stay-at-home-Mom.  Most people at this point simply dismiss me as not useful for them to get to know because in American society we are all about who you know and what you can do for me to enhance my career!   What would I learn about you?  You see when we become a Christian we are to stop classifications of people and see each other as God sees us.  I do not think that God will be impressed with our gender, our race, or our occupation.  God will be interested in one thing, whether we belong to Him as His child or whether we belong to the Devil!

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.  Ephesians 1:13-14, (NIV).

A child of God will have the seal that marks you as belonging to God and the Holy Spirit testifies that you are a child of God’s.  If you do not have this seal then you are not a child of God but a child of the devil.  We know this because John tells us about it in 1 John, a passage we will read in a moment.  As a child of God we stop acting and reacting in the way that non-Christians act and John has a beautiful description of how we are to conduct our lives as Christians.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.  1 John 3:1-24, (NIV).

Can you see the differences between how a child of God lives and how a child of the devil lives?  There needs to be a difference.  A child of God knows that they are loved by God and shows gratitude by loving others regardless of their gender or race or occupation.  A child of God will see people as brothers and sisters in Christ or as those who are held captive by the devil and don’t know Jesus Christ.  No longer are we people who are divided by our looks or our occupation in the Christian family because we are now one big family and we take care of each other as a family should with love and compassion and civility.  The children of the devil will continue to categorize people into for us or against us, into race and into gender and occupations.  But the body of Christ will no longer be a part of compartmentalization of people into groups.  The kids of the devil build fences to create dissension and chaos but the kids of God tear down those fences to create harmony and peace.  The kids of the devil stir up hate and the kids of God stir up love.  The kids of the devil want to be selfish but the kids of God are selfless.  I could go on with many more comparisons but I think you get the picture here.  I can’t wait until I go to heaven because in heaven there will be no lines of division any longer.  There will be no race except the human race.  There will be no gender issues to deal with.   And most of all there will be no occupational differences that lead to pride and self-inflation.  There will only be God, Christ, Holy Spirit, and those sealed by the Holy Spirit!  Won’t that be wonderful?

Until next time…Katherine

Child Of God

I am a child of God, but what does that really mean?  Am I to act like a child and think like a child or does it mean that I will inherit from my Father God something of value.  Being a child of God implies many things to me.  Have I been adopted into the family of God and will I be an heir of the inheritance?  Will I grow up and mature as a child of God?  Will I live in God’s house at some point?  Is Jesus my big brother?  What does it mean to be a child of God?  Let’s take a look at some scriptures to help guide us to a conclusion to these questions.

There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John.  He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.  There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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.  John 1:6-13, (New International Version or NIV).

The first point we need to understand that being a child of God cost something although we did not pay the price.  John the baptizer was sent specifically by God to foretell the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  John prepared the hearts of Israel to be ready for the coming of Jesus but their hearts were hardened and most of Israel rejected Jesus.  Thankfully there were a few Jews who did not reject Jesus and they suffered many things in their lives to bring the light and truth to the rest of the world, to those who were not born a Jew, eventually to you and to me so that we could become a child of God!  What a beautiful story of redemption and adoption.  The price of our becoming a child of God was paid for by Jesus Christ, having been born into a Jewish family He was rejected by the Jewish nation and eventually killed but thankfully that wasn’t the end of His story but only the beginning as Jesus was victorious over death and paved the way for you and me to also be victorious one day.  How do we know that we, who are not Jewish, are actually a child of God?

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  Romans 8:16-17, (NIV).

The Holy Spirit is our advocate in the court of God’s Kingdom and tells the court that I am a child of God.  My fleshly spirit is being transformed as my mind is renewed (Romans 12) and the Holy Spirit in me is doing the work of renewal and transformation and testifies before God that I am being transformed.  The Holy Spirit informs God that I am indeed His heir.  As an heir I will inherit what?  I will inherit eternal life just as Christ overcame death into eternal life.  In other words Jesus becomes my brother!  How awesome is that!!!!  Notice that two letter word if that is toward the end of the sentence.  There is some type of action that is required by you and me in order to be a child of God, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  We must expect suffering to happen in our lives because Christ suffered and so shall we.  It is a requirement but never fear because Jesus overcame His suffering and so shall we!  If we don’t suffer then we can’t be a part of His glory on judgement day!  Now we know the reasons for our earthly sufferings, in order to be like Jesus as a joint-heir we must also suffer here on earth.  Few of us are excited to participate in the sufferings of Christ but when we think of all that He did for us it really does put into perspective the things we suffer.  Most of us are not going to be killed for our faith although there are many who do die just because they are Christians and live in a country where persecution and death of Christians is the cost of following Jesus.  We will have the courage to go through whatever suffering that is required of us because the Holy Spirit will comfort us and guide us through those troubling times.  Praise God!  And that is where faith comes into the picture.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.  So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Galatians 3:23-29, (NIV).

I don’t know about you but I sure am glad that I was born after Jesus and not before Jesus came to bring us into God’s family.  I doubt that I would have been born into a Jewish family but if I had been I would have surely been a constant law-breaker.  I cannot imagine all the laws that they had to follow!  I get bored reading Leviticus, the book of Law in the Old Testament, don’t you?  The Apostle Paul does a great job summing up life under the Law and life under the grace Jesus brought to the world.  I love how he says that in the body of Christ there is no racial identity, no occupational identity, and no gender identity.  Let’s think about that for a moment.  In this world how do you describe yourself when meeting someone new?  When I meet someone new they can automatically see that I am a woman and that I am white and the next question out of their mouth is “What do you do?” meaning what is my occupation.  If you strip away racial, gender, and occupation from a person then what is left?  I think then we see only two kinds of people, those who are a child of God and those who are not a child of God!   I wonder if this is how Heaven will be.  Let’s move on.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.  No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.  Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.  The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.  1 John 3:7-10, (NIV).

What a wonderful explanation of what it is to be a child of God.  I hope that you are encouraged by this discussion today.  I hope that you are a child of God’s but if you aren’t then please talk to your pastor or good friend who is a Christian to help you become a child of God.  It won’t always be an easy path but my how it is worth it!

Until next time…Katherine

Another Talk About How To Live

If you read me often then you already know that I love to study the writings of the Apostle Paul.  His writing is something that I can easily understand and I try to apply his teachings to my life.  But today I want to turn to another Apostle for guidance in how to live a life that is worthy because I think it is good to see that Paul wasn’t the only one giving us advice on how to conduct our lives.  Let’s look at what Apostle Peter had to say on this subject.

To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.  For, “LET HIM WHO MEANS TO LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING GUILE.   “AND LET HIM TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; LET HIM SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.  “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”

 And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.  For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.  And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. 1 Peter 3:8-22, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

The first thing that I notice when reading this passage is that Peter loves long sentences!  His writing style is different from Paul his fellow apostle.  Yes, I am a nerd and I know it!  But the messages are the same as what Paul wrote in Romans 12:16 and Ephesians 4.  I think that Peter writes in a style that is also easy to understand.  He says it like it is and this summary is good for us to dissect and learn from.  To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.  This is the best list for us to memorize as it really is a great summary. Get along with each other to include getting along with your family members, your co-workers, your fellow Christians, your neighbors, and the people you do business with!  Have a sympathetic heart toward everyone you meet because each person has a burden they are dealing with.  Be kind and caring like your big brother Jesus is to you.  Jesus is your big brother because He is God’s Son and you are also God’s child!  Never be so arrogant and important in your own eyes so that you think you don’t need to care about other people.  Yes, people are not always easy to deal with, often their life is messy and you might be drawn into their mess, but by maintaining a humble heart and attitude you will take the time to listen and help others however you can.  The next one on the list is hard but oh so necessary: not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.  Hey, if Jesus could forgive the people who hate him and those who had a part in His murder then you can also handle this list and give those who hate you and want to harm you a blessing.  I think the best blessing to give is a prayer that God will work in their lives so that they repent and turn to God and live a life of harmony with you.  There is a promise in you completing this difficult task because if you forgive and if you give blessings instead of insults or seeking revenge then and only then will you also be given a blessing from our Heavenly Father!  I want that blessing, don’t you?  Be honest!  Yes, it is always better to be a blessing to others than to be seeking revenge!  You will be much better off because you will be filled with peace and joy rather than hate!  Notice the part of the passage in all caps?  The reason for the capital letters is because Peter is quoting a passage from the Old Testament, Psalm 34:12-16, let’s see the original text.

Who is the man who desires life, And loves length of days that he may see good?  Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit.  Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace, and pursue it.  The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.  The face of the LORD is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth.  Psalm 34:12-16, (NASB77).

Never think that the Old Testament is irrelevant because many passages from the Old Testament are also quoted in the New Testament by the authors of the New Testament.  Remember that when Peter was writing this letter he only had the Old Testament to study and learn from.  Most of us start reading the New Testament because it is so much easier to understand.  The Old Testament, however, is filled with the history of Israel and their relationship with God.  This is also our history now because we have been grafted into the tree of life granted to Israel (Romans 11).  Okay, back to the passage.  Something else that jumps out at me is Peter’s viewpoint on suffering.  I can only imagine how he suffered as he was kind of like me, always speaking before he thought!  I think Peter must have been a take charge kind of guy and felt pretty confident in what he believed until he was humbled by denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed as Jesus predicted (Mathew 26:34).  God often humbles a person before He uses them greatly and you can sure see this principle in the life of Peter.  And then Peter says some things that many today want to dispute.  Peter says that Jesus went and preached to the souls in prison (Sheol or hell) while he was in the grave.  This is important because these people were destroyed by the great flood and they didn’t have God’s Law at that time.  What happens to their souls is between them and God and I have my opinions but I don’t know facts so I won’t discuss this interesting section.  I will, however, say that I understand that Peter is saying the water from the flood saved eight people in the ark and that their trip through the waters is like our baptism and Peter states this bluntly, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is important because it helps us to cleanse our minds and hearts and this is a necessary step for renewal to take place.  Paul says that our minds are being renewed and transformed, (Romans 12) and baptism is a part of that process according to Peter.  I know some might disagree with me but I think the scriptures are quite clear on the subject of baptism.  Jesus tells us to go and baptize the nations (Matthew 28:16-20).  And this passage ends with the fact that Jesus has the authority granted to Him by the Father God to be in charge of the angels and all authority and all powers are calling Him their boss!  I love that!  I love that Jesus is my Lord and Savior but also sitting at the right hand of God and in charge of everything in heaven and on earth!  Wow!  Isn’t that cool!!!!!  Knowing this makes me want to be sure that my life is a good witness for Christ, even when I suffer and even when I hurt and even when I have difficulties and even when life is burden-free!  I want to praise God and thank Jesus for everything and with everything that I have!  Don’t you?

Until next time…Katherine

 

Dealing With Posers

Does anyone else find some of the stories in the Bible not only encouraging but also down right comedic?  I love to study the Bible and I take my studies seriously but it seems to me that every once in a while God lays down a story so funny that you can’t help but laugh!  Maybe it is His laughter emoji for us all to take a break from our serious studies and contemplate the humorous side of life!  So what story have I found to be so serious that it is funny?  Read on, my friend!

And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.  But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.  And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”  And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.  And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.  Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.  And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.  So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.  Acts 19:11-20, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

First of all notice how serious the beginning of this story is.  The Apostle Paul was completely filled with the Holy Spirit so strongly that people were stealing his used handkerchiefs and aprons to take home and place on their sick loved ones.  That is pretty wacked!  But what is even more astounding to us today is that those people were healed and the entire community knew all about it!  Okay, maybe the apron and handkerchiefs weren’t stolen exactly but somehow I doubt that Paul was giving them away as a healing tool.  I doubt that he had his representatives going on whatever gossip line of that community and hawking Paul’s used handkerchief to be purchased for only $19.95 and guaranteed to be filled with the Holy Spirit for quick healing!!!!!   Reading this with my thirteen year old son before taking him to school this morning made me realize just how strange that sounds.  I read the Bible all the time but when you read it with someone who is going through it for the first time you see a perspective through their eyes that is fresh and different from your own, at least it was for me!  My son said that this sure was weird and I thought that he was right!  God does work in mysterious ways when performing miracles.  We also have the Holy Spirit in us and I can guarantee that my apron and used tissues don’t cure anyone of their illness.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that because the truth is that I have never tried placing my apron on someone who is ill.  Logic tells me it won’t work, but does God work in the realm of logic or faith?  Hmmmm!  Someone smarter than me will have to answer that question!  Let’s move on in the story.  Evil spirits were departing the ill and it was obvious to many that the words “in the name of Jesus Christ evil spirits leave this body” were the magic words to use.  Oh how the plots thickens!

Enter seven brothers, sons of a Sceva (Jewish Chief Priest) who were in the region.  The father and his sons were known to be Jewish exorcists who made their living by casting out evil spirits from those plagued by them.  My guess, and it is purely a guess, is that they weren’t very successful at their craft.  The reason I think they weren’t all the successful in exorcism of evil spirits is because they had obviously been following Paul around long enough to realize that he was successful in getting evil spirits to leave the human body.  How else would they have thought to use the words “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”   They had to have been witnesses to the miracles of God that Paul performed in order to have figured out that Paul had the gift and they didn’t!  Boys will be boys I guess and so they decide to try to exorcise a demon from the next poor soul plagued with one that crosses their path!  Oh boy!  What happens next we just have to read again!

And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”  And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 

Wow!  Talk about an epic failure on those good ole boys part!  I mean, think about it, was this even a fair fight?  One demon possessed man against seven young and in their prime fellas and the demon won!  Not only did those boys leave that house fearing for their lives but they were naked as could be having all their clothes torn off in the process of being beaten up!  How would you have liked to have been a neighbor passing and been witness to this epic failure on the part of those Jewish boys?  I think it would have been a funny site to see!  Don’t mess with demons when you are only posing to be filled with the Holy Spirit boys!  I love what that old demon said to those boys.  Even the demons know that Jesus is the Son of God and yet they don’t bow down and obey Him!  I wonder if these seven boys became Christians.  I doubt seriously that they ever posed as Christians again when trying to exorcise an evil spirit!  Life lesson learned I should think.  Posers will be found out eventually, that is one of the underlying messages here I think.  Now to be fair it is hard to endure an epic failure and I am sure these boys just wanted to forget about it but notice the next line.

And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.

The epic failure of the seven sons of Sceva went viral!  I bet that didn’t help their Father’s business any.  Notice something else; people who were Christians whether Jewish or Greeks began to take their faith much more seriously.  Shouldn’t we do the same?  Do we really take our faith seriously?  I must admit that while I pray daily and often many times daily I don’t really spend time confessing my sins to others, I don’t want them to know about them!  At least I am honest about it, are you?  And notice something else in this text.

And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.

These people not only came to Christ as believers in Him and became followers of The Way but they also had to change careers.  No longer could they practice their magic arts because they knew that it was a sinful occupation.  Sometimes when we come to Christ we have to change careers.  If you were a part of a gang that steals cars and rapes women then you have to give up that illegal career and become a productive member of your community.  If you were a dancer in a bar before coming to Christ then you can no longer be a part of that scene so you have to change your career to live an obedient life for Jesus.  If you make your living as a psychic then you have to change your occupation (and your phone number) in order to live a life honoring God.  The truth is that if you are a true Christian and not a poser then you will be glad to burn your books or your bridges.  These Christians we read about today could have sold their books for a profit but they knew that if they did so it would not be honoring to God and so they burned fifty thousand in silver worth of books!  Wow!  They were serious about changing their lives and that is the real message here.  Posers will find a way to make money off of their old lifestyle by selling their costumes or their business but true and honest converts to Christianity will not want others to have access to sinful occupations and so they will get rid of them without making a profit.   Only you can examine your life to see if you are a poser, I hope you find that you are a genuine and authentic Christian.

Until next time…Katherine  

Here We Go Again

It happened again!  I am scrolling through Facebook and see a lovely family photo with Mom and Dad and their lovely adult children, spouses, and grandchildren and it hits me like a bolt of lightning and a huge clap of thunder and rivers of silent tears flood through my heart and soul again.  I love to see the family photos of others but it is also a painful experience sometimes because I know that my family is forever broken and can never be whole again.  I want to have that professional photo taken of our entire family but there will always be an empty chair where someone used to sit and so it can never be!  My heart aches and I sigh as I collect my thoughts and begin again to deal with more consequences of divorce.  How does one cope with the losses that are felt a lifetime after a long time marriage ends?  Well, I always turn to the Bible for coping mechanisms and so this time is no different.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.  Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.  For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.  Philippians 3:13-21, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).

The first thing that I have to remember is that life is like a race and while I am certainly no athlete I am running the race of a lifetime.  Where I run and how I run is important but most importantly I need to understand why I run.  I run to win and so what is my prize?  Eternal life is my goal and being with Jesus for eternity is my prize.  So it is important to keep my mind on the prize just as an athlete will keep their eye on the medal that they hope to obtain at the end of their race.  I can’t spend my time looking back to my old life before divorce crashed into my world, rather I must train my mind and heart to look forward to heaven.  In doing this I will be more productive in my race and I will be more likely to achieve my goal.  While grace is a free gift and can’t be earned I can and must run as a future citizen of heaven and so I can keep that goal in mind.  I can’t run your race and you can’t run mine but we can encourage each other as we run this race in life together.  There are many distractions to my race just as there are many in yours but we must keep our minds focused on heaven and not the things of this earth.  In this passage the Apostle Paul names some of the distractions:  but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.  The enemy, that old devil, likes to use distractions to pull us back into our past, which is what happened this morning as I scrolled through Facebook.  But after that momentary sting from the emotional clap of thunder I set my mind back on my race by looking forward to heaven.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27, (NASB).

Paul is again comparing the Christian life to a race and says that we are to run with the attitude that we will win!  Winners are successful in winning because they are focused on training for their race.  I also can be like Paul and train my mind to stop reacting negatively to the beautiful things that I see in other people’s lives and I can learn to actually be happy for the family I saw the photo of today.  Why?  It is because I have adjusted my attitude to focus on Jesus and my race in life rather than on my losses and my past.  The future lies ahead, and I know where I am going so I need to run with gusto and great heart and gratitude for the grace that God has bestowed upon me.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.  This is the key to coping and I must be self-disciplined in my training to keep looking forward and not backwards.  How opposite this thinking is from the worlds thinking.  In our cultural perspective we are told to look into our past and unlock the memories we have and analyze them and see who we can blame for our problems today.  But Paul says to not look back but keep our eyes on the prize and the prize is eternal life in heaven with Jesus and God!  The past has already happened and I can’t change a thing about what has or has not been done in the past.  But I can change my attitude about how I feel and how I think and how I live out my faith today.  Praise God for this reminder!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3, (NASB).

I must not only stay focused on eternal life which is my goal and my prize at the end of my life but I also need to be mindful that I am not alone in my race.  In fact there are many who have gone on before me and are basically cheering you and me on in our race in this life.  Oh how exciting it will be to see them at the finish line!  I know that I can make it because others have gone before me and many of them didn’t even have the Bible to go to for encouragement and instruction.  I know that if they made it so can you and I!  Isn’t that encouraging?  We can be confident that God will give us the endurance as we run just as he did for Paul and so many others who came before us!  I like that!  And then we can say the same that Paul did.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.  2 Timothy 4:7-8, (NASB). 

Having been encouraged by doing this study and by bringing my mind and attitude in line with God’s word I can go back to that Facebook photo and say something pleasant to the dear precious family who were pictured this morning.  How special they are and I am so happy for them that they have never experienced the consequences of divorce and I will remember to say a prayer for their marriages to continue to be strong and faithful.  God is so good to me and to you too!

Until next time…Katherine

The Ending Of Summer

In Nebraska we have come to the end of our summer season and now begins autumn or as we like to call it fall.  The leaves are beginning to shiver in the coolness of the night and some have already begun to fall to the ground.  The autumn winds have begun to blow which reminds me that soon the snow will fall and winter storms will be the norm.  Oh we still have hot days sometimes but the nights are chilly and the apples are ripening and the corn is ready to cut down and the harvest begins for sugar beets and beans.  Pumpkins are being sold everywhere and so I must concede that fall is here and adjust accordingly.  When I was younger fall was my favorite time of the year because I hated the heat of summer and I loved the gathering of fall produce to freeze for the winter.  I would freeze bags and bags of tomatoes to use in winter stews or sauces.  I would also freeze many bags of corn to be used in winter and though it took some work I always knew that it would be worth it to have that fresh taste of summer in the middle of winter.  I would also look for winter squash to have in the bottom of the pantry to bake during the cold winter months.  I watched for canned fruits and vegetables to go on sale and stock up while they were cheap to purchase.  Yes, I loved the hunting and gathering during fall to provide a well-stocked pantry going into winter.  That was then but today I do not have a large family to think of and so I no longer stock pile food for winter.  Maybe that is why I feel a bit sad in fall now because I also am in the fall of my life and I know that winter will come sooner than I want it to.   On the other hand I can also look forward to this season of my life because it won’t be long and I will be with Jesus in eternity and that is a strong longing for me.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.  I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.  Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.  As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.  And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.  As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.  And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.  If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.  1 John 2:18-29, (New International Version or NIV).

In my longing I also must remain faithful to my Lord Jesus Christ and praise Him for His goodness to me.  Aging is a part of our earthly life and while we may not like going through that process we really have no choice but to age and eventually die.  But John reminds us that we are to remember what is really important in our calling to be Christians.  He believed it was the last hours before Jesus would return and for him it was.  We also have no clue when Jesus will come for us and so we also must be faithful to the very end of our earthly life.  I have often hoped that Jesus would return and take me up with all my fellow church mates as a part of Jesus’s return to earth, that would really be something cool to participate in.  But the truth is we do not know the time when Jesus will come, for some of us it may be today or tomorrow or next week or next month or even next year.  We all live on borrowed time and it is up to God when to take us into the valley of the shadow of death and on into eternity.  But John has some important teaching for us as one who has gone before us and has seen the future of heaven and so I want to be sure to listen to his advice, don’t you?

There will always be the antichrist to deal with in our lives for he was there during John’s lifetime.  This means that we need to stay vigilant in our Bible reading and study with great urgency to make certain that what we are learning is correct.  I know some of you don’t like to read your Bible because it is difficult for you to understand, but how else will you know that what you are learning in church is correct?  That is the warning here from John, notice that many who proclaim the teachings of the antichrist began as worshipers in church.  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  This means that there are churches out in our neighborhoods and our world that do not teach the word of God accurately and so we must be aware and know when we hear something that isn’t right in God’s eyes.  Many cults exist that pretend to be Christian but they teach things that will send people to hell.

How do we know if our church is teaching the Bible accurately?  Well, John has a great test for discovering that.  Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.  If Jesus is taught as only a good teacher or a prophet and not the Son of God then your religion is false and you need to leave it and go to a church that teaches the truth.  Anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and doesn’t believe this or teach this is a liar!  Strong words but great truth is spoken here.  Eternal life only comes through Jesus Christ and so we must believe in Him as God’s Son who came to die on a cross for all the sins of every person who ever existed or ever will exist.  But we also need to believe that Jesus also rose from the dead as the first to defeat death!  Praise God!!!

As I age I begin to see some false teachings in various so-called churches and it frightens me.  When I was younger I wasn’t knowledgeable to see the differences in teachings between churches.  I didn’t have the time to study and learn.  I think that aging is a good thing because we begin to slow down and have the time to study, to read, and to learn and become wise in the things of God.  John reminds us to do so.  And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.  Now that I have the time to read my Bible and to study and share with you all what I am learning I think it isn’t so bad to be in the autumn of my life.  Death is coming in the next twenty years or so but I really don’t fear it like I once did.  I am not afraid to die because I know that my faith is solidly based upon the Word of God and that I will go to be with my Lord Jesus Christ.  And that is pretty cool!

Until next time…Katherine