Isaiah Twenty-Five

I have been reading in Isaiah today and found something interesting to think about.  Let’s begin by reading it together.

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.  You have made the city a heap of rubble, the fortified town a ruin, the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.  Therefore strong peoples will honor you; cities of ruthless nations will revere you.  You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.  For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert.  You silence the uproar of foreigners; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled.  On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken.  In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.  This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”  The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain; but Moab will be trampled in their land as straw is trampled down in the manure.  They will stretch out their hands in it, as swimmers stretch out their hands to swim.  God will bring down their pride despite the cleverness of their hands.  He will bring down your high fortified walls and lay them low; he will bring them down to the ground, to the very dust.  Isaiah 25:1-12, (New International Version or NIV).

I find this writing to be such an encouragement but I can’t help but wonder how much more of a comfort it was to the people when written and proclaimed.  Isaiah was the Prophet of God and was given things to say from God to the Jewish people.  I love how Isaiah begins by acknowledging who God is, this sounds so personal.  The average person did not have such a personal relationship with God when this was written.  The average person lived life by rules and regulations to show their worthiness to God without ever hearing from God personally.  Prophets heard from God and some who were Kings did but the average person probably did not.  God has shown His might in this passage and Isaiah praises God for destroying the enemy and the threat to the Jewish people has been removed.  No wonder Isaiah is praising God for this reprieve.   But there is more than just the present being referred to in this passage.

Isaiah begins to describe a future day, a day when a great feast will take place and all people from every nation will be invited and will participate.  On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.  Now that sounds like a party that I sure wouldn’t want to miss, how about you?  Isaiah also tells us more about that day.  On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  What does this sound like to you?  To me it sounds very familiar.  Death will be gone forever….tears will be wiped away.  I think I have read about this day somewhere else such as in the New Testament.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”  I answered, “Sir, you know.”  And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’  ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”  Revelation 7:13-17, (NIV).

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:1-5, (NIV).

So how do we go from the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah to the New Testament Holy City?  Something had to have happened to cause death to be no more for these people who are attending such a grand feast.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)  Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”  At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”  Revelation 19:6-10, (NIV).

The grand feast is a marriage supper taking place in Heaven so who is getting married?  The Lamb is Jesus Christ as He is known as The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  So who is the bride?

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.  The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.  The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.  The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick.  The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.  The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.  I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  Revelation 21:9-27, (NIV).

I know this is rather long but it is so important to understanding what Isaiah is describing in chapter twenty-five.  Isaiah is prophesying the coming of the Church of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life.  The Church is married to the Lamb of God which is Christ Jesus.  In other words Isaiah is talking about today, this very hour, when you and I as followers of Christ are living under grace and not the law with all its many rules and regulations.  Isaiah is talking about the time when people of all nations will be praising God and living life-giving all praise and honor and glory to God through Christ Jesus.  Isaiah is also talking about the future when we enter into heaven and live in the Holy City on the new earth and with the new heaven!  How exciting is that!!!!

Until next time…Katherine

 

Advertisements

Gardening by God

I wrote recently about my summertime laziness and how I needed to get back on schedule mentally, and spiritually.  Well today I was thinking of the passage in John about the vine and branches and so forth.  Something caught my eye I want to share so let’s read the first part of the passage together and then discuss it.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  John 15:1-4, (New International Version or NIV).

I always think of my rose-bush that badly needs to be pruned.  Some of the branches are actually dead or if not dead certainly unproductive.  I think of myself and how unproductive I can be at times too and I sure hope that God doesn’t decide to prune me again.  I have certainly had a few struggles that felt like being pruned down to my roots at times, that’s for sure.   I do like to avoid trials whenever possible.  But I never thought about Jesus having to be pruned and yet this passage begins with that very thought.  Jesus is saying that God the Father is the gardener and that He, Jesus, is the vine.  Jesus also says that God will cut off branches that don’t bear fruit.  I have seen people who have fallen away from the church and yet I never thought of God the Father as pruning them out because they were not producing fruit.  Wow!  But then notice in the second sentence that Jesus says God cuts out the unproductive branches in Jesus!  I can only conclude that God has cut out certain people from the church because they are no longer Christians producing good fruit.  Jesus is the vine and God is the one who prunes the vine.  In order to remain a branch of the vine we must continue to produce good fruit but there is more.  Jesus continues to explain that one branch alone cannot grow anything unless it is connected to the vine so I have to remain in Jesus and then Jesus remains in me.  I can’t do good deeds on my own, I can’t save anyone, it is Jesus who does the saving.  I can only be the branch and leaf that brings the people to hear the word of God and then let Jesus do the rest in their hearts.  If I am plugged in to Jesus then the fruit that I produce really belongs to Jesus, or so this seems to me!  What else does this passage teach?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:5-8, (NIV).

This is a two-way partnership, I must remain in Jesus so that Jesus can remain in me and then together Jesus and I will grow fruit that is sweet and wonderful and refreshing.  I just love that!  Right now we have a tomato plant in bloom and tiny little tomatoes have begun to grow.  Now that will be some good tasting fruit when they are fully grown and I look forward to eating them.  But if the tomato plant didn’t have sunshine and water and good dirt to grow in then the plant would not produce anything and would surely die.  The partners in nature make the plant produce good fruit just as having Jesus as my partner allows me to grow some pleasing fruit.  It all comes down to me doesn’t it for Jesus will be faithful because Jesus and God are always faithful in keeping their part of the partnership.  Jesus is the vine, I am the branches of the vine and God prunes out the dead around me so that I can continue to grow and produce fruit!  I love that even though having someone pruned out of your life so that you can grow is not always pleasant.  I hate to see them die on the vine, to stop remaining in Jesus!  It is sad but I can’t save them from being pruned no matter how hard I try.  I can only pray that they will wake up before pruning takes place.  Jesus wants us to bear good fruit because this is pleasing to God!  God wants and expects us to bear good fruit because we are His garden and His garden has beauty in it.  What is the prettiest and best good fruit I wonder?  Jesus tells us in this parable.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other.  John 15:9-17, (NIV).

Love.  Love is the beauty in God’s garden.  When the children of God show love to the darkness of this world we bring joy to God.  We bring joy to Jesus.  Love is not hard to give away, doing acts of kindness are not big things, not really.  Even the poorest of us can smile at another or share a kind word or give a drink of water to another.  God sees every act of love and kindness we do and delights in them as much as we delight in our flower and vegetable gardens.  Each person has something to give to another in the name of love.  It isn’t always money or possessions sometimes it is a kind word.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7, (NIV).

Showing love to another fellow human being is an act of humility, we lay down our pride, our prejudices, our loyalty to clans and tribes, our hesitations and we are patient and kind to another.  We show love when we show respect to everyone including those we do not agree with politically or emotionally or spiritually.  We set aside our dislikes and anger and show love by keeping no list of things to be angry about or hold a grudge against.  This is not always easy especially if you have been a victim of hate and harm and that is where patience comes in, being patient with ourselves is sometimes necessary until we can show love through forgiveness of another.  We do not like it when evil appears to win rather we seek the truth, tell the truth and rejoice in the truth being told.  Jesus protects us and this frees us to protect others and to trust and be trustworthy for others.  We hope because Jesus gives us much to hope for and we continue to fight the good fight daily because we know the battle has already been won and righteousness has won.  We keep going until the last and final breath leaves our earthy vessel.  Yes, we can do all of this because Jesus is the vine and God is the gardener who prunes out the bad, the dead, and the unfruitful in our lives.  Praise God for this parable to teach us how we are to live out our life here on earth.  It is such a blessing!

Until next time…Katherine

Peter’s Sermon Illustration That Baffles Me

I have often been baffled by a writing of Peter because I don’t really understand what he is saying.  I am a firm believer in two things when studying the Bible, one is the context of a passage and the other is literally what is written is what we are to learn from.  I had a conversation concerning this passage recently with two young women who are deeply interested in this passage as well and so I decided to study through it today in the hopes that I can come to a clear understanding so bear with me as we take this journey together!

     1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3And let not your adornment be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 6Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

     7You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

     8To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9not 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. 10For,

            “LET HIM WHO MEANS TO LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS

            REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING GUILE.

     11“AND LET HIM TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD;

            LET HIM SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.

     12“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.”

     13And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15but 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; 16and 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. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18For 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; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who 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. 21And 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, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. 1 Peter 3:1-22, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

Normally I take out the numbering of the verses but today I think it best to leave them in so that it makes my referring back to them easier for all of us.  I think it fair to say that Peter is writing this first letter as an instructional sermon for Christians to learn how to live a Godly life.  He begins this chapter explaining how wives and husbands are to treat one another.  Wives are to be submissive to their husbands, and this today angers a lot of women but submissiveness is not a bad thing.  Rather being a submissive wife is being a woman who knows when to stop pushing her husband when together they are making some decisions that will affect the family.  Being submissive is understanding what it is like to be a disciple of Jesus and deferring your opinions to Jesus’s or deferring your opinions to your husbands when a conflict of wills arise.  Remember that the husbands also must be submissive to Jesus as well as the wife is.  Being submissive takes the pressure off of the wife and places it on her husband.  And then in verse 7 Peter tells husbands to be understanding of their wives and to honor her as a fellow Christian.  Then verse 8-10 tells plainly how we all should get along with each other whether in a marriage situation or as a single person.  It is the next part of this passage that I fail to completely understand.

In verse 18 Peter reminds us that Jesus Christ died for the bad guys, you and me, the just Jesus for  the unjust you and me.  He then continues to explain that the reason for Jesus’s death is to take the sins of the world to the grave and leave them there so that when Jesus rose from the dead the sins didn’t come to life with Him.  In this way when a Christian is buried in baptism by water and rises to a new life in Jesus their sin stays dead so that when God looks at that person God only see’s Jesus and no sin.  The Apostle Paul gives a great definition of this process of renewal in Ephesians.

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.  This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.  Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.   For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.   Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:8-21, (NASB77).

Our faith in Jesus Christ begins with the Holy Spirit working in our hearts and minds or as Paul calls it in this passage the inner man, and through this Spirit which was given to us by God the Father we are given strength and power to overcome our sins.  This is grace which is the process in which Christians can access God directly.  Grace comes by faith in Jesus Christ and following and obeying and living as Jesus teaches us to live.  Peter gives us a good listing of what it looks like to live as we ought in the passage we first read.  But Peter continues in that passage to speak about something that stumps me in verses 19 and 20.  What do you think of these verses and their meaning?  The people who lived before the flood, from Adam and Eve until Noah and the flood are the reference here.

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.  Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”  The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.  Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  And the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.  Genesis 6:1-8, (NASB77).

Nearly every Christian has heard of the great flood and how Noah and his three sons and all their wives were saved from destruction.  Animals were saved as well and were placed on the Ark in pairs to preserve them for the future.  But what do the evil people who died have to do with Jesus?  Well, I can garner no other meaning than what Peter says here and that is that when Jesus died His Spirit spent three days somewhere waiting to be risen from the dead.  Peter says in verse 18 that Jesus died for all, the unjust which are you and me.  I think this would include every person born since the creation of Adam and Eve.  Verse 19 says that Jesus went to the prison and preached to the dead there, but apparently only to those who died before the flood.  What does he mean by prison?  I think it is hell, don’t you?  The Aramaic Bible in Plain English uses the word Sheol which means hell.  If it is not hell then it is a prison for wayward and evil souls.  Peter doesn’t say what the proclamation was that Jesus told to these dark souls but I think we can assume that Jesus told them why He came to the earth, why He died on a cross and why He would soon rise again.  After all that is the Good News!  Remember that these souls did not have the benefit of the law of Moses to know what was right or wrong to do while they lived.  These people also did not have the benefit of the written law on man’s heart like we do today.  God fulfilled His covenant with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33) and now everyone has a conscience, a written guide to know right from wrong (Romans 2:15).  These people had not guidance and so no wonder wickedness ran rampant.  There is another verse to verify that Jesus during those three days of death did not go to heaven and God.

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.  And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.  John 20:11-18, (NASB77).

This passage tells us that Jesus was in the process of going to see God but had not been there yet so where was Jesus coming from?  A parable that Jesus told also sheds light on this subject.

“Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day.  “And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.  “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.  “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.  “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’  “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.  ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’  Luke 16:19-26, (NASB77).

In this parable Jesus tells us that there is a place where the unjust go and it is different from where the just go after death.  I do not doubt the words of Jesus, and so I do not doubt that Jesus’s Spirit went to preach to the souls in prison as Peter talks about in verses 18-20.  What Peter says next in verse 21 I also do not doubt.  Water saved Noah and his family and water saves me through baptism into Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Baptism is not a bath to make my body clean, it is so much more, it is a bath to cleanse my soul and to ask God for a clean heart and a renewed mind and to live a righteous life, a life desiring to follow Jesus and be justified.  I often have wondered if any of the souls Jesus spoke to were given a chance to be let out of their prison.  I will patiently wait until eternity to know the answer to that question.  Personally I think they must have been given that chance or otherwise why preach to them, but I do not think there is any evidence to show such an outcome.  I think this is still a mystery, something that the first century Christians probably knew but for some reason the Holy Spirit chose not to explain for future generations.  What a terrific sermon illustration of faith! (Also check out 1 Peter 4:6 as this verse also speaks to this issue of Christ preaching to the dead).

Until next time…Katherine

Don’t Be Lazy Or Selfish

It is summertime in Nebraska and the daytime temperatures are hot which makes me lazy.  There’s an old saying about the lazy days of summer and I am feeling it big time!  Of course I have no excuse as I sit in an air-conditioned home, but I still feel lazy.  I can find the most far-reaching excuses for not doing things that I had planned to accomplish this summer.  I think being off schedule as the driver for getting my son to school during the school term is part of the problem.  I have to get up and get him to school and then remember to pick him up from school and I have to make certain that he eats well in order to stay healthy.  But during the summer I do not have to get up and so I may stay up later and then sleep in later and I don’t cook, we snack or go out for fast food!  I have got to stop my lazy days of summer and get back on schedule.  I have things to clean out and things to write and all I want to do is nothing!  As Christians we can also get lazy and selfish but James reminds us not to.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.  You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.  James 2:14-24, (New International Version or NIV).

James reminds us that if we say that we have faith in Jesus Christ and are Christians then we naturally will be moved to do something, good deeds!  We will see the needs of others and we will naturally want to do something to help them.  It is in the Christian’s DNA to be a servant and to help others.  Oh but James was also living in the world of Christian reality which sometimes isn’t all that different from the world’s thinking.  The world’s way of living life is shown in many parables but none as stark as this one told by Jesus.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’  “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’  Luke 16:19-26, (NIV).

Do you see how the rich man lived his life never noticing the poor man who was starving to death at his gate?  I mean, that is really callous, to see a man starving and not even give him the crumbs from your table.  There is more to the story as the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers and warn them but Abraham says no because the brothers already know what they should do and they would not listen to someone from the dead.  Wow!  So I need to really rethink my lazy days of summer and make certain that in my own selfishness I do not neglect to do for others who are in need.  Sometimes the need is food but many times it is as simple of a need as an encouraging word or a card sent to let them know that they are being prayed for.  Other times it might be a little money for gas or to pay the light bill.  Yes, we need to be careful to see to the needs of others.  Here is how Jesus feels about this.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46, (NIV).

This is such a great passage to remind us to be on the lookout for people in need.  We do not have to go far to find people who are hurting because they are all around us.  There are elderly people who would love to have someone stop by and visit a while.  There are overworked moms and dads who would love to have a date night without their children.  There are teens who are lonely and in need of someone paying attention to them.  There are orphans in need of a home and missionaries who always have needs to be filled.  We are to fill those needs if we are Christians and we do so without even thinking about it, we just do it!  That is what being a servant is really all about.

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.  1 John 3:11-18, (NIV).

Okay, I get the picture here.  I need to get out of this lazy season and back into servant mode and show my love for others.   Thanks James and John for the reminder!

Until next time…Katherine

Planning With Guidance From The Holy Spirit

In my lifetime I have gone many places and seen many things.  As a military spouse I lived in Germany for four years and saw much of Europe during that time and enjoyed each place that I visited with my family.  When my life was interrupted by an illness and I lay flat in my bed I thought a lot about my Christian walk and my faith in Jesus Christ.  I leaned upon the hope granted to all Christians for a better future even if it meant leaving this world for my eternal destination.  And after some years I began to feel recovered and life went on until one day when it all came to a screeching stop because of a pending divorce.  For a time I wondered through divorce country trying to make sense of it all and simply to survive with my faith intact.  From the time I was single once more until now I have spent much time in prayer asking for God’s guidance as to where to go, where to live, whether to be employed or not, and so on.  I have asked God to help me settle in my mind the plans He has for me and for the most part I believe that I live according to such plans.  It is not exactly a secure life but it is a good life filled to the brim with peace which is what I have desired.  Imagine how I felt when I ran across this scripture passage about the Apostle Paul and who he relied upon for making his plans.

We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot.  When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene.  The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus.  Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.  From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.  When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.  I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.  You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.  “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.  “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.  Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.  “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.  You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.  They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.  What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.  Acts 20:13-38, (New International Version or NIV).

My first thought as I read this passage is how travel has changed since Paul’s time until today.  I can’t imagine walking from place to place and only taking a ship or a boat when one was necessary to cross a body of water.  Today we are so spoiled as we drive in our air-conditioned and heated vehicles.  When you really think about that it is only in the past hundred years or so that such a change in lifestyle came to most of us and there are parts of the world today who do not have such luxurious modes of transportation.  We are blessed for sure.  My second thought was how Paul relied upon the Holy Spirit as his GPS system.  Do I do that today?  Not at all as much as Paul did way back then.  There is a lesson to be learned here I think.  A key to a successful faith in Christ is to be so in tune to God’s Word which is hand-in-hand with a prayer life that asks for guidance in every decision in life and not just the major ones.  Paul was so tuned in that he knew when the Holy Spirit was preventing him from going one place or another and could see the door open to a place he was supposed to go and preach and teach.  Now that is a wonderful example of faith lived out daily don’t you think?  “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  Paul has to be tuned-in to what the Holy Spirit is saying to be able to sense the compelling and the warnings.  This seemed to be a common occurrence for Paul but I must admit there are only a few times in my entire life that I felt a warning or even compelled to go somewhere or do something for the Lord.  Perhaps Paul was able to be so tuned in because he wasn’t married and encumbered by a family’s needs.  Perhaps it was because he was chosen to be a missionary to the Gentiles by Jesus thus he was equipped for the task.  Perhaps it was because he loved the Lord so much that he was willing to listen and then to obey.

There is something else we can learn from this passage and that is that not everyone is to go, some are to stay in their communities and be a witness there.  Notice how Paul talks to the elders whom he gathered to him.  “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.  Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  These were men in established churches and Paul is not asking them to travel with him to Jerusalem, rather he is asking them to stay put in their community and be good leaders of their congregations and help the flock that the Holy Spirit has given to them.  He goes on and warns them that wolves will try to destroy the congregations they serve in but to hang tough and keep them out of the church.  In other words he reveals one of the responsibilities of good leaders of the church and that is to protect the congregation from false teaching.  And then Paul reminds them of something important that Jesus once said, In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’  He reveals a second responsibility of the elders and church, to help financially those members who need help.  Why?  Because of the blessing it is to the one who receives this help but also because there is a blessing for the one who gives as well.  Paul was an example as a missionary but also as a hardworking man who did not depend upon others for his daily sustenance.  He was a working pastor who had a paid job and then preached for free.  He gave freely to others a blessing in teaching them but he also gave freely an example of working for a living as well.  There are many pastors who follow Paul’s example even today.  It is not a job for everyone though, and it helped that Paul was single as he could live frugally.  I want to get back to the point I made earlier and that is that Paul depended upon the Holy Spirit for knowing where he was to go and who he was to preach to along the way.  It reminds me of a verse from Proverbs.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.  Proverbs 16:9, (NIV).

Let us never forget that as Christians where we are today is right where God wants us to be.  What we are doing today is what God has given us to do.  We must always remember to pray about not only the big decisions in our lives but also the small things and know with confidence that the Holy Spirit will guide us.  So let us do our tasks well and with a joyful heart.

Until next time…Katherine

What Is The Purpose Of Forgiveness

I read a woman’s magazine this morning that someone had given to me and honestly I hadn’t read a woman’s magazine for years.  I found it to be interesting for a variety of reasons.  It had the expected recipe ideas and do-it-yourself decorating tips as well as two good articles, one on a military wife and how she takes care of her wounded soldier who is a paraplegic and the other article was on depression.  I remember why I stopped buying such magazines when I saw that nearly half of the magazine was filled with advertisements.  I couldn’t help but notice that so many of the ads were for medication of one kind or another.  It seemed to me that they outnumbered the ads for beauty products, and that was new.   There was also a page that highlighted new books to read and one caught my attention as she wrote a novel about a girl who was gang-raped and the author apparently had also been gang-raped while in high school.  How sad.  I think when I had finished reading the magazine I felt a little depressed too.  I sure am glad that I didn’t pay good money for this magazine, that’s for sure!  And yet some of the stories I read are sticking with me this morning, I have thought about how so much of the problems in the world could be solved if everyone obeyed our Lord’s command to love one another.  I also thought about forgiveness and how a person can forgive such a sin as gang-rape.  So today I want to study the subject of forgiveness and why God demands us to forgive others.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  Matthew 6:14-15, (New International Version or NIV).

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  Mark 11:25, (NIV).

These two passages make it very clear that we must forgive others just as our Heavenly Father forgives us of our own sins.  This idea is also found in the model prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer, take a look.

This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’  Matthew 6:9-13, (NIV).

He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.’ ” Luke 11:2-4, (NIV).

Yes, forgiveness is not an option and as a Christian we have no choice but to forgive others even if it is for such heinous crimes perpetuated against us.  Why does God require Christians to forgive?  I mean the Old Testament does not require forgiveness, rather it is the eye-for-an-eye mentality (Exodus 21:24).  I think that the reason God demands forgiveness from Christians is because it is what is best for us.  Think about this for a moment.  If we do not forgive another for the littlest offense to the largest offences we do not work through the grief and pain of our sorrows.  We humans tend to push our emotions down deep and not examine them and this is not really what is best for us.  We will either become bitter or we will constantly nurse the wound within us and our life is not really the best.  We see this in the world around is daily.  So many act out in ways that are not healthy.  We resort to self-medication to hide our pain.  And yet when we are forced to forgive another’s sin against us we are forced to face the issue and deal with it.  It is not easy but in the long run it is what is best for us and that is why I believe God demands us to forgive because God wants what is best for us.  He will deal with the offender and can do so in ways that we simply can’t.  Remember that God is in control of everything to include vengeance.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Hebrews 10:26-32, (NIV).

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:14-21, (NIV).

I think these two passages really show that God can handle revenge for us on those who do not repent from sin and turn their life around and follow Jesus.  If we were in charge we would probably want to destroy the person who harmed us perhaps even kill them because we have no love for them.  However, God does have love even for the rapist and murderer and wants to see them repent and turn and follow Jesus because they are His creation.  If a person who has raped or murdered or any other sin against another becomes a Christian God will expect them to confess their crimes as well as their sins and let the law of the land bring earthly justice.  God will also expect us to forgive them for the harm they have done against us or someone we love.  That is how repentance works, consequences must be dealt with and when such heinous crimes are committed there are legal consequences that take place.  We can rest in the knowledge that God will deal with the perpetrator eventually one way or another.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.  2 Peter 3:8-10, (NIV).

God is in control of every situation and while you are required to forgive your enemies and to pray for them to repent never forget that the God of this universe sees all and will not forget what has happened to you.  You, on the other hand, can take your time to heal, it won’t be an instantaneous event but it will come if you seek forgiving another.  God grants you peace in the matter and that is one of the greatest things to have in your own life.  Remember that forgiving another is not trusting them again.  Forgiving another is not ignoring the law of our land.  Forgiving is not letting the perpetrator off the hook, rather it is letting go for your own heart’s sake and letting God take care of it all and we can be assured that God’s justice cannot be escaped by anyone to include us.   Why carry the burdens of bad memories when we can let God take them and deal with them.  I love that being a Christian and a follower of Jesus lessons our burdens.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30, (NIV).

How refreshing forgiveness is for the weary soul.  How refreshing to know that not only are our sins forgiven but we can learn to forgive others.  Our world would be so much better if everyone learned to forgive.  It is best when we can forgive and forget, I am still working on the forgetting part but I know it will come for God keeps His promises as long as I do my part.  He will do the same for you too.  Forgiveness makes our burdens so much lighter and much easier to bear, don’t you think?  I believe that is why God requires Christians to forgive.

Until next time…Katherine

Living Life Well

Aging is not for the faint of heart.  No, aging is for the brave and as your years mount up you realize just how short life has really been and how much of what you worried about wasn’t all that important after all.  I know because I am aging, I’m in my early sixties.  I wonder sometimes how to cope with the possibility of death.  I remember being in my forties and being so ill that I wanted to die.  When you are so ill that breathing actually is painful then death seems like a great option for there will be no more pain.  At least for some there will be no more pain, but what about those who are not Christians?  I fear that their pain is just beginning when death takes them.   I have always been intrigued by a story, a particular story from the Bible that Jesus told.  Some say that it is a story that really happened but others say that it is only symbolic.  I personally believe that Jesus told of a real situation that He observed and could testify to the truth of it.  I’ll let you decide what you think of this story.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’  “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’  “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’  “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” Luke 16:19-31, (New International Version or NIV).

We all want to be rich, right?  I mean we all may not want to be the wealthiest of the wealthy but we all want to be wealthy enough to have a home and cars and nice furniture and nice clothes and have all of our bills paid.  In fact the rich man Jesus describes in this passage is probably the kind of man who we all would like to be, wealthy enough to live in a little luxury.  Be truthful now and I suspect that you will agree with me that we all would like to be at least a little wealthy.  But the man that Jesus describes as rich had some other problems wouldn’t you say?  Wealth was not really the problem here but pride in his wealth was a problem.  He was so proud of his wealth that he thought he was more important than most of the people.  He thought of Lazarus as non-existent, probably didn’t even see him when passing through his gate going to the city.  And then there was the beggar, a man of many sorrows no doubt.  We are not really told by Jesus why Lazarus was so poor that he was having to beg for his daily bread and often didn’t get even that.  He definitely saw the rich man and knew who he was and Lazarus longed to eat even the scraps from the rich man’s table.  While the rich man went about his daily tasks on earth not noticing poor beggar Lazarus the dogs of the city did notice and they came to lick the sores on poor Lazarus.  The dogs were more kind to the poor beggar than people were.  How sad.

I ask you, which man would you want to be on this earth?  Most of us really are so busy in our lives that we don’t even see the needs of the poor who are destitute and in need of our kindness.  In fact to be very honest with you I am often quite suspicious of people I see who are begging for help.  My first instinct is to turn away from them or send them to the nearest welfare office or homeless mission where they will have a bed for the night.  Well, this isn’t really the truth either I must confess for truth be told I so rarely am out where I see the destitute so how can I help them.   Oh there have been times in my life when I helped a person out who needed some food or gas money or encouragement and one or two bills paid.  But not nearly as much as I should for I am not out and about looking for them.   I think that if we could speak to the rich man in this story he would say the same thing as I am.  He would say that he was busy and didn’t see anyone in need because the circle of acquaintances he associated with were all like him and well off financially.  But what is the rest of this story Jesus tells?

I believe that Jesus is showing several important points in this story.  First of all Jesus is showing us a view of the world, the perspective that most of us probably have through the life and death of the rich man.  He is showing us that there are people who are suffering greatly and those who are not.  Jesus is showing us that being blessed with wealth is not a bad thing unless we think only of ourselves and do not look for opportunities to help out our fellow citizens.  Jesus is showing us that death strips away the wrappings and pretty packaging of our earthly lives.  In fact Jesus is teaching us that there is an after-life and what we do in our earthly lives will affect where we spend eternity.  Dare I say it?  Jesus is teaching us that there is a heaven and a hell and if we want to remain comfortable in the after-life then we better be certain that we do not follow the example of the rich man.

I must admit I have often thought like the rich man who wanted Father Abraham to send someone to his brothers who were still living and warn them that eternity does exist, that heaven and hell do exist and that they need to live differently than they have been.  I want that for those whom I know and love that may not be walking as closely to the Lord as they should.  But notice what the rich man was told.  He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”  Today we have more than Moses and the Prophets for we have an entire Bible consisting of the Old and New Testaments.  We also have a man who rose from the dead, Jesus, the teller of this story.   We have no excuse, not one of us!  I think all of us, myself included, need to pause and reflect on our life and how we are doing.  I know that I can do better in opening my eyes to the hurting around me.  I can also support organizations and people who are willing to go to the lost and destitute.  I can pray for the workers who are trying to make a difference in other people’s lives.  I can stop being like the ostrich with my head buried in the sand and start being more compassionate.  Because of my age I can’t really have a do-over but I can begin today to make changes in my attitude toward the destitute and the dying.  I can and so can you but the real question is will I and will you?

Until next time…Katherine