Death Or Life

I think every person comes to a point in their life that life is not near as appealing as death might be.  There can be a ton of reasons why a person thinks about the peacefulness we know is waiting for Christians at the end of life on this earth.  Sometimes our lives are so difficult due to illness or circumstances that we long for our own death.  Other times it comes as we age that we simply begin to think about our own death and hope it will go well and we won’t linger in poor health and pain.  We see far too often where people commit suicide because they just don’t want to deal with their life any longer, so sad and such a selfish act.  I just want to point out to all of you that it’s normal to think about our eventual death but we need to have the Apostle Paul’s attitude because his is healthy.  He had a good grasp on what is important.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.  And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.  Philippians 1:21-26, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

The Apostle Paul is in prison in Rome and most likely knows he will never be a free man again.  He is getting older and while in prison has many visitors who come to encourage him and he writes several letters during this ending time in his life.  He has been a busy man since he converted to be a follower of The Way.  He has been on several missionary trips and has helped establish many churches throughout the non-Jewish world.  Paul has also been beaten and left for dead many times as well as having survived a ship-wreck and no doubt his body shows the effects of such abuse.  He is tired and getting older and feels the natural longing for going to Jesus and leaving this earthly body behind.  As I age I sure can understand this passage so much more.  I saw my grandparents, and then my parents all go through this period of life and I am heading down the same path towards the end of life stage.  I love how Paul dealt with these feelings and attitudes.  He didn’t give up; he purposefully decided to keep going as long as God would give him breath and a good mind.  He knows and acknowledges that to die and go be with Jesus would be such a great thing for him but not for the people he would be leaving behind.  He had been involved with so many church plants and he cared about these new Christians as a father cares for his children.  I love that attitude!  How does he make this choice, death or keep on living?  He draws up a pro vs con list and analyzes the two choices.

But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  If Paul chooses to live then he wants to be useful not to please himself but to benefit the kingdom of God and the furtherance of the Gospel.  Paul says that if he lives he wants to be of use to the young churches and the teachers and preachers who are working with them.  Can you imagine what a great resource of knowledge and encouragement Paul was to those young churches and pastors?  I wish we could call him up today and talk to him about things that happen in our lives and get insight from such a wise and compassionate man, don’t you?  He had to have been a tremendous advocate and a teacher who taught with great knowledge and passion.  I can think of a few men and women who have passed on to glory that I loved to learn from so I think that I can understand how those young churches must have leaned upon Paul for encouragement.  Yes, Paul wants to be useful or in his words fruitful.

But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.  Oh but aching muscles, a tired and worn out body that has had years of abuse piled upon it, and aging is catching up with the old Apostle.   He must feel the end is coming soon to his life and yet he has so many more people who need to be taught, so many young preachers that are not quite ready for the full responsibilities of carrying the load of the Gospel.  In some ways I can identify with Paul.  I am nearing old age, some think I am already there, and I would love to simply go to sleep and never awaken on this earth again because I don’t delight in all that old age holds for me.  But I have a thirteen year old son who counts on me to wake up each morning and to help him to become the man who God intends him to be.  I have a granddaughter that loves Grandma and looks forward to spending time with me and I have much to continue to teach her and to encourage her parents in how they are doing such a great job in rearing her.  I have daughters and their families to be there for when or if they ever need my help.  I have responsibilities not near as large as Paul’s but never-the-less this is where God has placed me and the responsibilities He has given to me.  I can understand what Paul is saying here and I bet you can too.  You also have an area of responsibility that God has given to you to carry on with and so we must keep going!  Paul can see the need for his advice and so he has to make a choice and does.

And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.  Yes the old Apostle has analyzed his options and has decided that life is the better option for so many reasons.  Paul is deciding to not give up and die but rather to fight the effects of aging and to maintain a fruitful life, a useful life, a purpose for living.  Notice how he chooses to live for others and puts his personal feelings on hold.  I have been in such a position in my own life where I had to choose to live or choose to die and I chose to live because I knew that my family needed me.  It was many years ago when my health completely collapsed and I had to work at living, work at eating, and work at gaining strength and return to full health.  This is what Paul is doing and he makes this choice for the good of others.  He now lets them know that he is making plans for the future, to come and see them.  Of course we know the ending of this story and know that he never got to go there but the point is that he made plans to go.  In making plans for the future he did not lose hope in his hopeless situation.  That is an important point that we all can learn from.

If you are struggling with this same dilemma, to live or to die, I hope you will choose life because there are those who truly need you.  Maybe it isn’t you adult children, maybe it isn’t your own children or grandchildren, but someone needs you.  Perhaps it is a child in another country who is cold and needs the blanket you can make and send to a mission.  Perhaps it is someone in a hotel room who needs to find the Bible that your money given to the Gideon’s puts one in that hotel room.  Maybe it is the prayers that you are praying for your pastor and his family.  There are many things that you can do to be fruitful in uplifting the Christians you know in prayer.  I need your prayers too.  Be like Paul and choose to stay here a little longer because we need you!

Until next time…Katherine

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Prison Was God’s Will

I think that there are many prisons we can endure.  Not all prisons have four walls and bars that lock us up or have guards to keeps us locked up.  Some prisons a person endures come from the choices we have made in the past such as the prison of alcoholism or the prison of addiction to drugs or sex.  Other prisons are of our minds in which we do not think that we are worthy or can’t do something we want to do because we are held captivates by our lack of confidence.  Most of the time we don’t look like we are in prison but the chains that bind us emotionally are as real as those who are behind bars because they broke the law and got caught and were sent there.  Sometimes we run across a story where a prisoner says that prison saved their life and being behind bars helped to change their lives completely.  I am thankful for those stories because the person usually becomes a productive member of society after they are released from prison.  There is a story in the Bible of a man who was not guilty of anything but was put into prison and he praised God for his chains because he knew it was God’s will that he be there.  It is an old story but one that gives much hope to many of us.

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.  Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.  Philippians 1:3-14, (New International Version).

I imagine by now you have guessed the author of this letter to the church in Philippi, it is the Apostle Paul.  He is thanking God, which I think is the whole theme of Paul’s life.  Regardless of where he found himself or what circumstances he endured Paul was always rejoicing and thanking God.  As we can see Paul is in prison and chained to a palace guard at all times and Paul is thankful for being there.  I am sitting in my living room right now typing this post for my blog and I have to stop and ask myself if I am thankful to God in this very moment!  Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances as you read this are you thankful to God?  Being thankful to God for me is something I have to work at remembering to do.  Most of the time I am thankful but I don’t express it as often as I should.  I have so much to be thankful for and I am sure that you do as well.  Paul’s situation reminds me that we can give God the praise and be thankful every moment of every day.  So what is Paul thankful about?  He now thanks God every time he remembers his dear group of believers in Philippi as he prays for them.  What a blessing prayer is when we are praying for others.  What a neat way to remember others by praying for them.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Oh what beautiful words, what a wonderful sentiment to have someone praying for you with joy at remembering you in prayer.  How precious this is to the hearers of these words.  Paul is not only thankful for remembering his friends in prayer but it brings him great joy because he is praying for fellow Christians.  Paul also is remembering the good work that was begun in this group of Christians and has the greatest confidence that they will carry on the work he helped them to begin.  What a comfort this must have been to him as he was in prison.  Seeing the Gospel continuing to be taught and lived and breathed and shared and seeing them partake in this sacred trust that he imparted to them is truly a joy.  My words are failing me right now as I think of those who have had a part in my Christian life, how I hope that they also felt great joy and thankfulness for me as I was growing up in my Christian faith.  You also have people who have taught you and shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with you, think of how they must be so proud of you too.  Paul was proud of these dear Christians, that is what his joy is, the right kind of pride!  And he prays for them too, what is his prayer?

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.  Of course, Paul prays that they continue to love more and to gain a deeper understanding and insight in the things of God and in the teachings of Christ.  Isn’t that our prayer for those we have taught and encouraged?  He also wants to share with them how he has continued to work for the Kingdom of God even from prison.  Not only is he writing many letters to encourage and instruct the many groups of Christians he converted to Christianity but he also is still evangelizing even while he is chained to a palace guard.  How would you like to be a guard chained to Paul during this time?  I am sure that you would have some very interesting conversations and debates.  Paul doesn’t give up and is an intelligent man who was well-educated and loved to debate!  I am pretty sure there was more than one guard who came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior while being chained to Paul.  Paul’s joy was authentic and contagious no doubt.  He knew that God would help draw their hearts to Jesus if he simply continued to be joyful and encouraging to them.  I am pretty sure that Paul was a good listener and wise in helping them with many problems.  Oh to have such a joyful heart!

I can think of other Christians who had such a joyful heart regardless of their circumstances.  One that comes to mind I read about in the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom and that was her sister Betsie.  She was a joyful Christian and Corrie was not joyful but was a Christian as they spent time in a Nazi prison camp during World War Two but Betsie finally got Corrie to be thankful for fleas that inhabited their dwelling place.  The fleas kept the guards away so that the two women could hold Bible study with other women and the guards didn’t see the Bible they had smuggled into the camp with them when they were sent there.  It would have been destroyed had the guards seen it.  I want to be a joyful person too, don’t you?  Most of us are so blessed that we have not far to look for something to be thankful to God for giving us.

Prison was God’s will for Paul’s life.  We may not understand why that was the case.  Paul certainly wrote a lot of letters during his time in prison and for that I am eternally grateful.  Maybe that was why God placed him in prison.  Paul taught palace guards to love Jesus and they are eternally thankful for that I am sure.  Perhaps it was in the sufferings that Paul gained the greatest insight.  It is often the case with me that when I am suffering I learn the most about God’s grace and mercy and I certainly learn to trust Him more.  Our hope is always in Jesus Christ and the love He had for the people of the world is our mission, to let them know of this love.  That in itself is reason enough to rejoice!  I thank my God every time I remember you. 

Until next time…Katherine

God’s Forgiveness Comes After Repentance

I bristle when I hear people say that they don’t need to do anything except ask God to forgive them for sins they committed that lead to a divorce. The attitude that their sins are only between them and God is just not accurate.  I have thought a lot about the issue of forgiveness and anyone who has ever been through a divorce will probably understand why I have thought so much about it.  Forgiveness is certainly necessary and required when dealing with another person who has done you wrong whether through divorce, cheating, stealing, lying, or any other sin that has been perpetrated against you.  Jesus requires that we forgive one another and I am okay with that because I understand the importance of forgiveness for my own mental health.  I know that forgiveness is an act of submission to God and a process where Jesus takes our burden of pain and suffering and thoughts of revenge upon Him.  That doesn’t mean, however that my forgiveness of a person is the end of the matter for that person because God isn’t finished with them yet, no, God is finished with me when I forgive and I can continue to live a good and peaceful life after undergoing the process of forgiving another.  I have heard people say that they have been forgiven by God because they asked for His forgiveness and they don’t need to ask for anyone else’s because they only sinned against God.  How blind they really are when they think this way.  If you disagree with me then let’s look at the example of King David.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”  David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.  Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’  “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.  You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  2 Samuel 12:4-13, (New International Version or NIV).

I believe that this is the passage of scripture people turn to when they need forgiveness especially due to sexual sins and this is where the idea comes from that only God has been sinned against.  But is this the whole truth or is this David deflecting his guilt.  Yes, David sinned against God his professed Lord, but David also sinned against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah the Hittite.  Nathan the prophet has made it very clear in this passage that David has sinned against humans as well as against God’s law.

You shall not murder.  “You shall not commit adultery.  “You shall not steal.  “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  Exodus 20:13-17, (NIV).

David was guilty of a lot of God’s law, he coveted, he committed adultery, he stole a man’s wife, he murdered a man, and he lied about all of this to himself and those who had any suspicions of his bad behavior.  He should have been stoned to death and that is probably why David admitted his sins as sins against God.  But let’s see what happened next in this story of confrontation and forgiveness.

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”  2 Samuel 12:13-14, (NIV).

God forgave David many sins but there were consequences, there are always unintended consequences from sins that we commit and innocent people often bear the brunt of those consequences.  David grieved and pleaded with God to let the child live but God chose not to allow this child to live.  Bathsheba and David went on to have more children together as David had married her after he arranged for her husband’s death in battle.  God blessed them because when God forgives He doesn’t remind us of our sins again nor hold them against us, for that I am forever thankful.  But there is another side to this story as well in David’s act of forgiveness.

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.  Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.  May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.  Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.  Psalm 51:1-19, (NIV).

Does this sound like an arrogant heart that just did lip-service in asking for God’s forgiveness when confronted about their sins?  No, this is a gut-wrenching emotional plea asking God to forgive the sins David had been guilty of committing.  Yes, David sinned against God, but David also repented of everything to God and though he couldn’t bring back Uriah from death David did take care of Uriah’s widow and he did not commit such sins again.  David changed his heart and became a much better man after God forgave him of his sins.  That is the real story here.  There are ways a person can make amends to those whom he has sinned against and a contrite heart and broken spirit will gladly do anything to ease the sufferings they’ve caused to the innocent who bore the blow-back from their sins.

During the sins committed that lead to a divorce there are many innocent people who are harmed.  In David’s case God brought quite a punishment upon David’s household as well.  The chaos that happens in so many families today I believe is the curse that comes with divorce.  Divorce is not God’s plan for marriage, it is not an end nor a new beginning, it is a painful endurance to so many.  I see it in my own family, the pain that my children bear, the dysfunction that comes from divorce is a constant battle in any family.  Oh there are wonderful stories of blended families after divorce but the hard work that goes on behind the scenes is not reported.  Forgiveness is achieved but it often takes years to really complete the process.  David’s own story tells us that even though he was confronted and immediately asked God for forgiveness and was granted forgiveness there still was a process of grief he went through.  His Psalm tells us of his deep grief and his deep repentance to forgive himself as well.  He wrote another that is worth notice.

Of David. A maskil.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.  You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.  Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.  Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.  Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!  Psalm 32:1-11, (NIV).

This is the heart of a man who sinned horribly against God and in the process innocent people suffered.  This is the heart of a many taking responsibility for his sins and with God’s help lives a more righteous life the rest of his future.  This is how repentance works; it is part of the process of forgiveness.  Yes, God forgives the sins that lead to divorce but there also needs to be repentance that is full and complete and then and only then can healing begin first in the heart of the sinners and then in the hearts of their family and any other innocent victims of their sins.  As David’s own story tells us it was not an easy path for him to take, but he took full responsibility for his own actions and repented of his sins and was forgiven by our gracious loving God.  Until that happens there is no real or true forgiveness from God because forgiveness without repentance is just lip-service and not a true act.

Until next time…Katherine

Titus Three

One of the passages in scripture that helps Christians to know how to live their life is in a small book in the New Testament named Titus.  As most books of the New Testament it is a letter that was written to a specific person at a certain point in time yet I feel as if it were written to me personally.  That is one of the things I love about the New Testament, so much of it can be personalized as if God were speaking only to me or to you.  Today I want to share my thoughts with you on Titus Chapter three, so let’s dive in and read it together.

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful.  All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith.  Grace be with you all.  Titus 3:1-15, (New American Standard Bible 1977).

This is the final portion of the letter and the apostle Paul has been giving instructions to Titus on how to formulate a church and what the qualifications of leadership consists of not only for the elders and deacons but also for their wives (chapter 1).  Paul also discusses how the older Christians are to treat the younger Christians and the relationship is to be what we call today mentoring, the younger are to learn from the elder (chapter 2).  And then comes chapter 3 as we have read above.  Paul begins the discussion with how Christians are to conduct themselves in their community.  We are to obey the laws and authorities of our country.  We are not to be rebelling and drawing attention to ourselves in terms of trying to defy the laws of our land.  For many years most Christians didn’t get involved in politics and many didn’t even vote but that has changed during my lifetime.  Paul isn’t saying to stay out of politics but he is pointing out that it is our duty to obey the law.  Why?  Because we are to be a people who live in peace with others (Romans 12:18) and we are to model our life after Jesus.  If you think about it Jesus could have overthrown the Romans and the Jewish leadership and established an earthly kingdom, but Jesus didn’t!  Why?  Because the kingdom Jesus came to establish is not an earthly kingdom and the kingdom we are a part of is not earthly, after all our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).   Also God established government and places leaders in their position (Romans 13:1-2) and when we rebel against our government we are also rebelling against God.  As citizens of heaven we are to pray for our earthly leaders and ask God to guide them (1 Timothy 1-3) and of course we can be a part of the process of government but those who rebel against their government are rebelling against God.  If you want change in your country or state or city governments the first and most important thing we can do is to pray!

We are also to be obedient people.  As part of our witness to others we are obedient to God first and foremost and then to our country and rulers.  But what does an obedient life look like?  My first thought is a life of self-control.  Self-control encompasses so many areas of our life.  For instance, God gives us many things and we are to use our assets to be ready to help others who are in need.  Right now in my country there are many people in need because of two hurricanes and many forest fires as well as tornadoes that have done horrific damage.  We are to be ready to assist them whether it is with our time or with money or with goods and services.  I know that many of us are already doing this and having lived a life of self-control in our finances helps us to have the extra to send to others in need.  That is part of what Paul says but there is a lot more.

We are to get along with those around us, our family, our neighbors, our fellow Christians, even strangers that we see in the course of our day.  It is easy to be cranky and selfish but part of self-control is to choose in life to control our thoughts and emotions.  There is no room for selfishness in a Christian. We are to be generous and kind and easy to get along with.  We are not to be gossips (Proverbs 20:19) and we are to be truthful and not liars (Ephesians 4:25) and we are to be kind and gentle when dealing with other people.  Compassion is a choice that we make even if our personality is not compassionate.  Love is a choice even when our circumstances are not very loving.  I think of an incident recently where my son and I were seated in a restaurant and the waiter turned around and immediately smiled a big warm smile and said “Hey, I remember you two, so nice to see you back!”  He treated us with extra kindness and made us both feel so special.  What a treat that was for us to experience.  I thanked him for being so kind when he brought the bill to us and his reply was that we were a pleasure to serve.  Wow!  Now that is what I think of when I think of how we are to treat others.  This young man was genuine and authentic in his gladness to see us.  We all should be so kind to one another.

Paul reminds us in the next part of this passage what our behavior was before we became Christians and it is such a contrast that he draws.  So what made the change?  God changed our hearts when we accepted His Son Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior and it has made all the difference in the world!  Oh how marvelous is the love of Jesus bestowed upon you and on me!  I am so thankful for Jesus and glad that God is changing my heart and my behavior, aren’t you glad too?  And then Paul closes the letter to Titus with some personal notes.  I find them so interesting.  Winter is coming and Paul decides where he will spend the winter.  He also is sending two people to help with the work that Titus is doing in establishing a church and asks that Titus come see him when they arrive.  He also asks that two other individuals be taken care of with good hospitality and with anything they will need to accomplish whatever they are sent to do.  Notice how one of those two men is a lawyer, makes me wonder if lawyers weren’t liked then as now!  And then Paul closes with one final reminder to impress upon Titus the importance of teaching Christians to be fruitful by continuing to do good things for others to show the love of Christ to all those in their community.  We need to do this as well, what a personal message to each one of us who are Christians.  Thanks for the reminder Paul!  Can’t wait to meet you in heaven!

Until next time…Katherine   

The Desert

I was looking at a photo of the Arabian Desert and thought how beautiful and yet how deadly this place must be.  The sand dunes are beautiful and yet you can see that they are not anything but mobile and fluid.  I think the sand of the Arabian Desert must be likened to water in a stream, water never stands still in a stream, it is always flowing and on the move.  Sand is also always blowing and never staying in the same place for long.  I remember being in the Mojave Desert where the sand blew constantly but at least we had mountains and some vegetation that were anchors as points of reference for navigating our way through the desert.  In the Arabian Desert it looks like the oasis are few and far between and with no mountains or trees the sand continues to constantly shift and blow and change the landscape.  No wonder the Israelites were lost in the wilderness for forty years if the desert they faced was like the photo I saw of the Arabian Desert.  The desert is a lonely place filled with nothing but hot sun and creatures that withstand the high heat and shifting sands.  I do not want to be stranded in a desert, do you?  And yet our lives can feel as isolated and fluid as a sand dune at times.  I can think of times in my own life where I felt abandoned as if I were in a sinking hot hill of sand and every step I took was a struggle just to survive.  I think God sometimes lets us wonder in the desert to wear us down so that we will finally listen to His plan for our lives.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  Matthew 7:26-27, (English Standard Version or ESV).

I can’t think of anything worse than to be lost in a desert.  Without water we perish and water is not easily found in a desert.  The wind blows hot in the desert and one feels the skin drying out as the thirst grows.  It can be so hot that a person’s sweat evaporates before we even feel the sweat on our skin.  The nights are cold and give no comfort from the heat of the daytime sun and walking at night can be dangerous because of all the creatures that come out to forage for food during the nighttime hours.  Why would anyone want to build a house in a desert?  It makes no sense, no logic to it at all, a tent yes but never a house.  First of all there is nothing to anchor the foundation to in a desert so the home will constantly shift and the earth beneath it will constantly be shifting.  Secondly the wind blow constantly and sand blows constantly and acts like a sandblaster which erodes the exterior of the home and pits the glass in the widows.  And seldom does it rain but when it does the sand erodes easily and creates deep pits and crevices and constantly washes out roads and homes in its path.  There is a reason that most deserts are desolate and have few inhabitants because sane people stay away from building in a desert.  Sorry if I offend those brave souls who have carved out a life in the desert, there are some communities that do exist in deserts but not many and those who do exist are usually near a river or mountains and on the edges of a desert because in order to survive in the desert a community has to have water sources and good roads for travel.  And yet according to Jesus’s words here in Matthew the metaphoric desert is filled with many people who are foolish and don’t listen to His words and don’t obey God and are lost in this world and on into eternity.  We need to go to them in the desert and bring them something special to sustain their life.

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”  John 4:11-15, (ESV). 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6, (ESV).

There is one who is greater than father Jacob who is the father of all Jewish people and all Muslim people.  There is one who came to die for all people including the children of father Jacob and that person is Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to bring the water that completely satisfies the thirsty soul that longs for peace and nourishment.  Jesus satisfies the longing of humans, that longing that was placed in our souls by God Himself.

What gain has the worker from his toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  Ecclesiastes 3:9-11, (ESV).

It doesn’t matter how busy you are if you are not giving God the glory for your life then all you will do is become more busy which makes you thirsty for something you just don’t have.  Have you ever seen this principle in action in other people’s lives?  They work hard and are not happy with what they have gained and so they work harder and make more money and gain more things and yet they are still not satisfied so they work even harder to obtain more and like a vicious cycle they are busy and constantly on the move and yet never satisfied as if they are still thirsty and still hungry.  The truth is that they really are thirsty but it is not for water this world can bring, rather it is the living water that they thirst for and only God satisfies this thirst through His Son Jesus Christ.  These people live in a desert where the thirst of their souls is never quenched and they need us to go to them and teach them about their thirst because they have no clue what is wrong in their lives.  Many turn to suicide thinking that this world has nothing more to offer them, how sad.  If only someone had been able to give them a taste of the living water that comes only from God’s eternal spring!  The thirst in their soul can’t be filled by money, esteem, achievements, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, or any other toy the world offers, this thirst can only be quenched by the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of Christians constantly feeding us with the eternal spring that flows from God.  This thirst is for righteousness and can only be filled by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  If you are a follower of Christ, a Christian, then you truly are blessed.  We need to share our blessing with those lost in the desert of life for they are dying of thirst.

Until next time…Katherine 

Many Are Angry

There seem to be so many in my country who are angry these days.  There are also many people in different countries that are angry.  Some from other countries are angry because their government has stopped allowing them to buy food or other necessitates and they want to have a better life.  That isn’t what most Americans are angry about.  Some people in other countries are angry at the horrific terroristic attacks and war-torn situations.  But that isn’t why most Americans are angry either.   I find it rather odd that many who are not Americans want the freedoms that Americans have and are angry because their government isn’t as open as America.  And angry Americans want American government to be more restrictive in such impossible to measure ideals as hate speech which is actually free speech.  Some Americans are angry because of the history of America and it is almost like they want to rewrite history and erase the bad deeds of previous generations as if that will make their daily lives more enjoyable.  Whatever the reasons for such anger around the world how are Christians to respond?  How are Christians to feel about anger they may have in their hearts?   Is there such a thing as righteous anger or is all anger sin?  Today let’s look at what the Bible has to say about anger.

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.  Proverbs 19:11, (New International Version or NIV).

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.  Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.  Ecclesiastes 7:8-9, (NIV).

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  Matthew 5:21-22, (NIV).

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  Ephesians 4:25-27, (NIV).

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20, (NIV).

Many of us are familiar with the above passages on anger and how the Christian is not to let our anger turn into a sin.  We are aware of the dangers of a smoldering anger and how it can flame into a raging fire that is hard to control.  I grew up with a brother that definitely could become angry and was not fit to be around until he gained control of his anger.  It is so easy to fall into the anger trap.  We become irritated and then frustrated and as these two emotions continue to grow we are soon angry and if we don’t gain control of that anger it can easily turn to rage and rage is an out of control emotion that often leads to breaking the law.  Road rage comes to mind as I write this where someone is so angry that they hurt some innocent person in a road rage incident.  Domestic abuse is another incident that comes to mind.  And how many people have been murdered because someone was in a rage!  It is a trap and something that every person needs to learn to control.  Mob anger is also an issue that we need to understand.  There are many times that Jesus dealt with an angry mob and eventually Jesus was killed to satisfy an angry mob.  The disciples also dealt with many angry mobs as they worked to spread the Gospel across the known world at that time.  We see today a mob mentality in many places across the world and looking from the outside we may wonder why a certain group of people are so angry.  Granted there are some mobs who are tired of being hungry and so they overrun a government food center and I can understand why they are angry.  But far too often I simply don’t understand why the mob is so angry.  Most likely if I could talk to them on an individual basis about their anger I would find that they don’t know why they are angry but they are sure that there is a real reason for their emotions.  It doesn’t take long to stir up a crowd to anger because anger is always within us ready to get out.  Everyone has things in their life that is frustrating and irritating to contend with in daily life.  Social media and television certainly assist in stirring up anger.  But I think it is unfair to blame social media or television reports for people’s lack of control of anger.  It starts with one person and like a wild-fire it grows until somewhere a mob is showing their anger in rioting and looting and rampage.  So sad.  Jesus died because of such anger, or so the crowd thought.  But the truth is that Jesus came to die for a sinful world and I am thankful for that, aren’t you?  So is there ever justification for anger in a Christian’s life?  Does God ever become angry?

Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord.  At Horeb you aroused the Lord’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you.  Deuteronomy 9:7-8, (NIV).

In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them.  So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.  2 Kings 13:1-3, (NIV).

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” Matthew 21:12-13, (NIV).

These are just a few passages to use as an example of the fact that God and Jesus have become angry at times with God’s people because the people were not following the laws God set down for them to follow.  Many of those laws are good for God’s people to follow and promises the ones who honor God and worship Him and follow His precepts a good life here on earth as well as eternal life.  God does become angry and He has imparted that emotion in every human being as well.  But God also is very patient and many times waited for generations before He punished or destroyed people rebelling against Him.  We also need to be patient and wait for God to execute judgement rather than taking the situation into our own hands when dealing with people.  That being said I remember hearing many times from my elders that if you are angry about something then do something about it and make a change but be sure that you are on God’s side of the issue and not the worlds.  My elders would say that we are to hate what God hates but we are not to hate people, rather we are to hate sin.  I think this is good advice.  If God hates racism and of course we know that He does (Galatians 3:28) then we need to hate racism.  If God hates divorce, and we know that He does (Malachi 2:16) then we need to hate divorce.  If God hates sin then we are to hate sin.  There will be times in our lives that it is righteous to become angry but we are not to sin in our anger.  Do something about your anger rather than letting it simmer into the sin of hate or rage.  I hope this helps you as much as it helps me to remember to be kind and patient and long-suffering rather than haughty and angry and out of control.

Until next time…Katherine

Confidence In Who We Are

Have you ever seen those quizzes on social media that begin with a line something like Only 10% Will Be Smart Enough To Get This Correct or If You Can Solve This Puzzle You Are A Genius! Of course the implication is that only the smartest can solve the puzzle or answer the questions or whatever the quiz may be.  I can’t help but notice how easy these quizzes usually are, yes I fall for them too!  If I take the challenge and do the quiz and fail then it reinforces my thinking that I am not smart but if I take the quiz and ace it then my confidence is boosted for a while.  I know that I am not the brightest and certainly not in the 10% category because if I were I wouldn’t feel the need to take up that challenge!  Right?  What drives us to want to prove to ourselves that we are super intelligent is a lack of confidence; at least it is for me.  I don’t know about you but I like to think that I am smart and worthy of holding my own in any conversation. On the other hand sometimes I feel like I did back in high school, that I am not one of the popular kids and I am not one of the smart kids therefore I am unworthy of having any attention paid to me by anyone.  But is that really true?  What is the truth about us and where can we find truth?  The culture and society we live in tells us daily that only the beautiful can be successful and only the rich are worthy of friendship.  The culture tells us that aging is to be avoided at all costs because there is no value in being old.  But is that true?  The culture also tells us that in order to have a relationship you must be sexy and bright and willing to make love!  But is that true?  What about we who are fat and ugly and dumb and old and disabled and on and on and on?  Are we valued in society?    What is the truth about every human being and where can we hear the truth?  Certainly not on television or in movies or in magazines do we find truth about ourselves.  So who are we and why are we here especially if we are not the beautiful, rich, and young?

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  Psalm 139:11-16, (English Standard Version or ESV).

This is the truth that we all seek.  We all want to know that we are valuable to someone and that we are not just people here to be abused or abandoned or hurt or outcast.  Even the rich feel like outcasts at times.  Even the beautiful feel unloved at times.  No matter our age or our circumstances there will always be times in our lives that we feel that no one cares about us, but is that true?

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:18-31, (ESV).

There is a lot to discuss here, but mainly I want to show you that you are worthy and you are loved regardless of who you are or what circumstances you are in and the one who loves you is God.  God loves you and calls you to see His Son Jesus Christ who has the power to save you and to open your eyes to the real truth of who you can be.  There is a choice to be made here, you can either continue to believe the world’s teachings about yourself or you can choose to believe God’s teachings about yourself.  Which will it be?  Which one will be the truth?

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.  1 Corinthians 2:6-16, (ESV).

The wisdom from the world is not truth but the wisdom that comes from God is very truthful.  The world says that I am old and not worthy of any attention or love and since I am not all that productive I should die rather than take up resources needed for others who are more worthy.  But the wisdom of God says that I am His child and worthy of everything that God desires for me to have and what He desires is that I live in His house for eternity where He can take care of me forever.  Wow!  Is this too good to be true?  The world thinks so but do I really care what the world thinks?  After all it is the worldly thinking that says I am getting old and need to die soon so that they don’t have to take care of me or look at me or have anything to do with me.  Those who are without Christ is the natural person described in this passage and they have no idea what God has in mind for the Christian, they can’t see God’s love nor can they feel it like the Christian can.  I love this passage because it reminds me of what is really important, that God loves me and has given to me the mind of Christ when I became a Christian and accepted the Holy Spirit into my heart.  Now I know how foolish the world’s thinking is because I can now see and feel God’s love.  I hope that you see and feel God’s love also.  I can go forward in life with confidence that I am worthy of being here and no quiz on social media is necessary to make me feel confident!  You are loved and worthy, so rest in that confidence!

Until next time…Katherine