WHATEVER SHE HAS, SHE WANTS SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

Cuddles, our MinPin canine daughter, often seems to provide vivid illustrations of Biblical truths.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” pose.

Recently, she wanted to go outside.  Now she had been outside earlier in the evening, and at that time she had barked incessantly until we let her out and the barking was transferred to the neighbors instead of to us.  Then she barked to come in and we, as properly trained dog parents, got up and obeyed her bark.

Moments later, she was again barking to go outside.  At this point, my husband said “Whatever she has, she wants something different!” 

When she was outside, she wanted to be inside.  When she was inside, she wanted to be outside.  When she was playing with a toy, she wanted a different one (the one her sister was playing with, actually).  When she got that toy, she put her paw on it and barked for something else.

 

cuddles-playing-with-toy-2
Cuddles playing with her toy.

After reading thus far, you might say that she is not well-trained and we need to get her to a trainer post haste.  I agree with you – but we did have her with a trainer who was great, and then we failed to continue with the regimen — now we have this.

But it seems to me that she exhibits what many of us do on a regular basis.

When we have good health, we want more money.  When we have money, we want better health.  When we have ample food but no self-discipline, we want to be slender but we don’t want to do the work to get there.  When we are young, we wish we were older so we could do things that we cannot yet do, but when we are seniors we look with longing at the young and wish we were young again so we could do some things differently (of course this desire for youth also comes with the requirement that we retain the wisdom that age brings).

Are we satisfied with what God has given us?  As Christians, Scripture exhorts us to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves for our God is in control:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

used-thanksgiving-meal
Table set for the Thanksgiving Day feast.

In just a few days we, in the United States, will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday where we set time aside and thank God for those daring folks who came to this country when there was little to draw them here.  It was a harsh land and the transition from European “civilization” to the American frontier life was anything but easy.  They relied upon God daily as they worshiped and prayed for each other during those difficult early years.

It surely is right that we honor and remember the Pilgrims and their sacrifices so that, hundreds of years later, we could live in an incredible land of abundance, majestic beauty and awesome breadth.  It is right that we offer prayers of thanks to God for their acts of heroism and for His providential care of them in coming to and in establishing our country.

But it is even more appropriate for us to, daily, thank God for His provision, love, grace and mercy toward us.  We ought not reserve our thanksgiving for a day with that moniker! 

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

 

  • When was the last time you thanked God for life, for His gift of air to breathe, for His provision of food for your table, for His grace to our sin-cursed heart by sending His Son for our salvation?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for whatever position or condition you are in, even if it is difficult and/or painful, even if it is not what you would have chosen for yourself?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for difficulties in the secure confidence that He will use these circumstances for your good and His glory?

Will you pray like this on Thanksgiving Day? 

Will you pray like this in December, when Thanksgiving is just a memory?  What about in 2017?  Will you pray like this daily and thank God for what He has blessed you with, even if that “blessing” is difficulty or a trial?  God is in control and He will use all those experiences for His glory even if that is outside the scope of your vision right now.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

You may never know what effect your response to difficulty will have on others, but God knows and He will bless you for your obedience to His commands.   

Christian, give thanks to Him for all things and you will be blessed, now and for all eternity.

 

Father, we thank You for the gift of your love, grace and mercy; for your atoning work through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross all for the purpose of providing us salvation and release from the bondage of sin so that we may have eternal life through His name.  Father, we thank You for your provision of all the things that we need for life and we pray forgiveness when we have squandered them or when we have claimed to have merited them through our own efforts.  Give us eyes to see and hearts to understand that all we have and all we are is a result of your grace, mercy and provision as You are the one and true God, and through Christ You are our Father.

 

 

I DIDN’T DO IT!

“Who … me?  I didn’t do it!”  Ever hear anyone say that?  Have you heard your young children say that?  Did you ever say that? 

Birthday cake on face (C)
Yummy Birthday Cake – I didn’t mess it up! 

 

It is a common thing to hear, especially when there is some disaster that just happened and your young children are all standing around pointing fingers at each other and exclaiming, almost in unison, “I didn’t do it?” even as the incriminating evidence is still sticking to their fingers!

 

Recently, our granddog Haley was exploring the backyard when she apparently decided to get up close and personal with something that had run under the house.   We don’t know what attracted her undivided attention, but that is the only reason we can imagine that she pushed her way through the latticework so that she became imprisoned under the porch. 

 

When she did not come back in the house when we called for her, our grandson found her looking out through the latticework and he had no idea how to get her out.   The place she pushed through was blocked from the other direction, so she was literally stuck there.

 

After trying various things to retrieve her, we broke some of the slats and, ultimately, after a good bit of tugging, it folded down so she could walk out unscathed.  Here is a picture of the broken lattice with her laying on the porch with that “Who, Me?!!  I didn’t do it” look!

 

haley-and-the-porch
Who … me? What did I do?

 

This is virtually the same thing that Adam and Eve told God, way back long ago when they were in the Garden of Eden. 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

Genesis 3:1-4.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Genesis 3:6-7.

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Genesis 3:9-13.

 

Adam — “Who, Me?  Don’t blame me … I didn’t do it … the woman you gave to me did it!” 

Eve — “Who, Me?  Don’t blame me … I didn’t do it … the serpent deceived me!” 

Me – “Who, Me?  Don’t blame me … I didn’t do it!”

You — …

 

Finger pointing began millennia ago when Adam pointed to Eve, she pointed to the serpent and God said “Out of the Garden!”  Genesis 3:24.   No matter what you want to call it, the Bible gives a name to any disobedience to God … SIN. 

 

We read of sin in the very next chapter of Genesis where God accepts Abel’s offering but rejects Cain’s.  God says in Genesis 4:7:  “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

 

Did you know that according to a computer word search of the English Standard Version of the Bible, the words “sin”, “sins”, “sinned”, “sinning”, “sinful”, “sinner” and “sinners” are used a total of 423 times. 

 

In other words, “sin” is an important concept to God because it reflects our direct disobedience to His commands.  It reflects our refusal to obey Him which, in effect, puts us where God should be.  And, it will bring the same punishment on us as it brought to Adam and Eve – we will be cast out from God’s presence because a holy God cannot and will not countenance a sinful creature in His presence.  Judgment is the only response to our sin just as Adam and Eve experienced expulsion from the Garden. 

 

The Westminster Confession of Faith says this about sin:

Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 6.6.

 

However, in Romans 5:19 we read that there is hope for sinful man:

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

 

This promise is reaffirmed in 1 Corinthians 15 we read:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. … Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:22, 45.

 

Again turning to the Confession of Faith, we read:

Man, by his fall, having made himself uncapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

 

Because of Jesus Christ, we can be made alive and have a life-giving spirit.  Because of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, He became sin for us. Because of God’s grace, we can be clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, thereby becoming acceptable to God through His blood shed for us.

 

Haley looked at us as if saying “Who me?  I didn’t do anything wrong!”  She well may have been following her nose and not paying attention to what she was doing.

 

But that same line of thought does not apply to you and me.  We do know what we are doing and many times it is sin – it is direct disobedience to what God wants us to do – and that is enough to cut off our relationship with God, forever.  We need to find help outside ourselves, and that help was sent from God in the God/man Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life and who took our sin on Himself, who died and was buried, and who rose again to life evermore. 

 

Praise the Lord that He saves us through His sacrificial death as an atonement.  Thank Him for His obedience to God the Father, and thank God for His mercy and grace that was extended to us.  Thank the Holy Spirit for His work in convicting us of sin and of sealing us to salvation through His power.

 

Praise His Holy Name!

 

Father, I pray that you would bless these words and that the readers would be encouraged, strengthened and renewed in their faith and focus on You.

Canine Friends and Devotion!

Let me preface this post with the note that I am an unabashed dog person.  We had a cat for 18 years and I loved him, but never felt as close to him as I have felt with our canine children.  Therefore, it is from this perspective that I write this post.  I certainly mean no disrespect to those of you who love felines!

As an only child, I had a friend that was a constant in my life for a long time – my dog named Tippy.  She was all black, shaggy and soft, except for the white tip on her chin [hence, her name!].  

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Tippy showing her proper posture and her white chin!

She was my constant companion, confidant and comfort.  She sat with me at the piano and endured horrible playing with gracious patience.

linda-with-tippy-at-piano
Tippy with me at the piano … long ago but not so long ago that it was a harpsichord!

Doris Day is quoted as having said:

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

I agree with her.  Tippy would lay next to me on the sofa when I was ill and just provide comfort without saying a word! 

linda-and-tippy
My canine friend giving comfort when illness would come.

I guess you could say that I have had a canine companion almost my entire life.  Tippy has been gone for decades, but I still smile when I think of her.  Other canine blessings have been Missy and her daughter Winnie.  Here they are with my infant son many years ago.  

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Missie (left) and her daughter Winnie (right) with infant son in between.

Skippy who was the head puppy in charge, at least he thought so.

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Skippy, the Lhasa Apso/Poodle mix who was love on four paws.

Glitz, Goldie and Sweetie were marvelous retired greyhounds who graced our presence with their stately tranquility and incredible speed.  Goldie loved to travel in the RV:

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Goldie thought riding on the sofa in the RV was appropriate since she was in her retirement as a racing athlete, after all!

Now we have our MinPins, Cuddles and Snickers, along with our granddog, Haley.

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Three friends, enjoying the sunny day at the campground lake.

Of course Tippy was not my only friend, I did have some playmates who were even called “best friends”.   

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

Now it is BFF – Best Friends Forever!  That “Forever” may seem likely at the time we speak it, and some of those persons do remain friends for many years.  Others, however, disappear from our lives but they leave imprints on our heart and spirit just the same.

With Facebook and other social media, we can have friends all over the world and never even meet them or speak to them in person.  To my way of thinking, this takes the meaning of “friend” and stretches it so that it bears little resemblance to its meaning in decades past.  But such is the reality for millions of youth today.

Scripture talks a great deal about friends. 

Probably the best example of a real BFF is the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Old Testament.  In 1 Samuel 17, David defeats Goliath and is brought before Saul as the victor in battle.  The very next chapter introduces us to Saul’s son, Jonathan, and we read in 1 Samuel 18:1 that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”  Their friendship continued for years, even through the time that Saul was hunting David to kill him, with the two men making a covenant between them that they would care for each other’s families if harm should come to them.  1 Samuel 20:42.

David remembered his covenant with Jonathan even after both Jonathan and Saul, his father, were dead.  King David asked if any of Jonathan’s family were still alive and we read in 2 Samuel 9 of the story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan, who from that day forward sat and ate at the King’s table. 

We may not recognize the significance of this but in those days, all the family members of the preceding king were killed so that there would be nobody who could contest the validity of the kingship.  Mephibosheth escaped this fate when his nurse took him and ran, hiding him far from the king. 

In other words, it would be rare, indeed, for a son of a deceased king to sit at the current king’s table and to be brought under the care and protection of that king.  But this is what happened to Mephibosheth because of the friendship King David had with his father, Jonathan.  That’s a BFF!

While he was loyal to the covenant made with Jonathan, not all of King Davids friends were loyal to him, however.  In 1 Chronicles 27 we read of Ahithophel, the king’s counselor and Hushai the king’s friend.   Ahithophel was definitely not a BFF because he sided with David’s rebellious son in an attempt to take the throne from King David.  Scripture tells of the pain David had when he turned into an adversary:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

Psalm 41:9

Sometimes friends betray us, and that is painful.  For this reason, we tell the children that their friends are important.  We tell them that the type of person they befriend can have an influence on them beyond just the immediate friendship.  We tell them to choose their friends carefully because of the strong influence friends can have on them.

In Exodus we read of God’s relationship with Moses:

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

Exodus 33:11a 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this type relationship with God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of the Universe?  

Well, I have some news for you …  the reality is that we can have this type relationship because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for our salvation.  When the Holy Spirit is within us, we can even address the Almighty Creator God as Father.  That is even closer than a mere friend!

Friends – we need them so that we can be socially healthy and so that we can live a full life.  But, we need Jesus Christ so that we can have a relationship with God because in and of ourselves we are sinful and unable to even approach God, let alone please Him. 

Praise God for our salvation; and praise Him too for the gift of Christian friends who encourage, support and love us in our good times and through our difficult times as well. 

Cuddles and Snickers
Cuddles and Snickers, our two MinPins

And praise God for the gift of our canine friends who love us unconditionally and who give of themselves in cheering us up, in grieving with us when we are hurt, in snuggling when we are ill, and in running with glee when we are happy.  Oh that we as Christians would be as kind to others as our canine children are to us!  

 

But we err if we think that is all that is required of us as followers of Christ.  Rather, unconditional love is the initial threshold that Christian love should pass.  Jesus’ love for us, and thus our love for our fellowman/woman, is to be sacrificial, not self-centered. When we love others as Jesus did, we will tell them the good news of the gospel and of the kingdom of God.   And it all is to be to the glory of God, our Father.

 

Father, your kingdom is one of marvelous wonders and goodness.  Thank you for the gift of canine friends, of feline friends, of the friendship of so many of your creatures in this world.  Thank you also for the gift of Christian friends who show us Jesus in their love and service.  May I be Jesus to others as I live through the power of your Holy Spirit.

FRIENDS –CHERISHED GIFTS FROM OUR LOVING GOD!

Humanity has long known of the importance of friendships. People are social creatures, whether it is a family, a club, a church congregation.  For some, even a gang provides the social connection that is necessary, although it is in a negative context.  In short, friendships are important to our mental, psychological, and physical well-being.  Animals understand the value of having friends, perhaps not in the same language as we do but in packs where each looks out for the other.

Dog - Two friends waiting for family

Two friends, our greyhound and chow/spitz mix, protecting the yard from squirrels and cats, while looking for the family to return.

 

Friendship has been on my mind this week because of our visit with a beloved lady who has been a dear friend for over 35 years.  Our children were close friends through preschool and elementary school.  Although she moved away and our visits were seldom after that, we have remained close through the heart bonds of love in our relationship with the Lord and with each other. 

 

Although she and I have visited together in various locations, I have not seen her son in many years.  We were reunited as we stood in their home with his wife and children around us.  The years melted away and it was glorious.  He explained to his children that when he was young, I was his second mother, Mama-J, and that I had also been his Cub Scout Den Mother!  (That made me remember the pumpkin seeds that were strewn all around the family room after the Cubs hollowed out and then carved their Halloween pumpkins.  But, since that was a fond memory, the seeds were worth it!)  It was wonderful to see him face-to-face.

 

Scripture speaks of friends in numerous places.

 

In Exodus 33:11 we find: 

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”

 

Scripture even gives us examples of true friendships that were time-honored and God blessed.

 

In 1 Samuel we read of the friendship between Jonathan, Saul’s son and presumptive heir in line for the kingdom, and David, the one who God selected as the next King of Israel.  At 1 Samuel 20:42 we read:

Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.”

 

The “Rest of that Story” is found in 2 Samuel 9. After the death of Saul and Jonathan, and after David became King, he looked around to see if anyone of Jonathan’s family had survived the battle and his ascension to the throne.  Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s infant son at the time of the war, did survive because he was secreted to safety by his nurse.  When the King called to have this sole survivor of Saul’s family brought to him, Mephibosheth rightly thought he was going to die. 

 

Instead, King David brought Mephibosheth into his family, and he ate at the King’s table the rest of his life.  Why?  Because of the oath between friends that had been made years earlier.

 

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

2 Samuel 9:7.

 

Sometimes, those we think of as friends do not act in a way that is good for us.  An example of this is found in the actions of Ahithophel, King David’s close confidant and friend, who sided with David’s son, Absalom, in his rebellion against David.  2 Samuel 15-17.  David’s pain at this betrayal is described in Psalm 55:

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

Psalm 55:12-14

 

We also see the example of Job’s three, sincere but misguided, friends:

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Job 2:11-13.

 

Often we think of these friends with disgust when we hear of them telling Job to repent of his sin while Job maintained his innocence.  And, in the end, God upheld the honor and longsuffering of his servant, Job, expressing anger at the friends.

After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

Job 42:7.

 

Without focusing on their misguided advice, consider what these men did.  They came a long distance to comfort Job.  They wept for his condition.  They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  They did not speak one word to him because of his great suffering.   

 

Have we done this for our friends?  Have we sat at the hospital, even one day let alone seven, comforting them?  Have we wept for their condition?  Have we extended the gift of service, perhaps holding a hand or putting a cool cloth on a hot forehead?  Have we honored them with our presence, sitting quietly and praying for them, without the disruption that constant talk brings?  Have we repeatedly prayed for them bringing their condition before our Healing God in earnest prayer?

 

Jesus spoke of friends frequently in his discourses to the disciples and others around him. One of the most pointed statements is found in John 15:13-14:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.

 

Friends … what blessings from God and how important they are to us as we grow, age, mature and remember.  And, to be considered a friend of God, when we do what Jesus has commanded us to do, is beyond comprehension.  It is a gift of grace, and grace alone.

Praise the Lord that He has procured our salvation through His righteousness.  It is in Him that we can call Him friend and that we can stand before the Holy God and can say “Abba, Father”.  Praise His Holy Name!

 

Father, we thank You for the gift of friends.  We pray that we would be faithful friends who support and encourage each other in our walk of discipleship.    We pray for those who feel that they have no friends, and we ask that you would enable us to befriend them in a meaningful way that reflects your love to them, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

EXCITEMENT AND CELEBRATION!

What excites you?  What causes a sense of celebration and joy for you?

 

A child at a birthday party anxious to see what the package holds?

Excitement
Excitement at a birthday party!

 

Watching fireworks at the park?

Fireworks 2
Fireworks after baseball game!

Going on a vacation?

Cruise ship at distance
Cruise ship at a distance.

Going outside?

Okay, that question is really related to our MinPin daughter, Snickers, who cannot stand at the door to go outside.  In her exuberance for getting outside, she, in all her 8 inches of height, will jump higher than the doorknob while she waits for us to open it.

 

 

What makes you glad?  What excites you?

 

Scripture tells us of a time when David exhibited extreme excitement and joy in 2 Samuel 6.  The cause of his excitement was that the ark was being returned to the City of David, and it had just arrived from the house of Obed-edom.   Scripture says that David “danced before the Lord with all his might” [ESV] or “with great enthusiasm”. [Amplified Bible]   When his wife, Michal, saw him dancing, she became angry because she thought his actions were undignified.  She confronted him with his conduct and David responded, reading from the Amplified Bible:

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord that I did this, who chose me above your father and all his house, to appoint me as ruler over Israel, the people of the Lord.  Therefore I will celebrate in pure enjoyment before the Lord.”

2 Samuel 6:21.

 

In the New Testament, Jesus talked of His joy:

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

John 15:11.

 

And then also we read what Paul says gives him joy:

I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

2 Corinthians 7:4.

This same verse is translated as follows in the Amplified Bible:

“Great is my confidence in you, great is my pride and boasting on your behalf.  I am filled to the brim with comfort; I am over flowing with joy in spite of all our trouble.”

Having joy in spite of the troubles that confronted him.  Wow!

 

The disciples, at the ascension of the Lord, watched Him go up into the clouds after He blessed them.  Then we read, in the Amplified Bible, at Luke 24:31-32:

And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy [fully understanding that He lives and that He is the Son of God], and they were continually in the temple blessing and praising God.

 

Worshipping with great joy.

  • That doesn’t sound like being the “Frozen Chosen” on Sunday Morning, sitting in the pew with dour faces, never smiling and singing through clenched jaws!

Rather that description sounds like:

  • people who are thankful to God, and to Him alone, for their salvation, who recognize how great the mercy was when the Holy Spirit touched their hearts through His grace alone!
  • people who put God at the center of worship and not their own feelings and opinions.
  • people who celebrate and praise God for His goodness through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
  • people who want to spend time with each other, who speak to and encourage one another!

 

So, I ask you, how do you worship the Lord and the Father Almighty?  With great joy or with a sense of obligation or dread?  Do you love meeting with other believers and fellowshipping with them because of your common bond in Christ, or do you spend the smallest amount of time possible at church because other “more pressing matters” are calling to you!

 

Worship is exciting because in it we are ushered into the throne room of God.  Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, and the work of the Holy Spirit in illuminating our hearts to the reality of our sin and to the blessing of His mercy.  While in our own strength and power we would be cast out from before His presence because of our abject sin and spiritual poverty, because we stand before God in the righteousness of Christ, we can call the Holy One, the Creator of all things and the Lover of our Soul, “Abba, Father”.

 

I pray that we would have a renewed appreciation of worship and fellowship in the life of the Christian Church.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35.

 

Worship and love – they go hand in hand.  Worship denotes the reverence of and for God, stressing the feeling of awe or devotion. And, our devotion to the Lord should be evidenced in the love that we have for one another and for the world around us.  Indeed, worship and love of one another are means of grace given to us through the Holy Spirit … let us not ignore them!

 

This week, may we remember that the worship of our God is exciting and is a joyful experience.  Then, when we leave the worship service, may we continue in an attitude of love toward both our fellow believers as well as each person that the Lord puts in our path.  Love one another — surprise them by your love and then point them to Jesus.

 

Father, forgive me when I have approached worship with a sense of obligation rather than with excitement about being in your presence.  May your Holy Spirit touch my heart and may I come with reverence and awe at your majesty, power, omniscience, glory, and love.  May I be accepted before You as I stand covered in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, my Savior.  May I love You with my whole heart and may I worship You daily.

 

CLIMBING, HIDING AND SECURITY!

Do you ever feel like climbing the walls?  We saw a literal example of this several years ago when our grandsons would climb the wall – or rather door frame.

Climbing the walls
Climbing the wall, or the door frame, literally.

 

There certainly is no way I could do that, when I was his age or now (at a significantly older age!).   But, the fact that I cannot literally climb the wall is not an indication that I have never wanted to do so!  Tension, anxiety, questions, financial problems, health issues, decisions, worries, … you fill in the blank for your situation … all pile up and I would want to climb the wall, mentally if not physically.

 

Another response to tension or difficulty is the head in the sand attitude.  In our house, it more precisely should be called the MinPin in the blanket response because each of our canine daughters will go to the blankets on the floor, lap or chair and, literally, wrap themselves up, sometimes with a nose sticking out, but most often they will be totally covered.  [It is rather humorous when they begin walking out of the blanket, it looks like a blanket-ghost going along the floor!]

 

Snickers in blanket
Snickers wrapped in blanket with her nose sticking out, curious about what is going on outside the blanket.

 

I have felt like that too.  “Couldn’t I just stay in bed and not face the day?  It’s too hard, and there are too many problems to deal with, I just don’t want to face it … I can’t!”

 

Ralph Ransom is an American painter from Saint Joseph, Missouri who died in 1908, likely from tuberculosis, certainly struggled with problems.  He said:

“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”

 

I would take Mr. Ransom’s statement one step farther.  For the Christian, “the very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid may be a major building block in our conformation to the image of Jesus Christ.

 

In the Christian life, we often find that the time we struggled and had to work hard through a situation or problem was, in fact, the time when we grew the most in our understanding of the love, mercy, and all-sufficient grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 8:29 says:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

 

We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and sometimes it takes difficulties to bring us into that image.  The April 6, 2016, Presidential Prayer Team devotional, Vantage Point, was entitled the “Master Sculptor” and spoke to the connection between suffering and growth in our Christian life.  In part it read:

A little boy watched a sculptor begin chiseling a large block of marble. The sculptor worked meticulously until the slab looked like the face of Abraham Lincoln. “How did you do that?” the little boy asked. The sculptor said with a smile, “All I have to do is chip away everything that doesn’t look like Lincoln.”

Pain, persecution, stress and accusations are some of the struggles that believers in Christ often endure.  At the time, it may not be known exactly why the Lord has allowed them.  However, the loving Father uses trial to chip away at flaws in character.  He uses great care and thoughtfulness so that the end result will look like His Son.

Thank God, the Master Sculptor of your soul, for His work in your life and His dedication to your future. Whatever difficulties are happening with you personally (and in the nation), practice patience and trust that He will do His work carefully and creatively. Pray also that America’s leaders who are Christians will allow their trials to draw them to a closer relationship with the Lord and conform their lives to His purposes.  [Emphasis mine]

 

When we want to climb the wall, when we want to hide under the blanket, when we just don’t want to face the difficulty any more – turn your eyes to the Father and thank Him for the problem.  Take your eyes off the condition that confronts you and see the One who is in control of that condition.  See the Father working in your life to conform you to the image of His Son.

 

As unbelievable as it sounds to the unregenerate person, thank God for the difficulty and rest in Him to carry you through it. 

 

The reason we can thank God for whatever comes our way is the security that we have in Jesus Christ.

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:35.

 

Paul himself answers these questions in the following verses:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   

Romans 8:38-39

 

Life in this world is difficult … but we can be confident that the love of Christ will carry us from this world to an eternity with Him.  This world is short-lived and temporary; eternity is forever, which by the way is a very long time!

 

During difficult times we tend to focus on ourselves and our dastardly plight!  But, pull your eyes off yourself and look to the cross … look to the Savior … look to the Father who has you in His hands … look to the Son of God who secures you in Him.

 

Christian, be confident in the knowledge that nothing can separate you from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

 

Nothing.

 

Father, help me to remember that You are sovereign and in control of my life and all that happens to me.  Help me to recall, during difficult trials, that I am secure in Your love because of my Savior Jesus Christ.  Give me strength to face difficult times as I praise Your holy name for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.

CONTENTMENT – A BIBLICAL POSTURE!

We see something on television about a new product that makes us consider whether our older version of the same thing is still a viable alternative for use. Or, we see something that our neighbor has purchased and it appears to be better than what we have so we want to “upgrade”, shall we say!

 

You know the feeling … that discontent with what we have or with what we are doing?

 

We compare ourselves with others and, somehow, we way too often come up lacking.

  • If only I had that job instead of this one…
  • If only my hair would …
  • If only I had received that promotion …
  • If only I had that house, or car, or dress, instead of this one …
  • If only I was as slender as that lady …
  • If only my children were like theirs …
  • If only …

 

Our canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers, illustrate this discontent quite often when they both vie for the same toy even though the toy box is filled with other playthings, sometimes even a duplicate of that which they are fighting over.

 

Cuddles and Snickers tug of war
This is mine! Get your own!

 

Don’t misunderstand me, there are times when people are mistreated and abused and there is a legitimate reason for the hurt that is felt. We must work to resolve those issues and/or injustices.

 

I am referring to discontent that is also known as covetousness. I can hear the voices now. “I know that the tenth commandment is ‘Thou Shall Not Covet’!  I don’t do that!”

 

Really?

 

That was my first response when I was reading an article entitled “Thou Shall Not Covet” by Jason Helopoulos in the June 2015 Tabletalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries.   His words were convicting in the first order. In speaking of the reason that coveting is so harmful, he states:

Coveting pulls the heart down into the pit of self-seeking and the muck and mire of envy, slander, adultery, pride, dishonor, murder, thievery, and idolatry. It has rightly been said that when we break any of the first nine commandments, we also break the tenth commandment.

 

For us to combat covetousness, first we need to follow Jesus’ commands in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

As a youth, I sang a song  that said something like this:  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”  When our eyes are on the Lord and His gracious gifts to us, the things of earth will begin to dim in our eyes.

 

Second, we need to follow the example of Paul:

I have learned in whatever situation to be content.

Philippians 4:11b.

 

Contentment is not something we can buy, fight for or grab – it is something in which we should rest. God is sovereign and He, therefore, knows exactly what we need and His grace is sufficient for every trial.   Quoting Rev. Helopoulos again:

If God thought it was good for us to have more, he would give us more. Every Christian rightly seeks to maintain this mind-set. And when this is the case, what joy contentment brings to the Christian life.

 

Third, we should be thankful. Thankfulness forms a hedge around us enabling us to focus on God rather than on the transient things that form our world.   It is hard to be thankful when you are coveting that which others have. Likewise, it is hard to be discontented when you are thankful for the blessings provided by our Sovereign God.

 

As a result of polio, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis (twisting of the spine) when I was 6 years old. When I was 9 years of age, I was put into a body cast and then had surgery to try to stop the twisting that would otherwise have taken my life by age 25.  Although I was in the body cast for over a year, I didn’t miss any school because I had a home-bound teacher from the Chicago school system.

Linda on hospital cart revised
This was me in the body cast. It began behind my head and then it encompassed my body all the way down to my hips and then to my left knee.   I could not raise my head, even to read a book or see television.  That is why I wore prism glasses so I could look through them and see what was in the room, rather than just the ceiling.

 

Rather than being thankful for the healing that was going on in my body, I was crying one day when she came into my room .  Rather than giving me a shoulder to cry on, she demanded “What’s wrong with you!” My response was a feeble, “Because I’m in a body cast!” She then taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten over the 55 years since she spoke these words:

“You are crying over a temporary thing. A child down the street has brittle bones and there is no cure … she breaks a bone when she turns in bed and she is constantly in excruciating pain. Now, what is wrong with spending some time in bed … you have a determined end to your procedure, she does not! So I ask you again, ‘Why are you crying?’”

 

Although I could not articulate it then, through the decades since she said those words, I have found them to be true … when you are hurting, when there are problems and difficulties that are overwhelming, just open your eyes and look around and you will find others who have problems far more difficult than your own. This will put your burdens in perspective.

 

While it is tempting to keep your eyes on your own pain and problems, engaging in self-pity is never productive. Step back from the situation. Don’t become discontented. Rather, look to the Lord, rest in God’s unfailing grace and give Him thanks for His loving hand that encompasses you even when you are not aware of it and problems abound. Psalm 139 states that God knows our every move, word and action. And, nowhere in scripture are these verses revoked.

 

When things are difficult, when pain has set in and when your world is in a cataclysmic nose-dive, you can trust that your Lord has you in His hands and that God knows exactly what is going on.   I don’t mean that he will immediately fix whatever the situation is, but you can rest assured that His grace and comfort will be poured out to help you through the trial.

 

Discontentment – while it often is a reality, it is always sin. I must acknowledge that it is a sin and then repent, look to my Lord and give Him thanks for the salvation that He provides to me. Indeed, even the breath that I breathe is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult our life is on this earth, it is for a short time – eternal life granted by our Lord is for, well, eternity!

 

Now, what about you?

 

Discontented? Confess, repent and allow His comfort to encompass you. Praise His Name and be thankful. Discontentment will vanish, and you will be able to live life to the fullest in His grace and love.

 

Father, forgive me for whining and crying about my circumstances when You have them in your control and your grace and mercy has lifted me above my circumstances.  Forgive me when I sink in the muck and mire of discontentment rather than realizing that You have already lifted me into your Courts through Christ my Lord and Savior.  May I praise your Name today.

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT!

Most of us have heard the question “Where’s Waldo?”  The subject of the inquiry is the location of a fictitious character named Waldo who hides in the midst of chaos – hides in plain sight.

For many years, we had a canine son named Skippy.  The humorous stories associated with Skippy are legion, especially since he was over 18 years old when he died.  One Christmas, after the family had torn open the presents, we took the following picture and named it “Where’s Skippy?”

Where's Skippy?
Where’s Skippy?

Now, we have “Where’s Waldo” when Cuddles bundles herself under a blanket and it is only after calling her name that her head comes out from her hiding place.  Here she is in her “you can’t see me now” pose.

“Where’s Waldo” is not the only hiding in plain sight phenomenon, however.  There is also the condition we call “Refrigerator Blindness” and it appears that the majority of the men in my family are afflicted with it.  No doctor will diagnose it and no eyeglasses will correct it.  It is a condition where the man will be asked to obtain something from the refrigerator, closet, pantry, well almost anywhere.  He will look for it and come back without it, usually saying “It isn’t there.”  [It seems that this condition does not affect vision for the retrieval of anything related to the car, garage, Pep Boys or the automotive section of Walmart.]

Our grandsons are afflicted with this condition.  When the family comes to visit, I will ask them to get their pajamas, and, uniformly, they will return still in their street clothes.

Me:  “Where are your jammies?”

Them:  “I can’t find them.”

Me:  “They are in your suitcase.”

Them:  “Oh.”

They go upstairs and return in their street clothes.

Me:  “You aren’t in your jammies.”

Them:  “I can’t find them.”

Me:  “They are in your suitcase.”

Them:  “No they aren’t.”

Me:  “Yes they are – I put them in there myself.  Go look in the suitcase for your jammies.”

They go upstairs and come back in their jammies.

Me:  “Where were they?”

Them:  “In the suitcase.”

Our most recent incident of Refrigerator Blindness occurred this morning when the calendar reminded us that Cuddles and Snickers were due to take their flea and heartworm monthly medicine.

Cuddles and Snickers at the window, on guard?
Cuddles and Snickers at the window, on guard?

This medicine is stored in its box, with the name splayed across the top, in a closet that has shelves on both sides for storage of a wide variety of things, such as sheets, office materials, etc.

After perusing the supply closet in pursuit of the canine tablets, my Beloved asked where I had put them.   I responded that the two boxes (one box for each dog) were on the shelf in the closet.  As I turned to look in the closet where he was standing, I noticed that he had apparently exhausted looking at the shelf with most of the little things on it and had moved his gaze to the shelf with the sheets and towels.  Knowing that dog medicine would not be mixed in with the linen, I went into the closet.

Refrigerator Blindness had struck with a vengeance. The box, with the labeled side facing him, was on the second shelf at eye level for my Beloved.  If there had been a hand sticking out of the box, it likely would have hit him in the face.  I said something like “You’re kidding me, right?”, and pointed directly to the box.  His face revealed that he was not, in fact, kidding but that he actually had missed seeing the box altogether.

While this is a glimpse into our family life that you may or may not want to have, it has application to our spiritual life. We all can have spiritual Refrigerator Blindness, and not just the men/boys/children either.

  • How often has our Beloved Lord Jesus Christ given us blessings which we did not see and for which we did not give thanks.  Through the Prophet Jeremiah, God said:

Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Jeremiah 5:21

In Matthew 13:13-14 Jesus said:

This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’

In 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, Paul says:

 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

  • How often have we relied on His grace that He has given to us so richly, and we don’t even praise His name in gratitude for His mercy and love.  Proverbs 3:34 says:

“He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”

The Apostle John says:

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”  John 1:16.

 

In Romans 3:21-24 we read:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

  • How often have we seen a person in need but we have moved right on ahead with our own agenda because his/her need did not register on our own personal spiritual Richter scale?
  • How often have we been approached by sinners who are hiding in plain sight.  They mix in with everyone and it is hard to find them in the crush of people, schedules and day-to-day requirements that we have.

Lord,  forgive me; give me the grace

  • to see those in need around me;
  • to see the brother or sister who desires to know the Lord but does not have the right vocabulary to express the need;
  • to see people as you see them, Lord.  Take the scales off my eyes so that I see people as you see them, and then give me the grace to witness freely to anyone You put in my path.

Then thank Him with a heart full of gratitude for His mercy, compassion and love.

I SEE YOU!

Did you ever play “peep-eye” with a young child? You know the game – the adult puts their hands over their eyes or perhaps covers the baby’s eyes and then says “Where are you?” After an appropriate pause, the adult quickly allows the child to see again and says “Peep-eye, I see you!” Almost always the young child laughs in glee and sometimes they laugh so hard they get hiccups!

Baby sitting with bib after playing I see you with grandparent
Baby sitting with bib after playing I see you with grandparent.

Actually, watching the adults playing this with the children raises the question about who is having more fun!

The childhood game is fun and grandparents love to play it with their infant grandchildren and it is a harmless way to bond together. (Usually the parents are too busy to do it, but that’s why God created grandparents!)

I was reminded of the “I see you” game when we were on our camping trip recently when we were joined by some dear friends and their two German Shepherd dogs, Quincy and Dixie.   I was trying to get a picture of Dixie whose canine face is beautiful, and I was using my Kindle camera rather than my little red electronic camera. All this to say, I could “snap” multiple pictures rapidly in an attempt to catch her face just right.

Dixie, the German Shepherd Dog
Dixie, the German Shepherd Dog

Ultimately, I believe that I did get a good representation of her face, when we were at the campfire later in the evening.  It was not until I was looking at the pictures to see if any of them “caught” the character of Dixie that I saw the following series of pictures.

Doggie I see you #1
Doggie I see you #1
Doggie I see you #2
Doggie I see you #2
Doggie I see you number 3
Doggie I see you number 3

It was as if Dixie was playing “I see you” with the camera while it actually was my inability to get her face inside the lens parameters.

But, I wondered if the Lord was speaking through this series of pictures.

We often act as if no one is watching when the reality is that the world is, indeed, watching how we live our life if we proclaim Christ as our Savior. What difference does He make in how we conduct our business, how we interact with our neighbors? Does Christ make any difference in how we train our children? Is our marriage a testament to the vow that we took, to love and honor our spouse?

Does Jesus have any connection to our day to day life or is He relegated to Sunday morning services?

I see you! Children see their parents talk about how important church is while they lay in bed and let the church bus pick the kids up. Children see us as we ignore the stop sign, ignore the extra change mistakenly provided by the fast food server, and ignore the call to help in our community or church while at the same time telling the children that they should always be helpful on the school playground. They see when we lie about something or when we say something cutting about our spouse, only to tell the children that we were just kidding!

Inconsistencies between actions and words – guess which the children will remember!

I see you! Even for those who have no children, the world is watching. Our co-workers see when extra pens and paper are taken from the office, under guise that “I do work from home sometimes!” Or they see when the hours on the clock indicate 8.5 but we forget to deduct for the extra time we took at lunch. Our neighbors will resent our preaching that they should go to church when they see us doing yard work when the worship service is beginning. A visitor at church will wonder about our loving fellowship if we start to belittle a fellow worshipper in our post-service visit with them.

Inconsistencies between actions and words – guess which the children/ neighbor/ world will remember!

The Psalmist in Psalm 139 recites the numerous ways in which God knows each of us. In verses 2 and 4 David says that God even knows our thoughts and words:

“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. … Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether”

I see you!   It is more than a game to play with a baby – it is something to remember every day of our life. Even if no one is around to see what we are doing, the omnipotent, omnipresent God sees us.

Let Psalm 139 be in our minds and hearts as we go through the week … let us remember that God sees what we are doing, He knows our path, and He desires that we live for Him.