SILENT NIGHT, HOLY NIGHT

I love the cold weather, and I thoroughly enjoy some snow.  Not enough to cause horrible accidents, power outages or massive difficulties, but snow on the trees and bushes and lightly covering the ground.  I love the calming effect and profound silence that falling snow brings.

snowy-tranquility-c
Snowy quiet and tranquility.

One Christmas carol that is calming even in the midst of a season of tumultuous activity is Silent Night, Holy Night.  This calming effect is due, at least in part, to its sound theology.  Let us look at the words of this carol and consider the Scripture that relates to each stanza.

  • Silent night, holy night; All is calm, all is bright. [1] Round yon virgin, mother and child,Holy infant, so tender and mild, [2] Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace

[1]  The prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  

This prophecy was quoted in Matthew 1:23 with a small addition, the meaning of the term “Immanuel”: 

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to her son, Jesus.   Indeed, she confirmed that this prophesy was being fulfilled when she said, in Luke 1:34:

“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?””

[2]  Then there is the phrase “Sleep in heavenly peace”.  

Jesus is, truly, the source of peace.  When His disciples were afraid, He said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

The peace Jesus provides is overwhelming, and is heavenly peace!

  • Silent night, holy night,  [1] Shepherds quake at the sight; Glories stream from heaven afar, [2]  Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!  [3] Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born. 

[1]  The word “quake” is not found in the description of the shepherds on that hillside.  However, Scripture does support the concept in Luke 2:9 where we read:  

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” 

I have to say, if I saw an angel of the Lord, with the glory streaming from the angel surrounding me, I believe that I would be filled with fear and would likely “quake” too!

[2]  Luke 2:13-14 tells that there was great singing by the heavenly host:

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” 

I can’t write these words without smiling and hearing in my soul the choir singing these words during Christmas anthems.  Another way to say “Glory to God” is by use of the word “Alleluia” or Hallelujah meaning “God be praised”.

[3]  “Christ the Savior is born”.   The angel told Joseph that Jesus was going to be the Savior of men when he announced to him that his betrothed was with a heavenly child.  

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:21

The angels also announced this to the shepherds on that hillside so long ago: 

 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11

  • Silent night, holy night, (1) Son of God, love’s pure light; (2) Radiant beams from thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace, (3) Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

[1] The babe in the manger was truly the Son of God and “love’s pure light”.   Jesus said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. .””

John 8:12

I doubt that the Babe in the manger had a halo around His head as depicted in religious art.  But radiance does assuredly apply to our Lord.  Consider the description of Jesus when He was transfigured before three of his disciples.  Matthew describes it as follows: 

“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”

Matthew 17:2 

[2]  Redeeming grace was truly brought to earth when Jesus was born.  Paul sums this up in Galatians 4:4-5 where he says:

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

[3]  The carol concludes with the statement “Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.”   This is, too, an accurate statement and it is an affirmation of faith and belief in that wonderful Babe.  Again  Paul writes:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:9-11.  Jesus is Lord of all, and He was Lord even as the Babe.  He gave up His heavenly place so He could save us from our sins; but He was no less Lord when He was a man than when He was in heaven.  The God/Man Jesus Christ is and always has been part of the Triune God, from the time before time began and He will remain such when time no longer exists and we are in heaven for eternity.  Jesus is Lord.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

May the blanketing silence of snow cover you, whether literally or figuratively, so that you experience the peace that our Savior brings to your heart and soul even in the hectic days of the Christmas season.  

Perhaps listening to Silent Night, Holy Night as sung by Nashville Liberty Acappella on their album Christmas Acappella will get you into the stillness mode.    

Do whatever it takes to calm yourself this Christmas.  You will be glad you did and your relationship with your Father will grow stronger even in  the hectic Christmas season.

Father, thank You for Your Word that tells of the birth of Jesus even hundreds of years before it occurred.  Thank You for Your Word that speaks to us today, thousands of years after Jesus was born, telling us of His birth, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return.  Help me to keep my eyes on You and Your gift to us, the Babe in the manger who became our Sacrifice on the Cross and is now our Savior in Heaven.   Give me the grace to “Be still”, even when chaos reigns around me, through the power and love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.

Who are you and where do you live?

People are diverse, unique, different.  Take for example, where we live.

As we were driving on our vacation this summer, we went through the City of Chicago.  The traffic going down the highways going into the city were crowded with trucks, cars, vans, busses.  Not to mention the train that ran to various parts of the city with terminals in between the highway lanes.

Transit along highway going into Chicago cropped

Then, when the highway signs were somewhat out-of-the-way, the skyline came into view!

Chicago skyline cropped

Thousands upon thousands of people live within the scope of that picture.  They live in high-rise apartment buildings which have incredible views of the city beneath and Lake Michigan along the shoreline, some of the views going almost to the Wisconsin state line!  However, some live in much less splendor, along the railroad tracks and in dilapidated buildings in the center of town.  And of course, there are shops, businesses, banks and all sorts of eateries spread throughout the city.

This kind of congestion is not for everyone, however.  One of the places we visited was Bar Nunn, Wyoming.

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The campground was rustic and the people were super friendly.  The view of the community from the campground was beautiful with its backdrop of mountain terrain.

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The first night we were there, the clouds provided a beautiful ending to a glorious day.

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In contrast to the “majesty” of Chicago, the little post office next to the campground in Bar Nunn provided a different perspective as it gave the whole community postal services, and we, as sojourners, appreciated its presence since we could purchase stamps and use the handy mailbox to send post cards to the family back home.

We all don’t live in the same type dwellings, in the same area of the country or in the same climate.  But, almost all of us are often asked the same questions, no matter where we are:  “Who are you, and where do you live?” 

Our answer frequently is to respond with the name our parents provided to us and then to give our place of permanent residence.  And these are appropriate responses as they give some fundamental information about us to the person we have just met.  From there, we can continue the conversation and a friendship might result, or we can walk away after conducting the transaction with the individual without any further personal information being exchanged.

That is not the whole answer to those questions for the Christian.

Jesus said:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:1-6

Jesus clearly said that the one who believes in Him, through faith alone, will spend eternity with Him in heaven.  Indeed, belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way that we can enter heaven and come to God.  In fact, Jesus also tells us to put our treasure in heaven since there the treasure is secure for all eternity, rather than having it on earth where it can be easily destroyed.  Read Matthew 6:19-20.

Paul said it this way:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”

Ephesians 2:19-20

In other words, the Christian has dual citizenship – we are citizens on this planet, living in the country, province or state, city or hamlet in which we reside.  But we are also citizens of heaven where we will live eternally with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, along with all our brothers and sisters who have been adopted into the family of God through faith in Christ.

So, how do we answer the question propounded above … “where do you live?”  We might want to go into an explanation of our dual citizenship, or we might just want to give our address and let our Christian walk do the rest of the talking for us.  Either way, let the Lord guide you as you witness for Him in our world.

Father, forgive me when I have been too timid to express my conviction that Jesus Christ made it possible for me to be Your child.  I cannot express my gratitude and thankfulness for such gracious mercy extended to me, an undeserving sinner who was saved by grace!  May I always be ready to tell others of Your gift of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  Help me, I pray.

HOME – WHERE DID YOU SAY IT WAS?

The posts on The Ruminant Scribe have been anything but regular for the past couple of months.  I have diligently tried to post every Tuesday and Friday since I began the blog, and I have been pretty successful in keeping that schedule (apart from when surgery has thrown the calendar into a spin).

But, for the past couple of months, the posting schedule has been shot.  I didn’t want to explain what was coming as I did not want to publicize the fact that we were going to be out-of-town for two months.  No sense alerting whatever malevolent forces are lurking to do harm to the fact that the house would be unoccupied for that period of time.

So, what took us away?  My husband, the two dogs and I went on our 2018 Western Adventure RV Road Trip. 

RV with car
RV ready to roll with Jeep following wherever we go!

The mileage on our motor home when we began was 56,660 miles.  When we pulled into the storage lot 64 days later, the mileage was 61,919.  Thus, after applying higher math to the equation, we had traveled 5,259 miles. 

However, the coach was not the only vehicle driven.  We towed our Jeep and used it at the various stops to visit the National Parks, towns and roadways while the RV was hooked up to the power at the campground.  In short, the Jeep gave us portability that the coach would not have done, so we need to consider the Jeep’s mileage as well.  The trip meter says that the Jeep was driven 1,334 miles during this trip. 

So, the total mileage for our 2018 Western Adventure over the past 64 days was 6,593 miles. 

I am confident that there will be more references to our trip in future blog posts; suffice it to say that for now we are very glad to be home.  This prompted me to think about what Scripture says about home.

One of the most prominent references is where people are simply returning to their home, the place where they belong, the place where they are safe and secure, the place they want to be for a host of reasons.  Consider:

As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country.”

Genesis 30:25

“And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home.

2 Chronicles 25:22

The Lord God was so detailed in giving the Law to His people that He required that a newly married man should remain at home with his wife for one year.

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.”

Deuteronomy 24:5

Scripture speaks of having a place to call home, noting that this even applies to animals:

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.”

Psalm 84:3

After Jesus healed people, He most often would tell them to go to their homes:

“I tell you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

Mark 2:11

Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.””

Mark 5:19

And of course we also have Jesus’ words in the parable of the lost sheep:

“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'”

Luke 15:6

While we didn’t have a party at the house upon our arrival, we were very thankful for the home to which we returned., and the children did, in fact, have a surprise waiting for us. 

Traveling is great fun with many adventures to have, sights to see, foods to taste, pictures to take and roads to travel.  But there is something heart-tugging about “home”. 

So join me today as we celebrate returning “home”.  We often think of our home in terms of chores – laundry, cleaning, dishes, yard work.  All that is necessary to be done, but for now, I would ask that you think about your home differently.

Think about your own home, no matter what it looks like: whether it be a house, an apartment, a tenement, a bungalow, a cottage or a townhouse; whether it is in a city or village; whether it is huge or tiny; it could even be a motor home that can move to different locations!  If it is the place where you feel secure … safe … loved, then it is “home,” and praise the Lord for it.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

John 14:2-3

Home, for the Christian, also includes being with the Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity in our heavenly home.  Praise God for His gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through Christ’s righteousness, we can have life everlasting in our heavenly home.  Thank Him now for such a marvelous gift that we have yet to experience.

Blessings to each of you.

Father, thank You for the blessing of travel and experiencing new things, seeing new sights, going down unexplored roads.  Thank You also for the blessing of returning home, and for the blessing of Your presence no matter where we are.  We praise You for being with us each step of the way.  Thank You, Lord.

WHO DO YOU IMITATE?

Although he lived long before anyone reading this post was born, Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) rendered a quotation that many of us know today.  He was an English cleric who was also a writer and collector.  His book, including collections of comments and short essays were wildly popular in their day.  One of his most famous quotes which is still in use today is: “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

Imitation.  Children imitate their parents/caregivers all the time.  We were taking care of a young girl while her mother took some night classes at a nearby school.  She was looking at a Golden Book that we had in the house when she began “reading” to us, as her nursery school teacher would do.  She held the book in her hands and looked at the pages, then turned the book facing us and said “Blah, blah, blah, I don’t want to hear about it!”  After saying this, she turned the page and looked at the next two pages, again flipping the book to face us and repeat the same sing-song-phrase. 

Clearly, this young girl was not actually “reading” the printed word, but she was repeating what she regularly heard at home, complete with the intonation that comes from frustration or anger.  Imitation. 

Even if we are adults, don’t think that our days of imitation are over.  We still imitate others. 

When we were in England a number of years ago, we went to Abbey Road in London.  Since some in our family were alive when the Beatles walked across that road, we had to do so as well.  This is our impression of the Beatles’ classic album cover.

Abbey road

It was a great deal of fun to imitate that walk, although it did not bring us any fame, just some honks by irritated drivers!

On a much more serious note, imitation can take on eternal consequences.  For example, we are to imitate the good that other Christians do in their lives.

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

3 John 1:11

Most of all, we are to imitate the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them to imitate His actions.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

He also said:

“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.”

John 13:34

Eternal consequences, you may ask?  What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15

“If you … [then] you…”  The opposite of this, of course, is that if we do not keep His commandments, then we do not actually love Him even if our lips try to say otherwise.

The writer of Hebrews said that we are to imitate the faith of our leaders who faithfully brought the Word of God to us.

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:7

Paul put it this way:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16

Two questions, thus, come to mind.

  1. Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? Do you love others and serve them in His name?  If not, why not?  Do you really know Jesus Christ as your Savior or are you playing Christian, rather like playing a part in a play? 
  2. Is your life, your witness, your love for the Lord such that you could say the same thing that Paul said? “I urge you to imitate me.”  Is your way of life revealing the strength of faith you have in Jesus Christ?  If not, why not?  If so, can others find Jesus Christ by imitating you?

Imitation.  So easy that a child can do it.  So hard that many will run from its demands.  So much a blessing that it provides grace and abundant living in the here and now, as well as forever more.

Father, I pray that I would be a witness for Your Son, Jesus Christ and that Your Spirit would strengthen me as I seek to imitate Him and His love for others.  Enable me to live so that others can imitate me and grow stronger in their faith and in their devotion to my Lord.

ABANDONED

As we were driving through a neighboring town, we spotted a large retail complex with the high parking lot light, the mesh screens to keep the merchandise intact, with the promise of more goodies in the adjacent building.  On the property just next to this complex was this small building, that had clearly been abandoned some time earlier.

 Abandoned broken down building cropped

As we looked at it, I wondered what stories that building could tell, and what had happened to reduce it to crumbling timbers.   

Another example of abandonment that we saw on a trip through Colorado is this mining camp, high in the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range. 

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains 2

 

A closer look at this site reveals that this camp was destroyed by the ravages of time and weather.  When it closed, nothing could save it from the destruction that comes with abandonment.

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains

The problem is that buildings are not the only things that are affected by abandonment.  It is a sad and distasteful statement to make, but the reality is that people are abandoned on a regular basis.

Human relationships are frequently conditional, and often people are abandoned when they have done something that is distasteful to another, and that person abandons the relationship, walking away and leaving the first person alone and sometimes destitute.  Consider the wife who is told that her husband wants a divorce because she no longer pleases him.  He walks out, and she is emotionally, and often, physically and financially abandoned.

Or, consider the employee who has spent decades working for the benefit of the company, only to be told that his efforts are not longer required because technology has rendered his job obsolete.  He is abandoned by his employer and he finds himself without a meaningful job and, sometimes, without means to care for himself or his family.

While it seems the situation is stark and there is no refuge to which to turn, there is One who will not abandon His children – the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Israelites were facing a severe challenge in the wilderness wanderings, Moses told them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

This comforting truth was brought from the Old Testament into the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews said:

“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

The Psalmist assured us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that:

“For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;”

Psalm 94:14

Jesus, Himself, told His disciples these comforting words taken from John 14:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Verses 16-18

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Verses 26-27

What comfort and what encouragement, even if you feel abandoned by all others, Jesus has said that He will not leave His sheep, His children, as orphans.  Rather, He will send the Holy Spirit to be within each believer in Him.  The Holy Spirit will teach the believer all that he/she is to know.  The Holy Spirit will encourage and strengthen the believer so that there is no fear.  In place of fear there will be heavenly peace that is sent from Jesus Himself. 

Note, this is not a blank check so that you can get whatever material stuff you want! 

This is a free gift that will provide all the peace and comfort that you need, whenever you need it.  It will provide courage and strength to face whatever is ahead of you, even that which you don’t recognize today.  There is no reason to fear because your Lord and Savior is with you.

This is a free gift with no limit because your debt has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  You are debt free. That does not mean that you will not sin any more, believers in Christ are not immune from the temptation to sin, but the Spirit gives us the strength to withstand sin.  And, if we yield to tht temptation, confession and repentance will restore us to the peaceful relationship we can have with our Lord.

Abandoned?  I personally know that it is a scary time, but you are not alone if you are in Christ Jesus.  It is not an easy time, and getting through the trial will probably take more time than you like, but God’s schedule is eternal and not limited to our minutes.  He can give you peace moment by moment, as He directs you to those who can assist with your needs.  While God is with you each moment of this trial, His renovation of your spirit and your outlook may take some time, but it is a transformation that is worth the wait!

Often, when something is abandoned, there is a remarkable new structure that is ultimately built exactly where the abandoned building had stood.  When we feel we are abandoned, God can take this time to rebuild and refortify us so that we can serve Him in a new way. 

Rest in the Lord, and let Him overwhelm you with His peace, as He prepares you for your next adventure in the life with Christ.

Father, I thank You that You are the master builder who can transform an abandoned individual into someone who lives for You and who loves Your Son.  Thank You for not leaving us as orphans in this hard land; and thank You for the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

“DON’T DO IT!  UH UH -NO!”

It seems that we have recently focused on our canine children as illustrations of spiritual lessons for our daily lives.  Today is no exception as our MinPin doggie daughters, also known as “the girls”, have once again tried our patience.

We have tried to “train” the girls to stay put in one place while we are eating our meals.  The original intent of this routine was to stop them from barking while we are eating, and also to stop them from begging during the meal.  It has, for the most part, stopped the barking.  But, it has not been as successful with the begging.

Usually their “place” is the living room sofa as we are eating dinner in the dining room, in full site of them.  When we have finished our meal, we will say “you’re through” and they are to come bounding up to the table for a good girl treat, thankful to their parents that they are being so wonderfully rewarded.  That is what is supposed to happen.

Doggies ready to jump
Doggies ready to jump!

What actually happens is that they go to their “place” right away when we tell them to do so as we are sitting down to the table.  Then, when the wait is too long or if the aroma is especially exciting to them (such as the smell of bacon), they hop down and come over to the table where we are sitting.  At first, they would just run over and jump up at our side to tell us that they are there.  We, then, point to the sofa, say “Uh Uh – No, go back, place” and they run back, jumping up on the sofa and sitting as if they were good girls.

If we are engaged in serious conversation during dinner, they become stealth doggies.  They slide off the sofa and sneak through the kitchen so we don’t see them walking around.  Then they cut between us to get under the table in the hopes that something will have fallen through a crack.  We find out that one or both are under the table when we move our feet and hit something.  Then, we again, point to the sofa and say the dreaded words “Uh Uh – No, go back!”. 

I suspect that we are not the only ones that have this experience.  However, aside from the humorous smiles that their actions might induce, there is a parallel with my own life experiences and obedience, and it is not at all humorous.

As long ago as when the law was given to the Israelites, God said:

“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 22:31

Again, in the wilderness they were told:

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.”

Deuteronomy 13:4

God is serious about our being obedient to His commandments.  In fact, Jesus used obedience to His commandments as the test of our love for Him.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:15, 21

In full recognition of the fact that we could not keep Jesus’ commandments through our own power, Jesus told His disciples that, after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would be sent to help them do that which He commanded them.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26

Moreover, the Holy Spirit seals us in Christ. He is the surety, the guarantor of our salvation. 

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Ephesians 1:13

Indeed, one of the Holy Spirit’s assignments with respect to believers is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

When God has told me to stay in a difficult situation, I try to jump out of it, a classic definition of disobedience.  When I do, it is as if I hear the Holy Spirit saying “Don’t do it. Uh Uh – No!”.   Often I obey that voice and repent from my attempted jump of disobedience.  But, there are times when I disobey intentionally and then, too, I must repent of my arrogant disobedience and seek forgiveness, asking the Spirit to strengthen me so that I am able to resist temptation. 

God has given us His Word and His Spirit who indwells the believer in Jesus Christ.  The Spirit transforms us and renews our mind so that, as we are sanctified, we are conformed to the image of Jesus.  But that process is not linear. 

By that I mean, it is not a smooth road toward transformation.  We struggle and fail to obey the directives that are clearly given in Scripture and brought to our attention through the Holy Spirit.  Praise the Lord that when we have been disobedient, the Holy Spirit still is within us and He will tenderly guide you back into relationship with Him and with our Lord if you will confess your sin and repent. 

Next time you see your canine or Homo sapiens children disobeying your directive, stop and ponder whether there is something in your own life for which you need to confess and repent.  Is there some act of disobedience that you need to address?  Is the Holy Spirit saying “Uh Uh – No!”? 

The Psalmist knew the sweet fellowship with God that confession and repentance provides when he said:

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

Psalm 32:2-5

When David sinned, and kept silent, he was tormented day and night because of his guilt.  When he turned to God and confessed his sin, he was forgiven and he could say “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity”.  Happy is the one who does not stand before God covered in the guilt of his sin. 

Doggies patiently waiting
Obedient doggies!

Praise God that the Spirit says “Uh Uh – No!” preventing us from sinning, but praise God also that when we fail to be obedient, we can be restored to full fellowship with Him through confession and repentance. 

Father, I praise You for Your Holy Spirit and for the work that He does in my life as He guides me and leads me in the path that I should take.  Thank You too that Your Spirit also stops me from disobeying and, when I do sin, that He leads me back into the fold.  I praise Your Holy Name.

TRYING TO UNDERSTAND

Cuddles, one of our two Miniature Pincher dogs, always seems to want to understand what is going on.  She will watch what we are doing and cock her head to the side, with her eyes piercing ours, as if she was trying all her best to know what is going on.  Perhaps she is thinking that her people are really goofy, I don’t know, but it seems as if her mental wheels are spinning when she focuses and looks at us like that, at least my humanizing of the canine would think like that!

Recently my husband was going to fix a leaking kitchen faucet.  He got all the materials together to do the job and then opened the cabinet under the sink.  In Cuddles’ mind, this was a perfect opportunity to help Daddy!

Cuddles helping daddy 1

You are not aware of the step of faith this is for her.  This cabinet houses the dreaded garbage disposal, and each time I turn it on, she will come running from wherever she is in the house and bark at it. When it stops, she walks off as if she had killed the monster that was threatening Mommy.  This time, though, she had Daddy with her, and she was proud to stand side by side with him.

Cuddles helping daddy 2

Getting into the nitty-gritty of the issue under sink, Daddy was leaning far forward, and Cuddles was standing close to him, with eyes forward as if she were inspecting or monitoring his actions.  Even a flash bulb would not divert her attention from Daddy and the cabinet.

Cuddles helping daddy 3

At this point, she really was trying to assist him because now her front paws were on the floor of the cabinet.  She was absorbed in trying to understand what he was doing.  But, she couldn’t help, and she did not know what was going on.  Her inquisitiveness had to yield because it was just beyond her ability to comprehend.

These pictures present a sort of image of me and God.  There have been times that I felt just like Cuddles.  I want to help, to do something, but I just can’t understand what needs to be done.  God is working in my life, but I don’t comprehend what I am supposed to do; I don’t know where He is leading, I don’t know why something painful happened. 

Can you relate?  Perhaps all is well, and you are not peering under the cabinet for answers now, but you have done so at some point in the past.  Or, perhaps you are now seeking answers as you are under the protection and guidance of your Heavenly Father, but you are wondering where He is leading you, or why your circumstances have changed.

Perhaps you are trying to understand why a dreaded disease has attacked your child or spouse, or yourself.  Perhaps you are trying to understand why a beloved family member was taken from you too soon, or why your dream job came crashing down when the company closed. 

There are too many scenarios to list, and each of us has to deal with situations and problems that come our way, seemingly with virtual regularity. 

But, Beloved, know that our Heavenly Father has written us a love letter, the Holy Bible.  It details what God’s plan is and how we are to live. 

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Deuteronomy 6:5

It tells of His provision of a Savior to atone for our sins so that we can have an abundant life now and eternal life with Him after death envelops our body. 

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

And, God has given us His Holy Spirit to quicken our hearts which are dead in sin, Who then speaks to us and opens our eyes so that we can understand the Bible as we read it, and Who guides us in prayer.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:26

Beloved, you don’t need to peer into the cabinet of the future in fear.  You don’t need to cock your head to the side and wonder what God has planned for you.  You don’t need to be in panic when something comes at you out of that cabinet, God has you in His hand and He is omniscient and omnipotent. 

There is one reality and God knows it in its entirety, as it exists by, through, and for Him.  This omnipotent God has said that if you seek Him, He will be found.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

Proverbs 8:17

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

Just as Cuddles tried to understand but could not, some things are simply beyond our capacity to understand; but even those difficult things are not outside God’s control or knowledge.  As a child of God, as a Christian, you are secure, and you are the child of the Omniscient, Omnipotent God of all creation.  Trust Him and obey His Word.  Him and He shall be found.

Father, thank You for giving us little animals who can remind us of eternal principles.  Thank You for Your Word, for Your Son, and for Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for salvation and for the promise of life eternal through Jesus Christ my Lord.  May these words be encouraging and of comfort to those who read them.

WHAT DID YOU MEAN?

I have often heard that the English language is very difficult to learn.  There are so many “rules” which are “broken” so often that it almost makes the rule meaningless.  And so often, we use the same word to mean something quite different in two different situations.  For instance, one word can mean a vocal part or a brass instrument.

Recently, “Mr. Smith” agreed to accompany our church choir on a musical instrument.  The choir director mentioned this to another member, saying that “Mr. Smith” would be playing a baritone.  The response was “a baritone what?”  to which she said, “a baritone”.  The inquiry then was “a baritone saxophone? a baritone what?”  She responded: “a baritone baritone.”   After a frustrating conversation, it became clear that the choir director was speaking of an instrument and, although musically inclined, the church member had never heard of an instrument called by that name.

BARITONE
The baritone horn, or sometimes just called baritone, is a low-pitched brass instrument in the saxhorn familY.

If a man says he is a baratone, does that mean he is a brass instrument?  Of course not.  But, how often do we say the correct word and others hear that word but interpret it with a meaning very different than what we thought we conveyed with the word?

Jesus recognized this problem as the distinction between what Scripture says and how the Pharisees and Sadducees interpreted those same words.

“”You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults [whoever says Raca, which is a Greek word of contempt] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

The Pharisees and Sadducees were repeating one of the Ten Commandments as expressed in the Old Testament without understanding the scope and intent of that commandment.  They were using the same words but meaning something much less than intended.

Another example relates to adultery.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Matthew 5:27-28

Again, same words but different and expanded meaning. 

The misunderstanding of the words expressed by God through Moses in the Old Testament was not a surprise to God and it was not something that only became apparent when Jesus came into His ministry.  The Prophet Isaiah said:

“And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.””

Isaiah 29:13-14 NLT

When we speak of our God to our neighbors, we need to be clear about Who we are talking about.  Although He is the creator of the universe and all that is in it, He is not only the creator.  Although He is God, there are no other gods above Him.  We may have gods that we look to, gods such as money, fame, even family or health; but nothing is anything even approaching our God.

Beloved, the bumper sticker with all the symbols of other religions with the term “Co-Exist” cannot be the philosophy of the Christian.  We certainly recognize that others believe in gods.  But, those ideas are not the same as the one true God of Scripture, whose Son is Jesus Christ our Savior.

Be careful of what you say and how you say it.  Mean what you say and be ready to stand up for your faith.  Our world needs to see Christians who are committed and willing to say that God is the only God and Jesus Christ is His Son and the only way of salvation.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 ESV 

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior.  I pray that I would be willing to stand and affirm this truth in witness to others and that Your Holy Spirit would give me the strength and grace to so witness to the glory and honor of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.

SIGNS – FOLLOWED OR IGNORED?

It seems as though our culture is overrun with signs.  Billboards are all along the highways and some are digital, enabling the billboard owner to multiple “signs” displayed for all to see.

Some signs are humorous.  There is a van for a lock and key company which has, along the bottom of their vehicle, the statement “Cheer up it can always be worse.”

Some signs are informational. 

Blenheim Palace signpost
Signpost at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England

Some signs are confusing even though they have been in use for over 60 years.

Road signs from England the magic roundabout
The Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England

(For a video on how this roundabout works, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OGvj7GZSIo.)

Other signs are rather straightforward.

Texas sign
Welcome sign at the Texas state line

Sign - Hats and Boots in Nashville TN

Hats Boot Co. sign in Nashville, Tennessee

There is another sign on the highways that we have no difficulty following, because we know that an accident will surely occur if we disobey its warning.

One Way sign cropped
One-Way Sign along the highway

No matter what your language may be, when you see the arrow going in a certain direction, you understand that such direction is the only correct one.

In the Bible, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be leaving them very soon.  John chapter 14 details this conversation between Jesus and his closest friends:

“”Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:1-6

How many ways are there to God the Father?  Just one – belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Just as the One-Way sign points to the correct direction to be followed on the highway to avoid disaster or death in an accident, Scripture details the one way to avoid disaster and eternal death.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross for our salvation.  He said it clearly – “I am THE way”.  He did not say “I am A way” as if there were more than one option.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12

Signs – they are helpful, instructive, humorous, and some remind us of eternal consequences. 

I pray that if you have not sought the Lord, please do so now.  Scripture has told us everything that we need to obtain eternal life.  Now is the day of salvation.  Now is the time to go the right direction on that narrow road to salvation. 

Father, I pray that those who read this missive would be touched by Your Spirit.  If they are already believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, may their faith be renewed, and their spirit be encouraged by these words. If the reader is not already a believer in our Lord, I pray that Your Spirit would quicken their heart and that they would realize their need for the Savior.