Sunday, January 25, 2015

Who is the Fairest in the Land?

"You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you least expect him."
Luke 12:40

     Last night, I was watching a movie, "Mirror, Mirror," the tale of Snow White. Toward the end, when the evil queen was losing her hold on the kingdom, her wicked spells she'd cast on others were losing their grip also.  When this occured, Snow White was amazed to see the beast she'd been battling morphed into her father. When she had least expected it, there he stood in a crown of gold, reinstated at the helm of his kingdom. Those who had helped his daughter and had been found faithful followers in the combat against evil, were commended and rewarded by the grateful monarch.

     Just a fairy tale? Not really. All of us have a choice to make: will we remain bent on the evil deeds of our sinful nature, held captive by power, lust and avarice? Or will we turn our hearts to the Fairest Lord Jesus, the King of Kings? When he returns, will we be found faithfully doing our part to further his kingdom?

     I pray that, when I look in the mirror, I may see, not my reflection, but that of my Savior, who is the fairest in the land.
"Fairest Lord Jesus,
King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I'd love Thee,
Truly I'd serve Thee,
Light of my soul, my joy, my crown."
(words from hymn "Beautiful Savior," author unknown)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Where Is The Justice?

"I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice."
Ezekiel 34:16

     I get tired of hearing about the bullies of this world - those who perpetrate evil against the defenseless and then are treated by our justice system as if they are the true victims.

     I heard a blurb on the news about a man on death row who was complaining about mistreatment during attempts to execute him via intravenous drip: "They poked my arm five times and it hurt." What crime did this man commit to land him in this predicament? He raped and murdered a baby.

     Where is the justice? Such news stories sicken me and I am a sinful human being. Imagine what our Holy God thinks?

     I embrace the love and justice of the Good Shepherd. He is One who upholds the lost, the injured, the ones who have strayed. He will give us strength and oppose those who "shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns." (Ezekiel 34:21)

     Jesus, who saves us, will rule with justice. He will judge fairly and make things right. I live for that day.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Source of True Strength

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3: 4-7 (emphasis mine)

     Angelina Jolie recently directed a movie "Unbroken" about Louis Zamperini's experiences in World War Two. Following his plane crash into the Pacific, 47 days adrift on salt water and two years of torture and debasement in a Japanese POW camp, Louis was consumed with hatred for one captor in particular: The Bird. Nightmares and alcoholism nearly snuffed out his marriage, his American dreams and his life after the war. I'd say Mr. Zamperini was anything but unbroken at that point.

     It was at a Billy Graham crusade that Louis heard and accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he was forgiven of his sins, he was freed from all that truly kept him captive and he forgave his captors, even traveling to Japan to do so. He never had another nightmare.

     After that, Louis was described as a happy-go-lucky man. He sought ways to share his story with others and he reached out to people whose lives were in captivity, as his was. He established the Victory Boys' Camp to help troubled inner-city youths. He rebuilt his family and marriage with love, devotion and plenty of laughter.

     As a Christian, I know the reason behind the rebirth and renewal of Mr. Zamperini: the Holy Spirit was generously poured upon him by his faith in Jesus Christ, who justified him and saved him by his grace and mercy. It was not because of anything righteous inside of Louis.

     An article I read quoted Angelina Jolie as saying this: "I believe people are drawn to Louis' story because it is inspirational. Louis always reminded me that the purpose of the film is not to show how extraordinary he was but to help those watching it discover that they have the same strength inside them."

     I long for her last sentence to say: "they can have this same strength inside them if they confess their sin and invite Jesus to be their savior."

     That is why Louis Zamperini was an unbroken man.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Daily Wonderful Deeds

"We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds."
Psalm 75:1

     A friend gave me a lovely, handmade gift; I wrote and mailed a thank you card promptly.

     Like children who write wish lists to Santa and mail them to the North Pole, I'd like to write to God. I know I speak directly to the Ancient of Days while in prayer, but my best expressions are in ink so I write:

     Dearest God, Son Jesus, lover of my soul, Holy Spirit, full of grace and truth: Thank you! Like one of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, I want to be one who remembers his manners and expresses prompt appreciation.

     As I slumbered in my warm bed, you (who never slumbers) were guarding my portal against all harm and danger. When I woke, electricity provided the time and warmed my home. I gathered slippers and robe, turned the knob with muscle, bone and nerves - all interconnected with a brain, heart and lungs that flawlessly work each day. As I ate breakfast,  I thought about each facet of my digestive system, from tongue and teeth to the muscular esophogus, from acidic stomach to the deep recesses of the mysterious colon. They all work so perfectly in sync that I rarely give the process a thought.

     I look outside to the earth's skirt of wondrous white and it reminds me of the crimson tide which flowed from Jesus' side to cleanse my stain of sin. The sun  has risen by your power. The naked trees rest in wait, knowing you will clothe them again in due time and, in autumn, they'll have another chance to wave their glorious colors. A man went by, walking his dog, a person made in your image with a soul, a being you knew at conception and one you died for at Calvary. Does he even know this? A car drove by and I appreciated the wisdom of invention you have bestowed upon mankind so we may better our situation.

     I heard the ticking of the clock, felt the silent rise and fall of my breath, saw the stoic sun casting long glances across the pristine snow and I was reminded of the passage of time and your being the keeper of it. I cannot add one single moment to my life. Only you know how long my life may be and so my adoration and dedication belong to you, my Rock and my Redeemer.

     Thank you for everything, Lord. I love you.


                                                                                            Rachel Parsons

Friday, January 9, 2015

My Relationship with a Squirrel

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat."
Isaiah 55:1

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."
Ephesians 2: 8, 9

     I have a love-hate relationship with a squirrel. This pudgy rodent ruined three bird feeders this summer as he gorged on the stolen contents so I spent $25 on a stop-a-squirrel model, thereby harrumphing my human triumph! It's no wonder he doesn't trust me.

     Today, however, I saw him through the Polar Vortex that swirled in my yard. He was shivering in the tree, gazing longingly at that fancy feeder, and I had compassion on him.

     Filling a dish with bird seed, I gently placed it beneath the tree, calling an invitation to him, then went into the house to spy.

     Gradually, one cautious step at a time, he approached the dish, but I noticed he continued to burrow beneath the snow, rooting for food the way in which he was accustomed. It was almost as if he thought the free gift of seed was too good to be true; he had to work for his food. When he finally reached out in faith and took a bite, then he jubilantly filled his empty stomach.

     People are not much different. We can be so dubious and distrusting that we miss out on the free feast from God: release from oppressive sin and death, given to us by Jesus' death and resurrection. We just have to reach out in faith and enjoy!

Before Giving a Sermon

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
Psalm 19:14

     At church, prior to delivering his sermon, the pastor would pray this verse. He recognized the responsibility he had that what he's about to say to the people should be pleasing to the Lord first. If it is, then it will have a positive impact on the congregation.

     We, as Christians, are all like mini-pastors when we head out into the world. We have a steep responsibility to represent our Redeemer in a way that is pleasing to Him. Before my feet hit the floor in the morning, I am going to pray this verse and ask that the Lord guide my steps.

     Earlier in this Psalm, verses 7-11, it tells me what the Bible is and what it can do in my life. Placing the information in columns aids in the understanding:

     Synonym for Bible                              Description                        Outcome
     The Law of the Lord                           Perfect                               Revives the soul
     The statutes of the Lord                      Trustworthy                       Makes the simple wise
     The precepts of the Lord                     Right                                 Gives joy
     The commands of the Lord                 Radiant                              Gives light
     Fear of the Lord                                   Pure                                  Endures forever
     Ordinances of the Lord                        Sure                                  Great reward

     More than just a book, the Bible is the living, breathing word of the Lord. Written by over forty authors, over a time span of 1,400 years, this book has a continual theme, prophecies fulfilled and solemn truths of history and mankind. What other writing can claim this? The Bible is the inspired, infallible word of God. Please read it today and apply it to your life.                          

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

R. I. P.

"The righteous perish, and no one wonders in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death."
Isaiah 57: 1, 2

     Why? You may at some point in this life ask, "Why did this person have to die?"

     Death does not seem to us like a good thing. With images of the Grim Reaper and spooky graveyards, it certainly has a bad reputation. However, death can be a release, especially if the deceased had been imprisoned by pain and suffering.

     The above verses comforted me; I don't think I'd ever read them before. It is a God of love who wants to spare his people from evil so He takes them away from it. The words "rest" and "peace" soothe the soul, especially as one remembers the restlessness of their dying loved one.

     Now we know they are in a better place, being spared from further evil. Lord knows we have enough of that in this world.