Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Keeper of the Keys

"Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, I am the Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."
Revelation 1:17-18

     Remember when you got the keys to your first car? Holding the keys to my car or my house means I am the owner and I have the right to enter and do what I wish. No police officer is going to question me about that.

     Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades, for which I am soooooo glad. I would not want THOSE keys! Since he has the ownership, what have I to fear? Jesus owns Satan and his dastardly realm. He was given those keys when he became Victor over death on that first resurrection day and I will live eternally because His spirit lives within me. Whew!

     Jesus. He's the First. He'll be the Last. He'll close up at night and tuck me in. Sleep in peace.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Charles Atlas

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

     Remember with me those last pages of comic books. Next to the cheesy ad for Sea Monkeys was one for Charles Atlas' exercise program. The cartoon showed the 97-pound weakling having sand kicked in his face at the beach by husky bullies while his disgusted girlfriend flounced off in a huff.
"If only I were muscle-bound like Charles Atlas!" he thought, as he sent for the program.

     Where do Christians derive their strength in the face of adversity?

     A paralyzed person who cannot lift a spoon has the power of Christ at his disposal through faith and prayer. A person of low IQ may be discounted by most of society, but the grace of Christ transforms him into a powerhouse. The simple prayer of a faithful child can move mountains. A feeble old man with dementia utters universal truths propelled by the Voice of the Ancient of Days.

     "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Corinthians 1: 27)

    So, if you ever feel weak or powerless as the haughty folks kick sand in your face, think again! You are stronger than any Charles Atlas. The Creator of the world resides in you! When others persecute you, insult you or create hardships due to your faith, rejoice! "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10) You bear the marks of the crucifixtion on your spiritual body and you may proudly claim the power of the resurrection!

     Remember with me the words of one of my favorite hymns:

"Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross.
Lift high his royal banner,
It must not suffer loss!
From victory unto victory,
His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished
And Christ is Lord indeed!"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Who Was Jean Champollion?

     God kept two records of his history and his revelation to mankind. One is the Bible and the other was written by the ancient ruins of civilizations.

     Biblical archaeology fascinates me. I love it when relics are found that point directly to a person, place or thing in the Bible. Not that I need this verification to stabilize my faith, but it's exciting to see physical proof of the Great Flood or view the remnants of Solomon's stables.

     Over the years, there have been a number of men and women archaeologists who have tediously uncovered such buried treasure. They have picked up the threads of ancient life from a thousand city mounds and woven them into a pattern which parallels the lives and times of Biblical characters.

     A major key in unlocking long-ago languages was found in the Rosetta Stone. Discovered in Egypt by one of Napoleon Bonaparte's men, it is a granite stele bearing three languages; one Greek, the other two, a mystery.

    A brilliant Frenchman, Jean Champollion, dedicated his life to deciphering the Rosetta mystery. His older brother, also an unsung hero, supported him for 23 years while he labored over the stone's contents. Twenty-three years! He must've been cross-eyed when he triumphantly presented his translation, but what an irreplacable tool it was for gaining knowledge of the ancient civilizations.

    

Living in a Delightful Land

"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there might be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty. 'See if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it...Then the nations will call you blessed, and yours will be a delightful land.'"
Malachi 3: 10-12

     Most people have heard of a tithe, meaning a tenth of your earnings should be given to charity, but how about a tenth of your time?

     There are 1440 minutes in each day. If I were going to give God one tenth, that would equate to 2 hours and 24 minutes. Even if I subtracted eight hours for the time I sleep, my tithe should then be 1 and 1/2 hours. How many of us spend that much time devoted to the things of God during a day? We might could watch a movie for that long, but reading the Bible and praying?

     The Bible tells us to "pray without ceasing" so I thought it would be best to allow God into my heart 24/7, to let my thoughts flow in ceaseless praise. For instance, as I pass a grumpy neighbor on the sidewalk, send up a prayer for him. While commuting to work, turn off the radio and ruminate on memorized scripture or hymns. If two frisky squirrels chasing each other 'round the oak tree make me smile, remember to thank their Maker. There are countless ways we can weave God into our lives all day long.

     Don't be like the disciples who kept falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. Be diligent. Keep watch and do not squander time. In increments, we can tithe our time to God and thereby live in a delightful land.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Life: the Real Reality Show

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul?"
Mark 8:36

     The sameness of life has a way of lulling us into a numbing pattern. Day in. Day out. Go to work. Eat dinner. You settle down into a nest of security until something happens to blow out the bottom of that nest, plummeting you to the ground.

     It was a typical Monday. My dear friend spent the day at the beach with her 27-year-old daughter. It was unknown to either of them that two days hence, her daughter would be killed in an abrupt accident. No chance to say goodbye. Too stunning for comprehension, this reality caused lasting wounds for my friend and her family as they were tearfully confronted with stark tragedy.

     The first day of school, a third grade teacher was happy to get a new year under way until the phone rang. Her father had been in an accident; could she come right away? The distressing news to follow was not good. She will be planning a funeral, too.

     It was a bright, sunny day for these two women, now walking in the valley of the shadow of death. How can anyone be prepared for such reality?

     Jesus came to abolish death. After laying down his life, he rose again and ascended into heaven to prepare a mansion for us. He has promised to come back again. For those who believe in him, they have become sons and daughters of God and will live eternally in a paradise where death, sorrow and pain are no more. All things will have been created new.

     What should we be doing in the mean time? Baptize your children. Pray with your friends. Study the Bible and claim the promises of God. Put on the full armor of God so you are prepared to stand against the evil forces. Be aware of your surroundings. Invest in other people with a loving interest. Forgive one another and love deeply. Avoid argument or acrimony. Live each day as if it is your last.

     My great niece is being baptized this weekend. One life ends and another begins. I promise to pray for her, that she will never forfeit her own soul in exchange for the passing fancies of this world but that she will walk in the way that leads to life. Eternal life.

    

Ultimate Celeb Endorsement

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Colossians 3:17

     Celebrities endorse products they ostensibly believe in, knowing that the fame of their name will increase sales. Clothing designers fix their names on all sorts of items: waistbands, ballcaps, purses, T shirts, and the toes of socks. Wherever the product is seen, so is the name - so it had better be good, right?

     As a Christian, YOU are the product Jesus endorses. Unless you are wearing a cross necklace or sporting a T shirt from the Christian book store, how will others know Jesus is your Designer? By your love!

     The logo of the Christian involves God's greatest commandment: Love One Another. We are not always going to get it right. We may lose our temper in traffic, find ourselves sharing gossip or having too much to drink at a company function. When this happens, humble yourself. Ask God to forgive you and clothe you with compassion, patience, kindness and self control, then ask others to forgive you, too. It's important to your witness.

     Remember, Jesus is the Celebrity who lends you his holy name. You represent the name by which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess. Be an upstanding product worthy of that precious name.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Change My Mind

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 2:5

     I have become a Negative Nancy. The older I get, the more I am like Crankshaft! I grouse about the state of our country. I slander whole races rather than seeing the worth of the individual. I gripe about television commercials. I'm an old grump! When and how did this happen? How can I gain the mind of Christ?

     I set out to implore God to change my mind and I have no doubt that He will. After all, he "knows the thoughts of man" (Psalm 94:11) and he is never against self-improvement. It gives him the glory he so deserves when people want to become more like him.

     My prayer is for wisdom. Lord, show me to adopt the attitude of Jesus.

     Here's a start I found in scripture: put myself aside. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3) Be interested in others. Take on the very nature of a servant. Humble myself. Be obedient to God's will. Die to self.

     I am reading a memoir written by Vinh Chung entitled Where The Wind Leads. He says:

"There is no greater love than to give one's life for a friend, but giving one's life does not always mean dying- sometimes it means living. Living can be a sacrifice, too, and a noble one, especially when it's done to benefit someone else. Dying might require more love, but living takes a lot more endurance."
 
     There are many little ways each day that I can "die to self" - call a friend, let someone go ahead of me in line, put a newspaper on the porch for a neighbor, send flowers anonymously, pay a compliment, visit an elderly person, mail a card of encouragement, practice hospitality, commit random acts of kindness. 
 
     Do not complain or argue. Work out my salvation with fear and trembling, being confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion. God, you are the Potter; I am the clay. "Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still."
 
     Romans 8:6 says, "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."  Therefore, may the Spirit help me to think about these things, as spoken of in Philippians chapter four: Whatever is noble, true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Ferret out the good stuff, dig for treasure. Seek and I shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto me. Work at it with all my heart because it is the Lord Jesus I am serving. Let my conversation be always full of grace. (Colossians 4:6)
 
     If you notice you have become a Negative Nancy like me, you don't have to settle for that. Change your mind! It's a woman's perogative, after all.