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Monday, December 21, 2009

Dec. 21st. The Shortest Day of the Year

The Shortest Day of the Year

Today, December 21st is the shortest day of the calendar year. This is the day in the year because of the earth’s rotation that it is furthest away from the sun. If the earth were to keep moving away from the sun as it has for the last six months, everything on our earth would soon die in frozen darkness. Aren’t we glad that God the Creator has His Hand on the earth’s annual rotation around the sun? Today is the day that the earth stops moving further from the sun and starts moving closer again.

Tradition has it that the reason December 25th. was chosen as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth was because by December 25th the ancient astronomers could ascertain that our earth was finally moving closer to the sun again. The first sign that warmth and light were returning to the earth! Springtime and hope were on their way. In the winter of our lives when darkness is taking over; the hope of the Christ Child arrives to bring us the promise of light and life. Praise God!

Our next devotional will not be posted until January 4th.

The Christmas Star

The Christmas Star

For more than a thousand years people have wondered about the star that led the magi to Bethlehem. Many proposals have been put forth—comets, conjunctions, supernatural phenomenon—and of course, each has its supporters. (I'll tell you the idea I support, if you ask.)

Why did the magi travel hundreds of miles to see the King of the Jews? What did they care about the Jews—already an outcast people for hundreds of years? So what if a new star or sign concerning a Jewish king suddenly appeared?

I believe the magi were Jews themselves who had been living by the Euphrates since the Babylonian captivity, descendants of the bright young Jews Nebuchadnezzar trained in all the wisdom of the Babylonians. Of these young men and of all the royal astrologers, Nebuchadnezzar had set up Daniel as head.

Daniel was a man of faith, knowledgeable in the Scriptures. He accurately prophesied the fall of the Babylonian Empire, the rise and fall of the Persian Empire, the rise and division of the Greek Empire, and the rise of the Roman Empire.

More significantly to the Christmas star, he prophesied that a command would be given for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and that about 400 years would pass between that command and the coming of Messiah.

And so, I believe, the magi of the Christmas story knew the timing was right for Messiah, and they were watching for the sign: “A star shall come out of Jacob; a scepter shall rise out of Israel,” Numbers 24:17.

God is there for those who ask, seek, and knock. He rewards those who believe that He exists and who diligently seek Him. The magi were among those. May we all be.

Written by Jane Poole

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Prepare the Way of the Lord

For many centuries the nation of Israel had been waiting for their promised Messiah. Prophets had foretold the Saviors’ birth and the Scriptures and Old Testament laws were full of references to this promised Hope. But still the people weren’t ready. They were slow to understand.

That first coming of Christ was so powerful. Isaiah 60:2 tells us, “The people sitting in gross darkness beheld a glorious light.” Eternity was breaking in! There were signs in the heavens – a special star. The shepherds in the fields were knocked over by the brightness of the angels praising and singing all around them in the sky. They hadn’t been ready. They were slow to understand.

And so in Luke 3:1-6 it tells us that the word of God came to John in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. God didn’t call a rich ruler to prepare the way for Jesus. He didn’t raise up an important leader to proclaim that the marvelous Gift of Salvation was among men. He called John the Baptist, a simple man who lived in the wilderness, to spread the Word that the Savior was coming. The Messiah was here. The kingdom of God was at hand. God’s people didn’t need to remain in darkness, despair, depression, bitterness, doubt or bondage anymore. The Gift of Salvation was being given. Radiant luminous living was their inheritance and ours too.

Luke 3:3-6 tells us that John obeyed God and walked from house to house around the Jordan calling people to prepare. Their Savior was at hand and they needed to get themselves ready for Him. John shouted out to any who would listen that the way to get ready for the coming Savior was to repent and turn from their sins. Many people followed John as he ran from town to town urging people to repent. Along with calling everyone to turn from their sins, John cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be raised up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:4-6.

“Every valley shall be raised up,--“ This doesn’t say that God will only take care of some of the valleys. But Scripture says, “every valley”. Does that mean that the Savior will right all the wrongs, raise up all the oppressed, make all the un-important become important, and cause the last to be first? And every mountain and hill made low.” Will the proud and arrogant be put down, the first now made last, the ones who oppressed others are now stopped? And the “crooked and rough places will be made straight.” How many rough or crooked places are there in your life that you are waiting for the Savior to make straight? Isn’t it almost too amazingly wonderful to imagine?

This is the time of the year that we put up decorations and buy gifts and send out our Christmas cards. We’re all busy preparing for Christmas. But are we listening to John’s call? Are we busy preparing ourselves to meet our Savior? The message is still the same. John first preached regarding the need to repent. Let’s not be slow to understand. We need to search our hearts and repent of any ill will or lack of forgiveness for anyone that may still linger there. Then John urged people to make His paths straight. Does that mean that we should love justice and mercy and make His path straighter in our lives with kindness? How are you preparing yourself for your Savior this Christmas? Are you ready? Are you making the paths straight for Him in your life? What gift will you bring Him? Will you give Him your heart?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Psalms 1 - Just Two Kinds of People

Psalms 1 – Just Two Kinds of People

It’s all laid out before you in black and white. The very first Psalm paints two graphic pictures: one of the “righteous” and another one of the “unrighteousness” .There are no descriptions or pictures of the “in-betweens”. No grey areas!

Psalms 1:1 begins by proclaiming a blessing! Not a blessing on what a person does but on what he doesn’t do. This blessed person doesn’t “walk” in the counsel of the ungodly. He doesn’t “stand” in the path of sinners. And she doesn’t “sit” in the seat of the scornful. This person doesn’t walk, stand, or sit anywhere near evil. He doesn’t believe, behave or belong to the realm of the wicked. Deep within a person either wants to follow God’s ways or he doesn’t. Psalm 1:1 is a description of one who wants to stay far away from un-just and un-loving ways, – even in his thought life. Here is how Psalms 1:1 reads: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful:”

The sin of being scornful or critical or having a mocking spirit is specifically mentioned here in this first Psalm and also in other Bible passages. Doesn’t a scornful or cynical outlook cause one to have less sensitivity and less love for others? Doesn’t Scripture tell us that a habit of mocking others is offensive to God? But it’s so easy for a critical spirit to creep up on us and Scripture warns us not to sit in the seat of the scornful. Do we need to be on guard against this?

And the second verse describes not just what this blessed one doesn’t do but also what he does do. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalms 1:2. Now we have it, - the blessing falls on what this person does do as well as what he doesn’t. She does delight in God’s Word and she reads and meditates on God’s laws constantly. And since God’s Word is alive and powerful, the person who immerses himself in it is changed and blessed.

This seeker of God is so blessed that Psalms 1:3 gloriously describes him as: “He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.” What an amazing picture of the person who loves God’s Word and tries to stay away from evil. He is like a fruitful tree that Someone has purposefully planted by a river of water. His leaf will never wither or his life will never run dry because he draws his life and strength from the Water of Life. And her life will be fruitful or productive – so much so that everything she does will prosper!

This picture of the one who seeks after God goes right off the scale! He isn’t living out his life on his own but God’s Hand is all over him! Planting him, feeding him, making everything he does prosper! This amazing picture shows more than we could ever ask or think! He plants us right by the River. We draw our very life from the water that won’t run dry. Our leaf never withers and everything we do prospers! He speaks in mysteries, too marvelous to comprehend.

And then Psalms 1 continues by describing the “unrighteous”. Not much to say about them. Blunt and to the point Psalms 1:4 declares that “the ungodly are not so. But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.” Those who seek after God are like a planted tree fed by the rivers, but those who don’t seek after God are like empty husks which are easily blown away. These two pictures –the prosperous tree and the dead chaff-described in Psalm 1 are in stark contrast to one another.

The last two verses of our Psalm close with more condemnations on the “ungodly”. Verse 5 and 6 end with “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Not only are the ungodly like chaff that the wind blows away, but they won’t be approved when they are judged. They won’t share with the righteous in their congregation, and their ways aren’t known by the Lord. So they will perish.

The picture in Psalm 1 of those who refuse God’s Way is as bad as it gets. The last verse says it all, “But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”. And the picture of those who allow God to plant them by His River – is too wonderful for our small minds to be able to take in. Just two pictures are set before us here in this little Psalm: pictures of a tree and of chaff. Of life and of death. Let’s choose life.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Beatitudes-Living a Blessed Life

The Beatitudes

If you walk into any bookstore today you will find whole sections of the store containing books written about how to succeed in life? Book shelves are filled with “How to” books These books include topics such as how to be popular, how to be happy,-.and many more. Magazine articles abound setting out the traits of people who live fulfilling lives, and encouraging us to do the same. Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was on a national bestseller list some years ago. And he is writing new best selling motivational books today. According to Mr. Covey, the seven habits of a highly effective person are: 1) Be proactive 2) Begin with the end in mind 3) Put first things first 4) Think win/win 5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood 6) Synergize and 7) Sharpen the Saw – or take care of yourself.

These books on how to succeed are always popular since we all want to know how to live a productive and successful life. But do we Christians seek out what God has to say about living a good and blessed life. Do we study Scripture to find which actions please the Lord, what He calls a good life? Which life habits cause us to be blessed by God?

Scripture has much to say regarding the way that we should conduct our lives. When Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount he outlined the primary attributes of people who receive the rule of the kingdom that He brings. He described eight habits of people who are blessed and have God’s blessing. He gave an explanation for each blessing and He gave a pronouncement of blessing over the people who follow each of these eight practices. These blessings that Jesus promised have been called the Beatitudes. And Jesus’ list of life habits that bring down blessings contrasts sharply with much of the secular advice about the traits needed to live well and be happy. Let’s see what Scripture says about how we should live in order to receive God’s blessings and to live a good life.

In Matthew 5:3 the Beatitudes begin with Jesus pronouncing a blessing over the poor in spirit. He declares that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Seven more blessings or “beatitudes” follow:” Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The first blessing is to the poor in spirit. The poor in spirit are those who recognize their spiritual poverty and, casting aside all self-dependence, seek God’s grace. The blessing given to those who mourn probably doesn’t mean people in bereavement, but those who experience the sorrow of their sin. They mourn over the sin and the brokenness of our world and they try to do their small part to change it.

Who are the “meek” to whom Christ gives His blessings? The word “meek” carries the idea of humility and gentleness. Everywhere throughout Scripture God stands against the proud. So the Beatitude blessing given to the meek would be given to a person who would be the opposite of a proud or arrogant person. Christ goes on to pour His blessing on the peacemakers. He calls them the sons of God. Jesus promises that we will be blessed when we follow peaceful solutions. Another Beatitude calls down a blessing upon us when we are merciful. We are promised mercy if we are merciful. Do we make tough choices that take care of the “bottom line” or do we reach out to the overlooked ones who are in need? Are we known for our generous kindness and helpfulness to others? To the unattractive? To animals? Blessed are the merciful.

Then Jesus speaks a blessing on those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He promises that they shall be filled. And He pronounces more blessings on those who are pure in heart. Our Lord is calling down His blessings on those who want to follow Him, who want Him to take over their lives and who want to obey Him. To follow Him is to follow truth, justice and love.

And the last Beatitude or blessing is given to those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Blessings attend the way of those who are reviled and persecuted because they are loyal to righteousness. They are blessed because they are willing to suffer persecution in order to follow Jesus. Lies are told against them. Since Christ had to suffer we often are asked to share His sufferings. This last Beatitude tells us that enduring persecution brings a reward in heaven.

We don’t understand all that the Lord is telling us here. He speaks in mysteries. The world holds up materialistic goals and Christ tells us that we can’t serve both God and money. To be popular by the world’s standards we often need to be competitive. We need to take care of “Number One”. But our Lord tells us to mourn, to be meek and poor in spirit. Sometimes even those in the Church insist that it is very wrong to be our brother’s keeper. But Scripture begs us to feed the hungry and take care of the sick. It would seem that we have to be ready to break with many of the goals that the rest of the world tells us are so important and march to a different drummer. And we may be persecuted when we go this different Way. But even though the Way Jesus is leading us sometimes goes against worldly wisdom, this is the narrow way, the way strewn with earthly and heavenly blessings, the way described in the Beatitudes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Passover

The Passover

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. “For Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed”- 1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:8 goes on to tell us, “Therefore let us keep the Feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” To understand what these verses are trying to tell us we need to turn back to the book of Exodus chapters 11 and 12 where we read the story of the Passover. The Passover was the event that caused Pharaoh to finally allow the Israelites to leave slavery behind and start their travels onward to the Promised Land. For several hundred years before the Passover, the Israelites had been living in Egypt as slaves and enduring hard labor and much bitterness. We have only to consider the huge heavy stones that make up the pyramids in Egypt to wonder if the Israelite slaves were the ones who were forced to struggle under the great burden of those weights.

This was a very dark time for the Jewish people. Their affliction was likened to being in a furnace according to Deuteronomy 4:20. It is believed that the pharaoh who severely oppressed Israel was Thutmose 111 who reigned between 1482-1423 B.C. Scripture tells us that this pharaoh worried that his Jewish slaves were becoming too numerous and he ordered all of the baby boys to be thrown into the Nile River and drowned. God heard the cries of His people and as always, He planned their deliverance!
God called Moses and asked him to speak to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites go. God promised to be with Moses and to perform miracles and wonders to authenticate His request of Pharaoh.

And so Moses obeyed God and visited Pharaoh. “Let my people go” became his continuing plea to Pharaoh. But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen. Again and again Moses begged and again and again Pharaoh became more determined to keep his Jewish slaves. Finally Moses met Pharaoh down at the Nile River and asked him again to let his people go and this time when Pharaoh refused, Moses struck the waters of the Nile River and they immediately turned to blood. This was the first plague that God used to show Pharaoh that He wanted the cruel slavery of His people to end. The mighty Nile River was turned to blood, the fish died and the whole land stunk. But Pharaoh hardened his heart against God’s call to let the Israelites go. Over the next months there were nine more times that Moses pled with Pharaoh to release the Jewish slaves and nine more plagues that God sent on to the Egyptians to change the heart of Pharaoh and to free His people. The second plague was a plague of frogs all over the land. The third plague was gnats and lice. The fourth, flies and the fifth, diseases on the livestock. Boils and hail followed and then locusts and darkness. But with each plague Pharaohs’ heart only grew harder. It became obvious that Pharaoh wasn’t going to change his mind and give the Israelites their freedom.

And then the tenth plague was announced. This plague would finally bring the blessed freedom for Gods’ people that the other nine plagues had not accomplished. Moses told each Israelite family to take an unblemished year old male lamb from their flocks and to kill it and put its’ blood on the top and sides of their door posts. Moses warned all of Israel that at about midnight the following night the death angel would pass through the land of Egypt and the first born male in every household would be taken. The death angel would pass over every house that had the blood of the lamb over the door posts and no one inside would die. But the angel would not pass over any house that didn’t have the lamb’s blood on the door post. Every Israelite family followed Moses’ instructions. No one went outside on that terrible night. Around midnight a death occurred in every Egyptian household from the pharaoh family right down to the families of Egyptian prisoners. Before morning the cries and wails of anguished parents and family members could be heard all over Egypt! Pharaoh found Moses and told him to leave. He asked Moses to take the Israelites and go. Perhaps 2,000,000 Israelites took off on their long journey to the Promised Lane the day after the Passover. And so it came about that the Israelite’s finally won their freedom. The Lord commanded Moses to instruct the Israelites to celebrate the Passover each year with a feast. And the Israelites were instructed to eat unleavened bread for seven days during the feast.

Scripture teaches us that the Passover story has an application for us today. – an application for the Church. Christ is our unblemished Sacrifice, saving us from death.- Hebrews 9:14. Does this mean that if we accept Christ and have faith that His blood covers us, that when the midnight of our life comes, (when we die) we will be passed over by spiritual death and given eternal life? Does it mean that because of His blood we will be spared? Is the sacrificial lamb in the Passover story a picture or type of Christ? First Corinthians 5:7-8 tells us that Christ is our Passover Lamb and we should therefore keep the Feast. –the feast of unleavened bread. Leaven was a symbol in the Old Testament for sin. Out of gratitude for being passed over by death and in the power of His Spirit we should stay away from the leaven (yeast) of malice and wickedness and feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Does this mean that our lives and our actions should change when we have been spared – when death has passed over us? What do you think? .

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Rejected Parent

The Rejected Parent

There are web sites for everything else but there are no web sites that I know of for “rejected parents”. No support groups where older parents can stand by one another when their adult children consistently refuse to communicate with them. The rejected parent hides behind doors of loneliness and shame .And if a father is hated by his adult son, his church will probably judge him if he shares his sorrow. They will let him know that the sad situation must be his own fault. If he had raised his child correctly this wouldn’t be happening.

Children are supposed to grow up and live their own lives. And parents of adult children should learn to let go and never interfere. But older parents and their adult children should still have a relationship – still be “family”. And ever so often, we find a bewildered parent whose adult child has completely cut him off for no apparent reason.

Perhaps God had these very parents in mind when the command to honor ones’ parents was given as one of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20. In my travels I have met two or three older people who have adult children who have not spoken to them in years. When these parents start to communicate, they share their confusion, desperation and sorrow. They all love their adult child and long to hear from them.. They miss the relationship that they used to have and have mixed feelings of sadness, love and anger. What did they do wrong as a parent? They ask. How could this special family relationship be torn in pieces? They wonder.

Another Parent – God, our heavenly Father has had some of these same feelings when some of His children have rejected Him. His anguish and mixed emotions of love and anger come spilling out in Hosea 11:1-9: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms: but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with the cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them… My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, He will by no means exalt them. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor devastate Ephraim again.”

When we read the history books we discover that the ten tribes of Israel were punished for rejecting their Father God and scattered throughout the known world. This happened over 2,500 years ago and they are still to this day referred to as the lost tribes of Israel. Long assimilated into other nations and long gone we suppose! Lost forever?

But wait, there in the last chapter of Hosea God speaks again of His lost sons Israel and Ephraim! “I will be like the dew to Israel: He shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon,” Hosea 14:5 And “Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’ I have heard and observed him, I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me.” Hosea 14:8.

Scripture is saying the impossible – that Israel and Ephraim will be restored! Indeed can God bring back His wayward children, the lost tribes of Israel, after these many thousands of years? Wouldn’t that be impossible? But wait, is anything too big for God? God has always known how to save and redeem, so of course He can bring the ten tribes of Israel back!

The whole fourteen chapters of Hosea record the desperation of God, the rejected Parent, crying out for a relationship with His children. – Israel and Ephraim. His anger and frustration are written down there right along with his love and concern. But Scripture tells us that God loves all of His children. And that includes you and me. When we sin and turn from Him and forget that we are His children, He must have the same feelings about us that He had about wayward Israel and rebellions Ephraim.
And what can we learn from all of this? First of all, if we are treated very badly as an older parent we can remember that God, the perfect Parent, was also treated badly. We share in a small way Christ’s sufferings. If God can bring His rebellious son Israel back after thousands of years; He can bring our rejecting child back too, even if we have to wait a very long time to see our prayers answered. And we can learn from the book of Hosea to never play the part of the rebellious child. Let’s never break our heavenly Father’s heart. Let’s never be responsible for making Him our rejected Parent.

Monday, November 9, 2009

More on Forgiveness

More on Forgiveness

The Bible treats the subject of forgiveness very seriously. And many Christians find forgiving others hard to do. Why does God ask us to forgive sin it sometimes is so difficult?

Christianity is basically a message of forgiveness. Acts 10:43 says that “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name.” So because we have been forgiven, God asks us to forgive others. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:13 As the bride of Christ we are to be like Him, and Jesus came “to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” Mk. 10:45.

Since we have been forgiven and brought into God’s family, we are to take on the ways of that family. Luke 6:36 tells us “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Matthew 18 is the parable of the unmerciful servant, who after being forgiven a great debt then went out and refused to forgive a small debt owed to him. Because we have been made so rich and free through God’s grace we should be ready to pass that grace on. The hurts, insults, and harms that we receive from the hands of others can be taken care of by our heavenly Father. –Romans 8:28

What God has done for us in Christ is to say through His forgiveness that we are valuable and important – even though we have sinned. He has taken us out of the kingdom of this world and placed us into the Kingdom of God. Our identity is in Him and no longer in ourselves. We have a Fortress to run to in time of trouble. God has given us the resources we need to forgive others.

But isn’t there a limit to this forgiveness you may be asking? When asked that question Jesus responded that we should forgive “seventy times seven” Mt. 18:22. God never stops forgiving us so we are asked to treat our brother the way God treats us. But if we just keep forgiving endlessly doesn’t that open us to being taken advantage of? That answer is probably yes. But being rich in Christ, we can never be bankrupted by others.

Do we just ignore wrongs done to us? Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Luke 17:3-4 says: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’, forgive him.” And Gal. 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” The goal in all of this is to help your brother or sister to repent of their sin and restoring them to fellowship with you and with the church and with God.

We aren’t trying to show our brother that he is wrong and we are right. We aren’t trying to get back at him – but to win him back into Christian fellowship. Scripture tells us that “In as much as is in you, keep the peace.” We are to love our brother when he has different opinions that we have and when he does things differently than we would, We try to bend when he wants to go to one place and we want to go to the other. We forgive him when he annoys us with his noisy cell phone calls. And when he forgets to call us when he is late. Because of Christ we can tolerate annoyances and inconveniences. But we can’t tolerate real sin in the Body of Christ. We have to confront sin in order to keep the Church pure and loving and also to protect the witness of the Church to nonbelievers.

So we are told to forgive and not to judge. To keep the peace. But we are also told in Scripture to confront our brother or sister if they are sinning.. We are told in one scripture to forgive and then in another to confront. Aren’t these two commands opposite from one another? Actually they are similar because both are to be done out of love. God the loving Father wants all of His children to be one in love – to act like a family. And we need to ask Him to help us do our part.

Monday, October 26, 2009

We will not be able to publish a devotional next week. Look for another devotional by November 10th!
Adam and Eve and the Fall----Genesis 3 - Paradise Lost

We all know the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We have heard how the lying serpent tempts Eve with the “apple” and Eve not only eats the forbidden fruit but convinces Adam to eat it too. The story of the Fall of man (Genesis 3) explains the origins of many mysterious qualities of life – sickness, death, troubles and man’s free will to mention a few. Let’s explore several ideas that the story of the Fall introduces.

First of all, this act of disobedience to God by our ancestors is called the “original sin”. Scripture tells us that when sin first entered that once wonderful world, it changed everything. The perfect sinless world that God had created was now under a curse! That glorious world where there was no death and no sickness was now cursed by sickness and death. When God first created His world He commented again and again that everything was so “very good”. But now His “very good” creation was groaning and travailing under the wages of sin.- Romans 8:22 The whole earth had been changed! God could no longer exclaim that everything in His creation was so “very good”. Paradise had been lost! Adam and Eve are the only humans to have ever lived in that sinless creation. Only they could remember what that amazing world had once been like! And how much had been lost from the Fall: we can only imagine.

Another lesson we learn is that before the Fall, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden every day. They had enjoyed close fellowship and intimacy with God, their Father. But when our first parents sinned, everything was changed. Their sin separated them from God. And sin separates us too unless we accept God’s answer- God’s Covering. After they sinned, God sent Adam and Eve out from the Garden of Eden. God did this so that they wouldn’t be able to eat of the Tree of Life that was in the middle of the Garden and live forever. Our loving God didn’t want Adam and Eve to live forever in their sin and alienation. (He had a better Way)

And we also learn that after Adam and Eve sinned, they personally were changed. They now knew the difference between good and evil. Scripture tells us that they were not ashamed of being naked before they sinned. But afterward they were uncomfortable with their nakedness and they sewed leaves together to cover their bodies. And then God came and sacrificed an animal and gave them skin coverings. Is this story hinting that on our own and in our sin we feel ashamed of our nakedness – and we need a covering? Does blood have to be shed to affect a covering for our shame? Is our physical shame indicative of our spiritual shame? Does it imply that we are not all right on our own? Without Jesus as our Covering, we do have a reason for shame.

Another fact we learn from Genesis 3 is that this original sin of Adams’ is passed down to each of us. Scripture tells us that we inherit our sin nature from our first father – Adam. Romans 6:19 “Therefore, just as through Adam sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned---“ Romans 5:12

And still another lesson we learn from Genesis 1:27 is that God created man in His own image. Since we are His children, we will bear His image. God blessed Adam and Eve and gave them dominion over the earth. They were given power and influence. How much of that was spoiled by sin? Since God has a will of His own, and since we are created in His image, we also have a will of our own. God didn’t make us to be robots. We are free to make choices. With our own wills we can choose sin and death instead of God’s Will and life.

The very best lesson we learn from this story of the Fall is that the Father cared. Right away God started pointing Adam and Eve towards redemption – towards saving them from all of the consequences of their sin. With Paradise lost, God couldn’t help but plan for the Day that Paradise would be re-gained. Right after Adam and Eve sinned, God prophesied: ‘the Seed (Jesus Christ) of the woman will bruise the Serpent’s (Satan) head—“ Genesis 3:15. God immediately began making promises of a coming Savior and of salvation. 1 Peter 1:19-20 tell us, “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world---“ And Revelation 13:8 mentions, “---the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Scripture tells us that our loving Father was deeply grieved when His children chose death over life. He immediately started providing a Way back. “The wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 - and what a Gift it is. The whole creation is waiting to be restored. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Sin and death will be no more! We shall be changed! The desert will bloom! The crooked will be made straight! The last will be first! Everything will someday be “very good” again. And that magnificent Tree of Life in the center of the Garden of Eden that God took away from Adam and Eve after they sinned,- it will again be restored to all of us when Christ comes again. -Revelations 22:14

Monday, October 19, 2009

Joseph – the Forgiver

Joseph was stunned and trembling as he crouched inside the deep pit that his brothers had thrown him into. It was dark and smelly down inside where he was, and blood was trickling down his leg which had been scraped from his fall.

Joseph could hear his older brothers up above laughing and making plans to kill him. He had always looked up to his ten older brothers. They were trusted family. How could this be happening?

Two days earlier Josephs’ father Jacob had asked him to go out into the fields and check on his brothers. They had been away too long with the flocks and Jacob was worried. When Joseph finally found his brothers in the fields near Dotham he ran towards them excited. But the seventeen year old Joseph was in for a terrible surprise. Instead of greeting him, his brothers grabbed him and stripped him of his coat and threatened to kill him. Then they threw him into a deep pit, while they plotted his death. The brothers were jealous of him because their father had given him a colorful coat.

As the brothers sat eating their dinner they looked up and saw an Ishmaelite caravan with camels approaching from the distance on its’ way to Egypt. The camels were loaded down with spices and balms. “Hey, instead of killing Joseph, why don’t we sell him as a slave to these travelers?” Judah suggested. And the other brothers agreed. Joseph was pulled up out of the pit and sold as a slave for twenty shekels of silver.

As he was being chained up the young Joseph watched as his brothers ripped up his coat and poured animal blood all over it. “When we give this coat to our father, he will think that Joseph is dead,” they joked. With his head hanging down and a sense of dread and panic settling in, the teen-ager was carried away to Egypt and into slavery.

Years passed. Joseph was sold to one of Pharoahs’ officers and Scripture tells us that God was with him and blessed everything he did. Joseph grew to be a handsome young man ---so handsome that his masters’ wife asked him to go to bed with her. Even though Joseph refused, day after day his masters’ wife continued trying to seduce him. Finally one day she grabbed his coat and pulled him toward her bed. Joseph ran out of the house leaving his coat behind!

“Look who tried to sleep with me while you were away!” the wife told her husband, as she showed him Josephs’ coat. “I screamed and he ran away, leaving this coat behind.”

So Joseph was thrown into an Egyptian prison. This was the second time that Joseph’s coat was used to perpetuate a lie about him. “They bruised his feet with shackles, and his neck was put in irons,” Psalms 105:18 tells us. But Scripture also reminds us that God was with him through it all.

God had given Joseph a marvelous gift --- the ability to interpret dreams. Years later when Pharoah dreamed about the seven fat cows and the seven skinny cows, Joseph was able to give Pharoah the interpretation of his dream. The seven skinny cows represented seven years of terrible famine over all the lands.

Because Pharoah could see that God was with Joseph, he brought Joseph out of the prison and elevated him to the position of a great leader. He gave Joseph the job of preparing all of Egypt for the seven years of terrible famine that had been predicted. And God gave Joseph the wisdom to do that job and save the known world from starvation.

And so it was that Joseph found himself as a mighty Egyptian ruler looking down over his ten brothers as they knelt before him begging for food. ---those same ten brothers who had sold him into slavery. And now the tables were turned. Would the powerful Joseph give food to his hungry brothers – help their families through the great famine – or would he finally get back at them for what they had done to him?

Genesis 45:1-8 and Genesis 50:19-21 tells the beautiful story. Joseph chose to forgive! “Do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you,” he told his brothers. Joseph took care of his eleven brothers and their wives and children and grandchildren. He returned to them good for evil. He brought them all to Egypt along with his father and insisted that God had taken the bad thing they had done to him and turned it around to be good. With God in the picture how could Joseph not forgive his brothers. Even though Joseph had to suffer many years in prison ,with God in his life, Joseph was freed from the prison of un-forgiveness.

Can we like Joseph, draw near to God and learn to forgive the people who hurt us? When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to “forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who treesspass against us.” Matthew 6:9 Even though God commands us to forgive those who wrong us, do we sometimes find that obeying God and offering forgiveness is hard to do?

Like Joseph we need to give our lives to the Lord. When we hide our lives in Christ we can see the slights and hurts others give us in a new perspective. We can ask God to give us the freedom in Christ to forgive. Even though forgiveness is too difficult for us to do by ourselves, nothing is too hard for God. And He will help us forgive. We are told to pray for our enemies. It is hard to hate a person that you are praying for.

Part of the Lords’ Prayer teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Living with un- forgiveness is an evil that can harm us. It is like poison to our souls. The weight of un- forgiveness will crush us. We are to leave our resentments and hurts with God. He is big enough to take care of them. And He will. God can do for us what He did for Joseph. He can take our troubles and work them together for good. Romans 8:28.

We have a miracle working God. His ways are mysterious – too great for us to comprehend. If we trust Him we can say with David in Psalm 27, “When my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” It’s hard to hang on to un- forgiveness when we know that God has promised to take care of everything. --I John 5:4

Monday, October 12, 2009

Isaac The Ordinary --- Genesis 22-27

Isaac appears to be just an ordinary guy – from what we read in Scripture. A mild humble man who herds sheep and goats and manages to keep out of trouble for all of his 180 years on this earth.

Children’s Bible Story Books always include tales about Isaacs’ father, Abraham and his exciting life and more stories of Isaac’s scheming son Jacob;and his many escapades. But poor old Isaac seems to be sandwiched in between his colorful father and son. Seldom mentioned and usually forgotten.

We get our first picture of Isaac when he is twelve and his father Abraham is ready to sacrifice him. There is no record of Isaac running away from his very elderly father when Abraham ties him up and lays him on the altar to sacrifice him. Isaac seems to completely trust Abraham and God with his young life.

As a young man of forty Isaac again seems trusting and obedient to his father’s wishes about how to find his future bride.. He doesn’t go out and find his own bride.. He trusts his fathers’ judgment to find the right girl.. Abraham sends his servant back to his relatives country to find a wife for Isaac .And after the servant has traveled the distance to Syria, he stops to pray and asks God to show him which girl to pick for Isaac. This is a big responsibility and the servant needs God’s guidance. An amazing story follows with God immediately answering the servant’s prayer with Rebecca.

Later on as night is falling, Isaac is out in the field when he looks up to see a camel train in the far distance coming his way...It looks like his fathers’ servants’ camels. Excited, he runs out to meet the servant – and meet his bride to be. Rebecca gets off her camel and covers herself with her veil when she sees her future husband running toward her ready to introduce himself. The servant stops to tell Isaac the wonderful story of how God answered his prayers and led him to pick Rebecca. Isaac immediately accepts Rebecca, trusting God’s guidance in his life. He takes Rebecca into his tent and falls in love with her. Genesis 24:67.

God comes to Isaac and promises to be with him. God promises that He will bless his descendants and give hope to the nations through One of his offspring.. Isaac rejoices even though it may take many centuries for some of these promises to come to pass. And even though he doesn’t understand all that God is promising him. Twenty years pass and Isaac and Rebecca have no children. Isaac prays to God for children and God answers him. Soon they are the proud parents of two sons, Esau and Jacob

Again we get a glimpse of Isaac as he grows older – tending his flocks and herds and digging wells. Because God was blessing him with larger herds and better crops than his Phillistine neighbors, they became jealous of him. The king of the Phillistines asked him to move away and his neighbors threw dirt in his wells and stopped them up.. When Isaac moved and dug new wells they followed him and stole those wells from him too.. Instead of fighting, Isaac just moved again and again and dug more wells. Then he made a feast and agreed to a peace pact with the very king that had ordered him to move away. Isaac didn’t seem to insist on his own rights or demand respect. Since he had great wealth and many servants, he could have fought off and killed the thieves who stole his wells. But Isaac chose to be a pacifist. .

When Isaac reached old age he lost his eyesight. His son Jacob lied to him and took Esau’s blessings. Scripture tells us that Esau married three heathen women and brought them home to live near his parents. Esau’s ungodly lifestyle and his wives’ pagan practices were a great burden to Isaac and Rebecca. At one point Rebecca wondered if her life was worth living because of Esaus’ rebellious living...

We often hear sermons about the men and women of the Bible who slew giants, stopped the mouths of lions, or fought and won great battles for God. And we worship rock stars, sports heros, and the rich and famous. Scripture tells us that “the meek shall inherit the earth” But we often overlook the meek folk around us. Is God only interested in the leaders – the movers and shakers? Does He care as much for the ordinary people? – the followers, the meek, the people who never make the headlines?

God promised Isaac blessings even as he and Rebecca were living with heartache. Esaus large’ family and their lack of interest in God was a constant source of contention to this Godly couple. Do we remember that God is still in control even when our own children disappoint us?

God reaffirmed glorious promises to Isaac at a time that he was being pushed around by all of his neighbors- the Phillistines. Can we remember that God is on our side even when we are being treated badly by associates or friends or family? Many of God’s promises for Isaac were to be fulfilled in the distant future. But Isaac waited and hoped in God while not yet obtaining many of his blessings. His descendents didn’t inherit their promised land until long after he had died. Can we with Isaac wait patiently for the future God has for us which is yet to be revealed?

Isaac obeyed God and didn’t turn away. God was pleased with Isaacs’ child-like faith. and blessed Isaac because he never took revenge on his enemies. Do we turn the other cheek when people mistreat us? Can God bless us like Isaac because we don’t get even with the folks who hurt us?

In his later years Isaac lived with blindness. Do we remember that God is with us even when our health is failing? Through thick or thin, Isaacs’ trust in God never wavered . God highly valued Isaac’s faith even though he never won any great battles or made any big impressions. The Bible tells us that God values the faith of all of his children. –

If we trust God He is very pleased, even if we aren’t heros or leaders, or experts-. even when we are living with disappointments and poor health and trials. If we have a childlike faith in God we are never ordinary -even if everybody thinks we are!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Abraham’s Test Genesis 22

Scripture tells us that God tested Abraham. And what a test it was! God called Abraham and instructed him to take his beloved son Isaac to a mountain in Moriah and to sacrifice him.

Isaac was Abraham’s miracle child. His answer to prayer. A promised son from the Lord. A son who wasn’t born for 63 years after Abraham had prayed for a child.. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 when God finally gave them the baby He had promised them. We may have had the experience of waiting a long time for our prayers to be answered. But have you ever kept praying and waiting for God to answer for over 60 years? Abraham was learning to wait on God.

“Who would believe that we could have a baby in our old age?” Sarah laughed when their promised son was finally born. They had a great party – a celebration and named their baby “Isaac” which means “laughter”. There’s always much to celebrate – much to laugh and enjoy – when we learn to wait and trust in God.

But now when little Isaac was only 12 years old, God was asking Abraham to give this special boy back! Why is God doing this? What can this mean? Scripture tells us that when God ask to sacrifice his son Abraham didn’t hesitate. He obeyed immediately. The very next morning he got up early and chopped wood for the burnt offering and headed out. He took his son Isaac, two of his servants and a donkey with him.

The trip was to take three days as it was about a 50 mile walk. And we can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s mind as he trudged along. Hebrews 11:17 tells us that Abraham reasoned that God could raise Isaac back up from the dead. So as usual good old Abraham trusted God and obeyed.

On the third day of the trip Abraham asked his servants to stay with the donkey and wait while he and Isaac went on ahead to worship. “Wait here and we will both be back soon,” Abraham told his servants. He seemed confident that Isaac would return with him – that God would work things out.

Abraham and Isaac continued along the trail to Mt. Moriah. “Father, the fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Isaac asked his father. “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, my son,” Abraham answered.

When father and son reached the place for the sacrifice, Abraham built an altar and put the wood on it. Then he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar. Isaac seemed to have complete confidence in his elderly father to allow this to happen. Abraham took the knife and just as he was starting to stab his son, the Angel of the Lord showed up and stopped him. “Abraham, Abraham, don’t kill your son. Now I know that you fear God. You have not withheld your son – your only son from Me.” Abraham had never wavered. His amazing faith in God had held fast through his deepest temptation. Abraham had passed the test

With his hand trembling and still holding the knife, Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the nearby thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son. And Abraham called this place where God had told him to sacrifice his son--, “The Lord will Provide.”

This amazing Bible story from antiquity is rich with lessons and treasures for us today. Because Abraham had a strong faith in God, God blessed him and named him as the patriarch of the nation of Israel and the father of all who have faith in God. Abraham’s amazing faith was very precious – very pleasing to God. Like Abraham, does our faith measure up? Is our faith a joy to our Lord?

Child sacrifice was a common practice among the heathen cultures in Abraham’s time. God forbade this practice in Scripture. We would never be tested by God in this way today in our culture.

Since God gave Abraham a test, does He perhaps test all of His children? And if He does, do we pass the tests that we are given? When trials come do we keep trusting our Lord? Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. We need to ask God for more faith and built up our faith by studying the Bible. Let’s try to please the Lord with our faith in Him.

Abraham believed that even if Isaac was sacrificed, God could bring him back from the dead.. Abraham looked beyond death and still trusted God. Do we trust God even beyond death? Can we believe that God can take our worst messes and work things together for good ?

Abraham firmly believed that God would provide for him and for his son. Scripture tells us that God valued his faith and counted it to him as righteousness. Do we believe that God will take care of us in our problems? Can we like Abraham move ahead and obey without hesitating?
God provided a lamb to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place. And God provides His Son – Jesus --the Lamb of God—as a sacrifice in our place. We, like Isaac, can be untied and taken away from our sins and our death sentence. And the Lamb of God will take our place. And just like Abraham we can shout out, “The Lord will Provide.” We have such a marvelous God. Let's be like Abraham and honor God with our faith.

Monday, September 28, 2009


The other night I got a clear view of the Little Bear—the Little Dipper as I used to call it. I remember picking it out as a child, but now I see it only rarely—partly because I live in the rainy northwest, and partly because of light pollution.The Little Bear (Ursa minor) is easy to find, if conditions allow, once you find the North Star (Polaris), because that star is at the tip of the little bear’s tail. Of course, bears do not have tails, which gives us one clue that there is a mix-up in the representation of this constellation.

If we look at the meanings of the ancient names of the Little Bear’s stars—Pherkad and Kochab, which are still in use, and Alcaid, Algedi and Arcas, which are no longer used—we find domestic animals, goats, kids, and calves. We find that they are assembled, and awaiting him who comes. Names with similar meanings are found in the Big Bear (Ursa major).

What the Bears represent is God’s people waiting for Him.Between the two Bears and partially surrounding the Little Bear is Draco, the Dragon. He is always present, isn’t he, to turn God’s people aside, to cause them to fear, or to stir up dissension.

But the Little Bear is held fast to Polaris.This star’s ancient name is Alruccaba, from the root meaning to ride. All through the night, the Little Bear rides around the pole, firmly attached to Alruccaba. God’s people are safely held by the One who is the center, the One who holds all things together by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).

This devotional was written by
Jane S Poole
Writer of Adam's Astronomy: The Original Zodiac

Monday, September 21, 2009

Are You Climbing Jacob’s Ladder?

Jacob was tired and dirty from his long walk. Sweat was running down his face as he trudged along. All day long he had been running –running away from home. That morning his mother had been crying when he kissed her and said his hurried “Goodbye”. “We’ll send word and let you know when it will be safe for you to come back home.” his father had told him soberly.

Jacob was in trouble. His twin brother Esau was threatening to kill him and you couldn’t blame Esau for being angry. Jacob had tricked Esau out of his blessing and his birthright. Jacob was an operator. Even the meaning of his name “Jacob” meant “Supplanter” or “Trickster”.

Esau had been in line for a great spiritual blessing from God, given first to his grandfather Abraham and then down the line to his father Isaac. Esau, the first born, was next in line to carry on this privilege from God. But Scripture tells us that Esau didn’t value his godly inheritance or God’s special blessing. He thought so little of God’s favor that he sold his portion for a bowl of beans. God saw Esau’s heart and the Bible tells us that God didn’t like what He saw! Even though Esau didn’t consider God’s gifts important, Jacob did! Jacob cared so much about God’s blessing that he was willing to scheme and trick his brother out of it, lying and deceiving as he went. And now Jacob was running away for what he had done.

It was dark when Jacob finally stopped to rest. Scripture tells us that he made his bed on the hard ground and used a stone for his pillow. He lay down there watching the stars twinkling overhead and thinking over the events of the last few days. How he had cheated his own twin brother.and lied to his elderly blind father.All for this special God given blessing! And now he was an outcast from his own family. Was he an outcast from God too? Feeling guilty and confused Jacob drifted off to sleep.

As he dreamed alone in this dark place, suddenly God came to Jacob in a vision of blazing light. A glorious ladder reaching from heaven down to earth appeared at Jacob’s feet. Angels were climbing up and down this marvelous ladder. And God spoke to Jacob, “Jacob, don’t be afraid. I am with you. I will bless you. Your descendants will be mine and through you I will bless all of the nations.” It was all too wonderful for a stunned Jacob to take in.

“God was with me in this place and I didn’t know it,” Jacob exclaimed the next morning. Even though he had made a mess of things in his life,, God had reached down and given him a ladder that was leading right up into heaven. Even though he had stolen the blessing, God was honoring him. Was that because Jacob valued God’s blessing and wanted God in his life?

We believe that Jacob’s ladder is a picture of Jesus our Savior. Like Jacob’s ladder which goes from earth up to heaven, Jesus is the Ladder - theWay –that takes us from earth to heaven. The only Way! Jesus meets us in our dark lonely place and becomes our Way, - our Ladder – If we want Him to, if we don’t sell Him for a bowl of beans. If we climb onto Him, He leads us to eternal life. John 1:51 says “You shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Just as Jacob saw angels climbing up and down his ladder, we read that angels ascend and descend on our Ladder, Jesus, the Son of Man.

We can say with Jacob, “God is with me in this place and I didn’t know it.” God is with each of us in our dark night and in our troubles. And He has set Jesus before each of us and has given us the Ladder to heaven. Even though like Jacob our sin can separate us from loved ones, it can never separate us from God: If we are like Esau and don’t care about God then we will miss out.. But if we are like Jacob and desire God’s will., He will make a Way. His glorious Ladder of salvation will be right at our feet. Jesus is your Ladder and He will take you to heaven if you just get on board. Have you gotten on? Are you climbing Jacob’s Ladder?

©Jane Furnish, 9/2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Open My Eyes Lord, I Want to See Jesus
The Road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-33

Three days had passed since their leader was crucified and Jesus’ shocked followers had run away in terror. How could this awful thing have happened? For three years now they had been with Him and they had watched Him heal the blind and raise the dead. They had seen His power and had believed that He was their Messiah. And now He was dead. And with Him, all of their hopes and dreams had died too. Traumatized and dejected they hid out, not knowing what to do next.

Scripture tells us that during this upsetting time, two of Jesus’ followers were traveling together on the dusty road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It was a seven mile walk to Emmaus and the two unhappy men were discussing the events of the last three days as they plodded along. “We had hoped that Jesus was the One who would redeem Israel,” they grumbled.

As they walked along pouring out their disappointments to one another a Traveler caught up with them. He walks along with them listening as they despair. Luke 24:16 tells us that as they walked together the two men were “kept from recognizing” this Person walking with them.

“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” the Traveler chided these two. “Didn’t you know that the Christ has to suffer first and then enter glory?” Then the Traveler began to explain to these amazed men what the Scriptures said concerning Himself. The men’s’ hearts were strangely warmed as they walked and listened.

By the time the three of them reached the village of Emmaus Jesus acted as if He was going on further. “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over,” the two urged. Jesus accepts their invitation and they all sit together for the evening meal. And then in the breaking of the bread their eyes were opened and they recognized their risen Jesus!

We too receive Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Can it be that we too could be chided by Jesus, like these two were because we haven’t studied God’s Word enough to keep our faith shinning brightly in times of trouble?

Do you suppose that Jesus comes along side of us when we are talking together about Him? Does He walk along with us like He did with them when we are troubled and confused? Does the Lord encourage us and enlighten us with His Word like He enlightened those two? Indeed John 16:13 tells us that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.

Notice that these two men only recognized Jesus after they had offered Him hospitality. Their eyes were opened when they invited Him in .If these Emmaus travelers had let Him walk on by their eyes would have never been opened to their risen Savior! While walking with Him on the road to Emmaus – they had remained blind to the Light of the world. They only had a casual – intellectual – relationship with Him – and that wasn’t enough for them to see the Truth. But they passed the test when they offered Him something of themselves! And it was only then that He revealed Himself to them.

And isn’t it the same with us? John 1:12 says, “But to as many as receive Him, to them He gives the power to become the children of God, even to those who believe on His Name.” . Scripture says that our eyes are opened to Him and we become the children of God when we receive Him. What does this receiving mean? It sounds like just saying the right words won’t do. An intellectual belief won’t pass. The miracle of salvation happens when you give yourself to Him.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Are You Afraid To Die?

On the 4th of July we were on our way to Santa Barbara to ride bikes on the beach, have dinner, and watch the fireworks. During the drive I had a lot of time to think. I began to think of how my husband, Joe, is not afraid to die. How his only fear of death is leaving us behind. When he told me this I was awed by his faith. He knows he is going to heaven.

I know we can be assured of our salvation and I know for sure, -- but did I really know? Did I really believe? I had doubts. I had fear. I had always been afraid of death, since for me it was the big unknown – and something I didn’t like to think about.

But we shouldn’t live in fear. Fear is a lie, --the opposite of what God tells us.
God tells us to have hope, not fear. Hope lasts forever: - hope, faith and love. God tells us not to worry about anything! So while remembering to give my worries to God, I prayed silently in the car on the way to Santa Barbara. I asked God to take away my fear of death. And while I was still praying I saw a vision of Jesus bent down over my dead body. His hand was reaching out to me and He was saying, “Take my hand, I paid your price.”.

Wow, what comfort!! There was no fear in that vision, but extreme comfort!!. And at that moment I realized that when I die I will see a familiar face, - that of Jesus! I realized that death doesn’t have to be the big unknown. The more we spend time with Jesus now, the more we will get to know Him and develop a relationship with Him, and the more familiar and comforting the thought of dying will be. Jesus is here for us now and He will be there for us at the moment of our death as well. What do we have to be afraid of knowing that Jesus went ahead of us and has prepared our way?

To back up this incredible experience, I went to my regular church service one Sunday in August and the message was titled, --“Five Minutes After You Die”. The pastor spoke about how the apostle John had a vision of heaven and how Jesus was reaching down to John’s body. The most important thing about John’s vision, the pastor said, was that Jesus was there. The message was so familiar and so similar to my vision. God has answered my prayer! I am no longer afraid to die because I know that Jesus is there --- waiting for me!

This testimony is written by Nydia Furnish Mendez, who lives in Camarillo, California with her husband Joe and their three children, Camisha, Devon, and Kaily.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Have You answered the Call?

While watching various scenes in the life of Ted Kennedy on television. this week, one segment especially impressed me. Some years ago Ted Kennedy was being asked why he wasn’t making a bid for the presidency. He answered that he wasn’t interested in pursuing the presidency and then he explained that his life’s calling was about service.

The television announcer went on to tell some of his story. In his 47 years as senator, Ted Kennedy often let other senators put their names on his bills. Others got the credit and recognition for his work. Over the years and behind the scenes Ted wrote and worked with his fellow senators to pass over 300 bills, most of which have radically changed our society today. Many of his bills have changed the lives of those in need. His mission was to give opportunities to those who might lack opportunity. And along with his senate duties he always found time to volunteer – tutor children, intervene in desperate situations.

I couldn’t help but remember Jesus’ words in Luke 22:25-27 that “those who would be the greatest among us would be those who would be the servants.”

In the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-29, Scripture tells us that each of us is given something. Some of us are given five talents, some two and some only one. But our Father expects us all to invest what we have been given – or to give back. We aren’t supposed to go dig a hole and bury our talent just for ourselves. He makes a big point that we better not do that—that there will be an accounting of what we do with what He has given us. Our talents aren’t just for our own use, they are given to us to share with others.

Teddy Kennedy often remarked that the lessons he had learned from his Mother had shaped his whole life. Rose Kennedy taught her children that since they had been given privileges, it was their responsibility to give back to those who were in need.. The Kennedy family expected their children to serve in the political arena and to level the playing field for the less fortunate. This service became Ted Kennedy’s life work. He indeed answered the call

We have a heavenly Father who teaches us that since we belong to His family and have been blessed and given everything that we also have been given a large responsibility.
Because we have been given grace and love and forgiveness we are commanded to pass grace and love and forgiveness on to those around us. Jesus asks us to “Feed My sheep.” Because Jesus is a Servant He commands us to be servants. Because He has given us His life he asks us to give our lives for others.

Are we following Christ in this life of love and servitude? Have we answered the call?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cain and Abel

According to the Bible, Cain was the very first baby to be born on this earth! And Abel was the second. Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s first two boys. Cain grew up to become a farmer and Abel tended sheep. In due time both young men bring their offerings to God.

Cain brings an offering of fruits and veggies from his plot of land and Abel sacrificed his first and best lamb. Genesis 4:1-10 tells the whole story. The Lord accepts Abel’s offering – the blood of the lamb. But He rejects Cain’s offering – the fruits of his labor.

Cain can’t believe it! He’s very upset. The Lord comes to him and tries to encourage him. “Cain, don’t be upset. I will accept you too – just do what’s right—“ It all seems so simple Cain, just follow directions and bring the offering that God has asked for. But alas, Cain refuses and wants to do it his way.

In a jealous rage Cain kills his brother Abel. And Gods’ punishment of Cain follows. Really a tragic story! Thousands of years later Jesus mentions Abel and calls him “righteous”. – Matthew 23:35. Abel is righteous and accepted by God because he offered the sacrifice that God required! - the blood of the best lamb. And what does God require of us? Do we sacrifice a lamb like Abel did?

In the Old Testament atonement (taking away of sin) through the shed blood of a lamb was an inescapable Scriptural teaching. – Leviticus 17:11. Exodus 12:5 and Exodus 24:5-8 speak of the “blood of the Covenant” and the “lamb without blemish.” Hebrews 9:22 tells us: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” The ancient Israelites sacrificed animals to God as a temporary sacrifice to cover their sin. They were given instructions as to what God would accept through the Mosaic Covenant. These temporary sacrifices were a type or a picture of the permanent Sacrifice that was to come.

In Hebrews 9:12 Scripture tells us that our salvation wasn’t obtained by the blood sacrifice of animals – but by Christ. Jesus Christ – the shedding of His blood provided our permanent sacrifice. Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as: “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29.

You and I are still trying to win God’s acceptance today. We are no different from Cain and Abel of old -- we’re still bringing the Lord our offerings. –and hoping for His salvation. And the rules haven’t changed. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No person comes to the Father except through Me.” It’s all so simple. There’s just one way – just one offering that God will accept. And that Offering – that Way is Jesus.

It’s all done for you, if you will just take it. Accept God’s gift and don’t try to wing it on your own, like Cain did. We don’t need to sacrifice a lamb since the Mosaic Covenant has been fulfilled through Christ’s death and resurrection. God has provided us the only offering that He will receive – that offering is Jesus Just believe that Jesus Christ is the Lamb that was sacrificed for you – your Savior – and be like Abel –and receive God’s acceptance.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Have They Hi- Jacked My Jesus?

Sweat rolled down the man’s red face as he shook his fists.”You’re gonna kill our senior citizens with your socialist Death Squads!”, he shouted. “We have our Christian values and we won’t stand for this.” A woman stood nearby carrying a large cross and waving it. She seemed transformed by hate as she shrieked out that her hard work and her righteous living have paid for her health care. Now all those undeserving bums will get the same health care benefits while using her tax money. The leader of this discussion group was intimidated and the town hall meeting was literally shut down by this group of “Christian Conservatives” carrying Jesus signs.

Who is this Jesus these Christian conservatives refer to? The Jesus I know and try to follow is humble and full of love and grace. The Jesus of the Bible always stood up for the poor and the aliens, and instructed us to do the same. He stated that His kingdom is not of this world.

When Jesus was asked to straighten out an argument about an inheritance He refused and asked,” Who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you? Be careful, beware of covetousness, for ones’ life doesn’t consist of the things he possesses.”Luke 12:14 .Would Jesus say the same to us when we try to use His Name in our arguments for keeping our tax money?

Many of the Christian Evangelical churches whose witness for the Lord burned so brightly in the past seem to have added a new ingredient to their Gospel today. They have co-mingled the glorious truth of Christ’s death and resurrection, His love and salvation with their right wing politics and economics. Dare we change and water down God’s Word with our capitalism or add our political ideologies as part of the Christian message? Are they using our Lord as a tool for corporate gain and greed?

Why do “Christian Conservatives” side with the wealthy against the lowly disenfranchised? Where does it say that Jesus is a capitalist in the Bible? All the other developed countries (England, France, Japan, etc.) have some form of socialized medicine. Some of these countries aren’t primarily “Christian” and yet through their government they seem to care about the least among themselves.. All the other developed countries have put a health care safety net in place to protect their poor and powerless. We are the only developed nation that has 47,000,000 citizens who are left without health insurance coverage. And we argue for this in the name of our Christian values! What kind of witness is this to the ones who don’t know Christ and to the ones who are sick and left without? I’m angry and frightened. I think someone has hi-jacked my Jesus!

Monday, August 10, 2009

लीर्निंग तो हेअर गोद'स Voice

Learning to Hear God’s Voice

Prayer isn’t just about us talking to God. Prayer is also about us listening to hear God talking to us. And it’s about us feeling His Presence.

But how can we hear what God wants to say to us, if we don’t take time to listen? And how can we listen if we don’t turn off the phone and the t.v. and the other intrusions? Can we hear His Voice if we don’t try to make a place for God to enter in?

There are several ancient Christian traditions that have been practiced by Christian monks and lay persons since the 14th century. These disciplines are practiced to help us come into the presence of God and foster the attitudes of listening and receptivity to God. Centering prayer and Lectio Divina are two of these contemplative Christian disciplines.

For today let’s just discuss the practice of Lectio Divina। Lectio Divina is mainly a way of listening to Scripture। Today we are almost desensitized to sacred scripture reading because we are so used to reading magazines, books, and written material for information and for study. Lectio is just the opposite. It is the savoring of the text—a leisurely lingering in divine revelation.

The Bible- God’s Word- is not to be read only for information like any other book. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even the division of the soul and the spirit,---“ Scripture is alive and able to pierce your heart and change your life. And God speaks to you through Scripture.

Let’s give the practice of Lectio Divina a try. First find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted and make yourself comfortable.

God speaks to us through His living Word. Lectio is the taking of one or two passages of scripture and resting with those passages. We don’t study these verses or analyze them or speed read. We very slowly repeat a few words of scripture and let those words speak to us. Rest with a verse or two of scripture for ten or fifteen minutes. You can light a candle and ask our Father to speak to you through the verses if He wishes.

Try Lectio for yourself. Quieten yourself and pick a favorite passage or meditate on a passage in the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:6-7 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merfciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Rest and listen for God’s still small voice to speak to you through His Word.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Christian Faith Is About Helping Others

Jesus said: “I was hungry and you gave Me food, thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you took Me in, Naked – you clothed Me, sick – you visited Me, in prison – you came to Me.” Matthew 25:35-36 And when He was asked when we had done those things for Him, He answered that whenever we help any troubled or needy person, we are helping Him. Isn’t that cool!

We joined a Methodist church because Methodists are so involved in ministries on behalf of the world’s hurting ones. United Methodists proclaim the gospel to be both personal and social. What the United Methodist Church says about social issues is written in their Social Principles- a long document that has been part of their doctrine for 100 years.

The UMC’s social principles always ensure the rights of the underdog. These principles condemn religious intolerance, racial prejudice, exploitive economic practices, domestic surveillance by governments, torture, and the death penalty – among other issues.

The UMC’s position on marriage is defined as a union of one man and one woman. But the church is open and welcoming to people with other lifestyles. The UMC is also reluctant to approve abortion. But their ministry to those who have experienced abortion is a given. Not being judgmental and keeping an open heart and an open mind is all important.

The UMC affirms that males and females are equal in God’s eyes and women can become ministers or church leaders through affirmative church policies.

The UMC goes on to state that they deplore war and reject national policies of enforced military service as incompatible with the gospel.

Their view on health care is that it is a basic human right. Their stand is that the right to health care is a public – and private responsibility.

These Social Principles include much more --- but basically they define the United Methodist Church – not as an exclusive club – but as a body of humble Christians out helping others.,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

गोद'स Gifts

-God’s Gifts

My 100 year old father died this year and left me in his will. We paid off our credit card debt with the inheritance. But my Father left us much more than money

Down through the years my Dad was always there,-- a rock, hard working and never complaining. By nature I am an anxious and neurotic person. But my dependable Dad left me the memory of his long good faithful life.. Not bad, would you say?

We all receive some kind of an inheritance from our parents. Sometimes we don’t like what we get, reject what is passed down or develop reaction formation. But our earthly parents do leave their influence.

Our heavenly Father also has an inheritance to leave us. –all of us if we will receive it. And what a grand and rich inheritance –too much for us to comprehend. First God desires to give all of us the gift of everlasting life. 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is---not willing that any should perish but that all should come to eternal life.” And Ephesians 2:8-9 says-“ For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves it is the gift of God, ---“

God’s gifts start right now while we are living our lives. He surrounds us with protections, angels, care packages and more gifts. –Gifts that we may take for granted. James 1:17 tells us “ Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father---.”

Jesus promised more gifts - to leave us His Holy Spirit and to leave us His peace. He tells us in John 14:27-“My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give you--.” And in Hebrews 12:28 we read:”---we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken---“

All of this is very good news don’t you think? There’s just one simple thing we must do to receive this grand inheritance – this good life. Just believe.