Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pray, Christians, Pray

     Our world is in turmoil.  That is an understatement isn't it?  However, we should not be surprised because it has been that way since "The Garden of Eden".  Reading the Bible each day is not unlike reading the daily newspaper.  There have been wars, rumors of wars, wicked rulers, adultery,  murder, and every manner of sin.  The people of Israel, though liberated miraculously from slavery by God, whined and complained all the way to the Promised Land and they did not like their leader Moses either.  So what is the difference between those times and today?
     For one thing, our forebearers did not have instant communication, social media and television.  In many ways, I think they were lucky.  We have 24/7 means of getting the news every day, and unfortunately, it isn't just news any more.  It is heavily laced with opinion.  With this constant barrage of information (some accurate and some not), it is easy to get upset.  This is one reason I try to limit my time on T.V.
     In addition, the rising tide of animosity between people of different races, and political persuasions has given in to violence and shouting rather than reasonable discourse.  No more polite exchange of ideas.  Instead, all we hear about are senseless murders of police officers, bystanders, and the tearing down of historical statues.  Yet, none of this will solve the problems of mankind.  Revising history by removing statues does not change what is wrong with our nation or world.  The bottom line is sin.
     Romans 3:23 says:  "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."  Then, go back to verses 10-18:  "as it is written:  'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.  Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.'"  In these last few verses, Paul quotes various Scriptures to describe man's sin and the consequences of it in terms of his behavior.  Sounds almost like today's headlines doesn't it?  We should not, therefore, be surprised at what is happening around us, but the solution is not more government or social programs.  Tearing down statues, revising history, planning demonstrations or dressing like ninjas and carrying baseball bats will not improve our lives.  The ONLY thing that can bring about right relationships with others comes when we get into right relationship with God.  Repentance, prayer and receiving the forgiveness of God for our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ is the only answer for what ails the world.  We all need a heart change.
Photo by Kevin McCoy U.S. Capitol Building
     Furthermore, we need to be praying for those in leadership.  Instead of complaining about our current president, vice president, Congress, our courts, we need to be lifting them up in prayer.  Any resistance to their leadership is considered resistance to God who has placed them in power whether we approve or not.  Look at Romans 13:1-5:  "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?  Then do what is good and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.  Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."  This Scripture was intended for Christians of all persuasions.  Let us keep in mind that Paul did not live in a perfect government.  The Romans were in charge at the time of his writing.  In fact, he was a prisoner when he penned these words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
     If we believe that God is all powerful, all knowing and sovereign over all the world, then we must trust in Him when it comes to those in leadership.  There have been many leaders over the years of my life that I have not particularly liked or agreed with, but I have always prayed for them because God placed them in that position for His plans to be carried out.  Christians, we are called to pray for those who lead our nation, our communities, our churches.  Bending the knee to pray has more power than all the armies of the world.  God can do what we cannot.
     Finally, we have to be in the Word of God daily because this book tells us the truth about ourselves and God.  Listening to opinionated newscasters will not calm our hearts but the Bible will.  We owe it to ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds each day that we may be conformed to God's will....not ours.  This is why I call for us all to be students of the Bible, prayer warriors for our world, nation and leaders.  Then, let us be the ambassadors of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  This is how we can bring about a change that will last and bring glory to God.  Selah!
   

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

     In the comic strip "Pogo" back in the 1960's, Walt Kelly had his character make a famous statement:  "We have met the enemy and he is us."  While this quote referred to a political statement the artist was making at the time, we would do well as Christians to look at how we often undermine ourselves on a daily basis through negative thinking.  We tell ourselves things like, "I could never do that" or "I think it is impossible to accomplish".  Most often, we are our own worst enemies.
     Thinking back to high school days, how many of us would come home with hurt feelings because someone looked at us funny.  No words were exchanged but we were certain that we must have done something wrong.  When I would get those ideas, my mother used to say "Maybe they ate something that didn't agree with them and it had nothing to do with you."  I now can laugh about how silly I was to assume something without any confirmation, but at the time, my mind would run wild.  The Bible calls these "vain imaginations".  2 Corinthians 10:5 reads:  "5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;..."
     When we allow our thoughts free rein in our life, we can draw many inaccurate conclusions.  This is why it is so important to focus our thinking on God's Word.  Because we were born with a sin nature, our minds can easily revert to old patterns of negative thinking even as Christians.  God has made us new creations, but we still carry with us the "old nature" that can raise its ugly head from time to time.  This is why Paul told the Corinthians to bring every thought into captivity to Christ.
     In his letter to the believers at Philippi, Paul wrote these excellent words (Philippians 4:7-9):  "7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."  Looking at this verse, we notice, first, that Paul tells us that it is God who guards our hearts and minds.  He is our peace giver and we can rest on that promise.  As we choose to dwell on good things we find in God's Word and have in our relationship with Christ, we will experience the peace of which he speaks.  Our problems come when we start to fill our minds with what the world tells us as versus what God says we are in Christ.
       Just think about all the propaganda we listen to every day on the radio or T.V.  If we use a certain toothpaste, we will keep a beautiful smile.  Wearing a certain line of clothing means we are in style or having the right car makes us more popular.  Then consider all the misinformation we hear concerning ideas, beliefs and politics.  Is it any wonder that our imaginations run wild and we become distressed over things?  We know that worry is a sin.  Jesus told us "not to worry" in His Sermon on the Mount.  So Paul's words to the Corinthians and to the Philippians speak to the problem with have with our minds.
       In His final prayer before He laid down His life to free us from sin, Jesus prayed for us these words in John 17:17:  "“Father, sanctify them by your truth, because your word is truth.”  Reading, absorbing, memorizing, and meditating on God's Word is what will keep our thinking straight as we walk through this difficult world.  After reading the Word, we need to pray for God's insight and wisdom so we may bring our thoughts captive to Him.  It is a challenge I admit especially in this age of social media and electronic gadgets that can keep us occupied for hours.  However, we will miss the peace of God if we do not learn to think God's thoughts after Him.
      With this thought, I close.  What we read, watch on T.V., the movies we view, the games we play and the company we keep, all has an effect on our thinking.  We can either fill our minds with the world or with the truth of God.  The choice is ours.  We do not have to live in fear, worry or concern, if we follow what the Apostle Paul has laid out for us to do as believers.  Selah!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Seasons of Life

     As many of you know by now, I have retired...not from housework which is never ending but from working outside the home PLUS housework.  It has been a rich season of life as I have worked alongside my husband over the years in his optometric practice.  In fact, I have had many different types of jobs at various times.  I worked in radio broadcasting, a bookkeeping department at a bank, public relations for the Ohio Optometric Association, an independent Christian book seller, an independent vitamin and health business, 21 years devoted to home educating our four children and a successful Mary Kay business.  Off and on, I worked in my husband's office as an optometric tech and insurance biller.  Now I have come to a different season in my life.  Family time, writing, reading, working in my home and continuing to serve the Lord as He leads shall be my focus.  After all, Christians do not retire from serving the Lord.
     God foreknows and foresees all things and He knows how our bodies age.  Therefore, even in the Old Testament times, God made provision for this season of life.  In Numbers 8:23-26, the Lord gave this command concerning the Levites:  "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”  We see in these verses that God established a time for active duty and a time when this work shall come to an end.  Notice that the Levites continued to come to the place of worship even though they were not actively doing the physical work.
     Paul is a great example of someone who worked hard both as a tentmaker and a servant of the Lord until the time of his imprisonment.  Even then, Paul did what he was able to do in those circumstances.  He wrote great letters to the churches and continued to see those allowed to visit him during his confinement.  His forced retirement in prison brought forth even more fruit in his service for God.  We can see his attitude in Acts 20:24:  "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."  Paul merely wanted to go on serving the Lord until he was called home to heaven.  This should be the way we approach those days when we cease from working in a job.
     Too often, there are those who think that retirement means we can withdraw from serving Christ, quit going to church, and in general, withdraw from everyone.  Even with physical limitations, however, people can still be very useful in Christian service.  I am reminded of a dear saint who has recently gone home to be with the Lord.  While she could not get out and about, she did have a blessed ministry.  She sent cards for birthdays and wedding anniversaries faithfully.  I looked forward to hearing from her each year because it was such an encouragement.
     Every one of us is called by God for a purpose according to our season of life.  As circumstances and physical changes take place, so do the types of ministries which the Lord opens before us.    We will not fully retire until our course has been completed in this world.
     For those who have retired, there is much work to be done for the kingdom and one thing we can all do daily is pray...pray for our church, our nation, our pastors, the sick and the bereaved.  We can visit nursing homes or make phone calls to encourage others or even assist in folding church bulletins.  There are endless possibilities as the Lord leads in our lives.
     I am thankful for the many years I have been able to serve in many different jobs...especially the years I had to teach our children at home.  God has been good to me and I am looking forward to the new adventures that lie ahead in this season of life.  No matter what season we are in, though, God never wants us to retire from serving Him.  We were made to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  Selah!