Monday, December 23, 2019

What Happened In Heaven The Day Jesus was Born

“For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  That is why, when Christ[a] came into the world, he said to God,
“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer.  You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin.  Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God— as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”
First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses).  Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect.  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. – Hebrews 10:4-10

I’ve thought many times about how it must have saddened the angels when Jesus left Heaven to become a man.  With the many prophecies He would fulfill having already been written, His fate here was never a question.  I somehow pictured it as being like a son leaving for war, with all around Him crying.  It wasn’t until yesterday that my pastor led us to this passage in Hebrews that I saw exactly what was on Jesus’ heart when He was obedient to His calling, and left Heaven for us.
“Look, I have come to do your will”.  That’s the obedience of Christ to God’s prophecies.  He knew the animal sacrifices were not taking away our sins but providing payment for a debt with no end.  He knew that God was not pleased by our many burnt offerings, nor by our sin which just grew worse over time. 
“But you gave me a body to offer” Jesus said.  Jesus, the Heavenly Son of God, was given a body and born of a virgin just as the prophecies said He would be.  Born in Bethlehem, just as the prophecies said He would be.  Born in the lineage of King David, just as the prophecies said He would.  Born to a virgin, just as the prophecies said he would. 

It is blood that gives us life – both physical life, and new life in Christ.  And it was blood that took away our sins, even in the years of burnt offerings.  But the blood of Jesus, Son of God, was a unique tribute to be paid for our sins.  Unlike the blood of animals, Jesus’ blood was Holy, undefiled, God’s own blood.
the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7
and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” – Colossians 1:20
“And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb [Christ] and by the word of their testimony” – Revelation 12:11
Jesus’ obedience to come to earth as our savior was anchored in His will to please God.  What was that will?  For us to be made “holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”  The perpetual debt for our sins was paid with the shed blood of God’s son on the cross.  Nothing else would do.  Nothing else could pay the full price.  It had to be the blood of the Son of God and Son of Man.  Through Him we are ‘reconciled’, which means restored relationship, coexisting in harmony.  Ephesians 2:14 says the Jesus is our peace because He broke down the wall sin built between us and our Holy God.
So my question to you is a simple one.  Are you willing to be obedient to Christ?  To overcome, you have to put faith in Jesus as the Son of God and  ask God for salvation. He never says no!  You’re never too bad or too old or too anything.  God’s answer is always YES to those that want to become His children because His love for us is that strong! It’s not based on what we’ve done, but on the fact that His Love trumps all sin!  Revelations says we overcome Satan by Christ’s blood and our Testimony.  That Testimony is simply not hiding the fact that you’ve accepted Jesus as your sacrifice and Lord.  Romans 10:9 says it all:  if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow’ – Isaiah 1:18

When you think of that baby in a manger, take your thoughts to the fact that His love was greater than His fear of death. His love for you was greater than His love for Heaven. His love for you was enough to change History, and integrate Holiness with Humanness.
Be at Peace my friends! We have a friend in Jesus, God's obedient son.

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Fear Factor .vs. The God Factor

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”  And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.” – Numbers 13:31-32

God sure knows how to get my attention! Laying in bed this morning saying my prayers over this day I became anxious about the work I must do this week.  I’m learning a new software development environment, a new language of coding that is about 40% like the old, and I just feel overwhelmed at times.  I can’t see the standard code I’m attaching my modifications to, and we have no data to look at.  It’s like getting dressed in the dark!

But God spoke.  “Be anxious for nothing, for God is with me.” That’s my mantra for this day, and this fear.  Yes, fear.  That’s all it is.  We all go through a trials not knowing the outcome.  We all know how that fear can weigh us down, and yes, it can indeed cause us to fail, or freeze in place to avoid failure.

In my morning reading I came to the chapters in Numbers where the Israelites, roaming from camp to camp in the wilderness had come to the promised land.  They had travelled many miles for this.  They’d walked through the dry red sea for this.  And my oh my, was it worth it!  When God sent spies into the land to size up it’s people and it’s growth and wealth, two mean came back with a cluster of grapes.  But – they had to carry it on a pole between them! ONE cluster of grapes.  Truly the land was “flowing with milk and honey” meaning it had luxurious growth form fertile ground to provide all they needed.

But there was one thing they saw that caused them fear.  The descendants of the Anak, which were giants.  Yes, true giants.  They were over nine feet tall and BIG!

Fearing for their lives, when they returned to camp the spies discredited the land to avoid war with the giants. They said the land devours its inhabitants, and that they were like grasshoppers to the giants that lived there. 

And then of course, as we all do when we’re faced with an obstacle, they turned to ask the question: Why has God put us in this place?  We all wonder the will of God when we’re challenged, when we’re afraid of the future. 

When Joshua and Caleb began to tell the truth, that the land was wonderful and that God would bring them through it because He delights in His people. 

You would think that would be comforting, but instead of relaxing into the idea of a land of plenty, they wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb!

The problem isn’t that they were afraid.  Fear is a natural emotion given to us to help us avoid danger.  But that same natural emotion can cause us to be less than God designed.  When we face our fears without adding God to the equation, we will always come up short.  Friends, we were not meant to go through this life alone!  That is why Jesus left us a comforter, a guide, His Holy Spirit! 

Fear is a two-sided coin.  It can prevent you from entering danger, but it can alos freeze you in your tracks and make you less than God intends. 

Consider the God Factor.  With God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27), but apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  Friends, unless you put your fears in God’s hands, and trust Him to walk you through this life, your fears and anxieties win out.  Ah, satan loves when we allow him to win by turning our thoughts to fear instead of God’s bottomless well of control over our lives. 

I know you’ve all heard it before, but it stands as a fact that needs to be recognized.  God’s Word says “Fear Not” 365 times.  Not 366, not 380, but once for every day of YOUR life.  Coincidence?  Oh honey, never is there a coincidence with God.  All things are done with purpose!   Fear NOT.  Trust God. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

About Those Hypocrites That Keep You from Church

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5

The Preacher when to see Farmer Brown one day, and said to him, “I want to buy a pig.”  So the farmer took him to the pigs and they began to look them over.  Farmer Brown pointed out the big fat pigs, and named their prices. 

But the Preacher said, “How much for that skinny runt there in the back?” and pointed to a pig so thin you could see the bones of his ribs!  Farmer Brown looked at the preacher and said, “Preacher, you don’t want that one! Look at him! You wouldn’t be able to get a good slab of bacon off him!  I need to work on him and fatten him up!  I’ve got much better pigs.” 

The Preacher said, “No, that’s the one I want.  How much?”  Farmer Brown looked shocked, and said “Preacher, what on earth do you want that one for?”  And he said, “I’m going to load him into the back of my pick-up and ride him through town and tell everybody that’s the kind of pigs you have! 

Farmer Brown said, “Well why would you want to do something like that?  You know that’s not true! That’s just one bad pig!”  And the Pastor said, “Isn’t that what you did?  I’ve got a few hypocrites in church that are working on getting right with God, but they’re not there yet.  And yet you stop going to church and tell everyone in town about the hypocrites!”

I must thank my pastor for that story.  He shared it just yesterday.  I’ve been on all sides of the hypocrite issue.  I’ve been one, I’ve hated the others, I’ve changed churches to avoid them, and I’ve stayed out of church because of them.  In 56 years of serving God, I’ve danced this dance to all the tunes!  So, when I tell you what I’m about to say, understand that what I’m saying comes from the wisdom God gave me in the struggles.

First, read that passage at the top of this blog.  None of us are without sin.  None of us can judge another.  And with the knowledge that our judgement will come back to us on Judgement Day, who would want to judge! 

Secondly, most pig farmers do have a few runts, and most churches have a few hypocrites.  Church isn’t for the perfected, it’s for the ones who desire to be closer to God.  Would you go to a doctors office and say “ewe! I can’t be here with all these sick people!” or would you stay and get a cure for your own disease?  Think about it.

When we make worship about the people instead of about God, satan wins, and the body of Christ is once again, split.  Don’t be that lame limb that is laying out of church on Sunday.  The Body of Christ needs you to be active, growing, thriving.  We all help each other become stronger.  Instead of looking at the hypocrite (those that are struggling to live up to who they should be) in disdain, consider how you might help God to change them.  Sometimes it’s just your life played out before them as a servant. 

And to any and all that I’ve let down through my sins, I apologize, and ask you not to look to me for holiness, but to God.  I’m a work still under construction, clay that must be molded and modeled by my Father.  But I don’t give up on Him and He certainly will not give up on me.   Don’t you give up on me either.  Much Love!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Serve Faithfully – Live Blamelessly

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life." - Genesis 17:1 (NLT)

Sometimes reading a different translation of the Bible can open your eyes to a new meaning of a passage.  I always accompany that difference with a quick study of the words used in Strong’s Concordance, which gives the meaning of the words in the verse, translated from the original Greek or Hebrew.  I would not recommend anyone to blindly read a translation of the Bible without backing it up with Strong’s.  I do know that many newer translations are created by groups of people who want to promote their denomination or way of thinking.  To follow God, we need to omit man’s thoughts and opinions.

The same verse reads as follows from the King James Version:
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect."

The rules given are simple, are they not?

I reviewed Strong’s to find the meaning of “walk before me”.  It is to walk with, using the same Hebrew word (H1980 halak) as used when God’s word says that Enoch and Noah walked with God.  It is to walk in favor, to not turn from side to side, but to stay with.  I remember trying to walk with my kids when they were little and holding their hands.  If they wanted to go somewhere that I wasn’t going, there was a tiny struggle.  I had to pull them back into where I wanted us to go.  Walking with God is a journey without a struggle.

Next I reviewed the word used for Blameless and Perfect.  Can man truly be perfect?  Can we give up the struggle of sin? 

The word used is tamiym, a Hebrew word (H8549) which means without blemish, perfect, upright, without spot, uprightly, whole, sincerely, complete, full.

The Bible calls Noah perfect in Genesis 6:9, and Job in Job 12:4, so it can be done!  Man CAN walk in a way that God sees as perfect.

Serving God faithfully and living blamelessly come down not to our abilities, but a decision we must make.  God does not require anything impossible for us.  Though both are indeed so rare that we would assume they are impossible, they are not!
God’s reward to those that will walk with him and choose to be blameless are endless!

Psalms 84:11 uses the same Hebrew word tamiym when it says:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

It all does come down to a decision.  We either decide to be faithful and blameless, or in the absence of a decision, we are not.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Consecration to God

“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water.  You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.” – Exodus 40:12-13

When I first read of God telling Moses they would wash Aaron and his sons, I thought it was more of a purification process than anything else.  This morning though as I read of them doing what God says in Exodus 40:12, I see it differently.  Verse 13 mentions Aaron’s consecration to God. 

Consecration is to “make or declare sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose”, which is what baptism is all about.  It’s making a public statement that you are dedicating yourself to the ways of God and have decided to follow Jesus. 

In Matthew 3, we read of John the Baptist (not his religion, but his occupation) baptizing believers.  Then Jesus comes to him to be baptized himself, and says in verse 15, “for thus is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”.  In doing so, Jesus represents the High Priest office, as Aaron had held. Aaron, in the office of High Priest, was the one to offer sacrifices and make atonement of our sins in the tabernacle.  But with Christ, the Son of God, the office of High Priest was to be taken by Him. This washing of water was an ordinance given like that given to Aaron and his sons to be washed.  

By being baptized, we present ourselves to God, and to our High Priest Jesus Christ We consecrate ourselves through this act of obedience to God, declaring our belief in Jesus Christ, and formally stating that we are God’s for a divine purpose.
There’s an old song called “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”.  The words summarize the meaning of baptism better than I ever could.  In summary it says:

I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Tho' none go with me, I still will follow,
No turning back, no turning back.
My cross I'll carry, till I see Jesus;
No turning back, No turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Don't Blame the Preacher

"Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?” And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”" - Exodus 17:1-4

Now isn't this how a church congregation would act? "We're just not getting filled", "I come away not feeling like I was even at church", "I need more of God in my life". And then, they blame the preacher.

Yet, God says He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). It also says draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). It's not the preacher's fault if you're not becoming closer to God when you worship.

Your pastor is represented in the Bible by shepherds. The shepherd tends the flock. He takes them to the water to drink, but not once does he crack open their locked jaws and force them to swallow.

In short, you are as close to God as you want to be.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Selah

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.” Selah
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah – Psalms 3:1-4

Often when I pray and speak my heart to God, I find myself filled with thoughts that take me from point A, where I was focused, to point Z!  I would feel guilty when this happened because after all, I was talking to Almighty God.  Surely, He did not care for my inattention to His presence!  My interruption in my prayer was certainly not a good use of His time, right?

But this past week as this happened, the Word came to me in one of these moments:  Selah.  I knew it had something to do with pausing, but I needed to know more.

Selah is a Hebrew word (Strong’s H5541) for pause, interruption, and a musical term for accentuation with a pause.  It’s used 74 times the Bible, but 71 of those are in the book of Psalms.  Read for yourself some of the uses of the word in Psalms and you’ll see that the writer, often David, would be in prayerful conversation with God when the Selah was added.  It was used many times as a pause in praying.  And after the pause…the come back!  A victorious recovery from the downfallen spirit!

I believe that when we pause in our prayers, we allow God to do the talking while we are silent.  What I thought was my mind wandering is often His lead.  Several times while praying over an issue, I’ve had the enlightenment I need to resolve the issue.  As a software developer I cannot tell you how many times this has occurred when after hours of trying I just cannot figure things out! Yes, that’s right, God’s wisdom is rich even in software development, and that I can testify! 

Selah.  Wait for His reply.  Let Him lead your mind.  What I found after the guilty feeling of not being focused on the prayer itself, was that after I did refocus, I was more at ease.  The victory of prayer lies within the Selah.  Listen and be led.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Bitter Fruits

A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth;
From the produce of his lips he shall be filled.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.” – Proverbs 18:20-21

Two men are travelling up a mountain.  One is on the north side of the mountain and the other on the south side. Each has a group of friends travelling with him.

The man on the north side complains.  The hill is too steep.  It makes his back hurt.  He is tired, he is thirsty, he wants to take a break, no one is helping him climb the mountain.  And as he goes, he pulls rocks from his backpack and places them in the path.  Then he complains again, and again.

The man on the south side travels up the same mountain with the same complications.  But instead, he encourages those with him, and sees the beauty of the path.  He takes the clear path, choosing to avoid the rocks and obstacles.  He travels lightly and makes sure those that follow can see the clear path he’s chosen.  He speaks good things, such as “We’re half way there!” “What beautiful wildflowers!”  “Smell that fresh air!”

Which team to do think will get to the top first?

As we go through life we carry many people with us.  The group changes day by day, but they’re always there.  If you choose to speak into the negativity of your journey, your life will be harder, and your burden heavier.  And those that travel with you will gain that same outlook of life that you’ve displayed in words.  But if you speak the positive, if you speak life into your journey and those that follow you, joy is born. 

The writer of Proverbs 18 says that from the fruit of your lips you will be filled.  Do you want to be full of an indigestion of complaints and worries, or do you want to be filled with joy?  “Oh, but my path is so much harder than everyone else’s”, you say.  Of course, it is!  You’ve made it harder by choosing to complain and bring everyone into your negativity. Stop throwing rocks out of your backpack.  Instead, drop the entire backpack!  Complaining is an ineffective strategy.

Sometimes we love talking too much, and because we talk out our complaints and gripes, living in the negative the whole time, we eat the fruits we created.  They are dirty rotten fruits from a bitterness that ruins everything it touches.  Indeed, silence will wilt the bitter vine! 

Complain less.  Find the good in everything – because it IS there.  The fruits of your words will be nourishment to your life and those around you - instead of poison. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Open House

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.  Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” – Matthew 12:43-45

When I was raising my kids, it took me zero seconds to realize that the only way to keep a clean house was to move and take them with me.  Kids make a mess, it’s what they do.  They need house training just like puppies do…but for other reasons, of course.  I still cleaned house, but I wasn’t so foolish as to think it would be the last time I’d have to do it.  Houses get dirty because people live in them. 

But little by little they were trained.  They learned not to write on the walls, not to spread blue Jell-O into beige carpet, not to shoot plastic pellets in the bedroom where my vacuum would suck them up for years, and even to throw their laundry into (not at) the hamper.  But it wasn’t done in a day.  It took time.

When we clean up our lives, the same thing is true.  We need training to know how to live, and which bad habits to break.  As you learn, you lay down bad habits, and you pick up good ones.  You lock the doors of your heart against those things you did and allowed in before.  For example, I don’t watch horror movies anymore or any “entertainment” based on murder.   Some things aren’t meant to enter the gates of a clean house.  If the filth stays outside, the house stays clean.

Now it will take dying for me to be spotless, I’ll tell you that!  This process of sanctification is an ongoing process.  It’s a process of giving away our will to take His will.  It’s a process of learning to love God more than we love ourselves so that we can submit to Him. 

How does that occur?  The same way it occurred to my kids to keep things clean.  There was punishment when they didn’t, and there was love, always love.  God will punish His children to keep them on the right path (Hebrews 12:6).  But He also blesses those who are obedient to Him (Proverbs 16:20).

There have been a few people in my life that I know were – and are – Christians, but I’ve seen them turn away from their faith, away from God, and live like satan’s children.  It’s a sad thing to happen, because as the obedience leaves, the correction sets in.  And as the correction continues, the love fades.  God’s love is still there, I know that.  But God does say that he will give them over to their reprobate mind (Romans 1:28, 2 Timothy 3).  While they had cleaned their house, the didn’t keep it clean.  They didn’t lock the doors to the things that didn’t belong inside.  They had an open house. 

I cannot think of anything sadder than getting to Heaven, having been a victorious, richly blessed Christian, and having to bow my head in shame at having turned from God.  It would be a sad meeting time to have to look into His eyes and realize what I gave up was the greatest love of all for what I thought was a good time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Jar

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.  Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.” – Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

Now that sounds strange to our 2019 ears, doesn’t it?  Bread on water makes mush! Ewe!  But the meaning of these verses is so accurate for today’s life.

“Cast your bread upon the waters” is an allusion to the sowing of rice.  The rise was cast (thrown for sowing) into a wetland, and the cattle would trod it into the earth.  After “many days” the rice would grow and there would be a harvest. 

From that harvest we give.  We give to many – as many as we can.  We don’t hoard it for ourselves, as it will spoil.  Fresh grown rice can become rancid if not completely dried.  It can mold, and spoil.  We give what we have today because keeping it can lead to it spoiling.

But the spoiling isn’t always the rice.  When we keep what can help others, we spoil our own hearts, becoming selfish and uncaring.   

As I read this passage today, the last line struck me with the vision of a jar.  A jar holds just a certain amount.  You can’t overfill it, you can’t stretch it to fit more.  We have one other thing that we cannot stretch, our time. 

We are all allotted a certain amount of time on this earth.  Each day we pour out a little more, and a little more, and one day there will be no more time in that jar. It’s in that jar of time we can choose to show kindness and charity to others, or selfishly consider only ourselves.  But regardless of the decision made each day, time flows from the jar.

As this world become eviler every day, hoarding our good deeds, not giving a “serving to seven, and also to eight”, not only affects those we see in need, but society.  Your charity and kindness to others has a ripple effect.  Your children see it, and they give.  Your friends see it, and they feel the need to be kind to others as well.  Those who receive your kindness, also desire to share that kindness.  But when you hold back, it’s like a river running into the ocean, dammed up.  The ripples from that direction stop.

Friends, today we have time trickling out of our jars.  Pour out your kindness on others and watch the ripples flow!  For friends, there is coming a day when all branches of kindness will be dammed up, and this world will cease to have caring people.  There will be no doors held open, no “God bless you” to a sneeze, no simple smiles to the mother fretting over a wild child at the grocery, no compassion on the sick, no help for those that fall and fail.  Love one another today, because that jar is soon going to be empty, and God needs your compassion to create ripples.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Thorns and Briars

“For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.” – Luke 6:44

This morning as I sat looking at the blackberry blossoms outside my window I began to reminisce.  I spent many summer days growing up gathering black berries with my grandmother Ruby.  We would go deep into the fields, find the briars, and start picking.  Quite often we would pick gallon buckets full.  We would pick early while the sun was just coming up to avoid as much heat as we could but would often pick until past noon. 

We always wore long sleeves to protect us from the thorns on the briars.  Even on those hot July days with the suffocating humidity of Kentucky I was grateful for those sleeves.  I would liken a thorn prick to that of a paper cut.  It’s a tiny little thing that can hurt for days!  And the scratches can make your arms look like you’ve been in a cat fight.

I often wondered why God made thorns on those briars when He also put delicious fruit on their, knowing we’d want to eat it.  Yes, the thorns keep some animals from the berries, but deer, birds and other critters don’t mind them!  Deer will clean a blackberry bush of all its berries, no matter how deep into the bramble the berries are.  And now I realize, there is a second purpose to those thorns.

When you look at how a blackberry vine grows you see that its trunk is small.  It’s not much bigger in diameter at the root as it is several feet down the branch.  But if you’ve ever tried to pull a branch from the bramble, you find it doesn’t come out well.  It’s the thorns! They hang and capture with each pull that branch that is moving out of the briars.    With a branch that is so small, the briars help support each other.  They hang on each other.  Each branch has thorns that support other branches as it grows and entwines the entire plant.  The higher they grow with this support, the more sun they get and the more berries they produce.  Yet, even with the weight of the berries, the branches are supported.

Sometimes we are the branch, and sometimes we are the thorn.  We’re placed in the lives of those around us to lift them up as we are being lifted too.  It’s not always pleasant, and it can be somewhat confining and uncomfortable.  But, we grow in such environment. 

I think of the years of raising my now adult children when I write this.  Sometimes I’ve had to prick them and pull them back into place, and sometimes they pricked me and showed me my place!  But I’ve always allowed them to grow as high as they can grow, and they’ve allowed me to be the best Mom I know how to be.  Never confining, continuously guiding, and always supporting; that’s a mother’s job. 

Likewise, our spouses, coworkers, and friends receive the same support and guidance.  It’s in lifting others up and helping them grow stronger that we are most like Christ.  His desire for us was to “love one another even as I have loved you”.   And now I reflect on the crown of thorns that sat on His head, and how meaningful that really was.

But I must also warn that you, dear friend, can become part of bramble that will not let you out as well.  Be careful who you associate with, who you work with, and who you create an everlasting “bramble” with through marriage.  You need support to fulfil your purpose in life.  Grapes won’t do well if planted in a blackberry bush.  Those pricks are counterproductive to the fruit it needs to bear.  Grapes need completely different care than blackberries.  If you entwine yourself with those who are not like you want to become, you’ll either suffer from the relationship or adapt to it.

Pick your briars well - but pick one! Make sure it’s one that will support you and carry you higher.  Make sure it doesn’t conflict with your dreams and purpose.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

Years ago, Paul Simon wrote a song called “The Sound of Silence”.  In fact, it was just a couple of years after I was born.  But until recently, the words didn’t come alive to me.  This song seems prophetic in many ways to our society. 

Now that I see it that way I cannot hear it enough.  It’s as if God has opened this song up to me, unlocking it some how for me to understand.  I’m going to share what I hear in it, in hopes that we all get the same message from it.  Because after hearing the words through what God has revealed, I cannot be silent.

Hello darkness, my old friend
Darkness, absence of light, Christ being the “light of the world”

I've come to talk with you again
            Speaking to the darkness, the evil of the world.
Because a vision softly creeping
Softly creeping, quietly sneaking in

Left its seeds while I was sleeping
            We sleep with our eyes wide open, ignoring what goes on around us
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Then we awake one day to see the world around us as it is
Still remains
And just as this won’t shake from my head when I hear the song, it remains.

Within the sound of silence
And I stayed silent about it for weeks now.  I stayed silent. Muzzled by fear of what? Being told I was ridiculous, out of my head, a “crazy Christian”.

In restless dreams I walked alone
The vision began by being alone, walking in the night, the evil of darkness

Narrow streets of cobblestone
Streets that were old, had been paths for many others who remained silent

'Neath the halo of a street lamp
A street lamp that seemed to provide some light, if only in one place.

I turned my collar to the cold and damp
No one wants to see the sin and evil, we turn up our collars to not feel it.

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
Stabbed – you can’t get away from the pain.  Neon light.  Commerce, business, the things we strive for without even knowing why.
That split the night
Wide open we are now, not asleep.

And touched the sound of silence
Yet no one was heard.  Not a word.

And in the naked light I saw
            Naked light, revealing all we don’t want to see.
Ten thousand people, maybe more
Humanity, all in one place

People talking without speaking
Expressions on the faces as we look at each other with every look except love.
Words from t-shirt slogans, tattoos, and even facebook posts that we judge by.

People hearing without listening
            We hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see, and dismiss the rest.
People writing songs that voices never share
We never share what is on our hearts, our songs, because…
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools" said I, "You do not know
God finally speaks, and calls us all fools
Silence like a cancer grows
The more one of us is silent, the harder it is for any to not be silent
Hear my words that I might teach you
We don’t want to hear him that we’d be wiser.  We’re content to be silent and not truly live lives that can matter.
Take my arms that I might reach you"
With all He has, He tries to reach us with outstretched arms.

But my words like silent raindrops fell
His words are given daily, written for all to have and all to know.  He’s open to communication through prayer, but…
And echoed in the wells of silence
It goes unheard because Christians like myself are “wells of silence” where those drops of rain fall, and lay silent.
And the people bowed and prayed
We all pray to someone or something.  But often our prayers to God are not about what matters to Him but about what matters to us.  We fail to even speak of His will, and ask for that change in our lives that cause us to truly LIVE.

To the neon god they made
We pray about the things that are neon, not real light, but artificial.  Not God, but worshipped as if they were real.

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
Graffiti often spells names of those that want to be heard, want to be known.  They spell out a need to be loved.  They spell out slogans and phrases that we use to try to be socially accepted.  They spell out loneliness.  They spell out a lack of hope due to a lack of faith.

And whispered in the sounds of silence
…and still we remain silent.

God bless you all, be with you all, and show you His unfailing love.
Love One Another.