Friday, December 28, 2012

Can You Be Deceived?

Matthew 24:4  -  Jesus answered, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”

Holy Bible
These last several weeks I have been doing a lot of reading and what I found was many people who were expressing their opinions about what the Bible says, but not backing it up with Biblical quotes.  Some were expressing confusion and opinion and this is fine, as long as no one accepts what they say as fact.  Some were openly saying that the Bible or Jesus says this or that without citing chapter and verse where it is said.  Without chapter and verse there is no way of knowing what was actually said.  I also found some who were giving chapter and verse, but the quote was not correct because they were using a translation that did not come directly from the original Greek.  With all this going on it becomes very easy to be deceived.  So what can we do about all this?

The answer is easy and difficult at the same time.  We must learn all we can about God, Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity.  We are told that if we ask God for his help in gaining this knowledge that he will help us.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  If we do not have a thorough knowledge of what the Bible says, it becomes very easy for someone to deceive us and Jesus clearly said in Matthew 24:4, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”

My suggestion is that we all need to read our Bibles daily.  Make sure that you have a translation that comes directly from the original Greek and Hebrew.  Also stay active in Bible Studies.  There are many that can be done at church with others and at home alone or with family members.  Finally, a pursuit of reading and writing Biblical Greek and Hebrew would be a worthwhile goal to reach for.  After all, if you cannot go to the source, how can you be sure you are not being deceived?  Always seek Jesus first.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas, 1659

I recently discovered this article among my books and believe it is worth sharing.  It was written by Paul Gerhardt, deacon at the Nikolaikirche in Berlin.  He wrote a detailed description of the Christmas morning service held there in 1659.

German Cathederal
The church is cold.  Candles are being lighted.  The people are coming and taking their places.  A group of schoolboys is at one side of the gallery and a choir of mixed voices at the other side.  Below the pulpit we see a Collegium Musicum, a voluntary musical society composed of tradesmen and craftsmen, who perform on violins and wood-wind instruments, gathered around a small movable organ.  Then there is a male quartet, also a military band with trumpets, kettledrums and drums.

After the organ prelude a chorale (Lutheran hymn) is sung….Now three clergymen with white clergymen’s bands and black robes have appeared at the altar.  The entire liturgy is sung in Latin (the use of Latin or German varied from place to place) by the choirs and the schoolchildren.  Next a college student, dressed as an angel with large white wings, sings from the pulpit an Old Testament prophecy, accompanied by the Collegium Musicum below.

More chanting from the altar, and then the principal door of the church opens, and in comes a procession of girls, headed by the teacher, all dressed as angels.  They proceed to the high altar, where the teacher sings the first verse of  ‘Vom Himmel boch’ and the second verse is sung by the girls in two-part counterpoint.  The third verse is taken by the organ and the choir in the gallery as a beautiful five-part motet.  While the procession has been marching down the aisle, one of the ministers chants a ‘Gloria’ answered by the electoral court-and-field trumpeters with fanfares and drumrolls.

After the sermon there is more chanting by the liturgist, and the instrumentalists play a boisterous ‘Te Deum’.  Then follows another Latin anthem by the school-children.

Things now begin to happen in the organ loft: over the railing is raised a cradle with a doll, while some boys with incessant mooing imitate the animals in the Bethlehem stable.  The choir and congregation sing a hymn, and at this point high up on the organ fa├žade a Bethlehem star, illuminated and supplied with small bells, is turned round and round, operated by an organ stop.  Three wooden images, representing the three Wise Men, with their traditional attributes, solemnly move forward and bow before the doll in the cradle.  At the same time we notice two puppets, representing Moors, standing on each side of the central group.  One blows a trumpet, and the other beats a drum.  Throughout this scene on the gallery railing the Collegium Musicum plays a ritornello (an instrumental refrain).

A boy soprano intones ‘In Dulci Jubilo’, which is continued by male voices, accompanied by shawms and bombards.  The song is scarcely over before a sight exceedingly beloved of the children appears in the centre aisle.  It is old Father Christmas himself in his white beard, with pointed cap on his head and a large sack on his back, soon surrounded by ‘angels’ and children, who vie with each other for the good things that are to be given out.  When the large sack is empty and Old Father Christmas has disappeared behind the sacristy door, then is sung as the closing chorale ‘Puer natus est Bethlehem’.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Geese

Geese and goslings
One possible answer as to why God would want to become human.

There was once a man who didn’t believe in God, and he didn’t hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas.  His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived.  She asked him to come, but he refused.  “That story is nonsense!” he said.  “Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man?  That’s ridiculous!”  So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard.  As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm.  He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening.  Then he heard a loud thump.  Something had hit the window.  Then another thump.  He looked out, but couldn’t see more than a few feet.  When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window.  In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese.  Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn’t go on.  They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter.  They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly.  A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them.  The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought.  It’s warm and safe, surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm.  So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside.  But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn’t seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them.  The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away.  He went into the house and came with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumb trail leading to the barn.  They still didn’t catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated.  He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn.  Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.  “Why don’t they follow me?!”  he exclaimed.  “Can’t they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?”  He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn’t follow a human.  “If only I were a goose, then I could save them,” he said out loud.

Then he had an idea.  He went into the barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese.  He then released it.  His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn – and one by one the other geese followed it to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind:  “If only I were a goose, then I could save them!”  Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier.  “Why would God want to be like us?  That’s ridiculous!”

Suddenly it all made sense.  That is what God had done.  We were like the geese—blind, lost, perishing.  God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us.  That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized.  As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought.  Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come.

Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm.  He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: “Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!”

Friday, December 7, 2012

When Will Jesus Come Again?

Second Coming
As we prepare for Christmas during this season of Advent, I felt the need to spend some time looking at the second coming of our Lord.  The term “second coming” is never mentioned in the Bible, but the reference to our Lord’s return occurs over 300 times in the New Testament.  Jesus told his disciples that he would return in the same manner that they had seen him go.

Jesus talks about the end times in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.  He repeatedly warns us to watch and be on guard.  In Matthew 24:4 Jesus says, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”  Paul follows in 2 Timothy 4:3 and says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Again the words of Jesus, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”  Jesus also says in Matthew 24:36, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father.”  Again Jesus’ words, “Be on guard.”

So how can we prepare for this second coming?  What can we do, since Jesus clearly says that it could happen today, next year, or at some other time in the future.  What should we do?

2 Peter 3:9-13 gives us some very good advice in this area.  Here Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be:  You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

While we do not know when our Lord will return, as Christians we are assured that He will come again in all power and glory and we look forward to that glorious day, just as people 2000 years ago watched and waited for that baby born in a manger in Bethlehem.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Was There a Bethlehem Star? What Do You Think?

There are many today who sincerely doubt the authenticity of the Bible, especially those stories about Jesus.  It is with that in mind that I want to share this information.

In 1856 an American minister, W D Mahan, was given access to the Vatican Library.  He chose eleven documents and had them translated from the original Greek or Aramaic.  In 1887 he published his findings in a book titled “The Archko Volume.”  Today this book is known as “The Acts of Pilate.”

One of the stories told involves the Star of Bethlehem.  The story tells about an inquiry made by the Sanhedrin High Council.  They sent their own investigator, Jonathan, son of Heziel.  The following is what Jonathan reported back to the High Council.

Bethlehem Star
I met with two men, who said they were shepherds, and were watching their flocks near Bethlehem.  They told me that while attending to their sheep, the night being cold and chilly, some of them had made fires to warm themselves, and some of them had laid down and were asleep; that they were awakened by those who were keeping watch with the question, “What does all this mean?  Behold, how light it is!”; that when they were aroused it was light as day.  But they knew it was not daylight, for it was only the third watch.  All at once the air seemed to be filled with human voices, saying, “Glory! Glory! Glory to the most High God!”  And “Happy art thou, Bethlehem, for God hath fulfilled his promise to the fathers; for in thy chambers is born the King that shall rule in righteousness.

I asked him how they felt, if they were not afraid; they said at first they were; but after awhile it seemed to calm their spirits, and so fill their hearts with love and tranquility that they felt more like giving thanks than anything else.  They said it was around the whole city, and some of the people were almost scared to death.  Some said the world was on fire; some said the gods were coming down to destroy them; others said a star had fallen; until Melker the priest [from Bethlehem] came out shouting and clapping his hands, seeming to be frantic with joy.

Unfortunately, the Vatican Library is now closed and we cannot access the tremendous wealth of information that it contains.  I am certain, however, that when we are allowed to read these volumes, we will find that many writers told the same stories that are found in the Bible.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What is Advent, Do You Know?

Advent Wreath
A Christmas tradition that dates back to the late 4th century is that of Advent.  Today Advent is still celebrated by many churches, but not all.  The word “advent” comes from the Latin and means “coming.”  It was officially established by church leaders in the 6th Century and was meant to be a time when Christians reflected on the meaning of Christmas.  Early Christians focused on three different meanings for the word “coming.”  First, the coming of God to earth in human form.  Second, the coming of Jesus into the lives, hearts, and actions of those who accepted him as their Savior.  Finally, the future coming of Jesus when he returns to earth to rule as king.

During the Middle Ages the period of Advent was established as the four Sundays preceding Christmas and the days between.  That time frame still exists today.  To help reflect on the three comings of Jesus, the Advent wreath slowly evolved.  Traditionally, the Advent wreath is an evergreen wreath with four candles nestled among the greenery and a large candle in the center.  Of the four candles three were usually purple with one representing hope, one peace, and one love.  The fourth, usually red or pink, represented the gift of life given by Jesus on the cross.  The center candle was always white, lit on Christmas Eve and represented Jesus’ birth.

While Christmas is still the celebration of God come to earth, with or without Advent, we are able to connect with its true meaning so much more when we take the time to reflect and prepare.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Does Christmas Mean for You?

Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

When you unexpectedly read or hear the word “Christmas,” what is the first image that jumps into your mind.  Is it family gatherings, decorations, giving and receiving presents, cookies, or even Black Friday deals; or is it, perhaps, the image of a newborn baby lying in a manger?  As Christians we should make sure that to us the most important part of Christmas is the baby in the manger.  All of the traditions that are now a part of our celebrations are important, but should be observed only as they bring glory to God.

It is most important that we join the shepherds, wise men, the angels, and maybe even the animals and get down on our knees and worship our newborn king.  This little baby is the one who will grow up to be a man and as an adult will take on His shoulders all of our sins and carry them to the cross where He will suffer and die so that we have the opportunity to live with Him forever in Heaven.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Everyday Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Praise

Thoughts for when you are not sure what to be thankful for.

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings each morning,
Thank You , Lord, that I can hear.
There are those who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes tightly closed against the morning light as long as possible,
Thank You, Lord, that I can see.
There are many who are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off the physical effort of rising.
Thank You, Lord, that I have the strength to rise.
There are many who are bedfast.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned, tempers are short.
Thank You, Lord, for my family.
There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times unbalanced.
Thank You, Lord, for the food we have.
There are so many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous.
Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity to work.
There are many who have no job.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day, and wish my circumstances were not quite so modest.
Thank You, Lord, for the gift of life.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What Does Thanksgiving Mean for You?

giving thanks
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday I am once again reminded that we are frequently led, especially by retailers, to move from Halloween to Christmas.  This is the exact opposite of what the Bible says we should do.  For many Thanksgiving’s focus has been on food and family.  We forget the reason that Thanksgiving was originally established.  While the holiday was started many years after the original event, it was still meant to give thanks to God for watching over us during the preceding year.  Jesus gave us a perfect example when he instigated The Last Supper after he had been betrayed by Judas.  Matthew 26:26 says. “While they were eating Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples.”  Knowing that he was soon to suffer and die on the cross, Jesus still gave thanks to God.

I know that life is never easy, but just as Jesus was able to give thanks under extremely bad conditions, so too should we give thanks for the good things in our lives.  Paul tells us in
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

It is still very important that we continue our daily prayers of thanksgiving, but given the chance to raise up to God a thanksgiving celebration we should not skip over the opportunity.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thank You, Jesus

praying woman
This prayer seemed appropriate to me after our study of repentance.

Dear Jesus –

You calmed the raging waters and walked upon the sea,

You healed the lepers, deaf and blind, and caused the blind to see.

Your miracles are endless – yet the greatest one to me

Is when I knelt repenting, you saved me; set me free.

You touched the hopeless sinner so filled with guilt and shame,

Infused me with assurance and made me whole again.

Thank you, for Grace unfailing, forgiveness – Love divine,

That took my sins and paid the price to make me wholly Thine.

                                                            Anna McCalpin

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Join our Prayer Group

Prayer is such an important part of living a Christian life that I decided to make it a part of this blog.  The process is very simple.  If you click here you will link to a page titled “Prayer Group”.  Simply submit your request and it will be included.  You will be asked to leave a username (doesn't have to be your real name).  This is to help identify your prayer, because we also ask that you let us know when your prayer has been answered so that we can remove it from the “Prayer Request” list.

I also ask that as others are praying for you that you also include them in your prayers.  Research has shown that the more people that pray the stronger that prayer becomes.

Finally, I ask that you do not use any profanity or pray for harm to come to anyone.  This type of petition will simply be removed.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Repentance Means

Praying Woman
If we were to ask what repentance is, we would probably be told that we should turn away from sin and live a more Godly life.  This is true, but the Bible makes it clearer than that.  In answer to what repentance is Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  We are told to become a new person in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!”

The Bible also has some definite requirements for what must be included in repentance.  They are as follows:

  1. Faith  -  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  Mark 1:15
  2. Humility  -  “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  James 4:10
  3. Prayer  -  “Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord.”  Acts 8:22A
  4. Sorrow for Sin  -  “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  Job 42:6

Finally, the Bible makes it clear that we are to show that we are a repentant sinner by the deeds that we do.  In Matthew 3:8 John the Baptist says, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”  Paul repeats this same command in Acts 26:20B when he says, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”

As you can see it is not easy to repent.  We can only begin and continue with a sincere heart and mind and do the very best we can.  When we stumble, we must confess our sin, repent, and continue on knowing that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and that He is with us every step of the way.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Can You Do It?

Praying Woman
In Luke 13:3 Jesus makes it very clear that anyone who does not repent will perish.  But what does it mean to repent?  The dictionary defines the word repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.”  Most pastors will also tell you that to repent means to turn away from sin.  So we say, “Okay, I’ll do that.”  But are you sure?  Let’s take a look at what sin really is.

Exodus 20:1-17 contains the record of The Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses.  I will not repeat them at this time, since everyone can read them.  I will, however, direct your attention to Matthew 5:17-18 where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”  Jesus continues in Matthew 5 and says that anyone who becomes angry is subject to the same judgment as someone who has committed murder.  He also says that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery.  He continues explaining why it is impossible to gain salvation on our own.

In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus introduces The Greatest Commandment.  He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  I am very sure that no one, myself included, can say that no matter what happens we always put the needs and desires of the other person before our own.  This means that we have sinned and fall short of what God expects from us.

Finally, there are sins of commission and of omission.  Sins of commission occur when we do something that we shouldn’t.  Sins of omission occur when we don’t do something that we should, even if we do not realize that we should do it

The point is that it is impossible on our own to live a sin free life.  This is why we have Jesus; our Lord and our Savior.  He took onto Himself all of our sins, so that when we stand before God all God sees is a pure and sin free life.  But as I said last time, in order to gain salvation we must repent and do the very best we can to live a sin free life.  When we mess up, as we most assuredly will, we must confess our sins, repent, and keep trying.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Heaven or Hell - Are you sure?

Praying Woman
This past week I had the opportunity to hear several people speak, who said they had turned their lives over to God and that they were now Christians.  On the surface this sounds wonderful, but as I listened I realized that something was terribly wrong and that these people were probably headed for hell, not Heaven.  You ask, “Why?  How could you say such a thing?”  The words that these people spoke indicated that they had missed a huge component of giving your life to Christ.  Repentance!

They understood that Jesus had suffered and died on the cross to save them from their sins.  They understood that God is love.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  The part that they missed is that God is also a jealous God.  “He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.  He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.”  Joshua 24:19

The life that we must live in order to have God’s forgiveness is one of repentance.  In Acts 2:38 Peter says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  Peter speaks again in Acts 3:19.  “Repent, then, and turn to god, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.”  Jesus says it very clearly and to the point in Luke 13:3 when He says, “I tell you. .unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

As we joyfully remember God’s love in sending Jesus to suffer and die in our place, we must also remember that God expects something from us.  It is not a free ride.  We must repent and do our very best to live the kind of life that Jesus taught and lived.  The two are a pair.  In the words of a long forgotten song, “You can’t have one without the other.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Apple for Jesus

This story came from a church newsletter written many years ago.  I thought it would be appropriate as we enter apple picking season.

One day an elderly man entered into a hospital.  He was grumpy from being on medication and the nurses thought him to be insane, as he yelled for his wife to get the apple basket.  By the time they had checked him into his room the nurses were exhausted from the fight he was putting up.  “Sir you have to calm down we are doing everything we can for you”  they would try to explain.  “I don’t need your help,” the grumpy man would yell, “I want my apple basket”.  He finally slept.  The nurses sighed with relief and talked among themselves whether they should call the hospital psychologist about the old man and his obsession with the apple basket.  As they talked and laughed about the situation the wife came in carrying the basket of apples.  They looked kind of stunned as she asked if she could see her husband and deliver his basket.  Sure, they agreed as they watched her slip past into his room.  Curiosity consumed them over the next few weeks as they tended to the elderly man.  He was eaten with cancer and the doctors had given him no hope of survival.  He turned out to be a very calm, happy man once he had his basket.  His wife, they noticed, would come in with apples and go out with apples and the curiosity grew even more till one nurse couldn't stand the suspense.

One night as he was nearing the end, the nurse sat down in a chair by the wife.  “May I ask why do you have that apple basket?  I just don’t understand the significance.”  “I am an apple farmer by trade he sighed.  From the time I was 20 till the day I do die I will forever have my apples.”  The nurse nodded thinking she understood.  He just likes his work, she thought, assured now he was a little bit crazy.  As she started to leave, the old man asked her to sit down.  “At age 20 I was saved, I accepted the Lord as my Savior.”  Oh no, the nurse thought.  Here comes the lecture on religion.  The old man continued.  “The day I accepted the Lord as my Savior I got this basket, and each time I had a problem or concern that I could not handle, I put an apple in the basket un-shined.”  “Why?”  the nurse said shaking her head.  “Because it reminded me to give those problems to the Lord for him to shine.  See my basket now, he stated.  As my problems disappear so do the apples.  As I get new problems, ones I cannot handle alone, I put an apple in.”  The humble nurse looked into the basket . .  only one apple was there.  With that, he took a big breath and grabbed his wife by the hand and faded into eternal sleep.  The wife paused for a moment and got up from her place to take from the basket the last remaining apple.  She whispered in his ear that his reward awaits him in heaven.  The nurse stayed still and asked with tears in her eyes, “What do you think his riches will be?”  The wife knew what they were, eternal life with Jesus Christ.  But she could see the concern and sadness upon the young nurses’ face and handed her the apple and said, “The biggest apple pie you can imagine!”  That was the day the young nurse was saved, and from that day on she always had a basket by her bed.

Peace UCC newsletter

Thursday, September 27, 2012

When we talk to God

God, Jesus, Bible
When a child goes away to college or gets married and moves out of their parents home, the need for communication does not stop.  Parents always want and need to hear from their children about how things are going and if  Mom and Dad can help.  We are God’s children and this also applies to our relationship with Him.  God wants to hear from us everyday.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.

Unfortunately our lives move so quickly that many of our prayers are simply cries for help: help me get through this traffic light, let me get this raise, make the rain stop so we can barbeque.  God does help us, but frequently He sees a bigger picture that helps us even more.  Remember Jesus words as He prepared for the cross, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42

I have included a poem by Frances R. Havergal that I believe makes a wonderful prayer when we can’t think of what else to say.
“Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.  Amen.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learn More Than You Thought You Could

Bible study word search
I am wondering how many people are out there like me, who endure Bible studies rather than anxiously look forward to them each week.  At least in the Bible studies I have attended over the years it seems that the leader, whether pastor or lay person, does and says pretty much the same thing week after week.  A Bible passage is selected, the leader tells the story, explains it and asks for comments.  A few people, usually men, may respond but very seldom does any real dialogue happen.  Then everyone leaves telling themselves they have learned something, even though they have repeated that same Bible passage in the same way many times.

I have found a Bible study that I am truly excited about.  It can be used alone or for some really energetic dialogue with a small group.  Titled “Bible Word Search” and written by Charles Christopher Martin it presents a very new way to approach Bible study.

Instead of focusing on a Bible passage and studying that passage in depth, Mr. Martin chooses a topic and researches that topic.  Let’s choose one of the topics, “Characteristics of a Believer”.  The reader is given a list of Bible passages to look at and find a word or words in each passage that identifies the characteristics of a believer.  I must insert here that I found characteristics I didn’t know existed.  These new ideas invite discussion, because some will agree, some will be amazed they never saw that before, and some will question the new idea.

After this list is compiled the reader can then take it to a word search grid and do a normal word search, just for fun.  There is a small Bible dictionary included, just in case someone encounters a word they do not recognize and of course, the usual answer key.

I found this to be a much more exciting way of approaching Bible study.  Too often we get into a rut and do things the same way time and time again.  In using this approach one notices ideas and concepts that are looked over when doing Bible study in the traditional way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why We Experience Evil

When the earth was new it was God's intention that all people and animals should live together in peace and harmony with God.  This meant that no one would ever experience pain or cruelty.  God created a special place called the Garden of Eden where his children and animals were to live.  There were many trees in the garden, including two that were very special; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.  God also placed Adam and eve and all the animals in the garden.  Adam and Eve recognized God and spoke to Him and He spoke to them  Everything was perfect.  Adam and Eve were allowed to eat the fruit from all of the trees except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.

Evil must have existed outside of the garden, because one day a serpent came to Eve.  He challenged her to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He told her that God knew that if she ate this fruit she would be just like God and know the difference between good and evil.  Eve wanted to be wise and so she ate some of the fruit and gave some to Adam.  He also ate the fruit.

When God realized that Adam and Eve had disobeyed him and that they now knew the difference between good and evil, He became worried that they would eat from the tree of life and live forever.  To prevent this from happening God clothed Adam and Eve and sent them away from the Garden of Eden.  They were now separated from God and experienced the evil that they now knew existed.

Churches often refer to this as original sin.  This story explains how people today came to experience all of the hardship that exists.  For further information about this story go to your Bible and read Genesis 3.

Some people say that this story has to be fiction.  There was nothing written down until thousands of years after the story took place.  Everything was by word of mouth, which, over time, can become confused.  This is true, however, this story can be found in many other cultures, not just Christianity.  The names are different but the content is the same.  We know from our legal system that the more witnesses that agree about what they saw, the more credible the story becomes.  The same is true here.  The fact that many cultures record the same story says that it must be correct.  Many witnesses saying the same thing mean it's true.  Check it out.