WINTER

ITS 3am. COLD.  FOGGY.  WINTER.  George Bush is gone at 94.  My good friend, Rev. Les Shelton, passed away at 78.  It’s winter.  Long ago, Willie Nelson wrote: “Ain’t it funny how time slips away.”  Yes, it’s winter.  It caught me off guard – before I knew what was happening.  It makes no difference that Willie also wrote,  “I’d trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday,” because my future is as bright as the promises of God. As is the case with many of us, part of my past was painful.  If I had it to do over I would change a few things.  I shoulda, coulda, woulda. Isn’t that the case with most of us?

“But now the days grow short

I’m in the [winter] of the year

And now I think of my life as ‘vintage wine

from fine old kegs,

from the brim to the dregs.’”

Forgetting the past, you can

“Take this old world, but give me Jesus;

In His cross my trust shall be,

Til, with clearer, brighter vision,

Face to face my Lord I see.”

(Fanny Crosby)

It’s still winter.  It was just yesterday …; seems yesterday  I was so immature – high school, college, embarking in a fragile canoe called Life.  I held my son in loving arms as he looked at me with blue eyes.  I said to him, “My Son. I love you so much.” He looked at me as though he answered, “I love you, too.” Time caught me. Where did the years go?

And then in El Paso, living on a dirt road, two miles from Juarez, Mexico.  My precious daughter caught her breath, laboring as though she would die with Hyaline Membrane Disease.  No money to pay for hospital care. Would she be left to die?  Would it be winter in springtime?

The grunt work chased me.

As a breath of fresh air in springtime hope found me in the midst of my slog.  O my-my  yes!

I knew I was Blood-bought.   The One who had a plan, had a plan!

“Like the sunshine after rain,

Like a rest that follows pain,

Like a hope returned again,

Is the peace that Jesus gives.”

(Haldor Lillenas)

Springtime came in the form of an addition to my son and daughter.

Carole brought her two amazing little guys, 6 & 3, joining us making a family unit of six.  It was Spring!

Hopes and dreams anew. But where did the years go?

Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But, here it is… the winter of my life and it caught  me by surprise…How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go?  Where did my youth go?

I well remember seeing older people through the years and thinking that those old people were years away from me and that winter was so far off.  I could not fathom it or imagine what it would be like.

But, here it is, … my friends are retired and gray… they move slower and I see an older person now.  Some are in better and some worse shape than I …, but I see a change. They’re not like the ones I remember who were young and vibrant … but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d be.

Each day now, I find that finding my way to the shower takes concerted effort.   Taking a nap is not a treat anymore.. it’s mandatory because if I don’t on my own free will, I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so … now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done… things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

If you’re not in your winter yet … let me remind you, it will be here faster than you think. Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by quickly.  Do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life ….  Squeeze the sweet juice of today. Say all the things you want your loved ones to remember, “and make the world go away.”

“‘I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.’”

John 14:27 (nlt)

 

CONQUERORS!

WHEN IN A FOOTBALL GAME, your team makes a touchdown in the first 30 seconds and goes on to win 47 to 3, you could rightly say that you were more than a conqueror.  The other team might have intercepted a pass, or tackled your quarterback, or pushed your team back to your 10 yard line, but your team never! gave! up!  Got it?!  47-3!

EL SHADDAI (The God who can!) has given you victory over those things that have torn your soul into pieces. He has healed, protected, harmonized and surrounded you with love.  He has vanquished your enemies!  You are MORE than a conqueror. Grab ahold of it WITH CONFIDENT FAITH.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37 (niv)

The Future of Religion

JUST SAYIN’ – There are a few articles addressing the topic, “THE FUTURE OF RELIGION.” If I am allowed to inject my insightful opinion – 😄😄😇 – (hold your seat): taking the position that religion will [of course I don’t agree] decline and ultimately disappear from the human stage 4 million years from now, the reasons, in my humble opinion,  would be:

1. Narcissism – worship of an objective deity will disappear because people will be too consumed asking,

“Whataboutme?!”

Whataboutme!?!”

2. Gradually, religion as it is now constituted will become more and more a shadow without substance.

3. Religion will morph into a quasi political philosophy. In Jesus’ day, His disciples were so busy following Jesus they didn’t have time to put their energy into clamoring for more political influence.

4. Then there will be “wars, wars, and rumors of wars.”

THERE ARE THOSE OF YOU WHO WITH KEEN ANTICIPATION DUTIFULLY READ MY MISSIVES, therefore, you know that I am of the opinion that Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. Those who know Him are believers, “born anew,” followers of Christ, The Way.

HOWEVER …

5. The more Christian preaching, teaching and music turn into a “whataboutme” entertainment venue, the more Christianity, church-goers, and followers will seek out Christian-oriented programs and services that tickle our fancy with a positive twist like our vodka martinis. 😳

“You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you —keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.”

2 Timothy 4:3-5  🎼🎶

“Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh! to be like Thee.

Oh! to be like Thee,

Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;

Come in Thy sweetness, Come in Thy fullness;

Stamp Thine own image       deep on my heart.”

(Thomas O. Chisholm)

WHY?

ISN’T IT  INTERESTING THAT IN EVERY BOOK OF THE NEW TESTAMENT THAT the Apostle Paul wrote, with the exception of Hebrews (he may have not written Hebrews), thirteen (13) in all, for his introduction he uses the words GRACE and  PEACE! Is there a subliminal message there?

The definition of GRACE is:  “a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior:”  Synonyms are: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness, lenity, leniency, reprieve.  An allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied. Cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension, freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquillity; serenity, a state of tranquillity.”

In Theology GRACE may mean “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.”

The definition of PEACE is: God’s plan for your life is PEACE!  It is “a state of mutual harmony.  The end of hostilities.  a cessation from strife and dissention.”  If you don’t have it, you may justifiably ask why.  It was understandable for Jesus to cry “with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, WHY have you  forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34 (kjv))

Jesus paid the penalty with his justifying Blood for our sin. SALVATION (1) TOOK PLACE AND (2) WAS TAKING PLACE!

Paul was the guy named Saul who went through the countryside murdering Christians.  The Lord saw fit to knock him off his horse, blinding him in order to give him GRACE and PEACE.  No wonder Paul spoke profusely of the GRACE and PEACE that Jesus gives!

“To all that be in Rome, … Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 1:7 KJV

To those in Corinth he wrote: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”   1 Corinthians 1:3 KJV

“Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”   2 Corinthians 1:2

And to those in Galatia: “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,”  Galatians 1:3 KJV

Ephesus: “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 1:2 KJV

Philippi: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 1:2 KJV

“ … Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Colossians 1:2 KJV

“ … Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Thessalonians 1:1 KJV

“Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”             2 Thessalonians 1:2 KJV

“Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Timothy 1:2

“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”   2 Timothy 1:2

“To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.”  Titus 1:4 KJV

“Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philemon 1:3 KJV

THEREFORE, THE GREAT GOD OF HEAVEN PLANNED FOR US TO HAVE GRACE AND PEACE THROUGH HIS JUSTIFYING BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST.

 

LOSING SOMEONE

LOSING SOMEONE FOREVER – MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IF IT IS BY DEATH OR DIVORCE – IS A HEART RENDING EXPERIENCE.  THE HURT IS ALWAYS THERE.  I think it was in 1935 when a Rabbi by the name of Harold Kushner wrote his book.  For many years, I misunderstood the title.   I thought it was “WHY Bad Things Happen To Good People.”  The correct title is “WHEN Bad Things Happen To Good People.”

Too often we misunderstand what God’s role is in the grand scheme of human existence.  There is nothing in the Bible (with proper understanding) that promises absolute, 100% camouflage in all circumstances. Jesus, God in the flesh said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Matthew 5:45 (niv)

Cherry picking a verse of the Bible here and there without context may leave the impression that good people will never have problems; never suffer.  Even Jesus suffered.  The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down.  Saint Paul suffered as few have and St. John was banned to the Island of Patmos.  Please carefully read the following :

“People who do what is right may have many problems, but the LORD will solve them all.”

Psalms 34:19 (ncv)

It may be that, as Elkhart Tolle wrote in A NEW EARTH:

“SUFFERING has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego.”

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”

Isaiah 66:2 (niv)

“So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you.”

Isaiah 41:10 (ncv)

THROUGH FAITH THERE IS PEACE AND STRENGTH IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR!

Where is your faith?  It may help to read Hebrews 11 again.

SCARED MELANCHOLY

SCRIPTURE

A CHRISTIAN LADY SAID, “WOW! WHAT WAS THAT? All of a sudden for no rhyme or reason, a distressed feeling came over me; a despondent, disconsolate, doleful feeling of fright and dejection, an awful down in the dumps feeling.”

Is she needing professional counseling?  Did this strange feeling of scared melancholy arise out of physical distress, maybe mental, emotional suffering?  Is there no one to help her?  I care, but I was a pastor of a church. Is there anyone out there to care?  It still begs an answer to her why!

Is it a learned helplessness in her part?

Psychology Today magazine quotes Thomas Plante: “The American Psychological Association’s yearly Stress in America study found that stress levels have never been higher, with most people pointing to the state of our national politics being the cause of their stress; it ranked higher than personal work and family troubles.  Extreme divisiveness, incivility, verbal aggression, and so forth seem to get worse by the day.  Worries about the future of our nation and society is on the minds of all. While anxiety and stress is commonplace, perhaps despondency is now setting in.”

Continuing Plante’s thoughts, he suggests a few things:

•Connect with others of like mind and do something, anything, for positive change.

•Embrace the notion that you can work to change what you can control and accept what you just can’t control.

•Reflect upon and evaluate your own values and ethical principles carefully and be sure to express them in civil ways to others.

•Minimize media exposure and inflammatory news that tends to escalate problems and worries.

•Be sure to spend time in relaxing activities such as being in nature, getting away from computer and smart phone screens, and engaging in healthy activities such as exercise and spending time with friends. [And stay away from Facebook!]

•Engage in satisfying service and volunteer activities where you feel that you might be able to make a difference in the lives of others.

•If you are spiritually or religiously engaged, increase your involvement with your spiritual/religious tradition and community.

•Get professional help if your stress doesn’t get better.  You can start with the Help Center at the American Psychological Association if you aren’t sure what direction to go to get assistance.

So, what do you think? What can you do to cope?

(Copyright 2018, Thomas G. Plante, PhD)

It is interesting that Plante suggests engaging with your spiritual community. The Psalmist encourages God’s people –

“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God – soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God!

“I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.”

Psalms 120:1 (nlt)

“The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”

Psalms 121:7-8 (nlt)  🎼🎶🎹

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

(Charles Gabriel)

BELIEVING

BELIEVING THE FACTS ABOUT JESUS IS THE BEGINNING:

•That he was a historical figure

•That he actually lived

•That he died on the cross

•That he paid the penalty

•That he is God clothed in human

flesh

•That he exists somewhere today

Under the windows of a modern stucco house is something called a check throat. It is there, ostensibly, to prevent water from hitting the wall under the window, but usually for decorative purposes.  It looks strong and stable.  On newer homes it is made of foam with stucco plastered on it.  It has the appearance of a wooden 4X6.

In reality it is foam covered with stucco for appearances.

In many concerts today, the singer/entertainer is only lip-syncing the songs. The music is recorded somewhere backstage.

What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ?

•First of all, He doesn’t talk to the back of your head

•Make the effort to turn around by saying, “I have sinned!”

•Talk to him and offer yourself to him by saying, “Lord, I may not understand it all, but here I am.”

•“Come into my heart and life, and take control.”

•“I believe you forgive me.”

HE WILL!  You are a newborn baby. Continue to walk in the light.

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

1 John 1:7 (kjv)

RIGHT BUT OVERWHELMED!

YOU CAN BE DOING THE RIGHT THING, BUT STILL BE OVERWHELMED IN THE MIDST OF YOUR STORM!

I had a church member back in the early 1960’s who had a bomb shelter.  It cost him a lot of money; money he could have used to better his life. He thought he was doing the right thing, but he WASTED TIME AND MONEY ON HIS FEAR!

Many of us, if not most, have some kind of fear; fear of spiders, animals (dogs, cats), elevators, etc.  This is the human condition.

Back in the day, the disciples of Jesus were out on the lake when a huge storm arose. (The first thing to remember about this story is that Jesus wasn’t with them.) When they were near death, they saw something or someone coming near them walking on the water.

“In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’”

Matthew 14:26 (nlt)

“But straightway Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer; it is I; BE NOT AFRAID.’ [Peter got the bright idea to walk on water, too.]

“But when [Peter] saw the boisterous wind, HE WAS AFRAID; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, ‘Lord, save me.’  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, ‘O thou of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, ‘Of a truth THOU ART THE SON OF GOD.’”

Matthew 14:27, 30-33 (kjv)

“HE WILL keep you in perfect peace as your mind is FIXED ON him: because you TRUST IN him.”

Isaiah 26:3 (kjv-paraphrase)

NEW AGEISM AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY

THE HILL, an online news group, HAS AN ARTICLE OF NOVEMBER 1, 2018, about the growing popularity of “New Age” beliefs.  The elites through the media have now given this belief system legitimacy by calling it a group, a precursor to a Church with its theological authority.   Disturbingly, the Pew Research Center poll “found 62 percent of Americans hold New Age beliefs, such as astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in trees or mountains.”  The Pew poll “found that those who identify as Christian were more likely than atheists and agnostics to hold at least one New Age belief.”

Some of my friends and associates have teased me about how I rail against some of todays Church services replete with acid rock bands, dancing across the stage, no amens and hallelujahs (only a nice little clap as in a broadway show), no basic theology, no creed, in some cases no Bible; just feel good stuff!   With the main attraction being a “Johnny Carson-Jay Leno-Jimmy Fallon-Conan O’Brien” standup comic to entertain the happy-happy crowd, as long as they are entertained  why preach & teach apologetics and basic Christian theology?

In the Old Testament Judges 21:25, “ … every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” In other words, there was no cohesive, basic belief system. They didn’t follow the Mosaic Law ordained by God Himself.

One of the worst teachings today, [in my humble opinion] is the push for prosperity and positivity!  “Send me your seed money” is one of the most recognizable.  You’ll be healthy, wealthy and wise, they say.  Another is the little cherub-angel thingies – “isn’t it so cute!”  How ‘bout Yoga!  Much of what we hear in church today is a biblically based “Tony Robbins” show.  Make sure absolutely nothing is said from the pulpit about sin, repentance, confession, the cross or the redeeming blood of JESUS CHRIST.

Here is genuine Christian THEOLOGY:

“Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!”

Hebrews 1:1-6 (msg)

“In the beginning the Word [Christ Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.”

John 1:1-2 (nlt)

“God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same: Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.”

Romans 3:22-24 (ncv)

“Jesus answered, “Be careful that no one fools you. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will fool many people. You will hear about wars and stories of wars that are coming, but don’t be afraid. These things must happen before the end comes. Nations will fight against other nations; kingdoms will fight against other kingdoms. There will be times when there is no food for people to eat, and there will be earthquakes in different places. These things are like the first pains when something new is about to be born. “Then people will arrest you, hand you over to be hurt, and kill you. They will hate you because you believe in me. At that time, many will lose their faith, and they will turn against each other and hate each other. Many false prophets will come and cause many people to believe lies. There will be more and more evil in the world, so most people will stop showing their love for each other. But those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved. The Good News about God’s kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end will come.

“False Christs and false prophets will come and perform great wonders and miracles. They will try to fool even the people God has chosen, if that is possible.”

Matthew 24:4-14, 24 (ncv)

“We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text: No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text: No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you. The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.”

1 Corinthians 2:6-9 (msg)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9 (niv)

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

1 Peter 1:15-16 (niv)

“The time will come when people will not listen to the true teaching but will find many more teachers who please them by saying the things they want to hear. They will stop listening to the truth and will begin to follow false stories. But you should control yourself at all times, accept troubles, do the work of telling the Good News, and complete all the duties of a servant of God.”

2 Timothy 4:3-5 (ncv)