Thursday, January 22, 2015

Freedom From the Rat Race of Life

“Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down by destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength before going out to face the world again.”
- A.W. Tozer, Of God and Men
We can find ourselves caught up in our own pursuits
which in the end will take us nowhere.  

      Idleness is the Devil's workshop they say.  There is a lot of truth to that.  Extreme busyness can also be the Devil's workshop.  How many homes might still be together if a father or mother had not spent so much time at work that was beyond what was needed?  Many people seem to be proud of the long hours they spend at their jobs.  There is a satisfaction in earning money with your own hands which is good and proper.  The danger comes when busyness puts us in a rut where we can't even stop to value the things which are most important.  This is a danger that Jesus spoke of in the parable of the sower. He explained the soul threatening dangers of several groups of people. The group that relates well to this subject of busyness is the seed that was planted among the thorns.  I tell people that this group looks like America.  Of course, the meaning of it can be seen universally.  Jesus explained the meaning of this group by saying, "And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful" Mark 4:18-19.

     Different people have different situations when it comes to quiet time with God.  I remember a saying that went like this:  Those that love the "church" come to fellowship on Sunday mornings.  Those that love the pastor come to fellowship on Sunday evenings.  Those that love the Lord come together on Wednesday night prayer meeting.  I couldn't help but recognize from some of my own observations that there was some incidental truth to the saying, especially in the first two observations.  There is a danger of making another tradition out of "going to church." There can become a perception that rest of the week belongs to us.  We will find a greater satisfaction in giving God our whole week.  Going to some meeting or program is not what we need to be closer to God.  There is an undue pressure to make people feel guilty for not making it to every program.  For some, there are distractions everywhere, and coming to a program set up by a church fellowship might be just what is needed.  It could act like an oasis of quiet time in their busy lives.   Others might find themselves so divided in their time with religious programs that it takes what little time they might have with the Lord.  The programs could become a care of the world if they are not careful; this is especially true because of the nature of many church services today. For those in this situation, it would be better to scale back the programs and dedicate some time alone with God in His Word. 

     We all have the same amount of hours in a day.  Many of us tend to be very busy.  Those that have a greater demand from others have to space their activities closer together or have more things to say "no" to.  When I was a child, I desired to play piano.  It was suggested that I take lessons from a woman who was great at playing piano, but also known to be very busy.  It was decided by my parents to not ask her because of the consideration of the tight schedule the lady already had. From the considerations made in that decision, I remember my grandpa saying that if you want something to get done, ask someone who is already busy.  They'll get it done. This is speaking of the good character of many that are busy.  It is good to be busy with good things.  It involves wisdom to know what things we should be busy about, and then we all have to decide what to say "no" to.   Let's pray for wisdom.  Let's purpose to say "no" to things that would take time from things of higher purpose.  Business owners recognise that things like social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can hinder their success in business by robbing time from their business activities.  This can also be the case with all of us when it comes to our quiet time.   May we purpose to make a quiet time to be alone with God to be refreshed from Him who gives us living water.  We will find if we weed out those things which cause us unneeded cares that there will be a fruitfulness about our lives as God's word prospers in our lives unhindered by those weeds.  Let's find that quiet time with Him in order to be refreshed so that we may do great things!

The author of the following story is unknown.  It illustrates how Satan could use busy lifestyles.
The Devil’s Convention:
Satan called a worldwide convention.
In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, ’We can’t keep the Christians from going to church.’
‘We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.’
‘We cannot even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can’t gain that relationship with Jesus Christ.’
‘This is what I want you to do angels …
Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!’
‘How shall we do this?’ shouted his angels.
‘Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,’ he answered. ‘Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.’
‘Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children.’
‘As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!’
‘Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.’
‘Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.’
‘Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so the husbands will believe that external beauty is what is important, and they will become dissatisfied with their wives. Ha! That will fragment those families quickly!’
‘Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week’.
‘Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead.’
‘Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.’
‘Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus.’
‘Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.’
It will work! It will work!
It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.
I guess the question is has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge!
Does ‘busy’ mean: B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-oke?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seeing Through And Not Just With The Eye

This past year, I saw an amazing, cloudy sky that gave me a sense of awe.  The colors could not be described with my limited vocabulary.  I snapped a picture of it.  The camera could not capture the true beauty of that sky.  As I considered the beauty of it, I thought of an atheist friend who loved taking pictures of the sky and posting the vividly colorful  photos on his social media site.  He possessed a real appreciation for color.  I thought of how color cannot be explained by vertical Evolution.  The world could function quite well without color, yet our Creator gave us color to enjoy and appreciate.  I suppose God could have given us just enough sight to grope along and not bump into things, but instead, we have been given the ability to even see things like the distant stars.  After I had gazed into that bright, cloudy sky, I thought of the thoughts of a song writer who wrote these words thousands of years ago:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
     I realized that God was sending messages to my friend that could be found in the sky if only he would have the eyes to see them.

     A poet, William Blake, described how people can see things, but miss them this way:

"This life's dim window of the soul
Distorts the heavens form pole to pole
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye."

     Jesus spoke of how eyes can see things and yet the mind is not always able to see what is seen.  He, the Creator of the eye, asked His disciples, "Having eyes, see ye not?"   They had just seen some outstanding miracles, but still did not grasp those things that He wanted to teach them. 

     When you look into the eyes of a friend, you can usually tell some of how he is thinking about you because the eye has a way of communicating.  The eye is directly connected to the brain.  It is as if it is part of the brain.  When you see the eyes of someone, it is as if you are looking at the brain.  They are like a window of the mind.  John Bunyan in his classic book, The Holy War, spoke of an entryway to the soul of man called Eye-Gate.  Christ spoke of the powerful influence of the eye, and used an illustration of it to help us understand why we need to direct our attention towards Him.  He said,
 "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" Matthew 6:22-23.
It is sin that causes people to be unable to see God.  In our current state, we cannot see God and live, but when Christ returns and changes our bodies we will be given eyes that will see him. (1 John 3:2)
     Saint Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus.  He saw a great light that caused him to be blinded.  While he was blinded physically until he was prayed for by a believer, his spiritual eyes were opened in that encounter with Christ.  In that encounter, Christ gave him a mission to reach the Gentiles and stated this purpose to him...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Elijah's God Still Lives

[For a number of years I have received papers in the mail with true accounts like this.  They are written by an older gentleman who goes by the name of Brother Norman.  He writes these articles for his local newspaper which prints them regularly. I am sharing this one for readers of this blog to enjoy also.
- Ron]

In the early 1920's a group of seven young Chinese Christian men sailed to a small island off the coast  of China to evangelize the fishing village of Mei-hwa.  It was a pagan village, the people being devoted to the worship of ancient idols that were venerated by their ancestors long ago.  As far as was known, only one Christian lived in the village---- the mid-wife lady, and it was through her urgent invitation that this missionary evangelistic team was there.  The oldest of the seven young men and the leader was destined to go on to become a well known figure in the persecuted Christian church in China and a prolific writer; many of whose books have been translated into English.  His name was Watchman Nee.

     For days this enthusiastic team of evangelists mingled with the people at the market place, preached on the streets, passed out Christian literature, but the best response they could get from the people of the village was just an aloof politeness.

    Finally the youngest of the team, Kuo-chig Lee shouted at the crowd in frustration, "Why don't you people believe on the Lord Jesus?"

    "Oh, we do believe in our great king, Ta-Wang.  He never fails us."

     Kuo-ching questioned the people further about this god and he learned that every year on January 11th they held an elaborate festival to honor Ta-Wang.  They took his massive idol from its temple and paraded it through the streets. They feasted and rejoiced and made music and worshiped this idol.  They had done this for 286 years and Ta-Wang had always provided them with beautiful weather for that day.  It had not rained on January 11th for 300 years, they boasted. 

     Impulsively Kuo-ching cried out, "Then I promise you that our God, who is the true God, will make it rain this year on January 11th," he announced in a loud voice.

      The crowd took up his challenge. Say no more," they replied, "If it rains on the 11th then this Jesus Christ you speak of is God and we will listen to what you say about Him.  Now we will see."

     When the seven evangelists were all together again and Kuo-ching related what he had done, there was much consternation among them.  For one thing, January 11th was only two days away.  For another thing, this was one of those parts of the world where dry periods and rainy periods were fairly predictable---- and this was the dry period.

     Watchman Nee's first thought was to chide Kuo-ching for his impulsiveness, but instead he went aside to pray about the matter.  As he prayed, he thought of the Biblical account in I Kings, chapter 18, of the prophet Elijah challenging the priests of the false god, Baal. He proposed that both he and they would build an altar---- he to Jehovah God and they to Baal.  They would lay out wood on both altars for fuel and sacrifices on top of the wood, but neither would put fire to the wood.  "The God who sends fire to consume His own sacrifice, let Him be God," Elijah challenged. The Baal worshipers went first and yelled themselves hoarse for several hours praying and chanting and begging Baal to light their fire.  All to no avail.  Elijah first called for barrels of water to be poured over his sacrifice---- making it more difficult to burn---- then prayed a brief prayer of calm faith... and whoosh! Heavenly fire suddenly consumed water, wood, sacrifice and even altar stones!  God whispered to Watchman Nee's spirit, "I still live, I can do this."

     January 11th dawned bright and clear.  Not a cloud in the sun-lit sky.  The festivities began as planned.  The pagan priests got their idol out and started up the street with it.  Everything was set up for a triumphant celebration that would demonstrate the superiority of Ta-Wang over the "new" foreign God.

     Suddenly a huge rain drop was heard hitting a tile roof.  Then another and another!  It was a tropical deluge.  The priest toting Ta-Wang slipped and fell on the rain slick street.  Poor Ta-Wang hit the pavement so hard he broke his head and one arm off.  By the time the rain stopped, water stood in the streets level with the porches on the houses.

    Undaunted, the pagan priests patched up Ta-Wang and said they had made a mistake and the feast was supposed to have been on the 14th that year.  But at exactly the hour they named for the festivities to start on the 14th, another torrential downpour began and Ta-Wang got another undignified soaking.

     The power of false religion was broken on the island of Mei-hwa and a great number of people responded to the Gospel, resulting in a strong church.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Come, Desire of Nations, Come

When Christ first came, few recognized Him
as King, but when He comes again every
knee will bow.
     Economic ruin, crime, and politicians that make it an occupation to lie are a few of the news items we've grown accustom to.  I don't think it is just me that is ready for a change for the better.  It is exciting looking back in history and seeing times of revival where whole towns were transformed.  The broken homes were healed and vices like gambling and alcohol lost their grip on peoples lives.  These things happened because Christ came into their towns and became their Prince of Peace.  When Christ first came to this earth, he came as a servant and showed us how to live.  When he comes the second time he will come as King.     
"The government shall be upon His shoulder" Isaiah 9:6
    When things are put on the shoulder they are usually very heavy.  Christ took the heavy burden of the cross for us upon His shoulder.  This verse is the antithesis of that because Christ's shoulder in this verse is the symbol of authority.  And unlike Moses, who said he was unable to manage a great number of people, Christ is up for the task.  As we see the princes of this world say," Let us break His bands and cast away His cords from us," the Son promises that He will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.  The warning to the rulers of men is to "kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little."  To those who humble themselves before Him they find that He is the Prince of Peace.  He came as a baby in swaddling clothes, but we will see him a man with clothes of royalty and hair that is white.  The baby in a manger is the Ancient of Days and reigns supreme. My favorite Christmas carol, Joy to the World, cries out this time of year with the words: "Let every heart prepare Him room."  Our hearts need lots of room because He has a big throne.

     The carol, Joy to the World, is not even about the first coming of Christ, but his second.   I think Joy to the World is my favorite carol because it is expresses the rule of Christ in present tense and as you sing it thinking about the words it gives the feeling of things being made right even now .  It is a little bit of a foretaste of things to come. This carol brings perspective on the first coming though.  It makes us stand in wonder at the power that Christ reserved and leaves us with the knowledge that He rightly should have been received with gladness rather than rejected.  He will yet get the glory His is due as another carol, Hark the Herald Angels, says, "Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!"  and "Come, Desire of Nations, come, fix in us thy humble home."  How humbling it is that He would make my heart His Home!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Value of Pumpkins

      This year our family has really appreciated pumpkins.  We didn't grow them this year.  Perhaps we appreciate things more when they are not as available.   I've thought in the past that pumpkins were not the best choice as a food because they have such a large seed cavity, and do not have as much flesh as squash.  This is not to say I don't like pumpkin.  I do have pleasant memories of making homemade pumpkin pie with real pumpkin years ago. It was the best pumpkin pie in my memory.  At a farmers market I was given a bargain on a big pumpkin this year.  I took it home for $1.  It decorated our front porch for a while.  Memories of that excellent pumpkin pie from years ago would not allow this pumpkin to just go to waste.  I taught my sister, Hannah, how to bake it, and pulverize it so it could be used as pie.  She has made lots of pies from canned pumpkin, so after showing her how to pulverize it, she was on own and she baked up a number of excellent pies.  Our family was starting to get used to having pumpkin pie for days.  I didn't know how good a "big" pumpkin would taste, but as pie, this big pumpkin was just fine.  Usually people use small pumpkins known as pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins for baking purposes.  Then I was given pumpkin flesh from an even bigger pumpkin.   This pumpkin was huge and probably reached my knee in height.  I was concerned that the taste would not be as good because it had a more stringy texture.  Hannah went to work with this also, and more pumpkin pies were made.  These came out very good too.  It was looking like pumpkin pie would become a staple in our home.

     Then there are the seeds.  These are a powerhouse of nutrients!  Pumpkin seeds have lots of vitamin E, magnesium, and are well known for their zinc content.  I have bought the seeds without shells at a grocery store and have even grown the type that does not have shells, but was not aware until recently that you can eat seeds from pumpkin and squash without shelling them. I always pictured the shells to be woody.  The pumpkin and squash shells are not overly chewy, and they contribute more zinc to the diet than the seeds alone.  I put them in our toaster oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit  and they make some very good snacking seeds.  Our family grew lots of winter squash this year, so I tried the squash seed also.  They came out good, but they are a lot smaller and pop as they bake.  Many seeds popped outside of the baking pan!  The pumpkin seeds did not pop like the squash seed did, but both came out excellent in flavor and crunch.  I'm so glad we planted lots of squash this year, but I'd like to plant some pumpkin next year now that I know how much I like the big pumpkin seeds!

    Pumpkin flesh contributes around 300% of your daily requirements of vitamin A per half cup serving.  That is impressive when considering how hard it is to get large amounts of nutrients from all natural sources. You can use pumpkin flesh to make pie, pudding, bread, or pancakes like you would canned pumpkin by baking and pulverizing it.  We started out by cutting the pumpkin in half and scooping out the seeds and stringy pulp. We baked our pumpkin for about an hour and half in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a pan with about half an inch of water with the cut side down.  We then scooped the flesh from out of the pumpkin shell and put it in a blender.  A food processor would probably work better.  The pumpkin is ready to use just like you would canned pumpkin at this point. The extra could be put in storage containers to freeze.  We just put the extra in the fridge and kept making pies for days on end, and everybody was happy with that. 

How I wish we had grown pumpkins this year!

If you have suggestions for using pumpkins, you are welcome to leave comments.  Thanks!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Reformation on Halloween

This is a sign in front of a local church building.
I believe we would do well to replace
Halloween with a more worthy cellabration.
   The title "A Reformation on Halloween" is not an indication that I believe we should somehow clean up some of the grosser sins in the celebration of Halloween.   I would say from the outset of these thoughts that Halloween is not something to be reformed, but rather abolished altogether.  We live in a world where truth is mixed with error, and people are afraid to give up traditions they've grown up with to the peril of their conscience, their souls, and their children.  The Word of God is made of no effect through tradition that is all around us.

      The believer in Christ is set free from the law of sin and death.   Halloween is the celebration of sin and death.  According to Solomon, those that hate God's wisdom love death.  Contrasting that, it is only logical that those that love wisdom also love life and do not glamorize sin and death.  Halloween is the epitomy of glamorizing sin and death in our culture. It is a "holiday" that celebrates deceit, not honesty; trickery, not kindness; fear, not love; death, not life; the prince of darkness, not the Prince of Peace.

      I believe in the doctrine of replacement.  It is the concept of overcoming evil with good.  (Romans 12:)  Years ago, when I was yet a youth, my family would join other families on October 31st to celebrate Reformation Day.  Reformation Day is a day to celebrate because the Reformation has changed our world for much good by making the knowledge of Scripture more widely known.  We would do a skit of Martin Luther pounding the 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  This day is the same day that is celebrated like as if it was the Devil's birthday. I believe it is good to replace the day Halloween with Reformation Day.  The publisher of the calendar on my wall had the right idea.  On the 31st of October, where Halloween is printed on many calendars, it says "Reformation 1517."

     Halloween is characterized as a time of fear.  The fear of  the creature is of the Devil. Perfect love casts out fear.  Fear of the wrong things is not a small mistake.  Jesus said, "And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him."  During Halloween, there is an emphasis on blood and an attempt to give the fear of death.  People seem to take some kind of pleasure in these things.  A Christian embraces life, not death.  Death does not have the victory.  Jesus demonstrated this in His resurrection.  The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will also do the same for all that have faith in Him.  We can say,  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Which? A Poem About the Value of Children

What value is in a child?  The following poem from McGuffey's Fourth Reader gives a story of a couple that were very poor with seven children.  They found themselves in a position where they were given the opportunity to give up one of their children in order to get material gain.  They looked at each of their children before giving their reply. They found themselves refreshed by considering the blessings they had.  Here is the poem simply entitled:


by  Mrs. E. L. Beers
Which shall it be? Which shall it be?
I looked at John-- John looked at me;
Dear, patient John, who loves me yet
As well as though my locks were jet.
And when I found that I must speak,
My voice seemed strangely low and weak;
"Tell me again what Robert said!"
And then I, listening, bent my head.
"This is his letter:"

"'I will give
A house and land while you shall live,
If, in return, from out your seven,
One child to me for aye is given.'"
I looked at John's old garments worn,
I thought of all that John had borne
Of poverty, and work, and care,
Which I, though willing, could not share;
I thought of seven mouths to feed,
Of seven little children's need,
And then of this.

"Come, John," said I,
"We'll choose among them as they lie
Asleep;" so, walking hand in hand,
Dear John and I surveyed our band.
First to the cradle light we stepped,
Where Lillian the baby slept,
A glory 'gainst the pillow white.
Softly the father stooped to lay
His rough hand down in a loving way,
When dream or whisper made her stir,
And huskily he said: "Not her!"

We stooped beside the trundle-bed,
And one long ray of lamplight shed
Athwart the boyish faces there,
In sleep so pitiful and fair;
I saw Jamie's rough red cheek,
A tear undried. Ere John could speak,
"He's but a baby, too," said I,
And kissed him as we hurried by.

Pale, patient Robbie's angel face
Still in his sleep bore suffering's trace:
"No, for a thousand crowns, not him,"
He whispered, while our eyes were dim.

Poor Dick! bad Dick! our wayward son,
Turbulent, reckless, idle one--
Could he be spared?  "Nay, He who gave,
Bade us befriend him to the grave;
Only a mother's heart can be
Patient enough for such as he;
And so," said John, "I would not dare
To send him from her bedside prayer."

Then stole we softly up above
And knelt by Mary, child of love.
"Perhaps for her 't would better be,"
I said to John. Quite silently
He lifted up a curl that lay
Across her cheek in willful way,
And shook his head.  "Nay, love, not thee,"
The while my heart beat audibly.

Only one more, our eldest lad,
Trusty and truthful, good and glad--
So like his father.  "No John, no--
I can not, and will not let him go."

And so we wrote in courteous way,
We could not drive one child away.
And afterward, toil lighter seemed,
Thinking of that of which we dreamed;
Happy in truth, that not one face
We missed from its accustomed place;
Thankful to work for all the seven,
Trusting the rest to One in heaven!

     Of special significance to me is that this poem tells of a family of seven children which is the number of children that my parents had.  My grandpa on my Mom's side came from a family of eight children.  One of them was my great-aunt, Aunt Liz.  When I was a caregiver to her I'd ask her questions about her childhood.  Her mind was keen and she had some wonderful stories to tell.  Sometimes, when you heard the stories of her or Grandpa, you'd  wonder how any of them lived to adulthood.  I didn't want her story to be lost and I asked her to write our family history down so it wouldn't be forgotten.  She took a notebook and wrote down what she thought was important.  She finished the story by giving a tribute to her mother who raised them alone because  her husband died while the children where young.  This was her tribute:  "She had everything in order, and believed God took care of all our needs and provided everything."   I really like the way she ended her story. It ends much like the poem above.  It is the heritage that I would like to pass on.