Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prayer Screensavers

It’s time to clean up my Prayer Screensaver file again. This past month I have lost four of my friends and family who have gone home to be with the Lord whose faces have been on my prayer screensaver. 
What is a Prayer Screensaver?  It is close-up photos of my friends that I am particularly praying for. Usually they get on my screensaver because they have asked me to pray for them over a particular and specific matter. I then pray for them in person and ask them if I can take their picture with my cell phone to put on my Prayer Screensaver.  When I return home I put their photo into a file and point my computer screensaver to that file. Whenever my computer keyboard is not used for three minutes my screensaver file kicks in bringing before me the individual faces of people I am praying for.  Their face is held on the screen for 5-8 seconds then it cycles to the next person. It is a wonderful way to remember people in prayer.

This all began a few years ago when my church family grew exponentially to over 500 people and I was having trouble remembering their names let alone remembering to pray for them. I began taking photos of people who meet me at the altar for prayer or those who come to me for counseling. I always tell them why I would like to take their photo and what I am going to do with it. I have yet to have anyone say, ‘no’ to being on my Prayer Screensaver.  I found that this helped me get to know my congregation better and carry them in my heart daily. When our flock reached 1,500 people I could still say I knew 90 percent of them by name, and most I knew something significant about their lives that I periodically prayed for.

The Apostle Paul must have had a prayer list like a screensaver in his brain. The often said to the people he wrote to, “I give thanks to God upon every remembrance of you, making mention of you in my prayers…”  (Ephesians 1:16)  This is more than simply praying over a list. Paul waited for the Holy Spirit to bring a person to his mind (his screensaver) and whenever they came to mind he would pray specific prayers for them. 

It has been amazing over the past five years to see how God orchestrates my screensaver to bring people’s faces to mind at the right time. Often one person’s face is randomly brought on to my screen over and over again. I take that as a cue that the Lord is calling on me to pray for them. So, I pause and lift them up before my Father in heaven. Often I will see those people later in the week and let them know that they were heavy on my heart on such a day and hours. It is amazing how often it is at that hour they were in some particular need.

Some people stay on my Prayer Screensaver for a year or until God answers their particular request. Others are then for only a month. About every six months I update my Prayer Screensaver with new and updated photos and new faces I am praying over. 

I keep files of people I have prayed for so I can pull them back into my screensaver whenever I sense God leading me to do so. I have files of my Brazilian friends, files of my immediate family, church families, individuals in crisis, sick people, close friends, and people who have shared very private personal prayer requests with me.

There are times in my devotions when I sit in my devotional chair away from my desk and pray for each person as their face appears on the screen until my heart is satisfied that I have carried their burden to the Lord.

Scripture References:

Ephesians 1:16 
I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

1 Thessalonians 1:2
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

Philemon 1:4 
I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Forgotten Hero of the Titanic

There is a seldom told story of a lone hero of the Titanic. In these days of commemorating that horrible loss some 100 years ago this weekend, I thought it good to pass on to you some good news.

It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the ship's launch, it was the world's largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship's starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in.

On board the ship that night was John Harper and his much-beloved six-year-old daughter Nana. According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, John Harper immediately took his daughter to a lifeboat. It is reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could have easily gotten on board this boat to safety; however, it never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent down and kissed his precious little girl; looking into her eyes he told her that she would see him again someday. The flares going off in the dark sky above reflected the tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate humanity on the sinking ocean liner.

As the rear of the huge ship began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen making his way up the deck yelling, "Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!" It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually the gargantuan ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people.

That night 1528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Mr. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. Rev. Harper asked him between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not.

Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said, "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris.

Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how that after John Harper had led him to Christ. Mr. Harper had tried to swim back to help other people,yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were, "Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Does Hollywood remember this man? No. Oh well, no matter. This servant of God did what he had to do. While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends..." John Harper was truly the hero of the Titanic!

Author Unknown. Sources for this article:
"The Titanic's Last Hero" by Moody Press 1997," John Climie, George Harper, & Bill Guthrie from "Jesus Our Jubilee Ministries" in Dallas, Oregon

Monday, April 16, 2012

Give Thanks! God Is For Us, Not Against Us

The Prayer of Jabez is my prayer for the year. I have prayed it, and plan to continue to pray it, every day of the year. But here’s a thought let’s turn the Jabez prayer from a moaning and groaning prayer of “Oh, that God would bless me indeed” to a thankful cry, “Oh, God you have blessed me indeed.”

Most of us spend our lives wishing for the favor of God. ”Oh that you would bless me!” is often the cry of our hearts when we pray. But in reality we walk about with a mental shroud of gloom and rejection. We don’t feel blessed. We often feel cheated and shortchanged by life. We don’t’ feel like God cares all the time.

We are like Joe Btfsplk form the Li’l Abner cartoon by Al Capp:

Joe Btfsplk, the world’s worst jinx, had a perpetually dark rain cloud over his head; instantaneous bad luck befell anyone unfortunate enough to be in his vicinity. Though well-meaning and friendly, his reputation inevitably precedes him, so Joe is a very lonely little man. He has an apparently unpronounceable name, but creator Al Capp “pronounced” Btfsplk by simply blowing a “raspberry”, or Bronx cheer. Joe’s personal black cloud became one of the most memorable images in the Li’l Abner cartoon strip.

Let’s get rid of the cloud of gloom and doom that so often follows us around. Let’s give thanks for what we do have and what God has done.

We are children of the King. We are joint-heir with Christ. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Let’s think like it, act like it, feel like it, live like it. There is a reason God chose to call us “believers.”

What is it we believe? Our thoughts betray us. If we are feeling like paupers it is because we are not believing what God says, but rather what the enemy has sown in our cheated hearts.

The Scripture says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What are you thinking in your heart today? The Apostle Paul exhorted us give thanks in everything, and for all men. He goes on to instruct us in having the mind of Christ.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

A great exercise for the grumblers and complainers among us it to begin the day with an extended time of thanksgiving – nothing else. Then covenant with God that for this 24-hour period you will “put a muzzle on it,” that is, you will not complain, grumble, criticize, or bemoan anything. What a day that will be! And what a wonderful transformation it will bring to our feelings and our families. Try it, you’ll like it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Passover Reveals Jesus Christ

The Passover Seder and traditional Haggadah (the order or readings of Passover) is rich in meaning and message for the believer and unbeliever. It truly does, “SHOW THE LORD’S DEATH, UNTIL HE COMES.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The word “SHOW” here is the Greek word “kataggello” means “Preach the Message.”

When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and the Passover, which was the original Last Supper, we “PREACH AND PROCLAIM CHRIST,” until he comes again. Consider some of the hidden meanings behind the traditions of the Passover Haggadah and Seder.

Searching for Leaven

Leaven in Scripture is almost always a symbol of sin or as the Rabbis say “the evil inclination”. Putting away of Leaven is a picture of sanctification. The Hebrew word for Leaven means bitter or sour. So it is with sin in one’s life. Paul said, “But let a man examine himself first, and then let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.”“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:” – (1 Corinthians 5:7)

Lighting of the Candle

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) and again, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:4-5), and again, John 1:11 “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:11)

The Cup of Sanctification and Blessing (1st Cup)

Symbolic of the honor of being a chosen people of God. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Peter 2:9)

Washing of Hands

So Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. (John 13: 4-12)

The Cup of Redemption (3rd Cup)

Then Jesus took the cup of wine, which would have been the third cup of the Seder – the cup of redemption. He said that it was the new covenant in His blood “poured out for you.”


Three matzahs are put together (representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The matzah itself is designed to represent Jesus, since it is striped and pierced, which was prophesized by Isaiah, David, and Zechariah.


The middle matzah is broken, wrapped in a white cloth, and hidden, representing the death and burial of Jesus.

* * * * * * * The Passover Lamb * * * * * * *

Choosing the Lamb

Jesus came into the city ofJerusalemfive days before the lamb was killed in the temple as the Passover sacrifice for the sins of the people ofIsrael. Five days before the lamb was to be sacrificed, it was chosen. Therefore, Jesus enteredJerusalemon lamb selection day as the lamb of God. The people did not understand the significance of this, since they greeted Him with palm branches and hailed Him as King, shouting “Hosanna,” which means “save us.”

Without Blemish

The New Testament says that Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a “male without defect,” which is the same description given to Jesus. In addition, when the lamb was roasted and eaten, none of its bones were to be broken

The Shofar Blown – The Lamb is Slain

The day Jesus was crucified was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shophar (ram’s horn) at 3:00 p.m. – the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people ofIsrael. At 3:00,when Jesus was being crucified, He said, “It is finished”- at the moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shophar was blown from theTemple.

The Veil of the Temple

At the same time, the veil of theTemple(a three-inch thick, several story high cloth that demarked the Holy of Holies) tore from top to bottom – representing a removal of the separation between God and man.

Sang a Hymn

This included Psalm chapters 115-118 and was called traditionally the Great Hallel. Therefore Psalm 118:24 actually refers to the day of Christ’s crucifixion “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” But by application we can use it today, and every day. Psalm 118:22-24 says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Next Year in Jerusalem

The Seder customary ends by every one saying: “Next Year inJerusalem!” — Believers should say, “Maybe next year in the New Jerusalem (heaven). Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The sands of time have passed and blown across the desert of our minds often clouding our remembrance of the events of the crucifixion and resurrection story. In by-gone eras families often read the Scriptures together and just about everyone attended Good Friday Services. Today the importance is placed on personal experience to the detriment of historical record. It is good to remember, rehearse, and rejoice in the historical and miraculous events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Take some time this Holy Week to review, reread, and reflect on the Lord’s death. He told us to “remember his death ’til he comes.”

Matthew 26:47-28:20 (114 verses) Mark 14:43-16:20 (96 verses)
Luke 22:31-24:53 (149 verses) John 18:1-21:25 (138 verses)
(A synoptic Gospel combining all elements = approximately 200 verses)

1. Basin – Jn 12:4-5, Mat 27:24
2. Bone Unbroken – John 19:36
3. Chains of Barabbas – Matt. 27:16, Mark 15:15, Lk 23:18, John 18:40
4. Clock – 3rd to 9th hour – Mk 15:33
5. Cross – Luke 23:26
6. Crown of thorns – John 19:2/ Mt 27:29/ Mk 15:17
7. Cup Pass from me – Matthew 26:27, 42, Luke 22:42, John 18:11
8. Dice – Lk 23:34/ Jn 19:24/ Mt 27:35/ Mk 15:24
9. Ear – Mk 14:43
10. Gavel – Luke 23:24
11. Grave clothes – Luke 23:53 /24:12/ John 19:39
12. Halladah – Matthew 26:17
13. Hammer – Mt 27:35
14. Honey comb – Luke 24:42
15. Hymn – Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26
16. Lips – Mt 26:48-49/ Mk 14:44
17. Matzah Bread – Matthew 26:26, Luke 22:7, Luke 22:19
18. Nails – Mt 27:35
19. Napkin – Jn 20:7
20. Net – John 21:1-12
21. Noose – Mt 27:5/ Acts 1:18-19
22. One Angel – John 20:12/ Mt 29:2-6
23. Perfume – Luke 23:56/ John 19:39
24. Pieces of silver – Mt 27:2-9
25. Pillow – John 13:23
26. Plaque “King of the Jews” – Lk 23:38/ Jn 19:19/ Mt 27:37/ Mk 15:26
27. Purple robe – Lk 23:11/ Jn 19:2/ Mt 27:28/ Mk 15:17
28. Purse – Luke 22:36
29. Rock – Lk 23:53/ Jn 19:41-42/ Mt 27:59-61/ Mk 15:46
30. Rod/reed – Mat 27:29-30/ Mark 14:19
31. Rooster – Lk 22:60/ Mt 26:74/ Mk 14:72
32. Rope for hands – Mt 27:2/ Mk 15:1
33. Sandals – Lk 24:12/ John 20:3-4
34. Scull – John 19:17/ Mt 27:33/ Mk 15:22
35. Seal for tomb – Mt 27:62-66
36. Sop bowl – John 13:26-30
37. Spear – John 10:34
38. Stone of tomb – Luke 24:2/ Mt 28:2
39. Sword – Luke 22:50/ Mat 26:51/ Mark 14:47
40. Sword – Mt 26:47/ Mk 14:43
41. Tears in bottle (wept bitterly) – Matthew 26:75, Luke 22:62
42. Two Angels – Jn 20:12
43. Veil of temple – Lk 23:45/ Mt 27:51/ Mk 15:38
44. Vinegar & sponge – Lk 22:36/ Jn 19:29/ Mt 27:34/ 27:48/ Mk 15:23
45. Whip – John 19:1/ Mark 14:15
46. Whip – John 19:1/ Mark 14:15
47. White robe – Jn 19:23-24/ Mt 27:35
48. Wine & Two Cups – Luke 22:17, 20
49. Wood fire – Lk 22:55

So what is the use of listing all this material objects of the Easter Story?
Much in every way, if we use them the way God ordained for Israel to tangibly remember the events of the Passover. The Passover was not just a meal but a celebration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt by a mighty hand. In that remembrance are objects incorporated into the meal to make it memorable. That is why when Jesus partook of the Last Supper with his disciples (that was the Passover) he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

In Remembrance of What?
It was to be like the original Passover with specific remembrances of the Lord’s death and resurrection. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christians today would mimic the Passover Haggadah Service with our own remembrances of Christ’s death and resurrection? I think it would make it more real to the generations to come and remind all of us that these were real events in the real world.

As with the Passover Haggaday (Seder) ceremony it ought to have the past historical look and the present reality of our salvation through the blood of Jesus, but also the forward look of expectation of the Lord’s return. Let us “REMEMBER HIS DEATH UNTIL HE COMES.”

Maybe next year we will be in heaven.
“Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!”
Revelation 22:20

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thinking About Easter - Part 2 - Calculating Easter's Date

Have you ever noticed that some years we have snow on Easter and other years it is almost May before Easter rolls around? No, it has nothing to do with global warning. It is a calendar thing and an early Easter won't occur again on March 23 until 2228 AD. I don't plan on being here.

A more important question, even a frustration to me, is why Easter is out of sync with Passover? Passover is the whole point of Easter. Jesus died on Passover that year. It was, as always, celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It seems like it would be a simple thing to keep Easter aligned with the Jewish Passover, but alas, it is not. Easter can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25. This year, Easter and Passover are a occurring at the same time, and that is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Why? You ask. I am glad you asked. I am going to tell you.

The Jewish Calendar
It all has to do with calendars and the sun and moon. The Jewish calendar was, and is, based on the moon and has only 354 days. Don't ask - it's just the way it is. Since that cycle does not come out even the calendar tends to fall behind, so Jewish Rabbis add an extra month, a leap month every seven years. That becomes the month of Adar II. You guessed it. There is a month of Adar I, which occurs just before Nisan, the month that has Passover. So now you know the reason that Passover moves around from year to year.

Council of Nicea
Now bring in the Christian Church, which wanted to celebrate Easter on Sunday, not on Passover which can be any day of the week. So, in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea the subject came up for debate. They set out another formula for calculating Easter (not Passover) based on the sun, not the moon. (Way to go guys!) They mandated Easter to be the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal (spring) equinox, or March 21 (sometimes it's March 20).

The Julian Calendar
At that time (325 A.D.), they used the Roman Julian calendar, which was established by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. and wasn't very accurate either. The Julian calendar had fallen out of alignment in measuring solar years (keeping months aligned with seasons).

By 1582 everyone was frustrated about Easter and calendars in general. The Julian calendar had fallen ten days in arrears, so that, for instance, the day of the vernal equinox, which should have been March 21, was really March 11. Easter kept getting earlier and earlier each year. No one wanted Easter at Christmas. To remedy the Julian calendar errors it was necessary to omit ten full days in order to bring things back to the proper point.

The Gregorian Calendar
In the year 1572, Pope Gregory XIII realized there was a calendar crisis - one of Christianity's most important dates was falling behind with respect to the seasons. As a result, Pope Gregory XIII ordained that ten days in October, 1582, should not be counted, the fourth of that month being immediately followed by the fifteenth.

Pope Gregory determined that the year should begin with 1 January, and he ruled that three leap years should be omitted every fourth century. He made a couple of other changes to try to resolve the calendar problem like adding a leap day on February 29 every four years, and the rules for the positioning of Easter were changed.

To complicate matters even more, much of the world was not Catholic so they did not recognize Pope Gregory's (Gregorian) calendar so they continued with the Julian calendar. Great Britain did not come to recognize the Gregorian calendar until 1752, the year George Washington was born. In the Julian calendar his birthdate is Feb 11, 1731 and in the Gregorian Calendar it is Feb 22, 1732. Thus in the colonies 10 days had to be omitted that year, so some people were not born - just kidding - some people lost their birth date that year since 10 days went missing.

Gregory's omission of ten days - instead of the twelve that had been lost under the Julian calendar - restored the vernal equinox to the 21st of March, the date set by the Nicene Council. However, under this system the equinox varies between the 19th and the 22nd.

Back To Passover and Easter
So, Easter and Passover are no longer linked by an ecclesiastical mandate that forever sends them drifting in different directions. That is why in 2008 Easter and Passover are separated by nearly a month. And this year, 2012 Passover is the Saturday before Easter

It really is a shame that this has happened in that many people make no connection between Passover and Easter. Month after month during the year we have Communion without ever thinking the Jesus instituted that the Communion service as a memorial to what he did - that is, it is a memorial to the Passover Lamb who was slain for our sins and who three days later rose from the dead triumphant forever over death and hell through the power of the cross. I urge the church and pastor everywhere to restore Passover to the church traditions "in remembrance of Him."

That can be done by yearly inviting a Messianic Jewish pastor or layperson to lead the church in celebrating the Haggadah or Passover Seder. The Haggadah is the order of service for the Seder that includes all the historical traditions and emblems that speak of the Messiah in Passover. You can also do it without a Jewish guest by downloading a simple Haggadah with instructions on foods and preparations, and specific instruction for the leader, and reading and songs to be used in the memorial service. I just downloaded my Haggadah from a wonderful web site that let's you fine tune your own Seder service. There is a do-it-yourself Haggadah available as an App on iTunes (it's free) or you can go to at www.DIYseder.com and build your own Seder. How about this weekend (anytime Thursday to Saturday) you invite some family and friends over for a mini-Haggada Seder in your home? It will start a new, but very old tradition that Jesus used when he celebrated the Last Supper in the upper room.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Passover in 2012 will start on Saturday, the 7th of April
and will continue for 7 days until Friday, the 13th of April.

Note that in the Jewish calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day,
so observing Jews will celebrate Passover on the sunset of Friday, the 6th of April.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thinking About Easter

Have you noticed how weird Easter is? Can you imagine how bummed out we'd get if Christmas came at a different time each year, like maybe November 22, nearer to Thanksgiving one year, then the next year it ends up being after December 25? Now that would really get the retailers upset. But Easter, well let's just throw that baby wherever we want, you know, just so long as it is in the spring. How would it be if we treated July 4th with such disrespect? Think about it.

I used to not think about it at all, so it didn't bother me. Then I remembered that Jesus died the week of Passover right after he ate the Passover meal with his disciples. So, I assumed that Easter was chasing Passover like the Easter bunny and that for solar and lunar reasons it came at a different date each year. Hmm… not really. Did you ever notice that sometimes Easter's date isn't any where near Passover? That's right. Sometimes they are nearly a month apart. Sometimes Passover comes in March and sometimes in April.

What perked me up to this fact was this year I thought it would be cool to do a Passover Seder here at home with our family. So, I asked Google when Passover was this year. Guess what? It's April 7, this Saturday, the day before Easter. Wow! Now that is cool. So, you can have the Passover Seder on Friday evening on Good Friday (or Saturday if you like) and still celebrate Easter as if the two were connected somehow.

Dah, they are connected! Easter is about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead three days later. It happened on Passover (or the night before) when Jesus gathered his disciples in the upper room to have the Last Supper, which was the Passover supper that commemorated the Jews escape from Egypt and God's protection of His people from the last plague. Remember, the angel of death was to kill all the first born children in Egypt. God gave them strict orders to eat the Passover meal as a memorial of God's provision of a lamb's blood through all generations. It is to take place every year on the 14th day of Nissan or the Jewish calendar.

So, why is it so hard for the Church to get its act together and celebrate Easter the Sunday after Passover? It's not that hard. (We'll explain more about this in our next blog.) Just follow Passover, which, by the way, is full of meaning for what Christ did in offering himself as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The blood of the lamb had to be put on the lintels and doorposts of each Jewish home as a sign to the angel of death that this home was covered by the blood, and thus protected. Wow, what an amazing message!

We are going to muse on Easter/Passover question all this week.

But while we do I just want to give you a head's up about Passover being on Easter Saturday this year. Why not consider following the last steps of Jesus during this Holy Week and celebrating Passover with a mini-Seder (we will publish one here) with your family on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Hunger Games - The Last Word

I've been thinking on GALATIANS:

I've been camped out in Galatians this week as we discussed "The Hunger Games." I read it through in one sitting, marked out verses to memorize and meditate on, listened to a couple of sermons on Galatians, and got inspired wanting to preach my next series on GALATIANS and Christian Freedom -- (Anyone want to come to my youtube church of the open pulpit?)

Anyway, that got me thinking about "holiness" and God's standards of conduct for me personally, and all of us in general. So I did some pulling up of Scriptural phrases that came to mind and realized how often God calls us to a higher standard than the world around us. God calls us to be holy because he is holy. That is not a legalistic holiness that comes from rules and regulations but a holiness of heart that says, "Lord, I want to be like you!" It makes you go, "hmm..." So, today I just want us all to reflect of God's mirror for holiness, his Son, Jesus Christ. First I will give my favorite verses from Galatians, then just some random verses on holiness, not to condemn us, but to call us to be like Jesus. The first and last words of any discussion should be God's Word. Here are some of my favorite verses from Galatians:

Galatians on Liberty & Freedom

Galatians 1:3-4

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 4:8-9

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

Galatians 5:1

1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13

13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:16-17

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Galatians 5:19-21

19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22-24

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Galatians 6:12, 14

12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Ephesians on Holiness

Ephesians 4:17-24

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 5:3-12

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in thekingdomofChristand of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

Peter on Holiness

1 Peter 4:3-5

3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

1 Peter 2:16

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

2 Peter 2:19-22

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." Hebrews 7:26 Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

James on Holiness

James 1:21

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the (overflow of) evil that is so prevalent (depravity and desire to injure) and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 4:4

4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?

The Corinthian Letters on Holiness

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit thekingdomofGod? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit thekingdomofGod. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 12 "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 8:13

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

1 Corinthians 10:22-31

22. Do all to the glory of God. 23 ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things build up. 24 Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others... 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between thetempleofGodand idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." 18 "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

2 Corinthians 7:1

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Miscellaneous Holiness Passages

1 Timothy 4:1-2

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

Hebrews 12:14

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Jude 1:21-25

Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. 24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Revelation 18:4

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Hunger Games"- Part 3 -- My Next-to-the-Last Word

My purpose here has not been to endorse the books or the movie, nor is it to censure others from reading them or seeing the movie, but to share this young person's testimony of how the books, principally the third book, adversely affected her spirit and conscience.

It is not my purpose to review the books or the movie but, based on secular and Christian reviews of others, suggest some caution and restraint and ask some serious questions that need healthy debate.

I realize that many believers read a wide range of books and view many types of movies about which they feel defensive and offended when anyone suggests that this kind of entertainment might be spiritually unhealthy, unwise, or just dangerous to the soul. I suppose it is only natural to defend our habits and customs. After all, is it not a question of personal freedom and our liberty in Christ?

Yet, I am concerned when well-meaning Christian leaders not only indulge in such entertainments but by their words and recommendations encourage others to do so as well. Are we not concerned about the weaker brothers who might not be as judicious or discerning as we are and might be sucked into the world's blood lust? Are we approving that which is evil, or at least questionable, with the hope that some good may come of it?

In our personal lives my wife and I have set boundaries for ourselves regarding what we allow ourselves to read or view. We have on occasion walked out of movies that we felt were on the dark side, sensuous side, or where profanity was particularly vulgar or repetitive. Sometimes books and movies are not what they are alleged to be. Reviewers sometimes hide the truth from us. At other times we have thrown away expensive books we have purchased thinking them to be harmless but finding them uncomfortable to read in the presence of our Savior.

That doesn't make us better or more holy than others. We have Christian friends who are appalled to see our movies and books that offend their sensitivities and convictions. We don't try to force our convictions or our boundaries on others, nor do we try to convince more strict believers to loosen up their standards. We all stand and fall before the Lord for the things we allow to enter our lives. We will all give an account to God for the things done in this life.

I urge every believer to make specific personal boundaries regarding what they will or will not allow their eyes to see, their ears to hear, and their minds to think on. Boundaries should also be set by the parents for their children. I urge every believer, male or female, to make a covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1) that they should not feast on what will not be allowed in heaven. I believe those convictions and boundaries ought to have their roots in specific Scriptures that define holiness. (Have we forgotten about the "holiness" principle? "Without holiness no man will see the Lord." - Hebrews 12:14) Then let the Holy Spirit who dwells in you lead your conscience by the "still small voice" of his whisper. (Isaiah 30:21)

I find it particularly ironic when well-meaning friends tell me I should read these books and/or see this movie before making a judgment about it. To me that is like saying you should not judge a brothel until you have been inside to see whether it is evil or not, or that I should not judge drugs or alcohol until I have indulged in it personally. Or maybe I shouldn't censure pornography until I have investigated the magazine or visited their web site to judge it first hand.

Think about it! If I know from reliable and multiple sources that a thing is questionable at best and dangerous at its worst, why should I subject my soul to its evil in order to cast my vote?

Friend, I choose to steer clear of these things personally, not for some legalistic rule, but for the care of my soul. What I see, hear, and read does affect my soul. I have enough wickedness within me. I don't need to feed it from without. I know there is a beautiful side to evil or else it would never be tempting. When someone says it's evil, dark, sensuous, wicked, or horrific, why should I go anyway just to prove a point?

And if I go just to prove whether it is good or evil for me, then I might be inadvertently be encouraging another believer (or unbeliever for that matter) to also go and test their soul with the temptation to view evil and fill their mind with its images. I choose to steer clear of it so I am not influenced by its evil images that I can never erase from my mind. I practice abstinence for my own safety if not for the safety of others. That is not legalism - that is practicing "safe sense."

Now for the book and movie at hand, "The Hunger Games." Should I go to the movie or read the books? I have read many reviews on the books and the movie. (Beware that you do not assume that because the movie is not as gross as the book it is somehow innocuous. Many have told me that now that they saw the movie they want to buy the books.) All of the reviews, secular and Christian, warn that this movie is "graphic, raw, intense, violent, disturbing, visceral, and with scenes of children killing children."

When Stephen King (remember him, the king of horror?) says it is "violent and jarring" and he couldn't put it down," that in itself ought to warn me away from it.

When Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight Series (Vampire books and movies) says, "I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading. The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it..." That ought to be a clue to the true nature of the book's allure.

When Time Magazine says, "The Hunger Games and Catching Fire expose children to exactly the kind of violence we usually shield them from." I take notice and shield my children and grandchildren from it.

When the New York Times reports the movie contains scenes of "…brutal child-on-child violence and death….in a rapidly cut massacre that pits boy against girl and finds youngsters killing and falling and dying in a frantic, fragmented blur…" I for one do not want to flood my mind and soul with those images.

When all reviews of the movie (and the books even more so) report it to be questionable material that walks a fine line between light and darkness, it is dubiously beneficial for those who delve into it, and it is by all definitions "disturbing." I for one chose not to subject my soul to it, let alone my family and friends.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am really not upset with Hollywood. I expect Hollywood to produce this kind of entertainment. It's what she has always done. She serves her master. Whoever heard of Hollywood holiness?

What concerns me most is the church's response to this kind of entertainment. There seems to be a wholesale abandonment of holiness in a blind rush to see this movie and then read the books. Is the church of Jesus Christ saying, "I want this kind of stuff!" or "I love this kind of entertainment!"?

What are we saying by our entertainment choices? Are we in love with the world and the things of this world (1 John 2:15) or are we in love with Christ and his righteousness and true holiness?

What ever happened to "holiness"?
Whatever happened to "friendship with the world"?
Whatever happened to "separation"?
Whatever happened to Christian "liberty"?
Whatever happened to the "weaker brother"?
Whatever happened to the "Scriptures as the rule for faith and practice"?

ho has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth? (Gal 3:1)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For my final comments on this issue don't miss tomorrow's entry
which will be Scripture itself speaking… See you later.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Hunger Games"- Part 2

OK, let me continue. At the expense of upsetting friends and families let me continue on "The Hunger Games" musings. Please remember this is not a review of the movie or the books but a commentary highlighting one young person's experience of the books and the impact they had on her heart and life.

My response to my friend

Wow! That says a lot to me. You've read the books. You have seen and felt the sinister nature of evil as it gradually sucks you in to the beauty and romance of an evil thing.

It's like the frog being heated in the kettle that doesn't perceive the gradual rise in temperature until its too late, you didn't perceive the preponderance of evil until the last book.

How true that is to the nature of evil. Evil is beautiful or we would never be attracted to it. It entices us, that's how it gets its hooks into us. Who would have thought that believers seeing children killing children would applaud or even stay in the theater?

Call me old fashioned, or call me a prude, but give me Jesus. I agree with the Apostle Paul when considering what I can and can't allow myself to do. "All things are lawful for me, but I won't be brought under the power of any." (1Cor. 6:12) Sure, as a Christian I can go to see any movie. I can, but I shouldn't. I need to always remember that I must give an account of myself to God for things done in the flesh, both words and actions.

I don't think these books or the movie The Hunger Games is on God's reading list or favorite things to do in our spare time. I can't imagine my Savior who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of heaven." would sit through an enactment wanton children killing children.

I don't think that movie will be showing in heaven any time soon.

Thanks for the heads up. I read several reviews, secular and Christian: the Christian Science Monitor, Christianity Today, USA Today and several others. Interestingly only one questioned the sinister nature of children killing other children, and it wasn't a Christian review!

Her Second Response

And it's so true that evil is beautiful...before I really found Christ, I'd read and seen so many evil things, but they were so attractive to me...glittering, even, and I know that that is the danger in paranormal things being thrown at us in this culture.

I understand that a lot of people (most people, even) are not as bothered by those things as I am now, as they have the mindset that the paranormal things in this world aren't really all that dangerous, and that vampires and werewolves don't actually exist, and so the book they're reading or the movie they're watching is merely fantasy.

Well, maybe vampires and werewolves aren't real, but demonic influences certainly are, and it would seem that that's been a forgotten thing.

But honestly? I've come to expect believers being lenient on the subject of paranormal entertainment. That's not how it should be, but it seems to be that that's just how it is anymore. But with this book, for me, there is no gray between the black and white...no "Is this really wrong?" which is why I've been so frustrated...

A few weeks ago, I had gotten into a bit of a (healthy) debate online over Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games with someone, and I went back and listened to the sermon you gave on God in the home, the sermon that started it all for me with changing what I viewed as entertainment, titled "His Presence in Your Home", I believe.

I discussed it with a friend, and she then listened to it as well (again), and we both agreed with the thought, "How is it that we were some of the only ones who felt convicted by this?"

What was said about demonic influences being in our homes was *so* straightforward to the point where you can't just run away from it, without confronting it...but that's what so many people did, and do now when you discuss the same thing with them, including The Hunger Games.

So many people (or in this case with this particular book, *every person*) I have encountered who have read the book choose to look at the glittering, glamorous side and ignore the inexcusable, horrific side.

Pastor, I saw what you posted earlier, and I fully expect a lot of excuses to be flying your way...because the books *are* incredibly well written, and that's just part of what pulls you in.

This might sound a bit drastic...and I can't think of any other way to put it, other than to say that it's almost as if the series puts a spell on you. I get an eerie feeling thinking of it that way now, but...Once you're in, you're in. It's as if there's a supernatural pull with these books...

By the grace of God, I crawled my way back out, but so far, I seem to be one of the only ones.

* * * * * *

Hopefully we have only couple more commentaries on this, then let us put this to rest. Coming soon… Oh, I'll look for a link to the sermon she mentioned and notes from the same.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Suzanne Collins’s trilogy “The Hunger Games”

I love a good movie, even better, a book you can’t put down. I tend to like adventure movies and war movies – man-movies. I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, and I tolerated The Lord of the Rings for Tolkien’s allegory of spiritual truths.

But I draw the line at books and movies that glorify evil for the sake appealing to our baser instincts. There is a beautiful side of evil that entices and allures us as if by some mystical spell. Movies and books that exalt sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and witchcraft are off my pursuit list. They are clearly Satan’s territory and I believe Christians should not walk into the enemy’s territory deliberately. It is hard enough to be pure from the evil within let alone feeding our fallen natures with such stuff.

But not all movies and books have such clear-cut lines of demarcation. The recent blockbuster movie Hunger Games, based on the trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins is such an example. I understand the books are well written and cleverly crafted to suck you in to the story and produce an addiction so strong you can’t wait to get into the next book. It has the same strong allure as the Harry Potter Series, but without the witchcraft factor.

However well written we must remember that these books are written by a children’s writer and are listed as children’s books. They are well written and that is commendable. But what lies stealthfully hidden beneath the fa├žade of an adventure tale is the hidden message of murder and gratuitous violence. The scenes of carnage in the book are even more visceral than in the movie, which itself is quite realistic and visual, and leaves the scenes embedded in ones memory and psyche for some time.

I have not read the books, nor have I seen the movie. I might have except for heartbroken cry from an older teen who is a recent believer who did read the books, all three, and felt unclean and violated afterward. She wrote to me asking me as her pastor why believers and even pastors have gone wild over Hunger Games. The following is her description of her experience with the books.

I have her permission to share this with you.

Pastor Dick...I've been wondering about your thoughts on something.

I'm sure that, being on Facebook, you've heard mention of The Hunger Games, a new movie coming out tonight actually, based on a popular book series.

I *have* read these books. I'd read the first and second before I sifted through my books a few years ago, and at the time that I went through my books (to clear out and burn the trash of vampires stuff), my copy of the first was lent out to a friend, and so I didn't include it in the pile that day, and since that one wasn't included, I didn't include the second either.
After that point, the third book came out, and I proceeded to read it...I wish I hadn't. The moment I finished it, I had to take it out of my room; I didn't want to be anywhere near it. It was so disturbing on so, so many levels, and just thinking about it now makes me sick to my stomach.
I'll admit, I was enamored by the first 2 in the series...and the way they're written sucks you in and leaves each book on a cliffhanger so that you can't read just the first, you have to read all 3...and getting to the end of book 3 is like a slap in the face, and you're just hit with "What on earth have I been reading?" Or at least, that's how it was with me. Book 3 opened my eyes to how entertained I'd been about *children* murdering each other as sport, and I was disgusted, ashamed even, to realize how very "into it" I had gotten.

Immediately, my views on the books changed, and I began discouraging everyone I could *not* to read them: there are images in my mind from these books that I wish were not there, and that I don't wish upon anyone else.

Pastor Dick, I'm finding myself so, so discouraged at seeing how this series is spreading like wildfire through the church. And so far, I'm the only person I know who's read the books, and feels the way I do. I do know 2 people who read book 3 and felt the way I did, but with all of the movie hype, they just don't care anymore, and that frustrates me so greatly!

A lot of people say that the series has a good political message...but in my opinion, that is not justification for many of the scenes in these books, and for the "love" of them, and the excitement over them. My soul is grieved each time I see someone else hop in line to read The Hunger Games...and even more when I see the excitement to see them come to life on the movie screen.

I feel like for whatever reason, God has given me some level of discernment when it comes to books and movies...but this is the first time I've found myself standing alone, especially in the church, in my thoughts on a book. It's just very discouraging to me...and I suppose I was just wondering what you think of all of the hype.
What you think of the series, even if you haven't read them, if you think I'm being dramatic or crazy in my fervent discouraging of the books... I'm seeing raves about the series from people I'd have *never* expected to support them, and it makes me wonder if I'm just being silly...but something tells me I'm not. I can just feel that my spirit is *so* unsettled by all of this. I just can't believe that I'm the only one who sees these books this way...

It gives you some pause and some food for thought. We will continue with this theme for a few more posts... Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oaks of Righteousness

It's spring and I've been thinking about planting, which led me to think about things in Scripture related to planting. Usually my brain clicks off several Scriptures from memory related to planting, but you might want to do a word search of the word "plant" or "planting" and see what you find.

Here are a few of my own:

Psalm 92:12-15
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him." -

Psalm 1:3
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Isaiah 61:2-3
…to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

* * * * * * *

Jesus came to do Isaiah 61:1-3 in our lives. He said so in his introductory sermon in Luke 4:18-19. Here is what he came to exchange in us:

Crown of Beauty - instead of ashes
Oil of Gladness - instead of mourning
Garment of Praise - instead of spirit of despair

The result of exchanging our gloomy attitudes for the mind of Christ is that we will called …

Oaks of Righteousness,
the planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Yesterday I took my first spring bike ride by a nearby lake. I noted the trees were not yet in full bud so you could really see the structure of each. I couldn't help but notice some pretty ugly gnarly old trees. I took a picture of one because it reminded me of some old people who become misshapen by life's storms and just stand around displaying their hurts for all to see. Then I read about the Angel Oak tree in South Carolina. Now that's what I want to look like in old age. Read about it…

"The Angel Oak has come symbolize Charleston. It is a Southern live oak located in Angel Oak Park, on Johns Island near Charleston. The Angel Oak is estimated to be in excess of 1500 years old, stands 66.5 ft (20 m) tall, measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet (1,600 m2). From tip to tip Its longest branch distance is 187 ft.

The Angel Oak Tree is thought to be one of the oldest living things in the country. The land where the Angel Oak Tree stands was part of Abraham Waight's 1717 land grant. The City of Charleston now owns the property. The Angel Oak Park is free and the tree should be added to any visit to Charleston, Kiawah or Seabrook Islands."


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Danger of Sitting in Ashes

Isaiah 61:3 -- “to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”

Ashes are things of the past that didn’t work out. They are our ruined dreams. They are the things we once cherished that got burned up.

Ashes turn to lye when it gets wet. Lye is a powerful alkali that can be created using rain water and wood ashes. Lye created from wood ash is potassium hydroxide. Lye is very dangerous and extreme caution should be used when making or handling lye. Lye should never come in contact with aluminum as it will react with the metal. Lye can cause chemical burns if it comes in contact with your skin, and blindness if it gets in your eyes. In fact, when you get lye on your skin, it will begin reacting with the fatty acids on your skin and begin making soap. If you get lye on your skin you’d better get it off in a hurry. Use vinegar to neutralize the solution.

How often we are prone to sit in the ashes of our own misery and soak up self pity. Our tears turn our ashes into toxic lye that is corrosive to the beautiful crown God has bestowed to us in Christ. It is time to exchange those ashes for a crown of beauty. A flood of thanksgiving is the best way to wash away and neutralize the “lyes of Satan.” (pun intended). “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) The truth of God’s word always sets us free. So let’s all soak in bountiful verbal thanksgiving for 10 minutes every day and we will find the ashes turning acid to medicine. “A merry heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)