50 And Counting!

Friday:

Every year seems long to me. Yet every year has its joys. Every year has its difficulties. One week from today, God willing (and the creek don’t rise) I will have lived 50 years. I am writing about it today because I’ve made the decision not to write next Friday, and the Psalm designated for today’s readings, as I approach a half-century of living, has encouraged me to reflect on my own joys and difficulties. I don’t make it a habit to be so introspective at this time (I generally leave that for New Year’s Eve), as I much prefer to simply enjoy a birthday so close to Christmas, mixed with rest and festivities. I believe Psalm 40, a thanksgiving for deliverance and prayer for help is a perfect example of Alpha and Omega. Years (in terms of the physical) have a tendency to flip-flop and sometimes they start out very good and end very badly. Other years begin very badly and end very well. Either way, no one can argue God’s faithfulness through it all. I have come to more fully recognize my own way of thinking on the matter in that there is no specific place (physically) that I need (as oppose to want) to be because God is everywhere. Any road I travel will be filled with joy and pain (prayerfully more joy than pain). My goal is to reach beyond that physical (Philippians 3: 12-16), and then put it into practice, and not simply to merely understand that it exists. Who am I but a vehicle for God’s Word, a vessel for His Spirit. In spite of myself, God chose me any way, knowing my weaknesses. He knew that through Him, I am capable of surviving them all. God knew that my day would come when I learned the true meaning of freedom, power and authority. God knew that I would learn to trust in my faith and to have faith in my trust in Him. God knows who I am. We all have that day (as opposed to other days if you know what I mean). Everyday he gives to me, is an opportunity to change my way of thinking. I know for myself that when my own child reaches higher understanding I am so pleased. If I can feel this way for my own child, how much more will God be pleased with me? God willing and the creek don’t rise, 50 doesn’t look so bad. Praise be to God!

Psalm 40:1-3; 16-17 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord… But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’ As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. 

When The Bridegroom Comes

Thursday:

No doubt, we grow tired from waiting. We grow anxious. If something takes too long we get worried. We begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, the “something” that we’re waiting for is not going to happen, even when we are assured that it will. We all have experienced events that didn’t happen within the time we expected and while we were waiting all kinds of interference took place. Today I am remembering the story of Jesus falling asleep in the boat while he and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). When Jesus became tired he took the time he needed to rest. Even as they were waiting to get across the sea through a storm, Jesus slept. We often forget that physical rest is very important in this journey. We know that one day a year we celebrate Christ’s birth. One day a year we commemorate his death and one day a year we rejoice his resurrection. Throughout the rest of the year we are awaiting his coming in Glory. Amidst the pushing and the shoving, the constant attacks and distractions and the rising and calming of storms, our preparation for the coming of Christ will need to include some rest! If we have an intimate relationship with Christ, the peace of God within us is the faith and confidence we have to take the rest we need as we wait, even in the midst of those storms. When the bridegroom comes, will we be ready?

Matthew 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise…As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.. 

Season Of Love

Wednesday

Some might say this world is a mess. I say the world is beautiful just as God created it. It’s the people in the world who are a mess with their thoughts and actions against one another. Even in this season of Love, people still find a way to mess that up. If we just listen to the news there is more than enough hateful acts to break the spirit of any of us (if we allow it), sadly, even from those of us who say there is a God. Who then is the faithful and wise servant (Matthew 24:45-51)? The core of Christ’s message is love (love God, love neighbor as self, Matthew 22:36-40). At the heart of Christ’s message of Love is relationship; how we treat one another. If there were ever a time to be more tolerant, forgiving, patient, or kind (aspects of love), wouldn’t the celebration of Christmas be one of those times? Whatever our beliefs, whatever to which, we claim to be faithful; now is the opportunity to let our love prevail. On the 70th birthday celebration of a very dear Aunt, she shared some words that will remain with me forever. “No matter what they do, or whatever (ridiculous, stupid, painful) decision they make, I’ve simply learned to love them more.” We were speaking about our children, but as a person of faith I believe “they” could be anybody.

Psalm 53 They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.

Matthew 22:36-40 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Matthew 24:45-51 ‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves* their allowance of food at the proper time? 

Keeping Awake!

Tuesday:

During this advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we are reminded a lot about preparation and keeping awake for the return of our Savior. Particularly, today’s reading warns us to not be caught unprepared. This morning I am remembering the story about Jesus cursing the fig tree because it had no fruit (Matthew 21:18-22). It seemed awfully unfair to render such harsh punishment especially since the fig tree had no way of knowing that a hungry Christ would come strolling along its path. Although the question could be asked, “whose responsibility it was to tend to the fig tree,” I can relate to the humanness of Christ who experiences hunger, desire (to be fed), and the frustration and anger when his expectation is unfulfilled. What I also see is that when his disciples question him, he essentially assures his disciples and us, that we are not the fig tree! I know for myself, had I witnessed this experience, my initial thought would be; “If Christ would do that to a fig tree, what might he do to me?” The last thing I would want to do is disappoint someone who has that kind of authority. Yet in hindsight I know that there are situations I’ve met in life where I have fallen short of God’s expectation. Apart from this fact, Jesus says; “By faith, we have that same authority.” Life is not without disappointment and living is not without expectation. Thus, I believe the message to stay awake is not simply about living according to God’s Word because quite frankly there are many “unproductive fig trees” in the world. We have to be able to recognize those unproductive situations that may ultimately cause us to be unproductive. Instead, we are encouraged and reminded of the authority we have by faith in Christ to “move them out of the way,” because our purpose and goal is very clear. Don’t give away your authority through Christ. Keep Awake!

Matthew 24:32-44 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what dayyour Lord is coming.

Matthew 21:18-22 ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea”, it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’

Celebrating The Gift

Tuesday:

I have always believed that the pathway to the cross is straight and the ground at the foot of the cross is level ground. The moment we accept Christ we become new creations but our trials don’t cease and they are not unique (1Corinthians 10:13). It may seem to us that we travel a curved road but in reality every experience we have is exactly the path we were intended to take. When we learn from the experiences along that path we move closer to that sacred ground. Otherwise to not learn from the experience simply keeps us bound and in place, never really understanding why and never really reaching our spiritual goal, that being peace and reconciliation with God. It is important to know that it is not God’s desire that anyone should remain stagnate and perish (2Peter 3:9), without understanding his love for us, but rather for everyone to be saved through Christ (1Timothy 2:3). God gifted us with his son for this purpose. Christmas may be the season we celebrate God’s gift, but everyday of our lives is an opportunity to celebrate having truly received his love and salvation, expressed in our heart, mind and soul.

Psalm 26:11-12 But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.

There are times when we feel like we have to break down brick walls, but true peace comes when we allow God to simply move them out of the way.

Tell Your Story

Wednesday

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all have obeyed the good news for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ (Romans 10:8-18). Guided by the Holy Spirit, tell your story of praise, for in hearing your testimony through Christ, others might come to believe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Give Thanks

           Ruthmarie Brooks Silver

 How many times a day do you give thanks to God above;

Talk with Him and praise Him and pray for those you love?

“Oh, I’m a busy man,” you say, “I’ve this and that to do.”

Well, God is pretty busy, too, but He has time for you.

We all have lots of things to do, but so does God, my man.

He cares for you and helps you, so give thanks when’re you can.

You’ll find that He’s the truest friend that you will ever find.

Just talk to Him and you will see that you have peace of mind.

I wonder if you’ve ever thought of things He’s given you.

He asks for nothing in return but goodness, faith and truth,

To work for your neighbor as well as yourself and bring happiness where you go,

Be kind and gentle and loving and strong – it makes Him happy, you know.

Do you thank Him for the birds and flowers and trees and grass and soil?

Do you thank Him for your life, your job, your strength so you can toil?

Do you thank Him for the food you eat, the water that you drink,

The right to breathe, to walk and run, to sleep, to talk, to think?

Do you thank Him for the sunshine, the wind, the snow, the rain,

The coat you wear, the songs you hear, the relief you get from pain?

Do you thank Him for the air, the moon, the stars that light the sky,

The car you own, the books you read, the plane in which you fly?

You must admit there are, sir, many things you’re thankful for.

Well, He asks for just one minute, one minute and no more.

And since He is your truest Friend, go see Him on His day;

Get on your knees, fold your hands, shut your eyes and pray.

How many times a day do you give thanks to God above;

Talk with Him and praise Him and pray for those you love?

Well, my busy man, that answer’s really up to you;

But just remember this, sir; He has time for you.

Luke 17:11-19 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.

Commitment

Monday:

Physically speaking, a broken commitment doesn’t have to be the end of the world, as we know it. When Jesus is questioned about the legality of divorce (Matthew 19:1-12) he has one answer for the Pharisees (because of their impure thoughts) who try to test him and another for his disciples who desire a deeper meaning.  When we make a commitment, we need to understand what it is, to which we are making the commitment. God’s commitment to us is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1Peter 1:4-5). By faith we enter into this relationship accepting that while the world will make excuses for breaking any “committed” situation that seems inconvenient or uncomfortable, our faithful commitment to Christ will today and in the end, be abundantly rewarded with the salvation of our souls. Regardless of the circumstance, every day the decision is ours to be committed to God because we know and faithfully believe that God is committed to us. Everyday I will give thanks, for God’s faithfulness is always true.

Matthew 19:1-12 …and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

1Peter 1:1-12 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Joel 3:1-2, 9-17 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.

Bless The Child

Thursday:

“You can’t raise a grown child,” is a very popular saying, particularly among parents with grown children. The saying makes perfect sense in light of Jesus response to his disciples concerning who is the greatest in God’s Kingdom. The most influential time in my life was when I was a child. I pretty much believed whatever I saw, whatever I heard and whatever I learned. It didn’t necessarily mean that all of it was true, all that really mattered was what I believed and until something else came along to change that belief, that was what I knew. I believe it is during this time in our life when we are the most vulnerable, take the most risks, and are willing to accept by faith alone that what we are learning in our immediate environment is part of who we are. Most importantly control is not a significant issue because we depend on our immediate environment (home-life relationships) to shape our life. When we finally make the commitment to live a life in Christ, our immediate home-life relationship is now with Christ and all those aspects of childhood become important in this journey. Our growth in the Kingdom of God on earth is dependent on our ability to believe and have faith in God’s authority in our new life as a new creation in Christ, ready to be mentally, spiritually and physically changed. It is at this time when the Seed of Life is falling on fertile ground.

Matthew 18:1-9 ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Art Imitating Life

Wednesday:

I remember in my much younger years I was afraid of the book of Revelation. I had seen the movie “The Omen” and was certain that Revelation was not a book in the bible that I wanted to read. I was okay with that until my first year in college and foolishly watched the movie again, this time with a friend who made light of the movie while I secretly feared for my life. Didn’t he understand that stuff was real! How is it that he thought the movie was funny? Several sleepless nights went past when almost suddenly as I lay motionless on the bed, I heard a voice quietly say “read the book.” I didn’t get up immediately, but the following day the words never left my head. The next weekend I made the decision to read the book and wouldn’t you know it, the makers of that movie got it all wrong. They managed to pull a few things from the scriptures but mostly what they managed to do was scare me into believing a bunch of half-truths. No wonder my friend was laughing. For the life of me, I don’t know what I was afraid of. To this day I do believe in principalities (Ephesians 6:12), but I’ve never looked at another movie in the same way. We have to know what the bible says (with use of divine inspired interpretation) for our selves in order for it to affect our lives positively. The only way to do that is to pick it up and read it. Most assuredly, it’s not the words that we should be afraid of!

Nehemiah 7:73 – 8:1-18 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation… And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the book of the law of God. (The Israelites, after being freed from Babylonian captivity)

Psalm 119:105  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Matthew 13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.