God’s Light

Genesis 1.1-4 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

1 John 1.5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

God is pre-existent, from eternity past to eternity future. As humans, we cannot have a correct concept of eternity, not having been existent before we were born.

We cannot have a correct concept of light, either. God created the heaven and the earth, and there was darkness. He created light. It’s not that God created light for Himself, because He is light. No, God created light for us.

Maybe, when Adam and Eve were created, and perfect in the Garden, maybe they could see God’s light. Maybe their bodies were shimmering with light. Maybe that’s why, when they sinned, they were able to see that they were naked: their own light had darkened, and they were ashamed. And their eyes were darkened, and they couldn’t see God’s light any more.

God knew from eternity past that He would create us, and that we would sin. He knew that we would not be able to see His light, that we would need the light that He created for us.

He knew what we would need to live on earth, while we waited for eternity with Him. He provided everything.

All of creation cries out with God’s handiwork. All of this He did for us, an outpouring of His tenderloving care for us. It’s not just the light that He prepared. He also prepared a way for us to see His light again:

John 8.12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Jesus is our light (because He is God, and God is light) and our salvation.

Today may we celebrate the light God gives us through His Son, Jesus Christ. May we celebrate His light we have in our hearts through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Above all, may we celebrate God, Himself, Who is worthy of all praise and adoration!

Resurrection Sunday Thoughts

Alleluia, He is risen!

As I read through the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection, questions and thoughts race through my head. Are you like that?

After Jesus died, one of the Roman soldiers was awed at Jesus and His cry, and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15.39) Was that soldier still there after they took Jesus’ body off the cross? I think of that hymn, The Old Rugged Cross; it was stained with blood so divine. What became of that cross? Did the soldier take it home with him? Were there miracles wrought through that blood, to believers? Was that soldier humbled? Did he follow Jesus? Was he one of them who saw Jesus after He resurrected?

Jesus was laid in the tomb. Joseph had been compelled to offer it, at a great monetary cost to himself and family. How did that come about? What was his backstory? How did he know about Jesus, and why did he “happen” to be there? And, it was foretold in Isaiah 53.9: And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

When the women arrived Sunday morning to embalm Jesus, there were angels, telling them, “He is not here!” The Bible tells about angels rejoicing. How much emotion do angels feel / demonstrate? Were they anguished and weeping at Jesus’ crucifixion? When Jesus said that He could call upon more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26.53), were they there in an instant, ready to defend their Lord?

Mark 16.19, 20: After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked through them, confirming His word by the signs that accompanied it. After Jesus was taken up into Heaven, He worked together with the disciples. What does that mean? The Holy Spirit had not yet been sent. Was His Spirit with them in this special way?

And what of the disciples? For three years they had walked with Jesus, learning from Him, extracting everything He wished to give them. They believed He was The Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16.16). Jesus had evaded the authorities many times, but then He was taken and crucified. He didn’t come down off the cross when taunted (Matthew 27.38-44; Mark 15.36) – although I think the disciples believed He surely could have, maybe wondered why He didn’t. Then He died. He actually died. They could see He was dead, and buried.

But then came Sunday! He is risen!

I cannot fathom the wild range of emotions the disciples swung through, trying to keep up with all Jesus was showing them. They implicitly trusted Him, tried their very hardest and best to understand. In the meantime, they obeyed. They just put one foot in front of the other, wherever Jesus said to walk, and they went.

And, just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit came alongside them, inside them, explaining and giving peace and direction and joy and understanding. And power! Such bold preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and God our Savior!

And now Almighty God is inside each of us as believers! May we be as bold and knowledgeable (with the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2.16) and as wise as the men and women of the Bible, all of whom God gives as examples.

And may we keep wondering and examining His Word.

The Beginning and the End (and the End) of Egypt

Genesis 46.3, 4a And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:  I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again

God tells His story in so many ways. We’ve got the whole Bible; and we’ve got His Spirit; and we’ve got past and present circumstances.

In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve sin, and are cast out of the Garden of Eden. Also, they are prevented from eating from the Tree of Life (a blessing, so that we are not condemned to living in sin forever).

In Genesis 46, God appears at night, in a vision, to Jacob/Israel. He tells Israel not to fear to go down into Egypt, for God will go with Him; and that HE WILL BRING HIM BACK AGAIN.

Because Egypt is often given as a symbol of sin, I see this as a picture of the human race entering the sinful world. BUT, we are promised that God will go with us. And He is! God is with us in so many ways: Bible, Spirit, circumstances, each other…

Then, in Exodus, God leads them physically out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. I see this as a picture of our salvation. The Israelites were in bondage, and could not save themselves. God brought them out. Once in the Promised Land, the Israelites had to fight for their Promised Land, just as we must fight the spiritual battles raging all around us. I think of Philippians 2.12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; we must, once God has gifted us with salvation, work out that salvation by reading His Word and obeying His Truth.

In Exodus 12.11, God gives Moses and Aaron specific instructions on how to eat the Passover: And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S Passover.

And verse 15: even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.

Having recently read Matthew 24, (you can read it here) I couldn’t help but draw comparisons:

  • God’s people were to search for and clean out any leaven from their homes. Leaven symbolizes sin. We are to clean our lives of sin by confessing and repenting.
  • They were to be ready: loins girded, shoes on their feet. The Lord would call for them at any moment! We are to be ready for the Lord’s return at any time. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24.16-20: Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:  Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:  Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.  And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!  But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day
    • Be ready for the Lord always. He is with us right now, always; but He is coming again to take us home.

The Israelites were going to the Promised Land. So Jesus will take us to His promise: His Heavenly home to live with Him forever. Our final trip will be unlike the Israelites’ arduous journey, filled with complaining and dangers. We will rush to meet Him in the air (Genesis 46.3, and I will also surely bring thee up again and John 14.2, 3 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.), joyous and finally, finally, fulfilled with perfect peace.

It is Here, with More to Come: Be Ready

I read the Denison Forum this morning, and my first thought was deep dismay. Oh, how we have fallen, and turned away from God! My heart grieves.

Dr Denison presents some interesting headlines, and comments in an unbiased manner. He then outlines what we, as Christians, may do in response:

  1. Read God’s Word
  2. Speak God’s Word in truth

I would add another: Pray. Pray without ceasing. Lift all this up to our Heavenly Father. Lift Him up in praise. Ask for wisdom and discernment, for yourself and for those in authority. Fall on your face before Him, confessing our sins, and claiming His mercy and forgiveness.

Here is the link to Dr Denison’s article:

A Case for Membership

A Case for Membership

Are you a member of a church? Not just an attender, but a bona-fide, signed-up member?

To join, or not to join?

Or, maybe you’ve never thought about it. Sometimes people don’t even consider church membership; it’s not on their radar.

I’ve been reading research articles that show membership is down for all sorts of organizations: Elks/Masons etc, retired teachers groups, community clubs, senior citizen organizations, and churches.

Membership is down because, as a culture, our commitment level is down. We like to surf the possibilities, then choose what seems a best fit. If we don’t like it (whether it be marriage, a church, friendship, business, community, neighborhood, or club), we have no strings, and we can come and go as we please. It’s a selfish mindset. Any more, we are more me-minded than community-minded.

In Biblical times, people did not move around as we do now. They were born and lived their lifetimes in roughly the same area. They did not surf their options city-wide or nation-wide or world-wide. They primarily did as their family had done for generations. If something didn’t work for them, they made do, and made adjustments in attitudes or actions; but not necessarily in living or worship situations. They were very community-minded, and simply couldn’t be as selfish as we can be today.

We have a different culture now, but not a different God. His Words and Ways do not change.

Membership is to church as marriage is to family. Case in point: the world is re-defining the definition of ‘family’ to include those we love and care for, whoever they may be – there’s no commitment.

But God instituted family to be those who have made a legal commitment to one another through blood or marriage.

Why should a person become a member of a church? As believers, aren’t we all part of the Body of Christ? Don’t we all love and help one another?

Yes, but membership in a church denotes a special promise to the people in that church, and to the leadership.

There is a saying, “Membership has its privileges.” It is a true statement. Members of an organization can expect benefits and responsibilities that are not accessible to non-members. This is true for churches as it is for other organizations.

These are some reasons to become a member of a church:

  • Commitment: As in marriage, membership evidences commitment. Yes, a member may walk away from a church just as a non-member might; but a member declares a commitment to a church, a decision to stick with these people and this congregation through thick and thin. The original, home churches in the Book of Acts may not have had a roll call of members. But they did not have the denominations, the transience of our culture today. In Acts, the people of those churches were rooted already in that community, already committed and accountable to those people. Membership in modern times is a testament to commitment and accountability.
  • Standing up in public for personal responsibility: Membership, like baptism, is a public display. Like marriage, membership is an expression of commitment to the church, an expressed desire to be counted upon for God’s special work. Membership declares an individual ready to be inspected and held to a higher standard; and a willingness to be brought to a path that closely follows our God and Saviour. A member accepts the responsibility of consequences, should sin become an evident factor in actions and / or words.
  • Asserting a willingness to be a part of God’s work in the body of Christ: Members are eligible to become elders, deacons, teachers, and other types of leaders and workers in the church. God calls each of us to such work, and church membership is included in taking our responsibilities seriously. Membership announces an initiative and availability to ministry, to perform the good works in the church to which God calls us. (Ephesians 2.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.)

Members are prepared to step up.

  • A sense of belonging: When we are members, we are no longer “on the fringes,” or outliers. (example of the faith of the Canaanite woman, Matthew 15.21-28: vs 26, 27 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.  And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.) Members belong to the church, we are workers in the church, together with others of like mind and spirit. We understand that we have made a commitment to each other.
  • Recognize, Respect, and Submit to God-Ordained Authority:
    • In Acts, God added daily to His numbers of those who believed on His Word. The apostles who were with Jesus had authority: they spoke with authority, and the people, in Acts 2.42, … continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The people continued under the authority of the apostles.
    • Hebrews 13.17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. God gives a great responsibility to pastors, as shepherds of His flock. In attending a church, yes, we are under the authority of that church.

However, when we become members, we announce our respect for, submission to, and protection of that authority.

  • In a culture that encourages a me-first world view, we do not easily bow to authority. We have learned that we can safely flout authority when we don’t agree with it. Standing up against The System is applauded in media and social media.

God’s Word teaches that we are to know who our authorities are, and to submit. Whoever is in a position of authority in the church, they are there because God put them there. If there are disagreements, we are to respectfully, and in good order, have an edifying conversation. And if the authority does not agree with our point, we are to respectfully submit.

A note on authority and submission in a church:

When you walk into a church, you put yourself under the authority of the church leadership. This is true for wherever you enter, whether it be a person’s home, a store, a restaurant, or a health club. The church has God-ordained authority in its leadership. Just as you wouldn’t rearrange furniture, or change the menu, or post notices in a window of someone else’s place, you wouldn’t do such things in a church without first obtaining permission.

  • Pastoral care:
    • In our Statement of Faith we confess that “there is one body of Jesus Christ worldwide, and that…. we as individual believers are a part of that worldwide body.” Also that “there is one Holy Spirit at work in the heart of God’s children who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” If you attend church, and are a member of the Body of Christ (a believer in the shed blood of Christ for salvation), then we equally share responsibility to care for our neighbor (see the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10.25-37). But membership in a church carries special benefits involving the other members of the church and the pastor.
    • Members of the church are under the direct spiritual care of the pastor. While all those in the body of Christ are caretakers one of another; the pastor has a special responsibility to members that does not apply to non-members (again, reference the example of the faith of the Canaanite woman, Matthew 15.21-28). As a part of the Body of Christ, a pastor may attend to needs of non-members. But he is not specially directed by God to do so, as he is for members: non-members are not part of his “flock.” God gives to each of us people He sends.

[Reference the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, Matthew 21.33-46, Mark 12.1-12, Luke 20.9-19:

We are the vineyard. God grows His fruit in us. He sends people to collect that fruit. The husbandmen are to protect and share that fruit. They are to give the fruit to those the Master sends. They are to protect the vineyard from those who jump the fence to steal the fruit.]

When He sends us His people, we are to obey Him and care for those He sends. But when we take care of people God does not send, or those people He does not direct us to, then we are acting outside of His perfect will; and He will not give us the resources to deal with them. A pastor is spread pretty thin with the needs of his congregation. If you are not a member, and you have not committed yourself to this church; then you are taking away time that, perhaps, God intends for that pastor to spend elsewhere.

  • Biblical precedents for “Members Only”:
    • Through Abraham, God chose the Israelites for His own people. Through them, He provided a Saviour for all the world. Israelites were “Members Only.” They were to be a light and example to the world, just as the Body of Christ is to be.
    • Levites were “Members Only,” in that only they were chosen to the priesthood.
      • The priests were responsible only for the nation of Israel, not for outsiders/Gentiles.
    • The temple was set up so that all could enter into a portion of it, but non-Jews were relegated to the Court of the Gentiles (the lowest or outer enclosure), provided they observed the prescribed rules (this is where Jesus drove out the money-changers). The temple proper was reserved for “Members Only,” those born into the family of Abraham. (The Jews mistakenly accused Paul of bringing a non-Jew here, and threw all Jerusalem into an uproar in Acts 21.27-36.)
    • Heaven is for “Members Only.” Matthew 7.21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. And again Luke 13.27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all yeworkers of iniquity.
      • God decides who will enter Heaven, and who will not. He is omniscient; we are not. In our earthly churches, we establish rules, based on the Word of God.

Please seriously consider church membership. Do not be a thief, stealing time and other resources that do not rightfully belong to you. Come under the protection and teaching of a good local church. Serve others from a valid, authorized place in the community.

Sundog

I just love when God gives us gifts to delight our souls, don’t you?

This was the view out our window this morning. Wow! So beautiful, magnificent, awesome…

From weather.gov (or so the top return of a google search says): Sundogs are colored spots of light that develop due to the refraction of light through ice crystals. … The colors usually go from red closest to the sun, out to blue on the outside of the sundog. Sundogs are also known as mock suns or parhelia, which means “with the sun”.

Granted, in order to witness this creative genius, you have to be where it’s cold. Our highs are in the negatives to plus 2 today.

So I had to take another picture outside, with no visible man-made junk to interfere.

Brilliant, huh?

I love God. I love His gifts.

The New Space Telescope

I’ve been seeing the new space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, in the news recently. It is purported to examine billions of years of cosmic history, and to open up the secrets of the universe.

I was thinking it would be mighty cool if the telescope captured an image such as this:

Then all the scientists would know the truth.

But then, I thought, God already wrote His Word across the universe and our very skies.

Genesis 1.1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Psalms 19.1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Romans 1.20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

God has given us all the evidence needed to clearly portray His creation, and His sovereign design.

Isaiah 32.3 And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.

I praise You, LORD, for Your creation, for Your Truth, and for Your love. Thank you for giving me eyes to see.

Zechariah Chapter 7

I am in Zechariah as I continue my reading through the minor prophets.  I am daily amazed and blessed at what God gives us through all the books of His Word – and at what He gives me, personally.

In Zechariah chapter 7, God reminds His people of their hard, selfish hearts, the reason they were carried away captive. Even in their captivity, as they walked through the rituals, their hearts were not bowed in humble adoration before their great God. He renews His call to heed His prophets, to walk in His ways with His heart (v 9, 10). But they would not hear.

It is the same with us, with all people: we cannot have a heart for God unless we have God’s heart – His Holy Spirit within us to love as He loves.

1 John 4.19 We love Him, because He first loved us.

October 31 Blessing

We had a series of revival meetings at our church, and the last one was Sunday, October 31st. My husband is the deacon, so we arrived early to the meetings to set things up.

So, 6:20 pm we pulled in to our church parking lot. To our astonishment, the parking lot was all but full! Not only that, but lines of cars going both directions were slowly passing, and cars were parked on both sides of the street for several blocks down the road. We saw crowds of parents and children, all dressed up, going from house to house.

Of course. It’s Halloween, and everyone is out for candy. Folks were parking in our lot, then walking up and down the street.

We were truly astounded at the number of parents, kids, and cars we saw! I mean, it was crazy! We live in a fairly small town, and we just didn’t think there was even that many people who lived there.

We made our way to the church: it was still locked, as we were the first to arrive. We turned on lights and got things ready.

I looked, wide-eyed, out the windows to watch all the cars and people passing by. As I wandered to the front, another church family arrived: two parents with little 3-year-old Micah. As they came in, some of the trick-or-treaters walked by our front ramp and steps, looking, wondering if we were giving anything away.

Hey! I thought. My mind flashed to the pile of children’s gospel tracts another woman had left on the counter that morning with a note: “Anyone who needs them.” So THAT’S why God put those there.

Micah was still at the front door, watching all the people go by. I grabbed the tracts, piled them into a paper bag with handles, and ran out the door, Micah in tow.

As mermaids, spooks, and cowboys came up the ramp and steps, they called, “Trick or treat!”

“God bless you on All Hallows Eve, here’s a real treat,” we replied as we dropped the booklets into bags and buckets.

They were all very polite. “Thank you!” and “God bless you, too!” rang out.

We stopped so that we could go inside to the services. We had only a few tracts left out of maybe 40.

I hadn’t ever been on that street on Halloween before. A new friend who lives there said they had 525 trick-or-treaters, down a bit from previous numbers of 700+. Turns out, this is a Halloween hot spot for candy.

That’s crazy!

We had a blessed evening inside our church, and prayed for all those little points of light to shed the grace and hope of the gospel to all who received them. God planted seeds. He will grow them.

Hole in the Heart

These pictures are from a yard I pass by in my neighborhood walks. I knew the man who lived there.

I met this man at an assisted living facility. He liked to visit his wife twice a day. The facility was large, and he got his daily constitutional by walking the long halls. He had a smile and a joke to tell whomever he passed in the hallways. The staff and residents loved him. He would sit and chat with his wife for a while, then leave to go about his other business. But he visited morning and afternoon. He was always a jovial fellow.

His wife was an Alzheimer’s patient. She always had a smile on her face. I suspect she enjoyed visits from her favorite suitor.

When covid hit, this gentleman was no longer allowed to visit his wife. At first, there were through-the-window visits permitted, but then the facility said no more of those, since some of the residents were perturbed by people walking around outside. Eventually they allowed inside visits, through plexiglass and with masks. Then those rules passed, and they could visit in her room. By this time, she had been moved to the memory care unit, and I don’t know if she knew him.

I didn’t see him for well over a year, not even in the grocery store or at community events. I wondered how he was.

As I passed his house on my walks, I pictured him with a hole in his heart, like this tree in his yard. He took meticulous care of his yard, even at his advanced age. All the trees and bushes were trimmed up, his grass was always mowed. I wondered if he worried about the hole in his tree; whether it would be better to take the tree, or let it live with its hole.

After all, he was living with a hole, himself, being unable to visit his wife, his life-long partner and lover. And, like the tree, I pictured him still being well-trimmed on the outside. I wondered if he was still telling his jokes, and to whom.

I saw him last month, at his wife’s funeral. He had a smile on his mouth, but sad and tired eyes. We recalled his jokes, and his walks in the hallways, and his beautiful wife.

Last week we read his obituary in the paper. They published it after his funeral was held, and we wondered why; we would have liked to go and say goodbye, and hug his family again, and relive some fond memories.

So I’m reliving my fond memories through this post. Goodbye, Gene. We miss you, and hope to see you in Heaven.