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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blood Moon

I woke up in the middle of the night, walked out into the yard in my pajamas and a jacket, and listened to the sounds of the night—a fox calling, dripping, some snaps and crackles. Looking up, I saw Orion straight ahead, the Big Dipper, and to one side, the moon. It looked like someone had taken a bite out of a white cookie. No red color, just a funny looking beginning to the eclipse.

I took a few pictures with my little Canon camera. I zoomed as far as it would go, and shot away. This is one of those photos:

So, I scrambled around and found my husband’s camera, older than mine. Those photos were worse! I came back inside and waited around twenty minutes. When I went back out, the eclipse was nearly complete, and amazingly, the moon was red. I took a few more pictures.

By that time, my husband joined me. There were stars everywhere! It was as if the dome of heaven had been set on top of us, and we were the only two people in the universe. So many stars!

You see, the darker the night—eclipsed moon—the brighter the light shines! The stars were gorgeous! After taking a few more fuzzy photos, I was ready to relinquish my position on the wet grass and go back inside to my warm bed. But, what memories!

Yes, the moon was amazing. (It’s not every day it’s red! We could see it better with the naked eye than through our cameras. . . . ) But those stars—all around us!

Puerto Rican pastor Hernán Cortez used to sing a song that impacted me when I was a young woman. The first stanza goes like this:

The darker the night 
The brighter the light shines. 
I'm walking with Jesus, 
The light of the world. 
Yes, He is the light; 
In Him is no darkness. 
The darker the night, 
The brighter the light, 
When I walk with Him. 

The Psalms include many beautiful perspectives about God and man and how the moon and the stars bring God praise. Here are a few of them:
  • When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. . . . O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-5, 9)
  • The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork (Psalm 19:1).
  • The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory (Psalm 97:6).
  • The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 136:9).
  • He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names (Psalm 147:4).

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why Learn to Cook?

I didn’t grow up cooking. My mother would describe me as a “reluctant helper.” But, when I got married, I found out I needed to learn a few things. I got out my trusty Joy of Cooking cookbook and went to work. Believe me, we had some unique meals! Then, we moved to Spain, and I had to learn how to cook from scratch. In the 1980s, there were very few frozen foods, and almost nothing was already made. You got the raw materials—pardon the pun—and did the prep and cooking. I added Jose Castillo’s Manual de Cocina Económica Vasca (Manual of Economical Basque Cooking) to my growing collection of cookbooks.

Perhaps the first terrific cooks mentioned in the Bible were the brothers Jacob and Esau. Their father Isaac was absolutely crazy about a venison stew Esau made, and Jacob prepared a red pottage that was so delicious that Esau sold his birthright to eat some. (Genesis 25:28-34)

How did Jacob and Esau learn? I think it’s pretty obvious that they watched their mother. Rebekah made a very similar savory dish from goat meat. (Genesis 27:9-10) I don’t for one minute condone Rebekah’s actions in plotting against her husband, but it’s noteworthy that Esau and Jacob both learned to make amazing, tasty food in their mother’s kitchen.

Why learn to cook? I’ll propose a few reasons:
  • To feed your family healthy, delicious food. Food that’s made from fresh, local ingredients tastes better and is healthier.
  • It’s usually cheaper to make food from scratch than to eat processed foods.
  • Cooking is a practical skill for both boys and girls. Many young adults will need to know how to feed themselves.
  • It’s a family activity. It’s fun to cook with little helpers. As they help, they learn. You don’t have to do much instruction; they learn by cooking along with you. Little children can help make cookies or stir a pot or dump ingredients into a bowl. Soon, they’ll be doing it themselves!
  • It gives you and your children the experience necessary to be hospitable. Food is the global way to exercise hospitality.

This is how I learned to cook:
  • Watching others. There’s nothing like watching someone else cook. You see how they put the meal together, the tricks to keeping the flavors right, timing, and much, much more. I will always be grateful to the chef who let me ask questions from his kitchen doorway and to a Spanish pastor’s wife, who showed me how to make homemade tomato sauce, fried cod, and chicken filets. I learned the Spanish tortilla’s flip and slide motion from an American missionary and the secret to non-sticky paella rice from a Basque friend, in her home. A pastor baked the most incredible flan ever, and another friend demonstrated that garbanzo beans can be absolutely delicious as a main course. I learned some amazing cheap meals from a missionary friend who never scrimps on taste. Watching how people cook is probably the very best way to understand the little tricks involved in the process. Do they set the roast garlic aside? Do they keep an ingredient warm? When do they add it? How exactly do you stir or whip this sauce? Watch. You’ll learn.
  • Reading cookbooks. For one thing, cookbooks are rarely only about recipes. Many times, they let you have a window into the authors’ lives. For that reason, I absolutely love From Julia Child’s Kitchen, with photos taken by her husband. (He taught her to cook, by the way.) The aforementioned Joy of Cooking includes the backgrounds of many of the recipes. I have Amish cookbooks, collections of recipes from several churches, a Southern cookbook, Betty Crocker, Fanny Farmer, and quite a few other little ones. Our daughter found an old cookbook, hand-written by monks in a Spanish monastery. Cookbooks help you understand food. Use ingredients you know you’ll like, and experiment. I've rarely ever had a horrible failure when I followed a recipe.
  • Asking friends. Spain is known worldwide for its awesome cuisine—almost as much as France. Therefore, many conversations revolve around food. My friends love to tell you step-by-step how they’ve achieved a certain flavor. I go home and try to do the same. This isn’t as effective as reading a recipe, but you will get the hang of it after practicing. (Hint: practice on your family while the kids are little, and they won’t remember your goofs!)
  • Helping a friend in her kitchen. I’ve enjoyed watching some of my friends as we worked together on a meal. Even if all I was doing was cleaning up as she cooked, I could watch, ask questions, and enjoy being with her.
  • Learning the shortcuts. My sister served an awesome appetizer. It was a puff pastry shaped like a cup and filled with a creamy mushroom sauce with green peas in it. I was awed. It was fabulous! I complimented her, and she laughed and said, “I don’t do anything hard.” She’d bought the pastry cups and filled them with her own filling. Voilà! So, I copied and did something similar for a church banquet and got rave reviews of my own. Who would’ve thought? I have to share another shortcut that cracks me up! There are so many wonderful bakeries. Someone who’ll remain nameless buys a gorgeous cake, takes it out of the plastic container, slips it onto a plate from her home, and takes it to a social. Homemade? Not exactly, but just as good. Shhhhh! You can do the same thing with cookies and wonderful breads. By the way, learn to use a crock pot and a pressure cooker. (You’ll thank me, someday.)
  • Branching out. In the beginning, try simple recipes with flavors you know you’ll like. Then, try something from another ethnic food group—something Italian, or Thai, or Indian. 

Above all, have fun! Enjoy your kitchen, and learn to use the ingredients that grow where you live. Experiment with flavors and techniques, and teach your children to cook. Share your food with others in Christian hospitality. Use hospitality one to another without grudging (1 Peter 4:9).

Bon appetit!   Enjoy your meal!   ¡Que aproveche! 


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Hajj Stampede Tragedy

Today, September 24, 2015 the world is shocked by the death toll outside of Mecca at the observance of the Hajj pilgrimage. As worshipers moved to go to the place where they were to “stone the devil” by throwing stones at pillars, something happened to cause a stampede. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and people were suffocated to death. The count at this moment is 717 dead and over 800 wounded. Horrible!

It’s not the first time.
            On July 2, 1990, 1,426 people died doing the Hajj.
            May 23, 1994—270 died.
            April 9, 1998—118 died and 180 were injured.
            March 5, 2001—35 died.
            February 11, 2003—14 died.
            February 1, 2004—251 died and 244 were injured.
            January 12, 2006—364 died and 289 were injured. 1

Other religious pilgrimages result in horrible death tolls, as well.

Hindu festival-goers were involved in these stampedes:
            October 14, 2013—115 died and 110 were injured at a bridge near the Ratangarh temple.2
            July 14, 2015—27 were killed at a bathing festival in the Godavari River.3

These statistics are shocking! In fact, they only scratch the surface. Each year, people all over the world pass away while performing religious rites. It’s so very sad. The death toll today can be added to those who died just thirteen days ago, when a crane fell on the mosque in Mecca. 118 were killed and 394 were injured.4

My heart goes out to those families who have lost their loved ones. It’s horrible! No one would dream that when he goes to do what he believes is right, he will meet death.

One of the greatest tragedies about this is that these religions are all about doing works. The worshipers believe that if they perform a specific act in a specified place, they’ll win some kind of favor with their deity. What their god(s) requires is this rite: this washing, this throwing of stones, this circling the Kaaba, this visit to this shrine, this walking miles on this path, this going up the steps on one’s knees, this . . . work.

The Bible says the opposite. Consider these verses about good works:
  • But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
  • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So, if people’s good works aren’t good enough, what hope is there?

We’re all sinners. That means that everyone has broken God’s law at one time or another. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Most people would admit they had lied, stolen, or broken one of the Ten Commandments at least once. We’re all sinners.

The penalty for sin is spiritual death, separation from God. For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a).

Here's the good news!

The wonderful news is that salvation is a gift: But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23b). It is a gift because Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sin—as a substitute. Jesus did this because He loves us. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

A gift can be received. But as many as received him (Jesus), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

Have you received Jesus Christ?

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:11-13).

Only Jesus saves. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to his mercy he saved us,
by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
(Titus 3:5)



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How to Make the Bible Practical: Four Easy Steps

Practical—Actually doing something instead of only entertaining the idea.

Practical means putting theory into action. It’s okay to have ideas, of course. (I collect them!) But, it’s much better to put good ideas into practice.

This translates into every area of life.

Mostly, we want to be practical in our spiritual lives. The question is how. How do I convert biblical teaching into practical actions?

Let’s read one well-known Scripture passage and see what we can do to live it.

Proverbs 3:5-6—Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; 
and lean not unto thine own understanding. 
In all thy ways acknowledge him, 
and he shall direct thy paths.

First, we analyze what the verses mean. I like arranging them into short phrases. Look up the words you don’t quite understand.
  • Trust God fully and with everything.
  • Don’t trust yourself.
  • Ways means “journey.”
  • Acknowledge means “know.” Get to know God along my daily journey.
  • God will direct my paths.

Actions to take: Make a conscious effort to entrust everything in my life to God. Get to know God better. (I can do this best by knowing the Bible better, keeping a consistent prayer life, and watching God work in my life.) So, now I have a practical plan. I’ve boiled it down to two actionable points: 
  1. Entrust everything to God.
  2. Get to know God better.

What am I going to do, starting today? Put these two concepts into action. Here’s how.

Let’s assume you’re a thirty-year-old mother of two, ages five and three. You’re married, and you work full time. Your life is busy, to put it mildly. Your alarm rings at 6:30 a.m. The first thing you do is to ask God to help you this day. You commit your day—with whatever it holds—to Him. You make your bed, get ready, wake the kids, dress them, and you all have breakfast.

You take the kids out the door with you. (Hubby leaves in a different car.) As you drive and talk with two sleepy little ones, you thank God for them. You thank Him for your job, for the school and daycare, and for the way God has provided for you. As you begin work, you are already in an attitude of restful praise. The day has begun.

Today, a very grouchy person made her appearance. “Lord, help me” was your quick prayer as you met her scowling face. He did, and He helped you resolve her issue. Several “interesting” events later, and it was almost time to wrap up things at work for the day.

After picking up the children, you planned supper as you drove home. “Lord, what would taste good to my husband tonight?” Immediately, you thought of picking up a rotisserie chicken and making real mashed potatoes and green beans to go with it. Yum! “Thank you, God!”

On the way into the grocery store, the five-year-old stumbles and scrapes her knee. She starts screaming louder than you would have liked. But, you’re letting God lead you. You kneel down, pick her up, kiss her and hug her. In no time, she has a beaming smile, especially since you told her she may pick out some pretty Band-Aids for her boo-boo.

Rotisserie chicken at home, you peel potatoes and have them boiling before Hubby is home. You stir-fry fresh green beans with a little bit of garlic and olive oil and make gravy from the chicken broth and with a little help from a bullion cube. After dinner, there’s a lot to do, but your husband and kids are fed and happy, and you are too. You put a Christian CD on and hum along as you clean up the kitchen and Hubby plays with the kids.

After the kids are in bed, you open your Bible and ask God to teach you more about who He is. You read these verses: John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose (John 1:26-27). You notice especially the part about John the Baptist not being worthy to unlatch Jesus’ shoe. You pause and think about how John was called from before he was born to announce Jesus. Yet, he said he was unworthy to unlatch Jesus’ shoe. “What does that make me?” you think. I am more unworthy than John! What does this teach me about Jesus? He is great! Jesus is so great! Your heart breaks into songs of praise.

You spend some time with your husband, and you sink your head into your pillow, thankful for another day.

That’s being practical. That’s how to live Proverbs 3:5-6.

What verses would you like to put into practice, starting today?

Try my simple method:
  1. Break the verses up into phrases.
  2. Look up any word you don't quite understand.
  3. Summarize the teaching.
  4. Put it into action, starting today.

God's Word is transformative and practical. 

Live some biblical truths today!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dressing the Temple

A temple is gleaming with gold and polished marble, beautiful, detailed. When we think about Solomon’s Temple in the Old Testament, we smell the cedar, admire the columns, are dazzled by brass, gold, and intricate designs. The Temple was a large-scaled replica of the Tabernacle, but permanent, finer, grander. It was gorgeous!

The priests wore special clothing when they did their jobs. They went in and out, performing their duties exactly as prescribed, since every offering and every action symbolized the Messiah to come.

Jesus Christ has come! He sprinkled the mercy seat with His blood and made payment for our sins. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12).

So, the born again believer in Jesus actually becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Now, instead of dressing up and walking into the temple to worship, the Holy Spirit abides inside us! Our body has become a home for the Holy Spirit. Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

So, how do we dress the temple?

A key to the answer is found in Romans 12:1-2, which says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. This principle applies to all areas of life, including dress. We present our body—the temple of the Holy Spirit—to God. We’re not conformed to this world but transformed by a new mentality (from knowing God’s Word, the Bible) so that we can clearly understand God’s will.

Keeping in mind that a Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, how then should we dress?
  • A temple is holy. The LORD is in his holy temple (Psalm 11:4a). But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (Conversation means “way of life.” 1 Peter 1:15).
  • A temple is beautiful. And he (Solomon) garnished the house (the temple) with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim (2 Chronicles 3:6). God told Job to honor Him by clothing himself beautifully. Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty (Job 40:10).
  • A temple shows glory and honor. Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place (1 Chronicles 16:27). Of the Virtuous Woman, it’s said: Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come (Proverbs 31:25).
  • A temple reflects the One it honors. We don’t dress to make an impression. We don’t try to call attention to ourselves. We want to be a showcase for Christ in us. That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ (Ephesians 1:12). For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).

How do we dress our temple?

With thought and care. Shop with the aim of glorifying God. Look for modest, appropriate clothing. Look for pretty clothes, which will help you look nice and be a positive Christian testimony. Pray and ask the Lord to help you to find clothes that please Him. Look for clothes that fit and hang well. Look for the loveliest, quality clothing you can afford.

You want to show outside that you have the Lord inside. You want people to know you’re different from worldly women, but you don’t want to look like you’re from Mars. Within the culture, you want to look modest and moderate. You want to have a wholesome look, a good testimony.

More than anything, you want the Lord’s approval. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do (even dressing!), do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Walk over to your full-length mirror and turn around slowly. Ask yourself:
  • Does my outfit look modest?
  • Do my clothes direct attention to my smiling face?
  • Does anything need tweaking? (Maybe something is too tight, too short, or too low. Change the piece that doesn’t look like what a godly woman would wear.)
  • Do I look nice?
  • Do my clothes reflect God’s beauty?
  • Can I confidently leave the house, knowing that I am dressed in a way that glorifies my Lord?

For ye are the temple of the living God;
as God hath said, I will dwell in them,
and walk in them; and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
(2 Corinthians 6:16b)

(For more posts about the topic of modesty, feel free to look at the tab for Fashion/Modesty at the top of this page. You can also follow my modesty board on Pinterest, which includes other bloggers' thoughts.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Non-fiction Review: The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography, Free Digital Photos

The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allender is, as you might expect, a very serious book. Dr. Allender’s profession and his book are borne out of great pain from his own childhood abuse and his burden to help others.

The Wounded Heart presents a psychological analysis of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. He addresses many facets of the effect it has on the victim’s heart and the difficulties victims face. He discusses the great problem victims have with trust—both with people and with God. “The devilishness of abuse is that it does Satan’s work of deceiving children about God’s true nature and encouraging them to mistrust Him.”

He delves into the importance of facing one’s horrible memories and working through them. (This is probably the most difficult part of his book for me to agree with. I’m still not convinced that all the memories need to be drudged up and dealt with. I especially think of the small child with unclear memories of what happened to him. Does he really need to go back and remember that ugly stuff? Philippians 4:8) I do, though, totally agree that one needs to face one’s memories. Dr. Allender makes the statement, “The wise course is to focus on who we are now.”

I also agree with the value and necessity of counseling. Most victims of abuse need help with working through their attitudes and also with their spiritual growth. I appreciate especially his last section about how to give victims hope. He says, “The most common error in some Christian groups is to ignore the problem or offer true solutions in a trite way.” He emphasizes the complexity of each individual’s experiences and problems. “Those who desire to honor God and the redemptive work of Christ must embrace both the simplicity and the complexity that exists in the problem and the solution. . . . When we move toward loving God and others, we can be sure that something radical and supernatural has intruded to alter the process of self-centered stagnation and decay. Change is always a process.”

Allender speaks of faith, decisions, hope, and trusting God.

This is a very complete work, by far the heaviest work I’ve read on the subject of abuse and overcoming. To be honest, it was emotionally hard to read, and I put it down for a while before picking it up again and finishing. The subject of young people being repeatedly attacked and used isn’t one I want to read about. I needed to, because more and more, I counsel very troubled people, and very often the root cause of their emotional pain is childhood sexual abuse.

The first three-fourths of The Wounded Heart are about the damage of and reactions to abuse. This first part is complicated and technical. The last part of the book offers hope and healing.

Allender's book doesn't include much at all from the Bible, not much about forgiveness towards the abuser, either.

In Christian ministry, we must no longer ignore the signs of abuse and be ignorant of the questions to ask the people we counsel. We need to know how to walk them through the healing process. 

I understand, however, that Allender himself may not use biblical methods in his counseling and in his counseling seminars. This book should be read with this in mind.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Doomsday Predictions: Should We Be Scared?

The other day, I watched a British video about birth rates all over the world and the probability that, because of low birth rates in Western Europe and the United States and the relatively high birthrates among some of the immigrant communities, that up to half the people in certain European countries would be Muslim within fifteen years. Then, it went into spooky music and violent possible scenarios.

You’ve probably seen different Trojan horse comments about the current refugee migrations in Europe. Are Islamist militants infiltrating the legitimate refugees? I don’t know. ISIS claims it’s so.

I heard another disturbing news item about how many leading people in the governments of certain countries are sympathetic to radical Islam, and they know details about national security.

Are we trembling?

Is all of this a media onslaught to render people resigned to being invaded and overtaken?

I don’t think there’s cause for panic. God knows the beginning, the end, and everything in the middle.

Can things get worse? Of course. Just watch the news every day.

When’s the rapture, anyway?

The truth is that it could be today! It could happen tomorrow! Most Bible scholars agree that there’s no prophecy that needs to be fulfilled before the rapture of the saints. But, its timing is the best-held secret on earth and in heaven. The Bible says, But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father (Mark 13:32). So, when’s the rapture? It’s imminent, but we can’t know the date or the time.

What’s going to happen? For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Don’t you love that last line? Comfort one another with these words.

After born again Christians are raptured, the very worst epoch on earth begins. Bible scholars call it the tribulation period. It will last seven years, and halfway through, the Antichrist is revealed. Under his rule, there's persecution of those who were saved in the first three-and-a-half years and horrible, destructive acts of nature. At the end of the tribulation is the Battle of Armageddon. That will be a bloody battle between Jesus and the Antichrist's army. It will be fought in the Valley of Megiddo (also called the Valley of Jezreel), in Israel.

Jesus then returns to earth, And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south (Zechariah 14:4).

This second stage of the Second Coming of Christ—the first being the rapture of the saints—ushers in the millennial kingdom. This is what happens: And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled (Revelation 20:1-3a).

Jesus rules on earth, along with all the saved people, for a thousand years.

At the end of the one thousand years, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog (a leader) and Magog (Russia), to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city (Jerusalem): and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:7b-10). So, that’s the end of the devil.

God opens the books and judges the unsaved people. Those whose names are not in the Book of Life are cast into the lake of fire.

Then, there’s a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:1-2). Those who are saved will live forever with Jesus in the New Jerusalem, which is a gorgeous, gleaming city.

Do we need to be afraid? The Bible says, What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee (Psalm 56:3).

The Lord has a plan. It’s all in His hands. And he just might come back for us today!

Are you ready?

And now, little children, abide in him;
that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence,
and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
(1 John 2:28)


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Working With God

God is at work.

He works:
  • Everywhere—even in the far reaches of infinite space,
  • All the time—eternity in both directions. God is always on time, but He’s not bound by time. He sees a thousand years as one day1 and understands all of history and all of the future as if they were present.
  • In many ways—No one can limit God’s materials, or how He chooses to work in the hearts of mankind. No one can even imagine all He does to hold the world together, to make everything work in perfect synchronization. God can do anything that’s in His will to do. How awesome is that?
  • Using people—I’ll never understand why an infinite, holy God would want to use lousy sinners to do His work, but what a blessing He lets us take part in what He’s doing! We find a clue here: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:27-31).

Years ago, I did a Bible study2 about finding out what God was doing and getting in on it. It’s an interesting concept.

Now, I’m reading The Glasses We Wear by Michael G. Garland. He says, “If God is really outside of time, it means that the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus are very present events to Him, as are creation and the last battle.”3

It’s so necessary that we understand who God is and something about what He’s like.

God the Father hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:13-17).

“We put faith in doctors, contractors, and professionals of every sort, not because we understand all they are doing, but because of their title, position, and identity in their respective field. It is the same way with God. Once we come to realize that God is God we trust Him, not because we understand everything He does, but because we know who He is. Do we understand all the ways of God? No, but since He spoke the universe into existence perhaps we should give Him the benefit of the doubt.”4

Part of the reason why we have a hard time figuring out what God is doing is that we don’t leave things to the Professional. We don’t trust God to do things in His way. We may not be able to see things clearly simply because we don’t have the mind of the Expert.

We can, though, learn about God. He invites us: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). The Bible says the Holy Spirit is our teacher.

Let’s learn about God and His work, trust Him to do all things well, and as we get closer to the Lord, we can get in on His work! He’s chosen to use the weak things. Praise Him!

1. 2 Peter 3:8
2. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby
3. The Glasses We Wear: Reflections on Christian Worldview by Michael G. Garland
4. Ibid.

Monday, September 14, 2015

First Kiss at the Altar? Pros and Cons

Please understand: I am okay with both sides of this issue. I believe we can respect those who do and those who don’t kiss before they are married. Are you ready for a sane discussion? I hope so.

I first heard of the not kissing before marriage idea on a date with my boyfriend (now my husband). It was a “dating outing,” which meant everyone had to invite a partner, whether or not the relationship was serious. The young man who spoke for the devotional decided it was his opportunity to tell everyone why it was a “sin” to kiss before marriage. He basically said it was terrible to brush lips. Probably everyone there except the casually dating couples were made to feel like the most sinful of the sinful. Horrors! Kissing before marriage! It was close to adultery! Now, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. The guy’s “devotional,” which should have drawn us closer to the Lord, made most of us feel like scum.

So, my boyfriend and I spent some time afterwards, when the fire in the lodge was blazing and people were sitting around and chatting, to get off in a corner to discuss the issue: was it tantamount to impurity to kiss?

I’m okay on both sides of this issue, as I said in the beginning. You have a right as a dating couple to decide your boundaries. If you don’t want to kiss, you certainly don’t have to. If you do want to kiss, it’s also your prerogative. It’s your decision. (And, you should definitely have boundaries for your dating relationship.)

Pros—No kissing before marriage. None.
  • If you don’t kiss at all, you will have less temptation to kiss a lot or to do more than kiss.
  • You will marry each other on the basis of commitment and God’s will, with nothing physical entering in.
  • You'll have the satisfaction that you saved everything for marriage.
  • If you never kissed anyone before your spouse, you’ll both have that super clean feeling. “I only ever kissed you.”

Cons—Why “no kissing before marriage" might not be the best idea.
  • If you tell everyone, it can lead to pride. “We are so pure—touch us!—we never kissed until the altar.”
  • Your first kiss will be very public. Your wedding audience may hoot, cheer, and time your kiss, and you might not enjoy it at all.
  • Your first kiss may be very awkward. Do you both know how to turn your heads, avoid clicking your glasses, and miss each other’s noses?
  • When the man asks the woman to marry him, he is asking her to commit her whole life to him. Isn’t engagement a good time to seal it with a kiss? (Just a question.)

I would never advocate kissing a lot before marriage or any kind of kissing besides a sweet lip kiss. I don’t think being lip-locked or in a long embrace is the best way to ward off temptation. And, I believe that if a couple decides not to kiss before marriage, it’s absolutely fine.

But, I think the decision to kiss or not should be private. It’s between the man and the woman. If they want to wait, they don’t need to make it public. Then, when they kiss for the first time at the altar, no one but them knows it’s their very first kiss. No one will holler or whistle. It will be the sweet seal on their marriage the kiss at the altar ought to be. “You may kiss your bride.”

After all, a kiss is not fornication. A kiss is a kiss. It signifies caring and love. Ideally, a person should only kiss one other: that person’s husband or wife. But, if someone kisses someone else, later finding the one God has for him, he hasn’t committed anything worse than kissing someone he didn’t end up marrying. He/she probably regrets having kissed someone else. It wasn’t the one he/she married, but it’s not fornication. It wasn’t touching and petting, and it wasn’t a horrible sin.

I believe it’s wrong to put a guilt trip on someone for a pre-marital kiss.

I also believe it’s wrong to be prideful about not kissing before the altar. It's perfectly okay to share quietly afterwards--and especially with your kids--why Mommy and Daddy waited for their first kiss. (I recently read an excellent blog post about this. You can access it, here.)

In an ideal world, everyone would wait until he knows this is the one he wants to spend his life with to kiss for the very first time. The couple would not indulge any physical passion until after marriage. That would be right and good.

Let’s be discreet.

And I truly hope that the kisses at the altar—first or not—will become less of a spectator sport.


Friday, September 11, 2015

What If He Were Your Son?

Let’s make up a scenario* that’s way out there: Dan robs a bank. Not only does he bag money, but he takes three hostages and uses lethal arms. He’s caught, confesses—it’s on closed-circuit cameras for all to see—and is arrested and awaiting trial in jail.

Dan is broken. He’s a Christian, and he sees his sinful actions in the light of day. He writes a confession and an apology to be read at church.

After his conviction, serving time, and getting out of jail, Dan goes back to church.

People treat him like he’s poison. They tell others not to associate with him. Tongues wag. He’s told he can’t do anything in the church ministry because of his past. He can’t sing in the choir, he can’t be an usher; he isn’t allowed to do anything.

What if Dan were your son?

Let’s make up another story.* Kellie is a cute, fun girl. She’s bubbly, and the boys notice her. Kellie begins dating a young man from a good family. In fact, he goes to a church much like hers in a city nearby. They’ve been dating about three months, and the handsome young man takes advantage of Kellie. Several weeks later, she finds out she’s pregnant.

Kellie tells her parents right away, and she makes one of the hardest decisions of her life—to keep her baby. In the meantime, Kellie’s boyfriend moves away and cuts off all communication with her. She admits her sin to her church family and publicly asks their forgiveness. She cries a lot at home, so very sorry for her sin. Her tummy grows. At school, her friends are supportive.

At church, though, Kellie faces a different reaction. Instead of the forgiveness and grace she expected, she hears whispering and finds out that some of her friends’ mothers told their girls not to associate with her any more. Kellie awaits her baby’s birth with the support of her family but not her church.

What if Kellie were your daughter?

Juan* is a drug addict. He grew up in the inner city with pretty rough friends. His cousin introduced him to weed, and he soon graduated to longer-lasting highs. Drugs helped him forget his family situation—if you could call it a family.

Soon, because of petty theft, the police were on to him. Juan was sent to a rehab center to help him beat his habit. The people there were loving and kind. They were strict, too, but it was the first time in Juan’s life that he’d experienced acceptance and love without drugs and strings attached. He began to get clean and to trust.

The people in the rehab center had something else that he’d never seen before: true, deep joy. They said it came from Jesus. He listened, and one day, he accepted Christ as his Savior. His life was changed. After a few months, Juan returned home, a totally different person.

He looked for a church in his section of town and found one that met in a storefront. There, he found that same acceptance and love. People didn’t hold his past against him. He listened and learned and thrived. Today, Juan works with inner-city kids to introduce them to his Lord and Savior. He supervises a workshop, where the kids can come after school, manufacture bags out of salvaged materials, and stay off the streets.

What if Juan were your son?


Where is grace in the Christian community?

If someone has sinned—robbed a bank, committed fornication, done drugs, or whatever—and he’s confessed his sin to God and to the church, what are we supposed to do? Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

Of course, there are sins that will limit participation in church ministries. You can’t let an ex-pedophile work with kids, and you can’t allow someone who doesn’t meet biblical criteria to be a deacon or pastor. We understand those.

But Christians tend to be quick to point fingers and slow to extend grace.

If the person has shown sorrow for his sin and has confessed it and asked forgiveness from the church, Christians are supposed to forgive and restore. That person isn’t toxic. He has done what he should.

The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian church, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

What if Dan, Kellie, or Juan were your son or daughter? How would you want people to treat your child? What if they were in your church? Would you support them as they get back on their feet? Would you give them a chance? Would you show them Christian love?

Sin has terrible consequences, but except for church discipline for unrepentant people, in the Bible you never find judgmental, nasty attitudes encouraged towards Christian brethren (or anyone else).

Let’s be gracious and loving. Let’s restore the broken people around us. (Remember, but for the grace of God, a Dan, Kellie, or Juan could be part of your family. People sin. People make terrible decisions, sometimes.)

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
(Matthew 22:37-40)


* These scenarios are completely fictitious. I know no one that even remotely fits these descriptions.