Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The WORD Became Flesh

     “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.[1]

     The Word, as a double-edged sword,[2] pierced eternity, “Let there be light...”[3]

     Thus began the infinite perfection of the eternal, triune God’s design. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had planned and would now bring it to pass. Six days creating something out of nothing, one day of rest, and then the unthinkable. God’s humans chose to disobey His command. Sin and death entered,[4] and the whole of creation groaned.[5] A cloud of darkness enveloped the people of earth like a shroud.[6] Sin had doomed man to death. Would they eventually cease to exist? Was there a way for man to be saved?

     God was not surprised by man’s sin. He is all-knowing. His plan had many facets, and in time, all would be revealed.

     Years passed. God spoke to one man in each generation. His Holy Spirit moved upon this chosen, so they penned God’s Word with meticulous care, perfect and infallible.[7] Yet mankind continued in vain thoughts, and their foolish hearts darkened.[8] Wickedness reigned. Only one family of eight, out of thousands upon thousands, remained pure, wholly dedicated to the Almighty. And God’s Holy Spirit grieved.

     All, but these eight, perished in the necessary worldwide flood, and from them, the Lord repopulated the earth. God’s Word endured, increasing with His promise to never destroy the planet again with a flood.[9] In opposition and vice, man’s sin nature persisted. At the tower of Babel, God confounded their languages. Family members separated seeking others of like speech. With this, God stirred the gene pool and two generations later, in Peleg’s generation, He divided the earth into continents.[10] Where people had desired to stay together to make a name for themselves,[11] they were now scattered over the face of the whole earth reproducing their sinful ways.

     Only Shem, one of the original eight, and his descendants remained devoted to the Lord God of creation. Decades later, God had grown one line of Shem’s family into a million, and out of them, He chose one man to lead. In a series of miraculous events, God brought these million out of Egyptian slavery and into a land He had promised. More of His plan unfolded.

     But as fickle and sinful humans go, these would forget God and His miracles. They would discard His Word and turn to false gods. Due to their sin, through ups and downs, they suffered drought, famine, sword, and dispersion, even though God used His mouthpieces, the prophets, to pen, speak, and sometimes shout His Holy Word.

     Across centuries of withering grass and fading flowers, the Word of God stood eternal in the heavens and true, everlasting, and unchangeable on earth.[12] Still, God had not fully revealed His plan. And although His Living and Infallible Word stated these mysteries, human eyes were not opened to complete understanding.

     Since God’s Word must be fulfilled and His plan must come to fruition, He brought His chosen people back to His Promised Land. With the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament, complete, God waited. After four hundred years, He broke His silence by sending the angel, Gabriel, to speak to an elderly priest. Six months later, Gabriel spoke the Word of God to a teenage, virgin girl, named Mary.[13] And more of His plan was revealed.

     Mary would miraculously become pregnant. She would conceive in her womb…bring forth a Son, and…call His name Jesus.[14] “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” Gabriel continued, “and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”[15]

     In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of [this] woman.[16]

     Jesus, Immanuel, Holy One, Son of God, are names by which we know Him. But He has another, more revealing name, The Word of God.[17] This Word, who was and is God, became flesh for us. It’s His birth we celebrate at Christmas. Fully God, fully Man, He knew no sin. Only a sinless human could pay sin’s penalty to save humanity. Jesus, God, the Son, was manifested to us so He could die on a cross for our sin, conquer death, and destroy the works of the devil.[18] This was God’s plan all along.[19]

The Word became flesh for you!

     If you haven’t already, will you choose to turn from your sin and accept His precious Gift this Christmas? It’s free.[20] It will cost you nothing, because, it cost Him everything.

Have a Merry and very Blessed Christmas.

[1] John 1:1
[2] Hebrews 4:12
[3] Genesis 1:3
[4] Romans 5:12
[5] Romans 8:22
[6] Isaiah 25:7
[7] II Peter 1:21
[8] Romans 1:21
[9] Genesis 9:11
[10] Genesis 10:25; I Chronicles 1:19
[11] Genesis 11:4
[12] Isaiah 40:8
[13] Luke 1:5-38
[14] Luke 1:31
[15] Luke 1:35
[16] Galatians 4:4
[17] Revelation 19:13
[18] I John 3:5-8
[19] I Peter 1:18-20
[20] Romans 6:23

Friday, November 16, 2018

Are You Wholehearted?

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
By Allan Ramsay - National Portrait Gallery:
Public Domain,
In March of 1746, British statesman and 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Stanhope, said, “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”[1] All my life I’ve heard that quote or a variation of it. What does this saying mean? To me, it means doing things with your whole heart. So, let me ask, do you do things with a whole heart? And if you do, what is it?

Some give their whole heart to doing Thanksgiving and Christmas right. And some, like me, barely squeak by. I’m sure there are things I do with my whole heart, yet at the moment, I can’t think of one.

So what does it mean to do something with a whole heart? As soon as I asked that question my fifth-grade training kicked in, “When in doubt, look it up!” I’m high-tech now. I don’t actually use a book, I use Google!  I typed in whole heart. Google gave me a replacement word, wholehearted, and only one definition:  “Showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment.”[2]

That makes sense, but my subpar mind needed a bit more. When I considered some of the synonyms I really started to understand: Committed, positive, devoted, unshakable, unswerving, without reservations, unconditional, complete, total, and absolute.

Wow! Strong words. I’m feeling pretty small right now. Nevertheless, after a few moments, I realized these synonyms remind me of my great and glorious God. No wonder I was feeling small. He is the totally committed, unshakable, unswerving, unconditional, complete, and absolute One. He has always been this way and always will be. Nothing; no outside influence can ever change Him.[3]

Outside influences, on the other hand, do change us. When faced with adversity can anyone be totally unshakable? I know I can’t, but I want to be. I desire to say with King David, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my WHOLE HEART; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.[4] …With my WHOLE HEART I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments![5] …Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my WHOLE HEART.”[6]

Yet, I’m not sure I do. At times, my sin nature hinders me and I pray I’m never like Judah, turning to God in pretense.[7] But in these moments of concern, I need to trust God more. “Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly…though I walk in the midst of trouble, You [O Lord] will revive me…Your right hand will save me.[8]

Of course, our Almighty, Triune God is the only wholehearted being in existence. And because we are true, forgiven believers, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, He lives in us. Every day His indwelling Holy Spirit is molding us into more Christ-like beings, generating wholehearted devotion. Thus we can seek, praise, and love God AND others with a WHOLE HEART.

The problem is there’s a world out there seeking what we have in Jesus, but they’re looking in the wrong places. With whole hearts, they strive to find and do things that can only be found and done in Him. Let’s be ready this Thanksgiving holiday to plant the seed of God’s Word in their hearts and pray Christmas waters it. That way, if they allow it, God will make it grow.[9] He can replace their stony heart with a new heart of flesh,[10] and say to them as to Israel, “I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their WHOLE HEART.”[11]

[3] Malachi 3:6
[4] Psalm 9:1
[5] Psalm 119:10
[6] Psalm 119:34
[7] Jeremiah 3:10
[8] Psalm 138:6-7
[9] I Corinthians 3:6
[10] Ezekiel 36:26
[11] Jeremiah 24:7

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Prayer Strategy From Football?

Honoring National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Photo by Bentley Photography

Each football season, my husband, Scott, and I look forward to watching our grandson, Justin, play football. It’s thrilling live action, as though you’re right in the game. You hear clashing of helmets; almost feel the hits. And for those, like Scott, who played high school football, you’re transported back in time, remembering the game, the plays, and what it took to win.

Scott amazes me. He understands and sees everything in the game, each move Justin makes, when he’s on the field and when he’s off. Me, I can barely keep track of the football. Most of the time I have to look for the pile of bodies to know where it is.

Our Justin plays defense. He’s a linebacker, I think. At least that’s what the newspaper called him when he intercepted a pass. Anyway, a football team’s defense doesn’t usually score points, although Justin’s defensive squad has scored several times this season and actually won a game for us.

Even though I’m not a super football enthusiast, recently when I was reading the book, Spiritual Warfare, by Dr. Karl Payne, Leadership Development & Discipleship Pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, WA and Chaplain of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, I got excited. I came across his strategy for effective battle in the unseen realm. When he used the words offense and defense relating them to prayer, I naturally thought of Justin.

In football, as in life, a strong and powerful defense is needed. Defense is designed to hold back the opponent and stop them from scoring. Defense reacts to what the adversary is doing. However, a tough and aggressive offense is just as important. For the offense to win the game, they need stratagem. They follow plays designed to cut through the enemy’s line, move the ball downfield into enemy territory, and score.

Dr. Payne says, “I encourage believers to call upon God not only to protect them from evil (defensive prayer), but also to expose and tear down those trying to destroy His Children (offensive prayer).” The enemy, he says, is “…no match for the One committed to protecting us.”[1]

I totally agree. Psalm 71:2-3, I believe, is a good example of defensive prayer:  “Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.”[2]

Psalm 35 seems to be what Dr. Payne calls offensive prayer“Plead my cause, O LORD…fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler…stand up for my help…draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me…Let those be put to shame…brought to dishonor…turned back and brought to confusion who plot my hurt…And let his net that he has hidden catch himself; in that very destruction let him fall.”[3]

So, if I understand correctly, defensive prayer is asking God to restrain the enemy, and stop him from scoring points in our life, much like a football team’s defense. But offensive prayer seems forceful and forward moving. It’s asking God to go before us, tear down the enemy stronghold, cut through their defense, and create an opening for us to shoot through, cross the goal line, and win the victory.

Yet, a football field is lengthy, as is our trek. There are tackles along the way and sometimes we need our defense to play while we strategize. In those disheartened, wounded, and weak times, we must remember, God Almighty IS our defense and our offense. Our strategy and responsibility is to run behind Him, believe, PRAY, and ask. Sometimes God says, “…stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”[4] while enemies turn on themselves. And sometimes, He says FIGHT. We draw near to God, resist the enemy,[5] put on the armor and use the Sword of the Spirit.[6] God becomes our Blocker plowing a hole through the enemy’s line. We, then, run through, score, and WIN, because, He has already won.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[7] 

[1] Spiritual Warfare, Dr. Karl Payne, Pg. 142
[2] Psalm 71:2-3
[3] Psalm 35:1-8
[4] Exodus 14:13; II Chronicles 20:17
[5] James 4:7
[6] Ephesians 6:10-18
[7] I Corinthians 15:57

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Miracle of Music

The pier at San Juan Island, Washington
This was my year of travel. Yet, the only trip I actually planned was my “Cousins” vacation to Seattle this past August. But somehow, I ended up traveling much more than originally intended. In all my travels this year, I encountered many delayed flights, and the return trip from Seattle was the worst. Our flight out of Seattle was delayed so long we missed the connecting flight. No other flights out to Pittsburgh, PA until morning. We had a quick overnight stay and were back at the airport by 4:30am. Salt Lake City to Detroit, then on to Pittsburgh and home.

I’m rarely on Facebook, but this morning I came across an intriguing video shared by a friend:  How to pass the time when your flight is delayed The video was a group of hip-hop dancers who waited on their delayed flight by dancing in the airport terminal. Using a cool song with great rhythm, they choreographed their moves precisely to the words, melody, and beats of the music. They were terrific and watching them lifted my spirits and made me smile.

Cousin's selfie atop the Seattle Space Needle
I don’t know about you, but music makes me feel good and my body just naturally wants to “move to the groove”. Even with the music on Christian Radio and at church I feel uplifted. It causes me to praise God, to worship Him and revel in His presence.

With this reflection, I remembered a Bible Study where the author taught about God’s creative work in speaking the universe into being. One of God’s most ingenious creations was that of music.

Did you realize there are actually only SEVEN notes? No, no, no, you might say. There are 88 keys on a piano and there are seven, count them, seven octaves. Nevertheless, I would ask you to take a moment to think about this. In an octave, you have a series of eight notes beginning with the “C” note. They are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Please observe there are only SEVEN original notes. The eighth sequential note is the same as the first only at a higher pitch. All other notes on the piano keyboard are variations of these original SEVEN.

I know Wikipedia is not the most reliable source of research, but here’s what they had to say about the octave:  “The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the “basic miracle of music”…” Natural phenomenon – n.

Still, I love the phrase – basic miracle of music! The significance of the SEVEN notes points to our Almighty Creator God. SEVEN in scripture carries the meaning of completeness – spiritual – perfection (finished). God’s musical scale was perfect and complete - nothing more was needed and since the beginning, not one note has been added. This is because, in our finite minds, we humans cannot even conceive of a musical note that does not already exist. Nor can we conceive of an eighth color, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington

It is God, and God alone, who creates something out of nothing – the Hebrew word is bârâ´ - pronounced baw-raw’ and God did this THREE times in Genesis, chapter one. The first was the beginning when He created (bârâ´) the heavens and the earth. The second was when He created sea, air, and land creatures. The third time was when God created man in His image – male and female He created them. [1]

Relaxing at a coffee shop on San Juan Island
Along with everything else God created music and set the SEVEN notes in place – a miracle if ever there were one. We, as humans, use what God has created. We put the musical notes together in all their variations to make beautiful melodies and harmonies. The music, in turn, affects our emotions – our whole body, soul, and spirit. It’s God’s design.

No wonder King Saul, when plagued by the distressing spirit, needed the future king, David, to play his harp.[2] The music soothed Saul and the Spirit of the Lord upon David chased the distressing spirit away for the moment.

So the next time you are emotionally down or drained, remember God’s miracle of music. He designed music to touch your inmost being, to draw you to Himself, and to focus your thoughts on Jesus and things in heaven, for Christ is your life.[3]

[1] Genesis 1:1; Genesis 1:21; Genesis 1:27
[2] 1 Samuel 16:23
[3] Colossians 3:1-3

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