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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A PERFECT CHRISTMAS



Tinsel, glittering trees, sparkling lights, wreaths, and decorations in their place. Nativity displayed. Cards addressed and mailed. Candles lit. Table set. Ham glazed. Cookies baked, candies molded, nut bowls filled. Cocoa simmering, presents wrapped, ribboned, and bowed, and a family dressed to the nines. What a perfect Christmas!

Oh, how I wish this were me. I did better with Christmas when I was younger, probably because I started in September. Lately, though, the perfect Christmas seems elusive, and I’d rather escape into Christmas poems, books, and movies. In them, I rarely see the behind the scenes work or the chaos that ensues with my not-so-perfect Christmases. Neither is there the stress, depression, or frustration building during the holidays. Sometimes we’re missing loved ones, sometimes we’re lonely, sometimes it’s disturbing news or a serious diagnosis, and sometimes we’re simply dreading the work of putting up decorations, just to take them down a few weeks later. Add to that a dwindling bank account, and possibly having to wait until a later payday to purchase Christmas presents, leaving very little time for wrapping.

When I think about the “perfect” Christmas and how very short I fall, I want to wallow in self-pity and berate myself because, once again, I missed the mark. But it’s in those moments, God’s still small voice speaks:

“My child,” He says. “The perfect Christmas is something from your youth when you were oblivious to reality. Through the years, this notion gained strength from those poems, books, and movies you love. But it has very little to do with Me or what actually took place on that first and most perfect Christmas ever.
“Remember what My Holy Spirit taught you when you received Jesus as your Savior. Out of our great love and foreknowledge, We designed our plan. It started before time began, and before We laid the foundation of this world.[1]
“Knowing sin would enter and corrupt our perfect creation[2], We planned for the second person of My Triune Godhead to become flesh—quite a feat since God is Spirit and cannot die.[3]
      “We chose Mary, a young virgin from Nazareth, to provide for Him a human body.[4] My Holy Spirit and power came upon her, overshadowed her, and she miraculously conceived. Then, in the course of human gestation—on that perfect Christmas night—Mary gave birth to her Baby boy—Jesus—God in flesh.
“We did this to dwell among you for a time, to identify with your pain, to teach you Truth, and bring light and life into the darkness sin had caused.[5] But our main reason for Jesus, God the Son, becoming flesh was to rescue humanity from sin’s penalty—death.[6]
Jesus, the pure and sinless[7] Baby, born in Bethlehem, grew up, and as planned, died in your place.[8] Like a Lamb led to slaughter, Jesus shed His blood and bore the penalty for your sin on the cross.
“But death could not hold Him. After three days in the grave, Jesus arose from the dead.[9] His disciples saw Him alive, as did many others. Then, forty days after His resurrection, also as planned, He returned bodily to His glory in heaven.[10]
“My child, this is what you celebrate. An infinite God coming down to mankind to save them from death and hell. This perfect Christmas happened when time was at its fullness.[11] It was bold but humble, poverty-stricken but priceless, private, yet for the whole world. Even today, Our plan remains foolishness to those who choose to reject Jesus,[12] but boundless wisdom to those heeding My call.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”[13]

I’m humbled, Lord. I did, for a moment, lose sight of your great love and amazing Gift. Thank you for being in control of my life, for changing my attitude, for setting my heart and focus back on Jesus, for driving out depression, anxiety, and self-pity. This truly is a perfect Christmas!

Be blessed, my friends this Christmas, and have a Happy New Year,
Anita




[1] I Peter 1:20
[2] Romans 5:12-14
[3] Colossians 1:15-17; Colossians 2:8-9; John 4:24
[4] Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:26-38
[5] John 1:1-4, 14; Hebrews 4:14-15
[6] John 3:16; Romans 5:8
[7] II Corinthians 5:21
[8] Isaiah 53; John 1:29
[9] Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27, 31, Matthew 28:1-6
[10] Acts 1:4; 9-11
[11] Galatians 4:4-5
[12] I Corinthians 1:23-25
[13] Revelation 3:20

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

For What Are You Thankful?



Among the myriad of things for which I’m thankful, at this moment, it’s the two movie reviews I just read on Crosswalk.com. Freelancer, Michael Foust, writes about Frozen II[1] and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.[2] Both should be wildly popular at the box office, but for different reasons, and with different messages. Frozen II, while appealing to our “baby” generation, promotes the elements of witchcraft, fire, water, wind, and earth. And, using animism, gives each a soul and a spirit body.

Although Frozen II teaches courage in the face of adversity, it also conveys an antichristian source for Elsa’s courage/power, and this puts me in a bit of a predicament. As a long-distance grandma, I promised my granddaughters. I would buy them tickets to see the movie. They saw the first Frozen, and yes, it does have a bit of animism—Olaf, the walking and talking snowman. But Foust says Frozen II is darker. I’m not surprised, and in my opinion, it’s deliberately darker, so they can slowly capture our children’s hearts and minds. I’m concerned this movie may push my granddaughters over the top. Their faith in God, who is the True power,[3] could be deactivated, defused like a stick of dynamite. This is Satan’s ultimate goal because the Gospel IS the power—the Greek word dunamis [dynamite]—of God.[4]

On the other hand, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a story in the life of ordained Presbyterian Pastor, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame, focuses on the fruits of the Spirit,[5] according to Foust. The one preview I saw showed Mr. Rogers kneeling by his bed in prayer. These are the things I want my grandchildren to see and remember. However, I guarantee my granddaughters won’t ask to attend this movie. Their ages are 4, 8, and 10.

Our son, their dad, thinks I’m crazy for being concerned with what Frozen II communicates, and maybe some of you are with him. Nevertheless, I know the creators of these types of movies have agendas fueled by the prince of this world. So what’s a grandma to do?

PRAY! I’m so thankful I’m a child of the Living God[6] that He allows me to come boldly to His throne.[7] And because of this, you might think I’m writing about prayer today, but you would be wrong. It’s the season of Thanksgiving. Let's talk about the word, thankful.

Did you know the majority of Bible words translated thank, thanks, thankful, or thanking are the Hebrew word yâdâh pronounced yaw-daw’?[8] It means literally to use (i.e. hold out) the hand…especially to revere or worship (with extended hands). There is a second word, tôwdâh, pronounced to-daw’, derived from yâdâh[9] and properly meaning, an extension of the hand…adoration, specifically a choir of worshippers, and translated as (sacrifice of) praise, thanks (-giving, offering).

I love these words! They remind me of author and speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs, stomping her foot, throwing her hands forward, and shouting, “Ta-da!!”[10]

I think King David expressed thankfulness with this same exuberance. When he finally brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, his joy was uncontainable. Earlier, David had written a psalm of thanksgiving to be sung as they traveled. It is documented in I Chronicles 16, but its influence is felt throughout Scripture.

“On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank [yâdâh] the Lord:  Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! …Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”[11]

Scripture uses a few other “thank” words, yet each is associated with yâdâh. And all, in some way, bear the meaning of a lifted hand, a choir, a shout, an acclamation, or a sacrifice of praise. No wonder David also wrote, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”[12]

Oh, that we would be so in love with our Savior, that like David, we’d lift our hands, shout and sing thanks—yâdâhtôwdâh—to God uninhibited. And then, teach our children and grandchildren to do the same.[13]

Have a thankful and blessed Thanksgiving!



[1] https://www.crosswalk.com/culture/features/things-parents-should-know-about-frozen-2.html
[2] https://www.crosswalk.com/culture/features/things-you-should-know-about-a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood.html
[3] Ephesians 1:17-21
[4] Romans 1:16
[5] Galatians 2:22-23
[6] John 1:12
[7] Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-22
[8] Strong’s #3034
[9] Strong’s #8426
[10] https://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/lets-all-say-ta-da/
[11] I Chronicles 16:7-10, 34
[12] Psalm 141:2
[13] Deuteronomy 11:19

Thursday, October 31, 2019

His Work of Art


For the last three or four weeks, I’ve been renovating my bedroom, and I’m not done yet. My poor husband, all my bedroom furniture is in my dining room. I’ve scraped loose paint, patched cracks and holes in the plaster. I’ve primed the woodwork, painted it, the ceiling, and the walls. Scrubbed and vacuumed the carpet, and yesterday, my husband fixed the window, but not without some damage to my newly painted woodwork. Ugh! Today, I’ll do touchups, move the furniture back in, and decorate. My goal is to create a beautiful and peaceful environment—a masterpiece—my work of art.

Our house is old, so anything I do is cosmetic. I’m not an HGTV type of renovator. Still, all this work and planning has given me insight into a verse I’ve been stuck on for quite some time—Ephesians 2:10. Originally, I contemplated the word walk, but now workmanship.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

This Is Man's All



Has your life been rocked this past week? Mine has with the swift and untimely death of my daughter’s childhood friend’s mother from cancer, and a family member’s massive stroke. Our family member remains in ICU, and we are fervently praying for God’s healing touch, but we don’t know what the future holds.

Our bodies are so frail. Even when we exercise, keep our muscles toned, eat “clean” foods, and follow every age-defying regimen out there, death strikes. And for those in the land of the living, it stings like a slap in the face. It jars us, brings us back to reality, and shouts, “Wake up! Life is short.”

Sadly, the longer we live, the more we see that reality. In fact, this morning, I opened Facebook because my daughter tagged me in a memory. She shared a picture of my grandchildren from seven years ago. It was so cute and brought me right back to that night and then returned me to the present.

Seven years flew by in an instant, and a somber emotion followed. My thoughts drifted to the melancholy writing of King Solomon:  “A time to be born, and a time to die…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”[1]

Although I cannot identify with Solomon in his lavish, unbridled lifestyle, I seem to get what he’s feeling. He wrote words we all have thought at one time or another. He anguishes over the brevity of life, how the hard work of our hands is left to those who come after us.[2] Death, he says, happens to both the righteous and the wicked, the wise and the fool,[3] the rich and the poor.

Even the wisdom and wealth God provided him didn’t help. Solomon despaired in the thought that the way we come into this world, naked and empty-handed, is the same way we leave.[4] We take nothing with us.

In one respect, Solomon is saying what my daughter’s friend said as she eulogized her mother. Jamie spoke of “owning your dash.” The “dash” on your tombstone between your date of birth and death. Bonnie, Jamie’s mom, was a beautiful, kind, generous, loving, and gracious lady, who loved life and lived it to its fullest. She truly owned, earned, and lived her dash, and she will be greatly missed.

Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes as an elderly king near the end of his life, yet not by himself. This book, depressing as it is, finds its place among the 66 books of our God-breathed Bible. And, using Solomon’s perspective and mixed emotions, our Lord gives us His Word. He helps us to see life and death through new eyes, and we are not alone in our frustration. Even a king blessed by God with unequaled wisdom and wealth has the same end.

Still, Solomon lived before Jesus walked this earth, before His death, burial, and resurrection. Before Jesus tempered death’s sting,[5] and before we knew Him as our High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses because He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.[6] Here is the greatness of our God. He fully understands our despair, our pain, our sadness, and our screaming, “Why, God?”

I could tell you sin’s penalty is death, and it’s the cause of all our heartache, but you probably know that. If not, please turn from your sin, believe Jesus, receive your “free gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord,”[7] and heed Solomon’s concluding advice:  “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and…before the silver cord is loosed. [Remember] the words given by [your] one [and only] Shepherd. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all.”[8]



[1] Ecclesiastes 3:2, 4
[2] Ecclesiastes 2:14, 18
[3] Ecclesiastes 9:2-3
[4] Ecclesiastes 5:15-16
[5] I Corinthians 15:55-57
[6] Hebrews 4:15
[7] Romans 6:23
[8] Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6, 11-13

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Has Doubt Inspired Heresy?



     At the urging of my daughter, I watched a Netflix film entitled Come Sunday, and I think I’m heartbroken. This movie is the true-life portrayal of Bishop Carlton Pearson, who decided there is no hell. During a documentary about the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Pearson believed God spoke to him, and because God is love and Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, everyone goes to heaven.[1]

     A few days later, I read an article about an applauded author I recognized from my son’s teen years. Joshua Harris impacted teens and singles in the late 1990s and early 2000s with his books I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl – Say Hello to Courtship. Harris, the former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, just divorced his wife and announced he’s not a Christian anymore, at least not by evangelical standards. Fox News reported, “In an Instagram post, he also apologized for his previously held views, including "bigotry" to the LGBTQ community.”[2]

     This morning, I reread an article I had saved from last August about Andy Stanley, the son of Pastor Charles Stanley. Andy has been preaching that Christians need to “unhitch” from the Old Testament.[3] The article accused him of heresy, and I would agree.

     But what’s going on? It’s crazy to think three solid Biblical Christians could be so corrupted with the enemy’s lies. Pearson turned from Truth to universal reconciliation. No hell and everyone going to heaven sounds so good. We desperately want to believe it, especially when we lose a loved one who never received Jesus. But Scripture says otherwise, and in reality, this is doctrines of demons.[4] If universal reconciliation were true, our Bible would not make a distinction between believers and unbelievers, between children of light and children of darkness. John 15:6[5] would be irrelevant, as would Matthew 7:23[6] and many others.

     Stanley, on the other hand, says he believes the New Testament, but feels the Old Testament is irrelevant even though Jesus said, the Scriptures “…are they which testify of Me.” Jesus, the theme of the whole Bible, is progressively revealed therein. God knew our sinful, finite minds could not handle His full revelation all at once. Some still can’t handle it.

     Harris just lost faith in the One True and Living God – maybe because God’s Word conflicted with Harris’s desires.

     While these reasons for leaving the Truth of God are different, they all have one source – DOUBT.

     Each man doubted what he knew of God and that God’s Word meant what it said. Thus, heresy was born. However, it wasn’t one day they believed Truth, and the next day, they didn’t. Doubt was gradual like ocean waves pounding against a cliff. As time passes, the raging water erodes the base. Eventually, the overhead rocks fall, similar to the bluff in Encinitas, California, that recently collapsed killing three. According to the report I read, the bluff was a mixture of rock and sand.[7] It seemed solid, but when the sand eroded the rock crumbled.

     Satan is working overtime to corrupt Christians, especially those with influence. Christians who look strong in the Word, yet somehow their foundation isn’t quite solid Rock. Nevertheless, God is allowing this shaking. But why?

     To refine the church? To reveal the hearts of those who truly believe His Word and are willing to follow it, and those who are not? I don’t know.

     What I do know is doubt is deadly. If we allow doubt to fester, it will take over and color everything – every thought, word, and deed. Doubt’s ONLY cure is true and wholehearted repentance. Once God has cleansed us from unrighteousness[8], we must use His armor by believing His Word, girding our loins with Truth.[9] Still, Satan does not let up, so this is where we must take our thoughts – our doubts – captive, and make them obey Christ.[10]

     Sadly, Pearson, Harris, Stanley, and countless others have chosen a different Gospel, another Jesus,[11] and a form of godliness.[12] Their doubt-inspired heresy continues to gain momentum because congregations have itching ears.[13]  And these false teachings will fuel the end-time “falling away.”[14]  My heart is broken!




[4] I Timothy 4:1
[5] “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
[6] “And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
[8] I John 1:9
[9] Ephesians 6:10-18
[10] II Corinthians 10:3-5
[11] II Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9
[12] II Timothy 3:5
[13] II Timothy 4:1-5
[14] II Thessalonians 2:3

Monday, July 29, 2019

Run In Such A Way



Orlan Warsaw Marathon 2014
By Adrian Grycuk - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32152574


I’ve never thought much about marathons before today. Have you? Even with the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, I didn’t think about the race. I only thought about the tragedy. I guess my simple, nonathletic mind has trouble understanding what would drive someone to run such a distance. But, I truly admire those who do.

Did you know marathons originated around 490BC? According to www.justrunlah.com, the marathon came to be “at the time when the Persians were invading Greece.” This would have been four years prior to Xerxes ascending the Persian throne, seven years before his outlandish party, and about ten years before Esther became his choice for queen.[1]

Supposedly, a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the Battle of Marathon to proclaim to the people of Athens, that the Greeks defeated the Persians. Unfortunately, after running such a distance without stopping, Pheidippides fell to the ground and died of exhaustion.

Originally, the running distance of 40.8 kilometers was used for the first Olympic Games in 1896. JustRunLah.com indicated it’s the distance between the battle of Marathon and the city of Athens, or it could be the distance between Athens and Sparta as another source pointed out. Fittingly, a young Greek, Spyridon Louis, won the first Olympic marathon.[2] Since then, the race distance changed to 42.195km, or 26 miles, 385 yards.

Why do you need to know this information? First, it’s interesting, and you never know when the question will come up on Jeopardy [ha, ha]. But secondly, many times our Christian walk is compared to a race or marathon. For us, ordinary folk, running 26 plus miles is impossible, yet it is also impossible to live for Christ without the Holy Spirit, although countless people try every day.

Referring to Grecian or Isthmian races where many run, yet they produce only one winner, Paul writes, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? RUN,” he says to Christians,in such a way that you may obtain it.”[3] Obtain what? The prize of an imperishable crown from Jesus Christ our Lord.[4]

Still, with the Christian race, it’s different. ALL who RUN in “such a way” obtain the crown. No one loses. This is so unlike the races known to man. But, how do we run that we may obtain this crown from our Lord? King David explains, “For by You [O LORD] I can RUN against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.”[5]

David knew he only did these by relying on God’s Holy Spirit. He says, the Lord our God saves, lights our lamp, and enlightens our darkness. His way is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. He is our Rock, and He arms us with strength. Almighty God makes our way perfect. In fact, when we truly believe God’s Word and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, He makes our feet like the feet of a deer – swift, steady, and sure, so our feet do not slip.[6]

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t see it in my life.” Well, I feel for you. But, let me ask, have you had your spiritual eyes opened?

Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now (through his trial and God speaking) my eye sees You.”[7] Jesus said, “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[8]

If you know you are born again, and your eyes still do not see, something is wrong. Hold fast the Word of life.[9] Believe God and pray. Jesus will open your eyes that you may see His hand at work and RUN strong. Moreover, this is what he told the prophet Habakkuk, “Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may RUN who reads it.” [10]

Whether this passage means RUN strong or RUN away from the judgment to come, without the Word of God and the refreshing of His Spirit, oh, we can run, yet we will crumble, fall, and die in the end like Pheidippides. Nevertheless, by our Lord, by His Word, and through His Holy Spirit, we will read, RUN, and not be weary. We will not faint.[11] And we will finish our race with joy.[12]



[1] Esther 1 and 2
[2] https://www.britannica.com/sports/marathon-race
[3] I Corinthians 9:24
[4] I Corinthians 9:25
[5] Psalm 18:29
[6] Psalm 18:27-36
[7] Job 42:5
[8] John 3:3
[9] Philippians 2:16
[10] Habakkuk 2:2
[11] Isaiah 40:31
[12] Acts 20:24

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