One More Time, Dream Together
Small Wonders, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesdays,
Count Your Blessings, Word Art Wednesday,
Cheerleaders of our Faith, Reflect
Wow Us Wednesdays, Sitting Among Friends
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.”
1 Peter 1:24-25
When I look around me, it seems as if I am safe. My house has a strong foundation, the building where I work has withstood earthquakes and storms, I have flown back and forth in airplanes many times, and the people around me have my good at heart. The truth is my house may have termites gnawing somewhere in secret. Some time ago, my helper who has apparently very good hearing, heard termites attacking her bedroom door and we were able to call a pest control company. As for our building, in the past month, the fire alarm sounded twice! We never know when the fragility of solid things around us impacts our consciousness.
Of all we know in this world, only the Word of God stands sure and eternal. In 1 Peter 1:23, it says that we can be born anew, not from perishable seed but from imperishable seed, “through the living and abiding Word of God.” Our eternal spirits crave eternal food, and there is only one, the living bread of life, the Word became flesh. So let us try not to satiate ourselves with what the world can offer, but spend more time in pursuit of what our soul hungers for.
“...an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you...” 1 Peter 1:4
What would make someone do everything, even to giving his very life, so that another may have a treasure so immeasurable? Only love.
Danielle Green-Byrd was a young, beautiful African-American, one of the first women injured during the beginning of the war in Iraq. On May 25, 2004, she was on a rooftop guarding the two-story Iraqi police station when two rocket-propelled grenades hit a barrier on the ground and exploded. A third one hit and her left arm up to her shoulder went flying. As she was being brought to the ambulance, she was screaming. When asked, “Are you in pain?” She answered, “No! My ring! My wedding ring!”
Against orders, two of her sergeants went back on the rooftop, retrieved her arm and placed her wedding ring on her right hand. Imagine what her husband Willie felt when he learned that her wedding ring was more precious to her than her left arm!
The wedding ring was a symbol of her deep love and commitment to her husband. Jesus has an even deeper, more noble love and commitment to us. He willingly gave not only His arm or leg, but up to His last agonizing drop of life and strength. That is why we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven!
“Everyone will be salted with fire.”
Sounds painful. When salt is rubbed into a wound, it makes the pain worse. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used salt water to treat wounds and mouth sores, and skin irritations.
Why did Jesus say that EVERYONE will be salted with fire? He also said that we have to be salt in this world. We use salt to preserve food. Fire is used to purify metals, refining the gold and silver from iron and other impurities. Jesus means that we can be salt to a decaying, progressively despairing world. But first we need the refining fire of the Holy Spirit. Without His power, we are fair game for the evil one to toy with his endless deceptions.
In Leviticus 2:13 we read: “Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God's eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.” Salt was a symbol of incorruption. We are all subject to decay and ruin.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2) Here it all comes together. We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, but we should never forget to “add salt”, to preserve ourselves from the decay around us in the world.
Lord, send Your Holy Spirit, and enkindle in us the fire of Your transforming love!
“I do believe, help my unbelief!”
I always pray this prayer, and I should pray it more often. In this story in Mark chapter 9:17-29, one of the men in the crowd surrounding Jesus’ disciples came forward and said, “ I brought my son for You to heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit. I asked Your disciples to cast it out but they could not....Have mercy on us and help us. Do something IF You can.”
“What do you mean, IF I can?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible IF a person believes.” The father instantly replied, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Jesus then proceeded to rebuke the evil spirit, “Spirit of deafness and muteness, I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again.”
Today, doctors would probably diagnose that this child’s seizures were caused by abnormal activity in the brain. There would be no talk of evil spirits, and a doctor certainly would not rebuke a spirit of any kind. He would probably prescribe Levetiracetam or another drug that can treat epilepsy. Today, we like to ignore spirits and the spirit world altogether.
But it says in Ephesians 6:12, “We are not fighting against people of flesh and blood, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” I always go to a doctor when I need to go. But I never forget to pray and claim God’s Word.
Proverbs 4:20-22 (KJV), “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” The Word of God is our best insurance not only for our bodies but also for our soul and spirit.
“Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.” Acts 2:3
Although I’ve attended many baptisms of the Holy Spirit, I’ve never seen tongues of fire. I’ve witnessed a lot of crying, babbling in all sorts of tongues, and fainting. One time, a long time ago, an American evangelical visited our prayer meeting, and he just went around with his arm outstretched, his palm towards someone’s forehead, and even without touching, people would fall left, right, and center, without care for where they would fall. My sister and I followed him around, fixing women’s skirts as they fell on the cement floor. The Holy Spirit is powerful indeed, but it is what happens after the baptism that is more important.
The Holy Spirit gives us many gifts. We need to discover them and use them to be an effective and victorious Christian. Although God can give us wisdom and guidance, sometimes we willfully make the wrong choices and decisions. A paper thin cut on our skin when exposed to bad blood is life threatening. The same is true with our soul. When we allow bad images on the internet or TV to invade our imagination, or we go around with people we think are cool but influence us in ways we know to be against God’s ways, we inflict damage on our eternal soul.
Let us keep the flame burning bright. Let us not let our lamps go out. Let us be careful of what we see, what we hear, who we go with, where we go, and what we do. Life is too short to squander on what is foolish and of no value.
“His eyes behold, His searching glance is on mankind.” Psalm 11:4
In my other Bible, it says: “He watches everything closely, examining everyone on earth.” Not everyone believes this. They say there is no God because there is suffering, there is perversion, there are horrible things happening all around the world. Just yesterday 10 people, mostly students, were killed in a Santa Fe High School shooting. Wasn’t God watching? Today, I have 5 sores in my mouth, a flare up of my Pemphigus Vulgaris condition. Doesn’t God care?
I believe He watches and knows everything. But suffering and sin and sickness entered the world when man chose another way other than God’s way. We cannot say there is no God if there is evil in the world. Recognizing there is evil means we recognize there is good and we prefer the good. There is good only if there is a moral law, and there can only be moral law if there is a moral law giver. Who else can that be, except God?
Bertrand Russell, the famous agnostic, wrote in a 1953 essay that, "it is impossible, or at least impossible at the present time, to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned." When I read the Bible, I realize how fantastic it may seem to some people. Although more than half of the scientists in top universities are atheists, more and more scientists today believe in God because of new discoveries about the creation of the universe and how finely tuned it is to support life.
I am happy that my faith is supported by reason and logic, even by mathematics and science. But I am even more happy that I believe in God because I experience His love, goodness, faithfulness, and sometimes His discipline. When I ask, He answers. When I listen, He speaks. I know without a doubt He watches over me, in every little detail of my life.
“As far as from the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
Every time I go to confession, it seems I confess the same sins over and over again. But in the same way we should never give up on ourselves, we should never give up on others. God always gives, even the hardest criminal, the option for authentic conversion.
It used to be that the Angola Prison in Louisiana was the bloodiest and most notorious prison in the whole of the United States. Blood on the wall, on the carpets, everywhere, and if one went in, they would give you a knife to defend yourself. There were 5300 inmates and 85% were on life sentence without parole. 45 inmates were on death row. Nathan Burl Cain agreed to take the job as warden if he could do it his way. He served for 21 years, from 1995 to 2016. He placed Bible verses every where and had inmates attend bible studies. There was a degree program for theology for former gangsters who wanted to be pastors. The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary put up a branch there and developed many faith leaders. If you visited the prison at that time, you wouldn’t even hear a word of profanity from the staff or the prisoners. There was a real spiritual atmosphere about the place.
In the execution chamber, there were two pictures. One was a painting of Daniel in the lion’s den painted by one of the inmates. It signified that God can rescue you even in the direst of circumstances. The other picture was of Elijah rising to the heavens on a chariot of fire. If God won’t rescue you from the lion, He will rescue you in another way!
Thank You Lord that You never give up on us! When we ask for forgiveness, You will put our transgressions as far as the east is from the west!
“Take courage.” Acts 23:11
The world is changing and it seems to me, much is going out of control in many places of the world. Terror attacks by young children? Vans used to mow through people walking on sidewalks? Churches being targeted?
In the States, Caryl Ayala, felt she had to quit her job as a teacher. She could not stomach encouraging her students to read specially marked books placed in the school library by the Anti-Defamation League. One particular book among many others, “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris, targeted 9-10 olds. It contained promiscuity, homosexual exploration, sexual intercourse, street language, masturbation techniques, abortion as an escape for unwanted pregnancy, etc. In her school in Texas, most of the students were from Latino background and their parents were not even informed of the new programs. She bravely quit her job of 20 plus years and is now trying to fight the politically motivated curriculum.
These days we need to stand for what is right, and speak for those with no voice. Saint Paul was courageous even when he knew he would be imprisoned, beaten, and suffer much for the cause of Christ. Let us find our courage to do the same.
“I commend you now to the Lord, and to that gracious Word of His which can enlarge you...” Acts 20:32
Another version reads: “And now I entrust You to God and to the Word of His grace- His message that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those He has set apart for Himself.” Saint Luke in this chapter of Acts recounts the last words of Saint Paul to them at Miletus. He was fully prepared for what awaited him in Jerusalem. “The Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for the work assigned me by the Lord- the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.”
Yes, God’s gracious Word is really the best news any human being can be in possession of. This wonderful message can give us the only inheritance worth waiting for. I confess it was very hard for me to read the Bible at the start. It was tedious going, boring even. I would start reading with the intention of reading the Bible every day, but I would stop because of passages I disagreed with, could not understand or because I was just plain lazy. Then I would start again, stop and start again. Whatever we feed will grow. Whatever we starve will die.
Perhaps we read and pray out of a sense of duty or obedience at first. But then we gain an interest, and then a love for it. God partners with us in our journey. We do not go through it alone.