JUST KIDDING!

This year Easter is on April 1st….the traditional April Fool’s Day.

Some of my friends say that is blasphemous, but our calendar puts the Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection according to three days after the Jewish Passover.

The tradition of April Fool’s Day has endured for over 400 years. The true origins of April Fool’s Day are uncertain, but one theory is that it began in 1582 when France adopted the Gregorian calendar. Before then, New Year’s Day fell on the end of March, not January 1st. Those who continued to celebrate the old New Year (at the beginning of April) were called “fools” by their peers. In 1700, English pranksters began popularizing this annual tradition of April Fool’s Day by playing practical jokes on each other. And so it goes on still to this day.

When Christ died on that Roman cross and shed His blood to cover our sins it certainly wasn’t a joke. And, God’s plan for the covering of our sins is not a prank. God wasn’t teasing humanity with a “maybe my Son Jesus could suffer, bleed and die for the penalty of mankind’s sins against Me.” It’s not a J/K scenario that Jesus actually arose from the dead and is living with His Father in Heaven!

And, you know what?  Jesus is coming one day when His Father says “Go get my children!”  And on that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD of all…no one will be able to say “I thought you were kidding.”

Something to think about………..

The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.”  Psalm 14:1

On a happier note…have a blessed Easter Day celebration that Christ is risen!!!

How far is too far? How close is close enough?

For over a a year now I have been witnessing to a 90-year-old woman who can’t seem to decide to be a follower of Christ.  She keeps saying “I’ll try.”

My heart is drawn to her.  She is covered in prayer by friends she has acquired at this faith-based retirement community.

This past week I asked her some pointed questions, such as: “Have you decided to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?”  The answer was “No.”  “Do you believe Jesus Christ shed His blood and died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins?”  “Oh yes!”, was her answer.   “Do you believe Jesus arose from the dead after three days and still lives in Heaven today?”  “Oh yes!”, she said.  “Do you believe He’s coming again?”  “Well, I’m not sure about that.”, she said.

My heart was rejoicing as I told her….”Then you believe according to the Word of God in Acts 16:31.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….”

I encouraged her with Scripture and the account of Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples who did not believe Jesus was alive, who, after touching the nail scars in Jesus’ hands, and the wound in His side, cried out “My Lord and My God.”  John 20:28

Also in the scriptures; the account of a father asking Jesus to heal his son, if He could. (Mark 9:24) When Jesus said “If you can?  Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Isn’t it God’s great compassion and grace to give us proof in His Word that He knows our heart?  He knows our frail humanity!

Even though my elderly friend has not prayed the “sinners prayer”, or “gone forward to the altar” at church, she must be on her way to a full realization of who Jesus Christ is, and who He is to her. Even the thief on one of the crosses next to Jesus cried out to Him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “I tell you THE TRUTH, TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.”  That man believed in his heart at that moment and didn’t have time to pray a sinners prayer, or go forward to an altar , or even be baptized in water….Jesus accepted him just as he was!

My point is…it is not for me to judge how far away her soul is from salvation, or how close is close enough.   God knows every individual heart and motive.  “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  Philippians 2:12

My part in her salvation is to pray for her, encourage her and disciple her in the Word so that she fully understands that salvation cannot be earned, it is a free gift, accepted by childlike faith; no need to try harder!

As she comes to the last years of her life on this earth, I pray peace over her; that she will know, without a doubt, that she belongs to Jesus Christ, her Savior for eternity.

I claim this scripture for her that my Mom prayed over me…”Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

RESOLUTIONS!???

How are those New Year resolutions working out for you?  I know.. on January 1st you had the best of intentions to keep them.  Same here!!!

Are you hearing people say “I can’t believe it’s the year 2018 already.”  Well, I heard the year 2020 mentioned on TV the other day and I thought…that’s way off.  No it’s not!!!  Space movies in the 70’s and 80’s hovered around that year.  Ha!  That’s only two years away, and you know how fast those years go!!!

Now, let’s get down to the issue of broken new year resolutions.  We all do it!  Maybe we don’t speak it, but if you’re honest you’ll admit that the “clean slate” of a new year is appealing.  “If I can just change one or two things about myself this year, I’ll be happy.”

I looked up resolution in the dictionary and there are six definitions.  The first one is: ‘the act of resolving or reducing to a simpler form.’  Ha! That’s one of my year after year resolutions…to reduce to a simpler form by 20 pounds!!!

The next definition I am sharing with you comes under the word resolve which has ten meanings.  The ninth one is: ‘to make up ones mind; arrive at a decision, or a fixed determination.’

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Now we’re getting to the resolve that really matters for eternity.  When you come to faith in Christ, you make a decision to do so.  As you grow in your knowledge of God and His Son by reading His Word, you find that His ways are past finding out.  You find that since you live in a sinful world that life is not always easy.  There are times when you feel like giving up.

That’s when the word resolution has spiritual meaning.  If you have committed your life to Christ, then it’s your choice, your resolution or fixed determination to never forsake Him, no matter what.  So I implore you to keep on, keeping on with Christ.  That’s the best resolution you can make day after day, year after year.

Romans 8:35,37-39  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

song….”I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.//The world behind me, the cross before me….no turning back, no turning back.// Though none go with me, I still will follow….no turning back, no turning back.”   

THANKFUL FOR GOD’S GRACE……… PERIOD.

In pondering what should be written for you today, I have come to the conclusion that my mind is cluttered with the needs of the gift shop that I manage here in this retirement village, and all the music that needs to be practiced and memorized.   Whoa….has my precious time with God been pushed aside because of “busyness”? Forgive me Lord.  I am so thankful, not just at this season of thankfulness, but every moment of every day for Your unfailing Grace!

What better gift of life words could I give you than the words from the Book of Life? So glean strength from these words of encouragement.

Romans 5   We have been made right with God because of our faith. So we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through our faith, Christ has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we know enjoy.  And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory.  And we also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts  God gave us His love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

Christ died for us while we were yet sinners and weak.  We were living against God, but at the right time, Christ died for us.  Very few people will die to save the life of someone else.  But Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  In this way God shows His great love for us.

Sin came into this world because of what one man (Adam) did.  And with sin came death.  And this is why all men must die …. because one man sinned against God.  But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift.  For the sin of this one man brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin.  For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.  Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners.  But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.  So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

PERIOD

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LIFE WORDS vs DEATH WORDS

Most of us are experiencing stressful times in our homes, jobs – even with traffic.  What we are thinking often comes out in words we wish we could take back. I even caught myself the other day using a death word on myself.  “What a dummy,” I said out loud. The reason we started this family blog four years ago was to encourage you to speak Life Words TODAY!!! That is a virtue we all need to work on.

You know that your words can bring life or death to yourself or to another person.  However, the repeated edification of words that build up another person’s perception of who he is, brings life and hope to one who has been beaten down by destructive words.  We see this often in children.  Those who have received encouragement as a child usually excel in school, talents, and careers.  There are exceptions, however to that rule in that some of our most gifted scientists, artists and musicians have overcome years of abuse.  What makes the difference?  Well, for one thing we read in God’s Word that God loves each one of us unconditionally.  When you know that, it changes everything! It changes how you feel about yourself and what your gifts are.

Psalm 139:14 states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each one of us are precious in His sight.  God cares about the sparrow that falls, but He cares about you even more!!!  In knowing this we can live above any death words our ears and heart take in.   You’re probably thinking…”Yeah, right.  Easy to say, but hard to do.”  But, you have worth! God has made you so unique there is not another person like you.

Today, i encourage you to read the Book of Proverbs.  There are 31 chapters.  If you read one chapter every day in a month you will gain wisdom and understanding of who God is…and who you are!

Each one of us have been given a free will by God.  In that free will you can choose to be abusive with your words (and actions), or you can give healing with your words (and actions).  Yes, we are just human after all, but controlling the tongue is a discipline that builds good character.

When you explode with anger you cannot take back your words or actions.  A runaway temper can cause depression, especially when you create a circle of resentment.  You become angry at yourself because you lost your temper……that adds guilt, which continues on in a vicious circle.

Proverbs 14: 17 “A person who quickly loses his temper does foolish things.”

Paul told the Christians in Ephesus, “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are angry.”  If you stay angry it turns into bitterness, even hatred, and that, Paul says, “will give the Devil a foothold.”  That is when anger becomes sin.   Anger starts in the heart and mind.  “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it.”  Jeremiah 17:9

Since I know that about myself, I pray this prayer every day from Psalm 139:23.  Read it yourself this day and sincerely pray it.  God will help you speak life words, not death words!!!

THE GROANING EARTH

Romans 8:19-22 “The creation waits in eager expectation  for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

You’re probably thinking “what a strange subject to talk about on a LifeWords blog.” Hang with me….I’ll get to it.

There have been numerous natural disasters in the last two months.  In fact the Atlantic hurricane season is the worst on record…and it’s not over yet!

Hurricane Harvey, a cat 4 hurricane hit S.E. Texas on August 25 and caused $180 billion dollars in damage, which is more than any other disaster in US history (Katrina was 2nd). It affected 13 million people from Texas to Louisiana.  As of this date it took 78 lives, but long term infections and bacterial intestinal problems because of drinking water systems being damaged, and PTS will take its toll on the health of the inhabitants there.  The flooding was a result of a record rainfall from a single storm in the US of 51.88″.

Since I now live in North Florida I experienced the effects of hurricane Irma.  However, our church prayed and asked God for mercy, and He answered YES!  In other parts of Florida, especially the west coast city of Naples, took a direct hits of 142mph.  The damage of Irma is still being calculated between $100 and $300 billion dollars.  Irma was the most powerful hurricane in recorded history.  This cat #5 made landfall on Barbuda Island on September 6 with winds of 185mph for 37 hours.

The Caribbean Islands have taken a strong hit from three hurricanes in a row, which has never happened before, and Maria is still active at this time.  Barbuda is no longer inhabited, Dominican Republic is devastated, all of Puerto Rico is without power.

Mexico was hit with a 7.1 earthquake.  At this point there are at least 273 lives lost, some were children that were in school.

Dozens of wildfires have enveloped the western U.S. – Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and California.  The smoke was so thick it caused respiratory problems, and the smoke was carried by the jet stream across the U.S.

There were massive landslides in the Alps of Switzerland covering a village, floods in India, Peru, Columbia, and Raleigh NC.  Severe drought in Spain and tornadoes in Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri.

These are all examples of our planet groaning for redemption….and I’m not even bringing up the man-made disasters of terrorism and wars.

Now, I know these things have gone on for thousands of years, and we are much more aware of them now because of social media.  However, my point is…as believers in the risen Christ who promises to come back and take us with Him….we have HOPE.

You hear or read about the predictions of some who say the world is coming to an end…….and sometimes it sure seems that way.   Some even give an actual date because of blood moons, stars aligning, the eclipse of the sun, weather change, natural disasters, terror attacks, etc.

The best book to get the actual facts from is THE HOLY BIBLE…. GOD’S WORDS TO US.   And the good news is…..the back of the book promises WE WIN!!!

Three of the Gospels, Mathew, Mark and Luke, record Jesus’ words…“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Matthew 24:4-8

I don’t know much about prophecy, all I know is…..HE’S COMING, AND I’M READY !!!

How about you???

SUFFERING

suffering/synonyms: Acute bodily or mental pain. Distress may be physical, but it is more often mental, referring to any deep anxiety, or the external circumstances that may produce it.  Misery is extreme suffering or abject hopelessness, as from sorrow, great loss, poverty, or the like.

Why is suffering allowed by God?

That question has been asked by believers and non-believers alike…….the difference is, those who know God know that He is a balance of justice and mercy.  Sin came into His perfectly created world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  So because of that first sin, all of creation (including you and me) is waiting for the healing that will happen when Christ returns.

Last Sunday I sang at a church in the Tampa, Florida area.  At the fellowship meal afterwards I met a 43-year old mother of 3 who was still having therapy after a triple by-pass heart surgery 3-months ago.  She had no warning, only tightness in her chest.  She has MS, her husband travels for his job during the week, her father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she has 3 boys ages 5-12 years old.  She thought the tightness in her chest was stress from life’s challenges.  The weekend her husband was home he encouraged her to go to the ER, but she refused….he insisted.  They sent her home.  The pain started then and she went back.  This time she was in surgery within the day with 100% blockage in one artery and 90% blockage in two others.  Post-surgically in the hospital one of her lungs collapsed.  Of course many prayer warriors were lifting her up in prayer…..and she is recovering wonderfully.  But, why would this godly young woman already dealing with MS have to suffer like that?

She is radiant with the love of Christ, and is a strong witness to her doctors, nurses and therapists.  She gives God all the glory for His healing touch.

I have experienced pain physically and emotionally in my lifetime, but I’ve never really suffered.  How about you?  If you have, according to the definition at the top of this blog, how have you handled it?

Right now there is an abundance of suffering in Texas due to the devastation of hurricane Harvey and the ensuing rainfall that is still causing flooding.  I can’t even imagine what that must be like.  There will be human suffering, distress and misery there for a long time.  Our prayers, finances and when possible, physical help, are with them.

There really is no way to end this blog on this subject because human suffering will always be with us.  But I must encourage you that God is a loving and compassionate God, and His heart is broken as He sees the ongoing suffering of human kind.

The Apostle Paul suffered much as he shared the Gospel of Christ.  He wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”

God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to this world; part human due to His birth from a virgin, so that He could feel and understand what we go through as humans.  In the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, we read what was written about the suffering of Christ 700-years before His death on the cross.  Verse 3:  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

Dear God, help us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Photo: Gisela Giardino, Flickr Creative Commons

LIFE is in the BLOOD

I’m sure most of you have had a blood test from time to time in your life.  Not fun…but necessary to check the many aspects of your health.  It’s always amazing to me that a test from my blood sample will tell if I’m low on a certain vitamin, like B12 or D.  I just had my yearly test last Friday, mainly to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but this time they are also checking my B12 to see if I would benefit from the shots to give me more energy!  Ha!  I know my cholesterol is high…that’s a hereditary problem, and I know I should exercise more aggressively every day!  ( I guess just looking at my stationary bike doesn’t get the job done!!!)

So much about health can be gleaned from blood tests…..it is a reminder to me that “life is in the blood”.

That’s why we receive the gift of life everlasting from the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for the removal of sins.  This is another one of the mysteries of God’s ways.  I don’t understand how that works, but I accept the covering of Christ’s blood over me.  In fact I ask Him for that covering every day.  If that seems gross to you, let me explain.

God doesn’t have blood, because He is Spirit, but His Son, Jesus, was born in the form of man so He could become Emanuel, meaning “God is with us”.  Jesus was born from a virgin, impregnated by the Holy Spirit, (the third person in the God-head).  Because of His human form, His life was in His blood.

Before Jesus Christ died for our sins, sins were cleansed by the spilling of blood from bulls, lambs, and doves.  (In fact, cults around the world still kill animals, sometimes even people, to cover their sins with the shed blood.  How sad they do not know that God’s Son, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross and spilled His blood once and for all time for their sins. Hebrews 7:27)

When Jesus died on the cross, it was because His blood spilled out of Him.  He was dead, was buried, and in Resurrection power came to life again.  Now, if we believe in Him, we can have life everlasting.

This fact is accepted by simple child-like faith.  If you are struggling with faith to believe that God’s Son, Jesus, did this for you, and you need prayer or guidance, please contact us on our Facebook page by private message.

The entire book of Hebrews is Paul’s appeal to the Jews to accept the superiority of the blood of Christ over the Judaic system of animal sacrifice. Read Hebrews 7:24-27.

Romans 3:23-25 ~ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood.

Ephesians 1:7-8 ~ In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

OUR Hope

Mary is a former pastor’s wife who served the Lord and people for decades. She is in her 80’s now and is a resident in the Good Samaritan Center nursing home in the memory care unit. Because this nursing home is part of the retirement village where I now live, I have the opportunity to visit the dear ones who have been placed there.

When I enter the memory care unit behind locked doors, I notice Mary among others whom I greet. She has a beautiful, soft countenance (unless she is in pain~then a frown shows). Our greeting of one another usually begins with a song! Mary has a strong alto voice and an extensive repertoire of hymns. When I begin to sing the following hymn she joins in with perfect harmony:

“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words
of life! Words so freely given, wooing us to heaven,
beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.”
(Philip Bliss 1874)

Although Mary’s brain is being ravaged by a terrible, debilitating disease, she still knows her God, her Savior, and the Holy Spirit’s comfort.  I don’t mean to single Mary out because most of the dear ones who are spending their evening years in this nursing home have a relationship with Christ.  As we sing together she is ministering to me, to the other residents, to the nurses, CNA’s and housekeeping workers; that there is HOPE for our future if we are secure in Christ our Savior.

One evening as I was leaving, most of the residents were already in bed for the night; I heard a strong voice coming from a darkened room down the hall.  I peeked in and saw Mary on her bed with both arms raised high and singing, Blessed Assurance………”This is my story, this is my song…..Praising my savior all the day long.   This is my story, this is my song….Praising my Savior……all the day long!” (Fanny Crosby 1873)

Oh God, help me to never forget the HOPE I have in You.  No matter what comes my way, I know, that I know….that You are  real, You are alive; You care.  You sent your Only Son to die and shed His blood for me for the covering of my sins.  One day You will come again to this earth and take me home to be with you forever.

hope

This is the HOPE that changes everything that I think, feel, say and do. I pray you have this HOPE as well, because it surely makes life fulfilling.

Titus 3:4-7  “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His Mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life.”

Re-post from July 2014

GRADUATION DAY

Graduations are in process now at Universities, Colleges, Tech Schools and High Schools.  This is a life changing event filled with hope for the future. For most it is a step to further learning and degrees that will secure good income to support their families.  It is a big accomplishment, and I offer my congratulations to you and your family members for pursuing and completing that dream.

college-graduationThe dictionary offers one definition that works for this writing today: to change gradually or by degrees.

As I reach my 75th birthday I can honestly tell you that life is a learning process.  Oh boy, is it ever!!!   We can all identify with that fact!  The struggles….the victories!  The sad times…the happy times!  But, that’s what learning is.  If everything was easy we wouldn’t learn from a failed test.  Failing isn’t all bad because we can learn from our mistakes and improve our grade the next time there’s a test!!!

Have you noticed……life is a classroom of tests.  And the Unchanging Teacher is God through His Holy Spirit, and the text book is His Word….The Holy Bible.

The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom.  In fact it says to not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight; preserve, keep sound judgement and discretion, and they will be life for you.   Wisdom is found in those who take advise.

King David says in Psalm 19:73…….Give me understanding to learn your commands.  And Job 34:4 says ….. we should discern for ourselves what is right, and learn together what is good.

Well….if wisdom is found in those who take advise, let me give you some advise, since I am a white-headed elder who has come through years of “gradual change”!!!

Read…study God’s Word so that you may learn wisdom and understanding at the Highest Degree.

LOOK FORWARD TO THAT GREAT GRADUATION DAY WHEN YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER SAYS “WELL DONE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT…..ENTER IN TO THE JOY OF YOUR SALVATION”.

YOU CAN’T GET A HIGHER DEGREE THAN THAT ! ! !