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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Set Your House in Order


Isaiah the prophet goes to Hezekiah with bad news. Hezekiah needs to set his house in order, because he's going to die. (We know the rest of the story. Hezekiah prays, and God gives him fifteen more years of life. Isaiah 38:1-8)

The idea of setting one’s house in order was brought home to me by the thoughtful planning of a friend who passed away recently. His children and grandchildren were blessed to find that everything was taken care of. His house, his car, the inheritance he wanted to leave—all was distributed. He even planned to make signings easy for those from out of town. At a time of great grief, there was comfort in not having to wade through a confusing amount of paperwork and details.

As admirable as it is to have one’s physical house in order, it’s much, much more important to have one’s spiritual house in order.

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord. He said to God, The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD (Isaiah 38:19-20).

The Bible says that when Hezekiah died, the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death (from 2 Chronicles 32:33). It also declares him “good.”

What a challenge to set both our houses in order!



Friday, September 28, 2012

Ludwig and the King of kings


Quite a few years ago, we took a trip through Germany with our children. A good friend gave us a holey tent (another story!) and some money and told us about several places that would be interesting for children. We had a great time! We didn’t get much sleep, but the day trips were tremendous.

Two of our stops were at “Crazy” Ludwig II’s castles. One was patterned after Versailles, complete with a hall of mirrors—and, I remember, huge mosquitoes which visitors had smashed on the marble palace walls. The other was the storybook castle, Neuschwanstein. We hiked up to it one evening. It was gorgeous in the afternoon sun! And, the next day, we hiked up again, this time to see inside.

Now, there are many stories about Ludwig. Some people actually called him crazy. After seeing the palaces he built, I have my doubts about his being all that wacko. He was an artist. (Some would say that alone would make him crazy. Artists always have a unique way of seeing and feeling things. By the way, I really understand; I majored in art! None of us is truly “normal.”) Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein castle reflects his almost obsessive love of Wagner’s operas. There’s even a part of his castle that’s like walking through a cave. Too cool! His bedroom alone was worth the entrance fee for me: intricate dark wood carvings, bright blue, silver . . . . The paintings all through the castle are bright, almost better than life, and bigger than life. All represent scenes from Wagnerian operas except those in the throne room. Now, I have to admit that I use the word “awesome” sparingly, because everything from bubble gum to car racing is described as “awesome.” But, Ludwig's throne room is truly awesome! It is very colorful, almost gaudy, with blue lapis lazuli columns and bright, multicolored marble floors. The throne platform is higher than in many castles, up above the huge room. And, above the platform, painted on the gold wall, are six kings. Above them, extending into the dome, is a larger painting of Jesus. Surrounding the picture of Jesus is a ribbon banner which proclaims, “King of kings.”

I love that perspective!

Ludwig never sat on a throne there, because he tragically drowned before the room was finished. But, imagine this scene with me: King Ludwig is sitting on his throne. Six of Jesus’ disciples are to his left, six to his right. Just above his head, six kings of Bavaria. Above them, directly above King Ludwig, larger than anyone else, is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty . . . (Deuteronomy 10:17a).

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 136:3).

Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (1Timothy 6:15).

And the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful (from Revelation 17:14).

And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16).

Now unto the King eternal,
immortal,
invisible,
the only wise God,
be honour and glory for ever and ever.
Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)






Thursday, September 27, 2012

See, Know, Consider . . .



That they may see,
and know,
 and consider,
and understand together,
 that the hand of the LORD hath done this,
and the Holy One of Israel hath created it (Isaiah 41:20).

What an interesting verse! Let’s take it apart. Who are “they?” (Always helpful to know who’s being talked about.) Here, “they” are the poor and needy. (See verse 17.) God wants them to do four things:

1. See—to observe with the eyes
2. Know—to perceive
3. Consider—to think about
4. Understand—to comprehend, grasp the meaning

What are these poor and needy people supposed to observe, know about, think about, and comprehend?

That God created the world!

Why is this so very important? God was going to use these people, the Jewish nation, to reach the world with the message of His salvation. Read Isaiah 42:5-7, Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Application: Why do we need to be observing, knowing, thinking about, and understanding God’s powerful hand in creation? Because then, God can use us to spread His message to the rest of the world. We can actually watch God liberating people from darkness. Is that wonderful or what!

See. Know. Consider. Understand.
The world was created by His hand.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Joyful Noise


Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious. (Psalm 66:1-2)

I almost laugh out loud when I read this first verse. This is why: years ago, our little church wasn’t exactly blessed with people who could carry a tune. Those who could sing sang softly, so you could only hear those who belted it out loudly—and badly! We were in the process of starting the new church, and most of our people weren’t from an evangelical background, so the songs were new to them. One of our ladies wanted us to tape the singing so that she could take the tapes home and learn the choruses. Oh, it was awful! You can’t imagine how awful. At the time, my husband and the other pastor said, “At least we’re making a joyful NOISE.” Well, it was that!

Today, the church has grown; the congregation has changed. We have quite a few African believers with wonderful voices who love to sing. Congregational singing actually sounds lovely! It’s not only “making a joyful noise,” it’s one step closer to “glorious praise.” What a blessing!

But, you know what? I think God was also pleased with the joyful noises we made years ago, with the same heart of praise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Like a Castle


Many thousands of ancient castles are still standing. Some have been refurbished to provide beautiful living quarters for the rich and famous. Some are open to the public for their historical interest. Some have been made into plush hotels. And, some are crumbling down year by year, because no one has had the money or interest to restore them. I know of one very pretty, white stone castle that belongs to a small community, and the townspeople got together to restore it. So wonderful! My husband and I recently toured a town where they are completely rebuilding its towered outer wall.

I admit it. I’m a diehard romantic. When I see a castle, especially one in a walled city, my imagination comes alive. I see ladies and scullery maids and hunters coming home with meat, lords, horses, and knights. I smell fruits and freshly harvested grain and even imagine the open sewers and garbage being dumped into courtyards. I usually look down the wells to see if there’s still water down there. I peer out of narrow archery windows and imagine what it would be like to see the enemy down below. I walk across moats and through huge wooden and iron doors. I mentally measure the thickness of walls. When I’m inside, I feel secure . . . unless I’m near the dungeons!

There are layers of protection in a castle. There is some kind of a surrounding wall or the castle is built up on a cliff so high that no one could approach without being seen by a lookout—and even then, it would be extremely difficult to climb the cliff. Moats were in vogue for a while and were most effective for discouraging swimmers. They were usually way down there! It would be a feat to get down into the water and another feat to get out on the vertical castle side. If someone did manage to breach the cliff, the moat, or the wall, he would then have to enter the castle somehow. Not easy! Any window would be high up and too small for a person to get through it. Any door would be a massive gate, guarded by non-friendly, armed soldiers. Inside, the castle dwellers were safe. They had a well for water and stores of food, so they could outlast a siege for a while. Those living around the castle worked for the lord and would be loyal to him. Another layer of protection!

I read my Bible, and God is described as:
            a strong tower—Psalm 61:3; Proverbs 18:10
            a refuge—Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 14:6, 46:1, 48:3, 62:7-8, 94:22
            a high tower—Psalm 18:2
            a fortress—2 Samuel 22:2; Psalm 18:2
            a rock—2 Samuel 22:2; Psalm 18:2, 62:7, 92:15, 94:22
            a defense—Psalm 59:9, 17; 89:18; 94:22
            a shelter—Psalm 61:3
            like a wall around His people—Psalm 125:2

It’s wonderful to know that God is all of this for us. He’s our shelter and defense, just like a castle! What a blessing!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: THE PRAYER THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE


            THE PRAYER THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE by Janet Clark Shay starts with the biography of Oma Jacobs Van Gelderen. She was a prayer warrior and the mother and grandmother of young people who served and are serving the Lord. It’s no accident that Oma had children and grandchildren who wholeheartedly serve(d) God. She was a woman who asked for and got God’s blessing.
            THE PRAYER THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE includes practical helps in a section entitled “Three Connected Truths Concerning Prayer.” One of the illustrations I especially liked was, “Divine purposes are like checks in God’s checkbook. Scriptural promises are liked signed checks in God’s checkbook. But believing prayer is like cashing the check.”
            Another quote, this one about why we don’t see more prayers answered is, “We don’t pray in confidence because we don’t ever take time to get the mind of God in the first place.”
            The biographical sketch of this very human and godly woman plus the practical help for enriching anyone’s prayer life make this a valuable book. It is well written and concise—actually a short book—but there is a lot of meat in it. I heartily recommend it to anyone.
            It just might revolutionize the way you pray!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gender Equality


I looked online for a definition of “gender equality.” Not even the experts seem to know what it means! I get the impression that it’s about treating boys and girls, men and women alike. (Who would disagree with that?) It seems to have something to do with men and women having equal value. (A biblical principle. God created both men and women good, with the same intrinsic value.) But, I have to laugh at the idea of gender equality.

When a baby is born, or when a young mother gets a sonogram to see what sex the baby is, the doctor says, “Congratulations! You have a gender equal!” NO! The doctor says, “You have a boy” or “You have a girl.” Then, parents have certain expectations.

Our first grandchild is a little boy. His dad was a baseball player. One of the first studio pictures we received was the baby, dressed in a baseball-themed pajama, lying on his tummy on green “grass” with a background of a stadium filled with spectators. In front of him, lie a bat and a baseball. He’s a boy! (His parents probably wouldn’t have taken the same picture, had the baby been a girl.)

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s perfectly fine for a tiny boy to play with dolls and hug stuffed animals and for little girls to play with cars and trucks.

I am also all for equal opportunities and pay for men and women. I’ve known some women who were more “handymen” (Handywomen? Handypersons?) than their spouses. I’ve known some men who were excellent cooks and chefs. I don’t think we have to be limited by our gender, put in a “box.”

But, there are some distinctions between men and women. The French have an old expression, Vive la diffĂ©rence! which celebrates these distinctions. Some are pretty obvious—the physical differences. It’s wonderful that men have broad shoulders and narrow hips and that we are more soft and curvy. The differences between men and women are far more than physical, though. The way we think, the way we process information, the way we analyze; that’s different too. Our emotions are on a different plane. Men and women both feel things profoundly, but we express those feelings differently. We have different interests. (Compare the stores men frequent and those women prefer.) This difference was made by God.

But, it’s interesting, that, even with all the wonderful differences God made between men and women, He offers one thing “gender equally.” It’s found in faith. Read Galatians 3:26-28, For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. No matter who we are—male, female, from different religious or class backgrounds—we have the privilege of putting our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. He looks at everyone equally and saves everyone equally.

Now that’s gender equality!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Wizards That Peep and Mutter"


Many, many times in the Bible, God shows us the difference between walking with Him and walking in error. Isaiah 8:19-22 gives us a glimpse of alternatives to Truth. They include:
            wizards and mediums (v. 19)
            darkness (v. 20)
            hunger (v. 21)
            putting the blame on the government and on God (v. 21)
            looking to the earth for answers (v. 22)

The results of these are trouble, darkness, anguish, and more darkness (v. 22).

Contrast this gloomy outlook with the hope brought by Isaiah 9:2-7. The Messiah’s coming would change everything! For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (verses 6-7).

Isaiah wrote looking forward some 700 years to Jesus’ coming. His prophecy tells us this expected baby will be God Himself. He’s the Child, yet He’s the mighty God and the Everlasting Father. Isaiah was anticipating his Messiah.
           
The Messiah brings good government, stability, peace, judgment, and justice. What a contrast with the occult and darkness!

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness (John 12:46).

Amen!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Four Book Reviews


YOUR LIFE A LEGACY by Joy DeKok is a guide for those who wish to write a memoir of some kind. She provides ideas, tips, how tos and then gives a sample from her own story. I found this short book helpful and inspirational. Personally, I enjoyed most her example section.

ANGEL IN THE SALOON by Jeanne Marie Leach is one of her “Brides of Glory Gulch” series. It is the story of a “good saloon” owner, Corrin Dannon, who inherits her late sister’s daughter. The blind niece, Amelia Jackson, enters her life before she has time to adjust to her new role as “mother” to a handicapped “daughter.” To Corrin’s pleasant surprise, Amelia is capable, independent, beautiful, and sweet. They begin to bond. Corrin’s friends (all men) don’t miss the new beauty in town either, and very soon several different men vie for her attention. Amelia is a Christian, and we see her close walk with the Lord throughout the book, even when she is confronted with some very difficult situations.
            Personally, I didn’t think Amelia’s blindness was authentic enough. (My mother taught at a school for the blind, and I grew up knowing many visually-impaired people.) There are instances where she is being guided on someone’s arm, yet she is using a cane at the same time. This doesn’t ring true. Also, people are captivated by her beautiful eyes. While sightless eyes can certainly have a pretty color, I don’t really think people would want to gaze into them. Because they are sightless, the eyes of the blind person are less controlled and less expressive. I’ve met truly beautiful people who can’t see, but their eyes are not their beauty. The author was authentic when Amelia uses expressions like, “I didn’t notice you were here” and “Let me see those.”
            Although ANGEL IN THE SALOON has some nice story lines and a very strong Christian appeal, the writing leaves much to be desired. The men featured in the story have very feminine emotions (fluttering hearts, racing pulses, etc. Please!). For me, the quality of the writing detracted from some very good ideas. After some excellent editing, this could be a good book.

CRISPEN’S POINT by JoHanna Reardon is a small town story, complete with nosy neighbors. A new young lady moves into town, and with her, new excitement. Charlotte Fyne has moved into Crispen’s Point for some peace and inspiration. She is a romance writer without a romance of her own . . . yet. The rest of the book chronicles Charlotte’s interaction with the people of the town and, of course, her new, personal romance.
            The book is predictable, but also well-written and a fun read.

THE HEART’S JOURNEY HOME by Jen Stephens combines the somewhat complicated stories of Kate, Nathan, Adam, and Denise. Kate is a young widow with a small daughter. Adam and Denise are single parents, due to divorces, and Nathan is a single, successful doctor who’s in love with his sister-in-law, Kate.
            Throughout the book, there are various love triangles and confusions, which, thankfully, are completely resolved by the end of the book.
            I had a few problems with some of the theology in THE HEART’S JOURNEY HOME and with some of the activities that seemingly strong believers had no problems participating in, like: going to dances, dating unsaved people, kissing first and getting to love later (or not), pool parties, etc. I also had a problem with the pastor’s asking women to lead the support group for single parents. (Why didn’t he ask a man or a married couple?)
            There is a solid Christian message in this book. Salvation is explained very well.
            I loved the portrayals of the single parents and their struggles with grief, abandonment, and self-blame. I liked that this book includes the struggles (and happiness) of the children involved, two of them young teens. I felt Ms. Stephens did an excellent job with these. I also enjoyed a new-to-me use of Scriptures about sport combined with actual sports analogies. Excellent. I loved Kate’s relationships with her parents, sister, and especially her grandpa. I also really enjoyed watching Nathan’s walk with God put into action, even when he had to sacrifice everything to please God.
            THE HEART’S JOURNEY HOME is well-written and flows nicely. The stories are told sensitively and well. Overall, it is a good read, although I wouldn’t recommend it as a manual for how to do things biblically.

I admit I’m burnt out on Christian fiction at the moment. It’s time to get to something meatier, something that will challenge my soul. I have a new Kindle book in hand and will share a review of it when I’m done.

(Oh, I did read Jane Austen’s EMMA. I am always amazed at Austen’s ability to laugh at the way things were done in her own times. I would think it would be difficult to analyze her own surroundings so objectively and reflect them so skillfully. I like EMMA, especially because of Mr. Knightley. I’m sure there have been thousands of excellent reviews written about EMMA, so I’ll refrain from adding a poor one to them.)




Monday, September 17, 2012

The Voice of God


When people writing Scripture tried to describe the voice of God, they were just about as stumped as trying to put on paper what He looked like. Some of the images are so beautiful. Someday, we will all hear Him speak.

His voice is described as:
            Many waters (Jeremiah 10:13; Ezekiel 43:2; Habakkuk 3:10;
                       Revelation 1:15, 14:2, 19:6)
            Thunder (2 Samuel 22:14; Job 37:4-5; Psalm 18:13; 
                       Revelation 14:2)
            Roaring (Jeremiah 25:30; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2)
            Trumpet (Revelation 1:10, 4:1)
            Mighty (Psalm 68:33)

His sheep hear His voice. They know His voice. (John 10:3-4)

The dead will hear His voice. (John 5:28)

His voice melts the earth! (Psalm 46:6)

Do you like the sound of water? I love it! The ocean, a waterfall, a fountain. What a wonderful sound! God’s voice is like that.

Do you run to a safe place when you hear loud thunder? God’s voice is like thunder.

Are you glad a zoo lion or tiger is on the other side of the partition, when you hear it roar? God’s voice roars.

Don’t you enjoy the clean sound of a trumpet? God’s voice is like a trumpet.

His voice is mighty. The whole earth was created by His Word and is upheld by the Word of His power.

Aren’t you glad you are His sheep? You know His voice and hear it . . . and follow Him. What a blessing to hear His voice!

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:14, 27).



Saturday, September 15, 2012

How Can You Describe Him?


When men in Scripture saw and heard God, I think they had a hard time putting into words exactly what they experienced. With many, their first reaction was to fall to the ground in humility and worship. Surely, any of us would react the same way!

I recently read Isaiah’s account of the Lord seated on the throne, high and lifted up, with his train filling the Temple. He’s surrounded by seraphim who say, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory”(Isaiah 6:3). 

Ezekiel, likewise, saw a vision of the Lord. He tried to put into words the brightness, shine, colors, and light. And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake (Ezekiel 1:26-28).

Daniel was given visions so that he could prophesy about things to come. In Daniel 7:9b-10, we read, the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. What a scene! White and fire and thousands of people!

When the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, he also saw God: And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:2-11). Again, there are rainbow colors, light, lightning (a celestial pyrotechnic show), white clothing, fire, precious stones . . . . This is amazing!

How awesome is our God! He alone is worthy of our praise. He’s the One Who will receive praise for all eternity. What a blessing to get a glimpse of Him!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tychicus, the faithful deliveryman


My husband has been preaching through Colossians. Last night, he got to chapter 4, where we learn about man named Tychicus. (Great name, by the way! Can you imagine the shortened version, “Ticky”?) This guy was sent to the believers in the church at Colosse, by the Apostle Paul, who was in prison in Rome. Paul calls Tychicus three things in Colossians 4:7,
            1. beloved brother
            2. faithful minister
            3. fellow servant in the Lord
He was sent to the Colossian church to find out how they were doing and to comfort them. (verse 8)

Tychicus was entrusted with carrying Paul’s letter to them. Can you imagine? He had an original manuscript of the Holy Word of God in his hands! He carried it from Rome to Colosse (in eastern Turkey). This was a long journey, and all the time, Tychicus had a book of the New Testament—the original—in his possession! I wonder if he knew it was God-breathed.

This wasn’t the only book of Scripture he got to carry. He took the letter to the Ephesians from Rome to Ephesus.

In Ephesians, Paul again calls Tychicus his “beloved brother” and a “faithful minister.” (Ephesians 6:20-22) And, no wonder. Tychicus was by Paul’s side much of the time. When Paul was thrown out of Ephesus, Tychicus was one of the men who escorted him to Asia (Turkey). He was with Paul in Rome. He was one of the men who served Paul. No wonder Paul calls him a faithful minister!

Tychicus was sent to be a messenger—with God’s Holy Word in his possession.

But, that wasn’t all. He was sent to be a blessing to the churches and to people. He went to Ephesus (at least three times) and Colosse. He also might have been sent personally to Titus from Nicopolis, where Paul was spending the winter. He was the kind of person who was a comfort and help to these new churches.

What can we learn from Tychicus?
-       Be faithful to God and others.
-       Minister to those in need, especially servants of the Lord.
-       Be an encouragement to new Christians. Comfort others.
-       Be very careful with God’s Word. (What we have in our Bible isn’t an original autograph, but it is God’s preserved, Holy Word—as precious as what Tychicus carried with him.)
-       Sometimes, a small task (like making a letter delivery) is actually a big task.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Religion in Cultures


Culture = the ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc. of a people or group, that are transferred, communicated, or passed along as in or to succeeding generations. (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

Where we live, cultural traditions include some old ways of doing things: plowing with animals, planting when the moon is full, and cooking slowly over a wood-fueled stove. One of our neighbors still wears a traditional costume to work in. There are folk dances, musical instruments unique to our area, two special styles of music, costumes, and sports based on feats of strength (both human and animal) repeated many times. The people are hard working, but they’re not averse to enjoying music, good food, and a good time.

I sometimes watch travel programs on television. Usually, they include cultural insights into the places featured. Many times, they include an inherently religious practice. It could be a dance, or monks chanting, or a beautiful temple or cathedral. It may be a colorful festival in honor of a god, saint, virgin, or even a “holy” person or “sacred” animals. It might have to do with voodoo or a sacrifice. It might be a religious rite of some kind. (I’ve never seen a travel program feature a church service in which the worshipers are true, born again believers in Jesus Christ.)

Every culture has its good and its bad. The good can include its food, music, art, language, costumes, folk dances, sports, architecture, and all the other “neutral” aspects of native traditions. A culture can be fascinating and colorful. Its traditions make it timeless. I think they should be preserved.

But, those religious traditions in any culture that deny the deity of Jesus Christ are not just “culture.” They are man’s serious attempts to please their god(s). It bothers me that many travel guides view this false worship as an interesting, colorful part of the culture, not regarding its serious spiritual consequences. I’ve even seen them participate in religious observances just for fun or “luck.” Burning incense or candles, offering flowers and food, bowing, and chanting, even spinning prayer wheels are religious, idolatrous acts and should never be taken lightly.

The Truth is Jesus. He is not “culture,” not a tradition. He is Truth and Life in Person.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is There a God?

There are a lot of people who don’t really think about God. It’s not that they’re necessarily against Him. He just doesn’t fit into their life. If He exists, He probably doesn’t care about them, either. Many have been turned off by hypocrites, especially hypocrites in the church—whatever church. Whoever let them down “religiously” turned them off to God.

Years ago, I was talking to a man who lived in the same town we lived in. He told me he was afraid to read the Bible. I asked him why, and he said, “for fear of what I’ll find.” Somewhere inside, he understood that, if he knew more about God, he’d be responsible for what he knew. And, he didn’t want to be responsible to God.

Another man told my husband and me at a dinner, “If I couldn’t drink, smoke, and fornicate, life wouldn’t be worth living.” It’s sad that his frank opinion is the prevalent thought. Why give up all the “fun” for God?

Psalm 53:1a says, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. (Now, we can’t judge hearts. Only the Lord knows if someone has actually decided forever in his heart to reject God. Only God knows if someone is really and truly a fool.)

The rest of the verse is interesting: Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

When people disregard God or count Him out of their lives, the results are corruption, “abominable” iniquity (sin), and not doing good.

How many corrupt businesses do you know of? How many corrupt governments? How many people accept bribes or give bribes?

What does God call abominable or an abomination? Look at this list from the Bible:
            Touching or eating something ceremonially “unclean” (Lev. 7:21; 11:43;
                       19:7 and more, Old Testament Law)
            Idolatry (2 Chron. 15:8; 1 Pet. 4:3) and making an idol (Deut. 27:15)
            Homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13)
            People who accept sin as okay (Job 15:16)
            Sin in general (Ezek. 16:52)
            Offering ill-gotten money to God (Deut. 23:18)
            A “froward” (willful, uncontrolled) person (Prov. 3:32; 11:20; 16:5)
            The sacrifice of the wicked (Prov. 21:27)
            A scorner (rejects God) (Prov. 24:9)
            The prayer of someone who won’t listen to God’s law (Prov. 28:9)
            Incest and fornication (Ezek. 22:11; 33:26)

When God is left out of a life, the results are being without a conscience. The nastiest sins seem okay. There’s no longer any moral compass. There’s no right and wrong. Everything is “relative.” You’re only accountable to yourself, and your ideas are the only ones that matter. There’s no authority, nothing higher. When you die, you cease to exist.

We know that God DOES exist. He has existed throughout eternity. He will always be. He is the ultimate authority, and He created the world and everything in it, including us. He is love. He is just and holy. He cares for us and sacrificed His own Son for us. He wants a daily relationship with us. We have the hope of heaven because of faith in Him. We have purpose, meaning in life, a mission to fulfill. We have discernment and victory over sin, because we have His Word to guide us. When we die, we’re absent from the body and present with the Lord (from 1 Cor. 5:8). What a contrast!

The wise person says in his heart, “There is a God.”