Friday, January 4, 2019

Review: The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness

The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness by Erwin W. Lutzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would give this book more than 5 stars if I had that option. Very in insightful as the current events of our world. We are certainly living in modern day Babylon. This book gives great insight. It should be read by all Christians!!! I urge everyone to read this book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Noah Had A Big Call - What About You?

I've been thinking about Noah and his calling.  Noah had quite a few challenges.

1. It had never rained on the earth. So it was definitely hard for folks to believe the earth would be destroyed by water.

2.  Folks probably thought he was a little eccentric and who could believe why God would enlist such a person to do His work.  They probably knew some of his past failures and/or sins.

3.  He was mocked by his friends.

4.  He was mocked by his neighbors.

5.  His own family discouraged him.

6.  He had NEVER built a boat before.

7.  He didn't have many helpers.

But even though he could hear the whispers of ridicule from others and for sure he was the talk of the community, God's voice was louder.  He had a calling deep inside that he couldn't ignore.  And I bet when he was out there working on that big ole ark by himself, he had the opportunity to commune with God.  That alone would be worth it - to gain a closer walk with Jehovah God.  And I bet God instilled some great truths that he never would have learned except that it happened just exactly like it did.

We should be thankful for Noah, because without his obedience we would not be here.  He and his family were remnants.  God always saves a remnant.  And, even though all of his family were not "sold out" or "convinced", they reaped the benefit of his obedience and were saved.  

Let this beautiful story of Noah be an encouragement to us.  That calling that you "can't not do" has a bigger cause than yourself.  Let God's voice speak louder than those whispers. Your calling just might be instrumental in saving those you love.  

And if you don't think you have a calling, listen closer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Journey to the Cross - Fasting, Ash Wednesday, Lent & Easter

Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. It is exactly 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter Sunday, beginning on Ash Wednesday because of the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s forehead in the sign of a cross.

The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

It is intended to be a time of self-denial, moderation, fasting, and the forsaking of sinful activities and habits. Ash Wednesday commences this period of spiritual discipline.

While the Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday, it does record accounts of people in the Old Testament using dust and ashes as symbols of repentance and/or mourning (2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3).

If a Christian decides to observe Ash Wednesday and/or Lent, it is important to have a biblical perspective.

Jesus warned us against making a show of our fasting:

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:16-18).

We must not allow spiritual discipline to become spiritual pride.

It is a good thing to repent of sinful activities, but that’s something Christians should do every day, not just during Lent. It’s a good thing to clearly identify oneself as a Christian, but, again, this should be an everyday identification. 

And it is good to remember that no ritual can make one’s heart right with God.  We are saved by Grace.  Any "ritual" one does should be done as an observance or remembrance like The Lord's Supper.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Counterfeit vs. Authentic - “There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death” (Proverbs 6:25).

I've been thinking about genuine vs counterfeit a lot lately.  So many false religions and false prophets.  Sometimes it seems overwhelming.  What if I don't recognize it?  Especially those preaching a "close message of the truth".  Adrian Rogers says the first place to look for a false prophet is in the pulpit. That's a SHOCKING statement because I think for the most part, that's the last place we look.  We are learning in The Armor of God Study that Satan is a deceiver and it really is his trump card.  While that truth is not new to me, having been taught that all my life, I do seem to forget the significance of it in my daily life decisions. A. W. Tozer said this about spiritual deception: “So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which Abel.”

If I never drink Lipton tea, I probably would not recognize it if someone brewed me a nice tall glass of either one of these products pictured to the right. But a true tea drinker will recognize immediately that something is wrong if they love Lipton Tea and is served a fake.  You certainly can't readily tell the difference by looking at these two packages.  The only way to know the difference is to have developed a taste for the authentic one!

I read a book a good while back titled Sacred Echo,  which says,  "Don't just listen for the voice of God. Listen for His Echo.  When God really wants to get your attention, He doesn't just say something once. He echoes. He speaks through a Sunday sermon, a chance conversation with a friend the next day, even a random email. The same theme, idea, impression, or lesson will repeat itself in surprising and unexpected ways until you realize that maybe, just maybe, God is at work.  According to the author Margaret Feinberg, the repetitive nature of a sacred echo gives us confidence that God really is prompting, guiding, or leading. The sacred echo reminds us to pay close attention -- something important may be going on here. The sacred echo challenges us to prayerfully consider how God is at work in our life as well as in the lives of those around us. The sacred echo is an invitation to spiritual awakening. Margaret writes, 'I want a relationship with God where prayer is as natural as breathing. If God is the one in whom we are to live and move and have our being, (which is another sacred echo in another bible study we are doing at work, Sudden Glory), then I want my every inhale infused with his presence, my every exhale an extension of his love.'"

So, after pondering this thing Authentic vs. Counterfeit for several weeks now, the Lord has sprinkled these and some other sacred echoes for me specific to this subject.  The most recent one is this morning's devotion from Grace Notes (below) which gives me confidence and assurance that the best way to recognize the counterfeit is to KNOW the intricate, intimate details of the Real Thing!!!  And the real thing is Jesus Christ.  So, even though we don't need to bury our heads in the sand about the characteristics of counterfeit religions and/or false prophets, the higher value, I believe, is in studying the authentic and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  By studying His Word and His character, we will also learn the character of the deceiver who is the behind all false religion and false prophets.  Let's stay focused on our Savior.  He won't lead us astray.

 Grace Notes devotion February 8, 2016

The Real Thing

Recently, I heard the experience of a secret service agent in regard to counterfeit money. He said that in his training to recognize counterfeit money, he studied and studied and studied. But the interesting point of his study was that he never looked at the counterfeit. He only focused on the real thing. He memorized every detail of the genuine money, making mental notes of each characteristic that made it the real thing. That way, when the counterfeit did show up, it would be easily recognized. It would be caught not by what it was, but by what it was not.

I got to thinking about this. What if the secret service agent had studied in the opposite way? What if he had studied, in detail, the counterfeit? Well, it would certainly teach him some characteristics of the fake. But I think his method was better. The best way to recognize if something is not genuine is to know inside and outside what is.

Genuine and Counterfeit
Naturally, this story took my mind to an illustration of God and Satan. You know, the Genuine and the counterfeit. For every genuine gift that is given by God, Satan provides a fake. Why? Because Satan's greatest tactic in deception is to mix good and evil in the same pot and come out with a product that looks good at a glance, but is rotten at the core. It's a tactic that works quite well for him. Think about it. How easily would we be deceived by things that are totally bad? How many children would go with a stranger who actually threatened their lives? None, of course. But how many have been persuaded by a stranger who speaks softly, carries a puppy, and has a bag of candy in his pocket?

The Bible is the genuine treasure upon which our lives here and forever depend. Studying God's Word, inside and out, taking note of details, and memorizing major characteristics is the best way for us to be able to recognize the counterfeit messages of Satan. A study of Satan may be helpful to us in knowing how evil he is. But a thorough study of God and of the Bible will give us the knowledge and discernment to spot the counterfeit and the counterfeiter. Not by what it is, but by what it is not.

“There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death” (Proverbs 6:25).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I'm Looking Forward to Being an Old Person

I saw this video on Facebook this morning - a son playing the guitar while his elderly mother played the harmonica. The song, "Blessed Assurance".  It got me thinking.

I have always loved old people, especially those who still have the music in them.  The older I get the more I love them. I hope I get to be one someday!!!  I had the best grandmothers! I decided today that I am going to be a good old person.  You know that old person that lives life free.  The older I get the easier that is.  Well, it's not easier physically.  My body doesn't "feel" free.  It feels pretty immobile sometimes, but spiritually and emotionally, there's less comparison with others and less awareness of what others are thinking of me.  I'm not sure why age brings a license to "be bold" but I like it. I suppose it's because I have my sites on heaven and spending eternity with my sweet Jesus.

So for now, instead of gasping as the age goes up each year, I'm going to be planning those acts that make those young "whippersnappers" gasp!  LOL.

I do not know the folks in the video but I sure am grateful that he shared it.  It made my day!!

FYI - a whippersnapper is a young and inexperienced person considered to be presumptuous or overconfident.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Celebrating The Coming of the King with an Advent Wreath

Yesterday was the first Sunday of advent and Benny and I had the honor of sharing the lighting of the first candle (Prophecy Candle) of our Advent Wreath and our table with family and special friends. And by the way, I am a good ole southern baptist girl!   A couple of years ago I started having a longing for a more simple Christmas time.  One that helped me realize and celebrate Jesus, the Messiah, my Savior.  Since losing daddy, I am learning to walk with one foot in heaven and one on earth.   I searched for other traditions, wanting to be careful that it wasn't something else to do just for the sake of "tradition". I settled on the Jesse Tree and the Advent Wreath.  It is becoming very special for my home.

Our wreath is homemade (keeping it simple and real).  Beautiful Advent Wreaths are available for purchase as well.  Benny provided the beautiful pine cones he found on the side of the road.  Most wreaths have greenery, but I chose to keep mine more rustic this year.

The world will tell you that Christmas is a magical time of year.  But I tell you - what's magical about Christmas is a Person.  His name is Jesus.  He came to bring light into the world.  It's not magic, it's spiritual and it's real. 

The History of the Advent Wreath
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the "Prophecy Candle" in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah. (December 6, 2015)

On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the "Bethlehem Candle," symbolizing Christ's manger. (December 13, 2015)

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the "Shepherds Candle" and it represents joy. (December 20, 2015)

The fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the "Angels Candle," represents peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent. (December 27, 2015.)

On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is traditionally lit. This candle is called the "Christ Candle" and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world.

The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks prior to Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas. In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows:

On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg You, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.”

During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.”

During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.”

Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.”

Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Tradition of the Jesse Tree The Tradition of the Jesse Tree

I am so excited to start my Jesse tree tonight.   I began this tradition last year.  It's a great tool to use to teach small children about the genealogy of Christ and the reason we celebrate Christmas.  I enjoy doing it as a reminder of the saving Grace of my Savior.  

There are so many different ways you can create your Jesse tree.  You can use a traditional Christmas tree, a cutout of green felt, a wooden painted tree or the ideas are limitless.  For all the creative minds anyway.  I have to stick to the simple.  There are lots of resources online for ideas and for ornaments too.  You put an ornament on the tree everyday in December until Christmas (list below).  Each ornament tells the story of the genealogy of Christ.

Jesse Trees are a very old Christmas Tradition and first started in medieval times. They are used to help tell the story of the Bible from creation to the Christmas Story.

The name comes from Jesse who was the Father of the great Jewish King David. One prophecy in the bible, in the book of Isaiah, says: 
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. Isaiah 11:1-4 (NIV)

A branch is a sign of new life and new beginnings. Jesus was a decedent of King David and Christians believe that Jesus is this new branch.

The first Jesse trees were large carvings, tapestries or even stained glass windows put in Churches that helped illiterate people (people who can't read or write) to learn about the bible from creation to the Christmas Story. But now Jesse Trees are used as a kind of Advent Calendar. You can use a normal Christmas tree or a banner in the shape of a tree. Each day through advent (or sometimes just on the four Sundays of advent) a special decoration or ornament (similar to a Chrismon), that tells a story from the Bible, is hung on the tree.

There are very many different stories and symbols you can use. I've listed 25 stories and symbols that I especially like!

Bible Story:                                            Where it is in the Bible:           Symbol:
Creation                                                   Genesis 1                                    The earth
Adam and Eve /Garden of Eden             Genesis 2:4 - 3:24                       A tree with fruit or an apple
Noah & the Flood                                   Genesis 6:9 - 9:17                       A rainbow
God's promise to Abraham                     Genesis 12:1-7 & 15:1-6             A tent
Isaac                                                        Genesis 22:1-18                          A ram
Jacob's Ladder                                         Genesis 28:10-19                        A ladder
Joseph's Coat                                           Genesis 37 & 50                         A multicoloured coat or robe
Moses                                                      Exodus 2:1 - 4:20                        A burning bush
Israelites and the Passover                      Exodus 12:1-42                           A lamb
The 10 Commandments                          Exodus 19:1 - 20:20                    Two stone tablets
Joshua and the fall of Jericho                 Joshua 6:1-20                               A ram's horn trumpet
Ruth                                                        Ruth (Whole Book)                      A sheaf of corn
King David                                             1 Samuel 16:1-3                          A six pointed 'Star of David'
Solomon's Temple                                  1 Kings 6                                    The temple
Elijah and Baal's Priests                         1 Kings 18:16-39                         A bonfire
Isaiah's 'Jesse' Prophecy                          Isaiah 11:1-11                  tree stump with a single branch growing from it
Jonah and the Whale                               Jonah (Whole Book)                   A whale
John the Baptist                                       Matthew 3:13-17                         A scallop shell
Mary                                                        Luke 1:26-38                               A white lily
Elizabeth                                                   Luke 1:39-56                                     A mother and child Zechariah                                                 Luke 1:57-80                                     A pencil and tablet
Joseph                                                      Matthew 1:19-25                            A carpenter's hammer
The Shepherds                                         Luke 2:8-20                                       A fluffy sheep!
The Wisemen                                           Matthew 2:1-12     gold star or the three gifts or three crowns
Jesus                                                         Luke 2:1-8                                A baby in a manger