Is My Worship Healthy or Lame?

A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’

“You offer defiled food on My altar,
But say,
‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying,
‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the Lord of hosts.

Reading in the Old Testament book of Malachi this week I found a verse that made me stop and take a look at my own relationship with God.

The prophet Malachi was speaking to the priests (the religious leaders) of the nation of Israel. The Law of Moses had clearly stated that the animals used in the sacrificial worship were to be perfect specimens. They were to have no blemishes, to be healthy animals (Leviticus 22:17-33). It appears that instead of bringing the best of their flock or herd, they were bringing animals that were sick or lame and keeping the better animals for their own use.

God sees this action as “despising His name.” He suggests they invite the governor and serve him a meal with a sick or blemished animal for the main course. Certainly they would not do that. They would want to serve the governor the very best they had.

Malachi tells them that their very attitude toward their worship of God is apathetic and worse than no worship at all.

You also say,
‘Oh, what a weariness!’
And you sneer at it,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick;
Thus you bring an offering!
Should I accept this from your hand?”
Says the Lord.

Today our worship does not consist of bringing an animal sacrifice. Still, I wonder, how my worship can sometimes be just like theirs. Bringing God my “leftovers.”

  • Giving him a few minutes of devotion after hours spent watching TV, shopping, posting on FB.
  • Giving a few dollars to support the work of my church or a charity after spending much on my own entertainment.
  • Giving a few minutes to write a card to someone after spending hours doing my own thing.
  • Walking into church for worship five or ten minutes late, coming in and distracting those who are trying to praise God. Casually entering into the song without any real thought of what worship really means.
  • Coming to worship now and then when I don’t have other events scheduled that are more important than being in God’s house.

I am reminded of a poem by Frederick Ohler that says it so well:

Great and holy God awe and reverence fear and trembling do not come easily to us

for we are not Old Testament Jews or Moses or mystics or sensitive enough.

Forgive us for slouching into Your presence with little expectation and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need neither Jehovah nor a buddy—neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us to want what we need…You God

and may the altar of our hearts tremble with delight at Your visitation

amen.

What Kind of Ambassador Are You?

In one of the Aposle Paul’s writings he said:

We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God.

As I look at our chaotic world today with all the divisions as we try to cope with the problems the coronavirus and the recent election season has caused, I am saddened at the response of the church world.

It has astounded me how many in the church have taken to FB, Twitter accounts and other media to call those who disagree with them names, questioning their Christianity if they did not agree on a particular issue. While the fear, the anger, the questions we all have in this time of uncertainty is understandable, our response as Christians call us to a higher standard than those who are not followers of Christ. When the church begins to call our government leaders unkind names and suggest even violence to them, what does the world think of our message?

Have we not always said that Christ loves the whole world, that He came to save any who would call on Him? How then can we let our own emotions, our own political beliefs, our own understanding of the coronavirus bring us to this point? How can we then ask the world to believe in our message of love if our actions are anything but loving?

So what is an ambassador?

The dictionary tells us that an ambassador is an official representative of his/her government or sovereign appointed for a special and often temporary assignment. That person is chosen to act or speak for another, to represent the interests of another person.

So – as a Christian ambassador, I need to realize I am an official representive of Christ. When I call myself a Christian, I am taking on the role of acting/speaking for the interests, not of myself, but of Christ. My words, my actions will reflect on Christ and His church.

The first step in becoming an ambassador is to set aside one’s personal agenda. It is important to remember that God does not come into our lives to help us achieve our goals. That kind of human-centered teaching may be popular, but it is not biblical We are meant to spend ourselves in seeking God’s glory (not our own – or anther person’s or a particular group of people), achieving His eternal purposes (not our own temporal goals) and bearing witness to His truth (not our opinions.) …Cole Richards

When I look at the Early Church, I find a people who lived under the domination of a foreign power. People who did not have to struggle with being told to wear a mask or not to gather in large groups, but people who were told they would be imprisoned or even killed if they shared the message of Jesus. People who were beaten, thrown in an arena with lions. History tells us that all but one of Jesus’ disciples were martyred. Yet they responded with love and their only task was to continue to share the message of John 3:16 – “God so loved the world….”

If we cannot remain a people of love and whose main focus is to share Jesus in this time and situation, how will we survive if, God forbid, we ever face real persecution as the Early Church did?

Will we remain good ambassadors of Christ – or will we be too concerned for our own freedoms, rights to care about our leader’s whole purpose and goals who, hanging on a cross, said “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”?

Modern Response to Message of Jesus

The Lesson

Then Jesus took His disciples up on the mountain and gathering them around Him, He taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Blessed are they that mourn
  • Blessed are the merciful
  • Blessed are they that thirst for justice
  • Blessed are you when persecuted
  • Blessed are you when you suffer
  • Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Are we supposed to know this?”

And Andrew said:  “Do we have to write this down and take notes?”

And James said:  “Will we have a test on this?”

And Thomas said:  “Do we have to get this signed?”

And Phillip said:  “I don’t have any paper.”

And Bartholomew said:  “Do we have to turn this in?”

And John said: “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this.”

And Matthew said: “May I go to the boys’ room?”

And Judas said: “What does this have to do with real life?”

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan and inquired of Jesus:

“Where is your anticipatory set, your aim (long-term goals), your objectives in the cognitive domain?”

AND JESUS WEPT!

Count it All Joy? You Have to Be Kidding me!!

What a year 2020 was! Coronavirus – and all the uncertainty and problems that has created. Loss of jobs/income, loss of ability to travel freely to name just a few. Division over wearing a mask or not wearing one.

The election also brought such division and unrest.

The arguments over BLM.

We were looking forward to 2021 – but now that it is here – I am not sure this year is shaping up to be much different than 2020.

So as Christians, how are we supposed to respond?

I turn to the writer of James and see that he started off his letter with the words “Greetings.” The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.”  Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.”  “Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends.  Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well.  We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas. 

However just after he says “joy to you” he begins speaking of anything but joyful times or situations. On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy.  After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.

Difficulties. Tough times. Kind of like we have been experiencing. Situations that do not naturally led to joy.

The word he uses for testings is not referring to something like our tests in schools that are designed to reveal what the student knows. Rather, James is referring to something that reveals the genuiness of one’s faith, but he also implies this test is designed to develop something that is not yet fully developed in a person.

He says:

trials/testings = perservance/endurance = mature character             

James was writing to fellow Jews who were facing difficult times.  He is encouraging them to let these times help them grow in the Lord and not be an interruption in their relationship as a servant to the Lord.

Questions he raises and which I submit to you:

  1. Is any trial a reason not to rely on God and allow His joy to fill your heart?
  2. Even in trials, is there ever a reason a Christian should curse another or call them names?
  3. Even in difficult times, is there ever a reason a Christian should engage in grumbling about others?

James says “Don’t let difficult times stop you from obeying and following the Lord.  In the middle of trials, that is the time to put into practice what you say you believe.”

In my words I would say “put your money where your mouth is.” Growing up in church we heard all about the Sermon on the Mount and all Jesus said about turning the other cheek, loving your enemies and praying for them, being peacemakers. Sadly it seems many have either forgotten those words – or have tried to make them mean something else.

I ask you: Did Jesus “really” mean it when He said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Persistent Prayer

A parable Jesus told about the importance of prayer has often made me wonder.

He tells of a widow who went to the local judge to ask him to intervene in her behalf. Apparently there was someone who was treating her unfairly and she wanted help in resolving this dispute. According to the Mosaic Law judges were never to show partiality.

And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s.

Jesus tells us that this judge just ignores her. Whether he did it because he was trying to protect a friend, to gain favor with someone, or was just indifferent without any compassion we do not know. Clearly he was an incompetent judge and should not have been allowed to remain in that position.

The woman is persistent and will not stop coming to the judge and asking for help. Finally, Jesus tells us, that the judge hears her case simply because she was driving him crazy. “She is wearing me out with her constant requests.”

Jesus then ends the parable by telling us that if this unjust judge would do what was right in the face of someone who would not give up, how much more would God answer His children’s cries for help.

In the past as I read this parable I wondered why God would compare Himself to an unjust judge and thereby imply we needed to keep asking Him for our needs. Did that mean if I keep asking for something – even though it might not be the right thing or me or in line with God’s Word – God will give it to me? That is actually a frightening thought to me. I can think of some prayers I have asked that later I was so glad God did not give me what I asked for.

As I study the Bible more I am learning to take Scripture in the total context. So I noticed that Jesus ended this with a question.

When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on earth who have faith?

Some Bible scholars have said Jesus was simply pointing out the need for His followers to trust Him regardless of whether it seemed their prayers were being answered. I get that. When I pray I need to trust that God is faithful and leave the “when” “where” and “how” to Him.

But as I looked at that today thinking of my own prayer life, I saw something else. Persistent prayer and my faith in God are fundamentally connected. As in any relationship, honest and consistent communication are necessary if that relationship is to grow and remain strong.

When I first met my husband I knew only a few facts about him. Slowly as we dated and shared our fears, hopes, dreams I came to know him. I felt I knew him enough to marry him and pledge my love until death we do part. But today after almost 37 years of communicating I realize how little I really knew him on my wedding day. My knowledge of him today is very deep – I think it is safe to say I know him better than anyone else.

So I think Jesus was telling us that if we want our faith to grow and be strong until the very end of our life, we need to be persistent in our prayer time. In contrast to the unjust judge, Jesus is telling us that God’s character is just the opposite. Of course, He will hear the cries of his children. Trusting in His character and His goodness, we must never give up hope as we pray.

How Did the Baby Change Your Life?

I wrote this three years ago – but wondering again this year – after all the decorations are put up, after all the Christmas songs are put away until next year, after we have posted all our pictures on FB, has the baby made a difference in your life for 2021?

Grandma's Ramblings

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One last look this time around

Brrrrr! It’s so cold outside. So today while staying snug inside I read and thought one more time on the Christmas story which we have just observed. Now it’s time to move forward and begin thinking about spring and about the resurrection story.

But one writer I read during the Christmas season still speaks to me.

…the Christmas story is not just for observing, but for participating. A long time ago, Jesus Christ was born. But today, Christ is born in us. And so we would be wise to spend some time wondering with the sheep and the shepherds, how does this baby change my life?

Sarah Cunningham

For 2017 – how has this baby changed your life?

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Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

For many weeks this post has been on my mind.  I have hesitated in writing it because the last thing I want is to offend anyone or cause more divisiveness than we already have in our nation.

But as the past few days have become so bad with clashes between different factions in our nation, I feel I must share what is in my heart.

First, a disclaimer here:  I am not pro-Trump or never-Trump.  I am not here to promote any political party.  I am also not here to even promote the Christian faith.  If you are Muslim, Jewish or atheist I am not speaking to you.  My words are to those who, like me, call themselves Christian.

When Trump ran for president he was strongly embraced by many in the evangelical world.  One of the main reasons for their support was that Trump promised to promote Christian principles and appoint judges who would rule in favor of the Christian agenda.

I am not saying promoting Christian principles is a bad thing.  As a Christian who has been a Christ follower all my life, I long to see Christian principles be a strong part of the fabric of our nation.  I truly believe the Bible’s statement that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

But my fear then – and my fear now – is that we are looking to a man and/or a political party to promote the Christian faith rather than looking to God for that.

As Christians we can work to see “righteous” laws that agree with God’s Word are made by Congress, signed by the President and upheld by the courts.  Nothing wrong with that.

But laws do not make a person or a nation righteous.

God’s Word and the whole idea of our Christian faith speaks against that.

Look at the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  Led by Moses out of Egypt bondage, God Himself gave them laws.  If you read the Old Testament you see how many times they failed to follow those laws.  Why?  Because as God’s Word says “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

The story of the Christian faith is that laws did not work.  They could control the behavior of man to a point, but in the end, they always failed.  Man always found a way to ignore and/or disobey the law.  The nation of Israel wandered further and further away from the law because the law did not change their hearts.

So we can pass laws that make what we believe is sin against the law.  We can even persecute those who break those laws and send them to prison.  But how has that make our nation a Christian nation?  Granted it would mean that we as Christians might feel safer in a nation where everybody had to agree with us or go to jail.  We as Christians might enjoy a great safe and comfortable life.

But how would that change the hearts of the people?  How would that truly make us “all” Christians?

Jesus spoke about the importance of a change in our hearts, not just our behavior in that famous passage we call the “Sermon on the Mount”

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

So – we can make laws against murder (not saying we should not do so) but we cannot change the hearts of people who harbor anger in their heart.  And sadly, I have seen on numerous Facebook posts where Christians have been so guilty of disobeying Jesus’ instruction as they begin to call each other “fools” when they disagree on an issue.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Clearly Jesus was calling us to a higher standard than just setting up a set of laws for all to obey.  He was calling us to a change in heart.

Only God can change a heart.  All the “righteous” laws in the world, even if enforced by our courts, cannot change the heart of men and women.

My fear is that instead of trying to share God’s love and God’s truth to our neighbors, instead of reaching out to those who were planning an abortion, who were taking illegal drugs, who were living a lifestyle we felt was wrong, we looked to a man/a political party to pass laws that would stop them from that lifestyle or punish them for it.

What if we went to that woman contemplating abortion and asked what we could do to help her keep the child?  Could we pay her medical bills?  Could we help her find a good family to adopt the baby?  Could we help her gain skills to get a better job?  And, if in the end, we could not change her mind, could we show her love and compassion as we pray to God to change her heart and mind?

And what about Jesus’s statement:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

I am thankful that I have lived my life in a nation where many Christian beliefs have guided our country – and I’m all for promoting those principles.  But we must never think if we force people to live by our Christian standards through fear of persecution or punishment by the courts, we are making our nation a righteous nation.

No law – no matter how good – can change the heart.  That is the whole point of our Christian faith.

Just a closing thought:  what if we spend as much time praying – seeking God – sharing His love to those we do not agree with – as we spend arguing, debating and even attacking those who are opposed to our Christian standards – would that make a real difference?

Faith in the Face of Evil

I just finished reading a powerful book about the suffering of a Christian man imprisoned in Sudan for 445 days.  While I understand the concerns of Christians here in our country that we might lose some of our religious freedoms, I had to once again see that we have no idea what real persecution for the cause of Jesus Christ looks like. 

Petr Jasek,, a citizen of the Czech Republic and an aid worker, made a trip to Sudan in December 2015 to see what Christians could do to help their fellow Christians suffering at the hands of the government of Sudan.  After meetings with local pastors and other Christians he was at the airport getting ready to return home to his family when he was detained for questioning by  Sudan security agents.  They took his computer, phone and camera and charged him with espionage, waging war against the state and undermining the constitution.

After hours of no sleep and repeated interrogation, he was taken to prison and placed in a cell approximately eight feet wide by fourteen feet long.  There were already six men in the cell with only one bed. The five men without a bed slept on mattresses on the floor.  The only space he had to lay his body down was next to the entrance to the bathroom.  The shower was completely broken and the Western-style metal toilet was covered in rust.  He saw a hose coming out of the wall for water but soon discovered that the water was only on once or twice a day.  

I can’t imagine the stench of the room with seven men crowded together and no real facilities to maintain cleanliness.  

Added to that horror, he soon discovered his fellow inmates were ISIS fighters.  Although Sudan is an Islamist government, they did not want ISIS to find a home in their country because they were afraid they would win the people’s allegiance  and their own control of the country would be lost to ISIS leaders. 

He first realized who he was sharing his cell with when he was awaken at 4:30 a.m. by the call to prayer.  The men in the cell rose to their feet and began their morning prayers.  He was told that when they prayed he had to wake up and stand in the back corner of the room where they would not have to face him.  

Since they had no access to news on the outside, they asked him to share the latest news.  He immediately thought of the terrorist attack that had taken place in Paris earlier in November.  At the mention of the death of 129 people, he was shocked when they at first became very silent, then began hugging one another and shouting with great joy “Allabu Akbar!”

After weeks of imprisonment he was set for a trial.  While waiting for his trial he was moved several times to different prisons and different cells.  Toward the end of his imprisonment he was able to share a cell with fellow Christians.  

Peter

After delay and delay he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.  A fine of 100,000 Sudanese pounds ($17,000) was also imposed on him. 

For most of us I am afraid we would have been crying out to God “why me?”  Petr came to the understanding that his time and his life were in the Lord’s hands.  With confidence that God was still in control regardless of how hopeless things looked, he began finding opportunity to share the Gospel with other prisoners and with his guards. 

One of his greatest joys while in prison was when he was allowed to have a Bible.  He said 

The Word of God is not chained – even when God’s people are.  The Scripture is alive and active, and when I began feelings its activity in prison, I would not keep it to myself.  The Lord began prodding me to share the Gospel with my fellow prisoners – nominal Christians, animists, and even Muslims….In prison I truly learned to love my enemies.  I still pray for the ISIS prisoners and I pray that many Christian prisoners in Sudan might have the opportunity to share the Gospel as well.”

Thankfully the Czech government and Christians around the world continued to intercede for Petr and he was released in 2017 after 445 days.   

This story is one worth reading.  “Imprisoned with ISIS – Faith in the Face of Evil”.  

The book is worth taking the time and money to read but you can also check out his story at

Christian aid worker says time in Sudanese prison allowed him to share Gospel

Next time I hear someone complaining about how we are persecuted in this country for being a Christian, I will just remember Petr’s story and say God help us if we ever really have to suffer persecution.

American Christians Being Persecuted? Really?

I know this year has been crazy! Not being able to attend church on Sunday and meet with my fellow believers has been rough. Coming together each week to worship with my church family and hear God’s Word is where I gain a lot of strength. I have missed that. Recently my church began meeting again and it is such a joy to me to be back with my friends.

However, it seems most are complaining about how it has been hard on them to not have church – focused more on their own selves rather than on how can we in this difficult continue to share God’s Word and His love to those who do not know Him.

It’s like “how hard this is on me” rather than “we need to find other ways to share God’s message to the world.”

But hearing so many complain and say how Christians are being persecuted I have to say “really?”

* Inconvenienced – yes

*Stressful – yes

But persecuted?

Let me share some stories of real persecution.

In North Korea Christians have to hide any portion of the Bible they might have (and Bibles are scarce). The possession of a Bible can get you and your entire family killed. If you are not executed, then at the very least you’ll be sent to one of the five major labor camps for political prisoners. Sources who work with missionary groups tell us that between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are in labor camps where they are tortured, starved and work long hours. Sometimes they are used for medical tests.

A young Vietnamese man who gave his life to Christ reports that when he shared that news with his family his father threatened to kill him. Many Christians there are secret believers because if they reveal their faith, discrimination,, threats and violence often are a result of that confession. To leave the village religion is seen as a betrayal to the family.

To see true persecution, check out this post:

 

“Miracle Boy”

 

 

Reading today from the book of Acts I was impressed again with the early church’s response to persecution.

Ater the apostle were jailed for preaching about Jesus and warned not to do so again, they immediately went to the church and there was a prayer meeting.

Now, if that was us I think our prayers would be:

Lord, we are being so persecuted.  Please save us!  Please destroy the power of our enemies.  Protect us!

But that was not their prayer.

They prayed:

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:  ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.  They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Consider their threats and help me as I attack them with name calling and other personal attacks.

Consider their threats and help me to destroy them.

NOT

Consider their threats and help us to continue to share God’s Word with great boldness.

May we focus on sharing God’s Word and not so much on our own stresses at this time.

I Am Not Alone

What a week this has been!  Sunday evening my husband was rushed into emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma.  Because of the coronavirus I could not go to the hospital with him.  At 3:30 that afternoon the surgeon’s assistant called me and told me they were doing emergency surgery and without the surgery my husband would not live.  They promised to call me when the surgery was over.  But hours later I still did not have a call.

I finally located ICU and found out that he had come out of surgery and was in a room in their Critical Care Unit.  They assured me they would have the doctor call me.

It was not until 11 PM that a doctor called.

The week has been the most challenging I have ever experienced.  Knowing my husband was in critical condition was bad enough but the fear that he might die without me present kept me awake.

However, I truly believe in the power of God when His people pray.

The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16

Through my family, my church family and FB the word was put out there and prayers began all around the country.

Sunday evening he was near death’s door.  Today – Friday he is out of ICU and in rehab.  It is clear we have a ways to go – probably one or two more weeks in rehab and then work at home.  But I am rejoicing – his speech is now slow but he can speak and he clearly understands.  His right side is weak and he needs a walker but he can walk.  With more prayers of God’s people and this therapy I’m believing for a complete and total recovery.

However, I realize that for a few weeks or months I will have to carry the burden of keeping our home going and will need to devote more time to him and his recovery.

Therefore, I will give up my blog.  I don’t know if this will be a temporary thing or if I will resume later.

I want to thank all my followers for your kind comments and I have enjoyed many of your blogs also.

God bless you all!

Here’s my song for this time and season.