A Solitary Life

There is a poem that has been printed and read for years at Christmas time.  I have often read it but until this year I never really questioned who wrote it or why.  Writing this month about my memories of past Christmas times I thought of this poem and decided to find out who wrote it.

I discovered it was part of a sermon given by Dr. James Allan Francis, a Baptist minister born in Canada.  He gave the sermon on July 11, 1926 speaking to the Baptist Young People’s  Union.  The message was titled, “Arise Sir Knight.”  Transcribed by a friend Dr. Francis published it in a collection of his sermons.

Later minor changes were made to the original words and it has become a popular poem used throughout the church, but especially at Christmas time.

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Here is a man who was born in an obscure village as the child of a peasant woman.

He grew up in another obscure village.

He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.

He never held an office.

He never owned a home.

He never had a family.

He never went to college.

He never put his foot inside a big city.

He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.

He had no credentials but himself.

He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of his divine manhood.

While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him.

His friends ran away.

One of them denied him.

Another betrayed him.

He was turned over to his enemies.

He went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed upon the cross between two thieves.

His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth while he was dying, and that was his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today he is the center of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon the earth as powerfully as has this one solitary life.

 

 

Did Mary Know – Do You Know?

There is a popular Christmas song that many love and it gets a lot of air time at the holiday season.  I love it too, especially the line that says “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.”

 

 

But I have to ask myself as I listen to this song, do I know.

In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer makes this statement:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

Another writer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written

Our supreme need is to know God.

But, what do we mean by knowing God?

The Old Testament. The Hebrew root yada [[;d”y],translated “know”/”knowledge, ” appears almost 950 times in the Hebrew Bible. It has a wider sweep than our English word “know, ” including perceiving, learning, understanding, willing, performing, and experiencing. To know is not to be intellectually informed about some abstract principle, but to apprehend and experience reality. Knowledge is not the possession of information, but rather its exercise or actualization.

Thus, biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions ( Micah 6:5 ). To know God is not to struggle philosophically with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

The Biblical use of knowing someone implies a relationship.  In Genesis 4:1 we are told that “Adam knew Eve his wife” meaning he had a physical union with her.  Jesus used the word “know” when He spoke of his relationship with His followers.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me (John 10:14)

The Apostle Peter admonishes Christian to

grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I wonder do we truly “know” Him?  Is He really a part of our everyday life or just someone we visit on Sunday morning? Do we really invite Him to be part of our plans as we work, play, shop?  Better yet, do we invite Him to guide us so that we recognize His plans for us?

Do I know about him or do I know him?

For example, I know about President Trump.  I can tell you he is a wealthy man with a beautiful wife.  He is loved by the political right and hated by the political left.  He is from New York and is a real estate billionaire.

But I do not know him.  If I met him on the street he would not have any idea who I was.  I will never be invited to his family Christmas dinner (not that I would want to).  We have no personal knowledge of each other.

know

In thinking how do we come to know Jesus, I think of my own relationship with my husband.  When I first met him all I knew was that he was a father trying to raise two teenagers by himself, that he was highly respected by his church family, that he liked to sing.

As we began to spend time together, slowly I learned more about his man.  He was a veteran of the US Air Force, he loved flowers and was a great gardener, he hated stewed tomatoes.  By the time we were married, I could say that I truly knew him.

However, after almost 35 years of marriage, I realize that my knowledge of him on our wedding day was small compared to what I have discovered over these years of marriage.  Today, I think it is correct to say I know him better than anyone else.

So it is with the Lord.  The more time we spend in His word, in prayer, in mediation the more we will know Him.

This Christmas, do you know about Jesus or do you know Him?  What are your plans to know in your knowledge of Him?

 

 

 

 

Giving Only What I Can Afford

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus pointed out to His disciples a widow woman who placed two little coins in the offering box in the Temple.  Compared to the much larger amounts they had seen others give earlier, her offering seemed like nothing.  Yet Jesus pointed out that they had given of their abundance while her offering consisted of all she had – a much greater sacrifice and gift.

widow

Jesus explained that the rich people had given “what they can easily afford” while she had given “her whole living.”

This has me thinking – do I only give what I can afford or do I give my all?

When we talk about giving in relationship to God, we usually think of money and in this instance it was money that was being discussed.  And certainly I have to admit when it comes to financial giving, I certainly use a lot of my income on myself.  As I look at my checkbook, I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford to the work of God.

Giving financially to God is more than just giving to my local church, although it does include that.  But there are so many other areas where I need to share my abundance with others:

  • helping teachers and schools with supplies
  • buying shoes for children from families who are struggling financially
  • buying a meal for a homeless person
  • taking food to the local food pantry
  • many non-profit organizations like American Cancer Society, St Jude’s Hospital for Children, Wycliffe Bible Translators and the list goes on and on

My first thought is I do not have an abundance financially.  But I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford.  Am I really making any personal sacrifices giving up things I don’t really need, only want, to help others whose finances are much less than mine.

But giving to God is much more than just giving of my finances.  There is my time and my talent.

time

How much of my time do I spend doing things I want to do, things which will help me or my family?  How much of my time do I spend reaching out to others.

This was really brought home to me this past month.  We just moved to a new state.  Just a couple of days after moving in with boxes still everywhere our doorbell rang.  It was a neighbor coming over to say welcome.  My first thought was “how nice!”  I invited her in and we began getting acquainted.  After 30 minutes had passed and she showed no sign of leaving, I must confess I so wanted her to leave.  After all, I had boxes to unpack and a long, long list of things that must be taken care of when you move from one state to another:  new car title and license, new driver’s license, new car insurance,  and my list went on and on.

Finally she left and I told my husband I was worried that she would be a nuisance.  She was elderly and clearly lonely.  She also repeated herself several times.  I dreaded the time she might take up coming over to visit.

Then, I remembered what Jesus said and I felt the Spirit’s conviction as I realized I have an abundance of time.  My husband and I are both retired, we only have one daughter and her family living close by.  We have lots of time to enjoy.

So – will I be willing to give up some of my time – my abundance of time – to spend time with this neighbor – listening to the same story and showing interest as if it was the first time I had heard it?  Do I really need to spend all my time just doing what I like to do, just enjoying myself or do I need to give my all as Jesus would have me do?

So I have determined to visit this woman every week, to take an hour or two to sit and listen to her stories, to make her feel important to me.  To give out of my abundance.

 

 

 

 

Where is Your Treasure?

This past year my husband and I did a lot of downsizing in preparation for a move from a nine-room house to a five-room house.  Part of our downsizing also was simply a recognition that we were at the age when we did not want to continue all the upkeep a large home and a big yard required.  At 70 I decided life was too short to spend precious moments taking care of so much “stuff.”  In the middle of our downsizing we also decided to move over 350 miles from one state to another to join our youngest daughter and her family.

Putting our house on the market, we began selling, giving away and simply discarding a lot of items accumulated over a lifetime.  As we prepared for the move, we stored the boxes in our garage.  On the day of our move my husband looked at all we had boxed up and ready for the move and he said,

After 78 years, is this all I have to show for my lifetime?

boxes

Immediately I remembered the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

treasure

 

As I reflected on my husband’s life I realized he has not accumulated a lot of wealth or possessions.  Yet, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

I think of the hundreds he has baptised, the baby dedications, the weddings and the funerals he has conducted.  To him, these were not just  formal ceremonies but opportunities to share God’s love and rejoice with those who rejoiced and to weep with those who wept.

But I think the one of the greatest things he did was to minister to those in nursing homes – the forgotten ones.  He not only visited them, but he spent quality time with them.  Watching him interact with the residents of the nursing homes was always a proud moment for me.  He took such time to ask about their family, where they lived and worked.  After one visit he always remembered their name and many times the names of their grandchildren.  Their eyes would light up when they saw him.  Sadly, many who had once been very active in their church found they were forgotten after a few weeks in a nursing home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

So, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

That did get me to thinking.  As the moving company began loading the truck with our possessions, I wondered:

  • Where is my treasure?
  • If I could see the treasures I have in heaven, would they fit in a duffel bag or would I need a pickup train or a semi-truck to hold them?

 

 

 

 

 

Does God’s Grace Extend to Colin Kaepernick?

grace

Disclaimer:  My thoughts on this post all came from a sermon I heard this past Sunday.  Guess that this post might be considered plagiarism.  Since the minister that spoke is my daughter, hopefully she will forgive me for stealing her thoughts.

She spoke of our need for God’s grace not just at the moment we realize we need a savior but each day as we rely on God’s grace – it is an ongoing way of life.  Knowing we have received grace, we need to pass that grace on to others in our life.

The meaning of grace could call for a deep and long theological dissertation – but I’m not qualified for that.  For my post, I’m just using a simple definition – again not my own but one I have heard hundreds of time when someone tries to define what we mean by grace.

G — God’s

R – riches

A – at

C – Christ’s

E – expense

Some definitions:

God’s favor toward the unworthy

God’s benevolence on the undeserving

Grace is what God is all about.  Because of His grace, we are forgiven – not based on anything we have done, but simply on His love and mercy.  And, because we have received grace, we are to pass that same grace – that same love and mercy – to others.

But here is where I find a big problem among my Christian friends today.  We are living in a very divided country right now.

  • Left vs right
  • liberal vs conservative
  • Democrat vs Republican
  • pro-choice vs pro-life
  • against a wall vs for a wall
  • restriction on gun rights vs gun rights advocates

And the list could go on and on.

As Christians we have every right to speak out on our own opinions, to speak out for truth and against things that are totally outside God’s Word.

BUT….while we can and should speak out for the truth, we need to remember that those we disagree with, those who we strongly feel are wrong, are people who God loves, people that God died for.  People that need to know God’s love and mercy in their own lives.

Remember the verse we all learned early in life:

For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son….

That means God loves:

knee

  • all the NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem, including Colin Kaepernick
  • all the crazy Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi
  • all the pro-choice activists, including Cecile Richards

Do we speak out against their beliefs, their actions?  Certainly we have that right and maybe in some cases even that responsibility.

But when we speak out against them personally, call them names, say we don’t care about them, I think we have crossed the line as Christians.  No longer seeing them as people who need to know God’s love, but as “enemies.”  We dehumanize them.  We refuse to extend love and mercy.

Jesus told us:

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

So, I ask my Christian friends:

When was the last time you prayed for those who you disagree with?

When was the last time you bent your knee and prayed for your enemies?

We hear a lot of calls to pray for President Trump – and we should.  But where are the calls to play for those we disagree with?  Don’t they need God too?

Just as we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, someone you know may not deserve yours. It doesn’t matter: We are still commanded to forgive them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really? Forgive Again?

Anyone who has gone to Sunday School or attended any Bible studies has probably heard how Jesus said we are to forgive someone seventy times seven.

Of course, we know that He did not mean we keep a notebook handy and add up each time we forgive someone until we have forgiven them 490 times.

Okay, that was the 491st time you did that – no more forgiveness.

forgive

 

Clearly He was expressing how we are to have a heart of mercy and forgiveness to others.  He went on to say that He forgave us to the degree we forgive others.

For many of us forgiveness is a tough one to do.  I have found it fairly easy to forgive when someone acknowledges they hurt me and asks for forgiveness.  But when they do not acknowledge they were wrong and I still need to forgive them – that has been hard at times.  However, not forgiving harms me more than the one I do not forgive.

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Several years ago I came face-to-face with the reality of how much I needed forgiveness myself – and therefore should forgive others.

A few years after my first husband died, I remarried a wonderful man and inherited a teenage son.  Raising two girls, I did not have a clue how to deal with a son – especially a teenage son.  Today I am thankful to say this young man and I could not be closer.  But those first few years had some rough moments.

He was a good young man, but suddenly having me telling him what to do did not always sit well with him.

Some days I became frustrated with him.  It was not that he was doing terrible things.  It was just things like forgetting to take out the trash or heading out with his friends without helping with the household chores he had been assigned.  When I confronted him he would always say he was sorry.

So — one day I told him:

I have had it with you.  You keep saying you are sorry – but then you do it again.   I’m tired of forgiving you again and again.

After stomping off to my bedroom to cool off, I suddenly felt a reprimand from the Holy Spirit:

So, how many times have I forgiven you for the same thing?  Next time you pray, should I say that I have had it with you?

Ouch!!!!  That hit very close to home.

Needless to say I went back to this young man and told him I forgave him and we would try again.

(I do want to make this disclaimer.  Being physically or mentally abused by someone does not mean we allow that abuse to continue.  While we need to forgive the abuser, there is no way we should ever continue to submit to abuse.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Worry! Be Happy!

 

Don’t you just hate it when you are going through a time of stress or difficulties that cause you to begin to worry and then some Pollyanna comes along and says:

worry

Recently I have been stressed out.  My husband and I have begun downsizing and making plans to move to a smaller place which will require less work for us “old folks.”  Then the only child that lives close to us moved to another state leaving us without any family close by.

So—-all this began a series of decisions to make.

First, where do we move to?  Which of our children live in an area that will work best for us as we age?  (And the worry that when we decided we might hurt the feelings of our children who we did not move by.  Would they think we like one child better than the other?)  And depending on where we moved, we might be closer to some but be moving even further away from others.

Decision made.  All is well.  Our children are wonderful and totally in agreement with our decision.

So—all this starts another series of decisions to make.

How much should we ask for the sale of our house?  What do we keep and what do we get rid of as we move into a smaller home?  The possessions we are not going to keep – do we sell them, give them to children, take them to Goodwill?

So—how do we find a new place in another state?

New home found.

So—now to do all the things required when you make a move.  Utilities turned off here, turned on there.  Address changes made.  Find new doctors.  (This is very important for us as we both have heart issues and are diabetics.)  Get involved in new church.  Pack up everything carefully for a move of almost 400 miles.  On and on this list goes.

So – I have been worried a lot lately about all these decisions and things to be done.

Then, today I read the words of my precious Savior in the Gospel of Luke.

“That is why I tell you, don’t worry about life, wondering what you are going to eat. And stop bothering about what clothes you will need. Life is much more important than food, and the body more important than clothes. Think of the ravens. They neither sow nor reap, and they have neither store nor barn, but God feeds them. And how much more valuable do you think you are than birds? Can any of you make himself an inch taller however much he worries about it? And if you can’t manage a little thing like this, why do you worry about anything else? Think of the wild flowers, and how they neither work nor weave. Yet I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass, which flowers in the field today and is burnt in the stove tomorrow, is he not much more likely to clothe you, you little-faiths? You must not set your heart on what you eat or drink, nor must you live in a state of anxiety. The whole heathen world is busy about getting food and drink, and your Father knows well enough that you need such things. No, set your heart on his kingdom, and your food and drink.”

Jesus is not a Pollyanna, but He clearly reminds us that He knows what we need and He will supply.

So—Don’t worry!  Be Happy!

God is in control!