To What Do You Pledge Allegiance?

I try to stay away from political posts because my goal for this blog was to encourage, and maybe make someone smile.

However, our current political scene is so chaotic, and our politicians are contributing, not to unity, but division. What makes me sad is to see the church trading its beliefs to gain political power. So when I read this today in my study, I must share it.

These are not my words. The following is taken from the book “The New Testament in Its World” by N.T. Wright.

When Paul says that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) he is emphasizing that the Messiah, who reigns in heaven, and who will one day return from heaven, is the object of our hope and loyalty. There was nothing wrong with being a citizen of Rome, just as there is nothing wrong with being a British or an American citizen. But when the gospel of Jesus is unveiled it reveals the true empire, the true citizenship, the true lord and in that light all the pretensions of empire, not least the arrogant and blasphemous claims of the emperor himself, or the propaganda of power-hungry presidents, are exposed as folly. The church’s vocation is not to bless the power, policies, and pantheon of civic leaders, but to measure them by the standard of Christ, to pursue the things that make for peace and justice, and to proclaim that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The church was never intended to be the religious department of any empire, but always to be building for the true kingdom, setting up an embassy for the one true lord, living lives according to his symbols, his teaching, his story and no other. If that means suffering, that will mean following the pattern of the Messiah, and confidently expecting his rescue and reward. The church’s loyalty cannot be auctioned off to those who promise it political influence; not can its core convictions be pummeled into submission to fit the reigning zeitgeist. For citizens of heaven, the gospel should be declared, not domesticated.

The Joy of Being Number 2

I wrote this blog over four years ago – but this week my husband and I have been reading the book of Acts – and once again I see my role mode – Barnabas and his great ability to encourage others. That is still my prayer for myself.

Grandma's Ramblings

We all love a winner!

#1

We hold parades, parties, all kinds of celebrations when our team becomes state champion.  Coming in second in a state-wide contest leaves people feeling so dejected.  They seem to forget that being second means they have beat out many other teams.

#1 team

In the Olympics, athletics say they are going for the gold.  You don’t win silver, you lose gold.

This desire to be number 1 is not necessarily a bad thing.  To try to do your best, to succeed, to take pride in what you achieve, to have a healthy self-esteem are all good qualities.

But when that desire to be number 1 becomes so important that it leads us to step on others to reach the top, to despair when we do not achieve first place or to be overly prideful when we do, it has become a negative influence in our life.

For…

View original post 1,075 more words

Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

I posted this a couple of years ago – but as we head into another election season and as the rhetoric again heats up as to our need to be a “Christian” nation, I thought I would share it again.

Grandma's Ramblings

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…

View original post 979 more words

Dangerous Prayers

My church has been doing a series on dangerous prayers – and it has given me much thought.

I have to admit that most of my prayers are for me and mine. While there is certainly nothing wrong with praying for my family, my friends, my needs, taking a look at some of the prayers in the Bible has reminded me that I am called to let my love and concern go beyond my own small circle.

Looking at the prayers in God’s Word leads me to go deeper in my prayer time. Time spent in prayer should not just telling God of our needs and desires, but a time to be quiet and let Him speak to us.

Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

The prayer of the early church in Acts has always amazed me. After two of their leaders had been arrested and spent the night in jail, they were released with the command to never speak of Jesus again. Arriving at the house where the church was gathered for prayer, I would think they would pray for God’s protection, for deliverance from the persecution. But they did not. Instead, they prayed “make me bold.”

Acts 4:29 – “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

In our culture today when it seems society is more and more hostile to Christian principles it can be so easy to just ask God to keep me and mine safe. But I need to ask God to help my family, my friends be bold to proclaim God’s love to this needy world.

Many times, when I pray for my family, my prayers are focused on more material issues. “Give this child a job.” “Heal this child.” “Help this child in their efforts for school or work or family.”

Again, these prayers are certainly ones we should pray. After all, God cares about every aspect of our life. But I found a prayer in one of the Apostle Paul’s writings that helps me focus on the most important needs of my family – their spiritual welfare.

Colossians 1: 9-12 – “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

In today’s message my pastor talked about Isaiah and his experience when he had a vision of the Lord in all His glory. Isaiah’s first response was to recognize his own sinfulness and need of cleansing. When the seraphim placed a coal of fire on his lips and told him he was forgiven, his immediate response was to say “Send me.”

I often wondered why the seraphim chose to place the coals on his lips rather than on his head or hands. But when Isaiah saw the glory of God, he responded by saying “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah understood what Jesus later told us. “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them. But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

As Isaiah experienced God’s forgiveness, he was ready to say, “Send me.” How often do I pray for God to meet this need or solve this problem, but how often do I make myself available for God to use me as an answer to that prayer?

I realize as I pray I need to take time to be quiet, to let God speak to me about areas in my life that need forgiveness, healing, strength. To say “search me.” To pray “make me bold” that I might be unafraid to share the good news of God’s love to those I meet at the store, in the library or wherever I may go. To focus more on the “spiritual” needs of those on my prayer list and not just on the “physical” needs. To ask God to “send me” and then seek to be more aware of the opportunities He places in my path to be used of Him.

Dangerous prayers – prayers that might require more of me rather than just giving God a list of wishes/needs for Him to take care of.

Join me in praying some dangerous prayers and see what God will do in us and through us.

Friday’s List for Wisdom and Laughter

  1. Eternity is too long to be wrong
  2. Say “no” to sin and “yes” to God
  3. Make no “appeal” for God until you “kneel” to God
  4. God is not so much seeking those who can do everything as He is those who are willing to do anything.
  5. Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God no matter what the danger.
  6. We cannot look at the cross and still think our life is of no importance to God.
  7. The only part of the Bible you believe is the part you obey.
  8. Man sees your actions, but God sees your motives.
  9. Satan never fears the Christian whose Bible is covered with dust.
  10. Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God reaching down to man.

Overheard in an Orchard

As I sit in my easy chair and watch the birds in my back yard – robins, cardinals, flinches, blue jays and doves, this poem comes to my mind.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow;
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?"

Said the Sparrow to the Robin;
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Elizabeth Cheney

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29–31 — New Living Translation (NLT)

One Sentence for Wisdom or Laughter

Some wise – and perhaps some funny – sayings I found in my devotion book. Hope you enjoy them.

  • Lighthouses don’t fire off cannons to draw attention to their light – they just shine
  • If your service for God is worth anything, it’s worth everything
  • By the time you get your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone and your ear to the ground, it’s time for lunch
  • Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship
  • What you possess will go to someone else when you die, but what you are will be yours forever
  • The devil’s best tool is not an active sinner, but an inactive Christian
  • Failure is something we can avoid by doing nothing, saying nothing, being nothing
  • If you realize you are not as wise as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.
  • Some people never change their opinion because after all it has been in their family for generations.
  • Some people pray like God is an aspirin tablet – they only pray when there is a problem.

Is Change Possible?

A few years ago I saw a lot of bumper stickers that said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

At first glance, that sounds good. The person displaying that is recognizing that they are not better than someone who is not a Christian. It implies perhaps humility and a non-judgmental attitude toward others.

But I have never been comfortable with that. To me, it implies the only difference between a Christian and a non-believer is one has been forgiven and the other has not.

But is that really why Jesus came, suffered and died and rose again? So we could be forgiven. That’s it. The cross is just a “get out of hell” card.

Jesus said we were to be the “salt” and the “light” of the world. We may have different ideas what it means to be the salt and light of the world. Clearly, though, it indicates we are to be different than our culture. Different than others. Not in a “I’m better than you” attitude but in recognition that following Jesus should change us. One of our purposes of being “light” He said was that our life would bring glory to Him. That can only happen if our encounter with Him changes us.

But is change possible? Is being like Jesus an impossible task?

I would say while we can never be completely like Jesus in this life, it is a goal we should pursue. While we will probably never reach the point where we can say “I never sin” we must strive to not give in to sin with the excuse “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”

The disciple John told us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Jesus has promised us help with this battle we fight. He said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

God promises to both forgive us and to change us.

It is an ongoing process – and we will never be free of failures in this life – but we must not so easily give in to our temptations with that attitude – “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”

How Much Faith Do I Need?

The story begins with the disciples approaching Jesus with a seemingly reasonable request:  “Lord! Increase our faith!”  It’s an understandable request given the sort of things Jesus has been teaching: 

  • Love your enemies.
  • Bless those who curse you.
  • Forgive even when it’s not deserved.
  • Give without expecting anything in return.
  • Be ready to take up your cross.  

But Jesus responds to the disciple’s request with a touch of irritation—and he tells them that if they had faith as small of a mustard seed, they could command a mulberry tree to uproot itself and replant in the sea…and it would obey. 

He then proceeds to ask them whether a servant would be so arrogant as to demand a meal with his master, or special praise for doing his basic household duties. 

Now, this may strike us as a little odd because we know Jesus wasn’t in the habit of speaking unkindly about slaves or people of low status. We know the familiar story of the rich man and Lazarus, where a beggar is assigned higher honor than his rich neighbor.  And we know also that Jesus often compared the kingdom to a banquet in which all are invited—slave and free, rich and poor alike—and he often talked about how the least among us would take the high place of honor at that Table to eat with the Master. Jesus was in the business of turning hierarchies and power structures on their head, so why does he resort to conventional social structures to make this point to the disciples? We have to keep in mind that, throughout the gospels Jesus reserves his harshest criticisms for the proud and saves his most biting satire for the folks who need to be brought down a peg. From the beginning, Jesus’ ministry was about lifting up the humble and humbling the proud, of challenging those in authority and giving voice to the disregarded, so it’s safe to assume that there must have been an element of pride or entitlement at work in the disciple’s request to warrant this sort of response. 

And I wonder if we don’t get a little clue as to what that was in Jesus’ strange—downright bizarre—image of a mulberry tree getting planted in the ocean.  Imagine it: A mulberry tree suddenly uprooting itself, flying through the air, and then replanting itself in the sea.  What on earth is that about? Why would anyone want to do that? What an odd expression of faith! 

I wonder if Jesus was gently, playfully poking fun at the disciples’ ongoing preoccupation with flashy signs and wonders as a measure of true faith. They’d been asking for an upgrade in supernatural powers, at one point suggesting it sure would be nice to be able to call down fire from heaven every time someone turned them away from their home. (Jesus responded with similar agitation to that request.) 

But the signs and wonders performed by Jesus and described in the gospels always had a point. They were always constructive. They… 

  • Healed 
  • Liberated
  • Multiplied
  • Fed
  • Blessed 
  • Restored 
  • Comforted

They pointed to the mission of Jesus and the purpose of the Kingdom he inaugurated. And today these stories remind us of our own call to…

  • Heal 
  • Liberate
  • Multiply 
  • Feed
  • Bless
  • Restore 
  • Comfort

There’s nothing more ridiculously useless than replanting a mulberry tree in the ocean! And I wonder if Jesus wasn’t reminding his disciples that faith isn’t manifested in flashy magic tricks, or pointless, self congratulatory displays of power, or in destruction and uprooting, but in daily acts of faithfulness—those acts of obedience that grow the kingdom, one carefully tended little mustard seed at a time. 

It’s helpful here to contrast this bizarre idea of uprooting a mulberry tree with the work of the servant who tends sheep, works the land, plants seeds, makes dinner.  I wonder if Jesus isn’t telling the disciples that if they have enough faith to be faithful, then that is enough. 

Faith, after all, is a gift.  And we don’t have any business telling God we don’t have enough, when God always gives us enough to be faithful. God always gives us enough to do something useful, to “make it work.” 

Maybe the mistake the disciples make isn’t so much in asking for more faith, but in thinking they don’t have enough, in thinking God’s gift to them was insufficient. 

How easy it is to think we don’t have enough! These guys were in the very presence of Jesus and still they wanted more! 

We’re not so unlike the disciples are we?  How often we tell ourselves: “If I only had more faith, I could…”

  • Do something important 
  • Do something impressive
  • I’d never struggle with doubt. 
  • I wouldn’t be so scared. 
  • I’d finally be appreciated. 
  • I’d finally know I’m right. 
  • It would finally all make sense. 

Faith is always a risk, a gamble—and adventure, if you will. The line between faith and doubt is the point of action. You don’t need certainty to obey; just a willingness to risk being wrong.” 

I was letting my desire for more keep me from working with what I had.  I’d convinced myself I needed more faith when what I really needed was more obedience. 

In the Catholic church there is a Saint Theresa whose famous “little way” has inspired generations of Christians to honor God by being faithful in the little things….by taking this faith thing one step at a time.  Theresa talked often about the smallness of her own faith. But she never questioned God’s goodness or fairness in giving her what she had. She never demanded more because she knew she had been given enough to be faithful. She’d been given enough to obey. 

 “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized,” she said, “so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.”

Theresa (who indeed became St. Theresa), Peter and Paul, Mary Magdalene, St. Francis, Dr. King, Tersa of Calcutta, Nelson Mandela, you and I—we all share the same Master.  And that master has given us all the faith we need to be faithful.  

 So even if it’s just the size of a mustard seed, make it work. 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!

My husband and I are reading through the Bible this year for our daily devotions. Today we read about Moses and how when he would come back into the camp of the Israelites after meeting with God, his face would be glowing. It got me thinking again about this post I wrote a couple of years ago. And I ask myself: when people see me, what do they see? Do they sense God’s love and peace? I hope so, I pray so.

Grandma's Ramblings

Remember the fairy tale where the wicked stepmother would ask:

mirror

Last Sunday in church the speaker taught from the book of James where James wrote:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

As I reflected on these words from James, I thought how often I look in the mirror.  In the morning I look to see that my hair is in place.  I use the mirror to help me as I put on face lotion and makeup.  Depending on what my day brings, I may go back to the mirror to adjust my hair, put on lipstick or, if my husband…

View original post 246 more words