Greetings – Chairein – Joy to You

Jesus laughing

I love this picture of Jesus laughing!  I think too often we vision Him as somber, even stern.  But He talked about giving us joy.  At His birth, the angels proclaimed “Joy to the world.”

Studying the book of James this week I again realized how much we miss when the Bible is translated from the languages of Hebrew and Greek into English.  James begins his letter by saying what is translated in most of our English version as “Greetings.”

To me I have just thought James was basically saying hello.  Just the kind of start to a letter we often would use (in the days when we really wrote letters instead of texting or posting on Facebook).

Hi!  How are you?  I am fine.

As I began to take a more serious look at this word, I find it has much more meaning than just “hi”.

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.

joy

 

joy baby

 

 

 

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.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

You just wished joy and well-being to your readers and then you talk about troubles.  What gives?

James was writing to the Jewish people who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah but who were now experiencing difficulties because of their belief.  He indicated difficult times can be opportunities not just for joy – but great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

Difficult times bring joy?  Trials, tests bring joy?  What are you – some kind of Pollyanna?

James is not suggesting to his readers that they thank God when a loved one dies, when they get cancer or lose a job.  (These are the things we think of as trials.  The people James was writing to were probably experiencing more severe trials such as real persecution because of their stand for the Messiah, not just experiencing the normal cares of life that we characterize as trials.)  Rather he was telling them they should recognize that these difficult times, while not in themselves something to take joy in, would bring about a real change in them – and that would be something to rejoice about.

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

Hey James, I think you are right.  As I look back at times of real trials (like becoming a widow with two young girls at 33 or getting aggressive and advanced cancer at 53) I realize that those times brought me much closer to God and gave me a strength I would never have had without those difficult times.  While I will never thank God for the death of my precious husband, for seeing my body deformed after surgical removal of a breast or for the effects I still suffer in my body because of chemo and radiation, I am thankful for the growth I gained because of those trials.  I am thankful that I have truly discovered what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the joy and peace He was giving us.  

Finally, James not only tells his friends to find joy in difficult times, he lets them know how they can do that.

And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him

You make it sound simple James!  But life is not simple!

Oh I get it!  That’s the beauty of the gospel.  It is simple.  Trust and obey.  I sometimes make it so hard.  My mind doesn’t want to just trust.  I want detailed answers to my questions.  I want to know the end before I take that step of faith God is asking me to take.

Peter sums it up pretty good in his letter to the church.

And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.

Yes that it is.  It is a joy that words cannot express.  Joy unspeakable and full of glory!  To all my friends who follow me on my blog, chairein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now That It’s Over

Christmas 2017 is now history.

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The beautiful tree we spent hours decorating is now ready to be taken down and put away for another year if it was an artificial tree, or it soon will join the landfill if we chose a live tree.

christmas tree dead

All the presents that we spent days and weeks searching for in the store or online and then wrapped so carefully are now opened.  The beautiful packaging is probably in the trash cans ready to also go to the landfill.  Some are enjoying their gifts while others are perhaps a little disappointed that Santa did not bring them exactly what they wanted.  Maybe it was the wrong size so a trip to the store to make an exchange is on the agenda this week.

presents unwrapped

All the delicious food that Moms spent hours preparing has long been consumed or is sitting in the refrigerator waiting for leftovers tonight.  The beautiful china has been washed and put away for another year – or the Christmas paper plates are also headed to that landfill.

dirty dishes

Some are savoring precious memories made this year with family and friends.  For them it was a time of great happiness and an almost Christmas-card perfect day.  There were newlyweds spending their first Christmas together.  Grandmas and grandpas were enjoying spending time with grandchildren they do not see the rest of the year.  Brothers and sisters, cousins laughed over board games or their favorite Christmas movie.

Still others are glad it’s over because it was a sad time.  There were family members who were absent at the table this year.  Some were gone because death tragically struck this year.  Others grieve over the divorce that split the family in two.  Some families spent the holiday in the hospital or sitting quietly by the bedside of a loved one who is quickly spending their last days.

But regardless of how this year’s Christmas season turned out – happy or sad, perfect or so imperfect, it is history.

So now what?  Do we just put away the decorations, replace our Christmas CD’s with our favorite music style, close our Bibles to Matthew and Luke and go on with “normal” life.  Did we just “enjoy” the Christmas play at church, the children singing “Away in a Manger”, the classic Christmas carols or the contemporary songs like “Mary, Did You Know”  Is that all there is?

While we hear the Christmas story every year and it is old and well-known, I think we would be wise to follow Mary’s example as found in Luke’s story of the nativity.  When the shepherds found the baby in the manager and told Mary and Joseph of the message of the angels, Luke tells us that

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

So what do we do now?  Put aside all we have heard this season of the Christmas story and go back to our busy world.  Or, would it not be a good idea to stop now and then as winter turns into spring, then summer, then fall and think about what the Christmas story really means.  God come in the flesh to redeem mankind.  God’s demonstration of His love for us.

My prayer is that you will take time to think about Christmas – the real meaning of Christmas – in the days, weeks, months ahead and let it change how you live in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Waiting For?

As we enter Advent – the season of waiting – I have been reading scriptures that speak of the wait for the Messiah, the one who would save the world, scriptures that speak of our wait for our Lord’s return.   Examining my life I realized I do a lot of waiting – but what am I waiting for?

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Banana curls just like Shirley Temple

First, as a little girl I waited:

  • to learn to read the “big” books.
  • to be able to jump rope
  • for Santa Claus to come
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Don’t you just love the hairstyle?

Then, as a young high school graduate I waited:

  • to find a job
  • to meet “Mr Right” and be married
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Home on leave just before going to Vietnam my Marine asked me to be his wife

When he came along, then I waited:

  • for the day we could say “I do”
  • to have my own home
  • to be a mother
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The major joy of my life – precious gifts from God

After my girls were born I waited:

  • to see them grow up
  • to see them married and with a family
  • to someday be a grandmother
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This grandson, who never met his grandfather, is so much like him

After my husband was killed in an accident, I waited again:

  • wondering if the pain would ever go away
  • wondering how I would raise my girls alone
  • wondering if there could be happiness again for me
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Thankful for this man who brought joy once again to me

When God took my pain (but never the precious memories I will always keep in my heart and treasure), I waited again:

  • for our blended family to become one
  • to grow old with this man
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I lost my beautiful red hair – but now I wear a wig so I’m still a fiery redhead

Then cancer came and I waited:

  • to recover from surgery and aggressive treatment
  • to get my hair back
  • to get past that 10 year mark of survival
  • to reach retirement

I spent so much of my life waiting for things in the “here and now.”  Spending so much effort and hope and time anticipating for my future in this life.

That is certainly not wrong.  God made us to enjoy this life and all of the things I waited for were good and blessings from God – job, family, health.

But as I reflect on the scriptures that speak of waiting, I realize the most important thing I should be anticipating and waiting for are not those things in the “here and now” but the hope of what is to come when the “here and now” is over.

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I can only imagine what this moment will be like

At this Advent season – this time of waiting and hoping – I wait for

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is…1 John 3:1-2

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed….Titus 2:11-13

But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness…2 Peter 3:18

As we celebrate this season of waiting, anticipating – I ask you, what are you waiting for?

Fellowship – What is that?

Fellowship

In Christian circles we love to talk about fellowship.  When we announce church events, we often try to encourage everyone to attend by talking about the opportunity we will have to “have fellowship with one another.”  There is the weekly/monthly/annual fellowship meal.

Fellowship 2

And, of course, when summer comes we often have the church picnic.

Church picnic

Most every church has a fellowship hall.

fellowship hall

Or, a coffee bar.

coffee bar

According to Webster’s dictionary fellowship is:

a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience; meaningful communication for building trust and fellowship

While this definition could be used for activities not related to church, we usually do not hear the secular world using this term.  When was the last time your coworkers invited you to join them after work at the local bar or restaurant so you could have “fellowship?”  When was the last time your boss offered a fellowship meal for the employees?

In the church world, we love this word.  But what do we really mean when we use this word?  What does the Bible mean when it uses this word?

The Greek word used in the Bible  for fellowship is “koinonia.”  It is usually translated in English to “communion,” “fellowship,” “sharing in common” and “partake.”  The Apostle John wrote a lot of fellowship in his epistle 1 John.  After recently doing a study on that book, I have come to believe we use the word “fellowship” too often and too lightly.  As I read what John had to say about this word, I realize that Biblical fellowship is more than just an informal social gathering.  It is more than just sharing an interest or having meaningful communication with others.

In the New Testament this word for fellowship is translated many different ways.  Its first appearance is in Acts 2:42

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

In his letter to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul used the word in a slightly different way.

They will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution (koinonia) for them and for all others.

Then when Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he again used this word with a slightly different meaning.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share (koinonia) his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

Just as we lose some of the meaning of the word “love” when it is translated from Greek to English, I think we have lost some of the true sense the word “fellowship” carries.  Looking at just these three scriptures it appears what the Bible means by “fellowship” involves a relationship between God and other believers.  A relationship that is more than friendly words spoken over a common meal.  It involves identifying with the sufferings of Christ (and of others).  It is real participation in the lives of others rather than just an association with them.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ

John shared the good news that He had seen Jesus, been with Him, heard His teachings and he shared that good news so fellow believers  could have fellowship with John.  But he based that fellowship he wanted to share with others on his relationship with God.

 

Many Christians have concentrated on their fellowship with others.  They emphasize the need for fellowship dinners, the church gatherings, the social interaction with one another, but they leave out the importance of a close relationship with God.  This can lead to the church being nothing more than a social club.

On the other hand, many Christians concentrate on their fellowship with God.  They isolate themselves with their Bible, their prayers and their own personal relationship.  They have little interaction with other Christians, often saying “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”

But John tells us in order to be the Christian God desires us to be we need both vertical and horizontal fellowship.

Relationaships

Only as we begin to have more than just a social interaction with others, to really weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, will we experience that fellowship God intended for the church.

Only as we spend time drawing closer to God and allowing His word, His spirit to direct our lives will we experience that fellowship God desires for us.

So, I ask you:

How’s your relationship with other Christians?  Do you have any fellowship, any bonds with other beleivers?

How’s your relationship with God?  Are you taking the time to grow in your relationship with Him?

We have often heard the expression, “You can’t have it both ways.”  But in this instance, I think it is true, “You must have it both ways.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Little Word “If”

If

Definition of if

a – in the event that
b – allowing that
c – on the assumption that
d – on condition that
Doing a study on 1 John in the Bible, I noticed how many times John used the word “if.”  That started me thinking about all the “ifs” in the Word of God.  It seems to me that there are many promises of God that we claim without taking into account the “if” that is associated with it.
It is clear that we can never earn our salvation.  We can never do enough good on our own to earn that gift of eternal life.  John 3:16 makes it clear that if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he grants us forgiveness and eternal life.  Paul the Apostle also stated very plainly in Ephesians 2:8-9 that:
 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
But once we begin that walk with the Lord, it is clear that if our relationship is to grow and we are to develop as true disciples, there are conditions to be met.
The “ifs” seem to indicate that there is something required from us.  How we respond to these “ifs” will determine our receiving from God what He has offered.
Here are just a few for you to consider:

For IF you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you…Matthew 6:14

forgiveness

We talk a lot about how God forgives us if we ask.  But we must remember that forgiveness is tied to our forgiving others.

IF you are faithful to what I have said, you are truly my disciples…John 8:31

OObeying Word

So — if we are not faithful to God’s Word, how can we claim to be His disciple?  And how can we be faithful to His Word, if we never read it, never study it, never really know what it says?

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, IF you love one another…John 13:35

 

One another

Interesting – the mark of a disciple according to Jesus is not all the great sacrifices we might make, the many talents we might use, but the love that we have for others.

IF anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our abode with him…John 14:23

obeying

We love to talk about desiring the presence of the Lord in our life, in our family, in our church.  Many of our worship songs are all about how much we love God.  But again, that big little word “if” says we only really love God and we only can expect His presence, if we keep His Word.

One of the biggest IF’s I think is found in Matthew 16:24

IF anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.

cross

Again, we love to talk about our commitment to Christ, but we are only committed when we truly deny our-self, take up the cross and follow Christ.  The idea about a cross is really lost to most in our society.  To us a cross is a decoration on the wall of the church or on the steeple.  It is a piece of jewelry we wear or hang on the wall of our home.  But to the society to which Jesus spoke these words, the cross represented death.  To truly follow Jesus requires a willingness to die to our own desires and be led by Him.

But one of the greatest “ifs” in the Bible is found in Revelation when Jesus said

Behold I stand at the door and knock.  IF anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and sup with him.

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What a great promise!  To open the door – to invite Him into our life, that is all we have to do and He will be glad to come in, to have a relationship with us.  Notice that we are the ones to open the door.  He is a gentleman and does not force Himself on us.  But he extends that wonderful invitation.

If you have not done so, I encourage you to open the door.

 

 

 

 

 

Can I Get An Amen?

blessings

Thank God for music!

I love music!  My best times of devotion are when I listen first to a praise song and sit and meditate on God’s presence before I pick up my Bible or my devotional book.  In times of great joy or great sorrow in my life I have often gone to my piano and played a song expressing that joy, that sorrow.

One of my favorite musical groups is Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  This morning listening to one of their songs, “So You Would Know,” once again my mind roamed back to all the times God has been there for me in times of great sorrow or tragedy.

Thank God for help in times of great need!

I have shared in other blogs many of those times God helped!

The Day That Changed My Life

Coincidence or An Act of God?

I’m thankful for those times when God’s presence and help were so needed – and He was there.  Those times when I was weak and He carried me.  Those nights when he wiped my tears away.  Those times when pain racked my body and He sent healing down to me.

When you walked on this problem
Didn’t I step right in on time
When you got weak along life’s journey
My angel carried you

When the pains were racking your body
Didn’t I send a healing down to you

How many days must I be a fence all around you
How many nights must I wipe your tears away
How many storms must I bring you safely through
For you to know just how much I love you

Thank God for the everyday blessings!

However, while I thank God for help in difficult times, sometimes I forget to thank Him for day-to-day blessings, the many things I take for granted.

Didn’t I wake you up this morning
Were you clothed in your right mind
Didn’t I put food on your able
Show UP! when your bills were due

So today I thank God

  • that I woke up this morning still in my “right mind.”  (And at my age, that is a blessing!)
  • that I was able to walk all by myself
  • that I was able to see the colorful fall trees
  • that I was able to hear as I watched the news and now as I listen to the music
  • that I had plenty of food to choose from for breakfast:  bagels, cereal, bacon and eggs
  • that I had a hot cup of coffee waiting for me fixed by my loving husband (and at our age, to still have my husband alive and well is a blessing!)
  • that I have a warm house and warm clothes as these fall days turn colder
  • that while I am not rich by any means, all my bills are paid
  • that I have clean, running water

And the list could go on and on.  Things I just take for granted.  Things that a majority of the world does not have.

Today can I get an Amen?

I want to encourage anyone who reads this to take a few minutes to think about all the things God has blessed you with.  And recognize how many times we complain about our very blessings.

  • We complain about our “busy” schedules instead of thanking God for the children we have or the friends we have that take up so much of our time.  That we have a house to clean or a grocery store and money to buy food for our family.
  • We complain about the weather instead of thanking God for the air conditioning and heating that makes life so comfortable on those hot or freezing cold days.
  • We complain about our jobs instead of thanking God that we have employment (if we are still young enough to work) OR
  • We complain about our aches and pains and loss of energy as we age in retirement instead of thanking God that we have lived long enough to be retired.

Thank God for the greatest gift of all!

But the greatest blessing in my life is not that He delivered me from cancer, He strengthened me when my husband died or all the material blessings He has given me.  The greatest blessing is that as a young child He helped me to see my need of Him and to understand how much He loves me.

When you were lost in sin and sorrow
I died to set you free
So you would know just how much I love you

Can I get an Amen?

Join with me in praising God today for His blessings – both the BIG ones in times of GREAT need but also the EVERY DAY blessings we take for granted.  And as you count your blessings, let it be a reminder of HOW MUCH GOD LOVES YOU!!!

 

Am I Really Desperate?

desparate

I’m desperate! Or, am I?

In Sunday’s worship we sang a Michael W Smith song entitled “Breathe.”  This is a song I love.

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

And I –  I’m desperate for you
And I –  I’m lost without you

When I hear it I sometimes become quite emotional.  Tears may fill my eyes and my heart is filled with a great longing and love for the Lord.  Memories will flood my mind as I remember all the times I was desperate for the Lord – and He was there.

  • When my parents were divorced
  • When my husband was killed in an accident
  • When my grandchildren died
  • When my husband had a heart attack
  • When I was diagnosed with cancer

Oh yes, I was desperate then!

But as I sang that song Sunday, I questioned myself.  Am I only desperate for the presence of the Lord when I am in a crisis?  And, if so, is that really being desperate for the Lord – or desperate for Him to help me?

The dictionary says the word desperate means

feeling, showing, or involving a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with.

With that definition I was desperate in those situations because they seemed hopeless and impossible to deal with.  That is why my eyes often feel with tears and a great sense of love for God fills my heart because I remember how He was there in those times of desperation.

But as I listen to those words, I think am I desperate for God for more than just deliverance from a hopeless situation?  Do I really realize how desperate my life would be without His presence – not just in difficult situations but in every day, every aspect of my life?  Do I really grasp how much I need Him?

Does my daily actions reveal my need for Him?  Questions run through my mind:

  • How much time do I spend seeking His presence?
  • How much time do I study His Word to know His will in my life?

It’s easy to sing how lost I would be without Him in church on Sunday morning surrounded by fellow believers.  But the question really is:   Does my life Monday through Saturday reflect that sense of need for Him?

May I like the Psalmist truly say:

I am always aware of the Lord‘s presence;
    he is near, and nothing can shake me.

May I like the Psalmist truly say:

As a deer longs for a stream of cool water,
    so I long for you, O God.

May I truly be desperate for God not in the sense of wanting someone to help me out of a difficult situation – but desperate in the awareness of how truly lost I would be without His presence.