Today is the last day of the year! Wow, its almost gone!? I have been thinking a lot about all the things that have happened over the past twelve months and frankly it has not been one of my top ten years. But, so what? In this world we experience both good and bad things, so be happy anyway!!! But not TOO HAPPY! I know tonight is a night when a lot of people are out to carouse, get drunk and generally cut up. Who knows what will happen tonight, so be careful, you don't know what the future. Jesus talked a lot about the future and this passage is one of those times.
Luke 21:29-36 WEB (R)
(29) He told them a parable. "See the fig tree, and all the trees.
(30) When they are already budding, you see it and know by your own selves that the summer is already near.
(31) Even so you also, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.
(32) Most certainly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things are accomplished.
(33) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.
(34) "So be careful, or your hearts will be loaded down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly.
(35) For it will come like a snare on all those who dwell on the surface of all the earth.
(36) Therefore be watchful all the time, praying that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Recently, I saw one of those "then and now" picture collections for hill street blues police drama show. I was saddened to see that the robust looking Sergeant had died, but death does come upon us all. He will be remembered for his daily charge to his fellow police officers: "Be careful out there". For many of us, tonight will be a night to howl, but remember his words and "Be careful out there". Keep an eye out, you never know when judgment may come upon you!!!
How often do we just go about our daily lives, not thinking about it. We do the same generic things day after day; work, TV, meals, sleep. Day after day, the same thing over and over and over again. Then something happens; we get sick or divorced or something serious happens and everything changes. Life comes into perspective and suddenly everything takes on a new meaning. I like Paul because he seems always to have been in focus, always thinking of his service to the risen Christ. Paul says...
Philippians 3:1-14 WEB (R)
(1) Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not tiresome, but for you it is safe.
(2) Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.
(3) For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh;
(4) though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more:
(5) circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;
(6) concerning zeal, persecuting the assembly; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.
(7) However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.
(8) Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ
(9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
(10) that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death;
(11) if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(12) Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
(13) Brothers, I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,
(14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Meeting Jesus changed everything for Paul. From that time on he had a one track mind, a singular purpose bent on submitting to the will of GOD. Just like the man in the picture, it was obvious that he could think of nothing but what lay ahead of him. Today, I read about a woman and child who "died" during childbirth only to mysteriously come back to life again. The husband thought he had lost everything, but when she came back... WOW! It was like that for Paul and it can be like that for us as well; we just have to be focused.
Amazing! This is the French Rivera! Frankly, I don't know how this can happen, but I do have eyes and I do see snow. I really enjoy seeing things like this because it puts things in perspective; I am just a human being and that means that I will never to be understand EVERYTHING! Whoever wrote the following proverb (probably Solomon) admits to the same sort of problem and immediately I like him.
Proverbs 30:18-19 WEB (R)
(18) "There are three things which are too amazing for me, four which I don't understand:
(19) The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent on a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maiden.
First, this is exaggeration; there are more than four things that everyone of us do not understand. I will bet it is much more than five and probably many times that number. Secondly, just because something puzzles or amazes us now does not mean it will do so forever. Does the phrase "He can be taught" from the movie Aladdin mean anything to you? Last of all, God will show us what we really need to know and over time that knowledge will lead to wisdom to gain further understanding. Amazing; probably not forever... or at least until we get to heaven. One last verse from the Bible comes to mind.
Deu 29:29 The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
If all this isn't enough, turn over to 2nd Corithians 12 and read the first ten verses. Now that's Amazing!
Its amazing how friends change your life; a few years ago, I wouldn't have even paid the slightest attention to this picture, but now, I think its the height of BAD TASTE. How could anyone be this obnoxious? Here is the tale of the Ammonites who made themselves odious to David, king of Israel.
2 Samuel 10:1-19 WEB (R)
(1) It happened after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place.
(2) David said, I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me. So David sent by his servants to comfort him concerning his father. David's servants came into the land of the children of Ammon.
(3) But the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, Do you think that David honors your father, in that he has sent comforters to you? Hasn't David sent his servants to you to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?
(4) So Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away.
(5) When they told it to David, he sent to meet them; for the men were greatly ashamed. The king said, Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.
(6) When the children of Ammon saw that they were become odious to David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth Rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, twenty thousand footmen, and the king of Maacah with one thousand men, and the men of Tob twelve thousand men.
(7) When David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the army of the mighty men.
(8) The children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array at the entrance of the gate: and the Syrians of Zobah and of Rehob, and the men of Tob and Maacah, were by themselves in the field.
(9) Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose of all the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians:
(10) The rest of the people he committed into the hand of Abishai his brother; and he put them in array against the children of Ammon.
(11) He said, If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the children of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.
(12) Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people, and for the cities of our God: and Yahweh do that which seems him good.
(13) So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.
(14) When the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians had fled, they likewise fled before Abishai, and entered into the city. Then Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem.
(15) When the Syrians saw that they were defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together.
(16) Hadadezer sent, and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the River: and they came to Helam, with Shobach the captain of the army of Hadadezer at their head.
(17) It was told David; and he gathered all Israel together, and passed over the Jordan, and came to Helam. The Syrians set themselves in array against David, and fought with him.
(18) The Syrians fled before Israel; and David killed of the Syrians the men of seven hundred chariots, and forty thousand horsemen, and struck Shobach the captain of their army, so that he died there.
(19) When all the kings who were servants to Hadadezer saw that they were defeated before Israel, they made peace with Israel, and served them. So the Syrians feared to help the children of Ammon any more.
The Ammonites misinterpreted David's actions and treated his ambassadors badly. Because of that there were consequences. Ultimate they paid for their bad manners as most people will in the end. I really don't know if the Chinese restaurant in the picture ever lost business because of this sign, but I hope so. Besides, would you want to eat there, I wouldn't; with every bite of Chicken Chow Mien I would wonder if I was really eating chicken.
Yesterday I took two of my grandchildren on a photo shoot. We chose random places to stop and took some pictures. Most of the pictures I took I had been thinking about for some time, but not this one. We stopped at the park in Dade City and to my surprise there was this unusual sign. I liked it because it was very straightforward and to the point, which reminded me of one of my favorite verses in the Bible.
Joshua 24:15 WEB (R)
(15) If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh."
Joshua was a man of faith and that took him from Egypt into the promised land. He led the people in their conquest over the seven wicked nations and stands out because of his vision, courage and determination. OH, that American would have more like him; men and women of faith who will stand up and be counted for what they believe! They are out there, we just have to look for them. Sometimes you don't even need a sign to spot one! Hooray!
This dog's name is Sandy and she is not like her appearance. When she is around family she is the gentlest animal I have ever seen. She can't seem to get enough affection. However, if you are a stranger, BEWARE! When she shows her teeth she isn't kidding. So, what is her value to the family?
1 Samuel 17:42-45 WEB (R)
(42) When the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and withal of a fair face.
(43) The Philistine said to David, Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? The Philistine cursed David by his gods.
(44) The Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky, and to the animals of the field.
(45) Then said David to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of Armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
To the Philistine, Goliath, dogs weren't worth very much. That is why he talked this way to David. Later, he learned what a mere boy with sticks and stones could do and it cost him his very life. So, I guess the moral of all this is to say that things we value lightly can be of great value if used correctly. Even a dog has value, if there is enough love to motivate it. Believe you me, Sandy is motivated!
This is a picture of the state capital building in California. Two things caught my eye about it; first, there was a Christmas tree in front and second, the cleanness of the pavement. Today, with all the hullabaloo about religious icons and government, I was a little surprised to see this at all. As far as the pavement goes, its becoming increasingly difficult to imagine ANYTHING clean about government at all...even the streets. Both of these things reminded me of a government that is perfect.
Isaiah 9:6-7 WEB (R)
(6) For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(7) Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this.
It is refreshing to read this portion of scripture and to know that there is still purity in the world, still hope. Christ is that hope and perhaps, just perhaps, we may live to see him come again. I wonder what the world will be like without human governments; without the greed, corruption and inequities associated with them? If government buildings remain, then more than just the streets will be clean. Now, that is something to look forward to!
This picture was given the title "Spooky" and in one sense I understand it. Graveyards are places that should make us uncomfortable; they are the home of the physical remains of human beings who were once filled with the blessing of life. Now, all that remains is a mere shell of those we may or may not have known. Yet, somehow, this picture is wrongly titled because there IS a chapel there. A place where those of reflection can commune with God. After some reflection of my own, this passage came to mind....
Matthew 6:9-13 WEB (R)
(9) Pray like this: 'Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
(10) Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
(11) Give us today our daily bread.
(12) Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.
(13) Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.'
Commonly called the "Lord's prayer", this too is mislabeled. Consider, rather that it is the "disciples prayer". Jesus instructs his disciples to pray; it is not the prayer that he makes for himself, for he is apart from sin and wrongdoing!!! His fellowship with the father is different from ours; consider John 17 and Mary at the tomb for just a couple of examples. Even if we are in a graveyard, he is nearby, ready to help and comfort. Jesus was and is pure and even though we live in a world with countless graveyards, a prayer like this one has and always will be fulfilled in Jesus. So, pray something like this prayer and remember that it HAS POWER because Jesus has fulfilled the will of God for us and we live through HIM. When we reflect on the picture again, it can not even remotely be considered "spooky" because no matter where we are, God is there!
Just a couple of squirrels in a tree, but it is obvious there is something between them. Love is a curious concept, with various means of expression. We love our parents, our children, our spouse and our neighbors. We might love a hobby or something in nature or perhaps even your work. All these things are different, yet show some aspect of love. But what about the love of God; how does HE show love. Consider Luke chapter six...
Luke 6:32-35 WEB (R)
(32) If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
(33) If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
(34) If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much.
(35) But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.
God does right, regardless! Hard for us to understand, but sending Jesus shows us that it is not just talk; it is action. Sometimes it is very hard to love those who don't seem worthy of anything but the harshest treatment, but we must try anyway. Even if the object of our love isn't cute and cuddly, like the squirrel. No, you don't have to cuddle up to your enemies, but do try to be nice; sometimes it works. A long time ago, a man I worked with named Tony tried to get me fired and it just happened that I was reading this verse that same day. So, I tested it out and for weeks I tried to be nice to him, even when he was mean to me. Not long after this, I was severely hurt on the job and the only person who visited me in the hospital (besides my family) was Tony. Hey, you never know! God can change a persons heart; I have seen it!!!
Weddings are wonderful! They are usually planned WAY IN ADVANCE, so there is a lot of excitement! The more elaborate ones have an air of magnificence about them, but whatever the budget, you can sense the anticipation of the bride and groom!! There is just something about them that is electrifying. It must be something like being born for once you do it, you know life is never going to be the same again. "I do" is such a simple promise, but if you mean it, your whole life is committed to one person and one only. Makes me think of this passage from Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:25-32 WEB (R)
(25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it;
(26) that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word,
(27) that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
(28) Even so husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.
(29) For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly;
(30) because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones.
(31) "For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh."
(32) This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the assembly.
After four decades with the same woman I can tell you that marriage is what you make it; either heaven or hell. If there is love, then no matter how bad things get, there is comfort and joy. Some of the happiest times in our marriage have occurred during the leanest financial periods. Just as this Ephesians passage is a mystery, (see verse 32)so is the bond that strengthens over time. A very special blessing is added to the union if those involved are followers of the risen Christ. This one I can't really explain, it just has to be experienced. Every day is like the line from the old Carpenter's song: "We've only just begun". Oh, yes, one thing that helps is an occasional kiss and "I love you" as often as possible, its like icing on the cake!
From body builder to bit parts, then on to the Terminator and beyond, Arnold has shown great versatility! Now he is governor of California; what next, President? If Ronald Regan (former actor) could, I guess anyone can! The point is that the future is full of surprises. Paul's life was no exception. Here is an interesting passage from Philippians.
Philippians 1:2-25 WEB (R)
(2) Grace to you, and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(3) I thank my God whenever I remember you,
(4) always in every request of mine on behalf of you all making my requests with joy,
(5) for your partnership in furtherance of the Good News from the first day until now;
(6) being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
(7) It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace.
(8) For God is my witness, how I long after all of you in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.
(9) This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;
(10) so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ;
(11) being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
(12) Now I desire to have you know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have turned out rather to the progress of the Good News;
(13) so that it became evident to the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest, that my bonds are in Christ;
(14) and that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear.
(15) Some indeed preach Christ even out of envy and strife, and some also out of good will.
(16) The former insincerely preach Christ from selfish ambition, thinking that they add affliction to my chains;
(17) but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Good News.
(18) What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. I rejoice in this, yes, and will rejoice.
(19) For I know that this will turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
(20) according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will in no way be disappointed, but with all boldness, as always, now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.
(21) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(22) But if I live on in the flesh, this will bring fruit from my work; yet I don't make known what I will choose.
(23) But I am in a dilemma between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
(24) Yet, to remain in the flesh is more needful for your sake.(25) Having this confidence, I know that I will remain, yes, and remain with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,
All his life Saul of Tarsus tried to follow God; it wasn't until his conversion that he was on the right road. Then, he became a man obsessed and preached like no one else! He lived, thought, dreamed, and suffered on behalf of the risen Christ and his discipleship was unparalleled. Even He didn't know the future when he dictated this letter, so I guess anything can happen to anybody! Paul and Arnold had a lot in common in terms of their devotion to something, but somehow I just can't picture Paul looking like Arnold. But who knows, perhaps in his old age Arnold will waste away and look like the aged wisp of a man that Paul was.
This picture is interesting to me for two reason; first, because its in black and which and secondly, because of its location. Black and white pictures often add new meaning to a picture; its the mere fact of contrast that adds interest. As far as the location goes, I don't have a clue where it is, except that it is very, very high indeed. All this raises a question:What lengths would you go to do what you really want to do? For Epaphroditus, the answer seemed to be limitless.
Philippians 2:25-30 WEB (R)
(25) But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, and your apostle and servant of my need;
(26) since he longed for you all, and was very troubled, because you had heard that he was sick.
(27) For indeed he was sick, nearly to death, but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow on sorrow.
(28) I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when you see him again, you may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
(29) Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honor,
(30) because for the work of Christ he came near to death, risking his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me.
Epaphroditus was loved and with good reason. He cared for people and earned the praise of the apostle Paul (no small accomplishment). Its obvious that he (and the cameraman above) would do just about anything for that which he loved. For people like these, life is really black and white, yes or no; a life without equivocation. Not a bad way to be! If you reach for the stars it is a glorious quest, even if you fail, you will still achieve stardust!
Read all sales ads closely. This one is a pip! A bad deal is made to sound like a good one in advertising, so be careful; sometimes you won't get what you think you will. Judas was someone who wasn't careful, and a little on the greedy side. At best, he thought he could force Jesus into becoming another David, at worse, well, he couldn't have done worse. When you link these passages together, the deal unfolds.
Matthew 26:14-16 WEB (R)
(14) Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests,
(15) and said, "What are you willing to give me, that I should deliver him to you?" They weighed out for him thirty pieces of silver.
(16) From that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
Matthew 26:21-25 WEB (R)
(21) As they were eating, he said, "Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me."
(22) They were exceedingly sorrowful, and each began to ask him, "It isn't me, is it, Lord?"
(23) He answered, "He who dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same will betray me.
(24) The Son of Man goes, even as it is written of him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had not been born."
(25) Judas, who betrayed him, answered, "It isn't me, is it, Rabbi?" He said to him, "You said it."
Matthew 26:46-50 WEB (R)
(46) Arise, let's be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand."
(47) While he was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priest and elders of the people.
(48) Now he who betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, "Whoever I kiss, he is the one. Seize him."
(49) Immediately he came to Jesus, and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed him.
(50) Jesus said to him, "Friend, why are you here?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
Matthew 27:3-5 WEB (R)
(3) Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that Jesus was condemned, felt remorse, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
(4) saying, "I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? You see to it."
(5) He threw down the pieces of silver in the sanctuary, and departed. He went away and hanged himself.
Judas betrayed Jesus. Even an attempt to try to give the blood money back couldn't stop the completion of this bad deal. It was too much for him; he committed suicide. Sin is like that; you never get what you thought you would, instead things go sour and events turn out badly. No matter how strong you think you are, Satan is stronger. Only God has the power to overcome his schemes. Instead of reading ads, read the "GOOD BOOK" instead, I know that you will find its deal of grace far better than works really "GOOD NEWS"!!!
About this time, you are asking the question:"OK, tell me something I don't know?". Everyone knows that alcohol kills, yet, millions upon millions get drunk each year. Why? Is it just for relaxation or release or addiction? Perhaps the buzz that comes along after awhile, or maybe when you can touch your nose and can't feel it? Is it the way people laugh at the silly things you do or the way you walk or the slur in your speech? OH, yes, and maybe its the way you wake up the next day and can't for the life of you remember what you did last night. There is a passage in the book of Leviticus that might provide a little insight into the question of "why shouldn't I take a drink?"....
Leviticus 10:1-11 WEB (R)
(1) Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, and laid incense on it, and offered strange fire before Yahweh, which he had not commanded them.
(2) And fire came forth from before Yahweh, and devoured them, and they died before Yahweh.
(3) Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what Yahweh spoke of, saying, 'I will show myself holy to those who come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.' " Aaron held his peace.
(4) Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, "Draw near, carry your brothers from before the sanctuary out of the camp."
(5) So they drew near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said.
(6) Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons, "Don't let the hair of your heads go loose, neither tear your clothes; that you don't die, and that he not be angry with all the congregation: but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which Yahweh has kindled.
(7) You shall not go out from the door of the Tent of Meeting, lest you die; for the anointing oil of Yahweh is on you." They did according to the word of Moses.
(8) Yahweh spoke to Aaron, saying,
(9) "Drink no wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, that you don't die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations:
(10) and that you are to make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean;(11) and that you are to teach the children of Israel all the statutes which Yahweh has spoken to them by Moses."
I grew up watching people get drunk. My best friend's bachelor party became a brawl because of liquor. I have counseled more people than I would like to remember over the excesses of imbibing. After 20 or 30 battered wives related their horrible lives, hearing another story became like hearing a broken record. Alcohol kills! What starts out as "just fun" often ends in tragedy. A drunk driver killed my brother-in-law Billy. Yet, the allure of alcohol destroys millions. Why? Because Satan has tricked humans into thinking their lives would be better with it, be more fun, have more excitement. Life has its up's and down's but alcohol is a depressant; it ultimately won't help... it kills! Have problems in your life; turn to God, HE will help. After all, that's why Jesus came to Earth wasn't it? One last thing... I find it interesting that there is a commandment for the priests not to drink wine or strong drink before going into the sanctuary. Why? Perhaps Nadab and Abihu were drunk when they offered strange fire? Doesn't really say, but it does make sense to me! The best way to be careful with alcohol is not to touch it in the first place. Why? Reread this post until the answer comes to you.
The other day my oldest granddaughter Amanda came over for a visit and she brought her little dog Hercules with her. Cute little dog! But Hercules has some health and behavioral problems caused by a previous owners abuse. Still, I can see that he is improving and someday may be completely well. After awhile he even felt comfortable enough to make himself at home and take up residence on my wife's recliner. How we treat those who are the weakest in our society says a lot about us. We have responsibilities to those less fortunate or weaker than us and of course this includes how we treat our pets. Jesus put it this way...
Matthew 25:34-40 WEB (R)
(34) Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
(35) for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in.
(36) I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.'
(37) "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink?
(38) When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you?
(39) When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?'
(40) "The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Caring for others is an expression of the righteousness within our hearts; it is the outward expression of the love within our hearts. If my granddaughter Amanda could look at this poor mistreated animal and do whatever she could to overcome the damage done to it, what about does that say about the greater importance of treating our fellow human beings with compassion, understanding and patience. During the course of our lives, we all may experience "hard times" at one time or another, so when things improve, remember to do the right thing for those around you. The person you help may not sit up pretty in a recliner or jump into your arms like this little dog does, but I assure you that they WILL REMEMBER whatever kindness you show them. So will God on judgment day.
Looks harmless enough, doesn't it? However, this recent picture is of the first gay marriage in Vermont. Who cares? God cares, that's who. Read this passage from Romans and ask yourself the question again: "Who cares"?
Romans 1:18-32 WEB (R)
(18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
(19) because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them.
(20) For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse.
(21) Because, knowing God, they didn't glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.
(22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
(23) and traded the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things.
(24) Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves,
(25) who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
(26) For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For their women changed the natural function into that which is against nature.
(27) Likewise also the men, leaving the natural function of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another, men doing what is inappropriate with men, and receiving in themselves the due penalty of their error.
(28) Even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
(29) being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil habits, secret slanderers,
(30) backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
(31) without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, unforgiving, unmerciful;
(32) who, knowing the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.
Just a "little" sin? However, if you look closely, you will notice something. The passage is sort of knit together. What I mean is that the person who can worship a false god also has no problem in doing what they want to do in spite of what God says. This really is shown by the list of sins in 29-31 because it is all one sentence in the original. The deviant is not JUST deviant, but is all those other things as well. Frankly, this is NOT one of my favorite passages of Scripture, BUT, it is truth. Unpopular in todays society, yes, but the Word of God is true, even though even person on the face of the Earth might disagree. Remember, the last time that happened there was a flood.
Impossible; yet it happened! One of the advantages (and there aren't THAT MANY) of being older is that over the years I have seen many, many, different things. Just when I think I have seen it all, something new happens! Sometimes, these new things are very hard to believe, like this video, but, NEW THINGS STILL KEEP HAPPENING! Think about how the people in this passage from the book of John must have felt on the first day of the week.
John 20:1-31 WEB (R)
(1) Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went early, while it was still dark, to the tomb, and saw the stone taken away from the tomb.
(2) Therefore she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have laid him!"
(3) Therefore Peter and the other disciple went out, and they went toward the tomb.
(4) They both ran together. The other disciple outran Peter, and came to the tomb first.
(5) Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didn't enter in.
(6) Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying,
(7) and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.(8) So then the other disciple who came first to the tomb also entered in, and he saw and believed.
(9) For as yet they didn't know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
(10) So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
(11) But Mary was standing outside at the tomb weeping. So, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb,
(12) and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
(13) They told her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don't know where they have laid him."
(14) When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, and didn't know that it was Jesus.
(15) Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?" She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."
(16) Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him, "Rhabbouni!" which is to say, "Teacher!"
(17) Jesus said to her, "Don't touch me, for I haven't yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers, and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
(18) Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things to her.
(19) When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be to you."
(20) When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad when they saw the Lord.
(21) Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
(22) When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit!
(23) Whoever's sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whoever's sins you retain, they have been retained."
(24) But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, wasn't with them when Jesus came.
(25) The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
(26) After eight days again his disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors being locked, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace be to you."
(27) Then he said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don't be unbelieving, but believing."
(28) Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
(29) Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed."
(30) Therefore Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book;
(31) but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
I know, this is a long chapter, but it is worth reading! I suppose that entire books have been written on this chapter, but for me, one verse seems to stand out for me today. Verse 7 is in bold print and although you might think it odd that I chose this verse, there is good reason for the choice. The rolled napkin was a message that every child who served at table in Israel would recognize. When the master had finished his meal, he would wipe his face and hands with the napkin provided for this purpose and leave the table. When it was rolled (or folded) it meant that he was not finished and would be back. Jesus was coming back! He had been crucified, died and was buried and now he was to return. This he did! Something very new indeed! I have never seen someone come back from the dead, but the evidence is so strong that it really, truly, happened, that its like that impossible golf shot in the video. Its amazing!
How could they NOT SEE THE CAT? Good question, but people will see what they WANT to see, nothing more, nothing less. Consider for a moment, this passage from the book of Numbers.
Numbers 14:11-24 WEB (R)
(11) Yahweh said to Moses, How long will this people despise me? and how long will they not believe in me, for all the signs which I have worked among them?
(12) I will strike them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.
(13) Moses said to Yahweh, Then the Egyptians will hear it; for you brought up this people in your might from among them;
(14) and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you Yahweh are in the midst of this people; for you Yahweh are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them, and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night.
(15) Now if you shall kill this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of you will speak, saying,
(16) Because Yahweh was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness.
(17) Now please let the power of the Lord be great, according as you have spoken, saying,
(18) Yahweh is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and disobedience; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation.
(19) Pardon, Please, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your loving kindness, and according as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
(20) Yahweh said, I have pardoned according to your word:
(21) but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh;
(22) because all those men who have seen my glory, and my signs, which I worked in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not listened to my voice;
(23) surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of those who despised me see it:
(24) but my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him will I bring into the land into which he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Israel had seen all of the mighty works of God and yet had not believed. I can understand Egypt not understanding, because after all, their gods were THEIR gods; But Israel? Perhaps, the reason they could not perceive the wonder of God was that they really did believe in the Egyptian gods. It would have been easy for them to just "go along" with the accepted deities of their culture and accept as reality false gods. It is always easier to go along with the status quo rather than truly seek for truth. Whatever the reason, almost all of Israel could not believe, even though they were in the midst of greatness and had seen God's power work miracles. Just as the people in the picture could not see the cat flying by because they were absorbed in their own interests, so, the people who were supposed to enter the promised land could not see the greatness of the God of heaven right in front of their eyes. Be careful; do not allow our society to dictate our beliefs, but rather, seek to do the will of HIM who raises up rulers and destroys nations!
Cute photo! This little deer (dear also applies) is alive because of an act of mercy. A man was driving home one night, when he accidentally hit a deer. Noticing the deer was very pregnant and near death, he drove as fast as he could to a local veterinarian, who managed to save this little one. Most people wouldn't do this, but this "Good Samaritan" did. Reminds me of a familiar passage from the book of Luke.
Luke 10:25-37 WEB (R)
(25) Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
(26) He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?"
(27) He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
(28) He said to him, "You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live."
(29) But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"
(30) Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
(31) By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
(32) In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side.
(33) But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion,
(34) came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
(35) On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.'
(36) Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?"
(37) He said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
The lawyer wanted to put limits on love! Its easy to love those whom you have things in common with, but what about people whose background or beliefs differ from your own? Jesus, using this story teaches that even those we might despise (like this Samaritan) can have the capacity for letting the love in their heart overflow to the benefit of even complete strangers. Reread verse 27 and ask yourself the question: Am I living up to this, or does it take running into a deer to wake me up? Hopefully, there are no limits to the love in your heart and you pass the test! There will be a test, but I am glad I will not be doing the grading; only God is able to do that!
Have you ever tried to do something and tried again and again without success? Then, some time later an idea comes to you and you realize you know exactly what to do. That is what this picture says to me! BUT, all ideas are not good ideas. Here is an example of a good idea gone south.
Luke 12:16-20 WEB (R)
(16) He spoke a parable to them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly.
(17) He reasoned within himself, saying, 'What will I do, because I don't have room to store my crops?'
(18) He said, 'This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
(19) I will tell my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry." '
(20) "But God said to him, 'You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared-whose will they be?'
Without God, even the best of ideas can go bad. Who knows what tomorrow may bring, whether it be good or bad. If God be with you, and you seek HIS WILL, then you really have nothing to be concerned about. Here is an idea; seek God first!!!
Over the past few years, there has been a lot in the news about water. Water levels rising due to "global warming", water pollution and a lack of clean water for most of the world. So, when I saw this picture, the purity of the water was brought home to me by the littlest of things... the shadow under the canoe. That little shadow revealed the water to be crystal clear and it occurred to me that in Christianity some things are like that; plain, straightforward and true! Here is an example.
Acts 2:22-41 WEB (R)
(22) "Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as you yourselves know,
(23) him, being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men, crucified and killed;
(24) whom God raised up, having freed him from the agony of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it.
(25) For David says concerning him, 'I saw the Lord always before my face, For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved.
(26) Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover my flesh also will dwell in hope;
(27) because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your Holy One to see decay.
(28) You made known to me the ways of life. You will make me full of gladness with your presence.'
(29) "Brothers, I may tell you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
(30) Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,
(31) he foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was his soul left in Hades, nor did his flesh see decay.
(32) This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses.
(33) Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this, which you now see and hear.
(34) For David didn't ascend into the heavens, but he says himself, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit by my right hand,
(35) until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." '
(36) "Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
(37) Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
(38) Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(39) For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself."
(40) With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation!"
(41) Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls.
Peter proclaimed Jesus. Simple, straightforward and true. With this truth the path to Spiritual Life was given. Those who heard it, wanted to do something about it. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins was the answer and three thousand responded. Crystal clear understanding. No clouded waters here!!
I call this picture "a hobbits bridge" because it reminds me of a hobbit hole from the Lord of the rings. In reality, its just a bridge like any other, but the reflection in the water makes it look like something else. Recently, I read a post on one of my favorite blogs that disturbed me a great deal. The author had a problem with imprecatory prayer (a prayer for justice against the wicked) and his comments belittled this passage from the Psalms. Imprecatory prayer is not UN-Christian, but only the contrary, very Christian. To the unbelieving, prayer of this sort seems evil and unworthy of those who follow God, but things are not always what they seem. Please read both the Old Testament and New Testament passages.
Psalms 109:1-8 WEB (R)
(1) God of my praise, don't remain silent,
(2) for they have opened the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of deceit against me. They have spoken to me with a lying tongue.
(3) They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause.
(4) In return for my love, they are my adversaries; but I am in prayer.
(5) They have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
(6) Set a wicked man over him. Let an adversary stand at his right hand.
(7) When he is judged, let him come forth guilty. Let his prayer be turned into sin.
(8) Let his days be few. Let another take his office.
Acts 1:16-20 WEB (R)
(16) "Brothers, it was necessary that this Scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to those who took Jesus.
(17) For he was numbered with us, and received his portion in this ministry.
(18) Now this man obtained a field with the reward for his wickedness, and falling headlong, his body burst open, and all his intestines gushed out.
(19) It became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem that in their language that field was called 'Akeldama,' that is, 'The field of blood.'
(20) For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'Let his habitation be made desolate. Let no one dwell therein;' and, 'Let another take his office.'
In Acts chapter one, Peter quotes from the Psalms and therefore validates its usage (even though it needs no validation). Imprecatory prayer should NOT be the prayer of a hard, evil heart, but rather a trust in God that longs for JUSTICE! It is not wrong to want God to make those things that are evil about us right, but necessary. I didn't say pleasant; I said necessary! We live in a world that desperately needs God; one that needs the JUSTICE that only GOD can supply. When we pour out our heart to God for change, we express dependence upon HIM to do what is right. We don't take matters into our own hands, but rather express the turmoil of our heart to HIM who will sort all things out according to HIS WILL and not ours. So, our prayers take on a whole new meaning when we diligently seek God to intervene in our lives. "O, LORD, look down on the world around me and confront evil and pronounce JUSTICE and JUDGMENT according to your will and not my own"; this is my prayer and my longing.
The Amish country of Pennsylvania is beautiful! If you have never been there, I encourage you....GO!!! When I saw this picture, I said to myself "been there, done that." Sometimes revisiting familiar places like "Bird in hand" is a pleasant thing, but what if it is not? Read on to see what I mean.
John 9:13-28 WEB (R)
(13) They brought him who had been blind to the Pharisees.
(14) It was a Sabbath when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.
(15) Again therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and I see."
(16) Some therefore of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, because he doesn't keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was division among them.
(17) Therefore they asked the blind man again, "What do you say about him, because he opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet."
(18) The Jews therefore did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight,
(19) and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?"
(20) His parents answered them, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;
(21) but how he now sees, we don't know; or who opened his eyes, we don't know. He is of age. Ask him. He will speak for himself."
(22) His parents said these things because they feared the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if any man would confess him as Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.
(23) Therefore his parents said, "He is of age. Ask him."
(24) So they called the man who was blind a second time, and said to him, "Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner."
(25) He therefore answered, "I don't know if he is a sinner. One thing I do know: that though I was blind, now I see."
(26) They said to him again, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"
(27) He answered them, "I told you already, and you didn't listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don't also want to become his disciples, do you?"(28) They insulted him and said, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.
The Pharisees would not believe in Jesus and thought if they just kept searching for evidence they could support their unbelief. The truth is that you believe exactly what you want to believe (and nothing more)! The old statement: "my mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts" is true. Belief can be based on facts, but disbelief is often founded on the will and for those with a hard heart, the facts do not really matter. Even if a miracle was a unique one, it still wouldn't matter. Stubborn is stubborn and that is that!! For those with a hard heart, even if someone put a bird right in their hand, they wouldn't believe it was there. So, if you go to Pennsylvania and see this sign, stop at one of the local Amish restaurants, the food is great! And the food is great!!! Reread the last sentence until you are hungry!!!
When I saw this picture, one thought came to mind; this is perfection. I can't imagine a more beautiful scene. When I thought about it for a minute, this passage came to mind...
Philippians 2:1-11 WEB (R)
(1) If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion,
(2) make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind;
(3) doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself;
(4) each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.
(5) Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus,
(6) who, existing in the form of God, didn't consider equality with God a thing to be grasped,
(7) but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.
(8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.
(9) Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name;
(10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth,
(11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The Philippian Christians are exhorted to be like Christ; to be humble and self-sacrificing. Jesus went from the perfection of heaven to Earth and then back to perfection in heaven again. What an example, what a goal, what a hope! Beautiful, simply beautiful! However, somewhere in the picture there is bound to be a flaw, but in heaven; I think not!!! If you have a few minutes of "quiet time", reflect on what lies ahead and rejoice (I know I will)
When I think of lightning, black skies seem like a foregone thought, but even though there are black clouds in this picture, yet there is quite a bit of clear sky as well. I wonder what it means? People have been looking at the sky since there have been people and Jesus had to deal with those looking for "signs".
Matthew 16:1-4 WEB (R)
(1) The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
(2) But he answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.'
(3) In the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but you can't discern the signs of the times!
(4) An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there will be no sign given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah." He left them, and departed.
There is nothing wrong in trying to read the environment; every night there is a weather forecast on TV, the radio and the net. What is wrong is establishing faith in someone based solely on their power to do "miracles". Men have the capacity for trickery and some will use that to deceive the weak minded among us. So, Jesus goes beyond their question and exposes their heart of hypocrisy. He refers to the scriptures about Jonah for signs. Good example to follow; refer to the scriptures, you can't go wrong. Also, it might be a good idea to stay inside during a thunderstorm, even if there is some clear sky out there.
Most of the time when I think of sunsets, its when I am looking at them; but this picture shows a different perspective. In this picture, the sunset is emphasized by its reflection from a distant mountain peak and the coming darkness is in the forefront. The light that is nearby enhances the memory and not the vision. Paul must have felt something like that when he wrote his final letter to his protege Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:1-8 WEB (R)
(1) I command you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his Kingdom:
(2) preach the word; be urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching.
(3) For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts;
(4) and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables.
(5) But you be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry.
(6) For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure has come.
(7) I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.
(8) From now on, there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing.
Paul left behind encouraging words to timothy to continue in his work because he knew he didn't have much time left in this world. The apostle wasn't looking forward to darkness but rather a revelation of reward for his love and faithfulness to God. And the sunset he saw may have been a sunset, but to him it was a type of SUNRISE, because the blessing of God's gift of righteousness was about to be revealed to him IN-PERSON. When a sunset is a prelude to heaven it becomes something more than a sunset; it is a gateway to the very presence of God himself. And that would make even this marvelous picture pale in comparison.
This picture reminded me of a preview I saw yesterday. "Avatar" is its name and it is a story of confrontation between Earth and the people of a fictional world called Pandora. The inhabitants are blue skinned and very majestic like the Elf's in the Tolkien trilogy. A handicapped soldier Earth soldier is given a chance to serve his world by using an Avatar to blend in with the Pandorian population and bring about a victory for Earth. Through his Avatar he sees more than he bargained for, once he really begins to look. And so, this passage from the Gospel of Matthew came to mind.
Matthew 13:14-17 WEB (R)
(14) In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says, 'By hearing you will hear, and will in no way understand; Seeing you will see, and will in no way perceive:
(15) for this people's heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.'
(16) "But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.
(17) For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn't see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn't hear them.
Why didn't everyone "get it" when Jesus taught? Because they weren't willing to allow themselves to see life though other eyes is my answer. Human beings often think about things and once they arrive at a conclusion, that's it; case closed. I feel sorry for people who live life this way, because others can teach you a lot. Back in the very early 70's (yes, I know.. I am old) I was a quality control supervisor for Norton company. I oversaw the quality of the cloth finishing department and this was a big job for my years. One night a helper on one of the giant machines walked over and said to me something like this. Gary, you have a big job and you are important, but any night of the week I can make your job terrible by just deliberately not doing something right. I never forgot that because it helped me look at myself through another's eyes and I grew just a little that night. When we stretch our understanding like that God has a way of changing us and somehow we see with new eyes, hear with new ears and our thinking is never quite the same again. By the way, the movie debuts the week of December 14 and I can't wait to SEE IT!!
In the upcoming months, there will be a lot of these little things around the Northeast, but I heard this evening that Louisiana had snowfall. I wonder when the last time that happened was? Well, I chose these pictures because there is something different about them; ordinary, but different. Ordinary in that they are just snowflakes after all and different because snowflakes are all different. And how beautiful! Think of it, EVERY ONE IS DIFFERENT! All this beauty and each one an individual. If I were making snowflakes, there would possibly be 5000 or so styles (remember, I really like snowflakes) but God isn't satisfied with something that trivial. He makes billions upon billions of them and each one is a work of art. Reminds me of a passage from Genesis.
Genesis 1:31 WEB (R)
(31) God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
Think of it, God doesn't even mention snow in chapter 1. Snow an afterthought! Untold billions of such beautiful things do not even get an honorable mention. Why should snow get top billing, mankind is the pinnacle of creation? And OH, yes, the stars in the heavens are not to bad to look at either. It would be interesting to find out what God considers beautiful, if something as wonderful as snow is treated as commonplace.
Birthday cake?? Not one that I would want to receive! It does bring to mind a topic we must all deal with; our eventual demise. No one really LIKES to think about the topic, but if we are honest with ourselves, we KNOW we must at least address the issue. How we live will affect the life after. Jesus spoke about the topic in a rather straight forward way....
Luke 12:16-21 WEB (R)
(16) He spoke a parable to them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly.
(17) He reasoned within himself, saying, 'What will I do, because I don't have room to store my crops?'
(18) He said, 'This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
(19) I will tell my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry." '
(20) "But God said to him, 'You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared-whose will they be?'
(21) So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Is it wrong to have "things"? No, but what is wrong is to make them the focal point of your life. That is God's place. Rejoice in every day that God gives you and live it with HIM. Money and possessions are optional.
You may or may not be able to see the bluish hue above and to the left of the gravestone, but it is supposed to be pictorial evidence of a ghost. I really think its there, but if you don't that is OK. As far as the Bible goes, it makes mention of one in the book of first Samuel and in the World English Bible, calls them "familiar spirits".
1 Samuel 28:7-19 WEB (R)
(7) Then said Saul to his servants, Seek me a woman who has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. His servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman who has a familiar spirit at Endor.
(8) Saul disguised himself, and put on other clothing, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, Please divine to me by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whoever I shall name to you.
(9) The woman said to him, Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
(10) Saul swore to her by Yahweh, saying, As Yahweh lives, there shall no punishment happen to you for this thing.
(11) Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up to you? He said, Bring me up Samuel.
(12) When the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, Why have you deceived me? for you are Saul.
(13) The king said to her, Don't be afraid: for what do you see? The woman said to Saul, I see a god coming up out of the earth.
(14) He said to her, What form is he of? She said, An old man comes up; and he is covered with a robe. Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.
(15) Samuel said to Saul, Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up? Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answers me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I shall do.
(16) Samuel said, Why then do you ask of me, seeing Yahweh has departed from you, and has become your adversary?
(17) Yahweh has done to you as he spoke by me: and Yahweh has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, even to David.
(18) Because you didn't obey the voice of Yahweh, and didn't execute his fierce wrath on Amalek, therefore Yahweh has done this thing to you this day.
(19) Moreover Yahweh will deliver Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me: Yahweh will deliver the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.
Saul had disobeyed God and therefore God left him. He was alone and sought a witch to conjure up Samuel for some "spiritual" guidance. Samuel told Saul he was about to die and die he did a day later. Are spirits real? You bet they ARE! In the words of a famous character from the "Wizard of OZ": "I do believe in spooks". Not everything in this world or the next is easy to understand, but take a look at the picture once again and see if you don't see something this time. Spooky picture, isn't it?
Birds are beautiful creatures, attractive in both form and function. If you have taken some time to watch them fly, it will be moments that you will remember. I can't look at them without wondering what it would be like to be able to soar in the clouds, so high above the ground. But this picture brings out a fact that we don't normally think about; flying in bad weather. Its easy to do something when the weather is nice, but what about when its less-than-nice? Birds have to do what they really have to do, regardless of the weather. People are like that too; especially Christians. We must be what we must be, in spite of whatever opposition we may face. There have always been those who reject The Christ of God and try to make him something less than God-in-the-flesh. The apostle John talks about just such a situation in his first general letter.
1 John 2:18-23 WEB (R)
(18) Little children, these are the end times, and as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen. By this we know that it is the final hour.
(19) They went out from us, but they didn't belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us.
(20) You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
(21) I have not written to you because you don't know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
(22) Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
(23) Whoever denies the Son, the same doesn't have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also.
Today, the term Antichrist is overused an misapplied by every sensational minister who wants to draw attention to the end times. One thing is certain; that is Jesus is God and the world is as it never has been before. Will we see the return of Christ? Could be? I really don't know and I don't WANT TO KNOW! But, we must be faithful to him who has called us in all things, because just as birds fly in all types of weather, so we must be who we are regardless of the opposition. So, watch the birds fly and think about the future, but always remember to watch where they are flying because you don't want an unexpected surprise to make a mess on you.
Now that is one really big fish! I wonder if he prayed he would catch it? In the Godfather II, the oldest brother (Pauley) tells how he always was able to catch a fish because he prayed first. I guess this means that God prepared a fish just for him... Not all that surprising because it has happened before...
Jonah 1:17 WEB (R)
(17) Yahweh prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 2:1-10 WEB (R)
(1) Then Jonah prayed to Yahweh, his God, out of the fish's belly.
(2) He said, "I called because of my affliction to Yahweh. He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried. You heard my voice.
(3) For you threw me into the depths, in the heart of the seas. The flood was all around me. All your waves and your billows passed over me.
(4) I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'
(5) The waters surrounded me, even to the soul. The deep was around me. The weeds were wrapped around my head.
(6) I went down to the bottoms of the mountains. The earth barred me in forever: yet have you brought up my life from the pit, Yahweh my God.
(7) "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Yahweh. My prayer came in to you, into your holy temple.
(8) Those who regard lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
(9) But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation belongs to Yahweh."
(10) Yahweh spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land.
The question is: What do you do with the fish once you get it? The picture certainly doesn't tell us and The Godfather didn't tell us, but this passage from Jonah does. Jonah reflected on his situation while in the fish and turned to God. God listened! In a way, God prepared a fish to prepare Jonah for something better - obedience. The result was that the city of Nineveh was spared destruction and Jonah was given an opportunity to learn even more about God and his mercy. The book of Jonah ends with the stubbornness of the prophet, so I can't say if he ever did learn his lesson, but I wonder if God would use an even bigger fish for round two?
This is a picture of Melbourne, Australia at night. I love the reflections of the city lights on the water; simply beautiful. However, that is NOT why I chose this picture; rather, it was the sky. Look at the clouds, nothing unusual, right? Right, but normally I don't even notice clouds at night because somehow it seems strange to focus on them. Sometimes, even ordinary things take on a new significance when cast in a different light, such as this passage from the book of Acts.
Acts 19:11-12 WEB (R)
(11) God worked special miracles by the hands of Paul,
(12) so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and the evil spirits went out.
God used handkerchiefs to demonstrate HIS POWER, so, suddenly the mundane becomes the focus of attention. Look around, and if you are a spiritual sort of person, you will see God throughout your day and maybe even at night... just look! Miracles are optional!
When I saw these pictures, I was reminded of my former brother-in-law, who didn't use caution when he was lighting his grill and poured gasoline on it, "to get it going". He was burnt quite badly, but survived to learn a valuable lesson. It could have gone the other way, though; he could have died. If I could speak to this woman, I would tell her to be more careful, because you never know, a mistake like hers could cost her the only thing of real value... her existence. James puts it another way...
James 4:13-15 WEB (R)
(13) Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow let's go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit."
(14) Whereas you don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.
(15) For you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will both live, and do this or that."
These pictures do something very valuable; they provide incentive to quit smoking and to appreciate this short life. When we really do this, the smart thing to do next is to seek guidance from God, and OH, yes, put out that cigarette!!!
This lonely road reminded me of something important; that just because the road you may take in life is different from those about you, it doesn't mean that you are wrong for taking it. Being receptive to what God has in store for your life may seem a hard way to go, but ultimately the path is easier with God than without him. Listen to the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.
Luke 8:5-15 WEB (R)
(5) "The farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the road, and it was trampled under foot, and the birds of the sky devoured it.
(6) Other seed fell on the rock, and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
(7) Other fell amid the thorns, and the thorns grew with it, and choked it.
(8) Other fell into the good ground, and grew, and brought forth fruit one hundred times." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
(9) Then his disciples asked him, "What does this parable mean?"
(10) He said, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables; that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'
(11) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
(12) Those along the road are those who hear, then the devil comes, and takes away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved.
(13) Those on the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but these have no root, who believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation.
(14) That which fell among the thorns, these are those who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
(15) That in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it tightly, and bring forth fruit with patience.
There are all kinds of people out there; all sorts of shapes, sizes and backgrounds. What makes the difference in people is not really how much money they have or how smart they are, but rather their heart-attitude towards God and his word. I have always thought that it is not my job to force people to listen, but give them the opportunity to listen. What they do with it will largely depend upon their attitude towards God. When God shows you that something is wrong, don't do the wrong thing. Do what he has said, regardless of who else is doing something different. Cheer up, there is light at the end of the road; someday you will understand.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...it must be a duck, right? Maybe and maybe not. Personally, I thinks this photo was manipulated. But, if not, what a picture! You just never would expect to see a duck on the wing of an airplane. This picture reminded me of a passage in the New Testament that I have used before, but this time for a different reason.
Acts 12:5-16 WEB (R)
(5) Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the assembly to God for him.
(6) The same night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Guards in front of the door kept the prison.
(7) And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side, and woke him up, saying, "Stand up quickly!" His chains fell off from his hands.
(8) The angel said to him, "Get dressed and put on your sandals." He did so. He said to him, "Put on your cloak, and follow me."
(9) And he went out and followed him. He didn't know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he saw a vision.
(10) When they were past the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went out, and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
(11) When Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I truly know that the Lord has sent out his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from everything the Jewish people were expecting."
(12) Thinking about that, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
(13) When Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer.
(14) When she recognized Peter's voice, she didn't open the gate for joy, but ran in, and reported that Peter was standing in front of the gate.
(15) They said to her, "You are crazy!" But she insisted that it was so. They said, "It is his angel."
(16) But Peter continued knocking. When they had opened, they saw him, and were amazed.
Rhoda and the unidentified "they" couldn't believe their eyes (and ears)! Why, I wonder? They had been praying "constantly" for him and yet they were surprised to actually see him? Most of the time, God answers prayer in rather ordinary ways, but sometimes, just sometimes, we see his workings in ways that border on the miraculous. When this happens, don't be surprised, the duck right in front of you may be real after all!!!