Thursday, November 19, 2009

13 Things I Remember About Going to Church When I Was a Child

1. My pastor was a huge man – an ex-boxer – he had huge hands and used his fists to bang on the pulpit, but he was also very gentle.

2. The walls of our Sunday School building were painted the most icky shade of baby blue and mint green and turquoise.

3. One year we ate some pomegranates and dates….I remember thinking how cool it was to get to eat Jesus food

4. We never went to Sunday night or Wednesday night services….I’m not sure why.

5. When I was 9 I played the angel in the Christmas presentation. I got to stand up on covered boxes way above everyone else.

6. I could never figure out why kids who behaved at school acted like little wildcats when they were at church.

7. I never had the camaraderie of a youth group….I’m glad my children experienced that.

8. My church was extremely plain and basic. Frosted roll out window and no padding on the pews.

9. When I was baptized I remember being momentarily aghast….I didn’t realize the preacher would have on waders!

10. We sang songs like Deep and Wide

11. Crafts during Sunday School and Vacation Bible School were made with white glue and popsicle sticks

12. The church library was very small but always had interesting books I couldn’t get at my public school. They lady that ran our library was also the librarian at the local high school.

13. My favorite part of Sunday morning service was the singing. I was always a bit disappointed when the pastor stood up to preach.

Other bloggers participate in Thursday Thirteen. You can learn more about the meme or find links to other participants here

Monday, October 5, 2009

Old as Methuselah...

Look at the tree I posted above. It looks old doesn’t it….it’s gnarled and twisted….no branches….no leaves….nothing.

It must be dead, right?

This tree is one of several that live in what scientists with the U.S. Forestry service designate as the Methuselah Grove found in the Owens Valley of California’s White Mountains.

While all of the trees in this grove are ancient one particular tree is known as the Methuselah Tree because it has been dated to be approximately 4,600 years old. Yes, that means the tree was already alive when the pyramids of Egypt were constructed. It also means that the tree was alive during the time of Christ, and according to scientists it’s still here….still alive and still growing. Of course, the world’s oldest known tree and the grove it lives in is named after Methuselah, who the Bible tells us, lived to be 969 years old even though the tree has lived almost five times as long.

The pictures I have here are trees from the grove, but the oldest tree….the Methuselah Tree….is not identified to keep it safe from vandals and to keep folks from climbing all over it to get their pictures taken. The tree’s exact location is kept very secret.

A Nova television site states, Many of these ancient trees are more dead than alive, showing broad spans of exposed heartwood and dead tops. Such trees may only have one thin ribbon of living bark, usually on the downwind side, that shelters a lifeline of cambium connecting the roots to a single living branch. Such a slab-like tree may have been growing downwind for thousands of years, and the original center of the tree may be off to one side or eroded away altogether. Some trees show fire scars from lightning strikes...”

Even amidst all of the evidence that would tell us the trees are dead and dying there is life. The grove contains trees of the ancient variety as well as new seedlings. Pine cones carpet the ground and scientists have confirmed that even THE Methuselah Tree still produces pine cones.

The fact that these trees continue to live is amazing consider the growing conditions. There is very little water, no soil to speak of….actually it grows in dolomite which is more limestone than anything else….A bristlecone pine may add to its girth no more than an inch per century.

So, how do they do it? How do the trees continue live year after year….century after century in less than prime conditions?

It’s very simple.

They compensate.

Bristlecone pines have the ability to expand their roots and their crown (the part of the tree that is above ground). This means then can maximize the little bit of resources for growth that they do have. The grove contains very little undergrowth and brush which protects the trees in the event of fire. The needles that bristlecone pines have also live for long periods even on the ground…..they can last 30 to 40 years protecting the ground around the tree. The trees also can resist disease because they have dense, highly resinous wood that acts as a barrier to insects and bacteria.

We also often have less than optimum living conditions in our lives.

Limitations regarding resources and limitations regarding our interactions with people often change the course and direction of our lives. Life isn’t easy. Thing don’t always go the way we want them to.

We’ve all heard the saying but it bears repeating…..bad things happen to good people.

For example….Psalm 105 reminds us about Joseph and all the adversity he faced. Verses 17-19 explains…and he sent a man before them – Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true….

Point after point can be taken from Joseph’s life to show that God can take what is bad and turn it for good. Joseph encountered his brothers’ jealousy and was thrown into a pit, later he was sold into slavery, he was falsely accused and then languished in prison for a time.

Yet, Joseph’s life became a blessing for those around him.

Just like the Methuselah Tree….Joseph compensated at every downturn of his life. He remained steadfast in his faith.

The Methuselah Grove and Joseph both have important lessons to teach us all…important lessons regarding faith, remaining focused, and learning how to take what we are given and create a life….. out of the good and the bad.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Patriot Day...A Day to Remember

Today is the day that we remember the sacrifice of the 2,993 casualties in the September 11, 2001, attacks.

I’m remembering…..and I’m sure you are as well.

A worthy website to visit regarding that terrible day is The September 11th Digital Archive.

Also…..this link will take you to my past postings regarding September 11th including my own personal experience that very sad an shocking day… here

Monday, September 7, 2009

Current Events...Canaanite Wall Found in Jerusalem

This article was in Saturday’s news telling about a 3,700 year old wall found inside the City of David….near the old city of East Jerusalem on a slope of the Silwan Valley. The article states the wall is believed to have been built by the Canaanites, an ancient pagan people who the Bible says inhabited Jerusalem and other parts of the Middle East before the advent of monotheism.

Wait……wasn’t Jerusalem a Hebrew city….always inhabited by the Jews?

No, no it wasn’t.

Archeological evidence indicates the oldest part of Jerusalem dates back to the Copper Age, and evidence for permanent settlement dates back to between 3,000 to 2,800 BC.

The earliest inhabitants of the area are not just mentioned in the Bible but are mentioned in the Execration texts…..these are also referred to as the Proscription Lists. These are ancient Egyptian texts that basically served as a list of enemies or troublesome folks in the area. Scholars believe that the city referred to as Roshlamem or Rosh-ramen is Jerusalem.

The Amarna Letters, a record of correspondence between Egyptian leaders and representatives of Canaan and Amurru, also mention the city.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, in the Pentateuch, the city of Jerusalem is not directly mentioned. Moriah…. Genesis 22:2; associated with the site of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles 3:1…and Salem…. Genesis 14:18; associated with Zion in Psalm Psalm 76:2….apparently refer to the same site and establish a link between the city and the patriarch Abraham.

Jewish tradition holds that city was originally founded by Shem and Eber…..ancestors of Abraham. In fact, Genesis 10 mentions the Jebusites through the lines of Ham and Canaan. A Jewish encyclopedia though contends many scholars are uncertain if Melchizedek was actually a Jebusite himself, but could have been a member of another group in charge of the city. The argument stems from the fact that the town is referred to as Salem rather than Jebus in the passages mentioning Melchizedek.

Judges 19:10-11 refers to the city as Jebus and was captured in Joshua’s time…. Judges 1:8…but the Jebusites were not driven out … Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:21

You can find out more regarding the archeology of Jerusalem here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Your "Wanter" Unstuck....Being Content

Several days ago I wrote about having a stuck “wanter” meaning that sometimes our need to acquire things can get a little off kilter.

In order to keep our “wanter” in check we must learn how to be content. We must learn how to admire without always having to acquire.

That can be difficult.

Most of our wants originate when we measure ourselves against the folks around us. I think it’s natural to compare ourselves to others. We often find someone we would like to pattern ourselves after, however, what we don’t usually realize is we are often going against God’s plan for our lives. 2 Corinthians 10:12 states….we dare not classify or compare ourselves…it is not wise.

How do you react when a friend acquires something new? Do you secretly harbor ill feelings? Does jealousy rear its ugly head? Are you suddenly tempted to obtain the same thing even if it would cause a problem like living outside of your means, increasing your debt, forgetting financial goals, etc.

1 Timothy 6:9 explains…When we long to be rich we are prey to temptation. We get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge us into ruin.

The ruin comes from the fact that we become possessed by our possessions.

Our weath is not our self-worth. We should rejoice in what we do have. Ecclesiastes 5:19 tells us…We need to rejoice in what we do have. If God gives a man wealth and property, he should be grateful and enjoy what he has…it is a gift from God.

We don’t only need to learn how to keep our “wanter” from getting stuck…..we also need to push the “giver” button a little more as well. We need to release what we have to help others. 1 Timothy 6: 17-19 advises….Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money which will soon be gone. Tell them to use their money to do good…to give happily to those in need, always with others whatever God has given them.

By doing this they will be storing up real treasure for themselves in heave…it is the only safe investment for eternity!

There are several reasons to give. If you live in America you are richly blessed compared to other nations even if you are in the lowest levels of society. I try to look at giving as my security in God….fixing my eyes on things that are unseen. 2 Corinthians 4:18 states…what can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.

Finally, getting that “wanter” unstuck….being content….it isn’t easy. It’s hard work. It involves constantly evaluating how you are giving and your motives being the wants you want.

Philippians 4:12 states…I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

The keyword within the above verse is the word “learn”.

Learning is the key….and unfortunately learning is never easy, but then again….nothing worthwhile ever is.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Than Life

The sound is a little low on this one, and it's a little long, but I love the lyrics.

Happy Monday!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tell the World That

Once again I'm using video of the youth praise band from my church......Yes, that's Dear Daughter front and center singing.

Have a great Monday!!!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is Your "Wanter" Stuck?

By Friday evening I was worn down…..Dear Daughter had had a bad case of the “wants” all afternoon. She wanted to talk to me which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but conversation isn’t all she wanted. She wanted a snack, she wanted to be taken out to eat, she wanted a replacement pet for our dear kitty that has gone missing, she wants her room painted, and she wants to decorate it in black and white (always wanted a black and white room).

Then she wanted to drive My car over to a friend’s house – seems the friend had wrecked her car and Dear Daughter wanted to see it. No, she didn’t get to go. Then she wanted another friend to come over and spend the night. I said yes. Then she wanted to go out to eat for dinner. I said no. Then there were the reminders about her class ring needing to be paid for, and I had forgotten to order her letter jacket (for golf) once again.

After dinner she wanted to drive MY car to get some cookies. We (by this time Dear Husband was home) said no.

She argued. I blasted her. I had had it with the “Can I?”, “I want”, “Get me”, “Can you”, “Let me” direction of every single thing out her mouth since 3:30 that afternoon. I went through the long laundry list with her of everything she had wanted since she arrived home from school.

I ended my listing by telling her, “Sweetie, I think your “wanter” is stuck.”

Don’t we all do that, though? Think about all the things or situations you want right now. I bet we could fill up a page or two with all the things we want from the insignificant (removing a hangnail) to the very significant (world peace)…..from the small (a bracelet at the local department store) to the very large (a new car, a cruise, or a new home).

Yes, from time to time my “wanter” gets stuck. I get into an acquiring mode where I hunt and gather little treasures as I shop. My closest friends joke about my very large collection of jewelry, and I do seem to have a bunch of stuff. I eye my friends and their stuff, and from time to time I see something I covet and simply must acquire for myself.

Covet….now there’s a Bible term for you. Exodus 20:17 tells us in the big 10….You shall not covetanything that belongs to your neighbor. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t covet a friend’s possessions to the point that I might slip a lace napkin or silver creamer into my purse and walk away with it, but I do usually try to find where they got the item and attempt to purchase my own.

But is this a good habit to get into? Is the hunting and gathering of “stuff” a good thing?????

To covet means you have an uncontrolled desire to acquire. Notice I bolded “uncontrolled”……this is where the word covet takes a very negative turn and it’s the negative part of wanting something that the covet commandment addresses, and like all of God’s commandments there are very valid reasons why we need to keep our “wanter” from getting stuck.

Always wanting more causes fatigue. Proverbs 23:4 advises…Do not wear yourself out to be rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. This verse isn’t telling us that wealth is wrong….it’s telling us there is a smart way to riches and a not so smart way.

Always wanting more causes debt. For some reason our “wanters” get stuck and our wants exceed our needs and that leads to greed with a capital “G”. Ecclesiastes 5:11 states the truth…..The more money you have, the more money you spend…..

Always wanting more causes worry. This effect of a broken “wanter” would naturally follow debt, wouldn’t it? Greed leads to exceeding our needs and we can become overextended and exceed our finances as well.

Always wanting more can lead to conflict. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the desires that battle with you? … says James (4:1). Hmmmm….one of the leading causes of divorce involves money, doesn’t it?

Always wanting more can lead to dissatisfaction. You will never be satisified if you long to be rich. You will never get all you want….Ecclesiastes 5:10

No, I don’t take all the verses I’ve referred to here as a condemnation of being rich. These verses do not mean I should throw out everything I own, down-size my residence, or become complacent with a minimum wage occupation.


These verses refer to riches as in the over-acquiring of stuff and financial means. There is a fine line regarding being successful or having all you want, and you can cross that line very easily.

That is when our “wanter” gets stuck.

So, how do we unstick our “wanter”?

One way is by remembering the words of Jesus….A man’s true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be……Luke 12:15

….and we need to learn how to be content. I’ll address contentment in part two of this post found here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lead Me to the Cross

Happy Monday!

Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemptions hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You

Lead me, lead me to the cross
You were as I
Tempted and trialed
You areTe word became flesh
Bore my sin and deathNow you're risen
To your heart
To your heart
Lead me to your heart
Lead me to your heart

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Last night my daughter had her dad kill a spider…..she made a little squeal just like my mom always made when something excited or scared her. That sound used to just irritate me to no end and cause me to roll my eyes.

Now….I remember with joy…joy that Mom is with God and has been these three years, and joy because I can hold onto such precious memories and remember.

The ability to remember is NOT a burden…it is NOT something to dread…It is a precious, precious gift even when it is opened through tears.

Monday, July 6, 2009

God on God

I love to read Scripture, but it can often confuse me and apparently it confuses others as well since we have so many translations and opinions regarding such issues as salvation to name but one.

There are so many things at play with reading Scripture.

What did the original text say in the original language?

Who was the writer addressing the Scripture to?

What was the context of the times?

My own personal frame of mind as I read and study also has something to do with the message I receive. As well as the condition of my heart…..have I asked God prior to my reading to help me understand…to speak to me through the reading?

When discussing this with a friend the other day she remarked it would be so much more simpler if we could all instantly know what the Scriptures meant in every case…..

However, I feel that that the reason we often have confusion over Scripture isn’t just because we don’t get it…..perhaps we aren’t ready for the particular passage to speak to us. Perhaps we aren’t there developmentally as a Christian…perhaps it doesn’t apply to us at that particular moment in time.

As an educator is would seem the Bible is the perfect source for an individualized education. Everyone takes away from their study of Scripture something different ….something that only applies to them. God speaks to us through our Scripture reading and sends each of us an individualized message.

In some situations though God’s word is very clear to everyone. Even though many theologians and lay people have tried their best to describe God we really should go to the source.

Exodus 34: 5-8 provides a perfect explanation of God given by God himself.
The Scripture states: The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed His name Yahweh. The the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh – Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the father’s wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. Moses immediately bowed down to the ground and worshipped.

God describing himself… can’t get it any clearer, can you?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

13 Significant Chapters in the Bible

It’s been awhile since I posted a 13 list here. I’ve been busy with health concerns and then in January I suddenly realized the Thursday Thirteen hub site had basically gone away. A much smaller group of devotees have attempted to keep things going, and I’m anxious to join in on the fun.

So, here is THIS week’s 13 list:

Back in March, 2008 I posted a list of hot topics and where you can find them in the Bible here….topics like the ten commandments, praise of God, the Lord’s prayer, etc.

Here are 13 more hot topics with a link to the Biblical passage…

1. The sower and seed chapter… Matthew 13

2. The protection of the sheep chapter… John 10

3. The comfort chapter…. John 14

4. The abiding chapter… John 15

5. The justification chapter…. Romans 5

6. The sanctification chapter… Romans 6

7. The glorification chapter… Romans 8

8. The marriage chapter… 1 Corinthians 7

9. The gifts chapter… 1 Corinthians 12

10. The love chapter… 1 Corinthians 13

11. T he Resurrection chapter… 1 Corinthians 15

12. The fruit of the spirit chapter… Galatians 5

13. The faith chapter… Hebrews 11

View some of my other Thursday Thirteen posts here.

See what other bloggers are posting about by visiting the Thursday Thirteen hub.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless: Verse 57

The object in this image is known as the Cleopatra Gate in Tarsus, Turkey. This is the spot in 41 BC where the legendary lovers known as Marc Antony and Cleopatra met. During the Roman Era Tarsus was the capital of the Roman province Cilicia. People would have sailed through the gate as the spot was on the Mediterranean coastline. Over time, of course, the coastline has changed.

Tarsus is also remembered for being the birthplace of Paul.

The picture above is the gate after restoration. The picture below shows the gate in its ancient glory. I kind of wish they had left it alone.....

Visit the Wordless Wednesday hub here

Monday, June 15, 2009


Last week my church held their annual Vacation Bible School. I loved this year’s music. For my Monday Music selection this week I decided I would use the Boomerang Express music. You can access all the music at the Lifeway site here at the top of the page.

Once particular song….Because….was my favorite. I found one video using it at YouTube so it’s not much on the scenary, but you can hear it and see the words. It really is a very pretty song.

Last year I posted some of my summer memories about what I remember from my summers in the late 1970s, and how I loved Vacation Bible School. You can read it here.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Recipe for a Mature Christian

I’ve heard it several times through my teaching years as students have visited the back of my classroom to look at the personal items I have on a shelf unit behind my desk. It’s the area where I have class pictures of every group I’ve ever taught and all three of my college degrees along with family photos. Invariable a student will zero in on the college degrees with their fancy writing, embossed seals, and ribbons and state, “Gee, Elementaryhistoryteacher...look at these college diplomas. You sure are smart!”

It’s funny how we gaze upon someone’s college degrees and instantly decide that person is smart or has maturity in their field. Those degrees instantly give us entre into a particular profession and they give us legitimacy with our professional peers and the general public.

Don’t get me wrong…I worked hard for every diploma I have. College degrees are important economically and socially in our society. Over the last few years our society has placed a huge importance on college pushing our kids to work harder and strive to reach that next rung in the ladder.

But my maturity or immaturity as a Christian has nothing to do with my college degrees.

I have a job as a Christian. It’s very simple. I’m supposed to devote my time to becoming a mature Christian. My bachelors degree took four years. My masters degree took another two. However, my job as Christian is a life long process. It is not something I can retire from.

Hebrews 6:1-2 tells us…Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith from God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Every parent hopes for one overall result for their children, and God is no different. He wants his children to experience growth and maturity.

So what is maturity? An online dictionary explains that maturity is being fully developed or a perfected condition.

Our maturity is evidenced in our character. One of the things I repeat to my students over and over is the mark of a mature student is he or she follows the rules and procedures even when I’m not around to prompt them. Preacher, evangelist, and publisher, D.L. Moody said it even better with his statement….Character is what you are in the dark.

Scripturally our source for maturity is found in James. James tells us maturity does not come from age, appearance, or academics. Maturity involves our attitudes. The word James uses reflects my online dictionary entry I linked to above. Maturity involves a complete or perfect work.

There are several characteristics of a mature person.

A mature person is positive under pressure. James reminds us that trials and challenges are going to be part of lives, but that testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…James 1: 3-4

James explains that those of us who remain positive under pressure will be blessed….Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love himJames 1:12

A mature person is sensitive to people. Dealing with people can be difficult. In my position I never really can decide which is worse…dealing with an administrator, a fellow colleague, a student, or an upset parent. Perhaps this why I enjoy work days at school so much or why I celebrate the time I spend in my classroom over the summer. I generally go in during the month of July and spend three or four hours getting things prepared. The joke is, I guess, ….that teaching is a wonderful profession as long as you don’t have to deal with people. Unfortunately one of the necessary ingredients to teaching is dealing with people.

James 2:1 advises we are not to show favoritism while James 2:8 reminds us we are to love our neighbors as ourselves….harken back to Leviticus 19:18 and the words of Jesus quoted in Matthew 25:35-36For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

Can you imagine how many problems in this world could be solved if God’s faithful would truly step out and help their fellow man?

James also explains a mature person has mastered his mouth. James 3: 9-10 advises…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

Do you realize what gossip is? It’s hearing something you like about someone you don’t like. It’s wrong. Talk should build someone up…not tear them down….Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen….Ephesians 4:29

Holding our tongue is probably the most important aspect of maturity….James 1:26 states…If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

A mature person is a peacemaker, not a trouble maker. James 4:1 asks…What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? If you are constantly having issues with others perhaps your motives are wrong….James 4:2-3 or selfish pride is your problem…James 4: 11-12.

Finally, a mature person is one who is patient and prayerful. Since my first surgery in August I’ve been waiting for some type of normalcy to descend upon my life. I’ve seen glimmers of a normal day….I’ve even had a few normal days in a row, but my problems persist. God is definitely reminding me He is in control, and I need to be patient. A mature person must wait sometimes a very long time without giving up.

James 5:7 advises…Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. James reminds us of Job's perseverance and let us not forget that Elijah prayed regarding rain for three and half years! Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its cropsJames 5:17-18

The recipe for becoming a mature Christian is easy to read, but difficult to follow. Perhaps that's why we must work on perfecting the recipe every single day of our lives....

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Disruptive Spirit

Acts 16: 16-40 tells of a slave girl following behind Paul and Silas. She had a spirit in her, but it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It was a spirit or pneuma meaning a “spirit of devination” or “ventriloquist”.

As the text tells us the girl was able to make a great sum of money for her master with her predictions, or as some scholars state she told the “truth” about life. Acts 16:17 tells us she followed after Paul and Silas exclaiming for all who would hear that they were men who were the slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.

At some point Paul commands the spirit in the woman to leave her, and it does.

Why would Paul do this if the sprit was speaking the truth? Notice the text states she proclaimed who Paul and Silas were for “many days” meaning Paul decided to let her talk, but later something changed. Perhaps he thought she would eventually go away. Perhaps she began to annoy him. Perhaps it began to anger him that the girl’s owner allowed her to be possessed and actually made money from the fact. Perhaps he decided he didn’t need the “other side” hanging about. At any rate Paul had enough and ordered the spirit to stop.

It did.

At this point you might be tempted to say…….so what? What’s the big deal?

It doesn’t matter why Paul commanded the spirit to leave. What this story reminds us is that evil spirits are at work in the world today, and we need to be reminded that Paul through the Spirit of God could overcome the presence of evil.

So can we.

We are confronted by the “other side” everywhere we go….even within the church. This is why we need to remain aware and be busy for the Lord The slave girl’s statements regarding Paul and Silas were true, but they were disruptive.

A look at the messages of Paul shows that his discourses were always well reasoned and logical. He wanted people to concentrate on the message. It was not just empty catch phrases or emotional outbursts, but an intellectual pursuit of truth. He wanted people to think about what they heard, but the girl's ranting made this difficult.

The picture with this post shows a 6th century Christian basilica in Philippi, so it would not have been around during Paul’s day, but it clearly shows that Christians remained in the city long after Paul’s time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

10 Things About the Epistle of James

1. The author identifies himself as James…a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1). He is also the half-brother of Jesus…the same half-brother who would not have believed Jesus was the Messiah until after the Resurrection (Matthew 13:55; John 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7).

2. This would also be the same James who served as a leader in the early church as portrayed in the Book of Acts. Many scholars believe the scripture found within James predates the Jewish Council of A.D. 49 which opened Christianity officially and fully to the Gentiles (Acts 15). The Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that James was martyred in A.D.62. Tradition indicates James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple.

3. I wouldn’t be able to use James’ letter in my classroom to teach the parts of a letter that every fourth grader reviews since two of the usual features of a spiritual letter – the thanksgiving and the farewell – are missing. In fact, there are no pleasantries to begin the letter other than a very short opening. James jumps right in with both feet and proclaims…Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…James 1: 2-3

4. James was written to Jewish followers – their meeting was in a synagogue (James 2:2) and were led by elders (James 5:14). James refers to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations…James 1:1… referring to the Jews living outside of Palestine. He was writing to Jews living in an unknown city in the Roman Empire where they spoke Greek, and there was no reference to the Gentiles.

5. The believers James addresses had experienced some sort of harassment and from reading the text you can come to the conclusion that they had been taken advantage of by the rich (James 1:2 and James 2:6). James was attempting to encourage these believers.

6. James is written to the Jews who believed in Jesus. He wanted them to realize the importance of faith in the practical sense. For James practical faith equaled good works…faith and good works go hand in hand. James teaches good works are essentially a fruit of salvation. In contrast, Paul emphasizes faith alone saves. James states…You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone…James 2:24.

7. James also wanted to teach the believers regarding the elements of a true religion taught in the Old Testament and by Jesus – giving, praying, fasting, living a holy life, caring for widows, orphans and the poor – were still part of the royal law of love that they were to live by (Matthew 6: 1-18; James 1:27).

8. The structure of James is rather loose. Each chapter could be summed up by assigning a key word for each…(1) trials, (2) works, (3) tongue, (4) wisdom (5) patience.

9. There are many parallels between James and Proverbs. James can be summed up by stating the scripture contains many practical themes that are loosely connected by everyday Christian living.

10. James also mirrors the Sermon on the Mount which James, as the half-brother of Jesus possibly heard…even though he was not yet a believer. The comparisons are:

-the poor to be rich in faith and inherit the Kingdom (James 2:5; Matthew 5:3)

-contrasting plant pairs such as grapes verses thorns (James 3: 10-12; Matthew 7: 15-20)

-blessing promised to peacemakers (James 3:18; Matthew 5:9)

- the ease with which earthly riches are corrupted (James 5:2-3; Matthew 6:19-20)

-swearing prohibited…your yes must be yes (James 5:12; Matthew 5:33-37)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Power Struggle

I keep a page on Word where I keep ideas to post about here. A few things have lived on the page absolutely forever. I decided to rescue one of the languishing bits today and publish it for all to see….

Our expectations collide with God’s character.

I’m not sure where I found this quotation, but I thought it was interesting enough to hang onto it.

These five words say a lot…..sometimes what WE want doesn’t mesh with God’s plan.

We want stuff.

We want people.

We want recognition.

We want…we want…

What we want is CONTROL.

In all of the discussions I have with folks who advise that they have no time for religion, proclaim that Jesus was just a man, and that God doesn’t exist the discussion always manages to arrive back at one point. If they admit God exists it would result in them having to admit He is in control, and we aren’t.

The gulf between those people and myself seems so wide, yet that one word…control…separates us. They think they have control of their lives, and can’t fathom not being in charge. I know a higher power has control of my life, and can’t fathom the power God welds let alone want to have it.

He is in control.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ten for Tuesday: The Book of Job

1. The key text of the book of Job is…Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord…Job 1:21

2. The word “suffering” could be termed to describe the events of Job. Despite God’s goodness and power we have suffering in our lives.

3. My Bible gives me a one sentence summary for Job….After the upright Job suddenly lost family, health, and possessions, he and his friends dialogued at length about the reasons for his sufferings, but God alone had the final word and ultimately restored what Job had lost.

4. The book shows that God permits an adversary, Satan, to challenge His sovereign righteousness, but that God’s glory is served in the end.

5. Jesus is foreshadowed as Job looks forward to the coming Redeemer…But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last…Job 19:25 Within the book of Job he cries out for a mediator to stand between him and God. Christ is that answer as stated in 1 Timothy 2:5…For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself – a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.

6. This is not enough information given in the Scripture to date the book of Job. There is enough evidence to point towards the time period of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Job has already lived a long life as the story opens, his wealth is measured in livestock, and Job was the personal priest for his family. Also Job and his friends refer to the Creator as “God” (Elohim) or “the Almighty” (Shaddai). The Israelite covenant name, the Lord (Yahweh), which would suggest the time of the Exodus is not used.

7. The book of Job belongs to the literary type referred to as “speculative wisdom,” which explains the great question of the human experience. Other cultures have explored questions of human existence….the Mesopotamian text “I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom”, and the Egyptian text “Admonitions of Ipuwer”.

8. The original author is not stated and the purpose for it being written is not divulged either. However, scholars believe the events occurred many, many years prior to the text being written.

9. The New Testament makes reference to Job’s perseverance or endurance. James 5:11 states….See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome from the Lord: the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

10. Job is known for its long dialogues and monologues. They indicate the futility of supposing that humans can understand the purposes of God apart from devine revelation.

Monday, April 20, 2009

From the Inside Out

This is a special selection for Monday Music. This is the Youth Praise band from my church. My daughter is the one singing. Please, no cute comments about the person behind the camera and how wobbly some parts are....:)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Find Your Wings

Wow, it's already Friday, and I never posted my Monday Music. It's been a busy week with giving Ceasar his due...taxes and other time consuming projects.

A friend of mine is organizing her son's graduation ceremony since he is homeschooled. One of the things the ceremony will include is a video presentation of images through her son's journey from birth to age 18. The music she is using is Find Your Wings by Mark Harris.

It is a beautiful song:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Simon of Cyrene

Matthew 27:32 states….As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross while Mark 15:21 tells us…A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Simon is forced to carry Jesus’ cross at the point just after Jesus has been beaten and flogged by the Roman guards. Simon helps to carry the cross as Jesus is on his way to be crucified.
So, just who is Simon? Reading the Scripture we discover he’s a man, he’s from Cyrene, he was force to carry the cross, he had two sons named Alexander and Rufus, and he just happened to be passing by on his way back to Jerusalem from the country.

Cyrene could make reference to to Cyrene, Libya in northern Africa. Does this mean Simon was a black man? It’s been debated for hundreds of years. One fact that does remain certain is Cyrene was also the name of a section of Jerusalem. A section where thousands of Palestinian Jews had settled during the reign of Ptolemy Soter (323-285 BC).

Some support the argument that Simon was black by arguing that the Roman guards had a dilemma on their hands. They could not carry the cross. That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? The whole point was to have the person being crucified carry the cross.

Some even argue that the Romans wouldn’t have asked a Jew to carry the cross because it was Passover and simply by carrying the cross he would be defiled and would be unable to participate in Passover. You might ask why the Romans would even care, but they had orders not to interfere with the religious practices of the Jews. If this holds true then Simon could have been a black man….a non-Jew.

The mention of Simon’s sons, Rufus and Alexander, have also caused debate. Many ancient sources claim the two became missionaries. Some even went so far as to include the name Mark to imply Rufus was mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:13…Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Simon has also been linked to the “men of Cyrene” mentioned in Acts 11:20…Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.

While it can be entertaining to argue the point regarding Simon of Cyrene’s ethnicity… does it really matter?

I find the back and forth interesting, but it doesn’t matter either way to me. I prefer to look upon the fact that someone picked up Jesus’ cross and carried it for him to remind me that today I should be about my Father’s business….it’s up to me in 2009 to continue to spread the word and become more Christ-like.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ten for Tuesday: The Book of Esther

1. This book appears in the Hebrew Bible as well as the New Testament. It provides the backstory regarding the Jewish holiday of Purim, and the name is derived from the main character of the story.

2. The events discussed in Esther occurred during the third year of the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia. This was during the time Jewish people were living in exile in Persia. My very own Bible states the story portrays God’s providential care of people committed to Him in the midst of overwhelming challenges to their faith.

3. God is never mentioned by name or referred to, however the book has several instances that provide evidence of belief in the active involvement of God.

4. Only canonical text not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

5. Most scholars agree that the author of Esther is unknown, but Jewish tradition holds that the book was written by Mordecai, her uncle. Esther had never lived in the promised land. She was from a wealthy and powerful family even in exile.

6. The story recounts how the hatred of one man for the Jews nearly resulted in the eradication of the Jewish people in the entire Persian Empire.

7. The basic plot involves Esther, a Jewish girl, and her uncle Mordecai. Esther becomes the new wife and queen of Artaxerxes, but doesn’t tell the king she is Jewish. My Bible states Esther’s risky work in preserving the Jewish people reflects the worldview category of ethics and morality.

8. Most discussions concerning the book of Esther state the villainy of Haman demonstrates human depravity at its worst; the integrity of Mordecai shows the enormous good that one person can do. Esther’s story (like Joseph’s in Genesis) demonstrates that when God’s people face difficult circumstances, they are to act courageously and risk themselves for a righteous cause rather than give in to “fate” or “being unlucky.”

9. The key verse of the book…Who knows, perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this….Esther 4:14.

10. The first ones to hear the story of Esther were Jews in Persia, sometimes after the feast of Purim had become an established custom. By this time, the post-exillic people of Israel had adopted the name “Jew” for the term Jew(s) occurs more in the book of Esther than in the rest of the Old Testament combined.

The image with this post is the painting Esther by John Everett Millais in 1865. Millais painted Esther as she prepares to enter the presence of her husband uninvited. Notice the yellow gown Esther has on. Millais borrowed the yellow gown from General Gordon. He had received the gown from the Chinese emperor after his defeat of the Taiping Rebellion. Millais turned the gown inside out so that the fact the gown was obviously Chinese could be hidden….notice the culturally unspecific abstract patterns. One of General Gordon’s military exploits is detailed in the movie The Four Feathers.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

How Beautiful

We had the Lord’s Supper tonight at church and this song was performed by a couple of my friends and our choir director. So appropriate…..

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wordless: Verse 56

These two images are titled Eve and Apple, with Counterpart. They were created by Giuseppe Arcimboldo in 1578.

I find the paintings be interesting but disturbing at the same time. These are very different than the usual religious artwork you see dating back to the late 1500s. Arcimboldo used objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books to form portrait heads.

Are these the works of whimsy or the products of a deranged mind? ….Art critics have debated this for years. I’d say Arimboldo was definitely a man before his time….He was a Surrealist before the school was birthed by the likes of Salvador Dali.

You can see more of his work here.

You can discover other bloggers participating in Wordless Wednesday here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday 10: The Sanhedrin

Ten things about the Sanhedrin:

1. Several days ago I posted a wordless image depicting a dungeon hole located at the house of Caiaphus or Joseph, son of Caiaphus. He was the Roman appointed Jewish high priest at the time Jesus was arrested.

2.The Gospels of Matthew and John mention Caiaphus being involved in the trial of Jesus following the arrest of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane.

3.The house of Caiaphus is where Jesus was taken after he was arrested by the temple guard and where he was accused of blasphemy. The Sanhedrin, which Caiaphus led, found Jesus guilty and he was then taken before Pontius Pilate.

4.Basically, the Sanhedrin was a group of Jewish leaders who held administrative and religious powers during the pre-A.D. period. The New Testament refers to the Sanhedrin as the council, but they had no real governing power. Refer to Matthew 26:59 and Mark 15:1.

5.Tradition states the Sanhedrin originated when God commanded Moses to gather seventy men…. Numbers 11:16. However, many scholars refer to the Persian period of Jewish history (538-333 B.C.) as its beginning. During the Persian period Jews had a modicum of self-government.

6.Initially, the Sanhedrin governed all of Israel. After Roman occupation the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin was divided into five regions…the high council in Jerusalem was just one body of five.

7.The terms “chief priests”, “elders”, and “scribes” are used in the New Testament to describe the composition of the Sanhedrin.

8.The high priest during the time of Jesus’ arrest was Caiaphus. He had a powerful father-in-law named Annas who had also served as high priest. The high priest was a hereditary office, but from time to time political events could change the succession. Chief priests were usually from a leading Sadducee family that might hold various offices within the temple.

9.The elders were well known laymen who were linked with the temple in some way while scribes were professional lawyers or interpreters of Scripture. They were largely Pharisees. This group enjoyed widespread public support. This meant that although Pharisees were a minority during New Testament times, they had a large share in determining the decisions of the Sanhedrin.

1o. The meeting of the Sanhedrin in connection with the trial of Jesus violated many of the guidelines under which the body normally functioned. The Mishnah prescribed that capital trials to be held during the daytime. A verdict of guilty could not be pronounced until the following day. Capital trials were prohibited on Sabbath eve or the eve of a feast day. The marathon effort to try, convict, and execute Jesus would not qualify as a legitimate trial under recorded provisions for Sanhedrin conduct.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Our God Saves

Here’s a song written by Paul Baloche

Click the tags below to find other music selections or find the entire Monday Music list in the right sidebar.

Happy Monday!

Monday, March 2, 2009

How Awesome Is the Lord Most High

Well, Monday Music got a little sidetracked after my surgeries in August and January, so I’m trying to get back to normal around here with this morning’s selection. This song by Chris Tomlin opened up our contemporary service yesterday. Singing it is a great way to open yourself up to worship.\

If you would like to see other Monday Music selections check out the list in my right sidebar or click on the Monday Music or Christian Music tag at the end of this post.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Decapolis: An Accidential Landing?

After teaching to the crowds along the Sea of Galilee the Gospel of Mark tells us about a decision Jesus made, “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side…” What Jesus meant was he desired to go to the other side of the great lake known as the Sea of Galilee.

Was Jesus simply bored with his surroundings?

Did He merely want to see what was on the other side of the body of water?

Just why did Jesus want to venture to the other side of the lake?

While the disciples were still stumbling and bumbling around trying to make sense of their Master we have the luxury of knowing the rest of the story. We know that Jesus never did anything without a plan….without reason.

Mark 4: 35-41 not only explains that Jesus wanted to go to the other side of the lake the disciples are shown very clearly that Jesus can control natural elements as he quiets the storm and calms the waters.

Once the group arrives on the opposite shore….a region the text refers to as the region of the Gerasenes… Jesus immediately meets up with the demon possessed man. In fact, Mark 5:1-20 explains the man “with an evil spirit came to meet Jesus”. “No one could bind the man anymore, not even with a chain”, and he was forced to live in the tombs. “No one was strong enough to subdue him, and he cried out and cut himself with stones.” Truly, this man was in a bad state.

It’s easy to simply read over the mention of the story’s location….the region of the Gerasenes and not give it another thought, isn’t it? I mean isn’t the whole purpose of the series of events to show that Jesus could deliver men of demons?

Perhaps, but I’m a social studies teacher, so give me some latitude here.

The Gerasenes is an area that was also known in Jesus’ time by another name. The region was known as the Decapolis…a Greek word meaning “ten cities”. This was a region southeast of the Sea of Galilee that included the cities of Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Schythopolis, Gadara, Hippos, Dios, Pella, Gerasa, and Kathana.

Some of the cities date back to the time of Alexander the Great. They are grouped together because of similarities in language, culture, location, and political status. The ten cities had been given limited freedom from Jewish domination by the Roman general Pompey when he captured Palestine in 63 B.C.

Actually, the exact names of the ten cities are debated by scholars, but most tend to go with the list I give above….which is the same list Pliny the Elder provided in his writings.

The fact that these cities were so Greek in nature and were not dominated by Jewish tradition and culture meant that as far as Jews were concerned the region Jesus and his disciples found themselves in was one of Gentile impurity. No wonder demons were lurking about.

The location of the story also shows that Jesus always intended on bringing His message to the Jews and Gentiles alike.

Getting back to the possessed man…..the demons possessing the man number many as they respond to Jesus their name is Legion, a word referring to the largest Roman military unit of 6,000 men, 120 horsemen, and various technical personnel.

In a humorous twist of events the demons request to enter the bodies of a nearby herd of pigs….more than likely a spot they believed they could reside until another suitable human body was found.

Why a herd of pigs?

More importantly why is a herd of pigs mentioned in an event concerning Jews?

Would a self-respecting Jew own a herd of pigs?

Hardly, but remember….we aren’t in a normal Jewish village. This story takes place in the Decapolis, a region full of Gentiles. A herd of pigs could be...would be expected.

The humor in the story continues as the lowly pigs….a herd of approximately 2,000 pigs….decide to drown by throwing themselves over a cliff rather than serve as host to the many demons who inhabited the man.

The man freed from the demons instantly wants to leave with Jesus and stay by his side.

I’d be tempted to ask to go along, wouldn’t you?

Jesus, however, tells the man to return to his family and tell everyone he meets what has been done for him serving as a prompt for us today……we are to tell others what Jesus means to us….what Jesus has done in our lives.

What has He done in your life?
The picture with this post is the floor of a Byzantine church built near the site where Jesus drove the man's demons out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wordless: Verse 55

This picture is a dungeon hole at the location that is traditionally held as the house of Caiaphas who is also referred to as Joseph, son of Caiaphas. He was the Roman appointed Jewish high priest at the time Jesus was arrested. The Gospels of Matthew of John mention Caiaphas being involved in the trial of Jesus following the arrest of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. Refer to Matthew 26:57-67.

You can view a list of other bloggers who are also wordless today here.
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