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But, God!

I slept to 9am, bricked in front of Facebook, listened to more of the teaching from Hixon, TN on DVD, and washed a boatload of dishes the dishwasher failed to do.

But the most interesting part of today was a science experiment I conducted to clarify in my mind something I wanted to share here.  Nothing earth shaking, nothing new.  I wanted to see just how fast the drop of soap, in this case Dawn dish liquid, dispersed a slick of vegetable oil.  One drop sent 3T of oil scooting 360 degrees at lightning speed.  I was intending to use this as an illustration of what happens when certain people walk in a room or what happens when certain conversation topics rise in a group setting.  It took a different turn.

As I played with the oil and water and watched how it reacted both on its own and with my interference, I saw other illustrations.  There are many allegorical directions to go, but the one that most impressed me was a comparison to the body of Christ at the end of this church age.  Scripturally, oil is almost always a picture of the Holy Spirit, but not here.

I slowly drizzled 3T vegetable oil 10-14 inches above the surface of the water in a medium sized mixing bowl, creating multiple glistening balls dancing and swimming in the purity of clean water.  In seconds the oil reached the surface and merged into one 3 inch diameter circle.  My fingertip could chase it, break it into many parts, and almost convince it to blend with the water, but when I removed my finger, it gradually merged its multiple orbs into a single unit within minutes.

One drop of Dawn sent it flying, stopped only by the bowl itself.  The soap sank to the bottom, gradually dissolving but remaining a blue blur.  Gradually the oil slid its way back to the center to close any opening, to take total control of the surface, the blue soap no longer an interference. But the quality of the water was compromised by the soap.  There was a gap the oil couldn’t conquer.  I gently drizzled more oil into it. Three circles floated to the edge of the mother ship, touched but couldn’t merge.  Neither would they become one with each other but remained independent, apparently a film from the tiny drop of soap keeping them apart.  This alone could illustrate how denominations are similar but separate, unable to become one. Wheat and tares? But that’s not the picture I ended with.

Oil and water moves pretty slow, it’s monochromatic and I’m not, so I set the project aside while I continued rewashing the dishes.  Hmm, what would happen if I dropped in more soap? Nothing.  You’re kidding me.  The first drop broke up the whole party single-handedly but subsequent drops, single or in rapid fire merely plunged through and bolted for the bottom leaving only a cloudy ring marking their impotence.  Weird.

I fixed some crackers and cheese, checked Facebook again, resumed the dish washing process, then checked the oil vs. water to see that the oil had clouded, consumed the former independents, and left an opening the size of a child’s thumb within which were several very tiny oil bubbles.  I wiped the counters, but when I came to the bowl to empty it out, I saw that the oil was compromised again, mottled with what looked like dirt, and had succeeded in totally covering the surface, its original goal.

I picked up the bowl to empty it when I thought I’d interfere one last time.  I did what I do best — stir things up.  Although the blue liquid soap had appeared to fade to nothing, it had instead permeated the water under the oil.  I wonder if I would let it sit overnight, the oil and water would have merged into a single substance, bad water or bad oil, neither of them useful.  So I swished the whole thing into a frenzy of suds.  The water was a cloudy blue, the suds fluffy, the oil apparently absorbed.

I swished, wiped, dumped and rinsed in scalding clear water until the sides of the bowl squeaked clean.

I saw the bowl as the bride of Christ, the clean water her pure faith, faith that remained pure through persecution.  Along came Constantine who declared Christianity legal and commanded the persecution cease.  The oil was the healing salve that appeared to be productive but soon covers her in complacency.  The soap represents compromise that clouds her thinking and threatens to ruin her image and effectiveness.

But, God.  Do you love it?  But, God steps in.  He stirs, He shakes, He turns and  transforms her weaknesses to strength, scrubs and rinses her in hot water creating a squeaky clean, pure and spotless bride who will meet her Groom in the air and rule with Him forever.

The times are frightening.  Terror, food shortages, debt, and more can and may create a perfect storm.  If it’s prophecy, in Perry Stone’s words, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  Whether this storm is prophecy or a temporary bump, remember that phrase — But, God….!

What’s your passion–interest–hobby–ministry?

Do it! Go for it! Love it! Perform with excellence! (I sure hope it doesn’t involve sin e.g. pornography. Yes, Virginia, even looking is participating. It is sin)

Jesus told us to occupy until He comes again.  But He needs you to know He wants to use your passions, interests, etc.  If your ministry is outreach, may your heart remain on fire.  If your heart leads you to study in the Word to uplift and instruct The Body, share with me.  The Body is composed of many members none of whom can perform well in all areas but can be excellent in one or a few — the heart and the liver function differently but both are necessary.

There are many things to do for mankind requiring different levels of character components. “Feed my sheep” but are we to feed them with the same food the same way over and over? Is variety a spice in this case?  For example, in the field of medicine, a researcher whose passion is analysis through a microscope likely makes a lousy pediatrician, an area that requires specific people skills.  However, they depend on each other to paint the portrait of excellent care for the patient.  The same is true in the church. Within the Body, there are those whose function(s) — foreign mission giving, the food line at the homeless shelter, sequestered studying or one that can be the most mis-interpretive of character, The Watchman, warning of Jesus’ return and the signs of His coming — are equally vital to the spread of the gospel.  That last one can really tick people off and produce the most vicious hateful flack of ginormous proportion even from within the Body. “You have no love!!”  Be strong! You may appear to lack the sweeter fruits of the Spirit but God knows your heart and motives.  Stay the course He’s called you to in the face of critics who don’t like to hear they’re in sin who must attack you to justify their actions and those on the inside who believe their ministries are more important or relevant than any and everyone else’s.

In the church body, in the church building, God uses the music program as a carrot to lure the unsaved — emotion is not a bad thing when God is using it.  When the visitors become Be-Backers and want to learn more, God uses the teachers who may or may not be able to carry a tune in the proverbial bucket yet their hearts burn for analysis of The Word to transfer Truth to power in those whose passion is to witness.

You get the picture? God can use you where you are. But, what if what you’re interested in, the thing that is your pastime pleasure, doesn’t appear to have anything to do with faith outreach or church involvement?  God can use that too.  I think of a conversation in the movie City Slickers.  They were sitting around the camp fire.  The men were talking baseball statistics.  The lone female couldn’t understand.  Her conversations were about relationships, what’s working, what’s not.  She asked how baseball stats could be so important that that’s all they talked about.  The response was from a man who had nothing in common with his father. The relationship was pain.  But they both liked baseball.  They had something that allowed conversation, a conduit for communication, their only link to each other.

One of my passions is my genealogy hobby.  If anyone wants to talk to me about it, I have information on the ancestors that is a testimony.  Their stories and circumstances are a testimony of my tree to  me. God can use them still, through me but only if I share.  In today’s world, online networking is hot e.g. Facebook.  You’re reading another form — blogging.  God can use it if your heart  burns for outreach.  It’s a colossal waste of time if it’s purely personal fluff as in “look at me, look what I did today.”  Neither should it be purely political or preaching.  May I suggest that after a weeks’ worth of commentary, your readers have a fair glimpse into your heart.

Matthew 28: 19-20, known as The Great Commission is stated in the KJV as “Go.”  The original language is more correctly translated as “As you go..” or “going.” This was such a relief for me.  The Bible college I went to in Minneapolis was primarily a missions training school.  I honestly felt that because I didn’t hear a voice saying “Go to Africa!!” I was an abysmal failure as a Christian. But when you know not every Christian is suited for foreign missions, and Jesus knew that, you can joyfully pursue what He want you to do where you are and let Him direct your steps, not necessarily trips to faraway continents.

As you go — to work, on the highway (don’t forget God’s a mind reader), in the church lobby, at the grocery store checkout lane, on Facebook, around the family holiday dinner table — make disciples, teaching His commandments according to Matthew 28: 19 and 20 all the way to the end of the age.

You will be persecuted by those to whom the Truth is offensive.  But Jesus chose the foolishness of preaching to draw men to Him. “In this world you will have trouble.” Yeah, no kidding.  Be strong.

Anybody is somebody who is serving in the house of God, working in the body of Christ.

Giving

Have you noticed that Christmas is the season for giving?  The bell ringers are ringing, the toy drives are driving. Coats for kids, angel trees, cans of food instead of tickets to Christmas plays — it’s the season to give.  It’s a teaching moment for kids to pick out something for a child they don’t know and not something for themselves.

Church choirs go caroling to shut-ins, walk through nursing homes singing Silent Night to Jingle Bells and exiting with “We WHISHSH you a merry Christmas” again teaching the children how to give of themselves to bring joy to the lonely.

I applaud.  I approve.  It is good, very, very good.  But when all your giving is done in one short time frame along with everyone else, it’s slam giving, one month fits all year.  It’s huge supplies at the food bank — hopefully it will last 11 months.  It’s carolers lining up at the entrance of the nursing home — too much of a good thing in a short time frame and nothing for another year.

A couple of decades ago Elaine Dollerschell brought up an interesting concept.  “Why don’t we skip Christmas caroling to the elderly in the nursing homes this Christmas and instead hold a party for them in January or March?  That way we don’t have to make an appointment, competing with all the other churches, and the residents don’t have to wait 11 months to have their spirits lifted.”

Hmmmm.  Elaine, you said a mouth full.  Within a span of 20 minutes today while I was watching a colorized Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwick movie, I witnessed two pleas from Feed the Children featuring 10 or more celebrities in each showing “real children with hopes and dream who are hungry.”  It’s good to have these drives to raise money for charity especially when people are in a mindset to give as in “strike while the iron is hot.” I’d like to see them offer a 12 month payment plan.

The hungry are hungry January through November.  The lonely are alone 11 months between groups of carolers.

I was witness to at least two occasions and many discussions of my dad giving his hard earned cash to panhandlers, of him helping someone off the sidewalk and giving him a couple of bucks for food.  The argument always was “You know he’s just going to buy more booze!”

My answer, as was my dad’s, is “So what?”  Then you just wasted your money!

No, I didn’t.  I gave with pure motives.  Don’t need a thank you, don’t need an I.O.U. note.

Choose your recipients carefully enough to know if the charity that claims to feed children actually feeds children if you can find out.  It’s good to know your giving is helping.  But if there’s no way of knowing for sure, don’t withhold your giving.

It’s your heart that benefits.  It’s your heart that God sees.  Do you give only when you know it’s a worthy cause in your estimation? More to the theme here, do you give only in December?

Is there a shelter or a food bank you can pick up a few extra cans of beans or soup for every time you shop for your family throughout the year?  Is there a ministry you can sign up for to have a certain dollar amount automatically deducted from your checking account every month? You can investigate them for their sincerity or you can pray God sends your $10 or $50 where it needs to go.

No extra bucks? Stand in the serving line of the homeless shelter.  Knit or buy  some hats, gloves, and scarves and pull over to the side of the street where the homeless hang out and give them out.  Where I live there are kids at bus stops in below freezing temperatures wearing shorts, maybe because they’re not too bright, trying to appear sexy or tough, or maybe because they don’t have warm clothes because it’s Tennessee and we don’t have all that much cold weather and it’s not cost effective to buy heavy clothes.

Instead of judging their intelligence, assume their need and meet it.  Keep some hats, gloves, and scarves in the back seat.  Maybe the local elementary school needs a supply of the same for those who lack or those who forgot to bring one and need something to keep them warm on the way home.

There are endless opportunities to give and to teach giving.  December is the top feel good month of the year.  Go for it! Reach out and teach by example.  But…. or should I say “And….”

How about using December to launch a new habit? A new habit that becomes so ingrained you don’t feel the giving surge at Christmas. A habit that inspires you to give regularly, using your imagination, or like I already said, an online automatic donation you don’t even have to think about — or talk about.

I’ve experienced a new facet to the bell ringers.  In the lobby of Shopko was a lady in a portable hospital bed wearing her ear muffs, mittens, and had blankets draped over her.  Hmmm.  Really?  I’ll bet she pulled in extra that day.  I’m not saying she was faking anything or planned on playing the Pity Card.  But it was a first for me, this new twist of the heart string.

Years ago Honey’s dad, Herb, gave a twenty to a scruffy man who walked into the store begging politely for a hand out.  He promised to pay it back.  He was not seen again.  Herb was teased relentlessly for years.  Was Herb an idiot for being taken in, fooled by a con man?  Don’t know.  If the man made a living that way, that’s between him and God.  Those who gave to him gave from their hearts.

Don’t worry if what you give won’t be appreciated or if your gift is tricked out of you or if it’s used unwisely.

God sees all hearts.  Just give.

Purity

How do we keep our minds pure?  Where do we find purity?  Where do we find the shields we need to keep the worms of sin out of our hearts and minds?

The preacher reminded us that if we took it seriously, we learned what we needed to know in our first year of Sunday school in the song, “Be careful little eyes what you see.  Be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful.” Be careful little feet, little hands, little ears.

That isn’t just for pre-schoolers.  That’s basic Bible for our entire lives.

Input, output.  Data entry, data retrieval.  What you see is what you think.  What you say can slice whole groups of people including loved ones with your words.

What’s your favorite media?  What genre do you choose? “Oh, but I filter out what’s not appropriate, a trap of sorts.”  Tell me how that’s working for you. Your dreams will tell you what’s in the mind’s storage closets.  Your laugh button will tell you what you tolerate.

Is it time to haul out the Holy Drano?  Is it time to swap filters? I’m not aware of any scripture that indicates God winks at anything.  We are responsible for our own actions and choices.  Holiness in not laid on us.  Righteousness is through the blood of Jesus.  Holiness is grown in us.  We can stunt it.

Don Finto of The Caleb Company wrote the following on his blog site by the same name.  You can go to his site through the link or read below. Brother Finto is a very wise man.

Dangerous Curiosity

I was reading through the “Parasha” reading last week (available here) (R’eh: Dt. 11:26-16:17), and happened upon a word from the Lord that brought clarity to a danger we face: unholy and dangerous curiosity.

Moses is encouraging Israel in their devotion to the One True God and the danger of involvement with false gods who would lead them into disobedience and the evil consequences to follow. During the reading I happened upon this remarkable phrase, “After they (the enemies) have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods.”

“Ensnared by inquiring about their gods?”

“Ensnared by inquiring!”

Some things we need not to know. We have no need to know the ways of sin. Curiosity can open the door for inquiry. Inquiry can open the door for attraction. Attraction can open the door for participation.

My thoughts went to Eve in the Garden.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food
Curiosity: “I wonder how it would taste?

and pleasing to the eye,
Attraction: “I’ll just look at it for a while, no need to touch it, but I’ll look. No real harm done in looking.

and also desirable for gaining wisdom…
Desire: “Why should I not know the ways of the other side? What harm does that do? That would make me wise. Perhaps I could even help others if I knew more about what is drawing them away from God?”

…she took some and ate it.”
Participation and the evil consequences of sin.

How many are ensnared into sexual sin by wondering what it is like? How many are lured into a life of drug addiction by wanting to know what it’s like to “get high?” Curiosity, inquiry, attraction, desire, participation with its evil consequences.

An interesting little sideline: I opened the Nashville Tennessean’s Sunday edition this morning and noticed a small side bar at the top of page one, “Nudists Strip Down, Shed Stereotypes,” reference page 1D.

My first impression was, “How gross! Who are these people? What would it be like to be in a nudist colony? Why would that appeal to people?”

My immediate secondary reaction was to turn to page 1D and find out more about this bizarre community.

But I had read the “Parasha” reading this week, and reconsidered my curiosity. Why did I need to know? Why should I even read more? Of what use would it be to me as a servant of the Most High God?

“Ensnared by inquiring!”

Be aware! Live as a faithful servant of the One True God! Lift high the Name of Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and World Redeemer. Meditate on Him. Praise Him. Exalt Him.

The Blue Bowl

Mom didn’t have much worldly wealth.  One of the few things she had that she treasured was a china bowl.  I have no idea where she got it, if it was something her mother or another relative had, or if she acquired it at yard sale for a nickel.  It was a  heavy bowl, blue on the outside, white on the inside, straight up and down sides, no rim, hard for little girl hands to handle with confidence.  Maybe there were some flowers somewhere on it but I’m too lazy right now to call one of the sisters and ask.

One of the things we did not have growing up was a dishwasher.  I take that back.  We had three — us.  The bowl must have been just the right size for mixing or serving, therefore she used it frequently and she was proud of it.  So much so that we just knew we were unforgiven and out of the will if we so much as cracked it.  When it was time to wash The Blue Bowl, life became slo-mo, sound faded into a background hum, tension increased when one of us had to handle it out of the rinse water.  You drop it, you die on the spot, the parents get off without questions, no arrests, no time served.  Life was bad enough when anything was spilled or something broken — “we just can’t keep anything!!” or “another mess to clean up!!”– it was a feeling in the pit of the stomach….

On other occasions in my life, I’ve felt that same lurch deep in the gut.  We all know the feeling when thoughtless words add another brick to a wall, when an email can’t be pulled back, when the person you’re talking about is standing behind you, when “sorry” can’t erase the disappointment, when Humpty Dumpty is swept into the dustpan.

Once that bowl or another treasure is smashed, it’s never the same.  If it can be glued, the cracks forever tell the story of what you did. When it’s people that are damaged, Holy Spirit can make it like new.  When my little girl broke a chunk out of an oval bowl that was part of my wedding china set, the look on her face broke my heart.  “It’s just a thing, Honey.  Don’t worry, I think we can glue it.”  And we did.  You should have seen the look on Eric Barrows’ face when years later he picked it up by the glued piece and it snapped off.  Where’s the camera when you need it?

Mom was not a screech or an unforgiving shrew.  She had other sorrows that caused her to attach too much to a few things.  Over The Blue Bowl, there would have been disappointment but nothing permanent.  Okay, years later she might have mentioned it out of the blue, pardon the word play.  But she always knew people trumped things.  Again, I have no idea why she valued it to the point that she did.  However, a big however —

When we moved them from the house to a nursing home and disbursed their belongings, keeping some things, sending some off to auction, none of us girls wanted The Blue Bowl.  You would think there would be names drawn, an argument, some sentiment over it.  For me, I didn’t want the phone call in 40 years asking me if I still had it.

I have no clue what happened to it but I pity the person who ever breaks it.

Things I learned from Joyce that I already knew and maybe forgot

“Let’s get over our sweet little selves and do something.”

She was talking about giving and doing.   In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, I’m talking about Joyce Meyer.  And in case you just went into a mental balisticon over television preachers that say to give seed offerings or why women should keep silence in the church, that women shouldn’t preach or something about the evils of the filthy rich charletons’ private jets, save it. You obviously haven’t listened to Joyce Meyer, nor have you taken a look at her financials posted on the www to know that a clean 80 cents of every dollar that comes into the ministry goes overseas to dig wells and feed people.  So listen up…

She addressed the attitude of wasting time on doctrine when she spoke of those of us who are still stuck on the constant argument of baby baptism vs. immersion.  I love her answer….

“So do them both! Then get off it and do something for somebody else!”

Here’s another thing —  works vs. faith.  I object to any church telling me what my mission is.  Nursery is not it.  President of Women’s Circle is not it.  Leader of vacation Bible school is not it.  Been there, done that, crashed and burned.  If you’re talking about salvation, it’s faith in Jesus that saves.  Works don’t earn salvation nor do works earn points in heaven when you do good works for points.  (motive, motive, motive).  Joyce points out that we are to follow Jesus’ example.  He rose each day and went about doing good.  We should then do good because doing good is a good thing to do without thinking how good you are.

How simple is that?  She went a step further to state that no longer would she ask God for an angel appearance or hold a 4 week seminar on hearing from God before she donated a ten spot somewhere to know for sure if giving the $10 is God’s will.  Her new deal with God is that He is to stop her from giving, that she’s going to give and do until He says don’t do that, you’ve done quite enough.

“Indifference finds an excuse.  Love finds a way.”

What would happen if we all adopted that attitude?  Take it another step.  Put cash in the plate.  Send cash to a ministry with no return address, no way for the ministry to know you gave, no trace of your donation to report to the IRS for a tax deduction and therefore no credit to you to prove how wonderful you are.  Hmmmm……

Do we know how to forgive and why? Do it.  You don’t need to study it again.

Have we heard enough yet on the basics?

Max Lucado’s story on the candles in the closet who won’t come out to light the room for a multitude of reasons — too shy, still studying, need a sign — is a classic.

Things I learned from Joyce Meyer today — somebody out there needs me now.

Next stop — eternity

He whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

Why would a merciful and loving God create hell?

Let’s say instead….

Why would anyone reject a loving and merciful God who sacrificed so much to make a way to Heaven?  To know about Him is not knowing Him.  You have to introduce yourself.

When you choose to reject salvation, you choose to be sent to hell.

Simple.

The Light of the world came to us at Hanukkah, the festival of lights, near our celebration of Christmas.  As it was in 2008, in 19 more years Hanukkah will coincide with Christmas again.  When I say “came to us” I mean He was conceived during the festival of lights.  The light came to earth like the rest of us, hidden in the womb for 9 months.  He was born the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall.

Using the Christmas celebration as an illustration, picture the most wonderful gift you’ve ever seen or hope to see beautifully wrapped up, under the tree, with your name on it.  Now imagine you leave it sitting there.  You take down the tree and the house decorations, you put them up again next year and that gorgeous gift is still sitting there unwrapped.  You’ve ignored it, stepped over it, around it, pushed it into a corner, dutifully dusted it, thrown coats on it in winter, even used it as a coffee table.  You’ve convinced yourself that because it’s in your house, it’s serving a purpose.

You know what’s in it.  Several people have told you.  You know it doesn’t require anything more than grabbing it, literally receiving it to make it work in your life.  Deep down you know it has no function until you claim it, even when your name is printed clearly on the tag.  It’s of no use and cannot change, heal, or help you until you pick it up and open it.  Your name is not in the Book yet until you claim the gift.

There’s a hell.  We are all eternal no matter what you may have heard or thought was reasonable from someone you trusted or who you thought made sense.  It’s clearly written in scripture, in the red ink.  Our existence doesn’t just end in nothingness without Jesus and go on with Jesus.

There’s a hell.  there’s a heaven.  There’s a future with Jesus.  We will live forever.  What’s your forwarding address?  There are two to choose from.