Peace On Earth

I read this statement this morning: “The New Testament does not say that the angels prophesied peace: they proclaimed peace—peace to men of goodwill toward God.” (Emphasis mine) It’s funny how you can know a thing, and yet read it again and suddenly it hits you. The angels weren’t saying that peace would come to the world, but that peace would be among those with whom He is well pleased. Compare these two versions of Luke 2:14.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, good will toward men.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;”
Ephesians 5:15‭-‬20 NASB1995

“From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed. From prophets to priests, they are all frauds. They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 6:13‭-‬15 NLT

I want to be among those people with whom He is pleased, careful of how I walk, filled with the Spirit, and always giving thanks for all things in the name of the LORD. I don’t like being ruled by greed, and it’s easy to fall into it with the materialism of the world so loud and pushy around us. I see so much of it around me, and the longing of wanting what I perceive as my right…. but is it, really? If I should receive what I truly deserve – if anyone got what they truly deserve, I don’t think we would like it very much!

Give thanks for all things. That’s the ticket to a true and happy, full, and rewarding life.

Remembering my Mom, Phyllis Henry

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:15‭-‬19 NASB1995

Today we are celebrating the life of our Mom. Her children and niece, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren, special friends, as many as can be here. It will be livestreaming, too, for you to see. Join us in celebration! http://www.faithbibleok.com at 11am CDT

Phyllis Henry lived a full, interesting life. She didn’t have an easy life, by any means, and she wasn’t perfect. Having a pastor for a husband and 6 children to deal with kept her running, but she found time to help in the nursery at church every Sunday, and to be involved with the WMU, church potlucks, hostessing get togethers and visiting missionaries and preachers, and keeping peace in the family. (You have to be a Southern Baptist to understand 🙂 ) Our house always had to present a put-together face for people to drop in, so that meant keeping kids and toys and the paraphernalia of life out of the living room, and ready to offer tea or coffee at a moments notice.

On top of all that, my Dad was diagnosed with a debilitating disease a few years into their marriage, and the medications prescribed caused serious side effects leading to angina (heart disease) and eventually type 2 diabetes. It didn’t stop him from pastoring full time, going to college at night for his doctorate, visiting the sick, and trying to be the husband and father he needed to be. Mom added nurse, dietitian, and driver to her resume.

Her kids didn’t make her life any easier. We did chores and helped cook and clean as we got older, but children can be pretty self centered and we weren’t that different. School, life, hobbies, church and school activities, music and art lessons, we all stayed busy, too. Add chauffeur and tutor to her list of duties.

There was a lot of rebellion from the middle 4 kids. One left home days before his 18th birthday. I dropped out of college after 2 years and rejected pretty much everything I had been taught. The next two had a lot of craziness in their lives, too. The thing is, no matter how far I went, where or how I got there, and knowing how hurt and disappointed Mom (and Dad) were, I knew they loved me. It wasn’t until years later, YEARS later, when I wrote to Mom to ask for forgiveness that I began to understand Agape love. Dad had been gone for several years, and she said this to me. “There were times when we didn’t like you” (I know it was probably most of the time) “but we never stopped loving you and praying for you.” It’s because of their examples that I have a relationship with my LORD. Their faithfulness, their forgiveness, their love and faith in the LORD Jesus Christ was the centerpiece of their lives.

That’s how God is, I think. As His children, His Creation, we hurt Him and disappoint Him, constantly. But know this. He never stops loving us. He loves you. Maybe your parents didn’t love you. Maybe they loved you enough to give you up for adoption (that’s a powerful love).

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NASB1995

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 NASB1995

Mom loved us, and Mom loved the people around her, because she knew God loved her. She showed that love to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people. She is missed by so many. Her ready smile, her refusal to complain, her ability to listen. I know the angels rejoiced when she joined them.

I’ll see her again, in heaven. Love you.

In The Storms

Michael W. Smith, in his devotional Still, writes this:

Recently when I went to the mountains, they were hidden by a thick layer of smoke from wildfires. Their beauty was concealed. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t see them! Then the next day it began to rain. The temperature suddenly dropped and the rain turned to snow. The strong winds blew the snowflakes around in heavy swirls. It looked like a blizzard in September! When the storm cleared away, the mountains were revealed in striking beauty. The smoke was gone. The trees and mountaintops were blanketed in white.
The following day, the snow melted and the green appeared. The birds sang, the creek flowed, and the sun warmed us. As the land appeared to wake from death to life, God spoke to me and awakened my heart.

What a beautiful and apt analogy of the some of the things we go through in our lives. We can be in the midst of the ‘fire’, in complete darkness and chaos in our lives, smothering in smoke and flame, thinking things can’t be any worse. We want to give up in despair and hopelessness. Then the rains come. These can be soothing, healing rains, dousing the flames and giving us hope, or it can be a deluge, causing us to feel as though the last of our hope is being washed away. Life can turn into a blizzard of confusion, where we can’t see our hand in front of our face, lost and not knowing where it is safe to step. Am I on the path, or am I about to step off a precipice?

God is there. He is with us throughout these disasters.

In a fire, even with all of their protective equipment and training, people who fight fires can get burned, sometimes badly. Fire can be deadly, even to the most well trained firefighters.

In floods, rescuers wear flotation gear and take precautions, yet some are injured or killed every year.

In blizzards and storms, in avalanches, rescuers have specialized gear and training, and still some sustain injuries and death.

The LORD God is our protection. He is our trainer. His Book provides us the training we need, and the Holy Spirit provides our protection. Learning God’s Word outfits us with our armor, the protective gear that we need to survive the attacks of the enemy.

I feel like a majority of my life has been spent in the fires and the storms of life, without a lot of calm. Many poor decisions on my part have contributed to this, and because of the long reaching consequences of some of those choices, I don’t expect that my life will ever be ‘easy’. Even knowing this, there are many opportunities for me to see the smoke clearing, the rain ceasing, and the beauty of God’s Creation. The green appears. The birds sing, the creeks flow, and the sun warms me. The land – my land, my life, wakes from apparent death to life; God speaks to me and awakens my heart to His Beauty. I may forget, momentarily, but He always reminds me.

For the last few days, my city and state have endured an historic ice storm. Thousands of trees (and consequently vehicles and houses) have been utterly crushed and destroyed. Fierce winds have broken branches and snapped telephone and electric lines. Thousands are still without power. Millions of dollars in damage. Where is the good in this? How can God possibly use this?

Even before the first 24 hours were up, people were posting on social media that they were willing and available to help anyone who needed it, to remove branches, cut down trees, carry debris to the curb. That’s the Spirit moving! Even non-Christians are caught up in it, even if they don’t understand it. What an opportunity for God’s people. In the middle of our personal storms, we have the opportunity to reach out to others and show God’s Love.

The temperature is rising, the rain is stopping, and the sun is coming out. Today will be a good day.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord , ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB1995

I don’t know God’s plans for you. I don’t even know what His plans are for me! What I do know is this. I have to rely on Him, because without Him, I am utterly and completely lost.

LOVE IS / IS NOT:

1 Corinthians 13: What is Love?

Love is not jealousy; a burning desire to have what someone else has, or resentment. Those things are an absence of love. When I have to win, and the other person has to lose, is jealousy. Resentment shows in how we respond to other’s success, just as much as how we handle our own.

Love is not bragging, boasting, or publicizing our own success/accomplishments. When we are full of arrogance and puffed up with self importance, we aren’t able to love others because all of our focus is on ourselves. Have you ever known someone who is truly humble? When someone is humble, you cannot humiliate them.

Love is not acting unbecomingly, it is not rude, or discourteous. It is kind and considerate, it is polite. Love is tactful, saying Please, thank you, excuse me. Do the little things.

Love is not self-seeking; it is not selfish. It is self sacrificing. The root of all problems is selfishness, so love is to be empty of ourselves and to look out for others over ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be provoked (i.e. irritable, sharp, prickly, touchy, grumpy, and quick to take offense), these show our failure to love. They are triggers to anger and a temperamental “blast off”, as opposed to a righteous anger or irritability (remember Jesus running the money changers and those turning His Father’s House into a place of business out of the Temple?) We must be at peace with God to prevent this.

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Don’t keep track of grudges and resentments! Love lets the past die, it absorbs the wrong. Good friends are good forgivers. Let it go. Choose to forgive. “I distinctly remember forgetting it.” – Sarah Barton, founder of the American Red Cross Ultimate forgiveness is shown by Jesus and His sacrifice. Knowing we were yet sinners, He left Heaven to die on the cross for our sins. For your sins. For my sins!

Love is not happy with sins or lies. It doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness. Love has boundaries. It is based in God’s Truth. Love doesn’t rejoice in it’s own sins. What of our entertainment choices? Our relationship choices? Are we leading other people into sin through those choices? Love supports the truth, and the TRUTH doesn’t change. It is the same today as it was yesterday or 2000 years ago, and it will be the same tomorrow, and it will still be the same in 20,000 years.

“When love is present, nothing else is needed.” Love is essential to anything I do. Without love, I’m just making noise. Remember this truth – No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. There is no real sacrifice without real love, true love, which is Agape love. This Love is produced ONLY by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, Who the church is based on. LOVE personified, the Cornerstone of the church.

Love rejoices with the truth; Love bears/carries, protects, supports, covers or shelters all. Love is everything both for us AND for others. In Genesis 9, when Noah’s sons realized their father was naked and they covered his nakedness without looking at him, that is Love. Real Love offers shelter and protection for our shortcomings and our faults without focusing on them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NASB

Love believes – not in a gullible way, and not overly suspicious or cynical. Love is encouraging. It takes the best view of people and holds on to it, for as long as it is possible. Love believes in second chances. Love remembers that God isn’t finished with us yet!

Love hopes and doesn’t give up. It has desire with expectancy and it is realistic, but in the dark days it holds hands with Hope. When you get discouraged because life is overwhelming and everything seems to be falling apart, read the end of the Book. I love reading Revelations, because we win!

Love endures and will hold on until there is absolutely no hope left. It is patient and persevering in all circumstances. Love perseveres, it holds on, it endures.

Paul is saying to the Corinthians: “What LOVE is, you are not.” Will we be like the Corinthians, without Love, or will we search Scriptures and study to be more Christ-like and loving outside of ourselves and our own selfishness?

LORD, be with us, Your people during this unprecedented time. Help us all to not just hold on to Your promises, but give us the courage to live your Love and the Truth. Amen.

References: 1 Corinthians 1:26, 29; 4:7, 4:18-19, 8:1; Philippians 2:3, 5-8; Acts 17:16; Romans 4:8; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Hebrew 10:17; Matthew 18; Romans 5:8; 1 John 5:9; Proverbs 10:12; James 5:20; 1 Peter 7; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 15:13; John 13:1

Siblings

“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” ” Luke 10:38‭-‬42 NASB

The One Thing is JESUS.

Martha, the mistress of her house, was always working. Her tasks were good, but they were keeping her from Jesus, from being with Jesus. She’s probably the older sister, used to taking charge and taking care of everything and everyone. Then we have Mary – every time she is mentioned in scripture, she is at Jesus’ feet. At the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:32), when Jesus visited (Luke 10), and when she washed His feet with perfume (John 12:3). She’s probably the baby of the family, not so concerned about housework, and concentrating on being with Jesus. She recognized that He should be her focus. Tasks, and service, aren’t bad, unless they detract from the important thing, which is Jesus. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves more focused on serving Jesus than on being with Jesus Himself. To hear and learn the Word of God is the most important thing for Christians. It should be our number one priority. “But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28 NASB

Jesus is our life giving oxygen: He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of GOD.’ ” Matthew 4:4 NASB

“ONE THING I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.” Psalms 27:4 NASB

The GOOD THING is focusing on Jesus, being devoted to Him. It will never be taken away. KNOWING Christ must come before DOING for Christ. Make time. Choose “the good meal” every day; the ONE THING that should overtake the many things. The ONE THING that is necessary for real Life.

(Thankful for Pastor Mark Hitchcock of Faith Bible Church, Edmond OK for his sermon on Mother’s Day 2020, and the outline of my blog today!)

One Man, One People, One Race

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is LORD of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ ” Acts 17:24‭-‬28 NASB

Worship the Creator

“Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 66:1‭-‬2a NASB

Who are we to question the Creator? Who is man, to build fancy buildings and claim that they are GOD’S house? How do we become so arrogant as to believe that something we put together is sufficient for Him?

I have been blessed to be able to travel some in Europe, and see some of the stunning, soaring architectural features of many cathedrals. I’ve been in the backwoods of middle America, and in the Southwestern states, and witnessed majestic churches and humble adobe ones. The awe that I felt was the same for all. Stepping into a building that is dedicated to the LORD brings a sense of worship to me. I have felt His Presence.

BUT.

I have felt the majesty of my God even more profoundly out in His Creation. Have you ever stood on the edge of a mountain at sunrise, or sunset? Have you witnessed the unspeakable grandeur of the Grand Canyon? Have you stood in a creek at daybreak, witness to His creatures waking to a new dawn? Have you been in a field, listening to His breath as it brushes across your skin? Watching clouds as they appear to boil up on the horizon, or been caught out in a summer rain shower? It amazes me that anyone can see these things, and still refuse to acknowledge our Almighty God!

For all of history, man has been trying to impress God with buildings. I’m not against church buildings. They serve a necessary purpose for the gathering together of fellow believers. It’s when we try to out-majesty the Majesty of our God that we often begin to go astray. Are we trying to impress God, or people? I’m not against pretty churches. I attend a pretty (in my opinion) church. I have enjoyed visiting God’s church buildings across the U.S. and Europe. I’m just afraid that we get too caught up, sometimes, in “going” to church. Especially now, in this weird time of social distancing and not being able to join together in our usual manner, we have the opportunity to observe God in His Creation and worship with Him there.

If you are able, take your online worship outside. Use our Savior’s beautiful creation to enhance your time. I think He will be pleased with us. Even my humble backyard is a part of His glorious world.

Moral Excellence

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” 2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7 NASB

Strive for moral excellence, knowledge of our Saviour, self control, perseverance. Live one day at a time; just for today – do the next right thing. Surround yourself with encouragers. Refuse to quit or give up on what God has called us to do with our life. Live with godliness – literally God likeness; becoming like God/ Christ. Emulate Christ, spend time with Him. Our attitude towards people shows our heart. We should be the kind of person who prays for each other, forgives each other, and is generous to others. Over all, we show love: it is our capstone; our crowning glory when we sacrifice of ourselves for the higher good. As we bask in and revel in God’s love, we can love others.

“Don’t compare me to other men, compare me to Jesus” – Adoniram Judson, missionary to India.

“For it is because of these things that the Wrath of GOD will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—” Colossians 3:6‭-‬10 NASB

I need to watch my mouth. I may not be cursing or using expletives, but I can do a lot of damage to my witness with my words. Ever hear the phrase “Don’t be a Negative Nancy”? (Yes, I know it’s my name, but it was around before I was!) I’ve been around a few “Negative Nancy’s”, and they can spoil an entire day with their attitude. As Christians, I think it’s important that we keep positive things coming out of our mouths. I need to pay more attention to what I’m saying.

Pray About Everything

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 NASB

Every time I read this verse, it strikes me.

“Anxious for nothing.”

“In everything…. let your requests be made known to God.”

“….. prayer …. supplication …. thanksgiving ….”

I’m not supposed to worry about anything. Anything. Geeze Louise, how does that work??? Not worry when the money runs out in the middle of the month? Not worry when the kids are sick, or I’m sick? Not worry about the person traveling in the snow and ice? Not worry when the boss says “You’re fired”, and you are the sole income? Not worry about that family member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol? How does that work?

“…. in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Prayer (noun): a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.

Supplication (noun): the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly. “He fell to his knees in supplication”

Solemnly, seriously, on our knees – whether literally or figuratively – ask God for help while thanking Him for the situation. The Serenity Prayer (used by many 12 Step programs) by Reinhold Niebuhr is a good place to start.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.