Archive for » April, 2008 «

April 27th, 2008 | Author:

[Note: This is a message I shared with my church on April 27, 2008.]

My main scripture this morning is very short, and by God’s grace, it will mean more to us when I’m done than it does right now: 2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

When I think about what Jesus saved me from, I usually think of the gravity and the multitude of my sins. Remember, I lived for 39 years before I committed my life to Him, and you can do a lot of serious sinning in 39 years. Because of that, one of the passages that I claim as my own is from Luke 7, starting in verse 44:

And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.’

So if I seem fanatical sometimes about Jesus, it’s because I know how much I have been forgiven. As a side note, I recently read that the new-ager Oprah is promoting these days, Eckhart Tolle, said that all those who have a rigid belief system reflect a “collective mental illness.”[1] So I guess I’m going out in a straightjacket.

Since I was saved from 39 years of sins, though, about fourteen years ago now, I have been perfect and have not sinned. No? Well, okay. Maybe I sinned a couple times, but they were little ones and nothing that would really need forgiveness. No? You’re right. Or as the kids would say, “Not!” The truth is, whether it was before I was saved, or after I was saved, I have sinned every single day of my life. “Whoa,” you say, “she must really be a tough case!” That may be true — but so are all of you. Maybe you haven’t done what I’ve done, but maybe, over the years, we’ve all gotten a little complacent about some sin, because we know we’ve been forgiven, or maybe we’ve even gotten a little smug and self-righteous, because we’ve been serving the Lord. God, however, has provided some verses that will get us back to His perspective:

· Genesis 6 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”[2]
· Psalms 53 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.[3]
· Isaiah 64 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.[4]
· Romans 3 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[5]
· Romans 7 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. [6]
· 1 John 1 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.[7]

So we’re all sinners. Every day of our lives on this earth, we need the forgiveness that Jesus bought for us on the cross. When we talk of salvation, that’s usually what we mean. Jesus saved us from our sins.

While that’s true, and I may have more reason to be grateful than most, I’d like to make a distinction this morning between Jesus saving us from our sins, and Jesus saving us from the consequences of our sins. What happens when we accept the gift of salvation? What happens when we don’t?

Here on earth, people who don’t have the gift of salvation are ruled by their flesh, and Galatians 5 tells us this:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.[8]

In contrast, those who have received the gift of salvation have the Holy Spirit, and

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.[9]

I think that’s a good summary. If we accept the gift of salvation that Jesus Christ offers us, we gain the fruit of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t accept His precious gift, we live by the deeds of the flesh. Pretty clear consequences.

But what about after our earthly lives? What happens when these temporary bodies are dead? I’ve gone to Revelation for the answer to these questions.

For those who have received the gift of salvation, chapter 7 says this:

These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.[10]

I can’t imagine much better than that. By the same token, I can’t imagine much worse than what follows, starting in Revelation 5.

And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him; and he went out conquering, and to conquer. And when He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. And when He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” And I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.” And when He broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” And I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. And authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also. And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”[11]

It gets much worse with the seventh seal and the seven trumpets, and eventually the lake of fire, but I’m going to stop now, because I want to make sure you picked up on what is causing all this mayhem on earth: the wrath of the Lamb. Listen again:

“Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”

Our gentle Jesus, our loving and compassionate God, will someday take the earth out of the hands of evil men, and bring justice for all the pain and suffering we have caused.

“VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.[12]

But now, gratefully, I return to our first, simple scripture for the day:

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift![13]
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
[14]
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
[15]

This is the choice that God puts before the whole world: We can humble ourselves and accept His indescribable gift of salvation, which brings us the fruit of the Spirit, white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, and Jesus as our shepherd forevermore …

… or we can reject the gift of salvation, live on this earth following our fleshly desires — and someday suffer the unendurable wrath of the Lamb.
To me, that seems like a pretty simple choice: the gift of God — or the wrath of God. As a result, today I’m passing out gift certificates — gift certificates from Jesus. I encourage you all to read them and pray, while we listen to a song about The Gift. Even if you’ve done this before, today I encourage you to recommit your life to our Lord and Savior.

[Note: This gift certificate may be downloaded from the column on the right.]

Benediction:

May we all walk in the fruit of the Spirit, in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. By the grace of God, may we all don white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, and worship Jesus as our shepherd forevermore. Amen.

[1] Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D., April 7, 2008, NewsWithViews.com
[2] Genesis 6:5-7
[3] Psalms 53:2-3
[4] Isaiah 64:6
[5] Romans 3:21-23
[6] Romans 7:18-19
[7] 1 John 1:8
[8] Galatians 5:19-21
[9] Galatians 5:22-23
[10] Revelation 7:14-17
[11] Revelation 5:14-6:17
[12] Romans 12:19
[13] 2 Corinthians 9:15
[14] 2 Corinthians 9:15
[15] 2 Corinthians 9:15

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Category: Christianity, sermon  | Comments off
April 25th, 2008 | Author:

A report has been released to AP that evaluated Homeland Security’s plan to require employers to fire employees who can’t resolve mismatches between their name and social security number. The focus, of course, is on money. Based on Homeland Security’s own numbers, the report estimates this plan will cost employers $1 billion a year in administrative costs, a healthy chunk of change.

More staggering, it estimates lost wages between $8 billion and $37 billion, based again on Homeland Security’s own numbers of 37,000 to 137,000 people unable to get work. If you’re a hardnose, you might say, “So what? If the illegals can’t work, maybe they’ll go back home.” But these numbers, my friends, are not about illegal workers. They are about the 2% of legal workers they estimate would be unable to get errors corrected.

To me, that is mind-numbing. Two out of a hundred people, here legally, willing to work, won’t be able to support their families because we build in bureaucratic ineptitude? Up to 137,000 people? And this is acceptable?

Would it be acceptable if 2 of every 100 people were tossed in jail because the IRS made a mistake on their tax returns? Would it be acceptable if 2 of every 100 people had their home seized because the local tax authority didn’t credit their property tax payments?

Have you ever been caught in the bureaucratic nightmare of government when a mistake has been made? I have. When my daughter was born, I laid in a hospital bed and told them what my name was to put on my daughter’s birth certificate. Sometime between then and when I received her birth certificate in the mail six weeks later, they got my middle initial wrong. Not a major issue, but this was my first child and I wanted it right.

I called the hospital and they directed me to the proper state of New York department. I called Albany. They directed me to the local county office. I called the county. They said I needed to bring in my birth certificate, fill out sixteen tons of forms, and then they could correct my daughter’s birth certificate. It never made any sense to me that I could lay in a hospital bed and say anything I wanted, but to change it, they needed to see my birth certificate. But I went along.

When I got to the county office, I showed them all the papers and they grudgingly acknowledged that I had provided what they wanted. They scooped it all up and said, “Six weeks.” I said, “Wait, I want my birth certificate back.” They said, “We have to send it to Albany with the paperwork.” I said, “You told me you just needed to see it. Can’t you tell Albany that you saw it?” They wouldn’t budge, of course, saying I would get it back with my daughter’s new certificate.

The bottom line to this story? I never got my birth certificate back. Thirty-plus years later, it still languishes someplace in a dusty file in Albany. Meanwhile, I had to go to another government office and pay for another copy of my own birth certificate – after giving them sixteen more tons of paperwork.

All this cost me a little money, a lot of time, and serious amounts of aggravation. It did not, however, take away my right to work. I did not have to decide between welfare, working illegally, or burglary in order to feed my family.

The last I knew, the US Bill of Rights says that the federal government could not deprive any person of the right to life, liberty, or property, which includes the right to work, without due process of law. It does not say that 2% of people may be deprived because of bureaucratic ineptitude.

The Bush administration has trampled way too many of our rights since 9/11. This is one more that simply goes too far.

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Category: Big Brother, Bush, libertarian  | Comments off
April 24th, 2008 | Author:

In criticizing the US mandate for ethanol and the effects it would have on world food markets, the following quote appeared in an op-ed piece on March 29, 2007:

“More than 3 billion people in the world are being condemned to a premature death from hunger and thirst.”

Who said it? I’m gonna let you think about that for a minute, so the answer is below.

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Give up? Fidel Castro, in Granma, the official Cuban Communist Party newspaper. Now, I’m not advocating communism, and the article I got this from points out that the statement is somewhat hypocritical coming from a master of torture, death, and exile, but still …

God can speak through donkeys.

So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab. But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.”
(Numbers 22:21-33)

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April 22nd, 2008 | Author:

And why are you anxious about clothing?
Observe how the lilies of the field grow;
they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet I say to you that even Solomon
in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.
But if God so arrays the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace,
will He not much more do so for you,
O men of little faith?
Matthew 6:28-30

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April 15th, 2008 | Author:

Sleep is a very precious commodity when you have fibromyalgia, because it reduces pain the next day, so I am a bit miffed that it got interrupted last night. Sometime after 4 am, I was awakened by a very loud roaring noise. Yelling, “Oh, God!” I untangled myself from the blankets and stumbled to the top of the stairs.

I stood there, trying to make sense of the dim light I saw below. Then the dim light in my brain clicked on, and I realized I was looking down at my vacuum cleaner – which was running. As I processed this, the dog came to my side from the other room. Nope, she didn’t do it.

I made my way downstairs, fumbled around a bit, and turned it off. Blessed silence. I went back upstairs. Nope, my husband was still in bed, snoring his way through all this.

As I climbed back into bed and snuggled under the blankets, I wondered, “Who had turned on the vacuum cleaner?” The only options I came up with were a poltergeist or a large rodent, neither one of which deserved my attention at 4 whatever – so I went back to sleep.

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