Vacation Agendas

grandcanyon On the Road Again
Dust off the suitcase, Martha! It’s time to plan the vacation! Vacation trips would come more often in our family if it wasn’t for the expense. Such wonderful experiences occur while traveling to distant locations. Only limited funds force us to be pretty creative in summer vacationing and I’m sure that’s the normal for most families. It’s also true you can’t follow the same route as last year and expect to arrive at a new location. Equally true, if a change is needed in lifestyle habits, you can’t keep making the same choices and expect different results. When weary of unsatisfactory consequences in life, a change in direction is in order. You have to know where you are headed spiritually in order to get there!
A most rewarding vacation took us to the Grand Canyon. Instead of the most popular viewing location, we chose the north rim; less commercialized and wow, we were glad. No crowds, lots of places to pull over and roam the area and picture opportunities galore! But this less traveled route was hard to map and a long dry spell of no gas stations or fast food restaurants complicated the planning. Perhaps this is what Jesus was implying when He explained we need to count the cost before committing to our spiritual walk. The rewards of a faithful walk with God are many, but there are costs involved that may not be seen at first glance.
A story of a rich young man Jesus encountered on one of His trips to Jerusalem is a good example. The rich man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. (He evidently knew where he wanted to go) Jesus repeated some of the rules the Jewish people were accustomed to following and the young man proudly stated he had kept ALL these rules. A deeper look into his heart showed Jesus his love of riches for He stated, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.’ (Luke 18:22) The man’s actions leave no doubt to his disappointment, ‘But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.’ (v. 23)
Paul went one step further. He counted all things worthless – ‘Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ,’ (Philippians 3:8) I don’t think the point is for us to give up all things, but we certainly need to be ready to do just that, if Jesus Christ asks us to make sacrifices in our lifestyle.
It stands to reason if we want to experience everlasting life in heaven, we’d better study the route and be ready to follow directions. For those professing Christians who shun attendance at a house of worship or fail to read God’s word with regularity, I wonder if they have counted the cost. This is not a casual thing, this born-again, rebirth experience, not a vacation trip but a life-journey. Let’s get serious about following the teachings of the New Testament in order to reach heaven. Jesus said it best, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) and ‘If anyone desires to come with Me, let him take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ (Luke 9:23)

The Greatest Story Ever Told

img1949004     Suppose you could take out magic glasses and see way back into the past – before electricity, before the invention of the wheel?  Well, you can.  Just open the Bible and read with eyes and minds ready to be amazed at what unfolds.  Listen to the telling of the story of God’s great love for His greatest creation, the human heart.

Our story begins shrouded in darkness and chaos.  A great and powerful Creator steps onto the stage and with the breath of His mouth, with words rolling from His tongue He creates everything necessary to sustain life – for God always provides before there is an awareness of the need.  (Genesis 1-2) His most beautiful Garden of Eden welcomed the perfect couple formed by His own hands and here’s the unbelievable part, God actually looked forward to times of strolling through the gardens with His newly created friends – until they sinned.  As children often do, they did the very thing God asked them not to do.  They disobeyed their Creator and God.  (Genesis 3) Thus began the distance a perfect, holy God must put between Himself and sin.  He separated Himself from His creation and expelled them from His garden.

But He had an ultimate plan!  Ages and eons pass.  Restoring this relationship was His greatest desire; He truly wanted to have lasting relationships with His creation.  Sacrifices tinged with blood tried to administer a band aide upon the weeping wound of mankind, but the wound was too great and mankind too frail.  With quiet resolve, Creator God activated His grand plan and sent His own Son to pay for the wrongs of mankind, to pay the debt with a final and ultimate sacrifice that no one else could provide.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Darkness covered the face of the earth again as God turned His back on His own Son hanging on a rugged cross while He shouldered the sins of the world.  But a mere three days later, not just physical sunlight bathed the dark world, but Son-light pierced the darkness of man’s heart and birthed a new creation, a spiritual renovation of a fleshly house that now could hold a small part of the great Holy Spirit.  To believe in the work Jesus Christ did on the cross, to accept His plan of salvation would grant life to the deadness of mankind.  “If we confess with the mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we can be saved for with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation!” (Romans 10:9-10)

     The story does not end here; the story continues far into the future where those spiritual glasses can see the works of God and behold His glory just by opening His Bible and reading for ourselves.  His invitation is not limited to an elite few, but open to all of mankind if we will read His story and follow His teaching.  Won’t you join me in the quest to find not only peace on earth, but everlasting favor and love for all eternity?

Pleasing God? Or People?

2015 002 How much of life is lived with the goal of pleasing others? I might warn you, it’s a dangerous game. I’ve struggled with this goal. And when I fail to gain approval, or heaven forbid receive disapproval, I am consumed with regret. What might I have done differently? I am so grateful of the Bible’s teaching that God loves me INSPITE of my inability to be perfect; He loves me regardless of my shortcomings.
Psychologists say this stems from a lack of self-worth from childhood. I’m not sure I believe that. The oldest of five, from babysitting to housework, I did it all and received a fair amount of praise from my parents. As an adult, from processing mountains of computer information to managing a medical clinic, I’ve been successful. Therefore, is it possible that God has placed within the human heart the desire to please Him, but we get sidetracked striving to please others around us? I’ve found a good example in the man Daniel and his story in our Bible.
When a teenager, Daniel was captured by invading forces and taken from his homeland in Jerusalem. Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar desired all the smart, strong, and handsome Hebrew youth be trained in his language and culture so they could serve him. Daniel and three of his friends excelled in every way and eventually, after deliverance from a fiery furnace, were promoted to positions of leadership. Daniel’s ability to explain mysterious dreams impressed more than one king in Babylon. “Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.” (Daniel 6:3)
Yet, while doing right, Daniel didn’t please everyone. Jealousy reared its ugly head as other governors tried to find fault with him, but no fault could be found in Daniel’s leadership. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (6:5) Daniel’s faithful adherence to the teachings of his God, even his pattern of prayer was so constant, they would have to design a way to trap him within his faith. And they did.
The perfect plan was to condemn anyone to the lion’s den if they dared to petition any other god (other than King Darius) for 30 days. So the decree was established and STILL Daniel knelt and prayed to his God. Soon, the accusers assembled before the king with a charge against Daniel and a broken hearted king commanded Daniel cast into the lion’s den. A sleepless night lay ahead for the king because he cared for his friend Daniel. Hear his call “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions?” (6:20)
If you are familiar with the story, you know God DID deliver Daniel. Even though Daniel did not please all the people all the time, he remained faithful (doing the right thing) and in the end, God established Daniel. We may walk through some periods of fiery trials; times when people don’t approve, but as we remain faithful to God, He will stand for us. If you are walking through a tough time, remain faithful to God’s precepts and strive to please Him first.

Respect the Fence

 

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Respect the Sign

On a recent walk down the lane near my home, I noticed a sign tacked up to a tree. The sign was old and rusty looking, obviously a resident of the tree trunk for some time. It read ‘No Trespassing’ and I knew instantly what that meant. No Trespassing! Regardless of it being old, never mind it was rusted, I could still read the words and I knew exactly what it meant. My mind recalled a Bible verse I had read that morning. Regardless of the age of the Bible, never mind that it no longer is in popular demand, I know the powerful truth of God’s word and age nor people’s disregard of the precious writings will cause me to ignore the truth of its teaching.

People say the Bible is full of restrictions. Perhaps we should take another look at restrictions and determine whether they are bad – or good? Take fences, for example. Fences were first invented to keep something OUT instead of IN the confined space. When the Wild West began to be tamed, ranchers were losing cattle to collisions with new-fangled motorized vehicles. As long as horses and wagons remained the means of getting to town, cattle were not in danger, but once model T’s began cutting across vast rolling hillsides and valleys where large herds of cattle roamed unhindered, ranchers searched for ways to limit vehicles from driving recklessly across their pastures.

God is basically like the ranchers; He wants to protect His children from collisions with wild things. Exodus 20 is filled with fences God has designed for our protection. When God said, “Don’t steal,” He was protecting us from the law and from years in a prison cell. God said, “Honor your Father and Mother,” because He wanted to bring peaceful relationships to the home. The Bible teaches to avoid sex outside of the marriage relationship. That’s to protect us from sexual diseases or the fury of a jealous partner. So why would we be angry with God just because He has put a few restrictions upon us? Are we so eager to have what we desire that we throw caution to the wind risking much for a few moments of pleasure? Could it be that in the simple act of waiting or withholding what we desire the most, we could find the elusive state of contentment?

A popular phrase with Hubby is ‘less is more’. At first I thought He wanted to restrict my purchases, but now I’m convinced his boundaries are a protection, not a restriction. He wants our home to be content with what we have, to be satisfied with what God has provided for us and not to over-extend our budget. In essence, he is building a fence around our finances to protect us from financial stress. Pretty smart.

The next time you feel deprived of some pleasure or longed for item, stop to consider the benefit of living within the guidelines of God’s word. You’ll find many of His restrictions are not written to cause limitation, but to bring protection. His ‘no trespassing’ signs are simply love notes written to protect and preserve the quality of our lives.

“Because of the LORD’S faithful love, we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is YOUR faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24) Trust Him!