Monday, January 30, 2017

Why Jesus was Baptized by John

I would imagine that, of all the questions and concerns rumbling around in your mind today, this question would not be at the top of the list.  If, though, like me, you enjoy studying the Bible, it is a question worthy of consideration.

Consider baptism.  In the Baptist belief, it is an outward sign of an inward grace having been applied to the believer's heart.  It is a testimony.
Well, Jesus did not need salvation; He led a perfect life.
So....why did He ask his cousin, John the Baptist, to baptize Him?

If you will remember, John at first refused to do it.  Take a look at Matthew 3:13-17  (The Message)

13-14 Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!”
15 But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it.
16-17 The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”

Some of you will take exception to my featuring The Message version here when I hone in on verse 15.  But, check it out in other versions, if you like.

Now, the Baptist tradition I've always heard was that Jesus was setting an example for us believers to follow.  I do believe that was the case.  However, I don't believe that was the only reason He submitted to baptism.  If that were the only reason, He could have explicitly said for His disciples to "do it" (baptize and be baptized - - - they did, after all), without actually being baptized Himself.

Borrowing again heavily from the work of Biblical scholar, David W. Lowe, I believe something deeper and more spiritually transactional was going on here.  Look at Hebrews 7:18-22 (NIV).

18The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’ ”b
22Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

"The former regulation" referred to in verse 18 is the Levitical priesthood.  Is it possible that, through His baptism, Jesus was demonstrating a transfer from the Levitical (Aaronic) priesthood to the Melchizedekan?

John the Baptist was six months older than his biological cousin, Jesus.  (Mary and Elizabeth, John's mother, were cousins).  Both John and Jesus were at least 30 years old (as recorded in Luke 3:23) at Jesus' baptism, which "kicked-off" His earthly ministry.  If you go back and read Numbers 4, you will find several occasions where it is emphasized that priests had to be 30 years old before assuming their priestly duties.

John's parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were both descendants of Aaron.  Very crucial detail in the Scriptures, although it seems relatively meaningless at a first glance.  It should have been obvious that Zechariah was a descendant of Aaron; he was serving his turn as priest in the Temple when the angel appeared to him in the Holy of Holies, after all....But, what difference did it make if Elizabeth was a "daughter of Aaron"?!  NO detail of Scripture is meaningless.

During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and he had a wife named Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron.
Luke 1:5

(See also 1 Chronicles 24:10.)
The Levitical priesthood passed from father to son; therefore, John the Baptist was a true Levitical priest.
"So what?", you ask.

"For Jesus Christ to become a priest after the order of Melchizedek, and for it to succeed the Levitical priesthood, there had to be a transfer of the priesthood. For a transfer to take place, a member of both parties must be present. In this case, a member of both the former Levitical priesthood and the new Melchizedekan priesthood were present at the baptism. Notice that Jesus stated the baptism had to take place “now” in order for righteousness to be fulfilled.
The transfer of the priesthood took place in a most extraordinary fashion, after the pattern given to Moses. Under the Levitical priesthood, God set forth the example for the transfer of the priesthood from father to son with Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons. The consecration ceremony, among other things, included the following:
Lev 8:6 So Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water.
Lev 8:10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them.
Lev 8:12 He then poured some of the anointing oil on the head of Aaron and anointed him to consecrate him."1

Now, read the verses from Matthew 3 again.  We have water (water of the Jordan river).  The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, representing the anointing oil, in the presence of and with the approval of God the Father.  All three Persons of the Godhead were present and manifest at this earthly event.  That is a big deal.  On this auspicious occasion, Jesus Christ was anointed into the Melchizedekan priesthood; the transfer of the Levitical priesthood to the Melchizedekan priesthood was accomplished.

In addition, the baptism of Jesus marked a turning point in the ministry of John the Baptist. John the apostle alluded to this in his gospel account when he quoted John the Baptist testifying about who Jesus is: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)

Now that I think about it, those are "good words" for all of us who claim the name of our high priest, the High Priest of Heaven, Jesus Christ.


1    Lowe, D. W. (2005). Earthquake Resurrection: supernatural catalyst for the coming global catastrophe. ISBN: 1-4116-3970-7. Place of publication not identified: D.W. Lowe.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

He Lives On?

In our study for today we are going to ponder Hebrews 7, which continues to contrast the Melchizidekan priesthood with the Levitical priesthood.  Why does the author of Hebrews devote so much space to this?

Remember that the Hebrew audience was in peril of devolving back to strict Judaism, with a sprinkling of Jesus thrown in for good measure.  The author is making the important point that Jesus is not a condiment, but is the main course.  When Jesus came on the scene and did the work God the Father ordained Him to do, He changed everything, even down to the foundations of Judaism, even the priesthood.  He transformed worship and relationship,  from the Levitical priesthood which came through Aaron (Moses' bro) to a holy priesthood foreshadowed by Melchizedek and fulfilled by Himself (Jesus).

In a recent post, I put forth 3, well, really 4, schools of thought about Melchizedek.  I'd like to delve deeper into one of those today.  For reference, here is the post from a few days ago.  If you didn't get a chance to read it, I'd recommend you do so before proceeding:

The Bible does not tell us explicitly much detail about the Melchizedekan priesthood, other than that Jesus is our High Priest, and He is of that priestly order - - an order from which Melchizedek also was (or is) priest.  One of the (lesser well-known) schools of thought about Melchizedek is that he was/is an angelic being who took the form of a human to fulfill the role of King of Salem.  If that sounds far-fetched, hang with me.   I'm going to share here a synopsis of some serious study done by David W. Lowe1, in his ground-breaking (sorry for the obvious pun) book, Earthquake Resurrection.

Before I do that, though, go back and read the bulleted list of descriptors in the Mystery Man post (link above).

Although the Levitical priesthood was replaced by Jesus' superior priesthood, the Levitical priesthood served an important function in its day.  It is very crucial to remember that the Bible is a book of patterns and parallels, of foreshadowings, prophecies and fulfillments.  Specifically relevant to this discussion, the Temple and the Levitical priesthood were patterned after design and service in Heaven, because this is what God commanded Moses and David to do.  This was established in 1 Chronicles 24-27 and is verified in Hebrews 8:23 and 9:24-25.  Hebrews 9:23 likens the earthly representations to be how we might sketch the design of our home on a scratchpad.  Unless we were talented artists, the resulting sketch could be very similar, but still paling in comparison to the "real and actual".

Reading 1 Chronicles 24:4-5, we see that King David appointed 24 divisions of the Levitical priesthood, from both Eleazer's and Ithamar's (Aaron's sons) descendants.  Now, I invite you to go read Revelation 4 and refresh your memory as to the equally mysterious "24 elders" and "4 living creatures".  1 Peter 3:21-22 state that Jesus Christ is surrounded by different types of angelic beings as He now sits at the right hand of God.  From Revelation 4-5, a picture of the throne room of God shortly after Jesus ascended to Heaven, we see some of those angelic beings.  Because the Levitical priesthood had 24 orders of the priesthood, and was a pattern of what is in heaven, it follows that the 24 elders are a heavenly parallel of the priestly order of the 24 descendants of Eleazar and Ithamar. They serve the Melchizedekan priesthood of the high priest of heaven, Jesus Christ.2 

Is it possible/plausible that Melchizedek was a high priest before God, an angelic being of that same priestly order?  Could it be that he is in Heaven now, continuing his service to the Son of God, our great High Priest?

In the next post, we will continue to explore Hebrews by examining what this book says about the ceremony of transfer from the Levitical priesthood to the Melchizedekan.


1     @davidwlowebooks . . 

2      Lowe, D. W. (2005). Earthquake Resurrection: supernatural catalyst for the coming global catastrophe. ISBN: 1-4116-3970-7. Place of publication not identified: D.W. Lowe.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Goddess Gathering 2017

This past Saturday there was a huge march in Washington, DC, my nation's capitol.  Officially, it was called Women's March 2017.  The U.S. media have been reporting that approximately 500,000 people were in attendance.

These people, mostly American women, do not represent me and I am tired of hearing the media describe "most" American women in terms typified by the people at this march.

In America at the moment, we have a massive schism of values.  The women at Women's March 2017 for the most part represented values completely at odds with mine.  This march was a worship service...and the goddess worshipped was Self.  Self is a god or goddess, whether the worshipper is a man or woman, adored and venerated all across this land.  Self's creed is: "Me and my needs first; before every other consideration, I come first."  Self-worship was introduced into this world by Satan, the enemy of men's and women's souls.
Every person alive worships something or someone.

I am a Christian woman.
My highest allegiance is to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ,
and only to Him.
Because of this, the Holy Bible is my life-book, my authority on all moral matters concerning this life.
If the Bible says it, I believe it; and, that settles it.
Best choice and best decision I ever made.

Jesus Christ is the source of my freedom.  Freedom doesn't come from a march or even through a voting booth.  Freedom flows from the worship of the only true God, who sets people's souls free. And, if Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed.

There are times the Bible is difficult, requiring self-sacrifice.
There are times because of my beliefs I am ridiculed.  This world's Self-fueled culture is hostile to me.
However, because Christ Jesus is my Anchor, I am unmoved by criticism from those who worship lesser gods.

My goal in this life is to glorify my Savior.
Often that takes the form of sacrificial love for others, because that is what Jesus did.
I was given by God a godly husband.  He is the head of our home just as Jesus Christ is the head of His Church.
My husband treats me with love, as the Bible commands.  (It is not always easy, I assure you.)
I honor him as the Head of our Home, having no problem with him holding that God-ordained position.
This does not make me weak or subservient.  It brings joy and order to our home as we serve each other while serving our Savior.
God gave us two wonderful sons.
It has been my honor and privilege to model Jesus in front of them for over 20 years.  Nothing gives a Christian mother more joy than to see her children walking in faith with the Lord Jesus.

I am intelligent and well-educated, with three college degrees.  God blessed me with an outstanding career and with a vibrant ministry, in which I remain engaged with the aim of giving God ALL the glory.

Since that day I yielded my soul to Jesus, as my Savior and Lord,  I have had one supreme desire - - to be like Jesus, no matter what it takes.  Despite this, I have had some devastating times and made some stupid moves.  Even Christians who long to follow Jesus sometimes get blindsided, step in a huge pothole or just make horrible decisions. Through those times, Jesus Christ has held me, taught me, shaped me and sustained me.  I am grateful for everything I have been through because it has brought me closer to Him.

I am writing this and making this testimony to say that the lies Satan tells you are merely that --- lies, counterfeit joy, devious deceptions --- which will bring only heartache, loneliness, grief and despair. A woman can violate her body by killing her child and scream from the rooftops that she is a "nasty woman".  But, in her heart she knows the truth.  She was made for more than this.  She is a precious soul created by a loving God.  But, she has lost her way.

I am here to tell you that no woman or man is "too far gone" as long as breath is in the body.  It is not too late.  Redemption waits for you at the feet of Jesus Christ.  Don't swallow the lies of the enemy of your soul.  He, Satan, only wants to devour you, to destroy you, to prevent you from seeing the truth that will lead you to salvation.  Turn to Him...Jesus, the lover of your soul.  He will show you the way.

Matthew 11:28-30  (The Message)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Forgiveness, restoration, eternal peace and eternal rest are available both now, right now, and forever.
He waits for you.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mystery Man

Cruising around Facebook this morning I saw a post that made me LOL - - - well, one of several, actually.  A single, young woman had posted a pic of a chocolate dude.  I don't mean a black man.  I mean chocolate shaped into the shape of a man, ok?  Her comment was that she had found the perfect man because he was "sweet and decadently rich"...

Well, the "man of the day" 'round here is not @POTUS or @VP (their official "new" Twitter handles).   Instead, he is somewhat of a "mystery man".

The scriptural texts for today are Hebrews 5:10, Hebrews 7:1-10, Psalm 110:4 and Genesis 14:18-20. My strong suggestion is that you open some tabs on your browser to those texts (or your physical Bible, whichever you'd prefer).

The writer of Hebrews is said to have crafted a beautiful sermon in the Greek language, which helps me not one iota from the standpoint of my not knowing Greek.  A lot of the beauty is lost in translation.  The result is that what an English-speaker sees is that the writer keeps cycling back to the major themes hammered home in the book/sermon.  In this specific case, in Hebrews 5:10, it is first asserted that Jesus Christ is a high priest "after the order of Melchizedek".  Without further elaboration, the author cycles back to this in chapter 7.

The author was writing to Christian believers who were in danger of devolving back to Old Testament ritualistic, Levitical practices and beliefs, due to the intense persecution they were receiving (Hebrews 10:32-34).  His purpose was to elaborate on this extremely crucial function of the Lord then (and in our present day), but also to show how Jesus and His Way are leagues apart (way different) from how things operated in the Old Testament.  The recipients of Hebrews were in danger of turning back from following Jesus because they did not have a clear picture of who He was/is. Many if not all of them never met Jesus "in the flesh".  In that respect they were in the same boat we are in today, which makes this teaching crucial not only to them but to us as well.

Ok, then.  So, who was this Melchizedek?
The story begins in Genesis 14:1 and continues through 15:1, after Abraham was returning from a battle in which he killed several kings of the area.  The King of Sodom and the King of Salem (Melchizedek) both met him in the Valley of Kings (14:17).  One blessed Abraham, and the other "wanted a piece of" Abraham.  One represents God's benevolent love (Melchizedek's bread and wine were echoed at The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30) and are a type of the body and blood of Christ, while the other represents Satan's desire to "have us".  Abraham chose well.  He refused the offers of the King of Sodom, but accepted the blessings of the King of Salem (Melchizedek), going even beyond that to give Melchizedek 1/10 of everything in his possession.

There are essentially 3 approaches to identifying this "mystery man".

1.  The Traditional Jewish Approach
Because the patriarch Shem (one of Noah's 3 sons, the firstborn) was an old man at this point in Abraham's life, the traditional interpretation is that he was the king of Salem (Jerusalem) at that time. It is an interesting interpretation; you can read more about it here, if you are so inclined:
We must read with discernment what we find on the Internet.  The scriptures never say, for instance, that the King of Sodom brought Abraham to the King of Salem.

2.  The Typological Approach  (Figurative Interpretation)
Scaring you with the big words, ain't I?  :)
What is a "type" in the Bible, first of all?   It is important to understand this, as types fill the Bible.
In biblical study, a type refers to an Old Testament person, practice, or ceremony that has a counterpart, an antitype, in the New Testament. In that sense types are predictive. The type pictures, or prefigures, the antitype. The type, though it is historical, real, and of God, is nonetheless imperfect and temporary. The antitype, on the other hand, is perfect and eternal. The study of types and antitypes is called, as one might expect, typology.

In this way of thinking, then, Melchizedek was a human man about whom little is known, hence the mysterious references to him having no mother or father, no beginning or end, etc.  (Hebrews 7:3). Such a lack of information on the "man", Melchizedek, in the remainder of Scripture would, therefore, be purposeful.1

A "sub-set" of the typological approach is an alternative interpretation that, while Melchizedek was a real being who "reigned" over Salem (forerunner of Jerusalem), he was a supernatural (angelic) being.  This would explain the non-human attributes given in Hebrews 7.  More elaboration will be given to that explanation as we look at the author of Hebrews' exposition contrasting the Levitical priesthood with the Melchizedekan.

3.   The Theophany Approach (Literal Interpretation)
As a general rule, I believe it is always best to interpret Scripture literally, unless it is patently obvious that a more figurative interpretation is required.   Many Bible scholars believe Melchizedek was a Christophany.  (The two terms "theophany" and "Christophany" are essentially interchangeable, as anytime God took on human form to interact with men/women in the O.T., you have a Christophany.) I used "Christophany" here, though, because of the heavy linkages made in Hebrews between Jesus and Melchizedek.
Those who argue for this literal interpretation3, (that God took on human form to appear to Moses, to bless him and to receive his tithes), point to the descriptors in Hebrews 7 to defend their position.

1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

If the writer of Hebrews is being literal here, then what human in Scripture ---

  • is called King of Peace


  • is called King of Righteousness


  • is called a priest of the Most High God (the first time priesthood has been mentioned in the Bible)


  • blessed Abraham (John 8:58)


  • has no mother or father or genealogy


  • has no beginning nor end of life


  • resembles the Son of God


  • continues as a priest forever

A mystery?  Depends on your point of view.  There are no other explicitly recorded priests "after the order of Melchizedek" except, well, Melchizedek and Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament is full of instances where God "came down" to appear to an O.T. character.  Here are a few references:2(again)
From Genesis:
11:5, 12:7-9, 16:7-14, 18:1-33, 22:11-18, 32:22-30
From Exodus:
3:2-4:17, 24:9-11 and 16-18, 33:9, 34:5
Numbers 11:25 and 12:5
Deuteronomy 31:14-15
Judges 5:23
2 Kings 19:35
And, finally in the N.T. - - - Matthew 1:23, when God revealed Himself to us by putting on flesh in the form of the infant God-King, Jesus.

We serve a mysterious God, yet One who desires for us to know Him.  Hallelujah!

The whole point of the Hebrews passage is to illustrate that Jesus Christ both fulfilled, far exceeded and replaced the Levitical priesthood and system to which the struggling, first-century Hebrew Christians longed to return.  This theme of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ is further developed later in the book of Hebrews, and I look forward to exploring it with you in further posts.



Friday, January 20, 2017

An American Celebration

20Daniel said,
         “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
         For wisdom and power belong to Him.

21“It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
         He removes kings and establishes kings;
         He gives wisdom to wise men
         And knowledge to men of understanding.

22“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
         He knows what is in the darkness,
         And the light dwells with Him.
Daniel 2:20-22

I don't know what you have planned today, but I plan to spend part of this God-given day of life to watch the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States.  It will be the first one I have ever had the privilege of watching live.  Why?  I was working full-time during the preceding presidents' inaugural events.

I won't be watching because I am a huge fan of our new president.  He was not my first, second or even third choice in the Republican presidential primary.  Mr. Trump won't be a "perfect president", nor do I expect him to be. The best I can say about today's change of power is that I am "cautiously optimistic".

Instead, I will be watching and celebrating because I am a huge fan of The American Experiment1, as some (most notably Alexis de Toqueville) have called our country.  I believe that the founding principles which made this nation the foremost nation of the world are timeless and God-given. Indeed, if you closely examine the major components of our American legal system you will find parallel after parallel to the Hebrew Law in the Old Testament, even though over the last 75 years "Progressives" have governed us away from that bedrock foundation.

I'm also a huge fan of God, whom I believe to have ordained the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.  This sovereign act on God's part does not guarantee approval of the man or even that Trump was the best candidate running.  It merely affirms that God works His sovereign will among us and that He answers prayer.

While writing this post (true confession!) I have the TV on.  Rev. Franklin Graham just walked down the steps to the viewing area where he will be sitting during the swearing in ceremony.  In 2016, this man held non-partisan prayer rallies on the steps of the Capitol buildings of every, single one of the 50 United States.  He advocated a return to the Judeo-Christian principles on which this country was founded.

I was one among many millions of Christians praying fervently regarding the outcome of this election and, even though Mr. Trump was not my candidate of choice, I do believe that God heard those many millions of prayers and answered.  Certainly, Mr. Trump was not the answer all of us Americans wanted, but this was His answer nonetheless.

It is imperative that, as Christians, we avoid the temptation to put our trust in a man (or woman), whomever is elected.  It is our civic responsibility and our Christian duty to plunge in and get involved in local, state and national politics.  Yes, it is a nasty business much of the time; but, to do otherwise is to shirk our responsibility and to revile this magnificent gift of American government our God has given to us.  No, this pursuit, this passionate involvement, should never eclipse or take the place of spreading the gospel.  Never!  Likewise, we should not "fall for" the specious argument that "God and politics don't mix".  VP Pence said it well when he declared (and I paraphrase) "God first. Family Second. Country third."

Our trust is in God, who gave us eternal life through Jesus Christ the one and only Savior. (Acts 4:12) Our confidence is in Him, the only wise God, who left Heaven to live among us and who died to redeem us from the slavery of our sin.  Our trust is in the Lord of Angel Armies (El Shabbaot) who ordained the founding of America and who will continue to use her in the progression of His divine plan for this fallen world.

We must continue to pray and work, for the spread of the gospel "from sea to shining sea" and around the world.  We must pray for a Holy Ghost revival in our country which, at present, appears to be drifting more and more into an ungodly mess. (May righteousness fall down like rain!)  We must continue to engage our often godless worldly culture with a love that is grounded in truth and in timeless principles - - - principles of faith, holy living and sound government.  We must do this in the face of unpopularity, even as we find ourselves increasingly in the minority in America. Finally, today, we must celebrate this peaceful transition of governmental power as a good thing - - - as the outgoing leader of the free world affirms and blesses by his presence the incoming leader of the free world.

Here's a bit of patriotic musical inspiration!

God bless America!



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A New "Old Friend"

Recently, our "second car" came to the end of its long life.  We had had the 2003 Honda Pilot for almost 14 years and had driven it over 270,000 miles.  It was more than an old friend; it was like a member of the family. Our family vehicle that preceded the Pilot was a Toyota van, which we drove for over 240,000 miles and kept for over 10 years.  The Honda Accord prior to that I drove for over 10 years.  I'm currently in year 6 with the family's "best car"...  Hubster also has a dilapidated 1987 Chevy truck which he drives only around town. You get the picture.  We drive the fool out of them.

Well, when the Honda gave up the ghost last week we were in a quandary.  Son #2 had been driving the Pilot, for the most part, sharing it with his dad.  There were many times when we were using all 3 of the previously described vehicles.  So, what to do?  We truly were not ready to let the Pilot go, but had no choice.  It could not be resurrected without spending way more than it was worth.  Son 2 and Hubster were grieving; they loved that Pilot!  Between the three of us, we had been out looking at used and new vehicles within a 60-mile radius, with no satisfaction.

This afternoon was such an occasion.  Hubster and I went up the road a ways, to two dealerships.  On the way home I was feeling very discouraged.  What on earth were we going to do?  Both of us had prayed hard over the car/truck purchase and had asked our Christian friends to pray as well.  Yet, it seemed God was silent.

We had put on our blinker to turn onto our little road when Hubster looked in the rear view mirror to see .... the Pilot's TWIN!  Yes!  It was a 2003 Pilot, same color as our old one.  And, lo and behold? There was a "For Sale" sign in the back window!  "FOLLOW THAT CAR!", I yelled, as cars were zooming by us on the right.  Hubster managed to collect himself and off we went, in hot pursuit. Finally, although there was a car between us, I managed to read the phone number in the rear window.  The owner answered, soon pulled over into a nearby parking lot and allowed us to inspect her car.

It is not as spit-shiny as our former friend.  (After all, Hubster babied that SUV.) Needs a paint job. But, with some TLC, it should serve us well until we are well-and-truly "empty-nesters".

I keep thinking of "gratitude", my theme for this year.  What are the chances an almost-identical vehicle to the one we lost would simply...happen by?  Almost zilch!  We look at it as a miracle of provision from Jehovah-Jireh, our God who Provides.  Not only that, but He cares about His children's every need.  We are SO grateful!

Jehovah-Jireh is one of the many Old Testament names for God.  Literally translated "God Will Provide", it appears first in Genesis 22:14, when Jehovah-Jireh God provided the ram caught in the brambles, an animal which Abraham then sacrificed in place of his son, Isaac.  In that story, God provided a substitute.  Today, God provided not only a replacement, but exactly what we had been seeking.

Jehovah-Jireh is a name of God that contains promise.  It encompasses the love of a Father God who enjoys giving good gifts to His children.  The story of Abraham, Isaac and the ram foreshadows the sacrifice of God's Son, the Lamb of God, for us on a hill called Calvary.  Again, and forever, God provided ... Jehovah-Jireh.  Hallelujah!

In Him, our Savior, God the Father gave us all manner of blessings, starting with our miraculous, eternal salvation.  He always provides exactly what we need, even if we think we don't need it, or think we need something else.  Then, there are other glorious times when He gives us exactly what we ask for, sometimes in ways that defy human explanation. He's a good, good Father!  Hubster and I give our Jehovah-Jireh all the glory for His sweet provision today!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Charlie, Abraham and the Everyday Believer

Our family dog's name is Charlie, and he is dreadfully spoiled.  But, regardless, he came to mind as I meditated on Hebrews 6:14-15, considering the example of Abraham.

14saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.

The writer of Hebrews cites Abraham as an exemplar of the virtue of patience in that he, Abraham, waited patiently for the promise of God (The Abrahamic Covenant) to be fulfilled in his life.

Here's how it goes with Charlie.  If he wants something from us, he sits and stares at us steadily.  A legion of strutting Prussians could march through the room and Charlie would be undeterred.  His gaze is fixed on what he desires from us.  Even though we have not formally covenanted with him to feed him and tend to his bathroom needs, we have created a high expectation that we will do so, based on our past care of him.  He fully believes and trusts that he will get what he needs (and often what he wants as well.  Did I mention he is well-cared for?  That is putting it mildly.)

So are we (well-cared for by God), although we often forget it and descend into fretfulness.
Or, at least, I do.  I've come to realize that my patience is short-lived.  :) . It's pretty good in the short term, but not very durable over the long haul.  Charlie, my dog, has more faith and patience than I do, at times.

I had a Christian friend years ago who said that, in prayer, she often reminded God of His promises, as they are laid out in Scripture.  Did God need reminding?  Is He forgetful?  Does he REQUIRE reminding?  Of course not!  In saying that, this woman was exercising her own faith in God.  She was reminding HERSELF of the promises of God.

As a Christian, I long for the fulfillment of this Hebrews 6:14 promise in my life.  I want to receive all of the spiritual blessings God will bestow. Why?  Because, I long for Him to multiply my influence in the lives of others, for the spread of the gospel, for the advancement of His kingdom. There are seasons when that seems to be happening and seasons when it seems to be languishing....or even dead.

But, I know that God is a good, good Father.  No matter .... marching Prussians or what ... I need to keep my focus on Him.  Because....... He wants to do this, to answer this prayer, to fulfill His promise, in the life of every Everyday Believer, if we will yield our wills to His.  No, He may not make our physical offspring as numerous as the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17).  That promise was specific to Father Abraham (who had many sons...many sons had Father Abraham...)1 But, He does long to make our spiritual offspring more numerous than we can even imagine!
So, I am waiting on obtain that precious promise.  It burns in my heart like an eternal flame.

How about you?  Are you waiting for something from God, not something trivial or frivolous (James 4:3), but rather something that will unleash in you the full joy He offers?  If it is a scriptural promise or holy desire, keep your eyes glued to Him (Hebrews 12:2).  Don't waver in your prayerful expectation. The word "patience" is translated "endurance" in some versions.  As time goes on, patience feels more like endurance, doesn't it?

Remember these verses when you begin to fret:

29So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about such things. 30For all the nations of the world pursue these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, pursue his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12:29-32

15The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.

Psalm 145:15-21



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Are You Standing Still?

Recently I found myself disappointed by someone in whom I had trusted.  Ever been there?  And, conversely, I know that there are many times in my own life walk when I have let another person down.  It is a characteristic of humans that we are in a constant state of change and development. This is true of us all, Christian or non-Christian.  As Christians, we are all either growing closer to God, through Jesus Christ, or we are back-sliding.  There is no standing still.   By contrast, unbelievers are moving farther and farther away from God's salvation, or God's Spirit is drawing them to Himself in order for them to become saved.  Again, there is no standing still.

Why am I talking about this?  Because God is not that way!  God, The Unflickering Flame (James 1:17), never changes.  His holiness, His love, His mercy, His justice...all of His perfect attributes are unwavering.  The writer of Hebrews affirms this in today's scripture passage.

13For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15And thus Abraham,b having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Verse 13 refers to the Abrahamic Covenant, as it is often called - - - that promise God made to Abraham to the effect that he would become the father of many nations, that his descendants would be as the grains of sand in the desert.  And, God has kept that promise over these many thousands of years since Abraham's day.  Abraham, through Ishmael, became the progenitor of all Arab peoples; through Isaac, he became the father of the Hebrew people.

Interestingly, the One who had absolutely no need to swear for emphasis, did so.  Finding no one greater than Himself, He swore BY Himself that He would keep His promise.  He did this for mankind's sake, a creation with limited ability to comprehend changelessness.  We spiritual chameleons find His immutability, His changelessness, as difficult to embrace and understand as we do His other awesome characteristics.

By His character and by His oath, by these two things, God is emphasizing that it is impossible for Him to lie, whether about His promise to Abraham OR about the work He accomplished on our behalf through Jesus Christ, the Son.

When we find ourselves disappointed what do we do?  We find refuge in something or in someone, do we not?  Some seek refuge in drugs, others in promiscuous behavior.  Others in foods which trigger the soothing centers of the brain.  

Verse 18 depicts believers who run to and find their refuge in God's changeless promises, in that God who cannot lie, will never disappoint, is "the same, yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).  It is in this section that the author begins to weave into his sermon the theme of Jesus Christ, our High Priest.

When we run to God in our time of need, we do so because of His sure promises that cannot fail. Still, here is an important point.  Even though this turning to, running to God is a type of perseverance, it is clear that the Holy Spirit living within us enables us to persevere in such a manner.  
Why is this an important distinction?  I overheard an elder Christian tell a younger believer the other day that he was going to just have to "suck it up" and "tough it out".  The implication is that the younger person was just going to have to work himself up to get things back on track.  But, clearly, that is not the Christian way.  "Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow"1 are not found within our own sinful natures.  Consequently, trying to achieve that in our own strength is hopeless.

Cockerill2 puts it like this, having just referred to Abraham as a godly example:  
"Provision for that perseverance is made certain, as it was for Abraham, through the faithfulness of God, which has now been fulfilled in the high priesthood of Christ.  Thus awakened, the hearers are ready to grasp that priesthood and its benefits as the ONLY means of perseverance." {emphasis mine}

In Hebrews 11, the author circles back to this theme of faith-based perseverance, as he lists "the roll call of faith".

What is it about Jesus Christ's current ministry as our high priest that makes this promise of refuge and perseverance so very exciting?  We will take a deeper look at that in upcoming posts.


2      Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition, p. 280. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Expired Items

For the third day straight, I will probably not leave my house.  This is due to continued icing on the roads in the local area.  Stir-craziness has arrived!  Over the past few days, while stranded, I have straightened my pantry, labored to match up orphan socks, and re-organized the laundry room. Apparently, friends of mine have done similar things.  One of them, dear friends, posted on Facebook that they had found in their pantry a box of Jello with a "Use by..." date of 2004.  That box of gelatin has lived in four states and survived at least 3 household moves.

While I laughed my head off, I realized that, if I went through my own kitchen pantry with such scrutiny I'd also find some "expired items".

Our study of Hebrews continues with these verses from Hebrews 6.

10For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints. 11But we passionately want each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of your hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises.

Also pertinent to this topic are these verses from Philippians 3:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.

Expired Items --- if we are honest with ourselves we all have them.  Because of things that happened in our past, we tend to lug with us into the future things that have "expired", outlived their usefulness, and are weighing us down.

Last week I had a disappointment, which I won't share here.  It was not a crippling loss, but a loss nonetheless. Now, that situation is an "expired item".  I need to learn from it what God has for me, be grateful for the lesson, and then toss that Jello.  No need to drag it around with me any further.

Clarification: when I speak of "expired items", I'm not talking about huge, devastating life events. Those are things we need to work through by the grace of God and by hanging on Him for dear life. Those take time, often lots of time, to process and move on from, most certainly.  Some things are so major, they are with us all our lives.  Others, perhaps, later on, could become expired items, just not until God is finished with them in our lives.  As we move through them, we lean into Him and let Him bear those heavy burdens.

In today's crazy illustration, it was not grandma's heirloom pie safe the family moved across 4 states; it was a box of Jello, for goodness' sake!

But, see, these "little things" can add up over time, if we hang onto them beyond their expiration dates.  They then become distractions and unnecessary hindrances in our forward spiritual progress, to which we are exhorted in the two scripture passages for today.

Periodically, we all ought to "search our pantries" and when confronted by those expired items - - - chuck 'em - - - with eagerness, so that we may fulfill our hope until the end! (Heb. 6:11)

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Beautiful Life

At present, it is snowing here in the Deep South.  We don't get a lot of snow, but we usually do get some the first week or so of January.  I am snug and warm, and for that, as well as for many other gifts I'll share in this post, I am grateful.

Earlier this week word came that a family friend, a man I've known all my life, from my "home church", had suddenly died.  Mother, who told me, also relayed that she, my sister and I had been asked to sing at his service.  My sister lives near me, relatively speaking (sorry...couldn't resist).  We both arranged to attend and pay our respects, leaving from my house yesterday afternoon.  In the meantime my mother had texted, to ask if I could sing the bass part on a requested song.  "No, mother, I can do a lot of things, but not that..."  She said she'd ask cousin Robert to help.  "Ok."  It was about this time she informed me I would be playing piano for the funeral too....  "Ok."

We arrived just after six, when the six to eight o'clock viewing had begun.  Our friends are a very small family - - the father, an invalid mother, one middle-aged daughter and the mother's one sister. Lately, due to the mother's extended illness all of them have "had their hands full".  They all live in their respective homes on "family land" and do their part.  No one expected the father, who had faithfully fed his wife the meals she ate for the past two years, to "pass" before she did.

After the viewing we went to the local pizza place to get a late dinner.  With my mom, sister and me went my brother and his wife.  We had a great time, just talking.  Their son recently announced his engagement and will be getting married, hopefully, sometime this year.  We reminisced about other weddings of mother's grandchildren.  My brother had been at our house yesterday to repair one of our ailing heating systems; the news is not good there.  We enjoyed our pizzas and then headed to mama's.

We were supposed to meet my cousin, Robert, after dinner; he arrived in short-order.  We practiced a few minutes, after which we spent the next couple of hours just sitting in "the music room" - - talking and "catching up" on how various relatives are doing these days.  We had not had a chance to just sit and talk with him, in ages.

This morning we got up with our minds on the weather and on doing an honorable job at the service for our long-time friend.  We were to sing two songs, the one we practiced last night with our cousin and one more, which we had to select.  My sister said she could not sing anything in an altered key unless she sang lead.  We bargained and negotiated and finally defaulted to "Amazing Grace", always appropriate.

The funeral was at to be at 2:00, with the bad weather to start at our houses (almost 2 hours away) by mid afternoon.  So, we were leery ... but resolute.  About mid-morning we headed to town to do some shopping.  The man who had bought a local mom-and-pop (in this case just Pop) department store before I was born had died recently, way up into his nineties.  At his store today we encountered the  two elderly women who worked for him ... for nearly 60 years.  Surviving him (obviously) they are overseeing the selling off of the store's remaining goods.  He had no children, no apparent heirs.  The end of an era in my hometown...
After we picked up a few things and told the ladies "good-bye", we walked next door to the local diner for lunch, keeping a watchful eye on the TV, which featured wall-to-wall weather reports.

Upon arriving at the funeral home we got our stuff together; and, as soon as the first guest arrived in the chapel, I began to play.  Now this was a curious thing:  as I listened to the first minister, I thought about how few folks my age still have the privilege of hearing two of the three preachers whose ministries they sat under during the years they were a child and youth?!  What a joy!

The first pastor I ever remember was the first one to speak today.  He still preaches occasionally and also hosts the morning show on the local radio station, the one my elderly aunt (and family) still own and manage. (By the way, my aunt still plays the organ at First Baptist - - - after 60+ years in that position.  But, that's another blog post.)

The second minister was the one who came to our church when I was about 14.  In fact, I was appointed to the pastor search committee that brought him to our little, country church.  I can't imagine why they chose me for that ... honor.   In my self-centeredness and immaturity this teenage "church organist" just had one question for our only candidate:  "If a musician has prepared an offertory, should she get to finish it if the ushers have quickly finished collecting the offering?"  He replied, "Absolutely!"  And, that sealed the deal for me.

Well, after a few years as our bi-vocational pastor - - the only kind our little church has ever had - - he moved on from that pastorate.  But, he didn't move on from the community.  He and his wife had put down roots there, and stay there they did, living for 35 years in my grandaddy's homeplace. Over the decades he became "closer than a brother" to the man whose funeral he preached today.  In fact, his voice broke as he eulogized him.

This might be a good time to mention the title of the other song we sang today: "A Beautiful Life", which was also the theme of that second minister-friend's remarks.  The man we remembered today was not a celebrity.  He was not famous or wealthy.  He was a good, kind, honorable, Christian farmer who loved his Jesus, his friends and family as well as the family of God with whom he fellowshipped and worshipped.  He was a deacon, Sunday School teacher and humble friend, who "walked the walk".  By the grace of God, he lived "a beautiful life".  Now, (praise God!), he is in his heavenly home...safely home with his Savior, forever.

And, by the grace of God, the weather held off until we made it safely, late this afternoon, to our earthly homes.
This life with Jesus, who stretches out His arms and invites us to come to Him, walk with Him, become like Him ...yes, it IS a beautiful life.  A life that, filled with joys and sorrows, will lead to a sinless eternity with the One we love, the One who loves us the most.

How beautiful is that?!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tasting, Seeing, Taking

Have you ever heard that expression, "not one iota!"  It is an English expression commonly used to indicate "not even the tiniest bit".  The word, "iota", is a Greek term, which refers to a single Greek letter.  Here is how the expression came to be:1

There was a religious teacher, claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ, named Arius, who was from Alexandria, Egypt, and lived in the fourth century.  Arius began to teach doctrine which denied the Trinity of God.  In other words, he taught that God manifested himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but that each of these were not distinct Persons.  He also taught that the Father created the Son.  His basis for this hinged on one Greek letter - - - that's right, the iota, in the word homoiousious.  Arius claimed that the "i" was not there and that the more correct word should be homoousious.  The first Greek word, the one with the iota, means "of the same essence"; the second means "of similar essence".  Big difference.  The former is God's truth; the second is apostasy.

Hebrews 6:4-12 is today's text. (ESV)

4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.7For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
9Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Arius was an apostate.  Apostasy can be defined as this: revolt, abandonment or defection from faith. It generally takes two forms.

1.  The first is an open rejection of Jesus Christ.  This is the person described in today's scriptures, someone who has heard the gospel and perhaps even mimicked the Christian walk for a time.  But, the seed of the gospel, God's truth, never truly took root in their hearts. (We see this described in Mark 4:4-7.)  Instead, the seed died and the person ultimately rejected Christ.  If you talk to people like this they can say all the right things.  They can tell you how to receive Christ, how to live the Christian life, etc.  They KNOW the truth, but they have not received it into their hearts.  And, the dire warning of Hebrews 6 is that, chances are, barring a supernatural intervention from the Holy Spirit, they never will.
This describes SO many Americans and helps to explain why we have not had a major revival in this nation in generations.  Americans have had tremendous exposure to the gospel.... and said, "no, thanks, we prefer other gods".
I think of how many millions around this globe who have NEVER heard the gospel! How they long to hear it!  And, then there are those who have been blessed to hear, but whose response has been a slap in the face of God Almighty.

2.  The second is the person who hears and who then insidiously masquerades as a Christian while convincingly teaching false doctrine, leading people away from the truth, away from true salvation, teaching them to embrace a fake Jesus.  These are difficult to identify, without spiritual discernment.   Arius was one such apostate.

Some use this passage as proof that those who have been transformed by the holy, incomparable power of the Holy Spirit to eternal salvation can somehow walk away from that.  Note that verse 4 says "tasted".  That word (Greek: geusamenous) draws an important distinction.  It only occurs in Scripture in Hebrews 6:4-5.

I think about the first (and only) time I tried a cigarette.  (Don't tell my mama now, lol!)  My daddy was a big smoker, from age 9, and I loved him so!  When I was 13 or so I determined to try to discover what all the fuss was about smoking.  So, I secreted myself in the pink bathroom, after pilfering one of daddy's smokes, lit up, and inhaled.  "GROSS!"  Coughing, gagging, sputtering....I doused that foul thing with water, flushed the evidence and never went near those things again.

I had tasted a cigarette.  I did not become, nor do I have ANY desire to become "a smoker".  I had "tasted" and given that disgusting item a resounding "NO".

By contrast, when I met Jesus, I tasted and the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see that "the Lord is good"!  I then, "drank Jesus in" (vs. 7).  Now that I think back, the Lord gave me that verse when I awoke this morning, me not consciously aware that I'd be studying this Hebrews passage today....isn't He wonderful!  The verse is from Psalm 34:8.  Here it is in its entirety (ESV).

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

You see?  The believer not only tastes.  He or she then sees.  And, finally, he or she takes.
That's the difference between a believer and an apostate.  The author of Hebrews gives this warning in verses 4-8 because it is impossible in this life to definitively separate the "wheat" from the "tares" (weeds) in any community of believers.  (See Matthew 14:24-30.)  But, God sees and God knows who are His.



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Healthiest Emotion

Happy New Year!

I love this post-Christmas season, truly.  It is a quiet time, when the earth continues to sleep, resting and rejuvenating in preparation for spring.  Things look dead, but they aren't.  In a few short weeks, the Earth will once again "spring" to life, giving evidence by the beautiful, bright green shoots of vegetation.  For now, though, quiet and rest.

Do you know what I was doing on New Year's Eve?  Well, first I got my nails done.  Sitting on one side of me was a lovely lady my age, with whom I had a conversation about cooking turnip greens. My MIL taught me how to cook them so that they are not bitter.  I'm grateful for that lesson because turnip greens are, hands down, the Hubster's favorite vegetable.  I hope this stranger tried my recipe; she would not regret it.
On the other side was a beautiful younger woman.  We had a conversation about the New Year's Eve parties she was scheduled to attend.  She told me that the first party she was headed to was at her church and then rhapsodized about how much she loves it.  She spoke of the mission trips she has taken and how much the Lord means to her.  How refreshing to interact with a young sister in the Lord, one who so obviously loves Him!  I'm grateful for her and the encouragement God gave me through our "chance meeting".

Zig Ziglar calls gratitude "the healthiest emotion".1  Bob Jones, Sr., said it like this:  "The loveliest flower that blooms in the garden of the heart is the flower of gratitude; and, when gratitude dies on the altar of a man's heart, he is well-nigh gone"2  ("close to hopeless" would be a more modern rendering).  

As I move into 2017 I am grateful for so many things....but not nearly grateful enough.
So, this year, I want to be more grateful, cultivate more gratitude in my garden, because I believe that gratitude grows a believer's faith in God.  

When you can't control the perilous situation.....
When you are (like my precious sister in Christ) getting your bone marrow transplant today....
When you are in tremendous physical pain.....
When your marriage is over and you surely did not want that....
When your children are far, far from God with no apparent hope of return...
When you have lost your job and are consumed by fear for your financial future....
When you are excruciatingly lonely and know one sees.....
        choose to be grateful for God's grace and that He is with you 100% in the middle of it.

Did you know that the Greek word for grace (charis) and the word for gratitude (eucharistian) have the same root?  That is why the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:15 that, as God through us extends His grace to more and more people, our gratitude should be increased accordingly.  As we allow God to use us in ministry, to further His kingdom, His grace should flood our lives!  His grace is the engine that powers our gratitude.

Gratitude is a genuine heart-attitude toward one who has given us a good, often-undeserved gift. It doesn't come naturally to us humans!  (Every parent has learned that by watching the sin nature unfold in his or her own child!)  Gratitude is an emotion that goes hand-in-hand with grace. The Bible says "every good and perfect gift" comes down to us from the Father of Lights, that is, God (James 1:17).  But, what about those "gifts" we don't perceive as "good"?

"It's all good", when you are God's own child (Ephesians 5:20).  He is the perfect Father, who allows nothing to touch us that is not a part of His plan.  Even when life seems to "stink", even when we suffer for His sake, His love never wavers.  The latter part of James 1:17 emphasizes that God, as the Father of Lights, does not waver as a candle flickers.  His light is constant, as is His love for His own.  His grace never fails, is unending.

We can have not only confidence in this...we can choose and receive gratitude in this, a Holy Spirit-driven gratitude that soothes the troubled heart and nourishes our soul.