Friday, February 26, 2010

XXOOX with love from Me to you (by Carolyn)

This week as I prepared for the blog, I reflected on the week gone by and asked myself three questions: What have I learned about the nature of God? How did I learn it? How do I apply it? At first, random thoughts raced through my mind, but then, suddenly one thought focused me. Does this happen to you? How do you categorize the lessons of your faith? Let's discuss it!

Judy and I are taking a class through the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. We are studying I Corinthians this semester. It's an excellent class for a number of reasons; the subject matter is divine, the teacher is outstanding, the students are passionate and serious, and come prepared to learn about and discuss the Word of God.

This week we completed an assignment in which we were supposed to read through the book and write a one page report on something that spoke to us as we read. Chapter 15 leaped out at me as if it were written just for me. God was my teacher through Paul's pen. Paul disappeared as I read what God dictated.

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. "
I Corinthians 15:12-19

If this were the case, we'd be fools! But, it is not. The opposite is true. What would it say if it were a positive statement? "It has been preached that Christ has been raised from the dead. Therefore, there is a resurrection of the dead. If there is a resurrection of the dead, then Christ has been raised. And if Christ has been raised then our preaching is useful and so is our faith. More than that, we are truthful witnesses about God, for we have testified that God raised Christ from the dead. He did raise Him and He has been raised. If the dead are raised, then Christ has been raised too. And if Christ has been raised, our faith is substantiated and true; we are forgiven our sins in Christ. Those of us who have fallen asleep in Christ are found. Our hope in Christ is from now to eternity and we are to be envied above all men."

This Scripture impresses me! I learned it by carefully reading it over and over and thinking hard about it. God is logical. He is practical. He is thorough. He is persuasive, persistent and determined. "Come now," He says, "Let us reason together." (Isaiah 1:18) There is no doubt what is being said. Christ was raised from the dead and we with Him. God wrote this Bible. He says what He means and He means what He says. It is evidence I need to believe the Gospel truth, follow it, and tell others. God wrote this book not only so that we will know how to live this life His way for the best life possible in spite of our temporary trials and tribulations, but also to woo us and win us to Himself. It is His love letter to us thoroughly punctuated with hugs and kisses. Imagine that!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Year of the Tiger (by Judy)

My son, his wife, and three precious grandchildren live in Shanghai, which is a challenge because they are so far away. It is also a blessing, for it gives me a world perspective, and it means I get to travel to that amazing country once a year.

Last week we received a thick envelope from them, with a beautiful Hallmark card inside, wishing us a happy Chinese new year – the Year of the Tiger. My first thought was admiration for Hallmark, and their alertness in recognizing every marketing opportunity around the world. But my attention was quickly diverted to the wonderful photograph on the front of the card. As you can see, five little tigers are front and center.

I then began to think about tigers. Now let me ask you a question – quick – when you hear the word “tiger” what comes to mind? Got your list? I started with William Blake’s “Tiger, tiger, burning bright,” which Miss Yarrington made us memorize in sixth grade. Then of course for my generation, there was Exxon’s “Put a tiger in your tank,” and Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger growling, “They’re gre-e-a-a-t!” Interesting that the tiger is so visible in advertisements. Why, I wonder?

I thought about that beautiful animal who is noble, filled with grace as he quietly walks the jungle with padded feet., moving easily, rarely taken by surprise. What can we Christians learn from this magnificent example of God’s creativity? Well, the Bible cautions us to be alert, be on guard, be watchful, be vigilant, think clearly, stay focused – lest we get caught in a trap laid by the evil one, or a trap of our own making.

Now to see William Blake’s poetic recognition of God’s hand in the creation of the tiger, check this link -… and Happy New Year!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trapped! by Carolyn

If it wasn't clear before, it sure is now, that members of our political parties are having trouble getting along with one another. Does that mean we must have trouble too? How does a Christian discuss politics, remain civil and calm, and yet, stay loyal to her ideals, or happily compromise without feeling weakened? How can we avoid the pitfalls of a political trap so that we don't have to chew off our own legs getting out? Answer: Don't fall in!

Let's see what Jesus did when this happened to Him. The Scripture comes from Matthew 22: 15-21.

"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in His words. They sent their disciples to Him along with their Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know You are a man of integrity and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because You pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is Your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought Him a denarius, and He asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then He said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." When they heard this, they were amazed so they left him and went away."

Every one of us has probably been in a situation like this. You can feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Your palms sweat. Your heart beats a little faster. Maybe your tummy churns. You know you are about to be drawn into a debate you don't want to have. Or, perhaps the opposite is true. You are sure you can persuade some people to your point of view, and most people agree with you anyway because you are right. It's so obvious! Are we Pharisees setting the trap? Or are we going to do as Jesus said and give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's?

Jesus immediately recognized the Pharisees' motives were evil. He says so. When a conversation begins to escalate, no matter which role you are playing, quickly examine your motives. 'If I participate in this can I do so respectfully?' If it is obvious that, like Jesus, you are being set up with flattery, or are setting someone up by asking a controversial, or provocative question, should you proceed? If you so, are you prepared to take responsibility for your words before they are spoken? Can you control your emotions? Are you being respectful?

If you answer yes, prayerfully, then perhaps you are ready. But if you answer no, and sense danger, or blood, then this might be an excellent time to take Jesus' advice and give God what is God's. The coin belonged to Caesar. It had Caesar's portrait on it. Caesar minted it (or printed it) and Caesar can take it back.

But Christians have dual citizenship. "Give unto God what is God's." Rather than being dragged into or dragging someone into a debate anyone can have about this world, what about calling on your other citizenship and rendering unto Him what is His? "Go and make disciples of all nations."

Jesus calls upon His children to give to their government. We are obliged to participate. We should want to participate and be grateful that we are able to do so. But, are we fulfilling our responsibility to God by insisting our politics are right, or by spending too much of His time defending our own points of view? It's all about balance. Have we given more to one than the other? Like all of us, I need to think about that.