Saturday, November 16, 2013

An attitude of gratitude



It's November again, and that means Thanksgiving will be coming soon.  The first American Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims in 1621 to give thanks for a great harvest.  The Pilgrims also invited their Native American friends, who helped them plant corn to survive. President George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide Thanksgiving in 1789.  In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that all the states celebrate Thanksgiving on the same date.  Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday in November until 1941, when President Theodore Roosevelt changed the date to the fourth Thursday in November. People still gather together and eat lots of good food on Thanksgiving. 

If you’re on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen the posts that people have been putting on their walls every day since November 1 saying what they’re thankful for on that day.  There is even a Facebook page called Thanksgiving.  I would suggest, however, that we should be thankful not only one month out of the year, but every day.


The Apostle Paul is our inspiration for everyday thankfulness.  In Ephesians 5:20, Paul says: "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." You will notice Paul didn't give to give thanks sometimes or when you feel like it, or just for some things, but to give thanks always for all things. 

In Colossians 3:17, Paul says:  "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." So we are to give thanks to God in whatever we do.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says: "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  Not only are we to give thanks, it is the will of God in Christ Jesus to do so.

Even in prayer, we should be thankful.  In Phillippians 4:6-7, Paul says: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  I once heard someone say,“What if God only gave us tomorrow what we were thankful for today?”  That’s a sobering thought, to be sure.

Not only should we be thankful for what God has given us and for the things that happen in our lives, we should also thank others.  The words “thank you” should be a part of our daily vocabulary. Anyone who does anything for us should be thanked – the cashier at the coffee shop, the mail carrier, the worker in the drive thru at McDonald's, etc. Thanking someone for a service they provide just might make someone's day.  It's a good example to set for your children as well. 

So remember when you're sitting down to your Thanksgiving feast to be thankful not just that day, but every day.  I hope you'll be spending Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I hope it's a great one!

Diane

P.S.:  For more information about the history of Thankgiving, both the American and Canadian versions, go to this link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hold your tongue



The tongue is an important part of the mouth.  It helps us swallow food, it helps us to speak and sometimes, it tells us of diseases that we didn’t know we had.  The tongue helps us in the physical act of drinking fluids.  The tongue tells the brain about the flavor and the temperature of food and drink through the nervous system. 

We also use our tongues as a means of expression. Miley Cyrus uses her tongue to twerk, which, in my opinion, is not at all attractive.  Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss used to pose for photos with his long tongue sticking out of his mouth.  We stick our tongue out at others to  express our disdain, and this is known as giving someone “the raspberry.” 

My husband and I are attending a weekly study on a book titled “How to Resolve 7 Deadly Stresses.”  Last week’s chapter was about what we say and how it affects ourselves and others.  I thought I would do a study on the tongue and how we should speak.  Let’s look at some of the verses in the Bible that talk about the tongue. 

Luke 6:45 reads:  "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."  Matthew 15:19 says:  "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." The tongue appears to have a mind of its own, doesn’t it? Bus as these Scriptures state, the heart is the brain of the tongue when it comes to speaking instead of the actual brain itself.  So what’s in your heart?  Is it full of love for Jesus and for others?  Or is it full of hate, prejudice, and anger?  Is your heart full or sorrow or full of joy?  Proverbs 15:4 states: "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, But perverseness in it breaks the spirit."

Psalm 64:3 states, "Who [the wicked - vs. 2] sharpen their tongue like a sword, And bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words."  You can wound a person with your tongue, if not more, than with a knife or a sword.  Physical wounds will heal eventually, but the psychological wounds left by a piercing tongue can last for decades. The phrases “You’re ugly,” “You’re fat,”  “You’re stupid,” and other ugly names people call us can simmer in our hearts for a long time and we actually believe that we are what other people say we are, because if they say it, it must be true.  I know it is, because I have gone through this myself.  I was teased mercilessly as a child.  The only way I broke the hold those negative phrases had on me was when I asked Jesus to come into my life and He made me a new creation. It took a while, but eventually, all those negative thoughts went away as I grew in my faith and learned to trust in Christ. 

In his epistle, James has a lot to say about the tongue.  In James 3:5-10, he says:  "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.  But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so."   If we truly love God, we should love the people He created, in His own image no less.  If we love people. we will not curse them or say bad things about them.  To love God but curse men is a real contradiction. 

Sometimes we speak without thinking, otherwise known as not engaging your brain (or your heart, as mentioned above) before engaging your tongue.  This can get you into a lot of trouble, and possibly cause you to sin as well.  Leviticus 5:4 states:  "Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatever it is that a man may pronounce by an oath, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty in any of these matters."

I hope this study has helped you as it has helped me.  To summarize, keep your heart pure and clean and full of love for God and others so that you will not curse or say bad things to or about others.  Think before you speak so you do not sin.   Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane 

Friday, August 9, 2013

The face of Jesus



When I was a young girl, I had a mad crush on guys like David Cassidy, Davy Jones, and the Bay City Rollers.  When my daughter was that age, the Backstreet Boys were all the rage.  Now the little girls squeal over Justin Bieber.  Stay with me now – I'm going somewhere with this. 

Have you ever stopped to think about the depictions of Jesus with pale skin (a/k/a Caucasian) with blue eyes and either blond or light brown wavy hair?  (See the picture above.) They make Him look like a dreamy pop star.  The artists obviously didn’t read Isaiah 53:2(b):  He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.   

In other words, Jesus was a plain Joe, like most of the rest of us.  He didn’t look like a pop star.  Since the human part of Jesus was Jewish, He had an olive complexion, brown eyes and brown or black hair. Interestingly, Popular Mechanics magazine published an article a few years ago titled "The Real Face of Jesus," describing how forensic anthropologists had taken what was known about Jesus and the time and area where He lived and reconstructed what they thought He might have looked like.  They came up with this:



Personally, I think this was what the apostle Peter might have looked like, maybe because this depiction looks like James Farentino, who played Peter in the Jesus of Nazareth TV mini-series. 

Since there was no photography back in Jesus’ time and the Jews were not supposed to have graven images (see Exodus 20:4, KJV), how did the artists know what Jesus looked like in order to depict Him?  Did the European artists use themselves as models to paint Him?  An interesting theory is found in the book The Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical and Archeological Evidence by Mark Antonacci, which is about the Shroud of Turin. Antonacci reports that starting in the 6th century, the Shroud was folded in such a way that only the part of the cloth depicting the face was shown and artists copied the face on the Shroud (then known as the Mandylion) to paint portraits of Jesus. 

Let's look at Isaiah 52:3(b) again.  “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” Per dictionary.com, the definition of "comeliness" means pleasing in appearance; attractive; fair.  Jesus' holiness attracted people and not His looks.  We are not to have a crush on Jesus like we do on a pop star.  God doesn't want us to love Jesus because He was cute.  He wants us to love Jesus because He made the ultimate sacrifice for us by dying on the cross for our sins.  We are to love Jesus because He is our Savior and Redeemer and the Son of God. 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane

Bibliography:

Mark Antonacci, The Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical and Archeological Evidence (2000), M. Evans and Company, Chapter Seven, "The History of the Shroud of Turin,"  p. 132-133.  Note: Even if you don't agree that the Shroud of Turin is Jesus' burial cloth (the author makes a great argument that it is), the history of how the Shroud got from place to place and ended up in Turin is interesting in and of itself. 

"The Real Face of Jesus" by Mike Fillon, Popular Mechanics, December 7, 2002, http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/forensics/1282186

Monday, June 17, 2013

Jesus Christ, Superman

WARNING:  If you have not yet seen Man of Steel, stop right now, bookmark this post and come back after you've seen the movie. There are spoilers below. 

Our Saturday morning local paper had an article about the allegory between Jesus and Superman.  It was intriguing. I would post a link to this story, but it was picked up from another newspaper, so it wasn't on the newspaper website.  I did find some other articles, and I'll post the links at the end of this blog post. 

Our family went to see Man of Steel over the weekend. I decided to see if I saw the allegories that the article mentioned.  I found even more allegories than those mentioned in the article.

The Kryptonian surname "El" means God in Hebrew.  Clark's Kryptonian name, Kal-El, means "voice of God" or "vessel of God" in Hebrew.  As Moses' mother sends Moses down the Nile in a basket made of reeds to save him, Jor-El (God the Father) sends Kal-El (God the Son) to Earth in a spaceship so that he will live. Jor-El even says about Kal-El, "He will be as a god to them."  Interestingly, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, were Jewish. 

Like Jesus, Clark had two fathers, a heavenly father and an earthly father. While roaming in Alaska, Clark ends up in the Fortress of Solitude, which is not referred to as such, but those familiar with the Superman story will recognize it.  Jor-El appears to his son as a ghost (Holy Spirit) and tells his son of his destiny. Lois Lane follows Clark into the Fortress and a Kryptonian robot attacks Lois.  Clark heals her with his laser vision, and Jesus healed the sick in the Gospels. 

Zod shows up with his minions and wants to conquer Earth.  Clark is unsure as to what to do. He goes into a church to talk to a priest.  During this scene, Clark is standing next to a stained glass window depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd. That was an allegory that couldn't be missed!


Superman gave himself up to Zod to save mankind.  Jesus died on the cross to save the world from sin. Superman was 33 years old and Jesus was 33 when He was crucified. And the epic battle between Zod and Superman reminded me of the battle of good and evil. And of course, good always wins. 

Did you see the movie and see any Superman-Jesus references I missed?  Please post them below.  As promised, here are the links to the articles:

From Breibart.com:  http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Hollywood/2013/06/15/Man-of-steelfilled-with-christ-references
From Fox News:  http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/06/14/man-steel-filled-with-jesus-christianity-references/
From Metro (warning: some language here):  http://metro.co.uk/2013/06/11/man-of-steel-the-top-20-reasons-why-superman-is-jesus-3837465/
From First Post:  http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/movie-review-man-of-steel-an-attempt-to-create-a-modern-jesus-christ-873371.html

Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Grow in the Son light

Our family recently returned from a vacation in Branson, Missouri, which is located in the Ozark Mountains. "Mountains" is a misnomer, since none of the large hills are the height of mountains.  These hills are covered with tall, lovely trees.  From a distance, the hills look like they're carpeted with trees, and I half expect to see Paul Bunyan and the Big Blue Ox to come strolling through.   They are beautiful and I love to see them every year. 

The two major highways that take you to Branson from St. Louis, Hwy. 44 and Hwy. 65, were made by carving through several of these tree covered hills.  As we drove through these hills, I looked at the trees up close and noticed that the trees were only green at the tops.  The trunks were mostly bare, and the ground was rocky without much vegetation. There isn't much vegetation on the ground of the balds because the trees are so crowded together that not much sunlight or water reaches the ground.  As you may remember from biology class, plants need sunlight and water to grow. 

The hills that look great from a distance reminds me of many megachurches today.  They look great from the outside and on the surface - large, fancy buildings, entertaining music, sermons with fancy PowerPoint presentations, but these churches are so large that there isn't a lot of fellowship or encouragement to grow in Christ.

The trees with the leaves only at the top reminded me of some Christians who are only Christians on the surface.  They go to church on Sunday and talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.  They act good in church on Sunday, but live for the world the rest of the week. When these "surface Christians" are in churches where pastors exhort them to read their Bibles more and have a deeper relationship with the Lord, what do they do?  They leave those churches and find churches that preach what they want to hear, to satisfy their itching ears.

Jesus had those kinds of folks to deal with too - the scribes and the Pharisees. On the outside, they were all good and followed the Law to the nth degree. But on the inside, they were full of darkness.  Jesus called them hypocrites, as in the following passage from Matthew 23:27:  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness." The Pharisees didn't like being called hypocrites. 

Jesus is not satisfied with us just spending time with Him on Sunday morning and not during the rest of the week.  He wants us to spend time with Him by immersing ourselves in His Word and spending time in prayer. That's how we get to know Jesus.  Jesus wants a close, personal relationship with us.  We need the water of the Word to help us grow.  We need the light of the Son to help us grow. We need to be rooted in love, as in Ephesians 3:17: "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love. . ."

So dear reader, examine yourself.  Do you have a deep, growing relationship with Christ?  Do you spend time reading your Bible daily and immersing yourself in His Word?  Do you spend time in prayer?  It's not too late to start.  Don't be a "surface Christian."

If you're reading this and you haven't repented of your sins and received Jesus as your Savior, it's not too late.  Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with you, but you have to reach out to Him.  All you have to do is ask. “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” - Romans 10:9-10, NKJV

That's all for now! Thanks for reading.  See you next time!

Diane

Monday, April 22, 2013

Garbage in, garbage out

In Matthew 15, the Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples didn't wash their hands before they ate.  Now the Pharisees weren't talking about normal hand washing, like we do today before we eat.  The Pharisees had a ceremonial way to wash their hands and evidently the disciples' method of hand washing wasn't the "right way."

After answering their question with a question about parental support, Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites.  The Pharisees criticized the disciples for not following tradition, but they encouraged people to break one of the Ten Commandments by not honoring their parents.  Jesus gathered all the people to Him and told them that the food they ate did not defile them (thereby making all food clean), but what came out of their mouth did defile them.

Peter asked Jesus what He meant.  Here's what it says in Matthew 15:16-20 (all Scriptures NJKV unless otherwise referenced): "So Jesus said, 'Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,  blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.'"

Things haven't changed since Jesus' time - people still have evil thoughts; they still commit murder, adultery, and fornication (i.e., sex outside the marital relationship); they still steal and lie; and they still use the Lord's name as a swear word.  Jesus used food as a way to explain what He meant since that was the easiest way for the people to understand, but I believe if He were walking the earth now, He would use TV shows, movies, books, popular music and magazines to make His point.

Just look at what TV shows, books, etc. the world follows.  They have lots of violence, sex, curse words, homosexual relationships, sexual relationships outside of marriage, etc. When people watch or read this stuff, it influences their behavior.  Take a look at the behavior of the world around us - there is lots of violence, crime, and bad behavior.  In more modern terminology, garbage in, garbage out. 

One of the first things I noticed about my husband after he got saved is that he stopped watching certain shows on TV because they were too raunchy.  When we get saved, our tastes in music, TV shows, books, magazines, etc. should change.  The desire to follow what the world follows should disappear. Paul gives us excellent instruction in Philippians 4:8 - "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." If we meditate and think about only good things, the bad things will hold no appeal for us and they will leave our mind.


Are born again Christians supposed to do what the world does?  The Bible says no.  We are to be separate from the world. Look at the book of Leviticus for an example.  God gave His people rules and statutes before they entered the Promised Land so that they would not behave like the pagan nations around them.  He wanted them to be holy and set apart for Him. In the New Testament, Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." As to those who are in the world, Paul writes in Philippians 3:19, "whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things."

Are we Christians to curse or use bad language?  Of course not!  Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) says: "Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." James 3:10 says: "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." We should also not use God's name as a curse word.  In Exodus 20, which lists the Ten Commandments, God tells us in verse 7 (NLT), “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name." Psalm 139:20 (NLT) speaks of those who are worldly:  "They blaspheme you; your enemies misuse your name.."


We should do our very best not to put all this bad stuff into our minds.  However, sometimes our flesh wins out over our spirit and we watch or do things we're not supposed to. If we do mess up, we know that if we confess our sin to the Father, we will be forgiven. 

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane