What’s That Smell

This is the text of the first message I spoke from the pulpit after attending Licensed Local Pastor School in July. I’ve explained to a few people one specific conversation which set me on this course. That conversation was not the only factor, though. The biggest factor in this was what I believed and still believe was strong direction from God to do so.

I knew it would not be an easy course for 3 reasons:

  1. The last time I was in school (aside from one college chemistry class 25 years ago) was 40 years ago. This really wasn’t an issue at all as I discovered in the prerequisite work that I love learning. The only reason I couldn’t enjoy it when I was a kid was because I didn’t know how to be a kid.
  2. Differences in my interpretation of the Bible from what I expected the teachers would believe. Thankfully, we were all in agreement on the biggest issue, that of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
  3. Then, of course, there was my “weird wiring” to contend with. Black and white thinking, overthinking, taking myself too seriously, being too serious in general were all areas which I knew going in might be more problematic than any variances in theology. And they were.

Despite these things, my days in the school were highly educational. Some of the lessons I learned were not in their teaching plans; of that I’m sure. But I learned both what they intended and other things perhaps not intentional from both the teachers and students.

One of the Bible studies several students selected for their practice Bible study was the life of Abraham, particularly the initiation of his journey to the Promised Land. It was crazy how easy it was to liken Abram’s journey to the journey we students experienced stepping out of our life patterns (some of us even our life path, just as Abram did), to follow the direction of God.

It was not just a learning experience, though—it was a deeply rewarding experience. The closest thing I can compare it to is a Walk to Emmaus weekend except this was 10 days rather than 3. The Presence of God was tangible.

LLPSOn July 25, I graduated with the rest of my class. The license itself can take up to two months to be issued, and I wait now to see if that is how the path will continue for me or if it will take a turn in another direction. In either case, I don’t doubt it will be exciting and a little scary. The last words of the New Testament Scripture cited below were “Find out what pleases the Lord.” By attending Licensed Local Pastor School, I believe I followed that directive.

Now, what is that smell? Smelly Things.jpg

Isaiah 65:1-5 ““I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—
a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick;
who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat;
who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.”

Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10 “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.”

If you were to think about smells, both good and bad, you could probably come up with a good list for both. Bad would undoubtedly include things like skunks, rotting things, and poop. Good things would consist of flowers, baking cookies, and men’s perfume (if you are a man reading this, sorry, I call it perfume whether it’s for men or women—always have—Rod got used to it eventually).

I did a Google search on bad smells. A study conducted at a university in Melbourne resulted in a smell so overwhelmingly nasty that it led to a mass evacuation of the university. That was the horrendously malodorous aroma of a rotting durian fruit. durian fruit.jpgA pastor/mentor friend who had the dubious honor of hearing this message at each of the 3 churches where I shared it on Sunday told me today that the durian fruit is not the worst smell known to man. As a retired EMT, he is aware of something far worse.

What about the things God smells? In the OT verse above something smells bad to God; in the NT something pleasant.

In 2008 contemporary Christian singer Ray Boltz, singer/writer of “Thank You” and “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb”, left the Bible-based faith, his Christian ministry, and his wife and 4 children to pursue an alternate lifestyle. In 2014 Dan Haseltine, front man for Christian rock band Jars of Clay made statements on Twitter that he was leaving the faith he had previously espoused. These are two instances of headline-making lifestyle choices made by people in positions of Christian influence. Two over the course of at least a decade.

In 2019 in the past month alone, there have been two more well-publicized accounts of men in positions of Christian influence abandoning their faith because the weight of the world and its enticements and their own desire for “happiness” grew too heavy for them to bear. First, we learned of Josh Harris, author of Christian bestseller of the late 1990s “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” who a few weeks ago left his wife and family then a couple days later stated he no longer considers himself to be a Christian.

A week or so after that, contemporary Christian worship band Hillsong songwriter, Marty Sampson, renounced his Christian faith declaring Christianity is “just another religion” and “it’s not for me”.

What in the world is going on?

Pun is intended. It is a problem of the world and the soul-led mindset. These men all reached the conclusion that  happinesscould not be found with a Jesus mindset in this world, and they were not willing to wait for the next.

Throughout my faith-walk years, I’ve heard more than one pastor/teacher/evangelist state that happiness and joy are not synonyms. happiness is a state achieved through circumstance; joy is achieved through the blessing of God regardless of circumstance. That’s the direction I thought this message would take. However, my deeper investigation will not allow me to make this statement with 100% belief in its veracity.

becomingThe way to be truly happy is to be truly human, and the way to be truly human is to be truly godly.” This quote by Canadian-English theologian JI Packer does not mean to make yourself your own god as we’ll look at more fully later. It does mean to make yourself as much like Jesus, the One you follow, as you possibly can. It also nicely summarizes the contents of one of my favorite books “Becoming Who You Are” by Dutch Sheets.

Does the Bible tell us anywhere that we are to be “happy”? When I searched, I really didn’t expect to find anything. As expected, there were many more references to words with similar meaning to “happiness”. I found words/phrases such as “delight” and “desires of your heart” in Psalm 37:4; “joy” in Psalm 16:11 and Isaiah 12:3; “overjoyed” in 1 Peter 4:13; and “freedom from fear”, “grace”, “hope”, and “blessed” in many places.

But. . .

There were a few occurrences of “happy”.

The KJV Bible translates Psalm 144:15 as “happy is that people whose God is the Lord”.

2 Chronicles 9:7 reads as follows even in the NIV “How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”

When I looked at the Orthodox Jewish Bible, I was unable to understand the translation; so, I consulted Strong’s Concordance #3107. The transliteration of the original word for both “happy” and “blessed” is makários.

In both Psalm 144:15 and 2 Chronicles 9:7 the people’s happiness results from a relationship with the Lord. All the men above would be called the current catchphrase of “Christian influencers” (try saying that phrase out loud—I don’t think I pronounced it correctly a single time in any of the 3 services on Sunday). As nearly as I can discern, influencer means “popular person”. These men, popular in their individual Christian circles, quite large ones, walked away from the faith at least partly because they were unable to find that elusive state of mind called happiness.

These are the words of John Cooper, lead singer of Christian rock band, Skillet on August 14: “More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once ‘faces’ of the faith are falling away.” The Bible speaks of this (AKA apostasy) in 1 Timothy 4:1.

Look again at Isaiah 65:2 “. . . people pursuing their own imaginations” and verse 5 “Such people are smoke in my (God’s) nostrils” If you reread verses 2-5 in Isaiah 65, it is clear Isaiah is talking about “sinful” people, not those of faith.

How does God look upon sin? Can he look upon sin?

On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The scholars who wrote the MacArthur New Testament Commentary believe this to mean exactly what it sounds like: because Jesus was bearing all sin, both the overall sin brought into the world in the fall and the sin of every human being who ever lived or ever would live, God turned his back on him.

This seems to be confirmed by Habakkuk 1:13a which reads: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”

Does this mean God is incapable of being in the presence of evil? That can’t be, because several times in the book of Job he had conversations with satan!

I like the explanation of Michael D Guinan, OFM, professor of Old Testament the gist of which states the reason for Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross was to fulfil the prophecy in Psalm 22. More than that, though, with the evil all around him in his humanity at that moment he could not feel God’s presence. Remember how he wept at the tomb of Lazarus even though he knew he would be restoring his life? Jesus on the cross, utterly sinless, bore the sin of the world in his soul, but I don’t believe God turned his back on him.

So, if God did not turn his back, how did He feel about all that sin in one place at one pivotal moment in history?

Going back once again to Isaiah 65:5 the smell of evil in God’s nostrils is bad. It is truly stinky. This is just my opinion, but I suspect it smells like something dead. That was confirmed today in my conversation with my pastor and his wise and informed statement as to what is really the worst smell known to man. Verse 2 of Isaiah 65 tells us the people generating this foul aroma were “pursuing their own imaginations.” Is this not what anyone who walks away from a relationship with God is doing? Hear what the people say in the first part of verse 5: “‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!” If one is too sacred for God, does that not mean they have, in fact, made themselves God?

imagination.jpgAnd therein lies the problem. Our imaginations (thoughts) get us into so much trouble. If you were to look up online any of the individuals cited above, you would find their difficulties started in their minds. Every time. James 1:14-15 “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” In the original edition of my book Fearless in Euroclydon, there is a chapter devoted to “The D Word”. In its rewrite, currently in progress, there will be two dealing with two different kinds of death. It should be our prayer that anyone who makes a deliberate decision to walk away will return to Almighty God before their sin gives birth to death.

Brothers and sisters, it is imperative that we “cast down every imagination, and every high thing (idol) that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV)

Do you really want to be the thing of which others ask “Ewww. . .! What’s that smell?”

On the other hand. . .

If we learn so much about Jesus and his love that we discover how to love in the same way, we become the person that JI Packer described as “truly godly”; and the Bible calls a “fragrant sacrifice. . . “ Some other translations of these words: “Sweet-smelling savour” (KJV), “aroma of adoration, sweet healing fragrance” (TPT)

Then when others ask the question of us: “What’s that amazing smell?” we will know we are on the right track to fulfilling the great commission: making disciples of all nations.

Father, I ask that you remove from our souls (hearts and minds) the smell of sin and death that so permeates the world in which we live. Help us to have open spiritual ears to the prompting of your Holy Spirit so that we will hear, understand, and obey thereby having words that are a sweet, sweet sound in your ears and lives that are a sweet, sweet savour in your nostrils. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

PS Concerning that new (to me) word “influencers”, I’m in the process of reviewing a book for Barbour Publishing called Obedience Over Hustle by Malinda Fuller. hustleShe writes of influencers frequently along with giving the word “hustle” the more traditional meaning rather than the one I am most familiar with which is cheating at pool. I should have a better understanding of both words and will post my review as a blog here first. I hope you come back to check it out. God bless you. JLM & JLY (think about it. . . )

What is My Purpose!

What is My Purpose?

From July 14 through July 25, 19 students of ages between 21 and 64 listened, talked, participated, wrote, conferenced, laughed, cried, argued, and probably a couple of other verbs the variety of methods used to learn the subject matter the instructors were trying to teach.

Why?

Not too long after Rod died, God revealed that there were individuals who had spent the decades of their earthly lives on a church pew without understanding the most important reasons why.

How could they be helped?

Who would help them?

So began the journey to Licensed Local Pastor School.

Was every one of those 19 people there because they felt a similar, strong directive from God to be there?

Did everyone know the journey might be in vain—there was a chance licensing to pastor a small church, the chief reason for enrolling in the school, would not be the end result?

How many of them started with the initial mark against them of a faith journey thus far walked closely with and wholly trusting in Jesus alone that was different from that expected by the school?

Were any of them “different/weirdly wired” in the way they thought?

What did they each learn? Did they further their education in things for which they already had an elementary knowledge?

This would include the 9 spiritual disciplines:

  1. Prayer
  2. Worship
  3. Fasting
  4. Scripture (Bible reading)
  5. Study (Bible with supplementary resources)
  6. Stewardship (tithing—not just money but talent)
  7. Solitude
  8. Fellowship
  9. Service

Did they learn that the 9 spiritual disciplines don’t just “happen” to a believer; rather they should be “intentional” acts on the part of the believer? Most of these intentional acts can and should be practiced frequently. Some are easier than others, and some will need constant vigilance and reinforcement to be fully engaged.

Did they befriend those with whom they might not ever have otherwise crossed paths? The love of Jesus was clearly and deeply experienced both through other people and through the work of Holy Spirit when human frailty raged within and without. Did they feel that? True, faith isn’t based on feelings, but God gave us feelings.

Did they learn about communication? When one speaks, it is not the words alone which are important; indeed, they are of minimal importance. The tone with which the words are spoken bears more weight, and some would say body language is of the utmost importance! Body language is difficult to alter (for reasons fully addressed in previous posts and implied in this one). Learning to speak with a tone which conveys kindness, encouragement, and the love of Jesus is an achievable goal. Although this is not one of the spiritual disciplines, in this writer’s case, it will be made so.

On the original draft of this blog, the word “I” appeared more than 40 times with other words such as “my” not even counted but present. Since not using personal pronouns is grammatically unwieldy (see above reference to “this writer”), the rest will include the to-be-avoided-at-all-costs pronouns.

The previously mentioned end result? Mom, sister, son, daughter-in-law, 2 granddaughters and Pastor Dave all came to the ceremony Thursday evening to cheer encouragement as I received my graduation certificate.graduation

I was told more than once that the certificate was just a paper saying the classes had all been completed with a passing grade (one of them barely), but it would be strongly recommended a license not be issued to me at the time the other students receive theirs in one to two months. In part, this was due to belief differences which I admittedly didn’t wish to change, and I believe God would have been displeased with me if I had. The major hindrance was, of course, the ASC which many don’t even believe exists because of adroit masking practiced and nearly perfected over the past 50 years. It was the black and white thinking, however, which was my downfall.

God had me take the schooling for a reason. Of course, I tried to figure out just what that reason might be. Could it be that it was to encourage one of the other students in some way? That happened, so possibly that was the correct answer. Did one of the other students need to see a fellow student “on the edge” most of the time and “over the edge” a couple times, but by the grace of God getting back up every single time? That happened, too.

It is about God. It’s not about me. It’s really not even about other people, although some would disagree.

He told me long ago my purpose in life is to glorify him (confirmed in Isaiah 43:7), a fait accompli in my own unique way with regard to Licensed Local Pastor School. I am, as always, grateful to him for his greatly needed assistance.

Now waiting patiently for his next direction, I will continue to learn about the love with which he has loved me so that the love can be given back to him and to others.

Reader greatly loved by our Heavenly Father, God Almighty, may he bless you in all you say and do and in everything your hands touch. In the precious name of Jesus Christ.

7500 + 8600 + 6200 = 22,000

NO     IT     DOESN’T!

I’m working on reading through my Bible in 3 months. I did this once before, the first 3 months of 2014. There was great benefit to it that year, even though as I was doing the actual reading I recognized I wasn’t getting too much out of my speed read. . . other than the supernatural benefit God undoubtedly bestowed on me for this act of worship. And it WAS an act of worship because I was surrendering my time (1/2 to 1 hour each day) to learning about Him. The external benefits were seen throughout the rest of that year.

In July of 2017, another time I was reading through the Bible, albeit at a more leisurely pace, I came across some verses that gave me pause.

Any time I read “through the Bible” from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22, I struggle with the last 3 books of the Pentateuch. I enjoy Genesis and Exodus, but when I hit Leviticus I experience more than a bit of trepidation.

Well, last week, I had made it to the 4th book of the Pentateuch, Numbers, and I was in chapter 3. Where I noticed my own notes from July of 2017. I hope you can read my chicken scratch.numbers 3

 

In case you can’t, I’ll summarize. 7500 (v22) + 8600 (v28) + 6200 (v34) = 22,300 . . . not 22,000 (v39)!

God created everything. He created numbers. He created arithmetic. He certainly would have no trouble adding up a group of three 4-digit numbers. Would he? Maybe he was rounding off? But no, He didn’t do that a couple pages later in Numbers 4:34-48. So what was going on in chapter 3?

In 2017, after reading this and making my chicken-scratch notes, I moved on, chalking the addition mistake up to something I wasn’t supposed to understand. See Psalm 131. You know, like why did God create the devil?

As an aside, I will sometimes use this question as a way to rate preachers who come across my path. If they answer this question when put to them with “I don’t know,” my respect for them increases exponentially. How could anyone possibly know the answer to that question? Pastor Gary, you are the first one to come to mind. Thank you, and God bless you, for answering this way. You and your wife are tremendous blessings to me and everyone who has the pleasure of knowing you.

So, for whatever reason, God allowed a mathematic mistake to appear in the New Living Translation of the Bible. (It is also present in the NIV and even the KJV and OJB).

This time (2019) though, I noticed in my footnotes regarding verse 28 the statement “Some Greek manuscripts read 8300; see total in 3:39”.

An explanation! One I didn’t even notice during my speed read in 2014.

Although this appeared in the footnotes and not in the actual text of the Word of God, in some ancient Greek manuscript, the addition was correct!

Okay, that’s enough of the Aspie moment. . body soul spirit

 

1 Thessalonians 5:23 I am a spirit. I live in a body. I have a soul (of which the brain part sometimes goes off on weird tangents as seen above). God generously fed all three this morning!

 

I heard 2 great sermons by 2 wonderful ladies. It was during the 2nd that the germ of the idea for this blog started growing in my mind.

The first sermon was practical, addressing how to worship God in one’s body. The phrase bodythat stood out to me was “don’t react; respond.” Since I heard that same phrase recently from my counselor, it jumped out at me.

My mouth is a part of my body. When the stressor hits, my mouth almost always reacts rather than responding. This doesn’t just hurt the person with whom I’m engaging; it inflicts a deep wound on me. There are enough people and things to wound us in this world; God help me not be another!

It was suggested that before responding (not reacting), one engages the brain (soul) and think “What would Jesus do?”

When do I actually take the time to do this? Practically never. No, actually never. That has to stop.

Father, I pray right now, no matter the situation, help me to respond rather than react.

The whole sermon, even the Children’s Moment, focused on how to worship God in practical ways. Thank you, Barbara, for allowing yourself to be used by the Lord in an act of worship.

The 2nd sermon was a spiritual feast, focusing spiriton worshiping the Lord in spirit and in truth and some ways this might look. Some of these ways are more difficult for me than others; but if we boil it down to its lowest common denominator “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) it becomes very clear what type of worship God desires from me, from you, from anyone who loves Him and seeks to honor and glorify Him. Since we were each uniquely created (Psalm 139:13-14—although this verse does not use the word “unique” if you read it carefully, I think you’ll agree it must mean that. God is Creator and supremely creative. Why would He create any two of us exactly the same?)

Thank you, Wendy, for allowing yourself to be used by the Lord in an act of worship.

The 3rd experience was a ministry to my soul, but it was not a sermon. It was God soulspeaking to me directly in several different ways. Don’t you love it when he does that? He certainly doesn’t have to, but He does it because He loves us so much and desires intimate communion with us.

There was an altar call at the end of the service, the first part of which was for those desiring salvation.

The 2nd was for those whose repeated prayers for a specific need were seeming to go unanswered.

Anyone who knows me at all knows the vast majority of my prayers focus on one thing. It may not be the right thing for them to focus on, but God created me to be this way. Who am I to go against that?

There were already elders and deacons waiting at the altar to pray for people, but I felt God telling me to ask my beloved sister, Paula, to go forward and pray for me. She said yes, I grabbed her hand, and away we went.

We both started crying almost immediately, but the words she prayed were exactly what I needed. . . AND . . . I suspect they may have benefited her as well.

When we returned to our seats, she told me that while we were at the altar she had heard these words from the Lord.

“They are yours.”

They are yours?

Why would God tell me that? They are not mine. They are/were only on loan to me; they belong to God.

I asked her to clarify; was “yours” the pronoun He used? Are you sure it wasn’t “Mine”? (meaning God’s)

No, it was “yours”.

I pondered this as I drove home from church, and the germ of this blog grew into a small seedling.

And I realized those words were truly for me. The issue/need doesn’t belong to me. The need itself belongs to God. Whenever I’m feeling stress concerning this need; in other words, just about every day if not every waking moment, I am to remind God (like He needs reminding) “They are Yours!” How freeing! This burden it much too great for me to bear. It is not too great for my Father!

Of course, I’m not really reminding God of a thing!

Thank you, Paula, for allowing yourself to be used by the Lord in an act of worship.

I’m reminding myself. I’m renewing my mind (incidentally, the title of Barbara’s sermon was “Renewal”).

So, I’ve now come full circle. Which means it’s time to close. By close, I mean proofread, edit, add some stuff, take away some other stuff, re proofread, re edit, and in maybe an hour (it actually wound up being about an hour and a half) or so submit this for someone to read. . . and . . . hopefully benefit from &/or be inspired by.

God bless you.

Failer?

Last night was my granddaughter’s 5th birthday party. After the birthday festivities concluded, the oldsters congregated around the dining table for some games and laughter.

One of the games was called Quidditch (but that couldn’t have been the name because I just looked it up and that is a sport in the Harry Potter movies, but it was something like that) and involves making sentences out of word cards you are dealt. Like in the more familiar game of Scrabble, word choices can be challenged.

My son played the word “failer” of which another player and I were skeptical with me commenting on it after the play. He gave a definition of “one who failed”.  I reminded him the correct word (according to current grammar dictates) is “failure”. I didn’t challenge the play since it was late and I was tired, but his step-mother did. She won the challenge as the word “failer” does not appear in the Webster online dictionary she used.

Failer

But I was thinking about these words this morning as I was driving home from church having just heard 2 exceptional sermons. The main point I got from the first, at the Methodist Church, was that we should follow God’s plan for us–even if it may not appear logical, or even if we don’t feel like the logical person for such a plan–especially if God himself has told us this is his plan for us. The second sermon, at OACF, had several main points, but the one I took home was that when our hearts are troubled we can crawl up in God’s lap.

Well, my heart was troubled over something that happened recently. As an Aspie, it is difficult for me to envision myself being on God’s lap held securely in his arms of limitless strength and gentleness. But I know he created us in his image, so he has a lap and his arms have unlimited strength; and, like always when this scenario is mentioned, and I need it, I tried to envision it and even feel it, with modest success.

Then I remembered (or more likely he reminded me) of a time shortly after my dad’s death when the pastor of the church I attended at the time enfolded me in what I can only describe as a “bear” hug. It is what I refer to as a “squeezy” hug to my grandchildren. It’s my favorite kind of hug, but it is the sort most men, or women, for that matter, will not give to a woman; and in today’s world, I can certainly understand why. I later found out his wife had told him I needed one of the hugs like he gave his children and grandchildren. I was so grateful to both of them because it had been at the time something essential to my soul.

This is the kind of hug I think God gives. It is not a sideways hug. It is not a perfunctory placement of arms around another person in a half-hearted embrace. It is not a cautious hug given with a fear of being rejected by the recipient. It is not something that lasts a fraction of a second and not a fraction of a second longer.

 

It is a perfect hug.

 

I cannot feel it physically, but I have learned to feel it in my heart. It is especially necessary that I receive these hugs on occasions when I feel like a failure.

I was feeling a bit that way this morning. Yes, even after just having heard/received two life-affirming, soul-refreshing sermons.

Then, while still in my mind picturing being on God’s lap and in his arms, I realized. . .

. . .even though it may seem like my mind was skipping around like a feather tossed by a wind. . .

I like the word failer much better than failure.

As Rory put it, failer is simply someone who fails; in other words, everyone.

Whereas failure could be applied to a situation, it is a word which should never be applied to a human being’s character.

Sometimes I could be called a failer; but I am not a failure, never have been, and God has never called me this.

Nor are you a failure, dear brother or sister. According to Revelation 12:11, you are an overcomer. Most of the time to achieve an overcomation (another word I made up several years ago but like a lot), one must experience failures (not a person, just an experience) sometimes a lot of them, before success/victory.

Do you think I can request a new word be added to the dictionary?

Why Do You Believe?

WHyRead:

1 Kings 10:1, 6-9 & John 20:24-29

In the story of the Queen of Sheba, the queen comes to a belief in God because of the biblesmighty works He had performed in Solomon’s life and the immense wealth with which Solomon had been blessed.

In the story about Thomas, first Jesus miraculously appears in a locked room, inviting Thomas to touch his marked body (so he wasn’t a ghost!), The scene concludes with Jesus saying, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I have neither achievements nor great wisdom like Solomon. Neither do I have wealth and all the things it can buy. And, unlike Thomas, I have never been in the presence of the crucified and risen Jesus in the flesh. So I am one of those people who have not seen and yet have believed. So are you. Jesus tells us we are blessed!

Why can we believe this quote of Jesus, spoken 2000 years ago? How do we know anything, much less everything in the Bible is true? How do we know that upon which our faith is based is worth that faith? If we don’t know the answers to these questions, how reliable will others consider our testimony, or our story of our faith walk thus far?

Listen to these quotes from a couple guys with far more wisdom and education than I.

C S Lewis said: “Nearly everyone I know who has embraced Christianity in adult life has been influenced by what seemed to him to be at least a probable argument for theism.”

A W Tozer: “The Bible is not addressed to just anybody. Its message is directed to a chosen few…Some believe and some do not; some are morally receptive and some are not; some have spiritual capacity and some have not. It is to those who do and are and have that the Bible is addressed. Those who do not and are not and have not will read it in vain…As the pillar of fire gave light to Israel but was cloud and darkness to the Egyptians, so our Lord’s words shine in the hearts of His people but leave the self-confident unbeliever in the obscurity of moral night.”

Some come to Jesus through the heart. The heart has two extremes: love and fear. Contrary to popular belief, I do not believe that hate is the opposite of love; fear is.heart From those 2 opposite ends of the heart, Jesus reaches in. I came to Jesus because I had a desire to know and show love the way I saw in believers I met in a tiny store-front church in 1978; I know of others who came because of fear of judgment and hell.

brainOthers come to Christ through an intellectual experience. Most of those are people who could be called apologists or those who make reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine. People like C. S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

All ultimately come to experience faith in both theirs heads and hearts after saying “yes” to the promptings of the Holy Spirit at which point the spirit within them, dormant to this point, springs to life and they are “born again”.

How does anyone reach the point of accepting Jesus? 1 Thessalonians 1:4 “God chose you”. You may feel like you chose him, either via one end of your heart or the other or through your head, but. . . He chose YOU.

chosen

How does this make you feel?

It makes me feel really special, even when I read elsewhere in Scripture that he “chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, (I especially like that one because that pretty much sums up all the others) so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God”

If you’ve ever experienced bullying, chances are it was by someone considered by society to be “smart”, “strong”, “elevated”, or “popular.” But don’t start thinking here is your chance to get revenge. God loves those people, too, yes, even bullies, and should they choose to accept His invitation into His kingdom, they, too, will be considered chosen.

1 Peter 2:9 states that in addition to being a chosen people, “we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, so that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

That all perhaps explains the “how” of why you believe; but what is the why? Have you ever thought about it? How do you know that you know that you know Jesus lived 2000 years ago, died a torturous death, rose from the dead after 3 days, and is alive today just waiting for the Father to give Him permission to come take his believers to the wedding feast?

There are many reasons I know he is real.

  1. There was the time he stayed in the chair by my bed when I was in the middle of my 2nd hospital stay for colon cancer.
  2. Another time I was crying to him desperately wanting an answer to the question “what is my purpose in life?” His answer: “Your purpose is to glorify me.” This was about 15 years ago during a time in my life I didn’t see there was any way I could do that. Now, not only do I know it’s possible, I’ve received confirmation of this being my purpose over and over again. Indeed, I’m attempting to do that through the words you are reading.
  3. Another great example is him allowing me have Rod McDougall in my life as my husband for 6 years. Through that human man, God did a great deal toward restoring me to the person he originally created me to be. Do you think I would’ve been able to speak in front of groups of people of varying sizes at the end of 2008 (10 years ago)? Would I have been brave enough to write this very intimate blog to whomever chooses to read it? Neither was at all likely.

Why is it important you know why you believe?

Our country in the year 2018 is not just a post-Christian country, it is now clearly a divided country as well. The reasons for this are varied, and I doubt anyone could ever begin to explain all of them, but they all boil down to one major fact – we made the choice to take God out of our country, in some cases, even out of our churches!

The pastor at the church my husband and I attended was (and is) driven by a passion for evangelism, both here and abroad. The church takes several missions trips each year. But two of the biggest functions are here in America. Family Fun Day is in July, an event to which the community is invited for free food, games, and entertainment along with some fairly valuable giveaways. The caveat? To win the prizes, individuals must stay for the sermon which is the last event of the day. And in November, just last Sunday in fact, they hosted the community Thanksgiving dinner to which everyone is invited, free of charge, not just the destitute, but everyone because really, everyone, if they don’t know Jesus, is destitute in the worst way.

I raised my children in church. They know who God and Jesus are and it would be impossible for them to ever forget. As my son frequently reminds me, I had them in church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. His statement that we were in church for 4 hours on Sunday mornings, though, is a slight exaggeration.

Do you know that there are people, principally millennials (a group into which both my children fall), who don’t have a clue who God or Jesus is and believe that the Bible is akin to Grimm’s Faerie Tales?

grimmUnbelievable. But shockingly true. I’ve heard of missionaries from other countries saying that America is now their mission field and it is one of the most difficult to harvest.

If you were to engage in conversation with one of these 20 to 30 year olds and causally mention God, Jesus, or the Bible in the conversation and they were to respond in a way indicative of their complete lack of knowledge, what would you do? Could you explain, in a way that would make sense to them, why you believe?

The easiest way is by simply sharing your own testimony.

How has God worked in your life?

I’ve given three of my reasons above. There are many more. Your reasons will not be the same as mine. You will have many, too. Many people like to journal. This blog (and the sermon from which it was derived) are simply “cleaned-up” versions of ideas in my journal.

Why don’t you make a list of the reasons you believe? Put it somewhere prominent, where you’ll see it frequently. Memorize it. Yes, it’s your life and you know it well; but can you relate your life story in a way that will be interesting and understandable to others? Practice. Practice. Practice.

What if you’re one of those rare and incredibly blessed individuals whose life has never gone off the rails and you think your story is too dull? If that’s the case—and I doubt it—God can use you to help others who are just like you, except they don’t yet know Him.

What do you do if you feel like your faith isn’t strong enough for you to be able to present a convincing argument? There are several verses that address this. Check out Matthew 17:20 and Mark 9:24.

In the latter we (and Jesus) encounter a man who has both faith and unbelief. Can you relate?

But listen! Jesus didn’t rebuke the man. He healed the child.

Neither does he rebuke or reject us for our unbelief. AND, he will still meet the need regardless of the quantity/quality of our faith.

1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

There are many good books out there on apologetics. Check with Amazon, Good Reads, or CBD and find one you think will best answer your questions.

Of course, your best resource is always going to be the Bible. The other books were written by men and are therefore subject to human interpretation and human error.

Bible Reading Plans

For the past 2 ½ years at the end of each month, I’ve placed a Bible reading plan in the bulletins used by the 3 churches. I know of at least 2 ladies who followed it religiously, even commenting if I was ever delayed getting it to them.

Starting in January I will discontinue this and instead post it to the churches’ website which is centralprairieumc.org. Even if you know you’ve probably read the Bible in its entirety at least once due to sermon and Bible study notes, it is sooo beneficial to read it through from beginning to end

If you really want a challenge, and a great start to 2019, I’m going to suggest something I’ve only managed to accomplish once in my life, in 2014, reading through it in the first 3 months.

Such an endeavor does not allow for much in-depth study, but I believe God supernaturally increases the knowledge of one who commits to this.

If you’d like to join me on this journey (it requires a time commitment of ½ to 1 hour each day, depending on how fast you can read), I’ll post that plan to the website as well. One suggestion I would make: each time you begin to read, before you begin ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Truth to you and enable the Rhema word to become Logos word for you. I can’t think of a single reason he would say no to such a request.

homework

1. Write out your why. This would be your testimony. Memorize it so you can easily share it whenever the occasion presents itself. Ideally that would be every day.

2. Read your Bible beginning to end.

3. Add to your testimony (your why) as God does new miracles in your life.

 

Father God, Help me stick to my commitment to figure out my why. I pray You will honor that commitment by making your Word come alive to me in such a way that sharing my faith-walk story with others won’t be something fearsome but rather something joyful, that it will turn from a chore into one of my favorite things to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Falling Up

high tree top

Psalm 139:16

You saw who you created me to be before I became me!

Before I’d ever seen the light of day,

the number of days you planned for me

were already recorded in your book.

 

 

Today after breakfast I was sitting at the kitchen table, just relaxing and daydreaming before starting my day. Every few seconds a leaf would flutter gently to the ground. Some of the leaves were large, some small, some brightly colored, others more muted. I thought about how precious each was, how wondrously alive it had been just a few seconds earlier. I realized God saw each of them fall. Not just that, but he knew it would happen before it happened! God knows everything after all. Next, I wondered about the leaf itself as though it had the capacity for conscious thought. And I wondered, was the leaf clinging soooo tightly to the branch on which it lived its life only releasing its tenacious hold when it no longer had the strength to hang on?

Is that how we are as regards our earthly life? Are we clinging soooo tightly to that which holds us to this earth? Consider especially the weights, those things that hold us down emotionally and spiritually but for whatever reason we refuse to release.

And life itself. . . what of that?

Before I faced cancer, I would have said yes, I’m clinging to this earthly life with a choke-hold grip. I wasn’t afraid of death, but I was a bit afraid of the process of dying. Would it hurt? Would it be scary to be unable to draw a breath sufficient to maintain life?

No longer. I gave my book the title Fearless in Euroclydon for a reason

At the beginning of 2017, my first full year without Rod, I believe God gave me the idea of falling up. Of course, since then I see He’s given several others the same idea. Or maybe I’d seen it in someone else’s writing to start with. I choose to believe he gave it to me, and somehow the others copied me!

In my journal for 2017 (the one I lost last year—I hope someone is enjoying my weird musings!), at the front, I drew a picture of a large tree losing its leaves, but they were falling up! Toward the heavens.

And I realized that’s what God wants each of us to do. When we let go of the weak (because that’s what it actually is!) hold we have on our life here—its dreams and nightmares, blessings and curses, loves and fears, all fleeting in nature—we have nowhere to fall but up. Into his arms.

Into the dreams, blessings, and love that He gives.

Into the eternal. . .

funny
The verse with which I started this post was taken from The Passion Translation of the Bible which is poetically written and quite beautiful. I had to literally fight my typing fingers not to replace the word “were” in the last line with the grammatically correct “was” since the subject of the sentence is the singular “number”.

Life on the Spectrum

 

 

puzzle brain

Famous Ones Currently Living With It

There are many. Here are a few that appear on just about every list I found:

Dan Akroyd – Actor/Comedian

Susan Boyle — Award-winning singer

Daryl Hannah — Actress

People Who are Famous Because of It

Temple Grandin — Author

Historical Figures Believed to Have Had it

Abraham Lincoln — President, The Great Emancipator

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) Writer

Albert Einstein — Scientist

Famous Christians with It

Brent Hansen – Christian radio host

Perry Stone — Pastor/Evangelist

Fictional Characters appearing to Have It

We are talking about Asperger’s, or as it is now known high-functioning Autism.

For years I have suspected I am an Aspie. There are too many signs of it starting with fairly significant bullying when I was a child. I won’t go into detail on that here–maybe in a future blog. There were some hygiene issues which at the time were attributed to laziness but which recently (just this past week) I was surprised to discover are fairly common among Aspies. One of them I still struggle with to this day, but I’ve learned a workaround for it which sorta works.

As an older child and an adult, I experienced social difficulties that cannot really be explained by simple shyness. I have no trouble speaking in front of large groups of people, providing I am speaking something I have previously written and carefully edited to remove comments others would consider inappropriate. And I can do okay talking to one person at a time. groupBut bring in a third person, and I will shut down – even with my sisters whom I am closer to than probably anyone in my life. I remember one time as a young adult being in a car with both of them on the way to see a movie and them both jabbering away, and feeling a little lost because I didn’t know how to enter in.

Over the years I’ve gotten fairly good at “appearing to fit in.” I suspect the people who know and love me the best are so used to my quirks they no longer even notice them.

But. . . there are some problems with pretending to be normal. towel

“Normal” and “perfect” are 2 words which need to be taken out of all dictionaries!

Which brings up another trait of Asperger’s. We have to have alone time, much more than the average person. This is not selfishness. It is alone time.pngnot self-centeredness as many well-meaning people believe. It is an aspect of the way our brains are wired. When I was married to Rod, a wonderful man who didn’t have too many difficulties with my oddities, and no problems whatsoever socializing, he understood this about me. He didn’t believe I had Asperger’s, although his daughter did. He simply thought I’d had too many bad things happen to me and it had altered my personality. It that were true, his personality would have been way more shut down than mine. It was not. He was larger than life and loved by everyone who met him.

In the past couple years I’ve become involved with some Christian online support groups. Even with them the communication issues are readily apparent. A previous group leader admonished me more than once about my black and white thinking. I believe my current leader gets amused by my unusual way of sharing my thoughts. When it’s my turn to speak I try to get everything out in one rush of words so they can move on to someone else. After I finish speaking I will always mute myself so they can’t hear anything else that might slip out inadvertently. I don’t know how to insert myself into a conversation between the other people in the group. This group is actually very good. The women in it are super kind; they each struggle with their own things and aren’t bothered by mine.

This is not the case with other groups I’ve been in, as alluded to previously. Often when I try to communicate I usually start speaking at the exact moment as someone else, and I will let my voice fade away and not be heard. Clearly the other person’s opinion is more important.

How does being an Aspie fit into my true identity as a daughter of the King?

Not easily.

But it isn’t impossible.

Asperger’s is not a disability. Asperger’s is not a birth defect although one is born with it. It is simply a difference in the way the brain is wired. This can be a good thing.

First the bad:

It is difficult to mingle socially with other women, including, or maybe especially, Christian women. A group of women from my church is currently on a lady’s retreat. I look at the pictures they post on Facebook and think how much fun it looks like they’re having. Then I remember how hard it would be to have a conversation with any two or more of them, and I quickly remember why maybe it wouldn’t be so fun. But. . . I am no longer envious as I would have been not all that many years ago. I can enjoy the fact that they’re enjoying themselves, and I can sit out on the back deck and watch the month-old kittens playing with each other and truly enjoy that as much as what the women appear to be doing.

One big thing about Aspies is they usually have one thing they are intensely interested in, and it consumes a great deal of their time and energy. For a lot of my life, my interests were not at all productive. For another part of my life, my interests were my children and my husband. For part of my life it was learning how to get my life back after colon cancer.

The good?

Right now, with Rod gone nearly 3 years, my principal focus truly, and perhaps for the first time in my life, is on Jesus and my relationship with Him. 

You, see He doesn’t care that my brain is wired weird. In fact, I think maybe He even likes it, especially jesus loves menow that I’m focused on Him. Black & white thinking, overthinking, talking to myself (or is it thinking out loud?. . . or . . . am I actually talking to Him when others think I’m talking to myself?) don’t bother Him at all. If the words I speak to Him don’t come out exactly the way I intended, do you think His feelings might get hurt? Of course not. For one thing, He is perfect and therefore, cannot get His feelings hurt. Then there’s that little thing about Him knowing what I’m thinking and feeling before I say it or even before I think it. No, my Aspie quirks doesn’t bother him a bit.

One more reason to love Him!  i love jesus

Another advantage: I have to pray really, really hard before I speak at such events as Walk to Emmaus, churches, and book signings; otherwise, who knows what might come out of this mouth? People are not as understanding as Jesus, and they have no way of knowing that what I’m saying is not always what I mean to say. Sometimes I’ve had the delightful experience, usually at Walk to Emmaus, of having God actually take over when I’m speaking. You can’t imagine what a blessing that is on so many levels.

Another one: Truly great friends. I didn’t have my first non-relative best friend until I was 48 years old! But she was wonderful! She had Alzheimer’s so she could not remember any of the crazy things I said. The other good friends I’ve had have also been exceptional people; they have to be! That includes my sisters. I know of many sets of sisters who aren’t friends at all—they’re more like enemies. My sisters and I have always loved and supported one another.

God puts the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). For His reasons, he decided to wire me up with Asperger’s, so he knew I’d need the exceptional sisters of Jessie Alice and Jamie Jean, born when I was 1 and 5 years old. I will always be grateful!

Diagnosed at last! One month ago, I received the diagnosis of Asperger’s (also known as high-functioning Austism) along with PTSD & BED from my counselor. By the way, both of those can result from Asperger’s and the social fall-out from weird wiring.

Look at this statement I just found on http://www.lifeonthespectrum.net/blog/?page_id=1001 and wow! this whole blog is FANTASTIC!

Some other great websites:

http://www.aspergerministry.org/

http://christianaspie.com/

“I am no longer a failed normal person. I am a successful aspie.” And I would add to this “loved by Jesus!”.