HE NEVER CHANGES

The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. [Isaiah 40:8 (NLT)]

Lake Louise, - CanadaOur fast-paced world is ever changing. Reel to reel tape players, slide rules, cassette tapes, boom boxes, floppy discs, dial phones, land lines, film, and slide projectors are all things of the past. We traded in our VCRs for a DVD and then Netflix, the Atari for an Xbox, the family station wagon for a mini-van then an SUV, and the bank teller for an ATM. My kids don’t use maps or have record players and my grands have never used a library card catalog, encyclopedia, typewriter, or pay phone. My camera, maps, calculator, compass, checkbook, note pad, address book and Walkman all fit into my cell phone and my phone, fitness tracker, and heart monitor all fit into my watch! It’s not just technology; hemlines go up and down, lapels and ties get wider and narrower, and shoulder pads come and go. Since I can’t figure out if the latest style is flare, skinny, boot cut, or boyfriend, I just go with mom jeans!

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing constant is change,” and, in spite of my previous rant, I’d have to disagree. We change and the world around us changes but there is one thing in our lives that will never change: God. His truth, purpose and character remain the same in spite of technology, innovative trends, or style. The fancy word for that unchangeability is immutability.  Because God is the essence of perfection, no change could make Him any better and, being God, He will never become less than what He already is!

Since its introduction in 1985, there have been at least 14 versions of Windows, with each version supposedly an improvement on the previous one; my Windows 10 has been up-dated 28 times since its introduction in 2015. Fortunately, the original 1.0 version of God (introduced at the beginning of time) is all we need or want! Thank you, O Lord, for being the one constant in our lives.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)]

I am the Lord, and I do not change.  [Malachi 3:6a (NLT)]

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YOU ARE LOVED

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. [Exodus 34:6-7a (NLT)]

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. [Psalm 23:6 (NLT)]

purple coneflower

I have a friend who always signs her cards and notes with “Remember you are loved.” What a beautiful sentiment. I’m not sure if she’s thinking of the love we have for one another or of the love someone else has for both of us. There is one who will pursue us with His love like an ardent suitor. He loves us as a father loves his children. There is one whose love is eternal; His love won’t quit when we get sick, hurt, disfigured, old or in trouble. There is one who loves us, flawed as we are, and who never tires of forgiving us for our many failures. There is one who loved us enough to sacrifice His only son for our salvation. There is one who doesn’t just do loving things for us; His whole essence is love. That one is God.

Remember, my friend, you are loved

God does not love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us. [Fulton J. Sheen]

 Put together all the tenderest love you know of, multiply it by infinity and you will begin to see glimpses of the love and grace of God. [Hannah Whitall Smith]

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. [1 John 4:16 (NLT)]

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LAST WORDS- ASCENSION DAY

starry campion - mouseeared chickweed - chicoryHe said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. [John 19:30 (NLT)]

It’s been said that Leonardo Da Vinci’s last words were, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” A scientist, painter, architect, mathematician, musician, sculptor, geologist, botanist, historian, cartographer, and inventor, Da Vinci was a true Renaissance man and it’s difficult to understand how he could feel he’d failed anyone. I hope my last words won’t be as depressing as his or as foolish as those of Union Major General John Sedgwick who, just moments before he was shot and killed, said, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance!” Nevertheless, most of us won’t know when the words we speak will be our last ones. Chances are they’ll be as mundane as Elvis Presley’s: “I’m going to the bathroom to read.”

Jesus, however, knew his life was ending when He spoke from the cross. He’d been hanging there for several hours and the weight of his body pulling down on his arms meant he could barely breathe. John tells us Jesus said, “It is finished!” and then died. After hearing those words, can you imagine the heartbreak of His followers? This was Jesus, the man who calmed storms, fed thousands and healed lepers! How could it be finished? Everything they’d believed in and hoped for was gone! Was this how their story would end?

Last words, however, aren’t always what they seem. Jesus’s words and the crucifixion were only the end of the first act. What the disciples didn’t understand was that the story was just getting started. Three days later, the resurrection opened the second act. Forty days later, that act ended with Jesus’s ascension into heaven. Although those last words vary in the gospels and Acts, the message remains the same: our sins are forgiven, we are to go out into the world and make disciples, and the power of the Holy Spirit is promised. Jesus physically left the disciples but He promised both His presence and return so those weren’t His final words either. Early in the third act, Jesus spoke to Saul and He continues to speak to us today through His living word (the Bible), prayer, and in the Holy Spirit’s beautiful whisper. The only last words to be spoken in the third act will be ours when we depart the stage, as did both Da Vinci and Elvis. The glorious fourth act begins when we come home to Jesus and hear His voice again. This final act has no ending and there will be no last words spoken. It never is finished and the curtain never will fall!

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. [John 14:1-3 (NLT)]

And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. [John 5:25-29 (NLT)]

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AFTERNOON DELIGHT

How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. [Psalm 111:2-3 (NLT)]

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! [Philippians 4:4 (NLT)]

geiger treeAfter finishing our walk, I told my husband to go on to the car while I got a few shots of the blossoms on the Geiger tree by the park entrance. Once done and on my way to the parking lot, I saw him sitting quietly in the gazebo. When I disturbed his reverie with a touch on the shoulder, he looked up and said, “I was just enjoying Him.” I knew exactly what he meant.

There are plenty of things Scripture tells us to do: to love God and to hear, follow, worship, and obey Him. We’re also told to put our hope in Him, rest in Him, have faith in Him, glorify Him and honor Him with our lives. We are to seek, work for and fear the Lord and to cast our cares on Him. We are also told to delight in Him—not just delight in his word, works, and gifts but in Him!

That morning, my husband was delighting in God: enjoying quiet time in God’s company. He was enjoying God’s presence the way two old friends might—sitting on a park bench together, quietly enjoying one another’s company in the sun. I’d been so intent on getting a picture that I hadn’t even enjoyed the bright orange flowers God had placed on that tree. By not taking the time to appreciate God’s richness, I’d missed a moment to enjoy Him. Although I had a nice photograph, my husband’s time was better spent than mine.

While my husband is a good sitter, I’m more of a doer. The problem with being a doer is that doers often miss delighting in the Lord. Not long ago, downtown for lunch and a matinee, we ended up with extra time before the show. Since there was a concert in a park near the playhouse, we stopped to listen to the band before going on to the theater. My husband settled quite comfortably on a park bench but I, being a doer, spotted a woodpecker in a nearby tree, got out my camera, and tried to get a good shot of the bird. Frustrated by bad light conditions and the bird’s lack of cooperation, I finally gave up and joined my husband. It was only when I stopped doing that I started enjoying—not just the busy bird, but also the music, the breeze, and the young families walking by on their way to the playground. Most of all, by pausing, I delighted in the Lord’s presence.

One of God’s many gifts to us is the capacity to enjoy or take delight in such things as work, people, family, nature, exercise, music, art and, best of all, Him. Let’s not get so caught up in busyness that we miss doing just that. Although David yearned for never-ending fellowship with God in the temple, we can have that fellowship anywhere, even on a park bench on a Sunday afternoon. This week, take the time to sit and do nothing but delight in the Lord.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. [Psalm 27:4 (NLT)]

Be still, and know that I am God! [Psalm 51:10a (NLT)]

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THE CORNERSTONE

You are God’s building. Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. [1 Corinthians 15: 9b-11 (NLT)]

oleanderTwo members of our small group attended Easter service at a Christian church in another town. Imagine their shock when the pastor began his sermon by saying he didn’t believe in the resurrection. Thinking his statement had been made for shock value, they patiently waited for him to make a case for Christ and defend the truth of Easter. Unfortunately, he only offered a feel good message about new beginnings. I was reminded of their story when another pastor mentioned his experience when a youth pastor. After one of the teens complained that he talked too much about Jesus, he was called into the senior pastor’s office and told that Jesus just should be a “side dish” in the church youth group!

As for the resurrection—can it be Christianity without the risen Christ? Without Easter, we just have a man who said some beautiful and wise things and was killed for his words. While He may have had a great message, he was either delusional or a liar. In the early church, an Apostle was someone who had personally known Jesus both before that dark Friday and after that glorious Sunday. Without the resurrection, Peter and the rest of the Apostles were equally delusional or liars who perpetrated a fraud with their claims of an empty tomb and their witness to the risen Christ. Without the resurrected Christ, everything that happened after the crucifixion and much of what happened before is suspect. When we read Acts, we find that the essence of every sermon preached is the resurrected Christ. Without the resurrection, how can we believe Jesus was God in flesh? Without the risen Christ how can we believe in the Holy Trinity, the resurrection of the dead, or the truth of the New Testament?

There are plenty of authors who make excellent cases for the resurrection and I’ll leave the Christian apologetics to them. Believing in the resurrection doesn’t mean we totally understand it, can explain how it happened, or know exactly what the body of the risen Christ was like but we don’t need those answers to believe in the risen Christ. Jesus is the cornerstone of Christianity and, if Jesus is still dead, so is our religion

As for a “side dish Jesus:” side dishes are optional and you can take as much or as little as you want or skip them altogether. They’re like the Brussels sprouts or green beans at Thanksgiving dinner. Jesus, however, is not a side dish; along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, He’s the main (and only) course! Rather than a turkey, our Triune God is more like one of those Turduckens: three meats (turkey, duck, and chicken) rolled into one. When you slice through it, you get all three—each one equally delicious and equally essential. If we are going to call ourselves Christians, it seems that both the resurrection and Jesus are fundamental to our faith.

I don’t know about that doubting pastor from Easter but I do know a little about that teen who thought there was too much Jesus in her youth group. Her youth pastor refused to back down and, rather than put Jesus in a side dish, He kept the risen Christ front and center. The teen who objected to the main dish Jesus? Shortly after that meeting, she accepted Jesus—not as an optional add-on but as her Lord and Savior!

Scripture often referred to Jesus as the cornerstone: the foundation upon which the church is built. The cornerstone of a building gives it a reliable and firm foundation; it is indispensable and prominent. May the risen Christ remain indispensable and prominent in our witness as we build His church!

You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. [Ephesians 2:19b-21 (NLT)]

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READING HIS WORD

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)]

Bouncing Bet

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of Bible translations: paraphrase, word-for-word, and thought-for-thought. With their straightforward contemporary language, paraphrase versions like The Message and The Living Bible are easy to read. The further we get from literal translations, however, the more room there is for interpretive error. Paraphrase Bibles are a bit like a radiologist’s report on a CT scan. If we were surgeons, we wouldn’t base our surgical plan solely on his summary of the scan; we’d examine the patient and look at the actual scan before operating. A surgeon doesn’t perform surgery based solely on the radiologist’s analysis and we shouldn’t base our faith entirely on our reading of paraphrase Bibles. Nevertheless, just as the radiologist’s easily understood report has value (especially to the layperson), so do paraphrase Bibles.

For many of us, the word-for-word King James was our first Bible. Unfortunately, with its archaic grammar and phrasing, it wasn’t always easy to understand. The word-for-word English Standard Version, however, is quite readable. Unfortunately, a single English word often can’t capture the gist of the original Greek or Hebrew. The strict word-for-word translation in Young’s Literal can seem nearly incomprehensible to anyone but a scholar. Most of us probably prefer thought-for-thought Bible translations like the New Century Version, New International Version and New Living Translation. Rather than translating each word, they translate the meaning of a sentence or paragraph into modern English and are easier to read than many other translations. Regardless of the translation used, the additional explanations found in study or life application Bibles make them easier to understand. As for me, whatever translation used, I prefer it in large print!

Sadly, claiming that it’s beyond our comprehension, many of us don’t read any version of the Bible. Although the King James Version is considered twelfth grade reading, the New King James Version is written at seventh grade level. The Message and God’s Word translations are written at fifth grade level and the New Century Version is considered third grade reading. While the Bible can be confusing at times, it isn’t incomprehensible. What’s important is finding a Bible or Bibles with which we feel comfortable. We should never forget that the primary purpose of Bible study is not to become Biblical scholars or to win a Bible trivia contest. The reason we study the Bible is to know more about its author—God! That can be done any translation; we must, however, do the reading!

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. [Søren Kierkegaard]

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 (MSG)]

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