Celebrating the beauty of God's grace

A Little Good News

[This is the twenty-fifth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Share the Gospel)]

“We sure could use a little good news today.”

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Canadian singer Anne Murray won a Grammy for her rendition of the above hit song,  “A Little Good News,” in 1983.

The words of the song lament the struggles of that time–robbery, drug overdoses, and shots fired in anger. Racial tension choked urban communities, as fiery protests filled cities with smoke.

The longing for good news is even greater today as flames of discord and violence are turned up to high.

What can extinguish the torrent of bad news that threatens to engulf us from every direction?

It is the good news of Jesus Christ.

Before the return of Jesus, the Good News of the Kingdom will be preached to every nation. The book of Matthew records Jesus’s words:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, nkjv).

What is the good news? It’s the simplicity of the gospel:  

. . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (2 Corinthians 15:3-4, nkjv).

Sometimes we get tangled up in unclear doctrine, busy works, false guilt, and checklists for Christianity. We miss the simplicity of the Gospel.

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Do we neglect the parting words of Christ and His command to share the gospel?

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’” (Mark 16:15, nkjv).

Whatever our purpose while here on Earth, sharing the Good News will be one mark of those looking for our Blessed Hope. We will be walking in the good works God has prepared for us while sharing the Gospel and looking for His return.

The Good News shows God’s love for us. It is the refreshing spring of Life that can quench any flame.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, nkjv).

 

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Loving the Truth

[This is the twenty-fourth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Strong Delusion)]

Understanding truth is an eternal longing. Through the ages, poets and philosophers have tried to grasp it.

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Truth is like the scent of lilacs drifting on a warm breeze. On a gorgeous, sunny day the captivating scent is delightful. Lovers of truth pursue the essence until the blossoms are discovered and the fragrance breathed in.

Like the perfume of lilacs, truth leads us to beauty, gives us rest, and makes us believe that everything will be all right. Truth carries with it the freshness of life.

Truth compels us to believe in our Creator, the One who watches over us and gives us beauty. He’s here. He cares. He’s sovereign. He is truth.

But truth can be missed. Even the powerful Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, had questions. Pilate’s authority stood on the iron fist of Rome, but when he questioned Jesus, he lost his footing. Pressured by the threat of an uprising and his wife’s disturbing dreams, the ruler fell into confusion and asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38, nkjv).

As the time of the end draws near, truth is becoming rare. Those who look for truth may find they are digging in a miry pit trying to uncover it. Pursuers of the truth may find their backs aching and their fingernails clogged with mud.

When truth is offered in our media-saturated culture, it is smothered in useless information and shouted down with dissension.

Truth can be obscured, especially by pride. We can miss it if we’re not careful. Like Pontius Pilate, Truth is right in front of us.

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Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, nkjv).

The question for us is, will we love the truth? Can we accept Him, follow Him, and trust Him?

Loving the truth is life-giving. When long hours and anxious worry cloud our days, we need truth. And when truth comes out, we all sigh together in relief. We breathe in the harmonizing aura of God’s reality and our lives are made over anew.

There is an alternative to loving the truth and it’s not a pleasant one.

Before the Second Coming of Christ, the days of the antichrist will be marked not by truth, but by strong delusion. Those on the Earth at that time will believe lies and deception. God Himself will send the strong delusion. Why?

“ . . . because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion . . . ” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11, nkjv).

 

    

 

Peace or Clamor?

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[This is the twenty-third post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Peace)]

“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

I sang the above jubilant words in our 1970’s youth choir, truly believing that if we could all just “come together” people could bring about peace. To be fair, the song acknowledges God as our Father, but many have forgotten that part of the hymn.

I was a naive twelve year old. I spent my Saturday mornings eating Captain Crunch and listening to The Archies sing, “Sugar, Sugar.”

Safely tucked in bed before nine, I blessedly missed the 11:00 news that showcased protest marches and the loud blasts of grenades in Viet Nam.

Fast forward to 2018. I am no longer in  junior high choir. I’m a grandmother who has witnessed our national tragedies: assassinations, impeachments, sexual revolution and perversion, social unrest, The Gulf War, Afghanistan, 9/11, the War on Terror and a nation divided.

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Now, almost fifty years later, everyone is still clamoring for peace.

But clamor itself is a sign of no peace. Clamor is loud and confusing. The recent Supreme Court debacle spread this kind of noisy chaos.

“They do not speak peaceable but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land” (Psalm 35:20, niv).

Many times, we cling to the fragile peace of the world for comfort. We depend on our jobs, money, hospitals, friends or family, even the government to make sure life, as we know it, is not turned upside down.   

But these things can be shaken to the core. Our reality can shift and we’re tossed on unfamiliar seas, grasping for a lifeline.

Jesus termed the trials of the last days as “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8, nkjv). It is a time when peace is not found by looking around at world events, but by abiding in the peace that Jesus gives.

“And the peace of God, that passeth all understanding, shall keep you hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, kjv).

How do we tap into God’s peace? Our peace comes not from our own resources, but through a relationship.

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit who makes the Bible come to life as we read it. We are guided and reassured. The Spirit inside of us enlivens the Word to give us peace.

And don’t forget prayer. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3, nkjv).

Jesus, our great High Priest, is in heaven right now, interceding for us. He knows our concerns, our troubles, and our trials and is advocating on our behalf.

Before returning to heaven, Jesus told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, nkjv).

 

 

Who Really Matters

[This is the twenty-second post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ]

During a recent Uber ride, the passengers in our car exchanged pleasantries with the driver.

My husband comes from a small town and usually asks new acquaintances questions about their home and background. Some drivers are open and enjoy talking to travelers. Others, not so much.

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I guess it’s human nature to be curious about someone’s life journey. Many times when we ask questions we’re searching for common ground, a mutual experience that we share.

But sometimes, it’s because we want the new people on our radar to fit into our preconceived notions. It’s called pigeonholing, and it’s not a good thing. It’s also stereotyping and labeling.

Our opinions about most areas of the country have been shaped by what we’ve read, heard, or glimpsed on a television or computer. Whether our new friends are from the North or South, coast or heartland, mountains or plains, cities or rural communities, we size people up by where they’re from.

When Jesus began his ministry on Earth, there was constant debate over where He was from. The people (and even His own brothers) found it hard to believe His proclamation as being God’s Son and having come from heaven.

The people asked, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (John 6:42, nkjv). And, ”Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary . . . And are not His sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3, nkjv).

Followers of His miracles questioned, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee?” (John 7:41, nkjv). Even the disciple Nathanael quipped,“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”(John 1:46, nkjv).

They rejected Him because the Old Testament scripture foretold the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. They made assumptions because they labeled Him without getting to know Him. If they had, they might have learned of His miraculous birth in Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy.

When the Pharisees couldn’t discredit Him, they resorted to name-calling to the max. “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon!” (John 8:48, nkjv).  

Why was He so hard for them to accept?

One who’d been born into ordinary circumstances, into a familiar town, and whose family worshiped in the local synagogue, was indeed God’s Son.

Their pride wouldn’t allow them to accept a humble carpenter.

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Jesus predicted, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”

Sadly, this “other” man coming in his own name is the antichrist. This “man of sin” earth-dwellers will receive.

As signs of the end times seem to be escalating, we don’t need to focus on the evil that is to come, or a name that has a numerical value of 666.

We only need to know the One Who has all things under His sovereign control. Especially when we don’t understand, haven’t checked out the deeper facts, or have made false assumptions.

Knowing Jesus is what matters.

 

Not in the System

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[This is the twenty-first post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Perilous times)]

There are times when I admire people who trek into a remote area of the country, build a nice log cabin, and spend winters enjoying venison stew while they sit in a rocking chair by the fire.

But most of the time, I know I wouldn’t last long as a doomsday prepper. I don’t like to be cold and I’m too squeamish to kill my own meat.

You won’t find me out on the fringe, but I rebel in my own little ways. Especially when I feel pressure to conform.

Up-and-comers don’t remember a time when we didn’t have the internet. Millennials are comfortable giving away fingerprints, having their faces recognized, and handing out birth dates.

Some things are meant to be private. And those who pressure you to give information you’d rather not share are invading your privacy.

What happens to those who don’t conform? It doesn’t take long to find out. Visit your nearest retail store.

After Christmas last year, I planned to use a gift card at a cosmetics store. Once at the store, I found some eye makeup then stood in a ten-person line for about fifteen minutes. Finally, I stood at the front.

“Phone number?” The cashier asked.

“I don’t give out my phone number.”

“Well, I can’t look up your account if you don’t.”

“I don’t have an account.”

“If you had an account you could save up to ten per cent off, plus get notifications of all our sales.”

“I don’t want an account,” I said, knowing the “sale notifications” would jam my email inbox every day.

A dismayed, “I can’t believe how stupid you are” look passed over the cashier’s face. Instantly, I became a nonentity in her estimation.

“Anyone want this woman’s star points?” She crooned down the line of waiting customers.

“I do, I do,” said a young woman two persons down from me.

“Okay, what’s your number?” The clerk asked. The woman gave it. The salesperson then rang up my purchase and typed in the other person’s store ID. After about five minutes of wrangling, I still wasn’t checked out.

I felt cheated. A loved one had given me this card as a gift and I used it for purchases. Yet someone else was given the preferred-customer treatment. I don’t think the salesperson even thanked me after the purchase.

This week, I shopped for clothes I needed for an upcoming meeting. After sifting through racks of clothing, I found a top I liked.

Thankfully, no one stood in line to check out. After figuring out which credit card chip-reading machine to use, I scooted to stand in front of it and waited to have my purchases scanned.

“Phone number?” The salesperson asked.

“I’m not in your computer,” I replied, knowing what came next.

“You sure? I think that blouse you’re wearing is one of ours. You must have shopped here before.”

“Really?” I said, incredulous. I couldn’t remember where I purchased the blouse months earlier, but somehow this complete stranger did.

“Oh sure,” she said. “Mind if I check the label?”

At this point, I was amused. “Sure, go ahead and check.” I laughed and turned around. The woman actually checked the label inside my shirt, just below the collar.

“Yep, thought so. It’s one of ours,” she said. “You sure you’re not in our computer? Phone number?” The woman was so insistent, I gave her an old landline number we didn’t use.

“Not in there,” she said.

“Told you.”

After being made to feel like I’d wasted valuable minutes of her time, she finally tapped through screen after screen and came to a page that would allow her to add up my purchases.

The chip reader accepted my fully pushed-in card. After signing the screen with an illegible signature, I had my one sleeveless top stowed safely in a bag.

I escaped to the front of the store and waited for a friend who was trying on clothes. As luck would have it, I found two other blouses I liked while I waited. Knowing what was coming next, I approached the counter.

A younger, manager-type woman greeted me and attempted to check me out. We had the same phone number discussion. The other salesperson warned the manager, “I’ve already been through this with her.”

The manager girl’s eyes were glued to the screen in front of her. She tapped and tapped, scrolling through gobbledy-gook screen pages. Finally, she rolled her eyes, added my purchases, and waited as I inserted and signed. I was thanked, but felt like I’d barely escaped with my dignity intact.

I’d been disrespected, humiliated, and sent on my way.

As disgusted and humiliated as I felt, how much greater will be the pressure to conform during the last days?

The Bible prophesies about a time when we won’t be able to buy or sell without the mark, number, or name of the antichrist (Rev. 13:16-17). And failure to take the “mark” may risk not only your dignity, but your life and the lives of those you love.

The pressure is already on. Intimidation, peer pressure, and disrespect will come to those who reject intrusive technology.

A time will come when those “not in the system” will lose everything. Thankfully, when that happens, Christians will be “not in this world.” We’ll have changed addresses–not to a log cabin but to a place that Jesus has prepared, just for us (John 14:1-3).

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I Done Told You

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[This is the twentieth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Endurance)]

Who can forget the sweeping saga of the Old South, Gone with the Wind? Or the memorable character, Mammy, who often got the best of Scarlett O’Hara when the two had a battle of wills? When Scarlett defied her instructions, Mammy scolded, “I done told you and told you!”

Mammy’s words make me laugh, but sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t feel this way about us. So many things He has told us–over and over.

Prophecy in the Bible lets us know what God is going to do ahead of time. His grace-filled assurances keep us from being taken by surprise or unprepared for things that are about to happen. He gives us peace when everything around us is chaos.

The prophets of the Old Testament gave sign after sign to the Hebrew people, telling them of things to watch for as they looked for Messiah. They understood Messiah as a King who would be sent by God to save them. They had foreknowledge of His coming, but most didn’t recognize His visitation.

Christians believe Jesus is the fulfillment of the expected King. We are looking, not for the first appearance of Messiah, but for the next appearance of Jesus Christ. We have foreknowledge of His coming. How important is it that we don’t miss the signs of His imminent return?

When the wait seems long, questions arise in our hearts. Which signs should we look for? Do we search the skies for an eclipse? How about the alignment of the stars? Which end-times commotion should we ignore?

It is good to remember that even the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, needed reassurance.

John baptized Jesus and witnessed the Holy Spirit descending upon Him as a dove. John was present when a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, nkjv).

Yet from his lonely, dark confinement in prison, John apparently did some soul-searching. Had he gotten it all wrong?

Even after witnessing the dove and hearing a voice from heaven, John still longed for reassurance. He sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3, nkjv).

If John the Baptist needed assurance of God’s word concerning Messiah, we are in good company when we have questions about His next coming.

We can guard against end times panic by checking our Bibles for truth and relying on the Holy Spirit to alert our hearts.

When we are forgetful of God’s faithfulness and truth, He doesn’t scold us. Even though He has already told us of Jesus’s coming, He will remind us again. He is gracious and kind, guiding and reassuring us through His Spirit.

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I Resemble that Remark

[This is the nineteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ            (Offense and Hatred)]

How many of us can think of The Three Stooges without cracking a smile? Who can forget Mo with his bossy sarcasm, Larry with creamy pie on his face, or Curly getting himself into a pickle and coming back with quirky retorts like, “I resemble that remark!”

Would a show like The Three Stooges even make it onto television in today’s politically correct environment? Don’t think so.

Not only are people easily offended, the offended one responds with unforgiveness and spite. Is there ever talk of clearing the air, apology, forgiveness, or reconciliation?

Instead, those with opposing opinions butt heads like two clashing goats, caught in attack and counter-attack. Push forward and push-back.

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What ever happened to letting things roll off your back? Or walking away and treating yourself to a chocolate sundae? What about taking the high road? That way of thinking doesn’t seem to be around anymore.

Jesus warned us that civil society would crumble as the day of His return draws near.

His words are to the point: “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:10, nkjv).

The word “hate” has almost become a buzzword. Many believe that the quickest way to silence someone who has an opinion different from yours is to label them a “hater.”

If a minister preaches on verses from the Bible that touch a sore spot of conscience, that sermon is labeled “hate speech.”

Yet if a Hollywood actor takes the podium and curses the President with vulgar profanity, the entertainment community gives him a standing ovation. Those who spew vitriol and hate are only revealing the darkness inside of them.

“. . .for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b, nkjv).

On the flip side, the same passage teaches, “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good” (Luke 6:45a, nkjv).

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So we have a choice: to turn aside hatred and to speak healing words when we have a chance.

We can take a stand as the Holy Spirit leads while being careful not to add fuel to the fire.

As the day of our Blessed Hope draws near, Christians should be thankful that we have been forgiven.

“For we ourselves were also once . . . living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared . . . according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:3-5, nkjv).