Break the Silence

This is an interesting time of year. So many things are in turmoil. Seasons are changing, the weather is very unstable. In most of the U.S. school will be winding down, so kids (and teachers) are becoming unstable. Sleeping things are waking up. Nature, dormant and looking dead for the winter comes back to life and color comes flooding back to the world.

It’s the time of year that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We spend time reflecting on his life, and then his death, and then how he conquered death to reign victoriously at the right hand of God.

There’s so much that has been written, by way of devotional, and so much more that could be written. I’ve been struggling to come up with the “just right” thing, and so, have accomplished very little. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, watching things unfold, reading others writings, watching some few put their words out there, wondering how many others are like me, sitting silently, watching it all happen.

Isn’t that what happened on that fateful Friday just over 2000 years ago? The ruling elite, the religious elite, made a decision that protected their interest, and they set their plan in motion. They were able to get some to cry out against Jesus. Whether they knew the charges against Jesus were trumped up or not is immaterial (though I believe most knew). They followed the elite in calling for Jesus’ blood.

But most the people, the vast majority, just stood and watched. They had nothing against Jesus. Yet they remained silent. Whether they believed Jesus is the Son of God or not, they stood silent in passive unbelief.

We, as human beings, tend to do this. They say, in any organization, that 90% of the work is done by 10%of the people. Well, it’s time for Christians to change that. Time is ticking away, and there is more and more evidence that we are close to the end. Certainly we are closer to the end than we have ever been. And there is still a lot of work to do. It’s time to get busy. People need to hear about Jesus. How will they hear unless we tell them? It’s time for us to break out of our fearful silence and tell the world.

In Between – Again

The Saturday before Easter. The day in between. Not knowing what’s next, but now, knowing. (We know He comes back, but somehow, always seem to wonder).

On the way to work, I heard a “commercial” for the resurrection. The line that really grabbed my attention was about how, when Jesus was being beaten, whipped, spat upon, reviled, crucified, NO ONE stood up for Him. And something clicked in my head.

This past week, the news has been filled with a men, forcibly removed from an airplane because of overbooking. I’m not here to debate whether this was right or wrong. My purpose lies elsewhere. In Facebook comments, one of my friends said something along the lines of “this is Trump’s America,” implying that the incident was a consequence of Trump’s election. She said that incidents like this stem from an atmosphere that Trump has created.

I disagree. I believe that this attitude is the same attitude that existed over two thousand years ago, that led to an innocent man being crucified. I believe it stems from a sin condition that has existed since Eve did what she wanted rather than what God said, and ate the apple. It is an attitude that has been pervasive throughout history. It may have crests and troughs as it waves its way through history, but it’s always been there.

The larger than life evidence of that comes from the crucifixion of Jesus. Just as no one stood up to the Pharisees and the Sadducees for fear of their reaction and possible consequences, so today, no one wants to stand against bullying.

While there are more people speaking out on social media, that really doesn’t do much. There are more people writing letters to their elected officials and voicing their discontent. This may do more. And there is an increase in people speaking out at rallies and demonstrations. These too, can be constructive when done properly. There are more and more stories showing up on social media of kids standing up for the kids that are being bullied. Girls are standing up against kids that are attacking them, and some are even coming to their aid.

We may be building a wave that will once again crest, and fall back, but if we stand up together, against social injustice and bullying, perhaps we will be able to ride that wave to a peaceful, smooth ending on the shores of love.

Ephesians 1:1-2

As you can see from my last post, I was jumping in to what I thought was the meat of this epistle, and bypassing the standard, “boring” greeting that Paul and other first century writers put at the beginning of their letters. But then, as I was reading commentaries in order to delve deeper, and to more fully understand Paul’s letter, I came across a series by Pastor Chuck Smith who founded Calvary Chapel in Yuma, Arizona. Though he passed away in 2013, his messages live on, pointing the way to Jesus, and helping people like me (and hopefully you), to see the grace and beauty of God’s Word in a deeper way.

What struck me, in the very first sentence, was Pastor Smith’s thought of us writing this letter. The first part of the first verse, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” says so much more than just the words. And I never realized that until Pastor Smith suggested substituting your own name. For me, it would read, “Bonnie, a motor vehicle cashier by the will of God.” Wow! We are not all apostles or teachers or Whatever, but we are all called to Something by the WILL OF GOD. And no matter what that something is, we are called by His Will, and we are all ministers in one way or another within that calling. We are in the place God has put us, for a reason. No matter the job, remember what Paul said later in Ephesians, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the LORD, not people.” (Ephesians 6:7 NIV).

In the second half of verse one, Paul states whom he is addressing with this letter. In the ESV version of the Bible,, it says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”┬áThe King James Version, however,┬ásays, “to the Saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” There’s been lots of speculation from experts about this sentence. In some of the old manuscripts the city of Ephesus is there, and in others it’s not. Some experts, such as F. F. Bruce, say that this is what they call a “circular letter,” meaning that it circulated from city to city within Asia Minor, and each city inserted their own name.

When it comes to the difference in those in Ephesus “and faithful in Christ Jesus” (ESV) , or “and TO THE FAITHFUL in Christ Jesus,” (KJV), I know which one I pick to be right. I have no idea if it is or not, but I pick the King James Version. If this is correct, then this letter is actually written to all of us. In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Gill says that the Arabic version says, “and to them that believe in Jesus Christ; with all of their hearts, to the saving of their souls; who look unto Him, venture on Him, rely upon Him, and trust in Him for life and salvation, and who shall certainly be saved.” (My emphasis added). So, from this standpoint, this letter is to each and every one of us. It’s not just for those in the churches at ancient Ephesus, or Asia Minor, it is for all who claim Jesus as their personal Savior, then, now, and forevermore.

And then Paul calls for grace and peace. Chuck Smith points out that it’s always grace first, then peace. Everywhere in the New Testament, grace and peace are paired, and grace comes first. He posits that we can not know the peace of God until we fully understand His grace. And that, my friends, is a subject of a different post! Grace and peace, coming soon. Or, perhaps you want to begin exploring that on your own.

Here are some things for you to think about until the next post:

If you were writing this letter, how would the opening greeting read? Are you in “the will of God” in your job? If not, can you get there? Can you bring glory to Jesus in your present position? Do you know the peace of God, or are you still seeking after His grace?

 

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, it’s been quite a while since I wrote. And as you discovered last week, the main reason is, I’ve been struggling. It’s been a really rough year. And it’s been an all over struggle, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, with a little bit of financial struggle thrown in for fun. But I’m on my way back. There’s still a long way to go, but there are improvements in all areas and I’m on a definite upswing.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, not just over the last year, but throughout the life of this blog, is writing on a regular basis. One of the reasons, I believe, is not having a clear cut purpose for this blog. Well, that is changed. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again here, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” And I mean that literally, figuratively, and humorously as well, since every time I think or write that line actually sing it out. What I mean is, while I’ve tried using the blog simply to complete assignments for classes, or to showcase some of my writing, both of which will continue on occasion,  I have not had a clear purpose. It’s all been sort of thrown together whenever I’ve gotten around to doing something. Sure, there was purpose to the writings for my classes, but nothing ongoing, continuing – habit forming. And that’s what I believe I need right now, something habit forming.

So, there is now a theme to this blog. I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine some of the things I’ve been trying to do. Part of my physical struggle has been due to stress from trying to do too much. But I believed, and still believe, that each of the “too many” things I’ve been trying to do are things that I really am supposed to be doing. I’m now figuring out how to combine some of the things to be able to do the God assigned tasks yet still reduce my stress level. Pray for me that I am successful.

So, the new theme for the blog is going to be the youth Bible study that I had been doing. The biggest difference, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s available to everyone. I’ll be posting every week, sometime on Sunday. And, yes, I have several posts banked already in case life gets in the way again. The other writing things may still happen, the school assignments, the occasional short story, but the primary commitment is at least one Bible study per week.

There will be a Scripture memory verse and a few questions for discussion or reflection. And, the biggie! A read the Bible in a year plan. Who’s with me? When was the last time you read every day? It’s really not all that bad. Yes, it requires discipline, but if we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we need to be disciplined. Keith Moore of Faith Life Church in Branson, Missouri says we need to discipline ourselves like Olympic athletes. Yes, that’s a LOT of discipline, but it really is worth it. The sense of accomplishment alone is worth the effort, but the better benefit is getting the Word inside you. You need to keep filling yourself with the Word until it starts spilling out of your mouth.

I know this intimidates many of you, especially the students. How are you going to get all this reading done in the middle of the school year when all of your teachers are acting like their’s is the only class you have, and they all schedule tests on the same day? Start now! Over the summer, get in the habit. It may seem like a lot of reading, but it’s really not all that much. Put down your phone and pick up the actual Book, and read for 20 minutes a day. I say again, it really is worth the time investment.

I’m using the reading plan at the back of my ESV Bible that I use for travel. There are readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, and the New Testament. You can use whatever plan you want, just be in the Word. Also, if you are following the plan, but the LORD arrests your attention on a particular passage, by all means, stay there. Don’t move on because the plan says you should if God is telling you to tarry for a while. The main thing to remember is that this is all about relationship. If a passage strikes you straight in the heart, dwell there with Jesus until you get things worked out. Read to learn, read to grow, read to become more like Jesus. Just remember, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16- 17).

So I hope you’ll join me on this journey, not just through the Bible, but through the studies, and my adventure to grow in obedience to form a regular habit of writing and study. I’m excited to see what the LORD has in store, and to learn and grow with you.

The first memory verse is the verse above, 2 Timothy 3:16- 17. It seems as good a place as any to start.

READING PLAN
Day 1 : Gen 1- 2 Matt 1- 2 Psalm 1
Day 2 : Gen 3- 4 Matt 3- 4 Psalm 2
Day 3 : Gen 5- 6 Matt 5 Psalm 3
Day 4 : Gen 7- 8 Matt 6 Psalm 4
Day 5 : Gen 9- 10 Matt 7 Psalm 5
Day 6 : Gen 11- 12 Matt 8 Psalm 6
Day 7 : Gen 13- 15 Matt 9 Psalm 7