Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Paying the Price

Looking through some old photos recently reminded me of a grand adventure several years ago exploring some of the Ohio Amish country. That adventure included a buggy ride. I copied this photo from the Yoder Amish Home web site to show where we rode.





The area where we rode was surrounded by ragweed. Lots of ragweed. And being highly allergic to ragweed, I paid a price for that buggy ride. Drippy nose. Swollen eyes. Lots of tissues. Feeling - and looking - pretty miserable.

That's the price of a buggy ride.

For the nine years we lived in the mountains of western North Carolina, we lived in the log home at the top of a mountain, and we had amazing views.




We enjoyed some spectacular sunsets when we lived there.



There was a downside to all that beauty. The only access to our mountain home was a very steep gravel road, and going up and down that road in winter could be treacherous.

That was the price we had to pay for those beautiful views.

Yesterday I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon, sitting outside on the porch, feeling the breeze, and listening to bird’s singing while I read a good book.



Today I’m paying for it. I sound like a frog and have a horrible headache!

We all understand the concept of paying the price, at least in theory. When we go to the supermarket or the department store, and find an item we want, we check the price of the item, and then must decide if we are willing to pay that price. Whether it's bananas or steak or coffee or shoes, we check the price and determine if we are willing to pay that price. In every case, there's a price that must be paid.

There is a price to pay for everything.  There are always consequences.

That is true for beautiful mountain views and for buggy rides in fields of ragweed and days on the porch in the middle of a seemingly never-ending pollen season. It is true for the choices we make about how to spend our money and the choices we make concerning food, or about any of the other choices we make.

Jesus had something to say about counting the cost. He said, "Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost?"  (Luke 14:28 ESV).  In this passage in Luke 14, Jesus was talking about the cost of discipleship. The cost of being a follower of Jesus Christ. Yes, salvation is a free gift.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."  (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)  

Salvation is a free gift, but there is a cost to discipleship. A cost to following Jesus. And we must consider the cost, Jesus said.  

Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."  (Luke 14:28-29 ESV)

Jesus said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you."  (John 15:18 ESV)

Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33 ESV)

Being a follower of Jesus Christ, especially in our culture, comes with a price tag. There may be ridicule.  You may lose your friends. Or your job. Or, as it is in many parts of the world, you might lose more than that. You might even lose your life.

Jesus paid it all for you.

Salvation is a free gift. Discipleship is a costly pursuit.

Are you willing to pay the price of being His disciple?


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Spiritual Amnesia

Every Thursday morning I have the privilege of meeting together with a wonderful group of women for Bible Study. This past Thursday, we finished our study of the 7 Feasts* found in Leviticus 23. This study was was a little different than other studies we have done, but in the end, we were not only challenged, but encouraged by all we had learned about God from this study.

While we on this side of the Cross no longer observe the rituals of these feasts, but there is much we can learn from them. Not only does each feast point forward to Christ in some way, but these feasts also have much to say to us about our spiritual amnesia.

What in the world is spiritual amnesia?

Let’s start with a definition for amnesia:

Amnesia: Loss of a large block of interrelated memories; complete or partial loss of memory due to brain injury or trauma.

I understand amnesia. I have amnesia. Due to a stroke in 2016, there is a large block of my life that I no longer have any memory of. 

But what does that have to do with spiritual amnesia?

Spiritual amnesia has to do with remembering. As in, I remembered to read my Bible today, I remembered to pray today, I remembered to go to church on Sunday. But it goes beyond that.

Spiritual amnesia is about not forgetting. Not forgetting the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer and church attendance, certainly. But beyond that.

Remembering who God is. Remembering His character and His ways. Remembering all He has done and all He has promised to do. 

Remembering. Letting all that sink in. 

In ancient Israel, the Lord had set feast days like Passover and First Fruits and the Day of Atonement into their calendar so the Israelites would remember.

We don’t have to wait for those feast days to remember. And if we are wise, we will make every effort not to forget….to remember. To remember all He has done. To remember His promises. To remember His goodness. To remember His blessings.

To remember. So we don’t get spiritual amnesia.


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NKJV)     


* 7 Feasts, Finding Christ in the Sacred Celebrations of the Old Testament, Erin Davis, Revive Our Hearts Ministrieso

Monday, May 16, 2022

Ancient Words

 



"Holy words, long preserved,
For our walk in this world,
They resound with God's own heart.
Oh, let the ancient words impart.
 
Words of life, words of hope,
Give us strength, help us cope,
In this world, where e'er we roam,
Ancient words will guide us home.
 
Chorus:
Ancient words ever true.
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts.
Oh, let the ancient words impart.
 
(-Michael W. Smith)
 

We sang this in church yesterday. It's a relatively new hymn, written in the late 20th or early 21st century. It's one of my favorite of the newer hymns. Perhaps it's a favorite of yours as well. But even more than the text of this hymn, I love what it is written about.

Ancient words. Oh, how precious are the ancient words of Scripture. How blessed we are that God has revealed Himself, His works and His ways, to us through the written word, preserved down through the centuries for us. Whether we are reading the Scriptures in their original languages, or no matter which English translation we are using, these are words to be treasured. As Paul told us in his letter to Timothy, they are "profitable" for us......"for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" that we may be "equipped for every good work."  (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
 
It is because these words are so precious and because they are profitable for us that I get so disturbed when I hear them misused or misapplied or inaccurately quoted. We are told in the Book of Joshua to "Be very careful to observe the commandment and the law" (Joshua 22:5 ESV). It is my belief that those words did not apply only to the Hebrew people getting ready to enter the Promised Land, but that we must take them to heart as well. We must be very careful. We must study the Word of God carefully and we must apply it carefully. And we must be very careful that we don't mix into the Word things we have heard from other sources and put those words on equal standing with the Word of God.

I cringe, at least inwardly, when I hear people say things like "God helps those who help themselves", and who really believe that is a Biblical saying. In fact that saying does not come from the Bible, but comes from "Poor Richard's Almanac", written by Benjamin Franklin and not said by Jesus! The origin of that phrase actually goes back to Algernon Sydney in a 1698 article titled "Discourses Concerning Government"!

The Bible actually teaches that God helps the helpless. For example, look at Isaiah 25:4 ("For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress.....") or at Romans 5:6 ("For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.")

And I really, really cringe when I hear, as I did recently, things like "well, you know what Jesus said.....hate the sin and love the sinner." The problem is, Jesus didn't say that. Mahatma Ghandhi did.  And centuries before him, a similar phrase was used by St. Augustine of Hippo.

I'm not saying all this to be critical, but rather to demonstrate what a Biblically illiterate people we have become. And that breaks my heart. God has given us His word.....this "Ancient Word"......and we just take it so for granted, especially in the United States. With our virtually unlimited access to the Word, in multiple formats and in multiple translations and with multiple copies of the Word in our homes, we act as though that is enough. As though physical access to the Word is all we need. And if we pick it up and dust it off occasionally, or if we read a verse or two here and there, or if we show up on Sunday morning, that's enough.

But it isn't nearly enough. How do we know that there won't come a day in this country when we won't have that unlimited access to the Word of God?

What gives us the right to be such lazy Christians anyway? It is my firm belief that God has given us His Word, this written revelation of Himself, in order for us to know Him better, in order for us to read it and study it and understand it. So that we would then know how we should live in a way that honors and glorifies and magnifies Him.

Life is not all about me. Or all about you. It's all and only about Him. And knowing how to live life in a way that honors Him, that is in obedience to Him, is learned by studying His Word, those "Ancient Words" that have been left to us.  

Oh, that we would value those words more. That we would spend time in those Words. That we would study them. That we would hide them in our hearts. That we would handle them accurately.

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."                 (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB)


 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Multitasking

 



A few days ago I was multitasking (translation:  watching TV and scrolling through old photos at the same time), and I came across this photo of a Bookmobile. Although this Bookmobile doesn't look exactly like the one I remember from my childhood, this photo did trigger a flood of memories.

How I looked forward to those trips to the bookmobile! It parked on the corner of our street, in a location that interestingly became home to an actual bricks-and-mortar library building many decades later.  Ours was the third house from the corner, and out the front door we would go, Mother and I, to walk up to the bookmobile. And then we would walk back home, my arms loaded with all the books I could carry. It was an absolute delight!

Eventually our town got our own branch of the Spartanburg County Library. It was a very small building, not much larger than an average bedroom, and was open two afternoons a week.....Tuesday and Saturday.  Mrs. Christopher was the Librarian. She sat behind a table by the door and stamped due dates onto that little white flap glued into the back of the book. The Children's Section was just to the right of the front door. It was there that I formed friendships with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and the Bobbsey Twins.  Where I got to know people like Florence Nightingale and George Washington Carver and Julie Lowe and Clara Barton and Benjamin Franklin. Where Louisa May Alcott became a favorite author. It is quite likely that I read every book on those shelves at least once!  

I also spent some time in Mysteries and Westerns. These were for my granddaddy, who lived with us part of the year. He was confined to his room as a result of multiple strokes, but he loved to read mysteries and westerns. Twice a week I went to the library and got our books. If I ever made the mistake of getting him a book he had already read, he let me know it! The town now has a beautiful library building, full of wonderful books and magazines and computers. But my memories of the Landrum Library always go to that little building from my childhood, and even earlier to those trips to the bookmobile.

Over the years I have had opportunity to spend time in many libraries. When I was a little girl I often visited my second cousin Anne Sevier, who taught English at Winthrop College (now Winthrop University). While Anne was teaching, she would drop me off at the college library and leave me in the care of Miss Schinn, the College Librarian. That library has moved from building to building over the years, but my memories take me back to what I think is now known as the Rutledge Building......to quiet whispers, big library tables with uncomfortable wooden chairs, and to a children's section on the first floor, back corner on the right, with more books than were housed in the entire Landrum Library!  I remember sitting in the floor, surrounded by books, complete oblivious to anything that might be going on around me. That continues to happen to this day when there's a good book in my hand!

One of my favorite things about libraries, and book stores as well, other than the obvious - books! - is the smell. I love the smell of that many books all in the same confined space. Call me crazy, but there it is.......I love the smell of books! I love the feel of a book in my hand. I love the sound of pages turning - quietly, mind you. I don't like the sound of pages being "flipped"!  It seems disrespectful to the book.  (Again, go ahead, call me crazy!) But the smell is my favorite......I love that!

The thing I love even more is the combination of smells at places like Barnes and Noble. Books and coffee together. Two of my very favorite things. An absolute delight to my senses.

There was a time I thought I would no longer have the joy of reading. Following my stroke several years ago, I had to learn to read and write again. And even after I did, for a time reading was more stress than pleasure. Thankfully, over time, it has once again become something I enjoy. And although I now read much more slowly than I once did, I still often am reading more than one book at a time. Multitasking!

This week I finished one book and started a couple more.
  • The Catch by Lisa Harris is the 3rd and finally book in the US Marshalls series. Harris is a great writer of “romantic suspense”, and The Catch was a great read. I love a good mystery, and this one fills the bill.
  • I have just begun reading Where the Road Bends by Rachel Fordham. I have only read a few pages, but I think I’m going to enjoy this one.
  • And I pulled an old book of my book shelf to read again. I’m looking forward to slowly and prayerfully rereading A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
When these are finished, there will be more good books to take their place. I always have a pretty extensive “want to read” list. Always multitasking! Always a book nearby.

Today is a definitely a good day for some multitasking. No appointments. Nothing but laundry on my agenda. A good day for two of my favorite things. Coffee and a good book. 


"I cannot live without books." - Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Every Careless Word



“Every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment." 


Jesus spoke those words.  

Every careless word. Oh my.  

Every careless word. Not some careless words. Not just the words I meant to say. But every careless word. Including the ones that just slipped out of my mouth. The ones that caused me then to say,"Did I really just say that?".

Every careless word. Not just the kind, thoughtful, loving words. But every word. Including the ones uttered in frustration or in bad temper or in anger.

As I have been thinking about these words of Jesus, I wonder how many careless words I have spoken already today. Or how many I spoke yesterday.

How many careless words have I spoken this week?

Or this month?

And I realize that I can't even begin to keep up! How sad that is.....

Every careless word. That's a lot of words. And it's a reminder that we really do need to think before we speak. 


"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  (Matthew 12:36 NASB, emphasis mine) 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Distractions

Have you ever started a project and then not finished it because your mind wandered to somewhere else? And then you remembered another thing that needed doing. Or a phone call you needed to make. And then you decided to check Facebook or your texts.  And then you needed a snack. But maybe you should walk the dog first. But you need to finish this chapter. Except you just remembered that you have clothes in the washing machine that need to go in the dryer. But first you'll go make another cup of coffee.   

Can anyone relate? 

We all get distracted from time to time. Life is busy, and our schedules are filled with places to be and things to do.  

Sometimes distractions are a good thing. We can be going through the busyness of the day and then find ourselves distracted by the beauty of a flower. Or by a sunset. Or by a song we hear. Or by the sound of children at play. At those times we hit the pause button on life, set aside for a moment whatever we might have been focused on, and enjoy the beauty. We take time to smell the roses, to borrow a phrase. Those are good distractions.

Too often, however, distractions are not good things.  

Too often we allow distractions to keep us from more important things, like the Word of God. We allow the busyness of life to get in the way. We even allow good things, like family and friends, to become distractions, keeping us from best things, like time with the Lord. We too often use friends and family as an excuse, rather than seeking to find the right balance. As a result, relationships with family, with friends, and with the Lord, all can suffer.

In addition, we allow the media to distract us. Politicians would like to keep us distracted. The enemy of our souls would like to keep us distracted.

That's the greatest danger of all. That the enemy of our souls would keep us so distracted, whether by busyness or by false teachers or by media and political pundits with their particular agendas. That distraction is the one we must guard most against.

The enemy of our souls would like to keep us so busy and so distracted by our religion and our politics and our good works that we miss the most important thing - our relationship with Jesus.

Don't give your enemy the victory! Don't get distracted!

"You therefore, beloved....be on your guard."  (2 Peter 3:17 NASB)

"Be on guard."  (2 Timothy 4:15 NASB)

"Be on guard, so that your heart will not be weighted down...."  (Luke 21:34 NASB)

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."  (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith."  (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

(Un)remarkable


(Un)remarkable, subtitled “Ten ordinary women who impacted the world for Christ”, is a group of vignettes about ten women who were, in fact, most remarkable. Some of the names, like Corrie ten Boom and Susannah Wesley, you may recognize; others, like Sabrina Wurmbrandt and Phillis Wheatley Peters, you may not.

As a young girl, I loved reading biographies. Sadly, as I have grown older, I have gotten away from reading them. In the introduction to the book, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us why these biographies are so important: “if our spiritual nourishment consists largely of blogs and books written by modern-day men and women who have lived a mere three, four, or five decades in affluent America, we risk spiritual malnourishment.” This book reminds me why biographies are worth reading, and challenges me to add more biographies to my reading list.

C.S. Lewis once wrote that reading about these faithful believers of the past serves as a lens through which we can see Christ more clearly. Reading about the lives of godly men and women in the past encourages us to live beyond our present circumstances.

The first woman we meet in this book is Mary Slessor. I remember reading about her when I was a young girl. Mary had a tough upbringing in Scotland, and met Christ as a teenager. She longed to share Christ with the world, but didn’t think she fit the mold of a missionary. It was, after all, unusual for young women to go barefoot and climb trees in the mid-1800s, as Mary did. Eventually, at age 28, Mary left Scotland for Calabar (in present-day Nigeria). Mary Slessor lived in Africa for more than 40 years, eventually being known as Ma Akamba, the Great Mother, as Mary, who had no children of her own, became a refuge for young children.

Like the other women in this book, Mary exemplified unselfish, dedicated devotion to Christ. Mary Slessor considered Jesus the answer to every human need.

(Un)remarkable is a short book, less than 100 pages, filled with inspiration and encouragement. Each of the stories of these remarkable women is followed by a “Take it home, make it personal” segment with some thought-provoking questions for you to think about, often also accompanied by a passage of scripture to meditate on.

This is a small book that packs a powerful punch. I urge you to read it for yourself.

(Un)remarkable is available from Revive Our Hearts ministries (www.reviveourhearts.com).



“Everything no matter how seemingly secular or small is God’s work for the moment and worthy of our best endeavor.” - Mary Slessor