Ramblings

Life, family, business


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Dogs and God, and Us

I share my home with three dogs, two cats, a conure parrot, and of course, my dear husband.  The dogs are so much fun, and can be a challenge as well.

Kelly is an 11 year old Setter that we brought home almost two years ago when her owner was in a terrible car accident and would be in the hospital for half a year.  Bo is our purebred yellow lab puppy, almost 7 months old, that we purchased, because we were denied adopting since Kelly was never spayed.  And Jersey is a 6 month old puppy we got about 3 weeks ago, from a friend who couldn’t keep her, and she is the new kid on the block.  All three are house dogs, although Kelly lived outdoors for the 9 years before she came home with us.

There is always plenty of food for our dogs.  No one ever goes hungry. We monitor them as they eat to make sure that they each get their own food.  One day I noticed Jersey was hesitant to come to her food bowl.  I moved it to the other side of the room, and she proceeded to eat.  Kelly gave her a growl and started toward her.  Jersey ran to the living room.  I told Kelly, “No.  Its Jersey’s food.  You are not allowed to take away what you didn’t give.”  I brought Kelly back to her dish, and coaxed Jersey back to hers.  I stood by Jersey while she ate, and for the next few days to make sure this didn’t happen again. (I always talk to my pets as though they are humans who understand everything I say.)

But as I stood by Jersey, I thought about what I said.  You are not allowed to take away what you didn’t give.”  For some reason, it really struck me.  I thought about humanity, and how so many people are trying to do this all the time.

Why are people trying to take away things from others that they did not give them?  If I look at the teachings of the Bible, I see that oppression is a recurring theme in the things that God tells us NOT to do.

God tells us over and over again that oppression is wrong.

Psalm 9:9   “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

Proverbs 14:31  “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Zechariah 7:10  “Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

Jeremiah 5:25-29  “ Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you. For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.  They set a trap; they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,  and they do not defend the rights of the needy.  ‘Shall I not punish them for these things?’ declares the Lord, ‘and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?’”

Whoa!  That last one!  It makes me think of religion and politics, and how these evil men, these wicked souls, have turned so many away from the words of Jesus.  How many so called Christians do you know who have been lured into this deceit?  By reading the red letters in the Bible; you know, the words of Jesus; we can see that much of American “Christianity” is not Christian at all.  It is no longer following the words of Jesus.  This American Christianity does not follow Jesus at all.  Instead, it operates on fear.  It’s trying to make us afraid.  It wants you be afraid of anyone who is not like you.  It wants you to be afraid that someone is going to steal your money and your privilege, and all the other treasures you have hoarded here on earth.

But God tells us to not fear over 80 times in the Bible.  Fear is the tool of evil.  If your religion is all about fear, then it is not following God.  If your church tells you to fear everything, then it does not preach the words of God.  Inciting fear in God’s people is how many so called religious leaders try to control and exploit their followers.  By doing this, they have become rich.  Look around! How many mega-million preachers are there?  Everyone of them should be ashamed.

But they are not allowed to take away what they didn’t give.  When God gives us rules and guidelines, who are these people to try to convince us that they know better than God?  They try to take away our faith, our hope, and our promise from God that He will take care of us, that He will prosper us and give us hope, and a future.  He also has a stern warning for those people in Matthew 25:41-46:  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

So, who are you going to fear?  Man?  Our rich politicians who are following their own made-up religion centered around money?  Or God?  You see, God made you.  God is one who gave you everything.  And He who gives, can also take away.  For naked you came from your mother’s womb, and naked you shall return.  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

Thank you to Bible Gateway for the Bible verses I cut and pasted, all in ESV.

 


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Goals for 2017

What are goals?  What’s the difference between a goal and a resolution?

A goal is something you’re working toward, something you want.  But a resolution can be any kind of change you plan on implementing in your life.  I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I’m not very good at resolutions.  I did make one last year, and I think I did pretty well.  My resolution was to stop procrastinating my book work, and have it caught up all the time.  I slipped a bit at the end of the year, but for the most part, I feel I did well.  I have made it a habit to get it done, and that makes all the difference.  Changing your habits is how you change your life.

But this year, I felt I needed goals.  I want something to work towards, something to give me the motivation to work hard, to be all I can be.  I sat with my journal, and really couldn’t come up with much.  In fact, it made me more frustrated the longer I pondered.  Here’s what I ended up writing:

What are goals anyway?  Is it just a wishlist of things to get done? A master plan for life? What if I don’t know what my goals are yet? What if I enjoy living life by the seat of my pants?

I don’t know what this life will bring-what this year will bring. How do I set goals in a place with no certainty? How does one set goals in a game with no rules?

If my goals are simply the ways I hope to change myself for the better, then aren’t they actually aspirations?

Can I choose the goal of having such a great life that I don’t need any goals? Can I trust the God of the Universe enough to stay motivated without having any said goals other than to just be myself?

I think that’s my true goal, to just be myself.  No more worrying about the opinions of other people, because truly, they don’t matter.  No more worrying about if what I said was taken the wrong way, or not understood correctly.  No more worrying about hurting other people’s feelings, especially when they aren’t worried about hurting mine.  Perhaps worrying is the thing I need to get rid of.  All right, so I’ll be my true self, and stop worrying.  There.  Its set.  Happy 2017!


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Baptism

My sermon from Sunday, January 10th.

What is baptism?  A baby comes to mind, all the family and sponsors dressed up and smiling, as the minister drips a little water on his or her head.  The baby usually cries or fusses a little, we all read a liturgy together, pledging to help raise this child in the family of God.  Some churches baptize people as adults instead, plunging them into a tank of water or submerging them in a river. Either way is fine since we only baptize with water, Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.

The purpose of baptism is to show the world we are accepting Christ as our Savior.  If we baptize a baby, we are welcoming him or her into the family of God.  Baptism itself is simply a ceremony of identification with the Christian church. But the true meaning of baptism is rebirth, being born again in the presence of Jesus, and accepting His resurrection for the life-changing thing that it is.

I remember awhile back, Pastor Brian Dixon gave a sermon on baptism, and during the sermon, he presented a bowl of river rocks and invited each congregant to come up and take a rock to remind each of us of our baptism.  I took a shiny black rock and listened to the rest of the sermon instructing us to use this rock to remind us of our own baptisms.

I kept that rock in my pocket for months.  Each time I felt the rock, or became aware of its existence, I made to sure thank God for something. I was reminded that God is the rock I build my life upon. God is my foundation, and all things come from Him.  I would thank Him for my family, friends, coworkers, and all the blessings He brings into my life.

“Thank you for this beautiful day, God!” I would think as I felt the rock. Sometimes I would hold it in my hands as I prayed and I would thank God for giving me this rock so that I thought of Him more often.  When life would get chaotic and my brain was thinking of a million things at once, all I had to do was hold the rock and I could stop and thank God for any and all things.  The rock became almost like a security blanket.

Then, one day as I got ready for work, I stopped to grab my rock and my lip balm to put them in my pocket, and the rock was gone.  I looked all over, under the couch, in the bathroom, in the laundry room. Where did I put my rock?  I had to go to work without it.

That night I continued searching for my rock, but it was gone. I questioned my husband and children if they had seen it.  But alas, the rock was nowhere to be found.  I told my wise friend that I had lost my rock, and she said to me, “Maybe its because you don’t need it anymore.”

God gives, and God takes away.  I thought about this for awhile.  Its true, I was thinking about God on a regular basis, and every time I noticed my rock was missing from its place, I would still thank God for something.  My thanking God had become a habit.  But a good habit at that!  I may have not had the physical reminder, but I still remembered to thank God for everything in my life.

I realized that I truly didn’t need the rock to have God in my life.  And I realized that the rock helped me become a better person by helping me to remember that God is with me in all things.  When I feel God in my life every day, I am more at peace. I know that God is in me, and I am in God.  I know that God works all things together for my good.  I trust God to take care of me, and in this trust I have learned to have less fear of the world and the circumstances of life.

God tells us to ask Him for everything we need, and He will provide.  I worry less about the future and take the time to experience the present.  I ask God for wisdom and knowledge when I have a problem, and He gives me what I need.

When I strive to see the world through God’s eyes, its an entirely different place.  I tend to look for the good in people instead of the negative.  I see the beauty of nature which is God’s creation.  I understand that God’s will prevails over humankind, and no matter what I do, God loves me the same.  I know how much I love my children, even when they make mistakes, and to think that God loves us more than we love our children is amazing.   I am one of those children, and so are you.  God loves us no matter what we do.  When we place our trust in our Father, He always takes care of us.  He is the ultimate definition of love.  God promises us all these things when we become His children, and so much more.

So if any of you want to become more aware of God in your life, I invite you to find some thing that makes you think of God.  Think of it as continuing your baptism.

 

 

 


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How To Be Right (Sermon from 2-1-15)

Scripture Reading:  1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. <Biblegateway.com>

How to be Right

“I will never eat meat again.”  I think this is probably one of those passages of the Bible that we read, then wrinkle our forehead in confusion, and then just dismiss.  Why would Paul say he’s not going to eat meat?  Is it bad to eat meat?  It’s not bad to eat meat.

One of the things I really like, is being right.  I study and read and educate myself, and in an argument, I really like to be right.  I think I can say that most of us feel this way.  Being right feels good, it feels smart, and being wrong feels terrible.

This passage of the Bible tells us that it’s more important to love others, than it is to be right.  Paul is talking about eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols.  This meat is then eaten by the pagans, in expectations of receiving some sort of blessing from their false god.  At the time of this letter to the Corinthians, most of that region was in a famine, there wasn’t much food to go around.  Plus, most of the Christians there were converts to Christianity.  They had been brought up worshipping idols, but had received salvation by accepting Jesus as their savior.  They are now children of God.  Some of them thought it was wrong to eat this meat, and some thought it was ok.  The ones who approve of eating the meat know that only God is God, there is no other god, and therefore this meat has been sacrificed to nothing.  There’s no harm in eating it, because there is no other god.  The ones who disapprove think that eating the meat shows some allegiance to these false gods, these idols.

Paul basically says that its true, you can eat the meat, it doesn’t matter.  But here’s where it gets sticky.  So you, in your knowledge of God, go and eat the meat.  You know its ok because there’s no one else but God, eating the meat has no connections to any idols for you.  But if someone with a weaker faith than you sees you eat the meat, and they are confused and eat the meat too, even though they believe it does have connections to the idol, then you have made them stumble in their faith.  You pulled them into sin because they don’t have a mature faith yet.  They are still learning and still studying.  You know the truth, but they don’t understand it yet.

It says knowledge puffs us up, but love builds us up.  We think we are better than others because we know so much.  In this letter, Paul is saying that its good to have knowledge, but its better to help your fellow Christian follow God than to be legally right and cause them to stumble.  If you have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic, then you shouldn’t drink alcohol when they visit you.  You wouldn’t want to tempt them back into addiction.  There’s nothing wrong with you having a drink, but to be a supportive friend, it’s a good idea to abstain while this friend is with you.  And in this same example, Paul says that if you have a friend who doesn’t want to eat this sacrificed meat, you shouldn’t try to push them into doing it.  They feel that it’s wrong, and so to them, it is.  Legally by God’s laws, you are right.  You can eat whatever you want, but they haven’t gotten there yet, so don’t push them in the wrong direction.

Those of us who do study the Bible to become more knowledgeable are actually in a dangerous position.  We know what God did for us by putting Jesus on the cross.  We know that there is nothing we can do that hasn’t already been forgiven. We know that once we accept God, we can never lose our salvation.  God made us free from sin on that cross.  Jesus took every sin ever committed, and every sin that would ever be committed and he bore that heavy weight on the cross.  He died one time for all sin, and in his sacrifice, made us one with God.  He freed us from the slavery of sin.  He freed us from death.  We have God in us.

But there are those people who don’t understand the amazing thing God did for us. They think that they are bad people, they are sinful people, and they have to work hard to get into heaven. There are people who are following all the Jewish laws trying to be good enough to get into heaven.  There are people who condemn others who are different from them, trying to make others follow these laws as well.   I know that there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any more than He already does.  I can’t win His affection by being good because I already have it.  Once Jesus died for our sin, He took all that away, and made us new creations in Himself.  He won’t ever stop loving you, and once you give Him your life, you can’t take it back.

But having this knowledge, I need to share it and to be a good example to those around me.  I need to help others see how good God is so they too can share in His love.  Once you have truly experienced the freedom and peace and joy of God’s love, you want everyone to experience it!  It a joy you can’t contain!  But not everyone is there yet.  And for the weak in faith, if they see you doing something they thing is wrong, they might do it too.  You may know it’s not a sin, and it’s not a sin for you.  But if they think it’s wrong and do it anyway because you did it, then you have helped them stumble.  Stumbling takes us farther away from God.  And if we cause people to stumble, then we aren’t loving people the way God intends for us.  We aren’t loving people the way we need to in order to draw them into the family of God.

Knowledge is a great thing to have, and the more you know the better.  But another thing about knowledge is the potential for it to make you prideful.  If you keep reading in 1 Corinthians, you get to chapter 13, one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.  The second verse says “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  You could actually be the smartest person in the world, being able to read the Bible in every one of its original languages, and be able to interpret dreams, and heal people with your faith, and perform miracles.  But if you don’t have love in your heart for your fellow man, you have nothing.  All those amazing things are for nothing.  Without love, we are nothing.  God is love. Without love, we are nothing.  Without God we are nothing.

So instead of being right, or prideful, or getting angry at people who “just don’t get it”, we all need to take a step back, and love like God does.  In spite of our weaknesses, in spite of our differences in theology, in spite of our pride and anger and self-righteousness, we need to love and have love for those around us, no matter what they believe.  For then, we will have love, and love is everything.