Monday, December 28, 2009

Year end musings

This year has been quite a doozey.

Surgeries. Hospitals. Medicines. Pain.

It has been a struggle to remember that God has things well in hand and remains firmly in control. In my brain I know that this is true. But my body is revolting, including my heart.

In all the situations of other families that I am aware of, I don't understand why. That remains the big question.

I know that we are not meant to know all things but a small clue might be nice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Makes you think . . .

This certainly makes you think about the lasting impression you leave; in public and in private. Remember, God sees all of it.

Thank you for the timely reminder Mr. Burrell.


Pictures I Never Saw

Welcome to this week’s message from Shepherd’s Hill. I apologize for missing the last two weeks but we had some family events that took place and I couldn’t get to the computer. This is a busy time for us as we have been trying to do the last of the outdoor things before cold weather sets in. Last week we were blessed by our neighbor with a winter’s supply of firewood. He had a very old oak tree that died and he allowed me to cut it up for wood. It was forty-four inches across and the trunk is still lying in pieces in my back yard. The limbs, however, filled up our racks. We have borrowed a splitter to bust open the remainder and should be able to use it all.

I received many letters from regular readers asking where we’d been-thanks! We always like to know that we are missed. I always thought that when we got to a point where I wrote the message and no one read it that we would discontinue it. I am glad that it is still a blessing and challenge to you. I promise that I will be as diligent as I can to get it on every Saturday.

This week I wanted to look at our image. Sometimes we hear talk about impressions and images and what others see in us. Let me explain where my thoughts originate from.

Our family home schooled our children and had many family based events surrounding it. There were 4-H programs that they entered projects in. They had Geography Dinners where each month we got together with other families and had a meal focusing on a particular country and then ended with prayer for that country. But their graduations were no doubt the highlight event for each of them. Each one had a table where photographs of their entire schooling years were seen. There were awards and accomplishments along with creations they had made. As they graduated they had to do a speech and performed a musical piece. At the end there was a special slideshow where the childhood pictures were given on a wall and I sang in the background.

During the last graduation there was an especially moving moment for Angie and me as there was a second slide show given. At my request our daughters put together something for Angie’s semi-retirement (since she was finished with the long years of schooling). I had no idea what I would see but thought it would be the same pictures that I was aware of. There were almost a hundred photographs of our family in various stages. We had some pictures that we posed for. But the ones that interested me were the unrehearsed shots. I was surprised at pictures I had never seen. I suppose what surprised me was the ones of myself. Most of the time you know when someone points a camera in your direction and they announce that they want a picture. These were the really candid shots where we were all ourselves.

Isn’t it interesting how technology has changed in the last fifty years? As a small child I remember my Daddy coming home with a transistor radio. There was a big deal made about it and we all marveled at the small size. Later, when I became a Ham Radio operator I would use Morse Code to talk to as many places as I could. Sometimes, the static would be so bad that I could only pick out a little but I was always intrigued by the technology. I remember the first instant camera we saw. Daddy bought a Polaroid Land Camera. It had a little accordion front and after taking the picture you had to pull the picture out, count a few seconds and peel off the backing. Now, technology is so inexpensive that even children have digital cameras.

Our family has been doing Arts and Crafts shows for many years. In the largest one we do there are fifteen to twenty thousand people over a three day show. Most of the time people are courteous and ask if it’s ok to take our picture. Some “sneak” a shot as if they are doing something naughty. In fact, on one occasion a picture was taken of one of our daughters and later we found it on the internet doing a search of spinning wheels. Angie called us all in to see it and when we tried to print it there was a “copyright” message popped up that said we couldn’t. Someone took a picture of her and then tried to make money on it!

Getting back to the candid shots, they are sometimes embarrassing. When we are caught with our hair out of place or a frown on our face instead of a smile it makes us realize that we had a moment when we acted differently that we had wanted to. I am not talking about appearance today, especially after last week’s messages on outward adornments. What I am saying is that we all have an image. We have tried to raise our children to understand that the world can get an impression of us, even if it’s only a thirty-second view.

A couple of weeks ago we did an event for our little town called Heritage Day. It was on a Saturday and we were all very excited about it. We had prepared for weeks by making all the things we have to sell. On the morning of the event we woke up to a heavy rain. We found out that the weather was supposed to clear so we went to set up. We had left some of the pieces to our tent and one of the girls went home to get it. As we set it up in the rain we were all very serious. We suddenly realized the comedy of it all and began to laugh. We were standing in the rain with garbage bags over us trying to put together a fifty piece puzzle without instructions!

I realize that all of us have had a bad day and act a little differently than we should during that time. We are all guilty of not making a good first impression. But our Lord called us to live a life differently than others. By having His Spirit alive in us we should always remember who we are in Christ. Of all the groups of people on this planet, Christians should be the most content. Paul reminded us that Godliness with contentment is great gain (1st Timothy 6:6). If we ever get discontent with our surroundings we need to stop and see what is happening before we react.

I mentioned that we sometimes don’t make a good impression. At times we have to go back and greet some one again and possibly even apologize for a bad beginning. But what about people who only see us one time and are then gone forever? What if a person only sees us for thirty seconds and passes on by? Will that person have a good impression of us?

You see, we all have pictures taken of us when we do not know it. We get looks over the fence from neighbors who see what is really going on in our lives. We also have a record of every thought being kept for that day. You know the day I am speaking of, right? There is a day of judgment coming when we will all answer for every idle word that we speak. All of our thoughts are being kept to be displayed for us to call back. Our true selves (not the ones we pretend to be in front of others) will be seen.

First Timothy 5:24 is a very interesting passage where Paul explains something to Timothy about sin. He said that some men’s sins were apparent and some were hidden until later (my paraphrase). We all have flaws when we look in the mirror. We know that they are there and know that others see them. But what about the flaws that you don’t see in the mirror? Did you ever stop to think about other views that people see you in?

Sometimes I see pictures of myself from the side or back that reveal something I didn’t know. I can see the front of me looking in a mirror. But it takes two mirrors to see behind me. When we are photographed like that we get to see something we may not like.

Many years ago when we began to move more conservative in our appearance we wore plain clothes but had not completely turned lose of some things. While visiting some old friends in Florida (who had known us before) we were confronted by their teenaged daughter. She wanted to know why if we were not going with the world’s vanity and appearances, why did Angie dye her hair blonde? It was an honest question and I was the one who had to answer. Angie still died her hair because I liked it that way. Instead of getting mad I let it soak in a minute. Then I told her that she was right and I was wrong. I explained to her that until then I never thought about how vain it was to hold on to such and I apologized. I told her that Angie would stop doing it after that.

On the way home Angie and I discussed it and I discovered that she had wanted to stop coloring her hair long before. After letting it grow out naturally I now see the beauty that God gave her. My point is not with physical appearances, as I mentioned. I want to point out that when we get that candid shot taken of us we should let it help us to grow in our character and not get mad. This is real Christian maturity, when it happens. I’m not saying I always do right; but still try to do better than I did yesterday.

It’s those candid pictures of our lives that really tell the story. Everyone can put on a smile when the camera is in their face. Jesus wants us to have joy in our hearts so that when a picture is taken without us knowing it will reflect Him.

Live your life with every moment in control. Someone is watching you today. Someone sees you arguing with your wife on the way to church and then smiling when you get in the building. Someone saw you disobey your parents. Someone watched as you professed Christ as master and then acted as if you never met Him. Yes, the pictures are being taken. Just make sure that when that Great Day arrives you have a scrapbook of beauty and grace

That reflects Jesus in your life! May you find the joy of the Lord today!

Prayer: Father, I thank You today for Your patience with us. When we become prideful and blinded to our actions I pray that You would do what it takes to help us to see. When we forget our role as representatives and ambassadors in this world for Jesus may You gently speak to our hearts. Help us to always view ourselves as others see us so that we might walk a straight and true path.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mr. Burrell Part 2

The Outward Adornment of a Christian

Part 2

Hello to everyone in the name of our Lord. This is week two of the message on outward adornment. I pray that you have studied in your bible the passages that I left with you. If not, please read these again as we are going to get right into the study of God’s Word.

I left off last week covering only verse 8 of 1st Timothy chapter 2. In this verse Paul tells us the things men should adorn themselves with. Let’s look at verse 9. Paul starts off saying “in like manner”. We know that this means “just like that” or “in the same way” and that he’s connecting two examples. Here he says that women should adorn themselves with modest apparel.

Now every culture through the ages has had distinct apparel. If you open a newspaper on any given Sunday you will find a sales paper in the middle with all the latest styles. Christians seldom think that these are bad but rather good to pick from. They often choose clothing that accentuates the positive, as the old song goes. They choose clothing that will “show off” their figures. They pick colors that will make them more attractive.

Once you’ve lived a few decades you’ve noticed that these styles always change and often are repeated. One thing that I’ve noticed is that one particular part of a woman’s body is generally highlighted above all others. Presently, the stomach is on display with the short midriff blouses. When I was younger I remember legs being exposed with short skirts. Other times I remember chests or shoulders being exposed.

Friends, our Lord gave us rules to live by that do not change. They are not dictated by style nor do they follow man’s design. We know that His ways are higher than our ways -Isaiah 55:9. In reading His word we must accept that some things may not follow our logical thinking. If you could figure it out without God, you’d be god (you are not, by the way). His Word is there to teach us how to live.

Now last week I stated that I was going to make a point in using another passage. In 1st Peter chapter 3 we find almost identical scripture. Only this time we see it done from another person writing. I often hear people who say that Paul was a sexist and biased against women. I know that there are several books out explaining what Paul meant regarding women. People who don’t like what is being said often excuse it by saying that it was a man’s opinion and not God’s word.

Friends, either we accept the Bible as the Word of God without error or we can throw it away. These two passages were written by two different hands but have the same Author, God. Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, a leader in the church. Peter wrote his letter to the church. Both of these letters agree in context regarding dress.

Let’s turn to 1st Peter 3 verse 3. Peter says that a woman’s adornment shouldn’t be with the putting on of apparel. Now, obviously he doesn’t mean that a woman shouldn’t get dressed. He is saying that her adornment should not be in the clothes that she wears. This agrees with Paul’s teaching to Timothy. Clothing should not be a woman’s adornment. That’s clear unless you mix in our flesh that likes clothing which is fancy, shiny, stylish, sexy or even ornate. If you really ask yourself one question, you will have the answer. That question is, “who am I pleasing with the clothes that I’m wearing”. You can please your flesh or you can please God.

Last week I covered the adornment that a man wears. His outward attitudes and manners show what is in his heart. Likewise, a woman’s dress indicates her heart condition. You can judge a book by its cover when the book picks the binding! We dress everyday looking in a mirror and all the while doing it so that it makes us attractive to the opposite sex. It’s our flesh doing it, not our spiritual man. We dress to get attention! Even the clothes industry markets sex. It’s in their slogans. They sell “sexiness”.

Paul uses the term “modest apparel” while Peter says the “putting on of apparel”. I am not going to tell you what is modest. When I studied the writings of the early church I found that they did not dictate exactly what style of dress to wear. They didn’t choose colors that could and couldn’t be worn. They didn’t pick patterns that were in or out. What they did talk about was the Roman culture and how ungodly the styles were. They all taught that outward decoration in the form of clothing was ungodly.

I was recently saddened by a letter from a Christian Home School group in which they stated the dress code for their Prom. In it they listed that the split in the dress could not extend more than 4 inches above the knee; spaghetti straps or backless was accepted but no cleavage could show; and it ended in “in other words, modest dress”! Friends, modest dress should never have splits in skirts and bare shoulders. Exposing more skin cannot be considered modest! Somehow, Christians now even let their daughters wear colored under-wear on the beaches for all the men to lust after and call it a bathing suit.

I am including just a few quotes from the early church writers at the end of this message. You may look at these now if you like. These are men who wrote down the common interpretation that the early church followed. I think it’s interesting that any of them could be written in modern times. The so called beauty treatments of yesterday are the same as today. All of them are condemned as being sinful and against the dress of Godly women.

Please note that there are preachers today that teach that there is nothing wrong with stylish clothes, jewelry, make-up and coiffures. There are even some preachers that have supermodel wives. However in the early church no one taught these doctrines. They all agreed that the outward appearance was important and that it should not be ornate. You will not find any other opinion when you research early church writings.

Going back to scripture we see that Paul says a woman should be adorned with shamefacedness and sobriety. 1st Tim 2:9-For the word shamefacedness the Strong’s Concordance gives the Greek word aidos meaning a sense of shame or honour, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect. For sobriety we see the Greek word sophrosune meaning self control. These are the adornments of a Christian woman. Paul then tells us what the adornments are not.

In verse 9 he says not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. I see ornate and extravagant hairstyles being used by churchwomen today. Their heads are uncovered (another bible study) and they even use jewelry in their hair. I commonly see jewelry and expensive dresses worn to church. Somehow we’ve missed these scriptures as well as the common church doctrine for the last (almost) 2000 years. Yes, that’s right; the church followed these scriptures up until the 1800’s. Then little by little more churches taught that women should be outwardly women of style.

The last adornment of a woman is in verse 10. Good works are listed as something to be adorned with. This agrees with all other scripture. While we are not saved by works, they are the outward sign of inward transformation.

Now, last week in the discussion questions I asked why God spelled out different things for women and men. Let me say that these standards are for both men and women. Let me explain what I mean. If women are to not dress ornately and with jewelry and expensive clothes, neither are men. Today we see men who wear gold chains and designer clothes. These are just as un-godly and forbidden in scripture.

Likewise, if it’s ungodly for a man to be in wrath and doubting it is for the woman, also. The reason, I believe, that different things are spelled out for women and men is that they are the things the particular sex would have a weakness for. Think about it; would God have women to be dressed plainly and allow men to dress stylishly? Of course not. There is one more scripture that I had listed for the sermon today. It’s Isaiah 3:16-26. Here God is passing judgment on women who are haughty and there is much outward adornment in the way of jewelry mentioned. There seems to be a connection to a woman’s pride and her jewelry. This passage says the Lord will take those away, it appears, to humble her. I encourage you to study this passage thoroughly and let the Holy Spirit speak to you regarding your appearance.

I could extend this another week but I really prefer that you study on your own. Our family has chosen clothing that does not match the world. You will never see Calvin Klein’s name on a cape dress or broadfall pants. We do not set standards for others as being Godly. Rather, we set limits on skin exposure, gaudiness and modesty. Our women do not wear pants since even the world knows what that means. If I asked you who wears the pants in the family, you’d know exactly what I mean. Also, they do not wear pants because cross-dressing is forbidden for both sexes.

Let me conclude today in a more practical way. We hear from a lot of women who deeply desire to dress more modestly than they do. They explain that their husbands will not let them. Wives, you should be submissive to your own husbands. What he says is what you should follow, not me. Husbands, you are the leader in your homes. It’s your job as a Christian man to keep your family according to scripture. Don’t make your wives dress in outward apparel so that you may show her off as a trinket or trophy. I know what I am talking about. I lived this way once.

It made me feel good to go out in public with Angie “decked out”. She wore stylish clothes, hoop earrings, makeup and her waist length hair was frosted blonde. She drew the attention of men and women alike. Oh, how I wore her on my arm! I enjoyed having men look at us, feeling that they must envy me! But as I pursued scripture I had to realize that it was not scriptural. I have to say that she is more beautiful today than when we first met. Inward beauty is true. Inward beauty lasts. So husband, do what is right by your wife. Don’t forget that following the prayer there is a link to quotes from early church fathers regarding dress. May the Lord lead you as you study His Word.

Father God,

I thank you that you know my heart. You knew ahead of time, just what I would battle. You know our hearts and our desires. Today, I pray that you would bring them in conjunction with your Will. Let us this day put on the adornment of a Christian so that the world might see the humility and purity of our hearts. Let us put on what you say is right. Let us be satisfied with what you created. May we remove from our lives anything that would be against Your will.

In Jesus Name—Amen

Friday, November 6, 2009

Paul Burrell again . . .

Thank you Mr. Burrell. I agree that what we are on the outside reflects the inside. That reflection either draws people to Christ or drives them away.


The Outward Adornment of a Christian

Greetings to you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that the week has been safe and you are all well today. I am re-running a couple of messages due to some events in which are family are busy with. I hope you find them relevant!

I’ve been asked by several to cover the area of dress and outward appearance. I’m going to cover three main passages of scripture. Two are common. One is less common but quite long so I felt the need to include it. This message will be in at least two parts as I want to cover it thoroughly.

It is a common belief in many churches that everybody should be accepted just as they are. Not just in dress but also if there is sin in their lives. We have denominations now who are ordaining men and women against scriptural basics. Also, if the outward appearance is immodest, “so what”, they say. Dress is no longer talked about from the pulpit as it once was. We have higher dress codes in restaurants than we do in church. I remember a preacher asking a row of young ladies to not come back the way that they were dressed. They sat in front of him with short dresses on. This was not a one time thing but week after week. After his rebuke they continued to come and began to dress more modestly.

Preachers everywhere are looking for numbers now. They use the old phrase, “at least they are in church”. The truth is that they feel like more people will only bring in more finances. They’ve dropped standards everywhere just to get people into the church. Indeed, I heard a talk show this week on a radio station in Birmingham where a person said the church should be more like a bar. In a bar everyone is accepted. Everyone comes in and it doesn’t matter about your past or beliefs or what you look like. You are accepted just as you are.

This person said that church people were too judgmental and he felt like it should be more open to anyone. Now, stop and think about why everyone is accepted in a bar! If you have money, they will serve you a drink. You are a customer there. The music is loud and upbeat. Your comfort and entertainment are their number one priority. Nothing is expected of you. (You know, now that I think about it, some of the modern churches do sound like a bar!…J) No one has ever had their life improved from a bar.

Well, the truth is that the church IS open to anyone. All of us have sinned. It doesn’t matter what someone has done wrong in their past, there is someone on the inside of the church that has done something worse. The problem is that people want to come in and stay as they are. I really think that this is caused by the miss-belief that being a member of a local church will get you into heaven. They don’t want to change. They just want some assurance of salvation.

The church should be like a hospital. We know that the sick go there. We shouldn’t expect them to get better before they are allowed in. However, once they come in, we should do everything within our power to see that they are changed according to God’s Word.

Suppose a man goes to a hospital and the doctor sees a tumor. He is obligated to tell him. Do we think he would tell him nothing just to keep the money coming in? That man is probably there because he has pain in his life anyway! The doctor owes it to him to say something about it.

I saw a headline on a church sign the other day that said it correctly. It said “Come as you are, but leave changed”. That is how the church should be. People should be accepted when they come into the church, but with the understanding that once your life has been touched by the Hand of Jesus you will want to change and you need to change. Yet people that have been in the church for years are still the same as when they started.

Actually, the hospital is a much better illustration of how the church should function than a bar. If you go to the emergency room today you will receive information as to the expectations between you and the hospital. They will give you a list of things that they will help you with and will give a paper with what is expected of you. Before you leave the doctor will hand you a paper with the prescription that you should take and any therapy that you should do to get better. These things are your responsibility. No doctor can make you do them. If you don’t follow the recommendation you won’t get better.

In churches, we call this the doctrine or statement of faith. They spell out what that particular church requires. They tell of your responsibility when you are away. I’ve noticed that many denominations are getting more vague every year. Many churches don’t even have a printed paper available to let you know what that particular body believes.

I realize that I seem to be wandering from the topic, but I am getting there! Let’s look at the scripture in 1st Timothy 2:8-15. Here Paul is writing to Timothy, a young pastor. This is an important point, as to who is writing. I’m going to make a point on this in next week’s sermon. Paul is instructing Timothy in matters of the Body of Christ, especially those regarding order in the church. Rules for bishops and conduct are given in his letter. In this passage we find the area of appearance of men and women. Verse 8 says that men should pray everywhere lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting. This doesn’t sound like he’s talking about a man’s appearance at first. It just sounds like he wants men to pray. But the next line gives us deeper truth. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel…

Now, go back to verse 8 and let’s look at it in the context of a man’s adornment. We often forget that men have an adornment that they wear. More so than with clothes, we as men adorn ourselves with our outward actions. People can tell a lot about us by our body language. If I approach someone on the street and have my arms folded I will appear as one that is angry or hiding something. If a father approaches a child and towers over them or gets very close he will frighten the child. Squatting down or bending over is less frightful.

If a husband and wife get into an argument and the man gets really close, especially leaning toward her, he is in a threatening position. Even if he doesn’t realize it, he will be frightening his wife. Men, our outward adornments tell others what we are like on the inside! Now, look again at that verse. Paul says that men should pray everywhere. What would you think of a man that prayed everywhere? Have you ever seen men that prayed at work? Perhaps you’ve known someone who prayed outside the doors of the church. What did you think of them? I can tell you that that man has his life more in order than a man who doesn’t. When a man prays with his family at a restaurant I always notice!

The next line is important also. Lifting up holy hands is a strange expression to some. I remember years ago when only the Pentecostal churches had people raising their hands in worship. If you raised your hands in a Baptist church you would get sideways looks! Now more denominations are realizing that it’s scriptural and they think nothing of it.

You may have even noticed people doing this other than Christians. Think about other religions. I have seen Muslim and Buddhists worshipping this way. But there is one more group that comes to mind. Have you ever seen young people at a rock concert doing it? I have. They raise their hands when their god comes on stage or sings their favorite song. It’s all about worship.

My pastor as a youth, pointed out that it’s the international sign of surrender. If someone is giving up they always put their hands up. So along with prayer, the second adornment of a godly man is total surrender to God.

The third adornment I see here is “without wrath”. Christian men should not pray in retaliation. If someone does you wrong, you are not supposed to get vengeance for it. I have had some people in my past who would probably claim that I “got them back”. But keeping silent when someone else rants and raves isn’t wrath! You’ll find it hard to pray for your enemies yet it’s always the right thing to do. If you look at the tragedy that happened to our brethren in Lancaster County a few years ago, you can see the impact of men who had every right in the flesh to be angry. Yet, those godly men went to the funeral of the murderer of their children. It’s hard to do, but it’s right.

We, as men, have a responsibility to be peaceful. Just last week my family was put in a very difficult situation where we could have started a big argument. We left as peacefully as we could without much fanfare. If you want to see real grace under pressure, just look at our Lord. When the accusers stood before Him and told lies to Pilate, He was silent. He was a completely innocent man. If anyone had cause to speak back, Jesus did. Yet he spoke not a word. Men, let us learn to handle aggression! His prayer later for His accusers was one of forgiveness.

The last adornment that I see in this verse speaks of “without doubting”. Now, let’s put that in context with praying. When we pray it should be with the belief that our prayer will be answered. As my sweet wife always reminds our family, “Pray the prayer that never fails. Pray for God’s Will to be done”. If we walk in holiness, we will never worry that His Will is done. If our hearts are right, we should have no doubt that He hears us.

Now, don’t get ahead of me in all this! I know that most want to hear what the scripture says about a woman’s adornment. That will be for next week. I will keep going as far as the Spirit gives. For now I would encourage you to study ahead. Our passages to look at are 1st Timothy 2:8-15; 1st Peter 3:1-7 and Isaiah 3:16-26.

Let me say that everyone has a uniform that they wear. It identifies them with the group that they belong to. You may not consciously do it but you will always dress like those that you want to identify with. If I see a man dressed in black leather with a bandana around his head; if this man has black leather chaps on, I know that he rides a motorcycle. If I see a man in three piece suit and he has a briefcase, I know he’s a businessman. If there is a fellow with camouflage on and an orange cap, I can pretty much tell you that he’s a hunter.

Christians have a dress too. This time we’ve looked at just a few things that the scripture lists for men. Next time I will proceed and cover things spelled out for women. Until then, I encourage you to study the Word. Go ahead and see what it says to you! May the Lord Bless you this week.


Father God,

As we arise each day help us to remember that we are dressing in a manner that tells others about us. Let your Holy Spirit help us to put on the whole armor of God so that we may be properly adorned. If there is something that we have worn that is not pleasing to you, reveal it to us.

In Jesus Name,


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm OK . . . Really!

I have been sick but not dying. I've also been working full time and homeschooling my girls.

Just BUSY!!!

Hope to be more verbal and creative soon.

Sock knitting

Stuff I don't want to lose.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is this all there is? . . .

Is this what we were dreaming of when we were eight?!! My friend and I exchanged these very thoughts as newly weds before we both had children. Get up, go to work, housework, laundry, go to bed, get up and do it all again.

Well, Mr. Burrell has made a good point again. It is all in your perspective and attitude. You can be so entrenched in your routine that you don't realize that only you have the power to change it. God will give you suggestions along the way.

Taking the Blue Line

Welcome back to the Shepherd’s Hill Homechurch message. We are glad that you stopped in today. Angie asked me what the title was for the message this week and when I told her she wanted an explanation. I am always trying to keep things fresh for the Sunday morning group so I made her wait. As many of you know, I get the message sometime during my week as the Holy Spirit gives me one word, one thought or one experience to write on. Of course, this week was no different.
What happened this week was that I was in the doldrums. Have you ever felt like you were in a rut? Now, don’t get me wrong. We have so many changes happening here at Shepherd’s Hill that there is never a dull moment. Right now, we are planning for our Fall Homesteading Classes. Angie is doing her weekly bake sale. Two of our daughters have big events taking place and there is much going on with that. Our grand-children are growing like weeds and every time we see them they look bigger. We still plan on opening our store soon and there is much to do there. And yet, I had the doldrums.
Our passage this week comes from Luke chapter eighteen. Go ahead and find that chapter because we will look at three verses here. As I mentioned, I have been feeling like life was pretty much the same old grind, day after day. I can’t complain, mind you. God is supplying our needs and everyone is in health. My job is pretty much the same as it has been for the past thirty years. But then again, life can seem the same everyday.
I started home a few days ago and my trip was to be the same as it always was. As I leave work every day I call Angie and let her know that I’m on the way. I drive through the town I work in and hit the Interstate Highway for a few miles. Then, I drive down a long, straight two-lane highway with very little traffic for about twenty-five miles. I then come into our little two red-light town and go south for about seven miles. In the mornings, it’s just reversed. It’s about an hour drive and very peaceful. I don’t listen to the radio and my cell phone loses signal so no one can get me; only God. As I said, I can’t complain.
But on the particular day this week God spoke to me as I left work. I had already talked to Angie and was set in to drive slow and steady. I started praying and talking to God. Don’t you feel bad for those who never have conversations with the Almighty? So many people are missing out on a relationship with their Creator because they are still looking for scientific evidence that He exists! How sad!
So, as I began my trip I began to relate to the Father that I needed something different. I learned many years ago to be careful what you ask for. Our children learned to never say they were bored because Mom and Dad quickly found something for them to do. While I wasn’t complaining, I just humbly asked God for a little change. As I approached my turn for the interstate God showed me a map of the area. You see, the route I take home is the smoothest and straightest. But, it’s also the longest and there are several other routes to travel. In my mind He reminded me of some other roads that I have been on. I saw the area as a road map. The main highways were there, but also the secondary roads. As I visualized these in my spirit God said, “Take the blue line, Paul”.
The blue lines on the map are the secondary roads. You’ve seen them on road maps, I’m sure. I was at a point where I was about to go the same way that I had been for years. God wanted me to take a road that I used to take and stopped using for comfort’s sake. So, off I went.
As I started down this old path everything seemed new again. The farther I went the more relaxed I felt. It was amazing at how enjoyable it was to take these curvy, twisty roads. My younger days of motorcycle riding flashed before my eyes. The miles melted away and before I was half way home I was singing and crying in praises to God. It was as if I had a burden taken off of my shoulders.
How does the blue line relate to scripture? Well, in Luke eighteen there were children brought to Jesus in verse fifteen. I often see Jesus painted as a harsh figure that many children would be afraid of. Every once in a while you see Jesus portrayed as smiling and holding children. Here is the passage that those pictures come from. His disciples began to turn away the people as if the children were a burden to the Lord. But, as always Jesus corrected wrong attitudes and told them to allow the children to come to Him.
The last line of verse sixteen is important. The Kingdom of God is of such as the children. What does that mean? Does it mean that when we get to Heaven we will all be children? Does it mean that if we work hard we can renew our youth? Read further, friend. Jesus explains it in the next verse.
In verse seventeen Jesus said that we must receive His kingdom as a child or we can never get there. Where is “there” exactly? What is it that we do not receive unless we receive it as a child? His Kingdom is more than what we think of as Heaven. The un-saved see the Christian’s view of Heaven and believe that it is saints sitting on clouds and playing harps. They think we will all be surrounded by winged babies with glitter on their faces. They imagine that if there is a heaven then it is a boring place for eternity and they don’t want to be there. On the contrary, the Bible never teaches such.
We have begun our latest mid-week Bible study and we are looking at Revelations. We spent last night in awe at the way God’s throne was described by John and Ezekiel. It was exactly the same. Both men saw a consistent picture of God. It was mysterious to be sure. But boring? Never! The heaven that awaits us is going to be an eternity of new. I’m speaking about everything being new. Nothing will ever be bad again. You might think that eternity could get old if everything is always the same. Don’t worry; it won’t be. You will not be stuck on a cloud playing a harp. You will reign with Jesus (2 Tim. 2:12) Why do you think the heavens are eternal when scientists look out to try and find the end? That’s right; we have a great life ahead of us.
As I drove down the “blue line” highway I was reminded again that life is what you make of it. When we get older we tend to lose interest in anything enjoyable. We decide that life is serious and hard and we’d just better make the best of it. God intended for us to never lose hope in this life. While we suffer in this life some become so serious that they get suicidal. If all we do is dwell on the way things are and think that all eternity isn’t going to be much better we will lose hope. But you can take hope, my friend.
Jesus said that we had to receive His Kingdom as a child. Why do you think educated people have such a hard time finding The Way? They seek for physical evidence. I have a telescope and occasionally look at the stars and planets. I get a magazine with articles in it about space. Most of these articles are written by people who are seeking the origin of the universe. How sad! Not only can they know the origin but they can also meet the Creator!
They sometimes mention the “theory” of creation as if it were a fairy tale. They see those of us who believe in the Almighty as children. Well, guess what? We are. We who find God have become children and accept Him and what He said. They may laugh at us but we are the ones who have peace, joy and hope. They will die hopeless and miserable. Their lives will only be the short years they spend on this Earth. We shall reign for eternity with God!
Is your life enjoyable and exciting friend? Do you look forward to the days ahead and what they bring? Or perhaps you dread leaving the same house to go to another day of the same job and see the same people as every other day. Your life has become rigid and in a rut. You don’t have to stay there. You have a choice today.
Take the blue line home…..

Monday, June 29, 2009

Flabbergasted . . .

no, AWESTRUCK is the word.

Seventy (yes 70!) campers got the HOLY GHOST this past week. Needless to say, we had a great week!

Can't wait to hear what happens the rest of the summer!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It got me to thinking . . .

Mr. Burrell's post on their site, Shepherd's Hill, changes weekly. He often has things that are insightful and meant to make you think and dig into the Word for yourself.

In the previous post, he made several good points. We need to understand why we do what we do for Jesus. We need to be able to put it in very simple terms for others to understand when they ask.

Some people think that Christians need to be perfect. What they don't understand is that our mistakes and mis-steps are covered by grace. We need to make sure that they understand that we screw up daily and need to ask for forgiveness (theirs' and God's) for the foibles and flaws in our lives.

We also need to be sure that we truly treat others as Jesus would have. We need to be sure that we don't come off as holier than thou and judgemental. There are things that people say that still shock me about their personal lives but I try not to raise an eyebrow. They deserve the same grace that God has afforded to me. It is not my place to point out things that they already are convicted about.

My job here is to be the best reflection of my savoir as HUMANLY possible. I need to make sure that others see HIM through me; even if it is just glimpses. As I mature in HIM, it should be a more accurate reflection as HE opens my understanding.

I may not agree with Mr. Burrell all the time but have found him to be a knowledgeable man of God and I enjoy his family's site immensely.

From Shepherd's Hill again . . .

Take off the Mask

Paul Burrell

Welcome in the name of Jesus Christ. I am writing to you about some observations of my families this week. Sometimes, you can see the Word of God portrayed in people around you. It may be through good actions or bad. But, God’s Word is always true even if we don’t like what it says. Let’s look at our first passage today.

We are in the Book of Galatians this week. Paul wrote this letter to the Churches in Galatia, an ancient province of the Roman Empire. It deals with a common problem in a lot of denominations. That problem is that the law is seen as a requirement of salvation. Paul spends the first chapter giving his qualifications as an Apostle of Christ. It seems that some people will not just listen to truth or wisdom but need an authority to tell them that they are doing something wrong. We may fail to listen to our wives telling us to slow our driving down because we feel that we know how to drive better than she does. But if a police officer turns on his lights and pulls us over we might give a little more attention to our mistake after we pay the fine. It was the same truth in both situations, but the authority had to make it clear for us.

How sad when we won’t listen to our brother or sister in Christ even when they have told us something right out of the Bible. Let’s look at chapter two and verse eleven. Paul tells us of a little problem where he had to correct the Apostle Peter. It seems that Peter had two ways of acting. In the following verse it reveals that Peter ate with the Gentiles but after the Jews arrived he withdrew and ate with them instead. Now, this might be easy to overlook what God is showing us today if we do not remember Peter’s past. Peter was raised a Jew and followed all the laws of Jewish people. God had revealed to him that the Gospel of Christ would be brought to the Gentiles (Acts 10). God's will was made clear to him. He had been given a revelation to make sure that there was no doubt in his mind.

Isn’t it strange when we pretend that we just don’t know what God wants from us or why there may be problems in our lives after God has already told us what to do? I see it in people all the time. If God has told you His will, you need to follow it! Peter knew exactly that he was to associate with Gentiles and take them the Gospel. In Galatians 2:13 we read that the other Jews “dissembled” with Peter. That interesting word means to put on a false appearance, a mask or to act in a way other than the truth. Peter was pretending to fit in with the Jews and not the Gentiles for harmony’s sake. Sometimes peace is not worth the price.

Have you ever had someone deceive you into thinking that they were somebody other than who they really were? Maybe a false character was presented to you about how smart someone was or that they were wealthy and you later realized that the person was lying to you. I’m not sure why we would want to be anyone other than the person that God called us to be. Peter and these other Jews were so convincing that they drew Barnabas into their story (v13). Peter was caught in his lies, though, and Paul rebuked him in front of these Jewish men. His statement in verse fourteen gives us insight as to exactly what Peter was doing wrong. Paul said that Peter was living in the freedom of the Gentiles and then had turned around and was compelling them to live under the Law as Jews.

Let me give some real examples that we have seen over the many years we have lived as plain Christians. People see plain dress and always associate it with Christianity, and that is a good thing. It is a great tool for witnessing to others since they always ask us what we believe. But, we have met people along the way who went completely off course. Some started dressing plain after meeting us while others we met were already plain dressed. Through time many of them changed. The reason that they began to do it became clear. Instead of doing it for spiritual reasons some did it as a means to gain material things. For example, some dressed plain because it gave them favor or pity. Another thing we have seen is someone dressing plain because they feel more holy than others in doing so. Others are so torn about plain dress that they flip-flop back and forth and end up with confused children who never know what to wear when they wake up.

These are not just isolated cases but there have been many families that fit each problem I mentioned above. In the first example, the father probably tried it and it became something of a challenge to him. In doing so, he discovered that the world treated him kindly. In one group we knew, the family allowed their children to dress poorly and were always dirty on purpose because the general populous believed them to be poor. They could have cleaned up at any time but chose to be filthy as a rule.

Others started walking plain because they received a real revelation of being separate from the world. Somehow, it went to their heads and they became judge and jury for all the church. I suppose they felt like they were more holy than you and I and therefore were qualified to act in the place of God. We knew some families that became instant enemies with us after demanding that we give up all the luxuries of life. They required that Children of God should sit on concrete instead of upholstery and eat leftover pork and beans cold from the night before to avoid waste. One family withdrew from us after we bought our house a couple of years ago. We had been in a three bedroom house with one bathroom for almost ten years (seven people). When we could finally afford something larger that had two baths we were shunned. (I am not kidding) After all, God doesn’t want you to love this world or the things in it, right?

One father told me that all he wanted to do was sit on the floor and read the Bible. He neither worked a job nor took care of his wife and children but saw himself as a mighty man of God. I guess he hadn’t read up to 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 yet.

And then there was the other group that would show up plain one day and dressed in blue jeans another. When it suited them, they always dressed to fit in with the people around them. If they attended a worship service with us they acted like they always dressed plain. But later we would discover that it was only a show for us and that they were someone else when they were at home. Some even confessed that God was directing them to dress plain but dressed like they always had.

Now, let me say that in the spirit that the Book of Galatians was written you do not have to dress plain to be born-again. Wearing a cape-dress or broadfall pants gets you no extra points to get into heaven. We are saved by grace, not by works, lest any should boast (Eph 2:9). Recently we began an exciting Bible study looking at the feasts of Israel. God said many times that these were statutes for ever. We are examining each feast and the significance to the Jewish people and also to the Church that they hold. I love what Zola Levitt said. Zola was a Jewish Christian that understood the ties with the Old and New covenant. He has now gone on to be with the Lord but his studies are still available.

Zola Levitt said if you want to observe a feast or holy day you may. It gives you no extra points to do so and takes none away if you don’t. He then quoted the passage in Ephesians.

So, why do we dress plain? We have chosen this walk in obedience to God as He has called us to be separate in all things in life. We cannot answer for anyone else. Those who chose to live as a Christian will be persecuted. The enemy will try to frighten us so that we won’t stand up for our beliefs. We should fear no man when it comes to what we believe and be ready to give scripture to back it up.

How about your walk? Do you act one way around Christians and another around worldly people? Is your life so on fire for God that both sides know where you stand? If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? You see, we must walk true to what God has shown us. If you do something or refrain from something in the name of Jesus it should be seen by others. Without opening our mouths, our actions should testify of whom we are and Whose we are!

I love the way Paul finished this chapter in verse twenty-one. His term of frustrating the grace of God tells it all. Paul earnestly wants us to understand that we live under Grace. Our actions should not be to gain salvation. If we make a decision to walk in Holiness in any form that the Spirit has revealed to us through the Word of God we should understand that it is because of our love and devotion to our Savior that we do it.

I do not hold my wife’s hand or open a car door for her to make myself married to her. I do it because I am in love with her. What greater reason would someone have of dressing apart from the world than because they are in love with Jesus Christ? What greater reason would you have for studying His Word? May the Lord Bless the reading of His Word today.

Prayer-Father, if there is something in us that is insincere may we become totally blameless. Let our actions be pleasing to You and may our walk glorify You.

In Jesus’ Name-Amen

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We need reminding . . .

2 Cor 12:

7And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Just because we ask to have something removed doesn't mean that God will take it away. He may have given it to us so that HE could still use us. We are not to steal the glory that rightfully belongs to HIM!

Infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions and distresses war with the flesh but in our spirits we should be rejoicing!