When you are reading here whether you found me intentionally or accidently, please take time to leave a comment and let me know where you are and what you are thinking. I love feed back. Vondi

Monday, December 27, 2010

okay, I know it isn't halloween

Last Thursday, before Christmas, Rachael had a strange experience. She had to leave exceptionally early to be at work. I don’t remember if it was 5:30 or 6:30, but it was earlier than she usually left.
As she generally does, she went out a little bit before she was ready to leave and started her car. Yeah, it is kind of crazy when the cars are both in the garage, but never mind.
She opened the garage door and came back in to finish her breakfast and get her coffee. Then she went out, backed the car out of the garage and started down the drive. To her complete surprise she saw a man walking along the street behind her.
This is Westerville. There are never people walking around before daylight in the mornings especially so early. It startled her to say the least. More than that, as she watched him for a couple seconds, she became frightened. The man was moving with a strange gait, slowly and smoothly. He never glanced her way but simply continued walking. He was dressed in an outmoded style, a 1940’s or 50’s fashion in a long old fashioned overcoat and the kind of hat that used to be called a fedora—like Indiana Jones wore. He had a white scarf wrapped around his neck and over half of his face. That in itself was strange; it was cold, but not nearly cold enough to have a scarf wrapped so warmly.
From his gait and posture, he wasn’t an old man, yet he walked very slowly, not like a stroll or a pleasure walk but very slowly and smoothly. Someone walking for pleasure at that time of morning is a little crazy, but someone walking because they had to be somewhere would warrant a much more deliberate and hurried pace. And he certainly wasn’t walking for exercise. I think it was the speed and his attitude as much as anything else that frightened her in addition to the time of day and the silence.
Since she was so frightened and he just kept walking, she had trouble deciding what to do next. The alternatives were to call Michael, but that would take time; or she could drive back in the garage and close the door, but that process is slow enough that if the man did have bad intentions he could easily slip inside before the door closed; finally the she came to a conclusion and hurriedly closed the garage door. Then she backed down the drive as quickly as she could. Because the man was now to the right of the drive, Rachael tried to angle her car straight out instead of veering to the right as she usually does.
After quite a few minutes of ignoring the noises of the running motor and moving vehicle and garage door going down when Rachael got down the drive and paused to turn toward Sunbury, the man seemed to notice her. He stopped dead and slowly turned to face her! As he looked straight at her, he began walking toward her! No wave, no indication of what he wanted, but only slowly taking a couple steps toward her at the same pace. It scared her tremendously. She twisted the steering wheel and took off down Smoke Burr toward Sunbury. She was so frightened that she ran through the red light (there is very little traffic on Sunbury at that time of morning) and turned down the street to the gas station.
When she got there she stopped and called Michael to have him go and check on the man. Of course, he was gone.
We talked about it for some time when she got home. She was still frightened and said that one of the managers at work had asked if she thought it was a ghost. Now I DO NOT believe in ghosts, but I have to admit that I wondered something similar. The behavior of the man, his old fashioned clothing, and the odd time of day, they all contributed to strangeness and an eeriness that doesn’t exist in a commonplace, well-to-do neighborhood like Twelve Trees.
Rachael won’t leave before daylight alone any more. That’s how frightened she was. Michael gets up and watches her as she backs down the drive and leaves. She double checks the back door when she lets the dogs in. I have to admit that I’ve made sure it is locked even when I let them back in myself.
As for the man… I don’t suppose we’ll ever know who he was and where he came from. Or even if he was some sort of paranormal reflection. I don’t know. Scary though.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Celtic Thunder Christmas - Silent Night

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us."
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

morning, again

I love early mornings. Even though I’m home alone most of the time, and there is no disturbance in the house, it seems that early mornings are more intensely quiet. I woke up at 300. And I’ve been enjoying the quiet.

I like it here, but sometimes I miss the view down across the valley from Notah’s old house on Angelo. And other times I miss looking out at the rising sun behind the Manzanos from his new house on Mallette. I never got to hear the coyotes teasing the dogs at the new house. I think next summer when I am there, I will go and sit out side in the early morning—if I can get out without three dogs thinking they need to go along and protect me.

And when I’m there with Notah’s family, I miss being here with Rachael and I miss my cozy room here with all my junk. I told Rachael yesterday that I know my room is the grubbiest room in the whole house and that the clutter drives her crazy, but I like it and I feel cozy there.

I look forward to the day when we will all be in NM and I can be Notah and his family when ever I want and be with Rachael and Michael whenever I want. Or when ever they will have me.

The woman at Rachael’s store who was slacking on her job performance and doubling the work for everyone else was transferred to another store effective Monday! That was a surprise! Rachael was given the deli-bakery, the department this woman had in such a mess. The new manager told her that if she could straighten it out she would get a promotion out of it. One step closer to NM

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I saw this video of a kid  having a snit on Christmas morning because he had gotten BOOKS for Christmas! 
What kind of children are we raising today? I cannot believe that parents would put up with this sort of behavior. I would be ashamed of my child but you can hear the parents chuckling in the background. But they thought it was cute enough to be worth posting on youtube!
What kind of foolish parents think this is cute?  Why don't they realize that they are rearing a very selfish and self-serving child who will grow up to be the same kind of an adult.
If one of my children had reacted this way I would have taken every single one of his gifts away. He might have a month to change his attitude and then the toys would go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army for children or any child who might be more appreciative!
We had a rule in our house that if someone went snooping for Christmas presents before Christmas morning and I found out about it, that gift would be returned to the store.  If my kids ever DID snoop, they were sure not to let Mom know!
(And just FYI, the comments had been disabled on youtube.  lol guess maybe people didn't think it was so cute after all!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

looking back at sin

Twenty–five ‘til seven and my ‘kids’ are both off to work. It’s back to the regular work week for them. This is Rachael’s half day so she should be home by noon. Michael went in early to get a head start on some project or other.
I’m here in peace with my dogs snoozing on the bed and my cats scattered here and there—also snoozing. What a group!

I talked with a friend a couple days ago. We were discussing Lot’s wife and how she had turned back to look at the burning city. Remember, God had instructed them to flee and not to look back; Lot’s wife was turned to a pillar of salt for her disobedience. My friend couldn’t decide whether or not she felt this was “fair,” after all the only thing she did was look back.
I had responded that in looking back, Lot’s wife showed that she was not really ready to leave the sin that Sodom represented behind. She still had affection for the sinfulness there. God was determined to end the sin and evil of that city by destroying it completely. When Lot's wife looked back she demonstrated her affinity for sin. She wasn't willing to leave it completely.
Jesus used the same symbolism when he said that no man putting his hand to the plow and looking back was worthy of the kingdom of heaven. He only wants those who are entirely committed to Him and to His work. When we keep yearning back to sin we can’t serve Him wholeheartedly. And He does require whole hearted service.
I think that is much of the problem with Christians who can't really live a triumphant life in Christ today. They want to be saved, but they are still looking back yearning for the things of sin. Only those who will give him Wholehearted Service are chosen to be His People. If we keep looking back and wanting the things of sin we are not wholehearted servants, so we aren’t chosen.
We are taught a lot of things that cause us to question our 'wholeheartedness. For instance, we are taught that we can sin without knowing it. Not only is that not biblical, but it also cause us to be constantly second guessing ourselves. We can never feel that we are pleasing to God. But that guilty worry also allows us to sin in little ways that we KNOW better than do, because 'after all we can't be perfect' so it's like we are discouraged from even trying.
After this discussion my friend had responded that she found things in her life that indicated she was not being ‘wholehearted.’ She gave the example of fleeting thoughts possibly of anger, or lust or dishonesty and how she didn’t spend as much time studying her bible or bring people into the church.
But we should look at the picture from God’s standpoint, not man’s. The idea of ‘fleeting thoughts’ being sin or sinning ‘without knowing it’ is very strongly taught by one major denomination. (Perhaps others too, I don’t know) But if we believe that God deals honestly with his Children, and I know we do, and if, as Paul taught us in Hebrews 10: For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;Then we must know that there is no such thing as ‘an unknown sin.’ How could His law be in our hearts, written in our minds and He not make us aware of those 'little things to which we don't give a second thought ' but are displeasing (sin) to Him? If you have the multiplications tables 'written in your mind' do you accidently forget them? No. But if you are like me and don't KNOW the division tables you accidently forget them? No, if they are not there, then you don’t know them.See what I mean. If there are things that are displeasing to God but He hasn't written them in our minds yet, then they are not sin to us. When he DOES write them there (bring them to our attention and make us aware of His displeasure in them) THEN if we don't obey we will be displeasing to Him and that disobedience would be sin.
If we look at the example of 'a fleeting thought like anger' we can find that this too is an erroneous teaching. IF it is fleeting then it is not voluntary. It is only when we ACT on those fleeting thoughts that we sin. James gave the explanation in James 1. He said, But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death. Do not be misled, my beloved brethren. (Amplified text) This was to help us understand the difference between those fleeting thoughts and sin. The temptation is that 'fleeting thought.' It has no power over you except what you allow it to have. That thought of anger comes and you shake it off, or ignore it or rebuke it, maybe, depending on how strong it is. And it is gone. There is no sin involved... BUT if that fleeting thought comes and you think on it and consider how great it would be to do something to the one that thought was directed toward THEN it begin to 'conceive' or grow into a real shape. Then as we act on it becomes real SIN. If we allow that sin to continue and we keep acting on it we will eventually be dead in sin.
And look at those beautiful words; Do not be misled, my beloved brethren. Nearly 2000 years ago, the Lord knew that sincere Christians would be distressed by these fleeting thoughts and He took time to have James explain the process of sin.. Wow! It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord has planned for our growth in His truth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Hobbit - the greatest adventure

And while I'm at it,  Here  is the original animated version of The Hobbit.  Peter Jackson is going to have to go some to beat it!  This is the 1977 version. If you aren't a reader and don't want to do the whole book, get this DVD if you can lay hands on it.

Roads Go Ever On-Glenn Yarbrough

I found this recording of "The Walking Song by Bilbo Baggins."  It is one of my favorite songs.There are several verses of it.  If you want to know all of them, you'll have to read the Hobbit and the Lord of the  Rings trilogy


Yesterday was a lovely day. It was a Wednesday and both my ‘kids’ were home! Rachael had the day off for her birthday and Michael took the day off to be with her—the best birthday present she could have. Sarah, Billy and Nicky were here too. So they spent the day acting like teen-agers. Well, R & M got up early to go and do ‘grown-up business’ as Rachael calls it. She had to go and renew her driver’s license and then stop at the bank and withdraw some cash that I had lent her Tuesday night. They also stopped at the grocery and to get Peanut some alfalfa hay and cedar chips for his box. (That’s one spoiled cat. He isn’t satisfied for plain old blankets or straw. NO! He has to have alfalfa and cedar or he won’t go in there! )
Then they came home, fixed some lunch (for R & M, and me) breakfast (for the rest of the crew) and spent the afternoon playing Uno. I told them later that I considered coming out and putting them in opposite corners of the room a couple times.
I used to wonder at how much Grandma Howe seemed to enjoy having the Rachael and Notah visit her when they couldn’t talk with her very much and spent most of their time out running around the desert with Lenora and their other cousins. Now I understand it. Just the sound of their voices laughing and coming and going makes me happy. I enjoyed having R & M home all day and I didn’t really spend that much time with them. Funny thing was-I spent the day thinking it was Sunday.
Now it’s Thursday and we are waiting for another snowstorm. It’s supposed to be moving in any second. Grove City already has a couple inches. The weather man said, “North of I-70 would get one inch, south of I-70 would be getting two to three inches, and on south around the Ohio River would get four to six!” Now that’s quite a range in only about 250 miles. I’m anxious to see what really happens. So far it sounds like they are on course. We have no new snow yet and Grove City has going on two. And that is a pretty narrow belt north to south… probably no more than 20 miles, although I’m not too good at figuring mileage.
Looks like there is a very, very fine snow falling now with no wind.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bilbo comes home

When the war of the Five Armies was over and the treasure of the Dragon all divided, Bilbo took only tow small chests and a bag of gold back hom with him.  He and Gandalf set off toward Hobbiton again.  they finaly came back to Rivendale and rested there for several weeks. 

"On May 1  that the two came back again...to..Rivendale"  (If you look closely you can see Bilbo and Gandalf and the pack pony in the center of the drawing. This is another by Alan Lee.)

When they continued on their journey they stopped to pick up the treasure of the trolls and to see them still standing turned to stone.  Gndalf left him on the border of the Shire and Bilbo continued on home alone.   The Sackville-Bagginses were in the process of holding an auction to free up his cozy hobbit hole so they could move in!  they never quite got over the irritation of not getting it! 

And there you have the synopsis of The Hobbit.  I encourage you to read it.

We have company from Kentucky this week.  Michael's sister, Sarah, and her fiance, Billy, arrived with Billy's brother, Nicky last evening.  They a re going to be here for a few days.

And Today is Rachael's birthday.  She is 33.  Unbelievable.  I was just writing on Chosen Highway about the stress and depression I went through right after she was born. And now I'm reminded that was a long time ago

Sunday, December 12, 2010

study to show thyself approved

I’ve been thinking about the need to study the Bible. It is vital that we get to know the Lord; it must be a personal relationship with the human Jesus that leads us through the tangled ways of the World; it is vital that we live in accord with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter that Jesus promised us.
We can only achieve those things by an intimate knowledge of the Word. So the necessity of studying the scriptures is apparent. The dilemma is how to build that knowledge. Jesus said that the Comforter would lead us But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26 II Tim 2:15 Paul encouraged Timothy to study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  II Tim. 2:15  John taught us that we need no man to teach us… the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him I John 2:27  And yet, men insist on turning to Man for their instruction. 
In the last 50 years I’ve had the opportunity to sit under the ministry of many men of God and meet many Christian teachers and leaders. I separated the two groups because I’ve seen a dramatic difference between them. The first group had a deep and abiding faith in God. Their confidence in the Lord was built by prayer and study, trials faced, sins put aside, worldly habits overcome, righteous living and victories won and an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. They had studied where the Sprit led them and built their knowledge of the scriptures as He dictated; they built their understanding based on the broad and solid precepts of the Lord’s design and honed into a specific edifice of His Planning. Their message was fervent, and filled with the deep joy in the Lord.
On the other hand I have known the products of seminaries and schools of theology and various courses of study who had set themselves to study on their own course under the auspices of men. They never had the abiding joy that was apparent in the Spirit-taught men. Their knowledge was vast; they could spend hours expostulating on the meaning of various texts; they could relate various references to Greek and Hebrew historical recordings; they could speak of viewing the writings of Paul and Peter and John in the light of cultural customs and mores; they had a ‘firm grasp’ of how the teachings of Jesus impacted on the population then and now; they could give a historical trace of the actions of Christians through the last 2000 years. They were fantastic and brilliant men (and a few women) but with no evidence of an abiding relationship with God and no overflowing joy in the Lord. I have no doubt that some of them DID certainly love the Lord, but the real joy was not there.
What is the difference then?  How does the Spirit-led study and the man-directed study make a difference in the end product. The first is a vital and ongoing production of the Holy Spirit. The second is didactic and bound by exactly what they had been taught.
I can only compare it to the natural growth of a tree and that of a tree that is drawn as a representation of a tree by an unskilled hand. The natural tree grows slowly, expanding roots in every direction, putting out a deep, wide underground network of tendrils drawing life from the hidden, unfathomable sources of water there. While the upward growth may not be apparent for some time, but the strenght being drawn from the nourishing water and fortifying earth is producing a hearty plant. In the course of time when nature determines the moment to be right, the tree begins to expand above ground; the days, months. and years perhaps, spent in the hidden growth as dictated by nature is then apparent in the hearty growth that now spreads above it. The branches expand to offer fruit and shade and shelter to those in need. As David said he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (Ps.1:3) and the Prophet Jeremiah reinforces it by saying: For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit Jeremiah 17: 8  The child of God led by the Holy Spirit grows in much the same way as those trees over years of reading the Word and trials of life and learning to trust the Lord for guidance.
The man-taught product reminds me of a tree drawn by a child. A solid firm trunk with perhaps a couple straight branches and a symmetrical globe of leaves, stands tightly on the green grass. It is a perfectly acceptable tree and everyone who sees it recognizes it for what it is, but it lacks the vitality of the one produced by nature. It is two dimensional and while it conveys the feeling of a real tree, it is static and incapable of growth. The natural tree is moved by gentle breezes and growth expands in varying directions. The man made tree is built block by block by human instruction and cannot vary its construction or move in response to be blessing of God. When confronted by the opportunity for growth it is bound by what it has been ‘taught’ and cannot change. It may feel the blessings of God, but is unable to move except within the directions indicated by their learned principles
And in the process of systematizing and carefully structuring their study of the Word these sincere, but misled, Christians miss out on the fantastic joy of having the close instruction of the Holy spirit. They end up with a vast head-knowledge of the Scriptures but famished heart knowledge. They demonstrate the scripture in Revelation: a measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny. Christ compared the Word of God to bread and when Man parcels out the components of that bread phrase by phrase and sentence by sentence with his own seasoning added the hearts of honest men and women are starved.
They have allowed Man to measure out the Word of Life to them instead of feeding freely at the feet of Jesus, taught by His holy spirit. My soul grieves for them—honest hearts, misled by Man’s wisdom.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

a refuge

I’ve found a refuge now from every sorrow
Joy everlasting and sweet;
I see this world, with all its sinful follies,
Conquered at my feet.

Oh, blessed thought, my sins are gone!
I lean on Jesus’ breast,
And while the storm without is madly raging,
I have perfect rest.

Oh, could you offer every earthly treasure,
Diamonds and pearls of the sea;
Then, turning from them I would gladly whisper,
“Christ has set me free.”

Far brighter than the shining stars above me,
Beaming with beauty and grace,
Adorned in heaven’s majesty and splendor,
Is my resting place.

I woke up singing this song this morning. I’ve found a refuge! What a thought that is! What a sure knowledge. In spite of hard times, in spite of heartaches, in spite of physical pain, there’s a refuge for us that remains solid. While men looking for and trying to legislate literal peace on the world, I’ve found a place in the presence of God that shuts out every disruptive force.

So much of the worry and heartache in this world has come about through sin. Without trusting in Christ’s saving grace we face a void that renders us hopeless. No matter what Man does to try to order his existence and be ‘in control’ he faces impossible odds. The Enemy of our soul is on every hand to create turmoil and chaos in every life around us. To make matters worse, the soul within cries out in terror of facing an eternity with out God. The most adamant atheist must deny and smother that tiny voice within him. The agnostic must turn that voice aside by addressing it to other issues of emotion and psychological explanation. The sinner acknowledges that soul-cry for help but seeks solace in every avenue from intellectual pursuits, to humanitarian activities, to sensual gratification but lays his head down at night in despair. But thank the Lord, I’ve found a refuge from all of that searching and turmoil and failure. There is a place near to God’s Heart that gives us rest.

Not that there aren’t disappointments and heartaches that have come in my life and probably will come again, there is still a place of rest. I can’t describe it to someone who hasn’t come to that place, but I just do what needs to be done and leave the rest to the Lord. It doesn’t mean I close my eyes to the difficulties or pretend they don’t exist. It doesn’t mean I simply drift through life and take no responsibility for what is happening. It doesn’t mean I can’t accomplish anything through my own hands. It doesn’t mean I am incapable or helpless in the face of life in general. It simply means that there is a point beyond which Man can do nothing and while others flail wildly about trying to impose some semblance of their own order on situations, I can simply rest in God. I can relax, knowing I have done what small portion is my responsibility and wait on God to do the rest.

Nothing the world or men could offer can replace that peace. To be able to rest while the world is raging, to have joy deep within my heart, to have the assurance of God’s grace in my life and His power over riding every evil is unspeakably precious. The description of that resting place exceeds the ability of words to describe it. I can understand John’s dilemma in writing down his Revelation. The sights he was given to look at were so unimaginable that he translated them into terms we find bizarre because he had no point of reference to describe them absolutely. That’s the way it is with describing the rest I have in Jesus. “Brighter than the shining stars above me,” “shining with beauty and grace,,” full of ‘majesty and splendor” the words still fail to describe it. It isn’t a literal physical place where I crawl in and pull the covers over my head, but it exists deep within me and no earthly force can enter in or destroy it. I have found a refuge.

It seems sometimes that the Lord leads us from blessing to blessing. As I was studying on a rest and refuge I came to the song Blessed Quietness http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Blessed_Quietness/midi/

Joys are flowing like a river,
Since the Comforter has come;
He abides with us forever,
Makes the trusting heart His home.

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
Blest assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea, Jesus speaks to me,
And the billows cease to roll.

Everything is turned to gladness,
All around this glorious Guest;
Banished unbelief and sadness,
All is perfect peace and rest.

Like the rain that falls from heaven,
Like the sunlight from the sky,
So the Holy Spirit given,
Falls upon us from on high.

What a wonderful salvation,
Where we always see His face!
What a peaceful habitation!
What a quiet resting-place!

It is so wonderful to be able to rest in the quietness of Christ. While some look off to the Future Millennium for peace and rest, I have it right now in this present world. When we look to that supposed time for our peace and all the blessings that accompany it we sell ourselves short of what all God has for us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ancient landmarks

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: Deuteronomy 4:9;
There is always the tendency to move imperceptibly away from those things that were held so tenaciously by the early saints as imperative to deep spirituality, to maintaining the presence and approval of the Holy Spirit, and to drawing hungry souls into a vital experience of heart holiness.
These ‘landmarks’ by which the old saints lived and triumphed have slid slowly into oblivion. (Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge Prov. 22:20). We have lost sight of those strong testimonies that our forefathers lived out before the world. ( For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: Ps78:5-7) We have discounted them and set them aside as unnecessary and often called them ‘fanatical.’ And that has resulted in a people who don’t know the power of God in their lives.
Where are we now in our relationship to those ancient landmarks which our fathers have lived by and of which their lives bore witness? This is a good question for any man ( or woman! ) to ask himself. When we look at the past history of holy men and women, observation shows us that most, if not all religious organizations today have removed somewhat from the salvation that delivers from all sin and worldliness. In our day fervor at the place of prayer, zeal for the house of God, shouting, anointed preaching, and various other markers of righteousness are becoming increasingly absent even among the ranks of Church-goers. There is also an alarming loss of an active conscience among religious professors and this always results in a decline from daily righteous living. Ancient landmarks erode away, at first so subtly, so minimally, so insignificantly and imperceptible to the majority that any who sounds an alarm is branded as a troublemaker in the church.
What can be done in the face of this downward trend we find? For one thing, there is that ever present weakness of being entirely too shallow in altar work. Our preaching and teaching as a whole may not be faulty (the words are right) but, sad to say, too often at the altar seekers are rushed through to a profession of Salvation. But after the emotional tide subsides there is a vaguely dissatisfied soul who has no idea why the feeling of emptiness persists.
When the young convert expresses this vague emptiness or dissatisfaction to older Christians the are told it is 'temptation, or "human infirmities." They are told their expectation is too high. So the young Christian is encouraged to ‘claim’ their salvation and a blessing will follow. But the advisers, however well-meaning, sidetracked the babe in Christ. They mean well, but instead of teaching that holiness of heart is a true experience, an inward crucifixion, they hold that it is only a ‘gift’ and a great blessing. Full consecration, abandonment to God and the putting aside of all sin that results in purity of life is not part of the instruction.
True devotion and victory in God can only result from a complete dying out to the demands of the flesh and crying, 'Let me die! Let me die!' When all sin has been confessed and abandoned and all carnal desires rejected, the refining fire of God will give victory over the fleshly desires and habits of life that so many Christians struggle with.
'Knowing this that our old man is crucified, (not happy-fied, or consecrated, but crucified,) that the body of sin might be destroyed.' The Holy Spirit will take us step by step to the end of our self.
In the light of this then, much of the move away from the "old paths" can be laid at the responsibility of a desire to add numbers to the church, instead of seeing new Christians led to a complete understanding of full Salvation. When souls fail to get a pure heart, no matter how sincere they are, there is bound to be a struggle in daily living and a continual struggle with sin. Worldliness and wrong attitudes reflect a failure to obtain a heart purity. People who simply profess Salvation are put into responsible positions in the church before they have demonstrated a righteous life before the congregation. Ancient landmarks are moved bit by bit until all sorts of unrighteousness is accepted without thought.
God grant that In our day we will hold to the old paths of thorough righteousness in our teachings and lives!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

almost to the end

I am currently reading The Hobbit for the I-don’t-know-how-many-th” time, over and over for the past 53 years. I’ve lost count. I can remember distinctly standing in the corner of the ‘Children’s Section’ of the New Philadelphia Library and pulling The Hobbit from the shelf for the first time. I can even remember the position on shelf, the  right hand side of the corner, second shelf down, probably over about 2/3 of the say to the end of the shelf.  Isn't that strange.  I put Children’s section in quotes because I found The Hobbit not too long before I was allowed access to the whole rest of the Library. That was a red letter day.
I was enthralled with The Hobbit and a little disappointed when it ended. I’d never heard of JRR Tolkien and had no idea that three more volumes of hobbit stories existed on the other side of the library. I can’t remember when I found The Lord of the Rings. I rather think they were in paper back. But I DID find them.
I know that as soon as I finish The Hobbit, I will be drawn to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. It is inevitable.
I don’t read quite as much as I used to. My eyes are not what they used to be and it is difficult to read except under the best circumstances. So today my reading is restricted to only two locations in the house. Those places have the best lighting. I keep a different book in each location so I don’t have to carry one around with me. Right now The Hobbit is on the counter in the kitchen. I only read it there in the mornings when I’ve finished packing R & M’s lunches. I do that and fix my own breakfast, then I can sit and read until knees are cold and my toes are numb. Bilbo doesn’t travel quite as fast as he used to. Actually he only travels for about 30 minutes a day. Heh, heh, heh. I guess he goes pretty fast at that since he had gone from Hobbitton clear to Smaug’s Mountain in about a week..
When the dwarves arrived at Lake Town from their trip down the river in the barrels they were received with mixed feeling by the people. But soon they became enthusiastic with the thought of the dragon being destroyed and all of the treasure that would come out of the Mountain. They lent the Dwarves boats and helped them get to the base of the mountain.
Bilbo did his part by finding the opening, the ‘back door,’ to the mountain and then actually going down the tunnel to the dragon’s lair. Eventually, Bilbo angered the dragon by stealing a golden cup from the hoard and then by foolishly taunting the dragon with riddles. Then the dragon left his lair in a rage and destroyed the back door; finally he rushed down the river to destroy Lake Town.
So today, the dragon is dead. Bard the bowman shot his black arrow into the bare patch on his chest. When Bilbo had tricked him into showing him his jewel armored underside he had seen the bare patch under his leg.  The arrow penetrated deeply and buried itself in its chest.  Smaug plummeted into the depths of the lake amid clouds  of steam  and  boiling water.

Now the Elves and the men of Lake Town are preparing to march on the Mountain and claim the treasure, which, by the way, Thorin and his dwarves have already laid claim to. Life is going to get interesting.
(I never realized the fantastic amount of art work that has developed because of the hobbit series.  And the artists who have done the work are fantastic.  Take time to visit the sites of the artists and look at all the work they have there... Follow the links on the pictures I've posted...)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Living for Jesus

So many of the religious world’s ideas about living for the Lord are based on mandates. And a lot of the rest is a program of personal improvement. The personal improvement agenda takes all the joy out of living for the Lord. How much better to live for Him because you love him! How much better for your life habits to become Christ-like under His leadership than simply because you think you need to ‘improve.’ Or because a (possibly sincere) minister somewhere says that you need to live in such and such a way. We say this salvation is a free gift. And it certainly is, but then we set out to improve our self.
I’m not talking about the Lord convicting us of a particular sin and our laying it aside. No I’m talking about the Christian who does the same things that a sinner might do to simply to make themselves more socially attractive.
I don’t know if I’m saying it right. But there is a difference in the life we live because the Holy Spirit brings conviction and heart change upon us because we are willing to do the will of God and the difference we make in our life simply because we think it is a good improvement to make. It is like the difference between quitting smoking because the Lord convicts you of it and quitting because you feel it is not good for your health or no longer socially acceptable. Both have the same end result, but in the first situation at the end you are blessed by God for your obedience and in the second you are just a person who ‘quit smoking.’
And a professed Christian can do the same thing. A professing Christian can quit smoking just to quit because he feels it would make him more socially acceptable in his congregation. And he can make a success of it—just like any other sinner. But the purpose was merely self improvement, not because a child of God was responding to the Lord’s leading and submitting to His Will. Am I being clear?
Maybe I could compare it to the prostitute who after long contemplation decides to change her life. With tremendous determination and courage, she quits the business and takes the appropriate steps to build a more socially acceptable image: maybe c moving to a new town away from old acquaintances, getting an education, and buying a new wardrobe that makes her appear as a well tailored business woman rather than someone who was ‘advertising her wares” To anyone meeting her then she appears as a woman who has spent her life as a home-school-church-community focused person. No vestige of her former occupation or self remains. The end product might be called a “decent god fearing” woman, but the woman within remains the same sinner as before. Only the outside is changed.
A prostitute newly saved might do the same thing. She will quit her occupation and move herself into more suitable housing. She will abandon the old haunts and buys new clothes which depict modesty and reserve. The reason for that however was not for social esteem, but because of a work within her. She has become a new person in Christ Jesus.
By putting our mind to it, we can, in many outward ways, achieve the same results that Salvation brings to pass. The difference is that one is just that, an outside work. The other springs from a heart change. And therein lays the difference! So many times we hear Christians say, “I know I shouldn’t but I just can’t help myself.’ And they keep falling back into the same sins. That is the indication of a Christian whose profession of Salvation is based on a program of self improvement.
Salvation is a free gift. It was offered to us when we had done nothing whatsoever to deserve it. When we come repenting it is bestowed on us with all love from the hand of the Father. Sins are forgiven and cast as far as the east is from the west. But instilled with in us is a portion of that great love which offered a Son on Calvary to die for us. That Love prompts us to not only ask forgiveness but to offer our entire life and being back to Him in return.
That offering is the implement of the change in our life. It prompts us to lay aside the sins that so easily beset us. It prompts us to become Warriors in His service and put away childish things. It results in the works that demonstrate the accomplishment Faith has carried out in our life. Those works go deeper than a simple change on the outside. They are evidence of a change on the inside. And THAT makes all the difference when it comes to our eternal destiny. God doesn’t ask us to simply ‘better ourselves;’ He asks for our submission to his will. When we come to Jesus we aren’t told to embark on a program of self improvement, we are told to submit our will to His and allow Him to mold us into New People.