Tuesday, November 28, 2006

UP FROM THE VALLEY

There is a saying that you can not truly enjoy a mountaintop high unless you have first walked through the valley. It is easier to sit calmly, nod your head in agreement and chirp happily when you are sitting on top of the mountain, or even if you are somewhat close to it. But when you are slogging through the depths of a valley, it is far more likely you will be tempted to pace anxiously, toss sleeplessly and sing the blues.

Everyone has to walk through a variety of valleys in life. Some are so deep and the surrounding mountains tower so high a person can neither see a mountaintop nor imagine one exists.

Jane Eggleston wrote a beautiful poem, “It’s in the Valley I Grow.” http://www.llerrah.com/dreams.htm is only one of many Internet websites where it is posted.

If you do not believe this, recall the trials of Job. God said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8 NKJV) Yet he allowed Satan to take away everything Job possessed – children, herds, flocks, servants –and to torment Job physically, though Satan could not take Job’s life. Job was reduced to sitting in an ash heap, covered with boils. His three friends were no more comforting or encouraging than his wife, who told him to put himself out of his misery – “curse God and die.” Everything in Job’s life looked dire.

Still, in the end, Job was able to see the LORD through eyes filled with awe. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear. But now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5, 6) Job came through the trials with a humbler attitude and a deeper discernment of the LORD God. He slogged through a tough valley before sitting on the mountaintop.

My mother’s sudden illness and death dropped a heavy burden on my shoulders and affected every aspect of my life. I am struggling with illness and infection, deficient financial resources, and the void in my life and plans – to name just a few mountains I have been facing in my own deep valley recently.

I do not sleep through the night at the best of times, and since my mother’s rapid downhill spiral, I spend a good portion of the night awake. Sometimes I am able to concentrate on God and think thankful, praising thoughts. Other times worry wins the battle of my thoughts.

The last couple of days have been rife with discouraging news. It is a battle to not be dragged down and crumple in the mire of the valley I am walking through. So I thought I would write this to encourage others who are plodding through their own valley today.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:16, “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” A shield is not any good to a soldier unless he uses it.

Neither can we walk by faith instead of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) when our thoughts become rooted in the valley of fear.

Reflect instead on God’s faithfulness and providence to help you traverse the valley of hope to reach the mountaintop.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills — from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1, 2

Yes, when you are low in the pit and the surrounding mountains hem you in, look up from the valley.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

THE HORSE RESCUE

It happened in the Netherlands, but it was one of those stories that gripped the hearts of animal lovers and went international. On October 31, more than 100 horses were trapped on a small patch of land by rising seawater that flooded a pasture beyond the dikes. Within three days, there were eighteen deaths by drowning and one from exposure.

Firemen ferried about 20 horses, including the smallest foals, to dry land in small boats and the Dutch Army arrived to help, but as the water level fell, their pontoon boats were grounded. Helicopters could not be used. The noise might frighten the horses and cause more to drown. Rescuers carried water, hay and blankets to the cold, wet horses.

Three days later the water level had dropped to where the horses could reach land on their on, but it was feared some could become snagged on submerged barbed wire. Animal welfare officers and firemen staked out a safe route through the brackish water. Six guide horses with riders rode out to join the herd. Firemen in a chain of small boats waited along the route. Then four women on horseback from the local Calvary Club rode out to lead the herd home.

Watching the video of this rescue brings goose bumps or tears, depending on the viewer’s response. But it is impressive to watch the horses enter the water and begin the 650 yard walk to dry land. In places, they were neck-deep, in some areas they had to swim. When they entered shallower water, they pranced. As they emerged from the water, they broke into a gallop.

There is something gripping about a rescue. People sit glued to the television set to watch the rescue of a child from a well, a man from atop a crane on a burning high rise, or passengers from a plane that crashed into the ocean. Passers-by stop to watch a puppy or a kitten being rescued from a storm drain.

As I watched the horse rescue video for the second or third time, I thought of how the most dramatic rescue of all generally occurs quietly, without fanfare. A man stands in the brackish waters of his own sin, unable to swim or wade around the unseen obstacles to safety and save himself. There is only one who can lead him to safety – the Lord Jesus.

The video of the horse rescue can be viewed here . The story of Christ, the one who rescues men, can be found in the pages of the Holy Bible. It too can give you goose-bumps or bring you to tears, depending on the reader’s response.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

SELLING OUT THE GOSPEL

TIME Magazine recently ran a cover story, “Does God want you to be rich?” If you listen to proponents of the prosperity gospel, the answer is a resounding, Yes, God wants you to be rich!

To be honest, I am trying to see the relationship between a congregation’s donations keeping their minister living in opulence and the gospel. I can not find any verse stating, Any person who refuses to send generous donations to his local church minister to keep the minister in diamond pinky rings, silk suits and luxury vehicles will not enter the kingdom of God.

Now, I realize the Bible was written before the Mercedez-Benz was invented, so perhaps there is an applicable verse in the New Testament stating, All church members are required to keep their home church leader supplied with an abundance of cattle, donkeys, jewelry and robes or he will be tossed into the lake of fire with the other cheapskates. Nope, I can not find that one either.

Wait, I do find a verse which I think of when the prosperity gospel is being expounded. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matthew 7:15.

If this sounds harsh, think about it for a moment. Is this a gospel about Jesus or a self-propagandistic “gospel”? The prosperity gospel appeals to the greedy side of humanity and sometimes to the lazy side. It would be nice to be able to send in a portion of income and never have to worry again about finances, but would material means solve all our problems and make us happy? More importantly, do riches guarantee your name will be written in the Book of Life? Wealth is not listed as one of the prerequisites of salvation.

The gospel does include riches, though. Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5 (NIV).

God does prosper some materially but there is no guarantee of material prosperity in the biblical gospel, and you can not buy God’s blessings through adhering to the teachings of the prosperity gospel.

Although prosperity might sound tempting, don’t sell out the true gospel for riches in this life. Rather, delight in the riches of God’s mercy and grace.

Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. How much is the true gospel worth to you? It should be priceless!

www.mercyandpercy.com

Monday, November 13, 2006

AN IRISH BLESSING

This is a song by Roma Downey, who used to play an angel on the television show Touched by an Angel. If you have not heard it before, listen to the words.

An Irish Blessing

Friday, November 10, 2006

ORIGIN OF BUDDY POPPY

November 11 is Veteran’s Day in the United States. Over the years many men and women from the various branches of the Armed Forces have given their lives to help America remain “the land of the free.” I am again privileged to help distribute Buddy Poppies for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the VFW Auxiliary, and as I reflected on the poppy recently, I decided to do some research on it. I was surprised to find it has such a long history.

The red poppy was immortalized as a symbol of the sacrifice of battle through a poem written in Ypres (now known as Ieper), Belgium by a Canadian Army physician.

In Flanders Fields
by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The red poppy, the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was first distributed in 1922. A year later the VFW decided to have the poppies assembled by disabled and needy veterans to provide them some financial assistance. When assembly began the following year, the “Buddy Poppy” was born. To this day, the assembly of the Buddy Poppy is done by disabled and needy veterans, and the distribution of the poppy provides assistance to various VFW programs, as well as to orphans and widows of American veterans.


www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God’s voice immediately boomed from heaven, “David, my son, you have sinned against me and you’re going to pay the penalty,” and David trembled with fear, knowing God’s punishment is always instantaneous and obvious.

Oh, wait, this did not happen until Joab sent a messenger to tell David of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah’s death in battle, a murder David committed, in effect, by proxy.

No, that isn’t correct either. But surely David heard God’s booming indictment when he took Uriah’s wife as his own.

Actually, the booming voice in the story of David and Bathsheba didn’t happen, but you already know that. God did not thunder in David’s ears when David sinned, any more than he thunders in your ears today when you or I sin. But as Nathan explained to David, his sin did have consequences.

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:13-14 (NIV)

God did take away David’s sin, but he did not remove the consequences of it, and although David fasted and wept, his son did die.

Some today argue that sin has no consequences, that Christ died for all of everyone’s sins and we are all automatically forgiven, and that all traces of sin and any possible consequences are wiped away. Some believe strongly there is no need of repentant prayer or tears, with or without fasting. Forgiveness of sins today is nothing more to some than a perpetual green light to freedom from guilt or shame. Sin can certainly abound when the conscience cannot be pricked.

If a man (or a woman) drives a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes an accident resulting in property damage, physical injury or the death of another person, the consequences are obvious. The police will investigate and make an arrest. There will be bond, an arraignment, and possibly a trial and prison term. The driver can not merely shrug his shoulders and walk away scot-free, saying, I’m insured and having insurance absolves me of all responsibility and penalties.

There are those who do get away with repeatedly driving under the influence, until a “day of reckoning” arrives under the legal system. Even if there is no immediate penalty to the one who broke the law, others’ lives are affected, often permanently, leaving deep scars.

God knew from the foundation of the world, long before David was born, that Christ, God’s son, would die as a once-for-all-time sacrifice for sin. Although David repented and his sin was taken away, his son still died. And that was not the end of Nathan’s word from God.

“This is what the LORD says, ’Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you, Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 2 Samuel 12:11-12 (NIV)

Nathan’s prophetic word from God was fulfilled in 2 Samuel 16:22 (NIV). So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

The pain and suffering of sin is not just personal. It also affects others.

God is holy and he hates sin. And sin, although it can be forgiven, should never be trivialized and shrugged off. Perhaps if God’s displeasure boomed from heaven and a penalty exacted at the moment of commission, sin would be taken more seriously in today’s society.

Forgiveness of sins is available because Christ died on the cross, but sin still carries a penalty. Once a sin is committed, it can not be reversed. Words said in anger, arrogance or self-righteousness can not be retracted. The young children turned into orphans by the driver under the influence will spend the rest of their lives without their parents. The innocent person given an STD (sexually transmitted disease) by an unfaithful marital partner must wrestle with the physical and emotional burdens of betrayal. The family, friends, congregation, employees, neighbors, or investors of one who has been deceived by someone they trusted may never be able to fully trust others again.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23a

This is such an encouraging verse. Eternal life is a gift, not a right or an automatic deposit in our spiritual bank accounts when we are born into this world. Eternal life is a very precious, priceless gift from God.

What is your attitude when you realize you have sinned? Don’t listen to and fall into the teaching that every sin is automatically forgiven and without consequence. Instead, remember your sins earned you a death penalty, which Christ paid in your stead. Do you still want to shrug off sin? Or does it give you a strong urge to fall to your knees?

www.mercyandpercy.com

Sunday, November 05, 2006

THE FOURTH MAN

I would like to share one of my favorite links. A hearty laugh is the best antidote when life becomes too serious. Enjoy!

The Fourth Man

Thursday, November 02, 2006

THE PRAYER

This appears to be he Australian version of American Idol, but it is well worth a few moments of your time.

The Prayer - Watch the audience reaction after hearing him.

Thank you, Sherry, for this wonderful link. This is a beautiful song.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM

I have been hearing and reading so much lately about Calvinism and Arminianism but I'm not as young as I used to be and my memory occasionally ambles off into the woods without me, so I decided to look for an easy to understand explanation of each and found a site with a brief comparative study of both. Perhaps one or two of you might also be interested in the comparison.

Comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism