Every Tribe, Every Nation

 

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“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

Since Phil and I returned home last Thursday, people have asked me, “What impression impacted you the most from your trip to Israel?”

I expected to see Jewish people, some from many different continents as the diaspora have returned to the nation of Israel since it’s modern establishment in 1948. I also expected to see many Arabs who have populated this region since their beginnings as children of Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

What I did not expect to see was the many hundreds of Christian pilgrims from every tribe and every nation on earth.

The second through fifth days of our trip were spent hiking the Jesus Trail. This is a well marked trail from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, to Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of His time in ministry. Our group of 10 people walked where Jesus walked and lived, seeing the locations of several of His miracles and the ruins of the occupying Roman government. This is not a heavily populated area and the  people we saw were mainly Jews and Arabs, living in a delicate balance of religious and political tolerance.

The next few days were spent mainly in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, visiting the many significant sights of Jesus birth, death, and resurrection. This is a modern urban area, surrounding the old cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were hundreds of people arriving on large tour buses at each site we visited.

This is what surprised and blessed me.

This is what I did not expect.

The “pilgrims” like myself, were Christians from every people group I can think of.  The following nationalities represent people we either spoke to or we heard them say that they were –

  •  Africans – from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya
  •  Asians – from China, Korea, Japan, India and Taiwan
  • Hispanics – from Ecuador, Argentina. and Mexico
  • Europeans,  – from Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy
  • Eastern Europeans – from Poland, Czech Republic, Russia
  • Australians
  • New Zealanders
  • Canadians, Virgian Islands
  • US Citizens from many different states

 

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All of these people came to pay homage to Jesus and the places where Jesus lived and and carried out His ministry.

Why did this bless me so much? Why was I surprised to see people from every tribe and every nation worshipping Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

I have to admit that my response revealed my narrow view of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom that Jesus will establish when He returns again to earth.

In Revelation John shares the following vision.

Revelation 7:9-10

9. After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10. And they cried out in a loud voice:    

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Seeing these large groups of people from nations throughout the world should not have surprised me. We were after all near the very location where the Bible teaches God created the first people. If I believe this Biblical account, and I do, then all the various people I was seeing had ancestors who originated here as well, just like I did.

I was overcome by the blessing of seeing this very diverse representation of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church. Our church gatherings here in the United States are but a small representation of what God has gathered together in the Body of Christ world wide. My visit to Jerusalem gave me a glimpse into this much bigger picture.

We looked different, dressed differently, talked and sang differently, prayed differently, even expressed our love for Jesus in different ways, but we had a common purpose.

We were there in Israel to honor Jesus, the King of Kings.

I will sing that familiar children’s song with new meaning now……

“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

 

 

 

Cut Off the Dead

The rhododendrons are absolutely glorious right now. Several people have come by to see them because the bushes are just LOADED with blooms which also attract a multitude of butterflies. It is truly a feast for the eyes.

These friends will say, “You have such beautiful flowers. You do such a lovely job with your yard.”

I am not being falsely humble when I say that I cannot take credit for the beauty of these flowers. There are several reasons I say this;

  • I did not design or create these flowers
  • I did not plant these flowers – former owners Peggy Mason and her husband Charles did.
  • I did not plant the large white pine trees that tower over these bushes providing the right amount of shade as well as their needles for added mulch and acidity.

The only thing we ever do to these lovely plants is cut off the dead branches.

These dead branches are not only unsightly, but they can harbor insects  or disease that affects the plants’ health.

I have had to cut out lots of dead branches on other plants as well this spring. The late freeze caught several of our hydrangea which had started to bud in the unseasonably warm winter. But then….ZAP!

I was often disheartened as I cut off the results of frozen buds and long stems that only days before had held the promise of big blue blooms later this spring.

Yet when I stood back and looked at the end result….yes! The trimmed plants did look much better.

God wants to cut off the old “dead” parts of our lives.

John 15:1-2 says this –

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

Notice the reason God, the heavenly gardener, cuts off a branch – “so it will be even more fruitful”.

God allows things to be taken from our lives so that the things that remain are more effective. When I cut the blooms from most annuals, the plant will produce more flowers. If  I leave the blooms on the plant, they die on the stem and go to seed. There are no more flowers.

Sometimes we think we are the only one who knows what is “dead”, no longer producing fruit, in our lives.

Our Heavenly Father knows.

We must trust as God cuts off the dead things in our lives so that new growth can flourish.

i remember the sadness I felt when my opportunity to help lead worship ended. That was something I loved doing.

It was cut off.

Now I worship with the congregation and I love being able to focus entirely on worshipping God, not the next cord, song, or when to stop, etc.

God has allowed me to participate in ministry opportunities I would never have dreamed of doing earlier in my live. I tbelieve these are “new growth” resulting from His pruning.

May we trust all our Heavenly Father does in our lives. After all, “my Father is the gardener.”

 

 

 

 

Company is Coming!

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I am vacuuming. My children ask – “Who is coming over?”

so – I only vacuum when we have company?

Out of the mouths of babes….

I used to scurry around madly fussing at anyone in my way before we had company over. I always left things to the last-minute so I was stressed and made my family stressed as well.

This is the way I viewed hospitality when I was first married.  I had gotten all these wedding presents like –

  • dinner ware
  • silver ware
  • placemats
  • cloth napkins
  • matching glasses

So I thought hospitality was setting a lovely table with flowers and having people over for dinner. The first home Phil and I lived in was in Bryson City, next to the road – NEXT to the road. The rent was $65.00 a month. (can you picture a house that was torn down soon after we moved?)

We invited a couple over after church and I had made a meal of spaghetti (one of two dishes I could fix) and set a beautiful table with those wedding presents.

It was raining.

That would not have been a problem, but our roof leaked and there were four of five streams of water coming from the ceiling. The first thing we did when we entered with our guests was put bowls under each stream.

So much for the lovely table setting.

The dictionary defines hospitality this way –

  1. Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
  2. synonyms – friendliness, welcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity,

Just look at those synonyms!

  • friendliness
  • welcome
  • helpfulness
  • warmth
  • kindness
  • courtesy
  • generosity

Hospitality can be so much more than inviting people to your home.

Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Each time I read about hospitality in scripture, it was connected to showing love.

I believe hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

AN ATTITUDE WHOSE BASIS IS LOVE.

Hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

I know a young woman named Sadie who lives hospitality. She invites people over and makes them feel at home, makes them tea and listens. Sadie lives hospitality.

It is the attitude of her heart.

I had the privilege of shadowing Elaine White at United Christian Ministries. Remember those synonyms for hospitality? friendlinesswelcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity, Elaine demonstrated every one of those with each person she saw.

It is an attitude of her heart.

A friend shared with me about opening her home to “strangers” – someone her daughter had met who needed a place to stay.

It did not go well.

But the attitude of her heart was to be welcoming, kind, and generous. She honored God – even though some people are unwilling to receive such love.

Sometimes showing hospitality is difficult.

It is not always easy – but God is asking us to have a hospitable heart.That may mean opening our homes, inviting people over.

It may mean being kind, friendly, and loving at Wal-Mart.

II John 1:12

“I have many things to write to you, but I prefer not to do so with paper and ink. I hope to see you and talk to you FACE TO FACE – so that our joy may be complete.”

Face to face –

this is when we can practice hospitality – whether it is in our home, while we work, when we see someone at Wal-Mart.

Then our joy may be complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want a Peaceful Home?

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Aren’t there days when we would give our children’s birthright for some peace and quiet?

Oh, wait. I remember a story about that with two brothers named Esau and Jacob. Giving up a birthright did NOT end well. Scratch that….

Yet the fact remains – there are days we would give up a whole lot for a little peace and quiet around the house, wouldn’t we?

That is why the following verses jumped out at me. Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

But afterwards there will be a peaceful harvest ! 

What an amazing promise. If we endure the discipline  – we will reap the rewards.

Why do we give up on disciplining our children? There are as many reasons as there are families, but here are some common causes:

  • we as parents are tired
  • we give in
  • we are disciplining the same bad behavior again and again
  • we give in
  • our children whine and fuss
  • we give in
  • we forget to follow through, i.e. make sure they don’t use their device, get desert, etc.
  • we give in

Do we see a pattern here? We give in, we aren’t consistent, we don’t follow through on what we say.

I will always remember a high school junior telling his classmates that he didn’t care that his parents had grounded him for a month. “They will forget about it in a week.”

If I say that there is a certain consequence for a certain behavior – I must FOLLOW THROUGH.

If I don’t act on my discipline consistently, I am sending the very strong message that I don’t mean what I say, and that there aren’t really any consequences for my child’s actions.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Notice verse 11 says discipline is “painful”. It is often harder for us as parents to follow through than to give in.

BUT….giving in has a price.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Let’s commit ourselves to consistent discipline so that afterward we will reap a peaceful harvest of right living.

We will have a peaceful home when we commit ourselves to following through – meaning what we say.

We can have a peaceful home, even in the midst of chaos.

Philippians 4:6-7 LB

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

Words

Rachel Bob and Larry

Our youngest grandchild, Rachel, is starting to say so many new words.

The best word of all?

Nana!

Oh, how it warms my heart! It makes me melt – I am putty in her hands when she looks at me with those beautiful blue eyes and says – “Nana”.

I think God must respond in much the same way when we say “Jesus”.

Jesus – the name above every name.

In John 1: 1 – John starts his writings about Jesus in a powerful way –

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John wanted everyone who read his writing to know that Jesus existed from the very beginning – that Jesus was in fact  – God. The WORD had great significance for the Jewish people because they had a long tradition of written expression – teachings from God directly to Moses that taught God’s plan for mankind from the very beginning. For John to link Jesus to this WORD was an amazing revelation.

John goes on to say in verse 14 –

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Jesus expressed God’s glory.

When we worship Jesus and pray in His name, we bring glory to our heavenly Father. Jesus is God’s WORD that became flesh and lived among mankind.

Jesus has the name that is above every other name. Paul writes in

Philippians 2:9-15

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

We bring glory to God when we sing and worship Jesus.

We bring glory to God when we pray and praise Jesus.

May we speak the name of Jesus and bless our Father, just as our children and grandchildren do with the words they speak.

May we demonstrate the value of belonging to Jesus with our words.

 

 

 

 

 

No Place for Hatred!

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Busted!

15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. I John 3:15 NLT

This Scripture hit me right between the eyes today as we discussed it in Bible study. “Hate” is such an ugly, debilitating emotion. Yet I recalled just a few days before expressing hateful feelings myself about a certain basketball team, a certain coach, and certain players. I do not know, nor have I met any of these people.

Jesus said –

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone,  you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  Matthew 5:21-22

Dedicated fans (dare I say “rabid”?) are not the exclusive territory of any one team. When Phil was attending Asbury Theological Seminary soon after we married, I cleaned house for an 80-year-old lady who had court side seats in Rupp Arena. Mrs. Moore was a widow and had two season tickets that her husband, a doctor and Kentucky graduate, had obtained during the heyday of Adolf Rupp and the Kentucky Wildcats. She went to those games, often taking a niece or a friend. She told me once their children would inherit the right to those season tickets. Mrs. Moore was a calm, quintessential Southern lady – UNTIL HER WILDCATS were playing!

Similar stories can be shared about most teams with loyal followings. My older brother reminded me when we were reminiscing about the Cubs’ World Series win, that my father, although a Cubs fan, was most consistently for the underdog. (that has been the definition of a Cubs’ fan, hasn’t it?) Even his favorite team did not receive his backing if a little known school or losing program threatened a win. He always thought it was a thrill to see “David beat Goliath”.

There has been an increase in the past few years of fans who take pride, not so much in their team and how it is playing, but in how ugly, disgusting, and downright vulgar their cheering section is. Expletives are commonplace. For these fans, I use the term loosely, it is no longer about the game, but about their extreme behavior in the stands.

Our family has always loved sports and competition. Everyone has played on multiple teams except for myself – who has never been on a team. (Someone has to watch!)

Yet I am concerned about the shift in our culture from cheering for your team to win – to degrading the opposing team, win or lose. I hear comments from fans of all ages that talk about opposing teams, coaches, and players in such degrading terms that hatred is the result.

I have talked this way myself.

I am busted.

As in any situation, when Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, I must confess it, accept forgiveness, and CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR.

I need to do this to honor the Lord.

I need to do this to be a positive example to my grandchildren.

I look forward to watching some basketball in the coming days. I want to focus on cheering for the teams in my bracket.

There is no place for hatred!