Wednesday, December 26, 2012

He's coming back! - Christmas Story 7

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

The story doesn't end in the manger, it is the beginning.  We have faced many struggles this year in the US, and around the world.  The good news is Jesus is coming back for those who believe in Him.  We don't know the exact day or time.  But He will be back : )  

Jesus said there'd be days like this.  He also said that no one knows when He's coming.

Matt 24:6-7
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

Matt 24:36
36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only."

The Apostle Paul wrote about the second coming of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians.  You can read more about it in Matthew 24 (some of my blog posts are very long so I don't want to copy the whole chapter).
1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:10
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

Jeremy Camp has put together a great song, There will be a Day (link).

If you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I've written how here (link).  Let me know if you do, so I can pray for you.

Still praying for the families in CT, and those along the shore who lost their homes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas is coming

I am very happy to see Christmas coming.  The USA and nations around the world have had a really tough time this year.  Eesh blazing fires in the west, Superstorm Sandy, a theatre shooting, rogue tornadoes in the central US.  Flooding, drought, storms, economic disaster and a school shooting.  We still don't know the time when Jesus is coming back, but sometimes today seems like a good day.

I approached Thanksgiving with those devastated by Sandy on my heart.  Now as we approach Christmas, I can't help but think of the parents who bought Christmas gifts for children who won't be there this year in CT.  Little brothers and sisters who just can't understand.  I don't understand.  Sometimes the holidays are very difficult.  Our country mourns and we will be ever so much more grateful for our families.  Someone once said, "Life is fragile, handle with prayer."

My prayer
Dear Heavenly Father I lift up the families of those who were shot at Sandy Hook.  I pray You will protect them and comfort them.  They will need Your Holy Spirit's counsel and wisdom so much in this.  Let the angels bring hope and peace to the community.  I pray You will supply their every need.  Bless all those across our country who have mourned this year.  I pray for Your mercy and grace on our land.  Forgive us where we have failed.  Help us to grow stronger in the future.  May You bless America again.  Thank You for the many blessings we have received and didn't realize.
In Jesus Name, Amen

It's interesting.  Jesus was born in a terrible time.  Romans had conquered Israel.  Herod was considered the King of the Jews, but he had limited authority.  An unforgiving religious sect, the Pharisees, had taken charge of the Temple.  After Jesus' birth, Herod sent soldiers to kill all the babies hoping to keep Him from becoming King.  I don't usually like to even think about this part of the story.  It was a slaughter.  Mary and Joseph obeyed God's command to go to Egypt and Jesus was saved.  

Christmas is when we celebrate the day God became a baby out of His amazing love.  He knew all to well what man was capable of, yet He loved us so much it was worth it.   I see the lights on the tree and remember Jesus is the light that has come into our darkness.  We have an angel on top and I remember the angels rejoicing and celebrating His birth.   I will celebrate too.  I will get my husband's Christmas present today.  He's driving me nuts!  And I will hug him a little tighter this year.  We all need a break from this year's tragedies.  

These two verses kept coming to mind.  So I'm thinking I better share them.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matt 6:33

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair;  persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  2 Cor 4:8-11

I shed a few tears writing this, not an easy post.  Tomorrow I will start reposting the Christmas story.  I love reading it over and over again.  I hope it will bless you as well.

Think I'll light a candle for those in CT and the shore this year during Christmas, so I remember to pray for them.  We aren't wealthy, but I can pray.  Feel free to join me if you like, share a prayer or comment.

"All the darkness in the world can not extinguish the light of one candle."  Anonymous

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Money & Taxes... sigh

"Jesus provided tax money for Peter through a fish"
Prismacolor Markers on Marker Paper

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
First the good news : )  I heard on the News that people along the New Jersey and New York shores are rebuilding their homes now.  Home Depot (major hardware store) is hiring many new employees and contractors are eagerly finding work.  Construction has been hit hard in the last few years.  Thanks be to God!

This is probably my least favorite thing to think about of all.  It's been in the news since our President was re-elected.  Just the word "taxes" hits a nerve for me.  You see New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the United States.  Our township's taxes are higher than our mortgage payments.  We live in a townhouse development with about 20 feet of land.  Something doesn't make sense here.  The majority of the money goes to the schools.  Are they passing out laptops?  Can the kids even read when they graduate?  Where's the accountability?  There are over 2 million people in our county...  Oy!  That's a lot of tax money.

Our taxes in the USA were changed 4 years ago.  The middle class was to take the bulk of the taxes while the rich created new jobs.  Evidently, the new jobs didn't happen.  Several people had to leave NJ, because of the property taxes and unemployment.  You could drive down the streets and see "For Sale" signs on about a third of the homes.

To top it all off, the President wants more money to spend...  Is there any sanity left?  Yes there is.  It's in the Bible.  God has given us some guidelines to help us through this crazy life on earth.  I need to read through them every once in awhile just to find some solid ground.

These verses remind me to never let money become the most important thing in my life.  Focus on the Lord, my work, the needs of others, and the rest falls into place.

I love this story.  Ok, I illustrated it above.
25 When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?”
26 “From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Matthew 17:25-26
Jesus' attitude toward taxes is cool.  He cares more for the tax collectors than the money.  Pretty typical of Him to always care more about people, than their dollar value.

Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
Mark 12:7
It's a bit sticky with this verse because we live in a democracy where we are asked to speak our minds.  My thoughts go to, "Yeah but..."  I have to ask myself, "What is God's?"  My heart, my soul, the earth, everything in it.  He doesn't control our money that is man made.  Even the thought of a world bank is frightening to me, the nations are so different.  One falls all the nations fall, doesn't sound like a good plan to me.  God wants me to give to Him what is His, and let the rest go.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.
1 Thess. 4:11
Isn't this a great verse?  Stay out of the trouble that doesn't have eternal value.  I really like the part "working with your hands."  I dreamed of doing that for years while I was in business.  Yet, our country does provide a forum for us to communicate with our Representatives.  Perhaps being polite and factual is the right way to go.  We sometimes get so caught up in politics, we forget to look after the needs of those in government.  Prayer is a very powerful gift that God has given us.  We must remember to pray humbly and accept that God knows how to fix things.  Even lawmakers need His love.

Here's "A Day to Pray (link)" sign up sheet for Sunday, January 20, 2013.  This was put together by Governor Mike Huckabee, who was also a Pastor for several years.  He is challenging us to put aside our differences and simply pray for the government.  No democrats or republicans, just us before the Lord praying for our government leaders.

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
Prov 6:6-8
This verse inspires me to save money, and canned food.  I actually decided getting out to shoot photos is best in the spring, summer and fall.  Painting and writing stories is best in winter when the trees are dry branches.  God wants us to use our heads to seize the day.

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law--justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
Matt 23:23
In most Churches tithing 10% of our income is the standard.  Jesus didn't want us to become proud of our tithes and offerings.  Justice, mercy and faith are more important than man's money.  I wonder if God ever shakes His head and says, "Oy!  I hope they get it right."  Guess that's why Jesus came.  We do get caught up in "More, more, MORE!"  We need a Savior.  I still don't follow the prosperity doctrine's thinking.  There's no place in the Bible that it says we should make demands of God.  He seeks the humble hearts, not the arrogant.  I may be missing something...

For the Scripture says, "You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain." And in another place, "Those who work deserve their pay!"
1 Tim. 5:18
This verse touches my heart.  We are a nation of hardworking people.  Years ago oxen would tread on grain for bread.  It means a lot to me that God would consider animals in our work.  If the oxen were muzzled they just walked around in circles all day desiring to eat the grain.  This could lead to severe grumpiness!  Don't know much about oxen but I really don't want to be kicked by one or trampled...  People deserve to be paid fairly.  Cutting pay for company profits is a bad idea.  Employees need to be able to respect their employers.

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
1 Tim 6:10
Putting money above my family, my faith, the needs of others leads to a very lonely, hopeless life.  Things only satisfy when they're new, after that they become outdated.  Spending too much time dwelling on a lack of money also kills our souls.  

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:19
While I was in business, and even now while I'm trying to make it in freelance work, this verse always cheers me up when I'm worried about money.  God will supply our needs.  Maybe not all the things we want, the needs.  He's most concerned with our heart's desires, and the condition of our souls.  He has blessed my family in some amazing ways.  I am so grateful God has so much love and compassion.

Feel free to comment if you like.  God bless!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Walking on water

Sometimes life feels like I'm sinking in the waves.  One more problem will be the end of me for sure.  Like when the power went out for a week in the hurricane,  I actually had a meltdown when it went out the second time.  My husband accidentally stepped on my boom box... and Eeek!  At the end of my rope, I whimpered to God, "Please turn the power back on.  Nothing is impossible for You."  

My husband and I put on our hoodie sweatshirts, and snuggled in bed.  Then late that night the lights, heat, and electric blanket came on : )  So I whispered my thanks to God. I don't know how the people that are still displaced from the storm can handle it.  I'll keep praying.

Then there's the times when I'm running on top of the waves.  Opportunities open and nothing seems impossible.  But, it's the time in the waves that makes me seek the Lord and pray harder.  I don't like problems at all.  When they're solved, it sure is great.  Yeah, faith stretchers are good for me.  I admit it.  

Peter, by nature, knew about having his faith stretched.  You gotta give him credit though, he wasn't afraid to ask.

After Jesus fed 5,000 people on the mountain, He realized they were ready to force Him to be their King.  He came to be the King of kings, not just a king for one generation.  So, He went by himself to a mountain at night. (John 6:15)

We can all relate to the need to get away and be alone.  The disciples were not sure what to do.  So, as time passed they chose to get in a boat and join Him.

John 6:16-19
16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.
The disciples must've been worried about Jesus.  They didn't quite grasp how Jesus could be God's Son yet.  So, for them, a missing Master was a big deal.   Their nerves were probably frazzled, a storm came with high winds (we know about that in New Jersey).  Sometimes trying to save someone seems so impossible.  

Then a man came toward them walking on top of the water.  I can see Peter whispering, "Do you see that?" wondering if he lost his mind.  Peter was ALWAYS the first one to speak...

"You see it too?" 

"I see it.  How can it be?  Who is it?"

I think Jesus was enjoying his walk through the storm, reflecting on His time alone.  Maybe the rise and fall of the waves beneath His feet brought a smile.  Nothing like His Father's sea spray to perk up the senses.  I have no doubt He wasn't afraid.  

Mark 6:48-51
48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." 
The fourth watch of the night would've been near daybreak.  Each night was divided into 4 watches where soldiers would stand guard to protect the cities.  I can totally understand why the disciples thought He was a ghost and got scared.  If it were 2012 and Jesus walked toward me on water, I might cry out, "Go away!  What are you?"

But Jesus reassured them, "It's Me, don't be afraid."

Peter had to make absolutely sure this was really Jesus.  So he came up with a test...

Matt 14:28-33
28 And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

29 So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"
Peter actually got to walk on the water!  How cool is that?  I would love to take my camera for a walk with Jesus on the water : )  Can you imagine the photos you'd get?  I do ask Him to show me where the good shots are when I shoot on land... hope it's not cheating.  

I imagine Peter as a large man, with big muscles from pulling in fishing nets.  So, for him, getting scared isn't a normal feeling.  Jesus would've known that.  He knows our weaknesses and strengths.  Maybe this was a way for Him to get Peter out of his confident life and into faith.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
Jesus showed compassion.  He didn't leave Peter out there floundering in the waves.   He reached out and pulled him into the boat.  The wind quit blowing.

33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."
The disciples saw another glimpse of Jesus, the Son of God, the King of kings.  He holds His nail scarred hand out to us today.  Waiting for us to have the faith to accept it.  He's there in our storms and in our successes.  He is always with us.

Here's another great song by Chris Tomlin, Whom shall I fear? (link) .

It's so encouraging to see many Christian musicians doing concerts to help those who received damage from Superstorm Sandy.  New Jersey residents, Bruce Springsteen (The Boss), and Bon Jovi are also doing concerts to help out.  Several other musicians will be joining them 12-12-12, in NYC (including Paul McCartney).  I hope Bruce sings, "My city of ruins."  He wrote a wonderful prayer in it.  He sang it after 9-11.

Still praying homes will be restored.  And for peace in Jerusalem.