Thursday, February 27, 2014

Great Hall of Faith 3 (Hebrews 11:20-40)

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared 
for those who love Him.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV)
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

The branches in the photo above made the shape of a cross.  I was out shooting and saw it and jumped.  It was so striking.  Just when we thought all the snow had melted, we got more today.  But it's ok it didn't stick.  Knowing us, we'll be complaining about the heat soon : )  I have photos of snow storms from many years now.  This isn't new at all.  It's so awesome to think about how much we don't know yet isn't it?  God has some great stuff ahead.  We can only imagine now.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NIV)
This was the promise made to those who believed God so many years ago.  This is also the promise to us today.  We get a bonus though, one day we'll get to meet Moses.  Poor guy don't you just want to give him a hug?  I've heard that when we get to Heaven our past will make sense to us and the bad stuff won't be worth considering.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Isaac was the only child born of Abraham and Sarah.  His name meant, "laughter."  He was born in Sarah's old age.  He is a promise from God fulfilled.  His story is in Genesis. He married Rebekah who gave birth to the twins, "Esau and Jacob."  Their story is funny in ways.  They fought even in the womb.  Typical boys trying to be best.  Esau was the firstborn but Jacob tricked Esau into giving him his father's birthright.  Ok ok so Esau was hungry and Jacob made him a tasty stew.  Probably not a real smart kid, he took the stew and give Jacob the birthright.  Rebekah liked Jacob better and covered his arms with animal firs so he would be like Esau.  Isaac was blind and dying and thought he was speaking to Esau when he gave Jacob the blessing of the firstborn son.   His story is in Genesis.  I always have to laugh at this story : )

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
Jacob wrestled with God to become Israel the leader of the twelve tribes.  Genesis 32:25-31.  He made amends with Esau later in the desert near the promised land.

22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.  Joseph was Israel's favorite child.  Unfortunately, none of the other sons liked that at all.  So they tormented their brother and sold him into slavery.  He wound up as a leader in Egypt after many trials.  His story is in Genesis 37.  We have many American movies about Joseph it was an amazing story.  After a terrible drought in the promised land his brothers came and found him passing out wheat to people.  (long story short).

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command.
24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
There have been many American movies made about Moses as well.  He was born to a Hebrew slave and then his sister put him in a basket to save his life.  A daughter of Pharaoh found the basket and kept Moses.  His story is in Genesis 45.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
This is another of my favorite stories.  Rahab gave in to prostitution to get money for her family.  She would have been treated harshly and disrespected by her people.  Joshua was sent to spy in Jericho.  Rahab hid the spies from guards.  So when Jericho fell by the Hebrews, her family was protected by God.  Her story is in Joshua 21.  Again, it's so encouraging to know our God cares for women and also forgives the repentant heart, male or female.

32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:  33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Yes so many wonderful stories in the Bible.  Miraculous events and overwhelming odds.  Israel's history is wonderful, and it is the foundation on which Christianity was built by Jesus.  Reading through this makes me want to study some of the Old Testament stories. 
: )  It looks like Pres. Obama was named after a Bible character, "Barak."  I didn't know that.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
Many suffered in their faith.  I can't imagine what we would do if it weren't recorded on Egyptian hieroglyphics, leather parchments, altars and statues.  I am so glad we have the Bible today.  There's so much hope and faith in the stories of the Hebrews.  Even the heroes are still waiting for Jesus' glorious return.  It's cool that we'll all be together. I can even do a face palm and ask Esau, "What were you thinking dude?"
(Hebrews 11:20-40 NKJV)

Feel free to add your thoughts in comments.  I did my best with it and must go make dinner now : )  I'd love to hear if someone has things to add.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Great Hall of Faith 2 (Hebrews 11:8-19)

I heard some good news on TV.  People are beginning to realize that when children were spanked in school, they didn't shoot each other.  So, they are seeking to bring discipline back into the school systems.  I spent some time in a Progressive school and it wasn't fun.  We were taught that the world was over-populated so we shouldn't have kids.  A lot of us, in my generation, just had one child.  Or like me, none at all.  Sadly, there isn't enough money for our politicians today because of it : )  I'd love the schools to just be places to learn to read, write, do math, art and play musical instruments.  A place for kids to learn what they do best and how to make a career of it.  If someone excels in running, then help them out with it. Not sure how school became a political playground.

Then another man was saying he's working on helping people get jobs in manual labor.  I have no idea how this happened but someone decided to "succeed" in America, you had to get a Bachelor's degree and work in business.  So... we have lots of business people who can't fix cars or find work now.  Just glad I learned to write, do stitchery, take photos and paint in schools that weren't progressive.  Even Walmart is working toward selling only American made products : )  We still have some great people here.

When I went to a High School in Utah, there was a machine shop, so guys could learn how to work on their own cars.   My favorite was, "Art class" where I learned to paint.  I actually sold my first painting in Utah.  Home-economics taught cooking and some other things for taking care of a house.  Useful skills.

The funniest experience was when the band came into the lunch room with trombones and played the theme song of the movie, "Jaws" over our soup. "Jaws" was an old movie from the 70's that was about a giant shark.  Some of us still have nightmares about it hahaha.  The soup wasn't very tasty...   Clearly the kids had enough self-esteem to do a wonderful joke that had us all laughing.  I long for kids to be able to have fun in school again.

A long time ago this was written:

24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24 NKJV)

(This verse came to mind today, 2-21-14)
"...aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands."
(1 Thessalonians 4:11 NKJV)

Though hairstyles and clothes change, kids are the same.  Even the Bible encourages us, as adults, to work with our own hands. May the Holy Spirit guide us to our individual calling.

Back to the Great Hall of Faith:

Hebrews 11:8-19 NIV
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Sarah actually gave up on God and decided she'd fix things instead. Boy does that sound familiar!  She told Abraham to sleep with her servant, "Hagar," so that God's promise could be fulfilled.  Hagar did have a son.  The story is in Genesis 16.  God loved them all.  But, yeah Sarah got in trouble...   It's believed that this is where Muslims came from.  They claim to be Abraham's descendants today.  When Hagar became pregnant, Sarah realized she'd made a mistake and was harsh with her.  So Hagar ran away.  As women, we are complicated aren't we?  What she saw as a problem was seen by God, and He was not pleased.
9 The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” 10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” 11 And the Angel of the Lord said to her:
“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man's hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."
(Genesis 16:9-12 NKJV)
13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me."
(Genesis 16:13 NIV) 
I've always loved this verse because historically women were always treated as lesser than men.  I'm sure that apple Eve just had to try, had something to do with it.  But in Genesis 16:13 Hagar is deeply touched by God's compassion.  God saw her and for the first time in her life, she had no reason to fear or hide.  The God who sees and understands.  And of course God forgave Sarah and Abraham.  They had many adventures.  Maybe I'll work on that soon.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 
I've never noticed this before.  They actually chose the path to the unknown rather than returning home.  This must've been used in The Hobbit , by JRR Tolkien.  It's a Christian story about our faith and the paths we must take.

16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
This sounds familiar.  We are waiting for the second coming of Jesus now.  We haven't seen all that will happen but we know from scripture that it will be magnificent.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Abraham did offer Isaac as a sacrifice to God.  But God saw his devotion and sent a lamb instead.

Thanks to those who prayed for our Church.  We had a wonderful Pastor last Sunday.  The leaders are working on bringing in an interim Pastor.  It will take time I'm sure.

Here's an encouraging song from Tenth Avenue North, Hold my Heart (link) .

Saturday, February 15, 2014

God's Valentines (1 Corinthians 13)

"Valentine's Day Roses from my hubby : )"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  I was hoping to post on my blog sooner this week, but it was very crazy around here.  We got more and more and even more snow!  New Jersey looks like Alaska or Siberia now.  It's all stacked up outside so we're hoping there won't be a tidal wave when it melts.  May need one of those arks...  

My husband's roses seem better each year : )  So lovely in winter.  I'm looking forward to shooting photos outside again but these are very fun too.  When I think of Valentine's Day I always remember the "Love Chapter" in Corinthians.  After reading Hebrews and all that God has done for us, this year it dawned on me that we are His Valentines (hopefully) sharing His love in a fallen, sometimes frightening world.  He's given us the Bible so we can know Him and share how much He loves us.  He doesn't want us to go out and pretend to be holier than everyone, pushing and shoving the gospel, just real and kind.  Listeners who care, who love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It's all so humbling.  There are so many temptations with Mother-in-Laws and world leaders.  Those who love to gossip and lie.  The only way out for me, is taking time to pray for those who drive me crazy, acknowledge God knows how things should go and lay it at His feet.  Confessing my sins so He can forgive me.  Then His joy comes back and I can serve Him once again.

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
(2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV)

I need to say a prayer for our Church.  We've been without a Pastor for awhile now and really need some good leadership.  The congregation is very kind and compassionate.  The organist also leads the music which is taxing I'm sure.

Dear Heavenly Father, I lift up our Church to You and pray You will bring a good Pastor to lead us.  Someone who believes in the Bible and will pray with us.  I pray for the music ministry that it will bring hope and healing to those who are hurting.  Let Your Spirit guide us so we can be Valentines sharing Your love with others.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

I've been out shoveling snow almost everyday for awhile now!  So grateful my husband has a good job.  I'm pretty sure I'll look much younger after all of this hahaha.

Here's a beautiful song by "Unspoken," Lift my life up, "Unspoken" (link)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Great Hall of Faith 1 (Hebrews 11:1-7)

"So many did so much for our faith."
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Hebrews Chapter 11 is, "The Great Hall of Faith."  It describes how some of the heroes of the Bible lived to please God.  Like us, they all had bad days and lacked faith at times.  We've all sinned, that's a given (Romans 3:23).

One of my favorite verses:
6 “...Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the Lord of hosts."
(Zechariah 4:6-7 NKJV)

Hebrews 11:1-7

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.  3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
I like this description of faith.  It's believing we will make it through a hurricane even when the house is creaking and the trees are leaning down. Faith is getting in the car,  starting the ignition, and believing the car will work.  Faith is sending your Son to die on a cross, believing and hoping your creation will accept His sacrifice and enter His kingdom.  
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
(John 15:13 NIV)
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
Cain and Abel were brothers from Adam and Eve.  Cain was a farmer.  Abel raised sheep and brought God the firstborn of his flock.  (Genesis 4:1-7).  Cain brought God some vegetables from his garden.  God wasn't pleased, it wasn't much of a sacrifice and didn't require faith. So Cain got jealous and angry killing Abel.  The verse above says that Abel still speaks.  He does doesn't he?  Abel reminds us to give our best.  I'm reading this in context of the verses above and realize God provided a sacrifice for us.  His very best without blemish or sin.

5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death:“He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Enoch lived to be 365 years old!!! Yikes!  Then God took him home he didn't actually die.  God just brought him home.  Sounds like the second coming of Jesus.
(Genesis 5:22-24 NKJV)

7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
Noah was the grandson of Enoch's son.  Noah lived to be 500 and then had 3 sons.  Double yikes!  They were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  He walked with God.  God entered a covenant (agreement) with him that he wouldn't die when He sent the great flood.  This would've been an extremely difficult assignment.  He was stuck in an ark with all the animals and his family...  (Genesis 5-8)  Kind of glad we don't need to do that one today.