Monday, March 31, 2014

Gray areas Part 1 (Hebrews 11:6, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, Matthew 6:6-7)

"NJ Winter Ice Storm"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
I'm 54 now!  My birthday was the best ever.  We went to see my brother in Maryland. When we got home, I got phone calls from all my friends and family.   It sure felt great.  One of my presents was a necklace and bracelet with a sideways cross on them from my niece.  I'll always treasure them because it's from her.   I found the quote below and had to chuckle.
"Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished.  If you're alive, it isn't."
Richard Bach
I'm not done yet!  

When I got home and looked at the cross again, I  wondered what it meant.  I thought of Jesus triumph over death and man's persecution.  The standing cross doesn't hold Him now.  He's in our hearts, praying for us at God's throne.  He conquered death and triumphed over the grave.  So I smiled at the sideways cross, "Yes, Jesus is free.  He is Lord now.  My Savior, Redeemer, Friend."

The cross couldn't keep Him, nor the tomb.  Then my husband came into my workroom and asked, "What does the sideways cross mean?"

I felt uncomfortable, "Jewelry designers got bored and thought it would be cute to make it go sideways?" 

Part of my faith is to represent Him with others.  How much confusion would it cause?  I remembered our testimony is in our hearts and actions.  Am I a quiet and gentle spirit who ministers?  Or just a noisy gong and clanging cymbal out to show off.  Truth is, God looks at our hearts.  That's where He defines us as Christians.  Faith.  

Someone told me once it's horrible to wear a symbol of torture on a necklace.  If it offends maybe It's not that necessary.  So I quit wearing crosses at all.  I'd rather share His love and hear people ask why I would do that.  Besides every single necklace I had with a cross on it got tangled up and knotted in my jewelry box...
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
(Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)
Am I a light in the darkness?  Or a bucket of water trying to squelch enthusiasm?  I found some verses about how we should dress.  It really can be a gray area.  Styles have changed over time.  If we went grocery shopping today in a hooded cape, I'm thinking we might be sent out the door.  When I worked at The Boeing Company in Seattle, a man said he was hungry.  So I gave him one of my granola bars.  He loudly asked why I would do that.  So...  I got to say, "I am a Christian.  It's what we do."  In front of a whole bunch of engineers and programmers.  It wasn't socially acceptable.  But everyone loved it : )

Timothy said this:

8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 
I don't think I've ever seen anyone in public praying like this today.  We do when we sing at Church.  Sadly, I don't think it would be respected. In the days that Jesus walked among us lots of people prayed outside.  Some just wanted to show off their spirituality.  The disciple Matthew, wrote that we should go inside the house to pray.  The key is to pray, looks like any way is good.  God loves to hear our prayers.

Matthew said this:
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
(Matthew 6:6-7 NKJV)
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 
We do wear jewelry.  I don't know that it is a problem if it's respectable.  We have lots of "bling" in New Jersey.  Some people wear giant gold necklaces and lots of sparkle.  Once at the beach, I saw a woman walking on the sand in a black dress, high heals and gold chains.  I was afraid she might sink in the sand and get stuck.  I also worry about young women.  With cell phone photos and no real boundaries being taught about sex. It's important for them to learn how to be safe. It frightens me to think of teenage boys with no boundaries.  Thankfully there are still some great parents out there.  What girls wear does matter.  I was a teenager in the 70's, I know.  Oy!  The hair though... (blush)

Seriously, I'm sure people have worried about young women since the beginning of time.  And yes modesty on women of any age is always a good thing : )  You do not want to see me in a mini skirt!  Trust me.

10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let  a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self.
Mary Magdalene was the first to tell Peter, Jesus had risen from the dead.  She was the first to see the risen Savior.  So clearly the Lord doesn't want women to never speak.  I think Timothy's concern was in building a new Church with confused new Christians.  Women were separated in the Synagogues.  It would be a difficult transition for men to see them. Also, I am a woman.  I am married.  I do talk more than my husband... 
Enough said : )  I have no desire to be a Pastor.  I believe the Pastoral calling is between God and the individual.  It's not an easy job.  Remember Moses?  
(1 Timothy 2:8-15 NKJV)

Feel free to share your thoughts in Comments too.  I'd love to hear what you think on this stuff.

This is a cute song by Ellie Holcomb, The Broken Beautiful (link)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jesus, Angels & Pastors (Hebrews 13:1-25)

"Some have unwittingly entertained angels..."
Statue in Central Park, NYC
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

I just realized how I could make this blog easier to use.  I feel a little silly.  I never really set out to study the whole Bible- just what stood out to me.  But once I got started I haven't been able to stop, in almost 4 years.  I've always been hungry for God's Word since I became a Christian, in 1976.  I get to use all my skills here : ) And it makes me think.  I've been having a hard time figuring out what verses I went through in the past.  It dawned on me that if I include the Bible verses in the title, it would be easier for all of us. So, I will work on putting the Bible verses in the titles.

Thanks for stopping by!  I'm honored, didn't know if anyone would be interested : )  May the Lord guide us all through His Word.  Feel free to share your thoughts as well in Comments.

Hebrews 13

This section of Hebrews has some of my all-time favorite verses.  If you're like me you'll want to memorize them.

1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. 
I love this thought.  So, you're sitting on a train riding to New York City.  You keep your purse really close so no one can steal it.  It's hard to ride a train alone.  A woman sits next to you.  She's simple and has a strange beauty in her face.  You feel completely safe.  The train stops at Penn Station and the seat next to you is empty before you stand up.  Could it have been an angel?  Maybe.  Or there's this man.  He seems so ordinary.  He's dressed like all the other workers in a flannel shirt.  He pulls you aside and says, "Something's wrong you're usually so full of light.  Are you ok?"

We won't really know until we are in Heaven.  But isn't it a wonderful thought?  Maybe it's just an elderly man who tips his hat and says, "Have a nice day."  When the rest of us are running in circles shopping.

3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say:
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”

7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.  NKJV
This challenges me to pray for the leaders in my Church.  It's important to realize when we see someone in the pulpit preaching they aren't perfect.  Pastors and teachers have some of the biggest temptations because satan doesn't want them to succeed.  It would be wise to pray for them, even if it's when I first sit down at Church.   After Sunday I generally move on to other things, except reading some passages of scripture.

10 The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. 11 In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. 12 It's the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates––that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God's altar to cleanse his people.
This is a case where I switched to The Message version of the Bible.  The NKJV was too confusing.  Jesus was crucified where animals were sacrificed outside the city.  His blood poured out as the final sacrifice for our sin.  His blood was brought to God's altar.

13 So let's go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is––not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. 14 This "insider world" is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. 15 Let's take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus' name.
This is sweet.  It's a call for us to do as Jesus did and go outside to where the people are who need us.  To pour out praises.  A sacrifice of praise to me is when it's not normal to give praise.  Things are not going well at all.  You want to cry but the tears don't come.  When I was trying to put myself through college, it seemed like I'd never finish.  Tuition was too high and I had to get loans and grants.  My future seemed over.  I finally looked up to Heaven and asked, "Why me?"  

Then the thought came to mind, "You have 2 choices either trust God or be miserable."  I chose faith.  I really hate feeling depressed!  So I thanked Him for my opportunities.  I was able to pay off my school loans within a few years.  Things were cheaper then.
(Hebrews 13:10-15 Message)

18 Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. 19 But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
We all covet prayer don't we?  

20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
22 And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. 23 Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.
24 Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.
25 Grace be with you all. Amen
(Hebrews 13:18-25 NKJV)

My prayer-
Dear Heavenly Father I lift up Lisa once more to You.  I pray You will heal her body and help her through the chemo treatments.  It must be so hard to do what hurts. You know all about that Jesus.  Lord, I pray You will protect those in the Ukraine and Europe.  Please bless their nations.  I pray for Russia and Syria as well.  We don't know when You're coming back for us, but we wait eagerly.  I pray the angels will guard and protect Israel as well.  Help them to find hope in such a confusing time.  Bless the USA with wisdom in our leadership.  Help them know how to turn things around in our country.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Here's a great song by some Irish folks, Rend Collective, "My Lighthouse" (link)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Clear the path! (Hebrews 12:10-29)

"Taken at the New Jersey Marathon 2010"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

I finally had the courage to go through all my photographs for the past 4 years, burn them on DVDs and file copies in my database.  Umm there were 200 gigabytes of photos!  Thought I would never finish.  It's time to work on moving forward with my freelancing.  I also saved up and bought some great pens for cartooning.  You may see some new and improved work on my blog : )  My business cards are on the way.  Time to update my main web site next. This is the verse that really got me moving-
"...aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands..."
(1 Thessalonians 4:11 NKJV)  
It's so simple. Yet true. I am so happy to be out of the office cube. I longed to be able to be home in a quiet place just working.  Then one of the neighbor ladies decided she would start some gossip about me. She made up stories about my photography. I tried to show her the flowers I'd shot, but she said  she didn't have time to look.   One of my Mother-in-law's (I have 2- divorce and remarriage...) told me I can't be an artist because there's no money in it.  The other one is thrilled and is my biggest fan (actually my husband is my very biggest fan)!  My Mom was too, before she passed away.  That verse:  "lead a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your own hands."  I gave up on pleasing the money hungry Mother-in-law and the neighbor, decided I'd just work.  Mind my own business, who cares what the gossips think.  They're probably just bored.  Seek quiet.  It's just what I needed.  I've never been so happy.  God gave me my talent so I could share it with others and bless Him back.
Hebrews 12

10 While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. 11 At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well–trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
This reminds me of learning to drive a car. My driving instructor used to say I had a lead foot because I hit the gas pedal too hard. Then I'd forget to signal and confuse other drivers.  And of course there's always the distractions of looking on the floor of the car and not seeing the road at all.  Now these things are natural and easy.  This is what God trains us for, to know how to minister, teach, pray and inspire.  It takes daily quiet times, prayer, perseverance.  It's well worth it.  Honestly, I failed my first driving test and had to take it over the next year.  Don't give up- it'll all come to together if we keep at our relationship with God.

12 So don't sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! 13 Clear the path for long–distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
I love this and The Message version is great!  Run for it, or sit for it, and run in your heart.  If I don't pay attention to gossips it's not fun for them anymore and they stop.  When I let myself get excited about the Bible and what it says I encourage others to read it too.  AND!  I actually learn more and more about God's Word : )  When I focus on my photography and art, I find purpose and peace.  Who better to inspire my artwork than the Creator Himself?

14 Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. 15 Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. 
Getting along with God is most important in my honest opinion.  
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
(Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)
Can you imagine turning to your husband or wife and saying, "I know you're not real and I can't trust you.  You never do anything right.  So with all my strength, I'll ask anyway, 'Will you take out the trash?'"

Probably won't receive the best response with that one.  God doesn't take that too seriously either.  "Talk to the hand.  The ears aren't listening."  Although I have asked, "God, if You're real will You show me?" and, "Show me the true Church.  I'm confused."  He answered those prayers for me, in a way I understood.

16 Watch out for the Esau syndrome:  trading away God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short–term appetite. 17 You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God's blessing––but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.
Aww, it wasn't just me that wondered about Esau's decision.  To me this is also describing those who know how to accept Jesus as Savior and keep putting it off until it's convenient.  You know when the Broncos aren't playing, and the laundry is done, the grass looks fantastic and I got a raise.  There's no sales at Macy's.  The car is a family/race car.  The kids are perfect.  The boss is on vacation for 6 months...  Don't miss out by not having Jesus as your Savior. I actually found joy in Him : )

18 Unlike your ancestors, you didn't come to Mount Sinai––all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble–– 19 to hear God speak. The earsplitting words and soul–shaking message terrified them and they begged him to stop. 20 When they heard the words–– "If an animal touches the Mountain, it's as good as dead" ––they were afraid to move. 21 Even Moses was terrified.
I didn't realize Moses was terrified.  It makes perfect sense.  It would be frightening to hear a loud voice and see burning bushes.  It would be frightening to approach God without understanding His character.  He longs for us to come to Him, loved us so much He died for us.    

22 No, that's not your experience at all. You've come to Mount Zion, the city where the living God resides. The invisible Jerusalem is populated by throngs of festive angels 23 and Christian citizens. It is the city where God is Judge, with judgments that make us just. 24 You've come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God. He is the Mediator of this covenant. The murder of Jesus, unlike Abel's––a homicide that cried out for vengeance––became a proclamation of grace.
Abel was Adam and Eve's son who offered a sacrifice to God.  His brother Cain became jealous because God liked Abel's sacrifice best.  Abel's death was a murder.  Jesus' death was a proclamation of grace, assurance of our forgiveness.

25 So don't turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn't get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? 26 His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time––he's told us this quite plainly––he'll also rock the heavens:"One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern." 27 The phrase "one last shaking" means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.
I feel a revival!  One last shaking!  Woot!  He'll get rid of our sins, misconceptions and focus on the truth.  All will be revealed and the wrong will fade away.  Hallelujah!

28 Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. 29 He's actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won't quit until it's all cleansed. God himself is Fire.
(Hebrews 12:10-29 Message)

My prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father I lift up my dear friend Lisa who is halfway through her chemo treatments.  I pray You will comfort her and help her find peace and rest.  Heal her body, mind and spirit.  Thank You so much for her.  Father, I lift up Russia, the Ukraine and Syria to You as well.  I pray for Your protection over the people who live in uncertainty and fear.  You are God!  You have a plan.  I trust in You.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-11)

God supplies our needs even when it's not so glamorous : )
When it was cold, Frankie stayed warm under the laundry, 
and Jake camped by the heater vent.
Woohoo!  It's warm today.
Hebrews 12

I must admit after reading about the heroes of our faith and then this, it's so beautiful.  Whenever there's a "therefore" in the Bible we're supposed to look close to see what it's there for : )  Therefore...

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Reading the Great Hall of Faith, in Hebrews 11, encourages me to move forward and not get caught up in my own faults and mistakes.  Even the great heroes had their share of problems.  I'm just glad God didn't fill the Bible with perfect people.  It would be like when your Mom told your brother how he should be like you.  You knew you'd get it from your brother later.  We don't have to live in dread for our mistakes or other people's actions.  God has made the sacrifice, we just need to accept it.

3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 
What happens when I get chastened, is I get this strong memory of what I did wrong.  Then I feel shame, and wish I'd never done such a horrible thing.  God's joy isn't present anymore, the lights go out in my heart and the music stops.  I hate that so I turn to God and ask forgiveness.  Sometimes I go over how mad I am at someone over and over in my mind.  It isn't until I start feeling miserable that I realize how stupid it is to do it.  Being human isn't easy is it?  We can't erase the past or rewind the video.  But we do grow stronger as we learn to press on.  And His joy does return in time.
Here's that verse again. It's not just for raising children but from God to help us grow in our faith.
24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

(Proverbs 13:24 NKJV)
9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
I think this means we aren't exempt from the results of our bad behavior.  As Christians we don't get an easy life.  We get the comfort of the Holy Spirit, His Word, and the ability to confess our sin and repent.  I love that so "we may be partakers of His holiness" and "it yields peaceable fruit."
(Hebrews 12:1-11 NKJV)

My prayer for the world...

Dear Heavenly Father, 
I lift up Russia and the Ukraine to You.  I pray You will bring clarity of mind to all the world leaders.  Help them to gain a right spirit within, and understand what is best for all.  So many times we just hear our own thoughts.  Let Your angels guide those in Syria who are running out of hope, also those who are leaders.  I lift up Pres. Obama to You.  Guide him to honest, trustworthy councilors.  I submit to Your master plan, You are God.  Thank You for that in itself.  I look forward to Your return and know it will be truly awesome!
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Here's a song by Mandisa, Overcomer (link)