It’s Back (?)

We had the privilege of visiting Bethlehem a few years ago.  On our previous trips to Israel we’d been visiting missionary friends who lived in Nazareth.  They encouraged us to skip seeing it as the Catholics and ensuing tourists had completely over-built and over-glamorized the spot.

I guess they were right, but I was also glad I got to finally see it.  Yes, there’s a beautiful cathedral standing above the place where Jesus was born, but I have to thank the original Catholics, in the form of Helen. She was the mother of Constantine, the Roman Emperor, and when he became a Christian, he sent her to the Holy Land to ‘suss out’ all the holy sites before people completely forgot.  After all, it was already 300AD!  She travelled from village to village, meeting believers and listening to oral history, putting her mark (that of the Roman Empire) wherever she could.  Because of that, there is reason to believe that the CAVES under the cathedral, (that hadn’t yet been built) were places where the locals usually kept their stock. And these places would have made great alternatives when there was “no room in the inn”.

Actually, we were told on this latest trip that if you look into the history of the area, most stables were in fact caves or rocky enclosures.  It certainly makes sense when you realize that stones were the most common materials for building, much more than wood. Also another charm point of a cave or hollow is that it would be relatively cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

At any rate, as we climbed down into the cave under the cathedral, we could ‘picture’ that this would be a perfect, private and sheltered place to spend the night.  It would have had plenty of aroma, that’s for sure, but also safe and secluded. What a beautiful place for the Birth of a King!

I’ll never forget our first Christmas in Japan.  We’d been there 6 months and our son Trevor, aged 4, was already comfortable in Japanese, as he had been going to pre-school. We, on the other hand were wondering if we could ever even buy a loaf of bread…. in a bakery!  The adult brain is pretty well hardened, whereas kids like Trevor just started playing, not worrying about verbs and conjunctions and proper sentence structure.

Anyway, he announced one day that he was going be the leader of the Shepherd gang for the Christmas Pageant. And, he added with excitement, he had a speaking part!  I had a moment of horror at the entire community mocking my strange foreign child, but he did not disappoint.  On cue, he jumped up and said in a loud voice, “Sa!  Betsu-la-hamu iko!”  (“So! Let’s go to Bethlehem!”).  What a proud mom, what a great command!

Let’s GET TO BETHLEHEM!!

I’m sure you’ve heard on the news that somewhere in the world, tomorrow, the Winter Solstice, that the “star” the wise men followed as it came to rest over the Baby Jesus, will be making a rare appearance.  According to popular thought, it’s the alignment of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. I’ve done a little research and according to Google, the last recorded and visible alignment like this was in 1226 and the next one we might look forward to seeing is in 2288!  Might be worth dusting off the telescope.

At that time, back in the Middle East, the world wasn’t a very good place to be. There was plenty of political unrest and associated violence. Most people lived in poverty. Herod was stalking the wise men. The world at that time definitely needed a Savior!

And how have things changed since then? I think most of us might shudder at the thought of repeating 2020, and might be looking with a bit of fear and trepidation at 2021.

But then we’re reminded……… there IS a Savior!  He was born in Bethlehem for You and Me.

Mic. 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”

Tony and I would like to wish you the most awe inspired Christmas ever. For us, there are a few items on the not so distant horizon that make us believe it’s going to be great year. We’ll tell you all about it … next time!

Marsha

Shepherds

Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  As I’ve said before, there are many ways to interpret these four Sundays leading up to Christmas, depending on your particular church’s traditions. In the circles we run with, the tendency is to focus on Prophesy, The Wise Men, The Shepherds and finally, Bethlehem.

Today, those Shepherds.  You’ll remember awhile back I told you how I’d handed the box of nativity decorations to my middle grandson (he was about six at the time), and asked him to set it up for me. The rest of us went about decorating and Ezekiel was left to his own devices.

He did an excellent job, carefully unwrapping and placing each figure in it’s “traditional” place…… until it came to the shepherds.

As you would expect, he had Mary and Joseph, placed well back in the stable, out of the cold.  The towering wise men were just arriving, along with their entourage of servants and camels. Other animals were placed here and there, some curious to see the Blessed Event, others looking uninterested.

Then there were the shepherds, taking no mind of the others, but crowded right up to the manger, blocking the view and in the process no doubt providing a measure of shelter from the cold. What I saw here in my grandson’s interpretation of the familiar scene, was the fact that he had actually listened to the story. Most Nativity scenes that I’ve observed (including my own) carefully have all the characters properly lined up as if getting ready for a family portrait. The center of attention, of course, is the Baby Jesus, looked upon by Joseph and Mary … carefully staged so that everyone is adequately visible.

But Ezekiel, in his childhood understanding, was not interested in portraits or stage plays. He thought, “Those shepherds were the first on the scene; it was cold; and I don’t care if you’re a Wise Man or a wise guy, you’ll have to wait your turn. And as I admired his craft, I concluded that this was probably more accurate than most traditional scenes we see every year. Granted, if he’d have been a little more theologically inclined, he might have left the wise men out there in the East for two or three more years. But some things just need compressing.

That scene led me to ponder those shepherds, and ask myself what was going on in their minds that night? I don’t think their lives were particularly exciting, except for the odd bear or lion from time to time to get their adrenaline running, but think about it: these guys had just been serenaded by ANGELS! In a sound and light show never before seen and so far never repeated, they were proclaiming that the Savior of Mankind had been born. And then, with the real “knock the socks off” moment, they were invited to a front row seat. If I were a shepherd that night, I think I would have been running, pushing, shoving, hang the formalities and move over. Wouldn’t you?

How would you feel if you got a special invitation to kneel at the foot of the Master? Would you stand looking outwards at the world around, give proper credence to any and all authority that happened to be present, and take your proper place so that all could see and admire the Miracle Child?  I don’t think so.

So what am I suggesting? Roll up your sleeves and grab for that last Christmas present on the shelf? C.S Lewis describes those Christians who are so caught up in their own personalities as “all elbows”. For them, the Nativity is something like an extension of their own lives … focused on Jesus, to be sure, but never failing to place themselves in a position where their own image can be seen.

As I look again at our Nativity this year, I’m going to try and get into the mind of each and every person standing or kneeling there. And come to think of it, I’m not going to dismiss the animals in my assessment. Just think, one of those donkeys in that stable might possibly have been the grandmother of the one who had never been ridden until the day in Jerusalem when a disciple came to his owner and, “The Master has need of him.” Obedient to a fault. I’ll take that over any wise man or woman. And possibly best represented in the lives of those shepherds.

I’d like to encourage us all, as we bustle and wrestle into the season, to think of that ‘one last gift’ we need to pick up and think of the ‘Best Gift of All’

Have a great week!

Marsha

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Today is the second Sunday of Advent.  If you didn’t read last week’s blog, you might want to catch up. My main blogspot is down for some reason, but you can still read it on www.mywoods.net .

Today’s subject is about the Wise Men, but let me start by telling you about a place we visited this last week. You guessed it, we’re ‘on the road again’. We and most of the country are all well and not suffering much from the virus except that we’re locked down in Australia, so many of us are having to find contentment in just ‘getting to know our country’.

To that end, Tony and I flew up (Thank you stewardess daughter for discounted tickets!) to Cairns, far north Queensland for a couple of weeks in the sun and tropics.

We visited an historical place called Paronella Park, which you might be able to find on Google. We would never have found it except for some Aussie friends who told us about it. It’s way off the beaten track on a narrow winding road that I’d call jungle, but the locals call it ’scrub’.  Anyway think hot and humid, filled with vines with names like ‘wait awhile’ and ‘lawyer’, since they’re both apparently fast growing and wanting to completely impede any progress. Also in the area is a nasty tree called the “back out” plant, since that’s all you can do if you ever get caught by it’s poisonous thorns.  Paronella Park is a heritage site, built by a Spaniard named Jose Paronella in the late 1920’s. Let me tell you the story.

In 1887, Jose was born into a family of many kids in Catalonia, in the northeast quadrant of Spain.   Growing up in a lower middle class family, he was barely educated when his mother died and he, in order to ease the burden, moved out to find a trade.  On his way out, a neighbor lady, who was a widow with a large brood of kids as well, arranged a marriage to one of her daughters.  Jose reluctantly agreed, but at the moment he was off to see the world, starting with Australia. They were engaged and he took off with a vague promise to return soon.

After a long and arduous ocean voyage, Jose arrived in Brisbane, Australia. Word soon came that there was lots of work in the mines and cane fields of the far north, so he jumped on the next buckboard and went “where the money was”.  After a brief stint in the mines, he decided to come out in the sunshine and try his hand as a sugar cane cutter. As you may know, this is some of the meanest work in the world. Accidents, disease, rats, snakes, and heat.  You name it, it happened.   Most of the workers were European immigrants, but he soon rose above the rest, working hard and learning rudimentary English as he struggled along.  Soon he was able to leave the backbreaking stuff to the rest. He actually bought, with money he’d saved, a small plot of land that he could develop himself and then sell it for a fast profit. He soon discovered that cutting cane was a lot easier than clearing land!

But Jose persevered, and soon became the proverbial  “poor boy works hard and makes good’.  By the time he was 34 he had bought, cleared, planted and then sold over 15 ‘farms’ , each time making a massive profit.  He was amazed at how much people would pay for a farm when all the initial hard work had been done.  He was now a wealthy man and could follow his ‘dream’ of building a Spanish park.  It would be as whimsical as his grandmother’s stories of castles and parks that had put wonder in his eyes as he sat at her knee.

He felt that it was finally the right time for a wife, so he went home to collect his fiancé.  Imagine his surprise after so many years, (although he’d never written even once, because, as I said, he hadn’t been much for school), when he found that she’d married long before and even had a child.  No worries, the family, not wanting to lose face on a deal, rustled around in the back and came out dragging another sister, 14 years younger than Jose, but with a light in her eyes that seemed to say, ‘get me out of this place!’

Jose and Margarita married within days and spent the next year touring all the castles and amusement parks of Europe (remember he was quite wealthy by now), before they came to Queensland to start hacking out another farm in the jungle. Margarita was only 22 but understood what she’d signed up for and became an integral part of everything from hard labor to fine cooking and careful administration.

Soon they found the piece of land they’d been looking for that best suited the park idea; he wrangled a deal and work began.  Then he, almost illiterate, figured out how to harness the beautiful local waterfall into a hydro electric plant. He sent to Germany for the machinery, and viola, 30 years before anything else in the area developed, he had electricity as well as plumbed and running water!

As you can imagine, people began to flock in.  The new “Paronella Park” was located on the only dirt tract that led to the end of the continent, and who wouldn’t, in the searing heat and discomfort of the early cars, not to mention the dress code of the 30’s,  just stop and have a swim in the lake, enjoy some ICE CREAM and wander thru the gardens?  By 1935 it was up and running and did so until the 70’s when the road was diverted, leaving Jose and his park in the middle of nowhere. Eventually the property came to ruin, was abandoned in the jungle, and most of the family died off.

But then in the early 90’s, another person with a vision bought the ruined park and, inch by inch, have worked to get it back to ’tourist ready’.  We enjoyed looking around, but found the ‘ice cream’ to be way too expensive now!

So… what’s this got to do with the Wise Men?  Easy.  They had a dream. Yet, unlike Jose, they were far from illiterate. They weren’t necessarily leaving a bad situation for a good one……or so they thought. However, after studying the wisdom of the time, they came to the realization that something better was coming, and they took a leap of faith and started in search of it.

And so as we prepare for Christmas, in the words of the author of Hebrews, let’s throw off the old and set forth for the goal…….

(Hebrews 12:1-2),

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Come Wise Men and Women! Come Lord Jesus!!

That Great Prophecy

Most of you know I grew up in the small mountain community of Evergreen, Colorado.  I have many fond memories of life at our Baptist church there, although I have to admit I’m somewhat conflicted these days. One day after I had moved off to school, they sold the property but moved the church building about 3 miles down the road. The new landowners, who happened to be the local government authorities, built a post office on the site. So now, whenever I step in to buy a stamp, I feel a little … worshipful?

I’m not exaggerating when I say that church life in Evergreen was a major part of life overall. They were relevant to just about everything we did, from weddings to funerals. Nearly every Saturday, there was something going on, such as ice cream socials, ski trips, or exploring nearby ghost towns in our four-wheel drives. Every Sunday morning found us in church for both Sunday school and Worship service, then back again in the evening for Training Union, followed by a lighter version of Worship that the youth particularly liked. Come to think of it, that’s where Tony and I met, and later married!

And hardly a month went by without some sort of traditional celebration to mark the season. Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Labor Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Christmas and Easter, to name a few.

Wherever we’ve lived in the world since then, we’ve found opportunities for just about all the same holidays, albeit with a few subtle variations on that theme. Independence Day, for example, is not real big here in Australia, since every true blue Aussie still swears allegiance to the Queen. But we do have Anzac Day, to remember those Australian and New Zealand soldiers who gave their all for God and Country.

In the lead-in to Easter here, we hold on to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Moving to Christmas, we have 2 more full on services, first Christmas Eve on the 24th, and then c service on the early morning of the 25th.  Surrounding that, the four weeks leading up to Advent are observed.   This is a time when my fiercely anti-Catholic mother would be rolling over in her grave, and thinking that next we would be bowing to the Pope, but I’ve come to understand that the Advent tradition has stronger English roots than we’ve been exposed to in America, and am comforted that the word “Advent” means ‘coming’ in Latin.  Actually, I think getting yourself mentally prepared for Christmas isn’t a bad thing.

Tony started doing Advent services in Japan.  I don’t think he was the first, but our churches really seemed to appreciate it, especially since they are a people who like to be prepared.

Anyway, I thought I might share some of Tony’s particular Advent journey with you these 4 weeks before Christmas!  Can you believe it’s almost on us again?

So…………here’s Tony:

Hey, thanks for letting me cut in here. There are many different Advent traditions, so not one of them is wrong. What I’ve gone with are those celebrations that make more sense to me and can actually help us to prepare for Christmas. To set up for Advent, we would have four candles of various colors, but mostly green, red, gold and purple, surrounding a larger white candle in the center.

The first Sunday, we light the green one, taking us back to the green days of the Garden, and we remember the prophecies that led to the birth of Jesus. The first prophecy was given in Genesis 3:15, when Satan was promised an “enemy” who, although would have his heel bruised, would in turn crush the serpent’s head.

For the next several generations, one prophecy followed another, each one with a little more information about the coming Messiah. Satan tried his best to read the signs and head off his coming doom, but he missed it … by that much.

This Christmas, let’s look back on the prophecies that led up to this season. Then let’s look ahead to the prophecies still out there telling us about the world to come. God’s been faithful to His Word so far; no doubt He will continue the tradition!

I’ll be checking in for week two and three from Far North Queensland, again, we’re off for a trip.  We hope to see some more of this beautiful country as well as hopefully get some writing done.

Stay tuned and we’ll talk again soon.

Draw Swords

Does the expression, “Sword Drill” mean anything to you? If it does, then you’re probably a part of my generation. It used to be a regular part of any church program worth its salt, and I must say with some humility (ahem) that I ROCKED at Sword Drills.

To put it simply, you would gather a group of folks (usually the youth), and they would bring along their favorite Bible. When the leader called out, “Draw Swords”, we would hold our Bibles high over our heads.

Then the leader would call out a verse of Scripture, hesitate a moment, then say, “Go”. With no bookmarks or any other kind of “cheat sheet”, we would open our Bibles and look frantically for the verse. The first person to step forward and read it would get a point. Eventually, the drill came to a close, usually after the rookies who had no idea where “Habakkuk” was were weeded out, and the person with the most points won the game.

As I said,  (ahem) I excelled at the exercise, deriving some real self-esteem in an otherwise somewhat sparse childhood.

Now I have to admit: with today’s technology, there’s not so much call for “Sword Drill Champions”. Using the proper electronic device with filters installed, I expect that my grandson could run me in circles, locating any verse, in any translation, before I could bring my arm down. But hey! When the Apocalypse comes and our devices are useless, they’ll come crawling to me again!

But speaking of “swords”, that’s the last piece of armor that the Book of Ephesians talks about, and the last bit in this series I want to share with you. I think maybe it was left to the end because it’s one of the first OFFENSIVE pieces of armor.  The other pieces are designed specifically for protection, but a sword is all about taking it to the enemy. In the words of Inigo Montoya in that movie classic, The Princess Bride, “Very simple; pointy end toward the bad guy.”

As you know we have three little grandsons, and the youngest, Micah, turned 5 yesterday.  Perhaps because of his birth order, he almost always finds himself in a defensive role whenever he’s with his older brothers. But I think it’s interesting that he’s growing up before our eyes, and has been observed less and less on the receiving end and more on the giving end.

And he loves swords.

And it’s also amazing to see how many things in his life are now perceived as “sword material”. The other day he had not one but two of Tony’s long handled shoe horns, and was cutting a swath thru the house.  When it was time to leave, he begged to take them home because, in his words, he needed them to “train with”. If I were his older brothers, I might start to get worried at this stage.

Let’s look again to Ephesians 10:17, Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I’m really grateful that the “sword” Paul is talking about here is not the steel variety, but, quite simply, “the Word of God”, which, along with the Holy Spirit,  we already have.

But back again to the days of my childhood ‘sword drills”, one of my most precious prizes was a leather bound, beautiful Holman Bible of my very own. Unfortunately, it went missing during one of our many moves, but I think it must still exist somewhere.  I wonder where it is today and if it still has a story to tell?

So, as I already mentioned,  this is the last week I’ll write about the Armor of God. Thanksgiving is coming up in a few days and it’ll be interesting to see how we all handle that with the various restrictions.

Because Australia hasn’t legislated thankfulness with an appropriate holiday, we never get the chance to really blow out the stops with our friends and family. But thank goodness for Christian brothers and sisters in our weeknight Bible study who are now insisting that I make a Pumpkin Pie in deference to the season. They’ve never tasted such a thing, and can’t imagine what pumpkin would taste like as a sweet.  Hopefully, I’ll blow their socks off.
We ARE thankful for so many things and look forward to what we’ll encounter as we walk along this journey.
So here’s a recap of the Armor of God:

Ephesians 6:13, Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand firm.

I think you’ll all agree with me that this Thanksgiving, we may be needing to check all of our armor. It’s possible we’re going to need it more than ever.

Share your stories with me? They would be such a blessing!

Love ya,

Marsha

Check Your Brakes

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series on the “Armor of God”.  I’ve had lots of comments and opinions, leading to some great discussions! So now we’re ready to move to the last piece of armor, the “Helmet of Salvation”.

A few months ago one of our precious 14-year-old girls from church was over at a friends house, and it was suggested they take a bike ride. Not having her own, she quickly borrowed one, not knowing that the brakes were not working properly. Everything was fine, until they started down a steep hill. Both kids began picking up speed, having the time of their lives.

Until she noticed a curve in the road farther down.

Brakes were applied, and nothing happened, except even more speed. What followed were a few seconds of panic, during which time she could only pray as she her rode into a concrete wall.

By God’s grace an off duty fireman was passing by. Actually, there’re quite a few folks who are convinced that he was a guardian angel. At any rate, he was there to provide the help she needed before the ambulance arrived. The long and the short of it was that she broke her arm and almost every bone in her jaw and face.

But … and here’s my point today … she was wearing a helmet. And not only a physical one. She was immediately surrounded by the whole Christian community praying, sharing, working in so many ways to ensure that both she and her family had all the support they needed.

In three weeks (with a short break between surgeries to come home for Easter), she walked out of the hospital. Everyone was astonished because she has healed up so well that no one looking at her would realize what she had endured. She serves on our church’s music team, and every time we look at her, seeing the joy in her face, we’re reminded of God’s mercy and grace. She continues to be a real blessing to us all.

So…… it’s interesting isn’t it? When physical trauma comes your way, you can lose legs, arms, and spleens, but your head pretty much has to stay intact.  This armor we’ve been talking about these last few weeks has covered our body’s vitals, but when it comes to our capacity to think, make our muscles move, our eyes to see…….. so much of that depends on keeping the HEAD in good shape.

And my Bible says in Ephesians 6:17.  ”And accept salvation as a helmet”.

I don’t know of a child out there who gets his first little scooter bike and looks around for a helmet.  His PARENTS require that he wear one.  They make the decision to keep him safe.

I think it’s the same with this “Helmet of Salvation”.  We didn’t ask for it, we didn’t know we needed it…..but Romans 5:8 (one of my absolute favorites), says, “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t ‘remind’ God how much we needed it. He just sent his Son so that we’d have it.

Now I need to remember that I’m protected.  Inside my head today, there may be some fear and panic when I think of the state of the world, but inside my helmet of Salvation, I know that I have God’s heart.

And that makes all the difference.

Stay safe,

Marsha

Those Fiery Darts

Well, haven’t we all had a week to remember?  Whilst we remain fine, things around us are pointing to doom and gloom, at least as far as the world we understand.

And the trend seems to be global. Here in Australia as well as in the USA, the ‘more conservative’ factions were beaten out by liberal powers.  Not sure yet how that’s going to play out, but we’ll be praying for wisdom among our evangelical brothers and sisters who are convinced that the end is nigh. I did hear a remark the other day that I found both comforting and challenging. “Historically, persecution has never hurt the church.”

And then on top of all that uncertainty, another of our missionary kids from Japan and from son Nathan’s generation had a heart attack and died this week. I think that makes five from a close-knit group of friends who grew up together as part of a very special mission family. Suffice it to say, folks all over the globe have been crying on each other’s shoulders, separated by miles but closer than ever in His Spirit.

What better time to come back to our exploration of the ‘Armor of God’, even as we’re wondering if it might be coming in handy sooner rather than later!

Ephesians 6:16 “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

About those ‘flaming arrows’ …  what do you suppose those are in today’s world?  Those images play a pretty big part in the movies. The enemy presses on, coming closer and closer to the castle walls. The cowboys on horseback and the covered wagons take on the Indians: six-guns against flaming arrows. It’s always exciting to watch, but hey, do we really believe that the hero will succumb to those arrows?  Will those fiery shafts bring the battle to an end?

Usually not.

But what do they accomplish instead?  They set drawbridges and covered wagons on fire. In other words, they create DIVERSIONS!  Our hero can’t really focus on the enemy if the grain stores or the ammo dump is about to go up in flames.  Like it or not, he MUST divert his energies and deal with the situation at hand.

Can you see the connection to those images and the week we’ve just weathered?  Have we had some ‘flaming distractions’?  You bet we have. I’ve struggled to have a quiet time when all the while my mind is yelling at a friend whose political candidate is so misguided.  Where was the ‘peace’ I talked about last week?  Did I spread it or lose it?

Sadly, I need to get out my ‘Shield of Faith’ and polish it.  I need to REMEMBER that the battle we find ourselves in is not the end of the world. Until the Lord returns, we will always have Satan and his minions with us, each one loaded with a supply of fiery darts. And they’ll use every last one, if that’s what it takes to distract us from the real conflict.

Of course I want beautiful skies and smooth sailing, all to the sound of an appropriate soundtrack. But in reality, it’s just possible that I may have to ‘gut it out’ for awhile and watch for the fires that may spring up. With a firm grip on that Shield of Faith, I have nothing to fear and every reason to rejoice. Help is on the way!

Till next week, Marsha

Shoes

Good morning,

I’ve been enjoying your perspectives on this little run we’re doing, exploring of the “Armor of God”.  I’m having fun wondering what the next ‘item’ will be each week, but I’ll have to say I was almost stumped on the shoe issue.

I have a sister who absolutely loves shoes, but I must have been behind the door when that gene was passed out.  Tony is even worse; he has a total of three pairs of shoes.  Runners, a good (expensive and orthopedic and all that) every day pair, and a dress pair that give him a pained expression (good for funerals).

But what about this verse?  Ephesians 6:15, “and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of Peace”.

Our profession and calling was (and still is) being missionaries, and by its nature we’ve always been sensitive to opportunities to  “Go where no man has gone before”.  But is that what Paul is really talking about here?  Now that we’re retired from most of that galavanting around, aren’t we still in “standby mode”…  ready to jump and run if called upon?

Truth be known, our “jump and run” these days would be more like “Umph! and shuffle”. We are after all, retired and accustomed to being comfortable; but does that excuse us from still being ready to jump out and go to the needy, answer the door or phone and help the hopeless, the lost?  I think you and I both agree that these days we may do our best work in “announcing the Good News of Peace”.  In which case, now more than ever, we’d better look after our footwear.

I have a framed Japanese painting of three little children with the words, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” That’s from Isaiah 52:7.  I treasure this picture because it was given to us by people who appreciated hearing the Good News.

And I’m pretty sure as you read that verse, you too are reminded of that beautiful chorus we used to sing,

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him Who brings good news, good news

Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness

Our God reigns, our God reigns

So how about it? Let‘s all give a thought to our footwear this week. Do you take care to support that firm foundation that you’ve been given, so that you’re on the ready to jump and run, or as the case may be, to “umph and shuffle”? Fully knowing that God will give you the strength you need when you need it……to carry the Good News.
Be brave, especially when you make your way to the polls!

Marsha

Breastplate of Righteousness

Last week we thought about the belt of truth.

That takes me back to an earlier story in 2 Kings 6. Remember that poor servant of the prophet Elisha? All he could see was the surrounding enemy, and all he could say was (loosely translated), “We’re gonna die.” All it took, though, was a good dose of truth, and the realization that “there are more with us than there are with them” (6:16). I hope you’ve all had occasion to throw that verse at your own circumstances, and take comfort in its truth

This week Tony decided to lead the way amongst our friends and have the first cataract removed.  I know many of you out there can relate to the pure JOY he feels now that he can see clearly again. He had no idea (as he’s been reminding me over and over and…) how the years had gradually clouded down his vision until what he thought was ‘normal’ was indeed pretty compromised.  Now he’s leaping and dancing around because he’s seeing leaves and colors again. The doctor told him that cataracts ‘suck up all the blues and greens’ in our vision, and that’s what he seems to notice more often. His very first “deer in the headlight” vision came when he looked out back and realized that our neighbor’s fence was blue, and not the dark gray he thought it was.

And I think that Tony’s experience is not too different from that of Elisha’s servant, in terms of shock and awe. For the servant, though, the experience was even more significant because he really thought all was lost. In Tony’s case, the deterioration was so gradual, he had to have the surgery before he could realize the truth of his condition.

That brings us to the next ‘item of armor’: the Breastplate of Righteousness.

Many years ago, Tony’s mother had a heart attack that went bad. She survived, but the triple bypass went septic and it began to look like it was going to get the best of her. Mind you, this was about 20 years ago and medicine has (hopefully) gotten better. Back then, the  only option available was to was to remove the infected breastplate, that protecting bone we call a sternum.

As dramatic as that seemed, the surgery seemed to have turned the tide.  She healed up nicely, even having plastic surgery afterward to make her look all pretty again.

But now she had no sternum.  Many of us don’t give a lot of thought to this predicament, but with no breastplate, your heart and lungs (pretty important organs, after all) are wide open to the slightest sneeze or cough or grandchild’s knee.

The solution was for her to strap on a child sized catcher’s vest,  especially when she rode in the car where a tap on the brakes could have wreaked havoc with her and the diagonal seatbelt.

So in Ephesians 6 :14,Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness”,  I think it’s interesting that  Paul only mentions it as he talks about the belt, almost as if we should know what the “Breastplate of Righteousness” is.

One comment you sent last week (Thank you! BTW), was that by filling our tool belt with memorized Scriptures, we can quickly access them and know right away what is the right approach to the things that come our way.

We don’t have to look far to see practical applications. As I overheard my 10 yr old grandson asking his mother about a man he came across who was wearing eye makeup, my heart hurt for the world he’s growing into.  HOW he needs this breastplate of knowing what Righteousness is and being able to use it properly.

Pray with us all as we venture forth.  We have Australian elections here next week and most of these same issues I’ve mentioned above are at stake in the people we vote for.  Then in just another couple of weeks, the fate of our American way of life hangs in the balance. Regardless of who is elected, we’ve been promised that No One is going to take it lying down. How we need to be praying!

Keep the faith, Marsha

Getting the Job Done

Okay, I promised you that we’d take a walk together through the armor of God in the next few weeks. Let’s go: As I read Ephesians 6, the first thing that leaps out is that Paul is referring to powers and principalities that are not of this world. And, when I think about it, that fact of life is becoming more and more apparent these days. I also think it’s a sign of the times.  Maybe I’m oversimplifying here, but it seems that there was a time when life, as we know it,  was more tied to spiritual values. Some folks call it “superstition”, but it’s more than that. Then, as “science and logic” picked up, Satan had to pick up his game and come at us in more subtle ways. Now, though, as Revelation prophecies begin to be fulfilled, he has to “go back to the basics and pull out the more overt spiritual attacks.  We’re seeing things happening now that in the past generation were just not so much a part of life, (late term abortion for example) and it tends to create in us an uneasy sense of fear. What’s looming ahead? How can I protect myself? “Glad you asked,” says Paul. “Listen up.” First of all, note the words he’s using, like, “Take Up” and “Put on”.  He isn’t saying we have to go out and “try to get” or even that we have to “ask” or “pray” for these things.   Why?  I believe that Paul believes we already have this armor, given to us at the moment we become children of the King.  The only thing lacking is our “taking” up of what we already have. But that’s not to suggest that it’s just a case of ‘getting dressed’.  You’ll remember last week I talked about Magellan’s state of his armor?  Here was a guy who possessed it already.  He didn’t need to order it from China and wait for it to arrive. What he needed (and what for him was his fatal flaw) was the proper instruction about how and where to put it on … like not while standing in waist-deep water. So this last week Tony and I had a “Sleepover” (as the grandkids called it,) at our kids’ house.  Nathan and Kylie were due for a getaway for their anniversary and they kindly planned it in a busy time with the boys where there’d be little need for us to use our imagination to keep them entertained.  That was good, because they have plenty of energy…and we may fail in the imagination category, especially if we were to get into a panic.  As I lay on the floor, momentarily exhausted from just picking them up from school, little Micah, aged 4, was ‘working’ in his room. Each of the three boys is uniquely different, and Micah is our “Tool Man”.  As soon as he knew how to blow raspberries, he was attaching the sound to any and everything he could pick up and use as a power tool.  Until he gets just a little older, we have to hide the key to the ride-on mower, because there is no doubt that he would try – and eventually succeed – at getting that thing started. But I had to laugh as I watched him survey the situation in his room, then went and got his trusty tool belt.  After a little help getting it buckled up in the back, he was off to work. I couldn’t help but marvel at his ability to assess the right tool for every job, and then without looking, reach to the right place, every time. Speaking of belts, Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth.” As Tony would say, “That’s a sermon that will preach itself.” And I expect that he hasn’t even considered the half of it. Give it some thought, and help us flesh it out, will you? I love your comments.God made each of us with a need to know the truth. It’s a heart-level desire, and we can thank Him for installing it in each of us.  Along with the need are the tools required to make the most of it. His Word and people’s experience will confirm that, I feel certain. Have a blessed week, CYA next time! Psa. 119:160 The sum of your word is truth;and every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.