Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Gold Medal

     This is a copy & paste of an email I received about a week ago.  It was written by Dave Branon, and is a true story.  I added some photos, but the writing credits all go to Mr. Branon.

At the 2009 Kansas high school state track championship, an unusual thing happened. The team that won the girls 3,200-meter relay was disqualified. But what happened next was even more unusual. The team that was awarded the state championship by default turned right around and gave their medals to the team that had been disqualified.

The first school, St. Mary’s Colgan, lost first place because judges ruled that a runner had stepped out of her lane as she handed off the baton. That meant the second team, Maranatha Academy, moved up to first. After receiving their medals, the girls from Maranatha saw the downtrodden looks on the faces of the St. Mary’s girls, so they gave them their individual medals.

Why did they do this? As Maranatha’s coach Bernie Zarda put it: “Our theme for the year was to run not for our glory, but for God’s glory.” As a result of the girls’ action, their story was told throughout Kansas, and God’s name was lifted up.

When we set aside our own interests and accomplishments to recognize that it’s better to care for the interests of others (Phil. 2:4), we see God’s name glorified. Acting with grace and kindness toward others is one of the best ways to point people to God.

4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  7 rather, he made himself nothing  by taking the very nature of a servant,  being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death—  even death on a cross!  9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,   to the glory of God the Father.                 Philippians 2:4-11  (NIV)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jesus - The Light of the World from Genesis to Revelation

I believe that every word of scripture is prophetic.  I know this sounds a bit outrageous at first glance, but, upon studying the Bible and looking into its many layers (many of which I am probably not yet aware), I have come to the conclusion that this is so. Five years ago I didn't understand the Hebrew language as well as I do today;  understanding Hebrew and ancient Jewish customs reveals some of the prophetic layers in the scriptures.  Fifteen years ago I did not know about the Bible codes - the Hebrew text of the Bible reveals mathematical designs and codes so complex that they couldn't possible be produced by a human.  These messages were not revealed until the advent of super-computers which could detect the intricate messages within the literal  message of the scripture.  ALL of this points to Messiah!

 The very beginning of Genesis says,  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light."  (Genesis 1:1-3)

So, God created the world through the Spoken Word.  John 1:1 - 5 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."  Thus, God existed, and with Him was the Messiah - Jesus - the Word - the Light of the World.  God spoke the Word and created everything that was created. And the Holy Spirit hovered over the surface of the deep throughout this creation.  And, what was the first thing created?  Light.

" When Jesus spake again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' "  (John 8:12)

And, finally,  "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."  (Revelation 21:22,23)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Revelation 3:16

"So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

These are the words of Jesus, warning that He does not want any "so-so" Believers:  He wants us to be actively faithful to Him.  He does not want us to be some  unsatisfying, lukewarm beverage in His mouth;  He desires that we be either mouth-wateringly hot or tongue-tinglingly cold.  If we are tepid,  He will spit us out of His mouth.

When my daughter was in her early teens one of her favorite beverages was apple juice.  One Friday night she stayed overnight with one of her girlfriends after a football game. Having been told to make herself at home, she got up the next morning and helped herself to some juice from the refrigerator.  It tasted awful, and she quickly ran to the garbage can and spit it out.  Then, she read the bottle, and was shocked to discover that the "apple juice" was really vinegar.

We had a lot of laughs about that over the years, but it would be no laughing matter is my Lord spit me out of His mouth because I was unpalatable... if I looked like apple juice, but was too bitter to be tolerable to Him...if I appeared to be a long, cool drink, but was , instead, a rancid, disappointing fluid worthy only of spewing out. Oh, but I have been!  Every time I think I know even a little bit about how to live as a Believer,  I find myself letting both my Savior and myself down.

Well, here's what happened.  I was invited to a birthday dinner for a former coworker.  Something told me not to go, but I felt obligated. We carpooled, so I couldn't leave early.  The restaurant was about an hour's drive from home, so hiring a taxi was unthinkable...  At the restaurant most of the people at the birthday get-together were drinking alcohol - lots of alcohol.  They quickly became loud and inappropriate.  I was very uncomfortable with the language and the topics of conversation. We were at a "family restaurant", and families with children were all around us.  I was embarrassed and unhappy to be there.  But I was there!  To the casual observer, I was part of the group. Although I wasn't drinking alcohol, wasn't using profane language, and wasn't joining in on the vulgar topics of conversation,  I was sitting at the table.  And, I was not protesting the others' behaviors.

Me!  The one who is usually so outspoken!  The one who usually defends "doing the right thing" at all costs! I just sat there,  did nothing,  said nothing.  Ate my food in silence, and left with the group when it was time to go.  When I got home, I was horribly sad.  I prayed, "Why, Lord, do people have to be so disappointing? Why can't they just be nice?"  His answer hit me immediately:  "Why do YOU have to be so disappointing?  Why didn't YOU try to change the situation?  Before you try to remove the splinter from your brother's eye, you'd better pull that big 'ol log out of your own..."

So there you have it.  I was lukewarm.  AND I was judging others.  I was weak.  I was a poor example.  Like Adam and Eve way back in Genesis,  I was trying to hide from God. I thought that if I hid myself behind others' sins and shame that perhaps God would not see my own.  I thought that maybe I could shift the blame to others.  But, no!  God  never allows this.  Like Adam and Eve, I had to stand alone. Unworthy.  But the good news is that God wants to forgive us our sins.  All we need to do is ask.

Many years ago I dated a man who was pretty much confused about his relationship with God.  When it became apparent that things weren't going to work out for us, I wrote him a letter.  In the letter I pleaded with him to seek God.  I explained that it wasn't important how he got along with people;  what was important was his relationship with God.  I told him he was important to God, that God loves him, that God wants to forgive his past sins.  I worked hard on that letter!  I included scriptures and had the letter hand-delivered to him by a mutual friend.  Then, I waited for a response...

It never came.  He never even read the entire letter.  I spoke to him months later, and he said he read the beginning of the letter, but got impatient with it and quit reading.  And, so it is with many of us in the reading of God's Word.  He took the time to write it through many prophets and apostles.  Written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it has withstood many wars, famines, and disasters.  Attempts at blotting out the Holy scriptures have all been in vain.   God's "love letter" to us is His Word;  in it He gives us advice on every topic under the sun.  It is a "how-to" book for human beings.

The Word of God was written for us, to read and study and apply to our lives.  Yet many of us read the beginning, get tired of reading, and never read any further... And we miss the message and become lukewarm.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


"... I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints.  For certain men whose condemnation  was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.  They are godless men who change the grace of out God into license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."  ( Jude 1:3,4  NIV)   * The book of Jude has no "3:16"

Jude, brother of James, and half-brother of Jesus, wrote this short but powerful book of the Bible.  His message:  warning against apostasy -0 the turning away from God's truth by embracing false teachings.  This warning was appropriate when Jude wrote it ;and,  it is even more appropriate today! We need to be wary of the "feel good" preacher.  If he tells us that everything we do is acceptable,  we need to quickly find a different source of leadership. God wants us to be happy, but not at the price of righteousness. He doesn't want us to go around with long faces and heavy hearts.  But, substituting worldliness and/or possessions for righteousness is NOT the answer.
 (" ...the love of money is the root of all evil."  I Timothy 6:10)

God does bless many Believers with prosperity.  But, we need to take care not to allow possessions to become the focus of our lives.  I love pretty things.  I love color.  I love arranging flowers, painting , embroidery, pottery... well, you get the picture.. But, first I must seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness; then, these things will be added into my life.  (Matthew 6:33).
Here is the prophet Ezekiel's vision of what will happen to those who listen to false teachers:  "They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing.  Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the Lord's wrath.  They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it,  for it has made them stumble into sin.  They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images.  Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them.:  (Ezekiel 7:19,20)

So, beware of godless men who pose as men of God.  Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing, who,  like Satan,  come to steal, kill, and destroy.  Rather, remain steadfast in Truth.

"Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'  Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'"  (John 15:5,6)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

III John

"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.  Anyone who does what is good is from GOd.  Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God."  (III John 1:11)  The book of III John has no "3:16"

This third letter of John was written to Johns' friend Galus to thank Galus for the hospitality he had shown to missionaries.  Galus had welcomed these missionaries into his home, even though they were complete strangers.

John then writes about what is and is not appropriate behavior towards missionaries.  He writes about three men and each of their behaviors towards Christ's teachers.  Two of the men were generous, kind truth-seekers.  But, the third man was selfish, controlling, and full of pride. He misused his position in the church; this was not of God. This third man ,Diotrephes,  was named in this short letter from John to Galus;  imagine having your name forever written in God's Word - and, your name synonymous with how NOT to act!  The message of this letter was  to NOT behave the way this man did!

There is always pain and brokenness behind evil. Jesus can heal that brokenness if you invite Him to do so. Only He can understand our hurts and our suffering.  He died for our sins.  He also died for our shame, our addictions, our deepest hurts.  On the cross, He experienced betrayal, the deepest rejection, abuse.  People spat in His face, shouted racial slurs at Him, stripped Him of His clothes... He felt so abandoned... so alone... There were a few people at the foot of the cross who loved Him.  I'm sure they tried to comfort Him.  Did He hear them?  I hope so...

If you have any negative experience which is keeping you from doing good, give it to Him. "...We implore you on Christ's behalf:  Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."  (II Corinthians 5: 20,21)

Monday, March 14, 2011


"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.  As you heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love."  (II John 1:6 - II John has no "3:16")

The apostle John wrote this short book of the Bible. the second in a series of three letters he wrote to fellow-believers to emphasize truth and love and to warn them about false teachings.  The book of II John is a letter about love.  The love of God.  The Bible is a love story; it is the most intricate, beautiful love story you will ever read.  The more you read and study it, the more details will be revealed to you. It is a love letter from God to you.

Love is what each of us wants and needs. Our world is filled with words about love - greeting cards, popular music,  magazines - they fill us with dreams of love and give us ideas of some sort of perfect romance.  But, this rarely exists.  We long for love.  We yearn to love and be loved,  but see very few examples of real love living in our world today.  Christ is the direct opposite of the world's ways, the opposite of the world's values.  Christ is the opposite of the self-centered world we live in. Believers in Him need to claim His ideals, reflecting love and acting with love toward one another.

In the book of John, the following conversation takes place, revealing just how important love is: "Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'  Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.' "   (Matthew 22:34-40

So, the command to walk in love is both old and new.   In the Bible the old foreshadows the new and the new reflects back to the old.  In the above quote, Jesus is referring to the book of Deuteronomy wherein God gave mankind instructions on how to live in love... the Torah and the commandments.

The apostle Paul wrote beautifully of love in his first letter to the Corinthians:

"If I speak in the tongue of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  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 have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails...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 childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor 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.
And now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love."  (I Corinthians 13:1-13)

Love God.  Then, love one another.  This is walking in love.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I JOHN 3:16

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."  (NIV)

Unselfish acts seem to be the opposite of what the world teaches us from birth.  We spend our infant years
literally crying for attention. And we quickly learn that the more we demand, the more attention we receive.  (That attention is not necessarily always good attention;  unfortunately our prisons are proof of the fact that many people never get past the infancy stage...)

As we grow older we are bombarded with advertisements, slogans, songs, and pictures - all advising us to "look out for number one". And, this is the way of the world... But then there is Jesus' way.  Sharing. Caring. Seeing another's needs and not turning away. Truly trying to help those in need.  This is what Jesus taught by example; and, this is what He wants us to do.

Jesus had a brother, James. (James was actually Jesus' half-brother;  they had the same mother - Mary; but, James was the son of Joseph the carpenter, while Jesus was the incarnate Son of God.)  But I digress... James wrote the book of James. James is quite outspoken about many things...controlling one's tongue certainly comes to mind when one thinks about James' writings.  Another of James' discourses, simply put, means that actions speak louder than words.  And, if you claim to be Christian, then you should be trying to be Christ-like.  And, if you are Christ-like, you will not be selfish:
     "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, 'Go,  I wish you well; keep warm and well fed.'  but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."  (James 2:14-17  NIV)

The passage following todays's  "3:16"   continues to describe the selfless attitude and actions of a true believer:      "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with action and in truth."                                  (I John3:17, 18)

If you are reading this and think you have nothing to give, you are wrong!  You might give money. Or you might give of your time to a good cause.  Or you might lend an ear to a lonely person.  Many people are out there, crying for attention, spiritual infants in a dead and dying world.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


" He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other scriptures, to their own destruction."  (NIV)

When Peter wrote this letter to the Believers, he wrote it to warn them of false teachers who were distorting the writings of Paul.  Peter pointed out that Paul wrote with wisdom inspired by the Holy Spirit. Peter pointed out to his fellow-Believers that while Paul's writings are not always EASY to understand, they were God-inspired truth. The false teachers against whom Peter  wrote were purposely misquoting Paul's teachings, attempting to use scriptures to make themselves seem impressive.  They were purposely creating confusion. Worse yet, false teachers are often subtly deceitful.  This letter from Peter gives us clues to help detect false teaching. Believers today must remain vigilant against falling into false doctrine.

One of my favorite scriptures is I Corinthians 1:33, which states, :For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace."  Okay... if God is NOT the author of confusion, then who IS?    (Hint:  Don't you think confusion goes hand-in-hand with evil?  Have you ever noticed that movie scenes of hell are always chaotic?   Hmmm...)

So, here is the gist of Peters' letter:  Avoid false teachings.  How? By knowing the truth.  We really must read and study on our own;  not depend upon someone else to tell us what the scriptures say.  Many believers want the peace and grace of God, but are not willing to exert the effort to get to know Him better.  To enjoy God's abundance, we need knowledge.  First-hand knowledge, obtainable only through Bible study and prayer.  We must remain diligent in seeking God.

And, what did Jesus have to say about teaching and truth?  "To the Jews who had believed him,  Jesus said,
'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'"  (John 8:31,32)


 ..." I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  (John 14:6)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I PETER 3:16

"...keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander"   (NIV)

Written by the apostle Peter, this verse is the essence of Christlike behavior. Peter wrote this letter to offer encouragement and advice to fellow-believers who had been driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor. This was when Nero was Emperor of Rome and there was great persecution of Christians. (In fact, Peter was eventually executed during this time.)

In this scripture Peter is saying that our behavior should demonstrate the change in us that Christ has made.  Our faces should reflect His love. We can quietly demonstrate our faith by being polite in a bad situation, by leaving a good tip for the waitress, by patiently waiting in the checkout line... little things that can make a big statement.

In the previous verse, I Peter 3:15,  Peter advises:  "But in your heart set apart Christ as Lord, always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."  We can always be ready to answer questions about our faith.  Be prepared to tell people what God has done in your life.  You don't have to be a preacher, or memorize oodles of scriptures, or be able to sing, or do anything special;  all you have to do is love the Savior and be willing to talk about that. The words will come.

But, do remember that the people asking the questions may not always like your answers!  Or, they may need time to ponder what you have said.  Peter's advice is to answer with gentleness and respect.  There may still be those who will be spiteful or hateful.  In those cases you can only maintain your standards as a Believer... and, trust that these people's criticisms and slanderous talk will not be believed.  This is definitely not easy, but when you are going through this, you are not alone...

"Jesus answered, '...Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.' "
(John 16:32,33)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

JAMES 3:16

"For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every practice." (NIV)

James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote this letter to his fellow believers, who were scattered in many areas and were having difficulties knowing what was the real truth.  (Sound familiar?) Like Jesus, James didn't mince words, Although frankness is often hard to hear at first, it is always better than half-truths, which leave the listener confused.

I hate confusion and disorder.  Apparently God doesn't care for these qualities, either!  Two of my favorite scriptures on this topic are found in Paul's writings to the Corinthians.  Years ago I wrote these scriptures in calligraphy as a reminder of the beauty of order and cleanliness... and, the resulting serenity:

"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace."  (I Corinthians 14:33) KJV

"Let all things be done decently and in order."  (I Corinthians 14:40)  KJV

The cause of confusion and disorder is Satan.  I think Satan really enjoys seeing us befuddled, confounded, in turmoil.  But, we can't blame it all on ol' Satan;  no, we'd better be looking inward...  You see, this "3:16" begins with the phrase, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition..."  Uh, oh!  If my life is filled with disorder and confusion, I need to look at my attitudes and actions toward others.  Am I envious of others' talents or physical attributes or situations?  Even in the church setting, am I secretly hoping that someone will consider me the best Sunday School teacher?  The best choir member?  The best____________ (you fill in the blank). Do I want to serve God, or do I want to please people?  These are difficult questions; the type of questions the Holy Spirit wants us to ask ourselves.

The opposite of confusion is peace.  James writes about peace in the next verse, James 3:17, as below:
     "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere."

And, an Old Testament scripture about peace:  " You will  keep perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You."  (Isaiah 26:3)

Let peace be the pillow that you rest your head on.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


"Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?"  (NIV)

Rebellion. The human condition. Some of us have more of a rebellious streak than others, but we all have one.  For some reason, we human beings think having our own way is the best way, or the only way God must sigh. A lot.

I remember going to a Bible class where I learned that the forty-year trip the Israelites made, wandering in the desert, on the way to the promised land, could have been made in eleven days.  Eleven days... forty years.  Quite a discrepancy.  But, because of their repeated rebellion, those folks wandered in the desert all that time.  Many of them died in the desert and never entered the promised land.  Their offspring made it, but not them.

Don't allow your past sins and disobedience to prevent you from getting close to God today.  He is always present, always willing to forgive, always full of mercy and grace.  It only takes confession of your wrongdoing. When  you return to Him, He returns to you.

Funny thing, when we were studying about the wanderings in the desert, I kept asking, "Why didn't they just behave? How could they ignore the miracles God kept performing for them? And, after all He did, how could they be so ungrateful?"

But then, I thought about all the foolish wanderings in my own life... How many years did  I spend in the desert? How many of God's miracles did
  I ignore?  And, how ungrateful have I  been?

How 'bout you?