Feasting at Thanksgiving

By Karen

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

If you’re like me, you’ll be in the kitchen chopping, whipping, mixing, roasting and baking for your Thanksgiving feast this week. This is one of two times a year that I go all out, preparing a knock-out menu that requires several days in advance. I absolutely love it! Here is a preview of this year’s holiday table:

 

Do you like to play games? If you never cook for Thanksgiving, or if you just take one dish to a party or family gathering, this blog post is still for you. No, it’s not about menus or recipe ideas—which are lovely—but it’s about thanking God for His blessings this year. And I’m inviting you to join me in doing it.

As we’re feasting on the turkey, dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, let’s also remember to take this day to feast on the Word of God.

O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalms 34:8).

As I thought about how to choose some “delicious” scriptures, it seemed logical to pick the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For this game, I’ll begin by listing my favorite Bible verses, from either the Old or New Testament—one for each spiritual fruit. Here goes: (All from New American Standard Bible)

 

LOVE: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

JOY: These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).

PEACE: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

PATIENCE: And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise (Hebrews 6:15).

KINDNESS: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

GOODNESS: Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalms 23:6).

FAITHFULNESS: They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).

GENTLENESS: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS (Matthew 11:29).

SELF-CONTROL: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Now it’s your turn … what are your favorite verses we can feast on today?

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Every season is beautiful

Fall is a beautiful time of year, isn’t it? Here in North Texas, temperatures still feel like summertime (but we’ll just wake up one day and suddenly need a coat and mittens, as those of us here know). But nonetheless, signs of the new season have arrived — leaves turning to red and brown, college […]

http://caitharrison.com/2015/10/15/every-season-is-beautiful/

The Revelation Church at Ephesus

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Remember when you were a student? A graded paper would be returned to you with teacher’s comments. Usually these began with the good points, summarizing what you did right—the glowing commendations. Then the criticism, if any, followed, pointing out the weaknesses and making suggestions for improvement.

We all learn from a combination of praise and constructive criticism. Even Jesus used this same pattern when he spoke to the seven churches through John the Revelator. Let’s read their review and examine what they did right.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:1-3, NASB).

Apparently the Ephesians were very diligent in their quest for truth. God’s Word provides standards for discerning truth from error, and the Ephesians had been well-prepared to fight against false teaching. When Paul was at Ephesus, he trained them in the truth of the gospel, warning that false teachers would surface later. Even Timothy prevailed there with hard work, patience, and perseverance, proving that he and the church at Ephesus had taken this warning to heart.

As we apply this truth to our present-day churches, answer this question: does yours train you in discerning truth from error, like the church at Ephesus? Can you identify false teachers?

With access to the internet, cable, and satellite TV, we have access to myriads of people teaching the Word. Are all teaching truth?

Some are blatantly false, and should be easy to discern, while the more dangerous ones preach truth with slivers of lies underneath. It is imperative to understand what we hear and be able to line it up against the whole truth of God’s Word.

If one little part is a lie, is their entire message false? The answer is best illustrated by the joke about brownies a dad made for his kids.

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When the delicious-smelling brownies were fresh and hot from the oven, the kids gathered round, begging for a piece. But they had to cool, so while they waited, they asked their dad to tell them how he had made them.

He rattled off a list of the finest ingredients. ” Organic flour, pure cane sugar, a pinch of sea salt, and a cup of whole, organic milk.”

“Yummy!” The kids drooled. “What else?”

“Oh, lots of dark chocolate, and just a little smidge of dog poop.” He smiled.

The kids’ faces turned green as they grimaced. “What? You ruined a wonderful pan of brownies with dog poop?” They gagged at the thought.

“It was just a little bit. You probably can’t even taste it.”

I can’t imagine that this Dad could persuade anyone into eating those treats. But this story makes a good point about false teaching. Just a smidge of something contrary to the pure gospel contaminates the whole thing, making it false.

How can you know if you are being tricked? If you don’t know the Word, these charlatans can trip you up every time. In fact, they count on the flock’s lack of knowledge in order to gently lead them astray.

We must know the WHOLE gospel of truth.

God warns, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6, NASB).

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Remember years ago when false teachers surfaced in the news? How about Jim Jones and his faithful followers who all drank the lethal Kool-Aid? Those are an insignificant number compared to thousands today who may be seated on a church pew or a couch at home, their ears devouring tainted brownies, chased by poisoned Kool-Aid.

Some congregations may begin on the right path of truth, but somewhere down the road, they get sidetracked by worldly desires. The leadership may fall from grace because of the temptation of adultery, or watching pornography in the late night hours in the comfort of their home offices. Ever hear of Ashley Madison, for example?

Or perhaps it’s the lure of wealth, and they become greedy for bigger salaries to live like kings in palaces. Ever hear of the prosperity gospel?

Whatever the sin may be, coming through the leadership or the congregation, everyone is tainted and affected.

But God.

The Lord will help and deliver us from false teaching if we stay close to Him, planted in His Word. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our teacher, and our link to God through the blood of Jesus. He lives inside our spirit and will never leave or forsake us. He will lead us into all truth, guiding us through our conscience, teaching us as we study God’s Word.

He protects us, His sheep, from wolves hiding under sheep’s clothing. He will reveal the truth to us, and we don’t have to fear becoming that wolf’s dinner.

Now let’s now examine Epheseus’ shortcomings.

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5, NASB).

How could this church be so savvy at uncovering false teachers, yet be accused of this? Those who hate evil and false teaching have a strong gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit; yet, leaving  Jesus, our first love, is different. It’s about the condition of the heart.

Remember when you first got saved? Most of us fell in love with Jesus and couldn’t stop talking about Him and witnessing to the lost. We devoured His Word and prayed every day. We were sloppy-drunk in love with the Lord and His Holy Spirit. Just like a romantic relationship that culminates in marriage, we spiritually felt and acted the same way.

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What happens? Just as in a marriage, the relationship settles and cools as that fire of passionate love begins to temper, dying down into glowing embers. We must poke them, blowing gently, feeding them with kindling until it smokes and the fire again catches. The more we feed it, the hotter and higher the flames will grow.

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How do we stoke the fires of our love for the Lord?  Revelation 2:4 instructs us to “repent, and do the deeds you did at first.” Then the fire will catch and burn again.

Here’s a 2015 example we can all relate to. Our cell phones and other electronic devices must be charged every day or else they will go dead. This is of such major importance in our lives that we carry chargers with us to use during the day. Even in schools, airports, and hospital waiting rooms–you’ll find charging ports with people sitting next to walls with their devices juicing up.

Think of your relationship with Jesus. We also have to charge up our spirits on a daily basis. We download His power through reading the Word. Then we send back the current to God through prayer, and the Holy Spirit joins us together through the cross and the blood of Jesus so that we’re one with Him. If we neglect to do this, our power lessens, and at some point will go dead.

But the good news is that we can get charged up immediately as soon as we go into our prayer closets. It’s never too late.

OR ELSE …

As parents, haven’t we used OR ELSE phraseology to back up our demands?  We let our children know exactly what consequence their rebellion holds.

God does likewise.

At Ephesus, Jesus added a solemn consequence if that church refused to listen and heed His warning. His OR ELSE is spelled out in Revelation 2:5: “I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Jesus meant business, and He meant what He said. Ephesus would lose its place as a church, unless they listened and obeyed.

It is interesting that Jesus concludes this warning to Ephesus by saying, “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:6, NASB).

Who were the Nicolaitans? We know little about them, but it is supposed that they may have been a sect that introduced false teaching in regard to a believer’s freedom in Christ. Perhaps they espoused that once you’re saved at the cross, that frees you to live like everyone else who was immersed in a world of idolatry and sexual sin. Whatever the teaching, it was a stench in the nostrils of God, and He hated it with a passion.

The truth is that the cross frees us from sin to live a sanctified, holy life in Christ.

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As with each letter to the churches, the conclusion ends on a high note with a wonderful promise.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7, NASB).

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Do we have a spiritual ear to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us today? If we hate evil, persevere for truth without growing weary, discern false teachers, and always keep our love for the Lord first in our hearts, there is a reward for that victory. Jesus promises us fruit to eat in heaven—but not just any fruit—the tree of life that gives eternal life.

Is it worth it to be obedient to God’s Word? You bet it is. What a wonderful reward awaits us in God’s kingdom!

Where are we traveling next? Meet me in Smyrna.

The Revelation Churches

exorcistAn Introduction

Is fear fun?

I vividly recall when The Exorcist hit the movie screen. Watching scenes where a young girl became possessed by demonic spirits seemed outrageous and in far left-field. Of course, nothing like that could happen in real life. It’s only at the movies where the producers are paid millions of dollars to scare you out of your wits. But I paid a price for feeding my fun-loving fear because I was scared of the dark and had to sleep with a light on for weeks after seeing that movie.

My fascination with “fun fear” began when I was a kid. As soon as I could read and browse in bookstores, I discovered that there was more than just The Bobbsey Twins series. The Nancy Drew Mysteries developed my love of suspense, which I feed to this day. As a fan of everything Agatha Christie, I will always love the “who-dunnit” mysteries.

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But as a kid, my interest was drawn to the books with the ghosts and haunted houses on the cover. The author? None other than the wonderful master of horror and suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Could it get even better? You bet it did. Alfred Hitchcock Presents became my weekly TV haunt. I have no idea why, but it aired quite late at night, around ten. I lay under the covers in my dark bedroom, clutching my pillow and hiding my face in it at the spookiest parts. As I turned off the TV at eleven, I took all that fear with me into my sleep. Needless to say, my dreams were not peaceful, and some nights I had nightmares.

No wonder.

Back in the ‘60’s, Christians weren’t as spiritually knowledgeable as today. Then, we flirted with fear which seemed thrilling, fun, and pretty tame. No one realized at that time how real the world of the enemy is, except for missionaries in third world countries where Satan worship prevailed. These missionaries would visit our church once or twice a year, and when they spoke at a Sunday service, we would hear all kinds of true stories that would make our hair stand up. Our solace was in the fact that America was a Christian nation, and Satanic activity was thereby limited from manifesting here.

Well, for a while, anyway.

Then, as I’ve already mentioned, The Exorcist was born on the big screen, and our innocence began to fade. As illegal drugs made the scene, free love in all its forms manifested. Rebellion and flower children blossomed. The Ten Commandments and prayer were removed from public schools as rock bands with hellish music pounded their anti-Christ message into teens. Wholesome movies and TV shows were sidelined. Now TV shows became less moral and movie producers experimented with racier visions within inane storylines rated R and X.

Did they make mega-bucks doing that? You know it.

Like a lullaby sung over a sleepy giant, this great Christian nation was lulled to sleep. Churches began to dwindle as their members became fascinated with the pleasures of the world, and ministries worried about their financial future. How could they once again pack their churches and financial statements to capacity?  Thus, they re-invented and molded themselves to attract modern-day society.

How so? Here are some of the ploys:

Make the church a welcoming, comfortable place—more like a club where you are encouraged to pay your monthly dues in the offering plate, or better yet, online. Lure with rock band music containing Christian lyrics, and feature a coffee bar or restaurant on the premises. (I understand some are now even serving wine and beer.)

Do away with the true gospel, watering it down so that there’s no cross to convict, no call to repentance, and no mention of the word “sin.” Replace those terms with psychology, and help people reason away their guilt. Tell them, “After all, if God is a loving God, how could He send anyone to hell?”

No roaring sermons—just pleasant ear-tickling stories to entertain and keep everyone coming back next week. Have lots of fun group activities for athletics and hobbies, or study books that sound religious, but really have no gospel message.

Give everyone a job in the church, so they feel included and important. Tell them “it’s all about you” instead of being all about Jesus.

Instead of milk and meat, feed the flock gobs of cotton candy—and remember the good news: sugar is addictive!

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Now for the present moment. Our innocent, precious children are weaned onto their first series of books as soon as they have learned to read. The title of the most popular one, in my opinion? Why, Harry Potter, naturally! The world of witches and spells teach them fear, rebellion, and the ABC’s of Satanic worship. Right away their minds are receptive to witchcraft and closed to Christianity. (Some good parents and Christians alike scoff at the warnings that Harry Potter could in any way be dangerous.)

Additionally, some children watch their parents abuse alcohol and drugs, to name just a few bad examples (by now, keep in mind, the ‘60’s generation has produced one to two future generations). In short, our children’s influences are set for a lifetime.

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I remember hearing nuns say, “Let me train a child until he’s five, and by then he will be a Catholic his whole life.” Reminds me of the verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NASB). So, these early childhood years matter very much.

How about public school curricula?  They now endorse soft education, meaning there is no discipline, no character training, lax patriotism, and little, if any, true learning. The consequences are lots of kids stoned on drugs, disrespect, laziness, and time wasted on technology (which is only a robotic substitute teacher). No wonder American education, no longer able to boast being number one in the world, has, in 2014, plummeted to 36th out of 60 nations. What a staggering educational failure we have become!

So, what is the church’s role in this present age, and what are God’s expectations?

The answer may surprise you, as it did me. In studying the book of Revelation, the beginning of John’s letter is to the seven churches. In my Bible studies that span over four decades, I used to think those letters were just for that day and time, or that there have been seven dispensational ages, one message for each church, and the last is for our present day.

But no.

I clearly see in my present study through Bible Study Fellowship that these messages are eternally pertinent for today, no matter the age or year. There is no perfect church, of course, outside of heaven’s—and we have to die to get there. On the earth, all of our churches have some commendations, but there is always something that needs to be corrected.

I plan to take each church and examine what Christ said to each one through John. Let’s agree to establish our hope in God and let Him establish our future.

“For I know the plans I have for you, for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB).

What we may learn about ourselves could be startling. Please join me on this fascinating journey.

Our first stop? Ephesus.