YOUR COMMON LIFE AIN’T SO COMMON!

I woke up this morning thinking, “Wow!  It’s ONLY Wednesday…nothing exceptional going on today…just ‘another day in paradise’!”

Do you ever get tired of your common life?  You take a quick shower, grab your clothes from the closet and hope they match, gulp down a warm cup of coffee…never taking time to smell the aroma, or really taste its goodness.  But, it doesn’t stop there; you head out to your car…no…it’s not a Ferrari, or even a Mercedes…it’s just a common, everyday car like a sedan or van.

You drive to your job.  You have a great work ethic, and although you loath your job…you do your best.  It’s nothing exciting…you don’t work for celebrities, or do anything that could change the world, like work in the Space Program…No…you get to speak to irate customers ALL DAY LONG, listen to them yell and curse at you for things you aren’t even responsible for.  But you silently pray, “just let me get through the day, and hopefully get home without hitting the rush hour!”  Life is common for you!

Sometimes you get a reprieve from the common life with the occasional birthday party, wedding, or graduation; but these are short-lived ‘highlights’, and pass way too quickly!

But we need to do what Jesus did.  He embraced His common life!  He walked the dirt roads with His disciples, listened to their constant bickering and complaining, fighting amongst themselves about “Who was going to sit on Jesus’ right hand…”;  But Jesus ALWAYS listened for His Father’s voice in everything.

You can do the same.  Have you ever listened to the rain falling quietly against your window?  Watched the snow float gently from the gray sky above?  Stood alone in the dark and watched the sun rise in all of its glory?  Seen the sun set against the mountains, casting it’s gold and coral across the darkening sky? Heard the birds singing their praise to God?  Beheld the beautiful hues of color in your flower garden?

If you listen, you can hear God speak to you in your mundane life.  He will talk to you on your way to work…or when you are caring for your small children and tending to their every need.

Pay attention!  Listen to the contagious laughter of your child.  The soft breathing of your spouse while they sleep.  The sometimes unwanted “kisses” from your pet.  The wonderful smell coming from your kitchen.

When your life begins to feel ordinary…common…do what Jesus did.  Open your eyes…LOOK at your world.  God is there…in EVERY part!

By:  Anita Mondragon

ONENESS IN CHRIST

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one to another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous;  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.  Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  I Peter 3:8, I John 3:18, Phil. 2:2

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Here’s one from one of my inherited books…enjoy!-anita

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Is to KNOW and BE KNOWN,

But still love and be loved.

Is to SHARE and TO CARE,

But to pray and not despair.

Is to TRUST and BE TRUSTED,

But not overburden, or pry…

Is to LIFT and BE LIFTED,

But not chide or criticize.

Is to GUIDE and BE GUIDED,

Closer to His side!

By:  Joyce E. Watke

CAN AN ALL-KNOWING GOD CHANGE HIS MIND?

Here is a good one from Lee.  It poses a serious question.  Enjoy-anita

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Dan and Mike have been preaching through some early books of the Bible, and in reflecting on the book of Exodus, I came across a passage that has puzzled me for years. To wit, Exodus 32:10-13 wherein Moses implores God not to destroy the Israelites and God changed His mind [Ex 32:14 NAS].

My problem with this translation that God changed His mind is this: how could an omniscient God who knows everything and all outcomes “change His mind.” First of all, He would have known Moses was going to ask Him to do so and His actions would have taken that fact into account.

One commentary I often consult—based on the NIV Bible version—explains that God “relented,”  and notes, “The word ‘relented’ does not mean that God changed His mind but that He embarked on another course of action.” I have to say, that explanation didn’t console me one bit. It sure sounds like He changed His mind.

I went back to look at Moses’ request and the logical arguments he used as he petitioned God for mercy against His people. Moses makes the argument that God, by destroying the Israelites, calls into question His own integrity. Moses says 1) God, You by Your power and glory brought this people out of Egypt, why would you kill them now, 2) God, You leave yourself open to criticism from the Egyptians who will say You brought the people out for evil intent (in order to kill them), and 3) God, remember Your covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob) to multiply their descendants as the stars.

As I thought about Moses’ arguments to God and consulted other commentaries, I came to some interesting conclusions. 1) The people rebelled and showed their idolatrous hearts; why shouldn’t God destroy them? That God brought them out of Egypt is related in no way to their later acts of rebellion. 2) Is God afraid of having His name profaned? Ezekiel 20:4-29 discusses God’s concern to protect His name, but notwithstanding that fact, when the people became evil in His sight, He allowed the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Romans all to kill and drag His people into exile and even destroy His temple. 3) And the covenant argument fails to hold water because God proposes to make a whole new nation of Israel beginning with Moses [Ex 32:10] who is himself a child of that covenant.

I think I found a better answer than Moses’ persuasive logic. In the writings of Matt Slick, president of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), he discusses this portion of Scripture. His thought on this passage is that Moses is a type here for Jesus (he is reflecting some of Jesus’ character). God has gone so far as to tell Moses to leave Him alone [Ex 32:10] and let Him destroy the people. So why did God relent and listen to Moses after all? Slick, in his argument, says it’s because of Jesus. Jesus says Himself that the Bible is about Him [John 5:39]. Slick states, “Certainly, such an important figure [in the Bible] as Moses must reflect Jesus in some way, and he does.” Slick further argues, “As Moses interceded for his people, Jesus also intercedes for His. God listened to Moses because God would listen to Jesus.”

Slick concurs with my thinking in saying, “If God changed His mind, in that He adapted to new information, then God does not know all things [1 John 3:20].” Further, he concludes, “It would make more sense to say that God waited for a reason [to act], threatened to destroy Israel, and allowed Moses to intercede on their behalf so they would be saved.”

An interesting side note exists in relation to the passage in Ex 32. When Moses returned to the camp from Sinai and found the people reveling with their golden calf, he ordered the Levites to take up their swords and go into the camp and kill those who opposed God. Some 3,000 men died as a result. In the NT passage where Peter preached [Acts 2:41], 3,000 were added to the new church. Slick observed, “When the Law was given, 3,000 died. When the gospel was given, 3,000 were saved.” To God be the glory!

By:  Lee Pierce

THE LIVING GOD…(part two)

 

You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3)

By now you’re probably thinking “it doesn’t work that way in real life.” If it did we’d all be Christians and we’d all be rich right? So what’s the catch? The “catch” is two-fold.

The first part is centered around faith. In order to receive anything from God you must have faith. Not for things like the air you breathe, rain, flowers in springtime and so on, you get those ‘gratis’ whether you believe in God or not (for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous – Matt 5:45) but for the particular things that we go to God for in prayer. In fact, James speaks about this in the first chapter of his letter:

“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Now the verse prior is speaking about wisdom but the general rule remains – one who would ask something from God must have faith that God will grant the request. Imagine asking your earthly parents for something – you’re not going to ask for something that they obviously can’t provide but something that that you expect that they can provide and you’d expect them to provide it unless some circumstance prevented it. Faith is the same – you are asking for something that you believe (expect) that you will get.

So what about wisdom? Well, that goes back to our introductory verse which says that first we must ask (how many good and possible requests go by the wayside because we never asked?) but we must ask with right motives. This is the second part and it’s both easier and harder than it sounds. Suppose we ask God to smite someone who is irritating us? It unlikely that God is going to honor that request. Instead He might ask you to preach the gospel to them! Suppose you ask for a million dollars? Do you have a legitimate need for a million dollars? If God gave it to you how much trouble would you eventually get into? For, as James implies, our pleasures often lead to trouble. But suppose you are asking a friend to be healed? Or you’re asking for the million dollars so you can start an orphanage? In this case the motive seems right but God, who sees everything while we see just parts, might not grant the request. He might see that you are not ready for an orphanage and all that entails; he might have other plans for your friend. The motive was right but the timing or other circumstance was wrong.

You might, at this point, be tempted to say, as I did, “What’s the point? God is either going to turn me down because I’m just asking for ‘my pleasure’ or He’s going to deny me for another reason. Why not ‘cut to the chase’ and not even ask?” Can you see my error? It’s lack of faith, the kind that expects that no matter what the Father has our best interest at heart, all the time. It’s the sort of faith that has to begin with a trust in a living God who is deeply, passionately interested in you, and wants nothing but good for you all the time. If we have such a faith then it becomes ok when we don’t hear the answer we want or get the things we think we need. We might be disappointed but our essential faith in our father is unshaken because he’s a good father, all the time.

This is why Christ said we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We must get back that childlike faith in our ‘Daddy’ that assumes that he loves us, secures us and takes delight in us. But we must remember who our Daddy is too. We are children of the living God, the One who created heaven and earth, co-heirs with Jesus Christ. We have quite a family.

A closing thought:

Consider yourself at home,

Consider yourself part of the family.

We’ve taken to you so strong,

It clear we’re going to get along. (Dodger, Oliver!)

By:  Jon Roark

THE LIVING GOD

Here is another devotional from Jon.  Enjoy!-anita

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For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? (Deut. 5:26)

 

The sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had forgotten the voice of God by the time they stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and begged Moses to speak on their behalf. They were terrified and for apparently good reason. This God spoke and the ground shook; only a few weeks before they had watched as the Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea. They had had manna and quail, water from a rock and defeated the first of the peoples that occupied the land that Lord had sworn to Abraham would be theirs. Think what they might, I am sure none of them doubted that this God was alive!

It’s a radical idea actually. God is alive! He has thoughts and feelings. Some things make him happy and other things make him sad. Some things even make him angry. And that’s not even the best part! Because of Jesus coming to dwell among us it says in 2 Corinthians 6:16 “We are temples of the living God.” It goes on to say in the same verse:

“I will live with them     and walk among them, and I will be their God,     and they will be my people.”

So we, figuratively speaking, have come from Mt. Sinai, where we dared not even touch the mountain on pain of death, to dwelling with, in fact being the dwelling place of, the living God! And God loves us (Deut. 23:5), wants to be with us (Luke 1:78), thinks we’re important (Jer. 29:11) even worth dying in order to save (Romans 5:8) and wants to continue that relationship into eternity (John 14:3)!

This should transform us. If you’re wondering how just imagine you just won the lottery, the really big one, and now you have lots and lots and lots of money. Imagine how you’d act at first but then imagine how your thinking would be changed when you realize that you have enough cash to seriously impact a few of the world’s problems. You’d be energized, you’d have a new seriousness of purpose, you’d be focused on your chosen problem with intent to make a difference. Now consider God, your friend, who made the world and everything in it, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (ok, all the hills), who created it all from nothing by His words alone. You have won the lottery! Maybe you’ll have to wait for the Ferrari but how about those problems that we often feel powerless to tackle, the ugly ones like human trafficking, drug addiction, child soldiers and so on. We have the power, we have a Father who hates those problems as much as we do, we have family rights to whatever we need (But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God – John 1:12) and we have a God who believes in us (whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. – John 14:12).  We just have to see it and act accordingly because we are capable of far more than we know.

By:  Jon Roark

 

CAN I GET A TESTIMONY?

Here’s a good one from Jon.  Enjoy-anita

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“…even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

It is not enough to simply know about God. We want, in fact need, to know God, in the present tense, as someone who is alive and active right now, why? So that the world may believe He sent Jesus.

Think about who Jesus is for a moment; better yet, think about who you were before you met Jesus and who you are now. No matter what your story it’s a fair bet that the person you are now, after meeting Jesus, is a radical departure from who you were prior to meeting Jesus. What, or rather who, effected that change? It wasn’t our knowledge about Jesus, our array of trivial facts guaranteed to win trivia games, but our knowing Jesus that made the change. At some point we decided to surrender – let down our defenses, give up our unsuccessful strategies for dealing with life, stop kicking “against the pricks” (Acts 9:5, KJV) – and give control to Jesus.

But heady as that was and no matter how far we’ve come it means far less if an unbelieving world doesn’t hear our testimony. Look at this example from John 4:

“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”  So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (vv. 39-42)

The woman at first didn’t even know who she had met; in fact, she asked “…this is not the Christ, is it?” (v 29) Yet she was so amazed by the encounter that she was compelled to testify about the little she knew. From that small act of faith comes the result in verse 42. Now many believe and it’s a good bet that they will tell others.

Testimonies, thankfully, come in many flavors. My preferred method is writing but I know someone who spends his retirement going each morning to Starbucks and starting conversations. St. Francis supposedly said “Preach Jesus and if necessary use words.” There are as many ways as there are people but the important thing to remember is that once you met a man on life’s path and since then your life has never been the same. I’ll bet that there is some weary, discouraged fellow traveler who’d like to meet Him too.

By:  Jon Roark

 

NO ROOM…NO TIME…

There always seems to be room in life

For pleasures, and parties, and fun;

But, still in life, Jesus has no part…

There is no room for the Son.

There’s always room for gossip and lies,

And dreams of lust, and ambition;

But there’s never enough time

To search the heart…

And notice it’s sad condition!

There is ALWAYS room for over-time,

For position and wealth, mean much!

But there’s never enough time for prayer each day

To ask for the Spirit’s sweet touch.

These things you’re acquiring,

Will all soon pass away;

And you’ll stand at Eternity’s Gate.

See…you may find time for Jesus then…

But, He may say, “It’s too late!”

No room…no time…

In this busy world you pass through.

Some day when you come to the end of it all…

You may find, there’s NO ROOM for you!

By:  Anita Mondragon-published 2009

 

ALMOST…

Here is the promise of ALL promises…I drew it this morning.  If you don’t yet KNOW Jesus as your Lord and Savior…call on Him today, and be saved.  Tomorrow may be too late!-anita

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“What must I do to be saved?  BELIEVE ON the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” -Acts 16:30, 31.

Here is another verse that says the same thing:

 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” -Romans 10:13

DON’T WAIT…CALL ON HIM TODAY…BELIEVE ON HIM…AND YOU WILL BE SAVED!

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For years, and years I heard Your voice,

Call through life’s foggy haze;

And, I meant to come…and I almost did,

But the path seemed such a maze!

I should have come when Your call was strong,

And direction was so clear.

I hear You still, but Your voice is faint…

And the road’s now filled with fear.

My intentions were good, and I longed to come

When at first I heard Your voice;

But the longer I waited, the farther I strayed…

And now, time, has made the choice.

I know the story, how You left Heaven’s glory,

And died, just to pay my debt;

And, I wanted to come…and I almost did…

But…I just wasn’t ready yet!

Someday, You’ll come, and split the sky,

In just a mere moment…in the blink of an eye.

I’ll want to come…and I ALMOST could…

But, when You called, I never would…

Now, mercy is gone!  And I’ll pay the cost!

The saddest words heard… “Almost…but lost!”

By:  Anita Mondragon published-2009

 

 

 

SHE WASN’T ALWAYS…

Years ago, I read an article in the newspaper.  In this article, they interviewed several prostitutes.  Their response to the questions asked them in the interview is what prompted me to write the following.  The article was a real eye-opener to me, and caused me to realize that I should not be so quick to judge others in regards to their situation.  BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD, I could have been right there with them!  They need our prayers…not our judgemental looks and harsh comments!-anita

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She wasn’t always a prostitute….  She’d been some mother’s baby, small and pink and soft and pure.  She’d been an innocent  little girl making mud pies and skipping rope.

She said she’d been married once.  It seemed like an eternity ago.  Her husband and her had left their small home town and moved to the city to make a better life for themselves.

But, jobs were hard to find.  He looked for work…while she became bored.  Soon the drugs started…just so she could escape for a while, and not worry about their situation.  It wasn’t noticeable at first, at least, her husband wasn’t aware…but addiction wasn’t far behind.

She was an addict now…a junkie.  She stole what little money he’d bring home from doing odd jobs, just to buy drugs.  She became repulsive to him, so he left because he couldn’t stand what she’d become.

Now…she walks the streets.  She’s been beaten, stabbed, and robbed at gunpoint.  Every night, she feigns love to fat, sweaty, disgusting men who pay her for her time.

I asked her, “What is the answer for you?”

In a quiet, wistful voice, she replied, “I don’t know…I think it’s death…”

“Living this way must be very difficult for you…what is the hardest part?”  I asked.

She answered tearfully, “The hardest part, is having to be ME when it’s all done…”

She wasn’t ALWAYS a prostitute…

By:  Anita Mondragon April 2008

FRUITLESS FIG

Here’s a good one for all of us to ponder on!  Thanks Lee!-anita

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Have you ever come across a passage in Scripture which absolutely left you scratching your head? Why is that there; it looks so meaningless? What is the Bible trying to teach there?

Well, I came across another one recently. This is the account of the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14. Jesus is in and around Jerusalem and preparing for His upcoming sacrifice on the Cross. Leaving Bethany and heading back to Jerusalem, Mark relates that Jesus was hungry and, seeing a leafy fig tree in the distance, He headed toward it. Once by the tree, He found it without fruit and then, amazingly, He cursed it saying “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” Now, what can that all mean? Why would Jesus—whose time was drawing short with the Cross ever looming—take time to curse this insignificant little fig tree? So, I’ve often wondered.

It seems that Jesus had a purpose. One clue I see is that the next line in the passage, after Jesus’ curse, says, “And His disciples were listening.” Typically, fig trees in this region have abundant fruit on them once they grow leaves. So Jesus expected it to have fruit when He approached it. In Jesus actions upon finding the tree fruitless we see an example of what Bible scholars call an “enacted parable.” According to Fr. Daniel J. Harrington writing in The National Catholic Review, enacted parables are “… symbolic actions intended to make a public theological statement….” Jesus’ actions with the fig tree, for example, were similar to what Old Testament prophets did before Him. Fr. Harrington cites examples of such enacted parables performed by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

A perfect OT example of an enacted parable can be found in Jeremiah 32 where the prophet foretells that God is giving Judah over to the Babylonians: “Behold, the siege mounds have reached the city to take it….” [Jer 32:24] Then, astonishingly, God tells Jeremiah to buy a piece of land nearby, despite the fact that the armies of Babylon are literally at the gates. My first thought was, huh, what future is there in that?! But Jeremiah obediently weighed out 17 shekels of silver for the parcel of land. The answer to this confusing enactment can be found in several places in Jeremiah. While God is permitting Babylon to conquer Israel because of its disobedience in serving/worshiping other Gods like Baal and Molech, He still wants Israel to know He is not abandoning her. Jeremiah 30:10-11 says in part, “…do not be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar…Jacob shall return [to the land], and shall be quiet and at ease….” So God, through Jeremiah’s purchase of the field in the face of impending disaster, is saying effectively, take heart, Israel, there will again come a day when it will make sense to hold deeds to property in the land. This captivity and removal to Babylon isn’t permanent “For I am with you….” [Jer 30:11]

And the fig tree? Ligonier’s Tabletalk comment on this passage notes, “Jesus cursed the fig tree for its fruitlessness, for not living up to what it appeared to be when it had foliage but no figs. That is a warning to all who profess faith in Him. We are to bear fruit for God’s glory….”

The Tabletalk commentary also notes: Often in the times of the OT prophets, they would symbolically use the example of barren fig trees to show divine judgment on unfaithful Israel [see Hosea 2:8-13, especially verse 12]. Jesus’ curse on the fig tree should be taken as a sign that judgment was about to come on Jerusalem. Instead of Babylon, though, it would come in the form of Rome and the resulting destruction of the city and the Temple.

My own conclusion, as I thought about this episode with the fig tree, is that God [Jesus] doesn’t waste time with irrelevant or insignificant things. If He takes what appears to be a superfluous action—like cursing a little fig tree—there’s more there than meets the eye. Look deeper!

By:  Lee Pierce