Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snow Mold?

Spots of Snow Mold in lawn. Pen demonstrates the size 
I have bof some pink Snow Mold.
I have given a lot of thought recently to the Snow Mold growing in my yard. Today it reminded me of other things...

Many people have never heard of Snow Mold. What is Snow Mold? It is a fungus that grows on lawns when winter temperatures are not severe. It can grow underneath snow when the temps are reasonably mild, yet cold enough for the snow to stay there. The treatment is to do a light raking of the grass to break it up as it dries out and put a fungicide on it. The earlier it is treated the less it affects the health of the lawn. We need the fresh air of spring, and summer to restore the health of our lawns. So how is this relevant to a blog about Christianity? Let me explain.

We could say that the times in our lives when we give in to sin is like winter. The longer we stay in it, the colder and darker it seems. Sin compounds in our lives the way that snow piles up. If we do not shovel the snow off our sidewalks and driveways, we could slip, fall, even hurt ourselves. Others can be hurt as well. Sin is like Snow Mold. It grows in our lives when we keep things covered up. Jesus is the cure. He purchased our forgiveness with the shedding of His blood. We need the fresh air brought by the Holy Spirit to bring life and strengthen us in our desire to cease sinning. It is only through the strength of God that we can truly be made holy and good.

The Scriptures tell us that every inclination of the heart of man is evil. Genesis 6:5 God gave us the Law (the Ten Commandments & many other laws (600+)) to show us that we can never be good. We need supernatural assistance.  Just like our lawns with Snow Mold, we need help. We need Jesus. Fortunately for us, God promised us that although the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is forgiveness for those who trust in Jesus. Forgiveness means that we are brought back into the right relationship with God that He created us to enjoy in the first place.  Since we are restored to Him, we no longer need fear death. Our destination is changed. We are not destined to go to Hell, we are destined to go to Heaven.

Just as our lawns can be restored to health if cared for in time, we can be restored to God if we ask Him to forgive us.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pentecost

Today, Sunday May 27th, we Christians celebrated something unique.  No other religion has a celebration of such a day as this. Pentecost. What is it? What does it mean? Why is it unique?

Pentecost: it is the fiftieth day after Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus!  It correlates to the Hebrew celebration of Shavuot (the feast of weeks) also harvest time. In the Jewish (Hebrew) calendar, there were several days where [ALL] males were required to attend services and present themselves before God at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Shavuot was one of those times, therefore many people from all over the [known] world were in Jerusalem for this time of celebration.
Painting of the Apostles @ Pentecost by El Greco


The Christian celebration changed on that day, because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 [main] followers of Christ who were hiding in the upper room for fear of the Jews and Romans. As they were praying, and worshiping God they began proclaiming God's praises and worship loudly and publicly.  Enough that it caused a commotion. People from all over the known world heard them speaking in their native languages, and were amazed.  They were also acting so joyously, that the people thought they were drunk.  The visitors to Jerusalem, and other residents there knew these men to be uneducated people, common workers for the most part, and several of them merely fishermen.  This meant that they were very unlikely to have learned the languages they seemed to be speaking.  [Makes me wonder if they were speaking foreign tongues, or if the people just heard in their language -- Perhaps God changed their hearing? -- Nah, the Bible said they spoke in the foreign tongues, so we'll stick with that.]   

Peter then spoke up in a loud voice and explained to the people that they were not drunk, as the people supposed.  He explained that the same Jesus they had seen crucified a few weeks ago, had risen from the dead, and had promised to send the Holy Spirit to them.  This was the fulfillment of this promise.  Peter, the same one who had denied even knowing Christ on the night of his betrayal and trial, was now speaking boldly, proclaiming Christ to a horde of strangers and fellow Israelites, as well as any Romans present.  He explained the speaking in tongues was an effect of the filling of the Holy Spirit in order that they might all understand the followers and hear the good news [Gospel].

Over 3,000 people were added to the group of believers that day.  What an amazing example of the power of God's love and Holy Spirit. The apostles were no longer afraid, they began meeting in the Temple and synagogues again, and proclaiming the love of Jesus publicly and unashamedly.  What is unique about this is that the disciples changed instantly from being afraid to being bold.  They spoke in foreign tongues as if they had spoken them all their lives, yet they were unfamiliar with the languages. Many times the number of followers of Christ became converted due to this miracle.

May God fill all of us with His power, that we may live boldly for Him, and help others to love and accept Him as well!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Freedom in Christ

Jesus said, "...If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36 (NIV)

I have been struggling lately.  I wonder how much freedom we should allow others. How much freedom should I have? What is true freedom? Where does one draw the line between freedom and responsibility? If Jesus has set me free from my sins, why do I still dwell on them? Why can't I forgive myself?

Part of this is easy.  I have a hard time forgiving myself, because since I am aware of God's love and forgiveness, and His call to "Go forth and sin no more," I should not continue.  Because I am keenly aware of His mercy, I should accept and give mercy, and dwell not on failures, mine or others.  This does not mean that I accept sin, but rather that when I, or someone else repents, the sin is forgiven, and thrown as far as the East is from the West.  That is pretty far. I am grateful.  

Now the more difficult parts... I believe true freedom is internal. No one can make me do anything. It is all my choice. I don't even have to pay taxes. I can choose jail if I wish.  Personally this is not the option I choose, so I shall continue to pay my taxes.  To extend freedom to others, I must decide how much freedom do I pass on. Since I am not the one who granted freedom, I cannot limit freedom.  Jesus has granted freedom to all who call upon His glorious name.  I further believe that Christ limits freedom only in how much it impacts on my relationship with Him, or with others. I cannot tread on other people and call it freedom. 

As it is written (in the Scriptures):
  Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.a Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But the man who loves God is known by God.
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

a Or “We all possess knowledge,” as you say
The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Co 8:1-13

Of course, this does not pertain only to eating certain foods, or about false gods.  The principles can be applied universally to our lives.  To draw the line between freedom and responsibility, I must realize that I have to consider others as more important than myself.  This is the difficult part of life.  Christ said if anyone would follow Him, he must deny himself daily, take up his cross, and follow Him! 

Therefore, as a follower of Christ, I have freedom to do what I want. I do not have the freedom to trample on others' freedoms. I must extend at least the same grace to others as I want to receive from them, and from God.  For God does not hold blameless those who do not forgive others.

To make this more real, let's look at one practical application:

I like  beer, wine, and various other alcoholic drinks.  I also like the flavor (and effect) of coffee.  There are people for whom alcohol is a stumbling block. I once was so addicted to coffee that I could not live without it.  Now, I can take it or leave it. I can drink, or not drink.  If I am with someone that does not drink alcohol, I do not drink either. I know there are many who are still addicted to coffee, alcohol, or other things.  The grace is passed by allowing others to make their decisions as to whether they will drink alcohol or coffee or not.  I do not believe there is anything wrong with drinking either one in moderation.  However, if there is anyone who has a problem with drinking, or thinks it is wrong, I do not drink around or with them. Nor do I bring up matters of conscience by talking about drinking around them.

This post kinda took on a different twist as I typed it than I was thinking when I started, so I hope it makes sense to someone other than me.