Archive | September 2012

Thumb-Sucking

Every once and a while you hear something that makes you laugh out loud and you know it’s one of those things that will stick with you for a long time to come.  I went to my niece’s bridal shower yesterday.  Towards the end, my mother, sisters, a couple good friends and I had gathered around a table to chat.  The bride’s sister, Leah (also my niece, of course), joined us for a few minutes, and someone (it might have been me, but being a senior, I can’t remember) asked her about the shirt she had put on her baby for her naptime.  “Did I hear someone say you sewed the end of her sleeve so she can’t pull on her hair while she’s sleeping?”

“Yes!” Leah replied.  “Emmie’s gotten in the habit of tugging on her hair as she falls to sleep, so much so that she’s getting a bald spot!”  She explained that the shirt was a larger size and did not cramp her hand at all and that she only needed to wear it when she went down to sleep. Hopefully, by the time she needs to move up to the next size, the habit will be broken.  Leah went on to say that Emmie also sucks her thumb with the other hand, but she was not going to try to break that habit just yet, since she is still really little.

Well, you know when one mommy mentions thumb-sucking, there are going to be plenty of others—no matter how long ago it was that they had thumb-suckers—who are going to jump in there with tales of how they broke their child or grandchild of sucking their thumb or pacifier.  Our friend Marsha shared her story of trying to get her son Matt to stop sucking his thumb.   (I should add that Matt is now the father of three, soon to be four, children of his own!)

Marsha said, “Matt was about to go into kindergarten and I kept telling him that he had to stop sucking his thumb before he went to kindergarten. I told him, ‘The other kids are going to laugh at you and think you are a baby!’  The first day of school arrived and I reminded him again, ‘Don’t suck your thumb!  You don’t want the other kids to call you a baby, do you?’  Later, when the schoolday ended, Matt came rushing in the door all excited.  ‘Mommy!  Guess what?!  They all suck their thumbs!  And the teacher said it’s ok!’”  Can’t you just picture all those little kindergartners, lined up on their mats at naptime, sucking their thumbs?

It made me laugh!  You can just hear a little boy’s relief in his words.  The peer pressure was off!  Of course, Marsha must have felt a little frustrated.  Her ultimate tool in breaking his thumb-sucking had failed!  (The dentist eventually convinced Matt where she could not.)

We all know how to difficult it is to break a bad habit.  By the time we reach our age, we’ve all had to break many bad habits—and there may be some habits with which we are still struggling!  We may make a New Year’s resolution that this is the year we will finally do it—and then by the end of January that resolution has dissolved and we are right back to our old ways.  We may read self-help books, jump off the deep end and go gung-ho—and then fizzle out.  We feel bad about ourselves.  Where is my self-discipline, we wonder.  Why can I not gain victory over this thing?

Satan knows our weak spots and he will target them, using them against us to make us feel weak and defeated.  Our bad habits hinder our spiritual lives and that is exactly what Satan wants, for not only do they affect our mindset, but they also affect our testimony and our effectiveness for God.  We want to conquer and overcome those bad habits, but how?

I wish I could say I have had victory in all those areas of my life, but of course I have not.  We can conquer all of these bad habits once and for all!  For some of us (including me), however,  there may be some areas in which it seems it will be a constant struggle, until we have our glorified bodies and have been taken out of this world of sin.  That does not mean we should merely give up!  God does not call us to overcome without giving us the weapons with which we can do it!

Specific Scripture –Ephesians 6:17 calls the Word of God the Sword of the Spirit—our offensive weapon against Satan and temptation.  When Jesus was in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan(Matthew 4) the only weapon He used against him in this spiritual battle was the Scriptures.  When Satan tried to use His hunger against Him and tempt Him to turn the stones into bread, Jesus said, “ It is written..” and quoted Deuteronomy 8:3.  When Satan tried to get Jesus to throw Himself off the mountain and allow the angels to bear Him up, Jesus used Deuteronomy 6:16 against him.  And when once again Satan tempted Jesus, this time offering Him all the  kingdoms of the world if He would only worship him, Jesus quoted once again from Deuteronomy (6:13; 10:12, 20; 11:13…) and this time, we are told in Matthew 4:11, Satan left Him.

Just as Jesus used specific Scriptures against Satan, our weapon against specific temptations or bad habits is specific Scriptures.  For example, against a bad temper you might memorize Proverbs 15:1 and Ephesians 4:31.  To fight the temptation to gossip, it would be helpful to memorize James 3.  To break the habit of smoking, committing I Corinthians 6:19-20 to memory would be helpful.  That specific passage, along with Proverbs 23:2, 21, is the sword to use against over-eating.  Here are a few other examples:

Lust – Matthew 5:28,  Job 31:1

Pride – Proverbs 6:16-17,  James 4:10

Lack of Bible Reading – Psalms 119:9

Lack of prayer time – Philippians 4:6, I Thessalonians 5:16-18, Hebrews 4:16

Memorizing Scripture to help in those spiritual battles is essential, but whipping it out for use by quoting it out loud will empower you!  It will take your mind off the temptation and remind you that God is present to give you the victory!

Watch and Pray — Overcoming victory may come when we devout extra prayer time in asking for God’s strength in spiritual battles to come.  Jesus told his disciples, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)  When the disciples fell asleep and did not pray through the night as Jesus had had asked, they did not have the strength to face the temptations the next day, but forsook Him and fled.  Prayer before we fall asleep or in the middle of the night may avail much in bringing victory over temptation the next day.

Fasting – There are some sins and bad habits that have such a stranglehold on our lives that it seems we are helpless to overcome.  Mark 9:29 says, “And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”  Fasting is seldom used these days, I think—but why? It is not merely abstaining from food, but fervently praying during those times when we would normally be thinking of earthly matters (like eating); praying for God’s power, either for us or others.  Fasting, coupled with serious prayer and Bible reading brings victory.

Accountability – Breaking a bad habit or overcoming temptation is easier done when there is someone to whom we hold ourselves accountable.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”  We can make all kinds of excuses to ourselves when we give into temptation, but when we have to answer to someone else, it is not quit as easy.  We are comfortable with lying to ourselves, but when someone else is giving of their time and attention and heart to us, it is a different matter.

Replacement —  When we finally give up the bad habit or sin that has impeded us, it is a good thing to replace it with something good.  When a baby finally gives up her bottle, Mama replaces it with a sippy cup.  When a drunk gives up alcohol, he will replace it with some other beverage.  A fitting replacement for criticism or gossip might be praise.  I Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Childishness is replaced by maturity.  II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  Our old carnal nature is replaced by a new spiritual, eternal nature and we are given a new spirit and a new heart (Ezekiel 18:31) and even a new song!  (Psalm 40:3)

When conquering a bad habit or a sin that is hindering your spiritual life, there are two promises of God that are important to remember.  The first is this: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13)  And the second is this simple reminder: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

No more thumb-sucking, ok?

Men of Steel

Robbie sat up straight in his chair, a huge grin on his face.  Who were these strange men standing at attention across the room?  He couldn’t see their faces, but he just knew they were here to visit him.  They loomed silently over Daddy and Mommy.  Cool!  But wait!  What was Daddy doing?  Before either of the men could walk across the room and shake his hand, Daddy picked them up, one by one, folding the wooden frames behind them and carried them away.   Robbie’s lower lip stuck out as he pouted, showing his displeasure.  Aww, man! 

The six-foot-tall men of steel Robbie was so thrilled about weren’t really made of steel at all, and they weren’t actually men, either, for that matter.  They were life-size cardboard cutouts of knights that we plan to use for the medieval banquet I’ve been working on for our church.  I have to admit—they look awesome and very lifelike now that they are standing upright on the frames Bob made for them.

I studied their armor carefully as we worked on them.  How on earth could anyone even walk in all that, let alone fight in it?  Seeing how awkward and uncomfortable it looked, how long was it before wearing suits of armor fell out of favor?  How heavy was it, really? My curiosity caused me to turn to the internet, of course.

Armor has been around for thousands of years, of course.  Early armor began as hardened leather, covering different “important” body parts—torso, head, legs—and backed up by a shield.  Remember when King Saul tried to get young David to wear his armor into battle with Goliath?  By then brass and iron had replaced leather.

Progress eventually saw these materials replaced by partial plates of steel and chain mail, covering those different areas of the body.  Over the centuries, however, armor gradually became perfected until by the fifteenth century AD knights had become essentially walking fortresses with their full steel plate armor.  Weighing up to fifty pounds, these suits of armor were custom-fitted and very expensive, thus they were available only to the wealthy who rode on horseback, so perhaps the weight and maneuverability was not as much an issue as I had imagined.  The full steel armor protected medieval knights from most weapons of that time for it was virtually impenetrable unless fired upon by a crossbow or musket at very close range.  As firearms became more developed, the full suit of armor was less effective and it gradually fell out of use during the 1700’s.  Hmm, that was longer than I imagined, but I suppose if it came to choosing full protection over comfort, I’d choose protection, too.

The suits of armor also had me thinking about what the Bible calls “the armor of God.”  Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a description of that armor.  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…”

Remember, the steels suits of armor would not come along for many centuries after Paul wrote these words to the Ephesians.  They would have pictured in their minds the type of armor of the day—which was still very similar to what King Saul had offered David.  David knew, however that no earthly armor could protect him from the wrath and power of the heavily-armored giant, Goliath.  David went forward to battle clad only in the armor of God.  “And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.  And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.  And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.  And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him…  And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.  And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.  And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine…  Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.”  (I Samuel: 4-7, 38-40, 45)

What was this armor that David wore?  First of all, he had his loins girt about with truth.  Goliath screamed his curses at God and his taunts at the army of Israel, but David knew the truth—his God was far mightier than this giant of the Philistines.  He had no need to fear him.  Neither do we, when we remember this truth, “…Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4)

David wore the breastplate of righteousness, as well.  God called him “a man after mine own heart.” (Acts 13:22)  The breastplate guards the heart and God calls us to guard our hearts against sin and temptation and anything that might draw us away from Him.  “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  (Proverbs 4:23)

Can you imagine going into battle bare-footed?  No matter how heavily armored you were, without shoes you would be vulnerable as you winced in pain at every little stone you stepped upon; every obstacle you tripped over.  It is only when we stand upon the firm foundation of the Gospel of Christ; when we have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” that we can move swiftly and with surety across the spiritual battlefield.  When our faith is based on Jesus Christ, crucified, buried and risen again, victory is sure.  “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:… [This is the Gospel.]  Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? …But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  (I Corinthians 15:1-4, 54b-55, 57-58)

David carried with him the shield of faith.  Goliath could not see it, but it was there all the same, protecting David from any deadly thing the giant might hurl at him whether by word or weapon.  His threats and taunts did not faze the shepherd boy; no sword or spear could have touched him, for the faith David had in his God was impenetrable.  Satan tries his best to make us quiver with fear with his fiery darts.  He tries to make us doubt.  When we are protected by the strong shield of faith, however, his slings and arrows will fall by the wayside and we will move forth undaunted in the battle.

The name JesusYeshua in Hebrew—means salvation.  When the Bible tells us to put on the helmet of salvation, that helmet is Jesus.  O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation [Yeshua], thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.” (Psalm 140:7)  He covers us first of all with salvation, but then He also keeps our minds and thoughts when we are yielded to Him.  He tells us, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5) and promises us peace, hope and understanding.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  (Isaiah 26:3)  “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love; and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”  (I Thessalonians 5:8)

Goliath came into battle armed with a huge spear and a sword.  David came with five little stones, a sling—and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  He had a real relationship with the Lord.  He knew the Scriptures, and he knew the promises of God.  He had the assurance of God that He was with him, and he turned that “sword” against Goliath.  “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.  This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.”  (I Samuel:17:45-47)  When we are in the midst of a battle, we discover our best offense is the Word of God.  When It is a part of our daily lives; when we have memorized It and meditated upon It, It will be there when we need It.  The rest of the armor is defense.  The Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is our offensive weapon.

Verses 11-17 of Ephesians 6 describe the armor of God.  I think verses 10 and 18 act as parentheses to them, ““Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might…  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…”    David knew he could not wear Saul’s armor for it would weigh him down.   We look at the armor knights of old wore and marvel that they could fight with something so heavily cumbersome upon them.  Armor would not do them any good if they did not have the energy and strength to use it.  So, too, we must go in the strength and power and might of the Lord.  Prayer is the energizer that helps us to do spiritual battle and persevere.

Each piece of God’s armor is essential, as are His power and strength.  We can face each fight that comes our way knowing that victory in the end is sure, for the battle is the Lord’s.

Ah-h-h-h-h-h!

The windows and doors are open.  The air conditioning is turned off.  Cool breezes waft through the house every now and then.  At last, the long, hot summer seems to be over and autumn is on its way!  A few trees are just beginning to change color.  In a couple weeks our street will be a myriad of fall colors.  I’ve seen v-formations and heard the honking of geese as they wing their way south across a bright blue sky.  There is the smell of pumpkin pie in the air at this very moment—a treat for Bob for later today.  Pumpkin pie is one of his favorites!

I love the changing of the seasons, don’t you?  That first snowfall, whether it is the slow, lazy drop of big white flakes, or a sudden flurry.  The awakening of spring as birds sing, flowers bloom, and the grass and trees begin to green up.   The gradual warming and promise of summer fun in the sun.  And then after too much sun—the welcome relief from the heat as autumn rolls around once again.

Laurie was just telling me last night that she brought out her fall flower arrangements, linens and knick-knacks yesterday.  She lives in a land of palm trees, where the climate is sunny and mild almost all year long.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  Palm trees, evergreens and jungle do not change color, though, and she misses that, so decorating her home in conjunction with the seasons back home in the States is important to her.  Her Ecuadorian in-laws would never decorate their homes the way Laurie does, but they love their gringa and appreciate her gringa ways!

I am thankful that I live in a part of the world where we have seasons—and such pretty ones.  Our four seasons are much more enjoyable than simply having a wet season and a dry season, don’t you think?  God created the seasons.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:14, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years…”  Furthermore, as long as the earth is in existence, there will always be seasons according to Genesis 8:22. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”  Daniel 2:21 tells us that the timing of the change of seasons is totally in His hands.  “And he changeth the times and the seasons…

Just as the climatic seasons are in His control, so are the seasons of this world’s history.  Daniel 2:21 continues by saying, “…He removeth kings, and setteth up kings…”  In times like this, when the world is a scary, uncertain place, and even our own nation’s future seems to hang in the balance, it is important to remember that the King of Kings is still on the throne and things like elections and diplomacy and wars will succeed or fail according to His will and His plans for this old earth and His coming again.  When we are inclined to be fearful or anxious, what a blessing it is to know that we can just rest in Him to work it all out.

When I think of our four beautiful seasons, I am reminded of the seasons of our own personal lives as well.  Youth—the springtime of our lives.  Young adulthood—summertime when we are busy raising our families, establishing careers, etc.  Mature middle-age—autumn when the children are raised and we begin to slow down a bit.  Old age—the winter of our lives.  Each has its blessings and its challenges.  Whatever the season of our lives, the Lord has work for us to do for Him and He promises fruit for our labor if we remain committed to Him.  “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”  (Psalm 1:3)  Even those of us in our senior years should be encouraged—God is not through with us yet!  “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing. “ (Psalm 92:13, 14)  No matter the season of our lives, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  (Galatians 6:9)

Ecclesiastes 3 talks about the seasons of this world and of our lives.  “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace… He hath made everything beautiful in His time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11a)  He hath made everything beautiful in His time.  It is wonderful to experience the blessings of the different seasons of our lives, but harder to understand the trials and challenges that come within those seasons, as well.  It brings me, and I hope you, peace and comfort to know, even when times are difficult, that He hath made everything beautiful in His time.   Trust Him.

Thank you, Lord.

La Quinceañera Gabriela

My sweet Gabi turns 15 this week!  Time goes by so quickly when it comes to the kids, doesn’t it?  I remember celebrating her first birthday with her–when she was only ten months old!  The Naranjos were about to return to Ecuador and I didn’t want to miss out on her first birthday, so I invited all the aunts and uncles and cousins, as well as Grammy and Grampy, of course, over for a birthday party and a send-off for Laurie and Fernando and Sara and Gabi.  Wow.  As I think about it now, what a little family they were back then.  Sara and Gabi were our first grandchildren and there were just the four Naranjos altogether.  Today they are eight—with six children!

Another one of Gabi’s birthdays was memorable.  Her fourth birthday was on September 11, 2001—the day of the terrorist attack.  I remember sitting in the rocking chair early in the morning, with both Gabi and Sara on my lap, talking about what a fun day it was going to be, when suddenly before our eyes on the television screen an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center.  We finally had to tear ourselves away from the TV and concentrate on making a little four-year-old’s birthday a happy one.  Bob and I didn’t have long to celebrate, though.  Robbie was getting sicker by the hour and we knew as soon as the cake and presents were over we had to get him to the emergency room.  That was the beginning of another month-long stay at the hospital, and the turning point from which he never fully recovered his life the way it had been before.

We’ve been able to celebrate a few of Gabi’s birthdays with her, but many others have taken place down in Ecuador.  Last night the whole Naranjo family had a surprise party for her—although knowing our smart girl, I have a feeling it wasn’t a big surprise!  Her older girl cousin took her out for the day and got her all gussied up for the party.  Some of the others brought in live music (a big tradition down there), and her aunt took charge of planning and preparing the menu.  I have yet to talk to Gabi about it, but Laurie said the kids all had a great time.

Gabriela is more like me than most of the other grandchildren.  (Have I mentioned lately that I now have 11 grandchildren?)  Gabi kind of marches to the beat of a different drummer.  She is very creative and enjoys art, making “movies,” directing her siblings in skits, etc.  She’s never been too interested in girly clothes or make-up or hair—although lately we have seen her experimenting just a little.  She is a beautiful girl, nonetheless, even au natural.  She is quick-witted and loves to tease and pull pranks on everyone—especially Grandma!  I used to tell her how “special” she was.  Her answer was to say, “Oh, sure, Grandma!  That’s what they say about handicapped kids!”  Well, she’s special to me, but maybe the better word is “unique.”  She certainly is that!

I hope Gabi realizes how special she is to the Lord, too.  He is the One who lovingly made her the unique, beautiful person that she is.  Gabi is at that age when she is still a little unsure of herself.  Most of us went through that phase in our teenage years.    Some of us never outgrow it and struggle with self-confidence and self-worth issues all our lives.  If we could see ourselves the way God sees us, though, and understand the value He places on us (He sent His Son to be our sacrifice, after all!) and the great, everlasting love He has for us, how could we ever doubt our worth?  Psalm 139 says, “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.  Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.  Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it… For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well… How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.(vs. 1-6, 13-14, 17-18)

My message to Gabi, and to all of us is this:  You are special!  You are unique!  God says he made you wonderful and marvelous!  He knows everything about you; He is always with you; and He is always thinking about you!  I love verses 17 and 18.  He is always thinking of each one of us personally!  Only an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God could do that—and yet He cares about little old me and little old you!  That should certainly give each of us confidence and self-worth—not because of anything we have done for ourselves, but because of the work He has done in us and for us, and because He continues to keep us wrapped in His love!

Feliz cumpleaños, my sweet quinceañera Gabi!  I love you, and you are very, very special to me!

Kings and Queens, and Castle Dreams

I spent most of last week dreaming about kings and castles and everything “medieval.”  Our church is having a medieval banquet in November and my friend Debby and I are in charge of pulling it all together.  We have ordered materials to turn our gym into a castle.  We’ve poured over websites that sell inexpensive costumes for some of the key players who will be in attendance—a king and queen, court jester, minstrel, lords, ladies and knight and so on.  We have an awesome menu planned, striving to stay close to what and how people of that time period would have eaten.  We are still working on pulling together a fun program and great entertainment.  Debby is an awesome partner with whom to work.  She is extremely talented in decorating and cares as much about the little details as I do.  She is passionate about making the banquet an evening to remember for everyone who attends.

The theme of our banquet is “Majesty.”  Our goal is to focus on the majesty and glory of our Lord God.  We chose I Chronicles 29:11 as our key verse–“Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.”  There will be a lot of fun and laughter throughout the program, but in the end we hope we all will go home rejoicing in the worship and exaltation of the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Earthly kings and queens and kingdoms have and will all pass away.  Throughout the ages, those in power who reveled in their own strength and supremacy will ultimately find their authority and dominance have crumbled and washed away like sand castles on the shore.  Jeremiah 13:18 says, “Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.”

The Bible tells us that someday Jesus will return to this earth upon a white horse and with His army to fight the final battle to end Satan’s power.  Revelation 19 tells us, “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  (v. 16) He will create a new heaven and a new earth and finally “…the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it.   (Rev 21:24), acknowledging that there is no one other than the King of Kings who is worthy to receive honor and glory.  Revelation 4:11 tells us, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

When you read the book of Revelation you will be struck with the very different view of Christ that we see compared to His appearance in His first coming to earth two thousand years ago.  He came the first time as the Son of God and Son of Man, a servant and a sacrifice for us.  In His second coming He is not the humble, dark haired man we think of, but the Judge and King, white-haired and ablaze with glory.  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.  (Revelation 1:13-18)  When I finally realized that Jesus in Heaven does not sit on the throne at the right hand of the Father as that meek and humble Man, but as the glorified King, I began to visualize him differently as I approached the throne in prayer.  Seeing Him in that way makes it even more awesome and humbling that I have the privilege to come to Him at any time.

We are planning to use the chorus “Majesty” throughout our medieval banquet.  Rather than directing glory to earthly kings of any time period, we want our worship to center on Jesus, King of King and Lord of Lords!

Majesty worship His Majesty
Unto Jesus, be all glory,
Power and praise
Majesty, Kingdom authority
Flow from His throne,
Unto his own, His anthem raise.

So exalt, lift up on high
The Name of Jesus
Magnify, come glorify,
Christ Jesus the King
Majesty, worship His Majesty
Jesus who died, now glorified,
King of all Kings.