Pause and think about it!

On Thanksgiving Day in November 2002, after teaching my three classes at the Bible College from 8am to 3pm, a taxi took me about 45 minutes across the city to join missionaries who were celebrating American Thanksgiving, complete with turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Although not my first time in Africa, it was my first time to celebrate Thanksgiving outside America. I was overwhelmed that day by the sight and smell of familiar food but also by the gratitude those missionaries expressed for blessings. I was thankful the missionaries were able to join together and celebrate the Thanksgiving of their homeland—one of the few days each year they had such a bountiful spread. It was a special privilege for me to be included as a member of their team and family.

That American Thanksgiving dinner at the missionary’s home was perhaps the most significant Thanksgiving I’ve celebrated in my life. We ate at a table of plenty in the midst of a people in the village who had neither a table nor plenty. We sat on chairs whose legs rested on a tiled floor in the midst of a people who lived in huts with dirt for floors. Electricity was intermittent. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Most huts had one bare bulb hanging down in the middle of the room. Temperatures in the tropics were always hot and air conditioning to ease perspiration was virtually non-existent. Termite mounds were as tall as the huts.

There was an obvious contrast to be seen between American prosperity and the lack among nearby residents, many who did not have an indoor toilet or running water. In most areas, a water pump could be found, but there was no choice of hot or cold water. Pumped water was poured into a large tub outside the hut in full view of passers-by, and the children in the family were immersed and washed one after the other. For sure, they had not experienced a table spread with an abundance and variety of foods from which they could eat until there was no room to take another bite.

Many developing countries have struggled to empower their people across all socioeconomic groups. There are those of higher rank who live well and shop freely, yet a large percentage of their citizens live below poverty level. On every trip I’ve made to one of these countries,  I came back to the comfort of my home in America with an overwhelming feeling of God’s mercy and provision. Why us?

I think this question was answered several years ago by a visiting teacher from Nigeria. I asked what made him want to come to the USA, to which he responded: “I read about America and their God and how He was blessing them. The more I read, the more I determined to come to America and meet their God. I thought perhaps I could convince Him to come back to Africa with me and prosper my country.”

Those of us in America would do well to ponder the Nigerian brother’s words. The American holiday of Thanksgiving traces its roots all the way back to 1621, when colonists held a harvest feast with local natives. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln declared an official Thanksgiving Day in late November. In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt consented to make it an official holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November. Over the years, due to financial prosperity and advanced technology, specific traditions and customs associated with the holiday have evolved from watching afternoon football games to marking the beginning of the holiday shopping season. The basic components of the holiday, celebrating food and the fall harvest and giving thanks with family, have remained over time.

My research came up nine other countries of the world that celebrate a National Thanksgiving Day: Canada, China, Germany, Grenada, Japan, Norfolk Island, South Korea, Liberia, and Viet Nam.* In all due respect, neither the United States or any other country can lay claim to “thanksgiving.” Verses are scattered throughout the bible reminding us to be thankful, to come to God with thanksgiving in our hearts, to give thanks for all of His wonderful gifts. Whether poor or rich with wealth, whether sick or ill in health, our hearts should be full of thanksgiving to our God for giving His Son with thanksgiving so that we might have life abundantly here and now: A life that carries us into life eternally with no distinctions between us and any other of His children who inherit eternal life.

Reflect on His grace and mercy and express thanksgiving to Him! Here are a few scriptures to fuel your thanksgiving:

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD. –Ezra 3:11

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. – Psa. 69:30

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. -Psa. 95:2

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. –Psa.100:4 From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. –Jer. 30:19

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. – 2 Cor. 4:15

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. -2 Cor. 9:11

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. –Eph.5:4 3

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. –Phil.4:6

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl, Reprinted 11/14/19 from The Alabaster Box, Vol. 25 No. 11.

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

 

VOICES FOR SPEAKING. Some are low, some are high. Some are deep, some are shrill. Some are loud, some are soft. Some are happy, some are sad. Some sound sweet, some sound sharp. I’ve often complained about the pitch of my voice. Since God called me to teach, why didn’t He give me a deep, commanding, soothing voice—the kind that causes people to want to listen?  I’m not sure, but we all have to overcome our dislike for what He gives us and use what we have to His honor and glory and the blessing of others.

Different voices are appealing to different folks. Some people like quiet teaching and praying. Others don’t feel like they’ve been to church if the sermon isn’t delivered in loud, forceful tones. In fact, some people confuse loud with anointing. But most of us know that volume doesn’t measure the presence of Almighty God for sometimes He chooses to manifest Himself in a “still small voice.”

VOICES FOR SINGING. I am an eclectic when it comes to music. I like all styles. I enjoy the old hymns and the new ones, the old choruses and the contemporary ones. I enjoy opera as well as guitar led praise and worship.  I’ve heard many wonderful singers with all kinds of voices that are a blessing to many in the body of Christ. I used to listen to Billy Graham crusades just to hear Ethel Waters sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” And I can still listen for hours to the singing of Luciano Pavarotti.

As to the voice used for singing there are many varieties and preferences. Known and unknown. Whether it is David Phelps or Jessy Dixon or Cece Winans or Vestal Goodman or Bernice Byrd or Frances Dunn, or my niece, Jennifer—all are identified with the sound of their voice.  When they sing, something happens in my mind, in my emotions, and in my Spirit. In fact, I can trace victory over a certain circumstance in my life to a moment some years ago when Cissy was singing “My Anchor Holds…in spite of the storm!”

Last year at a family gathering, my brother, sister, and I got together and sang the night away. Some precious friends had gifted my sister with a beautiful new ivory baby grand digital piano so we all took turns playing to initiate it, then our daughters invited us to sing. Memories were flowing along with the laughter as we tried to recall the lyrics of the songs we had sung so frequently when we were kids. For two or three years when we were young, we went with our dad to sing in a number of country churches. I still have the receipt for the accordion my parents bought for me to accompany our little trio. As we reminisced we realized our brother was only four to six years old during that time. No wonder the people seemed to enjoy our singing—they were obviously taken with that cute little guy singing lead at the top of his lungs. 

As I got older, I sang with friends, church groups, choirs, duets, trios, and quartets, always aware of the fact that I was NOT a good singer—I just loved to sing. It didn’t take much for me to realize that singing was not my gift. In the Bloomington Church I attended, the choir director assigned me a five-word solo part—a bridge—in the cantata, and I botched it. I know that God gives us all a “new song” and I still love to sing—in the congregation, in the choir, or in my private worship time but prefer to leave the “special singing” to others more gifted.

JOYFUL NOISE. One of my favorite scriptures on this matter is Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. In fact, six out of the seven times this command occurs in the Psalms it refers to singing:  Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands (Psa 66:1). Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob (Psa 81:1). O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation (Psa 95:1). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psa 95:2). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise (Psa 98:4). With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King (Psa 98:6). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands (Psa 100:1). It must be that God’s heavenly filter of love processes our off key singing so that when our joyful noise rises, He only hears beautiful music.

Before I was married, I lived alone and was accustomed to singing as loudly as I wished in the privacy of my own home. I was making a joyful noise! However, soon after our marriage, my husband asked me one day to please not sing. I was offended and asked how could I release my joy if not in song? He was serious about his request; my singing played on his nerves. Soon I learned why. Before he met me, he had kept company with an opera singer. I knew there was no way I could compete with that voice! I would just have to save my singing for times he was out of the house.

However, after a year or two of married life, we began to get out the old hymnals at home and sing through songs together—in German and in English—but it caught me by utter surprise when my husband started asking me to sing in church. By then he had grown to like my twangy voice and nasal tones—or more likely his love for me produced deafness to them! I was thankful the Lord kept our congregation supplied with many talented and capable musicians so I was simply not needed. He disagreed and began asking me to sing solos.

I suppose he became weary of my excuses so he stopped asking me in advance. Instead, after we arrived at the church for a service, he would come to me and say “I’d like you to sing this song this morning.” In obedience to my pastor-husband, I would sing (mostly not to embarrass myself or him by arguing). However, when we got home, I would say, (occasionally prefaced with “please”), “Don’t do that to me again.” He obviously didn’t hear. Before long, he was asking me to make a loose leaf folder of his favorite songs and keep them at my seat to sing on a moment’s notice. “Lord,” I prayed, “I want to be obedient to my husband, but You and I both know I’m not called to sing!” The Lord ignored my prayer. He did not deliver me from my internal conflict. My husband disregarded all my protests in spite of the many times I explained to him why “I” shouldn’t sing and preference should be given to others. The longer and the better my husband knew me, the more he seemed to like my voice.

Reluctantly I acquiesced to his requests knowing the Lord could not bless the people through a wife who held anger and resentment toward her husband. I realized it was a pride issue and gave it to the Lord. My desire to be in harmony with my husband was stronger than my desire not to sing. Sometime later, we visited another church and the pastor asked if we had a musical selection to share. You guessed it! My husband volunteered me! I nearly slid under the pew. To sing in the comfort of my own congregation who knew and loved me was very different from singing in front of people I’d never met. However, it would do no good nor would it be appropriate for me to protest. The Lord was strengthening me to respond without anger or resentment—to sing, not only as unto the Lord, but also as a gift to my husband. A few times in recent years, I have actually volunteered to sing. That’s victory!

THE VOICE OF THE HEART. Years ago I heard a story about a group of monks who every year at Easter time got together and sang the Gospel story in what was called a cantata. Because they lived in a very remote region, it was most unusual for any visitors to come by. However, one year they invited a specially trained choir to come sing the Gospel story for them. The voices were wonderful and they were thrilled with the rendition. After the visitors left and the monks went back to prayer, they heard the Lord say, “Where was my choir this year?” “Why Lord,” they said, “we brought in the best this year. Their voices were clear. They sang in tune. Their harmonies were exhilarating.” To this the Lord answered, “But I’m not looking for the best voices; I’m looking for pure hearts.” In other words, man hears the voice but God hears the heart.

In three different passages, David said: I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah (Psa.3:4). I cried unto God with my voice, [even] unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me (Psa.77:1). Both times he says, God heard him. And when he was hiding in the cave, David said: I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication (Psa.142.1). Hundreds of years later, the Apostle Paul recounted the story of David and commented that God gave this testimony: I have found David the [son] of Jesse, a man after mine own heart (Acts 13:22). When God heard David’s prayers, he heard them through the condition of his heart, not the tone or quality of his voice.

The Apostle Peter writes, For the eyes of the Lord [are] over the righteous, and His ears [are open] unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord [is] against them that do evil (1 Pe.3:12).  Again, we see that God hears the prayers of those whose hearts are in the right condition. This begins with a prayer of repentance. Many testimonies are given by people who were selfish, did not honor or worship God, yet when a calamity arose and they cried out to Him, a miracle happened. At that moment, their heart so earnestly desired to know God, that He heard their prayer.  It’s not the words we say, nor the tone or volume of the voice that moves God, rather it is the condition of our heart.

THE VOICE OF JESUS. When we sing in the congregation, we are never singing solos. Jesus sings with us! For both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto You [God] (Heb.2:11-12). Furthermore, He says we will recognize His voice! Jesus says, My sheep hear my voice; and I know them and they follow me (John 10:27). The Greek word used here is akouo which means more than just listen; it means to hear with understanding

The Pharisees contended that they were the religious leaders and as such were the ones who “called the shots.” Jesus, however, neither submitted to them nor to their law. This angered the Pharisees who continually opposed Him and demanded that the people align with them and ignore Jesus.  It was in this context that Jesus describes them as false shepherds and pointed out: My sheep hear my voice. They hear their master and understand what He is saying. He calls His own sheep by name, and They know His voice and can distinguish it from that of a stranger and a stranger will they not follow. Anyone who has a pet animal understands the simplicity of this statement. The dog knows the voice of his master—how much more do we as human beings with developed mental faculties discern the various voices in our lives—including the voice of Jesus. Most of us do not hear an audible sound, but deep down inside we KNOW what He’s saying. The times we aren’t sure, it’s usually because we want Him to be saying a certain thing to us and He is not confirming it. 

It’s interesting to me that a friend I haven’t talked with for twenty or thirty years can call me on the phone, and the minute I hear the voice, I recognize it!  Voices are so unique that they are stamped indelibly in our mind. Even when we can’t immediately put a name with the voice, we remember it. Adam and Eve knew God’s voice:  they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden (Gen.3:8).

VOICE OF JOY. In Jeremiah’s day, he prophesied that the voice of praise would cease because of the iniquities and idolatries of God’s people. The voice of God’s prophets was neither heard nor heeded and therefore no longer did they hear the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride, or of the songs that used to grace the weddings. Although these are voices we love to hear, it is threatened here that there will be nothing to rejoice in as a result of disobedience on the part of God’s people. There will be no joy of weddings; no celebrations. Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth (joy) and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate (Jer.7:34; 16:9).

Isn’t it still true today that the comforts of life are abandoned and everything that makes us happy and joyful disappears whenever unrighteousness prevails. Just as in Jeremiah’s time, there is no joy of prosperity when sinful acts have swallowed up our profits. As a result, people look around and see no reason to rejoice. This unfolds quickly right before our eyes. Our disobedience, and that of others, mars the joy of even the most cheerful. 

The wonderful thing about our relationship with the Lord is how quickly situations can be reversed. God intervened then, and still intervenes today, on behalf of His people: Thus says the LORD…Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know…I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me…and …Again there shall be heard in this place…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:  Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD…(Jer.33:1-12).

Our voice interprets our emotions.

VOICES. Whether soft or loud, timid or bold, sweet or brash, soprano or tenor, we identify with voices. Voice inflection varies from language to language but those fluent in the language identify the spoken tones and pitches with various emotions of joy, sorrow, despair, panic, relief. Whether or not we hear God speak to us in an audible voice as He did to Paul or in a still small voice as He did to Elijah, He does speak to us. We recognize His voice—it brings conviction of sin or commendation for faithfulness such as “Enter into the joy of the Lord.” 

It is with our heart that we hear His voice, the voice of love, peace, and joy. It is with our voice that we give Him praise from our heart. And it is with joy that He hears our voice giving Him praise and worship.

Reprinted from (c) The Alabaster Box, Vol 18 No 05 1993, by C. Yvonne Karl.   yvonnekarl@gmail.com

 

JOY!

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save; He will rejoice over thee with JOY; He will rest in His love; He will JOY over thee with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Do not grieve, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Introduction

Some people think unless something spectacular happens, Jesus didn’t show up for the church service. However, we know when we come together as the people of God, He is in our midst, for Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). In fact, He said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). So lift up your countenance (put a smile on your face!) and rejoice. The King of kings is always with you wherever you are, whatever your circumstances.

Not only is Jesus WITH you, He wants to live IN you. “For it is God which works IN you both to will and to do HIS good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is IN you, which you have of God, and you are not  your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).

Is He your God? Have you been washed in the blood of Jesus? Have you repented of your sins? Are you putting off the “old man” (your old ways, habits, language, attitudes,  desires)  and  putting on the “new man” (Jesus’ language, attitudes, desires)? (See Eph. 4:20-32). If so, you can confess according to Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord MY God in the midst of ME is mighty! He dwells in the midst of you, and He is mighty! He lives way down deep in your soul (in the midst—the middle—of your heart). He is the mighty God sitting on the throne of your heart.

God is  mighty.

What does it mean for God to be MIGHTY in you?

He is all-powerful

  • He is able to perform supernatural deeds deep inside your heart.
  • He enables you to WAIT and be of good courage while waiting.
  • He enables you to FORGIVE those who falsely accuse you, who betray you, who use you.
  • He enables you to RESIST the devil thus giving no opportunity to him. It’s HIS enabling power—not yours! You would faint in the day of adversity without His power to sustain you. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
  • He is mighty!

He is all-sufficient

  • In Him there is no lack, and if He lives in you, then He brings all His provisions with Him and shares them with you.
  • “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want (lack)…” (Psa. 23:1)
  • “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).
  • “My God shall supply all your (and my) need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
  • He is Jehovah­ Jireh, the I AM.
  • He has provided.
  • He is mighty!

He is all-knowing

  • He knows what you have need of even before you ask (Matt. 6:8).
  • He knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of your heart (Heb. 4:12).
  • He is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (if you permit Him to do so) (Jude 24).
  • He is mighty!

He is always present.

  • “Lo, I am with you ALWAY” (Matt. 28:20).
  • He is present in storms of life (like the disciples tossed upon the sea).
  • He is present in the fires of life–when things get hot, like He was as the fourth man in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednigo.
  • He is ever-interceding for you (Heb. 7:25) that you will not bow to idols, not yield to temptation, not allow satan to “sift you like wheat,” and that you will endure hardness like a good soldier and not give up but be faithful!
  • He is mighty!

God will…

If this mighty God lives in your heart, and sits on the throne way down deep in your soul, in the midst of you, then…

He Will Save.

  • This comes from the Hebrew word which means He will ease your burden. Stay yoked to Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He invites you to come to him if you are weary and heavy ladened (Matt. 11:28-29).
  • If you are being crushed by the burdens you carry, you need to learn how to cast care on him (1 5:7).
  • He will save you!

He will rejoice over you with joy.

  • The Hebrew declares: He will enjoy you! He will say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” When He sees your obedient heart and your desire to let Him control your life, you really enter into the JOY of the How He delights in His people! His joy–not yours–is your strength (Neb. 8:10).
  • He will rejoice over you with joy!

He will rest in His love.

  • He has already paid the price for your salvation.
  • The Hebrew word says here that He will hold His peace.
  • He hangs onto the accomplished work of redemption.
  • His love for you was so great that He gave His very life for you.
  • He rests in that love.
  • He is persuaded that He is able to keep whatever you commit unto Him. Commit your very life, your future, your family, your church, your health, everything unto Him. Now you can be persuaded that He is able to keep whatever you commit to Him (2 Tim.1:12). You, too, can rest in His love!

He will joy over you with singing.

  • This is one of my favorite In Hebrew it means, He’s having a party!
  • What is He celebrating?
    • Your spiritual birthday!
    • Your spiritual growth!
    • Your victories!
    • Your perseverance!
    • Your faithfulness in times of stress, poverty, failures, disappointments as well as in times of joy and success!
  • He parties with singing.
  • He loves singing – especially singing over you with joy.
  • In fact, Jesus stands and sings praise to God in the midst of the Church (Heb. 2:12).

Who is the Church?

  • You are! Every individual who is born again is a part of the Church.
  • Jesus sings out through you when you sing praise to God.
  • He sings with the gathered Church when we sing praise to His Father God.
  • He celebrates!
  • He has a party with singing.

Conclusion

That’s why out of your belly (innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water; out from the throne of your heart; out from where THE LORD YOUR GOD  DWELLS;  where He is mighty (John 7:58).

  • Personalize the scripture.
  • Make it relevant to your life.
  • Remember it: The Lord MY God in the midst of ME is mighty. He will save ME; He will rejoice over ME with joy; He will rest in His love for ME; He will joy over ME with singing.
  • Hallelujah!

Amen.

SUMMARY

“The Lord our God in the midst of you is mighty. He will save. He will deliver you”

  • from all the power,
  • from all the guilt,
  • from all the pollution of your sins;

and when thus saved,

  • “He will rejoice over you with JOY.”
  • “He will rest in His love.”
    • He will show the same love to you that He did of old to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • “He will JOY over you with singing.”
  • Your conversion will be a subject of peculiar delight and exultation to God Himself! There will be a more than ordinary joy in heaven when you come to God through Christ Jesus. (Zeph.3:17). [This is] the JOY of the LORD that is your strength (Neh.8:10c). (cf. Adam Clarke Commentary)

© C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Volume 08 Number 09 1993

Updated October 2019

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

Halloween    Hallow (holy) een  (Evening)

Christian Halloween – Understand the Origins
Christian Halloween? Halloween is undoubtedly more misunderstood than any other holiday event. Is it hocus-pocus superstition or truly Christian focused? It can appear to be nothing more than a pagan event dreamed up by some deviant opportunist and/or candy and costume manufacturer, but All Hallows Eve was actually intended to be a righteous opportunity purposed in history past to commemorate old saints. 

 Halloween, which comes from the word All Hallows Eve is tied directly to All Saints Day celebrated on November 1 of each year to commemorate the old saints who have past on. These “saints” were heroes and martyrs for the Christian Faith.

Christian Halloween – The Pros and Cons. We understand that much of Halloween has manipulated and “tricked” by the secular pagan world and much of what happens on Halloween is far from spiritual. In fact, some of the Halloween traditions have pagan origins.

The Bible doesn’t speak directly about Halloween, but some biblical principles apply. One thing is clear — all pagan practices are to be avoided. Witchcraft, occult practices, sorcery, etc. are strictly forbidding in the Bible (Exodus 22:18; Acts 8:9-24; Acts 16, 19).

It is obvious that a small child dressing up as a princess or a cowboy isn’t involving themselves with witchcraft, so what is a biblical stance on Halloween?

Parents, the decision is up to you. If you decide Halloween is something fun for your children, make sure they are kept far away from the evil aspects of Halloween. When believers participate in anything (even Halloween), their attitudes, dress, and behavior should glorify Christ (Philippians 1:27). That’s why it’s great when churches have special harvest festivals, trunk or treat. and other alternate ways to celebrate Halloween to provide an alternative for the cultural trick or treat with witchcraft and other death and demonic symbols.

Christian Halloween? – Take Advantage!

  • Halloween can be a “hands on” learning opportunity about God’s control over Satan and the fallen angels. God keeps them held powerless according to His will. Christian Halloween and All Saints Day come together in purposeful unity as the one protects and covers the other. It is a time for the Gospel to devour the ghouls.

Like Halloween, other religious holidays have also been secularized. For example, Christmas should be centered around the “Christ Mass” or the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, but these days Santa Claus is more worshipped than Jesus. While there’s nothing wrong with Santa Claus—in fact, his history has religious significance—but the main focus of Christmas should be JESUS.

Easter also has been hijacked. Instead of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, more emphasis these days is placed on the Easter Bunny and easter eggs which are not related to either.

So let’s keep our priorities straight, and be sure our children understand the differences between the Christian and cultic customs.

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

The Alabaster Box 1990

 

 

 

Having traveled to several countries around the world, I can tell you first hand that we have much for which to be thankful in our country. Even with the economic downturn in nearly every state of the Union, we are blessed with an abundance in our grocery stores, shopping centers, and commercial markets. We have bathrooms in our homes complete with flushing toilets. On cold, frigid nights, even the homeless can usually find shelters to sleep in and soup kitchens to serve them a meal. I have been in countries where the store shelves were virtually empty, one-room homes had only a dirt floor, no running water was available, and urinals and toilets were non-existent. Amidst all the complaints of unemployment and foreclosures, we’re still abundantly blessed with the necessities and conveniences of life.

However, the most treasured gift of all is our freedom of religion. Our forefathers cherished religious freedom and attributed to Almighty God the success in their private and public lives.

This Thanksgiving–and every day–we must remember, “It is a GOOD thing to give thanks unto the Lord!” (Psalm 92)

(Click on Thanksgiving Reflections below to read about my Thanksgiving in a third world country)

Thanksgiving Reflections

(Click on Biblical Thanksgiving below to worship the Lord with thanksgiving.)

Biblical Thanksgiving

 

Note: First article above (c) C. Yvonne Karl, Reprinted from The Alabaster Box, Vol. 25 No. 11

As a child, I grew up in the beautiful hills of West Virginia then lived in Indiana, Louisville, and finally for more than three decades I lived near the gorgeous orchards of Michigan. In all those places, there was an excitement for Autumn to come to bring relief from the heat and humidity of the summer but also for the opportunity to enjoy the extravaganza of the tree leaves changing from green to vivid colors. Several years ago, when I still lived in Michigan, it dawned upon me what was really happening and I wrote the following description.

Autumn. What a lovely season here in Michigan. Just a few months ago, the trees that appeared dead all winter responded to the gentle Spring breezes and bore new life in lovely shades of green. As Jesus told His disciples: “Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner” (Matt.24:32). Throughout the summer our green trees provided shade in our yards and parks and outlined our streets and boulevards as they stretched heavenward and alternately welcomed the hot sun and pouring rains. During the Spring and Summer, a food-making process took place in the leaf in cells containing the pigment chlorophyll. This gave the leaf its green color. The chlorophyll absorbed energy from sunlight and used it in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch. Predictably, however, summer ended. Shorter days and cold nights began to take their toll on the trees and soon deprivation of sun, heat, and water caused significant changes in the leaves. We watched in awe as the chlorophyll broke down and the green color was replaced with varied hues of yellow and red, purple and brown. The most brilliant colors were the result of warm sunny days and cool, but not freezing, nights. A few hard frosts would have caused the leaves to wither more quickly and drop to the ground.

Aflame with color, the leaves danced in the Autumn winds—some still clinging to their branches and others cascading delicately to the earth. Beautiful as they were, theirs was the dance of death. It was just a matter of time until those leaves, severed from their source of life, would be trampled under foot or raked into piles and burned. Afterwards, all that remained were memories. The rush of memories does not focus on the transitioning colors or the smell of the burning leaves but rather goes to those events that are associated with autumn—pulling on a sweatshirt with that soft fleece warming the body in the chilly night air. Trips to the apple orchards to pick up a basket full of freshly fallen apples, followed by a stop at the cider mill for a cup of fresh hot cider and a doughnut. Wiener roasts over a campfire in the open field. Flaming marshmallows resembling mini-torches casting shadows here and there. Singing—the ballads, the love songs. The evening vespers and prayers of repentance and gratitude—where tears fell freely in the dark. Moments of impact between the Creator and His creation. It’s no wonder numerous songs, poems, and stories have been written over the years in an attempt to capture the drama of autumn leaves and the milieu they produce.

Folks who do not live in a geographic area that experiences the four seasons in their extremes are cheated out of some of life’s most glorious artwork. The contrast between the Summer heat and the Winter snow, the Spring rains and the Fall frosts, the green ladened branches and the brown leafless trees defies description—all must be experienced to be appreciated.

When Autumn has gone and Winter sets in, there are no more colorful dances—albeit I saw a few dead leaves still clinging to their branches. But it’s just a matter of time now. The grass has turned brown and will appear dead as it hibernates. The perennials are hibernating as well, and all the plant life in our geographic area awaits a covering of snow to provide protection from the deep freeze of Winter. Nevertheless, we are not discouraged. We are not depressed. We’ve seen it all before. Soon the short days and long nights will reverse. Somewhere beyond our hearing, the Almighty Creator’s calendar will turn its pages, and the call to AWAKE! will be given. The birds will return and begin to sing as blades of green begin to appear on the ground and the trees.

Resurrection? Indeed! New life. New hope. New color. New experiences. Something new is always just around the corner—or just a few days away on the calendar. The Bible says, “The intelligent person is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them” (Pro. 18:15,LB). In the eternal scheme of events, we can make the same comparisons in our lives. We look back and see colorful events and situations that happened in us, to us, or through us. Perhaps people marveled at their display and the privilege of reporting, “I saw it with my own eyes.” What they really saw was “the dance of leaves.” Having provided the short-term show of glory, we were separated from them. They are now only memories that gave way to Winter.

The coming of Spring will bring new leaves to take their place: new situations, new understanding, new relationships, and new opportunities. The same ole’ leaves could never experience the same splendor again, but the tree will grow new ones.

The nineties for me were a decade of contrast as I experienced first hand that “to everything there is a season” (Ecc.3:1). Both my children graduated from high school, college, and graduate school. My mother-in-law, father, mother, and husband died and went to heaven. I wrote and published a book that somehow made its way around the world and was translated into various dialects and used in Bible schools and churches in nineteen nations besides the United States. This is just a partial list of once colorful, now fallen, leaves that left me barren and looking lifeless. Changes had to take place inside me in order to allow the Holy Spirit to grow new leaves and bring forth new fruit in my life. The seasons were about to change.

Death and resurrection are facts of life. God’s Word admonishes us: “Don’t cling to the events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I [God] am going to do!” (Is. 43:18-19) Jesus described this principle with a different analogy when He explained about the old making way for the new. “New wine,” He said, “must be stored in new wineskins” (Luke 6:36-38). In those days, there were no containers as we know them today. Instead, they sewed animal skins together and used them as bottles. With time, they became hard and brittle. Cracks formed and the liquid seeped out. If they poured recently made wine into these hardened containers, it would continue to ferment and eventually explode.

Our previous happy experiences are gathered like the fallen autumn leaves and pressed in our mental memory book. We close the chapter and anticipate the next one. Our former ways of acting and thinking need to give way to the new ways we are learning as we encounter new circumstances. My priorities are drastically rearranged with my husband and parents now gone and my children grown. We cannot use the same parenting skills for our adult children that worked when they were young. We study God’s Word and allow it to give us direction for new situations. “Our attitudes and thoughts must be constantly changing for the better. We must be a new and different person, holy and good” (Eph. 4:23-24,LB). Otherwise, we wither and die.

What’s it like to feel dead and fruitless during a period of hibernation—a time when new growth is taking place? Apostle Paul said, “We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row; that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally – not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead!” (2 Cor.1:8-9, MSG). And here in Michigan we see that happening in nature every Spring! We must always be willing to let God lead us to new situations. His mercies, grace, and faithfulness are new every day. Let’s not be satisfied with past colorful displays in our lives, and using the old wineskins that worked before. Let’s move on…venture out in faith, but always in line with His Word. Enjoy the dance of the leaves, but always look forward to the new growth that will soon follow.

THE DANCE IS OVER. The following stories are about people who couldn’t see beyond their time and/or whose knowledge was limited. To us, in retrospect, they seem so foolish. Actually, they are ideas that have died! New ones have taken their place—thankfully.

-Sneezes During the 6th Century, it was customary to congratulate people who sneezed because it was thought that they were expelling evil from their bodies. During the great plague of Europe, the Pope passed a law to say “God bless you” to one who sneezed.

Weird Laws. Yes, there still are some weird laws on the books.

-In Washington State, it is against the law to boast that one’s parents are rich.

-In Maryland, it’s illegal to play Randy Newman’s “Short People” on the radio.

-In Alabama it is illegal to play Dominoes on Sunday.

-In Minneapolis, double-parkers can be put on a chain gang.

-An old statute in Kentucky states that men who push their wives out of bed for inflicting their cold toes on them can be fined or jailed for a week.

-In Normal, Oklahoma you could be sent to prison for “making an ugly face at a dog.”

-And if you’re in Hawaii and laughing at these odd laws, stop! In Hawaii it is forbidden to laugh after 10 PM.

-Forks were first used in the Middle Ages, but eating with one was considered scandalous. In the 11th Century, when a Greek princess died shortly after introducing forks at her wedding with a Venetian Doge (chief magistrate) Domenico Selvo, it was perceived as divine punishment.

-Radios and Airplanes In 1894, the president of the Royal Society, Lord Kelvin, predicted that radio had no future. The first radio factory was opened five years later. He also predicted that heavier-than-air flying machines were impossible. Today, there are more than one billion radio sets in the world, tuned to more than 33 000 radio stations around the world.

-The Wright Brother’s first flight covered a distance equal to only half the length of the wingspan of a Boeing 747.

-In the early 20th century a world market for only 4 million automobiles was made because it was thought, “the world would run out of chauffeurs.” Shortly after the end of World War II (1945), the whole of Volkswagen, factory and patents, was offered free to Henry Ford II. He dismissed the Volkswagen Beetle as a bad design. Today, more than 70 million motorcars are produced every year. The Beetle became one of the best-selling vehicles of all time.

-The telephone was not widely appreciated for the first 15 years because people did not see a use for it. In fact, in the British parliament it was mentioned there was no need for telephones because “we have enough messengers here.” Western Union believed that it could never replace the telegraph. In 1876, an internal memo read: “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” Even Mark Twain, upon being invited by Alexander Graham Bell to invest $5k in the new invention, could not see a future in the telephone.

-Trains. Irish scientist, Dr. Dionysius Lardner (1793 – 1859) didn’t believe that trains could contribute much in speedy transport. He wrote: “Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers ‘ would die of asphyxia’ [suffocation].” Other scientists believed that those who even looked at a passing train would faint with dizziness.

-Computers In 1943, Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM forecast a world market for “maybe only five computers.” Years before IBM launched the personal computer in 1981, Xerox had already successfully designed and used PCs internally… but decided to concentrate on the production of photocopiers.

-Patents Perhaps the guy who got it wrong most was the director of the US patent Office: in 1899 he assured President McKinley that “everything that can be invented has already been invented.”

The above examples are of people who could not see beyond that which already was or appeared to be. Even though several of them became renown because of their innovations and inventions, their fame was not all it could have been because they lacked imagination, creativity, and vision in areas that appeared dead or impossible.

A NEW DANCE There are so many directions to take this study of leaves. For instance, consider that when leaves start changing color they are really dying because they don’t have enough light. Obviously, this is why so many groups have picked up the title “Autumn” for the “old age” of our lives. But when we consider that we are as “trees planted in the house of the Lord,” it only stands to reason that it’s not the tree that dies; yet the old leaves must fall away in order for new leaves to grow (See Is.61:3, NKJV). Many times it appears that the tree is dead, but in reality it is undergoing unseen changes which, in due season, will result in visible new growth to bring glory to Him.

Through Isaiah, the prophet, God told His people: “This isn’t a variation on the same old thing. This is new, brand-new, something you’d never guess or dream up. When you hear this you won’t be able to say, ‘I knew that all along’.” (Is.48:7). This is a life-application to the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus. “So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause” (Isa.55:12).

Are you witnessing the dance of leaves in your life? Enjoy it! Resurrection is just around the corner.

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(You can find these stories on several websites. For starters, http://www.didyouknow.cd/laws.

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are taken from The Message. (c)2002. Used by permission of NavPress Pub. Group

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl, Volume 18. Number 11. 2003. The Alabaster Box.   yvonnekarl@gmail.com

EXACTLY WHAT IS AN “EBENEZER?” Initially, the word appears as the name of a specific place where the Israelites had two battles with the Philistines, in the second of which the ark was captured: Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:1)… The Philistines brought the ark of God from Ebenezer to Ashdod (1 Sam. 5:1).

After the battles, Samuel ascribed meaning to the word based on what had transpired:  Then Samuel took a stone…and called the name of it Ebenezer, stone of help, saying, Heretofore the Lord has helped us (1 Sam. 7:12).  He set up the “stone” as a memorial of the help received in the defeat of the Philistines. 

This passage started the wheels of my mind turning (and I’m sure the same thing happens to you), remembering the many, many times the Lord has intervened in my life and helped me through one battle after another. I was reminded of Malachi 3:16: Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord, and who thought on His name. One translation says, they rehearsed the things the Lord had done for them. When we begin to identify the victories the Lord has given us, two things happen: we get stronger and are more resolved and determined to push through the next conflict; and we are in awe with hearts full of gratitude for how He helped us overcome. There is no need for us to set up tangible monuments, rather we need to apprehend these victories with our minds, capturing them for immediate recall in times of difficulty.

EXACTLY WHAT DOES “SELAH” MEAN? It occurs 71 times in 39 psalms and in Habbakuk 3:3,9,13. The meaning of the word Selah is unknown, and a great many useless opinions have been given about it. For instance, some think it is a musical term meaning “pause” or “repeat.” Others believe it marks a change of meter or the coming in of the accompaniment. Still others think it was supposed to call attention to a peculiarly important thought, or that it designated the end of a prayer. Any of these theories is as good as the others. The Hebrew scholar, W. A. Wright, ends a long list of these opinions by quietly calling it a “hopeless subject.” Whatever its meaning, its intention is clear: selah divides the past thought from the next one. It seems to me this is exactly what an ebenezer does as well. Whenever we pause to reflect on a past victory it brings us to the threshold of a present conflict that is a mere bridge to a future victory. It gives us time to catch our breath, renew our perspective, and affirm our faith in the one True God.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing—through the experience of your faith—that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope (Romans 15:13, TAB).  My ebenezers are columns of “hope” in my life. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov.13:12), but when I have something to inspire hope, I can deal with just about anything that’s thrown in my path. This hope is accompanied by joy and peace: I am not tense or stressed out, because I have the faith to believe that Jesus is my salvation. In fact, His track record in my life is such that hope begets hope; it just keeps multiplying. My hope is not for earthly fulfillment alone—it goes far beyond that to eternal life. As Paul said, To live is Christ; to die is gain (Phil.1:21). The power of the Holy Spirit energizes and directs my life through each and every situation. Between each season there is a Selah –sometimes short, sometimes longer—giving me time to reflect on the Ebenezer that came from the trial or battle.

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost (1 Thessalonians 1:6). When others support us through our trials, believe the same truths, and walk according to the Word of the Lord in spite of the difficult circumstances life has imposed on us, it causes our hope to be reinforced and rewarded. We walk through these times with joy in our hearts because of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit who abides there. He keeps reminding us of the words Jesus spoke—words of Life! Again, we are able to identify the Ebenezers and pause for refreshing in the Selah season.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice (leap for joy) with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:7-8). The songwriter understood this unspeakable joy as reflected in the hymn he penned in 1900.

JOY UNSPEAKABLE

Lyrics and music by B. E. Warren

  1. 1.I have found His grace is all complete,
    He supplieth every need;
    While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
    I am free, yes, free indeed.

    CHORUS:
    It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
    Full of glory, full of glory;
    It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
    Oh, the half has never yet been told.

    2.

    I have found the pleasure I once craved,
    It is joy and peace within;
    What a wondrous blessing I am saved
    From the awful gulf of sin.

    3.

    I have found that hope so bright and clear,
    Living in the realm of grace;
    Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
    I can see His smiling face.

    4.

    I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
    How its waves of glory roll!
    It is like a great o’er flowing well,
    Springing up within my soul

This joy is best framed with trials for only in the midst of those seemingly endless battles in life does the joy shine most brilliantly. Ah, the contrast is divine! The three Hebrew children understood this “fiery trial”. They were threatened with the fiery furnace and commanded to bow to the earthly king. However, their faith was not in their earthly existence but in the eternal God in whom they believed although they had not seen Him. The threat of fire did not cause them to renounce their faith nor did it scare them into worshipping the king. So it is with us. Our fiery trials generally come in the form of tragedy, persecution or affliction. The joy of knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior far exceeds the physical or emotional pain inflicted by these earthly circumstances. As children of Almighty God, we must keep the proper perspective. Our spirit lives forever; our body does not.

WHAT ARE YOUR EBENEZERS?  What are the moments in your life when you know for a fact that God gave you a victory—brought you through some fiery trials. When compared to someone else’s trials yours may be trivial—but to you they are major! Or perhaps when compared to someone else’s trials yours may be monumental. Study your situation to find the positive things you have learned through it all. There are some to be sure. Look for them! Make them your Ebenezers, then pinpoint the Selah between struggles. God is a very PRESENT help in time of trouble. Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to, but by God’s grace, we cling to Him and He helps. Rehearse the good times. His grace WILL be sufficient to get you through EVERY situation.

____________

(c) C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Vol.16. No.11. November 2001.

Pastoring can be very lonely. Especially in small congregations, some pastors have more critics than cheerleaders and every little morsel of encouragement brightens their day. Ask the Lord to show you a way to bless your pastors. Remember, we don’t always reap WHERE we sow, but we do reap WHAT we sow (Gal.6:7-9). Next time you’re tempted to complain and criticize, double a blessing for your pastors instead. Show them your love in a way that does not impose on their time. Do something for them and expect nothing in return. After all, “It is more blessed to GIVE than to receive.”

 “And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” (1 Thess.5:12-13. And make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out. The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you! (1 Thess.5:27-28, Msg).

It is rare to hear a parishioner say, “My pastor is starving.” On the flip side of the coin, how many times have we church-going folks say: “I’m starving.” “I’m not being fed.”

These comments are not new. Thousands of years ago God chose Moses to lead His people. Even though they were headed for a land of freedom and prosperity, they balked and complained that they weren’t been fed properly. 

WHY CAN’T WE HAVE MEAT?

“Now the mixed multitude…yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat?’” (Num.11:4, NKJV).

Another version says, “Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt, and the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed” (NLT). The Message paraphrases this same verse: “The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining.”

The mixed multitude was literally a great rabble, or riff-raff, who had come along with the Israelites as they escaped Egypt. Obviously they conjectured that if they hid themselves in the huge throng of God’s people they would also inherit His promises. After all, they had been in the crowd of more than a million Israelites when the Red Sea parted and they crossed over on dry land. They saw Pharaoh’s army swallowed up as the waters came back together.

The Red Sea miracle wet their appetite. They had seen other miracles, yet they became disgruntled and bitter because of days of mundane meals in a dry place. They gave no credit to God for supernaturally supplying them with an adequate source of food in a desert where no animals roamed and no plants grew. Nevertheless, their discontent was infectious and soon even the most devout among the Israelites were agreeing with them. “Nothing tastes good out here,” they said. “All we get is manna, manna, manna” (Num.11:6). “We want meat!”

They were not grumbling about their announced destination but rather about not getting their favorite meals along the way. The manna God sent them daily contained the necessary nutrients for them to eat and stay healthy. They didn’t have to work for it—neither to plant it nor harvest it. All they had to do was gather it each morning.

Isn’t this the way it is with us today? We lose sight of our destination—heaven—and complain about the spiritual food. It reminds me of one Christmas when my daughter was a toddler. She dreamed of getting a bride doll and talked about it incessantly for weeks before the holidays. I purchased lace and satin, cut and sewed, and turned a doll into a gorgeous bride. After she went to bed on Christmas Eve, my husband and I placed the new toy table and chairs from her grandmother under the tree and positioned the bride doll at the table. There! We thought. Our little girl will be so thrilled when she sees her dream has come true.

How wrong we were! Caroline came bouncing down the stairs on Christmas morning, but before reaching the bottom step she glanced into the room and saw the table and the bride doll. Immediately she began to cry and ran back upstairs to her room. Totally confused by her actions, I went to her room to hear her repeating over and over through her sobs: “My gifts are supposed to be wrapped up!” 

God’s manna did not come wrapped up. It was readily available, but it no longer held any mystique. The daily provision had become routine—they were not content to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In fact, they already had daily bread. What was readily available did not fulfill their wants. They were selfishly expecting Moses to provide them meat. When He didn’t, “they all whined in front of their tents” (Num.11:10).

Lord, help us, but the same is often true of us believers. We spend more time complaining and whining about not being “fed” than we do in consuming the “Bread of Life” in whatever way it comes to us. A spiritual meal may come from routine teaching of the pastor in one service after another, or a Bible class, or a small group meeting. It may come from the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, or the teacher. More often it comes directly from God Himself, as we sit quietly before Him meditating upon His Word. However it comes, we must gather it and feed it to ourselves.

Nevertheless, in our humanness, we are more excited about the spiritual food desserts: the great miracles or passionate encounters with others who are “cheerleaders” in the Kingdom. It’s not really meat of the Word that we desire, but Paul says, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Are we selfish like children—demanding the food we want. Few children would choose vegetables and fruit; rather they beg for ice cream and cake. I wonder if this is not equivalent to the demand the Israelites made for “meat” and Paul’s contemporaries who chased after empty emotional experiences rather than spiritual ones.

WHY MEAT?

God told Moses to call the people together and “Tell the people…You’ve been whining to God, ‘We want meat; give us meat.’ God has heard your whining and he’s going to give you meat. You’re going to eat meat. And it’s not just for a day that you’ll eat meat, and not two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You’re going to eat meat until its coming out your nostrils. You’re going to be so sick of meat that you’ll throw up at the mere mention of it. And here’s why: Because you have rejected God who is right here among you…”(Vs.18-20).

God was present with them—the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God. He would withhold nothing good from them—yet they were craving something outside the realm of “good.”  They demanded “flesh.” He was giving them “daily bread.” Using the flesh to satisfy our hunger will always result in death—death of a dream, death of a marriage, death of our spiritual life, or death—plain and simple! Who among us can grasp that God knows what is best for us? That man will be satisfied with God!

When we have God’s presence in our lives, we have everything we need—for He is our ALL in ALL. Only His Presence can satisfy our craving; not even God’s gifts can fulfill that hunger. That’s why even though we see miracles, participate in awesome worship services, live in prosperity and good health, we still have a craving, a yearning, a demand for more. We think we need MEAT; however, our appetite for meat is a mere substitute for allowing Christ—the Bread of Heaven to consume us.

Truly as mature Christians we hunger for more of Christ in us, thus we relinquish control to Him over each area of our heart, our mind, our will, our emotions. But this comes about by our one-on-one relationship with Him—not as a result of being fed by the pastor at church services.

HOW  DID PASTOR MOSES FEEL?

Did anyone ever ask how Moses must have felt with these complaining people nagging him all day every day? God had entrusted to him leadership in the largest congregation ever assembled, and he was totally frustrated—as are many pastors today. 

“Moses said to God, ‘What did I ever do to you to deserve this? Did I conceive these people? Was I their mother? So why dump the responsibility of this people on me? Why tell me to carry them around like a nursing mother, carry them all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people who are whining to me…If this is how you intend to treat me, do me a favor and kill me. I’ve seen enough; I’ve had enough. Let me out of here’” (vs.10-15).

This prayer is being prayed all across the United States and around the world by pastors of congregations large and small. Some are leaving the ministry—ill-equipped to handle all the whining and complaining. Many take this as rejection of them personally and throw in the towel. Some change jobs—never to realize their fulfillment in being faithful to the call of God on their lives. Others fall into tragic moral failure; sadly, some even commit suicide.

Who is to blame for these heartbreaking turns in the lives of some pastors? The people who grumble and complain? No—but perhaps they could have helped encourage the pastors rather than tear them down. Perhaps they could have spent more time on their knees praying for the pastors rather than spreading their discontent among other congregants.

But pastors, like Moses, need to go to the Lord in prayer and to the Holy counseling book and receive His counsel—remembering Who gave them their assignment in the first place. Nevertheless, as members of various congregations, we could do much to encourage, build up, and feed our pastors. 

Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep?” Yes—and God told Moses, “Lead my people.” However, the people didn’t like the food or the direction the pastors were taking. Peter says: Clean house! Get rid of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God” (1 Pet.2:1-3). Every church will have followers of Christ who are in all stages of spiritual growth—from infancy to maturity. As mature ones, we are patient with the young ones who need to feed on milk; we do not demand that we be fed instead of them. As a matter of fact, we know how to feed ourselves and no longer require being fed on demand—though we appreciate the help when we’re in distress.

FEED YOUR PASTOR

Pastors rarely make a public announcement about their needs—probably because they feel they are there to help the people not to put a burden on them. But how many of us recognize the pastors’ need for food in the form of affirmation and encouragement? The Lord told Moses, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” We see this promise carried out through Moses’ lifetime (Study the book of Exodus) and I believe it is still a prophetic promise for us today.

Yes, our pastors will fail if they don’t have a vital relationship with the Lord, but so will we. They cannot depend on the people in the congregation to fill that need, nor can we. Indeed the Apostle Paul faced a court hearing with not even one person there to support him, but listen to his testimony: “At my preliminary hearing no one stood by me. They all ran like scared rabbits. But it doesn’t matter—the Master stood by me and helped me spread the Message loud and clear to those who had never heard it. I was snatched from the jaws of the lion! God’s looking after me, keeping me safe in the kingdom of heaven. All praise to him, praise forever! Oh, yes!” (From 2 Tim.4).

In spite of Paul’s spiritual strength and determination, he lets us know that he longed for companionship and helpers—to affirm and assist him. He says to Timothy: Get here as fast as you can…Bring Mark with you; he’ll be my right-hand man…Bring the winter coat I left in Troas with Carpus; also the books and parchment notebooks. Watch out for Alexander the coppersmith. Fiercely opposed to our Message, he caused no end of trouble. God will give him what he’s got coming” (From 2 Tim. 4). Is this not what God told Moses? “I will curse them who curse you!”

One of the lessons Jesus taught in the parable of the talents was affirmation: To those who were faithful, He commended them with words we all desire to hear: “Good work! You did your job well” (Matt.25:21). Jesus didn’t comment on the little details and find ways to point out their faults or how He disagreed with some things they might have done—He commended them. It’s a two-way street: the pastors need to affirm their people and the people need to encourage their pastors.

Throughout three decades of ministry, like most pastors, my husband and I experienced both the ire and the love of God’s people. Some were faithful to the end and are still lovingly and prayerfully bonded, but the love of others was short-lived. People came into the church fellowship, gave both public and written commitments to be by our side forever, then in a flash they were gone. Some stayed a few weeks; others a few months; some worshipped and worked with us for years before moving on. 

Of those who moved, some were geographically transferred, some bowed out gracefully, some created a mountain out of a molehill, and some attempted to invoke a major takeover. In my opinion, all were there for a season, for a purpose. Only God knows whether or not that purpose was fulfilled. We were not in the ministry to be affirmed by people but to be approved by God, yet the accolades of our brothers and sisters played a huge roll in encouraging us—often in times of near despair. 

There were always people in our lives who cared deeply about us and our family. There were several dear ones who seemed to be listening for me to say, “I really like that!” so they could run out and get it for me. During my husband’s illness, some dear sisters came and cleaned our house and even washed the curtains. There were those who dropped off my husband’s favorite food dishes—just at the time they were needed. Some brought groceries and home canned goods from time to time. Some volunteered to work at the church to do many and varied tasks throughout the week. Some precious saints worked in our house—painting, building, remodeling. And the list goes on. The Apostle Paul calls all of these “labors of love” (1 Thess.1:3).

In one church, a family brought to the pastor’s office a fresh rose every Sunday morning. Some people are especially eloquent with words and write poems, prayers, and thank you notes to the pastor on days other than birthdays, holidays, and pastor appreciation days.

There are many ways to feed your pastors with love, encouragement, and affirmation so that when they’re being bombarded by whiners and complainers and their own sense of inadequacy, the Lord will use your good deeds to remind them of His love.

Pastoring can be very lonely. Most pastors have more critics than cheerleaders and every little morsel of encouragement brightens their day. Ask the Lord to show you a way to bless your pastors. Remember, we don’t always reap WHERE we sow, but we do reap WHAT we sow. Next time you’re tempted to complain and criticize, double that blessing for your pastors instead. Show them your love in a way that does not impose on their time. Do something for them and expect nothing in return. After all, “It is more blessed to GIVE than to receive.”

And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” (1 Thess.5:12-13).

And make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out. The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you! (1 Thess.5:27-28).

Reprinted from The Alabaster Box, C. Yvonne Karl © Volume18 Number10 2003.

Yvonnekarl@gmail.com

If the Shoe Fits

A Word from Yvonne:

Isn’t it exciting that the Prince of Peace has chosen YOU!  All you have to do is accept His Peace. Believe me, it WILL fit!

A few months after my husband and I were married we attended a church convention where I was reunited with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I was eager to “show off” my handsome husband. My hair was no longer red, but blond–in response to my husband’s request. (Doesn’t the Bible say the wife should seek to please her husband? See Eph 5:22: Wives, be submissive and adapt yourselves to your own husbands as a service to the Lord.)  Although I had not seen him for four or five years, a pastor, whom I had known most of my life and was very dear to me, was standing in the distance. I took my husband’s arm and rushed toward him expecting the pastor to throw out his arms and receive me with joy. Instead, I was stopped cold. He saw me. He stared at me. He asked whether I was me or my sister and when I gave him MY name, he spit on the ground in front of me and turned away from me.  He asked me no questions. He gave me no opportunity to introduce my husband. I was too stunned to pursue him and attempt conversation. That was the last time I ever saw him. His problem? He had judged me to be an outcast from the church because I had changed my hair color. It was more than he could handle. Did it hurt me? Of course. Did I forgive him? Yes and yes again!   Scriptural truths must of necessity be followed; however, man’s opinions often separate even good friends. I realized the problem and knew that my loyalty relative to man’s opinions had to be to my husband and not to another man. Peace came….and stayed in my MIND and my heart!

Many, many people have written songs, stories, poems, and books about being chosen by our Lord Jesus. What a special privilege to have the Prince of Peace invite you to wear His shoes!  It’s THE Kingdom of Peace–and it’s within you!

ON COURAGE

“So you think I’m courageous?” she asked

“Yes, I do.

Perhaps I am. But that’s because I’ve had some inspiring teachers. I’ll tell you about one of them. Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liza who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in a bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give her all his blood.

  “Yes, I’ve learned courage,” she added, “because I’ve had good teachers.”

( -By Dan Millman from Chicken Soup for the Soul  Copyright 1993 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen)

CONSIDER THE PREPARATION OF PEACE IN THE WORDS AND STORY BEHIND THE FOLLOWING HYMN:

“I BELONG TO THE KING”

1) I belong to the King, I’m a child of His love,
I shall dwell in His palace so fair;
For He tells of its bliss in yon heaven above,
And His children in splendor shall share.

Chorus:
I belong to the King, I’m a child of His love,
And he never forsaketh His own;
He will call me some day to His palace above,
I shall dwell by His glorified throne.

2) I belong to the King, and He loves me I know,
For His mercy and kindness, so free,
Are unceasingly mine wheresoever I go,
And my refuge unfailing is He. (Chorus)

3) I belong to the King, and His promise is sure,
That we all shall be gathered at last
In His kingdom above, by life’s waters so pure,
When this life with its trials is past. (Chorus)

(Words by Ida L. Reed. Music by Maurice A Clifton)  

THE STORY BEHIND THE HYMN

“I Belong to the King” was literally beaten out of a humble life by the flail of burdensome trials and afflictions. Ida L. Reed, author of the hymn, rightly deserved to sing “I belong to the King.” She was born and reared in the mountains of West Virginia. Her life was one long, continuous burden-bearing journey. For many years she was compelled to do heavy and arduous work [common] to farm life. This she did in support of an invalid and widowed mother. 

Broken at last by the strenuous toil and privations, she was sorely afflicted and bed-ridden for years. Even then, in her hours of pain, she wrote poems for publishers to eke out a meager living. She was removed to a hospital in Washington, D. C., as a last resort, in the hope of prolonging her pain-wracked, yet beautiful life. From her hospital bed of pain, she wrote the words of this poem which came to be a hymn of the church.

“I Belong to the King” is a golden nugget from the mine of character of one of God’s most humble children. For, as often the most beautiful flowers grow in inconspicuous places, so from the inner garden of one of the least of the children of the Lord there comes this flower of thought… 

(Taken from Forty Gospel Hymn Stories by George W. Sanville, 1943, p. 56.)

“She hath done what she could…” [Mark 14:8]

HE CHOSE ME

There were so many others that He might have chosen To follow Him;
Others with learning and greater distinction To follow Him;
Men with authority and forceful ability
Who know how to speak and be heard.
I don’t know exactly why I’m here at all,
But today I follow my Lord.

It was bus’ness as usual for me ‘til I heard Him say, “Follow me.”
I left all behind me that day when Jesus said, “Follow Me.”
I emptied myself of my old life completely
With no thought that this could be wrong
And as long as I follow the steps of the Master,
I know I’m where I belong.

For He chose me.
He chose me;
I could not say no when He said,
“Follow me and you’ll be a fisher of men.”
And from now on … From now on
I will not look back on the things left behind;
He chose me to follow Him.

No, I will not look back on the things left behind;
He chose me to follow Him.

(-Author and composer unknown. If any reader knows the author and composer please contact The Alabaster Box so we can give proper credit Thank you.)

______________________________

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000. 

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

IF THE SHOE FITS – MFC CONFERENCE – 2000

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000.

The article above and all three parts below are from the Maranatha Fellowship Women’s Conference in 2000. All are on this website: http://yvonnekarl.com or you can click on the link following each part:

Part 1 – There is a Shoe that Fits (c) Yvonne Karl – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/there-is-a-shoe-that-fits/

Part 2 – Does the Shoe fit? (c) Virginia Wright; UBP – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/does-the-shoe-fit/

Part 3 – If the Shoe Fits – (c) Yvonne Karl – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/if-the-shoe-fits/

by Virginia Ruth Wright (1999)

Once upon a time there was a daughter who had been abused and used by the world. Those she was living around would give her commands, “Clean that fireplace; sweep that floor; cook that meal.” The world had rubbed her the wrong way long enough. Disgust was rising up within her. She was tired of the world and the things in the world. In the midst of her great disappointment, depression and discouragement, a great invitation was sent out:

“Go into the highway and hedges and compel them to come in; the lame, the halt, the blind, that my house may be full.”

A little stir started in the corner of her heart. “That sounds like a great celebration.” She asked herself, “What will I wear?” Her friend of the world began to laugh. “What makes you think He was inviting you? You are not good enough to go. Here. Press our clothes. We have what it takes to get in among the religious folk. We will be recognized at the great celebration.”

She did as they said and self-pity and rejection began to play on the strings of her heart. Suddenly, she heard a whisper: “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.” Her spirit began to rise within her. She started to say, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name.” The darkness and gloom fell from her face and her mind. He dressed her in clothes of righteousness. He shod her feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. She was ready for the great celebration.

Sunday came and Grace picked her up to take her to the great celebration. When she arrived, the Prince of Peace met her at the door and said, “Come, dance with me.” Her heart leaped within her, as she celebrated with the Love of her life. She had a glorious time and then the prince of the power of the air was upset with her excitement and joy over meeting the Prince of Peace. Satan wanted her to go back to her old life and live in self-pity and rejection. He started attacking her mind, “Flee from here, you look foolish; you are going to die. What you are experiencing isn’t real!”  Her mind was about to explode. 

She hurriedly turned and ran from the celebration. Running down the steps of time, back to the old life, she lost one of her slippers, the shoe of the preparation of the gospel of peace. Confusion and doubt flooded her mind. She realized she had lost one of her shoes. Now back in the harassment of worldly associates, she was being put down by their ugly and devilish comments, but she still had a little peace and a little joy.     

She slipped away into her secret closet. As she wept, she studied her one clear shoe. The words came through to her spirit, “We see through a glass darkly, but one day we shall see Him face to face.” Mercy came running and hope filled her soul. Outside the door, she could hear the Prince of Peace. He had been talking to her worldly associates. “If this shoe fits, you can wear it. It is yours… “My peace I give you not as the world gives, do I give…My peace I leave with you.”  

One by one they rejected His word. By choice, they chose not to try the shoe. She thought He was about to leave. She stood up to run to Him and say, “That’s my shoe I want to wear it. I want your peace and love and joy in my life.” She put her hand on the doorknob and opened the door. He was there, the prince of peace. He took her in His arms and said, “My mercy is new this morning.” She sat down. He knelt down and slipped the shoe on her foot. The shoe fit perfectly. Peace began to flood her soul. Mocking and laughing were all around, but she walked in the midst of it with the Prince of Peace and took the Gospel of Peace with her everywhere, celebrating with joy… and showing off her shoes.

 The End.

______________________

IF THE SHOE FITS – MFC WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – 2000                                 

Maranatha Fellowship Church – St Albans WV                                                                                                                                   (Check out the “shoe” name tag!)

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000. 

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

IF THE SHOE FITS – MFC CONFERENCE – 2000

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000.

The article above and all three parts below are from the Maranatha Fellowship Women’s Conference in 2000. All are on this website: http://yvonnekarl.com or you can click on the link following each part:

Part 1 – There is a Shoe that Fits (c) Yvonne Karl – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/there-is-a-shoe-that-fits/

Part 2 – Does the Shoe fit? (c) Virginia Wright; UBP –  https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/does-the-shoe-fit/

Part 3 – If the Shoe Fits – (c) Yvonne Karl –  https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/if-the-shoe-fits/

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