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Archive for the ‘Thoughts to Ponder’ Category

Is my pastor starving?

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

Patches Not Allowed (Put off … Put on)

As often happens with newly married men, my husband gained a few pounds. Not many—just enough to make his trousers a bit uncomfortable and cause the seams to split. He assumed that I, his new wife, knew something about tailoring since I frequently sewed my own clothes. Not wanting to disappoint him, I willingly took on the task of mending the seams. 

My zeal, however, was exceeded by my ignorance. Instead of opening the seam and sewing it properly, I merely applied iron-on patches. Imagine his discomfort when he slipped into the trousers without looking at the repair job. He spent the evening trying to ignore the scratchy irritation caused by the patch. Kindly and graciously he did not comment about it until we got home.

Although the patch closed the seam temporarily, it did more harm than good causing damage to the surrounding fabric and the skin of my beloved husband. The trousers found their way to the trash can. I had looked for a quick fix and it ended in destruction. In the same way, many are throwing away the best God has for them because they don’t stop to think. They try to get around problems rather than solving them to the benefit of themselves and others.

In Luke 5:36, Jesus spoke a parable: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old” (NKJV). My own experience confirms this truth; but as I meditate and apply the basic principle to life, it begins to take on a much deeper meaning. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor.5:17,NKJV).  Patches are not allowed.

When we are born-again (John 3:3,7), we are created anew—not our outer shell called the body, but the real person that we are—our spirit. Jesus doesn’t patch up the old; He gives us a brand new start:  “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev.21:5,NKJV).

“You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness – righteous, holy, and true” (Eph.4:24,NLT).

In the next verse, Jesus continues:  “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Luke 5:38, NKJV).

In the New Testament world there were no college degrees in packaging. Containers as we know them today did not exist. They took animal skins, sewed them together and used them as we would use bottles and jars and plastic boxes.  As they aged, the skins would become dry and hard and eventually they cracked and liquid spilled out. If new wine was poured into the old wineskins, it would continue to ferment and the gasses would cause the wineskin to explode. Jesus told the parable and He said new wine must be put into new wineskins.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom. 12:2, NLT).

Many of our friends and relatives “act as if they are religious, but they reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Tim.3:5,NLT). They try to patch up their life in their own way—unwilling to let the power of God make them new because it might mean giving up some of their old ways of living in immorality and materialism, undisciplined in every way. At first, their ungodly attitudes and actions may be concealed from others, but soon they will become obvious. In fact, the Apostle Paul says: “You must stay away from people like that” (2 Tim.3:5b, NLT)—people like what? Those who say they’re Christians but do not live godly.

“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A NEW life has begun” (2 Cor. 5:17,TLB). That’s what it means to be “in Christ.”  Die to old way; get a fresh start. Jesus says you can’t put new wine in old wineskins because they’ll burst and the joy will fall out of your life. “Now you can really serve God; not in the old way, mechanically obeying a set of rules, but in a new way” (Rom. 7:6b-TLB) having a life and breath relationship with Jesus Christ thus allowing Him to make all things new in you.

By the way, my husband never again asked me to mend his trousers. He did it himself for the rest of his life—and he never complained about it. In the same way, we cannot expect others to take care of the problems in our life. We have the Mighty Counselor living in us, continually reminding us of our responsibility to “put off” and “put on” certain things. Scripture tells us what natural tendencies we need to put off and the spiritual attributes that must replace them. We get in trouble when we try to keep our old ways and simply patch them up with something new. We cannot put the new attribute on the old pattern. It simply won’t work. No patches allowed.

Here are some “put off…put on” admonitions:

  1. PUT OFF lovelessness, 1 Jo.4:7,8,20; PUT ON love, Jhn.15:12
  1. PUT OFF judging, Matt. 7:1,2; PUT ON God consciousness, Jhn. 8:9
  1. PUT OFF bitterness, Hbr.12:15; PUT ON tenderheartedness, Eph.4:32
  1. PUT OFF unforgiveness, Mrk.11:26; PUT ON forgiveness, Col.3:13
  1. PUT OFF selfishness, Phil.2:21; PUT ON self-denial, Jhn.12:24
  1. PUT OFF pride, Pro.16:5; PUT ON humility, Jam.4:6
  1. PUT OFF boasting, 1 Cor.4:7; PUT ON esteeming others, Phil.2:3
  1. PUT OFF stubbornness, 1 Sa.15:23; PUT ON brokenness, Rom.6:13
  1. PUT OFF disrespect for authority, Acts 23:5; PUT ON honoring authority, Hebr.13:17
  1. PUT OFF rebellion, 1 Sam.15:23; PUT ON submission, Heb.13:17
  1. PUT OFF disobedience, 1 Sam.12:15; PUT ON obedience, Deu.11:27
  1. PUT OFF impatience, Jam.1:2-4; PUT ON patience, Heb.10:36
  1. PUT OFF ungratefulness, Rom.1:21; PUT ON gratitude, Eph.5:20
  1. PUT OFF covetousness, Luke12:15; PUT ON contentment, Heb.13:5
  1. PUT OFF discontent, Heb.13:5; PUT ON contentment, 1 Tim6:8
  1. PUT OFF murmuring/complaining, Phil.2:14; PUT ON praise, Heb.13:15
  1. PUT OFF irritating others, Gal.5:26; PUT ON preferring others, Phil.2:3-4
  1. PUT OFF jealousy, Gal.5:26; PUT ON trust, 1 Cor.13:4
  1. PUT OFF strife, Pro.13:10; PUT ON peace, Jam.3:17
  1. PUT OFF retaliation, Pro.24:29; PUT ON doing good for evil, Rom.12:19-20
  1. PUT OFF losing temper, Pro.25:28; PUT ON self-control, Pro.16:32
  1. PUT OFF anger, Pro.29:22; PUT ON self-control, Gal.5:22-23
  1. PUT OFF wrath, Jam.1:19-20; PUT ON soft answer, Pro.15:1
  1. PUT OFF being easily irritated, 1 Cor.13:5; PUT ON not being easily provoked, Pro.19:11
  1. PUT OFF hatred, Matt.5:21-22; PUT ON love, 1 Cor.13:3
  1. PUT OFF murder, Exod.20:13; PUT ON love, Rom.13:10
  1. PUT OFF gossip, 1 Tim.5:13; PUT ON edifying speech, Eph.4:29
  1. PUT OFF evil speaking, Jam.4:11; PUT ON a good report, Prov.15:30
  1. PUT OFF critical spirit, Gal.5:15; PUT ON kindness, Col.3:12
  1. PUT OFF lying, Eph.4:25; PUT ON speaking truth, Zec.8:16
  1. PUT OFF profanity, Prov.4:24; PUT ON pure speech, Prov.15:4
  1. PUT OFF idle words, Matt.12:36; PUT ON bridling your tongue, Prov.21:23
  1. PUT OFF wrong motives, 1 Sam.16:7; PUT ON spiritual motives, 1 Cor.10:31
  1. PUT OFF evil thoughts, Matt.5:19-20; PUT ON pure thoughts, Phil.4:8
  1. PUT OFF complacency, Rev.3:15; PUT ON zeal, Rev.3:19
  1. PUT OFF laziness, Prov.20:4; PUT ON diligence, Prov.6:6-11
  1. PUT OFF slothfulness, Prov.18:9; PUT ON wholeheartedness, Col.3:23
  1. PUT OFF hypocrisy, Job.8:13; PUT ON sincerity, 1 Thes.2:3
  1. PUT OFF idolatry, Deu.11:6; PUT ON worship God only, Col.1:18
  1. PUT OFF leaving first love, Rev.2:4; PUT ON fervent devotion, Rev.2:5
  1. PUT OFF lack of rejoicing, Phil.4:4; PUT ON rejoicing always, 1 Thes.5:18
  1. PUT OFF worry and fear, Matt.6:25-32; PUT ON trust, 1 Pe.5:7
  1. PUT OFF unbelief, Heb.3:12; PUT ON faith, Heb.11:1,6
  1. PUT OFF unfaithfulness, Prov.25:19; PUT ON faithfulness, Luke 16:10-12
  1. PUT OFF neglect of Bible study, 2 Tim.3:14-17; PUT ON Bible study, Psa.1:2
  1. PUT OFF lack of prayer, Luk.18:1; PUT ON praying, Matt.26:41
  1. PUT OFF misuse of talents, Luke 12:48; PUT ON developing abilities, 1 Cor.4:2
  1. PUT OFF irresponsibility in family and work, Luk.16:12; PUT ON responsibility, Luke16:10
  1. PUT OFF procrastination, Pro.10:5; PUT ON diligence, Pro.27:1
  1. PUT OFF cheating, 2 Cor.4:2; PUT ON honesty, 2 Cor.8:21
  1. PUT OFF stealing Pro.29:24; PUT ON working and giving, Eph.4:28
  1. PUT OFF overindulgence Pro.11:1; PUT ON temperance, 1 Cor.9:25
  1. PUT OFF gluttony, Pro.23:21; PUT ON discipline, 1 Cor.9:27
  1. PUT OFF wrong friends, Ps.1:1; PUT ON godly friends, Pro.13:20
  1. PUT OFF temporal values, Matt.6:19-21; PUT ON eternal value, 2 Cor.4:18
  1. PUT OFF stinginess, 1 Jo.3:17; PUT ON generosity, Pro.11:24-25
  1. PUT OFF moral impurity, 1 Th.4:7; PUT ON moral purity, 1 Thes.4:4
  1. PUT OFF fornication, 1 Cor.6:18; PUT ON abstinence, 1 Thes.4:3
  1. PUT OFF lust, 1 Pet.2:11; PUT ON pure desires, Tit.2:12
  1. PUT OFF adultery, Matt.5:27-28; PUT ON marital fidelity, Prov.5:14-19
  1. PUT OFF homosexuality, Lev.18:22; PUT ON moral purity, 1 Thes.4:4-5
  1. PUT OFF pornography, Ps.101:3; PUT ON pure thoughts, Phil.4:8

As you study the Bible, you will find many more references to “putting off” and “putting on.”  It’s not enough to know about them; their purpose is to change you and give you abundant life.

“May the God of peace himself make you holy in every way; and may your spirit and soul and body be free from all sin at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess.5:23, NEB).                                 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl – yvonnekarl@gmail.com

Published by UPCI in The Vision – September 27, 2009

Twelve Churches in Twelve Weeks

Since I moved to South Carolina without knowing where I would become part of a church family, I decided to take advantage of the situation and visit several houses of worship. Here is my summary of those visits:

Click on the title below to open up the article.

Visiting SC Churches 12 wks 2017

Mind Your Own Business!

Jesus just finished a heart-to-heart talk with Peter. He gave him instructions: Feed my sheep! He gave him a prophecy: When you were young you dressed yourself and pretty much decided when and when you would go; but when you are old someone else will dress you and make decisions for you .. then Peter, turning about saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following … Peter seeing him (John) said to him, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus said to him, What is that to you? You follow me (John 21:20-22). When Peter looked away from Jesus and began to ask questions about John, Jesus gave Peter a rebuke: Peter, Mind your own business! It reminds me of a message I found on the floor at school:

The best BUSINESS

In the line of BUSINESS

Is to tend to the BUSINESS of your own

So if you have no BUSINESS

Then make it your BUSINESS

To leave other people’s BUSINESS alone!

When Peter turned, his focus was no longer on Jesus but on John. He was DISTRACTED. He began to ask questions that were none of his business. Very often, people and circumstances in your life DISTRACT you, DECEIVE you, and then DESTROY you.

BE ALERT TO DISTRACTIONS

How great are our tendencies to be distracted by the words of others, their actions, their great jobs, or their complaints about ours. It is common for us to think that we are required to sacrifice more than someone else. When we mature, we learn that every distraction, even momentarily, causes us to lose our focus on what is most important. Distractions weaken our faith and resolve, and they prevent us from being devoted wholeheartedly to our assignments. Scripture warns us repeatedly not to be led astray by false doctrine and philosophies. There is much emphasis on what seems right, sounds good, and satisfies our desires, but its satisfaction is only temporary. Any move away from the Way Jesus teaches, no matter how good it seems, will lead to deception and failing away from the Truth.

BE ALERT TO DECEPTIONS

No one is immune to deception. Some become distracted by pseudo-spiritual words and actions, and then are deceived by prophesies, signs, and wonders. Remember Jesus said, signs FOLLOW those who believe; He did not say believers are to FOLLOW signs! He says His disciples will be known by their FRUIT not by their gifts.

Do not be distracted, then deceived, by those who would intimidate you with their phony prophecies. Now, friends, there cannot be the counterfeit unless there is the real, and I believe in real prophecy; but there are far too many self-proclaimed prophets sitting in-wait to deceive. They manipulate, intimidate, regulate, and orchestrate by their own prophetic words. Once you are in their clutches, you move at their command–often as if hypnotized. You seek guidance from them. You desire a word from the Lord and go to them. You are deceived! This is the real co-dependency that should be abolished!

BE ALERT TO DEVOURERS

People will tear you apart. You speak the TRUTH to them, in love, and they’ll rip up your heart. They’ll knife you in the back. You think they are your dearest friends. You think they have your best interest at heart. You think they want to do all they can to help you. Then you say or do something that upsets them and they turn on you! Jesus said this would happen. He said people would take advantage of you and persecute YOU. The purpose of an attack is to sift you like wheat so you’ll be separated within yourself and have no direction; this is how the enemy can rob, kill, and destroy your influence, and to cause you to faint in your mind–wear you out! But if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small (Prov. 24:10). You are able to withstand the fiery darts of the enemy and not be devoured because you know your God! Because you keep your eyes on Jesus! Because you mind your own business!

I don’t know the future of your church. I’ve lived long enough to see many congregations that spiraled to hundreds, even thousands, in the last few decades are now barely making it or have already closed their doors. Many that seem to be powerful, big, and mighty today may be just an offense away from destruction. It only takes one disagreement, one discord, to sift and divide a congregation, a marriage, a family, or even a corporation. Picking up offenses and joining the ranks of the discontented will result in a disappointment and collapse. Then comes the introspection: Since I couldn’t do anything to effect a positive change, why didn’t I leave the situation alone rather than sticking my nose into it. They come to regret not minding their own business rather than taking on the business of someone else.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds–maybe not much more of the wealth and prosperity so enjoyed by America over the past decades. Sadly, many have confused it with rewards for being good, or in the church it has been confused with God’s anointing. Probably not much more time of peace and fearless going to and fro as we pleased, for we have mistaken that for God’s freedom. But we do know, Jesus said, Occupy till I come… (Luke 19.13). And that means for us to do business! He gave each one of us an assignment. Do what’s assigned to you! And don’t turn and look at someone else! Don’t pick up their offenses, nor look for someone else to blame for your own plight! Neither be concerned that they aren’t doing their job, nor even be concerned what their job should be (unless that’s your business)! It’s your business to make sure you are fulfilling your assignment–as a mom, a dad, a boss, an employee, a pastor, an usher, a greeter. Be sure your account is settled and there’s nothing between your soul and your Savior! It’s your business to be concerned with yourself and your own purity.

Jesus is the author of your faith–the one who created it and gave it to you. He’s the finisher of your faith–the one who will bring you safely across the finish line of life. He’s the perfecter of your faith–the one who causes your faith to grow, mature, and be sufficient in times of stress and trial. The songwriter so aptly put it: When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay!

Mind your own business. Keep your heart pure and tender. Remember, Jesus gives you a heart of flesh in exchange for your heart of stone. Both break. But the heart Jesus gives also heals. The other one stays in pieces.

Do not be distracted.

Do not he deceived.

Do not he devoured.

Mind your own business!

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(c) by C. Yvonne Karl. Revised from The Alabaster Box, Vol 9 No 01 Yr 1994. ykarl@alabasterbox.org

Scarecrows in my Cerebellum (“ites”)

Here is a pdf of my book: Scarecrows in my Cerebellum. The Chapters are named after the “ites” which Joshua told the people God would drive out of their land (Joshua 3:10; Exodus 23:23). This book is out of print. Occasionally it shows up as a used book on alibris, abebooks, or amazon.

Click on the link below.

Scarecrows-Brentwood-Final

The Dance of Leaves

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

Come hell or high water…

As a child in the 1940’s, the concept of hell was succinctly expressed in the hymns we sang. My family often attended revival meetings in country churches held for the purpose of bringing the unredeemed into relationship with Jesus Christ. Two of the most popular hymns sung at the end of the sermons were “Lost Forever” and “Eternity,” and the words are still with me today: Lost, forever! Lost, forever!
 Oh, how sad! Oh, eternity! Long eternity! 
Hear the solemn footsteps of eternity. (See words below.)

This era preceded the Rock and Roll take-over of “When the Saints go Marching in,” and I can still hear the congregation singing with gusto from Acts 2:20: “When the sun refuses to shine…” and “When the moon turns into blood…” As a little girl, I would come home at night and have nightmares because I wanted to “be in that number when the saints” went marching in. I didn’t want to be lost forever in long eternity.

Some of the evangelists openly confessed they wanted to scare the hell out of us, and for many it worked. Today with the emphasis on the Love of God, such a theme sounds brash, crass, and unloving—but their motive was admirable. They were exhorting us to move out of our sinful ways and into the path that leads to abundant life here and eternal life hereafter.

Hell? We find in the Bible that Hell appears as the English translation for Sheol and Hades—both alluding to the grave; Tartarus-darkness (2 Peter 2:4), and Gehenna-burning. In its primary description, it is the destination for non-believers after death. As soon as we hear this word, the picture that comes to mind most frequently is Fire.

However, we also read that it means a place where God is not (Matt.25:41); where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as a result of bitterness, anger, and contempt for themselves and the bad choice they made to reject God’s love. Some people like the idea of being in a place where God is not but they haven’t thought through the consequences of their location nor the environment of that place.

In addition to eternal hell, we also hear about hell on earth which alludes to indescribable tragedy and incomprehensible abuse. The latter is often unavoidable as it happens when excessive weather phenomenon or disastrous accidents occur and when people exercise their free-will for evil which they inflict on innocent victims. For these situations, we have a verse of comfort in Isaiah 43:2 where God promises to go with us through these fires of life and through the floods of evil and tragedy that confront or immerse us.

In fact, we learn that in this life, we will have afflictions, persecutions, and problems that appear insurmountable. The Apostle Paul says none of them can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35). And Jesus Himself promised that He will always be with us even to the end of our life (Matt.28:20). To that promise I cling and determine to move forward and not get stuck in the hell-bent intentions of others.

Perhaps that’s the meaning of an expression I’ve heard all of my life: I’ll do it,  Come hell or high water. My research has turned up assorted opinions about the origin of this expression but none appears to be authoritative. However, all agree it means no matter what happens; no matter what obstacle befalls me, I’ll stay the course; I won’t be distracted. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all who profess to be in the family of God would adopt this determination? No matter what life deals to me, I’ll pursue Jesus. I will not permit anything to stand in my way of completing my life with faith in Jesus. We would say with Paul, I’ve fought a good fight; I’ve kept the faith. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming (2 Tim.4:7-8).

We often hear people say: Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, I’ll do such and such. Lord willing is a biblical expression: You should say, ‘if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’ (James 4:15)However, to add and the creek don’t rise seems to give us an excuse in case we can’t follow through with our commitment. On the other hand, Come hell or high water, I’ll do such and such, gives us no way out but to trust Jesus is with us and go full speed ahead serving Him no matter what happens.

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yvonnekarl@gmail.com

(c) Yvonne Karl, 9 January 2013

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