Easter memories and actualities

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!

The sanctuary is adorned with myriad pots of white Easter lillies wrapped in purple foil, and the organ plays. Our children’s choir, in two-piece robes with ridiculous, huge bows at our necks, walks down the center aisle, singing Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. When our choir gets into place up front, our minister floats across the platform in his white robe with the special purple and gold scarf and begins the invocation. “Jesus is risen. Let us rejoice.” And the adult choir begins the anthem.

One very early Easter morning when I was a teen, our family went to a park to hear another choir’s resurrection songs. I remember the trees were lacy with tiny chartreuse leaves, dogwoods were in bloom, and the beautiful voices sang out. Low in the grave He lay Up from the grave He arose! It was thrilling.

Between my participation in the children’s choir and the dewy Easter morning in the park, I was born again. I understood the significance of Easter. No tomb can hold Him. He is God. He is our Redeemer. He’s alive!

The resurrection is the crowning pinnacle of the gospel.

Jesus died on the cross. That’s a terrible and wonderful fact, since His death—the perfect Son of God willingly paying the price for my sins—made it so that I could decide to acknowledge that payment and be saved.

And, even though He died and was buried, He rose.

Jesus told his disciples what would happen. He told the Jewish leaders as well. But his disciples didn’t understand. The leaders did, but they said, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God (John 19:7b).

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

After Jesus’ death, the Jewish leaders paid hush money to those who guarded the tomb, so that the people wouldn’t know what happened (Matthew 28:11-15).

Many saw Him after the resurrection. He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me (Paul) also, as of one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

Well over five hundred people saw Jesus alive, walking on the earth, talking to them, even eating food. He stayed around for forty days.

Disciples and angels watched as He ascended into heaven, promising to come again.

Why is it so important that Jesus is alive? Wasn’t His death enough?

Many religions portray Jesus on the cross, in glass caskets, and lying down on slabs—dead. While it’s true He suffered on the cross and was buried in a cave tomb, the most miraculous part of the gospel is His resurrection.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

The resurrection of Jesus gives us the way to eternal life. The resurrection gives us hope.

Jesus said unto her (the woman at the well), I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!

Have a Happy Easter!

What on earth does “godly” mean?

What does it mean to be godly?

Have you ever met a person who exudes godliness? What was that person like?

  • I remember years ago meeting some elderly people who embodied peace and joy. Is that godliness?
  • I had the privilege to meet a Romanian woman who had been put in jail and had suffered for Christ in many ways. She was peaceful, calm, and God’s power was manifested in a frail body. Was that godliness?
  • I inwardly criticized someone for refusing to stand up to his critics, for seeming weak and being sweet. Later, I realized that he was Christ-like, not me. Is that godliness?
  • In the Bible, women are supposed to immitate those women who profess godliness in their dress, actions, and lifestyle (1 Timothy 2:9-10). What kind of women are they?

So, what’s godliness? What does it mean to be godly?

I found a definition that was basically conforming to God’s wishes and laws, but frankly, I think godliness means much more than that.

Godliness begins with belonging to the Lord. It also is about being set apart—actually living to please God. It’s a life purpose. But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him (Psalm 4:3).

How can we achieve true godliness? Do we merely adjust our virtual haloes and soldier on? Do we fake it ’til we make it?

How does it happen?

It doesn’t happen overnight. Godliness is a result of the process of sanctification—what God does in our lives as we grow in Him. Most Christians take years to be conformed into the image of Christ.

Salvation begins to teach us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:12). Notice that first we need to deny ungodliness and sinful desires. We put away the bad stuff and add the good: sober living, righteousness, godliness.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers has this to say about living soberly, righteously and godly: “In these three terms the blessed life our Lord would have His own to lead on earth is summed up—to ourselves, to our neighbour, and to our God. The first, “soberly,” to ourselves—wisely and temperately, keeping ever a mastery over our passions; the second, “righteously”—justly and honourably, having due regard to our duty towards our neighbour; the third, “godly”—piously, ever remembering to live as in the presence of the Eternal.”

Living in the consciousness of God’s presence takes practice, discipline, and Christian growth.

The Lord describes this process this way: According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue … And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Peter 1:3, 6-7).

The power to be godly comes from God. He has called us to holiness. We can add virtues to our lives, one of them being godly—through His power.

The Bible says we need to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Timothy 6:11b).

One of the characteristics I’ve seen in godly people is a beautiful presence. It’s almost as if their faces radiate the Lord—reflecting Him. They smile. They’re calm, peaceful, and humble. They serve others. And, when they speak, wisdom speaks. They walk with God and know the Bible. It’s wonderful to be acquainted with people who are truly godly.

I want to be like that.

Follow after … godliness.

Women of the Bible 3: Who are we?

My grandfather was Hepher, the son of Gilead, of the family of Manasseh. My father had no sons, but I have plenty of sisters. I think my parents must have been hard up for girls’ names, since all of us got –ah at the end. I am Noah. Can you believe it? Just like the guy who built the ark and saved his family and the animals. My sisters’ names are even worse. But I’m being foolish.

My father was faithful to God, but Jehovah only gave him daughters.

When our father passed away, my sisters and I were single women. We had no brother to take care of us. Our father’s wealth would pass to no one if we couldn’t inherit. So, all five of us got our heads together and came upon a plan. It was bold, but we figured it never hurt to ask. The result would determine if we’d be destitute and the community would need to help us, or we would be able to inherit, just as if we were sons.

We presented ourselves to the leader, the priest, princes, and the congregation by the door of the tabernacle. My eldest sister spoke, “Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.”

The leader turned his back on us and walked away. We later found out he’d taken our cause before the Lord.

After a half hour, he returned and told everyone that God had spoken to him, saying, “The daughters … speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.”

This ruling became a precedent. God said women could inherit if there were no brothers.

God said something else to our leader: we could only marry within our tribe. If we did not, we wouldn’t keep our inheritance. All of us ended up marrying our father’s brothers’ sons. Thus, we kept our wealth in the tribe of Manasseh.

Through my sisters and me, God showed the generations to come that He is fair and loving, and that He takes care of women left fatherless.

I am thankful for an older sister who was brave enough to speak up; for our leader, who went to God with our petition; and most of all, to God, for pleading our case—and providing for the rights of many young women which would follow.

Praise Jehovah, for He is good.

Who are we? You already know my name. Who are my sisters? And, who was our father?

The New Crack: Internet addiction

It depends on where you get your statistics, but one source I consulted1 gave these as the percentages of Internet addicted people by age group:

  • 13-17  75%
  • 18-24  71%
  • 35-44  50%
  • 45-54  40%
  • 55-64  39%
  • 65+  44%

Depending on the age, nearly half of the population is addicted to Internet use. Does that shock you?

What are we talking about when we use the word addicted? Techopedia2 defines it as “a mental condition characterized by excessive use of the Internet, usually to the detriment of the user. Addiction is generally understood to be a mental disorder involving compulsive behavior.” Just so we know what we’re talking about, compulsive means it’s an irresistable urge, compelling.

Years ago, before the Internet was such a big thing, the problem was the television. A lot of people have it on all day, from morning to night. I was babysitting some children so that their parents could go away for a couple of days. In the morning, one of the children came downstairs in his pajamas, and the first thing he said was, “Where’s the remote?” Not “Good morning,” not “Hello,” but “Where’s the remote?” I assured him we would indeed see something after breakfast and getting dressed but not now, and it wouldn’t be TV at all, but a video. He was not happy.

Internet addiction actually changes the way we think. We get used to processing little bits of information here and there, and our brains actually change the synapses and start to think in a different manner.1 We forget how we used to think.

Kids and adults alike can’t live without their phones.

I remember taking some teen girls to fabulous places here in Spain. One of them even had her phone at the table at dinnertime. She was constantly checking her phone, texting, and communicating with everyone else. She was, frankly, antisocial to the people around her while being social to her friends on the other side of the “pond.” When she was shown an amazing sight, she’d “wake up” for enough time to take a couple of pictures and instantaneously send them off into the ether. She’d continue to text again until being verbally prompted to take in another sight—which meant taking a couple more fast pictures. The whole time she was with us was spent on her phone. We had no meaningful conversations.

Contrast that with other young people who visited us. They had their phones with them, of course, but during the day, they were used only as cameras. These kids looked around, soaked in the beauty, and took pictures. Their visits were graced with some wonderful conversations about what really matters in life. We bonded in a special way. It was a blessing to be together.

Everyone knows Internet addiction is a real issue. Many of us suffer from Internet dependence. We have an automatic, compelling urge to be online … and it’s not good.

Why?

The Bible tells us we’re supposed to meditate on God’s Word day and night. How can anyone do that if a screen connection is screaming for his attention?

  • This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:8).
  • But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2). 

The Bible also instructs us to do something else all the time: pray. We’re supposed to be in communication with the Lord all the time. How can anyone pray when his attention is somewhere else?

  • And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22).
  • Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).
  • Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

If we really desire to do God’s will, we need to disconnect. Does that seem radical? How can we do this? Let’s be practical.

No smartphones (or tablets) for school children. Why would a child need the Internet at all, anyhow? He can do research on a regular computer where Mom and Dad can see him. If he needs a phone with him in order to contact his parents, there are some cute phones on the market. Kids can use them to make parent approved phone calls. They can fast dial their parents. Children do not need to be connected. It is not good for them. Their minds need to be switched on for school, to learn, think, and play. An Internet connection for little kids only leaves them open to bullying, sexting, porn, and preditors. Besides those, addiction is a problem for about 70% of kids. That should scare you.

Schedule disconnected times. Start with meals. No phones at the table, not during the meal or afterwards, when the family is sharing together. No phones at all at the table—not for parents or children.

Family vacations are phone free—unless the phone is used as a camera.

The principle of substitution is all through Scripture. Instead of bad, we substitute good. I know the Internet can be used for good, and I sincerely strive to do that myself. But, it can also be addictive.

Ask the Lord to govern your online time. Determine when and where you will allow yourself to be online. Put your phone on vibrate, and answer it only when necessary.

Spend some time in Scripture to help you determine your priorities.

  • For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).
  • Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  • Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth (1 Corinthians 16:15-16).
  • Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11).

The Bible wants us to be controlled by the Spirit—not the Internet—and addicted to the ministry. What awesome goals!

1. https://brandongaille.com/32-interesting-internet-addiction-statistics/

2. https://www.techopedia.com/definition/15454/internet-addiction

Image by Анастасия Гепп from Pixabay

Are children responsible for their actions? Five ways to teach them

When our children were small, I often heard mothers excusing the behavior of their children with such sayings as: “He’s just a child,” “Children will be children,” and so on. And, of course, it’s true. You can’t expect maturity from a child. Are children responsible for their actions?

Once, a boy tried to throw rocks around eight inches in diameter at our kids. His mother’s reaction? “He’s just a boy.” She didn’t say, “I’m so sorry that happened. I will make sure he never does that again.” No. She just excused him.

Another child stole things. The father’s response was denial: “He didn’t take anything.” But he did, and we could prove it.

Are children responsible for their actions?

The Bible says yes. Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right (Proverbs 20:11).

I don’t know at what age a child is responsible for sin. That’s not what I’m talking about here. In this post, we’re looking into a child’s actions. Children are known by what they do.

Yes, children naturally do things like throwing fits, making small dramas into big ones, and so on. And, they bump into things, spill milk, get themselves messy, and leave toys out. That’s what normal children do. They are not teens or adults. I believe it’s perfectly fine for children to be themselves—while you teach them manners, how to look out for danger, and how to care for their home.

What should we look for in teaching our own children? How can we help them to be known for good works?

1. One of the most important things to teach them is to heed our voices. The Bible says, My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother (Proverbs. 1:8).

2. Teach your child to obey you. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise) Ephesians 6:1-2.

Our family was picnicking in a narrow park next to a street. A child’s soccer ball went out into the street with a little boy running after it. The child’s father yelled, and the boy stopped immediately, turning around to face his dad. A car would have hit him had he not listened to his father and obeyed immediately. The car actually grazed the soccer ball. The outcome could have been tragic, but the child listened to his father and obeyed right away. This incident was a great object lesson for our grandson, who watched it unfold.

3. Teach your children their good works please you. My experience as a young mother was that it was easy to get caught up in disciplining and correcting and forget to praise. It’s important to do both, of course. Let your children know that their obedience, thankfulness, thoughtfulness, sweetness, and giving please you. Praise these things. Thank your children. Notice the things they do well and compliment them. You’ll see their eyes sparkle. They want to please you. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother (Proverbs 10:1b)

4. Teach your child to love God. This is the most important thing you will do as a parent. Show your child what it means to love God.

This begins with your own faith. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).

Teach them what God has done. This will mean reading them Bible stories, sharing your family’s answers to prayers, and making the Bible come to life as you share your own spiritual journey with your children.

I’m a grandmother, and it’s such a satisfaction to see how the biblical worldview and love for God that my husband and I passed down to our children is getting passed down to theirs.

We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children (Psalm 78:4-6).

5. Expose them to God’s plan for salvation. When our first child was very small, my husband and I talked to her Sunday school teachers and asked them specifically to tell the little children—probably around three years old at the time—that Jesus died for their sins and rose again. We wanted the gospel woven into every lesson. Our desire was that she would begin to understand what Jesus did for her. Now, she is a mother. After a move, she and her husband were visiting area churches. One of the factors in their choice was the children’s class. In several of the churches, three-year-olds were kept in a nursery with no Bible stories at all. In the church they attend, the gospel was taught—with fun activities—to all the children in every age group.

Make sure the gospel is also taught at home in your family devotions. You don’t have family devotions? You can begin now. We used to do them at the table after our main meal, but you can choose any time the whole family is together. For small ones, keep it short and sweet. Prayer, Bible story or Bible reading, and that is enough. Don’t make them hate it by having long periods of prayer requests. (I used to go crazy with those!) Change it up. Sing a hymn sometimes. Just make sure your family focuses on the Lord together.

When you teach your children respect, obedience, and to love God, they will be known for their good actions. They will be a credit to you. And, best of all, they will be happy.