Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Sight for Sore Eyes




Dear Readers, 


My video blog today is about seeing someone or something, perhaps unexpectedly, that makes us feel good and gives us hope.  I pray that you find it meaningful. 


See you next time,


Arlen





Monday, October 8, 2012

"Just What the Truth Is..."




Dear Readers, 

My video blog today is about having memories, sometimes unpleasant ones...that shape who you are. I pray that you find it meaningful. 

See you next time,

Arlen

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happenings



Dear Readers,

I made this video blog (vlog) today entitled "Happenings". I hope you find it meaningful and that real happenings begin occurring in your lives.

See you next time,

Arlen

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Puzzling



Dear Readers,

Here is another video blog. I hope you enjoy it, find it meaningful, and it helps you solve the puzzles of your life.

See you next time,

Arlen

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Who is "Sent"?

Dear Readers,

I am not stating the following question to be controversial or adversarial. I’m stating it because I wonder about the truthfulness of it. How many of our pastors and Christian leaders today are “sent” by the Holy Spirit, or are they merely pursuing an occupation?

I’ve lately felt deeply disturbed in my soul. It has to do with my many relatives, friends, and acquaintances that don’t know Christ. America and our communities are saturated with churches and people claiming to be religious, and even more claiming to be Christian. But we have minimal effect on the people around us. 

One might quote the saying of Jesus, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” in Matthew 7:13. That person might say that people going on the broad way are going toward their destiny, and there is nothing we can do about it.

I’m not sure why Jesus said those words. In a way it seems fatalistic, like there is no recourse but to let masses of people head toward destruction. Or was He just being realistic in stating a truth?

I think we get a true picture of where His heart was only two chapters later in Matthew 9:37-38. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

And who can forget the Great Commission in Matthew 28. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."

I think it’s clear that Jesus was just stating a truth in the first Matthew passage, but later in Matthew he showed his passion for people who are lost without a shepherd.

Paul in Romans 10:14-15 further identifies something that I think is a problem in today’s church. He says the following: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”

The crux of the matter is people, whether they are Christian leaders or lay people, are they “sent” by God and His Holy Spirit? And if they are being sent, and I include myself in this, why are we, and I include myself, having so little impact?

See you next time,  
Arlen

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where's Waldo...Phinehas?


Dear Readers,

There was just something about the “Where’s Waldo?” pictures that was addictive. Whoever invented the Waldo concept was either a genius, or maybe just lucky to hit on something that would become so popular to millions. Who of you has not spent at least some time searching for Waldo?

Waldo was an everyday man living in an everyday world. Actually he was an everyday man living in many everyday worlds. The artist had at his disposal many themes of possible places he could conjure up where Waldo might be found.

Waldo had some constants, however, that made him at least slightly recognizable among the vast crowd/s. The red-striped stocking cap with a red pompom and red-striped shirt gave evidence to Waldo’s presence. But the artist was able to obscure the real Waldo with many other red-striped characteristics and people in red-striped garb.

Also there was the hair. Waldo’s dark brown hair coiffed off to the right of his hat was something one could look for. And who could ever forget, or miss the round black-rimmed glasses with wide white dotted eyeballs?

Then lastly, who could forget Waldo’s constant smile? Waldo seemed to be happy in whatever world he found himself.

I came across a story recently in I Chronicles 9 that reminded me a little of Waldo. God had allowed the people of Judah to be taken away into Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. But now there were some who were allowed to return to their homeland.

Genealogies as a rule are difficult for me to read. They seem tedious and I sometimes wonder why God inspired the authors of the Bible to write them. The author of I Chronicles 9 includes a genealogy of the people of Judah who were released from Babylon to return back home to Judah to their towns and properties.

I was doing my due diligence trying to stay focused to read through this particular genealogy when something struck my eye. Like finding Waldo in an obscure land I found Phinehas among the many Israelites, priests, Levites, and temple servants that had returned. The many other men mentioned were deemed important in the reoccupation. I’m sure their family members in later generations were proud when they saw their ancestor mentioned as a returning refugee.

What was different about Phinehas, and why did the author choose to put in an identifying characteristic, just like Waldo, to help the seeker to find him?

The specific characteristic is mentioned only once in this passage. Also, in many other Bible genealogies there is only sometimes something mentioned that sets a particular person apart.

It is said of Phinehas, one of the many gatekeepers who guarded the entrance of the temple, “and the Lord was with him”.

Why was Phinehas identified among so many others in such a way? What did the author know about Phinehas that inspired him to write that the Lord was with him? I think the specific nature of what Phinehas actually did to deserve to be set apart will likely never be known to us on this side of heaven.

My question is can we be like Phinehas? I’m not advocating that we knowingly do things to gain recognition like Phinehas. My guess is Phinehas never even knew that the author of I Chronicles wrote about him in such a way.

But can it be said of us “and the Lord was with him”, or “and the Lord was with her”?

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our Days "Are Like Grass"

Dear Readers,

My parents and grandparents are gone. Most of my uncles on both my Dad and Mom’s sides are gone. Recently there are some former Amish persons with whom our family is involved that are gone. The majority of missing persons in my life were old when they passed on, but recently a number of young persons are gone in a split second, mostly due to accidents.

I’ll also soon be gone, as will my wife and son. As a matter of fact, you too soon will be gone. Psalm 103:16-18 (KJV) says our days “are like grass”:

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,

To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.


Doesn’t it cause you to want every moment to count? Doesn’t it make you pause to think about the great mercy the Lord has for us when we turn to Him?

See you next time,
Arlen

Friday, June 8, 2012

Can I Be One of "The Mighty Men"?


Dear Readers,

I often thought of myself as a weakling…weak in body and spirit. I had a degree of athletic ability in high school, and had five varsity letters in three sports. But I was never outstanding in any of them to the point where the colleges came knocking at my door.

My biggest claim to fame was when I spent a day at a choral music festival in Newcomerstown, Ohio, and stayed in the same home as Bob Huggins, now the head basketball coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers.We played a pick-up game of basketball and a crowd grew to watch us.

We all knew the main draw was Bobby H. He was an All-Ohioan for a couple years and was highly recruited by a number of colleges. But we all put on a pretty good show, if I do say so myself.

What happened to me? My meager basketball, tennis, baseball, and softball prowess is virtually gone. I’m 58 years old and about five years ago my wife and son teased me when I played church league softball that I ran “like an old man”.

So now to my point…I have read a number of times about David’s mighty men/warriors in II Samuel 23. David had a number of mighty men, but there were three that in today's terms we would call his “right-hand” men. The exploits of the three are amazing, and it’s obvious the hand of God was on them. Josheb killed eight hundred men in one encounter. In a battle against the Philistines Eleazar stood his ground when the rest of Israel retreated, and his hand “froze to his sword”. Shammah defended a field of lentils all by himself against a large band of Philistines and brought about “a great victory”.

I know that at my age I can’t physically fight eight hundred men, and I don’t think God is asking me to do so. But perhaps I can I fight a spiritual battle of epic proportions. Perhaps I can fall on my face before God to the point where he uses me to snatch eight hundred persons from the fire of hell and bring them into a wonderful eternity in heaven.

In 2001 my brother was shot by an intruder at work that he tried to tackle. The Lord spared his life, but he became blind. The incident left me in shock at first. But after my brother recovered to some degree I thought about his bravery, and the fact that the Lord spared his life. I then thought about Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 and Luke 12 about sparrows. Jesus was giving the lesson that we need not be afraid of men.

I’m not saying I have it all figured out, and that I’m braver than the next guy. But God put the plan in place whereby you and I can become one of “the mighty men”.

See you next time,
Arlen

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"There Go the Dregs of Humanity"


Dear Readers,

I think one of the funniest lines in television was, “There go the dregs of humanity.”

It was a statement by Larry, of “I’m Larry, and this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl” Newhart show fame. Larry and his brothers just opened their new café in the small Vermont town close to the Stratford Inn run by Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart).

The café was visited by a group of work crew prisoners. As the prisoners were departing the cafe Larry uttered the famous line. I laugh hysterically every time I hear it, and my stomach bounces trying to hold my laughter in.

You have to get the picture in your mind. Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl were as backwoods as a person can get. An example of this is when Dick and Joanna found out there was a dead body buried in the basement of the Inn the three came with haste, picks, and shovels to dig it out.

Then Dick and Joanna changed their minds about digging out the body and called them up from the basement. The brothers were sorely disappointed. But their disappointment was short-lived when Joanna told them about a dead opossum out by the well. They ran with reckless abandon out of the Inn to dispose of the critter.

Larry, Darryl, and Darryl didn't realize they perhaps were looked on by the Vermont townsfolk as being odd, eccentric, and "the dregs of humanity". That's what made the line so funny.

Today I had a Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Salvation Army in Ashland, Ohio. I parked beside a car, and I kid you not, in which every nook and cranny, front seat and back, save the driver’s seat, was piled with trash of fast food containers and various things I don’t even want to think about. The car owner would not even be able to open the windows without fear of trash blowing out the window.

I did a double take, and later at the end of the meeting found myself joking about the car and the car owner with another participant of the meeting. In essence, not verbally, I pointed out that the car owner was a prime example of the “dregs of humanity”.

I was taken aback by my humor and quickly prayed for God to forgive me. It was an example of a sinner calling another sinner sinful. I found out that the car owner was a woman who had fallen on hard times and lived mostly in her car, and she came to the Salvation Army for socialization and nourishment.

At the Salvation Army I saw people of great contrasts. The Chamber meeting brought business owners and executives decked out in suits and ties as they tried to impress other business owners and executives to purchase their wares, goods, and services.

On the other hand there were people milling about with tattered and disheveled clothing, little education, and not trying to impress anyone. They were there to socialize, play bingo, and eat.

Where do I fit into the scheme of things? I am trying to identify with the elite in society to sell them something. But I really know that for a few breaks and the grace of God it could easily be said of me, "There go the dregs of humanity."

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cousin Verna

Dear Readers,

Cousin Verna died last week. She lived in Arizona and was ill for many months. I never spent much time with her as she grew up in Kansas and moved to Arizona a number of years ago. The only time I saw her was at three-year Yoder family reunions and other sporadic reunions. 


When I was a young boy I can remember Verna and a friend coming to stay at my family’s house while she attended Bible School at Pleasant View Conservative Mennonite Church. She always had a ready smile and a wry sense of humor. I can remember hunting “snipes” at night when she stayed here, and roasting cashews. What is a snipe anyway? I remember getting sick after eating too many cashews. 


Verna was a light in my life and the life of my family. My family was only sporadic in church attendance at that time and never talked openly about a person having faith in God. I recognized then there was something different about Verna and some of my other Conservative Mennonite relatives. 


Dad and Verna’s dad Jake grew up Amish. I think Dad was the first of his family to leave the Amish church, but he did not leave for religious reasons. I think Uncle Jake, on the other hand, left the Amish and became Conservative Mennonite because they had an emphasis on salvation by faith in Christ. 


It was obvious to me that Uncle Jake, his family, and Cousin Verna were different. They had a ready smile, love, and acceptance of my family. I didn’t know it at the time, but I now know it was Jesus living in them that made them so different. 


I firmly believe Cousin Verna, her family, and many of my other relatives with obvious faith in Christ helped influence me to accept Christ for myself. For that I’m eternally grateful. 


See you next time.
Arlen

Monday, April 23, 2012

Longing Glances

Dear Readers, 

Sometimes doing mental health work I get stuck in my office for periods of time doing various sundry tasks. So I look forward to trips into the community to visit clients and employers where I can get out of my stuffy office and see the countryside.


I enjoy looking at the valleys and hillsides, the wooded areas, the ponds, and the streams. I sometimes have the urge to go on a back road, park my car, and take a walk deep into the woods to enjoy God’s creation. I then come back to my senses and know that I’m on the clock and need to stay focused on accomplishing my work. I’m relegated to only take longing glances from my car. 


The same thing happens when I watch videos of faraway places, especially mountains, and even more particularly the Alps Mountains of Europe. I grew up with Mennonite/Amish/Anabaptist roots, so perhaps my attraction to these majestic peaks and valleys is due to the fact that my ancestors started out there. 


When Rick Steves Europe on the PBS channel focuses on the mountains of Austria or Switzerland I become totally mesmerized and long for the day when I might be able to visit there. I long to breathe the crisp clean air, and view with wonder the sparkling brooks and waterfalls. I again come back to my senses and think that at my age and with my resources a trip there is likely impossible. All I can do is dream and take longing glances from afar. 


I think that life is full of a series of longings and dreams to visit and view scenic and almost unfathomable majestic sights. For some of us our dreams will be fulfilled, but for many of us the barriers are just too great. 


Where does this longing come from? Why do we even think about things that seem unreachable? 


I think I have the answer. God has put this longing into our souls. He realizes that it is natural for us to crave beauty and majesty, and that to do so draw us closer to Him. 


Hebrews 11:13-16 sums it up best:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” 


Revelation 21 says that the streets and walls of this city will be made of pure gold and the gates of solid precious stones. John in Revelation 22:1-2 goes on to share what will fulfill our longing:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.”


So here on this earth we may have to settle for taking "longing glances" from our car, or from afar, but someday... 


See you next time.
Arlen

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Does Passion Come From?

Dear Readers,

These days there is much talk about people having passion about things, and that passion breeding a degree of success. Tebowmania was rampant in Denver when Tim Tebow brought faith, passion, and football together to create a buzz that the sports world seldom sees. Many people jumped either into the love camp or hate camp about Mr. Tebow.


Many had questions about Mr. Tebow’s ability to sustain his winning exploits without being a prototypical quarterback. They saw him as a fly-by-night success. On the other hand people of faith were excited that a clean-living young man open about his belief in Christ was able to dispel the myth that “nice guys finish last”.


Steve Jobs and Bill Gates parlayed their passion about computers into Apple and Microsoft empires. Who doesn’t look with longing at their small beginnings of getting together with other “geeks” and turning the world upside down with technological advance?


Anne Beiler, a former Amish girl, wanted to make a perfect pretzel. She came from a life of difficulty fraught with many failures. But she used her passion and faith to start Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, now a worldwide business.


Why do people, including myself, not have more passion to go after their dreams to change their world, even if may not bring the widespread fame of the above-mentioned people? Why do we get stuck in the rut of feeling inadequate?


Why do the churches we attend seem boring and unable to meet the deep needs in our lives? Have the leaders and congregants in our churches also lost their passion?


How in the world do we gain, or regain this passion? I’m fifty-eight years old and AARP has already come knocking at my door. I no longer have the virile energy I once had. Sometimes I lie on my couch in the evenings without moving. How can I change the world from my couch?


DOES ANYONE HAVE SOME ANSWERS? CAN WE WORK TOGETHER TO FIND ANSWERS ON HOW TO REGAIN OUR PASSION?

See you next time.

Arlen

Monday, April 2, 2012

Falling at His Feet!


Dear Readers,

Days, weeks, months, and years go by with seemingly no extraordinary events. Nothing that a person can hang his hat on and say, “That was really special!” We can easily identify with Solomon when he wrote, “…all is vanity and grasping for the wind”. Ecclesiastes 1:14. (NKJV)


Luke 8 is a wonderful passage that can lift me out of my feeling of the “vanity” of life. What I need to understand is that most of the people written about in Luke, the rest of the Bible, and perhaps many of you feel my same doldrums from time to time.


Look at the women mentioned in Luke 8:1-3. Mary Magdalene had seven demons. I guess she had many days, weeks, and years when she questioned whether her torment would ever end. Also Joanna and Susanna, and other prominent women likely had wealthy husbands and all their needs met. Why weren’t they just content with their lives?


Verse 4 states that “a great multitude” came “from every city” to hear Jesus speak. This would indicate that many people felt the same as I do right now. They wanted something good to happen that would prove there was meaning to life.


Jesus spoke words they could understand. He talked of planting, of light, and he even told the people that if they wanted to be his brothers and mother they needed to “hear the word of God and do it”. As if all this weren’t enough He calmed a storm swept sea and healed a demon possessed man.


Then Jairus, a local synagogue ruler, came and fell down at the feet of Jesus and “begged” Him to come to his house to help his ill and dying daughter. This event was striking to me because it was a story of a man that had nowhere else to turn for help. He knew that his pious prayers in the synagogue did not heal his daughter. He knew that his “religious” friends were not able to bring her back to life. What did Jairus have to lose? His position in the synagogue paled in comparison to his daughter’s life.


Parallel in my life and perhaps yours = Feeling hopeless with nowhere else to turn for meaning or healing in your life or the lives of your loved ones.

Solution = Falling at the feet of Jesus to beg Him to help us.


See you next time.

Arlen

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tent Meeting, or Camp Meeting?

Dear Readers, 

I came upon a curious passage of scripture recently that involved Moses and Joshua, the right hand man of Moses, and Eldad and Medad, elders in the camp of the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land.

 

There was much envy and strife in the camp, dating all the way back to the golden calf incident. Rebellious men and their entire families were swallowed up by giant chasms in the ground, burned to death with fire from heaven, or ordered to by Moses to killed by the sword.
 

In this case the Israelite people had plenty of manna, but now they longed for some meat. So Moses at the Lord's direction called the elders to come and surround his tent to address the complaints. The Lord was going to send quail for meat, but first He was going to show the elders His presence, which to date had only been directly seen by Moses.
 

The problem was two elders who didn’t obey the command. They were nowhere near Moses’s tent. I’m guessing no one missed Eldad and Medad at the sacred gathering. But then word spread that instead of attending the “tent meeting”, they were having their own “camp meeting” with God. A young man ran to Moses and gave the news of Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp rather than to obey Moses’s call for the elders to meet around his tent.
 

Here we go again, two more rebellious souls. Hadn’t they learned anything? Joshua called Moses to take action against the men to stop this horrific act. I again was expecting the two men to be brutally killed, or at the least to be struck with a plague.
 

But Moses, instead of becoming incensed at Eldad and Medad, said to Joshua: “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. Numbers 11:29-30 (NIV).
 
Why was this passage so striking to me? As I grow older I see people, including myself, jockeying for positions with families, friends, in the workplace, churches, and in the world. We become offended easily when we don’t get the attention we think we deserve and we openly share our discontent.

 
I hope I’m becoming wiser to avoid this trap and instead try to follow the way of Moses. Rather than becoming angry at their disregard of the order to be present at the meeting called by the Lord Himself, Moses recognized that maybe God had called Eldad and Medad individually, perhaps to a “camp meeting” even before the “tent meeting” began.

 
See you next time,

Arlen

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Invasion of the Soul Snatchers

(Dear Readers: Some of you may have watched the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" filmed in 1956 and remade in 1978. This blog post is a take-off on that movie. I hope you find it meaningful.)

He wants our souls and will stop at nothing. He'll allow the infiltration of our minds with seemingly innocent and innocuous ideas. His goal is to lull us into thinking that everything is OK, that we're on the right track in life, that we're doing enough to get favor from man...and God. He even likes when we don't think at all about the meaning of life.

Our good thoughts about "religious" people are no problem to him, as long as those people leave us alone. Good people and religious people can live side by side in harmony, all we need to do is to just keep our distance and don't open ourselves up to each other.

And look at all the hypocrisy in Christians. Remember the televangelists that did things to prove they were hoaxes; the Billy Graham Crusades had "plants" that went forward first so others would follow. We can use logic and explain anything away if we think hard and long enough

But stay away from what might be called "soul snatchers". They're beginning to enter our workplaces and communities, and they never give up on their prey. They are tenacious and hang on with all their might and nothing can make them lose hope. They believe the Bible to a fault and they cannot be steered off course. They want all people, even the worst of us, to give our hearts to a man called Jesus who they claim is the Son of God. How can any man claim that?

These people say that Jesus can invade our bodies with His Holy Spirit. That seems too strange to even consider. And what about this blood thing? Who wants to be covered by blood? That seems almost disgusting, like it's out of a horror movie!

But they never give up. They use the Bible verses in Matthew 7 that talks about the "broad" path and the "narrow" path. They then try to convince us that the broad path leads to hell and the narrow path leads to heaven. How can anyone tell another person that they might end up in hell if they go on a certain path?

These soul snatchers take literally the verse in Jude 23 where Jude instructed followers of Christ to "save others by snatching them from the fire".

But don't worry friends. Our leader has plans for them to make them lose their zeal. He will come against these zealots with all he's got.

Their soul snatching fervor will diminish…or will it?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

“Amish This” & “Amish That”

Dear Readers:

I often tell my wife my dislike for things labeled “Amish This” or “Amish That”. Currently there is a wave of labels of goods, services, and philosophies that have the word “Amish” attached to them. There are “Amish Goods”, “Amish Wisdom”, “Amish Books”, “Amish Furniture”, “Amish Heaters”, “Amish Proverbs”, “Amish Cheese”, “Amish America”, etc. The funniest one I ever saw was “Amish Meat". I'm still looking for the first Amish cow!

Why are businesses and people, in many cases “English” people, attaching the word Amish to their wares? Are Amish made products and Amish wisdom better than other products and wisdom?

I’m from Holmes County, Ohio, so I know that tourism there has brought great prosperity. Holmes County is touted as having the largest Amish population in the world, and has grown from a sleepy community with one motel/hotel in the entire county to having hotels, restaurants, bed & breakfasts, and tourist stores at every turn.

Is what happened to Holmes County a good thing? I’m not sure. I’m guilty of the same pride when I return and take friends and relatives through there and let them know where everything is located.

I also proudly tell my wife that if I ever start a business I’m not going to use the name Amish in the title, but will use the name “Yoder”. But by association almost everyone knows that Yoder is usually attached to having an Amish heritage. I would then vicariously be using my Amish roots to get gain.

I recently watched a video of Jim Cymbala, the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church, where he preached to a group of pastors and missionaries about Jesus driving out the money changers. He said that Jesus drove them out on two separate occasions. My question is, can the use of the Amish label to products be compared to the money changers of the temple, or am I way off base? The money changers and sellers of animals to be sacrificed used the religious traditions of the Jewish nation to make money, usually at inflated prices. They let themselves believe they were doing a service, and they may have told themselves they were entitled to make a little extra money on the side.

Can the same be said of the use of the Amish name and traditions? I don’t have all the answers. I love my relatives that have grown up Amish. I love and am proud of my Amish roots. But I don’t want to be so infatuated with them that I forget a more important equation: Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-10

See you next time,
Arlen

Monday, February 13, 2012

Open-Door Policy


Dear Readers:

The things Peter warned us about in 1 Peter 4:12 seems to be happening to me and my family. He said, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Without going into detail I never thought that we would be experiencing the almost surreal things we are right now.

The event in our lives is so unexpected that it makes me question, “Why?” I’m sure that there are some people that might point out our flaws and the flaws of my family and say the following: “See what happens when you’re out of God’s will.” I have questioned this myself so I can’t blame them, although it would be a hurtful thing to say.

Others might say that God is taking us through a time of time of suffering for Christ as Peter indicated in verse 13, “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Good things are happening in our family like never before and perhaps our “fiery ordeal” is a way of Satan putting roadblocks in the way to slow us down. My wife just got a publishing contract for three fiction books, and the books will reveal some flaws in the proliferation of romanticizing the Amish culture. The books will point out that many Amish people, although religious, are not taught to become saved and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We also had some minor involvement in a PBS production and a National Geographic production and had film crews in our home twice in the last year. In one production a man that formerly was Amish became born-again.

I cannot control the thinking of other people about our circumstances. All I can do is to have what I might call an “open-door policy” with wisdom. Solomon wrote the following in Proverbs 8:33-35 about waiting daily at the doors of wisdom:

Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not disregard it.
Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the LORD.


See you next time,  
Arlen

Friday, January 20, 2012

"I've Got You Covered!"

Dear Readers:

Among Christians, especially conservative Christians, there is much debate over the merits of women wearing head coverings. Some will even use the word apostasy attached to the non-wearing of them. I, however, want to talk about a more important covering, if you will. It is the blood covering of Christ on a person who is a believer in Him.

I was having a bad week recently at work. I was not meeting the productivity requirements and my boss was talking to me each day about it. That, along with new programs and my new supervisory role got me down. I was feeling like a real failure. I even wrote on Facebook the fact that I needed “help”.

I had many wonderful encouragements from family, friends, and my pastor. I prayed during the evening about it. The next morning I awoke early and was not able to go back to sleep before I needed to get ready for work. I turned on the TV and watched a preacher whom I never spent much time watching before. One statement he made seemed directed toward me and my condition of worry.

I don’t know the exact wording, but it went something like this. “God is very powerful. He can see through walls, and into the hearts of men. He is all powerful...but He is not able to do one thing.” This statement sparked my interest. What in the world would God not be privy to? Who was this preacher and what nonsense was he going to spout off?

I was ready to tune this preacher out and turn him off, when he made the following statement. He said, again I paraphrase, “God cannot see the failures and sins of a person bought and covered by the blood of the Lamb”. In other words God cannot see any sin or failure in me when I’m in Christ and covered by His blood.

What a wonderful feeling I had! God cannot see my failures and sins when I bring them under the blood of Jesus. I am a success in His eyes. I asked my wife about this preacher’s statement. She wisely stated that it is like the passing over of the death angel when the Israelites put the sacrificed lamb’s blood on the lintel of their doors. The Israelites were downtrodden and I would guess many of them felt they were failures. But by faith in God they followed God’s command given through Moses and their firstborn sons were saved. What a wondrous picture of the power of the covering of blood. I’m now beginning to know the meaning of the saying, “I’ve got you covered.”

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:13 (NIV)

See you next time,  
Arlen

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Whole Town Went Out to Meet Jesus

Dear Readers:

The facts are clear. The Bible gives numerous examples of groups of people gathering near to Jesus. Matthew 8:34 states that even a “…whole town went out to meet Jesus.” Wherever he went there were people scurrying to get close to him.

What was it about him that drew them? Was it his charisma and charm? Was it because of his great leadership skills? Was it due to having great oratory skills in which his words almost came alive?

Another question: Why aren’t people drawn to Jesus now? Why is there limited or no excitement, or buzz if you will, to draw near to Jesus?

I can just hear a person back in Bible times who went to a friend’s home and stated, “Jesus is out on the hillside, let’s go up to hear him. Maybe he’ll perform a miracle. Maybe he’ll let the Pharisees have a piece of his mind. I’m not sure what it is, but there's something different about him. Let’s go up there to see him!”

Where then is the disconnection now? And how can the connection be reestablished? Jesus was crucified, lay in the tomb, and rose after three days. He then went into heaven in the sight of his disciples. Is this where the “buzz” over him ended?

There seems to be excitement over him after that by the disciples explained in the book of Acts when they got together to talk about their experiences with Jesus over what he said and did, and the fact that he truly was the Son of God. And who can ever forget the “tongues of fire” in Acts 2:3 and where “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Acts 2:46. Don’t these verses just make you wish you would have been there?

Do we need charismatic leaders or great orators to bring us out of our doldrums? Or do we need ordinary folks like you and me to understand who Jesus is, to draw spiritually very close to him, and to accept the power of the Holy Spirit promised in Acts 1:8 to spread the good news of Jesus to all those around us?

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

See you next time,
Arlen

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"There's Something About That Name"

Dear Readers:

When I first became a Christian in the 70’s there were several Christian singers that I listened to repeatedly. One was Evie and the other was the husband and wife team Bill and Gloria Gaither. Who can ever forget Evie’s “Pass It On” with the famous first line “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…”?

But the song that I loved the most was a simple one verse song by the Gaithers entitled “There’s Something About That Name”. The verse goes like this and is repeated several times.
 

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; there’s just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain;
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all Heaven and earth proclaim;
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there’s something about that name."


Gloria Gaither then went on to state, with the music playing, the famous speech about the power, love, and healing that is embodied in the name of Jesus. It’s a name that will last for eternity and can never be snuffed out.

For the year 2012 (“twelve”) my goal is to “delve” into the person and name of Jesus. Corny as it may sound I rhyme the number of the new year with a theme term for the year.

Many churches have specific emphases and they focus on the theme that is emphasized. For Mennonites it may be peace and non-resistance. For Amish it may be living a humble and non-worldly lifestyle. For Nazarenes it may be living a holy life. For Baptists it may be eternal security. For Pentecostals it may be the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.

All of these things might be good in their own right. But in my opinion they are just pieces of a puzzle. But the full picture is one of Jesus, and Him alone. The verses in Philippians 2:9-11 sum up the power of that wonderful name: 


Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


See you next time,
Arlen