Monday, February 16, 2009

He'll Make More

1 Corinthians 8:8 says: "It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do."

If Paul had been a woman, he would never have written this verse, or at least he'd have chosen different wording. I know the context deals with eating food sacrificed to idols, but if he were like many women I know, he'd have understood that just looking at food causes some of us to "gain." Yet, by not eating it, we might "lose" something! Sorry, Paul, I beg to disagree with you on this issue. ;-)

Nevertheless, Darin's final sermon of the FEARLESS series struck an all-too familiar chord with me yesterday. He pointed out how many of us scavenge and horde things in our lives for fear there will not be enough for later. Thus, we make poor decisions based on these fears, once again telling God we doubt his provision and sufficiency for our lives. We sometimes hide or deny this doubt with spiritual concepts and biblical principles such as "stewardship" or "wise living," but in reality, our hearts are not acting in obedience, they're reacting because of greed or a lack of faith.

I think I've done that often in my life, primarily with food. For fear I won't get to enjoy all I want -not need- I'll overeat. As though there will never be another chocolate cake made or enchilada baked. (Now I'm getting real personal talking about Mexican food!) In all honesty, part of this stems from a deep ethic against wastefulness. I despise throwing away good food, knowing the desperation with which some people live for a daily scrap of bread, and the influence and stories of my Depression-Era grandparents has truthfully informed me there may not always be enough.

And yet, I'm the first to purge our home of clutter and excess junk, a.k.a. Moderation. So, why do I struggle to apply the principle of moderation to my eating? In truth, I'm more willing to gorge our landfills with plastics and papers than bio-degradable foods! But (and this is a tough one for Baptists), gluttony is just as significant a sin in the eyes of Holy God as any other. In fact, when He provided quail for the Children of Israel in the wilderness, those who gorged themselves were struck with a severe plague and died. So much that the place became known as Kibroth-hattaavah, which means “graves of gluttony." (Check out the crazy story in Num 11:31-35!)

My God will supply all my needs according to his (unlimited) riches, and sometimes he'll even even throw in a chocolate cake. I just need to remember not to eat it all in one sitting, because, like the old Doritos ad campaign: "He'll make more!"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Precious Stones, the Conclusion

Finally, Amethyst. The story of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek legends: The god of wine, Bacchus, was insulted one day by a mere mortal. He swore the next mortal who crossed his path would be attacked by fierce tigers. A beautiful maiden named Amethyst drew near, so the Goddess Diana turned her into a beautiful statue of quartz to save her from the tiger’s claws. Remorseful Bacchus wept tears of wine over the stone maiden, creating a lively purple stone. As a result, amethyst stones were believed to protect the wearer from drunkenness, or drinking wine from an amethyst goblet would prevent one from becoming inebriated!

Amethyst was believed to magnify psychic abilities and right-brain activity. Medically, it was thought to strengthen immunity, energize and purify the blood, relieve headaches, and improve blood sugar imbalance. In the Middle Ages, amethyst was thought to encourage celibacy, so the churches used them in ornamentation. In fact, Catholic bishops still often wear amethyst rings. Oddly enough, Amethyst was also associated with a number of superstitions, being regarded as a love charm, and as a protection against thieves. Additionally, it was placed under the pillow at night to produce a calm and peaceful sleep. It symbolizes Nobility and Sobriety.

What intrigues me most about these gems is God uses them as foundation stones! Precious as they are to us, we’d never use them to build a house upon, yet his supply is so great, he can stick them under and on top of the ground and inlay the walls with them, surrounding himself with the finest of his own valuable creation! And this foundation will last for all eternity. Furthermore, consider the virtues upon which his city is built: Justice, Truth, Protection and Security, Faith and Peace, Self Control and Holiness, Love, Thankfulness and Praise, Wisdom and Humility, Light, Repentance and Forgiveness, Honor, Nobility and Sobriety. Now, that’s the kind of city I want to live in!

Bear in mind, the city of New Jerusalem itself is brilliant gold with a street of pure gold, too. All this to say, God is worthy of our best and most valuable. He endorses extravagant worship of Himself in ways that honor and glorify him. He isn’t waiting for us to sell our homes, to buy and then donate gems to the expansion of his kingdom, but he wants to remind us that nothing is too good to be used for him and his work. We cannot withhold our best for ourselves, or even others. He alone is worthy of the most valuable possessions we have: our lives, our time, and all that matters to us. Our experiences as followers of Christ cannot be valued or measured. They are like the precious stones in the jewelry boxes of our lives. God wants to use those treasured nuggets of our lives to build foundations for the future of his kingdom through our family and discipling the younger generation. Are we withholding any treasures from him? Something he wants to build a foundation upon for his own honor and glory that will last for all eternity? When we say, “I’m not telling about the difficulties in my marriage,” or “I can’t share about my prodigal child,” or “I don’t want anyone to know my family member who decided she’s gay,” we are withholding a precious stones from God; He wants and deserves them all. Around Valentine’s Day, we give gifts to those we love. What precious stones in our lives will we give our First Love today?

Precious Stones pt. 3

The seventh stone John mentioned in the foundation of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:18-21) is Chrysolite. People in the Middle Ages wore Chrysolite, also known as Peridot, to gain foresight and divine inspiration. Pirates favored it to protect them against evil. This beautiful stone was worn or carried for general healing purposes: to increase strength & physical vitality, protect against nervousness and aid in healing hurt feelings. It was thought to protect lungs, sinuses, and wrists from illness and injury and help liver & adrenal function. The green hue suggested a connection to attracting wealth. By wearing it to bed, it was thought to promote sleep and help dreams become a reality by attracting love, calming raging anger, and dispelling negative emotions. It symbolizes Thankfulness and Praise.

The eighth, Beryl, is one of the more ambiguous jewels mentioned in Scripture. In its pure form, it is colorless, but many different impurities give beryl various color possibilities. Emeralds are the green variety and aquamarines are the blue variety of beryl. There are other colors as well: greenish-yellow, pink, red and golden. Like the emerald, beryl was believed to develop virtues in a wearer, those of a good nature and noble mind. It was also thought to being victory in battle. It symbolizes Wisdom and Humility.

Topaz, the ninth foundation stone, comes in a variety of colors and is surprisingly one of the gems whose history in Scripture is most unknown. In ancient times, a figure of a falcon carved on a Topaz was thought to help earn the goodwill of kings, princes and magnates. The Greeks thought it brought strength, and during medieval days it was thought to heal physical and mental disorders as well as prevent death. Medically, it was thought to stimulate the endocrine system, assist in general tissue regeneration, treat hemorrhages, increase poor appetite, and help fight blood disorders. Emotionally, topaz was believed to balance emotions, calm passions, release tension and give feelings of joy and rejuvenation. It symbolizes Light.

Of all the stones, Chrysoprasus is probably the most disputed. We’re uncertain if it is a golden clear stone, green hazy stone, or our everyday turquoise! Little is known about the first two options, but if the chrysoprasus is the same as turquoise, it was believed to defend or protect wearers from disease and illness by changing color with the wearer's health and protect him or her from injurious forces. It symbolizes Repentance and Forgiveness.

Jacinth is a zircon, of which there are many color variations. The orange variety of zircon is the jacinth. It was believed to relieve pain and whet one's appetite. By preventing nightmares, it ensured a deep tranquil sleep and supposedly helped on be at peace with oneself by improving self-esteem. Zircons like Jacinth were believed to provide wearers with wisdom, honor and riches, and if its luster were to be lost, it was a warning of impending danger. It symbolizes Honor.

Last installment to follow.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Precious Stones Pt. 2

The third stone John mentioned in the foundation of the New Jerusalem to come is Chalcedony. The Romans prized chalcedony as seals, and the Victorians carved them into cameos. Chalcedony was used in Renaissance magic for health and safety. This beautiful stone was believed to banish fear, hysteria, depression, mental illness and sadness. Wearing chalcedony was believed to be excellent for eyes and thought to reduce fever. While some thought it stimulated creativity, others wore it to promote calm and peace. It's symbolic meaning is Protection and Security.

Emerald’s refreshing soft green color was thought to help heal eyes and prevent convulsions in children. Emeralds were also used as antidotes for poisons and when held in the mouth, were believed to be a cure for dysentery. They were believed to aid with ailments of the spine, mental illness, memory loss, intelligence, and neurological disorders. Somehow, it was supposed to assist women at childbirth, too. Many virtues were ascribed to emeralds. It was thought to drive away evil spirits, give faith, success in love, and preserve the chastity of the wearer. Supposedly, to aid a wearer in wisdom, it changed color in the presence of false friends or false witnesses, thus promoting peace of mind, true friendship, and felicity in domestic life. It symbolizes Faith and Peace.

The fifth stone, Sardonyx, is a layered stone of red and white, prized by Romans for use in making cameos of heroes such as Hercules or Mars and worn by soldiers. They believed the stone would make the wearer brave and daring. During the Renaissance, sardonyx was believed to bring eloquence upon the wearer and was regarded with great value by public speakers and orators. Medically, it was used as a heart, kidney, nerve, capillary, hair, eye and nail strengthener. It was believed to help one sleep and eliminate apathy, negative thinking, stress and neurological disorders. Some believed it helped one change habits, sharpened the wits of the wearer and brought spiritual inspiration while helping to emotions and passions under control. It is symbolic of Self-control and Holiness.

Sardius, or Carnelian, is the sixth stone John mentions. Because hot wax does not stick to this stone, it was used widely during Roman times to make signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence or other important documents. It was believed to protect wearers from weapons and evil spirits, since true love could not be present in conflict or evil. I'm not sure why, but it symbolizes love.

Come back again later for the next stones!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Precious Stones

Last Monday, I had the privilege of leading a devotional for the Lydia Class, a ladies' Bible study group in our church. Not only was the time together a fun experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed the preparation for the devotional prior to that. Knowing the theme of the meeting was related to Valentine's Day, I felt led to share on jewels, or precious stones - specifically some of those mentioned in the Bible.

Exodus 28 God outlines for Moses the design of the high priest's breastplate which he is to wear within the Tabernacle only and while administering the functions of his office. It must have been a fabulous sight. I've included a couple pictures of some from history. Each of the twelve jewels stood for a different tribe of Israel. Its design was to show the glory and beauty of the Lord and be a continued memorial before God regarding His Covenant with the tribes of Israel. What that spoke to me is nothing is too valuable to be used in the service and ministry of God, and for him to want jewels to represent his people inherently states his perspective on the value of his people.

The next passage we reviewed focused on Revelation, specifically, the description of the 12 precious foundation stones of the New Jerusalem as John saw in his vision and recorded in 21:18-21. I’ll fully confess what I learned is neither an exhaustive study on gems, nor settled truths of fact regarding those gems. There’s a lot of debate about gemstones’ name changes over the millennium, and every Bible translation seems to include a list a little different than the next. But you might enjoy some of the tidbits I found about the history of the stones and their symbolic meanings. I'll share them in installments over the next few days.

The first is Jasper. In ancient times, Jasper was believed to heal illnesses, strengthen the stomach, aid in sleep, cure gynecological problems, bring joy into life, drive away evil spirits and draw poison from snake and spider bites. (Quite the cure-all, wouldn't you say?) It's symbolic meaning is Justice.

The second is Sapphire. Sometimes called a love charm because it symbolizes truth, sincerity and faithfulness, Sapphires have a grand history. Tradition states the tablets containing the Ten Commandments were composed of sapphire so strong, that if a hammer swung against them, it would be smashed to pieces. Many other cultures believed sapphires imparted healing and calming properties. Sapphires have been worn by such royalty as Princess Diana and Princess Anne, who both received sapphire engagement rings. Additionally, the British Crown Jewels are full of large blue sapphires as symbols of purity, virtue and wisdom.

Be looking for the next installment!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Question of the Day

Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone is going to clean them?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Need for Other Believers

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis tells of meeting a man who claimed to be "religious." The man said, "I know there's a God. I've felt Him out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery." He went on to explain he didn't believe in Lewis' "little dogmas and formulas about [God, because] to anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty...and unreal."

Lewis agreed with the man, believing he'd truly encountered the Living God, saying, "when he turned from the experience to the Christian creeds [or doctrines], I think he really was turning from something real to something less real." Just as someone looking at the Atlantic Ocean who turns to a map of the Atlantic is looking from something real to something less real. But Lewis found the man's logic to be flawed in this: while a map is only colored paper, it is based on what thousands of people have found by sailing the actual ocean (and now seen from space and satellite images). "In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while ours [is] a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together." Furthermore, "if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But a map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America."

"Doctrines are not God," Lewis adds, "they are only a kind of map...based on the experiences of people who really were in touch with God." But that's why religions based on feelings are so attractive. They are "all thrills and no work: like watching the waves from the beach." But studying the waves will not get you to your destination, "and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God." Feeling your way along isn't usually very safe, either.

That's why I want to know more of Christian history and need a regular gathering of believers in study and worship. I can draw on their knowledge and experience and evaluate it in light of my own. Knowing how others with orthodox faith rooted in the New Testament church have seen God act throughout the centuries and today validates my experiences or calls into question my faulty assumptions. Then, I'm living on faith, and not feeling, because God's character has been tested and proven dependable, incorruptible and true, and I'm not swayed with doubts "like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind" (James 1:6).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


February 4, 1906: Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is born in Breslau, Germany. Author of The Cost of Discipleship (1937) and Letters from Prison (1944), he opposed the Nazis as one of Germany's Confessing Church leaders. Believing that Hitler was like a madman "driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders," he joined a plot to kill him, but the plot was discovered and Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually hanged—just days before Allied troops liberated the concentration camp where he was held.

February 4, 1977: Christian homemaker Jennifer (Brown) Mellard is born in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Wife of Jonathan and mother of preschoolers Russ and Laura, she will serve as VBS director at her church this summer. Believing her sister Julie is a nut, she loves her anyway and even claims her in public on occasion.

Two very important people executing very different work for the same Kingdom of God. Happy birthday sis! I love you!