Standing in The Gap

The Old Testament is full of examples of people who ‘stood in the gap’ before God and achieved amazing results for the people of Israel.  Here is a short list of a few of them:
1. Moses stood up before the Lord after Israel’s repeated idol worship (Ps. 106: 23)1
2. Phinehas stood up and intervened after the Israelites worshipped Baal (Ps. 106:23)1
3. Jael drove a tent peg through Israel’s enemy Sisera’s temple, thus defeating the foe (Judges 4:17-22)1
4. David was just a youth and he fought against and defeated the giant Goliath (I. Samuel 17)1
5. Nehemiah asked the Persian king Artaxerxes for a delegation to go and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:5)1
6. Esther went before King Xerxes at the risk of her life and pleaded for the Jews (Esther 5)1

We also see examples of brave ones who stood in the gap in the New Testament:
1.  John the Baptist called people to repent and be baptized.  He was arrest and beheaded for his efforts. 
2.  Saul persecuted Christians until his conversion on the road to Damascus.  God asks Ananias to go to the blind Saul and talk to him about Jesus and this brave man went.(Acts 9:11)1 
3. Others didn’t trust that Saul’s conversion was real but Barnabas went to him and discipled him. (Acts 9:26,27)1   

God states: “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:30)1 God is still looking for people to stand in the gap for the lost ones of our world. God loves the world and sent His son to redeem people but how “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?” (Romans 10:14,15)1 So in these verses, we see that what is needed is a whole chain of ‘gap standers’ to get the job done.

One important way that we can all stand in the gap for others is to pray. Samuel tells the people of Israel this too. “ As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” (I Sam. 12:23)1 Paul tells the Romans to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)1 In Colossians, Paul tells all of us to “2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. . . 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Col 4: 2-4)1 giving us further guidance what and who to pray for. We should pray for open doors and for the workers to proclaim the Word clearly.  Whether we’re rich or poor or somewhere in the middle, we can pray that God will find a way to reach all the people of the world with His Word and the message of salvation. Whether we’re well educated or poorly educated, we can pray that Christians will proclaim the message clearly.  I came across a poem some time ago that puts this idea perfectly.
Traveling on My Knees
Last night I took a journey
To a land across the seas
I didn’t go by ship or plane—
I traveled on my knees.

I saw so many people there
In bondage to their sins,
And Jesus told me I should go
That there were souls to win.

But I said, “Jesus, I can’t go
To lands across the sea.”
He answered quickly, “Yes, you can—
By traveling on your knees.”

He said, “You pray, I’ll meet the need,
You call, and I will hear,
It’s up to you to be concerned
For lost souls far and near.”

And so I did, I knelt in prayer,
Gave up some hours of ease,
And with the Saviour by my side
I traveled on my knees.

As I prayed on, I saw souls saved
And twisted persons healed,
I saw God’s workers’ strength renewed
While laboring on the field.

I said, “Yes, Lord. I’ll take the job,
Your heart I want to please,
I’ll heed your call and swiftly go,
By traveling on my knees.”
author unknown

Will you do your part today? Will you go or give?  Will you travel on your knees and stand in the gap for God? 

One More Word for Today:
It is said that time flies. Did you ever wonder where time goes when it flies?  Just a week ago when I posted on my blog, it was 2021.  Today the new year 2022 is already five days old.  Wow!  That went fast. 

Do you remember June 3, 2020?  I do.  That’s the day I launched the A Listening Heart blog site with my first post.  A lot has transpired in our world since then.  We were only three months into the COVID-19 Corona virus pandemic when I posted my first post. We were beginning to emerge from world-wide lockdowns and we thought it would soon be over.  Yet here we are a year and a half later still in Covid’s grip.  So much has changed in the world and so much has stayed the same.

In that time, I’ve posted eighty-seven posts counting today’s.  I’ve shared experiences from my years as a missionary in three countries.  God has taught me so many lessons through many good times and some hard times and places too. I’ve shared both these and insights from God’s Word.  Before I began blogging, God impressed on my heart that I had learned much from my life experiences and He wanted me to tell what I had learned to others.  For a long time, I thought that would take the form of a book.  Then a friend challenged me to write a weekly blog and A Listening Heart blog was born. Now my notebook of stories and ideas to write about is empty.  In the beginning, the Lord impressed on me that He wanted me to get my stories ‘out there’.  I chose a blog format to do that but now the time has come to close the blog.  If God impresses on me another idea or two that He wants me to write up, I’ll do that but for today, it ends here.  Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 7: “1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 7a time to be silent and a time to speak.”1 When God impressed on me to write up my stories and led me to use the blog format, He didn’t ask me to write a blog forever.  He asked me to get my stories and lessons out.  I have done that and now I will stop. Thank you, dear readers, for your faithful following of what I have written and for your encouraging words.  They have meant a lot to me. If you want to revisit any of the previous posts, go to  On the right side of the opening page there are four words: Home  Blog  About  Contact. Just click on ‘Blog’ and you can revisit one or all of the eighty-seven posts.

It has been a great year and a half. Thanks again for joining me on the journey and good bye for now. 

1All Scripture references quoted in this post are from the New International Version. 

Why I Gave My Life to Christ

One day many years ago, I was reading Leviticus 26, verse 13, “…I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with head held high.”  While I was meditating on that verse, I saw myself yoked to sin and Satan in an old-fashioned oxen yoke.  I was helpless to free myself from the yoke.  Then Christ came along and broke the yoke off my neck and released my head and helped me to stand upright with my head held high. Jesus didn’t say anything during this process. He just did these things.

The next day was Good Friday. As we were going through the events of crucifixion in the worship service, I was reminded that I belonged on that cross, not Jesus.  He was there because He took my place. When the crowd mocked him and said, “He saved others but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him,”1 I remember having a strong reaction and wanting to shout at those mockers, “He couldn’t save himself AND save you and me! He could only save us by staying there and dying in our place.”  Oh, what love Jesus had to be willing to die for ones such as we are!

Subsequently, two well-known hymns came to my mind.  The first was “At the Cross” by Isaac Watts.  Verse five states:

But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away -
'Tis all that I can do!
Another famous hymn by Isaac Watts came to mind. Verse four of “When I  Survey the Wondrous Cross” states why I have given my whole life to God in service to Him.   
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all. 

Both of these hymns state so well, the response that every person who has been born again should have to such great love.  His sacrifice should evoke an equal commitment of his or her life to Him.  There would be no real life for any believer if it were not for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The writer of Romans states it this way: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”2 The King James version states that last line this way, “… which is your reasonable service.” [emphasis mine] It is only reasonable for us to present our bodies/lives to God in service for what He has done for us in saving us from the bondage and penalty of sin. God also called me to be a missionary overseas for all of my adult life.  He doesn’t call every Christian to that life’s work but He does call all of us to commit our whole lives to Him in service daily.  It is the least we can do in response to His great act of redemption.    

This is the Christmas season.  Christmas is the beginning of what Easter completes. A friend of mine captured the essence of it all in a poem titled “Christmas.”


Christmas is a time to share,

Christmas is a time to care,

It’s a time to be happy, filled with joy;

Not just with gifts and a new toy;

But with the love of Christ who came that day

Then died to take our sins away.

Let’s worship and love Him all of our days

With hearts that are filled with joyous praise.

1Matthew 27:42 (NIV)
2Romans 12:1 (NIV)
3Used by permission

I Love Christmas but I Hate Christmas Time

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to this earth to live and die for us so that our sin debt would be paid for. Without Jesus’ birth, He would not have been here to die for our sin and without His death, there would be no resurrection from the dead and there would be no salvation from our sin.  As the Apostle Paul wrote: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”1 So I love the celebration of Christ’s incarnation and birth that we celebrate at Christmas.

Okay.  Then why did I say I hate Christmas time?  Well, because it’s exhausting, for one.  Take last week for an example.  I had an event on Friday evening, a concert on Sunday evening, a concert on Monday evening and another event on Tuesday. That’s on top of my schedule that includes buying or making and wrapping gifts for family and friends, mailing some of those gifts at the post office or another sending company, writing out and mailing Christmas cards (something I never seem to have enough time to do), decorating the house and trimming the tree, baking cookies and fruit cake and other goodies and getting ready for Christmas dinner. There are probably a few more ‘requirements to celebrate the holiday’ which I’ve missed mentioning here.  With all of this activity, I have no energy left.  I’m tired and feel behind in accomplishing my ‘to do’ list every day. Can I get an amen or am I the only one who feels this way?  With all this frenetic activity, where is the time for quiet contemplation on the miracle of Jesus Christ taking on human flesh and being born of a virgin and growing up to die for our sin?  The usual Christmas time events leave very little time or energy for thinking about the real meaning of Christmas.

The Santa part of ‘Christmas time’ also upsets me. No other character in the secular Christmas celebrations steals God’s glory more than Santa.  If I hear that Santa Claus is coming to town and that he knows when I’m sleeping and when I’m awake, one more time today on TV or in a store, I’m going to scream ‘NO!’ right out loud.  Only Christ is coming and only Christ knows all about me all the time.  I’ve heard it said that ‘Santa’ is just an anagram for ‘Satan’ and that certainly describes this Christmas character to a ‘T’.  Besides being the biggest counterfeit of Christ at Christmas, Santa is also the biggest thief of God’s glory. Satan has been out to be greater than God from the very beginning in heaven. 

How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.[b]
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.2

If I had my way, he would be banished from all celebrations of Christmas from this day forward.

So now you know why I said that I love Christmas and hate Christmas time. Many Christmas traditions are fine but let’s not lose the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of all the hoopla and activity.  Let’s all concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas this year and not get lost in all the trappings that have been added to the celebration through the years. 

1 I Cor. 15:17 NIV
2 Isaiah 14: 12-15 NIV

Super Spreader

First, we had the arrival of Covid.  Then it mutated into the Delta Variant.  Now a new variant called the Omicron variant is becoming a problem. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been warned to avoid super spreader events.  These events are defined as times and places where a lot of people congregate in one place around the same time.  Super spreader events make it easier for the germs from the virus to be communicated from person to person, thus causing a potential spread of the virus.  Avoiding such events has altered out lives considerably and hopefully, slowed the spread of the virus.

But what if “super spreaders” were a good thing?  It depends what you’re spreading, of course. Think of the Nativity.  Here is poor Mary.  She’s just given birth to a new baby in a stable and then this group of curious, excited shepherds come crowding into the stable wanting to see the new baby that they had heard about from the angels while they were out in the fields! There isn’t any record of Mary or Joseph being afraid.  They welcomed the strangers and showed them their newborn son.  Some months later, the wisemen showed up.  We always depict the wisemen as three people.  But what if there were a whole group of them?  Another “super spreader” event showing up to see Jesus but God used both of these events to spread the news of Jesus’ birth around a large section of the known world at the time.  Hmm.  Maybe “super spreaders” aren’t all bad. 

That makes me think of another kind of “super spread”.  The Gospel needs to be spread across the entire globe to all people of every tongue and every tribe. The book of Revelations tells us that “Before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language.” In order for that huge group of people from all nationalities to be present at the throne of God, we, His children, have to be busy spreading the Good News to everyone around us. How can we be busy doing that today?  It can be something very simple.  One day recently I was shopping in a large store and had to use the restroom.  As I entered the stall, I noticed something on the floor.  I bent over to see what it was.  It was a tract proclaiming that eternal life is a free gift. How did it get there?  Did someone place it there intentionally?  Did someone give a person this tract and she discarded it on the floor of the bathroom?  I don’t know but there it was proclaiming the truth to all the users of that stall in the public bathroom.  It made me think that there are many, many simple ways that we can be spreading the good news in our world.

I challenge you today to look around you and think outside the box.  How might you be a super spreader of God’s truth that He has sent His son to save us and give us the hope of heaven to your world?

1 Rev. 7:9

The God of ‘All’

This is the ‘season of giving.’  The Wisemen brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child.  Last week, we had Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a chance to help charitable organizations supply the needs of worthy causes by giving generously. Also, during this season, people buy and make gifts to give to friends and family at Christmas and Hanukkah. As I said, this is the season of giving.

God is the master giver.  He gave life to all who live and He sustains life day by day. He gave His son to die for our sins so that we could inherit eternal life.   II Corinthians tells us that God goes even further:  .

“6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”1

Verse eight has led me to call God, the God of ‘All’.  I don’t mean He is the God of all people when I say that He is the God of ‘All’, although, of course, He IS the God of all people and the ruler of the universe. What I mean by saying that God is the “God of ‘All’” is that He delights in giving us all things, at all times and all that we need. God is a very giving God.

Earlier in verses six and seven, God reminds us that, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This shows that God is generous to us not only to meet our needs but also so that we, in turn, have plenty to give generously to others. Verse eleven goes on to say that we are being made rich so that we will give.  This giving will result in praise to God from those who receive our gifts.  It is clearly God’s desire that we be generous to others and use our blessings from Him to help and bless them.  He assures us here that in all things at all times that, if we do this, we will have all we need. God intends giving to be a perpetual wheel.  He gives us generously all that we need. Then we, in turn, give generously to others around us supplying their needs.  Then God turns around and gives us more again so that we still have enough even though we’ve given generously.  Remember: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.”  God doesn’t mean this to be true only during the holidays.  This should be our modus operandi or characteristic way or method of doing things every day of the year.  God says that when we do that, He’ll supply more and more so that we can keep giving more and more. This Christmas season let’s exemplify the spirit of giving that the God of ‘All’ shows us in the way He gives to us.

1 II Corinthians 9:6-13 NIV [emphases mine]

Read the Manual

For the last year, I’ve had very bad back pain daily.  The worst part, though, has been the nights.  I often wake several times in the night and each time, I’m in more and more pain and can’t get out of bed without a cane.  I don’t need a cane during the daytime but after about an hour in bed, the pain is so intense, I need one to stand up and to walk.

First, I tried buying a new mattress.  I thought that maybe my mattress was too old and wasn’t giving me the support I needed.  Although the new mattress was a good one, it didn’t help at all in relieving or preventing the nighttime pain.  Next, I tried physical therapy.  This helped a little but not much.  The third option I tried was cortisone injections at the site of the arthritis and pain.  This was absolutely no help at all.    Finally, my doctor suggested an ablation on each side of the lower back.  During an ablation, the nerves are burned and then they slowly die over the next two-six weeks. The ablations have made things sixty-seventy percent better during the day but didn’t seem to affect the nighttime pain at all. Sigh. I’m making some progress but not enough.  What’s next?

Friends have been telling me about their electrical, adjustable beds and how much these beds have helped them.  After gathering a lot of information about various brands and types of beds, I was ready to go shopping.  The sales representative at the mattress store was very helpful and gave me a big discount.  The good news was that the mattress I had bought the year before would work with an adjustable base and I wouldn’t need to buy another new mattress. Whew. That was good to hear. I debated and asked more questions and was finally ready to buy an adjustable base.

The day the base was delivered was an exciting day.  I was so full of anticipation and joy at what I hoped was the beginning of pain-free nights of rest.  The delivery men brought the base in and set it up and put my mattress on it.  Then they patiently explained how the bed worked and how the remote-control unit operated.  By the time they left, I felt confident that I understood how the bed operated. I was excited when it was finally time to go to bed! I could hardly wait.

What a disappointment!  I had one of the worst nights I think I’ve ever had and was in agony.  What went wrong?  I had adjusted the bed several times in the night trying to find a setting that would relieve the pain but to no avail. Night after night for the next five nights, I tried every setting I could find on the remote in an attempt to find the right setting for my body but I met with failure every night.  On the sixth day, I wanted to go back to the store and see if they had any suggestions.  My schedule that day was jammed pack and there was no time to revisit the store.  I determined to do that the next day.

During that day, God put it into my mind to read the manual.  Okay.  I could do that.  It seemed pointless as the delivery men had done such a good job of explaining it but why not?  It was worth a try. So, I got it out and read through each part and the description of what each setting was designed to do.  It seemed pretty straightforward.  Head—up/down.  Foot—up/down. Flat. All pretty clear to me. Then I got to a button called “ZGRAV”.  ZGRAV?  What in the world was that?  The manual said that it stood for ‘zero gravity’.  Okay.  That made sense but what did it mean? According to the manual, if I pressed this button, it would “adjust the base to the preprogrammed position for optimum weight distribution allowing total comfort and relaxation.”  Well, that’s crazy.  How could they preprogram something to each individual sleeper’s weight?  I stood by the bed and pressed the button but the bed didn’t move.  So, either it wasn’t attached on this model or it didn’t work.  I shrugged my shoulders and went on to other reading. Then the manual got really technical and only someone with a degree from MIT could understand it.  I surely couldn’t. So, I decided to ignore the information completely. I’d be going back to the store tomorrow to talk to the store representative.

The Lord wouldn’t let me leave the topic, though.  He kept bringing that “ZGRAV” setting back to my mind. It seemed impossible that they could somehow have preset the settings in the factory for every person’s back when the base was made, besides, the setting didn’t work on my model. Still, I couldn’t put the idea out of my mind. That night when I got ready for bed, an idea came to me: What if the setting only works if you’re lying on the bed when you push it?  It was worth a try.  So, I lay down on the bed and pushed ZGRAV. The bed slowly began to raise up at the head and then when that was done, the feet started to adjust.  The bed was a weird angle and I wondered how in the world I would ever manage to sleep like that.  It got even worse when I got out of bed and looked at the bed.  Between laughing hysterically and disbelief, I wondered what to do next. That still, small voice whispered again and said, “Turn off the light and try it. What have you got to lose?  You’re already miserable every night. It can’t be any worse and it might be better.  Try it.”  I did and slept the best night of sleep I had had for over a year! AND I had almost no pain in the night and didn’t need to use the cane when I got up.  Amazing!

See what you think.  Here is a picture of the bed before and after using the ZGRAV setting.  Which one looks more comfortable to you? I agree but the ZGRAV bed IS more comfortable!

So, what did I learn from all of this?  First, I learned to read the manual.  Don’t depend on what you think you already know about something, read the manufacturer’s information.  Afterall, who knows better how it should operate: you or the one who made it?  Then secondly, I learned to believe or trust the manual.  When I read the description of the ZGRAV setting, I couldn’t believe it was even possible for a mechanical device to do that so I didn’t believe it and wasn’t planning on following it. As it turned out, I was wrong and a mechanical device can be pre-programmed to detect individual weights and adjust accordingly.  I still don’t understand how this can be possible but I now know that it does work that way.

God’s Word the Bible is His “User’s Guide” to life.  He created all forms of life and knows best how life should be lived. If I ignore this valuable guide and just wing it, I’m asking for unnecessary trouble and difficulties.  But just reading God’s manual for life isn’t enough, just like reading the User’s Guide for my new bed base wasn’t enough.  You have to take the words of God’s User’s Guide to heart, believe them and trust them.  Joshua 1:8 tells us: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  Whether it is electrical bed bases, a new appliance, a new car, or whatever, read and trust what the manufacture says in the User’s Guide.  In life read and trust God’s User’s Guide the Bible and “then you will be prosperous and successful.”,

Vera’s Salad

My older sister married when I was twelve years old and moved from Oshkosh to the Chicago area.  From that Thanksgiving on and for as long as I lived at home, I have wonderful memories of her and her family returning to Oshkosh for Thanksgiving. Her in-laws also lived in town and went to our church. Vera and Clarence were loved by all the family and they joined our celebration too. One year the family all met in our home and the next year in the in-law’s home.  My sister and family didn’t make the trip at Christmas and Easter, choosing instead to create new memories for their family at home. Their coming made Thanksgiving very special each year.

Something else made Thanksgiving special every year and that was Vera’s classic jello salad.  The picture above doesn’t truly do it justice.  You can’t see the sour cream layer between the two jello layers. That makes the strawberry and pineapple jello layers stand out even more and adds that extra yummy flavor to the whole.  No Thanksgiving would be complete for me without this salad.

As I left home and moved to the mission field, I took the recipe Vera’s Salad with me.  It was a little more difficult overseas because none of the three countries where I lived as a missionary sold Jello. No problem.  A little fore planning took care of that problem. Each time I flew overseas, the bottom layer of one of my suitcases was made up of boxes of red Jello!  Problem solved!  All the countries had fresh strawberries and canned pineapple, the other two important ingredients so the salad was a go. Somewhere through the years, I started making it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter every year.  I’ve introduced it to other missionaries in Taiwan, Austria, and the Czech Republic.  I’ll be making the salad again this year to take to the home where I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving.  If you come to my home or invite me to yours on Thanksgiving, you’ll get to taste this delectable dish—guaranteed!  I am very thankful for Vera’s Salad and the over sixty years of great memories it brings to my mind.

I am thankful for many things and this holiday each year focuses on being thankful. It is my favorite holiday of the year. I need to remind myself often to be thankful.  I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” There are many times in Scripture where we are reminded that the Lord is good and that we should be thankful.  Whether it’s something big and important you’re thankful for or something simple like Vera’s salad and all the memories that it brings up through the years, we need to be thankful and give thanks back to the giver of all good and perfect gifts—our wonderful God. I hope you will take time today to thank the Lord for all His wonderful gifts to you.

 “Thank you, God, for Vera’s salad!”

Pat’s Holiday Jello Salad

½ envelope Knox gelatin—softened in ¼ C. water
2 pkg. 3 oz. red Jello or 1 pkg. 6 oz red Jello
2 cups hot water
1 small can crushed pineapple (drained)
1 pkg. frozen strawberries crushed
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup sour cream (2 small containers)

Dissolve Jello in hot water (don’t follow box directions; use the water mentioned above) and add rest of ingredients except sour cream.  Then pour ½ of the mixture into mold/dish and let set in frig.  Keep other half of mixture at room temperature.

When the first half is set, spoon 1 cup sour cream evenly over it.  Then spoon the rest of the mixture over the sour cream layer.  Chill well and serve.

If you have a glass dish/mold the finished salad looks great with the layers of red/white/red

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

A little over two weeks ago, Halloween was celebrated around the world.  What exactly is this holiday all about?  The actual celebrations of Halloween began about 2000 years ago with the pre-Christian Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced “Sah win”) meaning “summer’s end.” At this celebration, it was believed that spirits of the dead crossed over into the other world.  From this, we can see why Halloween is associated with spirits, witches, and goblins. The next day has been celebrated since about 610 A.D. in large parts of the Christian world as All Saints Day in honor of all saints—known and unknown.  “Hallowed one” could be another name for a saint.  So November 1st, is also known as “All Hallows Day” in some countries.  It isn’t a big leap to see that the evening before that day would be called All Hallows Eve or, as it has morphed into, Halloween.

On this day each year, horrible things take place.  Some are in the name of ‘fun’ and some are just plain evil.  They celebrate the devil and his forces and his grip on this world.  I can imagine that he loves Halloween.

What would you suppose the devil’s least favorite day is each year?  I think it must be Easter Sunday.  On that day, Christians all over the world are smiling and rejoicing and greeting each other with “Christ is risen!” with the other Christian answering, “Christ is risen, indeed!”  He can hear songs proclaiming Christ’s victory over death—over him—everywhere. Christians saying, “Death where is your sting?  O Grave, where is your victory? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 On Good Friday, the devil thought he had defeated Jesus and put an end to Him. He thought he had utterly defeated Christ, only to awaken three days later to have it all reversed and Christ alive and well.  That’s got to be his worst day ever and to have it celebrated year after year by joyous Christians rubbing it in must really rub him the wrong way. As he licks his wounds, he must be saying, “Easter.  Bah humbug!!”  He probably also spends the time devising revenge on believers around the world for his defeat.

And the devil IS a defeated foe.  I don’t want to spend any more time on him. Let’s concentrate on Christ, our Lord, instead.  I don’t celebrate Halloween in any shape or form.  It certainly isn’t the innocent fun holiday that it is sold as each year.  It is a yearly celebration of evil and what it stands for. While some view Halloween as harmless fun, the Bible indicates that the practices associated with it are not. The Bible warns us against that. “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord;” And again in the New Testament, God tells us what He wants and doesn’t want. “I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too.”3 So, we must ignore Halloween and all its practices. Instead, let us follow the old song that says, “Let’s concentrate on Him and worship Him, Jesus Christ our Lord.”4 

1 I Cor. 15: 155, 57
2 Deuteronomy 18:10-12
3 1 Corinthians 10:20, 21
4Let’s Forget About Ourselves (We Have Come Into This House) Words and Music by Bruce T. Ballinger © 1976 Sound III, Inc. (Admin by Universal Music Corp.)

Frosting or Cake?

How has your week been so far?  Mine has been busy and full.  Some of those things have been good and some not so good. No matter what happens or doesn’t happen, God is good. Circumstances or gifts or lack of gifts from God don’t prove His goodness.  God is good. Period. End of discussion. The Bible tells us this unequivocally in Psalm 145:9, “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Again in Psalm 34:8, He says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

At various points in our lives, God blesses us with good things.  He is very generous to us. Why does He do this? Not to authenticate His goodness.  Gifts don’t do that. The Bible declares it and it is a fact. He doesn’t bless us to prove his love.  Calvary proves His love overwhelmingly.  Maybe He blesses us with things we need or want to show or demonstrate His love? He showed His love on the cross.  Or maybe He gives us these things because He delights in us and we need them. Who can fathom God’s ways?

Because of my background where giving you something meant love and withholding gifts indicated the withdrawal of love, I have to constantly guard against seeing God’s gifts or not receiving something I want or need, as a sign of approval or a lack of approval. I constantly remind myself of the goodness of God and reject the idea that His gifts show or don’t show His goodness. His gifts are nice but His love and goodness are so much more than the gift and they are constant and never changing.

An analogy I’ve used often is that Jesus is the cake and everything else is the frosting.  Cake with frosting is good but cake without frosting is also good.  Frosting, on the other hand, without the cake, is good for about one teaspoon and then it becomes too much and starts to cloy the tastebuds and even be unpleasant.  The frosting is really immaterial.  The cake is what is important.  I echo the statement that Marie Antoinette is purported to have said but probably didn’t, “Let them eat cake!” I can enjoy God’s gifts but at the same time remind myself that God/Jesus is all I need.  Everything else is just frosting.  With God, I can have my cake and eat it too!

Have You Ever Had a Job?

Imagine my surprise when someone asked me that recently. We had met not too long before the question was asked and the person knew that I had been a missionary overseas for forty years. Actually, the question made me chuckle and ask, “What do you mean? I’ve been working since I was seventeen years old.” Her response showed she didn’t understand what missionaries do.

I was left wondering, “How many people in the average church don’t know what missionaries do?”  That made me decide to write about that today.  Missionaries have many jobs and wear many ‘hats’ overseas.  I was a missionary teacher.  For twenty-five years, I taught in two schools primarily for the children of missionaries but that also allowed other students to attend on a space-available basis. These schools both had classes from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I taught English, US History, Bible, Speech, and Drama which included directing the annual drama for junior and senior high school classes. Every subject available in typical K-12 schools in the homeland was taught at both of these schools requiring teachers trained in those subject areas to teach them. For the last fifteen years, I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) to adults to draw people into the churches to get to know us informally and learn that they could trust us.

In Taiwan, TEAM, the mission I was with, had a Christian hospital requiring doctors and nurses.  It also had a camping area where we ran camps for the local children, requiring more workers.  Then there was the Christian radio station run by our missionaries that beamed the Gospel into Mainland China.  There was a Bible school/seminary to train Chinese believers to become pastors.  Some missionaries are pilots flying other missionaries and supplies to hard-to-reach places. That brings us to the major work of many missionaries—planting churches.  No, we don’t put seeds or wood chips in the ground and expect church buildings to grow.  The term means sharing the Gospel with people and starting Bible studies that lead to people growing in the Lord and church groups or churches being formed. Other missionaries translate the Bible into local languages and dialects making God’s Word accessible to more people in their heart language—the mother tongue a person learned first to express love, joy, sorrow, and need in.

The term Business as Mission or BAM first began to appear in the late 1990s focusing on the redemptive potential of Christian-managed businesses in Central Asia to share the Gospel with the workers and customers. This movement has spread all over the world with many missionaries starting and running businesses and hiring local workers to help produce whatever product or service the company provides.  Many of these businesses are up and running now in countries that are closed to typical missionary activity.  BAM missionaries do a myriad of jobs but their primary purpose is not to become rich, but rather to have a platform to witness and share the Gospel. An example of one such ministry as business is a date sugar factory in North Africa begun and operated by missionaries.  They buy the local dates, dry them and then grind them into the sugar to sell.  The profits from the sale of the date sugar pay to keep the factory running and pay the workers.  In the process, the missionaries have a chance to live Christ before the workers and share Christ as opportunities arise.

The definition of a missionary is “a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.” This can entail the individual missionaries doing a number of different jobs to accomplish the mission of sharing Christ with the world. There isn’t one job description that fits all missionaries but I assure you, missionaries are working and not just living overseas going to the opera and going on cruises at their supporter’s expense. Missionaries do have time off sometimes, like other people, and can go to the opera and go on cruises but that is not what they spend the majority of their time doing.  The majority of their time, regardless of their job description, is spent “going into all the world preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”1

1Matthew 28:19, 20 (NIV)

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