Thursday, October 30, 2008

That which we call a rose

by John D Ramsey

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” — Juliet

Tonight, the little girls stayed home from AWANA because we do not celebrate Halloween in our family. More fervently than many Christians of my acquaintance, I believe that all things are lawful. Yet, Lisa and I have decided that Halloween is not expedient for our family, regardless of its appeal. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 (KJV) If you choose to celebrate the holiday, I am not offended.

No one advertised tonight’s event as a Halloween party. I wish they had; at least that would be honest. Semantic contortions, such as calling a Halloween party a “harvest party,” only teach children to disrespect the truth. Calling an event a “Halloween alternative party” is even more ludicrous.

Tonight, the kids were supposed to go to church dressed as Bible characters. I am thinking, is the Witch of Endor more acceptable than the Wicked Witch of the West? Lisa corrects me; no witches allowed no matter what. Okay, what about Samuel's ghost from the same chapter, would that be acceptable?

Christians can celebrate Halloween so long as their consciences do not offend them. For me, Halloween is not a matter of conscience; it is a matter of expedience. Halloween adds no value to my family, so we abstain. Learning they have freedom to act differently than the crowd builds character in kids. Halloween is an annual opportunity for me to teach my girls that we can be different from the world. Lisa and I do not rant about the evils of Halloween. We try to teach Claire and Gabby that things do not have to be wrong to be unnecessary.

If others celebrate Halloween in good conscience, it does not bother me. However, when Christians attempt to rename Halloween to make it acceptable, they have accordingly made it a matter of conscience. For instance, Halloween equals bad. Same holiday named, Not-Halloween, equals good. How does that work?

Kids are not so easily fooled.

Renaming it, Not-Halloween, frames the holiday in the conscience. Furthermore, celebrating the renamed holiday teaches children to violate their consciences. This robs the children of their freedom and then causes them to sin.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kingdom of priests

Sermon delivered on 10/16/2008 at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The law of the spirit

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by John D Ramsey
Do you not know, brothers — for I am speaking to men who know the law — that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?

Romans 7:1 (NIV)
A couple weeks ago, on the first day of Sukkot, or Feast of Booths, Lisa and the girls built a sukkah in the back yard to surprise me. During the Kingdom in Context Bible study that morning, I had mentioned that I planned to sit outside with the little girls and read the Scripture pertaining to the Feast of Booths. Mark asked me if I planned to build a booth, and I explained that while I had no problem with people building a booth, teaching the girls the Scripture pertaining to the feast was my priority.

When I arrived home from work, Lisa had a fire burning in the fire bowl on the patio, and she had oil lamps lit in the yard. We ate our dinner in the booth, and read the Scriptures to the girls. Gabby exclaimed two things, “I did not know about this holiday!” and “I think this is my favorite holiday!” It was a lovely evening, and more so to me, knowing that my girls had labored to make it special.

Regardless of our apparent observance of an Old Testament feast, I feel compelled to clarify. We did not celebrate Sukkot in order to obey the Old Testament Law. Rather, the evening was an illustration of God’s amazing love toward us that he would send his Son to tabernacle among men. The girls now have a visual memory of the Feast of Booths, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to instruct them. However, our observation of the holiday did not observe the Law.

Had our intention been to keep the Law, then we infringed on these points:
  • According to Deuteronomy 16:16, the Feast of Booths had to be observed at the place that God chose. According to 2 Chronicles 6:6, God’s chosen place is Jerusalem. Observing the feast in Raymore, MO, is a violation of the Old Testament Law.
  • The branches that Lisa used to build the sukkah, were from leafy trees only (and the leaves had fallen off). The Law required, palm trees and willows, as well.
  • The duration of the feast is seven days during which time, the observant are to live in booths. We sat in the booth for about an hour.
  • The first day of the feast is a holy convocation during which only necessary work is permitted. However, the next day, I went to work, as is my routine.
  • The Feast of Booths requires 182 animal sacrifices over seven days in addition to regular daily sacrifices according to Numbers 29. That is the Law.
By my calculations, no one obeyed the Law concerning the Feast of Booths this year.

I have no qualms about commemorating an Old Testament feast as an educational and inspirational tool; however, I wince when I hear people claiming to be “Law-abiding Christians.” I wonder, what part of the Law do they suppose that they are obeying? Do they think that they can safely ignore some laws? If so, how do they decide which ones? Deuteronomy 26:27 says, “Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” Paul explains the impossibility of keeping the Law, saying, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10 (NIV) James, the brother of Jesus said, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10 (NIV)

Whether I sit in a sukkah for a minute, a week, or never is irrelevant regarding righteousness. Paul tells the Galatians, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21 (NIV) Jesus condemned everyone who attempts to gain righteousness by the Law by saying,
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20 (NIV)
Observing the Law gains me nothing unless I can be perfect and it is way too late for that. James points us to another way, saying,
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

James 2:12-13 (NIV)
James promises that people who want to judge others by the Law will themselves be judged by the Law! The better way is the law that gives freedom. What is the law that gives freedom? Paul tells us,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)
How is it that we are free from the requirements of the Old Testament Law? Paul explains,
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

Romans 7:4 (NIV)
To the Colossians Paul writes,
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:3, 4 (NIV)
Because we die with Christ when we trust him by faith, the Law no longer has power over us. We are clothed with Christ’s righteousness regarding the Law. His righteousness is attributed to us, and there is nothing we can do to earn it. Trying to keep the Old Testament Law actually disparages the mercy of the cross. Yet the law of the Spirit teaches us that, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Christ’s righteousness attributed to me exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law making me worthy of the kingdom. Because I died with Christ, the Law no longer rules over me.

Whether I observe a day, or ignore it, does not matter regarding righteousness. The Law of the Spirit gives us freedom to express our faith through culture, but it does not require or favor any specific cultural expression. The law of the Spirit sets us free to serve God and serve each other in love, but it does not obligate us to external observances. Observing the Law never saved anyone, anyway, not even Abraham who lived before the Law was given. “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 16:6 (NIV) Righteousness before God has never come by works, but only by faith; Hebrews 11 makes this undoubtedly clear.

Paul expressed his faith culturally, but not consistently with one culture, he writes,
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)
Cultural expressions of faith are tools for evangelism, but legalism is not. Legalism, whether it comes in the form of quasi-Judaism or cultic manipulation, is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Legalism cannot produce righteousness, but it does create a barrier between the law observer and the Savior. Paul said it best when he described himself as being blameless according to the righteousness that comes from the Law, but he would rather have Christ. He wrote,
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

Philippians 3:7-10 (KJV)
Knowing Christ, being conformed to his character, suffering for his sake, dying with him, and obtaining righteousness by faith alone does not appeal to the flesh; yet these the Law of the Spirit works to produce within us.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Long, lawn war against autumn

by John D Ramsey

The sun is warm, but a cool breeze blows from the southwest. Working outside, my body throws cycles of sweat and chills. My lingering chest cold impairs breathing, so the joy of yard work in autumn threatens to become drudgery. Lisa prepares flower arrangements on the deck, and when the light is right and my body winded, I break from mowing to help her take photographs. The sun trickles through the hackberry and I catch it with a reflector and send it back at the crabapples and hydrangeas that Lisa has arranged in a clear vase. Photos captured, I go back to the yard to finish mowing.

Earlier Claire helped me by mowing the north side yard while I trimmed the yew by the front walk. Today was the first time she used the bagger. Next year she will be a lawn pro. Coming into the back yard, I saw that Gabby had moved a pile of leaves around a bit with a rake. I had already corralled them with the blower, so her raking merely divided the whole into parts with no harm done. I would prefer she pick up birch sticks, but leaf piles are irresistible to a child. Daylight fades quickly this time of year, and the girls have no idea how their efforts do help. They do not yet understand how precious I consider the time we work together.

In summer, I mulch the grass, but in autumn, I bag in order to vacuum up the fallen leaves. To me, each leaf is a potential dead spot on my lawn. Early in the spring, we hand raked what few soggy leaves left over from last year. For weeks, I watched to see if the grass would recover. Of course, it did, but spring and summer are fleeting so I have resolved to do an even better job of keeping leaves off the grass.

Now there are few precious weeks of green remaining, and the leaves are falling. I have done as much as I can today.

I put tools away, and haul a wagon loaded with two large poinsettias back into the darkness of the garage. Lisa dug them from the garden last week. A diet of restricted sunlight and ample shadow will draw their beauty out in time for the holidays. I stand in the yard viewing the beauty of the fresh mowed grass. Within a few hours, the leaves will clutter the grass again, and I will be planning a time to freshen the yard once again.

As I write, I notice outside my window, a mother cardinal feeding alongside her fledgling. It is late in the season to be raising an adolescent. The young bird follows its mother mimicking her feeding. At times, it waits for a supplement from its mother, which she provides. The youngster’s feathers are puffed apparently battling the chill of the shadows. It has not been out of the nest for long, but summer has passed. There is urgency to the birds’ actions.

My leaf blowing earlier in the day has revealed a hidden bounty of fallen hackberries. The young cardinal struggles to crack the hardened fruit. Suddenly the mother takes flight, and the smaller gray bird follows her only to learn the answer to his jeopardy, “What is glass?” He recovers from the crash and flies away. A squirrel coming to the feed from the same tree had startled them.

The oak trees have produced no acorns this year, and the girls have cleaned up all the apples. I doubt that hackberry is the squirrel’s first choice for dinner, but dine he must, or die. I would prefer that he leave the food for the songbirds, but he has his own interests at heart.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, but it also reminds us how quickly the spring and summer write themselves into history. The older we get the quicker it seems that each year passes into the next. Each year, we qualify youthful adventures and ambitions with “never again” or “not likely.”

I thought of a sight pun today at which Mom would have laughed. Lisa chuckled out of kindness. I sent it to my little sisters, saying, “I miss Mom.” I suppose this is the first of many funny things that will no longer earn Mom’s laughter.

I sent photo’s of the little girls to Cara the other day. Cara remarked that they are growing up too fast. If Cara only knew – I still think of her as my football baby because she fit so perfectly on my palm and forearm just twenty-four years ago.

The longer we live the better we realize how short our time upon this earth is.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

Psalm 103:13-18 (NIV)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Good news to the poor

by John D Ramsey

John the Baptist lived his life in poverty. He dressed funny. He never cut his hair. He ate insects and wild honey. There is no record that he ever held a paying job. He lived for the singular purpose of proclaiming the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” When he saw his cousin, Jesus, approaching, John witnessed the Holy Spirit descending upon him, and he prophesied saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.” John’s prophesy alludes to Isaiah 53. Although John prophesied a Savior who would die as a sin offering for the world, his expectations of Jesus was somewhat different. John preached that the kingdom of heaven was near. This was true, but John did not understand what dimension of the kingdom he was announcing. Despite the limitation of his vision, John faithfully pursued his ministry. He was the one who was to come before the Messiah –

“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

Matthew 3:3 (NIV)

Some men followed John, but John did not promote himself. In fact, after John baptized Jesus and after Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, John saw Jesus three times. The first time, he told the crowd who was gathered, “Among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:26, 27 (NIV) The next day, when John saw Jesus approaching, he told his disciples,
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34 (NIV)
The next day, John saw Jesus again approaching and he told two of his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!” John’s disciples left him and followed Jesus. When Jesus began his ministry, John the Baptist said, “He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30 (NIV) Jesus began preaching the same message that John had preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” In fact, Jesus’ disciples continued to baptize people with water as a symbol of their repentance. Though Jesus’ initial ministry looked much like John the Baptist’s, Jesus’ ministry did not take on the political overtones that John the Baptist expect that it would.

When John the Baptist’s ministry was winding down, and Jesus’ earthly ministry was gaining momentum, a discouraged John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him whether Jesus was indeed the Promised One, or whether there was yet another. Jesus responded by sending this message to his cousin John, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Luke 7:22 (NIV) With these words, Jesus alluded to a prophecy found in Isaiah 61 and affirmed to John the Baptist that he had indeed fulfilled the prophecy. Jesus ministry testified that he was the Anointed One of Israel. He asked John to examine the evidence and conclude that despite John’s other expectations, Jesus was indeed who John had proclaimed him to be – the Son of God.

Whereas John’s message was that repentance was essential for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus’ message was a message of even brighter hope. The blind had received sight, the lame had walked, lepers had been cured, the deaf heard, the dead were raised to life. You can almost hear the crescendo as Jesus recited his message of hope. From the blind seeing to the dead resurrecting, Jesus’ words swelled from the dramatic to the exhilarating. Nevertheless, Jesus most powerful statement this series is reserved for last. He says, “The good news is preached to the poor.”

Why is preaching good news to poor more dramatic than healing the blind, lame, leprous, and deaf? This is Jesus’ most dramatic statement because not all are blind, not all are lame, not all are leprous, nor are all deaf, but in one way or another, we all are poor. Jesus’ message of good news he gives to everyone who will receive it.

Jesus preached good news to the poor, but he did not exploit them. After feeding the five thousand, the people wanted to make Jesus their king. Jesus rebuked them saying, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” John 6:26 (NIV) The people of Galilee were prepared to surrender their political clout in exchange for free food. Yet Jesus did not seek political followers. He continued saying, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” The crowd was willing to revolt against Rome to make Jesus their king, but Jesus told them he would freely give them something more valuable than the free food they sought – he would give them eternal life.

Had Jesus been a military or political leader or even a community organizer, he would have used his power to engender dependence upon the Galileans. Nevertheless, the “good news” that Jesus preached was not a message of political power or governmental reform. The message that Jesus preached was salvation by faith in the Son of God.

When Jesus stood on trial, Pilate asked him whether he was the king of the Jews. Jesus answered him, saying, said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36 (NIV) Pilate was convinced, but it mattered little to him if the Jews wanted to execute their king. Pilate had a sign placed on Jesus’ cross saying, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” When the Jews objected, Pilate insisted, “What I have written, I have written.”

Jesus’ death on the cross was not an accidental outcome. Jesus’ last words to Pilate affirmed his purpose, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37 (NIV) The word translated, testify, is the Greek word, martureso, from which comes the English word martyr.

The truth that Jesus spoke cost him his life. John records a great irony; the truth that Jesus taught was that – the way, the truth, and the life – must die to bring life to men. This was the good news that Jesus preached to the poor.

Hebrews explains that Jesus presented his own blood to God the Father as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of man. Paul tells us that, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) Peter explained it saying, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 5:24 (NIV) Genesis chapter two and Romans chapter three explain that the penalty for sin is death, yet Jesus took our penalty so that we could share his life. The Father accepted the sacrifice of his own son, and raised him from the dead. All those receiving his mercy, by faith will die with him, and by faith, they will be made alive with him: good news indeed.

When Jesus came to earth as a man, he did not even attempt to organize a political movement. Rather the Son of God, the Creator himself (according to John chapter one and Hebrews chapter four), became a man so that he could carry the sins of men into judgment by his death on the cross. When Jesus comes again, it will not be by the consent or authority of men. Revelation chapter eleven speaks of the day when Jesus will return, saying,

The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord
and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 11:15 (NIV)

When Jesus comes again, he will come in power, glory, and with all authority. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians that Jesus will “pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled.” He goes on to say that upon Jesus’ return, those who do not obey the “[good news] of our Lord Jesus . . . will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9 (NIV) Yet Jesus will be glorified and “marveled at among all those who have believed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:10 (NIV)

In 2000 years, the message of the Gospel has not changed, yet often the message many so-called Christians preach differs from the Gospel. The message of the Gospel calls upon men to repent because the kingdom of heaven is near. The message of the Gospel is good news to all the poor because eternal life is given freely to all who believe. The message of the Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ will someday return bringing relief to those who love him and destruction upon those who do not. Every other message pales in comparison to the great truth of the Gospel.

The better we understand the Gospel, the more we realize that only the Gospel matters. The Gospel may be the only good news we hear for the rest of the year. That is okay. The Gospel is the best news of all time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Munchausen’s by ballot

by John D Ramsey

I am not poor. Nevertheless, twenty years ago Lisa, Cara, Daniel and I subsisted below the United States poverty level. During that time, I did not consider myself poor so much as I considered myself perpetually broke. I always thought that I was only a couple good paydays away from financial recovery. The problem was that paydays were feeble and far between. Much has changed since then. Yet being poor taught me that the poor are frequently exploited.

Today, I have no respect for political promises whether they are directed to the abject poor, the working poor, or the middle class. My own rise from poverty followed a natural course: hard work followed by better work. I now have one of the best jobs imaginable. I cannot take credit for lifting myself by the bootstraps. I am what I am by the grace of God. I cannot attribute my success to any man.

I do not measure my present wealth in terms of income or net worth. Recent events have demonstrated how tenuously the wealthiest cling to their fortunes, not to mention their freedom. Like many Americans, I am probably a couple missed paydays away from financial ruin. Still I do not fret. I feel much more secure in the promises of God than in the sycophancy of men.

In fact, I view politicians with a jaundiced eye wondering whether they would rather ruin me (and those like me) in order to rescue me from despair. Political power is the strongest and cruelest of all perverse incentives. The more the disenfranchised need a political savior, the more the political manipulator needs people to be disenfranchised. Pandering politicians have a psychological disorder: you might call it Munchausen’s by Ballot. They deliberately inflict pain upon their constituents in order to present themselves as a savior. If we could order our leadership ala carte, I would vote for policies that promised me nothing save to leave me alone.

Yet, regardless of what politicians say or do, I do not despair. Despair, is the sincerest form of poverty. There is hunger, there is hardship, but despair – the absence of hope – is death. Ironically, despair afflicts people regardless of their station in life. Despair can destroy even the richest and most famous.

To evade despair, men hope. Yet not all hope is equal. In whom, then, shall we place our hope: politicians, economists, military strategists, scientists, musicians, or celebrities? These and all other men possess the same potential to disappoint.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have a constant source of unfailing hope. When I am trusting Jesus, that is, fixing my eyes upon him, I cannot fear financial or political turmoil. At the same time, I cannot overlook others in need because Jesus would not. Trusting Jesus is the opposite of despair because “in him is life, and his life is the light of men.”

Brothers, we can do much to alleviate the pain of poverty. Paul wrote to Timothy concerning the rich, saying,
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)
Regardless of whether we are rich or poor, we have a responsibility, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, to treat all men as he would treat them. James, the brother of Jesus said, “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 (NIV) Later James says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:16 (NIV)

Yet regardless of our spiritual responsibility to help others’ physical needs, how much greater is our responsibility to share Jesus Christ with them? In Jesus ministry, he addressed both the physical and spiritual needs of men. Likewise, we cannot supply one to the exclusion of the other. When we are unwilling to supply for physical needs, telling someone, “Stay warm, and eat well, trust Jesus” derogates the Gospel we proclaim. On the other hand, supplying physical needs without saying, Jesus loves you, is cruel because the soul lives longer than the body.

In a world wherein the poor are exploited, believers in Jesus Christ have an opportunity to share his life (our lives and resources) with the downtrodden. Our message is not political, economic, or judicial reform. Our message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As James wrote, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” James 2:5 (NIV)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shekinah Glory

by John D Ramsey

Last night Gabby asked me where Betelgeuse appeared in the sky. Lisa has been teaching the girls astronomy this year. I told Gabby that it would still be a few weeks before Betelgeuse would be visible before her bedtime. I showed her that Arcturus, which we saw near zenith in the summer sky, now hung above the western horizon. The moon, I noticed, is waxing; each night it moves closer to the eastern horizon. Tuesday, the full moon, is a special day in history.

Despite its limitations, the lunar calendar better fulfills the purpose of the lights in the sky described in Genesis 1:14, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.” Looking at the sun, for instance, gives the casual observer the time of day but little clue regarding the day of the month. The sun’s elevation, of course, is a precise indicator of solar time, but without instrumentation, the solar day is ambiguous compared to the phases of the moon.

The sun announces the hour of the day, the moon effectively tracks the days of the month, the stars in the night sky advertise earth’s seasons. God designed this system from the very beginning. Man has abandoned this system in favor of time tracking devices of his own design. Perhaps our clocks, timeservers, and GPS devices are a modern metaphor for man’s departure from dependence upon God. If so, then man has only obfuscated his dependence upon his Creator because God designed all the laws of nature.

In Exodus, God commanded Israel to observe as their first month the month in which Passover occurs. Today, many Jews celebrate the seventh month as the first. Rosh Hashanah is known as the Jewish New Year, but the Biblical holiday is better described as the Feast of Trumpets. This celebration of sounding the shofar occurred September 30 this year. Christians believe that the Feast of Trumpets foretells the day of Christ’s return,
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV)

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NIV)

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV)

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15 (NIV)
Perhaps it is fitting that the day foretelling Christ’s return should be the day on which we celebrate the New Year. Nevertheless, this current lunar month is the seventh month of the Old Testament calendar.

On the tenth day of the seventh month, comes Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. It was on this day that the high priest entered into the holy place and sprinkled blood on the mercy seat to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel. Hebrews tells us that the Day of Atonement prototyped Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sins.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Hebrews 9:11-14 (NIV)
On Tuesday night, the fifteenth day of the lunar month, the moon will be full. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Tuesday will mark the “Hunter’s Moon.” According to the Jewish lunar calendar, Tuesday marks Sukkot, known to Christians as the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles. Usually, Sukkot corresponds to the “Harvest Moon.” However, the lunar calendar year (twelve lunar months) is 354 days. Every few lunar years an extra month is inserted to synchronize the lunar calendar with the seasons.

The Feast of Booths was the third and final time each year when the men of Israel were required to appear before the Lord. For the seven days of this feast, the faithful lived in booths or temporary shelters to remind them how God led them through the wilderness of Sinai. During the Exodus, God appeared to Israel as a cloud hovering over the Tabernacle. At night, fire could be seen inside the cloud. When the cloud moved, Israel would break camp and follow. When the Tabernacle was first consecrated,
The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34, 35 (NIV)
The Feast of Booths, reminding Israel that they once lived in temporary dwellings, also reminds them that God himself dwelt among them in the cloud and pillar of fire.

Nearly 500 years after the Exodus from Egypt, Solomon dedicated a temple to the Lord during the Feast of Booths.
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it.

When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying,

“He is good;
His love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (NIV)
Once again, God’s Shekinah Glory was revealed to Israel at the dedication of the temple. Nevertheless, Solomon’s prayer of dedication acknowledged the inferiority of a temple made by human hands, saying, “Will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” 2 Chronicles 6:18 (NIV)

After Israel’s exile in Babylon, the dedication of Ezra’s temple coincided with the Passover. This temple dedication was subdued in comparison to Solomon’s temple dedication. Most Bible scholars agree that the Ark of the Covenant was no longer in Israel’s possession. Solomon sacrificed 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. At the dedication of Ezra’s temple they sacrificed 100 bulls, 200 rams, and 400 lambs plus twelve male goats as a sin offering. There was no fire from heaven; there was no cloud descending upon the temple, and no Shekinah glory emanating from the holy place.

Over time, Israel adapted customs regarding the Feast of Booths that commemorated the dedication of Solomon’s temple. According to Edersheim, each evening priests would ignite sixteen elevated cauldrons filled with oil and the priests’ worn-out linen garments. The light from the fires would illuminate the city. The Jewish holiday, Chanukah, celebrates the rededication of Ezra’s temple in the time of Judas Maccabeus. According to legend, the lamps in the temple did not extinguish during the eight days although there was insufficient oil to sustain them. Even if true, the lights of Chanukah glimmer compared to the glorious light at the dedication of Solomon’s temple.

When John wrote his Gospel he alluded to the Feast of Booths when he said of Jesus, “The Word became flesh and [tabernacled] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NASB)

The seventh month is most probably the time of the incarnation — the birth of Jesus, rather than in December when most Christians celebrate it. At the time of Jesus' incarnation,
there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them . . .

Luke 2:8, 8 (NIV)
Upon Jesus' birth, the Shekinah Glory of God, was displayed to men — this time to celebrate God's indwelling a tabernacle of human flesh.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all refer to the feeding of the five thousand families. John tells us that after feeding the five thousand, Jesus attended the Feast of Booths. Jesus arrived mid-week during the feast and began teaching in the Temple. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record for us what occurred before Jesus arrived at the Temple in Jerusalem.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

Mark 9:2-8 (NIV)
When we realize that the Transfiguration occurred at the time of the Feast of Booths, then we also realize that Peter’s suggestion, “Let us put up three shelters,” although silly, was at least seasonal. Yet Peter, James, and John witnessed what no one in Israel had seen heretofore. The Tabernacle and the Temple had previously obscured the source of God’s Shekinah. Yet for a moment, the disciples saw the Son of God revealed in glory, and they heard the voice of God from the thick cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” They, of course, fell to the ground, and after Jesus touched them and told them to get up, the scene had changed.

On the last day of the Feast of Booths, probably at the time the cauldrons were being lit, and before the half moon had risen, Jesus cried out to the people, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NIV)

In this statement, Jesus brings to memory the Tabernacle in the desert where as the pre-incarnate Son of God, he led Israel in a cloud and a pillar of fire. He brings to memory the Shekinah glowing from the Tabernacle so that not even Moses could enter. With this statement Jesus also brings to memory the dedication of Solomon’s temple where the thick cloud prevented the priests from ministering in the temple and where fire fell from heaven and Shekinah radiated from within the Temple into the view of all men. At that time, only Peter, James, and John could fully understand what Jesus was saying.

Someday, all men will see Jesus in his glory.
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
After Christ’s return, and the final judgment of the unbelieving, God will reveal the New Jerusalem within a new heaven and a new earth. John writes of the New Jerusalem, saying,
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.

The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 21:22-27 (NIV)
On Tuesday night, as the full moon is rising in the east, I intend to bring the little girls outside under the canopy of oak, birch, and hackberry. We will light the oil lamps and build a fire in the fire bowl. We will look at the sky and name the stars we recognize.

I will tell them that our bodies are merely a temporary dwelling place in a desert wilderness. I will tell them that someday, when Christ returns, we will enter into a Promised Land. I will tell them that I wonder what the sign of the Son of man appearing in the sky will look like such that all the nations of the earth will mourn.

I will tell them of the times in history, especially at the Feast of Booths, when God revealed his Shekinah Glory to men, and I will tell them of the future time when the faithful will live everyday by the Light of the World.

I will tell them that by faith in Jesus Christ we “will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


The following are my prepared remarks given at Mom’s funeral,
October 7, 2008,
Gallatin, Missouri

In April of this year, I began to blog. Blogging is simply self-publishing on the Internet. People blog about many topics; I blog about Faith and Family.

In April, I wrote, “Air roasted”. I consider that post to be a roundabout love letter to my wife. I meandered over many topics only to sneak up behind Lisa at the end to whisper, “Love ya’ honey.”

A couple years ago in May, some of us gathered in this room to say, “Goodbye,” to Granny Annie. On Mother’s Day this year, I published “Granny’s song” on my blog.

A couple days earlier, I had written “Bicycle baby” in which I recalled sweet times with my daughter, Claire. A couple days later wrote, “They saw us waving” in which I recounted Gabby’s seeing the International Space Station flying over our house. The spacecraft flew from twilight into full sunshine, and Gabby cried out, “They saw us waving, and they turned their lights on!”

I wrote “Eagle, eagle, eagle” where I reminisced about Daniel, my son. In a post titled, “Nostoc,” I wrote about my love for my oldest daughter, Cara.

My most-read post, titled “Ora et labora,” is a tribute to Dad. “Ora et labora” has been read by people in Australia, Canada, Croatia, Germany, India, Latvia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. “Ora et labora” is the motto on the Ramsey crest. It means, “Pray and work” No one illustrates Ora et labora better than my dad. This truth is now known all over the world.

Considering the number of times I have blogged about family, it might be puzzling why no singular blog post has been dedicated to Mom. I wrote many posts about family, yet among all my posts, Mom takes center stage in none of them; or does she?

Mom was often the first person to read each of my posts. She sometimes awakened in the middle of the night to read what I had published at midnight. She corrected my typographical errors. Actually, she delighted in discovering where my fingers had failed to do what my brain had asked of them. If I had written something sentimental about my family, Mom’s eyes would tear. When she told me that a post touched her heart, I would then tease her saying, “Mom, you know I would do just about anything to make you cry.”

My publishing on the Internet served many purposes. Mostly, I suppose, my blog has been an open letter to anyone who would read it. Some posts have been a letter mostly to my children. Some posts have been a letter mostly to my wife. Sometimes my writing has been a letter to myself – a summary of my Bible study. Nevertheless, each post was in many ways a letter to Mom. Though I have written very few lines about her, Mom has been very much at the center of my writing all along. Lisa can attest that many of our discussions about my writing centered upon what Mom’s reaction would be.

Mom was central to more than just my writing. Christmas is still a few months away, but I had already determined what I was going to give to Mom. Lisa bought her a Christian bluegrass CD. You know how moms like to receive handmade gifts from their children. I planned to give Mom a hand-rolled cigar from the tobacco I grew in my garden. I did not expect her to smoke it; but I know that she would have laughed.

If I was not busy trying to make Mom cry, I was busy trying to make her laugh. I would do just about anything to make Mom laugh.

Yet there was more to Mom than tears and laughter. Mom’s greatest passion was knowing Jesus and then making him known. Mom found much joy when I shared my perspective on Scripture. A couple weeks ago Mom emailed me saying,

I read your blog and thought, this is really good and helpful.

Then I read Lisa's blog and I thought, This is really great! And so helpful!

Thank you, Lisa! What you wrote is so true. I love it.

What Mom loved and what Lisa wrote is this,
  • After feeding the five thousand families, Mark says that Jesus sent the disciples ahead to Bethsaida. John says that the disciples were headed for Capernaum. Without getting in to the possible reasons for the different perspectives on their destination, it seems safe to say that when they ended up in Gennesaret they were arriving in a different location than Jesus sent them. However, I believe that Jesus’ plan was for them to obey his instruction, experience some amazing things in the process, and ultimately end up where he really intended them to be. When I experience an unexpected change of direction in my life, how often have I questioned whether I was hearing God’s instruction correctly? Just because things do not turn out the way I expected does not mean I did not hear God correctly. Nor does it indicate a shortfall in God’s sovereignty.

  • Jesus watched from the shore as the disciples struggled in the waves and the wind. He did not relieve their distress immediately, and even when he did walk out to them, Mark thought he was going to pass them. Once Jesus climbed into the boat, the storm was immediately calmed. How often am I convinced that God does not really know or understand what I am going through? Do I tend to think that He does not really care? Do I assume that my difficulties are mine alone to bear? Could I begin to learn that the storms in my life set the stage for God revealing His glory to me?

  • When the disciples saw Jesus walking towards them on the water, they thought he was a ghost and they were terrified. How often do I determine that something that I do not understand is “bad” or “evil”, when it may be God working in my life?

  • Jesus responded to their fearful cries with, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” When he says, “It is I”, it is the same phrase translated elsewhere as “I AM”. Jesus was telling them that he is the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe. He was in control and there was nothing of which to be afraid. How often do I lose sight of the fact that Jesus really is there with me, through the storm, and He is in total control. He is in control of not only my little struggles, but EVERYTHING.

Mom was encouraged to read again that Jesus, the Great I AM, is always in control regardless of how out of control our lives seem to be.

I talked to Mom last Thursday morning; she told me that she found my post that day to be encouraging – Lisa had not posted yet. In my post, I was asking rhetorically how the kids in our home-school association would feel if they understood the injustice perpetrated by leaders in Washington. I said,

I know how I feel. I feel far away from home.

In my home country “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all.” In my home country, its citizens are children “of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all . . . who were baptized into Christ have clothed [themselves] with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, [all are] one in Christ Jesus [and are] Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” In my home country, “[We] are all are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”

When I witness injustice, I long for the peace of my home country. The Apostle, John, wrote about his vision of my home country, saying,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation 21:1-7 (NIV)

The morning before Mom passed, she was meditating on this passage of Scripture. She was discussing with Dad her hope of eternity with Jesus. When Mom’s heart gave out, she cried out to Dad, but then I think she turned and heard Jesus saying, “Take courage; I AM; do not be afraid.” Upon hearing Jesus’ voice, the storms of Mom’s life calmed, and Mom immediately arrived at the destination where Jesus had planned to meet her.

We are here today to remember my mom. Solomon said,

It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.

As we remember Mom, let us recognize that she lived her life for the moment when she would see her Savior face-to-face. We will miss her. Yet, if she could speak to us today she would ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” You see, we are the ones still trapped within “the body of this death,” as the Apostle Paul referred to it. Mom has been delivered; she is currently witnessing Jesus making all things new.

We are here because we knew and loved Mom, yet Mom would be much more interested in our knowing and trusting Jesus Christ. Last week Mom wrote an urgent letter to unsaved loved ones imploring them, “Please accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior today. Pray to him and trust him with your eternal future. You cannot save yourself and you don’t know the way to heaven, none of us do. But Jesus does.”

We are here to remember Mom – to remember our relationships to Mom, but in our remembering, let us remember that the most important relationship in Mom’s life was her relationship to Jesus Christ. She lived by her faith in him.
The Jesus that Mom worshipped was both the Son of God and Son of Man. As the Son of God he created the heavens and the earth. Genesis tells us that he fashioned man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. John 1 says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

This is the Jesus Mom knew. As the Son of God, he walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Then Adam sinned against God, and plunged mankind into the judgment of death. Man’s toil became futile, his relationships painful; the earth from which man was taken produced thorns and thistles; man’s destiny became the grave. Yet even in man’s dark hour, the Son of God promised Adam and Eve a deliverer who would crush the deceiver’s head. The deliverer would be the offspring of a woman.

In history, the Son of God appeared as the angel of the LORD. He appeared to Abraham at Mamre; He appeared to Moses in the desert places of Midian and Sinai; The Son of God appeared to Joshua, Gideon, and others; he spoke to Samuel and to the prophets.

At the right time, the Son of God humbled himself and became also the Son of Man – the offspring of a woman. As the Son of Man, he lived a sinless life in which he demonstrated both his Deity and his humanity. The Apostle John says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, but John also says that “though he was in the world and the world was made by him, the world did not recognize him. He came unto those who were his own, but his own did not receive him.”

As the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus allowed himself to taken to Calvary. There the hands of him who had fashioned man from the earth, Man nailed to the cross. Man crowned the Son of God with a crown of thorns – the very symbol of the curse of sin. On the cross, the one who had breathed into man the breath of life hung suffocating. Yet in all this, God had a greater purpose.

The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, that “God made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us.” Jesus was our sin offering. He took our sin upon his body on the cross, and by his death he carried our sin into judgment, for the wages of sin is death. Isaiah prophesied this would happen. He said,

Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he opened not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him;
he hath put him to grief:
when thou shall make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed,
he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul,
and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

The Son of God and Son of Man, suffered by our hands and on our behalf. Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

On the third day, God the Father through the power of his Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. By overcoming death – the penalty for our sin – Jesus became our Great Hope of Resurrection.

John tells us that as “all who received [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Because by faith we die with him, we also by faith will attain to his resurrection from the dead.

This is the Jesus whom Mom knew. This is the Jesus whom Mom worshipped. This is the Jesus whom Mom loved most of all. This is the Jesus upon whom Mom was meditating Thursday morning, when, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, He came to meet her, to calm her storms, to speak to her saying, “Take Courage. I AM. Do not be afraid,” and to carry her to her destination – eternity with Him.

Today as we remember Mom, it is appropriate for us to remember her tears and laughter. It is appropriate to remember her love for each of us and our love for her, but most of all it is necessary to remember her hope and faith in Jesus Christ. When we, the living, take this to heart, our sorrow for Mom’s parting is better than laughter because though our faces are sad, our hearts can be happy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

“I am making all things new”

by John D Ramsey

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The home-school meeting happened without me. My sister called as we were readying to leave the house and told me that Mom had a heart attack.

Early in the morning, Mom sent Lisa a sentimental poem that she found while rummaging through Granny’s things. A few days ago, Mom had laughed about keeping all of Granny’s stuff; she told me that if Granny had not used it in the past two years, she probably never would.

I talked with Mom about midmorning yesterday, she told he that she found my latest post to be encouraging. When I talked with her, she was reading the last few chapters of Revelation. She took her encouragement, not from my feeble words, but rather from the truthful promises of Scripture.

Later, after Lisa had posted the poem that Mom had sent her, I tried to call Mom to let her know. There was no answer. Dad said that Mom went suddenly; though paramedics resuscitated her body, I believe that Mom was already at home in a greater country.

When Mom’s heart gave out, she was not only prepared to meet her Savior, she was earnestly meditating on Jesus’ words with a sentimental homesickness that his faithful share.

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”

Revelation 21:5-7 (NIV)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Servile fearfulness

by John D Ramsey

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On my way to the office each morning, I drive passed a luxurious subdivision named Patrician Woods. It amuses me that people who can afford to live anywhere would choose to live in a neighborhood with such a pretentious name, unless, of course, they just don’t get it.

Do we not live in a country founded upon the ideal that “all men are created equal”? Of course, we all succumb to pride and presume at times to think that we are better than someone else is. Nevertheless, only a few have the brazenness to live in a neighborhood whose name derogates the Declaration of Independence.

Perhaps these residents do not arrogate themselves deliberately. Perhaps, their vocabulary enlightened, they would blush at the blatant assertion of their aristocracy. Moreover, I am confident that many residents of Patrician Woods feel that with their wealth comes greater social responsibility than merely keeping their trees trimmed and their dogs groomed. For this, I commend them, but I still smirk at the name of their subdivision.

Tomorrow, I will corral a couple dozen fifth through eighth graders while their moms (and a few dads) conduct a home-school association meeting. I decided sometime ago to use Shakespeare as the fulcrum of our activities. I hope to make Shakespeare accessible to them. My first inclination was to re-enact et tu Brute, but I then I visualized the horror on the moms’ faces upon seeing their sweet children parading around in blood-drenched togas. I might as well have chosen Lord of the Flies as my literary topic. I am staying with Julius Caesar, but we will act out only Act I, Scene 1.

I have a long vocabulary list, and ten discussion questions. I printed the scene on cardstock with the character’s name, a sequence number, the preceding line in small type, and the character’s line in big print. With four speaking parts, we will rotate kids in and out until everyone has a chance to be a tribune or a citizen. We will discuss that both Rome and sixteenth century England divided into social hierarchies. If I have time, I will ask them whether the United States has social hierarchy. Then I will ask them whether that is good or bad. Ultimately, I would like them to imagine living in a culture where an aristocracy receives preferential treatment from the government.

Of course, these kids are too young to understand the implications of the much-trumpeted moral hazard the Senate voted tonight to enact. How would they feel to know that their government considers some people more important than others? How would they feel if they realized that their financial future is now constrained to pay for the egregious excesses of Wall Street coupled with incompetent regulation from Washington? How angry would they be that liquidity for the powerful would not come at the cost of bankruptcy liquidation? How would they feel if they realized that Congress intends to abrogate existing law to accommodate their patrons while appropriating the finances of their constituents to get it done? I know how I feel. I feel far away from home.

In my home country “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11 (NIV) In my home country, its citizens are children “of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all . . . who were baptized into Christ have clothed [themselves] with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, [all are] one in Christ Jesus [and are] Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV) In my home country, “[We] are all are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

When I witness injustice, I long for the peace of my home country. The Apostle, John, wrote about his vision of my home country, saying,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation 21:1-7 (NIV)
Once Washington completes its bailout of Wall Street, it will be business as usual, i.e., the same old tired grind where the rich exploit the poor and the poor envy the rich. Politicians will continue to pervert justice at the whim of the powerful. Yet gone will be the illusion of America, the land of the free. Rather the newly emboldened Federal Government, like King James I and Julius Caesar before him, will “keep us all in servile fearfulness.”

So be it. I am a citizen of a greater country.