Month: December 2017

On Being a Christian

On Being a Christian

I have often heard it said that being a Christian is really hard to do. As I have pondered this for some time, I have concluded that “trying” to be a Christian is very, very, hard to do . . . in fact, it is impossible to do! Since it is impossible, I wonder why so many try to do it.


Perhaps it is that they want to have entrance into heaven, or perhaps have sins forgiven; who would not want that . . . right? Maybe they want God to bless them with good things, or to hear their prayers; perhaps they want some sort of eternal life insurance policy.


Whatever the case may be, there sure are many people trying hard to be a Christian. The unfortunate thing is this; how good they are, or how upright, nice, or generous they may be, no matter how hard they try, they will always come up short.


The truth is simple; you see no one is born a Christian.


I know, I know, there are those who believe that if we are born in a certain country, are members of a certain church that you are, by birth, Christians; well the Book, which Christianity is based on; the Bible says differently.


Jesus, the One who should know about these matters came right out and told a churchman (Pharisee) the true nature of becoming a Christian. The person’s name was Nicodemus; here is how it went down . . .


Nicodemus; not wanting to be seen by others, came to Jesus at night. When he saw Jesus, Nicodemus starting telling Jesus that he believed that he was from God, because no one could do the stuff Jesus was doing unless that was true.


Then Jesus rocks Nicodemus’ world by saying this;


“I’m telling you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born again.”


WHAT!        I am sure that is what old Nicodemus thought! He says to Jesus; “How can a man go back into his mother’s womb to be born again?”


Jesus then goes on to tell Nicodemus that this is not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual one. The Holy Spirit of God touches the heart of a man or woman and the spirit it reborn; that is the moment a person becomes a Christian.


It is kind of like this; the Bible says that we all have been “created in the image of God;” that means that there is a certain something of God, which is resident in us, a seed perhaps. It is significant that Jesus uses the illustration of being born again to describe what happens to us when we believe.


In the natural world, a seed from a man, finds its way to the female egg, when the two meet, in an instant, a new life begins. All the genetic information to produce another human being is locked up in those two parts; and when they meet . . . new life!


We keep seeking, searching and looking; we get closer and closer


In the spiritual world, our spirit is drawn to God by His spirit. We can sense it and it is real. We begin to explore the whole idea of God; we look at all that He created and we intuitively know there is more; something is missing, but it is hard to put our finger on it.


We keep seeking, searching and looking; we get closer and closer until we realize that we really need Him; we desire Him and with our whole heart and mind, we reach out to Him; and he reaches back.


When our spirit touches His Spirit; BAM new life; a spiritual life that is, and we are born again; it is new and it is exhilarating!


The Bible, that used to be dry and hard to read, now leaps off the pages into our heart; we begin to understand it. We start to see things through the eyes of God and we desire to be even closer to Him. We realize that he is our best friend and develop a relationship with Him and our life takes on new meaning.


Finally, when you are born again in the spirit; it is not hard to be a Christian; you realize that you are one; not because of what you do, but rather it is because of whom you know.  It is ALL about Jesus; about what He did, His sacrifice, His great love for us!


Nope, being a Christian is not hard; it is what you have become; you were born into it spiritually. Living life as a Christian will be difficult, there WILL be trials, hard times, and just because you are a Christian does not exempt you from living in a dangerous world.


Here is one final illustration to help make the point. Imagine a farmer comes and plants an apple tree. He puts in the seed, waters it and it sprouts and grows into a huge tree. After a few years, it begins to produce fruit. The big, beautiful apple grows to maturity.


Now if the apple could talk; it probably would not say; “boy, it sure is hard being an apple.” Of course, not, it is what it is . . . an apple, and it does not have to struggle to be one, it was born that way.


Now to be sure; with lots of people eating apples these days, being an apple is rather dangerous, but being one . . . well, that comes naturally; so it is with those who have been born of the Spirit!

Posted by onthesolidrock in Faith, Holiness, Trust, 0 comments
Wise Men Still Seek Him

Wise Men Still Seek Him

The stories surrounding Jesus birth are simply astonishing. What great lengths God went through to redeem us; amazing, simply amazing!


Each time I examine these incredible accounts of God faithfulness and mercy, I grow stronger and my faith increases.


What is faith anyway?


 Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.


Faith is that “certain something” deep within our being that hopes and believes, even when the physical proof is not readily available. It is an amazing thing! Faith; this amazing element, which is as essential to us as the air we breathe, is a gift from God!


 Ephesians 2:8-9

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


Fascination sets in when I read the story of the three wise men or the three kings, and I wondered about how they acquired the faith and resolve to travel so far to see the outcome of the amazing birth we just celebrated.


Come with me, and let us look into this and see if we can find some answers . . .


Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.


Often in our Christmas scenes, we will see the shepherds along with three wise men, standing around the manger the night that Jesus was born. This description is inaccurate, as we can see by the account in Matthew, that the Magi came well after the birth of Jesus, perhaps as much as a year afterward, and the Bible says they went to a house, not a stable, to see Jesus.


The Bible also does not indicate the number of Magi that came. Tradition says three wise men, or three kings, probably because of the three gifts that are given; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


It is likely that there were more than three Magi, and they would certainly have come with a rather large entourage. The Bible says that King Herod was “disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” We can assume the Magi came with considerable pageantry and pomp; all this, from a country and land, not yet conquered by Caesar.


Magi were more than “wise men.” The word translated to Magi is: magos             mag’-os


The original translation of this word meant “Chief Magician” but also had the implication of authority attached to it as well. You could easily infer that the Magi were prominent esteemed scholars, ambassadors, perhaps princes, representing another country or group of countries.


The fact that they came from the East is significant because some scholars believe that they came from the Orient, which would have been the Parthian Empire. The Parthian Empire spanned across most of modern-day China and parts of Russia. It was one area that the Roman Empire was unable to control.


However, a more likely origin of the Magi was from a place a little closer; perhaps modern-day Saudi Arabia or even Iran. The Bible records a visit to King Solomon by a certain Queen of Sheba. She had heard of King Solomon’s wisdom and wealth and she went to visit him.


Solomon had become king of Israel after the death of his father, King David. The Bible records an amazing encounter between Solomon and God . . .


2 Chronicles 1:7-12

That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place.  Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king,  therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”


God had blessed Solomon with exceedingly great wisdom and knowledge. The word about Solomon and all of his riches and wisdom was spreading across the region. The Queen of Sheba heard of this amazing man, his wisdom and wealth, and decided to go and see for herself and meet this man, Solomon.


Here is an excerpt from her encounter with Solomon.


1 Kings 10:1-7

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.

Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built,  the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth, you have far exceeded the report I heard.


Indeed, the Bible declares that kings from all over the world would come bearing gifts, seeking an audience with Solomon. It is likely that Solomon would give copies of writings of the time; perhaps he gave scrolls of the scriptures and even copies of his own writings regarding wisdom.


The “Magi” of the countries would be certain to explore those writing with careful attention; after all, the God of Israel was giving such favor and wealth to a single king; perhaps if they could get to know this God, they too would find blessing beyond measure!


Now, going back to the story of Jesus; imagine that you are in Israel, a year out from His birth, and the great census, which in large part had to do with increasing the military strength of Rome. The city of Jerusalem was on the very edge of the Roman Empire, the outback if you will.


Now here comes a large group of prominent princes and men of authority from an empire that Rome had yet to conquer, showing up on your doorstep, looking for the Baby born “King of the Jews.”


Now you can begin to understand why the Bible says; “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” This was a big deal!


The ramifications of another Empire sending these people to your city, could very well mean an invasion was forthcoming, but the idea that they were looking for the One to be the “King of the Jews” was more than Herod could take; he was the current acting King of the Jews!


Herod was the appointed “King” over this region, and if there was another king born, his rule would be in jeopardy; furthermore, Herod knew what Caesar did to those who would allow other “kings” to rule without his direct approval.


We know that Herod pretended to be interested in worshipping the Baby King too, and told the Magi to make a careful search and report to him, which of course they did not!


The Magi; warned in a dream, did not to go back to Jerusalem; but left the region by another route. Herod was furious! In order to make sure that there was no threat to his rule; he ordered the death of every male child up to the age of two.


Now, regarding the Magi, I find it odd, that it was the Magi, who understood the prophecies of the Messiah’s birth, and the Jewish Pharisees, scribes, and priests missed it!


There is only one rather hidden clue concerning the timing of the birth of a Messiah. While the Bible does have many prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus, there is only one obscure verse, which indicates a star would lead the way.


Numbers 24:17

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. . .”


The Magi saw a star and followed it to the location of Jerusalem, which was about 10 miles from Bethlehem. It would only be natural for them to go to Jerusalem and ask the religious authorities where they could visit the Christ Child.


No doubt Herod said to these important powerful representatives, make yourself at home, rest a bit, and I shall return with your answer. The Bible says; “. . . he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.” I would have loved to have been a mouse in that room!


I find it fascinating that those who should have understood what the significance of what the star meant; which by the way was visible not only to the Magi, but to everyone in the hemisphere, missed it . . . I wonder why?


The church of that day was caught up in the political theater; trying hard to please Herod and Caesar and was compromising their faith. The church was so engrossed in the current worldly affairs, that they missed the Birth of the Messiah! Some thirty years later they would miss it again!


The Magi, however, had heard stories of the greatness of the God of Israel. The stories of the God of Israel were revered, and a few of the surrounding kingdoms remembered those stories and made it a part of their tradition to keep an eye on Israel. To watch out for the prophecies concerning the God of Israel, unfortunately, the very keepers of the Law and the Prophets in Israel did not have the same concern.


Thirty years later when the grown-up Son of God began to affect the region once again, the very people who should have recognized Him, did not! Still caught up in the worries of the day; more interested in their self-preservation, their opulent lifestyles, and the illusion of power and fame, they missed the Savior . . . again!


The present-day church, just like the church of Herod’s day, is a caught up in the political drama too; absorbed by the worldliness of our culture; enamored by wealth, and the acquisition of power.


The church was not alert when Jesus was born, and the church was not being watchful when He was among them as an adult; they actually crucified Him! I wonder if the present day church will be on the lookout for His return; Jesus said that most would not . . .  


Matthew 24:37-39

 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.


The Magi were not Jewish, were not Christians, nor were they any part whatsoever of Israel, they were heathen people; they were sinners looking for the Messiah. In their quest, the Lord directed them to the very One they longed to see; God in His mercy and grace led them forward, showing the way, with a star in the sky.


If you happen to be seeking the God of Israel, do not stop! Keep following, seeking and looking, and the God you seek will lead you! The Old Testament Book of Jeremiah gives a great promise to you:


Jeremiah 29:13-14

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. . .”


The Magi, seeking God with all their heart; found God, and were never the same! If you are seeking to find God . . . you are going to find Him because He wants you to; He has given you the gift; the gift of faith to believe!


Posted by onthesolidrock in Faith, Trust, 0 comments
Money, Money, Money

Money, Money, Money

There sure is a great deal of emphasis on the acquisition of money and economic gain these days. It seems to fill the hearts and minds of most folks. The recent tax adjustments made by the government, appear to have the potential to create extra income for many people.


Economic growth and financial success could be beneficial, however, we need to be very careful not to place too much trust and hope in those increases.


We have to ask; what is the reason we desire to have more and more money. Is it so we can live a more luxurious life, so we can have the biggest house, the fanciest car, or the biggest bank account?


Too often, we gauge the success of a person, based on the amount of money they can access, or on the quantity of “things” they own; neither of these is an accurate gauge of one’s worth.


He scrimped and saved to make ends meet


I knew a man who never really had a great deal of money and he always scrimped and scraped to provide for his family. He traveled the countryside to find a place he could call his own.


After several years of looking, he found a small property and decided to rent it; he did not have the money to buy.


He worked part-time jobs, even selling Fuller Brush shoe products to make ends meet. He worked day shift and night shift jobs as his family grew. His family expanded; and so did the need to provide.


In order to meet the growing need, he took what little he had saved and bought a small Farmall tractor so he could till the 2-acre patch of land in his backyard.



Red Farmall Tractor


He planted vegetables, strawberries, and even raspberries. He and his wife would can hundreds of quarts of produce to carry them through the winter months; having a little extra to sell.


He put together a small fruit and vegetable stand out by the roadside and taught his kids how to sell the vegetables for a few extra bucks.


As the years went by, he was eventually able to purchase the home he had rented for all those years. The fruit and vegetable stand would help pay the taxes on that property.


His children did not have many of the luxuries of this world, but they had food to eat and a safe home to grow up in. They learned the value of hard work, the importance of strong family relationships, and the blessings that flowed from a home full of love.


He always wished he could have done more


Many years later, as the children grew up and began leaving the nest; the father came to one of his kids and lamented; “You know, I always wished I could have given you kids more than I did; I tried my best, but this little 3 acre plot was all I could do.”


The son looked at the father and said; “But Dad, look around, you gave us all of this.” The son pointed to the beautiful mountains surrounding the little homestead, he pointed to the scenic little river behind the house and reminded his father of the countless hours of joy the kids had exploring those mountains and swimming in the creek.


He reminded the father of the safety of this little village we called home, the love and affection that mom and dad gave all the kids.


No dad, we had far more than most, even though in the eyes of the world we were poor; that is just not true; we were rich beyond measure.


That father was a success story; did he have great wealth . . . no, but he was rich in so many ways. Money could never have bought the things that really mattered.


Money cannot purchase respect or love. It cannot purchase loyalty or the satisfaction of hard work. Money cannot purchase faith in God, nor can it buy you entrance into heaven!  No, money is fleeting, and over time it disappears and all you have is an empty wallet.


Use caution when pursuing financial gain


So be careful about chasing after money and material, because you risk losing everything if you do. The Bible says:


For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.                  1 Timothy 6:10


It is okay to have money, and even lots of it; keeping it all in perspective is what counts. If your main aim is the acquisition of money for the sake of personal gain, then you are on a dangerous pathway.


Envy, greed, and selfishness are anxious to collaborate with you in your financial endeavors. Use extreme caution as you pursue economic gain.


The goal of the man referenced in my story was not financial gain, but rather a safe, caring, and healthy home for his family.


He was a stunning success in his efforts to provide such a dream. Oh, and did I mention this man was my father.


Thanks, Dad!



Posted by onthesolidrock in Faith, Family, Thankfulness, 0 comments
A Special Christmas

A Special Christmas

I remember as a child the days leading up to Christmas, the anticipation, the wonder, and the joy of it all. I remember the families coming together, the food that was shared, and Oh, the presents!


I remember one Christmas in particular, that stands out above all the rest.


A family had moved into our rural neighborhood, and I quickly became friends with all of the kids. It was a great summer, and we loved to “hang out” at the new family’s home.


As Christmas drew near, I noticed a lack of decorations and a tangible sense of uneasiness surrounding this new family that I had grown to love. I wondered what was wrong.


One day, I overheard the father say to his wife, “I don’t know how we can get any gifts this year” as I peaked around the corner, I could see tears in his eyes! The father was confined to a wheelchair, and the mother had yet to find a good job.


I realized that this family would not have any Christmas at all, and that was why everyone seemed so sad. I remember going home that day with a very heavy heart, and now my Christmas was going to be sad too.


I talked to my dad about this and asked him what we could do. My dad suggested that maybe we could look around and find some good things to give this family for Christmas.


So, we began to search through our home, all of us got involved. We found lots of good things, some were even new! Dad called the other families in our neighborhood, and pretty soon, everyone was in on it.


The whole neighborhood got involved


I will never forget the night before Christmas, when we took a pick-up truck that was overflowing with wrapped gifts, covered with bows, and drove up to my friend’s house.


We knocked on the door, and when it opened we created a line from the truck to the door and started passing gifts into the house.


The father came wheeling out on the porch in his wheelchair, tears streaming down his face; we were all crying…tears of joy and hope.


What a Christmas! I will never forget it!


What are you doing this year for Christmas? Is there a family who needs some love in your neighborhood? Why not create a memory this year for Christmas?


Do some brainstorming, and see if you can’t start something. Perhaps you can make a difference in someone’s life this year.


Remember . . . Jesus is the reason for the Season!

Posted by onthesolidrock in Thankfulness, Trust, 0 comments
Three Christmas Trees

Three Christmas Trees

Christmas was always a very big deal at the Pifer house. As I recall, it was my mother, who set the tone for this holiday. Pulling off an amazing Thanksgiving Dinner was just a “warm-up” for mom!


The week after Thanksgiving, it seemed as though she kicked into high gear. Mom would start baking every conceivable goody you could imagine; all kinds of fudge, mouthwatering peanut brittle, cookies by the basket full. She made gingerbread cookies and even gingerbread houses!


She would make these things she called “gobs;” she took two small fluffy chocolate cakes and put the most delectable cream sandwiched inside . . . these were just too good!


Not only would she be baking up a storm, she would begin decorating; to say mom was into Christmas would be an understatement.


Mom always wanted the perfect Christmas tree


There was a point of contention that came up almost every year and that was the dreaded “Christmas Tree.” You see, mom always desired to have a nice, as we called it, store-bought Christmas tree. You know; the kind they sell every year; the ones perfectly shaped and easy to decorate.


Mom got this desire for the perfect tree, from her own mother; we called her, Nana. While I never spent a Christmas with Nana, mom would show us pictures of her Christmas trees . . . they were stunning, just stunning.


Mom always wanted to get a tree worthy of decorating, and it was rare that she got one like that. You see, my dad had a hard time throwing down good money for something that would only be used for a few weeks and then burned out in the backyard.


Dad would say something like; “I’ll be dad-burned if I’ll spend good money on a Christmas tree when we are surrounded by the forest. I’ll go out and cut one down; which he often did!


Some of the trees he would come home with were atrocious!
Well, one particular Christmas, mom was determined to get a store-bought tree.


I think my dad was anticipating her request and thought he would hurry up and go out in the woods and get her a tree before she had a chance to ask him for a store bought one.


The tree dad brought home, was one of the ugliest trees we ever saw! It was too short and had huge gaps in the branches! No matter how you turned the tree, it looked awful! Mom told dad, “Moe, you get that tree out of the living room and go down to Sterling Run and get me a real Christmas tree!”


Dad goes for a store-bought Christmas tree.


Dad, knowing he had been had; grumbled and said, “Oh all right.” So dad took the tree outside and jumped in his truck and roared off to Sterling Run; about 3 miles away to pick up a store-bought tree!


He went down and picked out a beautiful Scotch pine, tossed it into the bed of the pickup truck, threw a rope around in and hurried home. What he did not know, was that after about a quarter mile, the wind caught the tree and it fell out of the back of the truck.


The rope, which was tied to the truck, had a large knot on the other end, and it just so happened that the knot was stuck between two branches near the base of the Christmas tree. So dad blistered home about sixty miles an hour with the tree dragging 10 feet behind the truck.


Mom, anxiously waiting for her beautiful tree, was waiting for dad to return. Looking down the road, here comes dad; driving the old International pick-up truck, barreling around the corner. Something just did not look right though; where was the tree!


Mom steps off the porch as dad wheels into the driveway; dad still clueless about the tree. Mom, walking towards the truck, stops as dad comes to a halt; with her hands on her hips, says in a loud voice; “Moe, what did you do!”


Dad jumps out of the truck saying loudly; “well, I went and got you your tree!” He spun around to untie the tree, only to see it on the ground, hardly a pine needle left on it!


Now, dad was not one to blush, but I am sure his face turned several different shades of red; not sure, if he was embarrassed or angry! Mom just stood there, arms crossed, trying hard not to burst out laughing!


Yep, that was the year we had three Christmas trees; mom got a real nice store-bought tree to boot!


Oh, the memories!

Posted by onthesolidrock in Humor, 0 comments