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“But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I am many decades years old, and yet I have never suffered.  There were times in my self-focused, fallen personhood that I thought I was suffering—from experiencing physical pain and illness, heartache over a loved one’s predicament, or the betrayal of a friend.  These things have happened to me because I am alive; I have experienced LIFE!  But in the entire scope of humanity, I have never suffered.

At an early age, I was made aware of the fact of true suffering.  When I was five years old, my mother (the wisest woman I have ever known) told me about the Christian martyrs in the Roman arena, and that they sang hymns of praise to God as they were being carted off by the lions.  I have often pondered that early exposure to the concept of martyrdom, and I believe my exposure was an act of deliberate training and tremendously astute mothering.

My mother was a quiet person.  She never “chattered”, or spoke carelessly.  She sometimes went for hours without even speaking, and I don’t recall any careless or thoughtless words coming out of her mouth!  Mother had an innate understanding of people—including the realization of what they were like, and what they needed most beyond the obvious.

With her reserve and never-flagging self control, my Mother was a deeply compassionate and intuitive God-fearing woman.  Telling a five year old kid about Christians and lions did not just fly out of her mouth.  Rather, she saw in her child a self-centeredness coupled with a flare for drama.  The lions were certainly dramatic.  Mother also knew that her daughter had a passion for animals—fueled by the faithful family dog and a preoccupation with stories about animals, plus a few stuffed critter toys who were loved to tatters.

The Roman arena sharing was well thought out.  Had I been told about beatings, starvation, or any other form of horrible abuse and suffering, I wouldn’t have identified and may well have soon forgotten.  But LIONS—huge, beautiful, hungry cats!  The mental picture of people in lions’ jaws terrified me, and will stay with me forever.  But over the decades, that visual imagery has morphed from focus on the beasts to an appreciation for the singing of hymns—as well as for the reason thereof.  At the age of five, without beginning to fathom what was happening, I was learning about actual suffering and the sufficiency of God.

It would be another thirty-two years before I was catapulted into God’s Kingdom, finally knowing that I was a hopeless sinner who could not save myself.  Understanding at age thirty-seven, that the Lord Jesus Christ—God in human flesh—died the cruelest of tortuous deaths even for me.  And that He rose, triumphant over sin and death, even for me!

I cannot begin to comprehend the weight, that ultimate weight, of all the sin—past, present, and future—of sinful mankind.  And I can only begin to understand the ultimate love that motivated our Lord’s carrying our sin to His Cross!  

The saddest words from the Cross are, “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?”  In order to be a perfect sin offering—to completely take, for once and for all, the punishment we deserve—Jesus had to suffer the uttermost penalty for sin:  estrangement from God the Father.  Thus, we are saved!  Thus we can focus on Christ’s glorious Resurrection!

“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10 

I cannot share the account of my personal salvation, without adding something that happened only a week after God drew me to Himself.  A Christian friend invited me to her home for morning coffee.  Along with the steaming cup which was placed before me, was my friend’s Bible—opened and highlighted to Revelation 19:11-16.  My friend actually commanded me to read the passage—a moment as real as if it happened yesterday rather than back in 1971!

Thus I read that powerful description of the God-Man, Who died for our sin and rose to give us His LIFE, returning to earth as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Because, in His ultimate love, The Lord Jesus suffered the ultimate weight of the Cross, He has given to whomever will believe in Him, the ultimate freedom:  that of His eternal and abundant Resurrection LIFE!

Margaret L. Been — April 8th, 2019

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“If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land.”  II Chronicles 7:14

It is no secret that Americans today are faced with what is probably the weirdest election scenario in our history.  As a nation, we have fallen so far into Godlessness, rank immorality, criminality (as in the murder of millions of unborn children), and disregard for the Jewish people and God’s nation of Israel, that it seems we’ve reached the point of no return.  But have we?

Yes, our choices in the presidential race are literally HORRIBLE!  As a West Virginia woman put it, when recently interviewed, “What choice do we have?  It’s between a criminal and a crazy man.”  But even more disturbing than then question of voting was a recent comment I heard concerning prayer:  “Why pray?  It’s hopeless.  God is finished with America.”

In answering such a claim, we can point to II Chronicles 7:14.  Although this promise was made to Old Testament Israel, the principle stands.  Let us remember the 18th Century Great Awakenings, when God performed a mighty work of revival and return to righteousness through the human vehicles of Jonathan Edwards in America, and John Wesley in England.  Only God knows the amount of prayer which prefaced those Awakenings.  But we can be absolutely assured that there was prayer, and plenty of it!

Whenever the subject of America’s fallen condition arises, I think of Sodom and Gomorrah—and Abraham’s bartering with God:  “Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city, wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?”

So went the bargaining, as fifty and then 45/40/30/20 righteous men could not be found.  God finalized by promising:  “. . . I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.”

We all know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah because ten righteous men could not be found therein.  In the United States of America, there have to be infinitely more than ten righteous men, as well as women and children.  I believe there are not only hundreds, but thousands of Americans who have been saved by the shed blood of Jesus, and purpose to walk in the Holy Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ who is God!  Would God spare the United States and heal this sinful land for hundreds and thousands?

God is alive!  God is in total control of His Creation.  God raises up leaders and pulls them down according to His perfect wisdom.  God hears and answers the prayers of His people.  Revival begins with the people who are called by God’s name.  Thus a return to holiness and reliance on God alone must begin in America’s churches—many of which have  abandoned the literal teachings of Scripture and God’s mandates for righteous living.

As Christians, we must uphold God’s Word and His standards of righteousness.  We have no other choice.  There are many of us who are heartbroken over the demise of our once-Godly nation, and we must pray and seek God’s face! 

We are far more than ten righteous men!  

Margaret L. Been — June 3rd, 2016

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As the clouds grow thicker . . .

Sunday morning sky

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

Have you ever witnessed a crazier pre-election circus?  Has the world ever before seemed to be crowding in so quickly, closer and closer?

Have communications ever been more constant and all-encompassing—inescapable unless one stuffs his or her electronic devices in the back of a remote drawer and goes for a long, solitary walk?  Or even better—the very best of all—unless one plunges head first into the depths of God’s ever-faithful, ever beneficial Word!  God’s Word is the only place to go for rest, for comprehension, perspective, and power.  God’s Word not only mined daily, but stored as priceless treasure for instant, ongoing accessibility and application.

While the clouds grow thicker so does our call, as Christians, not only to share the Gospel of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—but to mirror His indwelling Life, so that the fruit of His Holy Spirit can be seen by all, everywhere we go!  In simple terms, we are called today just God’s people were instructed centuries ago:  to live the Christian life, as mandated in Galatians 5:22-23.

Not to rant and rave*  over all the things that are amiss (although, when watching the news I sometimes forget!)  Not to rend our clothes, Old Testament style.  Not to scream at those who are “out of line”.  And certainly not (even worse!) to scream at those who are in line.

The fruit of the Spirit is the genuine outworking of Christ’s life in us, the “hope” (sure-fire fact!) of glory.  Whatever we are doing as the fruit is displayed, and wherever we may be, will differ with each individual whom God calls.  As we focus on our Lord, He directs our whatever/wherever.  Our “Full time Christian Service” may be public (as in church, missions, or workplace) or private (as in home and/or friendship circles).  Both are equally valid and vital.  But fruit there must be, if our witness is to be effective.

I have blogged near-volumes on this topic, and God-willing I may continue to write more.  The issue is ever-green because (probably like every other believer, and definitely as Paul recorded in his letter to the Romans) I struggle with reflecting God’s fruit—even given prayer and immersion in His Word.  Patience (longsuffering) is a bit of a challenge for me; and as we all realize about the fruit of God’s Spirit—we cannot select.  We need to present the whole basket.

God knows His own.  If I bungle my witness, His own people will still be saved for Eternity; they haven’t lost a thing.  And when I refuse to relax and let Jesus display His fruit through me, I am nonetheless still saved for Eternity.  But I will have missed the here-and-now blessing that would have come had I been in sync with our Lord in that instance.

Margaret L. Been — March 21, 2016

*The most famous sermon in U.S. history is without a doubt, Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  God used this masterpiece (not only of Scripture truth but of literary construction) to pave the way for the movement of His Holy Spirit in an unprecedented revival on our continent. 

Did Jonathan Edwards shout, and rave?  No way.  His delivery was unremarkable, and it has been recorded that he actually read his sermons. 

It was God’s truth in this sermon, not the human vehicle, which set the course of American Christianity from the 1700s on.  In fact, had Edwards ranted and raved, his words may never have taken such a profound course.  The man might have attracted more attention than the message.  God chose a quiet-mannered man for the most spectacular movement of the Holy Spirit in our nation.

Although “Sinners” is the most famous of Edwards’ individual messages, it has been his sermons of joy-filled wonder at the magnificence and beauty of God that theologians (and everyday readers like me) have cherished, found edifying, and re-read again and again for rich spiritual food.  MLB

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Cross

Before our last presidential election, President Obama stated that “Al Qaeda is on the run.”  And just recently, Al Qaeda staged a public demonstration in the country of Yemen—telling the world that Islamic terrorism is stronger than ever before.  Al Qaeda spokesmen declared that they will defeat THE CROSS, and that THE CROSS is represented by America; therefore America is their prime target.  These words, ominous as they may be in their tragic potential, did not terrorize me one bit—because I know in my heart and mind THE CROSS of Jesus Christ will never be defeated.  THE CROSS is victorious!

We are living in “perilous times”, as predicted in II Timothy 3:1.  Ever since a certain couple was ousted from a garden, there have been perilous times.  Yet a study of prophecy in light of world events indicates that peril on all fronts is ramping up to what may be a prelude to Christ’s return.  He has defeated sin and death, through His death on THE CROSS and His bodily RESURRECTION—which we Christians will celebrate this coming Sunday, just as we celebrate THE RESURRECTION every day of our lives.

This week I’ve been musing over events leading to THE RESURRECTION of our Lord Jesus Christ:  the perfidy of the crowds in Jerusalem, the travesty of evil religious leaders, the rotten political scene as exhibited in the illegal and phony trials which our Lord endured, the cruel oppression of Rome, and of course the unspeakable horrors of Jesus’ death on Calvary.

As I consider the downfall of our nation and the recent scandals which our government has largely ignored I recall how Jesus was born, lived, and died—yes, and ROSE—in the midst of a perilous, sin-ridden world characterized by evil.  Yet none of that evil could defeat Him.  Instead, His Word spread—and has flourished in many places over some two thousand years.

THE CROSS, always a symbol of victory, prevails.  It will never be defeated or obliterated.  Down through history, right up to (and including) my own lifetime, many have tried:  Hitler, Stalin, myriads of angry atheists around the globe, and now Al Qaeda.  Nations will crumble and fall, as portrayed in Isaiah 40: 15:  “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.”  But THE CROSS will prevail!

Our Lord is victorious.  He is a personal God who desires the salvation of every single person.  A personal photo—just taken this very afternoon on the maternity floor of a local hospital—expresses what THE CROSS, and RESURRECTION are all about!

New Joy 2

“The thief cometh not but to steal, and kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10

THE CROSS AND THE RESURRECTION ARE ALL ABOUT LIFE!  He is Risen!  He is Alive!  He is LIFE!

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

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Here's what it's all about sans GB

Many of us know by heart, the visitation of three spirits to Charles Dickens’s Scrooge—the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.  Each year I time-travel in reverse, as I recall our Christmases Past.

The above-pictured familiar drama was performed by three of our children—Laura, Debbie, and Eric—circa 1963.  Other memorable Christmases include: 1) the time when some cars failed to start due to sub zero outdoor readings, and the few cars still running shuttled back and forth between homes— bringing family members to our large gathering; 2) poignant Christmases underscored by the loss of loved ones; 3) an ethnic-flavored Christmas when a Swedish friend brought her children, each bearing a battery candle, to our door in celebration of St. Lucia’s Day—the oldest daughter enacting Lucia; 4) and a fair number of Christmas seasons when nearly everyone threw up.

There was a Christmas when we were especially pinched financially, and I made each child (we had our first five, then) a stuffed animal pillow from pre-printed fabric detailed and shaped like the animal it represented.  The animal I recall most vividly was Eric’s gorilla, because Eric was attached to his pillow for years.  The other gifts that year (an additional two for each child) were necessary clothing items—hats, mittens, or a sweater.  

It was a thoroughly blessed and joyous Christmas!  We had good food, a warm home, warm beds, and each other!  Our family’s happiness never centered around possessions or the lack of them, but rather on the fun of just being together. 

Recent Christmases Past featured:  1) the up-north years, when we came to Southern Wisconsin to visit our family members here and stayed in a neighborhood motel with a lovely warm pool; and 2) that “famous-in-our-family” Christmas of 2010, when both Joe and I had major surgery on December 23rd and spent our Christmas in hospital rooms next door to one another—an accommodation kindly arranged by one of our surgeons. 

Joe had a muscle graft over a 4th degree burn, and was not allowed out of bed, whereas my surgery required that I get up and exercise as much as I could.  So several times a day I shuffled next door with my “dancing partner”—the IV pole—to visit my love.  Our hospital Christmas was indeed special, because of opportunities to share with hospital personnel the WONDERFUL REASON for my peace and joy—serious health issues notwithstanding.

Now in 2012, Christmas Present once again presents a health challenge which in no way detracts from the wonder of the fact that our Lord took on human flesh and came to live among us.  Again I testify that a challenge actually augments the wonder of it all.  Because Christ died to save us, and conquered death to give us eternal life, we can experience irrevocable victory over whatever may be happening around us—or in our bodies.

All of this leads to the fact that Christmas is only part of the story.  Christmas culminates in Calvary and Resurrection.  And there’s more wonder yet to come—when our Lord returns to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He will return, perhaps in the year of a not-too-distant Christmas Future.

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Where can I begin to thank our Lord?  I have nothing but thanksgiving:  for God, and whom He is; for salvation, and the promise of eternal life; for more blessings on earth than I can begin to count—a happy childhood, ongoing cultural opportunities, a precious marriage of almost 59 years, a large and loving family, friends, a sweet dog, fresh air, the beauties of nature, a pleasant and comfortable home, food to eat, clothes to wear, a bed, a plethora of books, and an abundance of creative hobbies.

Where can I begin?  Perhaps with that huge blessing which is not listed above, yet one for which I thank God every single day:  FREEDOM.  With all that is wrong in America, we are still free.  We can publish our views around the world, via the internet—without censorship—at least for now.  We can choose our children’s education.  We can worship in public.  We can read our Bibles and pray in coffee houses and bistros, without fear—at least for now.  We are still free!

I read a lot of historical novels and documentary non-fiction on the subject of Irish history.  Actually I know Irish history nearly as well as I know that of my own country!  As I read, I think over and over:  Lord thank you that, with God’s enabling, my ancestors (many of Scottish and Irish descent) were a part of our American Revolution.  The tenacity of the Irish people, like that of our early Americans, stirs my heart profoundly!  

I thank God that, throughout history, that there have been countless heroes who sacrificed everything they had for the cause of freedom!  And of all those heroes, no other people on earth loom larger in their quest for freedom than God’s chosen people—the Jews.  I’m thankful for American history, Irish history, and for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.  

Meanwhile although Christians everywhere have inner, spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ, much of the world is still in physical bondage.  I praise the Lord Jesus for His promise to return, and reign on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Someday, hopefully soon, the entire world will be free! 

“Yea, many people and strong nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.”  Zechariah 8:22 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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. . . it’s CHRISTMAS! 

This morning I read the Airstream Communications weather report:  “Winter storm, snow batters west, heading east.”

I ache for travelers, as I recall countless snow filled Christmas holidays when we were on the road or waiting for loved ones at airports.  My husband and I have driven on treacherous highways and lingered for hours in midnight airports, clogged due to delayed or cancelled flights.  Indeed, it seems like an unwritten law that planes from Denver to Milwaukee will be delayed for hours around Christmas–and invariably at night! 

Yet no matter what the weather, it’s Christmas!

We have experienced some Christmas holidays which were far from “merry”–times shadowed by the death of a family member, or the rebellion of a loved one.  And there were celebrations where I went through all the festive motions with a broken heart due to fractured relationships!

Yet no matter what our circumstances, it’s Christmas!

Recently we attended a preschool Christmas program held at a huge church, once known for upholding the Gospel and God’s Word.  The program featured a manger scene with all the main players entering in their turn.  When it was time for the wise men to join the group, they were announced as “wise people”. 

Evidently it’s no longer “correct” to refer to wise men–even though the Biblical travellers (who didn’t actually arrive on the scene until about 2 years after Jesus’s birth) were historical figures, and men!  

Then the adult narrator of the program talked about “Jesus”, but I’m not sure which Jesus he meant.  He spoke of a Jesus who wants to come into our hearts “so that we’ll know how much we are loved by God”. 

Well, good, and true!  But the life changing message of the Christian faith, the very core of the Gospel, was omitted.  Christmas is the prelude to Calvary and Christ’s resurrection.  However the narrator never mentioned mankind’s innate sin condition and our desperate need for salvation.  The children’s program presented a bloodless gospel, in other words no good news at all! 

Yet no matter what the world says or does in its attempt to obscure or distort God’s truth, it’s Christmas!  Our Lord has come.  He is risen!  He will come again as promised. 

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

 
Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved
 
Note:  Now it’s 12/27, and I’ve read the ominous news of events on the plane arriving from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. 
 
Our daughter, Martina, travels from Nigeria to the U.S. via Amsterdam–sometimes coming through Detroit.  (This Christmas, Martina is on a safari in Kenya.)
 
Here is the sobering bottom line:  one never knows!  But Christmas is still Christmas!   MLB

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