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How to Reflect on the Last Day of the Year 

How to Reflect on the Last Day of the Year   

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Return to Me and I Will Return to You

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MALACHI 3:1-4:6 | REVELATION 22:1-21 | PSALM 150:1-6 | PROVERBS 31:25-31

Click on the link below to listen to an audio recording of this post:

Continuing in the book of Malachi, we learn that the nation of Israel seems to have a short memory, and needs constant reminding of her part of the bargain with God. 

They’re back from exile in Babylon, but a hundred years is all it takes for them to begin to short-change the Lord by way of their substandard sacrifices in the Temple.  What’s worse is that their own priests are engaged in this abhorrent practice of bringing imperfect animal sacrifices. 

Like God really needs them in the first place!  Nevertheless, it is the principle of giving to God the first-fruits, the tithes, and the animals without blemish as the requisite offerings, is what matters. 

But where there is no love, the gift becomes meaningless.  And so, God sends a messenger to them yet again to remind them that these gifts are not acceptable. 

And yet, Malachi tells us that God says:  Return to Me, and I will return to you.    What manner of love is this?

In the latter parts of these chapters, there is a foretelling of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is to be introduced by a forerunner, John the Baptist some 500 years later.  Only, as we know with hindsight, the people will not accept him as the Messiah, further confounding their fate.

We have now approached the ending of the Book of Revelation, and John bears account in this chapter of the River of Life flowing from the throne of the Lamb of God right down through the middle of the city.  The Tree of Life is also situated here, and it is indeed Eden restored.  What beauty, peace, and perfection!

And yet again, an angel reminds John that the angel himself is not to be worshiped; it is only the Lord God Almighty who is worthy of our praise and worship. 

In conclusion, John writes about the warning he receives of the contents of the scroll:  18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.   20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”   Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Today’s Psalm 150 is one that I was made to memorize as a child, and know by heart to this day.  I reproduce it here in its entirety in the King James version (KJV) in which I learned it:

1Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

 2Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

 3Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

 4Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

 5Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

 6Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

The last reading from the Book of Proverbs is the remainder of the account of the definition of the virtuous woman.  It is a timeless testament to the qualities of a good woman no matter her national origin, and bear reproduction here in whole:

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
   she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
   and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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Bajirao Mastani, 2015

This is the week for movie reviews – both catch-up and newly watched ones – today’s review falling into that latter category.  Because what I have to write about today is what I just watched – and I cannot but help want to rush to put into some words – as inadequate as they might be – my deep admiration for this indisputably and gloriously epic love-story in the time of the Marathas in the northwestern part of India.

And the rendition of this famed love-story is no ordinary one; it is indeed an extraordinary one.  It is a love-story that is most irreverent and untamable, no matter the circumstance.  It is a love-story that transcends status, faith, culture, familial relations, political connections, geographic boundaries, and any other societal divisions one can imagine.  Set in the eighteenth century in feudal India, this is the kind of love-story that legends are made of.  When the name of both lovers is spoken as though it were one name, you can feel it in your bones from the very first moment that this is a love that is doomed, but a love that will go down in the annals of history to set the bar for what it means to have loved and lost.

Frame all this in the most grandiose of cinematic sets – both indoors and outdoors – that include masterfully orchestrated battle scenes, breathtakingly beautiful palace interiors, exquisite costumes and jewelry, and a cast of convincing actors, and you have an epic motion picture.   Add to that a great musical score, moving dialogue, and a pulsating chemistry between Singh and Padukone, and you have a winner.  Not without flaw, but trivial enough to be negligible, the story of Bajirao Mastani follows the trajectory of the lovers, whom nothing can separate, and whose destinies seem intertwined.  

High marks, all around – to the directorial prowess, the spectacular cinematography, and the skillful acting.  And a strong word of recommendation to see it on the big screen at the movies, please.  Anything less would be cheating yourself of a most fantastic viewing experience.




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When a Break is What You Need 

When a Break is What You Need   

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Hello, Winter! You Comin’?

Hello, Winter! You Comin’?  

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He Will Wipe Every Tear From Their Eyes

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MALACHI 1:1-2:17 | REVELATION 21:1-27 | PSALM 149:1-9 | PROVERBS 31:10-24

Today, we enter another prophetic book in the Old Testament called the Book of Malachi. 

Malachi, the prophet, starts out with exhortations to the people of Israel, and in particular to the priests of the temple regarding certain social and religious practices of the day. There are lessons to be had even from these ancient exhortations for us today. 

To paraphrase Malachi, these are:  give to the Lord the best of what you have, not your leftovers.  Give the best of your time and resources always.  And don’t make God an afterthought!

Moving on to our reading of the Book of Revelation, the final chapters speak of the new order of things to come:  A new heaven and a new earth. 

Read carefully, gentle reader! What a beautiful, peaceful, and joyous place that will be!  This is a God who is not content to sit upon a throne– instead, he will himself wipe away every tear from our eyes. 

John writes:  3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘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.”

And this new city is glittering with every known jewel and is beautiful beyond imagination.  But one of the most striking features of the city is that there is no temple within it! 

John writes:   22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 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. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.

Turning next to our reading in the book of Psalms, we find the Psalmist exhorting the children of Israel to offer up praises to the Lord Almighty.  David, the poet-warrior king of Israel says:

2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
   let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing
   and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the LORD takes delight in his people;
   he crowns the humble with victory.
5 Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
   and sing for joy on their beds.

Finally, the reading for the day from the Book of Proverbs is the well-known one on the qualities of the virtuous wife.  I reproduce it in whole here because it is truly an excellent yardstick for every woman to aspire to.  This is from the more well-known and oft-quoted King James version (KJV):

10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
      For her worth is far above rubies.
       11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
      So he will have no lack of gain.
       12 She does him good and not evil
      All the days of her life.
       13 She seeks wool and flax,
      And willingly works with her hands.
       14 She is like the merchant ships,
      She brings her food from afar.
       15 She also rises while it is yet night,
      And provides food for her household,
      And a portion for her maidservants.
       16 She considers a field and buys it;
      From her profits she plants a vineyard.
       17 She girds herself with strength,
      And strengthens her arms.
       18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
      And her lamp does not go out by night.
       19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
      And her hand holds the spindle.
       20 She extends her hand to the poor,
      Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
       21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
      For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
       22 She makes tapestry for herself;
      Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
       23 Her husband is known in the gates,
      When he sits among the elders of the land.
       24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
      And supplies sashes for the merchants.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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A Casserole on the Eve of the Eve of New Year’s Eve

A Casserole on the Eve of the Eve of New Year’s Eve   

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Star Wars, Episode VII, The Force Awakens, 2015

Fast on the heels of my last review comes another one I best put down on paper before it all begins to fade away…

This is an enjoyable movie with a lot of the excitement of The Empire Strikes Back, and with some better script writing, even.  For someone who hasn’t seen the entire series of episodes (or sequels as I might have called them otherwise), I’m glad to report that one wouldn’t be at a great disadvantage to follow along without too much difficulty.  And of course, for all those die-hard fans, I’m sure there was much nostalgia and joy in the many throwbacks to the old characters who still wielded the power to amaze and fascinate.  But beyond the old characters, there were several new ones who infused new life into the franchise, chief among them a young woman who seems to be the anointed one and the mantle-bearer for the inevitable future.

State-of-the-art computerized imagery, cutting-edge cinematography, incredible sound effects, and a cast of characters that represent what a lot of the human race currently looks like is what the new appeal of this film is going to be for the current generation and for generations to come.  Oscar Isaac, the extremely good-looking actor from who-knows-where (and no relation to self) adds greatly to the story, as does Daisy Ridley who plays Rey, the intense girl who grew up too soon and has seen too much, but will not let anything keep her from doing the right thing.  There.  Is that vague enough so as to not inadvertently give off any spoilers? 

Suffice to say, the Force is most certainly awakened.