Saturday, March 31, 2007
The Lord heard these women's request, and gave them what they asked for. And in addition to that- the laws of Israel were changed. In the future, with the absence of sons, daughters may inherit from their fathers. This was a big deal! Think about all the women thereafter who benefited from this change because these five women took bold action. Their boldness was rewarded- not only unto themselves, but to the many generation after. These women are a great example of taking a stand for what is right and what you truly believe in. It's also encouraging to me as a woman to know that even though my husband is the head of our household, that God also listens when I speak. It also shows that as women, we can approach our spiritual leaders- as long as we do it appropriately.
Friday, March 30, 2007
God has a plan for each and every one of us. And he knows exactly what it is. To me, that is beyond exciting. Of course, it also makes me want to know what it is. So often I can't help but wonder if we are doing what we should be doing, and if we are where we are supposed to be. Are Andy and I supposed to be the caretakers of our church? Or is that just our selfish nature not wanting other people to take care of it? I know how well I clean the church each week. On the weeks when someone else does it, I always wonder if they do as good of a job. Are we even at the right church? Sometimes I really wonder at that. Maybe there is somewhere else we are supposed to be entirely. Maybe we aren't even living in the right town, maybe we're supposed to go somewhere without a church and start one. There are so many variables, and so many what ifs. And every once in a while, those doubts and variables are really at the forefront of my mind.
Right now, I think it's because of spring. Spring is new beginnings and starting over, and I always think about how exciting it would be to start over somewhere new. And while sometimes these feelings that I have, could be a gentle nudge, for the most part (at least right now) I think these are thoughts of doubt. Thoughts from the enemy to get us to run away from the good we are doing now. And instead of focusing on those negative thoughts, its really a struggle to think on the positive. But then I found this verse today, and it gives me such hope. God has a plan!! He knows exactly where we should be, and what we should be doing. And I know, without a doubt, that if a change is to be made, he will tell us. He will let us know when it's time for a change- in a big way. It will be a resounding call for change, and that time is not now. So for now, I pray wholeheartedly that these negative thoughts take a hike, and that they stop coming back! I pray that his will for our lives will be clear in our hearts and minds, and that we will follow it with all our hearts. For he is a great God, and only has our best interests in mind. He wants us to be happy and prosperous, and that is certainly a hope to cling to.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
" But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods." Daniel 1:8
Daniel was a man of God. He placed God first and foremost- even when choosing his meals. Daniel was Jewish, so his reasons for turning down the Kings food was likely due to the food not being approved for Jews to eat. Daniel was living in the King's palace, and being offered the richest and the finest food and wine to eat and drink, and he turned it down to place God first. Instead, he ate vegetables and drank water. God was Daniel's first priority, and as a result, God blessed Daniel, and Daniel thrived and flourished on his vegetables and water.
Daniel put God first. He took a stand- and not the last one he would take in his life. He committed his life first and foremost to the King of Heaven- before the Kings on this earth. We can use Daniel as an example for setting God first in our lives. When God is our first priority- imagine how things will fall into place. All of Daniel's decisions were based on his commitment to God- he refused to defile himself by consuming food and drink that was forbidden to him. He made up his mind to please God first, and stuck to it. Do we do that? Do we please God by not defiling ourselves? No matter what the issue is- lying, cheating, watching movies we shouldn't, spending money that isn't ours to spend. When we choose God first, those bad habits will fall to the wayside, and our life will reflect the decision we've made to put God first.
Daniel chose to stick with God, and in return, God stuck with Daniel in everything. By choosing God first, God will also stick with us- through thick and thin.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
"10 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
11 Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” Exodus 4:10-12
It would be very easy to make excuses about why I couldn't witness to someone. I could say that I'm not very good at that kind of thing and send them to someone else, or I could have a whole long spiel prepared ahead of time, but that would sound very canned and prepared, and not very "from the heart", in my opinion. Instead I can be confident in my God. Confident that by being obedient to God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, that I will find the right words to say at the right time. God will guide my tongue to say what it needs to when I need to. As long as I am obedient, God will do the rest.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks." Proverbs 31:16,17
While we were busy playing and discovering, Andy tackled readying the garden. We have a shed in our yard, and last year, we placed a tiny garden off one side of it. As much as I want a vegetable garden, I hate the idea of taking up my children's play space, so we've gotten creative with our gardening. This year, God showed showed us the unused space (12 feet!) along the back of the shed that gets full sun most of the day, so Andy made a second bed along the back, and then because she asked for it, he made a small bed for Abigail to plant whatever she would like. And even though it's much too early to think about planting yet, I was looking at the raised beds, empty, and thanking God for this opportunity. And I prayed that he would guide me as to what would be best to plant this year. It's been such a joy for me to pull vegetables out of the freezer or pickles out of the pantry from last fall. I can't wait to begin the process of planting and tending and eventually harvesting and preserving.
God has placed this intense desire on my heart to take care of my family as best as possible. And in the process, they can learn along with me. Both my children can't wait to plant a garden, and I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when they bite into a carrot they've planted, nurtured, and pulled out of the ground themselves. I am so grateful for this opportunity to teach them and work with them on the family gardens, I only pray that I am able to use as many teaching opportunities as possible.
Monday, March 26, 2007
"1 O God, have mercy on me,
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
3 But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
4 I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 They are always twisting what I say;
they spend their days plotting to harm me.
6 They come together to spy on me—
watching my every step, eager to kill me.
7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;
in your anger, O God, bring them down.
8 You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
10 I praise God for what he has promised;
Yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,
and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
13 For you have rescued me from death;
you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
in your life-giving light."
Psalm 56Trust in God can give us so much... it can give us encouragement, it can give us peace, it can give us understanding and comfort. And the beauty of Trusting in God is that it isn't the measurement of how much trust we have that matters. What matters is the object of our trust. By placing our trust in God we can have assurance that we have an ally. We will be provided for, we will be protected, and our enemies will be put aside.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames." 1 Corinthians 3:10-15I keep writing something different about this passage. I have it in my mind what I want to say, but when I get it down and then re-read it, it isn't coming out right and I erase it. The essence of this passage is that we are God's builders. And one day, the time will come that our "buildings" will be judged. Those who have built well, and done great things for God with their lives will receive the reward of a crown. Jesus himself will reward those who produce a life of quality building. So how will your building measure up? Will you spend your life as a person of quality?
Friday, March 23, 2007
Complaining can cause hurt. I used a hypothetical situation, but in a church family, complaining can have dire consequences, as it can cause people in positions of ministry to back off from their areas of service, or even worse, it can drive them out of the church altogether. And even though often our complaints may be valid, there is a better way to deal with them. And I find the solution to that in Pslams 142.
"I cry out to the Lord;
I plead for the Lord’s mercy.
I pour out my complaints before him
and tell him all my troubles.
When I am overwhelmed,
you alone know the way I should turn." Psalm 142:1-3
We should take our complaints to God. Not in a whiny, God fix this kind of attitude, but in a seeking manner. God, how do I approach this situation, is there something I can do to fix it. Is there something I could do to encourage that ministry more, or do I need to contribute of myself in some way. By taking our complaints to God, we're not causing anyone distress and we're taking them to the one who can deal with it best. I've also personally asked God to help me stop being so critical at times. It almost seems like sometimes I'm looking for reasons to complain, and I'm sure there are other people like that- we all know someone who chronically complains. In addition, I definitely don't want to be the person Jude mentions:
"These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want." Jude 1:16
I've spent a lot of time praying lately about complaining. I pray for both Andy and myself, that we can stop seeing the negative and see the positive, and I also pray that other people within our church will stop complaining as well. If we all were to stop complaining about each other, we would have much better harmony within the body, and that is so important to have. May I feel convicted before I begin to speak against one of my Christian brothers and sisters.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
God loved us and chose us before we were even born. Before we were even a thought in our parent's minds, God wanted us. God wanted me to be his very own. This means that I personally was chosen by God to have a relationship with him. Wow. That God would bless and choose us as sinners to become a part of his family is surely and act of Amazing Grace. God wanted each and every one of us to be a part of his family. We are all valuable, and because of that we have eternal life, and can have an eternal relationship with the God who made us.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
"Those who love money will never have enough."
How true is that. One thing that we have definitely been learning over the last several months is that money is not important. During the course of a day we'll mention something that we would like to have or something we would like to do, but we don't have the money for at the time. But then we realize that we really don't need whatever that is. What more could we possibly need? We have a home, we have clothing (well, until Zander goes through another growth spurt), we have food, and we have each other. For the most part, we're healthy, and we've all rediscovered simple things that bring us joy. Last night it was nice enough for the first time this year for the kids to play outside for longer than a few minutes. They were outside having a blast for several hours- and that doesn't cost us a penny. Andy spent the day cleaning out the shed and organizing, and discovered plenty of things that he didn't know he even had! I spent the day baking- making homemade bagels, and bread, and a delicious new stew for dinner. We've re-discovered our library, where we can check out DVD's, educational computer games, magazines, and books at no cost to us. What more could we possibly need for entertainment! I've pulled out my cross-stitch once again, and it is a true joy to re-discover how much I enjoy stitching a new wall-hanging for my son.
"Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God." Ecclesiastes 5:19,20
I certainly enjoy my daily work! I enjoy doing the laundry and seeing an empty hamper. I definitely enjoyed my baking yesterday, as the results made the entire family smile. It is a gift from God to be content with where we are and what we are doing. Last week I was lamenting the fact that I really want new dining furniture. Our set is pretty beat up, and we have our group over every week. I allowed myself a moment of pity for being embarrassed about my table and chairs. I even looked up a few sets online and debated as to whether or not it would be a good idea to charge a set and pay for it later when Andy is working again. Thankfully, God had other plans for me, because the very next morning, Andy declared his intention to repair the wobbly table and chairs, and did I want him to change the fabric at all. An answered prayer!!! For just $10 in new upholstery fabric and a few screws and staples, I have a gorgeous new dining set. It still makes me smile to look at my new chairs. Later today, I may pull out my sewing machine and make anew tablecloth for that table.
Every day we have is a gift from God. It is a true gift to kiss my daughter on the forehead and wake her for school. It is a gift to have my son declare that he wants a snuggle. It is a gift to take my hands and lovingly create a loaf of bread or a pot of soup for my hungry family. It is a gift to watch my husband pour love into a project for me. To us, this season of unemployment has become a season of love. We appreciate the small things so much more. A friend gave us a block of cheese this past weekend. It doesn't sound like much, but it happens to be one of my favorite cheeses, and we certainly can't afford to buy it ourselves. Having the tiniest nibble of that cheese puts such a smile on my face, I am so grateful for generous friends and for their constant gifts and support for us. I'm even grateful for the grey day outside this morning! As much as I wanted to hang the laundry outside today, I know those clouds hold rain, which will finish melting the remaining snow and will help soften the ground further for planting. New buds are beginning to form on the trees and bushes, and the fresh rain will be welcome to all the plant life.
"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
So often, we only think to pray in times of need. Or during times of a crisis. And while there is no doubt that God does hear every single prayer, I can't help but think that we need to follow the example of Nehemiah. Nehemiah prayed three times a day to God, and as a result, he knew how to talk to God. He was in the habit of already talking to God, that when he needed it the most, the prayers were automatically there. Nehemiah needed to ask his king for a favor, and as he did so, he was also praying to God to grant him the courage to ask the king, and to put it in the kings heart to be kind. God smiled on Nehemiah, and the king granted him his requests without even hesitating.
A regular prayer life with God can help prepare us for our times of need. If we already have a relationship with God, and approach him daily with love in our prayers, those prayers in crisis will come much easier, and come much more naturally.
"And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me." Nehemiah 2:8
Monday, March 19, 2007
First, as parents you do your part to get them there. The most important thing that we can do as parents is pray for our children. Daily. Not a day goes by that I don't pray for God to bless my children. I pray earnestly that as each day passes they will grow to love God more. And the second thing that I can do as a parent is make sure that they are being raised in a Godly environment and manner. Samuel was surrounded by God. He was being raised in a tabernacle, God's love was with him at all times. We can keep our children on the right path as much as possible by making sure that they know God's love, and that they know God's rules. We can dedicate our children to God's service, and we can show them what that means. We can take our children to church with us each time we go, and give them opportunity to serve as well. Service in the eyes of a child can be as simple as helping pick up the toys in a nursery. Or during a fellowship event, the children can serve the adults. We can do everything that we can to make sure that our children grow up in the presence of the Lord. That way, when it comes time, we can confidently let them go on their own. We have done what we could, and after that, it's up to them and God to make sure that is the life they choose.
This isn't to say that we can't talk to our kids. We can talk to our children about loving God and asking Jesus into their hearts. But all the talk in the world can't take the place of showing them how to live a Godly life. Showing them that we turn to God to take care of our needs and how to have Faith in God's Greatness. Samuel is the perfect example that in the end, all his parents did wasn't enough. God himself had to place the call upon Samuel's life, and Samuel chose to answer. As parents, we need to trust that God will call our children to himself. We just set the stage for that calling.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
The wife must respect her husband. How do I do that? I respect him by keeping my home in a manner that is respectful of him. While he is at work, I could easily spend my days just taking care of the kids and doing the most basic of housework- the bare minimum necessary. And in fact, that's how it used to be for me. I would let the housework slide all the time, and spend my free time with a book or in front of the TV or a computer. Then there would be one day where he'd be home from work and we'd tackle all the housework at once together. And once we started hosting small group weekly, that became every Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The housework would slide all week long, and then his days off he would have to spend cleaning the house. Why? Because I wanted to be lazy. I wanted to take care of my children and spend my free time relaxing. That's not very respectful of my husband. Sure, I would have dinner on the table when he got home, but there would be a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and most often we would eat in front of the TV because the table was covered with stuff. And what an awful day when someone unexpected would drop in. How embarrassing for my husband to not be able to invite someone in. He would go outside and talk on the front stoop with someone instead of inviting them in.
Somewhere along the way, God started talking to me. He started filling my heart with the desire to respect my husband more. And to me, that respect begins with the housework. It may sound silly, but it is very true. I started with laundry. That was my biggest problem area. I would let it pile up all week, and then Andy would do it all in one fell swoop- because he wanted to be helpful to me. And while I appreciated the help, he shouldn't have to. So I began doing one load of laundry every day. That's about what my family goes through is one load. On the days there are towels or bedding, it's two loads. But it takes two seconds of my morning to put a load of laundry in, that it's become quite the habit for me. I no longer have "laundry day" because I keep it up. In fact, I'm looking forward to warmer weather so that I can hang the laundry outside every morning.
My second chore to tackle was the dishes. Being one who enjoys cooking, and doesn't have a dishwasher, the dishes are the bane of my existence. We would leave the dinner dishes every night until the next morning, when I would do the dishes after getting Abigail to school. I hated coming down the stairs and being greeted by a mountain of dishes, but it was working for us at the time. That's changed too. I now wash dishes at least twice a day. When I am going to spend time cooking in the day, I start by running a sink full of water and washing any dishes that are lurking about. Then the sink is ready to wash dishes as I dirty them, so by them time dinner is ready to eat, there are no dirty dishes. Before we eat, I run another sink of water so that as soon as we're done eating, the dishes go in the sink and are washed in no time. It is such a great feeling when dish doing takes just a few minutes because there aren't very many.
And the rest of the house has taken off from those two simple tasks. I now love the look of my kitchen counter empty. Except that doesn't look as good when the dining room is cluttered and messy, so once the counter is cleared of dirty dishes and crumbs, I take another five minutes to put away the clutter in the dining room and spread a fresh tablecloth on the table. Instantly company ready. And then since I quickly run the vacuum in the dining room, which is connected to the living room, I may as well quickly pick up the living room and vacuum that. Then the clean living room doesn't look as good with that film of dust on everything, so I run a dust cloth and pick up the grime. At that point, my house is ready for company to walk in and be comfortable, and it's only taken me about 30 minutes tops to get to that point. But what if they want to use the bathroom? So I swish the toilet and de-clutter the sink and put out fresh towels- another five minutes. Then I pick up the steps and I think about company dropping in, and if they have children, the kids will undoubtedly play upstairs, so I make sure the kids rooms are acceptable for kids to be playing in. Altogether, cleaning my house from top to bottom takes less than one hour. And we have a bigger house than we used to. By doing this every day (or at the bare minimum every other day) I am being respectful of my husband. Making it so that he doesn't have to worry about a clean house.
And the benefit for me? Well, not only do I have a heart full of gladness and joy because I'm doing what God wants me to do, I also get to enjoy my free time more. If I know the house is clean, I can sit and read a book with a clean conscience. I can enjoy my time to relax, without knowing that there is something else I should be doing. And when my husband comes home from a hard day's work, he can relax and enjoy his time with the kids without having to worry about tossing a load of laundry in the washer. He can invite someone in for a chat or offer our house as a base for meetings and such because it is kept in a state that is respectful to him. I am sooo thankful to God for placing the desire on my heart to better my housekeeping skills. It makes for a happier household all around, and I pray that I am able to continue to be mindful of my time at home- that I may use it to the best of my abilities every day.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
1 "How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.
2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.
3 They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.
4 You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep them diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed When I look upon all Your commandments.
7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, When I learn your righteous judgements.
8 I shall keep Your statutes; do not forsake me utterly!" Psalm 119: 1-8
Pay attention to verse four. "You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep them diligently." DILIGENTLY. How often do I diligently keep His precepts. To me, being diligent in something requires paying specific attention to it, being deliberate in the choices we make, things we say, thoughts we think. I pray that I am diligent in keeping His precepts today!
This morning I read Psalm 5. Apparently I'm on a Psalm kick these days, because I just love reading them. I love filling my heart with joy every morning before I really get going. My standout verse today is verse 3.
"In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3
Had I just picked up my Bible and remembered these verse those few years ago, I probably would have started my alone time with God much sooner. I will say though, that although I have found the early morning to be my time with God, it wasn't always so. I think the beauty of a relationship with God is that you can have that time whenever you have a chance. You find yourself ahead of schedule, or 15 minutes early for a doctor appointment, that is the perfect opportunity for a little heart-to-heart. I can't tell you how much of my prayer time has been spent at the kitchen sink with a mountain of dirty dishes. It makes the chore much more pleasant, to know that I'm chatting with God while I am doing his work in my home. When Andy and I were first married, on the rare occasion we argued, I always ended up doing the dishes. It gave me time to fume by myself and calm down and become rational again. And even though doing dishes is a chore, it's actually soothing to me now, because it usually ends up being a time for reflection and prayer.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
for in you I take refuge.
2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."
3 As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. [b]
4 The sorrows of those will increase
who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips.
5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
It's one of those days already. I look outside and see the snow melting before my eyes and see the spring creeping in- I found chive sprouts in my chive bed! For the first time in several days I feel like I have gotten a decent night's sleep, and overall I just woke up in a good mood this morning. I love days like this. I have a load of housework to do, but I will tackle every effort with a song in my heart. It will be a pleasure to pull laundry out of the washer and know that by next week my yard may be dry enough to hang the laundry to dry in the spring air. Tonight as I watch my daughter at ballet class, I will be so thankful to God for giving her the opportunity. And as I watch my son laugh his head off at something silly he heard or saw, I will be so thankful for him and the joy he brings to my life.
God is great! And some days are meant just for remembering that and for spending the day rejoicing in his gladness.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
12Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"
13He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."
15Peter said, "Explain the parable to us." Matthew 15:11-15
I hear all the time that we should be extra careful not to "offend" people these days. What is offend anyway? One of the definitions that Miriam-Webster gives is to cause difficulty, discomfort, or injury; to cause dislike, anger, or vexation. I'm just going to think aloud today, because I confess that this issue of offending people is bothering me as of late. How do we define what offends people and what doesn't? As an extreme thought, if you had disposable paper towels, and you chose to go with the white, bleached version, you could (in theory) offend a person who is passionate about recycling and a green earth because you didn't choose the more organic unbleached towel made from recycled materials. So should we head off the offense on the random chance such a person will walk into our home? To me, that would be just silly. I could be walking down the street with my children singing a Veggie Tale song together, and we could potentially offend someone by singing "Christian lyrics." So should I instruct my children to not sing to the Lord because we don't want to offend? Hardly.
I used the above passage because it shows an instance of offense in the Bible, and Jesus dismissed it. And look what he said! "Leave them." He dismissed their offense and probably further offended them by calling them blind. And later on in the book of John, Jesus was discussing the "Bread of Life" and what we now call communion, with his disciples, and he called them out for being offended by it.
55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. John 6:55-64
Monday, March 12, 2007
How joyful are those who fear the Lord
and delight in obeying his commands.
2 Their children will be successful everywhere;
an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.
3 They themselves will be wealthy,
and their good deeds will last forever.
4 Light shines in the darkness for the godly.
They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.
5 Good comes to those who lend money generously
and conduct their business fairly.
6 Such people will not be overcome by evil.
Those who are righteous will be long remembered.
7 They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
8 They are confident and fearless
and can face their foes triumphantly.
9 They share freely and give generously to those in need.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.
They will have influence and honor.
10 The wicked will see this and be infuriated.
They will grind their teeth in anger;
they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.
Generosity is definitely a learned discipline. I think it is our nature for the most part to be a little miserly. To put something aside for a rainy day instead of sharing what we have. It takes a shift in mentality to transform that attitude. It takes a bit of God, actually. By loving God, and wanting to be more like God, we ourselves begin to want to share everything we have. God has, after all, blessed us with what we do have. He has blessed us with every penny in our bank account, and every morsel of food in our pantry. By sharing his blessings, we will only be blessed further. The blessings received back may not be in the tangible sense... but I look out my window today, and the sun is beginning to come out in full force, and the snow is rapidly melting into a lake in the backyard, and I am so grateful and overjoyed with the promise of spring. Today as I tackle the housework, I have the warm sunshine to keep me company, and today that is the best blessing I could possibly ask for.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Then he said to the disciples,
This is encouraging. This is very encouraging. It helps us to keep plugging ahead at what God is telling us to do. It tells me that we shouldn't take rejection personally. If someone doesn't want to hear God's message for them, it's God they are rejecting, not us, as his messengers. If we are in a position of leadership within our church body, and others are not listening to what we have to say, that's okay. It's important that we don't take that rejection on ourselves and become discouraged. We should continue delivering God's word as he prompts us, because it is him who is being rejected, not us. When we are sharing with an unbeliever and they brush aside what we have to say to them, we should not take that rejection on ourselves and never try again. We should be persistent with God's word.
We need to live what we teach, we are responsible only for ourselves, not for other people. We are responsible for our own conscience, and as long as we continue sharing and doing what God has asked, we are going to meet God with a clean conscience. The rejection of others is not our fault, nor is it our conscience that is affected. It is theirs, and if we have shared what needs to be shared, the rest is on them. This verse in 1 Thessalonians should be taken to heart.
Friday, March 09, 2007
"Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." Proverbs 3:9-10
I think I am being told something this morning. I have talked about tithing before. Andy and I do tithe, and in our case, we use the Biblical reference of tithing 10% of our income. Tithing is not something that we have always done automatically. It was learned. And we're still not 100% on it. There are those weeks where Andy works a little less and the paycheck just isn't big enough to stretch, so we bypass the tithe that week. When I look at my giving statement for last year and our income for last year, we definitely have more work to do in the area to tithing. But we do tithe for the most part.
Right now, Andy isn't working, so we haven't been tithing. Those unemployment checks are so tiny, and each one could get split about 15 different ways. And one of the things that has bothered me about Andy not working is that we are not able to do our giving as we usually do. Hey- that's progress when that is what bothers me about Andy's lay-off right now. But this morning I was reading about a little old lady who lived on a very tiny social security check, and always tithed the first 10% to God. Hmmm... Unemployment compensation isn't really that different from a social security check. I swear I can hear God in my head asking "Just how far do you trust me?" 10% of not much is a lot. Yet he has provided completely this far. Our bills are continuing to be paid, and there is plenty of food in the pantry. Here is another verse I found this morning.
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My House. Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Malachi 3:10
I guess we need to tithe on our unemployment. This is going to be a huge step of faith for us, and a difficult one at that. I pray earnestly that God will continue to bless us, and that he will be able to use that little amount that we are now going to start giving each week.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
We follow Esther's lead.
"Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."
17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions." Esther 4:15-17Esther prayed. She prayed hard. Before she even took one step forward in her plan to approach the king, she spent three days in prayer on the matter. That way, she knew without a doubt that when she went ahead with what was being asked of her, the entire situation would be bathed in prayer. This doesn't necessarily mean that we need to lock ourselves in a room for three days and do nothing but pray when confronted with a change. But it does mean concentrated prayer. It means that our time with God should be focused on this matter and waiting on The Lord to answer our questions. And it means giving the entire situation to God to take care of and having faith in him to guide you to the right decision.
We had this very thing happened when we moved to this house. We loved our old neighborhood. The house was too small, and in need of some updating, but we lived there for years longer than we were planning to because we really liked the neighborhood. When we were finally ready to move, we really prayed about whether or not we were doing the right thing, and asked God to guide us to where he wanted us. And let me tell you, the house we are in now is one of the last ones in Seymour where we wanted to live. But we are definitely needed here. We live in a neighborhood that is entirely unsaved. I am grateful that I like the house I live in, because we may be a here a while. While we are definitely planting seeds, there is so much that could be done here, that God may have us here for awhile.
Wrap those major decisions with prayer. That way, you know that God is with you in whatever decisions you make. Esther did that, and saved an entire people.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Esther actually was practicing faith. Before her audience with the king, she prayed and fasted for three days for the strength to approach him without being summoned. It was faith in God that led Esther down the hallway to her husband, the King. It was faith that kept her going, faith in her God to see her and her people through the nightmare to come. This is an example of faith. Faith is believing when God says "I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20) Notice that Faith doesn't say that courage is with me, it says "God is with me." Even when courage isn't. Faith is being able to do what needs to be done without the courage.
Esther's faith in God saved her life and that of all the Jews. Imagine what your faith could do.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. 2 Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. 3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. 4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.
5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
6 Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another. 7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?How often do things go wrong and we speculate about what we could have done better to make it work? A new program at church kind of fizzles out, and I am the type of person that I think it's my fault it didn't work, because I could have done something better, or suggested something to make it better. Or a friend of ours sent their son to school after seriously considering homeschooling. I did everything I could to encourage them in their decision to send this child to school, and he did awful, they had to pull him out and go with the homeschooling. And somehow, I felt it was my fault for all the encouraging I did. I need to stop thinking like that. Playing the blame game with myself can be really diminishing to my spirit. I feel discouraged, like what I did wasn't enough, or that what I want to do wouldn't be appreciated, so I just stop doing.
I also worry about what other people think. And right here in 1 Corinthians, Paul tells me to stop doing that. Look at verses 3 and 4. I should take a lesson from Paul and remember that it should matter little what other people think of me. Thoughts of judgment from other people are not important, and they don't count in the grand scheme of things. God alone will judge me, and as long as I have done my best when I need to, I can rest easy and have a clean conscience.
I also like verse 5 this morning. "Don't make judgements about anyone ahead of time." That is quite to the point isn't it. Just as I don't want to be thought poorly of, I shouldn't think that way about other people. It is not my place to judge someone else's efforts or personal life. It is my place to take care of my own. Don't make judgments. Think about that statement. That's actually saying a lot. Think about how many times we judge someone in our mind. Sometimes just seeing someone across the room can bring up a plethora of thoughts that shouldn't be there. I pray this morning that God will temper that in me. I think I do that a lot. I see how someone is dressed or how their children are dressed, and I automatically make judgements based on their clothing. How silly is that. Just as we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, so shouldn't we judge a person by their outside. It's what's inside that counts.
Monday, March 05, 2007
20Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Luke 13:20,21
When a baker mixes a loaf of bread, they use flour, salt, water and yeast to make a very basic bread dough. Without the yeast, the flour, salt, and water would combine to make a dough, but it would not rise, and you would end up with something resembling flat breads or crackers. Yet it only takes the tiniest pinch of yeast to turn that entire ball of doughy mess into something beautiful and full of lift and life. It is the tiny bit of yeast that permeates every corner of the dough and transforms it from a lump of dough into a loaf of bread. Such is the Kingdom of Heaven. When we are without Christ, we are like the unleavened bread. We are lumpy and misshapen, and our life has no purpose or meaning. But once a bit of Christ has been added, we start to take shape. When the Kingdom of God enters our lives it permeates us and transforms us into something beautiful, and something that can be used.
Yeast is an invisible force. Once it has been added to the dough, we cannot see it, we cannot open a loaf of bread and see the yeast, it has become one with the dough. Same thing with the Kingdom of God. Once Christ has been added to some one's life, he cannot be picked out, but he transforms that person's life completely. He's an invisible force that provides structure and gives substance.
I like to think of myself as a loaf of bread. This kind of runs along the lines of the potter's hands message I shared last week. No two loaves of bread are made exactly the same. In an artisanal bakery, every single loaf of bread is shaped individually, and each loaf can serve a different purpose. Some become sandwich breads, some are more for slicing and eating, some for dipping, some bread may become pizza dough or pita bread. But each piece of bread is lovingly kneaded and shaped by a master baker. The same with us. Each of us has been lovingly kneaded and shaped by our Heavenly Father who made us just so, and to serve a specific purpose.
Are you a loaf of bread? Has the Heavenly yeast been added to your life? If not, you can check out these posts to help add that precious gift.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
"Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer." Proverbs 30:25
This morning I decided to visit the site that inspired me to start this blog, Laine's Letters. I know I've shared that site before, but it is worth mentioning over and over. Laine loves her God more than anything, and she is such an inspiration to me. She is a kindred spirit to me, as she has also spent a lifetime as a stay at home Mom, and her encouragement is priceless. I can read a letter of hers that she wrote years ago, and I smile because I feel like it was written just for me.
This morning's letter was her letter titled "A Well Stocked Pantry." Laine does what I want to do someday. They have a modest garden and small farm animals, and they grow and produce a lot of what she stocks her pantry with. It is remarkable how in today's day and age she strives to have her family be self-sustaining, and live off of what God provides. She talks about how it is such a blessing and a privilege to be able to take what God has provided and put it by for another day. I was thinking this the other day. I pulled out a carton of frozen strawberries that I had picked last June. We used them to top french toast for dinner, and it was such a treat! It reminded us of summer days and picking strawberries. It made us all smile to eat those bright red berries. And in light of all of Andy's time off this year, I am determined to do more "putting food by". With God's help I can conquer my fear of canning and freezing and safely preserve everything I can to get my family through the time off next year. I love pulling out a jar of homemade salsa or jam.
This may seem a silly thing to post about on a devotion blog, but it's where my heart lies today. :-) I am looking forward to warmer weather, to putting in my tiny garden, and shopping at the local farmer's market. I pray that God may help me with the means and the desire to gather all I can to stock the stores for winter. It truly is a miracle when you think about the whole process of growing. A good harvest is a gift from God, as it is he who causes the clouds to rain and the sun to shine. Tonight with our dinner, I think we are going to have some of the carrots that he blessed us with last fall when I had the time to freezer them. He does provide so generously! I am praying that he will open my eyes to the possibilities with the coming growing season. That's of course, after I finish thanking him for the two feet of snow that's gracing our yard this morning. The kids are bursting with joy at the idea of spending the day in the snow. Thank God for little blessings.
Friday, March 02, 2007
This verse has been a great encouragement to me. That simple word "never" can do so much for encouraging a discouraged spirit. God will never leave us or forsake us, and he will continue to take care of us for as long as we need it. When I look at our bank statement, and look at the math and the bills that are going to be coming in shortly, I get a little nervous. God has provided this far, surely he will continue, but it's really hard to keep remembering that. Especially when I look at a calendar. It's March! Andy is still not working, how on earth can it be March already and he's still at home. But God has been giving us an amazing lesson in trust and we truly are amazed.
We've also become content. It's hard to believe, but true. I have always wanted stuff. I think that's common in today's society, but it's so easy to want more and more, and with financial means, it's even easier to just buy and buy more stuff. We've actually come to the idea that not only do we not need more stuff, we have too much stuff. There are people who are actually in need, and that's not us. We have wants, and it's those wants and desires for more that leads to being discontent. And the reality is, we don't need. We have shelter, clothing, food, and transportation, we really need nothing. Everything else is extra. I'm even looking at my pantry thinking that I really don't need anything.
I went shopping with my mom the other day just to get out of the house, and she informed me that she wanted to help fill my pantry while we were out, and I should put whatever I needed into the shopping cart. The reality of the situation though was that I really didn't NEED much of anything. Some things for Abigail's school snack, eggs, and some fresh fruit. As long as I can keep food on the table, I don't think we are in need. We have food in the pantry and in the freezer, and I have come to realize the difference between a need and a want. I want to go fill up a shopping cart with groceries. But I really don't need to. We have plenty. It may not be our favorites, but God has blessed us with a bottomless pantry for now, and for that I am more than grateful, and I'm eager to see what my pantry can put together next.
One might think that we are getting a little stir crazy and tired of staying at home doing nothing because we can't afford to do more. But we choose to look at this time as a blessing. We are getting some real quality family time in. Abigail and Zander are constantly helping me with cooking and trying to help with some chores. Both kids are getting some unbelievable quality time with their Daddy, and we've rediscovered the joys of sitting around and just playing together. Family time costs us little more than our attention, and you can't buy that in a store. We are very content with what we have, more than content, we are appreciative. I thank God daily for all the little blessings, and for giving us this time to discover them. And as the bills come in, the money we need will continue to be there, because He will never leave us or forsake us. Never. Never is a very long time.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
9 I’m not trying to frighten you by my letters. 10 For some say, “Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” 11 Those people should realize that our actions when we arrive in person will be as forceful as what we say in our letters from far away.
12 Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!
13 We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you. 14 We are not reaching beyond these boundaries when we claim authority over you, as if we had never visited you. For we were the first to travel all the way to Corinth with the Good News of Christ.
15 Nor do we boast and claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow so that the boundaries of our work among you will be extended. 16 Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places far beyond you, where no one else is working. Then there will be no question of our boasting about work done in someone else’s territory. 17 As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
18 When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.At the beginning of these verses, we see that Paul is learning about some gossip about himself. That had to have been so hard for him! He was following God's direction, doing what God told him, and here he was being gossiped about by some of the people he was ministering to. And look at what Paul's response was! He clearly had a healthy image of himself, and brushed aside what these men were saying of him. "Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other". Paul realized that he was being evaluated by people who were concerned about themselves. He also realized that he had his own area of service, which God set for him, and that is what he needed to concentrate on.
Each one of us is placed in God's Kingdom and gifted for specific work by God. It is God who can critique us properly, and as long as we are doing what he has instructed us to do, it doesn't matter in the least what our fellow man may be saying about us. This can certainly be a hard lesson to learn, and while it may be hurtful to hear criticism from someone within our own church family, Paul shows us that it really doesn't matter. God is what matters. As long as we continue to teach the truth as Paul did, it should not deter us or veer us off course.
Part of this is learning to accept the gifts that we have and continuing to improve ourselves in those areas. Along with that, is learning to deal with the areas where we are less gifted. We need to accept that we don't excel at everything, and as long as we can accept those limitations, we are doing what we should be doing. Our gifts, calling, and our personal boundaries (what we can and cannot do) are set by God and God alone. As a believer we need to learn to be happy with God's boundaries and be glad to operate within them as such. This will help us to develop that spiritual healthy image that allows us to set aside what others may be saying about us. My favorite verses in this passage are the last two, and I think they are very fitting for closing up today's devotional.
" As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
18 When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them." 2 Corinthians 10:17,18