Monday, April 30, 2007
HOw are we sick spiritually? Well, in Exodus 15:26 God tells the people that He will protect them from disease if they obey His commands and do what is right in His sight. Does this mean that if someone gets sick, that is directly correlated to their sin? I don't think so, but there is a correlation to sin and sickness. You see, there was no sickness in the world until man chose to disobey God and introduced sin into the world. So, sickness is directly related to the sinful nature of man but not every illness is a direct consequence of personal sin.
Even in the Old Testament Jesus was identified as our healer through His death and suffering on the cross. Isaiah 53:5 says that by Christ's scourging we are healed. In Jeremiah 30:15-17, Israel was suffering because of their sins - but God was merciful and promised to "restore you to health and heal you of your wounds." In Psalm 147:3 God heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds. In Matthew 8:16-17 we see Christ physically healing people and learn straight from Jesus in Luke 4:18 that He was SENT to heal. He healed physically to bring attention to His power and might.
However, the most complete healing we can obtain is through repentence and belief in Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins, the ultimate disease. Without His sacrifice we are dead in sin, separated forever from God. Praise God He is Jehovah Rapha, for "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24-25) We can look to physicians in hospitals to heal physical wounds, we can look to therapists to help heal psychological wounds, but there is only ONE Physician who can heal the deepest and most deadly illness and wounds we have...that Physician is God. So, if you are sick - in any way - seek God. If you are anxious and don't know why pray to God "Search me and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:23o-24)." If you find sin, deal with it through God - He is faithful to forgive ALL unrighteousness. He WANTS us to be healed. Psalm 103:3 - He pardons all you iniquities and heals all your diseases - notice the order!
Jeremiah 17:14 "Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for Thou art my praise."
Who knew we could end up finding morning such a joyful time. It's amazing how much we've discovered that we can accomplish in the morning hours. We can have our quiet time with God before the bustle of the day. It's early in the day yet, and I already have two loads of laundry finished, and my house is clean from company yesterday. Zander is just coming out of his morning fog, and now that I don't have anything to get done, I can focus on playing with him and having a great time with him today. And wouldn't you know, there is a scripture to go along with the idea of sleeping in.
" Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare." Proverbs 20:13
Do not love sleep. When you really think about it, of course it makes sense. We have just one lifetime to make a difference, why would we want to spend it in bed asleep? That is such a waste. In the Broadway musical Rent there is a song called "No Day But Today." And taken out of the context it was written for, it's not a bad idea to think on. What if there was no day but today? Would you sleep it away? I think not. Stay awake and be productive, and you will have food to spare. Stay awake and sleep less, and think about how many more opportunities you may have to reach out to someone. How many more opportunities there may be to see your child smile, or how many more opportunities to tell someone you love them. The morning has become a precious time to me, and I take such joy in seeing the world that God created come to life. Stop sleeping. It's a waste of this precious life that God gave us.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4
When I read this passage I think about our friends and who we hang out with in general. I think as Christians we tend to get caught up in the "Christianity" of people. Our child comes home from school talking about a new friend, and we ask if that person is a Christian- to determine if they are worthy of our child's friendship. Or when was the last time you invited a neighbor or unsaved co-worker to dinner? We tend to stay in our Christian circles, and break bread with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not a bad thing- and I'm certainly not saying it is on any level. But how can we reach the lost sheep if we don't leave our circle. How can we be a witness to our unsaved community if we are not a part of it?
The work of the Kingdom involves spending time outside of it. In the Bible we read of the Pharisees, who spent so much time being worried about "contamination" that they stuck to their own little cloistered group. Then Jesus came along and chose to go where the sinners are. He ate and drank with them, and listened to their sad stories and prayed for them and with them. He is the perfect example for us. We need to be like Jesus and go out among the lost sheep and do what we can to bring them into the fold. We can't do that if we hide in our homes and in our fellowship communities. "Go ye into all the world..."
Friday, April 27, 2007
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols.
5 O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand—
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7 Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart.”
9 I have told all your people about your justice.
I have not been afraid to speak out,
as you, O Lord, well know.
10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly
of your unfailing love and faithfulness.
11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.
Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me." Psalm 40:4-11
This verse makes me think about my husband this morning. During the past four months he has really grown in his faith. His trust in God has deepened his relationship with God in such an amazing way, and these verses remind me of the fire he has burning in his heart right now. It's fierce. He wants everyone he meets to hear about how the Lord has provided for him and his family. He wants everyone to know how much God loves them, and he is not afraid to tell them. He is not afraid of anyone mocking him or making fun of what he says, he want to shout it from the rooftops- he is so excited right now!
What a wonderful example for my children. To see their father talk openly about his faith is an example that I wish every child had. Our daughter's heart is already full of joy- as she always has a song in her heart to sing to Jesus, and she does it with all her heart no matter where she is and what she is doing. She has her Daddy's outgoing personality, and to see him sharing Jesus with everyone he knows is a great example for her as she heads to school every day. I don't worry about her going to school with unsaved people anymore- instead I wonder, how many of them she is going to be a witness to. How many of her little friends is she going to introduce to Jesus? I can tell there will be many in that little girl's life. And I think it's because of the wonderful example she has with her Daddy. That he is bursting at the seams with the good news and wants to share it. So to will she. The unfailing love our God has for all of us is being shown through my husband who truly cares- and wants everyone to know that they can have it too! They can have the same provision- all they have to do is trust and let God do it.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts." 1 John 1:5-10This is a passage to think on today. I'm still thinking on it, so that's why I thought I'd share it. I'm thinking specifically right now about sin. My husband has been listening to some CD's during his work commute this week, and every day he's brought home something to think about. This week one of the things he mentioned was how so often in today's churches and messages we hear encouraging things about sin. About how when we sin, it's okay, we can always get back up and try again. And that's good... but at the same time isn't it bad? Isn't it (as Andy put it) a sort of "Sin Management"? Wouldn't it be better to feel convicted about sinning instead of feeling encouraged about trying again?
So then I was thinking about sin, and how do I sin? You know, I really had to think about it. I don't sin, I don't do anything wrong- do I? Then I tried thinking of sin in a different light. Sin is something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Something you know you shouldn't be doing, but you're doing it anyway. To some, sin can be as simple as sleeping in. To others, something more serious like drinking to excess or swearing can be a sin. There are certainly plenty of days I'm guilty of doing something I think I shouldn't. Like shopping for one (although that has gotten much better). Or when I look the other way because I see someone out of the corner of my eye that I'd rather not talk to. Or when I allow someone to share a bit of gossip instead of cutting them off, and asking them to stop.
Thankfully, even though I am a sinner, and I have found that sin is a frequent occurrence, I have forgiveness for that sin. I am forgiven every day for doing the wrong thing, for not being the person I want to be. Because of grace I am fully pardoned and living in God's light. Yet I want to feel convicted about those sins so that I don't do them again. I want that to change. I don't want "Sin Management", instead I want "Sin Banishment."
"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Jeremiah 31:34
"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. Isaiah 43:25
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Fellowship is such an important part of being a Christian. We need fellowship- we need those fellow Christians that we can rely on, and who can rely on us. One of the way that fellow Christians can be described is as a "friend of Jesus." It's very true- we all are friends of Jesus aren't we? And it makes it even easier to get to know someone- or meet someone from another country or culture. If you both love Jesus- you immediately have something in common.
Sometimes I wonder though if being friends with friends of Jesus can get in the way of being friends with Jesus? We can spend so much time with our friends and in the spirit of fellowship, that we forget that Jesus wants some of our time too. He wants us to have one-on-one time with him- he's our friend too. And in order to be friends with someone, you have to maintain that friendship. The disciples had been true friends with Jesus. They were men who "had been with Jesus." That has more than one meaning. Yes, they had spent time with him while he was here on earth- and they were his closest friends. But they had also experienced Jesus. They had spent time with him one-on-one- personally. That's what Jesus wants from us. He wants us to spend one-on-one time with him so that we can get to know him better. I think he does not want us to enjoy fellowship more than friendship with him.
Just something to keep in mind. Fellowship is important and it is a wonderful thing to have, but we need to make sure we're keeping our eye on the reason for the fellowship. To be friends with Jesus, to give him a portion of our time. As with the disciples years ago, we want the world to be in awe that we've "been with Jesus" and then want that for themselves. I love to be with people, with Christian friends, but I need to be careful to not love that more than being with Christ.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
This is one of those verse that I memorized so long ago, and when I did memorize it, it was in the King James version, so I'll put that one here also- it is a little different than the above translation.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8 (KJV)
Either way though, it mentions eight things that we should think on. Eight "characters" of thought. We can use these eight characters as our thought gatekeepers. As we go about our day we can use these gatekeepers as our moral guidelines. All day long, our brains our taking in information. And there are several questions we can ask ourselves about all the little bits that come in.
First of all, is what we've just learned true? God IS truth, and we can use him to help us measure up with the truthfulness of what we've heard, seen, or are thinking.
Is what we are thinking honorable? Are you thinking impure thoughts, or are you having a not-so-nice internal dialogue about a specific person?
Is what we are about to do right or just? Are we about to do something out of spite or because that person isn't our favorite person right now? What are our motives?
As we sit and watch a movie or a TV show- is this movie pure and lovely? What impure thoughts will it place in my mind? Will it inspire me to take action on something good?
Are our conversations admirable? Or are we gossiping? Do we ask someone how they are doing just to feed the gossip mill? Or is it out of genuine concern for their well-being.
And finally- are our thoughts or actions excellent or worthy of praise? Are we thinking about helping that neighbor who is struggling, or are we sitting back, watching them struggle, and inwardly laughing at their struggles?
As Christians and followers of Christ, our thoughts and actions should be above the world's thoughts and actions. Yet so often that is not the case. we can use Philippians 4:8 as a tool to help ourselves be better people. We can use it to help us become more Christ-like and be an example to those around us. And most importantly. we can use it to seek out God's approval. If God's approval is our goal, than we would all do well to "think on these things."
Monday, April 23, 2007
But for the most part- you can find God's will in a book specially made just for you, and that of course, is your Bible. And look at this verse that I found in it today!
"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2
That's really an incredible verse in the Bible. It has many things to say to me this morning. The first being to not copy the customs and behavior of this world. I think that for the most part I've always marched to a different drummer, but often times I get caught up in what other people are doing. For example. Today Andy went back to work (I know- that is enough for me to leap for joy today!) and I could certainly spend the day lounging- not doing much, and doing those things a housewife is "known to do". I could spend some time watching talk shows and TV or soap operas. Or I could sit around- maybe play with Zander a bit, but mostly do my own thing. I could pull out a book or scrap booking things that I haven't touched in years. Instead though, God has totally changed my way of thinking. Today is all about enjoying time with my son. Everyday is about spending time with my children and helping mold them into little people for God. And I delight in that every single day. Every day.
So I have also understood the next part of the verse- allow God to change the way you think.
Changing the way you think can be really hard!! It's like developing a habit- or trying to rid yourself of one. It doesn't often happen overnight. But that's where God comes in. He can change it overnight. He can change your mind for you if you just let him. I used to think that my time was so important. It was a big deal that I be allowed my time to get something done, or see to a hobby of my own. I remember lamenting the loss of Abigail's nap time so many years ago- because that was my only free time. And again when Zander lost his nap a few months back. But now... I guess I just don't view my hobby time as important anymore. I used to record TV shows to watch during his nap time. I'd do that and do some cross-stitch or read, or something. And it has been difficult, but over the last several months, I've given up most of my TV viewing. No really. I watch very little TV anymore. It never goes on during the day for myself- only for the kids to watch something on occasion. In the evenings there are a few nights a week that Andy and I enjoy something together, but it is only after the kids are in bed. As a result of this change in mindset, my kids place less importance on TV and movie viewing. We're playing more games together and cooking together and being silly. We have so much more time together- all because I allowed God to change my way of thinking.
And after God's changed your mindset for you- you will know, with all your heart- that you are doing God's will for your life. I know that God's will for me is these two precious children. Spending as much time as possible with Zander, preparing him for the school days that are just two years away. And preparing both children to be children of God- to be little lights while at school every day. That is God's will. And it is delightful, and I delight in it. Allow God to transform you and your way of thinking, and you will find God's will for your life.
He is a truly wonderful and amazing God!
Friday, April 20, 2007
This is one of those passages in the Bible that doesn't need much discussion. Look! It says right in the Bible-" do not worry". And while it is human nature to worry- I think, we don't have to do it. We can look worry straight in the eye and say "Be gone! I have no need to worry, the Lord is on my side." I love watching the birds in our backyard. We have a large open area, and it is full of birds. On warmer mornings I love to sit on the patio with my coffee while Zander plays and watch the birds interact with each other. And I always think about this verse when I do that. I think about how God watches every single one of these birds- and there is always plenty of food. Whether it be from one of the many feeders in the area, or from the plethora of worms plucked from the ground. The birds always have plenty, and are always full of songs of joy.
Right now I liken Andy and myself to the birds. We have plenty. We have an abundance that only God could have provided. And like the songbirds, we want to announce that to everyone who will listen. That God does provide!!! There is no reason to worry, because he is watching over us and will make sure that our needs are met. It is a beautiful day! The Lord does provide- and not only has he provided our basic needs, but today he has provided the most beautiful day! The sun is bright and shining, and we will be spending the next day or so outdoors in his splendor. God is great!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds." Habakkuk 1:3
Frequently people find themselves asking why. Why did I have to go through this? Or why did this happen to me? Or to them? Habakkuk asked those same questions of God. His people sinned greatly, and they needed to be punished, but Habakkuk did not like God's choice of punisher. Israel had been given plenty of chances to repent for their sins, and always refused God. So God sent in their enemies- the Babylonians to deal his swift punishment. Habakkuk understood this, but that didn't mean he wanted to see it or experience it himself. Habakkuk knew that God had to let the people make their own choices, and then deal with the consequences of their choices.
God does not force us to live his way. He also does not enjoy causing people sorrow or times of hurt. But all those dark times, the times where you feel as though you are under attack are designed to bring you closer to him. God's "discipline" is always meant to lead us back to him. Later on in Habakkuk, God gave the Israelites promises for the future. God always answers us. Habakkuk lamented to God, and God heard him, and he answered. We may not like the answers he gives us, but if we listen carefully, we will see that there is always a rainbow at the end of the trial. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is our Lord, waiting patiently for us to make it through just one more trial.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
He trains my hands for war
and gives my fingers skill for battle.
2 He is my loving ally and my fortress,
my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
He makes the nations submit to me.
3 O Lord, what are human beings that you should notice them,
mere mortals that you should think about them?
4 For they are like a breath of air;
their days are like a passing shadow.
5 Open the heavens, Lord, and come down.
Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.
6 Hurl your lightning bolts and scatter your enemies!
Shoot your arrows and confuse them!
7 Reach down from heaven and rescue me;
rescue me from deep waters,
from the power of my enemies.
8 Their mouths are full of lies;
they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead.
9 I will sing a new song to you, O God!
I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp.
10 For you grant victory to kings!
You rescued your servant David from the fatal sword.
11 Save me!
Rescue me from the power of my enemies.
Their mouths are full of lies;
they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead.
12 May our sons flourish in their youth
like well-nurtured plants.
May our daughters be like graceful pillars,
carved to beautify a palace.
13 May our barns be filled
with crops of every kind.
May the flocks in our fields multiply by the thousands,
even tens of thousands,
14 and may our oxen be loaded down with produce.
May there be no enemy breaking through our walls,
no going into captivity,
no cries of alarm in our town squares.
15 Yes, joyful are those who live like this!
Joyful indeed are those whose God is the Lord.
This past week Andy was doing some extra work to try and bring in some money to pay the bills. It's amazing how when the finances get dangerously low, someone asks Andy to do some work for them. His provision is endless! He had two jobs lined up this past weekend, and after he finished the first, he didn't receive anything for the work. We both were a little disappointed in that, but Andy just said that no good deed goes unpunished and said that he was helping someone out. So then he did the second job, and while he was up in a tree, the person left, but not before putting a check in his car. What he didn't expect, was the amount on the check. It was double what we had expected. So now we have an abundance! It's completely crazy! For the first time in a long time we have extra and we are praying that God will help us use it wisely. It's partially tempting to be a little frivolous and pick up some of the things that we've been missing. But after nearly five months of being careful, that urge isn't so strong anymore.
That right there is a victory for me. It's huge that I don't want to run out and spend this excess that we have. I am a shopper, and when I glanced at the check Andy had in his hands, my first thought was a quick prayer to help me spend it wisely. I am sure it will be put to use- but in a good way. It IS joyful to live like this, and it IS joyful to have Our God as Lord.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
"Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord." Psalm 36:6
In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?" Ecclesiastes 6:12
Something that has been on my mind lately has been taking care of what we have. Or being a good steward of what God has blessed us with. One thing that this could apply to is money and the issue of tithing. But I've already talked on that before, and it is not what is on my mind this morning. Instead, I am thinking green. I am thinking about the issue of recycling and not being wasteful. I am talking about taking care of what has already been given us, so that we can prepare ourselves for our heavenly rewards. This has become somewhat important to me, and that in itself is odd- I have not always been a fan of recycling or "being green". It seemed radical and silly to me. Not so anymore. I want to do what I can to take care of this beautiful planet that God made for us to live on for a time. Because someday, I am going to live someplace much more beautiful, and I want to be able to take care of that too.
As Christians, I think that we have a chance to make a difference and be an example when it comes to taking care of our space. One of the things Andy did during his time off was to remodel the kitchen at church so that it is a functional space. Our desire is to fill it with real plates, silverware, coffee mugs, glasses, etc, so that we can be less wasteful. It is awful to see that every time we have a get-together we have bag upon bag of disposable dishes going to the curb. Another thing that we have supplied the church with is dish towels and washcloths and plenty of sponges, because we've become so reliant on disposable cleaning products like paper towels and wipes and such. Instead, we should use the cloth towels and washcloths so that they can be washed and re-used. It's nice to do what we can, and we're looking forward to seeing our garbage shrink as things come to fruition.
At home I do what I can. I try to not use paper products as much as possible. We use cloth napkins because I can wash them over and over- we use regular washcloths and rags to do our cleaning instead of paper towels or wipes. We always use real dishes and plates. When we go camping even, we take along a stack of non-breakable plastic dishes that we wash and re-use. To conserve energy we use all energy-efficient light bulbs, and we turn off what we can as much as possible. As soon as it's nice enough out, the laundry goes out on the line instead of into the dryer to dry. And of course, we recycle everything. Paper, plastic, glass- it's all recycled here. I'm thinking very carefully about starting a compost bin outside- my only concern there is with odor, as we have a small yard, I just don't know if that's a good idea.
But the whole point is that we need to take care of what we have before we can be given more. It's like the parable of the talents. A man gave three of his servants a bit of money to take care of before going on a trip. Two of his servants took care of their portion- doubling the investment and making their master happy. The third hid his money, thinking that his master worked hard for it and it should be tucked away not to be used. This is what the master said to the two servants who did well:
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" Matthew 25:23
The man who hid the money was rebuked and dismissed. I don't want to be rebuked and dismissed- and think about the opportunities that could come of being more earth friendly! I get questioned all the time about my use of cloth napkins. And honestly, most people think it silly and old-fashioned. But an unsaved neighbor could see them hanging on the line and ask about them, and a great conversation could be had there and a seed planted. I want to set an example. Not just for the people and neighbors around me- but also for my children. So that when they are old enough to make decisions and take care of their piece of the earth they are ready to do so. For there are heavenly rewards to be had, and more than anything, I want my children to have them.
Monday, April 16, 2007
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:2-8Andy and I have been discussing faith lately- as well as endurance. I love these first few verse of James- they are such an encouragement, and give me great hope for what's to come. Verse 2 comes right out and says that our trials and troubles are reason for joy! And how right that is. For it is only when we are truly tested that we learn our reliance on God. God allows us to go through the trials so that we can deepen our reliance on HIM. And once we are through the trial, we are much better because of it. Verse 4 says that we will be so strong in character that we will be ready for anything. Anything! Wow- how cool is that.
Then there's verse 5. If you need direction- ask. And he will gladly tell you. He will gladly tell you. And then I personally love the next part- don't ask him unless you expect an answer. People who are doubtful of God's reply, and God's answer should not ask him at all.
Oh we are so not doubtful. We know that God has great things in store for us, and we know that we will go wherever he tells us to go, and do whatever he wants us to do. We are coming out of the murk and the trouble, and at this precise moment, we are standing near an edge. It's almost time for us to make a leap- we just don't know yet what that leap is or where it's going to lead. It may lead to our backyard- it may lead to a whole new backyard. Either way, it will be exactly where God wants us to be and we have absolutely NO DOUBT that it will be God's Will for us.
We have endured our trials and our troubles, and we are in a wonderful place- and we are full of joy. Trouble is cause for joy. It helps us to reflect on what is truly important. Our children are important. Our marriage is important. Our love for God is important. And not a whole lot else. Stuff is stuff. While it may be convenient, and it may be nice to have the comforts in life- it isn't necessary. May he show us the fullness of his glory and lead us to where he wants us to be.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I don't have much to say today. This verse actually about sums it up. Today I will clean the house up a bit, so it's ready for our small group tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that. We took a week off for Easter, and sometimes two weeks between visits is just too long. Andy is out doing some work that God has provided so that we can pay some bills in the weeks ahead, and the kids are both looking forward to a day of playing together. What could be better than that! may God bless your day as much as he has already blessed ours.
Friday, April 13, 2007
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. (NIV)
A wise youth harvests in the summer,
but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace. (NLT)
Make hay while the sun shines—that's smart;
go fishing during harvest—that's stupid. (The Message)
All those verse above are the same verse from different translations. Every once in a while- especially with Proverbs, I like comparing translations to see how they differ. You can see that Proverbs 10:5 has several different versions, and each one digs a little differently into the meaning of it.
One of the lessons that Andy and I have been learning and working on lately is the concept of "stuff"- basically needs versus wants. It's amazing how much better life can be when you truly analyze something and ask whether you need an item-or you just want it. Case in point, my couch that I've mentioned before. I have a couch. It's definitely had better days, but it functions perfectly well. I don't need a new couch. I want a new couch. So in order to satisfy my wants without affecting my needs, I'm looking for new ways to re-invent my couch. I have a handmade quilt winging it's way from Indiana that I purchased online for a bargain that will cover my couch for me-and give it a completely new look- which is really what I want.
It's really hard to teach this lesson to my children. During the limited amount of time that they watch TV, they are constantly being bombarded with the latest craze in toys, video games, or movies, and it's so hard to explain to them that they really don't need any of that. So we're trying to show them. Abigail is old enough that she's been paying attention. We've discussed many times with her over the last several months the issue of money. And how if she really wants something, she needs to save her money for it. She gets her money from doing chores around the house for us. The number one rule to her chores, is that they must be done cheerfully. The minute she complains about cleaning her bedroom, she loses the dollar that she earns for that job. And I do think the lesson is working. She has been asking for more jobs that she can do around the house- and not to earn money, but because she wants to be helpful. She's learned mopping and vacuuming recently, both with a big smile on her face. The next one she wants to learn is how to clean the bathroom.
Along with this lesson of being joyful with her work, is the lesson of making your work count- which is where the above verse come in. This year the kids will each have their own patch of garden to plant whatever they want in it. Then it will be their jobs to take care of their garden. They will do the weeding and tending, and hopefully the eventual harvesting. From there I want them to do the actual preparing of the vegetables for eating, and possibly preserving, depending on what they grow. Last year Abigail helped me make strawberry jam when we picked strawberries. Recently, we've run out of that jam, and both kids are missing it. There are also still containers of strawberries in the freezer, and carrots that Zander helped preserve. Every time we pull out strawberries, they mention going picking again. And Zander is so proud to see us all eat his carrots.
One of the things that I see so often today is a poor work ethic. Teens get their first jobs and complain about how hard they have to work to earn a paycheck. I used to get that all the time when I was working. The high school kids were constantly complaining about the work they were assigned. It wasn't until I recommended my younger sisters as employees that everyone got to see a cheerful heart in action. I am certain that the managers they worked with still remember how hard they worked, and how cheerfully they did it. I want my children to appreciate what they can do if they put their minds to it. This will bring them great joy in their lives to come. And will also bring us joy as parents.
"A wise child brings joy to a father;" Proverbs 10:1
Thursday, April 12, 2007
for my victory comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
3 So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
or a tottering fence.
4 They plan to topple me from my high position.
They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
but curse me in their hearts.
5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
7 My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
8 O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge.
9 Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,
and the powerful are not what they appear to be.
If you weigh them on the scales,
together they are lighter than a breath of air.
10 Don’t make your living by extortion
or put your hope in stealing.
And if your wealth increases,
don’t make it the center of your life.
11 God has spoken plainly,
and I have heard it many times:
Power, O God, belongs to you;
12 unfailing love, O Lord, is yours.
Surely you repay all people
according to what they have done.
It's difficult to be quiet. Really. We have all become so noisy. There is always noise in the background- whether it be TV, music, the washing machine running, or children playing, there is almost always noise. Being a mom of young children, I have certainly come to understand and respect the quiet. Those rare moments when everyone is outside and I am in, or Andy takes Zander somewhere and the house is silent. And those moments are definitely rare. It's in those moments that I usually get myself a cup of coffee or tea, and I will just sit at the kitchen table with a book and enjoy the silence. Sometimes that becomes my impromptu quiet time with God, because we need to experience quiet with him.
It's during those quiet moments that we fill our hearts and minds with God's words for us. It helps build up our store of His Word so that when moments of trial or temptation come, we know how to deal with it. It can greatly help us to make an important decision. Spending that quiet time in prayer contemplating a choice and spending time in his word can lead to an answer or a direction. That quiet is so important!
I'm reminded of my days in theater. Before I would go onstage for the first time, I would find myself a quiet space away from the theater. I would try my hardest to clear my mind completely of all things that were going on- I tried my hardest to place my thoughts and my mind in that characters shoes, and concentrated on the lines to come, and becoming that character. By the time I made my entrance on stage, I was that character, everything else was out of my mind. It can be the exact same way with God. By starting off my day with that quiet time, I can empty my mind of all the garbage and the un-necessary and prepare myself for the day ahead. By spending that quiet time readying myself, I am prepared for what lays ahead. God is my Rock, and I can trust in him at all times and pour out my heart to him every day.
Our God is so great, and worth seeking out that quiet time to have with him and in His Word.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Sinners don't want to hear that they are sinners. The last thing that a group of hard-hearted teens want to hear is that they are all sinners, and that what they are doing is wrong. Sometimes though, that's just what they need to hear. It can be really hard as Christians to share the Good News with other people who need to hear it. One of those reasons is that it is human nature to want people to like us. When I am meeting someone new for the first time, or having lunch with someone I don't know very well, I want them to like me. In the case of an unsaved person, I want them to get to know me and get to like me more so that eventually I can work on saving them. So often, if the discussion of church comes up, I will just gloss over the surface. I'll share a little bit, but certainly not enough to make someone uncomfortable.
I can't help but wonder if this is the wrong thing to be doing. It's like wooing- you're wooing someone, trying to make them comfortable with you before pouncing and telling them they are a sinner and going to hell for forever. If you think of the negative consequences, the plan can totally backfire, and the new friend can feel betrayed. At that point, you may lose both a friend and a soul for Jesus. Wouldn't it be better and more to the point to start off the friendship with a statement of faith? That person may want to know more about both you and your faith if you start off in that vein. We need to please God first, and sometimes that means sharing a message that doesn't want to be heard. Maybe this new acquaintance needs to be told straight out that their lifestyle isn't pleasing to God, and it needs to change.
I suppose part of this is paying attention to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As long as pleasing God is our number one purpose, we can listen for the Holy Spirit to guide our words, and guide our conversation towards what the person sitting across from us needs to hear. "He alone examines the motives of our hearts." As long as we keep our purpose clear, and approach other people with an open heart and an open mind, we can let God work through us- he knows us best, and knows the other person best and knows what they need to hear.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
"Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right." Acts 10:34,35
"He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Acts 10:43
Everyone. And there is no favoritism. Anyone and everyone can pray to God and be heard. Everyone! God hears the prayers of both believers and unbelievers. Everyone who is a believer now was once an unbeliever, and God heard us when we first called him to enter our lives-would he do no less for everyone else? Acts 10:31 says "Your prayers have been heard." God hears the prayers of every person in every nation. Do you have something you'd like to talk to God about? Go ahead, he is listening, and waiting. He wants to hear what you have to say to him.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Grace is a gift. It is beautiful grace that gives me a life that will last forever in the presence of God. Grace has many definitions in the dictionary, but to me, it means what I don't deserve. I certainly don't deserve grace. I don't deserve a wonderful husband and my beautiful children. I don't deserve the newfound joy I have in my daily housework. And I most definitely don't deserve the ultimate gift from Jesus Christ- that of life eternal. That is grace. Grace is what I get- despite not deserving it. And grace is something that I have been praying about, that I may be an example of grace, and may share that grace with other people.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:12-13
We've all been there. That person just keeps talking, they just keep going on and on about their problems, and while you don't really want to continue listening, you are polite and reply when necessary the whole while just wishing that person would shut up so you can get on with your business. Imagine how different that conversation could be with a little application of grace. Instead of standing and nodding at your speaker, you gently guide them to a seat nearby so you can focus on what they are saying. You listen intently, interjecting where you can, offering encouragement or support as needed. And when they've finally finished, you quietly ask if you can pray for them and for this situation. And then before you leave, you let them know to call you if they need anything, and tell them that you will be thinking of them and praying for them that week. That is grace through and through. Think about that other person. Think about how much better they will be because you took the time to listen and pray for them and just talk with them instead of letting them ramble on and ignoring them.
That's what I am striving for, and asking the Lord for. I want to be able to respond to someone with grace. I am terrible at ignoring people when I'm out and about. I'll catch someone out of the corner of my eye and quickly go a different direction because I don't want to talk to them and hear about their problems. I think I could be a much better witness to other people if I just met them head on, looked them in the eye and asked how they were doing. I want to be a better example to those around me. And most importantly, I want to be a better example to my children. I want to show them the merit of grace, and how wonderful it can be. I pray that when it is needed, I will be able to show at least a measurement of the grace that has been shown to me.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." John 20:25
This verse is after Jesus has risen, and all the disciples except for Thomas have seen their Lord, alive and well. Here, Thomas has made the choice to be doubtful. Rather than choose to believe in the Lord he has come to know and love, he chooses to remain doubtful and wills himself to doubt the appearance of Jesus. When he sees Jesus, this is what Jesus says to him:
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." John 20:27
Jesus appealed to Thomas's will, and he believed after that. And then later on, before Jesus ascends to Heaven,
"When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." Matthew 28:17
Doubt is a choice. Choosing to believe in the Resurrection leads to joy, peace, and the experience of knowing and loving Christ. This living Christ is the biggest reason we share our faith with others- we want them to experience what we experience- the joy and the everlasting life in his presence. People in general tend to be suspicious by nature though, they think there should be strings attached. They want hard evidence and hard facts. The enemies of Christ choose not to believe. They choose to create confusion and deny his resurrection. His enemies are those who even today, are finding tombs and claiming that they have proof that Jesus was a man and not a God.
Yet Jesus was a man! And he is a God! No other religion can claim that their God became a man to be with them for a time, to experience life as a man, and then died for all men. And then after that death- rose again! Death is not a state that can be simply overcome. There can be no greater miracle than that of death being overcome. And we to can choose to overcome death. We can choose to believe in the resurrection and the Beautiful Savior who made life eternal possible for us. Believing or not believing is a choice that each person makes for themselves. How could anyone not choose joy. And love. And peace. And eternal life! Thank you Jesus for dying for me so that I might live forever in your holy presence! Thank you for showing us the miracle of life after death. And thank you for loving me!
Friday, April 06, 2007
Organ donation is a huge sacrifice. We hear about it a lot, where complete strangers offer up a kidney for someone they don't even know. Or a family who's lost a young life too early donates the vital organs to help another child. But something that we don't hear very often is a person who is alive saying to another "take my heart". It just doesn't happen, without a heart we can't live. But someone did do that once upon a time! About 2,000 years ago, God accepted the heart of his son Jesus and offered it to a sick and dying world. Jesus, by hanging on a cross, offered up his heart so that all may be saved.
According to the verse in Ezekiel we all need a new heart. Here are a few other verses about that.
"But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
They have turned away and abandoned me." Jeremiah 5:23
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9
"Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God." Hebrews 3:12
But God promises to give us a new heart. He promises to give us his heart. AS we come to him for forgiveness, he promises to help us live a better and "morally excellent" life.
"In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge" 1 Peter 1:5
And by accepting God's new heart for us we can share in God's character.
"And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires." 2 Peter 1:4
The heart transplant is only the beginning! As with a real heart transplant, we start with baby steps before we take off running. God has great plans for each and every one of us! But it begins with a new heart. Godly character and a moral life is just on the other side of a new heart. What are we all waiting for! We are spiritually in danger of a heart attack, and all we need to do is ask for that heart that Jesus sacrificed for us so many years ago. If you are ready for a new heart, all you need to do is ask God for it, and it will be given freely- no strings attached, and no charge to you. Free. If you think you are ready for the step of a new heart, check out this post about "no charge". Pray the simple prayer at the bottom and thank God for his son and the gift of a new heart.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, O LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare. Psalm 25:10-15
The man who fears the Lord will receive instruction as to the path God has chosen for him. How great is that! Now obviously the term "man" is used in general here and can be applied to a woman as well. It would read more like a person who fears the Lord. But the exciting part to me is that we will receive instruction to our path. God himself will see to it that we receive the instruction that we need. For some people, this may mean higher educations specifically, and for some people it may be spiritual direction. For myself, I believe that right now that path is the one I am one. The path of mother and homemaker. And for me, I've found my direction right in my Bible! That is the best part. I have posted many times before, and I will certainly do so again that Proverbs 31 is my inspiration. It is the passage in the Bible that I try so hard to model myself after.My path, my direction right now is to honor my husband with all my heart and soul. To maintain his home in a manner befitting him, and to raise his children in the best way possible. That is the path for now, once the children have grown and gone on to their own respective paths, that may change. I may find myself at the beginning of a new path, but for today, I thank the Lord for this current path that I am on, and I pray that he continue to guide me along the way and help me to rise above the many obstacles that are placed before me.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
God can forgive us of anything. Regardless of "how bad" we think our sin has been, we can be forgiven, as long as we have faith and ask our Lord.
When we experience God's forgiveness, we respond. As people we respond with love. As we undergo forgiveness, we realize exactly what the cost was to be forgiven. How can we not love Christ in return for the opportunity of forgiveness? He suffered so much so that I might be forgiven of my sins. He suffered for me- for me personally. He knew me before I was born, and knew that I would need him. And he knew my family, and my friends, and he knew that we would all need him. And when the time came, Jesus gave his life for all of us.
May the Lord continue to open my eyes to the sacrifice made for me. And may I continue to be the example I need to be for my children.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
34They replied, "The Lord needs it." Luke 19:28-34
I also enjoyed this point from our Palm Sunday message. And that is that God knows what he is doing, even when we are clueless. Even in those moments when we have no idea what we are doing or why we are doing- those times where we may feel a little lost, God knows what is going on. That can be a great comfort! Lately I have been feeling a little unsure about things relating to church, but again (another message for me!) I can take great comfort in knowing that God knows. I may not know the reason for being where we are, but God sure does. And in his timing, that will be revealed to me. In the meantime, I will embrace the fact that God knows. I may not, and that is okay- it doesn't mean I understand it, but I will continue doing what I do and pray for guidance and wisdom.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Anyway, the message. There were three parts to his sermon, and it would likely take a while for me to post all of my thoughts on the whole thing, but there is one part that particularly stuck out to me- and that I was supposed to hear.
38"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
40"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." Luke 19:38-44
There is such a strong visual image here, and that is of Jesus, riding on a donkey, all the people around him cheering and praising him, and he is weeping. And as the Pastor pointed out yesterday, it wasn't just a little tear running down his face, it was outright sobbing. That is a very powerful image to me. One of the points of Jesus weeping is that he still weeps today. And no doubt he does, when he sees God's children make choices other than him, or sees priorities placed in the wrong things, he cries for us, because he knows what we're missing out on. He cries when we place an importance on things and money and material possessions. They aren't important. We had it 100% confirmed yesterday that placing Christ as our #1 priority is exactly what we need to be doing. While there have been several lessons that we have learned from Andy's time of unemployment, the number one has been that stuff is just stuff.
This has been a lesson for me. We are finally at a point in our lives where we can afford the good stuff. We can afford to spend a little more on quality. And for the most part, I think that we are better for that- we're not buying junk. But as an example, I really, really have wanted new living room furniture. Our couch and recliner have seen much better days and part of me has always been embarrassed when company comes over and has to sit on it. So I've been looking at new furniture. And I shouldn't be. While our furniture is ugly, it's serviceable. I could spend several hundred dollars on a new couch, or I could take that some money and put it towards God's work. We have been learning this over the past several months, and I swear that in a crowd of 500-600 people, the Pastor looked right at me when he said that Jesus cries when we place importance in stuff.
Not only was it confirmation for us, it was a challenge. We left that church feeling like we have been challenged to reduce our reliance on "stuff" even more. And while we talk about all the things that we want to do once Andy is working again, the reality is most likely that a larger portion of our income will be set aside for God. And you know what? We're looking forward to it. Now we are feeling that while we would really like Andy to go back to work, it's not for us. It's not for our betterment, because God will continue to meet our needs for as long as we need him to. But imagine all the good that will come of an increase in giving. The missionaries we could help support, the programs we could help sponsor within our church- and maybe even within others. Times are changing, and we will continue to listen to the Holy Spirit, because he hasn't led us wrong yet. It was so wonderful to have our feelings and thoughts confirmed for us yesterday. I feel a lightness today, and I thank God so much for that and for the wonderful Sunday we had yesterday.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Unlike this judge, our Heavenly Father and judge wants to provide justice for us. We are His children. He is not deaf to our appeals. Sometimes it may feel that He is not listening, but sometimes the answer to our prayers is wait. Maybe he withholds resolution to our prayers to draw us closer to Him and make us develop a habit (and desire) to spend time talking to Him, time in prayer. Prayer is a way that we acknowledge our dependence on God and how we become intimate with Him. How do you get to know someone? You spend time with them. May I make my relationship with God a priority, over all else. That's God's priority...my relationship with Him (and yours). Why else did He send Jesus...to reconcile us to Himself, into a right relationship. Be persistent in your time with Him.