Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Love Saturday Morning

"In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell." Psalm 5:3,4

I love Saturday mornings because usually, I can take verse three here straight to heart. On Saturday we don't normally go dashing off anywhere, and I can wake up when I feel refreshed, and I can spend some time talking to God before I roll out of bed. And I do just that. If I've had a particularly notable dream during the night I'll spend some time reflecting on it, wondering if God was telling me something, and asking him to show me just what it is. I'll spend time just thanking him for another day with my kids, and I'll ask him to maximize our time together.

Then I read on this morning to verse four, and I just wanted to jump up and down and point it out to every person who has ever said that God gave them an illness. I hear all the time, that God gives sickness and illness to build character or to learn a lesson. That's just simply not true, because evil does not come from God. Sickness and illness are not of God, they are of this world, and they are of the devil. But most assuredly, that sickness did not get delivered by God or his messengers. It's the devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy, and it is through God that we find our salvation. He is the one who heals us of disease, sometimes through a miracle, and sometimes through the hands of His healers, the physicians who have been called to heal.

And this morning, it appears that the great Healer, Jehovah Rapha has been busy. Zander has appeared to be coming down with something over the last two days. I refuse to let our family spend time being sick this winter, so I've been putting in some time in prayer, and he is showing no signs of the cold that was threatening to take over. Praise God!

So today we're going to enjoy each other, celebrate some birthdays, and also thank God for the new addition to the family, as my nephew Noah was born yesterday morning. It is a day to celebrate and be thankful for.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Every. Single. Time.

"They spoke against God, saying,
"Can God spread a table in the desert?

20 When he struck the rock, water gushed out,
and streams flowed abundantly.
But can he also give us food?
Can he supply meat for his people?" Psalm 78:19-20

Are you tired of hearing about God's provision? I know I never tire of seeing his provision in action, and I never tire of sharing what He is doing for us. Even better, I love going through my archives, and reading past examples of what God has done. It's important to remember all that He has done, because it's a foundation for the faith for what He will continue to do for us.

This past weekend at church, we had a guest speaker come in. I'm familiar with the speaker, as he's been with us before, and a few weeks ago, when it was announced that he was coming, my heart sank. My heart sank because I knew that we were not going to have the money to be able to give to this man's ministry the way I would like to. Every time I hear him speak, there are just so many things that I take away from him, that I want to give back to him, even a little of what he's shared with us. So I prayed about it a bit. I prayed that He would be as blessed by his visit with us as I knew we were going to be by him, and I prayed that God would show me how we can bless him with what little money we did have. And I continued to pray about it. I'll be honest, what I was really hoping for was an infusion of cash somehow that we could put in a big offering.

But that didn't come. And the weekend arrived. I was at home, thinking about how I was going to be able to write a check to this man, and I really was asking God how we were going to do it. (Keep in mind, this desire was me wanting to bless this man, not me thinking we HAD to put money in the offering.) As I was doing dishes that morning, I really felt like I needed to balance the checkbook. So I sat down at the computer and I did my balancing. I took into account the week in front of us, because three of our major expenses for the month come at once, and when I saw what was left, my heart sank again. All visions of a grand check went away instantly. But, I knew where we stood, and that night, I wrote a small check, and just asked God to multiply that check for the ministry.

But we had another day yet of meetings. :-) And we still had a small balance in the checkbook that was left for gas and grocery basics. When the time came to take the last offering, I knew exactly what God was wanting from me, and that was a leap of faith. For me, it was a big leap, because I knew, on paper, where we stood, and I also knew that we didn't have enough gas/milk/cereal to get through two weeks to an unemployment payment. God was asking me to trust Him and His provision for us, would we trust in Jehovah Jireh to meet our needs? I was reminded of the widow in 1 Kings, chapter 17.

"Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.' "

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah." 1 Kings 17:13-16

Now I don't know about you, but this just is a great leap of faith being taken by this woman. She has very little left for her and her son, and here this man of God is asking for it for himself first. She placed her faith in God though, and didn't argue about it, didn't complain, she just did it. She gave to God first, and then God took care of her.

Would I trust God to provide not just me, but my family with what we needed? As a parent, that was the tough part. When my son asks for a bowl of cereal, am I going to trust that God will supply what he needs when he needs it? I decided in just a few seconds, that yes, I was going to trust my God with all my heart. So I wrote that check. It certainly wasn't a large amount, but it was the last bit in that checkbook. And I've been praying on it all week. As I've watched the gas gauge go down, and the milk jug empty, and the cereal boxes disappear one by one, I've been in constant prayer for God's provision, because I trusted that He would meet our needs.

And here it is, Friday. There is just enough milk for Zander to have one bowl of cereal, and there are a few things we need. Basically, it's to the point where, we're eyeing up the kids Christmas money, trying to figure out how to use it to take care of the basic needs until next Wednesday, when we receive another unemployment payment. All week long though, there's been a fantastic peace about me, because I just knew that God was going to take care of this for us. This morning I go to the computer to find that one of our tax returns has already come through, and we have a deposit in our bank account. (Can you just see the big smile on my face this morning?) Not only can I take care of putting gas in the vehicles and buying the basics, but I can pick up the things that I would like to make Zander's birthday party tomorrow special.

God comes through for us every single time, and it just fills my heart with Thanksgiving and gladness, and I just love sharing how wonderful He is to those who trust Him! God sees all, He sees the needs of my children, and will take care of them in every way. I trust Him for that. Because my God shall supply ALL our needs. Not just some of them, or a few of them, but all.

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Erasing Some of The Fear

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4

Last night Pastor shared this verse at church, and it was exactly what I needed to hear too. I love when that happens. I think I posted once that when a church is doing its job and praying for their pastor and seeking God for answers, the Pastor will often share just what we need right from the pulpit. That's just how God works, and it's wonderful to know that God hears our cries and our questions and answers them. It's also wonderful to have a Pastor who is flexible to hear what God is saying to His people, and sharing that, instead of any prepared sermon or message.

This verse was shared last night after I've spent several days contemplating what I shared yesterday. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that I'm afraid...I just am. But right there in First John, it's like a shot of courage in the arm. It's the first six words especially, that really give it. First of all, the verse calls me Dear. Dear Children. That's talking to me, a child of God, and I'm dear to Him. That gives me warm fuzzies. Even better, that verse is also talking to you! You are a dear child of God too! Look at the next words though, you are from God. I am from God. Wow. Not only am I dear to Him, I'm from Him! Because of that, and because of the Holy Spirit which dwells in me, I have no reason to be afraid. My God who is in me, who sent me, and who calls me dear, is much greater than anything this world can dish out. Even the devil, who is in this world, is no match for My God. I've read the end of the book, and I know that God wins, and God wins everytime. As His Child, as His Dear Child, I can take courage and do what I need to do to slay the enemy that comes against me.

"Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spirit And Truth

"Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:21-24

I have to admit that I'm having a tough time with this one. I didn't realize I was having a tough time with it though, until recently. It's easy to me to worship in truth. The music starts going and I can instantly be in worship mode and I can worship and praise all day long. But the worshipping in spirit... I'm struggling with a bit. To worship in spirit, one really has to let go. You have to just let your mind go and focus on just one thing- focus on God and worshipping and praising Him. And for some reason, I have not been able to completely let go, and it's bothering me, to be frank.

It was said best this past weekend when the speaker said "some of you think too much." I think that's my problem, I do think too much. I try to understand what I am feeling and what is going on, and I think that's totally getting in the way of my complete worship. I think too much, and honestly? I think that there is a part of me that still gets concerned with what other people think. Really? I think about when I was in high school Biology class...

I had been staying up late a few nights in a row, and one day we had a filmstrip in class. (Yes, a real filmstrip!) I was so tired, and as I set my head down on my arms to watch the filmstrip that was being shot right over my head, you know I totally fell asleep. A few minutes later, I hear laughing, and I shot up, as the teacher had turned the projector so it was pointing right at me... yeah... it was totally humiliating and embarrassing.

So pair that with the fact that when I pray at night, I usually don't have any trouble falling asleep shortly thereafter. In fact, I know many times I fall asleep mid-prayer, and I know I've heard many people say that if you have trouble sleeping at night you should try praying, it works every time.

I guess this is going to sound lame, now that I'm typing it all out, but in all seriousness, I'm afraid that I'm going to close my eyes, worship God, fall asleep, and start snoring and drooling all over the place. I have such a difficult time closing my eyes and praying for any period of time, that apparently, that high school experience in Biology class traumatized me more than I thought it did.

So I've been praying on this a lot, because I really don't want to care what other people think. I just want to be able to let my hair down and do what God wants me to do without thinking about those around me. And I don't know what else I can do except pray about it, and try....really try to just let go and worship in spirit. I think I'm improving, but I'm just not there, and until I'm there, I think my soul won't be happy. My spirit wants to worship, I just have to figure out how to remove the blockage of my physical self.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blessed Child

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:15-16

"They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed." Psalm 37:26

Today is a special day in our household. It's Zander's birthday, and while every birthday at a young age is a milestone, this is a special one, because he's officially five. It seems like five years old is the end of being a little kid, and the beginning of growing up. And oh my, has he been growing. Yet each and every day, I am reminded of how much of a blessing he is to us, as he bring us so much joy. Every day I am laughing at something that he has said or done. God has blessed us so much by giving us Zander, and I pray every day that he will continue to bless Zander. It's amazing to watch him grow, and especially to learn about God more and learn how to worship and pray. Usually at church, the kids go a separate way from the adults right off the bat, they have their own worship service. But last Saturday was a special service, and the kids stayed in with the adults. It was such a wonderful experience to watch my children dance before the Lord, with great big smiles on their faces.

Zander has got the biggest heart. He is so compassionate, and always concerned for everyone around him. He simply oozes with love every day, and I pray so much that he stays that way. Literally, each and every day, I say to myself that "my cup runneth over" because every time he gives me one of his special hugs, I just can't believe how precious he is. And how much more precious is he in God's eyes? I pray that God gives us the wisdom to continue to make the best decisions for Zander so that he grows into the man that God has planned for him. God has something special in mind for my little man, and I am so thankful that he has been placed in my care.

Zander, you truly are blessed and from the Lord. May God continue to show you how much He loves you, and may God's love continue to shine through you each and every day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sometimes You Just Wanna

"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD." Psalm 150:6

Lately it seems that a lot of my posts have been a but thought provoking. That's great, and that's good, because it's me being completely honest and sharing the things that are on my mind. But sometimes, I just wake up in the morning and all I want to do is praise God.

I was praising God in my sleep last night. *smile* Every time I woke up there was a different song in my head, and I know for a fact that I had more than one dream involving worship of some kind. We just had a fantastic weekend getting some good teaching, and getting down and deep with God. It was just a great time getting to know God more, and praising Him. And I woke up this morning, kinda sad that the weekend was over, and I just want to keep on going.

So I'm going to. All day long, I'm going to keep the praise in my heart, because God is an amazing God! And some days, you just don't have to have deep, thought provoking thoughts. Some days you can just keep a smile on your face and praise on your lips, because God deserves praise every hour of every day, and sometimes we forget that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A God of Quality

"But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. 5 During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet." Deuteronomy 29:4

I read this verse about twelve times when I got to it a few days ago. Can you imagine? Can you imagine wearing the same sandals for 40 years and not having them wear out? Can you imagine clothes that didn't wear out? We tend to wear clothes for a season, and then many times they are worn and need to be discarded. Every summer I find myself buying new summer clothes, because they simply just don't last. Yet, right here in the Bible we read that God is a a God of quality. First of all, he provided His children with the quality clothes and sandals to withstand a journey. And secondly, he watched out for them by making sure that those items did not wear out, he blessed them with his favor, so much so that the shoes on their feet lasted for forty years. Just imagine that!

I happen to think that this says something about the character and nature of God. I spend a bit of time reading blogs and different websites that have different points of view about being a Christian. One of the more common trains of thought is that a lot of people tend to think that buying something cheap is a better way to spend money than to spend a lot of money on the same item. For example, if I need a new dishtowel, I can go to the inexpensive dollar store and pick up a whole set for about $2.00, or I can go to the department store and buy one towel for about $12.00. On paper, it looks much better to spend lesser money for the same item. But which would God really rather we had? Are we being a better steward of our money by purchasing the cheap towel, which really is just going to need to be replaced in about four months anyways? Or are we being a better steward by purchasing the expensive towel that will withstand hundreds of washings and usings and last for six years? I tend to think the latter. God isn't a God of junk, he wants us to want the best.

I guess part of me thinks that if I think cheaply, that will reflect on other areas of my life. When I am serving God in one way or another, I want to give him my very best. I don't want to just slide through and do the bare minimum. When I am participating on the worship team at church, I give God every ounce of worship that I have. I leave my troubles at the door, and I focus on God and worshipping Him. That is where I am meant to serve at the present time, and each and every time I do it, I am going to give God my absolute best. When I am caring for my children every day, I don't do just enough. I don't feed them just enough to get by or just what they need to fill their tummies. I give them the best that we have. I give them the fruits and vegetables that their young bodies need to grow. And yes, sometimes, when times are lean, that means that I go without having that same piece of fruit or cookies. That's okay, because I am putting my best where it counts. I just think that there's so much that we can glean from the idea that God is a God of quality. He wants the best, he deserves the best, and doesn't it hold to the idea that as a child of God, he wants me to have the best too? It's something to think on anyway.

"For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?" Luke 11:10-12

Friday, January 23, 2009

Raining Righteousness

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness grow with it;
I, the LORD, have created it." Isaiah 45:8

Doesn't that sound absolutely wonderful! Simply reading that verse, my heart skips a few beats and I get a bit excited. Imagine what could happen if righteousness started simply raining down! Salvation would spring up like a whole field of seeds, planted and properly warmed and watered. Just think about what it would be like to have righteousness prevail in a world of darkness. Darkness and despair rules here, and salvation is slow to grow. But raining righteousness...I can see a peace and a joy filling the entire state I live in. Think of a place where everyone is smiling, and happy, and full of joy.

God created righteousness, certainly he can rain it down if he chooses. I, for one, am going to pray for that very rain to strike our parched earth. We could certainly use it, and while I am praying for that rain to rain down, I am going to do what I can do prepare for that rain. I'll continue to plant those seeds when the opportunity comes. And I will prepare myself, by spending time in prayer, and spending time in my Bible, so that when people look at me, they can see that there is something different. They can see, just by looking at my eyes that I know something, and have something that they want and want to know.

I serve a Mighty God who can do absolutely anything. And I like to think on it raining righteousness. What a wonderful time it would be to live in a world where God's righteousness ruled and reigned.

"It is I who made the earth
and created mankind upon it.
My own hands stretched out the heavens;
I marshaled their starry hosts. " Isaiah 45:12

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Same God

"But Samuel was ministering before the LORD -a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, "May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD." Then they would go home. 21 And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD." 1 Samuel 1:18-21

My readings took me into 1 Samuel yesterday. 1 Samuel begins with the story of Hannah. Hannah was a childless woman, and her husband's second wife, Peninah, had several children and would taunt her continuously. Yet Hannah's husband loved her best, would shower her with gifts and would reassure her of his love and tell her that she didn't need children to please him. But it weighed on her, heavily, and on a trip to the temple, she was overcome with grief and made a deal with God. She pledged her child to God if only she were to be allowed to conceive. God smiled on Hannah and allowed her to become pregnant. Amazingly to me, she follows through on her promise to God, and at the tender age of three, she took young Samuel to the temple to live. Imagine that! Just as Jochebed gave Moses to Pharaoh's daughter at the age of three, here Hannah gave God Samuel at the age of three. Three years of life go by in the blink of an eye. Abigail turned three before we had Zander, and I have to say, I couldn't imagine taking my only child at the age of three and giving her to someone else to raise.

But Hannah honored her vow to God, and in return, this gracious God smiled on Hannah and blessed her with five more beautiful children.

One thing that has been impressing upon me as I read through the Bible cover-to-cover is that the God that I've been reading about in Genesis, Exodus, and 1 Samuel is the same God who is today. The same God who smiled on his people is the same God who we worship today. The same God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is the same God we serve today. The same God who told Abraham to sacrifice his son is the same God who talks to us in our sleep. The very same God who saw the heart of Hannah when she took Samuel to the temple, and then blessed her with five more children is the very same God who sees us today. He knows our hearts, he knows what we desire more than anything, and he wants to know where his place is among those desires.

God wants to be first, above all. And while, yes, He is a God to be feared, He is also a God of Love. Crazy as it may sound, God loves each and every one of us and wants us to live with Him in Heaven for all eternity. And while we are on earth, he may have a few things for us to do first. He may present a Samuel before us- and will we be ready to give it over to him? Hannah loved her son with all her heart- but loved her God even more. Is there something that you've placed before God? A job, a child, a spouse, money, TV, internet, a hobby? Are you ready to give that to God? For the one child that Hannah gave God, He gave her five more. The God we worship today is the same God who saw that sacrifice so many years ago, and is the same God who sees what we sacrifice in his name.

"He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
"It is not by strength that one prevails;

10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
"He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed." 1 Samuel 2:8-10

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Keeping Our Eyes on The Prize

"To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." 1 Corinthians 4:11-13

Last night I heard a great analogy about living the Christian life. It was being compared to running a race on a racetrack. When you are a runner, you focus on yourself, and on your tiny 3-foot wide lane that you have to run in. Your focus is on getting to the end of the race before anyone else, and you learn to let nothing distract you along the way. Even glancing right or left to look at who is on either side of you can be a distraction and cause you to miss your goal. Yet, as a runner, sometimes you try to catch the attention of the others you are running with. Anything to get them to take a brief glance your way and break their concentration. Being a Christian is the exact same way. As a Christian, we have a purpose- each and every one of us has a purpose. We have a purpose and a goal, and as we're running the purpose, focused on the goal, the devil will come along and throw everything he can at us to distract us, to cause us to look away from our goal, to stumble in our purpose.

As a runner though, there may be days where you don't make it to the end, days where you trip and fall or get distracted, and we can take heart in knowing that today is a new day. We are a new person in Christ Jesus, and what distracted us yesterday, will not distract us today. I read the verses above in 1 Corinthians and read about all that the devil threw at Paul. He clearly did not having it easy being an Apostle of Christ, yet he persevered right to his very last breath. He kept his eyes on the prize and his focus on his purpose, and God blessed him for it.

We can all learn from the runner and from Paul. There are going to be rough patches, of that, there is no doubt. That devil is going to come swinging with everything he's got, but our God is bigger. We can recognize those attacks for what they are and call on the name of the Lord to be saved. Though the race may be difficult at times, the prize at the end is so worth it.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Knowing The Good From The Bad

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:16,17

I remember having a conversation once with someone about how we know whether something is from God or not. I mean, how do we really, truly know that the advice we are receiving is from God and not from the enemy trying to deceive us?


We simply get to know God better.

We spend time in His Word daily, we read it, and then we read it again and again. And though sometimes, it may seem like drudgery and that we're trudging through lists and lists of names and places, our spirit is taking it in. The more we read God's Word, the more it becomes a part of us. It's like watching a movie over and over. You get to know the lines, you know what happens next, and what's going to happen in ten minutes. Perhaps in a conversation with someone you hear someone discussing this very movie, only they recite a quote not quite right, so you call them on it, and deliver the line perfectly. The Bible is the exact same way. While we may not think we know it as well, we will know when we hear something that is wrong. When we hear someone telling something incorrectly or inaccurately, or just plain false, we will know. Our complex minds will pick up instantly that something is not right, and then we will know that the words being delivered are not from God after all.

We will know. And we can have the confidence to know that we will be able to discern the bad from the good when the need arises. The gift of discernment is for all His Children, and we activate that gift by simply diving in to the Precious Word of God. We don't need to fear that we will be steered astray by false teachings and inaccuracy. Our love for God, and His love for us will keep us on the straight and narrow.

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:9-11

Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking At Jochebed

"Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said.

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?"

8 "Yes, go," she answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother. 9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water." Exodus 1:1-10

Jochebed is really a remarkable woman. Here she had an infant son that she wasn't supposed to have... Pharaoh had ordered all baby boys to be put to death, but Jochebed saw something special in her son, and decided to keep him as long as she could. Those first few months of life, the cry of a baby is relatively quiet. But at some point, those lungs develop fully and the cries become very loud indeed. I imagine it was at this point, that Jochebed felt she had no other choice. I wonder though, as she put her son into this basket to float down river, did she know that Pharaoh's daughter was a regular there? Regardless, Pharaoh's daughter did find Moses and was immediately smitten by the tiny baby boy. Through Moses's sister, his own mother was retrieved to nurse the baby.

As a mom, I really have to think about this. Here was her own son, being given back to her, and while I'm sure she was elated that he would be able to live, and that she would care for him, it had to have also been in her mind that her time was limited. In fact, she probably had three years with Moses before he went to Pharaoh's daughter to be her son. Just three years to spend with her precious son, as at the age of three, he would have been weaned, and not needed a nurse any longer. I will bet you that she made the most of that time with all her heart. I will bet she even let household duties slide from time to time just to spend a few more minutes with her son.

Yet in that time, she clearly made an impression. Moses knew who his real mother was. He also knew his brother Aaron and sister Miriam, so they certainly made the most of those three years.

This really makes me think about the time I spend with my children. We only have so long to make an impression on our children, and then we trust them to God and the world around them. Will my children remember the fun things we do together? Will they remember the talks we've had about God? Or will they remember the screaming and the yelling and the scolding? I sure hope that what they remember is the good stuff. These verses today definitely give me something to reflect on for a while. In fact, they may very well have inspired some major changes around our household in the time to come. Time will tell though, and in the mean time, I turn to God to help me make the most of the time I have with my children. They are so precious to me, and I have more than three years to make a difference.

Thank you God for the precious children in my care. Help me to make the right decisions concerning them, and help me to be the example you want me to be in their lives.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The End of Complaining

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." Philippians 2:14-16

I'm going to be real brief this morning, as the kids and I are having a nice morning together. But I read this verse, and it just made me smile. Think about when you greet someone. You ask how they're doing, and almost always, if you stand and talk for even a few minutes, some form of complain comes out. People are simply expected to complain. When people ask how I'm doing, I know they're expecting me to complain about Andy not working. Or these days, to complain about the weather or the economy. We've had amazingly cold temperatures the last two days, but I can't even complain for a second about it. We got to spend two extra days with our children at home, and we have a warm home to live in. IN fact, with the cold temperatures, I expected the furnace to be running non-stop, but it didn't. It was so sunny out, that we opened up the windows, and the sun heated the house nicely. We were actually warmer during the coldest days of the year than any other time. We spent our time playing games and trying new foods, and just spending the time inside as a family. What's to complain about?

You know, I've been trying really hard to not complain- it's a mindset that is difficult to change. It's so difficult, actually, that I find that sometimes it's hard to come up with something to talk about when I'm not complaining. You know how that is, you just kind of sit there with someone in companionable silence, because you've just said that life is grand and you have no complaints. And they don't know what to say to that, and then they don't want to feel like they're complaining, so they don't say much either.

Imagine the conversations that would occur if we didn't complain. I like to think that not complaining is contagious, and it has the added benefit that the people you're talking with want to know what you aren't complaining. Over time, when they realize that you're serious, that could open a door or a window into someone developing a relationship with Jesus.

So I think this is a good one to tackle. Be it a New Year's resolution, or just a resolve to complain less, it's a wonderful goal, and completely do-able. As a child of God, how can life not be wonderful? Every second of every day I'm reminded how blessed we are, and as a result, I have nothing to really complain about.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Say Goodbye To Sin

" So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. " Galatians 5:16-17

We all have that sinful nature. All of us. There's always going to be that fleshly desire to do what is not of God and not of the Spirit. That's why I love reading these verses above, because they tell me exactly how to fight off that which is trying to derail me. When that selfish ambition rears its ugly head, I can laugh at it and rest in the Spirit and exhibit self-control and gentleness instead. When jealousy tells me that I really want what that person has and that I should be jealous and hateful, instead I can embrace joy and kindness and be happy for that person instead.

But how does one live by the Spirit? That sounds complicated and sounds like something that might be a little scary. But it's really not. When we became saved, when we asked Jesus to be our Savior, the Spirit came along for the ride. The Spirit has been there already with you, helping you, maybe without you realizing it. It's the Spirit that dwells in us and prompts us towards those right decisions, and tries to help us fight off the bad ones. But maybe you just need to be a little more in tune with that Spirit. That comes by spending time in God's Word, and spending time in prayer. The more time you spend trying to get to know the Spirit that is already with you, the more you learn to recognize its promptings and its protection. Sometimes those promptings can be pretty big. That feeling that you simply shouldn't go somewhere one day, so you don't, only to find out later that there was a catastrophe of some kind there. That prompting to take a different road than the one you normally do, only to find later that there was a major accident the way you usually take. Or the prompting to call someone who you haven't spoken to in a while, that can be the Spirit's way of telling you that person needs someone to talk to and pray with.

Having the Spirit in our lives is fantastic! And the more time we spend trying to recognize the promptings of the Spirit, the easier it gets, and the more in tune we become with what He's trying to say to us. When Jesus left this earth to dwell in Heaven, He left us a mighty gift with the Holy Spirit. Learning to hear the Spirit is not difficult, nor is it scary. It just takes a little time. It takes time simply getting to know him.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Warning Against Barbs and Thorns

50 "On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the LORD said to Moses, 51 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

55 " 'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.' " Numbers 33:50-56

I'm continuing on in my Bible reading, and as I finished up Numbers and moved into Deuteronomy, I noticed something. There's a lot of repetition, a lot of repeating the words of God to the Israelites. As Deuteronomy starts off, Moses is preparing to die and is basically giving an oration to his people of their journey from Egypt. Part of me wondered if all this repetition was really necessary. Do we really need to read about Aaron's sons dying from disobedience four times? Then I thought about who we were reading about. These Israelites would see a move of God one day, and then the next complain about being hungry. They obviously needed as many reminders as they could get! Every opportunity there was to remind them of their sin, and how God saved them was utilized. And yet, most times, they still didn't remember.

These verses above in Numbers really stuck out to me because of the last two verses. God is warning about the people in Canaan, the land they will be living in, and he warns the people of Israel to get rid of all the inhabitants of the land, because if they remain, they will only cause trouble in the long run. Those people don't worship the same God. They have their idols and their own gods, and if they were left to be there, eventually, some of God's people would be corrupted. I really thought about this one, because I think we can take this warning to heart for ourselves as well. I guess I started thinking about all the things that we allow in our lives that maybe we shouldn't have in the first place... think about some of the TV shows we watch, as an example. More and more, the rules around what is allowed on TV gets more and more relaxed. Language is allowed that didn't used to be, graphic scenes are allowed that didn't used to be, and we just sit back and watch them. Maybe it makes us uncomfortable at first, but after a while we get over it and just continue watching. For lack of a better word, we become desensitized, where language doesn't bother us, where graphic scenes don't bother us. But maybe, just maybe, they should, and we've let the barbs and thorns into our homes, and they're difficult to remove. Who just turns the TV off these days?

Well, we have. We have stopped watching an awful lot of television. In fact, for Andy and I, we are down to just two shows per week that we watch regularly. Three shows when one we enjoy is on, but it's not on all the time. That's a long, long way from how it used to be. We used to settle ourselves in front of the TV six nights a week, for at least two hours a night. Really, and truly. But then shows that we enjoyed started being cancelled or a storyline became uncomfortable, so we stopped watching. And oddly enough, we don't miss it. Instead, we spend time doing other things. Sometimes we watch a movie we've been wanting to see, sometimes we turn on our GODTV and watch a bit of something inspirational, but sometimes, get this, sometimes we actually sit up at night and simply talk. Do people do that anymore? We discuss our hopes and dreams for the future, and we talk about the great things that we see God doing every day. We are no longer slave to the TV screen, and it's wonderful. We truly do feel as if a barb and a thorn have been removed.

I guess we only have one life to live, and when all is said and done, do we want to be standing before God, telling him that we simply didn't have time to do all we could, only to have him point to the chart that shows just how many hours per week we wasted away on TV programs? I think we are making the right choice, what do you think?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Running From Abundance

"When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs." Numbers 13:23

The Israelites were moving. They had traveled far to reach the land that God had promised them. They had gone through all kinds of trials, but God had spoken true and led them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Just look at the description of the grapes here- one single cluster of grapes had to be carried by two men! To me, that sounds like complete heaven, and I have to say that one look at those grapes, and they would be in my thoughts constantly until I could have them as my own.

Yet, that didn't happen with the Israelite people. Instead, they looked at the inhabitants of the land God promised them and became afraid. There were giants dwelling there, and despite all that God had done for them, the Israelites cautioned against entering the land, for fear of their lives. God had delivered them from Pharaoh, had divided a sea and caused the sea bed to be dry for these people to walk across. God caused food to appear every morning with the morning dew, and caused water to spring forth from a rock. Yet these people forgot all that and chose to be afraid of a few giants.

"But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size." Numbers 13:31,32

The people complained and griped and completely forgot all that God had done for them. Reading on into Numbers 14, we see that God's first thought was to just kill the Israelites and begin again with Moses. God had finally had enough of their whining and complaining and decided that they would never learn, and should just wipe them out. Moses intervened though, and sought mercy from God for the people. And because Moses had great favor with God, God acquiesced and let the people live, but he gave them this promise instead:

"The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times- 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." Numbers 14:20-23

Of all the hundreds of thousands of people who had seen the miracles that God performed, only Caleb and Joshua would get to see the promised land. This is what began the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years.

And as I read through these chapters, I thought about these people running away from the abundance because of what they fear and I wonder how often we do that ourselves. Because I know that we forget the things that God has done for us. Sometimes we can forget in a matter of minutes. As we're entering cold and flu season here, there's been one part of me just watching and waiting for something to hit our household... shame on me for that attitude! God has the ability to keep the colds and the flu's out of our home this year. And in fact, the last two times we have seen a hint of colds in our house, we've turned to prayer and the colds have passed in a much more quicker than normal fashion, with no one feeling more than a tickle. The God who parted the Red Sea for His People to cross on dry land is the Very Same God who protects us today from colds and flu's. So I will not be afraid of germs and disease. And instead of cringing and scowling when someone around me sneezes when I'm out and about, instead I will ask God to bless them and take away that suffering. The God who WAS is the same God who IS and is the same God who WILL BE. We have a very mighty and powerful God, and I think it's time to remember that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Order and Organization

"Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. 3 You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army. 4 One man from each tribe, each the head of his family, is to help you." Numbers 1:2-4

Every time I set out to read the Bible cover to cover, I get bogged down in Leviticus and Numbers. And Deuteronomy. There is just so much there that gets repetitive and at the same time, I also always have to wonder why all this information is part of the Bible. A lot of the laws and rules that God set forth in Leviticus and Numbers were set aside when Jesus died for us. Yet here they are, still in the Bible, and I still sort of feel like I'm trudging through something for a time. And yet... yesterday as I dove into Numbers, a thought came to me about what these chapters reveal about the character of God. It really shows that he is a God of order and organization- and NOT the God of chaos and disarray. Up to this point in time, the Israelites were just a group of people who followed Aaron and Moses. Now it was time to bring order to their masses. God gave such particulars, right down to where each tribe was supposed to camp, and what jobs that tribe was going to be responsible for.

Then in Numbers, chapter 2, we see something truly remarkable in God's method of organization.

"The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2 "The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family." Numbers 2:1,2

God wanted to be at the center of his people. The Tent of Meeting was the Holy Place where God was, and all the people then were spread around Him in a circle- a widespread circle, but still a circle- with a center. And at that very center was God himself. That really made me think... is God at the center of my life? God was not at the center of the Israelite people so they re-arranged. They moved things around so that He was at the center. So when I think about whether or not God is at the center of my life... perhaps if He isn't, a little rearranging or moving needs to be done. Perhaps there's something else occupying the center and it needs to be shuffled to the side to let God be at the center.

So while it may have felt a little like trudging to get through those books of the Bible, I think at the same time, it also reflected a bit of what God himself is like, and it showed that He approves of order. He approves of organization and the attention to details. It also shows that He is a God of Love, and has always had concern for his people. As I read through Leviticus and read through the list of foods that were approved or not for them to eat, I was amazed. The people were not to eat animal fat or offal- of course, both of these things, if not kept fresh and refrigerated, are the first parts of the animal to spoil. They were not to eat pork, which as we all know, always needs to be cooked well to eliminate dangerous bacteria. All the laws regarding food all appear to have some kind of root in the practical. Practical things that God made law to keep His people healthy and safe. Forbidding fat and offal also happens to forbid some serious sources of cholesterol- God wanted his people to have a long and productive life! Not one filled with coronary disease and other dietary problems.

God is truly amazing, and the more time I spend in His Word, the better I get to know Him. I can't wait to see what He is going to show me next.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let's Walk On Water

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

29"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:25-31

Getting closer to God requires a step of faith for most. First of all, in order to get closer to God, you need to spend time with Him in prayer and meditation, and in God's Word. And in order to do that, you need to find the time to do so, which means not doing something else. That can be the toughest part about drawing closer to God. I know it took me the longest time, and while I had the intentions of spending time with God, life ALWAYS got in the way. And it will always try to get in the way. But that first step of faith is such a biggie, because it's a step of faith that finding that time will be worth it. Of course it is. There is something truly remarkable and amazing about sitting down with your Bible, opening it up, and reading something that you feel was meant specifically for you! You can read just the words of encouragement you need, or words of inspiration, or words of correction if needs be.

I love reading about Peter walking on water, because that is one incredible leap of faith he took n the first place. He stepped out of the boat to walk on water, and for a minute he did, and then this big bad wind came up and frightened him, and he fell. That big bad wind can represent so many things for us. Money is always so easy to use as an example, so I'll go there I think. Every year Andy gets laid off for a period of time, it's almost a complete certainty. So last year we made sure that we set some money aside to keep us afloat during the lay-off time. Some things came up though last fall, and we really felt that we needed to give most of our savings to different ministries that had blessed us incredibly. So we did that, taking that huge leap of faith and placing our trust in God to be our Jehovah Jireh. And then Andy stopped working. While there was a peace about us in knowing that God had us taken care of, it's been really, really hard to trust. That big bad wind keeps calling, it keeps telling me that it would be okay for me to contact our credit card companies and request new cards- the ones that I'd previously cut up. That big bad wind keeps telling me that it's okay to try and take care of our finances in whatever ways possible. And more than that, that big bad wind sends people from time to time too- real people, friends and family who tell us we're idiots for not saving, and who told us months ago that the responsible thing to do was to set as much aside as we could.

Perhaps they were right in the eyes of the world. But so far, we're walking on water. Every day God is proving Himself the provider. Gas money gets pressed into our hands, a bag of groceries shows up at the door, or I'll walk into the grocery store with a small amount of money, have a specific list, and every single thing on that list is on sale, so I walk away with great savings.

I want to continue walking on water and continue trusting and believing, because what is the alternative? The alternative is to falter, and have Jesus look at me and say "You of little faith, why did you doubt." I don't want to be the one of little faith- I want to be the one of great faith. And I feel it. I feel this great blanket of security around us, and the more time I spend with God, the heavier that blanket feels. I'm a blanket person- the more on our bed, the better. I love the weight of a pile of comforters and blankets, it's so warm and comforting. I'm going to wrap myself up in the comfort of my God and ride out this storm to the end. It's going to be one fantastic ride.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

No More Grumbling

"The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink."
Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?"

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"

4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." Exodus 17:1-4

I was reading in Exodus, about the whole trials of the Israelites- the troubles with Pharaoh, leaving Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, and all the rest. There is one constant with these Israelite people, and that is that they were a bunch of whiners. In these verses today, this is after the people have been whining several times about this and that, yet they always take up with the whining right after God did something awesome for them. Almost as soon as they crossed the sea, and Pharaoh and his army were destroyed, they were whining about being thirsty. Then after God provided water, they began whining about being hungry. So God provided food in the form of manna and quail, and then they thought they needed something to whine about, so they whined about being thirsty again. If I was Moses, I would have wanted to beat them all with a stick! No wonder his conversation here with God- the people were driving him batty with their incessant whining.

As I was dwelling on the chapters I read, the instances of whining and grumbling really were many, and my first thoughts were of wonderment. Here was a people, personally assisted by God to escape slavery. They followed a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to help them find their way... yet they still found opportunity to complain. How could they do that? How could they personally witness the glory of God and then a short while later act as if it never happened? Then I began to wonder about how much of a reflection the Israelites are on us as Christians. How often do we complain? How often do we grumble about this or that? How often do we see God working in our lives, and then we complain that it isn't enough, or that we'd like a little bit more? We can go to church even, receive a wonderful sermon that was delivered as if it was meant for us personally, and then a few minutes later on the ride home we're complaining about something instead of simply thanking God for the words he gave us, and dwelling on them and what they might mean for us.

The last few weeks here have been pretty tight for us money wise. We knew it would be okay, but we had a hang-up with Andy's unemployment compensation, and it's been several weeks since there was any income at all. I was getting a bit nervous about our situation, but I knew in my heart that God would take care of it in His time. So I did the only thing I could do, and I spent time praying for our situation. And then God came through- several weeks of unemployment was deposited, and things aren't so dire. And while I did smile about that for a while, and I really, really thanked God for his blessing, it wasn't that long before I was looking at the calendar, wondering where that next infusion of money was going to come from.

And I recognized what I was doing almost right away.

Because I'd just spent some time in God's Word, reading about the Exodus, I saw myself in those Israelites, and I kind of got mad with myself. Here I was, just a few hours earlier, reading about these people, praying that I wouldn't be like them, and then just like that I have the opportunity to do better, and I blow it.

But I'll tell you what. Reading through Exodus, God still continued to bless His people, and he still provided for them. And once I recognized what I was doing, I apologized to God and thanked him again for his blessings and asked for his continued provision. And I know He will do just that. I can keep the Israelites in my mind though, and remember how they grumbled at every step of the journey, and pray earnestly that I would not be so jaded. That I would keep my mind on God and what He has for us, and not what we don't have or what we want. God does provide, and he does love His children very much. And just as my children whine from time to time and complain, I still love them with all my heart, even though I may find them a nuisance every once in a while. How much more does God love us? That is something worth remembering.

Friday, January 09, 2009


"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

This verse always comes up this time of year for me. It's the time of year when Andy isn't working, money is scarce, and we really set our faith completely on God to get us through the lean time. He always comes through for us, we know that, yet every year, here we are, and we get the faith lesson all over again. Every time something comes through for us- whether we are given money for gas, given a few groceries, or a bill comes in due with a much smaller balance than normal, we know that God is the reason for that blessing. Just yesterday I opened up an envelope from the mail, and the first thing that popped in my head was "Praise the Lord!" This year, while we are being reminded where our faith lies, there is something more though, than what has been there before. There is a peace. A complete peace. Neither Andy or I are spending our days dwelling on our finances and where the next gallon of milk is going to come from. We have peace that can only come from God, because we know that He's looking out for us.

And then I read this verse in Matthew, and at first, it makes me smile, because it comes true for us all the time. This morning though, I read it again, smiled, but then I really read it, and it occurred to me how difficult this verse really is. Because treasure makes life so much easier. When Andy is working and making a good income, life is incredibly easy. I can buy what we need without worrying about price, or I can pay all the bills and not even blink, knowing the bank account is still nicely padded. It's not so easy without the treasure. I have to really think hard before I go to the store and spend even a dollar. I have to constantly turn my children down when they ask for something new, and explain to them why they can't have something. So when there is treasure around, life is so much easier...

But then I read this verse, yet again, and I see that it talks about storing up the treasures, and I think then that it means something a little different. It's talking about not sharing, and keeping your treasure to yourself. If I become a miser and save every penny that comes in, and turn away all those in need around me, I truly have lost sight of the true treasure. And the Lord knows that what we love doing best with our money is sharing it.

So this morning, I'm going to read this verse and rest in knowing that God knows our hearts, and he knows our needs. And He will continue to provide for us each and every step of the way.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Changes For Joseph

"Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it."

8 His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me."

10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind." Genesis 37:5-11

I finished up reading Genesis yesterday, and a great deal of that was the story of Joseph and his brothers, and how Joseph came to be a great leader in Egypt. These verses above are the dreams that he shared with his older brothers while he was still young and at home. It's interesting to read these dreams and read the perspective, which I'll talk about in a minute, but first, here is Joseph later on in life, talking about the dreams that Pharaoh had.

"Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it."

16 "I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires." Genesis 41:15-16

There is a big difference between the two passages as far as Joseph goes, and Joseph's attitude. Notice how when Joseph is talking to his brothers he talks about how he had a dream, and there is no mention at all of God. And later in life, when he is asked to interpret a dream, a newer, more humble Joseph says that God can give the interpretation, not him. All of the trials that Joseph had gone through to this point has helped him to grow and mature in God. Where before he may have been the spoiled brat, walking around talking about himself, now he is more mature, and understands more of the nature of God.

Just like Joseph, God uses our life, the trials and experiences we go through to grow us, and to help us gain perspective. I guess I think about when I pray, and I'm praying for something specific, and then God answers that prayer- what is my reaction? Do I share with people how I prayed for this or that to happen, and look, it happened, so yay me? No... instead, I use the opportunity to share what God has done in my life, and how God blessed us so richly.

Joseph used his position in Egypt to save many people- including his family. He didn't use the position to gain glory and more recognition for Joseph. A younger, less mature Joseph may have done just that, but God used his trials and struggles to grow Joseph into a fantastic man with a heart for God. And God also blessed Joseph, and his entire family because of it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Watering Camels

"Then he prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'-let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master." Genesis 24:12-14

Yesterday I was reading of Jacob and Isaac in Genesis, and when I came to the story of Rebekah, I really read it, and looked for something in the story that I might have always skipped over before. It's a fantastic story. When it was time for Isaac to find a wife, his father Jacob did not want Isaac marrying a local woman from Canaan, so he sent his servant to his homeland to find a wife there. We know that Jacob is a man of God, and these verses above show that Jacob's devotion to God was also present in his household, for his servant turned to God in his time of need. These verses are his prayer to God, as he is in need of a wife for Isaac, and wants to please his master by bringing back the best wife he can. And of course, these verses come to pass a short while later.

"The servant hurried to meet her and said, "Please give me a little water from your jar."

18 "Drink, my lord," she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, "I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking." 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. " Genesis 24:17-20

Do you know what these verses show about Rebekah? They show that she is a woman of compassion and love, first of all. She didn't hesitate to share water with a strange man who looked like he was in need of a drink. Secondly, they show her diligence, and they show that she is not afraid of hard work. Rebekah proceeded to water ten camels without being asked. This is significant because they are camels! When a camel travels over a long distance, their bodies allow them to store water, and use it accordingly, but without being watered, they can lose up to 25% of their body weight in water. So when Rebekah had to water ten camels, she had to make many, many trips to the well to fill a trough for them to drink. We're talking gallons upon gallons- for one camel, let alone ten!

When I think about Rebekah I have to admit, I feel like I would come up very short in a comparison of character. Think about when you hear about someone doing some work around their home. Lets get specific- lets talk about moving. No one enjoys the process of moving, and it is always a lot of work. But when you first hear about someone moving, do you offer to help before you are asked? You know, I have to admit, that I am not that person to offer before being asked. I hate moving! More than just about anything! Instead, we usually come up with excuses. Well, I'm a little busy this time of year, but can I send over a pizza? Or, gosh, you know I'd love to help, but it's allergy season, so it wouldn't do much good for me to be sneezing all over your new home, and other excuses. I could probably list excuses all day. I imagine that Rebekah had other things to do. She may have had livestock to tend to, bread to bake, clothes to mend, and on and on. But she didn't even hesitate, she didn't think of herself and what she could be doing. Instead, she looked at this man she didn't know, and his parched camels and was moved by compassion to help them before thinking of herself.

I pray that I can be more like Rebekah. That I can think of others needs before my own. You would think it would be easier for a parent to put others needs first, and in some respects it is, my children always come before me. But those same children also make a fantastic excuse! May God soften my heart and keep me from coming up with excuses and reasons to not help. Instead, may I put others needs before mine.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Food For Thought: Eve and The Serpent

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " Genesis 3:1-3

Usually, as I read my devotionals or my Bible, I look deep, and then I share whatever introspection I find here on the blog. Every once in a while thought, some neat thought just comes into my mind, and I think that would be fun to share, and fun to think on. I had read, once before a speculation that when God created the world, he created the animal much more different than the animal kingdom we know today- that perhaps it was more like the talking animal world found in the books of Narnia. Who hasn't looked at a pet and wondered what it is they are thinking- what they would say if they could?

I was reading Genesis yesterday, and when I came to these verses above, I read them over about ten times, because it made me smile- in fact- it almost made me squeal with delight like a child. Imagine this scenario, if you will. You're walking through a lush garden, admiring the beautiful flowers and foliage, smelling the plants and the fruit, reaching out and touching the occasional leaf, and then, a snake starts to talk to you. Wouldn't you be a wee bit startled? I mean, a snake was talking to Eve! I have to say that if any animal found its voice and started talking, I'd be a bit freaked out about it. Yet the Bible simply says that the serpent spoke to Eve and that Eve spoke right back. There was no surprise, no startlement, which leads me to this thought for the morning... Was that normal? Was it normal for an animal to speak to Eve? We sure get the sense that it was normal from reading the passage!

To me, that is such a fun thought, that animals perhaps were more than just beasts upon the earth for a time. It makes me wonder about other things that God may have or may not have created. And what IS it going to be like in Heaven? Will animals be there? Will they have a chance to serve God as well? Someday we'll find out.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Being Content

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13

It is truly difficult to be content. In today's world, we are told we always want more, we want better, we want the American dream of riches and well-being. Once upon the time the American dream was simply to be able to worship God, things have certainly changed.

Contentment is an issue that has been brought straight to the forefront of my mind lately. I've been struggling a bit between the idea that I should be content with where I am and what we have, and the idea that I can ask God for anything and everything. That I can have the dream home and the dream yard and the dream family, all with the dream income to match.

"You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." James 4:2,3

Ah, there it is. Why do I want all those things? What is the real motive? Is it because I am a selfish person and I simply want more? Yeah, probably. And that is where the lesson on contentment collides with my desire, and I wonder when it is it okay to want more? And this tears me up for a few days, and then, just like that, I've settled in and I'm at peace again. Today is a day of peace for me, because I've been talking to God about this. I've let him know how confused and puzzled I am, and how frustrated I am from time to time. And then I apologized for being unpleasant and cranky. Then I found it, I found that contentment again, and I am content with where I am and who I am.

When I think about our home, and where we live, sometimes... sometimes things just drive me batty. Sometimes its neighbors, sometimes it's the yucky dining room floor (carpet in a dining room? Really? Who really thought that was a good idea?), sometimes it's the poor arrangement of heating vents in our bedroom that allows us to put the bed in one and only one spot. You know how those little things go... after a while, you're dwelling on those little things and they begin to fester, they begin to drive you bonkers. I have to think that it's those moments, those moments when the enemy takes a good hard look and decides to take some action. Maybe he'll throw something else in the stew pot to drive me nuts and make it worse, because if I'm being driven nuts about something, then I'm not content, am I?

The truth is, we have a roof over our heads, and walls around us. We have our basic needs met, and really, we need nothing more. That is where today's verse comes into play. It really doesn't matter how much we love or hate our circumstances, where we live, for example. What matters is God. We could look at all these little things, let them drive us nuts, and decide that we need to move on. But where would we go? Sure, things would be different, but there would be a whole set of new nuances to drive us batty and plague us. So instead of listening to that enemy- the one who tells us to not be content- I am making the choice to banish that thought. I am content with where we are, and will remain content until the day that God places something different in our laps. I will not go looking for something different just because I think I want better and different. I'm going to rely on God, and trust in God, to meet our needs and provide for us. I want to live that secret, not just learn it. I want to be content in all things. God is our great provider, and He has provided the home we live in now, and will continue to provide. I trust in that.

"Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22:13-14

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Honoring The Ones Who Lay The Path

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12

Think of a field. Think of a field in the country that has never seen a plow. And one day, you decide it's time to plow the dirt and plant something, and grow something in that soil. Just a small garden perhaps, so you grab a little hand plow, stick it in the dirt, goes nowhere. This dirt is hard! After a while you get a few inches in the dirt, and a while after that you figure out exactly what you need to do and you begin moving forward. But the process is terribly hard and difficult. Along the way, in your head you decide that you need to make the space you had planned smaller. So you make your square in the dirt, and it takes all day. At the end of the day, you stand aside, gaze at your newly turned dirt, pleased with your hard work, but regretting the next day, when you need to do it all again.

The new day dawns, and you head out to your dirt patch and set the plow in. Today it goes much easier, and in no time you're making a third pass in the dirt, anticipating planting tomorrow.

Parents are like that first plowing. They are the plow, plowing through life under a tough set of circumstances. Yet they trudge forward as best as possible, sometimes they are set back a little, but they continuously move forward, breaking through a little at a time. And we, their children, are like the second plowing. It's so much easier for us, because they have gone before us and done the hard stuff. Sure, there may still be an occasional hic-up or stone in the way, but those are quickly taken care of, and life is easier for us, because of the work that our parents have done before us. Our children get to be the third plowing, that is easy and a breeze because of what their parents and grandparents have done before them.

And so it is, in a life with Christ. Where my parents have spent much of their lifetime struggling or doing the hard work to get to know God and do what He desires of them, I am fortunate to get to come right behind them and learn from their mistakes and their trials. And God willing, my children will come right behind me as well, and it will be even easier for them. And when I think of that, when I think of how much I've learned from them, this verse today, this commandment, is something that should come to mind more often. That my parents have broken ground continuously, and continue to do so, so that I can come behind and have it much easier is worth every bit of honor I can muster. Not so much for all the hard work, really, but for the diligence and perseverance. That's something to admire and respect and honor.

So this morning, I choose to remember this command from God on more than just Mother's Day and Father's Day. God made it one of his laws, he thought it was that important. And if God thinks it's as important as "thou shall not kill" I think it's worth paying attention to.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Me, Myself & Bob

I don't believe that I have ever done a book review here at Heart & Soul. I've discussed movies before, but never a book. That's interesting, because I do read plenty of books that would be great to discuss, yet I do try to keep this a place to chronicle my devotions, not so much what I've been reading.

Yet I read this book the other day, and I cannot stop thinking about it. It was profound- in a good way. Me, Myself & Bob is written by Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales and all things Bob & Larry, and it's the story of the rise and fall of Big Idea Productions. It was incredibly well written from that perspective, it was a fascinating glimpse into the video and movie production industry, and it also was incredibly moving. I found myself drawn right into the drama that Big Idea faced, and even though I knew how it would end, I had no idea the insight that this man would share at the end of his journey. Phil challenged me at the end of his book, there's no way around saying that. He challenged many of the ideas I'd had about dreams and visions, and I have no doubt that he is absolutely correct, and that God is using him in a mighty way to share his story and change people's lives.

I want to share one of the examples Phil shared in his book to share what I am experiencing inside. Let's talk about Abraham.

"But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." 4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." Genesis 15:2-4

Abraham had a dream. He had a dream of having an heir, a son to whom he could leave his legacy. And God decided to fulfill that dream for Abraham, and Abraham loved and cherished his son. But then God wanted to see Abraham's heart.

"Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Genesis 22:2

God wanted to know if Abraham loved Him more, or his dream more. And we all know by now, that Abraham passed God's test, and proved that he loved his God even more than his own son.

Dreams and visions are just that, dreams and visions. Ideas we have for the future. Often times, those dreams are from God, sometimes, they're just dreams we have for ourselves. When we think about our dreams, what are they usually? They're plans for a house, a family, a successful career or a successful business venture. Some of us feel called to the ministry, and we have a dream of fulfilling that calling. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don't, but we often sacrifice our time with God in the name of that particular dream. When that happens, when we put that dream first, we're making it an idol. It doesn't matter if it's a dream meant to bring glory to God. When the dream becomes the priority, it's become an idol and taken the place of God in our lives. We can say that we're doing this for God or that for God...but is that what God really wants? Do you know what God really wants? He wants us. He wants you, and me, and we wants our full attention and devotion. He wants to know that we want to do what HE wants us to do, not what we think he wants us to do, or what we think would be good for us. Because it's not about us.

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

This verse says it all. We can get busy doing all these things to bring our dreams to fruition, except that look at this verse! It says right there, in black in white that God already prepared for us what we are to do. Let's put it this way. I am a fairly busy person. My children have activities and school, so I spend time getting them from here to there a lot. I also am busy at church, busy on the worship team and spending a lot of time learning. I have my time here blogging, where I say that God must want me blogging because I keep finding the time to do it. I write recipes for the local paper, which ultimately could lead to people finding this blog and finding God in their lives. Sure, it's all great and wonderful, and I try to keep myself fairly busy. But what if God has had something else for me to do all this time, and I haven't been able to find out what it is because I've been so busy? That's an awful pill to swallow! Because if I think along those lines... I've put all my activities on a pedestal, and God is not where He should be.

It all boils down to the fact that God needs to come first before everything. I need to spend that time with Him instead of that extra hour of sleep. I need to open up my Bible instead of spending three hours in a fantasy novel. I need to just spend time praying and waiting to see what God wants me to do instead of acting on my own dreams and visions. If my dreams are what God wants for me, that's fantastic, but I won't know that's what he wants until I spend time with Him and give him my dreams. God knows my dreams already, I know that. But I need to give them to Him and say "God these are my dreams... I want to know your dreams for me. I want to do what you want me to do, be where you want me to be."

I want God's dreams for me. Not my dreams, not my husband's dreams, not the world's dreams, and not the American dream. I want to know what God wants from me, and I'm not going to know until I put Him first before absolutely everything and stop being busy just for the sake of being busy.

Oh, and by the way. It's a very good book.