Monday, June 20, 2011

Identity Crisis

Today's passage:  John 8:30-59
     When I hear stories about children who were abducted at a young age, my heart melts for the family.  To have someone who belongs to you taken from you, must be the hardest thing a parent would have to go through.  In some cases, the children are found years later, safe and unharmed with another family.  Sometimes it is a crazed woman racked with grief who is trying to replace her sorrow by stealing someone else's child.  Sometimes it is a childless man who is trying to give his barren wife some measure of happiness by robbing another family of their joy.  People in pain do irrational things.  They take a child that does not belong to them and live on the lam to stay undiscovered.  Can you imagine the confusion of the child when he is told that this is not his family?  He had not been abused (I know that this is not always the case), he had not been mistreated.  Can you sympathise with the identity crisis this child would face?  The courts would order him back into the arms of his real parents but I don't think he would be ready for an embrace.  He wouldn't know these people.  Yes, they knew who he was, but he had spent his entire life with another family.  It is not his fault he has no recollection of his real parents.  He is not to blame for the foreign emotions he feels towards these people who are seemingly ripping him away from the family he has known all this time.  With time, he will adjust, he will learn to like the things his family likes, he will learn to enjoy the food his family enjoys, he will start to act the way his family acts, but the transition will be rough.
     How must God have felt, when in the Garden of Eden, Satan ripped us away from Him?  We were a family.  Everything was ideal.  The garden was perfect and beautiful.  Adam and Eve had no sin nature, they were growing to be just like their Father.  Then Satan, with one self-gratifying act, lured us away from the Father who created us.  Since then, Satan has been our father ever since.   Is it no wonder that in this passage, the Jews are boggled by what Jesus tries to tell them?  They don't recognize their true Father, because they are too blinded by the father they have been serving.  They think God is their Father, but they have been deceived.  They have been patterning their lives after someone they thought was their father, but then are thrown into an identity crisis.  Jesus confronts them with the truth about their family, and understandably they do not take it too well.  They accuse Jesus of being the fake, they are certain their family is secure.  They can't see that the father they have been with, has been an impostor, and it is hard for them to see the truth.  None of us would want to believe that we are not with our real family.  A reunion with our real Father may not be all hugs and kisses.  We would be learning to become a whole new person.  We would have to adjust to the likes and tastes of our new Father.  With time and with knowledge, this transition would become easier, and we would forget that we had not been His children all along.
       A parent who loses a child will do everything to have that child returned to them.  They will hire every investigator in the nation, they will hop planes to any country, they will drain their bank account, take out a second mortgage on their house, do anything in their physical power to get that child back.  So did God.  He let His Son pay the ultimate price to bring us back to Him.  Jesus died on the cross, so we could be returned to our true Father.  Sadly, not every abducted child is found.  Not every stolen child is reunited with his family.  Some never are discovered again.  I'm so glad that did not have to be the case for me.  I may not always be familiar with my Father's ways, but everyday I am learning a little more.  I'm so glad He came looking for me, because I would have spent a lifetime serving a father who had no love for me.  Thank you, Lord, for rescuing me. Thank you each day for teaching me Your ways so I can love what You love, and hate what You hate.  When I grow up, I want to be just like You.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Today's passage:  John 8:1-29
       I must do a little promoting.  In Bible college, required reference materials in several of my Bible classes was A.T. Robertson's A Harmony of the Gospels.  It was published by Harper & Row in 1950.  I have no idea if it is still in print.  Let me also say, I know nothing of the background of this author so I do not want to endorse his theology.  There are notes at the bottoms of the pages, which I usually ignore, but I find this to be a very useful tool when reading the gospels.  There may even be a better version of this type of book out there, this is just the one I have.  If you know of a better version, comment below (if you can, since it seems nearly impossible to do so) and let other readers in on your find. This is one of those books that I really feel I have gotten my money's worth even beyond the classroom.  It lays out, verse by verse all of the gospels side-by-side, so you can contrast/compare each event that is found in each of the gospels.  I've noticed that many study Bibles have an appendix with a side-by-side layout of the events in Christ's ministry, and that is also helpful, but this gives all the gospels verse by verse.  It also shows the passages that stand completely alone and are not mentioned in any of the other gospels.  John has a lot of stand-alone's, this being one of them.
     I have always been taught that when the adulterous woman is brought before Jesus by the religious rulers, He stoops down to write in the dirt floor.  Many have suggested that Jesus wrote the names of the people that had lain with this woman.  But He was in the temple.  I might be wrong, but I think there was flooring in the Temple.  I'm not saying dirt and sand couldn't have collected there, but I'm pretty sure the Jews tried to keep the Temple pretty immaculate.  However, I think the thought on those names being written is probably correct.  Since John is the only gospel that records this event, I might have to imagine a little.  I mean, this is God.  Could He not have supernaturally written their names on the ground?  Maybe that is what caused the rulers to stammer and abruptly leave.  Maybe it wasn't so much their names, because verse 9 does say "being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last" as the manner that the names were written.  Maybe the reason the woman believed so quickly is because of what she had just witnessed.  This certainly would have convinced her that it was God who had just forgiven her of her sins, and commanded her to "sin no more".   
     Of course, if this is the case, it certainly did nothing to dissuade the rulers from continuing to attack Jesus.  If nothing else, it probably fueled the fire a bit.  Jesus launches into the Light of the World discourse.  The Pharisees attack Him at every point.  They are insistent on stopping what they believe is His foolish babble.  In Jewish law, it was customary to have two witnesses to prove identity.  Jesus says the two witnesses are Himself and His Father.  The Pharisees want to know where His Father is.  Jesus tells them that if they knew Him, they would know who His Father is.  This is the part I find interesting.  He says this to them when they are in the treasury of the Temple. Now, I'm convinced, that even locations in the Bible are mentioned for a reason.  Why does John name this particular location when talking about knowing the Father?  The treasury is where the Temple funds were collected.  The Pharisees always made a big show about giving their money to the Lord (remember the story of the widow who gave all she had, and Jesus praises her for giving all rather than the Pharisees who had given much, but could have given much more?) Is He trying to indicate something by making this statement in this particular place?  Is He again rebuking the Pharisees for their so-called love when they don't love God enough to give as much as they should?  Were they short on their tithes?  Were they even robbing the treasury?  I know that is a lot to suggest, and I am not saying it is the case,  but it does make me wonder.  Jesus did say, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21)  Where is my heart? Where I invest my money probably indicates a lot.  I've invested a lot of it in good things.  I can't think of anything better than putting money into my boys' schooling for a Christian education.  I tithe, I give to missions, I give special offerings.  But how much more could I do?  If I didn't put so much into that satellite TV, how many more missionaries could I be helping?  How many more teens could I sponsor to go to camp?  How much more could I give to keep my son's school running?  I've heard many recently talking about giving up that daily Starbucks splurge to free up money to donate to a ministry.  Believe me, I haven't had even a weekly Starbucks splurge, let alone a daily one.  But maybe I could give up that second cup of coffee at home ( I don't know about you, but even ground coffee from the store has gotten expensive these days) to enable us to give more for the Lord. Maybe I could trust the Lord more for my daily needs instead of depending on credit cards and watching all the interest add up and drain me of extra money I could use for Him.  Maybe the reason Jesus said all this in the treasury was not because He was making accusations as to what they were doing with the money, maybe He was just pointing out their lack of trust in the God who can supply all their needs.  He surely can provide all mine.  Do I trust Him enough to take those steps?  Jesus tells me He is the Light of the World.  He illuminates things in my life, that I didn't even know were there.  Thank You for being the Light in my life, Lord Jesus.  Help me to make you the Treasure of my heart.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Today's passage:  John 7
     When I was a kid, math was probably my least favorite subject, mostly because of dreaded story problems.  I think I did not develop reasoning skills until much later in life, because a story problem would cause a duh moment every time.  Now, one of my favorite puzzles to do is logic problems.  They are challenging and I like to unravel who did what.  I'm still not a big mystery lover, but I do like to discover how things work.  I guess my reasoning skills finally kicked in.
     Chapter 7 seems to me like a logic problem.  In this chapter, groups of people are trying to determine who Jesus is.  At the beginning of the chapter, it is Jesus' own brothers who are questioning Him.  They can't understand why He will not be more public about His ministry.  They don't understand why He is not going with them to the Feast of Tabernacles.  I imagine this is because they have always gone as a family in the past.  Can you imagine what upheaval Jesus has caused in His own family?  Can you imagine being one of His brothers and the backlash you would receive from living in this town?  The perfect brother you grew up with suddenly decides to leave the carpentry shop, leave you with the responsibilities and travel like a nomad?  Can you hear the gossip about this brother, and not knowing whether you should defend Him (He is your brother, of course) or shake your head and join in the mockery?  It is understandable they would not truly be able to see who Jesus is because He is family.  How do you prepare Your brothers that they have been living with God all this time?  They want to have faith in Him, but they tell Him if He is real, He shouldn't be hiding in the shadows, He should be proclaiming Himself.  Jesus explains to them it is easy for them to say that, they have a lifetime ahead of them.  He doesn't.  Of course, they don't understand this either.
     After the rest of the family has departed for Jerusalem, Jesus also goes, but quietly and without notice.  But Jesus never really goes anywhere unnoticed now.  People at the feast, of course, recognize Him.  There is a lot of debate among the people as to who Jesus is.  Many of them believe in Him and say that another could not do all that He has done.  Others think He is a good man, and others think He is a fake.  Among those being the Pharisees.  They argue He is only from Galilee and therefore, cannot be the Messiah, because the Messiah comes from Bethlehem.  Why doesn't Jesus tell them where He was born?  He could have put that all to rest if He had just told them about His birth, but He doesn't.  He must have a reason.  It's a puzzle I want to solve, but not all puzzles can be solved right away.  I'm going to have to let that one simmer for a while and come back to it. 
     Jesus tells the Pharisees that they had a problem with Him healing on the Sabbath, but they have no problem performing a circumcision on the Sabbath.  Why is that not breaking the Sabbath laws?  He says, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.They were assigning certain rules to Him and then others to themselves.  The Pharisees prided themselves about always following the Law, but the truth was, they only followed the parts of the Law that were convenient for them, ignored their mistakes, but made certain to point out other's flaws.  The Pharisees are so infuriated with Jesus' claims, that they call in officers to arrest Him.  Now, the Jews were always hesitant to have matters handled outside their own people, and I'm assuming that the officers referred to here are Roman.  So, Jesus has really gotten under the Pharisees' skin for them to take this step.  They can see the people believing He is the Messiah, right and left, and they are afraid that they will lose their power.  The officers are even hesitant to take Jesus in, because His Words are not like anyone else's.  The Pharisees are irritated that even the officials seem to have been duped, but do not force the matter.
     Then Nicodemus pipes up, Nicodemus, the secret believer, the Pharisee who came to see Jesus by night, to really gather the truth about this Man.  Nicodemus reminds the Pharisees that they have never condemned someone without a trial first.  Why are these men so hasty to do away with their own procedures?  In the past, when a pseudo-Messiah surfaced, they seem to have always followed the same protocol.  With Jesus, they are throwing all reasonable measures out the window.  Why?  They obviously have never had someone as convincing as Jesus make these claims before.  People in every province are believing the miracles, are convinced of His words.  They are finding it hard to discredit Him.  Every time they try to trip Him up, they fail.  Every question they ask to cause Him to stumble is answered rationally.  What more can they do to convince the people that He is not the One they think He is?  They refuse to believe, because they are embarrassed that they have been wrong all this time.  They cannot admit to this.  Isn't that always the problem with unbelievers?  When people don't want to believe, it is not usually because they don't think the other person is right, it is because they don't want to admit they were wrong.  To become a believer in Christ, that has to be the first step. 
     The Pharisees would never admit that they were sinners, we see that on many occasions in the gospels when they sneer and snarl at publicans and others Jesus associates with.  If this Teacher was so great, He would want to associate with them.  They were the religious elite.  He should want their approval.  I don't know how many fake Messiahs had tried to get in good with the Pharisees, maybe all of them, after all, winning them over would be one step closer to convincing the people.  If you could convince the Pharisees, the most visibly religious men of the faith, then the people would believe.  Or would they?  You see, people were believing in Jesus when Jesus made no attempts to woo them.  This signaled something infinitely more dangerous.  They were losing their influence among the people.  If they hadn't put their stamp of approval on this Man, and He didn't seem to need it, the people were not as enamoured of Pharisaical influence as before.  This is why they feel the need to get rid of Jesus at all costs.  This is why they are even willing to get the Roman government involved.  They will not open their eyes, and they don't want any more eyes to be opened.
     I have to say that there are some puzzles I never solve.  Sometimes, I have to set one down, walk away from it for a few days and then come back to it with fresh eyes.  There are mysteries in God's Word, that I may never understand this side of eternity.  Good thing I can keep coming back to God's Word, and look at it with fresh eyes each day.  Maybe why Jesus does not announce his birthplace will always remain a puzzle to me, or maybe God just wants me to think about it for a little while longer.  I know this, someday, I will know the answer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Becoming Judas

Today's passage:  John 6: 52-71
     "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?  He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon:  for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve."
     I tend to be very naive.  I think living in the city has definitely helped me be less so, but there are many times that God thumps me with something that I did not see coming at all.  I try to be aware, I try to be on the lookout, but I can't always dodge and duck before getting smacked in the face.  I wonder sometimes if I am too trusting of people.  I have always been a person who gives someone the benefit of the doubt (maybe to the extreme).  I know we are all sinners, but I just want to believe the best about people.  I have a hard time believing the worst until I have no choice.  This must be the reason God gave me a policeman husband who only sees the worst in humanity and has to give me a healthy dose of it now and then.  I've certainly learned to trust his instincts.  Am I living in my own little la-la land?  I don't think of myself as flighty or clueless.  Gullible, yes, but not an airhead.
     I wonder this because if I were one of the disciples, I would assume that everyone would be there because they would want to follow this God Man.  I would assume that everyone would pitch in and help, do the right thing, support Him as best they knew how.  I would be absolutely stunned when Jesus pointed out there was a traitor among us.  I would be stunned, hurt, disappointed, angry.  Why would someone be like that?  Why would someone hurt our Lord?  Even if he didn't believe he was God, this person should at least do what was asked of him or leave the group.  I don't understand why Jesus would choose someone He knew would betray Him.  I have always wondered why God's plan included Judas.  Jesus never had to make him one of the twelve.  He could have easily chosen someone who had the right heart.  Maybe Jesus was trying to teach us something even in this.  Maybe He was trying to show us that there will always be traitors among us,  people who try to sabotage everything good taking place.
Judas Iscariot offers to betray Jesus to the Jewish Leaders--Taken from The Children's Friend (Part 5)
By Mrs. Adelaide Bee Evans
Review and Herald Publishing Company 1911, 1928
     Nobody sets out to be a Judas.  Judas didn't set out to be a Judas.  It started with a grumble here, a complaint there.  But he didn't join this group thinking to himself, "I'm going to betray Jesus someday."  Traitors rarely look at themselves in that light.  In Christian circles, they often think they are helping.  This is what God led me to do.  Baloney!  (And yes, I know that is not how the word is spelled).  God never leads us to try to make things better by bringing people down.  That is never God's way.  Remember how upset Judas was with the woman who broke her alabaster box and poured it on Jesus' feet?  Why was he so upset?  He felt that if that box had been given to their treasury it would be a much better use for it.  Jesus says no, let her be.  What upset Judas the most?  The money?  Maybe.  The woman's devotion?  Perhaps.  I think that Judas became a victim to his pride.  Jesus did not listen to his recommendation, Jesus did not take his suggestion.  That is what started to eat away at Judas.  He felt disregarded.  Why do we get so offended when others don't do things our way?  Why do we get so frustrated with people when they don't take our advice?  Is it so much because we wanted to help them, or is it more because we want the credit for helping them?  Pride is such a tricky monster.  He finds every crevice in our lives to sneak in. 
     There will be people who read this today, thinking that I intentionally decided to post about this.  I can promise you I did not.  I have been in John chapter 6 for the last three days, and it is a long chapter.  I've had to break it up, and these are the last verses of chapter 6.  I never post to help someone else learn something, although I'm glad if people do.  I always post with the intention of what am I supposed to learn today, Lord?  Am I immune from being a Judas?  None of us are.  If I always see a way to do things better, and get upset when my way is not chosen each time, I can easily become traitorous.  If I grumble and complain not only about the problems, but about why my advice wasn't listened to,  I can find myself wanting to force people to listen.  I'm always surprised to be confronted with a Judas. I just pray that I don't turn around and find someday it is me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Today's passage:  John 6:22-53
     I think that Tiberius, Capernaum and many of the little sea towns along the sea of Galilee were going through lean times.  Shortly after Jesus fed the five thousand plus gathered that day, the gospels tell us that Jesus sent the crowd home, he went up into a mountain to pray (it was evening before he emerged again) and sends his disciples towards Capernaum by ship.  By evening, the disciples are still struggling against the brewing storm to arrive at their destination.  The gospels tell us in varying detail, how Christ walks on the water (Peter walks too) to the ship and delivers the ship safely to the shore on the other side.  The following day, I guess the people in Tiberias were expecting another miracle because even though they were aware that the disciples had left, they seem to expect Jesus to still be there, since he had stayed behind the day before.  When they discover He also has departed, they board ships and follow Him.  When they meet up with Him, Jesus tells them the only reason they want to see Him is so they can get food.  Before they went to Him for the miracles, now they went to Him because they were hungry.  Sea towns would be populated with fishermen.  Maybe there had not been many great catches that year.  Maybe the Roman government had pocketed the little these people were able to earn.  Whatever the reason, these people wanted another free meal.
     This chapter has often been called "The Bread of Life" discourse. The people want bread, He tells them about the Living Bread.  The people want to eat, He tells them about how they can be full.  I find it interesting that the people actually request Jesus to work a miracle, to prove He is who He says He is, the day after He had just worked one.  Had they not clearly seen the day before that He had fed an unbelievably large crowd with five loaves of bread and two fishes?  I'm wondering about the very back of the crowd.  Maybe they hadn't been eyewitnesses, maybe they had just been told by the people up front what had taken place.  Could these be the people who wanted to witness a miracle with their own eyes, rather than having it relayed to them by the actual witnesses?  The bottom line was they just wanted to be fed.  They try to coax Him by comparing Him to Moses who gave the people manna, bread from Heaven.  It seems they think that if they let Jesus know they believe He is in a league with the likes of Moses, He might be flattered enough to show them what He can do.  Jesus debunks this attempt right away.  He makes it clear that Moses did not give them bread from heaven.  I smile a little bit when later in the passage Jesus tells them, "Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead."  The manna they ate did not give them everlasting life.  If that were the case, they would have been clamoring for bread with the rest of this crowd. 
     The people seem almost desperate in their desire to see Jesus provide another meal.  Jesus does not comply.  He will meet all of our needs, but He is not a food cart.  He doesn't call out like a vendor at the ballpark, "Popcorn, get your fresh, hot popcorn".  He doesn't wend His way through a crowd like a waiter and ask "What can I get you today?  Were you satisfied with your meal?  Would you like dessert?"  I think sometimes we forget who God really is. Sometimes I do not give Him the awe and reverence He deserves, because He is a personal God.  He wants that close relationship to me, but I shouldn't treat Him like the kid in the candy store.  "I want that, and I want this, and go ahead and throw that into the cart."  God wants me to ask Him for things.  He wants me to go to Him with my needs, He wants me to take advantage of Him, but not in a spoiled-brat-you'll-do-it-because-you-love-me sort of way. 
     The real lesson Jesus is teaching these people is that the reason they are here today is that they feel hunger again.  Why?  Because the bread they were given the day before wouldn't last them.  It was only temporary, it would fill their bellies for a few hours and they would be hungry again.  Those hunger pangs they were feeling right now was because they needed something more filling.  They needed bread that would last.  Even the wilderness manna only lasted for a day.  Jesus does not feed the crowd again, because He wants them to be hungry for Him.  He wants their growling stomachs to remind them that a few loaves and fishes will only last them for one meal.  The Bread he gives will last for eternity.  I can donate to the poor, I can give money to a homeless man on the street, I can even buy a meal for a beggar, but if I neglect to give them God's Word with all that, what have I actually done?  I have filled their belly for a few hours.  People need something more substantial.  People need to be given the Bread of Life.  People need to eat a meal that will fill them forever.  Am I doing all that I can to feed those that are hungry?  Or am I giving them a few fish and loaves to last them only today?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anticipating Andrew, Pessimistic Philip

Today's passage:  John 6:1-27
     "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."  Ephesians 3:20-21
     God must have really wanted us to learn something from the feeding of the five thousand.  He wants us to learn something from everything He has put in His Word, but this is one of the miracles that appears in all four gospels.  Since this is one of the few that carries that distinction, I'm thinking that there is something particular that He wants us to know. 
     I think God shows us two types of people in this passage.  Most of us fall into one of these two categories.  Sometimes in life, we are one, then the other.  Sometimes we waver in between.  The disciples are faced with a crowd (probably bigger than any gathered up to this point) of tired and hungry people.  They had gathered on a hillside not so much to hear Jesus preach, but to see Him perform miracles.  The passage says that it is near Passover time, so I can guess that the weather was already warm.  Maybe the breeze blowing off the sea of Galilee was a help, but with so many people in close proximity, it would have been perfect fainting weather.  Even if there had been a market close by (and what an opportunity for a food vendor) how would they ever transport enough food to this large crowd?
     Jesus asks Philip what they should do about this problem?  Philip says that even if they worked two hundred days, that would not be enough money to purchase food for all these people.  Ever meet a Philip?  A that-can't-be-done, nothing-will-work, might-as-well-give-up Philip?  I'm sure you have, because to be truthful, I think we have all been Philips from time to time.  I know I have.  Philip could only see the problems, he couldn't see the solutions.  He could not see the Solution Giver.  Philips do not have enough faith to get the task done. A Philip does not trust himself on the task, and he rarely trusts anyone else.
     Then there is Andrew.  Andrew sees the problem and he comes up with a solution.  He is hesitant about presenting this solution because how can it help, but it is a solution all the same.  Ever meet an Andrew?  A get-it-done, that-might-work, go-to-it Andrew?  I have.  People enjoy being around Andrews.  Except for the pessimist who is always bothered with Andrew's silver lining, rose-colored glasses view of the world.  His sunny disposition grates on a Philip's nerves.  Andrew did not know he had a solution to a problem, he just trusted Jesus with the solution he presents.  Andrews have faith in people.  An Andrew trusts himself as well as other people.  I wish I was more like Andrew.  I try to be like Andrew.  I want to have faith.  I want to believe.  I want to anticipate the great things God can do in my life.

The Disciples Distributed the Loaves and Fish--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Two
By Lillie A. Faris,  Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
      I think there is a further lesson in this passage.  Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fishes and the disciples have distributed this food (can you imagine how long that must have taken?)  After everyone has had his fill, Jesus has the disciples collect up any leftovers (the disciples would have been worn out after this day, but God's work can be exhausting).  Jesus says, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost."  This is the only account of this miracle that records these words.  The obvious lesson is that God wants us to be good stewards, He does not want us to be wasteful.  But there is so much more in these words.  When the disciples collect all the remaining food, it is enough to fill twelve baskets.  Now I don't know how big the baskets were, but even if they were small baskets, that is quite a lot of food left over.  God will always give us more than we need.  When we place our faith and trust in Him (as Andrew did) He will never disappoint us.  He will equip us to overflowing.  He will furnish us with more than we asked for.  The verse I quoted in Ephesians uses words such as abundant and exceeding.  I picture a Thanksgiving cornucopia spilling out with food.  God gives us so much more than we ask.  When we come to Him for salvation, He not only gives us eternal life, but He gives us the Holy Spirit to work in us, He gives us joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit (a fruit basket, you might say), He gives us His power, He gives us His grace, mercy, forgiveness.  He is so good to me.  How can I ever be a Philip when I have such a powerful God?  How can I ever be pessimistic when He has shown me all that He can do? 
     Lord, help me to be like Andrew every day.  I have no idea what problems I may face, but they are never bigger than You.  Help me to look for solutions, not because I can solve the problems, but because I know You can.  Help me to never forget what You can do, through me, and for me.  Help me to remember that You will never meet my expectations, but exceed them every time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Changing the Rules

Today's passage:  John 5
     I try to see the Pharisee's viewpoint when I read the gospels.  If I don't, they frustrate me, as they must have frustrated our Lord.  If I don't, I too often shake my head, say "tsk, tsk" and wonder if they will ever get it right.  If I fail to see things from their side, I might miss out on something God wants to teach me, because I have certainly had times of self-righteousness, of holier-than-thou moments.  Something in this passage does make me wonder though. 
     Jesus heals this man who has had an infirmity for 38 years.  That is almost as long as I have been alive.  It would be difficult to live with an illness for that long.  This man goes to the pool of Bethesda, where John tells us on certain occasions an angel touches the waters of the pool, and the first person in is cured of his sickness.  Even more frustrating for this man, is that every time the water does move, he can't get into it in time without assistance before someone else has taken up the healing powers.  Can you imagine sitting day after day waiting for your miracle, and just missing it every time?  This man obviously has great faith.  Jesus heals him.  He simply says, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."
Jesus Heals a Man by the Pool of Bethseda--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Two
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
 Later Jesus finds this man in the Temple, I'm guessing he went there to praise God for this miracle in his life (which is what we should all do when God answers our prayers).  On the way, maybe to the Temple, maybe to show friends and family, he runs into the Pharisees.  Apparently, they were familiar with this man, because they see he has been cured from his illness.  Because it is the Sabbath, they want to know who dared heal him on the holy day.  The man cannot answer, because Jesus was thronged with a crowd after He helped him.  I imagine the people waiting to get into the water saw no need to wait for its stirring once they saw Jesus' healing abilities.  The Pharisees are determined to find out who had done this thing.  Now here is my question.  If this man had come from the direction of the pool, why didn't they just assume he had been healed by the waters?  Why did they immediately assume someone had healed him (and I'm guessing they knew it was Jesus but they wanted a verbal witness to testify to that fact)?  If it had been the angel who had touched the waters, would they then accuse the angel of breaking the Sabbath?  Why do they not apply the same rules all the way around?  These are the things that baffle me about the Pharisees.  I'm guessing that if the angel of the pool was of God, the waters were stirred on the Sabbath day as well.  God did not make the rules about not being able to heal on the Sabbath, those were the Pharisees' rules that they passed off as God's. 
     This just shows me that the Pharisees were determined to prove Jesus was a fake and a liar.  Why?  Because they did not want to change their way of thinking.  They didn't want to believe that all these rules and regulations they had carefully designed were all for nought.  They did not want anyone else, who had not carefully studied and practiced, to be able to achieve the status they had.  It would be very easy to ponder at the Pharisees' foolishness and not see how this could apply to me.  But there are plenty of times I don't want to change my way of thinking.  There are plenty of times I want to argue with God and say, "But I have always done it this way", to which God says, "And now I'm telling you to do it this way."  Change is hard.  Change is disconcerting.  Change is uncomfortable.  For the Pharisees, their biggest problem was they did not want to change, and there are plenty of areas in my life I don't want to either.  I've always considered myself a flexible person, a person who embraces change, but I see more and more, that how I see me, isn't how God sees me.  God gives me responsibilities that I don't want.  What am I going to do?  Complain, complain, complain, or do the best with what God has given me to do?  God wants me to let go of my perfectionism.  This is a hard one for me because doesn't God want my best?  What I am learning is that what I think is my best, and what He thinks is my best is not the same.  I want to iron my sheets before I put them on my bed, I want to edit my words a thousand times before I post, I want to linger in every aisle in the store to get the best deal.  God tells me this is not necessary.  But Lord, ironed sheets look so nice and clean and neat.  But God, I don't want my writing to sound sloppy and thrown together.  But Jesus, I'm just trying to be a good steward of the money You've given me.  No, God says, what happens is those beds don't get made as often because you are too consumed on ironing sheets that will be wrinkled as soon as you lay on them, that devotion is taking far longer than it needs to and taking up valuable prayer time because you have to review your words a million times, the time and energy you spend trying to find the perfect deal is time you should be spending with your husband and kids. 
     I have issues with change too.  I have issues with trying to be perfect, just like the Pharisees did.  I need to remember who is in charge of the Sabbath.  He is.  I need to try and live by His rules, and not make up my own.  Otherwise, just like the Pharisees, I may miss the blessings while trying to prove that I am right.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Not Too Tired

Today's passage:  John 4
     Sometimes my kids wear me out.  Having three energetic boys can drain me.  Do boys always want to be wrestling and roughhousing?  It seems in my house they do.  I love them dearly, but there are days when bedtime does not come soon enough.  Again, not because I lack love for them, but emotionally, physically, mentally, its exhausting!
     Jesus was God, but He was also man.  How He can be both at the same time, fully God and fully human is beyond my comprehension.  The beginning of chapter 4 shows a little of his humanity.  He had been preaching, his disciples had been baptizing, He had developed a following.  The Pharisees were already nervous about crazy wild man John the Baptist, but it seemed that even more people were starting to follow this miracle worker.  This made them even more nervous.  Can you see them trailing Jesus everywhere He went, so they could report back to the others everything He did?  It was like they were now secret agents.  Jesus decided to give them the slip.  He had another very important reason to go through Samaria on his way to Galilee, but might He not have wanted to lose the Pharisees?  He knew they would not step foot in that province.  He knew they were too proud to mingle with those Samaritans. 
     In verse 6 it says "Now Jacob's well was there.  Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well:  and it was the sixth hour."  Might He not have also been wearied by the Pharisees' unbelief, by their constant questions, by their overwhelming desire to see Him fail?  Not because He couldn't handle it, not because He didn't already know this is how they would respond, just because it was tiring.  Maybe from a human standpoint, Jesus just needed a break.  Notice that the disciples are not with Him when He arrives at this well, they were getting food.  So it is just Jesus. Many times in the gospels, Jesus goes off by Himself for a time.  Many of those times He prayed, He communed with God, He gained renewed strength.  Might this be another of those times?  Then a Samaritan woman comes to get her water for the day.  She is by herself.  I've read and learned that usually the women would go out together to collect the water.  Why is she going at an unusual time?  Why is she going when nobody else is there?  She does not seem to be the most popular woman in this town, which is really something considering the history of the Samaritans.  Second Kings 17 gives a little history about these people.  The king of Assyria had purposely planted captives from all the different countries he had conquered into this small province.  Different countries meant different belief systems, and none of them followed Jehovah God.  Many even believed in burning their children as sacrifices.  It was so bad, that God sent lions into the country to devour the heathens.  Complaints were sent to the Assyrian king who then allows them to be schooled by one of the captive Jewish priests.  They actually take a class on how to appease this God of the land.  After class, however, they continue in their pagan practices.  Jews marry with them and the Samaritan race is born.  It is not hard to see why the Jews wanted nothing to do with these people.  It is easy to see why the Pharisees would wait for Jesus to come out on the other side.  But even among these people, this Samaritan woman is shunned.  She does not draw water when all the other women do.  What had she done?  Later in the passage, Jesus reveals that she has been married five times and is now living with a man to who she is not married.  Apparently, in Samaria it was okay to marry Gentiles, but never more than once. 
     I'm thinking that even in our day, someone married five times is a lot.  I've met people who have been married two, sometimes three times.  I'm not sure I've ever met someone who walked down the aisle five times.  Why is this such a problem for them?  I'm not exactly sure.  At some point in their history, they return somewhat to worshipping Jehovah God.  When Ezra and Nehemiah return to rebuild the city walls and reconstruct the Temple, the Samaritans are not allowed to participate.  Being refused causes them to develop their own brand of worship.  They determine that only the first five books of Moses, the Torah, are the only Scriptures, they decide that Mount Gerizim in Samaria is the only true place of worship.  It is because of the Jews hatred of them, that they design their own practices.  If this is the case, Moses had a lot to say about marriage and remarriage.  It is still highly debated today.  The Samaritan woman would have broken the most sacred of laws according to the Samaritans.  She would have been an outcast.  Is it no wonder she is surprised that this Jewish man has asked her for something?  Her own people would not have dealings with her, let alone a Jewish rabbi.  Yet, Jesus shows her kindness and compassion.  He is not too tired to talk to her about her need.  When He tells her He already knows about her past, and does not seem repulsed by it, she is surprised.  When He doesn't reprimand her for no longer worshipping in the Temple at Jerusalem, she is disarmed.  She becomes interested in His message.  She begins to believe His Words.  She becomes a witness.  And who does she find to tell?  The men.  The women here had made it clear they wanted nothing to do with her.  They had ignored her, judged her, isolated her, ostracized her. 
     I think women particularly can be catty, harsh and unforgiving. If I want people to hear my message, sometimes I need to be accepting (not condoning) of who a person is, so they can become the person God wants them to be.  If I do not love people with all of their shortcomings (because don't I have my own?) then they may not hear my message about the One who can help them with those.  I'm so glad God did not point out to me every sin in my life the moment I came to Him.  He did point some out, and pointed out the fact that I was born a sinner, but if he had shown me everything that was wrong with me when I was newly saved, I'm not sure I could have handled it. I'm so glad God knew that.
     I guess being tired can be a good thing in my life.  It was a good thing for the Samaritan woman that Jesus was tired that day.  She found Someone who could love her for who she was, and transform her into the person she wanted to be.  Even in Christ's weariness, He reached out to someone who needed Him.  Help me today to not ever be too tired to care about other's souls.  Help me to always be on the lookout for someone who needs You, Lord.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Today's passage:  John 3
     My husband (he will probably read this today of all days) has a tendency to change subjects quickly and without warning in a conversation.  We could be talking about Cubs baseball and then without any transitions he might be talking about his latest ride.  We laugh about it because too many times I'm answering a question I think is from the previous subject and he is asking a question from the new subject that he hasn't introduced. It makes for interesting communication sometimes.
     As I'm reading the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus, I'm wondering why Jesus started talking about being born again?  Nicodemus admits that he believes Jesus must be a teacher from God, but he doesn't ask a question.  Jesus then says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee.  Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God".  Most of the time in the gospels, I see Jesus being asked a question, which he answers.  In this case, Jesus introduces the topic, without a question.  Either part of the conversation is missing (which must not be important or God would have let us in on it) or Jesus jumps to the heart of what is bothering Nicodemus.  Jesus answers the question Nicodemus does not ask, but is probably on his heart. 
     Nicodemus had come there at night.  He was a Pharisee, and that group had already voiced their opposition to this man called Jesus.  It is understandable why Nicodemus did not want to be seen with Christ.  Yet, Nicodemus must have something burning inside him, because he wants to know about this man.  What he has seen and heard from Jesus has challenged him to believe that this is not a pseudo-Messiah.  He believes there is something genuine about this teacher and he wants to find out more.
     Jesus does not really acknowledge the compliment Nicodemus pays him.  Too often, the Pharisees used flattery to disarm someone, and then dove in with a complicated question.  I'm not sure if that is Nicodemus' intent.  It could be, it is interesting that he says "we know that thou art a teacher come from God".  Who is the we in this statement?  The Pharisees?  They did not believe that Jesus was from God.  They were determined to prove otherwise.  Jesus moves right past this statement and shows Nicodemus he has a problem.  Nicodemus was living a life based on what he did.  The Pharisees were sticklers about keeping the Law.  He could do this, he could not do that.  He could go here, he could not go there.  It was all about following the rules.  The heart was not involved.  And when someone followed all these rules, they earned a spot in Heaven.  Jesus shatters Nicodemus' view on what it takes to reach God.  In one statement He tells Nicodemus that all this stuff he is doing is futile.  He tells Nicodemus that it is not what he does, it is who he must be.  He must be born again.  Jesus looks right into Nicodemus' heart, He sees that Nicodemus believes he is right with God, but feels something is missing.  Jesus answers the question to the subject Nicodemus has not yet introduced.  This flusters Nicodemus at first, and confuses him, because he asks the question, "How can a man be born when he is old?  can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"  Notice again how Nicodemus focuses on what he must do.  What can he do to be born again?  He knows he can't climb back into his mother's belly, but there must be some way he can accomplish this impossible task.  What can he do to be born again?  Jesus explains that is not something you do, it is something you are.  The most quoted and beautiful verse in the Bible, answers all his questions.  John 3:16.  It is not about works, it is about belief.  Would Nicodemus believe?  John 3 does not really tell us.  Later, at Jesus' death, we find that Nicodemus did become a believer.  He finally understood that it was not what he did, but who he was.  In the end, he was a follower of Christ. 
     "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Perfect Timing

Today's passage:  John 2
     Early on in Christ's ministry, He was a bit secretive.  He did miracles, but did not proclaim who He was.  He performed the miracle at Cana, turning water into wine, but only a select few knew He had done this.  The governor did not know, I'm not even sure the groom himself knew.  The servants who had drawn the water knew.  The disciples knew.  Mary, His mother, knew.  I'm guessing that in the coming days, everyone would soon find out. The servants would have told their wives.  The wives would have told friends.  The servants undoubtedly told the wedding party at some point.  But why didn't Jesus spread the news right then?
Jesus Turning Water into Wine--Taken from The Children's Friend
By Mrs. Adelaide Bee Evans
Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1911, 1928
     After Jesus cleans out the Temple, he performs other miracles in Jerusalem.  But He still does not tell them He is the Son of God.  "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men.  And needed not that any should testify of man:  for he knew what was in man."  These are the last two verses of chapter two.  God had a very precise timeline.  Because He knows us, and knows what is in our hearts, He knew when to reveal Himself to us. Perhaps He was allowing the Holy Spirit to work, to challenge minds and open hearts, before He made His announcement.  Perhaps He was easing the people into the idea that God was again dealing with them.  God had not dealt directly with his people for hundreds of years.  Why is there such a gap between the Old and New Testaments?  Maybe because God had quit working with His people for a while.  We have a lot of historical information to fill in that gap in time, but nothing that God wanted us to know from His part.  It is a silent four hundred years. 
     It may not sound like a long period of time, but if you think about four hundred years from 2011, the United States would not even be a country for another 200 years.  What was happening in the early 17th century?  The King James Bible had just been written.  Europe was entrenched in expansionism starting colonies (Jamestown, Quebec, Plymouth) in the New World.  Galileo was making discoveries.  The Taj Mahal was being completed.  Our world has changed so much in that time.  Wouldn't the world have changed quite a lot between Malachi and Matthew?  Mindsets would have been remarkably different.  Jesus could have started His ministry and said, "Here I am!  I'm the Son of God!"  He knows us better than that.  He knew that during much of this time, there had been many who presented themselves as the Messiah.  He knew that during this time, false prophets would even perform semi-convincing miracles.  He knew that there would be skepticism and disdain for someone to claim He was God's Son.  He knows us so well! His timing is perfect.
     I think sometimes I second-guess myself.  Sometimes I say, "Oh, if only I did that sooner" or "I should have planned for that already."  God never says those things.  He always knows exactly when and what to do.  He never slips up and thinks, "I meant for that to happen earlier," or "I was a little late on that one".  I can't understand why His timing is what it is.  But that is because I can't see into hearts, He can.  He knows when our hearts and minds are ready to receive Him.  He knows the precise moment He needs to work something in my life.  He knows when to bring a new life in the world, He knows when to take an old life out of this world.  He knows when to let the doctor discover the horrid disease lurking in someone's body.  He knows when to allow a car accident (we call them accidents, but they aren't to God).  All of these things, God knows and plans, because he knows "what is in man". 
     Father God, help me not to forget that You have everything under control.  You know everything about me and everything about those around me.  You know exactly what to bring into my life and the lives of others so that we may recognize Your Sovereignty.  Help me not to question Your timeline of events, because You make no mistakes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Name Calling

Today's passage:  John 1
     I remember researching very carefully the meaning of the names I would give to my children when they were born. If I didn't like the meaning of a name, even if I liked the name itself, I reconsidered.  I remember weighing girl's names (before I found out I would be having all boys) and loving the name Lorelai.  The name means destruction.  As much as the name appealed to me, I couldn't get past the meaning, so it got tossed.  My second son's first and middle name are almost identical in meaning.  One means "warrior" and the other means "war-like". It might seem like I did this on purpose, but I really didn't. We just happened to really like the first name (in fact, it was the only name we could agree on) and the middle name was after his father. Though those name meanings may seem like I'm raising a boxer (and if you know my second son, this very well may be the case) I pray that he will be a warrior for God.  For my third son, I neglected to do the research.  We had such a difficult time choosing his name, that as soon as I found one I liked, I settled on it without thinking about looking up the meaning.  It wasn't until after he was born that I found out the meaning, and was relieved because not only did it sound delightful, but it seemed to suit him perfectly.  His name means, "Manly" and "Great and Bright".
     There are a lot of names thrown around in this first chapter of John, and I think they are important because they really give us a good idea of who Jesus really was, and who people thought He was.  God refers to Him as the Word and the Light.   He is the Word because He was at the very beginning of Creation, and He was even before that.  It was His Word that spoke the universe into existence.  When He came to earth, it was His Word that told people the way to Heaven.  God sent His Son to be heard.   Sound can travel faster than the speed of light.  A thunderstorm this morning reminds me that I often hear the thunder seconds before I see the lightning.  Jesus was also the Light.  He was sent to be seen.  He was sent to Light up this dark world.  In case, people had not heard Him, they would see Him. 
     John the Baptist calls Jesus by two names, the Son of God and the Lamb of God.  This tells us who Jesus belongs to, and what Jesus came to do.  He belonged to God the Father, and He came to sacrifice Himself, by God's design.  I also think that Lamb of God, and I don't mean this at all irreverently, speaks of Jesus being God's pet, His favorite, as in "Come sit with me, my pet (my love)."  These names show me who Jesus really is.  But there are other names given to Jesus in this passage.  Names given by men.
     Andrew had been following John the Baptist but is redirected to Jesus.  When he encounters Him for the first time, he calls Him "Rabbi".  This word was given to many teachers of the time.  The word is still in use today in the Jewish faith.  Andrew was not completely sure who Jesus was, but he wanted to be respectful.  After he visits with Jesus for a few hours, he must come to a different conclusion.  (A brief aside here--What a soulwinner Andrew was!  The passage says that Andrew "first findeth his own brother", which leads me to believe that he must have found someone second and third, in other words, he was telling everyone he could find about Christ.  Also, he goes out to get Peter and brings him to Jesus.  Too many times, we wait for people to come to us, but true soulwinning is bringing them to Him.  Okay, aside over.)  By the time Andrew tells Peter about Jesus, his name for Jesus has changed.  Now He is not just Rabbi, but the Messiah.  Spending time with Jesus can really change our view of Him, and it certainly did in Andrew's case.
     When Philip tells Nathanael about Jesus, he refers to Him as Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.  He tells Nathanael about Christ's earthly credentials.  As Nathanael goes to meet Jesus, after Jesus proves He already knows who He is, Nathanael calls Him by three names.  This is not a progression.  Nathanael reveals who he thinks Christ is by the names he calls Him.  He first calls Him "Rabbi".  Besides meaning "teacher", it can also mean "master".  Nathanael is being respectful and giving Jesus a proper earthly title.  Then he calls Him the Son of God.  He obviously realizes that there is something divine about Him since He was able to identify who he was.  Then he falters a little and calls Jesus, "King of Israel".  He can only see what the Messiah was supposed to do here on earth, make Israel a kingdom again.  I can't fault him for this.  If I were a Jew living at the time, I would have the same mindset.  Many Jews, at that time, and even today, could not see that Jesus would have His time to rule, but His first coming was not that time.  For now, He would be the Lamb of God, the sacrifice.  He would be the Light to show people the path to Heaven.  He would be the Word, the One who could tell people why He came to die.
     Names are indeed important. Sometimes they are self-fulfilling.  I hope mine will be (although I'm afraid I'm a long way off.)  Have I told you what it means?  Crowned Jewel.  Lord, I know you lived up to Your Name, help me to live up to mine.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Today's passage:  Nahum 3
     Fires are destructive.  Fires produce billows of smoke which signal to others something is wrong.  Fires can be so hot that people have to stand afar off, they have to stay away.  The brightness of the flames catches attention, the toxicity of the smoke fills the lungs.  Fires spread and spread, until they are eventually extinguished.
     Nearly fifty years before Nahum, Assyria had conquered Thebes, one of Egypt's most prominent cities.  God reminds Assyria of this conquest.  He reminds them how Thebes thought she could never be destroyed.  He reminds them how Thebes had all of Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya to aid her in fighting them, but to no avail.  The Assyrians were known to be unusually cruel in their methods when toppling other nations.  It is one of the reasons Jonah refused to go.  He was fearful and he was bitter about how the Ninevites had treated their captives (for those of us VeggieTale fans, it was far more than fish-slapping).  Now, God tells Assyria that she will fall victim to her own devices.  Nahum goes into great detail about how Assyria will fall.  He tells them explicitly and graphically what their future holds.  It is not pretty.  Obviously, the reason God pronounces judgement on them is because they refused to recognize Him as Jehovah God.  But does it go farther than that?     
    In verse 4 he says, "Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts."  Well, that is certainly a comparison.  What caused God to pour His wrath upon Assyria?  Her influence.  With every nation she had seized, she forced her polytheistic beliefs.  She required her captives to worship like her.  She spread her beliefs among the nations, sold them like, well, you just read what the verse says.  Assyria had not simply refused God, but she had caused others to turn from God as well.  The last verse of Nahum says, "There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous:  all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee:  for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?"  Her influence was so widespread, that the only way God would be able to stop it was to wipe her off the planet.  He would extinguish her flame.  Nahum says that she will be "laid waste", that she will be hid.  People would try to find the city of Nineveh and all they would find were sand dunes.  It wasn't just that she didn't worship Him, it was that she led others away from Him as well.
     God takes my testimony very seriously.  This has been ingrained in me for as long as I have been a Christian.  My influence can lead others to Him or lead others away from Him.  An atheist may not believe in God, but if he keeps that to himself, God can work with him and persuade him to accept Him.  When he starts spreading his lies, and convincing others that God is not real, then he is going to be in big trouble.  God put us here to be a witness.  I am either a bad witness, or a good one.  Not one of us will be a perfect witness, because none of us is perfect.  I make so many mistakes that I could write a book about them, make that several books.  God does not expect me to never make mistakes, but do I weigh my decisions before I proceed?  Do I think to myself, if I do this, go there, say that, watch this, am I affecting what people are going to think about Jesus?  Not what are they going to think about me, because that isn't really what is important.  What are they going to think about my God?  If Assyria, an ungodly nation, was judged for her influence, how much more will God judge me for mine?  If I, as a Christian, do not "abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:22) who might I be taking down with me?  If I do not consult the Lord about everything I do (yes, that seems burdensome, but its what God expects of me) and I do things that may not even be wrong, but questionable, shouldn't I just not do it?  I know, I know, now I'm getting into Christian liberty.  Well, the Bible doesn't say not to do this or do that.  Sure, there are a lot of things the Bible is vague about or doesn't talk about at all.  That isn't really the point.  If I am with other people, I need to be mindful of what I do or say because what I do makes a difference.
     We live in a dark, dark world.  God wants me to be a light.  My light can be dim, it can be bright, or it can be like a fireball, exploding and extinguishing.  What kind of light am I?  Am I like a fire, spreading toxins and destroying everything in my path, keeping everyone at a distance with my ungodly ways?  Will God have to extinguish my influence as He did Nineveh's?  Lord, help me to be mindful of everything I do, everything I say, everywhere I go, so that I will not be a hindrance to anyone.  Let my influence point people to You, and not away.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

History Lessons

Today's passage:  Nahum 2/Daniel 5
     "He shall recount his worthies:  they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.
     The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved."
     I chuckled a little when I read this.  Assyria is in serious trouble.  The king of Babylon (at this time Nabopolassar, the father of Daniel's Nebudchadnezzar) is defeating Nineveh.  Chariots battle in the streets, soldier's shields are blood stained, houses are looted.  It is a mess.  The king of Assyria (or more likely his general) needs to count how many troops he has left.  The ones still standing are barely so.  Many are dead, many have casualties too severe to continue to fight.  Why would any of this be funny?  It isn't.  I was not chuckling because of the subject matter, but because I was in disbelief at what I read next.  Nineveh had some strong walls.  They seemed impenetrable.  They were surrounded by water (think castle moat).  History and the verse above tells us that Nabopolassar channeled the water so that the moat surrounding the walls was drained and his soldiers could march into the city under the walls.  I know, what's funny about that?
     Remember the passage in Daniel with the writing upon the wall?  Belshazzar (Nebudchadnezzar's grandson) has a drunken feast with the temple utensils.  He pales when he sees a rather large unattached hand writing on his banquet room wall.  Daniel is called in to interpret the message.  He tells them that Belshazzar's reign has ended, that the Persians will conquer Babylon.  In fact, as Daniel is giving this message, Medo-Persian soldiers are battling outside.  And how did they manage to penetrate Nebudchadnezzar's famed walls surrounded by water?  They borrowed from Babylon's own Nabopolassar's brilliant military strategy.  They redirected the water which drained the moat so that they could march right in.  Babylon had not learned from Assyria's mistakes.  And what led to this?  As is almost always the case, pride and carelessness. 
     When I have an I'm-too-wise-to-fall-into-trouble attitude, I will almost always fall.  When others stumble and fall, I don't rejoice, but I do observe and try to sidestep those same pitfalls.  Am I too proud to learn from previous mistakes?  Am I too careless to observe?  I need to always be on guard, because Satan would like nothing more than to take me down..  Lord, help me guard the walls of my heart, so Satan has no opportunity to march under and defeat me.  Help me never to be so proud that I cannot still learn something, give me a teachable spirit.  Help me to never be so careless that I'm not on the lookout for Satan's attacks.  I do not want to repeat history, I want to learn from it.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Today's passage: Micah 2
     Why did God create Satan?  Why did he allow evil into the world?  He didn't have to.  He could have created Adam and Eve without a free will.  They could have lived in the Garden of Eden, sinlessly, enjoying perfection, having children who would not have murdered each other.  Sounds a bit like Heaven.  Why did He even create earth to begin with?  He has Heaven.  It is a perfect, beautiful place.  Why would he create a human race which mostly refuses to give Him the worship He deserves, which refuses to even recognize he is the Creator of the Universe?  It seems to me,  we are a nuisance. 
     In the beginning of this passage, Nahum warns against those who constantly devise evil. I hope I am not one of the people he is referring to, who spends every waking thought trying to get away with something, and encouraging others to do so too.  Why wouldn't God just get rid of those people?  Terrorist groups who want to blow everyone away in the name of their god, drug cartels who murder everyone in their paths to obtain illegal substances, organized crime groups who want to control establishments and streets.  These are the kinds of people I think about always devising evil.  Get rid of them, God.  Just do away with them. "Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil."
     I think perhaps our world has not completely gone to a computerized, robotic age, because it would be devoid of human emotion.  God says He made us in His image.  He wants us to feel something, because He feels too (although His emotion is perfect, unlike ours.)  But why free will?  Probably nothing gives me more joy than when my son does something out of pure love for me rather than being told to do it.  If I had to tell him to kiss me, to hug me, to pick me a flower and he did it cooperatively, without any attitude, it still would not hold the same meaning as when he takes the initiative to do these things himself.  When he chooses to show me his love, it means so much more.
      God loves us, but He wants us to choose to love Him.  He wants us to overcome the obstacles and choose Him.  He wants those who have made bad choices to make a change and show Him their love.  He wants every terrorist, every drug dealer, every gang member to put down their weapons and follow Him.  Without valleys, there would be no hills, without rain, there would be no sunshine.  Without evil, we could not recognize the good. Without imperfections, we would not notice perfection.  And God is perfection.  God created this sin-cursed earth with imperfect people so that we would recognize how gracious, how merciful, how perfect He really is.  We can appreciate the beauty and sinlessness of Heaven because we have spent time on an imperfect earth.  We can exchange filthy sin rags for garments of righteousness.  Every one of us has choices to make.  Evildoers made choices along the way that caused them to be on their current paths.  We all have the potential of choosing wickedness.  We all have it in us to be "devisers of evil".  It is only through choosing God's plan of salvation, His plan for growth, that we can be anything other than what we are.  He gave us free will so we can freely and willingly choose Him.
     Note:  On this particular day, I mistakenly thought I was in Nahum, and posted the whole passage as such.  I actually read from Micah 2 that day.  God never makes mistakes, even in what Scripture we read each day.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

No Guarantees

Today's passage:  Proverbs 22:6
   "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
   Lord, I'm wondering how this verse applies if You take them before they are old?  I'm asking this question today, because our church and school is mourning the loss of one of our teenagers.  I don't know all the details, but it was sudden and tragic.  I went to bed last night thinking about this young man, about how I'd seen him grow up.  I thought about summer day camps, he was one of our most energetic boys (that hadn't changed).  I thought about recently, when I didn't even know he could sing, and was delighted to discover he had a wonderful voice.  I recalled ribbing him on Saturday visitations about an inadvertent remark he had made about my not being cool.  I thought about how the kids loved to see him scale the school wall to retrieve playground balls from the school roof.  My heart is heavy.
     I'm thinking about his mother this morning. I'm thinking about the phone call she took that would have caused me to collapse to the floor.  I'm thinking about the news on the other end that would have caused me to crumple in tears.  I'm thinking, "But he's not old yet.  He's still in training."  I'm thinking that I don't know how long the Lord will allow me to have my children.  Might he take them before me?  What about all the plans I have for them?  What about all the things I still plan to do with them?  What if I am the one to get that call?  I tried to read from Nahum this morning, but my mind just kept going back to the verse in Proverbs.  I just kept wondering, "But Lord, what if You don't allow them to get old?"  I know His way is perfect, I know it is beyond my understanding.  I know that we are grieving but this teen is celebrating with God because he gave a testimony of salvation.  I know all that.  I'm just struggling with it all a little this morning.  Our pastor says that God gives you the grace you need, when you need it, and not before.   Father God,  give this mother Your grace today.  Give that family Your grace.  Overflow our church and school with it.  Lord, there are teenagers that do not understand what You are doing.  They are puzzled at this. I have to tell my little boy today.  Lord, You know how these young ones look up to our teenagers.  I'm not in charge, Lord, You are.  You allow me to question You when I don't understand.  Above all, Lord, if there are young people who are playing church, who don't really know You, let this be a wake up call that life on earth is not guaranteed, only eternal life is.  Let them make sure that it will be eternally with You.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sheep and a Prophet

Today's passage:  Nahum 1
     "And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown:  out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image:  I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.  Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!..."
     Nahum was a contemporary of Isaiah and was given the unenviable task of announcing the destruction of Assyria, particularly Nineveh.  The Capernaum of Galilee that is often written of in the New Testament is believed to be his hometown.  The name Capernaum means "village of Nahum".  His prophecy comes many years after Jonah had gone to that city and called for repentance.  As Jonah tells us, to his great disappointment, the Ninevites embrace his message, repent of their wickedness and God spares them.  This must not have lasted long, for now Nahum is commanded to give them a message of doom.  I decided to do a little background study on Nineveh and was surprised to find that when archaeological excavations took place in the mid-1800's, the archaeologists located two mounds in modern-day Iraq they believed to be ancient Nineveh.  One mound was named "Many Sheep" (not surprising since sheep-herding is still prevalent in those parts) and the other was named "The Prophet Jonah".  I have to say, this piqued my curiosity.  Assyria had been a mighty empire with many mighty warrior kings, and all that remained, centuries later, were piles of dirt named for their livelihood and for a prophet from afar.  Somehow, after it's demise, for these two things was the city remembered.
     What happened after Jonah's visit?  They repented.  They called on the Lord.  God knows the heart, and they must have been sincere or God would not have called off his judgement.  They must have been genuine or Jonah (who did not want to go in the first place) would not have been so upset they had repented.  Now, in Nahum, God promises to destroy Assyria.
     In the first verse of Nahum, he refers to it as the "burden of Nineveh".  His message was not going to be pleasant.  It was going to be a great weight that he would deliver.   Nahum poetically describes how the Lord's anger is kindled against Assyria. At the end of the chapter, in verses 14 and 15, God makes them a promise.  They will no longer exist and messengers will deliver this good news back to Israel. The beautiful feet are referring to the Israeli scouts who were waiting to deliver news to their king.  Would they have to surrender, or would they miraculously be delivered?  They had good, no great, news. Can I read just a little more into this though, now knowing what I know years later about Assyria?  Neither of the two archaeological mounds were named after any of the Assyrian rulers, which kind of fulfills the part of the verse that says no more of their name will be sown.  But one of the mounds was named after a prophet of Israel.  Did not Jonah have beautiful feet, did he not bring good tidings to Assyria?  I'm just wondering if there is a further meaning here.  God knew what the excavation of Nineveh would yield.  He kept His name going in a land that had once worshipped Him and then fell away.  He kept His name there, over all of the historical rulers, over all of the many gods they worshipped.  God prevailed.
     The United States has been a nation under God.  But we are falling away.  If we end up as a heap of dirt, what will be found under all the rubble?  My guess is that it won't be the names of any President. It won't be our technology.  My guess is that it will be a Bible.  God will prevail.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Patience, Pettiness, Persecution and Promises

Today's passage:  James 5
     I've mentioned before that I have been doing some gardening.  Last spring, when I planted my tomato plants, my then 2 year old son, was very excited about it.  He was anticipating those tomatoes arriving.  In fact, as soon as I put them in the ground, he sat right down next to them and waited for the tomatoes to appear.  He couldn't understand why they weren't producing as soon as I put them in the ground.
     I wish I had that same enthusiasm for Christ's return.  I believe He is coming back (some day), I'm excited about the prospect of being reunited with Him in the air (sometimes).   James tells believers to be patient.  This time the word doesn't bother me.  I'm not sure about you, but I don't always have the sense of urgency for Christ's return that I should.  If I did, I'm pretty sure I would live differently.
      In verse 7, James tells the Christians to wait like a farmer waits for his crops to grow.  He says to "stablish your hearts" which reminds me of a plant that is first put in the ground.  It's roots have to get used to the ground, the seed sown needs water and sunshine so that it can establish roots. Some years, when I first put a plant in the ground it looks pretty feeble.  Strong winds could blow it over.  But as it collects the sun rays and the rain, it steadily grows stronger, and it can withstand any storm.  What can I withstand?  
     In the following verses, James explains how to exhibit patience.  God tells me if I am to have patience, I need to stop begrudging fellow believers. Ugh. I think I know why.  What does it matter the trivial little things that others do to upset me?  We will be meeting our Lord in the sky, maybe even today, and the things of this earth are not going to matter anymore.  That beef I have with my brother or sister in Christ is not going to make the tiniest difference when I meet with my Lord, unless I have chosen to hang onto it.  Better let it go.
     In verses 10-11, he says to look to persecuted Christians for examples of patience.  If I were a Christian in Indonesia, Syria, or other parts of the Middle East and Africa, I would not even be able to carry my Bible.  I would not be able to attend church publicly.  I heard once that in China (this was years ago, I don't know how it is today) the believers there only mouthed the words to hymns, no music, because they could not be caught singing praises to the Lord for fear of imprisonment or death.  They understood the importance of singing praises to the Lord, even when they could not sing aloud.  When I think about these things, how do I have the right to grumble and complain about ANY thing?  I don't.  I am so selfish.  I am so ungrateful.  James says to remember these, because in doing so, I can be patient with people and circumstances. 
     Then he says, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay: lest ye fall into condemnation."  Don't make a promise I can't keep.  It seems obvious why we shouldn't do this.  We all have fallen victim to unreliable people.  We all have been unreliable people probably at some point.  It used to be that a handshake was a man's word.  That really means nothing these days, and that is a shame.  We have to do background checks and consult a person's references on the smallest matters anymore.  I'm not saying those things shouldn't be done, it is just disheartening that it needs to be this way.  A Christian especially should be reliable.  As a Christian, I should especially do everything in my power to fulfill what I set out to do.  I find this particularly discouraging at church.  I would say why, but then I would be grumbling against my fellow Christian, and I have just been convicted about this.  I will say this.  If God gives me something to do, I should take it on with gusto.  I should try to fulfill every detail of the task, despite my other responsibilities because wood, hay and stubble time will be coming soon.  I want gold, silver and precious stones and I want to invest in things that are eternal.  When I think about Christ's coming, I do not want to leave anything behind that could have been a witness for Him.  If I falter in my promises, I will cause unbelievers to doubt my word about Christ.  If I fail Christians, I become a stumbling block.  This verse says, that over all the things he has mentioned, "above all things", this is the most important.  Why?  Because grumbling may occur on my own time, not in front of others, it might not impact my testimony.  I do not have persecuted Christians before me every day, so I must think about them to really affect me.  However, keeping my word is an everyday tangible representation for believers and unbelievers to see whether I believe what I say I believe.  If I can keep my promises, they will have faith that God keeps His.  He promised me He would return, didn't He?  If He keeps His promises to me, shouldn't I keep my promises to others? I could make the excuse that we are all sinners and we will all let someone down.  This is true.  I could say, people should follow God, not man.  This is also true.  But do I want to give anyone an excuse?  Do I want to bring shame upon my God in any way? I must consider these things carefully before I ever make a promise I cannot keep.
     It is my prayer that I will more eagerly anticipate His coming.  I am going to try harder to be dependable, to pray for Christians who are suffering, to let go of petty grievances with other Christians.  Just as the farmer waits for his crops to appear, just like my son waited for the tomatoes to grow, I want to wait patiently and in good standing for my Jesus.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Today's passage:  James 4
     In my junior high physical science class, I remember playing with magnets.  I learned about the magnetic poles, how opposite poles attract, and the same poles repel. 
     "But he giveth more grace.  Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."  God and I are opposites.  He is holy, loving, forgiving, gracious and merciful.  I am unholy, unloving, unforgiving, ungracious and unmerciful.  The problem is when my pride creeps in.  Then I think I am all the things that God is.  I begin to think well of myself, when without God's grace, I can not be like Him at all.  If I become holy, loving, forgiving, gracious or merciful, it is not because of anything I have done, it is because God is working in me.  God resists me when I think I am the same as He is.  We are then like the same poles on a magnet, and I may try to come to Him, but am pushed away.  When I think we are alike, I can never come close, because my pride is the force that is pushing us apart.  When I realize I am nothing like Him, we are like the opposite poles on the magnet and I am drawn to Him.  My humility  is the force that attracts me to Him.  I might also add, that the strongest magnets are the most difficult to pry apart.  The more humble I am, the closer to God I will be, and the harder it will be to pull me from Him. 
     So I know I have a problem with humility, but what do I do about it?  How do I cast out pride?  Verse 7 gives the solution.  I have to submit to God.  Easy enough.  Don't I do that already?  Am I submissive?  I'm trying to think of every area in my life where I don't submit, and am already becoming proud because I think I am.  Now I'm thinking about submitting to my husband.  I am not always as submissive as I should be, I'm better than I used to be, but I still find myself trying to take control.  Definitely not being submissive to God.   Then James says to resist the devil.  No problem.  I stay away from evil.  I don't do improper things.  Well, well, well, look who thinks she has it all figured out.  No wonder pride drives such a wedge between me and the Lord.  If I think the devil does not know the areas of weakness in my life, then I am foolish.  Anger, selfishness, laziness are just a few of the areas the devil tempts me with daily.  God says to resist those and the devil will flee.
      Verse 8 says to draw nigh to God.  I do this through reading my Bible, praying, and hearing His Word through preaching and Godly music.  I can do a lot of things for Him, but if I am never spending time with Him, I am not going to get any closer.   It is through these things that I recognize the pride in my life and can banish it.  Then He says, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded."  My hands get dirty when I get involved in the things of this world. Pride steps in and ahems, "Your hands don't steal, or pick up alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.  Really, how can your hands be dirty?"  My hands spend more time on the computer keyboard than they do cleaning my house windows.  My hands make angry gestures when I've lost my temper with my husband and kids.  My hands are not folded in prayer enough.  My hands are definitely dirty, Mr. Pride, and its you that keeps them that way, trying to make me believe there is nothing in my life I need to improve.  Being double minded is trying to live in the world and trying to live for God at the same time.  It can't be done.  I am sometimes tempted to wear that eye-catching dress hanging on that mannequin even though we don't have the money for it, and its just slightly immodest.  I've lost weight now, it would be flattering on my figure.  Well, the hemline is a tad short, and the neckline is a little revealing.  Worldly thinking.  That restaurant, it seems so hip.  It looks young and fresh and modern and yes, I could buy a week's worth of groceries for the amount of one meal there, but eating at that place would give me status.  Double minded.  Sometimes, I want to do the things of the world because I want to seem "with it".  I don't want to seem frumpy and old-fashioned.  But what is attracting me to God?  Those worldly fashions and ways only repel me.  I am not saying I can never buy new clothes or go on a date with my husband to a nice restaurant.  But when my mind is wrapped up in doing those things, when it becomes a mindset, I am trying to live in two worlds, and that can't be done.
     Verse 9 talks about being afflicted, and mourning and weeping and laughter and joy turned to mourning and heaviness.  Does God never want me to be happy?  I thought Christians were supposed to be joyful.  I've just gone through a list of things to cast out pride.  I cannot be rid of those things without a few tears.  If I am not crying a little over those things in my life, they must not really bother me, and I am less likely to do anything about them.  I can be blissfully ignorant about those problem areas in my life and pride will continue to push me away.  But if I am broken over these things, that is when I am truly humbled.  I can't laugh and joke about these areas, I need to recognize them for what they are and weep a little about them, so I can allow God to help me eradicate them.
     Pride is that invisible barrier that continues to repel me from You, Lord.  Help me to be submissive, to put the devil in his place, to visit with you each day, to keep my hands clean, to resist worldly pleasures and to weep when I get it wrong.  I am so unlike You, and I want to always recognize that we are poles apart so you will not resist me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

At Peace

Today's passage:  James 3
     "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 
     And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
     When I first read these verses, I thought about Solomon.  He asked God for wisdom and God gave it to him.  He was the wisest man the world has ever known and his kingdom was the most peaceful.  He never went to war and he had no enemies.  Of course, he had to marry nearly 700 princesses from ungodly nations to keep it that way.  Or at least, he thought he did.  I would not consider bringing in women from every belief system wise.  Then I think of our current President.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize barely into his term, because he plans on keeping us out of wars.  I guess that's why they gave it to him.  He has toured the world emphasizing we are a country that wants peace, not only within our borders, but for every country.  These men are peacemakers.  Is that the peace God means when He talks about Godly wisdom?      
     Conversely, King David must not have been wise at all since he was always at war, and our former President went into Iraq and Afghanistan to bring justice for 9/11 so he also must be unwise.  That is how the world sees him.  They lampooned him for his mispronounciations all the time.  What am I missing here?  Have I been on the wrong side?  David was a man after God's own heart, and I supported President Bush in both terms.  Am I a warmonger?  Am I not wise?  Jesus said we would have enemies because they hated Him.  I know Jesus is wise.  Am I thinking about the wrong kind of peace?
     I'm beginning to think that the peace in this verse is not talking about peace among men, but peace with God.  A wise person will realize that God sent His Son to die for his sins, and through Him alone was salvation made possible.  When he realizes this, he will have peace with God.  A peacemaker is someone who will try to reconcile others to God.  A peacemaker is someone who will try to present the Good News to others so they also can have peace with God.  I can choose to be wise every day if I show someone the way to Heaven.  Every time I share God's salvation plan with a friend, family member, or neighbor, I am exhibiting Godly wisdom.  I am at peace with God, and I can help others make peace with God.  Perhaps I am wise, after all.
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