Friday, September 30, 2011

Working or Worshipping?

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 7:17-40
     "There is difference also between a wife and a virgin.  The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit:  but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband."
     I think somewhere along the way, I either forgot about this verse, or didn't understand it fully.  Up until a few years ago, my husband worked the "afternoon" shift.  This means he left for work late afternoon, and did not return until after midnight.  As a teacher, I worked a usual school day, which means that for the first five years of our marriage, we rarely saw each other.  In some ways, it was almost like I was still single.  I didn't rush home to make dinner, since it was only me.  I stayed late grading papers, because I would go home to an empty house.  I often spent time with friends when the school day ended, because I was not able to enjoy his company.  I didn't drop any of the church ministries I was involved in because after all, the Lord should always be first.  Somewhere along the way, I neglected to make my husband my priority.  I think it is because I never really transitioned from being single to being married.  I guess I still felt single.  I always knew that my husband should be my priority.  I always understood that now that I was married it would be different, but since our routines didn't change much, it didn't feel very different.  It was easy for me to behave the same.  I said yes to a lot of things to which I should have no.  I see that
     After the kids started coming along, there were definite ministries I knew I could not be involved and had to quit.  Still, after only one child, it was mostly just little guy and me.  Daddy still worked every night, although now that I was home, I was able to spend time with him during the day.  I felt more like a married woman than I did in our earliest years.  Two more children, and you would think I would have slowed down with responsibilities outside my home, but I feel busier than ever.  I'm not sure that this is always a good thing.  I have a problem with one little word.  NO.  I can say no to my kids.  I can say no to my husband.  I just have a hard time saying no to anyone else.  I have seen how I have made others more of a priority.  I can see how I should have handed some of my church responsibilities to other people.  This is not quitting.  This is not getting less involved.  I am showing love for God by loving my husband better.  I have neglected our home.  I am getting better, but nobody can keep up the schedule I'm keeping and expect a clean house.  When I am not here to clean it, when I am exhausted running around to everything under the sun, how can I expect dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, floors to be mopped?  I'm getting better.  My husband never complains.  He tells me on occasion, we have three kids, things are going to get messy.  I always argue, not this messy.  I say, other people who have this many kids manage.  Other people who have young children do not seem to turn white when an unexpected knock comes on the door.  I have been looking around lately.  I am at everything.  Other ladies are not.  Other ladies actually do miss some things so they can go to the laundromat, or go to the grocery store, or just do the weekly household chores.  I don't see every mother at every birthday party, every bridal and baby shower, with kids in tow.  I think those things are important,  especially as regarding my church family.  But I'm beginning to think I have it all wrong.  When did my church family become more important than my real one?  I have had to do a lot of soul searching this morning, and I think that perhaps it is time to lay some things down.  I have tried to balance.  Being home during the day seems like it should give me ample time to get everything accomplished, but when the responsibility list outside my home grows greater, it leaves less time to pick up the broom and dustpan.  It leaves little time to tend to my husband who works so hard.  I'm not saying that I will stop attending events, that I will stop teaching my Sunday school class, that I will not take a meal to somebody who is ailing.  I'm just looking at how I've been a wife and mother for these last several years, and if I were grading myself, I would have to give myself bad marks.  I've gotten some things right.  But I know that my family has been pushed farther and farther down the priority list.  A clean home is not everything, I understand that too, but I am showing less love for my family when every week I have to scramble to find something to eat because I haven't had time to go grocery shopping or when I have to search high and low for matching socks because I haven't put the laundry away yet.  Not everything gets done in the best of homes.  But somehow I have equated my love for God with busyness.  I have become Martha instead of Mary.  Some weeks are naturally going to lend themselves to hectic schedules, but should every week?  I have a lot to pray about.  God will always be my highest priority, but serving God does not mean I have to neglect my home.  That is certainly not serving my husband, or my children.  I am remembering something one of my college professors, a pastor's wife, once said, "Don't get work and worship confused.  They are not the same thing."  Have I been working, thinking I have been worshipping?  I am not to worship my husband, but the verse above says I am to please him.  When is the last time I have done that?  Maybe I should ask him. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Today's passage:  I Corinthians 7:1-16
     "And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him."
     For most of my childhood, our family was in and out of church.  When we did go, it was always our mother that took us.  I didn't know until I was a little older that men even went to church.  I guess movies I watched, and friends I had only went to church with their moms.  My father was actually the one that encouraged us to try out a Baptist church, when I was in junior high school.  He grew up in an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church.  My mother had been to what she thought was a Baptist church in the deep south and she said they were running up and down the aisles.  It scared her.  She decided to give it another go.  For the first time in our lives, we heard a clear presentation of the gospel.  I'm not saying that the gospel hadn't been presented in some of the other denominational churches we had attended, mostly the base chapel Protestant service, but it never broke through to us like it did in this Baptist church.  Our lives changed.  We were challenged to accept Christ, to attend faithfully, to read His Word, to be involved.  It is where I was grounded in my faith.  My father was glad that we had found a church.  He was still not interested in attending with us.  I don't know what happened when he was younger, but after he left home, I think he stopped going.  In his later years, he would go with us to one service every couple years.  We always thought that was a great milestone, because before, he would always say no.  I used to pray for him each day.  Not so much that he would go to church, but I was very unsure that he was even saved.  I remember before having his second heart surgery, I was already living in Chicago at the time, and talking him on the phone.  I said, "Dad, you know I would be more okay with this, if I knew that you would be in Heaven."  He assured me he had accepted Christ as a young boy.  He told me that had already settled it long ago.  I told him he couldn't blame me for my doubts, given that he never came to church with us.  He understood that too.  He assured us of that fact again right before he died.  I know he wanted us to have that peace of mind.
     My father was a good man.  He was a great father, a faithful husband, a constant provider.  He had more good qualities than bad ones.  Somehow, he never felt convicted to be in church.  I think something happened in the church he attended as a youth that caused him not to go back.  He never talked about it.  My grandparents also, who I learned later  had actually helped plant churches, fell away from going.  I don't know what happened that caused disappointment or discouragement, but it kept them from ever returning.  I have to think that a lot of my behavior as a teenager kept my father away as well.  I have to carry that weight with me.  I claimed to be a Christian, but I did not always behave in Christ-like ways.  I was disrespectful and mouthy.  I wish I could shake every teenager by the shoulders, look them square in the eye, and tell them that every word they utter will linger years after it has been said.  If I could have been a better Christian example, I wonder if my father might have seen the changes in my life and rethink his own spiritual growth.  If there is a teenager out there reading this, let me assure you, how you act can have great effect on bringing your parents to Christ if they do not know Him.  What you say, and most importantly how you say it speaks louder than every church service you attend.  My father would never see the different ministries I was involved in at church.  It little mattered to him that I was a puppeteer, in the choir, taught the mission story in children's church.  He didn't see these activities because he wasn't there.  What would have made a big difference is if I had not complained about every thing I was asked to do around the house, if I had not rolled my eyes, stomped my foot, slammed my door when I was forbidden to go somewhere, if I had not sassed my mother and father about the tiniest of things.  Oh, the regret I have.  My mother is likely to tell me that I wasn't bad as all that, but I remember, and I assure you I was.  I can never take back those words or actions.  I've apologized in years since, to mother and father.  Yet, the memories of those years are imprinted.  If I behaved differently, maybe it would have made a difference.  Maybe my father would have seen the necessity to come with us to church.  Teenagers, be careful what you say, and how you say it.  As dumb as you think mom and dad are right now, you will someday see the wisdom in their words.  Don't live with regret as I do.  Be able to look back on your youth years with the satisfaction that you honored your father and mother.  I knew those verses but chose not to follow them.  Things may have been very different in our household if I had obeyed better.  Not that my father was a drunkard or a sluggard or an abuser.  None of that.  But it would have been wonderful for us all to be trying to manage bathroom time to go to church on Sunday morning.  I would love to have heard my father say a prayer.  It would have been nice to have gone to him for spiritual advice.  I don't know that any of that would have taken place, but I know this, I will never know for sure that I am not partially to blame because it didn't.  And that is something I will take into eternity. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Holy Places

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 6:9-20
     Solomon built the first Temple for Jehovah God.  All the other nations had erected temples in the names of their gods.  Baal had a temple.   Ashtaroth had a temple.   Dagon had a temple.  Jehovah did not have a temple.  When David was burdened about this, God allowed him to prepare the way for another king to build, but he would not allow David himself to carry out his vision.  Why?  Because his hands were unclean.  He had spent his reign fighting Israel's enemies.  How could he start a building project when much of his kingship was spent away from the throne either fighting his enemies, or fleeing those who wanted to usurp his power?  God let David fight the battles, so his son, Solomon, could reign in peace.  The peace and prosperity during Solomon's reign would allow him to focus on constructing something magnificent and deserving to the God of gods.  David provided the materials, but was never able to see his Temple dream fulfilled.  He died before this glorious vision was realized. 
     Solomon spent seven years on the Temple construction task.  He spent money on the finest materials.  He hired the most skilled laborers.  Every detail was carefully planned.  The finished product put the temples in the surrounding nations to shame.  What was also a shame was when it was burned to the ground by the Chaldeans.  This structure that meant so much to the Jewish people was destroyed, and though rebuilt numerous times, never matched that first showing.
     "What?  know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
     God provided us with the most costly material in order to make us His temple.  He sacrificed the Lord Jesus Christ.  Such care went into that provision.  Such planning went into building me.  God has not spent only seven years, He has spent a lifetime.  To be compared to His temple is not a light thing.  It was a place of reverence and worship.  It was a place of confession and praise.  It was a place of thanksgiving and awe.  Regrettably, it also at times became a place of corruption and deceit.  The original Temple did not see such activity, but subsequent temples did.  There have been times in my life when I have needed rebuilding.  There have been occasions when the breaches have needed repaired and the walls patched.  Through all these times, my purpose has remained the same.  My temple was designed to bring glory to God.  Just as Solomon's Temple was a gathering place for worship, so am I.  Paul says to flee fornication for this very reason.  So I can represent the Lord.  The wear and tear of regular activity is damaging enough, I do not need to participate in activities and recreation that would further erode my capabilities to bring honor to the Lord.  God bought this temple with His Son's blood.  He has spent years on the blueprints, and though He is still perfecting me,  I can show my gratitude by taking as good care of this body as possible.  My body is a vessel that He wants to use to bring worship to Himself.  How careful am I to treat it that way?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Goin' Courtin'

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 6:1-8
     One year, I had a class of lively girls.  They were each little personalities on their own, but together, they were non-stop entertainment.  On break times, they would play Judge Judy.  Each day they would take turns being the judge, while the others pretended to be plaintiffs and defendants bringing their cases before her.  I often laughed so hard, it brought me to tears.  What is more, their pretend judgements were probably as reasoned as the actual judgements on the show, and their imaginary grievances as petty.
     Unfortunately, we have too many Christians who would be willing to take their disputes into a Judge Judy courtroom.  Paul tells us this is a mistake.  A Christian ought not to take another Christian before an unbeliever to judge the merits of their argument.  For one thing, an unbeliever will not judge with Godly wisdom (which I have to say, might be the whole reason Christians would go to an unbelieving judge, because they are not interested in God's wisdom about the matter in the first place).  A judge in the world is not going to judge according to God's standard, he will judge according to the laws of the city, county or state.  He may or may not hand down a verdict that befits the violation.  We cannot argue that we did not like the way he handled the case, because we left the case in his hands and trusted him with the judgement in it.  Why not leave it in God's?  I know His ways are perfect.  I know His judgement is just.  I know that He understands every angle of the case, and does not need me to argue why I am right.  When we go to the courts, we are basically telling God that we have found something that He has no power to handle.  Aren't we?  Aren't we saying to God, "My Christian brother took advantage of my gullibility, kindness (whatever it is) and I know You can't change his heart about it, God."  It is a complete lack of trust in God's ability to transform people.  It is a complete lack of faith in God's perfect knowledge of every situation. 
      Besides the fact that taking my Christian sister to court is faithlessness on my part, what does it tell an unbelieving world?  We are supposed to bring souls to Christ, not push them away.  In what way at all will God get glory when we take our issues before the world?  I can't think of one way that is possible.  I can't think of any good thing that can come of it.  I can't imagine any outcome that will put the church or Christians in a good light.  I am guessing that if anything, people will make sure they avoid the church that is the source for this strife. 
     But what if I am the one being accused of wrongdoing?  What if I haven't done wrong?  What if my sister believes I have defrauded her, but I honestly have not.  I am writing this to remind myself, should the time come along.  Paul says, "Why do ye not rather take wrong?  why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"  I should take the hit.  If I can at all correct the situation, whether it be paying for something I did not do, donating a service I did not offer, I should appease my sister as best I can to keep it out of the courts.  If I am the one who has been cheated, and I have talked to my Christian sister about the situation, but she refuses to make it right, I should cut my losses.    But more than either of these, I should pray.  Don't pray that the other person will see the light, that God will change their heart, but pray and ask God how He can use me to be a better witness for Him.  I am certain I cannot be a better witness sitting in the courtroom, arguing why I am right and she is wrong.  All that accomplishes is showing the world how petty Christians can be. 
     There is another thing.  How am I ever to serve in a church with a Christian I took to court?  How on earth would that work?  It is going to result in one of us worshipping in a different congregation.  It is going to result in the church family taking sides with the two disputers, causing a greater rift among the members.  This is never a desirable result.  This is never something that is pleasing to God.  The ripple effect of this never seems to end. 
    I may leave a courtroom with the verdict in my favor.  I may have all the wrongs restored.  But in the courtroom of the world, I have lost.  I have lost credibility in the God who could have judged for me, and I have lost my testimony as someone who proclaims Christ and His love.  Where is my love when all I can see is how I have been defrauded?  I think even school-age Judge Judy's could see through that.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bread-Making Day

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 5
     When I was a little girl, I have a clear memory of my Mom making fresh-baked bread.  I don't remember ever watching her assemble the dough, punching it and kneading it to get it bake-ready, but I remember the smell of that home-made bread.  The aroma filled the house.  I also remember having to be very careful shutting doors.  As I am not much of a baker, I don't know if that still applies today.  Anything that would send a jolt through the house, might cause the bread to fall, instead of rise.  You always want the bread to rise.  I never remember my grandmother baking bread.  Maybe that is because she lived down the road from the quarry, whose blasts we could hear nearly every day.  Baking in her house might have been highly unsuccessful.  In any case, there were occasions when Mom would pull the bread from the oven and it looked like a sinkhole had pulled the dough into itself.  When this occurred, we never celebrated.  We never cheered that the bread had deflated.  It was sad.  As the bread smell wafts through the house, you salivate and impatiently wait for the sound of the oven timer.  You have knife and plate ready to spread a pad of melting butter and crunch into the crispy crust. How disappointing when Mom would pull it from the oven and it was inedible, trying to whoa the taste buds until the next bread-making day.
     "Your glorying is not good.  Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?"  Paul is chastening the church in Corinth for allowing someone who is openly practicing his sin to remain in the church.  Allowing it signals approval.  I am not even going to attempt to get into church discipline, I will leave that to a pastor, but I think there are some obvious teachings from the Scriptures that make it very clear that some situations have no business remaining in the church.  The Scriptures are very candid about unrepentant believers being admitted fellowship in the local congregation.  We live in a world of tolerance.  But we cannot be tolerant at any price.  The price being, that if a believer participating in a particular sin, and unwilling to relinquish it remains, it may start to grow in other areas of the church.  Why?  Because if he is allowed to remain, it seems as if it is okay.  If it is okay, then it will spread.  This is what Paul fears.  He admonishes the Corinthians to put this man out, since he appears to be unrepentant. 
     I don't ever remember eating a collapsed loaf of bread.  It is yeasty, doughy and not tasty.  It completely contrasts with the loaf we were expecting to get.  We usually threw it out.  A Christian who openly practices and participates in sin, without remorse, is like the bread that has not risen.  Everyone expects something quite different than what comes out of the oven.  A person who calls himself a Christian but practices the ways of the world, delivers a wrong concept about Christianity.  Whether we like it or not, the world holds us to a higher standard.  If we live less than the expectations, it is like delivering an unrisen loaf of bread.  The world expects to see that knife-ready golden crust.  They smell the home-made bread aroma throughout the house and have a good idea what a loaf should look and taste like.  It doesn't mean they will partake, but our lives should be enticing to them.  It should be pleasant to the eyes and nose.  None of us is perfect, but even the world knows activities a Christian should not be involved.  Just as we should not be proud when the bread does not rise, neither should we be happy about a Christian who falls away and refuses to repent.  We should not encourage them by keeping them in the church, but we should not whoop and holler because he has to be thrown out.  Neither response is desirable.  Wouldn't it be better if the Christian would just admit his sin, repent and be allowed to remain in fellowship?  This is obviously the most desirable outcome.  We want every Christian to thrive.  We want every Christian to walk with the Lord, but if he refuses to see the error of his ways, we do no favors to ourselves and to our churches by keeping inedible bread.  Maybe one day, he will scrap the old dough and be allowed to rise again.  That is the sincere hope.  Bread that rises is always something to anticipate.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paying the Price

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 4:6-21
     When I was younger (much younger) I wanted to be an actress.  Pretending to be someone else came naturally to me.  I enjoyed being in plays in elementary school and particularly in high school.  As a teenager, I wondered if I might be "discovered".  I'm so glad I wasn't.  Hollywood is not someplace a Christian can thrive very easily.  I have heard of some Christians who have "made it" but I'm guessing it has not been without some compromise.  I have never been a very compromising person, when it comes to the things of God.  My oldest son, just the other day, said something about wanting to be an actor.  It strikes fear into my heart.  I understand those desires.  I understand wanting to become "famous".  I also understand the price.  I simply said to him that if that is a job God would want him to pursue, he needs to understand that he would not have another private moment.  He was not crazy about that idea.  I told him that is the price of fame.  Maybe that has him thinking for a little while about another career path.  I hope so.  Although I understand having this creative side, and wanting to express it, I also understand the wrestling with pride that goes along with it.  Having people recognize something you have done, and not allowing your ego to expand and fill the room so that there is no space for anything or anyone else.  Because any talent, gift, skill we have been given, is from God.  What is there to brag about, when we are not the source of what has been given to us to use?  And for what are we to use it?  His glory.  I always thought that when my hair starts graying, when the boys are grown, I might pursue Christian theater, where I could act in something that would bring honor to Him, and would not interfere with Sunday and Wednesday services.  I don't think there is anything wrong with acting itself, I just don't believe a Christian can bring the greatest honor to God by being in an acting community.
     I have always scoffed at celebrities who bristle at the paparazzi and being expected to give interviews.  Some of them do this begrudgingly.  You take the good with the bad.  If you want to be recognized everywhere you go, if you want to make the millions of dollars, you have to expect that journalists will somehow want to put your face on every cover, even if you are picking your nose.  Do I think it is a little excessive?  Yes.  But I don't think they should complain.  Many of them say, well, I didn't want to be a celebrity, I just wanted to act or play my music.  Um,  who are you acting and playing for?  Are you telling me that you want to be in the movies or a band and you don't want anyone to buy the tickets to your film or buy the CD for your album?  I think it is more that they didn't realize exactly what fame would bring.  They want all the glory, but none of the interference.  Sorry folks.  One comes with the other.
     This leads me to the passage for the day.  The Corinthians glorified the life of the apostle.  All they could see was that they got to speak in front of hundreds of people, they got to go on a whirlwind tour of the world, they were able to heal people.  They were recognizable.  Paul quickly pops their delusional bubble.  He explains that this apostleship is not always an easy life.  Sometimes they do not have a place to lay their head, sometimes they are hungry and thirsty.  That sounds like God didn't provide for them, but I think it is more speaking of the comforts of home.  I'm sure Paul had three squares a day, but maybe he was in the mood for a candy bar.  He couldn't just go to the pantry in his home, and grab one.  He had to depend on the kindness of others.  He had to depend on the people God put in his path.  There is nothing like sleeping in your own bed.  But the apostles rarely got to sleep in the same bed each night.  That would cause some restlessness.  Paul says that they are reviled and persecuted.  The Corinthians apparently only saw the people who believed.  They didn't see the hundreds who rejected, who pelted them with stones, who banished them from their towns.  He says the apostles are the "offscouring of all things".  I picture the caked on food in a skillet.  Who wants that part of the meal?  That is what you try to wash down the drain or scrape into the garbage.  Yuck!  Paul is trying to enlighten Corinth on the real life, behind the scenes.  It may look glorious, with people wanting you to autograph their scroll, with people wanting to have you heal them, but there is a lot of downside to it.  Paul is trying to show the Corinthians that those skills and gifts were given for the express purpose of bringing honor to God, not to themselves.
     Fame is becoming increasingly more important to people.  I don't know why people would want to be recognized everywhere they go, with no privacy ever.  I don't know why they would not want a sense of a normal life.  But I know that is the price tag for being famous.  I know that fame is not always what it seems.  The paycheck is nice, but how many days of hunger led to that first big break?  How many compromises did it take to get to the point where you call the shots?  Apostleship was nothing like being an actor or musician.  There was no sense of trying to become the most famous preacher.  Paul was doing what God called him to do.  I'm praying that my son will get over his desire to be famous and will do what God calls him to.  I'm pretty sure He is not calling him to Hollywood.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stewards of the Word

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 4:1-5
     Someone who has great wealth would have someone, probably several someones, to help manage their household.  Many rich people have a housekeeper/manager, a butler (although may not as much anymore), a personal secretary, a valet, a private chef, a groundskeeper/gardener, a security detail.  All of these positions would require specific responsibilities to the job.  If the security guard decided to take a nap, and burglars infiltrated, the guard would most likely lose his job.  If the secretary failed to check her employer's appointments, and he missed most of them, he more than likely would find a new secretary.  A good steward must be faithful in his position to keep his position.
     "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."  I have heard this verse numerous times.  We use it when we want to express how important faithfulness is.  It is a right application, I think.  It is an important truth.  Just one little problem.  We use it out of context.  I've never realized it before.  That first word, "moreover", means it is connected to something else.  In this case, it is connected to verse one.  Here is what verse one says, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."  Of what are we supposed to be stewards?  God's Word.  In order to learn as much as we can from God's Word, and to be able to pass down what we have learned, we have to be faithful in it.  We should be reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it every day.  If this is my job, and I am not doing it, I should be fired.  If I were the gardener who let the roses die, or the chef who never cooked a meal, I would be dismissed.  I am supposed to be the keeper of His Word.  That is a crazy responsibility, and I never really realized it before.  I always knew I was supposed to read it.  I always knew I should read it every day, but I never realized I was supposed to be a steward of it.  I am looking at my Sunday school class in a whole new light.  I am being a steward of His Word with those children, passing it down to them.  Maybe this is why oral histories were so important in Jewish culture.  It was how they were a steward of God's Word.  They passed it down from generation to generation.  But being faithful doesn't only mean in how often we read it.  It is also our responsibility to pass it down accurately, not just adding and subtracting stuff as we go along.  I am bowled over by such a responsibility.  Am I as faithful as I should be with His Word?  Should I be fired from this responsibility because I am not careful with it?  I've always believed God's Word to be precious, but never more so than today.
    Lord, help me to be oh-so-careful with Your Word.  Help me to be careful as I teach it to my kids, and others.  Help me to be faithful in it so that I can be the steward You want me to be.  Help me to realize more than ever what a gem You have given us.  And help me to be the most responsible security guard trusted with it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Today's passage:  I Corinthians 3:10-23
     "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
      I'm thinking about a vacant house that was down the block from my husband and I in our first few years of marriage.  This structure looked like it could have been the haunted house from stories.  It was certainly old.  Rotting porch steps, crumbling facade, barely-hanging-on door.  But most noticeable was the cracking and sagging foundation.  The whole house looked like it would eventually collapse.  Do you know somebody renovated that place, and I'm guessing sold it.  I never saw them dig up the foundation, so I've always been very curious how they were able to correct it.  They put new cement over it to make it look new.  They put new siding on the house, they fixed the door, they built a new porch.  My thought was, whoever bought that house has been duped, because eventually that weak foundation is going to give way, and the way the house looks isn't going to matter.  So far, it is still standing, but I have a strong feeling that they have had more problems than they bargained for, and probably have no idea why, since inside and out looked brand new.
     The foundation I am laying for my children is so very important.  I would like all my boys to be very well-rounded.  I want them to learn a musical instrument (to use for God's glory), I want them to enjoy a sport (to promote healthy exercise and a love for God's outdoors), I want them to learn how to cook and clean (so if God calls them to be single, they can fend for themselves, or if God calls them to marry, they can be a help to their wives).  Most importantly, I want them to learn to love God's Word.  Really, all the rest is so not important, if they do not know God.  They can be the most charismatic, charming, endearing young men, but without Christ, it is all just a fancy facade.  They can be the All-American athlete who wins regional and state awards but without knowing Christ, they haven't won anything.  They can have musical abilities that rival any famous talent, but if they scoff at God, that talent is just decor.
     I pray each and every day that my boys will come to know Christ.  My oldest has already professed Christ, and he already prays for his younger brothers.  I pray that they will accept Jesus at an early age, so they can lay that foundation and build upon it.  I pray more than that.  I pray that they will surrender their lives to the Lord.  Whatever God calls them to do, I pray they will use those abilities for Him.  If they are athletic, I pray God will call them to coach in a Christian school.  If they are musical, I pray God will teach them to be a music minister, or direct a choir.  If they are good with their hands, I pray God will call them to build churches here or on the mission field.  None of the talents God will give them will matter, if they do not first accept Christ.  If that foundation is not there, the rest will come tumbling to the ground.  I do not want to build young men who have a fancy facade.  I want to build young men who have a proper foundation, so if the house starts to collapse, they can rebuild. 
     One of these days, I am going to walk past that house that looks like new, and see that it is no longer standing.  The foundation was never re-laid properly, so I don't see how it can continue to stand.  The inhabitants may wonder what would cause their house to sag and crumple, because they never saw what was under the cement.  Hundred dollar fixtures, and fancy furniture can never solve that problem.  That is something that has to be taken care of at the very start.  I'm praying that my kids will have a glorious start, a solid foundation which will allow them to build lives for Him.  Without that, everything else is just a crystal chandelier.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Baby Talk

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 3:1-9
     It has been learned that babies should be talked to in a normal, adult-toned voice.  I am not disputing this in the least.  I believe that is probably right.  But I have to confess that there is something about seeing those baby cheeks, that toothless grin, those wide, innocent eyes that automatically makes my voice sound high-pitched and allows non-sensical words to tumble out.  Sure, I should not talk baby-talk to babies, yet it seems to be a language they understand because I am rewarded with the cutest giggles.  Now my almost two year old is getting a little past the baby-talk stage.  I have had to modify the tone for him.  I talk differently to my adorable 10-month old niece than I do to my two year old.  I talk differently to my 4 year old than I do my 2 year old.  And I reserve even more adult talk for my almost 8 year old than I do the younger two.  Not only the tone of my voice is different, but how I give instructions to them.  I have been told that a little child will only remember the last word you say, especially when asked to do something.  Keeping this in mind, I give my youngest only two or three word commands, he won't remember any more than that.  My four year old gets a complete sentence, although only one command at a time.   My eight year old can handle three or four instructions at once.  For example, to my two year old, I might say:  "Pick up the toys."  For my four year old, I would say, "Pick up the toys and put them in the toybox."  After that is completed, I would say, "Now return the books to the bookshelf."  My eight year old can remember both of these commands at once, without having them repeated.  He can make the list in his head, "Pick up toys, straighten books."  Now if I were to talk to my eight year old the way I talk to my niece or my two year old, he would look at me like I was crazy.  He would be a little offended.  He would tell me, as he has on occasion for other things I thought still suited his age, that that is for babies.  And he would be right.
     God has to talk to us right where we are.  And God doesn't mind adjusting His instructions and tone to fit where we are in our Christian lives, because some of us are farther down the paths than others, and some of us have just started.  But there comes a time that if we have been on the path for a while, we should start to catch up with the Christians that are ahead.  If we look around us and all we see are immature Christians (because they are newly saved, not referring to any character trait) we might want to think to ourselves, "Should I be a little farther along than this?"  If people who were saved around the same time as I was seem to have developed more, maybe I need to take inventory and see why I haven't grown as quickly.  I'm not saying that everyone develops at the same pace, even real babies grow at different rates, but if there is that much of a gap, I certainly should examine it.  Does God have to still give me simple instructions, or can I handle the paragraph yet?  Can I make the list in my head?  How is my growth?  If I want to grow, I need to eat more meat.  There are only a few places to find that, in my Bible and in my church.  If I'm feasting on a regular basis, I should find that I am starting to catch up.  Right now, my two year old runs as fast as he can to try to keep up with his big brothers.  He's not there yet, but one day his legs will grow stronger and faster and he may even pass them.  The Christian life is not a competition, but it is a race, and I ought to want to be one of the fastest and strongest.  I ought to be offended if God still has to use baby talk with me.  It would mean I haven't grown as fast as I should.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Continuing Education

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 2:9-16
     "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:  for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
     Some people quit school.  Some people drop out of high school.  Some people, because of their upbringing and the region they lived, were forced to end their schooling at an earlier age then most.  Some people never go to college, or start it and never finish.  Hold on now, I'm going to say something pretty shocking, and especially as a former educator, you may not believe what I am about to say.  Education is not the end-all to success.  Learning is not the single most important thing.  Recently, in my city especially, we have legislators and city officials pushing to lengthen the school day and school year.  I am so against that, you have no idea.   I certainly believe education is important, it is needful, learning is necessary for most things in life.  But do you know what?  There have been plenty of people who have been successful, who have made something of their life, who have forged ahead without as much education as "experts"say you need.  Does this mean I won't encourage my children to finish high school or go to college?  I absolutely will.  And I will explain to them exactly why it will be to their benefit.  And I will also show them the choices they are making to pay Mommy and Daddy rent to live here if they decide to abandon their education early.  Don't worry, we won't charge them a lot, in fact far less if they were to get an apartment on their own, but enough that they understand that once school is over they have to start earning their own way in life.
     I veered off on a rabbit trail there, but I just thought of comparing the education I achieved through school, and the education I achieve through the Bible.  People spend years in school.  I stopped with my Bachelor's and had no desire to go on to get a master's or doctorate.  For me, cramming four college years into five was plenty.  I was done.  Applause for those who go on to more training.  Seriously.  College is a lot of work.  So is reading the Bible.  I mean, it isn't the easiest Book to read.  And as the verse at the top says, there are some deep things in there.  I don't know if I have read any of the deep stuff yet, but if I quit reading, I know I will never get to them.  God says His Holy Spirit will help me to understand the deep things.  Ever met somebody who seems to understand all there is to understand about the Bible?  Pastors are generally knowledgeable about what is in it.  That is because they spend hours studying it.  Now most of them will tell you they don't know everything there is to know, but they probably know more than the average Christian.  But here is the exciting thing.  If I spend as much time in it, I can know as much about it as a pastor (that doesn't mean I should become one, the Bible is also very clear about that).  But if I quit early, if I drop out, if I decide not to continue my education, I won't know as much.  It would be very beneficial for me to know everything it has for me.  God may just be getting to the deep parts but if I give up, He will never get to show me.
     I am a fan of continuing my education, just not in the college realm.  I am in favor of gleaning as much as I can from God's Word, and if I really want to go deep, I need to spend more time in it.  If I want to be successful in the Christian life, I can read a little (and have a little success) or I can read a lot (and prayerfully, have a lot of success).  So I guess I better  buckle down and do some homework, cause God has some deep things to reveal to me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Good News/Bad News

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 2:1-8
     I don't think I would be very good in the medical profession.  The minute I had to reveal bad news to somebody, I would be sick to my stomach.  On the other hand, when I had good news to share, I would probably cry delivering that as well.  And yet, as a Christian, I should be doing that every day.  The bad news:  Hell awaits those who don't accept Christ as the only way of salvation.  The good news:  Accept Him today and you can have a home in Heaven.  A doctor is probably never thrilled when a patient wants a second opinion or refuses to follow his orders for treatment.  The doctor knows this is the patient's choice, but he knows that it will not change the outcome of the condition.  What if the doctor just decided that he couldn't emotionally handle how the patient would react, and decided not to give the bad news?  If the patient never hears the bad news, undergoes treatment for it, then the doctor will never have the opportunity to share the good news.  What if the good news is the person has been completely healed?  The doctor who will not be forthcoming with the truth to his patient is fearful the patient may decide to reject the bad news which could lead to worse news.  But what if she resigns herself that he is right?  What if she does everything he prescribes?  What if the treatment works?  How exciting for the doctor and patient both when she gets a clean bill of health!  Doctors might be fearful every day for the news they have to deliver to a patient, but it is their responsibility to deliver it despite the outcome.
    Before Paul became apostle and missionary for Jesus Christ, he was known as Saul of Tarsus, Christian killer.  Paul does not seem to be the type of person who was ever afraid of anything.  Everything he did, he did with gusto, including putting Christians to death.  After God saved him, he boldly went throughout Mesopotamia proclaiming Christ.  I guess this is why I'm surprised to learn that he said speaking to the church of Corinth filled him with fear and trembling.  Really?  I would not believe it unless he told me (which he obviously does in this chapter).  Reading the accounts in Paul's life and the epistles God wrote through him, he seems confident in the Lord, and confident in what God led him to do.  This just shows that anybody, if they allow the Holy Spirit to work through them, can be the right vessel God can use to get the job done.
      I wonder how often Paul had to overcome this fear.  Was it daily?  Was it everytime he preached?  Was it each time he led a person to Christ, stepped off a ship in a new town, visited a synagogue?  What about when he performed a miracle?  Did he have just a little doubt before God healed the person that He really would heal them, which if He didn't, would make Paul look foolish?  Did God allow him to overcome it?  Or did Paul fear and tremble for the rest of his life?  Can you imagine if Paul just quit?  Can you fathom what would have happened if Paul faced a crowd and said to himself, "I just can't get past these butterflies in my stomach.  They just won't settle down.  I am so tired of feeling this way.  Not doing it anymore."  How many people who needed Christ, may have never heard the message if Paul was too wrapped up in his own shortcomings to allow God to use him?  How many churches would have never been established if Paul decided to go back home to Tarsus and live a quiet, peaceful life.  Only it wouldn't have been peaceful, because God called him to preach, and the Holy Spirit would nag at him everyday about that.  What if somebody else had to write the epistles?  Trust me, if Paul refused to be used, God would have found someone else.  God's plan is never thwarted when I tell Him I don't want to or I'd rather not.  God is not turned upside down, scratching His head, wondering what on earth He will do now because I won't allow Him to use me.
     But can you imagine the joy Paul would have missed if he surrendered to his fears?  I have had the opportunity to lead people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and I can tell you, there is nothing like it.  It is the single most exciting thing to be able to share with someone what Christ did for them so they can have a home in Heaven.  When a person understands this, and you get to pray with them, and show them from the Scripture what He has done, I mean, it is right up there with walking down the aisle to marry my husband, and seeing each of my children born.  Why?  Because this person is suddenly like a spiritual child.  You were able to show them the way.  You were able to shine a little light in their dark lives.  And it is nothing you have done for them, you are showing them what Christ has done for them, but you get to give them the good news.  God lets us tell people about Him.  God lets us be involved in the process of somebody finding Christ, and I'm amazed that He does.  I haven't personally led anyone to the Lord for a while.  I think I know why.  Lately, I've been feeling like I'm afraid I will show somebody a wrong verse, I'm worried that if I try to explain salvation to them, I won't explain it right.  But I'm forgetting the key element to this process.  The Holy Spirit.  He works in me, to give me the right words at the right time, and He works in them, to reveal God's Word to them.  Like Paul, when I feel the butterflies, I need to lean on the Holy Spirit.  It is not my Word anyway.  It is not my job to see that the person understands, it is only my job to see that the person hears.  Is that how Paul was able to overcome his fear?  I can't mess up God's plan of salvation.  I can only refuse to be the tool He uses for somebody to hear it.  And when I succumb to my fears, I am missing out on the most joyous feeling I can have.  Not that salvation is based on emotion, but I get super emotional when somebody accepts Christ, whether I have led them or somebody else has. 
     Doctors can quit the profession, if they feel they can no longer handle it emotionally.  That would absolve them from ever having to share such terrible news.  But the flip side to that is that they will never witness the joy a person experiences when they have been healed from a disease, when the regimen prescribed is working, when they bring a child into the world for the first, second, or third time.  I am never absolved of my Christian duty to share God's Word.  I may refuse to do it, I may let fear stop me, but I am still responsible for the news I hold.  I just will never have the privilege of sharing in the joy the person experiences when they find Christ.
     Lord, I really want to lead somebody to Christ this week.  Will You allow me to do that?  I can't mess up Your plan no matter how I stumble over my words, no matter how many not-to-the-point verses I show them, no matter how little prepared I was to lead somebody.  Your Holy Spirit shines the light down the path, leading them, and maybe I can be the person at the end who opens Your Book and shows them the Light they need in their heart.  I sure miss that feeling I get from leading somebody to You.  That is just a bonus, I know.  That You allow me to be part of Your plan is something I will never understand.  I bet Paul never got over that either.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Today's passage:  I Corinthians 1:21-31
     Three boys a messy house does make.  I have an almost two year old who will drag out nearly everything he can reach, and a four year old who will drag out everything his brother can't.  Needless to say, there is an endless trail of random things strewn around my house, no matter my best effort from trying to keep them off the floor.  Just when I have organized the shoes in the foyer for the five hundred and seventieth time, my littlest guy wants to try on every pair.  Almost as soon as I have mopped my kitchen floor, something gets spilled.  I feel like I am always putting out fires, and it never looks like anything is getting accomplished. When I am trying to stay on a chore schedule, getting my list of things done (which I don't do very well veering off my list, I want to check everything off of it) I walk right past many of the misplaced objects in my path.  If I am on a mission to tidy up the bathroom, I am not going to stop and pick up every toy in my way en route, or my destination will never be reached.  If I am intent on getting the folded laundry put away, I probably should move those items that are cluttering the stairs but am not willing to put the laundry basket down to do that at the moment.  Would it make sense to do it right then?  Yes.  Would it be wise?  If I want to avoid a fall, most definitely.  Then why on earth do I procrastinate?  Because I am too focused on the task I have in my mind to do.  I don't want to get sidelined with something that I did not have planned that day.  Of course, picking up should be my plan every day because it is never ending.  But because it is never ending, I would never get to anything else in my house. 
     "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;"
     The unbelieving Jews could not accept the cross.  It was right in their line of vision, but they had to shield their eyes from what they did not want to see.  This crucifixion that Christ went through was not on their checklist for the Messiah.  It was not in agreement with what they believed.  They would purposely have to walk around it because it was in their path.  All of their rituals, sacrifices, cleansings, pointed right to it, but they were too focused on what they wanted to believe to accept that this was something necessary for them.  If they would actually take a good look at the cross, they would understand that it fell in line with everything they believed.  But they didn't want to look.  They couldn't move it out of the way, so that meant ignoring it. 
     I've learned to ignore the lost and found items in my house.  It would be better and safer if I would just bend over and pick them up.  I'm too determined to stick to my little checklist.  Often, I'm too weary and overcome with everything else that I have to do.  And really, it is not the picking up, it is the putting away.  Every item has a different home, which means trips all over my house.  That gets time-consuming.  Maybe that is what bothered the Jews the most.  If they paid attention to the cross, they would have to fit it in somewhere.  They would have to incorporate it somehow into what they believed, and that might take some major reworking.  They weren't willing to do that kind of work.  They didn't want to give the cross a home.  Their biggest mistake is thinking that they would have to make the crucifixion work for them.  The crucifixion was the work.  They needed to discard their other thoughts and only grab onto that. 
    My house would look a lot neater if I made sure everything was in its place.  It might mean the floor didn't get mopped today.  It might mean the refrigerator didn't get cleaned out.  It might mean the bookshelves didn't get dusted, again.  But that is probably less noticeable than a room littered with misfit items.  I would do better to toss my checklist and just do the things that are immediately necessary.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fool Me Once

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 1:12-22
     "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
     How foolish does it seem to keep proclaiming a message with nobody listening?  How silly does it look to daily declare that there is a Heaven and a Hell and each day we reject Christ, we have chosen the latter?  How ridiculous does it sound to hear a street preacher trying to gather a crowd around to warn them of their eternal future?  To those who do not know Christ, these repeated actions make them laugh.  They scoff at us.  They shake their heads, roll their eyes and sigh.  Those crazy Bible believers.  Why do they keep at?  Why don't they just leave us alone in our unbelief? 
     Satan has a covered trap so carefully designed that each step closer guarantees him another soul.  I could be standing right beside it, shouting at the top of my voice, warning against the trap, and still people would ignore me and fall.  I could even uncover the trap and gesture wildly at it, making sure people were aware it was there, and still people would brush right past me, into Satan's lair.  Should I give up?  Maybe some people throw things at me, maybe some people laugh at me as if I'm a circus clown, maybe some people push me out of the way or cover my mouth.  Do I throw my hands up in the air, yell at them that they are blind, and go my way?  Of course they think I'm foolish.  Even though I warn them about the trap ahead, they can't see it.  Except, now I see somebody thinking it over.  That person's step has slowed.  She is straining her eyes to see ahead.  Her eyes widen as she realizes what she has nearly walked into.  She looks my way.  How does she avoid the trap?  I tell her.  She is grateful.  Not to me, but for the message.  She has joined me in warning others.  She sees a family member walking that direction.  She grabs his arm.  He yanks away, brows furrowed, determined to stay on his path.  She is devastated.  Why can't he see it?  Why does he ignore her?  They are family.  I'll tell you why.  She understands the power of the cross.  She has experienced God's saving grace, her eyes have been opened to what it has done for her, she can live a life without fear of falling into Satan's pit.  Her family member thinks she is foolish.  He hears the warnings, but they mean nothing to him because he doesn't see any trap.  He thinks she has listened to the wrong people.
     The unsaved world will always think that proclaiming the cross of Christ is a foolish thing to do.  Like Jeremiah, who had no converts, we sometimes wonder if anybody is listening, if anybody is paying attention, if anybody will realize what Christ did for them.  There will be some, as the time for Christ's return approaches, they will be fewer.  But the number of people who follow Christ is not why we still need to be a witness.  Maybe nobody will believe.  It seems foolish to keep shouting out a message that nobody takes seriously, that everyone scoffs at, that causes people to avoid us.  Yet, it is what we must do.  We must keep telling people because even if people ignore us, the trap is still there.  Even if they don earplugs and shut their eyes completely, there might be one person who sees the cross and wonders what it is about.  As foolish as it seems, to the person who accepts Christ's work, it is powerful.  As ridiculous as it sounds in the ears of the unbelievers, it is sweet music to the one who has never heard, and believes.  God's Word is powerful.  God's plan is powerful.  It is foolish to believe otherwise.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Today's passage:  I Corinthians 1:1-11
     Steak.  A medium-rare filet mignon is probably the best cut of meat I could eat.  Thinking about it makes me salivate.  I never knew steak could taste so good until I ate one in a steakhouse.  My parents would cook steak on occasion when I was growing up, but they liked it well-done, and we could always only afford sirloin.  That is still not a cut I'm too fond of and when cooked all the way is difficult to chew and swallow.  That is kind of how I feel about the Pauline epistles.  Paul's books have never been my favorite to study.  Not because there isn't a lot there, on the contrary, there is so much there that I have to chew a while on the meat to swallow what I'm supposed to learn.  His writing style is not as poetic, more analytical, and I find I have to read verses more than a couple times to digest it all.  But there is so much to apply to the Christian life in his books that it would be foolish for me to always avoid them.  His books are deep.  They are thinkers.  They take some time to mull through.  So I may devote each day to half a chapter, or even a few verses with so much to consume.
     "That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;  Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:"      
     I love that word:  enrich.  I rarely look up words but I think it is essential here.  The prefix "en-" means to make or put in, and "rich", of course, means "wealthy". Enrich means to "improve; embellish".  God improves my speech.  He improves my knowledge. He improves me in every way.  How?  Through the One who confirmed my salvation in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit. 
     In education, we were always encouraged to provide enrichment activities for the students.  These activities were supplemental to the curriculum and lesson plans.  Sometimes the enrichment was a planned activity that followed or introduced a lesson, like growing grass seed in a styrofoam cup to show the process of photosynthesis.  Sometimes the enrichment was something they could explore individually inside or outside the classroom, like visiting a museum exhibit on pioneer life.  But the whole point was to deepen their learning on a particular subject.  God deepens my learning.  Sometimes He does that just by reading His Word, but sometimes He takes me on a field trip.  Sometimes He takes me through hands-on experiences to enrich my learning.  These experiences are not always negative.  He gives me jobs to do, ones I'm not sure I can accomplish, but with His help am able to complete.  He challenges my thinking on subjects I thought I already had mastered.  He broadens my horizons, and allows me to venture down roads I have never traveled.  He does this to improve me.  He does this to make me rich.  Rich in Him. He puts things in me to make me wealthy.  Not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual way.  Think about all that He does to make me a spiritually rich person.  I can't even list everything He does to do that.  He does this every day, and my supply is never depleted.  Just when I've said something ridiculous,  just when I think I know it all,  God is able to overcome my speech or my thoughts or my manners and show me a better way to do things.  And when He improves something, it is most definitely improved. 
     Thank you, God, for making me rich.  I am rich in more ways than I realize.  You put Your all into me to make me wealthy in You and my wealth in You is enough.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lift Up Your Heads (Remembering 9/11)

Today's passage:  Luke 21:28
     "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
     Ten years ago tomorrow, I lifted my head, started my morning routine, and drove to work.  I taught third grade.  My husband and I (no kids yet) had just bought our house that May.  I was just getting used to the morning rush hour commute, having only been driving to the school for a few weeks.  We live across town, couldn't afford anything on the side of the city where both of us worked, so I spent my usual 35-45 minute ride listening to the radio, thinking about who knows what since I didn't have kids fighting and complaining or asking questions in the back seats.  It is hard to remember what life was like before children, and yet I had a very full and busy one teaching.  I didn't hear the reports on the radio because I arrived early enough for teacher's meeting.  I was actually on time.  In Chicago, you can leave at the same time every day, and still arrive at a different time.  But this morning, I was a little early.  Every morning we had devotions and prayer requests before starting the day.  Our kindergarten teacher is the one who asked for prayer because she heard that a plane had hit the top of the World Trade Center.  As most everyone thought, without having seen any pictures, we assumed a little Cessna had calculated terribly and possibly skimmed the top, only injuring those on board.  It seemed like one of those fluke accidents you sometimes hear about.  As was often my routine, following the meeting, I went into the school kitchen to pour my cup of coffee (this is where I started the caffeine habit) ready to face the day.  Little did I know what a day it was to be.  As I was talking with some co-workers, our principal came into the kitchen and said to us, "Another plane has hit the World Trade Center".  Conversation stopped.  We were in disbelief.  Another one had hit?  Well, then, that had to mean...Yes, he told us, we were under attack.  Living in a city like Chicago, you automatically think you are a target.  We aren't exactly under the radar, and if you have ever seen our downtown, it would be a terrorist's dream.  I can get to O'hare International Airport in ten minutes.  I stress International because if we were at war, and hijacked planes were being used as missiles, what was next?  I tried to process this information as quickly as I could because I had about twenty 8 and 9 year olds to teach that morning.  Children are very intuitive.  They can sense when something is not right.  I was in the middle of Bible class when our school secretary discreetly slipped in and told me another plane had hit the Pentagon.  The Pentagon?  Not 20 years ago, my own father had worked in that building.  Suddenly a personal connection.  I had been to his office.  This is a place I knew.
     Parents started arriving (many who worked downtown, which had mostly been evacuated, just in case) to pick up children.  Some of them because they had nothing else to do for the rest of the day as their workday had ended early, some of them because they felt the sudden need to have their little ones close.  At break times, teachers would visit the school kitchen where a TV had been set up (this was not the norm) so we could catch updates.  This is how we heard about the plane going down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania although we weren't entirely certain if it was related to the other three.  Then I saw replays of the towers crashing to the ground one by one.  We had been given word that all the planes had been grounded.  This was of great relief and great concern.  As I monitored the children playing outside, carefree,  every plane that flew overhead was distressing.  Was it obeying orders to get out of the air, or was it on a renegade mission?  After a while, the sky became eerily quiet.  In Chicago, there always seems to be a plane flying overhead, so the absence of them was odd.
     I drove home listening to the reports of all that happened that day, by that time I had learned that the fourth plane was taken down by the brave passengers on-board.  I heard about many of the rescue workers who had been killed on their way up to save those trapped in the towers.  Arriving home, I switched on the television, toggling between channels that had only the coverage of this horrific day.  It was then that I saw people leaping to their deaths.  I sobbed convulsively.  People trying to escape the flames, but if unsaved, were falling into even greater flames. 
     As I lifted my head that gorgeous Tuesday morning, the weather here as pleasant as it was in New York City, I had no idea what would transpire that day.  As New Yorkers, and Washingtonians and all those who boarded Flight 93 lifted their heads from their pillows, ten years ago, they thought they were going to have an ordinary day.  As those in Manhattan lifted their heads to look up at the devastation above, they saw what looked like unleashed fury. 
     But some of them, in death, lifted their heads, and as they went to glory saw their Redeemer.  One day, I will lift up my head and it will not be to see these disturbing images that are played each year as a reminder to us what happened that day, but it will be to see my Lord and Savior coming to take me Home.  It will be to see Jesus, white robed, gathering all those who have accepted Him as the only Way, to take us to Heaven.  My redemption will be near.  We will never forget what happened on September 11, 2001.  We will never forget those who gave their lives, and those who continue to give lives to save us.  Somebody else gave His life.  It was Jesus Christ, and if you have never accepted Him today, don't wait.  Lift up your head and see that He died for you.  Your redemption is right there, waiting to save you.  You may not need to be saved from a hijacked airplane.  You may not need to be saved from a burning building, but if you do not know where you are going after this life, you may as well be in one of those situations.  Please visit my page:  Understanding Salvation if you have any questions about how you can know for sure that you will see Jesus at the end of this life.  Then one day you can lift up your head and see His hand outstretched to you, as He will to so many others who have accepted Him as their Savior, welcoming you into your eternal Home.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Today's passage: I Samuel 31
    It seems that a warrior's life can end in two ways, at the hands of his enemy (with possible torture preceding it) or by his own hands.  Saul chose the latter, once he was certain he would not be able to escape the Philistines.  Even in death, Saul chose the easy way.  His three sons died fighting.  Saul died by his own sword.  And really, he wasn't even brave enough to do the deed himself.  He pleaded with his armor-bearer to finish him, but this young man was too wise to follow those instructions.  Can you imagine how that might have played out?  This armor-bearer with blood on his sword, and Saul's blood on his hands?  He might have been accused of murder.  How could he explain that the now dead king requested it?  There would have been no witnesses to speak in his defense, and he was not about to be tried for treason.  He declined.  So Saul has no choice but to fall on his sword himself.  Actually he did have another choice, but he knew what happened to kings that fell into enemy hands.  I can't fault Saul for not wanting to die such a horrible death, he was definitely going to die, God had told him this already.  But didn't those who died in torture or a martyr's death become legendary?  I mean, couldn't this have been an opportunity for Saul to leave a lasting legacy?  Battling the Philistines to the death?  The Philistines were going to tear him apart anyway, but doesn't it seem a little less noble when the body is already dead?  I guess I've watched Braveheart one too many times, where William Wallace is tortured but refuses to leave this life without uttering one more anguished "Freedom". 
Saul Falls on His Sword--Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D. D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     I just don't think Saul died heroicly.  He copped out.  And still, the Israelites who had fled for the hills by now, have enough sense of duty to travel all night to retrieve Saul's separated body from the Philistine temples and walls to burn it and bury the bones properly.  Thus ends the reign of the first king of Israel.  I wonder if it was everything the Israelites had envisioned?  I wonder when Samuel warned them at the anointing what a monarchy would be like if they expected it to end like this?  I wonder as they dug the hole under the tree at Jabesh, the smell of burnt flesh still in their noses, whether they were looking forward to the next king's reign?  God gave them what they wanted, or what they thought they wanted.  Would they dare go to God and tell Him they no longer wanted a king anymore?  Surely, as far as leaders go, it couldn't get any worse.  And it doesn't with David, or even really with Solomon.  Beyond that, I'm sorry to say, it gets much, much worse. 
     Saul looks angelic compared to future Judean kings.  With his many failings, the Bible does not record him ever leading the nation into idolatry.  Disobedience. Yes.  Greed. Yes.  Occultism.  At times.  If I compare Saul with many of the kings who follow, Saul looks like a pretty decent fellow.  But the Bible very specifically says not to compare ourselves with others.  It is not wise (I Corinthians 10:12).  Reflecting on Saul's life, have I been a little hard on him?  Probably, yes.  But I am hard on myself as well.  Anybody who knows me knows that.  I don't feel I have a hyper-critical spirit, I just have a tendency to always want to improve.  Even as a teacher, I was never satisfied with what I had accomplished that year.  What could I improve for the next school year?  As a parent, I am always looking to see what more I can do to better raise my children.  That is my nature, I'm afraid.  That doesn't mean I look for every flaw, but I am always looking for how God can better use me.  I guess maybe when I read the Bible, I look for the same in those people too.  Isn't that why God put them there?  To learn the lesson?  To get the message?  To follow or not to follow?  As I see the close of this book, the close of Saul's life, I can't help but think about how he could have been so different.  If he had allowed God to work in his life more, if he had asked God more for wisdom, if he had waited on Him.  He was short on patience, and it shortened his life.  Saul was not the worst king there ever was.  Saul had some good qualities (especially in the beginning of his reign).  Saul was a sinning human being, just like me.  Am I too hard on Saul?  Not any harder than I am on myself.  Because I have to compare Saul to the One who made Him.  I have to compare myself to the One who made me.  And when I do, I still have a long way to go.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Encourage Yourself

Today's passage:  I Samuel 30
     "And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters:  but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God."
      While David and his men had been out with Achish, there was trouble at home.  The Amalekites took advantage of the fact that the Philistines were at war.  They crept into Ziklag, a city that borders Philistine and Amalekite territory and looted it.  They also carried away all the women and children residing there.  Among those were David's two wives.  As David and his mighty men return to this city that Achish has so graciously allowed them to live in, they see red flames on the horizon.  The city is on fire.  Something has happened.  I'm sure they ran the rest of the distance to discover if any of their loved ones are alive.  When they see that all of their loved ones have been taken, "Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep."  Despair.  Heartbreak.  Hopelessness.  If they were still living in caves, in the forests, this would never have happened.  If they had never sought shelter from an enemy of their own nation, they may have been spared this.  These are probably the thoughts uttered to David as they look at the devastation surrounding them.  These men who had trusted David, who had been loyal to him, fought for him, defended him, were broken.  The families for which they were fighting were gone.  The Israeli nation which they loved had labeled them traitors.  The new country they served hired them as mercenaries.  What sense of belonging did they now have?  Where was their home?  Without their families, they didn't have one.  They turn on David.  They blame him for this.  He is their leader.  If they had stayed home, if they had not gone off to pretend to fight for the enemy, they would have been here to protect their families.
     David also blames himself.  David also questions the decisions that has brought him to this place.  David feels the loneliness, the heartache, the loss.  He feels the abandonment.  He feels forlorn.  He feels dejected and now rejected.  Where can he turn?  His friends are now like enemies.  They are picking up rocks, ready to hurl their anger at him in the form of stones.  David could have sat there midst the burning ash and let his men, his trusted friends, lob away.  He could have wallowed in these feelings of despair, refusing to pick himself up again.  He could have resigned himself that this was the end of God's plan for his life.  But what does he do?  "He encouraged himself in the LORD his God".  How did he do it?  Did he get out his Bible?  Did he fall on his face and beg God to hear him?  Did he start singing praises when all he wanted to do was sing dirges?  I don't know how he encouraged himself, but the way it is worded seems to be active.  God can give us encouragement anytime we want.  And there are times we feel His presence.  Other times, like here, we have to seek out the encouragement.  We have to go to the Encourager and ask Him for it.  Not because He doesn't always have it on hand for us, but sometimes we feel so far away that we can not feel His presence.  Not because He is no longer there, but when we are in situations of such discouragement, we cannot tell if a hand of blessing or a hand of death is reaching out to us.  There are times we have to lift ourselves out of the ashes and force ourselves to be encouraged.  We have to thrash through the pages of our Bible to find any and every verse that will help us in our time of need.  We have to sing with tears, with a broken voice, until our voice gets stronger with each refrain.  We have to whisper God's name over and over until we can shout it out.  God can encourage us.  He will encourage us.  Sometimes we have to make ourselves be encouraged.  He is shouting down from Heaven but we can't hear Him through the flames and wailing.  His Hand is reaching down to us, but we are too distracted by the stones in other's hands to notice.  David had to encourage himself.  He had to take action to find the encouragement.  It was there all along, but David had to remove himself from the midst of the situation to be able to feel it. 
     What about me?  Do I grab my gallon of ice cream and a spoon and expect that to change anything?  Do I close and lock the bedroom door, mourning my situation, determined never to leave?  Don't get me wrong.  There are times for these things.  Sometimes all I need to do is weep.  Sometimes I need to get alone and drown my sorrows in my bedsheets.  But when I feel I can weep no more, that is when I need to rise, and seek Him.  I need to encourage myself in Him.  I can't give up.  I can't let it be the end.  I need to find God, and let Him start the process of healing.  Encourage yourself in the Lord.  Don't always expect Him to come to you.  Maybe He is trying but you can't see Him through the mess.  Go to Him.  Seek Him.  Find Him.  He will be there.  And He will encourage you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Measures of Mercy

Today's passage:  I Samuel 29
     When I was in college, I had to write a paper on self-esteem for one of my education classes.  I wasn't trying to put it off, but as the deadline crept closer, I hadn't even read the book on which we were to base the paper.  Fortunately, I am a quick reader, and the book was not a snoozer.  I read it in a few hours, pulled an overnighter and skipped my first few classes to complete the paper, but was still not finished in time to deliver it to my professor.  I turned it in the next day, ready to be marked down heavily for its delay.  I lived at home, not on campus, so my mother was not too pleased with my procrastination on the project.  I was unbelievably surprised when my graded essay was returned to me with an A+ at the top of the page, and this remark, "The effort you put forth in writing a truly effective paper far outweighs it being late for one day."  I remember my mother seeing that comment and saying, "You didn't deserve that grade."  She was right.  I didn't.  My professor had not seen that I had only worked on it for one night.  She wasn't to know that I hadn't been writing it for days.  Mercy was extended to me.  The situation was of my own making, but I received grace.  There were other classes that I suffered the consequences, but for some reason, on that day, I was spared them.
     David put himself in this situation, servant to the king of Philistia, prepared to go to battle with his countrymen, because of the lies he had told.  He had been dishonest with Achish, king of Gath.  He pretended his loyalty was with them, which put him in some tough circumstances.  Achish now expected David to prove himself.  He expected David to fight with them, against his brothers, against his true king, against his best friend, Jonathan.  David and his men follow the Philistines to the battlefield, but many of the Philistine princes question this decision.  They ask Achish why David should be allowed to fight.  They do not trust him.  They do not want to be in the midst of battle with David and his men betraying them, fighting for Israel.  Achish defends David, assuring them he has been a loyal subject for this couple of years, but relents when the princes stubbornly refuse to allow him to fight.  David must have been relieved.  I imagine he had probably asked God before marching out to the battlefield to somehow deliver him from this situation.  God does.  David does not deserve it.  He created these circumstances for himself and for his men.  He didn't deserve mercy, but God extended it anyway.  I know he had no desire to fight his Israeli comrades, some of which he had probably fought side by side against the Philistines.  He would have either turned traitor on Achish in the midst of the battle (just as the Philistine princes feared) or commit an act against his nation which would cause him to shudder.  God spared him of all this.
     If God were to judge me for every sin I committed, I would be dead.  If He were to give me the full punishment (besides not giving me hell, thank you Lord, for so great a salvation) for every thought in my head, every word I uttered, every deed I performed I would never have made it out of my teen years.  I would never have made it to my teen years.  God is merciful to me every day, even when I find myself in a situation of my own making.  Still, He is gracious to me.  That doesn't mean I have never suffered the consequences, but I sure am thankful every time He spares me when I don't deserve it.  And guess what?  I never deserve it.  Not one single time.  If God ever allows me to suffer consequences for something I really did not do, that only makes up for the hundreds of times He has been merciful to me for the many times I didn't deserve it.  So the next time I complain about receiving the penalty for something I am not at fault for, I should remember all the times I deserved the F.  I need to keep in mind that God has spared me numerous times.  When God tests me with something that I shouldn't be punished for, I need to take it.  Maybe I didn't deserve it in that situation, but remember the time I did?  Does that mean God has a balancing act going on, weighing the times He has been merciful with the times He hasn't?  When is there a time He hasn't been merciful?  He is merciful every single day. Trust me, if He were putting things on a scale, the times I didn't deserve mercy would put a whole through the floor.  And no, God does not have a ledger that shows how he spared me the consequences over there, and not over here.  Every time I am put in a situation that I don't think I deserve to be in, I need to remember that the God of mercy put me there.  And what will my response be?  It's not fair?  Is it fair that He has given me mercy in other situations where I most definitely should have suffered the punishment?  David was grateful.  There will be other times in his future, where it doesn't seem he should suffer the punishment he receives, but if he is truly honest, there are plenty of times he was spared the punishment he deserved.
     I didn't get an A+ on every late paper I turned in.  Truth be told, I didn't get an A+ on some papers I worked very hard on, that I turned in punctually, that I researched extensively.  Sometimes I didn't get the grade I deserved on those.  But I would never complain about that, because God and I know when I didn't make the grade in other ways.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Today's passage:  I Samuel 28
      I am inclined to cry out, like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, "I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do believe in spooks."
      There is so much to learn and absorb from this chapter.  The Philistines are at it again.  They are camping along the hillside across the valley from Israel, ready for war.  Saul is fearful, perhaps because David is now on the side of the Philistines.  Now, he isn't really, but that is what Achish, the Philistine king believes.  He has been harboring David for over a year, so he expects David to fight for them.  David has no intention of doing this, but leads Achish to believe it.  So Saul feels as if he has lost the battle (his best warrior fighting with the enemy) and Achish feels as if he has won.  Saul prays to God, a novel approach for him, and is disconcerted when God doesn't answer.  God would have answered if Saul's heart had been right, but Saul had much to confess to be back in fellowship with Him.  If he had already been repentant, David would have been back at his side in his kingdom.  Instead of searching his heart and repenting of his sin, he seeks out a witch.  He had banished those involved with the occult to leave the land at some point in his reign.  I am guessing that he realized the evil spirit he wrestled with was a direct result from those types of people hanging around the palace.  This was a wise thing to do.  God commanded that his people stay away from any kind of sorcery, wizardry, occult activity. Now, frustrated that God has not answered the moment Saul calls on Him (we've seen his impatience before) he goes after the very people he drove away. 
Saul Sees Samuel While Visiting the Witch at En Dor--Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop
International Publishing Company, 1894
     He is told about a woman in Endor who can communicate with the dead.  She is hesitant to help because she thinks this is a trap set by Saul to have her imprisoned or killed for violating the king's law.  Saul is disguised, so she does not realize it is him, until she calls up Samuel from the dead.  There is so much speculation about whether it is really Samuel or not.  Could it really be him?  It could.  God could have surprised them both, and allowed Samuel to reappear.  A demon could have taken on Samuel's form and appeared.  I do not claim to know which it was, but whatever happened, it revealed to the witch that the man who asked for this appearance was Saul, and she saw something she had never seen before.  Samuel (or Samuel's form) tells Saul that if God had departed from him, whatever gave him the notion that he could tell him anything better?  Instead, Samuel gives him even worse news.  He does well to be afraid, because he and his sons will be killed.  Saul is devastated by this news.  He stretches out on the floor, terrified, refusing to eat or even to move.  The witch, not wanting to be responsible for the king's death, especially in her abode, makes a meal for him, and begs him to eat.  He finally does to the witch's great relief.
     I still believe it could have been Samuel that appeared.  But there are a couple things that make me a little skeptical, because only the witch claims to have seen him.  When Saul is talking to the spirit, and I'm not clear if he is talking directly to Samuel or through the witch, it doesn't say that Saul sees Samuel, because he has to ask the witch what the man looks like.  There are many mediums today who claim they can talk with our loved ones who have passed on.  I am not disputing that there are those who can.  The devil is the god of this world and he can manipulate things.  The Bible also says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, so the devil must have many demons to do his bidding and take on many forms.  I also think there are a lot of phonies out there who make a lot of money by telling people what they want to hear.  They have perfected the art of the scam.  I mean, this witch tells Saul she sees an old man in a cloak.  That automatically makes this apparition Samuel?  Is she deceiving Saul?  I don't know.  What I do know is we are inundated with occultist books, shows, music, culture.  It is everywhere.  I find it best to stay away from all of it.  What seems harmless, is Satan's way of sugarcoating things to make it palatable so he can lure us into something more.  Especially because I have young children who have not accepted Christ yet, I do not want them to be subjected to any spirits that are not from God.  I do not want to open my door to Satan in even the slightest way.  This may seem like an extreme position, and maybe it is, but I just don't feel like I can be too careful in this area.  Vampires, witches, goblins, sorcerers, wizards, there are dozens of shows and games that promote these things.  Are they wrong?  They are wrong for my family.  I am not going to pretend to give people a list of what they should or should not participate in.  The Bible is very clear that we should not consult with fortunetellers and palmreaders.  What Saul did was in absolute violation of God's laws.  We shouldn't participate in seances and witch's spells.  So should we watch or listen or read things that have them?  Again, that is for each person to decide on their own.  I want to stay as far away from those things as possible.  Just recently, I upset my son with not allowing him to play an on-line computer game he thought was really fun.  I thought it was just ninja battles, but when taking a closer look, I found it was each participant playing a power card, matching elements against each other.  Now, was this just like a game of rock, paper, scissors where you try to outwit the other player by throwing down the right signal?  Maybe.  But for me, they looked too much like tarot cards.  Am I being extreme?  I mean, I can't shelter my kids from everything.  This is true.  But I have young souls to look after, and I have to answer to God for that.  What may be extreme is my way of trying to keep my boys from following after anything that might blind their eyes to the truth of God's Word.  I explained to my son why I didn't want him to play the game, he understood.  Does that mean he will always understand?  Maybe not.  I try to strike the right balance.  I don't forbid him to play the computer altogether.  He knows that just like there are certain TV shows he is not allowed to watch (there are tons of shows he can) there are certain games he will not be allowed to play.  There will also be certain books I will not allow him to read.  I know, I know, I can hear people saying it.  He will just do those things on the sly or when he is old enough to leave my house.  I can't be responsible for what he does when he leaves.  I have tried to teach him the why of what he can or cannot do and what he does when he is on his own is his choice.  I don't know if I am right.  I am not promoting book burning or unplugging the TV.  I am just trying to be as watchful as I can over the precious souls God has given for me to raise.  I am afraid of all that is out there for their ears and eyes, because "I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do believe in spooks."
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