Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Today's passage:  Genesis 3
     I do not have teenagers yet, and still have a few years before I get to fret and worry over those challenging years.  I think about the hearts of parents whose teens have rebelled and strayed.  I think of the sleepless nights of the parents of young people who have chosen a different path from the one they were guided in.  The young adults who have strayed from the fold, choosing one that will no doubt lead them to destruction or even if rescued in time, still a lifetime of pain and regret.  It seems that every family has at least one child who rejects what he or she has been taught.  Some rebellion is seemingly slight, maybe skipping church from time to time, or going to the occasional drinking party.  The parents are unhappy with these decisions but are grateful that their children are still within their influence to possibly lead them in a better way.  There are young people who fall into an even greater rebellion, letting vices of alcohol and drugs lead them far away from spiritual influence.  Perhaps they fall into a wrong crowd--a gang, a cult, a drug den.  They seem beyond reach.  They seem beyond hope.  They seem beyond rescue.
     Looking back, remembering the early years when this prodigal took his first step, when she took her first bite of baby food, when he first said "I love you" and gave his Mama a kiss of his own accord, I doubt mother and father flash forwarded to the future to see him buying a dime bag, to visualize her with the gaunt cheek bones of a meth addict, to picture him facing the judge after driving while intoxicated.  I don't want to fathom the heartache and despair that these parents experience.  And even if they knew this is what their children would choose, would they ever have wished they had not been born?  Would there ever be anything my children could do that would have made me reconsider their existence?  Would there be any sin or act that they would commit, that I would think to myself, "I wish I had never given birth to this child"?.  I can't imagine thinking or feeling that.  I can't imagine any parent wishing or thinking that.  Would I wish they had made different choices?  Of course.  Would I pray that they would see the Truth, the Way and the Life?  Yes.  Would I do everything in my power to help and guide and lead them on the right path?  Undoubtedly. And sometimes the only power I would have is to pray.
     I'm reading about Adam and Eve.  God knew exactly what was going to happen.  He didn't blame Himself for the choice they were about to make, a choice that would change their relationship forever.  A choice that would have lasting consequences.  A choice that would change their whole way of life.  God was the perfect parent, and still they chose to do what was wrong.  God knew what they would choose.  And knowing it, He still created us. He knew that they would not be the only ones to make wrong choices.  He knew there would be many, many more who would make choices.  Choices that excluded Him.  Like any parent, He has done all He can to bridge the gap, to make a way, to provide rescue.  And like rebellious children, we still wander on our own.  How full is God's heart?

      After Adam and Eve sinned, and were judged, God provides the skins to cover them.  It is a picture of present and future redemption, the sin covering, but what a picture of love as well.  I don't see God just dropping these skins and harshly saying "Put these on".  I picture God gently and lovingly wrapping His children in His provision, not withdrawing His love from them, from us.  He didn't rue this day, wondering why He had created such rebellious creatures.  He could have scrapped them and started over.  It wouldn't have been very difficult for Him to do.  He knew there would be even more children who would choose the same way.  But He never says, "I wish you had never been born."  I would say that I can't understand that, but when I think of my own children, I can't imagine thinking that of them either, no matter how much pain and grief they may cause me in the future.  So maybe I can understand, because there is always hope that the prodigal son or daughter will return.  There is always the possibility that he or she will choose right instead of wrong.  There is always the prayer that our love will triumph over the evil that has ensnared them.  My love for my children isn't nearly as powerful as God's.  His love has reached into the deepest, darkest places.  His love has rescued the most unlikely.
     I shake my head at the impossibility of such love.  Then I remember that He also has seen me take my first step, not only towards my parents but toward Him.  He saw me dribble my first mouthful, not only of baby cereal, but of His Word into my heart.  He heard me say "I love you" to my parents and to Him for the first time unprompted.  He has seen me from the very start, and like any loving Father, He does whatever He can to help me.  Would we have ever been able to see how much God loves us if Adam and Eve had obeyed, even if that is what they should have done?  We would see how He loved perfect creatures.  We could never see that unconditional love is loving that which is imperfect.  We would never know just how far our God would go to return us to Him.  And any parent with a wayward child would be willing to take their pain and consequences if it meant that they would be restored.
     No, I would never wish for my children to have never existed.  I would wish for them to follow God.  I would wish for them to grasp His love.  I would pray for them to abandon their foolish choices or ways.  I would make the path of return plain and visible.  God must feel the same way about us.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snack shop Theology

Today's passage:  Genesis 3: 1-3
     How do I begin this post?  I am not a Bible theologian.  I am not even a Bible scholar.  I love reading and studying God's Word.  I did go to Bible college, but I can't say I was most alert in my Bible classes.  Except for basic freshman Bible History and Life of Christ classes, most of them were over my head.  I took notes, but I didn't really absorb much.  This is probably because the rest of my Bible classes were usually geared towards preacher boys or soon-to-be missionary men.  I'm not complaining, that's as it should be.  I never participated in the theological arguments proposed because I guess I just was not interested in debates, or I figured that if God wanted us to know such and such, He would have told us.  Doctrine class was always a catalyst for discussion.  I mostly zoned out and doodled until class notes resumed.  The campus snack shop was usually abuzz about one of the discussions in one of our Bible classes, thus earning those who engaged in such debate the moniker--"snack shop theologians".  Sometimes a professor would drop by and weigh in on these discussions while sipping his coffee or eating his bagel.
     What I wonder sometimes is if I have become one of those?  Because lately, I have had a lot more questions about things I read in the Bible.  Not questioning its validity, inerrancy, or infallibility. Not even questioning a majority of the things I have always been taught and have believed.  Sometimes I just have a nagging question that sits in the back of my mind, because I have always heard something a certain way, and I wonder if I'm the one with the wrong question, or if the ones from whom I've heard something taught had the wrong question.  Chapter 2 tells us about God creating Adam.  Something I think I had forgotten is that when God gave the instructions about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve had not been created yet.  He gave those instructions to Adam.  I think right there God established Adam as the head of the household and the spiritual leader of his family (though he did not yet have one).
16  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it:  for in the day that  thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
      When Eve is confronted by the serpent in Chapter 3, she says:
3  But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
     I've heard it preached on many occasions that Eve added to God's instructions.  When God gives the instructions to Adam, He never tells Adam not to touch the tree, only not to eat it.  If Eve really did add to God's instructions, wouldn't that have been sin?  But sin hadn't entered into the world yet.  So am I wrong?  Or are the people who have taught it this way wrong?  Did God have another conversation with the couple after Eve had been created, and at that time added the instructions about not touching the tree?  Or did God leave that spiritual leadership to Adam and allow him to tell her what He had instructed?  Could Adam have possibly just given a stronger admonition to Eve because he loved her and wanted to protect her, not really adding to what God said, just taking the reigns of spiritual leadership that had been handed over to him and knowing that touching the fruit would mean the possibility of partaking of it which would lead to death?  Did Adam tell Eve that God said not to touch it, or did he warn her not to, and she took that to be that God had said it?  Or maybe it is true that she really added to God's words but it was not yet sin.  I don't know.   I have more questions than answers this morning, but I don't think that is a bad thing.  As long as I never question that God's Word (all of it) is true, I don't think God minds that I have questions now and then.  I won't let them consume me, because some day I will have the answers that I seek.  I won't go about insisting that those who have taught it this way are wrong, because I have no way of knowing, and it is obviously not something God chose to let us in on.  Whether or not Eve added to God's Word is not going to any way affect my salvation.  It is not going to affect my Christian growth.  It might make me scratch my head.  It might add to my when-I-see-God-I-want-to-ask-Him-this list, but it won't affect my everyday living.

     Perhaps that is why I never saw the point of all the snack shop theology.  When it boiled down to it, I never saw that any of their arguments ever accomplished anything.  Usually everyone left still holding onto their opinion and none of it changed our salvation or how we should serve the Lord.  I was more interested in my bagel and cup of coffee.  Speaking of which, maybe I would be better off to be more interested in my bagel and cup of coffee this morning as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just a Moment

Today's passage:  Job 2:9-10
 "9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity?  curse God, and die.
10  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh.  What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?  In all this did not Job sin with his lips."
     As hard as I tried to concentrate on Genesis this morning (and I did read it), a verse jumped out at me last night and it just won't let me go until I get my thoughts about it out.  Maybe after I've written about it for a bit, I can focus more on the passage I am supposed to be studying.
     In Bible study last night, we flipped briefly to these verses and something about them leaped off the page for me.  It was one of those lightbulb-I-never-saw-that-before moments.  Probably anyone reading this saw it a long time ago, but for me, it was brand new.  And when I see something like that, I just have to share (ask my husband--he's probably very glad I share with my blog now, cause I get over-the-top excited sometimes).
     Anyhoo, I have always given Mrs. Job a bad rap.  I think a lot of people have.  Here Job is, he has lost his fortune, he has lost his children (and his heirs, which would also mean the family name would disappear), and now his health.  He is mourning, he is itching, he is discouraged beyond anything I can imagine.  And is his wife any encouragement at all?  No.  She says something hateful.  She says something irrational.  I tend to forget that she lost a little too.  The Bible doesn't say anything at all about her health failing so she couldn't be suffering as much as Job, but take children away from a mother, and well, there is little else I can think of that would plunge her into despair.  She was grieving too.  Does that make her tirade acceptable?  No, it does not.  It might make her a little more sympathetic, but it doesn't make her the heroine.  Job was able to hold his tongue, why couldn't she?
     When I think of Mrs. Job, I think of this bitter woman with a pessimistic life outlook. Indeed, wouldn't Job have been better off without this negative woman?
Courtesy of http://breadsite.org

     Then I read his response.  What hit me is that he doesn't call her a foolish woman.  He says she is speaking like "foolish women" do.  That indicates to me that this was not characteristic of her.  She would not normally say such things.  Grief had overtaken her and in this moment, she said exactly what she thought. Now I realize that what is in our heart is what comes out of our mouth, but have we not all had moments where our hearts felt too empty?  Or too full?  I have said things in a moment that I wish I could take back.  In that one moment, she said something that maybe she wished she could take back too.  Maybe she didn't.  I have no way of knowing.  I just wonder how many times I have said something in a moment of weakness that might become my legacy.  Just one moment.  God chose to put these words in the Bible about Mrs. Job to help us understand some things.  Obviously there is the contrast between Job's reaction and his wife's.  But maybe too, it is to show us that even one moment in our lives may be the historical record by which we are judged.  Perhaps she was as bitter and pessimistic as I have always thought, or maybe, just maybe, she was overcome with her pain in one moment that the worst thing she could think or say came out.
     She lashed out at the only One who could ease her pain.  But before, I am too harsh, I might look at times in my own life, or times to come, that I might have been less than generous with my words, that I might let the sorrow rise and the unwise words hit their mark.  If God chose to record some of my less-than-stellar comments, it might have been only one moment in my life, but anyone who does not know me will judge my character by them.  Just as I have often judged Mrs. Job for hers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Helping Hands

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 3:9
     "For we are labourers together with God..."
     Yesterday, as I was sweeping my kitchen, Youngest (now three) decided he wanted to help.  He grabbed his kid-sized broom and eagerly whisked the crumb piles I had already accumulated.  Needless to say (but I will say it anyway) he mostly succeeded to make a bigger mess than was already there.  Then he grabbed the dustpan and hand-held broom to sweep up the now scattered crumbs.  This was an amusing sight as he circled over and over, backing up the dustpan while sweeping, always missing some particles which made it necessary to back up the dustpan again.  Let's just say his hand-eye coordination could have been a little better.  He sure got one area of the kitchen floor clean, but not much else.
     I could have done this chore faster without his help.  I could have gotten the floor cleaner without it also.  But he would have missed out on some training, and I would have missed out on watching him learn something.  I guided him and praised him throughout, but I knew without a doubt that it might have been easier had I done it all
[Picture: Page 3. The Sunday Wood]
The Sunday Wood
From "Out to Old Aunt Mary's" by James Whitcomb Riley
USA, 1904
Courtesy of www.fromoldbooks.org
     If God ever feels that way about me, I would never know it.  He praises me for a job well done, even though He could do it better, faster, grander.  He chooses to let me help.  Why?  Because it gives me much needed training, and it gives Him the pleasure of watching His child accomplish something for His glory.  He gives me guidance and praise, but He could have easily done the job without me.  As I gain more experience, I gain a little more confidence, and I get a little better at the job He's given me to do.  As my littlest practices these chores, with age and knowledge, he will get a little better at them. He may not even need my guidance anymore.  I can't say that about the work God gives me.  I will always need His guidance and reassurance that I am doing what He wants me to do.  He will always let me depend on Him for the things He wants me to accomplish for His glory, and He will never say to me, "Just give me that, I'll get it done faster."  I will never hear him say, "Can't you do anything right?"  Because He knows I can't.  And if I do get it right, it can only be with His help.
     Thank you, Lord for allowing me to participate in work that you can accomplish without me.  Thank you for giving me the chance to learn through my mistakes (all mine) and successes (all Yours).  I can be sure that  You are glorified because You never had to let me help in the first place.  May I always look to You for guidance and help.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Creature Feature

Today's passage:  Genesis 1:20-26
     I think that some of the people who work for Disney Pixar are among the most clever people on the planet.  As a writer, I am always fascinated at the way they build a climax, how they create and then resolve a conflict.  Just when we think the character is about to achieve his goal, something causes it to be put just out of reach for him to grasp it, creating that tension that makes for a great story. They also create interesting and memorable characters, even in the ones that are just on the sidelines.
     One of my favorite moments in one of their films (let's see who can guess which one) is when several gulls are sitting in a very famous harbor watching as fish spring upwards from the ocean while echoing "Mine, mine" in a gullish squawk.  Their beady eyes are shining, elbowing each other out to catch their own dinner.
     It is the fifth day of Creation, and had I been a spectator, feet planted on the newly made earth, I would have seen the ocean brimming with life.  Schools swimming, whales leaping, sea horses dancing.  What a sight that would have been!  I would have seen flamingos posing, eagles swooping, swans gliding across ponds, rippling the surface without disturbing the minnows one bit.  The perch and herring wouldn't be bothered at all by the blue heron flying parallel to their pond home, because he would only be admiring his reflection.  He certainly would not be looking for a bite to eat.  The oceans teeming with angelfish and puffers would not know they couldn't wander from their reef homes.  They would not see the danger in the pelican hovering so close, even with his trunk bill open wide.  He would only be yawning, not ready to swallow them up.  Extinct passenger pigeons would have flocked to the trees (since building ledges would not have existed yet), pods of endangered snail-moving right whales would spout peacefully, never aware of a threatened future.
God created the animals
Taken from Standard Bible Story Reader, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     On day six, the grizzly bear would lumber near the stream, only to get a drink, never noticing the streaky pink salmon attempting a herkie, in perfect position for a day's catch.  The barn owl whose dominating shadow would normally send field mice scurrying would only be interested in the wind ruffling his downy feathers.  Gazelles would burst into speed races with cheetahs, not to run for their lives, just for the exercise.
     What a different life it would have been for all of God's creatures.  Whistles, hoots, roars; flashes of color, thunderous hooves surrounding me.  Shy deer eating out of my hand, not really that shy at all.  A crocodile brushing against me (yikes!) wondering if I might drop a morsel for him.  Rainbow macaws perching on my shoulder as if I were Blackbeard. To reference another Disney film, (want to guess again?) it was a "world-class menagerie".  Lincoln Park Zoo (or any zoo, wildlife preserve, animal exhibit) could never replicate those first few days on earth.  Sure, they can gather numerous species of animals together but they could never allow them to wander freely, uncaged, without complications or boundaries.  It is an awesome thing to think how all those instincts cooperated rather than clashed.  And even more exciting is the thought that the earth will one day be like that again.  So maybe I missed it the first time, and can only let my imagination wander for a while, but one day soon, I will see it as it must have been.
Isaiah 11:6-8
6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together:  and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
9  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:  for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 
Indeed, what a day that will be.  My imagination will have to suffice for now, but I know I can't paint a word picture big enough to capture the majesty of that sight.  "Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20b)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Perfect Sense

Today's passage:  Genesis 1:3-17
     Do you know that I still struggle after all these years to get the order of the days of Creation straight?  I am always having to review and remind myself what was created on which day.  And after teaching preschoolers and kindergartners for Sunday School for so many years, you would think that I could keep that fresh in my memory.  After all, the Creation account is one of the Sunday School basics.  But I think the reason it is so hard for me to keep it straight, is because it is not at all the order I would have created the world.
     Wouldn't it have made more sense to make the sun, moon and stars on Day Two with Darkness and Light or on Day Three, the day after? If I had been the Creator of the universe, wouldn't it have made more sense to put the sun the day before the plants, trees, and flowers?  After all, as we have all learned in science class, flora depends on the sun to survive.  So why didn't God do it that way?  And here's something to think about, how did Darkness and Light come about on Day Two when there were no lights in the sky to determine this?  See, my pea-sized brain would really like answers to all these questions.
     "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
     And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.
     And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness:  and God saw that it was good.
     And the evening and the morning were the fourth day."
     My problem is, I keep thinking about this world the way it operates since Adam's fall.  The world God made prior to that was very different from the world in which I am living now.  I think about weather cycles and water cycles, but none of that was needed when God first created this earth.  In the verses above, it says nothing about the sun and moon being made for our oxygen supply or for vegetation to flourish and thrive.  That wasn't their original purpose.  God created them to rule over the day and night, to divide the light and the darkness.  Air exchanges and climate control were systems God put into place after the Garden  and this whole earth were no longer the perfect places God had originally designed.  So, though it doesn't make sense to me, it made perfect sense to God.  And I believe it probably was another reminder to me that God had everything under control before the fall.  This world didn't need a weather cycle for the lushness of the tropics to abound.  He didn't use photosynthesis to achieve a natural rain forest.  He was able to do that all by Himself, without any help from His own Creation.  So I'm guessing that the Darkness and Light were also not a problem for Him without a sun and moon for two more days.

     God is a perfect Creator.  When I first started this blog, one of my posts compared God to an artist  (This piece created by:  God).  I see now, that I was way off base with that comparison.  I mean, it was fine by way of application, in some respects.  But an artist is always stepping back from his work, seeing what more he could do to improve it.  Not so with God.  He did it perfectly the very first time.  And when Adam sinned, it didn't send everything horribly out of whack, because God knew it was going to happen and put a series of systems in place for the earth to operate in a different way.  It wasn't the way I would have done it, because I would have needed the sun, moon, and stars to separate the darkness and light.  I would certainly have made sure they were there before I created the land and seas, the trees and plants.  You know, the whole moon affecting the tides thing and the water cycle for the plants to live.  But that is because I'm an imperfect person trying to create an imperfect world.  God created perfection and He knew there would be no improving on that.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Today's passage:  Romans 16:18-27
     "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
     I recognized the first part of the verse from Genesis 3.  God tells the serpent that he "will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."  Of course, God was referring to the Son He would send into the world someday.  Paul is writing this after Jesus has already been crucified and risen, so Genesis 3 has actually been fulfilled, but the Roman church will have the opportunity to bruise Satan in a different way.  I'm sure this is partly referring (and maybe wholly referring) to the verses I mentioned yesterday (See:  Marked).  A church who marks and avoids heretics will be successful, they will be victorious against Satan.  But part of me wondered about something else.
     I decided to do a little checking.  It is widely agreed that the book of Romans was written about 55-56 AD probably from Corinth.  He makes it clear in this epistle that he plans to visit the Roman church at some point in the future.  He does eventually make this trip, and as far as anyone can tell, he was martyred there around 60-61 AD.  A year or two after the book of Romans is written, one of the most antagonistic emperors of the Roman empire assumes the throne.  It is Emperor Nero.  Paul, and many of the apostles (including Peter) were believed to be killed under his rule.  I would imagine the Roman Coliseum would serve as Nero's arena but I also learned this was about 15 years too early.  Though that arena was not the location of Nero's persecution, his gardens were often lit with Christian believers as torches.
     With this information, I wonder if God directed Paul to write these words with an even wider scope in mind.  Would Satan's head be bruised by the suffering of the saints?  Would the persecution of God's church further crush Satan?  We know that because of the death of believers, the Gospel was spread even farther. And really, what could bruise Satan more than another soul lost to him?   Paul often mentions the peace and grace of God in the beginnings and ending of his epistles, but it seems particularly important in this passage, because when they were being persecuted they would need both grace and peace.  I'm not saying that is why God directed these words, but God could see the future and Paul could not.  Perhaps He meant more in the statement than even Paul could know.
     When Paul writes "shortly", it could mean anytime in the near future.  I just wonder if that near future might be in the following years when many would be put to death in His Name.  Given that possibility, we should not be filled with dread at the prospect of dying for our Lord.  If this is indeed a way that God allows believers to bruise Satan's head underfoot, then I should be like the brave soldiers who defend us and volunteer for that position.  I can't say I've gained that kind of courage yet, but if there ever is a day, I might think about the privilege I get to grind Satan's head into the pavement.  That seems like a job any Christian would be happy to take.


Today's passage:  Genesis 1-2
     When I was in elementary school, our desks often had number lines laminated on the desks.  It helped us to add or subtract.  Up until about sixth grade (for me, anyway), they started with 0 and ended before 100.  As the grades increased, the font sizes decreased and more numbers could be printed on the strip.  So that number line that only ended with ten in first grade, ended with a much higher number by sixth.  There was a definite beginning and end.  But then I entered junior high, and I learned about integers.  I learned there were negative numbers before zero.  So here was a brand new number line, and the definite expanded because zero wasn't really the beginning, there were numbers below it.  I think that is why they reserve this information for the upper grades, my kindergarten head would explode and take advantage of that kind of information. My kindergartner son was already dazzled with google plus, claiming it as his favorite number because it is supposedly was the biggest number out there.  Then, not too long ago, our pastor mentioned google plex plus, and his eyes widened because there was now even a greater number.  Someone recently tried to tell him about infinity but he was skeptical that it could beat google plex plus.  Wait till he finds out there are numbers less than zero.
     "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
     I decided with the new year, that maybe it was time to go back to the beginning.  I haven't read all of Genesis in a while, so I figured I would take a refresher course.  I can hardly believe that God would remind me of something in just this very first verse.  And it is nothing new, but it is so powerful and just really gave me something to think about.  I love that God knows we live by time.  He doesn't live by it, but He knows that is how He created us and how we operate.  God really didn't have to say "in the beginning".  There was no beginning for Him.  He has always been there.  I know that.  He put "in the beginning" in there for us.  He put it in there to say, "this is how you began, this is how I created you and this world you are living in."  It was the beginning for me and my story, but His story had always been going on.  He is like integers.  Where is the end to the number line below zero?  There isn't one, it just keeps going.  And what about infinity?  There is no ending there either.  Maybe that is why God gave us numbers, to help us have a smidgen of understanding about no beginning and no end.
  "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
     When I think about the earth being without form, I imagine a lump of clay.  God takes it and fashions it.  It has a shape now.  I'm terrible at fashioning circles.  When I draw them, they are never as round as they should be, unless I use a pattern or stencil.  When I use play-doh with my kids, I might roll it around in my hand to make a ball, but do you know, I can never get it as round or perfectly formed as it needs to be?  That is not a problem for God.  He always gets it right.  He tells us this earth was "void".  Empty.  It is hard to imagine this earth the way it must have looked to God.  And when I think about empty, I think of sadness.  Like the emptiness in people's hearts who don't know Him.  I don't know if God was sad when He looked at the perfect circle He made and saw how empty it was.  But He decided to fill it.  The following verses tell us what He decided to put here.

     He tells us that "darkness was upon the face of the deep."  Since I have only imagined the earth from an outer space perspective and how it looks from there,  it is hard for me to grasp this darkness, and this deep. What is the deep?  The next sentence seems to indicate that "the deep" is waters.  And they were shrouded in darkness.  But then the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit, I assume) moved upon them.  What exactly is the "face" of the waters, and what does the Holy Spirit do here?  And here's a good question, if the earth was void, how did the waters get there?  Some people believe in a gap theory Creation, or an age/day Creation.  I don't.  I believe that there were seven literal days of Creation.  Twenty-four hour days, because God doesn't operate on time, so if He said day, I think he is explaining to us the time-frame by which we operate. I can't explain any of it, and I can't quite comprehend it.  I don't even have a good guess on this one, so those are questions I will have to reserve for the Creator Himself.   Our pastor sometimes says he hopes there is instant replay in Heaven, because he really wants to see God parting the Red Sea for the Israelites.  I wouldn't mind seeing how God created this whole world.  That must have been some sight.  Whatever or however it happened, it was pretty special.  The Spirit of God moving, just as He moves in our hearts.  Just as He moves in a church service.  So maybe I couldn't see Him moving in our beginning, but I certainly can see Him moving today.  That stirring in our hearts, must have been a little bit like how He skimmed the surface of the waters, stirring them up, giving them movement.  Maybe that's what God means.  They were still before that, and now there are ebbs and tides, whirlpools and waves, all because of the Spirit moving. What a thought!  It wasn't weather that moved them, it was God.
      When I stop to really meditate on God's Creation, I can't help but be filled with awe.  If He can do such amazing things, like take a ball of nothing and give it movement and life, what can't He do?  If He can create time and numbers, both of which are unnecessary to Him, but help me to understand Him better, what else can He better help me understand?  I won't understand everything, obviously, but that is what makes Him so much greater.  If I believed in a God I could completely understand, I might be doubtful that He was as powerful as He is.  I might limit Him more than I already do.
     Thank you, Lord for being beyond my understanding.  Thank you for not answering all of my questions so that I keep studying and reading and scratching my head.  Thank you for being timeless, but giving me a time frame by which to have an inkling of understanding. You deserve all praise and glory, amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Today's passage:  Romans 16:1-18
     There was a movement in education several years back (seems like there is always some kind of movement) regarding grading student work.  Studies showed that negative red marks on student work lowered their self esteem. I'm not sure what the solution to this "dilemma" was, because I had pretty well tuned out after that, but I would not be surprised if the recommendation had been never to point out wrong answers on schoolwork.  I guess that explaining to the kindergartner that two plus two is indeed four and not five would shatter his self image too much, and well, we wouldn't want that.
     I just thought to myself, wouldn't it be more harmful to his self esteem if they were allowed to believe that their wrong answers were alright even into adulthood?  Isn't someone along the way going to make him feel ignorant for his well, ignorance and maybe in a much less kind way than a red mark on a paper?  I can understand that a student might be discouraged at seeing a failing test with red x's all over it, but am I doing that child a favor by not pointing it out so he can learn from his mistake and get it right in the future?  And what about his classmates?  When they see each other's work (which they always do somehow), aren't they going to point out to me or to him that he got two plus two equals five wrong too?
     This brings me to the passage today.  In verses 17-18, Paul writes:
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." 
Demetrius the Silversmith Stirs up a Riot
Demetrius the Silversmith Stirs up a Riot
Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     When I saw that word "mark", I immediately thought of taking a big red marker and drawing an "x" across something. Must be the teacher in me.  This is a hard truth.  And what is harder is that Paul points out the exact method a person uses to do this.  A person who is trying to divide a congregation doesn't go about it like a cyclone, although he has that exact effect.  How?  "By good words and fair speeches".  That would probably mean this is somebody who is very well liked.  I have seen this happen in churches before.  The pastor usually has to call out these particular people because it is what the Bible commands. Half the congregation feels this is extreme, because after all,  Mr. Division was such a helpful person.  He would see a need and be the first person there to assist (all the while planting heresy in the listener's ear).  Or Ms. Offence was always so efficient (especially at explaining why the pastor was wrong about the resurrection).

      The pastor has to expose this kind of behavior.  Why?  The end of verse 18 explains why, so that these deceivers can not lead hearts away.  The Bible calls them "simple", which I think would mean naive or trusting.  And who would be the most trusting in our congregations?  New converts and children.  I don't care how kind or helpful or efficient somebody is, if they are filling my children's ears with wrong doctrine, I don't want them teaching my children.  I don't want them around my children at all.  I would be justified in that because Paul doesn't only say "mark them", but he also says, "avoid them".  When a Mr. Division or Ms. Offence is asked to leave, he and she will more than likely take some followers with them, which is exactly why they have to be asked to leave in the first place.  If that kind of behavior is allowed to continue in a church, the whole congregation could be destroyed. I have never seen a  pastor enjoy exposing this kind of thing, but he is commanded to do it.  People may leave, but losing a few (although it would be preferable not to lose any) has to be risked than losing the whole church to heresy.  Church members who only saw the smiling, jovial, everybody's friend, Mr. Division or Ms. Offence may have been too wise for these people to expose their true selves.  Or true motives.  And this is the hardest part because it would be easier to believe that they are just deceived as well and they just need to grow more in the Lord.  And that may be true, but when they are trying to win others over to their point of view, especially in an already established church with a clear doctrinal statement, Paul says they are only doing it for one reason.  They are trying to serve their own belly.  Serve their own belly?  I've heard of filling a person's belly?  But I would guess it means about the same.  Serving one's belly would mean to have a full one.  And how would he be full?  When he has enough money to fill it.  So I'm guessing these deceivers have only one thing in mind.  Money.  I would like to assign purer motives to people most of the time, as I've said before, I like to think the best about people, but Paul is clear that these people are not trustworthy, and their motives are impure.
     If a pastor were to avoid pointing out these people because he was afraid of crushing someone's self esteem, he would be just as guilty as the teacher who fails to grade a paper properly.  Someone along the way is going to catch on, and the damage then might be far worse.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Missionary Grocery List

Today's passage:  Romans 15:8-32
     "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
      That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
     That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed."
     I pray for our missionaries.  Our Wednesday night prayer sheet lists all of the missionaries we support in 6 of the 7 continents.  Usually, I pray for the family in that country and put a little mark by the name.  I try to cycle through all the missionaries before starting over again.  Here is what I am guilty of (sentence ending with a preposition on purpose).  "Lord, bless so-and-so in such-and-such country." Mark by the name, move on to someone else tomorrow, like I would cross off an item I bought at the store.  Now, God will certainly honor and bless the fact that I prayed for so-and-so in such-and-such country and I'm sure that the missionary is appreciative of any mention, because on the foreign field, it may many times feel like they have been forgotten.  But I'm not sure God is entirely pleased with such a prayer.  Paul asks the Roman church to strive together for him in prayer.  Strive?  That sounds like it is going to take some work.  That sounds like maybe the church needs to know what is going on in Paul's life and they might even need to spend more than a minute in prayer for him.  It also sounds like, maybe some of them ought to get together to pray for him.  Ouch.  My toes are hurting right now.
Reading Paul's Letter
Reading Paul's Letter
Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     The Lord has convicted me on more than one occasion about how I should pray for our missionaries.  I do pray for them, I just can't say I strive at it as I ought.  There are particular families I probably strive for more often than others, like our friends the Luluquisins in the Philippines.  They are particularly dear to my heart, so I can say I strive in prayer for them.  But I don't think I try hard enough for some of our other missionaries.  In the past, I have tried to get back to the bulletin board in the church foyer to read the missionary letters, but not as often as I should.  And even then, it would be hard to remember all the names of those needing salvation in those churches, all the countries that are antagonistic towards the Gospel and the churches bearing the brunt of that persecution, all the family members who are struggling with some kind of health issue.  I started a notebook once, to try and write these things down, but I never kept it up.
     How disappointing for the missionary to return home to have to introduce himself to each church member as the missionary in such-and-such country.  Of course, there are always new people in a church who will not know the missionary (although if they have been praying I would hope they would at least know the name and which country).  At the end of this set of verses, Paul asks the church to pray that he will be refreshed when he joins them.  I know I never pray that for our missionaries.  Furlough is exhausting.  When the missionary comes from the field, they are required (as Scripture says) to give a report to their supporting churches.  In some cases, they have to raise new support.  The economy has been so unstable, I'm sure that many missionaries have had to add to their already full furlough schedule to beseech new churches for support.  Where is the time of refreshing?  Not only do I need to let my missionaries know (especially when they walk through the church door) that I know who they are and am praying for them, but try to be an encouragement to them.  So many times the missionary is an encouragement to me.  Their spirit and perseverance in the Lord's work is inspiring.  Yet, I am instructed to pray that I can refresh them, and I am convicted that I have not done that.
     I need to be conscious of the needs of our missionaries.  I need to make it a priority to read the letters.  They take time to write them and let us know what is going on, but too many members (me) do not make the effort to read them.  Too many times, the missionary is surprised when a church member actually knows who they are.  That shouldn't be.  They shouldn't be amazed when a church member asks about certain situations that they read in their last mission letter.  And it shouldn't be assumed that the only ones to know these things are the missionary treasurer and the pastors.  I should know these things.  Every church member should know these things.  I realize there is no possible way I can remember every detail of sixty plus missionaries.  But by the time they come to visit again, I sure should know a lot more than I did the last time they came.  It is to my shame and their disappointment if I don't.  Grocery lists are written to be used and thrown away, but  that is not how I want to treat our missionaries and I am going to strive more when I pray for them.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Statutes of Liberty

Today's passage:  Romans 15:1-6
     "For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me."
     Paul starts this chapter, reminding mature Christians to be careful with their Christian liberty.  The whole chapter before this dealt mostly with this subject, about not being a stumbling block, about abstaining from certain things (in this case meat offered to idols) if it would be a problem for a fellow Christian, particularly a Christian younger in the Lord.  Now, it would be easy to grumble and complain about this. I know many Christians grumble and complain about it, myself included, and I have a pretty sure guess that the Christians in the early church grumbled and complained as well.  If they hadn't, there would have been little need to address it.   Then Paul drops the anvil.  It is pretty hard to complain about giving up certain liberties until I realize that Christ gave everything up for me.
Picture is courtesy of http://breadsite.org

      If Jesus could have done it another way, I'm guessing He probably would have brought His riches from Heaven with Him. He would have been excellent help in Joseph's carpenter shop when He could speak a piece of furniture into existence rather than using the hammer, nails and wood.  Using his supernatural powers, He could have silenced the Pharisees by making them dumb.  He could transport from town to town to preach rather than walking those great distances and he would never have to borrow another man's home for a night's sleep.  If Jesus could have done it another way, He would probably never have come to earth at all.  He gave up His comforts, His powers, His life.  Anything I might have to give up seems awfully petty by comparison, doesn't it?  Now, I don't know why God chose to have Jesus come the way He did, but something tells me, that He had to live like us, to be an example for us.  None of us will have all the power of the universe, but I might have to change my way of doing things to reach someone else or help them grow.  I never had to give up golden streets or ivory palaces, but I might have to hold my tongue if someone says something unpleasant to me.  I never had to give up my life (prayerfully, never will) but I might have to steer away from certain topics of conversation if it might be offensive to a younger Christian.  Do I have the freedom to watch, go, listen to, say, whatever I want?  Of course I do.  Are there people who will take advantage of the Christian liberty issue, claiming they are offended by this thing or that thing?  Yes.  We will encounter that too, and then we have to decide if it is a matter of causing a Christian to genuinely stumble or whether they just have a critical spirit (which even if that is the case, doesn't necessarily mean I still shouldn't be accomodating).  Jesus could have barred the Pharisees from ever coming to listen to Him.  They were always critical, trying to entrap rather than enjoy.   They never came because they wanted to believe (although Nicodemus eventually did).  Jesus was not too concerned about offending them, because they never intended to receive Him.  But He is all-knowing, and He could make that judgement.  I am not.  So when my Christian liberty is in question, I would be better to let the thing go rather than examine all angles of the case to see if it is something I should continue to pursue.  Is my comfort or right to something really worth offending a fellow brother or sister in Christ, or worse yet, causing an  unsaved person to stay unsaved?  Every person has to decide that for herself, but as for me, I don't feel at liberty to risk it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Walking Alive

Today's passage:  Romans 14
7  For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8  For whether we live, we live unto the Lord, and whether we die, we die unto the Lord:  whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
9  For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
     I'm always curious about certain words in passages.  I've read these particular verses numerous times.  I've even used them in lessons to illustrate that we all have an influence on each other.  Our testimony is important.  How we live affects other people.  I understand the statement some sports figures make when they say they are not role models, because children should be looking to their parents, but like it or not guys or gals, ya are. The no man liveth unto himself part is not what I'm curious about.  What about the dying part?  No man dieth to himself.  What exactly does that mean?  And then in verse 9, it says that Christ died to be Lord both to the living and the dead.  And the most interesting word to me is in these verses is "revived".  A dead body did not rise from the tomb, it was a revived one.  As in, came back to life.  As in, was dead, but now alive.
     Zombies seem to be all the rage nowadays, and although I have never seen any of those movies or shows, let me assure you, Christ's resurrection was not a case of The Walking Dead.  Christ's exit from the Garden Tomb was not dead weight wandering around, using a human body as some kind of transport.  He was living and breathing as well, if not better, than before he was crucified Gethsemane, because He pretty well would have had a hard time breathing from the scourgings on through to giving up the Ghost.
Mary Magdalene Sees Jesus Risen
Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     He did this because my soul also will be revived after this earthly body sees death.  And my body and soul belong to God.  He claimed me.  He is not just Lord over my earthly body.  He is Lord over my other-earthly body as well, which will one day be turned into a heavenly body.  I don't have any idea what form it will be, but it is exciting to know that whatever it will be like, it will belong to the Lord.  It will be a revived body.  It will not be a mindless, apathetic, floating around the clouds existence.  It will be living.  Wow!  That is exciting, powerful stuff! He already breathed new life into this earthly, sinful body of mine, and I can look forward to a God-breathed heavenly body as well.
     It is not a new realization that Christ was really alive when He was resurrected, but it sure is wonderful to be reminded that what He does for me, He will do to me someday.
  "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:21


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Balancing Act

Today's passage:  None
     It has been quite a while since I've posted something.  My schedule has changed a bit in the mornings, so I'm praying that it will allow me to get back to doing this on a regular basis. If things go as planned, I will be up with my oldest two, getting them ready for school and sending them on their way (without having to drive them, hooray!) and be able to have devotions and blogging time before my littlest and latest sleeper wakes.
     Maybe I should explain something about myself.  I have always been a throw out the baby with the bathwater type of person.  This is not usually a good thing. Sometimes it is, but more often than not, it isn't. When I was Resolved several months ago, I was going through some real self-examination.  Mostly good, by the way.  It was needful, it was important and it was very relevant for me to make some changes. I have needed to find balance, but because of my stubborn nature, I tend to tip the scales one way or the other.  All or nothing.  Like I said, bathwater or baby.  I certainly do not want to go back to the way things used to be when I was devoting so much time to this that I was not making my family and home life a priority.  But I was tending to go the other way.  In doing that, I also found myself missing my quiet time more often, very unmotivated to start my day, and a little resentful that I couldn't find time to write.  I have repented for this attitude.  Why should I be resentful to be able to stay home and take care of my family?  Many women would love to do that.  It wasn't that I was resentful about being a stay-at-home mom.  Please don't get the wrong idea there. I am so thrilled and thankful that my husband allows me to stay home.  I feel privileged to be able to watch my children grow up, especially during their tender years.  It really wasn't that, but the creative side just keeps screaming to be free.  I have been envious of my sisters who can do so much with their hands, and I even felt were able to bring in profit for their families because of their resourcefulness.  Part of me felt like the only thing I had that I could do was my writing.  And even though I have not profited from it, I keep thinking that some day I could write on a regular basis and help bring in income.  That's my dream anyway.  I rarely feel this blog is my best writing.  Writing is such a long process with drafts, editing, rewrites, more drafts, and then submissions and rejections, that it seems I will never break through to publishing something.  But when I write everyday, it feels like practicing for that next step. And I get so much more from my Bible reading when I am writing it down.  It's almost a stream-of-consciousness thing.
     I told someone recently that anybody can write.  She assured me this was not true.    I was not going for false humility, I just figured that anybody who practiced enough could put their thoughts into words. But then I think about how my youngest sister can draw anything in a matter of seconds as well as any professional and she has never taken an art class.  I want her to illustrate my first book.  I can draw decently but it would take me half a day and it wouldn't look nearly as good.  Actually, probably more than half a day.  And my other sister can crochet and take amazing photographs.  Seriously amazing as in I hope she goes into business. My sister-in-law can make beautiful cakes.  I'm talking Food Network Challenge worthy.  Decorating a sheet cake for my son's birthday party is laughable at least. I can't do any of what these girls can do.  So if those are things that I can't do (and could probably never dream of doing with all the practice in the world) then I guess its reasonable to suggest that not just anyone can write.  I don't like saying that because it makes me sound very conceited.  Does that mean I'm something special?  Well to God, we all are.  Does it mean I have a talent others don't possess.  Maybe.  Will I still suffer from the being discovered thing?  Probably a little because I struggle with pride as well as the next person. But just because I do, doesn't mean it is not something I should do.  I also struggle with singing in church because of the pride issue, but if God has given me that talent, I need to be using it for Him. The pride thing is a lot of why I stopped doing things, because it is such a struggle that I don't want people to think that I think I'm really something.  Trust me, I know myself far too well to think that.  My failings are ever before me, so if I get puffed up, that ego balloon pops very quickly and the descent to earth is hard.  I just started to think, how can I get my boys to use their talents, if I won't use mine?  How can I encourage the young people in our church to use the amazing abilities God has blessed them with, if I'm not willing to be the example and lead the way?  It's a hard balance to strike, and I can't say that I've found it yet, but I'm working toward it.  It's a little shaky up here on this tightrope, but if you stick with me, maybe we can learn something together.  Thank you for your patience with me as God reveals these things to me and how he is working in my life.  Maybe somebody out there is going through the same thing.  Maybe something I've said here will help to bring about a little focus in your life as well.
     Tomorrow will hopefully be my first regular devotional post in quite some time.  Enough about me, and back to God's Word.
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