Jar

4/7/2019

First read 2 Kings 4:1-7

We probably have all had times in our life where we were up against the wall with no clear way out. Maybe it was a financial disaster or a relational feud, but we were pretty worried about how it would all turn out and whether we’d survive it. (Evidently, we did survive, or we wouldn’t be speaking and thinking in past tense). The story in 2 Kings is about a recent widow who finds herself in the hands of her dead husband’s creditors who are threatening to sell her children to pay off the debt. Probably none of us have had to worry about someone selling our children, but there are many of us who have worried about finances, or about losing custody of our children, or about losing our home or car or other possessions because of debts we owe. This story is not so far fetched that we can’t relate to it. I think it is interesting how Elijah handles the woman’s request for help. He doesn’t just miraculously make the problem go away, He asks her what she has to work with. She replies as though she doubts that what she has will do her any good. (All she has is some oil.) Then he tells her to use what she has, and sell it to pay off her debt. God would provide plenty of oil for her to earn the money that she needs.

When I was a young woman, I didn’t have a lot of money. There were times when I wasn’t sure how I would pay the bills or even buy groceries. But I did know that God would take care of me, and I trusted him to help me find a way out of my situation. As I prayed, it was clear what I needed to do. I needed to use what I had. Like the widow in the story, I would take what I had and sell it to make money to pay off my debt. I had a lot of yard sales during those years. I’d clean out my closets, gather things that I wasn’t using or no longer needed, put the stuff on a table in my driveway, hang up a sign, and wait for someone to drive by and stop to look at my treasures. I’d clean houses, babysit children, wash cars, and pull weeds for people to earn extra money. It took some time and some elbow grease, but my debts were paid, and I made it through. God provided the opportunities I needed to earn the money to pay my bills. It has been my experience that when I put my trust in God, he provides the way to get me through my tough situations. It isn’t fun at the time, but looking back, I can see that those experiences were character building events where I learned a lot about faith, hope and trust. These are the times I need to remember when I am once again up against a wall with no clear way out. Ask myself, What do I have to work with? Then use what God has given me and trust him to work it out. He hasn’t let me down yet.

Safe

April 1, 2019

First read Isaiah 43: 16-21

I read today’s scripture in The Message Bible. My eyes were sleepy and I needed plain English. Well, I got the plain English, and I am no longer sleepy eyed. I actually read both chapter 43 and 44 because I felt like 43 ended abruptly without finishing the thought. I love how chapter 43 begins. God is telling us that He is our creator, he loves us, and he is never going to leave us. Nothing can over take us. God will walk through fire with us. Do not be afraid.

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.

    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.

When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.

    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.

When you’re between a rock and a hard place,

    it won’t be a dead end—

Because I am God, your personal God,

    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.

The chapter goes on to tell how God chases after us. When we reject him and go our own way, he is calling to us. He has already redeemed us and wants us back.

I paid a huge price for you:

    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!

That’s how much you mean to me!

    That’s how much I love you!

I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,

    trade the creation just for you.”

Lastly, he talks about how we have rejected him. We’ve taken his gifts for granted and put all our energy into sinning against him. He invites us to justify our actions and try to prove we are in the right.

“But you didn’t pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob.

    You so quickly tired of me, Israel.

You wouldn’t even bring sheep for offerings in worship.

    You couldn’t be bothered with sacrifices.

It wasn’t that I asked that much from you.

    I didn’t expect expensive presents.

But you didn’t even do the minimum—

    so stingy with me, so closefisted.

Yet you haven’t been stingy with your sins.

    You’ve been plenty generous with them—and I’m fed up.

“But I, yes I, am the one

    who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do.

    I don’t keep a list of your sins.

“So, make your case against me. Let’s have this out.

    Make your arguments. Prove you’re in the right.

And then, just like always, God’s grace and redemption shines through as it does in every story of the Bible. Chapter 44 tells us that He wants to help us. Even though we have turned against him again and again. Even though we have made a mess of our lives. Even though our sin has taken precedence over worshipping our creator and savior. Even though all of this, God loves us and wants to help.

“But for now, dear servant Jacob, listen—

    yes, you, Israel, my personal choice.

God who made you has something to say to you;

    the God who formed you in the womb wants to help you.

“Remember these things, O Jacob.

    Take it seriously, Israel, that you’re my servant.

I made you, shaped you: You’re my servant.

    O Israel, I’ll never forget you.

I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings.

    There’s nothing left of your sins.

Come back to me, come back.

    I’ve redeemed you.”

We can get bogged down with life and with what we think we have to do to satisfy our desires. We can ignore the voice of God calling our hearts to return to him. We can allow our selfish motives to wreak havoc in our lives and make us miserable. But, no matter what, God Continues to call us to him over and over again. He promises to set everything right again. He promises restoration. He promises to forget all our wrong doings. He promises that he will never leave us, nor forsake us. Who else but your creator loves you that much?

Happy

3/29/2019

First read Psalm 32

Recently, I’ve been using an app called ReadScripture. I’m trying to read through the Bible in chronological order rather than how it is laid out in the Bible. I like this app because every so often, there is a video explanation of the background, or a summary of the events taking place in the book. The videos really help, especially with the Torah, (Way too many laws to digest! ) Right now, I am reading the book of Joshua. Those Hebrew children just drive me crazy! If they would just do what they’re told to do, everything would be good, but they just have to keep doing it their own way!
So in the story I read today, God has brought the Hebrew children to the promise land. They’ve been told not to take any plunder (gold, silver, etc) for themselves. One guy named Achan can’t resist. He takes a bunch of stuff and buries it under his tent. Shortly after this, the people of Ai attack and end up killing 36 of the Hebrews. Everyone is shocked that they were so easily defeated. Joshua asks God why he has been unfaithful to them and allowed this to happen. It turns out that one of them has disobeyed God and then tried to hide his crime, so God has backed off and let them go it alone since they didn’t do what he told them to. Without him, they will not successfully take possession of the land.
Fast forward to today’s scripture lesson. Psalm 32 is written by King David. He begins by telling us, “Happy and blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven”. He continues on to recount times when he knew he had done evil, but tried to hide it. The author says that he could think of nothing else. He felt so guilty about it because God’s hand was heavy upon him. After a while, David confesses his sin, and God forgives him. Near the end of the Psalm, God is telling David, “I will instruct you in the way you should go. I will guide you with my loving eye upon you.” David knows that as long as he recognizes this and follows the Lord, he will be happy.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how selfish and greedy humans are. (We all are selfish to some extent.) I asked Wayne a couple of days ago if he thought it was possible for a person to be totally unselfish. I don’t think it is possible. Not on our own anyway. When I look around at the problems around me, they stem from selfishness and greed. In fact, it is hard to come up with a negative event in life that doesn’t stem from someone acting selfishly: Neglected children, financial ruin, broken relationships, racial prejudice, domestic abuse, bullying, fraud, cyberterrorism, I could go on and on. All of these stem from a selfish and greedy heart. It takes discipline to be able to incline your ear to God and follow his lead. It is so natural to act on our own selfish instincts, even when we know that many of those instincts are what get us into trouble and keep us there. And just like the guy in the book of Judges that tried to bury his sin under his tent, and King David whose guilty conscience was eating him up inside, we try to justify our selfish acts when really, we would be so much better off if we intentionally worked at listening for the voice of God and acting selfless rather than selfish. I know that when we confess and ask for God’s wisdom, he freely gives it and we are once again on the right path. When we are freed from our selfish desires and actions, that is when we are truly happy, but until we are free, our life will remain a mess and our happiness will be compromised.

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Food


3/27/2019

First read Joshua 5:8-12

God’s provision for us never ceases to amaze me. Psalm 37:25 says, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.”  I have seen this verse proven true again and again in my life and in the testimony of other believers.  We may not get everything that we want, but God is always providing everything that we need.  Many times in my younger years, before I met Wayne, I was not always sure how I would pay the bills or how I would buy groceries, but I put my trust in God, and he always provided.  Sometimes I would get an opportunity to do some extra work.  Sometimes I would receive an unexpected gift.  I recently heard a young man tell of a time when he was in seminary.  He and his wife had literally eaten the last can of food in their pantry.  As they ate, they told their children that God would provide for their next meal.  They told no one about their situation, not even their family knew.  The next day, a woman knocked on their door.  She was a stranger, but God had placed upon her heart to buy groceries and deliver them to this family.  

The passage of scripture highlighted today tells of a change in God’s provision for the Hebrew children as they close the chapter of their wilderness wandering and begin a life in the promise land.  For 40 years, God miraculously provided food in the form of manna.  Every single day when the Israelites woke up, They would gather manna from the ground.  It was only good for a day before it would spoil (except on Fridays, it would last two days to cover the sabbath).  Once the people began to eat the produce of the land of Canaan, the manna was no longer provided.  God had given them the land he had promised their fathers.  The produce of their land was their provision for their future, but they were to keep a jar of manna to show their children and remind themselves of God’s provision in the wilderness.  

The human heart is so fickle. We tend to be selfish and entitled when we are in need. We expect God to provide what we are asking for and when we don’t get it, we are angry and doubtful of God’s goodness or even his existence. I am convinced that the only reason that it took 40 years for the Israelites to get to the Promise Land was because of their inability to trust God. How many times did they take his provision, then start complaining that it wasn’t enough? I was reading an article this morning about our local Rotary club sponsoring a village in Honduras. Among the many things they have done for this village, one very important thing is to dig wells so that the people have fresh water. I thought again how very blessed we are to live in a nation that is so rich. We may not have a brand new car or a million dollar home, but we are blessed beyond measure. Take time to remember God’s provision for you in the past. He is not going to leave you high and dry. You are not forsaken. You never were and you never will be.

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Tree

3/24/2019

First read Luke 13:1-9

Many times, when scripture is taken out of context, it seems confusing. It helps me to read what came before the section, and read it in a couple different versions as well. I also like to read commentaries to gain other’s perspective on the passage. This particular parable has all kinds of interpretations. Some focus on the judgement of God, some focus on the grace of God. Whatever the case, I feel like it is important to consider the theme of the entire Bible when you are analyzing scripture. Any interpretation that goes against who Jesus is and what he did while on Earth should send up red flags. In this section of Luke, before Jesus tells the parable, a conversation is taking place about two tragedies that recently occurred where people suddenly lost their lives. Someone asks Jesus if the people that died had sinned and that’s what caused the tragedy. He basically tells them, absolutely not. We should not equate tragedy with God’s judgement. Death is part of life and you never know when or how it will happen, but it will happen for all of us. Then he goes into the parable of the fig tree that was not bearing fruit. Someone wanted to cut down the tree because it was useless, but the gardener pleaded for another year to do what he could to cultivate the fruit to grow. Throughout scripture there are other references to fruit trees that symbolize people. Some fruit trees bear fruit, others do not and are cut down and burned. Some people get hung up on the burning of useless trees as God damning people to hell who do not “bear fruit”. In my opinion, this is not the message that Jesus is conveying. The Theme of the Bible is redemption. It is true that there are events where God has either allowed people to have what they want and it ends badly, or there are negative consequences to their poor choices, and it ends badly. However, God always provides a means of forgiveness and redemption throughout the ordeal. Sometimes it is accepted, and sometimes it is not. I think that Jesus is trying to convey to the people that God is rich in mercy, and offers us time to “bear fruit”. In this parable, I don’t believe God is the owner of the tree, and Jesus the one trying to convince God that he should wait to cut down the tree. That can’t be true because God and Jesus do not contradict one another. The world must be the owner of the tree. God is the one working to provide opportunities for the tree to produce fruit. He is working against evil for good. Sadly, it appears that some people never do seem to bear fruit. They remain selfish, angry, hardened individuals. Of course, only God can see their heart to know why they are that way. And only God can see what they do in private. It may even be that we are assigned to be the gardener in people’s lives. Maybe we are the ones that need to cultivate that growth so that others may bear fruit. Maybe we are called to join with him in resisting evil in the world and speak fruit into someone’s life. Whatever the case, it is clear that We are not the judge of others. The only person we can control is ourself. As long as we are on this side of heaven, we have a decision to make: are we going to bear fruit, or are we going to go the way of the useless fruit tree? Are we going to encourage others to bear fruit, or are we going to spend our time pointing out the lack of fruit on someone else’s tree? I’ll give you one guess which side Jesus is on.

About an hour after I wrote and posted this, I listened to the sermon from my church that I missed this morning because I was out of town. Chris Green was the speaker and preached on this very topic. Here is the sermon. It is very powerful and thought provoking. The first couple of minutes the sound is messed up, but it is just an introduction and doesn’t affect the actual sermon. I encourage you to listen to it, I promise, it will be well worth your time. In fact, I am going to listen to it again. https://youtu.be/jmOxilBVYb8

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Test

Test  3/22/2019

First read 1 Corinthians 10:5-13

It is amazing to me how my religious beliefs have evolved over the years. I guess the more you experience and learn, the more it changes who you are and what you believe. I used to think that this scripture meant that God wouldn’t allow anything to happen to me that I couldn’t handle. Obviously, that is not the meaning, or life would be a bed of roses for most of us. Clearly, that is not the case. I am learning that I really can’t make it through anything on my own. When left to my own devices, I make poor decisions and do things that complicate matters further. If I am faced with something heart wrenching like a death or a major conflict with someone I love, I can’t solve that problem on my own. I can’t get rid of the pain on my own. I can drown my sorrows in a shot of whiskey, but the next day, the pain is still there. I can deaden the pain with drugs, but when they wear off, the pain is still there. I can run far away from the situation and cut myself off from everyone I love, but it still doesn’t take the pain away. The ONLY thing that can do that is the healing balm of Jesus. It’s not that God prevents terrible things from coming our way. We live in a world that is the battlefield between good and evil. Bad things are going to happen. Terrible things are going to happen. They happen every minute of every day to someone. However, God can and will deliver us from the pain and anguish. If we turn away from God because somehow we blame him for the tragedy, he will still heal us, but it takes so much longer. We waste so many years of our lives trying to drown out the pain with things that are temporary and only make more problems. If we would just call out to God to heal our hearts, seek his wisdom in our choices, and lean into one another for support, the healing comes much faster. And as a bonus, we learn more about God, more about ourselves, and more about what to do the next time a hard thing comes along.

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Praise

3/20/2019

First read Psalms 63:1-8

Yesterday I wrote about God’s offer of water, milk, and wine and how that symbolizes his gifts of renewal, nourishment, and exhilaration. Today’s reading focuses on having a thirst for God and praising him in the midst of that thirst. Sometimes that can be difficult. When we are in the middle of a spiritual desert where we are so weary and parched, when our lips are cracking and our voice is hoarse because our spirit is dried up, when we’ve spent too much time wandering in the wilderness, alone and desperate and we need God, it doesn’t seem natural to start praising him at that point does it? “Give me relief Lord, then I will have something to praise you for!” Our society has programmed us to be dissatisfied most of the time. There is always something more we desire: a new car, a new house, a different job, a better bicycle, and the list goes on. Once we get that thing we desire, we may praise God for our blessings, we may be thankful for a short time, until we eye that next thing to satisfy our cravings. In this psalm however, David praises God before he is satisfied. He is thirsting for God, yet begins to praise him because he has been in his sanctuary, and has seen the awesome power of God. He remembers how God has helped him in the past, and as he begins to sing praises to God, His soul is satisfied. I know that there have been times that I was going through something difficult. Maybe it was something that I caused, a consequence of a poor decision, or maybe it was something totally out of my control, like the death of my mother. In those times, I have found my strength in praising God. Not for the bad thing, but for who he is and for the fact that he has always, and I mean always brought me through hard situations in the past and he will do it again. Sometimes, I’m even able to praise him for that thing I experienced as it gives me hope of his faithfulness in any and every desert situation that I may find myself on this journey of life. Here is a song that illustrates this so perfectly. https://youtu.be/EF4MW0h7T78

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