The past couple of weeks I have been really convicted and moved by the example of Christ at the well with the Samaritan woman found in John 4. As He usually did, Christ used the most simple and immediately available elements to reach this woman. It seems that He made the most of every opportunity and communicated in the most relatable way. It is a great example. I was thinking about how this account relates to modern evangelism. In this story we have Christ, being Christ. Always on, living intentionally and making disciples. You have the Samaritan woman, who clearly has some knowledge of God and acknowledges His existence, but doesn't really know Him, understand him or have a meaningful relationship with Him. When she hears the good news that Christ is the Messiah she is off and running to share the good news. She leaves as the disciples return from getting food in town. There you have the third group. I heard a gentleman recently point out that Christ's disciples went into town, got food and returned with no one. The Samaritan woman bubbling over with her excitement comes back with a group of people and many of them become believers. That hit my heart. I was much like the Samaritan woman in that my whole life I knew God. I don't remember a day when I was introduced to God. I feel as though He has always been with me. As far back as I can remember, even as a tiny girl, God was with me. I was talking to Him on my knees at night, walking through forests, in my darkest moments.. He was there. My Rock and safe place. Christ was there. This was my immovable family and where I belonged in a world that was constantly shifting. Still, though I had a relationship with God and a sense of God, I didn't truly know God. When our son was a year old, our family had bounced from church to church and we were presently Catholic. I had a growing uneasiness. I knew that church-wise, we were in the wrong place, but where to go? I prayed and fasted and met the other side of the Samaritan woman in the person of John Staudinger. Rob and I had to make a quick run to the market one evening for milk and supplies to fix my broken nail. We got our things and Rob ran to get the car as it was raining. I was standing with baby Robert when John walked up. He commented about Robert being cute and how he and his wife were hoping for one of their own as he went to get the cart and dug in his pocket for a quarter. When he realized he didn't have one I remembered I had a quarter in my pocket. I usually carried no cash on me, but had been cleaning before we left and sticking random things in my pocket needing to be re-homed from bobby pins to.... quarters. This was decades ago, so the details are fuzzy, but somehow spurring off of a conversation about babies and quarters he got to talking about church. He loved his church and shared about it with an unshakable grin. He invited us to service. He and his wife Ildi studied the Bible with us and that was the beginning of a new life for our family AND I got to stop fasting. :) He followed Christ's example of using the practical to reach us and shared his joy for God that bubbled over like the Samaritan woman. I am so glad he was living intentionally. We are all called to do this. When we become disciples that is someone passing us the baton. It is just the beginning of a race that began with our Messiah long ago and continues until we go home to be with Him. His words as He ascended into Heaven were, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mat 28:18-20 That was a command to all of us. We have been given a gift and are expected to share it. Lastly, I appreciate the example of Christ reaching out to people who had a different understanding of God. I think as Christians we can hold others of different faith walks/denominations at arms length, but maybe just maybe as our family was, they are lost. I am glad John didn't hold us at arms length. He drew us in, shared his life with us and taught us the Word of God. Just because someone is part of a church or religion does not mean they have it all figured out and are not seeking God. Sometimes all they have found is a building with lots of activities. Be open to share your life and God's word with everyone. If they know the Lord you have made a friend. If they don't know the Lord, even if they are not interested, you have planted a seed. 1 Corinthians 3:6 All good stuff. Those are my thoughts. I found the story of the Samaritan Woman very encouraging and thought provoking. I hope it encourages you as well. Thoughts and comments welcome.
We have been studying Genesis 1 this week. It has been the source of great contemplation. To my heart, the way that God created the world with so much variety speaks to His creativity. The wondrous array of creatures we see around us and in some cases beneath us, is just a very small fraction of God's creation. In fact, scientists estimate that better than 99% of creatures since creation have gone extinct. 99%! Can you imagine the creation that Adam set eyes on? I love the illustration above. My daughters have asked me, "are unicorns real?" Psalm 29:6 says yes, or at least they were. I think I hear my Scottish brethren cheering. :) What a remarkable sight the world must have been! What struck me the most though, was that from the seed sized chameleon, to the great behemoth, to the universe as a whole, God spoke it all into existence. He spoke it into existence. At times in life when I have come into difficult circumstances I have occasionally felt discouraged. Kind of the feeling you get when going to bake a cake and realizing you're out of flour. There are situations I come up against occasionally that I feel ill equipped to manage. I find myself thinking,"how can I fix this?" In some cases I can't, but God provides unexpected solutions. Whether it's physical provision, wisdom, self control, or another Christian walking up along side, He always provides. I think the very curious ways I have seen Him bless us personally is yet another nod to His creative heart. I think many times we can metaphorically put God in a box. Situations come up that have no natural solutions and so we consider all hope lost, but God is not working with our tool box. Whether it is a lost job, broken vow, struggling child, health issue, etc... God is bigger. God is able. God has solutions that we could never conceive of. Have you ever considered the prayer of Jabez? 1 Chr 4:10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. I am not sure what Jabez's life situation was, but he laid it all on the table. He asked God for specific help and God gave him what he asked for. It was a bold prayer of faith and God blessed it. We know, love, and worship the same God as Jabez. He is my Father. If you are in Christ he is your Father too. This is what has given me the strength to lift my head when I have walked through life's hurricanes. I remember I never walk alone. I never have and I never will. Psalm 46:5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved I hope you are encouraged like me as you read this remembering God is with you wherever you go and in every situation. The God who spoke all of creation into existence is near whenever you call on Him to offer your prayers and praises. Have a blessed week! Comments and questions welcome. :)
For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
Our family has been doing a daily advent study. The goal of this book is to slow the roll to Christmas. To enjoy it fully and take time daily to focus on different aspects of Christ's arrival. Today my heart was drawn to Mary. I am so moved by her faith. She is a great example of the above scripture. To James' point, you saw her faith by what she did. When Christ entered the picture, Mary was a teenage girl engaged to Joseph. In her culture, if she was found pregnant before their marriage, she could have been stoned to death. Still, when Gabriel approached her, (Luke 1) though initially frightened by his presence, she plainly pointed out the perceived problem with the plan. Gabriel explained how this child would come to be and she boldly and faithfully said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” and then he left. We hear no explanations from Gabriel on how to handle Joseph, her parents, angry mobs... We do hear in Luke 1:39, that she hurried off to Zechariah and Elizabeth's home. Gabriel had told her Elizabeth had conceived in her old age. Maybe she was hoping for confirmation when she saw Elizabeth? We know Mary was introspective from the scripture in Luke 2:19. We see she stored up things inside and pondered them. Her mind must have been racing. Either way what we do know is that she "raced off" and when she got to Elizabeth she sang "Mary's Song." This was a song of praise to God after she received an exuberant welcome from a very pregnant and filled with the Holy Spirit Elizabeth. In the words of Mary's Song you can hear, this is happening, God chose me, He has not forgotten Israel and He has chosen me to be the mother of our long awaited Messiah! There is so much joy, hope and gratitude. Not one but. She stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months. When she returned home Joseph planned to divorce her quietly to protect her, but an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream explaining everything. (Mat 1:18-25) He then took Mary to be his wife. I love the saying God works in mysterious ways. This is so true and the dream is such a great example. Mary's story inspires me first because of her amazing faith. Second, it is such a precious reminder to me to follow Christ. Even when it is hard. Even when it looks like your efforts would be in vain. Following Christ is always right. Trusting The Lord is always right.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Happy birthday Yeshua! The baby who came into this world like no other. Most children are born into this world with people considering what they can do for that baby. With Christ, the world held it's breath in anticipation of what He was going to do for them.That is a lot of weight for such tiny shoulders. When he entered this world it was a cold dark place where men had overwritten God's word in favor of profit. Still happens. Religion was business and business was good. He was to be a pebble in the shoe of organized religion. He didn't upset the apple cart, He tossed it. His birth signaled a new beginning for all of God's people who would receive it. Anyone who is in Christ knows the absolute joy and peace that knowing and loving God brings. Anyone who is in Christ. Peace does not exist standing on the sidelines and cheering on the players. When they win you have no claim to the prize and praise that awaits them for their victory. You need to be on the field. You need to get dirty. Followers of Christ are called to follow in His footsteps. Before He ascended into Heaven He gave final instructions for his disciples/followers. You find His words in Mathew 28:18-20. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." That charge is for all of God's people. I heard a sad statistic today that three out of ten people in the United States identify as having no belief in God. None. Translated, no relationship with God. Further translated, no peace. Christ is the light of this world and we are also charged to be a light. Philippians 2. Mat 5:14-15. So, go tell it on the mountain, the beach, on line at the Starbucks, produce people at the supermarket.... Share your life and your faith. One life can make a difference. If you are already doing this, yay!!! Please share below the most effective ways you have found to share your faith. If you are not, though you want to, but don't know where to start...send us an email. I can share some thoughts. I have been blessed with a lot of Christ centered and patient instruction, as has Rob, and either of us would be glad to talk and share what we have learned. Iron sharpens iron. Merry Christmas all!
Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible someone ever reads. William J. Toms
A friend who I love very much was agnostic. She believed there conceivably was someone, something "mystical" about the universe and all it held, but did not believe it was possible to label. Intelligent, she did concede that Christ certainly existed as historical evidence made it impossible to deny his life and lasting impact. Her summation was that He was a great man. That's a start. We got into a discussion about faith. She essentially explained that she had been a passionate Christian as a child and teen. She stood on street corners inviting people to church and sharing her faith, but her life was full of hardships. She was engaged to a man and they were living together in her early 20s when she conceived. The day she came home to share her news, her fiance greeted her as she walked in with, "we need to talk." She sat down and he explained that he was breaking their engagement. Their was a girl at the office... She went on to raise her child alone. It was challenging. Years later she got into a relationship with a man very prominent in her field. She was a little star struck. He was separated from his wife. Now in her 30s, they became very close and she conceived. Their relationship crumbled soon after when she refused to abort. He had raised his children and wasn't looking to start over. Her last relationship was to a man everyone warned her about. Her mother pleaded with her not to marry him sensing something malevolent, but she loved him... Soon after they married he "lost" his job. She was now the sole provider. In addition, he became abusive physically and emotionally to her and her children and went on to just about clean out her retirement fund resulting in his eventual arrest. There were other accounts of painful situations that all culminated in a final jabbing comment. Snarlingly, as she was understandably very emotional, she said, "if there is a God, how could He let all of that happen to me?" There was so much pain and brokenness. By the grace of God the answer was clear, she was pointing the finger of blame in the wrong direction, but how to say it. I remember a good friend shared with me once that people will often tell you what you want to hear, but love risks the relationship. So, speaking the truth in love, Ephesians 4:15, I began. As she was a person who was taught the word from childhood, I pointed out that she spent much of her life walking outside of God's will but expecting His blessings. I have children I love dearly. I gave birth to them. My husband and I have loved and tended to them like the precious and amazing people they are. That being said, you can give your child a hammer and teach him how to build a birdhouse, hang a picture, etc.. but with the same hammer that child can choose to break a neighbors window. Every person has free will. As parents we hopefully do our best to teach, equip, and build character in our children, then a day comes that with every bit of good we poured in, they choose which way they will go. I think most of us are prodigals. Luke 15:11-32 I was. You try things "your own way." After some bumps and bruises many come back. Coming back looks different for everyone, for some it is a comes on like a lightning bolt. There is a moment of realization and it begins a life long transformation. For some, like my good friend, it comes in stages. I pointed out that while she was walking in God's will, He blessed her abundantly. That is when her career was launched, as a teenager! She was in the news. A darling of high society and then began the fall. The more she got absorbed into that world, the more muted the Holy Spirit within her became until there was not even a whisper. Her fall was hard and she was hitting many branches on the way down while shaking her fist at God, but she was up a tree she was never meant to climb and in fact God warned her explicitly not to. Still, in her heart, every bump and bruise was God's fault... I think one great message of the Prodigal Son is the picture of a Father letting go while understanding he has loved and equipped his child. He also respects his son's individuality and right to choose. The son goes off and lives wildly. Things were hunky dory until the things his father gave him ran out. On his own and without his fathers guidance and provisions, as he had shoved them far away, things got ugly. Wishing he could eat the pigs food because he was starving to death ugly. In no way was his situation, pain or suffering his fathers fault. Certainly his father was not causing it or "allowing it to happen." The son chose his circumstances with his choices. It is the pain of those choices that brought him home. He realized in his separation from his father the joy and peace and provision he had under his fathers's loving, watchful eye and authority. His father loved him and knew best. He missed that when he started focusing on the have not's rather than the haves. He went home and in humility said to his father who ran to meet him as he saw him approaching, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son . He said this in hopes that his father would take him back as a hired man because he realized no matter his position, life was better when he was close to his father. His fathers response? His father said to his servants, ‘Quick, bring out a robe, the best one, and put it on him; and put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet; and bring the calf that has been fattened up, and kill it. Let’s eat and have a celebration! For this son of mine was dead, but now he’s alive again! He was lost, but now he has been found!’ And they began celebrating.
God loves His children. He is abounding in grace and His mercies are new EVERY morning. For those living apart from His will, today is a great day to start back to your Father. The journey begins on your knees in prayer and in His word. If you have questions, feel free to email Rob or I. For those who know and love the Lord, be patient with those who don't. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a right to pursue their own path, but be prepared to give an answer for the joy you have when hearts open and questions are asked. Be a workman prepared. Continue to speak the truth in love. Your life is a ministry. Every action and every word. As best you can, let them be beholden to God watch your life and doctrine closely, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Life Isn't About Waiting For The Storm to Pass, It's About Learning To Dance In The Rain
This is a popular saying. It hit me the other day as uncertainty has been swirling a bit. When things are off balance in the physical and the spiritual it can be challenging to dance in the rain. Without the peace of Christ it can be a struggle to find cause to dance in times of trial rather than crawling into a corner to sulk. You would think that as Christians we should be immune to this, but even Peter lost his focus. He loved Christ and believed in Him, but he still took his eyes off Christ when the storm got scary. Look at Matthew 14:30. This man had the awesome faith to step out of a boat onto water, but when he saw the wind... that unknown force rocking his boat, making the water swirl under his feet, making waves crash into him, he redirected his attention, became afraid and started to sink. Christ grabbed him by the hand and asked, 'why did you doubt?" Perhaps he did not realize the power and wisdom of who was with him in the storm? Many years ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She was my very best friend. Five days a week we had lunch together and with few exceptions, spoke daily. She was a remarkable person. Highly talented. Incredibly smart. So loving. She would give you the shirt off her back was a true statement of her. She was also well traveled so she was rife with stories that could make the most busy person stop in their tracks to hear the ending of one of her tales. When we got the news that she had months, it was devastating. We lived about a half hour away from her. It never seemed far until the first night she didn't answer her phone. She was fine, but not knowing, we quickly packed up our sleeping 5 year old and took off to check on her. We decided that night to sell our house. We quickly found a buyer and a rental closer to mom. We were supposed to close right after Thanksgiving so we had our last holiday at the house and got it broom clean. My mother offered to let us stay with her so we were excited for our "few days" of Mom/Meema time. We were supposed to take occupancy December 1st. No problem as we thought we were closing in November... The closing got pushed out daily until our closing was in January. I spent a good deal of time at the end of November and more time throughout December on the phone with realtors, aggravated prospective landlords wondering why we hadn't taken occupancy and others. I had envisioned in my head what Christmas was supposed to be like. This was Mom's last and I wanted it to be special. Because the closing was delayed I spent a lot of it in negotiations. It was Christmas before I understood what I believe was at least "A reason." Christmas Eve we sat around eating treats, playing games and having fun. Rob surprised everyone and when we woke up in the morning everyone had a stocking, even mom. He had stuffed it full of her favorite perfume and other treats. He also went out early Christmas morning to get a dozen doughnuts and coffee, remembering her favorite butternut doughnuts. :) She got to see her grandson barrel out of the bedroom to open his presents. Snow, big fat flakes of snow, started to fall softly outside and lasted for hours until the outdoors looked sled worthy. We all bundled up and went outside to test the little guy's new sled and came inside to have a great dinner. It was an amazing Christmas. A God given gift. My preconceived notions of what our last Christmas would be like paled in comparison to what God had planned. It took me a while to see it because I was so focused on the wind. The wind will blow. Remember who is in the storm with you. Also, realize that the storm itself may be a gift. Hebrews 11:1 says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. God's ways may not always be clear, but we can be certain that He has a plan for us. That gives me courage and cause to dance. Thoughts and comments welcome.
For I know what plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for well-being, not for bad things; so that you can have hope and a future.
If you have ever taught in children's ministry, you likely have a familiar tune pulsing through your head. It's a good one! Daniel is someone I look up to. When we meet Daniel in Daniel 1:6, his people have been attacked. Nebuchadnezzar asked for good looking and sharp boys to be brought back to his kingdom to serve as his attendants. They grab Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. This story inspires me much like Joseph. Forced into slavery as a young man he could have questioned God, turned inward and become bitter. Instead, one of the first things he does is campaign for vegetables and water because he didn't want to defile himself. Daniel 1:9 states that God caused the chief officer to be kind and sympathetic towards Daniel. This is a great example of a pattern that develops. Daniel and his companions are unbendingly faithful to God. As such, God sends provisions. Here it is favor. In Daniel 3 when Meshach, Shadrach and Abednago refused to bow to a statue and worship it, God saves them when they are thrown in a burning furnace. A furnace burning so hot that the attendants that threw them in were immediately burned up. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked out unsinged. The Bible states they didn't even smell of fire! Provision, but the scripture that really grabbed my heart this week was that of Daniel 6 where Daniel was praying despite a royal decree that no person should pray for 30 days. If they were found praying they would be thrown into the lion pit. Daniel 6:9-11 gives us his reaction. He went back to his room to pray as was his custom... Typically he did this three times a day. He knelt in front of an open window, facing Jerusalem, to give thanks to God. I am thinking it is likely that most people would have prayed in their heart? It was only 30 days. There were lions... Clearly not acceptable to him. It is suspected this man was better than 70 when this happened and he was getting down on his knees three times a day to talk to his Father. Nothing was going to change that. Challenged? I am. The people conspiring against him spied on him knowing he would not compromise his faith and he didn't disappoint. They did throw him in the lions den, but once again God sent a provision. In Daniel 6:22 he tells King Darius that God sent an angel to shut the lions mouths. In Daniel 6:23 it says, Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God. In 6:24 those who conspired against Daniel and their families were thrown to the lions. Before they hit the bottom of the pit they were attacked. Prayer is a privilege. In Deuteronomy 4:7 it says, “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? We are blessed with the ability to talk to our Father in Heaven, the Creator of the universe. So many people if given the chance would jump at the opportunity to talk to the President, a celebrity, etc. Many of those people have faith in God, but don't take the time to talk to Him or thank Him, like Daniel. When problems arise so often the knee jerk reaction is to call a friend, maybe a Pastor. These are not bad options, but isn't our Father in Heaven, the best place to start? Conversely, when good things happen, how often do people chalk it up to good luck stealing the glory from God, rather than like Daniel getting down on their knees and saying, "thank you Father." In Mark 1:35 we can see Christ's example of prayer as in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. Prayer is important. It is transformational. It is a vital part of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Rob and I recently watched a movie called War Room. Awesome movie. The Kendrick brothers were inspired by their faithful mama. The story in the movie centers around an older woman of faith encouraging a younger struggling wife to fight for her family on her knees. I was inspired by an ornate wall hanging she had that said "Answered Prayers" and had once blank lines filled in with many of God's blessings. I thought, What a great and lasting way to encourage future generations by reminding them of what God has done in our lives. Good reminder for me too! I love and was encouraged by Daniel's example of prioritizing his relationship with God and daily time with Him. I hope you are encouraged as well. Thoughts and comments welcome!
Dare to be a Daniel
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known
I was very moved this week by God's Word in Genesis. He created the world in six days. Over the course of these days, on every day except two, the Bible says, "God saw that it was good." On day two nothing was mentioned, but on day six, after creating Adam and Eve it says in Gen. 1:31, "God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." Then He rested.... I appreciate His example of daily reflection. Illustrated is His clear desire to do good and feel at peace about what He had achieved. I am especially touched by His comment in Gen. 1:31. At holidays, like most people, after spending days preparing a holiday meal and getting the table set just right with all the right linens, tableware and food I am just a little giddy. Weeks of prep and work are done. Now we sit back and enjoy. After pictures of course. :) I have such a feeling of satisfaction seeing a well executed holiday. Imagine how God must have felt looking at a beautiful and uncorrupted Earth where a week before there was nothing. Very good is a tame assessment. We serve an awesome God. His example of reflecting daily over His accomplishments has touched me deeply. Rob has a business planner (The High Performance Planner) that asks you to evaluate your day every evening. It asks questions like, what was a moment I really appreciated today, situation I handled well, did I guide and treat others well today, etc... I realize now this daily reflection is a great way to follow in our Fathers footsteps. So now at the end of my day I also reflect. It has encouraged me to live more intentionally. At the end of the day I want to be able to sit back in peace and say, it is good. I hope this encourages you. Questions, comments & insights welcome. :)
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,And strength to your bones.
The story of Adam and Eve teaches many lessons and raises many questions. One of those questions for me is, why did Eve bite that apple. She is in direct communion with God who has provided all that she and her husband need. Can you imagine a world where you are surrounded by creatures that we have never even laid eyes on because so many are extinct, but in danger from none? Marveling at His creation while spending your days communing with God and your spouse? My husband and I dream of a life that we can have a homestead on few acres where we can grow our own food. Fruit trees, vegetable gardens, chickens running around free and a cow to milk. We want to have a large multi purpose building for holding church services. Live close to running water for baptisms and have a separate house on the property for missionaries or brothers and sisters who need help. Boiled down, we desire Eden. We have met many Christians with a similar desire. It seems hardwired into our being. A life focused on God and surrounded by His creation with an opportunity to serve. What could be better than that? They had it and tossed it away... Why? It is easy to shake your head at Eve, but let's look at the anatomy of the "fall." In Genesis 3 the cunning serpent asks Eve about the fruit of this tree. "Did God indeed say you can not eat of every tree?" She responds accordingly that God told her she would die if she touched or ate from it. The serpent continues his campaign by undermining her trust in God by declaring what God has said is not true, God just doesn't want you to be wise like Him... She took the fruit and ate it. It wasn't exactly a hard sell. Eve's lust for things became greater than her love for God. She had also stopped trusting Him. Trust had to go before obedience. It seems a good practice to daily ask ourselves, am I fully trusting God? How do we know if we are? Obedience to His word. The serpent certainly deceived Eve as she asserted, but her lack of faith/trust in God allowed her to be deceived. She started trusting other things over God's word. The tree wasn't going anywhere. Why didn't she just ask God? Trust was gone. What might tempt us to trust others over God? Taxes/accountant, Trouble/lawyer, problems at home/friends who are not Christ centered and so many other ways. We can have many serpents in our lives. We need to remember the Lord teaches in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that bad company corrupts good character. When possible, we should try to be in fellowship with people that are of the same spirit. We must trust in the Lord with all our hearts, and lean not on our own understanding. Trust in God is vitally important. Perhaps that is why our forefathers made "In God we trust" the official motto of the USA and even had it printed on our currency. Perhaps it is to remind the people of this country that our hope, faith and trust must be in God. I hope this study has been a blessing to you. Thoughts and comments are welcome!
Genesis 2:18 "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.
If you are married, your role in your marriage, as a woman, is your husbands helper. To some this brings warm fuzzies and to others, you are maybe looking for the comment button. How does much of the world view this role? Weakness. How does God view our role? Proverbs 31 suggests respectable, honorable, virtuous and praiseworthy. The uplifted example of womanhood is a dynamic woman. She is busy at home, Titus 2:5, but she also has a respectable home industry, makes wise real estate investments, serves the poor, instructs with wisdom and so much more. She sets the bar high! Her husband and children are proud to say, "that's our girl!" The title helper does not suggest Eve is less capable or even under Adam's authority. That comes later after she got snacky. Eve was created to be a co-laborer with Adam. I have held tools as my husband changed the brakes on our car and he has helped me fold laundry. The same dynamic likely exists in most households. Eve's role changed drastically in Genesis 3:16. God, in this passage, establishes Adam as the head of the household. This is how God designed marriage. Husbands are the head of the household, but we are still co-laborers. I love how a seminary professor lovingly described it. Women were not created for the "grunt work." We are capable of amazing things. A wise husband will encourage his wife to discover her God given gifts and talents and use them to serve God and to perhaps create a home industry of her own. The title of helper can be twisted into a place where it is paralyzing to a woman's ability. Don't let it be. Remember Proverbs 31, but please also remember, that awesome woman of God made sure she saw to the needs of her family first. That being said, it is a beautiful thing when a husband lovingly and wisely leads his family as he is led by the Lord. How then can we help him do that? First, let him lead and pray for God to lead him as he leads your family. This can be a hard first step. In our marriage I held tight to the reigns. My upbringing left me in a place where I felt the need to be in control. That order is unnatural. It leaves a man feeling emasculated. That is not of God. It causes dysfunction in a relationship and it did in ours. When we became disciples (followers of Christ) in our early 20s, stepping down was one of my biggest issues. It took me years to fully submit to my God and respect my husbands role as head of our family. Great first steps if you want to honor your call and have not already, can simply be to consult your husband when making important decisions. If you come to a place that you disagree, look to the Bible. It is the standard. "What does the Bible say about it?" ended a lot of disagreements in our home. If you still disagree and the decision is life altering, not what to eat for dinner, set up time to talk with a Pastor. Additionally, as a wife I have found some of the best ways I can help my husband are encouraging him, being respectful, being patient, being helpful at home, following the Lord and being available physically and emotionally. This includes simply listening. Everybody wants to be heard and to feel like their thoughts have value. Active listening demonstrates that. With the many balls I juggle, I need to remind myself daily that I need to find time to put them down and have time to focus on us. The role of wife is multifaceted and of vital importance. As women, how we execute this role can have a profound and eternal impact on ourselves, our husbands and our children as well as our family and friends. Being married while essentially leading my family was like driving a car with a doughnut. My generation will get that. It is a small tire. It is not the size of the other tires. You have to drive slow, otherwise you will have a blowout. It will get you safely to a shop, but it is uncomfortable and clear to everyone, especially those along for the ride, that something is not right. That was our relationship. We were rolling along, but out of sync. When we made this shift, I oddly felt like I was losing something. I lost nothing. I got back the man who I fell in love with. I gained a highly functional family. I gained peace. I am grateful to have found this simple truth in God's word. We have been very blessed by applying God's principals to our marriage. I hope this encourages you to do the same if you haven't already.
I decided to do a study of the women of the Bible and thought, who better to start with than Eve. Eve is a bit loaded. She is the first woman to step into the role of wife and mother. I gleaned a lot. What I picked up from her story was transformational to my marriage. One thing that stuck out, and what I will focus on today, was Genesis 2:24. Upon marriage God considers a husband and wife "one." Based on the scripture a person may think of this being strictly a physical/primal perspective, but if you look in Matthew 19:5 you will see it is much deeper. This "oneness" is clearly spiritual. The actions of a husband or wife are not without effect. Every choice we make will help or hurt us and ultimately our whole family. The day we say I do, we are in this thing together. So choose wisely. There is a saying, "there is sin in the camp." This is a tilt towards Joshua 7. Achan sinned. The whole camp suffered for it. Whole families can suffer for the admonishing of one. Love and lead your children well. Be in their lives. Keep the lines of communication open with them, but don't get lost in them. It is easy. Especially being a homeschooler. They can become your world and that can leave your spouse feeling neglected, lonely and angry. The same is true of professional endeavors and sometimes hobbies. When you are so busy with other things and people that you have little time for them, your spouse can feel part of a world they no longer see where they fit into. This is fertile ground for trouble. It can come in the form of a "supportive" co-worker filling a void emotionally that can become physical, substance abuse, gambling and in extreme cases suicide. It is important to remember to keep your spouse second, only to God. Make time for your beloved. Pick a day and have a weekly date night. Even if you stay home, plan it out and make it special. Think honeymoon special. Be creative. There are games you can download online. Not cyber games, but printable. Unplug from the world and connect with your spouse. Take time each day to catch up. Even if you are away on business. Stay connected. If your relationship has grown cold, it may take time. First and foremost, do your best to draw closer to God. Second, become the best version of you that you can be and encourage your spouse to do the same. Last but not least, love your spouse well by God's definition of love. Your family will be blessed for it.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
There are rainbows everywhere! What do you think of when you see this image? What was the rainbow's intended purpose and what do I think of when I see the rainbow? Let's dive! The rainbow is inextricably linked to Noah for many people of faith. Depending on your background, Noah's name may vary slightly, but the story is the same. In Genesis 6 we read that God is "grieved" at was has become of the people He created. In Genesis 5 it states that wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Every intent... When I imagine that, I sometimes think to myself, what would I do in that world. How would I parent? Can you imagine being surrounded by people on every side that have turned away from God? What if it was just you and your family? Was it him and his family? Genesis 6 says in verse 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. What if it was just you? The whole world was corrupt. A lesser man may have joined the party. He may have looked around and questioned the validity of what he held to be true surrounded by a world of depravity, but instead Noah stayed the course. He never forgot his first love. His Father. I am so inspired by Noah. He did what was right even when the world around him was championing a different message. He uncompromisingly held to the truth. The result? God saw Noah. Noah had life changing and life saving faith. Building an ark in the middle of dry land kind of faith. He was different from the rest of the world and he was okay with that. God put the rainbow in the sky as a reminder and a sign of the covenant between Him and every living creature on earth. Now rainbows are everywhere! Sneakers, keychains, flags.... Certainly let them be a reminder of God's covenant, but for me it is also a reminder that God saw Noah and God sees me. When I see that rainbow it is like a warm blanket on a cold day. We may feel tiny and lost in a sea of humanity, but we are not lost to God. Our Father is watching over us. I hope the next time you see a rainbow you remember why God created it and the inspiring life of Noah, a man who's faith changed the entire world.
I have been thinking a lot about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea lately. More to the point, standing in front of the sea. A world that had abused them behind them and an unknown land before them, on the other side of a giant expanse of water. Exodus 12:37 tells us there were 600,000 men on foot in addition to women and children. God led them faithfully through the wilderness to the Red Sea. He could have taken them a different route. Exodus 13:17 tells us that God didn't want them to see war in Philistine, lest they be discouraged and return to Egypt. This resulted in an unusual and historic exit for the Israelites. What did they think when they found themselves in front of a sea hemmed in by the wilderness? My thoughts are that they likely wanted to put as much space as possible between themselves and their oppressors, but here they are cornered. Can't go forward and can't go back with their children around their legs looking for answers. To add fuel to the fire of uncertainty, they lift their eyes to see Pharaoh bearing down on them with more than 600 chariots. By their understanding this was game over. In Exodus 14:11 they asked Moses why he dragged them into the wilderness to die. Their perspective is very one dimensional. They were worried and angry. Been there? I have and will likely someday be there again. It can take the form of illness, serious marital issues, loss of a job, watching your child walk through a difficult season and recognizing you can't fix it, etc... It is the times in our lives when we are faced with a situation that in the natural we can find no solutions. Like the Israelites we can't always see God working behind the scenes. The Israelites likely didn't know that God took them the long way to protect them. They also likely didn't know God hardened Pharaoh's heart intentionally. In Exodus 14:1-4 we learn that He wanted the Egyptians to come after the Israelites. Having Pharaoh's army bearing down, likely made it easier for them to walk their frightened families through supernaturally parted waters full of many types of sharks, baracudas, and other sea creatures including whales. This also created a substantial barrier to protect the Israelites, while wiping out a large portion of their enemy as the sea closed over the Egyptians when they pursued them. Often times when I feel like I am in a situation that has no perceived "natural" solution, I remember I serve a supernatural God who parted a sea to save His people. He has plans for me and my family. When faced with trials I pray. I Stay in His word. I Seek a lot of Christ centered advisors and continue to do my best to seek solutions while watching for His leading. I remember times in my life when I saw God "part the sea" for me, even when to my eyes I was undeserving of being saved. Below is a scripture. Our family sings it most nights after our Bible reading and before prayer. It is a great source of encouragement for us. I hope it is the same for you.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The girls and I were studying the Old Testament. We studied the Israelites leaving Egypt in Exodus and years of wandering that continues through Numbers. An obvious pattern popped out to Elizabeth, and as I read in Numbers 21:5 she put her head in her hand and said,"oh no, not again." She is 8, but she had observed the pattern of God's people that was complaining followed by discipline. We are not in Egypt with them, but as they complained again about the crummy food and accommodations it is hard not to cringe. It became clear reading through the Old Testament like this that God loathes complaining and is not silent about it. There can be the very natural response of finger shaking. Isn't it SO easy to see fault in others? What do you do when you see a brother stumble? You help him up. That is love, but also ask yourself how do I or have I struggled with this very thing. In this case, who of us has not or does not struggle with complaining? Do we recognize it for the sin that it is and that it hurts and angers our Father? This passage in 21:5 results in a lot of people getting bit by poisonous snakes and dying, but right now I want to focus on the other side that presents a few verses ahead. In Numbers 21:16-17. The Israelites get to a new location. There is no water, so Moses asked them to dig a well that they might have some. They set to work and sang as they dug! They traded their complaining for praising. The result, the obvious gift of water, but also the next town they came to denied them passage, attacked the Israelites and the Israelites won! After about 38 years of wandering in the desert they took over the city. They had wells, homes, vineyards, fields.... The Israelites had a paradigm shift in their faith after the many years of hardship capped by the struggle with snakes in their camp. It seems they finally shifted faith in the physical world to the Father who created it and were blessed for it. Their earthly experience shifted radically when they started singing joyfully for the water they trusted their Father would provide instead of complaining that it wasn't there waiting for them. In Hebrews 11 the Bible says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. I thank the Israelites for reminding me of what that looks like. It reminds me to stand back and look at my life. Looks for ways that I can be better for my Father and certainly, do everything without complaining. Thoughts and comments welcome. Iron sharpens iron.
Philippians 2:14-16--Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.
In advance, I apologize to the nautically savvy. I am not. Onward we go. Our family watched The Finest Hour this weekend. What an impacting film. It is a true story about Bernie Webber who was a United States Coast Guardsman. In an effort to not give too much away, he was asked to go out during a storm on February 18, 1952 to rescue a tanker named the SS Pendleton. It had broken in two off the shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was cold. It was stormy. In the retelling, acquaintances dubbed his going a suicide mission. There was a sand bar in the harbor that moved. On a good day you could see your way around it, but during a storm it was just not done. Also, looming in the background was a previous mission he was involved in that saw people lose their lives. Understanding that he had his orders, the concerned suggested to him that he should circle the harbor, "get lost" and come back in. He refused. He said, "the Coast Guard says you have to go out, they don't say you have to come back" and off he went to pick an apprehensive crew. He had a job to do. He was passionate about his mission. It made me reflect on my walk as a Disciple of Christ. On one side the church. Showing up. Shaking hands. Encouraging words. Singing in Choir. Serving in children's ministry. Women's studies. Helping elderly neighbors... All good things for sure, safe good things, but am I crossing the bar? Christ crossed the bar. Paul crossed the bar. As a church we are studying the book of Acts and I am moved by Paul's example in Acts 20:22-24. Paul says he knows that he is not coming back and that prison and hardship is facing him everywhere he goes, but he is committed to complete the task that Christ gave him of sharing the good news of God's grace. I am so grateful to God for sending John and Ildi many years ago to study the Bible with this clueless and sometimes stubborn girl and her reluctant husband. Hey honey, the guy I met at the grocery store is coming over with his wife to do a Bible study, did not go very well in my Catholic household. I am pretty sure I heard, "you owe me," murmered... In the end, it transformed my family. I have shared this joy, but there are times I have circled the harbor hemmed in by the bar. In my life that bar has taken different forms as surely as it does in the ocean. It has taken the form of illness. It has taken the form of financial hardship. Most disappointingly and quite simply it has taken the form of selfishness and lack of focus. Lack of missional mentality. I went to a church once and it had a sign that on one side welcomed you and on the other side as you exited it said, "you are entering your mission field." I want to hang that on my bedroom door. Everyday we wake up we have a choice to merely exist or live the full life God called us to. We were not given a spirit of timidity, (2 Timothy 1:7) but one of power and love. We were not called to seek and save the polished. Not just the mom sitting next to us on the yoga mat or a friend we bump into from years ago, share with them too, but Christ's call was to seek and save the lost everywhere. My son was at the Walmart the other day and an employee went out of his way to help my son find the right gloves. A conversation ensued and my son asked him if he went to church around here. The man said,"not since I was a kid, my life has been real hard, but maybe that's what I need in my life, More Jesus!" He asked my son about church before getting called away on the speaker. It reminded me that we were called to make the most of EVERY opportunity. To daily cross that bar, regardless of the weather, while I remember who first crossed it for me.
Ephesians 5:16 NLT
Make the most of every opportunity
"It is far better to light the candle than curse the darkness." William Lonsdale Watkinson
I was reminded of this quote the other day. It stuck in my heart a bit. I heard a message from a pastor. He was talking about social media. Specifically he was talking about complaining. Sometimes in our human spirit it can seem justified. There have been a good amount of people having their world turned socially upside down with Covid. Social media has become a breeding ground of controversy as many people struggle mentally with these changes. Our Pastors call was to be the light. Phil 2:14 Tells us that we are to do everything without grumbling or arguing. That is a massive attitude adjuster. Philippians 4:4-7 says be rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, again I say rejoice. He encourages us that by prayer the peace of God will guard our hearts through Jesus. So don't complain, stay in prayer and be joyful. Be a light. The world does not need more darkness. I heard a story years ago from my friend Barbara. She spoke of being a young mother struggling to manage her three boys. It was stressful and definitely put a strain on her marriage. As her house was a bit chaotic, right down to meal times dominated by a son who refused to eat anything but hamburgers, her neighbors were like something out of father knows best. She would watch the mother come out of her house with her children like ducks in a row. They were quite, respectful... what was her secret? She approached the neighbor one afternoon and asked, "what do you do that your children behave so well?" The woman replied that they raised their children with the Bible as their standard and offered to show her how. That was the beginning of a new life for our friends. They studied the Bible, became disciples and passed on that light to so many others, including Rob and I. Never know where that light will come through. :) As a Disciple of Christ, I hope to shine the light I have been entrusted with. It is not an active choice to shine, but it is an active choice to follow and submit to His will. When we do, we shine.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
Rob and I have been studying the life of Christ. One really thought provoking thing that hit my heart was the professor's thoughts on Mat 5:13. Specifically salt. I have heard many takes on this, but I'll focus on what was a much different perspective that really gave me a cause for pause. He reflected on this humble spice's place and purpose in this society. Without refrigeration, salt was what they used to preserve the fish they caught, their meat and (Ezekiel 16:4) they even rubbed down babies with it! The world that Christ entered, when He was born of Mary, was one where the word of God had been manipulated and added to until it was oppressive and abusive to God's people. It was also, big business. Things like the Sabbath which was meant to be a blessing, became a burden. Don't wear shoes with nails in them on the Sabbath because the extra weight constitutes work. Don't walk on the grass on the Sabbath, it constituted threshing. If your house caught on fire on the Sabbath you could not carry anything out of the house, but you could put on as many layers of clothes as possible and wear them out. Why not just put out the fire? It was prohibited on the Sabbath. We find that Christ pushed back against this oppressive teaching often. An example of this is Matthew 12 when He was being challenged about healing on the Sabbath. I have no doubt early on people noticed when the Jewish leaders were making... changes, but thought, they know what they are doing or were too intimidated to challenge them. In essence, Jesus came and said enough. He stood up to them. He turned over tables. I love Him for it. He broke down the barriers and made a way for all of us, if we follow Him. As for the salt/preservative, we are called to be the salt of the Earth. Reflecting on the above, it is clear to me that Jesus is saying don't let this happen again. Preserve the Gospel. As a disciple of Christ I take this call seriously. I make sure to do my best to be like the Acts 17:11 Bereans. I listen, examine and when I get a check in my spirit, I ask questions. I pray for God's strength and courage to be the salt I am called to be. Questions, comments and insight welcome. God Bless.