Wounded Love

Being a parent is hard. I remember the many sleepless nights when my three were babies. I remember the days when I never thought I would get any time alone. And, I remember thinking that the day would never come when I was done raising littles. Now that my kids are all over the age of 15, I realize that I will never be done raising my children.  The struggles just become different.

As we watch our kids grow, we hold our breath, and are constantly questioning ourself. Is he ok? Is she happy? Are they safe? Will they make the right decisions? Can I protect them? We all know what it is like to be the parent and let your child have to face the consequences of a behavior. We know that it is best, but we would do anything to take their place and remove them from a hard situation.

Today we are reading in the book of Hosea, chapter 11. The prophet Hosea spends much time in his writings trying to persuade the people of Israel to turn from their ways. He wants them to turn back to God. Here in the 11th chapter, Hosea uses the language of a mother’s love for her children.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them up by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:3-4

Both of the above verses are what we would call good parenting. Loving a child, teaching them to walk, helping them when they are sick, and feeding them are all things we do as a parent to the child we love.

But, the content of the chapter abruptly changes. The people will not turn back to God. Violence is devouring the cities. Because the people will not turn back to God, they will receive the natural consequences. These include either going back to Egypt, back into slavery or falling into the hands of Assyria.

Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? A sword will flash in their cities; it will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans. My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.
Hosea 11:6-7

But, keep reading, the text changes again! God can’t bear the thought of destroying His children. God says, My heart won’t let me do it. My compassion won’t let me do it.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities.” Hosea 11:8-9

Though Israel had not been obedient in turning back to God, God still loved them and longed for them to come back. His love for them was wounded, but never ending.  How often in our own lives have we not been completely faithful to God? How often have we not been obedient? We may struggle with putting God first and even turn away for a time, but God’s love for us remains the same. He will always be faithful, even though we may not.

…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

God is always longing for us to come back to Him, even when we have wounded him.   Let Him draw you up into His arms. He longs to have a relationship with you. He loves you with an everlasting love.

Parable of Love

Today’s reading is Hosea 1 & 3.

Marriage is one of the most sacred and wonderful traditions we take part in these days, an incredible way to mirror God’s love to the world. It can be difficult at times, especially in the case of marriages like that of Hosea, but one of the main tenets of this form of union is showing each other unconditional love, imperfectly as we may in comparison to God. He sees fit to demonstrate this poetically and powerfully through Hosea.

For generations at this point, Israel has taken up worshipping idols and false gods due to the influence of sinful leaders, nearly forgetting completely about God. In appointing a new prophet to remind the people of Israel about their one true God, He speaks to Hosea and commands him to marry an unfaithful woman of Israel. Hosea obeys, marries the suitable Gomer, and the two bear three children (presumably, to the reader, the fathers of whom may or may not actually be Hosea). In an effort to demonstrate how God feels about his treatment at the hands of Israel, he commands Hosea to name his children “Jezreel” (for Israel’s unwarranted massacre of the people there), “Lo-ruhama” (Hebrew for No Mercy, demonstrating how God will show no mercy for those who turn their backs to Him), and “Lo-ammi” (Hebrew for Not My People, for God considers the sinful Israelites to not be counted among His people). Tough names for the kids to bear, but God’s point is made: He is not happy with Israel. But soon the Lord commands Hosea further: he should rescue Gomer from her sins, who is trapped in a life of sexual immorality. Hosea pays off her debts accrued from her behavior (15 shekels of silver and 110 liters of grain). Redeemed and freed from her debts, God promises that as Gomer and her children of adultery are redeemed, he will show mercy to those who don’t deserve it and be with those who were not his people.

The symbolism here is clear and powerful: God, who loves the church as His Bride, has watched them run off to idolatry and hedonism. Knowing how much it hurts to watch our own spouses struggle with sin and turn away from our encouragement and from God, it must have pained God beyond imagination when His perfect love was similarly rejected. But Hosea refuses to abandon his wife, even when she has abandoned her freedom to sin and hurt him immeasurably, paying the toll for her freedom from sin. In this same way, God has paid for our sins through the death of Jesus Christ out of pure love for us.

Reading through this passage though, after a while, what really struck me was how familiar Gomer’s perspective sounded. Even all these millennia later, the same problems the Israelites dealt with concerning sin still saturate our culture and everyone in it. Gomer’s marriage to Hosea was likely completely arranged without her knowledge or consent, more of a transaction between Hosea and her father. She may have had wanted nothing to do with marriage at the time, and frankly, was probably not that into Hosea anyway. Her previous sins remained in her heart into marriage, as she refused to leave her promiscuity behind, simply changing the label of what it was into adultery instead. Even as Gomer remained faithful and followed God, Gomer kept sinning and sinning despite the incredible grace and restraint being shown to her. Is this sounding familiar to you as well?

We don’t know how Gomer got herself into her debts, what we do know is that the amount required to free her was pretty pitiable. If she was held captive to comparably about $30 and a bale or two of wheat, whatever actions inspired Gomer’s debt were probably not particularly noteworthy at all. But even such a small amount kept her indebted and enslaved. How low and worthless she must have felt. But even in such desperation and sadness, when all hope within has disappeared and she was ready for help, her husband Hosea would still bother to pay for her freedom after all the heartache and agony she had caused him.

When we get lost in our sins and spiral out of control into our own idols and away from God, we can easily get lost and feel abandoned. Following our own paths towards our own desires can often lead this way, and correcting our course can feel impossible. We can feel forgotten, unseen, and unloved. But in Genesis 16:13-14, Hagar summarizes beautifully: ‘”You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me”‘. No matter how deep in our sin we may have gotten, God will never lose sight of us and will never leave forget us. To God, the price to pay for our freedom and redemption and our relationship with Him is so measly in comparison to celebrating eternity with us, He would pay that price without hesitation. We never have to feel worthless or unable to remove our sins as Gomer must have felt with her debts, for the Lord is always ready for us when we are ready to repent of our old idolatrous ways. I pray today that you would be ready to rid yourself of the weight of sins and instead run with joy and praise to the God who has already payed the way to salvation for you and us all. God be with you all.

-Ross B.

Going Through The Motions

Today’s reading is Amos 4.

I have to admit in preparing for this I did not know much about the prophet Amos and this book of the Bible which is, quite frankly, a little difficult to interpret. Thankfully, my brother in Christ and fellow Bible Journal writer David LaFrance turned me on to John MacArthur’s “Grace to You” app a few years back which I highly recommend if you have questions and want to learn more about a book or passages from the Bible.

Amos’ name means “burden bearer,” and he was from a small town Tekoa 10 miles south of Jerusalem. He bred sheep and tended sycamore fruit (yet another example of how God can use anyone from anywhere for big things and His glory). He lived in a time of peace during the 8th century B.C. when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II was king of Israel. As can happen in times of peace when everything seems merry, we can tend to lose sight of true worship of God and God used Amos to bring attention that and also a lack of justice.

“Come to Behtel and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim free will offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! declares the Lord God.”

Amos 4:4-5

God wants to bring attention to their idolatry and them going through the motions in giving and worship. I’m sure we can all relate to doing this…I know I can! I notice when I’m in prayer time and realize I’m distracted thinking of my “to do” list, meetings that day, or personal or professional goals. I notice this when my mind wanders in church, and I’m not focused on the sermon but instead thinking about lunch or the game of my favorite team later that day. I even noticed sleep being an idol today when I was going to wake up early Sunday morning to work on this but am instead working on it in the afternoon! Don’t get me wrong..making an impact professionally, our spouses, our kids, our favorite sports team or hobbies, money, sleep, and food are all blessings from God which we should enjoy. However, are we prioritizing and thinking about them over him? Are we thanking Him for these blessings and using them for His glory or for our own? All of these and more can become idols if we are not careful…yes..even our spouses and kids.

Deuteronomy 6:5-6 says..

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

The people of Israel Amos speaks of were giving and going through the rituals of worship without truly worshipping God and giving to Him with a thankful heart to further His kingdom.

I may have mentioned this in past writings, but I had a Sunday school teacher growing up who became moved to tears nearly every week at some point when talking about Jesus. I just didn’t get it then and thought it was very strange, but I do now. I know the times I’m living out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 is when I’m nearly moved to tears during a worship song, prayer, communion while thinking of His sacrifice on the cross, while reading the Word, or while looking at my wife and kids in thanksgiving to Him for these blessings and more.

As you read through the book of Amos, it can become very confusing, as the wrath and punishment from God is discussed. I must admit again that I have a hard time understanding this other than knowing we should suffer the wrath of God and be separated from God due to our sin. However, I’m thankful that in Amos 9:11, he speaks of Jesus by stating, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.” Romans 8:1 also says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 1 John 2:2 tells us that God sent Him as the “propitiation” for our sins. I’m extremely grateful God loves us so much that He sent Him to suffer the wrath that should have been mine.

Let us keep this in the forefront of our mind in thanksgiving as we live, give, and worship. When we do, it becomes easy live out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and love God with all our heart, soul, and might!

Is It Right For You To Be Angry About This?

 

 

Jonah 3 and 4

If you grew up in the church you have heard the story of Jonah quite a few times. The story I remember from Sunday School goes like this: God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh so he got on a boat going the other direction. The boat ran into a bad storm, Jonah knew he had disobeyed God and told the sailors of the boat it was his fault that the storm came up and that they should throw him over. So they did, Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and sat in its belly for three days and then the fish spat him back out on the shore. God again told Jonah to go to Nineveh and this time Jonah obeyed. The End. I honestly only ever remember hearing the first two chapters of Jonah taught. Maybe I didn’t pay attention in Sunday School well enough, but I think most of the time in Jonah’s story we kind of stop there. Jonah obeyed…  Jonah’s a hero, he learned his lesson and followed God. But after sitting with chapters 3 and 4 for a few days, I’m sad. Jonah’s story doesn’t have the happy ending for him that I thought it had for most of my life.

Chapter 3 opens with God telling Jonah (for the second time) to go to Nineveh and deliver His message to the people of the city. This time Jonah obeyed. I think it is clear that after spending time inside a fish that Jonah was more receptive to God’s plan. Jonah delivered God’s message and the people repented and changed their ways. When God saw that they put and end to their evil ways, He changed His mind and didn’t destroy the people. Jonah 4:1-4 says, ”This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it. “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” So Jonah walked out to the edge of town to watch and see what would happen. As he waited God arranged for a leafy plant to grow up beside him to protect him form the heat of the sun. The next day God arranged for a worm to eat the plant off at the stem, which killed it and left Jonah in the heat with no protection. Again Jonah got mad and said, “death is certainly better than living like this!” Then God said, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died? “Yes” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” Vs 10-11 say, “ Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city? The End. What? Seriously? Where is obedient Jonah from the beginning of chapter 3?

Two times God asked Jonah if it is right for him to be angry about his situation. Why was Jonah so angry? I looked back in my Bible to chapter 1 and got some help understanding Jonah’s mindset from the notes below vs 3. In Jonah’s lifetime, Nineveh was a powerful and wicked city. Jonah had grown up hating and fearing these people because of what they did to others. In Nahum we get a better explanation what Jonah knew about the people of Nineveh. They were guilty of evil plots against God, exploitation of the helpless, cruelty in war and idolatry, prostitution, and witchcraft. Yikes, that is quite a list. Also Nineveh was a Gentile country and Jonah was a Jew. Humanly, I completely understand Jonah’s feelings. He was scared of these people and what they might do to him, and also, he wanted them to be punished for their wrongdoing instead of saved from their consequences. Jonah was angry because he was looking at the situation from his point of view, not God’s. Jonah saw people deserving death, period. God saw people that deserved death, but He wanted to save them because of His love.

 

1-I think Jonah forgot the truth that he didn’t deserve to be forgiven by God either. It is so easy to compare our sin with other people’s sins and talk ourselves into believing that we are more deserving of relationship with God than others. The truth is that no one is blameless. None of us are good enough to get to God on our own, we can’t. The only way to Him is by accepting His gift of payment for our sins by Jesus dying on the cross. The only part we play in this equation is sinning. It’s a pretty level playing field for ALL of us!

2-I think Jonah couldn’t get past concern for his own neck and looking like a fool in front of a lot of people. Don’t we all get tripped up here? We just can’t let ourselves truly trust God with our lives. We don’t want to be embarrassed, minimized, pained, looked over or left in the dust. We feel like if we don’t look out for ourselves, no one else will. We want the glory that God deserves.

3-I think Jonah was more in tune with his own interests than the spiritual needs of the people around him. Not to be dramatic here, but we are talking about eternal damnation, forever separated from God…no way out, no change in circumstances, no help, FOREVER!  If the people around us aren’t introduced to  truth and relationship with God here on earth, there isn’t another chance for them to change their minds. This life is all we have to decide to accept Christ’s gift and share the gift with everyone we can.

We don’t get to find out if Jonah softened his heart toward the people of Nineveh. We don’t know if he accepted God’s personal lesson for him through the plant. We don’t know if Jonah changed.

Restoration from Despair

Good morning friends! If you’re reading along in the scriptures with these daily devotionals, you may find Joel 2 to be a bleak prophesy, and initially a somewhat difficult passage to apply in our 21st century lives.

What was most certainly a true devastation by locusts, combined with a severe drought that resulted in a widespread famine can – and does – have application today.

When I was 31, my first marriage of almost 10 years ended abruptly. Without going needlessly into detail, I can tell you that the end of that marriage left me feeling as though my past several years had been spent in drought and famine. After more than a decade in a relationship and nearly a decade in marriage, I was left alone, childless, unloved and unhappy and very lonely. I could not fathom how or why I was in that situation. I remember wondering in the midst of it how I was ever to have the life I thought I was meant to – how would I have a long marriage with children when I was starting over in my thirties and no one was in my life?

Joel 2:25-26 says this of God’s promise to us, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”

Time itself isn’t restored to us – but what is lost from the years can be. God can bless his people with bountiful crops to replace what was lost in drought or plague, and can multiply blessings on us – after going hungry not only are we able to have enough to eat but to eat in plenty and be satisfied.

A little more than a year after my divorce I married my husband. He had two amazing and beautiful children already who instantly became my family, and God blessed us with our son Samuel and then Andrew right away. God most certainly restored to me the years the locust had eaten. In more abundance than I ever could have imagined or designed for myself.

Have you experienced this in your life? Are you in a time of desolation or famine, or are you experiencing the restoration God promised through Joel’s prophesy?

Regardless – remember this: “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.”

Don’t forget to praise God for his mercy and blessings. Take time to recognize where, how and when God has restored you.

Then and Now

There is conversation among Christians that says the Old Testament is irrelevant.  They say that because Jesus came along and changed everything.  Therefore, the old is no longer needed, the New Testament rules over all.  While there may seem true, it is not true.  We serve the same God.  In fact, today, as we read 2 Kings 5, I think you will see what I see.  It comes through the story of Naaman.

Naaman, as you have read, had leprosy.  He wanted to be well.  To live a normal life, to be productive and to do the things he was born to do.  At the advice of young Israelite girl, Naaman set off for the land of Israel.  It was in Israel, according to she, that there was a prophet who could heal him.  Naaman departed for Israel with a pack of riches on his back.  It included silver, gold and clothing.  He hoped to trade these things for his healing.  Yes, the price was great, but having his life back would be worth it.  His health, after-all, would return to him his purpose.  He would have a life worth living.

Naaman did, in fact, meet the prophet.  His name was Elisha.  But, the healing didn’t go the way that Naaman expected.  Naaman felt disrespected and dishonored.  He protested that there was an easier and better way.  Thankfully, Naaman surrounded himself with wise men.  They were instrumental in convincing him that his pride was going to ruin everything.  Naaman, surrendered to Elijah’s instruction and washed in the Jordan river.  Naaman was healed.

Upon his restoration, Naaman returned to Elijah.  He wanted to thank him.  He also wanted to pay him.  Neither of these were out of obligation or responsibility, but from gratitude.  Elijah refused.  He would not accept payment for Naaman’s new life.  Instead, he simply wished him well.  “Go in peace,” he says.  Effectively, Elijah was saying go and lead a whole life, be who you were created to be.  From now on, praise and worship the almighty God.  Your gratitude is for Him.  That’s exactly what Naaman set out to do.

As I read through this story, I am humbled that there was no cost for Naaman’s healing. Well, there was no monetary cost.  The cost was only in his character.  The cost was only in what he would give up of himself.  Namely, pride.  It was in his surrender.  From it, he gained the life he longed for.

My friends, if you don’t see Jesus Christ in this story, you don’t know Jesus.  We are promised the same things.  Through Jesus, we have Healing, new life, restoration and fullness.  And, just like Naaman, there is no cost. Well, the cost is exactly what we will give up of ourselves.  Once we do that, there is no cost, only gain.  Redemption has already been paid by Jesus.  With our new lives, there is only one thing left to do.  Praise and worship.  Just like Naaman.

End the Limping

Yesterday Jon shared some awesome testimonies of Elijah’s faith, and as we move into chapter 18, his faith continues to grow.

Ahab, the king, and his wife Jezebel, have quit following God and have taken up idol worship in the form of Baal. There is a drought and famine in the land and God continues to protect and use Elijah amidst the chaos.

Read through this chapter a few times and see if you can get a picture of this entire situation: 1 Kings 18.  There are so many messages that stand out, from God telling Elijah he would send the rain…to Obadiah’s brave message delivery in the face of his own fear… to the showdown on Mount Carmel. The events that take place are so victorious and faith affirming!

One scripture that caught my attention was Elijah’s question in verse 21:

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

Limping. What a perfect description of my life as a sinner, hobbling from one poor choice to another, despite having moments of faith or even knowing the truth. But we hobble around and end up miserable in our own junk. This was my life in a big way before I made a commitment to follow Jesus. My limping back and forth wasn’t out of disbelief in God…but because I couldn’t figure out grace, and didn’t have the Holy Spirit living in me.  I was bouncing around like a pinball game! And guess what? Even as a Christ follower, there is still junk! And while my limping and hobbling isn’t between God and Baal, it is between the spirit and the flesh. I love how Jesus warns us that our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. Amen! My flesh is weak when I want to give a snarky remark to someone. My flesh is weak when I go into a defense mode. My flesh is weak when I break the law because I lie to myself that it doesn’t apply to me, or that law is for other people. My flesh is weak when I stay up worrying all night about things that are far beyond my control.

Are you limping today? How long will you go back and forth? I’m praying for healing from my limping, will you join me?

Matthew 6:24 tells us that No man can serve two masters. Not God and Baal. Not God and Greed. Not God and Fear. Not God and ______. Whatever is in your blank, let’s answer Elijah’s question together today and end the limping back and forth. Victory is ours!

Clarity given, but faith needed to receive

Autumn 2018

We learned of an exciting opportunity to join the February 2019 mission trip to Kenya with members of our church in Illinois.

Amy had been on a mission trip (and has been eager to do another one with our entire family) and I’ve wanted to go on a similar trip to Kenya for a long time. Since our current home is halfway there from the USA this idea became even more enticing.

We started praying about the trip and met the rest of the team who had already signed up. Through video calls we became even more eager to join; the team consisted of several loving, kind, energetic, fun and faithful people. The primary objective of the trip was to photograph and engage with children. This sounded like a perfect opportunity that would involve our entire family.

As we moved forward filling out forms, preparing finances and making plans for the trip, things were looking great. God was at work and we knew it!

A few months into the planning we learned that there was a problem with Amy’s European residence request (permission to remain in Europe). The end result: If she left Europe (now our home) before the residence request issues were resolved, she would risk being deported.

Our prayers for the trip then focused on requests for clarity and direction. We prayed for definitive answers; for it to be clear as to whether or not we should go on the trip. His will be done.

Clarity Received

Our lawyers eventually made it very clear that we should absolutely not go to Africa at this time. We felt this probability in our hearts in the days leading up to receiving this information, so we received the news with mixed emotions. We were saddened to not be part of the trip, but thankful and relieved for the answered prayers for clarity, thankful that we met some wonderful people, and thankful that we could still support the team.

We are now talking to this ministry group about plans to join them in Kenya, 2020 so we have plenty of time for prayer, preparation, and planning!

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 17 has some classic miracle and faith stories that many of us have heard since we were children. What stands out for me is Elijah’s faith, a reminder that we may not know (or even agree with) what God has planned, however we need to wait, listen, and obey.

  • Elijah being fed by ravens. He faithfully received God’s provisions. I’m pretty sure I’d have some doubt in this plan… “I am sure you know what you’re doing here God, so I must have not heard you right, you said ravens are going to bring food for me? Surely not!”
  • The woman and her son who were about to die of starvation. Elijah asked her for her last morsels of food and she obliged. By faith, he trusted God that the partaking of the woman’s “last” food would not result in the demise of her and her son.
  • The woman’s son dying. Elijah faithfully asked God to heal the boy. Why ask for something you do not believe God can do? Elijah believed and God miraculously answered.

Elijah’s faith reminded me of how I need to be faithful as well as lead my family in being faithful through all circumstances, seeking to become more like Jesus every day. We don’t know why our mission trip roadblocks weren’t miraculously cleared. Looking at the photos of the team there this week, my heart breaks a little bit, yearning to be there, but I know God has a different plan and it is good.

Through all of this we are given another opportunity to increase our faith. To apply the learning to our daily life. To give all praise and glory to the only one who is worthy.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 15:10)

For more information on the team serving in Kenya right now please check out: http://www.goyasponsorshipteam.com/

A Time for Everything

Today’s reading:  Ecclesiastes 3

The book of Ecclesiastes is a book of practical wisdom written by King Solomon late in his life.  Do you remember in 2 Chronicles 1 when Solomon asked God for wisdom?  Even though God granted his desire, Solomon often failed to act upon his own advice and made many unwise and sinful choices.  By the time he wrote Ecclesiastes, however, Solomon had gotten to a point where he was able to reflect over his life’s journey with a sense of humility and repentance.
If I had to sum up the main point of Ecclesiastes in one sentence it would be – apart from God, EVERYTHING in life is empty, hollow, and meaningless.  Do you believe this?  I “believe” it because the Bible says it is true, however, I’m not sure my actions always support my stated belief.  As I studied Ecclesiastes 3 this week, God put a few lessons I needed to hear on my heart.  Will you review a few of them with me?
  • God established order.  From the moment we were born until the moment we pass from this earth, God is accomplishing his divine purpose in our lives.  There is a time for everything, a season for ever activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
  • Time matters to God.  Time is often called the currency of life.  Once it has passed, it can never be regained again.  Thus, we should spend our time on things that matter, things that glorify God.  He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11a).
  • We can never be completely satisfied with earthly pleasures or pursuits.  Because we are created in the image of God, he is the only who can bring us complete satisfaction.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11b).
Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us there are many things are outside our control.  Even so, we can choose our own conduct, form our own character and decided whether we will follow Jesus Christ or not.  Everything matters to God.  Choose wisely.

I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed” (Ecclesiastes 3:17).

Love

Today’s reading is Song of Songs 2

We have been spending a lot of time at basketball and volleyball games. Rushing around from work to games and back home again. Its exhausting, but we wouldn't miss the games for anything. One particular day I arrived late to a game. Mike was already there saving a seat for me. I plopped down next to him with a weary sigh and pulled out my favorite Chap stick. I popped the top off, anticipating some relief to my Illinois chapped lips, and the ENTIRE contents of the stick fell out onto the ground. There is no 5 second rule to a gym floor. Mike watched the whole thing happen and saw the disappointment on my face. No words were spoken, but I knew he was with me in the pit of no chap stick. The next day I came home to a SAMs club box of 10 Chap sticks. My favorite kind! I felt so loved and cared for in that moment. It reminded me of the days I first met him and all the reasons I fell for him.
 Song of Songs is the ultimate book of love.  It opens with a wedding and then chapter 2 shares the "memories of courtship". It is a chapter of mushy poetry that likens one to a "gazelle" and the other to a "dove". It is obvious that they are infatuated with each other as they cannot stop gushing over one another. Have you been around this couple before? They are the ones in a room of 50 people but they only have eyes for each other, no one else exists. Often times this is the difference between newlyweds and those of us who have multiple years under our belts. Those days of poems and gushy talk often fade into the daily grind of work and responsibilities. But the days of infatuation are so important to our future  selves. They remind us why we got together in the first place. 

Song of Songs 2:15 "Quick! Catch all the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of your love, for the grapevines are all in blossom".NIV

Love is a beautiful thing but can be fragile too. The foxes are the little things that creep into our relationships. Selfishness, bitterness, pride. In this chapter the young women of Jerusalem are reminding the couple that there will be trouble. In the midst of seeing them so in love they want to instill a little reality and wisdom into their relationship. Be on the alert for the "foxes" that steal away the love. It can happen so quickly and innocently. The most beautiful picture of a marriage is one based on the love of Jesus.
Song of Songs 2:16 "My beloved is mine, and I am his". KJV
Today spend some time remembering your courtship. Remind your mate why you chose them. If you are in the position of not being able to remember why - ask God to reveal that to you. Marriage can be very difficult, with unexpected twists and turns. Situations change but God never changes. He is the one constant in the midst of instability.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of marriage. Thank you for your design and your plan. Forgive us when we stray from it, seeking our own desires. I pray that you would comfort those who are struggling. Please bring healing and peace to their hearts. We trust you to strengthen our marriages and protect them from the schemes of evil that would destroy the good you have started. May we be good to each other because You have been so good to us. Amen

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well". NIV
Shelly