Love Songs

Picture Date: 12/23/2015

Today’s Reading: Numbers 10; Psalms 46–47; Song of Solomon 8; Hebrews 8 

May 3, 2016

What is true love?  As we finish up the Songs of Solomon I reflect on my own love, wedding, and marriage. God has an expectation for our love and marriages. I’d like to also share a story of a wonderful marriage between a couple, and a husband who was committed through it all. The other story is of the commitment and promise made by Christ to love us.

For at least a year my Uncle Fred would literally carry my Aunt Betty. Tireless arms that carried my aunt everywhere she wanted or needed to go. This physically took off about 50 lbs of his already small frame, but it did’t matter. Nothing else does. When she wasn’t able to walk from the couch to the bed, or if she needed to go to the bathroom, or when she needed a shower, it was all done together and by him.  My Aunt Betty Baker went to be with the Lord December 25, 2015. We love you and miss you and look forward to seeing you again in paradise.  My Aunt was one of the most fun, loving people you would meet. She has two sons (Shawn & Chris), her husband (Fred), and siblings (Donna & Carl) who would do anything for her if asked. They learned this from my aunt, who modeled this and gave everything to others. She put everyone before herself. My Aunt Betty & Uncle Fred’s stories remind me of Jesus when he told us to put others first. Philippians 2:3. Ultimately Jesus gave his life for ours.

The lifetime of my Aunt’s diabetes was bad and about a year before her passing she was given the option to go through dialysis daily.  She decided not to do this and had faith that God was in control of her life. Psalm 46 allowed my Aunt Betty to let Him be her strength. In our moments where hope could be lost she would “Be still” and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  Faith is not the assurance that everything will be OK; it’s the assurance that He is in control.  We can often forget this.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 says: (6) Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. (7) Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

Love is stronger than death; it doesn’t fold in time, or collapse by disaster, and it cannot be bought for any price. Love is priceless and will never die.  It is a gift from God.

The book of the Song of Solomon reminds me of this gift of Love to us and his guidelines he has established for us to live by in our marriages.  He is part of our marriages and in the love between my Aunt Betty & Uncle Fred in their marriage. Song of Solomon reminds me of the love God has for his people. My Uncle Fred would model characteristics of Ephesians 5:25-33 .  (Walking in love and putting others before yourself. JOY = Jesus Others Yourself) My Uncle Fred retired early to meet all her needs.  Jesus does the same for us.  All we have to do is call Him. Psalm 55:16

1 Corinthians 13 shares with us The Way of Love message It’s one of my favorites because it defines real love and how it is available to all people.

My Aunt Betty and I had many conversations in that last year about her faith and her comfort of what was ahead. I cried each time, but also had tears of joy knowing her eternal life and faith. Though physically fragile, she would overwhelm anyone with her huge heart and love for others. Song of Solomon tells of love, commitment, problems, and beauty. Through all things God loves us and has a place waiting for everyone who believes.  A husband and wife can honor God when they love and enjoy each other. I saw this in them and in my own marriage. I pray all our marriages exemplify what God’s love means. His love endures all things and will never end. God will take all our choices, mistakes, and failures and turn them into something good.

As you reflect on your marriage or others, think of your relationship with Christ. God’s love is freely there for us to take hold of. He is ready to start a new relationship with you that will be eternal. This year our marriage has been created new because of our relationship with Christ in our marriage. Those who walk daily with Him have heavenly resources available all the time.  As we grow closer to Him, we’ll grow closer to each other. When you walk in the light, you’ll grow in fellowship with each other.

Dear Father,

I pray for the strength, love, and guidance for all that have lost loved ones.  That we keep our faith in God and help us find joy in all we do. If you haven’t had faith in God I pray You’re love touches our heart and you understand He loves us and cares. Jeremiah 31:3 tells us about His everlasting love he has for us.  Thanks for the priceless gift of love and grace you share with us.  Lord we need you to continue to pour out your love to us.  Thank you for giving us ways to show this love.

Amen

Celebrating Passovers

Nadia and Me Today
Nadya Quinn McGriff and her Momma

Today’s Readings: Numbers 9; Psalm 45; Song of Solomon 7; Hebrews 7

I’m writing tonight from our car. We are on a very long journey with our three children in the back of the van on our way home from Omaha, NE. We went to Omaha to baptize our youngest. Our surprise baby knitted within me by His hand and revealed to us like a flash of heat lightning on a summer evening. For our family, a baptism is a ritual that is sacred. One that represents our commitment to our faith in Jesus Christ and our intention to plant the seeds of a life with Him in our children. The church we return to in Omaha is a home for my husband and I. Although my faith tradition is evolving and changing in a way that puts Jesus at the center, I find that this particular ritual is deeply rooted within me. I wish that I could say that I have my faith journey all figured out. I envy those that are unshakable in their knowledge of scripture and convictions on all things biblical. Instead, I’m the middle school phase of my spiritual growth. I’ve got zits, a bad haircut and I’m just trying to sort out who I am and where I fit in.

Today’s first reading is from Numbers 9. I wish I had wireless in the car so I could look up why they call this book Numbers. Anyway, chapter 9 offers a beautiful description of the Lord commanding Moses and the Israelites to keep Passover. The instructions are as usual in the Old Testament, very prescriptive:

“In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave not of it until the morning, nor break any of its bones; according to all the statute for the Passover they shall keep it. “ (Numbers 9:11)

It goes on to say that the man that is not traveling and is considered clean or as I would say “eligible” for Passover, if that man does not keep Passover he shall be cut off from the rest of the group. So, what I hear in this passage is God telling us, “hey guys, you need to take time out of your big old busy job, social media, soccer practice, PTA meeting lives to honor me.” I hear and feel the Holy Spirit in my life inviting me to stop and raise my eyes to be in His presence. The next part of Numbers 9 is probably my favorite. We see the Israelites build a tabernacle and then a cloud covers that tent of the testimony. By day the cloud is there and by night it is replaced with fire. When the cloud lifted the people of Israel knew to set out and when it stopped they made camp again beneath it. They went on like that, allowing the Holy Spirit to be their guide. The most beautiful part of the chapter comes at the end:

“Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.” (Numbers 9:22-23)

 For the people of Israel, it was enough to just follow the cloud and remain in their tent under the flame. If I look for my clouds and fire will I find them? When I stepped into Sacred Heart church this morning I was safely under the cloud. I laid a foundation there ten years ago and now my house stands tall. I planted a seed of obedience and commitment to Jesus there, in that place. Today, my fellow Israelites welcomed me back into their Omaha tent. They celebrated the wonder of this beautiful new life with us. All along I’ve been struggling to reconcile my transition from the Catholic tent to a more Christ centered Christian tent. I’ve spent a few years trying to clear up my spiritual acne and get a better biblical look. I anticipated a real feeling of dichotomy, a feeling of separation and the discomfort of being non-commital. What I experienced was grace. The power of the Holy Spirit is here and surprisingly it was also there. I’ve spent so much time worrying about my role in my spiritual maturation but Moses gave me a little nudge today. I got to celebrate a Passover, a ritual, a sign of obedience to our Heavenly Father. It wasn’t a drudgery. I didn’t check my watch to see when it would be over. It sounds like the Israelites didn’t either. They “abide-ed”, they were content to rest in the promise of guidance and protection. Are we too busy to abide? Can I trust the Lord enough to guide me on his time with the rest of my Israelites? Lord, give us patient hearts and minds this week. Help us to hear and see you this week.

 

 

Enlightenment

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. -Ephesians 1:18-19
Numbers 8; Psalm 44; Song of Solomon 6; Hebrews 6

Enlightenment is something people throughout history have pursued in many ways. It is the pursuit of many and the desire of most. I am no exception.

According to Webster, enlightenment is “the state of having knowledge or understanding.”

For a chapter of my life, I was a self proclaimed mystic and seeker of “truth”. This was mostly a line of defense to disguise a self centered life of hedonism and pride. I looked into other religions to construct a personal belief system, one which ultimately served my personal needs and desires; or so I thought. As it turned out my syncretism did not lead where I had hoped. God knew the desires of my heart better than I, and had provided the means to attain them. It was a very specific path and available to everyone.

As a child, I had been introduced to the idea of Christianity, but my progress was temporarily misdirected in the confusion of grief and the call of my rebellious spirit. Later in life, I returned to what I believed was the most certain path to discovering truth, but for many years I wrestled between trying to establish a relationship with the God of the Bible, and finding fulfillment in everything the world had to offer.

As my quest for truth became more urgent, I focused more on God. This process was like swimming upstream, against the current of a culture whose force was the countless choices of the lives of those who turned towards idolatry, including the deification of self. Fortunately there were others who swam against the power of self, kindred souls who offered great encouragement: like my wife Heather, my brother Mike and Jon Harris, and BJ Armstrong, Mike Sommers, Arnold, Josh and Jerry; my fellow Bible journal writers, Eastview’s awesome pastors, my generous small group partners and many more.

Eventually it all came down to this: If there was a God who created everything (which I certainly believed); and if that God was both infinite and personal (attributes of God clearly spoken to in the Bible); and God had a plan for the salvation of mankind (assuming of course we needed saving from something, which is a central theme in the Bible story, and certainly one that applied to me) — how would God interact with His creation? And if he did why wouldn’t he document His amazing story in some way? Certainly words and stories are filled with power that can either lead us towards or away from God.

I wanted to learn as much about God as possible, so I chose to respond in faith to all means of revelation available: the power of nature, scripture and by looking for the reflection of God in the lives of others. (Psalm 19)

The great thing is this: the promises of God as documented in the Bible can literally be experienced in the transformation of our lives. If we could know God personally, why wouldn’t we? Becoming the people we were meant to be, offers strong evidence for the existence, the power and truth of the Biblical God. It has for me.

Now as I swim upstream against the culture of America, and of the world, I am learning to find eddies where the current is still heading back towards God. I have learned to cross the river to bigger eddies without going backwards. The longer I swam, the stronger I became in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. As I swam, my life filled with grace and gratitude towards others and with God’s peace that transcended all understanding. This change was able to permeate deep into my soul! Why did I wait so long?

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. – Hebrews 6:4-6

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

animation bean counter

Numbers 7; Psalms 42–43; Song of Solomon 5; Hebrews 5

I am a numbers person. This is really no surprise given my educational background.  We called ourselves “accounting dorks” back at the IWU Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house in 1994.  There were 4 of us.

Here are my numbers on Numbers 7:

  • With 89 verses, Numbers 7 seems like the longest chapter in the Bible.
  • Psalm 119 is actually the longest chapter in the Bible, it has almost double the number of verses – 176 in total.
  • Our 2016 biblejournal.net schedule (following the McCheyene plan) will get us to Psalm 119 on June 22.
  • Don’t worry though, we have an entire week allocated to Psalm 119 (7 days, June 22-28).
  • Seventy-three of the verses (7:12-7:83) in Numbers 7 say the exact same thing, just with different names.

Truth be known, it isn’t really the numbers themselves that I love. Don’t get me wrong, solving the math problem or getting the financial statements to balance gives me a sense of fulfillment, but that isn’t really where my energy comes from.  Rather, it’s how I can use the numbers to tell a story, to make my case, and to influence my audience.  That’s why I love the MD&A (Management Discussion & Analysis) section of an annual report.  It’s the story behind the numbers.  Investors beware, this is an UNAUDITED section of the financial statements.  It is full of management spin, which is why it’s so fun!  Yes, 22 years later I am still an accounting dork.

When it comes to the book of Numbers (and Leviticus for that matter), are you like me? I’ve found this reading to be pretty hard.  It has a ton of historical details and, frankly, isn’t overly inspiring.  Yet from reading 2 Timothy last week, we know God included these scriptures in the Bible for a reason.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In the book of Numbers so far, God’s people have:

  • Taken a census
  • Arranged their camp
  • Assigned serving duties to men of each tribe
  • Outlined rules for unclean people, confession and restitution
  • Established the Nazarite vow

All were these actions were taken in accordance with instructions God gave them through Moses. The Lord blessed them.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)

This brings us to Numbers 7. In response to God’s blessings, each tribe brought offerings before the Lord.  Seventy-three verses in Numbers 7 explain exactly what each tribe brought.  Twenty-six sacrifices by my count (3 serving pieces of precious metal, flour/oil mixture, incense, 21 animals), which are explained in the same painstaking detail 12 times.  What is God trying to tell us?  A few ideas to consider:

  • God’s people are obedient to his instructions. Did you notice, the sacrifices each tribe brought align with God’s detailed instructions from Leviticus (grain offering, burnt offering, sin offering, peace offering and redemption values)? As Christ followers, we are called to be obedient (John 14:23, James 1:22).
  • We each matter to God. The sacrifices offered by each tribe were recognized, individually, by God. This approach affirms that God values people. There is power in numbers (Matthew 18:20), but God also cares deeply about each one of us (Luke 12:7).
  • All gifts/roles/responsibilities in the kingdom of God are equally important.  Each tribe had a different number of people and a different role for serving in the tabernacle, but all were equally important and valued.  Likewise, it takes a variety of roles in the Church today to accomplish God’s objectives. All matter (Romans 12:4-5).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!

Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!
    The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble.
The Lord protects them
    and keeps them alive.
He gives them prosperity in the land
    and rescues them from their enemies.
The Lord nurses them when they are sick
    and restores them to health. (Psalm 41:1-3)

Numbers 6; Psalms 40–41; Song of Solomon 4; Hebrews 4

IMG_7260

Take a look at this sweet young lady. Her name is Ruth-Naelle and we have the privilege of being her sponsor family through Haitian Christian Ministries. My wife Amy stared at Ruth-Naelle’s picture numerous times Sunday saying “I love her! I’ve gotta get back there right away!!!” Amy was experiencing the true joy in being kind to the poor. I wish you could hear Amy say “I love her”… her voice rings; it softly raises and lowers as though she is singing a song.

This example is just one of an infinite number of reasons the following verse continues to prove true:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

God’s word is alive. It speaks to us in our daily lives, we just need to listen to it and allow His will to take over our will. The joy of being kind to the poor from Psalm 41:1 and this experience are God’s word coming to life. We get to experience that joy not because of what “we did”, but because God the ultimate giver, gave first. He gave his son Jesus Christ so that we can be saved. He gave us his word through the Bible. He gives us resources to steward appropriately. He gives us sound preaching, wisdom, churches, friends, and family to guide us along our path. This joy comes from God; to him, and only him be the glory.

My mom commented on Amy’s related Facebook post saying “She’s a blessed girl”… while true Ruth-Naelle is blessed, we too are surely blessed and you can be as well.

For only $30 a month, children sponsored through Haitian Christian Ministries receive a nationally recognized Christian education, uniforms, a daily hot meal and vitamins, access to the medical clinic, mentoring through the Pillatre Christian Church and above all else… hope. (from the HCM web site)

pillatre-school-17

Haitian Christian Ministries is a real organization sponsoring real humans with real needs in Haiti; one of the world’s poorest countries. Amy visited Haiti in 2015 and had the opportunity to visit with many of these wonderful children and young adults in person. It’s legitimate, check it out.

Amy with our first sponsored Child, Osky. We love him too!

For more information on Haitian Christian Ministries, please go to http://www.hcmin.org/about-us.

Obedient To Our Beliefs

Ladder

Numbers 5; Psalm 39; Song of Solomon 3; Hebrews 3

We lead extraordinarily busy lives. Between the pressures and problems of our work lives and the turmoil of training children to have healthy lives, we find ourselves chasing one thing after another, never stopping. If you are like me, there is a still small voice in your heart that is crying out for more. So what do we do? We choose more. We think that working harder, maybe earning that next promotion, will finally silence that nagging voice. We transfer the belief of more to our kids, assuming that my happiness comes from more, theirs does too. We add new activities and focus attempt them more intensely. The result: more pressure, more turmoil and more problems.  Too often these become manifested in depression, substance abuse and a myriad of illnesses. Exactly the opposite of what our heart is crying out for and definitely not the life that God promises us. He is calling us to one simple thing, obedience.

I don’t think of myself as disobedient. Maybe that is why I find myself annoyed when I read Biblical truths about disobedience. In fact, Instead of translating disobedience truthfully, I reinterpret it with positive words like progressive and enlightened.   These twists of truth allow me to avoid guilt while fully embracing, even amplifying my individuality. My prayers are also shaped by this belief. I ask God to help me in the places I am falling short. They sound like, “God give me that promotion,” or, “please help Junior play well today. He deserves to win.” All seems well until God doesn’t perform for us. When we fail to get recognized at work or our kids fall into trouble, we accuse Him of not providing and our restlessness accelerates. James 4:3 confirms this, “you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Today, in Hebrews 3, we read a related comment. It says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:15).

If we want to have rest as God promises throughout Scripture, we must look toward obedience. This means that I can no longer avoid the hard work of transformation. The first step of obedience is listening.  When I pause and listen for God, I realize that the still small voice in my heart is not asking for more. Instead, recognizing that this is the still small voice of God, I hear Him calling me, calling me to obedience. Waiting in silence, He convicts me that my past re-interpretations are nothing more than a hard heart.   This hardness gives way to misbelief in my individuality and self-importance.  According to the Bible, they are more than misbelief, they are unbelief  (Hebrews 3:19).  My unanswered prayers, therefore, are not the result of God’s punishment or wrath, but my unbelief!  OUCH!

There is hope. When we turn our cry of desperation toward Jesus, stopping to listen, he responds. Thankfully, he does not ask for more than that.  When we do, He assures us of the rest we are looking for. (Matthew 11:28-29)

I found myself captured by the picture I added to this post.  Our stories parallel the boy’s burning of the ladder rungs.  He believes that the fire will keep him alive while we believe that “more” will lead to rest. His comfort is temporary, short-lived even.  What about ours?  Proverbs 14:12 says it clearly.  “There is a way that seems right to a man that leads to death.”  

Thanks to Pawel Kuczynski for creating a fantastic illustration of how our true beliefs shape our actions.

 

 

You are [not] awesome!

Today’s reading: Numbers 4; Psalm 38; Song of Solomon 2; Hebrews 2

April 27th, 2016

pride puffed up

This is not meant to be mean nor an accusation, simply a truth that the deceiver would have us reject for a puffed up view of ourselves. You and I, we are not awesome. Psalm 38 is a great example of living by this truth.

David starts by acknowledging his wretchedness as he begs God not to chasten him in His hot displeasure. He then proceeds to address his hopeless condition, his self imposed troubles are too heavy for him. He proclaims God as his only hope, dismissing all the worldly places to turn to for refuge and help including his own self. As he stills himself, he begs God to hear him in the intensity of his troubles where a single slip leads to the advance of the enemy. He puts all his trust in God. Rejecting the world and himself. He needs God and he knows it. He knows God is the source for all good that he so desperately needs. Do you need God? 

Pride and Self Righteousness

Pride leads one to believe they do not need God. Self righteousness is the form of pride that takes this lie and projects it out in a way that attempts to steal what is God’s. Wherein self dares look out towards our fellows and up toward God as if to say “look at me.” 

Let’s define self righteousness in terms of God’s love. He so loved a wretch like me that He gave His only Son to save me while I was still a sinner. All the while He knew that I would take this amazing gift of His love and parade it around as if it was my own. He knew this and He still paid for me. He purchased me and you with His only Son. Praise God for His unconditional love! He is love! Self righteousness is pride that attempts to steal God’s goodness for ourselves. We are not worthy. (Revelation 4:11) Self righteousness is parading around as if you are a source of good. Do not be deceived. All good is from God. (James 1:17)

In George Whitfield’s famous sermon, Method of Grace, he describes self-righteousness as “the last idol taken out of your heart.” Many a scholar believe pride to be the great sin. Self righteousness then seems to be the worst sort of pride. Wretched and perverted stuff indeed. 

Proprietorship

A false sense of ownership seems to be at the core of pride and self righteousness. You know your Bible and have understanding where another perhaps does not, are you doing better than they are? You gave that homeless person some food and shelter, you’re doing pretty well huh? No actually, God prepared that good work for you ahead of time. (Ephesians 2:8-10) It is His, not yours. (James 1:17) 

Did you know that the most used words in our language are I, me, my and mine? How ugly is that? Pride is to be hated. (Proverbs 8:13, Proverbs 16:5) Why does God hate pride? Why is God jealous? (Deuteronomy 4:24) Why does God guard His name jealously? (Ezekiel 39:25) God is love. If people are supposed to know we are His disciples by how we love (John 13:35), what happens when we try to have the source of that love point to us?

 

Extra credit:

  1. A simple exercise. Try to not use the words I, me, my or mine today.
  2. Self examination in pride. A checklist for self examination in pride: Manifestations of Pride from Exemplary Husband.
  3. Read George Whitefield’s sermon, Method of Grace, where he lays out the steps on how to obtain the peace that transcends all understanding among the devil’s worst attacks of self deception, including self righteousness.
  4. A question to wrestle with. Should we be praising each other? To win friends our culture points to praise and feeding another’s ego as go-to secrets to success, but what does the Bible say? Here’s one verse to consider in your study. Proverbs 29:5 What is the difference between praise and encouragement?
  5. Further readings on proprietorship in pride.
    1. All good is from God. What should we do when we receive false praise for good? One response to consider, redirect it to make sure it goes where it belongs by saying praise God
    2. God is sovereign. He owns it all. Learn this truth and be freed from the woes of comparison and jealousy.

The Strongest Dad

April 26, 2016

Today I want to introduce one of our brothers in Christ, Kris Walker. I have been blessed to get to know him and his family through our All Pro Dad meetings we have monthly.  Today, Kris shares a wonderful message on The Strongest Dad!

Today’s Reading: Numbers 3; Psalm 37; Song of Solomon 1; Hebrews 1 

“My dad can beat up your dad!!!” Did anyone else say this as a kid?? Wasn’t our dad our hero?!?! He was the strongest man we knew, he could throw us up in the air, he could catch us, no matter how high we jumped from… And…. He was THE STRONGEST DAD!!

Psalm 37 spoke to me about OUR father.. It shows no matter what we can think of.. No matter the scenario… OUR father, OUR LORD, has our back… It’s is up to us to trust in, wait on, and believe in him…

Psalm 37:3, “Trust in the lord, and do good…”
Psalm 37:7, “Be still in the lord, wait patiently for him….”

It talks about the evil doer… And how they succeed… I can’t tell you, how many times I’ve sat back and watched someone “succeed” in their crooked ways… They have achieved “success” and are living the good life, while I’ve felt I’ve worked my butt off, only to get dirty, tired and feel like I’m coming up short… It’s hard to remember.. That I have a father I can trust in… And if I only wait for him… BELIEVE in him, TRUST in him, and WORK for HIM…. That’s when I can achieve true success!! It’s so easy to get angry at the “success of the evildoer” but if we need the words of this chapter… We can trust that our Heavenly Father will take care of us! There is no reason to be angry, or upset… We are told that God will take care of us:

Psalm 37:23-24, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
Psalm 37:16-17, “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.
I find this truly encouraging… We have a daddy, that wants to take care of us.. If we stumble, he is there to catch us.. So we don’t fall… We have a father who is going to uphold us… The power of the evildoer means nothing in the end..
The the part I find encouraging about this… We are all… Or were all evil doers… I know I was, and sometimes feel like I still am… But our father even gives us hope for that…
Psalm 37: 27-28, “Turn from evil and do good. then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just, and will not forsake his faithful ones.”
All we have to do is turn away from evil! It sounds too simple… Turn away from evil.. But it makes me think: I need to start thinking like that every day… When the evil things come up… TURN AWAY!! When those tempting devices come into our path… TURN AWAY!!!
This chapter really spoke to me.. I want to trust more in OUR father… I want to work for him… Not for my success, but for his praise and honor.. Then I… We will obtain true success..
Father, I pray you keep these words true, I pray you strengthen us, comfort us, catch us when we stumble, so we don’t fall! Help us not focus on the temporary success of the evil doers around us, but help us focus on the eternal success we can achieve through working for you!! Thank you for keeping us safe! Thank you for letting us find our rest in you!!
Amen.

#alllivesmatter

Group of Diverse Hands Together Joining Concept

 

Today’s Readings: Numbers 2, Psalm 36, Ecclesiastes 12 and Philemon 1

I love writing for Monday’s! I feel like it’s a fresh start for you and me. It’s an opportunity to start the week with a positive intention. Speaking of intentions, I was going to write on Ecclesiastes again since there were some great threads in today’s reading but then something grabbed me. Buckle up, this is one of those days Jesus fans, I’m on fire!!! When I first read Philemon 1 for today I was honestly a little disappointed. The text immediately came back to me. Mike Baker preached on this whole chapter not too long ago at Eastview. I was thinking, surely there isn’t anything that I, as a new Christian can add to the amazing message Mike has already delivered. So, I was just flippin’ pages thinking about Ecclesiastes and futility again when I came upon a commentary by Kevin L. Smith. Kevin wrote a short work for the HCSB about the Bible and Civil Rights. In a few paragraphs as an introduction to Philemon he explains how themes from the bible, including Onesimus’ story was a foundation for the spirit and energy of the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960’s. He goes on to describe how Martin Luther King used key verses to illustrate the issue of equality among humans. Smith goes on to cite several instances in the Bible where Jesus calls his people to love their enemies and pray for those that persecute them (Matthew 5:44).

And now…I am thinking! Thinking about how Paul’s message to Philemon is alive today. I’m thinking about our recent history and #blacklivesmatter. As you may or may not know our family is the of twist cone variety. My husband is black, I’m lily white and our “natives” as I call them are chocolate vanilla twist. Suddenly this isn’t just a story, it’s alive. The book of Philemon is described as Paul’s only letter we have that is of a “private nature.” It’s a deeply personal message he writes to Philemon about his slave named Onesimus. Philemon was a rich business guy that Paul converted through his ministry in Colossae. Philemon appears to be a pretty decent guy. The church meets at his big house and it seems that Paul has a lot of love and respect for him. Philemon has a slave, Onesimus that has run away after a conflict of some sort. Philemon is Onesimus’ legal owner. Paul writes to him from Rome where he is under house arrest, awaiting his trial. In the letter he asks Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into his home, not as a slave but at as brother. He says,

“I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for awhile, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother…” (Philemon 1:12-16)

 Has God ever set up this situation in your life…the one where you are so sure you are right about another human being. The situation in which you are convinced that you know more than they do, that your role is to teach them, that they depend on you…and then one day the veil is lifted and it is just the opposite. Did you catch those words that Paul used:

“…I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but by your own accord

Hello. Read it again. Do you see how Paul is gently subverting the cultural implications of slavery in the year 60 AD? He’s essentially asking Philemon to consider Onesimus his spiritual brother and partner in faith, which makes their owner/slave relationship no longer possible. But he’s doing it by inviting Philemon to look beyond cultural norms and asking him to consider Onesimus as his brother in Christ. Stop there. That is powerful! Paul is saying that Onesimus has far more value than just a slave. He tells Philemon that Onesimus would be an effective substitute or stand in for Paul himself while he is imprisoned. He says,

“So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” (Philemon 1:17)

 So, I have to ask myself, who is my slave? What an ugly question, right? From the outside looking in it probably looks like I’m the Paul in this life. But I’m not. We’re not. Today’s Bible Gateway commentary closes with this, “Our decisions about social conventions bear witness to our convictions about God.” We are living in a real season of differences. Our political climate is engineered to divide us. We build relationships with people that are like us and push others aside. What if I got a letter from Paul today? What would it say? How would he invite me to be a sister in Christ? My husband and I have talked a lot about the Black Lives Matter campaign. We’ve talked about how we can raise Christian children that bear witness to our family conviction that all lives matter. I believe that Martin Luther King and others that led the Civil Rights Movement had something in common with Paul. They recognized that all humans are created in the image of God. That obedience is reserved for our Heavenly Father, not those we’ve enslaved for our own benefit. Paul closes with this:

“Yes brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.”

 

 

 

A Father and a Son

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. – Ecclesiastes 11:6

Numbers 1; Psalm 35; Ecclesiastes 11; Titus 3

We never know what might become of our small acts of kindness. By sharing our love, each of us play a part in the restoration of God’s kingdom. The coolest part, is God does most of the work. When we submit to God’s will, we are more able to be used — and as we are used, we are transformed in the cycle of spiritual rebirth.

One morning when I was six, my dad woke me while it was still dark and we drove to the Boynton Beach Pier. I was half a sleep and filled with wonder about this strange new pre-dawn world and with the joy from being alone with my father. Just the two of us, on our own adventure, walking hand in hand out onto the old pier. Together we wandered into the coolness of the early morning, before the sun rose up out of the ocean.

At the end of the pier, my father crouched down, looked into my eyes and asked, “do you want some hot chocolate?”

“Yes!” I said.

The chill of the morning had penetrated my skinny frame, and as I sipped hot chocolate with my father, I felt the warmth that comes from security, and sugar.

After dropping my fishing line over the side rail I looked down and saw fish of all sizes swimming in the bluish green water, circling in and out of the range of our bait. Eventually I got one on the hook. As I reeled it in, I looked up at my father’s warm peaceful smile. “That’s a red snapper Ricky, you caught a red snapper!” The world was a good place then.

My dad built a boat in our garage that year. We worked on it together when we had the time. Often after dinner, before I went to bed, me in my pajamas and him in his Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt. Occasionally I would hand him a tool or remove a scrap of wood, making me feel as if we had built it together. I knew that one day we would ride in the boat with my brothers out to the sea, through the treacherous currants of Boynton Inlet that had swamped bigger boats and better captains.

Working with my dad was an absolute joy; I was an important part of something big, just not in the way I had thought. Since then I have come to realize helping my father build a boat was like helping God grow His kingdom. God, in His love for me, and in His infinite wisdom, includes me in His work when I am willing. The amazing thing is this: when I surrender my selfish ambitions to the will of God, He does his best work in me.

It has been said, through the relationship with our fathers we first begin to understand God. And while I believe that God can reveal himself through anyone, it is those closest to us that often have the greatest impact. I know not everyone has, or has had, a positive relationship with their father, and like mine, this relationship can be cut short through divorce and death. Even so, it is by acts of love and compassion between people, that God reveals Himself.

Each of us has the power to show God’s love. And when we do, we are helping to share the Gospel, to lift each other up and grow God’s kingdom. Sharing God’s love is one way we can find joy and hope in His will.

God please enable me to share your love with my children and everyone I have contact with. Amen.