The Cure

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

As I read the Bible I’d like to be able to compare myself and say I’m like some of the heroes of the Bible such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul, or even some of those in the New Testament who by faith believed that just by touching Jesus’ cloak or by Him saying the words they, or a member of their family, would be healed. Unfortunately, I find I’m much more like those in Luke 20 who try to challenge and question Jesus and have selfish, impure motives. Here in this chapter we have the chief priests and scribes who question Jesus’ authority to which Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants and later says is Luke 20:45-47 that they exalt themselves and take advantage of others. We also have in this chapter spies sent by the chief priests and scribes who try to test Jesus and ask if they should pay taxes or not, and we have the Sadducees asking Him an irrelevant question about whose wife someone will be in the afterlife.

Instead of just trusting in Him and having peace in the fact that he defeated Satan and sin through his resurrection and will permanently defeat Satan and sin through His second coming foretold in the book of Revelation, I find myself trying to figure out at times why God is letting certain things happen in my life and in the lives of others around me and why He lets the terrible things we see on the news in the world around us happen. This questioning of Him and asking why is clearly Satan impeding and getting us to focus on the problem, not the solution…Jesus!

In his book, The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson discusses how miracles are happening all around us, but we don’t focus on them, we focus on problems. He discusses that we may feel like we are sitting still right now but the Earth is spinning on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour and the Earth is hurtling through space at 67,108 miles per hour which is not only faster than a speeding bullet but is 87 times faster than the speed of sound. He jokes that even if you didn’t feel like you did much today you traveled 1,599,794 miles through space! He asks, when is the last time we thanked God for keeping us in orbit or said to God, “Lord, I wasn’t sure we would make the full rotation today, but You did it again!” He talks about how the biggest miracle we see daily is really our own life. There are chemical interactions that must take place perfectly in our body every moment for us to be alive and that our brain is performing 10 quadrillion (I didn’t even know that was a number!) calculations per second. We aren’t just surrounded by miracles each day he says, we are one. Just look in the mirror.

This helps us clearly see that when we lose sight of God in our lives, we focus on all the bad things happening and ask why. We focus on the irrelevant like those in Luke 20, as opposed to looking at the miracles he’s performing this very second. And most importantly, this keeps us from focusing on being thankful for the greatest miracle He performed which was sending His perfect Son to die on the cross and to be raised to life to permanently defeat Satan and our sin bringing us back together with Him and giving us eternal life which He didn’t have to do.

Help us focus on You. Jesus…you are the Cure!

Feeding the Multitudes

Mark 8 opens with the miracle of Jesus Feeding the Multitudes of people with just some loaves and fish. Back in the days of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons, I never knew there were two separate events of this miracle! Jesus fed thousands – TWICE!

All four gospels record the Feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14).

Then in Mark and Matthew the second miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was recorded – 4,000 people fed with 7 loaves and 3 fish ( Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9).

We know this is two separate accounts because later in Mark, verses 18-20, Jesus reminds the disciples of the two different accounts and questions why they’d be worried about having something to eat when they just witnessed these two miracles.

Have you heard of the book or seen the quote “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well… I’d like to think that it’s really “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Sunday School”! So much of my adult experiences can be traced back to some of the true stories we learned in Sunday School. The Parting of the Red Sea… Danial and the Lion’s Den… David and Goliath… Feeding the 5,000.

This one is especially close to my heart, because God has continued to be so faithful in meeting my needs – making something out of nothing, when I least expect it.

Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way.  Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.

I witnessed miracles as a kid, with my parents sharing their little loaves and fish and God making it more than enough. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s – my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton, heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. We always had enough soup and our bus never ran out of gas, it would run on fumes much longer than it should have!

In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fish into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work.  And mirroring the loaves + fish, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits!

The Feeding of the Multitudes was a HUGE testimony to the thousands… but imagine the little boy that shared his food. How much more did this mean to him, seeing Jesus use his willing heart for others? Can you imagine the testimony he had for the rest of his life?

Each year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe.  Each year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue.  An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.

Whether it’s sharing and serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fish do you have?

Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? What purpose does God have for the talents He has given you? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. If you are reading this and feel like you don’t have much to share, let me encourage you – YOU DO! Do you think the little boy thought he had a purpose on that day, or that his little lunch would make a huge difference? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what things He has given you that are intended for His kingdom.

God, you are the perfect provider, and your timing and ways are far beyond ours. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts and hands to be used miraculously for your kingdom. Give us a heart for stewardship with all the talents and blessings you’ve given each of us. Forgive us for doubting Your provision (just like the disciples) and thanks for the reminders of your faithfulness in the past. Amen.

He Will Fight For You

Today’s reading is Joshua 10 and Proverbs 10.

I will admit, growing up, like many I thought the Bible was boring. This must have been because I hadn’t read enough of it. In reading through Joshua in preparation for today’s post, I could not put it down. Joshua is filled with stories of redemption like Rahab, battle after battle, deception, and amazing miracle after miracle by God to assist the Israelites. I’m just wondering when Hollywood will do a movie on Joshua! Let’s just hope they stick to the Word and get it right.

One of the things that always struck me about the Old Testament is how many people were killed in battle against the Israelites because they were God’s chosen people and the other nations were not. How could God let all these people be killed? Our pastor, Mike Baker, said something to the effect that all these other nations and peoples could have been saved if they would have just surrendered to God by surrendering to Israel. We see this in Joshua 9, as the Gibeonites surrendered to the Israelites in fear and their lives were spared. However, we see throughout the book of Joshua, more times than we can count on one hand, every other nation who did not surrender to God and Israel were destroyed. Time and time again the leaders of these nations and the people stated they heard of the many miracles God had done for Israel, knew God had chosen Israel and they were fearful, but instead of surrendering to Israel and God, they fought back and were destroyed.

How many times do we try to fight our own battles in our everyday lives, instead of surrendering to God and trusting He will fight for us and has a perfect plan? This is very tough for me. I’m in a career where there is a direct correlation between effort and reward and there is even a science showing what activity leads to what results. However, I have to keep learning and trusting in my professional and personal life that yes, I have to put in effort and use the talents and abilities God has given me, but I have to trust and truly believe that He is in control and will fight for me.

In Joshua 10:14 and Joshua 10:42, we read that the Lord fought for Israel. Moses spoke similar words all the way back in Exodus 14:13-14. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you and you only have to be silent.’” We read in Joshua 5:4 the generations who God brought out of Egypt passed away, yet God was still fighting for Israel to complete his plan and keep his covenant. Here in Joshua 10, we read how God made the sun stand still, and it remained daytime so the Israelites could win. He also rained down stones to kill the enemies of the Israelites. Really?! We’ve already read so far in Joshua alone He stopped the waters of the Jordan from flowing and made the mighty walls of Jericho fall with only a yell, just to name a few. Do you think the Israelites were fearful as they wandered in the desert for 40 years, and as they went into battle? Yes. Do you think with their human minds they could have thought of the miracles God would do to help them? No. Are we any different in our everyday lives? No. But, God fought for them, and He’s fighting for you when you’ve given your life to Him through Jesus, surrender to Him in prayer, and when you ask Him to do miracles in your life where you will use them for His kingdom and give the glory to Him. We are now all God’s chosen people like Israel through Jesus. Romans 8:34 says, “Who is to conderm? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised, – who is at the right hand of God who is indeed interceding for us.“ He will fight for you, even while you sleep, in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God..”

Reading Proverbs has reminded me we must pray for God’s wisdom, and then we will live righteous lives due to His direction (Proverbs 10:24, 10:30). We must also ask God for wisdom to remember past miracles in our life to remind us He can and He will do it again in ways we can’t imagine. He knows we are prone to forgetting and need reminded. How cool is It in Joshua 4 that He instructed them to bring 12 stones from the Jordan so they could remember God helped them by stoppping the rivers of the Jordan flowing and so they remember to tell their children even. In the Israelites journey, we see they are similar to us and are prone to forgetting God’s miracles, questioning Him and His presence, and falling back into sin. However, we don’t see as much of this in the first ten chapters Joshua. Could their continuing trust in God during this stretch be due to them having stones as a reminder? They didn’t know what exact miracle God would do to help them. They could have never imagined how, but they knew He would.

Reflect. What past miracles has God done in ways you could not have imagined? Remember them. Pray for Him to give you wisdom and do miracles again in your life and you will give Him to glory. Let Go. He will fight for you.

Check out “Do It again” by Elevation Worship. I pray it can impact you, as it has for me, going into 2018 and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOBIPb-6PTc

 

 

A Just Balance

Today’s Reading: Matthew 17

At the end of Matthew chapter 17 something very interesting to happens. At least interesting to me, I hope you will find it interesting and profitable too. It starts when “they that received tribute money” came to Peter to ask of Jesus “Doth not your master pay tribute?” (Matthew 17:24)

When Peter came to Jesus to inquire of him on this matter. Jesus spoke before Peter and asked him:

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? (Matthew 17:25)

Peter answered “Of strangers.” That is, they tax not those of their own family but those outside their house.

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:26)

Some think this was Jesus making it clear that because He was the Son of God the tax does not apply to Him. This is why some believe the tax matter was a temple tax and not a civic tax.

Jesus then said “notwithstanding”, which I take to mean some version of, even though I am not required too. Then Jesus said “lest we should offend them” and then proceeded to describe the precise manner in which they would procure the tribute money for payment.  

At first glance the phrase “lest we should offend them” could be taken as a reinforcing statement of what Jesus first said; “notwithstanding”. In this case the “them” would be referring to the tax collectors. Instead though, let us consider for a moment that the “them” was actually in reference to the strangers that Peter mentioned. If this were the case, I think the statement may be more linked to the manner in which they are procuring the payment and not a repetitive statement describing why they are in fact going to pay. After all Jesus just got done explaining why they did not need to. So, if it is in fact about how they are going to procure the payment, the question then became for me, why is this so important? For that answer I turn back to Jesus’s explanation, “Lest we should offend them.” And this is where it got so interesting to me. 

Here is what I think we may be seeing. Coming up with the money to pay the tax is certainly not a problem for Jesus. I think it is reasonable to say He could have done it in any number of ways. One thought is that he would simply lift His hand up to the sky and ask for it to be created. But the issue with creating is that it wouldn’t be fair.

Creating money in any system and increasing the money supply is simply stealing from those who hold money. It is debasing the currency, which basically means everyone else’s money would than be worth less. God pronounces this as a curse and judgement in Isaiah 1:22. Instead, I think Jesus in his sovereignty and absolute authority knew about a coin that no one had a claim to and commanded it brought to Peter. This way they would not offend anyone, or hurt anyone by decreasing the value of their coins, in paying the tax.

There is of course a strong possibility I am way off here. Perhaps reading too much into things. But on the other hand, perhaps this is why the manner in which they paid the tax was described in so much detail and why it was important for Jesus to break down who the groups involved in the tax were and how they all relate to each other. Perhaps it was to continue to lead us in the way we should go. To give us another example of God’s law applied to this world. For me, yet another reassurance that God is all knowing, all powerful, and above all. Praise God!

Here is a link to the scripture: Matthew 17:24-27