Understanding your choices

Today’s Reading Proverbs 17:1-28

Have you ever sat in the presence of an old sage? A person who is full of wisdom and knowledge. One of my dearest mentors and confidants was my former pastor. This was a gentleman that knew my grandmother and grandfather, they were a minister and minister wife. He would fellowship with them on a regular basis. This means a lot because my grandfather passed away two years before I was born.

This pastor and I had a great relationship. We met when I was in middle school and he was such a gentle and caring individual. We continued our mentorship into my adult life. There were many instances that I would call him in the middle of the night with many dilemmas and situations. He always would have the right words to give me in those times. But I only understood him after I was an adult. He passed away a couple of years ago, but I can still hear his voice and his many sayings.

The most interesting part of our relationship is that as a young youth, I could hardly understand anything that he said. The words were intelligible and crafted, but I was still without experience to fully understand the true meaning of the wisdom. It was only several months before he passed away that I found the key of his wisdom. We can spend countless hours trying to understand what our elders are saying, but it is only revealed when we have the experience to truly understand and make the correct choices.

In this proverb, it reminds me of my time with my pastor. At first glance, there are many different pieces that somehow come together. I picture the author writing things for a purpose, but they are also somewhat random. From my understanding there are four people that are addressed in this proverb: the children, the fool, the wicked, the wise. Throughout our lives we can be each of these individuals. We have to make the deciding and discerning effort to listen to the wisdom of the spirit.

We understand that children are individuals that are not able to make decisions on their own ability to see the best for themselves. Fools are by biblical definition are is someone that disregards God’s word. Fools are individuals that do not learn from their mistakes. Someone that continues to do the same thing even though they know it is not correct. Proverbs 26:11 – Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.The wicked are those that overtly despise righteousness, truth, justice and honor. The wise are individuals who have keen judgment, deep understanding, and a capacity for sound judgment.

Children 

6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
    and parents are the pride of their children.

Fools 

12 Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs
    than a fool bent on folly.

16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom,
    when they are not able to understand it?

28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
    and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Wicked 

23 The wicked accept bribes in secret
    to pervert the course of justice.

Wise Counsel or Advice 

17 A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

22 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

26 If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good,
    surely to flog honest officials is not right.

27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
    and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.

We at one point and time in our lives have been part of each of these individuals. We all have had times when we were young. We didn’t have the ability to see the fullness of life and had to have mentors and helpers to guide us to sound judgment. We have been foolish in many ways. We knew that God needed us to do and continue to make the same follies. When we are corrected with love and support we are able to transition to understanding. There may be times that we are wicked in our own way. But there are many times and opportunities that God will give us a way to step away from wickedness and understanding and choose Him. Then after many iterations and times we are hopeful to get to the point of being able to discern and understand more with experience and trials. But with the new understanding comes more responsibility, we have to help the others that come behind us.

So this proverb is for all of us. It is stating something for each of us at different times in our lives. Let us pray that God will be able to use us in all of our forms: child, fool, wicked, and wise; to be able to allow His glory to prevail in spite of the craziness of life.

Be blessed

The Other Lens

Today’s Reading: Luke 16: 1-13

At the beginning of August, my family held a family reunion which brought together family members that had not seen each other for more than 20 years. This was also important because this was the first time that the descendants from my great-great grandfather gathered together.  It was testament to the longevity of my great-great grandfather, who was born into slavery and his lineage.   In preparation for the reunion, I had several conversations with many members of my family.  One of these conversations with my second cousin, I received an education that I had forgotten. When we were younger, this cousin and I would play at our grandparents houses. While reminiscing, I mentioned that I was a “good kid”.  She quickly and promptly reminded me that I was a “little stinker” and if  things were not a certain way I would get mad.

When I was younger, my grandmother was a babysitter and a nanny for children. She would be available for parents to drop-off before work and pick-up after work.  She would take care of children in the early morning hours through the evening hours.  I would be at her house during these times as well. One particular time, it was early morning and I couldn’t get my way and I remember biting a friend. It’s a powerful memory because I remember the consequences of my actions and I believe I never bit anybody again.  Sometimes the actions and realities of our past can be forgotten or clouded from our present.  Sometimes the new person that God has created in us does not allow us to be burdened by our past mistakes and past lives.

Luke 16:1-13

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me?

In today’s chapter of Luke, Christ is showing us a shrewd manager and how this manager knew what to do and how to do it, but chose not to. In the previous examples,  I wanted to show you that we all have multiple lens that we can be viewed through. Many of us have a picture of who we are currently. This may be the same or can be different from what others see.  I have found that after many years of reflecting, re-examining, and repenting, I can see the goodness in me.  I can see myself in a different light than that little boy in the previous tale.  God has given us the ability to become renewed and a new being. After a long period of time, I remembered these instances in my early life that created the person who I am today.  I had those experiences to make me reflect on my behavior and how I interact with others. 

In our previous lives, we all have done a lot of things that are not the best. In our previous lives, we have hurt people. In our previous lives, we have done despicable things to ourselves and others. This is not to cover up or to be ashamed of who we were in the past, but to give us a new one perspective on who we were and what we did. God has wiped every sin away from us and has created us into new beings. 

Isaiah 43: 25 

“I, I am he

    who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,

    and I will not remember your sins.”

His forgiveness and he has changed us,  but he doesn’t want us to forget the lessons that we learn from the past. The lessons from the past helps us to be more compassionate to others and to understand their faults better.

How can we grow and go forward? How can we know what we’ve done in the past and what we will do in the future will affect our future. The manager or the steward  in the story knew what he did in the past. The steward knew how to be better. The steward had the resources to change his ways. What will we do with this new “lens” perspective?

Be Blessed

A Father’s Letter

Today’s Reading : Isaiah 43:1-28

The beginning of school and the fall season always bring back fond memories of times before.  During these first weeks of fall for the greater part of a decade, Jillian and I, would be learning new music for our annual Christmas program.  The pieces of music that always brought joy and excitement for me were the pieces from Handel’s Messiah, especially “For Unto Us a Child is Born”.  This piece comes from Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,

    and his name shall be called[b]

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

This passage from Isaiah, still gives me a light, joyous, and airy feeling.  Then as I read today’s passage, Isaiah is giving the people of Israel a firsthand account of God‘s love for them. Isaiah is telling the actual words of God to the people… “Thus says the lord”…  Upon reading these latter chapters you can actually hear a letter from God … a letter from your dad.  In this letter it is filled with sadness and hurt from the father’s point of view.  I imagine this would be similar to the letter of the Father of the Prodigal son.  Can you imagine receiving a letter from your father that is detailing every thing that has happened in your relationship? In this letter he is showing his true heart. 

 

The Letter 

Dear Child(ren), I love you more than anything in the universe. I loved you before I even thought of having you. I thought of you before your inception and conception. I loved you before you were even formed. Oh, how I loved just the thought of you. I remember the day that you were born. I remember the smell of your head. I remember the freshness of your being. I can still remember how you smelled … that fresh newborn smell. How I delight in your birth. I do like and love you in all your stages:  in your childhood; in your teenage years; your adulthood; and your old age.

Oh, how I continuously love you. Yes, you have grown in many ways, but I still love you. There have been times that you and I have not seen eye to eye. You have grown up. You have grown into a person that has made their own choices. You have lived life. 

I remember when you were a child and I held you and I cuddled you. I remember when you started to crawl and you started to walk. I was always there just moments away. I remember when you were a teenager and you rebelled. I was always there. Even though you may not acknowledge it or understand it, I was always there. When you became a young adult and started your life, you moved away. But I was always there. No matter what would happen to you I would just be a phone call away. I never left you.

Now as you are growing up, you want to space. I understand it, but I’m always here. Don’t forget, I’m going to send you some support for you. No matter how much you have moved away or attempted to hurt me, I love you. And this love will never fade.

 

So in Isaiah, God is writing us this letter. He is pouring out his heart to us. He is showing us that he loves us no matter what. And that’s not a question of if he loves us, but he does. And there’s not a question of how far he goes. 

 

Isaiah 43: 1-3

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

    I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

 

He has not forgotten you.  No matter how hard it may seem, He states that he WILL be with you in the flood and the fire and forever. 

Be Blessed

What’s In Our Relationship?

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 27:1–27

As we continue our journey through Deuteronomy with Moses and the tribe of Israel, we have come to the actual description of the journey across the Jordan. In this passage, Moses gives specific instructions on how the people will cross the Jordan. Moses informs them what they will get from the Jordan, the stones for the altar. Then Moses explained how they will come in this new land with proclamations over them. These proclamations are written as blessings and curses.

Relationship. This is the one word that describes what is happening here. The relationship that God had with Israel. The relationship that was between God and Israel was strained when they were freed and sent into the wilderness. God had everything ready for the people and they didn’t trust God because their relationship was not strong enough. Throughout Deuteronomy and the entire Bible the main theme and the main focus is : relationship. In Deuteronomy we are seeing a new reset of expectations for the entire people of Israel. We are seeing that God is giving them a reset of the expectations and a reset of their relationship. God is not concerned about all of the small things but he wants us to be in a relationship with him.

Is the beginning of this Passage, when Moses is instructing the people how to gather the stones. God has instructed Moses to tell the people to use uncut stones. This was not a mistake. God wanted the people to obey and to make no excuses in their worship. He did not want them to get obsessed with the cutting and the perfection of the stones for the altar, He just wanted their love, their devotion and relationship with them.

Blessings and curses have been used throughout the Bible and throughout time. Blessings are defined as special favor, mercy, or benefits that have been given to you from God. Curses are defined as a prayer or invocation for harm or injury to come upon the person. When we see or hear these particular words, Blessings and Curses , many images come to our minds. But if we actually take a step back and understand the truth underlying meaning of both of these words, we can see that they can be linked back to relationships.

When we are in a relationship with God, we understand his purpose for us and his direction for us. When we are in a relationship with him, his favor is with us. But when we choose to go against his words or his will, then we are not in a relationship with him. And when we have a disconnect from God we feel out of place and lonely and disconnected. So when we try to redefine these words of blessings and curses that we see here in Deuteronomy, we can actually see it as being in relationship with God or not a relationship with God.

Hosea 6:6 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

‭‭Hosea‬ ‭6:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God‘s main focus for us is to be in a relationship with him. He does not want all of the things that we have put upon him to love us. He does not need our money, he does not need our riches, he does not need our sacrifices. The one thing that God needs is our relationship with him. When we start a relationship with him and maintain this relationship we can see the blessings and curses better.

Let’s look at a relationship with God as if we are going to an optometrist. We are able to live our daily lives without perfect vision. We might be able to see our world fairly clearly. But when we have been reviewed and examined we might come up a little out of focus. We are prescribed new glasses. Then the world that we have been living in and observing becomes clearer and the obstacles more pronounced and the opportunities are more defined. With our relationship with God, we have a new prescription and are able to see what are our obstacles and opportunities. In a similar manner to the optometrist , we must get a check up on our relationship with God on a regular basis.

This is what the relationship that we have with God changes. It creates new expectations and clarity to our lives. We are able to navigate the world with more light and not fall into pitfalls of our own creations. We can stay in connection with God without trying to do more things, but just being in relationship with him.

My relationship with God has not always been the best. I have fallen down many times. I have been shown grace and many times over. But I realize that my relationship is dynamic and living. It is not static and nonliving. I have to daily reassess my relationship and make a commitment to move forward. That is what God wants, he knows that it will not be perfect but He wants to be with us no matter what may come.

Be Blessed

 

The Second Time Around

Today’s reading Deuteronomy 1:1 – 33

 

It seems to me that God is talking directly to me through these scriptures. In today’s reading Moses is charging the tribe of Israel to go into the Promised Land. This is the beginning of his farewell speech. The sermon that Moses is given is titled Deuteronomy which literally means “The Second Law“. This is the second time God is speaking through Moses to the tribe of Israel to give them God’s commandments. This is at the end of the 40 years that the tribe of Israel since they have been freed from Egypt and has been in the wilderness.

The time that the tribe spent in the wilderness for these forty years was not in vain, this time that they had there was for reflection and understanding God‘s purpose for the people. Actually, God had the Promised Land ready for them directly after they exited Egypt.  Moses sent twelve elders or leaders of the tribe to scout out the promised land.  From the reconnaissance, ten of the twelve hesitated and did not want to go to the promised land because of the perceived risk and dangers( Numbers 13) . Because of the majority of the leaders of the tribe, the people had to endure 40 years of reflection and endurance,  before  they could go to the promised land.

In Deuteronomy, this is the beginning of the entrance to the promised land. This is the second time that the tribe has been given the instructions to go into a claim the promised land. This is a call to action that we must not forget or put aside. God is calling us to do things a second time. We cannot allow others to influence us when God has promised us amazing things. God is calling us to move , get up and go, and keep moving. We may have outside influences that try to stumble us or try to change us, but we have to be aligned and in tune with God to move toward the promise.

Deutoronomy 1: 5-8 

Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’

 

Time to go: 

  • In this particular passage Moses is giving us time to go. We have to move, we cannot think about any of the risks or dangers. We must act now. We must move now. God has it ready for us and is expecting us to move. The time to go is now.

Get out of your way

  • A lot of times we overthink and over analyze situations. Is this the right time? Do we have enough money? I have to finish these other things first. I’m not healthy enough. What about the lights in the house? Did we turn off the gas to the stove? Who’s going to take care of the yard and take out the trash? I don’t have the right shoes. I don’t have enough clothes…. All of these are obstacles that we place in front of ourselves when God has already planned and provided everything that we would need on the journey and everything that we would need at the end of the Journey. Everything that we could possibly think I’ve got it already thought about that and has had planted and thriving for us before we even knew the journey was going to be made.

Move forward

  • God wants us to move forward. We know what’s in the past. We know where we have come from. We have been practicing for this journey for a long time, the children of Israel practice for forty years. Do you need 40 years to practice when God has it ready for us now?

This is a passage and a message for me in particular. There have been things that I have put on the back burner for quite some time or I have allowed obstacles to slow my progress. But God is showing me that the time is from now to move all these things for the better of me. Is God speaking to you as well? If I’m telling you that is time to move on things that you have put on the side? Has God prepared you for a journey that he’s ready for you to take? Is this the second, third, or fourth time that God has revealed this to you? When will you take his prompts and move forward?

Be blessed

 

Quality, not quantity

Quality, not quantity

Today’s Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16

A couple days ago, I was chatting with a friend and we were discussing the difference between the oldest and the youngest children. The friend had just had a birthday party for their oldest child. This was one of the first parties that the youngest child was able to participate in and remember since COVID. The oldest child was excited just to have friends and spend quality time with his friends. As with most parties the participants bring gifts. This was the first time that the youngest child actually was able to associate the parties and the GIFTS. The youngest child was now excited to have a party not for the friends and the quality time but for the GIFTS. We as adults sometimes place a bigger emphasis on the THINGS and not the TIME. We as adults still may think of things as in quantity instead of quality.

This brief example we see that it’s a level of maturity that allows us to focus on the intimate time that we have with each other instead of the amount of time. This maturity does not have to do with age. This maturity does not have to do with amounts of energy or amounts of time. Maturity takes time and understanding and wisdom to truly understand what we have.

In today’s reading of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2: 1-16, we are witness to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonica and his instructions to them. This particular passage, Paul is reminding the people of Thessalonica of the example that he gave of just being with them and talking about God. There were no hidden agendas. There was only time and connection with the people of Thessalonians. To fully understand the letters of Paul, I always like to go back to see what was the content and the context of his time with the people. In Acts 19, Paul visits Thessalonica but only for a brief time. In Acts, it tells us that Paul was there for three Sabbaths. But it doesn’t tell us how long. Paul could’ve been there for 3 full weeks or he could’ve come in on Saturday and left on a Saturday which would’ve been two full weeks. But the main thing is Paul was only there for a short amount of time. And when he was there he was running from persecution and then he was running away from persecution in Thessalonica.

The time that Paul spent in this place could be seen as short. But we also have to see what Thessalonica was in the grand scheme of things. The city of Thessalonica at the time of Paul could equate it to New York City or Los Angeles. It was the second largest city in all of Rome at the time. The amount of time that he preached and taught and communed with the people was astounding. The time Paul spent here in the city each day could have reached as many people that he could get in a smaller city in over a month. So these weeks that Paul spent in Thessalonica he accomplished the magnitude of what could have been done in two years.

The take away from this passage is: God uses us in the amount of time that he wants for that particular situation. We may think that God only uses us for a long amount of time to make the biggest impact, but sometimes the smallest things that we consider small, God actually has amazing things for. Let us not discount the time that we spend doing God’s will because he has a greater purpose for us. The small words of encouragement or gratitude sometimes may seem insignificant to us, but they have grand impacts on all others.

It’s not the amount of time that we spend with each other, but it is the quality and the engagement that we have with each other.

This was a daily verse that I read this week that summaries this quality not quantity: 

“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:8-9‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Jesus: The Emulsifier

Today’s Reading : Ephesian 2:1-22

As a child of the 80’s, I remember many sitcoms that were available to me as a youth. As I look at my children today they are obsessed with YouTube and other videos and do not have access to the great genre of television shows that I had access to as a child. But in these sitcoms, there were times where a person was having a dilemma and they needed to figure out what would be the best course of action. In these times, the actor would have a good side and a bad side, an angel and a devil, on their shoulders and they would consult each of these for their situation.

In real life, we actually do have two major sides that are residing in our body. We have the flesh, which is the natural side of our being. We also have the spiritual side. There is always a conflict between the flesh and the spirit sides in our body. But we have the person of Christ Jesus which has bridged the divide within us.

Ephesians 2: 13-16

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

We have the benefit and the luxury of having Christ coming into the world and making available to us the Holy Spirit. Before Christ came to the world the spirit of God was available, but not to everybody. Before Christ we were all flesh, and there was no spirit within us. Before Christ we did not truly understand good and bad for ourselves.

But when Christ came he brought the Holy Spirit to us through his body. In Ephesians, we are seeing the two natures of Christ: the spirit and the physical manifest in one. Before Christ the spirit and the body could not coexist as it does today.

When Christ came to Earth, he became an emulsifier. An emulsifier is an agent that brings two unlike things together. When you are mixing water and oil together, they will separate. But when you put in an emulsifier with these to the water and oil , then you make the water and oil combine together so they do not separate. When Christ came into our life he brought the spirit. When Christ came to our lives he allowed our flesh and the spirit to combine as one, as he himself was the first to bring this together.

In essence, Christ has made us new creations. We are no longer just flesh without the spirit, but we are flesh and spirit together. Before Christ we did not truly understand good or love or peace within ourselves. But with Christ we have the Spirit of God living in us daily. For some of us we will be able to acknowledge the spirit. For others they are not able to acknowledge the spirit because it has not been shown to them that they have good. But we all have a spirit inside of us.

Ephesians 2: 19- 22 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Let us acknowledge how good new creations we are on a daily basis. This is a continual process. Sometimes when you allow oil and water to sit even in the presence of an emulsifier, they may separate. But it’s up to us to shake up the solution daily. When we shake the solution (the flesh and the spirit) daily: by meditating, by reading the Scriptures, by showing love to each other… We are continually creating new creations through Christ.  Let us not become separated in our body.  Let us allow Christ to daily combine our flesh and spirit and produce good for God’s glory.

Sleep

 

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 31:23-40

Sleep. One of the most basic of human functions, and one of the most complex that we have. We need sleep for many vital and necessary functions. Sleep is needed for our body to repair and restore the essential functions of daily life. Sleep is essential for our mental and emotional stability. Sleep is essential for all aspects of our well being and life.  As a pharmacist I can see that there’s so many people who are afflicted with the inability to sleep. In the last 19 years of my practice I’ve seen many individuals who are needing assistance going to sleep or to be at peace. It is interesting to see such a vital part of who we are and can be very elusive.

One of the most interesting aspects of parenthood is the transition of your sleep. I remember when Jillian and I were first expecting our first child, many people would tell us to get your sleep and “take naps when the children take naps“. As young adults we were naïve and didn’t understand the rationale of the sentiments of this new information. But within the first couple of weeks we could really understand that every point of rest and sleep that we could get we cherished.

For a while, in the earlier phase of our parenthood, we had some difficult times with rest and sleep. One of my aunts and prayer warriors told me a trick. She told me to pray intentionally for rest and not sleep. We offer interchange sleep and rest. But there is a difference: sleep is the act and rest is the restoration of the body. She informed me to pray for 8 hours of rest in 1 hour if sleep. So that no matter how much sleep I received, the body was rested and ready for whatever was coming.

In today’s passage, Jeremiah has been given a vision in a dream. Most of the time after God has revealed something amazing in the Bible, the prophet will react in a normal fashion of speaking to the people. But the profound thing about this vision is that he states 

Jeremiah 31: 23-26

23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes:

“‘The Lord bless you, O habitation of righteousness,

    O holy hill!’

24 And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. 25 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

26 At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.

 

Wow. This is something that I had passed over several times and it didn’t occur to me that sleep being pleasant was not the norm. I sometimes take for granted the ability to lay my head down and get rest. For many, they are not able to have this rest. For many they are struggling with so many different things that they are not able to be at peace.

The prayer for this week is to pray for peace and the ability for the ones that we are close to know the peace of God and allow the Spirit of God grant them peace and rest every time they lay down for sleep.

Be blessed

What will the end be like?

Today’s Reading : Isaiah 25:1-9

Isaiah 25:8-9

 He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

With summer in full swing, we have enrolled the kids in the summer reading program. One of the books that the girls love to read is Dr. Seuss, “ Oh, the places that you go”. This outlines the different places that you can go throughout your life. While summer is ramping up, we also have more time to be out and chat with friends and strangers, “Oh, the conversations you can have” .

Every day there’s so many conversations that we have with each other. There are conversations we have with our kids. Their conversations that we have with our spouses. There are conversations that we have with our relatives. There are conversations that we have with our colleagues. There are conversations that we have with strangers, otherwise known as unknown acquaintances. Of these conversations, one of the subjects that has come up in the past several weeks has been:  What happens in the afterlife or when we pass away?

It’s interesting when we have conversations with our kids and the thought process that they have about certain things. My youngest child brought up the topic of Heaven a couple days ago. It’s really interesting how they come up with the topic, but we just listen and talk with them. When she was describing Heaven, she said that she remembered it before she was born. She remembers sliding down a slide. She also remembers how she remembers Ruby, her sister playing with her in Heaven.  This conversation has me really thinking about eternal life.

Just a couple days ago, I was talking to a random person and we were talking about how amazing God is and how infinite his presence is. We spoke about how God has created time for us, in order that we are able to grasp a little of the infinite knowledge that he has available to us. But God is outside of time. God made time. If God made time, then when we are with him we are outside of time. Take a moment to think about this. When we pass away from our earthly vessels, we are physically with God. In that instant we are there with Him and His glory. In that instant we are outside of time. When we think about our loved ones who have passed away, they are instantly there with God in that moment. And when we transition to Heaven, it would only be like a second or a moment has passed for them, but for us it may be 20,30, 40, or 100 years later.

These conversations and our readings from today from Isaiah Chapter 25: 1-9, all show how God is in control of all things. God swallows up death and destruction.  God replaces all of the pain and hurt that we go through on a continuous basis with Grace and Mercy.

In this chapter of Isaiah and the accompanying chapters ,24-27, Isaiah  is shown the end of times in what is known as the “Isaiah apocalypse”. The confident thing that we have to see here is in the midst of all of destruction and devastation: God is still in control. In the end of everything God shows us that we are in the midst of his presence and fullness of his glory. Even before time was created, He understood the goodness and a grace that he was going to give us.

 Let us not be dismayed by the catastrophes, and the hurt, and the pain, and the isolation, and devastation that we may experience today. Because in the end God has it under control. He has a beautiful feast ready for all to enjoy. Oh, the places that we can go; Oh, the conversations that we can have…  to experience the joy of God.

Be Blessed

Don’t Fear the Past, Embrace the Promise

Today’s Reading : Joel 2:1-17

As a father, when I read the Bible and other literature, a part of me wants to figure out how I can relate this to my children or to others to help them to understand what the author is trying to relate. As I read Joel chapter 2, the most relatable scene would be that of the juxtaposition of a volcano and paradise.

Just a couple weeks ago, a friend and I were sitting and chatting. As we chatted we found ourselves quoting Disney movies. One of the movies was Moana. We talked about oceans and volcanoes. In Moana, the heroine is in search of a volcano and attempts to bring closure to the grief of the volcano. Moana finds the volcano, but so much grief and time has gone by that the volcano is now sunken into the ocean. Moana has this small piece of the volcano,the heart of the island “Hope”, and replaces the hope by faith and restores the volcano to paradise. The resolution of the story is the volcano and the terror that she was confronted with turns into paradise.

Joel 2:1-17

Blow a trumpet in Zion;

    sound an alarm on my holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

    for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,

a day of darkness and gloom,

    a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains

    a great and powerful people;

their like has never been before,

    nor will be again after them

    through the years of all generations.

Fire devours before them,

    and behind them a flame burns.

The land is like the garden of Eden before them,

    but behind them a desolate wilderness,

    and nothing escapes them.

Their appearance is like the appearance of horses,

    and like war horses they run.

As with the rumbling of chariots,

    they leap on the tops of the mountains,

like the crackling of a flame of fire

    devouring the stubble,

like a powerful army

    drawn up for battle.

In chapter 2 of Joel,  imagine a volcano erupts and takes over the island. The volcano eruption is not planned and it cannot be hindered. The complete demolition of the island is inevitable and there is no hiding. You have to evacuate. The people are not safe. The houses are not safe. The island is not safe. 

The sky turns black, the army and enemies of the people are chasing down the mountain synonymous with the lava flowing down the mountain and nothing can stop it. But in the resolution,  God shows paradise in the promise that we have available to us. And this is not a promise that is hinged on something that we have to do, but it is a promise that God gives us.

Joel 2 :12 – 13

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,

  “return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

13 

    and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

Return to the Lord your God,

    for he is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;

    and he relents over disaster.

In this passage I believe Joel is trying to convey that we should not fear the past or what things may come. But we should hold onto the promise which God has given us. In this passage Joel outlines what God has promised for us in the midst of the potential for danger and for fear.

This particular passage resonates with me currently because of the past years that my family has experienced. We have had so many hard times in the past year that we can get overwhelmed with the thoughts of the past year, five years, even ten years. If we have remained in these memories, we would not be able to see the goodness that God has given us in the midst of the tears. Last year, Ollie had some major seizures and health conditions. Four years ago, our friend almost died while giving birth to her daughter. Six years ago, Oliver had a three-week stent in the hospital with major surgery and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Seven years ago, Nadya was baptized. Eight years ago, Ruby was baptized. Ten years ago, Oliver was hospitalized for three weeks and diagnosed with a milk protein allergy. Ten years ago, Oliver was baptized.

But today we are experiencing the promise of God: healthy children, our friend is celebrating her daughter’s fourth birthday. The kids are playing and each night I am able to kiss them goodnight and tuck them in. I don’t take these for granted. I smile with tears flowing knowing that I am experiencing the goodness and grace of the promise. We know what we have experienced, but I cherish the expectation of the promise.

Be blessed.