The Beginning



Today’s reading is Rev 21:6 “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.”

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created…

John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed…

1John 1:1 The One who existed from the beginning…

Rev 22:13 The beginning and the end…

In the beginning God already existed. This statement is equally comforting and mind blowing to me. Before the oceans and the land, before the sun and the stars, before people, He already existed. Any and every marker of time you choose, He was there before. I cannot understand and I can drive myself crazy trying to, so I move to sitting with the comfort that comes from knowing He was there for everything I can think of. He created, He witnessed, He knows, He designed, and He had a plan that included you and me. Our world is not spinning randomly. There is purpose, a plan. We are known intimately by our maker and His greatest joy comes when we want to know Him. “To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of life.” He wants to share Himself with us. He wants us to desire relationship with Him.

I am sitting on a beach writing this post. There is a family with three little girls playing near me. The parents are sitting in chairs seeking some rest and relaxation while keeping eyes on their children. The oldest girl (5 or 6) is a swimmer. She is out in the water jumping waves and testing her skills and bravery in this new environment. She wants desperately for someone she loves to experience this new world with her. She knows instinctively that she will have more fun if she is not alone. Her sisters are too little. They don’t have the maturity to handle what she can in those waves. Her parents are tired and wishing the kids would entertain themselves. So “little girl” is alone in her “fun”. She is so desperate for camaraderie, she is swimming over to another family whose grandparents are playing with the kids. “Little girl” is trying to weasel her way into another family so she can fully enjoy this new ocean experience. God built us this way. He knows how much richer and fuller life is when shared in relationship with Him and others. He is this way. (Remember we are made in His image) He wants us to share our lives with Him. He wants to be included in our joys and accomplishments. He wants to be with us in the boring and mundane and He wants to walk beside us through the hurts, pain and frustration of life. He wants to share all of life with us. For Him, what else is there? He can create anything He wants. He has the power to make every being adore and praise Him. If everyone and everything is created and commanded to worship and praise Him, what fulfillment does that bring Him? This is why our choosing Him brings Him so much joy. We are relating to Him because we WANT relationship with Him. One of His created beings, with a free will choosing to relate to Him is meaningful. It brings Him joy to be noticed, understood, known, and chosen. Does he need us for anything? Not at all…He is able to do anything, but He delights in our choices to include Him and grow in relationship with Him. He created us for this purpose. He is hoping we will all choose Him. From the beginning this has been His plan. The Beginning…


By the way, before I finished writing these words, “little girl” talked her tall, strong, daddy out of his restful chair and into her ocean adventure with her. Her laughter and excitement feel like a gift to me after pondering this topic today!




Today’s reading is Rev 3:14

Maybe the world has always been this way, but it seems to me that “truth” is becoming more and more subjective the longer I live. More opinions, more cultural norms, and more tolerance all seem to be broadening what we accept as truth. In a relational situation, two people can live through the exact same circumstance and later describe it in opposite terms. People have different opinions and different past experiences that cause them to view situations differently. Where is truth? How does truth fit in these opposing scenarios?

I am not looking to tackle what is right and what is wrong in our society today in this post. I am thinking more about relational dynamics as I sit with this verse, relationships between friends, coworkers, fellow church-goers, spouses, parents and kids.  Conflicts and differences of opinion meet us daily. These conflicts can so easily cause frustration, anger, and division in relationships, when we won’t consider any thoughts but our own. When we are faced with a conflict and there isn’t a clear path forward in the Bible, or both parties can make a Biblical case for why their approach should be taken, relationships get messy and people can get hurt.  We are given help in looking at the name of God, Amen.

Rev 3:14 “Write this letter to the angel of the church of Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen-the faithful and true witness, the beginning and source of God’s new creation.” In Hebrew, God’s name of Amen is translated as “God of truth”, “certainty”, or just “truth”. In Is 65:16 the Bible says, “All who invoke a blessing or take an oath will do so by the God of truth.” So my question is, how do we get the God of truth into a sticky situation or a conflict with another person?

Some ideas:

1-God doesn’t very often instantly hand out answers and resolution in the middle of conflict. It seems to take time. If we don’t have to discuss the situation with Him, then our relationship with Him doesn’t grow. We don’t get to know Him better. We don’t experience His trustworthiness and we don’t get to see Him change us, or the other person, or maybe even the circumstances.

2-It is better to wrestle with the God of truth, than another person. Do we want to find the truth or do we want to be right? If we bring our issue to God, we will get to truth. If we continue to argue with the other person we will get or cause more hurt and usually no real resolution takes place.

3-When we go to God, it humbles us. We have to admit that we are stuck and need help to get to true resolution. A humbled heart hears that it needs to change better than an angry one, you can trust me on this.

4-God’s opinion matters to me more than any person’s does. He is perfect, faithful, and a true witness to everything. I want my measuring stick to be His thoughts not mine or someone else’s. I have to go to Him to know His thoughts. I can’t trust my feelings or my mind. To know what He desires in each individual situation, I need to bring it to Him. Honestly, I don’t always finish praying with my answer in hand. Sometimes He lets me know later or even back in conversation with my problem person what He wants from me. The answers come at different times, but if I don’t go to Him with my questions, His answers are not usually known.

In the last few years, I have been more grateful for God’s ultimate truth than at any other time in my life. A less loving God might not be willing to enter into our lives and our messes to help us change. Praise God that He is unconditional, perfect, generous, rich and compassionate Love. Praise Him for being the God of truth and certainty.




“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”

It is here…the day we have all been planning for, for weeks. It’s Christmas. I have noticed that the last few years, I have awoken on Christmas morning and thought, “I hope I’m ready. I hope I’ve accomplished everything I needed to, to make this day special, beautiful, and worshipful for our family” Part of me is frustrated that my first thought on Christmas day is “Am I ready?” instead of “This is the day that Jesus gave up heaven to be born on earth.” What went through your mind as you opened your eyes today?

I have a Christmas play list on my phone that I have running in my car as I do errands and I stream it through the house as I do chores during the month of December. This year a little phrase in one of the songs stood out to me each time I heard the song. Two words, that’s all the bigger the phrase is. “Heaven’s generosity” This phrase is so rich and full of promise. It encompasses the entire list from Isaiah 9 printed out in the opening paragraph. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…all of that gifted to us if we accept. “Heaven’s generosity” simply states the ultimate gift given to us, Jesus becoming human, walking in “our shoes”, and dying a human death to pay the price for buying us back from our deserved consequences. This is the wonder of Christmas. Heaven’s generosity is what brings joy no matter our circumstances today. It’s what brings hope every day of our lives. It is the passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we have a way to be washed clean so we can be in His presence while we are on earth and for eternity.

I am so humbled today by Heaven’s generosity. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude for someone trading their life for mine. I am less than He is in every way, yet He still chose to give me this gift. I don’t deserve this crazy compassionate love, the grace He showers me with over and over again. “Thank You” is too mild, too weak, too trite to convey the gratefulness in my heart, mind and soul. I hope that this morning we are all overcome by gratefulness for Heaven’s generosity.

James, Obedience=A Changed Life

Todays reading is James 1& 2

Years ago we were in a small group and someone in the group decided that we should study the book of James for our next study. At the time I knew enough about the book of James to know it was going to be hard hitting and direct. I didn’t want to pick it because I knew it would hold a mirror up to my heart and I would have to face the truth about sin and wrong attitudes in my life. I didn’t want to see my true reflection right then. As I read through these chapters this morning, I was just as overwhelmed by James’s message today as I was all those years ago. James doesn’t mince words. He addresses topics that are relevant to each society and every time period. It honestly took me a big chunk of time to read through these chapters today because every verse speaks clearly to my life, and every verse requires thought, evaluation, and change in my day to day living.

The James that wrote this book is not the “James” that was Jesus disciple. This James grew up with Jesus. He saw every perfect choice that Jesus made in life. He watched Jesus prioritize His relationship with God, and saw first hand, Jesus’s mission lived out for His years on earth. He saw and felt how Jesus handled His relationships with family, friends and strangers. This James was Jesus’s brother. He saw what Jesus did! (I can’t help but think of those plastic WWJD bracelets that were popular a while back.) This fact alone makes me more interested in what James has to say. I’m a practical person and I like the idea of hearing from someone who lived with Jesus. I know that all scripture is from God, but this brotherly perspective peaks my interest. Was James so direct in his writings because he had a blunt, straightforward nature, or was James so affected by what he lived with and saw in Jesus that he was driven to spell out every detail he could to help others (us) be clear in what God desires?

James covers so many relevant topics in these two chapters I couldn’t possibly begin to comment on them. He is crystal clear in his instructions so there isn’t anything I can add. So what do I do with these chapters and the rest of the book of James? I have several options.

1-I can do nothing. I can finish reading this post and not even look at James 1&2.


2-I can read James 1&2, feel overwhelmed, close my Bible and go about my day.


3-I can ask God what he wants me to do with this information so that my life will actually change.


The choice is mine.


In the five chapters of James, he lays out almost a “how to be a Christ follower’’ textbook for us to consider. He challenges us to not just hear God’s truth, but to actually do it. He wants to help us understand what it takes to be different people than we are today. He challenges us to think differently, he confronts us with our selfish and prideful ways and calls us to commit to obeying God’s word so our lives will change. Personally, this is passage is too much for me to process in one sitting. I need more time to digest, evaluate and talk with God about the changes He wants to work on with me. I need to revisit this book over and over to hear God’s words and allow them to change me. If you have read some of my other posts you know I am slow to change, and that I ask God to work on me as gently as He can and still accomplish His plan. I need to read this “textbook” often so God can speak to my personhood and specific circumstances I face throughout any given year. I think I am going to commit to reading James at least once a month in the next year.

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” James


What will you do with James’s textbook?



Todays reading is Acts 9 1:18

If you feel like you read this passage recently, you are right. We read these exact same verses in October while looking at Paul’s life. This story is an awesome account of God’s calling on Saul’s life and also includes some amazing circumstances for a man named Ananias.

Have you ever wished you could hear directly from God? Do you feel like it would be so much easier to follow His plan if He would give you step-by-step instructions on how to proceed in a certain situation? I’ve got to be honest, I have wished for a vision or instructions from God many times in my life. I have reasoned with myself that I would be willing to do anything for God if I could be positive I was doing exactly what He asked of me. I’ve told myself that I could be braver than ever before, willing to put my life on the line if I was assured that I was working His plan. Ananias’s willing and obedient response to God’s instruction is God’s desire for our response to the promptings and instructions He gives to all of us.

Hopefully we remember from October that Saul was a zealous and well-known Christian killer. He was feared for his persecution of anyone professing Christ instead of Judaism. He made it his job to try to extinguish anyone who followed Jesus. He had a reputation that struck fear into the hearts of Christ-followers because they knew he had the power to take action against them. We learn in these verses that God personally met with Saul on his trip to Damascus and Saul had a change of heart after his encounter with God. God left Saul on that road blind and helpless, dependent on others for everything. Saul’s friends took him into the town of Damascus and he remained there blind for three days.

“Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision.” Ananias replied, “Yes Lord”. Ananias recognized his Lord’s voice and had a willing heart, immediately. The Lord said, “ Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” “But Lord” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by leading priests to arrest everyone who calls on Your name.” But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Ananias trusted God and obeyed God. No matter how scary or dangerous his circumstances seemed, he trusted God’s words and did what God asked him to. Verse 17, “So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he regained his sight.”

I know that this is one day in Ananias’s life. We don’t know how he managed the rest of his life, but I think it is safe to say that he had practice in trusting in and obeying God. He probably wouldn’t have been asked by God to do his part in this day if he hadn’t proved himself faithful earlier in life. I want to be characterized by answering, “yes Lord” when God calls me. I want my normal response to be obedience to Him when He gives instruction or makes me aware of something I need to do. I want to be usable to God no matter how much fear I’m tempted to fill with when I understand His plan. I want my first response to be “trust in Him” rather than thinking through how I am going to manage a situation. These responses seem so simple and natural while I’m in God’s presence. When I am communicating with Him, I am crystal clear on who He is; Power, Perfection, Unconditional Love, Above all, He knows everything, and He is mine. In this place, nothing seems hard because I know Who is with me. The problem is that I get distracted by my agenda. When my focus moves to me and my stuff, I start relying on my power and my ability instead of His.




John 1:35-42, 6:1-13, 12:20-36

We don’t get very much information in scripture that is specific to Andrew. There isn’t a very big window to view his personality, thought processes, or actions like we have for a few of the other disciples. Even though we don’t have much information I think we can look at the few verses we have and find some help on how to follow Jesus better in our lives.

We learn from John 1 that Andrew knew John the Baptist and followed his teachings. Andrew was actually with John when Jesus went by one day. When John said who Jesus was, Andrew left John and followed Jesus. Even before meeting Jesus, he believed in Him and accepted Him as his Messiah. This shows that he had a soft heart toward God and faith that God had a plan. Andrew knew he had found someone precious when he met Jesus. He was so excited, that he left Jesus and went to find his brother. He wanted to share his excitement for hope with his family. Are we still excited about sharing our Savior with others? Have we been quick to tell our loved ones that we have found hope and a Savior?

John 6 tells us about Jesus miracle of multiplying the five loaves of bread and two fish. When a huge crowd (5,000 men, this number doesn’t include women and children) gathered around Jesus and his disciples, the disciples felt a responsibility to feed the people. Andrew speaks up. “There is a boy here with bread and fish.” “But what good is that with this huge crowd?” Is the hope in His miracle-working Messiah shining through Andrew’s announcement about the small basket of supplies? Practicality sets in and he realizes how foolish his solution sounds to others and he follows up his announcement with a more realistic question. What good is this little bit of food?  Do we see Jesus first in an impossible situation or do we use our human resources and processes to discount God’s ability to provide answers that are not humanly available?

Later in John, Philip, another disciple of Jesus’ from Andrew’s hometown, comes to Andrew to get help checking with Jesus about meeting some out of town guests. This lets us know that Andrew was accessible to others and it was high priority to him to bring others to Jesus. Are we available to be interrupted? Do other’s know they can come to us with issues and they will get our time, wisdom and help? Do we make showing other’s Jesus our top priority in life?

Let’s close this morning with Jesus words to Andrew and the rest of the disciples in John 12. “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” Jesus is telling us that we need to be so committed to living for Him that we care nothing for our own lives by comparison. We have to turn away from the rule of self-centeredness that we are all are slave to. We need to put off our drive in life for advantage, security and pleasure so we can love God with our whole selves. Being willing to give up control of our lives to allow Christ to control us brings eternal life and true joy. I think we fear giving up control because we don’t fully grasp how much God loves us. We look at what we may be asked to give up rather than the fact that the Creator of the universe, the One who gave His life to buy us back from eternity separated from Him, actually desires a relationship with us. He loves us so much that He not only purchases us with His own life, but He also wants to help us change. This kind of love is so much more lavish and rich than the fear we have of missing out here on earth. He wants to give us eternal life, true joy, and relationship with Him while we are still on this earth.

We all know that God should be controlling our hearts and minds, but how do we actually do it? I wish I had a formula that I could add here to help us all accomplish this goal. In my earlier years I probably would have been dumb enough or arrogant enough to try to write one.  As I get older in my relationship with God I realize that nothing changes without His work in my heart. God’s word tells us this truth over and over, I just never really grasped it. I thought I could do it if I tried hard enough. A good place to start in being willing to give up control of my heart to Christ is asking for His help. Let me rephrase, change comes in consistently asking for help to put my heart in His hands. This is not a onetime, weekly or even monthly request. Every time I talk with Him I ask for His help in softening my heart, allowing him to enter new areas of my heart and to clean house in those areas, and to help me be more deeply devoted to putting my heart in His hands every day. I am finding that true change is slow. Real progress in giving up control to God takes time with Him every day that I can, with a heart that knows I can’t do it on my own. I also know how painful change can be so I ask Him to be as gentle with me as He possibly can and still accomplish His plan. (Maybe if I could be braver this process wouldn’t take as long…) I am also learning to live a little bit more in grace with this process. Instead of looking for complete surrender in all areas of my heart, (and feeling like a failure every time I realize I’m not) I’m learning to see that more areas of my heart are surrendered now than were 5 years ago. This is evidence of God’s work and I am grateful to Him for this change! I can also see that in a few of the areas that are surrendered, some are more deeply surrendered than they were in the past… again, evidence of His handy-work in my heart. The best change that I can measure, is that I started my day with Him more days this year than any other year in my life so far. It is clear to me that this particular change has facilitated all of the other progress that has been made in my heart. It is His grace, His time, and His gifts that are making me different than I used to be.

I wonder how this all worked in Andrew’s life. He got to spend a number of years in intensely close relationship with Jesus. Do you think he had a better grip on surrendering his heart to God than we do because of his relationship with Jesus? He got to see complete surrender lived out perfectly, but I have a feeling that the learning curve was so steep, and the life they all lived together was so fast paced and intense, it was hard to process it all until later in his life. We all have different experiences and different paths in life. We all have to decide who will rule our hearts. If we don’t consciously make a choice to surrender to God, our default setting is most definitely self.



Luke 1:1-25, 57-80

When you look back over your life, is there a year or an event that stands out to you as a life altering experience? How about if we narrow the search and just ask that question on a spiritual level? Can you think of a set of circumstances that define your life in a completely new way since you have lived through them? I would say that I have events that changed my life, (getting married, the births of our three kids) and one set of circumstances that altered my spiritual life dramatically. Almost 20 years ago my husband and I spent a year of our lives (with a three year old and two 18 month old kids) knowing that I had a 50/50 chance of living/dying from cancer. That diagnosis changed EVERYTHING in our lives and in our hearts. It deeply imbedded God’s truth and His promises into our souls like no other event I’ve experienced since. If we could interview Zechariah today, I’m guessing he would have a similar description of the events in his life that we get to look at together in our reading.

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were descendants of the priestly line of Aaron. They were righteous in God’s eyes and careful to obey God’s commands. Zechariah dedicated his life to the Lord and served as a priest in the temple for many years as he was an old man at this point in his life. On this day, Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Temple and burn incense before the Lord. It was a huge honor for him as a priest to be chosen for this job. While in the sanctuary, and angel appeared to him. We read about angels appearing to people in the Bible often enough that I think we might be callused to the impact this actually has on a person. Can you think, for just a moment, about what it must actually be like to be in a room alone, doing your job and then be joined by a spiritual being that is not known or describable in human terms? The Bible says that Zechariah was “shaken and overwhelmed with fear”. Yes I suppose that succinctly describes how I might feel under these circumstances.

The angel’s message starts with, “Don’t be afraid”.  Hmm…that’s probably not going to alleviate much fear but what other option did the angel have? No words are going to settle a person in this circumstance. The angel continues with his message to Zechariah. “Your wife will give you a son. You are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. He will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” This is all so much! Obviously Zechariah is still completely overwhelmed as his response to the angel only deals with the first thing the angel told him. It’s as if he didn’t even hear the rest of the message. “How can I be sure this is going to happen? I’m an old man now and my wife is old too!”

Then the angel says,” I am Gabriel! I stand in the presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” It is pretty safe to say that this had to have been the most life-altering day in Zechariah’s life. As we finish reading the verses for today we see that God did accomplish His plan.  John was born to Elizabeth and grew up becoming strong in spirit. Zechariah was given back his voice and his response to God’s good gifts are recorded at the very end of our reading.

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” I love this message shared with us from a faithful old man, rich in wisdom and experience, and full of hope and wonder after being altered by God. We probably won’t be visited by an angel in our lifetimes, and I hope you don’t have to face cancer or some other horrible set of circumstances, but I hope we all have opportunity after opportunity to be altered by God. I hope our hearts are soft to His work, our schedules allow time to listen to His voice, and our priority in life is Him.


Matthew 9:10-13

“Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home for dinner, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. When the Pharisees saw this they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor-sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”(I copied this from the New Living Translation so the terms and wording would be familiar and relevant to us this morning.)

I am so grateful this morning that we get to look at words and teaching from Jesus. Matthew recorded what happened over 2000 years ago and we get to hear Jesus speaking to people in a real life situation. Going to a friend’s house for dinner, we are all familiar with this. Jesus responds to the people around him in these few verses and we get listen in too.

  • Matthew wasn’t afraid of mixing his friend groups. I often think about who I invite to events based on how well they know each other and how much they have in common, but Matthew just asked his friends to dinner.
  • Jesus went to dinner with disreputable sinners. The notes in my Bible say that Matthew’s reputation as a tax collector hadn’t caught up yet with his new life as a disciple so he became a bridge for Jesus’s message to reach Matthew’s “old crowd” friends.
  • Jesus was accomplishing His work of spreading the gospel and didn’t let other people’s judgments of his methods interfere with his plan.
  • Jesus was very direct in His message, using concepts that were obvious to His listeners.
  • The Pharisees were so concerned about how they looked to others, they couldn’t see people in need of truth. They wanted respect from others more than they wanted to help people, and they wanted to make others look bad in public, (probably to elevate themselves) rather than encourage those who needed the Gospel.
  • Jesus, because He loves us, desires to reach all people with his good news, including the poor, the immoral, the lonely, the outcast, and the sick. Jesus loves all of those He created and desires a relationship with every one of us.
  • The message behind Jesus’ words, “show mercy, not offer sacrifices” is, don’t get so caught up in rituals that you miss loving and helping the people around you.
  • The last sentence of verse 10 stings a little. It is a quick definer of hearts. It is easy to compare yourself with another person to feel better about yourself. We can all find someone who struggles with an area of life that we find easier to manage. Why are we so tempted to do this? We use the wrong measuring stick so often. We should only be comparing ourselves to God’s standard. He is perfect in every way, and we are not. This levels the playing field so quickly. It lands all of us in the exact same spot…missing the mark.

Jesus’ purpose on earth was to meet people where they were in life, love them and show them the way to everlasting relationship with Him and His Father. This should be our purpose too. Jesus’ motivation is pure love. Ours should be the same, with added gratefulness, humility and joy because of the gift of payment for our own sin from Jesus. We get so caught up in our lives, families, responsibilities, things to accomplish that we get sidetracked from our main purpose for being here. We get so wrapped up in what we see and experience on this earth, we start to believe that this life and these jobs and friends are all that there is in life. We forget God’s bigger picture and unseen plan for spreading His good news. We forget His purpose for our lives. It is hard to live in this world with God’s purpose as the driving force in our hearts. But we can do better. We can reset our minds at any given moment of the day or night. We can ask God to renew our minds and change our hearts to be more like Him with unwavering purpose. (This needs to be asked of Him daily or more, rather than a onetime request.) He knows the struggle we live in because he created us and He created this world. He understands our desire to be like Him and the inability we have to actually be like Him because of our humanness. The beauty and joy for Him is when we do reflect Him. The times we choose as He would to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. When we love like He does. When we remember our actual purpose and do what He would in a situation. We won’t ever get it perfect here on earth, but we can grow in the number of things we choose well. We can grow in love for others. We can remember our purpose more today than we did yesterday. As we string more moments of love and sacrificial choices together, we start to look more and more like Jesus did on earth. We start to live with our true purpose guiding us more than not.

We Have to Decide

“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says this, Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me.”

In Jeremiah 35, Jeremiah is trying to warn the people of Israel to stop disobeying God and return to him as their leader and one true God. For hundreds of years leading up to this chapter, the Israelites had worshipped other Gods and ignored God and His principles. They were living the way they wanted to live, serving the gods they wanted to serve and turning a deaf ear to God’s warnings to them that consequences would follow if they didn’t change their hearts. Sounds like a lot of people in this world today, and if I’m honest, my own heart at times in some instructions from God.

Way back in Numbers 6, Jehonadab took a special vow of dedication to God. He and his family for the next three hundred years, abstained from wine, did not build houses or plant crops or vineyards. They lived in tents. God promised them that if they dedicated themselves to Him, they would live long, good lives in the land. And while I don’t know exactly how they supported and fed themselves, they kept true to their commitment to God and lived for three hundred plus years. I guess it might be debatable how large of a sacrifice living without wine for a lifetime actually is, but not being able to plant and grow food, and not being able to have a home is definitely a hardship and an unsettling way to live. The point is, the vow this family made to God was not simple or easy, and it wasn’t just for a short time. This vow was obeyed for lifetimes, generation after generation. So I have to ask myself, how do I measure up? Do I fall in the camp of the Recabites, (Jehonadab’s family) obedient to my commitments to God, or am I like the Israelites, living the way I want to live and not caring what God thinks?

As usual when we read about the Israelites turning their backs to God, it is easy to judge their wicked hearts and selfishness. It seems so glaringly obvious to us as we read through the Old Testament, how stupid the Israelites seem (Don’t they ever learn?) and how much they replaced God with other gods and idols. “Other gods and idols” seem ridiculous and irrelevant to us in this country and during this age, until we put our own version of “gods and idols” into the story. Our “other gods and idols” might be called, money, self promotion, power, travel, selfishness, homes, pride, electronics, accomplishments, a gluttonous desire for food and drink, our children’s achievements, a boss…the options are endless for what we can replace God with in our own lives. If I listed something that is a specific struggle for any of us, the Israelites look a bit less foolish, right? We are more like them than any of us wants to admit. It is easy to see the lesson and who God wants us to learn from in this chapter.

I can’t help but wonder, how did these people do it? How, for generation after generation did they refrain from wine, live in tents and never grow food to feed them selves? It seems impossible in the culture they lived in to have kept this vow. While the Bible tells us that the Recabites kept their vow to God for generations, we know that they were not perfect people. They certainly had sin in their lives, but they were faithful in their vow to God, which mandated the bulk of who they were.   We don’t have other information that tells us what the rest of their lives looked like. Were they good husbands and wives, were they honest people, did they grumble and complain about their situations, did they get angry easily, were they proud because of the vow they took, did they envy others who lived differently, were they bitter inside because of their lifestyles?…the list goes on and on with possibility of what could have been in their hearts at certain times throughout their lives, but God still valued their vow/commitment and the fulfillment of that commitment. He valued it enough to have Jeremiah teach the Israelites and us what obedience looks like through the Recabites story.  People are imperfect, but we can still be faithful to God and keep His commands. I think sometimes we get bogged down by the sin in our lives. We feel defeated when we see it and may be tempted to overlook all of the areas where we are being obedient, because of sin in another. We can learn from the Recabites that it is possible to be obedient to God while still missing His mark in other areas of our lives. So this morning, where do each of us land? How much of our lives are we willing to commit to God? What areas are we faithfully obeying like the Recabites, and what areas are we like the Israelites, turning away from God so we can live as we please?


Ester 2:1-23, 4:1-5, 7:1-8, 8

Oh my goodness, it’s like a 7thgrade algebra story problem figuring out what to read today… Hoping you “did the math” and got your reading done so we can look at Ester’s story together today. It is another beautiful example of God’s power and ability to use all kinds of people (with lots of different motives) to accomplish His plan… preserving a people group to bring His perfect Son to earth, making a way for us to have relationship with Him!

I know chapter 1 was not part of our assigned reading today but I have to start from the top. I honestly couldn’t remember why King Zerxes was looking for a new queen so I started reading chapter 1. The king threw a HUGE party, (the celebration lasted 180 days!) so he was feeling pretty good from the wine and made a request of his wife. He wanted to show her off in front of all the leaders of his kingdom. She refused him. He was mad! He gathered a bunch of friends (with ulterior motives) and asked their opinion on how to deal with the queen instead of thinking for himself and then followed their advice. So the queen got banished forever from the king’s presence and in time it seems like he started to second-guess the decision he made in anger about his wife. Turns out he did want a wife. So once more he asks his friends for help and they tell him to do a nationwide search for the perfect queen (or maybe the hottest virgin he can find) and this sounds pleasing (shocking, right?) to him so he agrees. A Jewish man named Mordecai had a job around the palace and heard about the beauty contest. He went home and got his beautiful, God loving cousin Ester entered in the contest. Out of many young women, Ester was chosen to be the queen. Mordecai stayed in close proximity to the palace so he could find out how things were going for Ester. He loved her and cared about her wellbeing.

Mordecai overheard a plot to kill king Xerxes while at work one day and quickly reported this news to Ester. Ester told the king, crediting Mordecai with the intel and the king did an investigation and found the report to be true. He impaled the two men on a sharpened pole for their plot to kill him. Some time later, the king promoted a man named Haman to make him the most powerful official in the empire. Haman decided that all the king’s employees should bow down to him as he passed by to show him respect. (Do you think he had pride issues?!?!) Mordecai refused to bow to Haman, because he was Jewish and loved God. This made Haman very mad and he decided to retaliate. Haman was so mad that punishing Mordecai wasn’t enough vengeance for him so he devised a plan to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes. Haman was a smart man who served a not so smart king, so he went to the king and told a vague version of the truth that the king believed (without investigating the facts).  Haman got a law passed that stated that all the Jews in the land, women and children included, would be slaughtered on Mar 7 the following year. This is where Ester’s faith gets tested and the rubber meets the road for her. She has to talk to the king about this new law that is passed and try to get things changed around so that God’s people are not completely wiped out. No big deal right? Are they not husband and wife? The problem is that in the culture they live in, the queen cannot ask to be in the king’s presence. Only the king can call for his wife. Ester’s life is at risk for asking to speak to her husband. Ester is brave and invites the king to a meal where she explains the plight of her people, and her own fate because of Haman’s law. King Xerxes is furious about being tricked by Haman and impales Haman on the sharpened pole that Haman has set up to impale Mordecai on, and then the kings anger subsides. Justice! But there is still that law out there (that Haman had passed that cannot be revoked because it was signed by the king) that kills all the Jews, including Ester, on Mar 7 of the following year.

King Xerxes finally puts some smart and moral people around himself and replaces Haman with Mordecai. Mordecai was smart enough to come up with a plan that allowed the Jews to unite as a people to defend themselves and their property on Mar 7 of the following year, which God used to save the Jews lives and also to wipe out the rest of Haman’s family.

No matter people’s motives, position of power, or thinking capability, God’s plan will always be accomplished! He is more mighty than any human, more virtuous than any person, more loving than any being and will accomplish His truth no matter what people do to try to interfere. He will always win.