Travel mercies are approved…

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Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.13.59 AMThe K’s are leaving today for this weekend’s trip. I will be going down this afternoon to Rehoboth to pick Aaron up so he can come home. We have a few more trips planned this summer. Aaron is hoping to schedule a trip to Naples this summer still. The McAbees just returned home from Italy on Tuesday. That is a LOT of traveling-both by plane and by car. We try to make it a habit to pray for God’s protection before we travel and for friends and family who are traveling, don’t we?

I know we are thankful when safe arrivals are made. Have you ever wondered if this is “biblical”?  Is “safe travels” something we should be praying for or that was done in the Bible? It is kind of like saying “grace” before we eat-we all do it, but have you ever wondered why and if we really should?

Apparently, yes, we should and we can pray for this. Ezra did as we see above. He and the people he was leading had to make a dangerous journey to return to Jerusalem. They were not worried about plane crashes or car accidents, but the dangers were just as real. They were in danger of robbers and thieves along the way-and they were going by foot with women and children in tow. He had reason to pray for protection-it was truly a life and death issue. So he prayed. Ezra in fact asked all the people to fast and pray and seek from God a “safe journey”. God granted that request with a yes, and they did all arrive safely.

Simple application for today? Keep praying when we go on trips. Pray for safe travel mercies for friends on trips-like Kate as she is traveling abroad now, and us as we leave soon for another short trip. We can be asking God to grant us a safe journey just as Ezra did in his day. Thank God when He answers our prayers for safe travels and grants us that safety. In fact, any trip we take and all that we are able to do on those trips are gifts from God. We don’t have to look too far to realize we certainly could not have orchestrated a weekend like this past one on our own, or even the blessings of the NYC trip last December with friends. Both were clearly opportunities and gifts from God the way I see them! May we always see these things as God’s love and blessings handed down to us that we don’t necessarily deserve, but He has chosen to give us any way. In the end, may our travels and family fun times only cause us to love Him more and give Him the glory for all of it.

Wisdom vs. Knowledge

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.43.47 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.43.42 AMThe SAT’s are being redesigned. The big question for Juniors and Seniors next year is whether they should take them before or after the redesign. SAT’s are supposed to measure your “knowledge”, but of course, not everyone feels they are good indicators. The redesign is probably yet another attempt to improve on this measurement.

The SAT’s may measure knowledge, but they do not measure wisdom. We all have had students in our classes who are really smart, but do not seem to apply wisdom along with their intelligence. We can go to school to learn and increase our knowledge, but we can’t gain wisdom from school. Today’s Scripture reminds us wisdom comes from God. In fact, even a secular king in today’s portion of Ezra seems to identify that it is clearly given to humans by God, or as he phrases it “God-given wisdom.” Scripture reiterates this in James 1:5, where we are told “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously and without criticizing and it will be given to him.” There are many other Scriptures in the Old and New Testament that testify to this as well.

Do you know the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Taken from a secular source, I think this explains it well: Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data that you have learned about or experienced. Wisdom is the ability to discern or judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting and applicable. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to life.

The wisdom I assume we seek on a daily basis and that I pray for all of us is the ability to apply what we know of God, His ways, and His definition of right and wrong to our lives. Why do we need wisdom? Consider these scenarios that are not as clearly laid out in Scripture as no lying, no murder etc: What should your college major be? Should you include a friend at your party that has dabbled in drugs? What words should dad and I share and how can we encourage a couple who is having marriage difficulties. These type questions require the counsel of Scripture. They require wisdom, God-given wisdom.

Just as Ezra was given wisdom from God regarding building the temple, God will give us wisdom too in situations we are unsure about. NEVER hesitate to ask. Remember, He won’t criticize, but He will give you the wisdom you have asked for!

Don’t forget it is a “joint” effort…

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.18.57 AMPrintable15720px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Supreme_Court.svgWe have had a little discussion about the latest Supreme Court ruling about same-sex marriages. It is surely disheartening-but today, we need to remember it is not hopeless. In fact, I am starting my new memory verse of Colossians 1:15,16 this week, which includes the statement, “…For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities…”  I am pretty sure the Supreme Court of the United States falls under one of those categories. The people on there were created by God, and are not doing things outside of what God has allowed them to do. His will will be accomplished regardless. Things may look bleak-and the ramifications and consequences of this for our country will be devastating in many ways, but they will not be out of God’s control. God works THROUGH all rulers-the good and the bad. He uses all of them. How do I know? Because He says so himself (as in Colossians) and we have seen it in history over and over.

Today, we see it in Ezra above. These were trying times for the Jews. The temple was a shambles. They were living under idol worshiping rulers-but we see how that worked out. God tells us that they were able to build the temple by two things: The command of God, and by decree of the rulers. It was a joint effort, orchestrated by God. It was not logical. It did not make sense this would be the outcome and decision. It was crazy for the rulers to agree to this logically because the Jews would be a “threat” to the King’s powers, but they allowed it anyway. Why? Because it was ordained by God and it was His will. In fact, don’t miss the first sentence above in the verse. It is not like the Jews “eeked” out a minimal building effort. They prospered! I can guarantee you, it was unimaginable to them.

We need to be greatly in prayer for our nation. There are consequences to this decision by our highest courts that people can not begin to imagine. But there are also plans our God has for His people through this. Perhaps there will be revival in the church. Perhaps people will be forced more clearly to decide who is their Lord: their own fleshly desires or the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior. It is true what Jordan mentioned a few days ago-this in some sense is no different than any other generation. You and I have great hope. I am certain God will prosper HIs people in ways yet unseen-we need to just stick firmly to truth. Speak the truth even when it goes against everything our culture is saying and doing. Watch, as God moves the rulers and powers to accomplish His purposes through all of this. And, hopefully, we are all praying daily for our leaders and rulers., who are in dire need of godly wisdom and discernment as they make decisions that do affect all of us!

Beyond your wildest dreams…

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.24.21 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.24.14 AM5 years ago dad was on the school board working through the Red Lion issues. It was VERY complicated to say the least. Without rehashing the details, there were finance issues, groups of people with different goals, school philosophy and types, church issues, and more. There was no simple solution by any means. The board worked very hard to try to resolve issues as they could, to honor God and bring resolution, but I am pretty sure Dad would say he couldn’t really see a good solution. He couldn’t, but God did. I am positive that not once did the board discuss or hope for a church to step in and do what they did. It was completely out of the realm of anyone’s imagination-but not out of God’s.

This is what I see happened in Esther as well-on a much grander scale. I am confident that once Haman had the king sign the new law allowing the Jews to be slaughtered, the Jews saw no way out. Their lives were doomed, and no matter what plans they could think up, they could not see a light at the end of the tunnel. Death was their future. But it was not what God had in store. Today’s verse is part of the proof.

Look at what we read. The officials were SUPPORTING the Jews. This is the governmental structure at the time. The tables had turned so greatly, that the governmental officials FEARED Mordecai-a Jew who last he knew, was scheduled to be killed on the 13th day of the 12th month, with the rest of them. He was placed in a position of high power, and in the end, what would have been the equivalent of 9/11 on a massive scale, is now, instead a holiday of rejoicing for the Jews called Purim. It was beyond their wildest dreams no doubt.

This is God, our God. Time and time again, when we can not even imagine how our troubles may be resolved, we need to reflect on our God. Concentrate on Him, instead of what we might try to do to “fix” something. Trust Him. He is all knowing, knows every single detail of our problem-in fact,  more than we know. He knows all the possible solutions we are thinking of. He knows what the outcome of those solutions would be. He knows what is the BEST solution given all those factors-and if He finds it best to give us a completely  unexpected “light at the end of the tunnel”, He will.

We do serve a God who does things that go beyond our “wildest dreams”, and even if they are not beyond our wildest dreams, they are things perhaps we just never thought or imagined. Sometimes, they are things that we might have even said we would not want to have happen, until we looked back at the situation. Two things off the top of my head that are small, but amazing to me are Jordan’s catered lunches on top of the gift of his internship and Miriam’s work schedule which she didn’t originally choose, but has turned out to be best. There will be more. God is at work in yours and my life-and He is working in both small and big ways, and will not hesitate to turn tables completely around in our lives in ways we could never imagine if that is what is best and in His will. He truly is amazing…don’t ever forget it!

Do you have good “Bae’s”?

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 10.10.01 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 10.09.56 AMI have never heard Miriam refer to Nicole or Brie as her “maids”, but I bet in some ways the relationship she has with her friends is similar to the one Esther had with her “maids.” It would also be similar to Jordan’s friendship with Daniel or Shayne, and Aaron’s with Jake P. or Matt. While Esther did live in a different culture and they did have maids who were there to serve her, I still think they were also her friends, or “baes”, as the term goes today. These were the people she spent most of her time with. These were the friends she talked to. These were the ones who she talked things over with and asked for advice and help from. Today, we see she had something very important to discuss.

We saw Monday that Esther had been given advice by Mordecai-not to tell anyone she was a Jew-early on in the chapter. She heeded that advice and didn’t tell. Now, the tables are turned. Mordecai, her uncle, is asking her at this point to reveal her heritage, the complete opposite of what he just asked her to do earlier. What should she do? She has a decision to make.

Consider the relationship between Esther and Mordecai. Esther is an adult now-so she is not obligated in the same sense to “obey” Mordecai, but he is still a father figure to her. He is giving her counsel and asking something of her that I don’t get the impression she really wants to do. The cost if she follows through with it is that she may perish, as she states in today’s verse.

Does she do what he says immediately? No. Do you think she wants to do what he says to do? I don’t really think so-would you? Wouldn’t it be easier to keep it quiet, never say a word and save her own life-living comfortably in the palace the rest of her days? I think so! But, she has to decide. Will she or won’t she say something? How does she decide? I see three ways she makes this decision:

1) She considers the source: Mordecai. This is her uncle, a father figure who has always looked out for her good and is a godly, trustworthy man.
2) She takes time-she doesn’t do anything right away-she takes 3 days to prepare/decide.
3) She gathers her friends around her in support and possible counsel as well. She asks them to join her in this decision with fasting-seeking God’s guidance and help.

We know the outcome. A huge risk was taken, and God proved faithful saving all the Jews because Esther decided to go ahead with the risky request.

Esther’s path to make this decision is a good one. I recommend we follow in her footsteps for our own decisions. Seriously consider the advice from dad and I and others who have been godly authorities in your life. They are trustworthy and have always looked out for your good. Most likely they still are-even if you don’t like the advice. Take time: Big decisions require time to really pray and seek God’s clear direction. Ask your friends to join with you in with seeking God’s will in this area of your life. Ask for their support and prayers as you seek to decide.  By doing these things, you and I will be able to make a much more sound, wise and God honoring decision.

One angry man…

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Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 12.35.15 PMA friend and I were talking yesterday about the type of books we like to read. She mentioned she liked mysteries or suspenseful stories. As I was reading Esther today I was thinking if this were just a novel, it could fall into the “mystery/suspense” category. There is threat of death for a whole people, a high ranking official who tricks a ruler into creating an unreasonable law, and a man who stands firms to his convictions, requiring his niece to do the same even if it costs her her life. Then, of course, it ends in a justifying twist of “fate” for the evil doer.

Haman is the main protagonist in historical event. He is the instigator with an evil purpose. Consider what truly was his downfall. What caused Haman’s death as you think about the story? I think it was anger based on the verse above. Haman was mad at Mordecai. That was it. That started everything-he was “infuriated”.

Anger is dangerous-very dangerous. I am sure this is why God speaks so often of it in the Scriptures from warning us not to let the sun go down on our anger (Eph. 4:26) to the advice to be “slow to anger” (James 1:19).  Just look at what anger out of control can do. Haman was mad that Mordecai did not bow down to him. This alone points to the real root issue of pride: Haman’s pride was hurt. That pride issue caused the anger, and that caused him to completely over react. Not only did he want to take it out on Mordecai, he decided to take it out on ALL of Mordecai’s people, the jews. It is a ridiculous response and resulted in a calamitous end for him.

When I read scripture like this and the Holy Spirit shows me these things I realize I need to look at my own life. What things make me angry? Is it really an issue of pride in my own life? Am I angry now? How do I respond or how have I responded in the past? What about you? I do think some people tend to get angry quicker than others. Are you the type to easily become angry? If so, what causes this? Is it pride? Is it perhaps physical conditions like being tired or losing a game?

Anger itself is not sin, but it can lead us to sin. The better we know ourselves, the better we can protect against rash decisions and judgments like the one Haman made. I surely doubt any of us will ever be in a position to make a decision to kill a whole race of people like him, but we will always have the ability to “kill” another person with our words. Now is a good time to just examine our own hearts, see where anger may be lurking and ask God to show us how to handle anger when we are facing it. If you or I are angry, try to stop and think about why. It may very well be our pride has been hurt. If this is the case, we need to turn to God asking Him to give us a humble spirit, as opposed to taking our anger out on someone around us, which could have very costly consequences!

The pattern of obedience…

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.56.52 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.56.48 AMWhen the Frey’s were here, one of the things we discussed was parenting and what we have learned through the years. (BTW, you do learn how to parent…it does not come naturally.) We both agreed two of the best resources to assist us in applying biblical parenting standards were the books Growing Kids God’s Way and Shepherding A Child’s Heart. I still recommend both books. These books are firm that you teach your children to obey you. All 3 of you know, dad and I from day one have always expected you to obey us and you were punished if you did not.

Looks like Mordecai and Esther lived under the same principle. At least, based on today’s Scripture, we see Esther obeying Mordecai, and it is a good thing. Things may have turned out very differently for her and all Jews if she had not. The fact is, she did obey. Keep in mind, Mordecai was not even her father, but instead a relative, so she fully understood the importance of respecting and obeying authority, not just her parents. We can see this is her pattern of life, as she continues to take Mordecai’s advice throughout Esther, even when the chances are very risky to the point of possible death. She obeyed despite perhaps her own desires, her fears or the risks.

As a family, we have often talked about the breakdown in society at the family level. We have discussed or seen what happens when children do not obey their parents, and honestly, when parents do not even expect or require children to obey. Things don’t work out well.

This is just another example where God has set forth a standard to live by: Children obey your parents. It is not difficult to understand. There are blessings to be had by following His instruction, and dangerous consequences of not following His instruction.

Today, I was thinking Esther may not have known why Mordecai told her not to tell. Do you think she knew? I don’t know if Mordecai had the insight to know what would happen in the future or if the Jews were already a suppressed minority in that area or not. Regardless of the “why”, she did it. The Bible does not record her questioning his request.

Miriam and Jordan, you are now legally adults. There will be fewer and fewer times we will “tell” you what to do, but hopefully continued times you will ask our advice and we will try to give you godly counsel. Aaron, you will be at this stage sooner than you know as well. But you will all continue to live under authority of someone. That someone is God. In fact, it is our hope that what we have taught you in obedience to us would transfer smoothly to seeking and obeying God, so that He is the one who protects you and watches over your steps. Today is just a reminder that God’s standards prove themselves to be true and helpful-as in the life of Esther. It is also a reminder that obedience to authority-whether it is us as your parents, or ultimately God-needs to continue. The temptation when you don’t understand why God has a standard may often be to question it or possibly even not obey-but I advise against that. Stick to what you have learned, and join us as adults now, whose parent is God and who we seek to obey daily. This is the sign of truly loving and serving our Savior, and it is the best way to live under God’s blessing and protection.

It’s ok to not “get it”…

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 11.34.58 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 11.34.47 AMWe see Daniel is overcome and “sick” for some days above. Do you know why? In this chapter of Daniel, he has a dream about a ram and a goat. He knows it is God’s way of showing him what is going to happen, but he doesn’t understand the meaning. Knowing he doesn’t understand, God sends Gabriel, who explains some of it to Daniel, telling him that the vision he saw “refers to many days from now” (v. 26) Daniel still doesn’t fully understand, but he knows some BIG things are going to happen, some of those things will involve great destruction. He clearly does not understand it all because he specifically says he doesn’t in today’s verse.

I want us to consider what we know about Daniel. We know he was set aside and trained for the king, after being taken away to a foreign land. We know he was wholly dedicated to worshiping God, no matter what the cost based on his Lion’s Den experience. We know he received visions from God. We know God sent messengers to explain some of those visions. We know all these things were important enough to be included in the Bible. And yet, Daniel still does not fully understand.

You and I will be like Daniel. Not in the sense that we might be thrown into a lion’s den or given visions by God, but in the “not understanding” part. God will show us things through His Word and with the Holy Spirit teaching us-but we will never understand all of it. I point this out because the temptation- particularly regarding end times such as the vision Daniel had- will be to understand, or think we do. Be careful of assuming we understand it all clearly or that someone else does. I just recently heard of another somewhat well respected theologian, John Hagee,  making some specific end times claims based on something called the “blood moon” mentioned in Acts. We have friends who believe what he says to be true. This makes me nervous. One thing the Bible is clear about is that no one will know when Christ returns for the rapture. We will NOT know-it could happen this instant. Secondly, there are signs we will see that point generally to when the end times, tribulation and millennial kingdom are coming-but specific dates are NOT given. When someone claims they know the date, if you ask me, it is a sure sign they are wrong. If Daniel did not know-I don’t see why we would expect to know.

My point today is-with God and the Bible, we will not always understand everything. This does not negate our responsibility to know Scripture, study it, and try to understand more and more each day-but we need to realize we will not always “get” all of it. The Holy Spirit will reveal to you and I all the things He wants us to learn as we diligently study, but it is important to be comfortable with not understanding at times. For example, predestination (election) and free-will of man are clearly taught in Scripture-I do not fully understand how they work together, but I do fully believe them both to be true. Take this to heart. Consider Daniel-and be comfortable being like him, being able to be content in “not understanding.”

Credit where credit is due…

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 11.51.25 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 11.51.20 AMAt the awards ceremony last week at school, a number of students, including Aaron, were called forward for the award of “Distinguished Honors.” Obviously, this was an award for those who did exceptionally well academically. Tonight, Miriam is playing in the Delaware All-Star Blue and White LAX game because she is a distinguished lacrosse player. She was chosen to play because of her outstanding skill in the sport. Even after being valedictorian at school, Jordan continues to earn “distinguished” grades at the college level. These are just a few examples of how you all are exceptional in many areas.

We are very proud of you for all these areas and the hard work you have put in on the fields as well as academically to get you where you are and to the levels of success you have reached. It has no doubt taken great effort and time on your part. But, I am reminded in Daniel today to also keep these amazing skills of yours in perspective. The temptation will always be to take great pride and credit in these things. The only way you will ever avoid being cocky about it will be to constantly remind yourself why you are exceptional in these areas, and thank God for how He has gifted you.

Daniel was exceptional too. You know his story. Today’s verse above is just one of many that states he was distinguished, but it also specifies why he was so “excellent” to be distinguished. It was because of a “spirit” within him. We know what spirit that was that gave him his great wisdom, and he did too. Daniel continually gave God the credit, knowing any accomplishment he had, was ONLY due to God giving him the ability and opportunity.

Let me use another illustration to make it clear. I would love to be a good singer. Because I would like this, I could try taking voice lessons, join a choir or a band. I still would be a terrible singer. Singing is NOT the gift God has given me. No matter what effort I put in, I am pretty sure you will never see me on stage with Andy Mineo or Adele! In the same way, try to remember, you may have always had the desire to do well in sports or academically, but if that had not been the area God had gifted you, no matter how much practice, travel teams or studying, you would not have distinguished yourself. Without the spirit of God in us and the gifts and abilities He gave us, we would still not excel in these areas.

I am pretty sure you will all continue to excel. Today, take the lesson from Daniel to remember we are excelling because of the spirit within us, and it is purely by God’s grace we are distinguished in any way. This will help us all to stay humble. Continue to give God any and all the glory you and I can, as we enjoy and bless others with the gifts He has given us. The moment you or I begin to brag or act cocky about it, is the moment we are taking credit for something that is not ours to take credit for!

Do NOT repeat your family history…

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Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 10.28.17 AMYou all know Gege and Grandpop got divorced when I was very young. You have heard the story from me. I lived it and have discussed it with them. One of the things Gege has told me over and over was that she did not allow Grandpop to lead, and he was too kind and gave in to her too much, when he should have taken the lead. Gege is a smart, good leader. She was fully qualified and able, but as Grandpop’s wife, it was not her role. What about Grandpop? Being too kind? Is that even possible? Yes. It is.

Thankfully, Gege and Grandpop remarried and have made biblical changes in their marriage, but this devotion is not a devotion on the roles of husband and wife in marriage. Instead, today, I want to talk about stories told by parents from their past. I lived through their divorce and remarriage, and the description above has never left me. I never forgot what my mom told me from her experience-that marriage does not work when a woman tries to lead or be equal. A marriage and family can only have one head-and it needs to be the husband. I learned from her and strive daily to follow that godly principle she learned the hard way, and that I read about in God’s Word. I don’t want to have to go through what she went through to learn it and I am sure you don’t either. What does this have to do with today’s verse above?

Belshazzar in today’s Scripture, did not learn from his mom and dad. As you can see, he did not follow my path. He is Nebuchadnezzar’s son. The Nebuchadnezzar who did not revere God as God, but served many other gods and was very proud. He ended up living like a wild animal in the fields, eating grass for 7 years, until he humbled himself before God. I do not know if Belshazzar was alive when this happened to his father, but I can guarantee you that he heard about those 7 years. They were not normal. Everyone in the family would know, and that story would be told over and over. Belshazzar chose not to learn from the stories. He knew them but ignored them. God tells us that he did not humble his heart. He had to learn the lesson himself, and it ended in death. Daniel 5:30 tells us, “That very night, Belshazzar…was killed.” No second chances.

My word for you? Learn from us. While they may be boring at times, when you hear family stories from Dad, myself, Gege, Grandpop or even your brother or sister, keep your ears open to learn. We may be telling of mistakes we made and how God corrected us to get us back on track. You can learn from those. When we are telling things God has shown us and habits that we started much later than we wish we had that have helped us grow closer to God-consider starting them earlier than we did. When you see us in sin and we may not have even realized it yet, make a note to avoid that in your own life. It happens. God is still transforming dad and I as I am certain is very clear to you. We are not perfect, and it is because of this very fact, you have the chance to avoid many painful times in your own life, if you only learn from our mistakes, instead of repeating them.