Apples for applesauce…

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-31-31-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-31-36-amThis week I got a great deal on “less-than-perfect” apples, so today I am making applesauce. You can see in the picture that they have bruises and spotted skin. In terms of selling to just eat raw, they are “bad” apples, but they are perfect for cooking.

One bad apple on a tree is not a bad thing, but if these all came from the same tree, I am certain the farmer would cut it down. A bad tree produces bad apples and a good tree produces good ones.

Does this sound familiar? It should because in the chapter our memory verse comes from, Jesus states a similar fact. He states, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matt. 7:18), a very familiar passage of Scripture. Did you realize that a short 3 verses later, we find our memory verse about who will or will not be entering heaven. Do you know how the two thoughts tie together?

Just like we can tell a tree by its fruit, our lives display by their “fruit” who is Lord of our life. The specific fruit spoken of today is the fruit of obedience to God and his will. We are being told that we can call Jesus our “Lord” all day long if we want, but unless our actions follow suit, unless the “fruit” in our lives is fruit of obedience to God’s will, our eternity will not be spent in heaven with God.

As we work on memorizing the verse this week, let’s use it as a reminder to ourselves to not just “call” Jesus our Lord, but instead, to actually live our lives in obedience to Him as our Lord. By doing so, we will be confirming daily that our eternal destination is heaven. Our lives will be the proof of who we serve. And, may the only bad fruit in our lives be that which is on our plate as applesauce!

Don’t worry….be happy

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-1-32-51-pm Printable15screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-1-32-46-pm

“Don’t worry, be happy.” Simple words from Bobby McFerrin’s song. Not so simple to follow, are they? I don’t think there is a single human being on earth who does not worry at times or is not “anxious” .

This is today’s topic in this week’s memory verse. Matt. 6:25 follows Jesus teaching regarding storing up our treasure in heaven instead of on earth. He knows we are all easily bogged down with the “worries” or cares of this world: food, clothing and more. He is trying to remind us that these are temporary and that God will provide for our needs, but these are not the most important things. We need not worry about the food and clothing, but instead, trust God to provide and put all our effort and mental energy into the more important, eternal things.

There is a huge benefit to this: less worries. In fact, the rest of Matthew 6 talks more about seeking God’s kingdom first, and all the rest will fall in to place. Worry never fixes anything-it only drags us down.  Our efforts can be much better spent elsewhere, laying up treasures in heaven. There will never be a time we don’t have worries, but the key is reminding ourselves of what we are told in Matthew: there is more to life. The food, clothing and whatever else we are worrying about is not what really matters. We are being urged in this verse to handle our worries correctly. Each time we are tempted to be anxious about something, we can use this verse to remind us and to put things in perspective of eternity, and our loving, caring God.

When the anxiety comes, pray that God would help us not be anxious about our life and ask him to remind us that there is more to life than food and clothing. Ask Him to help you and I focus on what He wants us to focus on instead of what is consuming our thoughts. Picture giving that care to him to handle, and trust Him with it. He is more than able. Then, let God redirect our minds, trusting He will provide for our needs. It is only by doing this, that we will truly  experience what Bobby McFerrin sings about!

“It could happen”…

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-58-48-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-58-53-am“It could happen?!”-this is one of my favorite quotes from the movie “Angels in the Outfield.” It is when the character, J.P., believes in a baseball team that has no chance of ever winning anything at all. From all accounts, they are hopeless, yet, with the help of angels, they do win.
That same kind of shock of the unexpected was of course the case in the life of Joseph. We all know when he was younger, he dreamt his brothers would bow down to him, and they basically told him this would not happen in a million years. But it did…about 13 years later. Not only did they bow down, but they were probably to some degree happy to bow down and know some one in as high a position as he was. Their lives were saved because of this.
We are still in this familiar life of Joseph in Genesis but it struck me today how much time there was between his dream and his becoming prince. 13 years. 13 years of suffering. At the very end of Genesis though, we see Joseph’s father praying over his children (today’s verse), and in that prayer he calls Joseph, the “prince among his brothers.” It is the actual fulfillment of that dream Joseph had so long ago.
But it was a long road to fulfillment. I am sure Joseph had no idea or even hope that he would ever hold such a position in his life. It was unimaginable. When he was in the suffering parts, that was all he knew. Things were bad.
Here’s what I learned from this: Things can look totally hopeless to a human for YEARS. God may bring to pass what a human could never imagine-but it may require great hardship and suffering for a LONG period of time. We may not understand God’s choices in our lives at all. They will make no sense to us. What should we do? Be obedient servants and trust Him during these really hard times. We are not required to figure out the “why’s” or the “when’s”.  Are things hard right now for you or I? Does nothing make sense? Just be a faithful servant and trust the rest to God’s plan!

“Spiritual” optical illusions…

Printable15screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-1-40-14-pmAren’t optical illusions fascinating? Often, different people will see different things when given the same information. Have you seen the picture printed here? Do you see a young lady or an old woman?

Today, I see a “spiritual” optical illusion in Joseph’s life. His brother’s come to him after many years, desperate for food. Joseph, by any and all rights, could and should see his brothers and have justifiable hate towards them, maybe even the desire to kill them. He certainly had the authority and power to do so with his position. But, he did not.

Joseph acknowledges to them in today’s Scripture their feelings of distress over guilt from what they have done. Fortunately, he turns the table and says seemingly with joy, that really, they need not worry because God sent him there, not just his brothers. Is that how you or I would respond if we were in Joseph’s shoes? Remember, he had every right to hate them. They had done an egregious wrong to him.

Joseph did not hate them because he chose to see the situation differently. Keep in mind-his brothers DID NOT change-they still had evil in their hearts as we see later in the story. Joseph was not waiting for them to change. Instead, he chose to see things from God’s perspective.

Just like in our optical illusion today, we can see an old lady or a young woman; in life, we can see people’s wrongs against us and let it turn to hate or we can see people’s wrongs as God’s allowance and sovereignty in our lives. It is a spiritual-vision choice we will make. And do not be mistaken-it is a choice. There are only 2 options: One will be hate and anger, the other will be thankfulness and joy. Neither depend on the person or situation that has wronged you or I. Choose wisely.

Not what you were expecting?

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-06-46-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-06-52-amLast year I was praying for the release of Pastor Saeed in Iran for a long time.  Yesterday many were praying for Haiti to be spared from Hurricane Matthew. These prayer requests were very direct-we wanted Pastor Saeed to be let out of jail and we hoped the hurricane would not hit Haiti and do any damage. God answered those prayers, but perhaps not in our time, or with a yes, or in the way we wanted.

I suspect Joseph felt the same way when he was put in prison. If God said “I will do something very kind to you”-wouldn’t you think that kind, loving act would be to get Joseph out of jail, or at least, for the truth to be found out about Potiphar’s wife lying about Joseph? That seems most logical, doesn’t it?

As I read today’s verse, I was thinking how interesting it was that Scripture describes the situation as “The Lord was with him… and showed him kindness.” If you just saw that sentence, what would you think God did? Release him immediately, right? He didn’t. God was kind-and blessed Joseph while in jail, and did, in fact eventually get him out, but on His timetable. It was God’s timetable and God’s plan. God had much bigger plans than just getting Joseph out of jail. God’s plan was for the good of hundreds of thousands of people. It involved feeding those who were starving as well as restoring Joseph to his family.

God’s timetable is not ours. His plans are often not what we perhaps wanted or expect. This is not new news I am sure, but I take this as a reminder. God is God and we are not. We do not have the mind of God and will not always understand His ways. What we do know and understand is that God is kind, God is with us, and He loves us. Sometimes, we will need to rest in that, even when the “love” looks very different than we thought it would. In the meantime, just a reminder, we need to be praying for the people in Haiti today and those on the Southeast coast as this hurricane approaches.

An unlikely seed…

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-9-04-59-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-9-05-04-amWho do you hate? Really hate? No one coming to mind? When we think of “hating” someone it seems very strong (and it is) and we may think we don’t really hate anyone.  I am willing to bet, if we dig down a bit deeper, we might find we do. Today, in Genesis, I was reading a lot about hate in the story of Joseph and his brothers.

We are told throughout the whole Joseph episode of the things he did like tattletaling on his brothers, dreams of ruling over them and favoritism from his dad.  Every time, the end result is that his brothers hated him. Do you see how that hate manifested itself the first time? Look at today’s verse. What does it tell us?

We are told that they “could not speak a kind word to him.” Now, that is not usually our association with hate, but the reality is, it is the seed of hate. It started with not speaking a kind word to him and ended in plans to kill him. This progression happened very fast.
That is how hate works. It is fast acting, but starts with just a small thought or feeling. So I pose a different question to all of us: Is there anyone who we find it very hard to speak one kind word to? This question may not be as hard to answer as the hate one I started with today. Of course, the problem is, ultimately it is the same question, same sin, same ugliness. We know our words are the fountain of our heart and Joseph’s life spells it out all too clearly for us.

Hate, like any other sin, breeds death. Whoever it is that you or I find it hard to speak a kind word to, we actually hate in our hearts, whether we admit it or not. I highly encourage us to reconcile with that person. We will not remain in a state of just being unkind, but it will grow in our hearts to full blown hate-the kind of hate that plans to kill. This hate caused decades of sorrow in Joseph’s family. We should not be so foolish as to think the same will not happen to us if we do not address it immediately asking for God’s help.  Still think you don’t hate anyone? Better think again!

“Go get ’em!”

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-11-07-44-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-11-07-48-amWhen was the last time you ran up to somebody in a rush because you needed something right away? We would only run if it is something very important.

Today’s memory verse is about someone who did that kind of “running”.  The context of today’s verse starts out in verse 17 telling us “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him  and fell on his knees before him…” Something was very important to this man- important enough to run to Jesus about it. We find out that this man was apparently very rich and could buy almost any thing he wanted.  What he could NOT buy was eternal life and he desperately wanted that. Sadly, he wasn’t desperate enough. His money was more important to him and Jesus knew it.

I am sure we are all familiar with this story, and realize our possessions can get in the way of our walk with God. They can distract us or become too important, and we can hold them too tightly.  These are things we need to seriously consider. But there is one other thing I want us to consider today-Jesus’ response. We are told: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” Loved him? Why? How? Jesus knew before he spoke what the man’s response would be and what a barrier his riches were. He knew the depth of this man’s struggles and the internal battle he was having, but He still loved him.

He knows we experience this battle too. Jesus does not look at us with disgust at our battle, He loves us. This doesn’t change the requirement to obey and love Him ABOVE our struggle or “thing” but He does understand. Remember this. Remember when you are choosing right from wrong, and it is really hard because the world is pulling at your heart with all its strength, that Jesus understands the struggle. Pray and ask him to give you strength to “come, follow me” instead of turning back to the world. Remember, Jesus did not change the standard for the man. He still needed to give up his love of money, but Jesus did not despise him for the struggle. He was there to help and ready to have him follow him the instant the man was willing to give up his riches to “come, follow me.”

“Yours”, “mine” or “ours”?

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-8-43-10-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-8-43-15-amThe name “Fieger” is our last name. The pink iPhone is mine. The red football gloves are Aaron’s. The camry is “dad’s”. The Rogue is Rain’s. What about “God”? Is He yours? Mine? or Ours?

Today, in Genesis, we see that for Jacob “God” was his dad’s God, but not “his”.  Look at today’s verse. He calls God “the Lord your God…” Apparently God is not his God. Eventually, God does become his God, but not at this point. Just because God was Isaac’s God, did not automatically make Him Jacob’s God.

Unfortunately, you can not “inherit” God. Just because Dad and I worship, love and try our best to serve God does not mean He holds the same place in your life or even that you desire Him to. Every single person on the face of this earth has to come to a point where they decide if God is their God, by their choice, and by their commitment. We cannot do this for you.

I believe all of you know this and have made this choice, but as I considered Jacob today, I thought I might throw out a few ways to “check” and see how firm that decision is for you. Try answering these questions: If dad and I stopped going to church, would you still go? Are there things you say when you are not around us that you wouldn’t say around us? Are there things you do only at times that we will not know or see? Are there answers to questions you give because they are the “right” answers but not truly your heart? Do you have a desire to obey God daily, or only when it is convenient or observable by others? These are some ways you might be able to tell if God is truly your God or not. It is good for all of us to do this type of check on a regular basis. We need to make sure we are not riding on the coattails of another person’s faith, but instead, have clearly decided to call Jesus our own, and firmly know he is our God.


screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-29-14-pmPrintable15screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-29-10-pmHow exciting are biblical genealogies? Not very, but they are important. (God would not have put them in if they were not!) Take today’s genealogy for instance, the genealogy of Ishmael.

Do you remember Ishmael? They boy who “way-back-when” was laid beside a tree by his mother? She was leaving him because she did not want to have to sit and watch him starve to death before her very eyes. Yes, that Ishmael. The Ishmael who was thrown out of a family and left for dead. Whose life clearly looked like it would end that family line. That’s the guy.

What things looked like and how they turned out sure were different, weren’t they? By all human counts, he was a throw away and as good as dead literally. But this was not God’s plan for him. God planned for his offspring to “multiply so that they cannot be numbered.” (Gen. 16) They did. God kept his promise.

What do we learn about God from this? God’s will is always accomplished. God’s plan can and often looks VERY different than what the human eye sees before it and also what the human brain thinks up. (I am certain Hagar thought of all the options for her son, and none included such a heritage.)

What encouragement can we take from this? Hope. No matter how bleak a situation looks, no matter how much of a life or death situation we are in, God can and does reign and rule sovereignly and will continue to do so in yours and my life as well!

Camels and water…

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-39-06-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-39-11-amIf you came in the house after school or work today and asked for a glass of water, chances are, I am not going to be offering to also give water to your camels. First, you have no camels. Second, if you did, we would have bigger issues than water! That would just be weird.

But it was not a weird thing in Genesis today. It was the “sign” Abraham’s servant hoped God would give him in regards to finding a woman to marry Isaac. It may sound strange to us, but it probably wasn’t strange in their day. This servant was sent to find a bride for Isaac. He wanted to find the right one, and not just the one Abraham wanted, but the one God wanted. He did not try to figure it out alone. He asked for God’s help. He asked God to show him in a specific way (an offer to water camels) who was the right woman and God was faithful to answer in an understandable way.

James 1:5 tells us that: if any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously and without criticizing, and it will be given him. The way the servant asked was unusual, but God answered. The servants desire was that he would align his choice with God’s will. I am certain God was happy to help with that request. When we are seeking wisdom, and especially wisdom to discern God’s will we should never hesitate to ask God. He will be faithful to answer us. If He can use the very mundane things like camels and water, he certainly can and will help us to discern His will by whatever means necessary. But we must ask. No answer will come to an unasked question. Be bold. Ask God to show you what His will is in any decision, and watch to see who or what He brings across your path with the answer. Just let me know if your request involves a camel, so that I can have some water ready!