Be wise regarding “popularity”

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Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 11.27.36 AMI was just informed this morning that Grandpop has been taught how to play and joined in the “Candy Crush” game. Candy Crush is the second top grossing app on the iTunes store. It is the current “rage” to say the least!

Today’s verse, believe it or not, had a sort-of “Candy-crush-era”. A book, “The Prayer of Jabez”  was written in 2000 and has spawned a plethora of other books; “Prayer of Jabez Devotional”, “The Prayer of Jabez for Women”, “The Prayer of Jabez for teens” and many more. It was wildly popular and to some degree still is, like Candy Crush. Why do you think this was so popular?

Read the verse again.The book is popular because who wouldn’t want the same prayer answered? All of us. We all want God’s blessing, and to have our “borders” (read: “stuff”) enlarged as well as to be kept from harm. The prayer is not wrong-this is evidenced by the fact God did answer it, but it also doesn’t mean God will answer the same way for you and me if we pray the same prayer. He could, but He may not.

A few things I think we can learn today from this verse; First, we can ask God anything-Jabez did and we can too.

Second, Jabez only has two verses in the entire Bible written about him. This and one other that tells why he got his name. If our life were to be summarized in two verses, would it include a prayer we said? Would it include something about our relationship with God? What “summarizes” our life?

Lastly, be careful of what is the current “rage” in our society-especially when it comes to seemingly “christian” things. I have read the book, and I did enjoy it. I think it has some truths, but I also believe a lot has been taken out of context. To be honest, if LOTS of people like something that is labeled “Christian”-I would be wary and very discerning. When you see non-believers loving it…question it.

The Gospel is good news, but it is also a stumbling block. It is the exact opposite of what the world teaches. Does the world “love” God? Do they love the teachings of the Bible? How can they “love” a book, movie (ie: “Heaven is for real”) or anything that purports to include biblical truth but not love and follow the teachings of the Bible? Both can not be true. Candy Crush is fine, but when it comes to the popularity of “biblical” things-be discerning. Looks can be deceiving-and so can popularity!

 

Who is who?

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Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 11.04.32 AMWhen you read a book, you need to learn who is who. To write a book report, or answer a quiz question, you need to know “who did what”. Do you know the characters, or people (since they were real), in today’s verse? Who was Judah? Tamar? Judah was one of Joseph’s older brothers, who connived to get rid of Joseph. Did you realize this is the same guy? Does anything else seem “strange” to you in this verse?

Do you recognize the name Tamar? There are two Tamar’s that I know of in the Bible-one of David’s daughters who was raped by her half-brother and this one. Look at that verse again: “Judah’s daughter-in-law bore him… In other words, Judah had children of his own with a woman who was originally his son’s wife. So, I hate to be graphic, but that is like dad having a child with Jordan or Aaron’s wife. Is that messed up or what? If you don’t know the whole story, take a minute to read Genesis 38-and pay attention to the people.

Just as it is important to know the characters in books, it is important to know the people God has put in the Bible. There are a lot of names…and reading lists of them, or short sentences about them can be very boring. But, the more you read, the more familiar you will become with them….and only then can you and I learn from them with the Holy Spirit’s help. Did a bell go off in your head when you read the verse and came to Judah’s name-making you  think of Joseph? If not, then we miss a whole part of his life, which adds to understanding this verse.

I pray every day that God develops in all of us a hunger for His Word. Read it carefully. Pay attention to detail. As you read, you have your own personal “tutor”, the Holy Spirit, right inside you to teach you something no matter how many times you have read it. He is always there with you, just waiting to show you something new. And, as we all know, Scripture is worth reading- because “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness.” (II Tim 3:16)  Your time will never be better spent than in His word…so, read on!

 

“A second time…”

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Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.53.50 AMHave I ever ask you to do something twice? Perhaps I ask you to get your things off the kitchen table, and if you don’t do it the first time, I have to ask again. Perhaps I remind you as Dad and I head to bed to not to forget to close up the house (which I would like to remind you again now as the gates were not put up last night before everyone went to bed and the dogs roamed free….) -even though we have mentioned it before. Why the “second” reminder or message? It is because what ever was requested was not done the first time as requested.

Fortunately, I am not alone in issuing repeated requests. God seems to do it quite often as well. Today, we see him asking Jonah something “for the second time”. Was God’s message any different the second time? Nope. Did Jonah do the request the second time? You bet he did. Have you ever thought about why he did it the second time? The request from God had not changed-so why did he do it?

Jonah did it the second time because HE had changed. His heart had changed. His thinking had changed. After his experience of being thrown overboard and sitting in the belly of a fish, things looked VERY different. Now, God’s request didn’t seem quite so bad!
Perspective is everything. God “requests” that you and I do things on a daily basis as well. That we give thanks, that we pray, that we seek Him and his word. If we are not heeding His requests, He may ask again with some “encouragement” in the right direction. He may allow Jordan to get very sick to draw us to our knees to pray for him…to get back to prayer. He may let us  experience lack of hot water to remind us to be thankful for hot showers that we take for granted on a daily basis. He may allow circumstances in our lives to change our hearts and perspective to clarify why we need to obey Him.

The best case scenario is naturally to obey the first time-and avoid having to be “reminded”. In the long run, first-time obedience, just as when you were toddlers, will always be better than having to be reminded with a heart change or circumstance change!

Turn around…

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Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.26.59 AMWe are heading out for vacation today and thankfully have about ½ of the summer left before school starts up again. Eventually, though, you will have to return to school. Jordan will go back to Liberty and Miriam and Aaron, you will be back in the classrooms at Red Lion. You will return. You will go back.

Today’s Scripture is about returning-not so much physically but spiritually. It is about returning to God. God did not instruct his people through Joel, though, to walk back down a certain path to him, did He? There wasn’t a physical road to God, but there was a “way”. What was that way?

It is found in the beginning of today’s verse; It was to “rend your hearts”. To rend means to tear something into pieces. The dictionary says to “tear with force or violence”. How do you do that with your heart? Why is that word used?

I believe God uses this description because if we are headed in the wrong direction, away from God, turning back is not easy. It takes strength, some pain and perhaps a “violent” turn around. It is not always easy.

Where are you and I in our walk with the Lord? Do you feel close to him? Is it the desire of your heart daily to please him? Do you desire to do His will more than follow the way of the world or what you desire? These are not easy questions for you or me. Our natural inclination is towards the world, me included just in case you forget that!

Because of this, there will always be times in our lives where we will realize we need to turn around. We will see we have made a mistake and are headed in the wrong direction-whether it is in a friendship, in the language we are using that is offensive to God, or maybe just life in general-a callousness to the things of God, and an ongoing love of the world. Whatever it is, we can always turn around. We can always “rend our hearts”-asking God to help us. It may require a “violent” turn away from our habits or behavior. It will take a conscious decision-but, we can return. We are never too far away to do so. And, look- do you see what we will be returning to? We return to a God who is gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love AND who relents from punishing. Now that is someone to run back to- not just walk!

 

Storms eventually pass…

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Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 10.29.59 AMLast night I was a little worried Miriam might get caught in a bad storm while driving home. If the winds were really strong, it could have been dangerous. I advised her if it got really bad, to pull over to the side of the road until it passed. I did not worry that the storm would never end. I knew it would eventually stop. I was certain at some point, the weather would change.

We need to know this about life’s “weather” as well. You already have experienced it, but it is something to really consider and set in your mind. There will be days in our lives that are “stormy”-they will be bad, things may “look” very gray, it may look dangerous. Solomon refers to these as days of “adversity”-and that they certainly are. I would say the day Jordan found out he had lost his room in the new dorm, was a clear day of adversity for him. Things looked very bleak.

There will also be days of great “sunshine” and joy. Christmas day is usually one of them. The day Miriam got her job at Texas Roadhouse was a day of rejoicing. Solomon calls those “days of prosperity”.

The things is-we will always have BOTH kinds of days, seasons and times in our lives- and God has “made the one as well as the other”, just like stormy days and sunny days weather-wise.

We will not always know the “why” for the stormy days. These are the difficult ones-where we have to reflect back as Solomon did and just remind ourselves that God is in control. He allowed the storm and will at some future date, give us a day of “prosperity”. We need to trust that the storm will pass-and not stay forever-even though we can’t see the “sun”.

What is the weather in your life right now? I think most of you are in the midst of a “sunny” day  at the moment-which is good. Thank God for this today. Tuck it in your mind as you look forward to a fun time in Wildwood this week, a day to sleep in today, and no homework due this month! Use these times to strengthen you when you face stormy days. And remember in the midst of the storm-that God will bring you through-just as he brought Jordan through the rooming situation and as he gave Miriam a job when many people have been unable to get one this summer. Use the sunny days as days to see God’s blessings in your lives and the stormy days as times to trust His sovereignty even when you can’t see the sun!

 

A squirrel or Jesus?

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Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 10.16.30 AMThe saying “actions speak louder than words” is often true, but not always. Sometimes, actions are actually lies, that do not accurately portray the “doer”. For instance, have you ever seen someone do something “nice” or “right” but you knew they were doing it to gain favor, or to make a good impression or something. The bottom line is, the action was NOT a true reflection of their heart.

Solomon gets a little more specific about this idea in Ecclesiastes today. Let me give you today’s verse in the “New Living” translation:  ‘As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God.’ I have to say, this as a danger living in the “christian bubble” of  church, school and friends. It is easy to “play the part” but not have your heart in the same place as the actions. We are all susceptible to it. As I have said before, you and I know the “right” answers-or as I call it “the squirrel answer”. There is a story told about a Sunday school teacher who asked her third grade class the question: “What is furry, brown, and eats nuts?” One little boy raised his hand and said, “I know the answer is Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!” He is just saying the “right” answer…regardless of what he really thinks. Our actions can be similar. We can do the right action, but our heart is not in it. I have to say, it is a particular danger when going to a Christian school. I know, because I have been there.

Today, just be aware of this. It is better to listen and approach God with an honest heart- than to “do” the right thing, while not really caring at all. When we go to church this Sunday, pray and concentrate on listening to what God is saying to you specifically. Our presence in church means absolutely nothing to God, if our hearts are not in it.

 

We need strong cords!

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Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 10.31.14 AMThe term “BFF” may be fairly new, but the idea of best friends is not. I have been blessed with MANY “best” friends over my lifetime and so have you. Some I have only had for a “season”, others, I have had for my lifetime. Friends are a gift, and God gives them to us. As a matter of fact, He speaks to us about the value of our friends.

Solomon, the wisest man on earth, who could have anything he wanted and did, in fact, try anything and everything, spoke about friendships too. In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon looks at all of life. It really is not a very “uplifting” book as far as positive thoughts go. He talks about the meaninglessness of life. How we work hard for seemingly no reason other than to just die afterwards (granted, he is explaining life from a view without God). He describes how even when he bought or did the most “pleasurable” things in life-it had no lasting value for him.

BUT, then comes chapter 4, verses 9-12. It is like a glimpse of light in otherwise dark portions. It is the topic of “friends”. Here, Solomon alludes to the value of best friends. In Ecclesiastes, he tells us two are better than one-and verse 12 states: “A threefold cord is not quickly broken”. This verse is often used in marriages, but it is equally applicable to all friendships. Of course, the third strand referred to here is God.

Think today about your BFF’s. The friends of yours who are also committed to following Christ are part of your  3-fold cord. These are the friends who if you fall (physically, emotionally or spiritually) will lift you up. You will not be alone. They will be the ones to encourage you, pray for you, give you good advice. You are the same for them. As a true friend, you are to be there for them to help them through hard times, encourage them, pray for them-and be an accountability partner for them when you see them headed in the “wrong” direction.

Our friends are a huge gift to us from God. Thank God for them and make sure you are a strong cord in that strand of three!

 

A Rock and a hard place…

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.44.29 AMPrintable*Just a quick note to my faithful subscribers and followers: In acknowledgement of the sporadic postings in the past month, I just thought I would mention it is an indication of the crazy schedule currently at our household. We are juggling 2 cars and 4 people with places to go and things to do. This means many early morning “taxi” runs as well as afternoon work drop-offs/pick-ups, hence, the lack in postings on the website! It is all good, and we are thankful for the jobs the kids have been blessed with, but it means there may only be 2-3 postings a week during this “season”.  As things change, I am sure I will be getting back to more regular postings eventually. Hope you all are enjoying your summer!   -Holly

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Have you ever had a friend ask you for advice and you kind of know what they want you to say? Maybe they ask you about a person they want to date or whether they should play a sport or not. You immediately know how you want to answer, but you also know the answer you have is not really what they want to hear. You find yourself between a “rock and a hard place” as the saying goes.
That is pretty much the situation today in our Scripture with a prophet named Micaiah. Of course, the stakes are a bit higher for him. It is not just a friend who wants advice, but the king. Other prophets have already given the king advice-and it was what the king wanted to hear. Micaiah’s “advice” is not advice, but actually what the Lord wants him to say-and, there is a very good chance, if he doesn’t say what the king wants to hear he will be punished and/or killed. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t have wanted to be him!

Of course, Micaiah does what is right-and says what God wants him to despite the consequences-which in his case were punishment. He was thrown in jail for a long time.

Back to you giving advice. You may need to do the same. If you have a friend ask you for advice and you know biblically how you should advise them-it may be a risk-a big one. This is the difference between living for yourself or living for Christ. This is the type thing it may come down to. The Christian life does require some sacrifice-it may cost you a friendship, a time of “punishment” or hardship-but it is the right thing to do. When you find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place like this-if you are having trouble making a decision-always go back to the basics: Choose right over wrong. Always advise your friends to choose right over wrong-and trust God to be sovereign with the results. In the end, you will not regret it-and whatever the cost, it will be worth it.

 

Appropriate Overkill…

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Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 11.45.35 AMYou know the expression “overkill”? If ever we hear of overkill in the Bible, I have to say today’s example is one of the best.

The familiar story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is laid out for us today like the perfect science experiment. The Goal:   See whose God is a real God. The hypothesis: A real God can create fire out of nothing. The test: Build an altar with wood and a sacrifice on it. Call out to your own personal God to light it on fire himself with no human help whatsoever.

So, the results? The prophets of Baal experiment was a complete failure. Nothing. No response. No fire. The results for Elijah? Fire rained down from heaven and pretty much obliterated the altar and its surroundings to bits, including the rocks! That is what I call overkill and it was appropriate. It made God’s point very clear. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind at the end of this experiment who was the real God!

Would you ever do such an experiment? Should we put wood in our fire pit tonight and call to God from heaven to light it so we really can have our faith confirmed? I don’t recommend it and this is a good discussion for another time, but I can recommend asking God to show himself to you in a personal way at times. There are times in our own faith, where we need assurance. It may be a small thing that only you would know; For me, once, it was the presence of a hummingbird, but I knew it was a confirmation of God. Have you ever tried it? Have you ever needed a little spiritual encouragement? Don’t be afraid to ask God, as we see Elijah did,  to “answer” you  so that you may strengthened in knowing He is the Lord, your God.