Don’t get “pulled over”…

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Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 9.52.52 AMHave you ever seen some one be pulled over to the side of the road by a police man? (Thankfully, you all have not yet experienced this!) Often when a person is pulled over for speeding and ticketed, once they are  done and drive away, they tend to drive very cautiously and obey all laws. There is an instantaneous “heightened” awareness of the driving laws and obeying them.

That is the feeling I get when I read about the Israelites in today’s portion of Scripture. They were at that “heightened awareness” point. Today’s verse is just one of an entire section regarding how the Israelites obeyed God’s laws precisely once they were permitted to return to rebuild the temple. They built altars and celebrated the God-prescribed festivals. I can’t put it any better than the Life Application Bible notes that say: “Almost immediately after arriving in the new land, the returning exiles built an alter… after many years in captivity, they had learned their lesson. They knew that God does not offer protection to people who ignore him. They had been carried off  by the Babylonians when they were strong; now they were few, weak, and surrounded by enemies. If ever they needed to rely on God’s power, it was now. They realized the importance of obeying God from the heart and not merely out of habit.”

It is good to have times of heightened awareness that bring us back to obedience, but far better to just stick to obedience. Wouldn’t it be better to not have to worry every time you see the police, than to fear them? It is very simple to reach this point: Drive the speed limit. Obey the law. It is not much different with God, but instead of fear of a ticket, obedience is to our advantage in that we will have God’s protection and blessing on our lives. Ignoring God and his commands has serious consequences. If we don’t stray from obeying-than there is no fear of “getting caught.” Instead, we can live in the joy of the Lord and freedom from fear.

 

Masks…

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.53.10 AMPrintable1511728793_10153421623307808_5645037722884639184_oPastor Betters senior posted some pictures on FB today. They are of objects used during persecution in Scotland back in the 1600’s. One item is thumb screws-which they would use on people to get them to “recant” their faith. Another is a mask that preachers would use to protect their identity during the persecution. Their lives were at stake-if they could cover up their identity, then they couldn’t be punished. The mask worn on the outside hid who they really were on the inside or behind the mask.

The masks worked to hide the preachers identity but masks don’t work to hide our identity or our “insides” from God. God points this out today in Zechariah. He is calling his people out. He asks rhetorical questions above to which he knows the answer. The people were NOT fasting for him, even though it may have looked like it. When they did eat and drink-they did it for themselves-despite what it looked like and/or what they were saying. This reinforces the basic principle we are told in I Samuel 16:7 that “The Lord does not see as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Always. He always looks at the heart, the motive of what we are doing.

This is always a good reminder for me and hopefully for you too. When I read this I thought of two questions:
1) What are those things in my own life that “outwardly” may appear to be ‘good’, but where my motive is all wrong?

2) In some ways it seems to me that everything I do is for myself-so maybe the easier question to answer is do I do anything with a pure heart for God?

I am still contemplating these questions. In fact, I need God to really point these areas out to me so I can see where things need to change and where I need to repent. Perhaps this is the case for you as well.

Masks only cover up true identities. The real person is always behind the mask-whether it is a physical mask, or invisible mask of “actions.” Let’s pray God will help us remove any masks we are not aware that we are wearing.

Apple of all of our eyes!

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Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 10.43.03 AM“The apple of my eye” is such a strange saying to me. I think we all know it means a person of whom one is extremely fond and proud or something or someone that one cherishes above all others. But how did they come up with that expression? Apparently, in Old English, the pupil of the eye (the round, dark center) was called the ‘apple’. It was thought that the pupil was a round object much like an apple (a piece of fruit). When you look at someone, their reflection appears in your pupil. So if someone is the ‘apple of your eye’, he or she is someone that you look at a lot and enjoy seeing. This expression is used in today’s Scripture in Zechariah, reminding His people they are the apple of His eye. In fact, it is used in Scripture many times.

This morning as I was reading Zechariah and praying I was wondering if everyone had a good time this weekend in Wildwood. I was thinking how I hoped you did. How I wish and hope our family times are fun memories and times together. How I care so much about how you are doing, whether things are going well in your life for you, and how dad and I enjoy giving you things and opportunities for joy, hoping that is the outcome. As I thought about this I realized this is the exact picture of what it means for someone to be the “Apple of my eye”. The three of you are definitely the “Apples of our eyes”-just like God says we are the apple of His eye. I am sure this is why God talks about himself being our “Father”.  I am sure this is why He did not plan in the whole salvation plan for us to become his “sibling” or “cousin” or anything else.  There is really no better picture to use, than that of a parent and child. What does a parent love more than their child? You can almost visibly see the love. That is what God wants us to see and realize.

I thought of all the ways dad and I enjoy giving you things,  how we want things to go well for you, how we love to help you and increase joy in your life as much as possible. This is the same way God loves us all. It is so clear to me how throughout Scripture this is what God has always tried to do-show His love to his people every way He can-while protecting them, showing them the ways that He can bless them the most. It is his hearts desire that His “children” love Him with their whole heart, and that He loves us in thousands of ways. Of course, there is a difference between how God loves you and how Dad and I love you . God is perfect, and always loves perfectly. Dad and I are not-we make mistakes. We get it wrong sometimes and are saddened when that happens.

But for today, remember-you are all the apple of 3 people’s eyes: God’s, Dad’s and mine. We cherish you above all others-even if you may not always feel we do. Whoever “touches” you touches the “apple of our eyes”-all 3 of ours!

“Return to me”…and I am not referring to the movie!

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Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 1.11.34 PMThe valedictorian of my high school class I am pretty sure is now a proclaimed atheist. I heard another classmate of mine who was an “MK” (missionary’s kid)  is also an atheist. These are both very smart, nice people I grew up with who were raised in Christian homes and went to a Christian school. We have seen some of the same thing amongst some of your classmates and fellow graduates as well. Do you ever wonder how they got to this point in their life?

For some reason this ‘turning away” was the first thing I thought of when I read today’s Scripture in Zechariah. The claim is not exactly the same—but the end result is. You can see above this is a warning to the Israelites not to be like their ancestors. We know that throughout the Old Testament, prophets warned the people to turn back to God-but they did not “hear or heed” God’s instruction…they didn’t listen to the prophets who were speaking on God’s behalf. The people were living a certain way-obviously “evil ways” and “evil deeds” were involved-and they were told to turn back. To head the other direction. To turn away from these deeds and ways.

I wonder if any of my friends who have turned away have been approached by others and encouraged to “turn around”. I suspect they have, but I don’t know. Obviously there are those who do listen to God and heed His warnings and those who do not. This begs the question: Which category are we in?

Paul tells us to examine ourselves and maybe this is God’s reminder to us to think about it. When we read God’s Word, do you and I see areas God is pointing out in our lives that are “evil ways” or “evil deeds”? Have I been convicted about any sin in my life recently? If so, am I repenting and turning away from it or am I turning away from the conviction and continuing in the sin? Is there a pattern of humility in my life and am I accepting of  “constructive criticism” when someone points out an area in my life that needs to change or do I get very defensive instead?  Do I have any friend who would be bold enough to confront me with sin they may see in my life? Perhaps that is the place to start.

I don’t know what has lead some of my friends to fall away from Christ-but I do know somewhere along the line, they did not listen to God-whether He spoke through a parent, friend, or pastor and they did not turn from the path or “way” they were on. I suspect what they heard did not affirm what they wanted to do, and therefore, they did not listen because their desires were stronger than the desire to follow Christ-and be willing to die to self. The challenge to the Israelites thousands of years ago is the same to us today: Do not be like your ancestors (or perhaps in our case, some of our classmates) …who did not “hear or heed” God. Instead, “return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you.” (Zechariah 1:3a)

A Word to my faithful followers….

Email-List-buildingJust a quick note to my faithful followers:

I wanted to write a quick apology for the sporadic postings of late! I am thankful to say that so far it has been a wonderful summer for my family, but also very busy. God has blessed the kids with jobs and our family with surprise visitors and numerous opportunities for mini-vacations with friends and family. Due to all of these activities… routine has been disrupted to say the least! Lack of routine leads to lack of posting the devotions in this household, so I wanted to at least acknowledge this to you all. I suspect that this pattern will continue for the rest of the summer, so the devotional postings may vary through the weeks. In the meantime, I encourage all of us to stay in God’s Word, Scripture memorization and in prayer on our own daily-no matter how disrupted the routine gets. I know Satan rejoices anytime he can keep me away from those things, so I continue to try to be faithful and not let that slip too!

Have a wonderful and safe rest of the summer-I will post as often as I can in the coming weeks. I plan to be back to daily posting once school starts up again!

~Holly

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.