‘Tis the season…

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 1.26.14 PM

It has been 13 days since my last post, which was one of (are you ready?) 6 posts in the month of June. Clearly summer has begun, a new season of weather, a new season of activities and a new season in my life for this website.

Hopefully you are all enjoying some summertime sun and activities as we are. I am happily enjoying having all the kids home and being blessed with their friends visiting as well. Along with those activities there are summer sports, 4 people’s job schedules, various family activities, church functions and get-togethers when possible. It is all good. It is all from above. It is all busy. This seems to be the season God has me in at the moment and I expect that to continue through August. In lieu of these things, while I am continuing my own personal devotions, it seems I am being led to take a break for the summer here. I wanted to let my few faithful readers know just so they didn’t think the website had gone completely under! I am praying to see what God would have me do in the fall here when that new “season” comes.

51KtrZbp0iL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I thought on my last post of this season,  I would leave you with a book recommendation for the summer if you are looking for something to read. I just finished the book: Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin and can not highly enough recommend it. Her subtitle is spot on: How to study the Bible with our hearts and our minds.  I continue to go back to my notes from it and it has greatly helped me in my own personal Bible study since reading it. If you can, read it.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful summer, stay in the Word, keep praying, let the Word of God dwell richly in your hearts and strive to live a life worthy of Him. May we all continue to “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Have a great summer and I look forward to the next season!

~ Holly

Put away the sword sharpeners…

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 10.55.07 AMPrintable15

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 10.55.12 AMThe Orlando massacre was a horrible tragedy. Do you know anyone who could have talked that gunman out of doing that?  What kind of person would that take? In fact, who could talk to N. Korea and Russia, and ask them to stop investing in nuclear armaments? Who could walk into the ISIS training rooms and explain why this bloodshed and war needs to end? Can you truly imagine that ever happening? What human being could bring peace like that? I know world leaders will continue to try and I believe they do want peace for some good reasons, but I don’t believe anyone will be able to fully accomplish this-except God.

Micah speaks of the day when this will happen. He says “in the last days”…and then in part of the description of those last days, he tells us that someone will judge between peoples and nations and they will put down their weapons. That means ISIS, N. Korea, and even the US. It is truly going to happen one day. The reason it will happen is because God will be ruling and with his all-knowing wisdom, he will settle all disputes “for strong nations far and wide.” Only God has the wisdom to do this to 100% completion. Only His wisdom, leadership, and right justice will be able to make this happen, and it will. I don’t know the date, but here is what I do know.

That wisdom, right judgment and leadership of God is available to us right now. While He will apply it to nations on some day in the future, Jesus has already told us that the “kingdom of God is at hand” and that He came to bring “peace on earth.” He says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) Are you and I experiencing that peace? Or are we still trying to “settle” some disputes on our own? Are we at “war” figuratively with someone or something and constantly sharpening our “swords” (words) and spears? I suggest today that if this is the case, we look at what Micah says God will do and what Jesus told us He has done.

God’s wisdom and judgment have the power to settle all disputes now and bring peace between peoples and nations. In order for yours and my “weapons” to be put down, and turn into tools where we build alongside each other, we need to stop depending on our wisdom to resolve our disputes. Instead, we need to seek God’s wisdom in His Word and through prayer. Once He has shown us his wisdom and what is “just” and “right”, we need to follow His instruction. If we do this, peace will follow. We will be able to lay down our weapons and stop fighting. If you or I find ourselves in any war of words or otherwise today or in the future, I suggest we reexamine exactly whose wisdom we are following. Ours or God’s? Do you really want to keep fighting to the death? I am sure we would all rather be at peace with one another-and Jesus told us this is possible IF we would just obey Him.

American traditions…

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 9.40.40 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 9.41.05 AMIf you were to ask a foreign visitor what funny traditions they have witnessed in America, what do you think they would say?  Halloween? Homecoming? Perhaps they would say Americans wear their shoes in their house, which many other cultures do not do. Maybe they might even mention Groundhog day observance or Black Friday shopping. All of these are practices and traditions in our “culture.” I suspect we don’t  give most of them a second thought.

I am reading through Micah now.  I came to the verse above about the Israelites following traditions and other nation’s practices. God was not happy about it. Most of the book of Micah is God pronouncing judgment on his people for all the sins they are committing. They turned their back on God and his statutes, and have gone their own way. God is going to judge them and bring them to repentance, but it is going to be very painful. (History attests that this did happen by the way.)

As you and I read the Bible, the most important thing we need to consider is what does this tell me about God? (Yes, this is more important than “how does this apply to me?”) So, what does Micah and this verse in particular tell us about God? At first glance, it tells us God sees what they have been doing. With excessive sin, God “gives” people “over” to certain things, which means He allows things to happen at times that are painful and are not the things we would want to happen. If you read more in the book, you can see the specifics sins committed. Some include idol worship, “statutes” (rules) of other gods-one named here as “Omri”. This means they were adopting some worship practices of other gods in that nation. They were taking bribes, telling fortunes, shedding blood, defrauding and more. God could not and would not allow it to continue.

God wants us to worship Him, and Him alone. He does not want or tolerate worship and practices of other gods or ungodly behavior by His people. We do not live in Samaria or Jerusalem, but we live in a nation with many traditions and practices. Many are not good or bad, but we still need to be careful. We need to always keep in mind that our God has given us instruction. God will not tolerate us “worshiping” other things than Him. “Worship” means to “adore”.  Always keep check on what we truly “adore”.  Do we love what God loves or what “America” loves? Do we practice things that are considered “ok” in our culture but go against God’s instruction as given in His Word? Just as an example, I can think of the tradition of going out for “Happy Hour” after work on Friday-this is a common “practice” for those in the work force. Would this be a wise practice to adopt as a believer? These are all things to consider as we get to know our God. The more we know God, the more easily we will be able to discern what He is calling us to do.

State of denial…

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 12.35.55 PMPrintable15Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 12.35.59 PMI forget where we were going the other day, but one of you kids saw someone smoking in their car. Your response was, “I can’t believe people still smoke.” I can’t either. We all know there is not one good benefit from smoking. It has been proven to cause cancer, is a total waste of money and there are a multitude of other reasons not to smoke. So, why do you think people still do it-especially young people who decide to start now knowing all these things? Do they think they are immune? Do they think they will not get cancer from it despite clear proof? It makes no sense to me.

I believe part of the reason is the same logic that we see in Micah from ages ago. Denial. Wishful thinking. Call it what you will. People have an innate (fleshly) desire to believe what they want to be true. Sadly, even to the point where they can see with their eyes it is not true, but they still desire it to be so deny what is before their very eyes.

This was the case with the people in the days of Micah. The prophets of their time (think CNN or FOX host) were supposed to be the ones speaking truth, and their response to prophets who did speak the truth was to say “Don’t say that.” What? Don’t “say that” like by not saying it, it would not come true? The people and the false prophets did not want the truth spoken. They didn’t want Micah or others saying judgment was coming. They didn’t want to hear that God would not put up with the sins of their idols, false worship, and unjust treatment of others any longer. The sad fact was though, hearing or not hearing did not change the facts. Judgment was coming. Sin had a cost, and God’s wrath for that sin was in their future-whether they wanted to hear about it or not.

This was a reminder to me today and perhaps for you too, to not take sin lightly. I am reading a book called “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges which is doing a good job of pointing out the sins I am “overlooking”. The ones we all let “slide”. It is a reminder to me that the same God who was going to judge the people in Micah’s day for their sins still feels the same way towards sin in my life today. Sin has a cost. As believers, God will continually work in our lives to purify and cleanse us of that sin, to bring us to conviction and repentance. Is there sin in our life we are trying to deny? The more we fight that, the more painful I suspect it will be. It is foolish for you or I to see sin in our life, have it pointed out, and just think, “well, that doesn’t apply to me” or “I am immune to that”. We are not. Sin has a cost and God will deal with it whether we want to “hear” about it or not. It is always better to work with God in any area of conviction He has shown you or I than against Him. Let us not be fools and deny the plain truth that is before our eyes.

Remember…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 10.40.20 AMPrintable15

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 10.39.32 AMMiriam got me a really nice “One Line A Day” book at Liberty before she came home. The idea is to enter 1 memory a day in the book for 5 years. I love this idea and have since bought a couple more of these to give to friends as gifts. I am so forgetful,  I am certain I will enjoy looking back on my entries in this book through the years.

I am not the only forgetful one though. This seems to be a common human problem. Life happens fast, we move quickly from one day to the next, and as the years go by, it is easy to forget things we have done and people we have met. It is also very easy to forget the things God has done in our life. It is one thing to forget little events. It is another to forget  God’s working in our lives. Today we read in Micah one of many verses throughout the entire Bible where God actually instructed His people to “remember.”

In this passage He asks them to remember when God instructed Balak through Balaam and a speaking donkey! He tells them to remember their journey from Shittim to Gilgal. These were times and places around when they were entering the Promised Land. The Life Application Bible tells us both of these incidents were times involving God’s covenant which included protection, warnings and blessings. They had forgotten about this, turned away from Him, and were definitely not experiencing “blessings.”

Remembering what God had done would strengthen their faith. It would enable them to be able to trust God more. It would give them more motivation to obey God, knowing He cared for them and it was to their benefit to follow and obey as they reflected back on their past walk with God as a people. They would even remember the results of what happened when they stepped away from God and his instruction, and this would be a deterrent to repeating such a poor choice.

It is the very same for us. We must remember how God has moved in our lives. Right now, if I were to ask you  “What was one time you clearly saw God acting in your life?”, how would you answer? How would I? Can we even recount 1 time? Is it recorded? I am not great at doing this myself, but I certainly try-and I will keep trying. I do not want to forget the ways God has worked in my life, and clearly He does not want me to. He doesn’t want you to either. Record it somewhere. Somehow. Remember. It will be vital to our future spiritual growth and the strength of our faith in God.

“Free reign” may not be so great…

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 10.52.25 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 10.52.33 AMDad checks at least 10x a day to see if a room has opened in the Commons 1 dorm for Miriam. This is only one of the thousands of ways he has watched over Miriam and helped her at Liberty. He has done the same for Jordan and will do the same for Aaron wherever he chooses to go. He advises, watches over and assists you all because he is your dad, he loves you, and wants to help you make good choices as you are maturing into adults.

Apparently, though, dad is not the only one watching over you. God is too, according to the Psalm 1. Let’s take a closer look at this verse.

First, who is God watching over? “The Righteous”. Who is that? That would be God’s people, believers, Christians. No one is ‘righteous’ without Christ, so this has to refer to those in the family of God.

God watches over his family. Let’s consider when you were a child, how dad watched over you. Did he let you run out in the street? No, you could have been killed. Did he let you boys play football at young ages? No-he realized the potential for physical harm was too great. Did he pay for Miriam’s piano lessons? Yes, this was a good thing for her to learn when she was interested. He watched over and made decisions that affected your lives. There were rules to keep you safe.

Now, consider if he was not your dad or he gave you free reign to do literally anything. Let’s say he let you go wherever you wanted, drive whether you had a legal license or not. What if you could do whatever you wanted when you wanted however you wanted with no rules. How do you think your life would end up? Would you be alive now? Would you have bothered to go to school, especially once it got hard? Would you have bathed as a child? What might that look like compared to your life right now?

That is part of the picture Psalm 1:6 is painting. It is life with God watching over-or life without God, which ends in death. With God as our father, He will help us, guide us, lead us into wise decisions and ultimately help us fulfill our potential to complete the good works He has prepared for us. The way of the wicked will not do any of this. Remember, God allows every person to choose which “way” they want to take and that choice will determine if life is lived under God’s care or outside of it. The best choice seems pretty clear to me.

Keep that ‘bottle’ with you all day!

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 10.26.53 AMPrintable15

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 10.26.47 AMAll 3 of you use the green Gatorade bottles for water so you can stay hydrated while working out. You need to do that. Without water and good hydration, you will not be as fast or strong or even endure through an entire game. In fact, in Miriam’s case, she might even pass out all together. That is how important the water is.

And, that is how equally important God’s Word is. This week I am reading through Psalm 1. It talks about a tree planted by streams of water-this tree needs that water, like you need your water bottle for workouts. It is vital to its health every single time, every single day. But let’s back up a little in this Psalm and take a ‘broader’ look.

This psalm contrasts 2 type of people-the “blessed” man who ‘delights’ in the ‘law of the Lord’ and the “wicked.” These are the only 2 types of people described, and today there are still only those 2 types of human beings on the face of this earth. Those who delight and seek to obey God-and those who don’t, the ‘wicked.’

God’s description is pretty clear as to which are which. The wicked listen to advice from bad or ungodly sources (others who have no desire to follow God 

whatsoever), they stand (or hangout) “amongst” those who have no inclination for the things of God, and they sit around with people who make fun of others and mock God, or His people. The ‘blessed’ man loves God’s Word, His instruction. He would look for opportunities to hear it day and night. He would probably have friends who like to listen with him in some way shape or form. The ‘blessed’ man is like a tree by the stream that soaks up the water EVERY DAY. He tries to soak up God’s Word any way possible (think music, podcasts, reading, talking with other believers, church services), being constantly in touch with it during the course of the day so that he is healthy AND so that he ‘bears’ fruit when the time comes. His life is vigorous, productive and healthy.

Which are you based on these descriptions? Which am I? Remember, there are only 2 kinds of people. I don’t see a third described. I don’t see middle ground. We are either seeking God as evidenced by actions, desires and obedience, or mocking Him with others who also mock His statutes and are like a tree dying that just doesn’t know it. Ultimately, the question is, how valuable is God’s ‘gatorade’ bottle to us today and for the rest of the days of our lives?

No product is truly “age-defying”…

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.46.08 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.45.45 AMMiriam has offered to let me use some of her makeup that works well on fading age spots and even-ing out skin tones.  I appreciate this and I am  definitely going to try it, but the fact remains- I am 51. Whatever “beauty” I may have had in younger years is definitely fading or completely gone.

The good news is-that doesn’t matter. My worth never was or should be in my “looks”. I am confident from God’s Word, that I am still of value and its for the same reason we are all of value. Looks fade, but our purpose in life does not. This is a difficult concept I would think for you all to really comprehend. You are 15, 19, and 21 respectively. This is the prime of life. It is a time when your bodies are “looking” their best. It is hard at your age to grasp the importance of Solomon’s words in these verses, but not impossible. Give it a try.  Here are some additional translations to help. Solomon tells us;
“beauty is vain”: not lasting, fleeting, fades away, can trick you, evaporates, doesn’t last.
“fears the Lord”: respects, honors, reverences.
“fruit of her hands”: what she produces, what she has accomplished or done
“praise her in the gates”: give her credit for what she has done, her good deed will bring her honor and recognition, public praise.

The bottom line is-beauty will fade for both boys and girls. What will last is the kind of person you are, the things you do for the Lord, and in particular, if you are choosing to live a life for God or for yourself. Are we choosing to live a life “fearing the Lord?” That starts now-not later.

The things we do will last, are seen by all, and will be proof of our answer to the question from above. What would you and I be praised for? What “works” are we known for by our friends and relatives? Boys, obviously, your “works” are important too but along with that, this verse is a good reminder to not let a woman’s looks overshadow your viewing her character. Look deeper than their looks. Looks can and will often be very deceiving. As we have already mentioned, there is much more to consider when you start dating and get more serious that just looks.

Miriam-consider these words, and be challenged by Solomon’s words to be that woman who “fears the Lord” above all else. Jordan and Aaron-you too should strive to be men who “fear the Lord” but also, as you find girls that you are interested in, never forget what will truly matter. Do not let a woman “charm” you with her looks at a party or in life in general. They can be deceiving. Her works and her actions now and in the future, will in the long run be much more telling in regards to who she is and where her heart lies.

Don’t imitate Gaston…

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.08.30 PMPrintable15

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.08.36 PMGaston is the biggest braggart I can think of in any movie. Nobody likes him. He goes about telling everyone how great he is. Ugh!

Today’s Scripture talks about bragging. We are told not to “boast” about being saved. Our salvation is completely due to God’s choice-and nothing we have done to earn or work for it. God does not want us bragging about it.

Have you ever been tempted to brag about being saved? I doubt it. I haven’t. We understand that God has given us an amazing gift in salvation, but I was thinking that whole boasting part doesn’t really fit me. Why did God include that?

I suspect to fully understand this we have to consider the audience Ephesians is written to. It is a letter written to mostly Gentiles, who have become believers. There was a HUGE divide between Jew and Gentile in this day. If you were a Jew (religiously speaking) you were “better” than the others. You were one of the “chosen people.” Think CEO versus homeless person from a religious perspective. (Seriously, Gentiles were not even allowed in certain places of the temple!) Jews were in. If you weren’t a Jew, you were lower, not as good, not as respected. Now that the Gentiles had been able to become believers, maybe the temptation was to say, “Hey, look at me. Now I am in the ‘in’ group.” Maybe there was  temptation to boast about it. I am not sure, but my guess is that is why God made it clear to be thankful, not to boast. They hadn’t done a thing to earn this privilege or status. It was all the giver, God, not the receiver.

We may not boast about salvation, but perhaps we can contemplate other areas we are tempted to boast about. Are you smart? Am I good with the computer? Are you athletically talented? These are NOTHING compared to salvation, but I still think it is a good reminder that we didn’t “earn” those things either. You and I may have worked hard to learn some things, to get good grades, to stay in shape or so on, but ultimately none of those things would be accomplished IF God had not instilled the ability in us in the first place. We have nothing to brag about.

Keeping these things in mind today, I hope we can be more humble. May we be more thankful for all the gifts God gave us. May we never take credit. Above all of this, may we begin to comprehend the love God had for us to redeem us with his Son’s blood so that He could give us the gift of salvation. The more we understand the depth of that love, the less we will ever be tempted to brag about anything.

Been “blown away” recently?

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.54.05 AMPrintable15

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.54.10 AMI  have recently spoken with a number of parents of middle school children. Unfortunately, one of the things I continue to hear is how hard middle school is and how mean some middle schoolers can be. It seems one of the reasons is because middle schoolers are very easily influenced. They can “turn” on anyone at any time. No one is free from being a “target.” The sad part is, someone who may have been a friend yesterday may turn on you today. It just takes a suggestion by another friend or someone pointing out a flaw to be made fun of. Next thing you know, one innocent person is being emotionally battered (or physically pushed around) in an instant when they were least expecting it…and who knows who is the next victim?

This same idea of being easily influenced that you and I experienced in Middle school is what Paul talks of today in Ephesians. He tells us to no longer be infants, or for that matter, like children, tossed back and forth by the waves. Easily influenced. He is not referring to middle school meanness though, he is referring to doctrine-good doctrine verses false doctrine. God knows and has told us through Paul in Scripture, that false teachers will come-and they will teach lies. We are not to believe these. We should not be constantly changing our “stance” on doctrine. The only way to avoid this is to know the truth. This verse starts out with “then.” It comes after a section where Paul is encouraging the Ephesians (and us) to be built up in the faith and knowledge of God-so we can become a mature body of believers. Only THEN will we not be blown around by those “winds” and “waves.”

Just as you matured from Middle School and hopefully, are not as easily swayed to tease or make fun of fellow students, you and I should be maturing in our faith. We should be growing in the knowledge of God, so that we know what is not truth. We should know if someone preaches “God wants us to prosper and be happy all the time” that this is not true. We should have James come to mind who speaks of trials we will go through. Being mature in truth would mean knowing that a church who decides that homosexuality was not really forbidden in the Bible, but was just a cultural norm, is a church that is twisting Scripture and is not teaching truth. Being mature enough not to be blown by the winds of false doctrine would include holding to the truth that without Christ a person is destined to hell, a real hell-eternal separation from God. We would know there is only one way to heaven: Jesus. Being a mature believer means being built up by the body of other mature believers, who are teaching truth in church, in books, in Bible studies and other ways, and availing ourselves as often as possible to them, so that we are not “blown away.