Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who Came First?

Every culture has a group they look down on. When I was in Romania we were told to stay away from the gypsies. In Germany we were told that the area we lived in was looked down upon for their poor use of the language.

It was no different in Israel back in the day, shepherds were told to stay out of town, probably because they smelled of sheep. But they were also thought to be thieves and not trustworthy. According to "A Visual Guide to Bible Events" most Jews would not do business with a shepherd directly...hmmm.

Yes, Jesus is the great shepherd. And, the sacrificial lamb. And, most importantly, the Messiah. Yes, he came for everyone.

But, I can only imagine how surprised and taken aback the town people were when the shepherds dared to enter the outskirts of town as they looked for the baby in a manger.

There Mary was resting, and the first visitors to come from any kind of distance in the area were the last people on earth she expected to see. Yet, they came and paid their respects to the newborn king.

It was not the first time something like this happened, but it became more evident when Jesus was born that God calls people from all corners of life to come and worship. He is open to receive all those who would want to bask in his forgiveness, his miracles, his love, his peace, or whatever he may offer them specifically.

Only man places limits in his heart and thinking. Ouch!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why Be Born?

As we approach Christmas I am reminded of how much I need Jesus in my day to day activities. How fortunate I am to know he is still alive. He has saved me from the darkness and emptiness that a life without his peace offers.

Accepting his birth, his coming to earth as man, taking on our weaknesses and propensity to imperfection, even his ability to master those and remain true to his natural righteousness as the Son of God is easy for most.

But as we rejoice in his birth let us keep in mind Psalms 89 and 98. There was a reason he came. He was here to complete the oath to David...not as man sees and understands, but in a way that is far beyond.

We are to continue to worship him as they did on that first night. For one day he will return, not as a newborn without skill or ability, but as the man who bore our sins on the cross and came out the winner.

Sing to him a new song continually...for he has done much for all of us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

He Did What?

For years I have had the verses from Jeremiah 29 posted on my refrigerator. You know the ones that read, "I know the plans I have for you...'(verses 11-13). I've heard them so often quoted to bring comfort to those who are going through difficult times.

What I did not realize is why those verses are there.

Jeremiah was writing to those folks who had been carried off to Babylon. You know, Daniel and his friends. "Well, that's interesting," I thought. But there was more. I'm sure it was mentioned in a Bible study or even a sermon, but I simply do not remember anyone pointing out and 'connecting the dots' in verse 4.

God caused them to be taken there.

Now, just think about that. Here are some well-to-do-believers following all the precepts of God, taken away from their home to a foreign land to serve in the courts of a king who could care less about their God or their beliefs.

Yes, the Babylonian army took them because of their social standing. But more importantly, God ordained the righteous to go too.

Verses 5-10 tell them to relax...start families...make a life for themselves...don't believe everything they hear...they are going to be there a while.

Jeremiah's letter had to have arrived to Daniel and all his friends because there is no mention of any one trying to escape and return back to Israel. Perhaps this letter made the suffering, challenges and testing a little easier to manage.

I have to wonder. How many times does God place difficult situations in our paths on purpose? How many times was I just to relax, get on with life, etc. rather than worrying about getting out of the stressful situation and back to where I was?

Or, was I focused on the problem or change rather than looking to see what I needed to do for God in the situation I was in?

No one wants their peace disturbed in their lives, I know I don't, or their faith tested. But, sometimes it appears God does. And when it does, He walks right beside us all the way...for He knows the plans He has for us.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where's the Respect?

In moving us back to Texas my husband found a place in a small town just outside San Antonio. He was so excited about the find, that is, until he told me the name of the town. His side of the phone was met with instant silence. "There?" was all I could think. I was not thrilled but, I opted to give it a look-see.

To my surprise the town had spruced itself up and exposed its charming features. Within weeks we all fell in love with the area. It offered the small town life we had become accustomed to, with quick accessibility to the big city.

Nazareth had the same issues. It had a great location...on a hidden plain near the top of a hill not far from the international highway and there was work to be had in the building up of nearby Sephoris. The road up to Nazareth was a steep narrow winding climb, so strangers did not travel there much. On the far side of town was a cliff which, by the way, had a great view of the Jezreel Valley and Mt Tabor.

It too was thought to be insignificant in value as a town goes.

It sat in the lower region of the Galilee. The people of the area were known for having parties like the Romans; friendly dealings with strangers who crossed the region; not taking the rabbinical law seriously and neglecting traditions; having eight other gods worshiped there; poorly speaking Hebrew while attempting to add Greek to their vernacular. Overall, they were thought to be warm-hearted, impulsive, generous, conscientious, earnest, hot-blooded, hard working, brave, manly, and more concerned with honor than money. (Sketches of Jewish Social Life by Alfred Edersheim; Day of Discovery)

It is no wonder the thoughts and attitudes of the day were reflected in what Nathanael stated, "is there anything good that can come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46-50)

As Jesus began his ministry the people of Judea had to overcome the fact that he came from an insignificant town in the non-respected area of the nation.

The combination of this with the fact that he was speaking with authority, healing, forgiving, being recognized as being sent by God, and giving the pharisees what-for in his answers to their unanswerable questions would have peaked people's curiosities.

What did they find? He was something good. Yes, he continued to talk to and help gentiles, Romans, and (gasp) women. He rocked the boat in the lives of everyone who had contact with him.

But those who got to know him, really know him, found he was worthy of their time and attention even if he did come from Nazareth in the Galilee. He was worthy of dedicating their lives to. He still is.

Monday, November 21, 2011

From The River of Refreshment to The Sting of Temptation

So Jesus is baptized by John in the river Jordan. His Father speaks from heaven, proclaims him as His Son and acknowledges He is doing a great job. (Matt 3) You would think that things are going to be smooth sailing for him. After all he has the favor of God in heaven.

But nooo, he is taken into the wilderness. He has to go without food, water, or comfort for 40 days, just like his ancestors did for their 40 years. (Matt 4)

And just when you think he has suffered enough, the enemy of God comes in and tempts him...telling him to make his own food out of rocks; prodding him to test God's angels to protect him from injury; offering him all the power and control of the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship.

In each case Jesus spoke scripture and cut the enemy's argument down. He stood his ground. He remembered who he was and did not falter from that. He knew it was not going to be an easy road but he chose to ignore the draw of the human desires within him.

I need to remember this. I don't like it when things go awry, or temptations jump into my path. I like peace and stability. But I guess if Jesus had to face temptations and bumpy roads then it shouldn't be any surprise that it happens to believers. I just hope that the next time I have 'to deal' I will remember Jesus knows what it's like.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guess Who's Here

For centuries the Hebrew nation waited for the Messiah to come. Finally the timing was right, men throughout the nation were claiming to be the Messiah while Jesus was walking the roads of Judea and the Galilee. Some were even named Jesus by their parents.

Remember, many times they called Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth.

So perhaps that's why even those around him didn't recognize who he was. They knew he healed people, sometimes in ways they had not seen before. This made him a prophet, a healer in their eyes. They knew he spoke with authority, opening up the law and the writings of the prophets in ways they had never known. This made him a teacher, Rabbi, in their eyes.

Even his own disciples had to be coaxed to know and state who he actually was. Not just a great speaker who could draw a huge crowd. (4000 is a huge crowd.) Not just a voice who could calm the elements. Not just a prophet who could read others' needs and thoughts. Not just a rebel who spoke to women, tossed the tables in the temple area, and told the pharisees how bad they were. (Matthew 16)

In the October newsletter from Jewish Jewels Neil and Jamie Lash wrote:
"It is recorded in Jewish sources that 40 years before the destruction of the Temple (approx. 30 AD, the year of Yeshua's death), the sacrifices lost their power, and the gates of the Holiest of Holies opened by themselves. There was a scarlet cord tied to the door of the Temple that would turn white if God accepted the death of the 'Scapegoat' as atonement for the sins of the nation of Israel. IT CEASED TURNING WHITE around the time of Yeshua's death. He had made the final atonement!"

All those signs were pointing to Jesus as the Son of Man, Son of God, the one and only Messiah. And, yet the people didn't get it. They missed the mark. They missed the peace. They missed the way into heaven's gates.

They were so busy with life the way it was and keeping it familiar that they missed the best gift of all, having Jesus walking around their town.

But, the good news is death could not hold him. Oh, it tried and the pharisees tried but death did not win. Jesus is still here. He lives in each us who accept his ticket through heaven's gate. He's here and he's here to stay.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Down At The River

The river Jordan runs through Israel with twists and turns and can easily be crossed during the dry season. However, I heard in a sermon once that some parts of the river could grow to be almost a mile wide when it did rain. The Rio Grande River that sits between Texas and Mexico has similar traits.

And like the Rio Grande, the Jordan River serves as a border. In fact, the border to the promise land. According to In The Footsteps of Jesus, by W.E. Pax, this is what made the Jordan River stand out in importance above other rivers in the land.

But in the book A Visual Guide To Bible Events, by Martin, Beck, and Hansen, the writers showed that there were three significant events in Israel's past that made the Jordan and the place known as 'Bethany on the other side of the Jordan' (located about four and a half miles north of the Dead Sea and east of the Jordan) a particularly special place to baptize.

The first one came before the nation crossed over to the Promise Land. Balaam (Numbers 24) who had been asked to speak curses over the Israelites ended up speaking blessings and prophetic words. He announced the coming of the one who would crush the enemies of Israel.

Which was followed by Moses turning over his leadership of the nation of Israel to Joshua. God commissioned Joshua through Moses in this very area. (Deut. 31:14, 34:9; Numbers 27:23)

Later in 2Kings 2 we read that Elisha followed Elijah across the Jordan River, watched him be carried off to heaven in a chariot of fire led by horses of fire via a whirlwind which caused Elijah's cloak to fall thus resulting in Elisha inheriting the cloak. His commission, so to speak.

This is important because it was later that Malachi spoke of a new Elijah coming before the Messiah's arrival. (Mal 4:5) Jesus pointed out that John the Baptizer was this new Elijah in Matthew 11 and 17.

So it was. God had a purpose for this spot. There was significance for the baptism of Jesus in this place. What a perfect location to begin His ministry, to receive His commission to do the work He was sent to do, of opening the eyes of His people to the truths of the Kingdom of Heaven and the God they serve, of laying down His life so that all of us could join Him in heaven one day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Importance of a Father's Name

What's the big deal about a name? Should that detail be important to me?

Some details escape me. For some reason I decide a detail isn't important when in actuality it holds a key to understanding something more. I have always had a hard time reading through the list of names given in the old and new testaments. But over time I have come to realize they are there for a reason.

Have you ever read the family trees quoted in Matthew 1 and Luke 3? Did you ever notice one is different from the other?

One is the tree for Mary and the other is for Joseph.

I always wondered why it was important for the writers to have those in the gospels. According to In The Footsteps of Jesus, by W.E. Pax, it was the father's lineage not the mother's that determined a child's lineage. In fact, even if there wasn't a biological link, the legal father gave the child his ancestry, his name, his legacy.

Lineage and ancestors were a key part of life in those days. Those names were not picked out of a hat. They were important. Those names established the right for Jesus to claim to be the Root of David, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Lion of Judah. The list goes on.

It was for the skeptics of the day that the names were listed. Similar, you could say, to the credentials listed after someone's name, or a bio given before a speaker takes the platform.

So, is that detail important? I say yes. It confirms the fulfillment of multiple prophecies regarding the Messiah.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wedding Blues

In the days of Jesus there was a traditional path taken when it came to getting married.

Your father chose your future husband. After the details were worked out, you became betrothed which meant that you were his wife. You may not live together under one roof, in fact you weren't even left alone with one another, but you were still his wife. Only a divorce could dissolve the arrangement.

The actual wedding ceremony didn't take place right away; you had to wait sometimes up to a year later. The groom would come to your house, pick you up, and either escort you by hand or have his friends carry you on a pallet to his house to start the party, which could last more than one day. Now, that's celebrating.

This had to be Mary's dream...her dream wedding so to speak.

But it all changed when the angel showed up. When she agreed to God's plan for her, she gave up her dream wedding plans. She didn't know if Joseph would send her away with a divorce paper, or worse, try to have her stoned for being pregnant. One thing she had to know...her wedding ceremony, if she had one, would not be the way she had always dreamed.

Her "what-did-I-agree-to" thoughts had to be filled with how to tell Joseph? What will he think? Will he still have me as his wife? Will he divorce me? Is this really happening to me?

Of course, we know how it all ended. But for a young girl named Mary, in the first days after she found out she would be the mother to the Messiah, she had no idea the blessings that would follow. All she knew was that her marriage to Joseph would be starting off on a different foot than one she had desired.

She was not only breaking dreams but tradition as well...that had to be a hard pill to swallow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Way to Get The Word

The book In The Footsteps of Jesus by W.E. Pax mentions that the writer of the Apocrypha book "Protevangelium of James" writes that Mary was at the village spring-fed-well when she first heard the angel speak to her. (Though it is considered to be written too far away from the time of Jesus to be counted as a valid by most, I find validity and peace in it.)

According to the account, Mary seeing no one there at the well did what any normal human would have done...she ran home. Once she was home and busy working with a cloth while sitting on a stone stool in her home she was approached by the angel again.

For years, I pictured the episode happening in the middle of the night. Waking up to see the angel in its brightness standing over her is a good reason to hear 'don't be afraid'.

But then I learned that families tended to all sleep near one another...not much privacy for an angel to talk. Mary's voice alone would have awakened someone.

No the prospect of hearing an audible male voice in the day light, at a well where all the other young girls and women from the town are gathered, with no man around. And, then in an empty house, with everyone gone, you're all alone, to have an angel appear before you is more frightening to me. I would need to hear 'don't be afraid'.

The phrase itself is suppose to calm the person down because a special message from God is about to be spoken and the person needs to listen up. Keep this in mind, one moment no one is there. The next an angel's there talking to you saying the strangest things. Then he's gone.

I can only imagine the look she must have had when her mother and sisters arrived back home to see why she ran off from the well. It all makes perfect sense to me when I put it into that perspective. That's why she was able to go right away to see Elizabeth. That's why her family helped care for the children when she and Joseph had to go find Jesus in the Temple...they knew who he was and why he had to be found.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No Way Like The Highway

Never having given much thought to how people traveled in ancient Judea and Galilee, I just assumed the roads were nothing more than mere foot paths. But there were major roadways that, in fact were long established.

One major highway going through the holy land was the International Highway. Beginning in the southwest near Heliopolis, Egypt it followed the Mediterranean Sea before moving inland to Hazor, crossing the Jordan in the direction of Damascus and making it's way over to the Persian Gulf via Babylon. Merchants traveled this road taking their wares from east to west and back again. The "Day Of Discovery" program mentioned this road was also known as Via Maris, or the Way of the Sea.

Another roadway was the King's Highway which began at the Gulf of Aqaba traveling north, east of the Jordan through Perea and Decapolis, also known as the Transjordan region. The highway crossed the IH then eventually curved back to the east to meet up with the IH again.

A lesser highway yet equal in age, the Ridge Route, traversed the region between The Sea and the Jordan River. According to A Visual Guide To Bible Events, which quoted Josephus' book Jewish Antiquities, it was probably the road the villagers from Galilee traveled to get to Jerusalem. This road took the travelers through Samaria; which leads me to an interesting thought. A 'good, upstanding' Jew would not have traveled through a region they considered unclean, yet Jews who were despised because of where they lived had no trouble traveling that way.

Because they did go the 'you'll be unclean if you go there' way they were blessed by the places they passed; some of those holding the remembrance of God's covenant, or acknowledgements made to God. By the time they reached Jerusalem the whole purpose of the trip would have been steadfast in their spirits, making them ready for the festivals and the full meaning each one held. I wonder if this could be compared to listening to worship music on the way to church.

No matter which way they went the people needed to travel together in caravans. There were so many thieves and gangs roaming the roads that they needed to have a group, a large group, to keep the thieves at bay. I think that's a cool thought...traveling together to worship, celebrate, and sacrifice at the Lord's Temple.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What A Time For A Visit

Of all the visits Jesus made to Jerusalem one stands out as odd. When reading Luke 2 my focus has been on why an obedient boy would forget to leave town with his parents. I totally missed a whole other lesson.

According to A Visual Guide To Bible Events there was another point to be made. The Hebrews often related things to numbers, or in numbers. When the Babylonians destroyed the temple it was seventy years later that God provided a way for the exiles to return and rebuild it. From that time on the Hebrew nation began to look for God's deliverance at the end of a seventy year stretch.

Seventy years from the time the Romans seized Jerusalem people began looking for divine rescue again...and look who walks into the Temple. It's not the well-built-obviously-strong-man who can take on the whole Roman army with a single hand walking in and getting everyone's attention. It's a boy asking and answering questions as he prepares for his first step into adulthood.

Of course the people were wanting, expecting, and looking for a deliverer...not the Sacrificial Lamb Messiah. I knew they wanted Rome gone from their city, but I never quite got why there were so many people naming their babies Jesus, or why so many claimed to be the messiah, or why they didn't see his miracles as coming from the hand of God. Now it all makes sense.

How sad for the people who didn't catch on. I've got to wonder if there is ever a time that Jesus comes into my life as a deliverer and I don't recognize His hand at work because it's not the way I expected it to come. Ouch.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Magi Re-visited

There's more to the story of Herod and the Persians who came to see Jesus than has ever been explained to me. Understanding the back story, as writers call it, makes the story so much easier to understand.

Twenty plus years before the magi walked into Jerusalem Herod had a run-in with the Persians. (By the way, Parthians and Persians seem to be synonymous.) Apparently, Jewish loyalists who were trying to get rid of Herod and his family enlisted the help of Persians. In the process Herod got out of Jerusalem while the getting was good and headed straight for Rome. He convinced the Roman Senate to acknowledge him as king of the Jews.

Of course, once Herod return to Judea he had to fight some battles for the right to keep the title. By battles, I mean he killed those he felt were a threat to his title, including two of his sons.

Some versions read that the magi came asking for the ‘true’, or ‘legitimate’, King of the Jews. I would bet that Herod was livid and saw these rich men with their rich gifts as a slap in the face. You see, in those days, it was considered good and proper to bring gifts and greetings to a new king. To not do so was quite an insult, a slap in the face so to speak. Considering Herod’s history with the Persians, we can assume they didn’t bring him any gifts when Rome gave him his title. Thus, the country had already previously given him quite an insult.

Yet, he put on a happy face and told them he wanted to also acknowledge this new king. Notice he did not go with them. I always wondered why he didn’t go with the magi and find out where Jesus was himself. How easy would that have been for him? Now, I know, that would have meant he was accepting Jesus’s place as King of the Jews.

Can you imagine how different things would have turned out if Herod had gone with the wise men? Herod would have lost his power...the people would have revolted against him...placing Jesus in the palace...Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would not have redeemed the stay in Egypt....Jesus would not have been raised in the quiet countryside away from the politics of Jerusalem...crucifying Jesus would never have happened. He would only have been God Incarnate. He would not be our Sacrificial Lamb understanding all the ways men fight temptations and deal with the struggles of life.

How awesome to have a friend like Him who choose to take the hard road for the greater good.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wisdom From A Star

After the birth of Jesus wise men came from the east. They are called ‘wise’ because they figured out what God was showing in the night sky as they looked toward Jerusalem. They were wealthy because they brought expensive gifts...which means they had a large ‘protection’ squad with them. (Considering the way things were in those days they had to have loads of security with them.) So, I’m thinking many people saw this visit, even if it was in the wee hours of the morning when the stars were still out.

Both and A Visual Guide to Bible Events (which quotes James Martin’s book Exploring Bible Times) talk about the possibility that these men studied Daniel’s teachings and that they were not just astrologers but officials in the Persian (Parthian) government.

Several points support this. First, there was still a Jewish remnant living in the Babylon region. I didn’t know this until recently.

Second, the gifts they brought would have taken many well-to-do people several years to accumulate. If the men had been ‘just astrologers’...would they have been well off enough to afford the expensive gifts? The large number of people to protect said gifts? And, the money and resources to afford a long trip with such a large group out to Judea and back home to Babylon?

Third, the men inquired in a way that indicates they knew some protocol to take when seeking to bring tribute to royalty. There's more to say on this point, but I think I'll leave it for next week.

I can only imagine the thoughts that ran through the minds of the citizens of Bethlehem as they dwelt on the visits. Who is this boy? Back when he was born, that same night, those shepherds came to see him. And now, people wealthy enough to be kings, dressed in Persian clothes, are here to see him. Who told? How did they know?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Which Lamb?

I am still focused on the birth of Jesus. There's so much information out there in books and programs which fills in the gaps that for some reason has escaped my attention throughout the years.

The shepherds with their flocks in the fields outside of Bethlehem were not just any shepherds. Some of them were working for the temple. Many of the lambs from those flocks were taken to Jerusalem to be sold for sacrifices. (A Visual Guide To Bible Events)

Now isn’t that interesting...sacrificial lambs were just over the ridge from where THE ultimate sacrificial lamb was born. How cool is that?

All these years my focus has been on the Great Shepherd being born in a town known as the birth place of King David, a shepherd who became king. Points have been made about the shepherds being the appropriate people to greet our Heavenly Shepherd that first night. I never gave much thought to the Lamb portion of it.

So now when we think of the birth of Jesus we can say He was born near the sheep who before His arrival symbolized His sacrifice. He was announced to the shepherds who also symbolized His leadership over a difficult people. And, as the true King of the Jews He peacefully rested not far from the palace of the man who killed and fought his way to be a king.

God is so good to teach us in a variety of ways. He shows us things that are tangible to teach us a lesson or to give us understanding. Then taking that understanding He shows us there is a deeper meaning, a symbolism, that directs us to knowing Jesus better.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Inn?

All my life, when I have thought about the birth of Jesus, I have pictured the inn that had no room as a two, maybe three, story building. Of course, to my way of thinking, the stables would also have been located on the edge of town. You know, so the smell was away from the town and it's people.

Then I found out recently that the countryside in and around Bethlehem was filled with caves. These caves were often used to house the local livestock. In fact, many homes were built over caves. (A Visual Guide to Bible Events, and In The Footsteps Of Jesus) The family lived over the cave and their animals stayed in the cave below...basically, all under one roof. I can't even imagine the smell and hygiene of the place.

So, come to find out, I was naive to think any of that.

According to Sketches of Jewish Social Life by Alfred Edersheim there were set-ups called khans, which served as a place for strangers to lodge outside of a town. These places were built in the shape of a square and opened up in the middle. The people stayed in the unfurnished rooms that surrounded the open square while the animals and carts, etc. stayed in the open court area. Feeding troughs would have been all over the place.

Here's another interesting fact. People who stayed in these places did not have to pay for the room. However, there was always an available caretaker who would see to the needs of the people and their animals for a price. Can you imagine that? Having a place to stay without paying upfront costs?

Still, all the rooms were taken, and after giving birth Mary had to stay out in the open area with the animals. (Note: There is a tradition-marked cave where Jesus was birthed. Sounds like she was granted privacy for the actual birthing experience.)

No matter what your station in life is - that has to be 'no fun'. Yet, like any new mother all she probably saw was the sweet face of God Incarnate; all she probably heard was the soft cooing of her son; all she probably smelled were the cloths from home that wrapped her son in comfort.

It wasn't perfect. It wasn't proper. But, they made the best of it and used what resources were at hand to serve a purpose. That's a great lesson in focus.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

He Never Changes

God has always prepared my family for moves from one city to another, or from one church to another. We've asked and He's directed, with confirmations in tow.

He is also a never-changing God. So, how He treats me and my family now is the same way He has treated His beloveds over all the ages.

Many times lessons from Matthew 2:13-20 give the impression that Joseph took his family to a foreign land filled with only foreign deities, perhaps hiding out during the entire stay. But I found something that confirms everything I know about God the provider and shepherd.

At the time of Jesus, there remained a large number of Jewish refugees in Egypt. One city in particular stands out to me...Leontopolis. According to A Visual Guide to Bible Events the Jews in this area were a large group with much affluence. Among them were the relatives of the Zadokite priesthood, the true branch of priests, who continued their practice at a temple in that city. (To fully explain this significance would require several pages of historical information.)

In any case, can you see it now? God provided not only financial support but more importantly He provided moral support. If Simeon and Anna recognized him as an infant then you know priests who wanted to stay away from any corruption in the Temple in Jerusalem would recognize Him as soon as He entered their midst.

How wonderful to know that the time in Egypt was refreshing, restful, rejuvenating and reaffirming for the family before the years of trial ahead of them. I see it now as the eye of the storm. I know what God has done for me...I know He would do that much and more for His one and only Son.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

AHH, The Heat

Seems like lately all people are talking about around here is the heat. It’s so hot all the time. There’s never a let up. The cool part of our day would normally be the high.

Sunshine and warmth are known for bringing good moods. But I’m here to tell you that what I see happening is shorter tempers from the relentless heat and discouragement from the lack of rain and cool breezes. Makes you wonder if this is just a taste of what Jesus meant in Matthew 8 or Revelations 16.

There is an old saying: if the heat’s too hot get out of the kitchen. There’s another saying: if the heat’s too hot stay put and fight the heat.

The first saying has always stumped me since I first heard it as an adult. My first thought was ‘what in the world does that mean?’ How does one know it’s too hot for you anyway - just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s so unbearable I should leave. And, what does leaving prove?

If leaving was the answer I never would have stayed on in nursing. My first job alone would have done me in. My first year of marriage would not have led to 26 years of marriage, and still going. There are so many other examples I could name.

Nothing is perfect. But everything is worth fighting for. Fighting for a change...for improvement...for results.

Perhaps it is the Irish, or Scottish, or French, or Spaniard, or Indian in me that doesn’t mind a fight. I like and understand the second saying. My mom shared it with me the other day after reading it in her devotional booklet, The Daily Bread.

I have also found that sometimes what we feel is too much heat is actually there for a purpose. To show us what we can do. To show us we do have strength. To give us compassion. To prepare us for the next fire.

With God as our lead, He will use all things for His good, for His purpose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pharisees Again

Two weeks ago I wrote about Pharisees. Guess what the sermon was about this past weekend? I have to wonder, what message is God trying to get out?

The Sunday message included video clips of 'Christians' who instead of radiating God's love were shown as rule givers, lacking in compassion for victims while blaming illnesses and tragedies on the sins of the people affected. Their faces were filled with anger and sour expressions as they made their point. No sorrow was shown. No mercy. Like it or not the world sees the church as being represented by these people.

It all begs the question, 'Where's the love?' Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment in Mark 12:28-31. His reply hasn't changed. We're still to love the Lord our God completely, which means, as my mom love from your guts. But we're also to love others, even our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You know, I didn't realize how much I loved myself in a self-centered way until God began asking me to do things that showed love to others. It's been a slow still-on-going process for me. It is a struggle to love the unlovable but I try. We each need to try, to the best of our ability. I admit it brings me relief knowing I don't have to be perfect, I just have to try.

In closing today, I would like to quote from Akiane, her life, her art, her poetry. The last paragraph states, "Akiane is convinced that the greatest gift we could give to God, who has everything and does not need anything except our love, is for us to love one another and walk in faith, day by day, hour by hour."

What a statement! Written that way, it was an 'I-get-it' moment for me. And, I will try everyday to remember that what I need to do is love God and love those He brings across my path.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Flipping through Proverbs 29 my eyes fell on verse 11. Basically it says those venting their anger or feelings completely are considered foolish - OUCH!

Initially I pictured someone red in the face, spewing curse words, speaking normal words with so much anger that it changes their impact. But, not everyone blows up like that. I know I don't.

How many times have I heard, have I said...I just need to unload; I just need to vent; I just need to get it out of my system. The truth of the matter is that the more I talk about it to family or friends, the more it sticks as a memory and the more I dwell on it, thus causing me to talk about it some more. Yet, I know I need to get it out of the memory banks of my mind. So, what am I to do?

The rest of the verse speaks about holding back or keeping it to yourself. How do I do both?

Well, Jesus is my confidant and my friend. Not only is He the One to whom I must confess my sins, but, also, He's the one to whom I need to confess my feelings and anger. He understands me better than I understand myself. He can help me get it out of my system and begin the walk to forgiveness.

I just need to remember to go to Him to complain, gripe, vent, unload, the list goes on. But I must leave it there and as far as anyone is concerned keep it to myself. That is my next step to wisdom.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To Pharisee or Not

While researching Biblical times I was struck with some awful similarities between pharisees and some modern day believers.
I knew the pharisees had all kinds of laws to help regulate the right and wrong of activities --upwards of 600 in fact. But the one that stood out was the interpretation of a Sabbath’s day walk, which it turns out was only about 1/2 mile. Can’t get too far with that hanging over your head! The odd thing is they expected everyone to follow all these rules and were highly critical of those who didn’t.
As I pondered this I was struck by the number of times in my past I looked down on people who did not attend church weekly; even belonging to a church whose active participants felt that all should be there whenever the doors were open.
Ouch! That’s hard to do even for someone who wants to be there. I must admit, I tossed the concept around in my head...until I went to visit my Grandma Elsie.
Often in our conversations I was perplexed why she refused to go to church, always finding various reasons why she couldn’t attend services. Then we went to visit her and my eyes were opened.
She lovingly accompanied us to church but explained she would have to sit in the back row. The back row held extra cushions, and afforded her the opportunity to get up and stretch her legs whenever sitting became too difficult, which she did...more than once during the sermon alone.
Ouch, again! What was I thinking - putting pressure on other people for not tolerating long services nor attending regularly. Who was I to judge why someone wasn’t there at church? Who was I to think that excuses for not attending were flimsy? Did I think of myself as better than so many others?
I now see I was no better than those Pharisees. During that time I was more of a pharisee-Christian than a Jesus-copying-Christian. Ouch again...not a pleasant analogy.
I goofed big time. I have confessed. I have been forgiven. And, now, I try to walk a little less condemning in that area especially.
One thing I have learned...what God lays down for me to follow and practice may not be what He has shown someone else. But, to him who much is given, much is expected...even if it is just knowledge. Luke 12:48

Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

God’s call to write a book has brought me to a place of challenge and blessings. The enormity of God’s request can be overwhelming for me, to a point of feeling defeated. A while back, as I wallowed in this struggle I attempted to distract myself by watching the movie, Evan Almighty. What I discovered was a revelation, a blessing filled with reassurance.
Just like Noah, God called Evan to build an ark – he was a newsman-made-politician for Pete’s sake. And, just like Noah...what did he know about building an ark?
Of course, in the movie, God supplied the materials and a book of instructions. Evan had to deal with criticism from his family, friends, and co-workers. But he persevered and eventually built the ark with the help of his family.
As I think about Noah, I realized he most likely had an enormous amount of obstacles and an increase in ridicule to overcome, probably very similar to the ones Evan experienced. It had to be quite a challenge! Can you imagine Noah’s thought process when he realized just how big a boat God asked him to build? I’m sure the boats used at that point were small vessels.
So, do you think that was in his comfort zone? To build an enormous ark? Being asked to write a book has been a similar experience for me. It is definitely not in my comfort zone.
I figure it this way, if Noah can meet his challenge of HUGE boat building, then I can certainly continue in my book writing. And the next time I get a “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding” look from someone when I tell them I’m writing a book, I’m I hope I think of Noah and his ark.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Am I Ready For Plan B?

My plan A has been simple: marry, raise my children for God, live a quiet stable life, and grow old with my husband. However, as I look around at all the things happening in the world today I have to wonder if we are headed for an occurrence of biblical proportions? And if we are, am I ready?
Conservative and Christian leaders speak of the awful decisions being made that could affect all of us. If you listen too long a sense of despair sets in. Some rightfully encourage prayer to stop bad decisions and change things back. But, what if God says “no”? What then? What if the country is overtaken because we let down one defense too many?
What if a disaster occurs again causing even more changes?
At first, I think, oh that can’t happen. God would not allow His people to suffer that way. But, then I read the Biblical book of Daniel.
Even as a youth he and his family were faithful to their God, the God of Abraham. How do we know this? Daniel knew what was expected of him as a Hebrew, God’s chosen people, and he stood by those values. In a sense, he was a good person.
Just imagine what he was thinking when his world came tumbling down and he was carted off to an unknown city.
He stood strong, as did his friends who even had to face certain death just to prove a point. But, they all survived and lived to set further examples for all people...even to this day.
Before I start scaring myself and others, I have to realize that God does work all things together for His good. As my mom says, “What’s the worse that can happen? So, you die and go to heaven...that’s the best thing!”
Even if this country looks like it’s going to ‘pot in a hay barrel’, or that God has stopped hearing our prayers because bad things are happening to good people, or that times are tough and getting tougher, I must trust that my God is working it all for His good...not my good. His call His people back to create a strong desire for Him and His call people who have never known Him.
Plan B may never have to be put into action but I must be ready for it. And, I must remember that God will never let me out of His hands to travel a road alone.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rocking My World

I have chosen this name because it is rocking my world and my comfort zone to have a blog site. I never thought I would be out there on the web creating posts on a blog but I am. Heaven knows, it has taken me long enough to do what comes so naturally to so many. But, if others my age and older can manage it then I will too. Actually age has nothing to do with is a technology issue. Those of you who know me know that I am very slow in understanding, utilizing and applying man’s innovations.
I will post at least once, maybe twice, a week. I hope to answer any and all questions anyone reading my blog may throw my way, or if you have a subject for which you want another opinion. I hope to challenge myself and others with new things I learn from Jesus about our Heavenly Father, about the spiritual realm, about life in general. Perhaps bringing a greater understanding of God’s love for all of us.
Join me in my adventures as I learn to add blogging to my comfort areas. Together we can rock our worlds.