Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Word of God and the word of God to me

So, the day is dawning that I knew was coming.  But it still came with a jolt.  Don's job is ending in June.  He turns 70 in May.  Our net income will drop over 25%.  All three of those things are big. Nothing too fun about getting older or "poorer".

I find that as long as I continue to read the Bible and books on spirituality, and talk with fellow Christians, God continues to reveal Himself to me and reveal myself to myself. Mostly Don and I have been happy about our choices of working part-time over the last 25 years. In an age where it seems like "everyone" says you need two incomes to live, we have defied that and thrived.  We are soon to start the "how much money do you need to retire" phase of life. What is going to happen to us now? Will we just survive, which I am sure of, or will we thrive, which I am not sure of?  Enter the scripture reading for the week from Exodus and Matthew.

In Exodus 1 human fear and the fear of God are on display.  

6Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves. 15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrew you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”
It doesn't take too much of a leap from the text to realize that the new king feared what would happen if the Israelites, who outnumbered the Egyptians, joined up with enemies of Egypt.  Out of that fear, the new king (Pharaoh) decreed that the midwives were to kill the male children born to the Israelites.  

Fear can sometimes lead one to do desperate things, even sinful things. As Don and I begin this new unknown, are we going to press into it with fear?  Are we going to lose sleep over it and frantically try to figure out a solution?  

Compare Pharoah's fear and knee-jerk and tragic response to his fear with the response of the midwives.  The text says that they feared the Lord and did not do as they were commanded.  They could have been killed for not obeying.  Instead they lied about the reason the Hebrew baby boys were living.  And what did God do for the midwives for their God-fearing obedience, which also involved lying?  He blessed them by opening their barren wombs.  

Will Don and I trust God in our new circumstances-circumstances which are a direct result of choices we made a quarter of a century ago?  Will we believe God? Will we believe verses like "Do not fret, it only causes harm?"  Or, this section of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew:

6:25 I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds?
27 Can worry make you live longer?[e] 28 Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. 29 But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth[f] wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. 30 God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith?
31 Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” 32 Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. 33 But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.

 In Exodus 2 God is shown not only to be a saviour but a super saviour.

Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews' children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water."
When we think of the story of baby Moses most minds go to the idea that Moses was saved by someone as he floated down the Nile River in a basket.  That in itself is a miracle because so many of the baby boys were being killed off at the decree of Pharoah.  But there are many more providences in this story.  Not only did God save Moses by having him plucked from the water, he upped that miracle big time.  All of these actions came into play: Moses mother was able to hide her baby for months.  When he could not longer be hidden she was able to make a water-tight compartment, place the baby in it so it could float down the river.  She had to know it might tip over.  She was able to send her daughter to keep an eye on the basket.  Of all the people bathing in the river, the Pharoah's daughter was the one to find the basket.  Upon seeing that the baby was a Hebrew baby she could have just drowned him right there as I'm sure her father would have wanted her to do.  No, instead she took pity on him.  Moses' sister had the presence of mind to suggest finding a Hebrew mother to nurse him.  I'm sure there were some Egyptian women the Pharoah's daughter knew who could have served as a wetnurse.  Moses' own mother got to raise him at least until he was weaned and then Moses got to be raised in affluence.  Lots of amazing circumstances all coming together at one time, wouldn't you say?

So, how should Don and I respond to any anxiety at this time?  If a story containing so many amazing providences don't speak to us in our current need, what will?

In Matthew 8 and 9 people respond to Jesus and His power in two diametrically opposed ways.

8:28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men.34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

9:20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 
In the story of the the demon-possessed men, the people of the town choose to be fearful and send Jesus away from their area...most likely because they were looking at the herd of pigs that rushed over a cliff.  Maybe they feared a similar loss of income if they let Jesus near them.  I have no idea.  Why didn't they look at the marvelous thing Jesus did in healing these men?  Again I have no idea.  Note to self:  Look for the good in circumstances, not necessarily how a circumstance might impact my life.

Notice the reaction of the woman in the second story.  She has heard of Jesus the healer and she can't get near enough to Jesus fast enough.  

Can Don and I be open to whatever God has for us, even if it means some of our desires for retirement get pushed over the cliff?  Will we want to draw near to God and touch his hem or will we begin to accuse God and tell Him to leave us alone?  

Only time will tell.

Last day of work is in three months - June 29th.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Motivation-Do the Right Thing Over Time

In Genesis 28 Esau decides to marry a daughter of Ishmael because he sees that Isaac,his father, dislikes the women of Canaan.  It's interesting to me that after Isaac dies in chapter 35 the Genesis records says, "Esau took Canannite women in marriage."  I don't know the timeline.  Maybe he took Canannite wives while his father was still alive and this history is just recorded after Isaac dies.

It struck me that sometimes we can make a right decision for other people but unless we make it from a deep conviction, we may not be able to sustain those good choices over time.  Afer all, how often do we believe, want, and purpose to do this or that and we still falter?  How much more will we fail if we are only making good choices to please others. 

What is your motivation for doing the right thing?  

May the peace of Christ be with you as you ponder issues of motivation.

The Only One Who Can Qualify Us

I am in a book discussion group with Linda and Venus (a new Facebook friend from China) on D.A. Carson's work Praying With Paul:  A Call to Spiritual Reformation.  In Paul's opening lines to the church at Colossae, he tells them that they will share in a future inheritance because God has qualified them through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.  (Colossians 1:12-14)

"...and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

In my last blog I talked about how God sent people on journeys in the Old Testament.  Being willing to go where God told you to go was a test of faithfulness in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, the journey to God / Christlikeness/Eternal life is likened to a race.  

In a track and field race there are qualifying heats.  If you don't get into a top position in your heat, you do not advance to the next race because you did not "qualify."

In our Kingdom race the only way to even make it to the starting line of the event is to "qualify" to run the race.  Because we are too impeded by sin to qualify, God has provided a qualifier for us and that qualifier is his son, Jesus.  Why is Jesus able to qualify us?  He is not impeded by sin; He never sinned.   We can appropriate that sinless life by embracing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for our own life.  We do this by faith.  Once we do this, we are qualified for the race.

At this point we can step up to the starting line because we are qualified to race.  Only Jesus and those Jesus has qualified can stand at the starting line.  No faith in the work of Jesus, no qualification.  Period.

Sometimes people believe and trust Jesus and instead of stepping up to the starting line they sit in the bleachers or hang out in the infield. They assume qualifying is enough to win or finish a race! But alas, they never ran the race!  

Maybe you have trusted Christ but you did not realize there is more to the race then just getting qualified.

I urge you to get into the race.  Here are some great verses to encourage you to run full out for Jesus.  

I Corinthians 9:24-27
Galatians 2:2
Galatians 5:7
Philippians 2:16
Philippians 3:14
Hebrews 12:1-2
II Timothy 4:7-8

Jesus paid a big price to qualify us, so let's get running!  I leave you with my favorite section of the Bible, Hebrews 12:1-2

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Pace of the Journey

Genesis 33:12-14
Then Esau said, "Let us set out, and I will go at your pace." But Jacob answered him, "You must know, my lord, that the children are small; the flock and herds are suckling their young and I am concerned for them, and if the men overdrive them for a single day, all my beasts will die.  I beg you, my lord, to go on ahead, and I will go by easy stages at the pace of the children and of the livestock that I am driving, until I come to my lord in Seir." (New English Bible)

The Old Testament is full of stories of journeys  from one place to another.  In Ezra and Nehemiah the Israelites return to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity.  In Joshua, men were dispatched to spy out land.  In the book of Exodus, a whole nation fled on one days notice.  Here in Genesis, the family of Abraham is commanded by God to leave their homes and go to a land God would show him.  And now, in the text above, Jacob returns to face the brother he deceived two decades earlier.

What I find particularly interesting in this story is the description of the pace of the journey.  We read plenty of  God telling people to "Go," and sometimes "Stay," or even, "March around the city." Sometimes he tells them what to take on the journey.The pace of a journey is not often described in the Old Testament.  

What I liked about this passage was Jacob, the leader of the family, was very conscious of the condition of his loved ones.  They were tired and so were the nursing cattle.  He wanted all who belonged to him to arrive safely, so he was determined to "go by easy stages at the pace of the children and the livestock.

Notice that Jacob didn't just stop the journey because the children were tired.  They keep moving and arrived by the same road Jacob would have taken had he been traveling alone.  

My take away for my life is that God does not have a different standard for younger-in-the-Lord Christians vs. mature Christians.  All that say they know the Lord are to obey the Lord.  We are not to cut people slack in the expectations of God for their lives.  Not at all. Yet, like children, baby Christians may be traveling at a slower pace. They may have more questions, they may take a few more bunny trails than mature Christians.  BUT they are still on the journey.  We don't need to dumb down the journey by making excuses for sin. We who know God's command, for example, that we are not to lie do not then turn around and let those who are younger get away with lying because "that's what children do."  Instead of making excuses for those who lack maturity and experience, we are to slow our pace to answer questions, rebuke or encourage our fellow pilgrims to stay on the "narrow way," 


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Are You Building An Altar or a Tower

This week my Bible reading was in Genesis chapters 8-14. Highlights in these chapters are Noah after the flood, God's covenant with Noah, the tower of Babel, the call of Abraham, and Abraham and Lot separate.  I took a lot of notes this week but my mind kept coming back to things that were built in these stories:  altars and a tower.

I'd like to begin with establishing a framework for why people in the Old Testament built altars. They were built for worship, commemorating an encounter with God, as a memorial, while making a covenant, and to find refuge.  Here is the link where I found this information.  Building altars in the Old Testament seems to be a good thing, unless the altar is being built to a pagan god.  The altars being built in this portion of Genesis are by Noah and Abraham.  

After the flood subsided and everyone is out on dry land again, Noah responds by building and altar. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that he build this altar because he was grateful for his whole family being kept alive when everyone else on the earth was destroyed. God responds by promising to never destroy the earth again by flood. Genesis 8:18-22 speaks about this covenant.

"Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him.  Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Chapter 9:8-17 show God speaking out loud to Noah, instead of in his heart (Chapter 8). He reiterates his covenant and introduces the sign of that promise - the rainbow.
""Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,  “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you,  and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.  I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” 

A few chapters later, Abram is introduced.  After leaving his home, prospering, and then separating from his nephew, Lot, we find Abram building an altar.  Shortly before building the altar, God tells him about all the land he will inherit and all the children he will have. Childless Abraham believes that God will give him this land  and he also believes, that though getting up in years, he will have children. 

The Tower of Babel is built in Genesis 10 and 11. I was surprised in my reading when I realized I was only half right on the reason the people built the tower.  The part I remembered was that the people wanted to build a name for themselves but what I did not remember was the reason behind their wanting to make a name for themselves.  See the Genesis chapter 11 account below:

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.”  So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. 

They built the tower because they didn't want to be dispersed. They felt by strengthening themselves they would be secure.   We know how that worked out!


These chapters in Genesis are very important pieces in the history of God's early dealings with His people.  There is much food for thought on obedience, faith, patience, vision, security, providence, etc. and I think those may only scratch the surface!

Reflecting on the actions of altar building or tower building I have a few parting thoughts.


Altars are no longer part of the landscape for believers.  Here are some verses to inform what we offer on our metaphorical altars:

Romans 12:1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Hebrews 13:15-16 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.


Few of us, with the exception of Trump (Trump Towers), have built literal towers to build a name for ourselves in order to ensure our security.  However, most of us do build "towers" - be it building our reputations, bank accounts, physiques, families, to name a few.  Anything we look to in faith and confidence to make ourselves secure is an idol.  God, being the faithful God that he is, just might answer in kind like he did to those who built the tower of Babel.  They didn't want to be dispersed, figured out a way to not let that happen, and then God confused their languages and dispersed them. We are all just a moment away from financial collapse, failed marriages, disease, etc. Look to God alone for security because if you are in Christ, be sure, God will remove your idols.  He is faithful!

Parting Prayer

Heavenly Father,  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you. May I lay myself on the altar daily by denying myself, taking up my cross and following You.  Help me have praise on my lips, not complaining.  Show me the good works you have prepared for me to do.  May I be generous with all your gifts. Keep me from putting my trust in anything but You.  I ask for all of this in Jesus' name.  Amen.  Thank you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Began my read through the Bible in four years plan and I was surprised by just how much I got from the first six chapters of Genesis.  Each week I will respond to the idea that most captivated me and this week it was the idea from Genesis 6.  Noah was righteous and blameless. 
5 "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
 6  And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.   
A very familiar passage about Job came to my mind.  He, too, according to God, was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned from evil,  Even after God allowed Satan to kill all of Job's animals and his children, Job still trusts God.  From Job chapter 1:
"21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 
Job's wife mocks him, "Are you still unshaken in your integrity? Curse God and die."  (Job 2:9) One might wonder why Satan didn't wipe out Job's wife as well.  Thank God he didn't because one of the most astonishing verses in the Bible would never have been written.  From Job chapter 2:
" 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips."

The evidence that both Noah and Job were blameless and upright is that they feared God and turned away from evil. 
In addition to Old Testament verses I knew there were verses in the New Testament that spoke to followers of Christ being blameless, but I was not prepared for how many.  Here is a sampling:
I Corinthians 1:8 - At the end of time we will be pronounced guiltless.
Ephesians 1:4 - We were chosen for the purpose of living a holy and blameless life.
Philippians 1:9-10 - How can we live pure and blameless lives?  By loving others in a knowledgeable, discerning way and by approving what is excellent.
Colossians 1:22 - Before Christ we were blameless, hostile, and doers of evil deeds. (At least this is how he defines the lives of the Colossians before Christ.) Jesus died to present us holy, blameless and above reproach.  This He will do if we continue in the faith.
I Thessalonians 2:10 - Paul calls his own conduct holy, righteous, and blameless.
I Thessalonians 3:13 - If we abound in love the Lord will establish our hearts blameless in holiness.
I Thessalonians 5:23 - "Now may the God of peace sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord..."
I Timothy 3:10 - One of the requirements to be a deacon was to have proven themselves blameless.
Titus 1:6-7 - To be an elder you must be above reproach.
Hebrews 7:26 - When describing the attributes of Jesus as High Priest, in the list are: holy and innocent.
Philippians 2:14-15 - This is my personal favorite.  Probably because of its' convicting and encouraging nature.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,.."
My take away from thinking about being blameless and upright is this.  I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ.  I have everything I need in Christ, under the leading of the Holy Spirit to conduct myself in a way that is above reproach in the world.  One of those ways is to quit complaining and disputing. (Facebook ?) If I walk in a blameless way, I will shine as a light in the world.  This is important - ESPECIALLY important - if I believe I am living in a crooked and twisted culture, which I do. 
Jesus told us in The Sermon on the Mount to be salty salt and unhidden light. 
 Sprinkling and Twinkling 

And as usual, I ask God to help me.