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Making Assumptions

Matthew 1:1-6a – “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas (Judah) and his brethren; And Judas (Judah) begat Phares (Pharez) and Zara of Thamar (Tamar); and Phares (Pharez) begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; And Salmon begat Booz (Boaz) of Rachab (Rahab); and Booz (Boaz) begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king…”

(Note: The names that are in parenthesis are the names found elsewhere in the Bible spelled differently. I didn’t want any confusion.)

I was reading in Genesis 38 today about Judah and Tamar. Judah had lost his two sons and his wife. He was sad. He had no grandchildren because two of his sons had died before having children. He had promised his daughter-in-law, Tamar, that she could marry his other son when he came of age. However, for whatever reason, that hadn’t happened yet when he saw Tamar on the side of the road and thought she was a harlot. 

Now, Tamar was dressed like a harlot when she is supposed to be waiting for the son to grow up. But you need to remember, dressing like a harlot in this time meant she had her head covered. Judah didn’t know it was his daughter-in-law. That doesn’t excuse the fact that Judah slept with someone who wasn’t his wife. 

Yet, God used this situation and onto the scene comes Pharez.

What I want to emphasize here is judging others. When you look at the shortened version of the lineage of Christ that I have posted here, you see Tamar and Rahab and Ruth. These three women each displayed different character traits but they all had this in common – they were outsiders. They were different. They each married a man from the tribe of Judah. But Tamar was a Canaanite woman. Rahab was a harlot living in Jericho. Ruth was a Moabite woman. None of these women were in a favorable situation. Tamar got pregnant by her father-in-law. Rahab, well, we don’t know how or why she became a harlot but that is how the Bible describes her. Ruth was childless and seemingly doomed to widowhood and living with her mother-in-law in a foreign country. Yet God used each woman in each situation to bring about His will.

We see people all the time at the stoplight, in the store and even at church. And we automatically make an assumption about them. We judge their clothing, their manorism, their speech and many other details about them. I know that I do it without even thinking about it. But that is wrong. I should not judge. 

I know that in my own life and situation, I don’t want people to look at me and judge me by what they see on the outside. I want people to know me. I want them to see God’s hand at work in my life. And you can’t necessarily see that from the outside all the time. 

I want to encourage you, and myself, not to make assumptions about people. I want us to be more open to what God can and will do in someone’s life. No one in Jericho would have ever guessed that Rahab would one day bear a child that would be found in the lineage of the Savior of the world. Tamar never would have thought that this child she was bearing through this circumstance would be in the lineage of the King. And Ruth probably never dreamed that her great-grandson would be the king of Israel. You see, we never know how God is going to work in our life or in the lives of the people around us. 

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Be an Angel

Luke 2:9-14 – “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I was listening to Christmas music again the other day and I heard a song proclaiming that we should be more like the angels. Hmm, be more like the angels. Be good? Be singing all the time? Be observing and stepping in to help others? Be dressed in bright clothes? 

How should I be more like an angel?

Praising and proclaiming. That’s what I need to do more of – praising and proclaiming. These Heavenly beings have the tremendous duty to praise God, all the time, no matter the circumstances, regardless of the weather or time of day.  I can look all through the Bible and find instances of angels making an appearance and helping someone see God more clearly. Isn’t that what I am supposed to do? Isn’t it my responsibility to help people see God more clearly? Be an angel.

Sometimes I see angels protecting people from bad decisions. Remember Balaam and the talking donkey? There was an angel ready to destroy Balaam before allowing him to make a bad decision. The angel meant business. Sometimes I have to be the one stepping in and calling someone out. That’s a tough place to be but it’s a necessary place to be. We all need that person in our life that isn’t afraid to call us out. Be an angel.

In these verses of Scripture, I see the angels praising God. Here was the event they had been waiting for – the birth of the Savior. It was finally time! God took on flesh and was ready to dwell among men. What a glorious time this would be! Everyone needed to hear about it! Break out the chorus and bring on the praises! I have so much to be grateful for in my life. I have blessings upon blessings that I could name for days and days. Yet, how often do I break out the chorus and bring on the praises? Oh, in my heart I may be praising God, but I need to let my heart overflow. I need to proclaim His praises more often and more boldly. Be an angel.

Being an angel isn’t about the clothes you wear or how good you are or anything like that. Being an angel is really just fulfilling the instructions of Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”  That’s it. That is what it means to be an angel – fear God and keep His commandments. Fear is obedience. Keeping His commandments includes telling others about Him, praising Him, glorifying Him and being kind and compassionate to others. Now, this isn’t an exclusive list – no, it’s more like the tip of the iceberg. 

So this weekend as you wrap gifts, bake cookies, attend Christmas parties and do whatever else you have to do this weekend, be an angel. Happy Friday.

The Beautiful Star

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Al Phipps

Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem.                                                                                                                                                                           Shinning far through shadows dimmed.                                                                                                                                                             Giving the life for those who long have gone on.                                                                                                                                           Guiding the wise men on their way.                                                                                                                                                                          Unto the place where Jesus lay.                                                                                                                                                                                 Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh beautiful star the hope of light.                                                                                                                                                                       Guiding the pilgrims through the night.                                                                                                                                                                   Over the mountains ’till the break of dawn.                                                                                                                                                            Into the land of perfect day.                                                                                                                                                                                            It will give out a lovely ray.                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh beautiful star (beautiful, beautiful star) of Bethlehem.                                                                                                                                 Star of Bethlehem.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Shine upon us until the glory dawn.                                                                                                                                                                        Give us a lamp to light the way.                                                                                                                                                                                  Unto the land of perfect day.                                                                                                                                                                                       Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh beautiful star the hope, the grace.                                                                                                                                                                        For the redeem of good and blessed.                                                                                                                                                                      Yonder in glory when the crowd is one.                                                                                                                                                                    Jesus is now the star divine.                                                                                                                                                                                   Brighter and brighter he will shine.                                                                                                                                                                              Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

I love Christmas music. But this song is one of my favorites, no matter who sings it. It was our choir special yesterday. I really enjoy singing it. 

I think the reason that I like it so much is that it is a Christmas song but it isn’t. It reminds me that yes, the star that led the wise men to Jesus was important, but the Star that leds us now is even more important.

One thing, as a side note, about the star is that it shone for a long time. It appeared when Jesus was born and the wise men didn’t, technically, find Jesus until He was a toddler. That really bugs me that wise men are always shone at the manger scene when they weren’t there. Only the shepherds are recorded as seeing Him there that night. 

Ok, rant over. I’m off the soap box.

Anyway, this song brings me hope. It makes me smile. It reminds me that this isn’t all there is to it. It reminds me that I have the brightest, most beautiful Star lighting my path in this dark world. It reminds me that He has been here for those that have come before me and that He will be there for those after me, if He delays His coming. 

So today, as you listen to your music, listen to the words. The writer is trying to tell you something. That being said, you had better consider what and who it is you are listening to. Everything that goes into your brain affects you in some way, shape or form. 

Christmas cards

1 King 19:11-13a – “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.”

I know, it’s not Wednesday and it isn’t 6 in the morning. But I had to get this out.

Someone stole my Christmas cards out of my mailbox last night. Yep, you read it right. Someone thought they would find a stash of money or something in that stack of 100 and something Christmas cards going out to friends and family all over the place. Boy, were they shocked to find the only thing of value was the unused stamps on the outside of the card. 

Here are my lessons in this situation.

1) Someone needs Jesus. If things in your life are so desperate that you are reduced to committing a federal offense by rummaging through someone’s Christmas cards in the middle of the night, you need Jesus. 

2) I need to forgive. I’m working on this one. I know that in the scope of eternity whether or not I send out Christmas cards is not going to matter. It does, however, matter if I forgive this person that did this. I’m getting there. They have been on my heart heavy these last couple of hours. 

3) I need to listen. Last night as I was putting the cards in the mailbox, I thought “someone could steal these tonight.” Then I thought “no way, no one is going to do that. They are just Christmas cards.” God was speaking to my heart and I just tuned Him out. I can’t tell you how often this has been happening lately. I will hear His whisper across my heart and then blow it off as nonsense. When will I ever listen? And listen consistently?! That Still Small Voice is still active today. He is still whispering across our hearts – warning us, encouraging us – and too often, I know that I don’t listen. I instead listen to the other voice. I listen to the one that tells me that I know best. I listen to the one that says the other Voice is crazy. 

In all of this, I’m upset about the loss of the Christmas cards, the time and money spent on them and the fact that our society has stooped this low. But most of all, I’m upset with myself for not listening. I have asked for forgiveness and I know that I have it. But now I have to forgive myself for being a cotton-headed ninny-muggin (Elf reference) and ignoring God when He speaks to me. 

Christmas is a time of reflection and memories and a time of giving. Well, this will certainly be a memory I look back on and I hope that my giving of the unused stamps will certainly cause someone somewhere to pause and rethink their life. They need Jesus…and so do I. 

Thanksgiving week

1 Chronicles 16:8,9 – “Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.”

It is the week of Thanksgiving. I agree with the statement that we should be thankful more often than once a year. I try very hard to live a life of thankfulness. As you can see here, I wear a bracelet to remind me to be grateful and thankful.

What does it mean to give thanks? 

I think that being thankful can take many forms. 

Prayer – Reaching out to God in prayer just to tell Him how appreciative you are for Him being active in your life.                    Songs – Singing praises to God with a heart in a position of humbleness and gratitude.                                                         Conversation – Have you ever taken the opportunity to turn the spotlight off yourself and turn it on God? Giving Him the glory for an achievement in your life is a great way to show thankfulness. All too often, we are so focused on ourself that we take away the opportunity to praise Him and give Him glory.                                                                                                                                      Giving –  I think that when we take the time to give to someone else out of the abundance that we have, we are, in a way, giving thanks. When we give with the heart of humbleness and the desire to help someone else along, we are telling God thank you for supplying my needs and giving me the opportunity to help someone else.

Just like anything else, all of these acts of thankfulness can be corrupted by our heart-itude. If our heart is focused on ourself, if our motive is promoting self, then each act is torn to pieces in front of the throne of Christ. Our acts of thankfulness becomes acts of pride and selfishness, neither of which is honoring or glorifying to God. 

So, as you enter this week of busyness – planning, traveling, buying, cooking, cleaning, preparing and all the other craziness that I know goes on at my house – check your heart. Make sure that you determine in your spirit that you will choose to plan, travel, buy, cook, clean and prepare with thankfulness in your heart because all of these actions require prayer, singing (to keep from going crazy), talking with others and giving of yourself and what you have out of your abundance. Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. Make sure THAT is your primary priority.

2 Kings 5 – Day 3

2 Kings 5:15,16 – “And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.”

Here we begin this final day with Naaman coming back to Elisha to offer him gifts for telling him how to be healed. Naaman acknowledged God as his Healer, but he wanted to give Elisha some of his treasures as a thank you. Elisha, however, refused. 

The problem is found after verse 16. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, had overheard this generous offer and was none too happy when Elisha refused. So after Naaman had left, Gehazi ran after him and made up a story about travelers needing money and clothing (vs. 21,22). Naaman was all too happy to assist Elisha with his “problem” (vs. 23). But when Gehazi came back to where Elisha lived, he hid the treasures and then denied that he had left (vs. 24,25). Elisha knew what he had done and bestowed upon Gehazi the very thing that Naaman had come to have taken away – leprosy (vs. 26,27).

What’s the lesson here – 

1) When we are following after God, we should not expect a reward. When God tells us to do something, we should not expect recognition, compensation for our work or any other form of reward. When we do, it shows a problem in our heart-attude. Yep, just made that word up. It means the attitude of our heart, the reason that we do something. Elisha did not help this wealthy and recognized man because he thought he would get some kind of reward. No, Elisha helped Naaman because God told him to. And when offered a compensation for his efforts, Elisha politely declined. God should receive the glory. Additional money and fine clothes would only draw attention to Elisha and people would ask how he came into this wealth. He would have to answer honestly and then Elisha would be put on a pedestal. Elisha knew that was not what God wanted. Pride, as we learned earlier, has the potential to destroy anyone who sips from that cup. When God tells you to do something, just do it without expecting anything. 

2) Greed will come back to bite you in the rear. Gehazi thought he could pull the wool over Elisha’s eyes. I guess he forgot who Elisha was in contact with – the Almighty God. But Gehazi couldn’t stand the thought of all those nice clothes and all that money heading back to where it came from without him getting just a sliver of it. So to get a portion, he lied. Dishonesty is one thing that really lights my fire. If there is one thing that I have taught my children over and over again is that telling me the truth the first time will get you in a lot less trouble than me finding out you lied to me. I am honest with others. I expect the same from other people. Unfortunately, many people don’t feel the same way and our world is full of people who refuse the truth. Our world is also filled with greedy people. There are people just like Gehazi out in the world that will say and do anything just to get something without having to lift a finger for it. They sacrifice intergrity and honesty just to gain an easy buck. Not the kind of person I want in my life.

So on this last day of 2 Kings 5, remember this – following God doesn’t mean you need recognition from others AND integrity and honesty are way more important than wealth. Both of these are challenging lessons. We all like to be recognized and a little extra in our wallet is a good feeling. But once again, how did we get it? God will recognize our deeds one day. That’s the only One whose acknowledgement really matters. And trusting that God gives us what we need when we need it helps to keep the greed away. 

Happy Friday.

2 Kings 5 – Day 1

2 Kings 5:1,9-14  – “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it ? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

Last night, our lesson for the evening service touched on this chapter in 2 Kings. As I was reading it this morning, several things jumped out at me. I’m going to take a few days on this chapter and pick a few things out each day to talk about. Enjoy!

Let’s start out by me re-telling this story in the Melissa version – So Naaman was this mighty man of valor, super impressive dude, that somehow or another contracted this nasty disease known as leprosy. People didn’t want to be around someone with this disease. It was particularly hard on this dude – he was known as “mighty man of valour”! So, he hears about a prophet in Israel (we will cover that another day) and decides to go and see if this man can heal him. Well, Elisha, the prophet, doesn’t go and see this guy, but rather sends his servant to tell this uber important guy to go dip in the Jordan river seven times. Now, the Jordan river is nothing special. Most of the time it looks rather yucky. But this is the river in the land God had chosen to give the children of Israel, that made it special. This man who really thought something of himself considered it demeaning that 1) Elisha didn’t even have the wherewithal to come and speak with him and 2) he wanted him to dip in this yucky river. What?! At least, that was the thought until Naaman’s servant knocked him off his high horse by asking him this, “If that man had told you to do something fantastic, you would have done it. Why won’t you do something simple like go and dip in this river?” 

Pride. Pride is what almost kept Naaman from receiving his healing. He thought so much of himself and his position that he didn’t want to lower himself to dipping in this simple river. God did this on purpose. By doing something fantastic and difficult, Naaman would have perceived in his pride that he had done something worthy of praise. God wanted Naaman to see His hand at work in healing him. 

Oftentimes, God works in the small things. He works in the simple things. He works in people’s lives in such a way that His accomplishments are fantastically simple. It took a lot for Naaman to go down and dip in the Jordan. He had to put his pride away. He had to put his trust in Someone besides himself. He had to believe. All these were very simple things yet their effects are profound. 

Pride can be a major hinderance in our opportunities to see God at work. Pride can keep us from taking that leap of faith that may heal our hearts and open our life to new things. Pride can seperate us from loved ones, tear apart families and alienate us from friends. 

This week, let God show you where pride is hindering your life and growth in Him. Let God weed out those problems and allow Him to plant a new spirit within you – one that is growing ever closer to Him each and every day.