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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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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 2

2 Kings 5:2-4 – “And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.”

My daughter had the opportunity to go to a birthday party this weekend at a very crowded shopping establishment for a scavenger hunt. My son had participated in one at this same place last year, in the daytime, and he had to interact with all kinds of people he didn’t know. So, when I found out that this scavenger hunt was taking place on a Saturday night, my mommy alarms went off. There are too many crazies out there and my daughter is young and pretty – the perfect candidate for human trafficking. Nope, not happening if I can keep it from happening.

So, what does this have to do with today’s lesson?

The Syrians had gone over to Israel and brought back some people, particularly a young girl. This girl was taken from her family and brought back to Syria and was now serving Naaman’s wife. I’m guessing that she was treated fairly well, just based on the information given here. But still, she was taken. My heart goes out to her parents.

But this young girl was extraordinary. When she saw the need of Naaman and his condition, she didn’t hesitate to speak up and offer a solution. She was there serving in his house. She was no longer under her parents’ roof and following their rules and yet, she did the right thing. God knew her heart. He knew that she was the right person for the job. He knew what could happen in Naaman’s life if he just listened to this young girl. 

The circumstances were rare. I’m sure that a slave speaking up to her master in regards to her master’s husband’s condition was rare. Slaves were just that, slaves. Their thoughts and opinions rarely mattered. However, God had prepared the way – both in the life of Naaman and his household and in the young girl’s life.

You see, her parents had to have raised her to love and respect God. She had listened to the stories and maybe even experienced some of the wonders that Elisha had performed. She knew that Elisha was a man of God. She knew that if her master would go to him that he would ask God to heal him. The only way she could have known this was if she had been taught or had personal experience of it. God had been working in her short life.

So, despite the sad circumstances and the tragedy of losing a child, God was able to use this situation for good and for His honor and glory. 

There are times when we have to turn it over to God. We can’t worry about it. We can’t really try and do anything about it. We just have to trust that God has a plan in all of it. 

But He also gave us mommy alarms to keep our little bundles of joy from potentially harmful situations. We have to listen to those as well.

Today, you have read a portion of God’s word. You have seen how God worked in a terrible situation by providing Naaman with the opportunity to reach out to Him. God is always working in our life. He is constantly creating ways to show Himself to you and to bring you closer to Him. Use whatever circumstances you find your self in today to draw closer to Him. He will use you in ways you can’t even dream if you will just be ready and willing to serve. 

Training

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

My son is preparing to make a presentation to the church tonight in regards to his trip to Haiti. While preparing for it, we came across the concept of a local, New Testament church sending out missionaries. It was a great opportunity to explain to him the why behind this concept. We were training him on how to properly go about being a missionary, which is what he will be doing in Haiti.

It made me stop and think about children and how we teach them and why they leave. 

I have been going to church my whole life, literally before I was even born. I have been at church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any other night in between that my family could get to. My parents taught me commitment by bringing me to church every time the door was opened. My parents made sure that I had my Sunday school lesson prepared on Saturday night (back in those days you prepared the lesson the night before). My extended family, both by the blood of man and the blood of Christ, made certain that I understood the concepts in the Bible and why I should believe them. I wasn’t spoon fed God’s word. I didn’t memorize it just to make someone else happy. No, I was trained up in it. I was trained to see how much God loves me. I was trained to use His Word, the Bible, to learn how to live my life. I was trained to be committed to Him because that shows obedience in my life. 

Some may call me a trained animal, and that’s okay. I would rather be a trained individual for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than an individual who thinks that I don’t need His training and spend my eternity in Hell. No, training is good. Training is what gets me closer to my Savior. I’m good with that.

Now then, let’s get real. 

Are we just allowing our children to memorize concepts in the Bible or are we training them in it? There is a difference, you know. I “learned” a lot in my 3 years of Spanish class. I memorized words and phrases and could decently write in Spanish. But can I do that today? Nope. I can ask where the bathroom is but when they tell me how to get there, I have no idea. I have departed from my knowledge of Spanish. As wonderful as my teacher was, I never developed a passion or saw the necessity for it in my life. I was more concerned about getting a good grade and keeping my average up rather than seeing the importance of being trained in another language. 

How often do we, as teachers and parents, allow our children to learn just enough to keep us happy and make us look like we are doing a fair job in raising our children yet all the while we are failing to train them on how to rely upon the Lord? It hurts to think that this is going on, but when I see young people go off on their own, too often they leave God just where they found Him, at church. And that makes me sad. I don’t blame anyone. I don’t point fingers. I have 3 pointing back at me. 

I bring this up because we, as followers of Christ, have a problem. 

I have the opportunity right now to train my children. I will never get this opportunity again. I have the opportunity to train them to rely upon God. I have the opportunity to train them in commitment and respect and love for God. I have the opportunity to train them to absorb God’s word and apply it to their every day life. When my children leave my house, I want God to be so real to them and be such a part of their life that leaving Him at church would make them feel naked. 

I don’t know that I expect anything profound from this blog today. I was just thinking about this last night as my husband sat at the dinner table with my son and was explaining missions work to him in a way that he could understand and appreciate. My son had heard it before, but when you live it, you learn it better. It really was special, watching my husband train my son. I am truly, truly blessed.

Listening for the What

Philippians 4:19 – “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

We have been a shoebox packing church these last few weeks. It all started when we had a youth rally and invited other churches in the area to bring items that we could collectively use to pack shoeboxes for children in foreign countries (or possibly our own country). It is called Operation Christmas Child. It was a great time and a huge blessing. We were able to pack 100 shoeboxes on that day. 100! That’s a lot for a group of little congregations! 

However, the cost for shipping each box is $9. That’s $900! How in the world could we possibly gather that much money?! We shouldn’t have even let that thought cross our mind. We asked the people to give and did they ever! We were able to gather enough money to ship those boxes, plus some!

That brings us to yesterday. 

My son is going on a mission trip to Haiti in January. His school is collecting a little bit different type of shoebox for that trip. We took our youth group (and young adults 😉 yesterday and filled shoeboxes for this cause as well. We invaded the local Dollar Tree after a pizza lunch and packed until our boxes overflowed. It was so much fun! And the super thing about it is that my son may have the opportunity to hand out some of the very boxes that we packed. Some little child will be able to play and appreciate what we chose to pack into that plain brown box. Those boxes cost $7 to ship. And you know what, that is covered already – before we even packed the boxes.

My point is this – God is ready to supply all we need and more each and every time we choose to serve Him with our words, thoughts and actions. All He is asking us to do is go. Go and do. Go and try. Just Go! We don’t need to worry about the why or the how. We just need to listen for the what that He wants us to do.  

Lessons from a dead tree

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

We had a pretty intense storm a few months ago that left our little yard with one small, dead tree. Now, this tree had a diameter at it’s base of about 4-5 inches – big enough to be difficult but small enough to drag around. My son and my husband had removed it and set it by the side of the road for pick up, in September. 

Needless to say, the grass was beginning to grow through it and the county has passed by it several times. It isn’t big enough to require a large truck to pick up the debris but it is too big for the lawn waste people to heave it into their truck.

So, I set out yesterday to hack this poor dead, dried up tree into pieces and stick it in a garbage can with the hopes that the lawn waste people will begin to pick it up today. And as I was sawing away with my little hand saw, God began to remind of a few things:

1. When you go after something that seems overwhelming, you have to attack it little by little. For me to try to saw through the largest branches with my hand saw and all the other limbs still hanging off the end was near impossible. I found that if I cut off the little branches, the larger ones were much easier to deal with. 

2. Persistence is the key. Have you ever tried to cut through a 4 inch piece of wood with a 2 inch wide hand saw? It takes persistence. I found that if I stopped while sawing through a limb this size, I looked like a crazy person trying to get it started again. I just had to keep going. Even when my puny arms were screaming and my strength was giving out, I had to keep going. Eventually, I got it in two but it wasn’t easy.                                                                                                                                                                         

You know, sometimes we feel like we are getting nowhere in reaching people. We feel like living our lives for the Lord isn’t enough. We feel like inviting them to Sunday school and worship services and fellowships is just not working. But God is using it. Little by little, He is chipping away at their heart. He is pursuing them in a holy manner that we can’t always see or understand. All He asks us to do is keep going. Keep doing those little things that mean more to them than we will ever know. 

3. Do your best and let God take care of the rest. He doesn’t always expect us to conquer something. Sometimes He wants us to trust Him and get out there and do something. 

The lawn waste people may or may not pick up that hacked up dead tree, but I have done all that I can. I know that I have attempted to do something to get rid of the dead tree. If nothing else, it is easier now to transport to that secret place on the other side of the retention pond where things seem to disappear into the woods. I don’t have to solve the problem. I just needed to work on it. 

You may not have a dead tree hanging out in your front yard, but I would guess that you do have something in your life that needs attention. It needs to be attacked little by little. It needs to be addressed persistently. God may or may not want you to conquer it, but He does want you to put forth your best effort in addressing it. 

Back to the grocery store

Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is ; but exhorting one another : and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

It is my goal to only go to the grocery store one time a week. That rarely happens. Despite my diligence in making out a grocery list, checking to see who needs what and then following that list to the “t”, I usually end up back at the grocery store for something during the week. Right now, my fridge is empty and my teenage son is starting to panic. The apple juice is gone. The milk is gone. Life might just end if the child doesn’t have apple juice and milk! 

But going back the the grocery store isn’t such a bad thing – it means that I sufficient funds available to supply the needs of my family in a spontaneous moment. It means that all the good stuff that I have purchased has been gobbled up by 2 growing teenagers. Good stuff in, good stuff out.

So, I know you have to be wondering what in the world going to the grocery store has to do with going to church. Hold on and see how my crazy brain works.

The assembling of ourselves together was not meant to be a one time a week event. We need the support and love and encouragement of one another often. When I don’t see my church family more than one time a week, I feel left out and sad and empty inside. I love vacations, but I miss being with my brothers and sisters at church. I need to share life with them. I need to hear their encouraging words. I need to laugh with them. I need to cry with them. I need to serve with them. I can’t do that one time a week. 

This life is challenging. We all face hurdles that have to be jumped. We all face knots that need to be untied. We all face obstacles that have to be figured out. How can we do all that alone? We can’t. We need help. We need words of encouragement and guidance. What better place to find all that than among people who love the Lord. 

Wrapping all this up, if I can’t make it through the week with only one trip to the grocery store, how do I think that I can make it through the week with only one interaction with my church family? God used the writer of Hebrews to encourage us to go and be with our church family frequently. He doesn’t want us to feel alone. He doesn’t want us to feel weak and neglected. He wants us around people who love Him so that we can grow and help one another out. Things that the grocery store have to offer us are life sustaining and needful. The things that our church family and serving God have to offer us are life sustaining and needful. So, get out there. Get involved in your church. See what you have really been missing by staying home when the church doors are open.