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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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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. 

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.

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.

There is a time…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

I don’t know about you, but I get impatient sometimes. I like for things to happen when I want them to happen. I want things and events to follow my schedule. And when they don’t, it frustrates me. I feel that I am so busy in my life that my calendar becomes the all controlling factor in my life. If it isn’t on my calendar, then it will not happen, or so I think. Rarely do I give myself the opportunity to be spontaneous. But every now and again, I will clear the day and let happen what may. Those days are fun.

In this passage, Solomon is trying to teach us that there is a time for every thing. And he doesn’t just state the fact and move on, no, he has to elaborate and leave no thought untouched. The items listed here pretty much sum up a life in general. A time for every thing. 

In my line of work, I have the opportunity to speak with people often about different chapters in their life. It is the only way I know to get across to them that it is okay to be scared and frustrated and mad. They are writing a new chapter of their life. They don’t know how to write it. They don’t understand why they have to write it. They don’t comprehend why their chapter had to change. And they don’t like where this chapter is leading. They don’t like that they are in a different time. 

But if I can ever get them to understand that it is okay to be mad and frustrated and confused about the why, I can help them to write this chapter beautifully. I can’t write it for them but I can show them how to write it more efficiently and more safely. A time for every thing.

I don’t know what chapter you are writing in your life. I have no idea what problems or issues or celebrations you have going on right now. But I can tell you this, you do not walk or write this chapter alone. Every event listed above is an opportunity to love and trust God. It is a time in your life to show others that He is the Author and Perfector of your faith. He is the One who brought you to it, and He is the One who will bring you through it. Happy Monday.

Just like me…

Romans 12:3 – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

I’ve been struggling with this concept the last couple of days – What if everyone acted just like me – in regards to family, church, work and community?

It’s what we want, isn’t it? We wish that everyone around us was as smart as we are, made similar choices that we make, and were as dedicated as we are. We see ourself without flaw, without blemish. 

But deep down, we know that’s not true. We know that deep down we get upset when someone does something different that we think that they should. We get frustrated when we have a plan and someone steps in and changes that plan all together. We want to throw a fit and yell at someone when their decision to stay out of things is not the option we would have chosen. We get all flustered when people don’t perform like we know we would in that situation. 

Pride. It’s pride that makes us feel that way. You see, whether it is at work, church or at home, the devil is doing his best to drive a wedge in our heart between us and God. If he can get us to look more at ourself and see only the worst in people and their decisions instead of seeing the beauty of variety, then he can get us to walk further and further from our Savior. 

And it’s so easy to do. It is easy to get frustrated when we don’t understand what is going on. It is easy to get mad when things don’t go the way we think they should. It is easy to want to yell at someone when their choices are wrong in our eyes. 

But here is the thing – we can’t control others; we can only control ourself. We have to trust that God has whatever thing we are dealing with under control. Staying awake all night worrying about it won’t make a difference. Getting mad and yelling at someone will not help the cause of Christ. Not doing your best as a punishment to those who are making what you see as a bad decision will get nothing accomplished. 

Jesus has given us all different gifts and talents. I’m not responsible for my husband using his gifts. That is his can of worms. I need to be focused on whether I’m using my gifts. But I can’t let my focus shift from me doing my best for His glory to me doing my best because I know I’m right. 

It’s hard, but you can’t let people have power over your decision to do things for His glory. Focusing solely upon Jesus will have far different reaches that focusing solely on you and what you do. Pride is an ugly beast that too often rears its head in my life. Pride is what makes you think your way is the best way. Pride is what makes you fail to see your flaws. Pride is what makes us want everyone to act like just like us. 

This Psalm…

Psalm 147:1-11 – “Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground. Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.”

I have a lot on my heart this morning. I found out yesterday that a girl I know, who is younger than me, suddenly lost her husband. She is now a widow. There is a massive storm hitting tiny islands with many people living on them that will face terrible devastation in the next few hours and days. And here I am preparing as well for an unseen force that I am uncertain of it’s path. 

As my day goes on from hour to hour and I continue to see my clients as if nothing different is going on, I have in the back of my mind a list a mile long of things that need to be done and items that would benefit my family, if I can find them. I am grateful for advanced warning but the waiting can be a challenge. 

And then I can’t stop thinking about the girl I know that lost her husband. It breaks my heart to think about her having to do life without her husband. I can’t even imagine.

Yet, this psalm brings me peace today. It reminds me to sing. You see, as much as I desire to help out my friend, I really can do nothing more than pray for her. I’m too far away to be very effective in a physical sense. But I know the One that can heal her broken heart and mend her family’s spirit. And as much as I think on and pray for those in the path of the storm, there is really nothing I can do for them right now except pray – because I know the One that named the stars and prepared the earth for the rain He is sending. And as much as I fret and scurry trying to prepare for the storm coming my way, I need to sing more. He wants me to trust Him through this thing. He wants to show me that He can provide for me in a way that my legs and hands would never be able to. 

This psalm reminds me to trust in Him because He has “the whole world in His hands”. Yes, I need to prepare. Yes, I need to pray. Yes, I need to remember others and the challenges they face in the different aspects of their life. Yes, I need to do what I can for my family and for those around me. But I need to do it with a song in my heart that reminds me to “praise You in the storm”.