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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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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. 

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.

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”. 

Contentment

Philippians 4:11 -“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Last night while driving to soccer practice, I witnessed a man driving a minivan like a sports car on a raceway. Thankfully, I don’t think there was anyone else in the car but him. However, it reminded me of this – be content.

Contentment is something unfamiliar to us in our society of want. Ask anyone, I’m sure they have a want list. I know I do. We look around us and see things that we want or think that we need. And we typically won’t be (temporarily) satisfied until we get it. 

Contentment is being satisfied with what is around you and being satisfied in the circumstances you find yourself in. Contentment is NOT laziness. Contentment is not always wanting more. Contentment is the absence of restlessness. 

So, if you are content, does that mean that you shouldn’t want to improve your life or make things better around you? I don’t believe so. But there is a difference in making your situation better and wanting things that other people have – that is coveting. For example, we have decided to do some work around the house to get rid of the weeds growing too close to our home. The neighbors all have bushes around their house to keep the weeds away. We thought about getting bushes but decided that with the sprinklers running so close to the house that installing bushes would be too much of a hassle. So we are going another direction. For me, this is an example of being content with changing the improvements. Coveting would be desiring those bushes around my house just so we can be like everyone else. Like I have said before, it is all about your attitude.

Contentment is hugely impacted by your attitude. That is why it is so important for Christ to have control of your attitude. Jesus keeps your thoughts and actions regulated so that you don’t feel the need to drive that minivan like a sports car. Jesus reminds you that it is okay that this person in front of you is driving just a bit slower than you want. That person will get out of the way in just a bit. Hold your horses. Jesus reminds you that you don’t really need those bushes around the house. You are allowed to be different. You don’t always have to fit into the mold the world has made. 

Contentment is being okay with being different. It is being okay with having a different viewpoint. It is allowing God to mellow you out to the point that people say, “Hmm, this person is different. What is it about them?” Contentment is an oddity in our world, and that is a good thing. 

So on this long weekend, be content. Don’t be lazy, be content. Be satisfied where God has placed you and what He has placed you with. Be different. Be weird, according to the world’s standard – but be God’s. Happy Friday.

Write your story

Psalm 143:8 – “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.”

I evaluated a new client this week. When I evaluate someone, I always like to ask them about their past. I think it helps me to better understand their present. This man was a fashion designer in Paris after World War II. Crazy! And what was even crazier was that when he was 60, he took a class at a community college and learned oil painting. Now, his apartment is filled with these giant, museum-quality paintings that are absolutely stunning!

As I was sharing this story with the staff in our office, one of the staff said, “Man, I need to start living! When I’m old, I won’t have any cool stories to tell anyone.”

And that caused me to think, how am I writing my story? What adventures am I having? What beauty am I seeing? What kind of an impact am I making on the world around me?

A friend of ours lost his sister this week. She was in her early 40s and had 3 children ages 4-12. It is heartbreaking. Her story was way too short.

We never know if we will live a novel or a short story. We never know when it will be time to go home. But what I do know is that each and every day is an opportunity to write my story. Each day is an opportunity to weave the love of Christ into the fabric of my life. Each day is an opportunity to see His beauty all around me in the people I meet, the scenery I see and the incredible creations of man. Each day is an opportunity to show the world around me more and more of Jesus – whether it be through my life, in my speech, through my blog or teaching my children to know Him better. 

We have a choice every morning of whether or not we are going to listen to God on that day. We have a choice to accept His loving kindness. We have a choice to trust Him. And when we do, we learn to see His hand guiding our path and showing where He wants us to go. This gives us the opportunity to lift up our heart and soul to Him. We desire and find the need to praise His name when we choose to be obedient.

So this weekend, write your story. Write your story while you spend time with your family. Write your story while you worship Him with your brothers and sisters at church. Write your story while you work around the house. Write your story while you pay your bills. Write your story while you sit outside and enjoy the beauty around you. Happy Friday.