Numbers? Or People?

Friends, I am (and have been) deeply concerned that people are choosing to follow numbers during this pandemic and literally dehumanizing people. A co-author recently shared a book with me where she said that the reason people can hurt one another is that they first dehumanize the other party. Sadly, even people I care about – fellow Christians and brothers and sisters in Christ – are joining in this dehumanization of others.

Need an example? Someone I went to church with as a kid recently posted on Facebook, “It’s not rocket science people. You’ve either had COVID or you’ll get COVID. You’ll either die or be like the 99.5% and recover. It’s not going anywhere. Your government cannot keep you safe from a virus. But they can take your liberty…” It made my stomach turn. Literally. Since when are people expendable? Even if the number of people who die are .5% (which I’m not going to argue this number because this post isn’t about “numbers”), why are we treating people as if they aren’t important? I hear that people who are dying are mostly old or have pre-existing conditions. So what? Do we not care about people if they are elderly or have a medical condition? My mother-in-law has cancer; she didn’t ask for it, she didn’t want it, and she’s taking chemo to try and live longer… does that mean she’s expendable? I certainly don’t think so! Both my parents and my in-laws are over age 60. Does being older make them expendable? No! One of my son’s best friends has Type 1 diabetes. He’s eaten right and lived a healthy life and received a genetic disease… is he expendable? I say NO! My own son was born with a mass on his lung. We were told it was nothing we did nor could we have prevented it. Health experts don’t think it’s genetic, and we were told it was an anomaly. At one month old, he had surgery to remove the lower left lobe of his lung to both remove the mass and decrease his risk for getting cancer later in life. Thereafter, he struggled with asthma for years – we were in and out of the hospital. Does that mean he’s expendable now? Doctors didn’t seem to think so, as they operated on him and gave him breathing treatments to save him. And I personally would literally die for him. I don’t think he’s expendable. And it makes me really angry when others say ‘well, if they had pre-existing conditions or were old, that’s their problem. Why should I have to change my life or wear a mask or be inconvenienced when schools are closed?”

Do you know who else felt similarly? Hitler. Let that sink in. Hitler was trying to create the perfect race, and literally killed those who were disabled, old, of different nationalities or Jewish. It wasn’t just about religion for him, and it’s scary to me how many folks sound like him, or are at least spewing the same type of logic.

So, instead of feeding on social media or national news, let’s turn to the Word of God. Because the Bible is clear on this issue, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:

Unity and Diversity in the Body

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

2The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Friends, there is enough fighting on the Internet and in the political arena right now. I’m not saying this to be divisive but rather to bring hopefully a unifying thought to fellow believers. I don’t care whether you are a democrat or republican, if you’re old or if you’re young. I’m writing this as a call to action – stop talking about .5% or “just 28 kids have died” or any other numbers. Think of people as people. Think about how differently you might feel if you had an underlying condition or if one of your loved ones did. Maybe you didn’t have a great relationship with your grandparents, but most folks wouldn’t want their grandparents to die any sooner than they have to. And they certainly don’t want them to suffer! If you are inconvenienced to help others survive, think about the fact that Jesus literally was tortured and died for them… and for you. Don’t give into the lie that these numbers don’t matter. Each one is a person. A person that God created. A person with hopes and dreams and feelings. Think about who you want to emulate – Jesus or Hitler.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Biblical Plagues Part 2: Prayer and Atonement

Yesterday I posted about plagues in the Bible. Today, I’m posting some verses where plagues stopped and what was happening. The links for the entire chapter are provided (again, feel free to read the entire thing so it’s not out of context for you). There are two main groups that I saw: prayer and atonement.  I could have provided more specific prayers that others have prayed in the Bible, but I think God listens more to our heart and attitude than the words we speak (for He knows what we need even before we ask). So, read this post if you’d like and do what seems best to you. Please know that God is just. Let’s each one of us examine our own lives, hearts and attitudes and then pray for ourselves and others. Perhaps God will save us as only He can! The plagues were stopped…

  • By prayer:

2 Samuel 24:25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

1 Kings 8:37 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, 38 and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— 39 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart), 40 so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.

2 Chronicles 7:12 the Lord appeared to him at night and said:“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 20:5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

  • Through intervention and atonement:

Psalm 106:30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked.

Numbers 16:46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.

Exodus 12:12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.

Now we know that Jesus was the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, for anyone who believes in Him will be saved. He is the atoning sacrifice once and for all to save us from an eternity in Hell (what we call salvation). That said, now is the time to seek a holier life on earth (a process Christians call sanctification). The Bible can be summed up in two basic commands: Love God and love others. Can you see where you personally or the world as a whole has not been loving God and keeping His commands and not loving others? Is it time to pray and ask for forgiveness? Are you fearful of getting sick or what dying may look like? Do you know what eternity holds? If you don’t know who Jesus is or want more information, please feel free to reach out to me at any time and I would love to connect with you.

If you are already saved, is it time to intervene and ask for God to remove this sickness? The boys and I read Deuteronomy 28 together and prayed today instead of eating lunch. I’m going to end this post with this chapter and suggest that you pray as you feel lead.

Deuteronomy 28 (NIV)

Blessings for Obedience

28 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.

Curses for Disobedience

15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.

17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.

18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.

20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.[a] 21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24 The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. 26 Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 27 The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. 28 The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. 29 At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.

30 You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit. 31 Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will eat none of it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you and will not be returned. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them. 32 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand. 33 A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days. 34 The sights you see will drive you mad. 35 The Lord will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

36 The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. 37 You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you.

38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it. 39 You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them. 40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off. 41 You will have sons and daughters but you will not keep them, because they will go into captivity. 42 Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.

43 The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. 44 They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail.

45 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.

53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.

58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 68 The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.

As we’ve been asked to “shelter in place” due to the Corona Virus (COVID-19), I began researching plagues in the Bible. I kept thinking of some of these Biblical stories and decided to share these verses in case you may find it useful for understanding and/or praying. I googled the definition of plague on my phone and it said “a contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium (bubonic plague) and sometimes infection of the lungs (pneumonic plague),” (emphasis mine). So, I looked up not only causes of plagues (and/or warnings) in the Bible but also specific prayers that were prayed where they stopped. I’m breaking this study into two separate posts. This one is causes and warnings. Tomorrow I plan to write on prayers and events where the plague stopped…

There are links to the full stories that I would encourage you to read (please don’t take my word for it, but read for yourself). I am feeling that we as a nation and as an entire world need to carefully consider our ways and repent…

Exodus 5:3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.”

Exodus 30:11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.

2 Samuel:10,15 David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” 15 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.

Exodus 32:35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

Leviticus 26:23-25 “If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, 24 I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. 25 And I will bring the sword on you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands.

Numbers 11:33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.

Numbers 16: 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah.

Deuteronomy 28:58-59 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.

Psalm 106:28-29 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods; 29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,  and a plague broke out among them.

Isaiah 19:21-22 So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. 22 The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.

Jeremiah 34:17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.

Ezekiel 14:5 I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’

Amos 4:10 “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps,  yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.

Revelation 6:7-8 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Revelation 7:18-20 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. 20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Biblical Plagues Part 1: Reasons and Warnings

Looking for a Special Gift?

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

Recently, a friend posted this on her social media page:

Anxiety

Can you relate? Christmas can be this wonderful time of year with shiny packages and children filled with wonder… Or it can be a time for the adult kind of wonder. I wonder what I should buy my kids’ teachers, my boss, my in-laws, or even my spouse who says he needs nothing. I wonder if it’s rude if I don’t buy the secretary’s secretary something… I wonder how I’m going to have enough money to feed my family over the holidays let alone buy meaningful Christmas gifts. I wonder if everyone will get along at the family gathering. I wonder if I have anything worth wearing to that Christmas event. I wonder what folks will say about us. I wonder if a sick relative will make it to our party. I wonder if we can fit everything we need to do into our schedule.

The stress can feel overwhelming. Instead of enjoying the beauty of the season, you may realize another year has gone by and there’s not much to show for it. Instead of a list of blessings, you’re compiling a list of things to do, a list of what you have to buy, a list of work deadlines, and sadly, maybe even a list of regrets.

You want things to be so perfect for the people you love that you turn into Martha rather than Mary. You plan the meals, you decorate the house, you buy the gifts and you run yourself ragged, still feeling the anxiety that it may not be absolutely the dream you want it to be.

If this is Christmas for you, then STOP! Stop right now and take a moment and think about what the angels said when they announced that Jesus had arrived (in Luke 2). “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!” Isaiah foretold of the Messiah, saying But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” One of the verses that has stuck with me this time of year is John 14:27, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

So, practically speaking, how can we enjoy more peace this season? I think part of the answer lies in the order of the holidays or seasons. Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. (And long before Thanksgiving started in the US, the harvest festival to give thanks came before the festival of lights.) So many people feel so uptight about the holidays that they start preparing early because there’s just not enough time in one month to get it all done… But, thanksgiving is important. Thanksgiving is necessary! Not the overeating and the turkey, but the actual giving of thanks.

When you are feeling anxious, stop and give thanks for ten blessings in your life. Why not make it a dozen? Thankfulness can bring us back into the moment where we are rather than worrying about what’s ahead. Thankfulness reminds us that all good gifts are from above – that God is all powerful and present with us. Thankfulness calms our hearts and minds as we humbly thank God for what we have verses focusing on what we don’t. Even folks outside the church suggest something similar for anxiety attacks, as shown in the picture below.

grounding

When you’re feeling anxious, ground yourself by thinking of your many blessings. Thank God for those people in your life who you love. Thank Him for the air you’re breathing, for the food you’ve eaten, for the wonderful smells of the season, for the warmth of your coat, for your family, for your friends, for the good in your life. Then try and remember that Jesus’ birth was a miracle – peace with God. Joy to the world! Don’t let anxiety over deadlines and expectations or what other folks may think ruin your peace this year. You have and you are more than enough. The Christmas season is the joy of the process rather than the finished product. Enjoy each and every moment with a thankful heart!

If you’re still feeling anxious, then pray. Ask God to ease your mind and cast your cares on Him. Find a friend and talk or perhaps go to a counselor. You are welcome to call me, and we can give thanks together. 🙂

I’ll end with this:

“‘Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” ~Isaiah 54:10

Don’t Miss It!

Heartbroken. That word might be the best way to describe Hannah in the Bible when year after year she couldn’t conceive a child. Crushed. Wondering why God hadn’t answered her prayers, devastated that she was being provoked by a woman who had what she wanted…

But in all her time of weeping and anguish (as the Bible describes it), she was perhaps missing that her husband gave her a “double portion because he loved her” (1 Samuel 1:5). He asked her, “Why are you weeping? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” This time as I read this story, this last question really stuck out to me. Perhaps it was the BSF teacher saying she felt bad for the woman irritating Hannah who was likely feeling unloved that it made me think more about the situation. Or perhaps it was recalling times this fall when I was feeling devastated… when in reality I should instead be giving thanks.

This wasn’t the first time over the last few weeks that this theme had come up as I was studying the Bible. In Ruth, when Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth, she told the women there, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20). I always felt bad for Naomi – her husband and sons had died; she had a right to be bitter, right? But, the teacher this time asked, was she really empty? Was Ruth not standing right next to her? Ruth had pledged not to leave her side and took care of Naomi, yet Naomi was so focused on her hardships that she was perhaps missing the faithfulness and love of her daughter-in-law who was right next to her.

As I’ve experienced disappointing circumstances, I realize I am too quick to forget the many, many blessings I have. Can you relate? I focus too much on what I don’t have rather than what is right in front of me. For example, God has blessed me with a faithful husband who constantly shows me how much he loves me, wonderful kiddos who are funny and fun to be around, and so many sweet, sweet times together. I may want the “perfect” life where absolutely everything goes my way, but instead, I need to learn to give thanks in all circumstances. Not just the sweet times but also the bitter. When life feels down, I need to look up. Who is next to me? Who stands beside me? What is God working in the background on my behalf? Can I be content without what I *think* might be best and trust that what God has for me is even better?

If Hannah had conceived right away, she may have missed the miracle of having Samuel, who was known as an incredible prophet whose words God did not let fall to the ground. If Naomi wouldn’t have experienced the bitterness of losing her husband and sons, she would not have traveled back to Bethlehem and been part of the story and lineage of Jesus. Their tough times were really key to the greatest part of their stories…

So, don’t skip right to Christmas decorating and holly, jolly music and forget to give thanks… I mean really give thanks. Thanks for the little and the big things. Thanks for the sweet and even for the bitter. Thanks for the thing that is driving you crazy, trusting that God is working it all out for your good and His glory. Thanks for the person who is standing by your side to comfort you as you are going through the tough times. Thanks, even for the person irritating you… Only God knows the details of your story, but I believe He delights in the details of your life. He hasn’t forgotten your struggle. He hasn’t forgotten you. Only He knows how the story ends…

 

Dear God, thank You for the reminders in Your Word. Thank You that You are faithful and work all things for our good and Your glory. Please help us not neglect our loved ones when we’re feeling sad about our circumstances. We give You our hearts and our lives and trust You and Your timing in all situations. Thank You for being trustworthy. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!

Another Chance…

My reading yesterday included the following verses:

Luke 13:6-9: Then Jesus used this illustration: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s taking up space we could use for something else.’ The gardener answered, ‘Give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, you can cut it down.'”

Special attention sounds nice, doesn’t it? But, my guess is that special attention included a whole lot of pruning, or cutting away dead branches to enhance fruitfulness and growth. The truth is, when we experience this type of pruning in our own lives, it can feel miserable. Why do I have to give up this relationship? This habit? This pursuit? But, God is a loving gardener and has a way of showing us that He is a God of second chances.

Are you blooming currently where you are planted? Are you currently producing fruit? If you were to die next week (not that any of us want to think about that), what are you doing today that would have an eternal impact? Are you investing in the lives of others? Are you storing up wealth on earth or treasure in heaven? Sometimes I get so caught up in the rat-race of everyday living that I feel like I’m majoring in the minor and minoring in the major. I’ve been so focused on work that I’m neglecting to really see people.

You can tell a lot about others when you witness their response to hardship. Is what comes out the fruit of the Spirit? Or does the ugliness of what’s in the heart bubble to the surface? If God is pruning, cutting, refining… know that He loves you. He’s giving you another opportunity. His desire is that these refining moments would help you shine His light to others, that the yuck would be trimmed away and what was left would be a thing of beauty and grace.

Dear God, sometimes this whole pruning thing feels downright awful. But, we trust You. We know that You love us, that You are for us, that You have our best in mind. We also realize You see the whole picture of what we need to look like or what needs to be trimmed so that we can properly bear the kind of fruit You have in mind. Help us cling to You when we feel like we’re suffering from Your refining. Please plant us where we won’t be moved or worse, cut down altogether. May we be the people You had in mind when You formed us. Be near us today and fertilize our hearts and minds with Your word. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Here is a song that came on the radio as I was driving to school, and it’s an old favorite. ENJOY! “He’s making diamonds, diamonds, diamonds out of dust… He is refining, in His timing, He’s making diamonds out of dust, He’s making diamonds out of us…”

Lessons from the Hard Times…

My progression of reading the Bible brought me to Job at the same time I was having ankle surgery. The timing was more than coincidental. I was reminded that God does not bring calamity into our lives – Satan is looking to accuse, steal and destroy our lives while God seeks to bring life abundant (John 10:10). Job wasn’t to blame for the hardships he experienced (which were FAR worse than mine, as he lost kids, all his wealth and his health!). But, God wasn’t to blame either…

On the other hand, we know that God is all-powerful. He gave the authority or okay to Satan to bring the calamity on Job, noting that Satan was not to kill him. So, when hard times come, we ask, “God, why did you allow this?” I’ve asked it with my ankle. Did God cause me to fall? Absolutely not! But, I have questioned, “God, I believe You are the Healer, so why did it not heal right away and why did I need surgery six months later?” I’m tired of feeling crippled and useless. I’m tired of not being able to run. I’m tired of feeling like I’m more of a burden to my family than a blessing…

Then I came to the following verses: “But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in bed. He whispers in their ear and terrifies them with His warning. He causes them to change their minds; He keeps them from pride. He keeps them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death. Or, God disciplines people with sickness and pain, with ceaseless aching in their bones.” Job 33:14-17.

The first verse I remember blogging about before, after having a terrible nightmare when we arrived in Michigan and reading the verse. I vividly remember the warning. But, I didn’t remember reading verse 17 before, or it didn’t stick out to me until now. God disciplines people with sickness and pain, and with aching bones! Yes, indeed, I need God’s discipline. It’s easy to become selfish and proud. It’s easy to get swept up in daily to-do lists and forget to love others, to help the needy, to stand up for injustice, to do what’s right. Unlike Job, I’m not sure God would think I lead a “blameless” life. He is still refining me, and His discipline is something I need and even desire. So, perhaps it comes in the form of injury, as it’s in the hard times that we really listen.

Later, Job 36:21, a young man named Elihu is still speaking (and I love that he said he waited to speak until the older, wiser fellows were finished, that he couldn’t contain his thoughts because he felt as he needed to say them, and that intelligence really comes from God’s Spirit and breath of the Almighty inside us), and he says “Be on guard! Turn back from evil, for it was to prevent you from a life of evil that God sent this suffering.”

What a thought – that hard times come into our life to prevent us from a lifetime of evil and suffering. That God loves us enough to allow difficulties to come so we turn away from what is wrong, that God is gracious in allowing us to go through seemingly awful circumstances for our discipline and for our ultimate good. When God doesn’t answer our prayer to live a happy, perfect life, it’s because He loves us far too much to let us be ‘spoiled brats’ who have never been refined in the fire. The bumps in the road, the bruises,  the broken bones, the tears and frustrations help shape our character and make us who we are. We can allow them to move us to despair or we can use them to help us move toward being better. We can accept hard times as discipline and seek life lessons to keep us from a life of evil… or not.

I read yesterday (being Good Friday) a friend’s post that says “Good Friday” was and is a dark time, a hard time (even though it’s ‘good’ it’s not fun!). Jesus was tortured, suffered greatly, and was nailed to a cross to die. His friends watched in horror and wept bitterly; their hope was gone. We, too, can experience times of suffering (that feel like torture!) or times of grieving and sadness, where hope seems to be lost. But, we need to remember the story didn’t end on the cross. On the third day, Jesus rose! He conquered death and opened  the gates of heaven for believers. The ground is shaking, the earth is rumbling, breakthrough is about to happen!!! God cares, God is able, and He is far bigger than ANY circumstance. He can heal, He can bring about victory, and if He allows hard times to come for our good, He also brings about restoration and grace…and more!

Job’s life was restored. Jesus greeted His followers with the good news that He was alive. In our own lives and circumstances, we can recognize that SUNDAY is not too far away…

Father God, we thank You that You love us. You created us and You have mercy on us, even when we don’t deserve it. We thank You for who You are. We recognize Your greatness, Your power and Your goodness. We thank You for the hard times, even the darkest times. We thank You that You are refining us and showing us a better way. We thank You that you love us enough to discipline us. Thank You for not allowing us to stay still but continually helping us grow and mature. Father God, please open our eyes, ears and hearts to learn the lessons You have for us. Give us courage, wisdom and obedience to follow Your direction. Please give us humility and grace to respond when and where You call us. And God, we ask for SUNDAY! We ask for healing (for my ankle and for anyone reading this) and for hope and for restoration. We ask for the good times that follow…may we learn from the hard times and look forward to the GREAT times ahead. Thank You for SUNDAY! Thank You for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thank You for the hope that brings. Thank You for Jesus’ blood for our sins. We ask that He would restore us to You. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Humility & Success

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 2:14

I have been reading through both books of Chronicles over the past several days, and I keep seeing two themes emerging over and over again. The first is that God grants success to His people. “And David became more and more powerful because the Lord Almighty was with him” (1 Chronicles 11:9); “So the Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:6b). About Uzziah: “…and as long as the king sought the Lord, God gave him success…His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord helped him wonderfully until he became very powerful” (2 Chronicles 26:5b,15b). And later, “Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful” (2 Chronicles 31:21b); “Hezekiah was very wealthy and held in high esteem…for God had given him great wealth…And so he succeeded in everything he did” (2 Chronicles 32:7a,29b,30b). There are a number of accounts of those who chose to trust God, seek Him wholeheartedly and rely on His strength; and they had great success in life because God was with them, blessed them and acted on their behalf.

In my own life, there are many times that I have prayed and seen God work on my behalf. I truly think our successes are due to His gifts (even the skills and abilities we have are from Him!) and His blessing in our lives.

So, it’s somewhat troubling to see the next theme that has emerged…the need for humility. Sadly when we start seeing success in our lives, it’s easy to let that sneaky sin of pride get rooted into our hearts. We listen to the lies that it’s our own hard work, our own skills that we’ve made good use of, or our own “good luck” and neglect to praise God for the blessings He has given us. The words HUMBLE and HUMILITY have come up over and over and over again:

“When the Lord saw their change of heart, he gave this message to Shemaiah: ‘Since the people have humbled themselves, I will not completely destroy them and will soon give them some relief.'” (2 Chronicles 12:7a).

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all His warnings. So the Lord sent Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and cried out humbly to the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request for help. So the Lord let Manasseh return to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Manasseh had finally realized that the Lord alone is God!” (2 Chronicles 33:10-13).

Later (when Josiah was reigning): “You were sorry and humbled yourself before God when you heard what I said against this city and this people. You humbled yourself and tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. So I have indeed heard you, says the Lord” (2 Chronicles 34:27).

God has great power – He has the ability to give us success when we seek Him wholeheartedly and walk in His ways AND He can punish us greatly for our sins. I believe pride is a stench to Him (and to others – let’s be honest, is it fun to be around someone arrogant and proud? Are they easy to work with? Easy to like?). If God blesses us and instead of praising Him, we take the credit and become downright awful to be around, how disgusting is that?

Instead, we can realize success and give credit where it’s due. We can be humble before God and before others. We can openly admit that it’s God’s blessings in our lives that have made us who we are, where we are, and how we live. It’s God’s protection while we sleep, His hand on us as we walk, His grace in giving us jobs and enough to eat, His blessing of joy and peace, and so forth… may we not be proud but rather full of Thanksgiving, humility and respect. Let’s give glory to God!

Father God, we recognize that You alone are the One True God. We see Your faithfulness and give You credit for being Lord and Master. We thank You for the many blessings and successes we’ve realized. And we likewise want to repent for times that we’ve allowed pride to infiltrate our thinking. Help us take every thought captive and surrender it to Your truth and Your Word. We humble ourselves before You today, we seek Your presence and Your will, and we ask that You would help us succeed in doing what’s right, what’s holy, what’s just, what’s pure, what’s lovely, what’s admirable. Help us act according to Your ways. We thank You and praise You. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Changing Your Perspective

Have you ever experienced a situation where things weren’t going the way you were expecting? You truly believed in your heart that things would be different?

My devotions the last couple days have been too good not to share! You can read the entire passage word-for-word here (2 Kings 5-7), but I’ll highlight two stories within that really struck me (and I’ve been thinking about ever since!).

The passage starts out with a commander of the Aram army who was a respected, mighty warrior but suffered from the skin disease of leprosy. He was basically given a ‘letter of recommendation’ from the king of Aram and told to go see the prophet Elisha in Israel to be healed. So, the commander went to Elisha’s house and waited at the door. But, instead of seeing him in person, Elisha sent a messenger out to tell the army commander to go wash himself seven times in the Jordan River and then his skin would be restored and he would be fully healed of the disease.

What happened next? The commander of the army became ANGRY!!! He stalked away, offended that the prophet hadn’t met with him. He sulked, “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God to save me!”and left in a rage (2 Kings 5:11-12).

Thankfully, his officers reasoned with him and encouraged him to obey. So, he followed the instructions and was healed! The army commander went back and thanked the prophet, proclaiming there was no God in all the world except in Israel (2 Kings 5:15).

In my margins, I wrote “God heals us in different ways than what we might expect.” It was a new thought to me – a new perspective. You see,  I expect that I pray and God quickly answers with a divine intervention OR a medical treatment. But sometimes, I need to step back and realize that God’s ways are different than ours, God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and God’s plans are BETTER than ours.

We can be angry, hurt and sullen with our expectations or we can be quick to submit and walk in obedience to God’s truth. We truly can trust that He is working things out in His way and in His timing.

This brings me to this morning’s reading, where this same prophet Elisha was being hunted by the Aramean army (later the king had ordered his execution – even though he had helped his army commander). Elisha’s servant woke up in the morning and saw “troops, horses and chariots everywhere!” (2 Kings 6:15). He was distraught and cried out, “Ah, my lord, what will we do now!?!?!”

Let me pause here and say if you have ever been in a desperate situation with seemingly no way out, then you know how this distress can feel. This man was afraid for his life, and they were surrounded by troops with literally no where to turn… nowhere but UP, that is.

Elisha responded, Don’t be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs! Then he prayed and asked God to open the eyes of his servant. “The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire” (2 Kings 6:17).

If you continue to read, you’ll find out that not only was Elisha not harmed, all the soldiers went home safely (and with a new perspective of who God is, I’m assuming!) through God’s holy plan.

My point is that sometimes we can’t see what is happening in the spiritual realm. My prayer today was that God would open my eyes. May we not be overwhelmed and consumed by what we see but rather focus on the eternal, the important, the help that comes from above, and mostly the Helper.

Whatever you’re praying for today – know that God doesn’t work according to our plans and expectations… He does things absolutely BETTER! And while we may not physically see it, we can trust and know that He’s got it covered. Submit to His plan and pray today, asking for His help and for His vision. May He change our perspective!

A Reminder From God…


The week after Christmas I had an MRI done on my left ankle and foot since I’m still having swelling and severe pain (and I fell back in September!). I got the results after the New Year’s holiday and was devastated to see that my ankle is still broken (although it looks to be healing) but I tore or partially tore three ligaments surrounding my ankle and there is also an abnormality (break or separation?) in my foot, on that same left side where the ligaments and muscles are joined together. I was sad, to say the least. And the orthopedic group was off for the holidays so I was left with results and no one to really explain them. While my internet search showed that this tears and breaks can be normal with a severe ankle injury, they also suggest that eight weeks in a cast should help with the healing. I’ve already done that, and this MRI was taken months later. I started to panic – why is this not healing?

The next morning, as I was taking the kids to school, we opened our morning devotional as we always do. The kids take turns reading to each other, and we discuss what it says in the car. (I know this sounds like we were running late, but we were actually early. I have found that the morning car ride is the best morning time where we are all together with attention given to what’s being read, so it is just what works for our family for morning devotions!) Here was the devotional, word-for-word (borrowed from the book “365 Devotions for Boys”):

WHO’S ON DUTY?

“You clothed me with skin and flesh, and wove me together with bones and tendons. You gave me life and faithful love, and Your care has guarded my life.” ~Job 10:11-12

     Have you ever seen a lifeguard in action? If someone is in trouble, he does not hesitate to jump into action and save a swimmer from harm. When people sign up to be lifeguards, they know that caring for others is their job.

     Did you know that God is your lifeguard? He offers constant care, love and protection.

I heard the words as they were being read and I immediately thought of David in Psalms saying how God created and formed our bodies. But, instead I was surprised to hear the reference of Job (which the kids mispronounced as a ‘working’ job, and I corrected them saying “it’s Job” which sounds like robe). These verses touched my heart all the more then. Anyone who has read the book of Job knows that he had suffered greatly and continued to trust God and cry out to Him. God knew that I was sad. He was reminding me that He has formed our bodies, He knows how to heal and how to save, and He is offering care, love and protection. I felt like He was saying it would be okay.

I have an appointment to see the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow in between classes. I am still having pain, but I am trusting that my ankle will heal (and I’m praying for sooner, rather than later!). The one doctor from the practice emailed that it can take up to four months for torn ligaments to heal. This week marks four months, but I keep reminding myself that if that is an average, it’s okay to be higher than average and someone else’s lower-than-average healing time makes that still an average. That said, I miss running and doing normal activities, and even being able to sleep without waking up with pain. So, please pray that my ankle heals and this becomes just another memory of God’s faithfulness. 🙂

I am reminded that GOD is on duty today. He has not left His throne. He is still in charge. He knows what we need. After all, He created us! If you have anything you’re struggling with today, ask God to rescue you. Even if all you can do is put your hand up (like a swimmer who needs help!), He’s got you! Trust that He is able and ask for His faithful and powerful intervention. Then thank Him as you watch the answer unfold…