Learning From History

The older I get the more I love to read the Old Testament (OT).  When I was younger I stayed out of the OT because I found it hard to understand and I couldn’t pronounce most of the names.  But after listening to some really great pastors who preached out of the OT I must have learned a little more about the whys and wherefores because now I really enjoy reading in the OT.  I want to explore this idea of learning from the rich history in the OT.  So of course I begin in the New Testament (NT)!  Go figure!

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.  Romans 15:1-7, (English Standard Version or ESV).

I love to encourage others and that is why I write this blog.  I also love to be encouraged.  Let’s face it there will be times in all of our lives when we benefit from some encouragement given to us by others.  We also benefit when we are blessed to be in a position to give someone else a little encouragement.  Well guess how God encourages us?  Yep, through His written word and the Old Testament is as much a part of the Bible as the New Testament.  Notice how the author of Romans says we can be instructed through what was written long ago.  There’s another verse similar to this I want to show you.

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17, (ESV).

The Apostle Paul was encouraging a young pastor named Timothy to continue on in the faith that he learned during his childhood.  Paul reminds Timothy that every word of scripture has been breathed into being by our loving God, OT and NT alike.  So why not learn from some of the examples in how to live or not live in the Old Testament!  Here are some of my favorites.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.

When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.  Numbers 12:1-16, (ESV).

Wow!  I think it is pretty obvious that when you speak against the person God has chosen to be a leader you won’t escape consequences.  Miriam was Moses’s older sister and I think she thought that she should be in charge or at least that she shared in the decisions but God showed her that she was wrong!  A good warning for me to keep my mouth shut and not to talk bad about church leaders or for that matter any leaders!  What do you think?  Here’s another of my favorites.

My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.  For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.  And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.  Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof!  I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.  I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.”  Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.  Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?  Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.  Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.  Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.  Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?  For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.  He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.  Proverbs 5:1-23, (ESV).

Hmmm!  I imagine we all know someone who should have taken the advice offered in this passage.  There are real consequences from adultery for sure!  Here’s another favorite of mine.

He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.  2 Kings 2:23-25, (ESV).

Never make fun of a bald man, especially if he is a prophet of God.  Enough said!  One more!

Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women— when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.  Esther 2:12-14, (ESV).

It takes time to look your best.  In order to become a queen Esther had to do as she was told.  She must have worked very hard during those twelve months to keep her appearance such that the King fell in love with her.  I am sure she had natural beauty which some of us do lack, but with the right instruction from the eunuch in charge of the harem she persevered and became a queen!  Maybe my Mary Kay makeup regiment helps me look better too, though for sure I am no queen but I am a daughter of the King and that might make me a princess!  Right?  The point I hope you are getting from this is that there are some interesting stories in the Old Testament and we can not only learn from them but also be entertained!

Until next time…Katherine

Being Pure

Anyone who reads my blog regularly will probably notice that I love to study Paul’s writings.  He must have been a man of great knowledge and yet knew how to write and speak in such a way to really get his point across.  One of the things he wrote in his letter to Titus seems to be echoing in my mind today so let’s take a look at it together, shall we?

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.  But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.  Titus 1:15-20 and 2:1-8, (New American Standard or NASB).

It has been said often that innocence lost can’t be regained and that is mostly true I think.  I watch my little four-year old granddaughter and see her innocence, she is so pure in her thoughts and her motives are so transparent.  I know that one day she will grow into a lovely young woman and will learn as we all do to hide our true motives and she will never be as innocent or pure as she is right now.  Paul talks about the pureness of our hearts and minds because as Christians we are renewing our hearts and minds daily to be more like Jesus (Romans 6:4, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:22-24, and Colossians 3:10).  We live in a world that lacks purity in not only thoughts but also deeds.  That is why there is so much crime and ignorance and difficulties.  Yet when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior we invited the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds and He is connected to Jesus and to God and helps us to cleanse sin out of our lives.  This process is the renewing that Paul talks about and it is a process to get us to a place of purity.  We no longer see the innuendo in a joke or notice the subtle probe of another to tempt us into a life of impurity, or at least that is the goal.  The Apostle Paul spent the first half of his letter instructing Titus on how to deal with the lazy and rebellious people who Titus was trying to teach and preach to.  I noticed Paul gave a rather blunt description of these people in chapter 1 verses 10-14 and I urge you to read them if you aren’t familiar with them.  It made me wonder what Paul would say about you and me!  Purity is the goal because it is the opposite of rebelliousness.  I think of purity as being a characteristic that is closest to Jesus because He is the perfect example of true purity.  I think of rebellion as sin which makes a person more like Satan which leads to hell.  I don’t know about you but I want to be pure and not full of sin.

Paul tells us what a pure life would look like and he also describes what an impure life looks like.  A person who is impure may be a church going person but they are not a true Christian.  They will know the songs and the verses and can probably recite from the Bible but their actions speak loudly that they are not really pure.  This will be the person that heartily laughs at a crude joke or thinks that watching porn is no problem.  This person can’t pretend to be pure for long and if you see how they live their life daily you will see the flaws in the mask they hide behind.  Paul contrasts this with a truly pure person who is obedient to God’s word and has a genuine concern for others and is knowledgeable in true doctrine.  I love the description Paul gives of the behaviors of older men and women and what they should be. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.  Older women are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  I hardly know any younger women and this is an area that I need to improve because relationships with others are important to encourage and to teach.  As an older woman I need to seek out younger women to mentor.  Younger women need to seek out older women to let them be their mentors too.  After all relationships are reciprocal, we give in order to receive from each other.

And then Paul continues to encourage Titus the younger preacher to also reign in the young men.  Young men in Paul’s day were probably just as silly as young men are today and some just don’t make very good choices or decisions in their lives.  Paul instructs Titus to teach the young men and urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. I think this is good advice for young men today as well and I am teaching my son who became a teenager recently to be sensible and dignified and to make good choices even when one of his friends double-dog-dares him to do something unwise.  The job has fallen to me to teach my son because his Dad sees him so rarely and really doesn’t fulfill the role as teacher.  Single Mom’s know what I am talking about!  I may not know what it is like to be a young man but I do know how I want my young man to treat others and how I want him to navigate life.  Since the job of Mom and Dad has fallen on me I will do the very best for my son and I have a great resource in the Bible to teach him from.  Thanks Paul!

Purity is not a bad thing but it is a characteristic that the world scoffs at and doesn’t appreciate.  I would add to what Paul has taught to Titus that we all need to be pure in our attitudes, in our behaviors, in our relationships with each other and with non-Christians as well.  We also need to be modest which I think of as going hand-in-hand with purity.  Modesty is also mocked in our day and yet it is so important.  We need to be modest in our dress as well as our attitudes and actions if for no other reason but to show the world that we are different.  If I show my cleavage or dress in a really tight dress I look just like many non-Christians.  But if I take care in my appearance to cover my cleavage and wear a dress that fits well but isn’t too tight then I can be a help to my brothers-in-Christ who are tempted daily with impure thoughts about women.  Modesty is the outcome of a pure heart and mind because we do not want to be our fellow Christian’s stumbling block and we do want to be more like Jesus.  We need to help each other as well in the area of purity.  The world wants our young women and men to be sexy and flirtatious but Jesus wants our young women and men to be sensible and taught sound doctrine.  Modesty helps us to maintain purity.  At least that is how I see it.  Some have said that purity is old-fashioned and you are a prude to teach it but I disagree and so does Paul and so does Jesus!

Until next time…Katherine 

A Great Reminder

I am a list maker.  If I really want to achieve a goal I write it down and plan out every detail.  If I want to clean my home, I make a list and write everything down that needs to be cleaned.  If I want to stick to my budget I make a grocery list and consult it while shopping at the grocery store.  It seems to me that making a list helps me be more organized and productive.  There are many times that I make a list to take with me as I am running errands and then I somehow forget to put it in my purse and I am able to recall most of what I put on the list.  I think the act of writing it down is helpful to me to remember what I need.  Maybe you are a list maker too and can appreciate what I am saying.  Writing something down is a great way to remember things, maybe that is why I like to write a blog because my blog is as much of a reminder to me as it is to you.  Today I found something I want to share with you, and it also is a written reminder to us.

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us toc his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.  2 Peter 1:1-15, (English Standard Version). 

Peter was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus and, after the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter became a leader in the first century church.  In this letter he has written some great reminders to all Christians that we are never left alone or abandoned because we have a part of God living inside us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Why?  Why would Jesus leave the Holy Spirit with us after He ascended to heaven?  Peter reminds us why, to help us live a life that is pleasing to God.  We have such a wonderful God who knows that this world is filled with all kinds of sins and so God has granted us to have a part of His divine power to help us deal with the world and all the evil snares that try to entrap us.  We are now Holy in God’s eyes.  And God can look upon us and see goodness because the Holy Spirit is constantly working in us for our good in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:27-29).  And the will of God is that we be like Him.  This is awesome stuff!  I mean, right now it is late at night and I am tired and I certainly don’t feel very much like I am a Holy being especially as my fingers are constantly missing the keys and I am constantly having to redo words so that they are readable and spelled correctly.  But the truth is God sees me so differently than I see myself.  God sees you differently than you see yourself too.

Since I am a natural-born list maker I especially love the list Peter lays out for us.  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Now that is my idea of a list!!!!  I try to live my life with these virtues in mind.  Faith, studying the Bible and learning more about God which is what knowledge is, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly and sisterly love for my family, friends and especially fellow Christians whether I know them or not, this is a list I desire to achieve.  But honestly I fall short far too many times I fear.  This afternoon my four-year old granddaughter looked at my face and said, “Grandma, are you angry?”  I was not angry but I was thinking about what to cook for supper and I didn’t really want to cook supper because I had been driving nearly all day.  I guess my face was looking angry even though my heart was not angry but I was tired.   I fixed her favorite mac-n-cheese and we also had grapes!  She loved it!  I think this exchange with my granddaughter reminded me that I need to be more careful about my facial expressions.

Peter tells us that if we have these virtues in our life then we are to continue to increase these virtues more and more if we want to effectively deal with sin.  We will be more effective in our work, in our ministry, in our families, in our relationships and so on.  I love his description of a backslider, whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins Does anyone come to mind?  I can think of a few and to be honest there are a few times in my own life that I was that blind!  Thankfully God is patient with us and we also need to have patience with others who may occasionally fall into backslider mode!  Peter reminds us all to remember that we were called to be followers of Jesus and not of the world.  We need to take this calling seriously and he has laid out a great set of virtues to remind us how we are to live out our daily life.  Peter’s reminder is one for the ages.  I wonder how many people have found encouragement in this passage; I know that I have and I hope that you have as well.  We all need to be stirred up in our faith and to be reminded why we are to continue having self-control and patience and stability in our life.  Some people may think that such a life is boring and at times it may feel boring but I don’t think that my life has been boring most of the time.  I like to be grounded in the things of God because it gives me so much freedom.  I no longer need to be judgmental.  I no longer need to be legalistic.  I no longer need to work to prove myself as good.  No, I have such a profound freedom in the grace that abounds in my life because of my faith and my love for Jesus Christ!  Thanks Peter for your great list to remind me that I need to keep on the path I travel because it is the right path and will lead me to Jesus, to heaven, and to eternal life!  Nice to have you along for the journey, dear Christian!

Until next time…Katherine

I Want To Be Wise

I want to be wise, but I am not.  I want to be perfect, but sadly, I am not.  I want to be beautiful, but I am not.  I want to be truthful, but I am not.  Oh how I wish that I would stop lying to myself above all!  Have you ever felt that way too?  I am an imperfect Christian who wishes I was more than I am and wishes that I was as good as I sometimes think that I am!  Let me tell you about my struggle.  My house is a beautiful house and it should be clean, but it isn’t.  I have piles of notebooks and papers in one corner and a pile of sewing stuff in another corner.  My kitchen counters are cluttered to the point of distraction and if I am honest I haven’t vacuumed in a month!  I did dust this morning but only because I couldn’t stand it any longer!  My windows need washed and I just look at them and think how dirty they are.  I seem to be a lazy woman, far from the woman I long to be or even than I used to be!  It wasn’t all that long ago that I had a nearly spotless house.  Everything sparkled, but for the past ten years I have been gravely remiss in my household chores.  Most days I think I do a great job if I get the dirty dishes out of the sink and into the dishwasher.  Why am I so lazy?  I would rather sit here and write blogs about interesting subjects in the Bible than I would to clean my house.  Speaking of which, I want to share with you something I was reading this morning.

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  James 3:13-18, New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB 77).

I want to be wise, who doesn’t?  So how do I become wise and gain understanding?  If I read this correctly I have to do some work on my attitudes and behaviors in order to show my wisdom.  Is that how you read it too?  Peacemakers are wise.  I love to be around people who are peaceful because they seem to have a joy about them that nothing seems to ruffle.  My Great-Aunt Mabel was like that.  She loved to laugh and she did her chores with an attitude that was always uplifting.  I want to be like her.  My Great-Grandmother had a joyful attitude also and I loved to be around her.  I don’t think I ever saw her angry.  My Grandma also had a very peaceful and uplifting attitude too.  Nothing was ever too much for her, she would sweat but she never complained about it.  I saw her many times cook for a crowd and never once did she act like it was a burden.  I want to be that kind of woman, one who never complains.  To be honest about it, the women I have mentioned had a lot they could have complained about.  After all they cooked before microwaves were invented.  They would have thought that an electric dishwasher was a miracle.  And they would have loved to have had large mega grocery stores to shop in.  Their idea of a quick meal was Campbell’s Soup and crackers!  My idea of a quick meal is take-out!  What was different about these women and me?  I think this passage from James sums it up pretty well.

The three women I mentioned never had a jealous bone in their body!  I never heard any of them say that they wished they had what their neighbor had.  I did hear them say that they thought some of their neighbors were heading for financial trouble because they were spending too much money on things they didn’t really need.  They worried about their family and friends and took their worry to God in prayer often.  These three women were not jealous nor were they bitter nor were they selfish.  In fact I found these three women to always be generous.  I loved going to their homes because I knew that I could always leave well fed and often was sent home with extra food.  These three women would bake cookies with the expectation that someone would drop in for a cup of coffee and a visit.  They would plant an extra row of beans or hill of cucumbers just so they could send fresh garden produce home with people who dropped in for a visit.  They canned homemade jellies and pickles with the same thought in mind, to share with others.  I never think anyone will drop in and if someone actually does come to my house to see me I might make them a cup of tea but seldom have cookies to offer them.  In no way could anyone consider these women as hypocrites, no, they lived authentic and loving lives filled with integrity and peace.  I miss them dearly and I long to be like them.  We have so many in our world who think only of themselves and what they want always comes first.  I don’t want to be that type of woman.

Who among you is wise and understanding? I want to answer this calling and be this type of woman.  Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.  Okay, this gives me a purpose and a hope that I can become the woman I want to become, that I have always wanted to be.  My attitude has to change first and then a change in behavior will follow; what attitude should I have?  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  Get rid of jealousy and selfish ambition, check!  Stop being arrogant and thinking that you are better than anyone else, check!  Stop lying to yourself and to others, check!  Stop following the wisdom of the world, happiness is not the goal, check!  If you are content with what God has given you then you won’t be jealous or succumb to selfish ambition and disorder will become order in your life and in your house!  Check!  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.  Godly wisdom comes from a pure heart, a peaceful heart, a gently attitude, being reasonable and not unreasonable, giving abundantly others mercy and along with mercy sprinkle on them some good stuff like love and kindness and cookies and jam and homemade bread and whatever you have to give.  God will supply the increase if you give yours away!  And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  Planting seeds of kindness is the fruit I loved from the women I mentioned and so will others feel that way when I pass on what I have learned from Great-Aunt Mabel, Great-Grandma, and Grandma!  Love it!  Okay, I will stop writing and go clean!

Until next time…Katherine

A Stubborn Generation

Sometimes I think that we must be living in a generation of people whose hearts are stubborn in believing that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light!  People today seem to want to believe in a form of religion but not in real truth.  Many say that they are Christians but their lives do not tell the same story as their lips do.  I don’t want to be judgmental but there are some facts about being a Christian that we can’t ignore and our walk of faith has to match up with our words.  I was reading last night in Matthew and discovered that my generation is not the first to be stubborn in believing the truth.  Take a look.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’  Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “ ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”  Matthew 11:2-19, (New International Version or NIV).

John the Baptist who was the one who came to clear the way for the Messiah to come was also Jesus’s relative (Luke 1).  He was a man of integrity as well as truth and a great prophet of God.  He had been put into prison and would soon die at the whim of an evil woman who despised him for telling her “husband” the King that he was living in sin with her (Matthew 14).  John had a large following and had disciples who he sent to Jesus to make sure that Jesus was the Messiah.  I can understand why John would wonder.  He probably thought like most of Israel that the Messiah would have an earthly kingdom and most likely John wondered why Jesus had not sprung him from his prison cell and vindicate him.  Of course this was not God’s plan and Jesus knew this.  Jesus told John’s disciples to go back and tell John all that they had seen.  They did this and it was of great comfort to John no doubt.  But John still was beheaded and died.  It is hard to live without your head!  The King and his “wife” were certainly stubborn hearted but there were others as well.  Jesus says that the generation He was born into, the generation He lived among was the most stubborn generation.  Why are they stubborn and what are they stubborn against?  The signs and wonders that Jesus preformed, the miracles that He did should have been enough to open their hearts and minds to hear His words.  Even the ones Jesus healed often didn’t truly appreciate what He did for them.  Some did, but not many.  Most people just wanted Jesus to make them well so that they could go on living as they had before they met Him.  If that isn’t the description of a stubborn generation I don’t know what is.  Imagine if you were ill and you were healed instantly wouldn’t you want to know why you were chosen to be healed?  I guess the stubborn hearted person thinks of the miracles of Jesus the same way that I do when I go to the doctor and get antibiotics to clear up an infection.  I don’t care about the doctor or what the doctor believes or stands for as long as I get the pills to make my aching head and throat feel better and be well again.   The crowds seemed to be in awe but only for a short time.  Jesus throws out some woes to the stubborn generation.  I think they are worth a look.

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”  Matthew 11:20-24, (NIV).

If you were a resident of one of these towns do you think that you would have changed your heart to believing in Jesus or would you still remain stubborn?  I don’t think we can truthfully answer that question, but I sure would like to think that I would have believed in Jesus as God’s only Son!  So what did Tyre and Sidon do that gained them God’s wrath?

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take up a lament concerning Tyre. Say to Tyre, situated at the gateway to the sea, merchant of peoples on many coasts, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘You say, Tyre, “I am perfect in beauty.”  Your domain was on the high seas; your builders brought your beauty to perfection.  Ezekiel 27:1-3, (NIV).

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.  Ezekiel 28: 1-2, (NIV).

“ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor.  They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas.  Will you then say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you?  You will be but a mortal, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you.  You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners.  I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ ” Ezekiel 28:6-10, (NIV).

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Sidon; prophesy against her and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘I am against you, Sidon, and among you I will display my glory.  You will know that I am the Lord, when I inflict punishment on you and within you am proved to be holy.  I will send a plague upon you and make blood flow in your streets.  The slain will fall within you, with the sword against you on every side.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.  “ ‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.  Ezekiel 28: 20-24, (NIV).

Do you get the feeling from reading these verses that actually are only highlights of two chapters in Ezekiel concerning Tyre and Sidon, do you get the feeling God doesn’t like humans to think they can replace Him?  God won’t tolerate human denial that He exists, and when Jesus warned the two cities Chorazin and Bethsaida that they were going to be judged more harshly than the people of Tyre and Sidon because they are more stubborn in not believing in Him as the Messiah, as the Son of God, I believe Him, don’t you?  This is a serious warning to anyone who has a stubborn heart and refuses to even look at the Bible as truth!  This is a warning to you and to me and to our generation as well as every generation since the time of Tyre and Sidon!  Wow!!!!!!   Please take some time to read and study the Bible, there is so much to learn from it and to apply to our daily lives.  Keep loving people, keep believing and keep praying!

Until next time…Katherine

Casualties Of Divorce

When the divorce happened to me I was not prepared for many of the casualties that would come to be.  I knew that there would be a change in my life.  For instance I knew that I would no longer have the financial protections I had in marriage and that my income would be cut drastically.  I knew that I would have to give up my beautiful home that I had personally planned, saw built, and personally decorated from the ground up.  It was hard, but I accepted it graciously.  I knew that I would remain single the rest of my life and though that was not what I had expected or hoped I knew I could do it.  But there have been some unseen casualties from the divorce and I hope that my writing about them will help some of you to cope with it better than I have.  Here are five things that I consider casualties of divorce.

1). Confidence In Self

2). Relationships with Family

3). Friendships

4). Hopes and Dreams For The Future

5). Expectations

Confidence in myself has plummeted and then has risen higher than I ever thought only to plummet once again.   I have not been able to find a solid road to a steady confidence in myself.  It is like I am constantly reinventing myself.  One day I have confidence that I can finish my education and do so only to lose all my confidence in my capabilities when no job is secured.   I am thankful that I have an outside source of income to sustain me but having my day filled with a job seems like it would be a better way to forget the pain of divorce.  Having a job seems to me a way to feel useful and to move on in life.  It would give me less time for reflection which seems to be the times I lose confidence the most.  But God hasn’t opened that door for me yet and so I ride a roller coaster of emotions when it comes to confidence in myself.  Making the transition from Mrs. to Ms. has also been difficult and my confidence takes a hit often as I maneuver through the journey.  I no longer have someone to boost my confidence or to compliment me or even to encourage me which are all necessary in building confidence.  Time has made things better but I still am not as confident as I should be and I know it!

My family has always been and always will be the most important part of my life, until divorce happened.  I have lost a lot of my family since the divorce, some through death while others simply have drifted away.  These losses have been tough on me, more than I care to admit.  Divorce is not just the separation of a household and couple but it is also a separation of extended family members.  I lost a family and part of an identity when the divorce came.  My children are still connected to that family but sadly I am not.  I had learned to understand them well and I had learned through the years to love them and worry about them and be excited to see them and now I am to ignore them as though they never existed.  I am too loyal of a friend to be able to handle this well.  I feel sad when I know that they are gathering for a family reunion that I have no right to attend any longer and would not be welcome if I did because they are no longer my family.  This is not the only loss in family relationships either.  The relationship that I had with my adult children and their families is altered forever.  I was struggling with the same empty nest emotions that many moms struggle with before the divorce and it seems to me that the divorce has made that struggle much harder.  I see intergenerational families doing things like having a picnic at the park across from my house or shopping at the mall and they look so happy.  Grandpa is chasing the little grandchildren around and swinging them in the air while Grandma is helping set out the food with her adult children and it makes me sad.  I watch them as if I were watching a television show longing to have that sort of relationship with my children but knowing that it will never be.  They live too far away for one thing and for another the time of family connectedness is always strained even after all these years.  I feel the strain but we never talk about it.  Their time has to be shared with the other half as well and I have to let them go with a supportive heart but it is still difficult and probably always will be.  I know that my children love me but I do not think they like me very much and that is the big difference.  I have thought about this at length and the conclusion I have come up with is that I see all too clearly parts of them that remind me of their Dad and it pushes some negative buttons in me that they don’t even know exist.  I just want to be free of him even in them but genetics connects them to him as much as to me.  Do you know what I mean?

Friendships change when divorce happens too.  I heard a person say one time that in her divorce he got the friends and she got the dog!  I can relate.  It can be a great pressure and strain on some people to remain friends with both people who are divorced.  I understand that well.  I have appreciated my friends who stuck by me and emotionally supported me but I know it has been difficult for them.  When you see someone who is hurt by someone else it hurts you too if you are very loyal and many of my friends are loyal.  Time is helpful in healing this but not all friends remain in my life as before.  I think it is pretty natural for married people to flock together with other married people and when one of them is suddenly single whether through divorce or death a slight parting of the ways naturally takes place.  In some cases it is because the couple was friends with you and your spouse because they knew you and those friends usually stay connected.  But in other cases being friends with you was because they knew your spouse much better and so they stay connected with them or drift away completely.  I have found that reconnecting with friends I had before I was married has helped me more than I can say.  There is something about old connections that seem to help me realize I was a person before marriage and I am a person after divorce.  Have you experienced the same?

Another causality of divorce has been my hopes and dreams for the future.  They have changed drastically.  I no longer feel anchored to a community and sort of drift along in my life.  The hopes and dreams I had before divorce were much different.  I expected to have parties and family gatherings and be a hostess and a good Grandma and go travelling and help anyone who needed a little boost economically.  I no longer have such hopes or dreams.  Now I go places only if I have to and until recently I hadn’t entertained in almost ten years.  There has been no large family gathering either in a long time.  I am working on changing my dreams and hopes but again I feel as though I am drifting through life without a plan.  My plan each day is to get up and make certain my son has everything he needs to be successful in his life.  My plan is to see my granddaughter once in a while and enjoy watching her grow up.  My plan is to talk to my children occasionally and know that they are well.  My plan for me hasn’t been developed yet but I am certain it will come, eventually, just not yet.

The final causality of divorce I believe is my expectations.  I no longer have any expectations.  I have learned through a very painful process not to hold any expectations because everything that I had thought about, hoped for, tried to achieve, and expected to happen have not happened at all.  Expectations are over-rated anyway.  I place no demands upon anyone anymore and that way I am protected from being disappointed.  I spent way too much of my life being disappointed and I just don’t care to be disappointed again.  I suppose it is true of most people as we age but the only person that has never disappointed me is my Heavenly Father.  He is my rock, my salvation, my redeemer, and the one and only one I can fully count on not to disappoint me.  This is not bitterness talking, this is simply a fact.  Divorce removed my rose-colored glasses and reality is all that I see now and that has not necessarily been a bad thing for me.

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.  To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.  You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.  You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.  As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.  Psalm 18:24-30, (New International Version)

If any of you are struggling with the aftermath of divorce in your own life I am sure you will find something in this post that you can identify with.  I hope that you can also find peace in knowing that you are not alone in this journey through divorce country.  I will wave when we pass each other along the way and also say a prayer for you.

Until next time…Katherine

 

Prayer And Handling Free Loafers

We as Christians are often called to pray for our fellow believers and do so gladly.  We may know someone who is ill or going through a tough time and so we pray that they be healed and given strength.  We pray that people have safe travels and we pray that they be comforted when someone passes away.  We pray for deliverance from difficult circumstances as well as financial miracles to come our way.  I love to model my prayers on the most famous prayer of all The Lord’s Prayer and I am sure many of you do as well.  You can read it in Matthew chapter six.  I want to show you something I ran across the other day in scripture about praying for others.

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.  2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, (New International Version or NIV).  

The Apostle Paul is encouraging the believers in Thessalonica to pray for the spread of the gospel.  I have to be honest, I seldom do this.  I think, however, it is a very important prayer to be praying.  I have missionary friends all across the world that I pray for.  I pray for their safety, for their health, for their needs to be met and for their ministry but I seldom think to pray that they be instruments of the Lord for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ across the globe.  I am so thankful that God answered these believer’s prayers for the gospel to spread or otherwise I would not have the joy of my own salvation!  Someone prayed for someone else to tell someone and all through the generations people have been spreading the gospel and I know this because I heard it from someone.  That is how you learned that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead, the first-born of the dead, and went to heaven to prepare a place for you.  That is the gospel message.  We need to be praying for those souls brave enough to leave home and travel the world telling the good news of Jesus Christ.

We also need to pray for deliverance from evil and wicked people.  If Paul and Silas and Timothy and Barnabas needed prayers for deliverance from the evil in their world then our missionaries today need such prayers as well.  We could also pray for each other that we do not fall into the hands of evil people also.  But are we praying such a prayer?  I must do a better job of praying for anyone who is out in this wicked world preaching and teaching others about Christ.  God protected Paul even while he was in prison and so I can trust God to protect the missionaries that I know as well but I have to pray for them first in order for them to be protected!  I can also pray for my pastor and you can for yours.  Pastors are often called into situations that are not easy to deal with and we need to lift them up in prayer for protection and for strength and boldness to speak just as we do for our missionaries.

We need to pray for ourselves.  Paul says that the Lord is faithful in protecting us from the evil one and I know this to be true but prayer helps.  Prayer reminds me that I am special to God even if I am not special to anyone else.  Prayer also reminds me that I have a relationship with God and that talking to Him in prayer is one way to stay connected to Him.  Bible study is another way to be connected to God.  I think of reading the Bible as plugging in an electrical cord to an outlet, heaven is on the other side of the outlet but the cord that runs from the outlet to me is prayer.  I can’t get plugged in to God unless I pray.  Protection that comes from God is so necessary in this evil world today and I am thankful that I can pray anywhere and at any time and God will hear my prayer.  What a blessing that is!

Paul changes his focus from prayer to obedience and our behaviors in the next section of this passage.  I think it is worth a look too.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.  Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.  3 Thessalonians 3:6-15, (NIV).

Just like today there were unemployed people back in Paul’s day and they seemed to be free-loading off the church.  These unemployed persons were causing a problem in the church as they were gossiping and not living a life that was pleasing to God.  These people were causing problems and disruptive.  I can only imagine what the disruptions were.  Maybe they were loud and obnoxious.  Maybe they were pulling pranks and teasing too much.  Maybe they were partying rather than working.  Or maybe they were making a mess for the hard-working ones to clean up after.  I love what Paul tells them.  Paul tells them to go to work.  My uncle said when he was four years old to his brother age two when their Mom told them to put their toys away, “No worky no eaty!”   Little did he know at his age that this was a Biblical concept.  Paul tells the church to cut these free-loafing idle gossiping trouble makers off and have nothing to do with them if they don’t go to work and pay their own way in life.  Kick them out and do so in order that they will feel ashamed of themselves and want to repent.  I think that this is advice some parents need to hear concerning their adult children still living at home and unemployed.  It is hard to do but it is important to not allow others to be taken advantage of.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like being around people who are obnoxious so it is not hard for me to not associate with them.  We can always pray for them because we know our God is merciful and gracious and loving and kind, right?

To wrap things up we need to pray for our missionaries and our fellow Christians as well as ourselves.  We can also pray for those who are not living life as they should and sometimes that my even be someone in our family.  Don’t associate with people who aren’t working and minding their own business until they straighten up and live as they should.  Tough to hear but important to do.

Until next time…Katherine