Samson Has Some Problems Part II

Last time we learned how God worked in the life of Samson, a young man with some problems that God used to be a warrior leader of Israel.  Samson is arrogant, strong, has a temper, and a fighter which certainly would not be the qualities we would look for in a leader today, but when God chooses leaders they meet His criteria and not our own.  Let’s see what happened after he killed all those men with the jawbone of a donkey.

Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”  Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi.  Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.  Judges 15:18-20, (New International Version or NIV).

Samson leads the nation of Israel for twenty years, and because the Philistines were so difficult to get alone with God used this strong man to lead Israel.  But Samson has some flaws that his enemies wanted to use to their advantage.  Samson loved beautiful women.

One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”  But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. 

Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.  The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”  So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”  Judges 16:1-6, (NIV).

Samson is the leader of the nation of Israel and yet he can’t keep his pants zipped.  Oh how this love of beautiful women is going to get him into trouble.  There are many men today that have fallen into the trap of a woman who can probably identify with Samson.  It seems the more powerful a man becomes the more he thinks he can have whatever he wants.  This is a sad fact that hasn’t changed much.  It is also a warning to all of us to guard our hearts and not follow Samson’s lead because Proverbs tells us plainly what happens to men who go down this path (Proverbs 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9).

My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.  For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.  Proverbs 5:1-5, (NIV).

I don’t know about you but I find it rather confusing that God uses such a flawed man to lead His people.  I want a good honest character that is married and loves his wife and would never look at another woman let alone sleep with her.  I want to rewrite this story, but my kind of guy isn’t the one God used, God used Samson, the man who had many problems.  I guess I should feel good about this because it reminds me that God can also use me, a woman with many problems, and God can use you with all of your problems as well.  Wow!  What an eye-opener.  So what happens to Samson?

Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.”  With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.  So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”  When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands.  After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.  Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”  He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.  Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.  Judges 16:15-22, (NIV).

Samson, you remind me of so many men who were trapped in their own desires and it came back to bite them.  Now you are without your hair and your strength.  Worse yet, the Lord had left him.  That is what happens to so many people who think that they can live life the way that they want to, that tell God they are in charge rather than Him after years of enjoying the blessings of God in their life.  This is what happens to narcissistic people who begin to believe that they did everything themselves and don’t give God credit for His blessings on their life.  Samson is doomed, or is he?  The joy of this story about Samson’s life is that once he realized what mistakes he had made and how his way of living was wrong he repents, sort of, and God allows him one last request.

Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”  When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.”  While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.  When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”  Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.  Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”  Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.  Judges 16:23-30, (NIV).

Blind and in chains Samson is no longer the handsome man he once was, but he is most definitely wiser.  He finally acknowledges God and asks for one more chance, just one.  God gives Samson that chance and this should bring hope to all of us.  We have people in our past that have made major mistakes and as long as they breathe we need to keep praying that God give them one more chance to repent and acknowledge all God has done in their life.  Oh we all know that God has to strip away all that narcissism and pride and arrogance, and only God can do this, and so we wait patiently for the Lord to act and we continue to pray for that one last chance of repentance.  Or perhaps we are the person who someone else is praying for that needs to repent, you have a chance today to do so.  Samson had one last chance and God allowed him to die taking out all of his enemies.  This is a story of hope for our lost ones and I hope you will be encouraged by the life and death of Samson.

Until next time…Katherine

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Samson Has Some Problems Part I

Many of you have probably heard the story of the great strength of Samson and how he was tricked by the woman Delilah.  It is an intriguing story for sure however do you know much about the man Samson?  I want to take a look at this troubled man so let’s begin at his birth.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.  A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth.  The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son.  Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean.  You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”  Judges 13:1-5, (New International Version or NIV).

The Philistines were enemies of the Israelites and the two countries battled many times during the stories of the Old Testament.  Remember the giant that David killed and beheaded was a soldier fighting for the Philistines (1 Samuel 17).  One thing to note is that God uses other countries to do what He desires and in this case God used Philistine to punish the Israelites and they were occupied for forty years by the Philistines.  During this time a boy was born to a childless couple and he was to be used by God.  God must have a sense of humor because the power that Samson had, the tremendous strength that the boy and man had was because he never cut his hair!  I don’t know about you but I find that rather comical.  Samson was destined to become a leader because God desired him to do so.

Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman.  When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”  His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”  But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” (His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)  Judges 14:1-4, (NIV).

Samson grew up in an occupied territory and of course his parents didn’t want him to marry a Philistine girl, they would want a lovely Jewish daughter-in-law, but Samson wanted a Philistine woman as his wife.  God wanted Samson to marry the Philistine woman as well.  I find this absolutely intriguing, don’t you?  It gives us a glimpse of how God works His plans in our daily lives.  It also gives me comfort to know that what I might think of as a mistake in my life, and I refer to my divorce, might actually have been the plan of God all along.  If we are honest we see that the rebellion in Samson against marrying a nice Jewish girl is something God allowed in order to bring about His great plan.  God’s ways are so mysterious and His thinking is not our thinking (Isaiah 55:8-9).  I see in all of this a young man who has some problems; he is used to getting his own way and reminds me of a narcissist.  What next will this young man do?

Now his father went down to see the woman. And there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men.  When the people saw him, they chose thirty men to be his companions.  “Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.  If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.”  “Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let’s hear it.”  He replied, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”  For three days they could not give the answer.  On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?”  Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”  Judges 14:10-16, (NIV).

Samson gets married and since he doesn’t have family or friends that attend the wedding the bride’s family chooses thirty young men to party with him as friends.  Samson gives them a riddle that there is no possible way they could know the answer as it is based on something he had done in the past, something he had told no one.   Why would he do that?  Is he so greedy for their possessions?  To me it sounds like a group of young men bragging and partying and these young men are being taken advantage of by Samson.   What would you do if you were one of the young men?  I would do exactly what they did I would go to the wife and get her to find out the answer!  It works and he tells his wife the answer to the riddle and she tells her family and friends and Samson gets angry and here is what he does.

Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him, “What is sweeter than honey?  What is stronger than a lion?”  Samson said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.”  Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he returned to his father’s home. And Samson’s wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast.  Judges 14:18-20, (NIV).

What is God doing?  Wow!  After Samson is betrayed by his wife he becomes angry because the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him.  Wow!  Double wow!!!  He goes and kills thirty men and takes all their belongings and gave them to the thirty young men to pay the bet and then goes home to Daddy and sulks.  What happens to the wife?  Her father gives her to one of the young men.  These people are weird to me, cutthroat and wild and weird!  I can’t imagine something like this happening today.  Can you?  Well maybe our world isn’t so different after all.  There are societies, sub-cultures, where people act just like this and we call them gangs!  I ask again, what is God doing?  We have to keep going to find out!

Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in.  “I was so sure you hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.”  Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.”  Judges 15:1-3, (NIV).

The feud accelerates and so does the intrigue.  He is denied his wife which makes him so angry that he gets even by burning the crops belonging to the Philistines.  His plan is rather ingenious, taking 300 foxes, tying them in pairs, and setting their tails on fire so that they run and spread the fire quickly, it is also cruel.  This results in the death of his wife and her father by their fellow countrymen.  Wow!  And now what?  Of course Samson has to get even and so it comes to the point that he is finally captured and here is what happens then.

The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi.  The people of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight us?”  “We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered, “to do to him as he did to us.”  Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”  He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.”  They said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”  Samson said, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves.”  “Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock.  As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands.  Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.  Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them.  With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.”  Judges 15:9-16, (NIV).

We don’t understand the violence that God allowed and in fact orchestrated through the life of Samson.  But there is a reason.  First of all God needed to raise up a leader and the leader had to be tough and strong and cunning.  Samson certainly fits that description.   God wanted the Israelites to see the power that came upon Samson as coming from Him, no mere mortal man could do what Samson did without God’s power.  The Philistines were a cruel people and we see that in this passage.  What I want us to learn from this is how God works through the nations even today and through individual leaders as well.  We know that there is a plan unfolding of God’s and we also know that we are a part of that great plan.  What we don’t always recognize is the how or why of the plan.  Samson has some problems for sure.  He is use to getting his own way, he is strong and handsome and arrogant and filled with pride and has a temper.   We will look more at this man in the next blog.  We will see what happens to a man like Samson who doesn’t listen to God, a man who acts on impulse and reacts without thinking.  It is interesting for sure.

Until next time…Katherine

Harmonious Living

I often pray for a spirit of harmony over my son’s school as I drive him there to spend his day learning about this world.  I pray for the staff and students to get along well and that there be no discourse or trouble.  I have learned in my life that praying for others to live harmoniously is important.  I want us to take a look at living harmoniously today.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Romans 12:14-17, (New International Version or NIV).

As Christians we are called to get along with everyone even those prickly people who don’t get along with anyone.  I have lived long enough to have had experiences with others that have not been very pleasant.  For instance going through the divorce was a stressful time in which it was very difficult to always be at peace with my now ex-husband.  Anyone who has gone through a divorce knows what I am talking about.  Harmony is not possible during such a time and yet we Christians are called to be at peace even with ex-spouses.  I learned a simple truth through this experience and that is that if I stop reacting to every situation and let God battle the battle I could live a lot more harmoniously with everyone and peace was achieved even with my ex.  The best peace I know is to never see him again.  God has been gracious to me and I seldom see him because he seldom sees our son.  I think that is God’s doing, I truly do.  Part of achieving peace with others is to recognize that they have a problem with God and that they are actually fighting with God and not really with us.  We are the collateral damage but we are not the real cause.  By recognizing that fact we can bless them.  Praying for someone is an intimate act which is one way to bless those who don’t like us or are mean to us.  Refusing to get caught up in their drama is another way to bless them.  I removed myself from any contact with those who dislike me and that is part of how I bless them.  If you know that you make someone angry at the very sight of you then why place yourself where they see you unless you want to annoy them and that attitude is not a blessing. Live in harmony with one another Pride is such a sneaky sin that wants to creep into all kinds of places in our hearts.  We need to be on guard for pride’s dark side because it can cause us much pain especially when it is stripped away from us.  Conceit is also painful when God rips it out of our lives.  But most of all the blessings that we give to those who persecute us or don’t like us very much is to repay their evil with good and not with retaliation because God sees it all and judges us for our actions and motives.     So Christians who worship together and work together always get along super well, right?  Maybe not!

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.   I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  Philippians 4:1-3, (New American Standard Bible 1977).

Of course this would have to be two women who are not getting along that Paul writes about in his letter to the Philippian church.  We don’t really know much about their dispute but it must have been something that was disrupting and causing harm in some way.  Euodia and Syntyche were not getting along and Paul urges them to live in harmony.  In fact Paul calls upon a third-party to help these two women resolve their issues with each other.  Sometimes in life we all need that third-party to come and help us resolve disputes with another.  There is no harm in asking for help from a mediator when you are having problems with others.  Sometimes marriages need help resolving issues as well.  Sometimes it is a conflict between parents and children that need some attention in order for peace to be restored to the family.  This is a great example that Paul laid out here to remind every one of us that there will be times in our lives when we have difficult people and situations to work through.  It is during these times that we must rely upon others to help us and thankfully some are willing to do so.  I am reminded of another scripture about harmony.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”  And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  2 Corinthians 6:11-18, (NIV).

Up until this passage we have learned that we are to live together in harmony with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as well as our enemies and those who persecute us.  However, there is a limit to how far we should go to live harmoniously.  This passage states unequivocally that there is no harmony between Jesus Christ and Belial!  What does this mean?  I believe that this passage refers to Belial who was an idol and false god that was worshiped in Corinth.  Today we see false gods also being worshiped around the world, Buddha, Dahlia Lama, Allah, all the Hindu gods, and so many more that I can hardly keep up!  But there are also false gods being worshipped that we may not recognize as one because there is no idol to bow down to and that is the idol of self and science and money and power and anything else that becomes such a passion that we leave the one true God out of the equation.  This passage explains that there is no harmony between Jesus and false gods, none what so ever!  We are not to live in harmony with false gods and false ideologies and false religions.  We know and recognize what is false because the Holy Spirit resides within Christians and will tell us and show us what is false.  This is the one time that we do not live in harmony.  Let us remember this important fact!  Living in harmony is a wonderful feeling though.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!  For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.  Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion.  And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.  Psalm 133:1-3 (New Living Translation).

What a blessing it is to live in peace and unity and harmony in God’s family.  This blessing overflows and helps us to live at peace with those who are outside of God’s family, those who are at war with God and think that they are at war with us, those who are lost and in need of redemption.  What a blessing to have such peace that the world doesn’t understand or even know exists.  Harmony is the key to a life well lived because we no longer are at war with God.  I hope that you are basking in the peace of harmonious living today.

Until next time…Katherine

Happy Chinese New Year 4716 (2018)

It is that time of year again when our Asian family and friends are celebrating the Lunar New Year and so I want to wish everyone a very happy healthy and prosperous 4716 New Year of the dog!  We celebrate the New Year in our home because my son is Chinese and my adult children are half Chinese.  We celebrate because it is traditional to do so but there is more to it than that.  The Bible has many examples of celebrations and often reminds us to remember God when celebrating and so I think it is important to celebrate whenever we can with family and friends.  Since my ex-husband is Chinese I have been celebrating the Chinese New Year for many years and I think it is a wonderful time to remember old Asian friends and wish them good health and to also make it a time to be thankful for God bringing us together.  Here are some examples of Biblical festivals to read and gain ideas from.

Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.  “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.  “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.  “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.  “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.  “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord.  Exodus 23:14-17, (New International Version or NIV).

The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.  That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.  Esther 9:18-19, (NIV).

The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy.  Ezra 6:15-16, (NIV).

Chinese New Year is a wonderful celebratory time in my family.  We cook Chinese food and we give lucky money (red envelopes of cash) to the little ones and we sometimes attend community celebrations as well.  Many times throughout the years I would cook a Chinese banquet and serve to friends who always enjoyed the food and the company.  I have also sent Chinese New Year greeting cards to my Asian friends and wished them a happy and prosperous New Year.   This year I plan to cook a family style meal for my son and my youngest daughter and her family since the two elder children live too far away to attend I will probably send them an electronic New Year greeting.  Where I live in Nebraska it is difficult to purchase actual Chinese New Year greeting cards so the electronic cards have been great for me.  It has been a good ten years since I was able to go to a Chinatown to shop for cards and last year I finally used up all that I had on hand.  But the electronic cards are a way for me to still show my family and friends that they were thought of during the New Year!  I want to add something to this celebration this year, something I have not done before.  I want to add a time to thank God for all that He does for me and to remind my family of these good things as well.  I have been giving this some thought as to how to implement such a plan.  During Thanksgiving I spend time remembering all the things I am thankful to God for providing to me.  During Christmas I thank God for Jesus and read the Christmas Story to remind us that God gave us such a perfect gift, the gift of salvation.   During the American New Year I reflect on the past year and ask God for help in the coming year as I thank Him for His goodness in the past year.  But I have never really incorporated God into my Lunar New Year before and I think it is high time that I do!  Since the theme I set for myself this year is one of joy I think that would be a great theme to incorporate into all celebrations this year including the Chinese Lunar New Year!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  1 Chronicles 16:34, (NIV).

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4, (NIV).

How important is joy?  I think it is extremely important because without joy we are not really capable of rejoicing and giving thanks to God for all the things He carries us through as well as provides for us.  Without joy we can’t live a Christian life and if we try to we really are not living up to the standard God desires for us.  Joy gets us through the tough times and helps us stay focused on heaven and not on this earth.  So how to incorporate joy into my Chinese New Year celebration, that is the question.  I think that I will look up the Chinese character for joy and copy it and make a sign I can post on my wall.  I always try to hang signs in Chinese that has a traditional New Year greeting along with the scrolls and other decorations.

See the source image

https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=PXWRo8P6&id=43E0907F8CFAD6A37BD11FC0D7E66A52E2D7925C&thid=OIP.PXWRo8P60ApMgW3AtQ9jiwHaFS&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2fwww.documentsanddesigns.com%2fimages%2fUniversal_Cultural%2fChinese%2fTable_Numbers_Names%2fChinese_Symbols_Proverbs%2fE_Chinese_Symbols_Proverbs_Joy.gif&exph=360&expw=504&q=Chinese+Symbol+for+Peace+Love+Joy&simid=608049732041968528&selectedIndex=7&ajaxhist=0

This looks rather simple; I think that I can copy this.  Of course I already have some decorations that have the word double-happiness which is also one symbol used for joy in some of the internet sites I have seen.  I think that I will write out the character for joy on a smaller piece of paper and place it into the red envelope with the lucky money I give to my son and granddaughter, and they will have a reminder to be joyful all year-long!  I will also cook longevity noodles, which is really just fried spaghetti noodles with a sauce I make from oyster sauce and soy sauce and a few pieces of meat and vegetables, and when I serve this I will remind my family to be joyful for a long life.  In fact I can incorporate joy into every dish that I cook simply by having my family enjoy them.  I will simply place joy into every attitude that I have and share that joy with others.  How are all of you celebrating this year?  I wish you all a very Happy, Joyful, Prosperous, and Healthy Year Of The Dog New Year!

Until next time…Katherine

Why I Ignore Valentine’s Day

When I was a child I loved Valentine’s Day because I got to decorate an old shoebox, cereal box, or tissue box into a beautiful frilly mail box to have all my classmates put their Valentine to me inside.  It was part of our education.  We would make the boxes in art class and we would then place them on the counter in front of the long windows of our schoolroom.  It was a time to show others how creative we could be.  Of course my box never looked as nice as some of my classmates because I was a messy artist and it showed.  I think the most cleaver box I ever saw was when a classmate made a covered wagon mail box.  That was really cool!  What was even more cool was getting the valentines from my classmates and most had a little candy inside.  It was a time to show that special friend just how much you really cared about their friendship too.  It was also a time to feel rejected if some child decided to be mean and purposely forget you!  Then as a young adult Valentine’s Day took on a whole new meaning and receiving flowers or candy from a guy you liked was really something to look forward to!  I always hoped but never received anything until I was engaged to be married.  He was not used to celebrating Valentine’s Day because in his culture there was no such day and after living in my country a few years he caught on to what it was all about.  I would give him a card and he would give me a card.  I would give him a little note declaring my love and he would do the same for me.  It was special.  It was neat.  It felt good.  I had grown up watching my Dad give my Mom something special for Valentine’s Day and it was neat to have someone giving something special to me.  After I married and we made more money the gifts that I received and gave were more expensive and I always got a bouquet of flowers delivered to my door from my sweetheart and I loved that!  And then he left and I have not celebrated Valentine’s Day since except to lavish my love on my children and grandchild with a card or small gift.  I get nothing most years but once in a while I receive a pretty card from one of my children.  I wonder how many of you are ignoring Valentine’s Day too?

In the grand scheme of life Valentine’s Day doesn’t really matter, does it?  Does it really matter if we have a sweetheart to woo us and remind us of how special we really are?  For ten years I have had none of that, no real reminder of how special I am from people.  However I wake up every day and feel wooed and loved by the one who matters, Jesus.  I feel the strength to keep going because I have to keep going.  I feel the warmth of His smile when I see the sunrise or the first rain drop or the beauty of snowflakes falling silently to the ground.  I know that I am loved by Jesus.  I hear His love in the words that He speaks through the Bible to me each day.  I feel the love in how well Jesus provides everything that I need to sustain life.  Jesus is not only my Lord and Savior, but also my best friend.  I love my relationship with Jesus and I value it immensely.  When I was first grappling with the pending doom of becoming single through divorce I clung to many passages where Jesus spoke, here is one of them.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:11-12, (New International Version or NIV).

When you have gone through a tough breakup of a marriage or relationship you need to hear these words, they bring comfort, understanding, and healing.  I needed to hear them.  This is the last of the blessed are passages we call the Beatitudes.  I learned to rejoice again but it took some time.  I have returned to a normal life in most things but not when it comes to Valentine’s Day.  I won’t celebrate it, won’t go to the church banquet, and won’t buy a gift to send because it is just one of those times that still remind me of how alone I am in my life.  I will often buy myself some flowers because I love to see them in my home!  Here is another passage that means a lot to me.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:13-16, (NIV).

While someone did throw me away and trample on me it wasn’t God!  I have not lost my saltiness and Jesus says that I am worthy to be kept and that means a lot to this old single woman!  With my faith still intact I was able throughout the past ten years to continue to let Jesus shine through me each and every day.  This blog is proof that I still shine for Jesus.  I don’t need to worry about how I was treated or whether someone loves me on Valentine’s Day because Jesus loves me every day!  Why do I need a holiday to be reminded of how special I really am to Jesus?  After all Valentine’s Day was invented by greeting card merchants who want to sell cards and gifts, or so it seems to me! I want the real deal!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8, (NIV).

If love is patient then I must be patient.  If love is kind then I must be kind.  If love doesn’t boast or show pride then I must not boast or show pride.  I can’t be selfish but I can be selfless and caring about others.  I am sure that if we all obeyed just this one passage there would be no one who felt unloved in this world.  Honestly there have been times in the past ten years when I felt unloved and alone.  But then Jesus steps in and does something so wonderful when I read these words and realize that I am not alone, no!  Jesus loves me more than any human ever can!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39, (NIV).

Now that is a love that I can count on to always be there just for me!  You can count on this love from Jesus too if you are God’s child.  Do you believe in the one true God?  Do you believe that God sent His Son Jesus to be born in this world and grew up and was killed on a cross at Golgotha and was placed in a borrowed tomb and rose again after three days of being dead?  Do you believe that Jesus took your sins and my sins and the sins of all people everywhere and buried them in the grave?  Do you believe that you are ready to obey and serve Jesus?  Then you are truly loved!  Now that I think about it I don’t really need to keep ignoring one day a year on the calendar because I am loved deeply!  You are too dear Christian.

Until next time…Katherine

 

Beware of Dogs

I always find the writings in the Bible of the Apostle Paul interesting.   He is fairly easy to understand and he gives much encouragement as well as instruction on how to walk out my faith in the real world.  I like that because I need constant encouragement just as many of you probably do too.  Life is hard, being an adult is never easy, at least it hasn’t been for me and I have been an adult for many years now.  But there is one phrase that stood out to me today as my son and I were reading the Bible before I took him to school so of course I want to delve in deeper and understand what it means.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.  Philippians 3:2-6, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

Are dogs evil; is this what we are to glean from this passage?  No, I don’t think so.  I have three grand-dogs that are part of my family and we do enjoy them.  Dogs today are pets that most of us think of as a positive part of our lives.  So why did Paul say to beware of dogs?  It always helps when we read the context of what he is saying and it is pretty obvious that he is calling false Christians dogs.  Why did he call them dogs and not snakes, I hate snakes!  Or why didn’t he call them spiders, another detestable creature to me.  Or why not call them pigs especially since the Jewish people didn’t eat pork?  Hmmm!  Well I am not an expert on animals but I have known many dogs through the years and there is something all dogs have in common, they are loyal to their owners.  Dogs in nature run in packs and this is probably why they are instinctively loyal to their owners.  But as a member of the pack dogs will submit to the strongest dog as the pack leader.  Domesticated dogs seem to instinctively follow this pack mentality substituting humans as the stronger pack leader.  There has actually been research on this subject, all you have to do is google it to see articles on this phenomena.  In my own family we have a tiny little dog named Mia, she is my daughter’s dog and she is a Chin.  She lays down at my daughter’s feet or near her when at their home.  However, when she comes to my house she lays down near me and when my Mother was alive she would abandon me and lay next to my Mom.  She seems to instinctively know who the eldest is and stays close to that person as if they are the boss.  I find that so fascinating!  But I digress!  The Apostle Paul says to beware of dogs.  I think it is because dogs run in packs and can be very destructive.  For instance anyone raising cattle or sheep or horses or any other animal knows that a wild pack of dogs running the countryside endangers herds of animals because the dogs will kill cattle, horses, sheep, etc. and wild dogs will also attack humans as well.   So Paul says to beware.  That is the important term here, to be aware of false Christians as they can be harmful to you.  So I want to know more about the dog angle and I did a word search and here is another passage to review.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death.   For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.   I can count all my bones.  They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.  But Thou, O LORD, be not far off; O Thou my help, hasten to my assistance.   Deliver my soul from the sword, My only life from the power of the dog.   Save me from the lion’s mouth; And from the horns of the wild oxen Thou dost answer me.  Psalm 22:15-21, (NASB77).

This time it is David that talks about dogs.  He was a sheep herder before becoming a soldier and then king so he knew the danger of wild dogs no doubt.  He compares the evil people trying to harm him as a pack of wild dogs wanting to bite and devour him.  Notice the similarity to this passage and actual events when Jesus died?  Hmm!  David is begging God to protect him and deliver him from the powerful attacks.  Maybe this is where Paul got the idea to call evildoers dogs.  So are there more scriptures?  Yes.

Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.  Proverbs 26:11, (NSAB77).

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.  Matthew 7:6, (NASB77).

Wow!  These two passages are pretty self-explanatory, don’t you think?  Dogs do vomit and they do try to eat their vomit.  Yuk!  What a description of fools and their folly.  And then Jesus says not to give holy things to dogs, why?  I think it is because holy things are not appreciated by world-thinking people.  The person who is not a Christian won’t value or treasure what is holy, what a Christian values as holy.  We need to remember this also, but there is another passage to look at.

These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.  For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.  For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”  2 Peter 2:17-22, (NASB77).

The Apostle Peter, the rock on which Jesus founded his church (Matthew 16:18) writes such a compelling description of fools and their folly and ends it by quoting Proverbs 26:11.  Again the point is to be aware of these people who are out hunting like a pack of dogs and they blindly follow the wrong leader.  They may think that they are Christians but are they?  Jesus gives us the answer.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.  Revelation 22:13-15, (NAB77).

Jesus says that the dogs will not enter heaven and puts them into a class of sinners that should make us shudder.  Dogs are false teachers.  Dogs are fools.  Dogs are not going to heaven.  Dogs are immoral.  Dogs are practicing sorcery.  Dogs are murders.  Dogs are idolaters.  Dogs are liars.  Wow!  No wonder we are warned to beware of the dogs because they don’t have a holy bone in their body.  And the worst part of this is that they may be sitting in the pew next to you at church!  Watch out for the dogs!  That is not being judgmental, that is being wise because they are not on the path to righteousness and they will not end up in heaven.

Until next time…Katherine

The Middle Ground

Everywhere I look these days I see in our society two types of people, overachievers and underachievers.  There seems to be no middle ground.  For instance in school most want our children to do well and that means we want them to be at the top of their class and at the top of their sports or music or chess club!  Parents are encouraged to begin at a very early age exposing their little ones to a variety of things such as dance, music lessons, and being on a sports team.   I often read and hear advice given to parents to let their cherubs try out a variety of things until they finally settle on one or two favorites and then pursue them passionately so their child will shine.  Parents also have a lot of pressure to be involved in meaningful activities such as exercise class or art class and don’t forget small groups at your house of worship!  I see parents working hard to pay for all the lessons for their children and it is almost as if the parent is basking in the glory of their child’s performance.  Parents also work hard today and many are climbing that corporate ladder to success!  And then there are the other parents who could care less whether their children do well in school.  They show disrespect to nearly everyone and so do their children.  These parents, if you can call them parents, spend much of their time neglecting their children and more of their time chasing an addiction.  They use their children and abuse them and teach them to abuse others.  So we have the contrast of overachievers and underachievers.  But what does the Bible say about both?

Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.  Philippians 1:12-18, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

You might think this is a strange passage to use when discussing overachievers and underachievers but I find something worthy of note here.  The Apostle Paul is in prison and is chained to a guard at all times.  He doesn’t know whether he will live or die but he doesn’t stop teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.  Some might say that he is an overachiever, but I think if he is that we should all be overachievers like him.  Think about yourself, what if you were put into prison today and chained to a guard all the time.  How would you handle this situation?  I would crumble into a million pieces and try to wrap my head around it all I think.  But Paul didn’t do this; he just praised God for having a captive audience, the prison guards!  Notice how others become emboldened to preach because Paul was in prison.  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  There is the point I want to draw from this passage, the gospel is being preached, Christ is being preached by two types of people and the motivation is the key here.  There were some that wanted Paul to get into more trouble so they preached to advance that agenda, wrong motive for sure!  Then others preached because they felt if Paul could be bold they also would be, right motive for preaching.  And Paul says he doesn’t care which motivates the preachers as long as Christ is preached!  Now that is what our attitude should be as well.  So what is your motivation to be an overachiever or an underachiever?  You will be judged by God on your motives.  I want us to look at the beginning of this chapter for a moment.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:3-6, (NASB77).

I love this passage as I see it as a promise and I want us to notice that Paul has confidence that the good work which was begun in the saints at Philippi will continue for the rest of their lives and on into eternity.  Think about this for a moment.  The work that Paul did in establishing a church in Philippi filled with Christians who are doing what?  They are living their life in such a way that they honor Christ Jesus in all things.  Paul taught them to walk out their faith in a worthy manner.  Paul was there from the beginning when they first gave their lives to Christ Jesus and accepted the free gift of salvation.  Paul prays for them and thanks God for them.  You also have people in your life that you have worked with to come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  For some it may be your children.  For others it may be you sisters or brothers or parents or friends.  Have you ever thought about that fact?  Paul’s motivation in life was to see people come to Christ and be saved by grace.  He did an awesome work and teaches us by his own life to make our motivation in life to be the same.  Was Paul an overachiever or underachiever?  As we look at his life we see that he was homeless most of the time, worked at manual labor as a tent maker, spent many times in prison, was kicked out of many places and beaten and left for dead, considered obnoxious and fled for his life at times, (2 Corinthians 11).  I wonder what his parents thought of him especially since they had made certain that he had the best education possible.   Did they see him as an overachiever or an underachiever?  Hmmm.  So where’s the middle ground?

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”  Mark 12:41-44, (NASB77).

We don’t know her name.  We do know that she was a faithful woman worthy of being singled out by Jesus Christ to teach his disciples that this one woman gave more offering from her poverty than the richest who came to give that day.  I think this is the middle ground.   What is so special about being an overachiever?  Isn’t that really a worldly concept, to be the best and to be the brightest so that you are known and seen and talked about by others in the community?  “Oh look at me I am so good!”  Underachievers also love the attention they get for being so bad, just look at how they dress and how they talk and how they act, it is all for attention.  “Oh look at me I am so bad!!!!”  But the middle ground is where I believe Christians should live their life.  Why?  It all comes back to motivation.  Was the widow seeking attention when she gave her offering to God at the temple treasury?  No, she just quietly waited her turn and gave it all.  Her motivation was pure because she had a pure heart and Jesus noticed her.

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.  Philippians 1:27-28, (NASB77).

I want the middle ground, not an overachiever who wants attention or an underachiever who also wants attention but a mundane simple life walking out my faith with a pure heart and right motivations.  This is the life that Jesus notices and that is what I desire to do and I hope you do as well.

Until next time…Katherine