How To Side-Step Trouble

I have thought a lot about the news lately.  It seems wherever I turn for news I hear hatred and anger and yelling without much patience and comfort and kindness.  How is a Christian to respond to times like we are seeing today?  I mean it seems to me that listening to each other and learning from each other is a far better way to go forward then all of the yelling and displays of anger.  Proverbs has some great advice for all Christians today on how to avoid trouble.

Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways.  Proverbs 14:2, (New International Version or NIV).

First of all a Christian, a true believer in Jesus Christ, will have a healthy fear of God and of Jesus.  This fear is not a fear of wrath or anger rather it is a fear that recognizes that God is all-powerful and has the first and last word in everything.  This fear includes respect and awe and a willingness to praise God and acknowledge that God is in charge of this world and everything in it to include ourselves.  It is this fear of our Lord that helps us to conduct our lives with discipline and grace and love and forgiveness and with no fear of the future and so much more.  This healthy fear is what helps us to stay on the path of righteousness.  However, the person who does not fear God and does not praise Him and does not acknowledge that God has the power to do anything will not love God.  Notice how the non-Christian is described in this verse, they are devious.  There is more to learn in how Christians can sidestep trouble but we must be certain that we have a healthy fear of God first.

A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.  Proverbs 14:3, (NIV).

A Christian who wants to side-step trouble needs to watch what they say to others.  How many times in the past have I debated and argued politics or religion with others and often I did so from a position of pride which made me want to destroy my opponent.  This is not how we are to conduct our speech.  James 1:26 tells us to keep a reign on our tongue which is another way to say we need to be careful what we say to others.  We need to watch our speech but we also need to make certain that when we speak it isn’t a mouth full of prideful words.  Pride is destructive and does not benefit a Christian’s life.  Pride is a negative attitude and so we must watch out for pride in our hearts.

An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.  Proverbs 14:5, (NIV).

Honesty is sorely lacking in so much of the world these days.  Being honest is a requirement for Christians and so we must make certain that what we say and what we do is honest.  When we are honest we will never deceive another but so many today are not honest.  When we are honest God notices and approves.  A false witness lies.  God hates liars and they will not go unpunished.  In 1 John 2:4 we are told that liars are those who do not follow the commands of Jesus yet say that they are Christians.  So we must be careful to make certain that we follow Jesus and one command we can fall back on is to love others as God loves them.

The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.  Proverbs 14:6, (NIV).

Wisdom is something that we Christians all need and Proverbs is full of ways to be wise.  But not all people are wise.  Just because a person is older does not mean that they have grown wise in their old age either.  Notice that a mocker, a person who makes fun of God or makes fun of you because you are a Christian will at some point in their life fall into difficulties and seek wisdom to get out of their trouble.  Notice also that a mocker will not find wisdom.  Notice also that a person who is living a life of righteousness will find wisdom and will find the knowledge to see a situation for what it really is.  Discernment helps Christians to side-step trouble.

Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.  Proverbs 14:7, (NIV).

Oh my, this is such good advice for how to side-step trouble.  If you have ever had the displeasure to be entangled with a fool you see the wisdom in this verse.  Stay away and run away from fools for they will cause you great harm and heartache.  You may lose financially or you might lose sleep but for certain you will lose emotionally and be left brokenhearted.  The advice from a fool will lead you to nothing good so stay away from foolish people who live foolish lives.

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.  Proverbs 14:8, (NIV).

Christians will seek wisdom and find it and will then be wise enough to side-step trouble.  How great is that!  But what happens to the fool?  Well, folly leads to being deceived.  We must be certain that what we say is good and honest and the truth and read our Bibles and study to keep seeking wisdom for this is wise.  We need to make certain that we are not deceived by the folly of foolish and false teachings.  Be wise and think before we say or do anything!

Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.  Proverbs 14:9, (NIV).

It is not always easy for us to put our pride aside and admit that we have sinned.  It is not easy to acknowledge our part in hurting someone else but we must do what we can to make things right again.  I must admit that when I have done something to hurt someone’s feelings I feel so much turmoil until I can apologize and say that I am sorry for my actions.  I believe that a Christian will want to take responsibility for our own sins and will want to apologize and ask for forgiveness.  A true Christian will also be ready to accept another’s apology and forgive them for past sins that have harmed us.  We are filled with love and compassion and kindness and goodwill because God is so loving and forgiving of us.  Fools don’t understand the need for forgiveness and so they mock and make fun of us for expecting them to repent and ask for forgiveness from us.  We do not want to be a fool for they are headed for trouble.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.  Proverbs 14:27, (NIV).

We started this study with the need to have a healthy fear of the Lord and so we will end with the same.  Having a healthy fear of God and of Jesus will help us to live well not only on this earth but also on into eternal life.  This fear is the very lifeline that we need to live a righteous life.  We will have a good life, not free from difficulties or of problems but we will have wisdom to cope with trouble when it comes.  To avoid so much trouble in this life we can learn to speak from love and not pride.  We can make certain that the people we are friends with are not fools.  We can follow the commands of Jesus to love others and to be kind and compassionate.  We may not avoid every pitfall in life by following this guidance but I believe we will avoid many problems be watching what we say, staying away from fools, seeking wisdom, and curtailing pride in our lives.

Until next time…Katherine

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Loving Assurance

I was thinking about sheep today and thankful that Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  My great-grandfather raised sheep and I remember seeing them as a child.  I always thought the baby lambs were so cute and loved to watch them play and frolic about.  Sheep are stupid animals though and can easily be led but when they have a good shepherd they will follow him anywhere.  I like that about sheep.  They don’t question where they are going or try to rebel against going but simply fall in line and go if the shepherd has a good sheepdog to help guide the sheep.  Maybe that is why I ran across this passage today concerning sheep.

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.  The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  John 10:22-30, (New International Version or NIV).

There were those Jewish leaders who wondered if Jesus was the Messiah as they all were looking for one.  But the answers that Jesus provided them did not satisfy because the one they looked for was not going to be weak in the worldly sense.  The Jews were looking for a messiah who would put Rome in her place and rule the world with them by his side.  This was not the plan from the beginning for Jesus and so the explanation He gives does not satisfy these power-hungry Jewish leaders.  I find it interesting that John tells us it is winter.  I can imagine that the farming Jews had a little more time in the winter to study in the Synagogue and so perhaps there were a few more in town this particular day.  Until now these men were unsure if Jesus was the Messiah who would overthrow the Roman rule and establish a powerful kingdom and so they pressed Jesus to tell them plainly if He was the Messiah.  They wanted Jesus to stop talking in riddles and stories and parables and tell them plainly who He is.  His answer to them makes them angry. “I did tell you, but you do not believe.”  How much are we like them today I wonder.  We read the Bible and listen to gifted teachers and preachers who explain what we read and yet so many of us still miss the point.  We still ask questions like what is God’s will for my life or how can I become a better Christian when we already have the answers.   God’s will for a person’s life is that they obey Jesus and be a disciple of His.  God’s will is that none should perish (John 3:16-17).  God’s will is that we accept that Jesus is His only Son and that we become the sheep of Jesus.  Jesus tells us plainly that His sheep will know Him.  This reminds me of another passage worth reading.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:1-6, (NIV).

To me this is one of the most comforting passages in the Bible.  It is a psalm of David and I love how David describes Jesus as my personal shepherd.  When we have Jesus we have a direct line to God the Father and no longer have to go through a high priest.  When we have Jesus our sins are forgiven when we ask them to be forgiven and we don’t have to make a sacrifice in the temple.  When we have Jesus we don’t need to worry about daily life because we are under the protection of a caring and loving Shepherd.  We can be like sheep that never worry about anything.  We can go about our daily lives doing good for others and living contentedly and without drama and contention because Jesus will handle everything for us.  We are safe.  We are fed.  We are given rest.  We are loved.  Now that is how I love to live my life and I can only imagine that you also love to live your life that way as well.  So how does the rest of the world live I wonder?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46, (NIV).

Now that is assurance that we as sheep are not living as goats because our Shepherd is Jesus and we know Him and He knows us.  Now this is assurance that we go about living our lives doing good things and living a righteous life and we will be faithfully rewarded one day because we belong to Jesus.  I love how the ones who are righteous helped strangers and those in need and those who were hungry and were fed and those who were ill and they were cared for.  We who are righteous have hearts that are compassionate and we show love to everyone regardless of who they are or where they live or what their politics is.  The righteous continue to do good and it has become such a habit to do so.  But those who are goats are without Jesus and while they may have thought that they did some good things they did them for the wrong reasons.  I know people who will gladly help someone who they think can help them one day in return.  I also know those who will help someone without giving a thought to whether the person will ever be able to repay them.  Which one is a goat and which one is a sheep?  Of course you know the answer, the one who does good to anyone and everyone regardless of whether they can return the favor.  I want to be that person; I want to be a sheep in the flock of Jesus.  I want to have the assurance that I belong to Christ.  Don’t you?

Until next time…Katherine

 

Our Soul Alone

I was looking at Luke 14:27 and thinking about what Jesus is saying as to being a Christian.   What does it mean to bear our cross?  I have learned from good teachers to not isolate one verse and make sense of it rather to study a passage to gain the full understanding of a verse and so I will attempt to do so today.  First let’s read the passage in Luke.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.   “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’  “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.  “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.  “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  Luke 14:25-35, (New International Version or NIV).

For Jesus to turn to the large crowd of people who wanted to hear His teachings and say that they needed to hate their family in order to be a disciple of His must have been devastating.   The Jewish family was the nucleus and heart of each person within that family.  What parents thought was paramount to the children even as adults.  This was a patriarchal society and a group of clans made up entirely of kin.  And yet Jesus tells these people  in order to be a Christian they must hate their family and even their own life!  Even today we find this a hard teaching to fathom.  It doesn’t sound like the love that Jesus teaches elsewhere, to love one another (John 15:12) and yet Jesus says plainly that a follower of Him will break with their family in order to follow Him.  Jesus then goes on to say that each person who wishes to follow Him must carry their cross, and some versions say to bear his cross.  So what does that mean, does it mean that we are alone?  Does this mean that we are to live alone and have no contact with our family?  No, that is not what this is saying.  I think Jesus is saying that we each have a soul and are responsible for individual actions rather than hiding behind the group-think mentality.  We have a soul and so let’s look at what that means.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Matthew 10:28, (NIV).

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  Matthew 16:24-27, (NIV).

Here are two passages that discuss the importance of a soul and I believe we can safely draw the conclusion that our soul is our responsibility.  It is our soul that will live on into eternity and how we live while we draw breath on this earth is what determines whether our soul goes to heaven with Jesus or hell with Satan.  To take up our cross means to take responsibility for our life and what we believe and how we conduct our behavior and the things we do on a daily basis.  We can still love our family but we must also think for ourselves and make important decisions based upon our love and knowledge for and of Christ.  If we follow Jesus then we will not be influenced by our family or their disbelief in Christ Jesus.  This is a harsh teaching but it is a reality we must all face.  We can’t be saved by our parent’s faith, we can’t be saved by our spouse’s faith, no, we can only be saved by our own faith in Jesus.  We also cannot save another either for it is an individual responsibility that each soul must make and abide by.

In the Luke passage we see that Jesus continues to build on this teaching by reminding the crowd that even a builder will not begin to build something without contemplating the cost for building.  He also reminds the crowd that a king won’t go into battle without calculating the cost of a war and whether or not he can win.  So Jesus reminds the crowd that if they really want to be a follower of Him that they must count the cost for the price will be high.  It is still the same today for many Christians.  For instance if you are the first to become a Christian in your family you will most likely be ostracized and for a time you may feel as if you were alone.  Can you withstand the pressure for peer pressure is a very real emotional tactic used often in our world?   There are some who will fail in bearing their cross I am sad to say.  Some can’t walk away from their friends who are not Christians and soon are sucked back into a lifestyle that mocks God.  Some have faced divorce because their spouse doesn’t want to live a righteous life any longer.  Some parents are parted from adult children because of the child’s disbelief in God and they no longer honor their parents.  It is a heavy burden to carry your own cross but it is also worth the price I would say.  To gain everything this world calls success in exchange for a soul living in torment for an eternity is not what I desire and I hope it isn’t what you desire either.  That is what awaits those who do not carry their own cross when following Jesus.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  Matthew 13:44-46, (NIV).

When we carry our cross and follow Jesus we will go to heaven where God welcomes us into His home.  Now I think that this passage reminds us that the cost of being a follower of Jesus is well worth the price we may pay here on earth.  We must remind ourselves when things are tough that Jesus is preparing a room for us in God’s house (John 14:3) and this will keep us going on the right path in life.  Yes there will be times of struggle for we live in a fallen world.  There will also be times of discouragement and even times of not understanding why things happen the way that they do.  It is during such times that we will know the price we are paying now will be worth it later and so we must continue to do what is right in God’s eyes because our soul belongs to Him through the blood of Jesus!  Dear friend, today, right now, let your heart be strengthened as you carry your own cross and know that it is worth everything to gain Jesus rather than the whole world.  Know that your soul thirsts for Jesus and keep working to encourage others as you journey together.  One soul alone is all that we can take responsibility for but we can encourage another who is struggling.  We can show God’s love and forgiveness to others who don’t know about Jesus.  We can bring the spring of living water to their souls and then it is up to them whether they drink or not.  We pray and we teach and we encourage and we do good things for the lost of this world but it is truly their choice to make whether to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

Until next time…Katherine

The Truth For A Lie

I was thinking about something I saw online recently.  It was a story of questions that children ask and the answers given were surreal to me.  Take this question as an example.  A child asked why there were so many languages in the world.  Now that is a simple question to answer if you are a Christian and believe that the Bible is true.  However, the answer given to this question was obviously not written by a Christian.  The answer involved how people migrated to other areas of the world and over time language was simply a natural result of such migration.  But that is not really the truth, not really and so I think it is important to look at why people of the earth speak different languages.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.  They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.  The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”  So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.  That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.  Genesis 11:1-9, (New International Version or NIV).

It really makes sense to me that since we all came from Adam and Eve (Genesis 1) that there was one language everyone understood.  And then when the flood covered the entire earth there was Noah (Genesis 6-10) and his sons and their wives who repopulated the world so of course there was one language that all understood.  The world was full of people who could communicate with each other and they were an advanced society, so advanced that they were building a tower that was going to reach into the heavens.  I would have loved to have seen the building plans for this city and tower wouldn’t you?  I bet it was spectacular!  Now we have some space travel today but we haven’t gone as far as these people must have gone.  Of course we need to notice what God thought of this endeavor.  The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”  This tells me that the plans were extensive and God knew that these people would achieve even greater things once this city with the tower was completed.  God decided this was not good and so a solution was implemented to confuse the people of the earth.  Language is a basic need in order to work together in cooperation to do almost anything.  I remember standing in an airport once and a little elderly couple came up to me and began to speak Spanish.  I had no idea what they were saying and I felt so bad for them.  I think that they thought I would speak Spanish because I had dark brown hair and a tan at the time.  I walked them over to a gate attendant and asked her to find them someone who spoke their language to help them.  Language is not always easy to learn either and God knew this and so this is how so many different languages came into being.  Isn’t this so much easier to understand than the notion that migration and evolution created the different languages?  This is a perfect example of a lie being told when the truth would be so much easier.  But this is the sad state of our world today, exchanging the truth for a lie which brings the wrath of God upon us.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.  Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.  Romans 1:18-25, (NIV).

  I think that this passage of scripture really explains our day.  So many people know that there is a God and many do not even deny the existence of God however they refuse to act upon this belief and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  They refuse to give God credit for anything and they certainly do not thank or praise Him.  How sad.  They have exchanged the truth for a lie and as a result they heap the wrath of God on their souls.  Worse than this they also encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.  Romans 1:28-32, (NIV).

How sad when the truth is so much easier to believe.  I think this shows the power of Satan and his demons to help perpetuate the lies that so many believe.  I think that there are some people who tell a lie so often that they begin to believe it as the truth, this is part of that delusional thinking Paul talks about in 2 Thessalonians 2:11.  But there is also a warning for all of us from James we need to be aware of as well.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.  When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  James 3:1-6, (NIV).

Being a teacher is a profession that we must realize what power we have over others. Whether we are a school teacher, a college professor, or a Sunday School teacher or even a pastor we need to be certain that what we teach is truthful.  We will be judged harsher than those who do not teach.  We need to make certain that we control our speech that we speak to others regardless of whether we are teachers or not because we all influence others.  We influence people on social media, we influence co-workers, we influence our children and grandchildren and other family members.  We need to be aware of the power of our words for they can bring the wrath of God or the love of Christ to others.  Let’s all strive to believe the truth and share it with others rather than the lies of this world.

Until next time…Katherine

Abimelek’s Failure

I found an interesting life story in the Old Testament that fascinates me.  At heart I am a person who loves to analyze and find reasons why people do the things that they do.  I guess this has been a hobby of mine probably because ever since I was a young child I have wondered why people want to do what is the wrong thing rather than doing the right thing.  Someone told me once that everything was either black-wrong or white-right for me but that they didn’t have such a strong moral compass and often felt they lived life in the gray area rather than black and white.  I found this intriguing to not know instantly what is wrong or right to do.  Here is a story of a man who had every opportunity to do right but chose to do…well you decide.

Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live.  He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives.  His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek.  Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.  No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals.  They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.  They also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) in spite of all the good things he had done for them.  Judges 8:29-35, (New International Version or NIV).

Gideon and Jerub-Baal were brothers and Gideon was one of the good judges that ruled the tribes of Israel.  Already I can see the beginnings of a great story for there had to have been some perks for a brother of a ruler, right?  Perhaps we can see the entitlement attitude in Jerub-Baal when we see that he had many wives and some concubines.  You could say that he was a busy man and he fathered many sons.  I wonder how many daughters were born to him.  Gideon dies and his brother has a son born to him from one of his concubines and he names him Abimelek.  Can you imagine what kind of culture Abimelek was born into?  He was raised by his mother who wasn’t married to his father but was property of him.  His uncle was a ruler who remembered God and followed God but it sounds like his daddy didn’t!  What else do we glean from this passage?  Oh yes, that the people after the death of Gideon were not loyal to God or to each other as a family of Gideon which might have included Abimelek.  Wow!  Let’s see what else this story tells.

Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.”  When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelek, for they said, “He is related to us.”  They gave him seventy shekelsa of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers.  He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding.  Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.  Judges 9:1-6, (NIV).

So one of the younger brothers had all his brothers killed but one who got away, Jotham.  And Abimelek did so to be the supreme ruler.  Entitled much?  Grandiose thinking?  Mad-man?  No, just a sinful man who thought he should be a king.  Can you imagine having seventy brothers?  Seventy!!!  Like I said before Jerub-Baal had been a busy man.  So the plot thickens now.

When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.  One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’  “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’  “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’  “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’  “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’  “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’  “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’  “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’ 

“Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves?  Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian.  But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you.  So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too!  But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!”  Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.  Judges 9:7-21, (NIV).

I find it interesting that God used the one brother left to have the last word and I don’t blame Jotham for fleeing to safety out of reach of his brother Abimelek, do you?  I would have too if given the chance after such a prickly speech.  So what next I wonder?

After Abimelek had governed Israel three years, God stirred up animosity between Abimelek and the citizens of Shechem so that they acted treacherously against Abimelek.  God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelek and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers.  In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelek.  Judges 9:22-25, (NIV).

Notice how God is the one who didn’t forget the sins of Abimelek and it is God that causes others to rebel against him.  I find this comforting because we all have people in our past who have done wrong to us and to our families.  We all have people who we have forgiven but have not sought our forgiveness, or at least many of us do.  Some families have lost a loved one through murder and they don’t even know who did the dirty deed.  Some people have been raped and the rapist is never caught.  Remember this, you may go on in life and from generation to generation forget but God never forgets and one day justice will come to the evil ones like Abimelek.  Abimelek goes after the rebellious ones against his leadership and many men and women die but God has something in mind for this proud entitled ruler.

Next Abimelek went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it.  Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof.  Abimelek went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull.  Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’ ” So his servant ran him through, and he died.  When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home.  Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers.  God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.  Judges 9:50-57, (NIV).

God deals with sin today just as He dealt with sin back in the Old Testament times.  I do find it interesting that God said the sins of Abimelek were against Jerub-Baal his father because Abimelek killed all but one of Jerub-Baal’s sons.  I would have thought that the sin would have been against the sons and their families and their mothers as well as their father but that is not how God saw it.  Or perhaps the writer of this passage only mentioned the father for had it not been for him there would have been no sons to be murdered.  Most importantly I think is the fact that God dealt with the sins of Abimelek and this reminds me that God will also deal with each one of us because God does not forget sin nor does God tolerate sin for long.  Abimelek failed big time and I can learn from his failure, can’t you?

Until next time…Katherine

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I was thinking about my three nephews and the day each one was born.  I remember the day my first nephew was born.  It was a Saturday morning and my parents were at work and my brother was out running around somewhere.  I was staying at home and was twelve years old.  My responsibility that day was to stay home and let the delivery man into our family home as we were getting a brand new large chest freezer.  We were excited to have such a freezer because my mom loved to freeze foods from the summer surplus garden produce.  She also loved to buy chickens from farm women and we would butcher them and put them into the freezer for winter’s good eating.  She also loved to buy a pick-up box load of corn and we would prepare it for freezing in the fall as well.  She had a lot of plans for this large freezer when it was delivered on April 12th the year my first nephew was born.  Of course this was before cell phones or e-mail and so when the phone rang I answered it and my brother-in-law asked to speak to my parents but of course they were not home so he gave me the good news of the birth with all of the details.  I grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote down everything, weight, length, time of birth, name, and how my sister was doing.  There was no one I could tell except the delivery man who was setting up the freezer and getting it running.  I was so excited to be an aunt!

My second nephew was born a few years later and I remember how my brother and I took him to the stock car races to spend the evening with us and my brother-in-law took my sister to the hospital to have the baby.  My parents were not home but I really don’t remember why, probably visiting the relatives as they often did in the evenings during the summer time.  It was a Sunday night and so my nephew went with my brother and me to the races and he loved watching the cars go around the track so fast.  I loved watching him and how excited he was to be sitting between my brother and me at the races.  When we got home my parents were home and told us that we had another boy in the family and gave us all the particulars about him.  My eldest nephew was glad to have a baby brother too.

When my third nephew was born I was already married and had one daughter that was one year old.  I remember my brother-in-law bringing my two nephews over to my small apartment and they stayed with me and played with my daughter while their mom had the baby.  I was so pleased to have another nephew and he was such a cute little red-head.  Three boys were added to our family and I got to be a part of everything which was rather special now that I think back on this walk through memory lane.

So much has happened since the birth of my three nephews as they all have families of their own.  It makes me sad that their mother isn’t here to watch her sons as they have made lives of their own.  She would have been very proud of each one of them I have no doubt.  Thankfully they still have their father, but everyone else is gone, my parents, my brother and my sister are with the Lord.  I guess that is how life goes, we are born, we live for a while, and then we die and another generation takes over.  This reminds me of something in the Bible.

And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.  Luke 3:23-38, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the men who had been before the generation of Jesus.  I used to read this and think how boring!  I would yawn and sped through it just as I did every genealogy list in the Old Testament.  But this is not really the right attitude to have.  One day my name will be on a list and future generations will probably yawn and be bored when reading my name.  I don’t want that to happen.  I want my name to mean something because it will be the only representation that I ever walked this earth.  Each name on this genealogy list spent a lifetime here and some not doubt had struggles not all that uncommon with the struggles we face.  Some were no doubt considered wealthy and some were probably poor but each one lived on the same planet that you and I live today.  I think it is no more than right to show respect for them and so I try to do so by not speeding through the reading of their names or to ignore this list altogether.  Some of the names I know from stories in the Bible, such as Noah and his son Shem from the flood and the ark.  I also see Methuselah who was the oldest recorded man to ever live and his father was Enoch the only man to never die but was taken up to heaven by God.  Of course I also know who Adam was and I find it so interesting that he is listed as the son of God!  Well God created Adam so I guess that makes God his father!  There is also David who was King and his father Jesse and then I know who Boaz was from the story of Ruth and of course Jacob and Isaac and Abraham.  But there are also names I do not recognize.   I do not know who Mahalaleel or Cainan or Reu or Peleg or Amminadab or Hezron and so many others that I don’t know anything about.  Do you?  So what is my point here?  I think that King Solomon said something worth looking at.

The light is pleasant, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun.  Indeed, if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many. Everything that is to come will be futility.  Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things.  So, remove vexation from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.  Ecclesiastes 11:7-10, (NASB77).

King Solomon had tried everything and achieved greatness according to the world’s standards and yet at the end of it all he felt that most of what he had done had been a wasted effort.  He cautions anyone who reads his thoughts to live a good life in the light or with God in mind so that you will not be judged harshly in the day of judgement.  We all live and breathe the same air.  We all love and are loved but as Solomon says life on this earth is fleeting.  We think when we are children that we will never grow old but it isn’t long and we are old and wonder how it happened so fast.  Make good decisions and good choices from youth to old age because life is fleeting and then judgement comes.

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  Revelation 20:12, (NASB77).

Today, right now, make certain that your name is in the book of life and not in one of the other books because the book of life is the only recording of names that really matters.  The ones whose names are written in this book will escape eternal condemnation.  Our lives on this earth are being recorded just as the genealogy listing for Jesus was recorded.  Your name will be in a list of names and so will mine.  We were here and God saw us and loved us and sent Jesus to die for us and few will appreciate this free gift of salvation.  I hope you will be on the right list!

Until next time…Katherine

When God Doesn’t Restore What We’ve Lost

I was saying my prayers before going to bed and as I prayed for some Christians that are going through some really difficult times I thought of how God worked in so many of my Bible hero’s lives.  I thought of Joseph (Genesis chapters 37-50) and how he was sold into slavery by his brothers who then told their father that he was dead.  I thought of how Joseph worked so hard and was rewarded by his slave owner Potiphar and how Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him resulting in him being sent to prison and yet he continued to work hard and God showed favor on him while in prison.  Then one day Joseph was called before the pharaoh of Egypt because the ruler had a dream no one could interpret except Joseph.  The pharaoh was so impressed that he made Joseph second in command of all of Egypt.  Everything that had been taken away from Joseph was restored to him and God blessed him with even more than he could have ever dreamed of.

Then I thought of Job (Job chapters 1-42) and how he had been such a rich man and such a righteous man.  Job had land, he had a large family of adult children, he had many animals and servants and a group of friends who thought he must have done something wrong when his life came crashing down.  Job lost everything except his wife and his three friends who told him to admit his sin and yet the man had not committed any sin.  Unknown to Job was a conversation in heaven going on between God and Satan and God allowed Satan to destroy all that Job had yet Job never blamed God or lost his faith.  Once this experiment had been completed God restored everything and then some to Job to include more children after all of his were killed.

I also thought of Esther (Esther chapters 1-10) and how she was an orphan being reared by an uncle and his wife.  She was chosen to be sent to the King’s palace to be considered for the position of Queen and wife to the King.  She had no choice but to comply.  I have often wondered if she would have preferred to remain in the countryside with her Uncle Mordecai rather than to be King Xerxes’ new wife.  She spent a year preparing with many other women to meet King Xerxes and the competition was undoubtedly stiff.  Yet God blessed her to be the Queen for it was part of His plan for her to save her people from being destroyed by their enemy.  She was just a little orphan who became a Queen.  She had nothing and then she had everything!

And then I thought of Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).  Lazarus was a poor man who sat daily at the gate of a rich man’s house hoping for food to be given to him.  He was a beggar.  He was dirty.  He had sores all over his body.  He was hungry, starving really.  He died.  In his earthly life he had nothing but difficult times and yet when he died he went to a place of peace and was comforted by Father Abraham.  There was also the rich man who lived in the house where Lazarus begged for food.  The rich man also died and he could see Lazarus being comforted while the rich man was in torment.  The rich man had everything in life that he could have possibly wanted and yet when he died he went to the place of torment.  Lazarus had nothing in life and yet he went to the place of peace and comfort.

So what is my point?  Well I think that we can come to an important conclusion here.  Not everyone who walks the earth will have restoration of possessions, title, wealth, health, and family after losing them.  Not everyone has a happy ending while living here on earth.  If this were the end of the story then why bother to live at all when things are not going well for us.  So how do we keep going when we have lost nearly everything except our faith?  What keeps us hoping for a brighter tomorrow during such difficult times?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3, (New International Version or NIV).

We are not the only one who has been through difficult times, there are many who have gone before us.  Jesus went through persecution and loss of life and thankfully Jesus also rose again which is the Gospel Story we all have come to cherish.  There are others who have been through extremely difficult times as well.  I found a passage of scripture that is so encouraging for when difficult times come.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.  They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.  1 Peter 3:8-22, (NIV).

How we live our life here on earth is important even when we feel like we have lost everything.  It is during such times of oppression and persecution that we come to understand the importance of faith in Christ Jesus.  Jesus was a man well acquainted with sorrow.   Imagine how it must have been to have the sins of the world born out in your body.  Through the sufferings of Christ we come to understand that we have lost only temporary things, even a family is temporary as children grow up and spouses die or divorce us.  What mattered in the life of Lazarus was that he was a righteous man while living on earth and his reward came after his death.  Isn’t it better to be Lazarus than the rich guy who owned the house with the gate where Lazarus died?  I think it is.  Really when you think about it what is our years of life on this earth in comparison to eternity?

 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  Matthew 16:24-27, (NIV).

If you are going through a really difficult time, perhaps even being persecuted then I hope that you can see that God is still with you and watching over you if you are one of His children.  If the blood of Jesus covers you then you have nothing to fear.  Be patient and wait and know that God is in charge of everything including your situation.  God may not restore what you have lost but then again He may.  Either way if you are a Christian you will be rewarded either in this life or the next and that is all that really matters.

Until next time…Katherine