Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Raising Moses - "after Moses had grown up..."

"One day, after Moses had grown up..."    Exodus 2:11

Few words, but I couldn't move on. I've been looking at Moses' mother for a few years now. I keep reading and rereading her story, seeing something new each time. This morning I was reading Exodus to my children, but I couldn't move on from this verse. There was something there for me. Something that I hadn't yet seen about Moses' mother.

Moses grew up. In that one verse, forty years are covered. In the passage that follows, events are covered that happened when he was 40. Yes, Moses grew up. We hear about him as a 3-month old, then here as a 40 year old. What happened in 40 years? He was living life in Pharaoh's palace. What I'm more interested in for now is what happened to Jocebed, his mom? We don't hear anything more about her after he was 3-months old. We read about her great faith, prophet insight, and fearless parenting of a newborn. And nothing more. What happened to Jocebed?

Chances are, she went on to live a "normal" life. Normal meaning the life of a Hebrew slave in Egypt. She probably never saw the Lord's deliverance of His people (she would have been at least 100). She probably never saw the great man that her "fine child" became. Probably the last she ever saw or heard of her son was the palace prince who would become a murderer (that comes later in chapter 2 of Exodus).  

Here's why this all spoke to me so clearly. Perhaps the greatest ministry I will ever do is RIGHT NOW raising my children. Perhaps I'm raising Moses. I often dream of a teaching ministry that will carry me around the country. I see "the good stuff", the "exciting stuff," as yet to come. But perhaps I'm in it right now. Perhaps the greatest thing I will ever do for the kingdom of God is to raise four children who know, love and serve the Lord. I could be raising Moses.

Not all kids are designed by God to be Moses, a great leader. But Jocebed also raised Miriam (a worshipper, a leader of women and a prophetess - Exodus 15:20) and Aaron (public speaker, miracle worker, companion to Moses and the first high priest - Exodus 6-12, 28). Jocebed's kids served God and experienced God in extraordinary ways.

So I say again: What if I'm raising Moses? I could waste my days dreaming about the future, or I could realize how important today is. I could give my all to my kids - loving them, training them in self-control and obedience, teaching them the Bible and how to pray, and coaching them in how to love each other, unselfishly. Perhaps this will be my greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God.

...I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Ephesians 4:1

God help me to live a life worthy of the calling I have received.  Help me today to raise my children to be faithful followers of the King.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Proverbs and Money - Freedom

I started looking at Proverbs and Money because I was asking God to free me from the chronic money worry in my life. I wanted to get personal in this post, and glorify God for what He has done, and how He has done "a good work in me" and brought "it to completion." (Philippians 1:6)

Its amazing to me that we can search in one place, but God will find us in another. I was looking for freedom from money worry in Proverbs, but God freed me in Ephesians. Ephesians 5:22-24 says:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 
"What do submission and money worry have to do with each other?" you may be wondering. For me, everything.

It all started with a fight. Todd and I both wanted to make some changes in how we did things financially. We disagreed on how to make those changes, thus the fight. I thought he was wrong; he was just angry. As I prayed through our fight that day, the Lord showed me that I was the one who was wrong. Part of how God did that was from listening to this sermon by Mars Hill Church pastor, Mark Driscoll, which 'just happened' to be already on my itunes account.

See, God made Todd head of my house, head of my family, and head of me. That means he lovingly, sacrificially, gives up his life for us as a family, and in return, we give him the leadership and respect that God commands that we give him. That includes our finances. What I understood as I listened to Mark Driscoll speak was that my worry about our finances came from two places:

1. I didn't have peace because I was in sin. Even though I was unaware of my sin. Peace comes from obedience, not sin.

2. I was taking on responsibility that wasn't mine. I felt the burden to make the right decision. That burden wasn't mine! AND, I was missing out on God's blessing. God gave me Todd not to RULE over me, dominate me, boss me around. God gave me Todd to CARE for me, provide for me, lead me, and take responsibility for me and our family. I was taking the responsibility and burden that God gave to Todd and putting it on myself. What a fool I am! I felt worry because I was carrying a burden that was not mine. The truth is, Todd takes much better care of me than I can care for myself. He is more aware of my needs and generous with me than I am. I spent 11 years missing out on the blessings of being led by my husband. He is a good, kind, loving, generous man. But I didn't trust him. In my pride, I thought I could do it better, and I'm the one who suffered.

I humbled myself before God, and then Todd, and repented of my sin. I had failed to submit in this area for our entire marriage. And I was the one who was reaping the fruit of my sin -- worry! Todd, and God!, of course forgave me, and we moved ahead into uncharted territory: Todd leading our finances.

We did bills a couple days later with Todd at the helm for the first time in our married life. And I saw him shoulder the burden (so I didn't have to!) for the first time. I saw him look critically at our budget for the first time. And the truth is, he is the one with the administrative gifts! Not me! He is a much better problem solver and critical thinker than I am. I realized that night how badly in error I had been, but also, how grateful I was to watch my husband pick up his responsibility and carry it - for me.

The first decision Todd made was to sell his car. I had been telling him it was foolish for many months, but I was the fool. Within a week, God had provided a new car for free. And in one month's time, we saved $160 in gas alone! God added blessing to our obedience.

It's been a month since we made the change. And I tell you, I feel free! I don't feel responsible! Because I'm not. I play an active role in managing our monthly cash flow, but I don't feel the burden of managing our money, big picture. What a relief! Because ultimately, Todd is responsible before God for every decision he makes. So even if I disagree, it doesn't matter. That's for God to work out, not me.

Living God's way brings peace and blessing. We are called to take that step of faith and believe Him and what He says in His Word. Then we can watch Him show His faithfulness!!! I would encourage you to do the same.

Proverbs and Money - Part 2

It's so important that we have God's perspective on money. In Proverbs, there is so much wisdom on many topics, including money. In this post, we'll continue on our journey to freedom from financial worry.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.   Proverbs 22:7

Let's split this verse up, and look at each half individually.

The rich rule over the poor...

In "Proverbs and Money - Part 1" we learned that the Lord created both rich and poor alike. They are both dust, equal, and God doesn't play favorites. Yet, the rich rule over the poor. This truth makes me uncomfortable. I know it's true, but should it be this way? Shouldn't the rich have compassion over the poor? Shouldn't the rich fight for the cause of the poor, and provide for their needs?

Isaiah 58:6-7 says:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

We established earlier that if you are reading this blog, you are wealthy. You have the means to buy or borrow a computer, and the education to read it. So we, the rich, are not to rule over the poor, but instead to feed them and provide shelter for them, to clothe them and not "turn away from [our] own flesh and blood." Because remember, we are both made by the same Creator. We are, rich and poor, flesh made from dust.

The rich may rule over the poor, but it shouldn't be this way. We can make a different choice: to care for the poor instead of rule over them.

Believers in the early church took it a step further. In Acts 2:42-45 it says:

 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.            Acts 2:42-47
This passage has always encouraged me, challenged me, and made me very uncomfortable. I'm excited to devote myself, along with my fellow believers in a small group, to studying the Word and hanging out together. I love to eat with them, and I'd love to spend far more time in prayer. I long to see God do many signs and wonders in my small group. I'd love to be used as an instrument of miracles, where God's power through the Holy Spirit flows through me and makes me a miracle worker! Its the next part that challenges me:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Acts 2:44
What does this mean? They had everything in common? Does that mean they liked to watch the same TV shows, shop at the same stores, eat the same food and go to the same church? I looked up the phrase "everything in common" in the Greek and this is what I found. In the KJV the phrase is they had "all things common." The word "common" in the Greek is koinos which means "ordinary" or "belonging to generality." I interpret this one of two ways:

1. No one owned anything fancy or expensive, or
2. They shared everything, like the saying, "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine."  Its as if no one laid claim to anything he or she had, because as soon as someone had a need, they were willing to sell anything to meet that need.

This is where I get very uncomfortable. If I want to be obedient to God and His Holy Word, and if I want to see miraculous signs and wonders, and see the Lord adding daily to those who are saved, I should be living this way. But I don't. I'm not. The passage goes on to explain how to have "all things common."
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 
                                                                                        Acts 2:45
If this is how to have all things common, then I don't think it was enough for the early believers just to have "ordinary" things, all of them living humble, simple lives with common, simple, non-fancy stuff. They could have fancy, ornate, expensive "stuff," but none of them held on tight to any of it. It was as if they held it with open hands. I have it now, but if there is a need, I'll sell it at any time and give to whoever needs it.  Wow. There are tears in my eyes because I don't live that way. This is so anti-American Dream. The American Dream says get more stuff than your parents have so that you can make a "better life" for your children. But is it really a better life? Are we missing the point completely? And are we missing out on miracles and salvations because our goal is accumulation instead of distribution?

If we want to see people get saved, if we want to see God do amazing things, we need to have a looser grip on our "stuff." We need to give to the poor, at home and abroad. We need to proclaim Christ with our words AND our checkbooks. This is a massive challenge for us Americans. But God calls us to live differently than the world. Are you ready to take that step of faith? Am I?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Responsibilites as a Wife - Love my Children - Part 1

So I'm certainly no parenting expert. And about a million books have been written on how to love and care for our children. What I do have is God's Word. That's where we will go today (because what is more valuable than the Bible for life and advice?) to answer the question:

How do I love my children?

Since we are exploring this morning:

My Responsibilities as a Wife, Biblically

2. Love my children (Titus 2:4) - they are his kids, after all

1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love is. It's often read at weddings, or talked about in the context of marriage. But why not use it as a parenting guide? Let's look first at the text:

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. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails.                                                                          1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Before we dig in, I've got to be honest. This has been a rough parenting week. Rough two weeks. Yesterday, my oldest and I had a battle about what she was wearing to school. My youngest caught a cold, it turned into an ear infection, decided to pop some teeth and stop napping all at the same time. He's spent much of the day loudly complaining. Around 6pm, I literally locked myself in my bathroom and prayed to Jesus  that I wouldn't do something I would regret!

Having patience is difficult, but a part of loving your children. We need patience to wait for them to learn to tie their shoes. We need patience when they ask for "just a little longer" snuggling. We need patience when they've spilled their sticky apple juice for the fourteenth time that week. We need patience when they ask for help picking out their outfit then choose something else to wear as soon as you walk out of the room. Or wet the bed. Again. I could go on. But this is just my kids. I imagine in other stages, we need patience for them to come back to the Lord. We need patience for them to make good choices with friends, or schoolwork, or to change the way they act towards you. We need patience to wait for them to find the right spouse, or give us grandbabies.

Patience may come easier to some personality types than others, but ultimately, its just a fruit of the Holy Spirit. If we desire to love our children, we need to ask the Holy Spirit for patience. Its not going to come "naturally." In fact, this morning, I'm going to ask the Holy Spirit for patience. Because I do absolutely struggle with loving my children in this way. Case and point: getting 4 children to the bus stop on time; 2 on the bus, 2 along for the ride.  Thats 4 pairs of shoes, 4 coats, 2 backpacks, 2 lunches, 1 bike, 1 helmet, 1 stroller, and one frazzled mom who is trying to feed them, teach them a Bible lesson, and get them out the door on time without yelling. I don't always accomlish it (both the on time part or the not yelling part). Only with the help of the Holy Spirit will I do this.

So how do I love my husband? Love my children. They are his kids, afterall.

Love is kind. Here's another way to love my children. Websters dictionary defines kind as "showing tenderness or goodness; disposed to do good and confer happiness; averse to hurting or paining; benevolent; benignant; gracious."

Kindness seems connected to goodness. Yet another fruit of the Spirit. There is a connection here... if I want to love my children, I need to ask for the Holy Spirit's help, and ask for Him to give me His fruit! Here's how I see this playing out, for example: With my daughter, I speak gently to her, and not harshly. I don't exasperate her with my expectations on her. I give her more hugs and hold her hand more, if she'll let me. I do little things for her that are unexpected that show her that I love her, like writing her little notes for her lunchbox, or giving her little gifts that she didn't ask for. I can't do this alone. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

More to come...

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Responsibilites as a Wife - The List

After a recent conversation with a friend, we asked the question, "What are our responsibilities as wives, Biblically?" Based on that conversation, we took a walk through the Word and made a list. It's certainly not all inclusive, but its a good start. I'm sure it will take me a lifetime just to get the first two.

In this post, I'll write the list. In coming week, months, hopefully I will begin to flesh out each one, giving the Scripture meaning and depth. Here goes:

My Responsibilities as a Wife, Biblically

1. Love my husband (Titus 2:4)

2. Love my children (Titus 2:4) - They are his kids, after all

3. Be self-controlled (Titus 2:5)

4. Purity (Titus 2:5) - not even a hint of sexual immorality (Eph. 5:3)

5. To be busy at home (Titus 2:5)

6. Kind (Titus 2:5)

7. To be subject to my husband (Titus 2:5), as to the Lord, in everything (Eph. 5:22-24)

8. To leave my parents, and cleave to my husband (Eph. 5:31)

9. To become one flesh (Eph. 5:31), to have sex with my husband (1 Cor. 7:3)

10. To give my body freely to my husband and don't hold back (1 Cor. 7:4)

11. Respect my husband (Eph. 5:33)

12. Do not repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17)

13. Pray for my husband (Romans 12:12)

14. Forgive him (Matthew 6:14)

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Responsibilites as a Wife - Love my Husband

Since I would like to think through these things, get them off the page, off a list, into my heart and into my actions, I'm going to work through each item on the list. Join me.

My responsibilities as a wife, biblically
1. Love my husband (Titus 2:4).

Recently my husband (when I asked him how I could love him better) told me he'd feel so loved if I'd make his coffee in the morning and bring it to him (while he's studying his Bible!). It seemed like an easy request, and of course I consented. I want to love my husband. I do love my husband. Of course I want to practically love him.   ... So why am I struggling so much with my attitude about this? I feel like a servant girl or a gopher or a secretary bringing coffee to her boss. Probably because there is nothing in this one for me. I'm being selfish. Love is not selfish, or self-seeking. Love does not look for "what's in it for me." Yet that is the place I'm in.

See, the other ways Todd feels loved are 1) physical affection and 2)words of encouragement. OK, 1) physical affection. This one is easy. Though I'm not a touchy-feely sort of gal, its easy to love Todd this way because we will sit on the couch, I will rub his feet and he will TALK TO ME. My love language: quality time. This one is a win-win. Or 2) words of encouragement. God made me an encourager. This also comes easy. Plus, his immediate reaction is so gratifying when I tell him what a wonderful man he is. And I honestly mean it.

But serve him??? Oh boy. When I take spiritual gift tests, service is always as the bottom of my list. And I already serve him and my family constantly: I make their breakfasts, lunch, dinner; I clean their bathrooms and wash their clothes; I make annoying phone calls (like to insurance company) and run errands. Now I have to bring him his coffee???

As I write, I'm reminded of Philippians 2:1-7:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and in purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant...
If I want to have the same attitude as Jesus, I need to take on the "nature of a servant." That means I need to have the character, the attributes of, to act like a servant. Jesus served me when "he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:8b). If I call myself a Christ-follower, than that means I follow the example of Jesus, my Savior and my Boss. That means I serve my husband, and know that not only am I loving him as I'm directed to in Titus 2, but I'm following the example of Jesus as I do it.

As I write, the coffee started perking. I set it up on automatic start last night before I went to bed. Was that really that hard? It took me about 30 seconds to do. Is there anything in it for me? On the surface, no. But in my heart, if I could just get my attitude right, there is something for me. I enjoy the satisfaction that I'm following Jesus, practically. I'm being a servant, like Jesus was. And it's not like I'm dying on a cross here. I'm making coffee. I think I can do that.

Father, I need help with being a servant. It's a struggle for me. I'm tired of serving, and I confess that I resented the request, even though I asked for the feedback. Please forgive me for my selfishness. I do have encouragement from being united with Jesus. I do find GREAT comfort in His love. I do enjoy fellowship with your Holy Spirit, walking and talking with Him. Please help me to be one in spirit and purpose with Todd. Please deliver me from my selfishness, and help me to consider Todd better than myself. Help me put his needs above my own. As I pray that, please Father, take care of me as I serve my family and others. Please help me to be a servant, as Jesus is a servant. Help me to follow Jesus in word AND in deed. Help me to love my husband as you asked me to because you love me MADLY and you want me to THRIVE in my marriage. Thank you, Father, for loving me. Amen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Cry of a Mother's Heart

Dear God,
I listened to a woman speak today who had raised 4 boys and was now recently an empty nester. She passed around pictures of her boys as young men. They were so handsome. Some were married, some with girlfriends. One in a football jersey, playing for Princeton. They could have been my boys in 20 years. They were blond, athletic, smiling. They were following the Lord and loving beautiful young women.
Now Im in tears. Why?
It seemed like a glimpse into my future. My heart’s cry is that my children love you, marry a handsome man and beautiful women who love you, and to walk with you. They don’t have to be star athletes, the smartest in the class, rich or famous: I just want them to walk daily with you (because then I know they will find joy and peace despite the trouble in this life), and to get married to wonderful people.
God, I find such joy and peace in my husband. He loves me so wonderfully, and I feel so blessed to have him. I desperately want that for my children – to know the intimate, beautiful, deep love of another. And not just friends, but a husband, and wives. Because to have a spouse is to have a partner, a co-worker, a friend, a lover, a listener, a buddy, a playmate, a protector, a co-adventurer.
Father, I so deeply desire a spouse for my children. Would you give Maggie, Josh, Finn and Zac a spouse. And not just any man or woman. One who loves you, deeply, daily, honestly. One who chases you, finds you, is found by you. One who walks with you daily, searches your word, prays, intercedes, talks casually and prays reverently. One who confesses sin. One who desires to know you.
Please Daddy, I don’t want my children to be alone. I want them to enjoy the deeply satisfying love of a spouse. Would you give that to them? Would you help them to set their standards high and wait? Would you make them into good partners. Would you help them to walk in sexual purity before marriage and in marital faithfulness after marriage. Please help their eyes only to be for their spouse. Please help them to be honest, real, vunerable, loving, respectful and unselfish.
I know my kids are sinners, as I am. Please help them to take the way out from temptation that you promised them.  
Love, your daughter and their mother,
J Jen

Monday, August 22, 2011

Proverbs and Money- Part 1

I've been a life-long worrier over money, and recently I asked God for freedom from that worry. As part of that journey, I've been reading Proverbs and looking specifically for verses on money. Here's what I've discovered so far...

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.  Prov. 22:1

It is better to have a good reputation than to be rich. It's better that people like you than to have money in the bank.

Rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord is the Maker of them all.  Prov. 22:2

Rich people and poor people act like they are so different - but the truth is that they are just the same. God made the poor and man and He made the rich man, and He chose what family each would be born in to. But if the rich man is tempted to think... if I am tempted to think, since I am rich (Beth Moore defines a wealthy person as one who has the money to buy a book and the education to read it. I've also heard "wealthy" defined as one who has enough food for today AND for tomorrow.) that I am better than a poor person, then I'm wrong. We are made by the same God. We are both dust. We are equal in God's site. He does not play favorites, and nor should we. We have what we have because God gave it to us. We always need to remember that. We sometimes fall into the thinking that we have earned our wealth. Wise living may lead to wealth, as Proverbs will continue to explain, but truly, what we have is God's gift to us.

Humility and fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life. Prov. 22:4

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33). Pursue humility FIRST. Fear the Lord FIRST. Then the Lord promises wealth, honor and life. Is there a number attached to that promise? No. But God does promise wealth. He also says, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10)." There is a confirmation here in Scripture - humility brings honor. There is also an upside-down principle here (society vs. Scripture) - our society wants money so they chase money and love money. They want honor so they step on people. They want a great life so they pursue pleasure and put themselves first and chase every desire.
            God's response? "'Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5),' because I 'will meet all your needs according to [my] glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).'"
Need money? Fear the Lord and trust in His promise to provide.
Want honor? Humble yourself before the Lord.
Need a life? Know that He is the Sovereign and Risen Lord and trust that He came "that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10)."

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Reluctant Leader

But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"     
                                                                                                                             Exodus 3:11

Moses started as a reluctant leader. He became one of the greatest leaders of all time. How did Moses get from reluctant shepherd to mighty leader? Lets look at his first direct interaction with God in Exodus 3-4. God laid a foundation in this first discussion with Moses for their relationship in years to come. God was plain and straight-forward. God built His confidence, not by showing Moses his strengths, but instead by showing Moses His strengths.

Lets look at Exodus 3-4 play by play:

1. God calls Moses. God went to great lengths to speak specifically to Moses. He had a plan for Moses. He wanted Moses, and not just anyone.

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Exodus 3:2

God also has a specific calling for each of us. He will make it clear to us if we just pay attention.

2. God calls him by name. God knows Moses' name. He wants Moses' attention. He wants Moses to have no question that He is speaking to him, specifically. 

God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" Exodus 3:4

Our God is a personal God. He knows us deeply, intimately. He knit us together in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13). He isn't suprised by our personality. And He knows our name. Listen, you may hear Him calling you by name. What is He saying to you?

3. His presence was there. God was clearly THERE with Moses; why else would He tell Moses that this was holy ground?

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”    Exodus 3:5

Where is the holy ground in your life? What is sacred, or needs to be sacred? Have you set aside some holy time or holy place to be alone with God?

4. God identifies Himself. God clarifies which God He is - not some pagan god. By reminding Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He is reminding him of His faithfulness to the forefathers. He is reminding Moses of the mighty deeds He has accomplished, promises fulfilled, and the relationships He had with those families. Its like taking a walk back through Genesis in just a name.

Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Exodus 3:6

Don't we sometimes need to be reminded who God is? I certainly do. When we are doubting ourselves, we need to look back at this amazing God and what He has already done. We need to look at His faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Esther, Ruth, Gideon... and know that He will be this faithful to us as well. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His faithfulness lasts through all generations (Psalm 100:5).

5. God tells Moses His plan. God also tells Moses His intentions and even His motivation to do these things.

The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.   Exodus 3:7-8

6. God tells Moses his job in His plan. God is specific in His intructions for Moses:

"So now, go, I am sending you to Pharoah to bring my people the Isrealites out of Egypt." Exodus 3:10

7. God tells Moses His name. 
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM."      Exodus 3:14

8. God tells Moses what to say. Moses didn't even have to come up with his own words. God gives him the words.
“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’        Exodus 3:16-17

9. God tells Moses what will happen. There will be no suprises for Moses. God prepares him ahead of time.  God clearly wants to prepare Moses for this journey He has chosen Moses for.

“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
   “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”                       Exodus 4:18-22

10. God shows Moses the tools he has access to. Moses has not yet seen the power of Yahweh, the God of his fathers. God wanted to let Moses know who was calling him to do amazing things. But this God also had the power to do amazing things, and could give Moses this power. God did this also to build Moses' confidence.

    Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
   Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
   “A staff,” he replied.
   The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.”
   Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”
   Then the LORD said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
   “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.
   Then the LORD said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”        
             Exodus 4:1-8

11. God reminds Moses who he is. This is another reminder for the doubting, reluctant leader. God reminds Moses who he is, and in contrast, who He is.

Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
   The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  Exodus 4:10-12

When we doubt our abilities to do something for the Kingdom of God, don't look to God to encourage you in your strengths. Instead, ask Him to remind you of His strengths. We are nothing, and can do nothing apart from God (John 15:5). But with God, all things are possible (Luke 2:37).

Lord God, show us yourself so that we may believe.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Isaiah 1 and 5 - A Rebellious People and the Vineyard

Its been ages since I posted, but Ive just finished my study on the book of Isaiah, and I wanted to blog about what Ive learned. Much thanks and accolades go to the Holy Spirit, Bible Study Fellowship, Marnie Meeks and my amazing discussion group who opened my eyes to the Scripture and taught me so much about this wonderful and complex book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 1

Isaiah's prophesy from God jumps right into how God feels about His people. And in those moments, He is not pleased. The people are in the promised land, post-Moses and Joshua. They have "conquered" the Promised Land (though not completely like God asked them to) and have settled there. Many kings have lived, ruled, died, some that honored God and others that spread and endorsed idol worship. Isaiah prophesies during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Of those kings, Hezekiah was the only that honored God.

Here is what God says through Isaiah about his people:

“I reared children and brought them up,
   but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its master,
   the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
   my people do not understand.”       Isaiah 1:2b-3

God has given His people everything they need, yet they rebel against Him. In chapter 5, Isaiah uses the analogy of a vineyard to explain God's provision and Israel's shortcoming:

My loved one [Isaiah speaking of God] had a vineyard
   on a fertile hillside.
2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones
   and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
   and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
   but it yielded only bad fruit.

 3 “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
   judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more could have been done for my vineyard
   than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
   why did it yield only bad?                 Isaiah 5:1b-4

God planted a vineyard. He cleared the land, turned over the soil, and planted top notch vines. He built a watchtower so that someone would be watching over the vineyard at all times - protecting it from foxes who might ruin the vineyard (SoS 2:15), intruders who might steal or ruin the grapes, frost or fire that might destroy the grapes. It makes me think of that movie with Keanu Reeves "Walk in the Clouds" where a family owns a vineyard, and give their lives to protecting that vineyard. A bell tolls at night waking the family up telling them that there is frost. They stay up all night warming the grapes. Another night there is a fire, and they give everything they have to protect the vineyard.

So it is with God. He says, "What more could have been done for my vineyard...? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?"

The question we have to ask is this: Are we following God with all our might, or are we rebelling against Him? Has He provided everything we need, yet we are still bad grapes? Do we produce sweet, fragrant, abundant fruit, or is our produce sour, withered, weak?

Where do you see God tending your vineyard? Open your eyes to see Him and His provision. Then give your life to Him completely. Give over every area; fully surrender. Then experience the LOVE of the attentive Gardener who tills your soil and watches your fruit constantly because He LOVES you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ecclesiastes - Solomon, the author, part 2 - The Wise King

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.    I Kings 3:28

God promised Solomon wisdom, riches and honor, and He quickly provided the first: wisdom. Two women approached Solomon. They had babies at the same time, and on the third day, one of the babies died. The full story is in 1 Kings 3:16-28:

 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
Two women came before Solomon. Interesting that they were prostitutes. They were arguing over whose baby died, and who would have the living baby. As a mother of four, I know that after three days, you know your baby. Even if this little bundle looks like an alien when they first hand him to you, after three days you know that child. He is yours. You know his smell, his cries, even some of his mannerisms. He is brand new, but unquestionably yours, and a part of your soul.

The first woman knew her baby had died. She stole the other baby, because while a mother may know her newborn from his noises alone, another man or woman may not be able to tell the difference between two Hebrew newborns. It was one woman’s word against another. And as prostitutes, there likely wasn’t an invested father who could identify his child. So how would you rule on who got custody on the living newborn?

Solomon knew.

The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”  1 Kings 3:23-25
Solomon knew that the true mother could not let her child be cut in two. She’d rather another woman raise him than let any harm come to him. I think of Moses’ mother. She put her son in the Nile in a basket rather than let the soldiers have him. She gave her son to Pharoah’s daughter to be raised in order to save his life. The true mother will give up everything for the safety of her child.
The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”   When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.   1 Kings 3:26-28
Solomon had a wise response to two sparring prostitutes. He was wise because God gave him wisdom. Here’s what’s amazing. We too have access to wisdom from God. James 1:5 says:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Solomon was wise because he asked God for wisdom. Let us also ask God for wisdom, because our great God promises that He will give it to us!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eccesiastes - Solomon, the author, part 1

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem...  Ecclesiastes 1:1

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, the son of King David and his wife, Bathsheeba. Solomon introduces himself in Ecclesiastes as "the Teacher." David named him Solomon, which means peace and prosperity, but God actually named him Jedidiah. God sent word through Nathan, the prophet, that Solomon's name should instead be Jedidiah, which means beloved of the Lord. 2 Samuel 12 says that God named him this because He loved him. Is that amazing? We are all loved by God, but to actually be named ''beloved" by God through prophesy is overwhelming.

Solomon was not David's first born. He was actually the fourth son of David's eighth wife. This is significant because usually the firstborn son ruled in his father's place. Solomon was probably the 10th son. Solomon did not expect to rule. But rule he did, when his father David died. This just proves that God chooses our leaders (Romans 13:1).

Early in his reign, God appeared to Solomon in a dream. God said to Solomon,

... the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”     1 Kings 3:5

Solomon replied, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 

“Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.             1 Kings 3:6-10

God asked Solomon, "What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!" Pretty remarkable. Imagine that God appears to you in a dream and tells you to ask Him for anything. What would you ask for? We need to look at Solomon's response and learn from him.

Solomon starts not with his request, but with thanksgiving. He thanks God for being kind not even to him, but to his father. Then he acknowledges that God placed him on the throne as King. He follows that with honesty and humility with where he is at. He calls himself "a little child" before the Lord, and asks for discernment to rule God's people. 

 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.
He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.      1 Kings 3:11-15

In summary, here is what we need to learn from Solomon's prayer:
1. Begin your prayers with thanksgiving, thanking God for who He is
2. Acknowledge what God has done in your life and the lives of others around you. 
3. Come before the Lord with humility, realizing who you are compared to Him.
4. Make requests that will benefit others and not just yourself.
5. Enjoy the Lord's pleasure over your prayer life.
6. Expect more from God than you ask for.
7. Worship God for His answers to prayer in your life.

Now go pray like Solomon did!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Warrior Women

 "Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.”                 Judges 4:9

"Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time" (Judges 4:4) For a season, God chose a woman to lead Israel. Judges 4 tells us that she was a prophetess and a wife, to Lappidoth, who we don't know anything about. Judges 4:5 says that "she held court under the Palm of Deborah... and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes settled." Having a place named after her where she worked meant she was established, and the fact that Israelites from all over the land came to her to settle their disputes tells us that she was well respected. There is no indication in the text that her leadership was opposed within Israel, despite the fact that she was a woman.

Yet she was opposed from the outside of Israel by Jabin, a king of Canaan (Judges 4:2), who had "cruelly oppressed the Israelites for 20 years" (4:3). This king had 900 hundred iron chariots, a symbol of military strength and power. However, God had told His people not to acquire many horses (Deut. 17:16) and not to be afraid of armies that had many horses and chariots because "the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you" (Deut. 20:1).

Deborah, as a prophetess and appointed judge over Israel, would have known the Scriptures and God's commandments to His people in Deuteronomy. Barak, the commander of her army, was not as faith-full. Deborah had a word from the Lord for Barak:

“The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”                        Judges 4:6-7

But Barak was afraid. He wouldn't go up against Sisera's army without Deborah by his side.

Who in our lives, other than God, do we feel we need at our sides when a battle comes our way? Do we not believe that if God has called us to a task, that He will also equip us to do it?

I think of Moses and Aaron. Moses didn't believe that God would fully equip him to deliver Israel from the hand of Egypt. He wanted Aaron along. God allowed him Aaron, but was angered by Moses' unbelief (Exodus 4:14).

Deborah also did go with Barak. And God did what He said He would do. Barak, with Deborah at his side, defeated Sisera's chariots and army by the sword (4:15). Sisera himself, commander of a mighty army, was killed by Jael, a woman, who drove a tent peg through his temple in a tent while he slept (4:21).  Jabin, the King, who sent Sisera against Israel, was also defeated in time by Israel (4:24).

God used two warrior women to do His work: Deborah, who trusted God, and was not afraid even in battle, and Jael, who finished the job with what she had at hand; in this case, a tent peg.

God, give us confidence to do the tasks that you give us. Help us not to be afraid, but to believe you will equip us and provide what we need to fight our battles. Thank you that you use women in physical and spiritual warfare. May we all be prepared for battle.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fearful to Fearless - Esther

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”                            Romans 8:28

Esther had many reasons to fear:
·         She was an orphan. We don’t know for sure, but its likely that her parents died when she was a young child. As a young woman, she has an established relationship with her cousin, Mordecai, who took her in when her parents died. While I don’t personally understand the innate fear that a young child would develop by losing her main stability, her parents, at a young age, I imagine that she was always on her seat, waiting for tragedy to strike again. Perhaps she herself had a “deathly” fear of death. Perhaps she constantly feared that Mordecai would be taken, too. Perhaps she feared being alone, because of the pain of being alone when her parents were taken by death. Being an orphan creates a set of fears that were probably her constant companions. (Es. 2:7)

Fear of death. Fear of tragedy. Fear of being alone.

·         As a young woman, Esther was called to the palace by the king, who would replace his queen. I imagine this was not the fairy tale that my 7 year old might think it to be. She was taken from her one stability, a replacement stability at that, and brought, alone, to a foreign place, the palace, where she had never before been. What would happen there? Who would take care of her? Would they be kind or harsh? Beauty treatments? What did that mean to a plain, orphan Jewish girl? (Es. 2:8)

Fear of the unknown, Fear of strangers.

·         God took care of Esther in the palace. She won the favor of the main eunuch in charge of the harem, who taught her all she needed to know to win the favor of the king (whatever scandalous things that might’ve entailed…). But then her turn came to go the king. This was not a simple get-dressed-up-pretty-and-parade-around-in-front-of-the-king moment. This was not simply a beauty pageant. This was a try-out. She was taken to the king in the evening, and returned in the morning. The king would use his eyes, his hands, his body, to try out his prospective new queen. Now, I knew my husband for five years before I married him. We dated for 2 years of that time, and were engaged for 10 LONG months. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to sleep with this handsome young man. It took all the self-control I had not to. Then came our wedding day. Then the drive away from the church to our honeymoon. For two people who are RARELY short on words, we barely had anything to say to each other. “Uh, that was a really nice wedding…” The truth was, we were terrified. Finally, we had God’s blessing to consummate our marriage, and we were both silent with fear. Naturally, we overcame our fear (J), but the irony of the moment is memorable. Esther knew she was called to be intimate with a king she had probably never met. He was the ruler of the Persian world, probably quite a great deal older than her, and she was a virgin. Imagine the fear she felt walking into the king’s residence. But here’s the other piece. It was terrifying to think of the “tryout” that would occur. However, if she was not chosen, another fear was looming: If Esther was NOT chosen by Xerxes, she would not be able to go back to her simple Jewish life with Mordecai. She would be discarded back into the harem like used goods. She would never have the option to marry, and likely never have children. The dream of a family that so many women have would likely never be realized. (Es. 2:15-16)

Fear of rejection, Fear of loss, Fear of unrealized dreams, Fear of men, Fear of strangers, Fear of intimacy.

·         Esther’s defining moment comes in Esther chapter 4. An evil man named Haman has plotted to annihilate all Jews in Persia because he hated one man, Mordecai, a Jew, who would not bow down to him. Mordecai sends word to Esther – who has now been queen for about 5 years – that if she doesn’t do something, she and her people will perish. Esther once again must face that old fear of death. A royal decree states that if she enters the king’s presence uninvited, she will be sentenced to death. The exception is, if the king extends to her his royal scepter, she will be spared, and instead invited to speak her request of the king. But this isn’t just fear of death. There is “trouble in paradise.” Esther’s husband, King Xerxes, has not called for her for 30 days. Their marriage isn’t what it used to be. For a man who once entertained a new virgin every night, it’s likely that he is visiting his harem, and not his wife, to be satisfied. Esther might have wondered if she has lost the favor that she won so decisively 5 long years ago. So with the backdrop of a troubled marriage, Esther has a choice: fulfill the plan that God has for her (“And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?”), or risk dying a violent death along with her Jewish people. (Es. 4)

Fear of disapproval, Fear of rejection, Fear of death, Fear of inadequacy.

So what does Esther do???? I’ll give you a sneak peak into the story: She does go before the king. But how does she do it? How does she go from a woman plagued with fear from childhood to a FEARLESS queen who walks forward in her God-given destiny? Here’s how:

Esther faces her fear, head on. It says in Esther 4:16, the words of Esther, “If I perish, I perish.” Esther goes to the worst case scenario. For her, that is death. If her worst fear comes true, she will be executed, possibly on the spot, and violently. Yet, she goes forward. Why? Because she has decided to trust in God’s goodness.

Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Though Esther never knew Paul, or ever read his letters, she believed that God was trustworthy and good, even if she lost her life trying to save her people. Here is where the skill of becoming FEARLESS is the most evident. I call it the “Esther model.” When you are afraid, figure out what you are truly afraid of. Then go to your worst case scenario, as Esther did when she said, “If I perish, I perish.” In that worst case scenario, ask yourself, “Do I trust that God is good enough even if the worst thing happens?”

For example, you are afraid of conflict. A situation arises in which you have reason to become angry with someone because they hurt you. You are afraid to confront them. Why? Perhaps you are afraid they will reject you: Fear of rejection. Or that they will withdraw their love from you: Fear of abandonment. Decide that if they do reject you or withdraw their love from you, is God still good enough to meet your needs?

But it wasn’t just enough for Esther to face her fear of the worst case scenario. She also prayed and fasted that God would work out the best case scenario. Esther asks Mordecai and the other Jews to fast and pray for her for three days (Es. 4:16). She and her maids joined them in the fast. And it was an extreme fast: they abstained from food and water for three days. In Joel 2:12-17, the prophet Joel is encouraging the people to return to their God with fasting and weeping and mourning so that God might spare his people. The Jews have already wept and mourned in sackcloth and ashes (Es. 4:3). Now they are fasting and praying, and returning to the Lord their God to cry out for their redemption.  Now it’s time not to tear their garments, but instead their hearts (Joel 2:13).

Esther was probably still afraid when she walked into the king’s residence. The first words the king says to her are, “What is it, Queen Esther?” (Es. 5:3). This language, “What is it?” is the same phrase used elsewhere in the Bible (Gen. 21:17 and Ps 114:5) and can also be translated, “What troubles you?” King Xerxes probably saw the fear all over her face. When we walk forward in faith, it doesn’t mean that will we have completely conquered fear before we move. Often we move in spite of our fear. Esther decided to step into that courtyard, even though she was shaking in her glass slippers. Don’t expect to not feel fear when you move forward in faith. Move forward trusting in God’s goodness even if your emotions haven’t caught up yet. But perhaps as you move forward again and again, the emotions and the bravery will catch up quicker, and it will be easier and easier to move forward in faith because you have seen God move and answer your prayer, and bring goodness out of fear.

Perhaps God allows us to enter into situations that cause us to fear so that we can be reminded of His goodness. It builds our faith when we step forward in faith, then see God work in amazing ways. We can see God’s goodness sometimes in dramatic ways.

Esther saw God work in dramatic ways. Her best case scenario worked out. God heard her prayers. The king did not execute her. He extended his favor, and his golden scepter, to her when she entered his presence. Queen Esther invited her king to a banquet along with Haman, as well as a second banquet, and there revealed to Xerxes Haman’s plan to murder her and her family. In the meantime God revealed to Xerxes the man of honor that Mordecai really was. Also, Haman was shamed, and eventually hung on the very same gallows that he built to hang Mordecai. Haman was executed, Mordecai was promoted, and the Jewish people were saved. God worked out all things for good for Esther who was called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

How could God use you when you step forward in faith, despite your fear?

Esther faced her fear in the worst case scenario, prayed for the best case scenario, and God worked. God proved himself GOOD and TRUSTWORTHY. He rescued His people, who returned to Him in the process. Esther went from FEARFUL to FEARLESS. She transitioned from self-preservation to brave determination.  She was an orphan girl who became a hero queen.