Category Archives: Love

John 3:16: The Unexpected and Amazing

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-17)

Here it is.  The red letter passage that everyone sees everywhere.

So I want to try something different in studying it.  I’m going to tie it in with what we know about God from the first part of Bible history.

Let me give you a synopsis of what happened.  God made the earth, and mankind, and pronounced that it was good.  As the years went on, his heart was grieved because man was so wicked.  So the Lord destroyed the world in a flood.  Yet, God wasn’t giving up on man. He found a reason for hope in Noah.  God preserved this righteous man, along with his family.

Then came Abraham.  Once again, God found a righteous man who could be the focus of his love and purpose.  God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as stars, and that all nations would be blessed through them.  He also promised to give them a land of their own.

But how would this take place?  The crazy thing is that it would be a very long time until God gave Abraham’s descendants this land.  God told Abraham, “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” (Gen 15:16)  Abraham would father Isaac, and Isaac would father Jacob.  Jacob would father 12 sons, including Joseph.  All of Jacob’s progeny would go to Egypt, and end up in bondage for 400 years.

Then, Moses would lead them out of Egypt, back to the land God promised them.  In the process, Egypt would experience consequences for how they had treated the Israelites.  All of their first born sons would die.  Their army would be wiped out as they tried to cross the Red Sea.

Even after all of that, the Hebrews who came out of Egypt would not receive the Promise Land until they were ready to believe that God was with them and they could conquer the inhabitants of the land.  It was actually their children, led by Joshua, who battled and drove the tribes out of Canaan and made that their home. They carried out the destruction of the Amorites that God promised in Genesis 15.

So here are some themes in these stories that we can also see in John 3:16 and 17.  First, that God loves the people he created.  It breaks his heart when the world is wicked.  He wants to find a way to save people.  In Genesis he saves them by preserving Noah and his family.  In Exodus he saves them by bringing them out of Egypt.  In John 3, he saves them by giving them Jesus.

Second, that God wants to bless all people.  In Genesis, he promises to bless all people through Abraham.  In John 3, he promises to bless all people with heaven. (If they believe in Jesus.)

Third, that God looks for righteous people.  In Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Joshua, God found individuals who would do his will.  In John 3, God seeks individuals who will do his will by believing in his son.

Fourth, that there is judgement for those who are not righteous.  God destroyed the wicked in a flood.  He wiped out many of the Egyptians through the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea.  He helped the Hebrews defeat and drive out the inhabitants of the Promise Land.  In John 3, he declared that all who do not believe in his son will be condemned.

In conclusion, John 3:16 is thought of as the ultimate warm, fuzzy passage.   But it’s so much more.  It’s the culmination of who God has been throughout the ages. From the beginning, he showed how he loved the world.  Although it broke his heart, there were also times that he brought about judgement on the world.

When God sent his son, it was the same song, with different verse.  And what a powerful verse!

What’s really cool to realize is that we are a part of that verse.  We are a part of God’s plan to bless all nations.  It wasn’t just that the Jews of the time could believe in Jesus and have eternal life.  John 3:16 says, everyone who believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

How will everyone know about Jesus, so they can receive their blessing?  Through us. That’s our purpose.

How can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  Romans 10:14b NLT

John 3:16 has probably impacted more people than any other Bible verse.  But the initial reaction to it is just the tip of the iceberg.  With the understanding of all that has gone before, and all that will come to be, comes the realization that this is completely and utterly epic.

Let this thrill our hearts!  We’re the fruition of what God set in motion through the ages.  We’re the blessing bringers!  We reflect God’s love and goodness.

And then let us find one way that we will live differently today because of it.

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, John, Love, Red Letter

When We’re “Running Out”

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why does this concern us?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”  (John 2:1-4)

I can relate to this wedding dilemna! For my son’s rehearsal dinner, we put a lot of effort into making it really nice.  We held it at an upscale restaurant.  There were special decorations.  I created a video.  We planned activities.

The price of catering included wine for a certain period of time.  As the event went overtime, the maitre d’ came to my husband and whispered that if anyone wanted another drink, it would incur an extra charge.  It was a moment of counting the cost, because we were already spending a good deal of money.  But my husband was feeling joyful and magnanimous.  He said, “Sure, let them have more if they would like.”  It turned out that everyone had had enough, so it all worked out.

But the point is that we wanted the rehearsal dinner to be super special.  I’m sure the people in charge of the wedding at Cana felt the same.  For them, running out of wine in the middle of the celebration would have been a huge downer.

So it’s no wonder that Jesus’s mom stepped in to try and alleviate the situation.  She knew and cared about the young couple and their families.  She didn’t want them to experience this discouraging failure at the time that should be the biggest celebration of their life.

Mary didn’t think twice about going to Jesus and asking him for help.  And Jesus let her know that this request was uncool.  It was putting him out. It wasn’t his time to do miracles yet.

Yet, if we continue to read the story, we see that Jesus didn’t hold back.  He honored his mother’s request.  He used his powers and saved the day.

This story really helps my heart.   Sometimes I feel like I’m asking Jesus for something that is inappropriate.  I mean, he’s the Son of God.  My request is surely small next to the needs of the world.  It isn’t a salvation issue.  I’m not asking him to alleviate something grave like world hunger.   How can I bother Jesus with my little matter?  He has to have more important things on his agenda.

But this passage reminds me that Jesus cares about the day-to-day things going on in my life.  His heart was moved to help his mother.  I’m loved by him, and his heart can be moved to help me as well.

And in the story, Jesus didn’t just tell them how much he cared, or help in a token way.  He helped in a huge way.  He totally fixed it.

He performed a miracle. I’ve heard it so many times, that I forget how utterly amazing it is that Jesus changed water to wine.    I have a Brita pitcher of water on my kitchen counter right now.  If someone waved their hand over it and then poured me a cup of Burgundy, I would be astounded.  My heart would be racing.

That’s the kind of Savior we go to with our concerns.  We pray to God in his name.  He cares, and he has the power to fix them, no matter how impossible they seem.

So what are you running out of?  Okay, maybe it’s not wine.  But it could be money, or a another resource.  It could be time.   I confess that, lately, I’ve been running out of hope.

Several months ago, I put a situation on my prayer list that had been stuck for years.  For awhile, it got even more stuck.  But then one event occurred that was exactly what was needed to shake things up.  This led to more actions that really got the situation turned around. It has been amazing. The changes are still in progress, but, I’m telling you, it’s a true miracle!

Don’t think twice about taking your depleted situation to Jesus.  He loves you deeply!  You can ask, and his heart will be moved.  You won’t be inconveniencing him.  It’s not too small a request.  And if it’s in the scheme of God’s good will, Jesus won’t hold back. He’ll totally fix it.

Last night at our midweek house church, we ate fresh peach cobbler with ice cream, made from peaches I picked from my tree.  We didn’t study the Bible this time.  We just sat, and were close  and shared our lives with one another.  I felt such an atmosphere of love.

And I knew that this was a thumbnail of the warmth that Jesus has towards us — such a deep, encompassing, nurturing love.

When I think of it like that, I’m like, this is how we’re walking around in life.  We’re cushioned by love.  It’s natural to share our heart and requests with Jesus, and know that they will resonate with him and be honored.

Mary knew that was her reality.  Let’s remember that it’s ours as well.

 

 

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Filed under Faith, John, Love, Uncategorized

“Momfuddled” — What Works in Parenting?

momfuddled

Parenting is one of the hardest things ever.

Before you had children you pictured being swept away in the bliss of motherhood.  Aaaaah.

Well, sometimes you find that.

But now you also find that bringing up children is exhausting, confusing, demanding, gut wrenching, unending, and frightening.  You expend yourself until you’re worn to the nub.  You agonize, and worry, and feel inadequate.

I am a far from perfect parent.  When I was bringing up my children, I struggled. Sometimes I felt like I was the worst mom.

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But that’s why I want to write this blog.  I want all of the mothers out there who are struggling to have something to hold to that is true and solid.  In this world of a thousand different messages on how to raise your children, I want to give you the confidence of a few things that work.

In short, what works is reflecting the characteristics of God in your parenting.   God is loving and gracious.  He is also righteous. When you make these things the foundation of how you raise your children, you will feel like you have done the best you could do.

But what does this look like in practical terms?

Let’s start with the good stuff — LOVE.  Effective parenting involves loving your children the way that God loves you.  It’s the daily battle to remember that you are incredibly valued, and then pass this onto your kids.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  John 13:34

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What is the biggest expression of God’s love?  It’s that Jesus laid down his life.  Our love for our children must also be sacrificial.

Yay!  This is something we moms are good at!  It feels natural to sacrifice for our kids.

But there’s easy sacrifice, and there’s hard sacrifice.  Love is sacrificing for your children in ways that are uncomfortable, and take extra effort.   It’s getting on the floor and playing baby dolls, racecars, Barbies, Legos, Peppa Pig, etc. with them.  It’s doing that thing with them that they love, even though you’ve done it a thousand times before.

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It’s carving out time to read Bible stories with them and have family devotionals.  It’s praying with them at bedtime, and then listening to them talk about their day, even though you’re bone weary.  It’s swimming with them when it’s freezing cold because they love it so much.  It’s singing with them in the car.  It’s taking them on “dates.”   It’s having the talks with them that take forethought and intentionality.

I do want to mention that the goal of this is not to teach your children that the world revolves around them.  You can still set boundaries, so that they are considerate, and so you have some time for yourself.

But here’s the thing, moms.  You’re exhausted, and yet you’re also brimming over with all kinds of plans and dreams.  You want to do something cool, make a difference, change the world, be successful.  You want to fix up your house.  You want to involve your children in all kinds of activities.

It’s going to take a conscious, determined effort to make the important sacrifices, and not let everything else sap away all of your available energy.

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God’s love is also incredibly appreciative of our individual worth.  Jesus saw the leper, the sinful woman, the Samaritan woman, the tax collector.  Each of these was an important person in his eyes.  To him, the whole sum of the law and the prophets was, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”  (Matt 7:12)

Jesus was consideration personified.  He calls us to be the same.

This can be a challenge for us.  We just need our children to behave!

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And obedience is important.  I’ll talk about that in the next blog.  But if we’re going to love like God, we have to seek to listen and understand.  “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  (James 1:19b)

When I surveyed my mom friends, they were vocal that respect is a crucial element of parenting.

  • “Instead of ignoring my daughter because her behavior is undesirable to me, I try to empathize with how she must feel in those moments.”
  • “Take the time to listen. When they are in preschool years ask them to tell you about the picture they brought home.  Talk to them like you’d want to be talked to!  When my son was an older teen he would come in to my side of the bed and talk to me every night when he’d get home.  I can’t help but believe that it’s because I always tried to listen to him.”
  • One empty nester friend told me how she expected her daughter to obey without discussion. She had a “just do it” approach, and didn’t allow her daughter to express what she was feeling. This led to a lot of conflict, and pushed her daughter away.
  • Another friend related how she and her husband treated their youngest child as they did their older ones, without realizing that he was different and needed a different approach. This proved to be very detrimental.

I will caution you, though, that even at 3 or 4 years old, your kid can do a better sales job on you than a used car dealer! Don’t let your child talk you out of what you know is right.  Be sure they know you are listening and that you care.  And then be firm.

The last thing I want to mention about God’s love is that it is positive.  It is so encouraging to me that Jesus named Peter the “Rock.”  He called Nathaniel a “true Israelite in whom there is nothing false.”  Jesus saw the best in people and believed in them.  He reflected the truth that, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Cor 13:7)

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We reflect God’s love for our children by believing in them and having hope for them.  We see the good in them and praise it.

If I could do it over again, I would work harder at being positive with my children.  As moms, we feel the burden of making sure our children turn out right.  We see the terrible consequences of a character flaw. The thing they need to change can become bigger to us than all of the things that are wonderful about them.  That was my tendency.

So we have to be intentional about praising our children.  We have to look for the things we can commend.  Moms, praise your children often! More than you correct them.  It will be as good for your heart as it will for theirs.

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In conclusion, the goal of love is that they will love. 

We love because he first loved us.”  I John 4:19

If there is one thing we can instill in our children, let it be a crazy love for God!  We do want our children to do the right thing.  But even more, we want them to do the right thing because their heart is so filled with inspiration that the obedience comes out of the overflow.

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Crazy love has to be caught as much as it is taught.  They have to see it in you.

But this is good news, because this is something you can do.  You can have a great time falling more in love with God!  Start a gratitude journal. Find the love stories in the Bible.  Work on the doubt, bitterness and fear that hold you back.  Pray to know how much you are adored.

I pray that you would be able to comprehend, along with all the saints, how wide and long and high and deep his love is.” (Eph 3:18)

And then tell your children often how awesome you think the Lord is, and how amazing it is that he loves us.  Help them see him, and his faithfulness.

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As our children grow up, they will find that life is hard.  There will be so many assaults to their self-esteem.  There will be so many times when something goes wrong and they will wonder if God cares.

Teach him that God DOES care, and cares deeply.  Teach them to pray and reach out to the Lord when they are hurting.  Teach them the magical scriptures that are salve to the heart.  Teach them the ways that God has worked in their lives already.

Sister moms, I know, I know.  Parenting is intense.  And everyone keeps telling you something different to do.

But hold to this truth through the craziness: If you’re seeking to love as God loves, you are on the right track.

Love never fails.” (I Cor 13:8a)

Love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8)

(Stay tuned for Part II of “Momfuddled,” coming soon!)

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Loving our Neighbors

“I will come to judge you. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, lying witnesses, and those who cheat workers out of their wages and oppress widows and orphans. I will also testify against those who deprive foreigners of their rights. None of them fear me,” says the LORD of Armies.  Mal 3:5

It’s  scary to think of being on trial before the Almighty God.  At this trial, God himself testifies against people. Yikes!  And he does it without delay, without continuances, like we can push for in the court system today.

What does God bear witness against?  Largely against mistreating others.

And while none of us may have stuck it to a widow or an immigrant lately, this verse makes it apparent that how we treat one another is uber serious to God.

Because what God is looking for is those who revere him enough to see that they have an obligation towards their fellow man.  As God is committed to us, he wants us to be committed to one another.

Here is how Biblical scholars define righteousness:  “God’s righteousness can be understood as God’s faithfulness to his people, where he fulfills his obligations to them. . . righteousness is also understood as God’s faithfulness to fulfill His obligations to human beings and His creation because as creator He has a relationship with them.”  (Rupen Das)

God sees himself as having a responsibility towards people.  As children of this same God, surely we should see that we also have a responsibility to our fellow human beings.

Look how God spelled this out from olden times:

 ”When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

Leviticus 19 goes on to relate a whole slew of things not to do.  I’m abridging the passage here:

DO NOT: steal, lie, deceive one another, defraud or rob your neighbor, hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight,  curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, pervert justice, show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, go about spreading slander among your people, do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life, hate a fellow Israelite in your heart, seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the bottom line.  It always has been.

“But who is my neighbor?” we want to ask, just as the experts in the law inquired of Jesus in Luke 10.  We’re surrounded and overwhelmed by more needs than we could ever address.

Ken and I watched a movie over the weekend, “Of Mind and Music.”  It was about a neurologist in New Orleans who took some time off to grieve the loss of his mother.  As he walked through the city, he came across a female street musician/singer who was starting to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s.  The neurologist ended up taking this woman in his own house to care for her, and then finding an assisted living placement for her.  When someone asked him why he was doing this for a random person on the streets, he answered, “Because I can.”

Instead of being overwhelmed, let’s ask, who CAN we help?  Who is in our path at this moment?

Ken and I went to a funeral on Sunday for the great aunt of our daughter in law.  We heard different people share about this special woman.  One was her neighbor, who talked about how much their relationship had meant to her over the years.  They were like family.  The neighbor’s children were always over at the woman’s house, and always came home with cookies or pieces of cornbread.  As the neighbor sat at her friend’s deathbed, she told her over and over again how grateful she was for her.

All of us have people “next door.”  They’re not all going to become our best buds, but some of them could become a blessing to us. And we could become a blessing to them.  I know this has been true for me.  My Latin neighbor down the street, Dee, is a great example.  We get together for coffee, visit when we’re outside, and chat on the phone.  Several times she’s brought her husband over to help with issues with our house.  I had a yard sale, and she came and sat next to me and supported me.  She has told me several times that she is thankful for our friendship.

But even though I know this, I still I get tired and busy, and I stop reaching out.

One thing that has helped me as I’ve been thinking about this is to remember that I have the Spirit, an actual piece of God, in me as I walk around.  It was incredible that God became flesh.  It’s just as incredible that God dwells in us.  When I interact with people, I bring God in contact with others.  The Spirit wants to talk with people.  The Spirit wants to love them through me.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I John 4:12

The other thing I am learning is the importance of humility.  I really think one of the things that separates us as human beings is our pride.  We can’t help thinking we are more important than that other person.  We don’t realize that we all exist by God’s mercy.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

I think the story of the unmerciful servant reflects the way God has always thought:

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’”  Matt 18:32-33.

God’s given us mercy.  That’s why we treat others well.

I have so much growing yet to do in this.  One recommendation I want to make, is that you listen to super convicting lesson by Chuck Pike on helping the poor.  It has really stirred up my thinking.  He says the biggest obstacle to helping the poor isn’t the lack of resources, it’s the lack of motivation.  We’re too tied up in our love of money, pleasure, and self.

We need to look at the scriptures anew, and take a hard look at ourselves.  Because it’s just as true for us as it was at the time of Malachi.  We will be judged by how we treat others.

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.’  Matt 25:41-43

You know, Mother’s Day is coming up.  I’ve been asked to share something a little something at church.  I’ve been thinking about my mother, and the good things she taught me.  One thing my mother really believed, and lived by, is that people are important.  She genuinely cared about people, that was very evident in the way she gave her whole focus to someone when she was with them, and how they were on her heart when she wasn’t with them.

My mom loved deeply, and was always videoing the people she loved.

My mom loved deeply, and was always videoing people.

In the end, that’s what God wants from us as well, for people to be important to us.

And I’m finding that it’s easy to say, “Yeah, let’s care about people more,” but really hard to put into practice.  Because it’s heart growth that needs to happen, and heart growth takes time.

So let’s seek to grow in this.  Let’s take a fresh look at the scriptures.  Let’s look at examples of giving we admire, and seek to imitate that.  And let’s pray.  We can’t help with every need, but we can wake up every morning and pray, “Who is my neighbor today, Lord?  Please show me, and help me to love them as I would want to be loved.”

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? I John 3:17

If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;  Deut 15:7

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Filed under Humility, Love, Malachi

Keeping Us Out of the Wasteland

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“I have loved you,” says the Lord.

“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ 

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackalsEdom may say, ‘Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.’

But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord.  You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!’”  Mal 1:1-5

For the past couple of years, I have been reading through the prophets in chronological order.  I took a break from this for awhile, but thought now would be a good time for me to finish the series.  I only have two books left — Malachi and Joel.  I’m reading Malachi.

Malachi was written after the Israelites came back to Jerusalem following the Babylonian and Persian captivities. You would think that the Jews would have been properly chastened after being in exile for 70 years.  But they still fell into much sin, once they came back to Jerusalem.  According to Nehemiah 13, the Jews were intermarrying with foreign people, not keeping the temple holy, and not keeping the Sabbath.

So in comes Malachi, the last prophet until the time of John the Baptist 400 years later.  The last words of God to His people.  The last warnings to them about how they should live.  (Some say Joel was written later, but Malachi’s words are still among the last prophesies.)

God starts by saying, “I have loved you,” to the Jews, and they ask, “How have you loved us?”

Isn’t that what we do too?  God tells us plainly in His word that He loves us.  Yet we are always saying, “How?”  We always see the things that are going wrong, and think that makes us unloved.

God’s answer is to remind the Jews about Edom.  “If you want to know what it looks like to be unloved, look at Edom!”   Because Edom was desolated.  More than that, Edom would NEVER come back to ascendancy.

Contrast this with the Jewish nation, which, although they went into captivity for 70 years, was brought out of captivity.  As we love to read In Jeremiah 29:11, God says to the Jews, “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.”  This was not true of Edom.

A side note about Edom here.  Edom was a country made up of the descendants of Esau.  Although they originally settled elsewhere, they ended up in a land that was southeast of Judah, where present day Jordan is.  During the time of King David, King Solomon, and many of the kings after them, Edom was a vassal state of Israel.  But then when Jerusalem was conquered, the Edomites joined in the destruction and pillage of the city.  For this reason, God said that he would never allow them to rebuild.

And it is interesting to look at the country of Jordan today.  Much of the country is inhabited by Bedouins, who, according to one source I read, are “desert dwellers” who “endure the desert and have learned to survive its unforgiving climate.”  The land of Edom is still a wasteland.

Bedouin Dwelling

Bedouin Dwelling

But anyway, what I would like to focus on in this passage in Malachi is the contrast between those who have God’s grace and favor, and those who do not.

One of the main ways God showed his favor to the Jews was by giving them the law.  He showed them the right way to live.

I’ve been reading “The Guilty Soul’s Guide to Grace” by Sam Laing lately, because I tend to feel guilty when I think of the “law” — all of the things in the Bible I SHOULD be doing.  When I remember the law, I start feeling like a failure.

But it recently occurred to me that God gave us the law to KEEP us from being a failure, to set us upon a good path for our lives.  (I’m not going to discuss here that, of course, we are under grace, not the law.  The law still points the way to right and wrong.)

It is as Solomon wrote in Proverbs 6:23: “For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.”  And Ps 19:8 says, “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Those who don’t follow God don’t have the benefit of knowing the right way.  So with the Edomites, on one hand, they were doomed to destruction because it was their consequence from God for their actions.  But on the other hand, they were not going to thrive because they did not walk according to God’s statutes.

And it really strikes me lately how much the same is true today.  It is like Ps 73:18 says of those who don’t follow God, “Surely you place them on slippery ground.”  People who go their own way so often trip up, or end up in a mess.  Haven’t you seen it?  I think of friends and loved ones I’ve watched go downhill, being battered and bruised, with one bad thing happening to them after another.  It’s hard to watch, and they often won’t listen to advice.

So the last words of prophesy to the Jews would be that God loved them, and gave them a good path.  He also in love gave them strong warnings against straying from the path, and showed them what happened to those who lived apart from it.

Today, all over the world, we see the wasteland of those who do not follow God.  We see wars and atrocities, people rising and then falling.  Will this be a motivation to us to follow God?  Will we see that God loves us and has given everything to help us walk in the right way?  That we should walk in this way not out of compulsion, but in appreciation for having the ingredients for an abundant life?

It is as Ps 119:32 says, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”

This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”  Isa 48:17-18

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Taking Time for the Important

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.  Mark 10:13-16

The disciples thought that Jesus had more important things to do than minister to snot nosed kids.  After all, they’re so juvenile.  They don’t merit the attention of an important teacher .

Holding child

Here’s a picture that’s gone viral this week.  It’s a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem who picked up a baby who was crying during his class, and kept on teaching.  People LOVE that this professor would care for the child, instead of sending the little one out of class so he could continue his lecture.  The professor had a different set of priorities.  The child was important.

What is important to us?  Are we like the disciples?  Are some people more important than others?

As Ken and I were praying this morning, he remembered in prayer that it was not the rich influential impressive people Jesus reached out to.  It was the common man.  Ken prayed this because we had just had a challenging night of service to someone whose life is a bit messy.  We had to remind ourselves that this is the kind of person Jesus ministered to — those who have one hardship after another, those we would look at and say, “They need to get their life together!”

We get so self important.  We get so tied up in our busy lives that we can forget what is really important.

I have been reading “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty.   I thought this paragraph from the book was such a great description of people today —

“Mothers took their mothering so seriously now.  Their frantic little faces.  Their busy little bottoms strutting into the school in the tight gym gear.  Ponytails swinging.  Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.”

In the book, when someone would ask one of the mothers how they were, they would always reply, “Busy.  Frantic!

Our lives are slammed with things we think are essential to do.

By contrast, I drove through the neighborhood yesterday afternoon and saw a group of children playing on a long stretch of lawn.  It looked idyllic.  They weren’t consumed with all they had to do.  They were focused on the now.

children playing

We need to be more like children.

I was with my grandchildren this past weekend on Mother’s Day.  At the end of our time, I told my grandson, barely three, that it was time for us to go.

“I don’t want you to go,” he said.

Then I told my five year old granddaughter goodbye.  She said the same thing.  “But I don’t want you to go.”

Grandkids playing in bubbles on Mother's Day.

Grandkids playing in bubbles on Mother’s Day.

Kids don’t care about schedules or things that need to get done.  They care about relationships.  They want to be with their friends, their loved ones.

Is that the way I am?

Last night at house church we talked about how we need to love one another as Jesus did.  And it occurred to me — Jesus was only able to love a few people well.  To show what love is, he focused on 12 disciples, and a few others, like Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

And I thought, I can do that.  I can focus on loving a few people well.

I let myself get so busy.  I spread myself so thin.  But when I realize that Jesus focused his time on a handful of individuals, it makes me see that I CAN make people the priority.  It’s not overwhelming.

We need to make time for one another.

But what about God?  Do we have time for Him?

Because God has things He would like to tell us, if we would slow down and listen.

I love to watch birds at my birdbath.  I fill it every day, so they have a fresh supply of water.

Bluebirds-bathing

It gives me such pleasure to see the birds perch on the edge and take a long drink, or jump in and wriggle and ruffle their features in blissful enjoyment.

God has water for us, wisdom ready for the taking.  It makes Him happy when we come to him, when we listen.

Listen in the quietness of prayer, not besieging Him with petitions, but waiting for His voice.

Listen for His will, His agenda, not our own.

Listen to pick up what He is teaching us through life.

Listen to hear what is really important.

It’s strange.  We have to block out all the things that seem important to be able to hear the things that are really important.

And somehow a child knows what’s important.  Somehow as we become adults, we forget it.

How is it that growing up has made us more selfish rather than less?

Today  I went and visited an elderly lady who’s in hospice.  It felt meaningful.  It felt important.  As I left, I took her hand in mine and prayed with her.  “Thank you, you’re so sweet,” she said.

She wasn’t a child, but it’s the same thing Jesus was talking about.  The elderly are often demoted.

Let’s take the “children” in our arms and bless them.  Let’s take time for the stranger, for the casual acquaintance.

And those who are close to us, may we love them really well.

 

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The Goodness of Unity

I woke up this morning thinking of God’s goodness.  “I NEED God’s goodness,” I told myself.  “If I wasn’t connected with God’s goodness, I would wither up and die.”

A little melodramatic, but it describes what I feel.

Anyway, today’s reading is Mark 10, and I as this blog unfolds, I am going to tie it in with God’s goodness.

Some Pharisees came to test him. They asked, “Can a husband divorce his wife?”  Jesus answered them, “What command did Moses give you?”  They said, “Moses allowed a man to give his wife a written notice to divorce her.”  Jesus said to them, “He wrote this command for you because you’re heartless.  But God made them male and female in the beginning, at creation.  That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and will remain united with his wife,  and the two will be one. So they are no longer two but one.  Therefore, don’t let anyone separate what God has joined together.”

You know, when God made the world, He saw that it was good.  This is so true for me.  Almost any time I am struggling, I can go out into nature and feel the very presence of God’s goodness.  It is beautifully overwhelming.  It is healing.

And then when God made man, He said it was very good.  This is important for me to remember because I tend to be down on myself.  I have to work on self love.  I have to remember I am God’s unique creation, one that is not just good, but very good!  How can I naysay God and act like I don’t have worth!

But God declared one thing to be not good, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  So God took his very good creation, man, and gave him something else that was very good, a “helpmeet,” a companion who would make him better and life better.

So this is what marriage is to be — the best thing, the daily providence of God’s goodness in our lives.

And that is why Jesus doesn’t support divorce — not because he wants anyone to stay in miserable marriages, but because he wants people to have one of the best gifts he can give.   He’s saying, “Don’t give up!  If you persevere and apply Godly principles, I will bless you through this marriage!”

I mean, look at I Cor. 13 and what love is to be —

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. (GWT)

If we had a spouse who was consistently like this, wouldn’t we be joyful every day!

If we were consistently like this, how would it make a difference in our marriage?  I was thinking of it yesterday as I was driving in the car with my husband and we were trying to work out Mother’s Day plans with our kids.  We couldn’t decide where to go.  We were hungry.  It was hot.  “Love is patient,” I kept telling myself.  “It isn’t irritable.  It isn’t rude.”

What about for our friends?  What if we loved them this way?  Jesus just talked in Mark 9 about “have salt in you and be at peace.”  I wrote a blog on the power of peace and unity.  Can we be united with our friends?

I mean, what was the last thing Jesus prayed for before he was put on the cross?  My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”  (John 17:20)

Do we pray for unity?  Do we seek that all men would know us by our love, our love that is patient and kind, that bears all things?

If marriage is a holy union because God has made man and woman one, what about the body of Christ?  “He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint.”  (Eph 4:16 GWT)

It is not good to be alone.  It is the epitome of goodness to be united — in marriage, and as brothers and sisters.  Church can be epically wonderful!

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!  Ps 133:1

But just as marriage takes work, it takes work to be united as disciples.  We intentionally encourage.  We overlook insults.  (Prov. 12:16)  We remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of evil. (Eph 6)

May God’s goodness grow and spread as we grow in unity and in number.

 

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