Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Route 66: Light the Way

I love, Love, LOVE how “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” in all things. [ Romans 8:28] Each lesson he showed me yesterday had a common theme of living a fully surrendered life. Even the songs at Bible study lent their words to reinforce the fact that my life is best lived in total obedience to my God. One thing that God has been showing me through this is, when you give yourself over to the idea you are going to follow the road ahead becomes smooth. I don't know what it is but I have a feeling is is we who place those rocks in our way when we question God's wisdom. Hmmm...
Today, our reading in Route 66 took us though the beginning of Jesus' teaching. Found in this group of verses is the teaching on salt and light. I really love his concept on both these things but it was light that God wanted me to consider at the moment. How do I know? This is the picture I received from a friend on Facebook this morning. Isn't it amazing? It gave me a picture of exactly what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5:14
 I saw some thing similar when flying to Seattle a few years back only there was quite a bit of cloud cover that night. It did not, however, block out the lights of the towns and cities I passed over. I could see their lights glowing through the mist. It was an equally beautiful sight. Just think, we are light in our families, neighborhoods and communities. Just as in this picture, we stand out and draw attention. When we gather there is more light but even separately we illuminate the dark spaces. It's a beautiful thing.

If I may, please let me give you one more thing to consider. How did you feel the last time the lights went out? Lost, fearful, uncertain? We need to embrace our roles as light in a world living in darkness. Let's draw attention to the One we draw power from. Plug into Him and SHINE your light!
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house."
 Matthew 5:14-15
[This incredible image of the Wilmington area at space as taken from the International Space Station. To see an incredible full video fly-over of the US at night, check this out:! ]

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Route 66: Merit Badge

When I was a young girl I was privileged to be part of the Girl Scout program. My favorite part was earning the badges for all sorts of activities but it wasn't the experience I valued. It was the proof of completion that I really held dear. That little emblem that I had accomplished the assigned task was the so important to my young heart. There it was on my sash for all to see. It's award was the signal move on to earning the next patch to add to my collection.

In this morning's Route 66 reading through the Bible we started the New Testament. Matthew opens with a genealogy, a cliff note's version of the birth of the long awaited Savior and then we drop in on John the Baptizer doing just what he was born to do- preparing the way of the Lord. In the crowd he spots those troublesome religious leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These men were stellar in going through the motions of religious ritual and rule keeping. I'm sure their sashes had many merit badges to show for their efforts but John would not mince words with them about the important people they thought themselves to be. He called them what they were – a pack of poisonous vipers.

That seems so harsh in my estimation but John knew them and their hearts. God and his ways had become something that they added to the outside of themselves to look as though they had it going on on the inside as well but it just wasn't true. He told them, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” It wasn't the religious ceremony that was going to save them. It would be the change of heart, one that was fully surrendered to God and that would only be evident through the fruit of their lives.

We as a culture of Christians need to be careful not to operate in the same way as these religious men. We cannot just add Jesus as another of our life's achievements. We have to be fully in him and he must reside in the proper place as Lord over our lives. What we can add is fruit and everyone will recognize this fruit of God by its characteristics -

“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Verse 23 of Galatians ends with “Against such things there is no law.” There is no limit to how much you can do when it comes to producing fruit of the Spirit. If I must collect something for others to see why not it be acting in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. And one last thing, unlike that little girl of the past who just wanted to get through the task to earn the praise of accomplishment, I now savor each moment in each experience with the Lord. That's the true pay off.

"All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.
To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice."
Proverbs 21:3-4

Monday, October 1, 2012

Galatians: Joy: The Sparkle in Life

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.  Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. Psalm 43:3-4

I along with my Bible study girlfriends are currently studying Galatians through a Beth Moore study called Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. And I am so...well, full of joy to be looking at the characteristic of  JOY this week.  Crazy I know, if I take into consideration all of the stress and turmoil life brings each day. But when we set our eyes on the Lord the struggle diminishes and the joy increases because we know that ultimately our sufferings are part to moving us  forward to that "hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 talks about. This shift in focus from ourselves onto God draws our attention to purpose of life's experiences but there is more to be seen. We begin to see something that is beautifully purposeful and the result is joy. It is exactly what is shown in the story of Paul and Silas of Acts 16:16-40 where their beating and imprisonment ends in the salvation of a whole family.

I would like to use one of my friends, Julia, for a moment here-- Julia has a knack for taking an ordinary even somewhat worn out pair of shoes and turns them into a sparkly expression of joy by embellishing them with crystals. She does beautiful work and her creations certainly grab your attention. I can't help but think that no matter where those shoes may take her, they have to give her some measure of joy when she happens to look down and catch their glimmer.  I think that is how God works in our lives, too. Life can be a drag, wearing us out and leaving us discontented and even hopeless but if we take time to glace at him even for a moment we will see the glimmer of his light. A sparkle of truth will catch our attention and we will be drawn in and reminded of the joy of living in His presence while walking out His will no matter where it takes us. Delight in the Lord and allow him to show you the joyful expression of his work in you. 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything...
for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
  James 1:2-4, Nehemiah 8:10

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Route 66: Oh, The View is Worth It!

Sometimes life has a funny way of flipping on us. One day all seems to be going great and then it knocks us down cold with a sucker punch. If you have lived very long you know this to be true. Life is full of ups and downs or hills and valleys as some would say. If your life is anything like mine those hills and valleys seem to be happening in the same moment. I can't figure out if I going up or if I'm on my way down. Happiness in one aspect and sadness in another. And Sadness has a way of saying, "What do you have to be happy about anyway? Can't you see you're struggling here! You have no space for Happy in your life."

The thing is whether climbing up the side of a mountain slope or going down it is an equally difficult journey. Our legs ache and our lungs scream for air on the way up while we cringe at the thought that one miss step on a steep downward slope could send us tumbling all the way to the bottom. I'm not sure I really get the whole hiking thing but I do know that I appreciate the level path more than the rugged climb. Even if you are not a hiker, you can appreciate the picture of the trail opening onto a beautiful, lush meadow. Your breathing slows and your comfort level rises and you begin to think, "This was totally worth it!"

On my recent trek through Ecclesiastes I had to pause and think. In the midst of woe and meaningless whining about life, its struggles and its distractions we find Solomon encouraging us to find satisfaction in the simple things. He takes it down to the basic level each of us live at. Eat, drink and work. That's it. We can be content with what we have or we can strive, climb and worry our lives away to which Solomon would point out is "Meaningless."

Solomon also speaks to the things in life that come to us through no action on our part-the illness, the accident, the down sizing, the prodigal child- he tells us, "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other." And then he says," Remember that nothing is certain in this life. I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people." [7:14-14 NLT]

Solomon is pointing out there is no checklist or formula to living the perfect life. "Nothing is certain." No matter who we are, how closely we follow the Lord, or how much faith we possess S*** Happens. I'm sorry if I am offensive but lets be realistic. When life gets hard don't you think, "This STINKS!"?

Woe is universal. It strikes us all. It doesn't matter if we are righteous or wicked we will meet up with it eventually. There is no escape. But in the passage from Ecclesiastes it says, "...consider this: God has made the one as well as the other." And that's when we think,"Really, Lord. I'm doing the best I can and now this! There is no hope here." But when the disappointment subsides and we can begin to see clearly again that's when we can actually can start to realize that God is indeed in those dark days as well working to bring about things that could happen any other way. Blessings in disguise some would say.

One 'undercover' blessing came to me at very critical time in my life as they always do. My dad was dying. His body was ravaged with cancer brought on by his lifestyle choices. No amount of prayer was going to turn the tide on this one. Nor did I even think God was working here. After all, Dad had indicated the church would fall down if he ever entered it. So to protect the other parishioners he stayed clear of the building on Sundays. It seemed as though he had turned his back on God. The real truth is he felt unworthy but a few months before my dad's death came a new revelation.

On one of my last visits my dad was calling each of us aside and presenting us with a gift of a personal item he held dear throughout his life. His hunting knife, his hat, his rifle, his watch went to various siblings. They were just things he knew we would like or he just wanted us to have to remember him by. When he got to me he said, "Sis, I don't have anything in my box for you." I shrugged it off with, "That's OK, Dad," knowing his love was really enough. But then he went on to say he wanted me to know he had made his peace with God and he had finally trusted him with his life.

Oh, My God! [reverently, of course] You are truly a God of miracles! I cannot tell you the pleasure I found in hearing my dad's profession of faith. A long season of prayer was answered and a daughter's broken heart restored. And that's not all. When it came time for his passing God blessed me again by allowing me to be with Dad when he saw the light of heaven. He pointed it out to me but my eyes that were still anchored to this earth could not see it. He went on his way to an eternal life with Jesus. A beautiful thing, indeed.

You know, I think I beg to differ with our wise man, Solomon, on the point that nothing is certain in life. I believe you can know for certain what the future holds. For instance, I know for certain that God is with me whether I am in good times or bad. [Deuteronomy 31:6] I know that because of his presence I will survive the bad times. [Psalm 16] But not only that. I will be blessed through them. There will be joy in them. Perhaps not about what I wanted or expected but joy all the same. I will look back and realize it was not a meaningless exercise but a time when God's power and glory as well as his love and compassion were on display in my life. [Romans 8:18, 28] And I have no doubt God will continue involve himself all aspects, good and bad, of my life. That is something I can count on. His ways are certain.

At the end of this particular portion of Scripture in Ecclesiastes Solomon states, "It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all [extremes]." I believe he is talking about grasping the good and the bad that comes to our lives. Hold them in your heart. Look for God and his wisdom in each situation. Know that God is at work bringing not just a good but the best outcome. This is what brings that sense of ease even in the midst of turmoil. When we do this it is like that experience we talked about in the beginning, the stepping onto that peaceful meadow. Trusting that God is in control of all situations allows us to stand in awe of the beauty he is creating in and around us. When we do we will surely find ourselves breathing out, "Now, this is totally worth it."

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Monday, July 23, 2012

Route 66: InternalChange Ahead

A wife of noble character who can find? 
 Proverbs 31:1

Oh, the dreaded Proverbs 31 woman is in our sights today. Of course we would love to be God's ideal of a woman but in reality her description just makes most of us feel anxious, extremely tired and a bit hopeless.  Where does this woman get all her energy? Up before dawn working all day and well into the night, she completes her check list with a satisfied smile. She sews, she shops, she cooks, she farms, she sells, she spins, she gives, she protects, she interacts with the community, she speaks wisdom, she gives good advice, she keeps an orderly home and she is never idle. How could she be with that list!  And another thing.  Nothing seems too much. She does her job well. So well in fact that others take notice.

What is the secret to this woman's unending pool of motivation and energy? The love for her husband or children? The need to help her friends and neighbors?  The responsibility of being a contributing member of society? These things may play into it but will never sustain the energy it takes to be successful. We find the answer way down in verse 30- "a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

Its not the checklist God is after here. It is the heart of the woman that determines her nobility not her ability to stay busy all the time carrying out prescribed tasks. Does she fear the Lord is the real indicator. Once that is in place the motivation and energy to make a difference in this world will follow.

In case you are a little confused how being afraid of God could provide the positive example we see in Proverbs 31 let me give another definition.

fear [verb] to hold in awe [noun] -respectful fear and wonder [verb] -to think or speculate curiously [adjective] -eager to know [adjective] -full of desire or enthusiasm.

There you have it. I believe that if we follow our English definitions this woman was full of wonder about the Lord. Her mind was on him. She examined him with a need to know more about him and she did it with eagerness and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm [noun] actually means 'absorbing interest' which means she was extremely interested in the Lord but not only that she was engrossed [adj] with him. Her mind and attention were fully and completely occupied with the God. How then could she not be affected by him in everything she did?

There is a story about two other women in the New Testament you may be familiar with.  Two sisters, Mary and Martha, look forward to a gathering where Jesus was to be the guest of honor. Martha became distracted with the preparations for the event. Oh, the plans she made but in the end she grew weary of doing everything herself while her sister seemed preoccupied with their visitor, I can't blame Martha. I know her pain and frustration of trying to pull everything together for a perfect party. But perhaps I, as well as Martha have missed the point on these occasions. Jesus' answer to Martha brings it back into perspective.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Jesus was saying, "The important thing here is we are spending time together and nothing can replace that. And when all that is left of the banquet is a sink full of dirty dishes, you will still have the relationship we have built interacting with one another. That lasts for ever."

Jesus was supposed to be the focus of the get together not the preparations Martha was spending so much time and energy doing on her own. I believe our Proverbs 31 woman likely has that all figured out in her life. Her focus is the Lord and his influence is seen in all that she does and accomplishes. The same is true for us. Our lives should have Jesus at their center and everything else we are involved with will reflect his presence.  A shift in perspective can bring that ideal women well within your reach. Jesus first, then... The noble lady of Proverbs-that 'perfect' woman- simply put is one who fears the Lord.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Route 66: Drive-Thru vs Roadside Diner

OMGosh, it's been a long time since I have have had to sit down and write. As many of you know we have had a wedding in our family. Our youngest daughter married in June to a very generous and kind young man whom we feel very happy to welcome to the family. With all of the activity of preparations along with company of friends and family there just hasn't been time to settle my mind to putting 'thoughts to paper'. God finally used a tiny slip of paper found in a fortune cookie last week to remind me it was time to get back to writing. It said, "You are an adventurer traveling on the highway of life" so today I am ready to get back on the road to see what God has for me to see.

OK...we are now in the book of Proverbs with our travels along Route 66. I do love this book and its lists of instructions, knowledge and wisdom Solomon wished to pass along to his son.

"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:for gaining wisdom and instruction;for understanding words of insight;..." Proverbs 1:1-2

We, too have the opportunity to benefit from the writings of Solomon as well as others from the Bible and since they are directly inspired by God himself we can gain more insight about him every time we read it.

Recently, I was a approached  by a woman from our summer Bible study and was complimented for my knowledge of the Scriptures. She had been encouraged by something I had said which in turn had made her think about God's word all week. (This was a happy dance moment for me because I love to promote God's word in women's lives.) She also admitted feeling a bit intimidated by me and the wisdom I possessed. The last thing I want to be intimidating so I  revealed to her and now, to you that this wisdom/knowledge thing has not always been prevalent in my life.

For most of my adulthood I have lived as a nominal Christian. I guest you can say I just snacked on God from time to time. I attended church services but did not read the Bible outside of filling a few blanks in a study booklet but about ten years ago, something changed. I joined a Bible study and decided to really take on studying the portion of Scripture put in front of me. As I worked through the passages, God revealed himself to me in such a way I never wanted to let go. It created a hunger for something substantial in regards to God. I wanted to know him more and I knew the way to do that was not by hearing what others had to say about him. I needed to discover him, his ways, his thoughts and his desires for myself through his word. Our relationship became personal as I was getting to know him first hand and loving every minute of it.

So, as they say,"The rest is history." I continue to seek his wisdom through his word and I get so filled up I have to share it with others. I am not wise outside of his influence.  I say all this because its attainable in everyone's life. I am no one special. Anyone who wants to have more knowledge about God  needs only to jump in and get started exploring the Scriptures for themselves. I guarentee you will never want to go back to mediocre life of just knowing what others tell you about him. You will want to get to know God for yourself in a way that makes him real and your relationship with him meaningful.

Am I perfect when it comes to daily studying the word? Hardly. I am like everyone else. I struggle to find time, I get distracted by life and its drama and sometimes I just can't seem to find the motivation. I have days, sometimes several in a row when I don't open the Word but I can always tell when I have been away too long. I start to get cranky and critical. I begin to feel shaky and weak. Sounds a bit like hunger and low blood sugar don't ya think. When I have these physical symptoms, that's when I know I need to sit down and have something to eat. So too, when these symptoms are spiritual. I need hardy portion of the Scriptures.

 In  the Old Testament there is in an exchange between God and Ezekiel as Ezekiel prepares for his mission. In The Message it reads like this--

 "He told me, "Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel." As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, "Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!" So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey." Ezekiel 3:1-3

Love it! Eat my words. Linger over them for they are pleasant and they keep you coming back for more. These instructions are good advice to us, as well, especially when its been awhile since our last meal on the Word. Just the thing to put us back on track feeling strong and energized. So pull up a chair, settle in and begin to feast on the best thing you will every eat. And you sure can't beat the company.

 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." 
Revelation 3:20

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Route 66: Eat Drink and Be Merry!

Once I finished with the genealogy in 1 Chronicles, I have a sense of being trapped with the "Life's Short, Talk Fast" Gilmore Girls and a quick version of David's life. It's almost as if we are cramming for an exam and just need to hit the high points as we review. So, just for fun I thought I would share with you a fun resource I have come across-- Cooking with the Bible.  This book contains menus and recipes for the foods mentioned in the stories we have been reading.  For instance, when Sarah found herself preparing a meal for unexpected guests we can look to Entertaining Angels Unawares for the menu and recipes.  And if you want to make Rebekah's "Tasty Dish" used to entice her husband to hand over the blessing to the wrong son then All for a Father's Blessing is the place to look.  We can even find recipes for date and raisin cakes found in the 1 Chronicles 16 celebration give baskets in Abigail Cooks to Appease.  There are many more recipes and menus to be had at this site as well as commentary on the individual stories.  It is great fun to look at and may even come in handy at your next gathering. Enjoy!

"So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun."  Ecclesiastes 8:15

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Route 66: The Chronicles

Recently, I watched an episode of The Waltons, the story of a family in Virginia during the 30s and 40s. It contains a fair amount of history of that time period mixed in the with the joys and struggles found in the everyday life of any family. This particular segment called 'The Family Tree' tells the story of one of the Walton's neighbors, a African American woman named Verdie and her search for her identity. She confessed that because she knew nothing of her history she felt as though she was just floating without the grounding factor of legacy. She wanted the roots family history brings.

Perhaps that is why God takes time again to remind us we come from somewhere.  Notice I say 'we' because this family tree listed in 1 Chronicles is ours. I think if we take time to realize this, too, is our history then perhaps it will have more meaning to us.  As Christians, this is our legacy, the place we come from. Our people.

 I think most of us of have some sense of our personal history. We can track our family tree at less a few generations back. It provides us a road map along with hopefully a few good stories about where we came from. My husband's own grandfather was a Swedish immigrant who came through Ellis Island with saxophone in hand. He settled in Boston and married into the family whose ancestor was General Pickering of the Revolutionary War. Somehow knowing these things gives me a feeling of longevity and belonging.

For Verdie of The Waltons, her search lead her to the knowledge her people we slaves of a once prominent family in the area who before that lived their lives on the African continent.They had names. They came from somewhere. She discovered her story and in turn, it grounded her soul.

For us, the same is true as we realize these accounts found in the Bible belong to us as much as they do to Israel. Our story has been one in the making since the beginning of time, back when our people, Adam and Eve, began their lives in the garden of Eden. They extend down through time to the birth of our Savior, Jesus and even beyond through the early church and even even revealing whats to come in our future.These stories are personal so as you read the lists of names recount the tales of those who came before because they are our great, great, great granddaddies, after all.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Route 66: Just Crossed the Border into 1 Kings

Whew!  I didn't think I'd make it after being stuck in 2 Samuel so long but here I am. David's reign has come to its end and he wants to put his successor in place. But would the real king please step forward. When all is said and done Solomon would find the crown firmly placed on his head and with David's marching orders in his ears to "Clean House!" he takes his position as leader of the country.

Then, in a life changing moment God appears to Solomon and says, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” [3:5] Boy, is this ever a loaded proposition.  "Whatever you want..."  Our minds start to run over all the possibilities. I wonder if Solomon's did too before came upon the correct answer or had God already prepared his heart for this very moment. Whatever the case, when it came down to it he knew what he was going to need to fill his father's footsteps--

  “Now, 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?” [3:6-9]

A discerning heart and a discerning mind. Out of all the things that can be asked of God these two things perhaps are the most useful.  Solomon knew he needed God's wisdom- His heart and His mind- to lead the people entrusted to his care. Good choice considering he could not successfully rule over God's people without God's ways.

Life whether moving through our own or leading others is a whole lot easier in general when lived according to God's heart and God's mind. Today, none of us every have to wonder what God's mind is about things. We have it written down for us in the Bible and more than one copy can be found in most of our homes as well as on the Internet. And if you "have hidden [his] word in [your] heart" (Psalm 119:11) and  "meditate on it day and night" (Joshua 1:8), you will have instant access to it anywhere you go.  The Holy Spirit will also reminds of what God has taught you and the ever important action of asking God for his wisdom also works. See, you are never far from a discerning heart and mind.

I can't leave you without mentioning a couple other verses I love about 'asking God'. Jeremiah 33:3 tells us to, "‘Call to [Ask] me and I [God] will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." and Matthew7:7  says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." In the Matthew passage its say,"everyone who poses a question, seeks an answer and knocks for the door of understanding to be opened will receive what they need so we should never hesitate. Yes, when God says, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” it is a loaded proposition.  Depending on your request, it could be one whose answer will lead you to the best life possible- one that pursues God, his heart and his mind. Perhaps you should consider Solomon's choice.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Route 66: I Think I See the Tow Truck!

One last thought before, I leave 2 Samuel. Sometimes when you are stuck in a rut, you have to throw it in reverse to get out so that is just what I am doing. We're going to back up to chapter 23 where it says, "Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors." Don't ya love it! Exploits and mighty men. How exciting is that?

The story is about David hiding out in a cave and his thirst was getting the best of him. He says in his dehydration induced stupor,  “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”  Really? Risk your life for a drink of water?! How about a drink for a well on our side of the front? How about that? But off his mighty men go to serve their king.

This is a beautiful thing really, how diligent these men were to please David. There may have been a bit of adrenaline rush for these fellows who loved exploits but the outcome would be the same. David would be honored with their service. David would however "refuse to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD" as an offering because he was so totally overwhelmed by how these men could risk their lives for him.

At what level do you serve your King? As these mighty men ready at any moment to please the Lord? Or do you hold back looking for a way that wouldn't cost you quite so much? The choice is yours.  I kind of like the words mighty and exploits so I guess you know what I'll choose. I never want to turn down an opportunity for a great adventure! ;-D

Route 66: Still Digging Out of 2 Samuel

Today, I am that person who when visiting a museum they are found lagging behind the rest of group reading all the info on each display driving everyone who just like to browse crazy.  I usually am on the side of the casual observer of exhibits keeping up a quicker pace but I can't move on yet. David's song in 2 Samuel 22 has caught my eye and my imaginings are in overdrive.

If you were ever in doubt that God has got it covered when it comes to the enemies of your life then you need to take time to read it. It says who God is-a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a stronghold, a refuge and a savior-and is very descriptive when it tells us just what he is willing to do on our behalf if we choose to allow him to deal with it. Be sure to read this with the most dramatic voice you can muster.

“In my distress I called to the LORD;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
8 The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
9smoke rose from his nostrils;
   consuming fire came from his mouth,
   burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The LORD thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the LORD,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.

What a picture. Have you ever imagined such power is being exerted toward those things that are laying havoc in your life. Many times we picture people as our enemies but the truth is it sin that wages war with our spirits and our lives. Look at how God responds when call out for help against that which hurts us the most. He is on it with both barrels seeking to annihilate our opposition. It is explosive and powerful and the best part is He wins!


 17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Did you see that? The reason he confronted the enemy? Out of delight for me. Wow. That brings tears to my eyes.

Some synonyms to delighted are blissful, glad, gratified, happy, joyful, pleased, tickled and satisfied. Tickled is what I feel each time I see my grandchildren learn a new skill or grasp a lesson that will help them in life. It IS very satisfying wouldn't you say?

I think the key here is, what we decide to do when we are overwhelmed with sin.  Do we ignore the battle raging around us?  Do we hide the sin for fear the Lord will be displeased, sweeping it under the rug or making excuses? Or do we say, “In my distress I called to the LORD?"[vs. 4] Is that what delights him? Our call for help? Verse 28 holds the answer. "You [God] save the humble." Yes, our acknowledgement of his power to rescue us gets his attention and his favor.

And trusting him with our lives is an act of righteous. We see evidence of this in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans-

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed ... Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,  being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone,  but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." Romans 4:18-24

 Again with the "Wow, did you see that?"

"The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness" for our belief in him. [vs. 24] If your still not convinced, Hebrews 11 has a long list of flawed people who had much in their lives to be ashamed of yet they were seen by God as righteous because they chose to put their faith-trust-belief in him.

The rest of the song tells of God's actions toward the righteous. My favorite part-"He sets me free from my enemies." If you are struggling against the enemy of sin today perhaps its time to call on the Lord who will "soar on the wings of the wind" with smoke raising from his nostrils shooting his arrows and scattering your oppressor. Choose to let God rescue you from the thing you seem so powerless against. Trust the Lord. He gives great victories.


For all who read this morning's post before it was complete, my apologies. Please visit again and receive the fully updated version.

Route 66: Stuck Somewhere in 2 Samuel

Earlier this week I had a lovely evening with my youngest granddaughter, Hero. She about a year old and the spitting image (why do the call it that?) of her mother. It is so much fun to watch her stiff-legged steps as she attempts to maneuver from place to the other with her new found skill of walking. She is so like her mother at the age not only in looks but she resembles her spirit as well- sweet, giggly and vivacious. The time I spend with Hero not only is enjoyable because of this precious little child and her antics but I also get to remember her mother's childhood because she so closely carries her likeness.

In 2 Samuel 6, we see another idea about "bearing one's image" only this will not have such a pleasant outcome although a strong reminder of who God is will be in apparent before it is all over. David has decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant home to his city and he is going to do it in grand fashion. He has called up thirty thousand troops and a marching band to accompany him along the way. This procession will have everything! Can you just imagine it? And no parade is complete without a Grand Marshall and who will fit the bill but the Lord Almighty Himself. What's more, the delivery of the Ark will be stepped up a notch and they will add a 'float' to the celebration. It will be fantastic!

Right up to the fatal mistake, that is. One man, Uzzah will reach out and do the unthinkable. He would touch the Ark with his hand and that would be the last straw for God and he would keep his word as he always does. Death would be God's response to Uzzah for the disregard of God's Law. Harsh, you say? Yes, it is but should not have come as a surprise.

You see, rules for transporting God from place to place were laid out in detail in the 'handbook' of the Law and Uzzah would have or in any case, should have known the regulation. He was the Lord's representative after all, the keeper of the Law, and the example of spiritual attitude of obedience others should follow including the king. Yet, here he was changing the law up a bit to fit some extenuating circumstance. The Ark should have been transported by the priests, lifted up to their shoulders by poles that were threaded through rings that were attached to its corners. To me this is a picture of God glorified and the priest's submission as they carried him. Somehow the oxcart just doesn't portray that same feeling.

We do not really know for why David and/or the priests decided that the ark would ride rather than be carried but we do know God would not subjected to change by the priests and his answer would devastate a family and a king who so wished the Lord would reside within his city. The parade of celebration was over and a funeral march of sorrow would be put in its place.

Such a sad state of affairs. David's plan was to bring God closer, to celebrate and honor Him, in a way that seemed right at least in his estimation so how could it go so wrong? His intentions were good after all. What made this such a big deal? The problem was that God is not one who will be changed to fit our sensibilities. He has standards and they are not up for discussion. They are what make him who he is after all-Faithful and True-so we can depend on him. That's why it was important that God's agents, the priests, should carry him according to his instructions and not try to make him compromise with what they wanted. They represented him.

For each of us it is equally important to be mindful of how we carry God's image into the world. Is it an accurate portrayal of who God really is or has he been pushed and pulled it out of shape to fit your desires? Think about it. Have you asked God to go outside his word with you on something because you have a special set of circumstances? If you have you are running the risk of giving those around you a false impression of who God is. The truth is, as seen in this story, He'll have none of it. He doesn't work that way. He will not be manipulated. And for those who try to make him fit into their schemes, they like will find themselves like those in Israel on that terrible day devastated and full of sorrow. If we are to take on the task of carrying God, be his image bearers, we need to conform to him and his ways. That's what life is all about after entrusting it to God, learning to live it the his way. We need to become his 'spitting image'.

So we are back to that. Let me shed some light on that saying. The English phase-spitting image-comes from 'spit and image' which was a shortened version of 'spirit and image'. Ah ha... Now, we get it and that is just what we need when we carry God into the world. Just as my granddaughter looks so like her mother, our friends and our families and the world at large must see that God is our strongest feature. We need his spirit and his image to reside in our being as we take our rightful position, lifting him up for all the world to behold his glory.

"Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever."
-Psalm 86:11-12

Friday, April 6, 2012

Route 66: Day 97; 1 & 2 Samuel

This has been a whirlwind of a week for our family. Spring has sprung and spare time, if there is such a thing, has been taken to make prepare and plant a garden that will hopefully be in full bloom on our daughter's wedding day.  Needless to say, I have fallen behind in my Scripture reading and summarizing and I can sure  feel it. My spirit actually starts to grumble when I have been out of the Word for a few days. It's a bit like hunger pangs. I even start to get a bit testy as if my blood sugar is dipping. Luckily yesterday day I was able to have a long luxurious 'meal' as I spent time catching up on Saul and David.

Now these two guy are really something.  One plagued with insecurity. The other enormous self confidence.  Taken to the extreme these opposite traits both would have adverse effects on the people around them. Saul would be a self-focused and distracted in is campaign to crush his seeming competition leaving his country at risk from the enemy while David would go about the countryside taking whatever he wanted to the point of possibly becoming "obnoxious to his own people." [1 Samuel 27:12]

There were a couple of things that stuck with me throughout the reading. Maybe because it is an election year my thoughts were drawn to the parts on leadership. The first was about how to choose a leader for a nation or should I say, "How not to choose a leader."  As we see in this story, it is a bad idea to make this decision based on stature or let's say visibility. Just because someone is literally 'head and shoulders above the rest', and has the best chance of winning the election doesn't necessarily mean he would be a 'winner' when it comes to running the country. If we want to choose successfully,  what matters is what he's got going on on the inside. God tells Samuel that very thing when sets off to find a replacement for the very tall and good-looking Saul. [1 Samuel 16:7]

Secondly, I am impressed with how David, aside from a couple practical jokes, acted with respect toward the position Saul held as king even when Saul had lost his mind and was passionately pursuing him with the purposes of murdering him. Over and over, David repeated the fact, 1 cannot "lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” David respected the fact that God approved the choice of Saul as king and he was not going to question that. He also led by example calling others out when they were tempted to act against the king and even instructed the nation to honor him in death.

We have so many freedoms in this country. We can choose to say what we want and exercise our right to vote by wisely selecting the one who will  lead us.  I believe that the examples God has included in his story here in the books of Samuel should give us something to at least consider on how to conduct those choices. 

Now, on to the rest of the story of David as king. I hope you are keeping up in the reading through the Bible. Don't let yourselves become ravenous with hunger for the Word. No calorie counting here. This is one time you can 'eat' as much as you want and become fat and satisfied.

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16

Friday, March 30, 2012

Route 66: Day 89; 1 Samuel 9-12

And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 1 Samuel 8:7

This hurts. I know we have seen throughout the reading countless times the people have rebelled, complained about and rejected God but his words here bring tears to my eyes. Perhaps it's because as a parent I have heard the words "I hate you!" come from my own child's mouth on occasion. I may even recall saying them a couple of times myself. (Sorry Mom.)

I know we are talking about kings and not parents here but idea is the same.  The Israelites wanted a king. They wanted to be like everyone else. It is likely when the words of rejection came my own child's lips it was because I was not allowing her to do something everyone else was doing. Things seemed better in that other world and if she had a new mother then her life would clearly be different.

Perhaps that's also the reasoning behind the Israelite's request. Things are going so great with these priest guys. Some were good and some were bad. Maybe a king would work better. That's it! That was exactly what they needed. They pleaded with Samuel saying,"Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."[8:20] Certainly a king would make their life better. That's what they wanted and that's what God gave them along with a long list of additional stipulations of what would be required. Ouch! More requirements?! Seems crazy but the Israelites were all for the transfer of authority no matter the cost.

On a personal level we find ourselves doing this sort of thing everyday. For instance, rather than exercising self control we decide that our physical fitness issues would be better addressed if we join a weight loss program or hire a personal trainer. Yes, it is going to cost us in resources and time but it will be worth it. Our lives will be better if we do. Then our coach reveals to us the directions we must follow-- We must exercise self control. Same prescription but now it's gonna cost us.  The key to success all along was our willingness to follow.

Don't be a hater because I use exercise and diet as an example. It just happens to be the one I struggle with but to have success in it I must choose to follow the leader. Same with how I spend my money, studying Scripture, handling marriage and parenting. God has already taken the lead, has given me hand written instructions and is even willing to coach me through if I am just willing to be under his authority and follow him. I can look to man for help but the truth is, if it's going to work God has already thought of it. He designed the world and all that is in it.  And he can see the big picture from beginning to end. God knows just how things will work best. In the story of our friends the Israelite, they were still going to be required to follow if they would see victories under their new leadership. that would be up to them to take action. As for me, I think I will choose success with God and his leadership every time.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Route 66:Days 87-88; 1 Samuel 1-8

In chapter 4 the Israelites are marching out once again to face their enemy. At the encampment, the Ark of the Covenant is met with thunderous worship and praise. So much so that it says the the ground shook. It can pretty loud and energized in the church services that I attend. Instruments and voices raised to nearly deafening levels praising the Most High God can be heard from the outside of the building but I don't recall the ground every shaking. This must have been something to experience.

I believe the main point was not the worship in itself but the fact that the enemy camp heard it and were afraid for their lives. They knew the kind of god that Israel worshipped. They could hear the kind of enthusiasm he produced in his people. With his power he delivered them from captivity in Egypt and now they were beginning to comprehend what they were up against.

Then the unimaginable happened. Israel lost. What? The Philistines must have been scratching their heads on this one. Just hours before doomed to annihilation they now found themselves the victors. What the Philistines did not know was that sin had taken its toll in the upper ranks of the priesthood in Israel and God would let defeat and death be their punishment.  The power of the Lord was not with his people that day and his name would not bring victory for all the earth to see due to their rebellion.

Sadly, the Israelites continue to do things the hard way as we move with them through Scripture but that is not the most devastating thing that could come from this defeat. I believe another result is possible. God would be known as 'Not as Powerful as First Thought' god to the Philistines. Think about it. First, the Philistines thought they would surely die when God, the one who crushed Egypt, came against them. It was hopeless. Then when the dust settled, there they stood the clear winners. Hmmm...maybe that God of Israel isn't as powerful as they say. Maybe the things we have heard about him are not as they seem.  After all, He was no help to his own people.

The one thing that I keep learning as we trek through the Bible is that God really cares about how we act. Here in this passage I see that our worship should be reflected in our activity. One one hand, Israel as a whole trusted God to provide a great victory but in practice individuals were living very sinful lives trusting their own schemes. They were living a double life, both of which were quite visible to the world around them.

So what does the world see when they look at Christians? When we sing with our hearts lifted in worship, "You are my everything" do we mean it? Do we mean it enough to walk and talk like we mean it? Or do we worry and fret making our God look powerless to the world around us? Do we choose our way because we believe we will lack what we need or want if we wait for God to provide? It really does matter how we act. Our heart and mind and body need to be in agreement if the people around us are going to see the power of God on display in our lives. Don't disarm God by saying, "I will put my trust in you" and then do something to the contrary. Let's let our WHOLE life, the way we act as well as the way we worship, be our witness. We must strive to make our actions match the praises we send heavenward so that God's name will be glorified in ALL the earth. 

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Psalm 104:1-4

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Route 66: Day 86; Ruth

The closing statement of Judges leaves us with a sense of hopelessness. Anarchy is rampant and then Ruth drops in. I love how this book begins, "In the days when the judges ruled..." Loosely translated it means"Meanwhile back at the ranch.."  And if we take a peek in the window God is cooking up something pretty special for us to see.

Naomi and Ruth. Poverty stricken and alone. Some ten years earlier, Naomi's husband had set out to protect his family from famine only landing Naomi in a famine of a different sort. No husband and no sons, far from home. But she did have she had Ruth.

Ruth is a great surprise when we consider the Moabites. Their reputation for pride, arrogance and wrath has preceded them but Ruth has nothing in common with this description. She is humble, generous and loving.  She acts in faithfulness and loyalty as we see her care for her husband's mother as one would care for their own pledging to do so even beyond what was required. 

So how do you think this lovely young woman got to be that way? The culture she grew up in was not known for their goodness. In fact, they were referred to as the 'cesspool' of humanity. That's something considering that most people in the world were living in depravity during this time period.

Perhaps she gleaned some of what she did from Naomi. After all, Naomi must have been good and kind. She was well loved by her daughters-in-law (not something that always happens) and her family in Bethlehem welcomed her home with open arms. That really says something about Naomi.  But I think it was more than that. I think Ruth decided to do right even when culture said it was OK to do otherwise. She actively chose goodness and her life reflected it. 

So on with the beautiful love story that captures our hearts as Boaz falls in love with this woman of noble character and redeems her life and she in turn could redeem Naomi's. Good begets good and eventually years in the future, Jesus, the greatest good mankind would experience would descend from this union. 

Aren't you glad when it says at the end of Judges,  "everyone did as they saw fit" Ruth saw fit to do good. She shows us it is possible to live the "whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy" kind of life found in Philippians 4:8 even when dwelling in the midst of a culture who practice rebellion and anarchy. We may even have an edge that Ruth didn't. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to teach us all things and remind us of God's teachings. [John 14:26] So then, no excuses. Only action. Be one of those "and he did what was right in the sight of the Lord" kind of people. Even though it is not stated exactly like that in the story, we know Ruth was just that kind of person. We can be like her. Make the choice to do good.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2

Monday, March 19, 2012

Route 66: Days 77-78; Judges 1-5

As a woman the scenes of war recorded in Joshua was a little hard to take. All the "when everyone of them had been put the sword" regardless of gender or age seems so heartless.  It made me think of the saying, "If mothers ruled, there would be no war" came to mind wishing that a less violent solution could have been instituted. But one thing I do know, if God required it, his will trumps that of any mother and always results in the very best outcome. Still, even if our head knows something, our hearts sometimes need time to catch up.

As it has been so far with the Israelites, it wasn't long before they started making compromises. They did not drive out the enemy as commanded but rather chose to coexist with them with the excuse those people would be under the dominion of the tribes of Israel. Little by little, the Israelites faith became watered down by outside influences and by the time only one generation had passed no one even recognized God. One generation! The fathers and mothers, eye witnesses to God's faithfulness, had not done their job of impressing on their children a foundation of faith in God worthy of their allegiance. Perhaps they lost sight of just who had brought them out of slavery and to possess a wealthy land of "cities they did not build... to eat from vineyards and olive groves that they did not plant." [Joshua 24:13]

Now as we start Judges, chapter three reveals God's plan for these little rebels.  God was going to use the nations they had integrated into against them.  This new generation was going to have to learn how to fight. Something they had no experience with. No more compromise. Their faith would also be tested to see what they were really made of and as we start off on our journey in this book, it was a pretty sad sight. They seemed bent on destruction.

We may see a 'slight' resemblance in our own culture.  I'm not talking about the world at large but of the people who say that they follow Christ. Here in our country of wealth it is sometimes easy to forget who is the Provider of All Good Things. We may be found bowing down to make offerings of our time and money to the pursuit of possessions, youth, recreation and importance.  We compromise on principals when choose the wisdom of the world over God's word. We loose sight of God as we move in a direction we think best. We 'intermarry' with the world's ways and our faith no longer rests in our God but our SELVES. Pretty scary.

In 2 Timothy 3, we find -- But mark this: "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power." [1-5]

And that pretty much sums up this generation. By the time the next generation comes along, this will be multiplied in them.  "God who?" will be heard on their lips. We cannot afford to compromise with the ways of the world. Our future generations depend on it.  As seen Judges, the Israelites will get into a terrible jam then God come in and save them. He IS faithful to do the same in our generation as well as our children's but he is equally faithful to those who choose to follow him everyday.

That brings to one other thought about this--If God has to constantly call us back to him, it delays his work among the people who do not know him yet. It's like herding cats rather than sheep.  He wants us to follow him and his voice. It is counter productive for him to be forced to continually gather us back up again.  He wants use our hands and feet to make himself and his ways know to a world that is living without him and it works a whole lot better if we are ready and willing to be used.

So back to where we started, its not 'If" but rather "When mothers rule- impressing the knowledge of God's ways and words on their children- their children will be equipped to live peacefully with God." No compromising on this one! They must know who God is and how he operates. This will enable them to see him at work for themselves. This will give them a good start on building a faith of their own. Pretty cool legacy to leave them, don't ya think?  Oh, by the way, this goes for dads, too. ;-)

"These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life."
Deuteronomy 6:1-2

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Route 66: Day 72; Joshua 5-8

The sedge of Jericho would have been something to see.  Can't you just picture it? Armed forces taking the lead followed by the priests with the Ark hoisted onto their shoulders and trumpets blasting all the way as they stepped out with purpose in obedience to the Lord. The story of the walls tumbling down is made even more fantastic when you consider these  we're some of the very "walls that reached up to the sky" spoken of in Deuteronomy 1:28 that brought so much fear and discouragement to the Israelites.  Back then they had no idea how they would defeat such a strong and seemingly impenetrable fortress but God had always had a plan that would bring victory. All they had to do was follow it.

And succeed is just what happened. The Israelites marched out in unity and confidently followed the Lord's instruction.  The result: Complete Victory.  That just how it is. God never fails. Nope, never. It makes me wonder if we just had the strength and courage  (Remember, be strong and courageous.) to follow the instructions to his plan what would happen. Could we overcome the hopeless obstacles life builds up in front of us? How would we change when we met up with victory? How would the world be affected by victories in our lives? What if we were united and marched together in God's plan? What then?

Hope would be found, that's what. When the walls of suffering, injustice, and oppression lie in a heap of smoldering ash, we along with the people around us will know that God who he says he is  "For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:47

This is yet another "God has a plan not to harm you but to prosper you" message from the Bible. :-D

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.  For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth..[for]...the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Psalm 47:12 Psalm 33:11

Want to know more about who God says he is in Scripture, check out this site--

Monday, March 12, 2012

Route 66 : Day 71 ; Joshua 1-4

Moses' departure from this world always touches my heart. His last sight was of the land he had led the Israelites to. The people would enter the land and he would enter into eternal rest. God himself would carry Moses to his final resting place. Such a tribute to a life of lived out in faith and obedience.

Now, a new leader for a new generation takes position. I would like to touch a couple of things I saw in the reading--

"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them." Joshua 1:6

1. Over and over Joshua is told to have strength and courage in his new role as leader to the Israelites. I'm not sure if it was for the trail ahead or due the fact he was leading this obstinate group of people. I have a feeling it was for both but the repetition of the statement "be strong and courageous" is a good indicator that his future life was going to need an extra measure of both.

The thing I like most though is the fact that "be strong and courageous" was linked to the obeying and meditating on the Word. Again, we see God saying, "You want success, just follow me." God's words had everything Joshua would need to be a successful leader. All he needed was to grab hold and stand firm on them. A very good lesson for us as well.

2. Then, on the part about the leaders of the clans picking up stones from the middle of the Jordan--The stacking of stones for the express reason of remembering the miracle God had preformed. I'm not sure how often we remember the works of the Lord in our lives. The "If not for the Lord..." moments. The healings, the provisions, the blessings, the protections, the revelations of life should not only be treasured up in our hearts but also spoken of at the dinner table, as we sit at home or out and about with friends. We need to remember and share the memories and miracles with those around us. They serve as a reminder of a God who is faithful and true. Each time we recall where we've been with the Lord it lends us strength and courage to us as we move on to where he is leading.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Friday, March 9, 2012

Route 66: Days 68-69; Deuteronomy 28-31

Don't ya ever wonder how anyone could possibly take the prescription meds they advertise on TV after the list off all the dangers connected with the product.  The "and in rare occurrences even death" part sticks in my mind.  Here in chapter 28, we see the blessings and the curses of obedience laid out as a prescription of life. To me it is a no brainer about which course to follow but as we know it is a constant tug-of-war when it comes to following God's way or choosing our own course to see how it works for us.

Yet, here it is in this chapter. WARNING: If you take your own advise and disobey this is what you can expect.  All is revealed when we take the time to read the information put before us.  We don't have to wonder what to expect when we make a choose on which way to go. God's path leads to blessing after blessing while a path of our choosing doesn't look so good. If you say, "Wait, this was for the Israelites who were entering The Promised Land" all you have to do is look around and you can see evidence of man's choices everywhere.

God meant what he said when he commanded his people, us included, to follow his way of living. Notice I didn't say 'suggested'. It was and still is a command to follow him. We have seen it said over and over through the past few books and we will see it as we read on through the Scriptures.  Jesus will say, "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be." [John 12:26] It is part of being God's people. It is how we actively imitate God. It's how we exhibit our faith in him.

Let me say this.  I am not promoting works over faith. I believe our faith brings us to salvation.  This is a worksbecause of our faith idea.  This is for people who have placed their trust in Jesus and now are pursuing a godly life. Jesus himself says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." [John 14:6] but its through actions that our faith is made mature. [James 2:22-24] Now that you trust Jesus, follow his way.

As Deuteronomy draws to an end, God's people will be challenged to follow his prescription--

"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 

 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess."

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:11-16 NIV

The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Choose life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Route 66: Day 67; Deuteronomy 24-27

I fed a homeless guy last night. His name was Edward. It isn't an unusual thing for me to feed someone I see that might be hungry. Maybe it's because my mamma taught me it was impolite to eat in front of others though I don't really know if that applied in this situation since Edward was sitting alone on the dirty curb and I would eat my meal at a nice clean table surrounded by a large group of people who were laughing and chatting with each other. It doesn't really matter but I think the reason I fed him because God placed him in my path to feed and so I did.

In the passage found in Deuteronomy 24, it talked about making provision from excess in our own "fields" for the foreigner, fatherless and the widow. It is just one passage out of nearly 100 found in the Bible that address our responsibility toward caring for the poor. One thing I would also like to point out is that he doesn't say those who are rich be generous. He makes a statement to us all no matter where we find ourselves economically. If you have a "field" big or small he's taking to you.

I have found that the most generous people are actually the ones who can afford it lest. I seen those who had very little of their own divide and share what they had with someone else in need. A couple of years ago, I worked with a small church in one of the poorest areas near my home. We ran a midweek children's service with singing, games, and stories. At the end of the service we fed the children supper and some home baked cookies. Every single time they would ask if there was enough to take home. Some refused to eat what we offered so that they could carry it to a mom or dad, grandparent or sibling who was not in attendance. I like to picture them running into their houses making their little offering to whoever was there becoming givers themselves.

Giving is a simple matter really but its no small thing. Even though each of may only have capacity to make a momentary difference in life of one, man, woman or child it is still worth the effort. It adds up and most of us have more to offer than we think. A hamburger, a smile, a dollar or two, a moment of your time to give recognition. God has placed what others need in our "field" so we get to be generous and practice love. It grows us up a little more into the image of his Son who gave everything.

The feeling you get when you follow through with God's will in your life is exhilarating and makes you want to do more, give, more, love more. I can't describe it. You just have to experience it for yourself. And in case you didn't realize, caring for the poor is God's will for everyone. You, me , everyone. Remember he says it nearly 100 times. After my encounter with Edward. I thought about him all the way home and prayed for his life. Would he always be homeless? Would he someday have a wife? Children? He was a very young man. Where was his family? His parents?  His siblings? Would he make it through the cold night? Would he know Jesus just a little more because someone fed him a hamburger and asked him his name? Only God knew the answers. What I do know for sure, that night, Edward's name was in God's ears and on his mind.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Route 66: Day 62; Deuteronomy 8-10

"Let me tell you not one, not two but three times it is not because of your righteousness that you will be taking over the land." God was pretty blunt here about "it's not about you" in this passage. The land was about a promise he had made to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the plan that would produce a nation who would produce the Savior of the world. It spoke of God and his faithfulness and wasn't based on theirs. Good thing because they were reliably unfaithful. 

It is interesting that to head off comparing their righteousness to the people who were being pushed off the land, God says that is the nations' wickedness not Israel's goodness that has caused it. Sad when you think that at some point in their history they knew about God and over time had moved away from a relationship with him. They began to look to themselves and their wisdom rather than to Lord and this arrogance would become a great divider between God and man.

That is exactly what God is warming against here. "Listen, Israel. You've got to be on your guard lest you forget who actually got you to this point. It was me and don't think to highly of yourself."

In 1 Samuel 15:23 it says, "For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”  Thinking to highly of yourself is idolatry! That's harsh but does ring true.  This  passage comes in a story about King Saul doing what seemed right to him rather than acknowledging God instruction. He would loose his position as ruler of Israel over his self-importance. A very stiff penalty, indeed.

I guess the moral of this story is Keep your sights fixed on the One who led you this far. Don't ever get the notion you were the driving force behind your journey. You just not that good. It is God who has called you, he has prepared you, he has cleared the way and he will be faithful to see it through. 

Thank God. Where would I be without him?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Route 66: Day 60; Deuteronomy 5-7

Whew! Am I ever behind with the reading and writing over the past few days.  Our household has been busy doing some home improvement as we look to host our youngest daughter's wedding reception in June. Along with that task, we also try to make it to as many of our grand kids events that we can on the weekends.  My husband just remarked yesterday how he loved being involved in their lives. It was important to have that time with them sharing in their lives. 

Sharing about our lives, more specifically how God's "commands, decrees and laws" when followed create a good life, just so happens to be what this part of the reading was about. In fact, Deuteronomy 6 may be the passage I most describes the way I operate. If you ask those who know me best they would say I include God and his ways in most all of my conversations. I can't help it. I guess it's the teacher in me or the fact that God is constantly showing me how his word works and I can't stay silent about the guy. He is awesome and I want others to know it not just in their heads but also in their hearts and souls.  Can't ya see? I've gotta share.

I impress them on my children. Talk about them when I sit at home and when I walk along the road, when I lie down and when I get up. God Word affects my interactions and service to others. I even actually have Scripture written on my entry wall for all, me included, to see. I want to be aware of God everyday in everything and I want to point it out to others as well. 

Another thing that impressed me in chapter six is that it even laid out a plan on how to tell others about why you follow God and his way of life.  Here is the Patty Schell paraphrase on ver 20-23: " Next time your child  (or anyone for that matter) asks about why you follow the Lord's ways, tell them that I once was a slave to____________ and God came in and miraculously intervened on my behalf. He did an amazing work in my life.  He pulled me out of the hopeless place so he could bring me to a better life."  

Not too hard  really when you consider it's about you and your story. No need to learn a method. Just tell your story.  Don't be afraid. You have all the facts stored right inside your head. And don't worry if there will be opportunity to share. You will have plenty as you "sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (and all day long in between) to tell of the wonderful work God has done. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Route 66: Day 58-59; Deuteronomy 1-4

Previously on Israelites in the Wilderness...The book opens reminding us of what has transpired over the past forty years and adding a few new details that give our story some depth. Even though Moses is thought to be the writer of all five books at the beginning of the Bible, as we pass through each individual account of the Israelites he seems to have just giving just a little more explanation about the events.

For instance when Moses indicates he pleaded with God saying, “Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” Deuteronomy 3:24-25 And God's answer--  “That is enough,” ... “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." [3:26] 

Maga ouch! Moses must have been truly broken over the fact that he would not see his mission, the one he had been uniquely chosen for, to completion. We know it was a penalty for disobedience and God had given his word on it - NO.

'No' is hard to get around. No means no but we sometimes we want it to mean 'maybe' or 'not yet' or better yet 'for everyone but you. You are special have extraordinary circumstances.' God's word and his will are just and for our own good. Remember..."to prosper and not to harm"?  It sometimes seems harsh but we must keep in mind that there is a bigger picture in play.

If we look on to chapter four, Moses talks to the Israelites about the importance of being obedient to God's commands. It was not only going to provide them a good life but they would also be the example to the world around them about God's greatness. Verses 6-7 tell us,  "Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?"

Their obedience was going to promote God's cause to the entire population of the earth. This wisdom should not be lost on us. We, too, show others who God is through our actions. The question is, "What kind of God do we serve?" In verse two Moses tells the Israelites to be careful "not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you."

We cannot make up our own version to fit our personal life or circumstances. We must follow God's. That way the world gets an accurate view of who God really is. So, next time you hear 'No' take God at his word. Remember there is much more at stake than your plan. Your friends and family who may not be so acquainted with the God you serve are watching to see how life is working for you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Route 66: Day 56-57; Numbers 33-36

My husband is a land surveyor and boundaries are something I hear about often. When I read this portion of Scripture I can see the blueprints that have been drawn up for the 'Promised Land Project' complete with boundary lines and land sectioned out ready to be distributed. And as I have heard all throughout this story of the Israelites, again I hear, "I know the plans I have for you..." ringing in my ears. If I had to assign a title to this whole Israelite experience it would be just that-God Has the Plan.

There is a verse in Psalms 16 that I have always loved. "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance" perhaps has its roots here in Numbers 34. I know I am a 'broken record' (does anyone even know what that means these days?) when I say how happy I am to be reading through the Bible. There have been so many Ah Ha moments and this was one of them when I can draw a parallel between these two passages. The Scripture has a way of building depth as it overlays the individual stories to build a bigger picture of God's plan for mankind and then, for me personally. I can't picture a more pleasant place to be than right in the middle of His written Word. It is alive and breathing its wisdom into my life everyday. I love its plan! Its better than anything I could have ever imagined.

How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I'm single-minded in pursuit of you;
don't let me miss the road signs you've posted.
I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart
so I won't sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in your ways of wise living.
I'll transfer to my lips
all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I delight far more in what you tell me about living
than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you,
I attentively watch how you've done it.
I relish everything you've told me of life,
I won't forget a word of it.  Psalm 119:9-16 The Message

Friday, February 24, 2012

Route 66: Day 55; Numbers 31-32

It seems God is tying up loose ends before the people will be ready to enter into the Promised Land. Midian is sieged and spoils taken for their part in bringing down the Israelites. But it's the Reubenites and the Gadites that really caught my attention. It has always been sad to me that these tribes settled rather than followed God into the land promised to them. They were satisfied with where they were.  It seemed good enough for them.

Do you ever feel that way? You're good right where you are.  No need for any more challenges or lessons in your life? I know I do from time to time.  I just want to set up camp and stay awhile.  But 'camp' is the effective word here.  My stop will only be only temporary. I do not want to build because I'm not staying.  I want to see what more God has planned for me. I want to follow him right into the Promised Land.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Route 66: Day 54; Numbers 28-30

As I type this, I can smell the aroma of someone's dinner cooking. The smell of garlic and onions frying is making my stomach grumble a bit at the reminder it is nearly supper time.

I wonder if the Israelites could smell that aroma  of the daily offerings being made in the tabernacle. Did the the smell that was so sweet to the God linger in the air? Did it remind the people it was time to honor the Lord?

In countries that practice Islam the reminder comes to the neighborhoods over a loud speaker. The call to prayer sounds several times a day starting before dawn urging believers to pause and pray.  The most devout can be seen wherever they are stop and honor God.

So what signals you that it is time for prayers of thanksgiving? For me it's the morning sunrise bringing a new day full of possibilities, a sweet baby smile so full of wonder and life, or even teenagers bantering about the kitchen hoping for snack from my refrigerator. These moments along many with others throughout the day bring the realization of how much I appreciate that God is in my daily life and I breathe out a prayer of gratitude.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Route 66: Day 53; Numbers 26-27

More counting, talk of inheritance guidelines and the passing along the leadership baton make up the bulk of these two chapters. One of the things that keeps coming to my mind over the last few chapters the example of faith or lack thereof in the lives of God's chosen. The Israelites struggle so much in that area. We often look at this as being so very sad for these individuals. Here they had God in a form that could be seen when he was present yet even then they faltered. But even sadder I think is the message they we passing on to their children and grandchildren. What kind of God would they bequeath to future generations?

Faith and what it looks like to follow God faithfully is something that we WILL give to our children. How we respond to God will make an impact-good or bad. For the Israel's younger generation, they would have to learn faith in God on their own.  Their parents were a major failure when it came to following God's instructions.

If we really desire to give our children a secure future what better gift is there than a faith in God.? My oldest daughter often includes in her testimony of a time her father's faith impressed on her the need to obey God. When she was coming into her adolescent years, our family was forced to move away from the home she remembered the most, the school she felt secure in and the friends she had had as long as she could remember. She pleaded with her dad asking, "Why do we have to go?" It seemed so cruel to her young heart. His answer though it probably didn't soften the blow at the time time was "Because God said so." 

Even if it did not make the move any easier, our daughter says that one statement made a significant impact in her life. Over time it has caused her to see the value in following God's instructions.  Her father's willingness to obey especially  when it was hard has now become part of her own spiritual life. And the 'trust God way of life'  is being passed on to her own children and those in her circle of influence.  

So then, when we pass on faith lets make sure its the good stuff. The future generations depend on it.  Plus it's pretty exciting when you see your kids take their portion of God's promise for themselves.