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.