Family Devotions

IMG_2104
Although we aren’t always successful, my husband and I try to do a daily family devotion time with my daughter. The way it is supposed to work is that one of us reads the scripture for the day, and we have a discussion about what was read. We mention any new prayer needs, and the same person who reads, prays. Like I said, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

However, there seems to always be something that gets in the way. Usually, it’s our own tendency for distraction. Ed works nights, so on those days, we try to do it shortly before he goes to bed for the day. On his days off, we shoot for after breakfast, but sometimes we get side tracked. Usually, I remember that we didn’t do it when we aren’t in a position to go do it right then. By the time we are, it’s slipped our minds again. Yeah, I know. We’re pitiful. We do keep trying though.

I probably don’t need to tell you that my teenager is less than enthusiastic about the whole process.

If we miss a day or two, we spend the first ten minutes trying to remember what we read last (we work out of four books at once) and whose turn it is to read. Ed writes it down on his calendar, but sometimes it isn’t right, and we have conversations like “No, it couldn’t be Ezekiel 23* because I read last and I read Psalm 19, and so whoever is reading needs to be reading Numbers!”

After we get it straightened out, we decide how much will be read. Chapter and verse divisions were made by the translators, and are not, in any way, consistent. One chapter may have 30 verses and take up a half a page, and another chapter have 30 verses, and take up three pages. We use chapter divisions most often, but sometimes divide them up over several readings. The idea is not to read a lot, but to grasp what we do read and be able to discuss it.

Sometimes, we are able to draw parallels from life today. Sometimes, we are reminded of another part of scripture. Sometimes, we have to honestly say that we do not understand what a passage means, or why it says what it does. Sometimes, we don’t make connections until hours or days later. When we do have those delayed connections and insights, we always try to share them with each other.

Yesterday we read from Deuteronomy 3

21 At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. 22 Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” 23 At that time I pleaded with the Lord: 24 “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? 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”26 But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. 28 But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” 29 So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor. (Deut 3:21-29)

Look at verses 23-27, especially verse 26.

That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter…”

I know I’ve read this before, but it jumped off the page yesterday, and stuck with me.

God doesn’t always give us what we want, but scripture encourages us to keep asking until we get a definitive answer. I can’t think of another time when God says, “stop asking”.

Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn in the flesh, and God told him no.

8 three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor 12:8-9)

Evidently, Paul stopped asking after the third time and changed his attitude toward his problem.

I wonder how many times Moses asked? What lead God to tell him to stop?

As a parent, who has been wheedled by a whining child, I can certainly relate to God’s response.

How many times have I said, “No, and don’t ask me again!”

Often God has used my relationship with my children to help me understand something about His relationship with me. The experience is usually quite humbling.

Yesterday afternoon, Ed and I were talking about something we need to start praying about. Ed said that he had already started praying about it, but more won’t hurt. I said, “No, I really don’t see God telling us to stop asking like he did Moses!”

Ed said, “You know, I kind of feel sorry for Moses.”

I do too.

*If you plan to read Ezekiel 23 aloud with teenagers, you might want to read it first, so that you will be prepared for whatever reaction they have. My then sixteen-year-old daughter looked up from the reading with the most dead pan expression on her face, and said something like “Really…wow…Alrighty then.” We then discussed how God doesn’t sugar coat anything, and calls things as they are, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Connie

Rejoice and Give Thanks!

I started working on this post last week with every intention of posting it last Friday afternoon. Obviously I didn’t, and just barely got “Songs for Sunday” out. Last week’s song fit the kind of week I was having. You know the kind; when it seems that nothing goes right, and everything you put your hand to turns to slop. I was really getting discouraged. We all have times like that, but how we handle them can make a big difference in our lives, and the lives of those around us. This week wasn’t that much better, but my attitude has been, and that has made all the difference.

Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi, probably when he was under house arrest in Rome. Philippians is a wonderfully encouraging letter from a man who was in difficult circumstances. If you haven’t read it recently, I encourage you to revisit. If you have never read it, you need to. God as a lot to say to you there. Toward the end of the letter, Paul writes,

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:4-9)

This is about renewing our minds; changing the way we think. In Romans 12, Paul says,

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2)

That sounds challenging, doesn’t it?

Take another look at the passage from Philippians. While we are rejoicing, not being anxious, praying and petitioning, there is a little phrase that might get overlooked: “with thanksgiving”.  We’re supposed to be thankful.  In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul said that they should be

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:20)

and to the church in Thessalonica, he says,

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:18)

I know what you’re thinking. Always giving thanks? Rejoice Always? Only think about good things? Are you crazy?

No I’m not, and neither was Paul. He had discovered something, and so have many others in the two millennia since. I think I’m just starting to get it…Sometimes the key for me isn’t getting it, but remembering it for more than 30 seconds, but that’s another blog post.

When I started writing last week, I just had an inkling of what God was trying to tell me, but I couldn’t quite grasp it. (I’m so glad God is patient!) We had one of those “one thing after another” weeks. We had plumbing issues, animal issues, home school issues and work schedule issues. We were all tired and getting snappy.

Then, a few days ago, I was reading the devotional book based on Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, when I caught a glimmer of understanding. She writes about a time when her sons were fighting at the breakfast table, and she was super angry (I can relate to that), and at the same time she’s asking God for guidance (I can relate to that too…when you just want to wring their little necks, but you’re pretty sure that isn’t part of God’s plan). For two or three pages, she relives the struggle and then the epiphany. She writes,

“How did Jesus do it again? He turned His eyes. ‘And looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave…’ (Matthew 14:19) He looked up to heaven, to see where this moment comes from. Always first the eyes, the focus. I can’t leave crowds for mountaintop, daily blur for Walden Pond – but there is always the possibility of the singular vision. I remember: Contemplative simplicity isn’t a matter of circumstances, it’s a matter of focus. I take a deep breath, say nothing to them, but I look up to heaven, and give thanks aloud, in a whisper: ‘Father, thank You for these two sons. Thank You for here and now. Thank You that You don’t leave us in our mess.’ My heart rate slows. Something hard inside softens, opens and this thanks aloud feels mechanical. But I can feel the heart gears working. ‘Thank You for toast. Thank You for Cross-grace for this anger, for the hope of forgiveness, and brothers and new mercies.’ I look for the ugly-beautiful, count it as grace, transfigure the mess into joy with thanks and eucharisteo leaves the paper, finds the way to the eyes, the lips.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Devotional, p. 155. If you’re not familiar with Ann Voskamp, you can check her out here.)

I finished with tears in my eyes. I understood. When we give thanks, our circumstances may not change, but we do. I said, “Lord, thank you that I can sit here and read Your word, and this book. Thank you that I have eyes to see and a mind to understand. Thank you that I can sit here in freedom. Thank you for this table and chair, for the pen in my hand.” Yes, I felt a little silly, but I also felt better.

I knew I needed to share this insight with my husband, but I also knew that his week was going like mine. We had some exasperating plumbing problems, but I decided to put what I had read in Philippians and in Ann’s book to practice. I said, “Lord, I thank you that we have indoor plumbing and running water. Thank you that we have the tools we need to fix the problem and the hands to use them.”

Ed may have thought that I had lost it for a minute, but I think the Lord enlightened him too. A little while later, he said that when he was a kid, he lived in a house with “four rooms and a path”, and that our home is a mansion by comparison. Yes, we are incredibly blessed. Now, we’re both trying give thanks always. I have a feeling its going to be one of those things we need to constantly remind each other about, like being mindful of what comes out of our mouths (Ephesians 4:29).

However, we need to give thanks in all things, including those things that we might not normally be thankful for.  That’s challenging too. Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit to help us.

The following YouTube video, posted by Route66EBC, is an excerpt from The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. The video is about ten minutes long, but it is a remarkable story about how God honors gratitude.

Have a wonderful week, and remember to give thanks!

Connie

 

Practical Application

My grandfather was a preacher. You might assume that means that all his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren followed the straight and narrow, went to Bible college, and either became or married preachers. Not exactly. We all went the prodigal route, and some of us are still out there.

Grandpa memorized massive amounts of scripture, and could call up a scriptural response for just about any situation. He did that often, and most times in lieu of any other advice. One time, in frustration, one of my cousins said, “That’s great Grandpa, but how does that apply to me?” He needed to know the practical application of what my grandfather had said. I’m not sure if he got the answer he was looking for.

We all need practical application. How do we take what the Bible says, and apply it to our lives today. I know a lot of scripture too, but I’ve learned that there is a huge difference between knowing the words, and knowing the Source of those words. It is possible to “talk the talk” without even knowing how to “walk the walk”.

We spend a lot of time on this blog looking at what the scriptures say, looking at the original languages, looking at how wonderfully everything fits together. I want to do everything I can to give us a clearer picture of God’s message to us. However, all that is worthless, if we choose not to, or can’t figure out how to, apply it to our lives.

Sometimes, even what appears to be a biblical lesson in practical application can be confusing.

Look at this passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21)

Ok, at first glance that seems pretty straight forward. Do your part to get along with everyone (yes, this is hard sometimes). Seeking revenge is not your job; it’s God’s (yes, that’s hard too). So how do we do that? If your enemy (or just that jerk of a neighbor you can’t stand) is hungry, you feed him. You help get his physical needs met. Ok, but what is this? “heap burning coals on his head”? What does that mean? It kind of sounds like “kill them with kindness”, but is it? That still kind of sounds like a revenge-like response.

This is where it helps to understand the culture of the day.

This is a quote from the Bible Knowledge Commentary that I found here.

“Sometimes a person’s fire went out and he needed to borrow some live coals to restart his fire. Giving a person coals in a pan to carry home “on his head” was a neighborly, kind act; it made friends, not enemies.”
burning coals
So, the goal is to turn our enemies into friends. Friends that we can maybe then lead to Jesus? It’s not killing someone with kindness; it’s loving them to the Lord! That is how we “overcome evil with good”!  I’m sure you can think of someone, even several someones, who need that.

One more thing though. Up in verse nine of this same chapter, Paul says that love must be sincere. That means we are supposed to be working from a place of genuine love for people, even unpleasant people. That is hard, and we can’t do it on our own. We can only do it through the power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit living in us, and those changes don’t happen over night. The important thing is that we make the effort. We do what He tells us, and when we feel like we can’t, we trust Him to work through us, and do it anyway. Every time we do, we look a little more like Jesus to a hungry, hurting world.

How is that for practical application?

Connie

Reflecting God’s Glory

At the end of Exodus 33, Moses asked to see God’s glory. God’s reply was something like: “I can’t do that Moses. It would kill you. I’ll tell you what. There’s a rock nearby with a cleft in it. You stand in there, and I’ll cover you with my hand as I pass by. Then I’ll move my hand and you can see my back.” (paraphrase mine).

Chapter 34 opens like this:

The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”

God had chiseled the stone tablets the first time, but now, God told Moses to do it. I have to wonder if that was to give Moses time to think about his temper that sent the first tablets crashing down the mountain.

So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.  Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. (Ex 34:4-11)

I’m not sure if Moses was in the cleft of the rock when this occurred; it really doesn’t say, but God passed in front of Moses and proclaimed Himself. In response, Moses hit his knees and worshiped God. Once again he asks God to go with them. God says He will make a covenant, or agreement, with Moses, to do incredible things for the people, and drive out the people already living in the promised land. The condition was that they had to obey God’s commands. In verses 12-26 God gives some of those commands, most of which are familiar to us, such as not worshiping other gods, not making any idols, keeping the sabbath, etc.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. (Ex 34: 27-28)

For 40 days and 40 nights, Moses was in such deep communion with God that he went without food or water. This isn’t the only record in the Bible of someone going without food for 40 days.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (Matt 4:1-2)

Today, the general consensus is that a human being can go 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Yet, both Moses and Jesus went way past those limits. Obviously, God sustained them during that time.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord. (Ex 34 29-35)

After all that he experienced on the mountain, Moses was literally glowing. The radiant Moses frightened Aaron and the others, and they didn’t want to come near him. Moses reassured them, and then gave them the Lord’s commands. Then he covered his face with a veil. From the way this reads, I would assume that from then on, Moses kept his face covered unless he was speaking with the Lord.

I have two thoughts about this: one is that Moses covered his face because the glowing unnerved the people and they didn’t want to see it. The other is that Moses feared they might start worshiping him instead of God. Actually, there is no evidence of the second one; unless it is simply the way that people tend to behave. I think that is also why God buried Moses Himself. If the people knew where he was buried, they may have created a shrine of the tomb and, in time, began to worship Moses instead of God.

As for the first thought; Paul, in his second letter to the church at Corinth, says this:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Cor 3:7-16)

The Israelites really didn’t want to see the glory. They really didn’t want to experience the presence of God. Yes, they were frightened that such an experience might kill them, but I wonder if they weren’t more afraid of the changes that kind of experience might produce in their own lives.

Moses was reflecting the glory of God, and he had to hide his face. How sad.

Paul continues with this:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18-19).

Christians are supposed to be reflecting the glory of God too, and we aren’t supposed to cover it. We are to let it shine as it changes us daily; transforming us until we look just like Jesus.

Jesus said,

You are the light of the world. A town built 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16)

Let-Your-Light-Shine

Let it shine!

Connie