I am an optimist; in case you did not know. I believe the best in people, until I am proven wrong. Even when people have bad intentions, I have seen God change their heart or bring good out of the situation.
I have experienced firsthand God’s mighty power and transforming my lemons into lemonade, time and time again. So, I can have faith that He will do it again, in any circumstance. It brings me peace to be positive. Does that make me naïve? For a very large portion of my life, I would agree. I was very naïve. But, God…you know the rest. Today is a very different story. I came through the fire and I am still positive. I know there are people I cannot trust as far as I can throw them- which is not very far; but I do not dwell on that.
When I see others who lean on the side of negative thinking and pessimistic views, I wonder- is that a choice? Is it in their DNA? Have they genuinely tried (with God’s help) to choose another path? The path of peace. Can they envision the concept of making lemonade? What if they were able to intentionally push out negative thoughts every day and choose to think positive? Would that be a life changer? I am truly curious and ask out of sincerity.
For any pessimists out there- please do not take this personal and respond too quickly without taking time for thoughtful reflection. I do know that I have times of doubt and fear- I do not linger there. I ask God to help me push it out so I can return to a place of peace. I guess I choose to think positive in that way. So as a natural optimist- is it easier for me? Probably. But does that mean it is not possible for a pessimist to do the same thing? It may be more difficult – but I think it is possible. What do you think?
I thought I would expand on the Scripture I used in last week’s blog to dive a little deeper into Joshua’s challenge in 24:15 to ‘choose this day whom you will serve’. By this time in Joshua’s journey, he was in the last stages of his life, and he had seen many people be disobedient and the consequences that came from it.
As an assistant to Moses, he saw firsthand the idols and gods the previous generation worshiped in disobedience to God’s commands. He also had the opportunity, as a faithful servant, to succeed Moses to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.
We can relate the gods and idols of that generation to ours today. Anything we place ahead of GOD is an idol and a god (little ‘g’). I would venture to say we have many gods, although not in the form of a golden calf, but still just as detrimental to our lives if we place them before God and allow them to become the ultimate thing in our life instead of putting Jesus at the forefront.
Joshua was challenging the generation whose fathers had been disobedient. He was setting an example and asking them to choose if they were going to fall back into the patterns of the generation before them or serve the one true God. They continued to choose to serve God as they had seen what He did for them as they overcame many obstacles, saw miracles when God parted the water for them to pass, when the walls of Jericho fell after circling it for seven days, as God instructed, and the land given to them that God had promised, not to mention the many battles that were conquered with God’s help due to their obedience and putting God in His rightful place in their lives.
We may not have the same circumstances, obstacles, and challenges that generation had, but there is still a lesson to be learned. Just as we see the promises fulfilled in the OT in Moses and Joshua’s day, we can trust God to fulfill His promises through eternity by way of Jesus. Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew- symbolically, by faith and obedience to God, Joshua led Israel into physical salvation in Canaan, and Jesus leads all who believe him into eternal salvation.
The importance of Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel is still relevant to us yet today- “choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15 ESV)
Today, many of us are reflecting on the past year as we all want a fresh start, a do-over, and an end to the virus, hate, and injustices seen the last few months. In my reflection this morning, I was reminded of all the great things God has done this year. Even during a pandemic, God showed up in a big way to bring good to many. We can rest assured He is with us and still in control.
At this time last year, I had no idea I would be in school, working from home, and getting ready to welcome a new daughter (in law) to our little family. I sit in gratefulness and awe of an amazing God and Father who loves us and wants good for us. I am reminded of Ephesians 2:4-10 when Paul makes what the ESV study Bible calls, “the greatest short phrase in history of human speech”. “But God!” (emphasis added) Just before this, Paul paints a bleak picture of our sinful nature. We are hopeless and helpless on our own, following the devil and his sinful nature that we, as descendants of Adam, inherited at birth. Just when things are the darkest and all hope is lost…God steps in with mercy, kindness, and love; for those who are joined to Jesus Christ are saved from the terrible consequences of their sin and enjoy the benefits of Christ’s resurrection.
Have you ever loved something or someone so much that you set it free? You did not want to keep it, control, or manipulate it into staying with you just because you wanted it to so much. That is the picture of true love. You want to offer a choice to be with you because of love for you. God does that for us. He gave us the free will to choose Him. He sent His Son to die on our behalf so we could have eternal life, but He also asks us to choose whom we will serve. (Joshua 24:15) Do you want to choose this broken world and our sinful nature or the Father who loves us and wants the best for us for eternity?
I look forward to a new year, to see what God will do, what surprises He has in store, as I rest in the knowledge of His love, truth, mercy, and goodness. I invite you to join me in celebration of that truth, not fearing what is next because God is with us. Let us stand on a firm foundation, rooted deep in faith, serving and loving others as He loves us. I choose God. I choose joy. I encourage you to read and reflect on Ephesians 2:4-10 and just what that means for us.
I pray for restoration of relationships, and that God will close the gaps on the many divisions occurring among Christians and family members, the enemy is trying to destroy. But most of all, I pray that you will welcome the intimate relationship God is offering you today.
Happy New Year to all! May the God of peace be with you in the coming year and beyond.
For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. ~Proverbs 2:10
We should not add Jesus to whatever we are doing like an ingredient in a recipe to justify our actions. We need to be willing to search the scriptures for His truth and change our ways to be like Him.
We can ask God for wisdom and understanding. Jesus should come first and direct the rest of our actions. If this means our actions change, at first it is uncomfortable, and we resist. But if we trust Him fully and let Him lead us, the result is even better than we can imagine.
Our plan of action leads to sin and dissatisfaction. Jesus’ plan & God’s will in our hearts leads us by the Holy Spirit and ultimately His plan for us. Let Him lead the way to the kingdom= JOY!
On the flip side of that coin, just as we should not add Jesus to justify, we also should not leave Him out. Everything in the Old and New Testament points to Christ. This is God’s story of redemption to bring His people to Himself. Scriptures are written for our instruction and the lessons are timeless. (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11-12) Cultures come and go but God remains the same throughout the ages and His word still stands today. Christ died to give us eternal life. It is not a secret society; it is an open invitation with eternal significance and our choice has eternal consequences. Thank you, Jesus! Merry Christmas!
For the time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
We cannot take one scripture and apply it to every situation. It is important to take the whole picture into consideration and search other scriptures on the subject to get a better understanding of God’s truth.
Each person’s own convictions must be taken into consideration and it helps to have a closer relationship with Christ to know what He wants for you specifically.
We are not to be the cause of someone else to stumble by encouraging them to do something they feel is wrong. It may not seem wrong for one, but if other’s conscience is telling them it is wrong then it is wrong for them and we need to be considerate of that and even change our behavior if doing it in front of them would cause them to be tempted and fall.
We can take all of God’s instructions into consideration and ask Him what He wants for us specifically and not judge others for doing something that is wrong for us. That is between them and God.
I am not talking about breaking commandments here- but if we dive into that for a moment, the Bible says the person who keeps all the laws except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God’s laws. We are all sinners. There is no one good, not one. One is just as bad as two or more and they are all on the same level of guilty in God’s eyes, although they may have different levels of consequences.
Each of us must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We can help others understand the Scripture the way we interpret it and bring divine guidance and clarity to help them have a different perspective than they may have had before but it is ultimately between them and the Father to determine what is right for them.
With that said, I also believe that if a sister or brother in Christ is led away by false teaching, it is our responsibility to point them gently and lovingly to God’s word and truth so they can do a self-evaluation in the presence of God to get to the root of the belief and see where it is stemming from so, they can have a clearer picture of what God wants.
If you have doubts and do it anyway- you are sinning. You are not following your convictions if you do anything you believe is not right.
We are free in Christ and can interpret what is right and wrong based on what God puts on our hearts and minds, but we should not use our freedom to satisfy our sinful nature. Our freedom is meant to serve one another in love and let the Spirit guide us to righteousness.
Our sinful nature is opposite of what the Spirit wants. That is why it is important to not let our human desires and pride get in the way of what God wants for us. If we stay close to Him and are communicating with Him daily, staying in His word and listening to His instructions for our lives, we can live more fully in that freedom.
For further reading: James 2:10, Romans 14:13-14, 22, Galatians 5:13-17
Honeybee: A purpose filled life that produces sweet results.
Think about it, a honeybee knows exactly what it is supposed to do. It has a purpose, and it works at it diligently each day. At the end of the day, it has smelled the flowers and tasted sweet victory.
Honeybee workers forage for nectar and pollen to feed the colony. They have a sophisticated method of communication that involves a type of ‘waggle dance’ or elaborate series of movements to inform other bees where the best sources of food are located. They are not just out for themselves, trying to hog all the good stuff. They want to share with the others.
It not only works as a team player and serves the leader well but stores up food during the summer that will serve the colony during the winter months.
But the bee is not only helping himself and his colony when he is collecting nectar. The interesting design of the nectar in flowers attracts the insects by offering them nutrition, in return, the insects help fertilize the flowers by transmitting pollen that clings to their bodies from flower to flower.
This is a picture of two different species benefiting from each other in a win/win relationship because they use their God-designed gifts and talents for the purpose of surviving and helping each other.
Nectar on its own would not last and cannot be stored any length of time by the insects, but by design, the bees transform it into honey creating an efficient and usable carbohydrate that can be stored almost indefinitely.
Most foraging bees are collecting nectar for honey, but some bees are collecting pollen that is used to make beebread as the main source of dietary protein providing much needed fats, vitamins, and minerals to the bees. The bees add an enzyme and acids from their salivary gland secretions that keep the pollen from spoiling.
I find all this very fascinating. Stop and think about the design and planning God put into the details of honeybee and the flowers as they help each other survive by using what they were given with a purpose to fulfill in their short little lives.
A single worker bee only lives a few weeks. In that time, it only produces about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey. That does not seem like much but when you put it into perspective – by working collectively, thousands of worker bees in a hive can produce more than 200 pounds of honey within a year for the colony.
The beekeeper can in turn reap the benefits by harvesting 30 to 60 pounds of honey without endangering the colony, so it can survive the winter. Humans use honey as a sugar replacement because it contains antioxidants and enzymes. If we take care of nature as God intended, it will serve us well and provide natural food to sustain and benefit us as well.
If the bee deviated from God’s plan it would not survive. It would not have the joy of sipping on sweet nectar each day and spreading the good news to other bees. But it knows exactly what it is supposed to do. It is the ultimate example of a colony working well together. Teamwork at its best. Each given a special job or gift to use for the purpose of helping others.
Sounds like a sweet life.
Weren’t we given the same design? God gives each of us a gift or talent and a purpose in this life. He wants us to spread the sweet nectar of the Good News and help each other by working together as a team to help others thrive and survive in this dark world. We can enjoy the fruits of our labors at the end of the day.
He provides us the natural resources to sustain us. We can enjoy the sweet aroma of the flowers around us and sip from Living Water and carry the sweet nectar to others in need of hope, love, and fellowship.
We are a colony that could work together using our gifts and talents for the purpose God designed us for if we did not deviate from His plan in our lives.
Human nature is opposite of what God wants for us. By design, God knows what is best for us and has a purpose for each of us. He puts His Spirit inside us to guide us and give us special gifts to use to help each other.
For you created my inmost being you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, Oh God! How vast is the sum of them. (Psalm 139:13-17 NLT)
A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. (I Corinthians 12:7 NLT)
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10 NLT)
Hadley, D. (2017) Honey Bee Habits and Traits of Honey Bees
Siting in a meeting, several months ago, I noticed one of my co-workers squirm a bit. Then he reached into his back pockets and pulled out two hand warmers he had placed there in anticipation of a cold meeting room. We had a little laugh and that was the last I thought of it, until one chilly morning run, a few weeks later, when I inserted hot hands into my gloves. As my body heated up my hands felt quite toasty, and that is when it hit me; the vision of him literally being in the hot seat.
When we are in the hot seat for something we’ve done- we begin to squirm. We try to explain ourselves or blame others. It wasn’t our fault or maybe we try to justify our behavior, like a child who gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar or with icing all over their face and still protest it wasn’t them. We’ve all been there at some point to some degree.
But what would it look like if we came clean now? If we faced those things from our past that haunt us and keep us awake at night; and instead of squirming and justifying- we owned it. What if we took it to God and talked to Him about it, asked for His forgiveness, for the part we played and laid it all out, instead of hiding from it? It is at that point God’s grace kicks in and we can have full realization of His redemption. Isn’t it better to receive that now so we can have peace than to wait until we are truly in the hot seat later? If we have taken it all to God already and allowed Him to redeem it and restore us through the blood of Christ- then we won’t have to dread facing Him later.
But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. I John 1:9
So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16
Here is an interesting fact I learned recently in my Western Culture class; do you know where the name ‘marathon’ originated? During the Persian invasion of Greece, a man named Phidippides (fi-DIP-i-deez), was the messenger who ran the 22 plus miles from a town called Marathon to Athens, to tell of the Greek victory over the Persians. (Rawls, 2018)
Since becoming a runner about nine years ago, it has never been my goal to run a marathon. The longest race I have completed was a 10K (6.2 mi.) and the longest run on my own has been 7 miles. These days I do about 2-3 miles each day.
My main goal is to run for my health not to harm it. For me, that is what I would be doing if I trained for a marathon. Finding out I have the first stages of osteoporosis and that running is good for my bones only added to the many beneficial reasons for continuing this sport. I enjoy running and spending that time with God. I do not want to turn it into something I dread. I have learned to listen to my body and give it a day of rest when it needs it; that helps my muscles recover and I feel the difference the next time I run. Besides, this is where a lot of these messages come from…my time with God in nature. I have the time to process, pray and receive. God teaches me a lot, but I realize it is not just for me, so I share it with others in hopes it blesses them as well.
However, when I think about the things God is preparing us for it reminds me that the opposite is true. It is in God’s timing. Most of the time He must remind us it is a marathon, not a sprint. We can celebrate the milestones along the way, remember to take breaks, rest, and enjoy the beauty of the journey. We may not know the end goal of our trainings, but God does. We can slow our pace and take one day at a time.
Our experiences and lessons along the way can be used to help others. Sometimes, we think we know where we are headed only to be shifted in a completely new direction and focus. If we are staying our course, with God as the leader, we can rest assured we will get wherever we are going at just the right time. We should not settle on anything less. It may take a little longer but that is the nature of the marathon.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)
To be humble and repentant before God, crushed by the sense of guilt and sinfulness.
Hebrew word: daqaq (Holman, 2015)
In reading Isaiah 57:15, when it tells us that God not only dwells in the high and holy place, but also with him who is a contrite and lowly spirit, (ESV); have you ever stopped to think about that? I did recently and it is mind boggling to think that the God of the universe, who created all and is all, who fills the temple with His glory and presence, also lives inside us through the Holy Spirit. To be contrite is not saying that God wants to literally crush us, but our pride must be crushed so we can become humble before a Holy and Almighty God. We cannot serve man and God.
Arrogance does not feel the weight of sin or guilt. It is only a humbled spirit that feels that kind of weight. When we feel it, that is when God enters us and gives us grace for our sinfulness. When God lifted that weight from my shoulders, I rejoiced and fell to the floor, it was not a choice. It was the only response for such a realization in my broken life. In our humble posture we can be lifted-up, because of Jesus. Isaiah 53:5 says, “but he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (ESV) There was only one who could answer this call. We had someone willing to supersede for us- who took our place at the cross and became our substitute- that person was Jesus. A sinless Christ became human and took on our sin so we could be saved and live in peace with God and have a relationship with Him, through the Holy Spirit. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us.
I Thessalonians 5:19 – NLT translation says, “do not stifle the Holy Spirit” while ESV reads, “Do not quench the Holy Spirit.” In doing a little word study, we see that stifle means to suffocate and quench means to extinguish. Putting this into context, the Thessalonians had experienced false teachers, so they were “extinguishing” the Spirit’s fire by not believing in any prophesies. They despised manifestations of prophesies and were cutting them all off. Paul is telling them by cutting off all prophesies they were essentially cutting off a valuable source of encouragement. Instead of rejecting all, they should test everything to see what is true. I would encourage you to read the Scripture for yourself and ask God for wisdom for understanding His truth. It is well worth the time an energy. All OT Scriptures point to the coming of Christ. Before the Holy Spirit came, Jesus came in human form and died so we could live. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, God placed the Holy Spirit in us to guide us and give us confidence that we are His as we look forward to that day when Jesus comes back for us. Eph. 4:30 tells us “do not to bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way we live.” (NLT) (1:13) “we are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.” God’s promises are Yes and Amen; He put His seal on us and has given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:20-21, ESV)
We should read the Bible to understand God’s heart. The mighty will fall, the weak will stand tall. His promises are sealed with a Holy kiss; to give us a future and a hope. Jesus is the only answer for a broken world. When we feel the weight of the world closing in on us, we can lift it up to God and ask Him what He wants for our life, and then be willing to listen and receive the Holy Spirit in peace and grace through Christ who sets us free. May we steep in the goodness of God, showing love and kindness to others as He has shown us.