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.
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
According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, shalom appears in the OT 180 times. It is not used in a negative manner, rather involving completeness or wholeness as with the repairing of a relationship. One could say it means to have harmony with friends and family or even with allies, but it also can refer to health and security or being safe. We see in the OT testament it being used to describe a sense of confident awareness that all is well, as we see in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (ESV) Another verse that comes to mind, and one of my favorites, which a song called, “The Blessing” is based on, is Numbers 6:24-26; if you haven’t heard it yet, it is worth it to look this one up on YouTube. (V24) “The Lord bless you and keep (guard & protect) you, (V 25) the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; (V26) the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (ESV) (Countenance involves taking notice and treating people with favor.) Here the word peace or shalom is “total well-being”, so, it is indeed a grand and positive gesture to pray this blessing upon someone.
In the NT, we see peace used in a different sense. Here the translation is eirene, and in addition to the “total well-being” we see in the OT, it can also relate to not only our physical well-being but our spiritual well-being. Another great verse that we can associate with this is John 14:27, we see Jesus use it as a blessing, when He says to the disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let them be afraid.”(ESV) I believe, to capture the fullness of this message and blessing we need to back up to the previous verse where Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit is coming, He will teach them and remind them of the things Jesus said to them. He is giving them foreknowledge that after He is gone, the Holy Spirit or Helper will come to live inside them to comfort them. This message is not only for the disciples of Jesus’ time but also for us as believers in Christ, so that we also may be comforted and receive the blessings of Jesus; the peace that passes understanding. A confident awareness in God.
The ESV study Bible notes that it is all that Christ would do or had done through the cross and the resurrection to end the dominion of sin and to make peace between God and man. Peace between all who are in Christ and state of being spiritually whole again. Not because of us, but because of Christ. The world cannot achieve or provide peace because it cannot deal with the problem of sin. But God’s peace guards the Christian’s hearts and minds and “surpasses every thought” (Phil. 4:7, ESV).
Now that we have established the usage and meaning of the shalom or peace in the Old and New Testament, let us look further at our Spiritual gifts. I believe we, as believers in Christ, can achieve both the OT and NT meanings through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12 was in my recent reading, when I picked up a book, I had purchased several weeks prior and began to read it. In “Forgotten God” Chan specifically brings the readers attention to I Corinthians 12 as a reminder to take seriously and, “to believe that you have been given manifestation of the Spirit and that your church, the worldwide body of Christ, and the world are crippled without your involvement,” (Chan, 2009, p. 91). If you are not familiar with or have not read I Corinthians 12 recently, please take a moment to read it. It gives us a picture of the church (as the body of Christ) and all its members. We are all one in Christ and are to use our gifts, given to us by the Holy Spirit, to help each other and build up the church. If you are like me, maybe when you think of the church, you immediately think of it as the place we go on Sunday morning or that your service is limited to your local church involvement. When we look at the big picture here and allow our minds and thinking to go beyond that of human limited views, we can see the church of Christ, and as Chan put it, “the worldwide body of Christ”, we can expand our horizons and realize that our gifts are to be used, not only in our local church, although that is important, but also wherever we are. Whether that be at work, school, the grocery store, our community or neighborhood, we are to use the gifts given to us to their fullest for the Glory of God, through the love of Jesus, with the help of the Spirit who gave them to us.
I believe when we are doing this, then we will have shalom or peace – knowing all is well, confident in God, not ourselves, and can sincerely pray for others to find this peace as well; to be successful in their endeavors, and use their gifts and talents to the Glory of God as we walk together through this temporary life and world, in an attempt to show others the love of Christ, in hopes to bring others to Him, through the saving grace of Christ Jesus. The steps to victory are steep, but the Spirit will help us. It is easy to be the same- the challenge is being different. When we have these critical components in place, and genuinely walk by the Spirit through faith, we will not want to follow the world anymore; and that, my friend, brings true peace and freedom.
All of us probably have a different view of what the Bible is and how we should use it. I know I have been guilty of saying it is a book of instructions to guide us and show us how to live in this world. While I still believe that to be true, I wonder how others interpreted it. I want to add that it is that and so much more.
Some look at the Bible in two sections, the Old Testament, and the New Testament with lots of little stories in between. I may have been one of those people at one time, but with my new biblical class I am learning so much more about the Bible. (Yes, in case you did not know, I am in school now). God is amazing and full of surprises! Anyway, the Bible is God’s story. From start to finish and all the stories in between, He is the main character. The Bible tells the path God chose to redeem humanity. It is a beautiful love story- God loved us so much and this story tells of His plan to send His Son to save us so we could be in relationship with Him again. Ezekiel tells us that the cross is the ultimate sign act of Jesus profound love. The Bible gives us guidelines on how to be in a relationship with our Heavenly Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and with each other.
We live in a broken world. Because of the sin of one man, Adam, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. We have all fallen short. We will never be good enough to earn our salvation. That also does not give us a license to sin either. (Romans 6) The Good News is because of Jesus we are all saved by His grace. God’s restoration is open to anyone who chooses His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. We are all on the same sinking ship. What it comes down to is if you will accept the life raft Jesus is offering.
The Bible says we will all be held accountable to God on judgement day for how we live. Sometimes this is a subject we tend to ignore or avoid because we do not want to think about it or simply do not understand it. But I thought Jon Weece did a great job in his sermon recently when he asked, “Do you want to live in fear of that day or trust what Jesus did is enough?” What a sweet message of love and grace that brings us hope.
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for, it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1
The tradition of handshaking may soon come to an end. Our grandchildren may not know the concept and question why we ever did it. With COVID 19 and the rise of germ awareness in general over the last few years, alternatives are starting to appear. Even before COVID 19, the fist bump became popular among young and old alike. I have also seen the elbow touch as a personal greeting of late. Even my dad got in on the fist bump a few years before he passed. It seemed a little strange to me at the time to see him use it, but he was a hip dude, at least in that regard. I am sure he was being mindful of germs in his attempt to change his life-long handshaking habit for the new gesture.
Did you ever stop to wonder how the handshake got started in the first place? The history of the handshake, according to History.com, has existed for a long time, as a symbol of peace. Even though its origin is a bit fuzzy, one popular theory is that it began to convey peaceful intentions. By extending the empty right hand, it showed the other person they were not holding a weapon. It goes even farther to suggest the whole arm was involved with the grasp closer to the forearm and the shaking motion was to dislodge any knives or daggers that could have been hidden up the sleeve.
Over the last several decades, it has become common place to greet someone with a handshake, whether that be at the brotherly fellowship in church or a formal business meeting in the corporate world. It was so popular that the History site also claims there have been lessons on how to shake properly, with just the right balance of firm, yet not too forceful. I remember a time when a female boss of mine a few years back told me to always shake with a firm hand and look the person in the eye; she went on to reiterate the importance of doing this was particularly true when greeting a man in the corporate world. I never forgot that. Although I already shook with a firm grasp due to encountering weak shakes at church, which I affectionately called the limp fish, something I did not like. For this reason, some people regard the handshake as the first impression barometer of sorts. If someone’s shake was not firm enough one might question their assertiveness or confidence.
Now, with everything that is going on, even Christians have had to stop the practice of handshaking as a welcoming greeting. In Paul’s day, in I Corinthians 16:20, we see him tell the Corinthians to greet each other in Christian love, or a holy kiss. A kiss on the cheek was a common greeting. That is better than how Tibet greets one another, according to Afar Magazine, in an article about how people greet each other around the world, one sticks out their tongue. I am sure they had their reasons, which probably was like the original handshake, and both ‘stuck’ to become a common greeting in each area respectfully. We certainly have some strange traditions and most of us have never stopped to ask where they come from or why we still do them. I guess the elbow touch, or some other form of greeting will derive from the COVID era and generations to come will not have a clue how it got started as it becomes common place among their generation. Something to think about as we begin new habits. What kinds of habits are we forming that we would be okay with handing down to the next generation? May we all be mindful of the legacies we are leaving.
Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We all know these seasons and probably have a favorite. Most of us would probably say Spring or Fall is their favorite because it is the right temperature, you like when flowers are blooming or maybe the Fall colors take your breath away. Whatever the reason, good or bad, we have a love/hate relationship with them.
Recently, I had a different thought about the four seasons. I believe we also have seasons of life. A spiritual and physical. For the spiritual we could look at it this way:
Fall: We fell into sin (a fallen world)
Winter: Death to self (we realize we should be living for God instead of self)
Spring: New birth (renewed by Christ for a new life)
Summer: Maturity & peace
Now, let us look at our physical seasons:
Spring: We are born
Summer- We mature
Fall- We are aging
Winter can be like a dry season in our life. But no matter how long we have been in a dry, dark season, God can bring new life and refresh us with living water of the Spirit.
Just like the valley of dry bones, if we listen to the word of the Lord and have faith, He will breathe new life into us. (Ezekiel 37)
Jesus replied, “I assure you no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So, do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 NLT)
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. (Eccl. 3:1-2 NLT)