Old Testament Surprises

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Each time I delve into the Old Testament I’m struck by its relevance, even when my reading falls within the historical accounts of kings and tribes. If we met for tea today, and you asked what I’ve been studying, I’d tell you 1 Chronicles. Would you yawn? Perhaps, but let me share what I’ve been learning.

1 Chronicles 22

In this chapter, David charges his son Solomon with the Herculean tasks of assuming kingship over Israel and building a temple for the Lord. His primary advice?

  • Be careful to observe the decrees given through Moses.
  • Be strong and courageous, unafraid and never discouraged.

And to the leaders of Israel, ordered to help Solomon, David says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

There it is, the essence of a believer’s walk once again: trust and obey!

Moving back a few chapters to 1 Chronicles 5:20-22, I find God working for his people in the heat of battle. He “delivered…all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him…The battle was God’s.”

All our battles belong to God. We may be called to fight, but he is the one who does the winning.

While the Old Testament is chock full of encouragement, it warns us as well. Moving back just one book to 2 Kings 18, I was surprised by the passage condensed below:

“Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)”

Wait, what? God used that bronze snake as a means of rescue for the Israelites. They turned it into an idol? Yes, they did. Anything can become an idol, even something that started out as an instrument of good. I asked myself, “Am I in danger of making something an idol?” The answer for all of us must surely be yes. 1 John 5:21 cautions, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” We must always be on our guard, asking God to keep our perspective and our loyalty in line with him.

What have you been learning? Whether from the New Testament or the Old, has God used his Word to surprise you lately?

Other Good Words

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I keep a little red moleskin journal in my purse. It helps me remember the names of new friends, the list of calls I need to make or items I need to buy. Best of all, it becomes a depository for inspiring quotes. I’d like to share some of those today, credited where possible.[i] (Next week begins a five week description of an unexpected journey.)

“Don’t make obedience exhausting. You need the help of heaven to understand the things of heaven. Ask God to help you.”

“Be careful. What was miraculous can become mundane.”

“As to forgiveness, St. Stephen did not pick up the stones and hurl them back at his executioners.”

“Do we squander our forgiveness?”

“Letting your sinful nature control you mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8: 6 NLT).

“Pray the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.) throughout the day, and keep Christ at the center of your existence.”

“The pains of this world are temporary.”

“This is the prayer that never fails, ‘Thy will be done.’” (Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford Series)

 

And how about you. Do you have a favorite quote scribbled somewhere? I’d love for you to share it here.

[i] If you can identify the source of an uncredited quote, please let me know!

Smile More Part Two

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Last week I wrote about “Talk less. Smile more.” Maybe this is just as important: Smile more. Worry Less. I wish that I could give everyone I know and love the gift of a worry-free life. While my life isn’t worry free, it’s nearly so, only because of the gift of these instructions.

  • Choose to be anxious for nothing.
  • Instead approach God with your needs and with your thanks.
  • Then let him give you peace even when peace doesn’t seem to make sense.

Try it. It works. But here’s the next step. Let it show. Smile.

When I was a teenager, there were posters and tee shirts that said, “Smile. It makes people wonder what you’ve been up to.” Years later, I taught my kids a song that said, “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.” Even though I’m usually worry free and very often happy, I can get so lost in thought, so caught up in my own world of to do’s, that I forget to give those around me the simple gift of my smile. And what a gift it can be, even to those we don’t know are watching!

One of my first pastors has a wife who knows how to give the gift of a smile. I remember watching her smile at her husband throughout every service, (even when it was the second service of the day, and I knew she had already heard that sermon once already.) She was great at sharing that smile with those around her. I want to be like Ann. I want my face to say, “I am at peace. If you aren’t, ask me how you can get that way.”

I’ve been around long enough to see “Annie” filmed twice. The songs from that show run through my mind with little provocation, in particular the one that says, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” I’m not asking you to be fake. The world needs more transparency. But when you are happy and you know it, won’t join me in donning a smile. Perhaps it will do great good for you and for those who catch a glimmer of your joy!

Weed or Flower?

It’s a weed.dandelion-blowing-1269626_960_720[1]

No, it’s a flower.

Or maybe it’s a wildflower, but I’m not really sure.

I spent some time today researching the difference between weeds and wildflowers and found this delightful quote.

“What’s the difference between a wildflower and a weed? Nothing more than society’s judgment.”

Maybe plants and habits have a lot in common. We often let society determine which habits are “weeds” and which are “flowers.” And society often changes its mind.

  • Chick-fil-a is closed on Sunday. That’s a bit out of place these days, but was a common practice for many businesses when I was a child.
  • Sex and violence were far less common elements of network television programming years ago. On the other hand, many a TV cowboy or detective lit up a string of cigarettes while solving the problem of the week.
  • Once upon a time we all ate less sugar and processed food, but we hadn’t really given much thought to organics yet.

Society is an unreliable compass. We know that truth in our heads, but do we embrace that it as fact in our hearts and show it in our actions? We are often called to a life that is out of sync with what is cool. Our wildflowers may look like weeds to others. (I mean, really, why would anyone want to fast periodically, or get up early on a Sunday morning to head out the door, or give away a significant portion of every annual income?)

Sometimes what we identify as a weed is labeled as a wildflower these days as well. (While we know better, it can be easy to allow certain sins into our lives, because they simply aren’t as clearly labeled as sin these days.)

So, as always, it’s back to The Book. We have to take our cues from The Manufacturer’s Handbook, regardless of what is “in” or “out” in popular culture. And we can do just that, with great result, because the Bible and its Author do not change. They do not lie. The Lord who loves us set down many do’s and do not’s for us long ago for our good and for his glory. Living his way works well.

I hope you’ll adopt some new, true-flower habit this week, and maybe yank a weed or two out of your life as well. Want to tell me about it? Your comments mean much to me, so write away!

 

A String of Protection

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My son will be a father soon. No matter where you are in life, I suppose you can imagine what great emotion wells up within me as I type those words. As I look forward to the months and years ahead, I find myself looking back as well, back to when Tony was young and God wrapped him in supernatural protection over and over again.

I have known the Lord long enough to realize he protected Tony many times when I never even caught scent of the danger that was present. But here are a few times I saw God’s loving hand covering my son.

  • Before Tony was born, he was diagnosed with a heart condition which, by the time of his birth, had been completely healed. You can read about that here.
  • Before Tony could walk, he had a favorite playing spot in our Dallas kitchen. He liked to pull out pots and plastic bowls from the drawer beneath my oven. This was very convenient for me, because I spent plenty of time in that kitchen, and it was great to have my little one occupied. One night, after Tony was fast asleep, I heard a loud crash. I rushed into the kitchen and found that a heavy glass blender had fallen from the cabinet above the oven, smashing to bits in the spot where, had it been a different time of day, Tony might well have been playing. I swept up those shards with a heart of thanksgiving.
  • Before Tony could talk, we were all outside in the front yard of our Houston home. It’s funny how details sometimes stick in our brains. I can see him now in red stripped overalls, a long sleeved shirt, shoes and socks. I was sitting in the driveway when he toddled up and somehow, wordlessly, let me know that something was bothering his toe. I reached for him and saw, to my horror, that his back was covered with fire ants from knee to neck. They were just about to reach the top of his shirt. We stripped him, swiping the bugs from his body. He escaped the whole ordeal with just one bite—on his toe. How that one ever got there, I will never know.
  • Tony has a tiny scar on one finger. Before he was old enough to go to school, I had a muffin business. He was with me there one day and, foolishly, I allowed him into the production area. He walked right toward the open oven and, much too quickly for me to stop him, was headed for a bad burn on the side of his face or down his arm. He redirected just in time. All that’s left of that could-have-been-awful day is a tiny scar.

Parenting is full of moments when we hold our breath, trying not to worry about the unseen dangers ahead. We cannot protect our children from all things hard and dangerous. And, undoubtedly, God will allow into their lives some hardships which we would never choose for them. Still he loves our children even more than we do, and he will, HE WILL, protect them as needed.

When I am rocking my grandson, I will sing to him about God’s faithfulness. May you sing about his faithfulness in your heart today!

Stuck in First Gear

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Ready to chuckle (and feel smart)?

A traveler (let’s call him Joe) labored all night to make it to his destination. Upon his arrival the next morning, Joe complained that the rental car was abominably slow. Empathizing with his guest, Joe’s host went out to take a look at the car, hopped in, and took it for a short spin at normal speeds. After a bit of discussion, the mystery was solved. Joe, who had never before driven a stick shift, had no idea that the car came with several gear options. He had left it stuck in first gear for the entire trip. (True story, names changed to protect the embarrassed.)

You and I would never make such a mistake, right? Probably not, but the question I’m asking myself today is this, “Am I ever spiritually stuck in first gear?”

  • God offers rest and strength. Yet sometimes I fumble through my day fogged in by physical and emotional exhaustion. More often than not, this is because my pride has kept me from saying no to some great-looking opportunity that sends my life into overload. (Or, maybe saying yes was the right choice, but I’ve decided to tackle the chore by relying only on my own inadequate strength.)
  • God offers hope and peace and joy. Yet just last night I allowed myself to be downcast, wallowing in self-pity, because it looks like I will have to give up “my way” on some future plans. “Let not your heart be troubled” is a convicting phrase. It tells me that my heart is only troubled when I let it be so.
  • God promises to supply all of my needs. I need never waste time worrying that I will come up short, but sometimes I do a bit of worthless hand-wringing.
  • God offers forgiveness and new life. What a shame that I still fall into the trap of beating myself up over past errors!
  • God does miracles. Going to him should always be my first response in every crises, no matter how big or small. Sometimes, though, he is relegated to “the last resort,” when I finally come back to my senses and remember once again that I am not in control.
  • I read somewhere that “Unanswered prayer is an oxymoron.” (Ah, yes, it’s a chapter title in this book by Nick Harrison. Do I always keep prayer running throughout my day, trusting that the yes, no, and wait answers will always be what is best? Nope. Sometimes, I am stuck in first gear. But our Lord wants to give us all these things: rest, strength, hope, peace, joy, forgiveness, new life and miraculous supply. We have not because we ask not, so let’s start asking!

We’ve each been given a spiritual sports car. It’s time to take it out of first gear. I hope you’ll write and tell me how you’ll do that this week.