The Joy of Being Number 2

I wrote this blog over four years ago – but this week my husband and I have been reading the book of Acts – and once again I see my role mode – Barnabas and his great ability to encourage others. That is still my prayer for myself.

Grandma's Ramblings

We all love a winner!

#1

We hold parades, parties, all kinds of celebrations when our team becomes state champion.  Coming in second in a state-wide contest leaves people feeling so dejected.  They seem to forget that being second means they have beat out many other teams.

#1 team

In the Olympics, athletics say they are going for the gold.  You don’t win silver, you lose gold.

This desire to be number 1 is not necessarily a bad thing.  To try to do your best, to succeed, to take pride in what you achieve, to have a healthy self-esteem are all good qualities.

But when that desire to be number 1 becomes so important that it leads us to step on others to reach the top, to despair when we do not achieve first place or to be overly prideful when we do, it has become a negative influence in our life.

For…

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Friday’s Words for Wisdom and/or Laughter

More gems from my devotion book.

  1. How rare it is to find a person quiet enough to hear God speak
  2. God will only answer when you come close enough to hear.
  3. The other person’s sins, like the other car’s headlights, always seem more glaring than our own.
  4. As the leadership of a nation goes, so goes the nation.
  5. A lot of kneeling keeps you in good standing with God.
  6. People who admit they’re wrong usually go farther in life than people who try to prove they’re right.
  7. The real value of a thing is the price it will bring in eternity.
  8. Busyness in the King’s business if no excuse for neglecting the King.
  9. The only part of the Bible you truly believe is the part you obey.
  10. The Gospel is neither a discussion nor a debate; it is an announcement.

Dangerous Prayers

My church has been doing a series on dangerous prayers – and it has given me much thought.

I have to admit that most of my prayers are for me and mine. While there is certainly nothing wrong with praying for my family, my friends, my needs, taking a look at some of the prayers in the Bible has reminded me that I am called to let my love and concern go beyond my own small circle.

Looking at the prayers in God’s Word leads me to go deeper in my prayer time. Time spent in prayer should not just telling God of our needs and desires, but a time to be quiet and let Him speak to us.

Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

The prayer of the early church in Acts has always amazed me. After two of their leaders had been arrested and spent the night in jail, they were released with the command to never speak of Jesus again. Arriving at the house where the church was gathered for prayer, I would think they would pray for God’s protection, for deliverance from the persecution. But they did not. Instead, they prayed “make me bold.”

Acts 4:29 – “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

In our culture today when it seems society is more and more hostile to Christian principles it can be so easy to just ask God to keep me and mine safe. But I need to ask God to help my family, my friends be bold to proclaim God’s love to this needy world.

Many times, when I pray for my family, my prayers are focused on more material issues. “Give this child a job.” “Heal this child.” “Help this child in their efforts for school or work or family.”

Again, these prayers are certainly ones we should pray. After all, God cares about every aspect of our life. But I found a prayer in one of the Apostle Paul’s writings that helps me focus on the most important needs of my family – their spiritual welfare.

Colossians 1: 9-12 – “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

In today’s message my pastor talked about Isaiah and his experience when he had a vision of the Lord in all His glory. Isaiah’s first response was to recognize his own sinfulness and need of cleansing. When the seraphim placed a coal of fire on his lips and told him he was forgiven, his immediate response was to say “Send me.”

I often wondered why the seraphim chose to place the coals on his lips rather than on his head or hands. But when Isaiah saw the glory of God, he responded by saying “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah understood what Jesus later told us. “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them. But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

As Isaiah experienced God’s forgiveness, he was ready to say, “Send me.” How often do I pray for God to meet this need or solve this problem, but how often do I make myself available for God to use me as an answer to that prayer?

I realize as I pray I need to take time to be quiet, to let God speak to me about areas in my life that need forgiveness, healing, strength. To say “search me.” To pray “make me bold” that I might be unafraid to share the good news of God’s love to those I meet at the store, in the library or wherever I may go. To focus more on the “spiritual” needs of those on my prayer list and not just on the “physical” needs. To ask God to “send me” and then seek to be more aware of the opportunities He places in my path to be used of Him.

Dangerous prayers – prayers that might require more of me rather than just giving God a list of wishes/needs for Him to take care of.

Join me in praying some dangerous prayers and see what God will do in us and through us.

Friday’s List for Wisdom and Laughter

  1. Eternity is too long to be wrong
  2. Say “no” to sin and “yes” to God
  3. Make no “appeal” for God until you “kneel” to God
  4. God is not so much seeking those who can do everything as He is those who are willing to do anything.
  5. Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God no matter what the danger.
  6. We cannot look at the cross and still think our life is of no importance to God.
  7. The only part of the Bible you believe is the part you obey.
  8. Man sees your actions, but God sees your motives.
  9. Satan never fears the Christian whose Bible is covered with dust.
  10. Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God reaching down to man.

Friday’s Quotes – Importance of God’s Word

  1. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
  2. How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living accord to Your word.
  3. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.
  4. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.
  5. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
  6. It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
  7. The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
  8. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
  9. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  10. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Overheard in an Orchard

As I sit in my easy chair and watch the birds in my back yard – robins, cardinals, flinches, blue jays and doves, this poem comes to my mind.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow;
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?"

Said the Sparrow to the Robin;
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Elizabeth Cheney

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29–31 — New Living Translation (NLT)

Where is Your Bible?

In our devotions today my husband and I read about a king in Judah who began his reign following two very corrupt kings who had set up idols to pagan gods in the Temple and one had even sacrificed his son to Baal.

This godly king, Josiah, began his reign by ordering the priests and Levites to remove all the pagan idols from the Temple and began cleaning up the clutter that was there and to restore proper worship.

As the workers cleaned up the Temple they discovered a scroll. Looking at the scroll they realized it was the Book of the Law that Moses had given to the Israelites when they were set free from bondage in Egypt and given the land of Canaan for their inheritance.

The priest brought the book to the attention of the king and his court secretary read it to him. As he heard the Law of Moses apparently for the first time, he tore his clothes in despair. He realized how far from this book the nation had gone.

He immediately called for the nation’s leaders to come to Jerusalem and hear the Law and made plans to celebrate the Passover which they had not done in generations.

As I thought about this discovery, I wondered how long had the Book of the Law been missing. Had no one realized it was gone? Had no one searched for it? Did this generation even know such a book existed? Did anyone care?

Fast forward to today.

I have to wonder: How long has the Word of God been neglected in our homes, our churches, our families? Our children know the super heroes – Batman, Super Woman – do they know the heroes of the Bible – Joseph, Daniel, Stephen?

Many Christians today say we have made an idol out of the Bible. That it is Jesus we need to be concerned about, not the Bible.

But I have to ask: How would I know about Jesus if not for the Bible? Without John 3:16 I would never have known that God sent His son for me. Without the Sermon on the Mount, I would never know what being a part of God’s kingdom really looks like. Without Matthew 28 I would never know that Jesus commanded us to share the good news with the entire world.

Depending on what study you look at you will find that kids today spend 3 to 5 hours watching TV or on the internet. I realize that varies from home to home and many parents do limit their children’s screen time. Still, I wonder if in our Christian homes our children spend even one hour a week in God’s Word.

Do we really know what we believe and why we believe it? Do our children know?

  • The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Apostle Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
  • The followers of Jesus in Berea were commended because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
  • The writer of Hebrews tells us that “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
  • When Jesus was tempted by Satan he answered each temptation by quoting Scripture. In one instance he said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Today we have many that claim to be speaking for God. To know whether or not what they say is true, we have to go back to the Word of God. That is our guide.

Do you know where your Bible is?

Quote from Charles Spurgeon

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!

My husband and I are reading through the Bible this year for our daily devotions. Today we read about Moses and how when he would come back into the camp of the Israelites after meeting with God, his face would be glowing. It got me thinking again about this post I wrote a couple of years ago. And I ask myself: when people see me, what do they see? Do they sense God’s love and peace? I hope so, I pray so.

Grandma's Ramblings

Remember the fairy tale where the wicked stepmother would ask:

mirror

Last Sunday in church the speaker taught from the book of James where James wrote:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

As I reflected on these words from James, I thought how often I look in the mirror.  In the morning I look to see that my hair is in place.  I use the mirror to help me as I put on face lotion and makeup.  Depending on what my day brings, I may go back to the mirror to adjust my hair, put on lipstick or, if my husband…

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While We Wait

This time of Advent we not only remember the birth of our Savior but we also look forward with anticipation to His return. We sometimes long for that day when evil will finally be completely defeated and peace will truly reign.

But what do we do while we wait?

We often pray the Lord’s prayer where we ask that “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” With that prayer we try to imagine what this world would be like if God’s will was completely done on earth?

But what do we do while we wait?

We admire the beautiful sunsets, enjoy the waves of the ocean crashing onto the shore, stand in awe of the majestic mountains and long for a world free of man’s pollution. Our imagination paints us a picture of what the world must have looked like in the very beginning of creation. How we long for the day when the earth will be restored to that beauty.

But what do we do while we wait?

As we look at the chaos and tragedies all around us, we can begin to even lose hope. We can wonder if God has abandoned us.

But what do we do while we wait?

We must remember that we who call ourself Christians, followers of Christ, are called to be His representatives in this world. While we wait for that day when He returns, even now in us we can allow God’s will to be done in our lives. We can surrender our own desires, our own opinions, our own will and allow Him to use us to reach out to others.

‘Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the kingdom of God established.” Paul W. Harrison

“The church is not a fortress community waiting for a future kingdom. Rather, we realize that the Kingdom of God has already arrived, in part…The church is God’s eschatological community, drawing the future into the present, living out Kingdom values and inviting the world to experience its power now….As God’s eschatological community, we hope for ultimate redemption din the future. But, in the present, we break down barriers and bear each other’s brokenness. Through this here and now experience, Christ’s bride, the church, begins to take on the beauty that will be hers when He comes to claim her as His own.” Brad Harper

But what do we do while we wait?

Let us continue to look with hope to His return. But let us not be guilty of just standing around waiting for “someday.” Let us do all we can to show the world what it means to be part of God’s kingdom even here in this world we share. Let us allow God’s Holy Spirit to move through us to bring a little bit of “heaven” to our friends, neighbors, community.

Faith in the Face of Evil

I just finished reading a powerful book about the suffering of a Christian man imprisoned in Sudan for 445 days.  While I understand the concerns of Christians here in our country that we might lose some of our religious freedoms, I had to once again see that we have no idea what real persecution for the cause of Jesus Christ looks like. 

Petr Jasek,, a citizen of the Czech Republic and an aid worker, made a trip to Sudan in December 2015 to see what Christians could do to help their fellow Christians suffering at the hands of the government of Sudan.  After meetings with local pastors and other Christians he was at the airport getting ready to return home to his family when he was detained for questioning by  Sudan security agents.  They took his computer, phone and camera and charged him with espionage, waging war against the state and undermining the constitution.

After hours of no sleep and repeated interrogation, he was taken to prison and placed in a cell approximately eight feet wide by fourteen feet long.  There were already six men in the cell with only one bed. The five men without a bed slept on mattresses on the floor.  The only space he had to lay his body down was next to the entrance to the bathroom.  The shower was completely broken and the Western-style metal toilet was covered in rust.  He saw a hose coming out of the wall for water but soon discovered that the water was only on once or twice a day.  

I can’t imagine the stench of the room with seven men crowded together and no real facilities to maintain cleanliness.  

Added to that horror, he soon discovered his fellow inmates were ISIS fighters.  Although Sudan is an Islamist government, they did not want ISIS to find a home in their country because they were afraid they would win the people’s allegiance  and their own control of the country would be lost to ISIS leaders. 

He first realized who he was sharing his cell with when he was awaken at 4:30 a.m. by the call to prayer.  The men in the cell rose to their feet and began their morning prayers.  He was told that when they prayed he had to wake up and stand in the back corner of the room where they would not have to face him.  

Since they had no access to news on the outside, they asked him to share the latest news.  He immediately thought of the terrorist attack that had taken place in Paris earlier in November.  At the mention of the death of 129 people, he was shocked when they at first became very silent, then began hugging one another and shouting with great joy “Allabu Akbar!”

After weeks of imprisonment he was set for a trial.  While waiting for his trial he was moved several times to different prisons and different cells.  Toward the end of his imprisonment he was able to share a cell with fellow Christians.  

Peter

After delay and delay he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.  A fine of 100,000 Sudanese pounds ($17,000) was also imposed on him. 

For most of us I am afraid we would have been crying out to God “why me?”  Petr came to the understanding that his time and his life were in the Lord’s hands.  With confidence that God was still in control regardless of how hopeless things looked, he began finding opportunity to share the Gospel with other prisoners and with his guards. 

One of his greatest joys while in prison was when he was allowed to have a Bible.  He said 

The Word of God is not chained – even when God’s people are.  The Scripture is alive and active, and when I began feelings its activity in prison, I would not keep it to myself.  The Lord began prodding me to share the Gospel with my fellow prisoners – nominal Christians, animists, and even Muslims….In prison I truly learned to love my enemies.  I still pray for the ISIS prisoners and I pray that many Christian prisoners in Sudan might have the opportunity to share the Gospel as well.”

Thankfully the Czech government and Christians around the world continued to intercede for Petr and he was released in 2017 after 445 days.   

This story is one worth reading.  “Imprisoned with ISIS – Faith in the Face of Evil”.  

The book is worth taking the time and money to read but you can also check out his story at

Christian aid worker says time in Sudanese prison allowed him to share Gospel

Next time I hear someone complaining about how we are persecuted in this country for being a Christian, I will just remember Petr’s story and say God help us if we ever really have to suffer persecution.