When the Teacher Becomes the Student

When my girls were growing up I tried to share with them from the Word of God and prayed they would love the Word as much as I did.  For years I was the teacher.

But that has changed now.

Phone rings.  The caller ID says it is my daughter, Jessica.  When I answer I hear, “Momma, I was just reading the Gospel of Matthew (or the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah or another book of the Bible), and did you know?

Then she begins talking almost non-stop on some new thought, some new idea on what she has been studying.  I lean back in my recliner and get comfortable because I know I am going to be on the phone for quite awhile.

All that is required of me in this conversation is to occasionally say “yes”, “oh”, or something to let her know I am listening.  She will talk on and on and I wonder if she is going to take a moment to breath as she shares with me a new insight to God’s Word.  Or, it might be a writer who has encouraged her to take a new look at Scriptures.

Sometimes what she shared I had already discovered myself years ago, but her enthusiasm at the truth is so good to hear – and often renews my desire to revisit that portion of scripture or rejoice in that truth.

However, most of the time she is opening to me a new observation, a new understanding of God’s Word.

Almost always when we end our conversation, I think to myself, “I have been teaching the Bible for years and I never saw that before.”

Then, I smile and thank God for this daughter who is wise beyond her years and who is teaching me to understand more of the width, the depth of God’s Word.

It’s humbling, but also a joyous time when my student becomes my teacher.

 

 

Does God Really Demand Obedience?

Most of us grew up seeing the Ten Commandments posted on walls of our schools, courthouses and churches.  Many have claimed these principles are the basis for our Judeo-Christian society.

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My husband and I started 2019 by reading through the Bible – starting with Genesis.  The story was interesting at first as we read about creation, the flood and the beginning of the Israelite nation with patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Then we got to the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus.  Here, Moses was given detailed instructions on how the tabernacle should be built and how the priests should conduct offerings used in worship of God.  There are rules about what to eat and what not to eat, a lot of rules regarding sexual relations and how to deal with skin diseases.

To be honest, this is difficult and somewhat boring reading.  But one thing I noticed throughout that portion of Scripture that over and over it was said that Moses did “just what the Lord had commanded.”

Throughout the Old Testament we read the story of how the Israelites did like we still seem to do today – sometimes obeying God – sometimes not.  The Old Testament ends with the nation of Israel exiled because of their failure to obey God’s commands.

Then we enter the New Testament.  We see Jesus who came to pay the price of our disobedience.  We live in what we call the period of grace.  What a blessing to not have to live in fear of breaking a command of God, of knowing that we are saved not by what we do, but by faith and acceptance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

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So, does that mean we are no longer required to obey?  The loving picture of Jesus in the New Testament is certainly much more appealing than the demands of obedience in the Old Testament.

But a closer look at the words of Jesus shows He also demanded obedience if we would claim to be following Him.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

Jesus summed up the commandments when He told his questioners:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

This all sounds pretty simple.  Really not too demanding.  Much easier than living under the Law.

Right?

I don’t think so.  I think the requirements of Jesus are much more demanding – and something we cannot do without His help.

Think about it:

  • The Law said not to murder.
  • Jesus said if you are angry and curse someone you are in danger of hell.  He said to not bring any sacrifice to Him until you made it right with the one you were angry with.

 

  • The Law said not to commit adultery.
  • Jesus said a person must not look at another with lust in their heart.

 

  • The Law said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
  • Jesus said to love your enemy and to even pray for them.

 

  • The Law was concerned with our outward appearance.
  • Jesus is concerned with our heart.

 

My heart grieves today as it seems many Christians feel they no longer have to obey the words of Jesus when it comes to loving and praying for their enemies.

But I note that He said He would love us and make Himself plain to us (in other words have a relationship with Him) IF we obey His commandments.

Without love for others, I fear we will, like the Israelites, find ourselves without God’s protection.

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Lord God, thank you for loving us.  Help us to remember that as we experience your love and mercy we just give that love and mercy to others.  Even to those who disagree with us.  Even to those who hurt us.  Help us to love as you love and remember that you not only love us, but you love our enemies.

How Quickly We Forget

Reading my Bible this week I came across the story of the great Old Testament prophet, Elijah.  I read of his great faith and courage as he confronted the 300 prophets of the idol Baal and challenged them to prove whose God was truly God.

They built an altar, placed wood on it and an animal to sacrifice.  All day they prayed to Baal to send down fire from heaven and consumed the sacrifice.  As they danced around the altar crying out and even cutting themselves with knives and swords, Elijah taunted them:

“You’ll have to shout louder for surely he is a god.  Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.  Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be awakened!

As evening came, Elijah took his turn.  He dug a trench around the altar and had them fill four large jars with water and pour over the wood with the sacrifice.  Three times he had them pour water over the altar until the wood and the sacrifice were saturated with water.  It even filled the trench around the altar.

Then he cried out to the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice and clearly show the people who was the true God.  As fire fell down from heaven it consumed not only the sacrifice but also the stones of the altar and all the water in the trench.

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The people cried out:

The Lord He is God!  The Lord He is God!

They then joined Elijah in killing all the false prophets.

What a great victory!  What an example of a man with great faith in God!

But the story does not end there.  When the queen, Jezebel, heard that all the prophets of her false religion had been killed, she sent word to Elijah:

May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.

What does this great man of courage and faith do?  He runs for his life and hides in a cave.

As I read this I could not help but wonder how someone could have such faith and stand up to 300 false prophets and then run from a single woman.  What happened to his faith?  Where was his courage?

Then Sunday morning our guest speaker spoke about the coming year 2019.  He pointed out that we might see great victories, prayers answered, problems solved.  But in this life we might also see losses, prayers seemingly unanswered and more problems created than solved.  What should we do?

He encouraged us to look back and remember all the times God had sustained us and brought though difficult times.  He then asked us to list three times in our life when we knew for sure that God had intervened in our life.

Sitting with pen in hand, I found there were so many times God has intervened I did not know where to start.

I thought of the time when I was seven years old and there were some reported polio cases in our town.  Earlier my class had been vaccinated for polio but I had a severe reaction to the first shot (there were a series of three shots at that time) and my parents were told I should not take the other two shots which meant I was not protected against the disease.  One morning at school I went to the nurse complaining of pain in my legs and neck.  Checking me for a fever, the nurse called my mother to come get me from school as I was running a high fever.  Today my parents would probably have rushed me to the doctor’s office but they had no insurance and little money for doctor bills so they placed me on the couch, my mother gave me some aspirin and a cool cloth for my forehead.  By the next morning the pain in my legs was worse and mother wanted to take me to the doctor.  My dad asked that we give it one more day and if I was not better when he came home from work, they would take me to see the doctor.  As the day passed my fever grew worse and my neck began to be drawn to my shoulder.  I could not move it and the pain in my legs caused me to begin to cry.

In a panic, my mother called my dad at work and he said he would get home as quickly as possible and take me to the hospital.  Fears of polio filled their minds.  While waiting for my dad to get there we heard a knock on the door.  Opening the door my mother found two friends standing there who apologized for coming by unannounced but said in their time of Bible study and prayer they felt led that they should come to see mother.  They had no idea why.

When they saw me they asked if they could pray for me.  As they prayed for me, the pain in my legs instantly stopped.  After praying mother asked me if I could lift my head.  I could and in a few minutes my fever stopped.  Dad came home to find me sitting up feeling great.

Now a skeptic will say this was just a flute, or just mind over matter.  But I know as a seven year old girl I did not have “mind over matter” ability and I know the pain was severe, the fever was high and they both left instantly.

My mind raced ahead to many other times when God intervened in my life.  I would love to share them all but this blog would then become a book.

However if you are interested in how God intervened when I was receiving radiation for an advanced case of breast cancer, check out this post:

Coincidence or An Act of God?

So – I asked myself:  Am I like Elijah – forgetting all the moments of God’s intervention and His protection as I face a new problem?  Have I so quickly forgotten His blessings in the past that I fear a new situation that requires faith and courage?

I think we all are like that.  So quickly to forget – so quickly to worry and fret.

Forgive us Lord!

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed,
    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
you children of his servant Israel,
    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!

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 and I are going on a date, to put on some earrings or other jewelry.

When I view myself in the mirror, if I see some hair sticking out-of-place, I get a comb and correct it.  Or, when putting on makeup if I notice that I have put on too much eye shadow I get a tissue and make corrections.  Fixing a scarf or a piece of jewelry I will use the mirror to make sure I get it just right.

In other words, I use the mirror to make sure I look my best before I venture out in the world – and make any corrections I feel are needed so that I do look my best.  (Of course the older I get, I less I really like to look in the mirror.  Seeing my reflection, I sometimes wonder :

 

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James, I believe is telling us that God’s Word should work like a mirror for us in our spiritual life.  As we read God’s Word if we see areas in our life that need a spiritual adjustment, we should make that correction.  Just as we would not look in the mirror, see our hair was a mess and walk away without fixing it, so we need to let God’s Word show us those areas where we need to draw closer to Him.

I think our question should not be:

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Rather, it should be:

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Everyone Needs a “Big” Sister

She has always been there.  My “big” sister, Velma.  I call her big, not because she is physically bigger than me.  In fact, I think she is a little smaller.  But she was my oldest sibling and calling her “big” sister is probably better than calling her my “old” sister.

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Me and my “big” sister, Velma.

Velma was the oldest of four children and I was the youngest.  My parents told me from the moment of my birth, Velma felt that I was “her” little doll to play with and take care of.  They told me when I was only a few weeks old the whole family decided to go berry picking.  They packed the car with a picnic basket and Mom went into the house to get me out of my crib.  But I was not there.

A little panicked, my mother looked out the front door to see Velma carrying me to the car.  Stepping over the ditch by the driveway, she slipped and dropped me.  I was not hurt but the family often joked “that explains a lot about Barbara.”  Dropped on my head.

In the days before automatic washers and dryers, microwave ovens and all the conveniences we enjoy now, my mother had her hands full keeping up with the house work and taking care of us.  Velma stepped right in to help.  So when it was time to go to church or any other event where I needed to look my best, it was often Velma who helped me get dressed, fixed my hair, made sure I had brushed my teeth.

Velma took home economics in high school and became a very proficient seamstress.  Her senior year she made us matching dresses.  The school had a fashion show for the students to show off their sewing talents.  Velma was asked to include her “little” sister in the show.  Although that was years ago, I still remember how excited I was to be in a fashion show with all the “big” kids.  Velma and I practiced over and over in our kitchen how I was to walk on stage, turn around slowly and walk off stage.  The night of the fashion show I think I was the hit – a little girl with red banana curls!  I will always remember the pride my sister had in me – gave me confidence I needed.

Velma not only took care of many of my physical needs, she was concerned about my spiritual need also.  I had a Bible storybook that I had read over and over.  I loved reading about Joshua, Gideon and David and I loved the stories of the Old Testament prophets.   That bible story book was my first introduction to the wonderful stories about Jesus.  The book is worn out, but I still have it sitting on a shelf in my study.  Over the years I have moved a lot and do not have anything from my childhood but that book.  I still treasure it.

However, for my seventh birthday Velma thought it was time I graduated to a “real” Bible so she bought me my first one.  She also got me some new pajamas.  I was so proud of both gifts that I insisted I wear the pajamas and she take a picture of me in them with that Bible.  Although that Bible was the King James version (in the days before all our new translations) and hard for a seven-year-old to understand, Velma encouraged me to

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Just keep reading.  The more you read it, the more you will understand.  Ask God to help you.

So I did.    Perhaps the fact that I read the King James Bible faithfully instead of the “See Spot Run” books is why I became not only an excellent reader, but a very fast reader.

She was my role model.  As a young girl I was in the Sunday School class she taught for young girls.  I still remember the navy blue dress she wore with a white-collar.  Her shoes were navy, red and white.  I thought she was so sophisticated in that outfit.  When I got my first job I bought myself a pair of navy, red and white shoes and purse.  I watched her style of teaching – and I have patterned my own Bible teaching after her.  People say I am able to present great truths of the Bible in a simple way that a child could understand.  If that is true, I owe that to Velma.

I recently visited my sister and her family.  Got to me thinking.  I will be 70 in April – and my sisters are the only ones who share all my history with me.  They are the only ones who remember my banana curls, my playing and singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, and much much more of my history.  They are the only ones who share so much history with me.

My “big” sister has never had the joy of having a “big” sister, but I hope being her “little” sister has been a blessing to her as she has been to me.

Sis, if you read this, I LOVE YOU!

To Be Blessed of God!

I recently wrote on the thought of being blessed.

Are You Blessed?

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Our idea of being blessed of God often only looks at the physical or material aspects.  A nice home, a good marriage, a great job.  While these ARE blessings of God for which we should be thankful, the Bible is clear these kind of blessings are temporary.  The real blessings of God are those that will last throughout eternity.

And receiving those blessings require more than just a “God bless you” that we share with each other in passing.

Just a few thoughts on God’s blessings and how to obtain them.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither…..Psalm 1

It appears that receiving God’s blessings requires us to be careful whose advice we take and how much time we spend thinking of His Word.

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But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed…..1 Peter 3:14

Whoa!  Blessings from God might include suffering?  

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Wait a minute here!  Blessings from God might require trials?  And the blessing is not a promotion at work but eternal life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God…..Matthew 5:9

Come on now!!!  When I seek to bring peace to others rather than pushing for my own agenda I will be blessed?  And the blessing is the privilege of being called a son of God?

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But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Again, it seems God’s blessings are somehow connected to knowing His word – and obeying it.

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I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  We Americans count blessings from God almost as a right rather than a privilege.  When we do not get that promotion at work, when we get that diagnosis of cancer, when someone makes fun of us for being a Christian, we are so quick to complain or feel like somehow God has failed us.

If God’s blessings are so tied to material things, how do we explain the Christians who live in a third world country and often wonder where their meal is coming from?  Who are persecuted, put in prison, even killed for their faith in Jesus Christ?

God is much more than a genie in a lamp.  He does love us, He does want to bless us (yes, even in material things) but more than that, He desires a real relationship with Him.  One that loves Him for who He is more than for what He does.

May God truly, really bless you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Blessed?

We love the idea of being blessed.

We greet one another with:

god bless

But what does all that mean?

Can we cause God’s blessings to be given to someone simply by saying “God bless you.”  Is God waiting around to hear us pronounce blessings on someone before He blesses them?  Is He obligated to bless someone because we say so?

We claim God’s blessings on our country:

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When we say “God bless America” what are we wanting God to do for our country?  Give us peace?  Make us rich?  What exactly do we expect from God – what do we want from Him for our country?

We often declare:

blessed

What are the reasons that make us say we are blessed?  We have a good marriage, we just got a promotion, we brought a new car, we won the game.  We know God is the giver of good things and we certainly should thank Him.  However, are we reducing blessings from God just to material things, times when things go our way.  Do we feel blessed when our marriage falls on rough times, we lose our job, our car breaks down, we lose the game?

Often, we tell people they should:

blessings

Again, we should be a grateful people and it is always good to stop from time to time and really look at all God has given us.  But in counting our blessings, what is it we count?

Do we include those times when life felt apart – but God was there?

Do we count the privilege of being able to worship God freely without fear of being thrown into prison?

Do we count the joy of knowing we are forgiven?

Or do we again just think of material things we have been given?

And if we are going through a difficult time, do we feel like we have no blessings to count?

What does it really mean to be blessed of God?

What does His Word say about that concept?

Hope you will think on that question for a while.

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Give me some feedback on what you think being blessed is really all about.

I’m taking a long look at what the Bible has to say about this subject and will write more in the days ahead.

But, give me your thoughts on this.

 

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