Friday, September 22, 2006

Fight for the Promised Land

Bible reading -- Joshua 24 (I won't reprint it all is Joshua's final words to the Israelites that outlines their history from God's perspective. You can read it at )

The Israelites had prayed to God for their release from slavery for over 400 years before He brought Moses into the picture. Then, instead of just granting them freedom, they suffered through several plagues, were chased through the Red Sea by Pharaoh's army, and they wandered in the desert for 40 years (well, most of that time was due to their disobedience, but that's another story). Then, once the Promised Land was in sight, they still had to fight and kill those people who were already living there before they could move in!

I wish God's blessings were more instantaneous and required less effort on our part. However, God does things in His timing, and His ways are not our ways. He knows that treats are sweeter when you've had to work hard to receive them. And there are lots of lessons and growth along the way that allow us to accept the blessings and to appreciate them more.

Many senior citizens tell me that they are able to appreciate their grandchildren much more than they appreciated their children at the same age. My in-laws had a sign in their kitchen for a long time that said "Grandchildren are the reward for not killing your kids!" (They have taken that sign down...I hope they haven't had a change of heart). God has set up this world so we will learn through our trials and triumph with Him in the end. I have to remember that during the rough times (and I have to look forward to those grandkids on some days...)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Like a Kid in a Toy Store

Key Verse -- Psalm 37:3-4 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Yesterday I had the unique experience of taking our boys to ToysRUs to spend some money they had been saving for a while. They've been dying to spend their savings, but I held them off until after their birthday (so they didn't unwittingly buy items they would receive as gifts). It was a great day - the ToysRUs people helped them celebrate by giving them balloons and birthday crowns, and they announced their special day over the intercom. Several people came up and told the boys 'Happy Birthday', and the staff members frequently offered assistance and let the boys show off their selections. It was fun to follow them around the store while they attempted to spend their hard earned $20. They had a blast.

It was fascinating to see that, though they are twins, they have such different approaches to decision making.

Kevin is very decisive. He walked into the store and selected the toys he wanted off the first shelf we saw. As we meandered through the rest of the store, he never changed his mind about his treasures.

Chris, on the other hand, is very methodical in his decision making. He had to see every possible option for spending his money before he could narrow down his choices. Then he went back and forth trying to find the best toy for his money. After about an hour and a half, he made his selection.

Although both decision making techniques have their drawbacks, each boy was very happy with his selection, and they played with their new toys for the rest of the day. Both methods resulted in success.

God puts many options in front of us, and often He's prepared blessings for us regardless of the choice we make. I've agonized in the past over a variety of life changing decisions, and often, while seeking God's guidance, I get a strong answer that the choice is up to me! He is ready to support whichever option I want. Honestly, sometimes I'd prefer a letter in the mail that tells me clearly what to do, but in the long run I much prefer God's plan. He loves us so much that He gives us a whole toy store of great options to choose from!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's In A Name?

Verse for the day - John 1:42b, "Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter)." NIV

Simon's brother, Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. When John saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" Andrew left John's side and he spent the day with Him. One of the first things Andrew did was find his brother and tell him that they had found the Messiah. Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who immediately renamed him 'Peter', meaning the rock.

Simon was a rough and tumble fisherman (and he probably smelled like one, too). He frequently jumped right in and believed he knew the right answers, but he usually ended up with his foot in his mouth. He was impulsive and uneducated. I'm not sure what the name 'Simon' meant, but according to Strong's it is derived from a word that means 'omitted'. I imagine his brother and others who were around Jesus at that time got a good laugh from his new name. It seems like a joke - like calling a very tall man 'Tiny' or a bald man 'Curly.' Peter was as far from being a rock as he could get!

Yet Jesus ignored Simon's immediate character flaws and gave him a name that was consistent with his future. Although he was impetuous before the crucifixion, after the Pentecost he was a new man. On that day he stood and boldly proclaimed the gospel, convincing over 3000 people to turn their lives over to Christ. He went on to become a respected elder and leader of the early church.

Jesus looks at you and me the same way -- not the way we are today, but the way he knows we will be in the future. The plans he has for us may be significantly beyond our comfort zones today, but like Peter, he will prepare us for our new roles.

If Jesus met you face to face today, what new name would he give you?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kicked in the Teeth

Verse for the day:
2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

Our seven-year old twin boys, Kevin and Chris, believe that bedtime is merely a change of environment. They are delighted by this new, softer place where they can wrestle and continue their energetic conversations long into the night. We usually let them go for fifteen to twenty minutes before declaring an end to their fun.

Last night, Kevin charged into the living room about 10 minutes after he’d been put to bed, enthusiastically proclaiming that Chris had made him lose his tooth! As far as I knew, Kevin didn’t have any loose teeth at the moment, so I was a little concerned about how this had happened. It turned out that Chris had kicked Kevin in the mouth during a wrestling session, and both boys were laughing hysterically about it (as only boys can do). After yet another lecture about not hurting each other when they played, Kevin proudly put his tooth in a plastic bag and positioned it under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy. His eyes sparkled at the prospect of a new, shiny quarter in return.

Later I marveled at how Kevin totally ignored the pain of the situation in the excitement of the moment. I often feel like I’ve been kicked in the teeth by the world, and I’ll guarantee that I’m not paying any attention to possible benefits that might be derived from the experience. Car breakdowns, rapidly rising grocery and gas prices, escaping dogs, and activities my kids forgot to tell me about tend to keep me focused on how these things disrupt my life.

Yet God promises us that these troubles, which really are light and momentary, are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all! While I may not see the small joys that occur in times of trouble (yes, there are some), I can know without a doubt that Heaven will be a time of eternal worship and joy. These little crises will pass and be forgotten quickly in the frenzy of my life, yet I can always focus on that little piece of Heaven that will be mine some day. I hope I do that with at least the same enthusiasm as Kevin held for the promise of a quarter from the Tooth Fairy.

Next time something happens that makes you feel like someone was out to ruin your day, look for hidden blessings. Could you be thankful that your budget could handle the expense, or that you met someone you would otherwise have never encountered?