What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recalling What God Has Done

As the book of Joshua ends, Joshua recalls for all of Israel to hear their history from the time of Abraham through their most recent history where they conquered the nations and took over the good land. Joshua emphasized what God did for them throughout history. Then Joshua challenges them to choose who they will serve. The Israelites respond by saying, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!” Another translation of this verse says, “We’d never forsake God! Never! We’d never leave God to worship other gods.” They responded this way because of the memory of their God working for them throughout history.
I can learn from this lesson. I need to choose who I will serve just as the Israelites had to. What will help me decide? By recalling my history with God. As I started thinking about this I realized that the Israelites remembered not only what God did for the present generation, but for several generations before, all the way back to Abraham. I need to start looking at my history from the same generational perspective.
I don’t know a whole lot about the spiritual condition of my ancestors. I don’t know what their relationship with God was like. But, I do know my ancestors accomplished some pretty amazing things. I come from a family of immigrants, so those first ancestors who chose to make the trip to the Americas set out on a dangerous path. They set aside everything they knew and headed out for something new. They may have left Europe due to the Irish potato famine or because of the constant struggles in Greece, but there is no doubt the unknown awaited them in the United States. God brought them through. He kept them alive on the long ship passage. He allowed them to find employment once they were here. They married and were able to have children of their own, who in turn lived to adulthood. God was there. This pattern could’ve broken down at any point but God was at work to see that it didn’t and that eventually I would be born from these adventurous ancestors.
God was there when my mother went into labor. She made it to the hospital even though it was the dead of winter and I lived. My parents believe in God. They raised me to believe in God. When I eventually had to choose for myself, denying God did not seem possible. God had been a part of my life and even though I did not agree with my parents on their views of God, I knew He existed.
When I was a child, I suffered a bit. I was not an easy child for my parents to raise. I did not know how to be any different than I was and they did not know how to raise me any differently than they did. But, it was not all a happy childhood. But, it was also not all a bad childhood. God was there, protecting me. Things could have been a lot worse and then where would I be today? I’ve seen children whose home lives are much messier than mine was. It could’ve been me. I don’t know why some people have to suffer more than others, but I know God only allowed what I could handle. He was there even when I did not recognize Him.
To be continued.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Inheritance on Earth

Today I was working on my Bible study in the book of Joshua, Chapter 23. Verses 12 – 13 says,
But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.
The good land was the promised inheritance for the Israelites, the culmination of all that the book of Joshua was about. It was their inheritance on earth. The study guide asked the questions, “Will you lose your inheritance on earth if you ally with the “nations” or serve their gods?” and “Will you lose your eternal inheritance if you do this?”
I had to ask myself the question, what is my inheritance on this earth? I know what my eternal inheritance is. It is salvation, eternal life, redemption, heaven, being with Jesus in heaven forever. And, no, I cannot lose this eternal inheritance under any circumstances. If I sin, I sin. Jesus paid the price for that sin the moment I believed in Him. He actually paid for my sin while I was still a sinner. It’s not dependent upon my condition. If I’ve been saved by Jesus, I’m saved.
But what is my earthly inheritance and can I lose that? I struggled with trying to figure out what my earthly inheritance was until a friend drew me back to the context of Joshua 23. The Israelites would lose the good land, the best God had for them, if they allied themselves with the ungodly nations around them. I think I also would lose the best God has for me here on this earth if I ally myself to ungodly people.
There are various views on what it means to be allied with the ungodly in our world today. I take my cue from the New Testament, from 2 Corinthians 6:14 and following:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and the Devil? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
To me, to be “yoked” means to have any relationship that could end in a commitment whether it’s marriage or business. So if I ally myself with unbelievers, now that I’m a believer, I’m in danger of losing my earthly inheritance. I would lose out on the best God has for me. This may mean I lose out on the peace, joy, serenity, and love that come from being in right relationship with God. My willful alliance with unbelievers would most likely prevent me from getting the best God wants for me while on earth.
But this would also happen if I chose to be out of right relationship with God whatever the issue. I will lose out on the best God has for me. I don’t want to be missing out on God’s best for me. So, I need to be evaluating where my relationships with God and others need to be changed, so I can enjoy my inheritance on earth.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holiday Thoughts

It’s time to write another blog article. I don’t really have a topic in mind and when that happens it makes writing very hard. I need a direction, a place to go. I don’t have one of those today. So, I thought I’d share a little about my thoughts on the upcoming holidays.
Today, my daughter asked what is on the menu for Thanksgiving Dinner. I do have the menu planned out, but not necessarily the details (like what vegetable we are having). Dorm food must really have her down if she’s thinking a week ahead to Thanksgiving Dinner. She also wanted to know if anyone was coming that would be spending the night. I don’t know, and can’t guess, what that’s about. I wonder if she thinks she’ll have homework or if she’d have to give up her bed (she has a loft here so it’s not like grandma is going to sleep there!)
Yesterday, my husband said something very shocking. He said maybe we should start thinking about doing the unthinkable: get an artificial tree. That’s something he once told me he’d never do. I grew up with an artificial tree. There are some definite benefits to having one, foremost in my mind is the lack of pine needles scattered, thanks to our cats, throughout the house. But, not having a live, pine-scented, tree also means the house won’t smell like Christmas. Do they make air fresheners in pine scent? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll have to look into that.
This last weekend, when it was in over 60 degrees outside, we hung up our outdoor Christmas lights. They won’t be turned on yet, but they are ready to go. We also put the birdbath warmer out. Today, the birdbath is frozen and we had to plug the heater in. What a change since Sunday. I’m glad we will not have to fumble in the cold with the lights. I’m glad we took the opportunity to hang them when we did. Now we will have to see if we will get them taken down before Easter.
Last week, I purchased my first Christmas present. It should be arriving in the mail soon. I’m excited to do some more shopping, but I don’t like spending money. I like giving presents but I don’t like spending the money. It makes holiday shopping a two-edged sword with fun on one side and pain on the other.
There. Does any of that help you get into the holiday spirit? I hope so. It’s motivated me to shop again. Now that I’m done with this blog article, I will go online to see what I can find.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Right and Privilege

By the time this is actually posted we will know who is the next president of the United States. But I’m writing this on Tuesday, Election Day, so I do not know how my vote counted. The key thing is that it does count. I am reminded of that in several ways today.
First, my daughter has voted for the first time in a Presidential Election. She used an absentee ballot because she is away at college, but it was very important to her to exercise her right to vote. I’m glad she feels that responsibility. It’s a sign she appreciates her country, even though she also has many complaints about the way some things are. She’s taking the responsibility to do what she can to make things go better in her view.
Second, a friend of mine is voting for the first time in a Presidential Election because she is a new citizen of the United States of America. She’s lived here for several years but has not been eligible to vote until this year. She values that opportunity and was probably as excited as my daughter, and, probably for the same reasons. She’s saying she loves the United States and she’s interested in what happens in our government.
Third, I have friends who have been overseas as missionaries for much of the last 20 years. They may have voted absentee ballots in the past, but today they get to vote in person as they are here in the United States. They, too, have a stake in what happens in this election and want to have their say. They, too, will exercise their right and privilege to vote.
Each vote does matter, and what matters the most is that we don’t take it lightly. I cannot imagine not voting today. I’ve voted in every Presidential Election since I was 18 and all but 2 non-presidential elections since then, too. I voted today. I will watch with great interest for the results tonight. But mostly, I hope people exercise their right and privilege as American citizens and will vote.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Promises of God

I’m continuing in my study of the Bible in the book of Joshua. God’s promises to the family of Israel are coming true. They have fought battles and God has given them the victory over many different people groups. Joshua is allotting land to each tribe and to each clan within each tribe, just as God instructed Moses who then instructed Joshua. They are coming into the inheritance, into the goodness God promised them.
One story in this section of Joshua has Caleb asking for his portion, the land God specifically said He’d give Caleb for being a faithful spy over 45 years earlier. The portion of the land Caleb wanted and had been promised was not yet conquered, so Caleb asked for permission to take his soldiers and drive out the Anakites who were there. Caleb would settle for nothing less than the land on which his feet had walked (Joshua 14:9). Caleb wanted everything God had promised him and would do what was necessary for him to get it.
Some of the other tribes either took what they were given and were happy with it, or they grumbled that what they had wasn’t enough or good enough. The “people of Joseph” actually went to Joshua to ask why they got what they got, complaining that they were too many people for the land, but they were only looking at the land already cultivated and ready to live in. Their portion also included large areas of wilderness. Joshua told them to expand the livable area:
“Yes, there are a lot of you, and you are very strong. One lot is not enough for you. You also get the hill country. It’s nothing but trees now, but you will clear the land and make it your own from one end to the other. The powerful Canaanites, even with their iron chariots, won’t stand a chance against you.” (Joshua 17:17 – 18 in The Message)
The people of Joseph had to be told what to do, and we know from Joshua 17:12 – 13 that Manasseh never did get rid of the Canaanites. It is the flip side to what Caleb did. So, what was the difference between the people of Joseph and Caleb? I think it comes down to taking God’s promises seriously. Caleb believed God when He’d said Caleb would have a certain portion of land and acted on that belief. The people of Joseph thought they were entitled to more (even though the two tribes that make up the people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, have very large portions of the land. See map above). But they did not lay hold of all they could have and eventually settled for what was available, settled for less than what God had promised. Caleb had faith and acted according to the promise God had made with him and received all that God had promised. He didn’t settle for good enough. He wanted the best.
So am I like Caleb or the people of Joseph? Am I settling for good enough or am I laying hold to the promises of God to receive the best? I think I settle way too often. So my application for this week is to come up with a list of God’s promises for me and pray about how to work towards those coming to pass in my life – to be more like Caleb.