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, August 25, 2016

Listening: Acts 7:2-53

Do people hear you the first time you say something? Probably your answer is “no, but I wish they would.” God probably says that about us. The example in Scripture of people listening to God is discouraging. We have the many examples of the Israelites not paying attention to God’s prophets. And in Stephen’s “defense” before the Sanhedrin where he’s been accused of blasphemy against God, Moses, and the law, he outlines several examples of when the people of Israel failed to listen to people God sent with His messages.
The first such example Stephen uses is found in Acts 7:9-18 where he discusses the example of Joseph. A key verse is Acts 7:13, “And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh.” This verse implies the rest of the story: that when Joseph’s brothers first came to Egypt and saw Joseph, they did not recognize him. It took a second visit and Joseph’s revealing himself to his brothers for the people of Israel (Jacob’s offspring) to recognize God’s salvation for them. They were unable or unwilling to believe that God had a plan for them and they rejected Joseph (first when they sold him into slavery and then when they met him in Egypt). Yet, God provided salvation for them anyway.
The second such example is found in Stephen’s quotations recounting the life of Moses. God again sent Moses but at first the people didn’t listen to him. Verse 25 gives a possible insight into this situation. “And he [Moses] supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand.” As a result of the lack of understanding, Israel had to endure 40 more years of bondage to Egypt. Even then, when Moses had led the people out of Egypt, they still questioned Moses’ message, and wanted to turn back to Egypt (Acts 7:39: “And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him [Moses], but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.”) The people rejected God again by rejecting Moses again, which led to another 40 years of wandering in the desert. Yet, God provided salvation for them anyway.
Stephen ends his sermon in verses 51-53:
You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who receive the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.
Stephen’s point: Israel and especially its leaders, failed to listen to God through His prophets on many occasions, and now they were doing it again when it came to Jesus (whom they murdered).
What I got out of this is this: people may not hear the message of Christ the first time I tell them. I may need to repeat the message a number of times, in a number of ways. And they may need to hear it from a number of different people. And belief still may not come to them. However, for me, it means I need to continue to share through my words, my actions, and through my love before someone will listen. My children, and I, do not listen the first time someone shares or directs me to right action. I shouldn’t expect other people to listen the first time either.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Finding Topics

So, I haven’t gotten much of my study of Acts 7 done, so I don’t know which insights I want to share with you. As a result, I’m feeling topic-less.
There are several things I can do to come up with topics to write to you about. One of those things is to just wait and pray, hoping God will lead me to something. This often works. Turning to God often works in many areas of our lives. I think it’s probably the one most important thing I can do anytime we are struggling in our lives. That’s not saying we don’t have to do our part. There’s always the “footwork” to do, even if it’s just doing the next right thing, whatever that might be. Sometimes that might be making dinner or doing the laundry, but sometimes it’s making us available to someone who needs a friend to talk to. I find that in doing the next right thing(s), God brings to mind ideas about what to write about. Often those topics deal with a struggle I am having preventing me from doing the next right thing. However, I have to remember to seen God in all things, and wait on Him to bring me to the next topic or the next activity.
Another thing I do to come up with topics is review my Quiet Time notes, my letters to a special friend, or my Bible study notes (especially the application section). Trying to come up with topics actually draws my attention back to something I maybe didn’t learn the first time I looked at a certain passage of Scripture. I find it’s a good policy to review my notes and letters occasionally (to be honest, I probably should do this more often). I often see patterns of things that God has shown me over the course of a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. Those things are only apparent after time has gone by. I would miss the patterns if I never reviewed my various notes.
My final resource for coming up with ideas involves talking to people and finding out what they think I should write about (or what they want to hear about). Actually, that’s where the idea for this blog article came from. I was mentioning to one of my daughters that I didn’t know what to write about this week. She suggested I write about what I do when I don’t have a topic readily in my thoughts. I thought about that for a few minutes, came to my computer, started typing, and out came this blog. There are other times this happens when talking to friends. Friends are a valuable resource in my writing and in encouraging me throughout my days.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Anxiety Update

So, I’m home safe and sound. My adventure to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan went off without a hitch, for the most part. We did have an engine light come on when we were only 1 ½ hours from home. We found a car repair place and they said if it isn’t blinking then we had nothing to worry about. Well, it wasn’t blinking so we said a prayer, laid everything in God’s hands, and continued our drive to Marquette (another 5 hours away). We got there just fine, and my brother was able to help us unhook the battery to try and reset the computer. That worked. When we hooked everything back up, the light was gone and we had no further problems the rest of the trip.
I remember my anxiety over driving across the Mackinaw Bridge that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. There were many God sightings during that 10-minute part of the trip. Answers to prayer to be exact. There were no thunderstorms (there was a 40% chance). There was a High Wind Warning instructing semi-trucks to proceed at 20 mph. I was worried that we’d get stuck behind a truck and have to take that much longer to get across the bridge (cars could drive 40 mph). That didn’t happen. God arranged for us to have nobody driving around us. There was no one within a hundred yards of us before or after. It felt like we were all alone on the bridge. That was a good thing in my book. No pressure to drive faster or slower or to drive on the grated lane on the bridge. Smooth sailing. However, I did notice that the paved lane on the southbound side was closed for maintenance for quite a long strip of the bridge. I prayed that it wouldn’t be there on our way home or that God would work in me to give me the courage and peace of mind to drive on the grated lane of the bridge. God answered both prayers in a way: some of the paved lane was closed, but not as much as when we went up on Friday. And, I did not get stressed, panicked, or afraid when it came time to change lanes and drive on the grates. Besides, I was in the middle of the bridge and could not stop driving or go back. God gave me the courage I needed when I needed it. I praised Him as we were driving and when we reached the end of the bridge.
It all reminded me of the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Trusting God is the only real way to gain security and peace in this world.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Acts 7: Stephen's Sermon

I’ve just started my study of Acts 7 and have only gotten through a couple of verses. However, I did read the whole chapter (verses 1 – 60) to get a feel for what Luke was going to tell us in Acts 7. Basically, Luke gave an account of Stephen’s sermon before the Sanhedrin after Stephen was publicly accused of blasphemy in four ways (Acts 6:11, 14). The accusations were partially true, but warped the intent of Stephen’s preaching.
The four blasphemes are listed as such:
1.  Blasphemed Moses by making Christ greater thn Moses.
2.  Blasphemed God by exalting Christ greater than the temple or the law.
3.  Blasphemed the temple by saying that Christ would destroy it.
4.  Blasphemed the law by sying that Christ had abolished the law and made a new covenant.
Did Stephen defend himself regarding these charges? No he didn’t. Instead of going on the defense Stephen went on the offense. His sermon to the Sanhedrin by telling them “you are doing just as your fathers did.” What did the “fathers” do? First a side note, when the New Testament preachers (and the Old Testament, too) refer to the “fathers” they are saying “those who came before you in the faith” i.e. the patriarchs. The basic point of Stephen’s speech is highlighted in the Ryrie Study Bible in the footnotes like this: “Stephen recited the privileges of the nation Israel and their rejection of God’s messengers; then he laid blame for the slaying of Jesus squarely on his hearers.”
Stephen quoted Scripture (Old Testament) and recounted several of the foundational stories of Israel’s forefathers. I will be interested in exploring those passages more carefully in the coming weeks. He started right off in verse 2 discussing the calling of Abraham (before there was the covenant, the law, or the temple). He started with the foundational beliefs of Jewish history.
I’m not sure starting off with Jewish history would be beneficial today with the populations I regularly come in contact with; as a matter of fact, I think it would turn modern Americans off and cause them to discount the message as something for the Jews but not for them. However, I am challenged to use appropriate Scripture as I interact with people, especially those passages (mostly in the New Testament) that explain the human condition without Christ leading to the passages that promote Christ as the Savior of everyone.
I’m sure more will be revealed to me as I continue the study in Acts 7. I’m looking forward to what will be revealed and how I can apply the concepts to my own life.