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 9, 2018

Historical Patterns


As I studied 1 Samuel 11, I didn’t have any great insights leading to practical application for me. The notes I referenced, Tom Bradford’sTorah Class, told readers of the historical books to be looking for patterns that occur over time and throughout the books of the Bible.
His thoughts were that things and events in Scripture do not happen in isolation. The events in Scripture build upon one another. I think we should have started our study of these historical books in the book of Judges, but even then there are links and patterns dating even further back in history.
For instance, 1 Samuel 11:6-7 give us an account of the way Saul called all the people of Israel together – by cutting apart two oxen and sending parts to each of the tribes with the message to all the able-bodied warriors to meet Saul in Bezek. The purpose was to form an army strong enough to go out against the army of Ammon who had severely threatened a town in Benjamin.
It’s kind of gruesome; however, it was not done in isolation. It actually had occurred before where the individual cut up was a man’s concubine who had been murdered by the people. In that situation, the tribes were gathered together to avenge those who did this wrong to the woman. Here, in 1 Samuel, Saul is reminding the tribes of this incident and asking them to come defend the city where that man had lived, kind of as pay back. (See Judges 19-21 for the background and beginning of this pattern.)
There are many more examples of events that happened in this chapter that can be seen as a pattern throughout the history of Israel. Without the help of the commentators, they are sometimes hard to see. I think, as we do our daily reading of the Bible, we need to take into account the whole picture. This is why Bible reading is as important as daily excursions into individual passages or chapters (Quiet Times), and deep and devoted time spent in Bible study. We need the overview. We need to watching for patterns and repeated commands so we don’t see each event and situation in isolation from the rest of Scripture. If you are not currently doing an “overview” type of reading the Bible, just start somewhere, keep track of where you’ve been, and look for the patterns.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Salvation Before the Law


    1 Samuel 10 gives the account of how Saul was both privately and publicly announced as king of Israel. Part of Samuel’s conversation with Saul in private included a series of events that would happen to confirm to Saul that Samuel’s message was from God. These prophecies immediately occurred and, hopefully, confirmed to Saul that he was designated by God to be the first king of Israel, although Saul was initially not very excited about the idea.
     Samuel gathered all the tribes of Israel so God could reveal the anointing of Saul to them. After a process of elimination, Saul was the “chosen” one, however, Saul could not be found. He was hiding with the baggage. We are not told why he was doing this; it could be from humility, fear, reluctance, or something completely different.
Before the choosing process occurred, the Lord spoke to the people through Samuel. “Thus says, the Lord, The God of Israel, ‘I brought Israel up from Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the power of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘NO, but set a king over us!” (1 Samuel 10:18-19).
     The point I want to look at comes from the description God gave for what He did for the people: “delivered” and later, “delivers.” Some translations use the words “saved” and “saves.” This is an account of God’s salvation being freely offered to the people of Israel. The same salvation He offers to us. Notice, God said He saved them before they had one word of the Law. The Laws is not, then or now, the means of salvation. Salvation is a choice God makes and provides a way for us to access it through faith.
     This is an important truth for every person on this earth. Following the precepts and statutes of the Old Testament saves no one. That is not the purpose of the Old Testament, even the first five books, the Law. Romans 3:20 tells us the purpose of the Law: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” The Old Testament account here of the words of God reveals the same truth to us. This is the message of all of Scripture. This is the truth from the beginning of time. 
     Whether a Jew or Gentile we are saved apart from the Laws God gave Moses. It’s been salvation then Law since the beginning of time. Therefore, we should not expect people to follow the Laws (of society or of God) before they are saved. Obedience to the Law only becomes possible after being saved. Let me say it again: it is not the Law that saves us. It’s God’s grace and mercy and power.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Seek Wisdom


1 Samuel 9 gives us the account of the future king of Israel, Saul, meeting Samuel for the first time. Although Samuel’s circuit, described in 1 Samuel 7:15-17, brought Samuel close to where Saul lived, it seems from the text that Saul did not know of him. At least Saul did not recognize Samuel (1 Samuel 9:18).
This tells me something. It appears that Saul was not interested in spiritual matters. It appears that Saul did not attend any of the events hosted by Samuel or in Samuel’s honor when Samuel was nearby. We can’t tell if this meant that Saul was totally oblivious to God and His teachings, but it may be indicative of the state of the general population of Israel at the time.
Later, Saul is looking for some lost donkeys. His father had sent him on this mission. After a few days, when Saul and a servant had not yet found the donkeys, Saul was ready to give up. Granted, he did not want to be gone even longer and cause his father to be concerned (vs. 5). That’s to be admired; however, there is no record of Saul and the servant praying for guidance. Saul especially seemed to rely on his own wisdom and skills, and became discouraged when they could not find the donkeys.
This man that God picked to be king is not noted for his wisdom, virtue, leaning, or piety. No real accomplishments are even mentioned. Saul was probably around 40 at the time of these events, yet did not have servants of his own to send to find the donkeys. He was also still under the leadership of his father (this may have been cultural). It does not appear as though Saul had any distinguishing characteristics of a good leader. What Scripture does record are Saul’s physical characteristics, those characteristics that would appeal to the people as being someone fit for a king (vs. 2). Those are the characteristics that the kings of other nations displayed, and the people of Israel wanted a king like the other nations.
Back to the story of Saul meeting Samuel: While Saul was not inclined to seek wisdom from the spiritual leaders of his time, the servant did remember that there was a “seer” or “prophet” in a nearby town. The servant suggested they seek him out for advice. Saul had some objections, but the servant’s opinions prevailed and they went looking for the seer. So, even though Saul is not recorded as being a man of prayer, because it was convenient, they went to seek Samuel out.
My contention is that things may have gone differently if Saul and the servant had considered seeking wisdom out in the first place. I take this as a warning for me. I need to seek wisdom first in any decisions or endeavors I attempt. I also, unlike Saul, need to seek it even if it means going out of my way. Waiting for a convenient time should not be an option for me. I must seek out wisdom through prayer and wise counsel, right from the beginning of the decision-making process.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Each His Own Grace


At the beginning of 1 Samuel 8 we have a description of Samuel’s family. Scripture doesn’t tell us Samuel was married but we can make an assumption that he was because he had children. We don’t know what Samuel did as a father. We don’t know what kind of teacher he was for his children. We don’t know anything about his wife. What we do know is found in verses 1-5:
And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways . . .”

For whatever reason, Samuel’s sons did not turn out well. Was it Samuel’s fault? Did he fail to learn from Eli and his sons? Did he try to do the right things, but the sons were still disobedient and dishonest? We just don’t know.
What we do know is that the children of a good man and servant of God had turned aside from God’s ways. We know that the sons were in a town quite a distance from Samuel. Possibly Samuel sent them there because it was in an area Samuel’s regular circuit didn’t take him to and the people there needed judges. Maybe the power and influence the sons had in that area inflated their egos so they thought they were above the laws.
I learned two important things from this passage. First, honor and prestige can change men’s minds and hearts – and not usually for the better. We need to watch out for that in our own lives especially if we achieve some measure of earthly prominence in society. Second, God extends His grace to individuals, not families (or churches). It’s up to each person to recognize God’s grace and choose service to God over worldly possessions and prestige. Samuel’s faith could not blanket his children. They each have to make the decision to follow God on their own. That’s still true for us today. Whether we did all the right things in raising our children or not, ultimately, it’s up to each child to make a decision to do what is right in God’s eyes. Parents can’t force it on their offspring, and parents can’t make the decision for each individual under their care.
So, whether I did everything right or not, it’s up to my children to come to depend on divine grace for themselves. I hope my instructions and example influenced them in their decision-making process. I did the best I could. Still, ultimately, it’s up to them to depend on God and gain salvation for themselves.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

My Places of Worship


In rereading 1 Samuel 7 the last verse spoke to me: “But Samuel always went back to Ramah, where his home was. There he judged Israel and built an altar to the Lord” (New Century Version). I’m not sure why, but I have a fear of the idea of building an altar to the Lord as part of my spiritual practice. Maybe because many of the altars built in Scripture were to false gods and I don’t want to make that mistake.

Yet as I thought about this, I realized that in a way there is an “altar” in my heart. I’ve dedicated the core of my being to the Almighty God. This is not a stagnant place, but a growing, changing, dynamic aspect of my walk with God. As I bow before God, which I can do no matter where I am, I worship and remember Him. I can bring Him glory through my attitudes and behavior.

We are not required to offer Old Testament style sacrifices, so an actual altar built with stones and mortar is not necessary. This being said, God still desires our sacrifices – sacrifices of service. Romans 12:1 tells us about this kind of sacrifice: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” A living and holy, active and pure service to God is our new form of sacrifice. In order to follow through on the kind of sacrifices God wants from His New Testament followers, we need to be in service to Him.

Then I thought again about having an altar in my home. In a way I do have one. It’s my desk where I have my personal time with God each morning, use my prayer journal to pray, write my daily praises on Facebook, study God’s Word, and meditate and consider what to write in my weekly blog post. It’s where all my study materials are kept and used. It’s where I prayerfully conduct daily business, and write letters and work on writing books. I can’t approach my desk without thinking of and worshiping my God.

What’s the condition of your heart altar? Do you have a place set aside to worship and serve God? Consider making such altars in your world.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Thanksgiving; 1 Samuel 7


In 1 Samuel 7, there’s the story of the Israelites gathering, at Samuel’s suggestion, to mark the occasion of returning to the Lord (20 years after the Ark had been returned to Israel). It took the people that long to “lament after the Lord” (vs. 2). Samuel’s recommendations were for the people to separate from their idols and to engage in service to God. As part of that service, Samuel had them “gather all Israel to Mizpah” (vs. 5), and he would pray for them.
The Philistines got worried thinking Israel had gathered as a rendezvous for war against them; however, they were just there to pray and worship God. The Israelites did not have weapons with them, and when they saw the Philistines posturing for battle against them, they became fearful. They asked Samuel to “cry to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (vs. 8). There’s a lesson here about relying on God as our only weapon, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about in this article.
God answered Samuel’s prayer and the Philistines ended up confused and routed by the Lord, without the Israelites doing a thing. The Israelites “pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car” (vs. 11). “Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (vs. 12). So, even though there was unfinished business in the political arena and the future of Israel (and their obedience to God) was yet unfinished, Samuel made sure they acknowledged what God had already done.
One commentator, Matthew Henry, also directed us to Acts 26:22 to see Paul’s reaction to similar circumstances (seeing God work and waiting to see what else will happen): “Having therefore obtained help from God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great . . .” (KJV). I’m convicted that my lack of thankfulness for what God’s already done, especially in some recent issues in my life, is hindering me from proceeding in faith in other areas of my life and ministry. I don’t give thanks and I worry. I don’t acknowledge what God has already done and fail to recognize what He can do in the future. My anxiety level increases and my joy decreases.
This is contrary to what I learned studying Philippians 4:4-9 where in verses 6-7 we are given the “formula” for less/no anxiety: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” My prayers and supplications are not enough. They need to be done with thanksgiving – acknowledging what God has already accomplished in my life and situations – in order to experience the peace God offers. Also, doing that takes my mind off my own problems and allows me to better minister to others. So, I’m pausing right now to give thanks. Do you need to take the time to do the same?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Some Thoughts From 1 Samuel 5-6


As I reviewed my notes in preparation for my study of 1 Samuel 7, a couple of things jumped out at me. These thoughts, mostly contrasts between then and now, lead me to be thankful and full of praise.
First, the ancient peoples had gods. Many of them. They would incorporate any conquered nation’s gods into their own system of belief. They were afraid of offending any god and believed the more gods there were on their side, the better. They offered gifts, sacrifices and offerings to all the gods hoping it would bring favor upon them. Yet, they were never sure that any of that made any difference so they would increase the stakes and offer even more and more outrageous things (even to the point of sacrificing children). No matter what they offered, success and good fortune were still up for grabs and a matter of luck.
Fortunately, we have one God, who is able to act on our behalf. Our one God showed Himself to be infinitely more powerful than the god of the Philistines (without the help of humans, He knocked over their god and broke off its head and hands). God is truly at work in our world, then, throughout history, and today. He can act apart from our actions, but He wants to act in response to our steadfast and believing prayers. He can intervene on behalf of His own glory and honor, but He’s given us responsibility to call Him into action. That doesn’t mean He changes His mind because of our prayers, but it does mean when we pray we will see the “supernatural invade the natural” (Pastor Mark Wilson, June 2018).
Second, the ancient people had to worry about retaliation by the gods. They feared punishment. However, because of Christ’s sacrifice fulfilling all the rituals once and for all, we do not have to fear punishment from God. He doesn’t approve of disobedience to His commands (both those in the Old Testament and the New Testament), but He doesn’t mercilessly punish us. He does discipline us in hopes that the discipline (like that of a good Father) will lead us back into obedience and right living. We must also keep in mind that His commands are designed with our wellbeing in mind. Obedience leads to healthier lives, better relationships, and greater purposes as we go through life on this earth. Temptations will still come; we live in a sinful world. However, obedience lessens the impact of those temptations and gives us the tools we need to do the right things in spite of the temptations Satan throws at us.
I’m thankful there is a God who is powerful and at work in our world (and my life) today. I’m also thankful that my God is a merciful God who disciplines me so I can live a better, safer, happier, and healthier life.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Examine the Word


The next part of 1 Samuel I studied is chapter 6 where the Philistines decided to send the Ark of God back to the Israelites because of the illness and death the Ark had brought upon them. The leaders decided to consult their priests and diviners (verse 2) and asked them how to go about doing so. The plan included two untrained cows hitched to a previously unused cart (verse 7), and a guilt offering of gold (verse 8).

The Philistines were still not sure it was Israel’s God of the Ark that had caused all the trouble in their cities, so they were testing God to see if He could/would bring the cart into Israel even with no rider. Also the cows were untrained to pull a cart and they had calves at home they would be tempted to turn back for. They were trying to determine if the illnesses were just a coincidence and not related to the Ark.

The cart went true without going to the right or the left and arrived in Beth-shemesh safely. Beth-shemesh was one of the 48 cities allotted to the Levites (Joshua 21:16). That’s important to note and a key element of my thoughts for today. The city had a large proportion of the Levites, those appointed priests to minister to God in Israel. Yet, Israel or its priests were not following God’s system very closely. While the Ark was in Beth-shemesh God “struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord” (verse 19). This was strictly forbidden; only the Levites from the family of Kohath were supposed to touch the Ark or carry it. However, it appears that the Levites in this city did not know the laws and statutes, nor did they bother to consult the Scriptures. They asked, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” They sent messengers to another town asking them to come down and get the Ark.

My application: Consult God’s Word when I want to know what God’s will is for my life. I do not know everything God has commanded us, so I am comparable to the Levites in Beth-shemesh in that regard. However, I do know God has rules to follow and I can verify what those rules are by studying and consulting His Word. A good practice for all of us to follow.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

God Alone


Continuing in my study of 1 Samuel this week, the behavior of the Philistines after “capturing” the ark of God from the Israelites was intriguing. The first thing they did was take the ark and place it at the feet of their stone God, Dagon, in Dagon’s temple in Ashdod. It was like a trophy to be displayed and a way to say, “Our god is better than your God.” They seemed to think that it was Dagon who had provided the victory over the Israelites and their God.

However, God had a different idea. The next morning when the Ashdodites arose early and went to Dagon’s temple, they found their god knocked over before the ark. They probably thought it was weird, but set Dagon back up. (As a side note, what kind of god is it that needs its followers to stand it up?) However, during the next night, God not only knocked Dagon down again, He went further. “And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold” (Verse 4). Furthermore, God “ravaged them and smote them with tumors” (Verse 6).

The Philistines acknowledge that, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severed on us and on Dagon our god” (Verse 7). The surmised that God was acting, but they did not renounce Dagon as their God. They saw the power of God and decided to remove the ark from their midst by sending it to another of the Philistines’ cities. In that city, and the successive one as well, the people got ill with some dying and the others getting the same illness as those in Ashdod. So, the Philistines moved the ark again.

A key concept in the commentaries was that God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate other gods before Him, alongside Him, or anywhere near Him. One quote said, “God is not worshipped if He’s not worshipped alone.” Also, worship is more than a song sung in church. It’s about God Himself and our service to Him and Him alone. How do we see God working in and around us in our lives and yet, try to mingle worship of Him with worship of other things, ideas, people, etc.? That is a question each of us needs to answer for ourselves. We should not view it lightly.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Oops!


So, I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t post an article last week. The time just got away from me and on Friday I realized I hadn’t done it. So, even though this week is equally as busy, I’m going to write something. Exactly what I do not know. We will see what develops.
I’ve begun a study in the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel with my Bible study partner. We have covered chapters 1-4. One of the first things that stood out to me was a comment in the Reformation Study Bible on 1 Samuel 3:19. First, the verse says, “Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail.” The overall perspective of the books of Samuel leads us to understand that it is God’s presence with someone that makes the difference between success and failure.
The phrase “the Lord was with him” is used in several places throughout Scripture. Sometimes it’s used to say that God was with someone and the results were success. In other places, it includes the word, “not,” as in “the Lord was not with him.” The results were then failure. There are examples galore of men that were with the Lord and this phrase is applied to them. Many of the men are big names in the Bible and in history, and it starts right at the beginning with Abraham (Genesis 21:22). Other people it is said of include Jacob (Genesis 28:15), Joseph (Genesis 39:2), and David (1 Samuel 16:18; 18:12, 14, 28).
If we want success in our endeavors, we also must have the Lord with us. We know we have the Lord with us when we are seeking to do His revealed will. We find that revealed will in the Bible. I want it to be said of me, “the Lord was with her,” when my life is over. So as God reveals my thoughts and behaviors and how they agree with Scripture or not, I must act accordingly. However, the most important part in this process is having faith in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

God is Righteous and Just


Today in my time in God’s Word, I was presented with the righteousness and justice of God. Let’s not succumb to the idea that because God is love He is only forgiving. He does those things: loving and forgiving. However, He is also jealous and holy.
This is a hard subject to broach in today’s Christian churches. We focus on His salvation and love and caring spirit to attract others to the hope of salvation. However, if we leave out the part about separation and disobedience, what is there to be saved from? Let’s not be fooled into thinking that saying we believe in Jesus is enough. Even the demons believe in Jesus. Let’s not be fooled into thinking that God will save us and provide everything we want, just because we profess Him as Lord.
His plans are unsearchable to us. What we want may have nothing to do with His plans. As I discussed last week, our prayers need to be in line with His will. Our behavior also has to be in line with His will. His will is that we are intimate with Him. Not just saying the right things and sounding good, but truly knowing Him and serving Him. This doesn’t just happen because we prayed some prayer (although that’s a good start). Knowing Him means communicating with Him. Two-way communication. It’s not just praying to Him. And it’s not just reading His Word and listening for His Holy Spirit’s guidance. Both of those behaviors are essential for really getting to know Him.
Part of knowing Him is realizing that He’s a jealous God. He wants nothing or no one to come before Him in our lives. He does discipline those who fail to make Him the priority of their lives. I’m not just talking about those who are not Christians. He disciplines each and every one of us – possibly especially those who say they follow Him – when we don’t make Him the priority in our lives. The discipline can be harsh. In Old Testament times it meant He pruned away some of those He called His own. His character does not change. He will also prune away some of those that He now considers His own in faith. He does what is best for His plan.
I don’t pretend to understand exactly what He’s thinking. I just know He’s not easily fooled by good sounding words or self-serving service. We can volunteer at church, pray publicly in restaurants. We can proclaim Him to others, sound like we know the way. We can read His Word and study the commentators. We can be teaching Christ to our families, sharing Him with our friends. Yet we can still place other things before Him, and He will know. He is a jealous God! We need to examine our hearts and minds. We need to be doing all these things for His glory. We need to have no other “gods” before Him. He is righteous and a just judge. He will not be fooled by our thoughts, feelings, actions, or minds. He will discipline, even to the point of death, any who put other things ahead of Him.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Answered Prayer


On Tuesday, I will have/had hand surgery. Nothing major, however, it will prevent me from making posts for a week or so. I usually write my blog articles on Tuesdays and scheduled them to be posted on Thursday mornings at 2:00 am. This week, I’m writing this on Monday and scheduling it to be posted on Thursday. I don’t know when I will be able to post again but I’m aiming for a couple of weeks.
I’ve been reviewing some key passages of Scripture with a friend the last few weeks. With that review comes Scripture memory review of some foundational verses. The first one is entitled “Assurance of Salvation.” I shared that verse last week in my article about how to do Scripture memory. This week the verse is “Assurance of Answered Prayer.” John 16:24 says, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” The key is in asking according to His name and abiding by His standards and will. When we ask for the things He’s promised us in the Scriptures, He will answer. When we ask for things that are actually good for us, He will probably answer (however, sometimes the things we think are good for us may, in fact, be harmful for our walk and worship with God). When we ask for God’s will to be done, and trust He will work things out according to His plan, He most definitely will answer.
I’ve found the promise in this verse to be true. When we ask in His name, my joy is made full. I find peace and contentment in my life. I find things for which I am thankful. I am abundantly filled with rejoicing and praise. My life is grand and there is so much to look forward to. I wait expectantly to see just exactly how God answers my prayers.
There’s another reason I wait expectantly for the “answers.” Romans 8:26 tells us that the Spirit is praying for us when we don’t even know what to ask: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Since I don’t even know what to be praying for, and the Spirit is praying for me, I may get answers I never expected.
So, I will do what John 16:24 says and pray in Jesus’ name. Then I will wait expectantly to see the grand answers God gives me.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Scripture Memory


God’s Word tells us to hide His Word in our hearts. That could mean many things; however, for me it simply means memorizing Scripture. There are lots of reasons for doing this and many ways to attempt to do it. I’d like to share my thoughts on the matter.
First, why memorize? I don’t know any other way to have Scripture readily available to me than to have it in my mind. When Jesus was out in the desert alone for 40 days, He did not have the scrolls of written Scripture with Him. Yet, when Satan made his attacks on Jesus, Jesus quoted Scripture, like wielding a sword, to fight off the attacks. If Jesus is our example, we need to have Scripture readily available to us to fight off the attacks that are used against us to throw us off track in our life in Christ.
Also, having Scripture memorized is vital in accurately sharing the Word with others. It’s God’s Word that creates change in people – no matter how elegant one’s speech might be. I want my conversations, especially with those who don’t yet know Christ, to be filled with the truth. I’m not saying that I need to go around quoting Scripture to everyone all the time. What I’m saying is that when conversations turn spiritual in nature, I want to be saying only that which God would approve of. Having His Word foremost in my mind, I am more likely to do that.
Those are just two reasons; there are more. So, why is it so hard to memorize Scripture? I hear that question often when I’m trying to suggest to someone that they give it a try. I was introduced to a Scripture memory plan a long time ago, and I still use this plan today to memorize and review Scripture. I suggest trying it for yourself if you are just starting out on this aspect of your Christian walk or are having trouble memorizing Scripture.
First assign the verse a topic (topic ideas). Right now I’m working on a set of verses that give me assurances of different aspects of the Christian life. The first topic is “Assurance of Salvation.” The corresponding verse is 1 John 5:11-12. So to start memorizing it, I start by memorizing the topic and the reference. Once I’ve repeated those aspects several times, I ADD the first phrase of the verse and repeat until I can say the topic, reference, and first phrase aloud without making a mistake. Then I repeat the process adding a second phrase of the verse. Each time I review I start at the beginning with the topic and reference, then the parts of the verse I have memorized, adding phrases one at a time until it’s firmly established in my mind. I conclude with saying the reference again.
There are several key points to this process. For further explanation go to the discipleship tools web site of the Navigators. Another key thing for me has been writing the verse (with the topic and the reference before and after) on cards (I’m currently using mini flashcards on a ring available at Amazon). Having the verses on cards allows me to carry them in my purse or in my pocket so I can pull them out and review often. Repetition and review are keys to getting the verses firmly planted in our minds. I like to say that over-learning them is good. They become second nature like reciting your phone number or your address. When’s the last time you forgot your address?
I’ve found this system to work and the memorized verses have stayed with me. I can’t say I remember word for word every verse I’ve memorized, but as I work through the Assurance verses again with a friend, I’m amazed at how easily the verses come to mind and how little “re-learning” I have to do.
Several links are highlighted above for resources to some of the concepts included in this article.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Be Anxious for Nothing, Part 3


This week finishes up my study of Philippians 4:4-9. There  are just a few quotes from the book to highlight this week. Some of them were very convicting to me and they might challenge you also.
“Are you expecting God to move but not asking Him to do so?” One of the questions in this section asked to whom do you go to when you hear bad news? I listed several close friends and family, and my therapist. Guess who I left out?! God. I realized it’s not my first thought when I am facing a trial or hardship. That’s not the way it should be. I was convicted to seek Him first, to bring my needs and fears to God first. I often call someone and ask them to pray for me before I actually pray myself. God wants us to go to Him. He clearly stated that in Philippians 4:6: “. . . in everything with supplication and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God . . .” My goal for this week is to turn to God FIRST this week (and hopefully from now on)with my prayers, then ask for others to pray with me.
“Often our view of our problems looms larger than our view of God. How cn you start the day in a way that places the source of your anxiety in proper perspective relative to God’s magnanimous power?” The reading suggested prayerfully and praisefully reading Psalm 8 and Psalm 121. These Psalms identify who God is, what He’s already done, and who we are in relationship to God. Psalm 8:3-5 tells us about these things:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
When I meditate and contemplate the truths in these verses, my problems get put into perspective. The God who made everything has high regard for us. In view of this I am greatly encouraged by giving praise to Him every morning and throughout the day. I think it puts my day into perspective.
“Our assignment is not fruitfulness but faithfulness.” So, why do you do the things you do? Whether it’s your job, your sports, or your walk with God we are looking for results. Results are the product of our labors. However, God wants us to focus on the process not the product when it comes to our relationship with Him. It’s our job to faithfully cling to the vine (read John 15). As we hold on to the vine, God may cause growth and fruit. What He wants from us is to sit at His feet and take in everything about Him and learn from Him (Luke 10:39-42; Martha and Mary’s examples). Being busy for God is not the same thing as knowing God and having a relationship with God. If we are faithful, fruit might happen (most likely will happen), but it’s God causing that, not our efforts.
Anxiety lessens when we recognize God is near and that He is big enough to deal with every need we could possibly have. We just have to give praise and thanksgiving and take everything to Him knowing He can and will meet our every need. I’ve found a lot of peace through this study. I hope you can also gain some.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Be Anxious for Nothing, Part 2


More thoughts from Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing study follow for this week’s blog article. Starting with Chapter #3 for this week, the following quotes impressed me.
“Guilt frenzies the soul. Grace calms it.” First, there’s a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says, “I did bad, and I can do something differently next time.” Shame says, “I am bad and nothing can change that; I’m always bad to the bone.” I learned that the hard way and over a period of years. I had my doubts that they were different things. Now I see just how different they are. I would amend this quote to say, “Guilt and/or shame frenzies the soul . . .” When I feel guilt, doing what I can to make the situation better and make appropriate amends to those I have harmed does lighten the turmoil in my soul. It involves making things as right as possible, but it also involves extending grace to myself. God has forgiven me through His great mercy. I need to also do the same for myself.
“Unresolved guilt will turn you into a miserable, weary, angry, stressed-out, fretful mess.” This goes right along with the quote above. I lived for many years with a frenzied soul. I was miserable, weary, angry and fretful. I can still get that way if I don’t deal quickly and appropriately with my guilt. In AA we have a saying, “It’s better to eat crow warm.” The quicker we make amends and let God’s forgiveness wash over us, the more we can feel better about ourselves (and the quicker we can rejoice in the mercy and compassion of God).
“A happy saint is one who at the same time is aware of the severity of sin and the immensity of grace.” We wouldn’t need grace if there were no sin. And sin, I’ve found, separates me from God. My personal spiritual journey is enmeshed with severe sins and grievous missteps. I recognize I’ve been forgiven much – but all of us has regardless of the level of sin we’ve been involved in. As a result I love much. In Luke 7:47, Jesus says of the woman who anointed His feet with perfume: "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." When we realize the nature of our sins – whether “great” or “small” – we cannot but help but love God for His grace toward us.
“Rejoicing doesn’t always look like what we may think. It doesn’t have to be a smiling face and an upbeat personality.” Thank God! There have been many times in my life when others, and myself, would not consider my personality “upbeat.” Words that have been used to describe my personality include things like “intense” and “serious.” I thought for a long time that meant I wasn’t spiritual enough. I somehow got the wrong message that all Christians should be upbeat and happy – all the time. There is a difference between our personalities and the inner peace and joy we can have in Christ. Saying that does not excuse my pessimism or grumpiness. I need to keep Christ first and foremost in mind at all times. When I do that, I can praise God and be thankful in the midst of trials and suffering. We have a hope no one can take away from us. Rejoice in that. That kind of joy may show others there is hope no matter what our circumstances may be.
I suspect as my Bible study partner and I finish up the study of Philippians 4:4-9 next week, I will have more thoughts based on various quotes. Actually, this may go on for a few more weeks, as there is much that got my attention as we summarize the lessons in this study.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Be Anxious for Nothing


As I finish up my study of Philippians 4:4-9, several of the sentences from Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing are worth exploring. I have another week or two before totally leaving this study (before starting on 1 and 2 Samuel), and I may make further comments as I come up with a summary of the lessons I’ve learned. However, for now, these are my thoughts.
“Anxiety is not a sin; it is an emotion.” Emotions are tricky things for me. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that feelings are to be avoided at all costs. After years of therapy, I’m beginning to see the value of the emotional aspects of our being – aspects God created us to have. Yet, I struggle when it comes to “negative” emotions. Somehow I got it into my head that feelings such as sadness, frustration, loneliness, guilt, anger, depression, and yes, anxiety/fear are not good and we shouldn’t have them. This quote reiterates what my therapists have been telling me all along. Emotions are just information. They are not sins. God knew we would have these feelings and thoughts. What we do with them, our behavior, determines whether we sin or not.
“Have I yielded sovereignty to God?” I’ve known and understood the concept that God is sovereign over everything: creation, spiritual battles, weather, people, etc. Yet, I still tried to hold onto the idea that I was self-determined and in control of my life. That it is up to me to effectively manage my world in order to get outcomes that are positive. Wrong! Everything is in God’s hands. I am sovereign (able to rule) over nothing in this world. Yielding my self-sovereign ideas to God’s sovereignty makes life so much easier and less stressful. When I truly believe that God is able and willing to take care of everything, I can freely go about serving Him and trust Him for the outcomes according to His plans. There’s peace in that. Outcomes are not my responsibility.
“The mind cannot at the same time be full of God and full of fear.” I’ve found that to be true. In the last year or so I’ve started everyday with a focus on God. I’ve opened my day with five minutes of praise. I’ve devoted myself to the study of Scripture. I’ve started a prayer journal again. And, throughout the day, I revisit those activities as often as possible (especially the praise). I’ve found my fear to cease as I reflect on God’s power and might and love and mercy and compassion, etc. Fear comes back of course, but I pause and praise and meditate on memorized Scripture, and calm returns. Sometimes, I have to do this many times a day. I’ve found that the more God there is in my thoughts, the less fear affects my attitudes and behaviors. Ultimately, the more peace I have.
“Your anxiety decreases as your understanding of your Father increases.” That goes right along with having a mind full of God. The best (and only?) way I’ve found to truly increase my understanding of my Father is to read, study, memorize, and meditate on His Word, the Bible. I can’t think myself into understanding God. I can’t wish myself into understanding God. I can’t really get an understanding of God by listening to other people’s experiences with God. I need to spend intimate time with Him and His words in order to get to know Him. I need to give Him at least as much time as I would give a person I’m hoping to develop a friendship with. It does require quiet, purposeful discussion and conversation. I can’t really hear God without knowing His Word. Also, I don’t want to know what other people think about God. I want to personally know Him. That means personal time with Him learning about Him through His words.
Hopefully, these thoughts have given you some things to think about. They’ve been great lessons for me, and great reminders of what can happen when I apply Philippians 4:4-9 to my behavior and thoughts.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Quick Thoughts on Philippians 4:4-8

I did not have time this week to write a blog article. Appointments and computer problems got in the way. However, I do have some thoughts on Philippians 4:4-8 and being anxious for nothing.

My Bible study partner and I have been using Max Lucado's book and study guide on this passage of Scripture: Anxious for Nothing. I highly recommend it for everyone, and especially for those who struggle frequently with the issue of anxiety.

In the midst of these familiar verses is verse 5: "Let your forbearing spirit (gentleness) be known to all men. The Lord is near." In situations that can bring me anxiety, remaining gentle and kind, -- instead of frustrated, angry, and defensive -- can help soothe the situation instead of creating further anxiety. And the reason this is possible? Because the Lord is near. Some versions say, "The Lord is at hand." This is not only a true statement, it is key to our existence. He's available. He's taking care of things. He's always working and using situations in our lives to bring about His glory.

Knowing that, we can lay aside our anxieties and trust Him. We can more easily do what verses 6 and 7 say to do: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, practicing verse 8, meditating on the good things in this world and on the good character of God, will impress upon our hearts and minds the fact that the Lord is near. Peace comes from that.

Doing this study and memorizing this passage (in its entirety which I've never done before), has given me a new sense of God's peace in my life. I highly recommend it for everyone. If purchasing the books is not possible, meditating on Philippians 4:4-8 will change your perspective as it's changed mine. And the peace of God will guard you as a result.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Acts 12: Fervent Prayer


When I was writing about the Book of Acts, I did not write anything specific about Acts 12. Here are some thoughts I had as I was rereading this portion of Acts this week.
Most of Acts 12 gives us an account of a miracle involving Peter. Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of the Herod the Great who ruled at the birth of Jesus, was now ruling in Jerusalem. He was supposedly a “zealous practicer of Jewish rites and a religious patriot (Ryrie Study Notes).” In Acts 12 he was busy rounding up the believers still in Jerusalem “in order to mistreat them (vs. 1).” “And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword (vs. 2).” The mistreatment seemed to please the Jews so he also had Peter arrested and thrown in jail.
Peter was chained to guards and other guards were blocking the doorway. Just before he was to be brought to Herod for judgment, the miracle happened. An angel came and broke the chains, opened the doors and escorted Peter out of the prison. Once free, Peter realized just what God had done by sending an angel to rescue him. Peter went to a specific house where he had probably been many times. We can assume he knew people would be there praying.
In verse 5, we have a description of what was going on in that house: “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” This is a challenge to me. Is my prayer “fervent?” Is the prayer being made in my church “fervent?” According to Merriam-webster.com, fervent is defined as: “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling: zealous.” Great intensity. Can my prayer life be described as having great intensity? I think I’ve rarely been in a situation where I would describe the prayer as being fervent.
At an Easter Sunday service at my church recently, the Pastor was explaining the gospel message tracing Jesus’ role from Genesis to Revelation. There was an opportunity for people to come forward if they had made a decision to follow Christ during the last year or if they were making first time decisions right then. This was a cause for fervent prayer. Throughout the services, there were people praying – individually and in small groups. I think I experienced fervent prayer as I was part of one of those small groups. However, it was relatively short-lived compared to the all-night praying of the early church for Peter’s situation.
I also wonder if we prayer fervently for those in our world today who are imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. I’m convicted by my lack of knowledge of such people around the world. I know there are some, possibly many, but I just don’t know any specifics about them or their situations. I do, however, have first hand experience with situations in Haiti involving social unrest, poverty, health concerns, and educational issues. I can be fervently praying for the people I met and those who are on the front lines trying to minister in those difficult situations. I need to do more of that. I think we also should all do some research into which and where people are imprisoned or under persecution for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think there’s a place for fervent prayer in our world today. Maybe even more so as the time of Christ’s return is closer everyday. Am I, are you, praying angels into situations where believers need divine help? I’m going to start doing more of that kind of praying.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Haiti Part 8: People


This will be the last post about Haiti for this year. I thought I’d end with some photos of various people. I will not identify them to protect their privacy. I will comment about them a little.
Spectators at various roofing sites. The children loved having their photos taken.
 

 
  
Children playing.


At the American University of the Caribbean talking to students learning English.

A man de-husking coconuts for us.

 A family in front of their newly roofed home.

So farewell. Orevwa. Good bye. From Haiti.
I hope you've enjoyed these articles about my trip -- God's work -- in Haiti. I pray you will continue to pray with me for Haiti and the work of LSM.





Thursday, March 15, 2018

Haiti Part 7: A Developing Country


I hinted at the ruggedness of Haiti. What we all need to keep in mind is that Haiti is a developing country. We can’t go there expecting the amenities we are accustomed to in the United States. The economy is developing. The construction is developing. The government is developing. Education is developing. Transportation is developing. However, Haiti has a rich culture and traditions that should not be overlooked.
On Day #7, as we were trying to get to the airport in Port-Au-Prince from Les Cayes, there had been some demonstrations going on in a town about halfway to our destination (2 hours into the 4 hour drive). We were delayed alongside the road for several hours. There were many rumors about what the disturbance was about, but God had kept us safe by causing us to have to stop in a queue of traffic several miles before the troubled area. God had arranged for our safety – using the LovingShepherd Ministries hospitality people and a very skilled Haitian driver to keep us safe. Sure, there was some fear. However, I knew we were in God’s hands and under His protection. Whatever may come, we would be safe (if not in the present, in eternity). Just another indication we were in a developing nation.
As a result of the delay in our drive, we missed our flight out of Port-Au-Prince. The LSM support person was able to arrange for lodging for the night, and new flight arrangements were made so we could leave the next day.
On Day #8 of the trip I wrote in my journal:
Right now as I sit in a hotel room in the heart of Port-Au-Prince (near the airport), I’m fully aware this is a developing country – used to be referred to as third-world but that sounds too close to third-rate or a low priority. As Christians, we should see it as God’s harvest fields, ready for harvest, a first priority, a first-rate country [Matthew 9:37-38: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”]. [The hotel is] in the heart of the industrial areas and there are sheep bleating, chickens clucking and crowing, intermingled with the roar of diesel engines and cars honking. I don’t quite feel safe – I do feel God’s protection. I feel my vulnerability as a mere human in the masses of people. Yet, again, I’m experiencing God’s peace and love in the midst of “scary” situations and the fears of my own mind.
I share this so you have an accurate picture of Haiti and an understanding of its great need for help. LSM is doing much to enhance the development of Haiti’s economy, availability for education to some of the most vulnerable children, and training for future workers. Again, I’ve said it before in previous blogs, LSM is a ministry worthyof our prayers and support. And, Haiti is worth such support.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Haiti Part 6: Some of the Sights


This blog post will mostly be photos of some of the sights we experienced with brief explanations about what you are looking at.
Some contrasts first. 
 Most of the shoreline in Haiti is littered with debris. The people use the riverbanks during dry seasons as places leave garbage. When it rains, the garbage gets swept out to sea and ends up floating back up on the shores. There are some (mostly) private beaches that are well-kept and swimmable. We saw both. This nice beach is in Port-Salut south of Les Cayes. 



There are open fields between the hills and crowded cities. The city is Port-Au-Prince from the balcony of our hotel. When you think “city” do not picture Chicago. As many people might live there, but homes and facilities are still rather unsophisticated.

The landscape can be described as mostly hilly and mostly rocky. It’s amazing to see the people navigate the hills and the rocks as though they were on a flat sidewalk in the U.S. The climbs and walks were very challenging for me. Being able to walk a couple of miles on my road at home did not prepare me well for the terrain in Haiti. Next time (hopefully there will be a next time), I will be more prepared.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Haiti Part 5: Homes of Hope


Haiti Part 5: Homes of Hope
On two of the afternoons we were in Les Cayes, we visited the Home of Hope our church helps sponsor. This home consisted of a married couple as the parents and fourteen girls ranging in age from about three to late teens. This provides a family-like environment for these vulnerable children.
On Loving Shepherd Ministries website these homes are described the following way:
Homes of Hope are not orphanages. They are not institutions. They are not group homes. Within their permanent family, each child receives the love, spiritual guidance, and close parental relationships they need to feel safe and loved. The very same things we strive to provide for our own children.
That dynamic was very much in evidence during our visits. They are a family that provides the security and guidance we would all like to see in every home. These “vulnerable” children and the home environments are best described in LSM’s own words. Please visit their website using the various links in this blog to read more about this exciting ministry and find out how you can help.
We were shown the family’s garden that they took great pride in. It supplies fresh vegetables to them and plenty of coconuts. They shared coconuts with us and I had my first taste of what coconut is supposed to be like. I’ve never been one to enjoy the dried, stringy stuff we get in our markets in the States. I usually avoided it, but fresh coconut is nothing like that. We drank the liquid from the inside through a hole chopped into the “shell” before it was cut in half. Inside was a soft, pudding-like food, which we ate with spoons. It’s something I will remember (and it will probably prevent me from buying coconuts from the supermarket).
The girls, through our translator, asked us many questions. We asked some of them. On the first visit, as we were getting ready to leave, the girls spontaneously broke out in song There’s a short video on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/mary.grimm.9) from February 7th. Then they asked us to sing and we stumbled our way through the first verse of Amazing Grace. They were much, much better at carrying a tune than the six of us. Then we all sang, in English, Jesus Loves Me. It is a memorable experience from the trip.
Again, please visit the Home of Hope page on LSM’s website to find out how to help support these terrific ministry situations. There are about 20 homes all together, some for boys and some for girls. The education and training these children are getting is making lasting changes in Haiti and you can be a part. There are other ways you can help. Contact Loving Shepherd Ministries to see what they need.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Haiti Part 4


More about the third day. Last week I described what we did in the morning of January 22. The afternoon was spent doing the key thing on our agenda (and what we would spend the next couple of days primarily doing).
We assisted LSM’s Haitian team build roofs on several houses. Specifically, on the third day, we completed one roof in the Cavaillon area of Les Cayes. The roofs had already been roughed in with pole rafters. Our job was to help “flesh out” those rafters giving nailing surfaces for the tin that was to be attached as the final roof. Three of us were moving around the roofs with the efficient and skilled Haitians, doing this work. One was involved with on-the-ground preparation work and handing materials to the men on the roof. My role was to be a “go-for” going for various items the roofers needed, such as water bottles, more nails, and various tools.
When not getting things for the roofers, I tried to stay out of the way and mingle with Haitians who had come to watch the construction. I was not very good at it due to the language barrier, but most of the children loved having their photos taken and then looking at the digital displays on our phones. Often I found myself sitting in the shade praying for the projects, the men, the attitudes, and that we would truly be helpful in building the various roofs.
A little about the roofs. Some of the homes we put roofs on had lost their roofs (and most of their walls) during the hurricane from a year and a half ago (Matthew). The houses had been only marginally useful to the owners and the new and improved roofs of tin were greatly appreciated. Some of the families had been living with other families since the hurricane. With the roofs they were one step closer to moving back into their own homes. Others had been using thatch for their roofs. Thatch (made from straw, reeds, palm leaves, etc.) was available but leaked. It was also dislodged by storms and wind. Tin roofs are wonderful replacements and would keep the families dry for many years to go. The Haitian “crew leader” said that in normal conditions, a tin roof could last for up to ten years. That’s a marked improvement from the thatch!
Just as we returned to our lodgings at the end of the day, it started to rain. Our prayer was that the family had been able to get their belongings moved back into their newly roofed home before the rain, and was able to enjoy a dry shelter.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Haiti Part 3


On the third day of the trip, we started the day with a tour of two of LSM’s projects. These projects and various other ones LSM has planned impressed me. The projects are designed to be training facilities to give Haitians jobs and sources of income. They will be self-sustaining once totally operational. It is an exciting situation.
The first place we visited was a block making enterprise. Haitians do not build buildings the way Americans do. Lumber is scarce and expensive. Rocks and rock by products (aggregate and sand) are readily available. The block plant utilizes these available resources to make cement blocks the Haitians use to construct sturdier buildings. Houses, storefronts, businesses, everything can be constructed using block. There has been no industrialized block making facilities in the Les Cayes area. All high quality block had to be trucked in from Port Au Prince. This facility is greatly needed in Les Cayes. LSM is providing a service to the people, the other industries, and themselves by making block and selling it at reasonable rates. They’ve already begun selling stone aggregate to various businesses. We were able to see one such contractor come in for a large truckload of aggregate. Currently LSM is the biggest customer for the block being produced as they expand their network of Homes of Hope (family-oriented orphan groups I will talk about in next week’s blog) and other projects.
The next place we visited was an agricultural center being implemented near Les Cayes. This center currently is a working farm with cattle, chickens, and pigs. However, it is being developed into a training center with dormitories and classrooms to train people in all kinds of areas dealing with producing, making and marketing food, and technology. Currently, the chickens are providing enough eggs to sell to several retail outlets, including some as far away as Port Au Prince. As the farm grows more of the chickens will also be sold to retail outlets. The hotel we were staying at served us omelets several mornings – made from the farm’s eggs.
We were also told about and driven by a new grocery store in Les Cayes that was supposed to open last week. Staff was being trained and merchandise was being delivered. There are also plans to build a retail center similar to our strip malls. This will be located not far from the block-making facility and house several businesses. One will be a retail outlet for their block, with a motorcycle store/rental place also being planned. All to be operated by Haitians for the Haitian people. All while making the message of Christ’s love known throughout the region.
I’m impressed with LSM’s devotion to giving the people of Haiti a “hand-up” versus a “hand-out.” They are in the business of training people to be independent and self-sustaining, to be able to house, clothe, and feed themselves by their own efforts. I found the Haitian people to be resourceful, resilient and hard-working people. LSM is trying to capitalize on those qualities to better Haiti and share the message of Christ. This is a ministry worth supporting.