Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Samuel 21-27

Lots of info here tonight...we'll brief each chapter.

Chapter 21:  David begins hiding from Saul at Nob.  He lied and told the people that Saul sent him there, so that he could safely hide.  He took the sword of Goliath while he was there.  Then he went to the king of Gath who said, "Aren't you the mighty David?" and then David began to act crazy in order to keep his cover so that they wouldn't kill him.

Chapter 22:  David acquires his own followers/army.  He took his parents to be safe in Moab at this point, but the prophet Gad told him he wasn't safe and should return to Judah.  David then goes back to Judah.  Saul discovers David's whereabouts and he and his army go to Nob and slay everyone and the one man left, Abiathar, ran to David--who then takes the blame for the death of this man's family--who promises to keep him safe.

Chapter 23:  David takes his men and goes to Keilah, who were fighting the Philistines, and helps them fight the Philistines.  Saul again discovers David's whereabouts, but David speaks with God who tells him that the Keilahites will turn him over to Saul, so David runs off into the wilderness and meets up with Jonathon once again.  Jonathon tells David not to worry and that he will someday be the rightful king of Israel.  The Ziphites (where David was hiding) told Saul all of the possible hiding places in the wilderness, but Saul then got called back to Israel as the Philistines were attacking once again.

Chapter 24:  After fighting the Philistines, Saul hunts David down to a cave in Engedi.  However, David is not found and therefore David is given the chance to take Saul's life, but instead just cuts his skirt.  After that skirmish, David says, "Hey, Saul!  I could have killed you, but I chose not to kill the Lord's anointed because what kind of king would that make me?"  Saul then says, "You are such a good person--you are the rightful successor to the throne.  When you become king, please spare my family."  (Side note: at this time, it was customary for the current king to kill the former king's family.)

Chapter 25:  Samuel dies.  David then goes to Carmel and asks Nabal, a wealthy man, for some help and protection from Saul, to which Nabal says, "Get bent!  Why should I help every servant who leaves his master!"  So David and his men get ready to smite Nabal and his servants and family, but Nabal's wife Abigail gathers a peace offering and says, "Please, spare us.  My husband is an idiot.  Consider me your handmaid...but I won't tell Nabal."  So Nabal gets plastered and in the morning after he sobers up, Abigail tells him everything that happened and Nabal gets so upset that "his heart died within him and he became as a stone."  Nabal dies 10 days later and David rejoices about this and then takes Abigail as his wife...and picks up another wife along the way.

Chapter 26:  Another game of hide-and-seek with Saul.  Saul finds David again and sets up camp.  Saul and his men sleep (probably in preparation for the big kill) and David and his men find Saul and take his sword and his canteen.  When Saul wakes up, David calls to him again and says, "I had yet another chance to kill you and yet I spared your life."  So Saul says, "You really are good.  You will  be king one day.  Come back with me."  But instead they part ways.

Chapter 27:  David wants to find a new hiding place from Saul, because, lets be honest, Saul hasn't exactly been a man of his word to this point. So, David takes his army of 600 and his 2 wives and goes to Gath to hang out with the Philistine king Achish. David goes into battle and expands the lands of Achish. Achish is happy with what David is doing for him and is convinced that the people of Israel will now hate David.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I. Samuel 20: The importance of translation and context

In this chapter we see a hotly debated topic of the bible come to light...I'll go into more detail on that shortly, but  first lets summarize the chapter:

Saul is determined to kill David. As happened previously, we see that this concerns Jonathan so he plots to help David. He wants to help David find out if Saul has cooled off or not. When Jonathan brings up the topic to Saul, he flips out at Jonathan because of his relationship with David. Jonathan secretly lets David know that Saul will stop at nothing to kill him and the two part ways in sorrow knowing that they will probably never see each other again.

And now to the topic of debate. Google the relationship of David and Jonathan and see what comes up. The words of different translations of the Bible are used both for and against a homosexual relationship between the two. The point of bringing this up is not to take sides in the debate. Quite honestly, I don't think it changes the story that much in the grand scheme of things anyway.

The point I want to make about this is how translation and context are used by different people in different ways. It is done in a fashion similar to political polling. A convincing argument can be made for anything when statistics or quotes are used out of context. Likewise, Biblical quotes taken out of context and in different translations can be used quite convincingly to make a point. What drives these arguments though? Agendas. Molly and I have dug into the Bible with an open mind, unaltered by previous pre-conceptions of what it is we are reading. I recommend you do the same. Different translations of the original Greek and Hebrew text were done by different people with different agendas. Different biblical studies and interpretations have been done by people with different agendas. When reading the Bible, DON'T HAVE AN AGENDA!!! In the short time we have been reading the bible I constantly find myself trying to understand things to try to apply it to life. But I also need to keep the safety valve open to not let the wants of my life adjust my interpretation of what we are reading.

In other words, if I want the Bible to convince me that I should act a certain way, I will read it in that light. Let this blog post be a mental check for you. When you are learning about anything new (not just the Bible), ask yourself, am I doing this with an open mind? Or am I just doing this to reinforce beliefs I already hold true. Allowing your beliefs to occasionally be shaken is an amazing experience that will lead you down a path to genuine knowledge.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We're back...I. Samuel 18-19

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last week or so. Life got hectic for us and hopefully you had a chance to catch up on everything.

Where we last left off, David had slain Goliath. As a result, we now find that David was given a prominent place in Saul's kingdom leading armies. Saul however had become very jealous of David as the Lord had left Saul, but now was with David. In a backwards thinking mentality, Saul was determined to have David slain, but by putting him in positions to die (like leading the armies against the Philistines). David always prevailed though, and the people began to sing his praises more so than Saul. Even Saul's son Jonathon loved  David. Saul then tried giving his daughter to David, but ended up giving her to another prince. Saul's other daughter fell in love with David and Saul saw this as an opportunity to give her to David as a wife in a plot to get David slain by Philistines. He thought he could use his daughter to distract David and get to him. Of course, David was never slain by Philistines. Getting frustrated and in fits of rage, Saul eventually turned to throwing javelins at David.

At one point though, Jonathon convinced his father not to harm David, but then in a fit of rage he threw another javelin at him. When David escaped, he sent messengers to kill him at his house, but Saul's own daughter put a dummy in the bed and said that David was sick and couldn't come to the door. David escaped to hang out with Samuel until things would blow over, but Saul went on the warpath looking for  David. At first Saul sent messengers to find him, but they ended up being take by the Lord to prophesy with the prophets. Then Saul went himself and had a similar thing happen to him, being overtaken by the Lord and becoming like a prophet at Samuel's doorstep.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Samuel 13-17: David comes on the scene

Its hard to imagine that anyone could ignore God's will after being bestowed a kingdom by God, but that's exactly what Saul does. He gets a bog head, raises an army and goes on the warpath in the name of Israel. This is all fine and dandy except that his head grows too large and he starts demanding burnt offerings and ordering the people around outside of the powers bestowed upon him (as outlined by Samuel). Samuel points out to him that because he has disobeyed God, his kingdom will not reign for a long time, rather it will dissipate. 

After this, a slight feud begins between Saul and his son, Jonathon. Jonathon goes after some of the Philistines and is victorious but did so against his fathers blessing. They both admit that Jonathon will die for his disobedience, but the people speak out and save him. Saul continues on his warring ways.

After seeming to make up with God a little bit, Samuel commissions Saul to slay all of the Amalakites (a sinful people). He is to slay all of them without taking any spoils or showing any mercy for anyone. Saul does slay the people but takes the king (Agag) as a prisoner and takes the best livestock to be offered as burnt offerings to the Lord. This is the last straw as Samuel scolds Saul for disobeying God, telling him he is done as king in the eyes of God. Samuel then goes and slays Agag himself. Samuel then  secretly anoints David (the least of Jesse's sons) in the city of Bethlehem to be the new king (An interesting twist that a new king would secretly come out of Bethlehem, eh?). Torn by demons as God's blessing has left him, Saul's aids suggest music to calm his soul. David ends up being the musician Saul finds to come and soothe him with music when the demons strike.

The next chapter (17) is the David and Goliath story which I will not go into any detail about as everyone should know it. There is a timeline ambiguity here though. During this battle with the Philistines, Jesse's 3 oldest sons are reintroduced as having followed into Saul's army, as if they were never mentioned before (They actually were in the previous chapter when David was anointed). David, despite being Saul's armor bearer in the previous chapter only shows up on the scene because Jesse sent him with food for his brothers. After famously defeating Goliath with a sling and cutting off his head, David is not known by Saul. If he was his musician and armor bearer, wouldn't Saul know who he was? Interestingly enough, in our children's bible, David arriving in Saul's court and the Goliath story are reversed. This is one of those things you don't notice when the bible is read in sections. It is through a thorough read through like we are doing that we actually notice these kinds of things. Any thoughts as to why the timeline confusion would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Fresh Take: We need a healing!

How many of us have heard or said the following:  "I kind of hope that the doctor finds something wrong with me...that way I know I'm not crazy!"

When I was pregnant with my first son, I had terrible heartburn all the time.  I always assumed that it just came with the territory.  After he was born, I began having severe esophageal spasms--though it got diagnosed as gallstones and was followed by an unfortunately unnecessary surgery.  My problems got better after the surgery, but wouldn't stay better forever.  When I was pregnant with my second son, I began eating small, frequent meals in an effort to control my weight, control my heartburn, and eat healthier.  Generally speaking, it worked.  However after my son was born, I began again to have these very severe esophageal spasms, to the point where they were causing me to throw up.  This time I had an upper endoscopy and got put on an extra strength proton-pump inhibitor (acid reducer) in addition to nyastatin for the yeast that was found in my esophagus; this time the treatment didn't work.  For months on and off I battled with heartburn and stomach pains and found very little that gave me any amount of relief.  Then I finally had enough.  I found myself getting angry--about life in general, really--and I knew that I needed to take action.

I could have followed this all up with more useless doctors appointments, more unhelpful online research, or more medication.  Instead, I turned to the idea that my mind was causing more of this problem than I realized.  I won't say that diet didn't have anything to do with it--I've certainly eaten my fair share of junk since I graduated high school--but I do believe that it was mostly my own inner turmoil that caused this problem.

What?  Inner turmoil?  But you seem to have it all together!  I believe that we ALL have inner turmoil.  Our spirits are often being weighed down by baggage that we carry around for ourselves and others.  Our mental self recognizes these feelings of hurt, fear, frustration, and anger and it says, "I don't like this...I don't want to be thought of as a nut-job!" and if our mental self succeeds at getting across that message, than our emotional self will just stay quiet and conceal all of this heavy, heavy baggage.  Since we have no emotional outlet at this point, our physical self needs to let it out in some way.  That could be heartburn.  It could be cancer.  It could be back pain or failing vision or chronic migraines.  Are these physical symptoms real?  Absolutely!  And if you go to your doc, he'll probably be able to give you something for it.  And it might even work...if you want it to.

The problem is that when we acknowledge our physical symptoms (which likely showed up as a result of baggage) as nothing more than a physical symptom, then it is unlikely that the symptom will ever really go away.  We'll always rely on that medication and underneath that thing that covers up this physical symptom, we're still in pain.  If it does go away, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will come back in some other form!  What's more, when we injure ourselves it becomes an easy outlet for that emotional baggage.  What if instead when we felt some sort of physical symptom, we stopped to take note about whether or not there was an accompanying emotional inclination?  If you see a link, then you can take it back another step and try to release any spiritual baggage that might be weighing you down.

I don't believe that this means we need to live in the past and uncover every little horrible thing that's ever happened to us.  But when you do stop to think about the many, many hurtful things that have happened to all of us over the course of our lives--things that most of us have just sloughed off!--there sure is an accumulation of damage.  And when that accumulation just continues to get buried within ourselves, it's bound to surface in some way at some point.

Society definitely wants us to have physical problems and definitely doesn't accept us being "crazy".  If you're in therapy, you're a loony.  If you're on medication, you're some kind of victim.  Human nature tends to lead us to side with the victim instead of the loony (of course that's perfectly appropriate in some circumstances).  Our mind finds it more socially acceptable--because everybody has it--to have heartburn, or migraines, or even cancer than we do to say, "I'm a spiritually hurting individual."  I have news for you; we're all hurting!

Start acknowledging your problems.  That shouldn't imply that you need to start complaining about everything, but try getting to the root of the problem and admit what's been bothering you.  Furthermore, figure out WHY it bothers you (i.e. control issues, acceptance issues, abandonment issues).  If you can start addressing these things to yourself and to those you love the most, I would be willing to bet that most of your physical ailments will start vanishing.  Give the process some time and expect that you might unearth some rather unpleasant things.  But stay diligent and just remind yourself that you are replacing your mind's need for a physical ailment by releasing the baggage that you've been carrying for so long.

I'll end this by giving a brief detail of the things I discovered about myself.  After my battles with heartburn and esophageal spasms, I turned to the idea that I had issues I didn't want to deal with.  Then I started making a list of things that were hurting me:  loneliness from staying at home, resentment that my husband got to escape the difficulties of parenthood for a little while every day, frustration that I couldn't seem to control the household followed by frustration that I felt the need to control everything, anger at my dad for my compulsion to want to please everyone (and control everything), doubt that I would really be able to make it through life on top, etc, etc.  The list literally goes on (and yes, those mentioned in my list had been confronted about these things a while back).  It took a little bit of time to let go of these things, and sometimes these feelings do sneak back in again, but in less than a month I was feeling better than I had ever felt in my life.  I felt like I was back to 100% in my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical self.  The best news of all is that I never had any issues with heartburn or esophageal spasms during or after my third pregnancy.  Now I know that when these physical issues start to creep in I can just take a "time-out" and remind myself of what I've learned and what's been bothering me.  Sometimes all it takes is saying, "My mind has decided that it is more socially acceptable to have heartburn than to be a crazy person!"

Please consider this idea.  I've always considered myself very blessed and I don't care to complain a lot about what I've been dealt, but this idea really freed me and let me see that I didn't need to always work so hard to make my life seem great.  Stress is the ONLY link that all physical ailments have in common!  We should want to physically take care of ourselves, but our physical self is only part of the equation.  Stop wanting your physical self to have a problem.  Start wanting your whole self to be healed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I Samuel 9-12; Saul is chosen

In chapters 9-12 of Samuel, we learn how Saul was chosen by God to be the king of Israel and how he proved himself to the Israelites.

Samuel was told by God that Saul was the "goodliest" man in all of Israel and that he should be the king requested by the people.  Saul first loses his father's donkeys and Saul and his servant got sent to find them.  They asked where the "seer" was (a prophet) and they were sent to Samuel.  Samuel was like, "Oh, snap!  God told me yesterday that this guy would show up and that I should make him the king of Israel!"  Samuel anointed Saul and told him not to worry about the donkeys, that they had been found.  He also told him that he would run into prophets and would prophesy with them for a bit.  This helped to establish to the people that Saul was a wise man.  Then Samuel gathered Israel and announced that Saul would be their king (he was hiding out and they had to go find him). After announcing this, Saul wrote down in a book how the kingdom would be laid out.

In the wake of this announcement, some doubted Saul's kingly abilities. So, Saul took to the battlefield against the Ammonites and was victorious, proving his leadership abilities. He further proved his wisdom and justness by forgiving those who had doubted when it was suggested that they be put to death.

Now that Saul was solidly in place as the king, God had Samuel remind the people that God was the one responsible for all of their successes and deliverance from oppressors. And despite having a king, the people should never forget that God is the one behind the king who gives him power.

If anything we have read in the bible about the people of Israel so far could be any indication of what will happen, we can assume that the people will ignore this reminder from God and become full of themselves once again.....smite smite smite.....

As I'm writing this, I'm having a bit of an epiphany about the reason the people of Israel are chronicled in the bible. These stories are like looking into the mirror of our human existence. The Jews continuously forget about God every time things get good and God has to put them back in their place. This seems to be human nature. As soon as things start going well, we begin to forget the hard work (and help from God) it took to get to that point. Once we forget what got us there, we fail to work to maintain our momentum...and then we fall, only to have to start the cycle over again. These stories are the stories of how not to be. They are warnings of this cycle of mediocrity working to greatness only to fall to mediocrity again. Stand up and break the cycle. Remember what it took to get yourself on top and for once, work to stay there!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Samuel 1-8

The further back you go in the bible, the more humorous the language some of the earliest books in the bible (and have a dictionary handy!) and you'll see what we mean :)

We began the first book of Samuel tonight.  Our oldest son has been having us read the David stories out of his children's bible, so we thought Samuel (aka First book of Kings) would be a good place to start.

Samuel begins with talk of a man named Elkanah and his two wives, Hannah and Peninnah.  Penninah had children, but Hannah did not.  She wanted children and went to the priest at Shiloh (where the ark was kept) to ask God for a child.  Eli, the priest, heard her crying and told her to go home and wait for God to answer her prayers.  God answers her prayers and gives her Samuel.  When Samuel is old enough to be apart from Hannah, she brings him to Shiloh to offer him to God and he lives there with the priest Eli (whose sons we learn are corrupt).  Because Hannah offers Samuel to God and because she sings his praises after he goes to serve God, Hannah has 5 more children.  We then read about God calling Samuel--literally, calling his name.  Samuel thinks that Eli is calling him during the night but when he goes to him, Eli says, "I didn't call you, go back to sleep."  This happens three times and finally Eli says, "God is calling time tell him you are listening."  So Samuel responds the next time God calls his name and God tells him that because Eli's sons are sinners and Eli doesn't do much to set them straight, his sons will die young.  Therefore Samuel is to become Eli's successor.  Time passes and everyone acknowledges Samuel as prophet of the Lord.

Then we turn our attention to the Philistines.  The Philistines come into Israel and take some of their land, but more importantly, they take the ark of the covenant.  It would seem that they take it because they are afraid of it...when it arrived in the Israelites camp, there were great shouts and the Philistines recognized that this was the power of the same God that smote the Egyptians.  When the ark was taken, Eli's sons were slain (they had been with the ark).  When Eli heard news that his sons her dead and the ark had been taken, he fell over backwards and died.  When his daughter-in-law (who was pregnant) got all of the previous news, she went into labor, had a son, and died, but not until she says, "The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken."

So the Philistines brought the ark into the house of one of their gods, Dagon.  In the morning, Dagon was destroyed by God's hand and the people of the land were smote with what we deciphered to mean hemorrhoids.  Now the Philistines want nothing to do with the ark.  So they bring it to Bethshemesh, where apparently the look into the ark and get smitten.  And the ark moves on to Kirjathjearim were it rested for 20 years.  The Israelites finally come to Samuel and say, "Okay, we repent.  We'll stop serving other Gods.  Just please help deliver us from the Philistines."  So God delivers them from the Philistines.

As Samuel got old, he made his sons judges over Israel.  But evidently, much like Eli, his sons were corrupt.  So the people ask Samuel to bring them a king.  God tells Samuel, "They are not turning on you, they are turning on me.  Warn them of all the problems a king will bring  them."  Samuel warns them that a king will take everything from you (basically taxes), but they still beg for a king.  God tells Samuel that when the people complain about the problems a king will cause, he will do nothing about it because they were warned of the dangers of a king. God finally tells Samuel, if they really want a king, then give them a king.

On a side note for those who might be reading our posts but not reading along in the bible, this book is written much more in a narative format. It isn't based around visions, parables and difficult language, but rather is a historical narrative about what was going on when Samuel was the priest of the Irsaelites.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Amos 5-9: A couple of observations

As Amos finishes, we have made a couple of observations. The prophetic books are often filled with doom and gloom. Amos is no different. God is giving visions to someone who then passes on the word that God will punish the people for their sins. While smiting is quite common place, the typical action is letting invaders come into the land and take over. The doom and gloom that Amos is speaking of even gets him accused of conspiring against the which he is asked to leave the land. His response is that he isn't a prophet, but merely a herdsman that God picked to go and warn people about their ways.

What is your response when someone tells you a truth that you do not want to hear? Typically it is to tell them to get away. Perhaps we need to listen more closely rather than pushing the honest away from us. It is human nature to want to be liked. Therefore it is hard to tell someone a truth that might hurt them. For this reason we need to grab on to our friends who are truly honest with us. It is through their wisdom that we will become better people.

Another observation in Amos are the threats that God is giving. Yes, I have mentioned the typical smiting, but God makes mention a number of times that the people will have to go without them. Even when they want to search out his word, it will not be found. What are we to make of this punishment? I think what God is trying to get across is that if we continue to ignore him and ignore the good things he does for us, he won't be there anymore. By becoming a godless people, we will make our God go away. The scary thing is that I believe this to be happening in today's day and age. It is a time when "knowledge" is at your fingertips. Why pray for understanding when you can just search for an answer on the internet. The distractions of our world and the false sense of security that technology (medical technology included) creates makes us feel like we don't need a higher power to help take care of us. As we begin to forget about our God, he will go away. Now here is a frightening thought to ponder: If you decide to go through life without God, how will you know where to find him when you need him most?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Amos 1-4

We got to start a new book tonight. By the close-her-eyes-and-point method, Molly found the book of Amos. This book consists of the visions of a herdsman who lived during the time of king Uziah (that's when Isaiah lived as well). It is stated that this takes place 2 years before the earthquake. Knowing what earthquake would certainly put the historical context in place on these readings, but it is another example of how the different books of the old testament are somewhat historical in context. we typically think of the bible as a book we get readings from in church, but it is becoming more and more clear that it is a history of the chosen people. This is where reading it out of order can get a little confusing.

This is a shorter book and is one of the one's we frequently don't hear much least we hadn't. It begins with a series of nations that God will burn the palaces of for their transgressions, eventually getting to Israel. God makes it known that Israel has ad its fair share of problems. God even points out both the good and bad ways he has made his presence known to the Israelites, but they have continued to sin.

Wouldn't it be a lot easier to go through life if God pointed out what were his signs and what weren't? you would think that a sign from god would be obvious, but even his chosen people failed to see them. Why? Probably because like us, they were too distracted by their everyday lives to notice the bigger picture. We have mentioned in previous posts the issues of distraction, but I think it really is distraction that keeps us from realizing our potential with God. We spend our entire life looking for signs from God to let us know we are doing the right thing, but unfortunately most of us don't get a burning bush on a mountain to explain the details. We must be observant in our lives. We must pay attention to those around us. Most of the time, a sign from God may be as simple as a red light when we are in a hurry to get to work in the morning. Perhaps this is God telling us not to be in such a hurry, or perhaps he is telling us that we need to get up earlier so that we can take our time. God influences our lives everyday and we don't realize it. Perhaps if we would just put the smart phone down and take a break to reflect on our day, we might realize his actions at work in our daily lives.

Belated Sunday Fresh Take: Rest!

I had "one of those days" last week...all week long!  I felt grumpy, tired, frustrated, and just plain-old burnt out.  I kept trying to get things done only to have one of my children undo what I had just worked on.  Their schedules didn't line up the way they normally do.  We didn't get outside for exercise at all--even when the weather was beautiful.  I kept saying, "There just aren't enough hours in the day!"  I just felt like screaming!  So by the time Friday was here, I had finally had enough.  When they all napped (at the same time--hooray!), I decided it was time to lay down and rest.  No e-mail, no television, no phone, no magazines or books; just me and the couch with my eyes closed.  It was beautiful.  While I was laying there, I just thought a lot.  I prayed a little, organized my days a little, but mostly, I just thought.  By the time I was done resting, I felt, well...rested!  It was at that moment that I realized what my next Sunday Fresh Take needed to be about.  It was at that moment that I realized, "So THIS is what the Sabbath is all about!"

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord hath blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it."

Recall this?  Yup, it's one of the ten commandments.  God actually orders us to rest.  And how many of us actually listen?  Even when we're taking some much needed down-time, most of us are still doing something.  We turn on the tv, talk on the phone, check our e-mail--and before we know it, our time of rest is over and we find ourselves thinking, "Wait, what just happened to the last two hours?  I was planning on resting!"  See previous post

It may seem unrealistic to have one day where you literally do nothing and go nowhere.  It probably sounds a little boring.  It probably sounds like an ancient, unnecessary practice.  After all, many of us have to work on Saturday, so Sunday has to be a day to get things done, right?  Or if not to get things done, then many of us use it as a day to catch up on reading or to watch tv.  But what if we all sat around and did NOTHING?  Would we fall behind?  Would we feel lazy?  Would we be bored?  I believe that the answer to all of these question would  be "No!  We wouldn't!"

When you get sick, you probably lay around and sleep a lot.  And after a couple of days of that (or maybe after just one), you feel soooooo bored and ready to rejoin the world.  Think of a day of rest like resting when you're sick; your body needs that rest, but after it gets what it needs, it's ready to get back to life as usual.  When you're sick, you don't want to move a muscle.  But when you feel better, you usually have more energy.  Think of the sabbath as a day to renew your energy levels.  When you're sick you don't get anything done around the house--and you typically don't need to because you haven't done anything for a day or two.  What you do need to get done, will get done because it's just what you have to do.  Think of your day off as that push that you need to get done what's necessary during the rest of the week.  Now imagine having a day of complete rest every single week!  I bet we'd be feeling ready to get back to life as usual, we'd have more energy, we'd find ourselves being more productive during the week.  We'd find that we don't feel burnt out as often, we'd probably find that we enjoy (and need) exercise every other day of the week, and maybe we'd even find that we don't get sick as often because our bodies don't require the extra rest and the "mental health day."

If you're still skeptical about our need for the Sabbath, try it for a few weeks.  There must be one day of the week that works for you.  See how you feel.  God wouldn't command such a thing if he didn't feel it necessary.

Enjoy your next day off!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Job 32-42: We see the reason for it all

I think it may be starting to sound like a broken record, but once again we see God working in mysterious ways. If you aren't reading along with us, let me briefly recap:

Now that Job has gone off on his friends and blatantly stated his righteousness, his friends refuse to speak anymore. Having finally gotten a chance to speak, a younger casual observer takes center stage and reprimands all of them. He goes off on job's friends for being so accusatory of Job without any evidence and then goes off on Job for claiming to be righteous (after all, only God is truly righteous). No one has a response for him so he keeps talking about how great God is and how much better than man God is. This sets the stage for God who decides to join the conversation in the form of a whirlwind.

God proceeds for several chapters to ask Job if he is capable of of all of the amazing things God has done. this makes Job feel like a fool (especially when you consider that Job had previously told his friends that he had wisdom given from God). After this humbling experience, Job repents while his friends are told to offer up a sacrifice to God and pray for Job. After this repentance, Job is reinstated to greater than his prior health with new children.

While we have pointed out many lessons that can be gleaned from Job's speeches while being afflicted it is not until the end of the book of Job that we learn the ultimate lesson. DON'T GET ARROGANT!!! When things are going well for us, it is an exhilarating rush. We are carried by the momentum of a seemingly endless chain of events going our way. We start to think that we can do no wrong when suddenly...everything bad happens at once.

 Life seems to happen in streaks, I see this often in my sales job. Sometimes it seems like I can do no wrong and other times it seems like I can't sell a thing. It has been hard to maintain a consistent attitude about the job when it is so streaky, but it all seems to even out in the end. Likewise, life always seems to even out in the end. It may be hard in the good times to remember the bad and it may be hard in the bad times to remember the good, but if we step back and get a larger perspective of the entire situation, then we will see the balance and the purpose of it all. Sweet wouldn't be sweet of we didn't have salty to compare it to. Great moments in life wouldn't be perceived as great if there were never low points to reference the great times against. Life is full of ups and downs. God knows that we need it this way. The next time you feel like you are just plain "unlucky," have faith that God knows what he is doing,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Job 22-31

The conversation continues.  Job and his buddies carry on with the back and forth "you must have sinned" "no I didn't" conversation that's been going on.  Rather than bore you with more of the same, we'll highlight a couple of conversational keystones.

#1  Wisdom.  Job speaks of how wisdom is the gift everybody wants.  You can't buy it, you don't find it in the earth; you have to obtain it from God.  To have wisdom is to be truly blessed.  Our favorite line from this chapter was "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."  Brilliant!

#2  Job starts to crack.  No, he doesn't give in to his friends' notion that he's sinned, but he starts getting so upset with them that at the end of this reading he tells them that he IS righteous.  This whole time he's been telling them, "No, I haven't sinned, but I will stay strong because it is not your place to judge me, only God's."  Now he's starting to feel like he's getting the third degree, so he finally snaps and says, "Enough!  I'm not a sinner!  I know am right with God even though my judgement has not yet come."

This will remain short tonight, as the book of Job is right at it's height.  Tomorrow's readings appear as though we'll have a little mediating from another party.  We should finish tomorrow.

Happy trails!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Job 16-21: More of the same

The dialogue between Job and his friends continues in a similar fashion as it has previously. While his friends continue to push at him with the ways that god punishes wicked men, Job continues to respond slightly differently each time. Maintaining his integrity though, Job never curses God or blames God for his troubles. Perhaps this struggle with his friends is another way that God was testing Job.As a result of the physical and emotional problems that God and Satan have pushed on Job, he is also faced to deal with his now obnoxious friends. It doesn't matter how many times he tells them just to leave, they continue to stay and bug him.

Does this ever happen in your life? Do you ever have people who try to "help" you but end up making you feel worse? The lesson here perhaps is to stick to your guns and stick to your beliefs regardless of what your "friends" say. Don't cave to the doubters. Don't give in to the evil around you. Stay true to yourself no matter what.

An interesting response that Job has in this conversation occurs in Chapter 21. While Job has previously reproached his friends by pointing out that only God will judge us in the end (and they shouldn't be judging him), he has a new response. While his friends are continuing to point out how the wicked will be punished, Job chooses to point out that sometimes the wicked actually prosper (of course God will judge them in the end). By pointing out this "unfairness" in life he is trying to point out that if God will let the wicked occasionally prosper, then perhaps it is possible that God will let the upright citizens suffer. How could this be? This paradox though is all too common in life. Often have I heard people make comments like, "I go to church, I try to do the right thing....when will I catch a break?" Usually this is in referring to things like financial success in life. "Nice guys finish last" is another expression that comes to mind through all of this. Remember though that "Good things come to those that wait." Just as Job points out that God will judge in the end, we must remember that our ultimate rewards aren't necessarily on this earth.

Let me put it another way. Would you rather have some suffering on Earth but eternal happiness? Or would you rather have fame and fortune on Earth but suffer the eternal consequences of a life distracted by financial "happiness"?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Last Sunday's Fresh Take: No doubt!

I'd like to talk today about something that's been weighing heavily on my mind lately.  Perhaps it's because I have children, perhaps it's because of the current political climate, or perhaps God is trying to lead me to doing something great--in any regard, the topic of discussion today is 'doubt.'

When you've made up your mind that 'God' is the one true answer to just about every tough moral question you ask yourself, it's rare that you will doubt your own beliefs.  Let me make that clearer for you: it's rare that you will doubt your own beliefs.  When God becomes your answer and your source of comfort, you will not doubt yourself, but others will cause you to doubt your beliefs.

I like examples...let's create one.  This should hit home for most of us.  I am using this example because it is currently a very hot-button issue in our country.  I would like to lay the disclaimer that I am not going to suggest that people should go completely without these things.  The entities in the scenario I am going to create are not "evil"...they are people and businesses and they are allowed to do their jobs and make money, just like you and me.  Use this scenario as an analogy for just about anything in your life.  So here goes...

You go to the doctor for a routine check-up.  You have insurance that will cover anything.  You are in great health and you are feeling great.  You believe that you are healthy.  This is just routine.  Well, you go in for this check-up and your doctor finds a small lump somewhere, anywhere.  He'll ask you questions about it and suddenly you find yourself thinking, "Gee, I guess I have been feeling a little strange lately...just the other day I noticed fill-in-the-symptom."  So you mention it to your doc who reassures you that it's probably nothing--but he'd like to run some tests anyway since you have insurance.  A couple of days later the phone rings (and you've been worrying all the while) and it's your doctor with a little news for you.  They found something in your tests.  These things usually turn out fine, but here's a list of the possible outcomes.  He'd like you to meet with two other doctors and see him again, too.  This all takes place over the next two months!  So for two more months you have lots of time to think about all of these things that could possibly be plaguing you.  Plenty of time to go on the internet and look up everything there is to know about these conditions (most of it negative).  Two whole months worrying and supplying your body with plenty of stress hormones that will only aggravate these conditions and whatever else could be hiding in your body.  In this situation, the outcome for us is often fine, but if you (like me!) have been in this or a similar situation before, you know what a terrifying experience this can be.  By the way, this all happened because of one little thing...doubt!

I am not trying to suggest that we shouldn't go to the doctor or that we shouldn't have insurance or that we shouldn't have tests run when there does seem to be something to be concerned about.  What I would like to suggest however is that we take a deep breath when some sort of "news" blind-sides us.  We should ask for a little time to think about what path we'd like to take.  We should ask questions and communicate with our doctors and other faith-shakers.  We should always have a support system.  We should pray.  Most of us would find that our own internal answer to these scary questions in life is that we believe that we are fine or that we will be okay.  It's the doctors, the media, the insurance companies, the internet, and sadly, sometimes the family and friends that surround us that cause us to doubt.

I grew up in a household with parents who, in my mind, had unshakable faith.  They went through some pretty tough times, but having God and having each other ALWAYS got them to the end.  They wanted their kids to have a certain quality of life that involved morals, not money.  God, not people.  In spite of this, however, I still found (and find) it hard to have complete faith at times.  Sadly, even when we try to be the best example we can possibly be for our kids and for others, we still end up getting overshadowed by the rest of society following whatever the current trend is.  The trends often make us feel safe or knowledgeable or like we're part of something that matters.  For instance, good health insurance=good health care=good health, right?  I mean, if you go online and search "going without insurance," articles that say things like, "So You Don't Have Insurance...Now What?" will pop up rather than articles reading, "Choosing to Live Without Insurance is a Viable Option."  Wait a minute...then why are there so many unhealthy people who have insurance and so many very healthy people who don't have it?  Because of doubt (or faith).  When you have this false sense of security, in this case 'insurance,' you end up doubting your own ability to take care of yourself.  Suddenly it becomes more convenient to pop into the doctor for some pills than to assess your overall well-being on a daily basis.  It becomes more socially acceptable to have an ailment than to admit that you've been struggling with some underlying emotional and spiritual issues.  This doubt that most of society possesses allows us to place the blame on others.  We've let ourselves become convinced that this 'insurance' is there to give us peace of mind in case of an emergency, but how many people really use it that way?  Remember when cell phones used to be around "just in case of an emergency?"  We've arrived at a point where people no longer know how to survive without these things or so many of the other luxuries we've been given in this world.  We've created our own peace of mind.

It occurred to me the other day that because of the extreme amount of doubt that our culture has created for us--with an abundance of solutions to our problems, of course--we have become a culture that has learned to survive without God!!!  Every story in the bible is about people who have absolutely horrible things happen to them; slavery, floods, plagues, being nailed to a cross, you name it!  And in each of these stories, there are people who doubt.  Some of these doubtful people turn to God.  Others choose to ignore His power.  In every story, those who had complete faith and who didn't let their doubt overcome them even when times got tough were rewarded by God's protection.  Maybe it didn't come until after they died (Jesus, anyone?), but they always met with God in the end.

I am at times deeply saddened to live in a place where doubt is the basis of our existence.  We doubt that we can get by without insurance, we doubt that we can get a good job without college, we doubt that we will survive a car accident without a phone, we doubt that we can live without most of our modern conveniences, and all because we are fed doubt by nearly everyone around us.  We have become so uncomfortable with the concept that death is a part of life that we just can't seem to survive without all of this "betterment"...but wouldn't life (short as it may be) be a lot more enjoyable without all of these things?  When Mike and our oldest son and I first moved back to the area, we were having a really hard time figuring out how to manage our finances with the type of pay he was receiving.  We doubted that we were going to get by without having to take more or different work.  We didn't think we'd make it without health insurance, without a cell phone, without two cars, all because we had come to rely on this feeling of doubt.  We had other people, family and friends even, who promoted this sense of doubt.  But we prayed a lot and then we sat down, figured out what needed to be taken care of, cut out the things that we didn't need and we made it through.  Four years later, we've cut out even more than we possibly thought we could--not because we had to, but because we didn't want our doubts to thrive--and we have two more kids and are doing financially fine.  And we could probably still cut out more!  Does that mean things will never get tough again?  I doubt it ;)  But at least we'll know to do what's right and we'll have God by our side.

Pray to God that you learn to have complete faith.  Pray that your doubts be overcome.  I pray that some of you may read this and decide to stand up with me and my family and say "I believe!"  Because we believe that God is ALWAYS on your doubt.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Job 10-15...a case of he said Job said

The book of Job continues with dialogues between Job and his friends. Thrown in between though are a couple of pleas from Job to God.

Throughout these chapters, Job still avoids cursing God. At one point he is questioning God as to why he would do such things, but always follows it up with a "but you know best God..." This seems to be another parallel to the rhetoric of Jesus. Jesus seemed to struggle with his role as a savior, but always said "let God's will be done."

Job's friends on the other hand clearly don't like Job's attitude. They continue to call him out, telling him that God punishes the wicked, somehow implying that Job is a hypocrite and must be secretly prideful and sinful behind closed doors. Job continually replies to them that they should either just hang out with him and comfort him, or leave. He then typically goes into a speech about how great God is.

Job's friends are clearly made uncomfortable by his complete faith in God. While on the surface the book of Job is a great story about how to trust that God has a plan, perhaps it also provides a subtler lesson. Perhaps it is a mirror into our own lives as we so often seem to play the role of the friends, doubting the faith of others or failing to give in completely to God's will as Job does. Putting our complete faith in trust in God is difficult. Quite often it means swimming upstream from the rest of society.

Remember back to Molly's post about the inner voice. The inner voice doesn't just remind us to pick up a candy wrapper or do the dishes. It is capable of so much more, but we cannot doubt it or it will go away. The inner voice is kind of like a little child tugging on your leg wanting to show you something. If you ignore it long enough, it will just go away. Conversely though, if you allow that child to show you things, it will develop more and begin to show you more. The inner voice, like that child, will start small with candy wrappers and dishes, but will also influence greater decisions as we let it. It is one of our most basic and primal instincts. It is the way that God lets us see the path to improvement, even if it is uncomfortable. If God does have a plan for all of us, then he shows us the path through our instincts...but it only works if we have complete faith in God. We must believe 100% in our decisions, or they will fall short. When God shows us the way, we must jump trusting that he will provide a net for us. This is obviously easier said than done. After all, even Job's closest friends doubted him. From personal experience, I can 100% say that I have never regretted a decision when trusting my instincts. Instinctual decisions led me to my wife and ultimately my children, and I thank God for putting that inner voice in my head every day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Job 2-9

We read Job Chapters 2-9 tonight.  After the mass amount of horror that fell upon Job in Chapter 1, Satan asks God if Satan can tempt Job this time.  So Satan comes and gives Job some boils and worms and goodies like that.  Job's wife says, "Curse God and die!"  His friends say, "No one's perfect...just give in and curse God a little!"  Job responds to all of them similarly with a "How dare you say that I must have sinned and how dare you say that God isn't just.  I won't say that I am as just and perfect as God because that would be a sin, but I'm not going to say that I've sinned because that would be a lie.  Please just let me grieve so that I can move forward."

These conversations between Job and his wife and friends may seem familiar to you.  Have you ever defended something you believe in even though your belief (or truth, in this case) may not have been the popular one?  Let us pray that we all have the strength to see God's perfection and fairness when times get tough.  Pray that you have the courage to stand up and do what is right in the name of God when times of doubt arise!

A brief point for discussion...

As we're reading Job, we're noticing that this is one of the first books that we've read so far that hasn't really been someone relating specific historical accounts.  There are a couple of mentions of names and places, but the trials of Job are told from the perspective of a storyteller, not from Job himself or from a historian.  We are not here to decipher whether or not Job was a real person, but we just thought that it was an interesting point to make.  Much of the rhetoric within Job reminds us of the way Jesus taught; it sounds a bit like parables, and the way that Job answers his wife's and friends' foolish questions is similar to the way that Jesus answers the Pharisees and all those who doubt him.  Regardless of the depth of reality of the tellings of Job, the man is the exact picture of the way that God wants us to be: hard-working, God-fearing, truth-seeking, and sin-free!

Let's all be as brave as Job and do what is exactly right.