On this morning’s news there was a story about a 9 year-old girl who was assaulted by a 14 year-old boy on the school bus - and there was video! They played the video on the news, with the disclaimer that the video could be disturbing and that viewer discretion was advised. The issue is, they had already played the video while telling the headline to the story. They had already played it slightly blurred, and I was already disturbed.
I have not watched the video of #tyrenichols. I don’t want to. I don’t think I need to watch it. I know the facts and watching the video will not change the fact that five police officers sworn to protect and serve beat a man to the degree that his injuries resulted in his death. Watching it will not change that fact that emergency medical personnel watched the assault and did not intervene. The video will not answer the question of why.
I think it’s good that police wear body cameras, I certainly do not debate the fact that video evidence is supremely helpful when detectives are attempting to piece together the events of an incident. Video is helpful to the judge and jury that will hear the case. Video is hepful to families as they certainly deserve to know what happened to their loved one. In my opinion, however, these violent videos do not need to be viewed by everyone on earth.
Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” To keep our eyes healthy, and our body healthy and to live a life filled with light, we must use Godly discretion in what we choose to view. We can’t watch all of the released police body-cam videos. We can’t watch pornography and Jeffrey Dahmer documentaries. We can’t indluge in sin through the screen and live in the Spirit.
We are equipped with with five senses and an imagination. When we hear the news headlines, we form a mental picture of the scene. Sure, our mental imageray will not be perfectly accurate to exactly what occurred, but it’s enough for us to gain sufficient understanding of the events that occurred. When the video is released, what actually happened is usually worse than we imagined, and have dimmed our light. We imagined it one way, which was bad enough, but what we may see could be horrific, senseless, merciless, inhumane, and we wonder how could another human being do those things to to one of God’s children. We wonder how someone could lose control of themselves for that length of time? We see the evil human beings are capable of and we may find it hard to believe that every person we know and meet is someone God loves and pursues. Darkness. Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples. If we allow our light to be dimmed by through what enters our eyes, we will miss the work God has for us. We will not recant God is good, All the time. We will cease to pray rather than praying without ceasing.
You don’t have to watch the video to be angry or distraught or about what happened. You don’t have to watch the video to see the need for police reform. You don’t have to watch the video to be in prayer for the people involved, including those who have received disciplinary action. You don’t have to watch the video to #staywoke and speak with your own children about their safety and conduct with police or others in authority. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Amen.
For the past few weeks, you have probably heard sermons preached from the initial chapters of Matthew and Luke about the birth of Jesus as we celebrate the Christmas season. As I read Matthew, I not only see a message about the birth of our Lord and Savior, but the Godly character of Jesus’s earthly parents and challenge for the new year.
I think we all would agree that Joseph and Mary were specifically chosen for the holy task of parenting God in human form. No one would argue that God selected them out of a vast pool of other candidates. They must have had life histories of obedience and righteousness. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law,a and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Matt. 1:19 The footnote about Joseph indicates that he was a righteous man. In his righteousness, we see that he also had a choice. He was going to do what he deemed the right thing. He would end their relationship because obviously…there was a disconnect. Both Mary and Joseph were humans with the free will to do as they chose, but God likely chose them because they had a history of choosing His way, listening to Him, and doing what He would have them do. Unwed Mary would need to carry this unplanned pregnancy to term, risk losing her husband/fiance, risk her parents’ reaction, endure the side-eyes and whispers of family members and strangers…then she would need to raise this strong-willed, miracle-performing, young man. When I read this, I ask myself…could God choose me? Am I obedient to Him that He could trust me to do His will and not my own?
As we read on to the next few verses, we see why Joseph did not exercise his free will. Matt. 1:20-21 "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph had to know God and trust Him. We don’t read anything about Joseph being skeptical about this message, interrogating Mary, or seeking a second opinion from his friends. Sometimes what God asks us to do is counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, and can seem nonsensical, but we must trust His plan, and put aside our own. Again…could God choose me? Can He trust me to do His will and put aside my logic and sense-making to do what He asks me to do?
In the second chapter of Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream once again, “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,” (Matt. 2:13-14) In two more instances, angels appear to Joseph and tell him to take the child and his mother to a new place. This is recorded in verses 20 and 22. At no point do we see Joseph bargaining with the angels, or even tarrying. In v. 14, he got up in the middle of the night and took Jesus and his mother to Egypt. Could God choose me? Am I obedient in His time or my own?
Could God choose me? Could God choose you? As we close out 2022 and look to 2023 with hope and expectancy, I realize that there is no hope outside the will of God. I want Him to be able to choose me, no matter how big or small the task. I want to be building a life resume that has a long list of bullet points of my obedience - my immediate obedience, not obedience after I’ve mulled it over, said no, changed my mind, delegated for assistance, and made a budget. He can’t choose me if I operate only on my one timeline and within my own comforts. He can’t choose me if put my will first and His secondary. I want to live a life that honors God, shares His goodness, and draws others to Him. I want Him to be able to use me to advance His Holy Kingdom. As 2023 approaches, how do you want God to use you? Are you living a life that proves He can trust you to do His will? Everyday we live, we see people in our community and beyond that need to know the love of Jesus Christ. I challenge you to use 2023 to begin living such that God can chose you to help grow His kingdom. Amen.
For about the past year, I have led a Bible Study at a women’s shelter on Wednesday evenings. Usually 3 or 4 women attend, sometimes, more. This past week, we had someone new to join our study, an 8 year-old girl. After a few pleasantries and I asked her if she was planning to stay for Bible study, she said, “sure!” I asked her if she had a Bible, and she jumped up saying, “hold on let me go get it!” She came back with a Bible story book, that was her Bible. My intention was to read and discuss the book of Jonah, so I looked in her table of contents and sure enough, Jonah was there. I asked the ladies if it would be okay if we read the story from her book, then from the Scriptures. Everyone agreed.
As children’s books go, the story was greatly abridged, but it did not leave out too many highlights. God told Jonah to go and preach against Nineveh, but Jonah did not want to so he ran away to board a ship to Tarshish which was the complete opposite direction. Once the ship set sail, a terrible storm pounded and tossed the boat frightening the entire crew, except Jonah who was asleep in the bottom of the boat. The crew began throwing things overboard to lessen the load thinking it would help, but nothing did. Suspiciously, they cast lots to determine which of them was responsible for the storm. The lot fell on Jonah. They asked him to pray to his God to calm the storm. Jonah knew the reason for the storm, it was because of his disobedience. In his humility, he told the men to throw him overboard and maybe God would calm the storm. They tossed him out into the sea and immediately, the storm ceased. Soon a large fish, some say a whale, swallowed him. For 3 days and 3 nights, Jonah remained in the belly of the animal. During that time, he began to pray and he told God that if given a second chance he would do as he was told. The fish vomited Jonah out onto dry land. Jonah went to Nineveh and preached to the people telling them God was not pleased with them and that in 40 days His judgment would occur. The people feared God and repented of their sins. This was the end of the children’s book.
We were prompted to discuss times when we had each been disobedient and what the consequences had been, as well as the meaning of repentance. When we switched over to the Scriptures, the brief 4-chapter book of Jonah, there are a few more things to notice.
These men’s hearts were transformed because of Jonah's testimony. In v. 5-6, the men were worshiping idols and praying to them to calm the storm, but it was not working. When Jonah said he worshiped the capital-G God, who made the sea and dry land, then they observed the calming of the sea for themselves once they threw him into the water, their prayers changed. They were no longer praying to the gods, they were praying to the Lord, the God of heaven. v.16 says, “At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.” Even in his disobedience, Jonah, a prophet, led people to worship the one and only true God.
Jonah points us to Christ. In times when I have run away from or ignored a command from the Lord, sleep has escaped me. I can find no peace until I repent and obey. Scripture tells us that Jonah was below deck in a deep sleep. Who can sleep on a boat during a storm? Jesus did - He was asleep on a boat with His disciples. Mat. 8:24-27 “Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Jonah did not command the storm, but the storm certainly calmed once he was off the boat. The men thought for sure they had thrown him to his death. They knew nothing about the large fish. When we think about it, 3 days in the acidic belly of a fish, there’s total darkness, probably slime and seaweed, and let’s not talk about the smell - that would be a death-like experience. Matthew 12:40 “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
God hears our prayers. The children’s book mentioned that Jonah prayed, but Chapter 2 of Jonah expresses his deepest heart cries. They read much like the Psalms of David, who also was in great distress. Jonah, called on the Lord knowing God’s grace was his only help.
6To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
God uses our obedience as a part of His plan. The children’s book explained that once the fish vomited Jonah out onto dry land, he went to Nineveh to preach against it - as God, again, told him to do. Scripture says, v. 3-5, 10 “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” 10When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. When we read chapter 3, I asked each of the ladies and the girl, how they thought this reaction from the people, to turn towards God likely made Jonah feel. Everyone said it should make him feel good, satisfied that he had done what God told him to do, and that people responded favorably. One lady said, there’s nothing worse than sharing the Gospel with someone and having them argue with you or saying thanks but no thanks.
We must all check our attitude or God will check it for us. Jonah 4 begins, “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Hmmm, I wonder why Jonah felt this way! Did he not believe that the people of Nineveh deserved the opportunity to know, love, and serve God as he did? Did he believe that for some reason their sins were too great to warrant forgiveness and God’s love? Did Jonah think God was only for people like him, whatever that means? Heart check - what are my beliefs? Is there someone or some group I find to be unworthy? Why? Do my beliefs agree with the Word of God? It appears that while we have questions about Jonah’s reasoning, God understood without Jonah voicing his thoughts and feelings. God understood so well that He lovingly gave Jonah an illustration. Jonah went to the edge of the city to build himself a dwelling. It was hot and he had no shade. “6Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live.’”
God always has the last word. In Jonah 4, God asks Jonah twice if it is right for him to be angry, and twice Jonah confirms that it is right, and that he would rather be dead. If we know God to be gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, [one] who relents from sending calamity, we cannot keep that to ourselves. He is the God of all Creation and everyone no matter their age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, career path, nationality, or their sins - He is God over them, too, and it is our responsibility to share His love with them. The children’s book didn’t touch on the 4th chapter, but it ends with these words from God. “But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Amen.
We all have situations in our lives that need Godly resolution. We pray and we wait. We wait on the Lord to fix the problem, or fix us so that we view the issue from a different perspective. We try to be still and listen for His gentle whisper, but sometimes, we just cannot seem to hear it and we don’t know what to do. Gospel Artist Smokie Norful has a song that says, “When you can’t hear My voice, please trust My plan.”
Sometimes I feel like giving up
It seems like my best just ain't good enough
Lord, if You hear me, I'm calling You
Do You see, do You care all about
What I'm goin' through?
And then He said, one more day
One more step
See, I'm preparing you for Myself
And when you can't hear My voice
Please, trust My plan
I'm the Lord, I see, and, yes, I understand
I cannot be the only one who has experienced this - an issue so big that we don’t trust ourselves to act on it properly. I’ve even proposed solutions and asked the Lord for a sign to confirm my thinking. Sometimes we look around for someone to advise us, someone like the prophets of the Old Testament to give us a Word sent from the Lord. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” What shall we do when we can’t hear His voice? I have a few suggestions for when this situation arises.
Consult His Word. I used to think the Bible was all about good people - people who never sinned. I didn’t care to read it because I knew I was a sinner and to read about all of these good people would just serve to make me feel poorly about myself. My thinking couldn’t be further from the truth! There’s only one person in the Bible who never sinned and that’s Jesus Christ. Reading about Him should convict our hearts! I used to think the Bible was not relatable, that it was old and not applicable to the present. I was wrong about that, too! There are stories about hundreds of people, maybe thousands, who sinned plenty, who faced similar situations as we face today, who acted on selfish instincts, who did not heed the word of God! “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 When you need to know what to do, go to the Bible. If you need to know what to read, use Google to locate Scriptures about specific topics. Then, don’t just read individual verses, read the passage or read the chapter. Reading just a verse can cause you to take Scripture out of context and lead you to poor decision making.
Know His Character Once we are familiar with His Word we begin to understand God’s character, we can conduct ourselves likewise. We should, however, still pray and read Scripture. You may have a Bible that prints the actual words of Jesus in red letters. Reading the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give us insight into Jesus’s actual advice, His examples, and His warnings. Knowing God’s character helps us make decisions and conduct ourselves on a consistent basis that will glorify Him.
Do Everything in Love As you wait on the Lord to speak to you, knowing He speaks in His own time, let everything you do, be done in love. Yes, Jesus said, we should even love our enemies! “‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’” Matthew 5:43-45 Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” In every situation, love should be our response. Love is what unites us with God and in relationship with our fellow man. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 Do everything in love. Amen.
As a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, from time to time, we are offered free, advance copies of books and other materials to review. I recently received a copy of the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible. In our home, we have a set of Matthew Henry commentaries, so I was excited to see this new offering. The devotional is hard cover, with a dust jacket, about 1460 pages. I say about because is contains several color pages of historic maps that are not numbered. There are 366 devotions - why 366, I suppose it's because they are taking leap year into account. The devotions are not chronological, but the page number for each devotion is listed in the Table of Contents, and at the end of each half-page devotion, it states where the next day's devotion is found. One thing I didn't expect, is that this is a Bible, that also happens to be a devotional - a great addition a NKJV Bible! I highly recommend this resource.
#BibleGatewayPartner Order your copy today from the Faith Gateway Store or from Amazon.
This week, I took a drive with a good friend and we were not short on conversation. We talked about the three Virginia football players who were shot and killed, the four college students stabbed to death in Idaho; the three teens who killed a man who attempted to discipline them here in Rock HIll; the heavy snow to come for upstate NY; North Korea showing off its missiles; Russia and Ukraine; the fentanyl drug bust in York County; and more! None of these things affect us directly or personally - we didn’t know the Idahoan students nor the man killed by the three teens - but someone does and they are likely experiencing great stress.
While these things are on our minds, we each have our own personal worries, struggles and endeavors that we are praying the Lord will see us through. We all have situations that require our attention. We don’t always know what to do, and sometimes we fear the outcomes. Jesus told us “in this world, you will have trouble.” Trouble is not new and it’s not temporary, we all experience waves of trouble in our lives. My question for you today, is how do you cope during times of trouble?
Jesus told His disciples, and it applies to everyone who believes in Him, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26 ESV In times of trouble, when we face hurt, grief, anger, uncertainty, strife, alienation, we can pray and the Holy Spirit will remind us of God’s goodness. He will remind us of God’s victories. He will remind us of God’s nature, how He has a plan that may not appear to be a plan for our goodness and His glory, but it always is.
I must credit Bible Study Fellowship for helping me to build my arsenal of Scriptures and stories of God’s faithfulness and glory. Without BSF, the Holy Spirit would be quite limited in what He could bring to my remembrance. He can’t bring something to our remembrance, if we never knew it, if we never knew it. What’s in your remembrance?
I had someone tell me, recently, that he was no good at memorizing Scriptures. I’m not good at this either, and that’s not what Bible study is about. Bible study is about reading the Bible as God’s history of interaction with mankind. It’s about learning man’s situations and God’s reactions, although He already knew the situation would arise, and quite often He set up the situation to cause man to turn to Him. Sure, certain verses stand out in my memory, but I’m not concentrating on memorizing Scripture. My mind is on how God worked in every situation, and how the situations of the past are not dissimilar to the situations we face today. In this week’s study, we read about how there was famine in Samaria and the head of a donkey sold for 80 shekels of silver and one fourth of a cab of seed pods cost 5 shekels of silver. 2 Kings 6:25 This is inflation, the same thing we are experiencing today. A donkey’s head, seed pods - these are not even desirable foods, but they were expensive! But God! He met the need of food, in abundance, after seven years of famine, and four unselfish lepers notified the people of the great bounty. Speaking of seven years of famine…this happened generations before, too! The final chapters of Genesis tell of Joseph, the eleventh of twelve sons of Jacob. Scripture tells us how God foretold of the famine in two dreams He gave to Pharoah, then brought Joseph to the remembrance of Pharaoh's wine servant when Pharoah needed someone to interpret the dreams. God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dreams, and placed it on Pharaoh's heart to put this young man in charge of all the planning and preparations for the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine to follow. God had a plan for Joseph. He elevated Joseph from the death his brothers intended for him 20 years prior, to being in charge of Pottifar’s home until his wife accused him of sexual assault which landed him in a dungeon, to being in charge of the dungeon, to finally Pharoah said to him, “You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” Genesis 41:40 Who saw that coming? Only God! When I study Scripture, I am reminded of God’s goodness, how He has planned the events of our lives for our good (although it might not feel good…) and for His glory.
What’s in your remembrance? Where are you in your study of God’s Holy Word? You can’t remember something you never knew. I am grateful for all I have learned about God through studying the Bible. I’ll be the first to admit, I need the Holy Spirit to bring to my remembrance all that God has done. Sometimes, the future appears to hold no hope, but if God brought Joseph out of the dungeon, He can and will do the same for you and me. Keep your faith. Pray - praise, repent, ask, and do not fail to yield. Allow Him to have His way in your life. Amen.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33 NIV
If you are anything like me, in addition to your actual to-do list, you have things you just need to do. They seem urgent at times, but not pressing. They nag at you from time to time. What am I talking about? Well, my back hedges need to be trimmed, but they’re not in the front yard, so they wait. The carpet needs to be cleaned, but I would have to get quotes, get on someone’s schedule, and move all this furniture…ugh! I wrote a novel in 2020…it’s basically finished, but it needs to be formatted, the cover needs to be finalized, and…it’s just going to take some work. I need to lose weight - and that needs no explanation. I pray about these things, but if my prayer is not accompanied by some steps, no progress is made.
2 Kings 4 begins with the story of a widow who is distressed. Her deceased husband’s creditor informed her that he would take her two sons as slaves to pay off the debt. She went to the prophet Elisha to ask what she should do. Elisha asked her what she had. She said she had nothing except a little bit of olive oil. He told her to go to all of her friends and neighbors to ask for all the empty jars they had available. She was told to fill the jars with olive oil.
Now, when she said she only had a little bit of olive oil, I envisioned that to be like a cupful, or so, not enough to fill jars and jars. That’s where the power of God took over! She and her sons filled jar after jar after jar and when they filled the last jar, Then the oil stopped flowing. 7She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” (v. 6-7)
There is no indication that the widow initially had enough olive oil for a sale, but when she was obedient and went through the steps, the process, the Lord multiplied the oil. He blessed their efforts. She and her sons were able to achieve the goal of paying off the debt, so her sons did not become slaves and they had enough money that they didn’t need to borrow from anyone else. God multiplied her efforts. He multiplied the oil! She had limited means, but He is not limited. She had faith AND did the work.
Someone may read this passage and wonder why the Lord solved the woman’s problem in this way when, as we read in Scripture, His power is unlimited. Maybe you wonder why when she returned home that the olive oil had not been turned into the exact amount of money needed to pay the creditors. Maybe you wonder why Elisha didn’t send the woman home with the amount of money she needed in her hand. Asking questions such as this reveals our lack of faith. God does things the way He decides to do them because He is God. He is sovereign. Maybe there’s something He needs to teach us as we go through the process. Maybe He reveals the steps to us to give us a testimony we can share with someone else who might grow to know Him through following the steps He, years ago, revealed to you! I’ve been through many processes in my years and each has served to make me stronger. James 1:2-4 says we are to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Why would we think God would spare us the steps, the process? Who are we to be spared the process? Jesus Christ, Himself, was not spared the process. He faced trials and temptations on earth. He suffered on earth. He endured a torturous death on the cross. He went through the process to give all of us, me and you, a testimony. Jesus went through the process so we could have eternal life. You nor I will be spared the process. We must pray and be quiet so we can hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit as he reveals to us the steps of the process.
What steps, what process do you need to go through? You’ve been praying about it and every morning you wake up and the problem is still there. What are you worrying about, yet taking no steps towards change? What is it in your life that needs to change, but you just don’t have the energy, the means, the time, to go through the process? Well, until we go through the process, we remain status quo. If the status quo is okay, then stop praying about it. If you really want the change, start the process and let the Lord see you through. Amen.
A few more Scriptures to leave you with for the week:
The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
I was a high school science teacher for 16 years. I brought work home every evening, whether to finalize plans for the next day, to grade papers, to plan a project, complete field trip forms, I worked nonstop. On Sunday, after church, it was time to get back in gear for the work week, boys’ lunches, lesson plans, laundry, changing linens, all of that. After becoming an administrator, I continued to bring work home because some days were consumed by meetings and I didn’t want to be rude and send emails or work on projects during the meetings, so I would bring it home.
For the past 3 years, I have worked with a young man from a different generation and I’ve begun to learn about boundaries. On Wednesday we received an email request from our supervisor, an urgent request, at 4:58pm. He proceeded to pack up and leave, while I was going to stay after to fulfill the request. “Boundaries,” he said. “She asked at 4:58pm. That means send it by 9:00am tomorrow.” I had not considered that, but it’s a helpful way of thinking.
My parents taught me about boundaries in dating, but not as they pertain to what we now call our “work-life balance.” They worked nonstop and I inherited that practice. I am currently involved in quite a few projects. Some of these projects are my own initiatives, others are dictated by work, and a few are things I’ve agreed to help with. I am learning to be careful what I agree to do.
Twice Jeshosophat, king of Judah, agreed to assisting other kings in battles they wanted to start. He didn’t just agree to have their backs if needed, he stated, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” (1 Kings 22:4, 2 Kings 3:7) In the first instance, he did say, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:5) In battle, King Ahab put Jehosophat out on the front lines as a target, but the Lord protected him from harm. In the second instance, when invited to join King Joram, they did not pray first, but in their desperation when they ran out of water they went to see the prophet Elisha for a Word from the Lord. (2 Kings 3)
Setting boundaries is an important practice. We must consider our boundaries as we consider which causes to join, how much time we are willing to spend at home doing work, and which organizations we will align ourselves with. I have had to upset a few people when I could not join their cause. The Lord has given me plenty to do without also taking on the projects of others. This week I was asked to direct a renewal of vows ceremony. I was honored and immediately accepted the invitation. These are two people I know and love and they want to publicly pronounce the continuance of their marriage - yes, I will help! I believe God has a calling on my life and I cannot allow all of my time to be consumed with projects He did not call me to complete. I also have to be careful of delving into projects that pop into my own mind that may not be of Him. He allowed me to take some time off from writing this weekly message, but now He says, I must restart. I wrote a novel in 2020 and have done nothing with it. Now, He says, I must get it out there. He sent me several reminders, as signs, then He sent me a text from someone who desires to make the cover. I say all of this to say, If I tell you NO, please understand. I’m trying to walk in my calling and I must set boundaries. Amen.
Quite often teachers tell me about their difficulties with managing student behaviors. It seems to be one of the reasons they leave the profession earlier than planned. Last week, I assisted a teacher with mock interviews. One of the students, a high school junior, said she wanted to be a pediatrician, because she loves working with children. She said she would not become a teacher because of how she has observed teachers being treated by students. “I wouldn’t be able to handle that,” she said. “They are disrespectful and do not know how to talk to adults. No ma’am. I cannot be a teacher.”
Last week I had a conversation with a teacher, from Kenya, about a recent interaction with a student. He said he asked her to wait in the hallway until she calmed down, but she refused, told him to mind his…business. She was unconsoled by her friends, was hitting them, using profanities, and interrupted him as he attempted to check attendance and begin the lesson. He said he threatened to write her up, but that did not influence her to calm down. After a few more exchanges, he said to her, “I’m sorry, but you really need to shut up.” That, he said, made it worse. He said it got so bad that the students, her friends, turned on her, agreeing with him. He said she finally calmed down, but it offered him very little time to teach the lesson he had planned. I asked if he had written a referral. This was his response, “No ma’am, I did not. I have written her up many times before and she just keeps repeating this behavior. I’m pretty sure she’s dealing with something at home. I don’t know what it is because I cannot talk with her. She received the rebuke of her friends. There is no greater reprimand than rebuke of your peers!
I ask myself what causes children to act this way. I hear this type of thing from teachers all the time. I’ve seen it for myself, in classrooms. Why? Why are our children not grateful for the education they are receiving? Why would they rather disrupt the classroom than learn the information their teacher has prepared to teach? A few years ago I became the sub for a teacher who left mid-year. Each day, it seemed the students wanted me to fight with them and if I won the battle, I would earn the right to teach that day. Several reasons have come to mind and they all are in regards to parenting.
We often refer to Proverbs 22:6 as a verse about how we should raise our children in the fear and admonishment of the Lord. I’ve heard it said that this verse is about helping children to begin using their God-given gifts and talents at a young age. It states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I’d like to use this Scripture to point out that children learn from what they see in their parents. We are teaching them inadvertently. They mimic our behaviors and attitudes. If they hear us speaking negatively or disrespectfully about their teacher or their school, they will do it, too. If they sit in on a parent-teacher conference and witness us blaming the teacher or challenging his/her classroom rules, they will do it too. If we start our children off without teaching them the value of school, the value of education, the value of their teacher’s time - they will never know the importance of it. In fact, they may spoil the educational experience for their classmates.
Proverbs 29:15, 17 has more on the topic of parenting. 15”A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother. 17"Discipline your children, and they will give you peace, they will bring you the delights you desire.” You may have seen in last week’s news that James and Jennifer Crumbley had their first court appearance. The charges claim that they created a chaotic home life, knew their son needed mental health care, but did not provide it, and bought him the gun that he used to kill 4 of his classmates in a school shooting last year. Parents, what you do matters! Your care and conversation with your children can make or break their future. It can also make or break the future of their peers.
In the OT we read about Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli. All three were priests of the Lord. Scripture tells us that “Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.”1 Sam. 2:12 Their sinful deeds went on for a time until “Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” He spoke with them about it, but they did not change their behavior. God is patient with his children, and we can mistake His patience for absence. We may think that because He hasn’t punished us, that He won’t. There is folly in that thinking. We don’t know how many years passed, but God did punish Eli for allowing his sons to continue to dishonor the people’s sacrifices. He accused Eli of honoring his sons more than he honored the Lord. (v. 29) He punished Eli’s family with the wage of sin. Death. “...Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life 34“‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day.” (v.32-34)
Parents, you matter. How you parent matters. You are training up the next generation. Yes, you should teach your children the ways of the Lord, but we must not neglect to teach them and demonstrate to our children the heart of God. The future is in our hands. Our teachers deserve better. They are imparting knowledge to the next generation, our children’s future is in their hands. We must support teachers and discipline our children. Amen.
I could be alone in this, but there are a few passages of Scripture that give me a true LOL moment. I came across one this week in the first chapter of 2 Kings this week. Ahaziah, the king of Israel, fell through the lattice of his upper room and had what he thought could be life-threatening injuries. He sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, their idol god, to ask if he would recover. Along the way the messengers ran into God’s faithful prophet, Elijah. After asking a clarifying and possibly sarcastic question, Elijah said, “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!”
Having an answer to the question, the messengers went back to Ahaziah. Since their trip didn’t seem to take as long as the king estimated it should take, he asked them, “Why have you come bacK?” They said, “A man came to meet us…he said, ‘this is what the LORD says…you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’” The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?” They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”
I had to laugh at this! I read it as, “That ain’t nobody but Elijah the Tishbite!” I laughed! That was a rather vague description, but the king quickly and correctly concluded the identity of the man! How? What were the clues - the clothing, the words, or the “coincidence” of meeting up with him?
In 1 Kings 17 Elijah is introduced as he announced the prophecy of drought, “neither rain nor dew,” over the land of Israel. God directed him away from the drought and protected him from those who wanted him dead for three years. God then sent him back for a fiery showdown against the 850 prophets of Baal in the presence of Ahaziah’s father, then king Ahab. Maybe Ahab had told his son about Elijah, or maybe Ahaziah had met Elijah before, but we read in 2 Kings 1, that he correctly identified him from a vague description. (And he did die in the bed.)
Earlier this week, my son’s friend was about to tell me about a situation, then he said, “Zach told me not to tell you because he knows what you will say.” Over the weekend, Nick asked me to pick up a few items in Walmart and due to “supply chain issues,” I had to make a substitution. I heard his friend say, “I knew your mom would do that!” In conversation this week, a friend used me as an example, “If somebody told me Kim did that, I would never believe them, not in a million years would Kim do that! That would be totally out of character for her!” On Monday morning, I borrowed a classroom for a presentation. Someone came over the PA system and asked for the teacher who loaned me her classroom. When I said, “I’m sorry, this is Kim Massey, she’s not here,” the person said, “Oh, Mrs. Massey, someone just called the school to ask us to tell you your dog is loose.” I still don’t know who made the phone call or how I was tracked down, but I’m glad someone who knew me, recognized Bubba, and cared enough to make a phone call, maybe several!
It’s good to be known, sometimes. How are you known? Over the course of a friendship, in marriage, at work, through raising our children, or interacting with their friends, we come to be known. People know us by the ways in which we conduct ourselves, the jokes we thell, the questions we ask, the advice we give, and how we react in different situations. All of these things make up our character. People will expect certain things of us, good or bad, based on our history of past conduct. In Scripture, many of the kings of Judah are described as having done, “evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him.” We don’t know if the people of Judah knew the sinfulness of their leadership, but we do know that they were led astray, and the kings “aroused the anger of the LORD.” People know us, but more than that, the Lord knows us. Proverbs 16:2 tells us, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” I don’t know who will write my obituary or give my eulogy, but my character will be summarized in their description. Regardless of what they say, I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21 Amen.
After a very good friend asked me to help her find an apartment, I made a few phone calls. I have heard about the increasing cost to rent and the Fed’s increase in interest rates. Last year when we needed to rent an apartment, between houses, I experienced a bit of sticker shock, myself. In 1998, I rented a 2 bed 2 bath (new construction) apartment in Rock Hill, SC for $575/month. I called that place to ask about current rates for a 2 bed 2 bath and found the rent to now be “$1460/month and it includes water and washer/dryer connections.” I was a bit surprised and also troubled. When I lived there, it was my first year of teaching and my take home pay was less than $1460/month. Fortunately, by the grace of God, my parents had purchased my car, I didn’t have any student loans and I didn’t have any children, so I was able to make it work.
Last year we rented a 2 bed 2 bath apartment at a rate of $1260/month. I called the complex last week to inquire about current rates for 2 bed 2 bath units. “1791/month and it includes stainless steel appliances and a washer and dryer.” Frankly, if that price tag doesn't include 5 acres of land and that payment that leads to ownership in 20 years, I don’t want it! Unbelievable. I do Bible study at a women’s shelter each week and the ladies keep me abreast of rental rates as they are all in need of a permanent place to live.
Last year, when we listed our house for sale, I didn’t agree with the price calculated by my realtor. I didn’t want to be the first home in the neighborhood to cross a certain price point. Of course, the extra money would be awesome, but to me it would set a precedent and the next house to list would list for $5000 more and the next would list for $5000 more than that, and so on. I think home ownership is a privilege and I think every family should, at some point, own a home. I purchased my first home after living in an apartment for 7 months, just before my first year of teaching was complete. I want all young teachers and young professionals to be able to afford such a necessity. I prayed about a list price and also expressed to the Lord that our move was not accompanied by any increase in income (which He already knew). He knew we needed to make an “even exchange” that gave us more land area and potentially less square-footage. Sometimes, I don’t know if the Lord is answering my prayers or if I am praying and arriving at answers myself - maybe you wonder the same! I arrived at an asking price, our house went under contract then we wrote 6 contracts for homes to purchase, and none were accepted. We moved to an apartment, and just a few days later a house listed at the same price as our previous home…I prayed about it, I looked at it, liked it, prayed about it and wrote a contract. The realtor suggested I offer more than asking, which I prayed about and increased my offer, we are living in that house now! Did you catch the part about it being listed at the same price as our list price - that was a definite answer to prayer!
I don’t know what it’s worth now, but the couple who bought our old house has moved out of it already. They sold it for nearly $100,000 more than they bought it in 2021. I am not ready to leave my answer to prayer!
What’s causing this “housing crisis?” My mind goes to the Scripture that states, ”For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” This phrase is only a part of 1 Timothy 6:10, however, and this chapter contains a whole segment about seeking financial gain. 1 Timothy is one of Paul’s two letters to Timothy, a young pastor working in the church at Ephesus. It is sound advice for church leadership, but is also applicable to our everyday walk with Jesus.
Godliness with contentment is great gain. We must get our wants under control. There are all kinds of things this world has to offer, but not all of it is good for us. It’s common to desire something to the point that our minds can make the item seem like a need. Desiring to be like Jesus should be our greatest desire. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. Have you ever helped to clean out the home of someone after they have died? I haven’t done this, specifically, but I have been to a few estate sales. We die and leave a lifetime of accumulated clothes, shoes, hobby items, books, then there are furnishings, electronics, cars, etc. Everything is left behind. Jesus said in Matthew 16:26 “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Our soul is what matters, not all of the stuff we see on Amazon. None of it will go when we go. What we need to focus on is our relationship with Christ.
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs Loving money is a trap. Money is like stuff. It can be helpful in many ways, but it is not the key to heaven. It does not lead to happiness or joy or peace. Loving money can take our eyes off serving God, and make us servants to ourselves. To me there’s something morally corrupt about a landlord who would raise his tenant's rent to the degree the tenant cannot afford it. It’s greedy to set rent prices so high that your tenant cannot possibly pay the rent and save up to be able to afford a mortgage one day. It’s evil to ask so much in rent that few can afford it and every week on the news you see, just like everyone else sees reports about the housing crisis and more and more homeless families.
To those seeking a place to live, pray. Your Heavenly Father knows your need. He will provide for you, in His time. And when He does, let it be a testimony that you share with others, how He provided. Take care of your new home. I used to tell my children “cleanliness is Godliness,” as if it were a Scripture. It’s not, but one way to show our gratitude to God is by taking care of that which He provides. When you move, clean up so that the landlord doesn’t incur any cleaning fees he will then feel justified to pass on to the next tenant. When God provides for you, do your part to continue the flow of blessings. Amen.