A Long, Precious History

Since I was born –

from then to now –

God has been my Shepherd.

So Israel’s (formerly known as Isaac) words echo through my mind as I read in Genesis about how he describes God during his last days on earth, ” God who has been my Shepherd all my life to this day.”

Israel and I share the experience of having a long family legacy of faith.

In Genesis 48, Israel is blessing his grandsons – Joseph’s sons – before he breathes his last breath.  This was very serious business and Joseph isn’t happy when Israel switches hands and gives the younger son the greater blessing.

But I know that one of the biggest blessings these grandsons and all of Israel’s grandsons are receiving is the long family history of belief and faith they have been nurtured in since their birth.  It started with their Great, Great Grandfather Abraham and it is being passed down to them.

They have had years and years of role models in their lives of people who followed God and obeyed.  This is a precious blessing that will change their lives forever if they choose to follow in the steps of those who have gone before them.

I have received this blessing as I pursue a life of following God and being faithful to him….

as my mother did….

and my grandmothers…..

and my great grandmothers – on back through history.

If this isn’t true of your family, you have the awesome opportunity to get it started.

Thank you for giving me the blessing of having a long family history of faith, Abba Father.

He is With Me

All the time.

Blessing me.

Guiding me.

Loving me.

As I read the story of Joseph in Genesis, I notice that one phrase keeps repeating itself – over and over.

“The Lord was with Joseph.”

Joseph lived in Old Testament times so the Holy Spirit had not yet come to live inside of every believer.  God’s relationship with his people in the Old Testament was very different from now because sin was in the way.  It explains why the Old Testament is full of violence, bloody animal sacrifices and killing.  Our Righteous Father had to keep his distance.   Jesus had not yet given up his life on the cross to pay for all of the sins of the world.

Even so, as we read through the Old Testament, God’s Spirit did come to earth at special times to be  ‘with’ chosen people.

Joseph was one of them.  And Joseph prospered even when his circumstances were not good.

I am so thankful to be living on earth after Jesus came because now the Holy Spirit is ‘with’ everyone who has accepts the free gift of salvation offered by Jesus and puts their faith in him.  Everything good on earth comes from God – even when he doesn’t get the credit.

I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit is ‘with’ me every day – caring for me, counseling me and walking beside me.

And I prosper despite my circumstances….

because God is good, all the time.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

I Am One of Them

Tonight, let’s all go outside and look up at the stars.

Most of the stars we will see are the same stars Abram (God changes his name to Abraham later) saw when God took him outside and told him to ‘count the stars’.

Then God said to Abram, “So shall your offspring be.”

As we read the Old Testament, it appears like these stars represent the Israelites who became the Jewish nation.  In Galatians, Paul clarifies for us the identity of Abraham’s children.  “Understand, then, that those who have faith are Children of Abraham.”

I am a child of Abraham!

I am represented by one of those stars in the sky on that night over 2,000 years ago when Abram looked up…..

and believed.

Are you?

Thank you, Abba Father, for your faithfulness to Abraham and your faithfulness to me.

 

The Unknown

It’s hard to make decisions about next steps when I don’t know how it’s all going to work out.  There are times when it feels like the unknown is just waiting out there – ready to blow up in my face.

So reading about Abram’s (soon to be Abraham) decision-making in Genesis intrigues me.  First, God tells Abram to leave his homeland to go to “the land I will show you.”

Wow!  Not even a forwarding address on that one!  Just go.  I’ll tell you when to stop.

And the Bible tells us, “So Abram went.”

Abram was role-modeling for me a level of trusting in God that challenges me and make me want to grow my faith.

Then Abram takes a couple of steps back when he deceives the Egyptians by telling them his wife was his sister, creating a significant issue when Pharoah plans to make her his wife.  Abram didn’t trust God to keep him safe in this situation.  The good news is that God intervened and stopped the mess.

Thank you, Father, for stopping some of the messes I was creating before they blew up.

The next time we read about Abram, he is travelling to Canaan with his nephew, Lot.  Their herdsmen are quarreling because together they had too many herds and flocks for the amount of water and food that was available.

They decided to split up and Abram lets Lot pick the best land while he claimed the less fertile hill country.  In this situation, Abram is clearly deciding that his relationship with his nephew was more important than ‘stuff’ like the best piece of land.  Abram knew God well enough to know that God made people a priority over ‘things’ so he knew God would bless his decision.

And God did.

This is such a great lesson for me!  When I don’t know how something is going to work out, I need to use God’s values and follow his heart to determine my next step.  Then I know God will bless my decision.

Please help me love the things that you love, Abba Father.

In the Beginning

So I begin again.  Genesis 1:1.

This is my 9th consecutive year of reading through the Bible.  I’m anticipating great mornings of hearing God’s voice as he speaks to me through his Word.

One of my favorite things about reading the entire Bible is I get a good understanding of God’s overall message on important topics.  Like God’s love – reading the Old Testament and then the New Testament gives me a knowledge of God’s love that I’m not going to get reading a verse here or a chapter there.

I am also hooked on reading the Chronological Bible for several reasons – here are a few:

  • The Old Testament prophets are placed in the story with the king they talked to and in the correct time in history.
  • One of my favorite reasons – the psalms David wrote are placed in his story when he wrote them.  So I read the psalms David wrote while he was hiding from Saul in the cave when David is actually hiding in the cave.
  • The several different and extremely detailed accounts concerning the tabernacle and the temple are combined so I only read them once and they make more sense.
  • The New Testament gospels are combined so it doesn’t feel like I’m reading the same story 4 times.  It’s also interesting to see the differences in perspectives.

The Chronological Bible is not good for in-depth Bible study but it’s a great 2d Bible for reading and comprehension.

So I start again…..

knowing God will open my eyes to more truth this year and he will focus my eyes on truth I already know but need to be reminded of.

In the Beginning.

Thank you for the Bible, Abba Father.

 

I’m Just Renting

I don’t own anything.  When I die, nothing is coming with me.

I know – I check the box ‘own’ when I’m asked about my house but I should really be marking ‘rent’ because my house is not coming with me.

My husband and I ‘own’ the titles to our two cars but they aren’t coming with us, either.  Yes, I will be leaving my fun and fabulous Camaro behind.

The Apostle Peter calls me a ‘temporary resident’.  I like it!

Living in this world is often disappointing and difficult.  It’s confusing and full of conflicts.  The moments of joy seem fleeting compared to the problems that hang on forever.  When I hear people talk about ‘forever homes’ here on earth, I’m really glad to know that my ‘forever home’ is not here – it’s in a much better place.

The hole left in my life by the death of my son will only be filled in heaven.

So I’m good with my temporary, renting status here on earth.  When my lease is up, I’m going home, where I belong…..forever.

I know you already have a place prepared for me, Abba Father.  Thank you.

Surrounded by a Crowd

A huge crowd has gone before me.

They were faithful here on earth and are now receiving their reward in heaven.

My family has had a long history of being people of faith.  My grandparents immigrated to the US from the Netherlands during a time of discontent and division in the Reformed Church.  My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, their parents, their grandparents and on and on make up a big portion of the ‘huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith’ that surrounds me.  When I read this in Hebrews, I visualize a big bunch of Dutch people in their wooden shoes cheering me on as I run the race God has set before me. 

For generations, my ancestors have been farmers – both here and in the Netherlands – who planted the seeds but then had to trust God to water them and give them sunshine to grow.  It’s easy to see in farming how God has a direct affect on the success or failure of your crops.  I was raised in a small farming community in Iowa and I will never forget the standing-room-only prayer services we had when the crops needed rain.  There was never any doubt about who controlled the weather.

My mother is in the front of my crowd of witnesses in heaven – clapping loudly and yelling encouragements.  She was never a quiet person so I’m sure she’s not quiet in heaven.  My crowd also contains other Christians who were my role-models here on earth – challenging me, teach me and loving me – and are now in heaven.

And, for many of you here on earth, someday I will be in your crowd of witnesses, cheering you on as you keep your eyes focused on Jesus.

Amen!  Hallelujah!

Becoming Mature

What does it mean to become mature in my faith?

What does it take to move beyond the basics of truth and begin to understand the mysteries?

The writer of Hebrews talks to us about those who have been believers for a long time and should be teaching others but who still need someone to teach them and remind them basic things about God’s truth.  “You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.”

“Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skills to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”

I don’t want to be a spiritual baby.

Do you?

My goal is to continue to mature in my faith – growing more like Jesus each year.  To work on this goal, I realized I had to open my mind and let God change me from the inside out.  I have let God write his Truth on my heart which altered the list of things I love along with how I spend my time and resources.  His truth has been etched on my mind through memorization and the Holy Spirit uses this truth to transform my thinking.

Through time and study and perseverance, I have come to understand the basics and been able to move on to the more complicated  aspects of God’s truth.  And I’ve been able to share with others the truth I have learned.

I’ve been convicted by the knowledge that, at some point, those of us who are studying God’s truth every week need to ‘get it’.  It has to move from something we know to something we live out – daily.  Otherwise we stay babies, being taught the basics over and over but never really letting the change begin.

We need to stop talking about the transforming power of God and let it happen to us –

let him in –

let him grow us –

change us –

so we can become mature.

Thank you, Abba Father, for your transforming power in our lives. 

Fight the Good Fight

I want to fight the good fight.

How about you?

Paul tells Timothy – and you and I today – “Fight the good fight for the true faith.”

To fight this fight well, I have to train.  Training requires planning and then committing to that plan.  Training for true faith has to include Bible study, meeting together with other Christians who are growing in their faith, time alone spent listening to God and regular giving back to God a portion of my time and treasures.

Because I’ve been in training for many years, I have realized that I am ready to fight when I find myself in the ring.  When the lies of this world try to worm their way into my mind, I can fight that battle and win because I know the truth.  It’s engraved on my heart and mind.

When problems surround me and discouragement tries to roll over me, I know my Father God stands beside me, loving and guiding me.  I’ve been in training.

I know who to turn to for strength and encouragement when my day is dark and sad.  God has always been faithful in comforting me – he will do it again.  I know this because I’ve been trained.

When my world exploded and smashed my heart beyond brokenness, I knew God was my anchor and he was going to show the way down this painful road.  He had prepared me so I could stand firm in the midst of the horrible tragedy of my son being killed in the line of duty.

It was all part of my training.

Thank you for teaching me how to fight the good fight, Abba Father.

Encouraged

Comforted.

Nurtured.

Supported.

These are great feelings and are all part of being ‘nourished’.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul tells his young colleague that he will be ‘nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed.”

I feel I am being nourished as I read, study and memorize God’s word.  My soul is being fed.  God is pouring his truth into my mind, transforming my thinking.  God is nurturing me as he opens my eyes to his plans and I see him moving in my life.

God comforts me when the trials of this world try to overwhelm me.  He encourages me when I am disappointed by reality.  He supports me as he opens up my mind to his truth – chasing away the confusion that the Evil one works so hard to create.

Nourished….yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Thank you, Abba Father.