What’s Your “The”?

I’ve been studying the book of Ruth lately. Painstakingly slow. I began the beginning of February and I’m still only on chapter 2. I hadn’t planned on studying it, but our pastor began preaching through the short book and I began reading it in preparation for his sermons.

Also I needed to make a graphic for the bulletin cover which necessitated my reading also. But I digress.

The story of Ruth is a wonderful picture of the life of an indwelt Christian. We all know it is the love story of Boaz and Ruth. But it’s also a love story of God and His people. In the first chapter we see ourselves as we really are before Jesus. We’ve fled the freedom of the promised land because of famine and are living exactly where God told us not to live…the Land of Moab.  But God begins wooing us out of our sinful state by noticeably blessing those around us. We decide to return and that is where the love story really begins. We come to the realization that He is our Kinsman Redeemer, and He has gone to great lengths to buy us back from captivity and sin.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Chapter 2 dawns with Ruth asking Naomi’s permission to go glean in a field, behind someone in whose sight she would find favor. Naomi obviously gives her permission and off Ruth goes. In gleaning that day she happened (actual Hebrew word means, “her chance chanced upon”) to come to the field owned by Boaz. I’m not going to get into the whole story here because that isn’t the topic or issue for this post.

In this chapter Ruth is continually referred to as “Ruth the Moabitess”, I believe the same holds true in the rest of Scripture. Everywhere she is named the two words, “the Moabitess” follows her name. It struck me as odd this morning. She is constantly referred to by who she was.

I am firmly convinced that she had a complete heart and life change when she left Moab with Naomi. I am sure it wasn’t after she left, but the change started before, while they were all still living in Moab. Before her father-in-law died, before her brother-in-law died, and before her husband died.

But nowhere is that change noted or mentioned. It’s striking to me, Rahab isn’t always known as Rahab the Harlot. But every time we see Ruth, we are reminded that she was an outsider, a non-Israelite. She didn’t fit it, didn’t belong, she wasn’t one of them.

In chapter 2 we also see that she is known for her kindness to Naomi, or what she did. When Boaz asked the servant over the reapers who she was, he was told “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi…”. He didn’t even say her name, but he did say what she had done. Apparently words got around in those days too. Everyone knew who she was because they knew what she had done.

Why the difference? Is it even important? Why call her by who she was every time? It’s an Identity thing! Her identity was in being from Moab.

Our identity isn’t in WHAT we do, but it’s in WHO we are.

We all struggle with seeing our identity in what we do. We ask people, “What do you do?” instead of asking, “Who are you?” Oh, yeah, we’ll ask someone’s name and then say, “Hilda, what do you do?” We identify with our actions.

I am a writer. I’m an attorney. I’m a CPA. I’m a banker. I’m a bank robber. I’m a teacher. I’m a student. I’m a Momma. I’m a secretary. I’m a bum. I’m a broker. I’m a cop. I’m a store clerk. I’m a librarian. I’m a barbarian.

It’s all what we do. But our actions don’t define us or identify us.  We are not what we do.

We pray all the time for Jesus to show us what He wants us to do. We need to stop that. Don’t ask Jesus what He wants you to do. He created you a human BEing not a human DOing.

But also don’t pray to be WHAT Jesus wants you to be. Pray to be WHO Jesus wants you to be. You’re a WHO not a WHAT.

Remember, you are not what you do.  Your job, your title, your activities do not define or identify you. Allow Jesus to be your identity, find your identity in Him and allow Him and His life to identify and define you.

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The Apologetics Study Bible {A Review}

I LOVE God’s Word. I love opening a new Bible, bringing it to my face, thrusting my nose into the center and breathing in deeply. It always emits a sigh from my deepest heart.

Not simply because I’m enamored with a new book, and a new book smell. I get giddy with the heady scent of an old favorite book too. Currently the Bible that I use daily smells of all things coffee. There are coffee rings on some of the pages.

The sigh comes from a place of knowing how loved I am. The God who created a billion galaxies thought of and noticed little me. He wrote His life story through the pen of many men many, many years ago. He wrote this so I could, so you could know Him.

It’s what we were created for. We were created to know and love God. What better way to communicate that than through a love letter telling His story? I can’t think of one.

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I recently had the honor of reviewing The Apologetics Study Bible. It is published by LifeWay/BH Publishing and uses the Holman Christian Standard translation.  I received a hardback copy, on the grey and white cover there is a watermark of The Thinker with the words “Faithful and True” along the edge of the spine. If you take off the dust cover you lose none of the design. I love that.

The pages are thin, but not super thin. The font though. Oh my word the font! I can almost read it without my glasses on. I love that. I can set it on my desk and not have to lean over very close to it just to read. That is huge.

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Okay. Let me explain that. The font isn’t huge. But it is a big enough size I can see it clearly. This makes me happy.

Sprinkled throughout the Bible are little boxes labeled “Twisted Scripture”. It’s not what you think! In these boxes, Alan Street offers explanation for commonly misconstrued passages of Scripture.

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In that picture you can see the great size of the font!! I love it!

Also you’ll find sprinkled throughout various articles on a wide range of topics. These are great to direct your thoughts deeper and would be excellent to use as a devotional.

Each book also has, as is typical for study Bibles, an introduction to each book, and study notes at the bottom of the page.

The one thing I do not like, and to me this is not a minor dislike, but is big. In the introduction to the books, it lists the man the Spirit of God breathed through as the author. The Author of the Bible is God. Men were merely the penmen, if you will.

You can order through Lifeway or your favorite Christian bookstore.

I give it 4 out of 5 turning pages.

Double-Stuff

When I was a girl Oreos were a rare and special treat. I loved twisting the top off of each one and dragging my tongue over the bottom cookie to get all the yummy frosting. Then I’d pop the cookies parts in my mouth.

Then Double Stuff Oreos were a thing. I’m rather surprised we don’t have triple stuff oreos today.  But I’m digressing a little. (Another digression, I can’t seem to type without making a bazillion mistakes. I’m hoping it’s just because my brain works faster than my fingers but all I can really say is how thankful I am for the backspace button.) If regular Oreos were a rare treat, Double Stuff was an extremely rare manuscript that must be treated with kid gloves. They were as rare as a blizzard in August. Which I suppose could have happened at some in history, but not in recent history and not in the northern hemisphere.

It’s entirely possible that I’m rambling and babbling on because I’ve forgotten the point of this blog post. If there was one. Which I’m sure there was but it has flown out of my mind like a canary from a cage.

Double…twice as much. Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. That was bold. Think about it. A mentor says, “What can I do for you before I leave you?” You think and think and then blurt out, “Yeah. I’d like to be you only twice as much. Twice as good.” Bold. Daring.

Why don’t we say that to Jesus? “Hey Jesus, I want to be like You, only double You in me.” It seems so self-serving, arrogant. But what if that prayer would be answered not with a “no” but with “I thought you’d never ask!”

Now I’m not at all saying we can get a double portion of the Holy Spirit, that’s crazy. (I think. I’ll have to ponder that some more.) But what if we just kept praying for more of Him, more of His life in us. More death to self, more life to Jesus. “Jesus, You were in me and with me yesterday. Today I want You to double that.”

That’s bold. That’s daring. What if He asked you to do something you didn’t want to do after you prayed that? How would you respond? Would you do it? Or would you sit back and say, “Oh no, Jesus, that’s too much. You’re asking too much.”

What if Jesus wanted your Double Stuff? What would you do then? Does Jesus even ask for our Double Stuff?  You see, now that I’ve asked the question, I find myself wondering if He does that. He certainly can. I’m going to have to think on this a bit more.

It should be obvious to everyone that I don’t always know the end of a blog post from the beginning. Maybe I should plan these out a bit more. Maybe I’ll start. No, I will start.

But never fear, I’ll probably still post random and rambly posts because that’s how I roll.

Not sure there is a point to this post

A few years ago I was not employed as the regular secretary at our church, but I was filling in after our long-term secretary quit without notice. Our pastor, at that time, was extremely organized, very type-A. As we all know I am not at all either one of those. One day in particular stands out among the many of funny happenings.

On this day he buzzed into my office with a wild look in his eyes, zipped behind my desk, looked at me and said, “Is my head on straight?” I looked at him, I tipped my head, I tipped it the other way, wrinkled my brow and finally said, “Yes. But your tie is crooked.”

Because that’s how I roll.

It’s funny what we think of as funny and what makes us laugh. Sometimes we laugh at things that aren’t even really all that funny. Sometimes we laugh because we don’t want anyone to know we didn’t get the joke. Sometimes we laugh because we’re tired, or insecure, surprised, or feel awkward.

Laughter has been called, “jogging for your insides”, it’s good medicine. It’s healthy. And we don’t do enough of it. There is way too much hard in life it seems to really let ourselves throw our heads back in laughter. Not polite laughter, I’m talking loud, let it loose laughter genuine, real. Laugh until tears roll down your cheeks and then laugh some more because tears are cascading down your cheeks.

We are entirely too serious all the time. Yes, life is hard. I get that. But that is why we need laughter. We need the laughter to counter the sad, the bad, the hard. Laughter is like a reset button for our emotions.

We don’t laugh because we feel good, we feel good because we laugh. And we should all laugh a whole lot more. Laugh at ourselves. Laugh with others. Tell funny stories and joke. Look for the silly, the funny, the hilarious. It’s all around us all the time. Every day. We’re surrounded by things to make us laugh.

And we ignore them.

Are we really all that depressed? Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not knocking those who truly suffer with the affliction we call depression. I think though, some of us aren’t depressed we’re just sad. Because just as the little lost boy, from Peter Pan, lost his marbles, we’ve lost our laughter. We’ve lost our funny.

I’ve lost my funny. At least here I have. I’m still the hilarious person I was. But not here. Here it seems I can only write heavy-hearted things. But I want to laugh. I need to laugh and so do you.

Life isn’t hard and then you die. Life is funny and then you laugh. And then you laugh some more. We laugh at inappropriate times, I get that. I’m the queen of inappropriate laughter. But we also don’t laugh at appropriate times. There are so many times life calls for a response of laughter and we don’t have it. We don’t give it. I think we’ve forgotten how. And I want to remember how to laugh.

I want to remember how to laugh and I want to remember to laugh. I want to remember that it’s okay to be silly. It’s okay to do funny things. It’s a good thing to see the humor in life, and life is full of humor.

There are enough hard things in life, enough things to steal our joy, trap our laughter, we need more things that reek of silly.

This is where I wrap it all up with a funny story to make you laugh. Because we need it. But it’s Valentine’s day, and that really has nothing to do with anything. Except I’m tired. Exhausted.  This is all I have.

twitching coffee

 

 

Ever-Present Help

I’ve been deeply pondering something often the past few months.  It’s something most people who grew up in the church have believed and shared. We’ve even prayed this way, but something about it just hasn’t been sitting right with me. I don’t want to say that Jesus has been speaking to me about it, but I don’t want to say He hasn’t been either.

“God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

It has been on the subject of help. And God. And God’s help.

That might have been somewhat redundant.

I read somewhere that we should not ask for God’s help. I can’t remember where or the exact quote at this time, of course, but for a few years it has stuck with me. I take it out occasionally to think about but then tuck it safely away. Lately I haven’t been able to tuck it away.  It comes out and dances through my thoughts like a ballerina on the stage. Beautiful, spinning,  and flighty.  They would disappear off stage right, just to spin in again from stage right.

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Each time they swirl out they stay center stage for longer and longer, allowing me to get a good look at them as I examine them from all angles.

Does God help us? Should we ask Him for help? Those and many other similar questions have chased through my thoughts. The more I thought on it the less comfortable I became with asking God for help.

Please listen closely. As I thought about asking God to help me do something I would always feel my heart recoil. I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the thought that God helps me. God doesn’t help. God does. I can’t. He can. He does. As I live submitted to Him and His indwelling life, He does all the doing through me.  He isn’t a helper, or a co-pilot. He is Lord.

“And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” John 14:16

The word translated “helper” here means “advocate, intercessor, or comforter”. We know Jesus is all of these in abundance. We know He is our advocate and as that He lives and loves to intercede for us. He comforts us so we can in turn comfort others. I like this.

What I don’t like is the idea that He helps me. He provides assistance. What I also don’t like is the thought that there is any part of my walk that I can control or do myself. I can do nothing apart from Him and His life in me. We all agree that our salvation is by grace through faith alone. We know we can do nothing to gain it or earn it. We tend to live as though we believe after salvation our walk and our works are all our responsibility. We think we have to pay God back by our own merit and only call on Him when we can’t accomplish a task on our own and in our own strength.

Our walk with Him, just like our salvation, is by grace through faith alone. We are to live continually yielded to Him and His life. He is our Do-er.

When we help someone, we do for them what they cannot do for themselves. A parent helps their young child by doing for them what they cannot do.

This has made all the difference. I still firmly believe that God is not my helper, I am still very convinced that He is the Do-er of our relationship. I know, deep inside, that I am to live totally submitted to Him and allow His life to flow in and through me. I know that any plan He has for me will only be accomplished by Him and His life. I am completely powerless to do the right thing and I cannot obey Him without Him. I can do nothing apart from Him.

Nothing.

So when I read Psalm 46:1

“God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble”

I still know He is the Do-er, He does what I can’t. And in that He is a Helper. He is my Helper.

I also know when I stop submitting to Him, He stops helping. He never stops loving or living in me or drawing me back to Himself. His help, His doing for and through me, is His blessing. And He never blesses sin.

But He always blesses obedience and submission. And He is so faithful to show us truth. To bring to light the hidden thoughts and motives. He is also faithful to reveal more of Himself to us. He begins slowly conforming us into His image, renewing our minds and then speaking to our soul He truth. Each step shows us more of His character and draws us closer and deeper.

I’m all for going closer and deeper.

 

Unity

 

“Behold how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

In the space of a week I had four painful confrontations with friends. I had feelings of anger, despair; I felt misunderstood, maligned, abandoned, rejected, uninvited, and a host of other uns. I questioned who my friends really were and who I could trust. I would often think and pray, “Lord, everyone on the planet could drop dead right now and I would not care. Just You and me, Lord, just You and me. I’m happy with that. Let everyone else leave me alone.”

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I might have a flair for the dramatic. Might. I am 97% extroverted and praying for everyone to fall off the face of the earth. I might also be a walking oxymoron. Might.

One of the friendships took a bigger hit than the other ones. This is one I have prayed over and wept over. I’ve also stood in amazed wonder at what Jesus was doing in me. Instead of hotly placing blame I’ve prayed for my eyes to be open to my own complicity in the conflict. I went into the conflict believing I was being obedient, I had prayed and had asked friends around the nation to pray for me. Because I want to minister Jesus and His grace, His love, His life.

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Even through this painful confrontation and it’s ensuing (temporary) fallout, Jesus has taught me so much. He has been so faithful to show Himself and reveal His character in ways I hadn’t seen before.

This morning He brought home to my heart how much He desires unity for us, in us, and from us. We are commanded to live unified with our brothers and sisters in Him.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18

We have a choice in our dealings with all men but even more so when dealing within our own friendships. Peace is always a choice and does not necessarily mean there is no conflict. And it isn’t a head in the sand obliviousness either. We are also told that we will have trouble (conflict) in this world but He came to bring peace within the conflict.

“make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Philippians 2:2

Our unity makes joy complete. Unity does not equal passivity or to senselessly acquiesce. It means we are real with ourselves and others. We are free to speak up. We are free to disagree. And we are free to

“do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

Unity also means we are free with our sincere apologies and we are quick to both offer and seek forgiveness. We know how to make a true apology, an apology that accepts responsibility for our wrong actions. We don’t blame the other person for the conflict. We realize it takes two to have a conflict and we are just as guilty as they are.

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Storms of conflict are inevitable. Our response to them does not have crush us or define us. It can and should teach us. We should view it as a welcome friend, embrace it, and see Jesus in it. It’s not easy but it reflects the life of Jesus in us and shows the world the difference of a life fully committed to Him.

No, we won’t always get it right. There is grace for that. And mercy. And forgiveness.

Of Being Full and Being Empty

Our pastor is beginning a sermon series through the book of Ruth and in anticipation I have been reading through the book. If I were to be honest, and since this is my blog I can be or can not be as my mood fits. but I’m choosing honesty, I haven’t made it out of the first chapter yet. Jesus is opening these eyes to see things I hadn’t seen before and things I’ve seen before I am seeing in a whole new light.

Most everyone who grew up in the church knows that the book of Ruth is a love story. It’s the love story of Ruth and Boaz. But it is also a story of great loss and death. Those two items litter the whole first chapter.

I’m not going to get in to it all here right now, maybe at some point I will but now is not that point.

Lately I’ve felt that I’m in a season of great loss. If I were to be completely honest, and again it’s my blog so I can be, I’d have to admit my whole life has been a season of great loss, I’ve lived through my share of famines and death. I’ve suffered loss at the hands of others and some losses, to be sure, have come at my own hands, or at the very least my own choices.

This morning I read Ruth 1:21:

I went out full but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?

I pondered going out full. Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem in a famine. Fullness and famine do not go together in my mind. They are opposites.

It is so easy to see fullness in famine when we’re living in a different kind of famine. When life hurts and we’re facing yet another loss (family member, child, spouse, job, friendship) or we have a fresh one in the rearview mirror, we don’t see life clearly. We remember the “good ol’ days” as being well, the good ol’ days. We don’t remember them as the hard days full of just as much hurt, pain,  and bitterness as today is.

So what if we did something really crazy? I mean, really, really crazy? What if we turned that verse around and saw our present situation differently?

“I went in empty, but the LORD has brought me out full…”

When our eyes are focused on our needs, wants, and desires we tend to look to other people to meet and fulfill these. We make them responsible for our lack and then when they don’t meet our needs as we think they should we quickly begin to believe that our needs don’t matter. Our wants don’t matter.

And that is true. They do not. They don’t matter to anyone except Jesus.

And we feel empty. “I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty…”

Our needs do matter to Jesus and He alone is the One who can meet and fill them. He takes the empty and fills it, not with what we think we need or want but with Himself. When we look to Him to meet our basic heart needs and wants, He frees us to see that they are filled and we are full. This frees other people from having to be our god.

Yeah, because there is that. When we look to anyone or anything else to fill us we are committing adultery and idolatry.

So let’s choose to change our focus and our heart attitude.

“I entered empty, but I’m being brought out full.”