Monday, March 13, 2017

Judges 19

March 13, 2017 0
Click here to read the entire chapter of Judges 19
Click here to select a different translation
Read the First5 study on Judges 19

There are so many lessons in this chapter. First, the concubine/wife was unfaithful to her husband. Other translations say she played the "harlot."  Second, she ran to her father, its suggested that he had been allowing her wild ways for a long time because she knew she could run back to him and he would accept her instead of urging her to make things work with her husband, back at home.

The fact that her husband traveled to her to forgive her and woo her back shows that he's at least a decent man and that he doesn't intend for her to be punished over her marital transgressions like the law would allow.

The Levite was at first, trying to do the decent thing. At first, he chose to forgive his wife and keep her from an adulteress' punishment of death but in Gibeah, he went forth with her punishment not because he wanted her to be punished, but he valued his life and safety more than hers.  The Levite fell short in being a just man.  The lesson I got from him is that most people want to be just - only when it's easy.  When it takes personal sacrifice, most people won't fight for the right thing to do.  The Levite should have kept his wife hidden away in the house and called out to the Lord to ask for safety -  all while preparing to fight evil.

The father in law wanted his daughter and son in law to stay longer and longer, which is understandable, but we should allow our guests to depart when they feel it's time because the father in law messed things up for the Levite.  In that the Levite, his wife, and his servant had limited options when it came time to lodge.  I think he was trying to delay their departure because he wanted to make sure everything was reconciled with his son in law and that the Levite wasn't going to pursue the adulteress' punishment for his daughter.  Also, I think the father in law had kind of selfish intentions and wasn't trusting that the Lord was inspiring this reconciliation. As a host, he should have allowed his guests to leave when they felt inclined to leave.

The Levite wanted to lodge amongst brethren, but this was a bad choice in that a lot of the men in Gibeah had debased minds.  The Levite probably would have been safer in the heathen town in which the servant suggested they stay.  Honestly, sometimes I've felt safer around unbelievers because I've found that some of the believers that I was around to be harsh, judgmental, and legalistic.  As Christians, we need to make it a point to be the people who love with a godly love.

The old man of Ephriam had a place in Gibeah, most likely because he did lots of business there on account of having nearby fields.  He was godly - he wished safety on these travelers and was the only one to offer them a place to stay.  Also, Sodom and Gomorrah met their demise nearby and within this old man's lifetime so we know that he knows what happened there.  This old man looked up to Lot as a godly man.  But as Matthew Henry points out, oftentimes when we try to emulate godly people, we tend to emulate their good choices as well as bad (in this case, offering up the women in his house to the evil men just like Lot did).  We must look up to God, alone and only try to emulate Jesus.  He's the only perfect one.

An interesting point of Matthew Henry's, is that the evil men chose to defile the concubine but didn't want the virgin daughter.  It's likely the daughter was rejected for defilement because she had a reputation within this town of being kind to everyone and/or she was always modestly dressed.  Henry also points out that it's likely the concubine was still dressing like a harlot at this time and perhaps this is why the townsmen accepted her for defilement and didn't want anything to do with the old man's daughter.  As women, we must always consider that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that modest dress is very important for many reasons.  A rapist is totally at fault, but let's do our best not to attract/entice these evil types with our clothing choices.

Phew! I could go on and on about this chapter, but I have to stop here.  Would you like to add or discuss?  Please leave a comment!

So many lessons in this sad story.  Let's press close to the Lord today and be thankful for His love, wisdom, and protection.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Video - Stop Saying "No" to God's Gifts

March 09, 2017 0
Below, is the script from today's video...

The Lord provides His children with opportunities to bring Him glory as well as draw others to Jesus. The job is going to get done no matter what, but we have the choice on how we're going to play our part.

God can still use us to advance His kingdom even if we're only interested in living for ourselves. We see this with Samson. Even though Samson was only interested in fulfilling his fleshly desires like lust and pride, we see that the Lord still uses him to take out the enemy.  However, as we see in judges, that Samson brought destruction and humiliation upon himself.  The Lord uses Samson in great ways despite Samson's disobedience. As a result, God was still given all the glory, Samson, however, died with humiliation and disgrace.

Remember, no matter what, God will always be glorified.

Sometimes the Lord will use us despite our resistance like we see with Samson and other times, the Lord will allow us to choose to pass up an opportunity He provides for us.  When this happens, the Lord will go ahead and assign the task to someone else.  We saw this with Moses and Aaron.  God told Moses to go speak out loud.  Moses asked if his brother, Aaron, could speak the messages that God had put in Moses instead and the Lord said, "okay."

Years ago, my church at the time held a talent show.  At the time, I was unaware of any gifts and talents I had so I was planning on sitting in the back quietly and watching other share theirs.  As soon as I took a seat, the pastor said, "Alyssa can do it."  The pastor was talking to a gentleman who wrote a worship poem.  This gentleman had to work behind the scenes for the talent show so he was unable to share his poem in front of everybody so he was asking if someone else could read it out loud for him.  My stomach dropped as the poet handed his poem over to me and the pastor wrote my name down on the list of presenters.

The Lord had provided me with an opportunity to glorify him and to stretch me but all I felt was dread.  I listened to all the excuses in my head - I was caught off guard, I was uncomfortable, I don't like the sound of my voice, what if people thought the poem was lame?

As I nervously sat there, my friend sat beside me and she could read my face.  She asked what was wrong and I complained to her over what I was going to have to do.  Being the brave and godly woman that my friend is, she volunteered to read the poem in my place so I didn't have to.  My friend walked up to the microphone when it was time and she read the poem to everyone.  Everything went fine and she didn't collapse on the floor and die of embarrassment.  Later on, the Holy Spirit told me that He wanted to gift ME with that opportunity to speak in front of everyone.  It was a gift from God!  And I said "no, thank you." Ultimately, the Lord got the glory from the poem, but Jesus wanted me to take a part in this task...for me.  I don't know what exactly would have come from this gift, this opportunity.  Perhaps the Lord would've used it to strengthen my public speaking.  Or perhaps He wanted me to practice resisting my feelings of anxiety and just simply press forward when it comes to His will.  I don't know and maybe I'll never know because I passed this up.

Regardless, God wastes nothing.  I learned a big lesson from this in that the Lord will be glorified no matter what and it's a gift, it's an honor when He provides an the opportunity to glorify Him.

So how do you know when God is providing an opportunity for you to serve Him?  You can start off with asking, "will this glorify Jesus?"  Also, has He given you the resources and/or the facilities to do this task?  When it came to reading this poem in front of everybody, I already had the necessary tools.  I knew how to read and I had the ability to talk.  So yes, I had the tools.

It's easy for us to think, "I don't have the tools, I don't have the resources to glorify You.  But we do!

Next time you walk into McDonalds, can you afford a $5 gift card to hand over to a homeless person? Can you trade in some of your TV watching time to go rake leaves out of a widow's yard?  Do you have the ingredients as well as a working stove to bake cookies for your lonely neighbor?

We have the tools and the Lord provides us with opportunities every day to glorify Him, to help others, and to strengthen our walks with Him.  We need to be in the habit of recognizing the gifts that God has given us. Your job, your running water, your wardrobe, the breath in your lungs, the knowledge of the one true Lord. These are all gifts from Him.  It is a privilege to honor the Lord with whatever gifts he's given us at the moment.

For years, the Holy Spirit had been urging me to do these videos.  Despite having a good camera, professional lighting, and a husband who is willing to edit and makes music, I would talk myself out of this.  I would say, "I'm not a theologian, I don't know enough!  What if people think that I just want attention?  I'm too tired!  My voice bugs me," etc.  What was so funny is that I'd allow these excuses to talk me out of doing these videos that would glorify the Lord, and then I'd turn around and ask the Lord to please increase my territory and give me ways to advance His kingdom.  The Holy Spirit would patiently remind me that I must be faithful in the little things.

This is it! I had been asking the Heavenly Father for something to do and when He would provide me with something to do, I would say, "mmmm, no, not that one."  The Lord is not a grab bag in which we can toss the assignment that we don't like on the ground and then reach our grubby little hands into the bag for something else to do or for something else to choose from.

God knows more than us, He knows what will honor Him, what will help others, what will strengthen us.  So when He tells us to go, we must go.  When He tells us to walk through this open door, we better walk through.  If we're not being faithful in the little things, how are we going to expect Him to  provide something bigger for us to do?

I hope you're encouraged to be faithful in the little things and to not allow excuses to keep you from glorifying Jesus.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Philippians 1:10

March 08, 2017 0
"For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return." Philippians 1:10 (NLT) 

As Christians, a big part of our walk is trying to figure out what matters. It's easy for our flesh to swing from laziness to legalism. So for Paul to wish us a clear focus is extremely sensible and necessary.

Click here to read the entire chapter.  Click here to select a different translation.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Let's Keep Our Eyes on the Lord

March 07, 2017 0
This photo was reposted from my Instagram
Aaron and I were watching the last movie in The Hobbit trilogy the other night. One scene struck a chord in me; the scene where Smaug, the evil dragon was facing off against Bard, the archer and Bain, his teenage son. Smaug, was smack-talking and trying to strike fear. He asked Bard, “is this your child? You cannot save him from the fire. He will burn!” On that last word, he lunged forward, open mouthed, ready to consume. At the same time, Bard was steadying the arrow on Bain’s shoulder, because the bow was broken. Bain was facing his father but he turned to see Smaug descending on them. Just then, Bard calmly said, “Bain, keep your eyes on me.” Bain did so and his dad hit his mark and the dragon died.
I love this scene because it reminds me of what God desires from us. When the enemy is thrashing about, threatening, accusing, trying to spread pain and fear, the Lord tells us to keep our eyes on Him. God is always in control and not only will we be spared from worrying when we keep our eyes on Him, but we will also be more effective in our task at hand.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Video - Moving Forward with Forgiveness

March 06, 2017 0
Below, is the script from today's video...

If we feel like we're entitled to our unforgiveness, then, not will we need recover from our pain, but we will continue to spread that pain onto others.  I'm sure you've heard that saying, "hurt people hurt people."  And it's true.

My dad has gone through a pretty terrible childhood.  He was abandoned, he was abused.  There were quite a number of people who were purposefully cruel to him.  It wasn't until I was a child that my father came to know the Lord.  Prior to that, he was dealing with a lot of pain from his past.  Because he didn't have Jesus in his heart, he didn't know what to do with all this pain.  Remember, like I said, hurt people will hurt other people.  So there was definitely a trickle effect where I felt like I was pained because of what he had gone through.

I developed a bitter hatred toward these people.  If they hadn't hurt my dad, my dad would have been a lot more okay for me growing up as a child.  When my father came to know the Lord, my dad was able to forgive.  I watched my dad, curiously, as he was able to release his pain, release hatred, and not only forgive these people, but receive them, and love on them and share his resources with them.  He opened his home to them and whatever he had, he was so happy to love on them and he was excited to bring them into his life.  I watched him be able to come to the Lord with a clear conscience despite what they had done to him.

I didn't understand why he was able to forgive them.  I chose to continue hating them.  Their sins affected me.  Their sins hurt me.  And so I was going to hold onto my hatred because I felt like it was my right to do so.  The Lord pointed out to me that my dad's ability to forgive freed him from reliving the pain.  The Lord pointed out to me that my dad had more of a right to retain more of a grudge against them than I did.  But if my dad was able to forgive them, so should I.  Matthew 6, "for if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

The Lord doesn't desire for us to have wrath and bitterness, and pain in us.  He wants us to forgive.  He wants us to be able to be a great witness.  As children of God, we're supposed to reflect Him.  The Lord is gracious and forgiving.  My dad was a great example of that.  He trusted in the Lord, he let Jesus heal him.  He let Jesus strengthen him with a strength that my dad didn't have. Forgiveness is an incredibly hard thing to do.  It goes against what the world says in that, "this is your right to be angry.  This is your right to be hurt."  But that's only going to put us in bondage.  That's only going to make the pain ferment and continue to hurt us.

I love Ephesians chapter four verses 31-32, "get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you."  And like He says in Isaiah chapter one, verse 18, "'come now, let us settle the matter,' says the Lord, 'though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'"  For Him to say that to me after the horrible things that I've said and done and thought; it takes a HUGE burden off of me.  This is why it's important that we forgive - not just the person who has committed a transgression against us, but simply because that's what the Lord wants from us.

Look at my dad's choice...he now has this group of people who love him and are so astonished over the peace that he has in being able to let go.  That is making great strides for God's kingdom.