Are You Weak?

Yesterday, in Adult Sunday School, we were discussing the reasons God might have for allowing trouble into our lives.

Answers included:

  1. to teach us patience
  2. to teach us to trust
  3. to make us mature in our faith
  4. to give us an opportunity to explain to others the reason for our hope in God
  5. to cause us to depend on God.

In a recent blog I said that our earthly parents raise us to eventually become independent. But our heavenly Father raises us to become increasingly more dependent on him.

  • Throughout biblical history we read about Abraham and Sarah, being well past the age when child-bearing could happen. Yet Isaac was born.
  • Hannah longed for a child to give to her husband, Elkanah. His other wife mocked Hannah because she could not get pregnant. Yet God gave Hannah a son, Samuel.
  • Gideon started with an army of ten thousand, yet God pared it down to a mere three hundred men.
  • Daniel was thrown into a den of hungry lions, yet God shut their mouths so they could not devour Daniel.
  • The Hebrews escaped the Egyptian Pharaoh, only to be trapped by the immense Red Sea. But God parted those waters and let the Hebrews pass through.
  • God used a young and beautiful Hebrew girl to soften a brutal Babylonian king so that the enemy of the her people would not be successful in annihilating her entire race.

In all of Biblical history, we see the impossible happen. God delights to show His people that what is impossible for men is possible for God when we rely on Him, not our own strength.

My favorite Biblical hero is Joseph. The favored, youngest son of Jacob, he had a dream in which God showed him that one day his eleven older brothers, and his mother and father—what arrogance!—would all bow to him. Sold into slavery by his brothers, he languished as a slave and eventually, a prisoner before he was ready to be used of God in a mighty way. Because he was in the right time at the right place and had learned to see life through God’s perspective, he became the instrument through which the Hebrews were saved from starvation.

These things happen so that men cannot praise their strength and ability. In each case, the glory goes to God alone. Soli Deo Gloria!

And in each of these cases, God works through one of His own to ensure the protection and survival of His chosen nation, Israel. And to ensure that the promised Messiah will arise out of Israel.

Is it possible that these Biblical accounts could be our stories, as well?

In can be when we recognize the hand of God in all our moments, good and bad, and how God causes them to work out for His glory.

Joseph had to come to the realization that his brothers and parents were not going to bow to him to bring him glory, but for the working out of God’s plan of salvation for the Hebrews. And ultimately, our own salvation!

Are we also called for the ultimate purpose of someone else’s salvation? What would that look like in your life?

Has the Lord allowed challenges in your life? Could it be that He wants to bring you to a state of complete dependence on Him?

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Cor. 12:10 NIV Bible)

 

 

Pasta, Please!

It’s a cold, cold day.

Snow has exceeded the weatherman’s predictions. I measured the snow on the railing of my back deck. Eight inches.

But, praise God, I don’t have to go anywhere today. I can hole up and spend the whole day writing.

Yay!

I’m making a pasta dish for dinner tonight. It’s my favorite comfort food dish when the weather is blustery.

I don’t have pasta very often. The amount that my dietician thinks is a serving is pitiful.

But this pasta dish is for days like today.

Wanna see the recipe? I call it “Pasta, Please!”

Here it is:

One pound mild Italian sausage

One half chopped onion.

I cup chopped red pepper (or yellow or green)

About 2 tsp. of Italian seasoning.

One tsp garlic powder or two to three chopped cloves of garlic.

Large jar of tomato pasta sauce.

Half a cup of chopped black olives.

Your choice pasta.

All of the ingredients can be adjusted per your taste. Break up the sausage and brown with the onions and red peppers in a pan. Or throw all in the crock pot. Drain off extra fat. When the sausage and vegies are browned, throw all the other ingredients in. Cover and cook on low in crockpot for about four hours, or in a covered pan for about an hour. Stir every so often. Serve over pasta.

(I love to do this in the crockpot because the aroma permeates the house and makes me feel cozy.)

What’s your favorite comfort dish?

 

 

 

Hospitality

I think the American church has lost the skill or gift of showing hospitality. It seems years ago, we were all visiting neighbors, and providing meals and inviting new attenders of the church to come over for a get-acquainted meal.

Now, it hardly ever happens. I don’t know why, because there’s really nothing very difficult about showing hospitality.

Go ahead. Put your tech stuff away. (You won’t die!) Turn off the TV. (You can always record your favorite show.)

Hospitality can be as easy as this:

“Hey, you’re new. Wanna come on over for lunch? Naw, you don’t have to bring anything. We’re just cooking brats on the barbecue. You can? Great! Here’s our address.”

Or

“Hey, I’m so glad you moved onto our block. Wanna come on over for tea sometime? You’re free? Great! How about tomorrow?”

When your guest(s) arrives, here are some great conversation starters:

  • How did you two meet?
  • What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
  • Where all have you lived?
  • Where were you born?
  • What kind of work do you do?

I’m sure you can think of your own questions. People love to talk about themselves. And they’ll remember you for expressing an interest in them. (Just make sure that when you ask your questions you’re prepared to listen!) Who knows? You may have just begun a wonderful and rewarding friendship.

I think a lot of Christians think that ministry and serving is all about doing some great and glorious preaching, or going to Haiti, or giving humongous amounts of money, or running a soup kitchen.

But one of the grandest things we can do for God’s Kingdom is simply show an interest in others. You probably wouldn’t know it when you see people pass by. But most—maybe all of them—yearn for someone to take an interest in them.

I know. At times—such as7-20-11 010 when we move and start going to a new church— I’ve been one of those people.

“Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13 NIV Bible)

 

Deadly Snake

About ten years ago my fifteen year old daughter and I went for a hike in the hills above Boulder. It was mid-April and we couldn’t wait to get out and stretch our legs and breathe deeply after a long winter of being cooped up inside.

We parked just off Hwy 36, at the trailhead. We’d brought our two medium-sized dogs, Dudley and Sprite, so we felt pretty safe.

The trail was a there-and-back kind of hike.

At the mid-point—about two miles into our hike—we passed through a wooded section, and paid particular attention because of the possibility of a lurking mountain lion. We made lots of noise, laughing and talking and swinging and hitting our walking sticks against tree trunks.

Then we heard it. The unmistakable and bone-chilling sound of an intimidated rattle snake.

We looked up to the rocks above us. A big rattler was sitting on a flat rock, about eight feet above us, flicking his tongue and rattling his warning.

We hurried to get away from the area. And we thanked God that the snake had not been closer to the trail. We made it to the turn around.

On our way back, Kiri and I kept reminding each other about the wooded section and to keep looking for the snake on the rock. Kiri was ahead of me, walking Sprite. Dudley was pulling me along as if he, too, was anxious to get past this spooky section of the trail.

I kept my eyes peeled to the right, scanning the rocks for the snake.

Just then out of the corner of my left eye, I saw the lightning-like movement. A snake on the trail…let me repeat….on the trail, had struck at Kiri, missing her calf by just inches. She hadn’t even seen it until I screamed a warning and she jumped clear.

Kiri picked up pebbles from the trail and began to pelt the snake. I yelled at her to stop it because the rocks were only making the snake bunch up into a tighter coil. We’d never get past him if he didn’t slither away from the trail. Even the dogs refused to budge.

The rattler wouldn’t move, so we had to climb up through some rocks and high grasses to get past that part of the trail, all the time fearing that we might encounter another snake.

After we got clear, we ran the two miles back to our car. And all the time, we kept thanking God for protecting us. Especially since we hadn’t brought a cell phone.

I’ve thought about that experience many times. Here are the lessons we’ve learned:

  1. Recognize that danger exists.
  2. Be alert…always. Predators strike when you think you’re safe.
  3. Be prepared. Know how you will meet a threat.
  4. Have a plan of defense or escape.
  5. Stay close to others.

Recognize danger, be alert, be prepared, have a plan, stay close.

Physical attacks can be terrible and traumatic. But, in the spiritual realm, attacks are no less devastating.

In the book of Ephesians, we are told to put on the full armor of God to defend against evil and evil forces. The author, Paul, was fully aware of spiritual danger and of the attacks of the devil.

  1. We need faith in God and His work on the cross,
  2. we need to practice doing right, so that we recognize wrong-doing,
  3. we need to know God’s Word well and be able to rightly handle it against worldly “wisdom,”
  4. we need to pray in alignment with the Holy Spirit.
  5. Stay close to others.

Faith in God, Do right, Know the Word, Pray, Fellowship.

This is the best way to avoidIMG_2467 a deadly snake.

“…take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” ( Eph. 6:16 NIV Bible)

 

The Real St. Patrick

When I was just a little kid in elementary school, the only thing I knew about St. Patrick was that there was a day when we had to wear green or we’d get pinched by our classmates. I always thought that was a bit unfair since my small wardrobe contained no green shades and I’m not Irish, anyway.

But in 7th grade European History class, I chose to write a paper on the real St. Patrick. Here’s what I found:

He’s not a saint with a capital S. The Roman Catholic church never canonized him.

He’s not Irish. He was born in Scotland to a middle class family. Both his father and grandfather were prominent in the Christian faith. But not Patrick.

At the age of about 16, he was taken captive by Irish pirates and sold to an Irish king.

The king sent him out as a slave to herd sheep. This was a lonely, often dangerous job with no shelter or food. Patrick had to fend for himself. To deal with his loneliness and fear, he remembered the Christian God that his father worshiped.

Patrick eventually converted to Christianity. In his early twenties, a message from God encouraged him to flee his master and Ireland and try to get back to his family.

Patrick escaped back to Britain. He studied the Christian faith in a monastery. Thirty years later, he felt a call to go back to Ireland and spread the gospel.

The Irish people of that time were pagan, war-like, and hostile. Patrick faced death many times.

Patrick was pretty savvy about evangelism. He targeted royalty and the rich, figuring that when they converted it would be easier to lead the lower classes to faith in Jesus.

There was an earlier evangelist named Palladius, but he wasn’t quite as successful as Patrick. Patrick eventually became the bishop of Armugh.

Patrick used the formerly pagan symbol—the shamrock—to teach the concept of the trinity.

There are many stories about Patrick and it’s difficult, almost sixteen hundred years later to sort out myth from reality. But the Irish have good reason to celebrate the life of this bold and passionate evangelist, Patrick.

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.'” (Mark 16:15 NIV Bible)

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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