Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday slowdown

This is a wonderful song that I can just imagine Job and his wife singing after their trial was over!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Job's wife

Yesterday we looked at this passage in the first two chapters of the book of Job, and I outlined my thoughts on Job's wife.
You see, I don't imagine her as the bitter, shrill harpie that some preachers portray her as . . . of course, she blurted out some harsh words, but think of the world she was living in.

First, her happy world of ten lovely children was wrenched from her; all ten of those precious lives were gone. Next, the comfortable world of financial security was taken from her. Then, the health of her husband was gone -- this terrible disease apparently caused horrible pain: pain that could only be eased by application of heat and the scraping of pieces of pottery across the skin. Dragging shards of broken pottery across the skin? That seems painful right there, but perhaps this allowed the sores to drain, or some other reason that Job found relief by doing this.

And there is his wife, by his side, trying to ease his discomfort as he moans and cries out. Trying to console the man she loves, while her own heart is broken.
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)
Let's look at Job's response, for we can see a clue here. I'm sure that even in his pain, this man noticed that his wife was working hard. He felt her kind hands upon him, cleaning the sores and applying ointment, lovingly working to ease his pain. He sees her becoming more stooped under the weight of the hardships that they are sharing.

What does he say to her?
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10a)

Can't we just imagine the scene? Job, covered in sores, raises his blistered hand to stroke her hair. They gave into each other's eyes. She is searching his eyes for hope, and for strength to go on. He is lovingly admiring her.

Yes, admiring her.  You can hear it in what he says to her. He didn't say that his wife was foolish. He didn't even say that the words she blurted out were foolish. He said that she sounded like one of the foolish women.

We can see that he is telling her, "Oh, wife of mine, you just don't sound like yourself. I know that's not you talking when you say those words. It doesn't sound like the strong, loving woman of God that I know, and that I married so many years ago. This is not you talking, my dear. Let's remember God's promises, and His goodness."

We can think about his response being a softer one, because Job would have known that his wife's suffering was just as acute as his. The pain in her eyes as she lifted her face toward his own may have added to Job's great suffering, for he would have wanted to make things right for her, and ease her pain, too. He knew that the words she blurted out were an indication of the great shocks she had experienced . . . sudden losses have a way of clouding our judgment. Sometimes those who are living through a horrific tragedy may make contradictory statements about their faith, and about their life. Perhaps a psychiatrist from today, transported back to view these two suffering souls, would have said she was suffering from post traumatic stress.

Whether these suppositions are true or not, Job's words are a far cry from the condemnation that has been heaped on Job's wife in many sermons!
And, apparently, his words in reply were just what she needed to hear. They acted as a salve for her soul, just as her ministrations may have soothed his blistered skin. Because she isn't heard complaining again in the rest of the book of Job.
In fact, the Bible is silent and doesn't record a blessing or a rebuke for Job's wife. God didn't hesitate to rebuke Job's friends in the 42nd chapter. (Job 42:7-9)

But we do know how God blessed her after the trial was over (Chapter 42). She shared in the doubling of their wealth.
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 
She gave birth to ten more children.
And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch.15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
And it's pretty likely that she shared in many more fruitful years of her husband's life.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years. (Job 42:16-17)
What should we take away from the story of Job's wife? We can see that her greatest testimony might be her presence with Job in his lowest moments. Up there in verse 11 of the chapter, we read that Job's siblings and friends returned and comforted him.  Oy vey. We can see that it was easier for them to show compassion after the trial was over -- but at his lowest moments, the moments when he and his wife could have really used a network of support, they were nowhere to be found!

His wife? Caring, loving, and enduring with him, every single day. These trials didn't split them up. They stuck it out together, and at the end of the story, they conceive and raise another ten children. Was her attitude perfect through the storm? Nope.
Did she say things she would regret later. Yep.
But through it all, her faith in God was intact. Perhaps we should look at her service to God and to her husband as an example of how we can have biblical character!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Job's wife

This week we are studying Job's wife.

She's been given a pretty bad rap over the years, but I wonder . . .
We've noted that even though she wasn't the target, she was still heavily impacted by all that happened to Job.

First of all, she watched as her children died. God had blessed the couple with ten children -- ten times she had felt the quickening of life inside her, and had endure the pain and joy of childbirth. Ten little lives that she had helped to nurture. She and Job had taught them all to love, honor, and respect Jehovah God.

From the first chapter of Job, we can see that this is a tightly-knit family. They seem to be very close, and enjoy fun and laughter with all the rest of the family -- each time one of them celebrated a birthday, they would all gather and have a feast and merriment. We can guess that Job's wife played a vital role in raising the children to love each other and their parents, and to revere their God.

What a heartbreak it is, for a parent to outlive their child. How can she and Job survive, as they blink back tears and look at ten fresh graves? Surely this was a debilitating loss . . .

Next, she and Job experienced huge financial losses, as well. In the third verse of chapter one, Job is described as a wealthy man; perhaps he was the richest in the world. Probably he could not have been such an esteemed man if she was not a fairly influential leader, herself. Perhaps she was accustomed to being a "mover and shaker" in the circles of their friends. She must have been surrounded by luxury and comforts; her home probably had the finest of furnishings, and her clothing was lovely and expensive. All of her children had everything they needed, too.

But in one really bad day, they lost all of that. All of their wealth. All of the animals. All of the herds. All of their property. They were not only bankrupt, but they were homeless now.

Then, she became the only caretaker for her sick husband. The scholars don't agree on what Job's illness was. But clearly, his pain was so excruciating that he asked God to take his life (Job 3). And, in addition to the pain, the illness distorted his appearance -- his closest friends could hardly recognize him, and then fell to the ground in pity for his suffering.  This last temptation was so severe, it nearly broke Job's soul. He spent each day at the brink of death, and the only relief he felt was from the heat of the burn piles and the scraping of pottery shards across his ravaged skin.

Pause a moment, though. Did we miss something? In our description of what Job is enduring, where is his wife? She is his faithful and steady caregiver. She put aside her own grief to be ever-present and care for him. Can we imagine the exhaustion that she must have felt, caring for him as he suffered? The cries of agony, hour after hour, day after day -- what would we feel if the ones we love were treading that fine line of sanity and insanity, because of excruciating pain?

Add to this the fact that she was alone on this mission of mercy. She had no support network. No one to help her. No one to take over so she could have a break. They had no financial resources to provide another caregiver, and their children were gone. Their friends had faded away, and their God seemed curiously absent. Alone.

That is when we come to those seemingly bitter words, the only recorded words of Job's wife in this whole story. Words that erupted from her, at the lowest point in her life.

                 Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die. (Job 2:9)

These seem to us to be shocking words. Words spit out of a mouth that was tired of crying. Tired of murmuring comfort as Job moaned. Sick with exhaustion from caring for his needs, night and day. These are words that seem to reflect a heart of bitterness, and of anger toward God.

There aren't many sermons preached on the book of Job, but when they do, some preachers accuse Job's wife of being a co-conspirator with the devil. They say she was trying to force her husband to do what the devil predicted he would do -- give up on God.

Others question her faith, and discuss whether or not her faith in Jehovah was real.

But wait a minute!
Haven't we all had moments, words, or even thoughts that we would love to call back? That we wish we could swallow and then no one would have heard them? Have we wished there was a time machine so that we could go back and do things differently? Haven't we all been in the middle of a crushing trial and reacted in less than godly fashion? Just imagine if those words or thoughts or actions were recorded for everyone to analyze!
Perhaps we should not define Job's wife by this one conversation -- if she was a perpetually bitter, hard, unhappy woman, could she have raised those wonderful kids? Could she have been one half of that seemingly happy marriage?

We have other records in the Bible of raw emotion, of expressions of pain, grief, and suffering that leap from the pages of the Word. We try to understand David, Moses, and Jeremiah, and even Job. We look at them and think they are revealed as authentic, and as honest people. Are we heaping judgement on Job's wife incorrectly?

We'll conclude our study of Job's wife tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What are we listening to?

We focus many times in our music on how the melodies make us feel. We enjoy the harmonies and we sing along -- so often this can soothe us and comfort us. It can also "pep us up" and get us ready to work hard for God's glory!

Do we spend time singing songs that do that?

The part about glorifying God, I mean.

Sometimes it's good to sing songs that bring our focus onto God's attributes and holiness.

And focus on His faithfulness.

On His mercy.

His strength.

His name.

Truly this must delight Him, as His children tell Him of their love, their admiration, and their commitment to Him.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Job's wife

We don't even know the name of this week's lady. And that is a shame.
We can learn a lot from Job's wife!

She has been the subject of many a sermon; usually she is held up and condemned. Some people even think that Job's wife was just another "cross" that Job was called upon to bear. Did you know that Augustine, living and writing centuries ago, called her "the devil's accomplice"!

We often talk about the Bible's Hall of Fame . . . surely if there was a Hall of Shame, then Jezebel, Delilah, and others would be there. But does Job's wife belong there? Maybe we have rushed to judge her. We're all caught up in Job's part of the story; we feel for him. Our sympathies go out to him. But what about his wife?
Not so much, usually.
Let's see if perhaps there are some gaps in our understanding. We might need to set the record straight, or we might find that she truly was a harpie!
The book of Job begins with a fairly cosmic argument. I mean, it's not all that often that Satan and God have a chat about how things are going on the earth, much less single out one person to critique, right? (Grin)

Let's read some verses for background, before we dive in. This is lengthy, but we need to refresh our memories before we study this:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,    and naked I will depart.The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1)

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:1-10)

What a story . . . . like many in the Bible, it has been the topic of heated discussions. But we don't need to get involved in questions about why Satan talked to God, why God allowed these things to happen, or anything like that. Our focus is going to be on two godly people -- Job and his wife.

She may not have been the primary target here, but she was definitely caught in the crossfire, right? It would seem logical that every hardship that Job endured was also keenly felt by her.

Let's think on this till we study next time. I'll be interested in opinions on our study; feel free to comment.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cookies and Milk, Conclusion

Yesterday we closed by noting that Paul and Silas joined that prayer meeting in Philippi to witness, not to convict, or judge, and especially not to argue.

We don't accomplish much with arguments. Paul warned Timothy about that:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (II Timothy 2:23-26)

Most of the time, when we get into an argument with someone, they don't move any closer to our point of view -- many times they just are cemented deeper into their own opinions! Check out verse 25 above: "....gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth."

We can see that Paul was telling Timothy to trust God to convict people of their sins. If Timothy would do the witnessing, God would do the convicting. And He will still do that today, if we will witness for Him!

There's another example of the "Cookies and Milk" approach in another chapter of Acts:
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:24-26)
So Apollos was preaching about Jesus -- and doing a great job -- but he didn't fully understand baptism. Peter said that Christian baptism was not only about repentance, but it was also about being baptised in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).

Priscilla and Aquila, two Christians in the town, heard Apollos preaching. They knew for a fact that he was incorrect about baptism. What did they do? How did they respond?
Did they get mad?
Did they stand up in the assembly and challenge him, or rebuke him?
Did they embarrass him in front of the people he was talking to?
All of those would be found under the "hitting over the head with a 2 by 4" category. Head-bashing, indeed.
No, they took him aside, and talked with him privately. Kinda like they took him home for cookies and milk, or lamb, or challah bread, or something. (Grin)
The Bible tells us they invited him to their home and explained things to him. They gently instructed him.
What was the result of their approach?
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. (Acts 18:27-28)
Apollos learned from their instruction, and was a great helper to the believers in Achaia! He was able to witness to the Jews and prove from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah!

We can see from these passages that we can be effective witnesses for Jesus by simply telling what Jesus has meant in our lives, and gently instructing others in what we have experienced. Even people who we perceive as "religious" can gain from our testimony and our witness.

We just need to make sure we don't bash any heads, right?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cookies and Milk, part II

We're studying this week two approaches to witnessing. Sometimes we may not intend to bash someone over the head with our testimony, but it can still happen. Or we can be afraid that we will be seen this way, and pull back -- not even offer our witness. One way to take care of this problem is what I'm calling the "Cookies and Milk" approach. (Grin)

Let's look at our story again, and hopefully I can clarify what I mean!
Look at the chapter in Acts again:
After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left. (Acts 16:40)

This is after Paul and Silas had been imprisoned for preaching about Jesus. When they were released, where did they go?
Their first destination was Lydia's house.
Who met them there? The men of the new church!
Wow! It wasn't that long ago that Lydia was the lone convert from Paul's efforts!
Well, what did Paul say to Lydia that won her to Christ? We don't know; it's not recorded in the Word, and perhaps that is for this reason: it wasn't what Paul said. It was because the Lord opened her heart!
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would work in this way:
When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness,because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:8-11)
We can see that witnessing to someone about Jesus is not something that we can treat like a "sales spiel." Learning techniques and how to "close the deal" doesn't work nearly as well as a quiet, calm, sincere talk with someone. If we learn the techniques and then try to "close the deal," we are relying on ourselves. We are trying to do the Spirit's job, by convicting them of the sin. That's not our job! We must rely on God to lay the groundwork, just as He prepared Lydia's heart for Paul's message. He laid the groundwork, too, by guiding them to Philippi, instead of other areas of the region.

Am I saying that we should not prepare for our efforts to witness for the Lord?
It is vitally important that we spend time in His Word, and memorize Scriptures, to be "ready to give answer" for our Hope. It is also not a bad idea to role play with another Christian, and practice giving our testimony.

Here is the difference. The Bible says we are to be God's witnesses.
Not that we are called to judge. Nor to convict people of their sins.
Ever been in a courtroom? We've all seen them on television. Who's there? The judge, the prosecutor, and the witnesses.
The judge's job is to pass judgment, right?
The prosecutor's job is to convict people of their wrong deeds.
The witnesses are supposed to witness, or testify, about what they know. What they saw. What they have experienced.
So, our job is to tell people what we know about Jesus. And if we do our job, God will do His.

I heard an old preacher say it this way: Jesus called all of us to be fishers of men. He expects us to do the fishing, and the Spirit baits the hook!
One of the biggest problems with relying on ourselves to "do it all" and bring others to Christ, is that often people want to argue. Who can make the best points. Who can have the last word.
But I bet that Paul and Silas didn't do it that way, when they joined that prayer meeting at the river.
Arguing just doesn't get us anywhere.
We'll talk more about this tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Verses that inspire

Sometimes when we are reading our Bibles, we are overwhelmed by God's love.

Happens to you, too, right?

Verses like this:
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments......If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. (Deuteronomy 7:9,12)

And this:
Give thanks to the God of heaven.His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:26)
These are truly verses that inspire!

Have you a verse or passage that you can share today?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cookies and Milk - not head-bashing

Did that title get your attention? (Grin)
We'll see how it makes sense as we study this week.
We've all been in situations where we felt like someone was knocking us over the head with a two by four, no? Sometimes it is a discussion about everyday life, and sometimes it is a discussion about spiritual things. (I see your heads nodding.)

Have you ever held off on witnessing to someone, or speaking a word for Christ, because the hearer was a "religious" person, or even because you knew they were a Christian, and perhaps senior to you in their faith timeline?
You wondered if you would be seen as "head-bashing"?

This week we will continue in the book of Acts . . . these thoughts are from the story of Paul and Silas and Lydia, and I hope that they will bless us and instruct us all.

I mentioned last week that I felt a special empathy for Lydia, and enjoyed her story because she was a successful executive. I'm in the business world every day, and I can vouch for the fact that many times what you can accomplish depends less on what you say, and more on how you say it! It's the same situation in our witnessing . . . of course, we see a crying need for witnessing to people who are hurting, who are actively seeking Christ, and even those who are opposing us. But witnessing to people who seem religious? Is this an oxymoron?

I don't think so. In fact, I think we can see from Paul's example, that it's an important part of our testimony. There are all kinds of religious people: some are very committed to their church, and others may belong but don't often attend. Still others don't darken the doors of any church, but they still consider themselves religious: they may profess to have a relationship with Christ, and we may even see some fruits of the Spirit in their lives.
Why would we witness to them?
Wouldn't it seem like we are head-bashing, because they already "know" so much of what we would tell them?
Well, sometimes it's just a matter of saying the right thing at the right time.
What did Paul do?

Paul went down to the river side, and witnessed to some religious people there. It appears to be a women's prayer group that he is attending. And this verse tells how it happened:
 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. (Acts 16:13)
Did he begin to harangue and have a fierce discussion? Did he start fussing about why there were no men there, so that a synagogue could begin?

Nope. He sat down.
And he talked with them. No "head-bashing" here. More of a quiet chat.
Notice there are no men here; this is a group of women who are gathered for prayer on the Sabbath. Lydia seems to have been a Gentile who met with them. The terms "worshiper of God" or "God-fearer" were words that often were used to describe Gentiles who were attracted to the Jewish God and the stories that they heard from the Old Testament. We mentioned last week that they were gathered there on the river bank because there were not enough men folk in the town who would be committed to the needs of a synagogue -- it took ten men to organize.

Does the quiet approach appear to have worked? It doesn't seem by worldly standards that Paul is very successful, since only one of these religious women responds to his teaching that afternoon: Lydia. Paul and Silas are "big-time" evangelists, and they travel all the way to Philippi and sit down for a quiet talk with a prayer group. Only one person is converted . . . . of course, later, Lydia's whole family was baptized, but their first effort only brought in one soul.

Even if Lydia was the only person in her family that became a Christian, God would have considered their low-key efforts a success -- it looks like God sent Paul to this city, and to this prayer group, just for Lydia. Because she seems to have formed the backbone of the church that was quickly established there!

What if Paul hadn't followed the Spirit's instructions? What if he had given one of his dynamic sermons like we see him give in other situations? Would the results have been the same? Maybe not. There are times when a "cookies and milk" approach is just what is needed.

We'll consider this further next time. Hope you will rejoin us!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday slowdown

We often feel that we are in control of our lives, like we can handle things. Satan loves for us to be in this mode.

We also often feel like we are so out of control that there is nowhere to turn . . . but there is! We can turn to Him! Does it take a lot to get our attention, and bring us back to that right relationship with Him?

I faced a mountain, 
That I never faced before 
That's why I'm calling on the Lord 
I know it's been awhile, 
But Lord please hear my prayer 
I need you like I never have before. 

Sometimes it takes a mountain 
Sometimes a troubled sea 
Sometimes it takes a desert 
To get a hold of me 
Your Love is so much stronger 
Then whatever troubles me 
Sometimes it takes a mountain 
To trust you and believe 

Forgive me, Jesus 
I thought I could control 
Whatever life would throw my way 
But this I will admit 
Has brought me to my knees 
I need you Lord and I'm not ashamed to say 

Sometimes it takes a mountain 
Sometimes a troubled sea 
Sometimes it takes a desert 
To get a hold of me 
Your Love is so much stronger 
Then whatever troubles me 
Sometimes it takes a mountain 
To trust you and believe 

Sometimes it takes a mountain 
To trust you and believe 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lydia - a successful executive and a passionate Christian

We've seen so far that Lydia was a very successful business woman. We've seen why -- she was very diligent and worked hard. We're going to see that she was also diligent at something else . . . her faith.

Lydia has shown us that she was industrious at providing for her family's material needs. She also provided for the spiritual health of her family. With everything else that she has going on, where is she when the Sabbath comes? Is she in front of a ledger, tallying sales for the week? Is she sitting in the local cafe, talking with a new customer? Nope.

She is at the bank of the river, worshiping. She worked for six days, and reserved the seventh day for God. And she doesn't stop there. When the Spirit calls to her, and she puts her faith in the Christ that Paul tells her about, she responds by giving. She opens her home to a couple of missionaries; she provides them shelter and food, and other provisions they might need. In the latter half of the chapter, Paul and Silas are released from jail, and they return to Lydia's house because it is now the center of Christian activity in Philippi. In fact, the verse notes that there are now "brothers and sisters" in that fledgling church. What an influence Lydia had!

Remember that verse in Revelation 2? There is a reference there to a church in Thyatira. Hmmm. Paul never traveled there -- but there is a church . . . maybe it's because Lydia went back to her headquarters and began to share her faith there! She did not have a great call on her life, like Paul did, but she nevertheless used what she had for God: her home, her money, her business acumen, and her witness. What an example for us!

Are we diligent in the things of the Spirit, as Lydia was? Do we work for six days and give the seventh to our Lord? I wonder if we can do even more . . . can we look at our "leisure time" and find things that will further God's kingdom? If we are in a time crunch, we can take baby steps. Lydia opened her home to Paul and Silas -- if that is too much to fit in with our family responsibilities, perhaps we can open our home to a monthly meeting for prayer or study. Lydia used her finances for missions -- perhaps if we have money left over at the end of the month, we can do that same. Lydia witnessed in her workplace for the Lord -- we can definitely do that!

Lastly, we can see that Lydia was able to be a successful executive and a passionate believer because she had a very balanced life. She was able to "juggle" all of the important things, because she had her priorities straight! We must be able to balance God, our families, and our work.

How can we see this in Lydia's life? Well, look back at the verses . . . she is "on the road" instead of in her home base of Thyatira, right? Where is her family, as she is in Philippi? They are right there with her! It says that her entire family is there and is baptized with her. So, Lydia made certain that she could be there for her family, by taking them with her! She used a creative solution to make sure that she could be as devoted to them as possible. That was how she balanced God, family, and work!

We can make time for our families in creative ways, too. As a personal note, we accompanied my hubby on many trips when the kids were small. While he was busy, we would sightsee (parks and museums are inexpensive!) and when he was finished for the day, we could share family time and adventures!

It's not a bad idea to really take a look at our own lives. Do we have time for the important things? Especially God, our family, and the work that we do? (Doesn't have to be work outside the home, either.) Is there anything out of balance? If there is, we can expect to see problems in our health, our family relationships, or in our relationship with our Father God.

If we see that things are out of balance, what can we do?  Maybe one helpful thing is to simplify!
Accept the fact that our house will not always be meticulously clean. Declutter our homes so that we have an easier time doing that cleaning. Divide up the chores, so that everyone is helping.

Accept that the meals will not always be three courses with every color represented, but they will be nutritious and presented with love and laughter.

Accept the fact that we may not always be able to get all of our family together for a "family altar," but we can make available resources that can fill in, from time to time. Purchase an audio Bible set, or a study notebook for each one. Bring those to the times that we can all gather, and compare notes and blessings.

Accept the fact that we can't do it all -- give a close look to clubs and organizations, and narrow them down to a few, so that we aren't stressed out running here and there.

Whether men or women, we can find Lydia to be an excellent example. She was a successful business woman and a passionate Christian, too. We can follow her lead: be diligent, be devoted to God and family, and keep things balanced. This is a formula that God can bless!