Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Verses that inspire

Have you felt lately like you are overwhelmed just by regular, everyday life? And them something else happens that is unexpected, extraordinary, and you feel like shouting, "I can't take any more!"

Ah, yes, many of us know that feeling well. (Grin)

I'm just a learner on this pathway, but I do know that there is something that will help.

If I will just do it.

And sometimes, as my grandma used to say, that's easier said than done.

For us to handle these times and these situations, we need to sink our roots deep into the Word, and focus on our relationship with our Father. If we will trust Him, He will strengthen us.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,    whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;    its leaves are always green.It has no worries in a year of drought    and never fails to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
I know from experience just how difficult it can be, to look past the ogres of bad health, financial worries, family conflict, and more, and see the hand of Jesus, reaching down to strengthen us.
But even if we have trouble seeing Him, He is still there.

These verses have meant so much to me in times of difficulty. I hope that they bless and comfort all who read here. If you've a verse to share with all of us, won't you leave it in a comment below?

Monday, February 27, 2017

The queen "mum"

For many years in England, the titular head of the royal family was not Queen Elizabeth II, who is the current figurehead, but Elizabeth's mother.  She (also called Elizabeth) was small in stature, but she was hugely loved by her people.  Her spirit and demeanor pumped up flagging spirits in England during WWII, so much so that Hitler called her the most dangerous woman in Europe! Upon the death of her husband, her daughter (Elizabeth II) became queen (and she continues today), and Elizabeth I was affectionately referred to by the people as the "queen mum." She was instrumental in guiding her daughter as she assumed the responsibilities of leadership. She had seen a lot, and heard a lot, and learned a lot, and so she taught a lot. (Grin) That's what wise people do . . .

There is a "queen mum" in the Bible, too -- were you aware of that? Someone who was revered, and who gave freely of her wisdom:
When Bathsheba went to King Solomon ...... the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand. (I Kings 2:19)
In those times, you were not allowed to sit in the presence of the king, so the fact that Solomon brought a throne and put it at his own right hand, truly elevated Bathsheba and required the respect of all who would come before the king.

King Solomon (or Lemuel, in some verses) mentions in the Proverbs that his mother taught him; she taught him well, and she taught him extensively. The fact that he did not follow all of her advice is a reflection on him, not on her!

How about if we refresh our memory of the introductory verses of Proverbs 31? And just a reminder, if you would like to study this entire passage in depth, we have a study here on the blog that you can utilize.)
The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!    Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! Do not spend your strength on women,    your vigor on those who ruin kings. It is not for kings, Lemuel—    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,    and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing,    wine for those who are in anguish!Let them drink and forget their poverty    and remember their misery no more. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,    for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;    defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:1-9)
When we studied Bathsheba earlier, we focused on the portion of her life that has some pretty sordid details. She is seen "in her altogether" and brought to the king's palace. Then, her husband is killed by the king's plans and she is brought to the palace permanently.
This week, let's look at her heritage, and then at her godly (and wise) life after becoming the king's wife.
That will give us a deeper look into her life as a mom . . .

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday slowdown

What a joy to realize, fresh and anew, that we are safe in God's hands!

If you have not experienced that joy, I hope that you will click on the tab on our side bar, and learn how to have this abundant life in Christ. We would love to hear that you have invited Him into your heart and your life, and we'd be honored to pray with you as you start this exciting journey.

This hymn seemed just right after our study of the dove:

  1. Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
    Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
    Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
    Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
    • Refrain:
      Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
      Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
  2. Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
    Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
    Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
    Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
  3. Every joy or trial falleth from above,
    Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
    We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
    They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

She wears feathers - but she can teach us!

As we conclude this week's study, I want to refresh our memory of what we noted yesterday -- the raven looked for death, but the dove looked for life.

Let's dive in!
We can remember from our focus passage that the dove brought back a snippet of an olive branch in her beak, when she returned to the ark. Olive trees are one of the hardiest in the world, and that's why they were so important in ancient times. You didn't need "bottomland" or especially rich soil to grow them, and even in poor soil and in times of drought, they would produce olives to be pressed for oil and sold. No wonder so many families relied upon them for their livelihood. It was an unofficial symbol of life for the children of God . . . and it certainly was a sign of hope for those in the ark.

Sure, they were happy to have been spared, to still be alive and together with their loved ones. But day after day, week after week, they continued to float on the waters. They may have begun to wonder when it would all be over. Sure would be much easier if God would just tell them . . . kind of like when I'm asking for guidance and I wish that God would show me a sign -- neon or otherwise -- so that I would know for sure! (Can I get an "Amen!"?)

Scholars tell us that they would have been confined to their boat, floating along for almost a year.
So, that tiny bit of an olive tree was a sign of hope! God gave them a sign that said, "Hang in there, because things are getting better. Much better!"
Our Bible is filled with stories about courageous, Godly men and women who faced obstacles in their lives. They looked trials, hard times, and even death squarely in the eye. One message is repeated as we read their stories: God always was standing beside them.
Think about it -- Daniel, David, Moses, Esther, and Deborah. Each of their stories has the same message for us:
Do you not know?    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,    and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary    and increases the power of the weak. 
Even youths grow tired and weary,    and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;    they will run and not grow weary,    they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

Our trials won't last forever. There will come a time when we, too, will walk out the door of our own "ark" and see a new world of hope. But we must wait for God's timing. The flood went away when God was ready for it to go. And He sent His people a sign of hope, from the little dove. She did her job!

Lastly, the dove can teach us about life in Christ. The raven flew away from the ark and never returned to Noah's hand. But when the dove was released, and she could not find a place to set her feet, she returned to Noah. He reached out his hand and took her back into the safety of the ark. She was safe from death.
We can learn from the dove . . . God didn't create us to die. He created us to live forever. That is why Jesus came and died on the cross in our place, and rose again.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Jesus conquered death. And here is what will happen when He comes again:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory?    Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:51-57)
Our lives are safe in God's hands, just as the dove was safe when she returned to Noah's hand, and was brought inside the ark.

The old hymn says "hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand" . . .  Praise God!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

She wears feathers - but she can teach us!

We're studying a feathered "lady" of the Bible this week . . . the dove in Noah's story.
As we study her, we'll see how she contrasts with the first bird that Noah sent out: the raven.

First of all, the raven was an unclean bird. Let's look at Leviticus, where the animals are listed that are unclean:
These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture,14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, (Leviticus 11:13-15)
There were certain animals and birds that God's people in the Old Testament were not allowed to eat. They were also not allowed to offer them as sacrifice to God. Most of the birds on the list are those that scavenge for their food -- and they are not connoisseurs. They'll eat anything. Including dead stuff. I know, ugh.
So, ravens actually feed on death. They eat the flesh of dead things. They look for, and hunt for, dead things.
In stark contrast, the dove is a clean animal. The people of God could not only eat them, but they could offer them as sacrifices to God. Let's look at some verses about them:
 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” (Genesis 15:9)
If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. (Leviticus 1:14)
But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”(Leviticus 12:8)
Doves were clean animals, in contrast with the ravens. But God also seems to have a special place in His heart for them . . . Jesus used them in His teachings as symbols of purity and innocence. We all probably remember His words to His disciples:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)
And perhaps the most memorable image of a dove in the entire Bible is after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan:
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (Mark 1:10)
Have you ever wondered what the significance was, that Noah first sent a raven, and then our friend, the dove? Why not just send the dove the first time, too? First an unclean bird, then a clean one?

Well, I guess the most simple answer is that God told Him to! After all, Noah had been obedient to God, and was following His instructions to the letter. (Grin)
But there are some other reasons that we can look at, today and again tomorrow. . . .

First, God may have been reminding Noah and all of us that the flood brought death. Remember, ravens literally look for death, and feed on death. After the flood, there was plenty of death.
The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:18-23)
Everything that breathed on land was dead. Everything. Not being dramatic here. Everything was wiped out.

Why? C'mon, doesn't the Bible tell us that "God is love," and all that? Absolutely.
The flood was brought because it was God's judgement on mankind. That's a word that isn't used much nowadays, but I'm an old fogey, and I believe that "mankind" means humans, not just the male variety. Women and men were guilty before God:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.This is the account of Noah and his family.Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. (Genesis 6:5-12)
God had given mankind (yeah, I know, there's that word again) plenty of chances. Their wickedness was "great," and every one of their thoughts was "only evil all the time." All of the earth was "corrupt" and "full of violence."
Sound familiar?
Like our world today?
Yep. Kinda makes ya think. And makes us want to "redeem the time," and tell others about Jesus before it's too late . . .
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
But I digress.
The flood brought death. And there was plenty of food for the raven.

But let's move on a little in the story . . . the raven looked for death. But the dove looked for life.
The message of the dove is two-fold: it is one of hope, and of life.
We'll study her more tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Prayer requests

I don't believe it is a coincidence that God has led our studies in the past week and this, to focus on the Holy Spirit, and the bird that symbolizes His presence.

I would like to encourage you to read these verses about the Holy Spirit: His work, His identity, and His caring for us.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)
If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)
for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. (Luke 12:12)

What an awesome gift Jesus gave to us, when He asked the Father for the Spirit to be with us and in us. He will guide us, teach us, and comfort us.

I would like to ask everyone to pray today, and share your prayer requests with all of us, so that we may pray alongside you. Several of our faithful readers have been experiencing health problems, and I know that the cares of this world can overwhelm us, too. Let us bear your burdens along with you.

Please let us know, too, if a prayer has been answered -- we can all praise God together!

Monday, February 20, 2017

She wears feathers - but she can teach us!

Our "lady of the Bible" for this week is a little unusual . . . we've looked at animals before, in our series, but this week's lady is for the birds. (Grin)

Remember the story of Noah? (That's where we find our friend the dove.) Did you know that many, many of the cultures across our globe remember his story? Well, in slightly different form, perhaps, but there are some striking similarities . . .

In Aztec legend, a man named Tapi was very pious, and received a message from the creator to build a boat that he could live in. He was also told that he should take his wife with him, along with a pair of every animal that was alive. Of course, all of his neighbors thought he was nuts. But he obeyed, and then the rain started, and the flood came. Even though they climbed the mountains to escape the waters, men and animals perished because the mountains were flooded, too. When the rain finally ended, Tapi let a dove loose from the boat, and when she didn't return, Tapi decided it was safe to go out.
If you travel to China there is an ancient temple where you can see a painting on one wall, showing a man called Fuhi in his large boat on the raging floods. There are dolphins swimming around his boat, and a dove with an olive branch is flying toward Fuhi.
Online research will net you about thirty-five countries that have "flood stories." East Africa, Australia, Bolivia, Egypt, Iceland and India  . . . these are just some of them. Thirty-two of these include humans being saved by being on a boat, and twenty-four of them include animals being spared. Last but not least, six of those include references to a dove!

Something must have happened on a world-wide scale, don't you think? (Grin) Of course, we know what happened! It was a flood that destroyed almost all of mankind (just Noah and his family were spared) because of their wickedness.
Let's look at the verses that we will focus on, shall we?
After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. (Genesis 8:6-12)
Scholars tell us that this was not the 40th day of the flood itself; the ark would have been afloat for months as the waters subsided and then began to recede.
Noah released the raven, and the Bible tells us that the bird never came back into the ark itself . . .it could have rested on the top of the ark, or perhaps it found a mountain top uncovered by the receding waters. But it never returned to the safety of the ark.

Our friend the dove was sent out three separate times -- the first time, she finds no place to rest her feet, so she returns to the ark and Noah. The second time, she returns with an olive branch in her beak, indicating that something is growing -- progress! Then, the third time, she flies away and does not return.

Why should we study this dove, and try to find lessons here for us?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17)
That's why! All of the scriptures, not just the parts we find enjoyable, or likable, but all scripture is God-breathed and useful. So this week, let's study the dove!