Obey God

Then they reported to Saul, saying, “Look, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating the blood – 1 Samuel 14:33

Do we sometimes go to great lengths to obey those in authority but in the process we end up disobeying God?  It happened with Israel’s army when they came upon a forest where honey was flowing.  There was honey on the ground, ready for the men to eat but they didn’t eat it because of the king had placed them under a cursed when he swore, “Cursed is the man that eats any food before it is evening, and I have been avenged on my enemies.” 

The people feared the king’s rash oath so no one took of the honey except Jonathan who was not present when his father made the people swear to keep the oath.  He dipped the end of his rod into the honey and put his hand to his mouth, his eyes brightening at the taste.  One of the people told him that “Your father surely made the people swear, saying, ‘Cursed is the man that eats any food this day.’ ” This person and the rest of the people were greatly distressed.

Jonathan’s reply was, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have brightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.  How much more, if the people had surely eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found? But now the defeat of the Philistines has not been great.”

So, the people struck the Philistines that day and faint and famished, they took the cattle and sheep and slew them.  They ate them with the blood in them which was a violation of God’s commandment which states:  Only be sure that you do not eat the blood. For the blood is the life, and you may not eat the life with the meat.  You must not eat it. You must pour it on the ground like water.  You must not eat it, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do that which is right in the sight of the Lord (Deuteronomy 12:23-25). 

Blinded by hunger, the people broke God’s commandment.  It is ironic that their obedience to King Saul’s foolish oath led to their disobedience to God.  Their act is seen as rebellious because they put their fear of Saul’s curse above their faithfulness to God’s commandment.  They were loyal to the king instead of to God.  And this led to their grievous sin.

When it was reported to Saul what they were doing, he turned on them and accused them of acting treacherously.  Then, he set up a stone to have the animals properly killed and he also built an altar to God to prevent further violation of the law.  The people had defiled themselves.  We must never allow anyone, no matter who it is to cause us to sin against God.  Perhaps it would have been better to incur the king’s curse by eating the honey rather than violating God’s law.

The people redeemed themselves when they stood up against Saul who would have killed his son, Jonathan when it was revealed that he had taken some of the honey, although it was done in ignorance.  Jonathan was willing to die but the people interceded.  They said to Saul, “Will Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? God forbid. As the Lord lives, there will not one hair of his head fall to the ground. For he has worked with God this day.”

They rescued Jonathan and he did not die.  They couldn’t stand by and allow the man who was brave enough to go over to the Philistine garrison to see what the Lord would do, trusting that He would work something out to deliver their enemies into their hands.  Through him, Lord brought them victory that day.  They people acted on their conscience.  It’s never too late to do what is right.

We should never let fear cause us to make bad choices.  When it comes to choosing whom we listen to or follow, it’s a no brainer.  “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  We must obey God no matter what.

 

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

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Keeping Them Safe

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons – Author Unknown

Remember when you were a child how you used to blow bubbles and your face lit up with excitement when you got really big ones?  Oh, the simple things in life that children enjoy.  If only they could remain in their little world of wonder, exploration, discovery and innocence.

As a parent, I wish I could keep my son in a bubble where evil people didn’t exist.  I wish he didn’t have to be told not to talk to or go anywhere with strangers.  Growing up in Guyana, children could play in safety.  When their parents weren’t around, neighbors would watch out for them.  I lived in a bubble. There were so many things I didn’t know about or was exposed to.  I never knew that sexual predators existed or ever heard about pedophilia until I moved to North America.  Maybe those things existed but I wasn’t privy to them and I’m thankful for that because I don’t know how the knowledge would have affected my childish brain.

Is it foolish or naive to want to protect your children from what is out there?  Are we helping them when we put off telling them about the dangers that exist?  There are things I wish I never knew about but would I be any better off living in ignorance?  Is ignorance really bliss?  Not in this age when lack of knowledge and little or no awareness can make the difference between our safety and harm.  Our children need to know that there are dangerous people out there who wouldn’t think twice about harming them or worse…

How do you tell them?  You can do it in such a way that they don’t get scared or anxious.  My ten year old suggests that the parent tell the child a story because a child would rather listen to a story than hear the message spoken plainly.  This reminds me of Jesus who spoke to people in parables when He wanted to teach them valuable lessons.

Other ways to keep our kids safe when they are away from home, school, in the street, the park or playground are colouring pictures, quizzes, activities or stories.  Having your child practice ‘Just say NO to strangers’ rule particularly through supervised role play gives him or her the confidence to deal if a stranger approaches and tries to trick them into getting into a car or pretends to have a lost dog or gift for the child.

To find websites that may help parents, teachers or caretakers to teach children about stranger danger and child protection, please click on this link.  In the News clip featuring Safety Now – Stranger Danger, parents were disturbed to see how a friendly stranger was able to lure some children away to help him to find his lost dog.  At the end of the video, the following tips are given:

  • Don’t take you eyes off the child
  • The child should back away
  • The child should yell and run to a parent

Dr. Phil said that there are steps we can take to protect our kids without scaring them.  Here are the steps:

  • Talk to your kids early and often. Teach them to self-protect. Don’t be afraid that you’ll make them paranoid. Children actually feel empowered when they feel understand that they have the power to protect themselves.
  • Don’t ask children to deal with adult issues. Explain things in terms they can understand, such as good and evil. Don’t share the gory details with them.
  • Tell your kids to avoid strangers. Adults just don’t ask kids for directions.
  • While it’s important for children to respect adults and those in authority, give them permission to act impolite, rude, or scream and yell when they feel that something’s not right. It’s OK for them to make a scene or to yell for help, and let them know they will not get in trouble if they were mistaken.
  • Teach kids to yell with specificity: “This is not my Daddy!” or “Somebody help me!”

The safety of our children is our responsibility.   They have a right to grow up and feel safe.

Sources:  Free for Kids; YouTube; Quotey Quotes; Dr. Phil

Seeking the Lost

Don’t live in a bubble, live for God by seeking the lost and pointing them to Jesus.

Image is Liz Lemon Swindle’s painting of “The Lost Sheep”

When I saw this image it just struck me that Jesus didn’t live in a bubble.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:11).  Many of them followed Him and Jesus was called their Friend (Mark 2:15; Matthew 11:19).  Jesus explained why He spent so much time with them, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  The lost in Jesus’ day were the tax collectors, the Samaritan woman who was married five times and living with  a man who wasn’t her husband, the woman caught in adultery.

Today, the lost could be the young woman who left the church she grew up in to experience life outside, hanging out with wrong crowd, experimenting with drugs and falling into other destruction behavior and habits until she reaches the point where she hits rock bottom.  She wants to turn her life around but doesn’t know how or thinks that it might be too late.  And Satan is there reminding her of her sins and making her believe that it’s hopeless but Jesus reaches down to where she is and draws her back to Him as seen in this beautiful picture.  He looks past the makeup, the nose ring, the scars of sin and sees a lost soul who needs His love and mercy.

The lost are those who wander away from the church, the faith like the young woman.  When she returns to the fold, is she going to be welcomed with open arms?  Will the members of the church rejoice with heaven because she who was lost is found?  Or will we be like the prodigal son’s brother who refused to be merry?

As the body of Christ, we are to reflect Him in every way.  When a lost soul returns, we ought to celebrate not condemn them for leaving the church.  Perhaps, we ought to ask ourselves why they left in the first place.

Let us come out of the bubble we are living in and go out into the world and let people know that Jesus came into the world to save them (1 Timothy 1:15).

Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ – Luke 15:6

Sources:  Seth Adam Smith; Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible; Seeking the Lost Hymn

God’s Way

As Larissa Scott sat on the beach, watching the tide roll away she thought about how far she had allowed herself to drift from God’s will for her life.  She hadn’t meant for it to happen.  It did when she met and fell in love with Steven.   About a year ago, she moved to Seattle because of a job opportunity which she could not pass up.  It was tough leaving her family, friends and church but she had prayed about it and knew that it was God leading her to a new life in a new city.

Nervous and excited at the same time, she packed up and left. After settling into a new apartment and the new job, she looked for a church to join and found one not far from where she lived. From the moment she walked in, she knew that was the church for her. She felt completely at home among people who loved the Lord and were active in the community and was blessed by the moving and inspiring sermons and uplifting worship music. She attended every week and quickly developed friendships. It wasn’t long before she transferred her membership to the church and got involved in their women’s ministry.

The first time she met Steven was at the weekly prayer meeting.  He was the elder in charge of the meeting that week.  She had noticed him before but they hadn’t actually met.  As he spoke, she studied him.  He looked to be in his late forties and was very attractive.  She wondered if he were married and hoped that he wasn’t.

When it was time to split up into twos to pray, he left the podium and walked over to her.  “Hello,” he said, holding out his hand.  “I’m Elder Steven Johnson.  I have seen you before but just didn’t have the opportunity to meet you until now.  You recently joined our church.  I don’t believe I was here when you were introduced to the congregation.”

She smiled and shook his hand.  “Larissa Scott,” she said.  “Yes, I moved to Seattle and I visited this church the week after I arrived.  It reminded me so much of my old church in New York.  There the people were warm and zealous for the Lord.”

“Well, I’m delighted that you are a member of our church family.  Now, we can pray for each other.”

They knelt down side by side, heads bowed and hands clasped before them.  He prayed first and when he was done, she prayed.  “Thank you,” she said when she was finished and they got up.

He smiled and went back up to the podium to wrap up the meeting.  She sat down in the chair before standing for the closing song and prayer.  While everyone was filing out, she lingered.  He took up the papers and his Bible and left the podium.  “Do you have a ride home?” he asked.  It was dark outside.

“I took the bus.”

“I can give you a ride home, if you like.”

She suddenly felt very shy and a few moments passed before she said, “Thank you.”

They left the back way which led to the parking lot.  He set the alarm and closed the door before taking her to where his car was parked.  He held the door open for her.  After she got in, he closed the door before walking quickly round to the driver’s side.  “It has gotten very cold,” he remarked as he started the engine.  “The temperature must have dropped.”  He turned on the heat before pulling out of the parking lot.  “Do you live far from here?”

She shook her head.  “No, I live about twenty minutes from away.”  She told him where she lived.  She could have easily taken the bus because they ran frequently but she was grateful for the ride because it was cold.

“Where did you live before you moved to Seattle?”

“I lived in Manhattan, New York.”

“What made you decide to move here?”

“The job of a lifetime and the conviction that this was where God wanted me to be.”

“What about your family?  How did they react to your move?”

“They were very supportive.  They said that if it were God’s will, then His will be done.  I’m in touch with them every day.  Have you always been at this church?”

“Yes.  I attended it since I was a child.  It’s my second home.  The members are my extended family.  It is where my parents met and got married.”

“How long have you been a church elder?”

“For about five years.”

“Do you like it?”

“Yes, I do.”

“What do you like best about being an elder?”

“I like visiting members in their homes to pray with them and give them encouragement.  I like to assist in giving Bible studies to prospective members.  I enjoy leading out in worship service and being a spiritual mentor.”

“My father is an elder too and his favorite thing is the visitation.”

They reached her building and he pulled up in front of the entrance.   He got out of the car to hold the door open for her.  “Have a good evening,” he said as she stepped out.  “I’ll see you on Saturday morning.”

“Thank you for the ride home, Elder Johnson,” she said.  “Have a good evening.”  She watched as he got into the car and waved as he drove away.  As she ran up the short flight of steps to the revolving doors, she found herself looking forward to seeing him on Saturday.  She still had no idea if he was married or not.  She had never observed him with a particular woman so, hopefully, that meant that he didn’t have a wife.  He wouldn’t be the first unmarried elder.

For the rest of the week she thought about him and really looked forward to seeing him again.  When Saturday came, she got up bright and early in the morning and got ready for church.  As soon as she entered the sanctuary, her eyes scanned the rows of seats in search of him but he wasn’t there.  Maybe, I will see him after the service, she thought as she went and sat down.  Fifteen minutes later the Sabbath School program began and she immersed herself in it.  When it was over there was the ten minutes before the worship service was to begin, he came out to address family matters which family matters and make the announcements.  She was so happy to see him.  Her heart began to beat fast.

After he left the podium, she took the bulletin from out of her Bible and read it.  It was then that she saw that his name was on it.  He was slated to do the Intercessory prayer and the Benediction which meant that he was going to be on the podium for the entire service.   So, she wouldn’t get to speak to him until after the service.

As usual, the worship service was uplifting and she was blessed.  As the pastor and Elder Johnson came down for the podium, she stared at him, hoping that he would see her when he passed the row where she was.  He did.  He smiled and said “Happy Sabbath,” before continuing down the aisle toward the double doors leading out to the entrance hall.  When they were gone and the music stopped playing everyone got seated again.

She picked up her handbag and Bible and waited for the usher to motion for her and the people in her row to leave.  When he did, she immediately got up and left.  Her eager eyes espied him standing by the door beside the pastor and talking to the members as they filed past him.  First she shook the pastor’s hand and told him how blessed she was by his sermon before she moved toward Elder Johnson who turned to greet her warmly and shake her hand.  “It is good to see you, Miss Scott.  Did you have a good week?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I did, thank you.”

“Will you be coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday?” he asked.

“Yes, I will be there.”

“Good.  I will see you then.  Enjoy the rest of the day and have a good week.”

“Thank you, Elder Johnson.  You too.”  She moved away as another member joined them.  She wished she had more time to talk to him but he was busy at the moment.  She went downstairs to get her coat and after chatting with a few of the women she left and went straight home.  At least she was going to see him during the week but right now, Wednesday seemed like a very long way off.

Wednesday finally arrived and thankfully, the day flew by and as soon as she got home, she had dinner and then showered.  When she got to the church, there were a few people in the sanctuary but he wasn’t one of them.  After she said hello and chatted with them for a while, she found a seat.  A few minutes passed and then he sat down next to her.  Heart racing, she smiled at him and she felt butterflies in her stomach when he smiled back.  “Good evening,” he greeted her.  “I trust you’re having a good week so far.”

“Yes.  I can’t complain.  What about your week?”

“It has been a busy one so far but God has helped me to get through it.  I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to talk more the last time we saw each other.  I wanted to tell you about a spring concert at the Green Lake Church on Saturday at 4:30pm and ask you if you would be interested in going to it with me.”

He wanted to take her to a concert.  This confirmed that he wasn’t married.  “Yes, I would like go,” she told him.  “Thank you for inviting me.”

“Don’t mention it,” he replied.  “Excuse me.  I’ll be right back.”  He got up and went across the aisle to talk to another church member for a few minutes before rejoining her.  This time, it was the pastor’s wife who led the prayer meeting and it was very engaging.  When it was time to split up in twos to pray, Elder Johnson prayed with the member he had been talking to earlier while she prayed with the pastor’s wife.  When it was over Elder Johnson took her home.

The concert was a real treat and she couldn’t stop raving about it as they went to a vegetarian café afterward.  Over Moroccan Tagine and Spring Nettle Pappardell, they talked about the concert, the worship service and other things.  It was a very pleasant evening and she was sorry when it was over.  Outside of her building, she turned to him and said, “Thank you, Elder Johnson for a wonderful evening.”

“Please call me Steven,” he said quietly.  “Are you busy tomorrow?”

She shook her head.

“How would you go on the Harbor Cruise and then have lunch afterwards at the Space Needle?”

“I would like that very much,” she said, her eyes dancing with delight.  He was asking her out on a date.

He smiled.  “Good.  I will pick you tomorrow morning at eleven.  Goodnight, Larissa.”

“Goodnight, Steven.” She watched him drive away before she went inside the building.

After their cruise and lunch at the Space Needle, they began dating exclusively.  They went all over Seattle, giving her a real taste and appreciation for the city.  They visited museums, the zoo, art galleries, parks, the Aquarium and their excursion to Tillicum Village on Blake Island was an experience she would never forget.  They went for scenic drives to Snoqualmie Falls and Seward Park to the Washington Park Arboretum where one was treated to with an incredible view of Mount Rainier in the distance.

At church, they were circumspect around each other not wanting anyone to know that they were seeing each other.  For the time being, they wanted to keep their relationship on the quiet.  They never went to each other’s place but went out instead.  They did not kiss for the first few months they were dating but held hands when in public.

Then one afternoon when he went by her place to pick her up to take her to see the iconic brick wall covered with chewed up gum in an alley under Pike Place Market and the Giant Ferris Wheel, it began to rain cats and dogs.  It was a real bummer because she had been looking forward to going out.  It had been overcast all morning but she had been hoping that it would clear up but now rain was coming down in buckets and it didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon.  She turned away from the window, bitterly disappointed.  “Oh, well,” she said.  “I guess we will have to take a rain check.”

“I’m sorry about the weather,” he said.  “I know how much you were looking forward to going out.”

“It’s okay,” she said, shrugging.  “I’m sure we can find something to occupy ourselves with until the rain ends.”

“Do you have anything in mind?”

“Yes.  I have a few board games we can play.  We have Bibleopoly which is the Biblical alternative to Monopoly, Bible Scrabble and Bible or Not.”

“They all sound very interesting and it has been a while since I played board games.”

“Good.  We’ll on the carpet in front of the sofa.”  She left and brought out the games, setting them on the coffee table.  “Which one do you want to play first?”

He looked at each of them for a moment and then, he took up Bible Scrabble.  “I’ve always enjoyed Scrabble,” he said.  They set things up and sat down, cross legged on the carpet and began playing.  They played all three games.  The time went by very quickly and it was time to have something to eat.  They packed up the games and she put them away before going into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

Dinner was Spicy Kale and Coconut Stir Fry, one of her favorite recipes to make.  For dessert, they had Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake Bites.  Then they relaxed on the sofa and watched The War Room.

It was still raining outside when she checked a couple of hours later, though not heavily as before. Steven joined her at the window.  “It seems to be easing up,” she remarked turning to face him.  “Would you like anything to drink—maybe a hot chocolate?”

He shook his head.  “No, thank you.  I should be leaving now.  I have an early day tomorrow at work.”

“All right.  I have an umbrella. Would you like to borrow it?”

He smiled.  “I’ll be fine,” he said.  Then, taking her hands, he added, “I’m happy that it rained because I really enjoyed the time we spent here together.  And thanks for the delectable dinner and dessert.”

She smiled, feeling very pleased. “I had a wonderful time too and I’m glad you enjoyed my cooking.”

His expression got serious as they stood there in front of the window, holding hands.  Then, without saying anything, he bent his head and kissed her.  It was tentative at first but it deepened when he felt her response.  He let go of her hands to cup her face as he kissed her passionately.  She put her arms around his waist.  For several minutes they kissed and then, he broke off the kiss to unbutton his shirt, his face flushed as his eyes met her wide ones.   Their heavy breathing mingled as she helped him with the buttons.  When his shirt was discarded, she removed her top.

Then, they were kissing again, wildly now.  Her fingers dug into the flesh on his back and groaning, he picked her up and carried her over to the rug in front of the fireplace.  After putting her down, he stood up to remove the rest of his clothes before kneeling down to remove hers.  There in front of the fireplace, they made love while outside the rain continued to fall.

Several hours later, he got dressed and left, after a lengthy goodbye at the door.  That night was the first of many such trysts between them.  They both knew it was wrong to have sexual relations outside of marriage but they allowed their passion for one another to override the instructions God brought to their minds.  This continued for weeks.  They hardly went out.  Instead they stayed in inside either at his place or hers and spent a good chunk of their time in bed, ravaging each other before surfacing to engage in other activities.

Then, one Sabbath, the pastor preached a sermon which Larissa felt was directed to her.  It was Youth Day and the message was about youth abstinence.  The words that struck her like a blow were, “True love waits” which was the title of the sermon.  The challenge was for young people to abstain from having sex until marriage and using the Bible, he shared the benefits of abstinence.

As she listened, Larissa felt convicted.  She recalled how she had always planned to save herself for the husband that God was going to bless her with.  When she met and fell in love with Steven, that vow was broken.  Love and desire took precedence and now she was being reminded of that promise she had made to herself.  Tears came to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back.  She didn’t want to lose it right then in front of everybody, especially Steven.  She sat through the sermon and by the time it was over, she had come to the painful conclusion that she had to stop seeing Steven.

As soon as the service was finished, she hurried out of the sanctuary and left the church through the back entrance.  All the way home on the bus, she thought about how hard it was going to be to break up with Steven but they couldn’t continue sleeping together.  In her mind, she heard the apostle Paul’s admonition, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  She had given her body to Steven because she loved him but he wasn’t her husband. She wanted to do things God’s way and if it meant ending her relationship with Steven, then she had no choice but to end it.

Tears rolled down her cheeks and she brushed them away.  Lord, I love Steven so much.  I can’t imagine my life without him in it.  It will be hard going to church and seeing him.  My only other option is to transfer to another church but I love this church and the people.  Lord, I want to do things Your way but this is so painful. When she got home, she changed and then headed straight to the beach to think things through.

And here she was now, staring out at the sea and thinking about how far she had drifted from God.   She stood there for a long time, wishing that her life wasn’t in such a turmoil.  It wasn’t so long ago when she was so happy.  Things were going so well for Steven and her until they became sexually involved.  She closed her eyes as images of their intense lovemaking flashed across her mind and she felt her body react strongly.  Her eyes flew open as guilt filled her and she scrambled to her feet.  She ran all the way to the bus stop and got there just as the bus pulled up.  

She was heading toward the entrance of her building when she heard her name.  Her heart skipped a beat when she turned and found herself staring up at Steven.  His eyes were restless on her face and his expression was serious. “You’ve been crying.”

She didn’t answer.

“I need to talk to you,” he said quietly.  “My car is parked over there.”

She didn’t say anything but followed him to his car.  When they were seated, she looked down at her hands clasped in her lap.  “I-I was going to call you later,” she said.

He reached out and covered her hands with his.  “Larissa, I know that the sermon today was difficult to hear because of our relationship.  We crossed a line we shouldn’t have and I’m sorry.  I was the one who made the first move but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted you so much.”

“I wanted you too,” she admitted, still not looking at him.

“I looked for you after the service but you were gone.  I went home and called you from there but there was not answer.  I decided to come over and see if you were here.  I was just on my way up to your place when I saw you.  I have something I want to say to you.  I was going to wait until your birthday but I realize that now is the best time.”  He released her hands to reach into the breast pocket of his shirt.  “This morning before I came to church, God told me that we had drifted outside of His will for our lives and that in order for us to get His blessing and anointing on our relationship, we have to do it His way.  True love waits.”

She looked at him, wondering what he was talking about when she saw the black box in his hand.  Her heart began to pound and her eyes flew up to his face.

He opened it and took out a beautiful diamond cross engagement ring.  “Larissa, the first time I saw you, my heart stopped.  And every moment I spent with you was heaven on earth.  I love you with an everlasting love and it would make my heart glad with unspeakable joy if you would spend the rest of your life with me.  Larissa, will you marry me?”

By now the tears were just flowing and it took a few moments for her to whisper, “Yes.”

He blinked back his own tears as he slid the ringer on her finger.  “I love you,” he murmured before leaning over to kiss her.

“I love you too,” she murmured against his lips.  Her heart was singing.  God didn’t want her to end her relationship with Steven, He just wanted it to be done His way.  She was going to wait until she and Steven were married to experience sexual intimacy the way God intended.  No, she didn’t mind waiting at all.  Waiting is a sign of true love and patience. Anyone can say ‘I love you,’ but not everyone can wait and prove it’s true.

Sources:  Emerald City Community Church; Cicero SDA Church; First SDA Church; Ministry Magazine; Cafe Flora; Seattle Tours; Argosy Cruises; Christian Cafe; CBS Seattle; Christianity Today; Cookie and Kate; The Food Network; Box Cast; Sermon Central; Apples of Gold; Married and Young; Ask Ideas

Go and Tell

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen – Matthew 28:19, 20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen – Matthew 28:19, 20
Like  the disciples, we are to go out and share our faith with others.  We have good news about Jesus Christ to share with them.  What prevents us from doing so?  I know for me there are several reasons:

  1. I don’t know what to say.
  2. I don’t think I know enough to share anything with anyone.
  3. I don’t know where to begin.
  4. I don’t feel qualified to witness to others.
  5. I’m scared.

I can come up with several Bible verses which will address all of these misgivings/fears of mine.

  1. I don’t have to worry about what to say because the Holy Spirit will do the talking (Matthew 10:20).
  2. Jesus encouraged people to share their testimonies (Mark 5:19).
  3. I should begin somewhere familiar to me like my workplace (John 4:28-39).
  4. Just as Jesus sent the disciples out to witness to others, He will send me out (John 20:21).
  5. Jesus promised that He would be with me when I go out to share the Good News about Him (Matthew 28:20).

So, I have no excuse not to go out there go to “a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!”

The Good News

 

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus Hymn

Lost and Found

Claudine and Duke were at a diner having lunch. The last time they saw each other was a couple of weeks ago at his younger brother, Alan’s funeral.  Duke had called her last night to ask her to have lunch with him today.  She was happy to see him.

“It’s good to see you, Duke,” she said.  “How have you been?”

“I’m doing all right, I guess.  I’m still trying to deal with Alan’s untimely death.”

She reached out and put her hand on his.  “I know how hard it is when we lose someone we love.  I went to see Doreen yesterday and she’s still having a really tough time coping.  The kids are staying with their grandparents for a while.”

“Since the funeral I haven’t been to see Doreen and the kids.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t face them right now.”  A pause and then, he blurted out, “I can’t face them because I feel guilty.”

She stared at him, concerned now.  “You feel guilty?  Why?” she asked.

Instead of answering her question, he countered with, “God is love, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then, why did He let Alan die and me live?  Not once when we were kids, did I ever see him throw a tantrum.  And he was the most religious guy I knew.   He was always reading His Bible, active in church and involved in community service.  I, on the other hand, am not a practicing Christian.  I don’t go to church often and I hardly read the Bible.  As far as community service is concerned, I give donations when I can.  I don’t pray often.  And to top it all, I had an affair with a married woman.  Why did the God whom we say is love, let a godly man like Alan who served him all of his life and never did anything wrong, die, leaving a wife and two children behind and let me live? I should have been the one to die in that boating accident, not Alan.”

His words cut into her like a knife and she withdrew her hand from his, lowering her eyes so that he couldn’t see the anguish in them. The thought of losing him in that accident was unbearable.  She was overcome with compassion for Alan’s family but she was thankful that Duke had survived.  She was still thanking God for sparing his life. “Is this why you feel guilty?”

“Yes.  I keep asking myself over and over why God didn’t take me instead of Alan.  Why did He let me live?”

“It is because He loves you.”

“He loves me?” he exclaimed. “What about Alan?  Didn’t He love him too?”

“Yes, He did.”

“Then explain to me why He chose to let me live when He could have saved Alan instead?”

“God doesn’t always do what we expect,” she said. “He had His reasons for sparing your life.  Let me give you an illustration.  Let’s say that you have two children.  One is at home with you and the other is lost.  Which child would you be more concerned about–the one who is safe or the one who is lost?”

“The lost child, of course.”

“So, if you are more concerned about the lost child, does this mean that you love that child more than the other?”

He shook his head. “No.  I would do the same thing for the other child if he were lost too.”

“Exactly! It’s the same thing with Alan and you.  God didn’t spare your life because He loved you more than Alan.  Alan was already saved but God spared you in order to save you,”

“But, I’m a sinner.”

“We’re all sinners but the Bible teaches that God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

“How could God still love me after some of the things I’ve done and the way I’ve treated Him?”

“God is not like us. He loves us in spite of how we are.  His love is unconditional.  He doesn’t stop loving us when we do bad things or turn away from Him.  He keeps reaching out to us like the shepherd who went to find the lost sheep, the woman who searched the house until she found the lost coin or the father who ran to meet his lost son when he saw him coming home because he was so overjoyed to see him.  Jesus said that’s how God feels about the lost.  He rejoices when He finds them.”

“So, what should I do now?” he asked.

“First, you need to thank God for sparing your life so that you have the opportunity to get to know him. This act of mercy and grace demonstrate the loving nature towards us.  He doesn’t want you to die without making a conscious decision to know Him.  In realizing that God saved in your life, I hope that you will see now His love for you and that He wants you to spend time with in a Father and son relationship.”

“One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 which says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ God promised that when you call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen to you.”

“Thank you, Claudine,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate you being here and helping me to understand things that don’t make any sense to me.”

She smiled.  “That’s what friends are for.”

They finished eating and after he paid the bill, he asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”

She shook her head.  “No.” I want to be with you.

It would kill me if you were seeing someone.  “Do you need a lift anywhere?”

“A ride to the subway would be great,” she said.  “I’m going to the nursing home to visit my father.”

“How is he doing?”

“He’s doing all right.  His mind is still very active and alert it’s just his body is worn out.  I still haven’t gotten used to seeing him in a wheelchair.”

“Why is he in a wheelchair?”

“He suffers from intense episodes of Asthma.”  She wrapped the scarf around her neck before pulling on her coat.  She got up from the table and followed him out of the diner as he dragged on his jacket.  She squinted as they stepped into the bright sunshine.  It was a lovely day. They walked to where his car was parked and after he held the door open for her to get in, he slid behind the wheel.  He turned on the radio and classical music played.

“I have a cousin who suffered from asthma since she was a child.  I read somewhere that, Once you have asthma, you have it for life. You might not always be symptomatic. You might have it as a kid and grow out of it. But it may revisit at some point, usually when you have a stress in your life.  Have you ever seen your father have one of his attacks?”

“Yes, more than once and each time it was very scary.  It made me realize how we can take something as such as breathing normally for granted.  But, my Dad is a trooper.  He doesn’t let his bout with asthma get him down.  He’s one of the most upbeat people I know and he always says that God is good to him, one breath at a time.”

“Your father is a very wise man.  I like him.”

“He likes you too,” she said.  “Whenever I visit him, he asks about you.”

“Please say hello to him for me.”

“I will.  Maybe the next time I visit him you can come with me.”

“I’d like that.”

They reached the subway and he pulled over to the side of the road.  He got out and walked around to open the door for her.  As she got out, she stumbled and he moved quickly to steady her.  His hands were on her waist and they were standing very close.  She raised her eyes to look at him and he looked down at her.  For several minutes they stood there looking at each other, their bodies inches apart.  She wondered if he could hear how fast her heart was beating and he wondered what she would say if she knew how badly he wanted to kiss her at that moment.  He released her and stepped aside for her to step on to the curb.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said quietly.  “I’ll call you during the week.”

“Thanks again for having lunch with me and your advice.  I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, Duke.”  She hesitated for a split second and then she reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  He closed his eyes as he felt an intense longing surge through his body and it took all of his will power not to turn his head so that their lips touched.  When she drew back, his eyes were dark and smoldering.  She felt her body respond and turning, she quickly walked away.  He watched her go before he got back into the car and drove off.

All the way to the nursing home, Claudine thought about that unguarded moment between Duke and her.  For the first time since they have known each other, she saw clearly that he was attracted to her too.  She saw the desire she felt shining in his eyes.  Since they met, she had known that she loved him and had prayed that they would end up together.  Was God beginning to answer her prayers?

Her father was in his room when she got to the nursing home and he grinned when he saw her.  “Hello, sunshine.”

She smiled and went over to hug and kiss him.  “Hello, Dad.  How are you feeling?”

“I feel great.  What about you.  How are you doing?”

“I’m fine.  I had lunch with Duke.”

“How’s that young man doing?” She told him about their conversation.  “It sounds like he’s suffering from survivor’s guilt.”

“Yes.  I told him that he has nothing to feel guilty about.”

“Where’s he now?  Why didn’t you bring him with you?”

“He has stuff to do, I guess.  However, I invited him to come with me the next time I visit.”

“Good.  Take off your coat and sit down.”

She removed her coat and draped it over a chair and placed her scarf on top before settling down in a chair by the window.  The room looked bright and cheerful with lots of natural light.    “Have you gone for a walk as yet?” she asked.  “It’s beautiful outside.”

He shook his head.  “Not yet.  I’m watching Premier League football.  Manchester United and Arsenal are playing.”

Claudine shook her head, smiling.  Her father was a football fanatic.  He could sit there and watch it all day if it were possible.  “All right, finish watching your game and then, you and I will go for a walk and sit outside in the garden for a while.  A bit of fresh air will do you a lot of good.”

“Claudine, you’re worried about Duke, aren’t you?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Don’t because God is going to sort him out and after He’s through sorting him out, you can tell him that you love him.”

She looked at him in astonishment.  “But, how did you–?”

“Guess that you’re in love with Duke?  It’s written all over your face every time you talk about him.  These eyes don’t miss anything.  I like Duke but he’s not the right man for you yet but he will be when God is through with him.”  Shouting on the television caught his attention and he watched as they showed a replay of Manchester United scoring its second goal.

Claudine sat there, trying to make sense of what her father just told her.  His words gave her hope.  Duke was the man for her and when the time was right, they would be together with God’s blessing.  Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back.  Thank You, God for answering my prayers.  And thank You for taking care of Duke.

For the rest of the afternoon, Duke couldn’t stop thinking about Claudine and what almost happened between them outside the subway station.  And that night before he went to bed, he got down on his knees and prayed.

Lord, today when Claudine kissed me on the cheek, I wanted so much to show her how much I love her.  I’ve loved her for eight years.  I knew from the moment we met that she was the right woman for me although I knew that I wasn’t the right man for her.  I’ve asked you to remove the love I have for her from my heart but it just keeps growing stronger.  I tried to get her out of my system by having an affair with Heather who was separated from John at the time.  I know what I did was wrong but I wasn’t thinking at the time.  I was hurting because I couldn’t be with the woman I loved.  It was sheer torture loving someone I couldn’t have because I was wrong for her. Even now it’s hard to be around her knowing that I could never be more than friends with her.  Lord, please help me.  Please help me to get over her.

He remained there beside the bed on his knees for a while longer, in the quietness of the room, waiting.  Before you could be the right man for Claudine, you need have a right relationship with Me. The words filled him with hope.  He could be with Claudine but first, he had to make things right with God.  He had to put his relationship with God first.

The following morning he got an email from Claudine.  It read, Hi, Duke,

I found two links that I thought may be very helpful to you. The first is about God’s Pursuit of Man and the second is about having a personal relationship with God.  God longs to have a loving relationship with you.  James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  God promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that when you seek Him you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart.  I pray that when you come to know God, you will see how valued you are in His sight and the guilt you feel about surviving the boat accident will be resolved.  I’ll be in touch.  Blessings, Claudine.

He replied to her email and then clicked on the first link.  Eagerly, he read it and by the time he was finished, he was in tears.  After he opened and read the second link, he turned off the laptop and got ready for work.  As he showered and got dressed, he would follow the six simple steps Alan once shared with him on how to build a relationship with God:

  1. Take the time to touch bases with God
  2. Invite Him to come close
  3. Talk
  4. Listen
  5. Make contact throughout your day
  6. Take action when you hear God’s voice

The next several weeks, he spent time reading the Bible, praying and reflecting.  When Claudine invited him to go to church with her one Sunday, he readily accepted her invitation.  From the moment he walked through the doors, he knew that this was the church he wanted to be a part of.  The love and warmth of the parishioners filled his heart with such comfort and joy that it brought tears to his eyes.  It wasn’t long before he got baptized.  Doreen and the children were there.  After the service, she hugged Duke and said, tearfully, “Alan would have been so proud.”

That evening, Claudine and he went out for dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.

“So how does it feel to be part of a church family?” she asked, smiling across the table at him.

He beamed.  “It feels wonderful,” he said.  “Now I understand why Alan loved the church community so much.”

“It was good to see Doreen and the kids.”

“She told me that Alan would have been proud.”

“Yes, he would have been.  His brother was lost and now he’s found.”

He reached over and covered her hand.  “I owe this all to you too,” he said quietly.  “I’m who I am and where I am now because of you.  Thank you for pushing me gently toward God.”

“You’re welcome.  I’m so thankful that things have worked out the way they have.”

“There’s one more thing.”  His expression was tense now.  “I have something to tell you.  It’s something that has been on my mind for a very long time but now is the right time to tell you.”

Frowning, she asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

Taking a deep breath, he said, “I love you, Claudine.  I’ve loved you since the first time we met but I never told you because I didn’t believe that I was the right man for you.”

Heart racing, Claudine looked him straight in the face and replied, “I love you too, Duke.  I’ve loved since the first time I saw you.  My Dad was right.  That day when I visited him after you and I met for lunch, he said that you weren’t the right man for me yet but that when God was through with you, you will be.”

“Wow, that’s profound.”

“That had to be God revealing His plan to him to encourage me because I’d been praying and it seemed like God wasn’t answering or taking a long time to.”

“So, now that we know that we’re right for each other, I don’t want to waste any more time.”  He reached into his pocket and produced a small black box.  Then, he got up from the table and walked around to where she was and got down on one knee.  He opened the box, took out the ring and asked, “Claudine Bradshaw, will you marry me?”

Laughing and conscious of eyes on them, she nodded.  “Yes, I will marry you, Duke Addington.”  Through tears, she saw him slip the exquisite ring with its single heart shaped diamond on her finger before he reached up and kissed her.

Amidst the applause, he rose to his feet and went back to his seat, grinning broadly.  He raised his mock-tail and said, “To us.”

After dabbing her eyes with the napkin, she raised her glass. “To us.  And to God be the glory.”

 

 

Sources:  Our Daily Bread; Karman Healthcare; Yearning Hearts; Wise Old Sayings; Heart Spoken;

Angry With God

Don’t you just love it when your child decides to have a temper tantrum when you’re in the supermarket, a restaurant or anywhere in public?  Some of us feel embarrassed and mortified, especially when we get those “why can’t she control her child?” looks.  We try to deal with the situation as best as we can.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could vacate the premises as fast as the superhero, Flash?  Or better yet, beam home?  When it comes to dealing with temper tantrums, we have to diffuse the situation and try to remain calm while doing that which isn’t easy at all.

What about us?  Do we throw temper tantrums when we don’t get our way with God?  Do we get angry and sulky when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want?  I can think of two examples of people in the Bible who threw tantrums when things didn’t go their way.  The first is Cain.

Cain was the older of two brothers.  He was a a “tiller of the ground” while his brother Abel was a “keeper of sheep”.  Both brought offerings to God.   God respected Abel and his offering but didn’t respect Cain and his offering.  Cain became very angry and depressed.   Why did God reject his offering?  Hebrews 11:4 states, By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.  Abel offered the best that he had from among his flock while Cain brought an offering of the fruit.  It doesn’t say that the fruit were the first fruits of the ground which were offered unto God just as the first-born of man and animals but it would explain why God rejected Cain’s offer. 

If we don’t give God our best and He rejects it, why should we get angry?  Cain’s anger toward God was unreasonable.  God spoke to him about it.   “Why are you angry? Why is your countenance fallen?  If you do well, shall you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must rule over it.”

God dealt with Cain’s behavior in a calm and loving manner.  God knew what was the cause of his anger and told him what to do about it.  If you know why your child is acting up, try to help them to see how their behavior will not get them what they want.  Cain’s anger was not going to make things right with God.  He had to change his attitude and do what is right before God could accept him.  Your child needs to know that their unruly behavior is unacceptable and that if they behave themselves, all will be well for them.   Some of them may calm down and behave themselves while others continue acting up.  Sadly, Cain didn’t get over his anger and it resulted in his brother’s death.

Jonah is the other adult in the Bible who threw a temper tantrum.  When God first sent the prophet to the wicked city of Nineveh to cry out against it, “because their wickedness has come up before Me,” Jonah fled in the opposite direction to Tarshish.  After surviving three days and nights in the belly of a large fish which vomited him up on dry land and acknowledging that “Salvation is of the Lord!” God again called the prophet to “Get up, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”

Jonah had no other choice but to go to Nineveh this time.  When he entered the city, he cried out, “In forty days’ time, Nineveh will be overthrown!”  The people believed God and proclaimed a fast.  They all put on sackcloth and when the king heard the news, he left his throne, removed his robes and put on sackcloth.  He made a decree that both people and animals would fast and that all shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands, believing that it was possible that God “may relent and change His mind. He may turn from His fierce anger, so that we will not perish.”

When God saw their actions and that they had turned from their evil ways, He relented and didn’t bring disaster on them.  However, this act of mercy greatly angered Jonah and he told God why he fled to Tarshish.  “This is the reason that I fled before to Tarshish, because I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in faithfulness, and ready to relent from punishment.”  He asked God to take his life because death was better than living to see the people of Nineveh spared. 

Do we get upset with God when He shows love and compassion toward people we don’t think are deserving of His mercy?  Are any of us deserving of His grace?  When Jonah was thrown into the sea as per his request to the men in the ship with him, God showed him mercy by sending a large fish to swallow him, preventing him from drowning.  Jonah confessed that salvation was of the Lord and yet, he was angry with Him for saving the people of Nineveh who repented.  God will not destroy those who repent but will show them mercy instead.  This was the God whom Jonah served and yet, this was the reason why he was angry with Him.

As He did with Cain and with us, God tried to reason with Jonah, showing him how unreasonable he was being.  He asked him, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Is it right for us to be angry when God accepts a person whom we considered to be a backslider back into His fold?  Was it right for the brother of the prodigal son to be upset with the father for welcoming his wayward son back home?  To illustrate His point, God did a little experiment.  As Jonah sat down to see what would happen to the city of Nineveh, God had a plant grow and give shade to the prophet.  Jonah was thankful for the plant because of its shade from the heat.  The next day, though, God had a worm eat the plant until it withered and then raised up a scorching east wind. When the sun beat upon the head of Jonah he became faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

God asked him if it was right for him to be angry about the plant.  Jonah replied that his anger was justified even to death.  And God’s response was, “You are troubled about the plant for which you did not labor and did not grow. It came up in a night and perished in a night.  Should I not, therefore, be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people, who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Do we, like Jonah, place more importance on things and animals than we do people who are lost and need God’s mercy?  The people of Nineveh were living in sin until God sent Jonah to warn them so that they could turn from their wickedness and be saved.  There are many people in the world who are living in darkness and God wants bring them into the light.  We don’t determine who deserves His mercy and who doesn’t.  When it comes to someone’s salvation, there’s no room for temper tantrums but a changed heart and attitude that would allow us to see what God sees and rejoice with Him when that sinner repents.

Sources:  Bible Study Tools; Bible Gateway