The Wilderness.

Photo by: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing.

I’m reading in 1 Kings now and found many interesting and beautiful things about God. And I learned something new about Elijah, a great prophet of God.

You may know the story of when Elijah was on top of Mount Carmel. It hadn’t rained for three years because the people of Israel were worshipping Baal, an evil god to whom the people would sacrifice their live children by burning them to death.

Elijah told King Ahab to bring the people and the prophets of Baal to Mt. Carmel. They would have a contest between Baal and the Lord God. They would build altars and pray; whichever God answered by fire, he was the true God.

After many hours of praying, Baal did not answer. Elijah prayed and immediately fire came down from heaven consuming the sacrifice and altar. The people said, “The Lord, he is God.”

Elijah thought the nation would change; he thought Ahab would quit worshipping Baal and turn to God, but this did not happen. In fact, his wife Jezebel sent a message to Elijah telling him she would kill him by the end of the day.

Elijah ran. He ran into the desert, the same desert that Israel had to cross to get to the promised land. And this is the part I had forgotten; he wandered in the wilderness for 40 days.

I thought of Jesus and when he went into the wilderness for 40 days. I thought of Israel and how they had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. God has patterns throughout the Bible and here was another one.

Most commentators of the Bible say Elijah was discouraged by the outcome of his work for God. He probably thought his work was fruitless and wondered why he had risked his life for nothing. He couldn’t see what God was doing or why. His faith in God was tested.

When Israel wandered through the wilderness, their faith was tested also. They came to a day when there was no water. They thought they were going to all die of thirst so they complained and wanted to go back to Egypt. They got angry at their situation. God provided them with water, not just once, but many times. They had no food left and were frightened. They didn’t trust God to feed them. They said, “Can God make a feast in the wilderness?” Yes, he can and he did. These things happened to make their trust in God strong but it didn’t work with that first generation.

For Jesus in the wilderness the test was the same. Did he trust his father? Would he complain about being hungry and save himself? No, he didn’t. He could have made the stones into bread but he knew if you or I were in the wilderness, we could not do that. He came to live a human life, depending on God for everything.

Joyce Meyer talks a lot about Christians going through a wilderness time. Everything around them feels dark and hopeless. They cannot see the way out and wonder why God allowed this to happen to them. We have a choice in these times, to trust and praise God in the midst of them, or to complain and rebel against him.

I found two songs lately that are so inspirational. The words are fitting for this subject.

No one can take away, my hallelujah.

No darkness can contain, my hallelujah.

Your cross has made the way, for my hallelujah.

From the song: My Hallelujah, by Brian and Katie Talwalt.

Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness.

Give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den.

Give me a heart like David, Lord be my defense.

Then I can fight my giants with confidence.

From the song: Confidence, by Sanctus Real.

“No darkness can contain, my hallelujah.” We must not allow darkness to stop our praise and love towards God. Remember how Jesus and his disciples suffered. No one is immune to suffering; you are not alone. This world of pain is not our home; Jesus walks beside you.

Telling God Alone.

In my last post I wrote about watching too much television with my mom and having a struggle with that. Of course, God came through and helped me. As I said, Mom told me she would like to play some computer games. Well, that is what she wants to do every night instead of watching TV. I’m so thankful to God. Now I have more time to listen to Christian podcasts, read books about God and to pray.

In one podcast, a man said something like, “If you were raised in a legalistic, fundamentalist religion and are now free of it, be grateful for your upbringing. You grew up knowing the Lord’s name.” I agree with him and have thought about that a lot.

My sisters and I used to be upset at our religious upbringing, but now I am grateful. Because of my parents and my church, I have always believed there is a God; I’ve always known he hears and sees me; I’ve always known there is eternal life for those who follow him. I may have been terrified of God and when I sinned I thought he would kill me with a bolt of lightening, but hey, it was a start! I’ve certainly never been tempted to be an atheist.

Something happened this week that showed me how good Joyce Meyer’s advice is on not telling people when you are hurt by someone. I thought about telling only my husband but I realized there would be no point in that. He couldn’t change anything and would also feel sad that I was sad.

I don’t want to say what this person did. It was someone in my family. When it happened, I felt like a knife went through my heart. So, I spent time talking with God about the situation. I thought about what Jesus would do. I think he would have felt hurt, but he would have just accepted what happened. That night I prayed God would take away the pain in my heart and when I woke in the morning the pain was totally gone.

That day, another family member came over and talked with me about what happened. I didn’t bring it up, but she knew about it. What she said made me feel so much better. The situation was clarified and I could see there was no malice at all involved in it. That night we all went out to dinner and had a perfectly wonderful time together.

I love God’s way of dealing with our hurts. I love this way of not telling people I am sad etc. I know there are times we must confront people. Jesus said to go to those who hurt you and talk with them. I have done that before; sometimes it works out great, other times not so much. What I especially love is how God tells us not to spread these stories all over the place. We shouldn’t call our friends and tell them how horribly someone has treated us. We should go to God alone and he will help us.

Distracted From God.

Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:German_Federal_Archives

I’m having trouble spending as much time as I would like to in seeking God each day. I’m still doing that, but not as much as before. I’ll explain.

My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer around a year ago. We went through a lot together before the diagnosis. She broke her hip, seemed to have dementia, was in a nursing home and then came home to me. I’m so glad she is home.

When she returned, the doctors and I thought that lack of enough Vitamin B12 was the reason for her weakness and dementia. I’ve been giving her shots and she is slowly healing. She couldn’t read or watch TV at first; but that all changed with the shots. She does have short-term memory damage, but I hope it improves. A person can live 10 years with colon cancer and that is what I am hoping for.

For the last months Mom has not wanted to read as much. I think she forgets what she has read so I am ordering magazines. She enjoys those. She does like TV a lot, especially British shows. Most of those are written beautifully and the stories are compelling.

So, we started with Father Brown and Midsummer Murders. I’ve seen those before, so I would read and pray as she watched, or do that after she went to bed. But things started to change for me with Downton Abbey.

I love that show. I’ve seen it years ago so I thought I would not watch. But I’d forgotten a lot of it and couldn’t take my eyes away from it for weeks. Then this week we started Paranoia, a British police mini-series. Well, it is fascinating and the writing and acting are amazing. They certainly know what they are doing in England. My husband watches tons of American cop shows and they are boring so I am not tempted to spend hours watching them.

Last night, after watching a 5-hour marathon of Paranoia, I knew I had to do something! But when Mom got up to go to bed, she said, “Didn’t I used to play a computer game?” I told her she used to play Flipwords. She said, “I’d like to do that again.”  Well, thank God. She can play that for hours and love it. She told me she had had enough of that show. The story is complex and I think she doesn’t know what is going on.

I’m still going to watch the last four episodes. I’m no saint. I’m thinking that after this I can play Yahtzee with her and then she can play computer games. We will see how everything works out. All I know is I want my evenings with God back. I did take time with him after Mom went to bed, but I’m very tired by then.

I remember a woman in a church I went to. She said she had a dream from God. She saw Jesus and asked him why his people were not what they should be. He said one word, “Television.” Then she woke up. She believed or felt that Jesus meant we spend so much time watching TV that we have no time for him.

I can see it. Most people come home from work, make dinner, watch TV and go to bed. Nothing wrong about that, unless the TV shows are full of sex and violence. But we could watch nature shows all evening and it still takes us away from Jesus. The only way to be like Him is to be with Him. The only place for strength to live and power to work is beside him. He alone can make us better people. One thing he cannot do is seek himself for us. That is our job. That alone is, “working out our salvation.”

I need to update this post to say I do have worship with God every morning. But I need more of him. Like Daniel, who prayed morning, noon and evening.

God in Our Lives.

My grandson, daughter #1 and son-in-law of daughter #2. Xmas 2018.

I’ve been trying to remember to write about life each day and how God has moved in my life. I’ll share a few stories.  Two weeks ago, my sister, who lives in Washington State, told me she was getting more and more tired. She could hardly get out of bed. She does have chronic fatigue syndrome, but she could usually do a few things during the day. She was so discouraged.

We both prayed about it and she discovered it was caused by the antidepressant pills the doctor gave her. As soon as she stopped taking them she had more energy. Also, she told me her back was better since she bought a back exerciser. She said she used to be in terrible pain after putting away groceries; but since she used the exerciser the pain has been small.

So, I would like to thank God for showing my sister what to do to feel better. I’m also very thankful my grandson is still free from heroin and feeling better every month. He has a dog he loves and a mom who stands with him, helping him all she can. I’ve been sending him stories from the Bible and he says he enjoys them. Thank you God for freeing him from heroin!

I listed to a podcast awhile ago. A woman told a story from her life. Everything was going wrong. Her husband couldn’t find a job, she had to work and her baby was sick. She said her mother told her to go to a special evening meeting put on by their church and have a break. She went to the meeting but felt angry and jealous of those around her whom she supposed had happy lives. The musicians were setting up their instruments. All of a sudden, she saw Jesus on the stage. He looked at her and said, “You came! You came!” He hurried off the stage and came to where she was sitting. He was smiling and hugged her and said, “I’m so glad you came.” Then he disappeared.

This touched me deeply. How kind of God to comfort her in this way. And how like him to be happy when we take time to be with him at a meeting or in prayer. I think God, like all of us, is happy when people pay attention to him. I love it when my daughters and grandchildren come to see me. When you think that to look at God is to look at eternal life and eternal love, and he knows that; no wonder it makes him happy!

I’ve been reading 1 Kings and found something so beautiful to me. Jeroboam was an evil king who introduced idol worship to Israel. This kind of worship included sacrificing children to the god to be burned alive. Jeroboam also told the people not to go to Jerusalem to worship God.

God sent a prophet to the king to tell him that in the future, his son would lose the throne and all his family would die. But the Lord made an exception for one of Jeroboam’s sons, a son who was sick. The prophet told him he would die of the sickness but, “All Israel will mourn for him and bury him; for he alone of Jeroboam’s family will come to have a grave because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.”

So, the Lord allowed the boy to die in order to save him, I think and to give him a good end compared with the rest of the family who were killed by the sword. This story reminded me of my grandson, Craig and my nephew, Ian. Their lives were full of confusion, sadness and trouble, but I know their hearts pleased God. I know I will see them in heaven.

Asking People for Advice: Yes or No?

Joyce Meyer has a saying, “Don’t run to the phone; go to the throne.”  She was speaking mainly to women about this because when we women have problems we usually talk to our family and friends about it. We want their sympathy and advice. Joyce says to go to God first, and not only that but to perhaps not to share those problems with other people. God is enough and will comfort and guide us.

To me, this seemed like good advice and I’ve been trying to do this. I have found out that God indeed does comfort and guide. He puts Bible verses in my mind about the problem I have. I feel heard and understood by him in a wonderful way. And I’m glad not to share my gloom and doom attitude with my family since it usually makes them feel sad or mad. It can be hard dealing with a family member who is naturally fearful.

But there are other voices that say we should have spiritual mentors and go to them with our plans and problems. I listened to a podcast of someone who said she thought she had a great plan for this year, but every mentor/spiritual advisor told her not to do it.

When Joyce was called by God to be a preacher, no one thought she should do it either. Her church kicked her out and her family didn’t believe God called her. Only her husband supported her after talking with God about it. At the time there were no women preachers, or very few; most churches would not allow it. But I believe God did call her and she has helped millions of people through preaching, writing and charity.

I was talking with God about this, feeling confused on what is right about the subject. He asked me to think on what Jesus did. Well, Jesus didn’t ask other people for their advice on where to go or what to do. He took his marching orders from his father. He is our perfect example of what we should do.

Then I thought of Paul, who was converted on the road to Damascus. This is what he says in Galatians 1:15,16

“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not rush to consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to the apostles who came before me, but I went into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

Only after three years did I go up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers says this:

“Having once obtained a firm inward apprehension of Christ as the Messiah and Saviour, the Apostle then comes forward to preach Him among the heathen. But that firm inward apprehension was not to be attained all at once, and it was in seeking this that “the Spirit drove him” into the wilderness of Arabia. First comes the instantaneous flash of the idea upon his soul (“to reveal his Son in me”); then the prolonged conflict and meditation, in which it gets thoroughly consolidated, and adjusted, and worked into his being (during the retirement into Arabia); lastly, the public appearance as a preacher to the heathen upon the return to Damascus.”

So Paul did not seek men’s advice or teaching, which is interesting. Most preachers go to seminary to learn how and what to preach.

When Paul was preaching in Berea, the Bible says, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”  Acts 17:11

Now Jesus was a spiritual advisor to the disciples. There is that to consider. He called them, he taught them and he trained them. Paul advised Timothy and other Christian leaders. Elijah took Elisha under his wing.

I think I have come to the conclusion that before we listen to any person, we should study the Bible deeply and we should spend much time in prayer. There are false teachers and false prophets. I believe God will let us know as we study and pray whether what someone is preaching is right or wrong. And if you are called by God to go somewhere or do something, keep praying until you are sure, and then do it.

One thing too about humans. Even if they are right about many things, they can be off the mark in some things. Preachers disagree with each other. They interpret the Bible differently. And not because they don’t love God or study, it is just another way Humans are not perfect.

George Whitefield and John Wesley disagreed about Calvinistic points, but Whitefield, to the very last, was determined to forget minor differences and to regard Wesley as Calvin did Martin Luther, “only as a good servant of Jesus Christ.” He asked Wesley to preach his funeral sermon.

“On another occasion a censorious professor of religion asked Whitefield whether he thought they would see John Wesley in heaven. “No sir,” was the striking answer; “I fear not, for he will be so near the throne, and we shall be at such a distance, that we shall hardly get a sight of him.” 

The Collected Sermons of George Whitefield.

Why We Love Action Movies.

Photo by Marcus Quigmire.

https://www.flickr.com/people/41896843@N00

Many years ago, my husband and I went to see a political thriller at the movie theater. When it was over, the ushers had pen and paper in hand and asked those who were leaving whether they liked the show. I’d never had that happen to me before. I said, “Oh, I hated it!” She asked why and I replied, “Everyone good in the movie died! It was horrible.”

I do remember the closing scenes and being stunned the bad guys won the day by killing everyone who was on the side of right. My reaction was pretty emotional, after all, it was just a movie.

I’ve seen movies where some good people die, but everyone? No.

I was listening to a sermon on a podcast last night and the preacher said, “Why do we go to violent/action movies? It is because we love violence.” Well, I disagree. I think we like these movies because we know the good guys will win in the end. Superman and Batman are not going to die and they will make the world better and safer. The people in Avatar saved their planet. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible will stop the bad guys in their tracks. We will all win against the murderous aliens.

I think we love these movies because we love to see justice done. We read the papers and see the crime, cruelty and hard-heartedness of people and most of us feel sad. Most of us can’t believe what is going on and what people will do to each other. But for two hours we can see some justice done and it feels good.

I don’t think preachers should say what people’s motives are. They truly don’t know. They sometimes put the worst connotations on why people do what they do.

Why do people take drugs? I think it is that they find life hard or very sad and take drugs to feel good, even though the feeling doesn’t last. I think the deepest desires we have are to be loved and understood and when that doesn’t happen, we will try anything to make ourselves feel better.

Jesus is the answer to those longings, although it took me a life-time to learn that. The Bible says to pour out our hearts to God. This is what I do now when I am discouraged or depressed. I just have to talk with him about the situation and he brings thoughts in my mind that encourage me.

Today I was feeling sad so I talked with God about what was upsetting me. The song, “You Lift Me Up,” came into my mind. Words like, “You lift me up so I can stand on mountains. You lift me up to walk on stormy seas…” I pictured Jesus walking beside me through a stormy sea. Then I remembered what he said to his disciples when they were afraid their boat would sink in a storm and they would die. Jesus said to them, “Why were you afraid? Where is your faith?” 

Oh my, how these thoughts from God comforted and strengthened me! The sadness lifted and I felt like painting, while before I talked with God I wanted to go to bed and put the covers over my head. This is what our God does for us. He is a, “Wonderful Counselor,” as the Bible says.

Vision of A Well.

Vista del interior de un pozo árabe, junto al Castillo de la Aldehuela, Torredelcampo, provincia de Jaén, España.

Photo by: Veinticuatro de Jahén

One of my sisters was praying about her sins. She said she asks God to forgive her sins every day. She was talking with God about sins and how we sometimes commit the same sins over and over.

Suddenly, she saw a well. As she looked down the well, the Lord spoke to her, “You can see through the first inches of water in a well when the sun shines on it. Below those inches is total blackness. Sins are like that. They are underneath the surface, and the Holy Spirit keeps them down and covered. But they can break through sometimes. On earth, you will always have this blackness deep inside you. In heaven, it will be gone.”

Years ago, every time I sinned I felt so guilty and evil that I couldn’t face God in prayer for days. I was ashamed I was capable of sinning after I gave my life to him. But I have learned we do sin after asking him into our hearts and minds. The Bible teaches that, but I had been raised in a church where sin was considered so horrible no real Christian would ever sin.

Actually, God uses our sins to humble us, to keep us from becoming proud. I think we would be insufferable if we were perfect. God did say to be perfect, but it means to reach completion. It is a walk, a life-long journey. I think we all need to learn we are extremely sinful people. Without God, we would do horrible, awful things. We would keep them a secret, if possible, but we really are capable of doing the worst.

Thank God for his forgiving grace and enormous love. Thank God he loves us just as we are and will hold us back from many sins. Thank God he will forgive us seventy times seven in one day if needed. And thank God he is everlastingly patient.