A List of Names.

Vietnam Memorial, photo by Noel Sheffer.

I was listening to a podcast this morning called, “Pray the Word with David Platt.”  He spoke on this verse of the Bible:

Nehemiah 11:12

“…and their brothers who did the work of the house, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah…”

The house spoken of in the verse is the House of the Lord, the temple. It needed to be repaired or rebuilt. The Babylonians had destroyed it.

Mr. Platt said it seems like this is a Bible verse that could not help anyone – a list of names – but this is what he said he got out of it.

We count. Our names mean something to God. What we do means something to God.

I remember Jesus saying to his disciples, “Don’t rejoice the evil spirits obey you; but rejoice your name is written in heaven.”

It’s a pretty big deal our names are written in the Book of Life. It is much more important than if we can cast out demons like Jesus did.

I loved what Mr. Platt said about us and our names, he said, “You are part of a great picture that spans centuries.” Yes, as each generation comes and goes, those who believe are a part of those who build up the kingdom of God.

Learning to Play Elder Scrolls at 69.

It’s 10:00 pm and after months of binge watching, Father Brown, Midsomer Murders, Call the Midwife, and Sherlock, I’ve had to find a new series for my mother to watch. She has short-term memory problems so I had the Father Brown series on about 10 times until it moved into her long-term memory. She finally said the words, “I remember this one.” I should probably tell a researcher on the elderly about that.

While she watches I, clean, cook, paint, do some woodwork, listen to podcasts, and play Elder Scrolls. I’m 69 years old and I just learned the joy of this kind of game. I don’t even know the right name for this kind of game. Multi-player is part of it. Maybe role-playing.

My sister from Washington State introduced me to games. She wanted to do something with me since we live far apart. We started with Portal Knights, moved on to Minecraft and then landed on Elder Scrolls Online.

We played the first two games for awhile, but my sister’s wi-fi at her trailer park is quite weak. She got a booster, but still got thrown out of the game time after time, or she would appear with a head and no body, so we had to stop playing those. She said she tried for hours to find us another game but couldn’t find one the two of us could play together. She prayed and God told her, “Elder Scrolls.” She said, “Really!? Okay.” So that’s how we began. ( She’s not crazy; we both think God talks to us.)

It quickly became clear I was very bad at this game. Elder Scrolls loves to keep players in the dark about their rules and how to play the game. Or, if you look at it another way, they have so many pages of tiny writing your eyes start aching and your brain hurting. I can’t read much on the computer anyway, and I’m glad the game doesn’t seem to bother my eyes after we eliminated the blue light. My sister tried to help me, but it was painful for both of us. Her wi-fi also hated Elder Scrolls, so we gave up.
We gave up trying to play together, but I was determined to keep playing myself. There was this one thing I loved about the game: travel and scenery.

I’ve always loved to travel and in Elder Scrolls there are all these islands you can go to. The scenery and architecture of the buildings is different in each place. My favorite part of the game is walking through the woods finding stuff I need in order to make things like weapons, clothing and food. It is lovely and soothing until a white tiger sneaks up from behind, swipes your back and calls all his friends to finish you off.

I’m a wood elf. My sister said that is the best person to be because she likes to stand back and shoot people. But that wasn’t the weapon they gave me at the beginning. They gave her a bow and arrow but gave me a staff that shoots out fire! Oh yeah, I fell in love with it. It worked very well in a fight. Then I saw a different player with a fire staff who banged hers on the ground and the ground became electric, zapping people. Wow! How could I get that!? I got it now, baby.

Honestly, I never thought I would like a game like this, but I think I know why I do. After you finish a quest, after you save some lives, after you kill the bad guys, you feel great. You feel like you have really accomplished something good. After I saved the Queen’s life, people in the different cities said, “Are you the one who saved the Queen?” “Why yes I am.”

You know, I’m glad I can take care of my 92-year-old mom. But do I feel excited, elated and proud of myself like I do in Elder Scrolls? No! That thought does give me pause. I’m not sure what to make of it. What I do know is that I have something exciting to do again and that makes me happy.

So, my mom and I are growing old together, happy as if in our right mind. And one thing is really handy about this time of our lives. In the last five years I’ve become agoraphobic and rarely leave the apartment. My mom is weak and tired and doesn’t want to go anywhere. I mean, how great is that? God works in mysterious ways. But I guess it wasn’t a mystery to him that I would love Elder Scrolls.

God Surrounds Us.

I haven’t written lately. My mother had a few minor heart attacks and was in the hospital overnight. They sent us home with some pills and nitroglycerine spray, which is working very well. I’m glad she is still with us at 92 years old.

 In the third chapter of Joshua, the people of Israel are prepared to go into the promised land and take it. The Jordan River flows between them and Jericho. God tells Joshua to have the priests take the Ark of the Covenant to the river. They were to go ahead of the people with the ark and stop in the middle. Then the people could pass over. The river stopped flowing the moment the priest’s feet hit the water.

I thought about how God promises to go before us. “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

My granddaughter just finished taking a college course on office work. She has been doing very well and is now in her practicum at the college itself. She loves the people there along with her desk space which has a lovely view out the windows. She would like to get a job there but there are no openings right now. She is concerned about getting a job. One reason I love God is that he says, “Don’t worry about anything.” I’m not worried for her because I know God has gone before her and she will get a job.

A job is a need, and he promises to supply all our needs. Many times he doesn’t do this swiftly. Many times he does. However long he takes, we can ask him to make us patient and to learn how to trust him in the waiting.

In Isaiah chapter 58, God tells us that if we are good to our neighbors and help the poor he will be our rearguard. The rearguard is a detachment of soldiers protecting the army as it marches ahead into battle. Yes, that is God. Isaiah 58:8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

God also promises to be beside us. “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:18

Finally, God promises to surround us. Psalm 3:3 But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.

Treasury of David: Bible Hub. “Here David avows his confidence in God. “Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me.” The word in the original signifies more than a shield; it means a buckler round about, a protection which shall surround a man entirely, a shield above, beneath, around, without and within. Oh, what a shield is God for his people! He wards off the fiery darts of Satan from beneath, and the storms of trials from above, while, at the same instant, he speaks peace to the tempest within the breast.”

It is good to meditate on these words. We can picture Jesus in front of us, beside us, behind us and then realize he is all around us. When I think hard about the fact that the God of the universe, a being that powerful and amazing, walks with me through life, I stand in awe and I am filled with gratitude.

Doubting God’s Goodness.

Is it a sin to doubt God’s goodness? I don’t think it is unless we give up and quit trying to understand who God is. I think all Christians wrestle with doubt at some point in their lives.

I had two kinds of serious doubts about God.

  1. Why does he allow physical and mental pain?
  2.  Why did he kill all those people in the Old Testament?

I saw one of my daughters endure terrible physical pain. I thought of all the other people in the world, now and in the past who have suffered like that. This was the first time I ever doubted God’s goodness.

I quit praying because I was angry with God. I didn’t realize he was the one I should have gone to immediately with my doubt. But I did buy many books on why God allows pain, the best ones were written by Philip Yancey. He explains why our bodies must have pain in this world because if our bodies never felt pain we would become deformed and most likely die much earlier than we should.

He studied lepers. Lepers do not feel pain and that is the reason they lose fingers, toes, feet, hands etc. If they are holding something too tight, they injure their hands. If they touch something too hot, they don’t realize it and burn themselves. If their hip hurts, they don’t adjust their walking. So I accepted the fact of physical pain.

Why did God kill all those people in the Old Testament?

Through study, I learned those people were very evil. They raped, killed, enslaved, stole, made war, and sacrificed their children to idols. They sacrificed their babies and children by laying them in the arms of their idol, Baal. He was a large metal idol which had a furnace inside. His arms were stretched out and they would place the children there. They would play drums as the child died to drown out the screams of their mothers. There were other gods who were worshiped in this way, Molech was one. The most common explanations I could find on those people’s worship practices said, “They did things so terrible I will not write them down.”

So, I realized those people deserved to die. God saved their neighbors from the evil they did. Have you ever watched a movie and hated the bad-guy so much you wanted him dead? I have. Many times. I think if Sodom was a city that was near our city, we would want God to take care of them. In fact, that is what God said to Abraham. He said, “I have heard the cry against Sodom and have come down to see if it is true.” Well, God knew it was true, but he does things so we will see that he cares about our cries to him.

Okay, this post went in a direction I didn’t intend at first, but I will post it anyway since these words are what came into my mind right now. I was going to write about some things I read about doubt in a book called, “God’s Best for My Life.” I will do that in my next post.

 I don’t think I sinned by doubting. I did sin by not talking with God about my thoughts and feelings, but he sent me to books that would help me. He is wonderfully patient with us.

What is Our Achilles Heel?

I’ve was reading about King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and found he had a pattern in making bad decisions. Even so, he was a wonderful champion for God.

“The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the ways of David and sought not to the idol Baal; but he sought the Lord God of his father, Asa. He walked in his commandments and not after the doings of Israel and its kings.”  2 Chronicles 17:3-5

Not only did Jehoshaphat follow God, but he sent teachers of God’s laws to all the towns of his realm. God blessed him with riches and honor.

But Jehoshaphat had a failing in his character. Instead of staying apart from the evil kings of Israel, he made treaties with them. He allowed his eldest son to marry the daughter of Jezebel.

One day, Ahab, king of Israel, asked Jehoshaphat to come and visit. He then asked him to go to war against the king of Aram. Aram had promised to give the city Ramoth-gilead back to Israel, but he wouldn’t do it.

Jehoshaphat said, “I am as you are and my people as your people; and we will be with you in the war.”  Ahab’s false prophets had told the king he would win the war. But Jehoshaphat asked for a prophet of God, so they sent for Micaiah. He told them they would lose the war and Ahab would die. Ahab threw him in prison and they went to battle anyway.

Thousands of their people died fighting and the battle turned out exactly as the prophet of God had said. Jehoshaphat barely escaped with his life. When he returned home, Jehu the prophet met him and said, “Do you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is upon you. However, some good is found in you, for you have removed the Asherah poles from the land and have set your heart to seek God.”

Why did Jehoshaphat help Ahab? I think it was because he considered the people in Israel his family, which they were by blood. And I think he felt his country was too small to fight against Israel and other countries so decided to make them allies. Israel was composed of ten tribes, whereas Jehoshaphat ruled over only two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. But this showed a lack of faith, for the Bible shows God doesn’t need a huge army to win a war. He doesn’t need us at all. He can do it all himself, if we believe.

After Ahab’s death, his son Jehoram ruled Israel. The king of Moab rebelled at paying taxes so Jehoram went out to fight them. He asked Jehoshaphat to go with him. You would think Jehoshaphat would have learned from what happened before, but he didn’t. He took his army with Jehoram. This battle was won by the hand of God.

After Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah ruled. “King Jeoshaphat of Judah joined with him Though they did not go to war together, they went into business building ships to go to Tarshish. Then Eliezer the prophet went to Jehoshaphat and said, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked on the way to Tarshish.

Jehoshaphat chose his eldest son Jehoram, the grandson of Jezebel, to be the next king. But he had been taught by his mother to worship idols. He immediately murdered his brothers so no one else could be king and he taught the people to worship Baal and other idols which included burning children alive as a sacrifice.

So, Jehoshaphat was a strong believer in God. He did follow him except in this one area of uniting with those who did not worship God. But the consequences of his decisions were, monetary loss, death for his people and then the death of his sons. He couldn’t seem to see the evil in the kings of Israel nor in his eldest son.

I believe his bad choices are in the Bible to teach us what can happen when we ally ourselves with unbelievers, either through marriage, war or business dealings. I think God made it clear how he felt about what Jehoshaphat was doing. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t saved. I believe he was, but it does show the terrible results of not trusting God enough and making decisions without consulting Him.

So, what is my Achilles heel? I would say I keep looking to people too much for love and attention. I have done that all my life and it has caused numerous problems. When I was a teen, I was desperate for someone, anyone, to love me. This led me into all kinds of trouble as you can imagine.

This carried over into adulthood where I made many choices out of God’s will because I wanted someone to love me. I am learning, slowly but surely, to find all the love I need in him. And what I like about this is his is a kind of love that never wavers and never ends. People cannot give me the all-encompassing love I want, but he can and he does.

I’ll leave you to figure out what your Achilles Heel may be.

How to Pray Like David.

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I listened to a podcast called, Exploring my Strange Bible, by Tim Mackie the other day. It was about how to pray like the people who wrote the Psalms. He said the Psalms are there for us to learn how to pray. Many times I have prayed with the Psalms, repeating the words as my own prayer. But he wasn’t talking about that. He was teaching us how to pray like the men in the Psalms.

In our western culture, we don’t usually do that. We tend to think God already knows everything so all we usually do is ask for help. We might say, “Oh God, I’m so depressed, help me.” And I know God answers those prayers. But Mackie said that telling God everything helps us in a different way. He said a third of the Psalms are about pain and sorrow. They are called “Lament and Protest Psalms.” In these prayers, David and others give a detailed description of what is going on in their lives how they feel about it. They hold no emotion back.

He said people do one of two things with their emotions. They either stuff them deep down and perhaps deny them; or they pour out our emotions to other people. Both of these reactions are more harmful than good. When we tell others all our sad, mad feelings, we can make them feel sad and mad.

For me, sharing my sad thoughts with people has not helped. They usually don’t want to hear it, casually brush me off or try to offer solutions that don’t work. I feel alone and misunderstood.

When I push my emotions aside and don’t deal with them, I become very depressed. I feel alone and despairing. Then I go to a counselor and pay them to listen to me. Which does help, but not enough.

The Bible says, “Pour out your heart to God.” Psalm 62:8, Lamentations 2:19. Mackie says after telling God our thoughts and feelings, then make a request. Don’t tell God what to do, just tell him the situation and your feelings about that and believe me, he will know what to do for us and it will be wonderful.

Mackie says we should do the same thing with our doubts about God. If you are doubting his goodness, then tell him that and then request he strengthen your faith.

Many times the Psalmists remind God of what he has done in the past for people. They usually reference the Exodus from Egypt. Reminding God of his past mercies seems a bit strange to me, but I’ve been doing it because it is a part of their prayers. “Remember how you helped Joseph when he was in jail? Help me too.”

Most Psalms end with praising God for all he has done. I think that is a great way to end our prayers. We start out looking inside ourselves at our sorrow and pain, then around us at the chaos in the world, and we are discouraged. But then we lift up our heads and look at God and know he sees and feels it all; and this life, this world, will one day be over and we will be with the amazing God of the universe and so we praise him.