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.

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.

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.

Faith to Forgive.

Sycamore Tree in Israel.

One of my problems in reading the Bible is that I take many things Jesus said as being literal. The disciples had this problem too. When Jesus said to sell your cloak and buy a sword, it sounded like advice to have a sword in case people persecuted you. But this flies in the face of the other things Jesus said about turning the cheek and loving your enemies.

Most commentators of the Bible say Jesus was not being literal. And I believe they are right since when Peter cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus healed the man and told Peter not to use the sword.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:

 “At the time the apostles understood Christ to mean real weapons, but he spoke only of the weapons of the spiritual warfare. The sword of the Spirit is the sword with which the disciples of Christ must furnish themselves.” 

Whenever I would read what Jesus said about moving a mountain into the sea if we had enough faith, I would wonder what he really meant. Then I read someone say the mountain represented difficulties in our lives. They said in the Old Testament, mountains represented difficulties,and that made sense.

Today, I was reading Luke 17 and Jesus spoke about the Sycamore or Mulberry tree. He said, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea and it would obey you.’”

He said this in answer to his disciples who had asked him, “Increase our faith.” And they asked him to do this after he had spoken about forgiveness, the kind of forgiveness they thought impossible for them.

“Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn to you, you shall forgive him.”

So, uprooting a sycamore tree is impossible for anyone to do; therefore, if you think it is impossible for you to forgive over and over, you are wrong. Faith in God will make it possible for you.

This is what I read in some commentaries this morning:

Pulpit Commentary

“The Lord signifies that a very slight real faith, which he compares to the mustard seed, that smallest of grains, would be of power sufficient to accomplish what seemed to them impossible. In other words, he says, “If you have any real faith at all, you will be able to win the victory over yourselves necessary for a perpetual loving judgement of others.”

Barne’s Notes on the Bible

“This sycamore is a remarkable tree. It not only bears several crops of figs during the year but these figs grow on short stems along the trunk and large branches, and not at the end of twigs, as in other fruit-bearing trees. The figs are small and of a greenish-yellow color.

It is easily propagated, merely by planting a stout branch in the ground and watering it until it has struck its roots into the soil. This it does with great rapidity and to a vast depth. It was with reference to this latter fact that our Lord selected it to illustrate the power of faith.”

Thinking of all this reminds me of the fires of hell preachers talk about. I believe the fire is symbolic of something else.What would be the point of God burning people who are lost? Punishment? Punishment is supposed to be restorative. Actual, physical burning? I don’t think so. Being burned is very painful, and I think when the wicked realize they are lost,it is like a burning in their soul. A terrible pain in their heart at seeing what they have given up because they loved darkness rather than light.

A Dream of Jesus Beside Us.

I had a dream last night. Two men walked up to me and said, “There is someone standing beside you.” I looked and said, “Yes, it is Jesus. He is always beside me. You should give your lives to him.”

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 41:13

Usually, in my dreams, if I am around men I a m afraid and they look at me like they want to have sex. Not this time. I wasn’t afraid and there was no suggestion of sex in the dream. This made me so happy because I think God is showing me I am learning to trust him more. It felt so right and good to see him standing beside me.

“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.'”

I heard a sermon from the pastor of Creekside Church podcast and he quoted C.S. Lewis from one of the Narnia books called, Prince Caspian. In this scene, Lucy hasn’t seen Aslan (Jesus) for awhile.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’r bigger”   
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?”  “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

The preacher said as we spend more and more time with God, he will seem bigger to us. I have found that to be true. God seems amazingly pwerful to me now. I see him as King of the Universe, a mighty and awesome God who stoops down to walk beside me. Me, a weak and sinful person. I feels so thankful for who he is and what he does.

I found some other verses that tell us God is beside us.

“My soul clings to you. Your right hand upholds me.”  Psalm 63:8

“You have also given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; your gentleness makes me great.”  Psalm 18:35

“With the Lord beside me as my helper, I will triumph over those who hate me.”  Psalm 118:7

“I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  Psalm 16:8

Paul wrote, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” 2 Timothy 4:17

“For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who judge his soul.”  Psalm 109:31

Jesus’ Feelings in the Psalms.

psalm 1

Psalm 1, The Sankt Florian Psalter.

Many scholars say Psalm 40 is a Messianic Psalm, which is prophetic words about Jesus. In Hebrews 10, Paul attributes the Psalm to Christ. What I find interesting about these kind of Psalms is that they not only tell of Jesus’ coming suffering; they tell of Jesus’ feelings.

So, here are some commentaries on Psalm 40.

Verses 6-8

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

“Lo, I come,” – It is difficult to see how this could be applied to David; it is easy to see how it could be applied to the Messiah. When all bloody offerings under the law – all the sacrifices which men could make – did not avail to put away sin, it was true of the Messiah that he came into the world to perform a higher work that would meet the case – a lofty work of obedience, extending even unto death, Philippians 2:8. This is precisely the use which the apostle makes of the passage in Hebrews 10:7,  passage in Hebrews 10:7, and this is clearly the most obvious meaning. It is in no sense applicable to David; it is fully applicable to the Messiah.

In the volume of the book – literally, “in the roll of the book.” See the notes at Luke 4:17. The phrase would most naturally denote the “scroll of the law;” but it might include any volume or roll where a record or prophecy was made. In a large sense it would embrace all that had been written at the command of God at the time when this was supposed to be spoken. That is, as spoken by the Messiah, it would include all the books of the Old Testament. See the notes at Hebrews 10:7.

Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about – Have surrounded me, or have beset me on every side.” The evils here referred to, understood as being those which came upon the Messiah, were sorrows that came upon him in consequence of his undertaking to do what could not be done by sacrifices and offerings; that is, his undertaking to save men by his own “obedience unto death.” The time referred to here, I apprehend, is that when the full effects of his having assumed the sins of the world to make expiation for them came upon him; when he was about to endure the agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary. 

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

“So that I am not able to look up.” – This is not the exact idea of the Hebrew word. That is simply, I am not able to see; and it refers to the dimness or failure of sight caused by distress, weakness, or old age. The idea here is, not that he was unable to look up, but that the calamities which came upon him were so heavy and severe as to make his sight dim, or to deprive him of vision. Either by weeping, or by the mere pressure of suffering, he was so affected as almost to be deprived of the power of seeing.

“…are more than the hairs of mine head,” – That is, the sorrows that come upon me in connection with sin. The idea is that they were innumerable – the hairs of the head, or the sands on the seashore; being employed in the Scriptures to denote what cannot be numbered.

“Therefore my heart faileth me,” – as in Hebrew: “forsaketh.” The idea is that he sank under these sufferings; he could not sustain them.

When I read the whole Psalm, I get a glimpse of what Jesus went through for us. A list of Messianic Psalms can be found:  http://www.simplybible.com/f01p-psalms-about-christ.htm