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Keeping the Family Together

Joshua 6:23

So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.

Rahab lived in Jericho. When she discovered her city with its enormous protective walls would be destroyed, she made a deal. She would hide the spies, but they would have to save the lives of Rahab and her family.

Her story in the Old Testament reminds me of the story in the New Testament that shows a man believing what Jesus was saying and allowing that to affect his family. Jesus refused to accompany a man to his home and heal his son who was close to death. Instead, Jesus simply told the man to go because his son would live. The man went home, but before arriving, his servants met him with the news that his son had started feeling better around 1pm the day before. We read in John 4:53 what happened when he acted on what Jesus said.

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

I know God loves each of us as individuals. But he also loves to work in our families. During the holidays, my family loves to get together and connect over games and food. Actually, any time of year will do. We make time to share what we’ve enjoyed doing in our recent past and what we look forward to in our near future. We hold hands and pray together. We even go to events together when we can.

God loves to be a part of our daily lives, whether during the holidays or not. He’s the glue that keeps our family together. He’s the sugar that keeps us sweet. He’s the adrenaline that gives us a rush and makes us fast when we need to be. He’s the warmth in our hugs. And he’s the one who puts creative ideas in our plans to help us come together again soon.

Spreading Your Message

3 John 1:13 

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.

Did you ever get a text from someone who piqued your interest with something like this, “I can’t wait to tell you what happened this weekend. Here’s a hint. You’ve gotta see what I’m wearing!”

That kind of message makes you determined to see them face to face. You want to hear more from them. Is it a new uniform to wear to a new job? An engagement ring? A maternity dress? An expensive business suit? If you know your friend really well, you have an idea of what they’re going to show you or tell you about when they see you. Did they get that promotion they had been hoping for? Sometimes you have to wait to find out. But waiting is so rare with today’s technology.

A lot of people are more connected with their friends these days because of texting and Skype and emails and other communication apps. Today’s technology puts a giant spotlight on our interests. Do you meet with friends over an online war game? Do you play word games with several friends on handheld devices? It makes me wonder what apps people would’ve used in the Bible days.

Would Paul have had a popular blog with thousands of comments on each of the daily posts? Would Luke have his own YouTube channel where he posted “medical-related miracle” videos?

I’m sure that whatever the application used, they would’ve made sure that their words had the same impact with technology as it has had without it. They were simply letting their own technology carry the message. It was quite powerful without all the graphics.

Let’s take a minute to think about our message? Does it honor God? And how is it being carried to others? Am I living the message of God to those around me? Does my writing have the right kind of impact? Am I being true to my gifts and the God who gave them to me?

How are we using the words God has been filling us with? Someone once told me that every conversation is an opportunity for ministry. Don’t wait around and expect pastors to do the work of spreading God’s love. It’s our job too. With every word we say or type or write, we’re spreading a message. What’s your message?

The Enduring Word

Luke 16:17
It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

If you’ve studied the Bible, you may have noticed that there are a lot of places where God said something would happen, and then later a different place in the Bible shows that it did happen. God isn’t into gambling. If he says something is going to happen, it’s truly a sure thing. So when God tells us he loves us, we don’t have to wonder if that’s true. When Jesus says he’s preparing a place for us, don’t say, “Really?” Instead, say, “What color are the walls?”

God wants us to believe what he says. This is also stated in Matthew 5:18, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Through the ages, God’s word has proven to our ancestors that though our technology changes from ark to chariot to car to jet, he’s always with us, providing solutions to our problems. God has given us promises in the Bible that many of us don’t take seriously enough. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because we’re trying to see how much we can accomplish without God’s help. I have kids in school who come to me, asking for help when they need to figure out what to do next. God waits for us to come to him, asking for help too. We’re his kids. And he has all the answers.

The same words Moses wrote so many years ago still apply to us today. We have the same wisdom God gave to Solomon because Solomon wrote down much of it for us to read. Should we tell God that the Bible available to us today is antiquated and useless? Just because it was written a very long time ago, doesn’t mean it’s powerless. The age of the text doesn’t give it power. And there’s no expiration date.

The reason God’s words have endured  is because God said them. If I made a promise that my neighbor would give you twenty dollars, you wouldn’t expect to receive that money like you would if my neighbor made that promise himself. God has made promises to us that he backs up with his presence and his power.

God’s word endures because God endures. God’s word is powerful because God is powerful. God’s word is true because God is truth.

The Word of God

Jeremiah 8:8

How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?

When we hold up our Bibles and declare to the world that we have wisdom, but we don’t spend time in prayer or give to the orphans and widows or spend time just worshipping the Lord, we deceive ourselves. How can we say we have wisdom when we don’t spend time getting to know God? He is the one who gives us wisdom. Without a close relationship with God, our wisdom is foolishness.  

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.     Jeremiah 9:23-24

Anyone can read the Bible. Those who read and believe what God says about himself are on the right path. You can only act on belief in God if you have belief in God.

If you ever find yourself studying the Bible in your own intellect, not asking God for wisdom, take a step back and reconnect with God. I’ve done that. I’ve tried to figure out things on my own, but nothing was making sense. I had to set my Bible study aside for a moment and find out what God wanted me to do instead. Sometimes he asks us to pray for others or take action to help others.

It’s best to start our Bible reading time with a reconnecting, a time of heart-to-heart with God. Then we’ll be ready to stop and listen when we notice he’s trying to whisper something into our hearts. God can help us navigate the wisdom in the Bible when we stop shoving him away and start paying attention to his subtle guidance.

His word is truth. Always. But anyone can take truth and twist it to deceive others. Our relationship with God will strengthen our ability to see the truth when others try to distract and deceive us. It’s not the Bible we should believe in, but the God of the Bible.

Without the Lord, there is no word of the Lord.

Warm Hearts

Ezekiel 36:26

I will give you an undivided heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

This section of scripture is basically a love letter from God to his people. He reminds them that their sins have not gone unnoticed, but they are still his people. They should be ashamed for their conduct, but they will see that God will make his people as numerous as sheep.

He loves us.

How often have you felt the arms of God wrapped around you to comfort you? Have you seen the glint of love in the eyes of God, not with your physical eye, but with your spirit?

God wants us to know that we are his, and we are loved.

Yes, we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all been selfish and lazy and cold-hearted. But God has a good plan in mind for every one of us. He doesn’t sleep. He’s not lazy. He keeps after us to drive us to do his will.

If you’ve been feeling the pressure to do something good for someone else, but your selfishness is fighting against it, relax and let the selfishness go. Tell your selfishness, “You’re fired.” It never did anything good for you.

That divided heart hosts a battle between laziness and godliness. Those in the world look to God’s people for an example of God’s love. If we don’t show it, who will? We are the ones God wants to use to bring comfort and blessing to the broken hearted. But not if we’re full of ourselves. Not if we’re nursing our cold, stony hearts. How is he going to work alongside his people if his people don’t show up for work?

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Jesus said that to his disciples (Mark 11:25) after they discovered that a fig tree that Jesus had cursed had withered. They never expected to see its branches so withered the next morning after Jesus cursed it. Jesus emphasized the importance of knowing, believing, and speaking God’s will.

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:22-24)

In a few other places in the Bible, God links the reciprocity of forgiveness. He wants to hear from us, but our prayers are sometimes hindered by our unforgiveness. This heart of stone keeps us from seeing more of God’s will being done in our lives. 

Coldness is a temporary problem. We can be warmed up. Our ice can melt. Take a look at your surroundings. Are you surrounding yourself with cold friends and following cold-hearted customs? Do you need to re-think your traditions?

Invest in warm friendships. If you don’t have any, make some. If you have some, have you been diligent to maintain those friendships?

Treat God’s word with greater respect. You can invite someone to do a Bible study with you. You can start a personal mission centered around being an available warm friend to your neighbors.

Ask God what he’s designed you to do. Whatever it is, it’s based in his love. And remember, his fiery love is powerful enough to melt the coldest of icebergs.