(Or is it the other way around?)
There’s a lot to be said for a Bible reading plan of some sort. After years of struggling to spend time in Scripture every day, I’ve finally realized that I’m more likely to be successful if I don’t have to pick a place to start reading every day. In years past, I’ve simply started in Genesis and read through to the end of Revelation. That takes me quite a while. Some days I read several chapters, other days one or two verses are plenty. I read until God speaks, then underline, make margin notes, and pray about what He’s shown me.
Thus it is that I find myself at the beginning of Nehemiah. With the blessing of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah leads a relatively small number of Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, which had been demolished when the Jews were taken into captivity. At first things go swimmingly, but then the workers begin to run out of steam. Even worse, opposition builds. It seems that some of the pagan officials don’t like the Jews very much. They try to intimidate the builders, threatening their lives.
Our church just announced our short term mission opportunities for 2015. With an attendance of over 10,000 people, the booklet is quite thick. Is God calling you to Wales or India, Honduras or Macedonia? South Africa, Uganda, Haiti… the list goes on and on.
As I leafed through the pages, I asked God—are any of these trips for me? What do You want me to do this year? “Just moving will be enough for you for this year,” came the quiet reply. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief. Moving has been all-consuming for the past month, and there’s much more to do still. It’s amazing how much work it takes to simplify one’s life!
Still, I vividly remember reading a similar booklet two years ago, asking God the same question, and getting a much different answer. Much to my astonishment, the type on the page for Swaziland leapt off the page at me. It was so pronounced that at first I thought the page had been printed in bold.
I didn’t know why God wanted me to go to Swaziland. I’m not much of a “kid person” and this trip was all about kids. I signed up in pure obedience; it wasn’t until later that we realized we needed a person on the team dedicated to taking photos.
Have you made your New Year’s resolutions? Are you vowing that this year you’re going to diet, exercise, and be more responsible with your finances? I can’t help with the diet and exercise part, but I can recommend a must-read book on finances. It’s Daring to Live on the Edge: The Adventure of Faith and Finances, by Loren Cunningham.
There are a lot of books out there on managing your money. They all contain pretty much the same advice—follow a budget, spend less than you earn, don’t go into debt. If the author is a Christian, then there’s an additional focus on tithing, generosity, and putting God first.
Have you noticed that God never wastes an opportunity to make us more like Him?
My latest lesson was last week, on New Year’s Eve. I’d been in bed since the day after Christmas with some sort of cold or flu. I had a fever, complemented by a disgusting runny nose and a side order of aches and pains. My head felt as if I’d inhaled a buffalo, which was aggressively beating its huge head against the insides of my sinuses. My headache throbbed in time with my pulse. I had to squeeze my eyes shut against the pressure every time I cleared my throat.
Needless to say, there would be no parties for me that evening. Pete offered to stay home too, to feed me chicken soup and hot tea. What a sweetie.
Our daughter Karin, now married with two young girls, wrote this letter to Santa way back in 1988, at the tender age of four. We unearthed it during our packing, and thought we’d share for your enjoyment. Note that she dictated, and mom wrote the words down. (I should point out that we hadn’t neglected Jesus, especially at this time of year. He just didn’t happen to be mentioned in her letter.)
The story of Israel and Judah is mostly a sad one. King after king rejected God, with disastrous consequences. David’s example of passionate obedience became the “gold standard” against which all the future kings were measured—and most were found wanting.
Solomon, with all his wisdom, still married foreign wives, who brought their pagan idols into their marriage and into the popular culture. It’s therefore no surprise that his son Rehoboam became an idolator. Consider 2 Chronicles 12:
Reading the news this morning, it would be easy to be depressed. Evil seems to be winning. I know the media tend to focus on bad news, but this latest set of headlines seemed worse than usual. As I prayed over some of the various issues, the word that kept coming to mind was “darkness.” We live in a world filled with deep darkness.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.