Monday, December 30, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons - Unfair Treatment

Unfair treatment in our society is just a given. It can run the gamut from small unfair things like someone getting in front of you in line for service or in traffic to someone cheating you by not keeping up their end of a transaction to being punished for something you did not do. You can routinely hear a news report of someone who was wrongly convicted of a crime who is being released after 5, 10, or even more than 20 years of confinement. It is not a large percentage of people in our jails, but when it happens it makes the headlines.

While most of us will not face the extreme, we will all face some form of unfairness (by the way we label unfairness) in the coming week. The big question is, how will we respond when it happens? What habits will we build in the small areas of mistreatment to keep our hearts in a good place, a place of blessing?

As far as unfair treatment goes, we don't have to go far in the book of Genesis to come to the life of Joseph and see the mistreatment he endured. Picked on by his brothers, beaten, sold into slavery, wrongly accused and imprisoned, forgotten about in jail . . . Joseph had some unfairness to deal with. So how did he do it? What can we learn from the life of Joseph in this area of living?

The first thing that stands out in the life of Joseph is 2 repeated phrases through his story of unfair treatment. The first is "The Lord was with Joseph," and the second is "Joseph served . . ." God was with Joseph. Not in the way God was with Elijah or Moses to perform miracles, but to bless the work of his hands. All that he did prospered. Which brings us to the second phrase - Joseph served. For God to prosper his work, he had to serve, not pout. God had promised to bless Joseph, and he would have no matter what Joseph did, but Joseph continued to serve in every circumstance. And he served God in every circumstance. When Potipher's wife asked him to lie with her, he gave his reason including that it would be a sin against God. His standard for service was more than just Potipher's rules, Joseph served by God's rules. Not legal, but acceptable to God. And when he was given recognition for what he did in interpreting a dream for the Pharaoh's butler, he denied it was him, but that God would give Pharaoh the interpretation of his dream. God's standards, God's glory. The one-two punch that shows a service of God rather than a service toward man.

An easy way to remember Joseph's answer to unfair treatment is to remember to "Serve the Lord, for His reward." Serve the Lord - it is a matter of focus. Who are we seeking to please? Whose standards are we going to use in our service? Who do we want to get the credit for our actions? For His reward - it is a matter of fulfillment. Do we view God's reward as enough? It far surpasses any earthly reward, but do we consider it as such? Am I going to pout or complain about how I've been overlooked or abused, or will God's reward be enough for me? It helps explain how Joseph could keep going in such tough circumstances. Will you?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons - Overwhelming Circumstances

We've all been overwhelmed at one time or another in our lives. Whether from homework or coursework that needed to get done, or deadlines at work, or projects at church or home, we've all had a time when the pile in front of us just seemed over our head. The theme of this blog is that life can get you down, but God can bring you up - so we want to look at the 'lemons' of life and see what our response needs to be to them.

For the first lemon of overwhelming circumstances we will look to Noah. The world was corrupt before the eyes of God, and God told Noah that He would destroy all living things on the earth, but would spare Noah and his family. All Noah had to do was to build an ark 1 1/2 football fields long, about 1/2 a football field wide, and taller than the goalposts (since I started with a football length). During that time (about 100 years of building), Noah would have opportunity to testify about what God was about to do and yet we do not read of one repentant heart among the people on earth. Noah's father, Lamech, and his grandfather, Methuselah, were both alive during the time of building the ark, besides siblings, cousins, and extended family. Noah had a huge task, had no apparent support (outside of his immediate family), and was facing the prospect of starting over. Rebuilding his home, starting with no friends, on a new world. Even the prospect for hunting would be limited immediately after the flood. Good thing Noah didn't crave venison on the ark.

Since Noah was faced with pretty overwhelming circumstances, we can learn from his responses. I want to group what Noah did into two short phrase. Build a boat. Stay afloat.

Easy to remember, I hope, but you may look and say "What good will it do for me to build a boat? I already have too much to do and I don't have to survive a global flood." Which would be an excellent point. You see, God commanded Noah to build a boat. Noah took his overwhelming circumstances and simply obeyed God. That we all can do. So when you remind yourself to build a boat, I want you to stop and think of the things God has commanded you to do. Some of the answers may seem counter-intuitive. Like, I have too much to do already, yet God wants me to show mercy to those in need and He brings someone in need my way. Build a boat. Don't neglect the things that you know God has given you to do. But certainly, don't cut things out in your life that God has given for support and blessing. Don't neglect getting together with believers, Bible reading & memory, or prayer. Don't neglect your care of those who truly need it. And don't take shortcuts that are not ethical. God knows what you are faced with and His design will always work out the best way.

The second part is to stay afloat. I'm hoping that you say "Well that is easier said than done!," because the truth is that Noah had no control over his ability to stay afloat. Any spots he forgot to seal, any weak points in his vessel, any shortages of food or water, any problems he might encounter were beyond his ability to resolve once the flood came. You see, when you hear "Stay afloat," I want you to think about trusting God. Building a boat - do all that you know God has given you to do, but then stay afloat - trust that God will keep up His end of the bargain. He has promised to never leave or forsake His children. He has promised to supply all the needs of His children. He has promised to work all circumstances together for the good of them that love Him. Just trust.

Build a boat. Stay afloat. Obey God, and trust Him. It will get you through any overwhelming situations that you face. Keep looking up! He is able!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Who wants to be blessed anyway?

I enjoy trying different things from time to time. I'll admit it, routine tends to bore me a little after a while. After finishing the book of Jonah last Sunday night, I pulled out my notes from the last time I preached it. I don't normally keep my old notes, but these were from when I was the Interim Pastor at Niobe 10 years ago and they were kept. I found out I finished the book of Jonah the first time on December 7th, 2003. And here it was going to be December 8, 2013. We had a flashback Sunday. I preached the message with the same title and basic outline of 10 years ago and we pulled up the same order of service we had 10 years ago complete with the same hymns. I had fun, anyway.

The title 10 years ago was "How to avoid God's blessing"

Don't laugh, please. It was one of my favorite titles of all time. None of us would claim to try to avoid God's blessing, but all of us follow in Jonah's footsteps some times and manage to avoid God's blessing just the same. Some of the ways we do it: we avoid spending time with God, we avoid letting relationships go deeper where people really get to know us, we 'pout' when we see other believers being blessed and we covet the blessings they have received, oh there are lots of ways we do it.

How did Jonah do it? Simple - 1) He forgot about God's successes. Ninevah had repented, but Jonah wasn't interested in God's success, he was only interested in his own well being. 2) Forsake God's presence and people. In all of Assyria, 99% or higher of the God fearing people in the nation were in Ninevah, and Jonah walked away from them. He also walked away from God when God asked him a question to challenge his pouting attitude. And 3) he focused only on his problems. Not on how God had blessed him with a gourd. Not on the 120,000+ souls in that city, on the tragic loss of 'his' gourd.

So, obviously I don't want you to walk in Jonah's steps, so we need a reversal.
1) Celebrate God's successes. In your life, in your church, in your community, in your missionaries, in your family, and in your spiritual family. If you hear that 12 people accepted Christ at an evangelistic meeting at a church down the road - Praise the Lord! Rejoice with the one who shares the news with you! If you hear of God blessing someone with a great job, a new house, a new baby, a great opportunity - rejoice! Tell them how blessed they are and how good God is!

2) Embrace God's presence and people. Spend time with God. Talk with God. Make Him a bigger part of your life today than He was yesterday, And embrace His people. Deepen relationships, overcome misunderstandings, work through the uncomfortable and awkward disagreements that come up since none of us agree totally with any other of us. Enjoy the differences, talk about why you hold different beliefs and seek to understand one another. You may be right, they may be right, or you may both be wrong and discussing it will lead to the truth.

3) Focus on the needs of others. It is a given that you will see your own needs, so focus on the needs of others. Don't sit in traffic stewing over how inconvenient it is for you when the fatal accident that is slowing you down just claimed the lives of people who were loved and will be missed by others. Just broaden your horizons to see what others are experiencing, exercise your ability to empathize with people, to feel their pain. Don't overwhelm yourself with the needs of the whole world, or spend all your energy thinking about needs you can't do anything about. Look for needs around you and ask God to help you meet them.

If Jonah was so good at avoiding God's blessing, by reversing his steps, we can most assuredly find God's blessings. How do I know? Because 1) God does good for His glory. (see John 9) 2) God made us for fellowship with Him (Genesis 2) and to live in community (John 13:34-35) and 3) God desires us to share in the needs of others (Philippians 2:1-4)

Be blessed!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

If Jonah had Facebook

The names below are fictitious. As are many of the details. They are not meant as a criticism of Jonah - because I see myself in Jonah often. I feel that the book of Jonah ends on an unresolved note because it has been recorded for us. The main point is that God want's to know what we will do when we come face to face with God's mercy. Will we show mercy? Or will we try to keep the mercy all for ourselves. What Jonah did after chapter 4, verse 11 would be great to know, but is completely beside the point of the book of Jonah. What will you do with the truth? Putting the book of Jonah on Facebook just helps me see myself a little better in the book of Jonah. I wish I had time to include the feed of the captain of the ship Jonah was on, and the King of Ninevah in side by side columns. But I hope you enjoy the following.

Jonah: Why me? feeling angry :(
       Malfor: What's the matter Jonah?
       Jonah: Oh, just God always gives me the bad assignments. #lifestinks :(
       Malfor: What this time?
       Jonah: God wants me to go preach against Ninevah! :(
       Malfor: What are you going to do?
       Hannah: Oh, Jonah, I'm sorry! *hugs*
       Jonah: I'm not going to do it!
       Jethro: Good for you Jonah! #yolo #stickittotheman
       Malfor: Praying for you, Jonah!
       Hannah: Be careful, Jonah!
Jonah: That's it, I'm out of here. Sick of these people and sick of God telling me what to do! I'm over it! #runningfromGod
       Jethro: You gotta do what you gotta do, Jonah!
       Hannah: Oh, Jonah, it will get better! Message me if you need someone to talk to.
       Jonah: Thanks, Hannah, I'm ok, I'm just moving on.
       Malfor: You might want to think about this some more.
       Jonah: No, I've made up my mind, and it's about time I do something for me. I never get to do what I want!
       Jethro: Do it Jonah! #liveyourlife

Jonah: Found a boat. Ready for my new life! feeling hopeful
       Hannah: Where are you going?
       Jonah: Anywhere but here or Ninevah. This ship is headed for Tarshish, baby #cantstopmenow
       Hannah: I'm glad things are going better for you! Hope it works out!
       Jonah: It's all good Hannah! I'm already loving the new me! #freedom #norules #catchmeifyoucan
       Malfor: This seems like a bad idea, I'm praying for you!
       Uzi: Me too. Good luck Jonah! Feel free to stop by if you're out my way
       Jonah: Thanks guys! See you on the other side. We're moving and it's time for me to get some sleep

Jonah: God found me. I'm in trouble. feeling annoyed
       Hannah: Are you OK?
       Jonah: Big storm, all my fault.
       Hannah: Don't say that, Jonah. Storms happen at sea.
       Jonah: No, this one is all me. God is coming to get me.
       Jethro: That's crazy talk, Jonah! You just need to forget about God.
       Malfor: There is probably time to make it right Jonah!
       Jonah: It's too late for me.
       Jonah: I told them to throw me overboard.
       Jonah: Does anybody care?
       Hannah: I just saw this Jonah, I'm so sorry! Life is so unfair! *hugs*
Jonah: I can't do anything right!
      Hannah: I thought they were throwing you overboard! What happened? Are you OK?
      Jonah: They did, and I've been swallowed by a huge fish.
      Jethro: Is that even possible?
      Jonah: Apparently. #frombadtoworse
      Malfor: I hate to sound like a broken tablet, but you need to make it right Jonah. Repent!
      Jethro: You can't go back Jonah. Who wants to follow a mean God like that. All this evil in the world and still there are people clinging to their swords and scriptures! Don't get me started on these idiotic religious people. You're better off without them and without God. At least you will die free and not burdened by all these old rules that religious people follow. Keeping a Sabbath? Not for you, you're a free man!
     Jonah: I know. I probably should have done things differently, but it's too late now.
     Hannah: Wish I could make things better.
     Jonah: Thanks, Hannah. It's good to know someone cares.
     Malfor: God cares - He's trying to get your attention.
Jonah: Day 2, it stinks in here! feeling depressed
     Jethro: Yeah, but you're free!
     Hannah: You're still alive? *Hugs* Keep us posted

Jonah: Day 3, it still stinks in here! I never want to eat another fish in my life, which probably won't be much of an issue.
     Malfor: We're still praying, Jonah
     Jonah's mom: How did I miss this? I hope you're wearing clean underwear! Are you brushing your teeth? I hope those sailors weren't too rough on you. Is someone feeding your golden fishes?
     Jonah: Mom, I don't think clean underwear is one of my top worries! Or brushing my teeth. Sampson & Delilah are with Jobab - I'm sure he's taking good care of them.
     Jonah's mom: Don't give up sweet little boy. Remember God loves you.
     Jonah: Mom, stop! Remember that everyone can see what you write on here!
     Malfor: But she has good advice, Jonah
     Jonah: All this seaweed and dead fish and water? It's over for me.

Jonah: Day 4, I think, or I'm going crazy. OK God, you win!
     Jethro: Don't do it, man. You were doing so well!
     Jonah: In this fish, you're crazy!
     Malfor: Submit to God and He will lift you up, Jonah
     Jonah: I told God I'd do what He wanted. He is my salvation
     Jonah's mom: You make me so proud, son!
Jonah: That's a first! Vommited up by a giant fish! feeling sick :P
      Hannah: I'm so glad you're ok! Where are you?
      Jonah: On dry ground, that's all that matters to me, now!
      Malfor: Don't forget about God, Jonah. What are you going to do?
      Jonah: I think I need to get cleaned up, get some rest, then we'll see

Jonah: I guess a shower is out of the question.
      Jethro: You gotta take care of yourself, Jonah! What's wrong with a shower?
      Jonah: God told me to go to Ninevah again. I don't think I should mess around this time.
      Jethro: What is wrong with you? 3 days in a fish, and you think God wants good things for you? Look at me, I don't need God and I'm fine!
      Malfor: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean NOT unto thine own understanding." Solomon was pretty wise. God will direct your paths, Jonah.
      Hannah: Ew, no shower? no *hugs*
      Jonah's mom: Don't forget your manners, Jonah. And no talking to strangers.
      Jonah: I'm preaching to a city where I don't know anyone, mom, that might be a little difficult.

Jonah: This city is big! near Ninevah
Jonah: Here goes nothing!
      Uzi: Preach it, Jonah!
      Malfor: Praying for your success, Jonah?
      Jonah: Why? I just want to preach and get out of here before God destroys it.
      Malfor: But maybe God will spare them?
      Jonah: I hope not! Let's just get this over with.

Jonah: Well, that was awkward!
     Hannah: What's wrong, Jonah?
     Jonah: I got a friend request from the king!
     Hannah: King Jereboam? Wow, it is so cool that I even know you!
     Jonah: No, the King of Ninevah. He want's to learn more about God!
     Jethro: Don't do it Jonah!
     Jonah: That wasn't part of my orders from God. These evil people need to die.
     Malfor: Jonah, you have a great opportunity, here! Take it!

Jonah: Who do these people think they are?
     Uzi: The Ninevites?
     Jonah: Yeah, they are all sitting around in sackcloth and ashes.
     Malfor: That's great, Jonah! God is using you!
     Jethro: Great! More religious nuts that waste their time following God. Look what it's done for you!
     Jonah: It's not like they are Jewish or anything!

Jonah: I'm better off dead! feeling exceedingly angry
     Hannah: *hugs*
     Jethro: That's what you get for believing in God!
     Malfor: Don't be angry, Jonah, put your hope in God!
     Hannah: What's the matter?
     Jonah: I knew it, I knew God would show mercy!
     Malfor: Mercy is a good thing, Jonah.
     Jonah: not for these Ninevites, they ought to die for their sins!
     Malfor: What about your sins, Jonah?
     Malfor: Jonah?
Jonah: I'm better off dead!
     Hannah: I'm so sorry, Jonah! *hugs*
     Uzi: What's wrong?
     Hannaniel: Where are you, last I heard you were running from God? I guess I should be on more often.
     Jonah: I'm outside of Ninevah. And my gourd died.
     Hannah: Your gourd? Oh, poor Jonah.
     Uzi: What are you doing?
     Jonah: Waiting to see if God will destroy the city.
     Uzi: I must have missed something, is "my gourd died" some new expression?
     Jonah: No, my gourd died. I was sitting here and a gourd grew up over me to shade me yesterday, and today it died. And there is a hot, violent wind and the sun is beating down on me.
     Malfor: Why don't you go spend some time in the King's house? He'll take you in.
     Jonah: No, I deserve to sit here and be angry. And I'm better off dead.
     Malfor: So you're upset over a gourd that died, and upset that the city hasn't been destroyed?
     Jonah: Pretty much.
     Malfor: But that city must have well over 120,000 people in it, and lots and lots of cows. And you are upset over a gourd.
     Jonah: That's what God said.
     Malfor: So fix it, Jonah.
     Malfor: Jonah?

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Type of Repentance?

I have been doing a Monday morning post on the message from Sunday morning, but this morning is on the evening message from Jonah.

There are things I like about Jonah (what's not to like about a guy being swallowed by a great fish because of his refusal to obey God?) and there are things I don't like about Jonah (like how the book ends on a question and Jonah does not respond to show he finally understood what God was up to), but there are things I love about Jonah, too! I love that I can see myself in its pages. There are days I can see myself in the picture of a man running from God - a man who resists putting into practice what God has revealed. There are days I can see myself in the "woe is me" attitude when Jonah tells the sailors to throw him overboard. There are days I can see myself in the tired and tender repentance as Jonah sat in the belly of the fish. There have even been days when I see myself in the brooding Jonah from chapter 4. (shudders)

But yesterday we were in chapter 3. And, as the rest of the book, we see Jonah being compared in his responses. Jonah and the sailors in ch.1, Jonah and the Ninevites in ch. 3, Jonah and God in ch. 4. And once again, Jonah shows up less than favorable. Another reason to like Jonah. Jonah is real. In ch. 3 we see the results of Jonah's repentance in ch. 2. The first thing we see is the Word of the Lord coming a second time to Jonah. Why? God told Jonah what to do, Jonah repented "I will pay that that I have vowed. . ." and God cause the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land. Jonah didn't need God to tell him what to do, he knew it already. But Jonah's repentance was a works based repentance. A repentance of action. And a works based repentance needs reminders. It needs rules - lots of rules. It entails a very legal response to what has been asked. Jonah went, according to the Word of the Lord, and Jonah preached, and Jonah hoped with all of his might that the people of Ninevah would ignore his preaching. Jonah hoped that despite hearing the message God had given him, that God would still have to destroy Ninevah. But he DID what God wanted him to do.

We can all have that response at times. "I'll do it, but I'm not happy about it!" But do you know where this type of repentance leads? It leads to bitterness, . . . every time! Look at Jonah chapter 4 - "It is better for me to die than to live." Bitterness. Why? Because God is a God of mercy. Yeah, that always makes me upset, too. God's mercy frustrated those who have a works based repentance. When we have that mindset, we see ourselves as worthy of God's mercy, and others (who aren't like us - you know, they don't dress as nice as us, go to church 3 or 4 times a week, they don't follow the very good rules we follow in our lives) are undeserving. (*side note* this is definitely not a post about rules being bad - self-imposed rules followed out of a love for God and a desire to please him and grow are wonderful things!) And it leads to bitterness. Just ask Jonah, or the Pharisees, or the prodigal son's brother, . . .you get the idea.

Then we have the response of the Ninevites. A true, heartfelt repentance. The King hears and responds - and not just with a decree for his followers to obey, but with a getting down in the ashes and sack cloth and a humility that is amazing for a pagan king. The king isn't following a list of rules, he doesn't say "Every male needs to be circumcised!" He just desires the people to humbly come before God, and put away the violence and turn from their wickedness. Did he read Micah 6:8? Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God? No, he just responded out of love and from the heart. And despite not following a set of rules, he ended up where the law would have guided him to be if he had read it! Rather than a desire to exalt self, the king desired to exalt God! And instead of bitterness, this repentance brings hope "who knows if God might turn. . ."

And God does turn - the third repentance in chapter 3 of Jonah. God repented of the evil He said he would do. This is the mercy of repentance - and it occurs every time a lost sinner turns to God in repentance. God turns from the punishment He declared "For the wages of sin is death," and through the blood of Christ replaces it with "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Repentance that leads to repentance? Yes, please!

Want to read the story for yourself? Here it is:

You can find the message that this post summarizes right HERE!

Monday, November 18, 2013

When is it time to look to God?

It would be interesting to take a poll and ask people "When do you look to God?" and "When do you think other people look to God?" I imagine the results would be interesting to be able to note the difference between what people answer for themselves and what people answer for others.

But a more important question is "When do I look to God?" There is more to the passage we covered Sunday than just verse 13 of James 5, but it contains what the answer should be:

"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms."

You might be tempted to say that the verse only covers 2 situations - affliction and merriment. But the concept of putting two extremes in one verse, and two fairly vague extremes (what type of affliction? persecution? Family troubles? unmet expectations? . . .) and having the answer of both extremes be to tell it to God really tells us that anywhere in between has the same answer too.

How about you? Are you afflicted this morning? Are you merry? Are you somewhere in between? James tells us you can talk to God about it - He wants to hear what's on your heart. If you can't find the words to say, dive into the psalms! If you're feeling it, David wrote a poem about it to help bring your attention back to God and express it to Him.

What a friend we have in Jesus, 
all our sins and griefs to bear! 
What a privilege to carry 
everything to God in prayer! 
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear, 
all because we do not carry 
everything to God in prayer. 
Have we trials and temptations? 
Is there trouble anywhere? 
We should never be discouraged; 
take it to the Lord in prayer. 
Can we find a friend so faithful 
who will all our sorrows share? 
Jesus knows our every weakness; 
take it to the Lord in prayer. 
Are we weak and heavy laden, 
cumbered with a load of care? 
Precious Savior, still our refuge; 
take it to the Lord in prayer. 
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? 
Take it to the Lord in prayer! 
In his arms he'll take and shield thee; 
thou wilt find a solace there.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Scripture Reading & Memory Challenge for 2014

This blog's purpose is to take the things of life that might get us down and refocus our attention on God and be an encouragement. A challenge we will promote for the coming year at church fits into that category as it challenges us to fill our minds with God's Word and hide it in our hearts. There is no greater cure for discouragement and difficulty than the pure, clean water of the Word of God.

It is still early, but I wanted to share the challenge over here to give time to prepare mentally for the challenge. I anticipate (no guarantees, ok?) posting weekly on the verse(s) I have picked to memorize and would welcome feedback from anyone else joining in the challenge. Feel free to share the challenge as well, it is posted plenty early enough to get others on board.

The basics are to read the assigned book (or books) for the week, pick a memory verse, write it on a 3x5 card, or digitally save it to whatever electronic device you want to keep a file in, and then memorize it, reviewing the verses as we add to it through the year. By the end of the year, or shortly thereafter, the goal is to memorize 66 verses of scripture - one from each book in the Bible. While you may already know some verses from a book, I would encourage to learn a fresh verse, at least one that you can't say from memory currently (like John 3:16). If you already know a whole book, obviously you cannot find a verse you don't know already, but pick one for your file for review anyway.

The weekly assignments would look like this: (Don't be scared) 
Week of:
Jan. 5 - Genesis
Jan. 12 - Exodus
Jan. 19 - Leviticus
Jan. 26 - Numbers
Feb. 2 - Deuteronomy
Feb. 9 - Joshua
Feb. 16 - Judges
Feb. 23 - Ruth & Psalm 1-30 (Memory verse from Ruth only)
Mar. 2 - I Samuel 
Mar. 9 - II Samuel
Mar. 16 - I Kings
Mar. 23 - II Kings
Mar. 30 - I Chronicles
Apr. 6 - II Chronicles
Apr. 13 - Ezra & Psalm 31-60
Apr. 20 - Nehemiah & Psalm 61-90
Apr. 27 - Esther & Psalm 91-118
May 4 - Job
May 11 - Psalm 119-150 (Memory verse from any where in the Psalms)
May 18 - Proverbs
May 25 - Ecclesiastes
June 1 - Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)
June 8 - Isaiah
June 15 - Jeremiah
June 22 - Lamentations
June 29 - Ezekiel
July 6 - Daniel
July 13 - Hosea & Galatians
July 20 - Joel & Ephesians
July 27 - Amos & Philippians 
Aug. 3 - Obadiah & Colossians
Aug. 10 - Jonah & James
Aug. 17 - Micah & Titus
Aug. 24 - Nahum & Philemon
Aug. 31 - Habakkuk
Sep. 7 - Zephaniah
Sep. 14 - Haggai
Sep. 21 - Zechariah
Sep. 28 - Malachi
Oct. 5 - Matthew
Oct. 12 - Mark
Oct. 19 - Luke
Oct. 26 - John
Nov. 2 - Acts
Nov. 9 - Romans
Nov. 16 - I & II Corinthians
Nov. 23 - I & II Thessalonians
Nov. 30 - I & II Timothy
Dec. 7 - Hebrews & Jude
Dec. 14 - I & II Peter
Dec. 21 - I, II & III John
Dec 28 - Revelation

The challenge will be posted again around the end of the year, but be thinking about whether you'd like to join us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What do you treasure?

At different times in our lives we tend to treasure different things. Around 8 years old, my bicycle was probably one of my most treasured possessions. At 16 years old, it was a piece of paper and then a card that said I had the priveledge to drive an automobile on the road. It is funny how, while I still enjoy riding a bicycle, the bicycle has slipped in its standings. And how that card in my wallet is appreciated, but not really treasured as it was 25 years ago.

All that proves is that the things we treasure change during the course of our lifetime, as they should, and 'things' tend to change the most in their relative value to us.

Having officiated at several funerals, a common thing I have noticed about most people at funerals is that they tend to value people over petty objects or disagreements at a time of loss. And people tend to be more focussed on things with spiritual value as well. It seems obvious that would be the case, afterall, with the death of a loved one, we are reminded of how short life is, how fleeting the time is and how temporary our ownership of things is. A funeral tends to strip away all the shiny objects from our view and help us see things more clearly.

The solution to keeping the right focus is not to ratchet up our attendance at funerals. This would be a temporary fix until we grew so accustomed to it that it would no longer phase us. The solution is to build our system of value on things that matter.

People matter.

If you have the opportunity to pocket an extra $100 by cheating someone (without them knowing), would you do it? $1000? $10,000? If we value people, the amount won't matter. No amount of zeroes following a dollar sign will move us. We often hear that "Everyone has their price." For that to be true, some poeple's price must be astronomically high. I don't think it is true. I think it is possible to value people so much that no dollar figure can cause you to cheat someone else. I have seen it in action, haven't you? I hope others see that in me.

I may not have labourers that work for me that I owe a paycheck in the sense James speaks of, but I need to pay those who I contract to serve me. Pay what I owe, tip my servers at restaurants, even make sure the government gets what I owe it. And I need to make sure I do not cheat others for my benefit. They may not be able to get back at me, but their voice will be heard:

Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. - James 5:4

Just an encouragement to make sure to value the things that matter today. People matter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When the present isn't the future you imagined

We all have dreams for what our future will look like. Sometimes, the present we enjoy is better than the future we imagined, but often, we get derailed by aspects of our life that don't match what we envisioned years earlier.

The other day, there was a conversation in our house about what a certain child had thought about what the future would look like for them. The child said that they hadn't really thought about it. Another child piped in to remind them that they had indeed been talking about future plans, so the first child said "I can't remember." When the second child chimed in "I can remember" the first child responded with "You better not!" It was funny to hear that the children had been talking about what the future would hold, but might be embarrassed to have their hopes for the future revealed.

It got me wondering what types of things my kids have pictured for the future. How much of what they hope for will become a reality? How will they handle the challenge of unmet expectations? And then the really big question - What are they learning from their father about handling detours or problems in life?

I hope they are learning what we read in James chapter 4

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

I hope when life interrupts my plans, when the unexpected comes in life, even when I talk about what plans we are making for the future, I hope they learn to leave room for God in their plans. My present is not the future I imagined when I was growing up, nor the present I imagined 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, probably not even 10 years ago. But it would be hard to imagine a better place to be in my life. I never guessed I would have 8 children. I never would have planned on living in the country. But God is better to me than my plans were. That's a very good reason to say "If the Lord will. . ." when I talk about my plans. That's a very good reason to take the unexpected challenges and detours in life with joy rather than frustration. I hope my kids pick up on that, I hope to show them more of that this week in the way I handle what comes.

Keep looking up! It only gets better!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fixing what ails you

Sometimes, in the Christian life, it is easy to get confused. I read my Bible. I see something wrong in my life. I try to make the wrong thing look like what I see in God's Word. It would be nice if that worked, but most of the time, it ends up with frustration and guilt when I try it that way.

Picture taking your car in for repairs to your local mechanic. You walk in, and tell the mechanic that no matter what you do, the car just won't go any fastre than 40 mph. You can stand on the gas, and it just coughs, sputters and tops out at 40 mph. Your mechanic thinks for a moment, and calls to the back to one of his guys and asks them to bring around the tow truck. He tells you he knows the best way to get your car up over 40 mph is to hook it up to the tow truck. He assures you that the tow truck can top out over 80 mph, even with a car hooked up to it. You feel better, right?

The problem is that you brought him a symptom, and he gave you a solution to the symptoms. Symptoms are not meant to be fixed, they are meant to tell you what is wrong. A headache is not a sign of an aspirin deficiency, but it is a sign that something is off. A car that won't go over 40 mph is meant to tell someone that there is a problem (maybe the Catylitic converter is plugged, or another restriction in the exhaust, maybe there is an airflow problem, or a fuel pressure problem (clogged fuel filter, bad fuel pump), or a control system problem).

When we read God's Word, it presents us with symptoms for us to see. For exampe:

"But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth." - James 3:14

The response to having bitter envy and strife in your heart isn't to try really hard not to. It isn't to try bury the strife down deep so it never appears. The envying and strife is a symptom, according to James 3, that your wisdom is coming from the wrong place. How do you fix it? By getting your wisdom from God. James 1:5 says if we lack it, we can ask God and He will give it. James 4 tells us why we might not have what we ask, Proverbs tells us that wisdom begins with fearing God. Envying and strife? Fear God - deepen that relationship, go to Him, dwell om His Word and ask Him for His wisdom.

Fixing symptoms is tiring. Think of all the things I want to stop doing, this should be at the top of my list this week. Fix the root of the problems and the symptoms will go away.

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

2013 Canning & Freezing List

Well, canning season is officially underway. I will try to post the things we preserve out of our garden, with maybe the other stuff we put up with a note of where the produce came from.  We'll see.

Canned Green Beans (July 20 - ??) - 35 quarts
Frozen Green Beans - 6 quarts
Pickled Peppers (July 29) - 5 pints
Sun Dills (July 29-??) - 6 Gallons
Canned Carrots (August 6) - 21 quarts
Frozen Carrots (August 6) - 4 quarts
Shredded carrots (August 6) - 3 quarts
Peaches (August 7) - 42 quarts
Pickled beets (August 8) - 1 gallon
Frozen Sweet Corn (August 19) - 32 quarts
Blueberries (August 20) - 40 quarts
Spaghetti Sauce (September 3-October 3) - 84 quarts
Pear Sauce (September 12) - 28 quarts
Apple Sauce (September 24) - 56 quarts
Pear Jam (September 30-October 8) - 4 quarts, 18 pints.
Tomatoes (October 1-4) - 42 quarts
Sliced Apples (for pies) - 7 quarts
Pears (October 4-??) - 42 quarts

Running Tally: 7 gallons, 446 quarts, 23 pints

2 bushel of peaches (we ate 1/2 bushel fresh, too) - $32.00
40 pounds of blueberries picked (2 pies, fresh berries and blueberry pancakes) - $70.00
40 pounds of blueberries picked - $40.00
2 bushel canner tomatoes - $24.00
2 1/2 bushel canner tomatoes - $42.50

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The year of the Blog. . . .

Apparently, this is an off year for blogging here in my world. At my 'peak' I had 22 posts in a year, and at my low, just 9 posts (so far). I guess I will never garner a huge following on my Blog.

Since blogging last, we have been blessed by the birth of our eighth child, Niles Joseph Hadley (He goes by Joseph at this point). Niles was named for his great grandfather, Niles Frank Hadley, who went by Frank, and was born 100 years and a few weeks before Joseph. He is also named for his second great grandfather, Niles Wilbur Hadley. He is also named for his fourth great grandfather, Niles Harrison Hadley. And not purposefully, he carries his sixth and seventh great grandfather's names as well (Joseph Hadley Jr. and Joseph Hadley Sr.)

Carrying family names forward has been fun for us to do. We've used first names, middle names, and even last names from the family tree for our children's names. But there is more to a genealogy than just a name. In my family, there is a history of faithfulness to God that has been passed down through. Joseph's fifth great grandfather was Reverend Daniel Hadley. Daniel was the first pastor in Cherry Creek, NY almost 200 years ago. A name is easy to pass along. Passing along faithfulness to God requires dependence on God and work.

Today, I am thankful for many who took the time in my life to pass along the important things in my life. Parents and grandparents who invested in their relationship to God (and in mine at the same time). Church friends who invested in a strange boy in their church. And many others through the years of coworkers, professors and friends down through. It would be interesting to know the influences on my fourth great grandfather that God used to place him into the pastorate, but it is more important to take time today to pass along good things to someone else.

Have a great day! I'll include a picture of Joseph to help in that.