Thursday, November 24, 2011

Finding Thankfulness in Tough Times

Picture courtesy of  Martha Carter

Hi friends! Hope you and your family are enjoying the holiday. Thanksgiving is often overlooked in the rush to get to the Christmas season, but it is one of my favorite holidays of all. 

Here's a Thanksgiving post I wrote for another blog a couple of years ago . . . 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

As I read this verse, I have to admit that I have had some trouble with joy and thankfulness lately. The past year has been tough. Our family has experienced many challenges. Many of you have had your own heartaches and sorrows and my heart aches with yours.

1 Thessalonians tells us to be joyful always and to give thanks in all circumstances. Apparently, joy and thankfulness have little to do with the state of our circumstances, and more to do with the state of our hearts and our attitudes. A grateful heart does not necessarily have to be thankful for the situation, but is to be thankful in the situation.

Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude and joy Godward regardless of our circumstance. It is an intentional choice not based on feeling but on the knowledge of who God is, what He has already done, and what He is accomplishing for us through Jesus Christ. It is believing in advance that God is working all things for our good. (James 1:4-5; Romans 8:28).

I have learned that when I become frustrated with my situation, it is because I have a lack of TRUST in God and His ability to work all things for the good of those who love Him - for the good of me and my family. My lack of trust leads to frustration.

The truth is that God can be trusted. He works behind the scenes in ways we cannot imagine. He doesn't owe us anything, but He provides us with everything we need. His hand of blessing is always upon our heads. (Psalm 139:5) Everything He provides is a gift. (James 1:17) He passes through the raging waters with us. (Isaiah 43:2) His power exceeds all others. (Isaiah 46:9-10)

In this world, staying in constant fellowship with God is essential to maintaining a joyful, thank-filled heart so Paul tells us to pray continually. Through prayer, God ministers sweetly to our souls and shapes us to His will. The passage in Thessalonians lets us know that it is His will for us to be thankful.

Recently, my daily Bible study instructed me to go to God in prayer reflecting on His goodness to me. It also asked me to consider how I have responded to His goodness lately and the ways I have taken it for granted. Ouch! I felt like a girl with her hand caught in the forbidden cookie jar. I went to God in prayer knowing already that I was failing pretty miserably in this area. Truth is (and I am ashamed to admit this), I hadn't wanted to focus much on my blessings because I think I just wanted to be mad at God for all that had been happening in our lives. In that private place of prayer, God lovingly took me into His arms and tenderly comforted my heart. He gently led me to get a pad of paper and a pen and to begin listing all of my blessings. Well . . . it was a legal pad of paper and I wrote - and wrote - and wrote filling pages of paper. I wrote until my hand grew too tired to write anymore. We have a most generous and loving God. He is all good all the time. I am very thankful for the ways He teaches me.

"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:19b-20.

A warm and grateful heart is such an incredible blessing. I pray that God will help you find that place in your heart today. Here's an idea you can use to teach thankfulness to your family. It has really been meaningful to ours. Hope it brings you joy.

Each year I set out a small basket with a framed sign beside it that says:

Blessing Basket
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5

Place a stack of paper and a pen beside the basket in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Each person who passes through your home has the opportunity to record the things they are thankful for on the paper then places them in the basket. At our Thanksgiving meal, we pass the basket around the table and take turns reading a "blessing" from the basket. It is a rich and wonderful experience! After the holiday, I save the written blessings in a bag marked with the year. Those of you who are crafty could include these in a scrapbook.


Wishing a happy Thanksgiving to my friends in America - and hearts filled with gratitude to us all!


Monday, November 21, 2011

How Accurate is the Bible?

Mountain View - Stealing Your Breath with Views of the Heart of God

During the reformation, the church placed itself in authority above the scriptures of the Bible. The church was intently focused on power and used religion to gain and keep control. They established traditions that were not in harmony with scripture. Reformers of that day worked to move the church away from heresy. Martin Luther (as seen in this video) was one of those reformers. Scripture held authority in Martin Luther's life. I wonder how many people today would take such a strong stance? How many would take that stance with such confidence and conviction?

How do you view scripture? What place does it have in your life? Does it guide your actions? Does it form the foundation for the choices you make in daily life? Do you view it as truth from God - a revelation of his heart? Do you see its relevance in your life today?

Here are some important things to know about the Bible:

1) The Bible was formulated in response to the rise of heresy (deviating from the truth/doctrine of scripture) within the Church body.

2) Have you ever heard of the "Canon" and wondered what that is? No it isn't a "cannon".  :) The official and authoritative books inspired by God for inclusion in the Bible are called the Canon.

3) Overall the writers of all the books of the Bible were confirmed by acts of God, the message conveyed the truth of God, and came with the power of God.

4) Scribes were scholars of Jewish law and specialized in the writing and copying of Biblical text. They were extremely committed to the utmost accuracy.

5) The claims a document makes about itself have all been thoroughly examined.

6) Documents were checked to see how correctly they aligned themselves with facts, dates,  and people from its own time in history.

7) Books were all compared to other books for harmony of meaning.

8) The Bible is 98.6% accurate to original texts. It increases in accuracy everyday.

9) There were 26,000 copies of the Bible before 916 AD - plenty to refer to for accuracy, examination, and comparison. 

10) 10,000 potential errors have been found. Only 400 could change the meaning of a word. (Others are minor - in relation to punctuation, etc.) Only 50 of those could change the meaning of a scripture verse.  Not one of those 50 is in an area that is not corroborated theologically in other areas of the Bible.

10) The original texts of scripture are inerrant. Today we have a trustworthy copy of the inerrant original.

11) The Bible is used more than any other source for archaeological digs. There has never been an archaeological dig that has contradicted scripture.

12) The Bible texts were written over a 1500 year period of time by 40 authors on three different continents in three languages. All of their writings are in harmony theologically! God made sure the men who wrote down his revelations did so without error. (2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is God-breathed.")

13) The Bible predicts the future 3,500 times. Over 3,000 predictions have already come true. The rest are about future times. They are yet to be.

14) The Bible speaks about the "circle" of the earth long before scientists even believed the earth to be round. (Isaiah 40:22)

15) The Masoretic Text from 916 AD shows remarkable accuracy when compared to Latin and Greek manuscripts that pre-date Christ through to the 900's after Christ's death and resurrection. "Masoretic Text" refers to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The Masoretes (Jewish scholars/rabbis) made it their mission to correct the faults that had crept into the text of the Old Testament during the time the Jews were in captivity in Babylonia, and to prevent the texts from being corrupted by alterations in the future. They arranged the texts into chapter and verse.

16) When Dead Sea Scrolls (dated about 1st or 2nd century before the arrival of Christ) were discovered in Qumran by the Dead Sea in 1947, the Masoretic Text was compared to them and incredible accuracy was found. The Dead Sea Scrolls have a complete copy of the book of Isaiah and a partial copy or fragments of most every book in the Old Testament.

17) The Masoretic Text was also compared to the Septuagint (dated around 200-150 B.C). Again, amazing consistency was discovered giving us great assurance that God was divinely protecting the integrity and accuracy of his word through thousands of years of translating and copying. The "Septuagint" is the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek during the period between the Old and New Testaments when Greece was the dominant world power and Greek became the common language.

In our study of church history last week, one thing that really stood out to me was the fact that many people in our world today are following religions and cults that are based on heresy. That heresy isn't clear to them because they have not read the Bible in its entirety. There is great danger in that because their future is at stake. This causes me great concern.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-7, we find a letter the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. The content of his letter is very relevant to life today. 

"You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that. 

They are the kind who work their way into people's homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by many desires. Such women are forever following new teachings but they never understand the truth."

You can read every self-help book on the market, listen to those who teach you there are many ways to God and salvation, watch celebrity talk shows, read blogs, download podcasts, read Facebook posts, and follow people on Twitter - but the Holy Bible is the one source that provides true power for living; sound guidance for your decisions; safety, security, and protection through its teachings; unconditional love, mercy, and grace; real hope for the future; and the keys to life

Someone once said that if you read the Bible through in its entirety, it will change your life. I did - and it did. As I read, I was struck by the teachings of Christ in particular. The nature of some of his teachings proved to me that the Bible was clearly inspired by God. Man would never be able to conjure up some of the things he said - things like loving your enemy, forgiving those who hurt you, and more.

A challenge for you:

1) The Bible is intended for our good. I challenge you to commit yourself to reading it through in its entirety. It will change your life. Get a chronological reading plan - or get involved in a Bible study at your church. Unlock the treasures available to you in scripture. 

2) There are books in this world that are beneficial to us, but begin making it a practice to check everything you read or hear (including the content of my blog) against scripture. The Word of God is truth. Every teaching in this world should be measured against it. Get to know your Bible so that you gain discernment that can safeguard you against false teachings that are so rampant in the world today.

Know that I write these things to you from a place of great love and concern.

I fully realize the Bible is big, intimidating, and sometimes confusing. I have recently put together a presentation that helps break down its "bigness" through a complete overview of eras of the Bible from beginning to end. It helps eliminate some confusion by showing how the Bible fits together, reveals its underlying themes, and helps us see the heart of God through it all. And finally, it proves the relevancy of the Bible for life today. The treasures of the Bible are rich. Because I want to help people find those treasures, I will make myself available to share this presentation with your group or at your church event. If you're interested in this presentation, you can contact me at

With confidence in the character of God and his teachings in the Bible . . .

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making Sense of the Kings of the Bible

Mountain View - Stealing Your Breath with Views of the Heart of God

There are parts of the Bible that have always been confusing to me. The period of the kings is one of them. Boy howdy! There are so many kings it’s hard to keep them all straight, and the stories seem to jump around haphazardly. Complicating matters is the fact that some of the kings changed their names, some had very similar names, and some had the same name! So today, I’m going to share some general information I learned in class last week that might help you make sense of this time period. Here goes . . .

Through Abraham, God chose the Hebrew people to be his treasured possession. The Hebrews had his favor, and he had a plan for them. (See Abraham 12:2-3; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:1-8, 19-21; Genesis 22:15-18)

God established the Hebrew people as a nation through Jacob when his 12 sons became the leaders of 12 tribes. Through Jacob’s son, Joseph, God moved his people to Egypt to preserve their lives during a famine. (See Genesis 45:17-19) The Hebrew people flourished in Egypt and their population increased. Pharaoh became nervous about their numbers and feared they might rise up and overtake his kingdom. His solution was to force them into slavery. Through Moses and Joshua, God led his people out of slavery in Egypt and into the land he had promised them in Canaan. (See the books of Exodus and Joshua)

“But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession . . .” Deuteronomy 4:20

God wanted his chosen people to be different than people of the surrounding nations so he attempted to set them apart by establishing rules and laws for the way they were to live.  (See the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy) God made it clear that obedience would bring his blessing, while disobedience would bring consequences.

“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:5-6

While other nations had earthly kings, the Hebrews were fortunate to have God as their king.

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?” Deuteronomy 4:6

As their King, God was present and actively engaged in their lives. He protected them, fought for them, guided them, and provided for them. Astonishingly, the Hebrew people rejected God as their king and told him they wanted a man to be their king instead. Why? They wanted to be like all the other nations. This had to pierce God’s heart. As difficult as it must have been, he gave them what they wanted with a warning about how this earthly king would rule. (1 Samuel 8:6-9)

The first king to the Hebrews was Saul. The people admired his good looks, and overlooked his character deficiencies and absence of devotion to God. The 12 tribes united under his leadership and became known as the Israelite nation. After Saul’s death, David became king. David had a whole heart for God. After David, Solomon (David’s son) assumed the kingship.  These kings each ruled for 40 years. After Solomon’s death, the nation divided into two kingdoms with one in the north (Israel) and one in the south (Judah).

Israel was led by king Jeroboam. Its capital was Samaria. The southern kingdom was led by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Jerusalem was its capital. King Jeroboam and king Rehoboam were both evil kings.

The northern kingdom of Israel had a total of 19 kings before its demise. None of them were good. The southern kingdom of Judah had 20 kings. Only eight were good. The divided kingdom lasted for 400 years.

Through the years, both of these kingdoms “did evil in God’s eyes”. Their actions were causing grievous damage to themselves and to those around them. Because God loved them dearly, he sent prophets to warn them to change their ways and turn their hearts back to him. He warned them there would be repercussions if they didn’t. But they didn’t listen.

In 722 BC, a foreign nation named Assyria conquered Israel in the north and dispersed most of that kingdom’s inhabitants to foreign lands. Years later, Babylon conquered Assyria. In 605, 597, and 586 BC, Babylon conquered the southern kingdom of Judah in three stages. Jerusalem was destroyed. The residents of Judah were sent into exile in Babylon for 70 years. The divided kingdom was no more.

The Kings of the United Kingdom

Saul (1051)
David (1011)
Solomon (971)

Kingdom splits (931)

The Evil Kings of the Northern Kingdom

Jeroboam (931-910)
Nadab (910-909)
Baasha (909-886)
Elah (886-885)
Zimri (885)
Omri (885-874)
Ahab (874-853)
Ahaziah (853-852)
Joram/Jehoram (852-841)
Jehu (841-814)
Jehoahaz (814-798)
Joash (798-782)
Jeroboam II (793-753)
Zechariah (753-752)
Shallum (752)
Menahem (752-742)
Pekahiah (742-740) Overlapping reign with Pekah. Assassinated by Pekah.
Pekah (752-732)
Hoshea (732-722)

Fall of Israel to Assyria: 722 BC

The Kings of the Southern Kingdom

Rehoboam (931-913)
Abijam (aka Abijah) (913-911)
*Asa (911-870) Coregency with Jehoshaphat.
*Jehoshaphat (873-848)
Jehoram ((848-841)
Ahaziah (841)
Athaliah (841-835)
*Joash (835-796)
*Amaziah (796-767)
*Uzziah (790-739)
*Jotham (750-735)
Ahaz (732-715)
*Hezekiah (715-686)
Manasseh (697-642)
Amon (642-640)
*Josiah (640-609)
Jehoahaz (609)
Jehoiakim (born as Eliakim) (609-598) 1st Babylonian invasion
Jehoiachin (598-597) 2nd Babylonian invasion
Zedekiah (597-586) 3rd Babylonian invasion – final conquest of Judah

Fall of Judah to Babylon: 586

*Denotes good kings

After 70 years in exile, God prepared the way for the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. Although they lived under the oppression of Persia, then Greece, then Rome, God was constantly at work preparing their hearts for the arrival of the King of all kings – Jesus Christ.

The world entices us with many things, but there is no substitute for God and what he offers. God yearns for our whole-hearted devotion. Even when we are fickle and unfaithful to him, he is always rock-solid in his faithfulness to us. He is faithful to judge wickedness and sin, yet he is also faithful to envelop us in his mercy and forgiveness when we turn back to him (Exodus 34:6-7).

Regardless of the unfaithfulness of his chosen people during the period of the kings, God was still in control. He knew with certainty the things he intended to accomplish. He responded, interacted, and patiently accommodated his actions to the free will and choices of his people in order to bring about his desired end. He is the same today. No matter how far the people of this world wander from him, God is still in control working to bring about his desired end – the return of Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, at the culmination of human history. When it seems like the world is completely out of control, I am so thankful for this truth.

The period of the kings gives me confidence in the character of God . . .