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Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything. A few months ago, there was a time for this idea. The idea that women from across the nation could gather together and share their faith. At first there were some bumps in the road (technical potholes, I’ll call them), but then it was truly a time of great fellowship. For those of you who have participated, it has been a joy.

I’m not saying this bible study fellowship is over, I’m just saying that now is not the time. Life has come at us each from all kinds of different angles. I will continue to keep all of you in my prayers, and I hope you’ll do the same. Please feel free to submit prayer requests and leave comments on already posted devotionals. From time to time, as the spirit moves me, I’ll write more entries. If there’s a passage or verse you’d like to read about, please feel free to share it.

Now is the time to say, not farewell, but rather, until we meet again. I have loved sharing my faith with you, sweet friends.

***

May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warmly on your face, May the rain fall softly on your fields, and until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Amen.

 

Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

Ministers primarily write and preach their sermons at scheduled times, when they know they will have a congregation to hear their words and worship God.  Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, not because there was a scheduled place and time, but simply because people came. He preached to the crowds of people who stopped what they were doing to follow Him.  He preached to the people because they were thirsty for His wisdom, thirsty for the Word of God.

He said:   3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,    for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Beatitudes are often referred to as the “introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus shared these teachings first because they encompass the spirit of humility and compassion that is required of all Christians.

***

I have problems with vanity.  Whether it be my appearance or my belongings: I want to be and look my best, I want my house to look the neatest (both “neat” as in clean and “neat” as in interesting).  I covet things…quirky things that will make my home look well lived in and well cared for and just funky enough to be  cool without being ridiculous.  I envy people who are thinner than me.  I envy people who have the time/energy/know-how to wake up every morning and fix their hair rather than just letting it do whatever it’s gonna do on it’s own.  I want to be the very best version of me that I can be.

The only problem is, I’m not looking at the big picture.  The best version of myself is not what I see around me and want myself to be.  That version of me falls so drastically short of the amazing things God has planned for me.  As I read over the Beatitudes, I find myself feeling guilty.  We live in a world where women fight to be strong and independent.  Where everyone wants to be an individual and wants to get credit for their general overall awesomeness.  Where it’s the status quo to “keep up with the Jones’.” When I read the Beatitudes, I am reminded that we’re not put on this earth for our own glory.  We’re here for God’s glory.  We’re here to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourself. Nowhere in that purpose does it say we are to be judged as awesome by human standards.  We are called to be meek and merciful and pure in heart.  We’re called to be peacemakers and to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

When Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, he was calling us to humility.

Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. And He shall lift you up, higher and higher. And He shall lift you up.

***

Dear Lord, thank You for making us for Your glory.  Help us to be ever mindful of You, that we may glorify You in all things.  Lord, we ask You to make us humble so that we may bring You all the glory. Amen.

Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

Ministers primarily write and preach their sermons at scheduled times, when they know they will have a congregation to hear their words and worship God. Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, not because there was a scheduled place and time, but simply because people came. He preached to the crowds of people who stopped what they were doing to follow Him. He preached to the people because they were thirsty for His wisdom, thirsty for the Word of God.

He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Beatitudes are often referred to as the “introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus shared these teachings first because they encompass the spirit of humility and compassion that is required of all Christians.

***

I have problems with vanity. Whether it be my appearance or my belongings: I want to be and look my best, I want my house to look the neatest (both “neat” as in clean and “neat” as in interesting). I covet things…quirky things that will make my home look well lived in and well cared for and just funky enough to be cool without being ridiculous. I envy people who are thinner than me. I envy people who have the time/energy/know-how to wake up every morning and fix their hair rather than just letting it do whatever it’s gonna do on it’s own. I want to be the very best version of me that I can be.

The only problem is, I’m not looking at the big picture. The best version of myself is not what I see around me and want myself to be. That version of me falls so drastically short of the amazing things God has planned for me. As I read over the Beatitudes, I find myself feeling guilty. We live in a world where women fight to be strong and independent. Where everyone wants to be an individual and wants to get credit for their general overall awesomeness. Where it’s the status quo to “keep up with the Jones’.” When I read the Beatitudes, I am reminded that we’re not put on this earth for our own glory. We’re here for God’s glory. We’re here to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourself. Nowhere in that purpose does it say we are to be judged as awesome by human standards. We are called to be meek and merciful and pure in heart. We’re called to be peacemakers and to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

When Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, he was calling us to humility.

Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. And He shall lift you up, higher and higher. And He shall lift you up.

***

Dear Lord, thank You for making us for Your glory. Help us to be ever mindful of You, that we may glorify You in all things. Lord, we ask You to make us humble so that we may bring You all the glory. Amen.

Genesis 50:15-21

Siblings are great. They’re best friends given straight from God. They’re born with the natural ability to drive you absolutely nuts. But they also know you better than anyone else. There’s a special bond that siblings share that can’t compare with any other relationship. Why? Because you “came out of the same uterus.”

Growing up, Amy and I had several sets of friends who were also siblings: the Rivenbarks, the Nichols, the Bishops, the Watskys, the Berryhills…the list goes on. Typically, I’d pair up with the elder sibling and Amy would buddy up with the younger. And on some rare and glorious occasions, we would all team up for the most inventive games of make-believe you could imagine. Despite the fun and games, there were the inevitable disagreements, arguments and knock-down-drag-out fights.

Amy and I stole each others toys, clothes and boyfriends. But we also shared secrets, joys and fears. There were days when we said we hated each other and days when we were completely inseparable. As we grew older and wiser, we became closer friends. There’s not a thing in the world I wouldn’t do for my sister. If it were in my power, I’d protect her from every bad thing that could possibly impact her life.

***

Joseph and his brothers did a little less bonding than most siblings I know. Joseph’s brothers let their jealousy take over, resulting in their selling him into slavery and leaving him for dead. Joseph’s brothers cause him more pain and suffering than possibly any other siblings in the bible. But with his faith in God, Joseph learns to forgive his brothers.

14-15 After burying his father, Joseph went back to Egypt. All his brothers who had come with him to bury his father returned with him. After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers talked among themselves: “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him?”

16-17 So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin—all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?”

When Joseph received their message, he wept.

18 Then the brothers went in person to him, threw themselves on the ground before him and said, “We’ll be your slaves.”

19-21 Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart.

Despite everything they put him through, Joseph not only forgave his brothers, he saw the purpose God had in his troubles and he promised to take care of them and their children.

***

I hate the saying “blood is thicker than water,” it seems contrite and thuggish. But it does carry some truth. There’s a bond we share with our siblings, those people with whom we share DNA, who came out of the same uterus. They’re part of who we are, and that bond is one of God’s most precious gifts.

***

Dear Lord, thank you for family, specifically siblings. Thank you for the fights and the tears and the hugs and the laughter that they bring into our lives. Please help us to truly apreciate those special bonds and never take them for granted. Amen.

Proverbs 3:5

When Trey and I packed up and moved across the country, we thought we were being very wise when we signed a year lease at our apartment complex. That would give us an entire 12 months to get to know the area, figure out what neighborhoods were good, what school district we wanted to live in, and to learn that we don’t, under any circumstances, want to have to use a major interstate at any time remotely close to rush hour…ever. Little did we realize how much we would absolutely abhor apartment life. We hate having to wait for the gate to let us in and out. We hate living on the second floor. We hate not having space for all our furniture. We hate hearing people partying at the pool all the time. We hate having to take two trips to unload the groceries from the car up to the second floor. We hate that our upstairs neighbors sound like a herd of elephants, even at 4am.

So, we started doing what any sane couple would do. We started house hunting.

At first, it was just for fun, just an occasional “oh, that house is for sale, isn’t it cute.” But it didn’t take long before it was two straight days of 6 hours in the car driving all over the northwest side of San Antonio and writing down realtor information.

Then, one day, as if it were truly a sign from above, one of Trey’s coworkers told him of a website that would let you search real estate listings by neighborhood. That same day, he found out that the Director of Finance’s husband is a mortgage broker. That day at lunch we checked out the website and found a house that was exactly what we were looking for. Four bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, good sized back yard, no interstate driving for Trey to get to work. So we decided that after work that day, we’d just drive by. All that afternoon I prayed that if this were really and truly the house for us, that someone would be there to let us in so we could look around, and not just in the window. Sure enough, when we got there, the Assessor from the bank was there and he let us in. Then we applied with said Director of Finance’s husband to be pre-approved for a mortgage – and we were, for about $40K more than we expected. Everything was falling so nicely into place; I was sure that God was pointing us toward making an offer on this house.

Just to be safe, that Friday, Trey went to talk to the office at our apartment complex to verify that we understood the fee for breaking our lease early. It turns out, we didn’t. In addition to a thousand dollar fee, we’d still be expected to pay out the duration of the lease. That speedbump really messed with my head. I couldn’t understand why God would make everything else fall so nicely into place but then throw this major setback in our way. I was so excited that I thought I knew God’s plan for us that I was genuinely really upset and confused.

Truth is, this all just happened last week, so I’m still a little upset and confused. So, when I sat down to write this week’s bible study, it was like a big flashing light when I saw Tara’s favorite bible verse was Proverbs 3:5:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Who am I to think I could possibly understand God’s plan? When things just don’t seem to go the way they should, we have to remember to trust in the Lord, because only He knows what our lives are really meant for. Our silly little plans are nothing compared to the amazing things God has in store for our lives. Trust in the Lord, because, quite frankly, we don’t understand a lot.

* * *

Dear Lord, thank you for the plans you have for us. Even when we can’t see the full picture, thank you for guiding us. Help us to trust in you in all that we do. Amen.

Psalm 27:1, 13-14

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

4 One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

(Psalm 27:1, 13-14, New International Version)

 

We are defined by the choices that we make. The big ones and the small ones. If we choose to give to charity, people see us as generous. If we choose to cut someone off in traffic, people see us as…well, as an asshole. We make thousands of choices every day – from what to eat for breakfast to what car insurance company to use to who to marry and where to live. However, the most important choice we can ever make is to give (or not to give) our lives to Christ.

David is credited with writing the majority of the Psalms. It is more than evident that his writing is inspired by very intense times in his life. Times of joy, praise, confusion, sorrow, and pain. Psalm 27 was written at a time when David was being persecuted, yet he chooses to begin and end his Psalm by praising God. We can only speculate what was going on in David’s life when he wrote #27, but we all know he went through some pretty serious stuff. And he did some pretty stupid things. But through it all, he remained confident that the Lord would see him through.

***

When your rent’s past due and the landlord’s pounding on your door – praise God.

When people spread ugly rumors about you and you feel like you have no friends – praise God.

When you feel like the world is caving in on you – praise God.

When you’re flying standby and are freaking out that you might not make your flight – praise God.

And when the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day and you’re surrounded by loved ones and feel on top of the world – praise God.

***

Praising God in all we do is a choice. Following His laws is a choice. Loving your neighbor with the love of Jesus is a choice. Choose to walk in the light.

***

Lord, help us to choose you in everything we do. Help us choose to praise you and pray to you. And thank you Lord, for choosing to give your life to save ours. Amen.

1 Peter 4:8

Leslie’s favorite Bible verse is 1 Peter 4:18

Last night around midnight, as Trey and I were lying in bed doing our daily Bible reading, we heard a knock at the door. Not a polite “sorry to disturb you in the middle of the night” knock, a frantic “I know you’re in there, open the door” kind of knock. Trey threw on his t-shirt and went to the door, opening it only enough to pop his head out into the breezeway of our apartment complex. The Knocker (as he shall henceforth be called) was obviously under the influence of either lots of alcohol or lots of marijuana. He greeted Trey by saying something like, “hey man, I saw you at that party last night!” To which Trey replied, “Nah, that wasn’t me. I don’t party much.” Then, to my amazement, Trey stood there, talking to the Knocker for a good five minutes, never raising his voice, never trying to dismiss him, never giving the slightest impression that his knock had interrupted our evening. He simply gave the poor guy directions to where he was trying to go and told him to be safe.

When he came back to bed, Trey didn’t say “wow, that guy was crazy/drunk/high” he said, “I hope he’s okay.” And we spent the next few minutes pondering whether or not we should call someone to come pick the guy up. After deciding not to make the call, we prayed. We prayed for his safety and that he would end up where he was supposed to be without harming himself or anyone else.

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