Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Be Kind to Foreigners

There's a LOT of anti-immigration sentiment in America. This blog post is not going to discuss politics, but rather, look at what God told His people (the Israelites) through His Word (the Bible) in regards to how to treat foreigners.
 
We are not to mistreat foreigners. (Exodus 22:21)
We are not to oppress foreigners. (Exodus 22:21 and Exodus 23:9)
We are to treat foreigners like the native-born citizens. (Leviticus 19:34)
We are to love them as we love ourselves. (Leviticus 19:34 and Deut. 10:19)

But what if they are here illegally? 
That's for the government to deal with. If someone is here illegally, you still aren't to hire them (it's the law), but loving our neighbor and our treatment of foreigners still apply.

But what if they're taking our jobs?
Trust in God to provide. Be willing to relocate or work with people who are different than you.

But what if they're leaving their countries to come to ours?
You can't control their actions, but you can choose to welcome them (show them Christ's love) or spurn them.

But what if they're sending money back to their countries?
Go to another country and live like the average person. See if you can make it on only their wages.

Over and over again, the Israelites were commanded to care for foreigners, because they knew what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land. 

Bottom line? God commands us to be kind to foreigners. Most commands God gives us do not hinge on others' behavior, but that God says to do _____. Period. We will have to answer for our conduct one day before Him, so be kind to foreigners.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

When Doing What is Right Costs More (or Why God Would Buy Fair Trade Coffee)

Sometimes it's easy to do the right thing.
     *I pass the recycling center at least twice a week.
     *Thrifting is fun and saves money.

Sometimes it's sorta hard to do the right thing.
     *Tithing even when money is lean should be done.
     *Taking extra time to cook and eat less preservatives is better for my health.

Sometimes it costs more to do the right thing.
     *Fair trade goods cost more, but the workers aren't exploited.
     *Animal products that don't exploit animals cost more.

I value frugality. I can easily do the right thing when it's easy (or even when it's sorta hard), but when it's very hard & costs more, that's when I need a mental pep talk.

Yet, doing the right thing is the correct course of action even when it costs us more. In His Word (the Bible) God built in protection for the poor, widowed/orphans, and *oppressed.* In fact, He is the protection of the oppressed.

Verses referring to people
Psalmists plead for intercession/defense for the oppressed. (Psalm 74:21 and Psalm 82:3)
[It is] better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Proverbs 16:19
People/a nation are/is urged to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, help the fatherless/widows (Isaiah 1:17)

Verses referring to God 
God is a refuge for the oppressed (Psalm 9:9).
God hears/encourages/listens/defends the oppressed. (Psalm 10:17-18)

God works righteousness & justice for the oppressed. (Psalm 103:6)
God upholds the cause of the oppressed, feeds the hungry, and frees prisoners. (Psalm 146:7)
God shows favor to the humble & oppressed. (Proverbs 3:34)

God wants our fasting to loose the chains of injustice and set the oppressed free. (Isaiah 58:6)
God promises to bring light to those who work for the hungry and meet the needs of the oppressed.
(Isaiah 58:10

Verses referring to Jesus

Jesus was oppressed & afflicted (Isaiah 53:7)
Jesus applied this verse to Himself & He fulfilled it: preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, giving the blind sight, and setting the oppressed free. (Luke 4:18) (Isaiah 61:1-2 and Isaiah 58:6)

God is a just God. He cares for the oppressed, among other people. We are urged to seek justice and defend the oppressed. It seems counterproductive to send money overseas to fight oppression while buying goods that support oppression. Yes it costs more to buy fair trade goods, but by putting fair trade coffee (for instance) in your cart instead of regular coffee, you are taking a stand to fight oppression and to let companies know (as you "vote" with your dollars) that you do not support oppression.

God intercedes for the oppressed. And that is why I am convinced that God would buy Fair Trade Coffee and other fair trade goods.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Tenth for You

Reverend Fun has some wonderful cartoons. One that is of note deals with giving 10% vs. 15%. We give God 10% of our income, but we give waitresses 15% of our bills.

 James 1:17 says that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." 

God has seriously blessed my life. How do I repay that abundant blessing? I do the bare minimum to relieve my conscience.

But what if.....

In addition to tithing, my hubby and I decided on a good Christian ministry to support with our prayers and our monies?

In addition to tithing, my hubby and I set aside a portion of our income to help others, like others have helped us?

In addition to tithing, my hubby and I gave money to Christian ministries as Christmas gifts?

In addition to tithing, I do not hoard our monies, but allow God to use our monies to bless others?

Money is a touchy issue because people work hard for their income and then taxes and then tithe and then unplanned expenses take away from the income. After I pay the the utilities, food, gas, and other necessities are paid, the remaining money is smaller than anticipated and I get the idea that I *deserve* to eat out or buy that new item I want. 

I pray for God to open my eyes, so I will see people like He sees them and have compassion on them, but then I grasp my money and refuse to let go.

What would happen if I gave our waitresses 15% of our bill and also gave God 15% of our income? That makes sense to me.

Friday, April 19, 2013

How My Lens are Colored

Have you ever thought about how the organizations and activities you are in shape who you are?

College has taught me many lessons:
  1. I have a different bathroom etiquette than most adults. Since my dorms had community bathrooms, with rows of individual stalls, I don't consider bathroom conversations abnormal. I don't consider it odd to have to do my business beside other people doing theirs. Apparently, this makes other people uncomfortable.
  2. It is perfectly normal, if I go to a church dinner, for me to bring containers for food. I eat, I pack up food, I go home, I eat some more. I get some funny looks for that one.
  3. I expect syllabi. I expect people higher than me in the hierarchy to clearly write down their expectations of me, deadlines, and required resources. The world doesn't do this. :-(
  4. I came to expect a certain schedule of events. During most of my college years, my classes fell in the 9am-3pm range (except for the occasional night class). After classes, I would go to my own campus job. After my job, I could go to a church or campus ministry event (or do laundry). It was the guideline that shaped my days. Most semesters, my Tuesday-Thursday classes were scheduled to mirror my Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, as much as possible. I strive for consistency.
  5. College taught me how to eat quickly, yet still enjoy meals with my friends. 
  6. College taught me how to maximize my time, yet there is such as thing as being too far ahead and too prepared. 
  7. College taught me that there is value in the commandment to observe Sabbath. I learned that my work would still be there the next day, but my stress levels would only increase without a Sabbath rest. 
  8. I learned that teamwork is necessary evil. Yeah...still don't like it.
How marriage has colored my lens:
  1. Being married gave me a crash course in creative cooking when I had limited ingredients. Substitution and omission are common in my kitchen.
  2. Sometimes being right isn't the thing to strive for. I can be right and severely hurt my husband. 
  3. It is possible to look at the same situation and walk away with different takes on it.
  4. Quality time with my hubby is to be carved out from my schedule and then fiercely protected.
  5. I learned that small gestures of love mean a LOT.
  6. I learned that home can be anywhere my hubby is.
  7. I learned we have a LOT of stuff, despite a lot of minimalizing. Naturally, stuff expands to fill the space it has.
  8. I learned that I got me a good hubby.
How the Church (and my church) have colored my lens:
  1. I view a multi-generational church as the ideal. A church where I could be working in the nursery or inviting a 80 year old couple to my home on the same Sunday.
  2. Church can be holy AND hiliarious.
  3. Sometimes grabbing Strong's Concordance and looking up the Greek and Hebrew words provides more light and clarifies the meaning more than all the commentaries you find. 
  4. Taking a verse out of context does not show a clear picture of Scripture. 
  5. Although unpopular, there is an element of discipline in the Church.
  6. The Church is a community. Although I don't like group projects in school, community in the Church isn't optional. There is a distinct social side: group prayer, visitation, and more.
  7. There is no perfect church, but a lot of loving and well-meaning churches.
  8. I still have a lot of growing I can do.
These are my expectations, my realities. When I view the world around me, these things have tinted my lens I wear, so that I see the world through these things.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Shameless Plug

I found about about a really cool program. It's called Tyndale Rewards. 

I found out about it through an electronic Bible study plan. 

You join this site, do activities to earn points, and "cash" in your points to get hard-copy books/audio books sent your your home. 

If you want to sign up, I recommend using the following link: <www.tyndalerewards.com/signup/?pc=km6m-oo18-3gyq-o9bw> You'll get 25 points for signing up through me and I'll get 10 points. 

I've done 5 activities and I've earned enough points to "buy" Finding God in the Hobbit, which would cost at least $10 through Amazon. 

*thus ends Liz's shameless plug*

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Well, It Depends

I love clear-cut, black-and-white, yes-and-no.

Yet when people ask me questions about my future plans, "Well, it depends..." keeps coming up.

My husband and I are in the process of becoming missionaries.

Where will you be stationed? -it depends (on which country we are placed in)

What will you be doing? -it depends (on where we end up and under what assignment)

When will you be going? -it depends (on how much training we need and how long it takes to raise funds)

How much training will you be needing? -it depends (on what we'll be doing)

How much will a trip be costing? -it depends (on where we are, how long we're there, and what we'll be doing)

How long will you be staying? -it depends (on how long they'll let us, with limited prior experience)

As much as I would like questions about my future to have definite answers, God seems to be getting immense joy from telling us to wait for Him to reveal His plans. Each "it depends" seems to bring a smile to His face, as one of His little girls is reminded to depend on Him, His timing, and His plans.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Wanted: This Exact Church

Married female looking for the exact church in description below.

Ideal Church:
  • Multi-generational, multi-national church that plays a variety of hymns, choruses, and contemporary songs, using both piano/organ and a praise band (drummers need not be present). All songs should be theologically sound, meaningful, and in their proper church season (see below).
  • This church should closely follow the seasons of the church year, with its songs, readings, and decorations, but each season should be clearly explained each year. Many liturgical readings should be used, but only when they have meaning (for me).
  • Bulletins are not necessary, but announcements should be clearly displayed. 
  • Each service should have ample time for the Holy Spirit to move, but services should not run longer than necessary. After the Holy Spirit comes and moves, it's time to go home (we have nothing more to add). 
  • Sunday school classes should reflect the multi-generational, multi-national aspect of the church. The lessons should delve deeply into Scripture and teach us how to study the Bible in different ways. We should be in a class that interests us.
  • Church members should be willing to volunteer for various tasks. No gossiping or pettiness is present in the church.
  • Sermons should be Spirit-inspired, yet take us systematically through the Bible. Sometimes sermons are not necessary for the worship service. 
  • Prayers should be bigger than the congregation's family, friends, and church. They should focus on God's glory and needs from around the world.
  • Missions should be supported and emphasized. 
  • Name-tags should be worn for the sake of new people (or people who have been going there for over 3 years, but still don't know some people's names because after you've talked to people for 3 years, you've passed the point where you can ask for their names).
  • The church should look nice, but shouldn't cost too much to build and upkeep. Starving children need food more than we need new carpet.
Although some of these desires are good and many of them have good intentions, when I try to force my church into the mold of my ideal church, I stop making worship about God and start making it about me. I stop having a heart receptive to God when I'm focused on all of the "wrong" things being done at my church AND somehow, my expectations contradict themselves, which makes it very hard for my expectations to be met.

Even worse, when I go to church expecting this and griping when my expectations aren't met, I'm missing the point.

I'm missing the point of worship.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Where's Your Trust?



I have been mulling over trust for a while. I have been asking myself, when things go bad, where do I turn *first,* where do I place my trust?

Psalm 20:7 lists just a couple of things that some people trust in (i.e. chariots and horses) and contrasts it to what David and his peeps trust in (i.e. the Lord).
       "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, / but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."

In more modern times, some people trust in other tangible items, such as weapons, or social constructs, such as political parties.

Where is your trust in?

Do you trust in your strength (that will fail)?

Do you trust in your bank account (where identity theft and unplanned expenses can drain)?

Do you trust in people (who are only human and they will let you down)?

Do you trust in your intellectual ability (where accidents can knock a few IQ points off)?

Do you trust in your status (even though people rise and fall in status a lot)?

Do you trust in your job (which can be lost)?

Do you trust in weapons (that can be taken from you or hurt those you love)?

Is it in God you trust (Deut. 31:6 promises that He will never leave or forsake us)?
            "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”"

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Unplugging to Dream

I got fed up with my technology device (computer) yesterday. It was sucking away my time & wasn't producing much joy. So I turned it off. I grabbed food from my freezer & pantry, dirtied pots, bowls, dishes, & measuring unites, and followed a new chicken pot pie recipe.
The Chicken Pot Pie turned out surprising well

I peeked through my new cookbook and dreamed of boldly cooking in season.

I paused to feel & watch the wind hurry leaves & dust along.

I watched steam rise from my tea by the light of a new candle burning.

I watched the room darken as dusk approached.

I journaled this by hand.
I dreamed of following the day's light. Would it be bad to wake up at dawn, wind down at dusk, and sleep at dark night? Wouldn't it be nice to live within walking distance of church, school, store, doctor, and other places? Wouldn't it be nice to know who grows your food & how (s)he raises/grows it? Wouldn't it be nice to have homes smelling of fresh bread & casseroles? Wouldn't it be nice to only eat foods with ingredients you can find in a layman's kitchen? Wouldn't it be nice for kids to play outside, make up games, & create toys? Wouldn't it be nice for neighbors to also be friends?
I took time to dream of how I want my life to be. I didn't change my income, spouse, home, or possessions. I want to go to sleep early & get up early. I want to use my many trips from room to room to get items, to also put items away. I want to restrict time spent on my computer and eliminate worry time. I want to increase the time spent in prayer, tea drank, husband time, from scratch foods, and scripture memorization. I want to live intentionally and fully in God's will.

Isn't it nice to unplugg...in order to dream?

Friday, April 5, 2013

After the Wedding Bells Fade

I really like weddings. It gives me the warm fuzzies to see two people publicly declare to love each other and stay with each other through good and bad times. Each wedding has a different style the reflects the bride and groom.

Weddings bring back memories of my own wedding day and my own courtship. They remind me of why I married my husband and encourage me to keep on loving him.

But after the wedding bells (or bubbles or birdseed) fade into memory...there is more to be experienced. Society does a good job grooming us to prepare for our wedding days, but don't exactly focus on the aftermath.

The marriage starts with the wedding, but it doesn't end there. Marriage involves staying committed to your spouse and loving/respecting your spouse in a Christ-like manner.

Marriage involves giving 100% into your marriage, not 50% like the world says. (You can read an article on it here) If I give 50% to my hubby, after a while, I will perceive that he's only giving 48% and then I'll back off. Then he'll back off and then I'll back off and then one day we'll wake up and wonder where the love went. When I give 100% into my marriage, I am doing what God wants (and my hubby is wowed and feels treasured. Typically, he starts thinking of ways to spoil me, but that's not why I give 100%.) Our love is to model God's unconditional love (no I'll love you *IF* or I love you, *BUT...*)

This being said about giving 100%, we do discuss how we divide our tasks inside and outside of the home. If one of us is overwhelmed, the other typically takes some of the overwhelmed person's tasks. We have our *typical* tasks we do, but it's not a legalistic list of "men's work" and "women's work" (except for grilling...that's clearly men's work, in my opinion).

Biblical commands on marriage are not dependent on what your spouse does.

As a wife, I am to respect my husband. Period. God's Word didn't say, "Respect him, AFTER he earned it and continues to earn it." (Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22-24, Ephesians 5:33)

My hubby is to love me. Period. God's Word didn't say, "Love her, AFTER she has done the housework and shown me respect." (Colossians 3:19, Ephesians 5:25-33, Ephesians 5:33)

I am to obey and fulfill the wife's part, regardless of how well or not well my hubby is completing his instructions. (He does great, by the way)

My challenge for you (married people) is to love & respect your spouses. Focus on what you are doing for your spouse, treating your spouse, and describing your spouse.

After the wedding bells fade, the real work, the best part of the journey begins.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Reorganized Look into the Book of Job

Did you know that initially, the Bible didn't have chapters or verses? There were 66 books of the Bible, but these books didn't have chapters or verses originally. Don't get me wrong, I like having chapters and verses. It is a brilliant way to reference where you are, if other people want to follow along in their copy of scripture.

But if you're like me, you have been frustrated from time to time at the chapter breaks and verse breaks. I want you to know, that's okay. It's not heresy to dislike how humans sub-divided the Bible for easier reference. So if you've ever been frustrated that half of a sentence is a "verse" or that a chapter should have ended after a few more sentences, that's alright. It's your opinion and it might actually make more sense. Unfortunately, things are unlikely to change since the chapters and verses are standardized. To read more about the history of dividing the books of the Bible into chapters and verses, see here, here, here, and here. There are some slight disagreements between the sources.

When I was reading the book of Job, I kept getting frustrated with the chapters. I wanted one chapter to be one person's speech. I wanted to separate the book of Job into segments by the speaker. A two-chapter-a-day Bible plan might have me read the last third of one speech and the first fifth of another in my "two chapters."

I regrouped the 42 chapters into 25 parts. At minimum, I encourage you to read whole speeches in one sitting. Since the book of Job is essentially in a story-long conversations-conclusion format, ideally it would be read in 1 setting, but 42 chapters in a lot. I'd recommend 14 chapters a day: you'd finish in 3 days. The story should be a lot easier to follow when it's read like a story.

My dream is to record actors reciting the book of Job. Not in the wooden-this-is-Scripture-so-I-mustn't-smile-or-show-any-emotion voice, but in a realistic manner. I came up with 7 speaking part with different size roles.

  • Job 20.48 chapters
  • Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite 6 chapters
  • Eliphaz the Temanite 4 chapters
  • Lord 3.99 chapters
  • Narrator (Intro, Conclusion, Satan & God conversation, Job's Wife, Servants) 2.53 chapters
  • Bildad the Shuhite 3 chapters
  • Zophar the Naamathite 2 chapters


Speaker
Reference in Job
Number of Chapters
Reading in 3 Days
1.     Narrator
Job 1:1-2:13
2

2.      Job
Job 3:1-26
1

3.      Eliphaz
Job 4:1-5:27
2

4.      Job
Job 6:1-7:21
2

5.      Bildad
Job 8:1-22
1

6.      Job
Job 9:1-10:22
2

7.      Zophar
Job 11:1-20
1

8.      Job
Job 12:1-14:22
3
End of Day 1: 8 speeches
9.      Eliphaz
Job 15:1-35
1

10.  Job
Job 16:1-17:16
2

11.  Bildad
Job 18:1-21
1

12.  Job
Job 19:1-29
1

13.  Zophar
Job 20:1-29
1

14.  Job
Job 21:1-34
1

15.  Eliphaz
Job 22:1-30
1

16.  Job
Job 23:1-24:25
2

17.  Bildad
Job 25:1-6
1

18.  Job
Job 26:1-31:40
6
End of Day 2: 10 speeches
19.  Elihu
Job 32:1-37:24
6

20.  Lord
Job 38:1-40:2
2.08

21.  Job
Job 40:3-5
0.13

22.  Lord
Job 40:6-41:34
1.79

23.  Job
Job 42:1-6
0.35

24.  Lord
Job 42:7-8
0.12

25.  Narrator
Job 42:9-17
0.53
End of Day 3: 7 speeches

Anyhow, this is how I prefer to view the book of Job. It's not 42 chapters, it's 23 speeches, plus an introduction and a conclusion.