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August 28, 2012

Judges

This past Sunday I started my Bible study off on a "Journey Through Judges."  I believe the Old Testament is all too often ignored and by doing so we don't get the most complete picture of God that we can.  Partially because we don't want to... We try to ignore the violence of the Old Testament, the gruesomeness and bloodshed.  We struggle with thinking, "My God, full of mercy and grace, surely cannot be a God of vengeance" and resolve ourselves to just overlook the Old Testament as a whole.  But you have to read the Old Testament in order to figure it out.  We know from the Old Testament that  God promised Abraham a nation of descendants and the promised land.  We also know that by the time Abraham had died, this promise had not yet been fulfilled.  We have the story of his family living in this land, and eventually moving to Egypt because of a drought and the fortune of Joseph having made a name for himself despite his brothers selling him into slavery.  We have the Jewish people eventually becoming slaves in Egypt, then being led out of bondage and into the desert where they wandered.  When they finally reached the promised land, they feared the people more than God, so He made them wander some more so the generation that disobeyed died off and their descendants entered the promised land.

And here comes some of the worst part, the part that people really begin to have trouble with.  The Israelites march in to the promised land and God had commanded them to wipe all of the people out.  How could God command such a thing?  The murder of cities, including the women and children?  That's just not the God we know in the New Testament, is it?  But what happened in the promised land between the time that Abraham was promised it and the time that the Israelites moved in to conquer it?  God tells us in the Bible He did not let them take it over the first time because He was giving them time to repent of their sins.  REPENT.  That's funny.  And guess what, we can tell from the context of the Bible that in all of that time, the people of that land did not repent of their sin, but instead became even more corrupt in their sin.  God gave them more than enough time to repent, yet they turned further away.  So judgement came upon them through the Israelites.  Their cultures were so corrupt, everything had to be destroyed, otherwise it would be like thorns and snares to the Israelites who were to remain pure.  And sure enough, they disobeyed God by NOT destroying everything, and look how that turned out.

This is where the Book of Judges comes in.  The Israelites stir up God's anger by their disobedience in not wiping out everything.  Is this simply because He wanted to murder?  Not at all!  He commanded this because in His wisdom He knew that the Israelites would be corrupted by any remnants of the people and culture, just as they were.  The remnants of immorality corrupted them and they turned away from the Lord to serve other gods.  So God withdrew His had from them so they lost to the nations they had left in the land.  But you also have a perfect image of God's abundant grace and mercy in this book.  Every time they were being attacked and/or persecuted by one of these nations, they cried out to God.  Even though He had every right to forsake them, He heard their cries and took compassion on them.  He rose up judges to deliver them from their oppressors.  Soon as they were back on their feet, they turned away from Him yet again and the cycle happened all over.  And each time God listened to their cries and delivered them.

If you are uncomfortable with the Old Testament, I challenge you to really look into it and start reading it.  I am sure there will be a lot in there that will surprise you.  And the parts that you struggle with, pray that God will open your heart for either understanding or acceptance and that it will come in time.  I'm excited to take this "Journey Through Judges" with my Bible Study and I hope we learn a lot from it!

August 24, 2012

Trusting Him

I've never had much money.  I started working at 16, but most of my money went to gas and food at school.  I wished I had more money to buy the stuff I want, but I never worried about not having enough.  That wasn't until college where I had to be financially responsible for myself.  Since then, I've had to worry about money.

My income always seemed to cover just the bills, with some occasionally left over for food.  There were times that I didn't eat to pay bills.  It's been a struggle and stressful.  But late in college, something happened.  Marie's and my relationship hit bottom.  Ask either of us, and we will tell you that it was a very painful time for us.  But God took that pain and in it He built a foundation for trusting and relying on Him.  Marie and I both healed, and I began trusting God with more of my life.

I was making enough to save some money and buy a ring, and I did just that.  But shortly after Marie and I were married, I lost my job, and money was more of a worry than ever, especially as I was about to head to the seminary.  But, I leaned on that foundation fo trust in God and He has been faithful.  Although money has been tight, we have never missed a payment, and we have enough food to eat.  Every time a bill has come up and we didn't have the money to cover it, the money has come from somewhere.  It's not always easy to trust God, but I know that a life dependent on Him is a life more full of blessing than a life of comfort and ease.

I pray that God ever increases my faith to trust more in Him.  He has shown me He is faithful, and I desire to trust in Him not only with my finances, but my life.  I pray that He helps me be bold and courageous to not fear those that can hurt and harm me in this world as I proclaim His Word.  I also challenge you, what ways in your life can you/do you need to trust God.  He is faithful, and if you give it over to Him, He will take care of you.

Some time off

A week ago Timothy passed Greek and jumped into the fountain on campus. (It's a tradition for all those who pass summer Greek. Why? Because they like to smell like fountain water and chlorine. Or at least that's why I think it is.) He's enjoying some rest for his brain before he enters Hebrew and Greek Readings on September 3. It's been nice not having to worry about his schedule this week.

As for me, I'm now working at Concordia Historical Institute as a part-time membership manager and receptionist. CHI keeps the records for all Missouri Synod churches in America. However, it is not affiliated with Concordia Seminary, the Concordia Universities or the LCMS governing bodies. It's a third party and I spend a lot of my time explaining this. I'm enjoying it there. Today is the last day of my second week and I'm starting to get it all figured out. While I have the basics down, I'm still learning how to handle all the special once-a-year things that come up. I also have yet to figure out the previous membership manager's filing system (in both the file cabinet and the computer). It will take lots of time before I have that worked out. I'm still seeking part-time employment to fill the rest of my days so I can quit the Gap. (I do have a few leads on this and am hopeful that this will happen before too long.) Gap has been long enough for me. I've realized that I'm getting too old to be working in retail. (Yes you can laugh now. 24 is too old for retail.) I've matured beyond what that job has for me.

That brings me to another point. I figured our why I'm unhappy sometimes in St. Louis. I'm not fulfilled in what I'm doing here. For the past two years, I filled my days with teaching, school and working at the Gap Outlet. I had relational, social, intellectual and practical aspects to fill my days. At the end of it, I had two years of college teaching experience and 94-pages of my thesis to show for it. I was clearly doing something with my life. Now, the things I am doing are less clear. Even with CHI, I am a replaceable employee. Many people could do what I am doing. I have less social aspects to my life, since I'm not at school nearly each day Monday through Friday. I have to learn to be fulfilled in new ways.

Last night's Bible study got me thinking on these lines. Mount Calvary's women's group is currently going through Divine Design one day per each week. We're looking at how the Lord wants to give us a spiritual make-over (a la Stacie and Clinton of What Not To Wear). It can be quite cheesy at times but it has got me thinking. I seek fulfillment in my life (of the world, if you will). Rarely, do I look to God as my fulfillment. This is a problem (you can ask Timothy about it, as it's effected our relationship too). Perhaps that is what I need to learn. I always thought that I would graduate and find a full-time job that I adored with very little problems. That has not been that case. Coping with part-time employment and not letting it affect my morale is going to be hard. It's going to be harder still to shift my thinking about what is fulfilling in my life. Yet with God's help, I will make it through.

Thank you all for all your prayers and support in these past summer months. We are truly humbled and very blessed by you all.

August 7, 2012

Elections and other thoughs

Missouri primaries were today and it was Timothy's second time voting! (His first time was a special amendment issue in May.) I also found out today that our district is apparently very EXTREMELY Democratic. All signs near our polling location were for Democratic candidates. The Republicans have written us off. That got me thinking: How often do I write off God? My last post wasn't too hopeful (downright forlorn, just to use a spiffy word). I was discouraged. I'm trying not to be right now. I've had a couple interviews (Commerce Bank, Concordia Historical Institute, and a staffing agency for two full-time positions at HomeWorks! and the American Optometric Association) and I'm trying to let God work through all of that without letting my thoughts rule the outcomes. I'm also being stretched. I may find part-time work instead of full-time.

In the end, it may not matter. Timothy and I have been talking about extending his stay at the seminary through a dual Master's program. He'd stay a year longer, complete a thesis or comprehensive exams, and graduate with a Master's in Sacred Theology and a Master's in Divinity (as an ordained pastor). The program would prepare him for returning for a PhD if he ever wanted to teach. The extra year in St. Louis (as well as no full-time job) gives me the freedom to look into another Master's, this time in Library Science. Mizzou runs an accredited program through UMSL. I still need lots of details before we could figure out if this would be a viable option to have both of us in school at the same time.

In other news, I've joined a women's Bible study through Mount Calvary where we have been attending. We're going through Divine Design by Sharla Fritz. It got me thinking about how (to use Sharla's language) our deceitful desires lead to sin. One of mine (and I think many of ours) is the desire for comfort and stability. This leads to my sin of worry and anxiousness. No where does God promise us that our lives will ever reach a point where we feel secure in our situation, whether this is physically, financially or emotionally. God only promises to be there through everything. In a way, it is a blessing to not be stable. That way we are not tempted into complacence with our situation or pride in the things we have done. Granted, I find it very difficult to view my life as a blessing now, but this fresh perspective was needed.

Life is busy...

It's been a while since I've written. It hasn't been because I have forgotten or I've lost interest, but life has been extremely busy. We're getting in crunch time with Greek, and our school store opened on Wednesday and so I've been busy with that. Now that it's open life should slow down a bit, especially since Erika is about to hire the second student worker. So I promise I will write soon, especially since there are a few things I want to blog about...