God Keeps His Word

If you have a ‘read the Bible in a year’ plan, you’re probably hitting the book of Leviticus about now. That’s tough reading and seems so far removed from today. Yet, God has preserved his Word for us. A thousand years before Christ, David sought refuge from Saul among the rocks and caves along the Dead Sea in a spot called Ein Gedi. There, he was safe from attack and supplied by a freshwater spring.  Five hundred years after Christ, a little Jewish town had sprung up in that very same spot. Not long after that, a fire destroyed it and the inhabitants moved away. In 1970, the town was re-discovered by archaeologists. Among the discoveries was the local synagogue. Inside the burned-out ruins, they found ancient parchment scrolls of Scripture which had been badly damaged. Among the find was a small, carbonized scroll that was too fragile to read or even attempt to open. The scroll, which looked more like a little briquette, was left to sit in a storage box for another 45 years. New technology developed by the University of Kentucky was used to determine the contents. Using new digital imaging software they developed, scientists were able to see the different layers of the scroll and recreate it in a two-dimensional format. The text is from Leviticus chapters 1 and 2. The clearest verses are the first eight from chapter one. Ironically, Leviticus begins with a section on burnt offerings. Archaeologists have good reason to appreciate this discovery, but it’s even more encouraging for Christians. Our modern Bible was translated into English not from original copies (which have never been found), but from the oldest available copies dating back to the 10th century A.D. This has led some critics of the Bible to claim that the Bible we have today has been changed or altered along the way. However, this little fragment found in Ein Gedi (written before the 4th century) conforms in every respect to the Masoretic Text from which we translate our Bible. This means that for over several hundred years, the text was copied with careful accuracy – nothing changed or altered. This gives further proof that God has preserved his Word and we can have confidence in the Scriptures we read today. The words of the Lord are pure words,    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,    purified seven times.You, O Lord, will keep them (Psalm 12:6-7a) It might seem like a little thing, but I find it’s the little things along the way that help strengthen our faith.

Grace For A Busy Life

Why is it so hard to get things done? We all have a to-do list that never seems to end. On top of that, we have goals and dreams that we want to accomplish. At times it seems like we make little progress. For many of us, life is just too busy. We are working hard at our careers, raising a family, and trying to find balance. Maybe you started the year with some new goals or resolutions. You promised yourself that you’d work harder to make some things happen. You would change some of your routines and pursue some goals. We are now six weeks into the new year and for many people, those goals seem to be slipping away. There are times when we have to offer ourselves a little grace in the same way we would extend it to others. We can be our own worst enemies and often judge ourselves too harshly. I’m not saying we should be lazy or give up pursuing our goals. It’s just that when we live without grace, we can grow blind to the things that are really important. Much of the disappointment and anxiety we feel is self-inflicted. It’s important to make sure we have perspective and stay refreshed. Proverbs 12:25,Worry weighs us down;    a cheerful word picks us up. It might be time to take a pause and revise some of those new year’s resolutions. What’s realistic? What is important in this season of life? What relationships are you nurturing and paying attention to? We can keep moving forward if we are intentional but don’t despair if everything doesn’t get finished in a day. Feed yourself with some cheerful words. The Lord has grace for you and sometimes you just need to rest in that.

Keeping It Simple

A few years ago, Marie Kondo had a hit TV show called Tidying Up. In each show, she would visit a family and help them tidy their home. Often the biggest job was helping them get rid of things they really didn’t need. Keeping everything tidy and organized was a virtue. Recently, she made the news again. Since having her third child, she admits that it’s a lot of work to keep everything tidy. She says, “I realise what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.” Marie Kondo and some other YouTube stars have been at the forefront of the recent ‘minimalism’ movement. In a world that is so consumer-driven, many people are finally seeing the dangers of having too much stuff. The more stuff you have, the more work it is to look after everything. It can be expensive and sometimes bad for the planet. Long before the current wave of minimalism, there were Christian believers urging us to live simply. That is, to live with what we need and to hold our possession lightly. Simplicity is actually a spiritual practice, along with prayer and Bible reading. Jesus spoke to this issue in Matthew 6:28-30, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” Richard Foster in his chapter on The Discipline of Simplicity lists ten outward expressions of simplicity. I think they are helpful to consider: Each of those points deserves more thought and explanation but it’s a good list. Keeping our life simple, free from the pressure of caring for material goods means we can spend more time and energy on the people around us and pay attention to what the Lord is doing in our lives.

A Generous Life

What does a generous life look like? Generous in what way? For some people, it means giving money to worthy causes. For others, it might be using their time with someone who needs comfort or help with chores.  We can use our social connections to help others find employment or support for a difficult situation. Our world often points to those who make grand gestures, but giving is more about a lifestyle than a one-time donation. It’s a spiritual discipline that all Christians need to practice.   Proverbs 11:24-25:  “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.  A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”   How can we practice generosity?  Remember that’s it not the amount that counts, but the spirit in which we give to and serve others. I came across this little story on the internet about a wealthy man who complained to the pastor about giving.  “Do you have any idea how much money I make? How could I possibly give 10 percent away?” To which the pastor, replied, “Let’s pray together that God will reduce your income to a level where you feel comfortable giving 10 percent away.”   Giving is hard, no matter how much you have. Generosity fits a disciple and it’s all about the posture of the heart. You can’t out-give God!