Saturday, September 10, 2011

But God

If anyone has taken a class with me they have heard me comment about how much I love the "but's" in the Bible.

"But God" is a phrase that encompasses the hope that is within the veil that is the anchor of our very souls.

We were in the depravity of our minds, the deceitfulness of our hearts, and the wickedness of our actions... BUT GOD!

How beautiful these words are as we look up from the pits we have dug with our own hands... but God :-) 

Below is a letter from an email prayer update I receive from a beautiful woman of God who leads precept classes in a women's prison... don't miss the "but God" and when you finish reading please also lift Mary Alice up in prayer as she goes to the front lines to teach the Word of God to those that a lot of us would never even consider as having hope of repentance and entrance into the kingdom of Light... but God... 

"For while we were still helpless,
at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 
For one will hardly die for a righteous man;
though perhaps for the good man
someone would dare even to die. 
But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

Dear Praying Friends,

2:30pm class:  Before class I noticed Virginia's gigantic smile and couldn't help but ask, "Virginia, what's up?"

You won't believe what the Lord has done!  I have been down (incarcerated) for 39 years!  I'm 73 years old!  They wouldn't even give me a parole date!  The chairman of the parole board told me last time that I was lucky she was retiring because, there was no way she would grant me parole!  Well, there she was, sitting on the board again. 
My lawyer leaned over to me and said, 'This doesn't look good, she's back.'
And I told him, 'God is in control of my future, not this board.'
Virginia said, "When I entered the room, I smiled at everyone....they smiled back!"
"It's such a wonderful feeling when you know God is in charge," she noted to me with absolute assurance. "Much to everyone's surprise, they observed the change in me and granted me parole, my date is in March 2012!"

She continued her story, "I did some really bad things in the 60's, she hung her head and whispered something about teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa, smuggling drugs and guns to Mexico.  I hurt everybody I came in contact with and if I do get out, somehow I want to make it up to them.  Especially my family and friends.  I caused a lot of pain, MaryAlice.  I caused a lot of pain."

"Virginia," I comforted, "We can't make up for the pain we've caused people.  But what we can do is received God's forgiveness and offer our sincere apologies."

"Oh, I have," she interrupted, "Everyone of them have forgiven me.  But I just feel like I need to do something for all I've done."

"You can, Virginia," I encouraged, "Please God by growing in Him and serving Him and He will take care of the rest!"

She proceeded to tell me about how mean she was and that she was sent to different prisons all over the US to house her.  "Some states didn't want me," she recounted.  "I was really bad.  I would slash officers if they got even close to me and if I couldn't reach them I would slash myself," she said as she held up her arms so I could see the scars.  "I was a wild man," she shook her head, "But God...."

"Oooh, my favorite two words," I interrupted!

"Mine too," Virginia agreed.  "But God kept sending officers and health workers and even a warden to me who didn't give up on me.  Who were compassionate and kind.  I would get even meaner, but they just kept being kind until I couldn't take it anymore...I couldn't be can you be mean to so much compassion and kindness?  It broke me!  I cried and cried." (That's a BIG deal in prison, no one admits to crying!)

I thought to myself...the love of God compels me...His mercies are new every morning...

Virginia changed from that day's been 10 years since that day, but the last year has been a huge change!  She is totally sold out to our Jesus!  She handles the Word with accuracy and can make application.   Wow!  But there's more...

When you break a law in prison,  "Bad points" are applied against you on your record.  The most "good points" you can earn in a year to remove the "bad points" are 8.  Virginia has over 400 bad points against her still but the parole board intentionally overlooked those due to the remarkable transformation!  "It's God, MaryAlice, it's God!  There's just no other explanation for it!  I didn't ask for anything, I was content with 'whatever you want, Lord'  and look what He did!"

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold,
new things have come." 
2 Corinthians 5:17

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Angry Voice

The other day I was fixing supper and my youngest came into the kitchen to tell me about something her big sister had done to her. She came in explaining in her poor pitiful me voice that her big sister was getting on to her in my "angry voice" and was acting like she was her momma.

What my children, my little precious bundles of joy recognize that I, the one who gave birth to them has an "angry voice" and it is "my angy voice"?
I was shocked!
Well not really...
Yes, I have a angry voice and yes, I use it.

At first I felt condemnation at this realization? Am I not to be kind? Am I not to be sweet tempered? Am I not to be gentle?

Oh I hear sweet soft spoken mom's who never seem to "lose it" with their children... I hear them and I think. I will do better. I will become like them. I will remain calm always. I will become even tempered if it kills me. But alas this red-head (yes, I shall blame the red-head, I have it and I shall use it, lol) along with my touch of Irish blood (you know "the fighting Irish") just seems to get me every time.

The most frustrating thing is that the "angry voice" does not rise up out of my throat until my sweet voice has done asked at least twice, there just is something about that third time... But somehow, for some strange reason, my children amazingly seem to comprehend my words and act upon my request the moment the "angry voice" emerges.

Sometimes I feel as though I should just skip the polite requests and just jump straight to the "angry voice"

As I have pondered my "angry voice" I was reminded of a passage in Isaiah...

 Again the LORD spoke to me further, saying,
 "Inasmuch as these people have rejected
the gently flowing waters of Shiloah
And rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah; 
“Now therefore, behold,
the Lord is about to bring on them
the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates,
Even the king of Assyria and all his glory;
And it will rise up over all its channels
and go over all its banks."
Isaiah 8:5-7

And here it is. The children ignoring the gentle sweet voice of their Father, not seeming to hear Him at all... then comes the "angry voice".

Have you ever been on the receiving end of the "angry voice" of God?

How many times has God gotten to the point that He has had to use His angry voice simply because we will not obey the sweet gentle sound of His small still whisper?

I do not believe that God enjoys having to whip out His angry voice to get His children to hear and obey Him anymore than I enjoy having to use mine to get my children to hear and obey me.

Now the "angry voice" is not to be used to belittle, bash, or abuse, it simply is re-stating the exact same request in a more forceful tone, the "I mean business, now!" tone.
My angry voice is usually preceded by the question "how many times do I have to tell you to...?"
And it usually ends with the "do you understand me?" or "if I have to tell you again it will be with the belt"

I don't enjoy disciplining my children. I don't enjoy the angry voice. I would much rather they simply choose to simply do what I ask when I ask them...

Hmmmm I am sure my Heavenly Father looks down upon me with the very same sentiment. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Woman Behave Thy Self

"For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women
causing them to look with contempt on their husbands
by saying,
‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti
to be brought in to his presence,
but she did not come.’"
Esther 1:17

My girls and I are studying through the book of Esther. The verse above is the memory verse they are to learn from the study of the first chapter. When I saw this was the recommended memory verse my first response was, "Why on earth is this the memory verse?"  

I mean, really?

At a casual first reading of this first chapter in the book of Esther, my initial reaction to Vashti's response to the King, was "You go girl! You ain't his puppet on a string! You ain't just some thang for him and his buddies to gawk over! That's right honey, you just say no!" 

But that initial, first response is the reason why this is the memory verse.

"For a man ought not to have his head covered,
since he is the image and glory of God;
but the woman is the glory of man."
1 Corinthians 11:7 

When we dig a little deeper in this chapter of Esther we see that there are three banquets. The first lasts for 180 days and is for all the "big dogs" of the land. The second lasts for 7 days and is for all the kingdom from the greatest to the least. The third was Queen Vashti's party for the women.

The King calls his Queen after this second 7 day banquet. He called her to come not just before him, but before her people. He called her to display her beauty as a picture of the beauty of the kingdom and as a representation of his glory. This call was not a "common cat call". It wasn't simply to call all the boys together and give Vashti a slap on the booty and say "boys ain't she perty!"

This was Queen Vashti's call to come and represent the glory of her husband who was also her king. This was her time to come into the presence of the people with her back straight and her head held high, to come in honor and respect, while her husband, and yes the people of her kingdom, looked upon her with her pride and admiration.

"As for Titus,
he is my partner and fellow worker among you;
as for our brethren,
 they are messengers of the churches,
a glory to Christ. 
Therefore openly before the churches,
show them the proof of your love
and of our reason for boasting about you."
2 Corinthians 8:23-24  

Should our husbands not be able to say:
As for my wife, she is my partner and fellow worker in this life, she is a messenger of our family and a glory to me as a man, her husband who is the head of her home. So honey, come and show them the proof of your love for me and the reason why I speak so highly of you... I would love for you to meet my beautiful wife.

(I don't know about you, but I find absolutely nothing insulting about that.)

What Queen Vashti did, was spit in her king's face. She despised is place as head over their family and head over this kingdom. She did not show him any respect what-so-ever.

each individual among you
also is to love his own wife
even as himself,
and the wife
must see to it
that she respects her husband."
Ephesians 5:33

The thing is, I do believe that the King had fulfilled his end of this verse. He loved Vashti as himself, he equated her with his glory and the splendor of his majesty. He boasted of her beauty to everyone in the kingdom, even when the wine was talking, he was still talking about his beautiful wife...
but did Vashti respect her man?

Ummm no, I don't think so.

You see she had her own personal feminist movement taking place at banquet #3. She had all her "girls" around her and I imagine they were having a full blown "man bash" at this little get-to-together. I can hear them now... "Oh you think yours is sorry, let me tell you what mine did..." 

(Now please know this is not to say that we do not need to seek wise counsel as we learn this role "wife" in marriage, wise counsel is a must, issues will arise in marriage, but these issues are meant to be discussed with someone who can advise you as an impartial, someone who will speak truth into your life and not just encourage your own personal side of the situation ) 

 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior,
not malicious gossips
nor enslaved to much wine,
teaching what is good, 
so that they may encourage the young women
to love their husbands,
to love their children, 
to be sensible,
workers at home,
being subject to their own husbands,
so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  
Titus 2:3-5

Then the call comes for Vashti to come to her king...
Vashti could have used some wise counsel at this time, she needed some teaching, but instead I lean more to believe that what she got was more like this:

Can't you just here the girls...
"Oh no he didn't!" 
"Well, I'm just sayin if I was you I would tell him, 'I don't think so!'"  
"Oh girl, it's time for you to take a stand"
"Girl, don't worry, he'll be mad, but he'll come around when he wants some."  
"Yeh, Mr Euneuch boy, go tell the Kingy that his Queeny said she's busy."
"Girl, this is your time, you better tell him to step!"

Woman behave thy self!

Your King has called.
Your beloved has summoned you into his presence.
He's had you on his mind.
He's been talking about you for days... what else could you possibly want?
Why on earth would you spit in his face and insult his honor and disrespect his authority before his people by denying him such a simple request? 

Ladies, wives, let us be very careful how we represent and respect our husbands... have we not seen the fulfillment of the fear that these men had over Vashti's response to the King in our current day? Maybe we have so many "sorry men" simply because we have made it that way by our lack of respect toward them. We are not meant to cower before men in fear, but simply to respect and submit to our own husbands and honor them as men called to protect us, care for us, provide for us as the representation of Christ and His bride...

Yes I know that in this life, in our marriages, we can not demand, nor control their love for us, or the way they treat us, or honor us. Your husband may be cold, he may be indifferent, he may be borderline cruel, but we can still choose to be obedient to our Maker who is our eternal Husband (Isaiah 54:5).
We can show respect to our husbands (even if they seem not to deserve it) by our obedience to God's instructions to us as wives. Our husbands are responsible to God for their own actions, as we are for ours. Let us just be obedient to God and leave the consequences to Him.

**** Disclosure****
I do not mean abusive by "borderline cruel"... if your spouse physically or emotionally or mentally abuses you or your children seek help immediately. Talk to someone now. Don't put it off another day. There is hope for your marriage and for your future. 

New Blog

After submitting my second book to my publisher and realizing that maybe, just maybe, there was another way to do this... I have decided to not go through with a second publication.

Having recently discovered the "blog world" I have instead chosen to take my vision of a devotional series through the Torah, the books of the Law, and turn it into a blog that will go past the Torah and all the way to Revelation:

Devotional Studies Through The Bible

I hope that you will join me on this journey as well, and that you will share this blog with your family, and friends, and all those you meet in your own blogging communities, and outside them as well.

As much as it thrilled me to receive that "yes, we would love to publish your manuscript" my desire never really was for a royalty check... but that God might use me to open eyes to the beauty and relevance of the Old Testament.
The pressure of wondering if people will actually buy the book is more pressure than I want to bear at this time. It is a weight I need not carry, for my joy is in sharing the gospel, teaching the Word, and simply not leaving all that God has shone me in my study time in a notebook in the attic, but getting it out there in the world so maybe it will help someone else.

Devotions From Genesis is out and books are still selling and there even is another book signing coming up in October, I of course, would be overjoyed to have everyone purchase a copy of this book, but the dream is not to just sit at a table and sign a book, but to tell of the glory of my Creator God and leave someone with a tangible thing to take with them that will hopefully help them to persevere through all the begots and cubits and names that are almost impossible to pronounce. 

Maybe someday I will pursue the publication of Devotions from Exodus Part 1 and Part 2, and then Leviticus, and Numbers, and so on, but then it will simply be turning the blog into books and not the books into a blog.

So my friends I invite you to join me on this journey through the Bible, one devotion at a time, beginning today...  :-)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rainy Sunday

There is something about a rainy Sunday that is so calming. It's days like this that I wish we had a open building with a tin roof with a hammock hanging close to the opening yet still under the shelter of the roof...

This Sunday begins a new time in life. A new church year, a new class... for both me and my husband. We have shared our Sunday morning class for the past 10 years, either as attenders or teachers. This season I am teaching one class, the Precept study, Spiritual Gifts, and he is attending an all men's class. He has said today that he very much enjoyed the class.
I love couple classes, but I agree that there also are times that certain needs cannot be met in a couple's class that can be met in an all men's or all women's class. It's also good to be able to switch up your class in order to get to know more of the people in your church. I am glad that our church has chosen to take the steps that we have in order to open the door to do exactly that.

[and yes if you live in my area this is an official invite to join me in worship at Shiloh :-) if I have even just managed to make you a little bit curious about this man our Biblebelt South calls Jesus, then come and allow me to introduce Him to you as I know Him... it would be my pleasure]

So this rainy Sunday has been a good day. We enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship with other believers. Our pastor was rushed to the hospital in the early morning with a possible appendicitis, but he is good now, no appendicitis. In the meantime our youth minister brought an excellent message on how it is time for the church- me, us, you, to live differently.

It reminded me of another quote from Dr Martin Luther King Jr:

For so many Christians, Christianity, is a Sunday activity having no relevancy for Monday and the church is little more than a secular social club having a thin veneer of religiousity. Jesus is an ancient symbol whom we do the honor of calling Christ, and yet his Lordship is neither affirmed nor acknowledged by our substanceless lives... We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must recapture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ. Whether on the village streets or in the city jails, they daringly proclaimed the good news of the gospel. Their reward for this audacious witness was often the excrutiating agony of a lion's den or the poignant pain of a chopping block, but they continued in the faith that they had discovered a cause so great and had been transformed by a Saviour so divine that even death was not too great a sacrifice... Where is that kind of fervour today? Where is that kind of daring, revolutionary commitment to Christ today? Is it hidden behind smoke screens and altars? Is it buried in a grace called respectability? Is it inextricably bound with nameless status quos and imprisoned within cells of stagnant mores? This devotion must again be released. Christ must once more be enthroned in or lives.    

but after we had already suffered
and been mistreated in Philippi,
as you know,
we had the boldness in our God
to speak to you
the gospel of God
amid much opposition
1 Thessalonians 2:2

So as I sit here in the comfort of my home and listen to the rain fall, and dream of listening to it rain on a tin roof while I lay in a hammock and watch it fall, I also contemplate the reality that I am too comfortable and I am indeed reaching the point that I am uncomfortable in my comfort and I have an ever increasing longing to be one who is called strange, even a fool, by the world because I "am intoxicated with the wine of God's grace" as I boldly proclaim the gospel of my God.

On the day I called, You answered me;
You made me bold with strength in my soul.
Psalm 138:3