Category Archives: Study

Stewardship of My Reading

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“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”  1 Corinthians 10:23

Anyone who reads our blog regularly knows that I am an avid reader.  I read all sorts of things:  suspense novels, historical fiction, novels that address ethical questions, legal thrillers, nonfiction books about the brain, mental illness and other medical issues, spiritual autobiographies, books on prayer and other aspects of Christian living, the Bible (of, course) and more.  None of these books are “unlawful” and sometimes I use my reading time to just relax and take my mind off my responsibilities and the stress of everyday life.  Of course, we learn something even when we read books that seem merely escapist — we increase our vocabulary, travel to foreign cultures, grow in understanding people very different from ourselves, etc….I’m sure you could add to the list.  However, it is also true that some books are more edifying than others.

Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of LifeMost of the time I am reading two books at once:  one that is just for fun, and one that builds me up in some way.  I read my serious book for a bit first thing in the morning (when I’m fresher) and the other one throughout the day and before bed. Right now my morning book is called, Gracious Uncertainty: Faith In The Second Half of Life by Jane Sigloh.  In the forward, Jane is described as a “wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, poet, vintner, cook, gardener, and story keeper.”  The book is a serious of short essays, starting with a memory about her spiritual life, many from her childhood and youth.  It has inspired me to look back on my own spiritual journey and consider writing some of those memories down for my children and grandchildren.

I also try to do my Bible study early in the day.  I’ve been reading through the book of Acts (that’s what we’re studying in our Tuesday morning class at church) and parts of 1 Kings (our Sunday School unit this quarter is called ‘Kings and Prophets–we’ve been using material from Concordia Publishing, if anyone is interested).

My point in all this is simply:  if you’re a reader, like I am, be a good steward.  Read to relax, but also try to also spent time with things that are truly worthwhile.  Don’t have much time?  Pick a book like the one I mentioned or a devotional that has short chapters or essays and read one a day.  Read through the gospels in small bites.  Read a Psalm each day.  Then think about what you’ve read.  Write down quotes or verses that strike you.  Talk to others about what you’ve been reading. Build yourself up.

P.S.  The Lutheran Ladies recently signed up to be B&H/Lifeway Bloggers, and review new books.  Look for our book reviews on our blog and B&H Publishing website.  Hopefully our reviews will point you toward some edifying reading!

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Spending Time with “God Questions”

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Spending Time with “God Questions”

Good morning! Sorry about not posting the last two days but when you have severe wind and hail damage to your roof and it is leaking, it becomes priority! LOL! On to today’s post and the conclusion of our blog study on Ecclesiastes 3… today we will take a look at verses 16-22…

I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.” I also thought about the human condition—how God proves to people that they are like animals. For people and animals share the same fate—both breathe and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust. For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die.

Wow! There is a lot going on in this passage of Scripture! Solomon is a writer who writes about what he observes and the experiences he has. I am very much like that. I, like Solomon, see such corruption in the world in places there ought not be. You probably do as well. The corruption ranges from the highest levels of government down to local magistrates. We see it in our homes, on our T.V.’s, on the internet, at school, while shopping… we even see it in the church.

You can tell Solomon is upset about his observations, rightly so. But he reminds himself that in due time everyone will be judged when they come before the throne of Grace. He is also reminding himself that he can’t right every wrong in the world, that is God’s job. Continuing his observation of destructive and evil behaviors, he reflects on our human condition, and concludes that we are not that different than the animals. We are born, we breathe, and then we die. Then he asks a question… How do we really know that humans go to heaven when they die and animals return to the earth? Solomon ponders this question, and comes to the conclusion… We only get one life so we might as well make the most of it, and enjoy it, while we are here.

I wonder if he realized he had answered his own question in one of the previous verses! Verse 11 says…

Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

We differ from animals because we have the hope of eternity… God has planted it in our hearts! To really grasp the magnitude of this we have to understand that we were put on this earth for a purpose. We (humans) are instruments of God to carry out His divine plan for life. We have to understand that the only way to know God’s plan for our life is to continually seek His face. We can’t do it by ourselves. We have to be in an intimate relationship with God, through Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to be our compass. It takes building a relationship and openness with the Triune God to figure out our purpose in life.

Spend time asking yourself… Do I grasp the immensity of the hope I have in eternity?  Am I in communion with the Triune God, building an intimate relationship? Am I living the life that God wants me to live? Do I see my life as a gift from God?

Then ask God…Why on earth did you create me for such a time as this? What can I do with my life to bring more of you to the world?

God loves you and so do I?

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of mycongregationalchurch.com

 

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

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Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

Good morning everyone! Welcome to today’s blog post on our Ecclesiastes 3 series! If this is your first time joining us please go into our archives and read the other posts for this month. They are awesome! I thank all of our regular readers for following along with this Bible Study series, planted in the words of God through King Solomon! Let’s get going, continuing with verses 14&15…

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

This is what I see in these verses…

God’s has the last say and things will happen exactly as He has planned.

Our main objective in life is to fear God… to respect and stand in awe of who He is.

The things that are going on in the world are not new concepts and neither are the things that will happen in the future.

History repeats itself.

Wow, this is mind-blowing! But then if you think about it…is it really? Reflecting on my life, there are things that I experienced that I can clearly see as God’s plan. As hard as they were to be faced with, I know deep in my heart that it was God’s purpose for my life… the things I suffered in my childhood, my mother dying of cancer when I was 16, the year of torment I suffered following her death, meeting my now husband at the end of that year, gaining a new mom in the process (my now mother in law, Mary), having children at a younger age, almost dying giving birth to our younger daughter Kirsten, being advised after her birth that I should not have any more children, the devastating finality of having my tubes tied at age 23, learning to navigate through my marriage and being a parent when I harbored so much anger and mistrust (all at the expense of my family), overcoming addictive habits, being estranged from my father for 9 years.

Then God took hold of my life, at just the right time. He gave me a new life, a new family, made the family I helped create become stronger and more unified, helped to mend the broken relationship between my dad and I, solidified my marriage with Him at the helm, made me a better parent, helped me to grow quality relationships with my daughters, help me to also grow quality relationships with other family and friends.

I couldn’t have done it without looking at the world through my “God goggles”, changing the lens by which I view the world around me. And for that I stand in awe… God leaves me speechless a lot. I can see the intricacies of how He works, how He operates. And sometimes all I can do is just smile.

Now, when I experience life, I am well equipped and those experiences don’t cripple me like they used to. History has repeated itself in my life, all part of God’s plan. But the peace… the strength… the power I have to get through those trials, comes from a mighty God, the love of my Savior, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I continually stand in awe of God… remembering the great works He has done in my life… remembering that I need to look at my trials as great joy, because when my faith is tested, my endurance has a chance to grow… and God says when my endurance grows and is fully developed, I will be perfect, complete, and need nothing else. (James 1:2-4)

And to always stand in awe, just like the Apostle Paul did when he wrote to the church in Ephesus…

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. Eph. 1:5-11

How about you? Do you understand that everything happens according to God’s plan? Do you fear, respect, and stand in awe of who He is? Can you look at your past and determine how you will be changed when history repeats itself? Do you count your trials as great joy? Do you embrace your faith being tested and remember that your endurance is giving you a chance to grow? Do you understand that when your endurance to navigate this life is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing else? Do you realize that God chose you in advance to make everything work out according to His plan?

God loves you and so do I?

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of imgrum.org

 

Spending Time With God’s Perspective

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Spending Time With God’s Perspective

Good evening! I have had something come up unexpectedly and wont be able to blog post tomorrow…so I grouped the verses together. Our Ecclesiastes 3 study continues tonight with verses 9-13…

What do people really get for their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

How do we stay content in this life with so much negativity, so much violence, so much grief. Do we ignore it? Do we keep it in the back of our minds like it doesn’t exist? Ignoring, or pretending the reality of the world doesn’t exist, or doesn’t affect us, is not a healthy state for us to be in. That is why Solomon shows us here in the first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes 3 that everything exists and operates in a proper balance. We cannot ignore that hate exists. We cannot ignore that war exists. We cannot ignore that killing, death, grief, and sadness exist.

What we can do is change the attitude of our hearts. The only way for us to find true contentment in our lives depends upon our attitude. If we constantly focus on the negative things, or on the contrary, ignore them all together, then we live in a state of disillusionment. It happens when we lose our sense of purpose…the purpose God put us on this Earth to accomplish for His Kingdom. When we keep our eyes focused on the work God has for us, we begin to realize the fruits of our labor are gifts from Him. Everything we do, everything we possess, every single minute of everyday we have is because of Him… the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Ultimately, we can never be satisfied with “earthly pleasures”. Maybe for a short window of time, but after a while the pleasure fades and we are right back to reality. Of all the people I have encountered, I have never heard any of them say that being addicted to earthly pleasures was fun and gave them hope. Maybe for a split second at first, but that “high” soon wears off and doesn’t help us learn how to change our lives for the better. Most of the time it only makes our situation worse.

God wants us to enjoy life, to live it to its fullest, to experience the beauty of His creation… but to do it in a way in which we don’t lose the proper perspective, His perspective. Then, and only then, will we discover that our joy and happiness comes from using the gifts God blesses us with, not in the stuff we accumulate.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of Proverb 31 Ministies

Love Through God Goggles

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Love Through God Goggles

Welcome to today’s blog post on Ecclesiastes 3…we continue with verse 8

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

Such a contrast between these… love/hate, war/peace… But, God’s Word says, through King Solomon, that there is a proper time for both.

The first thing Verse 8 made me think of when reading it was the saying “love the sinner, hate the sin”. There are many people I know that live in sin… living together/sexual immorality outside of marriage, drug and alcohol addiction, people who are continually dishonest, cheat, or steal. I have friends who live in alternative lifestyles, people who have shopping/spending addictions, I have a friend that is addicted to food, I have people in my life that are dealing with abuse of some kind, friends who have anger management issues. Some of these people are Christians and some of them are not. But they all have one thing in common…my love.

If you have read some of my blogs, or you know me personally, you know that I love people! I have been a people person all my life. I was modelling my love for people, the way Jesus did, before I ever even gave my life to Him. I have always wanted to love people.

Growing up, I got into a lot of trouble. Some of my own doing, but some because of the company I kept. I always gave people the benefit of the doubt, never understood how someone could be cruel to someone else, and I always stood up for people that were picked on because I knew how it felt.

I had a lot of heartache in my childhood. I was picked on, made fun of, called names, had cruel jokes played on me more than once, and not just by kids at school but my own family as well. I never felt as though I really belonged anywhere. I always felt like an outsider and always felt like the “black sheep” of the family.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that Jesus started to change my perspective. I realized how to look at people through what I call, “God goggles”. My opinion of others behavior didn’t change but I was able to look at them with a new filter. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that people who are angry, bitter, committing crimes, abusing others, trying to escape reality with drugs, alcohol, or alternative lifestyles…they are people who are hurting… just like I was when I have displayed some of those traits in my own life. People express the hurt in their hearts in so many ways.

And so that is why I am friends with all types of people. I don’t discriminate. People have asked me “How can you be friends with so and so?” And I tell them, “Just because you can see their sin doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with some of those same sins, you just don’t see it.” With some people I do take more caution for obvious reasons… I can now love them but hate the things they do. How can I do this? I’ve learned something as a Christian that I wished I had learned a long time ago… boundaries. I stick to my boundaries and guarding my heart above all else.

The second thing verse 7 made me think of was war and peace… no, not the book! I thought about war and peace in my heart. There are times in my life when I have been at war with myself, at war with God, at war with other people. There have been times in my life when I have had extreme peace in my heart, contentment within myself, my relationships, and my faith. Like I wrote in yesterday’s blog post, it is possible to be in a state of two opposite conditions of the heart simultaneously.

One for me that comes up often is spiritual warfare. As a warrior in God’s army, I am constantly fighting to protect myself from the devil’s attacks but I am at complete peace because I know that no matter what fiery arrows come my way, God is walking alongside of me. He is my heavenly father, my protector, my healer, my counselor, my provider, my comforter, my strength, and my power. That is where my peace comes from. Without it I would be lost, just like I was before I found it. Without it, I would be just like the lost, hurting people I know, who have no hope.

I love to sing! If you know me, you know that about me too! There is a song that I love to sing when I am praising my Savior for all He is for me… Because of Who You Are by Vicki Yohe. She is my favorite gospel singer. In fact it is one of the songs I have been practicing to sing at church. These are the lyrics…

Because of who you are, I give you glory
Because of who you are, I give you praise
Because of who you are, I will lift my voice and say
Lord, I worship you because of who you are
Lord, I worship you because of who you are

You see your Jehovah, Jehovah Jireh, my provider
Jehovah Nissi, Lord, you reign in victory
Jehovah Shalom, my Prince of Peace
And I worship you because of who you are

The words to this song remind me that I am His and He is mine. He is my everything, just because of who He is.

Who is God to you? Is He your everything? Or do other things hold a higher place in your heart? Are you spending more time with God or with the things of the world?

How about those “God goggles”? Do you look at others through the eyes of Christ? Or do you sit in judgement at the speck of sin in the eyes of others, meanwhile forgetting the log of sin in your own?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of hannahhelpme.com

(and by the way, my chihuahua looks just like this pic!)

Spending Time in Conditions of the Heart

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Spending Time in Conditions of the Heart

Good morning everyone! We are on to verse 7 in Ecclesiastes 3 this morning. If you are following along on your study map (found on my blog post A Time for Everything Under Heaven) you can see we are halfway through this awesome journey in Ecclesiastes 3. I want to thank each of you for reading my blog posts and learning along with me what God’s Word, through King Solomon’s writings, says about spending time and God’s proper timing for everything under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says…

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

Tearing, mending, silence, and speech…

Historically this passage refers to times of mourning and times of coming out of mourning. The Bible gives us many examples of the tearing of clothing as a sign to others that they were in this state. At St. John’s Lutheran, we are studying the book of Esther in our ladies Bible study. In Chapter 4 of Esther, Mordecai opens the scene with tearing his clothes off because he is in deep distress after learning about Haman and King Xerxes’ plot to annihilate all the Jews. This is one example God’s Word tells us about this historical act.

Ultimately the tearing of clothes had significant meaning…outward signs of the state of a person’s heart… shame, guilt, anger, grief, loss, intense pain, deep distress, sorrow, and humility. This was a powerful public expression of such emotions. This outward display of emotions was often carried out in silence but sometimes did coincide with weeping, wailing, and words.

Today, we don’t practice the act of tearing our clothes off when our hearts are hurting. We do other things… crying out to a friend or close family member, wearing dark clothing, screaming in anger… sorrow, pain and distress can be heard in our wailing and weeping, lowering our heads in humility and shame. All of these emotions can also be seen in the silent expressions on our face.

Eventually, when our lamenting is over, our heart begins to mend, just like the Jews would mend their clothes back together when their mourning was complete. The silence is broken with words of comfort, encouragement, and even laughter.

Some of us are in a state of mourning, or lamenting, as I write this blog post. Some of us are in a state of mending our hearts because the trial is over. Is it possible that we could be in both conditions in our hearts at the same time? I believe we can.

We go through so many experiences in this journey through life, all at the same time. We could be mourning the loss of close friend and also be rejoicing in the birth of a child. We can be hurt at a situation with a co-worker, but at the same time, be happy at the way the situation is handled by our boss. We can be proud of one of our children for reaching their goal and be disappointed in another for choosing the wrong path.  We can be severely angry at the way a family member is treating us… but be calm, peaceful, and level headed because we are seeking to display the Fruits of the Spirit that God has taught us.

I believe Jesus gives us the ultimate example of being in the state of both conditions when he was hanging on the cross… weeping and lamenting, crying out in pain and agony, but rejoicing in the task He knew He had to suffer as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind, reconciling us to God.

Where are you today? In a state of mourning and lamenting over the current condition of your heart? Or are you rejoicing and mending the broken pieces back together? Or perhaps, are you in a state of both conditions?

We would love to hear the stories of your hearts… what are you are going through in this crazy thing we call life?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of 123rf.com

 

 

 

 

 

To Keep Or Not To Keep?

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To Keep Or Not To Keep?

Good evening and welcome to tonight’s blog post. We are continuing with our study in Ecclesiastes 3, taking a look at verse 6…

A time to search and a time to stop searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

If you have read my blog post a few weeks back titled The Gift of Gab, you will know that I have been overwhelmed with the amount of things we have accumulated. With adult children in the house it has been difficult to keep up. (One daughter is expecting a baby in Sept. and the other just moved back home after graduating college) Verse 6 has been something that I have had on my heart for a while, especially the keeping and throwing away part. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of has been a challenge but I have left it up to God to show me what is important and what isn’t.

I have lots of books because I love to read. I have an elaborate craft room because I love to create and do art. I have boxes of my “skinny clothes” in the attic because I have been dropping weight and want to fit into them again. (I have gone down almost two whole sizes already! Yay!) I have a lot of knickknacks, glassware, silver, and china that I have inherited or were given to me as gifts. I mean really, who needs two sets of formal china and silver in this day and age?

I have already cleaned out a considerable amount of books. God said… it’s OK, you can go to the library and get any book you need. So out they went. I have gone through my art room, gathered up the things I don’t use, and took them to church for craft supplies. God said… its OK, you are not using this stuff anyway. So out it went. Even though I have been losing weight, I went through my “skinny clothes” anyway, gathering up what I know I wont wear. God said… its OK because your taste in clothes has changed over the last 6 years and some of those clothes don’t go with your new style. Now going through the knickknacks were easy! So bye bye! God said loud and clear…you don’t like to dust them anyway. Now I am on to the glassware, silver, and china. This I was wrestling with. All of these are valuable, whether monetarily, sentimental, or both. Some of the pieces I have are from our grandmothers and were handed down to us when they passed. Some of the pieces were given to us as wedding gifts, anniversary gifts, or just gifts in general…but they all have meaning, memories attached to each one. Of these things, God has said to me…these are things you keep to remind you of memories of special events, special people, and blessings of both.

What about you? Do you have things that you need to decide…is this a time to keep or is it a time to throw away?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of frugalandthriving.com.au

 

Cultivating Time

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Cultivating Time

Hello! Welcome to our blog! Today in our blog post we will be continuing our study of Ecclesiastes 3 with verse 5…

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

I will admit this verse puzzled me at first when I read it in my NLT Bible above. So I looked at what it says in The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson…

A right time to make love and another to abstain. A right time to embrace and another to part.

The Message Bible is not an exact translation, so I went into further study in my amplified Bible and it says…

A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

In pondering different versions of this passage, I couldn’t help but to think of a garden. I love gardening! So much so that I am willing to put my body at risk due to the immense nature of my outdoor allergies. (The patch of eczema on my shin that I can’t get rid of proves it! LOL) This verse makes me think of all the times in the Bible where God’s Word talks about a vineyard. A garden, or a vineyard, are the same in terms of the work it takes to cultivate it. Time to clear away the “stones” in order for the ground to be just right and time to build those “stones” back up again around the perimeter to protect it from invading pests.

As I sit here meditating on these words of King Solomon, I think about the “stones” in my heart that since becoming a Christian I have had to “cast away”… anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, impulsiveness, idolatry… just to name a few. I also reflect on the “stones” I have had to “gather”, to rebuild my heart…love, peace, joy, trust, faith, patience, gentleness, self-control. I thank God every day that He brought me to a place in my heart where I was open to receiving Him and willing to let Him be the captain of my faith journey. After all, He isn’t called the the Lord and Giver of Life for nothing!

So now I think about the second part of this verse… to embrace or not to embrace. It seems there is a time for both of these as well. I remember times in my life when I have had to embrace situations, both good and bad. Along with that, there have been times in my life when certain situations have arisen that I simply could not embrace.

Now I wonder… what do the two parts of this verse have to do with the other?

Relationships!

In any relationship, whether it be with a friend, someone you are dating, your spouse, a family member, a co-worker, or someone you just met… relationships take a lot of work to cultivate. In order to have healthy relationships your heart has to be in the right place, sowing those good seeds we talked about in a previous blog post. Why? Because you can’t grow and produce good fruit in your garden unless you “cast away stones”, just like you won’t have healthy relationships if you have stones in your heart that get in the way.

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, how do you cultivate it to make it healthy? By “gathering stones” of a different sort. Stones that build up, not tear down. Stones that protect your heart and protect the hearts of those who you are in relationships with.

Changing ground, or relationships, to be fertile and produce good fruit, takes time. Sometimes a lifetime. God will help you . His Word contains a wealth of ideas of how to do it. Ask yourself , and God, these questions…

Do I have “stones” in my heart that are affecting my relationships? If so, how can I tear them down and build them back up again in order to cultivate good fruit?

How can I replace those “stones” with ones of a different sort, ones that protect my heart and the hearts of those around me?

Are there certain relationships in my life I should embrace and are worth taking the time to fix? Are there ones I need to turn away?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of makeroomforgreatness.com