The Key Word in the Longest Chapter of the Word of God

Word

The Word of God is referenced as being quick, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing right through our hearts. Sometimes as teachers or as parents we find different ways to tell our kids the same thing. We might use different examples or different words, but the idea is to have our kids get the point.

I think God does that in Psalm 119. Even though it’s a psalm and not a chapter, it’s the longest “chapter” in the Bible.

This Psalm is divided into 22 stanzas, and there are 176 verses.

You know what I find amazing? Every single verse  includes a reference to God’s Word. Check it out. There are many facets to the Word of God.

These words are included: precepts, commandments, testimonies, judgments, law, wordstatues, ordinances, way, truth.

Sometimes I pick up my Bible and go through that chapter just to be reminded of how important is His Word.  Each time, I find treasures about the wealth and richness of His Word, I am encouraged in my walk with Jesus to keep holding on to the Word.

How important is the Word of God to us?

  • Is it the guide by which we follow?
  • Is it the plumb by which we align?
  • Is it the standard by which we measure?
  • Is it the law by which we live?
  • Is it the truth on which we stand?

How about you? What touches you about the theme in this longest chapter of the Word of God?

 

Word of God

Open House – Easy Hospitality (and a new Book)

hospitality“There’s somebody pounding on the door,” Sandy told me. [names have been changed]

Two o’clock in the morning?! Who could that be?!

The night seemed foreboding. Could this be a ploy?  Looking through the window I saw only her, crying, “Please help me. I’ve been raped.”

Cold, wet, and trembling, she rushed inside when I opened the door and ushered her to the sofa. In short gasps, she told her story, admitting she had lied. She was not raped, but was threatened. He offered her a ride home at the bar where they met. Instead, he drove down the forlorn River Road. When he threatened her in his stupor, she opened the car door and fell out. Waiting in the bushes until she thought he was gone, she ran to the trailer nestled next to a large warehouse by the river.

“I saw the light on the porch, and I felt I could trust you,” she sobbed.

The man drove by and then turned, coming back our way. That was when she begged to be let inside. Even after she was inside, he kept driving by our trailer.

There were two other guests in our trailer that night. My sister (asleep in the room we were sharing) and an elderly Amish man, asleep in my bedroom.

When it seemed safe to leave, we drove her to her apartment.  We never saw her again.

Is it wrong to take risks?  Was it wise to allow her into our home? Do we only invite others into our world when we feel prepared and safe?

Wide awake after our return, I remembered my prayer a few months before. A single nurse living fifty miles from home, I felt disconnected and frustrated that my schedule prohibited me from participating regularly in church events.

One day I told God, “I feel useless with little to give, but I offer my trailer to You.”

God took me up on that offer.  Within a few months, a family asked permission to park their motor home at our place during the father’s hospitalization for cancer. They hooked their power to our electric meter and ran a hose from our water supply.  Several weeks later, Sandy, a single mom asked to stay with us one night a week while taking college classes. Our sofa became her bed. During that same period, an Amish woman from our community had surgery at our hospital. We offered my bed to her husband Reuben and I moved in with my sister. That was why both Sandy and Reuben were with us the night this girl arrived on our porch.

And I thought all I had was a two-bedroom trailer.

God only asks us to share what we have. He will use it.

When the disciples suggested the crowds be sent away, Jesus instructed them to feed those people.  Really? Feed 5,000 men plus women and children? They had been busy all day long. It was late. They were tired and wanted to go home. But then, since when should hospitality only be practiced when it looks fun?

There was a lad with a lunch of five loaves and two fish. It wasn’t much, but it became more than enough.

hospitality

God asks us to share what we have for His use.

On a whim one Sunday, my Sunday school teacher invited her class for lunch. She also invited her son’s friends who were our age. I have no idea how over a dozen boys and girls squeezed into their car for the ride home. I cannot tell you what food was served or the design on the plates at her table. Never mind that my teacher had a heart condition, was never healthy, and died young.  All I know is fifty years later this is still one of my favorite childhood memories. What made it so special? Her spontaneous warmth and affirmation.

 

God will use what we willingly share.

The Shunamite woman saw Elisha’s need as he came through her community. She and her husband built a simple room onto their house with a bed, a table, and a chair. Her purpose? To meet the needs of the Prophet. What an example of gracious hospitality! Read the story in 2 Kings 4.

God will use what we have and share.

When I was a child, my church owned three meeting houses, one centrally located and the other two at opposite ends of the county. Our congregation rotated meeting centrally one Sunday and at opposite ends on alternate Sundays. Because of travel distance, folks outside the community chose a home to visit for lunch, arriving unannounced and uninvited! What fun to decide where we would go this Sunday. On opposite Sundays, we waited expectantly to see what guests might come.

Years later, my aunt shared about the Sunday people kept coming until she had twenty guests plus her family of eight to serve. Going to the basement to get more canned fruit, she had a good cry before heading back upstairs.

We have lost something since then. Or perhaps some of us never found it in the first place!

Hospitality is an art and a command.  Some of us might need a little more practice and experience, but the ability is right there if we are willing to hone that heart attitude.

When folks feel the welcome and the warmth of a gracious host, they fail to notice a less than perfect house. Lonely people need belonging and care, not exotic food and fanfare. Waiting until we are ‘ready’ or ‘feel like’ having company is no way to practice hospitality.  In fact, it is not true hospitality.

There are many ways to do hospitality, and there is no set standard. Be who you are, and share what you have. Hospitality is not about entertaining or about showing off what we own or what we can do. Hospitality is not a competition.  It is about blessing others with belonging, value, and importance. Hospitality is the affirmation we give to others that they are worthy.

When we invite folks whose lifestyles we cannot approve into our homes, we are giving them Jesus. When we share what we have to help ease the burdens of others, we are sharing the compassion of Jesus. When we provide rest and refreshment for God’s people, we are enabling their mission.

God wants us to give what we have, doing it willingly and cheerfully. He wants us to open, not only the doors of our homes, but the doors of our hearts as well.

 

hospitality

 

Hors Devours on Hospitalityhospitality

This article was first published in Daughters of Promise magazine. For more information about this magazine, go to the site here.  This article (as well as one other one previously published in this magazine) has also been printed in the book Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in Their Own Words.  Published in July of 2018, you can find this book at this link:

For more information about this book, contact Herald Press at 800-245-7894.

 

hospitality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Begins with a Sea and Ends with a River

riverJust a few days after Pharoah kicked the Isaraelites out of Egypt, he changed his mind and came after them. He came with soldiers and 600 of his best chariots and horses. The Israelites were afraid, but God told them he’d take care of that problem. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place (actually, it was more like stuck between a Sea and a Pharaoh).

God told them, “You don’t have to fight this battle. Just stand still and see!”

Really, did they have a choice in the matter?! To go back would have meant either slavery or death. To move forward would have meant suicide by drowning.

Just when they needed a miracle, God showed up. He told Moses to stretch out his hand with his rod in it. As Moses obeyed, God parted the waters. We’re talking walls of water standing up on end for hours and for miles as God’s over two million people (over half-a-million  men PLUS women and children) marched through that Red Sea on dry ground. Do you have any idea how long and how wide that path had to be for all those people to cross over during the night?!

It wasn’t until they got to the other side and Moses put down his hand that the waters came back, just as strong and as deep as they had been before. Now that’s a miracle.

That’s how it is when we walk out of our bondage and head toward the Promised Land. As sinners, we are enslaved and in bondage. We are prisoners of our own making.

When God parts the waters, making a way for us to walk through on dry land, He takes us out of our slavery and we have the opportunity to join Him in the journey of our lives.

That’s when the journey really begins. We move from one conquest to another, always heading toward that future goal: Heaven.

Just like He did with the Israelites, He will fight the battles for us. He will show up when we need a miracle. We have to be willing to cooperate with Him; we have to be willing to “stand still.”

For forty years, these people moved around that wilderness heading toward their Promised Land.

As they got ready to experience their final conquest, they had a river to cross. Not just any river, mind you. The Jordan River.  It’s an important river and  it is mentioned over 200 times in both the Old and New Testament books. This River is 50 to 200 feet deep. It is 156 miles long and flows from West Asia through the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.

It is considered a shallow river, and the high water period lasts only from January to March. It was during this time period that the Children of Israel came to its banks. The Jordan was overflowing its banks. Some sources say it had gone from its normal 90 feet width to 500 feet.

 God gave specific instructions on when and how to cross the Jordan River. You can read about that in Joshua 3. 

As the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant touched the water, the  waters backed up
a great distance” until the riverbed was dry. The priests remained in the river while the entire entourage of folks crossed over to the other side.

Once they reached the other side of the Jordan, they considered themselves “home free”. One more city, and the Promised Land was theirs.

From a life of slavery and bondage (Egypt) to the Jordan, it’s a picture of our spiritual journey with God.

riverReaching the Jordan is symbolic of crossing over to our own Promised Land – Heaven.

We don’t need to be afraid, whether we’re traversing our own wilderness or watching Him conquer walled cities for us. He gives directions and we are to follow.

For the Christian, we leave behind a life of bondage (our Egypt) and begin our journey. At the sunset of our lives, we come to the river Jordan, where God parts the waters for us and we cross over safely to the other side.

It’s important that we make it across that first parting from slavery and sin. But we’re not done yet;  in fact, we’ve only begun! Many people think as long as they make that first decision, that’s all they need to do. Not so. Day after day, we are to follow the cloud that God sends for direction. The journey isn’t over until it’s over. We’re not finished until we’ve made that final crossing over Jordan into the Promised Land!

river

Elijah’s Depression – and the RAFT

depressionDepression comes in the valleys, and sometimes after a mountain top experience. Every mountaintop has its valleys: the one on the upswing and the one at the bottom, the bottom, as in when you’ve hit the lowest of the lows.

Elijah was a man of God. He was instrumental in so many miracles, yet he faced such depression that he begged God to die. That’s hard for me to understand, but I think I know what happened. Just like all the rest of us do at times, Elijah lost his focus.

 

Here is Elijah’s life in a nutshell:

  1. He tells Ahab there won’t be rain for over three years, then runs away to hide.
  2. The brook Cherith is his hiding spot where ravens  bring him bread and meat morning and evening for three years. I think I would have been lonely.
  3. Next, at the direction of God, he heads to Zarapheth to find the widow who will feed him. This is Queen Jezebel’s hometown, but she won’t think to look for Elijah here! In addition to never-ending oil, Elijah also restores the life of the widow’s son.
  4. Elijah finds Obediah and learns that the prophet has hidden 100 prophets in two caves to protect their lives from King Ahab. He tells Obadiah to send King Ahab to him.
  5. The Mt. Carmel contest, where the Baal worshipers lose and God wins. God sends fire from Heaven after the prophets of Baal pray all day for fire with no results. Elijah and his helpers execute the prophets of Baal.
  6. Elijah sends his servant to look for rain seven times. Finally, the servant sees a cloud the size of a man’s hand. When the rain begins to fall, Elijah gathers up his robe and outruns Ahab, who is riding in his chariot.
  7. Queen Jezebel tells Elijah he will be dead in 24  hours, her vengeance for Elijah’s execution of the 850 prophets of Baal.
  8. Elijah runs and hides. An angel wakes him and gives him bread and water – twice. Elijah travels forty days and forty nights on that “angel food.”
  9. God finds Elijah hiding under a broom tree and asks him twice why he is there.  Both times, Elijah says, “I’m the only one left of all the prophets in Israel. Nobody loves You but me. Oh, I wish I had never been born. Just let me die.” Yep, I’d say he was depressed.

For three years, Elijah lived on the “dramatic”.  He didn’t choose this nomadic lifestyle, but he accepted the call from God, miracle after miracle of God’s provision, and month after month of hiding and moving where God told him to go. I rather think Elijah got used to the mountain top experiences and had forgotten how to walk through a valley.

God tells him to go out and stand on the mountaintop before the Lord.

God passes by in a whirlwind, but His voice is not there.

He shows up in an earthquake, but Elijah could not find Him there.

After the earthquake, there was a fire. Elijah listens, but doesn’t hear anything.

Finally, Elijah hears God speak in a still, small voice.

Elijah covers himself with his cloak and comes outside the cave. Again, God asks him what he is doing there. Again, Elijah bemoans his life.

“I’ve been very zealous for You,” he says. “The children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed all the prophets. They are trying to find me to kill me. I am the only one left!”

“Oh, but Elijah,” God says, “You’re not the only one. You might think you’re the only one, but you’re not. There are 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed down to Baal. You are not alone. You’re not the only one!”

depression

God gives further instruction: go anoint Hazael as king over Syria and Jehu as king over Israel. Elisha is going to become your helper, so keep on keeping on.”

Elijah was depressed. He had lost his focus. Instead of looking around and being grateful for everything that had happened and the good he could find now, he responded to life in fear. He was afraid for  his life because of Jezebel’s hatred. He wallowed in the misery of thinking he was “the only one” when there were 7,000 other believers! He just wanted to quit. He wanted to die.

This is what God did for Elijah, and what we need to do when we are discouraged and depressed. When we feel like we’re drowning, we need to get on the RAFT.

  1. REST. We need to take care of ourselves physically. We also need good nourishment. Eat healthy instead of pigging out on carbs and sweets. God provided “angel food” for Elijah.  We need food and rest. We need to rest physically, but not hibernate from others or from God. The angel woke Elijah twice and told him to eat. Elijah needed rest, and he needed physical nourishment. When we stop taking care of ourselves physically, we need to make changes.
  2. ACT. We need to act. Keep it simple, but act. Keep moving, keep planning, keep living. Sometimes it means just doing the next thing. God gave Elijah something to do. He was to get up and get out of that cave.
  3. FOCUS. We need to focus outward. We need to stop looking at what we’ve lost, and look at what we have. Stop wallowing, and recount the mercies of God, for they are new every morning! God did not want Elijah to focus on his fear of Jezebel. He wanted him to focus on what He could do.
  4. TASKS. We need to choose goals that we can achieve. God told Elijah to go anoint two kings, then go find his new helper, Elisha. When we have something to do, something to accomplish, it gives us purpose in life. Sometimes we need others to help us accomplish tasks that are too difficult at the moment. Go find your Elisha. Ask someone to be your Elisha! Do what God tells you to do. If you don’t know what He wants you to do, then go listen for that still, small voice.

depression

Elijah wasn’t any different from you and from me. He was a man of God, but he was just as human as the rest of us. The powerful things that were accomplished through him came through his obedience and through God’s power. When he faced depression, God met him there, hiding under a broom tree and in a cave.

He does the same for us, if we are but willing to listen to His still, small voice today. He still does miracles, but sometimes He expects us to get up, quit wallowing, and get moving.

depression