Devotion: 3 Things That We Can Learn from Strongholds

The Soap Opera

I loved watching the Brady Bunch as a kid.  I think every kid in the 70s and 80s watched The Brady Bunch.  There was always some drama going on.  I also used to watch soap operas starting in my teens.  It was one of the many ways my grandmother, Mudear, and I connected.  Some of the stories had you so caught up, that you couldn’t wait till the next day to see what happened.  Praise God that in my 30s, God delivered me from watching those soap operas.  The scenes got to be a little too much at times, and I was totally convicted about needing to give them up.  It’s funny because when one of the scenes came on, my grandmother would say, “Oh shoot!  I wish they would get to the other scene so that I can find out what happened.”  Some of the scenes in the bible play out like a soap opera.  The story that we are going to discuss today, should be sang to the tune of “The Brady Bunch” theme song:  “Here’s the story of a sin called deception……”Strongholds are hard to break and they run through like cancer in our families.  Let’s take a closer look at how the stronghold of deception took place in this particular family.

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ACT 1:

Isaac and Rebekah had twins: Esau and Jacob.  Esau was Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite.  Rebekah decided to pull Jacob into the game of deception so that he could steal Esau’s birthright.  Scene 1 plays out with Rebekah helping Jacob setting up the stew and clothing to trick Isaac.  Scene 2 shows us a distraught Esau, who has missed his blessing.

Scene 1:

Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish. 10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.”

11 “But look,” Jacob replied to Rebekah, “my brother, Esau, is a hairy man, and my skin is smooth. 12 What if my father touches me? He’ll see that I’m trying to trick him, and then he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.”

13 But his mother replied, “Then let the curse fall on me, my son! Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats for me!”

14 So Jacob went out and got the young goats for his mother. Rebekah took them and prepared a delicious meal, just the way Isaac liked it.15 Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob. 16 She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats. 17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.  Genesis 27:9-17

Scene 2:

As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and almost before Jacob had left his father, Esau returned from his hunt. 31 Esau prepared a delicious meal and brought it to his father. Then he said, “Sit up, my father, and eat my wild game so you can give me your blessing.”

32 But Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

Esau replied, “It’s your son, your firstborn son, Esau.”

33 Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably and said, “Then who just served me wild game? I have already eaten it, and I blessed him just before you came. And yes, that blessing must stand!”

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he let out a loud and bitter cry. “Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!” he begged.

35 But Isaac said, “Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.”

36 Esau exclaimed, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?” Genesis 27:30-36

ACT 2:

Act 2 plays out in that Jacob leaves his homeland, never to see mommie dearest again.  Instead, he is heading towards her brother’s home, Good, Old, Uncle Laban.  Uncle Laban isn’t as nice as he seems because Jacob makes a deal with him to work seven years for his daughter Rachel.  However, like his sister, Laban is filled with deception.  At the end of the seven years, Laban gives Jacob Leah instead of Rachel.  Leah gets to appear as the passive one, although she fully participated in the scheme, as Jacob did with Rebekah in tricking Isaac.  Scene 1 showed the end result of how this played out.

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Scene 1:

Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”

19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.

21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”

22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. 23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)

25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”

26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. 27 “But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”

28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too. 29 (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.) 30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years. Genesis 29: 18-30

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ACT 3:

Act 3 plays out in that Jacob’s boys are out and about, and Joseph comes in his coat of colors to tell them about his dream.  They decide to do something about daddy’s favorite, but not without deceiving their dad into thinking Joseph is dead.

Scene 1:

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

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21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty piecesd]”>[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

29 Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered that Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief. 30 Then he went back to his brothers and lamented, “The boy is gone! What will I do now?”

31 Then the brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. 32 They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”

33 Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time. 35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep. Genesis 37: 18-35, NLT

Scene 2:

Scene 2 plays out in that after Joseph is sold as a slave, he is put into high command in Pharaoh’s house.  Pharaoh’s wife falsely accuses him of assault, and Joseph is placed in prison.  Joseph is released from prison after being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  He is promoted just in time to save Egypt from a famine, and wouldn’t you know, his brothers have to come to his town to get food.  Instead of Joseph deceiving and punishing his brothers, he chooses to forgive, and redeem the stronghold of deception.

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Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.  Genesis 45: 1-8, NLT

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What does this crazy soap opera of events teach us?

  1.  Strongholds are sin.

Sometimes as Christians we feel that calling something a stronghold makes the sin sound better.  Once we are able to handle the truth that our strongholds are indeed sin, then we are able to start doing something about the sin before it gets out out control.  I struggle with the sin of perfectionism.

     2. Strongholds become coping mechanisms.

I was born with an imprint of trauma on my brain due to slavery from my ancestors, a slavery-style caste system in the South that my family had to endure, and the continuing oppression of slavery “wrapped with a bow” in the city of Chicago.  Trauma has by-products of criticism and perfectionism.  Perfectionism became my coping mechanism.  It has been a part of me since I was a little girl.  However, it is still sin.

    3.  Strongholds are passed down when they are not resolved.

The hardest thing for us to realize is that our sin gets passed down when it isn’t addressed.  God has spoken gently to my heart recently to deal with the sin head on so that my kids can see me walk in this freedom.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  Romans 8: 1, KJV

 

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Rejoice in the Lord

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

Dissecting Rejoice

What does the word rejoice mean? Joy is one of the fruit of the spirit.  The fruit of the spirit are all independent of our feelings, although when we are going through things, it definitely doesn’t seem like it.  When we have joy, it is when we focus on God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and all the things that he has blessed us with.  So, when we are rejoicing, it is doing this over and over again until it gets contagious to others.  Sometimes when I listen to praise music, and I bask in God, and who he is to get centered, I get so filled, that I am just beside myself, literally having worship service in my kitchen or living room.  It’s not that my circumstances have changed at all, but God is using the praise music to steer my heart close to him.  So even though nothing has changed, everything has changed.

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Reality

When we go through trials, and unfortunately, this summer has given me my fair share, we will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what Philippians 4:4 means.  It isn’t going to be easy, and it hasn’t been for me.  Sometimes I have to air out my feelings and tell God that I know what he says in Romans 8:28, ” And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”, but right now I am just upset by yet another trial.  After I get it out, then I can praise him.  What I notice is that when I don’t get my feelings out, then there is internal conflict, and when our emotions are split, we can’t be in the present.  I also have to remind myself that God already knows my heart, and since he already knows, what better time to air my frustrations, so that I can move on.  So that I can get to the rejoicing part.

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I have a saying that I like to tell my kids all the time.  They laugh, but it is true:  Every morning we get to hit the reset button on God’s mercy.

 

Blessngs,

Katina

Devotion: 6 Ways to Help Someone Grieving or Going Through Trauma

No matter who we are, at some time or another, we are going to experience grief in our lifetime.  Some of us will not only experience grief, but we will experience traumatic events as well.  There is no way to prepare for trauma.  It sneaks upon you out of nowhere, like an ambush.  Grief can be this way as well.  You are not prepared for either of these happening, and you don’t know when the symptoms will occur.  I can remember times that I was in the grocery store, and I felt like grief was going to overtake me in the aisle.  The symptoms of grief are different for everyone.  Some of them may be:

 

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  • irritability
  • regurgitation
  • digestion problems
  • inability to stop crying
  • denial
  • magical thinking
  • physical pain and eye troubles
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Job experienced trauma and grief.  He lost everything that he owned in no time:  everything and everyone except his wife.  For some reason, ever since I was a child, I marveled over how there was always one person who was able to come back and relay the news to Job about the next devastation that hit him.  I have been there with Job.  When you get to the point of such compounded trauma, you just end up numbing out.  Your brain just can’t seem to handle it all.  Job’s friends came to support him, and they were fine until they opened their mouth.  God ended up reprimanding them for going on and on to Job with wild explanations for his “suffering”: After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” Job 42:7, NLT 

 

Here are six tips to take to heart if we know someone who is suffering from grief or trauma.

1.  Words and Physical Touch:  Express to your friends or loved ones how much you love them with words or giving them a hug.  If you are not sure of what to say, then just sit with them and say nothing.  Sometimes we say the wrong things without realizing it, even if they are true.  As Christians, we do know that if that person was saved, they will be in heaven with Jesus.  However, it is still hard sometimes for this reality to be of comfort to a person.  It is also hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact  that the person is no longer suffering.  It is still a loss to that person.  Sometimes it is better to remind a person that you will be praying for them.

2.  Meals:  Offer to bring meals over, as well as setup a mealtrain with the small groups at church, as well as the neighborhood friends.

3.  Calls and Errands:  Offer to run errands or make calls to family members, friends, and churches to inform them of the death.  Sometimes when we are in such shock, your focus and memory is off.  If the person has a phone book or contact list, it would be nice to go through the list and call each person.

4.  Babysit:  Suggest taking the kids for a few hours so that the person has time to process and grieve what has happened without having to stuff their pain and scare their children.  This is especially helpful if the children are young.  

5.  Pamper:  Treat your friend or loved one to something that would make them feel good:  getting a facial, mani-pedi, beauty or  barber shop appointment, or a nice outfit.

Have a blessed night!

Katina

Devotion: Got One up on You

The story of Leah and Rachel is one that we can all relate to in life: the comparison trap.  Their trap probably started at a young age, and unfortunately went into adulthood.  Sometimes as parents we have to be extra careful not to be the catalyst for this type of thing happening.  The sad reality of their family dysfunction showed that they were filled with constant thoughts of “let me see how I can one up you.” Round one began with “I’ll take your man”.  Round two began with, ” I can have more kids than you”.  This trap affects both men and women alike, and it ruins families, friendships, and work relationships.  The comparison trap has several things that lie at the root.  The three that God has spoken to me about are rejection, self-worth, and contentment. 

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When we read the story of Leah and Rachel, there are several things that we can directly and indirectly perceive.  The first thing perceived is that beauty and popularity won hearts.  People often shy away from us when we don’t fit into their standard for beauty, dress, hairstyle, etc.   If this is our area of brokenness, not fitting into someone else’s standards could lead to insecurity and internalization as rejection.  There are two sections of verses that tell us that one of Leah’s issues was rejection.  Here is the first:

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.  Genesis 29:16-17, NIV

The second section of scripture tells us about why Leah became fruitful right away:

30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. Genesis 29:30-31, NIV

We see that self-worth comes into play because Leah mentions on more than one occasion that her husband would love her now that God had opened her womb.  We see how the phrase, “Oh, but he will love me since I’m pregnant with his child” worked out even then.  She said nothing about God loving her, and his love for her being enough.  

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32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.

Genesis 29: 32, 34, KJV

In verse 35 of Genesis, it seems as though Leah has finally resolved to be content in the state that she was in:

35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.  Genesis 29: 35, KJV

So we thought.  Unfortunately this was Leah’s and Rachel’s stronghold.  Right after Leah’s place of contentment, her sister Rachel can’t stand the fact that insists that Jacob sleeps with her handmaid so that she could have children, and since Leah had left child bearing, she followed suit in doing the same:

Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won!” So she named him Naphtali [My Struggle].

When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her slave Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as his wife.

Genesis 30: 8-9, GW

The vicious cycle of rejection, no self-worth, and discontentment started up again:

13 Leah said, “I’ve been blessed! Women will call me blessed.” So she named him Asher [Blessing]. Genesis 30:13, KJV

20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun. Genesis 30:20, KJV

Strongholds are hard to get rid of.  Like Leah, I was born with a weak eye.  I had to wear a patch over my other eye in order for my brain to train my weak eye to use itself, and prevent blindness.  I remember the whole process as being quite traumatic:  siting in doctor’s offices for 5 to 6 hours, eye exams, a patch, more eye exams, and then eye dilation, and leaving the doctor’s office.  I felt helpless as I was walking across the street with my mom, while holding her hand to wait for the bus.

Fast forward some years later, like Leah, I dealt with the feelings of rejection due to abandonment by my father, and then feelings of rejection due to the comment that another teenage girl made in response to my physical appearance.  I internalized this comment, and it was used as a tool to produce no self-worth, leading to seeking approval through high achievement in school, through others, and my ex-husband.  It also led to years of being in an emotionally abusive marriage, where I sought him for a good portion of my self-worth.  

Getting caught up in shopping and other things in order to improve my appearance, and feel like I could qualify to compete, only kept the cycle going.  There will always be someone who’s prettier, smarter, and dresses better.  We have to be safe and secure in who we are in Christ, knowing that this brings true contentment and self-worth, no matter what other people are saying or thinking.  We are all broken individuals in need of a Savior, and God loves us much more than anyone else ever could.

Dear God,

We thank you in advance for rescuing us from the comparison trap.  We also thank you that only in you, are we enough.  Otherwise, we might become filled with self-pride, criticism, and judgment.  Please help us to break free of this stronghold.

In the mighty name of Jesus,

Amen

 

Devotion: Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

How many of you have had times like myself, where you’ve carried around a heavy load, done all that you can do in a certain situation, prayed several times over the situation, and yet you still feel like you’re not sure of how to proceed.  You end up being stuck in between a rock and a hard place.  We know that the bottom line is that God is in control.  Even with that, sometimes our hearts still remain heavy.

This was pretty much what Hannah had to go through.  Hannah was barren, and every year when she went to give worship and sacrifice to the Lord, her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, would taunt her to the point of fear because of the fact that God had shut up her womb.  We all know that fear is from Satan himself.  

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And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.

I Samuel 1: 6-7, ESV

Hannah’s heart was so heavy, that she went before God’s throne of grace, pleading to God to open her womb:

11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.

I Samuel 1: 11-12, ESV

Hannah was so intentional with her prayers, that her mouth moved, but her prayers were submitted to God through her heart and her spirit.  She was on a mission.  Eli the priest thought that she was drunk:

13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

I Samuel 1: 13-16, ESV

It was at this point that God gave Hannah a sign through Eli that he had heard her cry, and her prayers would be answered:

Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

I Samuel 1: 17, ESV

God came through as he had promised, and Hannah followed through with her promise that she had made to the Lord:

24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

And he worshiped the Lord there.

I Samuel 1: 24-28, ESV

About six years ago, when I was at the peak of my valley, everything in my home was in an uproar.  I had done everything that I could possibly do, been taken advantage of, and with a heavy heart, I went to the Lord for help in a prostrate position.  I felt led to write out the prayer that King Jehoshaphat prayed in 2 Chronicles 20:

12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.

God laid it upon my heart to pray this prayer for the next forty days.  As the days went on, spiritual warfare hit from every corner.  I was on a mission, and I continued to pray.  My friend and I decided to get together to pray on one accord with this same prayer New Year’s Eve night.  Our kids were upstairs hanging out, and we were downstairs praying.  The kids came downstairs a few times to grab food, and were looking at us as if we were crazy. But just like Hannah, we kept praying.  We prayed this prayer so hard and so long till our mouths dried out, and we could no longer talk.  Like Hannah, we needed an answer.  We joked around about whose prayer God would answer first.  And as in Hannah’s situation, God answered our requests.  My prayer was answered thirteen days later.  I don’t remember how quickly God answered hers.  God split the Red Sea so that I could leave Egypt.  Praise God for his word and his promises!

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your word and your promises.  Thank you that when our hearts are heavy with grief, you are still there.  You never change.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Please comfort our hearts when we just don’t know what to do, knowing that you are in control, and will give us instructions when the time is right.

In your precious name we pray,

Amen

Devotional: Enough for Everybody

About a year ago, I was looking out of the kitchen window, and I thought that what I was witnessing was a bird fight.  Instead of it being a fight, it was more like bullying.  Bullying among two birds.  One robin decided that he wanted the other robin to leave the grass. (Granted there was more than enough room for both of them.) The second robin(victim) tried to stay there.  However, the first robin(victim), continued to peck him.  The second robin went over to the bird bath to relax there.  And what do you know?  Mr. Bully came over there and pecked him until he left that area.  Eventually the second robin flew into the happy face tree(someone literally drew a happy face on the tree itself), and stayed there for a while.  This made the bully very happy.

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Last week, I saw several birds in the backyard after it rained.  No one had the bullying and victim title.  They were all scavenging for food after it rained.  They knew that there was more than enough to go around.

God revealed something to me in that very moment.  Sometimes we are like the two birds from a year ago.  We feel that we are not satisfied until we are the only star.  We feel that there will not be enough of God’s grace, goodness, and mercy to go around.  We think we have to fight in order to get the blessings, or there won’t be enough.

Other times, we are like the birds from last week, realizing that there is more than enough, God is the one who owns it all, and is running it all. 

The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Psalms 24:1, KJV

Even with whatever talent it is that he has blessed us with, he has to tell the door to open and to close.  Some of us will be blessed with a lot, and some of us will be blessed with little. 

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“O my people, listen as I speak.
    Here are my charges against you, O Israel:
    I am God, your God!
I have no complaint about your sacrifices
    or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
But I do not need the bulls from your barns
    or the goats from your pens.
10 For all the animals of the forest are mine,
    and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird on the mountains,
    and all the animals of the field are mine.
12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
    for all the world is mine and everything in it.
13 Do I eat the meat of bulls?
    Do I drink the blood of goats?
14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
    and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
15 Then call on me when you are in trouble,
    and I will rescue you,
    and you will give me glory.” Psalms 50:7-15, NLT

However, when we realize that there is more than enough for everybody, then we can look to God, rather than other people to receive the blessing.

Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.

17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. 

Proverbs 15:16-17, KJV

Dear God,

We thank you for the gifts that you have blessed us with.  We pray that you will help us to realize that we don’t have to worry about being threatened by anyone else, because you have blessed all of us with different gifts/talents that are unique to us.  Please help us not to compete, but to work together for your glory.

In your name we pray,

Amen.

Devotional: Surprised by Provision

Disappointment

There are a lot of things that happen in life that we are just not prepared for handling.  As a matter of fact, if God revealed to us what was on the way, we’d take off running in the other direction.  Sometimes one thing happens, and that one thing ends up changing your entire world for what you know it to be.  That is what happened to Naomi.

Naomi and her husband Elimelech, and their two sons decided to leave Bethlehem and reside in Moab because of the famine.  Instead of life getting better at this point, it got worse.  Elimelech died.  Their two sons found wives, and got married.  Then their two sons died.

Naomi decided to go back to Bethlehem, since she heard that they had bread again.  She figured that this might be a small sign of God’s provision.  Naomi told her two daughter-in-laws to head back to their homelands so that they could find husbands, since she didn’t have anymore sons.   Orpah left, but Ruth decided to stay:

 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Ruth 1:16, KJV

When they returned back to Bethlehem, it was evident that Naomi was surprised by God’s provision:

So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

 I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.  Ruth 1: 19-22, KJV

Neither Ruth nor Naomi had a clue that going back to Bethlehem would bring surprise provision itself.  They went back for bread.  God had a little bit more than bread waiting for them.  He slowly began to reveal his plan.    

Ruth went out to glean corn, and she met a man named Boaz.  They had a conversation, and Boaz let on to Ruth that God was recompensing her work for her full diligence:

 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.

The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

Ruth 2: 11-12, KJV

When Ruth arrived back home, Naomi questioned her about the food.  Ruth told her that she had met a man by the name of Boaz.  Naomi knew this was good news:

And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.

Ruth 2: 20, KJV

According to the law, a kinsmen could be the redeemer if a relative died.  In this case, since Boaz was a kinsmen, he could redeem the land that belonged to Elimelech and his two sons.  However, there was a kinsmen even closer than Boaz.  This meant that he had first pick.  This relative didn’t want to forfeit his own inheritance.  Therefore, Boaz became the kinsmen redeemer.

And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi.

 Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.

Ruth 4: 9-10, KJV

Surprise!

What a surprise!  The women encouraged Naomi, telling her that God hadn’t forgotten about her:  

And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel.

 And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.

Ruth 4: 14-15, KJV

At the age of 25, I had my surprise disappointment as well.  I was pregnant with my first child, and I worked all the way up to the day before delivery.  At the time, I was the breadwinner for the household, and I had all of the family health insurance in my name.  My son had his days and nights mixed up, and so for almost six weeks, I had between two to three hours of consecutive sleep during the night.  I was at the point of extreme exhaustion, and I could tell that my blood pressure was up. 

This was confirmed when the home nurse came out to check on me.  As soon as she checked my blood pressure, she knew that it was from lack of sleep.  Four days before my six weeks was up, my son started sleeping through the night for four consecutive hours.  However, I need that I would need two extra weeks of this before returning to work, or else my health would plummet.

I called my job, and requested an additional two weeks off.  I was informed that if i didn’t come back right away, then I would be considered as having abandoned my job.  I hung up the phone, and then wrestled with what to do.  With $50 left to my name, and no emergency money, this was a hard call.  However, I also knew that if they were like this about my health, then they would definitely be like this about my son’s health as well.  I decided not to go back, not sure of how I would make it.

My son was almost 3 months old when I took him to his three month checkup.  After the appointment, I decided to visit my old job, which was five minutes away.  I got caught up with everyone, and my old boss asked me when I would return to work.  I told my old boss what happened, and he said, ” Just like that?”.  I replied, ” Yes, just like that. End of story.”  We laughed, and he asked me what I thought of working for him again.  I thought he was joking, but he was dead serious.  What a surprise!  

Within two weeks, I was back to working again.  In the beginning, I worked a five day week, then a 10 hour four-day week while my son was little, before moving on to a different job.  I didn’t know, but God knew that his divine providence was waiting for me at this place.  All I had to do was to go and get it.  Talk about Jesus working it out with provision!

 

Dear God,

We thank you for your surprise providence.  Thank you for helping us to step out on faith, even when we are not sure what you have in store for us.  

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen

Waiting or Rushing

When we’re waiting for something to happen, there are several things going on: 

  • We want to know when things are going to take place.
  • We want to know where things are going to take place.
  • We want to know how things are going to take place.
  • We want to know if there is something we can do to make things move faster. 

After all of the above happens, then we usually go back to the first thing on the list:  We want to know when things are going to take place.  Sometimes when we are in the waiting process, there are tangible things that we can do, but we find ourselves just sitting back and saying, ” Well, I’m just waiting on God.”  There are other times when there isn’t a thing that we can do, except pray and know that God is in control, he loves us, and knows what’s best for us.  Rushing also involves several things going on:

  • We can’t focus.
  • We react instead of respond.
  • We do things out of character.
  • We forget about involving God in the matter.
  • We disobey.
  • We make things even worse.
  • We suffer severe consequences.

God promised Abraham at a very old age that he would have a son.  When Abraham thought that this son would come from one of his servants, God reassured him that this is not what was going to happen:

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This one will not be your heir, but one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” And the LORD took him outside and said, “Now look to the heavens and count the stars, if you are able .” Then He declared, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and it was credited to him as righteousness. 

Genesis 15:4-6, Berean Study Bible

After waiting for so long, Abraham and Sarah, his wife, went from the waiting stage to the rushing stage.  Sarah decided to take things into her own hands, and have her handmaid to sleep with Abraham to have God’s promise come quicker: 

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said.  So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.  He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

Genesis 16: 1-4, NIV

I wish at this point there was some good news to tell, but there isn’t.  Things went from bad to worse.  Hagar got a little too close for comfort, and Sarah began despising Hagar for her pregnancy.  Not only did she despise Hagar, but she blamed Abraham for the plan that she came up with on her own:

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

Genesis 16: 4-5, NIV

God was very merciful to Abraham and Sarah, even in the midst of this mess.  Abraham and Sarah did eventually given birth to a son Isaac in their old age, but they still had to bear more consequences for their actions:

  • Sarah allowed herself to step out of character, and treated Hagar contemptuously.

  • Isaac, their son, was taunted by his older brother Ishmael.

  • Hagar and Ishmael were eventually banished from their home because of all the commotion and Sarah’s wonderful plan.

Before we look at Sarah, and shake our heads, we often do the same thing.  For some reason, we just can’t wait.  When I was eight years old, I wanted to participate in a race that was held every year during the summer camp program that they held in the projects.

waiting, reflection, backpack, devotion, rushing, God's timing
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

The exciting part about it is that we got a chance to ride the school bus to 55th and Cottage Grove, and race on the track there.  All the kids from the projects in my area were going to be there.  Three weeks before the race, my mother bought me some new gym shoes.  On the morning of the race, right before my mother left to go to work, I was so excited, that I decided to try the gym shoes on again.  To my surprise, they didn’t fit.  They were so tight, that I was in excruciating pain.  

My mother told me that she would have to take the shoes back, and that I would have to race next time, and that there was no point in me going since I only had sandals to wear.  Next time meant next year.  I wasn’t going to wait till next year.

As soon as all the kids got on the school bus, I hopped myself on too.  My mother was gone to work, and I figured I’d be fine racing in sandals.  When we got there, they grouped all of the kids according to age.   The announcer called out. “Get on your mark. Get ready.  Get set. Go!”  I took off running like crazy in my sandals.  I didn’t get far before I fell and injured myself.  My knees were cut open and bleeding.  My arms and hands were  bleeding.  the inside of my wrist was cut and bleeding, since when I fell, I used my hands to protect myself.  My older cousin came over and walked me off the track as I was crying and humiliated.

This story of my race wasn’t so triumphant at all.  I disobeyed my mom.  I hurt myself.  I suffered a permanent scar on the inside of my wrist as a reminder today of the sacrifice that I made.  Praise God for his mercy and grace, and the redemption that he has for every one of our lives!

Dear God,

We praise you for who you are.  We ask that you would help us to consult you in the waiting, and to pray like never before for endurance and perseverance.  We know that your plan for our lives is the best plan.  You are God alone, and you don’t need our help for you to give us what you have already promised us.

In your name we pray,

Amen

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12: 1, NLT