Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Lessons for Life….

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photo by Matija Barrett

Things I have tried to live by:

Try to touch any to do item once only. If you can take care of it at the moment, do not put it aside, just do it.

You don’t have to be stressed, even if you are busy. Concentrate on doing what you are doing in the moment fully, then move on to the next. Worrying about the next task takes time and energy from the present.

Remember your priorities.  Some things are not worth doing and take time from what is important. Sometimes we need to stop doing little things that others do because it gets in the way of doing the big things we are called to do. Making beds falls into this category for me, and I later discovered letting the sheets air out kills bed bugs!

One of my friends suggested putting a ‘mission statement’ on your refrigerator that outlines you top one or two priorities. If what you are doing does not line up with what you should be doing, change it!

Figure out what you are responsible for (and what you are not):  This applies to work, but also to people who try to introduce drama into your life. (This does not mean you do not help at work, it just means you do not become a doormat and let people take advantage of you, there is a difference.) Regarding drama (because in my world, this is a bigger time waster than stuff to do as it sucks away all of my energy for other things as well): Look at what the person is getting upset about, and, if you can do nothing about it, move on. There is also never-ending drama that has no resolution, at least not one you can provide. When you have done all you can, stop letting it keep you from other things. But, some people create drama that you cannot avoid. Remember Paul and the slave girl? (Acts 16: 16-24) After ‘many days’ of enduring her nonsense, he ‘fixed’ the situation, but not in a way anyone enjoyed. This sometimes needs to happen to, and there will be consequences from the displeased, but enough is sometimes enough.

This also applies to not doing things I am paying other people to do, or children’s chores. If I have told a child to clean up a mess, it is no longer my responsibility to clean up the mess, but it is my responsibility to ensure that it gets done. This is sometimes harder, but in the end the children take more care of what I feel is important (notice I did not say what my neighbor feels is important) and the house runs smoother. Sometimes cleaning up after your kids is actually you being too lazy to do the hard work of teaching them responsibility….. (ouch!)

Do the little ‘extra’ things when you can. Take ownership when appropriate. This involves picking up trash that did not hit the waste basket at work or church etc. You didn’t miss the basket, but you know whoever did is not coming back and if you want the place to look nice, it needs to be done. If you know the person who does it repeatedly, this is different and there may be a teaching moment that has to occur. But typically no one knows who did it, and it could be an honest mistake. Don’t be a schmuck, just do it, and don’t spend all day complaining about ‘how some people…’ Let it go.

Discuss solutions, not problems. It is not wrong to talk about people, but how we talk about people is sometimes wrong. Discuss how we can help improve a situation, rather than complaining and putting others down. Sometimes we need to vent, but keep it focused and short with someone who is mature enough to understand and help you put things into perspective rather than gossiping and getting you even more riled up. Misery likes company, but it is often not productive. Solving the problem makes for a shorter time in the problem. Complaining about it usually accomplishes nothing long term.

Make lists re: what you believe to be right and wrong and then check yourself. Here’s an example. Make a list of what you would consider wrong to say about a person. (Don’t look further in this paragraph until you do!) Now compare that list to your favorite news source, TV shows, comedians, things you share on social media and how you speak especially about politicians or people who think differently than you do. (Remember, you are teaching your children by example.) Are you being fair to the other side? Or just name calling etc? One example of this was when a meme was going around of President Obama on a girl’s bike. It was passed around just to make fun of him. No matter what you think about the man, this is not nice. And the truth was they air brushed out the attachment for the child carrier. In the original picture it seems as if he was riding Michelle’s bike so that he did the hard work of pulling their children, so she would not have to. Much different story. (We can use an example of almost any president here. I merely chose this one because it had a twist and was so obviously in the ‘who cares’ category. We could have chosen people calling Trump ‘orange,’ or people mocking anyone just after their death, or publishing anything negative at that time- do you really think the family wants to read that crap when they are mourning? Not the right time people! This is the time to apply the phrase, ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.’ While this is not always true, being respectful to those who are mourning is typically a good idea.) Now take this closer to home and examine how you talk about your neighbors, friends, co-workers, spouse etc. Sometimes we are convicted by what we think are our own convictions and find we are not living by them very well… (Another ouch!) Look through your social media (if you have one) and see if that is who you really want to be.

Don’t think you have to justify yourself to others. I just lived this by deleting my explanation as to why I did not prioritizing making the beds in an earlier example. (Busybodies often live in your head as well!) When someone puts you down for something, they are telling you that they are a busy-body and not a nice person. Explaining yourself often just opens up more of your story to their nit-picking. Occasionally someone is truly curious and just wants to learn how you look at life, but often, when it is none of their business, this is not the case. Save yourself some time and just politely answer, ‘That’s just how we decided our household should run.’ Or something to that effect, and walk away. This emphasizes that you have made a conscious decision with your spouse AND that it is none of their business. It’s not worth the emotional toll this conversation will require. And yes, they will likely project their issues onto you by thinking you are the ‘witch,’ because any proper response to this behavior will subtly point out that they were out of line, and they will not like that, but then we get into the ‘don’t be a doormat’ discussion… Not everyone will like you. In the Bible being ‘liked’ by the righteous is good; being disliked by those who are not behaving is sometimes par for the course. And those who are liked by everyone is someone we are told to be wary of. (Proverbs 18:24 NASB)

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The Gifts of the Magi

 

The Bible is filled with prophetic imagery. The gifts the Magi (Wise men, or Three Kings) bring to the baby Jesus is no different. Each of the gifts plays a role in Temple service and all are related to the Arc of the Covenant, where God speaks to man.

The Gifts of the Magi: 
Gold– the covering of the ark of the covenant, the frame of the tabernacle, the lampstands and the interior of the Temple.
Tabernacle: frames overlaid with gold and gold rings and hooks to hold the crossbars. Ex 36:34 Ex 26: 29, 37
Covered the interior of the Temple- the holy place and the holy of holies. 1 Kings 6: 21
Lampstands of pure gold. 1 Kings 7: 49
The Arc of the Covenant was overlaid with gold. Ex 37: 2-4 2 Chron 3: 10
Gold nails 2 Chron 3: 9
Frankincense: part of the incense which was waved behind the curtain of the holy of holies. Ex 30:34
Sprinkled on the grain offerings Lev 2: 1-2, 15- 16, 6: 15, 24: 7, Neh 13: 9, 1 Chron 9: 29
Myrrh: used to anoint the arc of the covenant and the tent of meeting, the tabernacle and all the accessories. Ex: 30: 23-27

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                             Healing at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5: 1-15)
The pool of Bethesda is located outside of the wall around the Temple, just beyond the sheep gate. This area was not considered to be part of Jerusalem proper by the Jewish people, but was part of the expansion of Jerusalem by Herod which puts the pool inside the ‘third wall’ of Jerusalem. This is where the Fortress of Antonia, built by the Romans to guard Jerusalem also resides. Both are very close to the Temple, but ‘technically,’ likely so as not to upset the Jewish people, they are ‘outside’ the walls.

Archeological evidence has discovered that the pool has indications that it is not a Jewish place, but a healing temple to the god, Asclepius, whose symbol is a rod with a snake wrapped around it. (The Roman equivalent is Serapis and there is evidence that the pool morphed into a temple to Serapis after the destruction of Jerusalem when the Romans rebuilt the city.

There is also evidence that verses 3-4 that speak about an angel of the Lord stirring the waters of the pool are a scribal addition to explain why the man was there as they are not found in earlier texts. Likely the explanation began as a messenger, or worker of the god stirred the water, which became an angel as the term angel literally means ‘messenger.’

Temples to Asclepius are common during this time as they are places of healing and medicine. They always have pools for emersion. This pool has two levels. It is believed that the priests of Asclepius would open the gates of the upper section to place water into the lower section which would ‘stir’ the water. The fresh water was believed to bring healing.

Further evidence that this pool is not Jewish, but pagan is that the priests do not use it as this time for water. In the past this pool was likely used to wash the sheep before the entered Jerusalem, hence the name ‘sheep gate.’ During Jesus’ time the priests gathered water for the Temple from the Pool of Siloam. This pool is within the older boundaries of Jerusalem, but it is further from the Temple and is downhill, meaning the priests must walk uphill with the water to the Temple. Why would they do this if there was water closer? The Pool of Siloam is also fed by Hezekiah’s underground tunnel system to ensure Jerusalem better withstands a siege- FYI.

The pool also has a Greek name, ‘Bethesda.’ The original Hebrew name is not known, but may be a word that is similar and means ‘house (bet) of mercy.’

Having Jesus heal a Jewish man who is seeking help at a pagan shrine is a perfect example of the shepherd gathering up the lost sheep. Jesus then tells the man to pick up his mat and walk- indicating that he should leave this place. Unfortunately the man runs into the religious leaders of the time who decide not to rejoice over an idolatrous man returning to the Temple, or even to rejoice over his healing, but instead they decide to nit pick over the fact that he is carrying something on the Sabbath. (I wish I could say that we do not behave this way in the church today, but…. ) Jesus then finds the man and warns him not to return to his sin, or worse will happen in his life. The question has always been, ‘What was the man’s sin?’ If the pool at Bethesda was indeed a pagan temple, then his sin is idolatry, and he is not to go back to the pool for help, but to look to Jesus/ God. This would also explain the timing of this statement, as it is after the man speaks to the priests and they give him a less than friendly reception. Jesus is telling the man not to leave God, just because His supposed people are acting like imbeciles at the moment. (So we have two teachings here: Do not nit pick like the Pharisees and run newly saved people out of the church, but also don’t be so thin skinned that you allow the ‘Pharisees’ to turn you away from God- or you will suffer more than before!)

It is recorded in the Talmud that various Jewish rabbis were asked why there were healings occurring at the temples of idols. Rabbi Akiva answers that God sets the time for an illness to be over and sometimes one is at a pagan temple at this time. Rabbi Nehemiah answers that Moses’ rod brought both the plagues in Egypt as well as water from the rock, therefore God sometimes uses the same instrument for both punishment and blessing. My answer is different. I believe that God has mercy on us even when we are in sin, and sometimes gives is blessings, and the desires of our hearts even when we are far from Him and do not deserve it. Jesus follows this example and, like His Father, answers the lame man’s deepest request even when the man is going about requesting it in all the wrong ways. The man is a lost sheep, who is injured and desperately needs the shepherd to bind his wounds before he is able to come home.

(Another fun Jewish story associated with this is about a Rabbi who goes to a Roman bathhouse dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite to bathe. When asked why he does this he refers to the ashes of the red heifer, which make the priest unclean, but cleanses an unclean man. He reminds the people that the statue has no power over him and that the pool existed before the statue. He finishes by stating that the pool is there and I am dirty! -summing up that there is a simple, practical reason for using the pool.)

A Rabbi’s Prayer

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This Ukrainian Rabbi’s prayer, based on Exodus 34, made me smile…
“Lord of the universe, I want to propose a deal. We have many sins. You have much forgiveness. Let us exchange our sins for your forgiveness. And if You should say that this is not a fair exchange, then my reply is: If we had no sins, what would you do with all Your forgiveness?”
-Rabbi Levi Yitzack of Berditchev

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Photo by Matija Barrett

AKA: Why We Need a Savior
When King Solomon asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9) he asked God to give him the ability to determine the difference between good and bad. (He assumed he would choose the good…. Ooops!) Ironically the knowledge of good and evil is what enticed Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden. (At that point Adam and Eve only knew that one thing was bad- eating the forbidden fruit- and they choose to do it…) That knowledge led to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. While Solomon wanted the knowledge so he would not be deceived, and would assumedly choose good for him and the people he ruled, what we see is that when given a clear choice, without deception, humans, as a rule, are likely to choose to do what is bad at least some of the time….

Jeremiah

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Background: Jeremiah is the son of Hilkiah, the priest credited with finding the book of law in the Temple during the reign of King Josiah in Judah. (2 Chron 34: 14) This time in history is interesting. The kingdom of Judah has degenerated. The Temple is a mess, and the book of law has been lost to even the priests. The king, Josiah, commits himself to follow God’s laws and the people seemingly obey him, but as soon as he is dead, they return to their ungodly ways indicating that there was not a change of heart and their commitment to following God was likely one of convenience, self-serving etc since there was pressure from their king to do so.

Huldah, the prophetess, informs the people that God is going to judge them, but, for the sake of the godly king Josiah and his obedience, the judgement is to be delayed until after his reign. Jeremiah unfortunately (for him) outlives Josiah.
Jeremiah is from the tribe of Benjamin, where his father, a priest, is living. Benjamin is a part of Judah, but is a tiny part as previously Benjamin had some issues with sin and the tribe was almost wiped out by the other tribes of Israel. Jeremiah is a Levite, not a Benjaminite, as he is from a line of priests. Every tribe was to set aside land within their tribe for the Levites (the priests), who were not to have their own tribal lands, so that the word of God could be taught to all.
His name means ‘loftiness of the Lord,’ or ‘exalting the Lord.’ (It is a common practice in this culture to name your child something that can double as a prayer, or praise, to God so that every time you call your child, you also say a prayer. This is why there are so many Mary’s in the New Testament, as its root, Mara, means bitterness and weeping, and the Jewish people of this time were trying to draw God’s attention onto their suffering so the Lord would save them from Roman persecution.)
Jeremiah performed no recorded miracles during his ministry.
The message: The message of Jeremiah is clear- turn back to God by following His laws or go into captivity (and past a certain point turning back to God will only lessen your captivity, not eliminate it). So what does this mean for us today? That our actions matter. They speak of our heart and how strong our commitment to God really is. We have a choice- follow God’s laws or be oppressed by others who are ungodly. Unfortunately, like Jeremiah, we are part of a group, and when the group messes up, sometimes the godly go along for the ride into captivity as well. (This is why we have a duty to be an influential and respected member of our society.) Fortunately, the book of Jeremiah also teaches us how to behave in captivity. We are to work in the best interests of those around us and prosper where God plants us. Oppression is not an excuse to misbehave or give up, as much as we would like it to be.
God begins with a legal complaint. He is the Lord, and in this society that means He has sovereignty over the people of Israel. What you need to understand, that we often miss since we do not make these types of contracts in modern times, is that the Israelites have entered into a Lord/vassal style relationship with God twice. The first was at Mount Sinai, when the law was given to Moses. Moses brought two tablets up the mountain so there would be two copies, one for the Lord and one for His subjects. Both were kept in the ark as God was to be there with His people. At that time God had freed the people from slavery and performed many miracles. In addition to the ten commandments, the oral law was also given to Moses as it is recorded in Leviticus. The second ‘contract’ is contained in the book of Deuteronomy. Ancient contracts of this type were written as narratives. In Deuteronomy, God reviews everything He has done for Israel. God’s laws are also reviewed as well as the blessings and curses for obeying, or disobeying. The covenant is renewed before the Israelites go into the promised land. This is why Joshua says, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ While the covenant is for the nation, it is also a choice each individual must make, and we will see individual as well as national punishments in scripture for disobedience to the law.
To void this contract, the people must be able to prove that the Lord has not fulfilled His obligations to His people. So God points out that He took care of Israel in the wilderness, in a land where people do not live due to harsh conditions, proving His ability to provide and protect His people and then led them into a land where food was plentiful and life was good, and instead of being grateful they left Him for other gods, who are not even gods. God points out that even the pagans do not change gods, despite the fact that they do nothing even close to what God has done for the Israelites.
So how does this speak to us today?
On a personal level we may ask ourselves (based on God’s complaints regarding the Israelites): Are we grateful to God when life is good? Do we grumble and complain over minor inconveniences? Are we embarrassed to speak about God? Do we pretend to believe as our neighbors do, or incorporate behaviors we know to be ungodly into our lives so that we avoid controversy with our neighbors? Are we as in love with God as we were when we first believed, or for those who were saved young, when we really began to understand the power of our relationship with God and what it truly meant? Going through the first chapter of Jeremiah (as well as many other places in scripture where God lists evidence that one is not with Him) and seeing how God’s complaints apply to your life is a humbling, but necessary thing to do. But, God does warn us in these passages that people like to ignore their sins and believe they have done nothing wrong, so if you read through this section and find no fault in yourself, pray and then read through it again just to be sure…. I recently read a book, fiction and not by a Christian author, that included a scene where people were lined up to enter Hell. A woman in the line was getting out of line and complaining loudly that she was in the wrong line. The demon assured her that this was not the case. She explained that she ‘believed’ and therefore should be in heaven. The demon explained that she was a mean, nasty person and was right where she belonged. This commentary regarding how this author saw Christianity made me sad. Unfortunately, it is too often true and one must ask themselves when their works do not line up with what God has called us to do, do we truly believe?
Theologian Andreas Bodenstein Von Karlstadt translates Jeremiah a little differently and has God stating ‘those who kept my commandments and knew me and did not ask for me’ in referring to the priesthood where as others speak of ‘those who handle the law and did not know me.’ Karlstadt’s translation talks of those, like the pharisees, who follow God’s law, but have not a real relationship with God. Karlstadt speaks of being a theologian and realizing that he loves exploring God’s Word, but rarely speaks to God. He asks, ‘How can one handle and keep God’s law when one does not know God or ask for Him?’ Just something to think about.

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Photo by Matija Barrett

There are many confusing secondary characters in the Bible. They are confusing because they do things that we would assume would be ‘right,’ but are subsequently shown to be wrong. Joab is one of these characters. He makes a lot of decisions that seem to be ‘right.’ His reasoning is, unfortunately, reasoning some use today to teach children to be ‘good people.’ Unfortunately we will see that many of his actions are not looked upon as ‘good’ in the end….
Joab was the son of Zeruiah, who had three sons, Abishai, Joab and Asahel. Abishai was the brother who went with David when David snuck into Saul’s camp while everyone was sleeping. Abishai wished to kill Saul, believing God had delivered him into their hands. David counseled him not to kill the Lord’s anointed and stole Saul’s spear and water jog instead. (1 Samuel 26).
We first hear of Joab’s exploits shortly after David is anointed king of Hebron. Joab is the captain of David’s army. Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, is king over the rest of Israel and Abner is the captain of his army. Abner and Joab meet with their men by pool and propose they allow the younger men to engage in a wrestling match- 12 vs 12. It turns bloody, a battle ensues and Abner’s army is defeated. (While it would seem good for the two sides to engage in a ‘fun’ wrestling match, not realizing how much hatred existed in the young mens’ hearts made a fun activity, seemingly meant to build better relationships, into a battle that would lead to even more hatred. Wisdom must be used when reconciling two parties. What works when both sides are slightly miffed, may not work when there is still much animosity present. Not everyone is ready to ‘just be friends.’)
After the battle is over, Abner retreats. Joab’s brother, Asahel, is fast, but young, and follows Abner on foot. Abner warns Asahel to turn away. He is afraid of Joab’s reaction and knows Asahel is not a match for him. Asahel refuses and Abner kills him, worsening the relationship between Abner and Joab. (2 Sam 2) (Joab does not ask the details, but assumes Abner behaved badly. If he had asked, and listened with an open mind, he may have understood that Abner tried to avoid killing Asahel.)
Later, when Abner decides to support David, Joab arranges to meet with him without David’s knowledge and, with the help of his brother Abishai, kills Abner. Joab believes he is doing David a favor, protecting him, as he does not believe Abner to be a man of his word. (2 Sam 3:25) David curses Joab and his family, and mourns Abner. (What Joab saw as ‘protecting’ his friend, David saw as harming an innocent man. Teaching people to ‘have their friend’s backs’ often does not allow for a former non-friend to repent and change his position.)
Abner was said to have died a ‘fool’s death,’ as he trusted someone he should not have. (2 Sam 3:33) (Teaching children to be trusting, even when the situation is clearly treacherous, is teaching them to behave foolishly and sets them up to be hurt. While we cannot avoid all hurts in life, wisdom can be used to be on guard against some situations. To behave like Abner, and assume a man who has previously shown you hatred to be trustworthy, is foolish.)
Joab wins many battles for David. In the midst of one he is commanded to arrange for Uriah the Hittite to be killed in order to cover up David’s affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Joab complies, and other men die with Uriah as well. (2 Sam 11) (Obeying unjust commands is not good, and not only did the intended man die, but so did other innocent men. ‘Covering’ for your friends can lead to feeling like you must do bad things.)
Joab then acts as a middle man between David and his son Absalom. (2 Sam 14) Joab has a widow woman try to convince David to reconcile with his son through a story. This has limited results and Absalom is allowed to return to Jerusalem, though David ignores him. Absalom tries to get Joab to speak with David again on his behalf, but has to resort to burning Joab’s field to get his attention. Joab again goes to David. The reunion seems promising in the beginning, but does not last and Absalom schemes to take over the kingdom. (We teach that bringing two sides together to reconcile is good, but family affairs are complicated and full of emotion. While Joab tries, his heart is not in it and his attempts are half-hearted. Not being aware of where both sides are currently at emotionally, and not being there to fully support an obviously volatile situation are recipes for disaster. Too many times we simplify what is needed in a situation and fail to teach our children that hard work and commitment to a situation are needed to gain true results.)
Absalom then takes over the kingdom and David, with Joab, flees. A war ensues, and Absalom is found hanging by his hair from a tree. Absalom had been riding on a mule, indicating that he had come in peace, assumedly to meet with his father, David. Additionally, David had stated that people were to deal gently with Absalom. Joab, likely believing he knows better than David and wishing to protect David, kills Absalom. (Remember, Joab had previously tried to help Absalom in his attempts to reconcile with David. He has not previously shown signs of being Absalom’s enemy before Absalom takes over.) (2 Sam 18) Due to this, and other times Joab kills without David’s consent, David instructs Solomon to make sure Joab does not die in peace. (Thinking you know better than those in authority and delivering ‘justice’ outside of the proper channels is not right.)
David later decides to call a census. Joab wisely counsels him not to, as it goes against God’s will. David insists, and Joab follows his orders. Israel is punished with a plague. (Giving in and doing something that you know is not right is still not right even if the person over you orders you to do so…) (2 Sam 24)
Joab then decides to support Adonijah as a successor to David instead of Solomon. Solomon uses this opportunity to end Joab’s life as he was instructed to by David. (Although Adonijah was the supposed heir through birth order, David had appointed Solomon. Believing man-made rules, or customary ways of doing things should be followed, without praying to seek God’s will is a mistake.) (1 Kings 2)

 

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