Do Not Forget!

Just in case, by any chance, or at any one time, we think that our own worth has earned us our stand in life—we should just read the book of Deuteronomy.

It is very easy to believe that the good things we have in life have come to us through our own effort. Or because we are somehow good. NOT SO. We do not deserve any of them. Moses made sure that the children of Israel knew that!

“It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land. . . Understand then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord you God is giving you this good land to posses, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Dt 9:5,6). “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people… but it was because he loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers” (Dt 7:7-8). “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord” (Dt 6:12).

Israel did not deserve God’s favor. Neither do I. But God did bless Israel, and wants to bless us also. He is seeking for trustworthy stewards through whom He can extend His influence and reign, and through whom His glory can be seen among all nations. Assuming their obedience, God declared “I will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations… that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God” (Dt 26:19).

Quite a promise! But the children of Israel did not obey. The book of Judges gives quite an opposite picture as the tumultuous cycles of oppression and tragedy overtake God’s beloved people. God’s decrees had been forgotten. Everyone did what  seemed right “in his own eyes”; there were no absolutes or moral guide.

Blessings undeserved; troubles self-inflicted. Lord, help us not forget!

~ Diane

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Precision and Excellence

Day 2: Reading through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers could be suffocating; one is left with no doubt as to why these books are the core of what is known as THE LAW! However, the journey could also be inspiring. Because even though we are no longer under the law, God’s nature does not change. In all that God instructed His people to do and make, the emphasis is on skill and excellence. That gives me a lot of inspiration.

First, it reminds me that we cannot just approach the things of God “hivi-hivi” (whatever-ish). Attention to detail and exactitude are so glaringly evident in God’s dealings with man. He would expect the same of what we offer Him today. (For example, during the reading, I was stirred to go and re-trim a flier we were handing out; the edges needed to be neater than they were!) I was reminded that we play around with the things of God too often.

But even more important is the unspeakable chasm that Christ has bridged for us. All of the prerequisites, regulations, specifications, restrictions, sacrifices and offerings that had to be “exactly according to the pattern”— all the attempts to attain a high and holy standard that we can never actually attain—Jesus fulfilled all of it!

Finally, we see that doubting our own ability, or doubting that God can work through us, is not “humility.” It is sin. Major sin. Doubt in what God could do cost the Israelites thirty-eight years of wilderness wandering and their chance to enter the Promised Land.

Do I recognize the significance of the privilege of entering God’s presence that Jesus bought for us? Do I recognize the importance of what God expects me to do based on His power at work within?

~ Diane

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God’s Pain; Our Pain

Have you ever felt that your work is in vain? Have you ever thought that all the effort, energy, time and money you put into something was useless? I certainly have.

cathedral card

Today we started the 2017 Bible Read-a-Thon. We saw that God had a master plan from the time of creation. He made the skies and the seas, plants and animals, man and woman. And it was all good—very good! He wanted to commune with man and watch him manage well the wondrous world He had created.

But things went wrong. Adam shirked his responsibility. Eve disobey God’s command. Cain killed his brother. . . things went from bad to worse. The world was full of violence and corruption.

Genesis 6:6 says, “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”

When I read that today, with the gathered congregation and neighborhood-within-sound-of-our-loudspeakers listening, I felt literal pain in my chest. I almost broke down. God Himself—grieved and filled with pain. Because of my sin. Because His work seemed to be in vain. Because His plan was not working?

Certainly, God understands our frustration—insignificant in comparison—when things do not work out as we hoped. He feels the every pain in our broken world.

Then, in the book of Job, we saw that all Job’s suffering and despair, (all of our sicknesses, poverty and shattered dreams), even though inflicted by the enemy, are not outside of God’s sovereignty. He uses all for a purpose. Life is too complicated for simple answers and we cannot fully understand, but God does. Just as God never let go of Job and vice- versa, may we never let go of God. Job’s relationship with God emerged stronger through all that he suffered; may ours also.

“Blessed is the man whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” (Job 5:17)

“He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:1)

~ Diane

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Reading God’s Word

This year, I am using a Bible that belonged to my father for personal devotions. His Bible was one thing I requested for after his death, and my brothers graciously agreed. I enjoy reflecting on his notes and markings as I go through.

Love for God’s Word is one of the most significant ways our father inspired those who knew him.

Father studied his Bible regularly and often. He also memorized a lot of scriptures, that is, entire books and chapters. When my mother was hospitalized prior to her death, Father and I would”read” scriptures to her: me by actually reading, but Father by drawing from the repertoire of verses he had committed to memory. I remember the shock of Kenyan pastors, who he came to teach in the late 90’s, when he would recite entire chapters!

cathedral card

Here in Nairobi, we are preparing for our 4th annual Bible Read-a-Thon to be held from June 26 to July 8. We will read the Bible from cover to cover together. I am very excited about it!

The Bible reading marathon is also a way of raising funds for DOVE Africa missions, and we have a very faith-filled target this year of $3,000. We have identified five projects, in different outreach locations, that need financial support (more to come about those).

We invite you to send a donation of any amount to sponsor this event and support the work of missions in DOVE Africa. That can be done with the donate button on the right or by sending a designated gift to DOVE International.

I am so grateful for the love for God’s Word that my father instilled in us. This year as we read the Bible, it is in honor of that godly heritage.

~ Diane

 

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The Master Builder

Tip – TAP – BAM – pause – tip – TAP – BAM – pause. You could almost use the cadence as a metronome. It was the sound of my father driving nails into a piece of wood; usually a two-by-four used for framing a house. Or, scrape – slish – SWOSH – pause – scrape – slish – SWOSH – pause. This time he would be laying brick.

My father worked as a builder most of his life; he even put up several of the homes that we lived in. Mennonite pastors were rarely salaried in those days, so carpentry was his “tent-making” trade. He could eye-up measurements, angles, quantities and fittings with amazing accuracy. He always did whatever he did well.

The call for builders, good ones, punctuates God’s Word.

Ezekiel 22:30, a classic verse used to highlight the ministry of intercession, indicates that God “looked for a man who could build up the wall and stand in the gap.” God is looking for people who can build—others, the church, the Kingdom. We are exhorted to “excel in gifts that build up the church,”1 even as we encourage one another with words that are “helpful for building others up.”2

Those who build will be those who are made in the image of God, and co-workers with Christ. Because Jesus promised that He would build His church.3 And we look forward to dwelling in that wonderful city “whose architect and builder is God.”4

I remember my earthly father as one who put a lot of zeal and precision into what he built. Our Father in heaven is the Master Builder, “the Builder of everything.”5

Who am I building up today? Are the things I am building set on a solid foundation?

~  Diane

1I Corinthians 14:12; 2I Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:29; 3Matthew16:18; 4Hebrews 11:10; 5Hebrews 3:3-4

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Time for Bed

My father had very rigid ideas about bedtime and waking up time. Staying up late, for him, was almost as serious of a wrong as other behavior we would typically label as sin: smoking, drinking, or other vices. Sleeping in was also in the ‘evil’ category. I can still hear him shouting from his bedroom or through the hallways, “Get to bed!” or “Is anybody getting up today?”

The only exception for me was during my college years when I was working night shift at our family restaurant, baking bread and cinnamon rolls that would be served fresh the next morning. For that, I was allowed to stay up late and sleep during the day. The only exception.

I’m not suggesting a major moral or spiritual lesson in this story. Except maybe that God certainly knows how to use each and every life experience to prepare us for those yet to come. It is really good I was trained in bed-time discipline early in life, because the man I married holds the same convictions—at least about going to bed. (He doesn’t mind sleeping in, but bedtime has to be strictly observed). Personal disclosure: when he is away for some reason or another and I’m ‘home alone,’ I almost always stay up late—like a little child testing the boundaries of her parents’ rules <:).

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Uh-oh; it’s bed time. Gotta go….

~ Diane

 

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I Told Me So?

I didn’t intend for this “Lessons from my father” series to be about my mother! (But since the two lived together for 65+ years, I guess the overlap is inevitable.) Father often explained to us that his wife had the unique ability to believe things that were not true. That is, she had the capacity to create her own reality, and then fully believe it. Interesting.

Apparently this ability was not unique to her. Greg Elshof writes in his book I Told Me So: “Self-deception is a major part of what defeats spiritual formation. . . (we) refuse to acknowledge factors in life of which we are dimly conscious, or even know to be the case, but are unprepared to deal with.”

The same book cites studies showing that 94% of the college professors interviewed believed that they are better than average at their jobs. Among one million high school students, 70% think they are above average in leadership ability, 60% saying they are in the top 10% and one out of four saying they see themselves in the top 1%. How is that for positive self-image?!

I find this surprising, because my interactions have been more with people who under-rate themselves than those who over-rate themselves. Either can be dangerous. But based on the statistics, it seems that the self-confidence-boosting gospel has been highly effective.

The interesting thing is that what I believe about myself, my situations and others around me does not need to be true in order to be “true to me” and therefore significantly impact my attitudes, habits and actions. That becomes really tricky. A leader who believes that he manages people well might not be willing to take a course in Team Building, even if he really needs it. And in an opposite example, a teenager who believes that his parents do not love him experiences that as reality, even though it might not be true at all.

My parents helped me realize that it is easy to be deceived by my own view of the truth. What to do? Hopefully a healthy dose of honest input from honest friends, and a willingness to hear exhortation along with affirmation will help keep us on track.

~ Diane

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