Short-term memory loss.

image

The feeding of the 5,000 is an oft-discussed miracle, but have you read the one in which he feeds the 4,000?

What struck me in this account was not the greatness of the miracle, but the  severe memory loss of Jesus’ disciples.

Here is the account:

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”

They said, “Seven.”

And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied.

And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

Mark‬ ‭8:1-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Every time I read this passage, I get a sense of deja-vu. This reads a lot like the Feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6. The only thing missing is a generous little boy.

Desolate place? Check!

Colossal crowd of hungry people? Check!

A small amount of Bread and fish? Check!

A ridiculous amount of leftovers? Check!

Notice what the disciples say in verse 4: “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

Shouldn’t they be saying, “Hey, remember how we fed 5,000 men (plus women and children) with only 5 loaves and 2 fish? Are you willing to do that again, Lord? We have seven loaves and a few small fish!”

The disciples seemed to suffer from either amnesia or short-term memory loss. If Jesus had the urge to cover His face with His hands and sigh, it would’ve been here! Jesus had performed an inconceivable miracle when He fed the people the first time. They had seen Him do many other signs and wonders. At this point, they should be thinking to themselves, “there’s nothing He can’t do!”

And yet, they doubted. They forgot the amazing power of the Lord.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

How often has God done amazing things in your life? How often do you forget those things at the first sign of a challenge?

I’d like to think I wouldn’t be as dense as the disciples, but I know that there have been many times when I have done exactly the same thing. We need to make it a point to regularly give thanks for the things God has done for us in the past.

Why do you think God commanded the Israelites of the Old Testament to set up memorials? He knew how forgetful we humans can be. He knows we need help.

If you are faced with insurmountable challenges, take time to make a list of the amazing things God has done. Lay out your list before the Lord, give thanks to Him in prayer. Then, ask Him to help you climb this mountain just like He’s done before for you and the countless other faithful who have come before.

Our God is powerful. Trust Him to help you!

7 Marriage Principles We Should Teach Our Children

image

Many parents squirm over the prospect of their children dating and marrying—and for good reason. We who have been through that stage of life are well-acquainted with the pitfalls, dangers and temptations. We have observed (or experienced) them and are more than a little reluctant to let our kids face that particular gauntlet.

Because we live in a society in which people choose their marriage partner, it is absolutely vital that we actively teach our children what marriage is and what to look for in a spouse.

#1: Dating/courtship is for the purpose of finding the right person to marry.

Dating/courtship is a vetting process like a job interview. Get character references (not necessarily in writing), get to know that person’s friends, learn how they behave in various situations. We need to remind our children that when they date someone, they need to closely examine that person’s character:

1. Do you they walk with the Lord or do they merely go through the motions?

2. Do they anger easily?

3. Do they have emotional imbalances?

4. How does a man treat his mother? How does a girl treat her father? Odds are they will treat you the same way after you are married.

4. Do they give in to vices—drugs, gambling, overeating, overspending, alcohol, etc.?

5. Are they lazy or hardworking?

6. Do they treat you respectfully or try to lead you into temptation?

7. Are they willing to wait until marriage to have physical intimacy?

Teach your kids these principles in any conversation about potential dating prospects. I saw an example recently in which a mother told her daughter to insert her boyfriend’s name in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and determine whether he possessed some of the attributes (patient, kind etcetera). It was an eye opener for the young girl!

#2: Marry a true fellow Christian.

I am certain there will be many who disagree with me on this one.

I have seen 3 cases in which an unbelieving spouse turns toward Christ and becomes a strong, dedicated Christian. It is possible—all things are with God. However, it is a phenomenal risk. Do you really want to place the spiritual future of your unborn children on the line?

Another thought: it is much easier to pull someone down than to lift somebody up. The relationship between a husband and wife is one of the strongest, most intimate earthly bonds. How can two walk together unless they are agreed? You will each keep trying to pull one another down disparate paths, leading to contention, separation, or one side caving to the other. I don’t care how strong you think you are, you set yourself up for a troublesome path if you choose to marry someone who doesn’t love the Lord.

Lastly, just because someone says they are a Christian does not mean they live like one. Observe their conduct both in worship and when surrounded by worldly people.

#3: Marriage is a lifelong commitment.

Our society has been eroding this concept for decades. The homosexuals didn’t destroy marriage; heterosexual married couples beat them to it. Divorce rates have been high since the 1970’s, with the result that marriage is—to quote Mary Poppins—a “pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken.”

Emphasize the importance of commitment to your kids. If your children promise to do something—no matter how small—hold them to it! If they fail to keep appointments, show up for jobs, fulfill agreements  etc, let them suffer the consequences. If they learn to be committed to their word, they will carry this over into their married life.

#4: Husbands should love their wives.

Duh.

This may seem obvious, but it’s often neglected.

Husbands, take the initiative to set up a date night with your wife away from the house. Show your wife affection in front of your children. I’m not suggesting that you be inappropriate about it, just give her small tokens of affection such as coming up behind your wife to give her a hug, holding her hand when you’re out walking, opening the car door for her when you get ready to leave, or  giving her a kiss whenever you part from each other. Women crave romance and affection, no matter what their love language might be. Random acts of romance are great too!

One last thing: praise her often, especially in front of the kids. They need to see that their mother is cherished and appreciated by their father so they will model it in their own relationships. They need to know that women are not doormats, nor are they goddesses—they are a valued partner in the marriage relationship and ought to be treated as such.

#5: Wives should respect their husbands.

I was surprised to learn that Aretha Franklin’s hit song “Respect” was written by Otis Redding—a man. It wasn’t meant to be a feminist mantra; it was a husband’s plea to his wife!

Just as women crave affection, men long for respect. Our culture has gone out of it’s way to demean men in an effort to promote women. This isn’t equality, folks, it’s selfishness. Why do you have to tear someone else down in an effort to build yourself up? Men should show respect to their wives, but wives should also respect their husbands.

Wives, do NOT demean your husband behind his back or to his face. Speak civilly in front of the children. Find the good that he does and praise him behind his back and to his face. Ask his honest opinion and consider it without rolling your eyes. Build him up, don’t tear him down. This makes a huge difference for your children as well. If a wife disrespects her husband, the kids will also disrespect him. If there is really something irritating you, take it first to the Lord in prayer and then communicate it to your husband privately once you’ve considered the best way to approach it.

#6: Married couples should be a team.

I think two of my three children have tried the “daddy-said-no-so-ask-mommy” routine (or vice versa) at least once. They quickly learned to discard this tactic. If we disagree about something with the kids, we do it behind closed doors. In front of the kids, we are a united front. They’ve learned that we aren’t to be manipulated or turned against each other.

#7: Married couples may disagree, but they do it respectfully.

Have discussions, not arguments in front of your children. I’ve heard people say that kids should see married couples argue so they know that “it happens” and doesn’t mean the marriage is over. I’m not so sure about that. I recommend discussing things (in a civil manner) in front of the kids. Children should see that spouses disagree (it’s reality), but that it can be done without resorting to anger. (Remember:  don’t argue about your kids in front of your kids—keep those discussions private!)


We cannot force our children to choose good partners or to have good marriages. Even in good marriages, there may come a time in which one spouse is lead away by temptation or crumbles under pressure.

Here is what we can do: 

  1. Pray for your child’s future spouse—daily.
  2. Actively teach these principles
  3. Be an example of the above principles!

What if I’m a single parent?

If you are widowed with children at home, you have a challenging job dealing with grief and caring for children. Pray diligently! Seek out families with good parents that your children can spend time with so they can observe good marriages. If you choose to remarry, tread carefully and make sure to do your due diligence in researching that person.

If you are divorced, you have a tough mountain to climb, depending on the age and maturity of your child. Don’t spend all your time running down your ex. You cannot control that person or what they say; you can only control what you do with the time you have with your child. Love them, teach them, and point out the pitfalls of divorce—they see it firsthand though they may not grasp it. Be an example of steadiness and stability. Above all, pray ceaselessly for your children—divorce is hard for them to handle too!

If we want to see stronger marriages, we need to start by strengthening our own and teaching our children these principles.

What marriage principles are you teaching your children? What would you add to the list?

Who do I tell?

image

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

~ Psalm‬ ‭55:22‬, ‭NASB

Have you ever had your heart crushed by someone who was supposed to be a friend? Enemies can attack and leave some bruising, but nothing is as devastating as being hurt, neglected, ignored or betrayed by a loved one. Enemy attacks are like surface wounds; friend’s attacks cut to the bone.

When you feel this way, where do you take your pain? To whom do you relay your frustration? I used to tell other people my feelings with the unfortunate consequence of it being relayed back to the perpetrator and more strife being created. There is a better way: take it to the Lord.

The Burden of Anger.

There are going to be times we are full to bursting with frustration and we have to get it off our chest. We may feel like we can’t take our negative, angry feelings to God because it’s too much like complaining.

When you think this way, remind yourself of the above passage: “Cast your burden on the Lord…”

Casting off is to shed some load that you are carrying. Anger is a burden. Some call this “baggage.” It’s a heavy load. Over time, we may not notice it’s weight, but it weakens our soul, morphing into resentment. Imagine being stooped for a long period of time with a weight on your back. At some point, the back won’t straighten up again because it’s permanently fixed in that position. Don’t allow your soul to be permanently stooped with bitterness. Cast your burden off!

Unloading your baggage.

If you feel the weight of anger/pain/frustration, pause for a moment and pray, “Lord, I am so angry with [insert name]. They did [this] to me. It made me feel [insert emotion]. I know that you desire me to forgive as you have forgiven me. I need to extend grace to this person and have the mind of Christ. Help me to overcome, to be holy as you are holy. I can’t let go of this without your aid.”

The Lord already knows what the person did and how you feel about it, but it is critical that you lay it all out as to Him as you would to a friend. You know that gnawing sensation you feel when you need to get something off your chest? That’s what you are doing when you pray this way to God. Get it off your chest. There is something innately helpful about talking something through. Unload your baggage. Don’t tell someone else who may go and share what you want concealed; tell the One who can actually handle the load.

Taking on Forgiveness.

Onice you have unloaded your pain, it’s time to pick up forgiveness. Carrying an attitude of forgiveness is a much lighter load than the leaden backpack of anger. It is not easy to forgive, which is why it is important to seek the Lord’s help. Do you believe in the statement of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”? If you believe it, then ask Him for help! Do not doubt His promises.

Keep asking, seeking and knocking.

You may or may not feel better immediately after confiding in the Lord. If you are still wounded, you need to keep going back to God. Remember, He can handle your heartache. It is not useless repetition, it’s like physical therapy. One trip to a physical therapist won’t fix an injury. It takes several visits to get back into shape. This is no different. Keep asking in faith. The Lord is calling us to be like Him, it is His will. If you desire to be like Him, then you need His assistance and you need it constantly.

Has someone slighted you today? Are you feeling wounded? Don’t tell another person, tell God—He can handle it!

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

~ 1 Peter 5.6-7, NKJV

[Please Note: There are instances, such as cases of sexual, verbal, or physical abuse in which it would be necessary to seek counseling/therapy. Trauma affects the brain just as violently as a being physically hit by a bus and the recovery takes just as long or longer. If you are a victim of trauma, seek help from a qualified Christian counselor AND the Lord. I have found that it is sometimes necessary to get counseling from someone who does not know you personally, because they are not biased towards you or the offending party. God puts people like this in our lives as His tools, just like doctors and nurses. There is no shame in getting help from a neutral party and it does not negate or weaken the hand of God.]

“Little Faith” — Good, bad, or simply a start? (Coffee Chat 15)

coffee chat

With all the big leaps I’ve taken lately, my mind has travelled several times to the account of Peter stepping out on the water in the middle of a storm. There are a plethora of songs that allude to this idea of stepping out in faith/walking on water. Many focus on Peter sinking the moment he took his eyes off Jesus. That’s a great lesson for every season. Lately, however, I’ve been mulling over the term “little faith.”

Jesus uses this phrase throughout the gospels. The only time I found “have you no faith?” was in Mark. Most often he says, “O you of little faith.” Is it a term of disappointment, condescension or frustration? Or, is it an acknowledgement that they have faith, but it needs development?

Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 14 that I alluded to earlier:

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?””

‭‭~ Matthew‬ ‭14:23-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I find it interesting that he doesn’t say, “where’s your faith?” Or “have you no faith?!” Jesus says (in essence) “you have faith, but it needs to become greater than your fear.”

Here are thoughts/questions I’ve been pondering and I’d love to hear your input:

1) Peter was a fisherman. He knew what happened if you got out of a boat in the middle of the water—you sink. In a stormy situation, you would likely drown. He had faith enough to step out on the water and walk a little ways. Nobody else jumped out to follow him. Only Peter took that risk. Was he being brash or foolhardy? I don’t know what was on his mind, but if he had been trying to show off, I think Jesus would’ve rebuked him for that. Peter believed that Jesus had the power to help him walk on water. He had faith enough to take the first step.

2) Peter had faith, but his fear was greater. His initial trust in Jesus was overwhelmed when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the danger. His fear overshadowed his faith. I wonder if Jesus looked at him like we look at our children sometimes. For example, my children trust me, but sometimes their fear overwhelms their trust. When they went swimming in a big pool for the first time. I assured they would not be scared, but they panicked as soon as they couldn’t feel ground beneath their feet. I may have been a little disappointed in their lack of trust, but, as an adult, I also recognized that they did not possess my long experience. Sometimes this makes them rush headlong into danger and at other times it makes them reluctant to trust.

3) “Little faith” is meant to be a starting point, not a permanent residence. Thus far, these men had left their livelihoods, their families and the status quo to follow Jesus. We often shake our heads at their mishaps, but I wonder if we would have done as much as they did with the little knowledge they had. Jesus watered their faith regularly so that by the time He ascended to heaven, they had enough faith to move mountains.

4) I find it interesting in James he says this:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

~ James‬ ‭1:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Do you think James may have been thinking of this incident when he wrote this?

Your turn!

What do you think about the phrase? When Jesus uses it, what does it mean?

Grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea and join the discussion!

Progress Report – February 2016

 

imageBefore I dive into today’s post, I need to address a couple “adminy” things:

First, I apologize for my spotty posting schedule and slow response time on your delightful comments. From about 7 am to 9 pm everyday I am like a machine—get up, read, pray, then dive in to packing, painting, paperwork, cleaning, prepping, scheduling and trying to be helpful to my children. It’s been a nonstop whirlwind of activity. I am hopeful that once we get to Texas and back into a routine, my posting will be back on a regular track.

Second, I want to remind you of all the different ways to connect with Elihu’s Corner. Many of my readers follow the blog through WordPress, but you can also like the Facebook page, follow me on Twitter (@elihuscorner), or get email updates. In fact, I’d love for you to comment below and let me know which means of communication you prefer. I will continue to use them all, but it’s nice to get a pulse on what people use most! If you haven’t had a chance to check out my social media spots, I hope you’ll take some time to do so. I am thankful to all of you for your great comments, reblogs, Facebook shares, retweets, and for simply taking the time to read.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….


Remember those goals/resolutions you created at the beginning of the year?

You do?

Wait… you don’t?

Where’s your list of goals?

“oh, right…. that list was in my head.”

“Goals? What goals?”

“My New Year’s Resolutions? Well… Uh…”

That’s where a lot of people are by this point in the year—all those great plans are often under a pile of papers or covered in dust.

If you are on track with most of your goals for the year, congratulations! Keep up the good work!

If you still have your list of goals and have fallen behind, there’s no time like the present to rev them up again. My goals are still up on the bathroom mirror. (I just put a reminder on my list for today to take them down!) I am behind on a few, but I know why: my whole house is in disarray due to a move within the next 10 days!

I’m still on track with most of my goals:

Read Bible every day. Check. 

Pray daily. Check.

Walk 3-4 times per week. Check.

Now memorizing…  Well… I’m still working on Hebrews 12. Last time I wrote a progress report, I had only memorized 2 verses. I have 12 under my belt now. I’m still way behind (I was supposed to be done by the end of February)  Unless I select really short chapters from here on out, I may not be able to make my goal of 6 chapters this year, but that’s ok—I’m willing to revise my goal! If you’re interested in memorizing scripture, click here.

If you’ve lost/forgotten/fallen behind on your goals for 2016, fear not!

You can do the following:

  1. Make new goals for the remainder of the year. I have found that some of my greatest earthly accomplishments were attained by making a goal, creating a reasonable plan to achieve said goal and throwing all my energy into getting there. When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to go to medical school, so I made it my aim to earn straight A’s through high school and graduate in the top ten. I achieved both goals (ahem, both latter goals… not med school), graduated Salutatorian, and had an excellent SAT score. I worked myself raw. I would spend hours working on homework and studying between band rehearsals, performances, lessons and practice. I am not a good test taker nor am I a genius so I had to work extra hard. The point is, determination and sweat can get you far. For more on goal-making, read “Setting Goals That Last.
  2. Adjust your current goals to a more achievable level. As I mentioned earlier, my goal of memorizing 6 chapters this year may need to be revised simply because my situation has radically changed since January. Small adjustments/tweaks are ok. You’re still aiming in a specific direction.
  3. Pray. This list is not ordered by importance, in fact, I saved the most critical point for last. Prayer is paramount, especially when our direction becomes clouded. Lately, all the discombobulation of moving has made me feel “off-center.” When I am “on-center” my mind is fixed on God, my prayers are regular, my study time is full of discovery, my meditation is meaningful, and my heart rests in the peace of God. Because I am still praying and studying, I’m not falling apart or flying off the handle, but I’ve had trouble meditating on God and His Word. I am restless and distracted. I get sidetracked mid-prayer and have to restart. Many of my prayers have been asking God to help me refocus on my greatest treasure—Him! Without committing our works to God both in prayer and action, all the blood, sweat and tears are meaningless. Oh you may achieve a great deal—I’ve read numerous biographies of famous geniuses and giants of industry, many of whom neglected (or rejected) God and family—but you will miss the mark on what matters most. I said above in point one, “determination and sweat can get you far.” They can. But the question is, are you climbing the right ladder? Pray. Daily. Commit it to the Lord and seek Him first.

If daily bible reading, daily prayer, or daily devotional time with your family is among your goals, there’s no time like the present to commit. Today is all we’ve been given—make the most of the opportunity!

How are you doing on your goals for 2016?

It’s time to break camp!

camp

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

~ Proverbs 16.9, NKJV

When I was young, I had very definite ideas about what I wanted to achieve in life. I wanted to have enough money to live in a nice big house in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I wanted a college degree, a good career and a good church to worship with. I wanted to be married, have children. I wanted to have it all.

There’s a funny truth about our crazy dreams: while many are attainable, they are not necessarily attainable together. I couldn’t have everything without sacrificing something.

By the time I was 16, I knew I wanted to go to college, but didn’t have a clue where to go. I wanted to go somewhere prestigious like Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford—I certainly had the grades and the test scores to stand a chance. But when the rubber hit the road and I had to start shelling out hundreds of dollars per application, those California state schools looked far more attractive. I settled on a school in San Luis Obispo, over 300 miles from home, and at the age of 17, embarked on dream #1: college. While crashing classes, eating lousy dorm food, drinking too much coffee, pulling all-nighters and forming lifelong friendships, my dreams transformed once more. I wanted a home and career in that beautiful place. I wanted to revel in the beauty of that coastal town for the rest of my life. The church there had become my family and I was thoroughly happy.

Unfortunately, careers and affordable rents are difficult to come by with such an expansive concentration of interns and talent. While I was working my first post-college job, I met my spouse and moved to Sacramento, embarking on another unplanned journey.

I broke camp and moved to the next place.

Such has been my routine for the past seventeen years.

Make plans. Dream dreams. Get settled. Things change. Break camp. Move along down the road.

The dreams keep changing shape. I make plans—good plans—but the Lord leads me in other unplanned directions.

So, is it foolish to make plans and dream dreams?

No.

Here’s some things to keep in mind about plans and dreams:

  1. Entrust them to the Lord
    As the above verse states: A man’s heart plans his way [these are dreams/goals/plans] but the Lord directs His steps. Pray about your goals and dreams. Ask God to shape them and make the right ones come to fruition. I have learned that God’s plans are always more beneficial than my own. I’m learning to put every request before Him with the Words, “not my will but yours be done, because you know best.”
  2. It is far better to make plans and work at them, then to have no plan at all.
    For example, I have a savings plan laid out every year. Sometimes there are surprise expenses and I have to adjust the plan. Even if I come out a few dollars short, I’m farther ahead than I would have been if I’d just arbitrarily thrown money into savings. Make plans. They truly help!
  3. Be thankful for the dreams that have been fulfilled
    In the face of unfulfilled dreams, we tend to mourn their loss and disregard any present blessings. First of all, if you have been washed in the blood of Christ, you are in Christ. What better “dream” could their be than salvation?? In more physical terms, what dreams are still in your possession? I assume at least one has still come to fruition. Give thanks in all circumstances. God provides for you every single day.
  4. If our greatest dream is the Lord, the devastation of our earthly dreams won’t be as catastrophic.
    Many of my earthly dreams have not just been derailed, they’ve been violently shattered. It’s painful to see things go up in smoke as it were. Consider the early Christians. They lost their homes, families, livelihoods, and more—all for the sake of Christ. Did they sit in the ashes and weep? No! They rejoiced! They had come to realize that there was something far better than this life. They had Christ, and He was their greatest treasure. They are our cloud of witnesses who possessed joy indescribable. We ought to desire, as they did, a heavenly country.
  5. It’s all temporary.
    There’s a reason I keep saying, “Break camp.” We are only here for a short while. This world is a wilderness camp ground and the promise land comes afterwards. Let go of that sense of “possession” and remember that it all belongs to the Lord.

Today I sit in our freshly painted house, surrounded by the chaos of moving boxes, paperwork, misplaced furniture, and all those trappings of relocation. I’ve been sorting through old books, papers, and trinkets, and trying to say goodbye to people, places and things that I’ve grown to love. Yes, even in this wilderness place, there are attachments that are painful to part with.

I never dreamed that I’d spend my adult life relocating multiple times. And yet, I can’t deny that God has lead me to each new location. Sometimes I’ve run joyously toward my new destination, but mostly, I go with sadness and painful goodbyes.

If your wait is over and the call has come to break camp, remember that if the Lord wills you to go, He will direct your steps. He will guard you and protect you.

Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.

~ Proverbs 16.3, ESV