Thoughts for the Week

You Know the Rules

Do you hold unique standards in life? Maybe you only mow the lawn on weekends, shop at a certain store once a month, only drink soda for special occasions, or never watch R-rated movies.

Personally, I find it helpful to keep my Sundays as clear of work as possible. That way, I can focus on God and have a good day of rest. Keep in mind I can’t always stick to this standard, but I try.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with placing standards on myself. It’s good to have structure. But it becomes a major problem when people turn their standards into God’s standards.

The Pharisees did this. They made new standards to worship God, and scolded Jesus when he healed a man on a Sabbath (John 5). To them, there should be no work on the day of rest. It was a standard they agreed on, but turned it into something that they thought everyone needed to follow.

It’s sad that these spiritual leaders let their power go to their heads as God clearly stated in Deuteronomy “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (4:2 NIV).

Because he knew better, Jesus didn’t let them pull him into their standards, and continued doing what he knew God wanted him to do. Don’t let people convince you of their additional guidelines and rules and focus on the ones God has given us.

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This is a story about a funny conversation I had with God over little cheesy crackers.

Growing up, my favorite snack was cheddar Munch’ems. They ran through the 1990’s until approximately the early 2000’s when they were discontinued by the manufacturer.

I remember snagging a box of these delicious little crackers, toting them outside, and watching the fluffy summer clouds drift by as I chowed down. I have many good memories about this simple snack.

Fast forward about fifteen years and I was thinking about how Jesus said he’s got to prepare a place for us in heaven because his Father has many mansions (John 14:2).

Well, a mansion needs a kitchen, right? And if there’s a kitchen, there’s got to be a pantry. I smiled and shot up a little prayer. “Hey God, I know you’re a loving Father, so I have a request. Can you stockpile some cheddar Munch’ems in the pantry of my mansion, please?”

Then he responded to me. Now, whenever God speaks to me, I have not heard an audible voice, but I usually get impressions on my heart that I know are not my own thoughts. So he said something along the lines of:

“Oh honey, you know I love you so much, but when it comes to what I’ve prepared for you, you’ve got to dream bigger than Munch’ems!”

I then prayed back “What! Bigger than Munch’ems? I didn’t think that was possible!” And laughed.

It may have been a funny little prayer request, but on tough days, sometimes God talks to me and sends me little reminders that go something along the lines of “Don’t get discouraged – remember I’m waiting here with Munch’ems for you.”

Which sounds so comforting and brings me back to a beautiful childhood, just watching the clouds go by.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9b, NLT).

The Necessity of Stress

Scientists recently created special kind of greenhouse called The Biosphere 2 where they could conduct studies on trees and other various plant life. It was here they discovered something curious.

The trees in the Biosphere 2 grew very rapidly as they had no wind to blow them over or to weaken their structures. However, many of them collapsed before they reached maturation. After some study, the scientists were able to determine that it was the LACK of wind that caused the early death of the trees.

Wind forces growing trees to position themselves for the best sunlight and to grow more strongly. It is clear that these trees required certain amounts of stress in order to grow into strong maturity.(Link)

People react similarly. The author of James grasped this concept and taught it to the readers, saying “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV).

Without any kind of difficulty in one’s life, it is very natural to lack maturity, or at least, the internal structure to grow into a mature person. But be glad when you encounter stress at times, because if you’re relying on God, your root system and internal growth will become strong, just like the trees.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use with permission only.

Who takes care of you?

During different stages in everyone’s life, there are various caretakers. During childhood, the caretakers are the child’s parents. During the teenage years, it’s a combination of parents, and teachers who look after the individual.

People during young adulthood find their caretakers in their significant others. Later adulthood allows for their jobs and businesses to be their main source of income, and in essence, is a caretaker. The elderly years will require very specific care either from the person’s children, or a retirement home.

All this to say, everyone needs someone or something to care for them all throughout their lifetime. Even when one feels invincible, or on top of the world, he or she is always going to need someone to talk to, someone to ensure they are doing well, and someone to love them.

It is comforting to know that God is a loving caretaker and is always there during every stage in life.

“I have upheld [you] since you were conceived, and have carried you since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:3b-4, NIV).

There’s no need to worry about who is going to take care of you, no matter what stage of life you are in right now.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

If you’re a writer, do you ever get attached to your characters? I do. Over time, whether you mean to or not, you begin to care about your characters as if they were real people.

I was writing a story this week for a project, where the main character struggles to overcome a bleak and difficult situation. Seeing her frustration and discouragement, I felt compelled to support and comfort her.

I wanted to say “Honey, don’t feel sad. I have an amazing life planned for you! You’re going to live in a happy home, find a loving husband, and have beautiful children. Yes, there will be some ups and downs, but don’t give up, it’s going to be incredible!”

Wanting to reach out to my character, I was suddenly struck with a though: Is this how it is between God and us sometimes? He’s the author of our lives, he brings in the supporting characters, the love interests, the antagonists, the plot twists, etc.

But unlike my character who knows nothing about her future, God has told us already that we win in the end:

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will           be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every           tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning,                 nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away                                         (Rev 20:3b-4, NIV)

Don’t get discouraged in this small chapter in your life, remember that the author of your life is the all-powerful, loving God, and he’s already shown that our ending is a happy one.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

 

What’s your favorite way to communicate online?

With social media, blogs, video viewing sites, and more, the world has never been more connected. This can be a double-edged sword, however. Because while we’re connected to more some good people, this means we’re also connected to those people who tend to stir up trouble.

The politest euphemism for these people is to say that they are a troll: someone who aims to specially cause strife and gets into unending arguments just to infuriate the person on the other end of the conversation.

The trolls believe they are safe since no one knows who they truly are (since some sites allow anonymous users), and they never need to speak with the frustrated person face-to-face.

Believe it or not, Proverbs spoke about this rude type of individual long before the internet was invented. It says that “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (18:2, NIV).

A fool just wants to get his or her ideas out there, and can never be convinced that what he or she is saying is incorrect or unkind.

The best course of action is to ignore these trolls because they aren’t open to learning what you have to say, they’re just trying to voice their opinions, and to possibly get a reaction out of you.

The anonymity of the internet seems to allow these trolls to irritate anyone they please, but don’t forget that there’s an all-powerful “Admin” watching all online activity, along with the trolls and their foolish actions. He will ultimately deal with every decision made on the internet….

…which is oddly a comforting thought.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use with permission only.

Good deeds have always been, and always should be, encouraged – whether it’s helping someone move, assisting an elderly person, or simply giving out small gifts to strangers.

While sometimes the secular and Christian charities and good deeds look similar, the reason behind them can differ greatly.

Many good outreach efforts from the community that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime were due to there being some kind of crisis: Hurricane Katrina, the Twin Towers attacks (9/11), and others.

While it’s very touching to see the best come out of people during times of need and disaster, sometimes the only reason for doing good stems from the fact that something bad has occurred.

I’m certainly not condemning the charities and those who do good in the face of misfortune, I applaud them! God designed us in his image, and his kindness shows through in crisis.

However, there’s something special about one who does good to others not because of something bad, but because God is good.

Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (NIV).

There is so much more joy to be had when someone loves and does good to others because they  want to celebrate God’s goodness.

So this week, keep in mind that joy is the best fuel for doing good.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

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