Thoughts for the Week

Posts tagged ‘God’

Why Do You Do Good Deeds?

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.

Any Place Can Be Home

It’s easy to feel out of place from time to time. Even the place where one lays down his or her head can feel alien.

The author of Psalm 119 understood this unfortunate fact, and painted a subtle connection between verses 19 and 54.

Psalm 119:19 says something that many Christians have echoed throughout history “I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me” (NIV). 

But there is a positive answer to those who feel as though they don’t belong. Just thirty-five verses later, the psalmist says “[The Lord’s] decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge” (v.54, NIV).

The comparison indicates that wherever one stays can become the place where someone belongs the most. God’s law and his presence can make any place on earth feel like home.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

Against All Odds

Sometimes we have to face issues that seem downright impossible.

Gideon certainly felt this way when God called him to raise an army to fight against the Midianites (Judges 6). The Bible does not specifically mention how many Midianites there were occupying Israel, but according to the John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, a fair estimate would have been 135,000 Midianites.

Gideon had gathered a mighty force of 32,000 Israelites to stand against their enemy. This meant there were 4.2 Midianites to 1 Israelite fighter. Not very good odds, but if they were lucky, the fight could be won.

However, God had something else in mind. He told Gideon, “You have too many men…In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her…anyone who trembles with fear may turn back” (Judges 7:2-3 NIV).

All those scared to fight left, leaving 10,000 men remaining. This meant there were 13.5 Midianites to 1 Israelite. It was certainly a worse ratio than before, but there was a slight chance the attack wouldn’t be a suicide mission.

However, God had more to say, “There are still too many men” (Judges 7:4). He did not want Israel to think that it had won the battle on its own, even if the odds were slim.

So God did something unheard of. He chose 300 men to fight. This meant that there were 450 Midanites per 1 Israelite. The odds had steadily worsened each time:

  • First sweep: 4.2 to 1
  • Second sweep: 13.5 to 1
  • Final sweep: 450 to 1

The numbers jumped from an unlikely victory to a no-way-fat-chance-not-happening-in-a-million-years victory in one sweep. Suddenly, Gideon and the rest of Israel had to come to grips with the fact that they were never going to win this fight on their own. Trusting God in this impossible circumstance was the only way out.

Luckily, God had a plan, and with His help, Gideon and his 300 men drove the Midianites from the land. So whenever you feel like you have a situation that seems impossible, instead of focusing on yourself, focus on the God who wins impossible battles.

That way, you can see how your situation can give Him glory once you let Him become the commander of it.

Works Cited: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/judges-7-12.html

Copyright 2015 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

Love Because He Loves

Make-FriendsWhy do you have friends?

Perhaps it has to do with similar interests you both share. Maybe you like how honest she is, or because you feel respected around him. However, friendship can be used selfishly.

I had a friend back in high school who liked having me around because she felt like my superior. At first I thought she was just assertive and wanted to go do certain activities and see certain movies. I found she liked having my submission rather than my friendship.  She only wanted me around to use me to feel better about herself. Needless to say, we did not remain friends for long.

A certain passage struck me the other day in Isaiah 57. God says,  “I live in a high and holy place but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (v. 15a NIV). Notice it didn’t say “I live with him who is high on the social ladder,” or “him who only makes me feel better.”

God looks for people to love and befriend not based on what they can do for him, or how they make him feel. He seeks out those people because he loves them.

Think of this next time you’re making new friends. Love them because God loves them, not what they can do for you.

Copyright 2013 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

He’ll Run to You

the-parable-of-the-lost-sonsHow do you describe someone? As a writer, it’s effective to use comparisons. “He was tall and thin like a willow tree.”

God is described doing many things in the Bible in this way. Many of them are human attributes and actions to help describe him better. During the Exodus, the Lord is described as carrying Israel “as a father carries his son” (Deut. 1:31, NIV). Immediately the readers can picture a gentle dad carrying his little boy to bed. Another metaphor is in Genesis 2:2, when God rested from his work, thus creating the Sabbath.

These descriptions are woven through the Bible, and there’s a unique comparison that’s only used once. In Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son, the young man asks for his inheritance and leaves. But when he comes back, his father sees him and runs to meet him. With God as the father, this is only place in the Bible where God is shown running.

According to Jack Wellman, this idea of the Father running to the wayward son would have been shocking because “the Jews considered this highly undignified in their culture. The patriarch never ran or never made the first move in such a situation.”

The fact that God let himself be depicted in this unorthodox show of love is deeply moving. Not only will he welcome you back, he’ll run to you, arms open wide.

References: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/the-prodigal-son-bible-story-summary-analysis-and-themes/

Copyright 2013 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Commander of My Future

futureI’m in a certain stage in my life that most people fear–job-hunting.

Graduation from college is quickly approaching and I’m looking for an editorial position in a publishing house. It would be an understatement to say I’ve been a little stressed about it. My fiance is also applying to a graduate school and  figuring out timing has been not been as fun as I hoped.

The other day, however, I was reading through Ecclesiastes chapter eleven and my translation was interestingly put. The writer was speaking to young people and how they should enjoy life and remember their Creator. Verse ten began, “So refuse to worry” (NLT).

In that moment, God impressed on my heart, “When you worry about the future, you care about it more than you care me. I got the future. So refuse to worry.”

It also reminded me of the verse we all know, Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NLT)

When I stand my ground and don’t let worry take control of my planning, I choose God instead. He remains where he should be, the commander of my future. He knows the best way to go, so why worry?

Copyright 2013 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Always Watching

Malti-poo puppy destroying houseDo you have a dog that’s always causing trouble?

I have a peppy Bichon Frise named Buddy who has a mind of his own. The other day, I was cleaning my room and he trotted in. Without skipping a beat, Buddy jumped onto a piece of furniture and put his paws up on my dresser, where half-eaten snacks sometimes take residence. He’s not allowed there and I shooed him away.

“You dumb dog, can’t you see I was watching?” For some reason in his little doggy brain, he thought I wouldn’t notice him blatantly disobeying me.

Suddenly, I was struck by the same lesson. There were times I thought I could do something behind God’s back. It’s easy to forget that God’s always watching. It says in Psalm 33:13, “from heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind.” A Christ-follower should choose what is right, especially when he or she is alone, because there’s always someone watching.

In the end, God will either commend or condemn what is done because he’s always watching.

Copyright 2013 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only

Alone With the Lord

Alone-47When was the last time you were alone?

I don’t mean just being somewhere without people, I mean being somewhere without distractions. No phone, no computer, nothing to entertain.

I can’t think about the last time I’ve been totally alone. As Americans, we are continually wanting to be entertained and busy. We are always busy.

Jesus was busy too, but he took time to slow down. In Mark 1:35-38, it says he left to go to an isolated place to pray. In the verses before (29-34), it’s clear Jesus was extremely busy the night before, healing people and casting out demons.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve had a rough evening, I try to sleep in the next morning.

But that’s not what he did. He got up before the sun rose to be alone with the Father. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (NIV).

Prayer is to be an intimate, private, and distraction-free event. It’s a time to get to know your Father better. Jesus thought it was important enough to give up a morning.

This week, find a time to be alone with the Lord.

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Where is Peace? (Part 2 of 2)

jesus-birthCaroline sat on the couch near the lit tree. Its soft multi-colored light always made her feel young again. She lowered herself onto the couch, her cheek resting against the plush fabric. She tried to fight the tears that made the tree seem to melt away as the lights morphed into points of dizzy color. She didn’t even notice when she fell asleep.

* * *

She suddenly found herself in a dark place where she noticed a large object, which was a cutout of Santa Claus. Its height reached several stories. She could only gawk as she approached. As she lightly touched Santa’s hummer-sized boot, the giant, flat structure began to lean forward. Caroline shrieked and ran.

The cutout crashed, shooting a large puff of air that sent Caroline sprawling. She pushed herself up and realized there was something behind the cutout. It was a man. Even from a distance, Caroline could tell he was old. “Hey! Hey, you!”

The old man straightened, his eyes wide. In one hand, he held a small bag of gold coins. He sputtered, “Oh, I didn’t hear you sneak up on me. Please don’t let the secret out, I want it to be a surprise.”

“What surprise?” As she approached, Caroline had failed to notice the shoes that rested on a doorstep. He had been placing his coins into them. “Who are you?” She asked.

The man’s white hair glistened and his eyes twinkled, “I’m Bishop Nikolaos of Myra.”  He gestured to the little shoes. “These little ones just lost their mother and are in need of gifts.” He slipped a coin into another leather slipper. “I give gifts in secret. Seeing their surprise is a treat.” He pointed to another house down the way.

“Some years ago, there were three daughters in that house. They were too poor for a proper dowry and were afraid they would never get married. Well, over the course of three days, I hid a gift for each daughter in their shoes. By the second day, the father had caught on and waited at the door all night to see if a present for his third daughter would come.”

Nikolaos chuckled and his laugh lines were highlighted. “You’ll never guess what I did.” Caroline couldn’t guess. The man continued to chuckle. “I dropped the third daughter’s gift down the chimney. It fell into a stocking she had hung up to dry!”

Caroline gasped. “Wait! I know you. You’re Santa Claus!”

Just like that, the old man faded away along with the doorstep and the little shoes.

She looked around, and there were more towering cutouts: gigantic presents, skyscraper-sized Christmas trees, and candy canes as thick as tree trunks. She gently pushed the mammoth Christmas tree; the lights and tinsel fell with a crash. Behind it was a scraggly evergreen tree sitting inside a house. No lights, no ornaments.

“That’s it?” Caroline protested. “This tradition is why I pay eighty dollars every year for a tree?” Her cheeks started to grow hot and her temper rose. She turned and knocked over a towering candy cane. Behind it was a German man, making the candy canes for little kids. Caroline turned and continued to shove the other cutouts over.

Little Christmas elves toppled, as did large bunches of mistletoe. Sleigh bells loudly jangled as they tumbled to the ground. Apple cider splashed to the ground, creating a small tidal wave.

Caroline was fed up with Christmas and was looking for meaning behind it all.

She was huffing angrily when she reached the final cutout. It was a little shack with two people inside. When she got closer, she realized it was Joseph and Mary. Their cutouts knelt beside a small box. If she had stopped, Caroline would have seen a soft light pouring from the box.

But she charged, her anger boiling over. Religion had caused nothing but pain in her life. She slammed into Mary, sending the cutout tumbling. She shoved Joseph, and he toppled too.  She went for the manger. The little box itself flopped over like a thin piece of paper.

Then she saw the glow. It rippled and floated off the ground like a balloon. The little shack melted away and all that remained was this odd sphere of light. It irked her this thing hadn’t fallen too. She charged to push it over. But to her surprise, the thing pushed back. She put her shoulder into it and shoved. It shoved back just as hard.

She fell to her back, staring up at the light. To her surprise again, it grew rapidly. It grew until it filled the large expanse above. Suddenly from the depth of the light, a voice floated out.

“What are you doing here?”

Caroline sputtered, “I-I…who-who are you?”

The warm light flickered and she heard echoing laughter. “I’m the child they celebrate at Christmas time. I’m the one whom the angels sang about.”

“The baby?”

“I’m God as a human. I came to earth over two thousand years ago to show the world how to know God.” The light slowly started pulling together into a form, and began to look like a man. “You asked yourself ‘Where is peace?’ I’m here to let you know that I’m peace.” From the morphing light, a hand reached out to her….

* * *

Caroline awoke to the scent of hot chocolate. She sat up and saw her husband, Clark coming over, a steaming mug in each hand. “Morning sweetheart,” he smiled. “Feeling better today?”

After rubbing an eye, everything came into focus. “Yeah, I…just had a lot on my mind.” He handed her a warm mug and slipped in beside her. “I noticed you were reading my Bible last night.”

She took in the earthy chocolate smell. It had little flecks of cinnamon on top, just the way she liked it. Clark continued, “Yeah, I always love reading about Jesus’ birthday this time of year.” The hot chocolate almost spilled as Caroline jumped. Her dream suddenly came back to her.

“Wait, Jesus was the baby?”

Clark looked her in the eye. “Yes. Christmas is about celebrating his birth.”

In that moment, Caroline knew where the peace was, it had been born in a feedbox a long time ago.

The End.

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Where is Peace? (Part 1 of 2)

images“Move it!”

Caroline felt someone shove her. She almost dropped her precariously balanced Christmas packages. She glared. The pushy shopper dashed forward, various bags swinging from her arms.

Caroline knew she needed to sit down. Her boots pinched her toes, and her heavy winter coat was making her sweat under the shop lights. The obnoxious Christmas music also made her head pound.

She found a vacant bench and plopped down while the rest of the mall swirled around her. It was finally a moment to breathe. Caroline watched the hordes of people pouring in and out of the stores. Hurrying. Scurrying. Worrying. The manic look on their faces only heightened the tension.

The packages at her feet rested innocently. They had drained her bank account and her sanity trying to find them. She hated Christmas shopping. The aching knot at the back of her skull told her that. She cupped the back of her neck and winced.

What is the point of all this?

* * *

She finally made it home after avoiding slushy ice puddles. Hanging the keys on a hook, Caroline noticed her kids were gathered around the TV. A Christmas claymation about Santa Claus was playing. She removed her coat and recalled when she was younger and watched the same program. Her heart sank slightly. Those days seemed simpler. The days when Santa and magic were real.

Sitting on the nearby couch, one of her kids, David, looked up with wonder. His crooked front teeth always made an adorable smile. “Mom? Does Santa always see us?”

The question caught Caroline off guard. But she didn’t want to spoil his excitement  She gently swept his blond hair out of his bright eyes. “Sure does, sweetie. That means you need to be good to get presents.”

David swiveled his body back to the TV. His little sister, Samantha, leaned over. “Told you,” she whispered. They continued watching, but Caroline’s heart grew heavier as she watched them. She felt silly lying to her son. She remembered her mom telling her the same fib. She also recalled the shock when she was twelve and discovered the truth about Santa Claus.

From then on, Caroline doubted everything her mom said. The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, none of them were real. Her mom also told her about God. But she had grown up from that, too.

* * *

Later that night, the kids were tucked in bed, and Caroline turned in, too. But she just stared at the ceiling. Christmas was only a few days away, and she was worrying over the meals she would make for Christmas dinner. Her husband, Clark, slept soundly.

She had found  him slouched over, his book draped across his chest like a small tent. Clark often fell asleep reading and she gently lifted the book from his chest that slowly rose and fell. Which book you reading this time? She glanced at the cover as she set it onto the nightstand. The Bible. Big surprise there.

About a year ago, Clark had “found religion,” as Caroline called it. She had already found religion and it hadn’t done her any good. She waited for the day Clark would wake up and realize that God, Jesus, and church were just nonsense.

But now she stared into that blank, cold ceiling, wondering where sleep was. She clicked her light on and sat up. The Bible still rested on her nightstand. With a slight scowl she picked it up. If reading puts you to sleep, maybe it will work for me.

She flipped through the wafer-thin pages and found the section Clark had been reading. She began at the large number two. The page talked about an engaged couple who were on a journey and the girl was going to have a kid. When they reached their destination, the mom put their baby in a feedbox. I still think that’s gross.

But she had more trouble with the second part. The story said there were shepherds in a field and angels appeared to them. But she did a double take when she read the last verses. “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.'”

She had never caught the chapter’s wording before. The Bible tumbled out of her hands onto the floor and the back of her neck grew hot. “Peace on earth?” She growled, “When has there ever been peace?” Clark had awoken and rose to an elbow, sleep filling his eyes. “Car? What’s wrong?”

She rose. “Nothing. I can’t sleep.” She grabbed her robe with a swipe. “I’ll be downstairs. Need to be alone.”

To be continued….

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

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