Surviving Difficulty

Reading: Isaiah 17:1-8

As I write this Bible lesson, it is December in West Texas. This is a deceptive month, for some days it is bitterly cold, and some days it is as sunny and warm as an April morning. We may leave the house at breakfast in coats and jackets, then abandon them in the afternoon to play in the park; yet by nightfall, it is time to light a fire in the fireplace.

This is the time that our trees are losing leaves and the garden has been put to bed. Yet, one may see a few brave flowers in the fields. Birds that are flying south for the winter stop here to sing. We see these little reminders of the warm weather, before the January frost arrives. They remind me of these verses in Isaiah.

God says that difficult times will come for His people. Sometimes these include trials and distresses, persecution and wars. But God said He would strengthen His people, and that some would survive. Those are the “gleanings” left in the field, and the “four or five branches” left on the fruitful tree. Those are the ones whose faith remain intact. Could that be you? When things are difficult, will you be that brave little flower in the field, that bird still trilling his song into the gray December sky? Pray that your faith will grow in strength and wisdom, so that you can be a certain reminder of God’s love to those around you.

For Further Study:

  • The idea of a “remnant” is that God would allow some of the faithful Israelites to survive, because Christ was coming from this people (remember the theme of the Old Testament?). See Isaiah 1:9; Jeremiah 23:3; and Ezekiel 14:22. God gave these words to be a hope to His people Israel.
  • In a sense, Christians are a remnant as well. Do you sometimes feel like you’re in the minority because you serve God? There was a young person in the Bible who might have felt the same way, but who stayed loyal to Christ and His cause. Young Timothy traveled with Paul and “stuck with him” even when others didn’t. You can read about him in Philippians 2:19-23.
  • Talk to an older person this week about his or her life in Christ. What things have helped them remain faithful? What things have shaken their faith? What advice could they give you about staying true to God?
Posted in Beasts & Birds, Bible History, Courage, Hope, Joy, Patience, Plants, Savior, Skies, Wars, Weather. Comments Off on Surviving Difficulty

Complete Forgiveness

Reading: Isaiah 1:16-20

Have you ever played in the snow? I used to live in the Northern part of the United States, and every winter the snow would come to fill our streets and yards. Overnight, the world was transformed into a crystal-white play-land. Trees, bushes, and houses looked unfamiliar underneath their blankets. Everything seemed clearer and sharper, as if I were wearing new eyeglasses. Even the air smelled different.

Our mother dressed us in bright pink snowsuits to play outside. The plows would leave tall piles of snow in the school parking lot, which made perfect “mountains” for us to climb and build tunnels and warrens for playing. The snow brought new amusements that couldn’t be done the rest of the year: sledding, skating, and snowball fights.

I no longer live where it snows every winter. The closest impression I receive is when the cotton fields are harvested and left in the fields in large, snow-white blocks to be transported to the cotton gin. Those large white “mountains” of cotton remind me of the snow. But it’s not the same as in my childhood, when every year the snow came and changed my world.

Snow can transform a landscape, can change the way we see things, and can also change the things we do. So, too, does the healing power of God’s forgiveness. After confessing our wrongs to Him and resolving to change our ways, the weight of guilt and shame is dissolved, and we can see the goodness of God around us, urging us on in our service to Him. When God says He will make us white as snow, it is because He knows what snow means to the earth it touches.

For Further Study:

  • Repentance is more than just saying you are sorry ~ it means resolving to change your life so that you will not commit the same sin again. Many people feel sorry for their sin but don’t change their circumstances and habits so that they can do better in the future. Read Luke 3:7-14. When John the Baptist told men to repent, he expected them to prove it through their new works for God. Read also Matthew 12:43-45. What happens when we don’t replace wrong behavior with right ones?

 

  • How was true repentance demonstrated in the lives of these people: Paul (Acts 9:1-31); the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-34); the Ephesians (Acts 19:11-20).

  • Is there a habit or problem that you feel sorry for and would like to change? Write it down. Write down when it is most likely to happen. Write down the things or people that influence you in this habit. What can you change about your life so that this behavior can cease? Also, what good thing can you do in place of it?
Posted in Baptism, Holiness/purity, Repentance & Forgiveness, Savior, Skies, Weather. Comments Off on Complete Forgiveness

Kindness wins over Force

Reading: Proverbs 25: 20-28

These verses seem to be separate, unrelated thoughts until you read verse 28 – “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.”

In Solomon’s day, a city without walls might as well have been dead. The walls protected it. The walls gave its citizens security. The walls showed others the worth and power of the city within. How would you feel if your home had no walls?

Now think of a person who cannot control his spirit (his feelings or emotions). His feelings come out and hurt himself and others. He is a danger to himself and others. What are some of the problems listed in Proverbs 25 that are caused by a lack of self-control?

“Sun and Wind” was written by Howard J. Chidley and published in the book Fifty-Two Talks for Boys and Girls in 1914. It is actually the retelling of a traditional fable. Chidley’s book is now out of print but still available free online.

SUN AND WIND

Once upon a time, according to an old fable, the sun and the northwind had a contest to see which could take a man’s coat off the more quickly.

The northwind tried first. It gathered together all its forces in its own corner of the earth, and then rushed forth upon this man who was walking along a country-road. The wind blew and blew, and it seemed as if the traveller’s coat would be blown from his back or torn to tatters. But the harder the northwind blew the tighter the man drew his coat about him, and the wind could not get it off his back. After it had spent all its force it gave up in despair.

Then the sun had its turn. It came out without noise or violence like the northwind. It did not whistle in the treetops nor bluster through the bushes. It did not buffet nor struggle with the man. It just went on pouring forth its heat. And it seemed as if it could never win, any more than the northwind. But soon the traveller took out his handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his face. Then, before long, he took off his hat. Soon he unbuttoned his coat, and finally he took it off of his own accord. The sun had won the contest against the northwind!

Now, a fable is meant to teach a lesson. The lesson of this fable is that gentleness wins where only strength and rudeness fail. If some one has done you a wrong, the way to deal with him is not to try to “get even” with him, as we say. Nor is the best way to get angry with him and scold him. The Bible tells us that the way to overcome your enemy is to do good for evil, for it says by so doing you will “heap coals of fire upon his head.”

Usually it is the weak people who bluster like the northwind, and storm and brag. Strong people are usually quiet. There is an old saying that “if you are right you can afford to keep your temper, and if you are wrong you cannot afford to lose it.” Be gentle. You will win more that way than by getting angry.

For Further Study:

  • Read Proverbs 25:20-22. What are some of the wonderful things that happen when we have control over our emotions? Think of how sad Jesus felt when He prayed in the garden before His death. Think of how He bore so much pain on the cross. What wonderful things happened then?
  • Think of the things that make you lose your temper, break down crying, or make your heart jump. Can you learn to control your reaction to these things? It takes a lot of practice to become self-controlled. Some people also use the words “self-discipline” – this means it takes learning. How can you learn not to have such strong emotions? What can you pray about this?
Posted in Anger, Humility/Pride, Kindness, Love, Patience, Skies, Weather. Comments Off on Kindness wins over Force

The Little Tree

Reading: Psalm 1

 

A little tree was born one day.  He didn’t remember being planted as a seed, or the long sleep he had during the winter months.  He just knew that one day he was awake.  He looked up and saw the Spring sun shining on him.  He looked down and saw water running nearby.   He looked around and saw fields and meadows.  What a lovely place to call his home!

 

He looked across the stream and saw a large, stately tree.  “Good morning,” it told him in a smiling voice.  “It’s good to see you growing there!  I was hoping another tree would grow nearby when I scattered my seeds last fall.  I was hoping one of them would become a baby tree that I could watch and love.”  The big tree was proud of the little tree.  It bent over as far as it could across the stream and said, “Grow, my little tree!  Try to grow as big and strong as you can!”

 

The little tree noticed that the birds nested in the big tree across the stream.  It noticed that animals rested under its shade.  It noticed that the big tree was beautiful and strong.  Oh, how it hoped to give beauty, life, and help to the world someday also!

 

The little tree grew.  It stretched its arms to the sun.  It dug its roots down into the stream as far as they could go.  It was thankful for the sun and the water.  Then a bird started building a nest in it.  What a nice thing that was!  He enjoyed watching the bird build a nest and tend to its eggs.  He felt so useful to the bird family.

 

But one day a thunderstorm came.  The heavy rain and strong wind lashed at the little tree.  It was scared.  “What will happen to me?” the little tree thought. 

 

When the storm was over, the little tree noticed with dismay that one of his branches, his best branch, was broken.  The bird’s nest had been blown down by the wind and the bird family was gone.  How disappointed he was!   He felt so ugly and useless.  The little tree was dismayed.  He stopped drinking water.  He stopped reaching for the sun.  He could feel his legs drying up and shriveling.  He could feel his leaves yellowing and dropping.  He watched the leaves swirl in the stream.

 

Then he heard the voice of the larger tree across the water.  “What is wrong, little tree?’

 

He told the big tree how he was feeling.  “I’m so little and weak.  How can this be happening when I haven’t grown very much yet?  How unfair life is!” 

 

The big tree nodded in the breeze.  “I felt that way once also,” it said.  “I remember being a little tree just like you.   I remember how terrible my first thunderstorm felt.  I lost two large branches that day.”

 

“How can that be?” asked the little tree.  “You’re so big and strong now.  How did you survive such a terrible storm and grow so much?”

 

“I’ve been planted firmly here by the stream,” said the big tree.  “Just like you, my feet go deep into the water and my face receives plenty of sunshine. Perhaps I have had losses in the worst of times, but I soon overcame them.  I have never given up on all the provision and care afforded to me, so I’ve been able to grow in spite of my losses. And I have never forgotten that the creatures here need me, and the land needs me.  There is beauty and strength and goodness in me.  I remember that whenever the storms come.

 

“Can you do that, little tree?  Can you look past the storm and remember all the goodness you have been given?  Can you look past your hurt and remember that there is work for you to do?”

 

The little tree nodded in the breeze also.  “Yes, yes I can!” he said. 

 

 

 

For Further Study: 

  • Do you know that David, the shepherd and king of the Israelites, wrote many of the Psalms?  Do you remember the life of David?  David was not a perfect man.  Can you think of some of the things he did wrong?  But God used to David to write the Psalms.  Some of the Psalms are very joyful, some are sorrowful, and in some of them David talks about his fears.  Read Psalm 5:1-2; 7:1-2; and 9:1-2.  They each express different emotions.  I often read the Psalms when I feel sadness, fear, or joy.  God wants us to go to Him with all of our feelings, all our ups and downs, just as David did. 

 

  • What does a plant need to grow and be strong?  What does a human need to grow and be strong?  What does your soul need to grow and be strong?  God provides for all of these things!  Praise God for His provision!
Posted in Courage, Hope, Joy, Loves children, Patience, Plants, Talents, Weather. Comments Off on The Little Tree

God is our Refuge and Strength

Reading: Psalm 46

In verse 4 of this psalm, a river is described.

There is a river near my town called the Concho. It is not a large river, but it has been here a long time. Native American tribes have camped along it. Cattlemen and ranchers have let their stock drink from it. Cavalrymen from Fort Concho have patrolled it. The Texas Pacifico railway line was built across part of it. This river has seen many things.

The land around this river has changed greatly. It used to be just a wild desert, with buffalo ranging over the dry earth and coyote howls echoing across it at night. Then came the barbed wire and windmills, railways, and homes. The old trading post of Santa Angela that was set up here is now the town of San Angelo, and it continues to grow and grow. This river has seen many things.

And yet, there are many things about this river that hasn’t changed. Men have built dams in some areas to suit their purposes, but it generally flows in the same way it always has. In 1936 the river flooded and damaged about 1,000 homes. Once in a while a huge storm comes and people wonder if it will flood again. No matter what we like to think, we’re still at the mercy of that river.

I don’t think anybody depends on rivers more than the people of West Texas. Here, we anxiously watch every cloud in the sky and hope that it brings us rain. Here, we check the level of our rivers about as often as we check the time. We need the rivers for electrical power, drink, cattle, and crops. Despite all our inventions and conveniences, we know that we’re helpless without that river.

When God describes Heaven as a river, He’s not talking about a dry little creek that has been tamed by men. He is showing us His greatness and strength. He’s talking about a wonder of nature, a Power that cannot be denied!

For Further Study:

  • God has often used the image of a river to help us understand all the spiritual blessings that are available in Him. Read Isaiah 48:18; John 7:37-38; and Revelation 22:2-1. What can we learn about God, Jesus, and heaven from these verses?

  • What do you think verse 10 means in this Psalm? Why would God need to tell us to “be still” or “cease striving”?
Posted in Courage, Hope, King/Judge, Weather. Comments Off on God is our Refuge and Strength

God is Very Near

Reading: Psalm 37:1-15

“I can’t believe it’s time to cut your hair again,” Uncle Albert said. His nephew Nathan sat in the chair with a cover draped over his shoulders. “Weren’t you just in here last week?”

“It was two weeks ago, Uncle Al,” Nathan said. “I guess my hair just grows fast.”

Uncle Albert turned the barber’s chair so that Nathan was facing the large mirror on the wall. “Well, you’d save money in the long run if you’d just let me shave it all off. It would be a good four or five weeks before you had to come back.”

Nathan laughed. “Just a trim, please, Uncle. That’s all I want.”

Uncle Albert began working while Nathan sat patiently. Nathan liked these quiet Saturday afternoons in his uncle’s barber shop. He liked the sound of his uncle’s whistling as the scissors snipped and an old-fashioned radio squawked nearby. Today his uncle was playing jazz music.

After a little while, they were finished. Nathan combed his hair in front of the mirror while his uncle began cleaning up. “Look at this mess,” Uncle Albert joked. “How much hair do you think is down here?”

“About ten pounds,” Nathan laughed. “I’ve got thick hair like yours.”

Uncle Albert stopped sweeping and leaned against his broom. “The Bible says that God knows how much hair we have on our heads. In Luke chapter 12, it says that all our hairs are numbered.”

“That’s amazing!” said Nathan. “I can’t even imagine keeping track of something like that.”

“Well, Jesus said that so that we’d know how much God loves us and cares about us. When bad things happen, we can know that God is with us. We don’t have to fret or worry, even when it seems that the world is unfair. God knows that we’re trying to do our best, and that we want to please Him.” As he started sweeping again, Uncle Albert said, “God sees all the wickedness in the world, and someday He’ll punish people for it. We just have to be patient and keep remembering that heaven is our home.”

For Further Study:

  • One of the ways to overcome discouragement is to remember that the wicked will “wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb” (Psalm 37:10). The wicked seem large and lasting only because we are forgetting that there is more to life than this world. When we consider just how short life is, and how long eternity is, then the sin in this world will not overtake us. Read Psalm 103:15-16 and Isaiah 40:6-7. How else is man’s short life described in 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 39:5; and James 4:14?

  • Find an older person at church who can talk to you about their life. Ask them what they would do differently if they had known life would pass by so quickly.
Posted in Courage, Hope, King/Judge, Loves children, Plants, Weather. Comments Off on God is Very Near

The Promise of the Rainbow

Genesis 9:12-17

Matthew and Michael were walking in the field with their Daddy.  It had recently rained, and they noticed a lovely rainbow in the sky.  The three of them stopped to admire it.

“Daddy,” said Michael, “that rainbow looks like it ends at Mr. Chavez’s farm.  It looks like it comes down right into his hayfield!”

Matthew said, “I think if I ran fast enough I could catch it!”

Daddy asked the boys, “Did you ever stop to think that when you look at a rainbow, God is looking at it too?”

“Well, I suppose he is,” said Matthew, “for the rainbow is up there where God lives, isn’t it?  It would be hard to ignore a rainbow that was right in our living room!”

His father smiled.  “That’s true, son.  And God notices every rainbow that is formed.  Each time He sees one, He remembers the promise He made to Noah.”

“He will not flood the whole earth again to destroy it, will He, Daddy?” said Michael, who was still not a little afraid of thunderstorms.

His father nodded.  “God keeps His promises!  We can be sure of His love and care for us.”

The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us.
Psalm 115:12

For Further Study:

  • God keeps His promises, but sometimes His promises are hard to see.  For example, He promised heaven to His faithful children, but life is long and sometimes we forget that Heaven is waiting for us.
    One of the toughest parts about faith is that it is based on things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).  What unseen things do we have faith in?  Take some time to read Hebrews 11 today.  You will learn a lot about how faithful people should keep an eternal view, and trust in God to keep His promises.
  • What promises have you made to people?  Pray to God to help you keep your promises and be as faithful to them as He is to His.

You may want to read this post to see how our family studied these verses.

Posted in Church, Homeschool Science/Nature, Repentance & Forgiveness, Weather. Comments Off on The Promise of the Rainbow