Friday, July 29, 2011

Frozen Banana Split Dessert

The long weekend is here and everyone is hoping for three consecutive blistering hot, sunny days. OK, maybe I'm the only one hoping for blistering hot, but I know everyone else is at the very least hoping for sunshine. If there's heat and sunshine it can only mean one thing...ice cream! Here's an easy recipe for a fabulous dessert for the lazy days of summer.

Frozen Banana Split Dessert

Mix together:
3 cups graham wafer crumbs, 6 tablespoons sugar and 2/3 cup melted butter.
Set aside one cup of this mixture and press the rest into a 9" x 13" cake pan and let it cool.

Slice 4 or 5 bananas over the crust and smooth 1/2 gallon (2 litres) of soften vanilla ice cream over them.
Sprinkle 2 cups roasted pecans over the ice cream and freeze until solid.

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips with 1/2 cup butter
Then add 2 cups icing sugar, 1 cup evaporated milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour over chopped nuts and freeze solid.

Cover the entire dessert with 2 tubs of softened Cool Whip. Sprinkle on remaining crumbs and freeze. This can be sliced in squares and kept in the freezer for a sweet treat or easy dessert.

Happy long weekend to everyone.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Jesus Genealogy Confusion

How many of you had good intentions of maintaining focused, dedicated reading habits when you set up your bible reading plan? And how many of you find your mind wandering through the lists of laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus and the endless, tedious lines of genealogy in the books of Chronicles? Seriously, the genealogy is one of the best cures for insomnia you can get! Why is it important who begat whom?

I’m no different than the rest of you. I have good intentions of staying focused but sometimes my mind has other plans. Apparently it’s capable of wandering off in nine or ten different directions at the same time (and that’s only the ones I can keep track of). This is a fairly typical occurrence when I come upon genealogy lists so I was quite surprised to realize I actually noticed a difference in the genealogy Matthew gives for Jesus and the genealogy Luke provides for us. Matthew immediately launches into a long list of Jesus’ ancestors beginning with Abraham and tracking all the way forward to, “Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.” (See Matthew 1:1-16) Luke waits until mid-way through chapter three before he begins to list Jesus’ ancestors in descending order. “Jesus was known as the son of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Heli.” (Luke 3:23)

The two lineages are identical up to King David and then each heads off down different paths. Solomon, David’s son is included in Matthew’s listing but Nathan, the son of David is included in Luke’s lineage. Each line continues with a complete different list of names right up until Joseph. Both converge with Joseph being the earthly father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. This piqued my curiosity. How can these two lists be so totally different? A few weeks ago my husband and I were on our way to Dairy Queen for an after dinner treat. Dr. David Jeremiah was on the radio and in the midst of our conversation I heard him mention something about the genealogy of Jesus.  My antennae shot up immediately. He talked about the differences in Matthew and Luke and then proceeded to explain it is understood Matthew is listing Joseph’s lineage while Luke tracks the ancestry of Mary. “Well of course!” I thought. How stupid could I be? We all have two parents, each with a different set of ancestors. I know all of you are thinking, “Duuuuhhh, it took you that long to get it”?

After I inhaled my cherry chocolate blizzard and we were back home I pulled out the bible to verify what I had just heard. But wait, eventually they both get to Joseph and list two different people as Joseph’s father. So how does that work? If one is Mary’s lineage how do we still come back to Joseph and why does he have two different fathers? Confused and looking for answers I referred to my ESV study bible. It didn’t disappoint, in fact it listed four possible explanations – one of which was the Joseph versus Mary ancestry although it didn’t cite this as a strong argument. The second explanation indicated that Matthew traces Jesus lineage through the royal line of descent listing Solomon and a long line of kings while Luke traces the actual lineage through David’s practically unknown son, Nathan. A third explanation indicated Joseph’s mother may have had two marriages. Under Moses law of levirate marriage it was expected that the next oldest brother of a deceased man would marry his widow in order to continue his brother’s line. (I know it doesn’t make sense today, but it was a common law that protected a widow in those times) It is suggested that one listing is the actual physical father of Joseph while the other is the legal father of Joseph. Yet a fourth explanation indicated Mary’s family may have had no male heirs so her father “adopted” Joseph as his son when he and Mary were married, thus Heli would be Mary’s father. Confused yet?

As I sat mulling this over and praying for understanding questions suddenly formed in my mind. Does it really matter to me who Jesus’ ancestors are? Does this affect my belief in Jesus as the son of God? Does it change my belief in his death and resurrection? Am I letting my curiosity run amok and getting hung up on the legalese while I miss the greater message? I realize the answer is, no, it really doesn’t matter to me who begat whom in the line of Jesus. Ultimately it doesn’t change the fact that in my heart I believe Jesus to be the son of God, my Saviour and Redeemer. Yes, sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and can tangle up our thoughts, drawing us away from what’s really important. What about you? Does the question of Jesus' ancestry matter to you? Who is Jesus in your life?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Golden Calf Debacle...Repeated?

I’ve been reading the book of 1 Kings in the Bible and came across an interesting event leading up to the division of the Israelite kingdom. Early in Solomon’s reign as king over the ancient Israelites God makes a covenant with him promising Solomon great wisdom, riches, a long life and a descendant on the throne of Israel forever if he follows God faithfully. God also issues a warning stating if Solomon doesn’t remain faithful Israel will be driven out of the promised land and the kingdom will fall. (1 Kings 3:10-14 and 9:1-9) Solomon honours this agreement for a large part of his life but towards the end of his reign his dedication to God becomes weak. Because of the influence of his many wives Solomon begins to worship other gods. Solomon’s unfaithfulness in following God effectively breaks the earlier covenant and a prophet is sent to deliver a message from God to a man by the name of Jeroboam. Jeroboam is told the twelve tribes of Israel will be split after Solomon’s death and God will make him ruler over ten of the tribes while Solomon’s son will retain rule over the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin. The prophet goes on to explain to Jeroboam the promise from God which states if he walks in God’s ways, following God’s commands he will be king of Israel and the kingdom will prosper (1 Kings 11:26-40).

Wow, what a promise! Jeroboam has just been guaranteed by God that he will be king of Israel. The reason for Solomon losing his kingship has been spelled out in black and white terms. Jeroboam has been a member of Solomon’s staff and has seen firsthand the “what not to do if you want to rule God’s people of Israel".  The “how to’s of maintaining kingship of Israel” couldn’t be made any clearer. Jeroboam should have a bright future! Wouldn’t we if we were told by a prophet in no uncertain terms exactly what we had to do in order to secure God’s promise in our lives?

We don’t know anything about Jeroboam’s character or personality. All we know is that he was a servant to Solomon. I imagine life as a king is probably fairly stressful, especially when you’ve got an irate son of the previous king breathing down your neck, seeking retribution for stealing his throne. Perhaps Jeroboam lacked self-confidence as a leader, whatever the reason, not too long into his reign Jeroboam becomes a little paranoid about the control he has over Israel. The temple where people go to worship God is in Jerusalem which is still under the rule of Solomon’s son. We’re told that Jeroboam suddenly becomes fearful that the people going to worship God in the temple will pledge their allegiance to Solomon’s son. In his fear Jeroboam loses sight of God’s promise and fails to trust God. In 1 Kings 12:25-28 (the passages telling the story of Jeroboam’s downfall) there isn’t one word that even so much as hints Jeroboam took this fear to God in prayer, or turned to God for strength. In verse 28 he takes matters into his own hands and makes two gold calves, telling the people of Israel, “...It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt.” What!!!! Did he learn nothing from his people’s history as they journeyed with God in the wilderness? Surely the golden calf debacle of Aaron has been told over and over through generations, and yet here is Jeroboam repeating the same mistake almost word for word! Dare I be so blunt as to say...how stupid can you get?!?

I can say it but then I’d be forced to examine my own life and realize that perhaps I’m not quite as superior as I might like to think. How many times in my life have I repeated mistakes I’ve made or seen others make? We’ve all heard the popular definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I don’t know if this definition applies to repeating other people’s actions and expecting different results than they got but if so perhaps we’re all insane! As teenagers our parents try to save us from pain by sharing their experiences with us, but of course we know better than they do and must forge ahead, making the same painful mistakes they made. This behaviour doesn’t always end with our teenage years. Quite often it plagues us in our relationships as adults. We find ourselves trapped in patterns of behaviour we know are damaging and yet we persist in them. Human nature? Weakness? Insanity? Rebellion? Low self esteem?

What can we learn from the mistakes of Jeroboam? What can we learn from our own mistakes? We’re human. We continue to make mistakes as we navigate through life, but it’s crucial that we learn from them. We need to invite God into our lives, allowing Him to work in our hearts. We need to learn from our experiences. We need to humble ourselves, admit our mistakes, admit that we’re wrong and strive not to repeat the same mistakes. We need to learn from the lives of others – those around us and those we read about in history and in the bible. This isn’t to say we inflict judgment on these people (remember you may react in exactly the same manner if placed in a similar situation). It’s simply to say read and learn what not to do, what to avoid and how to live a Godly life. Are there mistakes in your life you’re repeating or a pattern of behaviour you know you need to break? Pray about it, ask God to identify it, seek counsel or guidance if you need help to change it and see what God can do in your life.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Does God Care About Our Struggles?

In my last post, “Taking Life One Sidewalk Block At A Time” I had every intention of referencing a common scripture passage, “God will never give you more than you are able to bear.” I didn’t know exactly where to find it in the Bible so I did a search at biblegateway.com. No results were returned. I changed bible versions and tried the search again with the same results – nothing. How can that be? Curious, I went to Google and typed in the same search. Imagine my surprise and disbelief when Google told me...nope, not there, doesn’t exist, nothing, nada! A few hits sited 1 Corinthians 10:13, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the TEMPTATION to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” OK, that’s all well and good for temptation, but that verse doesn’t specifically speak to the struggles or burdens we experience in our everyday lives.

Everyone quotes the “God won’t give you more than you can bear” scripture at some point in their lives and I was still having trouble believing it didn’t exist. Since I’m a huge learning geek and tend to not necessarily believe everything I read on the internet (because we know that stuff is all true...NOT) I decided it was time to call in the expert. I headed down to the church to speak with a pastor and guess what – the scripture does not exist! He did mention 1 Corinthians 10:13, but confirmed my interpretation that this does in fact speak to temptation. He went on to explain that it could apply to the desire or temptation to curse God in the midst of our struggles, but does not actually deal with the struggles themselves. He then referenced a very interesting passage from Paul’s letter in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die...”

Wow, so much for “not more than you can bear”. They couldn’t bear it – they thought they were going to die! Where’s the reassuring scripture now? Where does that leave us? Does God abandon us to muddle through our struggles in our own strength as best we can? Does He care that we suffer in this life? These are all good questions and quite frankly hard questions to answer when you’re grieving the loss of a child, going bankrupt, dealing with a divorce, or experiencing other curve balls life throws at you. The good news is Paul doesn’t leave it there. He goes on to say, “...But as a result we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again...” These two verses are prefaced by Paul praising God and telling the people of Corinth over and over again how God has comforted them through Christ’s presence in their lives.  As you read through verses 3 to 7 (and I highly recommend you do) it seems as though Paul can’t say enough about the comforting presence of God. Paul isn’t the only one in the bible to do this. Many times throughout the Psalms David takes comfort from God’s presence and support...Psalm 145:14, “...The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads...”, the classic Psalm 23:3 “...He renews my strength...”, Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble...” You’ll find many more examples if you read through the Psalms. In Matthew, Jesus, Himself reassures us and tells us to bring our burdens to Him, “...Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest...” Matthew 11:28.

Does God abandon us in times of trouble? No! God is always with us in Christ and through the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is always ready to comfort us, strengthen us and come along side of us as we navigate the challenges and troubles of life. Can we trust Him? Absolutely! “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken” Psalm 55:22

What are you struggling with today? Will you trust God to see you through?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Taking Life One Sidewalk Block At A Time

Has your world ever come crashing down around you? Perhaps this is your situation right now. Are you just one more catastrophe away from your breaking point? Are you worried about your aging parents’ health,  your teenager who was caught shoplifting, your adult child with a drug addiction, your spouse who lost his job, your failing marriage or the call from the doctor saying you need more follow up tests with a specialist?

Maybe this doesn’t describe your life exactly, but I know everyone experiences seasons in their lives when nothing seems to go right and stress heaps up like an overflowing dirty laundry hamper. You feel like your life is a boat constantly being smashed on jagged rocks and you have no more energy to keep bailing out the water. Perhaps you even think allowing the boat (your life) to sink might bring sweet, welcome relief. When you try to talk to your friend she casually quotes scripture, trying to be comforting but you stand there feeling as though someone just slapped you across the face with a cold, dead fish while telling you, “Suck it up Buttercup, life’s just like that.”

We’ve all been told to take things “one day at a time”. Perhaps this saying came from Jesus’ teachings in the book of Matthew. In chapter 6 verses 25 to 34, He’s teaching about worry. He ends the teaching in verse 34 by saying, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Truer words were never spoken! Each day certainly brings us enough to worry about and sometimes even trying to take it day by day can be overwhelming.

I recently started to go for a run in the mornings. I decided rather than hurting myself I’d start out slowly, working my way up to extended periods of running. I time myself, running for four minutes then walking for three. I generally start out fairly strong and four minutes goes by quickly, but as I begin to tire, the three minutes seems to get shorter and the four minutes of running seems to drag on forever. I’ve discovered if I set small goals as I run it help me maintain my motivation. I’ll see a bend in the trail or a bench and decide I won’t check the clock until I reach that point. It’s like a bargain with my body to keep going in spite of being tired. As I near the end of my run I come off the trail and get back onto a sidewalk. It’s at this point – the last two segments of four minutes that I find my legs aching and my chest heaving. Even a small goal seems overwhelming. At that point the only way I can keep going for the four minutes is to tell myself to just run to the next sidewalk block, then the next, then the next and slowly I keep going, the time ticks by and my body becomes a little more conditioned every time I go out and accomplish those small goals – just one more sidewalk block.

There are times we need to take this approach in our lives. Sometimes the thought of getting through the day is simply too much to contemplate, sometimes even an hour seems overwhelming and it’s hard to find God and trust the Psalmist who says, “give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalm 55:22) or Peter when he says, “Give all your worries and cares to God for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7) These verses are both true and we do need to lean on God for strength in times of stress.  As you lean on God for strength, break down the situations and set small goals for yourself - just get through the next minute, then the next, then the next. Soon the minutes become hours, hours days and days weeks and with God you find the strength to move through your struggles one minute or hour or day at a time.

What are you struggling with today? What goals are you setting to help in your struggles? How is God strengthening you?