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  • Lamentations

    Posted on August 24th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    “They have forsaken the Lord:

    They have spurned the Holy One of Israel and

    have turned their backs on Him.

    Why should you be beaten anymore?

    Why do you persist in rebellion?

    Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.

    From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness –

    only wounds and welts and open sores,

    not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.”

    Isaiah 1:4-6

    God has shown me my own stubbornness (Hosea 4:16).  Pursuing my own path led me nowhere.  When I got to a dead-end, I just chose a different path instead of turning to God.  I didn’t realize how much time I was wasting with my behavior.  My hair was sprinkled with gray, and I didn’t notice (7:9).  Stubbornly doing my own thing is ultimately self-destructive.  It also pains God to see me acting this way.

    The book of Hosea is a marvel to me.  At first, I couldn’t get past the fact that God ordered one of his prophets to marry an unfaithful woman.  Finally, I was able to get deeper into the message.  The more I read, the sadder I got.  God talks a lot about His anger.  Beneath the anger, I also get a sense of hurt.  God is angry about Israel’s betrayal, but also hurt to see his child continuously hitting its own head against the wall; getting bloodied, but refusing to allow God to clean and bandage the wounds, and soothe them with oil.  He says that, “When Israel was a child, I loved him” and “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms” (11:1 & 3).  I also get that it hurts God to have to punish us.  “How can I give you up, Ephraim?  How can I hand you over, Israel?” (11:8).   It’s painful to parent a wayward child.

    Years ago, my pastor said that it was okay for us to tell God about our hurts and frustrations.  However, I’m also realizing that God is also lamenting to us about our own behavior.  My word of wisdom today is re-think.  My Bible study leader explained that to repent means to re-think.  If our own plans are not getting us anywhere, it’s time to turn to God.

     “… how often I have longed to gather your children together,

    as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,

    but you were not willing!”

    Luke 13:34


  • Strength for the Journey: Part III

    Posted on August 22nd, 2012 rhonda No comments

    Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

    For His compassions never fail.

    They are new every morning . . . .

    Lamentations 3:22-23

    “I forgive you, Rhonda.”  That’s what I said to myself at the end of the day.

    The text for the Sunday sermon (8/18) was Numbers 11:10-17 and Matthew 4:2-20.  The pastor spoke about the fact that each member of the body of Christ has work to do in God’s kingdom.  He said two things that made a big impression on me.  First, he said that if you get to a point in your spiritual life where you are disconnected from the sermons you hear in church, it means that you either have to start doing your work in the kingdom, or step up the work.  Then we’ll start to be refreshed.

    I’ve been writing for a while now about feeling spiritually tired & disconnected.  The sermon served as confirmation to me.  I had breakfast with a brother in Christ on the Friday before service; and he told me that, to the extent that he ministers to other people, his spiritual life is flourishing.  Second, Pastor said that listening to other people’s complaints tend to eat away at one’s spirit; and that there comes a point when we might have to tell people to stop sharing their complaints with us.

    Later on in the day, I was talking with a group of people.  Two themes emerged.  One theme was deciding that “enough is enough”.  The second was the idea of letting the past go and starting fresh.  By the end of the day, I’d had a revelation.

    Several years ago, my Pastor asked a group of us to take on a leadership role in the church.  We did.  We poured in a lot of time and effort.  Yet, several people were unhappy with the way we discharged our duties.  Some left the church.  Some hold resentments.  Some still complain.  Some still question how decisions were made and ask for details about who did what. Now I know it all took a toll on me.  It made me doubt my pastor, my co-laborers, and myself.  It also made me distrustful.  It also made me resent the congregation.

    It also felt guilty.  I’ve spent the last year re-playing the decisions we made and trying to figure out what I could have done differently – and I keep coming up empty.  I did the best I could with the information and knowledge I had at the time.  When I knew better, I did better.  I don’t know whether my (our) offenses are real or imagined, but I just decided to forgive myself, stop rehearsing the past, stop allowing people to vent their frustration on me, and move on.  That’s my phrase of wisdom for today.  Move on.

    “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards that which is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

    Philippians 3:13-14



  • Strength for the Journey: Part II

    Posted on August 19th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty . . . .”

    John 4:15

    Have you ever been really hungry or thirsty, but couldn’t have a meal right then?  Sometimes we have to work through the lunch hour, and are ravenous by 2:00-3:00pm.  When I get hungry, I become impatient.

    Someone told me that sometimes spiritual hunger will mimic physical hunger.  We look for Wonder bread when we actually need the Bread of Life.  I’ve been spiritually hungry for the last few weeks.  I mentioned this feeling a few weeks ago.  Going to Sunday service was not enough.  So I visited one mid-week service to have a spiritual meal.  The church I visited last Wednesday is a well-known church with many social programs.  My take-away from the evening was that the pastor used the sermon as a platform to promote the church’s social justice programs and leftist slant towards helping the poor; and he used the Bible to back up his position.  I actually agree with the church’s politics.  If I had come for a political rally or a workshop, I would have loved it. Yet, on that night, I had come for Jesus.  I left hungry and angry.

    When the sermon ended, it was the first time I’d ever seen a pastor get a standing ovation from (some) people.  I felt like the pastor was the star of the show, and Jesus was part of his supporting cast.  Years ago, my pastor related the story of Joshua’s encounter with an angel (Joshua 5:13-15).  Joshua asks, “are you for us or our enemies?”  The angel announces himself as the commander of the armies of the Lord who has “now come”.  My pastor said that if we think like Joshua, we got it wrong.  When Jesus comes, he’s not coming to join a side.  He’s taking over.

    My word of wisdom for today is first.  Be wary of anyone who gives anyone besides Jesus first place.  Our Lord describes himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelations 22:13).  He’s the whole story.  If anyone tries to satisfy your spiritual hunger by offering you something else as the main course, with a little Jesus on the side, it’s a problem.

    “I am the bread of life.  Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they have died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

    John 6:48-51

  • The Negative Witness

    Posted on August 17th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    Splendor and majesty are before him;

    Strength and glory are in his sanctuary

    Psalm 96:6

    Sometimes I am embarrassed by the behavior of other Christians.

    Recently, I went to a secular organization’s information session because I was considering doing some volunteer work with them.  During the course of the session, several people started talking about their experiences with Christians.  They were all negative experiences.  After each of their encounters, they were left with the belief that Christians were close-minded, judgmental, arrogant, and bullying.  I left the event wondering how people got such negative impression of Christians.  I started thinking about my past.

    Before I gave my life to Jesus, I used to work in a multi-faith office.  I worked in a secular institution, but came to realize my colleagues were Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and pagan.  The Christian in the group was the worst “ambassador” for their faith.  The employee stole time from work.  The worker used the company landline for their own personal business.  The person used the resources & information we discovered more for the benefit of the person’s children than for our clients.  There was also a certain air of arrogance around the person, who believed being a professed Christian made other people morally inferior to them.  Everyone felt it.  My co-worker was a negative witness for the Lord.  After I came to faith, I often thought to myself that I don’t want to be the type of Christian that drives people away from Christ.

    Consider Paul’s speech to the Athenians in Acts 17:22-34. He was direct and respectful.  Once we make our point, it’s the person’s decision.  If people reject the gospel, we can shake the dust off our feet as we leave (Matthew 10:14).  Yet, why would one reject the message of Jesus Christ?  Joseph Prince said that it makes him angry to hear Christians brow-beating or bullying people in an attempt to bring them to faith.  He says that Jesus Christ is beautiful and attractive; and if we would just present Jesus as he is, people would be receptive.

    My word of wisdom for today is reputation.  All of us are concerned about our own reputation.  We would be upset to hear that someone was gossiping about us.  We have two people campaigning and competing for the presidency of the United States, and there’s a lot of talking about the harsh & negative media campaigns being conducted.  People on both sides are even demanding apologies.

    What about the reputation of Jesus Christ?  Think about all the time and energy making sure that we have a good reputation.  We’re careful about what we say and how we look and where we go and who we associate with and how we behave.  We should invest the same amount of time and energy into making sure we represent Christ just as well.

    He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

    1 Timothy 3:7


  • Created for a Purpose

    Posted on August 16th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”  And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

    1 Corinthians 12:21

    It really hurts to feel unappreciated.  It especially hurts to feel that you’ve done the best you could, and your best efforts are not enough, especially when you are looking for a job.  In today’s job market, there are a lot of “eyes” saying they don’t need “hands”.  I thank God that I have been gainfully employed consistently – and at times I’ve still felt unappreciated.  What about people who are unemployed?

    I have helped the unemployed get ready for work.  If you have been steadily employed during this recession – praise God.  For people who are looking – keep your head up.  Remember that finding a job is a job.  Looking for a job in this economy can be a lonely and discouraging process.  In fact, calculations of the unemployment rate do not take into consideration the “discouraged work force” – those people who can physically/mentally work, but have been looking for so long that they lost hope & gave up.  There aren’t enough jobs around for people who have no more than a high school diploma, or who maybe don’t have state-of-the-art technological skills, or who lack experience, or have too much(!) experience.  Unfortunately, rent & utilities must still be paid & people still have to eat. I feel we get so focused on what people cannot do, that we lose sight of what they can do.  Everyone wants the perfect employee, even though there is no such thing as perfection.

    About a year ago, I read a lovely book, Blessed Unrest, by Paul Hawken.  (See for more information.)  One small point, among many, that he made is that in the natural world, nothing goes to waste.  Trees, animals and people die and then fertilize the earth.  Mr. Hawken also said that in simpler times, everyone’s labor was needed.  There was always work available for every able-bodied person who wanted to work.  There’s something perverse about people being unable to find work.  It’s almost like saying they have no meaningful contribution to make, which is absurd.  God’s word says that He created us all with a purpose.

    My word for today is appreciate.  Webster’s says that “to appreciate is to exercise wise judgment, delicate perception, and keen insight in realizing the worth of something”.  According to the same dictionary, appreciate also means “to be grateful for”.  Again, God says that He created us all with a purpose.  I think one small step to finding a job is to appreciate your own gifts so that you can start to figure out what setting you fit in the best.


  • Wholeness = Integrity

    Posted on August 12th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    “They were using this question as a trap,

    in order to have a basis for accusing him.”
    John 8:6

    The story of the woman caught in adultery is one of the more popular stories in the Bible.  Adultery is clearly wrong; but it irks me somewhat that I never really hear people mention the fact that she’s also a victim.  When I say “victim” I don’t mean that she’s innocent.  I mean that she was used poorly by wicked people.

    The Pharisees really didn’t care about her adultery.  She was being used as ammunition against Jesus Christ.  Even though she was made to stand in front of everyone, in some ways, she’s invisible.  She’s not a real human being, she’s become weapon that the Pharisees use against Jesus.  They needed an excuse to launch an attack against Jesus, and she was it.

    Beware of entrapment.  The person that encourages us to gossip with them will not only gossip about us, but they will also publicly accuse us of gossiping, if only to deflect attention away from themselves.  The person who encourages us to engage in illegal activity will also testify against us in court, if they can get a better deal for themselves.  Don’t listen to the person who encourages you to dress casually to work and violate the dress code.   They might be doing it so that, when the boss reprimands them about their dress, they can use you as an example and say, “Look at how she dresses!  You let her get away with it!”

    The people who encourage us to do wrong may tell us that they’ll be loyal to us.  They’ll say they’ve “got your back”.  People who have your back will tell you to do the right thing, even though it may be the harder thing to do at the time.  Also, no one should urge you to do wrong as a test of your loyalty to them.  Don’t listen to, “If you love me, you’d do it.”  Ignore, “If you were my real friend, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

    Integrity is my word of wisdom for today.  Integrity means being of high moral character, or upright.  Several years ago, my pastor gave a sermon and said that people of integrity are whole people, the way that an integer is a whole number.  I like that definition the most.  My thinking is that if feel lacking in anything, then we’re more likely to fall into temptation to do something wrong.  When we’re not whole, we’re more likely to use other people to accomplish your ends.  I always feel a lack whenever I forget that God promised he would never leave or forsake me; and that he knows and will supply all my needs.  Let’s all remember the promises of God, so that we can be people of integrity.

    “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.”

    1 John 1:7


  • It’s Okay to Feel Your Feelings

    Posted on August 10th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    “Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet,

    but he shouted all the more . . . “

    Mark 10:48

    Have you ever had someone tell you not to be angry or not to cry?  I have.  It only made me more angry.

    I have come to the conclusion that a lot of people do not handle other people’s distress well.  When they see someone crying, grieving, yelling, groaning, complaining, they don’t know what to do.  It makes them uncomfortable.  So they tell the distressed person to stop crying out.

    People have said that Bartimaeus was rebuked because people thought he would be bothering Jesus.  I’m not sure.  Maybe the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus because he just made them nervous.  In those few seconds or minutes between Bart’s crying out and Jesus’s response, people didn’t know what would happen.  Someone’s going through an emergency, and people aren’t sure who would step up.  Have you ever endured an uncomfortable silence during a conversation?  There was an awkward pause, and you felt a pressure on you to say or do something to ease the tension.  That’s what I think was happening.

    My word of wisdom today is emotion.  Most people don’t want to feel bad, which is understandable.  Ups & downs are a normal and frequent part of life.  No one can feel good all the time.  When life takes a downturn, all of us have to learn how to feel bad and keep living in a graceful way.  We still have to praise God and be obedient.  We still have to treat other people well; and we still have to treat ourselves well.  We cannot tell other people to be silent when they are in pain.  We should ask God (and sometimes other people) for help when we’re in pain.  Kudos to Bart for being persistent.

    Fortunately, Jesus understands our feelings and can tolerate them.  He healed Bart, and everyone kept walking.




  • Strength for the Journey

    Posted on August 7th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

    Isaiah 40:31

    I really didn’t want to go to church on Sunday.  I was tired.  I had been tired for the past 2 weeks.  I thought I was just physically tired.  After a few days, I realized I was also emotionally drained.  I walked and prayed.  I admitted to God that I didn’t feel like going to church and I asked him for a refreshing.  He started answering my prayer.

    The sermon, Strength for the Journey, was taken from John 16:12-15 and Deuteronomy 30:11-20.  My pastor compared our journey through life to track & field.  She said that during a sprint, you can expend all of your energy at once.  During a marathon, you cannot.  Use all your energy at once, and you won’t be able to finish the race.  She said that life was a marathon.  We have to run in such a way that we can finish the race.  Her instructions on how to run that race were:

    1. To allow the Spirit of Truth to guide us (2 Corinthians 2:14)
    2. To order our lives in accordance with the word of God (Deuteronomy 30:16)

    She did, however, caution us that living our lives according to God’s word would bring us into conflict with the world’s system, which tells us that our value is tied to what we do [for work] and what we have.  Be encouraged, she said, because there will ultimately be a blessing.  My word of wisdom for today is strong, as we’re encouraged to be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10).

    It also helps that the pastor delivering the sermon is spirited.  I respect and appreciate the fervency and intensity with which she imparts her messages.  I’m not sure I could listen to some sermon about having strength from someone talking to me in a monotone voice and looking like she herself wanted to take a nap.  (If you’re in a business where you have to give presentations, learn how to do it well.

    I thank God for answered prayer.




  • Getting Better & Better

    Posted on August 6th, 2012 rhonda No comments

    He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

    Mark 8:24

    I often wondered why Jesus didn’t heal this blind man, completely, the first time.  (Mark 8:22-26)  In his other miracles, Jesus healed the sufferer perfectly in his first try.  I think that this is a picture of the sanctification process.  That’s my word of wisdom for today – sanctification.

    My pastor told me that sanctification is the process of God making us better and better throughout our lives.  We become more and more like Jesus.   It’s growing in the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22).

    Sanctification is also getting ridding of hate, impatience, meanness, idolatry, gossip, greed, self-absorption, stealing, lust, cowardice, anger, and other ugly stuff.   I saw Joyce Meyers on television recently.  She said that we cannot change what we know nothing about.  Her point was that we should be happy when God shows us the ugly parts of our character, because we have the chance to change.  Facing up to the ugliness, though, is embarrassing and painful.

    God never says anything to me in anger.  Other people have.  People have pointed out my problems during arguments.  Since the situation was so highly charged, I couldn’t receive it.  When God speaks to me, it’s a quiet thought when I’m in a quiet space – a revelation.  One evening, I was watching a re-run of a movie that I’d seen before.   All of a sudden, I saw myself in one of the characters!  Watching her interact with other characters gave me some insight into how I interact with other people; and the little ways I can offend people without even realizing it.  What a gift!

    In the heat of anger, people can bring up every bad thing you’ve ever done and all of your issues.  God does not.  He’ll bring one flaw to my attention.  He’ll allow me to face up to it, digest it, and work on it.  After a while, He’ll bring up something else.  Slowly but surely, He heals my “vision” so that I can see myself more clearly.



  • Social Capital

    Posted on August 3rd, 2012 rhonda No comments

    “. . . and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.”

    Ruth 1:5

    Someone told me that when we read the Bible, there are natural and spiritual things going on.  If I read a passage of the Bible, and it seems to be all about the physical – look for the spiritual meaning.  If I read a passage that seems to be all about the spiritual – look for the natural stuff going on.

    Even though God is not mentioned in the book of Ruth, every pastor has taught me to read the book with the thought in mind that God is at work.  God orchestrated the events in the lives of Ruth and Naomi so that both of them were ultimately taken care of.  That’s the spiritual message.

    In the natural, I see people leaning on one another in times of need.  There was a famine and death.  Ruth starts out with Naomi & her two daughters-in-law.  The husbands of all three died, leaving them destitute.  These circumstances are not unfamiliar today.  There’s a worldwide recession (a.k.a., famine) going on.  A lot of people are out of work.  Some people are widowed.  What do you do when you don’t have any money?

    Money is capital.  When you don’t have money, that’s when social capital has to kick in.  Social capital (my phrase of wisdom for today) is the fancy phrase for the trusted friends and family that we can turn to in times of famine.  Even though she’s not mentioned after the first chapter, it’s a blessing that Orpah was able to return to Moab to have her family take care of her.  It’s a blessing that Ruth and Naomi were able to return to Bethlehem.  There are a lot of people today who cannot go home.  They have burned their bridges with their friends, with their siblings, and even with their own parents.

    Years ago, I attended a wedding at which a large portion of Ruth, chapter 1, was read.  The pastor explained that he read such a bleak passage during a wedding ceremony because the relationship between Ruth & Naomi was a beautiful picture of two people pledging themselves to one another, through thick and thin.

    Oftentimes, social capital is more important than money; but it is okay to save money, too.  There was a famine during Joseph’s day.  God alerted him to the famine and told him how to prepare for it so that he, and many others, would be saved.  (Genesis 41:28-39)  I think women especially should learn how to handle their money and save for the future.  Women live longer than men, and many women will be left poor when their husband’s die.  Also, many Christian women are left financially unstable after a divorce.  There’s nothing wrong with taking a financial literacy class to learn the basics.  ( The problem comes in when we depend on our own plans, rather than God.  Plan and wait for God.


    The purpose of If I Knew Then What I Know Now is to share some insights that I wish someone had told me about when I was younger.  There’s a fuller explanation on my first post, written on May 14, 2012.