We drove to Rocky Creek campground in Pineville, Louisiana this weekend for an Above Rubies family camp. Oh my goodness. What an amazing time.
If you've been reading for awhile, you know I am a huge fan of Colin and Nancy Campbell and their ministry, Above Rubies. Nancy started it when she was living in New Zealand with her six small children 34 years ago and saw a need for encouragement for Christian mommas. The magazine just printed its 86th issue. I think it's really cool that the ministry began in 1977, the year before I was born. God knew, as He was planting the idea in Nancy's heart in New Zealand in the 70's, that Julie Pearson Rodgers would one day need that ministry like she needs water in the desert. Even when I was a little girl and He was giving me a heart for being a wife and mother, He was planning all along to bring it all together and let me be a part of it. What a good God!
I like best that the Campbells teach the Word of God. The whole counsel of God too, not just the parts we usually like to hear. They encourage me to know God's Word more intimately. As I know it more, I find that God has practical things to say about every detail of my life.
Saturday morning, we learned about two different families in the Bible: Noah's family, and Lot's family. Noah lived in a very evil time, so evil that God wished He had never created man. He decided to flood the earth because of the wickedness of everyone's heart. But Noah was righteous and found favor with God. He was absolutely the only one living who found favor with God! Imagine that! The Bible says that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. (Nancy reminded us that we don't have to have a seminary degree to be a preacher of righteousness, we can do it right in our own homes, preaching righteousness to our children.) So, Noah obeyed God and built an ark "for the saving of his household", and his family survived for generations. Lot, however, began as a righteous man, but decided to pitch his tent toward Sodom- a very evil place. What we focus on, or pitch our tents toward, we eventually become, and Lot eventually became one of the leaders of Sodom. He allowed his family to get indoctrinated into the culture of Sodom, and eventually he lost many of them when God destroyed the city. His wife turned to a pillar of salt, and his daughters had sons who became enemies of God's people. All because of his choice to pitch his tent toward Sodom. We have to watch where we pitch our tents.
Saturday afternoon, we took out our Bibles and turned to the familiar promise in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you a future and a hope." We all like to claim that promise, but then we actually read the passage leading up to the promise this time. God was speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites who were in captivity in Babylon. He begins, "Thus says the Lord of hosts", reminding them that it is the Captain of Heaven's Armies, the Mighty Warrior Who fights for His people, speaking to them. God gives them seven instructions for living in captivity in an evil time and place (much like we are living in today. . . hmmm. . . :)) The instructions are:
1) Build houses and dwell in them. God wanted His people to have homes. Homes with families in them. And dwell there, not just come home at night but live and breathe and pray and work and dwell.
2) Plant gardens and eat their fruit. I am really believing that God loves gardens almost as much as I do. :) So many word pictures in the Bible are of gardens and gardening. The first home was a garden! And in it, God provided plants and trees and herbs that were "good for eating", it says in Genesis. He gave us all we needed for food, in a garden. Before McDonald's ever existed. :)
3) Get married, have children. This command was given way back in the beginning. In fact it was the first command that God gave to man. First God sat in on the first marriage of man and wife, and then He told them, "Be fruitful and multiply." He reminded them of this when they were in captivity. In essence He was saying, "Keep doing My plan no matter what the circumstances." Conception is a visitation from God. Romans 9:9, Genesis 21:1-2, 1 Samuel 2:21, Genesis 18:10,14. All are references to God saying, "I will visit and you will conceive." Genesis 18:14 says that God will come "at the appointed time" and Sarah will conceive. That appointed time is the same Hebrew word for "congregation". Conception is actually God coming and tabernacling among us, congregating and visiting us. It is a blessing and a gift. Not to be scorned.
4) Have grandchildren! Encourage this receival of God's blessings in your children and continue the raising of Godly seed! Get the image of God and the Godly seed out into the world as sharp arrows, penetrating the darkness. Keep up the image bearing. I love this stuff. :)
5) Be increased there, and not diminished. Same stuff.
6) Seek the peace of the city by praying for it. Pray for your city, your nation because, as this Scripture says, "In it's peace, you will have peace." Our families should be nation prayers.
7) Do not be deceived! God doesn't warn them not to be deceived by the Babylonians, whom the Israelites would recognize as evil, but by those in their own midst. It is easier to be deceived by those we are familiar with than by those we already know are evil. Lamentations 4:12 says that no one guessed the enemy would come right through Jerusalem's gates. Sometimes the biggest deception is even with the church or our "Christian" friends. We have to hold everything up to what the Bible says is true.
God promised a future and a hope to those who obeyed these commands. Jeremiah 29:11 is a special promise to believers who follow God's plan.
So there you have it! Good words from Above Rubies. :) It was so good to be around encouraging new friends. Saturday evening we celebrated a Shab'bat, a Jewish custom over the evening meal on the Sabbath. It was really cool and I think we will try to incorporate it into our family traditions. I made a new friend named Cristy who doesn't have children yet but is preparing for them. :) She and her husband have struggled with infertility but they are believing God for His best. I was challenged again not to ever take my sweet blessings for granted. And I have been praying fervently for my friend. Which reminds me, in my Bible reading this morning I came across this Scripture: "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving." -Colossians 4:2. Cristy, I am continuing earnestly!