Thursday, July 31, 2008
These verses, while so familiar, have so much to say. First I want us to take a good look at verse 17: "When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted" (emphasis mine). This verse lets me know that we can truly be in the presence of God, even be looking at His face, and in our humanness can find ourselves doubting. May we never stop confessing any trace of unbelief and asking God to help our unbelief (see Mark 9:24).
Verses 18- 20 are of course The Great Commission. Many different views are held when it comes to these verses. Some think it applies only to missionaries and people called to the ministry. Hopefully we can all know that is only a fraction of the people that are meant to "go". Secondly, some apply these verses to door-to-door evangelism. I think it is even bigger than that. The Great Commission applies to missionaries and ministers. It also applies to door-to-door evangelism, but more importantly it applies to every believer's day to day life. Are you going somewhere today? If you are, that is your opportunity to share Christ today. Wherever we go, we are to take His name and be ready to share the gospel as He gives opportunity.
I heard a great illustration of these verses recently. There are two groups of people in the world: Christians and the world. The world has their message and we have ours. Which one is louder? For years, I believed the world was louder. I had experienced first hand the voice of the world calling me. It seemed so loud, so drawing that I answered it and lived in the world for a time. The world never satisfies and only leaves you searching, thinking, "there must be something else".
What if, just what if, all Christians regardless of denomination were calling out the same message? What if everywhere we went our very beings cried out, "Jesus loves you"? Then who would be louder? The world or the One that can fill our lives and never leave us lacking?
God is calling people to Himself. Even though He could bring others to Christ without us, He chooses to use us. In everything we do, let's live The Great Commission. Let our message of love, peace, and joy be the one that everyone we encounter today hears loud and clear.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Why do we do what we do? Why do we persevere through hardships and trials? First and foremost we do it because we have been called to. If we were to turn away in the midst of trial, to whom would we go? (See John 6:67-69)God receives glory in all circumstances including difficult ones. But, for me and possibly for you, I continue on so that my children will one day know and believe and understand that He is the one true God. He is worth living and dying for everyday of my life until He calls me home.
This future generation that we are preparing has a hard task in front of them. They will be called to do things we never had to do. They must be prepared to take the Name of Jesus to the next generation. They must be well equipped to do this through our example and our teaching them God's Word, but we must also be prepared to let them go and do it.
One of my favorite pastor/teachers is John Piper. His entire family blogs about what God is doing in their lives. What a Godly legacy and an example to us all. Please click on the link below to read what one family has to say about preparing the next generation as well as being prepared ourselves...
As we are called to prepare the next generation of believers be it our own children or our spiritual offspring, let us do it with all faithfulness. Let us depend on God. If we trust in Him, He will never put us to shame (Romans 10:11).
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Today we will concentrate on verses 3 and 4 of our passage. I am sure that throughout the ages Christians had thought that this time had surely come. I certainly believe that it has. The examples are almost endless of how people and more specifically the Church is drawn away to cults and unbiblical teaching. Oprah has a "church" that has attracted millions, many of them former members of an evangelical church. And although I do not remember this event, I have heard the story of Jim Jones my entire life and the 900 people that committed suicide at his command to drink poisoned punch.
While these stories may seem extreme, many believers have allowed unsound doctrine to come into their lives in a subtle way. George Barna who is the founder and director of the Barna Group who has done extensive research on the Church writes:
Only 9 percent of all born-again adults have a biblical worldview - meaning that less than one out of every ten Christians age eighteen or older believes that absolute moral truth exists, believes that such truth is contained in the Bible, and possesses a handful of core beliefs that reflect such truth. Those beliefs include a certainty that the Bible is accurate in its teachings; Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; Satan is real, not symbolic; all believers are responsible for sharing their faith in Christ with others; the only means to salvation is through God's grace; and God is the all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today. The other 91 percent of born-again adults possess a patchwork of theological views and rarely rely upon those perspectives to inform their daily decisions. - George Barna, Revolution 2005
While this may sound hard to believe, I personally have had many conversations with people in the church, who I believe are Christians that do not believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. It is amazing how subtle Satan sneaks into our churches and deceives us.
I lived in deception for so many years. I was tossed back and forth by whatever the preacher in the pulpit would say. Well-meaning legalists kept me paralyzed in my faith for far too long. But, through that I learned the importance of knowing what the Word says for myself. I cannot express how important this is and I am just a fellow journeymen with you. It is way more important to know what God says about anything than it is to watch "American Idol" or anything else on television!
We must know the truth for ourselves. We cannot be dependent on our pastor, our Sunday School teacher, or anyone else. Yes, these people should help us in our walk, but if the only time we open our Bibles is on Sunday we will be much more likely to be taken in by false teachings. Let's commit to know the Word. If you hear something that does not sound quite right and your spirit is unsettled, study it for yourself. May God give us supernatural wisdom to know the truth.
Heavenly Father, I just want to know the truth. I know that you are truth. Please give me supernatural wisdom and understanding as I study your Word that you might reveal to me all that I am capable of knowing. I praise you for your infinite worth. I love you...
Monday, July 28, 2008
We have been studying the early Church in the eighth grade Sunday school class that I co-teach. I was brought to tears this week as I studied our lesson based in 2 Timothy. For months we have walked with Paul through his journey to expand the church and here in 2 Timothy we see his last charge, so to speak. Paul suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, but it was not in vain. All of us are fruit from his ministry to the Gentiles. What a legacy.
No doubt Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose his words very carefully. He knew he was going to die and church history tells us that Paul was beheaded shortly after writing these words.
We see the intensity of what he is saying in verse 1. He is telling Timothy this as if he is in the very presence of God and of Jesus. That's a pretty big charge! The charge is found in verse 2: Preach the Word! The word used for "preach" in this verse literally means "to herald or to cry out". We are to be prepared all the time, even when we do not think we will get a chance to tell someone about Christ or what He has done for us. We are also to be ready to "correct, rebuke, and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction."
Let's break down each part of that verse.
1. Correct - meaning to lead someone to the truth. Correct their way of thinking about an issue based on scripture.
2. Rebuke - Condemn or reprimand someone who has been found guilty of a particular sin.
3. Encourage - With love, encourage others to repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness and freedom from sin, guilt, and the grave.
Now we cannot forget the most important part! We are to do all of this "with great patience and careful instruction". Although theologians differ on exactly what this means, one of the interpretations is that we are to have the same type of patience with other believers as God has had with us. Let that sink in for a minute. How many times have I been so discouraged because I thought someone just "didn't get it"! Maybe they didn't, but I pray God will keep it close to my mind how long it took me to "get it" when it came to some spiritual issues.
To wrap up today I want us to think about what it will take to be able to "preach the Word... correct, rebuke, and encourage". In order to do any of those things, we must first know the Word. Ask God to give you a hunger for His word and a thirst for understanding His word. As
God answers this prayer in your life, ask Him to give you wisdom for how to proclaim His word to others.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Please enjoy these words of wisdom from my wonderful husband, B. J., today. Have a great weekend and thanks to all of you who have sent comments via e-mail! I am praying for you!
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28NIV)
Why must we suffer in this life? What good could possibly come from hardship? For that matter, what value do I place on the difficulties I face when I am simply trying to obey God's will?
I have drank from this verse many times when feeling like my life was on the brink of disaster. The words of Romans 8:28 never cease to satisfy. They sustain me through the hard times.
I love this truth. My everyday life and ministry hinges on this truth. God has proven its accuracy time and time again. He truly works all things out for my good and his glory.
Today, as an act of worship, let us lift up praise and thanksgiving to our God for proving his faithfulness to us in all things. He never abandons us. He never leaves us. He works in and through us to display his glorious grace.
Father, thank you for working through even the smallest details of my life. Today, I agree with Paul, who wrote under the inspiration of Your Spirit, that in all things you work for my good. Thank you for giving me everything I need to live this new life.
God's amazing grace is most clearly displayed not in our strength but in our weaknesses. Jesus said it this way, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I was taught my entire life that God had a plan for my life and that I had to find it. This came across to me like God was hiding this plan under some rug in a big, huge house. It almost seemed impossible to me to be able to find this plan.
Several years ago, B. J. and I read a book about the will of God. It presented two different outlooks on finding God's will for our lives. The first outlook is the traditional way I had been taught of having to find the spot on the floor in the house, even if the spot was under a rug! The other outlook is just being in the house, meaning obedience to Christ.
As I have studied and prayed about this topic further, I truly believe that God has a plan. We find that all throughout scripture. And, I also believe that we are not big enough to mess that plan up. When we make a decision that is not the best for our lives, God is not wringing His hands in distress trying to figure out what to do now. He was already there, knew the decision that would be made, and He knows how He is going to use it in our lives ultimately for His glory.
Look at the life of Abraham. He tried to get ahead of God and had his own ideas of how God was going to give Him a son. Even though what Abraham did was wrong, God still carried out His original plan. Abraham was not big enough to mess up God's plan and neither are we. I hope this will free your spirit the way it did mine! I used to be so legalistic about God's will for my life that I would worry about being at the right place at the right time so that I would meet the right husband and have the right kids!
We cannot mess up what God has put into motion. Detour maybe, but He is going to bring about what He has had planned from the foundation of the Earth. Trust Him to order your steps even in the difficult times. Just because you are in a valley does not mean you made a wrong turn. Remember nothing grows on the mountain top so sometimes we have to be led into the valley.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Recently I have been reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. This book, if you are not familiar, is the autobiography of one of the most amazing, faithful, women I have ever read about. It is no wonder after my reading and crying and praising God for His acts of mercy toward His people that He has brought this verse to life for me. Corrie ten Boom and her family hid Jews during World War II. They endured hardship and imprisonment. Many of her family members also paid the ultimate price for their love of God and His people.
I have thought about for the last few days how we as the body of Christ are called to do that today. I do not mean hiding people in our homes, although if our world was to ever go through something as horrific as the holocaust again, I believe we would be. But, how can we be a "hiding place" today? God is our ultimate hiding place. We can trust Him with anything, talk to Him about anything, confess anything, and confide in Him about anything. But, I believe He has called us to be His hands and feet as well.
One of the areas I believe the body of Christ struggles with, myself included, is being a place of safety for each other. We are called to protect each other, not hurt each other. Jesus prayed earnestly in His last prayer on Earth that we would be "one" (See John 17:20-22). Unfortunately, time and time again we see lives destroyed, marriages fall apart, abuse, depression, you name it, going on in the Body and no one even knows about it until it is too late.
Why could they not turn to someone in the church for counsel, help, prayer? When I was struggling so severely with depression, doubt, and hopelessness to the point where I was suicidal, why did I not feel that I could turn to someone in my own church? Part of the answer is because I believed the lie of Satan that no one would understand. I was the only person in the Church in the history of the world to feel this way, therefore no one would understand. Lies, lies, lies. They are the native tongue of our enemy.
However, sometimes we are not a hiding place for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes people have good reason for not talking about their problems with other Christians. You see, they might have tried that in the past and were betrayed. I never want to do that to another human being because I know what it feels like to talk about your innermost needs and feelings only to have the person you thought was safe tell someone else.
We have probably all let something slip from time to time that we knew we were not supposed to tell, but can we just not do it anymore? Can we be safe people for our brothers and sisters to turn to in their times of need? No, their physical lives do not necessarily depend on it as they did in Corrie's case, but it does hurt to be betrayed.
There are real needs in the people sitting in the pews next to you. Commit to God to be a "hiding place" for someone else if He ever needs you to be. We may not change history, but we might help change someone's life.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I guess as long as the Lord allows me or any human being to write about Him the topic of knowing God will never be exhausted. David Platt says, "while we can never know God fully, we can know Him truly." We will never be able to know everything there is about God because His "ways are higher than [our] ways" (Isaiah 55:9). But, as I have said before, God is knowable and He desires to be known by us. The question I have always had is "Why?". Why would God in all His infinite greatness care if anyone on Earth, especially me, know Him?
Our verses in Isaiah give us part of the answer. We are His witnesses and the servants He has chosen. If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we have experienced God. Although we are in the process of knowing Him better, when we begin to follow Christ, we have truly met with the Living God. We are His witnesses to the people we are around everyday. He could reveal Himself other ways, but yet again, He has chosen to reveal Himself through you and I.
What I am trying to say is that you and I are not just meant to know God for our own personal benefit. We are meant to be witnesses to the fact that others can know Him as well. God has so powerfully used other people's relationship with Him to show me that I can have that type of relationship as well.
I was only about 21 when I first encountered Beth Moore. I did not know what she had, but I knew I wanted it. The more I heard her speak, I realized that the reason she had such a living and active relationship with God is because she spends time with Him on a daily basis. God did not just come to her and reveal Himself to her daily without her putting in the time and effort to get to know Him through His word and prayer. I sincerely believed that He could change me, too.
I am living proof that God can reveal Himself to anyone, change anyone, do anything. If He did it (and is still doing it) in my life, He can in anyone's life. But, He not only did that for my benefit. First and foremost, He did it for His glory. That reason would be enough, but because He is a gracious and merciful God, He also did it so that I could be His witness. I pray that His work will not be in vain. I pray that through what He has done for me, He will draw others to Himself.
He has done the same for you. He has not just changed you for you. He has changed you for that man at the grocery store that needs a warm smile. He has changed you for your family member whose life is spinning out of control. He has changed you for that woman you see on the tennis court who is desperately looking for someone to love her. He has changed you for that woman at church who needs a friend. We must share what He has done for us so that others can "know and believe... and understand" that He is God. And He's still in the miracle business.
Monday, July 21, 2008
This is another one of my favorite stories about our Lord and Savior! It is also one of my favorite stories about man-kind. So many times we hear how people turn their back on others. A man or woman is paralyzed in an accident or is incapacitated in someway and their spouse leaves them because "they just can't handle it." Someone is sick for a long time and their friends step in for a while, but then everyone leaves and the person is left with a few people to help care for them. Chonda Pierce, a Christian comedian who struggles with clinical depression, says that many in the "body of Christ has forgotten how to walk with someone through a valley."
While I do agree with her in some respects, today we see a great example of people just like you and I who did not turn their backs on a friend in need. I have always been in awe of this story. Although the Bible does not go into the detail of how this man was paralyzed, whether from birth or by some type of accident, we do know that he was totally incapable of bringing himself before Jesus. But, he had four friends that were not going to give up just because Jesus was not coming to their house.
They went and got their friend and carried him to the house where Jesus was teaching. When they saw that they could not get through the door because of the crowd, they still did not give up! They carried their friend up to the roof, took off the ceiling tiles and lowered their friend down right in front of Jesus! What a sight to see! I would have loved to seen this happening. Just imagine being in church and all of a sudden a man being lowered in through the roof to seek healing from the ultimate Healer.
Of course, Jesus could not help but see the man being lowered down in front of him interrupting his preaching. But the Bible says the "when Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." (Luke 5:20 emphasis mine). How awesome it must have been for the four friends to have been a part of this miracle!
As I read this, I am reminded that everything we do can be an act of worship. Even our friendship with each other can be an act of worship. Sometimes I find myself shying away from the hard situations of life because I am so afraid I will say or do the wrong thing. So I just do not say or do anything. God has showed me that this is wrong and I am asking Him to help me to reach out to those who are hurting or just need a friend.
These friends are a great example of how we should treat each other. Let's love each other the way they loved their friend. The only better reward than having a selfless friendship with another person is the fact that Jesus himself will see our faith and be pleased.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 8:28-33, John 6:44, Romans 3:10-12
One morning during our family devotion time we began discussing how we have "Americanized" the salvation of our souls. We have so many freedoms, we have almost begun to believe that we can choose Jesus on our own. At some point the church began to teach that we needed to make a "decision" for Christ. Churchgoers are asked repeatedly to "walk the aisle" and decide to make Jesus their Lord. While I do not want this sound like I am contradicting the church, I do want to point out that Jesus IS Lord whether we accept Him as that or not. We do not make Him Lord. He IS Lord. Let us not forget that.
We see in our verses for today that the truth of scripture is that we bring nothing to the table when it comes to salvation. For years we believed that we brought our faith to the table, that we were saved by our faith. But, after studying these verses, we have to say this is just not true. Ephesians 2:8 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God". This means that the faith it takes to call on Jesus as Lord is a gift in itself. It is not of ourselves. We would never choose God on our own.
In fact the Bible teaches that God draws us to himself. He foreknew us, He predestined us, He justified us, and He will glorify us in heaven one day. That fact is as certain as if we were already there.
Let us never be deceived that we are the ones who chose God. Let us always be thankful that He convicted us of our sins and revealed Himself to us. Sometimes we go through life thinking that we turned to Christ all on our own. Give Him the glory and honor He is due in humbling ourselves before Him in thanksgiving for His mercy. He called you! All you did was answer.
"I was wondering - I mean - could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and Scrubb, you know. It was we who asked to come here. Scrubb said we were to call to - to Somebody - it was a name I wouldn't know - and perhaps the Somebody would let us in. And we did and then we found the door open."
"You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you," said the Lion.
- Conversation between Jill and Aslan taken from The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis
written by B.J. and Elaine Price
written by B.J. and Elaine Price
Thursday, July 17, 2008
A few years ago a worship song came out called "Friend of God". It is a very catchy worship song and became very popular. We have sang it at my church many times. After it had been out for a while, I started hearing from people that are much smarter than me that the song was possibly not biblical. The argument was that this song refers to the friendship that God had with Abraham and that was a unique situation. Therefore, we are not all "friends" with God.
I thought about that argument for a while and almost bought into it. But, then I remembered other songs like "What a Friend we have in Jesus." What do we do with that song? Many hymns and worship songs today are not biblical, but I truly just did not think that these were.
I began searching for what the scripture teaches. Yes, I do believe that Abraham had a unique relationship with God, but Moses did as well (See Exodus 33:11). However, Jesus very plainly in scripture tells us exactly what we have to do to be His friends - "do what [He] commands" (John 15:14). Three times in John 15, Jesus calls the disciples His friends. I consider myself a follower or disciple of Jesus and although I fall short, I am striving to obey His commands. And Jesus is God, therefore I do not believe that it is presumptuous to say that I am a friend of God.
Before you think that this is a commercial for the worship song "Friend of God", let me make my point! Isn't that an amazing fact? Jesus Christ calls us His friends! The One that laid the foundations of the Earth offers me His friendship. He laid down His life so that we could be friends. He is so worthy of our love, our worship, our praise. So worthy.
Have you ever called and called someone, but they never seem to call you back? After you do that for a while, you might begin to assume that the other person does not want to be your friend. Call Jesus back right now! Spend some time with Him today letting Him know that you want to accept His offer of friendship. Then praise our Almighty God for the fact that He chooses to make Himself knowable to mankind.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Although this parable is extremely short and really does not even have a name in scripture, it is one of my favorites. This parable truly changed my life about 10 years ago. Let's break it down to see what Jesus is teaching...
The "man" who owns the vineyard is God. According to theologians, the "fig tree" can be the nation of Israel or can refer to an individual soul. And the "man who took care of the vineyard" could refer to the Holy Spirit. So, the man is walking through his garden and he comes upon a tree that has no fruit. This is not the first time he has checked to see if this tree was bearing fruit. He has actually been checking on it regularly for an ample period of time and it still has no fruit. He decides to get the tree out of the way. It is taking up space. But, the gardener intervenes and pleads for the tree. He asks the owner to give him "one more year" to dig around it and fertilize it. Basically he is saying, "just give me one more year to do everything I know to do to get this tree to bear fruit!" But in the end he even says that if it does not bear fruit after that, cut it down.
God is constantly walking through his "garden". If we are in Christ, he is checking our lives for "fruit". If we are not producing fruit for an ample period of time, based on this parable I truly believe that the Holy Spirit pleads for us, asking God for more time. But, when that time is up if we are still not producing fruit, "cut it down" can be interpreted one of two ways.
The first way could be that we would have rendered ourselves ineffective. Have you ever felt God leading you in a certain direction, but you refused? After a while, possibly a long while, that leading may go away. God found someone else to do what he was leading us to do. Some pastors refer to this as being "put up on a shelf" by God.
The second way "cut it down" could be interpreted is not very uplifting, but none the less true. If the Christian is not producing fruit after God has done everything He will do to lead His child to live for Him, this person could be literally "cut down", meaning death. I know this is not very uplifting, but I do believe scripture teaches us this. We have also all heard stories about once Godly people who fell into some type of sinful lifestyle and refused to repent that suddenly died. I truly believe that God will not be mocked. We have a job to do. If we refuse to do it, we are taking up "soil".
When I first read this passage and heard a message on it, I literally ran to the altar. I do not want to die not living for Christ nor do I want to be "put up on a shelf" to live the remainder of my natural life ineffective for Christ. I know that you do not want that either. God is serious about this fruit thing. Let's be about His business today and "bear much fruit" for Him.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
One of my truest desires and struggles as a human being is to be known. I do not mean fame or fortune. I mean for someone else to truly know me. To relate to another human being on an intimate level. This is not a one time event. It takes time (and lots of it) to really know someone and to be known by them. One of the reasons this is so hard for me and many others is the lack of transparency in our lives.
Somewhere along the line of Christianity, someone must have decided that Christians had to be perfect. They were not supposed to have any struggles or doubts or fears or...you fill in the blank. We think, "how unspiritual it would be to doubt God or struggle with my faith or an area of sin or be angry at God or need help in my relationships." And so we pretend that those area do not exist in our lives and say that we are "fine", give the church smile, and move on. Sometimes we move on without even realizing we are wearing a mask.
In this passage today we see the most amazing verse! Let's read it again!
"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away."
As many times as I have read the remainder of this passage dealing with freedom in Christ, I had never paid any attention to verse 16. How and why do we have freedom in Christ? We have freedom through Christ's shed blood on the cross. But, through that sacrifice, when we turn to Him, the veil is removed that kept us from seeing who Christ really is. Now with "unveiled faces" we can know Him and confidently be known for who we are by Him. The transformation can now take place. We do not have to wear a mask anymore. So why do we sometimes put it back on?
Today let's go to God in all honesty and transparency asking Him to help us be transparent with Him, other believers and with ourselves. Whatever your struggle is, if you are a human being and drawing breath at this moment, you are not alone. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13). Ask God to reveal to you a safe person that you can confide in, someone that you can truly be yourself with.
God helped me throw my mask away several years ago, but honestly I buy a new one from time to time. But, for me, they are just to suffocating. Transparency in Christ is liberating and truly freeing. God has already "unveiled" our faces, let's leave them that way.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Have you ever been in a spiritual desert? Have their been times in your walk with God that you just did not "feel" His presence like you used to? While David wrote this Psalm while in a literal desert, we can apply almost every line to our spiritual lives.
How do you know you are in a desert? Well, David knew because he had "seen" God in the sanctuary and beheld His power and His glory. You see, once we have experienced God and felt His presence, to not be in His presence leaves a deep, deep longing. Our souls literally "thirst", our bodies literally "long" for God. Sometimes we will not even know what it is we are so thirsty for. We try to fill ourselves up with everything the world has to offer, but they just will not satisfy.
Summer is extremely hot in Alabama where I live. I mean lately it has been sweltering! I always look forward to the summer because of vacation, free time, lack of a schedule, etc. But, it almost always leaves me wanting something more. The lack of structure sometimes causes me to be undisciplined in my walk with Christ. I would like to think this is just a "me" problem, but unfortunately we can look at church attendance during the summer and know that it is not. We almost all do better with a little structure.
So how do we get out of the desert? David begins by praising God, lifting up his hands, and singing. He thinks of God during the night because he knows that just as the morning will come, so will his deliverance. His soul clings to the Lord, knowing that God is upholding him with his right hand.
This is exactly what we must do. We must praise God in the desert. Lift up our hands to him for deliverance. Cling to the Lord with all of our might and trust that God will uphold us. We must stay in His Word daily, because once you have tasted it there is no turning back. Nothing else will satisfy, so why even try! (See Isaiah 55:2)
As these hot days drag on, let's encourage one another to stay out of the desert. Let's keep meeting at the table together and be "satisfied as with the richest of foods".
Friday, July 4, 2008
While I feel this is one of the most revealing Messianic passages in all of scripture, not everyone who believes in God feels that way. The Jewish Tanakh, or the Hebrew scriptures, contain the book of Isaiah, but the 53rd chapter has been removed. If ever anyone in the congregation questions the book, the answer is usually that the passage is too difficult to understand. When our faith is in Christ, the passage makes perfect sense.
This passage makes the old cliche' "Freedom's never free" jump off the page. It is not free. Christ was pierced, crushed, afflicted, despised, rejected by His own, wounded, and had all of our iniquity laid upon Him. Allow those words to bring the emotions that they would bring if it was happening to you and we will all boldly say "Freedom's never free". It always costs something. For the Christian, it cost Christ His life on the cross. Actually, for the non-Christian, Christ still gave His life so that all might have the opportunity to repent (See 2 peter 3:9).
Today as we celebrate our nation's freedom, let us remember the ones who gave their lives so that we might be free as well as the one's that are defending our nation's freedom right now at this very moment. May we also thank Jesus for giving His life that we might have ultimate freedom. He is truly the life giver and is worthy of all praise.
I also ask that we might join together today in praying for the millions of believers across the globe who are free in Christ, but are not free to worship Him. My heart is heavily burdened for them almost daily. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ and many of them can only worship in secret for fear of imprisonment, beatings, or death. Let us pray that they will embrace their freedom in Christ and the knowledge that one day they will be completely free to worship Him face to face. Let us never forget the persecuted church.
Enjoy this great day and all that it means to our nation and our faith.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
If you usually read this blog at 6 am then you realize that I am late posting today. I am visiting my parents, and my children are running around like wild indians the way they do when they are at their grandparents! My dad calls them "earthquake" and "whirlwind"! Anyway, that might be the reason that God brought this particular scripture to my mind this morning.
Let me just go ahead and say what every mother feels but sometimes will not say out loud: Motherhood is HARD!! I am convinced that it is the hardest job in the world, and it has the most consequences as well. We are entrusted with lives! Sometimes the responsibility is over-whelming to me. I was talking with another mother who has grown children one day. She was literally going back over every decision that she had ever made as a mother and associating it with the negative behaviors of her children. I attempted to encourage her that her children were adults and were making their own decisions that they were responsible for. Unfortunately, I believe at this point she is still allowing Satan to decieve her. Shame is his game.
However, the conversation truly made me fall on my face that day in prayer for my children and for myself as a mother. I earnestly prayed that God would help me daily in the decisions that I make in raising my children. My prayer for the last couple of weeks has been that God will take every decision I make and use it for His glory in my children's lives. I am not going to always make the right decision and I know that I will mess up a million times, but I am clinging to the fact that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28).
I love the Lord and I know without a doubt that He has called me to Himself, so I can wholeheartedly claim this promise. And, I bet you can too. Claim it over your children's lives. They are a reward. One that I myself am so unworthy of. For me, motherhood is another picture of God's grace in my life. I pray that you will join me in praying for your children today as well as for yourself. If your children are grown, it is absolutely NOT TOO LATE! You still have such an impact on your children's lives and God still hears your prayers for them.
Motherhood is a holy calling. Let's do it together!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Our verses for today teach us at least two things:
1. God is ALWAYS with us!
2. The question is not if we will suffer through difficult times, but when will we suffer through difficult times.
Difficulties, hardships, and sufferings are a given. They are part of our life and we will go through them. But, we can take joy in the knowledge that God always delivers. Based on scripture, I have been taught and I believe He delivers in one of three ways.
The first way He delivers is to deliver us from a situation. We have all known or heard testimonies about people who were diagnosed with cancer or some other deadly infirmity only to be completely healed and restored. God does still heal and do not let anyone tell you different! He still delivers His children from situations for His glory.
The second way is by delivering us through a situation. This is what our verses teach us today. "When you pass through the waters...when you walk through the fire..."God is not going to leave nor forsake us. He will walk through suffering and hardships with us. This is often when we grow so much in our faith, because we are so dependent on God. In my own life I can honestly say that I would go through the hard times again because of what God taught me. I am so much closer to Him today because of the suffering I have gone through. Satan just did not have a clue what God was up to!
The third and final way He delivers is by delivering us into His arms. I know that we would never choose this option, but if we really had any kind of grasp on what it meant to be with Him forever and ever, we would take this option every time! Eventually we will all be delivered into His arms. When someone dies that we have earnestly prayed for, let us never think that God was unfaithful or that He did not deliver that person. He just choose to deliver him home.
We can take tremendous comfort in knowing that God is going to be there for us no matter what the circumstance. Suffering is a given, but in light of eternity, I pray that we will suffer with faithfulness.
I believe God brought this scripture to my mind specifically today because He has been so faithful to us through the situation with our son Joel. He has a speech disorder and has been in therapy for over a year. A few weeks ago his therapist told me that he was down to 5% disfluency (he has a stuttering disorder) which falls into the normal range for his age group. While I was excited, I was afraid to get my hopes up. However, yesterday at his 4 year old check up, his pediatrician said that he would have never have guessed or even known that Joel had ever had a problem with speech. So now I am excited and just want to shout Hallelujah and Praise the Lord! Your love truly endures forever!
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I recently heard Dr. David Platt say that in order to prove that God did not exist, one would have to search everywhere in the universe for Him (all at once because He could have moved!) to make sure that He was not there. After one had searched the entire universe, that person would then have all knowledge. If a person had all knowledge, they would be "god". Therefore to say there is no god would be to deny there own existence!
I do not think that very many of us reading this are struggling with whether or not there is a God, but this illustration is one of the best I have ever heard to blast an "atheist's" belief that they have to have proof. The burden of proof is really on them. However, there are not many true atheists. Most people who say there is no god either want attention or they just have decided not to decide. Unfortunately, in doing that, they have rejected Christ. Hopefully, you might be able to use this illustration one day in a nonthreatening way.
What we are probably more guilty of as Christians is the second verse of today's reading. We certainly believe in God and probably most of us have placed our trust in Him, but sometimes we behave like "no one sees [us]". How many times have our thoughts and actions proved that we are the most important priority in our lives? Simply put, how many times have we bowed to the altar of ourselves? The thought makes me shudder, but I know I have done it.
Today, let us not be foolish. In my opinion, to make ourselves our most important priority is just as foolish for a Christian as it is for a non-Christian to say there is no God. Right now I ask you to join me in laying ourselves before the altar of God to "present our lives as a living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1). He is and there is none besides Him.