Thursday, November 27, 2014

Life Matters

 Here is a continuation of my summary of Genesis. I apologize if it sounds rambled. 


I love that first verse in Genesis 8: "God remembered Noah..." Who doesn't want to be remembered?  

I can't imagine being shut in that ark and floating and drifting for all those months!  But just as God sent the rain, He sent a wind over the earth to recede the waters.  I wonder if it was a violent wind that rocked the boat just as much as the waves must have. 

After everyone was off the ark and back onto dry ground, Noah presented an offering to the LORD.  This pleased God.  Finally able to leave the ark after all that time and the first thing that Noah did was to sacrifice an offering to God. I want that to be my mindset after I go through raging storms! It is recorded that God, "said in His heart: 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood...'" After reading that, I thought, "God talks to Himself!", and for some reason this made me smile. 

The other thing from this verse that made me smile is that because of one man - Noah - God determined not to curse the earth again.  The righteousness of one person has a huge impact

1 Samuel 26:23a 
The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness.
  
Psalm 18:20   
The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.

 Psalm 33:5
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of his unfailing love.

Proverbs 13:6
Righteousness guards the person of integrity,
    but wickedness overthrows the sinner.


 Again it is recorded that God blessed Noah (and his sons).  The whole earth has been destroyed because of man's wickedness.  God provides for Noah and his family by giving them permission to now eat meat.  But there are restrictions.  God instructs them not to eat meat with its lifeblood still in it because He wants to point our that life - especially human life - matters! God then distinguishes that humans are more important than animals that every life will be accounted for! Why? Because man was made in the image of God

Genesis 9:4-6
 But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
    has God made mankind.

God then makes a covenant never to destroy the earth again by flood.  And to give Noah and everyone after him a reminder of this promise, God provides the rainbow as a symbol. God gives us signs.  God is a covenant maker and a covenant keeper.  



God remembers
God is pleased with the righteous
God is a covenant maker


God blesses
God provides
God restricts
God distinguishes man over animals
God gives signs 
 

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Coming Waves

Genesis 6-7 

God sees the wickedness of man and is grieved over it. It hurts His heart! (Genesis 6:6) Because God is HOLY, RIGHTEOUS and JUST, He will not tolerate sin forever.  God is compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (Psalms 86:15). "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9) but God has His limits!

In the middle of all the evil, God sees the righteousness of Noah.  God speaks to Noah, and like Enoch in chapter five, Noah "walked with God".  God warns Noah and instructs him on how to prepare for His coming judgement.  God gives Noah specific instructions and establishes a covenant with him.  God provides for Noah's (and his family) physical needs and He gives them plenty of time to prepare.  Then God shuts the door of the ark.  (Genesis 7:16) I was reminded of Isaiah 22:22, "...what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."

The flood waters came and covered the earth. 

The description of the waves was particularly interesting to me this time because just this morning I dreamed of being in a boat out on the ocean.  I couldn't see anything but the massive waves on which my boat was floating.  The waves rose extremely high and I was carried on them until they crested and I plummeted into a narrow gorge.  I landed safely, having only hit a few tree limbs on the way down. 

The similarities of my dream and the description of the waves of the flood in Genesis 7:17-20 were so strikingly similar, I couldn't help but think that God was telling me something.  I believe He is reminding me of exactly what is recorded in Genesis 6 and 7: God sees the wickedness of man and He has about reached His limit.  His judgement is coming and only those who are in the boat with Him will land safely. The tree limbs represent the tree on which Jesus was crucified. The narrow gorge represents the narrow gate/way that Jesus Christ talked about in Matthew 7:13-14                        

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

John 14:6  
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through me.

God has limits
God grieves over sin
God judges sin
God shows the righteous favor
God sees all
God speaks
God warns of judgement
God prepares the righteous
God establishes a covenant with the righteous
God is a refuge for the righteous
God provides
God secures His children 




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An Apology to Eve

I want to take a slight detour from my study of God's ways and share with you what I saw in the life of Eve. While reading through Genesis 4 and 5 this morning, I was struck by a couple more mentions of the "mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20).  For the most part I have held a grudge against her. After all, she fell for the serpent's lies and has given women a bad reputation ever since then for being gullible.  Not to the mention the whole pain in childbirth thing that every childbearing woman has to now endure! Well, I guess I just mentioned it. 

Anyway, this morning I took notice of Eve's response to God - after being expelled from Eden, told of the ramifications of her sinful choices, I read in Genesis 4:1, "Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.  She said, 'With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.'" And then later in the chapter, in verse 25, I read, "Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, 'God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.'"

Instead of blaming God, she praised God!  

I was quite humbled when I realized this.  I have shared in past posts about how I became angry with God during trying times.  There are many examples in the Bible of showing better responses than the one I had, and now I can add Eve to that list. Although, she has been on God's list all along. 

So, Lord Jesus, please pass on this message from me:

Dear Eve, please accept my apology for holding your sin against you.  Thank you for being an example of humility and grace.  I hope that in the years to come when I face more challenges, I will exhibit the same attitude of praise to God that you did. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Genesis 2 & 3


Again I see that God is intentional in what He does.  He began a good work (creation) and He finished it (Genesis 2:2), just as He finishes the good work of redemption and sanctification in each heart that chooses Him (see Philippians 1:6).  He is our example of how to work and how to rest (Genesis 2:2).  God was intimately involved with Adam, which was reflected in how He "formed" man and "breathed life" into him (Genesis 2:7).  God gave clear instructions (Genesis 2:16-17). He also gave man and woman special attention and a unique purpose (Genesis 2:18-22). 

God completes
God rests
God blesses
God makes holy
God breathes life
God plants
God instructs
God directs
God is aware
God provides
God gives purpose


God's initial desire was to walk with man and woman and openly communicate with them (Genesis 3:8).  Even after Adam and Eve sinned and failed to show up to meet with God, God called out to them (Genesis 3:9)!  Already knowing what they had done, God still asked them where they were and what they had done - holding each of them responsible for their own actions (Genesis 3:11-13).  Because God is holy and just, He had to execute judgement for their sinful, rebellious choices (Genesis 3:16-19).  God also cursed the serpent (the devil) for deceiving Eve, and He prophesied the redemptive plan He already had in place (Genesis 3:15)! 

After everything that Adam and Eve had done against Him, God still loved them enough to provide a covering for their nakedness (Genesis 3:21).  Which reminds me of how I would always hug my children after I had to spank them.

Psalm 25:7  
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

Even though God's love for man had not changed, sin had severe consequences.  God banished Adam and Eve from the very place He intentionally created for them, separating them from the tree of life.  

God communicates
God is just
God redeems
God disciplines
God is love 
God covers


Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Bible Study

I've decided to begin a new Bible study on the ways and names of God.  As I did on my study of prayer, I will simply read through the Bible and mark every reference of His ways and names, and write them down in a notebook. This time, however, instead of starting in Genesis and reading through all of the Old Testament before reading the New Testament, I've decided to read one Old Testament book and then one New Testament book. I hope doing it this way will give it a fresher feel to my study methods. 

This morning I read Genesis 1, and I want to share my summary of the chapter:

God is very intentional when He speaks and does things.  From the literal beginning of time He put in place a way for mankind to know of His existence.  He put the sun, moon, and stars in place for signs even before He created mankind.  When He did create man and woman, He created them in His own image.  In other words, they looked just like their Daddy!  There was to be no doubt in the heart of man that God is real.  

Not only did God provide signs in the sky but He also provided everything that man would need to live.  He told man that every plant and tree of the whole earth was to be food for them (I don't think I've ever noticed the "whole" earth part before.  I always pictured in my mind that they were designated only to the garden of Eden).  So, when God provides - He provides abundantly

God provided physically for mankind and spiritually.  Genesis 1:28 says that God "blessed" them. 

My observations from Genesis 1 on the ways/names of God are:

God creates 
God speaks
God separates*
God blesses
God instructs
God provides
*(dark/light, waters above/below, water/dry ground)


 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Exposed by the Grace of God

 

2 Corinthians 1:12 "Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace.

There are a few words in this verse that I want to highlight, because after looking into this passage, I was extremely encouraged, and I want to pass that along! 

First of all is the word "boast". The Greek word for boast here is kauchesis, and it means "the act of boasting, which can either be in the 'achievements' of self (negatively) or about God's grace (positively); glorying, rejoicing. 

The next word I want to highlight is the word "integrity", which in the KJV it is the word "purity". The Greek word is haplotes, which means "simplicity, purity, graciousness.  Properly, 'singleness, without folds, like a piece of cloth unfolded'; i.e. not compounded or over-complicated (needlessly complex)." 

"Sincerity" in the Greek is eilikrineia, which means "Clearness. Literally, 'judged in the light of the sun'; i.e. pure inner motives." 

And finally the word "grace", which in the Greek is charis, and is defined as "favor, kindness. Refers to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching (inclining) to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them.  Is preeminently used of the Lord's favor - freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is 'always leaning toward them')."

WOW! Did that get you as excited as it did me? First of all, it was encouraging to see how Paul and Timothy lived their lives in a way that basically means they "laid it all out there" for everyone to see.  Based on the definitions of purity and sincerity, I pictured a white sheet stretched out on a clothesline in the sun - nothing special - but completely exposed.  They had nothing to hide and they were willing to live that way because of God's grace. 

Oh boy - God's grace!  Don't you just love the picture that develops when you read about the word grace as defined above?  God freely extending Himself, reaching out to people because He wants to be near them!  In fact, He is "always leaning toward them"!  That blows my mind!  

I'll be honest with you, I had initially planned on skipping over this passage during my study time, but thankfully the Holy Spirit urged me to slow down and take a deeper look.  I'm so glad that I did!  

Child of God, if the picture of living an exposed life because of the grace you've received from God does not encourage you, it is time to take a closer look at the condition of your heart.  We are to be children of the light, but we can't be that if we are walking in the darkness (see Ephesians 5:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:5).  

Let me expose myself for just a moment.  I have not always lived my life in purity and sincerity, and if I said that I had, you probably wouldn't believe me.  But now that is what I strive to do.  The more I get to know my Lord, the more I want to resemble Him.  Thankfully, I now better understand that when I am willing to confess my sins - to God and to others - the enemy no longer has a hold on me.  It's when I try to keep my sin hidden that it becomes a stronghold and ammunition for the enemy to use against me.  But thinking about the grace of God, and how He is always "leaning toward" me, makes me want to live my life fully exposed.  I don't want anything to cause me to want to hide, and that is what He wants for me and you!  

If you are not a child of God, stop right now and ask Him to help you understand that He is reaching out to you, too.  That is exactly what Jesus Christ did when He died on the cross for you.  God makes it clear that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:13).  Call on Him and run to Him today! 





Sunday, July 6, 2014

Breeze or Bees

The congregation I belong to has been going through Romans 12 for the past six weeks.  One of the main principles that is emphasized in this chapter is that of transforming ourselves by the renewing of our minds.  This is also a principle that is strongly emphasized and encouraged in the Freedom in Christ Ministry (FICM).  FICM has played a very dominant role in my life.  God used this ministry to heal me from depression.  I have shared this many times before here on this blog, so I won't go into details again. 

What I do want to share is how God recently reminded me (again) of the importance of my mind-set.  I was working in the garden on a very pleasant day, and I was taking my time searching through the squash and zucchini plants.  I began to notice the breeze that was gently blowing and I was thoroughly enjoying my time outside.  The breeze was peaceful and I felt such calmness.  However, a few minutes later my attention shifted to the many bees that were buzzing around the blossoms on the plants.  They were only doing their job of pollinating, and at first they didn't bother me.  But the more I paid attention to them - or set my mind on listening to them - the more I began to feel anxious.  What if one or more of them decided to sting me?  I reminded myself that they really did not mean me any harm.  I told myself to go back to listening to the breeze, so that's what I did.  I set my mind on the breeze instead of the bees, and once again I felt peace. 

Such a simple act - changing my mind-set from the bees to the breeze!  How often do I miss out on peace because of what I choose to set my mind on?  More often than I care to admit.  Even though I have been through the Steps to Freedom, I still have my struggles.  Thankfully, the Steps to Freedom gave me the tools that I needed to recognize my struggles sooner than before, so now it doesn't take me quite as long as it used to to address things.  By the grace of God, I can more easily admit when I've slipped back into old thought patterns that lead to sin. 

What is your mind set on?  If you need help addressing this very important aspect of your life, let me encourage you to read Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker.  These are the two main books that God used to help me. Oh, and you can read more about my story here.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rolling with the Dogs or Walking in Righteousness?




Our dog, Sadie, has rolled in poo two times in two days! (She has done this sort of thing before, but never this close together.)  This greatly frustrated me and I walked around ranting and yelling at her because of it!

After bathing her - again - and while washing out the tub, I asked the Lord what He could teach me from this.  This is what came to my mind:

When I choose to sin, I am basically saying that God's bathing me, or cleansing me from unrighteousness, was not good enough.  I'm stating that I would rather roll in and be covered in poo! Other dogs might be attracted to me and welcome me into their pack, but to my Master, well - I stink!  My Master went to the trouble of stooping down to pick me up, carry me to the washing tub of the cross and cover my sin with the blood of Christ!  He then toweled me off, set my feet upon the rock of Jesus Christ, and clothed me in His righteousness!  So why do I then walk away clean and smelling sweet, only to go out and willingly roll in the stench of the world?

Well, I'm so thankful that God doesn't react to me the way I did to Sadie - by yelling at her and telling her how much she frustrates me.  No.  God is patient and kind, slow to anger and showing compassion (see Psalm 103:8).  He is my loving Master, Who time after time lovingly points out the sin I've allowed back in.  He then again stoops down to pick me up and washes over me with His grace!  

Oh Lord, You are too good to me!  Please help me to be more like You.  Even with this furry creature, help me to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.  Thank You for not acting inconvenienced whenever I sin against You, but instead display yet again Your steadfast love that never ceases!  Holy Spirit, enable to me walk in the righteousness of Christ, transformed by the renewing of my mind and no longer conformed to the pattern of this world.  May my life reflect the cleansing Christ has done in me and for me when He died on the cross for me and rose again to everlasting life! 

  


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When Life Gives You Poo

I've been gardening for several years now.  The garden has not only provided physical food and nourishment to my family and me, but I've also received several spiritual applications for my life as well.  I have shared some here on this blog, so feel free to look for those garden analogies (use search).  I want to share with you the most recent:

We used a lot of horse poo in the garden this year.  While digging around in the dirt and poo this morning, God told me that if I let Him, He will take all the poo that comes my way and use it to fertilize my heart & spirit, causing good things to grow and reproduce in/through me. BUT, I have to be willing to let go of the poo in the first place. Otherwise it will stay put and build up toxins in my body and spirit, causing disease and quite possibly leading to death! 


Lord, thank You for speaking to me in the everyday things of life. Thank you for taking the poo of life and using it to help me grow in ways I never imagined. I pray for my loved ones that they too will allow you to do the same in them and for them. Jesus, thank You for making all things new!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Malachi"

I heard the name Malachi in my sleep this morning.  I took that as God's leading to read the book of Malachi, so I did.  I asked Him beforehand to help me to see what I need to see.  I want to share with you what I saw:

God is speaking to His people, telling them how they have turned away from Him.  He is reminding them that judgement comes as a result. He also reminds them that if they repent, He will bless them instead.

Malachi 1:10-14 talks about how God's people have cheated Him and profaned His name by promising perfect sacrifices but offering injured, crippled or diseased animals instead.  In verse 12 it says: "But you profane it [His name] by saying of the Lord's table, 'It is defiled,' and of its food, 'It is contemptible,' and you say, 'What a burden,' and you sniff at it contemptuously," says the LORD Almighty."

We are doing the same thing today.  We do not honor the Name of God.  We profane it by the way we misuse His name in our language.  We act as if His Word (spiritual food) is defiled and contemptible.  We consider His Word and His will as a burden and we sniff at it contemptuously.  We do this by compromising His Word to suit us and by rationalizing away our sin.  This injures, cripples and causes disease in us!

In verse 14 God says: "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the LORD.  For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and My name is to be feared among the nations."

Week after week, many Christ followers go to worship services more out of a habit or sense of obligation rather than a desire to meet with God.  We have lost the fear of the LORD and our fruitlessness in our worship services and in our daily lives bears witness to that.

Malachi chapter two addresses the priests.  In verses 1-2, we read, "And now this admonition is for you, O priests.  If you do not listen and if you do not set your heart to honor My name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.  Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor Me." I think it's safe to say that the Church, especially in America is experiencing curses - even the blessings of our freedoms are being cursed!

Verses 7-9: "'For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge and from his mouth men should seek instruction - because he is a messenger of the LORD Almighty.  But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble, you have violated the covenant with Levi,' says the LORD Almighty."  Each Believer is considered a priest.  1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of the darkness and into His wonderful light." Back to Malachi: "So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed My ways, but have shown partiality in matters of the law."  Of course the entire book of Malachi was written to the Israelites, but God continues to use the whole of His Word to speak to His people today.  These passages parallel the state of the Church, (as I already mentioned) especially in America. Christians are daily being more and more despised and humiliated - just read the daily news! Church, we have got to remember who we are and why we are here!  In Christ, we were made holy! We need to repent of our sins and begin again walking as children of the light! 

Continuing in Malachi 2:10-12, "Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?  Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?  Judah has broken faith.  A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god."   How does this apply to the Church today?  As I mentioned earlier, we have compromised the Word of God and twisted it to suit our own desires, and to justify our sins.  There are even some who are now saying that the Muslim's Allah is the same as Jehovah God!  This is not so!

Malachi 2:13, "Another thing you do: you flood the LORD's altar with tears.  You weep and wail because He no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands.  You ask, 'Why?'  It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant."

All throughout Scripture, God uses marriage to represent our relationship to Him.  The Church is the bride of Christ and Christ is the bridegroom.  Again, God is telling us today that we are guilty - guilty of leaving our first love.  We have broken our marriage vows by adulterating with the world!  God is telling us, "So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." (verse 15b)  He says this twice!

Chapter two goes on to point out, "You have wearied the LORD with your words.  'How have we wearied Him?' you ask.  By saying, 'All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and He is pleased with them', or 'Where is the God of justice?'"

Going on to chapter three verse six: "I the LORD do not change...Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. And in verses 8-12 God points out how the people have robbed Him by neglecting to trust Him with their tithes.  He assures them if they will trust Him in this way, that He will bless them with so much in return, they won't have room to store it all! And in verses 13-15, God calls out the people for not trusting in Him and His ways.  They've been saying that it is "futile to serve God," because in their eyes it didn't seem to do any good.

Fortunately, we see a change of heart in verses 16-18: "Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored His name.  'They will be Mine,' says the LORD Almighty, 'in the day when I make up My treasured possession, I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked between those who serve God and those who do not." I prefer the New Living Translation rendering of verse 17: "They will be my people," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. "On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child."

Oh, how I want to be in God's scroll of remembrance because I feared Him and honored His name!

Malachi chapter 4 talks about the Day of the LORD, which refers to the Day of Judgement.  Those who fear His name need not dread this day, because for them it will be a day of healing and release!
"But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." (verse 2)

That image makes me smile.  Can't you picture calves out leaping and skipping because they are so happy to be out of the stall and in the green open pasture?  One day we will be released from our earthly bodies and into our perfect new bodies! Glory!

Malachi ends with these words: "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

I'm reminded of a brief dream I had either before or after hearing the name Malachi in my sleep this morning.  I saw my son as a young child.  He was standing just outside the door.  I reached down to pick him up and bring him back into the house. I then loved on him just as I used to.  Oh how God our Father wants to love on His people! But we must repent - become as innocent children again.  

"They will be my people," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. "On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child."

Father God, how I pray that we, Your people, will repent of our sins.  Forgive us for allowing sin to enter our lives, causing us to be crippled, injured and diseased.  Forgive us for sniffing at Your Word contemptuously!  Forgive us for defiling Your name!  I pray that we will once again honor You and revere Your Name - for Your Name is great and greatly to be praised!  I pray that we will return to our first love, Jesus Christ, so that we can be presented to You as undefiled, without spot or wrinkle.  I pray that we will fear You and honor You so that we too can have a scroll of remembrance written on our behalf in Your presence!  Father, turn our hearts back to You. Amen.






Friday, March 14, 2014

Time Has Become Our Enemy

I wanted to share some thoughts that I have had off and on in recent years; thoughts concerning the Body of Christ, and how we are currently functioning.  I've actually addressed it before, here. My experience as a Believer in Christ has been as follows:

Saved at a young age (approximately 10 years old)
Attended church off and on (taken by my aunt)
"Church" consisted of:
    Sunday School, which consisted of:
    a prepackaged curriculum lesson, that lasted 30 minutes IF everyone showed up on time
followed by a main service, or "big church" as some kids call it.
This service consisted of:
  •     Singing a few traditional hymns
  •     Listening to a choir special while an "offering" was taken
  •     Listening to a sermon (which lasted for about 30-45 minutes)
  •     Waiting through an "invitation" (or a call to respond to the sermon)
  •      Going home 
  Repeat the following week


This is the pattern I have followed for the vast majority of my Christian walk.  The only thing that has changed is the style of music, and that, since my teen years, I have for the most part attended services on Wednesday nights that follow the same basic pattern, only on a more casual (for lack of a better word) level.  There were periods of Wednesday nights consisting of "prayer meetings", which is for another blog post! 

Before I continue, I want to address the quotation marks that I have used.  Please do not think that this post is an attack on the Bride of Christ, because as I have stated before, that is never my intent.  I love Jesus too much to ever want to attack His Bride!  What I hope comes through these typed-out words is a challenge to examine ourselves and the Scripture, to see whether or not the what and how we are doing things line up with one another. 

I do not pretend to have reached complete understanding of the Scriptures.  I don't think that any person will ever be able to reach that this side of Heaven.  What I am saying is that I would like to see all followers of Christ come together and examine the Scriptures to see if what we have been taught is true, just as the Bereans did (see Acts 17). 

"Isn't that what we are doing already?", one might ask.  I would simply reply, "No."  If you go back and re-read the format I shared above, you will see that there isn't any time for an in-depth examining of the Scriptures. Most of what we did and are still doing today is observing and listening. Time has become our enemy!

Again, I'm not attacking, condemning or even criticizing what takes place in most church services today.  I am simply asking, "Is it working?  Is it even Scriptural?"

These are questions that I have had for several years now.  I have seen these questions addressed by several friends.  In fact, it was because of some very close friends raising these questions first that I began asking them as well. 

A.D.D. MOMENT: I fear that this post will be too lengthy to keep the average reader's attention.  I place myself in the "average" cateogry, so don't be offended! But please bear with me.  
A.D.D. MOMENT OVER

The thing about asking questions is that sometimes it come across more like poking a hornet's nest.  We don't want to upset things, so we don't ask the questions.  And for those who do ask questions, well, unfortunately they often get stung. 

So, back to what I mentioned earlier about time.  Why do I say that "time has become our enemy"?  Well, because how many of us can honestly say that we have more time than we know what to do with?  I know I don't.  Truthfully, it's not that we don't have time, we're just not making time to follow the New Testament model.  Take Acts 2:42-47, for example:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (emphasis mine)

I would imagine that after meeting together every day, the New Testament Church grew to know one another very well.  In fact, the above passage states that "they had everything in common".  WOW!  Can you imagine having "everything" in common with a group of people?  I'm sitting here shaking my head "no" because I can't!  However, with God all things are possible!  (Matthew 19:26)

I long for that.  I crave to be like Acts 2:42-47 describes.  I yearn for the Body to function as Christ intended.  Not only with meeting together, examining the Scriptures, praising God, but also in the exercising of spiritual gifts, where everyone has one and knows how to use it!  (see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4) And what would be the result?  According to the passage in Acts: "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." 

With all of that being said, this is what I think God is trying to say (at least to me), "If you aren't going to make the time, I will remove for you those things that are consuming it."  Christian, I believe that a shaking is about to hit!  Hebrews 12:26-28 tells us:

"At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." 

Jesus made it clear that we are to seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness (see Matthew 6).  Seeking His kingdom, from my understanding of Scripture, is: 

  • frequently meeting with other believers 
  • devoting ourselves to prayer 
  • examining the Scriptures 
  • and then doing as the Scriptures say (see the Book of James)  
The struggle that I come away with is the how.  Practically speaking, how do we do these things?  A big part of me believes that we won't really have to worry about that because, if the shaking that I referred to happens, we won't have any other choice! Therefore our current traditions and formats will be null and void.  We could very likely be forced to stop gathering in such large numbers in fine, comfortable buildings, and once again start meeting secretly in homes.  We very well may be stripped of the conveniences and luxuries that so many of us (including myself) consider necessities, and once this happens we will realize all too well just how much time we have wasted.  
  
God's ways, even His very thoughts, are so far above ours (see Isaiah 55:9)!  We truly have no idea how huge God is! We say we do, but our actions don't show it.  That is why I believe God is going to shake things up!  He must be glorified!  Jesus died so that everyone can be reconciled to the Father!  If we, His children, are not going to live in such a way that demonstrates this truth, then He will do whatever it takes to get our attention.  

So, Church, let's not be caught unaware!  Let's start now, acting like God's chosen people.  Let's devote ourselves to prayer and examine the Scriptures to see if what we are being taught is true.  And if we aren't being taught the truth, let's get the truth out there and do it!  

Thank you for giving of your time in reading this post.  I know how valuable it is!  










Friday, March 7, 2014

Christ's Example - a word study on Hebrews 5:7

Hebrews is a challenging book for me.  I confessed to God before I began reading it this time that I found Hebrews somewhat intimidating, but I trust that with the Holy Spirit being my Teacher, I will learn what I need to learn.  I want to share a word study I did on Hebrews 5:7.  Let me begin by sharing the verse in its entirety:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions [KJV uses "supplications"] with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (NIV)

Since I am currently on a prayer journey, I take special notice of any reference to it, so this verse in particular stood out to me, especially because it refers to Jesus being the One praying.  In my studies, I have already learned that there are many different nuances when it comes to the words used in reference to prayer, so I wanted to see the specific definition that is used here in Hebrews 5:7 (I use the website http://biblehub.com/). I have found that often knowing the Greek word (or Hebrew in the Old Testament) and definition brings much more meaning and understanding to a passage.  This case is no exception. 

The Greek word used for "prayers" in this passage is deésis (deh'-ay-sis), which means: "supplication, prayer, entreaty." Now that doesn't necessarily bring much clarity in and of itself, but there is a more in-depth explanation given below, which is what really helped me to better understand the significance of the word:

Cognate: 1162 déēsis (deō, "to be in want, lack"; see the cognate 1189 /déomai, "praying for a specific, felt need") – heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need (sense of lack, want).
[1162 (déēsis) ultimately roots back to 1211 /dḗ ("really") which likewise implies a felt need that is personal and urgent (R, 1149).]  (bold emphasis mine)

Going on to the word "petitions", or rather "supplications" (which is in the KJV, and thus the word used when doing word searches), we see that the Greek word used here is hiketéria (hik-et-ay-ree'-ah).  The short definition is supplication, entreaty, which again does not necessarily give a person an "Aha!" moment.  However, the WORDS Help-studies portion below again gives more clarity: 

2428 hiketēría – properly, an olive branch; (figuratively) earnest supplication for peace (relief, reconciliation), used only in Heb 5:7. (bold emphasis mine)
 [An olive branch, held in the hand of a suppliant, showed heartfelt "supplication, entreaty" (Souter). 2428 (hiketēría) in ancient times was frequently used of a suppliant carrying an olive branch as a token for "seeking peace."]

1. an olive-branch; for suppliants approached the one whose aid they would implore holding an olive-branch entwined with white wool and fillets, to signify that they came as suppliants. (bold emphasis mine)

To think that my Savior, Jesus Christ, prayed such a heart-felt petition, arising out of a deep personal need, and essentially held out an olive branch to the One Whose aid He implored, well, that picture stirred my spirit to so much gratitude and admiration!  But verse seven does not stop there.

The Greek word used for "cry" is kraugé (krow-gay'), which means: a shout, clamor, outcry. 

 Cognate: 2906 kraugḗ (from 2896 /krázō, "cry out") – loud crying, done with pathos (great emotion); clamorous screaming (shrieking) that is extremely boisterous, like a wounded person emitting "unearthly" (non-human) types of sounds. (bold emphasis mine)

WOW! Can you picture the Son of God crying out like that?  

And finally we read at the end of verse seven that Jesus was heard "because of His reverent submission".

The Greek word here is eulabeia (yoo-lab'-i-ah): reverence, fear of God, piety.
 
Cognate: 2124 eulábeia (from 2126 /eulabḗs, "reverent, godly fear") – properly, "a taking hold of what God calls good"; "holy caution," inducing circumspect behavior. See 2126 (eulabēs). (bold emphasis mine)

It's amazing to me to think of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crying out to the Father with reverent submission - taking hold of what  the Father calls good, using "holy caution" in His approach and response to the Father! 

How often do we toss up our prayers to God expecting, and at times inwardly demanding that He answer them according to our expectations?  

In this passage of Scripture we are reminded of Christ's humility and love for the Father.  Jesus desired what His Father desired, regardless of the pain that He knew He would experience: the pain of personal rejection, the pain of public humiliation, and the pain of physical torture that led to death!  If Jesus humbled Himself to follow God's will, who are we to do anything less?  

There are many times when God's will brings us pleasure and prosperity.  However, there are times when His will allots trials and discomfort.  Why?  In my opinion it is to make us stronger, more appreciative, and quite frankly to weed out those who are not sincere in their faith. 

So to wrap up this word study on Hebrews 5:7, I want to encourage you to follow Christ's example in regards to prayer.  Let's agree to cry out to God with a heart-felt need, recognizing that He is the One who can help us.  Let us not be too proud to even at times cry out with great emotion, even to the point of clamorous screaming when the occasion arises.  And above all, let us approach the Father with holy caution and take hold of what God calls "good" instead of what we call good. 




Friday, February 21, 2014

Life Puzzle



Have you ever wondered what God's will is for you?  If you have been a follower of Christ for any length of time, more than likely you have heard Jeremiah 29:11 quoted: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." That is a beautiful verse, and it is true.  Some people point out that this verse was given specifically to the Jewish people, therefore, it is not one that Gentiles (non-Jews) can Biblically claim today.  I agree that the verse was written directly to the Jewish people, but I do think that it is applicable to ALL believers still to this day. After all, God does not change.  God does know the plans He has for us, and He confirms throughout His Word that His plans are for our good.  However, this verse is not what this post is about.

As I read my Bible, I mark key words and passages so that when I come back to find something, it is easily recognized due to the specific markings I use.  One key thing that I look for as I read are places where it is clear what God's will is for me. I simply outline the passage in purple and color it in with orange.  It's amazing how often God tells us what His will is!  Take the book of Ephesians for example. This book has multiple places where the writer, Paul, clearly tells us what God wants us to do and how He wants us to do it.  In chapter four, verses 1-3, he says:

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  (emphasis mine)

Then in verses 25-27, he instructs:

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (emphasis mine)


There is more in chapter four that I highlighted, and practically the entirety of chapters five and six!  And this is only one book of the Bible!  Christian, we truly are without excuse when it comes to knowing God's will for us! 

Now I know that you might be thinking, "Sure, it's easy to know God's will generally speaking, but what about specifically? How am I supposed to know what God wants for me to do and how to do it?"  Let me just say that the more I read the Bible, and the more consistently I follow the general will of God, the more He reveals the specifics to me. 

Just this morning as I finished reading through Ephesians, I went back and re-read all that I had highlighted. I began to talk to God about it and He gave me a mental picture.  I saw myself putting a puzzle together.  God showed me that the highlighted passages in my Bible are the same as the border pieces of a puzzle.  As I complete the outer edges, it is easier to begin on the rest.  Each time I read God's word and obey the passages that I understand and know are His will for me, another piece of the puzzle is put into place.  This picture made me smile, as I pictured Jesus sitting there with me, helping me to put the puzzle together.  It was a pleasant and enjoyable thing, not one where I got frustrated and scooped all the pieces back into the box.  I thanked the Lord for helping me with the pieces, and I prayed that once the puzzle is finished, that anyone who is standing around to see the final product will see a picture of Jesus Christ Himself!

Dear Friend, I pray that you will ask God to help you with your life puzzle.  He truly desires to work with you one-on-one.  He has given you His Word to let you know the what and the how.  Take time each day to search His Word.  Make a point to find those passages that will give you another piece to add to the border of your life puzzle, and enjoy the process of Christ filling in the rest alongside you.

Ephesians 5:10, "find out what pleases the Lord." 

 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yesterday's Regrets

Frustrated,
Toiling within,
Feeling inadequate,
Tied up in knots.

No one to blame.
Yesterday is gone.
Regrets remain.

Knowing, yet not believing
Things don't really matter.
Internal struggles rage war,
Mind and spirit wrestling within.

Light ahead, 
Legs dead weight.
Hope calling out, 
Body resists.
Not wanting to be left,
Too tired to try again.

This started out as a simple vent of mild frustration with my not excelling in certain areas of my life. However, it took a darker turn.  I kept it just because I thought it was something that others could relate to because I have been in a dark place before. 

I thought about trying to make it end on a happier note, but there are times in our lives when we simply need to express those unhappy thoughts.  We just need to let it out there, and in doing so, most often than not, what we're really doing is fishing to see if someone, anyone else has an inkling of our despair.  Well, I do!  BUT, I also know that there truly is hope.  There really is a way out.  There is Someone Who not only knows, but has come out of the other side and offers LIFE - abundant life! (see John 10:10) Jesus Christ is my Redeemer.  He is my Healer.  He is my best Friend!  I am so thankful that He didn't allow me to stay in that dark place, but pulled me out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock! (see Psalm 40:1-3)

If you can relate to the poem I shared, I pray that you will eventually call out for Jesus, if you haven't already.  If you ever need a listening ear, I am available.  I might not have all the answers, but I'll be glad to listen, and if you like, share my journey. 

There is Victory Over the DarknessJesus is  The Bondage Breaker.  There is freedom in Christ

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Father and Son

I don't know why my thoughts travel through my mind the way they do sometimes, except that on many occasions it is the Holy Spirit driving.  I think today was one of the times.

I was cleaning the house and thoughts of my 14-year-old son came to me.  I was thinking about what a fine young man he has become.  When his father is not home, I can depend on Dawson to handle most, if not all, of the things that his dad usually does.  This gave me pleasure and comfort.  An imaginary conversation of sorts entered my mind.  I wondered what I would say if someone were to ask me, "How can you have such confidence in your son?" and I would reply, "Because I know his father."  Then I had an "Aha!" moment.  I realized that's what Jesus meant!  


"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it".
 John 14:1-14

This is something that I have "known" in my head for years.  But today the Holy Spirit just made it more real and personable to me by showing me the analogy of my husband and my son.  By intimately knowing my son's father, knowing his character and his ways, I can have confidence in my son. Also, because I see character and strength in my son, I can have confidence in his father.  

I don't know, perhaps this doesn't seem that big a deal to anyone else, but it meant a lot to me.  I was grateful to have been given that insight from the Lord.  

 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
 John 14:15-31
(all emphasis mine) 
 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Living, Breathing Miracle!

I am currently reading the book, Welcome, Holy Spirit, by author Benny Hinn. The chapter I am reading is about the different names of the Holy Spirit.  Among those names He is known as The Spirit of Life. I want to share this portion of the book from pages 109-110 with you:

     I love the words of the Lord Jesus, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).  Abundant life - there is something so compelling about that.  Something that says within us, "Yes, I must have this." And who ministers this abundant life to us? The Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).  Now the life that's being referred to is salvation, but it is also true that "what God promises for eternity, He begins to do in this lifetime." 

      Oh my dear friend, when the Spirit of the Lord comes, He brings life, breaking the power of canceled sin and death as the hymn says. And not just endless life, but better life right now.  Paul says, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2). 

     Are you experiencing all the life the Holy Spirit has for you?  Someone gave me this quote, and I think it sums up the issue so magnificently: "I believe that only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present. Most of us spend fifty-eight minutes each hour either living in the past, regretting for lost joys, or feeling shame for things badly done (both utterly useless and weakening); or living in the future which we either long for or dread.  The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is - a miracle that will not be repeated."  The Spirit of the Lord is waiting just now to heal your past, guarantee your future, liberate you to experience abundant life right now.

I thought this was very relevant considering we just began a new year.  The quote the author shared talks about how we waste our time by not living in the present. But this part particularly spoke to me: "The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is - a miracle that will not be repeated."  I started thinking about how we typically take life in general for granted.  Sadly, many people, including Followers of Christ, don't think that miracles still happen today.  So what I want to challenge you to do, and I'm including myself in this challenge, is to take time each day to stop and think.  Think about the fact that your lungs are taking in air, your heart is beating, your eyes are blinking, you are regularly swallowing - ALL without you telling your body to do these things! The fact that we are alive IS a miracle!  And if you are a Follower of Christ, not only are you physically alive, but you are spiritually alive as well!  That means that you will only experience physical death!  That is what Jesus meant when He said that He came to give us "abundant life".  How amazing is that?! 

Again, my challenge to you this year is to stop and think about what a living, breathing miracle you are! 

Psalm 139:13-19 

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.