Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
A few days ago, my dad and I went out driving. Overall, it went well–I stayed within the speed limit, didn’t run any red lights, and took some very sharp turns without ending up in the gutter. It was almost fun. Nothing went terribly wrong and it was a beautiful spring day. The flowers were blooming and the trees were all lovely shades of green. It was so pretty that it was distracting. I wanted to look at all the flowers instead of the road. When we passed a neighborhood, I would turn and look at the road I could have taken instead of the one I was on. As soon as I started looking the other direction and wondering what was on the other path, I would start drifting towards it. My dad would call my attention back to the road and remind me to straighten the car. Maybe I had only drifted a few inches off the right path, but a few inches the wrong way is enough to be very dangerous. Just a few inches in the lane of oncoming traffic with a truck coming at me could kill me. But those other roads were so pretty I couldn’t help but look...what was at the end of them?
Does your walk with Christ ever feel like that? Everything’s going well. Life is good. And then you see something another road that looks ever so inviting. You know you need to follow Christ and stay on His path, but you turn your head to see what it looks like...and the temptation grows. Without realizing it, you drift just a tiny bit into the wrong lane. You’re still on the right road, but part of you is leaning on the other side. That is a dangerous position.
Proverbs 4:25 says to let your eyes looks straight ahead. If you’re looking ahead on the right path, you won’t drift onto the wrong one. Keep your eyes on the road.
In Philippians 3, Paul says that he forgets what he left behind–those streets he passed by–and reached forward to what was ahead–Christ. He pressed toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Genesis 19:26 gives an example of someone who looked back at what she left behind instead of forward toward the grace she had been given: Lot’s wife. What happened? She became a pillar of salt. Don’t look away.
Paul said that he did not run with uncertainty (1 Corinthians 9:26). The easiest way to get lost is to not know where you’re going. Don’t be uncertain where you’re heading! All roads lead to one of two places: Heaven or Hell. Only one will get you to Heaven; all the rest will take you to Hell. Stick to the right path with certainty! Don’t turn aside. Don’t look back. Set your eyes on things above and keep them there!
Don’t look down the other roads even though you might not ever see them again. You might always wonder “what would have happened.” But, as Aslan told Lucy, “Child, that is not your story.” Don’t wander down paths that are not in your story. Stay on the one your Author mapped out for you.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The children of Israel have been strangers in a strange land for 70 years. They are confused; they are losing their identity. They are almost ready to give up.
Then the new king, Cyrus of Persia, issues a decree that as many of them as so desire are allowed to go home to Judea. PLUS, he provides them with provisions, money, and the previously-stolen Temple treasures!
So many people return, overjoyed to be back in the Holy Land. They lay the foundation for the second Temple, and the reaction is mixed. Some (the young ones) are full of joy: they are on their way! The older folks weep in anguish: this temple is nothing like Solomon's temple.
But despite it's smaller size, it's still the temple. In progress.
Then comes the opposition. "We worship your God, too. Can't we help?" Wow, what a nice offer, coming from pagan, pantheistic enemies! The Jewish leaders rightly refuse the request. "For what has the light to do with darkness?"
But our wonderful antagonists don't handle refusal well. They write a letter to the higher authority, King Artaxerxes. They complain about these rebellious Jews who are always causing trouble, and ask permission to stop them. Wish granted.
For 15 years, work on the temple ceased. The people were in fear of their own lives, not to mention being exiled again.
But then God gave them courage. It was now the appointed time. So they resume building.
Then our "friends" send another letter, to the new king, Darius. They ask if the original decree of Cyrus carries any weight, or if they can stop this work of rebellion.
But Darius does not fall for it. He looks in the records and sure enough, sees what Cyrus commanded. He not only gives permission for them to continue building and that they are to be undisturbed, he commands the wicked men to assist them daily with provisions for the temple.
What would cause a pagan emperor to be concerned about the house of the Israelite God?
What would cause a pagan emperor to give up countless wealth in order to refurbish the temple?
What would cause people to leave a prosperous nation for a barren land?
Ezra 1:1 "In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia..."
Ezra 1:5 "Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem."
Ezra 7:6 "...this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him."
Ezra 7:27-28 "Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem, and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me."
When God moves, my friends, there are no odds too great, no king too mighty, no people too stubborn, no NOTHING that can stand in His way. Nothing is impossible with our God.
And when God moves in the hearts of men, trust Him. And let Him work the impossible.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
I have always had a problem with time. I’ve called it “my own.” Don’t you dare touch my time! After all, if there is anything that is undisputably mine, it’s my time, right? Yes...if I hadn’t given my life to someone else. But I have, and my life–and therefore my time–is no longer mine. I gave my life to God to do whatever He wants with it. I told Him to take me and use me for His plan. Yet, while saying I’ve given my life to God, I’ve demanded that He still let me keep my time. It doesn’t work that way. If I gave God my life, that means I also gave Him my time. We probably won’t be using every minute of our time doing things that are obviously for God (going to church, helping out ministries, teaching the Bible, etc.), but God has given us enough commands in the Bible that we can use every moment of our lives doing His work! There are commands that require action like honoring our parents and loving our neighbor. We are giving our time to God when we obey our parents and fold the laundry or when we put aside our own work to help our neighbor. Then there are the other commands that tell heart conditions and attitudes that will determine if our time is used in a Godly way. How about 1 Corinthians 14:40–Let all things be done decently and in order, Colossians 3:23–And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, and Romans 12:11-12–not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer? If we are diligent in the tasks that God has given us and if we do them heartily to the Lord, we’re giving Him our time! We can give our time to God just by doing our daily tasks with a heart and an attitude that glorifies Him!
Ephesians 5:16 says to redeem the time because the days are evil. The days are evil, full of foolishness and sin; therefore we must redeem them by using them for God’s glory. That is how we redeem the time. When we’ve taken our time and laid it at His feet, we really give our lives to God. When every moment is given to Him and all things are done through Him, we can really be of Him. As Christians, our lives should be just that–of God.
To Him be the glory forever!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
"There is therefore NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus!" As believers, we have a life of ultimate freedom in Christ ahead of us!
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, GOD DID!" Do you ever get discouraged with how sinful you are? Look at Christ! What the law could not do, God did! We have been saved and called with a Holy Calling, not according to our works, but according to Christ's righteousness! We have been saved!
"But if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He Who raised Christ from the dead will also give you LIFE!" We, as born-again believers, have been given the very Spirit of God that raised Christ from the dead! We have been freely given life!
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God!" Jesus said, "I no longer call you servants, for a servant does not know what His master is doing. But now I call you friends!" We are the sons and daughters of the KING OF KINGS!
"And if children, then heirs-heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." One day Christ will come back, every knee shall bow to Him, and we will share in His glory forever! We will be in His presence for all eternity!
I have run out of time to write, but I hope this is an encouragement to you! There are 39 verses in this chapter, and I've only covered the first seventeen. I'd encourage you to go read it for yourself! You will be blessed!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
If someone asked you where you find medicine that would heal you from a deadly disease and make you live eternally, where would you tell them?
If someone asked you why you have joy and hope in a sin-filled world, what would be your answer?
The most important gift we have been given is life. Before you can be given anything else, you have to be alive. Where do you find life? We find life in the Word of the Lord! In the very beginning, before the world was created, there was the Word (John 1:1). Then, the Word created! God spoke, and the world was. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:26). The only place we can get life is from God–He is the One who gives life to all things. As Christians, He has given us another special gift: Joy. Joy is found in the same place as life–in God! You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forever more (Psalm 16:11). “Fullness of joy?!” What else can actually fulfill the promise of giving joy so completely full it can’t get any better? Nothing else can. Only God can give us life and joy. We need something to keep us alive, though–we need our daily bread. And that’s where the Word of the Lord comes back in. Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16). When you walk into the kitchen and smell a delicious cake in the oven, you get excited–it would be the “rejoicing of your heart” if your mom walked in and said the whole cake was for you☺ Jeremiah, one of the Old Testament prophets, thought the same thing about the Word of the Lord. He said that when the Word came to him, he ate it, and it was good. Eating God’s Word gave him joy. Just as food gives life to our bodies, the Word of God–the Bible–gives life to our spirits.
Joy and life are not the only things that can be found in the Word. Psalm 119 talks all about the Word. In fact, in the entire Psalm, there are only three verses that do not specifically refer to the Word! The Word comforts and gives life (50); it is something worthy of our love (97); it gives light (97); it is something in which we can hope (114). Try getting out a notebook and writing down everything this Psalm says about the Word. The Word is amazing!
So what is the word that has life? Where can you find joy, peace, and hope? What is the most important word? The Word!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
- Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.
- Identify where you fear of man has been intensified by people in your past
- Identify where you fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.
- Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears the Lord will fear nothing else.
- Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.
- Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. HE HAS FILLED YOU WITH HIS LOVE.
- Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to His love toward you, pursue others in love.
Thus I began my study of Esther, asking God to "open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law!" He did.
Over and over obedience stood out at me as it never really had before! I think it comes back to passing over things I know well. I have been taught to be obedient for my ENTIRE LIFE! It is ingrained into the depths of me, and will never leave! But do I really know what obedience looks like? Do I obey?
I was specifically challenged with Esther's obedience to Mordecai! She was so submissive to Him...it's a good reminder to not just obey, but have a submissive attitude! Although Esther's obedience is amazing, I want to focus on someone far more important...the One Whose obedience gave us LIFE! Of course, I'm talking about Jesus!
I was talking with a friend a couple weeks ago, and she told me about something she does in her devotions. It sounded really neat, and so I started doing it too! At the end of my reading, I write down ways God loves me though the specific passage. Then, I write down ways I can love Christ back. With some passages it's easy, and with others it's more difficult, but I don't get up until I've written down both. It makes me think, and is an encouragement! I'm continually reminded of God's love for me!
All throughout the book of Esther I've been reminded that Jesus loved me by being obedient! In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus said, "Not my will," a true sign of obedience to His Father. In Philippians 2 Paul says Christ, "became obedient to the point of death, even the death of a cross!" Wow-- Christ's obedience saved my life! Paul goes on to say, "Therefore, God has also highly exalted Him, and given Him the name which is above every name, that AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW... AND THAT EVERY TONGUE SHOULD CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER!" It is because of Christ's total obedience I am going to heaven and will one day share in His glory! He went above and beyond to show us that obedience is worth it! It is worth it.
When our little siblings see us, do they see obedience to our parents?
When people at church see us, do they see our obedience to authority?
When God sees the motives of our hearts, (which is all the time!) does He see obedience?
Do we obey?
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
What do you do when things don't go your way, when you're in trouble for something you didn't do, when you're in the middle of a trial and you can't see how it's going to work out? When you're thinking, "Yeah, I know God works out all things for good to those who love Him, but... How?!?!?!?" well, sometimes you react in anger. Or you get quiet, ignoring your siblings, parents, friends, or whoever else you might have who's trying to comfort you. Maybe you try to get attention, try to MAKE people give you comfort, or notice you, or whatever. Well, Job shows us what we SHOULD do. We should bless the Lord. Always. We should trust Him, and rely upon His goodness, righteousness, mercy, and I could go on and on! I will illustrate my point with a story. About Job, go figure! Our story starts out in heaven. God is on His throne, and all the people are praising Him, worshipping Him, and whatever else they do in heaven! Satan enters the scene. For some reason God mentions Job. He says he is a "blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil." Satan then tests the Lord by questioning Job's authenticity. Job is in a very good position. He's rich, he has ten kids, he has tons of animals, servants, food, all that you could wish for. Then comes the big statement (and here's satan, very sure of himself) "stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and surely he will curse You to Your face!" So God gives satan permission to harm Job's things, but NOT to touch his person. Now we switch backgrounds. (we're on earth now) Now here's Job, on a regular day, ordering around his servants, feasting, enjoying a nice morning just him and his wife (all his kids were at his oldest son's house feasting) and all of a sudden a messenger comes running to him, panting and out of breath, and delivers some bad news; "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding by them, and then the Sabeans showed up and took them all! They killed all the servants that were in the field, and I alone have escaped to tell you!" Oh no! what now? Should I go and get back the oxen or would that be foolish- I maybe ate a little much for breakfast- but I really need that donkey...
Ok. It happened again. I accidentally deleted my post for the second time in a row! Thankfully Sophie knows what to do, so I ran to her to have her fix it:) now, back to the story:
As Job was thinking, another messenger runs up to him. Just like the first one, he's panting, tired of running, and he has a horrid look on his face. Job starts to wonder if something else is wrong. He was right. "I was out in the field with the sheep, me and my fellow shepherds, and I left for a couple minutes to, you know, uh, do my thing... anyway, I saw it all-- fire came down from heaven and burned up all the sheep and the servants! I alone have escaped to tell you!" Whoa, I wasn't expecting that! First the oxen and donkeys, now the sheep... and what am I supposed to do with that burnt field? Oh, no! Not another messenger! Maybe this time he has good news... no. Not by the look of THAT face! Wait, has this happened before?"I was feeding the camels, and then these Chaldeans came and raided the camels, kidnapping them (or is it camelnapping) and killed my friends with me! I alone escaped to tell you!" Oh my goodness! How long will this last? I don't think the day could get any worse... too bad. It can. Now we switch scenes again. This time imagine it for yourself: You're at your oldest brother's house with all your siblings, you just finished the third course, all is going well, you're telling jokes, having fun, and then you feel chilly. There is a slight breeze. It starts picking up. You reach for your jacket. Ok, this wind is getting out of hand! Your hair is blowing all over your face, things start blowing over, your cup falls in your lap (Ah! that's COLD!) and then you hear a creak! You look up. There is a big crack in the ceiling, right above you, it's breaking, falling... Ok, back to Job's house. He sees another messenger running to him... I don't have to repeat what he was like, do I? To sum it all up, the messenger was the lone survivor from the oldest brother's house and he told the whole story to Job. How do YOU think Job responded? Well, probably your guess was a little off. No offense:) But what happened was this: "Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshipped." Worshipped? Yes. He worshipped God! Hear what he said next: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD." verse 22 says "in all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong." Ha Ha! Satan was wrong! Job did NOT curse the Lord, even when all ten of his kids were killed, when his servants were killed his animals stolen, still he did not curse the Lord. Way to go, Job!
Monday, March 7, 2011
The Greek word that is used there is charitoo, which means “to make graceful; encompass with favor; to honor with blessings.” That definitely describes Mary! She who was a common Jewish girl became the mother of the King of creation. She was given the greatest honor a woman could be given. The name “highly favored one” fits her perfectly.
Charitoo is only used one other time in the Bible. If you were a Bible Bee junior or senior last year, you probably memorized this verse. Do you know who it describes? You! Ephesians 1:6–To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. He made us accepted, He encompassed us with favor, He honored us with the blessing of becoming His child. Is that not the very definition of a Christian? We are honored with blessings! We are also the highly favored ones of the Lord! Think about that for a minute...isn’t it amazing? The King of Kings chose us to be His people and accepted us. That is almost too incredible to be true!
People probably honor and respect Mary more than any other woman in the history of the world. She was the mother of God. Can you think of any greater honor? Yet, the honor that was given to her is described in the same phrase that was used to describe the Ephesian Christians...the same term that describes us as Christians. We are given an equally great honor–we are the children of God (1 John 1:3). Does that make us–or Mary–perfect? No, we are all still sinners, but God has encompassed us with favor and filled us with His grace. He chose us to carry His Light in a dark world. Just as Mary, the highly favored (charitoo) of the Lord, brought Jesus into the world, we, the ones He made accepted (charitoo) proclaim Him to the world. What higher honor, what greater blessing, can be given to us than to bear His name and carry His Light to the farthest corners of the earth? Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you (Luke 1:28)!
Friday, March 4, 2011
As I've been studying the book of Hebrews, I've been amazed at how many times the author refers to "persevering," "holding fast," and "clinging to the faith." There is a very simple reason that he mentions this so often: we get tired. We get ready to quit. We find that the Christian life is too difficult, too tedious, too stifling.
In Hebrews 10 verse 33, it says "But recall the former days, when..." Ah, the good old days. The good old days when you had Bible Bee verses to study. The good old days when you didn't have as much school. The good old days when you delighted to read God's Word. The good old days when you enjoyed serving others. The good old days when you longed to be with God.
Are you weary? Are you tired of the daily plodding, step after step?Do you wish you still had that passion for God you once had?WHAT HAPPENED? Life happened. And our perseverance didn't.When the enthusiasm wears off, and the daily, "I don't want to get up" syndrome kicks in...we are tempted to go through life without an awareness of God's presence and power. DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR CONFIDENCE! God is still the same God you longed to be with, desired His Word, yearned to talk to, and wanted to serve. LOOK AT THE CROSS!
Renew your passion for God with a passion for the GOD WHO WAS WILLING TO GIVE HIMSELF FOR YOU!Let us draw near with a true heart...Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering...Let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works...ah! The theme verse for this blog!
When life seems to be settling into a rut...do not be content with it! Beg the Lord to "restore to you the JOY of your salvation!"Persevere through it all, to the end! "For you have need of endurance..." Don't we all???But it is worth it all!
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
You see? The world can persecute us all they want, but the can never EVER seperate us from the Love of God! That's what it's all about! God loves us, He sent His Son to die for us, He made us His children, and no communists or anybody else can take that away from us! We are GOD'S CHILDREN. He said that nobody is able to take us out of His hand! Now I kinda went off on a rabbit trail with that, but it does tie in, really! So, we suffer, but they can't really harm us. I mean, they can, but it's only a physical harm. They can't take away our eternal life, and as Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." The only thing the world can do to us is to speed up our moving date! We get to move in to our home that Jesus Christ himself made for us! yippee! I'm not saying we'll enjoy persecution. It IS persecution, after all! But we know that we are safe in the arms of our Heavenly Father, and that's such a comfort! We just have to make sure we don't reject Him when we suffer, like the parable of the sower: "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word, immediately he stumbles." Dig your roots deep! Do not be swayed! KNOW YOUR STUFF! And not only know, but BELIEVE! And the Lord will bless you! "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
So now I ask that you pray with me for the persecuted Christians around the world. That the Lord would give them strength, courage, and that they would not give in. Also pray for our own country, that there would be a great revival and that our once Christian-based homeland would not persecute believers here. Stand strong!