Monday, March 26, 2012

A Work In Progress

Philippians 1:6: “being confident in this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
            “Come quickly and look at what I found!”
            I rushed over from across the field to see what Amy had found.  I was at a diamond park with my friend Amy.  She was an expert diamond hunter and I was tagging along with her for the day while she hunted.  We spent hours searching and I was tempted to just give up and go home, but Amy kept on looking patiently. 
            Now, as I rushed across the field, Amy was holding up a huge black object.  When I reached her, she excitedly exclaimed, “Look at this diamond I found!”
            I studied the ugly object in her hands.  A diamond? Could that ugly thing of dirt be a diamond?  
            Amy noticed my puzzled look and explained,  “Of course, it doesn’t look like a diamond now.  It looks like a big old stone.  But, you watch; with lots of washing, chiseling, and shinning, this rock will be a beauty unlike anything you’ve ever seen.   You just wait and see.” 
            I wasn’t completely convinced.  I mean, the rock Amy held looked hopeless; it was caked with dirt and awfully out of shape.  It seemed beyond repair.  I shrugged my shoulders, “Whatever. I mean if you want to try and make something of that thing, go ahead.  I sure wouldn’t want to waste my time on it, though.” 
            Amy just smiled. “Let’s get going,” she said, “I want to start working on this right away.” 
            For the next few weeks, Amy was obsessed with that rock.  Every moment she could be found working patiently on her “prize” as she would affectionately call it.  She labored endlessly.  At times, it seemed that she was making no progress; the rock still looked ugly and dirty.   I tried to tell her to just give up, that it just wasn’t worth all that work. 
            But Amy would just say, “I still working on it.  It will perfect yet.” 
            And no mattered how stubborn the rock would be, Amy never gave up.  She still loved that little rock as if it were her own child. 
            One day, after weeks and weeks of ceaseless work, Amy called me into her work room and showed me a sparkling, purely white, absolutely exquisite diamond.
            I gasped, “Where did you ever get this?”
            “This,” she said, “is the ugly, hopeless rock that I found in that field with you all those weeks ago.”
            I stood there, gaping, “How in the world.....?”
            “Oh, believe me,” Amy said, “This took a lot of work and much patience, but don’t you think it was worth it?” 

              Do you ever feel discouraged about your own sinfulness? In many ways, we are like that diamond.  God found us hopelessly lost in sin, buried in the ugly dirt of our own flesh.  He rescued us from our despairing state.  He adopted us into His family.  But we didn't become automatically perfect.  We still are not perfect.  We still have many faults and impurities.  And many times we get discouraged about all our disobedience.  We think, “Can we ever get anything right?”  We must remember that God is still working on us.  He is still patiently molding, shaping, and cleaning us of our sin.  His purpose for everything in our lives is to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).   We need to let Him work and not try to be good on our own.  We must remember that apart from Christ we are nothing.  He is our righteousness. 
            So, the next time you are discouraged about your sin, take a deep breath and surrender yourself to the mighty hand of God.  Don’t fight His hand as He molds you - even though His proddings may hurt.  Remember that He has promised to complete the good work which He has started in you.  One day, you will be sinless before His throne.   Praise the Lord!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The beauty of holiness

And the answer is....Psalm 96:9!

Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
(If you want to know how to solve it, scroll to the bottom of this post)

One of God’s most defining attributes is that He is holy. "Holy" according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary means "Hallowed; consecrated or set apart for consecrated use." God is set apart from creation. He is infinitely above it in truth, goodness, purity, wisdom, knowledge. He is "set above" it because He is the ruler of it.

When God instructed the Israelites to build the tabernacle, He designed it to be a beautiful place. They used blue, purple, and scarlet embroidered fabric (Ex. 26:1); lampstands were decorated with gold almond blossoms (25:33); and the Ark was overlaid with gold and embellished with gold cheribum (25:19). Doesn’t that say something about what God thinks of beauty? He wanted the Israelites to worship Him in a beautiful place because He is beautiful. Along with making the Tabernacle beautiful was making it holy. Everything had to be consecrated and set-apart to God. Even the High Priest wore a sign that said "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" (Ex. 39:30). Everything about the Tabernacle was designed to reflect God’s beauty and holiness–the beauty of His holiness–so His people could worship Him in the beauty of holiness.

Christians today are still told to follow this command. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, "but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." We are supposed to live lives that are set apart to God. We were rescued from the sin of the world, and we need to continue living differently from the world. Several days ago, I was talking to a friend about movies and books. He couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t watch, read, or listen to certain things; he said I could watch them without participating in them myself. That contradicts the idea of being holy to the Lord. As Christians, what we do, say, and think is different from what the world does, says, and thinks. We are called to "be holy as He is holy." Even though we can never attain to God’s standard of holiness, we still need to strive after who He is. When people say a Christian’s life is beautiful, it’s because he has tried to follow God’s command to live a holy life. After Christ died to save us, we gave our lives to Him. They are set apart to God. Just as the set-apart Tabernacle was beautiful, our lives also become beautiful when they become sanctified to the Lord.

The world doesn’t like the beauty of holiness. The more beautiful and holy Christ is, the more dirty and sinful they look. While Christians can worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness, the world trembles before. A holy God is a terrifying thought to sinful people. But in the end, every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:11). All the earth will one day be worshiping the Lord in the beauty of His holiness.

Key: Count the letters; take the squares of the numbers 1-18 (1 squared=1; the first letter is P. 2 squared=4; the second is s. etc.) Answer: Psalmninetysixnine

Monday, March 12, 2012

A mystery...

This post is a little different from the usual Bible studies posted on here. But the concept behind it–something hidden–is repeated throughout the Bible. The Bible is full of mysteries–some revealed, some yet to be made known. There is the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11), the mystery of the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7), the mystery of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51), and so many more! In fact, forms of the word "mystery" occur 32 times in the NKJV. And that’s not even including all the Old Testament prophecies which must have been quite a mystery before Jesus came!

The answer to this "mystery" is going to be a Bible reference.   If you can break the code behind the poem and find the answer, I’ll have a post about it ready next week!

(If you need a hint to get you started, you might want to know that I like numbers a lot!)

Pressing anxiously ahead,
Remembering lands in time past
Imbedded deeply in memory.
How I long ne’er again to leave
Where true honor reigns
In the mysterious lore of old.
Knights and dragons, elves an’ fairies

In stories of myths forgotten,
Mixed with childhood dreams my own.
Conquering evil with sword and shield,

Singing the song of the victor's return,
Finding peace in the glade and glen
Of children’s land.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The key to happiness is.........right here!

My family learned a lesson in thankfulness yesterday. There are some things we never think twice about and have very little appreciation for them...well, until they’re missing.

Since my older sister is home for spring break, we decided to hop in the car and drive to a nearby park to take a walk by the river. It was a beautiful spring day–60 degrees, sunny, breezy–you couldn’t ask for prettier weather. Since we were all together, we decided to leave all our cell phones behind and forget about technology for an hour. We had a lovely walk. Being together as a family and enjoying God’s creation at the same time was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As we pulled into the garage though, the beauty and peace of the afternoon vanished. We couldn’t find any house keys. My mom thought my dad had them, my dad thought my older sister had them, my sisters thought I had them, and we all assumed my mom would have at least one. But alas, there was no key to be found. We walked over to the neighbor’s house (they have a spare), but they weren’t home. Since we didn’t have any cell phones, we couldn’t even call someone for help. So, we got back in the car, drove to my dad’s office, and spent several hours calling friends on the office phone until someone was able to help us find a key. By that point, our quick excursion had turned into a four-hour long adventure. All because we forgot a little piece of carved metal.

We’re all prone to forget how much we appreciate something until it’s gone. Good health, family, friends–unless something happens and we no longer have them, we rarely forget to say "Thank you" to God for them. Sometimes, the only time we think about these blessings is to complain that they’re not as nice as we want them to be! Instead of rushing to the next thing, we should rejoice in the present and thank God for everything He’s done for us. There are so many we should be thankful for, yet we often fall into the trap of seeing only the annoyances in life. When we can be praising God for the sun, we’re complaining that it’s too hot or bright. Maybe we should invest in a special pair of thanks-tinted sunglasses that will allow us to see things from God’s perspective. There is never a time when you can’t be thankful for at least one thing. When we’re surrounded by a whole universe of God’s creation–what He called good–why don’t we remember to thank Him for His gifts?