Sunday, January 27, 2013

It Takes One to Know One

Reading in Psalm 51. This Psalm was written when Nathan confronted David about his affair with Bathsheba. The verses that are standing out to me this morning are 3, 4, 11, 12, 13 & 17
"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise."
Verse 17 is where I draw the title of this post from. It is important to be so in tune with God's Spirit that we would be aware of our sins. We would feel the distance-- the turning of God away from us. That it would break our heart just as it breaks His. And while we shouldn't walk around with a burden of guilt, there is value in not forgetting our sin. We are not condemned, so that should allow us the freedom to share our faults and failures. And why? Because wouldn't it be better for the once drunkard to guide the one who is still a drunk. For the once addict to teach the current one. The once bigoted racist to open the eyes of the one spewing racial slurs? I immdediately think of Paul. He was the man who beat and brutaly murdered the early Christians. He was arrogant and full of judgment. Yet when He was freed from that bondage of ignorance, he was able to do GREAT things in the name of Jesus Christ. Why do we hide behind our shame? I am certain if we could be bold and share our sins and trials with others much good will be made with it. Much more than hiding it in the back room of our heart and praying no one knows we're not perfect. God can use our past struggles to help the one still struggling. We can teach because we've been there.... Just now, the Lord has lead me to Luke 22:31-32  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”


You gotta love it when God edits your blog post, saying, "Hey include this verse too!"
 
 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beyond Cure, But Not Beyond Saving.

Yesterday at Bible Study a friend of ours shared that one of her friends was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis is not good. I have not been able to get this out of my head or heart. Every dead moment of space in my mind, is always filled with this thought. And this sadness lingers.

Fast forward to this morning while I am in my prayer closet-- husband off to work-- kids off to school. I come in and shut the door and immediately begin to pray about this situation. And my words are as if this woman has already died. And I think to myself, "Why aren't you praying for healing? Is your faith so small and your doubt so large?" And then this jolt of thought, "Would you not be on your knees praying your heart out for healing if it were your friend?" It is from God this revealing of myself. Its not a harsh rebuke, but rather a revealing of how sinful I am by nature. That this is why I desperately need Him to ever make it to eternity. Immediately Jeremiah 17:9 comes to mind,


"The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

 I suppose this is why in Ezekiel He says he will give us NEW hearts,

 
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

This is why it is so important for me to KNOW that God loved me, while I was yet a sinner... because until death, I will always be a sinner to some degree. And even the tiniest fleck of sinfulness disqualifies me from eternity. Even in my most righteous state, I am still a sinner. I will never in my own effort get to heaven as I am now, or tomorrow, or as long as I draw breath this side of the grave. It is He who will shower His righteousness on me. It is Christ and Christ alone who has sanctified me. He has given me His Spirit to humble me. Because it is only in this humble state that God can teach me. Last year my #OneWord365 was humility and it has been such a blessing, that I never want to let it go. It is only when I am willing to acknowledge my failures and faults that my ears will be opened and receptive to His instruction. And to be able to hear His instruction is the most satisfying feeling I have ever felt. He has blessed me to allow me to hear His Spirit and even in rebuke and "constructive criticism" I feel His peace and love. I actually feel the words of Isaiah 38:17 as absolute truth when it says, "Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you  have cast all my sins behind your back." And in the Psalms where it says that the rebuke of a righteous man is a kindness. And who is more righteous than He in the form of His Spirit? The comfort I feel from the presence of the Spirit is indescribable and for the first time in my life I feel the urgent necessity of seeking Him. I began this journey with so many questions. He has answered a few but some I feel are not simply answered with words, they are only answered by fellowship with Him. Just simply breathing in His presence.

I look back to my notebook and read what I had written in September 2012, "Why am I on this journey?" Reason number 1) Because you lead me here. Today I read Psalm 27:8 and this comfirms
it,
"You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]."

 
 
 
For more on the heart and how its influenced by the eye, click here. 

 




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christ, what do you want from me?

I find myself asking this question a lot! Often with a smile and a slogan that tells my age,
 'What Would Jesus Do?'
 
A few weeks ago I came to John 17 in my daily bible reading. The chapter consists of 3 prayers that Christ prayed before He was arrested. The first prayer he prays for Himself in verses 1-5. The second He prays for His disciples in verses 6-19. And the last for you and for me (believers) in verses 20-25:
 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, he glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

 
What Christ wants from me is unity. That I, becoming a believer, and therefore having His Spirit within me, would be united to Him, my Savior, who is united to God, my Father. And through this unity all believers would also be united. Why? So that the WORLD would know that they are LOVED to the point of death, even while they are worthless sinners. And so how do I do my part to become united to other believers? Through LOVE! How does God define LOVE?
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (Though I recommend reading the whole chapter).

 
Well, if you're anything like me, that's all well and good but its nearly impossible!! Ah, but there's that unity Christ prayed over us. That we would be one,
 "Father, just as you are in me and I am in you...I have given the the glory that you have given me, that they may one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity...."
 
So, how does being 'united' or 'one' help us out here? Well, 1 John 4:7 says plainly, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God." Therefore, we are connected through unity to the direct source of LOVE--God!

Then if that's not enough to convince us, there is that famous verse we(I) always hear and hardly ever apply,
 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
 
One sure fire way to break this unity, is unforgiveness. This may come off harsh, but that's okay, because I'm gonna need to read it later...trust me... this is a HUGE battle for me.

 In Colossians 3 we read,

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect".....wait for it...."UNITY."

So, I don't know about you but I am quick to claim the blood of Christ, in my failures. But not so much the failures of others. Especially when they fail me! Am I really so arrogant, that I would think Christ singled me out and died for me only? And when my view of the death of Christ is so narrow, I should really ask myself, "How could I stand. Breathe. Go on with life, if all of my sin and my sin only caused the painful, torturous death of  Christ?" Do I want the weight of that on my shoulders? I am willing to bet, in my arrogance, I would much rather share the blame with you! So if I want you to share in the blame, shouldn't I also want you to share in the grace?

Please to anyone reading this, that I have ever wronged or have been quick to judge and bold in arrogance, would you forgive me of this sin? Also, I would like to challenge myself in this--if I truly believe in the Word of God why do I make so many excuses? Is my faith so small?

"According to your faith will it be done to you."
"it shall be done for you as you have believed..."...
"Take heart...your faith has healed you..."
"Do you believe I am able to do this?..."

And why does Christ wish for us to be united?  "...so that the world may BELIEVE that you have sent me.... to let the world KNOW that you sent me and have LOVED them even as you have loved me."

Why would anyone ever believe what we ourselves deny every day by our actions? This convicts me.

  "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God..." 1 John 4:7





This reminded me of a great book, written by Kelly Minter, The Fitting Room.
Also, if you are a fan of online book clubs, you should really check out, Boom (in)Courage. Here they are discussing Kelly's book.








 

 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Maybe we should leave HELL out of it.....


Not sure about the title... maybe Love calls (free will)... Fear drives (forces)...?

Okay. A lot has been said lately on the subject of Hell. I have not read Rob Bell or Francis Chan's books on the subject. I have however, heard one theory that is in opposition of what most of us learned growing up in church, which is that hell is an eternal place of torment, burning with fire and brimstone and there will be gnashing of teeth. The other theory is that one of the terms translated as hell, gehenna, takes its name from a valley located in Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom. During Jesus’s time on earth, this valley was used as the city dump. A fire was constantly kept alight there to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted rubbish.  Putting a different spin on things.

So the theory taught in church is that hell is a place where you will burn eternally.

Second theory is that there is a fire that burns eternally but that you will just burn up. Yes painful, but not nearly as devastating as burning forever with no hope of an end to the pain.

I personally don't know which is true. But I do know that I never was able to grow in faith until I encountered this second theory. It loosened this grip that fear had on me. I was always preoccupied by hell. This theory challenged my thinking and honestly this post makes me a bit uncomfortable because I don't want to mislead or misinform anyone in regards to what is true. I do know prior to hearing this 'gehenna theory' I tried to witness to someone I love so much. I used hell as my intro because I was honestly afraid for them. I was told they wouldn't be pushed into a faith by 'fear mongering'. And that struck me. I get that! Because of what I believed completely at that time. Fear is what motivated me. Yet the Bible says in 1 John, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." I knew that verse. And I always would read it and think, I have not been made perfect. I fear. And that would make me afraid. Even though I had been saved, I feared, and that caused me to doubt my salvation. And that doubt sparked an even more intense fear. It was a vicious cycle. There was no room for love because fear ruled over me. It wasn't until the 'gehenna theory' challenged my belief and I was able to doubt what I had been taught in regards to hell. And that tiny bit of doubt gave my heart just enough room to focus on love. My love for God, Jesus and His Spirit. I had been paralyzed. Frozen. But once this lack of fear made enough room to let love in, it grew, and it grew fast. I still don't know what I believe as far as hell and which is true. But this love has saved me. For the first time, I am CERTAIN of my eternity and honestly, hell is of no consequence for me. It doesn't matter. Because I am not going there.

Yesterday the Lord lead me to a verse in Isaiah, two actually, "The One who is highly honored lives forever. His name is holy. He says, "I live in a high and holy place. But I also live with anyone who turns away from his sins. I live with anyone who is not proud. I give new life to him. I give it to anyone who turns away from his sins.



I will not find fault with my people forever. I will not always be angry with them. If I were, I would cause their spirits to grow weak. The very breath of life would go out of the people I created."

We must not use fear and punishment to usher God into the lives of sinners. It has to be LOVE! These verses and those that follow speak of love.
He doesn't want to punish us eternally. He wants us to want to love him. And when His word speaks of fearing Him, that fear isn't a fear of punishment from Him. Its the fear that we would disappoint Him. That he would turn away and never turn back. We must convince and awaken souls to the meaning of RELATIONSHIP! That life without Him in it, isn't worth living! That they would experience life with Him in it and be aware of His presence and when they sin, because we will always sin, that they would feel the distance. The emptiness, and THAT would prompt them to constantly repent. Not FEAR!!

I don't have all the answers to all the questions I have, much less the questions others ask. But that's okay. Because the death and resurrection of Christ, gives me GRACE to seek the answers. And the FAITH to trust Him when I don't find them. For the first time in 22 years. I am in love with my Creator, my Savior, and His Spirit that is in me. And I have never felt such peace & freedom.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let's Play Connect the Dots

     So today, my time with the Lord went like this...I spent several moments meditating on the scripture I came to yesterday found In Isaiah 50: 4-5, "...He awakens [Me] each morning; He awakens my ear to listen like those being instructed. The Lord God has opened my ear and I was not rebellious; I did not turn back." and Psalm 32:8 "I [The Lord] will instruct you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you." I prayed and began reading my In Touch Ministries devotion for the day. The Scripture was James 1:2-4. I then read my Max Lucado flip calendar that speaks of the name of God, Yahweh, and its meaning "I am" and "I cause" He is the "One who is" and the "One who causes" and the importance of Him being unchanging. I look up in my newly purchased pamphlet on the Names of God and the Biblical reference to Him being called YHWH and I end up in Malachi 3:6, intrigued I read on. Then the sub-heading of Chapter 4 catches my eye since I just blogged about that very topic and actually used it as the title; The Day of the Lord. So I read it. Not a pretty chapter. And while I am certain of my salvation, I still feel fear well up in my heart. Not sure why. I confess my fear and read the Scripture on my wall aloud, "God is my salvation. I will TRUST and NOT be afraid." and "Perfect love drives out fear..." and still yet, "Encourage and strengthen yourself in the LORD." I pray and read over this 4th and last chapter of Malachi and last words of the OT as well, 3+ times. The parts of this reading that get my attention most are,

1. "All the arrogant" (vs 1)- for me that's a no-brainer. After a year of humility words like pride, arrogance, humble, humility... naturally stand out.

2. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them."(vs 1) I immediately think of Romans 11:17-24 having only read it recently so the words 'root' and 'branch' are still lingering in my mind. And after struggling to study my way through this without much interpretation from other people, since I want to first try and hear from His Spirit within me, before consulting the opinions of others. I eventually end up in the commentary section of biblos.com where Barnes' Notes on the Bible says this:

 

"Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse - , i. e., with an utter destruction, from which there should be no redemption. In the end, God will so smite the earth, and all, not converted to Him. The prayer and zeal of Elijah will gain a reprieve, in which God will spare the world for the gathering of His own elect, the full conversion of the Jews, which shall fulfill the Apostle's words Romans 11:26, "So shall all Israel be saved."

Hey I wasn't too far off....???? Did you read the last part of Malachi 3:6? "So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed."

3. "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings" (vs 2)--'healing' is the word that grabbed my attention. My first meditation on the Names of God was on Yahweh Rapha - The God that Heals.

4. "And you will go out and leap" (vs 2) - My OneWord365 is BOLDNESS and a friend of mine gave me a sign that reads "leap fearlessly"

5. "Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet" (vs 3) - not really sure what I feel about that. When I read it, I feel sad. I guess its been a while since I've been hurt or angry toward someone I see in opposition to God... or more realistically, in opposition to myself.

6. "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes." (vs 5)... I believe this has already happened in the person of John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:14, Luke 1:17)... While I'm in Matthew I also read on to verse 15 "He who has ears, let him hear"...my original meditation?!?!? Isaiah 50:4-5

7. "He will turn the hearts of 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." (vs 6) - all of that leaves me with nothing more than '?' so I check the cross references in my bible and end up reading Luke 1:17--" turning the hearts of the fathers to their children", meaning maybe that they will want to pass down and teach their children in the way of TRUTH. And the children in turn will want to learn and obey and respect God? This and verse 4 leads me to the Shema I've been studying thanks to Hebrew4Christians. The Shema begins with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 speaking of the importance of teaching our children and the second part, the Vehayah, is found in Deuteronomy 11:13-21 which also reflects that importance. Just five verses away it is written, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse..."

God is always faithful to give us a choice. Which one will you make?


Monday, January 7, 2013

The Day of the Lord

This post is in connection with a previous post,Come Quickly.

Today my devotion reading included 2 Peter 3:9 and I immediately thought of that post.

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some would understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
So typical me reads this and thinks, "Ah-ha! I was right!". Then His Spirit says..."Read a little more. Try the whole chapter." So I do. And I come to verses like these, found only two verses away:
"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming..."
So, hmmmm? Let's go back to the beginning of the chapter. It seems that this letter was being written to encourage believers because they were being mocked by unbelievers since Christ had not yet returned. So verse 9 was reminding them that Christ was not being slow in his coming. He was just giving the unbelievers time to repent. And verses 11-12  was reminding them to not lose hope, but keep waiting, and looking forward to the prize that lays ahead. And verse 14
"So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him."
seems to say, "Don't get lazy in your faith and conduct while waiting." And then I love. LOVE. LOVE. verse 16 where its said of Paul "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand." Can I get an AMEN?? But seriously... then it continues to say, "which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." That pierces me a little. Because by the definition used in James 1:5-8, I've been known to be a bit unstable. I have struggled with doubt. But I rest assured that I am not the same yesterday as I am today. And to encourage me, the chapter ends like this....
"Grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Get to know Him better. Give Him Glory both now and forever. Amen."(NiRV)
 
Grace allows me the opportunity to grow and seek my Savior. And I have the promise that if I seek, I will find. And the more He reveals Himself to me the more I change. And its my prayer that as I change the more others will see Him in and through me. And through that change, He will receive GLORY! Amen.



 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Security

Siestas, founded by Beth Moore and the Living Proof team, has been such a blessing to me. To know God's word is such an empowering thing. In His Word there is much power. An answer to every problem. It all depends on how much you want that answer and if God wills that you would know it.

My verse for the first two weeks of this year is Psalm 138:8

"The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the works of your hands." ~Psalm 138:8


Another version says it this way, "
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands."

This will be my first attempt at doing a word study. I received for Christmas, a gift card to Family Christian Stores. It was perfect, because God had been impressing on me to dig deeper than the English translation (many translations) and see what was said or could be inferred from the original text. So I purchased 'Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

The words from this verse that stick out to me are: 'perfect' and the phrase "the works of your hands"

So here we go.... It would seem that the word for "perfect" (yiḡ·mār) only has two occurrences. One here in Psalm 138:8 and the other in Psalm 7:9, "Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds."

I think (?) that yiḡ·mār comes from the root word gamar, which means; to end, come to an end, complete... or to bring to an end, fail; fulfill. The word gamar is found 5x in the OT

the "work of God's hands" is recognized as the establishment of his covenant people in accordance with his faithful promises.

"....They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor." ~Isa 60:21


" Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." ~Isa 64:8


"Do not forsake" us, "the works of your hands". It would appear the Psalmist is recalling the promise of God in Deuteronomy 31:8 where we are told "The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged."

Here is what I am taking away from my verse. First, the name of God used here is YHWH -- "I AM" ; The self-existent one. The God who never changes. The God whose promises never fail. The God who is faithful even when we are faithless. (2 Timothy 2:13) It is this God that will perfect-complete-fulfill that which concerns me. He will fulfill my purpose. His steadfast love--His mercy, endures forever. And He, in this steadfast love, will never forsake me.

How can I NOT trust Him? How can I not fall completely in love? How could I ever feel anything but secure?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The LORD will....

The following verses give us seven wonderful promises from our Lord. Seven times it is written "I will".
Exodus 6:6-8 "6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; (1)I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (Speaking of Salvation), (2)I will rescue you from their bondage(Speaking of Sanctification), and (3)I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.(Speaking of our Redemption through the blood of Jesus) 7 (4)I will take you as My people(Speaking of Adoption), and (5)I will be your God(Speaking of Revelation - He will reveal himself to us). Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And (6)I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob(Speaking of Direction); and (7)I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.(Speaking of Provision)’”
  1. Salvation - The act of saving; preservation from destruction, danger or great calamity.
  2. Sanctification - The act of making holy. In an evangelical sense, the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God.
  3. Redemption - The purchase of God's favor by the death and sufferings of Christ; the ransom or deliverance of sinners from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God's violated law by the atonement of Christ.
  4. Adoption - The act of adopting, or the state of being adopted; the taking and treating of a stranger as one's own child.
  5. Revelation - The act of disclosing or discovering to others what was before unknown to them.
  6. Direction - Order; prescription; either verbal or written; instruction in what manner to proceed.
  7. Provision - The act of providing or making previous preparation.
This began after points were made by Ray Vanderlaan in his DVD series 'Follow the Rabbi - That the World May Know', we watched last night at Church. I then decided this morning to listen to one of my favorites, Todd Spitzer. These notes are taken from his (Brother Todd's) sermon.
*Definitions taken from Crossmap Dictionary ( http://dictionary.crossmap.com/ )