Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Said NO Condemnation!

Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Do you ever find you berate yourself over a mistake you've made? Are you embarrassed, do you fret or become anxious about discussing this with God? Do you believe it was so bad He could not forgive you? Now is the time to remember that He is fully aware of all you think or do. And even better, He is fully merciful to forgive if you just ask. He knows all about you; knows all the hairs on your head. He loves you. His desire is for you.

What a wonderful God we serve! We all fall into sin at times but it is because we are children of the Most High God we are able to boldly enter into the Holy of Holies and ask for forgiveness. We are called to come just as we are, sins and all, that we might receive that forgiveness for all our mistakes/sins and fall under the non-condemnation clause in the Word of God! If we have received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, it is a done deal. His love for us will never fade. It remains the same today as it was the day we first received Him because He never changes.

We all have imperfections, so let's not compare ourselves with someone else. We are all at different levels in our journey with the Lord. He does not compare us, nor does He condemn us, His children. He chose us to accomplish His plans. He desires to change our negative into positive. The mistakes we make as we go along will help us to learn and grow. As children of God we are all equal in His sight. Each one has a perfect plan and it does not include being condemned.

Let's thank God that He does not condemn us. He might discipline but also is part of our learning and growing experience. Let's thank Him that despite the mistakes we made He is always willing to forgive if we acknowledge them before Him. We do not need to worry about going to Him to seek His forgiveness. He is merciful, quick to forgive and desires to renew our spirits. 

John 3:18 - He that believes in Him is not condemned....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Psalm 18:19b - He delivered me because He delighted in me.

I heard someone say one time "He found God." That's not how it happens. He finds us...and we have the choice to respond or not. Ephesians 1:4 - ...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love...

God delighted in me. He delivered me from my enemy, the devil. And He did it because He delighted in me.

I was somewhat involved in the occult before I knew Christ. I'd always read my horoscope although deep in my spirit I believed it was hokey--too general, could apply to anyone--so I quite often read it at the end of the day to see if my day panned out like it proposed it would. 

Then I became a fan of Shirley MacLaine and her ideas that we could be God and all the weird ideas about astral projection. Ugh. I dread the thought. I was searching for something spiritual but didn't realize I was headed in the wrong direction. 

At 40 I quit my job and took an extended bike trip in Europe on my bicycle. I wanted to find myself. Experience after experience showed me long after the fact that I was being protected somehow.

All I can say is I am so grateful for the turnaround in my life. I know now where I can find my strength, know my future in Christ and where true wisdom resides. Not in tarot cards, numerology, crystals or the lines on the palms of my hands...even in spirit guides. All this frustrated me because nothing seemed to work. Hmmmm, I wonder why? My strength is in the Lord. He calls divination an abomination...sin...period. I'm so thankful to God for freeing me from all that and allowing me to set my feet upon His rock of salvation.

When I came to know the Lord, came into relationship with Him and contemplated all these things, I realized I had been a God who delighted in me. I believe He kept me safe because He knew one day would come when I could no longer look to these things for my future, but would choose to allow Him to lead me down the right path...God's shining path (Job 41:32). 

I confessed those sins. I prayed against further involvement. I feel so stupid at times for the mistakes I made. But God forgives so wonderfully. I didn't know any better back then. I was only doing what so many others do.

He has plans for me. I sometimes don't think I'm realizing them yet but He will bring forth these plans when the time is right. At Bible study this morning we talked about God's shining path. We talked about the plans He has for all of us who choose to follow Him down that path. He lights the way. And it was said that even if we do not fully know what His plans are for our lives, if we are following Him, every day is part of that plan and it starts with the mundane things like doing laundry or cleaning the house. You start with the small things and He will enlarge your territory.

God can deliver anyone from anything...if they want it bad enough. And that anything is your enemy, the thing the devil would want to keep you in bondage with. Thank God He delights in all people and wants to see all delivered. Is there something that you need to let go of? Fear, anxiety, unforgiveness, addiction? Let God deliver you because He delights in you, too.

Psalm 18:46 - The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Are You Taking For Granted?

Psalm 40:2 - He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. 

I heard a very quick news story this morning. It had to do with the survival of a man in the  recent Haiti earthquake. He survived on Coca Cola and potato chips. I'm assuming this was a recent survival. When he was removed from the wreckage he said he was going to give his life to Jesus. And I would imagine the angels were rejoicing.

Isn't that just the way it is? We wait until we are in dire straits before we make the commitment. I was watching a program the other night about people who survived death. They actually died and came back to life. I listened intently to what they experienced and none were the same. They all explained peace and light, although I don't know for a fact that any of them had given their lives to the Lord. Obviously I've not experienced this so I'm no expert. It's possible these people experienced what they did, but it could just have been their imaginations, something we cannot pinpoint, that was giving them a sense of reality? Only God knows. Two main things came out of their experiences, however...they knew what was going on around them at the time and upon recovery their lives were completely changed...they now no longer took their families for granted and probably lived each day as if it was their last.

On a more personal note, we had a bit of a scare this past week with one of our kitties! Long story short, he was rushed to an animal hospital Friday with acute renal failure due to unknown causes but probably some sort of  ingested toxin. The doctors all asked the same probing questions for which I could not answer because I don't watch them day in and day out to see what mischief they might get into. Cats are cats. But I began to ask myself, am I taking them for granted? Am I not paying enough attention to the things they do? I don't think so; they just get into stuff when you're not looking. 

I just described three scenarios where lives were saved. Now although the cat won't change anything about how he lives the rest of his life, all the others did.  So what am I leading up to? 

The man in Haiti...buried under all the rubble. The people who were given a second chance at life. This is what Jesus is all about. This is what He has come to this earth to lives. We are all, in some way, buried under the rubble of sin. Not one of us is without sin. We can't clean ourselves up. We need Someone to rescue us. But when we choose, like the man from Haiti did, to give our lives to Jesus, we are made clean by Jesus' blood spilled for us, by His blood that covers us and makes us righteous. 

The other people experienced a second chance. Jesus is all about second chances...a new birth...being born again...renewed. He gives us the chance to turn our lives around. He removes us from the burden of sin and works righteousness within us. I am so thankful for this Man! I am thankful that He took the stripes upon His back and allowed the agony of crucifixion...for me and for anyone who is willing to give their lives to Him. As Romans tells us For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) That Haitian man knew Who to call on and the arms of the Lord were open to him.

Funny how all these scenarios came about this weekend. Perhaps it was to teach me a lesson about taking anything for granted. We all need to be more careful how we 
speak to and treat others. We rely on them to always be there. A friend of mine has a friend who was recently taken to ICU with a condition that should have been treated sooner. She's lucky to be alive. She was just short of all her organs shutting down. She neglected the signs of a problem. In this situation her husband has changed realizing he might have lost her. He's taken on a different view of life himself. Whether it continues or not is something only God can work out in him. 

When God lifts us out of that pit of sin, He plants us on a more sure Foundation. He guides in the truth of His word. He empowers us by the power of His Holy Spirit. God's plan for us can be followed. It can lead us into victory. Who wouldn't want a second chance at life? And this life that Jesus offers is eternal. We are given wisdom and understanding, the most important things we should desire. With them all other things fall into line. 

But there is one thing no one should ever take for granted and that is God's call to salvation. God is always ready to lift us up, bring us new life, give us that second chance. His desire is for you. His desire is that none should perish, but all would have eternal life...that's all people, all denominations, all religions. He's willing to lift us all so we may all be on that solid Foundation of Jesus Christ. Is He calling you?

Revelation 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Arise and Follow

Genesis 35:3 - "Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone."

In the Old Testament God spoke to the people. God told Jacob, above, to arise and go to Bethel and dwell there. He listened, he arose and he and his family went to Bethel. But there was a condition--"Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments." (verse 2)

God still speaks to us today. He urges us to arise and follow Him and the same condition is set before us, to remove those things in our lives that cause us the inability to purify ourselves so we can be clothed in righteousness and not be able to know who He is, what His plans are for us.

God protected Jacob and his people from possible enemies. God will also offer us His protection. God changed Jacob's name. Jacob means deceiver. He had done a number of things in his life which were deceptive. But now he'd changed and sought God's will. Jacob's name was changed to Israel, which means God rules. He was willing to listen now. God does that for us too. In Revelation 2:17 John tells us what God says will happen when we get to heaven: "'...To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."' I like that! A new name, one that represents who I am in Christ. 

Earlier Jacob had wrestled with God and, of course, God won. But He had to injure Jacob so that he could not longer fight. We struggle with God when we do not heed His call or command to arise and follow Him. Sometimes He will allow a struggle in our lives to bring us low so He can rise up once again and cause us to take notice. That's salvation to the lost...or rededication to those who have strayed. When we then let go of those ideas or things that cause us to not follow Him, He becomes our friend, protector, supplier of our needs.

I love how Jacob says "[God] has been with me in the way which I have gone." The way. "Follow Me, I am the Way." 

Let's not let pride or unbelief hinder our walk with God...or keep us from it. There are so many promises to receive, blessings and not curses. This God knows our names. He is interested in everything about us because He created us--knitted us in our mother's wombs. He has known us since before we knew Him. He knows our thoughts and words before we think or say them. Who would know better what we are in need of?

When Jesus was healing people often he would tell them to "arise and go" and they were healed. He calls us to be healed spiritually when He asks us to "arise and follow Him." If you hear the call, don't ignore it. Let these promises be for you:

Psalm 18:2 - The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Word of God is Alive

Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

As Pastor Paul Hanson spoke Sunday he lifted up his Bible at one point during his sermon and said, "The Book is alive!" I don't remember much else he said regarding that because my mind was focused on what he'd said and what I'd heard so many times before. I had to write it down...the Word of God is alive...not that I didn't know it already or as a reminder.

I am so thankful that this is the truth. And it is the truth. God does not lie. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. God is the author of the Bible. Jesus is the Word, the living Word. We've heard the exclamation on Easter Sunday that "Jesus is Alive." How all this is so just never ceases to amaze me to be able to grasp that concept. Yes, the Word of God is alive. 

We may not always like hearing what it tells us because, apart from the promises, there are commandments that must be remembered. And how this society dislikes being told what they can or cannot do.  

We don't like being told lies, do we? We don't like someone lying to us or having someone falsely accusing us of something. We get all bent out of shape, defensive, resistant. It seems even worse when our own government fails to be as transparent as they promise to be or candidates step up to the campaign podium and tell us what they propose to do to bring change. I remember last week listening to Glenn Beck interviewing Sarah Palin. He asked her "Who can we trust?" "How can I trust you if you decide to run for office?" "How do I know you won't change once you are in the midst of a bunch of corrupt politicians?" No one likes to be lied to.

I know who I can trust (as I'm sure Beck and Palin do also). I trust in the Truth of God's Word. It was preached to me one day and I readily accepted it and since that time I have "tasted and seen that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) The Apostle Paul wrote: For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1Thessalonians 2:13)  How else can lives be transformed by simply receiving Jesus, at His Word? He's still doing miracles in peoples' lives just by the receiving of His Word into our hearts and souls. Simply amazing. When He gives and when we receive, we are healed. Amen! That's an alive moment. That's Truth in action.

Jesus preached a tough message. The Word (Jesus) was written to set the foundation in the Old Testament and He was shown to us in the New. The Foundation is Jesus. The Word is Jesus. The Truth is Jesus. And He's alive and growing in the hearts of all who receive Him. Like I said before we don't always like to hear what He has to say, but that's our problem. He will correct when it's necessary. He will remove unbelief when it crops up, if we read His Word and let the words speak to us. It's all about what He can do in our lives. 

When Jesus preached He upset the religious community, the Pharisees, by telling them that all the laws they strived to keep each day, week, month and year were really keeping them from seeing the Truth. Ouch. They had studied scripture but they could not see that the prophecies they'd all read about described Him. All they did was criticize His works and reject Him as a blasphemer! The miracles He performed meant nothing if they were done at what the religious leaders viewed were unprescribed times. You cannot put God in a box!

At Bible study this morning a young home-schooled high school girl leading us mature women (!) in worship prayed between songs and she said, "We need to let go of our thinking about God's limitations. We need to picture Him as even greater than we can imagine." Such wisdom coming from this seemingly bashful and soft-spoken young girl. How good it is to see such wisdom emanating from someone so sweet and young. Did I say she was young? We could all learn from her, I'll tell you. It reminds me that we are to come as little children and take in all that Jesus has said in faith, trusting everything He says (not said) is the Truth and that it is alive within us as we develop a relationship with Him.

Matthew 7:24-25 - Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him....  

I have a myriad of thoughts racing through my head this morning. They're all connected in some way. I hope I can make sense of it all in this blog! 

Yesterday in church Paul Hanson, our interim pastor, talked about the Power of Community. He talked about togetherness and how that is what releases potential. He surprisingly used the example of the Tower of Babel.  Genesis 11:6 - The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. They all spoke one language and when they all said the same thing, it was done. They worked together to build it, although for the wrong reason. But they worked together. They were all in one accord. Until God intervened because what they chose to do was not His will.

We say two heads are better than one. In the scripture above we see it is always good to have a "buddy." Togetherness. As Pastor spoke about the Power of Community and how it has to do with working together, I kept hearing "unity" in my head. And then I glanced at the word community in the header in our bulletin. I circled it. Togetherness...unity... Like I do, I had to look up the definition in Websters: a unified body of individuals. Comm comes from a root meaning together; unity is unity! The word come means to move toward something. The whole word oozes togetherness.

Pastor Paul told a great true story that could even apply to our nation/government...and most definitely our church. He pastored a congregation years ago in a smaller Wisconsin city. There was one wealthy man in their church and people listened to him when he spoke. They were in need of air conditioning and a committee was put together to discuss and vote on it. All but one agreed to do this; the one against it was this man. He went to Pastor Paul and told him he was the one who objected, much to Pastor's surprise. "But," he told him, "because the majority is in agreement, I will go along with the decision." That's community; that's togetherness; that's unity. 

Any way you put it, working together for one goal in God's terms or in man's, brings about peace. It brings strength. It brings a seemingly impossible task into the realm of possibility. He talked also about breaking pieces of it's easy to break one, but a whole bundle, impossible. He mentioned a contest between two horses dragging loads in a contest. One could pull 9,000 pounds, the other 11,000. So it was assumed that together they could pull 20,000 pounds. And when it was tested the two horses together pulled well over that amount. So there is strength in numbers. 

God asks us to rise up and become one in Christ. To be united by Christ. When we choose to follow Him nothing is impossible. When we unite together as one Body in the Church dedicated to doing God's will, nothing is impossible. We have seen division rise up in our church because of man's desire to control. Control brings division and division weakens, can even destroy. Sometimes God has to intervene. When we are under the wise counsel of one God, even like our founding fathers were, we see unity. We are called the United States; can we say that now? But closer to me is our church. Perhaps God has sifted us to see who will really stay and will be dedicated to becoming united, under God's will, to become the church He desires us to become. One church or Church, under God.

We can have this unity within our country if we look up together at the One who created this earth and it's inhabitants, if we look up to where our salvation lies. Josh Groban sings a beautiful song that to me tells us where we are to look for our strength first. He may not be singing about God but our fellow man, but it all starts with God. When we look to God and  stand in unity with others who also look to God, we are strong and nothing is impossible. He will lift us up. 

Togetherness, in any place in our lives, comes if we seek God and are in agreement with Him for our own lives, our church, our country. When God is first, there is unity, victory and peace. Can we say we, our church or our country are at peace? I can say I have the peace in the Lord and with that I'm believing I will have peace no matter what happens in the church, the nation or the world. Think on what Jesus tells us and apply it to your life, your church or our nation:

Matthew 12:25 - ... "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand."

Friday, January 15, 2010


This is quite a mouthful. They're pretty strong words, too. Read this slowly. Let the words sink into your spirit. Jesus is talking and He's got a word for all of us:

Matthew 10:34-38 - "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."

I'm sure there are many families split because of Jesus. He asks a lot--He asks for commitment and withdrawal from many things, including family. I know many people from our church who were raised Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian and other denominations. Remember Jeannie I from the Holy Land Experience I mentioned earlier? She was raised in the Jewish traditions and asked me to pray for her father and brother who hadn't spoken to her for ten years after her conversion. Jesus tells us above that this could happen.

Jesus tells us we cannot love any other before Him.  And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:1-3) Sound like a tough God with too many restrictions? His standards are high. He doesn't expect perfection (thankfully), just dedication.

We could very well be in for some difficult days ahead. And where do we turn if things around us begin to collapse? Will we try to muddle along in our own strength trying to work things out? Or will we look to God for what He promises to do for us--provide and protect? But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)

Our God is tough because He loves us so much--as any parent who has had to discipline their children--tough love. Everyone always says it's for their own good. Except with God it's a BIGGER type of tough love.

We are all like children to Him. We pout, stomp our feet, slam doors and say "no!" when it comes to God and all He wants is our attention and love. He wants our obedience. He wants submission to His all-knowing plans for us--the plans that will prosper us and not harm us and will give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). If we could get this idea squarely between our ears and into our hearts. But we do like Israel and submit when in distress only to revert back when things are going well...or reject completely, much to His dismay. He wants our whole heart. He wants us to prosper--not only financially but spiritually. Spiritual life is freedom, not a prison sentence. 

He's not saying to stop loving family but to love Him first. Put Him first in His rightful place as Creator of this earth and Creator of each of us. Letting God be first takes commitment, sacrifice and discipline. It's not just words but action. Remember, there's a wide road...and most assuredly it is in a spiritual wilderness. There is a falling away from religion taking place. That wide road is getting wider. Jesus is the narrow Way but His way is truth. We all like having wisdom and knowing the truth. Seek Him out. 

Be assured that no matter when you choose to decide to follow Him, He is more than happy to receive you. It's never too late. Despite what many may think, it IS freedom and life.

Psalm 13:3 - Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Follow Me

Matthew 16:24 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."

Those words have been coming to me over the past few days. I was not going to bring this up in my blog, but why not? Our church is doing a 21-day fast. It is to seek God for our lives, families, church, or anything we desire God to show us. It's knowing what God's will is. Fasting is another type of sacrifice. 

I've mentioned before that Jesus is all about sacrifice. He sacrificed, was a sacrifice and as followers we become sacrifices of sorts. We have chosen to believe He is who He says He is, He can do whatever He says He can. We have chosen to trust in Him. We have chosen to have faith in Him. And we should have chosen to sacrifice as well. 

Part of my sacrifice for the past year has been giving up some of the "me" time. I have chosen to set aside as often as possible time in the morning to read His Word, study and meditate on scripture, and listen as He speaks to me through His Word. Sometimes, like even this morning, He has been incredibly silent! Until I read Oswald Chambers' devotion for this morning in My Utmost for His Highest. The title was Called of God. 

When we receive Christ as Savior, we are all joined in that call. None of us is exempt from doing His will and that includes speaking on His behalf to the world around us. Chambers said, The chosen ones are those who have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ whereby their disposition has been altered and their ears unstopped, and they hear the still small voice questioning all the time, "Who will go for us?"  That, too, is a sacrifice.

I'm still learning about sacrifice. I have a lot to learn, in fact. I am not a perfect example of sacrifice. Part of what I want to learn through this fasting time is how to sacrifice more of my time...for God. God asks us to follow Him. He had little time for Himself but a lot of time for others. Where do I fit in with this? 

Chambers added that 
When our Lord called His disciples there was no irresistible compulsion from outside. The quiet passionate insistence of His "Follow Me" was spoken to men with every power wide awake. I can tell you what Chambers wrote is what actually happened. I can say that when the Lord called me, I had no idea beforehand it was about to happen. It just did in a split second and it was powerful, yet compassionate. God in essence was saying, "Follow Me." Just that fast. And my life has not been the same since. 

One more thing Chambers said: 
If we let the Spirit of God bring us face to face with God, we too shall hear ... the still small voice of God... That day, nearly 11 years ago I heard that still, small voice asking me to "Follow Me." That takes sacrifice, as I've written about this week.

Sacrifice is also about giving up our own preconceived notions about who God is, not putting Him in a box and limiting His power within our own lives. I have long desired that my voice be heard, but I'm not a vocal person. Perhaps my blog is my outlet...for now...until God tells me to get out of my comfort zone, take up my cross, be bold and be a witness of who He is in this world that is falling apart without Him. If He has given me His Spirit there is nothing I should not be able to do. So what's holding me back?

Perhaps this is my plea to God this morning. To show me what's holding me back. What's keeping me from following Him into any situation? What's holding me back from hearing everything He wants to tell me or ask me to step out in faith to do? 

I don't want to be counted among those who profess to know Christ yet deny His power within me. Jesus tells us in Luke 14:27 that "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." I want to be dedicated to His service. I want to know that I am being used by Him. I want more discipline. I want to stretch my boundaries. And yet it is not me, but God, who will open the doors. But I have to have ears to hear and a spirit willing to follow.

I know I have changed since accepting Jesus. But more layers of the onion need to be peeled off. It will be painful, it will be another sacrifice. But if I truly want to see the Lord working in my life, I need to allow step (out of my comfort zone) circumstance at a time.

Colossians 3:10 - ...[you have] clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it. (Amplified version)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Narrow Path

Matthew 7:13-14 - "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

What is a path? The definition I found is a trodden way; a track specially constructed for a particular use. I imagine most paths as narrow.

I think of the paths in the woods surrounding our house. When we first moved here they were quite evident as a woman used to walk her dog through them frequently. Then the subdivision was built and the area became inhabited. I believe she stopped walking through the little preserved sanctuary. I've wandered those paths; they were probably deer trails to begin. Because I didn't walk them as often they became overgrown. At times I would go in with clippers as I walked to clear way overhanging shrubs or kick aside fallen branches or move downed trees.

But most evident was the narrowness of the path. You had to keep your eyes focused on where you walked or you might get tangled in a thorn infested shrub or twist an ankle on a rock or even get slapped in the face by a low hanging branch.

Staying on the narrow path...Jesus guides us on this path. He is the Way; He is the Gate. His is specially constructed for a particular use. His ways are righteous and true. When you follow His path there is a blessing. You follow His path and He makes it straight. His path leads to salvation and eternal life...a very good particular use.

In Jesus' day there were no major roads. He spent much of His three years of ministry walking these paths, picking up people along the way who would follow Him. He performed miracles on these paths. This was His way.

The world is the wide path.  Jesus the narrow Way. It's true, not many follow down that narrow Way because the wide road seems better, maybe seems to have more. I think about  highways and freeways...they're dotted with advertisments, things to catch your eye, things to lure you, perhaps, to the nearest shopping mall or restaurant. You don't find that on the smaller, narrower paths, like in our nature preserve. The only thing you see is nature and wildlife. The narrow path to me seems more peaceful and dotted with beauty and magificence. That's Jesus. Step onto the narrow path, the Way, and this is what you will find. It's life. 

I don't know why the thought of eternal death crept into my mind. There will actually be some who enter into a place quite the opposite of heaven, a place the Bible says (not me) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth...forever...eternal death...just as those who choose to be on the narrow path with Jesus will live eternal lives with no more pain or sorrow. We don't just die and that's it (if it were what would be the point of life in the first place?) Eternal damnation Bible thumpers might say! It causes me to consider my salvation and it causes me to be concerned about others' salvation. I can't imagine how awful it will be. 

The way was paved for us to follow. Taking the path is a sacrifice. It doesn't mean living without pain or trials in this world. It means giving up the things of the world which are hard for some to let go of. But if Jesus is the Way, the narrow Path, the narrow Gate, our Sacrifice, we are given the peace, protection, confidence and strength to maintain a foothold. Jesus says, "Follow Me." When we do, He gives us all we need. He IS all we need.

Psalm 23:3-4 - He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Genesis 22:2 - Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

There's a short and intense story in the Book of Genesis. It's about Abraham and his son Isaac. God has promised Abraham much...a covenant between He and Abraham, to make him the father of many nations, to bless him and his family (including all descendants) and Abraham had so much faith it was counted to him as righteousness.

God tested Abraham several times. Abraham didn't always past the test but he still held favor with God. He will do that with us too. 

The biggest test was when God wanted Abraham to sacrifice his son. Let's look at the similarity between what God asked Abraham to do and what God did and what He asked Jesus to do. I mentioned a bit about sacrifice yesterday. Sacrifice is big in God's eyes. It's not about us but about Him. It's sacrificing our ways for His. It's pressing on in faith and letting go of the past, which can be a sacrifice if we want to cling to what we are holding on to. 

Back to Abraham and Isaac. God had promised Abraham that through his son Isaac he would become the father of many nations. So why is it he is to sacrifice him? Had he done something wrong? Had God reneged on His promise? He was told to take Isaac into the mountains. He, Isaac and a couple servants, took wood for an offering and proceeded on their trek. Isaac had no clue. Here's where it gets eerily familiar. On the third day they saw the spot God had pointed out. Abraham told his servants to wait while they went up the mountain to build and altar and worship. He told them, "We will come back to you."  This takes a lot of faith to believe...we will come back.

Abraham put the wood on Isaac's back and they walked to the place where they were to make their sacrifice. Normally a lamb would be used for the offering. There was none to be seen so Isaac questioned his father about it. Abraham told him God would provide. By faith he was making this statement. Maybe he knew the words "nothing is impossible with God." What happens when God asks us to do something so seemingly impossible? Do we just have that kind of faith?

When they had reached their spot, Abraham built the altar. He bound his son and put him upon the wood. He took out a knife and raised it to make the offering of his only son for God. Before I finish, note that Isaac did not say a word, did not cry out, did not object. What could have been going through his mind? What could he have been thinking about what his father was doing? He never said a word. I'm sure he also realized that "nothing is impossible with God," that there was a very good reason for all this even if he didn't know what that could be and if it meant his death, so be it. 

I see in our own church trial how we just don't understand everything God could be doing. Maybe He has to build the faith of us who have seen the different faces in the pulpit or experienced the disappointment of other people's control over issues. What is God doing?  What are we willing to sacrifice? Is He setting the stage? Is He waiting to see which people continue to attend having faith that He is still going to do something in our church? Is He waiting until all hearts are turned to Him? Is He separating the wheat from the tares? Nothing is impossible with God.

As Abraham's hand was lifted, the Angel of the Lord called out to him: "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Genesis 22:12) With that a ram appeared, caught in a bush, which was then used to present the necessary sacrifice.

Does any of this sound familiar? Think about Jesus carrying the cross on his back and being led to the place of His crucifixion. It may have been a crucifixion, but to God it was a sacrifice. God was sacrificing His Son, His only Son, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. When Jesus was on trial He spoke not a word; He did not try to defend Himself. 

I'm seeing similarities I've not noticed before. Numbers are important to God. They have meaning. I see "third day" and think of the three years Jesus ministered before His death. And on the third day He arose from the dead. This is just my overactive mind at work here. It was a three days' journey to the place of sacrifice and also the third day when the sacrifice of Abraham's son was aborted...and he survived what could have been his a type of resurrection, second life, new life.

We are asked to sacrifice ourselves when we follow the Lord. We are to die daily that we might do the will of God. We are asked to take up our cross daily. We are told that if we lose our life (sacrifice) we will be saved. 

Abraham, Isaac, God and Jesus...they all were willing to sacrifice. But the greatest sacrifice was the true Sacrifice. He carried His cross and was placed upon it for all of us. It makes sense that we would want to sacrifice for the love of our God, who provided a Way for us to live. That's where God desires followers to be in their walk. Have I achieved this? I don't think I'm quite there but I'm working on it. We don't ever achieve perfection. Perfection is when we see Jesus face to face in heaven. Nothing in this world is nearly as important as Jesus. No job, no spouse, no hobby, no home. If Jesus is in our hearts and He plays an important role in our lives, that's what's important. That's the first step toward sacrifice. Climbing to the altar to offer up your self, your life, in the name of Jesus.

2Corinthians 5:15 - and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Know His Sufferings

Philippians 3:10-11 - that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

I'm blown away again by how God works, how He gets me thinking me in advance of what is about to be revealed. I had part of this blog written last week but something was missing. I'd not quite finished it. During church yesterday I was able to complete this. God is so good. I'll try to piece the two together...

Our interim pastor, Paul Hanson, spoke his first sermon and it spoke volumes. He spoke on the Commitment to Press On. As a church we are in transition and Hanson has stepped in until we find a new pastor to lead this flock. In a nutshell he spoke about pressing on...toward the goal God has for each of us as individuals and as a church. Part of the sermon was on suffering...we all go through it, the church has gone through it, but we are not to keep that in the forefront of our mind.

Pressing on...toward knowing Christ...not learning about Him, but experiencing Him. This has got to be one of the most difficult things to explain. I've said it several's not just about knowing who Jesus is but really knowing Him with every fiber of our being. The definition of knowing according to Hanson is come to know. It's an ongoing thing. It's not just hearing about Him and saying we know who He is. It's getting to a place in life when you desire to know Him, to sense His experience know His power.

Pressing know God's will for each of us and again as a church. We each have talents. It's recognizing them and using them for God's glory. It doesn't need to be anything great, just walking the path God has put before us.

Pressing of the past and the future...forgetting the past and moving forward. Gee, I think I wrote about that already... But Hanson gave us the meaning of forget: it means to neglect--to no longer allow ourselves to feed whatever it is we should let go of. And then he told us this is how God sees those who have accepted Christ and have been washed by His blood. He no longer sees our sin. Hard to comprehend, but I'm believing it.

So the one thing he discussed was the phrase "the fellowship of sharing in His suffereings." And that was what I had started to blog. I've mentioned how Adam and Eve lived with toil and pain after their fall. So it is with us. However, Jesus came to be an example. "Follow Me," He tells us. The meaning of suffering is passion. Yes, passion. It's knowing the will of God. For Jesus God's will was to die for us. He sacrificed His own life. What is our will? One, to sacrifice ourselves for Him. Two, to know His will, which if accepted properly will be a sacrifice. And for all believers that is to show others the magnificence of who God is. 

Life will not be without suffering even for true Christians. Suffering can be part of our sacrifice. Suffering can be others rejecting what we have to say about Jesus, just like so many rejected what Jesus had to say about Himself. And I believe trials are there for us to look to God for strength...and to let others see our attitude and behavior as we go through a difficult time. Will others see the strength of Christ in us or will they see a person whose beliefs are weak when trouble comes? Suffering came out of disobedience and we won't get out of it. Christ came to help us through this suffering...because He's already gone through it all. He's the one who brings peace in the midst of trials.

Suffering, I think, can mean pressing on in a supernatural strength. I've seen people in our church who look defeated...week after week. Some grouse about their situations. There are others who never show their pain...they may feel it but it doesn't own them.  It's for a time but with God's help the mourning turns to dancing. If people are in Christ, truly counting on Him, there will be an inner joy--the joy of the Lord. And it means pressing on with life despite what life deals us. 

Either I have not experienced grief so unbearable or I bounce back quickly. I just don't know. I may go through troubling times but I think I get over it. There may be many mini-griefs but they're short-lived. I would like to believe this is the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding. I would hope I am gathering up the strength each day.

Pastor Hanson began the sermon by stating that commitment is liberating. What freedom is there in masking the troubles of life with alcohol or drugs? When we commit ourselves to Christ it is freeing. This so goes against the beliefs of some who think following Christ is a crutch. What are drugs and alcohol? I don't know what people who cannot get past their defeated attitudes need to do if they are adhering to the words of Jesus. I so hope that if I am in a situation where the trials truly come I will remember my words, no, Jesus' words...that I will turn to the Lord for my strength...and remember that as I suffer, I am sharing in His sufferings.

John 16:33 - [Jesus said] "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will  have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Get Out of Your Country!

Genesis 12:1 - Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you."

Through the geneological records of Noah's sons we stumble upon Abram (later known as Abraham). They lived in Chaldea at the time God told him to leave. (Chaldea is now Iraq.) He was to leave even his family. If I recall correctly, Jesus asked many to leave all they had and follow Him in the same way. Abram knew nothing about where he was being led, he just went in faith because God had requested he leave. Like his ancestors he'd been taught about the Almighty God who was all they would ever need.

Why did God call Abram and his family out of Chaldea? I believe part of it was a test, to see if he would be willing to just up and leave all he had known to follow God. God's plan was to take Abram to a land which God would give him. That land today is Israel. God promised to bless him in this land and to make him the father of many nations. 

Jus as God was asking Abram to separate himself, we are to separate ourselves. Like God for Abram, Jesus is for us. Only through this separation can we be blessed. God had a plan for Abram far beyond what Abram could even make him the father of many nations, which has happened. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we too are to get out of our country! We are to follow Him and allow His plan for our lives take shape. Are we to leave our family or friends like Abram did? Sometimes the answer is yes. But when we do and we surround ourselves with others who have "left their country" we see a commonality and they become our new family.

We saw the results of making a name in human strength and arrogance with Abram's ancestors, Noah's family, and the Tower of Babel. They were scattered. God does not want us scattered even today. He wants us to be joined together in one spirit, the Spirit of God, not the spirit of man. God caused Adam and Eve to be separated from the Garden and Himself, but it is His desire even today to bring us back under one roof, one unity, in Christ Jesus as the Mediator between God and ourselves. Separation on one hand and unity in another...getting out of our country to a spiritual land that God desires to show us. A land that is filled with blessings.

And speaking of scattering...what we read in the Old Testament is not just for us. It speaks to the nation and the people of Israel. They have been scattered across the world numerous times. And there will be one last gathering of these people before Jesus returns. It will be one of the last signs of the last days--they will be gathered back to their own land, the land which God gave them, the land which Abram was told to go to. Over the years we have seen some return despite the turbulence in that country. There should be one last exodus from the world to their own land and a revival of sorts will take place. They will begin to realize what has been veiled for so many years and prophesied in even their own Torah--that the Messiah they have been waiting for for 2,000 years is Jesus whom they have long rejected. It will be a glorious spiritual awakening and we will experience spiritual unity at last with them, in Christ. 

Abram left his family, separated himself, saw the land God had promised his people; he had faith in God and it was counted to him as righteous and God's plan came about through the faithfulness, obedience and righteousness of this one man. Are we willing to do the same?

2Timothy 2:21 - Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.