Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walking Humbly

Micah 6:8 - He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. 
When these words came in my mailbox yesterday I could just hear the voice of Pastor Bob Ona as he spoke them the very day (April 18, 1999) I came to Christ! Nothing magical about those words, but powerful...especially to walk humbly with our God.

Our Pastor, Rory Grooters, spoke last Sunday on success coming from seeking God. He spoke about King Uzziah who walked closely with the LORD during his 52 years as being king of Jerusalem. His seeking God was an act of humility. He had been raised with the reverent understanding of who God was and what He would do for those who respected Him. He became king at 16. Times have changed a bit. Imagine today's 16 year old, on average, given that type of responsibility. Imagine 16 year olds walking humbly with God....not that it isn't happening.

Sometimes we don't think of success coming from humility but rather boldness and an "it's my way or the highway" position. It seems humility can be viewed as weakness. In God's eyes humility is just the opposite. Proverbs 22:4 is a good word from God: By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life. Sounds like walking humbly with our God.

Uzziah was successful throughout his 52 year reign because he sought God. But let's take a look a what happens when there is a change. How it didn't happen before 52 years we'll never know but somewhere along the way Uzziah stopped walking humbly with God. His pride got the better of him and this displeased the the point of placing leprosy upon this king, removing him from his duties and living the rest of his life in shame. This well known proverb is another example: When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). And of course there is the often quoted Pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).

An aside: I was listening to news one morning and Senator Rick Perry was being discussed as a possible presidential candidate. He's a staunch Christian. I know in today's world we want answers NOW, so one of the panel members made the remark that when Perry was asked a question about an issue he said, "Let's pray about it." This just does not fly in today's world. However, this may be what Uzziah did during his successful years. This is really what we should be doing, but I know it just ain't gonna happen! Success through humility and seeking God? Unheard of!?

We are a people so desirous of doing things our way. Sometimes when all is said and done people wonder what they could have done different to have been more successful. Walking humbly with our God, which doesn't always come to mind, might have been the answer. Some might say they are successful without seeking God. One will never know the plans God had if they sought Him first. 

Walking humbly with Him. Did you notice that...with Him. (Not apart from Him.) We can do this if we have a mind to receive Him and allow Him to transform our lives...not that we are puppets only being manipulated by God, but first knowing Him intimately, then knowing what His promises are for those who choose to follow Him and be obedient to what He knows is best for each of us. We are to fear God. We are to reverence Him and honor Him. We are to praise Him. 

He has shown example. Jesus has shown us. What awful things can you think of that Jesus ever did? He spoke softly in love and firmly with words that were (and still are) hard. It was how others chose to receive that made those words appear harsh. He only spoke the truth because that's what He is. He had great mercy. He taught and healed. He remained silent as people chastised Him. He bore our burdens. He also gathered people as a Good Shepherd would and protected them. He walked the long road to Golgotha for each of us. He did not complain, but rather did it out of love for us. And at the end He asked God to forgive us.

Truly an amazing example. Who wouldn't want to walk humbly with this Man? It is what He requires of us who have chosen the path of righteousness with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Imagine the successfulness of our lives if we adhered to a humble path of mercy and justice toward others. Success comes if we set our minds to doing as Micah suggested. Ah, we have a long way to go before perfection...

1Peter 5:6 - Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nicodemus' Question

Matthew 5:20 - For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 

I was listening to James Robison, a televangelist and inspirational leader. He was explaining righteousness and how it is attained. It is not earned but it is a gift God gives. It comes through our daily walk with Christ.

Robison talked about the account of the Nicodemus, an extreme religious leader. Jesus tells us by His own words above that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. That is a hard word! One that can be difficult to understand.

Righteousness only comes from being born again, spiritually. It means going beyond what some religious leaders even today claim gets us to heaven. Do not be astonished that I said to you, "You must be born from above' (John 3:7). Period.

Jesus was teaching this to Nicodemus, who went at night to search out Jesus so as not to be seen by his counterparts, the Pharisees and Sadducees. Pharisees, according to Webster's were members of a Jewish sect noted for strict observance of rites and ceremonies of the written law and for insistence on the validity of their own oral traditions concerning the law. Sadducees were similar being a member of a Jewish party  consisting of a traditional ruling class of priests and rejecting doctrines not in the Law (as resurrection, retribution in a future life, and the existence of angels).

Nicodemus would have been chewed to pieces had they known he was consulting Jesus whose doctrines were different than theirs.  They were actually jealous and perhaps fearful of because their status as religious leaders might have been at stake if everyone stopped believing what they taught...doctrines not in the law.

We cannot work or buy our way into heaven; we are told our works really are no more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  If by works or payment we could secure a place in Heaven, then what was the point of Christ dying on the cross? He did not buy or work His way out of His crucifixion. He did not walk away from His death on the cross...for us. He embraced it.

It's strictly by His blood, His sacrifice for us that brings righteousness. So we, in turn, must sacrifice ourselves (Romans 12:1), die daily to ourselves and carry our own cross (Mark 8:34-35). By His example... And He tells us Himself, as He told Nicodemus, that it's by being born again...born of the Spirit...not of the flesh. Oh, flesh comes first... We are born once in the flesh only to die in the flesh but we can be born of the Spirit.

Salvation and then righteousness is by grace alone...unmerited favor. That grace transforms us as we live our new lives in Christ. Man may squawk at the concept, thinking it arrogant, but God does not...and His approval is more important than man's. Oh, it takes a lifetime of "cleaning up." We are human and live in this flesh which fights daily against the things of God...our will versus His. But I believe He is in the process today of working harder than ever before to get our minds off the world and focused on Him.

Robison suggested that if you do not have a desire within to bear the fruit of the Kingdom to live in this life as an overcomer not overcome, you have every legitimate reason to question your religious experience because if you have been born from above and born of grace you will have a desire to please your Father in Heaven. You don't just stop and say 'I have a ticket to Heaven.' You are not satisfied with just being a member of the local congregation. Some of the meanest people on planet earth go to churches on weekends! They have a religious label but they're as mean as a snake...and the Pharisees were among these people...

A friend has said several times, it's time we live like we have and know truth is in us. It must become part of our lives. Every step we take. It's obedience... His truth is becoming a part of of who I am, as Robison said. And it starts with forgiveness, just as Jesus forgave everyone who ever did or said anything against Him just before He died. That is part of what makes us righteous, that we are able to forgive those who slander us or accuse us. That's dying to self. That's taking up our cross daily. Easy? No. Necessary? Yes. Robison called this Kingdom presence and not something that comes just like that. A work in progress......chipping away at the root of bitterness. Living every moment with Jesus on our minds.

Righteousness comes from our yielding to God and allowing Him to do a work in us. We will never be perfect. But being born again, covered by the blood of Jesus, we will be seen by our Heavenly Father as who He created us to be. He sees beyond our imperfections, as only a Father can. Through a spiritual rebirth...

It is Robison's belief, as I know it is with those I know, that God isn't interested in denominations. God's words should go beyond the limits them. It's not about one religion over another but coming into a relationship with Jesus and allowing the power of the Holy Spirit, which comes to reside in us upon this transforming conversion, this act of being born again by the Spirit, that will show us what truth is...according to God as related through Jesus' words of life during His ministry...and written in the Bible. He is the Way, TRUTH and Life.

The final outcome is as easy as the decision Nicodemus made that night he asked Jesus how a man can be born again when he is old. Nothing in Jesus' answer tells us to work or buy our way. We must get beyond the religious teachings and rituals and seek Jesus alone to become born again. True righteousness comes when we let go of man made ideas and let God take control of our lives to bring purification...not by works but by grace.

John 3:5-6 - Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Life is a (Golf) Ball

Philippians 3:14 - I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Take a golf course! You see there are nine or eighteen holes, sometimes more. But let's study just one hole. Each has several components. There is the tee box where you start. There is the fairway which is always a good place for you to end up after teeing off. There are roughs on either side of the fairway where, depending upon the length of the cut of grass, can either be an okay place or a bad lie! And there's a different terrain if you golf in Arizona!! Oh, the desert and cactus...and critters...beware.

There can be a multitude of trees or wooded areas lining the course. Sometimes streams or ponds or water features add interest and a challenge. If it's a golf community, you might encounter walls and backyards, even houses if you have a really poor a shot! Hills and valleys might crop up. And of course there are the dreaded bunkers--sand traps along the way to mess with one's mind.

At last there is the green. This is where the final target is located. It is normally a very well groomed, short cropped grass area. This doesn't always mean hitting the ball here is easy. There might be undulating hills or a slope; it might be elevated causing a ball to nicely make a shot hit the green only to roll off...even more than once. Somewhere on that green is a little hole for the ball to go in to. 

I know all about most of these particular areas...more often than some. 

I can remember as a child wondering what the great attraction was for my father who was an avid golf tournament watcher on Sunday afternoons. These guys would hit this little white ball repeatedly until it went into that little hole....and the crowd cheered.

Our relationship with Christ can be likened to a hole in golf and our life (us) is that little white ball. Let me explain!

A golfer always starts at the tee box. The first ball of the hole is driven from there. This tee box is like being first introduced to and first "teed off" in Christ. It was our starting point. The direction we go is the key issue. Which way and how far? There must be patience and endurance to get to that final goal.

Our final goal, where that little ball that is our life should up is that little hole, the target. There is a pin with a flag attached in that little hole, that we might spot the hole better and take aim. Jesus is like that pin. We keep our focus on Him to achieve the goal. All throughout our lives in Christ we are tempted by things that can take away our focus, not that the areas off the fairway are what I would call tempting. If we start in the fairway, our eyes focused on the pin, it can be considered the narrow path that we are to stay on as we walk with the Lord! He is our Way. It is the best place to spend our time but we can occasionally we veer off that path.

If we veer we are out of God's will. He tells us to walk neither to the left or right…where the roughs are, where the sand traps might be lurking, where the trees get in our way, or the bushes, streams and ponds suck up our balls, sometimes being lost forever unless we have the right tools (Holy Spirit and God's Word) to get it back into play. One bad shot and we end up having to refocus at least to get us back on the fairway to make our way more smoothly to the green.

Like I said, our life is like that ball from teeing off to getting into the little hole. There are twists and turns, there are little foxes that, if we aren't aware of them, creep in and maneuver us into less desirable situations. There are snares of the enemy, the sand traps of life, that can come against us. We need the wisdom and power (of God) to get us out of these places.

So, we make it to the green, the final place in Christ. This won't truly come in our earthly lives until we have finally run the race, or finished the hole, come to the end. No one ever achieves perfection or hitting the mark in the flesh. We try to live our lives the best we humanly can, adhering to the truth of God's Word, repenting of our mistakes, obeying the commandments and being in God's will. We will fail sometimes…and get into streams, lakes, roughs, sand. But somehow we manage to get out, whether we think carefully the best way to get ourselves out of these precarious situations and refocusing on the target, or we pick ourselves up, taking a penalty stroke, and put ourselves in a place where we are in play again, also being focused on Jesus, our Mark, our Target.

If we are in Christ, we get to the hole eventually, by God's grace given to those who call on the name of the Lord to be saved. We achieve some sort of score on the hole. The fact that we made it there is what is important. Remember that cheering crowd I mentioned? There is rejoicing in heaven for us too. Some might get there with a better score than others…depends on where you are throughout life, those situations, those choices you make, those upsets, those traps. Although all the shots to get us there may not have been perfect, we got there just the same. We hear well done, good and faithful servant. Our patience and perseverance paid off. And, oh, how grateful we are!

Revelation 3:21, 21:7 - To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.(Philippians 4:6, John 14:1, 2Corinthians 4:17, Psalm 38:15, Psalm 3:4, John 16:33)

What have I said in the past about things not always being just coincidence? These five scriptures were sent this past week from K-LOVE, a national Christian radio station. One by one I read them and at last realized they were speaking to me on the very things I'd been sensing lately...and what I've been writing about. 

In a nutshell...don't worry...fear God and seek Him for whatever you need. If you seek, He will respond. Our trust is in Him and Him alone.

If His Word tells us these things, then maybe we really need to listen. Maybe we need to start taking God for His word, trusting Him like we've never done before. Seek Him and His guidance for our lives. Seek Him in all things. It's His "job" to help us, but we need to ask for it. 

I've heard some say He's too busy to ask directly and they seek a long gone saint. These saints are just that, gone. Jesus is here, now, He knows the beginning from the end and knows the intent of every person's heart at any given time. He's not too busy. He's omniscient...having an infinite awareness and understanding. That's our God!

He wants us to seek Him, ask Him and trust Him. He is our Mediator. He already knows all about us and what we need. Do we want to know what marvelous things He has for us? Do we want to be continually challenged by His power? Do we want to seek Him for what He wants to do within us that we might be more like Him? Our wisdom and understanding come from seeking Him. Our strength comes from seeking Him. Our protection comes in seeking Him. Our fear is diminished when we seek Him

What more can I say? 

Psalm 9:10 - And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Things of Life

1Peter 2:9 - But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Ah, the things of life! 

Yes, God is growing us into a closer relationship, purification and times of testing. He is calling us to be what the scripture above tells us. As He does, He blesses us. 

Our obedience to Him is a priority. Our listening to the still, small voice that tells us: Walk neither to the left nor to the right, but walk along the path I have placed before you. It is the straight path, even though there may be curves and twists. It's straight because of Me. Let me be your guide through the twists and turns of life. Put your sole trust in Me, the right Path, the right Way, the right Truth and Life. I am to be the Lamp unto your feet and the Light unto your Path. If you stay there My protection will be with you. What the world sees as the right way is quite often not My way. Seek Me and seek My ways and you will be blessed.
I have been contemplating the things that have surrounded me in the past week or so. Through it all I have, for the most part, sensed a marvelous peace. I have not, apart from one small incident the other day at a doctor's office, been out of sorts with concern. I have come to peaceful conclusions that whatever something is, it just is and not to get bent out of shape. If God's hand is in it, it will be good. I feel I have consulted the Lord, I have taken time to ask Him questions as I go about my day.

Like I shared yesterday, I called on the name of Jesus in a doctor's office for strength and He gave me what I needed...peace. He knew before I even asked the outcome of the situation and He came through. A minor thing, but imagine if we did that for everything! If we stay focused on Jesus, He makes straight our paths. As long as we stay on His path, He makes the twists and turns as if they did not exist. I felt led to look up straight for a definition according to a Bible Concordance. It does not only mean straight but forward, direct, level, smooth, and upright...true and sincere. Those twists and turns on our path are being directed by the Lord. Remember, He is our Way.

I still feel there is a lull before the proverbial storm. There is a time of waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I believe the Lord is taking me to a place of total trust in Him for what I cannot see happening in the future. I know He's doing this for a lot of people. Recognizing it is imperative. Everything is in His hands and that includes time. His timing is perfect. His judgments are just. His blessings are marvelous.

The time is now, before things get out of hand in this world, to fully, with trust, giving complete charge of our situations to the Lord. I am reminded often that the struggles we see in this world are not physical, but spiritual. To many they may look natural but if they know God's Word, there is a spiritual realm out there to take into consideration. Yes, it does exist.

Oh my...there will come a day when we will be in turmoil and yet the children of God will be miraculously protected. The children of God will be at peace in the midst of people who are shocked at what they see. I don't wish this on anyone, but it will happen. We are either for God or against Him, willing to obey or not, willing to receive Him or reject Him. It's our choice.

When we choose the right thing, the right Way, the right relationship and choose to stand with our feet firmly planted in the light of God's Word, we can have the assurance of God's protection. Amen!

I can't imagine anyone not wanting the assurance of life eternal through Jesus Christ; I can't imagine anyone rejecting His blessings when they are so good. When we reach out for God's salvation we become that chosen generation, clothed in the royalty of our King. He has taken us out of darkness and brought us into His Light. Jesus is that Light. That Light is life.

This is for anyone who chooses to receive. Just know and believe in your heart that Jesus lived and died, was resurrected and is alive today....He was and is and is to come. Confess Him with your mouth and know with your heart that He just IS. Then trust in Him. Obey Him. Learn about Him and the promises for those who choose to be in close relationship with Jesus...the Son of become His children and heirs in the Kingdom. 

We see and have the things of the world and although there is nothing wrong with these things, we also need to understand the ability to let them go. We CAN live without them. We CAN live only with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He is our Savior, Redeemer. He lifts us up when we are down. We can keep our eyes focused on Him and walk confidently in His marvelous light. Alleluia!

John 8:12 - Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Open Wide!

Matthew 7:11 - If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
I am praying over a situation. Scriptures abundantly remind us that all we need do is ask God and He will hear; He will give good things to those who do ask, to those whom He calls His children.
I decided to do a search on scriptures showing what happens when we ask God for something...this does not mean asking for things which would not be God's will. He hears when we seek Him for protection (Monday's blog), for the desires of our hearts, for His provision, for our purification, for anything in line with His Word. 

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday which sort of caused me some anxiety. As I waited for the orthopedic to come in I realized the anxiety mounting. I whispered: Lord, You are my strength and You know what I need. In less than a minute my anxiety was gone. And the news I received from the doctor was good! Yes, Jesus knew everything in advance and because I was basically asking for His strength, He gave me peace, knowing full well what the outcome would be. God gives us what we need. (See Matthew 6:8 and Psalm 34:4 below!)

Look at this list and notice what happens when we ask Him for "whatever":
Matthew 21:22 - And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.
Matthew 7:7 - Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Matthew 6:8 - ... For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Psalm 34:4  - I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 
Psalm 50:15 - Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." 
Isaiah 58:9 - Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, "Here I am."
Isaiah 65:24 - It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 
Matthew 18:19 - Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
John 14:13 - And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
1John 5:14 - Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

There are so many more. God is there for all who seek Him. Seek Him for His gift of salvation, then seek Him for anything that is in His will. He is there to guide all into truth. He is there for our protection and strength If we, by faith, believe that He will respond to our cries or our petitions, and believe that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, His timing...He will answer our prayers.

Oswald Chambers, the day I determined to pray over this situation, talked on the very subject! What wonderful confirmation. Chambers said for July 16: He [Jesus regarding Matthew 7:11 above] urges us to keep our minds filled with the notion of God's control behind everything, which means that the disciple [any believer] must maintain an attitude of perfect trust and an eagerness to ask and to seek. When I read that my heart skipped a beat. Not only that but another devotion I read that morning said pretty much the same thing.

I think about the process of my determining to seek God and His Word over this thing and His very swift answer/confirmation. Some might think this coincidence. I consider it a promise...If you have read the scriptures above you will recall Matthew 6:8 which says that He knows before we even ask. He just waited for me to ask. But the clincher is, we must never stop asking.

Chambers added these phrases: Father knows all about it! God is my Father, He loves me, why should I worry? in perfect confidence in Him.

His timing...always perfect, never too early or too late. He sets the stage behind the scenes and we cannot understand why we might have to wait. But He will respond. We will see His hand at work some day. Acts 1:7 - And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority."

God is glorified through the works He does. AND, we will glorify Him when our prayers are answered. If this world would recognize the power we have through Him. If we would, as scripture says, humble ourselves, pray and seek God, turn from our wickedness He would bring such change in this world, He would heal the land. Imagine if every Christian would truly ask this each day what could happen.

We are living in trying times. If we would be faithful to seek Him now even for the little things and He answers, imagine how when things in our lives get really difficult and we seek Him for solutions, strength or protection, we will already have been strengthened knowing He has answered in the past and will be our "whatever" for the more trying situations. 

Our God is not a God who only punishes, but He promises good things. It's all in how we look at Him. It's all in how much we believe and have faith in Him. Expect nothing from Him if He is not sought. Expect the world if He is. He longs to do great things for us. But we need to ask.

Psalm 81:10 - I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; 0pen your mouth wide, and I will fill it. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Protection

Zephaniah 3:13 - The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

This is one of my favorite scriptures. Yes, our God is mighty to save. Yes, He rejoices over those who seek Him and ask for His protection. It starts when we receive Him and He saves us from our sins, when we turn from the world and turn to Jesus. Psalm 21:4 - He asked life from You, and You gave it to him--Length of days forever and ever. This is eternal life in Christ. Then the lifetime of His protection is available to us.

Look at the analogies regarding His protection:

Our strong tower (Psalm 61:3)...we can run to Him and enter
The cleft of the rock (Exodus 33:22)...He is our Rock
Under His wings (Psalm 91:4)...we can gather there spiritually like a chick to its mother
Call out the name of Jesus (James 4:7)...and the devil must flee 
The sword of the spirit is God's Word (Ephesians 6:17)...brings life to those who wield it and death to those who reject it. We thank Him for His life-giving Word...both the book and Jesus, the Word.

We have all these and the complete and perfect protection if we just have the faith to believe He is and can do these things.

He saves with His right hand: Psalm 20:6 - Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. 
He hears us when we call: Psalm 20:9 - Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call.

We will joy in Your strength through the salvation You bring (Psalm 21:1), just as You, the One who is mighty to save, rejoices over us when we seek You.

Psalm 21:13 - Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Master's Plan

Philippians 4:13 -  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

As I sat last Saturday morning considering the class I was about to take on the Steps to Freedom I was reminded of this scripture above. I also was reminded of a Beth Moore Bible study on Believing God. Believing Him for everything, as I have alluded to time and again. These are promises the Lord has for us, as Beth reiterated each week:

1. I believe God is Who He says He is.
2. I believe that God can do what He says He can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. I can do all things through Christ.
5. His Word is alive and active in me.

There's more to this, however. Our Master as a plan. Just as He is our Master Gardener and exposes the weeds and roots in our minds and His Holy Spirit works to prune and cultivate to remove those things, I was reminded that He is our Potter; He molds and shapes us into who we can become so we can say I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And I also pictured something else. 

We've been inundated with repairs at home due to lightning and water damage. Thoughts of redoing the flooring in our basement have been in the back of our minds for some time. We've dragged our feet, which is okay. But these two incidents have caused us to move forward on this project.

We need to replace carpeting. And we are having an entertainment center built to suit our needs. It will help remove some of the cluttered look of our basement. I looked at this cabinet the other day in the shop. I could see, despite the rawness of the wood, the beauty of it. I could see the smoothed lines and little embellishments that will make this piece of furniture unique. I could smell the fresh, clean scent of sanded wood.

So the other image I had: He was trained as a carpenter in life before His days of ministry began! Like the man who is creating this piece of furniture for us, our Lord through the power of His Holy Spirit, creates us into the exact piece He desires. He takes the rawness of our lives without Him and when we choose to receive Him into our lives He begins to shape us like wood (or a potter's vase...or a gardener's pruned and weeded garden) into the person He knows we can become...a much better creation; the creation He intended us in the first place. This is what He wants to do, but we must be willing to let Him do it

Before we are in Christ we are shaped by the world. But here's the thing, as our Master Carpenter, He bids us come to Him and when we make the choice to do so, He begins to take that raw wood and shape it. He smoothes it down. He sands it. His hands do the work! He puts the pieces together in the right order, gives us a sturdy base, removes the blemishes of our past and then seals us as a final protection. He seals us! In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise...Ephesians 1:13.

It may take a lifetime to do this but in the end we are the Master's perfect work of art. Just as we are who He says we are it's because He is who He says He is. He does the work to set the captives free of all the guilt and sin of our past. He smoothes us, prunes us, molds and shapes, and revitalizes us (like a damaged basement). He fixes up the foundation of our lives.

Until we let Him do this work we are held captive by our enemy who would want us to believe his lies which are the opposite of what God says we are and can be when we are in Christ. 

Do you want to know that our perfect God has a perfect plan and wants to perfect you into all that you can be? Listen for the still small voice calling you into relationship with His Son, Jesus. Accept the call and be transformed, made new by the Master Carpenter...or the Master Potter, or the Master Gardener. Whatever way you choose to look at Him, He is wanting to make you into what you were truly intended to be. 

2Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Praise Him!

Psalm 148 about says it all. Short and concise. We are to praise the Lord in all things. Why? Because! Because He was, is and will be...for eternity. Luke  19:40 shows us what Jesus told the Pharisees when they demanded his followers stop blessing and praising Him for all the miracles and things they had seen: But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Without Him we do not exist. Without Him we wouldn't see what we see, smell what we smell or hear what we hear (as I hear the birds gleely singing all around, as I view the green grass and trees and colorful flowers both I and the birds have planted!)

All you see around you He spoke into existence and has nurtured and tended ever since. Oh, sure we put our hands and backs into work but He is the Master Gardener and full time, everlasting Creator. We are to be stewards of what He has given us. We are to acknowledge Him for all He has given us...and praise Him for all things...and that includes in the difficult times where we don't see what His hand is doing and what He might be accomplishing behind the scenes in our lives and the lives of those around us. 

Look at stars and clouds. What keeps them in place? Scientists would tell you one thing, but I would tell you another! And all that you see will go on until He chooses to remove them. There is a great song called the Doxology about God's creation and praise that is due Him. I'm partial to Fernando Ortega's version.

Because all things just are, they praise Him. They, in their infinite beauty and even in their times of menacing, praise Him. He is to be exalted because of His greatness, wisdom and creativity. Praise the God of all creation! Please read this Psalm and soak in the message. 

Psalm 148

Praise to the LORD from Creation 
1 Praise the LORD! 

        Praise the LORD from the heavens; 
        Praise Him in the heights! 
        2Praise Him, all His angels; 
        Praise Him, all His hosts! 
        3Praise Him, sun and moon; 
        Praise Him, all you stars of light! 
        4Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, 
        And you waters above the heavens! 

        5Let them praise the name of the LORD, 
        For He commanded and they were created. 
        6He also established them forever and ever; 
        He made a decree which shall not pass away. 

        7Praise the LORD from the earth, 
        You great sea creatures and all the depths; 
        8Fire and hail, snow and clouds; 
        Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; 
        9Mountains and all hills; 
        Fruitful trees and all cedars; 
        10Beasts and all cattle; 
        Creeping things and flying fowl; 
        11Kings of the earth and all peoples; 
        Princes and all judges of the earth; 
        12Both young men and maidens; 
        Old men and children. 

        13Let them praise the name of the LORD, 
        For His name alone is exalted; 
        His glory is above the earth and heaven. 
        14And He has exalted the horn of His people, 
        The praise of all His saints-- 
        Of the children of Israel, 
        A people near to Him. 

        Praise the LORD!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Choice is Yours

Joshua 24:15 - ...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...

Serving. We all serve in some manner or another on a day to day basis. At least we should be. It isn't all about us. It's not about that's not in my job description. It's about lending a hand when you recognize someone else is in need of matter who it is. 

The serving mentioned above is of a deeper nature. It's referring to serving God. The first part of the scripture says this: And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD... I'm sure there are those who can't imagine this level of service. I'm not certain that even I fit all the requirements. This scripture is stating unequivocally we must set our devotion and allegiance to the one true God.

This is a difficult concept sometimes. Is anything we tend to consume ourselves with over God? Can we not find time for Him? Is He not that important? Is He someone we will look to if some awful thing comes upon us, but not build up our strength before that happens?

We must exercise our faith. That means looking to the Lord before we encounter difficulties. It takes time to realize our faith. We practice other things in life that we might be better at them. This is what God would have us do with Him that our faith would be strong. We must give up some of the things we enjoy to serve Him. How else will He strengthen us? How else will He give us understanding? He asks us to seek Him each day. He asks us to serve Him in everything we do.

Oswald Chambers made this comment in today's My Utmost for His Highest, When God gives us a vision of truth it is never a question of what He will do, but of what we will do.

Chambers reminds us that when we are faced with some struggle or some important decision and we are taken aback by it to look back at a time when He had already worked out a problem...remember what you did when you were touched by God before--the time when you were saved, or first saw Jesus, or realized some truth.

Recall those moments when facing the next big thing. Know that He is greater than any problem we have. Know that He knows our wants and desires...and He knows which ones are worthy of wanting and which need to go on the back burner or thrown out! Oh, His answers may not always be what we would like, but that's because He has some other greater plan...and all we can do is trust Him.

We have the freedom to make up our own make right or wrong choices. It's which choice is the right choice? I know people who hang on for a long time waiting for the right job, the one they know God would like them to take. Others wait until the right person comes along to marry. Others have to make the choice to trust God with their children and their children's goals for life...especially if their serving the Lord might take them into battle or the mission field.

We also have the freedom to be victims or victors. I've known people who could not (would not?) shake their life's circumstances because they were comfortable in receiving "whatever" from others. They lived as a victim instead of walking away from that mindset and into the victorious mind of Christ.

Oh, don't get me wrong. We all slip sometimes but the Holy Spirit will guide us back when He sees us struggling. This is God's love in action. He will never leave us nor forsake us. His Spirit stands along side us, as close to us as our shadow...if we know Jesus.

Time and again I have had to remind myself of the promises God has given me specifically. He has shown me by His Spirit what I am to hold close to my heart. I'm thankful for these specific promises. They ARE what I hold dear to my heart. They ARE my hope. His words to us are truth and they are, as 2Corinthians 1:20 shows us: For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

Do we serve the world and it's ideas of what is right or wrong? I see a lot of that happening. Look at the news. There is a world out there serving only themselves. There are people who are determined to annihilate those they deem unnecessary...and we as a country are among those people. These people may seem, some day, that they are winning the battle, but let me tell you, I know Who wins the final battle. And I'm thankful I follow the Victorious One.

Serving isn't as dreadful as it sounds. We all like to think we're self-made persons. I can remember a time when I bicycled...a lot. Sometimes I would bike for weeks at a time. And I would pride in myself that I traveled from Point A to Point B under my own power. That was before I knew Jesus. Today I would be thanking Him for giving me the strength to do this, for allowing me to see the world from a bicycle, for not letting the scenery zoom by without really seeing it, but living in the midst of it for hours at a time.

So...serving...following. We all should follow someone's lead. But that someone should be Someone. This Master is not like worldly masters. This is the master Master. He knows what we need before we ask. His ways are greater than ours. His plans for us are good. Everyone wants to be successful. Success comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ and serving Him.

We are told in Revelation 7:15: Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. Those who choose to serve God today will get through all the things life has laid before us, even in death. The reward above, to serve God day and night, may be contrary to what some think heaven will be like...and some might think if all I'm going to do in heaven is serve God...(various answers could be given here)We have no idea what serving God will be like. Psalm 84:10 says this: For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. A relationship with Jesus helps to understand this!

Taking the step to be in relationship daily with Jesus Christ gives us the truth. Our understanding comes when we begin to live in relationship with Him. Who can understand these things? Begin to serve Him and we will be given this assurance: Hebrews 9:14 - How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? He is our living God. He is the one Person worth serving, with the promises of greater things eternally. Who will you serve today?

Psalm 100:2-3 - Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Word Becomes Life

Romans 15:4 - For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

I got to thinking about how Jesus told us to come as little children. It is my understanding that despite the King James Version of the Bible with all the thees and thous and suffereths, it is supposed to be at a sixth grade reading level. Not sure how accurate this is since I've seen differing opinions. What I know is it's our minds that stumble over those old words. 

I chose the New King James Version because it takes those old words and uses today's language. Some other versions I have set aside because they leave scripture out that appears in the King James. We are told: For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book (Revelation 22:18). Although it may sound like a reference only to the Book of Revelation, I believe it is telling us that it refers to the entire Bible...God's Words are true and should not be compromised.

Then there's the scripture about little children. Matthew 18:3 - [Jesus said] Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. This means with minds desiring to learn. There are so many people who do not even pick up the Bible because they are intimidated by it. Maybe intimidated by what they think will be hard to comprehend. But if the KJV is geared at sixth grade level…who can't understand it?

There is, however, this thing about the power of the Holy Spirit opening up the understanding of our minds to the things in God's Word. I don't think for a minute most people couldn't read the Bible and understand it. It will make some sense to them. But it's through the power of the Holy Spirit that a depth to these words becomes available. The words come alive. The Word becomes life. 

I have for a long time believed, although I can't confirm this, that between the lines of scripture there's a meaning that even the most wise Christian will never see, unless God's revelation knowledge is given to him...and that might never happen. Maybe, though, Romans 11:33a is a hint: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 

I'm grateful for what little knowledge and tidbits of wisdom I receive. It makes life so much more interesting. Please don't think I say this out of arrogance. Wisdom is out there for anyone to receive. It must be received not through man's own determination or perceived wisdom but through the power of God.

This is a bit of a rabbit trail: I remember reading some comments awhile back on the internet regarding Obama's hope and change stance. A person used the Beatitudes from the Bible to point a finger to say, "See, it's God's will that the poor will be taken care of and the rich are bad." 

Jesus was neither condemning the rich nor speaking of monetarily poor people. He was referring to those who are poor in spirit. We all come from this spiritually desolate lifestyle until we come to know Jesus. Before knowing Christ, we are fed from the world, not the Word; we are clothed in filthy rags, not robes of righteousness. No money will buy us out of this condition. But it is offered to us freely. We are all poor until Jesus Christ comes into our lives. 

We become rich when we receive Christ and the wonders of the Word. This Book shows us how we can live in joy and peace through any circumstance life might bring. We are never promised a life of pure comfort in Christ (He certainly didn't have an easy life), but that peace that passes all understanding lies deep within our spirit that we might endure. And when we come as little children and we let our "adult" thoughts go by the wayside for a time, we are able to receive.

When we were little children we listened and learned. We ate up the knowledge given to us. Our personalities were formed. But when we got to a certain age of reason, we thought we could begin to trust in ourselves and started thinking on our own. 

We have every opportunity to know Christ. We only need to have ears to hear and eyes to see. We have the Word, even churches that preach a solid word. There are those who have repeatedly directed others to the Word, to Christ, but like I said yesterday, He's being rejected. Some have chosen not to hear, learn or listen. 

We think we can live without an Authority figure. The truth is, we cannot. We must turn back into that child we once were and listen to that Authority...receive a very important word and gift from a very important Man. He will give us all we need. He will open the eyes of our understanding in ways we could never imagine. His Spirit will direct our paths and enlighten us to the things of God. 

The Bible is our tool. It is the Word of God. It shows us how to live. What amazes me is that God has used a myriad of people throughout His Book to help us relate to ourselves. From murderers, thieves, liars, the sexually immoral, adulterers to innocent little children. There isn't anyone in this world (nothing new under the sun) that can't be found as an example of how we all need a Savior. Then our life truly begins.

2Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Through This Man

Acts 13:26-28, 29-30, 33 - Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. ...But God raised Him from the dead. ... And we declare to you glad tidings--that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. 

I've mentioned in the past that history repeats itself and the Book of Job tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. This concept has got to be part of God's plan that we might learn from others' past mistakes. But we are, as the people of Israel were, a stubborn lot. We are convinced we are capable of ruling ourselves without Divine guidance. We've celebrated our Independence Day. Have we learned enough about Divine guidance in the founding of this land? 

As I read Acts 13:26-32 a catch in my spirit caused me to think how this relates so much to us today. The Apostle Paul is speaking to believers in Philippi. He is referring to the Jews of Jerusalem at the time of Christ. He is relating the prophetic words spoken years prior about the Christ, the Messiah, who was to come...and whom these people had seen and either received Him or rejected Him.

Acts 13:26 refers to those who follow Christ today, who fear Him. We have received the Gospel message and have taken it to heart. Israel was the original "Abraham's seed." Israel's Jews are God's chosen people. Because of their constant disobedience and wandering away from the One who delivered them time and time again, God began to include us, Gentiles...mainly as a way to make Israel jealous:  Romans 11:11 - I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. This was part of God's plan since before the beginning of time...something we cannot fully grasp with our limited minds! We who have chosen Christ are part of Abraham's seed by adoption into the family of God...having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5). As Jesus is the Light to us, we (corporately) are to be the light to the Jews and all people.

Here's where my mind has taken me for Acts 13:27 (don't worry, I won't go through each scripture!): the scripture is referring to the Israel of the past. Some of the Jews did not receive Jesus at the time He was living. Certainly not the religious leaders because He was a threat to their way of practicing their religious rites. Their "not knowing Him" in the scripture was their rejection. They knew very well the words of the prophets but did not believe. Jesus told them in their own temple one day who He was: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. Isaiah 61:1-2. After Jesus had read these words He made a bold statement: Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Luke 4:21.  Oh, how these words were rejected.

So, as Acts 13 continues in verse 28 we see what they chose to do...put Him to death. Why? Because they did not want this single man, so different in His thinking, to cause them to submit to His ways. And what do we see today? People not believing Jesus is the only Way, Truth and Life. It's that same stubbornness...the same mentality...take God out of all equations in this world. Take Him out of schools, remove prayer from the public because it is offensive to believe one Man can be so powerful and mighty...and God. How dare any one person be so great?

But here's the good news: although Jesus, Son of God, was crucified, died and was buried, He arose again. And today, despite what anyone wants to think, He is alive and seated on His throne. He will return some day. Jesus will lead the battle against the enemy in a great war. He will win and will begin a millennial reign on this earth where He will reign from Jerusalem. It will be a new earth where no evil will exist. We will work to recreate the devastated land. There will be no tears, no sorrow, no pain. And everyone will know Jesus is King. Oh, how I wish I could explain how everything we see happening today in the world is pointing to that day! 

If we know Jesus as Lord and Savior...with every fiber of our being...we will participate in this new life. We can be the children referred to in verse 33. Knowing Christ, not just knowing of Him, secures the same promises found all throughout the Word. It's all contingent upon our bowing our knees before Jesus today. The world offers a lot of wonderful stuff, but the "stuff" of Jesus is better in the end.

Let's not go the direction of the world and reject this Man who offers so great a salvation. Let's fight with endurance the battle that rages against Him. It's believed that we are in the last days because we see the rejection of God so rampant and the sins of the world growing greater. We could be seeing the results of our disobedience and rejection (like Israel so long ago)...our not taking seriously the Word of God...both in book form and in the form of a single, great and awesome Man. Remember, He arose from the grave. He will return! It's not just some fable. It's not something we've not seen happen yet so why should we believe it ever will. 

Only He is able to forgive sins...not our works, not who we think we are, not our money, not our wisdom. We are not greater than He. We will bend our knees to Him someday, either gladly because we have accepted Him today or with shame should we continue to reject Him. Philippians 2:10-11 - that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  And this is where the question arises, what must I do to be saved?  ...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9. It's believing with your whole heart. It's allowing the Lord into every part of your life. It's letting the Holy Spirit direct your paths. Most importantly, it's acknowledging His sovereignty.

Acts 13:38-39 - Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things ...

Monday, July 4, 2011


John 8:32, 36 - And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. 

Happy Fourth of July! It is a day for many to celebrate the freedom we have in this country. Let's never forget why we celebrate this holiday. Let's never let the idea of our freedom grow cold. We must hang on to it.

There is another freedom, too. Once this freedom is attained it enhances the idea of our country's freedom. But we cannot grow complacent about this freedom either.

Freedom in Christ. Freedom from the sins that we were born into. Freedom to have access at any time to God. This freedom in Christ only comes through faith in Him.

There is a whole chapter in the Book of Hebrews dedicated to faith. It comes when we receive Christ and then believe that He is who He says He is and that He can do all things ...and that He is bigger than any our problems. This is freedom at it's best. In faith we do not need to see the outcome now; we don't need to concern ourselves about situations in life that seem too great for us to handle. We are free to allow God to deal with our problems, even our messes.

When we yield to the One in authority, we have freedom. When we trust God has all the answers and we let go of our struggles to work something out, we have freedom. We have faith in the things we cannot see being fulfilled. God's ways are not like ours. His timing is perfect, as are His ways. And speaking of ways, it is His Way that He sent to bring this freedom to us. He is the Truth we are to seek out. His Truth goes beyond comprehension.

Freedom: Christ died to make men holy...let us live to make men free. Christ died so that we might have a freedom that is indescribable. Those who have chosen Christ must also live that others might see Him and live...and be given the opportunity to share in the freedom.

It's sad to think this Freedom Road is narrow. It's sad to think many believe they are free without first coming to Christ. It's sad to think they don't know the joys of this different kind of freedom.

There are just so many ways to describe the freedom we have in Christ. Unless the Holy Spirit of God opens the deaf ears and blind eyes, one will not fully grasp the enormity and delight of it all...the freedom to know no matter what lies ahead in this life we are secure in Him. Doesn't it just sound freeing to know our future is secure, even in death?

This freedom is for all who receive it. It does not stop at any one denomination or any one color a person might be, and especially not how good a person is. As far as God is concerned we all wear the same rags until we choose Christ and receive spiritual robes of righteousness. It's not about us or what we have been taught by men, but what He tells us in His Word.

We are also free to choose. Choose this day life or death. Choose the freedom a life in Christ alone brings. 

Our country was founded on this same type of freedom and on the principles God laid out for us. A man or woman without Christ will be in bondage. But here's the good news: Jesus came to exchange those chains and yokes of slavery for His peace and freedom in Him.

In church yesterday, our Associate Pastor, Andy Horn, told us how as a people who chose to come to this country to have freedom from England's control, some could not live without that yoke of bondage. They couldn't get used to the idea of freedom. And like during the Civil War, some slaves chose to go back to being slaves because they didn't know how to live in freedom. Even when Israel was released from the captivity of Egypt they murmured about what they perceived were things they had to give up instead of looking forward and up and trusting God's guidance. As my friend sitting next to me whispered: Sounds like people today.

Happy Freedom in Christ!

Heavenly Father, we see the days ahead. We see the very possibility of instability of them. A day will come when the only hope at all will be in You. The only change we will realize is if we dedicate our lives to You and receive the freedom and peace in knowing You as Lord and Savior. What will it take for that to happen? What will open the blind eyes and deaf ears? I pray for a manifestation of Your Spirit in this land. I pray for hearts to desire the freedom You provide because it is the greatest freedom we can have. Reveal Your Son to this world.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (2Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1)