Monday, February 27, 2012

Creation and the Heart of God

Genesis 1:26 - Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...”

I'm reading the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. It's for our Tuesday Bible study. I'm not absolutely sure about this study yet, it may take a bit more time, but I read something that gave me another oh my gosh moment. 

John Eldredge, not Stasi, described the creation of woman. All the creatures were created, each more magnificent than the last. But God wasn't finished. He created Man...Adam, which means man and from the earth. But there's more.

God wasn't done. He had one other creation...woman. Listen, men, according to John, we are the piece de resistance! Woman was His final creation...and remember each one got more intricate. He wrote: She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. The finishing touch. She fills a place in the world nothing or no one else can fill.

All right men, you can stop laughing! And ladies, take note! I've heard for years that women we're always important. Jesus did not look down on women. He understood their importance in this world. There are many stories where women were used in mighty and important ways. It was even a woman, Mary Magdalene, once a sinner, who first saw Jesus after He had risen from the dead! I’d say that was important.

Woman means from man; Eve means life bearer and Eve was the mother of all who live. Like man, we too are created in God's image. He has many characteristics. He has His strong, masculine, warrior side and He has His gentle, female, loving side. All our natures rolled into one God. 

Men do differ from women...and both men and women agree on this, as was the case a couple weekends ago when we spent a few days with two other couples in Arizona and all agreed men and women have their own likes and dislikes. It doesn't make either sex wrong. We complete each other, as frightening as that may sound! We are supposed to complement each other but for some reason we sometimes look at the other with a gigantic question mark in our mind at the differences.

God Himself said it was not quite right for man to be alone. So He created Eve. Eldredge says that, to paraphrase, while boys are killing each other in mock battles, girls are negotiating relationships. While men are about the big things, women are into details. Women see themselves as a mother, sister, daughter or friend, or alone, abandoned by all these people. 

Eldredge explained that relational women take on the relational side of God...Eldredge said this regarding aloneness: This is not a weakness in women--it is a glory. That's where the OMG moment struck. A glory...that reflects the tender part of the heart of God. 

Women's desires and ability to have intimate relationships shows us God's desire and ability  for intimate relationships. He desires us... because He is a relational God, like women are. He can live without us, but He’d rather not. So whether male or female, we should desire this relationship with God, just as we live in relationship with a spouse, despite the  differences. Might I suggest that before we are in relationship with God we cannot conceive of the idea of this relationship! How can that be? It may even seem odd for a man to be in relationship with God...perhaps because tapping into the softer side of any man is difficult for some men to do!

Ladies can understand better the importance of relationships. They are a good thing to desire, Eldredge states. Men, take notice of that! I tend to be less desirous of a lot of relationships. It probably comes from my upbringing; more out of a reaction against being rejected than just not wanting friends. And men, God wants a relationship with you guys, too, like He had with Adam. So He can talk to you and share His thoughts with you, teach you things you would never have imagined. It's not just for women, who tend to be more open to receive.

As an aside, you might find this video by Mark Gungor on relationships rather humorous! 

OMG, created in His image, all of us having a small part of His vast character and nature. We should all be grateful for that. No matter what we think of ourselves, He created us in His image, both male and female. So to argue about our differences is really pointless! God Himself has all these (good) characteristics. In His strength we can be even more like He wants us to be. More of His image. 

Genesis 1:27 - So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Away With Death and the Grave

Hosea 13:14 - "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction. Pity is hidden from My eyes."

This blog was actually created awhile back. I never tweaked it to publish! It's now been tweaked.

I was dwelling on the story of Abraham and Sarah in my mind. I was going over the so interesting story of how through Abraham's son he would become the father of many nations, as would Sarah become the mother of many nations.

Even through Abraham and Sarah's disobedience, two nations were born...two great nations, with so many descendants. God provided, God promised and it came to be. Sarah's maid servant Hagar bore Ishmael with Abraham and Sarah and Abraham bore Isaac. A tale of two sons, two nations.

I got to thinking about Hagar. She was Egyptian. So Ishmael was part Egyptian. Then I thought about how Ishmael was disgruntled to say the least, jealous for sure, that he would not receive the inheritance as the first born. That privilege went to Isaac as Abraham and Sarah's son, the rightful God's eyes. He told Abraham and Sarah the inheritance would be through their son...not Sarah's maidservant's.

My thoughts bounced to the plagues in Egypt and how there will be plagues that will take place in the last days, imitating those of the Old Testament. 

Just like Hagar was maidservant to a Jewish household, so the Jewish people, Israel, we're enslaved in Egypt. The plagues took place to open the eyes of Egypt to an all powerful God.  But He kept hardening Pharaoh's heart until Pharaoh finally couldn't stand all the harassment and told Moses to let his people and go...get out of here and worship your God. Leave us be.

There are three things all tied together. Maybe I'm off my rocker but this is what is see:

Ishmael was in the line of descendants of the Middle Eastern people. He was the descendant of Mohammed, today's Muslims. The animosity he had toward Isaac has been passed down through the subsequent generations. There has been a recent rise in the tensions between Islam and Christianity.

At church one night we were discussing Chapter 16 in Revelation talking about the plagues that will come upon us in the last days before Christ returns. It is believed that the anti-Christ will be born out of the Middle East. There will still be animosity against Christians which will only get worse.

As an aside, being in Christ before these days will be helpful. It will help people to understand better what is in store because of the wisdom and power the Holy Spirit has in the lives of Christ followers. We will understand that our lives are secure in Christ for those last days, no matter what happens.

The plagues...Egypt. If Ishmael, a descendant of Mohammed, had jealousy and hatred for Isaac--the rightful heir AND descendant of Christ--what we are going to see in the last days is a repeat of what happened back in Exodus.

We were shown that night in Revelation that when these plagues, which will be different and by far more horrendous (if there's a word worse than horrendous, use it) occur, they will be done to again reveal God's awesome power and might. His judgment will be upon those left on earth at this time. But, like Pharaoh, these people's hearts will be hardened also against God/Jesus, despite all these plagues. They will only curse Him; His name will be blasphemed, and they will be left to their own desires...and eternal death. They still will not believe.

This time there will be no letting up. No one whose heart is hardened will survive. All believers, however, will have been exonerated and taken away.

What I see and consider is the attitudes of many, not all, Muslims for Christians and Jews. It is going to become a "my way or the highway" lifestyle, often ending in death to those who will not bow down to worship their god, Allah. Ishmael would not have anything to do with his honest heir brother then; it has not changed and will not change. The world's hatred is growing. There is more and more unrest. People want to kill people just because they don't like them...and that goes for all people in the world. What IS the matter with us? There will never be peace in this world as we would like to see it...until Jesus returns.

The question I ask is will you be ready? Can you stand against the forces of evil on your own or do you want supernatural strength? It's the whole reason Jesus take us out of harm's way, to ensure in us an everlasting life. Can you truly say you are in that place? It is an individual decision to make. Jesus provides a way. And then we will see that He will destroy the very last enemy...that of death (1Corinthians 15:26). Revelation 20 tells us this also: And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

We can avoid this death. It's what it means to be saved. We shouldn't look at that word and cringe, but embrace the meaning of it. It means you are born again...from the physical birth to spiritual one. The physical will pass away but the spiritual will live on. It's a choice we make.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. ...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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." John 3:16, Romans 10:9-11

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


1John 4:19 - We love Him because He first loved us.

Hey, it's Valentine's Day. I look at it as another day for the florists and Hallmark to make some extra money. Besides, Jesus should be our first love because He first loved us.

Let's take a look a the biblical meaning of the word heart. I did this for a Bible study I won't be attending! So I thought I would share here. It references the inner man, our will and understanding. It is the seat of our emotions, passions and courage and is the center of all physical and spiritual life.

We are called to love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, soul, strength (Luke 10:27). When we do, an abundance is given to us because we have made a right choice in choosing the One who is all we need.

But as we see in the Bible there are all sorts of hearts:

Callous -
Acts 28:27 - For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.
God wants our hearts turned toward Him so we would hear Him, understand about Him and He would heal our hearts.

Hardened -
Ephesians 4:18 - They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Sometimes we harden our hearts because the truth of His Word can be difficult to hear. We are hard hearted until the Lord pierces it and changes it. His difficult words are for our good. 

Unrepentant -
Romans 2:5 - But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.
If we do not call sin a sin in our lives and turn from it, seek God's grace and mercy, we are unrepentant.

But then there are the kind of hearts we like to think we have:

Pure -
Proverbs 20:9 - Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
Not one of us can say we have made our own hearts pure; only Jesus is able to do this.

Grateful -
Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
We can have a grateful heart if we submit to Christ.

Singleness of -
Ezekiel 11:19-20 - And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey My decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be My people, and I will be their God.
When we turn to Christ and He gives us a new heart devoted to Him, focused solely on Him, we can be called His children and He our God.

Good -
Luke 8:15 - (but those) having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
We are said to have a good heart if we heed the words of God.

Free (deliver, release) -
Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. (John 8:31-32, Psalm 34:4)
Again, it's about seeking Jesus to know the truth...which in turn is freeing and has the ability to remove our fears.

Heart's desires can be for good or evil -
Psalm 37:4 - Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. 
Where our treasures are, so are our hearts (Matthew 6:21). It's all about Him! He gives all we need. But we need to seek Him to find the hidden treasures!

Jesus calls us to a change of heart, turning of our hearts to and oneness of heart for Him. That's what will give us the pure, grateful and good heart, the heart that is free...of the calloused, hardened and unrepentant heart.

Hearts symbolize love, as we know. The seat of our emotions. Jesus longs for us to love Him above all others, place Him first in our lives because when He is first, all else falls into place, not that we will be free from all troubles but we will be given His power and wisdom to overcome them.

It pretty much boils down to submitting to Christ so He removes our hardened, calloused hearts that He might purify them and be gratefully free in Christ.

My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Psalm 73:26, Proverbs 4:23)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Spirit of the Lord

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord. (Lamentations 3:25, Psalm 27:14)

The Spirit of the Lord was with us Sunday! It's as if God is beginning to turn our mourning into dancing. It's been a long time since there was truly a joyful noise made unto the Lord there. 

Our church has had its share of troubles over the years and it seems like we've just been getting through the tough stuff (the series Pastor Rory Grooters has been preaching on since the beginning of the year). Sometimes you get used to feeling dry and lifeless. But you get through. That's what God wants us to do. He wants you to tough it out and just wait...on Him. He promises good things to those who love Him enough to wait for Him (1Corinthians 2:9).

His plans are not like ours. His thoughts are not like ours either. He sets the plans in motion behind the scenes. He doesn't always give clear vision as to what He's doing. He wants us to trust that what He does will be good, even if in our eyes we think things are not.

As followers of Christ we are not immune to difficulties in life or in church. Times and seasons change and sometimes not quite to our liking, but we muddle through in the lasting power of Jesus.

It seems like we knew something was missing and Sunday's weren't like they used to be...because our hearts were weary and oppressed in a way over the changes, disturbances, whatever, in our Sunday routine. But it has also brought us to that place where we should be anyway, in prayer...seeking God and His mercy over us, asking forgiveness for our faults and even our own desires as a church, praying His will be done here on earth, in our church, in our lives, as is in heaven. What, O Lord, is Your desire?

It's during those difficult times, in the valleys, that changes are actually being made. Hearts are being changed, minds renewed or even being shown how this change is oh so necessary. I looked back this very morning and saw how things have changed in our church. Subtle changes, almost imperceptible on a day to day basis, but when you look back...amazing.

We have gone from a larger congregation to bare bones. We have fallen on hard times. But God...has had a plan all along. Although we only see bits and pieces right now, we know there is, as I like to think often "there's something brewing in God's atmosphere."

Our church has gotten down to nearly a remnant. Those whose hope all along has been in the Lord, knowing He has a plan, not willing to back down or flee because of the difficulties, but rather waiting to see what God has planned. It's an important plan for those who have been willing to stick it out, for those desiring more and willing to wait. I heard someone say a couple weeks ago on TV that it's not about the numbers in a church. Do you want the presence of 10,000 people...or do you want the One Presence? Oh, how I know this. 

Years ago when we first went through an upheaval I poured out my heart to God and all I heard was, I want you to stay, dig in your heels, get involved...and wait and see what I am going to do. The word "I" had a very confident soundness to it. I've hung on to those words and that promise. I've been waiting, sometimes not so patiently. It's not always been easy. I've been tempted to check out other churches, but could never do it. Those words would come to mind.

There is something well worth waiting for, of that I am convinced. A heart that doesn't give up even when things feel dry or dead is a heart after God's. God is always at work, if not only to see who is willing to wait on Him.

Our pastor said on Wednesday night as we discussed more in the Book of Revelation that there should be shouts of joy to the Lord. He's convinced that heaven will be a delightfully noisy place with all the worship we will be doing day and night to God. Revelation 19:1,3,4,9 - After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! Again they said, Allelujah! ... And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, Amen! Alleluia! And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Pastor Rory believes, and I think he's right, we should be practicing here on earth!

Look how easy it is for us to become enthused over our favorite sports teams. Turn that kind of enthusiasm and joy over to God! He desires it. Why should we feel uncomfortable? He's not some tyrannical God expecting us to grovel in fear at His feet. When we've made amends with Him we should have a reverent fear but also an exuberant joy, a shout of joy, from what He has taken us from and to what He has delivered us.

Think about it, if there are saints, angels and "creatures" in heaven right now worshiping Him, why shouldn't we be demonstrative here on earth? A precursor to what heaven will be like! Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, said David:
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and  bless His name. (Psalm 100:1, 2, 4) 

Who said church had to be solemn? Why not show joy? Why not clap and shout...even dance to the Lord? If it was good enough for David, why not for us? Let's get over the feeling that well look like idiots! If we are doing this in spirit and in truth it's the right thing to do. Let me add that our pastor also mentioned either Wednesday or Sunday that raising a shout or a joyful noise unto the Lord shouldn't be done to rev up the church. It's our own personal show of devotion to the King of kings and Lord of lords. It must come from a pure heart of worship, not show.

I'm quite quiet by nature. But He may have other plans. The key is obedience. The key is worship. I don't know where we're headed as a church, but there are plans in motion. Maybe there has been a spark that will one day become a flame to become a fire. If it's of the Lord, I'm all for it. It's been too long, this desert.

Isaiah 40:31 - They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dead or Alive?

Matthew 8:19, 21-22 - Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go. Then another of His disciples said to Him, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead. 

This might seem an odd statement, let the dead bury their own dead. What Jesus is implying here is when we choose to follow Christ, we are to separate ourselves from those who choose not to follow. If we have given our lives to Christ we have died to ourselves and through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ we have been made spiritually alive. 

The reference above was for those who were now alive in Christ. We are to leave behind our old lives and old schools of thought. It might mean giving up friends, family if we have to if they reject the change in us...but not abandon them if they just don't agree or if they choose  not to follow. All of those things, the things of the world, people of the world, are considered dead. A sad thought.

All are dead until Christ is acknowledged, received and followed. We are to let those who choose not to follow to their own lifestyles. It's sad though when we know that only He brings life...abundant life. Life the world cannot offer, both today and in our future. All the past is gone forever.

The time to follow, in other words, is now. Leave all other things. You alter your lifestyle even when others do not. You have new and different things on your mind; let those be in the forefront of your mind. Let your mind be on the things of God. Perhaps others will see and believe. 

Luke 9:60 - Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Protection, Provision, Prosperity

Matthew 6:31-33 - Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?” or "What shall we drink?” or "What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

To continue with Monday's blog on knowing we are protected, provided for and prospered (not necessarily with riches), came an article by David Wilkerson (May 19, 1931- April 27, 2011) that a friend had to show me since we had discussed this.

I truly know that He wants us to remember what He does for His people, Who He is for us, how He will provide...because His Word proclaims these things. Remember is the key word! Like Israel on a sort of different level, we forget, as I mentioned yesterday.

Wilkerson's message was called God is Going to See You Through Hard Times. It was written in the 1990's.

It may have answered the question about how He will do this. In a nutshell, the answer is, any way He needs to. Not quite the answer we would like to specifics. But it's His answer.

As Wilkerson pointed out, It's not always about food. It's about His words being ours by faith! He went on to say that when Israel began their journey in the wilderness (remember this is where my first answer all began!) all God had to do was speak, like He did to create the world, and the people were given manna from heaven. Manna was a form of sweet, coriander-like tasting seed that came down from the sky. It sustained them just fine. When questioned what it was, Moses told the people: This is the bread which the LORD has given you (Exodus 16:15).

Like the manna, Jesus is the Word of God come down from Heaven. He is to be our daily bread. His Word, within our hearts and souls, as we also discussed in Sunday school, is what will sustain us. That means Jesus must be in our lives, hearts and the depths of our souls. Jesus is the Bread which God has given us!

Wilkerson wrote: Do you want to know how God is going to preserve you in all your hard times? YES!! The answer, please! He will do it by speaking a new word, if necessary--by creating all you need by the power of His Word. All God had to do was speak the word "manna" and an entire generation of Israelites was preserved. So, whatever our need will be at the time, He will provide.

If He did it then, He will do it again. Jesus knew only to listen for His Father's voice and then obey. He did absolutely NOTHING on His own, under His own power. He waited on the LORD. If He didn't have to know until the just the right time, neither do we...or I! When He sees our need, He will provide. This is something some of us have not had to do in huge ways and probably why it's hard to comprehend.

God has known since the foundation of time what our needs would/will be. We are to seek Him first and all our needs are handled.

I had that moment of anxiety about how God would provide and would I have enough faith...and look at the words He has given me! Isn't that provision of sorts? They are the very manna from Heaven for this soul! As Wilkerson went on to write: It is to bestow on us an unshakable conviction that he is going to keep us from the power of the wicked one. It is His Word tucked away in our spirits and hearts that give us this consolation. That's why it is so important to have it engrained in our spirits. So that we will know...or we can be easily reminded.

It's still all about Jesus, the Word, our Manna, our Sustainer in all things. He is the Word we are to keep hidden within our heart.  Jesus, the Son of God, the Word that became flesh...His Word in our hearts and lives. Do you see? Know Him comes you can keep Him in your heart and when you know Him, His Word comes alive and can also be planted deep within your heart. The same word that will keep us then (in heaven) is the word that is sustaining us now, Wilkerson wrote.

He went on to say The overcomers ... triumphed in the worst of times because the whole Word of God came alive...  The Word became flesh. Jesus, our Word made flesh, who saves us from all unrighteousness by the power of His Word when we receive Him.

Psalm 119:49-50 - Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This  is  my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.