Monday, September 29, 2014
Monday, September 22, 2014
"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life-that life was revealed, and we have see it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us-what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete." 1 John 1:1-4
I'm having such a hard time narrowing my focus in 1 John right now! I want to type out the entire book! It is packed with very clear contrasts, encouraging truths and tough challenges. Since I began my walk with the Lord it has been a favorite book of mine. I'm only in Chapter 2 right now, but I may have to write a post on 3 and 4 too. There are several verses that pack a huge punch! I'm so grateful for John's heart for the Lord. We know that along with Peter and James, he was an "inner circle" friend of Jesus and that's clear by the passion he writes with. Jesus was his friend, teacher and Lord. I can only imagine the emotion that flowed as he wrote or spoke, whichever he may have done.:)
Right out of the gate John reminds us that he walked with Jesus. He touched Him, talked with Him, watched Him heal, preach, serve, give Himself up for the sake of humanity. He also watched Jesus after he rose. He saw the risen Christ. His dearest friend and Lord appeared and commissioned His followers to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all Jesus had taught them. No wonder John writes with such passion. He cannot communicate enough how thoroughly he knows the truth of this Jesus. The true Jesus, in whom there is no darkness at all. (1:5) He was doing what the risen Jesus commanded him to do.
1 John 1:9 was one of the first Bible verses I ever committed to memory and boy am I glad I did. I have to remind myself of it all the time. First, that when I come to Him seeking forgiveness He never refuses it. He always offers forgiveness and cleansing when we come to Him openly and honestly. My problem at times is making confession of what is actually wrong. Yes, there are outward behaviors that warrant a confession and request for forgiveness, but the outward action is nothing but a symptom of a deeper problem. Now that opens up a whole other can of worms. It's exhausting even beginning to think of all of the inward issues of the heart we have that cause unhealthy and unholy behavior. At least it is for me. Introspection is still a much needed process to brake the cycle of sin in our lives. And God has given us all that we need to do it. He's given us all we need to take an honest look at ourselves and to live a godly life, not a perfect one. (Peter 1:3)
We don't have to be afraid of what comes up. The deep wounds of our life experiences. We all have them. The father that wasn't there. The mother that left. The love that left. The closest thing or person to us that died. The people who were supposed to love and protect us who lied and hurt us in whatever way it may be. All of this plays a part in who we are and how we sin. That combined with the fact that we are all born sinners (Romans 3:23) makes for a tough go at life. Until we get to the biggest "but" in the whole Bible...:) ( I love using that when I'm talking to kids)
"For the wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23
Oh thank God we can receive that gift and have peace with God and freedom from all the junk this world throws at us! When we know in our hearts we have sinned and we come to Him with honest confession, we can be assured that our Lord and Savior forgives us.
"If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
Not only does he forgive, but He cleanses us and says, go on back out and keep serving as I've taught you. We don't have to talk about this again. Unless of course you just deal with the sin behavior and not the root issue, then you'll be back talking about the same old stuff.:) Yes, I've been there.Another challenge from John is short and simple, but hits home when he says,
"Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6 (NIV)
Wait a minute. Walk as Jesus did? Stop and think of the implications of that for a minute. Jesus was despised and rejected. Humiliated and mocked. During His ministry on earth He often did not know where He would lay His head to rest and He served everyone, but especially loved to amaze the poor and sick. The people which most of us are comfortable to stay far away from. He spoke in particular to the "religious" people of the day and told them the truths about themselves. That they were whitewashed tombs... appearing clean on the outside, but inside their hearts, evil abounded.
Yea, let's get real cozy in that challenge for a minute. Walk as Jesus did.
Wait. It's not cozy at all is it? He was humble. I think there should be an entirely different word for what He was. The simple fact that He held the power in His mouth to speak a word and blow the world to smithereens and didn't do it when He was nailed to that cross is flat out miraculous. And He tells us in His word to walk as He did? Oh. snap. Those are some pretty grand implications. An impossible challenge.
Thank God it's not in our power to do, but resting in His power and abiding in Him, (John 15) we can walk as He did and we will bear much fruit. (Eph. 3:20) Many have and many do. He goes before us and lives inside of us as believers. His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. (2 Cor. 12:9)
"But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." Matthew 19:26
John beheld the power of His glory and knew all things were possible for those who believed. Even with all of this being possible, we still choose our own way. The fact of the matter is, we still choose sin. But, for the believer, there is hope. There is always forgiveness. It never runs out. There is always hope. It never dries up. There is always power. It is never exhausted. It's eternal... as is His great love for us. Let's let His awesome and impossible forgiveness, hope, power and love pour out through our lives today! Let's walk together as Jesus did.
Friday, September 12, 2014
"Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- but let your adorning be with the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." 1 Peter 3:3-4
I was looking forward to working through 1 Peter this week and as I read I'm reminded of why. As we look at the scriptures, Peter is one of the disciples we get to read the most detailed stories about. I can so readily relate to his quick tongue and sometimes inappropriate or downright wrong responses. One thing is sure; this man was passionate. He was full of passion for His Lord and walked closely with Him during His 3 years of earthly ministry. I've had such a hard time S.O.A.P.'ing because I want to write out every verse in the first 3 chapters. Most of them stand out to me! It means so much to read these words from Peter who failed in the most significant ways. He of all of the disciples knew that what mattered to God was the condition of the heart. He also knew the joy of restoration and redemption, face to face with the risen Christ.(John 21:15-17)
This specific challenge is for us women. Yep, they had the same desires way back then to be physically desirable and attractive and they tried to hide their imperfections by "dressing them up." Keeping up outward appearances was still common practice and The Lord spoke to what concerns Him the most with women in these short verses.
None of what we put on the outside of our bodies matters to Him. It's what our insides are like that, "is of great worth in God's sight." It's exhausting keeping everything perfect and pretty and we go to great lengths to do it. Especially in our youth obsessed culture. I haven't checked yet, but will take an educated guess that all of the industries in which women can invest in for outward appearance are doing VERY WELL. And rightly so because we've bought the lie that our appearance matters more then then condition of our hearts. This couldn't be further from the truth. The kind of woman Solomon wrote about in Proverbs 31 indeed continues to be a rarity ..."who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." Proverbs 31:10
God is not fooled by our pretty hair dos and shiny jewelry. He sees the things we try to hide from other people. The covetousness and selfishness in our hearts. He longs to clothe us in His righteousness. Even after He has, don't be fooled into thinking we can't have some issues of the heart. Our hearts can be bitter, unforgiving and greedy. They can be lustful and self-seeking even after The Lord has saved them because we choose to seek after the things our flesh desires and not the things of the spirit of the living God within us. Disobedience and numbness toward God are a direct result of seeking after the flesh.(Galatians 5:1) In Galatians, Paul challenges us to walk in the spirit. (Galatians 5:15-25)
What is precious in God's sight is "the hidden person of the heart." Let's examine and ask ourselves the hard questions, so we do not become callous to the leading of the spirit of God.(Psalm 139:23-24)
Don't get me wrong friends, we can still put on our make up, do our hair and wear our jewelry. Our Lord has no issue with that, but if our hearts are left unchecked, there are bound to be problems. We'll come up for air and realize we've been "lulled to sleep with a false sense of security." (one of my husband's favorite lines) Let's let our beauty come from the messy process of digging into our hearts, seeing what truly lies there, giving it to the Lord and asking Him to change us. When we give the broken things to Him, He always restores and redeems. Beauty for ashes. But this kind of beauty cannot be outdone when it is encountered. It may even cause someone to completely overlook physical appearance and that is powerful!
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty for the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3
Friday, September 5, 2014
"A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." Proverbs 19:21
I've been S.O.A.P.'ing my way through Esther this week and it has been an encouragement to me! There are SO MANY strong themes to pull from this book. During this season of life, the most obvious and convicting reminder to me is that God is in all the details. By "in" I mean very involved in how each detail plays out. Knowing the heart and mind of each person and able to guide, change and direct the entire situation to His own desired ends.
Esther, an orphan, chosen from amongst many women, is favored by the eunuchs of the King and the King himself, and made queen of the Medo-Persian empire. A Jew! The scripture's mention her as being beautiful. God did that! (Psalm 139:13) He knew what was in her future. She was made queen during a time when the evil Haman devised a plan for the destruction of her people! But not out of the sight of The Lord who set them apart for Himself. Although His name is never mentioned, His sovereignty is clear, as the story unfolds.
Some more of God's handiwork...Esther is received by the King, unsummoned (which was dangerous and rare). Mordecai (the Jew and Esther's cousin) is honored for saving the King. The King can't sleep... how ironic?:) No, how GOD. Haman is chosen to honor Mordecai... and I'm only in chapter 6. Such an exciting story of God's perfect timing and impeccable plan. I know how it ends, but it's an impelling read anyway!
At this point in time, daily life can be quite overwhelming for me. I never imagined the stress I encounter moment to moment would be day-to-day life. When I rest in the fact that God has arranged my life "for such a time as this" I cannot deny the joy and the peace that floods my heart and mind. I'm reminded that the same sovereign God that protected Esther is protecting me and my family. He's making plans, orchestrating the song of our live's in ways I could never understand or imagine. He's still bringing glory to His name through His people, just as He brought glory to Himself through Queen Esther. He's actively moving in the details of where I am, who I'm with and what I'm doing.
"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." Acts 17:26-27
His hand is crystal clear to me looking back through my life. Giving here. Taking there. I've made poor choices that He foreknew, redeemed and has used for His glory. He provided a wonderful husband, whom I would have met 3 different ways had we not met the way we did. (yes, He let me choose which way!) homes, food, clothing, healthy pregnancies (amazing doctors and nurses), children, friends, a new camp home for Citikidz... I could go on for days!! I wish I had space to write the ways He's worked in detail, but I could never do it...at least not now, with little ones hanging on my legs as I type. Maybe another time.:) Along with that, thinking of all of the ways His grace has been present when I'm totally unaware is overwhelming-In a good way.
I forget these great gifts all the time and act like I better get busy taking care of everything because it all depends on me. I need to be reminded daily that He has a plan He is working out in my life moment by moment. Although I don't need to be inactive, I have to give credit where credit is due. God is in control of this mess people. Don't think for a second that anything we or our country or our world encounters hasn't been filtered through His almighty hand and heart.
He can handle the pressure. He even uses people who devise evil plans to bring His name glory. People who don't believe He exists or worse, say they believe He exists, but it makes no difference in their lives. He doesn't always bring Himself glory in the way we would desire or expect, but always in the best way.(Isaiah 55:8-9) Not our best. His best... which is eternally superior.
Though His best for me has not been the easiest or most desirable to many, it wasn't for Esther either. It wasn't easy losing her parents, being taken from the only family she knew and forced to be Queen alongside a King who exemplified questionable judgement at the very least. I'm sure, if you asked her, she'd say she'd rather have been doing what the average girl in those days was doing instead of risking her life to go before a King who could choose to crush her and her people in an instant. I'm accepting that God's best for me doesn't look like what other people might think it should. It usually doesn't. If you read the scriptures, that's very clear. Faithful men and women are more often then not mistreated and misunderstood. I'll take His best over man's all day. Lord, help me to LIVE like it!
No, as Esther knew well, walking with God doesn't always mean things always look good all the time, but the one great reward that it does give is life with our loving creator forevermore. Now that is a reward I can suffer for.
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9
Father, help us to live what we say we believe. We desperately need you to show yourself to us. Help us to trust in your plans for our lives. That you are truly in control. Help us to surrender the areas we try to take control from you in. We pray that you would even prompt us to come to you BEFORE we make our own plans, remembering that you always have our best interest and your greatest glory in mind. Please remind us that you are protecting us, even when it doesn't seem like it. You're going before us and all around us providing your grace and favor, even when we don't see it. Help us to put our fears and striving to rest in your lap and THANK YOU for being wrapped up in all the details. In Jesus' name. Amen.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory..." Ephesians 3:20-21