We will pass God’s teaching on to the next generation

next generation

We will not hide God’s teaching from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.  Psalm 78:4

Psalm 78 is another psalm written by Asaph.  This time he was making a determined vow: He would pass on his faith to his children and to the next generation.  He was making a declaration not only for himself, but for the people of Israel, and for those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers today.  Back then, one of the ways that the leaders did this was to recite what God had done for them, starting back with their forefathers and working their way from there.  They included reciting and reviewing what happened when they rebelled.

Some have called this a ‘recitation theology.’  They repeated over and over what God had done with them as a people so that they would not forget.  It was a command to them to teach their children that the next generation might know the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might and the wonders that He had done to establish Israel.  It was, as Asaph reminded them, a way to cause their children to set their hope in God and not be like their fathers who were stubborn and rebellious.

It is so easy to forget what God has done in our lives and in our family and church family’s lives.  Recounting the stories of God’s faithfulness is a habit we need to get into, sharing testimonies of what God has done.  Psalm 78 is filled with reminders of what happened when they were rebellious.  Those might be painful stories to tell, shameful to mention to the younger generation.  But that is a part of passing on our faith, teaching the next generation the glorious deeds of the Lord,  His might and the wonders that He has done.

How do we do this?  One of the habits that I have had for the last 35 years is to keep a quiet time journal, filled with notes of my Bible studies, prayer requests and ways that I have seen God work.  Every so often I go back and read through them, remembering that God has been faithful and seeing His hand at work.  

A habit that we need to do corporately is to have more time of testimonies, not just of how God has worked in the past but how He is at work now.  The stories of our failures and God meeting us with His grace and mercy need to be a part of our sharing.  This should be a part of our Christian fellowship, whether it be in small groups or just sharing stories over a meal together.  We must make sure we intentionally do this with the next generation in any shape or form that is possible.  

The other thing is to make sure that the habit of Sunday school and church attendance is passed down to the next generation.  If you deviate from this as an adult, thinking that Sunday is your day of rest or recreation, made for fishing, sports tournaments, lawn care, family gatherings, or anything but going to church on a regular basis–you are failing your kids and the next generation.  You have cut off one of the main agents that God has purposed to carry out His plans, which is the church.  It is His way of proclaiming His glorious deeds through us, telling of His might and of the wonders that He has done.

*Image from Baidonmethodists.org

 


I Must Get To the Sanctuary of God

pray.jpgBut when I thought how to understand this it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went to the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.  Psalm 73:16-17

Asaph wrote this Psalm.  He was David’s music director and was a priest and he set David’s words to music.  The context for today’s verses is that Asaph was getting twisted around by seeing the arrogant and wicked prospering while the righteous struggled.  He was bitter about it and it messed up his relationship with God.  In verse 22 Asaph recounted that when he was bitter he was like a beast, brutish and ignorant.  In other words, when you hold bitterness against God in your heart, you can’t hear from God, just like an animal.  You can’t be led.  It blocks off your relationship with God.

O God, I can get so bitter, cutting off the channel between us.  I can get bitter at others, which is just as bad.  I can mutter about others, and it’s really me that’s in the wrong place.  Like the King and Country song, “Oh, oh God, Forgive us (ME)…”  Show me where I harbor bitterness.

Another significant thing about what Asaph testifies is that he knew enough to keep his bitterness to himself.   In verse 15 he testifies, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.”  If he had told others about what he had against God, he would have betrayed them by telling them something about God that wasn’t true.  How often do we vent to others, only later realizing that it wasn’t God who was in the wrong, but us?

God, keep a zipper on my lips.  If I speak against You or others I am really betraying the generation of Your children.  I am telling things about You that aren’t true.  I am a stumbling block.  

Asaph stayed in this funk until he went to the sanctuary of God.  In those days, they had to go to the Temple to meet with God because that was where His Spirit dwelt.  Praise God that His Spirit now dwells inside of us and we can meet with God anywhere, anytime!  It wasn’t until Asaph went before God that his attitude was adjusted.  It was in praying to God and seeking His face that Asaph realized that it wasn’t God that was off.  It was his view of what success is and his view of how God works.

Oh how my soul longs to get in quiet communion with You this week.  This is where I hear from You.  Clear out my schedule and keep distractions far away from me.  May I meet with You and see what you have to say about what’s been going on.  I so need You.

Then Asaph stopped being bitter and he started hearing from God again.  And he was able to write the beautiful words of praise found in verses 23-28.  Asaph realized that those who are far from God perish, but those who love and fear God will be rewarded in the end.  He also realized that it is better to be near God and to make Him his refuge than to have money.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in Heaven but You?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73 23-26

When you are bent out of shape about life’s unfairness, don’t vent it out–go to God.  It is in our prayer closet that we get a proper perspective.  Don’t hold on to your bitterness, it only shuts off your connection with God.  Pray it out and listen to what God has to say.  Get close to God’s heart.  The nearness of God is our good.

*Image from Auntie Em’s Guide to Life


Kicking out the Lies

hearts

Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  Psalm 51:6

There are lies that we may believe about ourselves that others have spoken to us, most likely when we were quite young.  And we believed them, and they shaped who we thought we were and who we have become.  They might be false conclusions that we draw about life and about God.  They could be lies like, “You’re not acceptable,” “You can’t do anything,” “I’m not worth it and God doesn’t care,” or “I can’t count on God–He isn’t near to help.”  Or that you deserve to be “less than” for some reason, allowing yourself and others to put you down.

Our outer appearance becomes a reflection of what is in our secret heart, what we really believe about ourselves.  It may have to do with needing to earn approval, not feeling worthy, feeling fat or ugly.  Those are lies, and God desires for truth to reside in our inward being.  There are truths in the Bible about who we are and about what God thinks about us.  We need to bathe in those truths and let them penetrate our inward being.  They are truths about how God loves us unconditionally, that He made us exactly who we are for a purpose and that He has a plan for our lives.  

We need to actively kick out the lies that drive us.  In 1 Chronicles 11:4-9 David came  to take over Jerusalem.  It was to be the city of God, but the inhabitants of Jebus opposed David saying, “You will not come in here.  Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David,” verse 5 reports.  If David hadn’t of refuted their claim, “You will not come in here,” then Jerusalem would not have become the city of David and the place where God dwelt in the Temple.

The word ‘nevertheless’ is a victory word. It takes the barrier and turns it into a victory.  Nevertheless doesn’t acknowledge what other people say about us, or even what we see about ourselves.  We may be coming from a disadvantage.  Nevertheless, God has plans for us and He is at our side.  We can take hold of the things that are in front of us with the faith and confidence that He has given us.  

Identify and list out those lies that run contrary to what God has promised about you in the Bible, and put a ‘nevertheless’ behind that lie.   Jesus paid too high of a price to let you live a ‘less than’ life because of lies that continue to reside in your secret heart, the one that God sees and wants to heal.  

God sees your secret heart and He will bring about truth through His refining and discipling process.  Ask God to give you a picture of how He sees you to give you wisdom in your secret heart.  And then ask Him to transform your outside self to become the you He made you to be.

 


Our GPS

GPS.jpgI will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.  Psalm 32:8

This is one of my favorite promises in all of the Bible.  God promises to tell us where to go, and to counsel us with His eye upon us.  There are two parts to this.  The first is to teach us the right principles to make good choices on our own.  The second is to counsel us when the choices are between several things that all look good.  Or maybe they all look bad, like being between a rock and a hard place.  The promise part is that God has His eye on us, just like He has His eye on the sparrow.  Isn’t that comforting?

Our GPS voice on Google Maps, or whatever device you use, is a computer generated voice.  It doesn’t really care for us.  It doesn’t make value judgments.  It merely tells us the shortest route.  Some programs can take into account heavy traffic, but other than that, you don’t have an omniscient, provident God looking down in love telling us which way to turn.

There are times when I think I know better than my GPS voice and I have quite the argument with her.  I don’t have a name for her.  But if I did, I think it would be the name of my least favorite high school teacher.  One time I couldn’t figure out how to shut her off when I first got a Garmin, so I shut her in the compartment between the driver and passenger seat and her muffled directives rang out the whole trip.  So I turned up the music.

We can do the same thing to God.  There are times when we think we know better than Him, trying to shut off our GPS with Him.  “Stop it Holy Spirit!  Stop it.”  His voice rings in our heart the whole while.  He tells us to knock it off and we barrel on, suffering the consequences. And we turn up the music so we can’t hear His voice.  God gives us commands which are really for our provision and protection to guide us.  He also gives us the Holy Spirit who is with Christians always.  

On the positive side, when I don’t know what to do and I humbly ask for help, God is there to counsel me with His eye upon me.  I don’t always know that His leading hand is upon me, but I can look back and tell that it was.  One time my husband and I were travelling to my family’s side for Christmas, about a five hour trip.  We prayed before we left that we would have safe travels.  A snow storm blew up along the way, making travel treacherous.  

I was driving, and as we went through one town, my husband said as we were passing a gas station, “stop there for the restroom.”  I said we could go to the one a few blocks down the road since I was already past it.  He said he didn’t want to go then.  He’s a bathroom snob, which I was later to find out why (another story).  As I pulled into the other gas station to get gas, I locked the car door to go in and pay, with our coats inside the vehicle.  We got back outside and the fob wouldn’t work.  Apparently the battery was dead.  We went back into the station to call for some assistance, explaining what had happened, complete with cell phones inside car.  The person behind the counter asked what kind of vehicle we had, we said “Ford.”  She said, “Why don’t you go to the Ford dealership across the street then?”

Now there is an example of God taking care of us with His eye upon us.  In the midst of a snowstorm, with our coats in the car, we were locked out right across from a Ford dealership.  They gave us a new battery for free, installed it, and on we went!

Take God at His word today, following His instructions and trusting in His promises.  He will counsel you with His eye upon you.

 


Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and are heavy laden

Jesus- the invitation

 

This was my jail study this last week, with seven women.  This is Jesus.  Really, to know Him is to love Him.  Some have heard this in different shapes and forms, but need to hear it again and again until it sinks in.  Others haven’t heard it before.  One gal was getting sentenced this last week to a possible 20 years (she got 25).  Jesus changed her in front of our eyes over these last three years of her being in and out, especially in the last six months.  God still works miracles, the biggest being in changing lives!

 John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He sent His only son, Jesus, that whoever would believe Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  God loves us and Jesus gave His life for us so that we won’t have to spend eternity in Hell because of our sin.

John 11:5 and Luke 19:5.  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…Jesus looked up at the tree and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.’  Jesus knows us by name, and He loves us.  He doesn’t just love the world generically, but specifically.  He knows us by name, even the number of hairs on our head.  Psalm 139:4 says that before a word is on our tongues He knows it completely.

John 8:1-8.  That’s the account of the woman caught in adultery.  When Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin be the one to throw the first stone,” and they left oldest to youngest, she looked up and saw just Jesus.  He asked, “Where are the ones who condemn you?  Who’s left?”  “No one,” was her response.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Jesus doesn’t condemn them when they come to Him; He wants them to be set free from their bondages.

  •  One gal was caught up in an interesting thought about how Jesus was a part of       making the law, but yet let her break the law.  Jesus really was the fulfillment of the law.   He was the law.  He was loving, kind, merciful and just, which was what the law was really aimed at.  The Pharisees kept the law, but weren’t any of those things.  So they really didn’t keep the law.  Maybe that’s why Jesus kept healing on the Sabbath, to poke holes in their broken system.  In Romans 8:3-4 it says that God sent Jesus to do what the law couldn’t do in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.  Bottom line: Meet Jesus, look into His loving eyes and turn from your sin.

John 4.  The woman at the well.  Here’s the outcast of the outcasts at the well at noon.  And Jesus talks with her, asking for water and telling her about living water so she wouldn’t have to thirst anymore.  “I want that water!”  “Okay, go get your husband.”  “I don’t have one.”  “I know.  You’ve had five, and the guy you’re with now isn’t one of them.”  Jesus knows our backstory and He still likes us.  He knows what it is that we’re trying to fill the hole in our heart with.  Everyone has a hole in their heart that God put there so we would long for Him.  It has to filled with Him, otherwise it’s still a hole that needs to be filled.  Some people try to fill it with guys, others with drugs, others with shopping, others with food…

  • The other interesting discussion...What are you trying to fill your hole with?  Why don’t you fill it with Jesus?  We all have holes.  Andy Warhol is the guy that said “Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame.”  That’s why people will go on ‘American Idol’ even when they’re really bad, or do whatever do get noticed.  There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says ‘that God has set eternity in our hearts.’  The Oscar Meyer Wiener song illustrates it: “Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me…”  Why would it matter for everyone would be in love with them?  Because God put that hole there for it to be filled by Him.

Final verses: Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

 


Come Boldly

boldly go.jpg“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 

 

I had a God moment this week.  A gal from jail wrote asking that I come to court to support her as she appeared before the judge.  Let’s call this woman “Jane.”  Another Bible study chaplain friend and prayer warrior also came.   Jane was asking something rather audacious of the courts.  She was asking for something she didn’t deserve.  She has been in and out of jail and prison most of her adult life because of drugs.  Her last charge could have put her back into prison for three and a half years.   Jane wasn’t supposed to appear until mid December and got her court date moved up, plus she was asking for something opposite of what the judge and lawyers were recommending.

She has sat over four months in the county jail most recently.  She’s studied the Bible each time she’s been in, come to Bible studies I’ve led for over 16 years.  In and out.  But Jane says she is broken, finished, done with meth.  She wants Jesus and wants a different life.  I hear desperation and maybe hope.  She applied for Teen Challenge (David Wilkerson’s faith based powerful rehab program) on her own, and I mean on her own.  Her Native American background makes most of what she attempts to do apart from her culture on her own.  Here it is a culture riddled with drugs and death.

Back to court.  The District Attorney and her public defender that looked like he just got out of high school bantered sacrilegiously previous to the beginning of the proceedings.  I think they must not care about the cases as individuals, but must have to distance themselves somehow.  As the hearing finally begins, the judge  reviews her case and tells of how this looks hopeless as she reviews the years of drug and battery charges, the years of incarceration.  We sit and pray silently.  It stretches out much longer than we would like–just get to the punch line.

Finally, yes!  She allows Jane to go Teen Challenge for at least six months.  Actually it is a 13 month program and its recidivism rate in the first year is like 20% (vs. a 70% National average).  In my 17 years of jail ministry, I have not seen an inmate actually follow through on pursuing going there and a judge actually placing someone into this program.  Hallelujah!  God sees and He hears and He is working in Jane’s life to bring about a miracle.

Jane was released to leave for Teen Challenge that same day.  She motioned for my friend and I to wait downstairs and we nodded that we would.  We waited with her mom and one of her sons, and a couple of others.  When she got down in her street clothes, she first came to give her mom a hug and mom pulled her close and said in a low, stern voice “if you stay at my house, you cannot bring your Bibles with you.”  It was the voice of the enemy so quickly in her face and ours.

We stood around the corner, respectfully waiting to give her a hug and quickly pray with her.  I told her I would mail her Bibles to her, but she must have her Bibles with her at Teen Challenge.  She said, “Oh no, I’ll put them in the garage.  She never goes there.”  God is able.

I must come boldly to the throne of grace–boldly and audaciously to ask and keep asking God to do big things just as Jane did this week.  He is not an overworked judge, He is one who is one waiting to dispense mercy and grace for me.  For Jane.  For all of us.


Do the Next Thing

Written by: Justin Taylor Years ago, Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) popularized an old poem—the commonsense simplicity and clarity of which have encouraged many anxious and weary saints. From an old English parsonage down by the sea There came in the twilight a message to me; Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven, Hath, it seems to me, teaching…

via Do the Next Thing — Justin Taylor


The Unshakeable Kingdom

unshakeable kingdom.jpg“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28-29

I’m still stuck on Disney Land, and the ‘Magical Kingdom.’  I’m stuck on the comparison between the unshakeable, invisible kingdom that we have our eyes fixed on and the kingdoms that people try to build here on this earth.  In Hebrews 11 the writer talked about Abraham and all the others living as  aliens and strangers because “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” vs. 16.

As believers of Jesus and members of His kingdom, our desire is for a far off country.  We can see the invisible kingdom with our spiritual eyes in flashes and glimpses.  The secular humanists try to convince us that earth is our home and there is nothing more.  They believe that earth can be made into Heaven, which stomps on my longing for that far off country that I am designed for.  I am really not designed for this earth.  Here I am an exile and stranger and I wander about awkwardly.  Quite awkwardly at times.

People who don’t know that there’s another kingdom beyond this one store up their treasures for the here and now and they believe the beer commercial from a previous decade of a beach sitting beer drinker: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  They have to fight aging and death and redefine Heaven and Hell because they can’t face what the Bible really says about an eternity for those who reject Jesus.

So the good news is that those who know Jesus and follow Him have a true magical kingdom to look forward to.  We get to drink from the spring of the water of life without payment.  And  here there will be no more tears, death, crying or pain, as Revelation 21 promises. The old order of things will have passed away.  We will have no need of light or the sun and moon, for the glory of God will be our light.

In the meantime, we will offer to God acceptable worship with trembling and awe.  We acknowledge that we are aliens and strangers and that we desire a better kingdom, a heavenly one.  A magical and unshakeable one.


The Magic Kingdom vs. The Kingdom of God

walt-disney-where-dreams-come-true-1-638

I was at Disney World this last week for a conference.  I didn’t go to the actual Magic Kingdom, but it was all around me, staying at a resort by Epcot.   So, watching all of the hoopla has made me think about the parallel between the Magic Kingdom of Disney World and Mickey Mouse and the Kingdom of God and Jesus.

Think about it.  It seems to be every kid’s dream: “I’m going to To Disney World, where everyone’s happy.”  I watch as the grounds are manicured and customer service is bar none.  Workers scurry around morning and night to keep the flowers and the lawns well manicured, food and drink is plentiful and people seem to be coming and going at all hours.  Taxis and airplanes bring in groups and take them away as they keep the dreams coming and going.  There are fireworks every night, jugglers and flashing lights.  How is this related to the kingdom of God?

Don Richardson wrote a book called “Peace Child” about reaching tribal people in Papua New Guinea.  He found a redemptive analogy about the remote tribe he was working with waiting for a peace child to come to pay the price for their sin.  He used it to show how Jesus was the peace child and it opened the way for them to accept the gift of salvation as a people group.  He said that there’s a redemptive analogy in every culture.

Disney World could be our ‘redemptive analogy.’ Perhaps woven into the American psyche is the dreaming of a place, a magic kingdom where dreams really do come true, is the set up for the kingdom of God.  Disney World is not that place where dreams really do come true.  It costs too much money, kids still cry, families still fight, and when you leave and fly home it snows and you have to go back to work.

But in longing for a place like that we are really longing for Heaven and for Jesus.  Jesus is the real Mickey Mouse and He really is better.  He doesn’t have big ears, but He has a big heart for the world.  He doesn’t have a high pitched voice, but He holds the world together.  He created all things and in Him all things all things hold together.  And Heaven is that perfectly manicured place where everything really is perfect.

The Kingdom of God is enduring, and when we get to it we won’t have to go back to work, we will be forever young, and all of our dreams really will come true.  Flying back in the airplane, the kids in front and behind of me all had stuffed animals, which I’m sure came at a great price, of Goofy and Minnie and all of the characters.  They grasped them tightly as they fell asleep and then as we landed and walked off the plane to a land that was much colder and much less magical.

Kids, let me tell you about a place that doesn’t have Goofy and Minnie to hold on to, but is much more magical and is really real…


I Must Get to Jesus

This was my jail Bible study last week.  I’ve been thinking about it since then, about how it was really more for me than for them maybe.  I went in with a friend.  We usually go up with two of us.  I led.  My friend used to be in federal prison for like eight years.  Jesus got a hold of her in a big way there and she has such a soft heart for people.  She has yet to really tell her testimony.  I can’t wait until she does.  It will be powerful.

We  had three different groups of women, so I led this three different times.  Some women can’t get along with each other, and all together the little room we meet in would be too full.  I like the intimate nature of groups of three and four because we can really interact.  It’s a county jail and most of the women are Native American.  We chatted for awhile.  I’ve been going in leading studies on Sunday nights for over 17 years now, and some have been in and out of jail almost that long.

My thread was about people who wanted to get to Jesus so bad they were willing to do almost anything to do it.  The first was from Luke 5:18-20.  That’s where the four guys lower the paralytic guy down through the roof because the house was too crowded to get to Jesus.  In verse 20 it says, “And when He saw their faith He said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  It never really struck me before Jesus saw their faith.  And maybe the four guys were changed that day too.  Or maybe they encountered Jesus before.  But they were desperate enough for their buddy to get healed that they sawed a hole through a roof.  That’s audacity and desperacy.

The next scenario we looked at was Luke 7:36-50, the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair, tears and ointment.  She busted into a dinner party of Pharisees and was willing to cut through put down’s and maybe getting tossed out so she could do something they would never do.  In washing His feet with her tears, she got to His heart and He got to hers.  Jesus turned to her and said that He knew she loved Him much and that though her sins were many, she was forgiven much.  The Pharisees didn’t get that.  But they weren’t willing to get to Jesus like she was either.  Are you?  Am I?

Image result for touch the hem of his garmentThe third person we looked at was a another desperate woman.  She’s told about in Luke 8:42-48.  Do you notice none of these people get names?  This one is “the bleeding woman.”  She had ‘an issue of blood’ for 12 years.  If you want to get a room full of women going, read that story.  She thought, ‘if I could just touch the hem of His garment.’  And she did and ‘boom!’ she was healed.  She had to push through a big crowd to get to Jesus.

What do you have to push through to get to Jesus?  I have push through a busy schedule, other people’s demands, through stupid distractions, through crowds, traffic, tiredness, laziness and all kinds of things just to get to Him.  There are times when I find myself saying inside “I just have to sit with Jesus.”  Sometimes I want to scream it.  Other times my soul whispers it.

To the women in jail, I encourage them to get radical to get to Jesus.  They will do whatever it takes to get to a party or to get a hit of drugs, or to get a boyfriend.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:29-30 that if your right eye or right hand causes you to sin to cut it off.  That’s radical!  We have to be radical to get away from sin and we have to be radical to get to Jesus.  Unconventional, desperate, audacious.  We have to saw holes in roof tops, break into dinner parties and push through crowds.

Do whatever it takes, but get to Jesus and hold on tight.