Category Archives: Christianity

A flannel board and flannel Jesus

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel not with words of human wisdom, let the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:17

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  I Corinthians 1:18

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong…the lowly things and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before Him.  It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus.  1 Corinthians 1:27-30

I got a flier in the mail this week from a Bible study company and flipped through it.  One page was an ad for a cruise with “your favorite Bible teacher.”  Another page, ads for an event in several cities with a dozen or so attractive thirty something women on a pretty topic.  No older women, less attractive, handicapped ones could speak?  “Stop it,” I thought.

flannel JesusThen in my reading through the Bible in a year chronologically I sat down to these verses in 1 Corinthians.  It took me back to the two ladies that I became a Christian through in the tiny country Vacation Bible School fifty some years ago.  They used a flannel board, a flannel Jesus and song lyrics written on tag board.  They persistently talked about Jesus with no other props.  They came to my community with no other Gospel witness for over 35 years, armed with the love of Jesus and a commitment to serve Him like no other I have seen.

They wrote to me every month from the time I was 13 until I was almost 30.  They discipled me in the faith and would call me “their Timothy.”  They probably wouldn’t have made it as headliners at a women’s weekend.  Nor would I.  That’s not how God made me and that’s not where God has planted me.  And somehow, that’s how He has made the message of the cross to be.  It’s not to be glitzy or glamorous, lest it be emptied of its power.

It is not to be bedazzled, though we want to pretty it up.  A friend of mine told how she had a mentor named Ethyl who had the gift of faith.  She would go fishing with Ethyl and Ethyl would know where to fish because God would tell her.   Ethyl would do more big things than just bring home big catches of fish, she would allow God to use that gift of faith all over the place to do big things through her.  Only thing was, she never drew attention to herself.

When she was old, she wrote a little book about all of the things that God did and she called it, “Ethyl Nobody.”  This was years before self publishing and marketing, so I haven’t been able to find that book.  I wish I could.  I’ve thought about that title, and have thought that one day I’d like to write a book like that before I die and title it, “Martha Nobody.”  God has done so many things in and through me, just like He did with the dear old ladies with the flannel board, a flannel Jesus, and cardboard song lyrics.

Better than that, they were armed with the message of the Gospel, the love of Jesus, and the conviction that if they kept telling it that God would change lives and eventually it would change the world.  It has changed my world.

*Image from Feltark

 


A Tangled Path, or a Straight One?

tangled path

straight path

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6                                                      

To trust God is to believe in His reliability, truth, ability or strength. It means that you rely, depend, bank, or count on, and be sure of all that God is and what He promises.  Many times when there is some big rescue or feat, the newscasters will talk about “the indomitable human spirit” that made the people overcome.  When we put our trust in ourselves and our strength individually or collectively, we are missing the real source of our strength.  If we name the name of Jesus, the source of our strength is to be God and God alone.

In Genesis 11 we find the account of the Tower of Babel.  Everyone gathered together with the same language and said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, found in verse 4.  When God saw what they were doing He said, This is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. God stepped in and confused their language and scattered them to the faces of the earth.

That is what happens when we decide to build or do anything in rebellion of the King of the Universe.  Sometimes we don’t plan to do things without God in rebellion, it’s just because we’re used to figuring things out on our own, counting on our own wisdom and desires.  But God calls us to consult and trust Him, not others and not ourselves.  To trust Him with all of our hearts means that we don’t have a backup plan.  God is our only plan.  And He will take care of the details of our obedience.

There is a promise in these two verses: God will make our paths straight.  Have you ever tried to accomplish something or get somewhere in life, but you keep getting twisted around?  Your dream or your desired goal might always end up just beyond your grasp. You take one step forward and end up three steps back.  Sometimes you don’t go backwards, you just go sideways.  Or you stall out.  Your route isn’t a straight line, but a tangled path.  If this is you, ask yourself this question: Are you acknowledging God in all your ways?  Are you doing things His way or your way?  

When you do things God’s way, things have a way of working out.  And your path will be straight, not a mess.  Step by step in the right direction leads to a habit and a routine and then a lifestyle of obeying God, trusting Him, and  consulting with Him before you make choices.  You can’t beat it.


Take Up Thy Swords (of the Spirit)

BT-swordThis is taken from a Desiring God post on June 13, 2017 by Greg Morse, “A Challenge to Memorize Chapters.”  It goes along with my previous post from Psalm 119:11, “Thy Word have I stored up in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

It has resonated in my heart, perhaps finding a kindred memorizing spirit, someone who has put words to why I think memorizing is an important discipline in the Christian life:

It began in seminary.

That week, multiple professors mentioned that each student in the class ought to memorize Romans 8. I looked up Romans 8 — it was long. I had never memorized a whole chapter of the Bible before. As far as I was concerned, that wasn’t for average saints. It was for the extraordinary Christians — the kind who read Calvin in their free time and had Greek and Hebrew words tattooed on their ankles. Memorization, like Mark Twain said of the classics, is something everyone wants to have done but nobody wants to do. Maybe I could get through Psalm 23, I thought. Maybe.

But God kept after me, telling me to go to the Ninevah of memorization — I couldn’t hide.

I hobbled through the semester. After several months, I completed Romans 8 — I was astonished. I, the chief of forgetters could recite one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. And a question came to mind, if God could help me limp through memorizing Romans 8, what else could he help me memorize? My quest began there.

Daggers and Swords

I’ve learned that length of the text matters in memorizing. And, because I would have been a warmonger in another life, I think of different lengths of texts as different weapons.

Individual verses and smaller sections are daggers. Although the shortest in the soldier’s arsenal, these are for hand-to-hand combat. As in medieval times, the dagger was a last resort, a defense against ambush. Direct and to-the-point, daggers are golden promises found in Scripture to support when Satan assaults us unexpectedly. For example, in a moment of sexual temptation, “Flee!” can save your life (1 Corinthians 6:18). Every Christian soldier needs daggers.

Chapters, or larger sections of Scripture, are swords. Although longer and requiring more effort to master, swords were the medieval soldier’s most useful weapon. Swords were offensive, and carried by those expecting war. Broad swords (texts), are not only made up of daggers, but sharpen each dagger with context. The chapter draws you into the author’s thoughts, and makes greater, deeper sense of the individual verses. A dagger will save your life in a vulnerable moment, but you wouldn’t head into war without a sword. Memorizing chapters prepares us to go on the offensive against the enemy’s ranks.

Take Up Your Swords

My challenge concerns swords. Though daggers have vital uses, I challenge readers to memorize chapters of the Bible for at least four reasons:

1. Swords are not easily forgotten. The silver of memorization comes from the initial steps in memorization; the gold comes from sustaining it. When I only have daggers, I often forget I have them, and don’t revisit them consistently. I remember that I have memorized 39 verses in Romans 8, but I would forget that I memorized 39 individual daggers from all over the Bible. Memorizing chapters helps me remember what I’ve memorized so that I can review.

2. Swords help create discipline. Swords are the baby-bear of Christian memorization: not too short (dagger), but not too long (a whole book which we might call a spear). As we memorize longer sections of Scripture, we are forced to move last week’s verses from short-term to long-term memory. Long sections of Scripture cannot be memorized without discipline.

3. Swords arm us to love each other better. Although often neglected, God calls us to study those in our lives that we might stir them up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). After studying them, larger sections of Scripture can become a trustworthy playbook for love.

4. Swords make God’s word mobile. Mornings can get hectic. The best intentions can be interrupted by a screaming child, a distressing phone call, or a snoozed alarm. On such days, I can’t pull out my Bible and study the text on my way to work. But I can meditate on chapters I’ve memorized. Swords are the ideal length for ten to fifteen minutes of extended meditation.

How to Pick Your Swords

So how do you pick what to memorize? I suggest the following:

Pick chapters that aim at specific sin struggles. If busyness tempts you, memorize John 15. If adultery tempts you, memorize Proverbs 5. If apathy to the word tempts you, memorize Psalm 1. Pick specific swords to decapitate your sin.

Pick chapters that will minister to particular people in your life (see number three above).

Pick chapters that more explicitly display God’s majesty. One way to consistently pop the helium balloon of your own ego is to memorize texts that behold your God. Texts like Isaiah 40 or Revelation 5 humble the creature before his Creator.

Pick chapters that remind you of the life to come. Select swords that remind you that you are not home. Linger with founding pilgrims in Hebrews 11 or catch a glimpse of that coming day in Revelation 21.

Pick chapters that have gripped you. The Spirit grips individuals in specific ways. People have life-verses. I believe in having life-chapters. If the story of the prodigal son grips you, do not let it linger outside your heart as the elder brother, memorize it and bring it into your home.

A Glorious Army

Dream with me: What if every saint had two or three chapters written on their heart? What if everyone in your church or small group had two or three different swords ready for battle — to war against Satan and to strengthen the brothers and sisters fighting next to them? A member who lived by the still waters of Psalm 23 and beckoned others to come and sit. One who constantly abided in Jesus the Vine of John 15, and bid others to daily receive the same nourishment. One who taught the group how to bid sinners to come and drink freely from the wells of living waters as they remained submerged in Isaiah 55. What might that be like?

The Challenge

I’ve been encouraged by such saints and challenge you to be one.

One of my favorite spiritual questions to ask over the past two years has been: If you could memorize five chapters of the Bible, which five would you choose and why? You can learn a lot about someone and spur great conversations through this question. After the excitement rises with the prospect of memorizing five, I simply ask, why don’t you do it? Some roll their eyes, but some have embarked on the quest.

Now I extend the challenge to you. If you have never memorized a chapter, the challenge is to start with one. If you have a habit of memorizing, pick three and write them on your heart. The challenge: over a lifetime, write and sustain five different chapters (or longer sections of Scripture) on your heart.

There are my thoughts again: I went to a funeral in Greg’s church.  It was for a young couple’s baby who only lived several days.  I was expecting a mourning, defeated and grieving time.  Instead, I was met with a group of triumphant, expectant, Scripture quoting believers who held on by faith that God had something in store for this young couple.  One by one, twenty something friends stood up and quoted verses of hope in their prayers during the service.  It was an amazing service!  Those  believers had their swords ready for battle and they pulled them out, ready for use on that day.  It was a glorious army.


Guarding and Storing

storing up God's Word

How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments!  I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  Psalm 119:9-11

How can we keep our way pure?  By guarding it, as prescribed in the Bible.  Let’s think about that word “guard” first.  In the New International Version, Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  And in Proverbs 4:13, “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”  We guard and protect the things we value.  There are some things that are really important that we don’t realize until later that we should have guarded it, but we didn’t.  We didn’t realize how important they were until much later, perhaps after we already suffered loss.

We need to guard our ways, our steps, our minds, our hearts and our lives.  We have an enemy of our soul, Satan, who is a roaring lion, as 1 Peter 5:8 instructs us: “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  NIV  How true.  We don’t even need him, we’re pretty good at destroying ourselves through an unrestrained feeding of our flesh.  Without self control empowered by the Holy Spirit  and a careful attention to our desires, they can drive us in destructive directions.   

The Bible is filled with commandments about how to guard our way.  There are the character sketches that God has given us that show us what happens when we don’t pay attention.  We have people like Lot, Jacob, Samson, Saul and many other real people who God inspired the writers of the Bible to record so that we might not make the same mistakes that they did.  As we read about those people, we are really reading about ourselves.  Their tendency to sin and grab for the wrong things are our same tendencies, because we share the same sin nature.

How do we emerge victorious?  We seek God with our whole hearts.  Not with a half hearted attempted, a short burst, or a sea of good intentions.  Our whole hearts.  No turning back.  And we hide God’s Word in our hearts that we may stand undaunted against the desires that “wage war against our soul,” as 1 Peter 2:11 warns.  We store up God’s truth,  His promises and His cautions and we pull them out when we need to use them.

arrow.gifMy challenge to you is to actually commit Scripture to memory, to store up God’s word into your heart.  It has been my habit since childhood.  I have gone from memorizing verses, to chapters and now several books of the Bible.  Has it kept me from sinning?  I know that hiding chunks of God’s Word in my heart has kept it there to pull out when needed, and for the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind to convict, guide, redirect and to counsel me on the spot in a variety of ways.

What is your habit of memorizing Scripture, and how has it benefited you?


Grumbling: Rebelling with our attitudes and our words

Therefore, when the Lord heard (their grumbling) He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; His anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.  Psalm 78:21-22

The verses just before this explain, “God made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.  Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.  They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’”

This took place in the wilderness, when the children of Israel were in between Egypt and the Promised Land.  They grumbled and rebelled against God.  They tested God in their heart by demanding things of Him that they thought they were entitled to.  They sinned by speaking words of unbelief and complaining.  no grumbling 10 complaining.jpg

Have you ever complained about your circumstances?  We think we’re just venting, but really, we’re saying “God, You’re not good.”  And we can pray demanding prayers that are really complaints to God, saying what He is giving us isn’t enough.  And we tell ourselves and others that we really can’t trust God.  It is rebellion and it angers God.  Really–have you listened to yourself when you grumble?  Stop it.  

In response to Israel’s attitude, God was not only full of wrath, but a fire was kindled against Jacob.  That means that it was the start of God working against the Israelites, not for them.  That is never good.  But verse 23 has a merciful tone, in spite of God’s wrath being kindled: Yet He command the skies above and opened the doors of Heaven, and He rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of Heaven.

In other words, in spite of their lack of trust, reflected by their venting–God was still good to them!  Even when they didn’t deserve it, God gave them bread from Heaven to eat.  That is grace, giving us good gifts that we don’t deserve and didn’t earn.  It was also mercy, not giving them what they did deserve.  In Psalm 103:9-10 there are beautiful words of God’s character, “He will not always chide (accuse), nor will He keep His anger forever.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”

We can anger God with our testing Him, saying that the weather stinks, our job is rotten, and we wish we had more of just about everything–money, vacation, or friends.  It’s not just run of the mill complaining, it is a lack of trust in the goodness of God.  But in the middle of it, God is still good to us, giving us our daily bread and not giving us what we deserve.  

Praise God for this!  We’re just like the Israelites, rebelling and grumbling.  God does something big and then we forget and whine for something bigger.  When we deserve to get wiped out, He opens the skies and rains down goodness upon us.  He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.

*Image from Howard Carter, Google Images


Not Good if Detached

 “I am the vine: you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 

Corrie Ten Boom, one of my favorite warriors of the faith, wrote about keeping in that abiding relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit:

If the connection between the branch and the vine remains, the fruit comes from the vine.  The vine does everything and the branch much keep connected with it.  That electric lamp does not help the generator; the generator does not help the lamp.  The generator gives all the power.  The lamp must only be connected.

You do not help the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit does not help you.  The Holy Spirit does everything–the only condition is that you must keep in contact…(hence we are not good if we are detached from this abiding relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit).

This is what I have been processing the most this last week, this Holy Spirit connection.  As I’ve been reading JD Greear’s book, Jesus Continued…Greear repeats what Corrie Ten Boom said decades ago.  Greear has written about not just going out and doing things for God out of guilt, striving to please God, some kind of performance issue, or whatever thing that would drive us to go out and try to do something for God–but to actually wait for the Holy Spirit like they did at Pentecost and let Him tell us what to do.

Then instead of doing things for God, He sends us out and He does things through us.  And then we bear fruit, as John 15:5 talks about.  If we sit at Jesus’ feet first, like Mary did (Luke 10:38-41) He’ll tell us what to do and where to go.  He leads; we follow.  He commands; we obey.  He supplies; we steward.  He delivers; we worship.

It seems to me that the sitting at Jesus’ feet thing is the hardest part of the whole Christian life.  The waiting and listening and then going.  The being in the Bible, listening to the voice of the Spirit and then obeying.  That’s like the trifecta.

The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  First off, everything else calls for our attention to keep us from getting into the Bible.  We oversleep, we hit the snooze, or we have to get to work early.  Then when we do get in the Word, our mind jumps to our to-do list, or to how someone else who needs to read this, or we run out of time so quickly.  And then the Holy Spirit puts an application on our heart.  An act of obedience, a prompting of some sort.  An apology that we need to make, a phone call that we should make to someone that will need to talk for a long time, someone who needs a visit that doesn’t have long to live and needs to hear about Jesus…

But when we walk in the Spirit and set our minds on things of the Spirit as a pattern of our lives, the result is life and peace, as Romans 8:6 promises.  It is a life filled with fruit, as John 15:5 states, and John 15:7 goes on to say, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  Answered prayer.  Who doesn’t want answered prayer?not good if detached

Stay attached to Jesus through being in the Bible daily, listening and waiting on the voice of the Holy Spirit, and then obeying His leading.  If you do, you’ll bear much fruit.  Otherwise, we are not good if detached…

 


Be Filled With the Spirit

filled-with-the-spirit

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit.  Romans 8:5

Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:18

Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Galatians 5:16

In our women’s Sunday school class, we are studying the book by JD Greear, Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You (Zondervan 2014).  Greear is writing to people who, like him, come from a background where the Holy Spirit has been more of a doctrine than a person of the Trinity.  One of his quotes is:

“Many Christians might have heard of the Holy Spirit in a doctrinal sense but they have no real interaction with or dependence on Him.  Functionally they live in ways ‘unaware’ that there is a living, moving Holy Spirit.  They have all but excised the Holy Spirit from the Trinity; instead they functionally believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Bible.”

I lead the Sunday school class, and one woman’s question was kind of challenging his doctrinal position, wondering if Greear believed that we receive the Holy Spirit at new birth from another quote: “So, are you speaking the Word of God to others?  If not, can you really claim to be filled with the Spirit of God?”

My short answer was that from everything else that JD Greear has written in his book, I believe that he is orthodox, most likely believing that we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we become Christians.  However, most people do not walk in the realization of the fullness of the Spirit, and that is what this book is about.

When it says in Acts 6:5 that they picked Stephen to help serve the widows, Luke noted that he was ‘full of the Holy Spirit.’  That must have meant that others weren’t as full of the Spirit.  ‘What makes someone full of the Spirit, or more filled with the Spirit than others?’ was my question to the group.

I’ve been thinking a lot more about this during the week.   Paul spent considerable time writing about walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), setting our minds on things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5), not grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), not quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), and praying at all times in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18).  This tells me that this tendency to set our minds on things of the flesh and live as if the Christian life depends on us is not new.

Paul battled this when he wrote the book of Galatians.  He questioned in Gal. 3:3, “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  Why don’t we talk about the work of the Holy Spirit more?  Why do we rely on the flesh instead?

It’s kind of like a friend of mine.  We were at a meeting together, in the middle of a cold winter.  We both had the same model and year of vehicles.  I pointed my key fob out of the window with my remote starter and started my vehicle to warm it up.  She said, “I wish mine could do that.”  I looked at her and said, “I’m sure you can.  Give me your fob.”  She did and she just about flipped when I started her car too.  She had a remote starter for two years and didn’t know it.

Isn’t that how it is with the Holy Spirit?  He lives within us and is ready to fight the flesh battle for us if we would just call on Him.  He is ready to speak to us, empower us, lead us and do great things through us.  Do you just need to know that you have Him waiting to be called upon?

In some ways, it’s not about whether  we have the Spirit or not, it’s about whether the Spirit has us.  Are we willing to surrender to Him, wait for His voice, draw near and go where He tells us to go?

Check out this song by Casting Crowns, “Spirit Wind,” from You Tube:

Spirit Wind

 

 


The Heart of Rebellion


Joseph Conrad wrote a book called,
The Heart of Darkness about going into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s.  It was pretty much unexplored and treacherous to travel to the interior of Africa, hence a great darkness in many people’s eyes.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?”  In Romans 3:10-18, Paul elaborates, saying that without God, no one seeks after Him.  We use our tongues to deceive, our lips have venom like asps, our mouths are full of curses and bitterness, our feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace we have not known.  In reading this passage at a jail Bible study, one gal said, “that pretty much describes everyone I know, myself included.”

Not a pretty picture.  It’s the heart of darkness.  But what grabbed me in reading through the New Testament, as I’m now into Acts, are the motives of the people that rejected Jesus.  They had a chance to accept Him, they heard the truth, but they flat out rejected it all for some base reasons that are common to all of us.  This is the heart of rebellion.  Let me highlight a few:

  • Mark 15:10.  Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priest had delivered Jesus up.  The chief priests were jealous of Jesus.  This jealousy theme is repeated again in Acts 5:17.
  • Mark 15:15.  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them for them Barabbas.  Pilate wanted the people to like him.
  • John 12:42.  Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  They were vainglorious, or in today’s slang: a glory hound or a glory hog.  
  • John 19:38.  Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury Jesus secretly because he feared the Jews.  He was a follower of Jesus, had not consented to the council’s decisions (though a prominent member) and was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.  He was afraid so he acted secretly.  At least he acted.
  • Acts 7:25.  Stephen was preaching about how the Jews’ forefathers rejected Jesus, so it was no surprise that they did too.  Moses thought that the Jews would understand that he was to be their deliverer but they did not understand so they rejected him; Acts 7:35 saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?”  They didn’t get it but with an edge, like ‘go away.’
  • Acts 7:39 “So they refused to obey Moses, but thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away saying to Aaron, ‘make us gods to go before us.’”  7:42  So God turned away and gave them over to worship the ‘host of heaven,’ the stars and images that they made.”  They made fake gods instead of obeying the One and only God.  So God gave them over to their fake gods.
  • Acts 7:51 “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”  Any time we are confronted with the truth and say no to it, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 1:21.  “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  When you know the truth but reject it, you become foolish.  It sends you down a dark path.
  • Romans 1:24.  “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”  Romans 1:25.  “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the created things rather than the Creator.”  When you reject God and choose a lie, you live out the consequences of that lie.

The Great Turn Around

Isaiah 55:6-7  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, And to our God for He will abundantly pardon.”

In the midst of our rebellion, of our turning away from God and going our own way, God still calls us back.  God  loves us, He wants a relationship with us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us from our heart of rebellion.

Call upon God while He is near, return to the Lord and He will have compassion and  will abundantly pardon.

rebellion
*Image from Quotefancy


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