Tag Archives: Discipleship

Being Alive in Christ

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains A-grain-of-wheat-printable-Bible-verse-coloring-page-imagealone; but it dies, it bears much fruit.  John 12:24

I was rereading parts of one of my favorite reads in the last year, We Died Before We Came, by Emily Foreman.  She tells of how she and her husband went to an African country and suffered a loss while they were there.  I don’t want to give away the story line because you should really read it.  Before they went, her husband Stephen shared a story about James Calvert, a missionary to the Fiji Islands in the 1800’s.

The ship captain tried to turn him back saying, ‘you’ll lose your life and the lives of those with you if go among those cannibals.’  To that Calvert replied, ‘We died before we came.’  Stephen went on to challenge his audience, “Are you dead yet?  Dead to your desires?  Dead to fear?  Are we alive in Christ?”

His last question is what jumped off at the page at me this time around.  I have spent much time thinking about what it means to die and have focused some on that.  But I have not focused on the opposite, positive good–living out to a lost and dying world what it looks like to be alive in Christ.

I’m not even sure the Christians around me have a solid grasp of what that looks like.  I don’t mean that as a slam to anyone.  I just mean that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about being alive in Christ.  We talk about what it means to be born again and becoming a Christian.  And then we talk about ‘doing things’ once we become a Christian, like reading our Bibles, praying, going to church, helping people, etc.

But what does it really look like to live out a life that is alive in Christ?  Follow my bread crumb trail of thoughts as I unravel this brain worm of the week…

Verses on being alive in Christ (all NIV):

  • Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  • Colossians 3:3-4  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your  life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • Romans 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • Ephesians 2:4-5 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

So from those verses, I’m alive in Christ by faith, my life is now hidden with Christ in God, I’m to consider myself in my thinking as alive to God because I’m in Christ Jesus, and God made me alive by His grace.

I still was left pondering what my life should look like as an outflow of this.  So here are 5 things that I came up with.  They are from other Scriptures:

  1. Being alive in Christ means that my affections are set on a different place than everyone else’s, and it has to show.  In Hebrews 11 it talks about all of the faith dynamos dying in faith, having not received the things that were promised, but only welcoming them from afar.  Their eyes were on a better country, a heavenly one.  My affections, my eyes, and my passions should be set on a better country, the kingdom of Heaven.  This world is a poor replica of what is to come.  I know that, so my life should reflect it.
  2. Being alive in Christ means that I shouldn’t be stressed out, worried and consumed by the same things as the people who don’t know God.  That’s what Matthew 6:25-33 is about.  The stock market went down by bunches this week.  God is still on the throne.  His eye is still on the sparrow and He still holds me in the palm of His hand.  God still cares for us and His promises still hold true.  So I must live out that trust and confidence in God that shows that I know He is my shepherd.
  3. Being alive in Christ means that I know who holds my future and my eternity.  An ESPN reporter was interviewing Nick Foles the day after the big Super Bowl win.  He was asking Nick about next year, and Nick said he’d let God take care of that.  Nick had been giving God credit all of the way through the interview.  The reporter was either a Christian or else he was overcome by the momentum of this, so he concluded by saying, “Well, I guess you know who holds your future.”  You don’t normally hear that on an ESPN interview.  When you stop and think about the fact that people that don’t know Jesus have no confidence about tomorrow or about their eternity, this is a huge deal that we should be shouting from the roof tops!
  4. Being alive in Christ represents a tremendous life changing transformation.  I am so thankful that Jesus not only changed me and brought into His kingdom–but that He is still at work changing me day by day.  Colossians 1:13-14 says that we are “transferred from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of His dear son, in whom we redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  I just have to go on a business trip for 2-3 days with nonChristians and be with them 24/7 to realize how different my life is from theirs.  Thank you Jesus.
  5. Being alive in Christ represents a change in passions and pursuits.  I read the Bible, pray, go to church, and am involved in ministering to others because Jesus is in my life.  He has changed my “want to’s.”  The movies that people from work get together to go are ones I would never even watch at home for free.  And the books they read in their book clubs are the same–ones I would never read.  Jesus has given me an awareness of others, a desire to help them in place of tunnel vision or a self absorbed lifestyle.

Alive to GodMy challenge is to live these out loud, to verbalize them without being obnoxious.  I don’t know why it has been such a profound thought to focus on being alive in Christ rather than dying to self, but I think I’m on to something!  I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

 

*Image from MaryDeanDraws.com

 


Prayer in the Spirit…

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet...Revelation 1:10prayer

“I was in the Spirit.”  Have you taken notice of those five words much, or have you just sped over them?  I’ve been thinking about them in the last week or so.  I’ve been thinking about prayer, and pondering how much I really just scratch the surface of what God has for me and for the rest of us.  In Ephesians 6:18, at the end of the armor of God, Paul writes: “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…”

I haven’t heard maybe any sermons on what praying in the Spirit means.  But I’ve read some things about it from guys from the 1700’s, and one guy from the early 1900’s.  Could it be that all of our television, Internet and video games have wrecked our depth to have that be a part of the normal Christian experience?

JD Greear writes about it in his book Jesus Continued.  So it isn’t all just guys that are dead that talk about praying in the Spirit.  He writes, “Our greatest power in prayer occurs when our prayers are prompted by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  Prayers that start in Heaven are heard by Heaven. (pg. 153)”

For me, the ‘in the Spirit’ promptings come one of two ways.  The first is through dreams.  It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but when it does, God gets my attention.  I’ll give an example.  I had a dream that a friend from church was covered in road rash.  She came and the ladies from church took her into this prayer cabin and totally covered her in prayer and she came out without any rash at all.  She was just fine.  I woke up, laid there and prayed for her for quite awhile, not knowing exactly what was going on.  Whatever it was, I knew it had to be rough.

The next day she was supposed to be at work and she wasn’t there.  Someone  mentioned she was at her husband’s court with him.  He was a doctor and was getting sued for some bogus malpractice suit.  It hit me that was what the dream was about, so I began praying fervently again for both of them.  At the end of the week we had a women’s gathering at our church and she described how those two days were the worst days of her life.  I would describe the prompting that God gave me through the dream as ‘praying in the Spirit,’ as there was no other way that I would have known how to pray.  He gave me a picture of what she was going through with the road rash.

The other way that God has worked for me is to give me burdens that will not go away until I have prayed them away.  When Scott O’Grady from the USA was shot down and behind enemy lines in Bosnia for eight days back in 1995, I couldn’t stop praying for him.  I must have prayed for him at least 8-10 times a day.  This was before 24 hour news, so I just kept praying!  When the news came that he was rescued, I cried.  When I read his book, Return With Honor, he tells of how  he laid still for hours at a time because captors were feet away from him.  At one point God gave him a vision of a “choir” of thousands of people from all around the world praying for him.  I was in that choir!

Jeremiah 33:3 says, Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) said, “Prayer in the Spirit is the energized prayer of the righteous man that is of great force.  There is passion in the praying that prevails.  God never keeps hot hearts waiting.  ‘When you search for Me with all your heart I will be found by you.’  Jeremiah 29:13-14  Prayer that is energized by the Spirit brings power, turn ordinary mortals into people of power.  It brings fire.  It brings life.  It brings God.”

I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me.  Habakkuk 2:1

headphones-312817_960_720.jpgAnd the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”  1 Samuel 3:10

 


Taking it to the Next Level

I have no one else like Timothy who takes a genuine interest in your welfare, for everyone else looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:21

I was in a prayer meeting this week.  We are trying to bring an evangelistic event to a nearby Native American reservation.  This is a big step of faith, but God is leading.  The area is riddled with drugs, especially heroin and meth.  There have been several overdose deaths in the last year of young people, a symptom of a much bigger epidemic in our area.  One of the Native American Christians at the prayer meeting asked for prayer for her handful of fellow Natives who are Christians.  She asked that they would have a burden for their people, not just for themselves.

It struck me that this is another level of our faith walk–caring about the welfare of others, not just ourselves.  When a sports team does badly and the coach is interviewed at the end of the season about how to do better the next year, the answer usually includes this statement: “we’re going to take it to the next level.”  Just what that means for them as a sports team and coaching staff probably involves analyzing their weak links and irradiating them, maybe changing their offense or defense or trying something new.

For us as Christians, taking it to the next level means something else.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.  It is a deeper work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. How every next levelcan we make this happen?  What element was present in Timothy’s life that made him genuinely interested in the welfare of the Philippians, where no one else was?  What element is missing, not just in the Native American believers’ lives, but in the church as a whole, that takes us away from being self absorbed and toward being ‘about our Father’s business’ as Jesus pronounced in Luke 2:49?

There are three things that I can think of that ‘takes us to the next level’:

1–Prayer for ourselves and others that God would take us there.  Paul’s prayers at the beginning of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians for the believers in those churches modeled prayers we ought to be praying for ourselves and for the people around us.  He prayed for things like that ‘their spiritual eyes would be opened’ and ‘that they would please God in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…’

Why not pray that the people around you would wake up to the spiritual needs of the people around them?  Pray that God would open their eyes to what He wants to do in their jobs and their neighborhoods and communities for His kingdom, and that He would light a fire in their souls.  And pray that they would become Timothy’s, people who are concerned about the welfare of others and the interests of Jesus Christ.

2.  Teaching and discipling.  In Matthew 28:18-20, the ‘Great Commission’ verses, Jesus told His disciples, and us, to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us.  Being about the welfare of others’ spiritual interests is woven throughout the teachings of Paul.  In 2 Corinthians 5 18-19 Paul says that Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation and the message of reconciliation.  That’s not a suggestion, it’s a command–it’s a passing of the baton on to us.

In order for people to know that they have to look out for others besides themselves, it has to be taught to them and modeled for them by us.  If we aren’t doing it, then we might as well forget it.  If we are, then we should bring them along in the process and make it very clear that this is what the Christian life is about–pouring our lives into other peoples’ lives.

3.  Asking, seeking, and waiting for God to do that deeper work of the Holy Spirit that only He can do.  Becoming a Christian that has a deeper working of the Holy Spirit in their lives is a work of God.  When God has had those power surges in my life, I see that it has been at His hand, not mine.  I am dependent on Him and the work of His grace to work when and how He pleases.  I know He says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” in James 4:8, but it is still a waiting game for when God chooses to do His work that takes us deeper into Him.

make God your visionI will not stop pushing into God, asking Him to take me closer to Him, to use me in peoples’ lives, to show me more of Himself and to use Him for His kingdom’s sake.  May He say of me: “I have no one else like Martha who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  She helps others look out for the interests of Jesus Christ.”


Gospel Fluency

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves…instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow up in every way into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:13-15

JD Greear talked about growing in our knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate Gospel Fluencywith the Spirit in his book, Jesus Continued.  His intent is to call us to grow deeper in our knowledge of the gospel to experience the fullness of the Spirit.    Almost four years ago I watched a series of videos on Vimeo by Jeff Vanderstelt that takes JD Greear’s thoughts about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to another level.  Vanderstelt’s videos were on “Gospel Fluency.”  Finally in 2017 he put out a book with that title.  The videos are much better than the book.  I’ll put a link at the bottom of my post to his videos.

I’ve been thinking about Vanderstelt’s thoughts on ‘Gospel Fluency’ since I read the chapter about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate and full in the Spirit.  I will summarize some of Vanderstelt’s thoughts because he puts things in ways I have not heard them before I watched his videos, or since:

  • Gospel fluency is speaking the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life, so that we are changed in our marriages, relationships, spending and living because Jesus is in our life.
  • ‘Speaking the truth in love’ is more than just saying hard words to each other, like addressing character flaws or sin issues.  It is speaking the knowledge of the faith that builds people into maturity in Christ.
  • Ephesians 4: 21 tells us what the truth is that we’re supposed to be speaking: “the truth is in Jesus.”  Speak Jesus to one another.  Another way to say it is, ‘Speak the gospel, or the good news, to one another.’  You don’t just share the gospel to nonbelievers and then stop once they become Christians.  We should keep speaking the good news of Jesus to each other all the time to grow each other up to maturity.
  • Don’t ever drift away from Jesus to something else!  Jesus is what grows us up.  Don’t get to like our Bibles or our Bible studies better than Jesus.  Don’t lead people to church rather than leading them to Jesus.  Don’t just ask for prayer requests, ask for Jesus to work.   **Our prayer lives are about getting Jesus to live His life through us to empower us to live a new life.  The goal of our prayer time is that the Spirit would reveal the truths of God through Jesus and that we would cling to  Jesus as we pray.

**Make Jesus the solution, the everything!!  We lead people to Jesus and then we take them to something else.  We get to Jesus and then move on to something else.  Don’t do that.

So we must keep proclaiming Christ, the good news, the gospel.  We must be resolved to let nothing else be our good news.  We must become so versed in the gospel that we realize that it does answer everything in our existence.  This involves getting a bigger view of the gospel and letting it sink into more areas of our life.

How do you grow in gospel fluency?

  1.  Part of it has to do with making Jesus the center of everything in your life and the rest will fall into place.
  2. Being a part of a fellowship of believers where you are around others that live that out certainly helps.  It’s like getting better at bowling–it’s best worked out at a bowling alley and in a league.  Same thing with a church.
  3. For me, studying the Bible has been a big part of growing in learning more about this life of following Jesus.  But, as Vanderstelt so aptly put it: I can’t love studying the Bible, or my Bible, more than I love Jesus.  My quiet time has to lead me to Jesus each and every day.
  4. Sharing the good news with myself and those around me, applying it to the stuff of life, is the guts of growing up into maturity in Christ.   I need to ask myself “so what?” at the end of my quiet time, and let the Holy Spirit apply His convicting and probing work in my heart.  And then I need to do it.  As the Spirit leads, I also must share with those around me the good news of grace and freedom that applies to the everyday things of life.

Here is the link to Jeff Vanderstelt’s video’s:  Take the time to watch them.  They are well worth your time!

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/jeff-vanderstelt-on-gospel-fluency/

 


Extravagant generosity compels an extravagant response

I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the gospel.  Romans 1:14-16

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:3

I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.  2 Samuel 24:24

Paul realized that he owed a great debt to God.  He often called himself a servant, a slave, or a bondservant.  In the Greek, it is “doulos”: somebody who is forced to work for somebody else for no payment and is regarded as the property of that person.” (Encarta Dictionary)

If grace is free, why should we operate from the concept of owing God, or of being His slave?  There is a difference between a slave of God, and a bondservant.  A bondservant served out his or her time as a slave and could go free, but instead chose to stay with his or her master and to serve for the rest of his or her life.  It is done willingly.  So we are God’s bondservants.  We serve Him willingly.

As for sharing the gospel eagerly like Paul, we should do it out of obedience, out of love, and out  of understanding the gospel.  This involves grasping the depth of our own sin and the depth of the love of God displayed by Jesus on the cross.

perfumeSomehow the two women that washed Jesus’ feet with their hair, tears, and perfume got this while the onlookers didn’t.  In the Luke 7:36-50 account, it was the Pharisees who scoffed while the “sinner” poured out her extravagant response to Jesus.  In John 12:1-7 it was Judas who sneered at Mary that the expensive perfume could be used for the poor.  What catches me with Mary was that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  Mary’s generous sacrifice wasn’t just a beautiful odor to Jesus, but to everyone there.

  • Am I willing to pour out my most expensive possession to wash Jesus’ feet because He washed me with His blood?
  • What is my most expensive possession that I need to hold on to more loosely to give to Jesus as a thank offering?

JD Greear: “God wants us to be consumed with His glory and filled with compassion, just as He is, moving instinctively to a world of need around us.” (Jesus Continued, pg. 89)

When Jesus said “Follow Me,” He bids us first to come and die, like in Romans 12:1-2 and John 12:24, Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

No one wants to die.  They want their cake–

I want to be near my family…I want cute kids…I want a comfortable job…I want a nice husband…I want a 9-5 job…I want a good income with money to spare…I want good neighbors…I, I, I

It is the death of “I”: The Village of Me: Population 1    Welcome to ME

When I chop down that sign, then that’s when God really begins to work.  I surrender, God takes over and He moves my heart with gratitude just like the two women with hair and perfume.  I think gratitude triggers compassion

I sat across the table this week from a dad at school.  His hands were dirty from trying to start his car in almost below zero weather for two days and the car wouldn’t cooperate.  He was early for the meeting, so we had time to talk.  I made him coffee and we chatted.  I’ve known him for years.

His wife died at her own hands several years before, leaving him to raise three boys on his own.  He was severely burned in a welding accident since then, leaving him with just a knob of a nose and no eye lids.  He explained how he should have asked them to give him eyelids because when he goes out in the sun it’s like rivers of water, but he wasn’t complaining.

My heart wells up with compassion for him and his boys, thinking about Christmas, about what life looks like for them, telling him that I was sorry to hear that his dad died just a couple of weeks ago.  How can I bring Jesus into his world?  Oh God, tell me.

Use my life, Lord, to the greatest extent, to bring salvation to those around me.  You used great people to pour the gospel into me, so use me to pour the gospel into others.  I am obligated because of what You have done for me, I am eager because the great news of Jesus, and I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for whoever hears it.

 

 

 


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

 

 


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


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.”

 


God, my shield and the lifter of my head

shieldBut You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill.  Psalm 3:3-4

Have you ever been so depressed or overcome that you can’t even lift your head?   Or have you felt so attacked by troubles, people and problems that you need a shield to protect you so you can stand?  Then this is good news for you to grab a hold of and to live by!

God is our shield.  In Genesis 15:1 God appeared to Abraham and told him, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”  So fear not–don’t be afraid or anxious.  In Psalm 5:12 David declared, “For You bless the righteous, O Lord; You cover him with favor as with a shield.”   Just like Joseph, David and Daniel had God’s hand of favor on them, we can be covered with God’s favor shield as we walk obediently with Him.  There are many verses that tell of the shielding benefit of God to rest on.

God is our glory.  If you are absorbed in weight lifting and stare at your muscles in the mirror while you’re working out, you might say that your glory is in your strength.  You take pride in how much you can lift, or in how trim or muscular that you are.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 commands, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understand and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”  We do not glory in our smarts, our strength or our money.  We glory in the love, justice and righteousness of God.  In God we trust.

God is the lifter of our heads.  There are those days when you can’t lift your head out of shame, depression, tiredness, or even an injury of some sort.  On those days, call out to the lifter of your head to do for you what you simply cannot do.  He will hear and He will act through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Ask for His strength and His grace when you need it.

I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me.  That’s what He does.  Jeremiah 33:3 promises, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”  Don’t wait until you’re in trouble to pray to God, pray early and pray often!