Ticktock

Sometimes I think I’m younger than I am. (No, I’m not sharing my age!) Exercising, helping out with Young Adults Sunday School class, and having my own teenagers certainly brings zest and a sense of humor (minus the crazy pull-my-hair out moments!) But neither my kids—nor the mirror—lie: My glory days of youth can only be glimpsed through the rearview mirror.

Like it or not, we can’t slow down the clock.

As I read the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy I’m reminded of the consequences of our choices. God reminded His people that in order to ratify His agreement they must choose the path of obedience. While seeds of rebellion reap severe calamity, a personal decision to obey would reap benefits in their lives. Likewise, our choices determine our outcomes. When we choose to follow God, we’re not the only ones who benefit. Our relationships with others also reap the benefits. But choosing to abandon God’s ways not only harms ourselves, but also those around us.

In a prayer, Moses reflects on God’s dealings with His people (Psalm 90). He remembers that God is completely unrestricted by time as he contrasts His eternal nature with man’s frailty. I like The Message translation of vs. 12-17:

“Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—and treat your servants with kindness . . . . Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long. Make up for the bad times with some good times; we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime. Let your servants see what you’re best at—the ways you rule and bless your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!”

(bible.com)

When God Tells The Truth

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” ~Psalm 25:5

Although the ancient book of Malachi in the Old Testament was written about 430 B.C., its message is still relevant today. The prophet Malachi was a post-exilic prophet to Judah, along with Haggai and Zechariah. While Haggai and Zechariah rebuke the Jews in Jerusalem because they failed to rebuild the temple, Malachi confronts the people with their neglect of the temple, along with their profane false worship.

The book of Malachi bridges the Old Testament and New Testament and is four chapters short. The literary style uses powerful questions by God and his people. If you haven’t already read this book, I encourage you to do so as you evaluate the focus of your life and depth of devotion to God. Although this book might make us squirm as it confronts people’s sins, it is also steeped in God’s grace: forgiveness, hope and restoration.

In the following podcast, Pastor Cliff Purcell sets the stage for God’s message in Malachi. You may find it here: When God Tells the Truth (Sept. 9, 2018). Blessings!

Eternal Life

Trust is all about relying on the promise of what another person or thing can do (what you think they can do). God wants our complete trust in Him for all of our needs. He desires for us to continually acknowledge Him and stay in close fellowship in Him. It is easy to trust in lies because it makes us feel good, but this gives false hope.

What does God have in store, both now and after death, for those who trust, follow, and stay faithful to Him? Listen, as Pastor Cliff Purcell shares this awesome truth: Eternal Life? (Sept. 2, 2018).

Messiah in the Passover

It was a blessing to listen to Special Guest speaker, Scott Brown, at my parents’ church last Sunday. He did a wonderful job explaining the significance of the Jewish Passover and how it relates to the New Covenant with Jesus being our sacrificial lamb.

Scott Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus who has been sharing the Good News of the Messiah with Jewish people since coming to faith in 1981. Raised in a traditional Jewish home in the suburbs of Washington D.C., Scott began his spiritual journey by moving into the woods and living a solitary life. It was there that a co-worker gave Scott a pocket New Testament. That little Bible launched a crisis of faith which eventuated in Scott’s salvation seven years later. Today, Scott and his wife, Marjorie, serve with Chosen People Ministries in New Zealand. They share the Gospel with Jewish people all around the world. You may check out their ministry here: Chosen People.

You will be directed to the beginning of Scott’s message if you scroll to the 25:30 mark on the bottom of the following video. . . . Shalom!

 

The Unglory of Morning Glory and Sin

At a distance, it blends nicely, adding pizazz to my garden. But on closer inspection, this blossoming spindly “flower” is overtaking my other precious flowers and vegetables, not to mention our yard! So I am changing the name “Morning Glory” to “Morning Unglory”. (Okay, I realize “unglory” isn’t an official word. But I think it should be added to Urban Dictionary, which operates under the motto: “Define Your World.”)

Morning Glory belongs to a family of unique and tenacious plants called Ipomoea. This is an annual, but reseeds itself so successfully you really wouldn’t know it. Although I have sprayed these “charming flowers” with 2-4-D, they keep popping up and quickly creep into other spaces.

God often has a unique way of grabbing my attention when I’m outside in His creation. Recently His Spirit prompted me with this question: What is charming and enticing like Morning Glory, at first anyway, but if left unchecked will completely invade your life?

If your answer is “sin”, congratulations! When once asked, ‘What is the definition of sin?’ Billy Graham gave the following answer (What Is Sin?): “A sin is any thought or action that falls short of God’s will. God is perfect, and anything we do that falls short of His perfection is sin.”

We learn from the Old Testament books of the law, Genesis-Deuteronomy, that the Israelites’ indifference to sin eventually ruined them.

I realize analogies often fall short, but staying true to my title, here are some facts and analogies about my Morning (Un)glory and sin:

  • There are over 1,000 types of Morning Glory flowers, from colorful climbers to subtle ground covers. . . . In searching for a biblical list, or types, of sins, I came across an interesting article: “The entire books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are devoted to revealing to the Israelites God’s laws. Jewish rabbis say that there are 613 laws in the Torah (Books of Moses). Of those, 365 are in the “thou shalt not…” category. . . . When we try to compile a list of sins, we find ourselves buried under the guilt of our own failures because we discover that we have sinned far more than we realized. The Law of God, or the lists of sins that we find in the Bible, serve as a tutor to ‘lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith’ (Galatians 3:24),” (see Got Questions: Is There a Biblical List of Sins? and Billy Graham’s article above.)
  • Growing Morning Glories is easy. In fact, once established they require little attention. (Surprise! Surprise!) Growing the “sin vine” is also easy. It has been established in our world since Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We are all impacted with this sin nature. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6). Even great Bible heroes failed God and disobeyed.
  • Morning Glory flowers are one of the best flowers to decorate our fences and walls. However, it grows with an uncanny speed and can be very invasive and difficult to remove. Likewise, sin appears harmless at first. But it tempts us to fulfill a desire in the wrong way. It easily decorates one’s mind with charming and deceptive rationales. If it is not completely uprooted, this fast growing vine will invade one’s life, wrapping itself around the heart, slowly squeezing and killing one’s joy and spiritual life.
  • Morning Glory is known for their tolerance to poor, dry soils. In fact, the plant can easily establish itself in any slightly disturbed area, including garden edges, fence rows and roadsides where the vine is commonly seen growing. Similarly, sin flourishes when the heart becomes hard and dry from neglecting time with God in prayer, reading His Word, and disobedience. Sin not only impedes reception of the Word, but also disrupts our fellowship with God. Only through confession to God of our sins and repentance (turning away) can we truly flourish and experience abundant living.
  • Controlling Morning Glory will take several seasons. As I’m learning with a lawn that used to be a pasture, persistent seeds in the soil can sprout years later. (Did I mention Morning Glories are excellent reseeders?!) Completely removing the plants can be frustrating with many years long in the task. . . . As Christians, we know that “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6) so “that in Him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9). Thank God! Only through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, can we be forgiven and reconciled to our holy God. But how do we get rid of those stubborn invasive sin seeds that persistently sprout and entangle?

I found the following article helpful: How Can I Overcome Sin in My Christian Life? In summary: “In this lifetime, we will never be perfectly victorious over sin (1 John 1:8), but that should still be our goal. With God’s help, and by following the principles of His Word, we can progressively overcome sin and become more and more like Christ.” Applying these disciplines will help nix stubborn sin habits: 1) The filling of the Holy Spirit; 2) Daily Bible reading/study; 3) Prayer; 4) Church – fellowship with other believers.

Living God’s way, empowered by His Holy Spirit, makes life productive and fulfilling. But it requires discipline and being intentional.

Have a great week!

The Secret of a Fruitful Life

(bibleversestogo.com)

Have you ever felt an inner war between the person you would love to be and the person who just can’t get it right? I know I have. In “The Essentials of the Faith” series, Pastor Cliff Purcell shares a great message for all of us who struggle in this area: The Secret of a Fruitful Life (July 15, 2018).

Have a great week!

God’s Faithfulness

I took this picture in Glacier National Park while driving the Going to the Sun Road. I added a purple filter for the fun of it. 🙂 The scenery here is spectacular. I saw two mountain goats on the side of the hill right before my family drove through a tunnel. Of course, this would be the one time I didn’t have my camera ready. Maybe next time! Wishing you a wonderful week!

Holy Who?

For those of you in the States, I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day.

This book follows Names of Christ in a trilogy designed to help Christians better understand the glory, majesty, and power of the triune God. A devotional study of the Holy Spirit which looks at His ministry throughout Scripture as revealed in the names the Bible gives Him. Knowledge of Him will help you understand His power, His intercession, His indwelling, His gifts, His anointing, and Fruit produced in believers.

Freedom is something we should never take for granted either as an American, or as a Christian who has been set free from the consequence of our sins.

Continuing in the “Essentials of Our Faith” series, Pastor Cliff Purcell shares some things we need to know about the Holy Spirit: Holy Who? (July 1, 2018).

Have a great week!

Hope

The other day my daughter, Annie, was babysitting an eight-year-old girl and her five-year-old brother at our house. Annie volunteered to fill in for some local Grandparents who had to work this day while their Grandchildren came to stay with them for a couple of weeks. While sitting down for lunch, my daughter asked them if anyone wanted to say the blessing. Both children volunteered and said the sweetest prayers. “Kaci” asked God to “be close to all those who are hurting and have lost loved ones.” Curious, I asked Kaci if she attends church. She shared about her church and going to Sunday school each week.

“What do you learn there?” I asked.

“We learn about Jesus and how He died for our sins.”

I told her that Annie and I are God’s children because we have asked Jesus to forgive our sins and have asked Him to be our Lord and Savior. Her big brown eyes grew even larger as she smiled and said, “Me too! And I know that I will be with Him when I die.”

“Isn’t that great hope?” I asked, “. . . knowing that we’ll be with Him when our life is over here on earth?”

Needless to say, Annie and I were both blessed as she replied, “I can’t wait to be with Jesus!”

Ah, to have that kind of childlike faith and enthusiasm. It seems like many of us lose sight of hope as we grow older and find ourselves burdened by the pressures of adulthood. But hope is what enables us to keep our heads up, even when the storm clouds gather and we’re treading on rocky ground. Hope is our lifeline connecting us to heaven.

“How blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!” ~Psalm 84:5-7 (MSG)

If you find your head slumping and the weight on your shoulders too much to bear, remember there is One who never leaves your side. As we focus on His continual presence and the hope of heaven, He will help carry the load. The road He leads us on may be steep and full of potholes at times, but remember—as a child of God—your final destination is in heaven with our Lord.

Jesus’ Ascension Into Heaven

What Christians believe and accept—Jesus’ ascension into heaven—probably sounds more like a fairy tale to some people. This portion of the Apostle’s Creed can be a real faith stretcher. Listen as Pastor Cliff Purcell shares not only about Jesus ascending to heaven, but also of His return in his series on “Essentials of Our Faith”: Wow! Why? Wait–Whoa! (June 17, 2018).

Stripped Down Faith

Hope you’re enjoying summer and are able to find some time for rays and relaxation. 🙂

Does the Bible ever seem more like a huge book of outdated history than pertinent information? Maybe a nice decorative piece of literature displayed on the mantle or bookcase? Wish someone would just explain the nuts and bolts of the gospel? Well, you’re at the right place!

Continuing the series from the Apostles’ Creed, Pastor Cliff Purcell shares essentials of the Christian faith. You may listen to his message here: Stripped Down Faith (June 10, 2018).

Have a great week!

 

Jesus: God + human

Though it may seem that many churches in America are dwindling, some churches are becoming effective tools in God’s hands. What is the common thread for these churches? The return to the essentials of faith. Listen as Pastor Cliff Purcell shares another of these truths in his series on the Apostle’s Creed: Jesus: God + human (June 3, 2018).

Have a wonderful week!

Jesus: Christ. Son. Lord.

I hope all is well with you. Besides enjoying Spring rain showers, fresh blooms, and trying to keep the weeds down, I’ve been feeling like our cat lately. Not in her ability to run and jump—wouldn’t that be fun—but in the way she often chases her tail. Just wish I could make all my busy errands fun and games like our Lucy cat does. 🙂 On a high point, my boys’ high school baseball team advances to the State Championship game this weekend. I’m both excited and proud of their accomplishent. My daughter’s Jr. High softball team is also undefeated. My oldest son graduates in a week, which makes me happy-sad. Happy for his achievements and hopeful for his future plans, but also sad that he’s about to launch from the nest.

In all the busyness and fluctuating emotions, however, God’s blessings are abundant. I’m especially thankful for the relationship I have with my Lord, Jesus Christ. He’s the true glue that holds me together: both in the happy, smooth times and also when I’m spinning in circles chasing my tail.

This is a picture of the molecular structure of Laminin, which is what holds our cells together to form us into a complete being. I don’t think it’s coincidental that the glue that holds us all together is in the shape of the cross. Colossians 1:16-17 says, “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things HOLD TOGETHER.”

In continuation on the fundamentals of our Christian faith, based on the Apostle’s Creed, here is another great podcast message from my Pastor Cliff Purcell: Jesus: Christ. Son. Lord. (May 20, 2018).

Blessings!

 

 

We Believe

Why isn’t the church in America today on a winning streak? It is probably because we have lost our focus on the fundamentals of our faith. Listen to the following podcast, “We Believe….In God the Father Almighty” (May 6, 2018), as Pastor Cliff Purcell begins a new series on the beliefs that are crucial to every Christian: http://firstnaz.com/media.

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A Random Thought

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” -Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

I love variety, but in a somewhat structured and predictable kind of way. 🙂 But as you know, life doesn’t always offer structure, let alone predictability. I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, but one never knows when a curve ball is coming his/her way. As I tell my kids: One thing you can always count on is change. And, although it’s important to plan, there will be times when things don’t pan out the way you plan. That can be unsettling for anyone, but especially for us planner types.

While sitting in the dentist chair the other day, my hygienist confirmed just how random life can be. Knowing that my Senior is about to graduate, she asked what career he wants to pursue. She then told me of her plans to become either a Kindergarten teacher or a zoo owner. Neither of these aspirations transpired for her. After a series of mistakes, she found herself pursing an associate degree in Dental Hygiene. While all I could utter was, “uh, uh” and “hmm”, memories of  my own random life happenings—along with other people’s stories—swam through my mind.

The next morning, God reordered my “random” thinking by bringing the following devotional to my attention.

(Jesus Calling, By Sarah Young)

God reminds me: There may be detours and times of questioning, but He sets the course for His children. As a loving Father, we can trust that He alone knows the best plan(s) and methods to mold us more into His image.

 

God Has Friends In Low Places

Continuing on the person of The Holy Spirit, I found Bill Sweeney’s post, “God Has Friends In Low Places”, interesting and insightful. If you haven’t visited Bill’s blog, Unshakable Hope, I encourage you to do so. Bill, who found himself paralyzed from ALS, has been a huge inspiration of having hope in spite of difficult trials. He is able to write by using a computer that tracks his eye movements.

Unshakable Hope

The other day I was sitting out in the backyard listening to an audio book and getting a much-needed dose of vitamin D. Two Mockingbirds were darting back and forth just feet in front of me and were making so much noise that it was becoming difficult to hear my audio book. I knew that they had a nearby nest and were only trying to protect their young from a potential threat (apparently Mockingbirds don’t understand that paralyzed people in a wheelchair don’t pose a threat).

Then I saw two beautiful Bluebirds sitting in a nearby live oak tree just minding theirbluebird in tree
own business. Like me, they seemed to be doing their best to ignore the noise and the antics of the paranoid Mockingbirds. Every five minutes or so, one of the Bluebirds would fly over and land on the roof of a dilapidated birdhouse that Mary’s been meaning to…

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The Holy Spirit In the Believer

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God’s gift to believers

Jesus spoke these words the night before his betrayal at the Last Supper. Jesus anticipated returning to His Father in Heaven, but He would not leave His followers helpless and alone. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit would be with them—giving them comfort, guidance, and strength. But instead of being with them physically as Jesus was, the Holy Spirit would reside in them (See also 1 Corinthians 3:16). I think this is one of God’s greatest (and mysterious) miracles: giving us new life through the baptism of His Holy Spirit—spiritual birth (John 3:3-8).

When we understand that Christ died in our place for our sins, rose from the grave, and we place our complete trust in Him for salvation—the Holy Spirit comes and indwells the believer.

Security in Salvation

Believers can be secure in their salvation. We are sealed by Christ through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus, who is stronger than the grips of death, is our Sealer. His seal is the Holy Spirit, “given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Believers are chosen [in Christ] before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6). Why? Paul says: to create a family of people who are passionate for God’s honor and glory (Ephesians 1:10-12). This is made possible through the Holy Spirit.

God’s children now have direct access to Him because Jesus has made us acceptable in His sight (unlike the Old Testament era when people could only approach God through priests, operating under the old sacrificial system, Hebrews 10:19-23).

Benefits of the Believer’s Security in Christ (Romans 8)

The Holy Spirit plays an active role in the believer’s life by:

  • Removing chaos and confusion with life and peace
  • Protecting against Satan
  • Assuring no condemnation
  • Uniting us with Christ, (no separation from God)
  • Preserving and protecting what the Father brings into being

Have you been sealed with the Holy Spirit by placing your complete trust in Christ?

Is it possible to grieve the Holy Spirit? How?

How can believers cooperate with the Holy Spirit and glorify God?

 

Where Is Jesus Now?

Have you ever wondered where Jesus is now and what He’s been doing since His resurrection?

As a child I believed Jesus went back to heaven after He arose from the grave. But other than preparing a place for us, I wondered how He spent the rest of His time. After all, who enjoys building all the time? My young mind imagined Him enjoying activities I’d love to do. You know, things like jumping on fluffy clouds, soaring over colorful universes, and landing a quadruple back flip, just to name a few. 🙂

Not to say Jesus can’t, or doesn’t, engage in “fun” activities. But Scripture doesn’t promote Him as a thrill seeker or as One who is consumed with Himself. Rather, His thoughts and prayers are for His children.

Don’t you love that Jesus isn’t like a cartoon depiction of a Genie floating on a heavenly cloud, sipping Cherry Coke while being entertained? Not only did Christ accomplish His mission on earth through His teaching, atoning sacrifice and resurrection, but He still engages in our lives, helping us navigate all of life’s twists and turns. Having been through fiery trials and temptations Himself—without sinning—He not only knows what we need, He is also able to help us. And He presents His prayers and petitions to God the Father on our behalf!

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

The apostle Paul also paints a beautiful picture of God’s children sitting victoriously with Christ in the “heavenly realms” over the dark canvas of what we used to be: objects of God’s wrath due to our sin (Ephesians 2:1-9). This is made possible because our sinless Lord took our deserved punishment upon Himself (Isaiah 53:4-12). Our eternal life is secured only through Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-12).

God the Father raised Jesus up in the power of His Holy Spirit, seating Him at His right hand―to His original position before Christ took on flesh (John 1:1-5). Jesus now reigns victoriously (Philippians 2:9-11) and will one day reign in justice over a new earth (Revelation 21).

Maybe you’re unsure if you are God’s child. This is a decision you must make yourself. The church can’t save you. Your parents’ faith won’t save you. There are no guarantees for tomorrow, but you have today. Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.”

For more on where Jesus is now and why Scripture emphasizes the right hand of God, see the following links at gotquestions.org: Is Jesus in Heaven?, Right Hand of God.

Have a wonderful week!

Shelter From the Storm

Although the brisk morning breeze slowed us down, we were in good spirits. We were also making good progress. A handful of gray clouds dot the sky, but the sunlight still broke through, clothing the horizon and Lake Coeurd’Alene in a purple glow.

My husband and three young kids bike in silence as we soak in the beauty of our surroundings, listen to the birds sing, and inhale the fresh mountain air. But within 30 minutes our landscape darkens and the wind picks up as the small cloud fists consolidate into a giant thunderhead. My husband and I give each other knowing looks as the monster cloud sheds a few tears. We’re going to get caught in a freezing downpour while riding all the way back to the truck! After driving this far, the two-and-a-half-hour trip home—drenched to the bone—would be the ultimate spoiler.

But just before turning around, we spot some sort of covering up ahead beside the bike trail. Yes! “Hurry!” My husband motions. One by one, before the giant cloud head unleashes his fury, we shelter under a small metal overhang. The breeze even dries our slightly damp clothes during the five minute rain stampede, drenching everything except us. Wow, thank you Lord, for guiding us here at just the right moment. Thank you for providing this covering.

On Easter, we celebrated Jesus conquering death and sin through His resurrection after laying His life down on the cross as the sacrificial substitute for our sins. Similar to my family’s shelter from the rain, Jesus becomes our shelter, but on a much grander scale. Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus provides a covering from the damning consequence of our sin (death). “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly,” (Romans 5:6).

Why the Blood of Jesus?
The disciple Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” Jesus Christ’s blood is the most precious thing God has offered us. Not only is it the foundation of redemption, but also the only acceptable payment for our sins.
Because we have all failed to obey God’s laws and are guilty of doing wrong (Rom. 3:23), we are separated from the holy God. The penalty of our sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Compared to God “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Jesus alone is qualified to bridge the chasm between us and God due to our sin. His offer of salvation and fellowship is a free gift that we receive in Christ through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).

In the Old Testament, after Adam and Eve’s original sin, God accepted the death of an animal as a substitute for the sinner since one life had to be given for another. This, however, was a temporary covenant. The blood needed to be repeated daily and yearly. While blood symbolized death, it also showed that a life was spared. God would later send His only Son providing a new covenant, or New Testament through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death would be in the place of all sinners. His sacrifice completely fulfilled what the Old Testament covenant meant to. His blood would remove the world’s sins for everyone who puts their faith in Him. This sacrifice—an eternal covenant— would never have to be repeated. It’s the only provision, God sacrificing His Son Jesus in our place, that we acquire complete forgiveness. It is attained by accepting Jesus as our Savior, and accepting that He shed His blood to cover the sins of all who repent.

John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The Lamb references the unblemished animal sacrifice from the Old Testament. Although there are numerous references to the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, a more familiar one is the sprinkling of blood on the Hebrew doorposts as they were in captive to slavery by the Egyptian Pharaoh. This act of obedience sealed God’s protective covering when His punishment of the death angel passed through the streets. This was just one curse that God sent down on Pharaoh because he refused to release these Hebrew slaves.

The Hebrew Feast of Passover commemorates this event, which is now recognized as a “type” or foreshadowing of the blood of Jesus. The blood is a protective provision from God—powerful and freeing. If you have asked Jesus to be Lord of your life, then you too are covered by the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of your heart. He covers your heart and your life with his protection from eternal death and with ever-lasting forgiveness of sin.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Christ died for our sins. . . He was buried. . . He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures . . . He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred . . .” -1 Corinthians 15:3-6

As a child, and admittedly throughout my adult years, watching the reenactment of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion raises questions. Why did Jesus have to go through the fire of betrayal and agonizing suffering? Out of all the people, why Jesus? Although I know the answer, it’s still difficult sometimes to wrap the depths of God’s love for us—for me—around one’s heart and head. That Jesus willingly endured such shame and torture and then died in my place leaves me in awe (see Heb. 12:2).

We have all failed to obey God’s laws and are guilty of doing wrong (Rom. 3:23). Because of this, we have been separated from the holy God. The penalty of our sin is death (Rom. 6:23). We can do nothing by ourselves to be united with God. His offer of salvation and fellowship is a free gift that we receive in Christ through faith: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

“I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” -John 10:7-10 (MSG)

That Jesus is the only way to God is probably Christianity’s most controversial claim. It would be absurd for Christians to stand on this premise if Jesus didn’t claim it Himself. If the Gospels are historically reliable—which there is abundant evidence they are—then we have Jesus’ words: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (Jn. 14:6). As unpopular as this statement may be for some, there really isn’t wiggle room for debate. Jesus goes on further and states: “Whoever rejects You (God the Father) rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me, rejects the One who sent Me,” (Lk. 10:16). Jesus clarifies: There is no other path to God. “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” (Jn. 8:24). So if we want to follow Christ, we must accept what He said about Himself.

How is Jesus different from other religious figures? While no other major world religious founder claimed to be God, Jesus affirmed this claim (Mk. 14:61-64; Jn. 10:30-34). What would be the evidence to prove He is God? The confirmation, Jesus said, would be His resurrection from the dead (Mt. 12:38-42; Mk. 14:28). Jesus provided the ultimate evidence for His unique claims.

Jesus—God’s unique Son—was more than just a man. Because He never sinned, He alone can bridge the gap between sinful mankind and the sinless God. When Jesus freely offered His life for us by dying on the cross in our place, He took all of our wrongs (past, present and future) upon Himself and in exchange offers us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). In so doing, He made a way to save us from the consequences of our sin, which includes God’s judgment and death (Rom. 5:8-10). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is proof that His substitutionary sacrifice was acceptable to God. We celebrate His resurrection—especially on Easter—because it is the source of new life for all who believe that He is God’s Son (Jn. 3:16).

What evidence is there of Jesus’ resurrection?

Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection (Apologetics Study Bible for Students)

  • First-century Jews, Romans and Christians all agreed that Jesus’ tomb was empty.
  • More than 500 people saw the risen Jesus (1 Co. 15:6). Many saw Him more than once and sometimes in groups of hundreds of people.
  • Only the true resurrection of Jesus could account for the changed lives and beliefs of people like Saul (Paul), Jesus’ earthly brother, James, or the disciples.
  • Jesus’ resurrection explains how the church spread rapidly against all odds and against hostility.
  • All but one of Jesus’ disciples died martyr’s deaths because they taught that Jesus was resurrected. None of them renounced belief in the resurrection.

How Can I Become God’s Child and Receive Forgiveness and Eternal Life?

Salvation is not dependent upon our emotions, nor does it stand alone on intellectual agreement. Receiving Christ is as an act of the will through faith. Repentance involves removing self from the throne to placing God on the throne of one’s life. Like receiving and unwrapping a gift, we must act to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. It’s an individual choice. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” (Jn. 1:12). Only then can we know and experience God’s love and purpose for our lives.

For forgiveness of sin and to enter a relationship with God, we must acknowledge our sin and confess Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:8-10). When we receive Christ, we experience a new spiritual birth (John 3:1-8) and live in union with Him.

Jeremiah 29:13

The following prayer is an example. However, God isn’t as concerned about words as He is with the attitude of the heart: “Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross in my place. Please cleanse me of my sin and come into my life as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for giving me eternal life and forgiving my sins. Help me to be the person you desire.”

I would love to hear from you if you took this step of faith. Wishing you a wonderful Easter!

Jesus’ Last Request

Have you ever asked God to have his will in your life? Great! But what is His will for you? Although Jesus was fully aware that He would soon be crucified, His thoughts and last prayer request includes us.

Listen to Pastor Cliff Purcell as he shares this important message in the following podcast: “A Family Conversation – Week 8” (March 18, 2018). Blessings!

Faith Walk

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

Do you ever feel like God is nudging you in a new direction? Lately, He’s been steering me in a new area of ministry. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable because I haven’t rowed in these waters before. When I tell Him He must be mistaken . . . I’m not the right person, He is quick with a timely word. I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul who received a “thorn in his flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). Feeling overwhelmed, he asked God three times to take it away. But each time, God said no: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).

Are you in the same boat, feeling unqualified or too weak for the task God asks of you? You’re in good company. I think it’s God’s way: putting ordinary people in situations that seem beyond their own capabilities. Why? He wants us to tap into His power so He receives all the glory and we receive the blessing. Here are just a few examples of God giving seemingly unrealistic assignments: Jeremiah’s call and commission (Jeremiah 1:4-19); David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:20-51); and Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40).

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

No, a faith walk is no cake walk. But the risksfailure, insecurity, feeling overwhelmed, etc.are worth it when God shows up. Isn’t that the greatest adventure of all? My challenge, and yours, is to ask God to be glorified in our weakness as we launch out in faith.

 

The Kingdom of God

It has been said that, in the Gospel of Luke, we see Jesus as “the Friend of the friendless” (William Barclay, The Men, The Meaning, The Message Of The Books, p. 17). This is wonderful. Jesus is our Friend. We rejoice in this great when we sing, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” Jesus […]

via The Kingdom Of God: Luke’s Gospel — Learning From God’s Word

Do You Have Hope?

I know the symptoms of anemia. You feel tired all the time, weak, lacking energy. You are alive, but life is a burden. The cause of anemia, I’m told, is not enough red blood cells in the bloodstream to carry oxygen throughout the body. Serious lack of energy may be noticed before any other evidence […]

via The Christian Hope: A Counter To Spiritual Anemia? — Just Call Me Pastor

Second Chances (Jonah 3)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’” –Jonah 3:1-2

Jonah 3 is a glorious reminder of God’s grace and mercy. You may read Jonah 3 here: Bible Gateway.

Although God’s deliverance of Jonah involved a fish vomiting him out (Jonah 2:10), he was given another chance to fulfill His purpose. And though Jonah’s heart remained callous in going to Nineveh, he must have been filled with awe that God would still choose him to be the first missionary to a pagan people.

The Bible contains many second chance stories. Here are a couple of examples of God gracing individuals with His mercy.

Aaron

Aaron—Moses’ brother—may have seemed to spend more time on the sidelines compared to Moses. But God still had a high calling on his life. He not only served as Moses’ mouthpiece before Pharaoh, but also served as a pillar of support. When Moses became weary, Aaron helped hold up his hands in prayer as the Israelites waged war against the Amalekites.

While Moses received God’s instructions on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 28) of Aaron’s garment design and his consecration, things began to sour back at camp. Exodus 32:1-5 tells of the Israelites’ rebellion. Moses must have been shocked, but God knew of their rebellious theatrics all along. However, God still gave Aaron a second chance by allowing him to serve as Israel’s first high priest. He would be mediator between God and His chosen people. (The Great Discipline highlights the consequences of those who chose to remain in rebellion, along with the fate of those who returned to God.)

Sarah

God gave Abraham’s wife, Sarah, a promise: She would become a mother of an entire nation of people through her own son. Although Abraham and Sarah displayed extraordinary faith in God by leaving Ur to go to an unknown place, the news that she would birth a son in her old age—after years of infertility—resulted in laughter. After waiting 10 years, Sarah decided to help God out by offering Abraham her maidservant Hagar. The result? An illegitimate son, Ishmael, was born. Although God would still bless Ishmael, the chosen seed belonged to another. Heartache and stress resulted from their decision to forge ahead of God’s time table. But God still blessed Sarah by enabling her to give birth to the promised son (Gen. 17:17-21).

Hopefully you are on track with God’s plan and not slipping down the slide of rebellion as Jonah did, (or dodge God’s directive(s) like I’ve done before). Although there are consequences for our disobedience, I’m so glad God is a second-chance-giver. Yes, He is the Great Judge, but He is also the Master Mender, Beauty-for-ashes Exchanger, and Hope Healer. Restoration is ours when we return to Him. Do you recall a time when God gave you another chance to fulfill something He asked of you?

How Can I Enhance My Prayer Life? (Jonah 2)

In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” –Jonah 2:2

Bible teacher, Priscilla Shirer, observes how we can enhance our prayer lives. Three major prayer themes emerge from Jonah, chapter 2: the pattern of prayer, the passion of prayer, and the posture of prayer. You may read Jonah 2 here: Bible Gateway.

Pattern of Prayer

Jonah must have had an arsenal of Scripture stamped in his memory bank the day he cried to God inside the big fish. If he had a scroll tucked inside his cloak it would have been water stained and ruined. But Jonah managed to thread some strands of Scripture from Psalms, weaving them into a personal prayer tapestry to frame his unique situation. Consider the following pairs of verses that share similar terminology or thoughts:

Jonah 2:2—Psalm 30:3

Jonah 2:3—Psalm 42:7

Jonah 2:5—Psalm 69:1-2

Jonah 2:7—Psalm 18:6

Jonah 2:9—Psalm 66:13-14

Our prayers are most effective when they originate from God’s Word. Like Jonah, have we taken time to allow God to etch His Word on our hearts? If so, then we will also have a framework of verses to piece together for prayer in difficult times.

Passionate Prayer

Jonah wasn’t speaking in a monotone manner when he prayed. Did his cry to God echo inside the fish’s intestinal walls? I wonder. The Hebrew word “cried out” is only used 22 times in the Bible and implies intensity of an act reserved only for the most earnest prayers. While fervent prayer is not a guarantee that God will answer “yes”, it certainly seems to capture His attention, (see Exodus 2:23-25 and 2 Samuel 22:1, 4-7).

Raising our voices, however, is not the goal of prayer. God desires for us to pursue Him with our hearts and minds. He doesn’t want our meaningless repetition of words. Intentional prayer must employ our will, mind, and emotion.

Posture of Prayer

My kids and I have this unspoken understanding. When I pretend to pull a string up from their heads at the dinner table, they know I mean, “Sit up . . . shoulders back . . . stop slumping!”

The posture of prayer is the third major lesson we learn from Jonah. Being in dire straits, one would think Jonah’s prayer would be for deliverance. However, his prayer isn’t for deliverance, but rather a prayer of deliverance. Jonah gives thanks in the midst of his grave condition. Unsure how God will deliver, Jonah determines—God willing—that he will go back to the holy city and participate in the thanksgiving offering. His posture would be “with a voice of thanksgiving.” Jonah intends to not only give in the animal and cereal sacrifices, but also with a verbal sacrifice of praise.

While we are no longer under the Old Covenant with the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament temple, we can still offer God a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). 

Finally, Jonah’s deliberate prayer ends with “Deliverance is from the Lord” (NRSV). Shirer writes: “The Hebrew word used for deliverance is a derivative of the name Yesuah . . . . The Christian reader who hears this conclusion to Jonah’s prayer in its original language cannot miss this word that sounds so much like the Hebrew name of Jesus which has meant deliverance and salvation for the peoples of the world.”

What a beautiful reminder: Salvation and deliverance come from the One true Lord and Savior, Yesuah.

If you have been following Pastor Cliff Purcell’s podcasts on “The Lord’s Prayer”, here is another great message about praying (and wrestling) for God’s will: A Family Conversation – Week 5 (Feb. 11, 2018).

Jonah and the Slippery Slope of Sin

So they said to him, ‘What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?’—for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.” – Jonah 1:11

Jonah was the only prophet recorded in Scripture who ran away from God. Priscilla Shirer (Jonah, Navigating a Life Interrupted), writes: “When he first started running, Jonah in essence stepped down from his prophetic office and went down to Joppa—geographically down-hill. He found a ship and went down to it. His descent didn’t stop there. Once on board he went down into the hold to get some sleep (1:5).”

After getting stuck in a web of consequences—including being thrown overboard, swallowed by a big fish and tangled in slimy seaweed—Jonah learns it would have been much easier just to obey in the first place.

So how does a successful prophet/person spiral downward so quickly? The same way any of us spiral down the slippery slope of disobedience. It begins with a justified thought: I’ve worked hard all week, what’s a little flirting? . . .  Maybe I didn’t tell the whole story, what they don’t know can’t hurt . . . . If my boss knew that I barely make ends-meet he wouldn’t care that I pocket a donation now and then.

The justified thought followed by a justified action initiates the descent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out sins’ negative ripples affect not only the one being disobedient, but also affects surrounding lives.

After Jonah finally told the sailors he was running from God, the sailors reeled not only from the storm, but also reeled for life saving answers. Shirer writes: “We easily become paralyzed by fear or guilt when our lives seem to whirl out of control. A glimpse at our lives with all of their spinning parts can make us dizzy with disgust at the mess we may have made. It’s easier to just sit, soak, and be sour. That’s what the enemy would like. He’d prefer we get lazy, complacent, and apathetic with distance between ourselves and God’s best. But if, like the sailors, we see the connection between our chaotic circumstances and our own decisions, we must ask, ‘Now what?’”

So what should we do when we find ourselves in the belly of our consequences? In last week’s post, Jonah’s Unhallowing of God’s Name, Jonah had finally answered the sailors’ questions about his identity. His answers, along with his actions, parallel important New Testament teachings for reconciliation with God.

Steps Toward Reconciliation with God

Acknowledge our sin (Jonah 1:12) – “I acknowledge my sin to You … I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin,” (Psalm 32:5).

Accept God’s discipline (Jonah 1:15) – “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes . . . .  I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me,” (Psalm 119:71, 75). God doesn’t discipline for sport. Rather, He wants to prepare us for His purposes by reviving and realigning us.

Ask for forgiveness (Jonah 2:2) – Repentance has two parts: 1) Confession means to agree with God about any rebellion or sin we harbor and ask Him to cleanse us; 2) Change means to change our attitude, mind, and actions . . . turn away from the sin and turn toward God. Although Jonah’s heart still didn’t align with God’s heart, his actions finally complied with God. Sometimes we just need to step out in faith and allow God to help us align our hearts and feelings in time. I love that no matter how far we have slipped, or how much time we’ve lost, God is faithful and completely forgives (1 John 1:9). He is the master of taking our messes and shaping it into something beautiful, replacing the old with fresh life in Him.

Act on God’s direction (Jonah 2:9; 3:3) – Many commentators believe Jonah 2:9 is the heart of the book of Jonah since he decides to obey God’s directives. After being spit out on dry land, Jonah realizes that Yahweh has preserved his life through a fish named “grace”. “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.” Shirer writes: “True sacrificial obedience would cost Jonah something more than just a one-time decision to go to Nineveh. Likewise, we must be willing to obey the small details along the pathway to obedience to the Lord as well.”

Has God’s divine interruption revealed anything you are holding on to too tightly? Is there a goal, comfort, ambition, or sin He is asking you to release? If so, release it to the One who loves you and knows you best. Then go where He is leading.

While Jonah 1 records everyone praying except for Jonah, chapter 2 records a beautiful prayer of Jonah crying out to God. The bulk of his prayer highlights the depths he sunk both spiritually and physically.

For more on prayer, specifically unwrapping the Lord’s Prayer, you may listen to Pastor Cliff Purcell’s podcast here: A Family Conversation – Week 4 (Feb. 4, 2018). Blessings!

Jonah’s Unhallowing of God’s Name

I love that God is always on the move, working in us and around us, even in spite of our failures to acknowledge Him or act in ways that don’t honor Him.

Case in point: Jonah.

Jonah—the successful Israelite Prophet—paid the fare to sail from Joppa to Tarshish. In his justified rebellion, he thought if he could run as far as possible from where God’s tangible presence rested, on His people and in His temple, He might escape a convicting one-on-encounter with God. So not only did he refuse to follow God’s order to go to Nineveh to preach, but also set out on a 2,000 mile journey in the opposite direction.

As Jonah crashes (sleeps) in the hold of the ship, God whips up a furious storm. The pagan sailors—from a polytheistic culture—cry out to their gods, whom they believe not only control a part of nature, but also are easily offended. Just maybe the sailors could garner forgiveness for any spiritual offense they unknowingly made.

The storm, however, rages on. So they toss all the cargo overboard in hopes to stay afloat. But that doesn’t help either. What about that mysterious sleeping guy, completely oblivious to their peril? They rouse him. “What’s this? Sleeping! Get up! Pray to your god! Maybe your god will see we’re in trouble and rescue us,” (Jonah 1:6, MSG). Upon drawing lots, Jonah receives the short straw and finally fesses up: “I’m a Hebrew. I worship God, the God of heaven who made sea and land” (vs. 9).

Terrified from the realization that Jonah is on the run from this powerful God, the sailors make every effort to abort Jonah’s suggestion of throwing him overboard to calm the sea. But the wind and waves only worsen.

Despite Jonah’s rebellion and detachment from caring about the sailors, God uses the storm and Jonah’s words—which don’t align with his actions—to show them who God is. So they cry out to the Lord God and ask Him to not hold their actions against them as they throw Jonah overboard. You know the rest of the story.

Was Jonah ashamed to tell the sailors more about his God? He certainly wasn’t acting as a good representative. They were the ones to rouse him and ask him to pray. But before we pounce on Jonah too much, what about us? Do our words and actions accurately reflect the holiness and grandeur of God? If I’m honest, there have been times when unbelievers have acted more Christlike. . . . Ouch!

Just How important is it for believers to point others to God and His holiness through words and actions? When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray—after clarifying whom to pray, “Our Father”—Jesus instructs them to pray: “Hallowed be Thy name.” But what exactly does this mean? My pastor, Cliff Purcell, explains the meaning and application of these words. You may listen to his podcast—“A Family Conversation – Week 3 (Jan. 28, 2018)”—here: Our Father, “hallowed” . . . what’s that?

Have a great week!

How Should I Pray?

As Christians, we’re called to pray. But do you ever struggle with prayer? I know I have, and still do at times: how to pray; what to pray; when to pray.

Most Christians are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. The first two words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father”, are significant. But many people have difficulty associating God as good since He is called “Father”. God, however, is not only good, He is also a good and perfect Father who is good to His children.

I am enjoying my pastor’s current series on prayer. You may listen to Cliff Purcell’s podcast here: “A Family Conversation – Week 2.” (Scroll down to “Media Archive”, January 14, 2018.)

Have a wonderful week!

 

 

 

Unshakable Hope

My heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who appears to have died from suicide on Tuesday. Although I didn’t know Tyler personally, he’s remembered on campus for his sunny disposition. Tyler was the presumptive starting quarterback going into next season. He made some key contributions in eight games this past season, including leading his team from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Boise State University 47-44 in triple overtime.

(Google search)
What Is Salvation?

I don’t know anymore about Tyler’s situation, but it’s disturbing to hear of anyone taking his/her life. According to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression, one out of every 12 college students makes a suicide plan and 7.5 students per 100,000 kill themselves.

This incident is a wake up call for me to be more aware of those I encounter and be more intentional to connect with people. Although I’m a proponent of social media, it shouldn’t replace personal relationships. I admit, I cherish “likes” and thumb’s up, but we all need face-to- face time.

For believers, it’s also a good reminder to always be prepared to share the hope we have in Christ Jesus. A hope that can’t—or shouldn’t—be shaken when we’re grounded in Him. It’s the only hope I held onto when I experienced an episode of depression throughout my college years. I don’t want to make this post about me, as I know many people fight this battle, but if it helps someone better understand depression you can find my story here: My Lifeboat.

I feel that some Christians think believers should be immune to this struggle. I know at the time that I felt guilty for even having this struggle. But as none of us are immune to physical ailments, why would there be an exception to mental ailments?

Moving on to a lighter note and following last week’s theme, “God Interruptions”, I bring you Heisman Trophy winner and professional athlete, Tim Tebow. Although most of us aren’t called to be platform athletes or speakers, God still uses us in ways beyond our comprehension when we yield to His promptings, however small they may seem. Although Tim could have easily dismissed what God laid on his heart, he chose to yield to God’s prompting instead. I really enjoyed his story of how God blessed his seemingly small act of faith and trust you will too!

God Interruptions

Oh, I’m sorry . . . Did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?” – (A funny interruption quote found on imgfave.com)

I thought I’d share what God has been teaching me lately. But first, how is January going for you? Are you tackling some of your New Year resolutions? I have always been goal/task oriented, which often lends to frustration when my plans don’t pan out. Do you relate to this? I think God is probably smiling as I begin a new Bible study venture by Priscilla Shirer. He knows I have some growing up to do in this area. Although I’ve never been swallowed by a fish—nor wish to!—I hope to learn from Jonah’s mistakes. (Any local women want to join me in this study? You are welcome as we’re just beginning. Let me know.)

We all experience daily interruptions. Most are unwelcomed, right? Unless we’ve just won the lottery or something similar. But what about when God interrupts your life? As in Jonah’s case. Jonah—a successful prophet who served God in a comfortable manner—received the inconvenient instructions from God to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and tell them to repent.

But Jonah wasn’t the only Bible character who experienced God’s interruption. Consider Moses, who lived the royal lifestyle; David, a young shepherd boy called to be Israel’s king, but first had to dodge King Saul’s spears; and what about Sarah (Abraham’s wife)? Can you imagine birthing a baby at the age of 90? No thanks!

And the list goes on.

In fact, all believers have God interruptions. Why? Because His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways (Isa. 55:8). But our ultimate example of One who experienced an interrupted life is none other than Jesus Christ. Unconstrained to the limits of time and space—sharing His Father’s glory in heaven—He followed His Father’s will by coming to earth as a vulnerable baby. Talk about major life disruption! “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”  (Phil. 2:6-8, NIV)

Love compelled Jesus to follow His Father’s directives. Love strong enough to endure the unfathomable agony of carrying the world’s sins on His shoulders as He lay down His life. Through shedding His blood, He pardons us from the wages due us—eternal separation from Him—for those who believe on His name and follow His will. He not only made possible our freedom from sins’ bondage, but also identifies in our weakness, offering victory in our temptations.

I’ll admit, I’ve ran from God before. Maybe not physically, but inwardly through my attitudes and/or just not following through with His directive. Can you relate? So how is a believer to view a life interrupted by God? When we get a new view of who God is—the One true God—who desires to speak to us and use us for His kingdom purpose(s), we gain a new perspective on God interruptions. Priscilla Shirer writes: “The first two miracles in the Book of Jonah are found in the very first verse: The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Aittai saying (Jonah 1:1) . . . . 1) God spoke; 2) God allowed a mere human to hear His voice.” What a privilege!

Would Jonah have ran from God if he could have seen the end picture? Often the greatest revivals are a result of one person obeying God after having his/her schedule interrupted.

Just as Jesus’ interrupted life ushered in something new—as His ways didn’t fit into the old rigid legalistic mold of religion—God also challenges us to follow His lead. Am I prepared to look at people in new ways and serve them in new ways? God often sends us into dark places to shine His light and spread His hope.

It is both significant and a privilege to be interrupted by God, to be called and used for His purpose(s). How many of us hunger for a life of significance? A life couldn’t be more significant than a life that yields to God, which includes interruptions from our plans.

So now that I’ve shared this, I’m sure God has a divine interruption around the corner. Hopefully I’ll have a new perspective. 🙂 How has God interrupted your life lately?

New Year Habit

(Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

“I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory,” Psalm 63:2, NIV.

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young,” Isaiah 40:10-11.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast,” Psalm 139:7-10.

 

10 Hopeful Bible Verses for the New Year

What better way to begin the New Year than focusing on Bible verses that inspire a fresh walk with God and a deeper commitment to living the Christian faith?

The following post is written by Mary Fairchild and can be found here: 10 Hopeful Bible Verses for the New Year.

NEW BIRTH – A LIVING HOPE

Salvation in Jesus Christ represents new birth — a transformation of who we are. The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the new and living hope we have in this life and in the life to come:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3, NIV)

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

(www.biblestudytools.com)

We can trust God in the year ahead, for he has good plans for our future:

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT)

A NEW CREATION

This passage describes a transformation that will eventually lead to the full enjoyment of eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection introduce followers of Jesus Christ to a foretaste of the new world to come.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)

A NEW HEART

Believers are not merely changed externally, they undergo a radical renewal of heart. This total cleansing and transformation reveal the holiness of God to an unholy world:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, NLT)

FORGET THE PAST – LEARN FROM MISTAKES

Christians aren’t perfect. The more we grow in Christ, the more we realize how far we have to go. We can learn from our mistakes, but they are in the past and need to stay there. We look forward toward the resurrection. We keep our eyes on the prize. And by maintaining our focus on the goal, we are pulled heavenward.

Both discipline and perseverance are required to accomplish this objective.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT)

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10-11, NIV)

WAIT ON THE LORD – GOD’S TIMING IS PERFECT

We can be content and wait for God’s timing, for it is sure to be the right time. By waiting and trusting patiently, we gain quiet strength:

Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. (Psalm 37:7, NLT)

Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31, NASB)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)

EACH NEW DAY IS SPECIAL

We can count on God’s never-ending love and faithfulness with each new day:

The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” (Lamentations 3:22-24, NASB)

The Magi Visit the Messiah, Matthew 2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” –Matthew 2:1-2

I realize most of us have heard this story many times. But I thought I’d share a short summary of what stands out the most to me at this time. You may read Matthew 2 here: Bible Gateway.

The wise men—after traveling thousands of miles to see the king of the Jews—responded with worship and costly gifts. They gave of their best. Bible students see their gifts as a symbol of Christ’s identity and what He would accomplish:

  • Gold – a gift for a king
  • Incense – a gift for deity
  • Myrrh – a spice for a person who was going to die

The Magi’s approach to simply worship God for who He is stands in stark contrast to many people’s approach today. Our culture tends to breed expectations of God that center around us: our comfort and convenience. How often do we expect God to seek us, explain and prove Himself, and then bless us with gifts?

Joseph received divine guidance to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt so Herod couldn’t kill Jesus. Like Joseph, are we receptive to God’s guidance? Are we preparing our hearts to discern God’s leading by spending daily time in His Word and in prayer?

The following music video is for all my drummer friends (and those of you who just like drums) Merry Christmas!

 

Does Jesus’ Genealogy Matter? (Matthew 1:1-17)

“Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.” – Matthew 1:17

I’m beginning the book of Matthew during my devotional times, which seems appropriate with Christmas around the corner. This Gospel book links the Old and New Testaments by referencing many links to Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. While 400 years had passed since the last Old Testament prophecies, faithful Jews were still waiting for the Messiah.

Because a Jewish family line proved whether or not a man or woman was chosen as God’s own, Matthew’s opening presentation of Jesus’ genealogy would have held a fascination for his Jewish readers. The first of many proofs to connect Jesus as the Messiah is evidenced with Jesus Christ being a descendant of both King David and Abraham, as the Old Testament had predicted. But Matthew takes it a step further by writing that God did not send His Son to be an earthly king—as the Jews hoped—but a heavenly king. Unlike King David’s kingdom, Christ’s kingdom would never end (Isaiah 11:1-5).

Forty-six people whose lifetimes span 2,000 years—all ancestors of Jesus—are listed in the first 17 verses of Matthew, chapter one. Here is the record of Jesus’ Genealogy: Matthew 1:1-17.

What I love about this record is the fact that all of Jesus’ ancestors were different in their experience, spirituality, and personality. The Life Application Study Bible notes: “Some were heroes of faith—like Abraham, Isaac, Ruth, and David. Some had shady reputations—like Rahab and Tamar. Many were very ordinary—like Hezron, Ram, Nahshon, and Akim. And others were evil— like Manasseh and Abijah.”

Reflect

God is not limited by human sin and failures. Just as He used a variety of people to bring His Son into the world, He continues to work out His purposes through all kinds of people. How has God used you in the past? How does He want to use you now?

2017 Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve written an update. The clock keeps ticking as our oldest child, Cameron, is now a Senior in high school and checking out potential colleges.

Cam and Jon on a recent dirt bike trip in Nevada, along with my husband.

Our Jonny boy is a Sophomore. Along with his brother, he loves being involved in our school’s sports programs.

Annie (Jr. High), our animal lover and social butterfly, not only loves hanging out with friends, but also enjoys playing basketball, volleyball, and softball. My husband and I stay busy going to lots of games. But it has definitely been a blessing watching their progress, along with their teammates. I love the valuable life lessons they learn through sports.

Enjoying a girls’ night out 🙂

I have been working on setting up an online store, which I’m calling L & L Abode, and hope to launch soon. The products consist of home decor and some miscellaneous products (mugs, totes, etc.) that I merge with my photographs. When brainstorming for an appropriate shop name, the word “abode” kept floating through my head. So I looked it up in the dictionary and realized that abode is associated with “home”. But I later learned while combing through my Exodus study that this meaning only scratches the surface. The Hebrew word translated “abode” (Exodus 40:35) is transliterated shekinah in English. This word expresses the glory and presence of God.

This made me think about some of the people who have been a big influence in my growing up years of my perception and knowledge of God. Although they’re not alone, both of my Grandmas—Lucile and Lenore (L & L)—exemplified this kind of abode. They were huge blessings to my family and me as they creatively expressed God’s character in their homes through their love, generosity, hospitality, compassion, faithfulness and forgiveness.

I plan on continuing this blog, but will keep you posted when my store—L & L Abode—launches. The following photograph, which I’m experimenting with on canvas and mugs, was taken last Sunday near my home.

This moment reminds me that God is in control from sunrise to sunset. He marks the days and seasons of our lives. We can rest knowing that He loves us, knows what we need before we even ask, and has good plans for those who love Him.

In this busy Christmas season I hope we all find the needed time to soak in the meaning of Christmas and find rest in God’s presence. Blessings!

Jesus Is Our Light

cropped-img_4175.jpg“The light of the righteous rejoices” (Proverbs 13:9). We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is our Light. He’s “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). In Him, we rejoice (Romans 5:11) – “the blood Of Jesus, Your Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We thank You that, through Jesus, You have “called […]

via Jesus Is Our Light. — Learning From God’s Word

God’s Glory Dwelling, Exodus 39:32-40:38

Never underestimate the spiritual power of a dedicated man or woman who knows how to intercede with God. One of our greatest needs today is for intercessors who can lay hold of God’s promises and trust God to work in mighty power (Isa. 59:16; 62:1; 64:1-7).” –Warren Wiersbe

I wonder if the Israelites had a clue about Moses’ experience of interceding for them on Mt. Sinai. Maybe they would have been more appreciative of him had they known. For Moses had “wrestled” with God in prayer, resulting in God’s decision to not reject or destroy Israel.

Tabernacle Dedication

Along with the building dedication, chapter 40 summarizes the priests’ dedication (also described in Exodus 28-29). The tabernacle and its furnishings were now complete so Moses could inspect everything. His job not only included making sure that every utensil was anointed and put in the right spot, but also inspecting every piece of furniture. For unless everything was done according to the pattern God showed him on the mountain, God would not dwell in the tabernacle (25:8-9, 40; Heb. 8:5; 9:9). Warren Wierbe (Be Delivered) makes an interesting observation: “Too many sincere people have tried to do God’s work their own way and then have asked God to bless it. But ministry doesn’t work that way. First we find out what God wants us to do, and we do it to glorify Him. If we obey His will and seek to honor His name, then He will come and bless the work with His powerful presence.”

The word commanded is used 18 times in Exodus 39 and 40, reminding us that the workers did exactly what God told them to do. Moses is also cited as being a faithful servant (Heb. 3:1-6). The work is given a thumb’s up and construction is a go (Ex. 40:1-8, 17-19, 33). Next, the tabernacle—along with everyone associated with it—is dedicated to the Lord.

God’s Glory Fills the Tabernacle

Now God’s glory can fill the tabernacle and abode. Wiersbe writes: “The Hebrew word translated “abode” in Exodus 40:35 (“settled,” NIV) is transliterated shekinah in English, “the abiding presence of God.” (See 24:16 and 25:8). So powerful was the presence of God’s glory that Moses wasn’t able to enter the tabernacle!”

Sadly, Jewish history teaches us that the tabernacle glory left when the people and priests sinned against the Lord (1 Sam. 4:21-22). Ichabod means “the glory is gone.” But God’s glory returned again and dwelt with the people when Solomon dedicated the temple (1 Kings 8:10-11). Unfortunately, their sins also drove God’s glory away (Ezek. 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:23).

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” -John 1:14

When and where did God’s glory appear next? Wiersbe writes: “. . . . in the person of Jesus Christ. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), the word abode in Exodus 40:35 is the Greek word used in Luke 1:35 and translated “overshadow.” Mary’s virgin womb was a Holy of Holies where the glory of God dwelt in the person of God’s Son. What did the world do with this glory? Nailed it to a cross!”

Reflect

Where is God’s glory today? Every true believer houses the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20), along with the local church (3:10-23) and the universal church (Eph. 2:20-22). Buildings are dedicated to God as tools for God’s work, but God doesn’t dwell in buildings today (Acts 7:48-50). He dwells in believers. It’s our privilege and responsibility to glorify Him both individually (1 Cor. 6:20) and collectively (14:23-25).

Wiersbe writes: “What a tragedy it would be if the glory departed and we had to write “Ichabod” on [us]. How much better it would be if, like Moses, we did everything according to the heavenly pattern so that God’s glory would feel at home in our midst. . . . When Solomon finished the temple, the glory of God moved in, but when God finishes building His church, He will move the church out! Then we will share God’s glory in heaven for all eternity! ‘And the city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light’ (Rev. 21:23 NKJV).’”

How have you glimpsed God’s glory? I see His glory in a person’s countenance when they are pouring themselves into worship, or have just spent quality time in God’s presence, or exhibit His characteristics.

This is my last post in Exodus. Thank you for visiting, reading, and all of your encouragement! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I certainly did. I have much to be thankful for!

God’s Presence and Glory Dwells with the People, Exodus 34:29-35

At last, God blesses Israel’s tabernacle with the glory of His presence. Exodus begins with Moses witnessing God’s glory in the burning bush (3:1-5) and ends with God’s glory descending in the camp and filling the tabernacle. Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “The presence of the glory of God in the camp of Israel was not a luxury; it was a necessity. It identified Israel as the people of God and set them apart from the other nations, for the tabernacle was consecrated by the glory of God (29:43-44). Other nations had sacred buildings, but they were empty.”

God’s Glory Reflected (34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3)

Did Moses realize his face glowed? He apparently “absorbed” some of God’s glory when he soaked in God’s presence the past 80 days while fasting and praying. He had also caught a glimpse of God’s glory. According to this passage, however, Moses was clueless about his radiant face. But it didn’t take long for him to figure out why the people were afraid of him when he came down the mountain. Moses soon persuaded them to come and converse as before. He eventually covered his face with a veil as the glory faded (2 Cor. 3:13). Why? Weren’t the people afraid this strange phenomenon? Wiersbe observes: “The Jews saw this glory as something wonderful and exciting, but what would they say if they knew it was fading away? Who wants to follow a leader who is losing his glory?”

So Moses continued the pattern: Talk to God inside the tent of meeting; God’s glory illuminates his face; Moses covers face with a veil as the glory fades. The Apostle Paul—when answering legalists who taught that God’s way to salvation involves not only faith in Christ, but also obedience to the law (Acts 15:1)—made the following applications about this amazing event (2 Corinthians 3):

  1. The glory of the Mosaic legal system was fading away, but the glory of God’s grace in the gospel is more glorious (vv. 7-11).
  2. The lost Jews during Paul’s day had a veil covering their hearts due to unbelief, blocking their view of God’s glory (2 Cor. 3:14-16). The only remedy for the removal of the veil was to trust Jesus and believe the Word.
  3. Paul also related Moses’ experience to Christians, who through faith experience a spiritual transformation by seeing Christ’s glory in the Word (vv. 17-18). Wiersbe writes: “This is why Christians read the Bible and meditate on it, because when the child of God looks into the Word of God and sees the Son of God, he or she is transformed by the Spirit of God into the image of God for the glory of God.”

    (Credit: elleandcompanydesign.com)

REFLECT (Or should I say “RADIATE”?) 🙂

I’ll close with two more Wiersbe quotes (because they’re really interesting!): “The Greek word for ‘transformed’ in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is “transfigured,” as in Matthew 17:2. It describes the glory on the inside being revealed on the outside. Moses only reflected the glory of God; the dedicated believer radiates the glory of God. Unlike Moses, we don’t wear a veil when we come to God’s Word because we have nothing to hide.”

“Truly spiritual people don’t recognize their own godliness but usually feel as though they’re failures and far from what they ought to be. At Pentecost (Acts 2), each believer could see the tongues of fire above the other believers’ heads, but not over their own heads.”

Next week will be my last post on Exodus. Have a great week!

Nepal Campus Crusade for Christ: Krishna Chaudhary

I haven’t posted in the “Service” category for some time, but I hope to add more stories and service opportunities here.

Introducing Krishna Chaudhary

Krishna and his wife recently dedicated their beautiful baby, Jason, to God.

Krishna Chaudhary is a missionary at Campus Crusade for Christ in Kathmandu, Nepal where he has served as full time staff and Finance Manager from 2011 to the present. Krishna received his education from Tribhuvan University. There are six members in his KaV South City Team. His coverage area includes Birjung, Hetuda and Lalitpur.

Our Vision: Movements everywhere in Nepal so that everyone will know someone who truly follow Jesus
Our Mission: Launching spiritual movements everywhere in Nepal through winning, building, training and sending Christ Centered Multiplying Disciples

Despite great persecution and availability of few faithful kingdom leaders, God began to build a spiritual movement everywhere in Nepal since Campus Crusade for Christ began ministry in 1976. Below is an update from the ministry’s national director, Tara Singh Kathayat. As you read, would you prayerfully consider supporting Krishna through prayer and/or being a financial partner?

“Now, religious freedom has definitely given us more opportunity to reach unreached people of the country. But on the other hand nominalism is increasing immensely in Nepal. We have greater technology, resources, kingdom leaders and workers than ever before for proclaiming the gospel to every person, tribe and tongue. Yet many unreached peoples still await a fair opportunity to know and follow Jesus.

Lately, Nepal Campus Crusade for Christ has been identifying the systemic problems and obstacles that hinder us from bringing the gospel to every segment of the society. So we have set the Mission Critical Components-MCC as Student-led Movement, Leader-led Movement, Global Church Movement, Virtual-led Movement and Prayer Movement to highlight the mission strategies that can help us overcome the barriers and bring the love of Christ to every person regardless of their location, language or culture—building spiritual movement everywhere in Nepal by making disciples who makes disciples. We as a team are focused and dedicated to building and equipping followers of Christ.”

To receive Krishna’s current Ministry Partner Letter, view specific prayer requests, and/or financial partnership information contact Krishna Chaudhary at: krish.chudhary@gmail.com. Nepal Campus Crusade for Christ website may be found here: http://www.nepalccc.org/. Thank you for your prayerful consideration!

Grace: God’s Servant Intercedes, Exodus 33:12-34:28

During Moses’ second forty night and day period on Mount Sinai—after Israel commits idolatry—he pleads with the Lord to restore His promised blessings to them. By God’s grace, Moses fulfills his purposes: God promises to go with Israel, God shows Moses a glimpse of His glory, and God forgives Israel’s sins.

God’s presence with the nation (33:12-17)

Moses makes his appeal to God on the basis of His grace. For God showed mercy when He refrained from completely destroying the people for their sin of idolatry. Moses’ request lines up with the factor that set Israel apart from the other nations: God’s presence with Israel. Moses reminds the Lord of His promise to go with the people on their journey to the promised land. He must have been ecstatic when God promises once again to escort them to the Promised Land.

So does God’s people have the right to “negotiate” with God as Moses did? Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) gives an interesting observation: “It all depends on our relationship with God. Moses knew the ways of God (Ps. 103:7) and was the intimate friend of God, and therefore he was able to present his case with faith and skill. The godly Scottish minister Samuel Rutherford, who knew what it was to suffer for Christ, wrote, ‘It is faith’s work to claim and challenge loving-kindness out of all the roughest strokes of God.’ That’s what Moses was doing for the people.”

God’s Glory Revealed (33:18-23)

Although Moses and the Jews witnessed God’s glory in the pillar of cloud and fire, and in the storm on Mt. Sinai, Moses tells God he wants to see His glory revealed to him personally. God’s response? “’I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ ‘But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live,’” (33:19-20).

Moses is given a guarded glimpse of God’s back when He places Moses in the cleft of a rock and covers him with His hand. When God later calls Moses to bring two new stone tablets—before He renews the covenant—He associates His name with the greatness of His attributes. This declaration is the foundation to both Jewish and Christian theology.

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us,” (1 John 4:12).

God’s Forgiveness Granted (34:1-28)

Moses must have received a bolt of confidence with God’s renewed promise to go with the people. But would He accompany them like a policeman with criminals, or like a caring Father? Wiersbe writes: “The answer came when the Lord ordered Moses to prepare two new stone tablets, for this meant He was going to replace the tablets that Moses had broken! God would renew the covenant! . . . .Faith comes by hearing and receiving God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), so Moses by faith asked God to forgive the people.”

Even though Moses wasn’t guilty of disobeying God, he bows before the Lord and asks God to “pardon our iniquity and our sin” (34:9). As God graciously forgives the people and renews the covenant He repeats the crucial features in the covenant, especially laws concerning idolatry. For temptation would loom in the Promised Land. God clarifies: His people are not to compromise through making agreements, intermarriage, and/or adopting pagan ways. For idolatry to God is like adultery in marriage.

So God commands the Israelites to destroy everything associated with idols when they reach the promised land. Sound harsh? Wiersbe observes: “We who live many millennia after these events can’t begin to comprehend how filthy Canaanite idolatry was when Israel conquered the land. It was unspeakably immoral, and like cancerous tumors in human bodies, the pagan temples and altars had to be removed and destroyed before the land could be healthy. . . . Idolatry was the enemy that almost destroyed the nation.”

Reflect

This passage offers several great insights, but the following truth really stands out to me: Instead of God showing Moses a vision of His power and majesty, He simply declares who He is. His character—associated with His name—is demonstrated through love, patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion, faithfulness, and justice. Although God abhors idolatry, He still pursued Israel with great patience and love. He didn’t yoke His commands around their necks, rather, He offered them another chance to embrace His laws and obey. For to obey would bring them happiness and freedom. God also pursues us, even in the times of discipline and punishment. We glorify Him when we obey His commands and allow Him to develop His character in us.

Although we would die if we were to see God’s face now, because of His great holiness and power, He made a way for us to know Him through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:21). It’s hard to fathom that this great God would even want a personal relationship with us. But He does! And He went to great lengths to make this possible.

Do you hunger to know this God who created you and loves you? The New Testament Gospel books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry. If you have never read these books in the Bible, why not start now? Reading one chapter daily is doable. You don’t have to have it all together to come to God. None of us do! If you ask God in sincerity to reveal Himself to you, He will. But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 4:29). . . . Have a great week!

The Great Discipline, Exodus 32:15-33:11

God never permits His people to sin successfully.” –Charles Spurgeon

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “God in His grace forgives our sins, but God in His government allows sin to work out its terrible consequences in human life. We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8). . . . What a tragedy it is to reap the consequences of forgiven sin!”

King David—a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22)—was one example of not only experiencing God’s forgiveness, but also having to face the consequence of his sins. God told him that the sword would not depart from his family, and it didn’t (2 Sam. 12:1-14).

With Moses’ absence for 40 days on Mt. Sinai, Israel impatiently grumbles against Moses and demands that Aaron set up an idol to lead them in place of God. Aaron complies and the people say: “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt,” (32:4).

Moses Disciplines the people (32:15-29)

Moses asks Joshua to join him as he treks down Mt. Sinai. For one day Joshua would replace Moses and take up his leadership role. As Moses sees the golden calf idol, he throws down the stone tablets—that God had inscribed with His finger—in righteous anger. This act of breaking the tablets symbolizes Israel’s breaking the covenant with God. Now they would face the consequences.

After Moses confronts Aaron, he obeys God’s order and asks the people: “Who is on the Lord’s side? (see Josh. 24:15). The people are given opportunity to repent of their sin and return to God, but only the Levites respond. Setting aside the bonds of family and friendship, these men obediently follow through with the gut wrenching task of killing all involved in the orgy (about three thousand). Paul uses this event—among others—centuries later to warn believers about rebelling against God (1 Cor. 10:1-12).

Next, Moses destroys the idol calf by burning it, grinding the gold to powder, then throwing the powder into a stream. As he makes the people drink from this stream (Deut. 9:21), he forces them to identify with their sins.

Although Moses is angry with the people, God is angrier. When Moses returns to Mt. Sinai again for forty days and nights fasting and praying, he petitions God for an exchange: Spare the Israelites and kill him instead. But God rejects his offer. Maybe if the Israelites knew the anguish Moses experienced because of them they might have been more supportive of him. The Lord, however, comforts Moses with the assurance that His angel would go before them and Moses would once again lead them. But punishment would be certain, in God’s own way and in His own time.

God Disciplines the People (32:35-33:11)

“Grace is simply not just leniency when we sin, grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” –John Piper

After the Levites kill three thousand men, God’s first discipline comes in the form of a plague among the people. Wiersbe writes: “God knew who all the guilty people were. Sometimes God passes the sentence of judgment immediately but then delays executing the penalty. However, whether in the Old Testament or the New, ‘there is sin leading to death’ (1 John 5:16-17 NKJV).”

In God’s second judgment, He withdraws His presence leading Israel in their march to the Promised Land (33:1-6). Although He would still keep His covenant promises He made with the patriarchs earlier, He would send an angel to accompany them instead of in the person of His Son—“the Angel of the Lord”—going before Israel (23:20-23).

God’s third judgment involves moving Moses’ “tent of meeting” outside the camp where he could personally meet with God. Moses used this as a special tent to consult God since the tabernacle hadn’t been erected or dedicated yet. The cloud of pillar that led Israel thus far would hover at the tent door as God graciously granted Moses the privilege of talking to Him face-to-face (Num. 12:1-8; Deut. 34:10).

Reflect

The brief pleasure of sin isn’t worth its cost. Not only did Israel’s sin lead to thousands of deaths, but it also robbed the nation of God’s presence in both their camp and in their journey to the Promised Land. Although God punishes sin, He also shows His love to a thousand generations to those who love Him and keep His commandments (Exodus 20:6).

If you are experiencing God’s discipline, know that He loves you. Turn away from the sin and turn to Him. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Israel’s Idolatry, Exodus 32:1-24

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’” –Exodus 32:1

While Moses spends forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the tabernacle building instructions and tablets of the covenant from God, the Israelites’ impatience becomes their undoing. Instead of waiting for God to fill the tabernacle with His glory, Israel falls into idolatry again, even though they witnessed the invisible God in action. With Moses’ absence, Aaron caves to public pressure. Instead of turning to God for help and warning the people, he gratifies their sinful hearts’ desire by making a golden calf in place of God.

So the people fall back into idol worship—which still lingered in their hearts from their captivity in Egypt—before indulging in immorality. Psalm 106:19-23 says Israel exchanged the glory of the true and living God for the image of an animal, acting like the heathen nations around them (Rom. 1:22-27).

Righteous anger kicks in when Moses sees their revelry. Perhaps his action of throwing the tablets down symbolizes the people’s sin of breaking God’s covenant. Aaron later offers a lame excuse, blaming the people (vv. 22-24). But God doesn’t buy it. He would have killed Aaron in His anger if weren’t for Moses’ intercession (Deut. 9:20).

The Great Test (vv. 7-14)

God’s character doesn’t change, but He does respond to His people’s confessions and prayers.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “In leadership, the difficult experiences with our people either make us or break us, and Moses was about to be tested. God called Israel ‘your people whom you brought out of Egypt,’ as though the Lord were abandoning the nation to Moses, but Moses soon reminded Him that they were His people and that He had delivered them. Furthermore, God had made a covenant with their forefathers to bless them, multiply them, and give them their land (Gen. 12:1-3). Moses intended to hold God to His word, and that’s what God wanted him to do.”

Next, God takes a different approach with Moses: He offers to make a new nation out of Moses’ descendants after wiping out Israel. But Moses love for his people—as stubborn and sinful as they were—trumps. Moses isn’t focused on himself or his future. Rather, his utmost desire is to glorify God and watch Him fulfill His promises.

Evidently, Moses spends the next 40 days and nights interceding for the people before taking disciplinary action (Duet. 9:18). Although God had every right to be angry with Israel, Moses persuades Him to not destroy Israel. Wiersbe observes: “In writing this account, Moses used human terms to describe divine actions, which is why he wrote in verse 14 that God ‘repented’ (KJV). The Hebrew word means ‘to grieve, to be sorry’ (Gen. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:29) and describes God’s change of approach in dealing with His people (Jer. 18:1-12; 19; 26).

Reflect

Idolatry happens when we seek to replace the unseen God with something that can be seen, usually something physically oriented. We must guard against trying to shape God to our liking for the convenience of obeying or ignoring. Faith is the underlying issue of idolatry since “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

Aaron had been helpful to Moses with his speaking skills. But without his brother’s leadership, Aaron yielded to public pressure. God gives various abilities and weaves them together for His use. But a strength/ability can also become a weakness if one isn’t careful. As in Aaron’s case, the skills that make a good team player can sometimes also make a poor leader. Most of us have more of the follower than leader in us. Only God deserves our complete devotion. If a leader teaches or acts against God’s Word, we must stand firm, even if it means standing alone. Yet we’re really not alone. God promises to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

Lastly, instead of referring to the Mosaic covenant—ratified about one month prior—Moses appeals to God on the Abrahamic Covenant. For the provisional law couldn’t save or change human hearts where sin roots. Rather, the Mosaic Covenant showed human hearts’ depravity and condemned sin based on the righteousness of men. While the old covenant gave no assurance for forgiveness of sins, the new covenant is based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Therefore, we can have complete confidence in His forgiveness.

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t leave us in our mess! If you want to probe further into how God can revive and change a sinful heart, the following podcast from my pastor, Cliff Purcell, does a great job in addressing how the Holy Spirit wants to breathe new life into one’s heart. You may find his podcast here: A Chance of Flurries. . . Next week, we’ll look at how seriously God took Israel’s flagrant sin. Have a great week!

Spirit-Filled Spirit Guild, Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-35

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.” -Exodus 35:30-35

(Source: yearinthebible.com)

Bezalel and Oholiab—with very unique names—were chosen by God. These two men were commanded to make unique engravings and designs with materials like yarn, linen, wood and gems. They were also to teach others their craft in designing the tabernacle furniture, furnishings, accessories and priestly garments, all according to the pattern God gave Moses.

How could just two men carry off such a huge task? God gave them wisdom, understanding, and knowledge for leadership and artistic craftsmanship through the filling of His Spirit.

God gives His people a variety of abilities. Don’t look down on your skills if you’re not a leader like Moses, or have a theological education. It took tremendous community effort in building the tabernacle. Likewise, churches today need this same kind of mentoring and working together for essential services. What abilities and skills has God gifted you with? How could you use these abilities to serve God and others?

Confession: I stole . . . uh borrowed . . . the title of my post from my pastor’s sermon three weeks ago. (I didn’t think he’d mind!) Pastor Cliff is currently teaching a series about the Holy Spirit. He gave a really interesting message about Bezalel and Oholiab that I’d like to share. You can find (and listen to) his podcast here: Spirit-Filled Spirit Guild. Have a wonderful week!

Consecration of the Priests (Part 2), Exodus 29; 30:22-33

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” –Hebrews 9:24-26

In order to set the high priest and his sons apart for service, God commanded that they participate in a public consecration ceremony that lasted a week. During this time, the priests had to remain in the tabernacle precincts. My last post summarized the first two stages of this ceremony. Below are the following five stages.

  • The priests were anointed (Ex. 29:7, 21; Lev. 8:10-12, 30). In the Old Testament, God granted priests, prophets, and kings His Holy Spirit for empowerment and service (Luke 4:17-19; Isa. 61:1-3). A special oil was used only to anoint the priests, tabernacle and its furnishings. Moses poured the oil over Aaron’s head. The oil flowed down his beard—covering his breastplate and stones that represent Israel’s tribes—displaying a beautiful picture of unity in the Lord (Ps. 133:2).

(Source: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com)
Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit’s anointing isn’t reserved just for priests, prophets, and kings. Those who have placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior have also received an anointing of God’s Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). The Holy Spirit is the “down payment” of future glory. He has both anointed and sealed us by His Spirit.

  • The priests were forgiven (Ex. 29:10-14).

    Jesus Christ is our sin offering. We find forgiveness in Him alone (Isa. 53:4-6, 12; Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev. 1:5-6).

    To atone for the priests’ sins, they had to sacrifice a slain bull (Lev. 4; 8:14-17). This sin offering was to be repeated daily for a week (Ex. 29:36-37) to cleanse not only themselves, but also to sanctify the altar where the priests would minister.

  • The priests were completely dedicated to God (Ex. 29:15-18; Lev. 8:18-21). God expected the high priest and his associates to fully devote themselves to their work of ministry. Total dedication to the Lord is depicted when the animal is completely given to Him during the burnt offering sacrifice (Lev. 1). Likewise, Jesus held nothing back in both His ministry before the cross and becoming our sacrifice on the cross.
  • The priests were marked by the blood (Ex. 29:19-22; Lev. 8:22-24). Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “At this point in the ordination ceremony, we would have expected Moses to offer a trespass offering (Lev. 5), but instead, he offered a ram as a peace offering, “the ram of consecration” (Ex. 29:22). The Hebrew word means “filling” because the priests’ hands were filled with bread and meat.” Moses not only sprinkled the blood—along with the anointing oil—on Aaron, his sons, and the altar, but also marked each man with some blood on the right thumb, right big toe, and right earlobe as a reminder to the following: Listen to God’s Word; carry out God’s work; and follow God’s way. As the blood speaks of sacrifice, the priests became “living sacrifices” in their service of the Lord (Rom. 12:1).
  • The priests were fed (Ex. 29:22-28, 31-34; Lev. 8:25-29). As part of the priests’ payment for serving at the altar, pieces from some of the offerings—along with special harvest tithes—were given to them. However, they were to eat in the tabernacle precincts and view these gifts as holy sacrifices. The priests’ hands were filled from the “food basket” (Ex. 29:2-3) and from the altar (vv. 22-28). Then the priests would wave these gifts toward the altar in devotion to God. Lastly, they shared this food in a fellowship meal (vv. 31-34). The priests would never lack for nourishment if they faithfully encouraged Israel to obey God and taught His Word. Sadly—in later years—some of the priests lost sight of God and His commands as they consumed the best for themselves (1 Sam. 2:12-17; Mal. 1:6-14).

Upon completion of their ordination ceremony, the priests immediately entered into ministry with no allotted vacation or sick days. Their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule were charted in the law that God gave Moses on Mount Sinai. Every day would start with sacrificing a lamb as a burnt offering. This signified the people’s total dedication to God. The day also ended with offering another lamb as a burnt offering. Wiersbe observes: “That’s a good example for us to follow, opening and closing the day with surrender to the Lord. . . . The flour and wine [given as a meal offering] represented the results of the people’s labor in the fields and the vineyards. Symbolically, they were presenting the fruit of their toil to God and thanking Him for the strength to work and for food to eat (Deut. 8:6-18). The wine poured out was a picture of their lives poured out in His service (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6, NIV).”

Reflect

The priests’ first obligation was to minister to God. What does this mean for God’s people today? Who has been anointed with the Holy Spirit today? What is gained from this anointing? What does it mean for believers to present their bodies as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1)?

Trusting God

Spinning around and around, Annie, my daughter, and her friends whooped and hollered as I pushed the merry-go-round faster and faster. The fun and excitement would squelch any apprehension some of the girls had due to their first sleepover. It was my daughter’s ninth birthday. This would be her best party yet! Pizza and an outdoor movie would come next before camping under the stars in our backyard.

But as the spinning came to a halt, so did the girls’ smiles. Sadie was the first to speak. “I think I’m going to puke!”

One by one, the girls slumped down on the ground before coming to a unanimous decision. “Could you please take us home?”

What choice did I have? I’d be known as the barbaric mom by insisting they stay the course. I was sure the girls viewed me as a monster mom as they silently crawl back into our van. I did my best to mentally assimilate my words to their parents for the change of plans while hoping these pale-faced friends’ stomachs would settle soon.

While Annie and her friends laugh about that evening now, it was no laughing matter at the time!

All of us experience daily change of plans that stretch the most patient among us. But what about the big surprises that jolt our world? The unexpected diagnosis from the doctor, an unforeseen emergency, a financial crisis . . . the list goes on.

The temptation is to analyze the problem from every angle until we come up with a plausible solution. But what about the times when our circumstances spin out of control, making the bravest of us weak-kneed, sick to our stomachs and gasping for air?

Not to diminish problem-solving, or simplify the stress, pain, or need for support from others, but I believe the first step should be going to God in prayer. Because He is all-powerful, all-sufficient, and loves us more than we can imagine, we can lean in and put our full weight of trust on Him.

The following Bible verses are a few of my favorite passages that speak of the benefits of trusting God.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:6-7.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” Joshua 1:9

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you,” Psalm 9:10.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you,” Psalm 84:11-12.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Do you have a favorite verse about trusting God, or experienced a time God helped you through a crisis?