Conscience, Part 1

"Think of conscience like an alarm clock. A good alarm clock stays quiet when you should be asleep, and it makes a noise when you need to wake up!" ~ Pastor Colin Smith

My past three posts have been about unity in diversity within the church. How we as believers need to find the balance of heeding our consciences while giving grace to those around us who differ in the gray, nonessential areas of the Gospel.

The question arises: Can we always trust our conscience? Is it possible, like a broken alarm clock, for our conscience to get off kilter? Or, as in my case too many times, the alarm clock sounds, but I snooze through it? Does it really matter when we go against or “over-rule” our own conscience?

Colin Smith is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church and president of Unlocking the Bible. He is the author of several books. His preaching ministry is shared around the world through Unlocking the Bible.

From his Regeneration series, Pastor Colin talks about what happens when we ignore our conscience warning. You may listen to his message here: Conscience, Part 1.

Have a wonderful week!

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 3), Romans 15:1-13

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”    – Romans 15:5

You may read Romans 15:1-13 here: Bible Gateway. This section wraps up Paul’s talk from chapter 14 and highlights the last principle in this series for promoting unity in the church.

Principle #3: Follow Christ’s example of mercy

Paul identifies himself as a strong Christian as he encourages the “strong” to bear with the failings of the “weak.” To help others mature in the faith, he exhorts the “strong” to build his neighbor up. How? He cites Jesus as our greatest example of self-denial for the sake of others.

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The Relevance of Scripture (vs. 4)

Paul also reminds his readers that all of Scripture—although written in the past—is still alive and relevant today, meeting our deepest needs (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 4:23-24).

Paul’s Benediction (vs. 5-6)

Paul prayed for unity among the Roman Jews and Gentiles as they followed Christ so they would glorify God with one heart and voice.

Shepherd’s Notes comments on the remainder of this section: “In support of the universal scope of God’s redemptive work through Christ His Son, Paul cited four Old Testament Scriptures . . . . Christ’s acceptance of both Jewish and Gentile believers, played out in the universal scope of His redemptive work, is to be the measure of their acceptance of one another.”

So What?

Self-denial doesn’t mean we are to be people-pleasers (see Galatians 1:10), but rather set aside our self-pleasing actions and/or willfulness in order to build others up. If Christ—God’s Son—prioritized others above His own comforts and desires, how much more should we?

God communicates hope and encouragement through His Word, the Bible. We can live in unity when we read God’s Word with a receptive heart, focus on Christ, and genuinely accept each other.

 

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 2), Romans 14:13-22

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  – Romans 14:13

You may read Romans 14:13-22 here: Bible Gateway.

With the Roman believers in disagreement about eating meat and observance of special days, Paul laid out three principles to encourage peaceful relationships.

Last week highlighted the first principle: Judgment is God’s right, not man’s (vs. 1-12) . . . . Next principle please:

Principle #2: Love requires self-limitations for the sake of others

(Biblesurprise.com)

(Biblesurprise.com)

Paul directs his advice to mature believers. He warns them to beware of placing obstacles—or occasion to sin—before the weaker Christian.

Although the old rules about ceremonial foods were dismissed by Jesus (Matthew 15:10-11; 16-20), Paul addressed the issue of those who felt compelled to follow Judaism’s regulations: Anyone who violates their conscience, and doesn’t act in faith, has sinned (vs. 23).

Shepherd’s Notes comments: “God has called us to a life of faith. Trust is the willingness to put all of life before God for His approval. Any doubt about the rightness of an action removes it from the category of what is acceptable. This principle is of special help to the Christian in what is sometimes called the ‘gray area.’ If it is gray to you, it is wrong—not in itself, but in the eyes of the one who considers it inappropriate.”

Paul warned mature believers to take into account their influential actions. Those who encouraged others to violate their conscience “no longer walked in love” (vs. 15).

So What?

Although we live in a different time and culture than the early Roman Christians, we still vary in our convictions today. It’s important to continually monitor our behavior and its effects on other believers, even if we don’t feel convicted in a “gray area”. Although we don’t have to give up our freedom in Christ, if God convicts another believer differently we should avoid exercising that action in his/her presence. Mutual respect and love mark Christ’s true disciples.

What steps can believers take to ensure peace when differences arise? How does focusing our minds on Christ help promote unity?

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 1), Romans 14:1-12

Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things.” – The Puritans

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(shereadstruth.com)

You may read this passage here: Romans 14:1-12.

God is able

Paul’s writing to the early Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome certainly reflects this belief. Although God was—and is—“able”, effort from every believer would be needed. In an arena immersed in vast cultural and societal differences Paul offered some guidelines to help bring about this seemingly impossible task: unity in diversity.

Principle # 1: Judgment is God’s Right, Not Man’s

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand,” (vs. 4). Paul made it clear: Observing or not observing special days and/or food laws—the early church’s main divisive issues—wasn’t sin to God, so long as one’s conscience was clear. Rather, the flaunting and flouting of other believers’ convictions was the culprit. Convictions vary. God has accepted both the “weak” and “strong” servant by grace. Equal desire to honor God may be found in both the observer and nonobserver of special days and food laws (vs. 6).

“None of us lives to himself alone” (vs. 7)

Shepherd’s Notes comments: “This has been understood in the sense of John Donne’s statement, ‘No man is an island.’ Paul’s statement, however, was not a sociological observation regarding the oneness of the human race. What he said is that all believers live out their lives accountable to God. Decisions about such matters as special days and eating meat are not made in isolation, but in accordance with the will of God as understood by the individual.”

So What?

Judgment belongs to God alone. And we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (vs. 10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Individuals should act according to their own conviction in trivial gray areas that are unclear in the Bible, without passing judgment on those with different convictions. We can—and should—rub shoulders with other believers without judging in these areas. If something offends a brother or sister, then we should abstain from that activity in their presence.

Are there strained relationships in your church? How might this principle help bring the unity God desires?

Jesus: The Door, The Way and Truth

The more we study the names and titles of Jesus, the more we understand who He really is.

10 More Titles and Names of Jesus

The Door – “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

 

The Way – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

 

The Word – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

 

True Vine – “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1

 

Truth – “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

 

Victorious One – “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 3:21

 

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

 

I hope you had a wonderful Easter and were able to attend a worship service. If not, my pastor, Cliff Purcell, gave a great message. If you are connected to Facebook, you may listen to him here: Easter Sunday.

What is Good Friday?

Why do Christians refer to Good Friday as “good”? After all, the Romans and Jewish authorities were anything but good to Jesus (see Matthew 26-27).

The results from Christ’s death, however, go far beyond “good”. There really are no words that ascribe the greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice, or the depth of gratitude we should have for the eternal, abundant life He purchased for those of us who believe and place our faith in Him as Lord and Savior!

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

Many Christian churches celebrate Good Friday in a serious and reverent manner. This is a time of remembrance of Christ’s death, usually expressed through prayers of thanksgiving, solemn hymns, a message centered on Christ’s suffering, and observance of the Lord’s Supper.

The events of that day, Good Friday, should always be present in our hearts and minds. For Christ’s death on the cross—along with His bodily resurrection—is the foundation of our Christian faith. You may read more about Good Friday here, What is Good Friday/Holy Friday?

You can trust the One who laid down His life so we might live. Blessings!

What About Jesus?

“What about Jesus? ‘And you shall call his name Jesus,’ the angel told Joseph, ‘for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). More than a great teacher, more than an enlightened man, more than a worker of miracles, more than a source of meaning in life, more than a self-help guru, more than a self-esteem builder, more than a political liberator, more than a caring friend, more than a transformer of cultures, more than a purpose for the purposeless, Jesus is the Savior of sinners.” –  Pastor Kevin DeYoung

10 More Names and Titles of Jesus

Prophet – “And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Mark 6:4

Redeemer – “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” Job 19:25

Risen Lord – “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Rock – “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4

Sacrifice for Our Sins  “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

Savior – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Son of Man – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Son of the Most High – “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” Luke 1:32

Supreme Creator Over All – “By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions 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.” 1 Corinthians 1:16-17

Resurrection and the Life – “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.’” John 11:25

This may sound shocking to some, but Jesus is the only way to heaven. The Bible clearly teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. If you haven’t checked out what the Bible teaches about where we go after life here on earth, and how we can attain eternal life, then I encourage you to not put it off for later. A great starting place is to explore via questions. I like gotquestions.org. Type in a question, or topic, in the search field and you’ll find some concise and insightful biblical teaching. Here is one such post to explore: Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Wishing you a wonderful week!

More, More!

Whenever I, or one of my high school basketball teammates made a basket in a game, we would hear the bellowing voice of an older faithful fan yell, “More, more!”

I can still hear the passion behind his words as I take a closer look at Jesus: his life, character, and mission. Jesus was, and is, so much more than just a great man and teacher. He is Light, Hope, The One Who Sets Us Free, and so much more.

Ten More Names and Titles the Bible Ascribes to Jesus

Lamb of God – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

Light of the World“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Lion of the Tribe of Judah“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5

Lord of All“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Mediator “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5

Messiah “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).” John 1:41

Mighty One “Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Isaiah 60:16

One Who Sets Free“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

Our Hope “…Christ Jesus our hope.” 1 Timothy 1:1

Peace“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” Ephesians 2:14

If you don’t know Jesus by these names, why not ask Him to reveal Himself more to you?

 

10 More Names and Titles of Jesus

The gift of salvation through Jesus is free and indescribable. Take a few minutes to thank God for His amazing love. Together, let’s pray for others to know Jesus as Savior.

Follow-up from my last post, here are 10 more names and titles of Jesus from God’s Word.

Faithful and True“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” Revelation 19:11

Good Shepherd “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Great High Priest“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Hebrews 4:14

Head of the Church“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” Ephesians 1:22

Holy Servant “…and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30

I Am“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58

Immanuel “…She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” Isaiah 7:14

Indescribable Gift“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15

Judge“…he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42

King of Kings“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” Revelation 17:14

Most of us review the benefits of a potential job. Have you considered the many benefits of getting to know Jesus? . . . . Wishing you a great week!

10 Names and Titles of Jesus

If you have been reading my posts the past couple of months, you’ll notice I’ve been focusing on the different names of God that emphasize His character. With Easter around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to zoom in on Jesus’ names and titles.

We have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the One who is truly righteous, (1 John 2:1).

The Bible is filled with many references to who Jesus is: His life, His mission, His Lordship. Here are 10 of those names and titles, along with verses from God’s Word.

Almighty One  “…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

Alpha and Omega– “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13

Advocate– “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” 1 John 2:1

Author and Perfecter of Our Faith  “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Authority“Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Bread of Life“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35

Beloved Son of God– “And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

Bridegroom“And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15

Chief Cornerstone“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” Psalm 118:22

Deliverer – “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10

I think Awesome Savior is also a fitting name. The Beloved Son of God, Alpha and Omega, gave up heaven to enter our world. He not only offers us abundant life, but also delivers us from our sin and God’s wrath.

To be continued . . . . Have a wonderful week!

Jesus, Son of Man

This is the clearest statement of Jesus’ divinity He ever made.

We know that Jesus was a great teacher and a good man. But his claim to be God is unmistakable. If the accounts in the New Testament Gospels are actually true, we must come to grips with the question, “Is Jesus actually the Son of God?” and “Is he really the Messiah?”

According to my Life Application Study Bible, Son of Man was Jesus’ favorite reference to himself during his time on earth. But, why? Out of all the glorious traits Jesus possesses, why would he favor this name that includes our imperfect humanity? My Study Bible notes: “It emphasized his humanity—but the way he used it, it was a claim to divinity.”

In Jesus, we see the perfect revelation of God. “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 of heaven”, (Hebrews 1:3).

Although Jesus and his Father are not the same person, they are one in nature and essence. Before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, He prayed for his disciples and for us, future believers. He asked God the Father that we may be one, “just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21).

John 17:24 continues Jesus’ prayer, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

Son of Man. God. Human. And exactly what I need. Listen to Pastor Cliff Purcell’s podcast as he shares scripture about Jesus the Son of Man, Trans-Fi-What? (March 10, 2019). Wishing you a great week!

What Does the Name Yahweh Mean?

Although the Bible attributes many names to God, the name Yahweh is a bedrock name that can stand alone.

The original story of Yahweh goes back to Exodus 3:13-15 where God is speaking to Moses through the burning bush. He gives him the ultimate mission: Free the Israelite people from Egyptian bondage.

Moses wonders: How in the world will I convince my people that God is really sending me on this mission, and that it will be successful?

Going along with my last post, God tells Moses: “I am who I am. . . . Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations, (Exodus 3:14-15).

This passage tells us that God’s name I AM and Yahweh are used interchangeably. So I Am is one interpretation of Yahweh.

Yahweh in Jewish tradition was too sacred a name to say out loud. So as time passed, Jews began speaking the name Adonai, or My Lord, in place of Yahweh. Sometimes Elohim replaced this holy name, but these two replacements could also be used for other things. Yahweh, however, holds an exclusive claim as God’s name. Although our English language doesn’t have an exact translation for Yahweh, the Old Testament references this name as LORD with all capital letters.

From Bible Study Tools, Jenna Martin shares a great post: 7 Meanings of Yahweh & Why It’s Such an Important Name for God. Amongst other pertinent information that she shares, I love this nugget of truth: “Yahweh is only used in the Bible when the author is talking about God’s personal, relationship with his people. The fact that God introduces himself to us as ‘Yahweh’ tells us that his first priority in relating to us is making sure we know that he is the intensely personal God, seeking to have a relationship with his people.”

God certainly doesn’t need us, but He wants us. Nothing illustrates this truth more clearly than Jesus entering our world and taking our punishment upon himself so we can have eternal life.

“I AM WHO I AM”

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you. . . . This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” -Exodus 3:14-15

We are all changing from our birth to our death, both physically and growing into something different from what we just were mentally and spiritually. First we’re born, then we are constantly growing older, as I was just reminded on my recent birthday. But thankfully, God is not only always present, He is also unchanging.

The great I AM, sounds simple, yet this description is packed with significance. This name encompasses God’s many roles that we also see in Jesus: Healer, Restorer, Advocate, Counselor, High Priest, Deliverer, Comforter, Savior, Redeemer, and Provider.

In a world where morals, values, and laws are constantly changing, we find security and stability in the same unchanging God who helped Moses and the great patriarchs. We also find salvation through His Son, Jesus: I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die,” John 11:25.

Here are a couple of links to further explore God with this name/characteristic: Jesus is the Great “I AM”. Pastor Cliff Purcell also shares from his “Just Jesus” series, The Next Time (Feb. 24, 2019). Have a wonderfdul week!

Miracles: Promises or Signs?

Do you ever feel like a tidal wave is crashing down on you? There are times when situations arise that are completely out of our control. Although we feel powerless during those times, God does not. For there is no limit to His power and understanding. But where do miracles fit into the life of the believer? My pastor, Cliff Purcell, has some great insights about the subject of miracles in the Christian’s life. You may listen to his podcast from his “Just Jesus” series here: Miracles: Promises or Signs? (Feb. 17, 2019). Blessings!

El Shaddai, The All-Sufficient One

What does the word Shaddai mean in the Old Testament? There are some differences of opinion surrounding God’s name, Shaddai. Dawn Wilson, founder and director of Heart Choices Today, has an interesting view on the differing interpretations. She writes, “the various possibilities are shades of meaning that give us greater understanding of who God is and what He does.”

The most common perception of shaddai among Christians today is “mighty”. So El Shaddai would render “God Almighty.” This root meaning would go along with El Shaddai being “The Overpowerer.” God overpowers every opposition against Him. Whatever He purposes, He will bring forth. But the primary meaning of God’s power in this name denotes all-bountifulness, The “Pourer-forth” of blessings that are both temporal and spiritual.

Some Christians also interpret shaddai as “sufficient”, which is also an accurate description of God. For He is the “All-sufficient One.”

Wilson explains yet another possible meaning of El Shaddai: “The God of the Mountain. Some Messianic teachers say shaddai comes from the Akkadian word shaddu, meaning ‘mountain.’ God lives in heaven, but He also inhabited a mountain top—Mount Sinai. It was on this mountain Moses met with God and received the Ten Commandments. It might be argued God’s presence on that mountain reminded the Israelites of His power and provision. The God of the Mountain was the same God who mightily led His people from Egypt and appeared to them as a cloud by day and a fire at night. He is the God who expected obedience to His commands, and swiftly and powerfully took action against those who rebelled and ignored His will.”

God is definitely both mighty and sufficient. He is the Almighty One who is more than enough! Although I grew up going to church and knew God as my Savior, I didn’t know Him as El Shaddai, the all-sufficient One, until I went to college. When I hit rock bottom, El Shaddai became more than words on a page to me. (You may read my story here: My Lifeboat). But before that time, and since, He has been both protector and lover of my soul.

People in the Old Testament who came to know El Shaddai include Abraham and Job. Even though God had promised Abram and Sarah a child at the ripe age of ninety-nine and eighty-nine, the baby had yet to make his entrance.

As God reveals Himself to Abram by this name, He also adds something to Abram’s name. He adds the chief letter of His own name “Jehovah”, the letter ‘He’. This sound can only be uttered by an out-breathing, giving something of His own nature. Genesis 17:1-3 tells us that when Abram comes to know God as El Shaddai, he falls on his face and immediately submits to God in everything.

Although Job argued with God at first, the Almighty’s show of wisdom and power resulted in changing this Patriarch’s attitude to quiet reverence before the Lord’s authority and sovereignty.

This same mighty God, embodied in Jesus Christ, worked mighty miracles to help people, rescue them, and prove He is God. He fed thousands from small provisions, healed people, and cast out tormenting demons. Yet, what blows my mind the most, is that El Shaddai would humble Himself to become a servant, “becoming obedient to deatheven death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) in order that we might have salvation through His Son.

We serve a mighty God who deserves all of our thanks and praise. In His mighty power, He never grows weary. He is our all-in-all who compassionately sustains, nourishes and protects. In His sufficiency, He can take our weaknesses and inadequate resources and use them for His great purposes. He alone is more than able! No need is too difficult for El Shaddai. He wants us to come to Him through prayer. For He knows His power and provision will lead to peace, hope, and praise. As with Abraham, God desires to work mightily in our lives and use us as a channel of His blessing to others.

Do you know God as El Shaddai?

El Roi, The God Who Sees

Have you ever felt like an outcast, or used for another’s profit or pleasure before being thrown out like an old rag? That is how Hagar felt when Sarai took matters into her own hands by arranging for Hagar to have a child with Abram (Genesis 16).

Where is God when rejection cuts deep? Where is the One who promises to work all things together for the good of those who love Him? Does He care? Does He see?

In our broken, sinful world it’s easy to buy into the lie that God doesn’t see, or that He sees, but doesn’t care. The truth is, our omnipresent God not only sees, but He also cares . . . deeply.

He is El Roi, the God who sees. The God who is aware of every painful circumstance.

The first time we encounter God in the Bible as El Roi we discover that He tells Hagar to go back and face her problem. Even though it seems so much easier to bury our problems, they usually only manifest in more harmful ways. But with God’s help, we can face the problem(s) and begin to heal in His strong arms.

God sees.

Even though God may have allowed the wrong, as in Hagar’s situation, He can still use it for good. But you must first know Him, believe in Him, and put your trust in His name. For He promises to never forsake those who seek Him (Psalm 9:10).

One day He will right every wrong. It will be a day of righteous judgment. For God saw all of it (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Thankfully, God is also rich in forgiveness. But it’s a scary thought to think of the fate of those who reject the “Lamb of God” who paid the penalty for the sin of everyone who seeks forgiveness.

Have you ever considered the benefit of knowing God as El Roi?

El Elyon, God Most High

God is not only our Elohim, He is also our El Elyon, the Most High. This name not only distinguishes Him as the sovereign ruler of all the universe, but also implies that nothing in life is more sacred. El Elyon, “God Most High” delivered Abraham’s enemies into his hand (Genesis 14:20). El Elyon was, and is, Israel’s Redeemer (Psalm 78:35). He is also the Most High God who reigns over the affairs of men and women today: “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’ (Daniel 4:34-35). So “Nebuchadnezzar . . . blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever” (Daniel 4:34).

Other scriptures that refer to God as El Elyon in relation to His sovereignty include the following:

Kay Arthur, (Lord I Want to Know You), writes: “If ‘the name of the God of Jacob’ would ‘set you securely on high,’ if you would trust Him to ‘send you help from the sanctuary, and support you from Zion (Psalm 20:1-2), then you must know him as El Elyon, the Most High. For if God is not sovereign, if He is not in control, if all things are not under His dominion, then He is not the Most High, and you and I are either in the hands of fate (whatever that is), in the hands of man, or in the hands of the devil.”

Satan’s relationship to God’s sovereignty and control can be found in Job 1:6-12, Job 2:1-10; and Luke 22:31. I love that, just as in Joseph’s story (Genesis 45:5, 7-8; 50:20), God in His sovereignty can take all the ugly details in our lives and “work together for good to those who love [Him], to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

How do you see El Elyon’s work in your own life?

What Does Elohim Mean?

Why have biblical writers referred to the one God with different names? The different names of God are a way to emphasize one quality of His character. Elohim is one such name that is used frequently in the Scriptures. This term “Elohim” means “supreme one” or “mighty one” and appears about 2,750 times in the Old Testament. “In the beginning [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1.

Although the term “Elohim” is used on occasion to refer to judges, human rulers, and even angels, it is also used to express the one true God in his supreme rule and almighty power. Mike Leake, Lead Pastor at FBC Marionville in Marionville, Missouri, writes: This is the word [Elohim] which is most frequently used when referring to God’s dealings with creation in general or with the nations of the world apart from his covenant with Israel.”

God’s very essence is glorious and unlimited power. His creation is a testament to His awesome creativity and might. For since the creation of the world God’s [Elohim’s] invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” Romans 1:20.

I love that, starting with Genesis, God increasingly reveals Himself to us. He first places himself as Elohim in covenant with his creation. Next, he enters into a special relationship with Israel through the Abrahamic covenant. Finally, his covenantal promises (Genesis 12) find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, God’s supreme revelation (Hebrews 1). This knowledge of Christ has the ability to move us from a vague understanding of Elohim into an exciting relationship with our Maker.

How do you know this God? Do you know him just as a mighty, far away power? Or can you address him as “my Lord and my God”? I’m so thankful that Jesus has given us a clear frame of reference to who this mighty God is and his mission, when Jesus entered our world. My Pastor, Cliff Purcell, is currently preaching a series called “Just Jesus”. His last message is from the second chapter of Mark. You may listen to his podcast here: Closer than You Think, (Jan. 20, 2019). Blessings!

What is an Examen Prayer?

My pastor is currently teaching a series on prayer, helpful ways to better connect with God. These ways are not intended to be a “one size fits all”, or a rigid method of “you must do this in order to grow in your walk with God”. But I thought his latest class about the Examen Prayer was really interesting. Although I have heard about this kind of prayer, I really knew little about it. So I am sharing what I have learned. I’ll give you a Facebook link to his class at the end of this post if you wish to hear it. There are also a couple of good (free) apps from the Examen Prayer available through Google’s Play Store and Apple: “Reimagining the Examen”, and “Examen Prayer”.

Some Christians find a specific approach to prayer a helpful discipline, while others prefer to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). The Examen Prayer is a practice in meditation and prayer. Many people throughout the centuries have found this helpful in sensing God’s daily presence and guidance. This prayer is credited to Roman Catholic Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) who, a Spanish soldier from his youth, pursued military glory and personal pleasure until age 30. After a severe battle wound, during a prolonged and painful recovery, he dove into Christian literature. This motivated him to renounce his old habits and commit himself to serving God.

After Ignatius spent hours of his convalescence in meditation and prayer he became convinced that any believer could benefit from prayer. He felt prayer is more effective when one approaches it in more of a conversational way with Jesus as a friend rather than in a ritual method. In 1548, Ignatius published his discovery in the Spiritual Exercises, a simple set of prayers, mental exercises, and meditations devised to be completed in 28 to 30 days. The Examen Prayer gives suggested “points” or “movements” when “praying the Examen.” These points are as follows:

Movement 1: Thanksgiving
Movement 2: Guidance
Movement 3: Review
Movement 4: Grace
Movement 5: Resolution

Whatever approach believers take in prayer, they may find the Examen Prayer helpful as long as they keep grounded in God’s Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2). Here is a link to Pastor Cliff Purcell’s class: Prayer Like You Never Experienced It, Episode 3. Blessings!

What does it mean to bless God?

(Photo and quote by Jacqueline Cooper.)

How has God blessed you? I’m sure many of you would agree that God is a loving, gracious Father. That His love and forgiveness alone is more than we deserve. If we are in Christ, God has poured blessing upon blessing into our lives. He even turns our messes into something beautiful if we let Him.

I love the The Message translation of Ephesians 1:3: How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”

Did you know that it is possible to bless God? Some may argue: Because God is altogether perfect and lacks nothing, He doesn’t need our blessings. Though I agree that we don’t add to God’s character, or somehow strengthen Him through our blessings, I do believe that our attitudes, words, and actions can bring joy to his heart and a smile to His face. When we bless, praise and acknowledge God, we are fulfilling His original purpose of creating us.

What if we make it our priority to daily bless God in 2019? For He truly deserves it! You may read more on this topic here: What Does It Mean to Bless God? And for all of you scholarly readers, you might enjoy John Piper’s thesis: What Does It Mean to Bless God? 

God Finishes What He Starts

I love this verse! There are times when I wonder if I am making any gains in my spiritual life. Too many times I start the new year with well-meaning goals and resolutions. Not that they can’t be attained, but on my own, my best efforts usually hit a wall at some point. But thankfully, when God starts a project, He finishes it!

Paul is describing the Christian’s growth process here. God’s work for us began when Christ took our place with His sacrificial death on the cross. His work in us begins when we first believe. With Jesus Christ as our foundation, He continues framing and building our character while daily enabling us to be more Christ-like through His indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit. If you are God’s child, rest in the promise that He will finish this good work when we meet Him face to face.

Happy New Year!

I hope that joy and peace graced your Christmas. I also hope you have managed to find some rest time, especially if you have a house full of kids.:) Reflecting on this past year, I’ve found myself enjoying lots of our kids’ sporting events. Other highlights from 2018 include:

  • Cameron’s high school graduation, (our oldest son). He attends Grand Canyon University and loves it.
  • Eric and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary in Coeur d’Alene, ID in June.
  • Our family enjoyed a vacation in Whitefish, Montana and visiting Glacier National Park in July. We spent our time hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, and viewing some beautiful scenery.

God has graciously blessed our family in many ways, for which I’m grateful. He has also led me into some new ministry terrain that is challenging and rewarding at the same time.

I am also starting a new business called L&L Abode. So far my products comprise canvas and mugs with pictures that I photograph and/or digitally create. But I plan on adding more products and variety in the near future. (If you’re interested in checking it out, this link will take you to my store: L&L Abode.)

As you reflect on this past year and set your sights on new horizons, I hope and pray that God makes His will clear for you and that you see his hand at work in your life. We can trust God in the year ahead, for he has good plans for our future. The following Bible verses, shared by Mary Fairchild, are grounds for excitement!

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)

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)

Merry Christmas!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." -Isaiah 9:6-7

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” – Isaiah 9:6-7

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas!

 

More Than Pieces of Peace

True and lasting peace is rare in our sin-ravaged world. Fear, sin, uncertainty, doubt, and many other forces war within us. The holidays don’t invoke good memories and/or warm fuzzy feelings for many people. Just a quick read through the newspaper can leave one’s mind and heart reeling in a state of unrest. While most of us manage to grasp pieces of peace here and there, what is the secret to the few who find a confident assurance that everything is going to be okay, even in the midst of adversity?

Jesus says He will give us peace if we are willing to accept it from Him. Unlike worldly peace, which is usually defined as the absence of conflict, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives produces deep and lasting peace. With Christ’s peace, we have no need to fear the present or the future.

Beginning a new series on peace, Pastor Cliff Purcell shares some practical ways to secure deep and lasting peace. His first podcast can be found here: Making Peace With God” (Dec. 2, 2018). The next podcast can be accessed here: “Making Peace With My Past” (Dec. 9, 2018). Wishing you God’s gift of His deep and lasting peace!

Why We Need Advent

Ten Old Testament Prophecies fulfilled by Jesus’ birth as recorded in the New Testament.

Don’t celebrate Christmas too early. Before unleashing the joyful revelry of the holiday, enter a season that readies your heart for the celebration. . . . Wake up on Christmas morning with a hard-fought hope grown out of a rich season of spiritual preparation. That’s what Advent is all about.” -Scott James

Scott James is the author of the Advent devotional book, The Expected One, and The Littlest Watchman, an Advent book for children. Scott reminds us that it is important to prepare our hearts for the Christmas celebration. Advent also reminds us of the people of God awaiting the promised Messiah and “helps us hone those same sentiments as we await his second coming.”

You may read Scott’s post here: Why We Need Advent. Blessings!

 

 

 

 

The Unpopular Sermon

With Thanksgiving tucked under our belts, if we’re able to cinch our belts :), many of us are feeling the financial bulge warring against our desire to buy that perfect Christmas gift(s). After all, who wants to rob our loved ones from the joy of receiving this season?

But what about God? Is it possible to rob Him? What kind of gifts are pleasing to Him? What offends God and constitutes this idea of robbing Him? Continuing in the book of Malachi, Pastor Cliff Purcell shares an unpopular teaching that challenges even the most generous and courageous heart. Among my “thankful” list of blessings and people, I am grateful for a pastor who doesn’t water down the truth of the Gospel. You may listen to his message here: The Sermon We Wish Cliff Wouldn’t Preach (Nov. 18, 2018).

I am also thankful for you! Wishing you God’s abundant blessing this holiday season!

Marriage, Divorce and the People of God – Part Two

God desires and deserves faithfulness in every part of our lives, including marriage.

Pastor Cliff Purcell expounds on what Scriptures teach in this area, specifically from the book of Malachi. You may listen to his podcast here: Marriage, Divorce and the People of God – Part Two, (Nov. 11, 2018).

Have a great week!

Divorce, Marriage and the People of God

Coming back to our study in Malachi, this book delivers hard truth. But we are also given a glimpse of God’s truth sprinkled with grace. Listen to Pastor Cliff Purcell’s message and be encouraged. Although God hates divorce because of the damage it creates, He loves divorced people. You may listen to this podcast here: Divorce, Marriage and the People of God (Nov. 4, 2018).

Pastor Purcell also just began a series on “The Marital Area of Life”, which he live-streams from his Facebook page. The areas he covers are: “Two Becoming One”, “Psychological Intimacy”, “Spiritual Intimacy”, and “Restoring Intimacy”.  His teaching is packed with great insights and practical application, geared for people at different phases: seasoned couples, newlyweds, or single people just wanting more information in the marital relationship. You may find this information here: The Marital Area of Life. Have a great week!

How Can I Know God’s Will for My Life?

Do you ever struggle with knowing what God’s will is? What does the Bible say about knowing God’s will?

At its most basic, the will of God is to repent of our sin and trust in Christ. If we have not taken that first step, then we have not yet accepted God’s will,” (gotquestions.org).

To read more about knowing God’s will, the following post from Got Questions does a great job summarizing what the Bible teaches on this topic. You may find this post here: How Can I Know God’s Will for My Life?  Have a wonderful week!

 

Unique Opportunity: Reach North Korea With the Gospel

We starve, but it’s not food we want. We thirst, but not for water. We are sick and have no medicine but we know that only the Gospel can heal our people.”

With tears in her eyes, this is what one woman told FEBC President, Ed Cannon, from his recent travel to Asia to meet with a group of North Korean refugees.

Who is FEBC? Far East Broadcasting Company is an interdenominational ministry whose sole purpose is to share the Good News to the world through radio, the Internet, and emerging technologies. FEBC seeks to cooperate with and support existing missionary efforts and the ministry of the greater body of Christ worldwide, based on a common belief in the Bible as the infallible, authoritative Word of God.

What is the one message FEBC proclaims? “The truth of salvation through Jesus Christ.”

Where does FEBC minister? For 73 years, FEBC has been committed to reaching people in the most unreached places on earth. The 10-40 Window, a geographic area between lines of latitude 40 degrees and 10 degrees north of the equator, hosts 69 nations containing 4.65 billion people. This is where 90% of the world’s poorest people live; 95% of these people are unevangelized. The Christian minorities here are often heavily persecuted for their faith.

FEBC is committed to seizing the moment by boldly positioning all of their resources for God. Their broadcasts are heard in 113 languages and 49 countries around the world aired from 149 stations and transmitters, totaling 842 hours of programming a day/365 days a year. Last year alone, 2.6 million responses to the Gospel were made in response to their ministry. While these numbers are impressive stats, the reality is that these people are being transformed because of the hope they now have through Jesus Christ.

And now God has uniquely positioned FEBC to broadcast the Good News into one of the darkest, most hopeless place in the world: North Korea. President Ed Cannon writes: “With the help of friends like you, we are dramatically expanding our ministry through a powerful new radio tower in South Korea that will blanket the entire country of North Korea with the Gospel!”

The cost estimate of this radio tower is $320,000. Would you pray for this endeavor as well as prayerfully consider giving to this ministry? You may check out their ministry at their website: FEBC. Here is a link to donate toward the radio tower in North Korea: https://www.febc.org/north-korea. Thank you for your consideration!

How Far Would You Go?

Do you ever wonder how far God would go in order to have a relationship with you? How far would you go to pursue, or keep, a friendship with God? Pastor Cliff Purcell addresses these questions as he continues his series in the book of Malachi. You may listen to his podcast here: How Far Would You Go? (Oct. 14, 2018).

Ready to Revere

The idea of fearing God is not a popular concept in the American church. So much so that many church leaders have watered down God’s truth, trying to make it appear less daunting and more appealing to the masses. But the Hebrew word for fear means: Be afraid . . . anxiety caused by approaching danger.

When we recognize this truth, we realize there is a power that is greater than us and can overcome us in an instant. This should check our hearts and make us tremble, at least for a moment. And yet, this powerful, loving God wants to have a relationship with each of us. How much does He long to save us from death, the consequence of our sin, and give us abundant life instead? To the point that He sacrificed His only Son, Jesus Christ, for everyone who would accept His free gift of forgiveness and salvation when He died on the cross.

In the Hebrew context, fear isn’t an emotion word, but rather an action verb where recognition of something (God’s power, majesty, holiness, forgiveness, goodness, judgment) causes specific action. Fear isn’t meant to stay in our hearts, but rather worked out in reverence toward God through a manifestation of worship. Godly fear is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). Other action words defining godly fear include: Hating evil (Prov. 8:13), satisfying (Prov. 14:27), and sanctifying (Ps. 19: 9).

Continuing in the book of Malachi, Pastor Cliff Purcell shares a heartfelt message. Warning: This is not an easy passage to digest, especially for pastors, which this portion is directed toward. But this section also contains truth for all of us who are Christ followers. You may listen to his podcast here: Ready to Revere (Oct. 7, 2018).

Return to Respect

How do you view God? Does He seem distant and unconcerned about what people do in this life? Or does He appear more like a stern judge with a giant gavel in His hand than a loving, merciful shepherd? It’s true, our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). But He is also a perfect Father who loves unconditionally. His passion is for a right relationship with us, not for revenge, as some might interpret the book of Malachi. Even though God’s people neglected worship of Him and failed to live according to His will, God’s first words to them was: “I have always loved you,” (Malachi 1:1).

Eventually the world will crumble, and only God’s kingdom will last (Hebrews 12:27-29). Only those who follow Christ will withstand the sifting and shaking. But no matter what happens here, we can be confident when we place our trust in Jesus Christ, seek and follow Him. We can shake off worries because He loves us and promises to supply the needs of His children.

So how does one seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness? I won’t lie, it is work. I’ll be the first to admit, not only do I need this reminder, but also need accountability and discipline to follow through with practical application.

We fill our thoughts with His desires and promises by reading and meditating on His Word. When we daily persist in prayer, His Holy Spirit helps us turn to Him first for help. By asking the Holy Spirit to fill us, He enables us to obey and serve God. When people, goals, objects, and other desires push God away from His rightful reign in our lives, we need to confess this to Him, then realign our priorities. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit not only births the desire to integrate God’s character, but also constantly works to transform us more and more into His image as we surrender to Him.

God alone is worthy of our full respect and worship. He deserves the rightful reign in our hearts. When we give up our selfish desires and seek to honor Him by putting Him first, He fills us with His love, joy and peace.

If you have been following Pastor Cliff Purcell’s podcast series from the book of Malachi, here is another great message: Return to Respect (Sept. 30, 2018). Have a wonderful week!

Remember. Return. Rehearse.

God originally chose the Jews, through whom He planned to save and bless the entire world. But all who believe in Him today—Jews and Gentiles—are vessels in which He wants to share His hope. When we ask Jesus to be our Savior, the new life He gives us is our pure offering to Him.

How does God want to use you to make His name great among the nations? His mission begins in our homes and neighborhoods. But we must also work and pray for God’s mission worldwide.

God didn’t mince words as He spoke through his prophet in the Old Testament book of Malachi. How does this message relate to us today? Listen as Pastor Cliff Purcell shares the Word of God: Remember. Return. Rehearse. (Sept. 23, 2018).

 

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!