Tag Archives: God’s Word

The Beginning and End of Discipline

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is a period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) until Easter. Traditionally, Christians (as least in the liturgical denominations) have given up something for Lent in order to participate in and better understand the sacrifice of our Lord. In addition, the sacrifice is supposed to bring one closer to God as He becomes that which fills the need or desire otherwise fulfilled by the thing given up. Some people give up chocolate, or desserts of any kind. Others give up watching TV or eating meat. There is an endless variety of things that one can give up, or sacrifice, during the Lenten season.

Last year for Lent, I decided that instead of giving something up for Lent, I was going to commit to doing something, and I blogged about it on Feb. 19. I fulfilled my committment to blog something positive every day for Lent. That was the beginning of a discipline of writing that has now developed into daily posting. And it all began with one short post and a committment to praise Jesus for His love and sacrifice for 40 days.

Colie and Wordstrong Poster

This year, my local congregation is doing something similar for Lent. We are participating in a program called Wordstrong. It involves each member of the congregation committing to reading God’s Word every day throughout Lent. Last Sunday we received our reading schedules for Lent, and we have arranged prayer partners to pray for discipline for the rest of the congregation throughout this time. Those who chose to participate signed a poster pledging their committment.

I am excited to see where this Lenten discipline takes us as a congregation. If what happened with my committment to blog every day is any indication, we should be a congregation for whom this Lenten program is just the beginning of a discipline of being in God’s Word on a daily basis. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

So if committing to doing something every day for Lent is the beginning of discipline, what is the end of discipline? It is to develop a closer relationship with God. The discipline of reading the Bible every day will draw the believer closer to God, so that they may hear when He speaks to them. It is much easier to discern God’s will if one knows God’s Word.

The true end of discipline is a relationship with God that results in an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

So what do you plan to do, if anything, for Lent? Have you ever done something for Lent in the past, and if so, what was the result? Did it bring you closer to God? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Whatever you decide, I pray you will draw closer to our Lord as we approach the celebration of His death and resurrection.

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The Perfect Woman without Photoshop

A friend posted this video on Facebook this morning, and it got me thinking about what we are teaching our sons and daughters about what constitutes a beautiful woman. Do we tell them the truth about what is important, or do we allow them to be duped by the lie that perfect physical beauty is the most important goal.

The lies exposed in this video are lies of the devil promoted by the media and advertising industry. They are everywhere we look, in magazines, on billboards, and on television. They are subtle lies that suggest that women can, in fact, be like the perfect images we see in pictures and in videos. The truth is, as the Jean Kilbourne says, such external perfection can only be achieved through Photoshop and other manipulative software.

But where can we look to find the truth about what the perfect, or at least beautiful and exception woman, looks like? What should we be teaching our daughters to strive for? What should we be teaching our sons to appreciate in a woman? The truth can be found in God’s Word. Proverbs 31 describes the woman we should teach our daughters to desire to be and teach our sons to seek out for a wife:

A Wife of Noble Character

 10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
      She is more precious than rubies.
 11 Her husband can trust her,
      and she will greatly enrich his life.
 12 She brings him good, not harm,
      all the days of her life.

 13 She finds wool and flax
      and busily spins it.
 14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
      bringing her food from afar.
 15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
      and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

 16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
      with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 17 She is energetic and strong,
      a hard worker.
 18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
      her lamp burns late into the night.

 19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
      her fingers twisting fiber.
 20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
      and opens her arms to the needy.
 21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
      for everyone has warm clothes.

 22 She makes her own bedspreads.
      She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
 23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
      where he sits with the other civic leaders.
 24 She makes belted linen garments
      and sashes to sell to the merchants.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
      and she laughs without fear of the future.
 26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
      and she gives instructions with kindness.
 27 She carefully watches everything in her household
      and suffers nothing from laziness.

 28 Her children stand and bless her.
      Her husband praises her:
 29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!”

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
 31 Reward her for all she has done.
      Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

In this passage, inner beauty and character are prized over external beauty. As verse 30 says, beauty does not last. As illustrated by the video, what is portrayed as beauty by the media and advertising industry does not even exist. A beautiful character, however, is real and achievable. The woman with a beautiful character will bring happiness and contentment to those around her, and will last an eternity.

This is the truth we must impart to our sons and daughters so that they will desire inner beauty that is achievable rather than external beauty that is unachievable and destructive. It will take effort to impart this wisdom because we must combat the many lies that bombard our children every day. More and more videos like the one above are being posted on the Internet everyday. It is wonderful that they are there to expose the lies about physical beauty. But we must do more than just expose the lies; we must replace them with the truth. We must teach our children that character and godliness are the most important traits for them to desire and prize above all else.

If you have a son or daughter, share this important message with them. Jean Kilbourne says she has been sharing her message for 40 years and things have only gotten worse. Maybe if we add to her message the truth of what God’s Word says is the woman who “will be greatly praised,” then maybe in another 40 years things will be much better.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due

As part of the Post-a-Day 2011 Challenge, The Daily Post at WordPress.com has been providing an optional writing prompt to get bloggers started. Although I won’t use their prompt on most days, I have already found one that I like. It was posted on Jan. 1 for use in Jan. 2 posts, but since I already had plans for Jan. 2 as part of Psalm Sunday, and then decided I wanted to do Music Monday, I decided to save it for a later day. Here is the prompt:

Name someone who deserves more credit than they get. And for bonus points, how to change things so they get more.

The first person I thought of when I read this was the Holy Spirit. Even in the Apostles’ Creed, all we say is “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” The Nicene Creed does have a bit more to say about the Holy Spirit:

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

The Bible, however, has much to say about the Holy Spirit. Beginning at the beginning, Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” The Holy Spirit of God has always existed and was instrumental in the creation of the earth.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is revealed as powerful and magnificent. Many times, God filled prophets and others with His Spirit, giving them wisdom, expertise, knowledge, and strength beyond their natural abilities.

“Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze.” Exodus 31:2-4.

And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Then he gave the seventy elders the same Spirit that was upon Moses. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. Numbers 11:25.

At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him [Samson], and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. . . But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. Judges 14:6; 15:14.

Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, the leader of the Thirty, and he said,“We are yours, David!We are on your side, son of Jesse.Peace and prosperity be with you,and success to all who help you,for your God is the one who helps you.”So David let them join him, and he made them officers over his troops. 1 Chronicles 12:18.

His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent. Job 26:13.

But as for me, I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord. I am filled with justice and strength to boldly declare Israel’s sin and rebellion. Micah 3:8.

The Old Testament also contains the promise, fulfilled in the New Testament, that God will give His Holy Spirit power to all who believe.

“Then, after doing all those things,
      I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
   Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
      Your old men will dream dreams,
      and your young men will see visions.
 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
      even on servants—men and women alike.” Joel 2:28-29.

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit continues to be revealed as powerful, as well as beneficial to the believer. Jesus, the Messiah, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and thus is the Son of God. The Holy Spirit is the giver of life and the source of wisdom, counsel, and more.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18.

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35.

But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11.

[Jesus said,] “You are witnesses of all these things. And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:48-49.

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. John 3:6.

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [Or Comforter, or Encourager, or Counselor], who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. John 14:16-17.

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26.

That last verse is one of my favorites. I have personally experienced the Holy Spirit reminding me of something Jesus had taught me through my reading of the Word, of His teaching. When I need a verse to help me through a difficult situation, it is the Holy Spirit that brings just the right verse to mind. I may not always remember the Biblical “address” of the verse, or even what book of the Bible it is in, but I know where it comes from and Who has brought it to my attention.

I think that too often even Christians forget to give credit to the Holy Spirit when it is due. All of the charitable acts or service for our fellow man that we do are born out of the power and desire of the Holy Spirit. Even our faith itself is given to us by the Holy Spirit. I have quoted quite a few verses here, but I really haven’t even scratched the surface of the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit.

So that brings me to the second part of the prompt. What can I do to change things so that the Holy Spirit gets the credit He deserves? I will endeavor, with the help of the Holy Spirit Himself, to write about the wonderful things He deserves credit for in my life and as promised in scripture in the weeks and months to come. I’m going to be posting every day, so I’ll certainly have plenty of opportunity.

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The True Light Shines in the Darkness

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer as we move towards winter. I really don’t like winter. Too much darkness and too much cold. With the time change two weeks ago it is now dark when I go home from work. Even now at 4:00 in the afternoon, with the clouds and rain, it is looks dark and ominous outside.

Sometimes the darkness gets to me, but then I am reminded that no matter how dark it gets, there is a light to show me the way. Speaking of Jesus as well as His witness John the Baptist, the apostle John wrote:

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. John 1:4-9.

Jesus is light for all to see. But just as a flashlight that is not turned on or a lamp that is hidden in a closet does not help one see, if Jesus is not believed and trusted He cannot help one see. The darkness of men and women has not, and will never, overcome the light of Christ in the hearts of believers. But today darkness still remains because some people refuse to accept the light God has provided. After saying that He had come to save the world because of God’s love for mankind, Jesus said:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21.

In the book I am reading, Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, the darkness and evil of men who have been deceived by communism and atheism is evident. The communists in Romania, Russia, China, and other countries have tried not only to avoid the light of Christ, but to crush and destroy it. They have not succeeded. They clung to the atheistic belief that there is no God, and they imprisoned, beat, and tortured those who believed God exists and that He loves us, those who live in the light. And still the light was not extinguished.

Wurmbrand writes that the communists were content to allow the old people to cling to their belief in God, but that they violently opposed teaching the Christian faith to children and teenagers. In school, children were taught the communist party line that atheism is the truth. If the Christians tried to teach them otherwise, they were punished for their “crime.” Nonetheless, “Parents were also encouraged to give a Christian education to their children as an antidote against the atheism with which they were poisoned in the communist schools.” Tortured for Christ pg. 124. And parents who loved their children heeded this encouragement, and so the light shone on.

As I read this, I thought about the teaching in our own public schools here in the U.S. My son began this year in sophomore English with a lesson on creation myths, beginning with Genesis. I suspect that any suggestion by a student that the creation story of Genesis is not a myth would be discouraged because people of other faiths or no faith at all might be offended. In biology class, a large part of the curriculum for this year is on the Theory of Evolution. I suspect that any suggestion by a student that Evolution on the macro-level (meaning humans evolved over time starting with a single-celled organism) is not true and that the Theory of Intelligent Design makes more sense would be laughed at, and any test answers to that effect would certainly not result in a good grade.

It seems to me that in our current environment, parents should be encouraged to give a good Christian education to their children as an antidote to the subtle atheism and godlessness with which they are poisoned in our public schools. As darkness sets in, we must work to keep the light burning. We cannot sit back and hope the younger generation understands that faith in Christ is grounded in reason, that the scriptures we rely on have a firm foundation for accuracy, and that God is real and loves them with a love so divine it transcends all understanding. We must teach them these truths. We must show them the light.

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Remembering the Reformation

Tomorrow is Reformation Day, the day we remember and celebrate the work of Martin Luther and others to expose non-Biblical theology and practices of the church in the 1500s. It is an important day to be grateful for the fact that we have God’s Word available to us and for the gospel of grace that His Word shows us.

My Lutheran Book of Prayer includes Luther’s prayer for the Reformation Festival, as he called it, and I wanted to share that prayer because it remains a good prayer for the church today, 400+ years after the Reformation.

Lord God, who after long ages of darkness delivered the Church from the bondage of error, we thank You for those faithful witnesses through whom You restored the Gospel of Christ to men, and we praise You that this blessed light has been preserved for us to this present age. We thank You for making known among us the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, our only Mediator. Defend Your Church against all her foes. Seek and save the lost and all who have gone astray. Preserve among us the pure Word and the holy Sacraments, turn our hearts from false and pernicious doctrine. Direct and strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may abide in the confession of Your Word all the days of our lives and in the end, by Your grace, obtain everlasting life. This I pray in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We cannot become complacent about the teachings of our churches. We must continue to pray that Jesus defend His church against those who would set aside His Word and lead God’s children astray. We must rely on the direction and strength of His Holy Spirit to help us stand firm on the truth of scripture. We must cling to grace and lift high the cross of Christ as the only means of salvation.

The Reformation was an important stage in the history of the Church, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back on our laurels and not remain vigilant. False and pernicious doctrines still creep in from time to time. We need to guard our hearts against them.

We need to guard against the doctrine of the progressive Christian  movement that says that other religions are just other paths to God and that Jesus is not the only way. We need to guard against the doctrine of legalism that says we need to follow all the rules in order to be saved, essentially requiring that we save ourselves. We need to guard against doctrine and theology that says the Bible is not the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

There are many warnings in the New Testament about false teachers within the Church. Heresies were not new when Martin Luther and the other reformers fought against them in the 1500s, and they will always be something we must guard against until the Day of Christ Jesus. The Apostle Peter warned:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 2:1-3.

When asked to recant his faith in Christ and the Gospel, Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Let us stand firm as Luther did and not follow the shameful ways of false teachers. This I pray in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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