Tag Archives: Bible

Desiring to Know God

I love when several things that I encounter in a day all point to the same truth about God. That’s what happened today.

As part of my devotional reading, while I played ball with the dog, I decided to read a couple of Psalms. I went to my old favorite, Psalm 116, which I’ve written about before. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve read this particular Psalm at least 50 times (probably closer to 100). Yet as I read this morning I saw a truth that I hadn’t seen before in verses 8 and 9, which say:

8For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

 9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

My focus has always been on verse 8, because God did deliver me from death, tears, and stumbling when He showed me the root of my major clinical depression. But this morning I noticed why He delivered me. It wasn’t so I could go about my business and do whatever I please. And it wasn’t so I could work hard to earn His approval. It was so that I could have a relationship with Him, so that I could “walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

Later, after I had showered and dressed for work, I kneeled to pray as is my morning habit. But first I read a one-page devotion from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (I started this devotional this year because I thought it didn’t have dates in it so it wouldn’t matter if I missed a day, but I discovered this morning that the dates are in the footer at the bottom of the page. Oops.)

Anyway, as I read the January 31 entry, I came across this sentence: “Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God.” Ouch. As I prayed, I pondered where I might be doing good works to prove my own holiness. I asked God to help me focus on just knowing Him. I’m finding as that becomes my desire, the work that is before me becomes less of a burden. Instead, it becomes a blessing because I do it in His power and for His glory.

Finally, I was finishing up my children’s lesson for Bible Study Fellowship, reviewing my answers to the week’s questions to decide how to answer the question “What have you learned about God in this week’s study?” The study is about the suffering Christians face. My answer was that, “All of our suffering, comfort, and joy are designed by God to bring us into a closer relationship with Him, like the one He had with Adam and Eve before they sinned.”

This life really is about walking with God in all that we do, whether it be work or leisure, suffering or blessing. When we do it all with God, instead of apart from God, we have the abundant life Jesus promised. John 10:10.

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Why Are We Surprised?

When people do terrible things, such as yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Paris or the most recent school shooting in Oregon last month, people are surprised. And when you believe, as our culture seems to, that people are basically good, the surprise is understandable.

But my Christian brothers and sisters, why are you surprised? Scripture tells us that we are all born with a sinful nature. In Romans 3:23 Paul points out that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all of us sinners—the difference is the degree to which we accept that fact and the measures we take to overcome our sinfulness. When others sin, we should not be surprised.

Nor should we be surprised as things seem to get worse in our world, as we hear stories of terrorism, of child abuse, of the acceptance of pornography as normal, of the staunch defense of the practice of abortion, greedy corporations and politicians putting their own bottom line first, and much more. The daily headlines can be depressing, especially if they take you totally by surprise.

Spend much time at all in scripture, however, and you’ll find that the current state of our world is not a surprise to God and shouldn’t be a surprise to us. We see a clear warning in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NIV).

That verse pretty much sums up our culture and our news headlines, including the tabloid headlines about our favorite stars.

So if we aren’t to be surprised about what is going on around us, what as Christians should we do? Especially in the wake of a terrible tragedy like the multi-site terrorist attack in Paris yesterday? Well, again, let’s turn to scripture for our answer.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Thinking of the people of Paris, the phrase that stands out to me in this passage is “mourn with those who mourn.” We certainly do today. And we encourage all to trust in Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who alone is able to change hearts and help us overcome our sinful nature.

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A Cautionary Tale and Forgiveness

I’ve been pondering my past, my regrets, a lot lately and it was starting to get me down. Regrets will do that, you know. I was really starting to let it get to me, praying that God would just let me forget the things I’ve done and have had happen to me that I wish I could change but can’t.

But some things aren’t meant to be forgotten (even though they’re forgiven) because God wants to use them as a cautionary tale to others.

So here are my thoughts, my warnings to those young girls who might be heading down a similar path that I once followed. Trust me, you don’t want to get to 50 and wish you could either forget or go back and change your teen years.

Teens today think it’s cool and acceptable to have sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend, even if they have no intention of it being forever. Sometimes a teen girl will have sex with her boyfriend because she is looking for love and acceptance and thinks that’s the only way to find it. Sex is just no big deal, they think. But it is a really big deal. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to say my husband is the only one I’d ever had sex with. Well, I could say it, but it wouldn’t be true. And there is nothing I can do to change that.

God’s Word says that sex is to be reserved for marriage. Our culture thinks that’s old-fashioned and that sexual freedom is better.

Clergyman Richard Cecil once wrote, “God denies a Christian nothing, but with a design to give him something better.” Sex outside of marriage is denied by God because monogamy and having only one special, perfect lover is better.

Though I can’t go back and change the past, I was reminded by a favorite Sanctus Real song the other day not to let that get me down because that was the old me and Christ has made all things new. The lyrics to that song speak to me. The second verse and chorus are:

My mistakes are running through my mind
And I’ll relive my days in the middle of the night
When I struggle with my pain, wrestle with my pride.
Sometimes I feel alone and I cry.

And in this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am

Well, I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
‘Cause I’m forgiven

Forgiven, Sanctus Real

Every day we make choices. I pray young men and women will make Godly choices instead of the worldly choices I made when I was young. I pray that if you are reading this cautionary tale, you will take it to heart and avoid the regret, the struggle of reliving your days in the middle of the night. Practice patience and self-control, waiting until you find your real one true belove, the one you have married, to discover the wonder and joy of God’s gift of sex.

But if you are like me, if you have regrets, remember that you, too, can be forgiven. When a woman who had led a sinful life came to Jesus, He had compassion on her. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” Luke 7:48 (NIV). He will say the same to you.

 

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Grafted

I was a wild olive shoot
wandering lost and alone
certain I could thrive
on skill all my own

Lived a wild and crazy life
no one to answer to
sowing seeds of great regret
searching for something new

Though I had creativity
wisdom was far away
focus was quite absent
to guide me through each day

But then the Gracious Gardner
gently grafted me
into His wise and merciful root
finally I am free

Now I have direction
a perfect reason to live
the secret of His love and grace
to others I want to give

 

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Jeremiah Preached the Gospel

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah, alternating with Hebrews, as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. I’m up to chapter 23 of Jeremiah, but I kept thinking about chapter 17. So I went back and re-read chapter 17 the other night. As I read through it, I realized that this passage encompasses the Gospel and that is why I was drawn back to it.

I love when I find the essence of the Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament (it’s all over the place, you know), but I didn’t really expect to find it in Jeremiah. This is a book by a prophet that the Israelites did not like. His gloom and doom predictions for Israel resulted in the priests and “prophets” plotting against him, and he was arrested, whipped, and put in stocks. He spoke on behalf of the Lord to warn the Israelites of God’s anger because they had turned away from Him, and he predicted that many of the Israelites would die at the hand of the Babylonians or from famine, and that others would be exiled to Babylon, if they did not change their ways.

But in the middle of all of the warnings and predictions is this passage that I believe encompasses the Gospel in a nutshell:

Wisdom from the Lord

 5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT).

Verses 5-6 speak of those who trust in their own ability to be righteous and believe they can earn their own way to heaven. When their judgment day comes, they will be cursed because they have trusted in human strength. Even in this life, their spiritual lives are barren and they have no real hope or strength in the face of the trials of this life.

Verses 7-8 speak of those who trust in the Lord Jesus for their salvation and know that they have no hope of righteousness on their own. They are not bothered by the trials of this world because they have the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain their spiritual life. They have the hope of eternity with God.

I love the imagery of this passage of Jeremiah. When trouble comes, and it will come for all of us, the one who trusts in human strength is “like stunted shrubs in the desert.” But the one who trusts in the Lord “like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.” The stunted shrub is the perfect picture of worry and hopelessness. How can such a shrub ever survive? But the tree by the riverbank is the perfect picture of peace and hope. Such a tree will survive the worst drought because it has tapped into the source of life.

In this passage, water is life for the plant. In the New Testament, Jesus promises living water to all who believe in Him.

Jesus Promises Living Water

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) John 7:37-39 (NLT).

The question that faces every human being is whether they will trust in human strength or will put all their trust in their Creator. How about you? Do you seek to earn your own salvation through the strength of your own righteousness? Or have you chosen to trust in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, recognizing that your strength and righteousness are nothing compared to His? When the drought comes, will you die of thirst because you have no power to create living water? Or will you thrive because you trust in the One who offers an endless supply of living water for all who believe?

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Some of What I Know

Today I decided to write my poem-of-the-day based on the NaPoWriMo2015 prompt, which is to write a poem that states things that I know. This could be a really long poem, because my head is full of all kinds of trivial knowledge, but I’ll just pick a few because I don’t have all day and neither do you.

Some of What I Know

Every person I meet has been through
some trial I know nothing about.

God knows every trial you and I have been through
every thought and deed that makes up our lives.

Potatoes are delicious, gluten-free, and dairy free
when cooked on a Traeger, boiled, fried, or roasted with herbs.

Eating gluten-free and dairy free is not as difficult
as people who don’t have to think it must be.

The sight and smell of flowers
can brighten even a dreary day.

The Oxford comma is never a bad choice
because it is a clear rule that avoids confusion.

The Chicago Manual of Style is a great resource
for questions of grammar and punctuation.

Poetry cares little about what
The Chicago Manual of Style has to say.

The Bible is made up of 66 books, all God’s Word
and is a great resource for the big questions of life.

Some people care little about what
God’s Word has to say about the trials they’ve been through.

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Nemesis

The Faith and Culture Writers Conference word for the day on Facebook today was Nemesis. And I saw this poem.

Nemesis

Fear, my nemesis
my arch-enemy
my long-time rival

Fear tries relentlessly
to crush me
prevent my survival

Fear once held me
tight in its grip
and I was suicidal

Fear is defeated
by my Savior
His Word in the Bible

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Unconditional Love

The prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write a poem inspired by the art of Danny Gregory. I picked one of Danny’s sketches that appealed to me because it was of dogs. I love dogs!

(c) Danny Gregory

(c) Danny Gregory

Unconditional Love

Love abounds
It can be found
most anywhere you look

But unconditional love
is hard to find
except in the Good Book

and in the wag of a dog’s tail
no matter now long
your quick trip to the store took

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My Lesson – A Poem

Over at dVerse Poets Pub today, Claudia has challenged us to write about anything we want, but we have to really look at it first. No clichés or hollow shadows of the thing allowed.

My Lesson

My BSF lesson was just some questions,
Bible passages to read—long passages
This is the life of Moses, Exodus and all that

Now it’s filled with my scribbles,
that half cursive, half printing jumble
that is my barely legible handwriting

Good thing no one else has to read it
It’s just for me, and to share with my
Saturday morning discussion group

But the real lesson is yet to come

I’m amazed every week, with each new lesson
that others don’t always have
the exact same answers as I do

We read the same passages yet
we glean different principles as
God’s Word speaks into each life, each heart

My lesson is that our Creator, omniscient
that He is, has a different lesson for me
than He has for you today, this week

Perhaps next week, or next year
I’ll be on the same lesson as you are now
or vice versa as our circumstances require

And that makes me rejoice
that my God truly knows
our daily needs and provides

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Repent and Follow Jesus – A Poem

This poem is a found poem of sorts. It is based on the principles from my Bible Study Fellowship Teaching Leader’s lecture on Matthew 11–12. I rearranged the exact words of her four principles, but the concepts are what she shared regarding this passage of scripture.

Repent and Follow Jesus

Go straight to Jesus, trust His Word,
when facing doubt and frustration

Indifference to Christ’s revelation
brings only condemnation

To those called by God who humbly obey
in faith He brings peaceful elation

The proud who stubbornly reject Christ
will be excluded from His gift of salvation

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