Monthly Archives: December 2013

Make My Joy Complete!

Partners in the Gospel

Partners in the Gospel

Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. . . “People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left . . . . Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord. . . If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate.”

The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them. Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord. 

The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites and priests praised the Lord every day with resounding instruments dedicated to the Lord. . . There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.   (Selections from II Chronicles 30)

What a super passage this is!  I think it is perfect for going into the new year.  Here are some of the great themes of this reading:

Return to the Lord.  I pray that in the coming year, we all can love God more wholeheartedly, that we can get rid of all of the impurities.  May this be our constant prayer:

Burn away everything that breaks Your heart
Everything that is not love
Purify my every thought
Take away everything that comes between us
Everything that is untrue
Jesus make me more like You
Burn away

(“Burn Away,” sung by Meridith Andrews, written by Meredith Andrews, Jenna Cowart, Benji Cowart,  Jonathan Smith)

The Lord your God is compassionate and gracious.  We can focus on all of our mistakes and failings, and feel so unclean before God, hopeless even, that we will ever be what we need to be.  But let us come before God with a broken and contrite heart, knowing that his compassionate arms are opened wide.

  • Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16
  • He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.  Ps 103:10
  • Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  Lam 3:22

Some humbled themselves. How far are we willing to go to get our life on track?  “I’m doing fine, I don’t really need to do that.  It’s too much trouble.”  That is what we say when we’re faced with a challenge to do something to grow spiritually.  Last night I was messaging with an old friend from my days in Montgomery in the 80’s.  I stayed with that church there a long time, saying, “I don’t need to move to Atlanta, I can do what I need to here.”  But I wasn’t repenting, and I didn’t repent until I moved to Atlanta and started giving my complete life to God.  Even now, I live a life that is bursting with things I’m doing for God, but I can resist fasting, having an extended prayer time, door knocking, etc.

The hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind.  We need unity.  I’ve tried to do something significant for the Lord by myself, or with a few people. It’s much better for the whole church to work together in an effort. I would rather see one small thing done for God in unity, than several great things with a few people doing all of the work.  There is just something so encouraging and powerful about everyone taking up their oars and pulling together in the same direction.

  • All the believers were one in heart and mind.  Acts 4:32
  • I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. Jer 32:39
  • After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.  Acts 4:31
  • I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel  Phil 1:27

God, please work through your Spirit to give us unity of mind.  By ourselves, we are distracted, independent and downright selfish!

Following the leaders, following the word of the Lord.   Let us give wholehearted support to those who are leading us in the Lord.  

There was great joy.  There is nothing better than to feel that we are wholehearted for God, joining with others who are wholehearted for God, to accomplish something together for Him.  At this point in our lives, even with all of the health challenges, mood challenges, job challenges and selfishness challenges, Ken and I are perhaps the happiest we have ever been.  We love being a part of our church and feeling that we are members of a mission team with others who share our enthusiasm and dreams.

Let us remember that as we set goals for the new year, that it is not just a great walk with God that fills us with joy, but that deep happiness comes from being one in mind and purpose with others, having a great walk with God together.

“. . . make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”  Phil 2:2

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Filed under Humility, Joy

Mercy Triumphs!

Ken loving up on the grandkids

Ken loving up on the grandkids

On Christmas day, someone asked my advice about being unexpectedly asked to go visit their boyfriend’s extended family.  This person was in total vacation mode, wanting nothing more than to chill.  Getting together and talking to strange people was not on the agenda.  But I counseled that she think of the benefits of pushing through and being giving.  It was a victory for her.  She did push through, had a good time, and was glad that she did.

This Christmas was a victory for me as well.  I was able to focus on the gift of having Jesus, and let that transcend everything else that was going on.  Typically I feel the pressure to create a perfect Christmas — wonderful meals, finding the right present for everyone.  I gauge my worthiness by how I achieve these benchmarks.  But this year I was satisfied in Christ, and just enjoyed the holiday.  I am so thankful to God for showing me how to do that.

Also, for the last couple of weeks I have wrestled mightily with the Duck Dynasty controversy.  It bugs me to the core that people who wrote in the media about the incident said that someone who quotes and believes what the Bible says about homosexual acts are ignorant intolerant bigots.  I tried to write a blog about this, and it at least helped me to grow in my understanding of the event.

My conclusion was that humility is what we must reflect to the world.  We do want to fear God and stress the importance of obedience.  We do want to have compassion on others, and live out the golden rule.  But compassion and living out the golden rule are the only things that the world thinks Christianity should be.  And while it is true that without love we are only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal, making Jesus Lord is also important. So how do we communicate this?  If we even give off the slightest scent of self righteousness, the world will shut its ears.  They MUST see us as humble, still standing up for the truth, but humble.

Humility, love, compassion, giving to one another — these things are the currency of the best life.  Right now, I am sort of in the mush of the holidays.  I am not sure what my goals will be for the new year.  But one thing resonates very strongly for me.  I want to focus on love and mercy.  I want to simply enjoy being with people, and enjoy life, and not make life about a series of tasks that I goad myself to achieve.

And so, here are some of the verses that have comforted my heart in recent days.

  • There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. Mercy triumphs over judgement.  James 2:13
  • He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8
  • For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.  Hos 6:6
  • But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Matt 9:13
  • If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  Matt 12:7
  • To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  Mark 12:33
  • The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.  Prov 21:3
  • “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?…Isa 58:6-7

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Filed under Grace, Humility, Love

Walking Dead

I have some videos my mom took when I was in my 20s.  When I see myself then, I see a person who was self conscious and stiff.  I lacked vitality, because I guarded myself so closely.

A few years ago I realized that I could pinpoint the time when I began to be truly happy, truly alive.  It was when I was baptized and committed my whole self to God for the rest of my life.

Without a wholehearted commitment to God, we are like the walking dead in this world.

Walking dead

We are like shades, shadows, pursuing meaningless things, going through the motions of living.

  • You were once dead because of your failures and sins. in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  Eph 2:1
  • They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Eph 4:18
  • People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, . . . having a form of godliness but denying its power.  II Tim 3:1-5

But having a relationship with God gives VITALITY, it makes life unbelievably rich and full.

During this Christmas season, it is so meaningful to read what Zacharias prophesied about the coming of the baby Jesus, “the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” Zech 1:78-79   

Jesus came to animate our dead, dull lives.  He conquered death.  An impossible feat, and yet he did it!  And he takes us by the hand and walks us out of the valley of the shadow of death.  “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive WITH CHRIST even when we were dead in transgressions.” (Eph 2:4-5b)  The word for “made alive” means actually “made alive together with.”  We weren’t just brought to a new life.  We were joined with Jesus and were brought to life WITH HIM.

Here are some more verses about being made alive.

  • The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you–they are full of the Spirit and life.
  • For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
  • He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
  • Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him  Col 3:10
  • Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  I Cor 6:10

Yesterday I listened to a Ted talk on depression by Andrew Solomon.  It really impacted me.  He said the opposite of depression is vitality.  As he quoted from someone else, depression is “a slower way of being dead.”

So many people are like the walking dead.  The joy of life has leaked out of them.  A worldly life of sin has deceived them.  The things they did to find happiness instead destroyed it.

Jake asked a question in our midweek class last night, “How many people truly know how to live?”  Most of us don’t.  We follow our own best wisdom, and we think we’re doing well.  Then one day we wake up in a slimy pit that’s too slippery to escape.

What is the solution?  How do we know how to live?  Christ left an example on how to live, how to really live.  God created life, he made the blueprint.  Jesus walked in the way man was created to walk.  As Jake said last night, we need to not just walk the path, but walk the way Jesus did.

Solomon said the best way of coping with depression is to find value in it.  He learned to love his depression because it forced him to find and cling to joy.  Each day he made a decision to cleave to the reasons for living.

In other words, Solomon found that his life wasn’t just random.  There was purpose and meaning in it.

And that is what will change our lives.  We need to realize that we weren’t just thrown here on this earth, and our days are not just a jumble of circumstances bumping up against each other.  Each moment has a sense of rightness, it has purpose and meaning.  When we know that, we start to truly live.

Today, I feel so full of life, so different than I did when I was younger.  But it is far from perfect, I have many uneasy times.  It is good for me to remember to walk the way Jesus did, to continue to find the blessed life I was meant to live.  It is good to remember that there is an order to life, and I need to value the things in my life.  I need to trust, and get every bit of value out of every moment.

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Joy, Relationship with God

The Power of “BUT”

Wow.  December is like living in a clothes dryer. As I reflect on the past year, all kinds of emotions tumble me around.

In some ways it has been the best year ever.  I’ve studied the Bible with people and baptized people.  I have had many great times with family and friends.  I’ve seen God work in amazing ways.  But I can also think of how I fell short, my challenges, the things that still need to change.

It was like this in the early church too.   After the stoning of Stephen, a great persecution broke out against the church, and the Christians were scattered.  It was a terrible time, as Saul went from house to house, dragging Christians out of their houses and sending them to prison.

But then Saul had an encounter with Jesus and was converted.  That ushered in a period of rest and fruitfulness for the church:  “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”  Acts 9:31

Living for God is always like living the opening line of Great Expectations — “It was the best of times and the worst of times.”  There are unbelievably good ups, but many things pull our hearts down.

Another place this is illustrated is in the life of Paul when he went to Asia.  God blessed his work, but his heart was torn.  “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.  (II Cor 2:12-13)

Then, in Macedonia, Paul experienced great trials, but God gave him just what he needed for encouragement.  “For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”  II Cor 7:6 

Here is the key word for Paul in II Corinthians:  “BUT.”  No matter how hard it got for Paul, he didn’t leave it there.  The blessings of God always trumped his challenges.

  • “BUT this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again.” I Cor 1:9
  • “BUT thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  II Cor 2:14

“But.”  What if I said that one small word every time I started to get discouraged today?

What if every time I started to feel defeated, I remembered all the blessings of God?

  • At that time you will say, “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you had been angry with me, you turned your anger away from me, and you comforted me.  Look! God is my Savior. I am confident and unafraid, because the LORD is my strength and my song. He is my Savior.”  (Is 12:1-2)

If I met every challenge with “but,” I would want to tell everyone about the Lord, as Isaiah 12 goes on to say:  “At that time you will say, “Praise the LORD. Call on his name. Make his deeds known among the nations. Make them remember that his name is highly honored.  Make music to praise the LORD. He has done wonderful things. Let this be known throughout the earth.”

Serving God, and just living life, can bring us through exhausting experiences.  But God is the God of all comfort, and he provides wonderful sustenance for us at just the right time.

  • And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16)
  • “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 15:5

In closing, I want to share this super encouraging passage from Isaiah 51.  I have marked some of the verses in bold, because they are so meaningful to me. They remind me that my people pleasing can be the source of my grief, and that our Almighty God can be the source of true comfort.  Things may seem chaotic and disheartening, BUT there is a sure hope for me, and for all who feel trapped and oppressed.

“Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations.”
I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,

that you forget the Lord your Maker,
who stretches out the heavens
and who lays the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction? . . .
The cowering prisoners will soon be set free;
they will not die in their dungeon,
nor will they lack bread.
For I am the Lord your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord Almighty is his name.
I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you with the shadow of my hand”

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Filed under Faith, Hope, Uncategorized

Word and Light

The Word of life existed from the beginning. We have heard it. We have seen it. We observed and touched it. This life was revealed to us. We have seen it, and we testify about it. We are reporting to you about this eternal life that was in the presence of the Father and was revealed to us. This is the life we have seen and heard. We are reporting about it to you also so that you, too, can have a relationship with us. Our relationship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that we can be completely filled with joy. This is the message we heard from Christ and are reporting to you: God is light, and there isn’t any darkness in him.  (I John 1:1-5)

Jesus is described in two ways in this passage.

Jesus is described as the WORD.  John also depictsJesus this way in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word. . . and the word was made flesh.”

What is the Word?  Creation is associated with the Word.  God spoke things into existence.

  • Through him (the word) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

The word is also associated with wisdom.

  • The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. . . I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep. . . Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.”  Prov 8:22-23, 27

What can we learn from these verses?  That Jesus is the executor of God’s will. That  God delighted in man from the beginning.  That the creative process made God and Jesus rejoice. (I love that.  When I look around nature, I also am filled with delight and rejoice with God.)

The creative process.  We have an idea.  We “brainstorm” this idea and shape it into a plan.  Then we formally articulate our plan.  And finally we execute it.

Jesus is that instrument by which an idea comes to fruition.  He is a force of creation.  Thus, it made perfect sense for him to come to earth, to be made flesh.  He could create a spiritual life on earth.  He could create a new covenant.  He could create a new order, the perfect priesthood, forgiveness of sins, a way for God to dwell with man, a way for man to live forever.

So when John says the word was made flesh, John says he saw that Jesus was much more than a man.  He saw that Jesus had a supernatural force of creation in him and the power to execute God’s will.  And when we look at Jesus, we see the same thing.  He had power over the elements, over disease, over death, even.

It is interesting to note that even with this power, Jesus was still in submission to God.  He prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  He said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  (John 5:19)

Jesus is described as LIGHT.  In the Bible, light is used as as the depiction of divine holiness and goodness.  The prophesies about the Messiah describe him as the arrival of a wonderful beacon of hope.

  • Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Is 60:1-2
  • “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1:78
  • But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.  Mal 4:2

If Jesus is the Word, and he is light, what does that mean for us?

  1. That when we pray, we are praying in the name of the executor of God’s will.  Jesus is by nature the one who can carry out our requests.
  2. That when we have God dwelling in us, the Holy Spirit, we have this incredible power of creation available to us.
  3. That just as Jesus delighted in creation, we too can delight in creation, both of the physical world and the spiritual one.  We can be in awe of the wonders of nature around us.  We can be in awe that we can help create the new kingdom of God.  And it is a part of our spiritual nature to want to create and build the church.
  4. That we need to draw close to Jesus to combat the darkness in our lives — depression, hopelessness, negativity.
  5. That we can see that we have incredibly GOOD NEWS for others.  Our message is the same as that in I John 1:7: “God is light, in him is no darkness at all.”  We want to help people see just how good and loving God is.
  6. That being light also means that God is holy, and we need to teach people how to fear God.

“You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy” (Is 9:3)  This is what the creation process of Jesus was — to expand the kingdom, and to bring an age of joy to everyone.

In this Christmas season I think of the words of the chorus of the hymn, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen:” “Oh tidings of comfort and joy.”   That is what we have, and what we carry to others, now and always.

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Joy, Uncategorized

The Sacred and Profane

They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.  Ez 44:23

The holy and the common, the sacred and the profane.  You know what I remember when I think of this?  I remember the movie “Fantasia.”  Here’s how Disney artists pictured the profane and the sacred —

fantasia profane


The illustration of the profane is dark and blatantly evil.  The rendering of the sacred culminates in brightness and the beauty of creation.

So are these illustrations accurate?  If I’m going to explain the difference between the holy and the common, I have to start by making sure people understand what holiness is.

The holiness of God is goodness, beauty, purity and glory.  The International Standard Bible Dictionary calls it the”absoluteness, majesty, and awfulness of the Creator.”

It includes moral qualities of righteousness and love.  Holiness is a state of being so pure that people would die in its presence.  ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.  Ex 19:12

It is important that the world sees God as holy.  “‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel.”  Ez 39:7

God makes us holy. We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  Heb 10:10

Because God is holy and we are holy, it matters how we live.   Although we are saved by grace, we cannot go around doing whatever we want, being lackadaisical towards sin.

  • What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  (Rom 6:2)  
  • Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.(I John 2:6)

How we live can be a positive testimony to the world that God is real, and he is holy.

Matthew Henry said in his commentary on Ezekiel,  “We sanctify God before others, when our conduct invites and encourages them to glorify and honour him.”  I like this.  I want to sanctify God before others.  I want others to see in my life the evidence of a holy God.  My life should resonate with God.  My acts can be a reflection and a manifestation of his working.

I think of I Peter 3, and how wives can save their husbands through the way they live, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”  (I Peter 3:1-2)  This principle can be true any time we fear God and live in a holy manner.  We can influence people wherever we go.

But if we don’t honor God as holy, it has a negative effect.

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”  Num 20:12

God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would give the people water.  But Moses was frustrated with the people and called them rebels, and struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it.  It always seemed extreme to me that Moses couldn’t see the Promise Land because of this one little deviation from God’s will.  Was that real disobedience?  The same purpose was accomplished.  Why would it matter whether Moses said something, or used his staff?

We are so prideful.  We always want to put our own twist on things, and say it’s still honoring God. It just feels so good to obey our way instead of his.  And then instead of resonating with God, we’re like a note out of tune.

Why does it matter if we change things up a bit?  Because it shows that we think our opinion is more important than God’s opinion.  As God so adroitly put it in the book of Job, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?”  We take the finely drawn blueprint of God and scratch out a part of it and scribble in our own variation.

Thus, there must be a reverence to the way we live, and a profound respect for God.

  • As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”  I Peter 1:14-16
  • Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  II Cor 7:1
  • But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Eph 5:3
  • we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. II Cor 10:5

The holy and the common, the sacred and the profane.  If people cannot distinguish between the two, they cannot distinguish who God is or what their relationship to him should be.

This year, my son asked me if there was something I wanted for Christmas, and I told him I would like a some used replacement china for pieces that had gotten broken. As my children have gotten older, I’ve started to enjoy using my fine china. The common dishes are for every day.  But the china is for special times.


We are like fine china.  We are made for something special.  We are sacred, not profane. We are a temple of the Holy Spirit.  (I Cor 6:19) 

  • In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  II Tim 2:20-21

Today, Father, may I realize how special I am, how you have shaped me for noble purposes. May I be useful for you.  May I honor you by believing that each encounter and action has significance.

May I teach others your Word, that they may be see what holiness is.

  • Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

May I teach others that respecting divine holiness is the most important thing.

  • “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”  I Peter 3:14


Filed under Holiness, Uncategorized

Helping the Weak

In working with the women of the church, here is what God is teaching me —

1. That I need to be helping my sisters to have FAITH.  It is easy to get frustrated or discouraged with people, and tell them what they should be doing.  But my good friend Nancy Berry showed me that it is more effective to help people to see what God is doing and can do in their lives.  This is what they really need to get their lives on track.  And isn’t this what Hebrews 3 is all about, seeing to it that each of us doesn’t have a sinful unbelieving heart?

2. That I should practice I Thes 5:14 with my sisters — “warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

  • The word for “idle and disruptive” is actually “disorderly.”  It is people who are out of line, who are the opposite of being in sync with God’s will, as I so often say I long to be.  In admonishing these people, I need to, as the Greek lexicon says, “exert positive pressure on someone’s logic.”  I need to help them to see that it is reasonable to be in line with God’s will, and that it is obvious they are out of line.
  • I need to encourage those who are “fainthearted” — who have an “undeveloped soul.”  Literally the word means that they have a small quantity of soul.  These people aren’t spiritually healthy.  The NIV translates it “disheartened.”  They don’t have the heart to do what is right for God.  More than anything, I need to help them have the heart to follow God.
  • The word for “help” in the phrase, “Help the weak” is actually more like be devoted to, hold fast to, support. “Weak” is someone who is without the necessary strength, who is feeble and frail.   It is very often translated “sick” in other places in the Bible.  It is the word Jesus uses when he encourages Peter, James and John to pray that they will not fall into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  It is also the word Paul uses in Romans 5:6 to say that while we were weak, Christ died for us.  And it is word Paul uses when he describes the body in I Cor 12, when he says the weaker parts of the body are indispensable.    The conclusion of this for me is that first, people are in a feeble state and less able to just snap out of it than I would think, second, that I have been this weak, and third, that even those who are weak are still necessary in God’s plan. Also, a sick person needs someone who will constantly care for them and help nourish them back to help.  I should be this person.
  • Finally, if there is any doubt in my mind as to how I am treating my sisters, the verse reminds me that I need to be patient with everyone.  That about sums it up, and dispenses of all my excuses about my impatience.

To summarize, here are some things I can consider in working with my sisters:

  1. Help them to find the faith that God is working on their behalf.
  2. Help them to see if they are out of line with the teachings of the Bible.
  3. Help them to strengthen their heart, build their love for God.
  4. Be devoted to those who in poor spiritual health, nurturing them back to a better place.
  5. Everyone deserves my patience.

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Complete = Rich!

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.  Heb 10:14

Yesterday I blogged about this verse, and how the word “perfect” can also be translated “complete.”

Here are a couple of other versions of this verse.  I am underlining the word used for “made perfect.”

With one sacrifice he accomplished the work of setting them apart for God forever.  (God’s Word Translation — GWT)

For by a single offering He has for ever completed the blessing for those whom He is setting free from sin.  (Weymoth New Testament)

I like how the GWT says that the work God completed through Jesus was to set us apart for God.  It describes God wants us for his very own.  And this illustrates the point I made yesterday in my blog — that one way Jesus’ death made us perfect was that it made a way for us to have the Holy Spirit dwell within us.   God can dwell with us, and we BELONG to God.  W were created to be most effective in conjunction with Him.

I like how the Weymoth says that the offering of Jesus completed the blessing for us.  God wanted to give us what is most good.  This leads into the point I want to make with this blog.

We are “made perfect” because we are RICH.  We have every spiritual blessing.  We have every good thing.

  • I pray that you may come to have a complete knowledge of every good thing we have in Christ.  Phil 1:6
  • Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.   Eph 1:3

God has been blessing us since the beginning of time, and especially blessing his people.  But instead of expressions of gratitude towards him, his people spit in his face.   I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. . . But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. . . you also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. (Selections from Ez 16)

Now, those of us who are Christians have countless gifts in Christ.  And we also have a difficult time being grateful.  In last Sunday’s sermon at North River, Jeff Hickman told a story of a long time disciple who fell away because he allowed bitterness over being single to grow.  This man focused on what he did not have, instead of what he did have — salvation from sin.

  • You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Rom 5:6, 8

Ungratefulness is poison that plagues our souls and spreads to others.  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  Heb 12:15

But if ungratefulness is a poison, gratitude is a potion.  It is a well-spring of healing for our souls.

Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has a laboratory where he conducts studies on gratitude.  He found that, “In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week. . . Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals. . . (They had) higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.”

Emmons said, “People who regularly focus on their reasons for gratitude get more sleep and enjoy better sleep quality. They even experience fewer symptoms of physical illnesses.  . . (They report) a more profound connectedness to others. They feel less lonely.”

Gratitude is powerful!  And through the death of his son, God has given us so much.  If we would just remember, how could we not be thankful?

A friend told me yesterday about Ann Voskamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts.”  She said that Voskamp encourages the readers to transform their lives by making a list of 1,000 things they are grateful for.  One thousand things!  How could we think of that many things?

But I needed to drive to Montgomery last night, and as I drove, I started thanking God for as many things as I could think of.  The list went on and on.  I could see how I could just keep going and going.  I could see how I could start with a long list of what God has done, and then go on to make a list of a hundred different things every day.  It wouldn’t be hard to get to a thousand.

God blesses us in God sized way — enormously, gigantically.  It is epic.  And many of these blessings would not have come without Christ.  We can come near to God as never before.  We have the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, and so on.  We have Jesus interceding for us.  We have the power of prayer.  We have a way to deal with temptation and die to sin.  We have an example to follow on how we should live.  We have a teachings that help us be effective.  I could come up with 1,000 things.

Let us fight to realize how rich we are.  Let us strive to be grateful.  It will strengthen us in every area of our life.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  II Cor 9:8

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For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.  Heb 10:14

To be made perfect forever — what a wonderful thought!  But what does it mean?

The Greek word for “perfect” is “teleióō” and can be translated as “complete.”  How did Jesus’ sacrifice make us complete?  I found one clue as I finished reading the book of Ezekiel.  It closes with this phrase: And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there.”  Ez 48:35

The Lord is there.  That is God has wanted from the beginning of time — to be there with us, to dwell with man. And that is just what the writer of Hebrews goes on to say in Hebrews 10, quoting a prophesy:

“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

God said he would put his law in our hearts and minds.  That is, his Spirit would dwell within us.  And that is just what happened on the day of Pentecost.  Peter said in Acts 2 that those who are baptized receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When we have God dwelling in us, we, in a sense, are perfect and complete, God has finished the work in us that He was planning through all time to do.  He has set us up to win in the very best way.  We have everything we need.

What does this all mean to me?

It means I am perfect because I BELONG.  I am HIS, and He is mine.  I am his daughter, and his family is my family.  His home is my home.  

  • “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  II Cor 1:21-22
  • The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Rom 8:15

“Belonging is primal, fundamental to our sense of happiness and well-being.”according to an article on CNN’s web site about findings based on studies done by Stanford assistant professor Gregory Walton.  Walton’s conclusion from his research is, “Isolation, loneliness and low social status can harm a person’s subjective sense of well-being, as well as his or her intellectual achievement, immune function and health.”

That is certainly true for me.  If you asked me what one of the most detrimental things was in my childhood, I would say it was the feeling that I didn’t belong.  No matter how hard I tried to be a part of the popular group, I always knew I was on the fringes, there was something about me that didn’t fit in.   And that affected me profoundly.  I felt that I was broken somehow.  I had much less self confidence.  And thus I did not attempt to achieve as much at times in my life

To me, belonging means not only that I am God’s child and He dwells with me, but that I am totally in the place I was meant to be.  I can walk each day the path I was destined to walk.  The thing I fear most is failure.  I want more than anything to be productive, and the only way to do this is to be in sync with God’s will. Doing things my way will lead me in circles.  Doing things according to God’s perfect plan will always lead to the best outcome.

For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  I Peter 2:25

We were designed to be in a relationship with God.  It is where we will thrive.  It reminds me of the story of the movie, “Hugo,” about an automaton that wouldn’t work, and a key that seemed to have no use.  One the characters of the story found that the key could be inserted in the automaton, and when it it was, everything worked in a wonderful way.

Just as these parts were made to function together, we were created to function with God. When God puts the key of his Holy Spirit in our heart, we live as we were designed to live.

Hugo key


(Coming next — Complete II:  Perfect Because I am Rich)

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Throne of Grace

Ranch during Storm
As the holidays draw near, I remember what it was like to go visit the family ranch for Christmas.  We would travel for two days that seemed like an eternity to my brother and me.  At the end of the second day, the sun would set and we would be driving through the huge darkness of the New Mexico prairie, singing Christmas songs and looking at the brilliant stars.   Then we would turn down a dirt road and bump along over the rocks, and all of a sudden we would come over a rise and be so excited to see a light shining through the darkness, the porch light turned on bright, as our relatives waited for us to arrive.  When we reached the house, the door burst open and family members ran out, joyfully enveloping us in hugs.  They would usher us out of the frigid December air into a house warmed by a lively fire in the fireplace.

This is what it is like to come to God in prayer.  God is ecstatic to welcome us into his presence, and His presence is a warm light filled place where we are unconditionally loved.  How wonderful is it to approach the throne of grace!

  • But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him  Luke 15:20
  • Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

But instead, what do I often feel when I approach God in prayer?  I feel dull and dutiful.  I come reciting my list of requests and feel weighed down by all the things that I think need to change.

Let me never pray, unless I remember the warm joyful welcome I am receiving from God as I enter His presence, the peace I have as I am bathed in His unconditional love and mercy!

I need that mercy.  Another thing I feel when I enter God’s presence is guilt.  This has been a tough time for me, a time when I have been face to face with mistakes I made that have hurt others, mistakes for which I must take ownership and not make excuses.  Sometimes there are no places we can run to where we can hide from our mistakes.

I have been reading some of Leviticus, and it strikes me more than ever how important it was that God provided a system by which people could be forgiven of their wrongdoing.    The Jews would bring a sacrifice of a sheep, goat or dove, or provide a grain offering.  And then the high priest would make peace between them and God.

  • “The priest shall then offer the other as a burnt offering in the prescribed way and make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.”   Lev. 5:10

Today, Jesus is the high priest who makes peace between us and God.  I have never been so grateful for Jesus, and his atonement for me!

  • How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!  Hebrews 9:14
  • But Jesus lives forever, so he serves as a priest forever. That is why he is always able to save those who come to God through him. He can do this because he always lives and intercedes for them. Hebrews 7:24-25
  • For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.  Hebrews 10:14

This has got to be one of the best verses in the Bible: Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22.

We can approach the throne of mercy, enter into the Most Holy Place, come into God’s very presence, and it is a wonderful welcoming place.  We can have our heart absolved of even the most stubborn stains of guilt.

I think one of the best illustrations of what the throne of mercy is like is the church.  Every Sunday I walk in the door and I am hugged and warmly welcomed by others.  There is joy there.  There is genuine love for me there, genuine concern.  What a privilege it is to be able to be in such an environment! How many people long for something like this?  We have it in abundance, both in fellowship and in prayer.

ab yo pros 2

kat and

In closing, I would like to share a song about approaching the throne of grace that moved me tremendously.  I don’t know who wrote this song, but it is wonderful!  I put the lyrics below it.  To God be the glory always.

Oh Lord, here I am now
bowing humbly down
before your throne of grace
and I am in awe
of your unmerited love
in spite of my sinful ways. 
Oh Lord here I am still
trembling and clinging to you
my strength and shield. 
Oh Lord I feel the pain
this wretched existence of sin
writhing within my soul. 
My Father, my teacher my master
the lifter of my trampled spirit
the author of all that is righteous and holy
all praise and all glory
to you my sweet savior. 
In you my sweet savior
I rest, I rest I rest.

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