Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Winter’s Storm

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God’s power is definitely displayed in the weather. Man has been trying to control the weather for centuries, but I’m pretty sure that’s one thing that won’t totally happen. Nature is a God-thing.

Elihu tells Job in 37:6&7 that storms often cause people to stop and watch. I remember, as a child our dad used to take us girls to a window during a storm. He taught us to count seconds between lightening flashes and thunder to guess distance. We’d watch trees bend in the wind and learned to be awed by their strength. We saw beauty in the dark cloud formations and looked for rays of sunlight because Dad did.

I’m in southern Georgia and they are calling for snow today. Schools are closed and people are tucked in their homes in anticipation. My neighbor hopes it snows like she remembers in 1958 when she enjoyed her one and only ever snowball fight.

Ohioans have been treated to some pretty awesome winter phenomena this year, laser-like light shows and snow rolls fashioned by God himself.

Nature declares the glory of God!

I am reminded that this same God is as evident in our storms of life. Hardships and trials are avenues through which God can demonstrate his power and love. Sometimes those very challenges can cause us to stop and watch God do his thing.

Are you side-lined by depression, grief, anxiety, uncertainty, loss, worry…? I would challenge you to give it to God, then sit back and watch what he can do.

You’ll be as amazed as those of us watching a southern Georgia snowstorm.

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I want it, I love it, I deserve it!

A lot of advertising these days is directed toward our lusts. Whether it’s a skinny girl in sexy underwear, a shirtless man wanting to unclog a drain, a shiny new car, a beer that guarantees a good time, or an investment that promises a secure future, the industry is masterful at finding out what turns us on and exploiting that.

Job said lust is a shameful sin that needs to be punished. In 31:12 he goes so far as to say: “It is a fire that burns all the way to hell.”

Lust isn’t only sexual, although that kind of lust is certainly a serious problem. Attraction is not lust. But if a person allows the attraction become a focus, if it becomes a daydream or a flirtation, it can turn into lust – which is a sin.

Lust is an intentional sin. Attraction doesn’t become lust unless it is fed.

Lust takes our focus away from God. When our thoughts could be directed toward the Savior, we allow them to be directed instead toward the person, the money, the lifestyle of that which has attracted us.

If you recognize that you may be lusting after something or someone, you need to stop feeding that lust. Turn your eyes, instead, on Jesus. Force yourself to change your thoughts. Pray. Get busy doing something for the kingdom.

Remember what Job said. Your lust is a fire that just might burn in you all the way to hell.

Father, I thank you that you created us with the ability to control our thoughts and our minds. You have told us to guard our hearts, to think about whatever is good and lovely and pure. So if you tell us to do those things, it must be possible. Forgive us when we allow our thoughts to wander, when our thoughts become sinful, when we allow our attraction toward something turn to lust. May your people turn our thought lives over to you and my you fill our minds with those things that are good for us and bring glory to you.

I Will See God

You remember Job, right? He was a good man who lost literally everything. We read that Job felt as though God was against him for some unknown reason. He said things like, God’s fury is against me, God’s troops attack me, God has stripped me of my honor.

Job had nothing left. Not his family. Not his possessions. Not his position in society. Not his health. He is at the lowest point known to man. 

And yet, believing God had unfairly targeted him, Job still put his hope in God. In Job 19:25-27 we read that Job believed one day he would bodily meet God face to face. He knew death is not an end, but a beginning. And Job was overwhelmed at the thought.

I think God would like us all to have that same excitement at the thought of meeting him face to face. Sure, heaven will be a beautiful place. Yes, our loved ones will be there. But I am pretty sure none of that will seem important when we actually see Jesus in the flesh.

Some people picture heaven as a cleaned-up earth. Tea parties. Long chats with the saints. Waving to Jesus as they pass him on a gold street. Worshiping God on Sundays like they do down here.

Do we understand the enormity of the truth that Jesus himself will be there? God the Father will gather us around his throne! Nothing and no one will be as important.

Are you overwhelmed with the thought of being with God in a very physical way – forever? Does the very idea of grasping Jesus’ hand give you chills of excitement? Think of it. We who know the Savior will look into those eyes and for the first time realize just how loved we really are. We will receive everything our longing hearts have desired. And from that moment on we will not want to be anywhere else. Ever.

If I were you…

Have you ever given or been given advice that begins with, “If I were you…”? How was that advice received? The thing is, grief, anxiety, worry, suffering, whatever the problem – it is personal. I can try to put myself in your shoes but my frame of reference is me. The only way I can really know what you are going through is to become you. Me in your shoes is still me.

Does that mean we should never give advice? Honestly, unless the hurting person asks for advice that is exactly what I’m saying. But even when asked, we shouldn’t assume anything. We should not assume we know how that person feels or know what they are going through. We should not assume we know why that dear one is suffering. Even if you have experienced similar circumstances you cannot know how they are feeling. You can only know how you felt in your experience.

I am reading the book of Job, a book filled with all kinds of bad advice from friends who really did mean well. But Eliphaz, in Job 5:8, actually does give what I consider some good advice for all of us. He told Job to take it to God. You see, God is the only one who really knows what you are going through. He knows how you feel because he reaches into your deepest, darkest places where no one but you can go. 

I guess I would say if you are going through something, go ahead and listen to the advice given by well-meaning friends. You might hear something useful amid all the garbage. But listen with a filter. Then take your problem, maybe even the advice, to God and see what he thinks. Read God’s Word with an open heart. Pray. Thank God for his love even if you feel unloved. Praise him for his blessings even if it’s hard to do. Lay your requests at his feet, then trust him to take care of you.

God promises to give us all we need and he is true to his Word.

 

Guilty?

Every time I read what happened after Jacob’s death it makes me sad. His sons panicked. So they lied to Joseph about their father’s wishes.

“Dad said you should forgive us for being so mean to you when you were a kid. Don’t hurt us now that he’s gone. Dad wouldn’t like that.”

The Bible’s account of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers in Genesis 45 is a beautiful picture of forgiveness. Joseph brought his brothers and their families to Egypt, gave them the best land for grazing their livestock, and took care of them during the famine. How much more could Joseph have done to demonstrate the fact that all was forgiven?

But after all these years since they had been forgiven, Joseph’s brothers must have lived with guilt. It wasn’t Joseph’s forgiveness they needed. It was their own.

When I confess my sin God is faithful and just to forgive me and wash me clean. He promises never to remember my sin or use it against me – ever! But sometimes I live as though I am still guilty. It’s at those times I need to forgive myself. Denying that forgiveness doesn’t honor God. And it’s Satan’s weapon to hold me hostage to that sin.

But, you ask, don’t I deserve to feel guilty for the horrible things I’ve done, the people I have hurt? The answer is, “NO”! Oh, you deserved to feel those feelings before you confessed them to God and received his forgiveness But once you’ve done that you deserve what Jesus died to give you. A fresh start, clean and forgiven. 

I don’t believe we should forgive ourselves before we allow God to wash the sin away. But once we have repented and have been forgiven by God himself, we need to forgive ourselves and live our lives free from the burden of guilt. Think of it.

If you are living with guilt, I would encourage you to lay that heavy burden down at Jesus’ feet and walk away, free from it’s hold. Forgive yourself. Jesus did. 

Dear God, I pray that your people will see the lengths to which you went to forgive us. You died on the cross, you went to hell then rose again. You paid what we could not pay, then handed us a clean slate just for the asking. Forgive us when we think we need to punish ourselves for past sins that you have already forgiven and forgotten. Father, may each of us sinners repent of sin, accept your forgiveness, forgive ourselves as we have been forgiven, and live lives free of the chains of guilt. And may we, with each breath, honor you with obedience and allow you to fill us with your joy.

Famine in the Land

When the Bible talks about a famine in the land, I look for the spiritual application for the times when my relationship with God dries up. You know those times, right? When God seems so far away, when you have a longing that isn’t realized. Something is missing. You feel lost and alone, scared and sad.

I also think reading about famine in the Bible refers to the Church’s lack of ability to grow, to reach lost souls for Jesus.

So what can we learn about the dry days in our personal lives and in our churches? Joseph instructed the Egyptians in Genesis 47 to give him everything: their material possessions as well as their own bodies. They could hold nothing back. They laid it all at Joseph’s feet and in return, he gave them everything they needed. 

Now here’s something important to remember. The Egyptians didn’t receive what Joseph gave them and go home and turn on the TV. They went to work. They planted crops that would feed their families and produce seed to keep planting food to feed their families. They paid their taxes with the grain they planted, cultivated, and reaped.

God wants us to do the same. Whether it’s our own personal time of drought or an ineffective church, we are told to bring everything to God, lay it at his feet and leave it there. We cannot hold anything back.

Our material possessions? His. Our health? His. Our dreams, our fears, our jobs, our relationships? His. Our families and our bodies given to him with no strings attached.

God wants us to know that he will give us everything we need. He’ll feed us and revive us, give us strength and assurance. Then we need to get to work. God will bless us and care for us. But we need to be obedient.

He’s given us his Word. Do we read it? He’s promised to hear our prayers. Do we pray? He’s told us he will go with us and help us share the gospel. Do we talk about him to those who need him? He tells us to flee sin, to guard our hearts, to be separate from the world. How’s that going?

Jesus said he is the Bread of Life and the Living Water. May we allow him to feed us, to refresh us, and may we get out there and point others to the One who can satisfy their souls, too.

Father, I thank you for being everything we need every minute of every day. May we who are experiencing a kind of famine in our souls follow Joseph’s example and bring everything we have and are and lay them at your feet. May we trust you to provide what we need and may we enjoy the blessings that come from feeding on the Bread of Life and the Living Water. Then, Lord may we serve you with grateful hearts. May others find you because we are faithful.

Forgiven

If anyone had a right to be angry at Jacob it was Esau. After all, Jacob had stolen Esau’s position as the first-born son. Jacob received the blessing from Isaac that should have been Esau’s. Now after twenty years, here come Jacob once again.

But we read one of the sweetest reunions recorded in the Bible in Genesis 33. These two brothers embrace, then part on the best of terms. Why? Because Esau had forgiven Jacob. Esau hadn’t lived all those years harboring hatred or anger or resentment. He refused to carry a grudge and the result was the ability to welcome his brother home.

If you think Jacob didn’t deserve it, you are right. If you think Jacob should have had to face the consequences for his actions, you are right again. But that’s not what happened.

And it’s not what happened with me, either. I’ve sinned against God. I’ve done disgusting, vile things that hurt and angered him. I deserve God’s wrath. I deserve to face the consequences for my sin. But that’s not what happened.

I went to God and, instead of receiving punishment I was offered grace. Instead of condemnation, I was forgiven. I don’t stand before my Holy God vile and filthy as my actions warrant. I stand before him wearing the righteousness and holiness of his Son, Jesus. 

I trust you can say the same.

God is reminding me that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. People do stupid things, mean things, commit thoughtless actions that hurt and anger us. Sometimes people commit disgusting, vile acts toward one another. They lie. The treat us unfairly. (I know I’m guilty, too). And I have to remind myself that God has forgiven me a boatload of sin. He’s asking me to forgive those who have sinned against me, too.

I was thinking about Esau’s family this morning as I was reflecting on this Scripture. If Esau had  allowed anger and jealousy to build up over the years, we might be reading about a war here today. Instead of greeting Jacob with a hug, he might have greeted him with 400 warriors armed for battle. There would have been blood-shed. There would have been destruction. Maybe Esau’s family would have been a casualty. But because Esau was able to forgive, his family enjoyed peace as well.

If you are harboring hatred, anger, jealousy, bitterness, and have refused forgiveness to one who has wronged you, I pray that you will rethink that. Turn it over to the Lord. Ask him to help you forgive and he will. Remember that an unforgiving spirit is a cancer that is eating at you and destroying you. Let it go. And think about your family, those precious people you hold dear. They are affected by your bitterness, too. Don’t they deserve better?

Holy God, I thank you for forgiveness. I know that I have been forgiven a multitude of sin. And I’m asking that you’ll help me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven. May I lay all the bitterness and anger at your feet and walk away from it. May I know the joy and peace that comes from forgiving those I feel have wronged me. And may my loved ones recognize a forgiving spirit in me and realize it comes from you, my Savior and Lord.