Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Bottom Line

Solomon, in chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes, gives us the conclusion of his active study of life, of wisdom, wealth, and happiness. He looked at nature in his quest for truth. He studied humanity. He looked at eternity. He spared no expense. And this is what he found to be true:

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgement, including every secret thing whether good or evil.” (12:13-14)

The bottom line is this: God.

Period.

The most important thing in this life is one’s relationship with God. Fear of God. Absolute surrender to God.

Because in the end, every human who ever lived will stand before God in judgement. Every thought, every action, the good and the bad, the public and the private will require accountability.

When it’s my turn, I want God to look at me and see Jesus’ righteousness. I want him to attribute Jesus’ work to me. I certainly don’t want to stand before him on my own authority, on my own terms, based on my life. Just the thought of that scares me to death.

I am grateful to think that I can stand before God with confidence, because I have recognized that I am a sinner. I have asked God to forgive me, and I have accepted God’s grace: the forgiveness of my sin paid for by my Savior, God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

I want God to see me through Jesus’ blood. Then and only then, will I hear those precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome home.”

My Praise Prayer

I read Psalm 103:1-5 this morning and was encouraged to just praise God in prayer, instead of telling Him what I need. So using the Psalm, this is my praise prayer:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy Name!

You are holy, God. You are all powerful, ever-present, eternal, loving, gracious, kind.

You have forgiven every sin I’ve ever committed, and have paid the price to forgive the sins I’ll yet commit while on this earth.

You are the Great Physician who heals, who gives me the ability to get up in the morning, who gives me eyes to see, ears to hear, fingers and toes, arms and legs, the privilege of tasting and smelling. I have witnessed your healing touch in the lives of family and friends, and also have seen the ultimate healing you provide when you take your children home.

You changed me from a self-centered, sinful person, to a woman who wants only to please you.

You help me resist temptation, to guard my heart, and you arm me with all I need to be victorious every single minute of every single day.

You shower me with love and mercy, beyond what I even realize, in ways I often neglect to recognize.

And God, I can still come to you like a child, as trusting as a child, as dependent, excitedly and expectantly, knowing You are there with arms open wide.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy Name!

To Wed or Not to Wed

Paul talks a lot about marriage and, as some would say, he doesn’t seem to be a fan. But as I read I Corinthians 7 today, I wondered if that was really the case. He’s asking the question, should a person marry or not? And it sounds like he’s advising against it. But didn’t God create Eve because it wasn’t good for man to be alone? How do you make sense of these two seemingly contrary viewpoints?

I hope you read Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. I think you’ll agree that the Apostle isn’t talking about marriage as much as he is talking about serving God. A single person can be single-minded concerning the Kingdom of God. A married person has divided loyalties and responsibilities.

My sister Peggy is retired. She attends church faithfully, is active in a Bible study, visits elderly women from her church, helps to organize funeral dinners, takes time to have lunches with unsaved friends. She fills her days serving God. But she always lets her husband know where she is, when she’ll be home, and she schedules her activities around his own schedule of activities. It’s not that she doesn’t have a vital ministry. It’s that she has the added responsibility to her husband.

Our sister Kathy has a full time job, a husband and teenage son at home, and grandchildren she enjoys spending time with. Her heart for the Lord is as passionate as Peggy’s. But the demands on her time and responsibilities offers her less opportunities for other ministries.

I’m single. If I want, I can spend all day at the church fixing food for our community free dinner every month. I can lead a Bible study, spend time searching God’s Word, or spend hours blogging at my computer. I could volunteer at the homeless shelter, take meals to shut-ins, sit with a sick friend all night. And I don’t have anyone living in my home with whom I need to be accountable.

That’s Paul’s point. He’s not anti-marriage. He just wants us to know that married people have divided loyalties and responsibilities. He said he wishes we all were like him, free to serve God at any time of the day or night.  But he doesn’t say married people can’t have an important ministry.

What I take from these verses is a challenge. Before anyone marries, they need to understand what that will do to ministry opportunities. Ministries and marriages have failed because of the difficulty of that balancing act. (Isn’t that why we are warned not to be yoked with unbelievers? Just saying.)

Are you married? I hope you are praising God for the privilege of sharing your life with another. You are blessed. But you are not off the hook. It’s going to be a bit more difficult for you, perhaps. But find where you are needed in God’s work. Get involved in service. Teach a Sunday School class, or get on the visitation team. Sing in the choir, or volunteer to pull weeds at the church. You’ll have to coordinate your activities with your spouse. But do it!

Are you single? I would challenge you to fill up your time with activities that honor God, that further the Kingdom, and that can easily be done by you who don’t have the accountability of having a spouse. What a privilege we have!

The question Paul is addressing isn’t marriage. It’s service, obedience to God, being zealous about sharing Jesus.

May God find us all faithful, regardless of our marital status!

It’s Understandable

Paul said something in I Corinthians 4 that struck me today. He had been talking about being a servant of Christ, faithful. He said it didn’t matter to him if people judged him. He didn’t judge himself. “He who judges me is the Lord.” So like him – or not, agree with him or not. It’s God’s praise he wanted.

Then he said he wants us to learn something from his example: “… not to think beyond what is written…”

I want to be careful not to take these words out of context. But Paul goes on to say opinions are divisive. What you and I think is irrelevant in light of God’s truth. What does Scripture say?

What does it say?

In the context of this letter to the Corinthians, Paul is saying he really didn’t care what they thought about his teaching. He only cared about being a servant of the One who inspired Scripture, and being faithful to the written Word.

Is Paul really saying to take Scripture at face value? I think so. And it’s a theme that God has laid on my heart for a while now. Somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe the Bible is hard to understand, that it takes a theology degree to understand it. So too many Christians limit themselves to reading the New Testament or Psalms. Or they allow their pastors to read the Bible and just tell them what it says.

Paul says you are no different than anyone else, not the farmer, or the nurse, or the college professor with a ton of letters after his name. The understanding of Scripture is given to us by God Himself! But we have to read it. And God will be faithful to give us the understanding he wants us to have when we do.

We are already rich!

I believe that when we ask God to reveal himself through this written Word, he does! Read it expecting to get it. What does it say? That’s what it means.

God inspired every word written there. So it must all be important, relevant, understandable. So read it all!

Then read it again.

If Only The Almighty Had Written a Book

Job lived before God had inspired men to write Scripture. There was really no way to get to know God, so Job’s questions would go unanswered unless God spoke to him personally (which God does at the end of the book of Job).

But in the middle of his anguish and confusion Job cries: “Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book.” (Job 31:35 NKJV)

Do we realize what a blessing is ours in the pages of our Bibles? We, unlike Job, can know God’s heart any time of the day or night. We can read and re-read God’s promises, the expressions of his love, his rules, his plan. There need be no questions like the questions Job had.

Do you know what Job said he’d do if he had God’s Book?

Surely, I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown.” (vs 36)

How do we respond to having God’s very words at our fingertips? Do we carry it on our shoulders, or put it on a shelf? Do we wear it like a crown, or apologize for its content?

Do we love to read God’s Word, memorize it, meditate on it, pray over it, use it, share it?

I just had a random thought. When I was about five years old, our Sunday School teachers were spinster sisters we called, Aunt Minnie and Aunt Rose, two godly women who loved the Lord and loved us. I remember one activity we did in class. The ladies put a group of books on a table and one by one, each of us would be challenged to stack the books the right way. We would put the books on top of each other, careful to put the Bible on the very top. And when we stacked the books correctly, the women would clap their hands excitedly. Nothing, they taught us, should ever be placed on top of God’s Word. Not on the table, and not in our hearts.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am glad you have taken the time to read what it is I have to say. I hope you are encouraged and challenged as God speaks to you through what he lays on my heart. But I hope you spend more time in the pages of your Bible, reading what God has said first hand, finding out what He will lay on your own heart as you devour his very words.

This book we have in our possession is alive and active, it is precious and pertinent. Let’s not squander the blessing Job longed for: the Almighty’s book right in front of us!

Dearest God, thank you for your written Word. We in the United States have the privilege of reading it without fear of being arrested, unlike some of your people in other nations of our world. Many of us have multiple copies and translations in our homes, on our phones. I pray that you would speak to each of us about our response to having your Book in our hands. Thank you today for the memory of Aunt Minnie and Aunt Rose and their influence in my life that reaches decades later. I want to remember the lesson they taught, that nothing is more important than your Word to us. May you find all of us faithfully reading it, learning from it, and living by it. May we allow you to strengthen us through its pages to go out and share Your Word with people around us.

A Lesson From “Space Jam”

The Apostle Paul got me thinking about what it means to be innocent. A child is innocent of a lot of things because he hasn’t been exposed to the ugly side of life. Disney knows this. So they throw “adult” humor in their cartoons and films, believing children won’t get it, so won’t be effected by it. Or maybe they just don’t care if children get it or not.

Years ago I had my five year old nephew for a weekend visit. That’s a story in itself. I love that kid! Anyway, after a day of playing in the yard and eating pizza, we settled down for the evening in front of the TV and watched a video of “Space Jam”. Reed and I laughed out loud at the silly characters and cheered for Michael Jordan like we were in the stadium.

The next day was a rainy Saturday. So Reed asked if we could watch the movie again. He was an easy kid to babysit. We laughed as hard the second time. In fact, as I recall, we watched it for a third time before he went to bed that night. (I might not get the “Babysitter of the Year” award any time soon.)

I took him home on Sunday afternoon. His parents weren’t home yet so Reed took me to the basement to show me a video game he liked to play. He snuggled up next to me on the couch, and proceeded to push buttons on the controller to get the character to the next level. But the character kept “dying” at a certain point in the game. Over and over Reed would get it to that point, then fail.

All of a sudden, he exclaimed, “What the hell is going on here?”

I was shocked! “What did you say?” I asked.

“Why, is that bad?” he replied innocently, thumbs still frantically pushing buttons.

Reed lives in a home where neither parent swears. I am sure he never heard those words come out of either of their mouths. Why he would say that was a mystery to us all.

About a year or so later, Reed and his family were visiting me, and Reed asked if we could watch “Space Jam”. So, we sat down to enjoy the movie together.

Half way through the movie the coach, at a frustrating point in a basketball game shouts, “What the hell is going on here?”

We all looked at each other in disbelief. Mystery solved.

Romans 16:19 tells us to “…be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Is that even possible in today’s society? I wonder.

Do you know the names of the Real Housewives? Do you laugh at the characters on Modern Family? Did you cry when Luke left Port Charles?

You have to admit that TV has destroyed our innocence. Have you considered what information and ideas it has put into your minds and hearts? Are you tolerant of sin, or worse, at a point where you don’t recognize sin as sin? Have you thought about what kinds of things your children are ingesting?

I’m not necessarily advocating putting your TV on the curb for the trash guy. That’s between you and God. I do, however, advocate that you and I be careful about what we watch.

We worship a holy God who demands holiness of us. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing not knowing what your coworkers are talking about around the water cooler when they are rehashing the events on last night’s episode of Dating Naked. In fact, your not knowing might speak to someone about their own heart’s condition before God.

Don’t ever apologize for being simple concerning evil. It’s far more important to honor God with our lives. It’s his approval we should be seeking. Isn’t it?

Father, I know that some people will think saying the word, hell, in frustration is no big deal. I know some people will insist that what they watch on TV doesn’t translate into sin in their own lives. But I read what Paul says about being simple concerning evil, and I am convicted. I know too much to be simple concerning evil. I’ve seen too much. But, I don’t have to continue to dump evil into my brain. Give me wisdom about my choices of TV shows, about what I read, about what music I listen to. I can’t unlearn what I’ve allowed to penetrate me to this point. But I can prevent more garbage from coming in in the future. Give me an innocence from today on as I choose to be wise in what is good.

Listen For The Whisper

Job, in chapter 26, tries to say how big, how powerful, how awe-inspiring is God. God is supreme over death and hell. He is supreme over creation: “He hangs the earth on nothing.” And God is supreme over heaven.

Job tells us that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just what we can know of God. God is greater, more powerful than we can even imagine!

Then in verse 14 he says, “…and how small a whisper we hear of him…”

What we see around us, what we experience in life is such a small part of WHO God really is. Our human minds can’t comprehend his reality.

A whisper is something you can only hear close up. That’s what spoke to me in this verse today. This immense God leans in so we can hear him. As mighty as he is, as awesome, and as enormous his reach, he is also personal, wanting us to know him.

He whispers to us through his Word, through the birth of a baby, through struggles and joys, through a budding rose, and a summer rain. “Here I am,” he says to us. “I love you. I died for you. I want to walk with you today.”

Listen for the whisper!