IT’S GOOD TO BE NEAR TO GOD

Have you noticed how everyday there seems to be more and more bad news?  We all know the news programs strive to have the worst possible scenarios for us to consider.  For instance, when there is snow on the horizon, the weather is given to us every 15 minutes on the radio.  Preparations are encouraged to be made as if there is going to be a snow apocalypse.  Then, as we all know, we get two inches.  Even though this happens, it’s true that the world is in a bad way.  The world has turned away from its creator.  There are consequences to that.  As a follower of Christ, I need to keep in mind who holds my hand, who carries me, and who is my greatest comfort.  As all of the information of this world’s problems flood my mind, how can I remember God.  I am easily distracted and need to be reminded.  How does that happen?  Let’s look at the idea of being near to God together.

BE YOUR OWN ALARM CLOCK

 Alarm clocks are not really our favorite possession.  They are a necessity.  We need them to get us up on time. The alarm goes off and we have to stretch and get out of bed.  The noise it makes alerts us to the start of another day.  When we allow this world to overwhelm us, we need to give ourselves a wake-up alarm.  Truth needs to buzz our minds back to our Father God.  He has things well in hand.  We can remind ourselves, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1  BUZZ!!  There is no leader on this earth that God doesn’t hold in his sovereign hand! 

HAVE A BACK-UP ALARM CLOCK

There are those of us who may sleep so deeply that a second alarm is needed.  You may put it across the room so that you have to get up to shut it off.  It takes more effort but it gets you going and you can start your day.  Sometimes being our own alarm clock isn’t enough.  We have to put forth the extra effort to contact someone who can be our back-up alarm clock.  “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:15  BUZZ!!  A brother or sister in the Lord is a great back-up alarm clock to remind us of the truth of who God is!

HEAR GOD’S LOVING ALARM

Do you remember when you first had to start using an alarm clock?  Your parents gave you instructions on how to set it and then made sure you knew you were on your own for the morning.  What was the problem with them waking us?  They were up anyway so it would be easy to shake a shoulder.  However, our parents wanted to teach us responsibility.  They wanted us to learn independence.  It didn’t mean they didn’t love us, quite the opposite.  Teaching and training is a loving thing for parents to do for their children. God wants us to remember his character and live trusting in Him.  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1  BUZZ!!  God is our example and we can trust his character!

How do we stay near to God?  We believe the truth of who he is and what his word says.  We have to get our own attention, rely on someone else, and fully embrace God’s love.  When we get our minds on so many other things, our eyes begin to wander.  We spend more time looking at others than we do our Lord and Savior.  Looking at how this world’s people respond will not help us be near to God.  In fact, we will be getting farther away from him.  What do you need to change in your life in order to be near to God?

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” Psalm 73:28

DOES THE BIBLE REALLY SAY?

Are there sayings you hear often which are attributed to the Bible?  Things we assume God has instructed us to do?  And yet, they are not really written in the Bible for our instruction.  Even though they aren’t there, we will stand by these sayings for life.  There are many, but we will look at only two in this blog.  I think these are said more than any others.  As we check out what the Bible really has to say about these issues, we will find the hope we need for living life for God’s glory.

  1. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle!

We love this phrase because not only does it give us assurance that life won’t be too hard for us, but it elevates us to the position of handler!  There are those who use this to believe that the situations in their lives were given to them by God because they could handle them.  Wow!  Could we be any more me-centered?  The verse that is used for this is 1 Corinthians 10:13.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

This verse is not me-centered, but God-centered.  The temptation or trial we may face is not unique.  It is common; so, we will never face anything that is a surprise to God.  The next phrase shows us the God-centeredness of the verse:  “God is faithful.”  It is God who is faithful to provide a way for us to endure the trial we are facing.  It’s not our strength or our ability.  We are not prepared for most of what we face in this life, but God is.  He will always be faithful to us during the trials.  There are two other verses we can cling to as we go through trials.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

These verses remind us God walks through the trials with us, and we are never alone.  So, is it me who handles the trials, or God?  It is God who can handle everything we face.  He will walk with us, granting us grace and wisdom as we depend on him to get us through the trial.  The hope is not that I’m all that, but that God is all that!  We need to remember that as we face the many trials we will face in this life.

  1. God helps those who help themselves.

The origin of this saying goes back to the ancient Greeks, but was rephrased by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac.  It became very popular after that and was applied to situations as if it was from the Bible.  It is not in the Bible!  In fact, the Bible says the opposite of this concerning us.  It’s more like, “God helps those who can’t help themselves.”  Let’s look at a few examples.

 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:6, 8

Do you see the description of us in this passage?  Weak, ungodly, and sinners are the words used to describe us.  These words are not very complementary.  It doesn’t sound like we could help ourselves in this state, does it?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”            Ephesians 2:8-9

There was no way to work for our salvation because even the faith we have to believe is a gift from God.  He helps us because we can’t help ourselves.  We are driven by our sinful nature and deceive ourselves into thinking we are “something” when we’re not!

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”  Proverbs 28:26

The Bible is clear that trusting in ourselves is foolish.  To walk in wisdom means that we know from where our help comes.  God is the help we need for everyday life.  This doesn’t mean that we are lazy and expect God to live our life for us.  It means we put into practice what God has already shown us is wise and trust him daily to help us.  We can’t even follow the practical teachings of the Bible without the help of God.

Where’s the hope?  The hope is in the truth that God can handle anything we face and will walk with us through all trials.  The hope is the help he will give us in every trial.  God is our hope.  May we not rely on sayings the world has created but on God who is over and above them all.  He is the truth!  Let’s believe him!

SINGLE WOMEN – PART 2 MIRIAM

Originally posted 4-5-2018

Let’s take a look at a single woman from God’s Word.  Her name is Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.  It would be very difficult to call this woman a victim in her singleness.  God chose Miriam to be one of the leaders of the children of Israel as they left Egypt and their slavery behind.

The first time we see Miriam in scripture, she is following the instructions of her mother by watching her brother, Moses, floating along in the Nile River in a basket. “His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.” Exodus 2:4   Moses was in danger of losing his life.  Remember Pharaoh wanted all of the Hebrew male children killed but Moses’ mother hid him until she couldn’t do it anymore.  She put him in the basket which was prepared to be waterproof and placed him in the Nile.  Miriam watched him from a distance.  The daughter of Pharaoh saw him and knew he was a Hebrew child.  God uses Miriam here to provide a nursemaid for Moses. “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Exodus 2:7b   Who does she get to nurse the baby?  Miriam brings back her own mother who is able to keep Moses until he is weaned.  God used Miriam to save the man who would bring the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt.  What a task for this single young lady!

In Exodus 15:20, we are told Miriam was a prophetess.  This means she was used by God to be his mouthpiece for the people.  God used a single woman!  She didn’t have to be married or have children to be used by God.  She was a lively woman who was not afraid to express her emotions as she praised the Lord.  She sang, played tambourine, and danced as she praised God for his delivery of the children of Israel from the Pharaoh and his army.   We are told other women followed her joining in with tambourines and dancing.  She was followed.  She was a leader.  God used a single woman to lead others who may have been married, mothers, or widows.

Why would God use a single woman to lead?  There were so many parts of the life of a woman she hadn’t experienced so what did she have to offer?  When God chose prophets or prophetesses, relationship was involved.  Miriam had a relationship with God.  She didn’t ride on the backs of her brothers.  She loved god and rejoiced in Him because of her own relationship with him.  She was a leader because God called her to be one.  It wasn’t based on her experience as a woman but on her calling by God.

One of the dangers of being a leader is falling into the sin of pride.  Miriam was not exempt from this temptation.  She and her brother, Aaron, began to grumble against Moses. 

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.  And they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?  Has he not spoken through us also?’  And the Lord heard it.”  Numbers 12:1-2

As we read this passage we can sense some jealousy between the siblings and also pride.  After all, the Lord had spoken to Aaron and Miriam too, why should Moses be the leader of the camp?  The talk concerning the wife was a smoke screen to cover up the real issue of their jealousy toward Moses’ leadership and relationship with the Lord.  The Lord dealt with this by giving Miriam leprosy.  Aaron intercedes on Miriam’s behalf to Moses who in turn intercedes on her behalf to the Lord.  She is confined outside of the camp for seven days and then returned to camp healed.  Miriam is not heard of again until her death in Kadesh.

Miriam was instrumental in the leading of the people of Israel.  She gave them hope through her music.  She gave them an excitement for praise as they followed God.  She was God’s mouthpiece to the people.  God didn’t allow the fact that she was a single woman stop him from using her for his purposes.

The identity of Miriam wasn’t that of being single but of being a God-follower.  She lived as a God-follower.  A God-follower is conscious of God and lives to please him.  She worships him in all her actions.  Being a God-follower is what sets her apart.  We learn from Miriam’s life that a God-follower isn’t perfect. When her eyes were not on the Lord but on herself, she sinned.  This is a warning for all of us because we too can fall flat of our faces as we trust in our own ability rather than in the Lord working through us.

In our church today we have single women who, as followers of Christ, can have an impact on our community.  God can use our single sisters to encourage, confront, help, rescue, lead, and walk alongside other women of the church regardless of their role.  Don’t discount advice from a single woman!  Don’t disregard rebuke from a single woman!  Don’t take advantage of a single woman!  What should we do?  We should see our sisters as followers of Christ and as family.  We can trust God to use each of us for his purposes.

So pick up your tambourine and let’s dance together in celebration of the gospe