UP, UP, AND AWAY!!

I had the joy of going on a vacation in the Hocking Hills of Ohio.  What beautiful scenery!  The hiking was good and not too strenuous.  I stayed in a cabin and it was clean and comfortable.  There were many deer in the area and I was greeted me in the front yard by one.  Can you picture all of this?  It is the scene of a nice quiet, peaceful, relaxing vacation.  But I guess I wanted more so I called and reserved a place on the Hocking Hills Canopy Tour.  So, at 69 years old I was outfitted with helmet, harness, and cable for zip lining.  We traveled at least 8 zip lines in the tree tops.  The longest one was over 500 feet and the rider went 35 miles an hour.  I was the rider and I was traveling that fast.  Zip lines weren’t the only things to get us from one tree to another.  There were also cable bridges which would swing back and forth.  Yikes, what was I thinking?

While on this tour, I was always thinking about placing my hands in the right position.  There were thoughts of the beauty of woods from the treetops as well.  The tour guides told us to look around while traveling on the zip line but I kept my eyes ahead to see the landing place.  Landing was important to me.  I didn’t really look until I felt safe on the platform.  The tour guide made sure to catch me if I was going too fast to land.  It brought me joy to see his smiling face at the end of the line each and every time.  Would I do this again?  Probably.  Why?  I don’t know. 

Life, for the follower of Christ, is like traveling the zip line.  There are many things to see along the way but the finish line is the important focus.  In fact, we read in the Scriptures about where our focus should be.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Our lives are to be lived now with eternity in view.  We need to keep our eyes on the finish line.  Jesus has already zipped through this life on our behalf. I think of my tour guide who zipped before us.  He made sure to be ready to catch us as we came to the end of the line.  He got there first, which showed that it was possible and safe.  That’s what Jesus has done.  He has gone before us in this life and lived it perfectly because we aren’t able to.  He is now interceding on our behalf to the Father.  We can keep our eyes on him and trust him because he knows the line we will be zipping on in this life.  Our eyes, at all times, need to be on our guide and the eternity waiting for us.

I’m also reminded of the tour guide who stayed behind to help us step off the platform.  He made sure we were securely fastened and then waited for the one who had gone before to let him know it was safe for us.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are represented by him.  We are to encourage one another by making sure we have what we need to live life reflecting God.  Is there someone who needs to be harnessed to the Word of God?  We can help her to see her need by pointing her to the Word.  Our lovingkindness in helping others take hard steps in life will go a long way.  Life is hard and we need others to help us who have their eyes on Jesus.

Those swinging bridges were harder for me to cross than the zip line.  I didn’t like the swinging and I was tempted to keep looking down as I crossed.  It was actually better for me when I put my eyes up and looked at the destination.  Satan loves when we keep our eyes on the circumstances in our lives.  As we focus on the situation, we can lose sight of the finish line.  We need to look up and see Jesus, who has suffered for us.  He’s at the finish line waiting for us.  The temptation to look to the right, left, or down is one we have to fight as we seek to keep our eyes looking up to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Was zip lining on my bucket list?  Not really, because I don’t have a bucket list.  I do have a finish line and only God knows when I’ll cross it.  What I do know for sure is, that when I cross that finish line, my Savior will catch me and usher me into eternity with him.  Let’s encourage one another to keep our eyes on him as we live the life he has given us! 

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part four

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD HELPS

It always amazes me at how quickly I can forget God is with me.  When life’s winds blow in my face, I feel those more than I think of God.  Let’s face it, we are all infallible!  We are not perfect and it shows up the most in the trials of this life. Our desire for comfort, relief, and happiness seems to overrule the truth we know about God.  How do we prepare for this battle against truth when we suffer?  Our preparation takes place in everyday life.  This has been a season of strong winds for me.  This season has brought about many changes in my life and many opportunities. As we face the strong winds of disappointment, discouragement, pain, and sorrow, God sees opportunities for us to grow in him.  We can be preparing each and every day for strong winds that may come our way.  Here’s how we do it!  WE PURSUE A KNOWLEDGE OF GOD!

  1.  The Word of God is our food!

We must feed our belief. It’s easy to say “I believe”, but when the winds of the life hit us in the face, we’re empty.  The way we feed our belief is to be in God’s Word each day seeking to learn who God is.  It’s this pursuit that helps us when suffering comes.  Satan wants us to curse God and forget about his presence.  We must fight Satan with what we know to be true about God.  The problem is we won’t know these things if we are not in his Word seeking him.  Sometimes we focus on God’s Word as words for us to live by, all about us.  The truth is, the Word of God is all about him.  “…seek, and you will find…” Matthew 7:7b Jesus reminds us to seek him.  Don’t wait until life is hard, seek him now in preparation for what is to come!

2. Knowing God is HOPE!

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:21-23

This is a portion of scripture written by Jeremiah, who was struggling with rejection from his own people.  He had been through much suffering and yet, in the middle of it, he preaches to himself about God.  He could do this because he knew God’s character. Bringing to mind who God is when we are suffering can help us to have hope.  As I was sitting in the hallway of the hospital after my husband had been rushed back into the operating room to have fluid from his heart drained, I needed to preach to myself.  I was so grateful for the character of God.  The sermon I was preaching was God’s sovereignty and goodness.  He knew, and He is good!  Those two things sustained me as I sat in ignorance of what was happening.  What was worse is they forgot I was there and didn’t come and tell me anything!  This made the time seem slow and full of anticipation.  But God is good and sovereign. He wanted me to learn to wait, and rely fully on him.  Know God’s character and believe; that’s hope!

3. Knowing God is TRUTH!

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal.” 1 John 5:20

Our God is the one and only true God!  There is none like him!  When suffering comes upon us, Satan wants us to doubt our true God.  The biggest thought is that God doesn’t really care or is not involved in my life.  But God is true to his word and we know he will never “leave or forsake” his children.  When I was in the hallway alone, the truth was, I was not alone.  Did I have to remind myself of that?  Absolutely!  Knowing that God is truth and all he says is true encompasses what we have to believe.  As followers of Christ we must know the truth and be set free from the lies being thrown at us by our enemy.  I’ve thought about this since my husband’s heart attack.  It would have pleased Satan for me to throw in the towel and allow the changes in our circumstances to weigh me down.  This could have become my life as a victim of the winds of life.  I know God is truth and I can trust all he has said about himself and about me.  That’s what I hold onto each and every day.  Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32  How do we know the truth?  We eat the food of the Word daily, which is truth and will give us hope!

The winds of life may blow in our faces but we can withstand them as we pursue knowing God.  In fact, these winds may turn into a tornado or hurricane in your life but knowing God will remind you how he is greater than even that!  Our calling is to get fat on the Word of God so that we will know the hope and truth that will guide us in this life.  Pass the chapter and verse, please!

2021…THREE WEEKS IN

The experts say it takes three weeks to change a habit and then three more weeks for it to become the new habit.  How are you doing?  We are in week three of making changes; that is if we even bothered to try.  The idea of resolutions beginning in the new year has been around since Ancient Babylon. The following quote is from history.com.

“The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted. During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to be.”

The Babylonians were concerned about making changes and keeping promises in order to satisfy their gods.  They were striving toward being who their gods wanted them to be and if they didn’t, they considered that they would be out of favor with their gods.  This idea of resolutions for us is a little bit different.  Most of the time, we make resolutions to better ourselves for ourselves.  Here are the five most popular resolutions for Americans according to the internet.

  1. Exercise more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Save money
  4. Eat healthier
  5. Reduce stress

I’m sure, if you are honest, some of these were included in your thinking for change this year.  We are always talking about striving to make these types of changes.  Now we are three weeks into these changes, and we’re wondering what changes we were thinking we were going to make.  I know that some of you actually do follow through and have accomplished some of your goals.  The majority, however, are probably more like me and allow life to get in the way of changes to habits.  What comes to my mind even now as I write this, is that our resolutions are so self-focused and yet we can’t seem to focus on them.  Does that make sense?  I think it’s time for a change in our resolutions.

The Babylonians were concerned about pleasing their gods for the coming new year.  As followers of Christ, we know God, the real God, the one and only God, the creator of the universe, and the Father of all who believe.  This is so exciting and should encourage us to pursue him in our daily lives.  What if we made our resolutions more God-centered than me-centered?  What if we added Bible reading, prayer, memorization of the Word, or service to others to our resolutions?  If we did, we would begin to know God more.  He calls us to know him and be in relationship with him.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

If we make our resolutions about our growth in Christ, will we fail?  You bet we will!  We are still sinners, saved by grace, but sinners none the less.  We are going to fail, get up, fail again, and get up again.  The wonderful thing about God is that he doesn’t base his favor on our performance.  All of the grace we receive from God is because of what Jesus did for each of us on the cross.  The Babylonians were trying to please their gods, but Jesus pleased God once for all in his death, burial and resurrection.  In fact, Jesus doesn’t give up on us and tell us to hit the road or get away from him.  He says, “Come.”

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

We’re three weeks into January with plenty of time to make some changes in our lives for the glory of God.  What do you need to change?  How can you make the effort to grow in the knowledge of the Lord?  Where can you look when you fail?  You can look to Jesus who says “Come” to each one of his children.  This life can throw lots of potholes at us, which can cause us to stumble and fail, but Jesus tells us to get back up and “Come.”

May today be the day when growing spiritually is the most important exercise you can do!

 

IF ONLY I HAD…

The four words, “if only I had” are often said by me, and my guess is by you too.  If only we had $100.00 for every time we said those words.  Whoops, I said them again! J As we look back over our lives and the many interactions we’ve had with others, we can see how we should have responded.  We then tend to rehearse what happened and what could have happened, “if only I had…”  How does God’s sovereignty play into these words?  How do these words cause us to regret?   More importantly, how can God use our regrets for his purposes in our lives?  Let’s explore how looking back over our lives can be a good and bad exercise.

Exploring what’s good and bad about looking back

  1. Looking back can cause us to get stuck in a cycle of regret.  The idea is that of a carnival pony who goes around in the same circle over and over again.   Parents like this because they know their children will be safe.  The truth is these ponies put their feet in the same place as they continue to go around.  They don’t escape the circle until someone pulls the reins and directs them out of it.  That’s what happens to us.  We go over the same thing again and again. This is not really safety for us however, because the product it produces can be anger, worry, depression, or anxiety. For our safety, we need someone to pull on our reins and direct us.  Paul does this in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”   We must take the reins of our thoughts and turn them upward, rehearsing who God is and what He’s done in our lives.  This will keep us from getting stuck in regret.
  2. Looking back can cause us to blame ourselves for the situation. This happens when we say things like “if only I hadn’t brought the subject up” or “if only I had said this or that” or “if only I had just let her have her way”, etc.  We replay conversations over and over until we think the resulting outcome lands fully in our laps.  But that’s not the truth in the situation.  There are always two sides to a story and we can’t carry someone else’s part.  We can only take care of our own.  “The soul who sins shall die.  The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.  The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”  Ezekiel 18:20   The Lord makes it clear here that we carry our own sin.  We have to believe the truth of the situation.  The “if only I had” is not a true statement.  Belief in the truth will keep us from blaming ourselves.
  3. Looking back can cause us to live life as a victim. Our minds can be so absorbed with the circumstances of disappointment that we begin to see ourselves as a victim.  When this happens the victim mentality can become our identity.  Our life begins to run through that grid instead of God’s grid.  We are unhappy all the time, because if we’re a victim in this situation, we’ll probably be one in the next situation.  Life becomes about all the wrong that was ever done to us.  Our thinking may be “if only I had stood up for myself”, or “if only that person was not so mean”, or “if only I had told her how I really feel”, etc.  When we won’t let the hurt go but continue the blame game, the hurt is raw and will continue to be so.    “…This I know that God is for me.” Psalm 56:9b  Whatever has happened to us doesn’t take away from the fact that God is for me.  I’m not a victim of the things of this world but am victorious.  “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58    As followers of Christ, we are in Christ and that’s our identity.  We need to live in belief of the victory we have in Christ.  Living and working for the Lord will keep us from living as a victim.

In the future when you and I say the words, “if only I had”, I hope we will remember these things and look to the Lord for help.  So what’s the good about looking back?  It gives us the opportunity to trust God with our past and our hurt.  We can learn from our past to practice a greater trust in the future.  All life is about God and his glory.  This is very important for us to remember so that we don’t say, “if only I had been more aware of God.”  Let’s change now– looking forward without regret!

WHEN OUR DREAMS GO UP IN SMOKE!

Don’t you just love how God has given each one of us a brain!  The brain is a magnificent creation.  Learned doctors can’t figure it out.  The more they study it, the more amazed they are at the capacity of it.  The following definition for the brain is from the mayfairclinic.com.

“The brain is an amazing three-pound organ that controls all functions of the body, interprets information from the outside world, and embodies the essence of the mind and soul. Intelligence, creativity, emotion, and memory are a few of the many things governed by the brain.”

Our brains have a lot to do each and every day to keep us alive and functioning in this world.  God created them to do just that, but that’s not all.  Notice that the definition includes creativity.  I’ve never been one to claim I’m creative.  In fact, my first homemade Christmas cards were made of construction paper!  Who does that?  But I digress.  Anyway, this creativity, along with our intellect is used to dream about our futures.  We can go over and over in our minds where we would like to be in five, ten, or twenty years.  However, these dreams don’t always become reality.

David writes in Psalm 37:25a, “I have been young, and now am old,”

When we are young, we dream about the future.  Some of our dreams may include college, career, husband, children, a home, finances, etc.  Of course, every category we dream about has sub-categories within it.  Dreaming and planning for our future is not a bad thing.  In fact, to plan is a good gift God has given us to use our brains to do.  But, the problem comes in when those dreams don’t become a reality.  If we have idolized our dreams and they don’t come to fruition, how do we handle it?

Notice that David tells us that now he is old.  It’s when we get older that we have a tendency to look back at our dreams and see how many of them failed.  There are many of us who can look back and marvel at the things the Lord did in spite of us.  I consider my position at the church to be a gift of God that I never dreamed would happen.  There are personal dreams for me that have missed the mark, some of my own choosing, and others are the results of someone else’s choice.  But in all of these shattered dreams, there is hope because God is at work.  As we take the time to look back, we need to consider the other things David says here.

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.  He is ever lending generously and his children become a blessing.” Psalm 37:25-26

In these verses we see how we are to look back and observe God’s care of us regardless of our dreams.  God is faithful and true; our dreams are not.  Our perspective needs to have God at the center, not our dreams.  There can be a tendency to regret and mourn over what we’ve missed in life or didn’t accomplish.  Honestly, we can’t spend too much time doing this because our focus needs to be on what God has done in spite of everything else accomplished or not accomplished.

As we grow older and watch another dream go up in smoke, what will help us?  “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:17 These verses were the inspiration for a poem by C.T. Studd.  He wrote, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”  Our accomplishments of fulfilled dreams in this life will not be placed in our grave with us.  However, all that we do for the cause of Christ and the gospel will go on and on.  My dreams are normally about what I can do or what I would like to have happen for me!  I need to change my dreams to have more to do with the gospel than with me!  That’s the challenge for all of us, isn’t it?

Planning and dreaming are not a bad thing, but we can’t put all our hope in them.  Our plans and dreams will fade but the gospel never will!

Let’s start today to prepare to make every day count for Christ!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

 

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 4 Finger Pointing Frieda

Many of us are guilty of being a finger pointer when it comes to trials in someone else’s life.  We want be the bearer of the answers as to why the trial is happening.  As someone shares with us, we’re looking for sin patterns that have contributed to the trial.  Why? So we can point our finger and feel a bit superior to the one who is suffering.  This is a wrong pattern of thinking which assumes all trials are caused by sin.

Finger Pointing Frieda

Frieda has a nose for sin in others.  She’s always looking for those who don’t measure up to where she believes they should be.  This happens more when a person is in the midst of a trial and shares with her.  Frieda is certain that she would handle the trial differently.  She is also sure the trial is a result of sin in the person’s life. As she listens, she feels it is her job to point out the sin and call the person to repent.

“I’m sure that’s terrible but it wouldn’t have happened if you had just trusted God.”

“God has allowed this in your life to get your attention because of your sin.”

“What do you expect to happen when you continue to _____________?”

“I can see this is your fault for not following God as you should.”

The person who has Frieda as a comforter is not being comforted.  Can you see how these types of statements point the finger back at the sufferer? All the discomfort felt is the fault of the sufferer.  Is that the way we are to respond?  The answer is no, because Jesus, when confronted with an adulterous woman by the scribes and Pharisees, answered their charges by reminding them of their own sins.

“…Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” John 8:7b

 

Humble Harriet

Harriet understands sin.  She knows that sin has consequences, but she also knows that suffering is not always the result of the person’s sin.  Harriet will listen carefully to the one who is suffering in the trial and sort out how to help the person find hope and comfort.  There is no hope for someone who keeps getting a finger pointed at them.  She is humble enough to remember that she is a sinner saved by the blood of Jesus.  Harriet doesn’t feel the finger of God pointing to her in her sin but knows Jesus stands in her place.  This is so hopeful and she wants to share this hope with others.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.”  Lamentations 3:21-24

What is most important for helping a person going through a trial is to bring them to the point of having hope in God.  Harriet hears the whole story and can see that there is sin, but knows that this is not the time to address the sin.  It is the time to give hope in the Lord who loves with a steadfast love.  She spends time talking about God and his character rather than finger pointing at sin.  As the person hears and begins to get some hope and perspective, there will come a time to address the areas of sin in her life.  Harriet knows it will take time and is willing to spend the time listening and encouraging so that hope is evident in the person’s life.  After that the Holy Spirit may have already revealed the sin in the person’s life which needs to addressed and if not, Harriet can bring it up with grace.

 “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13

 

What about us?

As followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to come along side our brothers and sisters to help in their time of need.  We must do so humbly, with great expectation in what the Lord can accomplish in their lives and ours.  There are so many times we fail to help because, quite frankly, we get in the way.  Our pride and arrogance wants to be the savior in the situation, but we have to remember there is only ONE SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.  We are called to point others to him for their hope and help.  Are we willing to let go of what we think we know in order to direct others to what they need to know?  May God give us the grace to see ourselves as we really are, totally dependent on him.  Then and only then will we be the helpers God desires us to be.

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

 

WOMEN IN STEP – PART FOUR

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,…” Galatians 5:22a

 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:25

The word, joy, is said a lot in Christian circles.  We throw the word around without really taking  time to realize what we’re saying.  Our steps will be more in line with the Spirit if we know what real joy is.  Joy is finding contentment and delight in any circumstance.  In other words, it’s the godly response to life.  Joy can be gladness, pleasure, or a peaceful rest.   Let’s take a look at some of the areas where we should find joy.

  1. Joy in God

“More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  Romans 5:11  We are reminded here to find joy in God because of the reconciliation that is given between us and God through Christ.  This guarantees us a future in His presence.  Shouldn’t we find joy in that?

  1. Joy in Salvation

We should never get over the saving grace bestowed on us through what Christ did for us on the cross.  In Romans 5:6-10, Paul uses a group of words to describe our condition before salvation.  These words include the following: “still weak”, “ungodly”, “sinners”, and “enemies”.  Because we’re followers of Christ, these words no longer describe us. In Ephesians 1:3-7, Paul uses different words: “blessed”, “chosen”, “holy”, “blameless”, “adopted”, “sons”, “redeemed”, and “forgiven”.  Can you see why we should have joy in our salvation?

  1. Joy in Trials

“Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3  Whatever trials we face we can face with joy in the sovereignty of God.  This joy is not a happy cartwheel type of joy but rather one of patience and endurance.  It’s characterized by a reliance on Christ as we go through the trial.  The results are peace in the midst of calamity and confusion; peace in our hearts as we focus on God and his oversight of the trial.  We can trust him.  It is possible to find this type of joy in our trials!

  1. Joy in the Word

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.”  Jeremiah 15:16  Jeremiah, being a true prophet of God, loved God’s Word.  As followers of Christ we should find joy in God’s Word.  How do we do that?  First, we must accept God’s Word.  We must embrace it as our own.  We find joy in the words we read and accept the instruction it gives.  This acceptance can lead to a delight in the Word of God.  This means we are extremely satisfied with God’s Word, not just the words, but what they teach.  We can learn from it.  Next we need to speak God’s Word.  Speaking the Word of God should bring us joy as we share the things we are learning.  Is reading the Scriptures a joy or a chore?

Now that we’ve looked at some of the things we should find joy in as we keep in step with the Spirit, we need to consider how to be joyful.

Sing – Do you like to sing?  I do.  There are those who think I sing too much, but singing brings me joy.  Did you know that singing helps us remember?  That’s the way so many have memorized the books of the Bible.  Singing to the Lord gives us the opportunity to praise him but it also gives comfort.  In the midst of a difficult circumstance, we can sing to the Lord, reminding ourselves of who he is and find joy in his presence.  “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” Psalm 98:4

Shout – Do you shout very much?  Probably not.  We have a tendency to shout to get someone’s attention or at a sporting event or in fear or excitement.  Joy to the Lord is a great reason to shout. “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!  Shout for joy in the Lord…” Psalm 32:11-33:1a 

Leap –  When was the last time you leapt?  It’s been a long time for me.  Picture a happy lamb in a pasture skipping and leaping for joy. The lamb is content with where he is and skips about to show his enjoyment.  Even when people treat us with hate, rejection, or insult because of Christ, we can leap for joy because of eternity to come.  “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven:…” Luke 6:22-23a

Are you keeping in step with the Spirit by displaying joy?  Is your joy evident?  Are you full of joy?  Do others see your joy? What makes your face light up? Our growth in joy may be in having joy for the wrong things – joy in our job, joy in our family, joy in money, joy in health, joy in the things of the world, the pleasurable things.  These joys are idols, and we spend more time worshiping these joys than we do Jesus.  These worldly joys will only lead to sorrow, but that sorrow can turn to joy when we repent and destroy these idols of our heart.  We must see that compared to Jesus, these things are NOTHING!

 

WOMEN IN STEP – PART TWO

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

Women who are keeping in step with the Spirit and are being led by the Spirit will walk in love.  We are called to imitate God, who loves perfectly and chose to love us while we were still sinners.  To walk in love, we must first realize that love is not an emotion but a choice we make.  Love is an act of our will.  We must love whom the Scriptures say we are to love.  As children of God, we should want to be like our Father who loves completely.  Let’s begin by reviewing who our first love should be…God.

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37

This is a command spelling out how we are to love God.  This love includes our thoughts, reasoning, understanding, will, judgment, affections, intellect, and emotions. In other words, our whole being is to love God.  The Scriptures give us some specifics about loving God, which we need to take seriously in our walk of love.

Love God’s Name

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” Hebrews 6:10

We’re to love God’s name.  This love is evidenced by our service to the body of Christ.  When we serve others, we are putting Christ on display and honoring his name to those we serve and those who observe us.  The love of God’s name is evidence of his grace to us.  When we display Christ in service, our salvation is evident.  It’s the saving grace of God which brings us into position to love his name.  Do we think about God’s name in a loving way?  Are we influenced by our culture, which takes God’s name and abuses it?  Is God’s name just taken for granted by us?  We need to treasure the name of God and display our love for it with our service to others.

Love God’s salvation

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!’” Psalm 40:16

God is the one who saves.  The salvation of the Lord to the Psalmist, David, refers to the help he receives from the Lord and the deliverance from his enemies and his own sin.  This applies to us, as followers of Christ, because we fail to recognize God as the one who has saved us.  We’re tempted to think it’s our own doing.  But it’s God’s doing which should cause us to be humble before him.  We should love our salvation which results in the recognition of the greatness of God which results in praise. Are you apathetic concerning the gospel?  Are you just concerned about going to heaven?  Do you equate salvation with your life? We should NEVER get over our salvation but, more than that, love the giver of salvation, God.

Love God’s Word

“Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

The Word of God is not just dead words on a page.  They are “living and active” according to Hebrews 4:12.  The words are “God-breathed” according to 2 Timothy 3:16.  All of these descriptions make it evident that the Scripture is from God, given to us in order for us to learn and grow as his children.  If we love God’s Word the result will be meditation during the day.  To meditate is to reflect on and be devoted to the Word.  It’s not sitting cross-legged and humming.  It’s thinking about what we’ve read during the day.  When we love the Word, we’ll take a theme or a few words of what we read to stimulate our thinking. Is your reading of the Word just a check list?  Do you consider the words you read or just plow through them?   When we love God’s Word, it will result in a life that pleases God.  The influence of the Word of God will drive us to do what it says.

Love is not our idea, it’s God’s.  John tells us in 1 John 4 that “God is love” and “We love because He first loved us.”  Our perfect Father is the one we are to imitate.  We must seek to keep in step with him by walking in love.  A child will hold an adult’s hand seeking safety and direction.  Women in step with the Spirit will hold onto their Father’s hand allowing him to lead and keep them safe.

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

THE BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD – PSALM 19:7-9

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”  Psalm 19:7-9

The Bible is a big book.  It can be overwhelming to think about reading every page.  This is the reason why so many don’t take the time to read and study God’s Word.  They allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the size of it.  When we approach the reading of the Word, we have to remember that it’s not about how much we read but what we learn when we read.  Our verses in Psalm 19 give us some benefits of studying the Word of God.  Let’s take a look at these benefits and consider them for our lives.

  1. God’s Word is complete. 

There is nothing lacking in the Word of God.  It is perfect referring not only to its completeness but also to the lack of error within it.  There is nothing left out that we need to know about following Jesus.  We will find all we need to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ within the pages.

  1. God’s Word revives us.

The words we read in the Scriptures can change us.  We learn how to change by study of the Word. As followers of Christ we don’t want to stay the same, at least I hope we don’t.  Our goal should be to look more like Jesus every day.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  We have to remember that we aren’t God, and we need to make changes in our life in order to look more like him.

  1. God’s Word can make us wise. 

The study of God’s Word can result in gaining wisdom.  Wisdom is something we should want to have so that we respond well to situations in our lives.  As we learn more about God and our identity in Christ, we gain wisdom– God’s wisdom.  Wisdom is knowledge of God in action, everyday life. Our knowledge and wisdom will grow as we study God’s Word.

  1. God’s Word is right.

The Bible is truth.  It’s not speculations or fantasy.  It’s the real deal, and we are to trust it.  We are to believe it.  The belief in God’s Word being right and true will help us to fight against doubt because it becomes the standard, not our own thinking.

  1. God’s Word will guide us.

As we study and read the word, our eyes will be opened to the truth of sin, the world, and God’s way.  We will learn that our sin requires us to repent, and that we can trust God to forgive us.  The world’s system is revealed to us as false, contrary to God’s way.  We will be guided into God’s way of doing life together as followers of Christ as we study the Word.

  1. God’s Word will last forever.

God’s Word, like himself, will never end and never change.  We can trust the Word that God has given us to be without fault, to be powerful, to never change, and to last forever.  There’s comfort in this firm foundation.

These truths about God’s Word come from only three verses.  There’s so much more about God’s Word and its benefits to be found in the Scriptures.  These benefits encourage us to not be overwhelmed but to take the time to read. As we study the Word, we will grow in spiritual maturity.  Hopefully as followers of Christ, we don’t want to remain as babies on milk but should want to progress to solid food, to maturity.  How do we do this without being overwhelmed with the size of the book?  Does my reading of the Bible become a checklist I need to follow?  Can I really learn and apply rather than just read words?  Here are two suggestions to help you receive the benefits God’s Word offers.

  1. Start by reading a paragraph in a book of the Bible rather than a whole chapter.  This will give you a context without feeling like you are reading more than you can grasp.
  2. Journal about what you read in the paragraph by answering these three questions. What did I learn about God?  What did I learn about man? How can I apply this knowledge to my life?

By keeping the process of reading simple, you will learn rather than be overwhelmed.  There are many benefits of God’s Word.  Don’t miss them because you are fearful to begin.  Let’s get in touch with our Father so that he can teach us, guide us, and love us through his Word.

WOMEN AND EXPERIENCE

Have you ever noticed how much women value experience?  This can lead to wrong ideas such as:

“You don’t understand me because you haven’t experienced my pain.”

            “I don’t want your help because your life is easy compared to mine.”

            “Walk in my shoes, and then you’ll understand.”

            “Don’t talk to me about my children!  What do you know?”

These ideas flow from the idea that experience is the most valuable asset we can have as women.  Experience can be very beneficial but it isn’t the standard by which we are to live.

What happens to our theology when experience rules?

  1. We become man-centered rather than God-centered.  Life becomes about what I experience rather than the truth of God’s Word.  God becomes a tool in our hands rather than the creator of the universe.  We see him as our servant rather than one to be served.  Our prayers become extremely self-centered so that we ask and ask of God what we desire.  Then when we don’t receive those things, God is not for us but against us in some way.  To allow experience to rule our lives is to create an idol of worship.       “Those who make them (idols) become like them, so do all who trust in them.” Psalm 135:18

 

  1. We force the Word of God to say what our experience is saying. In other words, we don’t use the context in which the Word was written, but instead use our context of experience.  This is done quite often in Bible studies for women, which is really sad.  The reason it keeps being done is because women gobble up the experience driven study.  It feels good to know that God was really talking about them when he had Moses write Exodus.  How sad for us that we don’t have enough discernment to see this as wrongly dividing the Word of truth.  To allow experience to be the context of God’s Word is to erase the real story of the Word which is Jesus Christ.    “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.(Jesus)” Luke 24:27

 

  1. We miss valuable input from our brothers and sisters in Christ when we dismiss them because of their lack of experience. Every believer should be seeking knowledge of the Lord.  It’s the knowledge of the Lord that helps us  live this life well.  Just because someone hasn’t experienced our circumstances doesn’t mean they can’t point us to the one who can give hope and comfort.   To allow experience to be our standard in relationships is to miss how the Lord can use someone in our lives to point us to him.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”      2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Is there value in experience?

Yes, there is value in our experiences.  The value is not that we experienced something in our lives, but that we’ve experienced God’s work in our lives.  We place more value on the actual experience then we do on what God has done in that experience.  Paul talks about his experiences in 2 Corinthians 11-12.  He lays out for the Corinthian Church all he has gone through for the sake of the gospel.  Even when he does that he says, “I am speaking as a fool”. (Verse 21)  In the end, it’s not his experiences that are the most important.  After all he has gone through for the gospel, he still has a weakness which he cries out for God to take away.  He experiences this daily.  It’s hard for him, but he doesn’t look for someone else who’s experiencing it for help; he looks to God.  Paul gives us God’s answer; it’s about him and not about experience.

“…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9a

Our experience isn’t the answer; the grace of God is the answer.  The truth of his Word is the answer.  God’s character is the answer.  We will go much farther if we begin to trust in the right thing.  We all go through experiences differently, but God never changes.

Let’s change our idea of experience from being man-centered to being God-centered.                     How?  Experience God at work in your experience rather than putting value on the experience itself!