Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sin Affects Our Relationship With Christ

The sin of _____________________ (fill in the blank) affects our relationship with Christ.  My sin of _____________________ is not as bad as his/her sin, we tell ourselves.

But, no matter what our pet sin happens to be, it will affect our relationship with Christ.  As long as we justify our sin of greed, gossip, slander, adultery, homosexuality, critical spirit, etc. (the Bible calls all of these sin), our relationship with Christ will never be what it could be and should be.  Sin separates.  All sin separates.  Yours is not worse than mine and mine is not worse than yours, though consequences do vary.

Because God is a forgiving God, a God of mercy and grace, we can ask for forgiveness but we must have repentant hearts.  Repentance means turning from the sin and going away from it.The Scripture says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

If we desire a closer walk with Christ, we must confess our sins, turn from them, get in His Word, spend time in prayer and the God of peace will rule in our hearts.  "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)  When we truly delight in Him, our desires will become what He desires for us and our relationship with Christ is much sweeter.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

God Knows What It Takes

What does it take for me to become what God wants me to be?  Or, what do I have to experience for me to surrender my whole life to Him?

God knows the answer.  He knows exactly what it takes - what experiences, difficulties, troubles and afflictions it takes to mold me into His likeness.  He knows what it takes to make me a usable servant in His Kingdom.

As I prepared and taught a study on the life of Joseph (Abraham's great grandson - Genesis 37-50), I marveled at the many injustices in his life - many he did not deserve.  Joseph suffered from the hands of his own brothers who sold him into slavery.  He was falsely accused and thrown into prison and was forgotten by those he had helped.  But, God knew exactly what it would take for Joseph to become the servant God would use to save lives - the lives of Joseph's own family- God's chosen people.

After Joseph's father died, his brothers, who had played a big role in the injustices against Joseph, feared he would retaliate.  Instead, Joseph calmed them with these words:  "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  (Genesis 50:19-20)

Joseph had seen the Sovereignty of God in his life.  All his life's experiences prepared him to become the leader in Egypt who was in a position to save lives.  God knew what it would take in Joseph's life and He knows what it takes in our lives for us to become the servant He has called us to be.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Words Matter

Proverbs 18:21 - "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (NIV)

Do you remember the one negative criticism made to you rather than the twenty encouraging comments?  My memory is that of an elephant when it comes to remembering the criticism or put-down thrust at me.  Yet, I often forget the words of encouragement sent my way.

Words are so powerful ("the power of life and death").  Words can encourage or words can destroy.  We actually choose whether we will use words to build up or tear down - encourage or discourage.

We need to ask ourselves if our words to someone today will be the negative comment they remember or will our words lift up and encourage someone in need of a kind word?  We make the choice.  In James 1:26 we find some very powerful and poignant words concerning the tongue.  "If anyone considers himself to be religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."

Today, let us choose to keep a tight reign on our tongue and use it to bless someone with an uplifting and encouraging word.

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." (Proverbs 25:11)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Elijah, A Man Just Like Us

Was Elijah a man just like us?  In the book of James, the Scriptures state, "Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and one half years.  Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." (James 5:17-18 NIV)  The account of Elijah's victory over the prophets of Baal to which James is referring is found in 1 Kings 18.  But, was Elijah really a man just like us?

As I have studied the life of the prophet Elijah, I have seen so many characteristics, qualities, talents, abilities and gifts that I certainly do not have!  His obedience certainly exceeds mine!  But, he was a man (a human being).  He had his weaknesses just as we do (and God lets us see some of his weaknesses toward the end of his story), but he sure had a boldness I, and many others lack.

I think James is telling us that Elijah did not have any special or extra powers but he prayed to the same God to whom we pray.  This passage also stands as a warning to remember not to place a man in too high esteem--no matter how godly he/she is because he/she is still a man/woman just like us.
We have the same opportunity for prayer that Elijah had and the same Holy God to whom we pray.  So, pray!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Find Freedom in Forgiveness

If you are familiar with Jacob's son, Joseph, you will not be surprised to find him as the subject of how to find freedom in forgiveness.  Joseph was mistreated by his older brothers when he was a young man of 17.  The brothers' original plan was to kill Joseph but they sold him into slavery to some Midianite merchants for 20 shekels of silver.

Joseph became a servant in the household of Potiphar until Potiphar's wife falsely accused him .  He was then thrown into prison and was forgotten.  The Scripture says God was with Joseph and blessed him.  (We don't usually think someone is being blessed when they are in slavery or in prison!)

Pharaoh had some disturbing dreams that no one was able to interpret.  His cupbearer remembered that Joseph had interpreted his dream when he was in prison and it had turned out just as Joseph had said so  Pharaoh sent for Joseph.  Joseph assured Pharaoh he could not interpret dreams, but God could. God used Joseph to interpret Pharaoh's dreams and as a result, Joseph was placed in charge of all Egypt - just under Pharaoh.

When Joseph's family began suffering from the famine (which Joseph had foretold because of Pharaoh's dreams), they came to Egypt for food.  They thought Joseph was dead so they never dreamed he would be the one in charge of the food they so desperately needed.  After a time of testing his brothers to see if they had changed, he revealed his identity to them.  They were terrified! (Genesis 45:3)  They remembered what they had done to their brother but Joseph quickly assured them with these words: "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you." (Genesis 45:4-5)

How could Joseph say these words to his brothers after all the suffering he had been through?   

Our Sunday School class is studying the life of Joseph and I asked them Sunday to think about these questions: How can we forgive someone who has hurt us deeply?  How can we forgive someone who has not even admitted they have hurt us?  How can we forgive someone who has not even asked for forgiveness?  These all applied to Joseph - he had been hurt deeply, his brothers had not admitted to him they had hurt him and they had not asked for forgiveness.  He forgave them anyway because God was with him and it is the only way to experience freedom.  Joseph was able to accomplish his God-sized task because he had been set free from unforgiveness.  

In Genesis 50:19-21, Joseph reassured his brothers again of his forgiveness with these words: "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don't be afraid.  I will provide for you and your children.  And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them."


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

God Still Honors Obedience

The obedience in the Christmas story amazes me.  I am in awe of Mary and Joseph's obedience.  When Mary was chosen to do a very difficult thing - bear a child as an unwed mother - she said, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38)

When Joseph was told not to be afraid to take Mary home to be his wife (a woman who was pregnant and not by him!), he did exactly that.  Matthew 1:24 " . . . .he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."

The shepherds' obedience is also amazing.  When they were told of Jesus' birth and where they could find the Christ-child, they left their charges (sheep), their life's work for a time, to go see this One who was to be the Savior of the world.  They didn't make excuses or tell the angel how busy they were, they simply hurried off to find this One.  After seeing Him, they spread the word concerning what they had been told about this child.

God honored Mary, Joseph and the shepherds' obedience and He still desires and honors obedience today.  Oh, to have the trust, belief and obedience of Mary and Joseph.  Oh, to be willing to leave what I am doing (my busyness) so I can truly see Christ as the shepherds did.

As we are at the beginning of a new year, may we strive to have the servant heart of Mary and the obedience we see in Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Be Careful of Self-Sufficiency, Idleness and Boredom

During the time David was fleeing from Saul (the king who wanted him dead), the close relationship David had with his LORD is so evident.  In the midst of this difficult time, David penned Psalm 56 and Psalm 34.  

The words found in Psalm 34:1-3 give us a glimpse into the kind of fellowship David had with God.  "I will extol the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.  My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His Name together." 

David's life changed.  Saul died and David became king just as God had promised him.  In his powerful position, he could have most anything he wanted.  Everyone was at his beck and call.  He possibly became somewhat self-sufficient and did not depend on God as he once had.

Then - the time came when David began shirking his duty.  He became idle - possibly bored ("In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army.  They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.  But David remained in Jerusalem." 2 Samuel 11:1)

David was not where he was supposed to be as the king of the Israelites and he fell from the close, intimate relationship he had experienced with God.  His fall included adultery.  Our fall may be something completely different.  But, idleness, being too comfortable, having more than we need can cause us to become self-sufficient rather than depending on our All-Sufficient God.

Be careful.  If it can happen to David, it can happen to you and me.