bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

His Lifeline of Love

In a surge of anger I hid my 
face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah 
would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry 
with you,never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken 
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will
not be shaken nor my covenant of 
peace be removed,” says the Lord, 
who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

I recently stumbled upon these verses while doing a study of Genesis. As you read above, verse nine discusses “the days of Noah” and recounts the covenant God made with Noah after the flood waters receded. Noah then built an altar in remembrance of all from which God had delivered him. In witnessing Noah’s obedience, God established a covenant of peace with Noah, promising him that never again would he wipe out all of mankind in anger (Gen. 8:20-22). 

When God called Noah to build the ark and spared his family from the worldwide destruction, God extended Noah a lifeline of love. Because he had compassion on Noah and truly loved mankind, God created a way out of death by giving Noah clear guidance for surviving the flood.

God showed Noah that while yes, sin had entered the world and man was disobedient, that He still loved His creation. We often get caught up on God’s wrath by sending the flood in the first place. Mass destruction and death seems a bit harsh. But if God was so harsh, then why did he save Noah? He could’ve wiped out all of mankind on Earth and started over, but His steadfast love for Noah and his offspring prevailed. God showed Noah that no matter how bad things got on Earth, His lifeline of love would always be there for those who trust in Him with complete obedience. 

That lifeline shown to Noah, is Jesus. When the Lord states, in Isaiah 54:10, that his steadfast love shall not depart from you – He is talking about His son Jesus. You see, from Noah until now, we as believers all still hold on to the same lifeline that Noah, Abraham, Moses and David held onto.

The covenant God established with all those men was the covenant of His Son. The promise that one day, there would be complete restoration of all sinners who call on His name and that those holding on to the lifeline of His steadfast love, would all be brought into the glories of heaven. 

Though 2020 has seemed like a worldwide disaster – think again. There will be the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord because of the power of God they see all around them. God’s steadfast love for us believers never expires. We have the eternal hope of God’s love forever – into eternity. 

This is love: not that we loved God, 
but that he loved us and sent his 
Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10

Until then, we hold fast to His lifeline of love. Hold fast to the God that established His covenant with ordinary people like Noah and Abraham and you and me. Through His son Jesus Christ, he once again established his eternal love with us – until the day we see him again. 

God’s love is abundant to those who trust in Him. He cares for us and loves us as His children – are you resting in that truth today?  Have you accepted your side of the covenant?

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Isaiah 43:4
bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Promise of Wisdom

Then the eyes of those who see will 
no longer be closed, and the ears 
of those who hear will listen.
The fearful heart will know and 
understand,and the stammering 
tongue will be fluent and clear.
Isaiah 32:3-4

When I started going to church regularly about 20 years ago, I thought for sure I was the least knowledgeable christian in the sanctuary.  I knew, for certain, that all the hundreds of other church members in attendance certainly knew the Bible inside and out and they had zero questions about what the pastor was saying.  That also meant that there was no way I was going to share my faith with anyone.  I wasn’t even sure what my faith really was all about.  And people might ask me questions.  

This fearful possibility reminds me of that show “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.”  When a contestant was unsure or downright stymied by a question, they could use a lifeline.  My favorite was to “Call A Friend.”  I always wondered what my reaction would be if I was the friend that got called.  I mean, you could be asked any random question and your friend’s chance at a million dollars could be on the line!

If only there were an encyclopedia-type book that was like that lifeline and it gave us answers about God.  You know, a book that would help us gain wisdom about God’s character and His promises.  A sort of history of how God has worked throughout the ages.  If there were such a book then I bet all christians would memorize it from end to end.  Their eyes would be opened to the majesty of God’s authority.  Their hearts would know how He wants the best for us and we would stop being fearful.  We would gain wisdom to be able to fluently and clearly share the Good News about salvation and eternity.  And, of course, we know such a helpful book exists – the Bible.

I have a christian friend who believes the Bible is just “some book written by men.”  And yet we could say the same about our very own selves.  We are in fact created by a man and a woman coming together and creating us.  But that doesn’t negate God’s Holy hand in our creation.  To dismiss the Bible as having been divinely commissioned is truly to dismiss God’s hand in all of creation.  And yes, we can nitpick over the specifics of a word – be it the Greek translation or the Hebrew – but even when we do that we are led to even greater understanding of the Almighty.  He promises that if we take the time to get to know Him, he will bless us tenfold. Ah, there’s that covenant, that agreement.

I spent the first 15 years of my christian life barely cracking open this amazing lifeline to the promises and wisdom of God.  It started when the church I was attending began encouraging us to pick up the pew Bible and start taking notes in it.  Oh, the heresy!  It’s funny now to think how uncomfortable so many people felt taking this action.  

This year, my BSGs have made it a point to select Bible studies which require us to do just that —  actually study the Bible.  We’ve done studies which focused on one chapter in one book (Proverb 31).  We’ve studied 1 & 2 Kings and discovered how much of the land around Jerusalem is still the same today.  And we’ve spent time in studies which take us on a broad spectrum of verses about what God wants from us as believers.  We’ve gnawed and chewed and scribbled in and soaked up our Bibles like never before.  We’ve grabbed a hold of our chance at a priceless prize – the knowledge of God and His unfailing love for us.

The Bible is an amazing, almost magical creation.  It seems to change each time I read it.  I believe when we grasp a Bible lesson, God, like the game show host, brings us up a notch and presents us with more chances to gain wisdom.  We get deeper as we learn not just about the basic words but how the people of that time lived, how the politics of the time were playing out, and the values they held dear.  We get insight when we see the more than 4,000 connections between the Old and New Testaments.

The people of the Bible were at a disadvantage.  We get to see the beginning, middle and end of the entire story.  But so often when the possibility of sharing His Word arises, we look like that contestant who’s been asked about nuclear physics.  

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now 
what I am doing, but later you 
will understand.”
John 13:7

Today is later.  That book on the shelf is God’s promise of wisdom for us.  One of the other lifelines on “Who Wants to be A Millionaire” is called “ask the expert.”  And while it’s good to have christian friends that can be a resource isn’t it nice to know we have an expert waiting to speak to us day and night through His Holy Word?  That sounds like a winning strategy to me.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Addition of Peace

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

As I write this, we are only a few weeks away from Christmas.  Around this time, we frequently see the phrase, “Peace on Earth!”  But like so many popularized snippets in the Bible the meaning can be confused when interpreted from a worldly point of view.  “Peace” so often means a lack of something – strife, war, noise, chaos.  But in God’s universe, it is an addition of something.

The misconstrued meaning of God’s peace

Having grown up in San Diego I had the fortunate experience of learning to sail.  As a Girl Scout, I started out in small, one-man sabots.  Eventually, I became skilled at sailing catamarans and larger sloops.  I’ve even been a crew member on an old sailing ship which sailed the 31 miles from Long Beach Harbor across the ocean to Santa Catalina Island.  What an amazing trip!  On many of those sailboats you’ll find what’s called a set of lifelines.  They run from stem to stern along the edge of the boat.  Its purpose? To be used as a last chance handhold before plunging into the water.

That’s how I see God’s peace brought into our world and more specifically my life. Peace, as brought about by the coming of Jesus, is not the lack of something, it’s the addition of our new lifeline. God promises throughout the Old Testament that He will send His messenger to wipe way our tears and to bring us salvation. And when Jesus arrived, so many people misunderstood His purpose. It was not to become an earthly king and conquer all our physical adversaries. He came to teach us that His ways are higher and His love for us so great. You see God doesn’t always want to change our circumstances, but He always seeks to change us. When we study how Jesus handled strife and chaos and follow in His ways we live in peace.

Peace I leave with you; 
my peace I give you. 
I do not give to you as 
the world gives. Do not 
let your hearts be troubled 
and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

This bringing of His Peace – the incarnation of Jesus – was more clearly defined for me this year.  About 11 months ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  I love my mother-in-law as my own mom.  She has taught me so much about Jesus and His ways.  She has shown me grace when I didn’t deserve it.  She has provided a warm and loving place for me to land when life has been too much.  I had been praying fervently for a more positive diagnosis.  

So that day, I went for a long walk through our nearby, secluded canyons and yelled out loud at God.  Yes, I yelled at the Almighty.  I pleaded with Him to not take her from me yet.  My heart, mind and soul were the opposite of peace.  And like the boat lifeline, He suddenly placed Himself between me and going off the deep end.  His Holy Spirit stood square in front of me and reminded me that death is not the end.  He showed me that when the day comes for my beloved mother-in-law to leave this world it would be a joyous one for her.  You see, she would be reunited with her own mother.  He showed me a picture of the two of them playing their favorite card games, teasing each other, and laughing their heads off.  And it made me smile.  It filled me with joy.  

I had accepted God’s peace.  There’s the covenant agreement.  He sent His Peace On Earth in the form of His Son.  And I accepted it.  I frequently try giving it back, but less and less as I place my trust more firmly in Him.

This year of 2020 had been very difficult for many.  As a Christian I have grasped a hold of God’s lifeline so often to stay in His peace.  It’s important for us to remember that God wants us to live in today, not yesterday or tomorrow.  So, when we dream blissfully about how much better 2021 “just has to be,” we make the mistake of missing out on how good God can be for us right now.  We miss out on the opportunity to live in His peace.

There has never been a year in the history of the world, after Eden, where there was not disease, strife, war, death and pain.  And 2021 will be no different.  But God’s promised peace is our lifeline.  It will guard our hearts and minds.  No matter the dark seas on either side, we can rest in the knowledge of His love and our eternal salvation.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

A Promised Foundation

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;

    he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness.

He will be the sure foundation for your times,

    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

Isaiah 33:5-6

I don’t know about you but I sure can use some stability this year.  As a child my life, viewed from the outside, looked very stable.  My parents were married, we had a nice home, two kids, dogs, cats, a little garden in the backyard.  I was a Girl Scout and did well in school.  And I felt so alone.  

I blamed all my family problems on moving from the Los Angeles area down to San Diego when I was in 4thgrade.  Everything seemed to change.  My mom was extremely unhappy and angry so often and my father rarely spoke.  My brother was fast approaching a time when the hidden timebomb of a manic-depressive disorder would take over his life.  My parents weren’t what you might call a “team.”  Having the benefit of hindsight, I realize now it had nothing to do with the move and everything to do with a lack of a solid rock within our family unit.

Not being raised in a Christian (or any faith) environment I found myself searching for stability through my parents and then friends and boyfriends.  As my mother’s own mental health issues began coinciding with my brother’s, the atmosphere around my house became so volatile so I searched for peace and love through insecure friendships and lopsided romantic relationships.  This led to competitive relationships and risky sexual behavior.   All the while I longed for a firm foundation to set my hopes, my fears, and my need to find joy.

Thankfully, through God and a wonderful husband, I have found that “sure foundation,” as written by the prophet Isaiah.  The promise God makes in this passage is that He is our solid rock, He is the stability for which we all yearn.  He is the same today as he was yesterday.  And He will be the same tomorrow.  There’s no rug pulled out from under us.  There’s no switching of loyalties.  There’s no character flaw that suddenly comes to light and bites us.  He is perfect.  He is solid.  He is the “rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”

Lest we miss the agreement part of this promise let me remind you of the last sentence of Isaiah 33:5-6: “The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”  There’s that other half of the covenant.  Our part in this relationship requires us to exalt God and respect His place in the universe.  He is God and we are not.  And when we try to place others above Him, they will surely crumble, at some point. 

I was reading today about an astronaut’s “lifeline.”  NASA (the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) considers there to be two lifeline systems for astronauts:

“From lift off through landing, the astronauts aboard the Shuttle along with the thousands of people supporting the flight on Earth depend on NASA’s team of experts to manage this complex communication system. Maintaining good communications is critical.  The lifeline is comprised of two systems – a ground-based network composed of communication stations, and a space network operating orbiting satellites. As the Shuttle orbits the Earth, the NASA team monitors and continually adjusts the communication pathways to ensure that command, tracking, telemetry, video, and voice communications are clear and secure. “

I like that visual – a large team of incredibly talented people making sure our astronauts in space are able to accomplish their mission goals and come home safely.  As Christians we have our own talented team that makes up our solid rock – God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. 
You believe in God; believe also in me.
John 14:1

When we live in constant communication with our Holy team, they can continually monitor our progress, provide a firm foundation, and keep us on the right track – completing the mission and bringing us safely home.