30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Promise Keeper

“Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

Faithful Father, you have never lied and you never will.  I believe you.  Amen

I had a Christian woman tell me this once: “I know God has forgiven me.  But it’s hard for me to believe it.  It’s too hard for me to forgive myself.”  That’s why I nodded along when I heard a Christian teacher once say that there’s too many of us out there that have accepted our Lord as Savior but we just aren’t living our lives like we believe His promises.  It’s even hard for me sometimes when I look in the mirror to see what God sees.  To believe He loves me, blemishes and all.  It’s hard to believe He will take care of me without my striving and worrying.  But He will.

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

He has never, ever lied my friend.  He never, ever will.  What might happen, however, is that He will fulfill a promise in ways you didn’t expect.  Or in ways you may not agree or understand.  In fact, when I was doing a bit of research about God’s promises I found a blog that refuted God fulfilling promises.  In truth, the person sounded very wounded.  He also sounded poorly educated about God’s character and His ways.  His first example was of Genesis 2:17 when God admonishes Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, “…for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  The blogger explained that not only had they eaten the fruit but they went on to live for more than 900 years.

What he missed is 1) their immediate death was a loss of the close spiritual relationship with God and their sinlessness and 2) they did, in fact die.  You see, when we look at God’s promises without a knowledge of Him and through our own broken lenses we can miss God at work.  If we, instead, believe that God is the only perfect being to exist and His ways are always right then we ask better questions and submit to Him in trust.  

I recently had a conversation with a godly woman about women as pastors.  Having become more educated about scripture I felt confident in holding my own – as she said the Bible has conflicting lessons about this topic.  My first comment was this: “God’s Word is never in conflict.  If you see conflict you are either misunderstanding context, historical meaning, or having translation issues.  Understanding that parts of God’s will and God’s promises may be difficult to accept also helps us to realize our sinful desires rarely line up with God.

Friend, if you are struggling to accept that God will not back out of a promise to you, turn back to His Word.  He is faithful.  More faithful than anyone will ever be in your life.   And for that we can celebrate with glory to Him!

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, politics, Uncategorized

The Heart of the Matter

“And I am so angry I wish I were dead.”  Jonah 4:9

I’ve shared before about the miraculous year I had doing God’s will during our 100 Lunches project.  When Jesus first spoke to me, directing me to make 100 lunches and deliver them to the homeless in downtown San Diego I had no idea the lessons He had in store for me.  Initially, I thought it was just a need that He directed me to fill.  My spiritual gifts were perfect to complete this task – or so I thought.  What began as a one-time submission to God became a year-long lesson in trust, compassion, faithfulness and humility.  Definitely not traits I would’ve confidently listed amongst my gifts.

With each passing day that year, God placed new trials and new opportunities for me to finally grasp what He really wanted of me.  I could administer any program at my church, work or other organization.  I’m organized, comfortable with leadership, a successful multitasker, and can teach readily.  As long as I was in charge life was good, so it seemed.  Until someone was unhappy with me or disagreed with me.  Or I hurt someone’s feelings.  Or I felt overlooked and unappreciated.  Praying came after the fall, if at all.

But the Spirit of God came upon me that fateful day.  I like to think of God seeing my potential.  My new beginning.  And He knew with some pruning and care I could shake off many of my old ways and start working on new ones.  Starting with praying to Him to help me make the change.  And learning that God wants our heart first, above all, so that it’s our heart that pours out to the world.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. Jonah 1:2-3

The story of Jonah and the whale rank up there with Noah and his ark as being widely known by Christians and non-Christians alike.  Jonah tried to get away from God, jumped overboard, was swallowed by a giant fish, prayed to God and God spit him out onto the shore.  A nice story of turning back to God in faith, right?  But in these four little chapters there’s so much more!  There are lessons on being a “I’m fine, it’s fine” sleepy Christian.  Lessons like Moses experienced when he told God he wasn’t up for the job.  Lessons on how one person can help save so many.  

Jonah was actually a man of great faith.  He knew that if he went to Nineveh, a sworn enemy of the Jews and well-known for its evil ways, God would most likely use him to rescue the people there.  But Jonah’s patriotism got in the way of his faith.  So, he resigned as God’s prophet.  He didn’t want his new beginning to look like betrayal back home.  But God gets His way no matter how hard we try to thwart Him!  

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah 3:3

So yes, Jonah sees how amazing His God is while sitting in the mouth of a giant fish and prays, remembering how God saved him before and asking for him to do it again.  And Jonah finds himself once more pressed on toward Nineveh.

While there he spreads God’s message that in 40 days the city would be destroyed because of their wicked ways.  But there’s something missing.  Within this story you will not find a message from Jonah on how to stop this destruction.  You won’t find compassion and love for these 1,000s of people.  He states the fact, does it efficiently and without pause.  In three days this one man had reached the ears of every citizen, including the king.  Pretty impressive right?  And although God loved the fact that they believed and turned from their evil ways you can’t help but think the real target of this lesson was just one man – Jonah.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. Jonah 3:10-4:1

Jonah had the gifts of prophecy, faith, evangelism and apparently administration.  And he begrudgingly used them.  Where God saw an amazing new beginning as a man who could help bring so many to faith, Jonah saw embarrassment and shame.  He didn’t want to go home to face his people who hated the Nineveh citizens and be known as a traitor.  He stopped remembering that God loves everyone and God can work miracles in all our lives, even our enemies.

In chapter 4, Jonah is like the Prodigal Son’s elder brother – critical, selfish, sullen, angry and unhappy with what was going on.  It isn’t enough for God’s servants simply to do their Master’s will; they must do “the will of God from the heart.” Eph 6:6

Warren Wiersbe

So as Jonah sits on the hill outside town in the last chapter of this amazing story God takes another shot at softening Jonah’s heart.  He provides another lesson for him to experience and learn.  Because God is love He doesn’t give up on us.  He wants our new beginnings to be filled with love and compassion.  I love this quote from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Jonah:

“The deeper your trouble, the greater are your possibilities of adoration.”

When I first went into our 100 Lunches project, I was certain I could complete this simple task with efficiency and ease like Jonah.  But God put me on the hill, overlooking all that I had done that first week and said, “You have much more to learn.”  

With each distribution of lunches He said, “do it again, this time like this.”  He showed me how to be ok with people turning me down when I asked for help.  And how to be grateful when people came out of nowhere to help. He taught me how to slow down and look the hurting in the eye and offer a kind word or even a gentle touch.  He reminded me to trust in Him, to love Him.  He answered prayers which encouraged me to pray even more.  He allowed me to be loved by society’s “unwashed”, giving me the opportunity to tell them of God’s glory and provision. 

Jonah’s story ends without a word from him letting us know he “got it.”  His last lines are the first in this look at Jonah – “I wish I were dead.”  God’s last words are about His love and care for all people – no matter their nationality, financial status, religion, or sins.  Think of the amazing new life Jonah could’ve had when he left Nineveh.  Not just knowing about God, not just having faith that God is in charge.  But loving God and loving the fact that He wants us to live like Him, in love.  

Jonah’s faith was a divided one.  He held onto his patriotism and pride with a vengeance.  It caused him to withhold his love and compassion.  When we think of the Bible’s greatest lessons about love, 1 Corinthians 13 probably comes to mind. In verses 4-13 Paul tells us what love is. So many think these passages are about romantic love but in the context of the entire letter it’s about how we serve out God’s will with our gifts. In a way, the more important lessons are in verses 1-3. The lesson God was trying to teach Jonah. The lesson which can help us all in our new beginnings as God’s servants.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor 13: 1-3

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Friendship

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;  Matthew 11:11

It’s been quite a few years but the period of time where I felt I had zero friends still brings a bit of sadness.  I was in the midst of mild depression, hormonal changes, medical issues and family changes.  As I evaluated the relationships I had outside my family I realized I lacked any true friends.  Many acquaintances, but no friends I could solidly rely upon.   There’s many of us that have gone through or are currently in that lonely place.   God, from the beginning, decided we shouldn’t be alone and when we are we feel that sense of incompleteness.

What I love about the quote from Jesus today is how He showed the world how much He loved and valued friendship.  Imagine a friend elevating you to such heights! When my youngest daughter went off to college she discovered this type of friendship.  I still remember the phone call when she told me she had finally realized what true, loving friendship means. 

“When she introduces me she starts out saying what an amazing writer I am and how talented I am.  She is so proud of me and excited to walk alongside me in life without jealousy or competition,” my daughter explained about her friend.  Isn’t that the type of friendship we all need?  Ones where we lift each other up and comfort each other when we are down?  People who jump at the chance to help us and just live life with us?  

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:10

I’ve come a long way from that sad time in my life.  I turned to God and the Holy Spirit for help.  I asked for good women to come into my life and they have.  I’ve had to do a lot of work on my end – as God has revealed the reasons I was in that place to begin with.  I needed to learn to be the friend I desired to have.

Let’s thank God for giving us the yearning for friendship.  Let’s thank God for helping fill that yearning.  And although we are never truly alone because of our fellowship with the Almighty, He wants us in Christian fellowship to guide us in our sanctification journey.  Our first step is to ask Him to fulfill this need.  And then we need to go to work.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

A Plan for Us

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d get married.  Partially because I just wasn’t raised thinking about marriage and partially because I was the product of a marriage based on very little respect for each other.  For many years, God allowed me to live my life in sexual sin.  I went from one man to another, sometimes only passing through in the night.  But God always has a plan for each and every one of us.  For me, that plan included being given the gift of a wonderful husband. 

In our early years, my husband and I weren’t faithful followers of Jesus.  But he, at least, had a Christian background from which to draw.  When I look back over our first 10 years of marriage I can see where I am grateful for that tension of knowing some of what God expected from us as a couple.  I say “tension” because whenever we live outside of God’s narrow path we can either 1) live like we don’t have a clue that what we are doing is ungodly or 2) have some concept of ungodliness which can then pull us into learning more.  We will be judged in the end so I’d rather not be oblivious to my sins and take the opportunity to work on them!

In our marriage we struggled for control.  Control of who would be the head of our household.  Control of our finances.  Control over long term decisions for our family.  Over discipline of our kids.  Over our time management.    Looking back, I was only doing what I had learned in my family home.  A weak father figure gives way to a power vacuum.  On the other hand, my husband came from a strong, godly father-led family.  And so the back and forth went on and on.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  Genesis 3:2-3

There’s a lot of talk in feminist circles and the media about the “patriarchy” and how men shouldn’t “keep women down.”  But from the beginning God had a very clear plan for women and men.  Women were to be the “helpers,” assisting their Adams to be the best men they could be.  Like a good golf caddy, this is no job to take lightly.  Yet we arrive at Genesis 3 and Eve immediately forgoes her heavenly role.  Instead of seeking wisdom from her husband she is drawn to the words of the serpent.  The fleshly desires pull her farther and farther away from God’s plan. 

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12

And the result?  As you can read above the entire plan is turned upside down.  Eve takes the lead and Adam falls into a weak position of blame.  Eve is punished by God for her role in the Great Fall with painful childbirth and the knowledge that men will rule over her.  But when you read the punishment of Adam, he receives a harsh future that effects every area of his life.  

I have to be honest and say that every marriage I have been around that was in serious trouble was a direct result of this upside down relationship.  That’s not to say there aren’t men who disobey God’s command to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25).  But so often in our modern world and as a result of the feminist movement which started in the 70s, women have jostled or demanded control in their relationships. Like all actions that go against God’s holy plan we see the results with weak husbands and overbearing wives.  And wives who underneath it all desire a man to stand up for them, to take charge, to love them to the point of sacrifice.  

Women of God, the idea of submitting to our husbands or future husbands does not mean we are second class citizens.  You’ll notice in Genesis 3:16 Eve’s punishment was to have men rule over her.  Therefore, it wasn’t God’s plan for men to “rule” over her in the first place.  Thankfully Jesus came to give us a new covenant, reminding us that although there is still a hierarchy of responsibility, every person is of equal value. A helper doesn’t mean you are less than the one being helped.  It’s taken me awhile to truly understand this.  What it means is we trust God’s plan.  And if we have chosen wisely, we trust our husbands who also trust God.  We trust them to take care of the family business.  We trust they will have our best interest in mind.  We trust they love us so much they want us to be content. 

If our husbands are not trustworthy in those areas or men of faith, who are we to blame?

He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 1 Kings 11:3

King Solomon was considered one of the wisest men of all time.  Yet it was his wives that managed to turn him away from God, to lead him astray.  Our role as our husband’s life caddy is so important that we can’t let what the world says about feminism and submission sway us from following God’s plan.  A good and godly wife holds so much sway over her husband.  And the world laughs at us thinking a bigger paycheck or fancy job title is what’s most important.  Our work in helping our husbands will take us a lifetime — much of the time simply modeling godly behavior, control over our emotions, showing love, showing faith in the Almighty and our men.

Eve’s veering from God’s plan, leading her husband to a great sin, can make me so angry at times.  But then I think about the times I placed myself above my husband and ask for mercy.  It took a lot of intentional work on my part to step back and encourage and teach my husband how to place himself at the head of our family.  He didn’t think I needed him, ever.  

Friends, whether you are a husband, wife, or not yet married we must stand resolutely against how the world wants to define marriage.  We can’t let the world define what “submission” looks like in God’s world.  His great plan for man and woman, joined together in harmony is just the example for what is the final plan.  The ultimate marriage between Jesus and His bride will be full of love, joy, beauty and compassion.  Let’s start today with making those fruits part of our earthly marriages.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Ripples of Pride

Lesson #10: Make Jesus the King of every aspect of your life, especially the parts you grasp tight control over.

“The pride of your heart has deceived 
you, you who live in the clefts of the 
rocks and make your home on the heights, 
you who say to yourself, “Who can bring 
me down to the ground?” 
Obadiah 1:3

My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) now know each others’ longstanding mini-kingdoms that we like to control.  When we are asked questions in various studies about our sins we laugh and say, “Oh, I can answer that for you!”  This is why I love these ladies.  We have opened our lives to each other in trust.  And, we expect to be held accountable for growth in our troublesome areas.  I, for one, had an epiphany a month ago about one of my mini kingdoms which brought me a bit of embarrassment along with conviction.

These last few months I’ve really struggled with how angry I become when I head out for all my errands.  My irritation and annoyance with people in general was heightened with the COVID related rules and fears.  I’d see a person alone in their car with a double breather mask on and wanted to roll down my window and scream at them.  The one-way rules for the grocery store aisles frustrated me when I found myself accidently going the wrong way and got dirty looks.  People were either too slow, too lazy, or too dumb – in my opinion.  I kept it all bottled up and would arrive home in turmoil.  And then one day, while doing my Bible study, it hit me.  My problem was pride.  

“When pride comes, then comes 
disgrace, but with humility comes 
wisdom.” 
Proverbs 11:2

Yep, I was being the queen of “Miss Know It All” land.  And I had to admit it to my group.  It wasn’t until that conviction hit me that God could then begin the re-building process.  I’m now praying each day I leave my house that the Holy Spirit will remind me to live as a loving, compassionate, forgiving person.

In this week’s small Bible book, we hear from the prophet Obadiah.  As prophets go, he’s not all that well known.  In fact, there’s quite a lot of disagreement about who he was and about what time period he prophesized.  But what we do know was he came to warn the people of Edom about their prideful ways.

Edom was a city from the line of Esau.  You might remember him as Jacob’s brother.  And ever since Jacob illicitly received Isaac’s family blessings there was enmity between the two brothers.  One of the great, longstanding feuds began that day.  

So, hundreds of years later we find ourselves in Edom, who conspired with Judah’s enemies to overthrow Jerusalem.  And God is not happy.

“Though you soar like the eagle and 
make your nest among the stars, from 
there I will bring you down, declares 
the LORD.” 
Obadiah 1:4

Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s people, some of whom actually had the cloud of God living among them, attempt to take control over every situation.  They conspired with enemies, took the opposite path, demanded earthly kings, worshipped other idols to bring favorable weather.  We have the benefit of looking through the entire Bible and shaking our head in disbelief.  “Why didn’t they just do what God directed them to do?” one of my Bible study questions asked.  I can only look at my own life and ask myself the same question.

“For everything in the world – the 
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, 
and the pride of life – comes not from 
the Father but from the world.” 
1 John 2:16

When we build up our own mini kingdoms, be it about finances, our care and keeping of our children, our jobs, our social life, our health, and so on we seek to place ourselves higher than God.  Our pride tells us that we know better.

And the Edomites thought they knew best.  They were going to destroy Judah through alliances with her enemies.  Meanwhile the Edomites, who built their city high up in the mountains as sturdy fortresses, were sure that no harm would come to them.

“But how Esau will be ransacked, 
his hidden treasures pillaged!” 
Obadiah 1:6

The thing about God though is that so often instead of an outright destruction of our mini kingdoms we get hit from the flank.  We demand or beg to be in charge and He sits back and says, “Ok, have at it.”  And we think we’ve won the battle.  And then the stress comes, the destroyed relationships, lost sleep, ulcers, and more.  And yet some of us hold on tighter because our pride won’t let us release our drawbridges and welcome God into our kingdom.

When we hold on to the sin of pride it creates ripple effects throughout our entire lives – and maybe even beyond.  We pass down family hatreds and attitudes toward others.  We teach our children to “never give an inch” in situations.   We divorce because we couldn’t see the other side and therefore create broken homes.

My friends, the people of Israel were promised, while still in the desert, a great year of Jubilee.  In that year, all debts would be forgiven, all slaves set free.  It was to be a year-long celebration of God’s love for His people.  And it never happened.  Before they could even get to the promised land, they decided they knew better.  Thousands of young men died because they wouldn’t trust the God who had taken care of them.  The God who created food out of nothing and gave water from a stone.

God wants you to experience His Jubilee – a freedom from the slavery that pride brings.  Jesus paid the price to release us.  It’s already done.  It ourselves that have re-shackled our hearts and minds.  I read this story the other day that I hope will bring you your own epiphany.

“There was a farmer that got word that one of his sheep had been stolen and lie dead in a ditch outside town.  He headed out to retrieve the carcass.  Once he arrived, he realized the sheep wasn’t dead.  It appeared as though its legs were still bound together although no rope remained.  The farmer called to the sheep to get up but the animal laid there as though unable.  He smacked the sheep on the backside to get up and yet it remained.  He realized the sheep still thought he was tied up.  So, the farmer pulled the animal’s legs apart to show him he was no longer bound.  And finally, the sheep hopped up and ran up the hill.”

Are you that sheep?  Jesus has already released you from all bondage.  But are you still acting, out of pride, as though you are still a prisoner inside your own mini kingdom?

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

A Promised Return

The desert and the parched land 
will be glad;the wilderness will 
rejoice and blossom. 
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Isaiah 35:1-2

It was only just recently that I heard the concept of a “return to the Garden.”  I mean I’m quite familiar with the promise of eternity but I just never made the full circle of an opening of the guarded Eden gates.

These past few weeks as myself, Todd and Madison have been reminded of the many promises of God, I keep hearing the word I have heard for more than a year – “obey.”  With each promise there is a covenant agreement.  God is sure and trustworthy about His side of the covenant.  But we “mule-like” humans struggle to hold on to God tightly and sign at the bottom line.  I wonder if it really just boils down to that little bit inside of us that doesn’t fully believe.

On March 26, 1997, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies discovered the bodies of 39 members of the group, Heaven’s Gate.  The home where the bodies were found is just a stone’s throw from my own home.  If you don’t recall their beliefs, I’ll give you a brief summary.  The leaders, using the Bible and science fiction works by Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke convinced their followers that extraterrestrial beings were clearly mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  And the comet Hale-Bopp, was the sign for them to give up their early bodies and hitch a ride to the heavens.  They twisted a lot of theology to meet their beliefs.

Sometimes when I’m talking about the concept of Jesus, salvation and eternity I think about those Heaven’s Gate souls and wonder if I sound just as crazy to non-believers.  I shy away from talking about God and loosen my grip on Him. Of course, one of the large differences is that God never asks us to speed up the date and time of the end of our days here on Earth.  And we have been constantly assured that we cannot know the hour of Jesus’ return.

But that return is definitely promised.  And if we believe that God is the creator, the sovereign LORD overall, then we must also believe in our return to the Garden. 

The prophecy from Isaiah in 35:1-2 was written as a message of hope for the people of Jerusalem.  It’s likely the Assyrians had ravaged all the nearby cities and had made the roads too dangerous on which to travel.  The people, as Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary, “Were cooped up in Jerusalem, wondering what would happen next.”  Sound familiar?

He goes on to write that the faithful were praying continuously to God for hope and relief.  And God answered their prayers.  As He had done so many times before and since. 

“The time has come,” he said. 
“The kingdom of God has come near. 
Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:15

How many jokes have we seen and heard related to this verse?  And yet it is surely true.  Jesus himself makes this statement.  I heard an evangelist pastor say once, “I don’t know when Jesus is returning and we will see the Garden again, but the time is certainly nearer than it was yesterday!”

It’s said that the new Garden will be even more magnificent than the first.  And although that sounds wonderful, I’ll be joy-filled just to be able to have my name written on the list to enter any type of garden God has for me.  

Each day I am here on this Earth is another day to hold on tightly to God’s promises and obey and believe.  Each day we are here is another gift God gives us to step out of our comfort zones, out of our cooped up lives and work on putting just one more name on that list. 

I hope you have enjoyed these 25 Promises of God through the Book of Isaiah.  Please join me for our next series titled, “Pray It Till You Make It!”  It’s a focus on praying to be the people we know God wants us to be and watching the transformation work He does in us! 

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

The True Story of God With Us

Therefore the Lord himself 
will give you a sign: 
The virgin will conceive 
and give birth to a son, 
and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

At the time that Isaiah spoke this prophecy the nation of Judah was under a large threat from Assyria.  Alliances were being pressured and formed.  King Ahaz of Judah refused to align himself with the northern tribes because he had secretly made a pact with the Assyrians.  He didn’t grab hold of God’s past deliverances and trust God to save him and his people.  

Isaiah made his prophesy about the coming savior to the entire House of David as a warning to trust God and no one else.  God is with us (“Immanuel”) in so far as we are willing to trust and believe Him.

God is with me.  I hold on tightly to the knowledge that His Holy Spirit dwells in my heart, mind and soul.  It’s a promise completely fulfilled with Jesus.  And yet, I still occasionally fall into the trap of looking for a savior outside that promise.  A chance to make more money, a politician who scatters promises like birdseed, a new diet to get me “back on track” or a vaccine that will make the world “normal” again.

Promise made and promises broken

My BSGs just finished a section in our study of Everyday Theology.  It focused on scripture – its validity, relevance, purpose and origins.  We discussed how our modern times reflect Biblical times in so many ways.  Warring political factions, the lack of faith, and how the promises of God still stand true for today.  

Our world needs to grab on to the truths of scripture.  The Bible isn’t just some book some random guys put together.  It is what the study author calls, “God-breathed.”  There is no other book on the planet that has as much historical evidence to support what it says.  I asked the group why did the author choose to start a book about theology with the topic of scripture rather than say, God?  

One member responded quite rightly, “Because the Bible gives us the character of God so we can better understand who He is.”  

I gave the visual of using an encyclopedia book – yes, the actual book.  In the ole timey days we would hear about something and turn to the encyclopedia to learn more about it.  We knew what was written in that book was true.  No doubts.  After reading all about say, Marie Curie, we could be assured we knew just about everything we needed to know.

That’s how we should view the Bible – the true and relevant encyclopedia about God.  And know that it’s all true.  So, when Isaiah prophesizes the birth of Jesus hundreds of years prior to his birth, we can see it as confirmation of the whole story being true.

All Scripture is God-breathed 
and is useful for teaching, 
rebuking, correcting and training 
in righteousness, so that the 
servant of God may be thoroughly 
equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

And knowing it is true – that Jesus came to be our savior and the Holy Spirit would dwell in us for all time – should cause us to look toward Him and hold on to Him as our only savior.

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

The Best For You

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
    your peace would have been like a river,
    your well-being like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:17-18

We’ve all probably heard it from our parents at one time or another.  And if you are a parent you are most likely guilty of saying the same – “I just want the best for you.”  As your child (or you as a child) rolls their eyes.  As humans we seem to have the propensity to want to cut our own path through the jungle and trip over our own mistakes.  We grab random vines thinking it’ll help us swing through our problems or create fabulous opportunities.

It’s one thing to see our parents as fallible human beings that may not truly know what’s best for us but when we apply that same logic to God, we’re in for an Indiana Jones style bumpy and dangerous ride.

And we know that in all things 
God works for the good of those 
who love him, who have been 
called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

God has thoughts beyond our thoughts.  He knows the past and the future and he has big plans for each of us.  And when we lose sight and let go of God, we take a lot of unneeded weed- choked paths.  So much of this behavior seems to come down to a lack of trust that God really does teach us what is best for us – or we think maybe He just doesn’t understand what is best for us.

God sees tomorrow – all of your tomorrows – and he is able to prepare you for whatever is to come.

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principals, #9 Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.

All trusting relationships are built on time spent together, learning each other’s character, experiencing trials and joys and seeing how each person either stands up or lets you down.  Have you assumed that God is going to let you down?  Have you decided that God already has let you down?  And yet, scripture reminds us of the promise that God is always teaching us what is best for us.  Maybe what you were hoping for was not what you needed.  Or maybe God needed you to experience that disappointment so you are tested for a future greater than you can imagine.

When we accept that:

  1. God is God and we are not (PS 46:10)
  2. God’s thoughts and ways are greater than ours (Is 55:9)
  3. And God wants the best for us (Is 48:17; Matt 10:29-31)

We can have a perspective change during our times that might seem hopeless and instead know that God is working for our good.  We just might not know exactly what that “good” is.

My BSGs are starting a new study called, “Everyday Theology.”  Now it might sound silly for a group of devout Christians to read a book that reviews the basics of our faith: scripture, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc.  But each time we open our Bibles and truly approach reading it from a learning point of view we find out something new.  The Bible is a living source of God’s Word which wants to guide us throughout our lives.

I used to be one of those Christians that had a very dusty Bible.  When I did open it, I would close my eyes and then randomly pick a page.  I figured that’s how it worked – God would point me to nothing short of a miracle of words.  But would you ever take the phone book (if any exist these days), open it up and phone a stranger expecting to trust them with whatever advice you were seeking?  It might be great advice but the likelihood that you would take it would be slim.

His Word holds great lessons for us to try and keep us moving in the right direction.  We should pore over it like a treasure map.  It’s a bit complicated because it has so much to accomplish.  But once we start using the map and trusting that it is right, we find ourselves better able to navigate the twists and turns of life.  And isn’t that a great way to start out a new year?

I want to encourage you today to read Psalm 119. It is a perfect example of how God provides order in the midst of chaos. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, composed of 22 stanzas with each stanza containing 8 verses. Each verse starts with the same Hebrew letter — pretty cool. Almost every verse contains one of the following words: instruction, decree, precept, statute, command, judgment, promise, and word. Here is an excerpt:

I have more insight than all my teachers
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the 
elders, for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
Psalm 119:99-102

Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!

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

The Spirit of Christmas

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
    will come to him and be put to shame.
Isaiah 45:22-24
On coming to the house, they saw 
the child with his mother Mary, 
and they bowed down and worshiped him. 
Matthew 2:11

Glory to God the King!  I praise you, God, and bow down to you in thankfulness for your covenant with us!  Your promise to deliver us, through your son Jesus, is the great gift for all mankind. 

It has really hit home to me this year about the idols so many of us rely on for strength and deliverance.  We cling to our routines.  We put our trust in government officials.  We place our joy in dining out, going to the movies, gathering with friends.  Our peace rests in financial security.  And God comes and reminds us that no idol can bring us any of these.  He is God and there is no other.

In a God-like way it’s perfect that we can see a light at the end of this pandemic as vaccines begin rolling out and we celebrate the birth of His son.  God is the savior of Babylon – for those who believe.   And yet so many, even Christians, fail to truly grab a hold of this truth.  

I was talking with my BSGs the other day about the “spirit of Christmas” and how many rely on an outside source to descend upon them for this feeling.  My own parents sit alone in their home without any sign of Christmas to be seen.  I asked my mother the other day why that was.  And her response was, “We just don’t have any Christmas spirit this year.” Now granted, they aren’t Christians either.  They are just two of millions across the globe who have chosen not to bow down and accept God as the Almighty.  One of the BSGs describes her brother’s family in much the same way.  They wait to be lifted by the outside world.  They wait to feel joy in the material.  They wait to find peace in routine.

It made me realize how, once I accepted Jesus as our deliverer, I no longer need idols to feel “saved.”  I no longer need idols to experience the joy of Christmas.  My “spirit of Christmas” comes from above and within and I’ve been holding on tightly to that gift. 

We are such comfort-seeking souls!  I think of a soldier at war during Christmas.  Laying in a foxhole or cave in a foreign land.  There’s no twinkly lights or Christmas tree laden with gifts.  There’s no Christmas ham and glazed carrots.  There’s just cold, and the distant sounds of gunfire.  And yet, the Christmas spirit still is there – in the small pocket Bible or the verses kept close to his heart.

This Christmas is not unusual in that there is strife in the world.  This Christmas is not unusual that many are in dire financial need.  This Christmas is the same as it was on that day that Christ was born – He has come to be our deliverer.  That’s all the Christmas spirit I need. 

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.