It is often said that money is the root of all evil. Indeed the scriptures tell us (1 Timothy 6:10) that specifically the “love of money” is the root of all evil. But we understand there are many sins that have nothing to do with money, so we have to look at the verse in context.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Here we see money was the root of all the evils of those who coveted after it and allowed it to compromise the tenets of their faith.
There is, however, another portion of scripture in the New Testament that I believe provides us an explanation of the cause of ALL evil in the world. It seems too simple that there is a singular problem with mankind that causes us to sin, but I believe the first chapter of Romans does provide us with a powerful and concise explanation.
"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
I underlined the parts of the passage I want to bring out as key points.
There is no such thing as an atheist. I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at the beauty and majesty of creation and arrive at the conclusion that it is all a serendipitous result of cosmic happenstance. We have the evidence of God the creator right in front of us, so there is no excuse for unbelief.
So, what is the cause of evil? Not glorifying God as God and not being thankful. (I suppose that really is two causes, but I believe they go together.) Along with that comes worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator (which brings us back to the love of money- a “thing” that people have created and tried to elevate above God).
In this same chapter, verses 26 and 27 specifically address homosexuality; then verses 29-31 give us a list of some of the other problems in the world, all prompted by the failure to honor God as God- the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Creator- and to be thankful for His perfect design: “fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful”.
It is easy to understand that sin is disobedience, but we disobey whenever we fail to recognize His creative power and His authority over all creation. I believe that much of the moral decline of our society can be attributed to the theory of evolution being widely embraced as scientific fact. People have bent and stretched the definition of science for the express purpose of denying the Creator.
Not honoring God as Creator is the starting point of sin for many, while others may espouse the idea of Intelligent Design and still fail to honor God as God in other areas by simply not following His divine instructions outlined for us in the Bible.
Now that we understand the cause of sin, at a base level, what is the antithesis of a sinful life? Romans 1 gives us the answer for that, too!
Verse 16 says: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." And verse 17 delivers the final answer: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (For further study, the last part of verse 17 is a reference to Habakkuk 2:4.)
How beautifully the Word of God fits together! It doesn't condemn and just point out all the weaknesses of man. It mercifully gives us instruction for how not to fail. The antithesis of a sinful life- one of wickedness, deceitfulness, envy, pride, etc.- is one of faith in Jesus and the redemption that comes from Him alone.
I’m sure there will be tons of devotional articles about the “Great American Eclipse”. On August 21, 2017, people in a 66-mile-wide path, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, will be able to witness the sun be completely blocked from view by the moon, and the rest of the United States will experience a partial eclipse. Obviously, the eclipse is a big deal, and there are several spiritual applications that can be drawn from it. Here are my thoughts about this grandiose celestial event.
Darkness and Light are common spiritual themes. We know that Light is symbolic of goodness and God, and darkness is symbolic of evil and Satan. But, the analogy I draw from thinking about the eclipse doesn’t deal with the most obvious symbolism. When I think about the eclipse, I think about the massive, powerful sun being covered up, blocked out, at least from our line of sight. The sun is so big and powerful, yet it will be hidden from view.
Right now, especially, in our country and in our world, it feels like sin abounds- against God and against our fellow man. It’s easy to feel like the egregious acts of evil we witness daily are too rampant and too serious to be overcome. But the Bible clearly gives us the answer: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)” This verse is a reference to Proverbs 10:12, which says: “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”
Love eclipses sin. Just as the sun will negate the effect of the sun during the eclipse, love can negate the power of sin in the world.
I’m thankful for the total spiritual eclipse that has taken place in the life of every believer. When a person repents of their sin and believes on Jesus as their Savior, the sins of the past are blocked out, never to be seen again by God.
Where I live, 95% of the sun will be covered by the moon during the solar eclipse. But, Jesus, who’s love is perfect, has covered up 100% of my sin. The Bible says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)” Not a little bit free. Not mostly free. Free, indeed.
One of my favorite places is a particular spot on the bank of a canal that connects the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic. Recently at this special place, I enjoyed watching a school of little fish right next to the bank. As many times as I have witnessed a similar sight, I was still amazed by their cohesiveness. It was fun to watch them glide and dart as a unit, then to watch them scatter in every direction when a water bug disturbed the surface nearby and immediately come back together. It made me think about relationships among believers and what the body of Christ can learn from a school of fish.
My study began with finding out why fish swim in schools. There are three main reasons for the schooling behavior of fish:
1.) To help keep them safe
2.) To find food
3.) To find a mate
I realized these are some of the same reasons we as believers should join together with other believers in a collective body. We need each other. We need to be unified- within our local assembly and within the Church as a whole. Let's look to the scriptures to find out how the instinctive motivations of fish align with the spiritual benefits of being unified with other Jesus-Followers.
- "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1-2
- "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." James 5:19-20
The body of Christ should operate as a cohesive unit to help protect individual believers from spiritual danger.
To Find Food
Again, we are not speaking of physical things (although I have enjoyed many wonderful meals at church). We join together with other believers to receive spiritual food; that is, sustenance that helps us grow in the faith.
- "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Hebrews 10:25
- "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Colossians 3:16
We come together- teaching, preaching, and singing- to be fed spiritually.
To Find a Mate
While perhaps not the most important reason, the third point still fits into our illustration. The body of Christ is the only place a believer should look to find a spouse.
- "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14
In order for a marriage to be optimally successful, a man and woman must be aligned spiritually; in other words, part of the same "school".
The unity of believers is a common subject in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Think about how much we can accomplish when believers are in sync with one another, like that little school of fish!
In John 17:11, Jesus prayed: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." Very simply, He wants us to be unified.
Believers- join together and keep swimming!
After a recent church service, I walked up on a conversation that really provided some food for thought. The discussion was about advice from women in the Bible. A gentleman asked me if I could name any instances in the scripture where a woman gave good advice. I have to admit, I drew a blank. But this gentleman already had the answer, and I was pretty impressed with his insight, although there was a slight undertone of a joke about being surprised that a woman had given good advice. So the commentary that follows is based on two verses that he shared with me, and I hope you will find this advice as inspiring as I do.
The first piece of advice comes from a women whose name we aren't given. She is commonly referred to as "the woman at the well". After an encounter with Jesus where she recognizes him as the Christ, the bible says this woman made her way into the city and then said to the men, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29) This woman's advice sounds simple, yet the heart of her message is the most important of directives in all of human experience: Meet Jesus.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Without a real, personal encounter with Christ, one cannot know or understand truth, experience authentic joy or peace, or have any assurance of heaven. When the knowledge of the power of a relationship with Jesus was revealed to the woman that met Him at the well, she couldn't keep that revelation to herself. She had to share Him with others. If you haven't taken the woman's advice to meet Him, please take a moment now to consider her words.
For those of us that have met the Christ, we should follow the woman's example and use our energies to make His name famous. Our lives should make others want to meet Him. The joy that we carry should speak for itself, saying, "Come, see! Come, see! Come, see!" And we should always be ready to tell others how we came to know the Christ, and what He has done for us. (But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:5)
The second piece of good advice comes from a much more popular biblical figure- Mary, the mother of Jesus. I had never stopped to reflect on Mary's words to the servants at the wedding in Cana. Just before the Lord performed His first earthly miracle by turning the water into wine, his mother said to the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (John 2:5) What more can I add? Straightforward. Simple. Life-changing. In obedience to the Lord, all the questions of life are resolved. Of course, we have to search the Word to know His commandments, but Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Whatever He says to do, we should do it.
The servants that filled the water pots and drew from them to serve the governor of the feast witnessed a surprising miracle! We can likewise see miraculous things in our lives, when we are obedient to what Jesus says to do in His Word.
I'm so glad the words of these two wise women of history were presented to me for further reflection. May we all take their advice to heart.
My heart is bursting right now. I just talked to my ten-year-old daughter for the first time in four days, and she's finally on her way home from camp! I am so excited to see her, and hug her, and hold on tightly for the rest of the weekend!
This post is a little more personal in nature than other recent articles I've written. I want to share that this has been one of the most challenging weeks I can remember. As a full-time working mother who has always wished she could be a stay-at-home mother, I have been reveling in the opportunity I have this summer to take several weeks off just to spend with my kids. It has been glorious! We have laughed, and played (and fought and cried), and have been so busy seeing and doing fun things for most of the month- then one of my three left me for almost a whole week!
My family is involved in a group called American Heritage Girls (I tell people it's like Girl Scouts, but Christ-focused). It is a remarkable organization. I serve as the troop Shepherd (kind of like a chaplain), Elizabeth is in the "Explorer" unit, and Sarah is a "Tenderheart". We've gone on family camp-outs with the group, and Alex has taken the girls on many of troop outings during the last two years of our involvement. We love American Heritage Girls. But when Elizabeth wanted to go to an AHG summer camp five hours away, my faith was tested in a big way!
You have to understand, I have not gone without seeing this child for more than a day in ten years! Other than a few one-night stays with grandparents, the only times I've not slept under the same roof as her was when I was in the hospital having her sister and brother. But I knew this experience would be good for her, and she was so excited to go. To be honest, the only reason I could let her go was because her dad took a week off from work to go volunteer at camp. (Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful daddy for my children.) He took four girls from our troop (including our girl) and drove from Lewisville, NC to Crawfordville, GA on Monday, and they are returning on a Saturday.
Campers are not supposed to call home, I suppose for a few reasons. Logistically, it would be impossible for that many girls to have access to phones. I think they also feel it makes homesickness worse instead of better. Plus, camp is supposed to be a place to escape the hold technology has on us. Still, I balked at the restriction. It doesn't feel natural for a mother not to speak to her ten-year-old child for that long! (We bent the rules a little, and I did get to speak to her for about 60 seconds on Tuesday. And, of course, my husband sent me text message updates and pictures every day, plus I could talk to him on the phone in the evening.)
But, what a lesson God had for me this week! There were a few lessons actually. I could talk all day about learning to have faith that He will take care of my children. But the biggest lesson was something I thought I already knew: Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).
Another one of the moms from our troop and I got together this week and discussed it. We are guilty of worshipping our children. It is a difficult thing for me to distinguish between the love and devotion of a mother and idol worship, but I have to admit that I probably cross that line sometimes.
Deuteronomy 4:24 says, "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." God's rightful place is at the center of our lives. He belongs at the top of our priority list. The thought of being without my daughter for a week almost made it hard to breath! But do I feel that kind of devotion for the Lord? I definitely believe He created a mother's heart to long for her children, but I need to be very careful that I am not placing them above Him in my life.
I can't say that I've learned any special secrets for avoiding elevating my children to idol status, but I think just recognizing I do it is an important step. As with any sin, all we have to do is ask forgiveness and ask Him to help us overcome it.
I am so thankful that when we walk with the Lord, He helps us to grow and puts circumstances in our life that draw us closer to Him. There were times while Elizabeth was gone that I thought, "Why on earth did I let her go?" and "Why did I agree to this?" The answer is simple. It was a God thing. He helps us grow. He teaches us the lessons we need to learn when we seek Him. This week was so beneficial for my child. And as much as it hurt, it was beneficial for me, too. I pray I will succeed in not having any other gods before Him, including my children.
Some days I step outside my front door and feel the warm sunshine on my face and the gentle breeze brush across my skin, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Just the ability to experience a particularly beautiful day is an amazing gift, and it makes me grateful to exist in this world. This past weekend I spent a couple hours floating down a peaceful river, surrounded by majestic scenery, under a sunny sky, in the company of kind friends and two of my children. It was wonderful!
At night, I lay my head down on a soft pillow, in a comfortable bed, where I feel safe. Again, I count these things as remarkable gifts.
But I have to ask myself, "Would I be so grateful if my circumstances were much different? Would I still be in awe of the handiwork of the Creator if the view outside my front door was different?" I can't answer those questions with certainty, but I'd like to think that I would. Sure, I have fears and worries and doubts, and there are days where I allow my perspective to be skewed. There are days when I find myself grumbling and complaining about things that have no real consequence. But, even on those days, I have an abiding joy.
Joy is a hallmark, but not the source of, an abundant life. So, what does it mean to live abundantly and how do we do it? One of the definitions for the word 'abundant' is, "Richly supplied, as with resources". When I think about that definition, it occurs to me that abundant living is not measured by tangible resources. Living abundantly means having a completeness and fullness in life that does not depend on circumstances. Abundant living is being richly supplied in resources that transcend our natural understanding. The key to abundant living is recognizing the source.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus does not merely supply us with abundance. He IS our abundance. Jesus doesn’t simply give us joy. He IS our joy. As children of God, we must recognize that even the ability to feel the emotions we associate with the idea of abundance comes from Him.
Abundant living comes from fellowship with the God of the universe, through Christ. Ephesians 3:19 says, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." I can experience joy and have gratitude for of all the blessings of life around me- the natural world, the love of my family, my earthly pleasures- but the true source of abundance is the fullness of God.
Did my experience on the river this weekend qualify as living abundantly? Sure- but only by extension. It is the relationship I have with God, which reveals the truth of His goodness, that allows me to truly enjoy this life and appreciate the beauty He has provided. Having a relationship with God, in itself, is living abundantly.
Sometimes I get a thought about which I want to write, and I search the scriptures for help with that topic. Sometimes I search out the scriptures for help finding something to write about. This devotion was born of the latter method.
In my searching of the scriptures today, I “found” 1 Thessalonians, Chapters 4 and 5, and in these chapters, practical instruction for sanctified Christian living. I was struck by how plainly many of the exhortations are outlined.
While we are only saved through faith in Christ, and not by our works, we are compelled by the Holy Spirit to strive to be more like Christ in our actions. The word “sanctified” means “set apart”, which is to say, markedly different from the non-believer in thought and practice.
Please note, the title of this devotion is not "21 Steps to Sanctified Christian Living". I am not trying to present a comprehensive list here. I'm sure there are additional ways in which we should conduct ourselves to demonstrate sanctification. Please also note, this list is not my own invention! The ideas are taken directly from scripture, but I have paraphrased them in a list format.
So, let's look at 1 Thessalonians. In Chapter 4, verse 3, it says: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification:" Well, that seems pretty clear! It could be interpreted that the idea of sanctification here pertains mainly to the exhortation immediately following (which is number one on the list below). But, I read that statement as an introduction to all the contents of Chapters 4 and 5, as the end of Chapter 5 seems to be a summary of the instructions in Paul's letter.
21 Steps Toward Sanctified Christian Living
Yes, this a list of "Dos" and "Dont's". But as with all biblical instruction, the purpose is not to restrict or burden, but is to improve the spiritual health of the believer. This list contains actions and practices that set us apart from those outside of the faith.
At the end of Chapter 5 we are left with some great encouragement! "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (5:23-24) Commit to serving Him and He will take care of the sanctification process.
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I've always admired people who are "prayer warriors", but I have to admit, I've never felt like I fall into that category. Don't get me wrong- I enjoy talking to God, and prayer is certainly a daily practice for me, but I am so easily distracted that I often don't spend enough quality time in prayer. While my intention is not to absolve myself, I had a revelation recently that made me feel better about my prayer life, but most importantly, it filled me with awe about God's grace.
I often find myself whispering the words, "Your will be done, Lord"- when I'm driving, when I'm walking into my office, when I'm cleaning the house. My mind might be in a million different places, but those words will squeeze their way into my thoughts and I'll direct them to Him. It was while listening to a radio sermon about the Lord's Prayer a few days ago that God spoke to my spirit about this. I felt Him say that every time I had whispered those words, He had received them as a prayer and had acted on my behalf. He honored my five-word prayer. I suddenly felt like He has been ordering my steps, in part, because of my feeble little prayer for His will to be done. And then it made so much sense- little prayers are heard by a big God! I've known this for a long time, but it seemed God was making it a special point to remind me.
Let's take a look at three "little" prayers in the bible that had great impact.
In all three of these examples, the petitions were granted, even though the words spoken were few. It didn't take great orations or lengthy invocations to move the heart of God. It seems when it comes to prayer, quality is more important than quantity, and what qualifies a prayer as effective is the faith behind it.
To be sure, the more we can pray, with faith, the better! I know I should still strive daily to spend more time in prayer. There are so many things about which to pray- our families; our nation and leaders; our churches; our spiritual growth; non-believing loved ones. And those are just requests! We could spend 24/7 offering prayers of thanksgiving and praise! But, my point is that we shouldn't discount those quick prayers we utter throughout the day. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." I think that can look like this:
"Lord, help me on this test."
"Please bless my children."
"Make me more like You."
"Give us opportunities to show Your love."
I'm so glad God hears and responds to "little" prayers, as well as the "big" ones.
My husband recently incorporated Star Wars into a sermon and was quite proud of himself for it. Today, I’m going to try to match him by using one of my favorite movies as the basis for this devotional.
I don’t have a great analogy to connect “The Princess Bride” (which is also a great book) to a spiritual concept. Rather, I want to borrow a key phrase from this beloved fairy tale film. Do you remember the farm boy, Wesley, at the beginning of the movie and his response to Buttercup’s every whim? Remember when he came back to her as the Dread Pirate Roberts and the moment she realized it was really Wesley as he went tumbling down the giant hill yelling those cherished words: “As you wish.” What an awesome scene! If somehow you’ve managed to not see the movie, don’t worry; this message is still for you.
Maybe you can already see where I’m going with this. Those three little words, “As you wish” should be the believer's response to every command of God. Let’s look at five people from the bible who essentially said “as you wish” to God.
In the movie I’ve referenced, the male leading character answers every request of his love interest with the phrase “as you wish.” His humble obedience was a direct response to his unfailing love for her. Likewise, we should consistently affirm our love for God by blindly, completely, enthusiastically, reverently, and selflessly obeying his direction. Our obedience to God must be driven by our love for Him, with no thought for what we will gain.
Sometimes I have a feeling of anticipation, as if I am waiting on God to give a command to which I can respond, “As you wish.” I’ve said to Him, “Show me what you want me to do, Lord! I’ll do it!” But, I need to stop and look at the instructions He has already given to all of us and evaluate how I am responding to those. I need to make sure I am saying “as you wish” in regards to what the Word says to do. Am I saying, "As you wish, Lord" to the commands to love God with all my heart, to love my neighbor, to forgive, and to not worry? I fall short often, but I pray that whether the task seems big or small, whether it comes directly from scripture or from the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that I will continually learn to obey.
I leave you with a challenge! Read Romans 12:9-18, and after every sentence that contains a command whisper, “As you wish, Lord. As you wish.” Then go live out that promise.
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The Bible makes it pretty clear: God wants us to sing. The canon of scripture includes an entire book of songs, mostly written by the person God described as “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). God wants us to sing.
Psalms 95:1 and 95:2 says, “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” Most church services utilize music in one way or another.
Music is referenced all through the bible; not just in Psalms. It’s exciting to read how the Israelites, immediately after being brought through the Red Sea, broke out into singing (and dancing! Exodus 15). There are examples in the Bible of congregations of people singing and there are examples of people appointed as singers in service to the Lord. When music is used in true worship, it has the power to move the heart of God.
Some people say music is just used “to stir up emotion” (that’s a common argument against certain styles of music in church), but let me share with you an example from scripture that makes the importance of music in worship pretty clear! In 2 Chronicles, Chapter 5, we read about the dedication of the temple built by Solomon. Verses 13 and 14 say, “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.” Wow!! It was the praises lifted up through music that ushered in the presence of God.
As a singer, I have some personal “rules” to make my sure my ministry has the correct motives. I sing for these three reasons:
1. To worship and give praise to God
2. To share the Word of God through music
3. To edify the body of Christ
Usually, these three purposes are achieved together, but if a song doesn’t do at least one of these things, then I shouldn’t sing it. And I think the same standards should be applied to all music within the church.
Using music to praise God and to worship Him is an obvious purpose. That’s the common theme throughout the Psalms. There are also examples of music being used to share God’s word. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Teaching and admonishing come through songs based on the Word.
Then we have the concept of “edifying”. 1 Corinthians 14:26 says, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.” Here we have an instruction from Paul that there should be order in a church service (order meaning, not everybody trying to do whatever they feel like) and that the ministrations, including the music, should edify the body.
Let’s talk about this word “edify”. Edifying the body doesn’t mean just making people feel happy. Edifying the body means drawing people into sincere worship or encouraging them in some way in their walk with the Lord.
When the three motives listed above are the primary concern of musicians, then the music can be a powerful complement to the worship service, regardless of the level of talent or the style of music. (Obviously, we all have different gifts and not everybody is meant to stand up and give a solo, but I have been very blessed by some off-key singers before, because they were being obedient and singing for the glory of God.)
Speaking of styles of music, let me say this: God owns every beat, every rhythm, every note, every chord, every chord progression, every melody, every harmony, every key, every instrument; and they all can be used for His glory IF the music exalts Him, promotes the gospel, or edifies the body of Christ. That being said, in a worship service it is also important to maintain a tone of reverence. Balancing pure motives and musical style preferences with a reverent attitude is important.
For musicians who minister outside of their home church, I think it is important to be respectful of a congregations’ over-all style of worship. My roots are in Southern Gospel and the Broadman Hymnal, but I also sing and write Praise and Worship music and songs some might consider “contemporary”. If I’m going to a church with a more “contemporary” style of worship, I might sing all of the above styles of music because no one is going to be offended by a hymn. But, if I’m going to a very traditional church, I’m going to be mindful about avoiding the use of soundtracks with a more contemporary sound, UNLESS I hear from the Lord that He wants me sing a specific song.
I believe the three rules I've listed for using music in worship are important litmus tests, because so many other facets of music in worship are just matters of personal preference. I love to clap my hands when I sing with the choir or congregation (and sometimes slap my hymn book as an instrument!), and while there’s definitely a biblical basis for that, nowhere is it written that a person HAS to do that as part of their worship. That’s an area where we have some liberty with our worship.
Whether the style is traditional or contemporary, our motives must be kept in check. I’ve been in “contemporary” services where the Lord fellowshipped with His people through their offering of music. I’ve also been in contemporary services where the band seemed more interested in laying down the bass than leading the congregation to worship. I’ve heard and sung songs by Bill and Gloria Gaither in services where the presence of the Lord was so sweet and so real, but then I’ve also heard those same-type songs performed in what felt like just an entertainment act. While we should enjoy church, and we should enjoy music in church, when we set aside time to worship, a mood of reverence should be maintained, and the intent of our musical worship should be above reproach.
Let me leave you with a beautiful example of the use of music in worship: Our Lord sang. I am grateful that a friend recently pointed out to me the verse in Matthew that refers to Jesus singing. What a beautiful thought! Speaking about the Last Supper, the Bible says, “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30) Jesus concluded His time of fellowship with His disciples with a song. Meditate on that.
Thank you for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please post your comments below.
I am very excited about this topic! This is a simple and to-the-point article, but I believe it will be meaningful for someone. There’s a lot of scripture contained here, so please stick with me. There’s an important message at the end!
Have you ever heard of a “life verse”? The term refers to a verse that holds special meaning for a person or a verse they rely on regularly to guide their life. While not directly a scriptural concept, it makes sense that believers claim specific verses in such a way, as scripture is the most direct method God uses to speak to His people. One danger of the “life verse” concept, is that it can become a cliché, almost akin to a person’s birthstone or astrological sign. But, for true believers, having a life verse, and especially being able to communicate “why” it is meaningful, is a good way to share their faith. (Read more ideas about how to use scripture in my article "Rightly Divided".)
In truth, the whole of scripture is “life” verses, in that it leads us on the path of eternal life. In John 6:68, Simon Peter said to Jesus, “to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
While there are many more that I love, I claim these four as “mine”:
In the book of Deuteronomy, God gave instruction for how the eventual kings of Israel should handle the Words of God. (Israel was not supposed to have a king other than God, but God knew the people would insist on having one “like as all the nations” that were around them- Deuteronomy 17:15.)
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 says, "And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”
While we have certain verses to help carry us through this life, the Word itself is the very essence of life, and our reliance on it, and faith in it, can dictate the outcome of every situation.
Going beyond the idea of a “life verse”, I want to share with you the portion of scripture that is quite literally my “life chapter”. In my teenage years and early twenties, I suffered with severe depression and anxiety. (I’ve been free from it for so long it is almost hard to remember- praise God!). There were days when, overcome with a constant, unexplainable grief, thoughts of suicide invaded in my brain. While He didn’t heal me right away, one day the Lord practically handed me Psalm 116, to sustain me until the time He would heal me. I claim this as my life chapter, because I believe God used it to spare my life. If you find yourself in a dark place, please let the words of Psalm 116 help put you on a different course, so you too can “walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9).
I'd love to hear your life verse (or chapter)! Please leave a comment below, and if you enjoyed this article, please share it. Thanks!
It happens often. I will be driving, folding laundry, trying to sleep, or any other normal task, when I start “randomly” singing a song I haven’t heard in a relatively long time, without any conscious thought. I’m usually half-way through the chorus when I stop and think, “Now where did that come from?” The truth is, I know where it comes from. The question is really “Why?” instead of “Where?”
While the Holy Scriptures are the only sovereign texts we possess, I believe God has inspired people throughout the ages to write songs to be used for His glory, and I believe He uses these to speak to His people. Today He put a song in my heart from one of His greatest poets, Fanny Crosby. I was on my way to Starbucks for a mid-day treat when I recognized the words of “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” on my lips (listen to the audio clip above). It has a beautiful melody (the music was composed by William Doane in 1870) and a pleading tone. For the first time I actually thought about the petition of this song. I started to examine if there might be some error in singing a refrain that expresses doubt that God will be available to us when we call.
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
I wondered if knowing the origin of the hymn might help resolve the thought, and I found some help for my questions on the Discipleship Ministries website of the United Methodist Church. There, I read an article titled “History of Hymns: “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior””, written by professor of sacred music at Southern Methodist University, C. Michael Hawn.
Mr. Hawn wrote, “The late hymnologist William J. Reynolds discovered that the inspiration for this hymn was the result of a visit to a prison by the poet during spring 1868. He notes: “After she had spoken and some of her hymns had been sung, she heard one of the prisoners cry out in a pleading voice, ‘Good Lord, do not pass me by’;””
The account described above sounds like the plea of a man who had enough faith to understand that he needed God, but was not yet acquainted with God enough to understand he could trust Him. This reminds of the father in Mark Chapter 9 who, wanting Jesus to heal his son, proclaimed, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." That story has always given me hope. Although the man admitted to having a measure of unbelief, Jesus healed his son based on the measure of faith he did have. (The last line of the second verse of "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior" is "Help my unbelief".)
The tone of the song also reminds me of King David and how he pleaded with God in despair, yet he ended his petition with a praise acknowledging God's faithfulness. In Psalm 13:1 he said, “How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” But, just five versus later he says, “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” Even a man well-acquainted with the provision of God, who is described as a man after God's own heart, struggled with whether or not God would be present in his situation, but because of His knowledge of the nature of God could ultimately be at peace.
After a bit of reflection, I am reassured that when I sing the great hymn that has been our topic, I am not alluding to any personal concern that Jesus could in some way pass me by. The words "do not pass me by" are an expression of every sincere heart that has longed to be close to the Almighty, yet in human frailty can hardly comprehend that the God of the universe lends His availability and concern to sinners such as us. The song has a tone of humility that serves to amplify the truth of God's holiness.
Why the Lord gave me this particular song today I may not know. Maybe I will need its message in the coming days. Maybe I should lead it as our "Invitation" song during Sunday morning worship. Maybe I was just supposed to think on it and write this blog post to share with you. Whatever the reason, I am thankful that He speaks to me through the classic hymns He inspired so long ago.
Read the full lyrics for "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior".
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A couple years ago I discovered a radio program called “Stories of Great Christians”. It's an audio drama that airs (in my area) on the Bible Broadcasting Network every day from 5:15 pm to 5:30 pm. Each series tells the life-story of a well-known person in Christian history, over a period of weeks, usually based on a published biography. I try to listen every day to keep up with the episodes. I find the art form of radio drama very refreshing. I am forced to use my imagination to envision the story, I have to wait in anticipation for the next episode, and I love the melodramatic organ interludes between scenes. (The series was produced in the 1940s!)
Not only entertaining, “Stories of Great Christians” has been a great inspiration to me! I have learned so much from the lives of people such as the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, missionary to India, Amy Carmichael, and founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth. It is simply amazing how God worked through these people to accomplish His purposes!
As I think about what I have learned from these faithful men and women of God, I am reminded of Hebrews 13:7. The English Standard Version renders it this way: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
Secular culture has no shortage of individuals whom people idolize and seek to imitate. As a Christian parent, I hope to encourage my children to imitate people of integrity and faith. Of course, our ultimate example is Jesus. We must seek always to be like Him. But in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (NKJV) God has given us role models to help point us to Him.
I am thankful for examples of Christian faith we can imitate. Throughout my life I have had wonderful mentors in the faith- my parents, special friends, and so many in my church family. And, of course, we have the examples of the Apostle Paul and other leaders in church history.
As we learn from the faith of our spiritual heroes, we must grow into the position of being a similar example for others. These are three virtues I believe are the foundation to a life worth imitating:
That may sound like a simple list, but I think it's a good guide for the traits we should seek in a mentor and strive for in our own lives. My hope is that I will ever be more like Jesus, walking in the footsteps of those who have followed Him without wavering; but also, that someone will see in me a faith worth imitating.
"Stories of Great Christians" belongs to Moody Radio Archive. Some day, I think I will purchase MP3 files of all the available stories, found here: http://moodyaudio.com/store/archive/stories-great-christians.
To learn about other great programs on BBN, to find a station in your area, or to stream live broadcasts, visit http://www.bbnradio.org.
As I tried to go to sleep the other night, somewhere amid the rambling, disjointed thoughts flooding my sleepy brain, I recognized the words of one of my favorite verses of scripture. I didn't consciously think about Romans 8:28, but it was suddenly just there in my mind: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
The familiar words had barely finished processing in my mind when they were followed with a simple question- "Do you know?"
I can't tell you if it was me asking the question or if it was the Holy Spirit, but I pray He will help me to seek out the answer and define it in the next few lines.
Let me start by working backwards through the verse. I know that I am "called according to His purpose" because I'm saved. If you are saved, you have been purposefully called by God. I know that I am of "them that love God". Although not always put into action the way it should be, I have no doubts about my love for Him. That brings me to the first part of the verse, and I have to ask myself again, "Do I really know that all things work together for good?"
I feel confident in saying the answer to my question is "yes". I do know that all things work together for good, meaning I believe it with certainty. The real question is, "Am I living like I know it?"
The phrase "all things" in this verse could mean literally everything- from my walk to the mailbox to a serious illness. While I believe the verse is true for "all" circumstances, Paul was writing specifically about persecution. With that context in mind, I felt the need to examine how I view difficulties in my life.
Knowing that all things work together for good doesn't mean we never hurt or have concern about the difficult times in life. Our state of salvation doesn't preclude us from the effects of living in a fallen world. Bad things will happen (although I believe we are guarded by His sovereign grace from many bad circumstances). The beauty of knowing "all things work together for good" is summed up in one word: hope. We have hope that beauty will be born of brokenness, that silver linings will surface through stress. And we can learn to even be excited when something bad happens, anticipating the good that will come from it. Sometimes, we may not see the good, but by faith we know it is there, because God's promises are true.
Thankfully, I haven't experienced very many situations in my life that have tested my faith or challenged my belief that something good would be the result. But I think the lesson for me in my reflections on Romans 8:28 is to be more mindful of opportunities to praise God in all situations. It's not about learning to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. I'm sure there are plenty of atheist optimists. It's about knowing that God is intentionally acting and working things out in all situations, and about being able to praise Him whether we see the good or not.
Let me leave you with a real-life example of Romans 8:28. A small, country church, where my husband has ministered several times, was recently vandalized. On Easter Sunday morning, our friends there, Terry and Ellen, found a swastika spray-painted on the front door. Now, of course, that was not a good thing. How could it be? However, the deputy that responded to the call did a wonderful thing- he painted over the vandalism for them. Our friends were deeply moved by the kind act of the deputy, and Ellen took to Facebook to publicly praise the officer. More than one news station saw the post, and subsequently did interviews with Ellen and the officer, which were aired on multiple stations. Because Ellen knew God was in control of the situation, she was able to focus on the deputy's good deed, instead of focusing on the wrong done to them. God even worked it out so the uplifting story would be shared on the news to be an encouragement to many, many people. The fun part is, God may not be finished working the events "together for good". Perhaps the best is yet to come from this story.
Have you been going through a trial? Are you facing adversity now? Perhaps the best is yet to come from your story, too.
Click the following link to see one of the news stories about the church vandalism and the officer's kind deed.
A few months ago I started a scripture notebook. It's just a little book I carry around in my purse and in which I occasionally write verses when they come to mind. There are no rules to it, except for I try not to write the same verse in the book twice. This forces me to flip back through to check before I write a new verse, which refreshes me as I skim and remember all the scriptures I have written previously. My notebook contains the type of verses we sometimes call "memory verses". They stand on their own, without explanation, additional context, or historical reference. I like to call them "nuggets", like little treasures you can easily carry.
"Let your light so shine before men..."
"A merry heart doeth good...."
"For God so loved the world..."
"Greater love hath no man than this..."
"In the beginning God created..."
"What time I am afraid..."
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him..."
Can you finish all those verses? My guess is, yes! These are wonderful, important truths to cherish. And I encourage you to practice memorization of verses like these. That's one of my goals- to start committing these to memory. While these "nuggets" of scripture are important, we most also appreciate the importance of the Word as a whole. In the second book of Timothy, chapter 3, verse 16, Paul says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" We may not go around quoting genealogies or Mosaic law, but each line of scripture is included in the Bible for a specific purpose.
Learning how to handle and correctly apply the Word is the subject of 2 Timothy 2:15: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." We have to learn to sort and apply the nuggets and the genealogies, the parables and the historical events- to appreciate and, use for our benefit, the entirety of the Word He has provided.
When we rightly divide the Word we understand that scripture will never contradict itself. Some ideas may appear contradictory, but a proper study, use of appropriate resources, and most importantly discernment from the Holy Spirit, can and will negate any of those doubts.
Rightly dividing the Word means we are careful not to piece together scripture to suit our own agenda, and we can also recognize when that is being done by others. It's an outrageous example, but if someone quoted from Matthew where it says Judas "went and hanged himself" (27:5) and merged that with our Savior's exhortation "go, and do thou likewise" (Luke 10:37, speaking of showing mercy like the Good Samaritan), that would be an egregious and profane misuse of scripture! We are likely to encounter a much more subtle example, but if we know how to rightly divide the Word, by knowing the Word, we won't get tripped up by these tactics.
The Bible refers to the Word of God as a "sword": "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17 (Also, see Hebrews 4:12)
A sword is a powerful weapon, to be handled with care. Our study of God's word is swordsmanship training, and the application of the Word in our lives, in a manner of speaking, is swordplay. While I may never be a master swordsman, I pray that God will help me grow in my ability to rightly divide the Word, and that He will do the same for you.
Unlike my life in general, I keep my work emails very tidy. Every project or subject has its own folder so I can easily find information when needed. The other day I came across an email folder for a project that has taken a backseat to other priorities. It seems management has almost scrapped the effort completely. I thought about how I had worked especially hard on the project, because it was an assignment from the “big boss”", meaning my manager’s manager. In that moment I felt this truth in my spirit: “You are always working for the Big Boss.”
The most obvious application here comes from Colossians 3:23,24: "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." This is pretty straight-forward. Even in the "little" things; even in the ordinary, mundane tasks, we work for the highest authority.
Secondly, I am disappointed that my efforts on the project at work were in vain, since it seems to have lost priority, but my efforts for God always count. The assignments He gives me will never "die on the vine" as do so many business projects. Philippians 1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" God finishes what He starts.
The third concept I pondered involves the eternal benefits of working for the Big Boss. Galatians 6:7-8 says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Life everlasting. That's a great benefit plan.
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9
It seems most mainstream web articles are written in list format these days. Here are a few real headlines I found on the MSN homepage on the same day (3/14/17): “10 Secrets to Perfect Homemade Pizza”; “7 Reasons Your Pee Smells Weird”; “43 Truly Extraordinary Uses for Household Staples You Already Own”. Y’all, I didn’t make these up. And, there were several more like these on the page.
People like lists. So, I’m going to give you the best list you will read today: Five Reasons YOU Are Awesome! Are you ready?
1.) YOU were created in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26 and 1:27 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
You are awesome because you are modeled after the likeness of the Creator of the universe. Not only did God make us in His image, he gave us authority over and responsibility for the earth.
2.) YOU are a work of art!
When God was finished sculpting the earth and everything in it, including humankind, we know what He thought of His creation. Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” It was very good. People are inherently good creations. YOU are very good.
Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Marvelous are His works!
There’s a saying, attributed to the late singer Ethel Waters, “I am somebody ‘cause God don’t make no junk!” While not grammatically correct, the statement is profoundly wise. We can be assured of our awesomeness, because our Creator is perfect.
3.) YOU were born for a purpose!
The scriptures indicate in multiple places that God gives people specific missions in life. There’s a reason you are here, even if you never fully figure out what it is.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) Likewise, the apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:15, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace….” Paul had a job to do for the Lord, long before he knew about it.
Rest in the fact that He did not place you on earth “just because”. You have a purpose.
4.) Jesus Died For YOU.
If you ever doubt your value, just remember that Christ paid the highest price to save you. You are so valuable, He gave His own life for you.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Perhaps the most famous verse in scripture also speaks of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
5.) IF you have accepted Jesus as your savior, YOU have the Spirit of God living in you.
This one is of course conditional, but if you are part of the family of God, you have the gift of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in all believers, and as Galatians 5:22 and 5:23 teaches, He produces fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control in our lives. In today’s world especially, those are super powers! And they really are super, because they come from a supernatural source.
The Holy Spirit also teaches you (John 14:26) and helps you witness to others (Matthew 10:20).
I'm sure there are many, many more reasons that you are awesome, but these are the five I wanted to talk about in this blog post.
Now that we are feeling really good about ourselves, let’s put this into perspective. You are awesome. But, you are nothing without Him. John (the Baptizer) said “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). Hold your head high today, and know how valuable you are in Him, but remember to give Him glory for your awesomeness.
The book of Acts in the New Testament chronicles the actions of some of Christ's apostles, carried out through the power of the Holy Spirit, during a time immediately following Christ's ascension. This book essentially outlines the birth of the church, but in some places, it reads more like an adventure novel than historical reference.
God used the eighth chapter of this book to speak to me recently, and I’ve spent several days trying to understand exactly how to share and explain what I felt the Lord say to me through this passage.
First, let me outline some of the events that take place in Acts Chapter 8. We see Saul making “havock of the church" and believers fleeing from persecution. God used their persecution for good because the scattering of Christians meant the spread of the gospel. This by itself was a blessing to read, because I am awed by the courage of the early believers. They certainly experienced something real to make them flee one place for preaching, only to continue preaching somewhere else. They could have gone into hiding- kept quiet, kept safe. But the Holy Spirit urged them on and they obeyed.
One of those brave believers was a deacon named Philip. He traveled to Samaria and preached there (even a sorcerer was converted under his ministry!), until he received a new assignment directly from the Lord. Verse 27 says, “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.”
So, Philip obeyed, and when he reached the road to Gaza he saw a man from Ethiopia sitting in a chariot, and he heard the man reading aloud from the book of Isaiah. This man was a eunuch, and he was a man of great authority who served as treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia. Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading and then proceeded to reveal Christ to the man through the Old Testament scriptures. The man believed Philip's words and was saved.
One remarkable thing about this story is how much God loved this man from Ethiopia, that he sent the good news of Jesus directly to him. The man already knew of God, but he had not experienced the gift of redemption. And so it is with all believers, because the Holy Spirit has called to us specifically, personally.
It is also exciting to think how this one encounter helped to spread the gospel into other parts of the world, as the Ethiopian man most certainly went home and told everyone what had happened to him. God’s plan was not only to save the man that Philip met on the road to Gaza, but the generations of people after him that would choose to believe.
The Bible indicates that Philip was traveling in the man’s chariot with him when they came to a body of water. They stopped and Philip baptized the man. And this is the part that really jumped out at me. Verses 39 and 40 say, “And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.”
Azotus is the modern-day city of Ashdod, which is probably about an hour-long walk away from where Philip had been. The text describes that the Holy Spirit supernaturally transported Philip to another city! Philip teleported! That might not be the right terminology from a spiritual standpoint, but I think that’s the best word in our natural vocabulary to describe it.
The scripture doesn’t tell us the reason Philip was caught away, but it does tell me this: God can move me where He wants me to be, when He wants me to be there, by any means He chooses- when I seek to follow HIS will.
I’ve had a few dreams in my life; one of the biggest was to become a mother. Before I was married, I was concerned that the dream of a family wouldn’t happen “soon enough” and I would “run out of time”. As it turns out, my husband and I were married only six months after he proposed, and seven months after the wedding we found out our first child was on the way. In a relatively brief span of time I had gone from being single, to being married and expecting a child. Now I have three wonderful children! Some days I’m amazed by where I am on life’s journey.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the future and what new dreams may come to fruition. Reading the story of how Philip was “caught away” gave me these three ideas:
How exciting it is to serve a God that can do what many say is impossible! He loves us and will accomplish His will through those that allow themselves to be used.
You never know when you might find yourself saying, “How did I wind up here?”, and thanking the Lord for His help along the journey.
What does it mean to bless someone? When you bless someone, it means you are speaking good things into existence in their lives. Did you realize you have that kind of power? The bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that “life and death are in the power of the tongue”. We bless people by claiming a promise from the Bible for them, and God works through that.
In the Old Testament, God gave the priests of Israel a specific blessing He wanted them to use to bless the people:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”’ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:23-27
Even though this blessing was for Israel, the Bible teaches us that through Jesus, we are adopted into the family of God and all the promises that God gave to Israel are for us, too. So we can use this same blessing for others.
Most weekdays, before we head out to face the world, I try to speak something like this for each of my three kids: “The Lord bless you and keep you and give you a good day, in Jesus’ name.” (My nine-year-old says, “It helps!”)
Speaking blessing is a lot like praying. But, instead of asking God for something, we are claiming something He already promised us. A blessing has to line up with the Bible. We know God is not a magic genie that grants wishes, so I wouldn’t say to someone, “May the Lord give you a million dollars.” The Bible doesn’t promise us a million dollars! But it does promise good things like “peace” when we need it. So, I could say, “May the Lord give you peace” and that is a blessing that God will honor and work through, because He’s already promised it.
At the close of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he wrote: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” He was blessing them with that statement.
Some blessings are very simple. We often say “God bless you”, especially at church. Sometimes it can even become habit, and we say it without actually thinking about what it means. But, any time we use the name of God, we should use it purposefully, with intention. Think about what you’re saying next time, and really mean it! “God bless you!!” I think when we have faith that God will actually bless someone, meaning He will help them and give them what they need, those three words can be very powerful!
Practice speaking blessings to someone in your life today.
Have you ever been reading the scriptures and a verse, or even just a couple words, really stands out? Like it leaps off the page (or screen) and says, “Hey! Look at me! You need to get this!”
It’s so interesting to me how a verse of scripture that I’ve read or heard so many times before can suddenly take on a new meaning or importance. I attribute this to the work of the Holy Spirit. How humbling it is to realize that as we read the Word, we have a partner, a helper, a translator, that guides us through that sometimes daunting undertaking, when we truly seek understanding, and whispers insight that our natural, earthly minds might not be able to glean otherwise.
I’m so slack in my reading. I hate to admit it. I’m very inconsistent in my study and I’m constantly aware of my need to dedicate more time to the Word. Especially now as we have entered Holy Week, I’m trying to commit to regular Bible reading, and I decided to start again at the beginning of the New Testament.
So, sitting at my desk at work, I took a moment to read (www.blueletterbible.org is my go-to online Bible), and I came to Matthew Chapter 4, which starts out right after Jesus has been baptized. The first verse says this:
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”
Okay. This is a very familiar story. I know this one. I can probably just skim it since I’ve read it so many
times before, and I know I’ve heard it preached at least half a dozen times. Jesus went out into the
desert and Satan came trying to tempt him to sin. But, wait a minute…..
What did that say? He went to the wilderness TO BE tempted? Why have those two words never seemed so important before? Jesus went to the wilderness with the specific purpose of being tempted! He didn’t go there to meditate and happened to be tempted while he was there. He wasn’t going just to fast and pray then Satan suddenly showed up. He went there TO BE TEMPTED! This has probably always been an obvious point to most people, but to me it felt like a revelation. I really had to stop and take it in for a while. The Lord of all creation, in an earthly body, subjected himself to real temptation. This is so difficult to grasp! I want to rationalize that this time of testing Jesus endured really wasn’t much of a test, because Jesus is divine and holy. He has all the power in the universe, so resisting the devil must have been an effortless task. Right? Not quite.
While on this earth, Jesus was 100% God and 100% man at the same time. I know the math doesn’t work, but it’s still true. His temptation in the wilderness was a deliberate surrendering of His divinity, just like He did on the cross when He became sin for us. He supernaturally slipped on the mantle of natural flesh, so he could relate to me and you in our struggles with temptation.
The Holy Spirit explained it for us, through the writing of the Apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews (2:18): “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” The ESV says it this way, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
There is so much to learn from the story of the temptation of Christ. We could talk about the example of how to withstand temptation by being spiritually prepared through prayer and fasting. We could talk about the example of fighting the devil through the power of the Word. Those are great, important take-aways! And I haven’t even talked about the physical and spiritual intensity of the test He endured! (For more study on those points, check out the Study Guide by David Guzik: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Mat/Mat_4.cfm?a=933001)
But what the Holy Spirit wanted to impress upon me, during this specific reading, was that Christ was tempted purposefully and willingly, and that He did it for me. The temptation of Christ was part of the redemptive plan, just as was the work on the cross. I still can’t fully explain “why” he had to be tempted, since I believe His sacrifice on the cross would have been just as complete without His temptation. But I believe it was a selfless act of love toward mankind. He wanted to know His creation so intimately that He became flesh and endured the feelings of temptation as a man.
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15
If anybody has some insight to share on this topic, I’d love for you to leave a comment!
Lord, I'm so tired today- feeling like there's no way I can possibly be all the things I need to be, to all the people who need me; feeling like a mental, emotional, or physical breakdown is soon-coming and it's a toss-up as to which happens first.
Then the guilt comes. How can I complain about being tired when there are people battling cancer today? How can I complain about having so much to do when there are people longing for children to keep them busy and hoping for jobs to help pay their bills? Then I hear You whisper "It's okay."
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Thank you, Father.
But, I don't want the world to see my rotten attitude and my down-trodden expression. I represent You! What if they see the way I struggle today and get the wrong idea about Your Goodness?
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Thank you, Lord, for knowing what I need.
And now that You've given me Grace in exchange for my guilt, and Strength in exchange for me weakness, now, and only now, can I focus on serving those around me, and on being Your hands and feet.
Lord, help me fulfill the commission. Let me not get in the way. Help me live Philippians 4:13, because it's True! I CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength. And now that this truth has been proven in me, let me share it with someone who hasn't quite caught on yet.
Let me be redemption, and not judgement.
Let me be truth, and not confusion.
Let me be hope, and not disillusionment.
Let me be a help, and not a hindrance.
Let me build up, and not tear down.
No. Matter. How. Tired. I. Am.
Your Grace is sufficient.
In my weakness Your strength is demonstrated.
Let me slip off the yoke of the world and follow Your lead.
You are El Shaddai, and I am Yours.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I ran into a friend in Walmart's parking lot last weekend (as in, our paths crossed; not as in, with a car or buggy). It was so nice to see her! It had been nine months or so since we saw each other last. You might think "How good of a friend could she be if you haven't seen her in nine months?" The truth is, we probably haven't spent more than a few hours together- ever- yet I call her my friend.
There are just some people we (we, in the general sense) click with. (The grammar police inside my head really wants to change that sentence to "with which we click", but that sounds weird.) There is something about their nature that draws us to them. There's a familiarity, a warmth, a sense of kinship. So it is with the friend I saw at Walmart.
Her daughter and my oldest daughter had a year of preschool together- over a year ago. We had a few nice conversations at preschool events, and my family attended her daughter's birthday party. (The girls were best friends in class.) Other than those few encounters, we haven't spent any time together. We're not even Facebook friends! Yet I call her my friend.
At first glance we are very different. She is a few years older than me. She was born in a different country. She is Catholic; I am Protestant. She is Latina; I'm white. Yet, I call her my friend.
So what is that can bring two people together in friendship when they hardly know each other? I believe in some cases, it is actually God in them to which we are drawn. The Holy Spirit in one person bears witness to the Holy Spirit in another person, and creates a unity between the two. To me, that is an amazing thing.
After seeing her, I guess I just started reflecting on the blessings of those "Barely-know-'em-but-still-feel-close-to-'em-in-a-not-creepy-kind-of-way" friends. I'm thankful that God puts those people in our paths. Do you have some of those people in your life? Does anyone know what I'm talking about?
Starting this train of thought also led me to, how thankful I am for the closer, more sustaining friendships in my life.
Most friendships are based on a shared history or mutual experiences. My friends from my school days are a connection to my youth. My "mommy" friends offer solidarity and advice for this current season of life. I have "work" friends that I enjoy being with in our eight-to-five cubicle world. And some friends are even family.
Whatever the connection, the most successful friendships are those that also have a spiritual basis. Paul encouraged the church at Philippi to "be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." That combination makes for a pretty tight bond.
I am thankful for those friends with which I can swap recipes, arrange play dates for our kids, vent about work problems and husbands, and share our dreams and fears. But I'm grateful that some of those also happen to be the ones I can trust with a prayer request, those that encourage me in the faith, and those that point me toward Him when I loose focus. To those friends, "thank you". You know who you are.
And to my friend from Walmart parking lot, I hope to see you again soon!
Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man's friend gives delight by hearty counsel.
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!