Friday, July 29, 2011

Help Me Trust

When I was learning to be a small group trainer, one of the hardest lessons for me was that you can’t do it by yourself. I tend to plunge forward with my ideas and plans without asking for help or checking with others who should have input.

I do that a lot with my Christian walk too. This passage is a reminder that I need the help of other Christians to keep trusting God.

The Israelites didn’t trust God and it made Him angry with them. Two specific instances are referred to in this passage. They were thirsty and they didn’t trust Him to provide water. And when they reached the promised land, they refused to go in because they were afraid and didn’t trust God to protect them. 

God had brought them out of slavery by sending ten awful plagues on the Egyptians. Then He opened the Red Sea so they could cross it and let the waters drown the Egyptians afterward. He guided them with a cloud and a pillar of fire, and dropped manna and quail on them out of the sky. But they were thirsty now; they faced giants now. They had a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude.

Their sin was to forget God’s goodness and they failed to trust Him because of current suffering and fear of the future.

God has done amazing things for me too, but sin will deceive me into forgetting. So I need help remembering, daily warnings from other believers not to forget.

I need to trust as firmly now as I did at the beginning and to continue trusting to the end.

You can help. When you talk to me, or write to me, or post on my Facebook wall, please remind me what God has done for me. If you don’t know the specifics, ask me to tell you. I love talking about His miraculous intervention in my life. And I’ll do the same for you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Thing I Love Best

Here’s the choice again. God is relentless about reminding me that I’m constantly faced with choosing Him or the world. It seems like such an easy decision, but I have to choose over and over again because the world seems so attractive.

But God reminds me that the world’s attractions are temporary. In fact it only gives me cravings it can’t satisfy.

Craving for physical pleasure: It’s funny how enjoying physical pleasure just makes me want more of it. When I eat a great meal, it satisfies me for a while, but eventually I get hungry again. My favorite physical activity is swimming. I could swim every day because once isn’t enough. The pleasure I get from these things doesn’t last.

Craving for everything I see: I enjoy seeing beautiful things like nice houses, gardens, beaches and mountains, but part of my response is a desire to own them. I’d love to live in that big house. I want a garden like that. I want to live right on the beach or in the mountains. Nothing I have is quite satisfying enough. 

Pride in achievements: When I accomplish something it’s exciting to celebrate and tell others about it, but it fades. Who remembers now what I accomplished last year? Not even me.

Pride in possessions: Wayne and I have a nice house and we’re working on the yard; we also have some beautiful heirlooms. But they’re a lot of work to maintain and after a while they become commonplace.  

All these things are fading away because they’re of the world and it just doesn’t last.

Fellowship with God does. 

When I choose Him, I get the love of the Father and I get to live forever. In return I want to please Him by walking in His ways. 

So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us. 1 John 2:24-25

So the choice is fellowship with God, now and forever, or temporarily enjoying the things the world offers.

Imagine doing the thing I love best, never getting tired of it, never running out of it, and it never coming to the end. That’s eternal fellowship with God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Truth

I’m attending a study group that’s reading The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. We’re having some lively discussions that often take us down “rabbit trails” but make us dig into the Word. I love this kind of debate, the kind which is focused on God and His truths. 

This group is made up of believers and although we don’t agree on everything, we do agree on the basics. 

Jesus was God.
He came to earth to die for our sins.
He rose from the dead.
We have to believe in Him to be saved.

According to this passage, the basic truth that matters is that Jesus Christ came in a real body. John was arguing against the people who claimed Jesus was a spirit and he just appeared to have a body. When you think about what this means, you realize that the whole gospel hinges on Jesus being fully God and fully man. Otherwise he couldn’t have redeemed us.

John warned his readers to beware of false prophets. It must have been hard back then to know who was speaking the truth. When the gospel started spreading, there were probably lots of people claiming to know the truth about Jesus. Believers didn’t have the New Testament to check for truth and they didn’t have instant communication to check with trusted leaders. So John’s letters (and Paul’s and Peter’s and others) had to focus on the important matters.

In spite of our advantages, I think it’s just as important to beware now as it was then. You can’t know what a church teaches by its denomination anymore, even the evangelical ones. Even churches that have a clear statement of faith don’t necessarily teach it. And there are so many exciting new movements or ideas. What are their foundations?

I can think of three people I love who are involved in a Christian organization that doesn’t have any ties to tradition. That is good in a lot of ways, but it also scares me because I don’t know what they are really being taught. In fact, in all three cases I looked them up on the internet. By God’s grace, I knew what to look for.

Do they teach that Jesus came in a real body?

The rest is important, but not a matter of salvation. Knowing they are not being misled on the things that matter, I can relax and pray that they will grow under leaders that teach the truth about Jesus Christ.

And while I’m at it, I thank God for my pastor (and former pastor) who teach the truth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Strong Ties of Love

My church is going through some changes and some of us are finding them hard to accept. But instead of complaining about the things I don’t like, I’ve been trying to pray for wisdom for the leaders and unity among the members.

So this passage is timely. I’m amazed at how much Paul loved the people in the churches he planted. He agonized over people he didn’t even know. 

Not too long ago, I agonized over my church. But it was more about me than about them. This church requires baptism by immersion for membership. I was sprinkled when I was a child and have always believed it was sufficient and never intended to go through it again. But I had been attending this church for a while and felt the need to take the next step. As I wrestled with the issue, it became crystal clear to me that I love this body of believers and have committed to being part of them. So last spring I was baptized by immersion so I could become a fully participating member.

Now, as I watch the changes we are facing, I pray that God will encourage us and knit us together by strong ties of love. I ask that we will remember that what is important is “God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.” It would break my heart to see dissension among this wonderful group of believers because we’ve forgotten the basics.

Actually, the issue is not so big that the health of the church is threatened. But we do need God’s guidance through it. I’m so glad I can be confident, like Paul was, that the faith in Christ of my brothers and sisters is strong and that they are living as they should.

So when I’m faced with a change I don’t particularly like, instead of complaining, I’ll continue to pray for the body. This passage is a reminder that I can pray in confidence because I’m praying for other believers who also follow Jesus.

Monday, July 25, 2011

People Like That

I’m pretty sure we’re living in the last days. There’s a pretty accurate description of our society in this passage. It’s not pretty, but it describes the culture I encounter on TV, in movies and music, and even in my workplace. So how can I stay away from people like that?

It might be easier to stay away from them if I’m not one of them. If I’m careful to walk in God’s ways, they probably won’t want to be around me and I probably won’t want to hang around with them, unless God’s put them in my way to share His love with them (but that’s another post). So I’ll look at this list of behaviors and attitudes as a check on my own.

Money’s a cool thing and I can think of dozens of ways to spend it on myself. But I am a steward of all God has given me and I’ll do a better job if I remember it belongs to Him.

After 37 years of marriage, raising a family, a satisfying career and a masters degree, among other things, I sometimes find things to boast about. But I want to say with Paul, “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Galatians 6:14

There’s absolutely no excuse for ingratitude. I should thank God daily for all His blessings, starting with my salvation in Christ and ending with the breath I’m taking right now.

I’ve had some experience with learning to forgive, so I want to be quick to pray for the people who hurt me. That’s the best way to learn to love them. And when I pray for them, I need to ask the Holy Spirit to control my tongue and keep me from talking about them to others.

As for the rest of the list, the solution is to love God more than anything else. It always comes down to the choice between loving God and loving myself.

Once again, I choose to love God more.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Mess of Pottage

Two things I know are that I want to see the Lord and I want His blessing. What I don’t want is to trade my birthright for immediate satisfaction.

So, even though I know I’m saved (my confidence rests in what God has done, not in me), I need to examine myself regularly to see if I’m bearing bitter or sweet fruit. 

Both of these passages are talking to believers. If they could become corrupt and unbelieving, so could I. Titus is talking about people who have added to the gospel, insisting that Christians must be circumcised to be saved. The Hebrews audience was probably a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians and it sounds like they were having a bit of problem with each other.

I need to ask myself, what things I add to the gospel, especially things I require of other believers. Are there doctrines or actions I think they should follow that interfere with my love for them? Because I have the advantage of being taught the Bible my whole life, I’ve sometimes had a “holier than thou” attitude. And I know I have judged others for the way they live, the things they do. What I have to guard against is claiming to know God but denying Him by the way I live. In fact the Hebrews passage says I must work at living a holy life. In spite of my upbringing, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I can’t rest on my salvation, but have to keep making an effort.

Do I claim to know God but allow myself to live in conflict with others? I ask God to remove bitterness before it takes root.

Do I take the time to look for the needs of others and try to meet them? I ask God to give me eyes to see and a heart to care and hands to do, instead of indulging my desires.

I don’t want to be like Esau and trade God’s blessing for one moment of self indulgence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear Friends,

I'm not posting a devotional today for several reasons. I know there are only a few of you following my blog, but I am very honored that you have chosen to do so. I hope one day off will not be a disappointment to you all. My prayer is that God will use my words to bless you.

This blog has been a tremendous blessing to me because it has taken me to a deeper level in my devotions. My love for God's Word is growing and the time I spend with Him has become more precious. But I don't always find time to turn my personal journal into a blog post. It's finally caught up with me.

I'll be back tomorrow. In the meantime, God bless you.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


When I read The Pleasures of God by John Piper, I encountered an idea that was strange to me. One passage in the book describes some recently discovered deep sea life. He suggested that God made it and many other things, solely for His own pleasure. It didn’t matter if men ever saw it, because He didn’t make it for us. 

It’s hard for me to think about God apart from His relationship with me or other people, but this verse shows that Piper was right. God has secrets no one knows. 

Then it goes one step further and tells me I’m not accountable for them. In other words, I don’t need to know them, I don’t need to explain them, and maybe I don’t even need to think about them.

Of course, there are plenty of interesting questions about God and His creation that we like to talk about. Who were the Nephilim? Will the rapture happen before or after the tribulation (if it happens at all)? What did Jesus write in the dirt in front of the accusers of the woman caught in adultery? Discussing obscure things is interesting, but not essential. 

On the other hand, God has revealed some things that I am accountable for.

God’s command to His people in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 reminds me that I should know what his instructions are and teach them to my children. He wants me to obey all of them, always and fully.

In order to know them, I need to read my Bible frequently, thoughtfully and prayerfully. I need to go to church and listen to the teaching that’s offered there. I shouldn’t check out mentally because I think I’ve heard it before.

I also need to read good books. I can learn more about God from both fiction and non-fiction, as long as the book’s themes are based on God’s truths.

I should talk about Him with other believers. When we spend time together, our talk naturally turns to Him. Sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned from God, and hearing the same from others is a rewarding way to deepen my understanding. 

It’s seems so simple, but I don’t live in a world that’s completely set apart for Him. There are plenty of things that distract me. In fact, the week I spent at our family reunion was a perfect time to get closer to the Lord, sort of like camp. We talked about Him, shared testimonies, sang and just shut out the world. And yet, I so enjoyed being with the others that I skipped my quiet time. And I still faced temptations to be selfish or crabby. 

So I don’t have to worry about the things God hasn’t revealed. I have plenty of work keeping track of the things He has revealed.

Monday, July 18, 2011


When I really look at God’s reaction to His people, the contrast between good and evil gets clearer. God really hates evil. It makes Him angry when people do it and think He won’t notice. 

This passage is a list of the things He hates. He’s warning His people to repent or He will tear them apart. When I look at these things, I need to ask if I’m doing them. If I am, I need to repent so I don’t get torn apart. If I do repent, He’ll reveal His salvation to me. 

It’s kind of a no-brainer. Don’t repent and fall apart. Repent and be saved.

But after I repent, how do I act? I can’t go back to acting this way. So if I turn these evil things around, I can see the things He loves. This list of things God hates can be a guide to the ways that please God.

  • Instead of pretending to obey His covenant (going through the motions), I truly believe He died for my sins and trust Him for salvation.
  • Instead of treating His words like trash, I cherish His Word by reading and following it (and memorizing favorite passages).
  • Instead of approving of thieves, I thank Him for the abundant material gifts He’s given me (and be a good steward of them).
  • Instead of spending time with adulterers, I remain committed to my husband (in fact, I think he’s pretty wonderful.)
  • Instead of telling lies (even little white ones), I strive for honesty in my relationships.
  • Instead of slandering my brother (which would be hard to do since he’s a great guy), I talk about my wonderful extended family (and my church family).
My prayer is that God will teach me to hate what He hates and follow His ways always.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Strength

When I think about God, it’s like pouring oil on a ball; my thoughts slide off and I have a hard time staying focused on Him alone. The images in this passage help me to see Him a for a little longer.

He’s the Creator of everything:

I imagine Him making the world like a friend I watched making pizza dough. God weighed the earth and mountains on a scale, measured the heavens with his fingers, and scooped up the oceans in His hand. Or I think of Him using a lump of Play-Doh like my granddaughter does. He made each star, lined them up and named them. 

He’s the Ruler of the world:

All of creation is insignificant to Him. The nations are like a drop in a bucket, or like dust on the scales. The whole world is like a grain of sand he picks up. In fact, all the wood and all the animals in Lebanon’s forest are not enough for an adequate sacrifice. God sits above the earth and people are like grasshoppers; the sky is like a curtain He spreads out for a tent.

What we consider greatness, means nothing to God. People like kings and presidents who achieve the pinnacle of success barely get started and then He blows on them and they wither.

He’s the only God:

In Shanghai, we saw a statue of Buddha that was covered with gold. We wondered that an idol could be so beautiful. The best work of the best craftsmen can’t create an idol that would compare to Him. No one made God. He has no equal; there’s no one to whom we can compare Him.

And then, after thinking about God and starting to grasp His greatness so that I can say with Job in awe, “I shut my mouth,” He reminds me what He does for me.

He gives power to weak little me; He gives me new strength so I can fly like an eagle, and run without getting tired. The incomparable Creator of all there is, sustains me.

With His strength I can walk and not grow weary today, in His service and to His glory.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Foolish Child

God says His people are foolish children who don’t know Him. They are clever at doing wrong, but don’t know how to do right. My ability to be good, to do right, is wholly dependent on my knowledge of God. The better I know Him, the more able I’ll be to live righteously.

I know a lot about God and I know Him personally, but sometimes it’s good to review the basics. On Mars Hill, Paul told the pagans who God is.

He created the world.
He’s the Lord of Heaven and earth.
He doesn’t live in man-made temples.
He has no needs that humans can meet.
He gives life and breath to everything and satisfies every need of His creation.
He created all nations from one man; He decides their rise and fall and their boundaries.
His purpose for the nations is for them to find Him.
He’s not far from any of us; we move and live and exist in Him.
He’s not an idol made by men.
Now is the time to repent of sins and turn to Him.
He will judge the world by the man He appointed (Jesus).
He proved who that is by raising Him from the dead.

God is the Lord of nations. Mubarak, Qaddafi, Obama, and all other political leaders are in power by His will so people will find Him. 

This passage reminds me that God is sovereign. He made everything for His purposes. His purpose includes saving me by Jesus’ death and resurrection. It also includes an intention for me to do good.
The God who places kings on thrones and sets the boundaries of nations, knows me and cares how I act. He knows that I’m a stupid child who wants my own way. But He also has done everything necessary to make me righteous.

I stand in awe.