Thursday, December 31, 2015
Will the Lord cast off forever?
Will He be favorable no more?
Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up
His tender mercies?
Psalm 77: 7-9
There has been so much disaster. 2015 is going out with a bang, and 2016 doesn't look better. Maybe we would be tempted to think God has forgotten us. I feel terrible to hear about all the people in our country affected by the awful tornadoes, the flooding, the earthquakes, the methane leak in California, and on and on. I pray for God to comfort and help them.
Where is God when disaster strikes? Maybe God is trying to wake us all up. Maybe I should look no further than myself, even. Though disaster has not struck me in the physical realm, financial concerns have been unrelenting. In spite of that, I use food to comfort me. My weight has crept up insidiously and I face the fact that my clothes don't fit. Why? Like the Psalmist, somehow I did not believe that God was enough, that I must satisfy my cravings for comfort from food.
The last couple of days, I decided enough was enough. I began tracking my calories and exercising, and limiting myself to a certain number of calories. The first night, the urge to quit was so bad I nearly gave in. I treated myself to a cup of Hershey's cocoa with skim milk and stevia and somehow there were no hunger pangs when I went to bed that night.
The next morning, I woke up from a dream that I have had repeatedly in my life. The dream is that I am back in college, However, this time, I was going to a different college, the one my sister attended, instead of the one I actually attended and frequently dreamed about. I thought to myself in the dream, "Why did I ever like my old campus, this one is so much more beautiful?" I told my husband the next morning that maybe I had a break through somehow in my dream, by not giving into my appetite's screams for attention the night before. Seems crazy, I know.
But I am heartened when I have woken up the past couple of mornings, I have had more energy and felt more refreshed. Even though I haven;t lost any pounds yet. My knees are not aching as bad. My terrible heartburn is going away. God is enough to fill the cravings of my soul.
Last night, I drifted off to sleep with a slight growl in my stomach and I thought about all the people in the world who know constant hunger. I think about those who are running from terrorists, from persecutions. This world grows darker, yet One day the true Light of this world will satisfy all the souls who long for Him, who ache for Him.
"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they may grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." Acts 17: 26-28 (emphasis mine)
Maranatha, may our Lord come quickly and fill our hungry hearts with Himself. May He satisfy every longing soul who craves for Him in the New Year 2016.
Friday, December 25, 2015
The above verse is not too "Christmas-y" but it describes my quiet Christmas day of peace. Somehow, it has taken me a long time to realize the best Christmases are not when I get everything I want, but to be a blessing to others.
Now that the kids are long gone, we did not want my Mom and Dad to sit alone in their house while we sat alone in ours, so we surprised them with a visit and a meal. Just sitting and sharing together about the Lord and being able to serve them a delicious meal made my day. Especially after when I am tempted to think of the things I don't have, it is far better to think of all the blessings I do have.
I have a warm caring husband who treated my parents with gentleness and a servant's heart. I have two beautiful grandsons and another little one on the way. I have a roof over my head and clothes to wear. I have caring sons and daughter in laws. Yes, I am blessed.
Even if I never got another present in this life, I have the gift of His eternal Presence. The great I Am, the Creator of the universe, has seen fit somehow to include me as a part of His very own family. He tells me I have not just some, but every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Him. (Ephesians 1:3) I have His unfailing love and a fresh start every day. No matter how bad the mistakes I made yesterday, I can start over with a conscience that has been purged from guilt. (Hebrews 9:14) Not because I did anything to clean that conscience, but that Another saw fit to take in His body my every mistake: my bad thoughts, words and deeds and pay the penalty in full for them.
Tell me, is that gift not worth more than a thousand Mercedes-Benz's? Isn't having a secure destiny and His constant love worth more than having all the money of a Donald Trump or Warren Buffet?
Holidays can be difficult because we want them to be perfect. But how can they when we all are imperfect people? This holiday, how about giving ourselves the gift of peace? It comes when we thank God for all our many undeserved presents underneath the Eternal tree of Calvary, and His enduring Presence in our lives for time and eternity. Now that is the gift that really keeps on giving.
I wish you His peace this Christmas night.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
of no reputation
and took upon
Him the form
of a servant, and
was made in
the likeness of men.
And being found in
fashion as a man,
He humbled Himself,
and became obedient
unto death, even the death
of a cross." Phil. 2:7-9
I heard a message on the cost of Christmas to Christ today. And it made me think of how Christ made Himself of no reputation. Looking up the Greek word for "no reputation," I found it was the word is transliterated kenoō.
The word means, in relationship to Christ, that He laid aside equality with or the form of God, according to the Greek lexicon #2758. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2758&t=KJV
This was unprecedented. To consider that God the Son realized that He must one day be separated from God His Father and leave the place He had dwelt in for all of eternity past, this is what it meant to have emptied Himself. To give up all the prerogatives He had to use His own deity, and limit Himself to becoming one like us, feeling hunger and cold and poverty. Hi suffering as a man for the sins of all people is what the Kenosis of Christ is all about.
No one ever limited themselves in the way He did so that He could reconcile us to Himself. The One who put the universe together was not welcomed by mankind. He had to be born in a stable and placed in an animals feeding trough.
Has it changed so much today? Christ still is not welcomed by most of the people on this planet. Even those of us who claim to know Him can be like Peter and deny Him in the face of opposition.
Even saying His name is becoming more and more dangerous. Why? Because He is the Son of God, and the enemy of the god of this world.
Two thousand years since He made His first appearance, and for the most part, Christ is not welcomed by the very people He came to die for. If that happened to me, if I were to make a sacrifice of my life for others and found that they did not even appreciate it, I would probably say, "Well, forget them!"
But not Christ. He thought little of the shame He would endure as He hung naked on the cross for the sins of all mankind. He instead was thinking of all the ones He would be able to call brethren after He completed His perfect sacrifice.
"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
It wasn't because He found something attractive in us that He condescended in such a way. It was rather, because His very nature was to love even those that would nail Him to the cross.
So it is today. There are many who still call His name as a curse word, many who hate Him and all that He stands for. Do you think He wants to smash them? No, He gives us a chance to believe in Him every single day of our entire life.
Even if you previously hated Him, it is not too late for you, or anyone, to change your mind today. Believe on Jesus Christ as the Son of God who took away the sins of the world. That is what the real celebration is all about. That is why the enemy tries to distract from reflecting on what the First Advent of Chist is and make it into a marketing frenzy, and have children occupied with Santa, not Christ.
But there is coming a day when...
"... at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven or on earth or under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2: 10-11
Every eye will see Him for who He really is, no longer a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes but the Son of Man coming back with His angels to reclaim the planet that mankind lost. In that day, the One who made Himself of no reputation will be exalted to His rightful place: the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Monday, December 14, 2015
He brought me
And his banner
What if we had recipes for the things our hearts most desired this Christmas? Things like peace and joy and love for one another?
Maybe there would really be "peace on earth." For there will never be any peace on earth without peace reigning in the hearts of God's children first.
But how do we find that peace? Every time it seems that I turn on the TV now I can feel my despair as I watch this world grasp for answers to problems that are beyond our ability to solve. It saddens my heart to hear empty promises and watch shows where I hear canned laughter. It reminds me of the Proverbs 14:13 which says:
"Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief."
Have you noticed that this world is running out of solutions for the overwhelming problems that face us? That the situation grows dimmer by the day? Where can we find answers, hope to even face the year 2016?
The answers are beyond ourselves. But God promises us in Psalm 119:130: "The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple."
Gaining understanding means first admitting that we have run out of ideas in trying to solve our problems in our own way. God has a better idea for all the problems we face.
5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.” Proverbs 4: 5-7
I found myself in a stressful situation for the past week or so, and found that I was attempting to let people fill a need that only God could fill. Why do we expect anyone on earth to meet our needs, when there is no one here that can do that? Not even the ones closest to us can meet all of our deepest needs. But we know there is One who can.
I was out of my regular routine, and this morning I was able to return to my habit of reading the Word with my morning coffee. Such peace washed over my soul when I opened up my Bible. It was not always like this, though. I have found that the more I read the Bible, the more I love the Bible. Especially when something pops out at me that I have never seen before. We cannot just read something one time and expect to know it. With the Word of God, it takes a lifetime, and even then we have only barely scratched the surface of learning God's message to us.
If I could write a "recipe" for my own Christmas peace it might read something like this:
Heaping cups of Bible reading and learning God's gift to us wrapped up in the Person of Jesus
with equal amount of cups of praising God for His goodness and daily benefits of knowing Him
folded into an attitude of thanksgiving for all things
Add solid grace teaching, not law, which will strengthen the heart
Beat in gently
An attitude of grateful prayer
Humility and lowliness of mind, thinking of others higher than myself
And a dash of suffering by which my Christian growth expands
Put all into my innermost soul being and bake gently day by day
To yield a rich supply of peace, love and joy, and faith, plus a rich inheritance in glory.
What would your recipe for Christmas peace be? I would love to hear it.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
This is going to be a different Christmas from all others in my life. Last week, my Mom fell and received an excruciating pelvic fracture that only can heal through rest and time. I was with her when she fell and saw her go down. I ran to her but did not get there in time. Now her life, and indeed all of our lives, have been rearranged.
Mom always loved Christmas. When I was a little girl, she tried so hard to make it special for me and my two sisters. I will always treasure a special memory of the note she wrote me when she gave me my last baby doll. I was growing up, and she gently told me it would be my last one, though I was reluctant to leave childhood behind.
I was just starting to get into the spirit of things last week when I accompanied Mom and Dad on a trip to my sister's house, and it was on our way there she fell. At first I thought she was very fortunate, for she was able to walk when we helped her get to her feet, but it seemed that her pain only got worse and worse. It was not until we returned home that she got the XRay that confirmed she had a small fracture.
Now, Mom needs my help. It will mean travelling to her home and staying there and helping my Dad, at least until she begins to improve. The last two nights have been difficult when she wakes up in excruciating pain. Somehow, my zest to write Christmas cards and do more shopping has gone by the wayside.
But I have comfort, even in knowing that my parents are aging, and that one day they will leave us to carry on without them. Mom and Dad know the Lord, and I will see them when I get to heaven. Every morning, they have devotions together. They read from the Word and pray together. They didn't do that when we girls were little, but now it is their daily habit. They went from going to a ritualistic type of church to an evangelical one, and that didn't happen until we girls were grown and gone too. In fact, all of my family attends evangelical churches where the Word of God is taught. I am so thankful.
And so, I sit here and try to process what the near future holds for me. Mom's advice is "one day at a time," and I have to admit she's right. Jesus said to take no thought for tomorrow. My joy now is to see my own grandchildren and enjoy their delight in new life and adventures. The train of time stops for no one. One day, I will be in Mom's shoes, if the Lord tarries.
My comfort in all of this is in Christ, and that my family, whether awake in the Lord or asleep in death, will hear that trumpet call one day. Christ is the one thing that makes life worth living. Whatever hope do we have without Him. Current events, which seem to spiral downward in a vortex, faster and faster every day, make our lives uncertain, but Christ is our stronghold and our hope.
Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times,
And the strength of salvation;
The fear of the LORD is His treasure. Isaiah 33:6
A friend of mine who lost her mother recently encouraged all her friends to spend Thanksgiving in gratitude with our parents, if we still had them. I never realized how timely her words would be. One day, it will be too late to show my gratitude to my parents. The time to love and help them is now.
Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15
A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
It is about the fifth day in a row of gloomy rainy skies and today, being the great decorator that I am (not), decide to try to make the house festive for the holidays. It only ends up reminding me of a Charlie Brown house, bringing back memories of other holidays that were not so cheerful.
Ahh, Christmas. The time for baking, shopping, and celebrating. Except how do you do that when the world has lost its mind? Christmas, in spite of the lights and goodies, can be a down time for many people. False expectations of a "perfect" holiday can push those who struggle nearly off the edge. Every year, it seems to me that Christmas seems a desperate time, with people trying to buy happiness somehow through the "perfect" gift.
But somehow, there is always a letdown.
I am already sounding very Charlie Brownish.
I have a video recording of the Charlie Brown Christmas and tonight might be the perfect night to watch it. You see, I can relate to old Charlie.
I never got things naturally, and was the last one picked for the team in gym class so many years ago. I know what it feels like to be bullied and made fun of. I realize that other people have the fancy homes and beautiful decorating schemes, but that will never be my destiny.
Christmas has a sore way of reminding me that there are loved ones who are missed in my life, that there are some loops that never seem to close. I cannot help but be reminded of these things as I make my way to the attic to pull out the dusty Christmas decorations yet again.
But in spite of all this, the fact that my house is not ready for Better Homes and Gardens, that there are people who I would love to hear from but won't, that the messiness of life will not magically disappear over the holiday, still today I can rejoice.
Just like Linus told Charlie, the good news of these darkest days of the year is that a Savior came down to be a part of the mess that is this world. He took all the messes people made of their lives and bore the agony for them on the wood of the tree at Calvary. In doing so, He redeemed us from a hopeless eternity and gave us heaven to look forward to. He laid aside His Deity and put on humanity so that He could call someone like me His friend.
And so, I say, in spite of my Charlie Brown house here on this earth, I can anticipate a heavenly mansion with Him in eternity. One of these days, it will really be.
What Christmas is Really All About
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,fn who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Even we who feel like Charlie Brown can rejoice about that!
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
For a nation
I read these words this morning, as if it were for the first time. The words resonated within my spirit, for I feel that I am also like Jeremiah, watching his beloved nation falling from the Lord's favor and into judgment.
I used to think I would always be safe in America. I read about all the terrible things that happened in World Wars I and II and inwardly breathed a sigh of relief at least to know that warfare had not come to our own shores, even if, sadly, we lost hundreds of thousands of brave men and women across the seas. The security I felt is no more. Each day seems to get crazier, with some of the headlines we see. The America I was proud of is really not the same America anymore.
I have had freedom and plenty for all of my years, yet deep within our nation I sense we are lacking the one thing we need to keep our country together: the fear of God. The fear of God is lost to the church and society in general. I do not fear God or thank Him nearly enough for all His blessings to me. Having so much at my disposal has caused me to be careless in my attitude towards God. I am not running for my life (yet) nor have I been imprisoned. But we see the signs all around us. Our freedoms are being whittled away. Just like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, I sit in front of the computer or TV and do not take full advantage of the opportunity that freedom has afforded me.
And yet God still longs to be gracious to someone like me. Where else do I have to go but to Him? I try to find happiness like the rest of the world seems to be striving after, but every single day there is a longing for something more meaningful that keeps tugging at my heart. I am probably way past the halfway mark of my life. I do not know when my time of opportunity to get to know God on this side of eternity could suddenly end.
Carpe diem. Seize the day, the very moment I am in right now, I try to remind myself. For the same writer of the above verse, Jeremiah, in the same book tells us a most gracious promise. Right in the middle of his bitter complaint, Jeremiah remembers something that will turn his eyes off his situation and back onto the Only Helper, the Lord Jesus Himself.
"Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord's mercies
we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
'The LORD is my portion,'
says my soul,
Therefore I hope in Him!"
Jeremiah 3: 19-24
Tomorrow, I can truly be thankful not only for a plateful of food but for His portion given to me as a free and unmerited gift. He will ever remain faithful, no matter whatever dark clouds we see looming on the horizon. And our life is but a moment on the line of eternity.
I thank Him for my problems, for they keep me depending on Him. I thank Him for sustaining me in life every single day. Let me thank Him even for my breath. Without Him, I have nothing, but with Him I have all things. Can you join me this Thanksgiving with your own portion full? If not, you can believe on Jesus Christ today and truly have something to be grateful for tomorrow.
3 "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus..." I Timothy 2:3-5
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I awoke this morning overflowing with gratitude for how God has taken a nobody (that's me) and made them a somebody, all thanks to the kindness of Another. I thank Him for opening my eyes today to the beauty of the Scriptures of Truth and all the promises He gives us, due to the work of the Second Person of the Trinity.
His promises remain ever fresh, ever new each morning. No matter how bleak our circumstances, God is wanting to help us, if only we turn to Him. I thank Him for allowing difficulties in my life, because they have impelled me to seek His face. Our enemy is constantly working, trying to blind us to the fact of God's grace and goodness. He wants us to stay in the dark. But our Heavenly Father exists only in light, and there is no darkness in Him. (I John 1:5) He is ever in the background, cheering, rooting for us helpless creatures whenever we turn away from looking to ourselves and put our confidence in Him.
Last night I gave my first book talk at our local library covering how and why I wrote the book Sure Mercies:Hope for the Suffering(published by 4RV Publishing). The day before I got so nervous, I began to cry. That night, at our ladies Bible study, our teacher reminded us of the prayers of the saints. In Revelation 5:8 we see a picture of our prayers as the Lamb of God, Jesus unwraps the scroll to loose the seals in heaven, being found the only One that was worthy to do so.
"Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
In Revelation 8:3, we read, "Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."
Our teacher reminded us that ALL of our prayers, past, present and future, are already in that bowl before God. Suddenly I realized that my prayers for my first book talk were in that bowl too, and that God knew exactly what my prayers would be before I even prayed them. That really lifted my soul, and as I sat at the Bible study, the Spirit brought another verse of comfort to mind from Psalm 34:5.
"They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed."
That verse could almost be a life verse for me. For before I came to know of His overwhelming love and grace toward me, I was filled with shame. I was most definitely not radiant. But now, my heart burns within me, because He has put a new song in my mouth, one of praise to my God. I know that He loves us, He proved it by dying for us on the cross when we could not lift a finger to help ourselves.
"He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD." Psalm 40:3
That's what my book is about, even if it only scratches the surface telling the goodness of our God. God came through for each and every person I wrote about in my 40 chapters, and He comes through daily for me. I want others to know, "How great is my God!"
If you happen to be reading this and seem to be facing an insurmountable problem, I beg you today to look to the Lord, for He is able to do beyond what we could ever ask or think,
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us..." Ephesians 3:20.
He is able!!
(Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering is available through 4RV http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/megan-vance.php They are currently running a Christmas special. It is also available through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com )
Thursday, November 12, 2015
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
Isaiah 40: 14-15
I had a window seat on my trip home from Texas, on the leg from Atlanta to Pittsburgh. When the plane took off, the skies were clear blue, even as I heard of bad weather erupting in other parts of the country. There was no sign of it as we ascended northward out of Dixie land. It's been a while since I gazed out the window of an airplane and beheld the cities below grow smaller and smaller, the cars looking like ants speeding along on their path. Every one is so busy, going only God knows where. I was reminded of the nations being only a drop in the bucket before God who looks down on the affairs of men, all the while in perfect love and justice.
I spent a few precious days with my son and his family in the Lone Star State. Everything is so big there, including all the traffic jams. (That is one thing I appreciated driving home from the airport. Pittsburgh highways are not like Texas highways.) I was reminded there how my son's little boy is growing so fast. His little hands and feet are pudgy, and remind me of his Daddy's when he was my little boy. My eyes wanted to fill many times when I rode in the back of my son's truck with my grandson. How amazing it is to witness his pure trust in his Daddy and Mommy for everything in his young life. Little sneakers dangled out of the car seat, even as he remained clutching his toy airplanes for dear life.
Luckily my grandson was still sleeping when we left to come home early on Veteran's Day. I hastened into his nursery and blew a little kiss onto his forehead silently as not to wake him. It was easier to say goodbye that way. I didn't want to even think about how long it might take until we see them all again. My tears came later as the plane prepared for takeoff.
We celebrated a milestone while I was there, as my eldest turned thirty. It didn't seem possible that three decades have gone by since I became a mother for the first time. But life has changed a lot in the world since 1985. There were no cell phones, no internet even, and the world "seemed" a safer place. Really, has it ever been safe since Adam's fall?
When my son was tiny, I foolishly thought that if the Lord were to come back too early, I would miss out on raising my family. But now I know there is nothing else this world needs more than the Lord. It seems everyone now knows there are no real solutions for the problems of mankind. Christ alone will make things right on this planet.
Now that I am settled back on my own turf on a windy November night, I'm reminded that I am especially homesick for the coming Kingdom. I pray that even if just in the smallest of ways, I am seen as a little child also before my Savior. I hope He beholds one somewhat like my grandson, a child waiting patiently, trusting in the love of her Heavenly Father to provide all her needs until that glorious Day.
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary...
They wandered in the wilderness...; They were hungry and thirsty; Their soul fainted within them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses."
Psalm 107: 1,2, 4-6
Did you ever think of the lyrics to the refrain in the hymn, Jesus Paid it All written by Elvina Hall? It says: "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow." Does that sound like it might just be too good to be true, that we must have to do something? No, but the gospel really is good news for people who could not save themselves in a million years no matter how many chances they were given. The enemy of our souls doesn't want us to think of Christianity as "good news" but somehow reforming ourselves and never having fun anymore.
What a lie. I don't know about you, but Jesus came to give such a peaceful rest to my soul. He wants us to have His burden, which is light and gracious, instead of trying to bear our own. I don't have to pretend anything before God. He knows I am but dust. And so, He did everything that I needed in order to have a righteous standing with God. I remember hearing it like this once: It was like I am chauffered to the most fancy restaurant (one that accomodates the stars) for an exquisite dinner. After a succulent nine course meal with delicious beverage and dessert, I start to get nervous about how much the bill is going to cost me.
But then the maitre deux comes over, just as I am wondering if I am going to go over my credit limit paying for this meal, with the most wonderful news for me. The dinner, chauffeur, the tips and all other expenses related have been completely covered by an anonymous donor. I don't have to pay a penny for it.
That is what Jesus did in providing our salvation. He did it all, there is nothing we can add but to simply say "thank you." A thankful heart knows that all that he or she has was provided without cost by Another for a very expensive price. A price that we cannot fathom. All that is left is to say thank you.
I love the Romans account, stating so clearly that salvation is without cost to whoever believes. "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited for him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.' Romans 4: 1-5 (emphasis mine)
Christ justified me not when I got "good" but when I was still ungodly!`William Newell, in his commentary on Romans, has this to say about "But to him that worketh not..." "to him who 'casts his deadly doing down'; who, seeing his guilt, and his entire inability to put it away, ceases wholly from all efforts to obtain God's favor by his own doings, or self-denyings,--even by his prayers: but believeth on the God that declareth righteous the ungodly-- not the godly or the good!...If we say, God, indeed has some special cases justified notoriously, openly, evidently ungodly ones; while His general habit is to justify the godly (which is what human reason demands), then we at once deny all Scripture."
Romans Verse by Verse, by William R. Newell, p.132-33 copyright 1994, Kregel Publications
What is left then but to be thankful? Our Heavenly Father knows everything about us, and yet still loved us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. He wanted so much to be able to fellowship with us broken people that He provided everything, so that man just needs to acknowledge the price was paid by Jesus. Again, it's just like eating freely at the fanciest restaurant and finding out your meal is covered. Your Best Friend, the one who sticks closer than a brother, paid it all for you just so He could get to know you and call you a part of His family.
Psalm 25: 1-2 "O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."
Thank You God, for Your perfect faithfulness to me, in including me as part of Your family through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Monday, October 19, 2015
silver will not
be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves
This also is vanity."
Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones had it right. Without Jesus, there is no satisfaction. They are only agree with Solomon, who said everything was vanity. Even if you have lots of money, or fame, or (you fill in the blank with what you think would make you happy.)
One pastor described it as the soul's "frantic search for happiness." We think, if only I had this thing or that thing, then I would be happy. But then somehow we get that thing, and in the back of our minds the nagging question remains, "Is this all there is?"
Been there, done that, too many times. It seems the more technologically advanced we are, there's less satisfaction even though we are "connected" with the whole wide world. I know of only one place I can return to to hear that still small voice of satisfaction, and it has nothing to do with what is going on around me, only on what is going on inside me. That is, I am in communion with God. Only there does my heart rest at peace. There is nowhere else I can run on this planet to receive that grace and peace.
And I can have that grace and peace anytime, anywhere, thanks to the great sacrifice Christ made to forever declare me right in God's presence. I didn't do anything to get right with God. I received it as a totally free gift. And just as I received that gift, the only way I make progress in my Christian life is not to strive to do, but again to receive it.
It is all about receiving from Him:
Colossians 2: 6-7 "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving."
I Cor. 4:7 "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"
John 14: 1-4 1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
There is peace in these words that tell me simply that My shepherd will take care of me in this world where there really is no satisfaction apart from Him.
"The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want."
I will be satisfied when I see His face, not in this world or its many distractions:
"As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." Psalm 17:15
I determine that God will be my place of peace today and my satisfaction. When life becomes confusing, all I need do is run back to Him. For He is there, waiting for me.
Speaking of grace and peace, check out my new book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering, for stories of those who have gone before, who ran their race, and took the help God gave them through His Word to live as overcomers. It is available from 4RV Publishing.com, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
"As you do not know what is
the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in
the womb of her
who is with child,
So you do not know
the works of God
who makes everything.
Yesterday I wrote a blog post, but felt utterly unable to post it. The post wouldn't really reflect my true thoughts, because I was a hypocrite. It was one of those days when I woke up with a migraine and the day went downhill from there. You know, one of those ice-pack on the head kind of days?
By the end of the day, though, I saw once again the futility of trying to have things my way. I sought desperately for a fresh word of encouragement from God. I found an old writing, from 1659, on the BlueLetter Bible website, called The Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod by Thomas Brooks. Yes, I'd been under a smarting rod alright! Brooks' writing was antiquated, to be sure, but even the dedication resonated with me:
"To all afflicted and distressed, dissatisfied, disquieted, and discomposed Christians throughout the world.
(Yes, those words certainly described me...)
Dear Hearts,—The choicest saints are 'born to troubles as the sparks fly upwards’, Job v. 7. 'Many are the troubles of the righteous;' if they were many, and not troubles, then, as it is in the proverb, the more the merrier; or if they were troubles and not many, then the fewer the better cheer. But God, who is infinite in wisdom and matchless in goodness, hath ordered troubles, yea, many troubles to come trooping in upon us on every side. As our mercies, so our crosses seldom come single; they usually come treading one upon the heels of another; they are like April showers, no sooner is one over but another comes. And yet, Christians, it is mercy, it is rich mercy, that every affliction is not an execution, that every correction is not a damnation. The higher the waters rise, the nearer Noah's ark was lifted up to heaven; the more thy afflictions are increased, the more thy heart shall be raised heavenward."*
*Brooks' words italicized
I had just written something quoting that exact verse from Job, thinking about the many sparks have flown up during the course of my life. But Brooks said the troubles follow one another like April showers, but these troubles lift us up ever closer to heaven. If only I can believe that He is in the midst of them, with me. Even though I don't deserve it.
After arguing with my husband ( I hate to admit it), I was glad to see the day come to a close. I found a few freebie downloads for my Kindle, written by the hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal. One of them was about the hymn (to which she wrote the lyrics) Take My Life and Let it Be. Havergal encouraged me in Chapter One when she wrote that we can't even trust our own trusting ourselves to Him, but we can trust Him to do in us that which we can't do for ourselves. In other words, He alone consecrates our lives to Him, if only we are willing. Once again, the word of His grace built me up.
I awoke this morning to the thought that this was a new day, and instead of wallowing for the bad day yesterday, the promises of God were ever fresh and new. I knew I didn't deserve anything from God, so it helped me to forget expecting anyone else to act deserving either. My headache was gone, too.
Christ's death on the cross for my personal sins, His burial and resurrection reminded me that I too, have resurrection life as a totally free gift. Every day is a fresh new day to start over, no matter how many times needed, looking away from myself and unto Him. As Thomas Brooks says, the multiple trials only draw my ark closer to Heaven. One day soon, time will be no more and all the things I got so worried and worked up over will no longer matter.
Only beholding Him will matter then. For:
"As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." (Psalm 17:15)
I hope these words may help someone else who has an ark of difficulties reaching toward heaven. If you want to read encouragement from stories of victorious Christians from all throughout the Church Age, you may want to check out my new book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering available here: http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/megan-vance.php and also on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sure-Mercies-Suffering-Megan-Vance/dp/1940310334/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444347894&sr=1-1&keywords=sure+mercies
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Like it or not, we are in a battle. If you haven't noticed, it is raging more and more with every passing day. In fact, I am sure you have noticed. Each day, we have a choice: to be defeated and dejected or to use the weapons God has provided us to walk in spiritual victory.
I have not learned this in an easy way. Nor have I learned it to the extent I need to. No way. For me, the battle is in my thoughts. How about you? In sermons, I have heard this statement: "A thought can make or break you." Every day, we are inundated with thousands of thoughts. The one secret I have learned is that I do not have to accept the thoughts that come into my mind as my own.
For we are surrounded by an atmosphere around this earth and this atmosphere is under the domain of God's enemy, the devil. He is called the "prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2.
1 "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others."
The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of this world system stand opposed to God's thoughts. God tells us in Isaiah 55 how our thoughts compare to His thoughts. There is no comparison.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."
Today I read in I John 2 and was struck again by how the world system is totally opposed to God's way of thinking. John tells us
"15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
So, that is one way I can test my thoughts. Is it concerning the lust of my flesh or eyes or having to doing with pride in my achievements? Then I can be certain it is not from God and I can cast it down as a vain imagination that rises up against the knowledge of God. For every thought has one of two origins: either from God and devoted to His glory or against God and devoted to the enemy's lies and destruction.
I used to foolishly think God was selfish in order to want every thought to be for His glory, until I learned that His glory gives the highest and best to fallen creatures such as us. Think of what happens when the opposite occurs: what is the benefit of evil being glorified? Only misery and bondage and death.
GOD is LIGHT! In Him there is no darkness at all! (See I John 1:5) When I summon the courage to deny a thought that comes into my head as not being true, and cast it down, I walk in the light with my God. Sometimes, this is hard for me because my mind is screaming that the thought just has to be true, but if I resist it, the devil will flee. James 4 reveals:
7 "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
Even if it is hard, even if it seems we are in a constant uphill battle, we will overcome if we do not lose heart. We destroy the mountains of lies that the enemy whispers in our ears one by one, like tearing down a brick wall. And then, as that wall of untruth tumbles down, we fill our mind with good things, the things God has for us, and promises for the life to come.
9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9
If we do not faint today but let God's Word pour into us, we will have strength and courage to cast down the lies the enemy sends to defeat us.
Andrew Murray, quoted in the devotional, None but the Hungry Heart for the day 12-30 says: "The Father works to will, and He is ready to work to do, but, alas! many Christians misunderstand this. They think because they have the will it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The new will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new life in Christ. The power to carry out this will is not a permanent gift, but must be each moment received from the Holy Spirit. It is the one who is conscious of his own utter powerlessness, as a believer, who will learn by the Spirit alone he can live the Christian life."
We receive hope and help moment by moment as we cast down vain imaginations which lie against God and His Truth.
I hope these thoughts have encouraged you today as you face the many thoughts that come your way. And speaking of hope, I would like to announce the publication of my book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering is now available through 4RV Publishing.(It will also soon be on Amazon.) It tells the story of believers throughout the Church Age who overcame huge obstacles by their overcoming faith. http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/megan-vance.php
Sunday, September 20, 2015
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
Do you ever live in fear that the hammer could drop on you at any moment? Or that God is just waiting to catch you in some sin so He can pummel you into submission?
I lived that way for many years. Mostly battling fear that somehow my sins would catch up with me. But lately, I have been meditating on the fact that Christ died for me when I was ungodly. I think many Christians are confused about what constitutes saving faith. Is it a promise to be better, to do better somehow? Or is it looking totally away from yourself in the realization that you can't be good enough, no matter how hard you try?
The gospel really is good news. Why do I say that? It is because I know that the only One who can make something good out of my life is God. It is knowing that Christ willingly stood in the gap for me. Today I was driving on the Pennsylvania turnpike and I came past a bridge under construction. I wished I could have gotten a picture, because it represented man in his spiritual state without the gracious gift of Christ's death for us and as us.It went so far and then abruptly stopped. Kind of like if someone was driving along and there was a huge earthquake and and one of the bridge's spans got completely knocked away. One minute you are driving along and the next minute you are descending downward to your death. I remember the 4 Spiritual Laws booklet we used when I was in Campus Crusade many years ago. One of the laws said that there was a gap between us and God and no matter how hard we try on our own, that gap just cannot be spanned by human effort. But Christ willingly, by His sacrificial death made that span, made that bridge, so we would not have to descend downward at the hour of our death.
That verse from Isaiah 53:8 came into my head and the phrase "to whom the stroke was due" entered into my thoughts. Just what did Isaiah mean by the stroke? The Hebrew word for "stroke" is #5060 in the Hebrew Lexicon, and is the word "nega." Here is the outline of Biblical usage for that word:
stroke, plague, disease, mark, plague spot
stroke (metaphorical of disease)
mark (of leprosy)
and the definition reads: נֶגַע negaʻ, neh'-gah; from H5060; a blow (figuratively, infliction); also (by implication) a spot (concretely, a leprous person or dress):—plague, sore, stricken, stripe, stroke, wound.
Christ was actually afflicted in that way for us to the point where God had to turn His face away from Him. But He willingly did it and God was forever satisfied with it. Because of that, I come to God in the standing that Christ alone gave me, never in any work that I have or have not done.
I am reading a wonderful book called Romans Verse by Verse by William R. Newell and though it is a meaty book, I am taking my time and underlining a lot. I just got to chapter 4 (one of my favorite parts) and Newell said something that hit me so profoundly, I underlined nearly all of it. It said:
"If God announces the gift of righteousness apart from works, why do you keep mourning over your bad works, your failures? Do you not see that it is because you still have hopes in these works of yours that you are depressed and discouraged by their failure? If you truly saw and believed that God is reckoning righteous the ungodly who believe on Him, you would fairly hate your struggles to be "better"; for you would see that your dreams of good works have not at all commmended you to God, and that your bad works do not at all hinder you from believing on Him,--that justifieth the ungodly.
Therefore, on seeing your failures, you should say, I am nothing but a failure; but God is dealing with me on another principle altogether than my works, good or bad, --a principle not involving my works, but based only on the work of Christ for me..."
p. 129 Romans Verse by Verse, William R. Newell
To me, this is huge! God is pleased with me today and I look to Him confidently knowing that He is pleased because I am in His Son, totally covered with His very own righteousness. I was a Christian for a very long time before I came to this realization. It is the one thing that makes me happy, because every day I have a fresh slate before Him.
I have been encouraged by my pastor to get the foundation of Romans within my soul. I encourage you to do it too, and rejoice in the great standing we have before God as a totally free and unmerited gift.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
“For this reason I say t1o you,
her sins, which are many,
have been forgiven, for she loved much;
but he who is forgiven little,
loves little.” Luke 7:47
Christ lives inside of us! Have you contemplated what that really means lately? I know that I for one, need to meditate on that thought until the Lord takes me home.
When we accept Him as our Savior, it is only the beginning of our lifetime of faith, and much, much more than "fire insurance."
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." Colossians 2: 6-7 It is all "in Him!"
How did we receive Christ? By doing something or receiving something from Him, a gracious gift, totally free? It was Christ who did all that was necessary to achieve my eternal life and home with Him in heaven forever. Somehow, after walking with the Lord for many years, I became too familiar with what it means to have Christ living inside of me and often just overlooked it, trying to do something good for God on my own.
Have you discovered yet that we can't, in and of ourselves, do anything good for God?
Recently, a dear friend of mine, Mrs. Judy Seligman, gave an amazing ladies message about Mary Magdalene and how Jesus was her everything, her all in all. Judy said she represented someone who loved the Lord with all her heart, soul and strength. (I am having trouble linking it here but if you go to sermonaudio.com and type in Judy Seligman as the speaker it will pull it up.It is her latest one.) Mary Magdalene had the privilege of being the first person to behold the risen, ascended Lord.
John 20:11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to Him,fn “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”
Before His resurrection, Mary Magdalene had no one else to go to, had nowhere else to turn, so she weeped at His grave. But now Jesus was her all in all. In my modern life in Laodecia, I have a choice daily. I can be distracted by the million and one things I see all around me, or I can be like Mary, and let Jesus be my all in all too.
Before I came to know and understand His essence and character, I had only a small amount of motivation to do that. But the more I learn of Him in His precious Word, the more valuable I see that it is to have Him be my all in all. For He is "altogether lovely." I only have a short time left on this earth and I still need to know Him more and more. If I became the most successful business woman or became famous before all men that would mean nothing, nothing, in the light of knowing my Lord and Savior.
Philippians 3:10-14 12 "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Ahhh, but the world is always there to tempt. The enemy whispers something like this: "You don't need to get into the Bible so much! You are really kind of an odd duck if you do." And like a fool, I will often receive that accusation and back off a bit from my Bible study. But press on I must, when I remember how much He loves someone like me, who could not deserve it in a million years. To think that the King of the Universe lives inside of me to do all that He wants me to do, that is my hope, today and forever.
Monday, August 31, 2015
He takes me to lush pastures, he leads me to refreshing water.
He restores my strength. He leads me down the right paths for the sake of his reputation.
Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff reassure me."
Verse 4 in this translation stands out to me: "Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger..." For I am sensing that there is danger coming to us and the life we have known so long. But if the Lord is my shepherd, I don't need to fear. In spite of what I see all around me, I repeat, I do need not to fear. Rather, I must draw close to Him as never before. For Jesus only is the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
In the mornings, I am fresh and ready to start my day with God, my coffee, and my Bible. But as the day wears on, I grow more irritable and seem like I have wandered from God's fold by grumbling, or falling for so called "human interest" stories that drag me away from my first love. So tonight, I want to try something different. I want to try to turn off my computer early and draw near to God once again.
Today is the last day of what I consider summer, and the month of September is slated to be unforgettable, by all I am seeing and hearing. As a nation, we have turned our back on God and on Israel, and judgment must come.This does not seem like the country I grew up in anymore. The television is full of sex and violence, and so much blatant occultism in the movies and music. Thank God we can't afford cable. The internet grabs my attention and I have a hard time disconnecting from the world wide web in the evenings. I waste time when I could be doing something much more beneficial for my own soul's sake. Lethargy creeps in as the humid last hurrahs of the season drive me away from the blinding sun outside.
And then somehow He persuades me of His love once again.
I have nothing to offer Him but only to come to Him. I am so glad to know that! He knows I am weak and utterly unable to do anything for Him that He Himself does not work in me. And so, here I come, running back to my Shepherd, who is waiting to fellowship with me. Think of it, why should the God of this universe want to have communion with any one of us down here corrupted by the Fall? And yet that is why Christ put on human flesh in the first place.
The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and thinking you'll will get different results. But I have a tender Shepherd waiting for me. He wants to meet with me, to talk with me. Oh, what an unspeakable privilege.
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed.
For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls." I Peter 2:24-25 NET
"I have wandered off like a lost sheep. Come looking for your servant, for I do not forget your commands." Psalm 119:176 NET
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
I Peter 1:23-25
As I went to pray this morning, an acronym for the word "Help" popped into my head. Actually I wrote "Help!" to God in my journal this morning as well, for His aid in an ongoing trial. In the unprecedented days we are living in, I know that all of God's people can use a little "H.E.L.P."
Here is what I thought for this acronym, a prayer and wish toward our Father as we live in the last days.
stands for "Hunger" as in hunger for the Word of God, a famine for the Word of God in our times. I think to myself about this, and at least in America, I would say this famine is from our own choice to neglect the Word that is so readily available to us. We are without excuse for not knowing the Word.
But take heart, even today, we can still remedy that situation! Jesus talked about soul hunger in the Beatitudes when He said in Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled."
The writer in the book of Proverbs also speaks of a hunger for wisdom, so to speak, as Solomon implores his son to get God's wisdom in Proverbs 4: 5-9
5 "Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.*
And in all your getting, get understanding.
8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
Oh, how we need to embrace wisdom for the confusing times we live in. And if for some reason, we find that our hearts have grown cold, and really do not want this wisdom, we can even ask God, who knows our hearts anyways, to give us a mind to want this. The Psalm writer for Psalm 119 wrote:
36 "Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way."
We can pray that prayer too!
stands for Education in the mind of Christ. Coming and learning in the school of Christ, as He told us to do in Matthew 11. If we do, He promises to give us rest for our souls and a light, not unbearable, burden.
28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn* from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to ask Him about His teachings, because he was afraid of the Pharisees finding out about it. The Pharisees, of all people, should have known about the Messiah's coming, but Jesus had to rebuke Nicodemus due to his lack of understanding. In John 3:7-10, we read:
7 "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know* these things?"
Philippians 2:5 "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"
stands on Leaning on God for everything, all the time, instead of leaning on our own understanding.
5 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not* on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
Instead of worrying about trials and difficulties that we face, we can cast them upon the Lord and let Him handle them for us. He does a much better job than we ever could!
In the Darby translation, Philippians 4:6-7 tells us:
"Be careful about nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses every understanding*, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts by Christ Jesus."
After many years of trying to carry my own burdens and use my own human logic to reason to myself why I should or should not worry in any given situation, I find it refreshing that I can cast my burden on the Lord and trust that in His perfect wisdom He will handle it for me. Not that I always understand what He is doing, because I don't. Because I know the Word says He is reliable and trustworthy, and the proof of His love was demonstrated by dying for me on the cross,so I make a faith choice to accept His promises as true. In that, I find rest for my soul.
Isaiah 40: 29-31 29 "He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."
stands for Pursuit. The Apostle Paul boiled down his life to just one thing: knowing Him! Our days on earth are few and numbered, we see the things of this earth vanishing away before our very eyes. Why not make our last years count in this life for His glory? In the end, we will find that nothing else did satisfy, because our hearts were made to first and foremost have a relationship with the One who created us:
7 "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him* and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."
In this hour, let us run to Him every day for H.E.L.P. He is graciously waiting for us to do so:
"Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him."
* Isaiah 30:18
Do you have a way that God "H.E.L.P.s you? I would love to hear it!
* denotes my own emphasis
Monday, August 17, 2015
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devo.ured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
I have reached a point in my life where I find I must run to the Word in times of disappointment, frustration, or brokenness. And it is miraculous how God is so faithful to bring me to just the right Scriptures to carry on and not quit.
This morning was one of those times. I need quiet when I read, and so I went to the front porch. Although the day is slated to be a hot one, there were still cool breezes blowing and the mourning dove said hello by her constant cooing. I felt like I wanted to cry, but I asked the Lord, "Please, encourage me once again through Your Scriptures of truth."
Sometimes it seems that the enemy whispers to me that I am reading the Word out of a sense of obligation, and that I will get no blessing from it, or that I am just being a goody-goody. But he is such a liar. For the past year or so, I have been doing my Bible readings in a different way. One day, I searched on the net for a Bible reading schedule that was different than just reading it through in one or two years. I wanted something different, and this is what I found:
It appears that there are online programs now to go along with this system, but I don't use them. I just read 1 chapter from ten different sections of the Bible each day. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. The point of this blog today is not so much to talk about the system, which I heartily encourage anyone to try, but about how God is so faithful to bring me just what I need when I need it.
I knew I could not get myself out of the sense of despair, but specific Scriptures did just that. I took out my journal along with my Bible and even wrote how upset I felt inside it. I wrote, "Oh God, You must rescue me again from this crushing disappointment, from feeling sorry for myself, from my own self-induced misery."
One of my readings today was in I John, chapter 2. Suddenly this verse popped out at me:
25 "And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life."
I thought to myself, "I have eternal life, right now." I am not waiting for it as some pie in the sky in the future, but right as I sit here on my front porch with my Bible and my morning coffee. That thought in itself started to lift my head. I read on:
28 "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming."
I thought to myself, "I do not want to be ashamed on that Day when He comes." All I need do is to continue to abide in Him. And how do I abide in Him? By meditating on His Word.
I continued on with my readings and found this gem in Proverbs 13:7
7 "There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches."
I immediately thought of what Jesus said in the first Beatitude: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3
I felt even more encouragement. If I realize that in and of myself I am poor and needy, and cannot even lift my own head, then the Lord is faithful to come in with His great empathy in my situation. He is not against me. He is for me, right here, right now!
I also read in Psalms, and in II Samuel, David weeping over the death of his son Absalom. In Jeremiah 17, I could not believe how the Spirit reminded me that it is impossible for me to pull myself out of my condition in my own strength. Jeremiah wrote:
5 "Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the LORD.
6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit."
I cannot trust myself but I can trust Him, that He is good, and that He lives inside me as I abide in His Word.
Finally, I came upon what I thought was the clincher for the day. Jeremiah struggled, just as we all do, and he wept as he saw his beloved nation going into captivity. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that our own country is in terrible trouble, and sometimes I want to weep just like Jeremiah did, for we are certain to face God's judgment soon. But Jeremiah said:
17 "Do not be a terror to me;
You are my hope in the day of doom."
How is it I have not seen that before? If I am living near to the day of doom, I still have God, err, He has me. In His Word, today, I will hope.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
"And the LORD shall
utter His voice
before his army:
for his camp is
very great: for He
is strong that executeth
His word: for the
day of the LORD is great
and very terrible; and
who can abide it?"
Driving home from babysitting the other day, I felt weary and fatigued. I spotted from the side of the road a precious black dog that looked like he had wandered from his home. He meandered happily, yet dangerously close to the highway. “Oh dear baby,” I thought, “Please run away home to your master. You will only be hurt out here.”
For some reason, my eyes began to tear up as I thought of all the innocent animals. They did not know that their time was near as they attempted to cross the busy street. The graceful deer lying lifeless, her strength and surefooted ways forever gone. The robins smashed, run over in the street, and the trillions of lifeless birds that never quite hatched from their nest, as their surrounding casement lies crushed on the ground. Their lifeless beaks, still forming, will not sing to their Creator, at least on this side of eternity. But one day, I believe they will, for in Romans 8:21 we are told, “Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Emphasis mine.)
Creation is groaning for the Creator to come and set things right upon this little planet spinning as a speck of dust in an infinite universe. From somewhere, light years beyond this place, there was One who saw each creature, and cared for them for it was impossible for Him to do otherwise, for He is love in His essence. To believe otherwise is to be without hope.
"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (I John 4:8)
Yet, something has gone horribly wrong with the world the Creator made, and even the creatures know it is true. It seems all of them are sitting with baited breath just waiting for their Creator to break through the boundary that has kept us from Him for two thousand years. One might want to blame Him for all the things that have gone wrong, and even shake their fist at God. But without these tragedies, man would not have a free choice to place his or her faith in a benevolent God, and not exist as an automated robot. The one thing that is required is faith.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6
If I, a fallen human, could feel sadness over this loss of life, how much more their Creator, the One who endowed them with their beauty, the one who planned the delicate coloring that covered them: whether fur, or feathers, or scales? No matter what we see, we must trust that God is good!
And now, the shades of night fall deeper and deeper upon the unsuspecting, as we humans are lulled into careless ease. The lies of the enemy suggest that all is well, but deep down, we know (many with despair in empty hearts) that it is not. A society overtaken by technology has replaced that feeling of humanity which bound us together for centuries. Man is being taken over by machine, they are blending together until it will be hard to distinguish one from the other. Yet God will not allow that to come to total fruition. The Son will break through those clouds over Planet Earth and dissipate all the darkness, all the arrogance of man, in the twinkling of an eye.
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen." Revelation 1:7
As I wanted to protect the innocent creature that ran at the side of the road, with his breath and covering graciously lent to Him by God, the Savior is coming to redeem our fallen planet. Oh, so quickly will He come, to take His children on out of this world of danger and destruction, death and despair. He longs for His table to be filled for the coming celebration. No creature would want to miss this celebration once they behold Him in His glory.
He beckons, He pleads, He cajoles. Jesus says,"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.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.For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) He knows we His creatures are like the dog who dithered at death’s door. There is safety only with Him.
Soon a storm like never before will blow upon this planet, a torrent of destruction, a tempest of judgment for every innocent drop of blood that was shed upon our sod. But now we may come inside His ark of salvation which he has perfectly prepared. Once He shuts the door, it will be too late.
I have a portion of this blessed One who lives inside of me, not because of anything I have done except to run like hell from the darkness to His light by believing in Him, grasping and clinging to Him. Now, He pleads through me, a weak and fragile voice. Come, precious fellow humans, still outside in the gloom, come join the bright light of salvation’s Day and safety of Jesus’s ark. He wants you to be with Him forever, for it is not His will that even one would perish.
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9
Will you listen to the Spirit’s call? I urge you with all that is in me. In the final chapter of His book, in Revelation, He implores: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely… He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:17,20 (emphasis mine)
Sunday, July 26, 2015
David, who only had the Torah, somehow understood this gift of free grace when he wrote in Psalm 32:1:
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
David was guilty of murder in the first degree when he had Uriah the Hittite killed in the line of battle after he himself impregnated Uriah's wife Bathsheba. David walked around for a good while knowing he had committed this grievous sin but not acknowledging it before God. The man who was said to "be after God's own heart" had blood on his hands. It was only after the son borne from their adultery was taken that he came clean after a visit from the prophet Nathan.
Nathan told him the story of a rich man who had been given nearly everything he wanted and a poor man who had only ewe lamb. The rich man decided all he owned was still not enough and stole the poor man's ewe lamb away. When David heard this story, at first he did not recognize that it was about him. He said to Nathan:
"...As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die..." (II Samuel 12:5)
Then Nathan revealed the truth to David saying, "Thou art the man." (II Samuel 12:7)
It was this experience that David wrote about in Psalm 32. Somehow, he knew that God would provide a sacrifice to forgive his sin and cover his guilt. He knew this, even though Christ had not yet come into the world. He knew and relied upon the promise that his forefathers in the faith also relied upon. In the first book of the Bible, the sacrifice to come was revealed to Abraham and Isaac upon Mount Moriah.
"And Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering..." (Genesis 22:8)
This same concept is revealed in the New Testament in the little word "aphiemi." This word is used in Mark 2:10, which speaks of the Son of man having the power to forgive sins. What Adam forfeited when he chose his way over God's in the garden of Eden, the Son of man came to fully restore. There are 88 references in the New Testament to the Son of man, Jesus Christ.
We can have peace in a world gone beserk from knowing that Christ has come and taken away our sins, which is one of the definitions of this word, "aphiemi." In my Zodhiates Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, it says of this word (#863 in the Greek Lexicon to the New Testament): "from apo from and hiemi to send. To send away, dismiss...The expression "to forgive sins" means to remove the sins from oneself. Only God is said to be able to do this.(Mark 2:10)"
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,“I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
Zodhiates continues: "To forgive sins is not to disregard them and do nothing about them, but to liberate a person from them, their guilt, and their power."
(Emphasis mine) Definition from page 1672 in Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, compiled and edited by Spiros Zodhiates, ThD, AMG Publishers, 1986.
I only touched the tip of the iceberg on the concept of our sins being taken away by Christ's atoning sacrifice. You might also be blessed, as I am, in finding all the references of Jesus as the "Son of man" in the New Testament. One thing I know, I do not have to live with yesterday's failures, or to try to do something good to make up for something bad. I only need to look away from myself, to Another.
Psalm 89:15 "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance."
Reader, do you know the joyful sound today? Put your faith that what Christ did was enough, and walk in the light of His countenance.