Friday, March 30, 2007
Do you know Christians who hide their faith? Or maybe you are one? I know there have been times in my life when I've not spoken up about the good things God has done for me. It's an unfortunate habit I'm trying to break.
We as Christians are called to proclaim His good news to the world around us. Jesus said "What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the light; and what ye hear in the ear, proclaim upon the house-tops." (Matthew 10:27 ASV) While I don't know that He's actually wanting any of us to climb up on the roof with a bullhorn (please don't try this at home!) I do know that He doesn't want us to remain silent about our faith.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to praise God's name. You don't necessarily have to grab a soapbox and hand out tracts on the busiest street corner you can find. We are certainly permitted to be more subtle than that. Here are a few ways to shine your light that might feel a bit more possible to most of us.
1. Learn to be a good listener. God is glorified when His people reflect His love to a hurting world. Learn to be the kind of person people feel comfortable talking to. Practice your listening skills. Empathize. Let people know you care. Pray for the people around you, and let them know that you are praying for them. You'll find that very few people will be offended if you simply tell them "I'm praying for you" when they're facing difficulties.
2. Listen to Christian praise songs. How many times do you turn on the radio at work or while other people are in the car with you? Do you play music in your home when you have guests? A simple way to brighten their day, and yours, would be to just tune in to some of your favorite Christian artists. No Christian radio station in your town? No problem. Time to make a trip to the CD store or go find some good (non-pirated) MP3s to download!
3. Be courteous. Be the kind of person that people look at and say, "There's something different about him." Hold the door for someone. Greet everyone you meet with a warm smile. Let other drivers merge in front of you. Generally, put other people first. If you don't feel like smiling, just do it anyway -- your mind will eventually catch up to what your face is doing. And when someone inevitably asks "why are you always so nice?" don't be afraid to tell them!
4. Speak up. I know we all come across situations where we feel the Spirit calling us to speak up. Sometimes this takes a lot of courage, but you'll find that the more often you do it, the better you'll feel about it. I have a friend who says "He's listening, go on..." any time she hears someone take the Lord's name in vain. I have yet to hear anyone ridicule her for saying this. Most people just pause a moment to think about what she's said. More often than not, the response we fear is much stronger than the response we're likely to actually encounter.
These are just a few tips that I've found have helped me proclaim Jesus love in this world. There are as many ways to do it as there are people here on earth, so take some time to think of a way you can let people know that you've found the love of God. And be prepared to share about your faith. When people see the change in your attitude, they'll want to know why!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I can't count how many times I have been asked to prove that what the Bible says is true. The truth of the matter is that I have absolutely no proof that an unbeliever will be willing to accept. My proof is through my experiences, which are largely indemonstrable, and through my faith, which is foreign to someone who does not believe in God.
Often Christians find themselves shaken at the lack of evidence of God's existence. In our society, in order to believe something to be real, most people need to see proof. When they realize they can't produce any that someone else would accept, some Christians start to doubt.
This is yet another problem of perspective. When we doubt because of a lack of "evidence" are looking at things from an earthly perspective. The truth is, there is no concrete evidence to be seen that would satisfy those who doubt. Even those who were face to face with Jesus and witnessed His miracles often didn't believe. How then should we hope to convince a generation who has not seen tangible evidence?
"Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 ASV) Until Christ's return, we as Christians are called to believe not by proof, but by faith. Hebrews 11 goes on to give account of many times when faith has served the men and women of the Old Testament who followed God's commands. Likewise, faith still has power today. If we walk by faith, following God's lead though we have no proof that it will work out well in the end, we will see all the blessings that God has in store for us.
Christ knew the difficulty of belief without proof. After he rose from the dead, when confronted with Thomas' doubts, "Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29 ASV) Anyone can believe what they see with their own eyes. He knew that belief through faith is more powerful than belief through evidence will ever be. So take heart! Christ has promised blessings upon those of us whose belief rests in faith, rather than evidence.
What's more, there will come a day when everyone will see the proof of our faith. "For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12 ASV) When Christ returns to us, we will no longer have to struggle with doubt and unsurety. We will have all the evidence we could ever hope for.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
A lot of people expect when they become Christians that they won't have to worry about sin anymore, then give up when they find that it's not that simple. People who are not Christians often look at the sins of those who are and see it as hypocrisy. While salvation through the blood of Christ does certainly wipe out our sins in God's eyes, it doesn't mean we're all suddenly perfect here on earth. God's not done with us yet.
Once God has a hold on us, we are called to "sin no more" as Jesus said to the woman accused of adultery. (see John 8:2-11 for the whole story) This is not something we can do immediately though. It's a process that will take a lifetime to complete.
In Romans 7, Paul wrestles with this very concept. In his former life, Paul was a man of the law. Until his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul had been an ardent persecutor of the early church. In fact, the first account we have of him in scripture is his appearance at the stoning of the first Christian martyr. It is clear that Paul had a very good grip on what sin is and isn't under Jewish law.
Yet in his letter to the Romans, Paul notes that he is still struggling against sin. "For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practice." (Romans 7:19 ASV) He goes on to explain this dichotomy: "But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me." (Romans 7:20 ASV)
You see, even though we have been saved and our sins washed away in the eyes of God, we still dwell here on earth in bodies that are tainted by sin. But if we read further into Romans, Paul also gives us this advice "For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15 ASV) We don't need to fear punishment for the things our sinful bodies do because Christ has already received the punishment on our behalf. Instead we need to cry out to God, our Heavenly Father, to teach and instruct us, as we are now heirs to His kingdom.
So don't be disheartened if sin seems impossible to overcome. Sin is merely a result of living in a fallen world. God does not abandon us because we sin, rather he constantly is working toward our perfection, so that we can one day dwell in His presence eternally.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
A great illustration of this verse is simple. Think about a hot, fresh, glazed donut. Is your mouth watering yet? Now think about the things that go into that donut to make it so yummy... While some may be appealing in their own right (sugar) others are not so tantalizing (lard). Without the lard, the donut wouldn’t work, but we’d still rather not think about it being in there. Life is kinda like that sometimes.
If we focus on the individual events in our lives, we can see that some are good, and some are not. Bad things happen to good people. Some days it seems the whole world is out to get us. We wonder why God allows pain and suffering. We accuse Him of abandoning us when things get rough.
There are those that say that any trouble a Christian encounters in life is a result of sin, the "you brought it on yourself" response. Can't count the number of times I've heard that one. In the Bible, we see that everyone faces difficulty, even those who God Himself proclaims to be righteous. Take Job for example. His story is wrought with difficulty, and he clearly brought none of it on himself. "And Jehovah said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil: and he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause." (Job 2:3 ASV)
Then there are those who say that God has no control over the bad things that happen. Think that over for a minute... God, the supreme almighty Creator of the universe, has no control? God is sovereign. There is nothing He can't do, other than that which is against His nature. While I don't believe for a minute that He causes the painful, difficult things in this life, I do know that He allows them, just as He allowed Satan to torment Job.
So where does that leave us? We're still looking at life as just sugar or lard. God has a more eternal perspective of our lives. He sees it all coming together at the end, and He knows that the pain and heartache will all work out to bring glory to His name. He sees the donut.
Monday, March 26, 2007
A popular misconception that is currently floating around some of the more liberal churches (and some non-Christian religions as well) is that Jesus was just a good man, a good teacher, or a prophet. The problem with this is that on multiple occasions, Jesus Himself stated that He is the Son of God. So it stands to reason that either He was in fact the Christ, or He was a liar and a blasphemer.
Who would listen to a teacher or prophet who was so often wrong about his own identity? Who would pay heed to someone who claims to be that which he is not? Many times throughout Christ's teachings here on earth, He made reference to Himself as the Son of God. If a prophet speaks falsely, he is no prophet of God, but a deceiver. A prophet’s teachings must be 100% correct, 100% of the time.
In Matthew 16, Jesus nails down all the rumors and whisperings that were going about concerning Him. He asked His disciples who they think He is. They start out by telling Him all the names that others have given to Him, but eventually Peter is brave enough to speak truth. "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16 ASV) This would have been a perfect moment for Jesus to set the record straight if He had been only a man. Instead, He confirmed what Peter had said, "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 16:17 ASV)
What’s more, others recognized Jesus as the Christ. At His baptism, God announced Christ’s deity, “and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 ASV) Even the demons knew who He was and trembled, “And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29 ASV)
So now, the same question asked of those disciples is posed to each of us. "He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?" (Matthew 16:15 ASV) This is a question none of us can avoid because it has eternal ramifications. "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24 ASV) Who do you believe Christ is?
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Healing from God is often a controversial topic, even among Christians. There are those who believe that God will automatically heal anything you pray about, as long as you have enough faith. There are others who believe that God does not heal anymore, that's something He did while He was here on earth, and He won't do it until He comes again. Then there are those of us who are somewhere between those two concepts.
I certainly believe that God still heals bodies as well as hearts and souls. I've seen it happen. I also have seen times where healing did not come, despite the heartfelt prayers offered up. I don't for a moment believe it had anything to do with those in prayer not having faith. I don't think God is obliged to heal someone just because we ask (or in some cases tell!) Him to.
We all know the miraculous stories of God healing His people, but what about the times in the Bible when He didn't? Paul writes "And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ASV) As the man who penned the majority of the New Testament, I think it's safe to say that Paul had faith.
The point that Paul makes here is that sometimes injuries, illnesses, etc. are given to us for a reason. In Paul's case, it was to keep him humble, and I think that is often the case, but I'm sure that God has many other reasons for allowing inflictions such as Paul's thorn. I don't think it's really for us to know why God allows such things, but rather to trust Him to do what's best.
At the same time, I don't for a moment believe that the answer is always no. After Christ ascended to heaven, we know that His followers continued to heal people in His stead. The New Testament lists many times when Peter, Paul or another of these earliest Christians performed miraculous healing. And we know that this gift was given to others as well. Paul wrote "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28 ASV) He was quick to add though that not every Christian will have every gift.
So is it still worth asking God to heal us? Is it still valid to lay hands on loved ones? You bet it is. Pray for the sick, the injured, those who are in need of every kind of healing, but don't curse God if the answer is sometimes no.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
While I'm sure this verse (or others like it) has been used many times over the years to justify warfare and bloodshed, when taken in context we see that it is talking about a different type of battle. Not a battle of men killing men, but one that takes place on a spiritual level. This type of battle is just as deadly, though in a more eternal manner, but because it is subtle and covert, many don't realize it is being waged within their own souls.
In Ephesians 6, Paul warns us to be prepared to do spiritual battle. But what is "the whole armor of God"? While I'm usually partial to the ASV, I'll use the NIV for most of this one because it's easier to see the metaphor there. The pieces of the armor of God are listed this way: "the belt of truth," "the breastplate of righteousness," "feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace," "the shield of faith," "the helmet of salvation," and "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6:14-17 NIV)
The first piece Paul mentions is the "belt of truth." Truth is something that often seems to have gone missing from our world today. Paul knew though that if we are to stand up to temptation and lies that we would need to know what truth is. Also, we need to be seen as men and women of character, so that others might believe us when we speak. While at times it may seem more convenient in the short term to speak pretty lies as a way of preserving the peace, we as Christians are called to be honest and truthful at all times, lest our lies taint our testimony.
Next comes "the breastplate of righteousness." While it is true that no human is righteous apart from the grace of God, we that no longer stand under judgment can lay claim to God's righteousness. Because Christ has taken our sins upon Himself, we are once again seen pure and clean in the eyes of God. In this way we now have attained righteousness, despite our own failings and misdeeds. Because God has justified us in this way, we can now lay claim to his righteousness and repel the lies the enemy uses such as "you're not good enough" or "you've messed up too much."
A third piece is "feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." While there are many interpretations of this particular passage, I choose to believe that Paul's words here were echoed later in his letter to the church at Philippi. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ASV) What he was saying was that we don't need to fear this battle because we know how it will come out in the end. We know that Christ has already secured us a place in heaven, so why should we fear anything, even death?
Next comes "the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16 NIV) Our faith in God can indeed shield us from the attacks of evil. Because we know that we serve a just, loving God, we know that He will not allow us to come to any temptation that He will not also help bring us out of. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ASV)
Once we have shielded our body, we must also protect our minds with "the helmet of salvation." To me this refers to the fact that salvation is assured to those who have accepted Christ. It has long been questioned whether it is possible for us to lose our salvation by doing bad things. I wholeheartedly believe that the answer is no, and Paul makes an argument for this case in the book of Romans: "We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." (Romans 3:28 ASV)
The final piece of our spiritual armor is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." The weapon we are provided to use against Satan and against evil in general is God's Word. A shame then, that so many do not know it. One of my favorite lyricists, Matt Morginsky of the OC Supertones put it this way: "How will you stand if you don't understand? Fight like a man, scriptures in hand." (Grounded, Chase the Sun) Without a firm grounding in the Word, we as Christians can't stand in the face of temptation and doubt. We have no way to defend our faith because we don't even really know what it's all about.
So how about you? Are you prepared for spiritual battle? Will you be ready when the enemy attacks? Will you be able to stand in the face of temptation?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
"Am I going to Hell because I..." I've heard this question from Christians who are new in the faith more times than I can count. I've even seen it here on the net. I'm pretty sure at some point when I was still learning about God, I've even asked it myself. From the world's standpoint it's a very valid question. Praise God that He doesn't look at such things from the world's standpoint!
We are blessed to serve a God who does not punish us for doubting. In His ultimate patience, He listens to our doubts, time and time again, and answers them with love. Christ Himself demonstrated this aspect of God when He returned to the disciples after His resurrection. Thomas (and this is where the phrase "doubting Thomas" came from) would not believe that He was really Jesus, returned to earth. Rather than rebuking Thomas for his doubts, Jesus patiently allowed him to examine the scars He bore from the cross. (John 20:24-29)
Some people question because of the severity of their sin. There are certain sins that many think God won't forgive. Murder, theft, extra-marital sex, and anything done inside a church building tend to fall into this category. Somehow the thought is that these things are too big to be covered by grace. In this case I think the asker is usually forgetting where that grace comes from.
We are granted grace because Christ died on the cross for us. He then conquered death so that it would have no power over us. The ultimate price has been paid so that we might receive the free gift of grace. Because of the perfection of Christ, He bore every sin, both the ones that had already been committed and the ones that had not yet come about, as He hung there on that cross. To say "My sins are too big to be forgiven" is to doubt this precious gift. There is nothing that we can do that is more powerful than what He has done for us. "But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man." (Hebrews 2:9 ASV)
Another common reason for doubting grace is self image. We feel that we are not worthy of God's love. This is certainly true, but that doesn't mean He doesn't love us just the same. We are God's children, grafted into His family. A good parent doesn't love their child any less because of any flaws they might have. A good parent doesn't abandon their child if the child has done wrong. God's love to us is much like the love of a good parent, perfected. No matter what we do, no matter how we lash out against Him or how badly we have behaved, He will never love us any less than He did the moment we were conceived. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, these may forget, yet will not I forget thee." (Isaiah 49:15 ASV)
Others may doubt because they somehow believe that once they've been forgiven, they can't be forgiven again. Fortunately for us, purification is a process. God will purify those He has called, but it won't be in a flash of light. It takes time for our souls to be refined, and during that process we will sin. We'll make the same silly mistakes over and over, but that's ok. That's part of learning. The good news is that it's not our job to become perfect. God will perfect us in His time, so we need not worry about it. "And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you." (1 Peter 5:10 ASV)
What about you? Do you have doubts about grace? Do you have questions for God? Remember, He is only a prayer away, and He is more than willing to answer.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
It's amazing to me how often I forget to thank God for the good things in my life. I'm always right there, letting Him know about it when things go badly for me, but when everything is going well He hears from me quite a bit less. Foolish, I know, but I really think that part of this is human nature.
James 1:17 reminds us that everything that is good is from God. When the supreme Creator of the universe chooses to bestow gifts upon us, isn't it only fitting that we should praise and thank Him for it? Of course, I thank Him for the big things. When something I have been praying over is resolved, I thank God. When something really uniquely amazing comes my way, I thank God. But what about the little things?
I forget to thank Him for each day I am given. "This is the day which Jehovah hath made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) We should be thankful for every day, not just the bright sunshiny ones or the ones when we have time to relax and enjoy life. We should be thankful for the stormy days, the icy cold ones and the scorchingly hot and humid ones. We should thank God for the days when we have jury duty or have to deal with something unpleasant at work or school. EVERY day is His creation, after all.
I'm pretty good about remembering to be thankful for meals, unless there's too much distraction or I'm so hungry I forget. In 1 Timothy 4:3, Paul, speaking about false doctrines, writes "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth." If God wants us to receive meats with thanksgiving, I don't see why He wouldn't expect the same whether we're eating vegetables, fruits or grains. I need to be more consistent about thanking Him for every meal.
All in all, I need to think about the little things that happen throughout my day. The song of the bird perched on my windowsill is a blessing from God. The beauty of the sunset, the sweet-smelling breeze, a call from a friend, the ability to go out to dinner with my husband. There are so many things I forget to be thankful for. What about you? What are some of the things God has given you for which you should thank Him?
Monday, March 19, 2007
"In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." (ASV)
Anxiety, worry, stress... In today's world we know these terms well. Doctors are constantly warning us about the health effects of stress. Cause for worry? For some it is. Turning on the news for only five minutes is enough to make us anxious about what tomorrow may hold. Climate change, nuclear arms, terrorism and war are the headlines of the day.
The days of the early Christian church were no less stressful. While it's true that most of today’s concerns were unheard of at the time, they had plenty to worry about. They could be imprisoned or simply stoned to death for sharing the gospel. Food did not come prepackaged in cellophane wrappers with conveniently stamped expiration dates, and when they got it home there was no refrigerator to put it in. There were no vaccinations and little medical knowledge to keep the ravages of disease at bay. Work did not involve sitting in a chair for a mere eight hours a day and then returning home to your family. There was no pension fund to support them in their old age. Still, Paul knew about the ultimate source of stress-relief.
"In nothing be anxious," he wrote to the church at
Of course, once we’ve given something to God in prayer, we need to step back and leave it with Him. We need to realize that the burden of worry is no longer ours to bear. Since God is a sovereign and loving God, He will handle it for us. This is often the tricky part of the equation, but it’s crucial if we want to release our stress.
What is it that you're anxious over today? It could be something as big as global warming, as personal as your performance review coming up at work, or as small as the blemish you’ve just noticed on your face. It doesn't matter. God can handle anything, no matter the size. Why not give it to Him? Why not let it go?
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
You Are Olive Green
You are the most real of all the green shades. You're always true to yourself.
For you, authenticity and honesty are very important... both in others and yourself.
You are grounded and secure. It takes a lot to shake you.
People see you as dependable, probably the most dependable person they know.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
God answers the prayers of His people. Of course, this is not to say that He will grant you anything you ask for. He's no magic genie after all. No, God has His own plans for us, and He knows much better than we do what will be good for us. But we can be assured that He hears us when we pray. "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?" (Deuteronomy 4:7 ASV)
There are some things we can pray for that we know are always in God's will. Of course, these prayers can often bring about more than we were hoping for. Often Christians have prayed that God would use them or show them what they should do with their lives, and found themselves used in a way that they never would have expected! While this can be scary when it takes us out of our comfort zones, we know that God will never put us in any place where He does not go with us. "And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." (Exodus 33:14 ASV)
Another request that we can (and should) make to God is that He help us to keep His commandments. Apart from Him, we are powerless to overcome the sinful nature we are born into. Fortunately, we know that it is God's will that His people remain righteous, so we know that He will help us to overcome the trials and temptations we struggle against all our lives. Does this mean we will be perfect? No! Far from it actually, because we are still human and will not be perfected until we ascend into heaven. What it does mean is that God will help us become closer to righteousness with every passing day.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
There are many things in this world that I don't understand. There are aspects of God that baffle me, even as I grow in my walk with Him. I still don't have a complete understanding of why bad things happen to good people. I don't know why some babies are born with horrible diseases or disfigurations while others are remarkably perfect. Many times I have prayed about these things and I still don't know the answer.
I don't believe that God's promise to grant us wisdom works that way. I believe that there are many things that cannot be known by us here on earth. "For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12 ASV) What then is this wisdom that comes from God while we are here on earth?
The book of Proverbs deals extensively with the concept of wisdom. Much of it was written or collected by Solomon, who was said to have been the wisest man (other than Christ himself) to have lived. Solomon knew the value of God's wisdom and treasured it highly.
The Proverbs say that wise men are good advisors (10:21), disciplined (12:1), thoughtful and cautious (14:15), ever seeking knowledge (15:14), responsive to rebukes (17:10), and self-controlled (29:11). Proverbs 3 describes the benefits of wisdom. It prolongs life (3:2), grants favor (3:4), nourishes (3:8), grants safety (3:23), and overcomes fear (3:24). This is the type of wisdom God grants to those who seek it out.
Wisdom should be a constant pursuit, something that we chase after all the days of our lives. "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! Yea, to get understanding is rather to be chosen than silver." (Proverbs 16:16 ASV)
Still, just having wisdom is not enough. It's only the first step toward living the life that God desires for His children. Wisdom without application is useless. It's like trying to pound a nail with your fist while a hammer lies unused at your feet. "The legs of the lame hang loose: So is a parable in the mouth of fools." (Proverbs 26:7 ASV)
True wisdom is a way of living. It isn't just storing up knowledge and learning facts. It's an outlook on the world and an attitude of humility and discernment. It is both a means and an end. We should always be seeking God's wisdom in our lives.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
This is the third and final installment of my posts on Psalm 23.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" King David, who wrote this Psalm, knew plenty about having enemies. Throughout his life he accumulated many, and even had armies pursue him, bent on his destruction. Still, he never turned from God. God will care for us, no matter what is happening in our lives. Not only can He handle the "big stuff" like keeping David safe when people are out to kill him, but God also looks out for the "little needs" as well. Despite fleeing through the wilderness, David knew God would provide him food and a place to sleep.
"Thou hast anointed my head with oil" In Israel, kings were not crowned with gold and jewels, but rather with oil. This was a traditional way to show that someone or something bore divine influence. High priests and kings were annointed with perfumed oil, signifying that they were chosen by God. When David became King, he too was annointed with oil. "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah." (1 Samuel 16:13 ASV)
"My cup runneth over." This is a phrase that is still in common use today. It describes someone having more than enough. God provides for us, not just enough to get us through the day, but more abundantly than we could ever ask or imagine. When Christ fed the multitudes on the shores of Galilee, he didn't provide simply enough that everyone would be satisfied. "And they all ate, and were filled: and they took up that which remained over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full." (Matthew 14:20 ASV)
"Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life" Once we are in God's favor, we know that He will never leave us. We can look forward to His provision not just for today or tomorrow, but for the rest of our lives, and wherever we may find ourselves.
"And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever." Not only do we know that God has provided for us here on earth, but we also can look forward to our place in His eternal kingdom. "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2 ASV)
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I enjoyed writing about the first two verses of Psalm 23 so much yesterday that I decided to continue with verses three and four today. I feel that these verses often become so familiar to most of us that we pass them by without ever even looking at them. It's a shame because there's so much encouragement to be had here!
"He restoreth my soul" We live in a world that is a constant assault on our souls. Every day we are barraged by images, words and experiences that are harmful to our spiritual wellbeing. Our souls are wearied by it all. This is why it is so important to spend time with God. The only way to recharge your soul and restore its health is to connect to Him. Time spent in God's presence can wash away all the filth and grime this world leaves on us and refresh our souls as well as our minds and bodies.
"He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Because our God is righteous and just, He desires righteousness for us as well. He knows that we can not achieve righteousness on our own. That's part of the sinful nature that entered the world way back in the garden. God has provided for our justification through the blood of His Son, Jesus. This doesn't mean we're off the hook though -- we are still expected to walk the paths of righteousness, but now we have a guide. God Himself will lead us and aide us in our thirst for righteousness, because the righteousness of His people brings glory to His name. All we need do is to follow where he guides.
"Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me" This world is enshrouded in death. Every living creature, every day, is simply getting one step closer to death. This too is part of the curse. For the Christian though, we are exempt from the laws of mortality. Sure, someday we will exit this world, but we will be going on to a better place. Our death penalty was paid for us 2000 years ago, and in the book of judgment the case against us has been closed. This is why we need fear no evil. Because God has set us apart as His own, evil cannot touch us. One way or another, we will someday stand in God's kingdom. When we look at our lives through a heavenly perspective, anything that can happen to us here on earth is a fleeting moment in a vast eternity.
"Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." The rod and staff were the shepherd's instruments of correction to the sheep. They were not used to harm the sheep, merely to guide them back to the flock if they had wandered off and to keep them out of trouble. In the same way, God's correction in our lives can be comforting. When He corrects us, we need to remember that He does so out of love, and for our own good.
Monday, March 05, 2007
For many of us, the 23rd Psalm is very familiar. It's one of the most quoted passages of scripture, and for a very good reason. This particular Psalm is written with very descriptive language. Like any good poetry, it is written to evoke a response within the reader. It paints a picture of peace and tranquility.
Psalm 23 compares God to a good shepherd. Of course, this is a metaphor that is also quite familiar to anyone who has studied the Bible. Jesus Himself even said "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11 ASV) It is a very apt comparison. It was also very relevant to the people who lived in Biblical days. Back then shepherds were plentiful. King David, the writer of this Psalm, started out life as a shepherd, so he was well acquainted with their duties and characteristics.
"I shall not want." These four short words convey so much about God and our relationship to him. If we are truely allowing God to be our shepherd, to guide our lives, we will want for nothing. "Delight thyself also in Jehovah; And he will give thee the desires of thy heart." (Psalm 37:4 ASV) The more time we spend in God's presence, the less we desire the things of this world. As we learn to walk closer to Him, we begin to see how fleeting and hollow all of our former treasures really are. As we learn to see the world as God sees it, we realize that the only thing we really need is Him. And of course, since He also desires a relationship with us, that is something He is always willing to grant to us.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures" God knows that we need rest to restore ourselves. In our hectic and crazy world, it seems like everyone is running around, trying to do more, to do better, to be faster. This is not the life God has designed for us. Way back when he created the world, God set for us an example. "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made." (Genesis 2:2 ASV) As our shepherd, God wants us to rest and wait on Him so that we can refresh ourselves.
"He leadeth me beside still waters." God has our safety in mind as well as our well being. Sheep need to drink water to survive, but rapidly moving currents can be quite treacherous to them. A good shepherd knows this and plans for it by finding calm, still drinking sources. God provides for us in the same way. He knows that it is easy for us to get swept away in the current of sin, so he provides our needs in ways that will not take us away from His presence. "but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life." (John 4:14 ASV)