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Archive for March, 2009

Here’s an interesting blog from a friend of a friend…

BTW, You can find me on facebook as Sandra Parks Hovatter.

You can find my business profile on LinkedIn.com by clicking here.

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We live in a culture almost obsessed with angels. Angels are good. A few years ago I shattered my elbow. A friend visited me immediately after my surgery. On his way home he had a vision of a mighty angel standing at my bedside stroking my broken arm. This was not your run-of-the-mill angel (if there is such a thing) – this was a mighty warrior angel. Because of how he described the angel to me, I now think of my guardian angel as Mr. Clean – you remember, the big, muscular African American bald man on the commercials. That’s the angel God has assigned to me. And I’m pretty happy about that!

But if you’re reading along with us this year, on Friday, your Resting at the River’s Edge reading included the following passage in Hebrews 1:

4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

5For to which of the angels did God ever say,

          “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” ?

                  Or again,

          “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son” ?

6And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

          “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

7In speaking of the angels he says,

          “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.”

8But about the Son he says,

          “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God,

has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

10He also says,

          “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

11They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.

12You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.

But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

13To which of the angels did God ever say,

          “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

      Hebrews 1:4-13

I don’t usually quote such a lengthy passage, but do you hear the Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The angels worship the Lord! The throne of Lord Jesus will NEVER end. The Lord laid the foundations of the earth, the heavens are the works of HIS hands. He remains forever. And it is the Lord who sits at the right hand of God.

Angels are great…but let’s give our worship to the One who is worthy of it!

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Our Pastor said something that has stuck in my brain this week. He was describing the frustrating Sunday morning he had had – nothing big, just lots of little things that were starting to annoy him. Pretty soon those little things add up and the annoyance grows and if you’re not careful all that UN-Christ-likeness inside of you spills out on everyone around you. (Well, maybe not you…but that’s how it happens to me.)

In his frustration, he muttered the question “what’s going on here?”

And the very act of asking the question brought enlightenment. It gave him enough of a pause from the earthly frustrations to let His spirit kick in and remind him that what was going on was the enemy trying to arrest his attitude and mood. He saw the day for what it was – a day to worship the Lord (like every day is, of course), a day for allowing God to enable him to rise above the frustrations, a day to serve others as the hands and mouth of the Lord. If he had not asked the question, he would have continued to get ready for church, but his frustrations would have continued, and perhaps even increased. Eventually, they would have “spilled over” onto:

  • Spilled over onto the worship team
  • Leaked on all those who help prepare for the Sunday morning service
  • Creeped into his tone of voice or expression as he delivered the message and prayed.

Eventually, everyone attending that morning service would have been affected by his frustrations. Wow! The enemy sure can get a lot of traction out of a few frustrating annoyances.

You may not be preparing to lead a Sunday morning worship service, but your life is not so very different. When I allow the frustrations or fears of the day to impact me, those frustrations and fears leak out onto my husband, everyone in my office, and everyone I meet during the day. We’ve all experienced it –been waited on by the person who is annoyed about the previous customer in line. Or we’ve waited on someone and their attitude has spilled over onto you. It doesn’t matter which side of any transaction you’re on – if you have allowed the frustrations of the day to seep into your soul, it’s going to spill out on those around you.

I don’t want that to be my legacy. The easiest way to stop the whole process is to ask the question early. “What’s going on here?”

I’m not trying to write an easy-fix-it blog or a pie-in-the sky remedy for difficult circumstances. I’m not even saying that adjusting your attitude is easy after asking and getting the answer to your question. I am saying, however, that if you don’t ask the question, you continue down the negative path and the farther you walk down that path, the farther you have to walk back before you can go down the right path again!

God has been speaking to me a lot about perspective lately – how important it is to look at things from God’s perspective, not mine. That’s another blog for another time…but I know that one of the first steps in keeping the proper perspective is to quickly recognize when I’m drifting. It’s at those times that it is most important to just ask the question!

Because today is a day to worship the Lord, a day for allowing God to enable you to rise above the frustrations, and a day to serve others as the hands and mouth of the Lord.

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Paul Harvey died recently, but one of the most popular segment on his broadcasts was the one in which he always concluded “And now you know…the rest of the story.” He took a familiar bit of information and expanded on it by giving the back story or the previously unknown conclusion. His added information made the bit of known information come alive to listeners because they now knew…the rest of the story.The Old Testament very much provides “the rest of the story” for Christians. Yes, we can know all that we need to know for salvation, even all that we need to know to live a Godly life; but without knowing the rest of the story, we lack a depth of understanding of God’s character and ways and can develop a very lopsided and inaccurate view of God.

Develop an Appreciation for God’s Love of His People
The Christian who ignores the Old Testament is likely to have a lesser appreciation of God’s love for His people. The passages in Matthew (12:23) and Luke (13:34) where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”) has little context without the rich history of God calling Abraham 2,000 years earlier and consistently being faithful to the promise He had made with Abraham.
The Old Testament reader follows God’s love from His creation of man in His own image through His initiation of a covenant with Abraham (and effectively all mankind), through His giving of the “perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25), through His protection of the wandering Israelites, through His preservation and leading of a (rebellious) people in all kinds of circumstances – always leading them toward an intimate relationship with Himself. Knowing these things gives God’s love a history, and love with a history is somehow more powerful than love discovered yesterday. I’m not sure I can adequately explain that except to say that one of the things that strengthens the love I have for my husband is knowing that he has loved me for a very long time. It doesn’t grow dim, it grows deep. God’s love has had a very long time to deepen. As a 21st century Christian, I am the blessed recipient of that deep, deep love.Develop an Understanding of Your Role in God’s Unfolding Plan
In addition to lacking an understanding of the depth of God’s love, Christians who don’t spend time in the Old Testament may easily develop a misunderstanding of their role in the unfolding of God’s plan. A study of only the New Testament can lead us to believe that our salvation is primarily about us – what God did for you and me. And while it is true that God so loved each of us that He gave His only son to die for our sins so that we might each have eternal life by believing in Him, it is also true that all of history is about God preparing a people for Himself. My salvation is as much about God’s plan from the beginning of time as it is about me.

There is sometimes a tension in the Christian walk between the individual and the corporate expression and understanding of our faith. The answer to the tension is that we must take a “both/and” approach. Both individual and corporate worship are important. Both individual and corporate prayer are needed. Both individual and corporate sin must be dealt with. Our salvation must be understood both as an individual salvation, and as the salvation of a people destined to worship and serve God forever. As a Gentile, my salvation wasn’t Plan B. God always intended to bless all the nations through Abraham. Studying the Old Testament gives readers a greater appreciation for the “bigness” of God’s plan and His ability to follow it through thousands of years until it impacted their life. It can help us appreciate that we are a part of something so much bigger than what we might have previously considered.

See God’s Faithfulness Throughout History
Which brings us back to the topic of the faithfulness of God toward a people who fail Him regularly – I’m convinced that God’s faithfulness cannot be fully understood with just our New Testament record. Yes, the New Testament provides examples of God’s faithfulness. Yet I find that “the more the better.” Hebrews 11 gives a list of saints who “by faith” overcame the circumstances of their lives and trusted God. God rewarded their faithfulness with His own faithfulness. Reading the list in Hebrews 11 begins to build the faith necessary for the trials we will face, but it’s a poor substitute for reading the Old Testament accounts of those stories. And learning the stories in Sunday School class, as many children do, is akin to reading the Reader’s Digest version out of sequence and over a long period of time. Yes, we have the head knowledge of the facts (perhaps), but it’s going back to the Old Testament as a new creature in Christ that builds faith as we read of God’s faithfulness over and over and over again. Surely, if He has been faithful throughout history, even when His people lacked faith and behaved badly, surely He will be faithful to me! Reading the Old Testament builds my faith as I see the faithfulness of God.

Learn How God Works in the Lives of His People
In addition to helping the reader understand God’s abiding love for us and helping to build our faith, reading the Old Testament illustrates to the reader how God works in the lives of His people. The New Testament focuses on a period of perhaps one hundred years. The Old Testament covers 2,000 years (excluding chapters 1-12 of Genesis which covers the creation of the world up to the call of Abraham). Often, the New Testament teaches principles while the Old Testament illustrates those principles worked out through the lives of people who had a relationship with God. For example, James tells us that faith produces perseverance, bringing us to maturity. That teaching is demonstrated in the life of Joseph. The New Testament urges me to persevere; Joseph shows me how to do so. Additionally, a careful reading of the Old Testament teaches us much about how God speaks to His people. An excellent resource that illustrates this point is the book Developing Your Prophetic Gifting in which the author, Graham Cooke, uses the Old Testament examples of prophecy to teach his readers how to hear the voice of God. The Old Testament illustrates how God works in the lives of His people and how He speaks to His people by allowing the reader to walk through history with them.

Scripture is God-Breathed…Every Bit of It!
Finally, there are two critical reasons for Christians to broaden their horizons and pursue a study of the Old Testament: Scripture tells us that it is valuable and Jesus quotes it often. II Timothy 3:16-17 is a commonly memorized passage: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This passage doesn’t say “The New Testament…”, it says “All Scripture…”. That verse alone tells me that there is much value in the Old Testament. Additionally, Jesus and the apostles frequently quoted from the Old Testament. It is clear that Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament and many of His stories, parables and sayings refer back to it. Without some knowledge of the background of those passages, the quotes become a bit out of place and time…they lack “the rest of the story.”

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1Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
2How awesome is the LORD Most High,
the great King over all the earth!

Woohoo! Woohoo! Shout for JOY! Hallelujah!
How GREAT, how AWESOME is the Lord most high!

3He subdued nations under us,
Peoples under our feet.

He had made us victorious. It’s not our own strength that has won victories in our lives – it’s been Him, preparing the way for us, running interference for us, and winning battles for us. Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord.

4He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

What an honor – to be recognized as one who inherits from the King of Kings!
He has adopted us into His Own family!

5God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.

Picture it in your mind – God, the Lord, ascending to the heavens among great shouts of Lord and the sounding of trumpets. Fanfare beyond our wildest imaginations…both formal – as in a majestic procession – and informal – as in the largest crowd you’ve ever seen shouting for JOY!

6Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.

Sing praises to our God and our King. Praises of all kinds – the Hallelujah chorus and the simple phrase “I love you Lord.” Sing to praises to Him throughout your day. Do it NOW!

8God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.

9The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

God reigns! Over all of it! He is greatly exalted! But he doesn’t usurp the authority to rule our lives. Let Him rule your heart today. He is great and awesome and indescribably good! Hallelujah! Verses 1 and 2 are worth repeating:

1Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.

2How awesome is the LORD Most High,
the great King over all the earth!

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A friend of ours writes music. I call this piece “lay on the carpet and worship Jesus” music. (OK, you can sit in a chair if you insist.) Once you get to the page, click the sideways arrow under “Music Player” in the left column. He’s just getting started, but I absolutely love his music. Give it a try.

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As our church prepares to participate corporately in an extended fast, several things have been rattling around in my brain:

As we sample from the buffet of life, the more we eat of those things that have no nutritional value, the less room we have for the things that will nourish us.

Of course this applies to real eating – the more ice cream and cake I eat the less room I have for veggies & fruit. But it also applies to all of life’s activities. The more mindless TV I watch, the less time I have for reading or exercising. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with ice cream and cake or even mindless TV. I’m just saying a steady diet of them makes us fat and weak, both physically and spiritually. And if we partake of those things FIRST, we close the door to those other things that can bring us great joy. Lord, help me to make good choices.

    “So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
     “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
               Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT)

If we focus on what we’re giving up instead of what we’re gaining we’ll never be happy.

Which would you rather have – a life of contentment or a life of lack? You can have either life from the same circumstances. Again, I’m not saying that there isn’t real lack in some of our lives. But for most of us, we have a house in which to live, enough food to eat and people who love us. I want my focus to be on those blessings, not on what I lack. As we look toward the fast, I can look at things I might be giving up and feel bad about that, or I can look at what I hope to gain and be excited for things to come. Our culture is so acclimated to looking at what we don’t have and wanting bigger, better and more. Lord, help me to be content with You and not long for all those other things.

for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
              Philippians 4:11b-12

One of the purposes of fasting is to strip away all the things that grab our attention and turn it away from God – to help us realize that He is the source of every good and perfect gift and to be content.

Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession.
               James 1:17-18

This morning I’ve been humming a song we sang in worship yesterday…

I will wait…I will wait for the Lord. How good is the Lord, to those whose hope is in Him.
I will wait…and let God be God. I will wait, I will wait for the Lord.

(Thanks, Pastor Larry, for writing it.)

Be blessed, all!

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Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God-something the Jewish law could never do.
Acts 13:38-39 (NLT)

A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment to a blog that mentioned my husband Phil’s heart attack. The writer said that they were confident my husband was saved but how could they know that they were saved. In the hectic time of Phil’s initial recovery, I never responded, then I accidentally erased the comment. To the writer of the comment – I sincerely apologize. I have been thinking about you a lot and I pray that you are still reading Apprehending Grace and find this response.

There are many ways to know that you are saved, but there is only one way to be saved, and that way is through knowing and following Jesus. Acts 13:38-39 tells us that it is in Jesus that we can find forgiveness for our sins and when we believe in Him, we are from all the guilt associated with that sin and declared right with God. Now that seems like a mouthful. Let me unwrap it.

What’s it Really Mean?
God is a holy God – totally righteous, good and loving. When we sin, we create a separation between this holy, righteous, perfect God and ourselves.

Think about it – when you do something against another person, don’t you feel the wall that develops between you? It’s the same with God. To break that wall down, Jesus said “I’ll be the middle-man.” I’ll sacrifice myself so that you can continue to have a relationship with God. All you have to do is believe in me and trust what I’ve done as being enough – all that is required – for you to be forgiven by God. And once you’re forgiven, you can begin a tremendous relationship with Him.

Now there was a key word there – believe. In the language that the Bible was written in, “believe” means more than just have a mental agreement with something. No, when we truly believe something, it means that we live accordingly. For example, if we believe that an airplane has the capability to fly and we want to travel a long distance, we’ll get on board, relax and enjoy the flight. If we don’t believe it, we’ll drive. One way depends on others to get us there, the other depends on ourselves. So believing in Jesus doesn’t mean you agree that He lived and died a couple thousand years ago. It means that you trust that He will forgive you of your sins and open the way to a relationship with God and that you depend on Him to do so.

How do you do that? It’s really very simple – you just tell Him so. Yes, if you’ve never prayed before, you may feel foolish at first – it may seem like you’re talking to the air. That’s OK. Scripture says:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not –to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NIV)

In God’s world, there is no boasting of how good we are…because the truth is that we are not good. We have all rebelled in one way or another, and that rebellion is called sin. We all need someone to save us from our sins. That someone is Jesus. All we have to do is wholeheartedly agree with Him that we have sinned, ask Him to save us, then begin to live our live as He directs us to live it.

And doing so, we can know that we have eternal life – that we are saved. How can we know? The same document that explains all of this to us – the Bible – also says that the things were written so that those who believe in Jesus “may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

More on the Subject
Still confused? Trying reading these two posts:

“The Gift of Life”
“How Very Much We’re Loved by God”

More questions? Please comment on this blog or send me an e-mail. My hubby is recovering and life is returning to normal – I’ll try to respond a bit quicker this time!

If you’ve made this decision for the first time, please e-mail me at sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com. I’ll help you get off to a good start in your new life with Christ.

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This wonderful blog captures the experience of losing a loved one beautifully. Whether you know the blogger or the friend she’s blogging about doesn’t matter. Grief is grief. It affects us all.

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Leviticus 13 is probably my least favorite chapter in the Bible! Yuck. (Note to self: Don’t read Leviticus 13 while eating breakfast.) But it still has value. It proves that God is concerned with our health – personally and in community. Thank you, Lord!

Now I think I’ll go find some Psalm about the goodness of God to read.

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