Archive for April, 2009

 Our Resting at the River’s Edge reading for Tuesday included Numbers 13 – the story of Moses sending out the thirteen leaders (note that they were the leaders of their tribes) to spy out the land God had promised to give them.

     Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
    But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
          Numbers 13:30-33

It seems to me that there will always be giants in the land the Lord has promised us. If there weren’t, there would be no need for us to conquer it.

As I read the passage, the Holy Spirit was whispering a question in my ear. I’d like to share it with you.

“What giants are in your life that you need to conquer?”

Sometimes the answer to that is obvious – you know you’re fighting giants and you’re calling out for God’s help. Other times, though, we get so caught up with life that we don’t recognize the giant that has his hand on our forehead holding us in place while we pump our arms and legs trying to run.

I immediately stopped writing and started journaling – listening to the Lord and praying, then writing what Giants I am allowing to keep me in place so that I am not entering the land the Lord has promised me. I confessed unbelief that I didn’t realize I had, and I expressed confidence in God’s ability to take me into the promised land.

Now it’s your turn. What giants are in your life that you need to conquer?

I concluded my journal with the following simple prayer:

“Lord, You are greater…Help me to walk with confidence into the land, knowing that You have gone before me and have paved the way….Lord, I want to be Joshua and Caleb, not all of the other ten…Lord help me to move to that place beyond faith where I know, despite what I see…”

Do you want to be like Joshua and Caleb or the other ten? I encourage you to take time today to ask God for the vision and courage to fight the giants He has allowed to inhabit your promised land.

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I attended a conference over the weekend during which Graham Cooke, the speaker, said the following: “There is something beyond faith. Beyond faith is knowing.” Wow! He’s so right. Faith is something you must activate or exercise. Faith is a choice – choosing to believe that God is who He says He is and He can do what He says He can do. Knowing doesn’t require faith. I know God is good, so I don’t have to exercise faith to believe it. I know God forgives me, so I no longer have to use faith to walk in His forgiveness. There was a time when I didn’t know these things and I had to exercise faith to believe them.

I remember saying many years ago that one of the blessings of getting older in the Lord is that you develop a history with Him and a confidence in Him. You can walk in confidence in many areas where you might have once doubted. I was saying what Graham said so much better. At other times in my life, I’ve said that I was so glad some difficult event didn’t happen when I was younger in the faith because instead of worrying or doubting, I was able to have confidence in God and walk through the situation.

Knowing God gives us vision and energy to see His goodness in the midst of difficult circumstances. When I have to focus my energies simply on believing what He has said or promised, my vision is often closed off to His goodness in the situation. Growing up in God is a process of choosing to believe Him and walk confidently in that belief. At some point, He will give us experiences that solidify our belief transforming it into knowing. I know God my God will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19) because He has provided for me every day of every year of my life. He has demonstrated and proven to me His promise to provide for me so much that I don’t doubt it. I know He will provide.

God in His graciousness and wisdom helps us to grow our faith by giving us ever-increasing challenges to conquer to transform our faith into knowing. What challenges are you facing right now that God has tailor-made to help you grow up in Christ? God has allowed them to help you know Him better. And knowing God is peace. Be blessed, friends, with knowing God.

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Have you been enjoying Hebrews as you’ve Rested at the River’s Edge with us this month? I sure have. I’ve especially enjoyed chapters 10-12. Let’s look at a passage in chapter 10:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
         Hebrews 10:19-23 (NIV)

If you’ve also been reading through the Old Testament with us, this passage makes so much more sense. Some of the references are still easy to miss though, and I can’t help but comment on them. They’re just too good.

V19: We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus – In the Old Testament, we read that only the high priest was allowed to enter the most holy place, and then only once each year. They entered in fear and trepidation, lest their sin not be atoned for and they be struck down by the holy and perfect God who dwelled in that place. But now, under the new covenant, we can have confidence to enter the most holy place because we enter by the blood of Jesus. In the Old Testament, they sprinkled the blood of a sacrifice upon the altar and other items in the temple. We no longer have to do that because Jesus’ blood has already been shed.

V20: By a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body – Jesus has opened a new and living way – one that surpasses the old way of sacrifice. There was a curtain in front of the most holy place that the priests entered through. That curtain was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51) – we now enter through His body. In other words, if we want to enter the most holy place, we must go through Jesus, the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).

V21: And since we have a great priest over the house of God – Jesus is our great priest (Hebrews 4:14)

V22: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water – Jesus made it possible for us to draw near to God. We are to approach Him sincerely, not in rebellion or flippantly. We can approach Him in full assurance because of what Christ has done for us – He has sprinkled our hearts with His blood to cleanse us from our guilty conscience. Again, the priests sprinkled the blood of a sacrifice to cleanse the Israelites from their sins, and they washed to purify themselves. Figuratively, Christ has sprinkled our hearts with the blood to cleanse us and He has washed us with pure water.

V23: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful – The writer of the letter to the Hebrews is encouraging the Jewish believers, who would have understood all of the Old Testament references, to continue to follow Christ unswervingly. That last line – “for He who promised is faithful” – the entire passage is proof that God is faithful. He was faithful to His promise to send a Messiah, to save His people, to make a way for the entire world to be blessed by the sons of Abraham.

The writer then continues to encourage the Hebrews to be faithful, leading into chapter 11 which begins:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
          Hebrews 11:1

It’s being sure! It’s being certain even though we can’t see it!

What follows is a long line of people who demonstrated their faith through their actions. You know many of them, but what I especially love are verses 32 through 34. After going through a long list of people who make everyone’s top ten list of heroes of the faith, the writer of Hebrews almost sounds exasperated to me when he writes the following:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
          Hebrews 11:32-34

The author is saying “Hey guys, I don’t have time to tell you all these other stories, but man, the things they did through faith – conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, quenched the fury of the flames, and whose weakness was turned to strength. Wow! That’s the person I want to be! Our faith turns our weakness into strength. Hallelujah! That’s worth shouting about!

I know that Hebrews 10 and 11 were readings last Friday and Monday, but I didn’t get a chance to blog about them and they are chapters that speak so strongly to me. Tomorrow I’ll blog more about faith…Did you know that there is something beyond faith? Tune in tomorrow!

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March took us through the Old Testament law presented in Leviticus and then we began reading in Hebrews, a book that was written to the Jews and draws the relationship between the grace of the new covenant available through Jesus and the law of the Old Testament. In April, we’ll finish the book of Hebrews, take a few days off in the New Testament, then move into Romans. I love Romans. It was a verse in Romans that made the most impact on me when I was resisting the influences of God on my heart. He was trying to reach me, but I was running the other way. And then I read Romans. Wow! But I’ll save more about that until the middle of the month!

We’ll also read Numbers. Don’t get bogged down in the book! You might try reading it in the New Living Translation – it puts all the counts in a table, the way we would record the information today. If you find yourself in overload, take a step back…what’s the significance of the size of the total number — is it large or small? What’s the relative size of the various tribes? Know this: Each one of us is important to God. He keeps track of each of us. I’m so thankful for that!

Shortly after mid-month, we’ll begin Deuteronomy. It’s a great book — Moses is preparing to die and he wants to say to remind Israel of all that he has taught them on their journey. We’ll be journeying ourself into Job at the same time. What a perplexing book! But God has a great message in the book, so stay tuned.

I  hope you’re continuing in the journey through the Bible. Please don’t get discouraged if you fall behind…just keep reading. God will honor your efforts as you rest at the river’s edge with him a little each day. He will speak to you as you pursue Him.

To download a PDF of April’s reading schedule, click here.

April ReadingApril Reading

Enjoy your time at the river’s edge this month!

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 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they [the Israelites] did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
          Hebrews 4:1-2 (NIV)

For this Good News – that God has prepared a place of rest – has been announced to us just as it was to them [the Israelites]. But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them.
          Hebrews 4:1-2 (NLT)

“The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.”
“It did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them.”

It is not enough to hear the Gospel message. It is not enough to be in mental agreement with it. Rather, we must combine what we hear with our faith. We must believe what God has told us.

The word that is translated “faith” in the New International Version and “believe” in the New Living Translation is a word that means “rely upon.” There is a subtle difference between believing and relying upon. I believe that I would be healthier if I were to walk on my treadmill more often, but I’m not relying upon it. If I were, I’d be walking more often. I believe that my blogs help others to grasp the things God has for them, but I don’t rely upon that. I rely upon God to bring clarity and faith into the hearts and minds of readers.

If God’s message is to have impact in your life, if it is to have an impact in my life, it must be one that we choose to rely upon, not one we simply agree with. As our pastor said on Sunday, “Faith is a verb. It’s an action word.” If our faith is not a verb – if it is not something we act upon, it is not faith.

One of the ways God teaches us to rely upon Him and His Word is by removing from us other things we might putting our trust in. For example, my husband and I have our own business. I have not been able to draw a paycheck from that business for six months because of current economic conditions. God is surely teaching me that I am not to rely upon my business to provide for my needs, but to trust Him. I am often tempted to rely upon my husband for affirmation, companionship, guidance, love and strength. Now it’s not bad for me to anticipate, even expect, those things from my Godly husband, but my reliance must be upon the Lord. Phil’s recent heart attack has been an opportunity for God to speak to me about where I place my faith and trust. Is it in a healthy husband who takes care of me and our life in so many ways, or is it in God? If my reliance is upon my business or my husband, or anything else of this world, I am setting myself up for disappointment, discouragement and ultimately failure. But when my reliance is upon God, I have everything I need.

Only God has the message that gives eternal life, and that message is often called the Gospel, or “good news.” The Gospel message is that God has done for us through Christ what we could never do for ourselves. We could never do enough or be good enough to spend eternity in heaven with God, so He stepped out of heaven in the form of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus then did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves – he paid the price for our sin by sacrificing His life for ours – He died so that we might live. And that’s the message of Scripture. And when we believe – rely upon – what God did for us – dying for our sins so that we might have eternal life – He will give it. Scripture says that Christ died so that we might have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). That abundant life is the eternal life we will live in heaven with God, but it is also Christ here with us now. It is living in His Kingdom while still a resident of the planet earth – living in constant relationship with Him. It’s a life of blessing even when there’s no paycheck to be had and a husband who is not able to do all that he once was. It is a life of peace in the midst of the turmoil of the world.

Well, I’m on the verge of writing a blog about what it means to live an abundant life (ok, maybe I’ve crossed over into it), and this blog is about relying upon the message we’ve received. I’ll save the rest of the abundant life blog for another time and close the relying upon blog here.

May I ask the question…upon what or whom do you rely? Is it the Word of the Lord, the message of God given to you? Let me encourage you to “add faith” to the words of Scripture that you hear and read. Then live the abundant life.

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