Archive for April, 2011

7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

8Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
Acts 12:7-9

As I read this passage this morning, I was struck by Peter’s quick obedience. Awoken from his sleep, Peter does exactly he’s told…without questioning why or who or how. I am challenged by this, are you? While He hasn’t sent angels and shining lights, God occasionally makes His will known to me in other ways. I’m sorry to report that typically at those times, I am more apt to ask why and how before I obey.

I tend to have a cautious and slow moving faith. I want to embrace all of God, but I want to avoid foolish adventures that appeal to my emotions or personality but are not of God. I am sure that sometimes I wrap my hesitancy to obey in the mature sounding desire to test all things and make sound judgments – instead of recognizing it for what it is – fear of the unknown, fear of change, complacency, comfortable with life as I know it or just plain laziness. I don’t what to be the person who embraces those things, but they creep into my life so easily. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I want to pursue God with all my heart instead of being lulled into complacency by the things of the world.

There are times to be cautious and move slowly and there are times for quick obedience.  For those of us who tend to be stuck in the slow and cautious mode, I pray that Peter’s example will inspire us to quick obedience when God says “Quick, get up!”

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May you be blessed this Resurrection Sunday, friends!

I was so disappointed to be sick today and miss church – celebrating the resurrection of our Lord among my fellow believers and co-workers for the Gospel. As I sat covered in a blanket watching television preachers, I realized that I was not entering into worship and that I had a choice. I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself and wishing that God would meet with me. That’s when I realized that simply watching television was not likely to bring about my desired outcome. This is not a statement against television ministries. I have been greatly ministered to through television ministries. But today, this Resurrection Sunday, I was simply not engaging. Just laying here huddled under a blanket was the easiest thing to do and if I was more sick than I am it would have been the appropriate thing to do perhaps. But I have a little energy – not enough to get up and move around, but enough to reach for my computer (which is nearly always within arms’ reach) and go to YouTube.

I searched for the classic Easter hymn “Up from the Grave He Arose,” also known as “Low in the Grave He Lay.” I was so blessed as I listened to these four versions of the song. Not only did it turn my living room into a place of worship and adoration, it provided a simple message spoken in my spirit by the Lord as I listened and sang along with the recordings – as believers in Christ, we are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves and our congregation and our community and our country.

  • Our faith travels back in time to Christ’s resurrection, and before that His birth, and before that His working in our world through His Chosen People to bring about our salvation. His resurrection is the central event to that salvation; it is the event that makes it possible. We are connected to all believers who came before us.
  • Our faith is practiced around the world in all cultures.  We are connected to all believers celebrating this Resurrection Sunday – not just today, but every Lord’s Day when we meet for worship.

It was the variety of ways this single hymn was available on YouTube that spoke these things to my heart and spirit.

So if you’ve got 10-20 minutes, sit back and enjoy some of these recordings of the classic hymn hymn “Up from the Grave He Arose.” What a blessing it’s been for me. I pray it blesses you as well.

A traditional organ version

A Reggae/Hispanic version –  I love that it mixes a light Reggae beat and then throws in a verse sung in Spanish (most of the song is in English). This version had the most impact on me.

A very casual, “today” version – a young woman and her guitar

An Oriental orchestral/operatic version – I wish I knew enough about the cultures to be able to identify this to a specific Oriental culture/language but I do not, but this version gave me chills each time full orchestra, lead tenor with full choir backing him up went into the chorus –“Up from the Grave He Arose.”

Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Thank You, Lord!

 

 

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42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-27

As I’ve been reading the first couple of chapters of Acts, three things have impressed me greatly. This passage from Acts 2 gives us a glimpse of each of them.

1.   Devoted
Notice in verse 42 that it says the new believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. During Lent, I studied a bit about its history. In the early church, new believers were baptized only once a year on Easter morning. For several weeks before their baptism, the believers went through a period of preparation. Every resource I read described the new believers as “devoting” themselves to prayer, repentance, fasting and giving. I have been so taken with this word. Am I devoted to studying Scripture? Am I devoted to giving? Am I devoted to fellowship with other believers? I am hard-pressed to answer those questions affirmatively. Which ultimately leads to the question “Am I devoted to the Lord?” I have been working on my devotion to the Lord over the past month.

2.   Giving
Verses 44 and 45 present a common theme in the early chapters of Acts. The believers provided for those among them who could not provide for themselves. “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Notice it doesn’t say that their tithes provided for the needs of everyone. It says that when there were needs, they sold something to meet that need. That’s much different from me giving my tithe or an offering from my paycheck. There is both a difference in the attitude toward possessions and a willingness to sacrifice that goes beyond the perspective most of us have about giving. Giving an offering which makes me unable to purchase something I want is one thing; selling something I already own (and therefore have some degree of emotional attachment to) is something else altogether. This attitude is further described in Acts 4:

32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.… 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Acts 4:32, 34-35

I am challenged to truly view all I own as belonging to the Lord. I might say that everything I have is God’s, but when was the last time I sold something purely to give the proceeds to someone in need? The closest I’ve come is having a garage sale with the proceeds going to a missions trip I was taking. Selling items in a garage sale, which was part of my preparation for moving to a new home anyway, is an example of selling things I no longer needed or wanted. It’s not an example of me selling something of value solely to give the proceeds to someone in need. How about you? Have you asked God lately what He might want you to sell so that you can give to someone in need?

3.   Talking about Jesus – Everywhere
Verses 46 and 47 give us a hint at something we see throughout the early chapters of Acts – that the people were constantly talking about and praising God. Do you freely talk about the Lord and praise Him? I’ve found that the more devoted I am to studying His Word the more I see Him at work all around me. And the more I see Him at work all around me, the more thankful I am to know Him. And all that leads to me talking about Him more. Many of us have allowed society to convince us that talking about our faith and the object of our faith is taboo. The early Christians talked about Jesus everywhere they went. I’m becoming convinced that being devoted to Jesus has little meaning if my devotion isn’t obvious – not just by the way I live, but also because I talk about it and about Him. If faith is the most important thing in my life, how can I not?

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From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
Psalm 8:2 (NIV)

It’s been more than two weeks since my last blog. Sometimes life has a way of refocusing us. While writing my blog is incredibly important to me, over the past couple of weeks challenging priorities have sprung up in all other areas of my life. Blog writing had to take a back seat. Finally this morning, however, I was able to sit and write. What a joy for me. Before posting that blog, however, I thought it appropriate to step back into the ring, so to speak, with thanksgiving and praise. Thankfulness has helped keep the dark clouds away over the past few weeks. When I was tempted to slide into depression or be overtaken by the waves of overwhelming circumstances, thankfulness grounded me. Speaking out the things that I was thankful for (not just remembering them in my mind) returned order to my life in the midst of chaos.

Notice what it says in Psalm 8:2 – that praise silences the foe and the avenger. As I thanked God for His tremendous goodness, it was a form of praising Him for who He is and what He’s done, and it silenced my emotional foes and defeated my enemy. An interesting tidbit before I include my praises here: The word translated “praise” in the NIV also means boldness, power and strength. Praise gives us courage to be bold. It gives us power to do the right thing, and it gives us strength when our strength is depleted. I found thankfulness to be a reliable friend over the past couple of weeks.

Here are just some of the things I am thankful for (listed in no particular order). I hope the list reminds you of things you can praise God for today – in the midst of whatever you might be facing.

  • Opportunities to serve God.
  • Lots of customers with checkbooks to pay for their needs.
  • The ability to work.
  • Family who cares about me and my family.
  • Friends who help hold me together.
  • A wonderful dog who blessed our lives for many years.
  • A husband who walks (runs and tumbles) through life with me.
  • Blog readers who encourage me.
  • Taxes – because they pay for the government that protects me from things I couldn’t protect myself from.
  • Taxes – because they mean that I have had income this year.
  • Beautiful blue skies and white puffy clouds.
  • Rainy, overcast days in which to hibernate with a cup of tea and a fun puzzle.
  • A father in heaven and a Father in heaven.
  • A mother on earth who continues to teach me how to live.
  • Growing in grace.
  • God’s mercy.
  • The ability to travel – to see and experience more of God’s creation.
  • The ability to study God’s Word – alone and with others.
  • Fun.

Here’s my challenge to you: Create your own list being careful to keep entry short. As I wrote the list, I was tempted to add caveats at the end of each line.

For example, my list says “opportunities to serve God.” What I was tempted to write was “opportunities to serve God even when it’s inconvenient or adds stress to my busy schedule.”

Resist this urge to caveat your praise. Lord, I am thankful – I praise You, Lord – for opportunities to serve you. Period. The caveat reminds me of my stress and expresses just a touch of dissatisfaction with the praise. Don’t do it! Let’s just praise Him. He knows the caveats. He knows the stress He’s allowing me to experience and enabling me to withstand.

So go on – make your own list. It will keep you from being pulled under by waves of overwhelming circumstances and will give you strength to pursue God in the midst. You can count on it!

Comment on this post (below or on Facebook) telling us the top three things you’re thankful for. Trust me…telling others what you’re thankful for increases the strength of your thanksgiving – “speaking” it to the world makes it more real in your mind, strengthens those around you, and gives greater glory to God.

Be blessed, friends.

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Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.
Luke 8:37

This has to be one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Jesus had just healed the Gerasenes demoniac. A man who had previously been filled with demons that kept him from wearing clothes or living in a home. He lived in the tombs and in solitary places. Jesus healed him and when the people came to see, they “found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.” (V35)

Instead of rejoicing with Jesus and the healed man, the chose fear. They were afraid and asked Jesus to leave them.

The supernatural – the spiritual world full of spiritual powers – can be frightening, but when Jesus is at the center of them, we can have peace and we can rejoice (unless we’re the demonic forces, of course). Scripture assures us that Jesus has come to give us life, it is satan and his demonic forces that have come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus had just given the demoniac life, but those in the town chose fear and begged Jesus to leave their town.

Scripture teaches that we are to test the spirits. We’re not to embrace every supernatural event that occurs. That would be foolish. By the same token, we ought not to dismiss supernatural events out of our own skepticism or fear. When the events are associated with those that proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and give glory to God and they bring freedom to His followers, prayerfully embrace them. Lean toward acceptance, not toward skepticism or fear.

God has wonderful things in store for us, but I think we sometimes miss those things because we are too afraid. We see or experience something new or different and like “all the people of the region of the Gerasenes [we ask] Jesus to leave [us], because [we are] overcome with fear.” And satan wins.

Here’s to looking for the God of miracles so that we might sit at His feet fully clothed and in our right minds!

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