Archive for May, 2011

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Construction Jobs, Queens, an Unfaithful Wife, the Love of God, and Wisdom on a Plethora of Subjects – all in the month of June!

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in June, we’ll be reading five different Old Testament books and read portions of Romans and 1 Corinthians. Sounds like a lot, but we’re still reading only three chapters on most days. Here’s just a hit of some of the things that await you in June:

  • Construction, construction and construction – You’ll read about the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian captivity in the book of Ezra. In Nehemiah you’ll read about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.
  • Everyone knows the story of Esther – the young Jewish woman who would become queen and save her people. We’ll follow Esther’s story with the story of Hosea and his wife Gomer. The story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer provides a beautiful picture of how God takes us back again and again even when we are unfaithful to Him.
  • I hope you’re enjoying the reading we’ve been doing in Romans. We’ll finish the book coming to such favorite passages as “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8) and Paul’s great prayer “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15).
  • Paul will provide wisdom about all sorts of things in 1 Corinthians: Spiritual pride, sexual sin, marriage, public worship, gifts of the Spirit, and more.

I pray that God speaks to you each day as you read. Remember to pause and pray before reading – ask God to join you and open your heart, mind and spirit as you read.

Blessings, friends,
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for June is below.

To download a PDF of June’s recommended reading plan, click here.

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts

Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings,
Sandy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I love the book of Romans! It is the book that brought me to salvation.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus showing His love, compassion and mercy by healing them, releasing them from bondage, and bringing salvation. I was a proud, capable (albeit quite insecure) young woman who didn’t need healing or release from bondage or salvation. Or so I thought, anyway.

In the book of Romans, we see Faith in action – Faith with a capital “F” – Faith that isn’t a word, but a lifetime of actions. This is introduced as early as verse 5:

Through [Jesus] and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Romans 1:5

What is it that Paul is calling the Gentiles to? He doesn’t write that he is calling them to faith in Christ. Rather, he writes he is calling Gentiles (and you and me) to the “obedience that comes from faith.” When there is no obedience – when there is no change in behavior that comes from obeying God’s Word – it casts a shadow of doubt on the faith of the unchanged, disobedient person. Faith is not some word that is to be carelessly tossed around. Faith requires obedience. Period.

When I choose not to obey, when I choose to stubbornly cling to behaviors and thoughts that are not obedient to God’s Word, I am clinging to worthless idols. They are idols because they have taken the place of God in my life – I have elevated them above obedience to Him. They are worthless because they have no power to bring salvation, healing and wholeness to my life.

I love what Jonah says about clinging to worthless idols:

Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Jonah 2:8

The idols we cling to – those things we elevate above obedience to God – they not only have no power to save us, they have the very antithesis of that power. Clinging to worthless idols has the power to keep me from the fullness that God has for me and quite possibly to keep me from spending eternity with Him. It causes me to forfeit the grace that could be mine.

Scripture is clear that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). While the verses surrounding this phrase deal with money, the concept applies to anything that we cling to more tightly than we cling to Jesus. We will give devotion that is due Him to our other master.

Last week my husband Phil and I covered the parable of the sower and the seed (Luke 8:4-15) in a Bible study we lead. One of the points Phil made was that the parable is typically used in the context of evangelism. We sow the Word of God and how it is received depends very much on the condition of the soil in which it is planted:

  • Seed (God’s Word) that is planted in hard, trampled soil (i.e., along the path) will be rejected.
  • Seed that is planted in rocky soil will begin to grow but do not develop the root system needed. Without roots, they wither during difficult times.
  • Seed that is planted among the thorns take root and develop, but the thorns choke the life out of them. The thorns represent the worries, riches and pleasures of this life. (It’s interesting that God identifies worries and riches and pleasures as thorns. Our spiritual maturity can be “robbed” by both worry (a bad thing) and riches and pleasures (seemingly good things). But that’s a blog for another day.)
  • Seed that is planted in good soil develops strong roots and reaches for the sun (Son in our case). The seed not only matures, but produces a good crop.

During our discussion of the passage, Phil pointed out that the passage doesn’t relate only to evangelism. As we live here on earth, we must guard the soil of our heart because God calls us to obedience daily. The condition of the soil of my heart today has a lot to do with whether or not I choose to receive His word with joy and obedience or whether I allow the cares or pleasures of this world to distract me from obedience.

Friends, I encourage you to continually cultivate the soil of your heart with prayer and repentance, fasting and giving, four disciplines that were focused on by early disciples. They moisten and turn the soil of our hearts preparing it to receive God’s Word with joy and a predisposition to be obedient. It is what we have been called to – the obedience that comes from Faith. As opposed to the wishful thinking that comes from faith.

Wishful thinking is just that. It has no power to enable us to be obedient, transform us into the image of Christ, give us eternal salvation, or bring the Kingdom of God into our life here on earth.

Let’s choose Faith, not faith. Let’s choose obedience not wishful thinking.

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17

Faith is the power of God for salvation! For those who believe – those called to the obedience that comes from Faith.

There are those who will hear and even give a mental agreement – believe, have faith – but they are not obedient. Our obedience is what brings glory to God. Listen to what happens to those folks:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:21

Knowing God but not obeying Him or giving him thanks causes our thinking to become futile and our hearts darkened – we become ineffective and depressed. If you’re feeling like that describes your life, may I encourage you to cultivate the soil of your heart. Return for a period of time to prayer, repentance, fasting and giving. Ask God to reveal your heart to you so that you may repent and serve Him in obedience.

Lord, thank You that we are called to obedience – more than simply wishful thinking. Thank You for Your power that accompanies a life of Faith. Move in the lives of all who sincerely pursue you in Faith.

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If you could have one wish today what would it be? Think about it for a minute. Would it be greater nearness to God or a good night’s sleep? My first thought was the good night’s sleep. Then the Holy Spirit prompted me. I don’t want to live in the natural. I want to live in God in a great way. So Lord – my wish for today is greater nearness to You! That was David’s cry in Psalm 84, our Resting at the River’s Edge reading for today.

I blogged about this Psalm in a series in January. If you missed them, check them out here:

Psalm 84: A Meditation

Part 1, God’s Sweet Presence

Part 2, Blessings for Those who Dwell with God and Pass Through Dry Valleys

Part 3, One Day in God’s Courts Outshines Everything Else

5 Practical Tips for Dwelling with God from Psalm 84

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Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Acts 26:32

These words have always haunted me. Poor Paul. If only he had not uttered the words “I appeal to Caesar” in the last chapter! But he did and now a few days later King Agrippa states plainly to Festus, the civic and military leader of Judea (of which Jerusalem was a part and where Paul was arrested) that Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.

It seems to me that I’d have been thinking “If I had only kept my mouth shut! Now look what I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve already been in prison for nearly a week and now they say I could have been set free.” I would have been frustrated.

The story continues. As a result of Paul appealing to Caesar, he was sent to Rome – not an easy trip we learn. Terrible storms buffeted the ship for more than two weeks and they were eventually forced to abandon ship at the small island of Malta. The narrative makes it clear that was windy, rainy and cold.

I think we so often romanticize Scripture narratives. The citizens of Malta join them on the beach and build a fire for them. Beach party! Not quite – let’s picture this as it really is – after more than 2 weeks of being battered by storms, their ship breaks apart and they swim to shore. It’s still raining and windy and cold. They are soaking wet, their clothes and hair are being whipped around their body as they search for wood to help make a fire in the rain. The 276 passengers and crew from the ship now have no ship to serve as their home away from home and to take them where they are going. No food to sustain them. No clothes to change into. It’s not a beach party, it’s a disaster and they feel devastated. And it all could have been avoided if Paul had not appealed to Caesar. But he did, so the story continues.

After three months on Malta, they set sail again for Rome.

Mini-Lesson in the Narrative
Upon arrival in Rome, Paul is greeted by believers who had heard he was headed to Rome and traveled a distance to see him. Scripture records:

At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
Acts 28:15b

I’m thinking Paul needed the encouragement. It doesn’t say that Paul was discouraged, but it makes a point of including this half-verse saying that he was encouraged. The Apostles were great men of God, but they were still humans and I think God, in His grace, sent those believers to Paul simply to encourage him. The short lesson from this half-verse is that God knows when we need encouragement and He sends people to encourage us. Isn’t he a wonderful, compassionate and loving God?

Having arrived in Rome, you’d think Paul would have his day in court – have his opportunity to appeal to Caesar and get on with his life. The lesson of this narrative, though, is that God wants us to be a witness for Him throughout all the interruptions in our life. While on the island of Malta, Paul prayed for those who were sick and they were healed. Undoubtedly (knowing Paul), he was not only healing the sick, but also sharing the Truth about Christ at every opportunity. Upon arrival in Rome, the trial he had been waiting for seemed to have been delayed…

30For two whole years Paul stayed there [in Rome] in his own rented house [being guarded by a soldier while awaiting trial] and welcomed all who came to see him. 31Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 28:30-31

What began in false arrest, imprisonment and hardship resulted in Paul’s opportunity to “boldly and without hindrance” preach the Gospel and teach about Jesus to believers and non-believers alike in Rome.

When I am tempted to regret something I’ve done that seems to have changed the circumstances of my life for the worse, it’s important to remember that we don’t yet know the end of the story. (Well, we know the final end of the story – that I will spend eternity with God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in heaven, a place so unimaginably great that anything I consider pales in comparison to it; but that’s a different blog.) But in the midst of life on this earth, we don’t yet know where our circumstances are leading us in Christ. Continued obedience to Him and His Word might just be leading us to years of unrestrained opportunity to preach and teach about Jesus. Let’s not diss the Lord and His activity in our lives by keeping our eyes on the storms and hardship around us when those very storms and hardships are just the scenery on the journey to serving Him.

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1Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.

Your Bible probably says “A Psalm of Asaph” at the beginning of Psalm 73. My Bible has the words “Sandy’s Psalm” written next to it. I remember the first time I read Psalm 73. I had been a Christian for quite some time, so surely I had read it before; but that day I read my story in the Psalm. A few months later, I realized that I was worshipping to a song based on the Psalm and it came alive in an even great way. Let me share a little of the narrative with you.

1Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.

It makes so much sense that God is good to Israel, but me? I came so close to missing Him. Because you see…

3For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.

5They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.

12This is what the wicked are like—
always carefree, they increase in wealth.

I wanted to be one of those people – rich, carefree, not burdened by religion (which is really nonsense, anyway, right?) I had a life planned that was centered around what I wanted out of it. I had “success” in my future. In college I bought china and crystal because that’s how I saw myself in the future.

Then I fell in love – first with a wonderful man who loved the Lord, and then with the Lord. My definition of “success” has drastically changed, but it was a process. My mind tried to process the differences between my old definition of success, the “carefree” lifestyle of those who seemed successful, and the lifestyle that God wants from me. I love how the Psalmist describes his change of perspective:

13Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

16When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me

17till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

The Psalmist actually regrets that he has led a pure life. He felt oppressed when he tried to make sense of living a pure life for God when those who ignore Him have success and seem so carefree. So he did the absolute right thing – he took his confusion to God. He writes that he felt oppressed until he went to God with his confusion. Then God revealed Truth to him.

There’s a lesson in this. How often do we continue in our confusion, trying our hardest to figure “life” out without taking our confusion to God? Let’s take our confusion to the One who knows all things and the One who has all wisdom and knowledge.

The Psalmist shares with us what God revealed to him:

18Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.

19How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!

God is so gracious. He reveals to the Psalmist how shaky their foundation really is. The things the “successful” people have built their life upon, the things they place value on, are things that could vanish in an instant.

Understanding God’s perspective often brings us to our knees in repentance and worship. Such is the case with the Psalmist:

21When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

22I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

24You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

25Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

27Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

Praise God! This is Sandy’s Psalm, written thousands of years before Sandy was thought of by humans, but was being formed in God’s plan. What struck me as I was worshipping to a song based on the Psalm was that the Psalmist ends as a worshipper – “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire beside you. As for me, it is good to be near God.” When all is said and done, God has made me first and foremost a worshipper. Being near Him…it is good!

Thank You, Lord, for having Asaph write a Psalm for me.

Are there any Psalms that have been written for you? Share with me (here or on Facebook) which Psalms describe your life.

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I haven’t posted nearly as frequently over the past few weeks. Very short deadlines at work and increased ministry in my local church has kept me quite busy. This too shall end and I’ll return to blogging more regularly – soon I hope! In the meantime…

As I prepare a sermon for tomorrow’s service, I took a lunch break and was surfing the net, reading a bit here and there. I came across this blog about faith – how much or how little is required to move the hand of God? Enjoy!

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Hi Folks,

I’ve heard that some are having trouble downloading the May 2011 Resting at the River’s Edge recommended reading schedule. I have uploaded new files and hope they do the job.

There are always three ways to access the reading schedules:

From the Series page, you can click on the “Resting at the River’s Edge – Reading Through the Bible in 2011” link. That link takes you to this page – the blog entry for each month’s reading.

From the Downloads page, you can click on “Resting at the River’s Edge – Read thru the Bible in 2011” link. It will take you to this page that allows you to download the schedule for each month.

As my mom would say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (I used that expression recently and the person I was talking with asked me if I wanted to skin a cat. No, I do not, but you get the idea.) 🙂

Each of the links to the actual schedule take you to the same file, however, so if one approach doesn’t work for you, you’ll have little success trying other approaches. If you have any problems with the link, please let me know. It works at this end, but…

Blessings on your week, friends, and keep reading! God will speak to you!
Sandy

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

  • Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts
  • Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for May is below.

To download a PDF of May’s recommended reading plan, click here.

 

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts

Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings,
Sandy

 

 

 

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