Archive for March, 2013

12When [Peter] realized [that the angel had released him from prison], he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 13He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 14When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” 15“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” 16Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
Acts 12:12-16 (NLT)

This passage tickles me. I’m afraid I always make fun of Rhoda when I teach on this paragraph. That’s wrong of me. There’s a better lesson in the passage.

As I read it last week, I first was surprised that Scripture includes the name of this girl who recognizes Peter’s voice and then runs away from the door instead of letting him in. Her name is Rhoda. There are many nameless people in Scripture. For some reason, Rhoda isn’t one of them. I don’t have any insight into why her name is included here, but it gave me a greater degree of respect for her (as I should have). God saw fit to include her name in Scripture.

Now I’m still stuck on the foolishness of hearing Peter’s voice and then running from the door instead of letting him in. Imagine the scene.

Rhoda hears Peter’s voice on the other side of the door and turns away from the door to run screaming through the house “Peter’s here! Peter’s here!”

“Rhoda, you’re crazy! Peter’s in jail. ”

“No! Peter’s here! He’s here!”

“Where is he!”

“Uh…Uh…he’s standing outside the door knocking.”

“Well, let him in, girl!”

And we return to the front door where Peter stands knocking.

Rhoda is near the top of my scale of ditziness in this scene. But as I imagined this scene and thought about it more, I began to think about Rhoda now being in heaven. The scene changed dramatically. Yes, she’s known in heaven for leaving Peter standing at the front door – I can see the saints there gently teasing her for running off in a tizzy. But the scene is heaven now, so the conversation is much different…

“Remember the time you left Peter standing at the door?” a friend says with a smile on her face.

“Oh, my, yes! I was so shocked and excited to hear his voice, I just lost my mind for a minute! What a fun night that was!”

Those around laugh together, perhaps bringing Peter over to share his side of the story. Or perhaps Jesus is part of the conversation and they here the whole thing from His perspective.

These imaginings took me to thinking about the different personalities God has created. I’m sure Rhoda was really good at some things. But she was clearly not a shining star in this situation. But what is the hallmark of God’s Kingdom? Love. So I see Jesus loving Rhoda for the woman she was and I see the saints in heaven loving her for the women she was and is and I see her totally enjoying the woman she was and is. And I’m a little pricked in my spirit, reminded that my job is to reveal Christ to others – and that means not thinking less of them when they aren’t shining stars, but enjoying the person God created them to be.

There is a second hallmark of the Kingdom of God – its variety and uniqueness. Our God is the God of infinite creativity. He created Rhoda to be excellent at some things and created others to be excellent at the things which aren’t Rhoda’s strong suit. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but one of them is so that we would all have a place in His Kingdom to serve the King. I’m thinking they’re not making Rhoda the doorman in heaven. But who knows! Maybe she was heaven’s doorman in training when she went to the door that Peter was knocking on.

What position has God uniquely and specially gifted you for? Love yourself for the gifts God has put in you. Don’t despise yourself or put yourself down for the gifts God has not given you – He’s given those gifts to others so they can also have their place in the Kingdom of God.

Likewise, love others – especially those who might be difficult to love because they are so radically different from you. Love them for the gifts God has put in them. Don’t think less of them or put them down for the gifts God has not given them. The gifts they lack are gifts God is giving others (perhaps you!) so that each of us has a perfect place in the Kingdom of God.

Thanks, Rhoda, for the lesson in love. And forgive me for making fun of you in the past!

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Last Sunday our pastor preached about the importance of obedience. Obedience – immediate obedience – opens the door for the opportunity to worship. Disobedience, on the other hand, brings about destruction – ours and those around us. I’ll be picking up on that point as I preach a resurrection message this Sunday. The first thing that happened when the women found the empty tomb on that first Resurrection Sunday morning is that they were given an assignment. “Go quickly and tell the disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead’” (Matthew 28:7b, NIV) the angel said.

Scripture records their obedience:

8The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him.
Matthew 28:8-9 (NLT)

The women were very frightened – not just a little afraid, they were very frightened – a synonym for the word translated “very afraid” would be “in terror.” Yet they were immediately obedient. They rushed to respond. And as they went, they met Jesus. And they worshipped. If they had not been obedient, would they have met Jesus? Would they have had the opportunity to worship at His feet? Honestly, we have no way of knowing what God would have chosen to do but what we can say definitively is that they were obedient and in their obedience, they met Jesus.

That’s a preview of my Sunday sermon.

Today, I’m reading Acts chapter 10. (I’m a couple of days behind in my Resting at the River’s Edge reading.) God sent an angel to give Cornelius an assignment – send some men to find Peter and bring him to your home. Verses 7 and 8 reveal Cornelius’ immediate obedience.

7As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. 8He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
Acts 10:7-8 (NLT)

That’s immediate obedience. And it opened the door for tremendous blessing.

So Cornelius’ men set off for Joppa and arrived there about noon the next day, just as Peter was going to the rooftop to pray. As Peter prayed, God gave him a vision and a command that went against everything he had been taught as an Israelite. Then the Holy Spirit then told him to go with the men who were arriving at his door. This also would have gone against all he had been taught. You see the men coming to Peter’s door were Gentiles and they were servants of a Gentile.

Peter describes the situation and his response upon meeting Cornelius and the people he had gathered in his home:

[Peter] said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.” Acts 10:28-29a (NIV)

Peter was immediately obedient when He heard God’s voice – even when it contradicted the earthly teaching he had received. And it opened the door for tremendous blessing.

The blessing that Cornelius and Peter received as a result of their obedience is described in the last verses of Acts 10:

44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47”Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Acts 10:44-48 (NIV)

The obedience of Cornelius and Peter opened the door for faith to arise in the hearts of those in Cornelius’ household. They believed Peter’s message:

36“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all…39We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen…42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 10:36, 39-40, 42-43 (NIV)

Cornelius’ obedience, Peter’s obedience, even the obedience of others in Cornelius household who came to hear the man of God preach – their obedience led to the sending of the Holy Spirit and the rising of faith in their hearts.

Going to the home of a Gentile, eating with him and definitely sharing the Gospel with him got Peter in a lot of trouble with other believers. Read about it (and the resolution of their conflict) in Acts 11.

Obeying God may get us in some hot water, but it is always the right thing to do and it always has blessings attached to it. May it include suffering along the way? Yes. But there are blessings attached to obedience. Blessings for those who obey and for others in their sphere of influence.

Embrace obedience. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it means hardship. Embrace obedience out of love for God. But know that because of His love for us, there are always blessings that will come from that obedience.

Do you have a story of blessings following obedience? Share them with us here or on our facebook page.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

12The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the King of Israel!”

John 12:12-13 (NIV)

 

During our journey through 2013, we’re focusing on a different characteristic or quality of the heart each month. You can see all the blogs in the series here.) I’m pulling over to the side of the road this week and next to address the praise-filled heart. With Palm Sunday just two days ago and Easter (or Resurrection Sunday as it’s called at our church) just a few days away, the note I made in the margins of my sermon notebook was “radical praise – it’s a season of outrageous praise!”

I love description of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It’s often called the triumphal entry because He was recognized as and given the reception of a King, even if only for a short time. People laid their coats on the ground before Him. And trust me, it wasn’t their spare jacket that they usually left hanging in the closet at home. It was most likely their only over-garment. That’s outrageous praise!

And they shouted “Hosannah! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Hosannah!” “Blessed is the King of Israel.”

Outrageous praise! To proclaim Jesus as the King of Israel. Yes, He had been doing miraculous works in their midst. Still no one had yet proclaimed Him a King.

In the midst of outrageous praise, the Israelites were reciting from a Psalm 118. Look at the phrase in context:

22The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
23the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
26Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
27The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
Psalm 118:22-27 (NIV)

Jesus is the stone the builders rejected. Let us rejoice and be glad. The word translated “rejoice” connotes a strong emotion. It’s not quiet joy. It’s outrageous joy. It’s loud, have-to-dance joy.

Some of the Phraisees weren’t all that happy about such an outrageous display of emotions. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” they said to Jesus (Luke 19:39, NIV).

“I tell you,” [Jesus] replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40 (NIV)

Stones crying out – that’s outrageous praise!

What does outrageous praise look like in your life? Let me give you some characteristics of it:

  • It isn’t temporary. When you’ve praised God outrageously, it’s going to have an effect that doesn’t dissipate before you’ve finished your morning coffee.
  • It goes beyond peaceful. It may bring you peace, but outrageous peace isn’t accomplished with a serene smile on your face while you sit quietly. I truly want to allow for individual differences, but I honestly don’t know how anyone can outrageously praise God silently. (If you disagree, let me know. We can still be friends!)
  • It may make you a bit uncomfortable! If you’re not accustomed to outrageously praising God (and most of us aren’t), you’ll be uncomfortable at first.
  • It’s likely to make those around you uncomfortable. I’m not advocating that you offend your neighbor for the sake of offending them. But I am suggesting that you not allow others to dictate how you outrageously praise God.

I have a challenge for you today. Before the end of the day, spend at least three minutes outrageously praising God. If that’s not a challenge for you, make it five or ten minutes. If you’re new to outrageous praise, start with some of the verses in Psalm 118 and add your own commentary after them. You might begin with verse 14:

The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:14 (NIV)

Read the verse out loud with enthusiasm, then praise God out loud for being that for you. “Lord, you are my song when I have no song. You are my strength when I have no strength. Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord, for saving me. Thank you, Lord, for lifting me up when I couldn’t reach up on my own.”

15Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! 16The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
Psalm 118:15-16 (NIV)

“Hallelujah, Lord! You have done mighty things for me! You meet my every need! You provide for me every day! Because of You I live in freedom! Because of You I live in love! Because of You I will live for eternity!”

That’s the beginning of outrageous praise. It blesses God’s heart and it will bless your heart.

Share this post with a friend who needs to be blessed this week. And tell me how your outrageous praise session went!

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I was feeling bruised and battered this evening. I wasn’t sure why, but it felt like the last few weeks have been really hard. Yes, I knew that I’d had challenges in many different areas of my life, but still, it didn’t seem that I should have felt as bruised and battered as I did.

The only thing I could really put my finger on to make sense of it was that I’d felt a bit disconnected from God. My fault, not His. I’d kept up with my Scripture reading each day and while my prayer life hadn’t been stellar, it had been there. But the kind of work I’d been doing this week had required a lot of intense concentration and I just hadn’t been as aware of God’s presence throughout the day.

So I sat down with Scripture hoping to reconnect. My Bible was open to Ephesians 1. It wasn’t where I’m reading right now, but where I stopped a couple of days ago while studying for a future sermon or blog. So I thought I’d start reading there. I blessed immediately. Read a little with me.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
Ephesians 1:1a (NIV)

Paul knew who he was, I thought. He knew what he was called to. And he was confident where that calling originated from – he was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. Who am I, I wondered? If I were writing a letter like Paul, what would I write?

Sandy, a preacher…a writer…an encourager…

That’s when life began to make sense again. That’s when the bruised feeling began to lift.

When life gets complicated, going back to the basics helps.

Who are you? Who do you belong to? By what authority? What’s your assignment?

I am Sandy, I belong to Jesus and I’m called by God to make the grace that He makes available to people easier for them to grasp.

I haven’t been doing that this week. That’s why I’m out of sorts. I’ve been stuck in details that were obscuring that calling from me. The best part of the week was during our Thursday morning Bible study during which I know I helped those in attendance touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. I know they left more able to hold onto faith in trying circumstances.

But I too quickly left that environment and returned to be immersed in details of this world that weren’t fitting together in a way that made sense. This world is like that sometimes. But whether I’m leading a Bible study or figuring out how to make my blog talk to Facebook the way I want it to, my calling is the same: I am Sandy, I belong to Jesus and I’m called by God to make the grace that He makes available to people easier for them to grasp.

Have you been out of sorts lately? Is life too complicated. Get back to basics. Take a few minutes to meet with God, then write your own introduction. Who are you? Who do you belong to? By what authority? What’s your assignment? It will uncomplicated things in a hurry.

Thank you, Lord!

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History was never my strong suit and it was a subject I never enjoyed. Still, I remember learning about Julius Caesar, and the names Plato and Aristotle have a familiarity. I’m sorry to say that if you asked me anything specific about these three I would be hard pressed to come up with one fact about each. What I do remember, though, is that whatever my teachers tried to teach me, I was taught as fact and accepted what they said as fact. This was happening at the same time that I somehow came to the conclusion that the Bible was not fact.

What’s interesting about this is that based on verifiable historical evidence – that is actual copies of documents, the New Testament is significantly – and I mean significantly – more reliable and accurate than everything we have about Caesar, Plato and Aristotle, and a ton of other ancient writers I don’t remember learning about in history class. Reliability and accuracy of an ancient document is determined largely by the number of copies found (each of which might be fragments of the whole or the whole document) and the length of time between the writing of the document and our oldest copy of it. Let me give you a taste of the difference between the New Testament and some of these other ancient documents:

Plato was a Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived approximately 427-347 BC. Wikipedia describes him as “one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy.” Our earliest copy of his writings is dated 900 AD – about 1200 years after they were written. We have a total of 7 copies.

Aristotle was a student of Plato and a teacher of Alexander the Great. He wrote on a wide variety of subjects between 450 and 385 BC. The oldest manuscript we’ve found is from 1100 AD – also about 1200 years after they were written. We have 10 copies of his writings.

Julius Caesar lived from 100 to 44 BC. Much of what we know about his life were from his own writings. The earliest copy we have is from 900 AD, 1000 years after they were written. We have 10 copies.

The New Testament was written between 50 and 100 AD. The earliest copy we have is from approximately 130 AD. That’s less than 100 years after it was written. We have fragments from the Gospel of John that could have been one of the first copies. We have approximately 5,800 ancient manuscripts from the New Testament.

I accepted as fact ancient writings for which we have ten or less copies, the oldest of which were made 900 or more years after the original was written yet I doubted the veracity of a document for which there are 5,800 copies, the oldest of which was made less than a generation after the original was written.

I think that’s what the Bible would call deceived. I’m thankful that God opened my eyes to the Truth of His Word.

For more on the subject, check out these resources:

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Wikipedia

Special thanks to Bible Study Magazine, Nov & Dec 2009 issue

And if you’re really interested in the subject watch Josh McDowell, author of Evidence that Demands a Verdict, present evidence about the validity of Scripture in this video.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (KJV)

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

There’s been a song on my mind and in my heart ever since we started talking about a clean or pure heart. While looking for it on YouTube I found a new one quite similar. Let me invite you to spend about 5 minutes in devotion as you listen. Enjoy!

Here’s the song that’s been on my mind – Create in Me a Clean Heart by Keith Green.

And here’s a different song with the same name – Create in Me a Clean Heart –sung by Donnie McClurkin.

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I love the discoveries I make as I review my notes from sermons I heard the previous year. As I read over the sermons from the first half of the year, I found a continual calling back to dependence on God, a continual encouragement to live above our circumstances by trusting them to Him. You can read highlights from those sermons here.

I got waylaid a bit before going over my notes for the second half of the year. It’s almost Easter and I’m just now publishing highlights from the second half of 2012. Sometimes life gets away from us, doesn’t it? I was tempted to not publish these because I’m so late, but these are too good to not share. I pray that you are as blessed as I’ve been reviewing what God said through mighty men and women of God in 2012.

On June 11th, I attended a prayer meeting. It wasn’t your typical prayer meeting, but a weekly “soaking” prayer time that takes place at Ekklesia Revived, our local prayer center. (You can find their Facebook page here.)  This is a time of sitting and listening to the Lord – soaking in His presence and waiting on Him. At the end of the prayer time, people share what they’ve heard from the Lord. Often God speaks through images, thoughts that come to our mind, or things others say. Here are my notes from one such “speaking”:

“I saw us dancing with the Lord” one woman said. When she said that, I immediately thought of the movie Hitch. “This is your dance space, this is my dance space” [Hitch instructed his client]. The Holy Spirit immediately said to me “It’s time to dance outside your space.”

How cool is that? I love the way the Lord speaks to us. Is it time for you to dance outside our space?

“For God to mend our hearts, we have to give Him all the pieces – or it will never be fully mended.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 6/17/12

“It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it.” A stray note in my written journal. I have no idea who said it. But it’s a good line!

“There must be a desire in each of us to see God move. Wherever we are is to become a habitation of our Lord.” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 7/22/12

“He is our Shepherd and without Him we are helpless and harassed. (see Matthew 9:36)” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 8/26/12

“There isn’t a wall that satan can build that cannot be torn down – demolished – with praise.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/23/12

“Praise disarms a complaining spirit.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/23/12

(And I would add – and we all need that!)

During our worship time on September 30, 2012, I made these notes in my written journal:

During worship I saw an image of mighty warriors standing in front of the king – creating a protective wall around him. Nothing gets through them. That’s how we’re to be for one another – especially when we see one who has fallen. As I considered this, I saw an image of many guards standing over a fallen warrior. They were clearly giving the fallen warrior time to heal. They were not standing guard over his death. It was not a death watch, it was a protection detail giving time to heal. They were saying to the enemy “we’re standing here and you’re not getting through. We’re providing a protective barrier until our brother has healed.”

Lord, make me one of those warriors!! Enlist me in that army. Teach me that dedication and that steadfastness and that courage to stand. Not here, satan! Not now!

PS note: The sermon that followed that day was titled “Faithful, Fearless Courage!” God was preparing me to hear the sermon and respond!

“God says that no one can stand against us. Does our life show we believe it? Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“Trust requires action before God moves.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“The battle has nothing to do with the size of the enemy; it has everything to do with the size of our God. So don’t minimize the size of the problem, just maximize the size of your God.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“Let the darkness cause us to be excited – because the light is preparing to come!” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“Darkness gives off an air of deception that nothing can penetrate it – making it seem as if there’s no use in trying to impact it. It is a deception. God is the God of Light. He created the Light. The Light has overcome darkness.” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“There’s been a lot of talk about ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Satan now uses ‘weapons of mass distraction’ and it leads to a quiet erosion of our life.” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“In the uncertainty of change, cling to God.” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 10/28/12

“God’s sole purpose is to change us – to make us more like Christ. Therefore, our sole purpose should be to let Him!” Pastor Dan Caudill, 11/25/12

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.

Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

The word translated pure in this verse also means clean or cleansed. Only those who have had their heart cleansed by God are blessed, for they shall see Him. Last week we looked at 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (RSV)

The root of the word translated “cleanse” in 1 John 1:9 is the word translated “pure” in Matthew 5:8. The application is clear: God will cleanse the heart of those who confess their sins and those with cleansed hearts will see God. Put more simply, those who confess their sins will see God.

What does it mean to “see God”? The word translated “see” is “optanomai” and is defined by Strong’s Greek Dictionary as meaning “to gaze [as with] wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable.” The definition goes on to explain that it differs from other Greek words that may be translated “see” but mean:

  • “merely mechanical, passive or casual vision”
  • “earnest but more continued inspection”
  • “watching from a distance”

Why do I include this detail about the word “see”? Because I find the differences in the words fascinating. Those with a pure heart will gaze upon the Lord in awe or amazement. We won’t just look at Him in passing. We won’t seriously inspect Him. We won’t watch Him from a distance. We will gaze at Him in awe or amazement. We will look at Him with love in our eyes. We will worship Him. We’ll draw close to Him and as we draw closer, I’m convinced we’ll be even more in awe of Him.

If I were to translate the thought of Matthew 5:8 I would write “Blessed are the pure in heart because they shall enter God’s presence.” It is when we are in His presence that we look upon Him with love in our eyes, when we gaze at His beauty, and when we are awed by all that we can comprehend that He is. We aren’t inspecting, we’re appreciating. We’re enjoying. We’re loving.

King David knew the relationship between a pure heart and being in God’s presence. He is the writer of both Psalm 24 and 51.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:10-11 (NIV)

3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.
Psalm 24:3-5 (NIV)

Do you need God’s presence today? Those with repentant hearts will also have pure hearts. Confess your sins and God will be faithful to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then, having a clean heart, you may stand in God’s holy place and you will see Him. That’s a blessing you don’t want to miss!

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Those of you who are following our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule just finished reading the book of Exodus. I enjoyed it so much that after reading the entire book, I went back and outlined it. The process revealed many themes that I might have otherwise missed. As I reviewed the book, I saw the tender and attentive care the Lord took leading His people. I saw how God controlled the timing of things, even when the events seemed to be happening too slow or too fast. (That’s a lesson I need to hear frequently.) The overriding lesson, however, was how I need to live my life totally dependent on God. It’s such a large part of what God was teaching the Israelites as he brought them out of Egypt.

And it’s so much a part of what I need to learn. Without the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I tend to rely on myself instead of God. If I don’t somewhat regularly run into problems that are bigger than me, I tend to rely on myself instead of God. Note to self: Taking on more God-sized challenges will teach me to depend on Him more. (And watching Him work in those challenges will teach me more about God and will be a ton of fun.)

Let’s step into the Exodus story with a quick review. Over a period of about six weeks, the Israelites had seen the Lord perform twenty miracles – there were 10 plagues and each of those plagues were stopped. They also experienced the Lord give them favor with the Egyptians as they left, enabling the Israelites to plunder Egypt simply by asking their neighbors for their jewelry. Then, of course, they walked across the Red Sea on dry land! That’s a lot of miracles in a short period of time.

Let’s pick up the story in chapter 16:

1Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there … one month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.
3“If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”
Exodus 16:1-3 (NLT)

After ten or twelve weeks jam packed with miracles, the Israelites were not happy campers as they journeyed through the wilderness. Faced with the challenges of the wilderness, the Israelites begin their complaint against Moses and Aaron with the words “if only.” It’s a phrase that is a clear indication that you are looking backwards instead of forwards. It’s a clear indication that in looking back, you’re not looking at the miracles God has done in your life. It’s a clear indication that you are not looking toward what God is about to do.

The Israelites could have said “God has brought us out of Egypt and protected us with His mighty right hand. He held the water at bay as we walked through on dry ground. He turned the bitter water sweet just last week. We can trust Him to provide for our needs today.” They could have gone even a step further and said “Let’s look forward to God’s miracle! Let’s let our actions reflect the faith we have that He will provide.”

But they made the choice to look backwards and complain. What a strike in God’s face that complaint was! Their complaint reveals that they are fully convinced they will die in the wilderness. Their complaint reveals that they do not believe that God can and will save them.

Lord, help me to walk in faith, not in fear and doubt. I don’t mean this blog to be an indictment of the Israelites. Rather, it is a challenge to me to see how easily I can become like them! I do not want to live my life in fear and doubt.

As I re-read this passage while reviewing the book of Exodus, God impressed upon me that it’s necessary to leave home to get to the promised land…and leaving home brings with it lots of discomfort, fear and doubt. No matter how wonderful or horrible home is (or how wonderful you remember it as being), you have to leave the familiar to step into the new things that God has for you. You have to experience “different” and “change” – and that typically means you have to experience “discomfort” – to enjoy the full salvation of God. That’s what faith is – it’s leaving what you know with your physical senses to follow what you have come to know with your spiritual senses.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)

If we flash forward a couple of millennia, we see Peter leaving the security and safety of his boat to trust Jesus and join Him walking on the water. What a miracle those first steps were! But just as the Israelites saw the wilderness and were afraid, Peter saw the waves and was afraid.

28Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.

30But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
Matthew 14:28-31 (NLT)

Experiencing all that God has for us in this great salvation means leaving the safety and security of home and stepping into the discomfort of the unknown. It means learning to trust Him in the wilderness and on the water. It means leaving the baggage of fear and doubt at home because that baggage will be too much of a burden – it’s the baggage that causes us to sink.

Some of you say “I don’t want to walk on water, I just want to make it through the day.” Yeah, I get that. But I’m here to tell you that getting through the day is a whole lot easier (and more fun) when you can walk on water. When the storms come, and they will come, being able to walk on water is like living in a houseboat – you face the storm, but you’re riding the waves and you’re protected by the strength of His right hand.

And that brings us to what has impressed me the most as I read through Exodus – the Israelites utter dependence on God. They had no water…until God provided it. They had no food in the desert…until God provided it. Joshua went into battle against the Amalekites and the only reason he won was because God provided the victory. When Moses raised his arms, the Israelites were winning. When his arms grew tired and he lowered them, the Amalekites were winning. What in the world did Moses’ upraised arms have to do with the battle? Absolutely nothing! But Moses and the Israelites were learning to be totally dependent on God.

The more self-sufficient we are, the less God-sufficient we are. And we’re way more self-sufficient when we’re at home. Home has most of what we need. Home lulls us into a satisfaction with the status quo. But God wants us to leave home and head for the promised land. God wants us to step away from the comfortable into the journey – the exciting journey He has for us.

He wants us to step away from self-sufficiency into God-sufficiency.

4The one thing I ask of the LORD— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. 5For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Psalm 27:4-5 (NLT)

Let’s do it! Let’s trust that God is leading us into wonderful things He has for us, not to our death in the wilderness or the storm. Let’s have a mindset that says “I’ll follow you, Lord” and be willing to leave home to follow Him and don’t look back. Place your full dependence on Him and leave the baggage of fear and doubt at home.Fully

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A question in a forum today took me back to a position paper I’d written on the role of women in ministry. I took the opportunity to update the paper making it easier to read. If it’s a topic you’re interested in, you can download it here.

Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

After wrestling with this topic for many years, my own position has changed considerably. I have transitioned from believing the surface reading of the difficult Pauline passages to believing that such a reading is not consistent with the Paul’s other words and actions or with the whole voice of Scripture. As such, I will deal with the difficult passages from this premise: While the culture of biblical times undoubtedly placed women in subordinate roles most of the time, Scripture both explicitly and implicitly allows women to freely use their gifts in ways that honor God. (Examples from Scripture are provided in footnotes 2 and 3.)

My own theology about the role of women in ministry derives from key passages that are not disputed or open to various interpretations: Genesis 2:18 and Galatians 3:26-28.

The paper goes on to discuss these passages as well as the Pauline passages that often present difficulties when developing a position on the role of women in ministry.

I recognize that this is a difficult subject that many Christian leaders do not agree on. My goal is not to encourage division within the Church, but to demonstrate how I’ve come to my position. If you do not agree with my interpretation of Scriptures, I’m happy to have a conversation, but let’s not turn it into an argument. Grace & peace.

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