Posts Tagged “Acts”

On the third of December I sent myself a fairly cryptic email. The subject line read like this: “Journal/Blog: 2015 – Year of Hope.”

2015 – Year of Hope. I didn’t identify any specific Scripture I was reading when God dropped that into my spirit, but I remember feeling the nudge from God so strongly that I sent myself an email so that I could later transfer the thought to my personal journal and seek God for what else He might want to say about it. Maybe I would develop it into a blog or series of blogs.

That was it. I haven’t done any more writing on the topic or study or research. But God planted the word in my spirit on December 3rd and it’s been growing.

I suspect there will be a number of blogs on the topic of hope in 2015, but I wanted to start with sharing the thing that gives me the greatest hope on a day-to-day basis.

What is it that gives you hope when you are tempted to feel less than hopeful. When life beats you up a bit, or even perhaps when life just continues in the constant sameness day after day – How do you answer the question that comes unbidden into your mind “Is all this worth it?” What is it that gives you hope?

Now as Christians, we have many reasons to be hopeful. As a believer in Christ and one who desires to make Him Lord of my life, I can have hope regardless of my circumstances because I am…

  • forgiven
  • saved
  • sanctified – a fancy word for “made holy or acceptable to God” (a pretty amazing and wonderful thing)
  • filled with the Holy Spirit
  • the bride of Christ
  • seated with Him in heavenly places

And on top of all that, I have the promise of spending eternity in heaven with my Lord. Hallelujah!

Those are all tremendous reasons for rejoicing and for having hope…all great reasons that I’m not going to write about today, except to say that if you are not totally confident in all those things – if you’re not totally confident that you’ve been forgiven, if you’re not totally confident that you will spend eternity in heaven, check out these blogs:

Made Right with God

How Can I Know I’m Saved

There’s another reason to be hopeful that sits at the top of my list. I can get pretty jazzed about the reasons I’ve just identified, but they’re all very future. Yes, they have a “for today” element, but they’re largely reasons I can be hopeful for my future.

The reason I get most jazzed about is a present, for today, reason. That one reason is this: God – the Creator of the Universe and everything in it – the One who holds the world together – the One who created me and knows me better than I know myself – that God has plans and purposes for my life that have eternal significance. He has things for me to do today that will have impacts that continue through all eternity is what I get jazzed about.

And you know what? I can step into those plans because I know that He is the God of the impossible. So no matter what my circumstances are, no matter what my physical or intellectual abilities are, no matter what my personality limitations are, He is the God of the impossible and He wants to use me to impact eternity! Wow! Hallelujah!

You see, I am sometimes tempted to be discouraged by my circumstances or physical abilities. I am tempted to think I’m not smart enough or I don’t have the personality or natural abilities I need to do something for God. But you know what? A God who can do the impossible – a God who has miracle working power – that God (my God) operates outside the boundaries of our circumstances and abilities.

That’s important enough to repeat: Our God is not limited by our circumstances and abilities – He works outside them. Yes, He works within them in the sense that He uses our circumstances and our abilities to accomplish His purposes, but He works outside them in the sense that He is God. He can do what we can’t even begin to imagine. And the thing is, He wants to do it in and through us. He could do it on His own…but He says “come on, let’s do it together.”

Friends, that’s what I get jazzed about. Let’s look at Ephesians 3: 20-21:

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

In the New King James translation, it reads “to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Hallelujah!

Let’s break look at the passage a bit more closely.

“Now to Him who is able” – are you convinced that God is able? That’s the place to start.

We’ll come back to this passage, but let’s look briefly at Hebrews 11:1. A very common verse…

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

The Holman Christian Standard Bible says it this way:

Now faith is the reality [or assurance] of what is hoped for, the proof [or conviction] of what is not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (HCSB)

Choosing to engage our faith – in other words, choosing to say and hold to the “I believe” – comes before the reality of seeing – it is the place where hope lives.

Do you want to have hope? Choose to believe God and His Word. Every day, in every moment, in every circumstances, in every inadequacy, in every discouragement. Choose to believe that God is able.

I’m not asking you to believe that you can do whatever God calls you to do. I’m asking you to believe that He can do it. That He is able.

I know that’s not always easy. But it is where hope lives. When you believe God is able, hope rises in your heart and your spirit.

Even though believing isn’t always easy, there’s an element that’s even harder – choosing to believe means more than simply saying and holding to the “I believe”, it means living the “I believe.”

It isn’t enough, to simply say “I believe” – even if you are believing with all your heart. It must be lived! Faith is living in that confidence that God is the God of the impossible. Living in a way that shows you believe He is able to do the impossible in your life. Not just in Abraham’s and Isaac’s and Jacob’s lives. Not just in the Apostle Peter’s life and in Paul’s life and in John’s life. But in your life and in my life.

And if it’s true that God is able to do the impossible in our lives (and it is), then no matter what our circumstances or physical abilities are, we have a choice to make over and over again many times every day – to believe and live in hope or to back away from it.

Friends, I am exhorting us today not to back away from believing God. Don’t back away from hope.

Let’s return to Ephesians 3:20:

“Now to Him who is able” – Lord we believe that You are able – to do what? “more than all we can ask or imagine.” This verse jumped off the page at me during a Bible study in early November. I felt like God was challenging me to improve my imagination. If God can do more than that, I want to imagine more.

Later, however, I noticed a little word that hadn’t hit my radar before. Scripture says “more than ALL we ask or imagine.” Not more than a little bit of what I can imagine, or some of what I can imagine, but more than all I can ask or imagine.

That’s what the God who is able can do! Lord, I believe you are able. Improve my imagination, give me bigger dreams. And help me choose to believe that you can do it all – that You can do more than all of it.

And even as I say that, the enemy whispers, but…but… you’re 58 years old…you can’t jump as high as you used to jump and you can’t run as fast as you used to run…you have obligations to take care of parents who live 50 miles away…you are overwhelmed with work sometimes…you’re tired…you’re…

And so I am tempted to step back from hope. But the Lord is prompting us to say… “Get thee behind me satan.” “Lord, I choose to believe that you are able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine.”

Hallelujah! Are you with me? Do you believe that God is able?

Well if so, hang on because there’s more to this verse.

As if God’s ability to do more isn’t exciting enough, here’s the part that I get super jazzed about…How is he going to do that immeasurably more, that exceedingly abundantly more? By the power IN US.

The power – the word is dunamis – the word from which we get dynamite. The explosive power. Miraculous power. When you read the words “mighty works” or “miracles” in the gospels, it is probably the word dunamis in the Greek.

In Chapter 1 of Ephesians, Paul prayed for the Ephesians to know God’s “incomparably great power” – dunamis (Eph 1:19). He went on to say something about that power – He said that the incomparably great, dunamis power, is the same power that He “exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 1:20).

God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is work within us – that dunamis power that raised Christ from the dead.

Wow!

The word dunamis occurs in many places, but I want to share one curious place. In Matthew chapter 13 we have the story of Jesus returning to his hometown.

54[Jesus] went to His hometown and began to teach them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “How did this wisdom and these miracles come to Him? 55Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother called Mary, and His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? 56And His sisters, aren’t they all with us? So where does He get all these things?”

57And they were offended by Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his household.”

58And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
Matthew 13:54-58 (HCSB)

That word “miracles” in verse 58 – it’s dunamis.

Friends, I don’t want to limit or diminish God’s use of His dunamis power in my life because of my unbelief. I want to believe God’s Word that says He is able.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasureably more…by the power – dunamis – at work in us.

We’ve answered the question “is God able?” – how about the question “does He really want to work through me?” Does He really want to work through you? Ephesians 2:10 answers that for us:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

We were created for a purpose – to do things that God has prepared for us to do. We are not here by happenstance. We are not living in our community, seeing the people we see, going to the places we go by happenstance.

There is a verse in Acts that says God determined the exact times and places where we should live. It’s not happenstance.

God has worked in your history, setting things in motion, preparing you and preparing the world in which you live, for the good works that He’s called you to.

Did you get that? God has worked in your history, setting things in motion, preparing you and preparing the world in which you live, for the good works that He’s called you to.

And that, friends, is what I get jazzed about that. That gives me hope on a day to day, even hour by hour, basis. When life gets boring, I know that God is working – using His dunamis power in me to accomplish immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine to accomplish the good works He’s prepared in advance for me to do. When life gets tough, I know that God is working. When life is good, I know that God is working. In all the situations, God is working in and through me…if I continue to pursue Him. If I plug myself into the plan. Because the sad news is that at any moment, I can choose to step out.

I want to encourage all of us not to step out of God’s plan. As we look into the new year, tell God you want to plug into the plans He has for you. And then believe it is happening. Live in that place of faith and hope, whether you see it or not.

Here’s an important point, though: God’s dunamis power doesn’t always look like a TNT explosion. It is at work in the every day things. I can be sitting listening to a message at church, and the pastor can say something that rocks my world. And those around me won’t have a clue. My husband may not even have a clue until I tell him. But in my spirit something arises that spurs me on to love God more and to serve God more. And that is no less an example of God’s dunamis power than the more explosive, miracle workings we think of. When God works in one person’s heart to grow in obedience and love for Him, eternity watches with anticipation to see what God will do next, how He will use his dunamis power in that person’s life.

The works God’s created for us to do may very well be low-key acts of obedience – offering a cold cup of water to a prophet, for example. And here’s a cool thing – God promises us that when we do that, we will receive the prophets reward! (Matthew 10:40-42) Why, because we believed that God was working through us, so by faith we acted. And our cold cup of water enabled that prophet, that evangelist, that Sunday school or Bible study teacher, that preacher, that missionary, that lay person, to accomplish the work God has prepared for him or her.

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

And so we act, we step into the good works that God has prepared for us to do. We say, “Lord, thank you for using me today. What small or large work do you have for me to do? I believe it will have impact throughout all eternity.”

That’s how I want to approach life.

Here’s my hope and confidence: Some day, I will be sitting with the Lord, and someone will come up to me and they will say “Sandy, you don’t know me, but I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. In 1981 you led a girls club and you encouraged the girls to share Christ with a friend. I was a friend of one of those girls.” And a while later someone will come up to me and say “Sandy, you wrote that blog and it woke me up out of the spiritual slumber I was in.” Or “you preached that message and made it so simple that I understood for the first time that God wanted to use me.” Or “you shared that facebook post and it made me angry but I couldn’t get it out of my head.” Or “Sandy, you built that Operation Christmas Child shoebox or gave that offering and someone worlds away from you introduced me to Christ.”

Friends, I get jazzed about that. That’s my greatest reason for having hope on a day-to-day basis. And not just that, but for what follows it – that person I impacted will impact someone else who will impact someone else who will impact someone else…should the Lord tarry.

It’s not that I have visions of grandeur. It’s not that I’m so great. Quite the opposite! I have confidence – faith – in my God to do phenomenally cool and exciting things – to use His dunamis power in and through me…if I let Him. If I give Him control. If I follow His lead. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from ballroom dance lessons, it’s that two people can’t lead. One must follow. That’s my job. I’m the follower. It often goes against my nature, but that’s what being conformed to the image of Christ is all about – conforming my will to His.

Lord, as I look forward to 2015, help me hold onto faith – that place where hope lives – believing that You are able to do cool and amazing things that will impact eternity through my typically ordinary life.

Comments Comments Off on 2015, Year of Hope

The Old Testament clearly portrays the Messiah as both a suffering servant and a conquering King, but the concept of the Messiah coming as a suffering servant was so beyond anything the Israelites could embrace, they were looking only for the conquering King.

What happens when Jesus is not who you expect Him to be?

The Pharisees and Saducees took offense. They allowed their pride to take the lead, blinding them to the real Messiah because He didn’t come as the conquering King. Instead of pausing, listening, watching and – most importantly – praying for discernment, the assumed they were right so anything or anyone who didn’t match their expectations was wrong. And they missed the miracle of the Messiah.

I don’t want to miss the miracle because I allow my pride to overshadow God’s messenger and message.

You know, the disciples were also expecting a conquering Messiah. Yet they watched as Jesus was killed by their fellow Jews. I can only imagine how devastated they felt. Then, hearing that He was alive – how very confused they must have been! I’m sure they were devastated by the week’s events, but trying desperately to hold onto hope. Then, suddenly, Jesus came into the room where they had locked themselves away because they were so afraid of the Jews. But Thomas was not among them, and upon hearing about it, he chose not to believe the men he had walked beside for the previous three years.

25So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
John 20:25 (NASB)

Jesus did the unexpected and Thomas doubted. I don’t know, but I wonder if it was bitterness that caused Thomas to react as he did – bitterness born out of shattered hopes and dreams. The Messiah had been crucified. He had made them so many promises. Then God allowed Him to be crucified. Thomas had given up everything to follow Jesus. Now Jesus had abandoned Him. He had believed Jesus when Jesus proclaimed to be God. How could he have been such a fool?!

Shattered hopes have a way of worming their way into our thinking and turning everything upside down. Bitterness is often the byproduct of such upside down thinking.

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20:26-28 (NIV)

Jesus can cut through upside down thinking, and upon seeing Jesus, Thomas let go of his bitterness and doubt. He immediately humbled himself before the King. It no longer mattered whether Jesus came as a conquering King or a humble one – He was still worthy of being “my Lord and my God!”

How do you respond when Jesus is not as you expect Him to be? Do you “require” Him to prove himself before you believe? Thomas did and Jesus was gracious and merciful enough to do so. Jesus went on to say that those who believe without requiring such proof are supremely blessed.

Yet how do we keep from being deceived? That’s the question that pops into my mind as I write about believing even when we don’t have full understanding. I think the key is in staying close to Jesus. What should happen when Jesus is not as we expect Him to be? It should drive us to our knees in prayer and into our Bibles in study. When He’s not what we expect, perhaps we need to get to know Him better.

Finally, remember that you are seeing just a glimpse of the whole picture. The story of the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch teaches us this is (Acts 8:31-34).

What’s interesting is that the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading about the suffering servant and Philip came along and “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35, NIV)

Philip taught the Ethiopian the good news about Jesus from a passage Isaiah 53:7-8, which includes phrases like “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter” and “In his humiliation he was deprived of justice…For his life was taken from the earth.”

What happens when Jesus is not who you expect Him to be? Remember that you are seeing only a small part of His plan. Remember that He is the author of bringing good out of bad.

Jesus was not who the Jews expected. They expected the Jesus who is still to come, the One who will be a conquering King. But their pride caused them to miss the first King – the One who would forgive them and be merciful to them.

What Happens When Jesus is Not Who You Expect Him to Be? Sometimes you just have to love Him in spite of your limited understanding.

Comments Comments Off on What Happens When Jesus is Not Who You Expect Him to Be?

Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartI find that there are certain conditions in my life that lead to holy boldness:

Confidence – When I am feeling confident, I am bold, not timid.

Freedom – When I am experiencing freedom, I am bold because there’s nothing that is hindering me from being so.

Security – When I am feeling secure, I can make bold moves instead of playing it safe.

Being loved – When I know I am loved and will be loved even if I fail, I can step out in boldness, not being limited by any fear of what others will think.

Having hope – When I have hope, I can climb mountains that are otherwise too overwhelming.

All of these things are found in faith. All of these things are results of a faith-filled heart. Boldness – holy boldness – comes from a faith-filled heart, and it is the difference between timidly attempting the assignments God has given me and boldly attacking the assignments He has designed for my life.

All these conditions come from our faith in Christ. Let’s look at Scriptures that relate to each.

Confidence – Our confidence comes from Him – knowing what He has done for us and what awaits us:

Since this new way [that is, faith in Christ] gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.
2 Corinthians 3:12 (NLT)

Freedom – Oh, the freedom that comes from knowing God:

He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Titus 2:14 (GW)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Security – Having security means I am not worried about what will happen to me; I’m not to take action.

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

2He sang: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; 3my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.
2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NLT)

Being loved – Knowing that we are loved brings the greatest freedom and in turn, the greatest boldness. It is what causes us to run freely in the wind and fiercely into battle.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

But God showed [demonstrated] his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Having hope – Hope gives us reason to look forward – reason to live boldly today because of what awaits us tomorrow.

18So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.19This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
Hebrews 6:18-19 (NLT)

Faith in Christ is the key to conditions of the heart that lead to a holy boldness.

Similarly, there are conditions of the heart that lead to reckless boldness. This may not be an exhaustive list, but I find these conditions to be the most common reason we take recklessly bold actions:

Fatalism – When I believe that “whatever is supposed to happen will happen,” I am less careful about where I step and the path I take. Fatalism is a lie from the enemy. Scripture is clear that we have personal responsibility to pursue God, to choose to obey Him by taking the actions He assigns to us, not waiting to see what will happen and trusting it has been His will.

Utter sense of futility – When “who cares” and “what difference does it make” are phrases that have captured my mind and heart, I either fall into the depression of nothingness or take rash action. Of course these phrases are also whispers from the enemy. They are signs that he has been on the prowl, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He’s trying to devour you. God cares and He has purposes for your life that reach into eternity.

Rebellion – When I’ve become tired of following my King and decide to go my own way and make my own decisions, all of my actions can be labeled reckless boldness. We can’t blame the enemy on this. This is sin. It is our own selfish pride. It is thinking we have a better plan than God. It requires repentance – a genuine sorrow for our attitudes and actions, a turning to God for forgiveness and a change in our behavior and thoughts.

Disappointment with God – When God doesn’t live up to our expectations (oh, Lord, it is difficult for me to even write this, but I know there are time when we feel like this – forgive us when You are so worthy of our worship even when we feel disappointed) – when God doesn’t live up to our expectations, our hearts can grow cold. Our minds build a case against Him and our attitudes turn to rebellion. Being disappointed with God doesn’t have an easy solution – it’s usually a combination of repentance for our own wrong attitudes with a heavy dose of experiencing God’s great love. It requires an understanding that God’s plan is greater than our earthly desires.

The antidote to all of these conditions that lead to reckless boldness is faith. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against these conditions. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against reckless boldness. That faith comes from being with Jesus. We see it again and again in the New Testament.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (NLT)

Because the men had been with Jesus, they had a holy boldness that confounded the leaders. We can have that same holy boldness.

It is also because of our faith in Christ that we can come into God’s presence freely – and it is in God’s presence where we find the source of all the conditions that lead to holy boldness:

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
Ephesians 3:12 (NLT)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:19 (NLT)

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

Our faith-filled heart enables us to fulfill God’s purposes in our lives – it gives us the holy boldness we would otherwise lack and it keeps us from acting recklessly, without caution or care.

We have been studying Ephesians with our nursing home Bible study group and I have been so strongly impacted by Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians. I have been praying this prayer at every gathering since we studied the passage and regularly for myself and Phil. It seems so appropriate to every venue. And it is totally appropriate here. I pray for you as Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

I can’t pray it any better. Knowing the vastness of God’s love for you, may you be filled to the “measure of all the fullness of God.” Whew! That’s gonna lead to some holy boldness!

If this blog has blessed you or helped you live in holy boldness, please share it with others. You can use one of the buttons below to share. Let’s help one another become a people worthy of God’s calling (Ephesians 4:1).

Comments Comments Off on A Faith-filled Heart Leads to Holy Boldness

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Reading God’s Word is the best way to get to know God. We learn who He is and how He works. It is His love letter to us, His instruction manual written for us, and it breathes His Spirit upon us as we read.

You’ll find our April reading schedule in the March/April bookmark and in the table below.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the March-April bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the March/April 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

What treasures have you found while reading this week? Share them with the rest of us. You can email me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Enjoy God! Enjoy life!

Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for April is below.

Resting at the River's Edge April 2014 Reading Schedule

Comments Comments Off on Resting at the River’s Edge – April 2013 Schedule

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!

Comments 2 Comments »

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.

Comments Comments Off on Blessings Follow Obedience – Embrace Obedience

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

God’s Word allows us to see God at work throughout history…and that allows us to get to know Him in a greater way. Through reading His Word regularly we learn who God is, how God thinks and how He wants us to live.

Resting at the River’s Edge provides a schedule that enables you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. Our schedule includes “Additional Readings.” If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

Join us! Let’s read through the Bible together this year. God will speak to you personally as you read. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the March-April bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

 

Click here for the March/April 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Join us as we read, then e-mail me, leave a message on my Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. Tell me about the treasures you’re finding in His Word. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for March is below.

Resting at the River's Edge March 2013 Reading Schedule JPG

 

 

Comments Comments Off on Resting at the River’s Edge Together…Here’s the Bookmark for March/April 2013

I have a dear aunt who is dying. [Footnote: My aunt has died since I wrote this. Thank you for your prayers for her family.]

Death is such an affront to us. It’s a slap in the face even when it is expected. When unexpected it’s a punch in the gut. Actually, it’s a punch in the gut even when it’s expected.

God didn’t intend it to be this way. And He makes it possible for death to be only a temporary separation from our loved ones. For those who accept Christ as their Savior, death is simply an entry way into the full presence of God and His eternal Kingdom.

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

When faced with death I am reminded that God uses all things – even death – for His purposes. Several things become clear to me when I meditate on the end of someone’s life.

Life and death are in the hands of the Lord. That is sometimes a harsh reality, but it is a reality. We are often tempted to ask God why a loved one is taken from us. Often too young. Always too soon. I can’t answer those questions, but I am convinced that life and death are in His hands (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Corinthians 3:22). He determines the times and places we are to live (Acts 17:26) and He has our days numbered before we are born (Job 14:5).

God is present at every death. Whenever it occurs – or perhaps I should say each and every time it occurs – each and every time someone dies, God is there. I don’t have lots of answers but I know my God and I know His compassion and I know that the One who values life so much that He knows the number of hairs on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30) and the One who loved each one of us so much that He willingly died for us (Galatians 1:4, Titus 2:6, 1 John 3:16) – that God is present at the point of death. He grieves over sin if the death is untimely, but He is there for the dying. He is even there for the dying one who has spent a lifetime denying His existence. He gives them one last chance to recognize the reality of the One True God and submit their life into His hands.

There is a spiritual realm. That might seem like a strange statement to follow the first two, but my experience and the experience of others who have lost loved ones attest to the reality of a spiritual realm. I wrote about it this way in a blog a few months after my dad died:

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some kind of spiritual connection among the living and when someone dies that connection is broken. When Phil’s mom died, he came up with this analogy: when a computer network is turned on, the system is always sending out impulses to other computers, checking to see if they are still connected. This is called “pinging” and it’s a continuous process. Without us being aware of it, it seems that our spirits “ping” for the spirits of those we love constantly and we receive an unconscious knowing that they are there. When someone dies, that ping goes out from us but is not returned. At an unconscious level there is a brokenness, a void, a missing connection that pushes itself into our consciousness and alerts our brain that “something is very wrong here.” Our brain then transmits that information to our emotions.

Birth and death are “holy-days” in a very true sense – days to set aside for reflecting on their purposes. Of course the fact that God is present makes them holy-days, but there is more:

  • The wonder of a newborn. The awesome creative power of God given to humans enabling us to create life. The instant and intense love that binds the newborn to his parents.
  • The crash of death. Reminding us that life has its limits that we cannot outwit, outlast or outplay. Reminding us that life is for the living and we ought not to waste time on petty, insignificant differences – or even the big ones. Life is for loving and bring glory to God. That’s the earthly side. There is a heavenly side for believers making it the most holy of holy days. It is the day in which we meet our Savior face to face. It is the day in which we worship as we’ve never worshiped before. It is the day of our true and final birth.

Lord, death is hard. Help me to introduce others to you so that they may experience not only a second birth (John 3:3-7), but a final birth into Your heavenly kingdom.

LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is.
Psalm 39:4 (NLT)

Comments Comments Off on On Life & Death

Firm Foundation Brick wallby guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

Yesterday’s blog looked at some of the things we might be tempted to build our lives on…things that we soon find don’t stand up to the storms of life.

Now let’s look at some pillars we can use to build a firm foundation. Let’s travel in the Scriptures to Ephesians chapter 6 and what is commonly called “the armor of God”. Verses 10-13 say this:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

Let’s look more closely at our armor:

Belt of Truth
It’s been said if you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. Since “the devil is the father of lies” and “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44), if our lives are filled with anything less than the truth, essentially they are built on him (the devil). However, if we are bound by God’s truth, John’s gospel says that will set us free (vs. 32). I don’t know about you, but when I don’t physically wear a belt with my jeans, they tend to want to fall down. I would say the same about our lives and the “belt of God’s truth”. It truly will help to hold us together!

Breastplate of Righteousness
If we were to imagine a real suit of armor we would see that, along with other body parts, the breastplate covers the heart. Proverbs instructs us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23). A life of righteousness, or “rightness,” according to God and his will, protects our heart from the ravages and disappointments of sin. Just as weeds choke out the good plants in the garden, sinfulness chokes the life out of the goodness God wants us to have in our hearts. As David prayed may we too “hide his Word in our hearts, so that we would not sin against him” (Psalm 119:11).

Shield of Faith
Our cars are equipped with windshields, an umbrella shields us from the rain, and our deodorant shields us (and others) from odor. In other words, a shield is a protector. Scripture affirms that with a shield of faith, we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. When we live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we disarm two of Satan’s greatest weapons; doubt and discouragement. In Genesis, God saw Abraham’s faith (belief) “and credited it to him as righteousness” (15:6). He will do the same for us.

Helmet of Salvation
The helmet, obviously, is a covering for the head. Far too often, we allow Satan to trick our minds into questioning or doubting our salvation, resulting in the loss of the joy that should be present in all those who are the redeemed of the Lord. The Scripture says that if we “believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31), “believe and are baptized” (Mark 16:16), “confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9), we will be saved. If we truly know and believe we are saved, it will change how we live.

Sword of the Spirit (Word of God)
Satan has no defense against the power of God’s Word. When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted, every time Satan opened his mouth with a temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture. He didn’t yell or threaten or call down fire from heaven. He simply said, “It is written” and quoted God’s truth from the Scripture. If it worked for Jesus, it will work for us. Satan doesn’t have to obey us no matter how loud or sincere or threatening we try to be. But he does have to obey God.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7, NIV

Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

God provides all we need to develop a strong, firm foundation – one that doesn’t crack, crumble or fall. But unless we cling to those pillars, unless we build upon them, there is nothing that can make our foundation firm.

Yesterday’s questions bear repeating: How is my foundation? On what or who have I built? Is my life staked upon The Rock, who is Jesus, or am I trusting in one or more false pillars?

Build your foundation on Jesus and practice putting on and using the full Armor of God every day. It will make the difference between losing and winning the battles you face.

Comments 2 Comments »

If you’re reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge reading plan, two weeks ago read Acts 11. This verse caught my eye:

God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of turning from sin and receiving eternal life.
Acts 11:18b (NLT)

It has always been God’s plan to give salvation to all, both Jew and Gentile. When God made His covenant with Abram (who God later named Abraham), it ended with this sentence:

“All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”
( Genesis 12:3b)

God intended Abraham to become a blessing to all the families of the earth – Jew and Gentile – men and women from every nation.

My just released book, More than a Fish Story, God Moving on Behalf of a City and a Man identifies seven Life Lessons in the book of Jonah. The first is the same message these verses teach us – that God cares about all people – even those we wouldn’t expect Him to. In the first two verses of Jonah we see God give Jonah the assignment of taking God’s message of repentance to the Ninevites. That wouldn’t seem like an unusual assignment for a prophet, but we learn that the Ninevites are Israelites’ enemies and they were a particularly cruel in battle. Yet God’s purposes hadn’t changed – He desired that the Ninevites would be blessed by an Israelite taking them the message of repentance. God was ready to bless them when they turned from their sins and followed Him.

And the two-fold message is the same today:

  1. God cares about all people – He desires that all people turn to Him.
  2. He’s given His people the responsibility of sharing the message with the world.

Of course every message from God has an application in our lives:

  1. If we’re to reflect the character of God (and we are), then we ought to care about all people…not just those who are like us or those that we like.
  2. Who might God be calling you to share His message of salvation with?

Don’t just read these words and quickly move on to the next thing. God has an assignment for you. Pause and pray. In what ways do you need to change? Who do you need to share Christ with?

You can download the book More than a Fish Story here. It provides 6 personal or small group studies in the book of Jonah and available free for a limited time.

Comments Comments Off on God’s Unchanging Plan

© copyright 2009-2013, Data Designs Publishing and Sandra J. Hovatter