Posts Tagged “Hebrews”

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.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart
In our last blog in the Living God’s Heart series, we looked at how very generous God is to us while we are here on earth. We focused on 2 Peter 1:3 –

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. (NLT)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (NLT)
2 Peter 1:3a (NLT)

There’s more to that verse and we’ll look at it in a future blog, but today I want to look more at the generous nature of our God.

He has given us everything we need to live lives that honor and glorify Him while we are here on this earth. What a gift!

But He didn’t stop giving there. His giving is not just for this life, but for all eternity.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
Romans 5:2 (NLT)

Literally, God has brought us to “where we now stand” – He has given us the undeserved privilege of living in His presence, of receiving everything we need to live godly lives, of receiving His kingdom here on earth. “And” we will one day share in God’s glory.

There is not a word or series of words large and grand enough to convey the depths, the heights and the breadths of God’s giving. He will share His glory with us for all eternity. And we’ve done nothing to earn or deserve. It is an undeserved privilege for those who love the Lord.

God doesn’t hoard anything – not His love, not His Kingdom, and not His glory.

When we’re living God’s heart, our lives reflect His generous nature. When we’re living God’s heart we’re:

  • Giving to those that don’t deserve it.
  • Giving above and beyond.
  • Taking pleasure or joy in giving.

The Sacrifice of Giving
It would seem that there is no question that giving is a sacrifice. When I give, I must give up something. Even so, it is a sacrifice that reflects God’s heart. Hebrews tells us that it is a sacrifice that pleases Him:

And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
Hebrews 13:16 (NLT)

Giving is a joyful sacrifice – one that brings joy to the Father, joy to the giver and joy to the one who receives.

In this way, giving is truly not a sacrifice – it brings us joy. It might be seen more appropriately as a trade – I will trade this thing that I am giving away for the joy I will receive! How wonderful for God to consider that a sacrifice! How wonderful that He rewards that sacrifice:

Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.
Deuteronomy 15:10 (NLT)

The Old Testament teaches that when we give generously and God will bless everything you do.

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
Luke 6:38 (NLT)

Jesus taught us that when we give generously, we will receive generously.

God’s very nature is to give generously. He gives for this life and for the life to come, going so far as to giving us the privilege of sharing in His glory! Whew! Honestly, I can’t imagine that.

I can’t imagine it, but I trust it! So I choose to give generously in this life. Sacrificially…because I know that any sacrificial giving – no, all sacrificial giving – is simply a downpayment on the joy I will bring to the Father, the recipient of my gifts, my family and myself.

Give and it will be given to you.

Give and you will receive.

Live God’s heart in your world today.

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In yesterday’s blog, we looked at the great choices that King Asa made during his life. One of his first actions as King was to rebuild the spiritual foundations of the city. What a great first choice for each of us to make – to tear down idols and build up our spiritual foundations. He also chose to live in humility, acknowledging that God was the provider of his victories and blessings. He gave his battles to the Lord, allowing Him to bring the victories. He didn’t take credit for himself.

Asa’s great choices resulted in his people earnestly seeking God. What a great legacy!

I was surprised at what came next.

1In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from entering or leaving King Asa’s territory in Judah. 2Asa responded by removing the silver and gold from the treasuries of the Temple of the LORD and the royal palace. He sent it to King Ben-hadad of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus, along with this message: 3“Let there be a treaty between you and me like the one between your father and my father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Break your treaty with King Baasha of Israel so that he will leave me alone.”
2 Chronicles 16:1-3 (NLT)

King Asa had been king for 36 years at this point, and he made many good choices during his reign. Then something happened. Asa made a tragic choice in this battle What was different about this battle than the others? The difference was King Asa’s tragic choice of going into battle without seeking the Lord. He looked at the situation, decided how to deal with it, and went about doing it. He never sought the Lord.

When he went to battle the first time, Scripture records that

Then Asa cried out to the LORD his God, “O LORD, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O LORD, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”
2 Chronicles 14:11 (NLT)

There was none of that in the 36th year of Asa’s reign. Maybe he thought he had it all figured out after being king for 36 years. Maybe he was just tired and forgot to ask God. I don’t know. I do know that we all mess up sometimes. When we’ve done something before it’s easy to simply make a decision about how to handle a situation and take action. We tragically forget to call upon the Lord.

That’s not the most tragic decision of King Asa’s life, however. The Lord was gracious and merciful and He gave King Asa victory. Then then he sent another prophet to Asa. Remember the first prophet he sent? The prophet encouraged Asa and told him that whenever he sought the Lord, he would find the Lord. This time, the prophet had a different message.

7At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, “Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the LORD your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. 8Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the LORD, and he handed them over to you. 9The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.”
2 Chronicles 16:7-9 (NLT)

God knows our hearts. He desires that we seek him – in fact Scripture says that he searches the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. There was a time when that was true of King Asa. But somehow, it was no longer true. King Asa’s tragic choice was to rely on himself and on others instead of relying on God. And because of that choice, Asa’s heart was not strengthened and his country would be at war continually.

Which brings us to the greatest opportunity Asa had to make a great or tragic choice. Unfortunately, we see that the choice he made was also a tragic one:

10Asa became so angry with Hanani for saying this that he threw him into prison and put him in stocks. At that time Asa also began to oppress some of his people. …12In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the LORD’s help but turned only to his physicians. 13So he died in the forty-first year of his reign.
2 Chronicles 16:10-13 (NLT)

What a sad, tragic ending for a king who started his reign by pulling down demonic strongholds and exhorting the people to faith. In the end, King Asa, who had served in such humility, allowed rebellion and pride to grow when he heard the words of correction from the prophet.

I am reminded of Paul’s exhortation to finish the race well.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

That cloud of witnesses is all those saints who have gone before us – because of their example of living faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down. What was slowing King Asa down? It was his pride and it cost him dearly at the end of his life – it tripped him up as this passage says. We’re to strip off that weight and run with endurance the race God has set before us.

King Asa made the tragic decision near the end of his life to trust his own instincts instead of relying on God. We don’t know what led him to that place. Perhaps he was hurt by others. Perhaps he just became complacent from living an easy life during times of peace. Honestly, that scares me more than anything – to fall into the trap of trusting my own judgment because things have been going so well – to fall into the trap of forgetting to ask God for wisdom and help – to forget to rely on him. We don’t know what caused King Asa to fall into that trap, but he did. And after making that poor choice, he made the most tragic choice of resisting God’s discipline, of not humbling himself before God and the people of his land. And the result is that he and his country were at war until King Asa’s death a few years later.

We saw in yesterday’s blog that King Asa’s great choices impacted his people in a positive way. Today we see that his tragic choices impacted his people in a tragic way. The same is true in our lives. Our good choices, especially the choice to pursue God wholeheartedly, impact those around for their good. And our poor choices impact them negatively.

The older I get, the more I want to finish well. And the more I am aware how easy it would be to become dependent on my own abilities, or how easy it would be to become complacent with where I am, not seeking to know God more and serve God more.

Let’s not make the same tragic choice that King Asa made in his latter years. Let’s stay close to God – always pursuing Him, always running our race with endurance, always trusting Him for the victory.

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

Make God’s Word the cornerstone of your summer reading schedule. Join us as we read through a few chapters of the Bible each day. Use our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules to stay on track with us. If you fall behind – don’t worry about it! Just keep reading. I am praying that God will reveal Himself to you as you read each chapter. Ask Him to and He will.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the July/August 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 July/August 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The July Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

I hope you’ll join us! I love the way God’s Word seems to speak to my specific situations as I read through His Word. I know He’ll do that for you, too. I’d love to hear about it. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for July is below.

July 2013 RARE Reading Schedule JPG

 

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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).

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

Join us as we read through God’s Word a few chapters each day. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track with us…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. Before you begin reading, ask God to reveal Himself to you – He promises that He will.  God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The first two columns of the schedule allow 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. The “Additional Readings” in column 3 put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs 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 (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June 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 May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

I hope you’ll join us in Resting at the River’s Edge, and that you’ll email me, telling me how it’s going. You can also leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today? Share it with us so that we might also know Him better.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for June is below.

Resting at the River's Edge - Reading through the Bible in 2 years - June 2013 Schedule

 

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

Confidence: the quality or state of being certain (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

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

A firm faith gives us confidence – that is, it gives us a certainty, an assurance – that what we hope for will actually happen. That confidence can radically change our lives. In the allegorical story Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard we share in the adventure of the main character Much-Afraid who “escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where ‘perfect love casteth out fear.’” If you’ve not read the book I encourage you to do so.

Much-Afraid learns to trust God more and more as she faces the challenges of the journey to the High Places. She learns from God’s consistent loving-kindness that His love is unlike any love she’s experienced and her faith grows with each submission and each victory. As her faith grows, her nature and character change. Confidence does that to a person. Being certain that we are loved even when we fail, allows and enables me to live differently – uncontrolled by the fear of failing. Being sure that we are loved no matter what others think brings freedom into our lives – freedom to be the person God intends us to be and freedom to love others in a greater way.

A commonly asked question comes to mind: “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you attempt for God?” That question reveals many things.

  • Our answer reveals our passion. If you could be doing anything for God, what would it be? But it’s not just our answer that brings revelation.
  • Considering the question reveals our level of faith. How much do we trust God? How much are we willing to trust God?
  • It also reveals our idols. What are we unwilling to let go of?

As our faith in God grows, so does our confidence. A confident heart willingly makes sacrifices for God. A confident heart legs’ go of idols. A confident heart steps into God’s calling.

Stepping into God’s calling doesn’t mean we have no fear, it means we set the fear aside and focus on the source – we put our confidence in Him, not in our own abilities. Such confidence pleases God and He rewards it. Read what Scripture says about those who put their faith in God:

The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
2 Chronicles 16:9a (NLT)

God strengthens those who already have confidence in Him. He gives more courage, more confidence, more strength to those who take baby steps, adolescent steps and adult steps toward fully committing to Him. No matter where we are in our walk, God wants to increase our faith – and a faith-filled heart is a confident heart.

Confidence is a certainty. A heart that is full of faith is certain, sure, confident, of his or her position in Christ –beloved child of God. With the power that raised Jesus from the dead behind him or her. No reason for doubt! You gotta have faith – and your faith-filled heart will be confident in Him!

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Christianity in America tends to major on love and minor on obedience. We seek intimacy and try to avoid obedience. We like the soft, feely stuff but hate the hard, uncomfortable stuff. Leviticus 26:14-15 got my attention when I read it a couple of weeks ago.

14“However, if you do not listen to me or obey all these commands, 15and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands, 16I will punish you….”
Leviticus 26:14-16a (NLT)

Don’t get me wrong. It was coming into a greater understanding of God’s overwhelming love for me that set me free to be the person God wants me to be. It was understanding how outrageously passionate He is for me that changed my mental image of Him. I used to see God as always standing in heaven shaking His head at me wondering when I’d ever get it right. Now I know He’s my greatest cheerleader, my greatest encourager, and the proudest Abba Father you can imagine. It’s the over-the-top pleasure He takes in me that brings joy to my life.

That great love frees me to take risks for Him. I know He will always love me, even when I get it wrong.

But that doesn’t mean He is pleased with wrong actions, and embracing His love must not come at the expense of embracing His righteousness and justice. It must not come at the expense of His holiness.

I admit it – I don’t know how and when and where to draw the lines. But I know that our churches are filled with people who praise God on Sunday mornings yet live unholy lives. And that grieves me. Because we, the Church, could have so much more impact. Yet I also know that it is not my place to judge another man’s servant (Romans 14:4). So perhaps the place to start drawing the line is with myself. I must be diligent to embrace obedience and God’s holiness. I must put into practice what I read – which means I must read with the intention of responding.

Apprehending the grace God has for us each day is done in many ways – by seeking Him every morning, by taking what He offers by faith, by receiving His love and by obeying His commands. Obeying God’s commands – that is, making daily life and lifestyle choices that are consistent with God’s Word – is just one way of bring more of His grace into our lives. It pleases Him. Even when we don’t get it all right.

Conversely, disobedience displeases God and brings punishment. He is our heavenly Father and He disciplines us as a father.

5And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

10For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Hebrews 12:5-6, 10-11 (NLT)

In the midst of celebrating God’s great love, it’s critically important to remember that He is also a holy, holy God who disciplines His children. When things go wrong in our lives perhaps sometimes we are too quick to give the enemy credit for hassling it – perhaps we should be asking if God is punishing us.

At the risk of diluting the message of obedience in this blog, I want to provide balance. There are people who haven’t embraced God’s passionate love for them. There are those who see Him as I used to – as the One who always sees the flaws in their actions and whose standards are so high I can only feel condemned by them. Condemnation is from satan. Conviction is from the Lord. You can read about the difference in this Apprehending Grace blog about how very much God loves us.

If you fall into that category, I highly recommend that you read books by Brennan Manning. The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out is a great place to start. Brennan Manning died just a couple of weeks ago. This blog by Steve Wiens captured Manning’s message. Check it out and don’t miss the compilation video at the end.  It’s long, but it’s worth listening to. You will be inspired by God’s message of compassion and love spoken to and through his servant Brennan Manning.

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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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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

8Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9and become one with him.
Philippians 3:8-9a (NLT)

The Apostle Paul puts everything in perspective in these two sentences – when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ everything else is worthless, and as such, seeking Him wholeheartedly is the only appropriate response. Paul says that he has discarded everything so that he might gain Christ – that he might become one with Him.

That’s what a seeking heart looks like.

It is the heart that lays aside everything else to pursue what is most important. Earlier in the chapter Paul exhorts the Philippians to “put no confidence in human effort” but to rely wholly on Jesus. Paul had plenty of human effort he could put confidence in – he was born into the right family, went to the best schools, got the best grades, lived the most righteous life, and was more zealous than all – but he had come to understand that all those thing which he formerly considered of utmost importance were rubbish when compared to knowing Christ.

The things were not bad in and of themselves. They were just worthless in obtaining salvation and rubbish compared to knowing Christ. There’s nothing wrong with being from a “good family,” going to good schools, studying to get good grades, living a holy life and/or being zealous. I have a masters’ degree in Christian ministries. That’s a good thing. I value it. But I don’t put confidence in it to earn my salvation and compared to knowing Christ – it’s nothing – it’s a representation of human effort and knowing Christ is a spiritual journey.

Paul continues in the chapter that he wants to know Christ in all ways –

10I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Philippians 3:10-11 (NLT)

Paul wants to experience the mighty power that raised Christ from the dead – that’s the mountain top experience. He also wants to suffer with Christ, sharing in His death – that’s the valley experience. Paul wants to experience – to be as one with – Christ. He wants to know Him.

I do too.

Paul goes on to tell how he pursues God:

12I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14

Do you feel the intensity in Paul’s efforts? “I press on.” “I focus on one thing.” “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” “I press on.” Paul is pushing forward full speed ahead. Paul’s letter agrees with the letter written to Hebrews:

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith [that is, all the saints who have gone before us], let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

Again there is a palpable sense of intensity to the words: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down.” “Run with endurance.”

That’s wholehearted seeking that honors God.

That’s wholehearted seeking that God honors.

Next week we’ll look at how our heart changes when we wholehearted seek God. This week, let’s pray and pursue God wholeheartedly – with the intensity of Paul and the writer of Hebrews. Let’s “press on.”

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