Posts Tagged “Matthew”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

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

Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s pick up the story in chapter 16:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

1In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Matthew 3:1-2 (NLT)

As we’ve focused on repentance this month, I hope your spirit has become sensitive to God. I hope that as you’ve read these blogs they have worked their way into your heart and it has softened, allowing the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin in areas that you have previously been blind. I pray that you have taken those areas to the Lord and asked forgiveness. I trust that you are choosing to live differently as God leads you out of sin toward righteousness.

That’s our purpose for studying repentance. That’s God’s purpose for sending the Holy Spirit into our lives. Jesus spoke these words recorded in John 16:

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. 8And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.
John 16:7-9 (ASV)

Judgment is coming. Righteousness is available to us through the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit, who is also called the Comforter, has been sent to us to convict us of our sin so that we might turn to the righteousness of Christ.

And the moment we turn to Christ, we begin to reap the benefits of repentance. John the Baptist’s message was “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

When we live in repentance, we draw closer to the Kingdom of Heaven. In response to questions by the Pharisees about when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered that “God’s Kingdom is already among you.” John 17:21b (The Message) One of the tremendous blessings that accompany repentance is a nearness to God and greater experience of the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives.

With the Kingdom of Heaven comes God’s blessings.

“God blesses those who realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.
Matthew 5:3 (NLT)

31“So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. 32Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

God’s greatest desire is for us to pursue Him wholeheartedly. When our heart is bent toward repentance we are not only seeking God, but doing so with a desire to make His ways our ways. And that’s wholeheartedly seeking Him.

I pray that as we move to our third heart condition next week that we do so without leaving the repentant heart behind. Continue to meditate on the heart God wants you to develop as you spend time with Him this week.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NRSV)

1In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Matthew 3:1-2 (NLT)

Remember, the word “repent” literally means “think differently” about your sins. We need to think differently about them because we tend to like them! Before we came to Christ were happy to indulge in many of them. But we’ve been called to repentance. We’re to think differently…But repenting isn’t only about thinking differently…

Skipping down to verse 5, Scripture continues…

5People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. 6And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
Matthew 3:5-8 (NLT)

The way that we prove that we have repented – the way that we prove that we think differently about our sin – is by living differently. “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

Just as God’s actions prove His love for us, our actions prove our love for Him.

But what are those actions that prove we love God? Let’s look at what Colossians says:

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand….
5So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB)

The first part of the chapter tells us that we’re to think differently about our sins – that we’re to repent of them, and not only think differently about them but to put them to death. Since we’ve been raised to new life with Christ, we’re to put to death the “sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Whether we’ve been Christians for a few days or a few decades, when we’re honest with ourselves and God, we recognize that there are still sinful desires lurking within us.

Those sinful desires hang around the edges and wait for the opportunity to pounce. What are they? Paul doesn’t list all of them in this passage, but he lists these:

  • sexual immorality
  • impurity
  • lust
  • evil desires
  • Being greedy (for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world)
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • malicious behavior
  • slander
  • dirty language
  • lying

Paul says we’re to put these things to death. That requires action on our part.

Paul doesn’t say “watch them die,” he says “kill them.”

  • That means when you are tempted to lie, what should you do? Kill the lie – don’t let it live – don’t give it breath – instead, kill the lie by telling the truth.
  • When you are tempted to be greedy, what should you do? Kill the greed by being generous – giving something away that you love.
  • When you are tempted to be angry, what should you do? Kill the anger by showing love.

Becoming a mature believer doesn’t just happen because we come to church on Sunday and pray throughout the week. Becoming a mature believer doesn’t happen just because we read our Bibles every day. Becoming a mature believer happens as we think like God thinks about our sins – we repent of them and put them to death.

And I know that’s not easy, but this Colossians passage has helped me over the past month because of the imagery. As Paul wrote in verses 9 and 10:

Don’t lie to each other for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB)

Paul uses the imagery of putting on our new nature and he continues it. Let’s skip to verse 12.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,…
Colossians 3:12 (NASB)

I love that intro. Paul started chapter 3 by saying “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand…” now he begins the second half of the chapter by saying “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved…”

Paul is giving us instructions how to prove our love to God, but he fills the chapter with words that reassure us that we are loved by God. God has already proved His love for us.

12So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Colossians 3:12-14 (NASB)

Those 5 verses are chock full of instructions for living in a way that pleases God. I want to look at them a little more closely this afternoon. What do they say?

V12 “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

“Put on” – Like you put your clothes on each morning! And we have to do it each morning because those characteristics, those qualities, don’t come naturally to most of us. So each morning, and sometimes many times throughout the day, we have to consciously think “I am going to put on patience right now.” Or “I am going to put on kindness right now.”

I put my sweater on a dozen times a day because I get cold. I need to put on compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience just as many times because my heart grows cold and I want to be impatient and selfish and demanding. (I know that’s hard to believe about me, but it’s true.)

V13
“Bearing with one another, forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

“Bearing with one another” means putting up with each other! But doing so with patience and kindness and gentleness and compassion and humility! You know, sometimes my husband really gets on my nerves! Not very often, but it happens! And when that happens, I have two choices: Be frustrated with him and snap at him, or take a deep breath and put on patience and bear with him.

And if he has done something to offend me, I’m to forgive him – just as the Lord has forgiven me.

V14 “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

We are most like Christ when we love one another. Scripture describes love as the perfect bond of unity. It is what Jesus prayed for us before His crucifixion:

20“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
John 17:20-21 (NKJV)

Jesus prayed that we would be one. That requires putting on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. So when we get dressed in the morning, we also pray “Lord, help me to love like You love today.” Because I can’t do it on my own. I need His refreshing and His filling each day.

Jesus gave us the example of perfect love:

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NRSV)

When He has done so much for us, let’s commit again to prove that we love Him. As He prompts us this week, let’s put our repentance into action – let’s put to death the deeds of the flesh and put on patience and kindness, forgiveness and love.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

“The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Jesus, Mark 1:15b (NLT)

Last week we looked at John the Baptist’s message to the Israelites:

“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
John the Baptist, Matthew 3:2 (NLT)

John was only the forerunner with the message. The Messiah was to follow bringing the same message:

“The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Mark 1:15 (NLT)

Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah didn’t come as the conquering king the Israelites expected, He came as one following in the footsteps of a man who lived in the wilderness, dressed in camel hair and ate locusts and honey. He came as one following in the footsteps of a man who called the Israelites to repentance and who was jailed and beheaded. The Messiah didn’t come with a message to those who had conquered the Israelites; rather, He came with a message to the Israelites: Get your house in order! Live the way you are supposed to live. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

It’s the same message He has for us today. You see, the message of repentance isn’t for the worst sinners, it is for all sinners.

1About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. 2“Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. 4And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
Luke 13:1-5 (NLT)

His promise is the same as the promise made by John the Baptist – the kingdom of God is at hand. The kingdom of God is available to those who repent. It is the same call and promise that God has been making throughout time:

12That is why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.
Joel 2:12-13 (NLT)

God remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He calls us to repentance. Not because He wants to watch us grovel, but because He wants to forgive us and give us the Kingdom of heaven.

In her blog The Prayer of Confession Requires a Repentant Heart, Kim Butts quotes Dick Eastman:

“Confession is a heartfelt recognition of what we are. It is important to God because it indicates that we take seriously our mistakes and failures. Of course, God does not ask us to confess our sins because He needs to know we have sinned, but because He knows that we need to know we have sinned.”
Dick Eastman, The Hour That Changes the World

Check out Kim’s blog here.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 3:2 (RSV)

When we seek God with our whole heart, it changes us. One of the ways we are changed is that we begin to understand how deeply horrible our sin is to God. As we continue to seek God, that understanding moves from our minds to our hearts. We become grieved in our hearts and spirits at the things we’ve done and the things we’ve thought. And if our heart remains open to God’s Spirit, we become repentant. Over the next few weeks, I want to explore what it means to have a repentant heart.

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. Isaiah 40:3 is a prophecy about the ministry of John the Baptist:

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
Isaiah 40:3 (NLT)

In other words, his message would be one of preparing the way for the Lord to come. In Isaiah it’s described as “clearing the way through the wilderness” and “making a straight highway through the wasteland.”

The wilderness and the wasteland is our life – our sinful life. It’s a land that must be cleared before God can move in. I’m not saying that we have to get rid of all the sin in our life before we invite Christ to be our Lord and Savior. If that were the case, none of us would ever be ready to be saved. No, friends, sin has too strong a hold on each of us.

What I’m saying is that we must come to the place of (1) agreeing with God that our lives are wilderness and wasteland, (2) asking Him to come take over the mess and (3) committing to working with Him to follow His ways instead of our sinful ways.

That’s what opens the path in the wilderness and God loves walking through that path.
What the Apostle John actually said to the people was more to the point:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 3:2 (RSV)

Now the word “repent” literally means “think differently” about your sins. It’s the place we all must come to if we are to live for Christ. Because, quite frankly, before we come to Christ, we like our sin. We’re happy to indulge in many of them. But God, through John the Baptist, calls on us to think differently about our sins. We’re to repent.

But that’s not a popular word in our culture. You’re more likely to hear someone say “I have no regrets” than “I repent” or “I have repented.” The concept of “no regrets” is one that denies our sin. Scripture has something to say about that:

8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 (RSV)

The truth is that we are sinners and we have sinned. Repenting of our sin means that we learn to think differently about them – to think about our sin as God does.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)

We are all infected and impure with sin. To think otherwise is to be deceived. But God is ready to forgive our sins when we come to Him with repentant hearts. He will cleanse our hearts from the darkness within them when we are truly repentant. Being remorseful isn’t enough – simply being sorry doesn’t cut it. Repentance means hating our sin as God hates it. And it opens the door for God to enter and wipe clean all the sin that we come to agreement with Him about. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Amen!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Reading God’s Word opens His heart to us, giving us the opportunity to learn how He thinks and see how He loves. It also opens our spirit to His spirit, giving us the opportunity to breath in His peace. God’s Word carries His power and presence. It is living and breathing, and it gives us life. There’s some motivation to spend time in it each day.

You’ll find our February reading schedule in the January/February bookmark and in the table below.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the January-February 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 January-February 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Don’t forget to share what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on my Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for February is below.

RARE February 2013 Blog Schedule

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The LORD says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name
Isaiah 65:1 (NLT)

This verse was a portion of our final Resting at the River’s Edge reading in 2012, and it seems a perfect verse to step us into 2013. God stands ready to help each of us if we will only cry out to Him.

What image comes to your mind when you read God’s exclamation “Here I am, here I am!” The first image that came to my mind was that of a little boy jumping up and down waving his arms in excitement as his grandparents get off the plane for a visit. He so wants them to find him.

Upon further reflection, though, I see parents reaching for their distraught child to protect and comfort her. The parents bend down to a level where the child can see them and are reaching out their arms to pull her in close saying “Here I am. It’s me. I’ve got you. You’re safe.” The child’s trauma begins to fade as the parents enclose her in the safety of their arms. Mom soothes her hair and kisses her forehead. Then Dad stands and turns his back to mom and child, facing outward to protect them from whomever and whatever would step forward to harm them. Those parents – both mom and dad together – provide an illustration of what God wants to be for us and do for us – save, comfort and protect. Later in the day mom and dad will talk with the child and explain how the child got herself into danger and how to protect herself in the future. God does that, too.

It is the story of the Old Testament and the New –

  • God gives us life – true life
    • He loves us
      • He teaches us how to live
        • He rescues us when we stray from that teaching
          • He loves us some more(!)
            • He protects us
              • He reminds us how to live
                • He loves us
                  • The process continues until our time on this earth is over, and then it starts all over with our life in eternity

That’s the God I want to serve in 2013. That’s the God I want to call out to in 2013. If you want that, too, pray with me. Here’s the simple prayer I prayed after reading this verse.

Lord, You are so good. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for seeking me – for crying out to me to follow you. Lord, keep me from my pride and sin in 2013. I am asking for your help now! Remind me to always cry out to you for help – when I am in great need and when my need is small. Lord, I want to find You in 2013. Help me to keep my eyes on You.

Friends, that is a prayer He will answer. I so look forward to what He has in store for me in 2013. Yes, I woke up this morning with the usual aches and pains. In fact, when I first woke this morning, the enemy tempted me to go down a long dark hallway with him. I fell into the trap for a short time until I realized how foolish I had been to not stop the thoughts immediately. We face choices many times every day – to look forward to what God has for us and call out to Him to bring that about (“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, Matthew 6:10, NASB), or we can let the forces of the enemy and this world trap us into living by its forces. God’s way is life! Let’s choose life.

Lord, we cry out to You for help! You are mighty to save. Save us now!

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Looking toward 2013 – Fear isn’t Part of God’s Plan, Don’t Make it Part of Yours

24Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”
Matthew 25:24-25 (NLT)

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27), the third servant did not use the talent given to him because he was afraid (Matthew 25:25, Luke 19:21). I wonder how often we let fear cripple or hinder us? Or how often is it an excuse for laziness? The master responded to the servant by calling him lazy (Matthew 25:26, Luke 19:22).

As we look toward 2013, I don’t want us to lose out on God’s tremendous plans for our lives because we are afraid. Afraid of success, afraid of failure or afraid of plain old hard work. I want to approach the new year with an attitude that says “Yes!” to whatever God has in mind. I suspect that will mean looking fear square in the face sometimes…

If that’s the case, perhaps it will help to remind myself what else Scripture has to say about fear. Here are a couple of verses:

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

For the Spirit that God has given us does not make you a slave and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God=s sons and by the Spirit=s power we cry to God, “Father! My Father!”
Romans 8:15 (TEV) (or “Abba! Father!”)

What a picture of God’s love! Think of the small child who is frightened – he runs to his papa, throws his arms up and cries “Father! Father! Protect me!”

And He will! We’re also told in John 16:33 “These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are 2 parts to this verse:

Part 1: Jesus promises us peace
Philippians 4:7 says that His peace, which passes all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When will this happen? Philippians 4:6 says it will happen when we reach up to Jesus, crying “Father, Father! Protect me!”

Part 2: Jesus tells us to take courage – He has overcome the world.
1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (See Romans 8:14, 1 John 5:6 for more.)

If fear is not of God, what is its source. Its source is satan. Satan has a very poor substitute for everything God has – his substitute for faith is fear! Fear is really faith that satan will win instead of God! But God tells us that the victory that has overcome the world is our faith – our faith in Jesus Christ and God the Father to do what He promises to do:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

In light of all this:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Whew! Lots of Scripture in this blog! Meditate on them if you feel yourself being pulled toward fear. Don’t go there and don’t let satan take you there!

Friends, let’s look toward 2013 with a “yes” in our heart to the things of God. Don’t let fear cause you to lose the tremendous blessings He has for you.

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